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Monday, December 29, 2014


Original Story: detroitnews.com

Takata Corp. Chairman Shigehisa Takada will replace Swiss national Stefan Stocker as president, 18 months after appointing him to strengthen management amid a mounting recall crisis involving its faulty air bags. An Atlanta business lawyer represents clients in cases involving business torts.

Takada, who with his mother controls the Tokyo-based auto-parts supplier through a family holding company, will also take a 50 percent pay cut for four months, the company said in a statement. Takata didn’t specify whether Stocker had resigned his position or was replaced, and Hideyuki Matsumoto, a spokesman, declined to comment beyond the statement.

“This company has done everything wrong and has zero corporate governance, and is one of the worst examples of poor management,” said Edwin Merner, president of Atlantis Investment Research in Tokyo. “Putting all the management back to the family sounds so negative,” he said. “As long as they don’t have new management, this company won’t survive.”

Takata’s air bags have been linked to five deaths after faulty devices exploded with too much force and spewed metal at passengers. Automakers led by Honda Motor Co., its biggest customer, have issued recalls for more than 20 million vehicles globally, even as Takata resisted the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s demand to expand the safety campaign nationally beyond high-humidity areas. Tri Glass offers windshield crack repair kits and scratch repair kits at the lowest prices.

Takata’s shares have declined 56 percent this year, compared with the 9.5 percent gain in the benchmark Topix Index.

As part of the reorganization, three other directors will also take a 20 percent pay cut, Takata said. Stocker, who will continue as a board member, will take a 30 percent reduction.

Takada earned 278 million yen ($2.3 million) last year in compensation and dividends, exceeding the 152 million yen made by Honda President Takanobu Ito.

Stocker joined Takata as an executive officer in February 2013. He began his career at Robert Bosch GmbH in June 1982. At the time of his appointment as president, Takata said the move was part of plans to strengthen the operational structure of the company, which was then facing increasing recalls by its key customer Honda to replace faulty air-bag inflators.

“Stefan brings valuable skills and experience to the table,” Takada said about Stocker’s appointment in his chairman’s message in the 2013 annual report. “We will be working closely together to increase the pace and success of Takata’s globalization,” he wrote. “By delineating responsibilities as CEO and COO, we will be able to give greater and more coordinated attention to strategy and implementation.” A Boston business lawyer has experience representing clients in a wide variety of business disputes.

Stocker, who turned 61 on Wednesday, has declined multiple requests for interviews, as has Takada. Both executives didn’t attend congressional committee hearings held to probe the responses by the supplier and its automaker customers to the escalating recall crisis.

They instead sent Hiroshi Shimizu, a senior vice president in charge of quality assurance, to explain to the committee the steps the company was taking to ensure its products were safe.

Shigehisa and his mother, Akiko Takada, are board members of TKJ, which holds about 52 percent of Takata. They also own individual stakes totaling about 5 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“It’s usually not a good sign when the main person in charge of representing the company in front of the regulators suddenly” steps down without explanation, said Nicholas Benes, head of The Board Director Training Institute of Japan. “Markets and regulators will wonder what is really going on behind the scenes.”


Honda is recalling 1,252 Crosstour vehicles due to a faulty side air bag made by Takata.

The Honda recall is for 2015 model year Crosstours. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the side air bag may not inflate properly because of a problem with its inflator tube. Crosstour owners will receive a letter in the mail asking them to take their car to a dealer and have the side air bags replaced. An auto glass chip repair kit provides you with everything you need to perform windshield repairs at home.

Honda said no injuries were reported. Takata Corp. declined to comment.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Original Story: bloomberg.com

Alstom SA (ALO) executives won several billions of dollars worth of business in Saudi Arabia a decade ago by making at least $49 million in illegal payments in part through middlemen the company called “Mr. Paris” and “Quiet Man.”

The bribes were among those the French power company made in five countries over more than 10 years, prosecutors in Washington said. Alstom pleaded guilty to those charges today and agreed to pay $772 million to end the investigation, representing the largest criminal penalty paid to the Justice Department under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. A Washington DC Foreign Corrupt Practices Act lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

The prosecutors’ statements, laid out in dozens of pages of charging documents, contained new details about Alstom’s attempts to buy influence in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan and the Bahamas, including one executive’s effort to quiet an employee who questioned the payments. The documents also covered bribery in Indonesia, which had already served as a basis of criminal charges against former Alstom executives and business partner in federal court in Connecticut.

The U.S. corruption case is one of several against Alstom, which General Electric Co. (GE) is buying in its biggest acquisition ever. The Fairfield, Connecticut-based manufacturer agreed in June to buy most of the assets for 12.4 billion euros ($15.2 billion), and the purchase should close next year. An Atlanta RICO lawyer represents clients involved in racketeering cases.

