Wheels: Sunroofs Are Growing in Size and Popularity. Rules Haven’t Kept Up.

anastasios pallis

With sunroofs becoming increasingly popular, consumer advocates worry that the danger will grow.

About seven million, or 40 percent, of the 2017 model year cars and light trucks sold in the United States came with a sunroof, compared with 33 percent for the 2011 model year, according to WardsAuto, a trade publication.

Crash data is not as up-to-date, but it is still troubling. About 300 people were killed and about 1,400 injured every year from 1997 to 2008 when they were thrown out of sunroofs, whether open or closed, the N.H.T.S.A. said in 2011. In 2016, the agency did a more limited study of ejections through closed sunroofs only: Between 2002 and 2012, about 230 people were killed and 500 injured each year.

In a statement, the agency said it was “actively looking into this issue and continues to analyze information related to the structural integrity of sunroofs.” The agency also said it was “evaluating factors that reduce passenger ejection.”

Federal regulators should update their data and take a serious look at sunroof standards, said Jason Levine, the executive director of the Center for Auto Safety.

Liza Hankins was 18 when she was paralyzed after a she was thrown out of the sunroof of the family’s 2000 Ford Expedition in a crash. She and her family sued Ford, saying the sunroof was unreasonably dangerous. A jury found in the automaker’s favor.

“Sunroofs are getting bigger, and so that raises questions that perhaps those numbers are larger,” Mr. Levine said.

Ms. Hankins is among those whose lives were forever changed.

The sunroof in her 2000 Ford Expedition was fun when she first got the vehicle, but the novelty wore off and she usually kept it closed — just as it was when she crashed on the way to work in Yazoo City, Miss., in 2005.

“I didn’t think I would ever be thrown out of it,” she said in a telephone interview.

Ms. Hankins has no memory of the crash, but the evidence showed that the truck rolled over, the glass panel of the sunroof popped out and she was thrown through the opening.

“It put me in a wheelchair,” she said, adding, “It scarred my face really badly.”

In the suit against Ford, Ms. Hankins’s lawyers argued that the automaker should have used laminated safety glass, the kind used in windshields, and more securely anchored the panel. The lawyers said Ford had known for decades that laminated glass — which uses a layer of plastic film between two layers of glass — was safer, but used less-expensive tempered glass.

The automaker acknowledged that tempered glass, which is used in side windows, was less expensive. However, it said serious brain and neck injuries could occur when heads hit laminated glass, a danger it concluded was a greater threat to belted occupants than ejection. (Ford asserted that Ms. Hankins had not been wearing a seatbelt — a suggestion she denied.)

The N.H.T.S.A. considered regulating sunroof safety in 2011 when it established rules to prevent side-window ejections but ultimately opted against doing so. (To comply with the side-window rules, carmakers usually rely on curtain airbags that cover the windows.)

The agency noted that only 3 percent of the 10,000 ejection deaths each year from 1997 to 2008 involved sunroofs. That contrasted with 62 percent through side windows.

The agency’s decision dismayed safety advocates, who said it had ignored a 2005 congressional mandate to reduce the danger of being thrown from a vehicle.

At the time, the agency said that it was in compliance with the mandate and that it was “not reasonable” to adopt a sunroof standard. One major impediment: It didn’t have a test to measure sunroof safety.

A sunroof airbag developed by Hyundai Mobis, a supplier of auto parts. The company said it could begin appearing in cars in the next two years. Credit Hyundai Mobis Company

Now there may be one.

Last year, three N.H.T.S.A. researchers announced that they had developed “a viable performance test” using a ram to push up and gauge the strength and anchoring of laminated glass in a sunroof.

David Friedman, a former top official at the agency who oversees automotive issues for Consumers Union, said it appeared that the test had been developed with the idea of exploring a new regulation. “I’d argue it should be on the list,” he said.

Although research shows that wearing a seatbelt greatly reduces the chances of being completely thrown out a sunroof, a partial ejection is still possible in a particularly violent crash, said Stephen Batzer, a forensic engineering consultant from Michigan and a court-recognized expert in automotive crash safety. If federal regulators decide to explore a sunroof regulation, they will most likely consider mandating the use of laminated glass, Mr. Batzer said.

Some automakers already use laminated glass for sunroofs. Volvo favors it.

“From a safety perspective, the most important aspect of the roof being laminated is to ensure that the occupant stays in the compartment in case of a rollover,” Russell Datz, a Volvo spokesman, said in an email.

And Ford — which in Ms. Hankins’s lawsuit warned that laminated glass sunroofs could be dangerous — now uses it in some of its sunroofs “depending on engineering requirements,” a company spokeswoman, Elizabeth Weigandt, said. She declined to detail the models or requirements.

An auto-industry supplier in South Korea will soon offer what it says is a better safety option. Hyundai Mobis, which supplies parts to automakers including Hyundai and Kia, has developed what it believes is the first sunroof airbag.

An airbag would provide protection even when the sunroof was open, said Choon Kee Hwang, a spokesman for the company. He said it could appear on new vehicles in a year or two.

