It’s Equal Pay Day! Just Not For Everyone; JP Morgan Chase Chief Urges…Confidence; Wells Fargo Whistleblower Gets Last Laugh. Sort of.

100% Wrong!

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It might be 2017, but in a lot of ways it may as well be 1917. For some inexplicable reason a pay gap still exists between men, women and people of color. So weird, right? Hard to believe, but on average women still make 80 cents for every dollar a man gets. That’s assuming we’re taking about white, straight women. It all goes precipitously downhill from there. It’s a good thing women have an advocate in the form of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.  Her nonprofit LeanIn.org has just whipped out its latest campaign, with a little help from Funny or Die, called #20percentcounts.  Because it absolutely does. One of the more startling facts of data from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows how closing that offensive 20% pay gap would actually lift over three million working women out of poverty. Out. Of. Poverty. In honor of Equal Pay Day, look for 20% discounts from several businesses to draw attention to this issue. For the full list, stop on by at LeanIn.Org.

Sauce-d…

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Well, if Jamie Dimon is saying it then it must be so. The JP Morgan Chase & Co. CEO just regaled us with his annual letter and started by saying just how friggin’ awesome the United States is and how it is “stronger than ever before.” But. It’s a big but. More like a BUT. He then goes on to discuss how “…something is wrong” with our country. He does, after all, sit on the President’s business forum, so I guess he would notice a few things that are…amiss.  For instance, he’s not digging the labor market, or rather there aren’t enough laborers in it. Of course, inner-city schools made a brief appearance in the letter, along with destructive anti-trade policies, infrastructure spending, corporate taxation, and those ever-pesky excessive regulatory rules. Dimon really took a lot of issue with all those banking regulations that are apparently marring the business landscape of the country. In all fairness, he would know a thing or two about that. Dimon feels the public should start showing a little more (un)conditional love towards our great big, fiscally-motivated financial institutions. The takeaway, according to Dimon’s letter? “Confidence is the ‘secret sauce’ that, without spending any money, helps the economy grow.” Got that? Confidence = Secret sauce=economic growth .Who knew?

Awkward…

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In all the talk about Wells Fargo’s illegal activities and all-around bad behavior, it seems a very important figure got lost – that being the very brave whistleblower who called out the bank over its fraudulent account opening activities. Said whistle-blower lost his job in 2010 after calling to complain to the bank’s very own ethics hotline, in addition to his supervisors,  about his suspicions that Wells Fargo was engaging in some problematic business practices. Now, not only was the bank ordered to hire him back, but it also has to pay him…wait for it…$5.4 million. Of course, that number pales in comparison to the $185 million worth of settlements that Wells Fargo has had to cough up already. But still, it’s gotta hurt for Wells Fargo. Well, cry me a river. Because after all, that $5.4 million is meant to cover back pay, damages, compensation and, of course, legal fees. This payout also has the dubious distinction of being the largest award ever ordered by OSHA. Naturally, Wells Fargo is not happy with the ruling and plans to fight it. As for the employee’s plans to return to Wells Fargo, well, that remains to be seen.

 

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Russia Says Nyet to LinkedIn; No Regrets for Macy’s on Ditching President-Elect’s Line; Trump Making Plans

Linked Out…

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It’s Game on between LinkedIn and Russia as the social network gets banned by the Russian government. Back in 2015 Russia passed a new law requiring foreign websites to store personal data of Russian users on Russian servers. While LinkedIn counts six million registered users in the country, the social media giant said no thank you to the new law and now finds itself listed in a very unflattering registry of websites that are banned in the country. Russia’s leaders would like to put an end to its dependance on foreign tech and is even in the process of developing replacements for such services like WhatsApp. In case it wasn’t obvious, Russia has been stepping up its control over internet usage in the last few years. In the meantime Google, eBay and Uber have been looking for ways to comply with the new law lest their fate ends up similar to that of LinkedIn. However, all eyes are on Facebook to see if and how the social media giant intends to deal with this lofty piece of legislation .