Earlier Monday, Alstom’s London-based power unit and two of its employees were charged by the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office for alleged bribe payments in Lithuania. Lawyers for the men declined to comment at the hearing. Alstom is also facing a corruption investigation in Brazil.

‘Corruption Scheme’

The documents released by the Justice Department outlined how Alstom paid more than $75 million in bribes between 2000 and 2011 to win $4 billion in projects from state-owned companies, relying on consultants who prosecutors said funneled payments to officials in five countries.

“Alstom’s corruption scheme was sustained over more than a decade and across several continents. It was astounding in its breadth, its brazenness and its worldwide consequences,” U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole told reporters in Washington.

“There were a number of problems in the past and we deeply regret that,” Patrick Kron, Alstom’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. The Levallois-Perret-based company has changed its compliance practices, he added. An Atlanta RICO lawyer is following this story closely.

In Saudi Arabia, where Alstom was seeking $3 billion in contracts, company executives spread bribe money among a half a dozen consultants around the turn of the millennium, prosecutors wrote. These people were identified, in company documents, by code names that also included “Mr. Geneva” and “Old Friend.”

‘Action Plan’

Alstom collected details on officials of the country’s state-owned electric company to improve its chances of securing business, prosecutors wrote. They cited a January 2000 “action plan” for an upcoming bid that identified Alstom’s perceptions of decision-makers at the Saudi Electricity Co. (SECO), as well as the “most important concerns” for dealing with each.

“Honest reputation,” the action plan read, referring to one official who it said had a majority voice in awarding contracts. “Son has been known to deal.”

To ensure the official’s support, Alstom turned to one of his close relatives -- who internal company documents referred to as Mr. Paris -- who was paid $4 million to bribe the executive, prosecutors said. An Atlanta Racketeering Litigation Attorney represents both plaintiffs and defendants in cases involving racketeering.

Alstom made $2.2 million in donations to a U.S.-based Islamic education foundation associated with the Saudi official, prosecutors said. They didn’t identify the official.

$800 Million

Several countries have opened probes into Alstom since 2004, when auditors for the Swiss Federal Banking Commission unearthed documents they said showed possible corrupt payments. Since then, the company has paid more than $53 million over claims its employees bribed officials.

The U.S. fine, which eclipsed the $450 million paid by Siemens AG in 2008, would bring Alstom’s tab to above $800 million. Kron said on Dec. 19 that the company will pay the fines connected to its energy businesses as its shareholders voted in favor of their sale to GE.

The U.S. investigation, led by Daniel Kahn of the fraud section and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Novick in Connecticut, included at least 49 hours of recordings made by government cooperators about allegations of bribery in Indonesia, according to federal court records in Connecticut.

Investigators initially had to build their case using informants and charges against former Alstom executives when the company refused to cooperate, prosecutors said.

Indonesia Allegations

The Connecticut prosecution centered on a $118 million contract to provide boiler services at a power plant in Tarahan, on the southern coast of Sumatra. Alstom executives, together with Marubeni Corp. (8002), a Japanese commodity-trading company, used middlemen to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to a member of Indonesia’s parliament and officials at Perusahaan Listrik Negara PT, a state-controlled electricity company known as PLN, according to court papers filed by the Justice Department in related cases.

Marubeni pleaded guilty to bribery violations in March and paid an $88 million fine.

On Monday in the Connecticut federal court, Alstom pleaded guilty to two charges related to their activities in the five countries -- one for violating bribery laws by falsifying records and the other for failing to have adequate controls. Alstom’s Swiss subsidiary pleaded guilty to conspiracy. Two U.S. subsidiaries entered into deferred prosecution agreements.

Internal Conflicts

The documents released Monday also pointed to internal conflicts over payments, as Alstom executives allegedly attempted to hide transactions related to the company’s bids for power contracts in Egypt.

In December 2003, an Alstom finance employee said by e-mail that she was rejecting an invoice from one of the company’s consultants in Egypt because there weren’t enough details to justify the payment, according to the documents released Monday.

The finance employee received a phone call from a U.S.- based project manager, who told the official that if she “wanted to have several people put in jail,” she should continue to send e-mail messages questioning payments, according to the prosecutors’ documents. The project manager ordered the finance official to delete all e-mails about the consultant, prosecutors wrote.

Thursday, December 11, 2014


Original Story: espn.go.com

For years, the world's two largest shoe and apparel companies -- Nike and Adidas -- have battled for supremacy, with the competition occasionally leading to a lawsuit over a particular design or material, which one considers proprietary.

