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Tuesday, October 06, 2015


Original Story:

More than a third of major IT projects in the Netherlands never see the light of day, costing the government up to €5 billion a year, according to a highly critical report by a Parliamentary inquiry.

A commission headed by Liberal (VVD) MP Ton Elias, called for an independent regulator to be set up so that IT specialists can monitor the progress of large-scale projects. An Amsterdam IT lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

Projects often failed because those commissioning them lacked the technological knowledge, said Elias. “Things go wrong on every level and at every stage.

“It is one great unsightly mass, with no clear objectives, direction or cost control.” He noted that the lost money “could have been spent on healthcare or defence”.

Elias’s panel looked at a range of IT projects, including the OV chipcard used to pay for public transport and the A73 motorway tunnels. An Amsterdam IT attorney is following this story closely.

It found that 36 per cent of large projects – those with a budget of €7.5 million or more – were aborted before they were put into service. More than half (57%) either went over time or over budget, or did not meet expectations. Just 7% were judged to be successful.

Elias also said Parliament was failing in its duty to oversee projects funded by the public purse.

He said lack of interest and expertise by MPs meant they were not scrutinising the process properly. “Moreover, the provision of information to Parliament by the cabinet is frequently insufficient,” he said.

The commission’s work was hampered by problems obtaining the relevant information from ministers, according to Elias, who urged MPs to be more stringent. “Parliament needs to use its powers and take its scrutiny role seriously.”

The commission recommended that all projects costing more than €5 million be scrutinised by the Office for IT Testing (Bureau ICT Toetsing), which would measure their progress against 10 basic standards.

“The experts would act as a gatekeeper for IT projects. In addition it would drive it into the heads of IT departments that things could, and should, be done differently,” Elias said.

Monday, October 05, 2015


Original Story:

Global information services group Experian announced Thursday that one of its business units had been hacked. The breach occurred on a server that contained data on behalf of one of its clients, T-Mobile.
The data includes personal information for a combination of about 15 million customers and applicants in the U.S. who at one point may have applied for T-Mobile service. The company said that the incident did not impact its own consumer credit database.

The data also included applicants requiring a credit check for service or device financing from Sept. 1, 2013 through Sept. 16, 2015, Experian North America said in a statement.

The ADRs of Ireland-headquartered Experian closed Thursday up nearly 1.7 percent to $16.38, while shares of T-Mobile were down more than 1 percent in extended trading.

In a letter to consumers, T-Mobile CEO John Legere said the following:

"Obviously I am incredibly angry about this data breach and we will institute a thorough review of our relationship with Experian, but right now my top concern and first focus is assisting any and all consumers affected. I take our customer and prospective customer privacy VERY seriously. This is no small issue for us. I do want to assure our customers that neither T-Mobile's systems nor network were part of this intrusion and this did not involve any payment card numbers or bank account information."

Legere also said that any customers concerned that they may have been impacted can sign up for two years of free credit monitoring and identity resolution services at Experian's "Protect My ID" program.

Experian said it took immediate action upon finding the breach: it secured the server, initiated a comprehensive investigation and notified U.S. and international law enforcement.

The data stolen included names, dates of birth, addresses and Social Security numbers. No payment card or banking information was acquired, the company said.

"We take privacy very seriously and we understand that this news is both stressful and frustrating. We sincerely apologize for the concern and stress that this event may cause," said Craig Boundy, CEO of Experian North America. "That is why we're taking steps to provide protection and support to those affected by this incident and will continue to coordinate with law enforcement during its investigation."

Thursday, October 01, 2015


Original Story:

For all its majesty, the law is imperfect, and, if you're willing to pay a room full of corporate lawyers seven-figure salaries, they're likely to come up with all kinds of clever (and legal) ways of circumventing the spirit, if not the letter, of the law. Such corporate loopholes have allowed multi-billion dollar corporations to do things like circumvent campaign finance law, stiff the IRS and get generous tax subsidies for criminal malfeasance. Here are 11 of the worst legal loopholes corporations have come up with:

1. Tax havens and transfer pricing

Multinational corporations don't have to pay taxes on overseas profits; that is, until they transfer those profits back home. This would make sense, if it weren't for a practice known as "transfer pricing," where a multinational corporation can transfer the profits of a U.S. subsidiary to a subsidiary in, say, the Cayman Islands. There the money sits, allowing corporations to defer taxes on those profits indefinitely. By its own accounting, the U.S. government loses $10 billion to this loophole every year. A Binghamton patents lawyer is following this story closely.