Trump’d Up…

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Today, Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren said that he stands by his decision to boot Donald Trump’s clothing line from his stores back in the summer of 2015. Trump had tried to retaliate by getting people to boycott the department store. But after all, Trump did say that many Mexican immigrants were rapists and murderers and well, that’s just not cool. So needless to say, his calls to boycott weren’t all that successful. Well, maybe a little as Macy’s has been struggling to post some solid quarterly gains. In any case, the retailer has been trying to court more Hispanic shoppers and getting rid of a line of clothing from a man who has been nothing short of hostile and racist seems like a prudent move. To be fair, Lundgren says he would have had to get rid of Trump’s clothing line once he entered politics anyway, even if he hadn’t made his odious comments. Macy’s doesn’t do politics and Lundgren added that even if Hillary Clinton had her clothing own line – of pantsuits, presumably – that would have to go as well once she announced her political aspirations. Incidentally, Ivanka’s clothing line at Macy’s is alive and well, which seems only right considering she has yet to offend entire races of people. Also incidentally, Ivanka’s line is manufactured in China and the Donald just hates it when American businesses outsource manufacturing there. In fact, as part of his economic plans, he wants to impose harsh tariffs on imports in an effort to curb, or perhaps even obliterate the practice. Good luck with that one, Ivanka.

More Trump’d Up…

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In other Trump news, rumor has it that the President-Elect wants to install JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon as Treasury Secretary. FYI, Dimon is a life-long Democrat and Obama supporter, although the arrival of the Dodd-Frank laws made him a less enthusiastic one. What’s so very peculiar about Trump’s choice is that he once criticized Dimon for his decision to settle civil suits against the bank. Donald is not one to settle court cases. At least that’s what he said. In the meantime, there’s no word from Jamie Dimon about whether he plans to accept. However, other rumors are swirling that he won’t as he was rooting for Hillary Clinton to win the election. And you know who probably wont be asked to join Trump’s government? Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. As the owner of the Washington Post, Jeff Bezos didn’t care for Trump’s opinions on the mainstream media bias and said Trump was “eroding our democracy.” Incidentally, Amazon’s stock went down today over 4%. Experts say it’s because all tech stocks, including Apple, Google and Microsoft took a beating today since Trump’s economic plans don’t do much for that sector. But the experts with a better sense of humor – and serious undertones – think the drop is because it’s payback time for Bezos and company, who for the most part don’t care for the President-Elect and were pretty vocal about it during campaign season. The tech sector employs a large population of foreign engineers and, well you know how Trump feels about that. Experts also think that companies like Amazon can expect payback in the form of higher taxes and anti-trust litigation. At least Bezos had the good sense to tweet: “I for one give him my most open mind and wish him great success in his service to the country.” Maybe Bezos will get a pass this time. Wink wink, nod nod.

 

Starbuck$$$ Coffee Buzz Gets Pricier; JPMorgan Ups the Minimum Pay Game; Drop in Job Openings Bums Out Economists

And then it happened…

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If there’s one thing you can rely on at Starbucks, besides the quality of their coffee, it’s that come July, the company will raise its prices. Today, the company did just that for the third year in a row. What Starbucks dubs as a “small price adjustment” shouldn’t be too bad. Well, that is, depending on what you purchased. Hey, if you don’t like it, blame rising coffee costs. And Starbucks, too, I suppose. The amount of Americans who drink coffee is expected to rise by 1.5%. The more people drink, the more the beans cost. Just another case of supply and demand, my friend. Prices went up between 10 cents to 20 cents on its brewed coffee, and between 10 cents and 30 cents on its espresso beverages and tea lattes. However, the price increases vary depending on which region you find your local Starbucks. In the grand scheme of things, purchases only actually increase by about 1%. Plus, the price went up on only 35% of its beverages. Which means that 65% of its beverages remain unchanged, price-wise, for those of you who shun change. But in all fairness, Starbucks is giving its employees a 5% raise come fall, not to mention doubling stock awards for employees who have been there for two years or more. Not that their raises and stock awards had anything to do with boosting the price of your chai latte, mind you.

Dimon in the rough…

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Starbucks isn’t the only company who is giving its hardworking employees a raise. Enter JPMorgan, the second most profitable company in the United States, who is about to give 18,000 of its employees a much appreciated boost in their paychecks. And this time, the employees aren’t even the ones who regularly rake in big bonuses. JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon will be raising the company’s minimum pay by 18% for employees who are mostly bank tellers and customer service representatives. These employees currently receive $10.15 per hour, but over the next three years will see increases of $12 per hour and then $16.50 per hour, depending on several factors. The company is also beefing up its in-house training programs as well, to the tune of $200 million, that will train thousands of entry level employees who work in consumer banking. Mr. Dimon says the new initiative is all about addressing concerns over income inequality, an issue that’s been getting a lot of negative attention, usually directed at Mr. Dimon and his peers. He also says it’s a way to attract and retain talent – an idea that company’s like Walmart, Target and McDonald’s have already started putting into practice. But leave it to the skeptics to whip out their negative spin and question if Dimon’s motives have more to do with a shrinking labor pool, and if JPMorgan is just getting ahead of an issue that might pose a problem in the future. The cost of raising the minimum pay by 18% will cost JPMorgan just about $100 million, which is just $7 million shy of the total 2015 compensation for Jamie Dimon and his four top-named executives.