But on Monday, Nike took it to the next level, suing three former designers who had left the company, alleging they used Nike's trade secrets to sell themselves to Adidas. A Portland Intellectual Property Lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

The lawsuit, filed in the county in Oregon where Adidas has its U.S. headquarters, alleges that some of its biggest designers, Denis Dekovic, Marc Dolce and Mark Miner, while still employees of Nike, began to build a blueprint to replicate Nike's famous Innovation Kitchen and stole secrets from inside its walls to take elsewhere. The Kitchen is where Nike's top designers build out shoes years in advance, testing new materials and concepts. Only a select few on Nike's sprawling campus have access to open its doors.

The lawsuit, which asks for more than $10 million in damages, alleges that before the three left Nike, they were already consulting with Adidas. To further sell themselves and capitalize on their position, Nike says Dekovic had the contents of his laptop duplicated, which gave him access to "thousands of proprietary documents relating to Nike's global football (soccer) product lines" where Adidas and Nike most fiercely battle. A Boston Intellectual Property Lawyer have experience representing clients in intellectual property litigation.

Among other things, the documents included specific designs, including models of team uniforms and products for the 2016 European Championships, plans for Nike-sponsored athletes in at least seven countries, unreleased financial information and projections concerning the company's business and information about Nike's planned launches in the marketplace.

"All of this information is among the most important and highly confidential information in Nike's athletic footwear business, particularly its global football business," the lawsuit reads. "Disclosure of any of this information would irreparably harm Nike, by, among other things, enabling a competitor to effectively undermine and counter Nike's performance in the athletic markets for the next three to four years."

Before leaving the company, Nike alleges the three designers erased emails from their computers and text messages on their phones to destroy any incriminating data that would lead back to their scheme.

"We find Nike's allegations hurtful because they are either false or are misleading half-truths," the designers said in a statement provided to the Portland Business Journal by their law firm. "We did not take trade secrets or intellectual property when we departed Nike in September. The athletic footwear industry is fast moving and rapidly changing and, as creative people, we thrive on innovation and freshness. We are looking forward to bringing new and innovative ideas and designs to Adidas when our non-competition agreement expires." An Atlanta Trade Secrets Lawyer is skilled in the development of trade secret protection programs, buying and selling trade secrets, and licensing trade secrets.

Dekovic was the senior design director for Nike football (soccer), Dolce worked on the shoes for LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and managed historic brands such as the Air Force One and the Dunk shoe and Miner was the senior footwear designer for Nike running, one of the company's biggest growth categories.

Nike says the three had signed a noncompete contract that spanned to September 2015. Yet less than two weeks after the three resigned, Adidas announced that it would back a Brooklyn-based design studio managed by Dekovic, Dolce and Miner.

Even though Adidas said at the time that the three wouldn't work for them until 2015, Nike remained concerned about the trade secrets it claims were stolen from them.

The company says it has spent more than $1.5 million in the past three years alone to ensure that its employees keep information confidential, and said in a statement Tuesday night that "Nike is an innovation company and we will continue to vigorously protect our intellectual property."

Adidas officials did not specifically address the allegations.

"Many of our employees have storied careers and rich experiences, but we have no interest in old work or past assignments as we are focused on shaping the future of the sporting goods industry, not looking at what has been done in the past," the statement said.

Nike's world headquarters in Beaverton and Adidas' U.S. headquarters in Portland are located about 13 miles from each other.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Original Story: businessinsider.com

The age of the American CEO did not begin until the end of the 19th century. Prior to that time, all the largest businesses in America were run by owners and families acting as proprietors. The best examples of these were in four industries: steel, finance, oil, and railroads.

Although the firms often had general managers, most historians believe that the period in which the CEO dominated large corporations did not begin until Alfred Sloan took the helm of GM in the mid-1930s.

The 24/7 list is based on a review of the Fortune 500 companies back to 1955. In order to perform further analysis, we also consulted the histories of US corporations dating back to the 1880s.

Those selected for the list fall into one of two simple categories – those who ruined the companies completely while they served as sitting CEOs and those who did severe damage from which their firms could never possibly recover. Some will make the argument that many of these CEOs should be excluded because their companies failed as a result of fraud committed by the CEOs. In each of these cases, however, the chief executives ruined the company. It does not change this fact if this occurred because of avarice or mismanagement.

Readers may argue that there are other CEOs who should have been on this list.  However, each of the CEOs on this list ran their companies when they were at or near their peak performance.   Many companies on this list like Pan Am and Eastman Kodak, dominated their industries. That makes these failures all the more colossal and, almost certainly, avoidable.

1. Jonathan Schwartz. By the time Sun Microsystems was bought by Oracle for $7.4 billion, Jonathan Schwartz, the hip, blogging, ponytail wearing CEO, had ruined the firm’s prospects so badly that acquisition was its only option.

