Month: October 2020

Berkshire Hathaway Says Blue Chip Law Firm Aided Fraud

FRANKFURT — Berkshire Hathaway may have found a way to get back some of the hundreds of millions of dollars it lost after buying a seemingly solid German pipe maker that turned out to be on the verge of going bust.

The conglomerate, led by Warren E. Buffett, is suing Jones Day, the law firm that represented the owners of the pipe maker when it was sold to a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary in 2017. The lawsuit, filed late last month, accuses Jones Day of helping to trick Berkshire Hathaway into paying five times what the German company was worth.

There is not much chance that Berkshire Hathaway will recover any money from the sellers of the pipe maker, Wilhelm Schulz, which was named for its founder. The shareholders have declared bankruptcy and are facing a criminal investigation in Germany. But Jones Day is a prominent international law firm with deeper pockets.

The attempt to collect damages from Jones Day is an unexpected twist in the saga of Wilhelm Schulz, which is based in Krefeld, a city north of Düsseldorf. If the suit is successful, it will be at least a small consolation to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders after the company lost $23.3 billion in the first half of 2020. (Profits rebounded in the later part of the period, however.)

“The fraudulent transaction would never have occurred without Jones Day’s substantial assistance,” according to the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Houston on behalf of Precision Castparts, a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary that makes components for aircraft. The lawsuit accuses Jones Day of withholding documents that would have exposed Wilhelm Schulz’s perilous financial state and calls the firm a “co-conspirator” in a “massive fraud.”

Ulrich Brauer, the partner in charge of Jones Day’s office in Düsseldorf, said the firm would not comment on a pending case.

Jones Day lawyers in Houston and Düsseldorf handled the sale of Wilhelm Schulz, which specializes in pipes for the oil and gas industries. Jones Day also represented the owners, who included Wolfgang Schulz, the son of the founder, when the case went before an arbitration panel in New York.

The panel found in April that Mr. Schulz and other managers had used false sales invoices, computer hacks and phantom customers to make Wilhelm Schulz look healthier than it was and hoodwink Precision Castparts into paying a grossly inflated price. The deal was a rare misstep for the organization run by Mr. Buffett, who is considered one of the savviest investors in the world.

The arbitrators awarded 643 million euros ($756 million) in damages to Precision Castparts, which is based in Portland, Ore. That is the difference between the €800 million that Precision Castparts paid for Wilhelm Schulz and its estimated true value of €157 million. The arbitrators’ decision was upheld in July by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Because the holding company controlled by Mr. Schulz is in insolvency proceedings, “it is unclear if it will pay even a fraction

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Unrest in Avon? Trump’s message of law and order, loaded with racist undertones, takes aim at safety and security in Connecticut suburbs

In the eyes of President Donald Trump and some Republicans, electing the Democrats in 2020 would lead to a clear and frightening outcome: tranquil suburbs in Connecticut and elsewhere would be overrun by crime, violent protests, and social decay.

It’s an old message with a new twist, fueled by the backlash against Black Lives Matter protests and demonstrations this summer that were largely peaceful in Connecticut, but turned violent in Portland, Chicago, Los Angeles and other cities.

Referring to the prospect of civil unrest, David X. Sullivan, a Republican candidate for the 5th Congressional District, told the Courant that he is “concerned about Avon, Farmington and Simsbury becoming as violent as Portland, New York and Chicago.”

Unrest in Avon?

Trump’s law and order message and its many versions may sound far-fetched to some. But there is a racist undertone to the rhetoric that has proven effective in the past, said Noel A. Cazenave, a professor of sociology at UConn. It reflects a long history of American politicians attempting to secure votes by playing up racial fears.

A Trump campaign video from July conjures up a world of defenseless suburbs under attack, showing a fictionalized scene of an elderly white woman watching a news segment about the defunding of the police as a shadowy intruder breaks into her house. She calls 9-1-1 but there is no dispatcher to pick up. The ad flashes a message: “You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”

Sullivan said he rejects any implication that there is a racial element to his campaign messaging, which he described as an effort to “promote safety, in our homes, in our workplaces.”

But Cazenave notes that fear-mongering in political campaigns has deep roots in America, from Richard Nixon’s “Law and Order” campaign in the late 1960s to George H. W. Bush’s late 1980s political ad centered on Willie Horton, a Black man incarcerated in Massachusetts who raped a white woman while released on furlough, meant to demonstrate his Democratic opponent’s weak stance on crime. Trump is exploiting those same themes this year, Cazenave said.