Book of jobs…

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Even though JPMorgan and Starbucks are giving its employees more money to attract and retain great employees, the Bureau of Labor Statistics paints a very different employment picture. According to its latest report, job openings dropped to a five month low in May, with just 5.5 million jobs up for grabs, even though that same month also saw 5 million people getting hired. Not to be a downer, but that was the lowest rate since November 2014. At least voluntary quits fell to a 4 month low, with just 2.9 million leaving their jobs, presumably for better opportunities. Yet in April, job openings were at an all-time high. All these mixed numbers might just mean that the economy is not as healthy as we think it is. The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, a.k.a JOLTS, is the division of the Bureau of Labor Statistics that tracks job openings, hires and separations. The Labor Department, which reports just on job creation and unemployment, reported that employers only managed to create 11,000 new jobs in May. In case you’re wondering why that’s a bad thing, then consider that those 11,000 jobs were 25 times less than the amount of jobs created in May of 2015. At least the number of layoffs and firings in May fell to a ten month low of 1.67 million. Economists, however, still think these numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. Which is easy for them to say since they seem to be gainfully employed.

Doggy Doo Quarter at JPMorgan Chase; No December Retail Magic; Carnitas Crisis at Chipotle

Dog poo days…

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Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, the biggest bank by assets, is not having a very good day, it seems. Mr. Dimon said the bank will “try to avoid stepping in dogs**t.” A highly technical term coming from the mouth of one Wall Street’s most powerful (and presumably, potty-mouthed) bankers. I guess when you have had better fiscal quarters, “stepping in dogs***” seems an adequate description. Sure the bank pulled in $1.19 per share. So yeah, it made money. There are a ton of companies who would be thrilled to pull in earnings like that. But the bank missed expectations. When you’re JPMorgan Chase and analysts expect you to pull in $1.31, well then, missing analyst expectations is more than a bit of a drag. It also suggests that its competitors will fare similarly. JPMorgan Chase took  a 6.6% hit in its quarterly profit. A $1 billion plus legal bill, courtesy of Uncle Sam’s litany of investigations, is certainly partly responsible for putting a crimp in those earnings.  “Banks are under assault,” says Mr. Dimon when asked about all those legal fees. And I’m sure you’re hurting for him. But let’s face it, that $1 billion is nothing compared to that $13 billion settlement JPMorgan Chase ponied up back in 2013 over its less than desirable role in the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

Not so merry after all…

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Image courtesy of ratch0013/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The most wonderful time of the year was not the most wonderful, fiscally speaking. Far from it, in fact. The Commerce Department and the National Retail Federation regaled us with the lousy news that December showered us with bad tidings of a .9% drop in retail from the previous month. Sales hit $616 billion, which seems awfully jolly. It was even a 4% increase over the same period last year. But again, I reiterate – a .9% drop, month to month. Is it too late to say bah humbog? I think not. Interestingly enough, some of that drop in consumer spending was actually because not as much money was being spent on gas. Dropping oil prices made holiday driving a bit more fiscally festive, just not lucrative. Fun fact: About 10% of retail sales comes from gas purchases. But those steep discounts from retailers, as they desperately attempted to lure shoppers, actually proved to be a major downer for those retail numbers. Hence, there is no good fiscal cheer to be had. But we’re not supposed to get too worked up over this drop since it marks the first time since 2011 that holiday sales even increased by more than 4%. So carry on then.

Big problemo…

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Image courtesy of KEKO64/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Chipotle has put the kibosh on its barbecued pork offerings at about 600 of its eateries after it was found that one of its major pork suppliers was not acting with integrity i.e. not complying with animal welfare standards. So uncool on so many levels.  Chipotle’s policy of serving “food with integrity” should do much to strengthen the beautiful bond between diners who appreciate the sentiment  and the restaurants that seek to uphold it . But alas, it’s not known if and how badly this carnitas crisis will affect Chipotle’s quarterly sales and profits.