In the early 1980s, the company was founded by a small group of engineers and its CEO, Scott McNealy.  During his tenure, Sun Microsystems grew to become one of four dominant players in the server and processor space, which also included Oracle, HP and IBM. Prior to Schwartz’s appointment by McNealy, Sun was a largely profitable and competitive company.

Schwartz’s promotion to CEO in April 2006 was followed by a long series of losses. Despite its strong position, Sun started to fall apart as it lost market share in its main server business to HP and IBM.  The company’s shares fell from almost $27 to under $4 from late in 2007 to late 2008; Sun also later fired nearly 6,000 people, or about 18% of its employees.

In 2008, in an attempt to diversify, Sun bought MySQL AB, the company offering the popular open source database. The acquisition did not work.  As Sun’s share of the server market continued to fall, Schwartz tried to improve market adoption of its Java software, which never brought in much revenue.  Despite some success, the problem was that Java is free and Sun never came up with a realistic model to monetize it.

Sun could have become one of the largest enterprise technology companies in the world. Schwartz blew that chance. Larry Ellison did not.

2.   Ken Lay. Enron grew out of Northern Natural Gas Company and Internorth, both essentially natural gas companies.  Enron reached $101 billion in sales in 2000 despite this humble origin, through a series of acquisitions and expansions into new businesses. Ken Lay became CEO in 1986 and presided over most of the company’s growth which was largely fueled by diversification into energy generation, gas distribution businesses and water based utilities. Lay was so successful at marketing the firm to Wall St. and to the press that it was Fortune’s “America’s Most Innovative Company” for six years in a row, from 1996 to 2001.

It became clear in 2001 that Enron was hiding portions of its liabilities off of its balance sheets. Most of its assets and earnings were doctored. By the end of the year, Enron filed for bankruptcy. An investigation of the scandal found that Lay had an active hand in inflating the company’s financial health. In 2006, Lay was found guilty of securities fraud and other charges. He died July 5, 2006, shortly before his sentencing.

3. Chuck Conway. Chuck Conway was the head of Kmart when it declared bankruptcy.  He was charged with accounting fraud that improved the company’s balance sheet.

Founded in 1899, Kmart, formerly known as S. S. Kresge Co., was one of the preeminent retailers in the US for decades.  By the 1970s, Kmart was the Walmart of its era and controlled a large portion of the “big box” retailer business in the US, Canada, and Australia. At its peak, it had over 1,000 stores.  In the 1980s, despite its slowing growth, the company began to invest in separate business lines, which included Waldenbooks, the Sports Authority, and Office Max.

By 2000, following a string of unsuccessful business decisions, Conway was brought in to turnaround Kmart.   When he joined the company in 2000, it was still a formidable force in the US retail space, despite its lackluster performance over the prior 15 years.  As part of his inaugural address, he said his primary goal was to improve the company’s supply chain and bolster its brand so that the firm could better compete with Walmart, a company that was founded over 60 years after Kmart. He did not carry out any of his goals.

At the time of Kmart’s bankruptcy in 2002, he was charged with defrauding stockholders by covering up details of the firm’s faltering financial position. He was also accused of spending the company’s money on airplanes and houses.

4.   George Shaheen. Shaheen joined Webvan in September 1999 after being the head of Andersen Consulting, later renamed Accenture.

The company, one of the largest start-ups during the Dot-com Bubble, was set up to take grocery orders over the Internet and deliver the orders within 30 minutes. Webvan planned to have operations in 26 cities.  It never got beyond 10, and most of these remained on the West Coast. The company spent $1.5 billion over a year and a half period, beginning in 2000. At one point, Webvan had 4,500 employees and owned a string of warehouses. When it declared Chapter 11 in 2001, it fired 2,000 people.

Webvan doubled down on its strategy to operate an online grocery business by buying HomeGrocer in June 2000. It was an error that increased Webvan’s cash burn rate. The logistics needed to execute its business model were a nightmare. Shaheen failed to understand that all retailers operate on tiny margins and Webvan had no leverage with customers to improve that. Perhaps, worst of all, he authorized issuance of an IPO that raised $375 million – almost none of it was recovered.

Shaheen holds a special place among bad CEOs. He fancied himself as one of the greatest business consultants in the world when he ran Andersen.  Yet, it seems he did nothing to effectively review Webvan’s business model. It appears that he made no attempt to work with his board of directors or management to alter the company’s operations.

5.   Tommy Sopwith. Tommy Sopwith, the founder of The Sopwith Aviation Company, began the storied airplane business in 1912. Contracted by the British government during the First World War, the company built 16,000 aircraft and employed 5,000 people.  It was one of the largest aircraft manufactures of the first two decades of the 20th century.