“Donald Trump’s appeal to European-American suburban women voters is intended to exploit fear that if Joe Biden is elected, low-income African Americans and African American protestors will invade their suburbs,” Cazenave said. He noted that the tactic is “an extension of the old racist trope of imperiled white women.”

Message resonating?

Many Trump supporters in the state say they find comfort in Trump’s promise of safety and were angered to see Connecticut law enforcement come under attack during Black Lives Matter protests this summer and through the recent police accountability bill signed by Gov. Ned Lamont.

In a Biden White House, Trump supporters say they fear the dismantling of constitutional liberties and a lax approach to public safety.

“We haven’t seen the Democrats come out and really put a squash on the increase in crime or the rioting out West and even though we haven’t seen it here, there is that fear that

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Supreme Court: Democrats and Republicans seek hints for how Barrett will rule on health care law

For the second day of Barrett’s questioning in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the health care law was a dominant topic on both sides of the aisle thanks to the looming November case the Supreme Court will hear on a Republican effort to strike down the law.

Both Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the panel’s top Democrat, asked President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee about the legal doctrine of “severability,” or whether the entire law can stand if one part of it is deemed unconstitutional, during Barrett’s second day of questions before the committee on Wednesday.

It’s a concept that could play a key factor in the case from Republican attorneys general and the Trump administration that seeks to strike down the Affordable Care Act case next month. They argue the entire law, commonly known as Obamacare, should be struck down because the law’s individual coverage mandate is unconstitutional.

Barrett explained to Feinstein, a California Democrat, that severability was like a game of “Jenga.”

“If you picture severability being like a Jenga game, it’s kind of like, if you pull one out, can you pull it out while it all stands? If you pull two out, will it all stand?” Barrett asked. “Severability is designed to say well would Congress still want the statute to stand even with the provision gone?”

Graham, during his questioning of Barrett, seemed to suggest he thought that the Affordable Care Act could be saved because of severability, saying the doctrine’s “goal is to preserve the statute if that is possible.”

“From a conservative point of view, generally speaking, we want legislative bodies to make laws, not judges,” Graham said, before asking Barrett, “Would it be further true, if you can preserve a statue you try to, if possible?”

“That is true,” Barrett said.

“That’s the law folks,” Graham responded.

The challenge to President Barack Obama’s health care law from Republican state attorneys general and the Trump administration has become a central issue in this year’s election in part due to Barrett’s confirmation. Democrats have focused their arguments during Barrett’s confirmation hearings on the way the law has provided care for individuals.

But Senate Republicans, who back the lawsuit to kill the law, have backed away from that implication in the lead-up to Election Day. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is also up for reelection, said during his debate Monday that “no one believes” the Supreme Court will strike down the entire law.
Graham, who is facing a tough reelection fight this year, raised the severability argument but also launched into another attack on the health care law, “Obamacare is on the ballot.”
How Jaime Harrison's campaign could spend $57 million before Election Day

The South Carolina Republican praised Barrett’s record, comparing her to Obama’s nominees Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, calling Barrett the first woman nominated to the high court who is “unashamedly pro-life.”

Just as they did during Tuesday’s lengthy questioning, Democrats sought to pin down Barrett on a number of topics she could hear in the future, including voting

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The Law Offices of Frank R. Cruz Files Securities Fraud Lawsuit Against LOOP Industries, Inc.

The Law Offices of Frank R. Cruz announces that it has filed a class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York captioned Tremblay v. Loop Industries, Inc., et al., (Case No. 1:20-cv-08538) on behalf of persons and entities that purchased or otherwise acquired Loop Industries, Inc. (“Loop” or the “Company”) (NASDAQ: LOOP) securities between September 24, 2018 and October 12, 2020, inclusive (the “Class Period”). Plaintiff pursues claims under Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”).

If you are a shareholder who suffered a loss, click here to participate.

Loop is a technology company that purports to own proprietary technology that depolymerizes no- and low-waste PET plastic and polyester fiber. The resulting material is used to create PET resin for food-grade packaging.

On October 13, 2020, Hindenburg Research published a report alleging, among other things, that “Loop’s scientists, under pressure from CEO Daniel Solomita, were tacitly encouraged to lie about the results of the company’s process internally.” The report also stated that “Loop’s previous claims of breaking PET down to its base chemicals at a recovery rate of 100% were ‘technically and industrially impossible,’” according to a former employee. Moreover, the report alleged that “Executives from a division of key partner Thyssenkrupp, who Loop entered into a ‘global alliance agreement’ with in December 2018, told us their partnership is on ‘indefinite’ hold and that Loop ‘underestimated’ both costs and complexities of its process.”