Even if carmakers are showing a willingness to address sunroof safety on their own, it’s well past time for the government to establish standards, said Joan Claybrook, who headed the N.H.T.S.A. from 1977 to 1981 and is president emeritus of Public Citizen.

Two hundred or three hundred deaths a year indicate a “deadly issue” that should be addressed, Ms. Claybrook said. There is precedent for a relatively small number of deaths to prompt regulatory action, she said. In 2014 — citing 210 fatalities a year — the N.H.T.S.A. required automakers to make backup cameras standard equipment on cars and light trucks.

Regulators, Ms. Claybrook said, have just as much reason to address sunroof standards.

“It is so obvious,” she said.

Continue reading the main story

This article is from NYT – go to source

Common Sense: College Endowments Opt for Alternative, and Less Lucrative, Route

anastasios pallis

The trend is likely to be even more pronounced next year, when the financial crisis results of the 2009 fiscal year drop out of the 10-year calculations. That’s because alternatives did provide something of a buffer during that severe bear market, but have mostly underperformed since.

Five-year averages suggest the magnitude of the gap: The average endowment had annualized five-year returns of 5.9 percent. A 60-40 mix returned 8.2 percent, and a 70-30 mix returned 9.2.

“That’s tens of millions of dollars that could have otherwise funded scholarships, built a new museum wing or bolster the corpus of the endowment to help future generations,” said Christopher Philips, head of Vanguard Institutional Advisory Services. (He’s not a disinterested observer: Vanguard is a major purveyor of — and advocate for — low-cost index and mutual funds.)

“It’s frustrating because these institutions do so much good work, and most of them could be doing so much better,” Mr. Philips said.

Even the Ivy League schools, with combined endowments of more than $125 billion, have fallen prey to the trend. As a group, they, too, have underperformed simple index strategies over 10 years, and their huge portfolios of alternative assets “appeared to deliver no meaningful benefits in 2017,” according to a study by Markov Processes International, a quantitative research firm that did an in-depth study of the performance of Ivy League endowments.

Last year Harvard University shocked the investment world when it announced a $1.1 billion write-down of its natural resources portfolio, much of it in alternative investments. Harvard’s $37.1 billion endowment, the country’s largest, gained only 8.1 percent last year, placing it last among Ivy League schools. Harvard said it was in the process of restructuring its illiquid asset portfolio, but hasn’t abandoned alternatives.

Even Yale University, which pioneered the so-called Yale Model now slavishly followed by many other endowments, and has a target allocation of nearly 90 percent of its assets in alternative assets, has seen its outperformance shrink in recent years. Yale delivered an 11.3 percent return for 2017, but that was below the average return for all endowments of 12.2 percent, according to the study by Nacubo, the National Association of College and University Business Officers.

Yale University has a target allocation of nearly 90 percent in alternative investments. Credit Michael M. Santiago for The New York Times

Yale still boasts a stellar 20-year annualized return of 12.1 percent, far above the endowment 20-year average of 7.4 percent, according to the university. But its 10-year annualized return has slipped to just 6.6 percent. (That still puts it in the top 5 percent of all endowment returns.) Still, Yale told me that its chief investment officer, David Swensen, is bullish on the school’s portfolio relative to stocks and bonds for the next 10 years.

The endowments’ persistent devotion to high-cost alternative assets in the face of such poor performance, now documented across a decade-long span, baffles many. “We keep scratching our heads,” Mr. Philips of Vanguard said.

“Among the schools we survey, there’s a strong belief in the endowment model pioneered 30 years or so ago by Yale and a few other schools,” said Kenneth E. Redd, senior director of research and policy analysis for Nacubo. “We’re not seeing any changes in portfolio alignment or investment philosophy even though the indexes have clearly outperformed both managed funds and hedge funds. There’s still this belief that alternatives will provide some measure of outperformance.”

He noted that endowments of more than $1 billion, which tend to have high allocations to alternatives, did on average outperform the 60-40 mix (but not the 70-30 mix) over the most recent five-year period.

Jeff Schwartz, Markov’s president, agreed. “We’re talking about true believers in the value of alternatives,” he said. Many endowment managers, he added, “aren’t completely objective.”

“They’ve seen it work in the past, sometimes in a spectacular way,” he continued. “It’s hard to take an embedded belief system like that and say, just because we’ve had an outstanding bull market, that you should move to 60-40. That’s a tall order.”

Given the need to cover increased costs, not to mention the recent tax legislation that seeks to tax the wealthiest endowments, asset managers at colleges are under increasing pressure to generate higher returns, even as lofty stock valuations and rising interest rates “suggest it will be hard to get 7.5 percent with a traditional asset mix going forward,” Mr. Philips said.

“So there’s a strong inclination to turn to something that promises higher returns,” he said, even if they haven’t delivered in the recent past.

He also pointed to the “massive marketing machine in the alternative space,” which is “causing investment managers to turn a blind eye to what’s really happening in financial markets.”

Universities depend heavily on draws from their endowments — typically 5 percent or more per year — to meet spending needs, and are still haunted by memories of the financial crisis. This month’s stock market volatility was a painful reminder.

