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July 31, 2014

Russia ordered to pay another $2.5 bln for Yukos

Filed under: online, uk — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 5:48 pm

PARIS (AP) — The European Court of Human Rights has ordered Russia to pay out nearly 1.9 billion euros ($2.5 billion) to shareholders of Yukos, the oil producer that the government had dismantled over a decade ago.

Thursday’s ruling said Russia must produce a plan to distribute the funds within six months. The court said a further 300,000 euros in costs and expenses is also to be paid out.

The decision follows one earlier this week by an international court ordering Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government to pay $50 billion to the former majority shareholder in Yukos fast cash without a hassle. Thursday’s ruling covers shareholders who were not party to that claim.

Yukos had been owned by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, an opponent of Putin who’d begun using his wealth to fund opposition parties. Khodorkovsky was arrested.


July 30, 2014

Pound Bulls Beat Retreat With Economic Gains Tapped - Bloomberg

Filed under: money, term — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 2:52 am

The shine is starting to come off the U.K. pound, which has given up its reign as the most popular bullish bet for 2014 among the Group of 10 currencies.

Hedge funds and other large speculators cut their net wagers on a sterling advance by 28,915 contracts in the three weeks ending July 25, the biggest reduction in a year, data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in Washington show. The currency slipped to $1.6944 yesterday in New York from an almost six-year high of $1.7192 July 15 amid speculation much of the good news on Britain

July 28, 2014

Young man

Filed under: Uncategorized, legal — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 11:56 am

It was to be a journey of self-discovery, a four-month cycling trip through rural America with pit stops in the country’s musical heartlands.

So on May 15, Toronto’s Iain Gerrard packed a patch kit, campfire grill and other bits and bobs and left his home on the South Kingsway on his 18-speed Brodie racing bike.

For Gerrard, it was to be a trip to help him decide what he’d do with his life. Would the 23-year-old with the shock of brown hair and grey eyes pursue a career in music? He had a reputation for pulsing DJ mixes that would enliven home parties and raves.

Or would he pursue a career in journalism after years of walking the streets of his west-end Swansea neighbourhood, peppering neighbours with questions and sharing oddball quotes from Mark Twain, his favourite writer.

For Gerrard, like so many youth today, there was a frustrating uncertainty when it came to thinking about his future. He had a diploma in audio engineering from a local Toronto school, but he still lacked a decisive direction.

So after several years spent washing dishes in a Toronto restaurant and working in a local juice factory, with cash squirrelled away for the odd motel and shower and bike repair, Gerrard — 6-foot-3 and rail-thin — charted his route. He planned stops in Detroit, the home of Motown; St. Louis, a blues hotbed and the former gateway to the U.S. Midwest; and Memphis, where the likes of Elvis Presley got his start.

Other layovers were scheduled for New Orleans and Nashville, cities steeped in the roots of rock ’n’ roll, gospel and soul, before returning to Canada, hopefully with a clear-eyed vision of his future and a better understanding of a polarized country where, in cities such as Memphis, the battle flag of the Tennessee Confederate army is still hoisted in a public park.

“It’s not all about the music, the south also has an incredible history,” Gerrard wrote on a journal entry on his blog, Round Trip. “Since its (sic) been colonized by the Spanish, French, and the British all those each left a little bit behind resulting in a diverse culture that is rich in all measurable ways.”

What better way to travel through America, Gerrard figured, than through small towns and hamlets on a bike, digesting the sights and smells of a road less travelled.

Iain first found his way into my own home as a six-year-old scamp, picking up small five-pound weights and trying to impress his friends with feats of strength. More than a decade later, I was on assignment in Afghanistan, feeling alone, wondering whether the stories I was reporting were worth the risks of the job, when word came from Toronto.

An avid news reader, Iain had been smitten by a story I filed about an upstart school in Kabul that was teaching kids how to skateboard. He sent a message through family that he’d loved the story and was desperate for more information about the school.

The spirits of a supposedly seasoned foreign correspondent were lifted by an 18-year-old teenager.

Gerrard’s father William said it’s no surprise that his son would take off on such a cycling trip by himself.

“Iain was always challenging himself to face his fears,” he said.

Last year, during a family vacation to a cabin in rural Quebec, Iain told his parents he wanted to spend the night by himself on an island across the lake from his family, despite the presence of bear, moose and wolves.

