June 4, 2008
Ratings Agency Rules
New York Attorney General Cuomo has cut a deal with the rating agencies to change the way they will be for fees. The agencies at present are solicited by issuers, issue ratings, and then ask for fees. Issuers that are unhappy with the ratings can threaten refuse fees and go to other agencies. Under a pay first system, the issuers will not have, in theory, such bargaining power. The solution is empty, however, once one realizes that it does not solve the inherent conflict of interest present when those being rated, the issuers, pay those who rate them. We need either to suspend all legal requirements that depend on such ratings or find a way to have ratings agencies paid by those who depend on the accuracy of the ratings, not those who are rated.
Brocade and Stock Options Backdating
Late Monday, Brocade Communications Systems, Inc., agreed to pay the plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit $160 million to settle allegations the network equipment maker injured investors by backdating stock options between 1999 and 2004. Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System filed the suit. In summer 2006, Brocade's former chief executive, Gregory Reyes, and former VP of human resources, Stephanie Jensen, became the first executives criminally charged over the practice and were later convicted. Brocade had agreed in May 2007 to pay $7 million to settle allegations by the Securities and Exchange Commission of civil fraud accompanying options backdating. The SEC settlement was notable for its omission of a condemnation of "spring-loaded" options--options issued just before a company announces good news. Critics do not like the practice but it is not illegal. A new set of rules in 2006 heightens disclosure required by the practice however.
A Dutch Company Blocks an Acquisition
Germany Plans to Privatize Freight Railroad
According to Deutsche Bahn's CEO, Harmut Mehdorn, "It's a good day for customers, taxpayers and employees."
P&G sells Foldgers to Smuckers
On Tuesday, J.M. Smucker Co. stated its intent to purchase the Folgers brand from Proctor and Gamble in an all-stock deal. Given Folger's annual sales in excess of $1.6B, the price for the business could be upwards of $2B. The acquisition of Folgers nearly doubles the size of Smucker and would give it the top-selling ground coffee brand in the United States.
June 2, 2008
Corporate Income Tax
Scholarly research is supporting what corporate executives have known for years, corporations do not pay corporate income tax, they pass it on. At issue has been to whom. Most assumed consumers get hit but no research is showing that company blue collar workers may pay up to 70 percent, 70 percent, of corporate tax in reduced wages. Unions should lobby against, not for corporate tax.