2. Antitrust loopholes

Ordinarily, when one big company acquires another, they have to notify the Department of Justice, which decides if the merger violates anti-monopoly regulations. However, companies can avoid those regulations if the company they buy a company that is both foreign and itself owns less than $70 million in U.S. assets. When Google bought Israel-based Waze for over $1 billion last June, which was considered to be Google's real competition in the development of mapping software, many cried foul. But according to existing law, the Justice Department couldn't touch them.

3. Punitive damages deduction

When an ordinary person gets a speeding ticket, they don't get to write that off as a tax deduction at the end of the year. But when corporations are found criminally liable and hit with punitive damages, they get to claim those damages as a "necessary and ordinary" business expense. For example, Exxon's $1.1 billion fine for the Valdez oil spill ended up costing the company less than half that figure, after taxes. Essentially, taxpayers were left picking up the rest of the tab. A Fresno patents lawyer is experienced in the effective resolution of patents lawsuits as related to inventions and their inventors.

4. Patent injunctions

Patent injunctions are corporations' favorite tools for bullying and intimidating rising competitors. Ideally, when a patent-holding corporation believes another company's product is violating their copyrights, they can ask a judge for an injunction, essentially blocking the violator from selling the infringing product. However, because injunctions were so easy to get, in many cases corporations were using the mere threat of one to force smaller companies into shelving their products or paying them exorbitant fees, even when only a weak claim of copyright infringement could be made. When the Supreme Court rewrote the rules to make injunctions harder to get, many thought the loophole was closed, but when government closes a door, corporate lawyers open a window. Instead of going through the courts, corporations are now going through the U.S. International Trade Commission.

5. Volcker Rule: Government debt exception

The long-awaited Volcker Rule, a provision in the Dodd-Frank bill that aims to finally get commercial banks out of the risky trading business, was meant to finally clamp down on the kind of financial practices that led to the recession — that was the idea anyway. Now that it's been watered down by lobbyists, big banks will have plenty of loopholes to access. The biggest loophole seems to be the exemption allowing banks to buy government debt. Although there's no danger when banks buy relatively low-risk treasury bonds, they are free to bet your money on Detroit and Puerto Rican debt, which, you know, isn't so secure. A Warsaw patents lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

6. Volcker Rule: foreign bank exemption

One of the financial sector's loudest arguments against the Volcker Rule was that the restriction against proprietary trading reduced U.S. banks' competitiveness vis-à-vis foreign banks, which face no such restrictions. Thanks to their lobbying, they've won an exception. Banks under the Volcker Rule can do all of the risky trading they want, so long as it's through their "foreign banking entities." Because, you know, financial crises are always local anyway.

7. Carried interest

Some hedge fund managers and corporate CEOs manage pay to drastically lower taxes on their income by calling it something else: carried interest. Carried interest, which refers to the return over a predetermined profit, allows these executive to claim their compensation as capital gains and not income. Capital gains are taxed lower to encourage investment and stimulate economic growth. However, for corporate executives who are compensated mainly through stock options and carried interest, it's a loophole that lets them pay half of what they' d otherwise owe to the IRS.

8. Unlimited and anonymous campaign donations

Most people are familiar with why super PACs are bad, namely their complete abrogation of any limits on campaign donations. For a brief moment, there was a silver lining: super PACs would be required to reveal their donors. If one extremely wealthy individual or corporation tried to outright buy an election, at the very least the public would know. That is, until corporations started exploiting a loophole that allowed them to funnel their donations through 501(c)4, "social welfare" organizations that are not required to make their donors public. Now, when you look at a super PACs donor list, all you see are other non-profits. A Zurich patents lawyer advises clients in the commercialization and utilization of intellectual property rights.

9. Last-in, first-out accounting

Lifo is a pretty standard accounting practice that lets companies track the value of their inventory by what the last piece of product sold for, sparing them the need of tracking changing values over multiple quarters when tax time comes. Conceivably, it is an important tool for small businesses across the country, but when Exxon Mobil uses it, it's nothing more than legalized tax evasion. Basically, Exxon Mobile can spend a year selling $20 gas for $50 but still claim a $10 profit per transaction, so long as the price of oil at some point gets to $40 by the end of the year, saving them billion in tax liabilities.