“He had his guitar and sang as loud as he could to keep the animals away,” William said. “He did it, and went to sleep for a bit. He only came back across the lake to the cabin when he woke up with a bullfrog sitting on his face.”

Perhaps the first lesson Gerrard learned this spring after crossing the U.S. border in Detroit was that while the U.S. might be the battleground for venomous political debate, it’s still a place where a visitor can find kindness from strangers.

He knocked on the door of a home on the shore of Lake Erie, asking if he could pitch his tent on the property.

“The family said, ‘Absolutely not, come inside and stay with us,’ ” Jean Gerrard, Iain’s mother, said Thursday morning in her backyard. “Iain stayed there for three days, the second day the family gave him their Jet Ski to go out and have fun on the lake. He was the kind of guy who really clicked with people he made a connection with.”

After Detroit and St. Louis, Gerrard navigated his way to Memphis, visiting Elvis’s grave and the motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down. He stopped in a music store to buy a cheap ukulele.

“He was writing a song a day on the trip,” William said. “He was saying he wanted an instrument to start putting his lyrics to music so he got that guitar.”

On a quiet stretch of highway outside Memphis, headed south to the Louisiana border with the ukulele strapped to his rucksack, Gerrard’s journey was cut short. He died instantly on July 14 when he was hit by a transport truck.

A night before his death, Gerrard wrote his final song, “Kentucky Rain.”

Rain keeps on blowing, Mississippi River keeps on flowing, and I just keep on travelling by and by

Storm clouds filled with thunder, but they won’t get me under, Ill just sit here and pray for clearer skies

I can’t stand the pain, when I’m dreaming of Tennessee sunshine but I’m stuck with Kentucky rain.

Pain it tests me, my woman left me, cried so hard now my eyes are empty, so I hit the road and headed for the coast.

I didn’t leave too much behind, just a couple of friends, an empty bottle of wine, maybe we’ll meet again someday.

For his grieving family and others in Swansea, the past week has been spent remembering Gerrard, whose love for composing original electronic dance music, writing, and mornings spent fly fishing may only have been eclipsed by his attachment to Glasgow’s famous Celtic soccer team.

At visitations on Tuesday and his funeral the following day, Gerrard was remembered by friends and family as a youth who never stopped asking the fundamental question of journalism: Why?


July 22, 2014

CitiMortgage seeks $4.5 million in lawsuit against Chicago bankers

Filed under: Canada, mortgage — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 12:36 am

CitiMortgage is suing two Chicago bankers, Steve and John Calk, alleging a mortgage bank the brothers operated that dissolved in 2012 contained inaccuracies in residential loan underwriting documents.

CitiMortgage, which is based in O’Fallon, Mo., is seeking more than $4.5 million in damages in the breach of contract lawsuit filed in federal court in St. Louis Monday.  

Since 2004, CitiMortgage purchased 4,790 loans from Chicago Bancorp, once one of the largest privately held retail mortgage banks in the country, according to court documents. 

Steve Calk was president and co-owner of Chicago Bancorp, and John Calk was vice president and co-owner before Chicago Bancorp dissolved in late 2012. Steve Calk now is founder, chairman and CEO of The Federal Savings Bank in Chicago, which also is named a defendant in the lawsuit, and John Calk is vice chairman. 

Eighteen loans Chicago Bancorp sold CitiMortgage over the last decade contained inaccurate information or material misrepresentations that included misrepresenting a borrower’s income, employment or debt, according to the lawsuit. In one loan Chicago Bancorp sold CitiMortgage, the lawsuit alleges a borrower provided a false Social Security number belonging to another individual. “Chicago Bancorp sold (CitiMortgage) at least 18 loans … that were underwritten and/or originated based upon materially inaccurate information or on material misrepresentations,” CitiMortage’s lawsuit alleges. 

CitiMortgage alleges its contract with Chicago Bancorp required Chicago Bancorp to repurchase loans that CitiMortgage deemed did not meet the requirements set out in the contract instant payday loans. After Chicago Bancorp dissolved, CitiMortgage alleges that The Federal Savings Bank continued Chicago Bancorp’s business of originating mortgage loans with Chicago Bancorp’s employees, and Chicago Bancorp’s assets were transferred to The Federal Savings Bank and its holding company, National Bancorp Holdings. 