So the promise of alternative investments to mitigate risk and protect against market downturns has been powerful, even if they haven’t delivered.

But with long-term — even infinite — time horizons, university endowments should be able to withstand market volatility.

“We’re aware of the need to support current spending,” Mr. Philips said, “but if growing the corpus to support future spending is a primary objective, there should be more traditional equity exposure, not less. Adding nontraditional assets would be O.K. if they were compensating for illiquidity and higher risk, but they’re not.”

Continue reading the main story

This article is from NYT – go to source

Industrial, Tech Shares Drive Gains on Wall Street

anastasios pallis
anastasios pallis

“Yesterday was overdone. Clearly we have a major market reversal and today investors are more comfortable with the likelihood of three rate hikes and not four,” said John Lynch, chief investment strategist at LPL Financial in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Despite Fed’s hawkish views, bets on the U.S. short-term interest rate futures continued to reflect expectations of three rate hikes this year, based on a Reuters analysis.

Although analysts expect tightening of monetary policy to unsettle markets in the short term, they remain confident about the health of the U.S. economy and corporate earnings, especially after the new tax law.

“In spite of what we experienced with a return to volatility a couple of weeks ago, we can still see firming economic and profit growth and that is something investors will need to maintain their focus on,” Lynch said.

By 12:33 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 1.12 percent at 25,076.04, powered by gains in United Technologies.

Shares of the industrial conglomerate jumped 3.7 percent after its chief executive said the company was exploring a breakup of its business.

The S&P 500 was up 0.85 percent at 2,724.32 and the Nasdaq Composite gained 0.57 percent to 7,259.08. Gains in these indexes were driven by Apple, Microsoft and Amazon.

U.S. crude <CLc1> rose to a two-week high of $63.03 per barrel, boosted by data showing a surprise draw in U.S. crude inventories and also due to a drop in the dollar. [O/R]

That lifted the S&P energy index by more than 2 percent.

Chesapeake Energy’s shares jumped 23 percent and were on track to post their biggest percentage gain since April 2016 after the company reported upbeat quarterly profit.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 2,167 to 667. On the Nasdaq, 1,782 issues rose and 1,045 fell.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

Continue reading the main story This article is from NYT – go to source

Fosun Triumphs in Bidding War for Lanvin, Troubled Fashion House

anastasios pallis

Neither Lanvin nor Fosun would disclose financial details for their transaction. The expectation, however, is that Fosun will put a minimum of €100 million ($122 million) into the ailing house, much of which would cover outstanding losses and unpaid salaries.

The Chinese conglomerate, which is controlled by the billionaire Guo Guangchang and owns the French tourism group Club Med, along with the brands Folli Follie, St. John and Caruso, recently entered into acquisition talks with the Italian lingerie brand La Perla.

Fosun’s acquisition of Lanvin is the latest by Chinese investors looking to build stakes in European luxury assets. Credit Greg Baker/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Lanvin’s current owner and president, Shaw-Lan Wang, who is based in Taiwan and previously held 75 percent of the company, will lose control and become a minority shareholder. The Swiss businessman Ralph Bartel will retain a minority stake.

Until this week, the fortunes of Lanvin had been in a desperate state. Founded by Jeanne Lanvin in 1889, the house had enjoyed a 21st-century revival during the 14-year tenure of the creative director Alber Elbaz, who had forged a loyal client base with collections full of shimmering, jewel-toned cocktail frocks and velvet tuxedos.

But after the acrimonious ousting of Mr. Elbaz by Ms. Wang in October 2015, the company quickly tipped into chaos, with the departure triggering walkouts and the workers’ council suing Lanvin’s management.

A second creative director, Bouchra Jarrar, lasted just 16 months, while a debut collection in September by the brand’s latest hire, Olivier Lapidus, who had outlined his intention to turn Lanvin into the “French Michael Kors,” received dire reviews.

A write-up by the chief fashion critic at The New York Times, Vanessa Friedman, was headlined “How to Wreck a Brand in 3 Years.”

Predictably, Lanvin’s sales plummeted. In 2016, revenues fell 23 percent to €162 million and the company posted its first loss in more than a decade, of €18.3 million. Three people with knowledge of the finances say the losses widened further still in 2017, prompting Ms. Wang to seek fresh investment in order to prevent the company’s collapse.

Hungry investors had circled Lanvin before, spying an opportunity to grow a brand whose financial performance had never quite matched the luxury halo it possessed in a buoyant market.

In 2014, for example, Ms. Wang rejected a bid by Mayhoola of around €400 million. Two people with knowledge of the recent talks said Mayhoola had balked at paying more than €100 million ($122 million) for the brand, leaving Fosun to take up the challenge of underwriting a much hoped-for renaissance.

Continue reading the main story

This article is from NYT – go to source

Margaret Brennan Named Host of ‘Face the Nation’ on CBS

anastasios pallis
anastasios pallis

Ms. Brennan, whose debut is set for Sunday, joined CBS News in 2012 after a decade in financial journalism, working as an anchor and correspondent at Bloomberg Television and CNBC. She said in an interview on Thursday that she hoped “Face the Nation” would offer a dose of civility in a highly charged political moment.

