Archive for December, 2010

30
Dec
10

Slow economy bodes poorly for concerts.

One of 2010’s top performing acts, AC/DC.

With a still weak economy, revenue for the 50 biggest grossing tours in the world declined 12% to $2.93 billion, from $3.34 billion in 2009, according to Pollstar. In North America, the drop was even greater, with a 15% decline to $1.69 billion, from $1.99 billion in 2009.

The biggest grossing acts of the year were as follows:

1. Bon Jovi

2. AC/DC

3. U2

4. Lady Gaga

5. Metallica

The declines in revenue occurred despite world-wide average ticket price increases of 3.9% to $76.69, up from $73.83 in 2009. Worldwide, concert-goers bought 7% fewer tickets –  38.3 to 2009’s 45.3 million. North America ticket sales also declined.

Live Nation, the largest live entertainment company in the world, warned shareholders that operating income for the year would decrease to $405 million, from $445 million the year before.  Live Nation later lowered its guidance further to $385 million.

Despite the increase in prices, several acts had to discount tickets due to underwhelming sales.  Among the acts whose tickets were discounted were The Jonas Brothers, Rihanna, , Creed, Maroon 5 and The “American Idol” live tour 2010.

29
Dec
10

Stephen Baldwin sues Kevin Costner………finally.

Tim Robbins and Keven Costner in “Bull Durham”

By Eriq Gardner

Thu Dec 23, 2010 7:59pm EST

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – In the midst of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico by BP drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon, a number of news outlets got a bunch of yuks with news that Kevin Costner was the potential savior for the crisis — that his company, CINC (“Costner in Nevada Corporation”), had developed a technology that separated oil from water.

In a new lawsuit filed in Louisiana District Court on Wednesday, actor Stephen Baldwin and a friend named Spyridon Contogouris claim they were tricked into selling shares of the company that marketed CINC’s technology.

According to the complaint, Contogouris was approached in the early 2000s by Costner’s representatives to market the actor’s technology to various customers. He says he entered into an agreement in which he would receive a commission on sales of units.

Flash forward to April 17, 2010.

Costner and Contogouris had a meal together in Biloxi, Mississippi, where Costner’s band, Modern West, was playing a gig.

By that time, says the complaint, Costner’s attempts to market his technology had proven unsuccessful, and he sold all his rights and ownership in CINC to a man named Bret Shelton.

Three days after Costner and Contogouris had gotten together, Deepwater Horizon exploded, which would eventually lead to the leak of nearly 5 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico before the wellhead was capped.

Contogouris knew it was a big opportunity for CINC. He says he attempted to contact Costner, but couldn’t, because the actor was filming a movie in Canada.

Instead, Contogouris spoke to one of Costner’s friends, who advised him that the actor’s stock in the company had already been sold. So Contogouris spoke with Shelton, and then tried unsuccessfully to get in touch with BP.

Now, Baldwin enters the picture.

In late April, Contogouris and Baldwin got together in New Orleans with a local attorney, John Houghtaling, and discussed making a documentary film based on the BP oil spill. Costner’s technology was then discussed.

Houghtaling mentioned he could make an introduction to BP, and before long, a joint venture agreement was confected between Baldwin, Contogouris, Houghtaling, and others to market the CINC technology to BP.

On May 13, the joint venture, Ocean Therapies Solutions (OTS), signed an agreement with CINC, whereby Contogouris got a 28 percent ownership and Baldwin got a 10 percent ownership in the new company.

That same day, BP agreed to test the CINC technology for possible use in cleaning up the Deepwater Horizon spill.

Then, things went south.

Members of the joint venture, OTS, began disagreeing about how to license the technology to BP — whether it should be a long-term relationship or a one-time sale for a “quick kill” of the Gulf of Mexico disaster. Plus, there was said to be a falling out over the failed documentary about the oil spill, which soon resulted in a separate lawsuit.

The disagreements threatened to blow up OTS, until Costner got involved again, testifying before Congress on June 9 about his technology.

Soon after that, BP agreed to meet.

But Contogouris and Baldwin claim in their new lawsuit that they were purposefully excluded from the meeting with BP, which resulted in an $18 million deposit for a larger purchase price of the technology.

Contogouris and Baldwin say they were kept out of the loop about this money and were instead told that BP had placed no such order.

Having believed that OTS had failed, Contogouris says he sold his interest in CINC’s new partner company. It’s alleged that the money that came from BP was used by Costner and one of his associates to buy Contogouris and Baldwin out of their interest in the venture.

The deal was executed on June 11 in a “Transfer, Withdrawal, Release and Indemnity Agreement” whereby Contogouris gave up his 28% share and Baldwin gave up his 10% share in OTS for about $2 million total.