“Chicago Bancorp and the other defendants made the transfer of Chicago Bancorp’s assets with the actual intent to hinder, delay and prevent (CitiMortgage) from collecting amounts due to it in payment of repurchase claims against Chicago Bancorp,” CitiMortgage alleges in the lawsuit. 

A CitiMortgage spokesman and an attorney representing the Calks, The Federal Savings Bank and National Bancorp both declined to comment on the lawsuit. 

The new lawsuit isn’t the first time the parties have litigated over home loans. CitiMortgage sued Chicago Bancorp, the Calks, The Federal Savings Bank, and National Bancorp Holdings in February 2012 in federal court in St. Louis alleging 11 loans contained inaccuracies, and CitiMortgage sought more than $2 million in damages in that case. In a summary judgment this year, Judge Catherine Perry approved CitiMortgage’s motion for summary judgment in its favor on 9 of the 11 loans in dispute. 



July 17, 2014

300 vials labeled influenza, dengue found at lab

Filed under: Canada, finance — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 3:36 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — The same federal scientist who uncovered forgotten vials of smallpox earlier this month also found over 300 undocumented vials at the same lab, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

FDA officials say the vials list the names of other contagious viruses and bacteria, including dengue, influenza and rickettsia. Previously the government only announced it had recovered six glass vials of smallpox dating from the 1950s.

The freeze-dried smallpox samples were found in a building at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, that has been used by the Food and Drug Administration since 1972.

The find was disturbing because for decades after smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980, world health authorities said the only known samples left were safely stored in super-secure laboratories in Atlanta and in Russia.


June 24, 2014

In Yellen We Trust: That’s the Bond Mantra as Inflation Is Dismissed - Bloomberg

Filed under: Canada, news — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 10:21 am

As the Federal Reserve works to extricate itself from the bond market, its influence over debt investors is only increasing and boosting the chance of a soft landing for Treasuries.

While the Fed scales back the unprecedented stimulus that has inundated the world

June 22, 2014

Billions at risk as West Coast port contract ends

Filed under: economics, money — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 7:49 pm

LOS ANGELES • The West Coast ports that are America’s gateway for hundreds of billions of dollars of trade with Asia and beyond are no stranger to labor unrest and even violence.

Now, the contract that covers nearly 20,000 dockworkers is set to expire, and businesses that trade in everything from apples to iPhones are worried about disruptions just as the crush of cargo for the back-to-school and holiday seasons begins.

With contentious issues including benefits and job security on the table, smooth sailing is no guarantee.

On one side is the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, with its tradition of fierce activism dating to the Great Depression, when two of its members were killed during a strike. On the other is the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents shipping lines and operators of terminals at 29 West Coast ports.

Both acknowledge that they are unlikely to agree on a new contract before the current one expires June 30, but they plan to negotiate past that deadline. That would fit the pattern from contract talks in 2008 and 2002. In 2002, negotiators didn’t reach an agreement until around Thanksgiving, following an impasse that led to a 10-day lockout and a big disruption in trade.

The union’s total control over the labor pool means huge bargaining leverage, which negotiators have parlayed into white-collar wages and perks for blue-collar work. A full-time longshoreman earns about $130,000 a year, while foremen earn about $210,000, according to employer data. Workers pay nearly nothing for health coverage that includes no premiums and $1 prescriptions.

Neither side has publicly discussed progress on negotiations that began May 12 in San Francisco, which is headquarters to the union and the maritime association.

Twelve years ago, the shutdown had a lasting impact on how products moved in and out of the United States. Hulking cranes idled. Ships anchored in San Francisco Bay and outside ports from Los Angeles to Seattle. Economists estimated the impact at $1 billion each day.

Even after trade resumed, retailers — with their just-in-time supply chain — worried that West Coast ports risked becoming a bottleneck. Companies looked to Gulf Coast and East Coast ports, which courted them by upgrading facilities.

“They can’t afford to have their goods hung up either out on the sea or on the docks,” said Jonathan Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation low interest rate personal loans.

Between 2002 and last year, the portion of shipping containers that came into the U.S. through West Coast ports dropped from 50 percent to 44 percent, according to a study by Martin Associates, a firm that analyzes transportation systems. Imports to the Gulf of Mexico and the Northeast increased.

Even so, West Coast ports handled cargo worth $892 billion in 2013 alone, according to trade data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Worries over the current negotiations have prompted some stores to route shipments away from the West Coast, Gold said. Other importers planning for fall and winter shopping have shipped early to beat the contract’s expiration date.