Sopwith was slow to realize that most airplane manufacturers would need to convert their products to appeal to the commercial market and failed to adjust to the civilian world in time. Sopwith tried to sell slightly modified models of its military planes, but was unsuccessful. Although the company bought ABC Motors Limited, a motorcycle and engine manufacturer, in 1919, it was too late to diversify this business. Sopwith closed the following year.

Sopwith’s problems were compounded by charges that the company made exorbitant earnings on its wartime enterprises, and were eventually punished by punitive anti-profiteering taxes.

6.   John Sculley. John Sculley is on the list for one reason. He fired Steve Jobs from Apple. Similar to the Google board’s decision to hire Eric Schmidt to run the company with its precocious founders, Sculley was hired to be Apple’s CEO in 1983.  Because of his significant business experience and marketing acumen, which included the top job at PepsiCo and introduction of the Pepsi Challenge, the board hoped Sculley would bring a proven management style to Apple.  It also hoped that he would bring a mature business approach to a company that was growing quickly but was run by inexperienced executives, which included its co-founder Steve Jobs.

In 1985, he convinced the board to strip his rival, Jobs, of all managerial responsibility, effectively canning one of the greatest product designers and marketers of all time.

Sculley believed in expensive marketing campaigns. Unfortunately, his marketing heft did not compensate for his insufficient product management skill. At the end of the day, he lacked sufficient technical background to be a product manager for Apple.  During his tenure, he invested heavily in a number of failed ventures, including Apple’s Newton, an early PDA-like device, cameras and CD Players.  And in 1993, Sculley’s lack of knowledge regarding the technical details of the products built by Apple and its competitors cost him his job.

Apple bought the computer company that Jobs had created, NeXT, in 1997, and Jobs became Apple’s CEO that same year.  Like Sculley, the rest is history.

7. Thomas Edison. In 1887, Thomas Edison, the greatest inventor in US history, formed the Edison Phonograph Company – founded to profit from the phonograph technology he created.

Edison himself ran the company through most of the years it operated. Sound was recorded on wax cylinders. Recognizing the commercial appeal of the device, Edison increased adoption of his products by acquiring and offering more entertainment recordings for his machine. However, because the cylinders were difficult to mass produce, sales were limited.

In response to this design flaw, competitors, notably Columbia, designed and sold lighter discs, now called records.  Its superior design allowed for faster production than the wax cylinders.

In 1916, Edison expanded into dictation, a more profitable business. But by that time, Edison had made a fatal decision that would lead to the firm’s eventual failure: he allowed competitors to dominate the business of selling the discs. Around that time, a group of popular artists under the Victor brand did all of their recordings on discs and Edison lost the market for recorded audio that he had created.

Although Edison hedged his bet in 1913 by creating his own disc division, he continued to aggressively market the wax cylinder product, believing it would be the eventual winner in the format wars. He was wrong and The Edison Company, as it had been renamed, shut down in 1929.

8.   Bernard Ebbers. Under Bernard Ebbers’ stewardship, Worldcom became the second largest long distance company in the US, after it bought MCI in 1997 in a transaction valued at $37 billion.

Bernard Ebbers had been CEO of Worldcom’s predecessor firms starting in 1985. Over 15 years, he built the company through a series of acquisitions, culminating with the MCI deal.

In 1999, Ebbers tried to buy Sprint.  Had the merger been completed, the $129 billion deal would have made Worldcom the largest telecom company, placing it ahead of AT&T.  However, the deal was plagued by objections from regulators and eventually fell through.

During the merger, Ebbers began to prop up the Worldcom results with the help of senior financial executives at the company. The tech and telecom downturn of 2001 began to undermine Worldcom’s earnings and over the next two years, the efforts to manipulate the company’s financial results became more aggressive.

On top of this, Ebbers needed to sell large portions of his own Worldcom stock, to support his lavish lifestyle. The Worldcom board, fearing Ebbers’ sales would destroy the firm’s share price, made him a series of loans.

In 2002, internal auditors discovered that Ebbers’ efforts were the cause of a $3.8 billion financial fraud. That same year, Worldcom filed for Chapter 11.

In 2005, Ebbers was convicted of fraud, conspiracy and filing false documents. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

9.   Angelo Mozilo. Mozilo co-founded Countrywide Credit Industries in 1969 as a mortgage lender.

By the mid-1990s, Countrywide had created a system to lay off risk by reselling bundled loans into the secondary market as mortgage-backed securities. Countrywide also expanded its services so that it could make loans, service them via collections, and handle closings with real estate appraisal services. About half of Countrywide’s loans did not conform to the criteria necessary for them to be sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This increased its need to sell securitized loans to institutions.