Twitter Tries to Up Its Game, Olive Garden Not Blooming and BofA Wants Quality Time With the Attorney General

Tweeting it all out…

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Twitter just announced plans to snap up SnappyTV for an undisclosed amount. SnappyTV is a video sharing service where users can do all sorts of convenient and entertaining things like clip and share videos. Twitter is forging ahead with great big plans to integrate SnappyTV and all the visual enhancements it is bringing with it into Twitter Amplify. And really, who doesn’t love visual enhancements?  The social media company is in a mad crush and rush to grow its user base after announcing a less than 6% increase in growth. Numbers like that did less than wow investors and so it is on a mission to find ways to justify its high valuation that many have been calling into question.

Darden leaves Wall Street hungry for more…

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Image courtesy of Feelart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Darden Restaurants, the apparently not so forceful force behind the Olive Garden chain, failed to feed enough people and beat analysts expectation. Despite its efforts to dump the Red Lobster chain, the company’s profit wasn’t as high as Wall Street would have liked. Revenue for the period ending in May was a paltry $2.32 billion. But the hard-to-please Street was looking for $2.33 billion in revenue. Even though the company gained $0.84 a share, Wall Street was left unsatisfied and wishing for $0.10 more per share. The company and its food offerings is having a hard time competing with fast-food establishments that have been offering better quality food with more affordable prices. As a result, Darden’s net income fell a whopping 35% from a year earlier.

BofA feeling unsettled…

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Looks like Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan wants to spend some quality time with US Attorney General Eric Holder. But bonding is not on the agenda. Instead, the BofA CEO wants to try and hash out the kinks over settlement issues. BofA, the second largest bank in the United States sold some really bad loans a few years back, in case you hadn’t heard. Now the time has come to pay for all the trouble it caused and the price tag on all that trouble is going to cost billions of dollars. Reps for the bank and reps for the Justice Department already had a bunch of meetings to try and reach an agreement. But the two sides just couldn’t play nice. So Moynihan probably took a cue from JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who also personally met with Holder in back in November where the two sides emerged with a $13 billion settlement agreement. While the move seemed peculiar at the time, the fact is that it worked and the formula has been used with other naughty banks that helped cause the epic 2008 financial crisis.

Whale of a Fail at JPM, Yoga Mats: Nothing Tasty About Them and Bust Goes the Creek

JP Morgan’s not-so-good day…

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Image courtesy of ddpavumba/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

JPMorgan Chase’s chaiman and CEO Jamie Dimon said, “JPMorgan Chase had a good start to the year, given there were industry-wide headwinds in Markets and Mortgage.” That’s just what I was thinking as JP Morgan is looking a little less green today after its earnings fell for the second quarter in a row. The financial giant took a massive hit this quarter over the same time last year with profits making a huge nosedive. When JPM posts lousy numbers like that, you can expect others like it to perform similarly. Experts did expect a drop from the firm. Just not that bad. But let’s face it, handing over $13 billion to the Department of Justice to settle claims about some dubious business practices is harsh even for a giant firm like JPM. Then there was that $800 million legal bill they had to pay their lawyers to handle a number of problems including the incredibly embarrassing and infamously pricey London Whale Trading Scandal. Well, at least their lawyers had a good year.

Namaste Subway

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Image courtesy of satit_srihin/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Oh the wonders of blogging! You can thank FoodBabe.com’s Vani Hari if you’re Subway sub starts tasting a little less downward doggy. The food blogger started a petition back in February to get privately held Subway to stop using an ingredient found in its bread dubbed “Yoga Mat.” Also known as azodicarbonamide, you can find it in a number of food products from markets to McDonald’s and Starbucks. But unfortunately you can also find it in your yoga mat (hence the name), not that it makes your yoga mat any more (or less) edible. By next week, Subway’s bread should be “Yoga Mat” free in just about all of its 26,600 locations.

Busted Creek…

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Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Coldwater Creek has run dry. The women’s retailer filed a Chapter 11 petition after failing to get a buyer for the Sandpoint, ID based company. With assets of $278.5 million and debt of $361.3 million, the chain will be shuttering its more than 360 stores by the summer. That gives you plenty of time to find some nice stuff for your mom for Mother’s Day at a fraction of the cost. But then again, seeing as how they’re bankrupt, there’s clearly a reason why you, and apparently your mother, didn’t shop at the chain to begin with. In any case, Coldwater Creek now joins the less than illustrious ranks of Loehmann’s Inc. and Sbarro’s Pizza who also went bust this year.