“Sometimes it’s overwhelming for viewers, because there is such an unrelenting news cycle right now,” Ms. Brennan said. “This is a place where we need to have some perspective, have a civil conversation and take a step back.”

At CBS, Ms. Brennan has reported on the Trump White House and helped lead coverage of major international stories, including diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, nuclear negotiations with Iran, chemical weapons attacks in Syria, and nuclear tensions in North Korea. She recently interviewed Rex Tillerson, President Trump’s secretary of state, for “60 Minutes.”

“A lot of people in Washington have covered politics; not as many people have covered Trump,” David Rhodes, the president of CBS News, said in an interview. “Margaret has a curiosity about foreign affairs, but also politics and the Trump administration, and even business and finance, that gives her a really wide range.”

A plum assignment in network news, Mr. Dickerson’s spot on “Face the Nation” was the subject of some in-house jockeying at CBS. Among the contenders were Major Garrett, the network’s chief White House correspondent and a familiar figure to those who watch the daily televised White House briefings, and Nancy Cordes, another of the network’s lead Washington reporters.

Ms. Brennan, who grew up in Danbury, Conn., studied foreign affairs and the Middle East at the University of Virginia and spent time in Jordan, where she learned to read and speak Arabic. Her first job in journalism was an internship at CNN in Atlanta.

It was Ms. Brennan’s mother who suggested that she pursue a career in television news.

“My mom said, ‘You should try that out,’” Ms. Brennan recalled. “‘You’re always talking to the TV screen, that they didn’t give the context on this or that. Why don’t you try to do it yourself?’”

Continue reading the main story

This article is from NYT – go to source

DealBook Briefing: What Is a Whistle-Blower These Days?

anastasios pallis

What Newell said of the move:

These actions are part of Newell Brands’ ongoing refreshment process on behalf of shareholders designed to build a board with the best mix of skills, expertise and experience to support the Newell Brands’ leadership team in accelerating shareholder value creation.

What it didn’t say: That this was a response to Starboard, which has criticized Newell’s management team — and is seeking to replace the company’s entire board.

— Michael de la Merced

Hock Tan, chief executive of Broadcom. Credit Lucas Jackson/Reuters

The Broadcom-Qualcomm battle is getting more bitter

Broadcom didn’t walk away after Qualcomm raised its takeover bid for NXP Semiconductor, but it did lower its own proposal by $3 a share, to $79. Why? Because the new NXP offer transferred $4.10 per Qualcomm share to NXP investors.

Qualcomm responded that the move “made an inadequate offer even worse,” and argued that the NXP deal couldn’t have gotten done at the original price of $110 a share.

Looks like we’re headed to a showdown at Qualcomm’s annual meeting on March 6.

The deals flyaround

• As online streaming booms and 5G gets closer, is now the time for Charlie Ergen to sell Dish Networks? (Gadfly)

• Hedge funds like Verition Partners are trying to save the shareholder appraisal process, meant to wring more money from mergers, from a series of adverse court rulings. (FT)

• Britain might block Melrose Industries’s hostile takeover of the aerospace supplier GKN on national security grounds. (FT)

• Two big U.S. hospital networks, Bon Secours Health System and Mercy Health, have agreed to merge, amid a surge in deal-making in the industry. (WSJ)


Unraveling the productivity mystery

Why has its growth slowed? A new study by the McKinsey Global Institute suggests that rising consumer demand, as well as what companies produce and which tech they use, drives productivity improvements.

More from Peter Eavis’s correspondence with Jaana Remes of McKinsey, one of the study’s authors:

Important new technologies can often take well over 10 years to have a big impact on productivity, she adds. The optimistic take, though, is that we can in the coming years expect to see big benefits as companies further automate, and introduce artificial intelligence.

In other macro news: Prepare for interest rates to rise, Jay Powell said. Preferably gradually, Randal Quarles added. The saving rate is at a 12-year low. And no one knows why the markets dropped suddenly yesterday.

The policy flyaround

• Mississippi granted a tax break worth up to $6 million to a hotel tied to the Trump family business. So could that violate the emoluments clause? (NYT)

• Sam Nunberg, a Trump campaign adviser, is scheduled to meet today with Robert Mueller. And t he special counsel has filed new charges — under seal — against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates.

• Congress’s next fight over Dreamers may come with a $1.3 trillion spending bill to avert a government shutdown on March 23. Meanwhile, Melania Trump’s parents have become lawful U.S. residents, perhaps through what the White House denounces as “chain migration.”

• Senators James Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, and Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, called for a bipartisan infrastructure bill. (WSJ)

• Survivors of school shootings shared their stories with President Trump and pleaded for action. (NYT)

• Representative Trey Gowdy of the House Oversight Committee demanded documents relating to first-class travel by Scott Pruitt, the head of the E.P.A. (NYT)

Credit Kathy Willens/Associated Press

JPMorgan is getting a new home

The bank’s employees are scattered across Midtown Manhattan. So it’s planning a new headquarters, which could be as tall as 75 stories, to house 15,000 workers. (Its current H.Q. — which, fun fact, is where the pistols from Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr’s duel reside — was designed for about 3,500.)