By the mid-2000s, Countrywide’s core lending business had grown so much that it was estimated to have issued over 15% of all home loans in the US. When housing prices began to falter, the mortgage-derivatives market that CountryWide had helped to create began to collapse. These derivatives had been a major source of revenue for CountryWide and in August 2007 it was near financial collapse. The federal government provided capital to CountryWide but the sums could not salvage it as an independent business.

In July 2008, Bank of America closed a transaction to buy the failed mortgage lender. Subsequent to the events, it was disclosed that Mozilo had sold shares in the company that gave him a profit of nearly $300 million between 2005 and 2007. Shareholder class action suits claim that Mozilo was aware of the company’s problems during much of this period. The company was also sued in several states for misleading customers about the terms of the mortgage agreements, particularly the effects of adjustable rate mortgages on monthly payments. Countrywide was accused of originating loans with little or no due diligence on those receiving the loans. Those loans were then packaged and sold by CountryWide in the secondary market. Friends of Angelo, stock holders were not.

10.   John Rigas. Adelphia Communications, once one of the largest cable companies in the US, filed for bankruptcy in 2002. John Rigas, its founder, is now in prison.

Rigas founded the company in 1952 and built Adelphia into the fifth largest cable TV enterprise in the nation. By the late 1990s, Adelphia had almost 5 million subscribers to its cable TV service and a rapidly expanding high-speed Internet business. It had cable systems in over 30 states.

In 2002, the company filed for bankruptcy, in part because Rigas had siphoned off money to fund other companies owned by his family. He was eventually charged with stealing nearly $100 million. After its bankruptcy most of the Adelphia assets were eventually purchased by Time Warner Cable.

11. Juergen Schrempp. Schrempp was the architect of the 1998 merger of Daimler and Chrysler, which he called a merger of equals. In fact, Schrempp took control of the combined company almost immediately even though he had a co-CEO, Bob Eaton, for part of his tenure.

Schrempp sold the “merger” to shareholders by saying that Chrysler would reap huge savings by using parts and technology from Daimler, which was highly regarded for its engineering prowess. After the merger, however, Chrysler executives resisted the plan, and Schrempp did not push the matter as hard as he claimed he would. Schrempp also failed to accomplish another key point of the merger’s benefits that he touted: Chrysler’s sales foot print in the US would help Mercedes sell more cars in the US and Mercedes presence in Europe would help Chrysler.

Schrempp ignored the management of Chrysler in the US and its marketing and manufacturing operations began to fall apart only a year after the marriage. Within a year of the deal closing, the new company lost more than 50% of its market cap. Shareholder Kirk Kerkorian sued the company for $9 billion, charging the Germans with fraud for failing to do what they claimed they would do with Chrysler.

Schrempp was pushed out by his board in 2005. Cerberus Capital Management, a private equity firm, bought Chrysler from Daimler for $7.4 billion in 2007.

12.  Kay R. Whitmore. Eastman Kodak was founded in 1880 and for much of the 20th Century was the gold standard of the film and camera industries. By 1963, the company was No. 44 on the Fortune 500 with sales of over $1 billion, putting it ahead of industrial giants Alcoa and Dow Chemical. The company thrived for the next decade as its share price rose from $12 to $65.

The company continued to dominate the consumer and enterprise photo world until 1984, when Fuji began selling film similar to Kodak’s for 20% less than Kodak’s price. Kay R. Whitmore, the company’s CEO from 1990 to 1993, assumed that its brand would win out over price, and continued to charge premium rates for its film. He was wrong.

Even though Kodak scientists invented the first digital camera and first mega-pixel camera, Kodak failed to commit the company entirely to the digital world.  Kodak assumed that its high-profit film business would continue to dominate the market.

Kodak tried to bridge the period between the decline of film and digital products with instant cameras, launched in 1987.  This helped the company remain profitable in the film business for another 15 years. Whitmore, it could be argued, had a window from the early 1990s until later in the decade to use the company’s brand and R&D prowess to retain the firm’s lead in the imaging business.

Kodak failed to adapt to the new reality, or rather it adapted in a half-hearted way. In the 1990s, it came out with Photo CD, a quasi-digital quasi-analog bridge product with some impressive technology. The company was in the business of selling digital cameras. With each passing year, the core audience for Kodak’s film, film paper, and the cameras that use them disappeared.

13.  William Seawell. Pan Am was the US flagship carrier overseas from the beginning of the Great Depression until the early 1970s. From early on in its history, it flew to Europe, Asia, and Latin America. The firm pioneered the use of clipper aircraft and was an early adopter of commercial jets and jumbo jets, which helped insure the success of the United States aerospace industry.

