Bugging Out Over VW Settlement; Trump Thinks He Can Do It All; Time to Buy a Keurig?

Buggin’ out…

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VW is getting set to pony up some $4 billion in settlement money after agreeing to plead guilty to charges of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and obstruct a federal investigation. To break it down, the company will cough up $2.8 billion in criminal fines and another $1.5 billion in civil penalties. With that settlement, the company achieves the dubious distinction of having the largest penalty ever levied by the U.S. government against an automaker. Pretty classy for Europe’s largest car manufacturer. But I guess that’s what happens when you get busted for trying to cheat on emissions tests. VW had initially insisted that the scheme was the work of a few isolated employees. But now, lo and behold, six German execs are now facing charges, and the arrests probably won’t stop there. While Oliver Schmidt was already arrested in Florida this week, the others are still biding their time in Germany, with no guarantee that they’ll meet with justice courtesy of the United States judicial system. And even though VW swears it’s changed its naughty ways and is cooperating fully with authorities, it’ll still be watched for the next three years – just to be sure. Shares of the company rose as much as 4% today, it’s highest price since the scandal first erupted. But that doesn’t mean that this unfortunate episode has come to an end as there are still plenty of other countries that could also very well pursue action against Volkswagen.

Not so sure about this…

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Looks like Trump’s not going anywhere. Not even away from his business empire. The President-elect, in a news conference today, discussed that he will not be selling off his global empire and put his liquid assets in a blind trust. However, his assets will still be placed into a different type of trust that will keep him from making decisions that would personally benefit him.  According to Trump’s flack, a blind trust wasn’t even a realistic option for Trump anyway since real estate can’t just be sold off so easily as stocks and other assets can.  Instead, he will remove himself from all business dealings, resign from all his positions and hand-off control to his two sons. It’s just not clear when he’ll actually stick to that plan since just this weekend he turned down a $2 billion development deal in Dubai. Speaking of which, his company will not enter into any new business deals abroad until after his term ends. How gallant of him. Domestic deals, however, are a whole other story. They’ll be permitted as long as they are met with approval from an ethics adviser hired to work specifically for the Trump organization. See how that works out? Ethics watchdogs aren’t down with Trump’s plan since they feel it will do little – if nothing – to prevent conflicts of interest. But ethics or not, the fact is, a President is not required by law to even avoid conflicts of interest. Donald Trump also stated that he could run both the White House and his business except that he won’t because it doesn’t look nice. Ya think?

Are you ready for this jelly?

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Savor that cup of coffee now because it’s about to get a bit more expensive. Well, that’s assuming it’s packaged coffee. The biggest coffee roaster in the U.S., J.M. Smucker Co – yes, the one that makes jelly – decided to raise the prices on its packaged coffees, including its Folgers, Dunkin’ Donuts and Cafe Bustelo brands. I did say a bit because that increase, on average, will only be about 6%, since the costs involved in producing green coffee have gone up as well.  But don’t bother blaming the jelly company execs. Blame Arabica coffee futures. Or rather, Mother Nature, since coffee futures have gone up 30% in the last year due to drought conditions in several coffee-producing regions. In all fairness, J.M. Smucker Co. actually decreased the price of its coffee last May courtesy of a Brazil oversupply. So I suppose things are just kind of even-ing out. Incidentally, K-cup pods are excluded from the price increase. So if you haven’t bought one of those nifty machines yet, now might be a good time to scoop one up.

Uber Revs Up for a Big U.N. Campaign; Credit Suisse Says Auf Wiedersehen to CEO; Barnes and Noble Books Not Terrible Earnings

Put the pedal to the metal…

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Über is stepping on the p.r. gas and teaming up with U.N. Women for a big campaign. There is probably a joke in there somewhere about irony but I’ll let you come up with it. In honor of the twenty year anniversary of the Beijing Declaration – a provision promising global gender equality – Über wants to help foster and facilitate economic growth for women through the “Step It Up For Gender Equality” program. The idea is to employ 1 million women as Über drivers by 2020. But here’s the tricky part: Both Über and U.N. Women need to be present in a region. U.N. Women is only present in 48 countries while Über is allowed to operate in 55 countries, and the two don’t always coincide. Sadly, Über is more globally successful than gender equality. But that’s for another blog. Of course, it’s also hard to ignore all the scandals and issues Über has been having with not just female passengers who have been victims of violent drivers, but female drivers who have been harassed by passengers, as well. Currently, 14% of Über’s 160,000 drivers are women. This latest initiative, though no doubt noble and sincere, tends to also suggest that Über’s got some major fiscal growth plans up its tailpipe – continuing to intrigue investors who can’t seem to stop throwing billions of dollars Über’s way.

Nein…

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Credit Suisse CEO Brady Dougan has announced he will be leaving the Swiss bank in June and giving the position over to Prudential’s Tidjane Thiam. Dougan, who had been at the post since 2007, said the decision to leave was mutual. Of course it was. For a while investors had wanted Dougan to cut back on the investment arm, but the CEO resisted. His resistance did not pay off. Combine that with the $2.5 billion Credit Suisse had to pay U.S.authorities for helping its clients evade taxes and, well, here we are today, discussing Dougan’s resignation. As the first American selected to be CEO of Credit Suisse, the Swiss media just wasn’t that into him from the start. His loyalty was questioned and he took heat for his pay packages. Also, Dougan doesn’t speak German, which apparently didn’t sit well the Swiss media either (and presumably, many many others). News of the impending change sent the stock climbing.

 Book it….

Image courtesy of adamr/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of adamr/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Barnes & Noble’s quarterly results are in and the word is that revenue is down 1.7%  to $1.96 billion. This ought to surprise no one. And if it does surprise you then I have one word for you: Nook. The e-reader has been nothing but a giant money pit for the bookseller even with Samsung trying to come to its rescue by putting out the first new tablet for Nook in two years. What ought to surprise everyone is that B&N didn’t do nearly as bad as many thought it would all because of books. And toys. But definitely books. Actual books printed on (hopefully) recycled paper. I kid you not. It helped B&N rake in 93 cents per share in profits and helped store sales increase by 1.7%. Sure it wasn’t the forecasted $1.23 per share, but hey, Barnes & Noble will take it. Also, college books proved to be a big help in the fight against horribly missed earnings, with revenue coming in 7.2% higher. Barnes & Noble has plans to spin spin off its college books division in the summer. And now, instead of closing 20 stores this year, Barnes & Noble only plans to close 13 stores.