The context: The forthcoming JPMorgan skyscraper is the first major project under New York City’s Midtown East rezoning plan. The bank dropped plans for Manhattan’s Far West Side after failing to secure subsidies from the city.

Elsewhere in banking: Barclays lost $2.7 billion last year, hit by the U.S. tax overhaul, but promised to double its dividend. And José Manuel Barroso, chairman of Goldman Sachs International, has been criticized for lobbying the European Commission, which he led until 2014.

Raj Nair, an executive vice president at Ford. Credit Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

A top Ford executive is ousted for ‘inappropriate behavior’

The carmaker didn’t specify what Raj Nair, the head of its North American operations, did to be fired, only that his ouster arose out of an anonymous tip. But the move adds to turmoil at the struggling company.

The context: Ford already apologized to its workers after the NYT investigated longstanding abuses of women at two of its plants in Chicago. And its operations chief in China left earlier this year for pre-Ford “personal reasons.”

The misconduct flyaround

• The Dallas Mavericks franchise has hired outside counsel to investigate allegations of inappropriate conduct against its former team president.

• A national online survey found sexual harassment and assault to be much more common than previous studies had suggested. (NYT)

• The former NPR executive Michael Oreskes was warned repeatedly that he was acting inappropriately toward women, and kept doing it, according to an independent investigation. (NYT)

• Tom Schumacher, the Disney executive who took “Frozen” to Broadway, has been accused of workplace harassment. (WSJ)

• An anonymous chat app is helping lift the lid on sexual harassment in South Korea. (Reuters)

Pavel Durov, the founder and C.E.O. of Telegram. Credit Jim wilson/The New York Times

Telegram is trying to raise yet more money

The secure messaging service is holding a second private presale before its highly anticipated (and record-breaking) initial coin offering. More from Adrianne Jeffries of The Verge:

The exact amount to be raised is still being determined, according to one source, but two other sources said Telegram is estimating it will be around the same size as the first round, which would bring the total raised to over $1.6 billion before the ICO even opens up to the general public.

More in digital money

• The S.E.C. charged the virtual currency exchange BitFunder and its founder with fraud. (CNBC)

• The Justice Department has made gains on a seized Bitcoin hoard, but has had trouble cashing out. (Fortune)

• Some new ways of selling shovels to Bitcoin miners. (WSJ)

• Lawmakers in Britain are examining sympathetic ways to regulate digital currencies. (Reuters)

• New software at big cryptocurrency exchanges could make Bitcoin transactions cheaper. (CNBC)

And Bitcoin’s at $10,676 today, according to CoinMarketCap.


The tech flyaround

• The latest chatbots are impressive. But they might be even better if their inventors weren’t scared of them saying something vile in public. (NYT)

• Airbnb is trying to promote its Experiences business as it heads toward an I.P.O., with little success. (WSJ)

• Amazon’s Alexa could be the next great consumer computing platform, says Farhad Manjoo. (NYT)

• Roger McNamee, an early investor in Facebook, says it could be fixed by charging users for a better News Feed, arranged in cable-style bundles. (WaPo)

• Uber will keep investing in Southeast Asia, despite losing money to local rivals. (Reuters)

• A former Google engineer has sued the company for discrimination and wrongful termination, saying he fired for responding to racist and sexist encounters. (The Verge)

• Naspers of South Africa has become an under-the-radar e-commerce giant and global tech investor. (The Information)

• One of Twitter’s solutions for bot accounts: limiting automated tweets. (Axios)

• Facebook is using algorithms to flag expressions of suicidal thoughts. (CNBC)

• Apple wants to patent a way to count calories burned during yoga. (Axios)

Revolving Door

Peter Tague, one of Citigroup’s co-heads of M. & A., is leaving. (WSJ)

Alison Gleeson and Wendy Bahr are the finalists to become Cisco’s global sales chief and No. 2 executive, unnamed sources say. (The Information)

• Glassdoor has hired Jim Cox from Lithium Technologies as its C.F.O. It also named Christian Sutherland-Wong as its first C.O.O. and Samantha Zupan as its vice president of global corporate communications. (Glassdoor)

• Coinbase is hiring a C.F.O. (Recode)

Credit Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Quote of the day

“There is a credibility gap between what they say and the reality of what is to come.”

— The Deutsche Bank analyst John Inch on how G.E. executives — including Jeff Immelt — masked problems at the conglomerate with rosy projections and questionable accounting.

The Speed Read

• Toys “R” Us plans to close another 200 stores and lay off many of its corporate staff after disappointing holiday sales, unnamed sources say. (WSJ)

• British officials have been holding talks with Unilever amid fears that the Anglo-Dutch consumer group could choose to have one unified headquarters in Rotterdam, not London. (FT)

• Hedge funds are buying planes and leasing them to airlines. (FT)

• A fund managed directly by Alan Howard, who made his name with impressive profits during the financial crisis in 2008, lost nearly 9 percent net of fees from May through December. (Reuters)

• Greece’s Parliament voted to investigate politicians over allegations of bribery by the Swiss drugmaker Novartis. (Reuters)

We’d love your feedback. Please email thoughts and suggestions to bizday@nytimes.com.