On this news, the Company’s share price fell $3.78, or over 32%, to close at $7.83 per share on October 13, 2020, thereby damaging investors.

The complaint filed in this class action alleges that throughout the Class Period, Defendants made materially false and/or misleading statements, as well as failed to disclose material adverse facts about the Company’s business, operations, and prospects. Specifically, Defendants failed to disclose to investors: (1) that Loop scientists were encouraged to misrepresent the results of Loop’s purportedly proprietary process; (2) that Loop did not have the technology to break PET down to its base chemicals at a recovery rate of 100%; (3) that, as a result, the Company was unlikely to realize the purported benefits of Loop’s announced partnerships with Indorama and Thyssenkrupp; and (4) that, as a result of the foregoing, Defendants’ positive statements about the Company’s business, operations, and prospects were materially misleading and/or lacked a reasonable basis.

Follow us for updates on Twitter: twitter.com/FRC_LAW.

If you purchased Loop securities during the Class Period, you may move the Court no later than 60 days from the date of this notice to ask the Court to appoint you as lead plaintiff.  To be a member of the Class you need not take any action at this time; you may retain counsel of your choice or take no action and remain an absent member of the Class.  If you purchased Mesoblast securities, have information or would like to learn more about these claims,

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Thai protesters surround Government House

Thousands of protesters broke through police cordons and surrounded Thailand’s seat of government on Wednesday, marking a symbolic moment in their three-month campaign against the establishment.

About 10,000 demonstrators converged on Government House in the capital, Bangkok, settling in for what organisers said would be several days of protests.

The student-led demonstrators are calling for the resignation of the government of former coup leader Prayuth Chan-ocha, the writing of a new constitution and an end to the harassment of political dissenters.

They are also making what were until recently unheard of demands for limits on the wealth and powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who spends most of his time in Germany.

On Wednesday the king’s wife, Queen Suthida, was jeered as her limousine passed within a few metres of the protests. Demonstrators cried “My tax money!” and gave her their defiant three-fingered salute, taken from the film The Hunger Games.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida on their way to the Grand Palace in Bangkok on Wednesday
King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida on their way to the Grand Palace in Bangkok on Wednesday © Jorge Silva/Reuters

The royal couple has been in Thailand only on brief holiday visits this year, but returned on Saturday for what is expected to be a longer stay, and is now encountering a protest movement that incubated during the coronavirus lockdown.

On Tuesday police violently dispersed a pro-democracy protest at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument close to where the king’s motorcade was due to pass, and arrested 21 people. Human Rights Watch said those detained were charged with intent to cause violence, using loudspeakers without permission and several other offences. 

On Wednesday protesters gathering at the monument ahead of the march on Government House were met by pro-government demonstrators in yellow shirts, the colour of the royalist establishment. Some of those wearing yellow shirts were said to have been police.

Pro-democracy protesters dressed in traditional Thai costumes take part in the anti-government rally
Pro-democracy protesters dressed in traditional Thai costumes take part in the anti-government rally © Jack Taylor/AFP/Getty

The anti-government protesters broke through metal barriers around the monument, which commemorates the 1932 uprising against absolute monarchy, and removed the plant pots put in place after the 2014 military coup to keep people away.

Apart from some fistfights and minor scuffles, the unrest has been peaceful so far. However, the mood has turned uglier in terms of the rhetoric being used by both sides, and the apparent move by the Thai government to muster police on their side. 

“We’re seeing some signals from the opposite side that they are trying to provoke people,” said Napat Chaunrumluek, a 21-year-old student at Thammasat University. “It started in the morning, and there was a little chaos.” 

On Tuesday, hashtags insulting the king and other royals were traded on Thai social media including one saying “the king is trash” and another asking “why does the king exist?”

Additional reporting by Ryn Jirenuwat

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Civil society gears up for big funds squeeze

A recent set of changes to India’s foreign donation laws, however, has put hundreds of small NGOs like Arpan in a spot. “Our work has come to a halt after the donor agency asked us not to use funds till rules (arising from the new laws) are framed,” said Renu Thakur, who heads the non-profit. “It looks like we will have to let go of some of our staff and curtail our geographic spread.”

In late September, India’s Parliament approved sweeping changes to the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010. From now on, larger FCRA registered organisations are barred from transferring foreign donations to smaller non-profits (a practice known as sub-granting) who often find it difficult to access donors on their own. Also, all FCRA registered non-profits have been asked to limit their administrative expenses to 20% of donations (from the earlier norm of 50%) which is likely to force them to reduce staff as well as curtail research and policy advocacy work.