Most of the company’s growth came during the leadership of Juan Trippe, still considered by many to be the greatest airline CEO in history. Trippe not only expanded the company. He built, by many measures, the most experienced and professional flight crews and ground crews in the industry. Pan Am also built the predecessor of the modern airline reservation system in a partnership with IBM.

William Seawell was the CEO of Pan Am in 1980 when the company bought National Airlines in a bidding war against Frank Lorenzo, a corporate raider. Seawell believed that Pan Am needed a large domestic airline to feed its international routes. But the price for National was $400 million. And that added to the debt the company had already taken on to buy its fleet of Boeing 747s, which it had purchased to increase the capacity of its international fleet. Pan Am tried to salvage its balance sheet by selling the Pan Am building in New York. In September 1981 Seawell was replaced by C. Edward Acker who came too late to save the airline. After struggling with its debt, the company declared bankruptcy less than a decade later.

14. Raymond W. McDaniel, Jr. Moody’s CEO, Raymond W. McDaniel Jr., has been the head of the company since 2005. Since that time, Moody’s, which was founded in 1900, has gone from being one of the two most respected credit rating  agencies in the world, along with S&P, to being the target of public criticism and law suits by Connecticut State and investigations by Congress of its role in the credit crisis.

The Washington Post recently wrote of the investigations “A probe of the credit-rating industry by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found that firms used outdated models, were influenced by their clients and waited too long to downgrade investments as the collapse in the housing market intensified in the year before the financial crisis.”

More recently The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission issued a subpoena to Moody’s complaining that the credit rating agency had not complied with its request for documents and e-mails to aid in its investigation. Most recently California subpoenaed Moody’s Investors Service Inc., asking for documents in the state’s investigation of the company’s evaluations of asset-backed securities. There is almost no case to be made that the trouble for Moody’s will not get worse and that its reputation has been effectively ruined. Over the last five years, the DJIA is up slightly and Moody’s is off by over 40%.

During McDaniel’s watch, Moody’s century-long sterling reputation for integrity vanished.  It is almost certain that the value of its brand can never be regained.

15. Eckard Pfeiffer. Eckard Pfeiffer ruined Compaq, one of the original PC companies, and for years one of the most successful.Compaq was started in 1982 with a $3,000 investment from its three founders. That same year, the company released the first commercially available portable computer, the father of the laptop. In 1984, the company released its first desktop, arguably making it the PC company with the broadest product line of any in the world. In 1989, Compaq moved into the low-end server market and pushed IBM and Packard Bell out.By the late 1990s Compaq would have been better off focusing on the PC and server markets. Unfortunately, Eckard Pfeiffer, the company’s CEO from 1991 to 1998, had plans to greatly expand the company’s businesses and sales. In 1997, he bought Tandem, a manufacturer of high-end servers. He then purchased DEC, the leading mid-frame computer company, in 1998. In both Tandem and DEC, Pfeiffer strayed from Compaq’s core business, buying high-end brands that were not only expensive but were in the process of becoming obsolete.  Notably, Pfeiffer was unaware of the value of one of DEC’s assets, Altavista, the original search engine and the predecessor to Google and Yahoo!

As Pfeiffer took that company up-market, competitors like Dell and Gateway stole most of the lower end of the market—the area Compaq had once dominated. After seven years as CEO, Pfieffer was sacked by his board of directors. It was too late for the company to recover critical market share in the fastest growing parts of the PC market. Compaq was sold to HP in 2002.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Original Story: thestateofthegulf.com

The Special Master tasked with investigating the Deepwater Horizon settlement process filed a motion this week urging the District Court to order the return of fraudulent payments made to Gill Johnson, Sr., who received over $440,000 from the Deepwater Horizon Economic Claims Center (“DHECC”).  The motion alleges that Johnson’s claims were based on falsified tax returns that were never even filed with the IRS.

In his motion, the Special Master informed the Court that in January 2013, Johnson filed claims seeking compensation for losses associated with his commercial fishing business based on his 2008 and 2009 tax records.  The rub?  Johnson didn’t file or pay taxes with the IRS in either of those years.

The 2008 tax return Johnson provided to the claims facility was undated and unsigned – and false, according to the Special Master’s motion.  The claims facility accepted his return despite the fact that the Settlement Agreement specifically requires claimants to file signed tax returns with their claims.  And the motion also stated that the 2009 tax record he provided to support his claims was prepared in July of 2010 for the sole purpose of allowing Johnson to file his Deepwater Horizon claim.  Johnson, the motion explains, allegedly based his 2009 return not on any source documents, but rather on a verbal summary given by Johnson’s girlfriend to the tax preparer Johnson had hired.