The maritime association warns that labor peace is essential to keeping West Coast ports competitive, especially with an expansion of the Panama Canal that will allow larger vessels to reach East Coast markets directly.

The union is not persuaded, at least not publicly.

“The competitiveness argument is an old saw that gets trotted out every time there’s a negotiation,” said union spokesman Craig Merrilees. “The claim has generally been used in an effort to extract concessions from the union members.”

One area where the Pacific Maritime Association is looking for concessions is benefits. According to the PMA, the cost of benefits more than doubled over the past decade, reaching $93,200 per registered worker in fiscal year 2013.

During these negotiations, a new incentive is in play: In 2018, a 40 percent tax on the value of “Cadillac” health plans above a certain threshold kicks in under the Affordable Care Act — and the union’s coverage qualifies.

Last July, workers and retirees picketed in Long Beach and in Tacoma, Washington, complaining that some families were shouldering tens of thousands of medical bills the health plan was not paying.

Employers said legitimate claims were being paid, but they were scrutinizing tens of millions of dollars of treatments that were likely fraudulent, including phantom appointments and charges for cosmetic surgery.

Other bargaining issues include what jobs will remain under union control, the introduction of technology that could make some jobs obsolete, and on-the-job safety measures.


June 17, 2014

Mayor Rob Ford to city: Change the locks, I’ll be back

Filed under: Uncategorized, term — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 10:37 pm

Mayor Rob Ford will return to Toronto and to his seat at the head of the city in just over 10 days.

In a letter dated June 2 to the city clerk’s office, Ford said he would return June 30 “in the latter portion of the afternoon, to resume my duties as Mayor of Toronto.”

The note is signed above where “MAYOR FORD” is written out in capital letters.

The letter also asks the city to change back the locks prior to his arrival. In his absence, Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly absorbed all of Ford’s staff and his duties as mayor quick cash. Last week at council, Kelly appointed Councillor Mike Del Grande as deputy-deputy mayor since he had planned to be away this week.

Ford has been in rehab, at the GreenStone treatment facility in Bala, Ont., for more than a month.


June 14, 2014

GM recalls another 530,000 cars, including late-model Camaros

Filed under: business, online — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 4:45 pm

Updated at 1:45 p.m.

General Motors Co. recalled about 530,000 cars in the U.S. on Friday, including the past four years of Chevrolet Camaros, new Buick LaCrosse sedans, and older Chevrolet Sonics and Saab convertibles.

This latest round brings GM’s total for the year to 38 separate recalls in the U.S. involving 14.4 million vehicles, a record for the automaker. Including this latest round, the auto industry has recalled about 25 million vehicles this year, about one out of every 10 vehicles on the road in the U.S.

“Discovering and acting on this issue quickly is an example of the new norm for product safety at GM,” said Jeff Boyer, GM vice president of global safety.

The Camaro recall covers 464,712 Camaros from the 2010-14 model years in the U.S. GM said a driver’s knee can bump the key fob and cause the key to unexpectedly shift from the “run” position, shutting off the important car functions such as power steering, air bags and the power brake assist.

The issue, which may primarily affect drivers sitting close to the steering column, was discovered by GM during internal testing following its recall of 2.6 million older small cars earlier this year for a faulty ignition switch linked to more than 50 crashes and at least 13 deaths.

But GM said the Camaro problem is unrelated to the ignition system used in Chevrolet Cobalts and other small cars included in the ignition-switch recall. Unlike the ignition in the older cars, the Camaro system meets all GM engineering specifications, the automaker said.

GM said it knows of three crashes “that resulted in four minor injuries” that it believes may be linked to the Camaro key fob.

The automaker will fix the problem by changing the Camaro key to a standard design from one in which the key is concealed in the fob and is opened by pushing a button.

GM also recalled 28,789 Saab 9-3 convertibles from the 2004-11 model years because an automatic tensioning system cable in the driver’s side front seat belt retractor can break. GM said it learned of the problem from customer complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration personal business card. GM said it is unaware of any crashes, injuries or fatalities related to the problem. GM no longer owns Saab.

Dealers will replace the driver’s side retractor in the recalled vehicles. GM also will cover the same repair if needed for the passenger seat belt during the life of the vehicle.