Continue reading the main story

This article is from NYT – go to source

Greece Approves Bribery Investigation Involving Political Elite

anastasios pallis

The prosecutors have protected the identities of the witnesses, who are considered to be “of public interest.”

Antonis Samaras, a former prime minister, in Parliament on Wednesday. He is on a list of politicians to be investigated for corruption. Credit Alexandros Vlachos/European Pressphoto Agency

Addressing Parliament before the vote, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said his government would not cover up “one of the biggest scandals in the country’s modern history.”

“Those who enriched themselves from human pain must suffer the consequences,” he said.

All 10 politicians named in the report have denied the accusations, and at least four have sued the witnesses. Most have denounced the affair as a “conspiracy” and a “witch-hunt” by a government, led by the Syriza party, whose popularity is waning a year before general elections.

Five of the accused belong to New Democracy, the main opposition party; three to the Socialist party PASOK; and two are unaligned.

Some of the accused, and many observers, have described the case as an attempt to distract public attention from major foreign policy issues — such as the contentious talks between Greece and neighboring Macedonia over the latter’s name, and rising tensions between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean.

“I did not come here to defend myself, I came to accuse,” Mr. Samaras, who was prime minister from 2012 to 2015, told Parliament, claiming that the government had “called fake witnesses to tarnish its rivals.”

Mr. Pikramenos, who served a one-month term as a caretaker prime minister at the peak of the financial crisis in 2012, teared up during his speech.

“At the beginning I was surprised,” he said. “Now I am overwhelmed by feelings of anger, frustration and disappointment,” he said.

Yannis Stournaras, left, the governor of the Bank of Greece, and Panagiotis Pikramenos, a former prime minister, during the debate on Wednesday. They are among those under investigation in connection with alleged bribery by the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis. Credit Alexandros Beltes/European Pressphoto Agency

Mr. Stournaras, for his part, spoke of “shameful slander.”

In a written statement sent to Parliament, Mr. Avramopoulos called for the witnesses to be identified and compelled to “answer for their crimes.” He also suggested the investigation was being driven by political motives, noting that the allegations suggest that the bribery “started suddenly in 2006, when I became health minister, and stopped just as suddenly on January 26, 2015,” the day after general elections that brought the current, leftist-led government to power.

Mr. Samaras has sued Mr. Tsipras, who succeeded him in 2015 after campaigning on promises to crack down on the corruption that contributed to Greece’s financial crisis, as well as the country’s deputy justice minister and three prosecutors.

Under Greek law, politicians cannot be directly prosecuted by the judicial authorities. Cases must first be referred to Parliament to investigate, and then lawmakers must revoke immunity before the suspects can be indicted.

The parliamentary investigation is expected to last around a month, and will be further complicated by the fact that the statute of limitations has expired for many of the allegations in the case.

Prosecutors, who were assisted by the F.B.I. in their initial investigation, are seeking to trace the kickbacks alleged to have been pocketed by the politicians, and looking for evidence of money laundering, to which the statute of limitations does not apply.

In a statement earlier this month, when the case file went to Parliament, the firm said it was cooperating “with requests from local and foreign authorities.” The statement added that neither Novartis nor any of its “current associates” had received an indictment in connection with the Greek case.

Novartis has been the subject of several bribery and corruption inquiries — in China, South Korea, Turkey and the United States — in the past three years.

Continue reading the main story

This article is from NYT – go to source

As China Puts Pressure on Taiwan, Signs of a U.S. Pushback

anastasios pallis

Chinese officials are showing signs of annoyance, and raising accusations that the United States is interfering in what Beijing considers one of its redline issues. “It is horrible that the present situation of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait will probably be turbulent,” said a commentary earlier this month on Huaxia, a Beijing-controlled news service on Taiwan issues.

Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the second-ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Forces Committee after Senator John McCain of Arizona, is in Taiwan this week, leading a large delegation of House and Senate committee members and staff.

They have been meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen and her senior ministers, a dialogue likely to offend Beijing officials. In an emailed reply to questions, Senator Inhofe endorsed continued American support for Taiwan, including a bill pending in the Senate that would encourage senior administration officials to visit the island. The bill has already passed the House.

“With China becoming more aggressive and intent on expanding its influence globally, the United States-Taiwan security relationship is now more important than ever,” the senator said. “By ensuring they have the ability to defend themselves, Taiwan will continue to be an important part of promoting regional stability.”

Military exercises in eastern Taiwan. China’s president, Xi Jinping, has put more emphasis on reunifying Taiwan with the mainland than his recent predecessors have. Credit Mandy Cheng/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

President Trump signed separate legislation in December, bitterly opposed by Beijing, that included a provision encouraging mutual port calls by naval vessels from Taiwan and the United States. The president has long had the authority to order port calls and dispatch senior officials, so both measures are somewhat symbolic but nonetheless irritate China, said Richard C. Bush, a former head of the American Institute in Taiwan, which handles the United States government’s contacts with the island.