The claims facility accepted Johnson’s misrepresentations and his falsified forms, and awarded him over $440,000.  For their efforts in helping Johnson prepare his claim, his attorneys received over $109,000 – fees that the law firm returned the very same day that the Special Master filed his motion.

This motion, like others filed by the Special Master, underscores a simple fact: settlement funds paid for improper claims should be repaid.  Restitution is important in cases like this, not only so that fraudsters don’t benefit from their fraudulent acts, but also “to safeguard the integrity of an important public institution administering a fund for the benefit of an injured segment of society.”  In addition, the Special Master also urges the Court to enforce a one strike, you’re out policy with regards to Johnson, arguing that allowing claimants who have filed fraudulent claims the opportunity to resubmit their claims using different documentation would only encourage them to take a chance on fraud – knowing that they could submit different data if they got caught.

Of course, this is exactly what the PSC's lead lawyer appears to want: in a recent letter to Judge Freeh and the Court, Steve Herman argues that when fraud is alleged or suspected, the claimant should be notified that the "claim might be fraudulent" and given a chance to withdraw the Claim or otherwise attempt to explain it.  Unfortunately, this process would have the effect of giving unscrupulous claimants a risk-free chance to get their fraudulent claims paid.  In the world he appears to be urging, there's no apparent downside to taking your best shot at free money.  Such attempts at fraud would not be treated so leniently anywhere else in the world - not by employers, not by merchants, and definitely not by the IRS.  The policy at a court-supervised claims facility should reflect that attempts to commit fraud will not be tolerated.

Fraudsters should take note: BP certainly did not agree to pay for claims tainted by fraud or corruption.  The Special Master’s latest motion sends a clear message that attempts to take advantage of the settlement process are being investigated, and that those caught red-handed should expect to answer for their fraud.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Original Story: ibtimes.com

Northeastern Pennsylvania could soon see a shale drilling boom along the Utica formation. Royal Dutch Shell PLC (NYSE:RDS.A) this week announced prolific results at two of its discovery wells in Tioga County, an area as yet untapped by most oil companies.

The Utica Shale underlies major parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and New York. So far, operators have mostly focused on Utica’s gas reserves in western Pennsylvania or southeast Ohio, the latter now one of the fastest-growing natural gas production areas in the United States, according to federal energy statistics. A Corpus Christi Mineral Rights Lawyer is following this story closely.

In the northeastern part of the Keystone State, most of the gas drilling has targeted the Marcellus Shale, the formation that lies on top of the deeper Utica Shale. Shell is among the first companies to bet on the Utica play in this area, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted.

Shell said its Gee well, in production for nearly a year now, had an initial flowback rate of 11.2 million cubic feet of natural gas per day. The Neal well, which went online in February, observed peak flowback rates of 26.5 million cubic feet daily. The discoveries “extend the sweet spot of the Utica formation” into an area where Shell holds about 430,000 acres, according to the Dutch oil giant. An Austin Energy Lawyer represents clients assist companies in negotiating the terms of domestic and international exploration.

Marvin Odum, Shell’s upstream Americas director, said the Gee and Neal wells are part of the company’s latest shale gas strategy, which concentrates on a smaller number of plays with a certain scale and economic profile. “The Appalachian basin is one of those areas, and these two high-pressure wells both exhibit exceptional reservoir quality,” he said in a statement Wednesday.

Shell’s discovery will likely open a new chapter in deep Utica exploration in Pennsylvania, research analyst Richard Zeits wrote on Seeking Alpha, an online investment platform. “The play may add many years of economically competitive inventory to the region's natural gas resource base.”

Utility companies are betting on a continued production surge in the region. Earlier this week, utilities Duke Energy Corp. (NYSE:DUK) and Dominion Resources Inc. (NYSE:D) announced plans for a $5 billion natural gas pipeline that will cut through the shale formations. A Houston Oil & Gas Lawyer provides expert legal guidance in producing wells, title opinions, mineral rights, output claims, oil and gas production, proceeds and distribution cases.


Original Story: m.stltoday.com

St. Louis coal miner Peabody Energy announced Monday it has entered into a 50-50 joint venture with Swiss miner Glencore that the company says will provide "significant synergies."

The agreement covers Peabody's Wambo Open-Cut Mine and Glencore's United Mine in New South Wales. Glencore will manage mining at its United mine "utilizing Wambo Open-Cut Mine's existing infrastructure." Double-enveloping worm gearing solutions are well suited to the rigorous demands of the mining industry.

Peabody says it expects about 3 million tons of coal per year from the United mine joint venture, consistent with the volume it obtained from the Wambo mine.

The coal industry has struggled with low prices and a supply glut during recent years, spurring producers to cut production.

The project should commence in 2017.