The Chevrolet Sonic recall involves 21,567 cars from the 2012 model year equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission and a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine. The cars can have a condition in which the transmission turbine shaft fractures “as a result of a supplier quality issue,” GM said. Dealers will replace the transmission turbine shaft. GM is unaware of any crashes, injuries or fatalities related to this condition.

GM said 14,765 model year 2014 Buick LaCrosse sedans need to be repaired because a wiring splice in the driver’s door may corrode and break, creating an electrical problem with circuits that control the door chime, passenger windows, rear windows and the sunroof. Dealers will inspect the driver door window motor harness and, if necessary, replace an electrical splice.

The wave of GM recalls has come after the automaker revamped its recall process following the disclosure that it waited a decade to recall the older cars with the deadly ignition-switch defect.

An internal probe into the delayed recall released by the automaker earlier this year found that a pervading atmosphere of incompetence and neglect led the company to allow the problem to fester for 11 years before anyone acted to correct it.

GM Chief Executive Mary Barra has fired 15 people as a result of the company-commissioned investigation into why the automaker delayed recalling defective cars. Five more GM employees were disciplined.

GM still faces ongoing investigations into the ignition-switch problem by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Department of Justice and Congress.


April 18, 2014

Ukraine, Russia reach tentative de-escalation agreement

Filed under: investors, small business — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 4:19 pm

OTTAWA—An agreement to ease tensions along Ukraine’s eastern border is raising hopes that a diplomatic solution to the ongoing crisis can be found, even as clashes in the country’s eastern regions claimed lives.

But even as diplomats worked to avoid further violence in the country, Canada and NATO allies continued to prepare for the possibility of a deepening crisis in the region.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Thursday that Canada will send six CF-18 fighter jets to Poland as part of a NATO air-policing mission. Another 20 military staff will be sent to bolster Canada’s contingent at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Harper said the move was a direct response to Russian expansionism in Ukraine.

“This is in response to the situation that is developing there and, frankly, more generally to the concern that we have on what really is expansionism and militarism on the part of Russia,” Harper said Thursday.

“I believe this to be a long-term, serious threat to global peace and security and we’re always prepared to work with our allies in NATO and elsewhere.”

Harper said in a statement that Canada remains steadfastly behind Ukraine and will not “stand idly by” while the country’s sovereignty is challenged court records.

Canada’s commitment — which was requested by NATO — came as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that four-way talks between the U.S., the European Union, Russia and the Ukraine had resulted in a tentative agreement on initial steps to de-escalate tensions.

The agreement calls on the two sides to halt violence, intimidation and provocative actions, according to reports. It also puts further Western economic sanctions against Russia on pause for the time being.

Under the Geneva statement, protesters would be given amnesty if they comply with the demands, including the immediate disarmament of all illegally armed groups, and the return of all seized buildings to their rightful owners. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will oversee the process.

Kerry called the deal “a good day’s work,” but said both sides need to translate the words into immediate action.

“None of us leaves here with a sense that the job is done because of words on a paper,” Kerry told reporters in Geneva.

Kerry added that if Moscow does not respect the commitment to de-escalate tensions, “we will have no choice but to impose further costs on Russia.”

The agreement comes after a night of bloodshed in the southeastern city of Mariupol, just 60 km from the Russian border, according to Ukrainian authorities. Ukrainian police killed three pro-Russian fighters and wounded 13 others Thursday in an overnight attack on a national guard base. Special forces were deployed, according to Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, and 63 people were detained and weapons seized.

Earlier this week, Ukraine sent troops into its eastern Donetsk region, where Kyiv said “armed extremists” operating under Russian direction had occupied government buildings. The masked militias operating in the region are reported to have sophisticated weaponry, stoking fears they’re backed by Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called those fears “nonsense” on Thursday, but acknowledged for the first time that the masked troops involved in the annexation of Crimea were Russian soldiers police reports public record.

In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama told reporters that it will take “several days” to know whether Russia and Ukraine will follow through on the Geneva agreement.

“The question now becomes will . . . (Russia) use the influence that they’ve exerted in a disrupted way to restore some order so that Ukrainians can carry out an election, move forward with the decentralization reforms that they’ve proposed, stabilize their economy, and start getting back on the path of growth and democracy,” Obama said.

“We’re not going to know whether or not there’s follow through on these statements for several days.”

Earlier Thursday, Obama spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and planned to speak with British Prime Minister David Cameron. The West will follow through with more economic sanctions, Obama said, unless they see progress on the ground in Ukraine.


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