10. Agribusiness

During the early 20th century, a slew of federal agricultural policies were instituted to insure small farmers from changing weather and preserve a dependable food supply for the American people. Almost a century later, many of those policies are still in place, except the beneficiaries no longer small farmers, but big agribusiness, which receives 75% of the subsidies. Over the past decade, subsidies have cost the American taxpayer over $168 billion.

11. Corporate Lobbying

After the Jack Abramoff scandal, lobbying reform was passed that made it impossible for a lobbyist to buy a lawmaker so much as a sandwich. At least, that was the idea. A series of loopholes have meant that nothing has even slowed down the practice of flying congressmen to Brazil in return for a few favors. Now, instead of paying for the trips directly, lobbyists and corporations set up 501(c)(3)s to do the work for them. As recently as 2011, the International Conservative Caucus Foundation spent $100,000 sending four congressmen and their families on an African safari, finding time along the way to tour a Volkswagen factory (an ICCF donor).


Original Story:

Apple: iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus. Refreshed Apple TV. Enterprise-focused iPad Pro.

Google: Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P. Refreshed Chromecast. Enterprise-focused Pixel C tablet.

Those lineups show the similarities between the new products Google Inc. GOOG, -0.01% GOOGL, +0.00% announced Tuesday and those Apple Inc. AAPL, -1.05%  announced earlier this month. The big difference between the two companies’ new offerings is price, with Google undercutting Apple across the board.


Google introduced two new Android smartphones, the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P, at a product event on Tuesday. Both phones — manufactured by LG and Huawei, respectively — will be sold as unlocked devices, meaning they can be purchased directly through Google’s digital store or at partner bricks-and-mortar retailers and used with a wide variety of carriers. They will also be compatible with Project Fi, Google’s new WiFi program, part of a trend among Google, Apple and others to take over parts of the wireless business previously reserved for carriers. Google SEO deliver top organic keyword rankings in all of the major search engines.

The 5.2-inch Nexus 5X will retail for $379 and up, while the 5.7-inch Nexus 6P will start at $429. Both devices will come equipped with fingerprint technology similar to Apple’s TouchID, though the sensor is on the back of its phones, and will operate on Android’s upcoming Marshmallow operating system.

Apple’s AAPL, -1.05%  4.7-inch iPhone 6s and 5.5-inch iPhone 6s Plus, unveiled at Apple’s product event earlier this month, can also be purchased as unlocked phones directly through Apple for $549 and $649, respectively. Apple also is offering a monthly pricing plan that allows consumers to upgrade every time a new iPhone hits the market.

Also Read: Apple breaks another iPhone record, but China was included this time

Google is sweetening the deal by offering a $50 credit for use at the Google Play app store and a free three-month trial subscription to Google Play Music. Apple also offered a free three-month trial for Apple Music.

Enterprise tablet

Tablets for the workplace are all the rage this year. Google on Tuesday launched its answer to the iPad Pro and Microsoft Inc.’s Surface Pro with a new tablet called Pixel C that will start at $499, versus $799 for the iPad Pro. Pixel C will also come with a detachable keyboard, which can be purchased separately for $149; Apple’s keyboard costs $169. Microsoft’s MSFT, +0.75%  Surface Pro 3 starts at $699 and offers a $129.99 keyboard.

Unlike both tablets from Apple and Microsoft, Google is not marketing the Pixel C with a stylus.

Video streaming

Google launched its second-generation Chromecast device that will retail for $35. It will receive support for Showtime content immediately, and Sling TV and Spotify will join within a few weeks. The device already supports Netflix NFLX, -0.14%  , Google Play Movies, HBO Now, Hulu, Pandora P, -0.07%  and many other streaming services. Google also launched a $35 Chromecast Audio device with a plug-in that can turn a user’s existing speaker into a conduit for music streaming.

Earlier this month, Apple unveiled its fourth-generation Apple TV, which comes with a remote control, Siri compatibility, and content from similar streaming services for $149, though Apple’s TV streaming device does not natively support Apple Music’s rival streaming services.

The only place where Google is not trying to undercut Apple by price is music streaming. Both Apple and Google offer music streaming services for $9.99 a month. Google unveiled a six-person family plan on Tuesday that will cost $14.99 a month, matching the price of Apple’s six-person family plan launched earlier this month.

Shares of Google rose ahead of its product event but declined slightly after it kicked off, ultimately closing down 0.3% at $622.61. Apple’s stock declined throughout the day, with the fall accelerating after the Google event, and shares ultimately closed down 3% at $109.06.