Monthly Archives: May 2010

John Gapper

Goldman Sachs‘ attempt to settle with the Securities and Exchange Commission in the Abacus case on a lesser charge than fraud, which I and Francesco Guerrera wrote about today, is a reminder of the peculiar way in which US civil securities cases are often resolved.

The standard settlement involves a defendant being fined by the SEC, and disciplined in individual cases, but “neither admitting nor denying” the allegations. The SEC thus gets a scalp and avoids a court case, while the defendant avoids a conviction. 

John Gapper

Comparing the blockbuster Wired magazine application for the Apple iPad to other magazines on the device is faintly silly given its far greater size and ambition. You can get an idea of it from the promotional video below.

 

John Gapper

To his credit, Mark Zuckerberg has responded to the outcry over privacy, including my column on the subject, by making significant changes to Facebook’s privacy policies.

The most welcome aspects of the changes, discussed by him on the Facebook blog, are that it will be far simpler for a user to control how information is shared, and these choices will apply to future Facebook services.

Facebook has also pulled back from its sleight of hand in making six types of data into “publicly available information” by reducing these to four, including taking users’ friends list out of the category. 

John Gapper

By erecting a paywall around The Times and The Sunday Times online, Rupert Murdoch is once more shaking up Fleet Street and leading the way to what he hopes will be a more profitable existence. I doubt whether his heart is in it.

Continue reading “Murdoch has to become an elitist”

John Gapper

So far in the rolling global financial crisis, it is big banks – both European and American – that have caused the most trouble, but the Spanish regional savings banks are coming up fast.

The forced takeover of CajaSur, a savings bank controlled by the Roman Catholic church, by the Bank of Spain last weekend has prompted jitters about the health of the entire sector. 

John Gapper

Facebook is likely to announce some privacy changes soon in response to the furore over the complexity of its privacy controls and its sharing of user information. But are they going to be enough to address all the problems?

So far, it does not look very likely. 

John Gapper

The wave of suicides at the vast plant near Shenzhen owned by Foxconn, the Taiwan contract manufacturer, where 300,000 workers are employed, raises questions about the sustainability of China’s use of migrant workers from rural areas.

The FT was allowed unusual access inside the Foxconn plant in Longhua, which has in the past been kept out of view of reporters, and Kathrin Hille’s video interviews with Foxconn employees, as well as the company’s spokesman, are fascinating. 

John Gapper

The news that Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites have been (unintentionally) sending some user details to advertisers adds to my growing sense that the companies either do not place a high enough value on privacy or are not careful enough about it.

It follows Google’s disclosure that it accidentally picked up personal information from WiFi networks while filming for its Street View service. 

Alan Rappeport is an FT reporter, covering economics and business from New York. All times are in US eastern standard time.

SEC chair Mary Schapiro and CFTC chair Gary Gensler spoke before a Senate banking committee on the causes and lessons of the May 6 market plunge. Below, beginning from the bottom up, is the blow-by-blow.

11:07am: That concludes the first panel. Those wishing to follow along for the second panel with the heads of the NYSE Euronext, FINRA, NASDAQ OMX Group and the CME can do so here

11:03am: Finally, Mr Reed questions Mr Gensler on banning OTC swaps. Mr Gensler calls these important tools for risk management. He wants comprehensive regulation of the dealers.

11:01am: Ms Schapiro said she would agree with a policy to allow the Federal Reserve to provide immediate liquidity to the markets in a crisis.  

John Gapper

A few financiers in London’s Mayfair must be considering life on a smaller island or by a Swiss lake.

This week’s vote by European finance ministers to curb the activities and pay of hedge fund managers was followed by the German finance regulator trying to limit “speculation” by imposing restrictions on short-selling. 

John Gapper

Erich Schmidt’s remarks today at the Google Zeitgeist conference on how the company is trying to work with with news groups including Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp on new revenue models reminded me of what I find striking about Google’s attitude.

It is that, despite the endless debate about whether newspapers or other news organisations should charge for access to their content online, Google itself is agnostic. As James Fallows reported in the Atlantic the other day: 

John Gapper

Larry Ellison’s comments on Sun Microsystems’ past under Jonathan Schwartz ought to be taken with a pinch of salt given that he has yet to justify the acquisition, but perhaps he has a point.

Mr Ellison told Reuters last week that he was “astonished” at the mismanagement he found at Sun after Oracle took it over in 2009 for $7.4bn. It is the latest in a series of incendiary remarks by Mr Ellison about Sun – he once accused the European Commission of causing 3,000 job losses by delaying the deal. 

John Gapper

Despite being a supporter of the “Volcker rule”, I struggle to understand the logic of the move in the Senate to force deposit-taking banks to spin off their swaps desks.

Banks are fighting a desperate rearguard action against the proposal made by Blanche Lincoln, the chairman of the Senate agriculture committee and I think they are right in this case. 

John Gapper

Connie Bruck’s New Yorker profile of Haim Saban, the Hollywood producer who made his fortune by bringing the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers from Japan to the US, is well worth reading for its portrait of this restless and ruthless entrepreneur.

The centrepiece is the story of how Mr Saban outwitted first Rupert Murdoch and then Michael Eisner, the former chief executive of Disney, in negotiations over the Fox Family Channel, helped by his impeccable political connections: 

John Gapper

If one of the problems with credit rating agencies is that they are officially endorsed by the US government, the solution is presumably not to reinforce their seal of approval.

Yet that is what the Senate has voted to do by establishing a new Credit Rating Agency Board which would decide which rating agencies are qualified to rate structured bonds and then pick which of these qualified agencies do the job in each case.