Two events coming up in Taiwan may further annoy Beijing.

One is a luncheon and meeting in southern Taiwan in early May for a handful of executives from American military contractors and their Taiwanese counterparts. They will discuss a proposal by President Tsai to develop Taiwan’s components industry by selling more parts to military contractors, said Rupert Hammond-Chambers, the president of the United States-Taiwan Business Council, the host of the event.

The development was initially reported by Taiwanese, mainland Chinese and Hong Kong news media as a decision to move a big annual military contracting conference from the United States to Taiwan, potentially triggering a further chasm between Beijing and the United States. But the business council, which has organized the much larger event since its inception 16 years ago, has consistently held it in the United States and plans to keep doing so, Mr. Hammond-Chambers said.

The other event that could trigger Sino-American disagreement is expected in mid-June. That is when the American Institute in Taiwan is scheduled to open a new complex of elegantly designed buildings in Taipei, the capital, consolidating operations that are currently scattered among several dilapidated sites around the city. The institute is staffed mainly by State Department employees and local workers.

There has been no suggestion that President Trump, who skipped the opening of the new American Embassy in London last month, would come to the Taipei event. Instead, the unanswered question is how senior an American official might attend.

An air force base in southern Taiwan. Chinese pressure on Taiwan has included “island encirclement” flights by strategic bombers, escorted by fighter jets. Credit Bryan Denton for The New York Times

The first Bush administration, the Clinton administration and the Obama administration all sent cabinet officials to Taipei at various times. But they chose the United States trade representative, the secretary of transportation and the chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, rather than higher-profile officials like the secretary of state or the secretary of defense.

In each case, Beijing complained that the visits happened at all. Global Times, a nationalistic, Beijing-controlled newspaper, said earlier this month, “If any U.S. high-level official pays an official visit to Taiwan, Beijing will treat it as severe provocation and adopt all possible countermeasures, including uniting Taiwan by military force.”

President Xi Jinping has put more emphasis than his recent predecessors on China’s goal of eventual political unification of Taiwan with the mainland. During his 205-minute speech last October at the start of the Communist Party’s twice-a-decade national congress, Mr. Xi received his loudest, most enthusiastic applause — particularly from army generals in uniform among the delegates — when he declared, “We will never allow anyone, any organization, or any political party, at any time or in any form, to separate any part of Chinese territory from China.”

Mr. Xi conspicuously failed to say, as past Chinese leaders sometimes have, that unification should be achieved by working with the people of Taiwan. But he did say that unification should be peaceful, and he did not mention a previous commitment by Beijing to use armed force should Taiwan ever declare formal independence.

Beijing officials have pursued a more confrontational policy toward Taiwan ever since Ms. Tsai, of the Democratic Progressive Party, was elected president two years ago. Her party has a long history of favoring formal independence for Taiwan, although Ms. Tsai herself is a technocrat who has emphasized trying to strengthen the economy.

But Beijing officials have been biding their time about confronting Taiwan too publicly this year as they await the results of Taipei’s mayoral election in November. The race is likely to be closely contested by the Nationalist Party, which favors a more cooperative relationship with the mainland, and which Beijing officials are eager to see back in power in Taiwan.

Continue reading the main story

This article is from NYT – go to source

How to Challenge a Nursing Home Eviction Notice, and Other Tips

anastasios pallis
anastasios pallis

■ If a nursing home discharges a resident to a hospital, the home must generally hold the bed for a week or two, as required by state law, in case the resident wants to return. If the resident stays in the hospital for a longer time, the nursing home must accept a resident paying with Medicaid to the next available bed (for Medicaid patients).

■ Nursing homes are required to post the names and contact information for state agencies, advocacy groups, adult protective services as well as the long-term-care ombudsman program and other groups that could be helpful.

■ Nursing homes must also post a statement that residents have the right to file complaints.

■ Even if residents choose not to appeal the discharge, if they feel it was inappropriate, they should file a complaint with the state survey agency to conduct an investigation, said Lindsay Heckler, a lawyer with Center for Elder Law and Justice.

Tony Chicotel, staff attorney at California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, had two words of advice for residents facing an eviction: Don’t go.

“If you feel like the proposed discharge is not appropriate at this time or unsafe, don’t go,” he said. “Stay and make them do a better job of doing a better discharge. Get yourself more time, better deliberation and better planning. Make them do their jobs.”

Continue reading the main story This article is from NYT – go to source

Complaints About Nursing Home Evictions Rise, and Regulators Take Note

anastasios pallis

Many of the residents, unaware of their rights, leave without a challenge.

“The nursing homes, they know the system and they really game it to where they maximize their advantage,” said Tony Chicotel, a lawyer at California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, a nonprofit group.

Complaints about evictions have caught the attention of federal regulators, who are now seeking ways to step up enforcement of the federal laws that protect residents of the nation’s 15,000 nursing homes.

In December, federal regulators sent a memo to state officials across the country who inspect nursing homes for compliance with federal standards, saying they would begin examining discharges that appeared to violate the rules.