To tighten the screws further, FCRA registration can be suspended now after a summary enquiry and the period of suspension can extend up to a year (from 180 days earlier)—a provision which will give the government more time for enquiry and halt the organisation’s work for an extended period.

These changes will impact not just the availability of funds but also the very nature of philanthropic initiatives. The focus of donors may shift from rights, advocacy and research to service delivery; in a few years, foreign donors might also redirect funds to other countries, experts warn.

The restrictions on NGOs were least expected by civil society organisations that have been stretched after a gruelling past few months helping communities (like migrant workers) affected by covid-19. Also, it’s ironic since political parties can now access foreign funds through electoral bonds.

During 2018-19, Indian NGOs received 16,881 crore in foreign donations, accounting for about a fourth of the overall philanthropic spending in India. At a time when most donor funds are directed towards covid relief efforts, the amendments could squeeze the once-vibrant not-for-profit sector of funds. The crunch is also because a chunk of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds which NGOs depend on went to the PM-Cares fund, a new national corpus set up to mitigate the impact of emergencies like the ongoing pandemic.

An analysis of CSR spending outlook for 2020-21 by Sattva, a consultancy firm, shows that more than half of the annual CSR budget of Indian corporations, or about 7,863 crore, was allotted for covid relief by early July. About 68% of this allocation went to the PM-Cares fund ( 5,324 crore). “With an estimated 8,000 crore going to the PM-Cares by now, availability of domestic CSR funds for NGOs will be back to normal levels by the second quarter of 2022,” said Parul Soni, managing partner at Thinkthrough Consulting.

There’s obviously been a mixed response to the changes. Soni, for one, defends the recent amendments, saying they will bring in

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Watch live: Dr. Anthony Fauci and Norah O’Donnell talk COVID-19 surge and government response

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, is speaking with “CBS Evening News” anchor and managing editor Norah O’Donnell in an interview that will be streamed live on Wednesday. They are expected to speak about the fall coronavirus surge and the government’s response in the interview, which will stream at 3:30 p.m. Eastern on CBSNews.com.

Viewers are invited to text Norah their questions at 202-217-1107.


How to watch Norah O’Donnell’s interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci

  • What: Norah O’Donnell interviews Dr. Anthony Fauci
  • Date: October 14, 2020 
  • Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Location: via Zoom
  • Online stream: Live on CBSNews.com in the player above and on the CBS News app

Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has publicly diverged from President Trump’s coronavirus messaging in recent days. 

After Mr. Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis and return to the White House earlier this month, the president described the treatment he was given as a “cure.” There are no known cures for COVID-19. Fauci told CBS News the term could lead to unnecessary “confusion.” “We don’t have any indication — I think you really have to depend on what you mean by a ‘cure,’ because that’s a word that leads to a lot of confusion,” Fauci said. “We have good treatments for people with advanced disease who are in the hospital.” 

Fauci has also taken issue with the president’s unauthorized use of his comments in a 30-second ad. Fauci said the decision to use his comments without consent, and out of context, is a form of harassment. “By doing this against my will they are, in effect, harassing me,” he told The Daily Beast in a report posted on Monday. 

Fauci has identified the White House ceremony for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett as a “super spreader” event. At least 24 people in Mr. Trump’s orbit, not all whom attended the event, have tested positive for COVID-19. 

“I think the — the data speaks for themselves,” Fauci said of mask-wearing. “We had a super-spreader event in the White House and it was in a situation where people were crowded together and were not wearing masks. So the data speak for themselves.”

He warned that coronavirus cases are on the rise in a majority of states, with only three seeing fewer cases. “It’s going in the wrong direction right now,” Fauci said. “So if there’s anything we should be doing, we should be doubling down in implementing the public health measures that we’ve been talking about for so long. Which are: Keeping a distance, no crowds, wearing masks, washing hands, doing things outside as opposed to inside.”

Portions of Norah O’Donnell’s interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci will air on the “CBS Evening News” Wednesday evening at 6:30 p.m. ET on CBS and 10 p.m. on CBSN.

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Haiti – Politic : The PM in Thomonde


Haiti – Politic : The PM in Thomonde
14/10/2020 10:15:44

Haiti - Politic : The PM in Thomonde

On Monday, the Haitian Prime Minister Mr. Joseph Jouthe and the Minister of the Environment Mr. Abner Septembre visited the commune of Thomonde (Dept. of the Center). During this tour, these authorities as well as other technical executives of the delegation visited the school of the sisters of Thomonde, the police station of the commune where the PM gave a vehicle to the person in charge and the river of Thomonde which threatens the city. It was also an opportunity for the members of the delegation to receive the complaints of the leaders of the commune, during a community meeting at the presbytery of Thomonde.

