Putin it out there…
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Russian president Vladimir Putin always has to have the last word, doesn’t he. He’s like one of those inflatable punch toys. No matter how you much you punch it, it just floats right back up. I am talking about sanctions, mind you. The ones that Russia is imposing on the West, including the United States. Russia majorly one-upped the entities imposing sanctions on it over tensions in the Ukraine by banning agricultural products from the US, the EU, Canada and even Japan. They plan to have this ban in effect for a year! Apparently it’s a very very long list of items too. So yeah, if the West wants to send Putin a message it’s going to have to think way beyond that teeny tiny economic sanctions box. Of course food prices are sure to rise in Russia with a move like this. But make no mistake that there’s also a steep $1.3 billion price to pay in the US and the rest of the West. And that’s going to be awfully hard to swallow.
And it’s official…
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Bank of America is out almost $17 billion (it will be anyways) all because it misled investors over mortgage-backed securities. This settlement comes just weeks after a New York judge ordered the bank to pay out $1.27 billion for its less than virtuous Countrywide Financial “Hustle” program which is just as bad as it sounds. Some of the settlement cash will actually go towards helping struggling homeowners by reducing their mortgages. The rest is fees fees fees and a few billion in penalties to various federal, state and local entities. BofA CEO Brian Moynihan and US Attorney General Eric Holder have been hashing out the details as of late. BofA was trying to get away with paying just under $13 billion but fate, the justice system and AG Holder’s impending lawsuit had other plans. Now BofA holds the dubious distinction of holding the record for the largest settlement payout, knocking JP Morgan off its $13 billion podium. But Bofa still comes out a winner since no criminal charges will be filed for what could arguably be considered awfully criminal behavior.
Time Warner is running out?
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There was no shortage of love today on Wall Street for Rupert Murdoch and his 21st Century Fox empire now that his $80 billion bid for Time Warner has been scrapped. In fact, the media company’s stock surged while, ironically (or maybe not) Time Warner’s second quarter earnings took a hit. Sure its quarterly profits were up 10% with $6.8 billion in quarterly revenue. But the stock took an 11% dive thanks to Fox just because its interest in its rival came to a bittersweet end.
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Kentucky’s state agricultural department has a 250 pound stash of hemp seed that they’re itching to plant for some pilot projects they’ve got planned. The problem is the DEA is keeping it at a UPS facility and is being very uncool about releasing it. A group of Veterans who would like to take up farming would like to utilize these seeds, which makes the fact that the DEA is holding them that much more rude – and uncool. So state officials are doing what any red-blooded American would do in a situation like this: They are suing. US Attorney General Eric Holder, Customs, the DEA and the Justice Department are the defendants. A hearing is scheduled for today because those seeds really need to be planted by June 1 in time for the hemp growing season. I’d like to see the DEA try this in Colorado.
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Pinterest. You know it. You love it. You must be among its 30,000,000 active monthly users. The social media company just infused with some major cash – $200 million, in case you were wondering – raising its valuation to $5 billion. If you haven’t noticed (though I’m sure you did) it now has “promoted pins” which means ads in Pinterest speak. And this next one is quite the biggie: Pinterest has apparently overtaken Twitter as the social destination for women. Which might partly explain a bit why Twitter hasn’t been living up to its hype. Some of that new money is going abroad, that is to help spread the Pinterest love all over the world, though it is already in 31 countries.
Headed in new directions….
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The Uber app, a ride sharing service that is ticking off the taxi industry, wants to raise several hundred million dollars and get a $10 billion valuation (just like Pinterest – only not). Even though Uber began just five years ago, the company has proven to be a massive success – doubling their reach in just six months – even as it deals with major regulatory problems courtesy of miffed taxi drivers. In fact, some Uber drives are even getting ticketed by police. But it’s going to take a lot more to thwart the app’s efforts as it is used in over 100 cities – worldwide. The Financial Times said the app could likely pull in a billion dollars just for 2014. Among Uber’s very prescient backers is Amazon’s very own Jeff Bezos (who seems to have sizable stakes in all the right tech companies). Right now India is their largest market now outside of the US. But as with so many other tech companies lately, people wonder if they are really worth all those billions.