Busted! Data-Breaching Cyber-Crooks Indicted; Trump Dumps on China; Campbell’s Soup Aims for Comeback,

So not cool…

Image courtesy of chanpipat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of chanpipat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Prosecutors announced charges today against four very greedy men who hold the notorious distinction of having perpetrated one of the largest data breaches. Ever. They’ll have plenty of time to celebrate that odious achievement in what will presumably be a significant stretch of time spent in an prison cell sans internet. The alleged perps ran their illicit actives from 2012 until mid 2015, where they used their tech skills in the worst way for online casinos, hacking, stock manipulation and an assortment of other cyber-crimes. In the exceptionally unflattering indictment, are the four men are accused of targeting financial institutions, publishers, online stock brokers and software firms. Among some of particularly odious crimes, the alleged perps engaged in perennially classic money laundering, not to mention running an unlawful bitcoin exchange. JP Morgan Chase was one of the 15 unfortunate victims of the online schemes that generated hundreds of millions of ill-gotten dollars and stole data from more than 100 million customers. JP Morgan’s 2014 hack earned the financial institution the dubious distinction of suffering the “largest theft of customer data from a U.S. financial institution in history.” Lucky them.

And here’s where it starts to make sense…or get weird…

Image courtesy of Keattikorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Keattikorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Now that SNL is over, Presidential candidate Donald Trump has decided to take on China today in an op-ed piece for “The Wall Street Journal” where he accuses China of “robbing Americans of billions of dollars of capital and millions of jobs.”  He made a pledge that if he is elected, one of his first actions would be to get the U.S. Treasury department to declare China as a currency manipulator. The man is on a mission to put the kibosh on Chinese piracy and counterfeiting of American goods, not to mention stealing U.S. trade secrets. Don’t be so quick to judge. Or laugh. The Donald wants to get China to the negotiating table to establish trade with them that is more, shall we say,…fair. It’s a sentiment echoed by plenty of lawmakers and domestic corporations alike, not to mention millions of Americans who fell victim to competition from Chinese manufacturing. It’s not just Trump who says that China depresses its own currency in order to make Chinese imports cheaper than domestic made products. Economists also say China’s yuan currency is undervalued with estimates ranging from 15% to 40%. It wouldn’t exactly be the first time China received that designation either. They earned that dubious distinction back in July 1994.

Soup-y sales…

Image courtesy of  vectorolie/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of vectorolie/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Campbell’s soup is embarking on a new chapter of its condensed-soup life, revamping its classic chicken soup recipe by scrapping ten out of thirty ingredients found in it. Say good-bye to the alleged migraine-inducer, monosodium glutamate, aka MSG, along with some other ingredients that are just as annoying to say and even harder to spell. Basically, nothing you’d necessarily miss. Campbell Chief Executive Denise M. Morrison explains, “We’re closing the gap between the kitchen and our plants.”  A truly touching statement indeed. But there’s a bigger reason for wanting to close that gap: money. The condensed soup company has been losing plenty of it because of shifting consumer tastes that involve the desire for ingredients that are made by mother nature, as opposed to advancements in science. In its last three quarters, Campbell’s saw a 5% drop in unit sales, besides the fact that sales peaked way back in 2012 at $16.2 billion, with sales dropping steadily ever since. If you can’t wait to test drive the new, presumably healthier version, look for the limited edition cans featuring Star Wars characters. Bon Appetit.

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Snapchat-ting all the Way to the Bank; HSBC Is In Big Trouble, Yet Again; Virgin America’s Soarin Good Earnings

And just like that it disappears…

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hindsight is 20/20 but in Snapachat’s case it’s more like 19 – as in billions of dollars. The social media and messaging app, which very presciently declined Facebook’s offer to buy them for a paltry $3 billion back in 2013, is rumored to be adding an additional $500 million to its coffers. This will now peg the company at between $16-$19 billion and could make it the second most valuable privately held company behind Über technologies and Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi. Started in 2011 and helmed by CEO Evan Spiegel, the app allows users to post pictures and messages that disappear within a few seconds after being opened. Snapchat boasts 100 million users and it should come as no surprise that 57% of its users are under the age of 25. Of course, its disappearing act is not the app’s only trick as it now has deals with, among others, Yahoo, CNN, ESPN…the list goes on, tailoring content just for you. Even movie studios are getting in on the Snapchat action and before long you’ll see Snapchat’s very own superhero series. If that doesn’t scream street cred, then I don’t know what does.

Don’t bank on it…

Image courtesy of scottchan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of scottchan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There’s nothing like a little money laundering investigation to put a downer on your week. Well in HSBC’s case it’s “aggravated money laundering” which sounds so much more sinister than just plain old “money laundering.” This latest criminal investigation comes a week after the revelation that it helped some of its super wealthy clients and their 1,100 bank accounts, evade taxes. HSBC is on a roll, I tell you. Investigators suspected that if HSBC was helping its clients avoid paying taxes, then what else might it be helping their clients do? Hence, we have the money-laundering investigation.  A Swiss public prosecutor launched a criminal probe into the matter and has since raided the picturesque offices of HSBC. Good thing that former HSBC IT employee, Herve Falciani, very thoughtfully collected all those files pointing investigators into launching an investigation. Too bad he tried to sell the information first, though. That kind of looked bad for him. But probably not as bas as how it’s looking for HSBC right now. Of course, HSBC is said to be cooperating. Whatever that means. Do banks ever not cooperate?  HSBC did, however, sort of acknowledge it messed up on the tax evasion end blaming the fact that stringent standards weren’t in place as they should have been. You don’t say.

Flyin’ high…

Image courtesy of hywards/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of hywards/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you’ve ever flown Virgin America, then it might come as no surprise (or maybe it will) that the airline just whipped Wall Street expectations with a little help from cheaper oil prices and fully booked planes. The airline only made its Wall Street IPO debut back in November but so far it has not disappointed as the airline took in $1.16 per share – a far cry from the 80 cents Wall Street expected it would earn. Revenue for the fourth quarter was $372.2 – a 3.4% increase over last year at this time, impressively taking down analyst estimates of $370.8 million. Started by billionaire Sir Richard Branson, the airline just announced big plans to give Southwest Airlines a very unwelcome run for its money by offering non-stop flights to Austin. Let’s just hope this little battle pays off for the passengers too.