This community meeting allowed the members of the population to present the major priority challenges of the commune which require urgent responses from the Government. The market, the public square, the problem of birth registration, employment for young people, the reforestation of the slopes of the sources, the sanitation of the city and the access to water to irrigate the land are among others the problems identified by the population.

At the end of the day, technicians from the Ministry of the Environment visited sites for the possible installation (after study) in the commune of two solar-powered water pumping systems. With a pumping capacity of 1300 gallons of water per minute and watering 150 hectares of land, these solar pumps, which will be installed in the commune of Thomonde, will help improve the living conditions of the general population.

It should be noted that the delegation from the Ministry of the Environment will spend three days in the Center department, in order to continue with the exploration visit.

HL/ HaitiLibre


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Question marks over England trip to South Africa after government row

England’s proposed trip to South Africa next month is in doubt after the country’s government served notice of its intention to intervene in the Proteas’ cricket administration.

South African Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa has written to the acting president of Cricket South Africa, Beresford Williams, highlighting long-running dissatisfaction at the governing body and an alleged “failure of leadership to effectively manage its affairs”

While Mthethwa says he sees “no value in any further engagement with CSA”, he has also offered it until October 27 to respond and argue against the intervention.

A statement from the department of sports, arts and culture read: “Minister Mthethwa strongly believes that there is great merit in creating an environment where sports problems are handled within the sports movement and accordingly wishes to offer them every possible opportunity to demonstrate their stated commitment to cooperate on a way forward for cricket.

“The ball is now firmly in the court of CSA.”

England are pencilled in for three one-day internationals and three Twenty20s in November and December, though talks about the tour are ongoing given the complications caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The matches could come into question for another reason if CSA does not find a way to stop the government intervention and makes a formal complaint to the International Cricket Council. The ICC requires national boards to be independently run but requires a protest to be lodged or to see
exceptional circumstances to begin investigating.

A spokesperson said: “The ICC has received a letter from the Ministry of Sport, Arts and Culture in South Africa giving notice of potential intervention into the matters of Cricket South Africa.

“At this stage, no complaint has been received from Cricket South Africa regarding government intervention and members are encouraged to resolve matters directly with their governments. We will continue to monitor the situation.”

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Salesforce Live – The Nottingham Building Society rethinks digital strategy in light of COVID-19

(Image sourced via The Nottingham Building Society Facebook )

The Nottingham Building Society was founded back in 1849 by a small group of Nottingham businessmen, led by local Quaker Samuel Fox. The first ever branch used to open between 6pm and 9pm on the first Tuesday of each month and the vision for the building society was to help people own their own home, as well as offer them a safe and secure place for their savings.

Since then The Nottingham (as it’s more commonly known) has grown to serve over a quarter of a million members across the UK and now has 67 branches across 11 counties. Gone too are the days of a three hour opening window once a month, with the building society expanding its use of digital services for members rapidly.

The Nottingham has had a digital strategy in place for over three years, which served it well in the initial fallout from COVID-19. But as CEO David Marlow outlined at the Salesforce Live UK & Ireland event this week, the rapid changes in consumer expectations and the workplace are forcing the building society to go deeper with its transformation.

Part of this involves moving to the Salesforce Financial Services Cloud to completely reengineer the organisation’s process for the digital, with the aim of creating an immersive experience for members.

Marlow explained that COVID-19 has shifted thinking at The Nottingham in two fundamental ways. Firstly, regarding the move to distributed working. And secondly, the additional expectations from consumers on digital services. He said:

I think the working from home element is a major item. Here I am at home, somebody who never worked from home over the last 20 years. How we make the most of that and leverage it is really important. Accommodating the changes that we see both positive and negative for people remote working. That implication has an enormous knock on effect to our business continuity arrangements, and we’ve got some big changes to put through in how we organise ourselves in business continuity terms. Just as example, historically we had a building on the outside of Nottingham that was just left empty. When we had a crisis we would all move out to that. Well, we don’t need that sort of capability any longer, we would all just work from home.

And then finally I think the major item for us has been the enormous shift in expectations from customers and members and the public at large around digital. Not only in terms of the access that they expect, but the richness of the service that they now see as the norm, not as a bonus.

A solid foundation

As noted above, The Nottingham has been working on its digital strategy for three years now and Marlow said that this put the organisation in a good position when demand for its services increased during the height of the pandemic. However, he added, that with the enormous shift in customer expectations, he soon

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