Nursing homes can discharge patients if they can no longer meet the residents’ needs, but that can be “a gray area,” one state long-term care ombudsman said. Credit Sebastien Bozon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

David R. Wright of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in the memo that wrongful evictions were “of great concern” because they could be unsafe or traumatic for patients, uprooting them “from familiar settings” and moving them far from family and friends.

The number of complaints about the discharge and evictions of residents was rising through 2015, the most recent year for which data is available. That year, there were 9,192 complaints about the discharge and eviction of nursing home residents, out of a total of 140,145 complaints, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. But some legal advocates said they believed these figures understated the problem, since many residents do not contest their discharge.

Even as the Trump administration has said it is looking for ways to address improper evictions, it has scaled back the use of fines against nursing homes that harm individuals, in keeping with the administration’s broader deregulation push.

Mr. Chicotel, the advocacy group lawyer, said that the federal regulations governing nursing homes were already strong but that enforcement was weak. Even when nursing homes are cited for violations, he said, they frequently “get a modest fine, and it’s often a cost of doing business.”

Dr. David R. Gifford, a senior vice president of the American Health Care Association, a trade group for nursing homes, said the perception that residents were being moved against their will for financial reasons was wrong.

“There’s a tension in the regulations,” Dr. Gifford said. “They clearly state that if someone can harm themselves or others, either through infections or their behavior or whatever, the individual can be discharged. But the regulations also clearly say that the goal is to not discharge people, and they have a right to stay there and receive care.”

Bill Wilson, a lawyer representing the nursing home where Ms. Zwaschka-Blansfield was a resident, said he could not comment on the specifics of her discharge because of privacy laws. But he said that patients cannot be discharged without a physician’s order and that the facility complied with all regulations. He also said the home “unequivocally” denies that it wrongfully discharged the patient.

Federal law stipulates that a nursing home must follow the same policies and practices for the discharge and transfer of residents, “regardless of source of payment.” But, legal advocates say, nursing homes often begin to pressure residents to leave when their Medicare coverage — which pays nursing homes at a higher rate but for a limited period — is close to ending. This happens to patients who have been sent to homes for rehabilitation or therapy, which is often covered by Medicare. Elderly residents who are deemed difficult or require extra assistance — and who may cost more over all — are more frequently discharged as well, advocates said.

Reimbursement rates for Medicare and Medicaid differ substantially, according to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care, a nonprofit group that collects data on the industry. Nursing homes receive about $200 a day for a Medicaid patient on average, compared with about $500 for a patient in the traditional Medicare program and $430 for a Medicare patient in a managed care plan.

Alan Schoen, a 58-year-old resident with multiple sclerosis at a nursing home in Stockton, Calif., said he believed the facility was trying to discharge him because his Medicare coverage was ending.

While his wife was at work in late December, Mr. Schoen fell out of his bed. An ambulance took him to a hospital, which released him to the nursing home for physical therapy.

But then in early January, the nurses could not wake him. They sent him back to the hospital, which found that he had a bladder infection and pancreatitis, and he had to start using a catheter.

After he returned to the nursing home, it told him that his insurance would soon stop paying — and that he should move to an assisted living facility, where, he said, he would receive a lower level of care. But Mr. Schoen, who can no longer stand or walk, said he needs the kind of help he is receiving now.

“They are running a business,” Mr. Schoen said. “I get that, but it seems they forget the patient element in all of this.”

Mr. Schoen is appealing his discharge. A spokeswoman for his nursing home, citing privacy laws, said she could not comment on specific patients. But she also said the decision to involuntarily discharge any resident “would only be done in compliance with all applicable rules and regulations.”

Patty Ducayet, the long-term care ombudsman in Texas, said that disputes over whether a particular nursing home can meet a patient’s needs are common. That, she said, is often “a gray area.”

A nursing home may be justified in saying it cannot care for patients who cannot breathe on their own. But, Ms. Ducayet said, it would not be justified in discharging patients because they refused to take medications or because they filed complaints with state officials.

Even when residents win an appeal of an eviction, they have no guarantee they will be welcomed back. That was the case with Gloria Single, an 82-year-old with Alzheimer’s who often became agitated, according to her legal complaint.

After being discharged from the California nursing home where she lived with her husband, Ms. Single won an appeal. But the nursing home would not accept her. “They don’t take you back and there are no consequences,” said Kelly Bagby, a lawyer at the AARP Foundation who is representing Ms. Single.

Susan Rogers, the ombudsman who assisted Ms. Zwaschka-Blansfield, said she was incredulous when she learned Ms. Zwaschka-Blansfield’s nursing home suggested discharging her to a homeless shelter, which she said was not open during the day.

“Where is she going to get home health” services? Ms. Rogers asked. “In a park?”

That crisis has been averted. After Ms. Rogers petitioned on Ms. Zwaschka-Blansfield’s behalf, she said the nursing home found her an independent living arrangement nearby.

If she had not intervened, Ms. Rogers said, Ms. Zwaschka-Blansfield, who lives on roughly $800 a month, might have been homeless.

Continue reading the main story

This article is from NYT – go to source