A day later, BP purchased 32 units of the CINC technology for a gross price alleged to be in excess of $52 million.

Two days after that, Costner and his associates/co-defendants “clandestinely, secretly and wrongfully caused an unauthorized bank account to be opened” without the knowledge of Contogouris and Baldwin.

The account was allegedly used by Costner and an associate as “their own personal piggy bank.”

The plaintiffs say they didn’t discover what had happened, how they had been supposedly tricked out of their involvement in OTS, until mid-July.

They are now suing for securities fraud and misrepresentation. Contogouris claims $10.64 million in damages. Baldwin claims $3.8 million in damages.

Alec Baldwin is way funnier.

29
Dec
10

stock market up. gdp up. unemployment…….up?

By PALLAVI GOGOI AP Business Writer

(AP) – Corporate profits are up. Stock prices are up. So why isn’t anyone hiring?

Actually, many American companies are – just maybe not in your town. They’re hiring overseas, where sales are surging and the pipeline of orders is fat.

More than half of the 15,000 people that Caterpillar Inc. has hired this year were outside the U.S. UPS is also hiring at a faster clip overseas. For both companies, sales in international markets are growing at least twice as fast as domestically.

The trend helps explain why unemployment remains high in the United States, edging up to 9.8 percent last month, even though companies are performing well: All but 4 percent of the top 500 U.S. corporations reported profits this year, and the stock market is close to its highest point since the 2008 financial meltdown.

But the jobs are going elsewhere. The Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank, says American companies have created 1.4 million jobs overseas this year, compared with less than 1 million in the U.S. The additional 1.4 million jobs would have lowered the U.S. unemployment rate to 8.9 percent, says Robert Scott, the institute’s senior international economist.

“There’s a huge difference between what is good for American companies versus what is good for the American economy,” says Scott.

American jobs have been moving overseas for more than two decades. In recent years, though, those jobs have become more sophisticated – think semiconductors and software, not toys and clothes.

And now many of the products being made overseas aren’t coming back to the United States. Demand has grown dramatically this year in emerging markets like India, China and Brazil.

Meanwhile, consumer demand in the U.S. has been subdued. Despite a strong holiday shopping season, Americans are still spending 3 percent less than before the recession on essential items like clothing and more than 10 percent less on jewelry, furniture, electronics, and big appliances, according to MasterCard’s SpendingPulse.

“Companies will go where there are fast-growing markets and big profits,” says Jeffrey Sachs, globalization expert and economist at Columbia University. “What’s changed is that companies today are getting top talent in emerging economies, and the U.S. has to really watch out.”

With the future looking brighter overseas, companies are building there, too. Caterpillar, maker of the signature yellow bulldozers and tractors, has invested in three new plants in China in just the last two months to design and manufacture equipment. The decision is based on demand: Asia-Pacific sales soared 38 percent in the first nine months of the year, compared with 16 percent in the U.S. Caterpillar stock is up 65 percent this year.

“There is a shift in economic power that’s going on and will continue. China just became the world’s second-largest economy,” says David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor’s, who notes that half of the revenue for companies in the S&P 500 in the last couple of years has come from outside the U.S.

Take the example of DuPont, which wowed the world in 1938 with nylon stockings. Known as one of the most innovative American companies of the 20th century, DuPont now sells less than a third of its products in the U.S. In the first nine months of this year, sales to the Asia-Pacific region grew 50 percent, triple the U.S. rate. Its stock is up 47 percent this year.

DuPont’s work force reflects the shift in its growth: In a presentation on emerging markets, the company said its number of employees in the U.S. shrank by 9 percent between January 2005 and October 2009. In the same period, its work force grew 54 percent in the Asia-Pacific countries.

“We are a global player out to succeed in any geography where we participate in,” says Thomas M. Connelly, chief innovation officer at DuPont. “We want our resources close to where our customers are, to tailor products to their needs.”

While most of DuPont’s research labs are still stateside, Connelly says he’s impressed with the company’s overseas talent. The company opened a large research facility in Hyderabad, India, in 2008.

A key factor behind this runaway international growth is the rise of the middle class in these emerging countries. By 2015, for the first time, the number of consumers in Asia’s middle class will equal those in Europe and North America combined.

“All of the growth over the next 10 years is happening in Asia,” says Homi Kharas, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute and formerly the World Bank’s chief economist for East Asia and the Pacific.

Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent often points out that a billion consumers will enter the middle class during the coming decade, mostly in Africa, China and India. He is aggressively targeting those markets. Of Coke’s 93,000 global employees, less than 13 percent were in the U.S. in 2009, down from 19 percent five years ago.

The company would not say how many new U.S. hires it has made in 2010. But its latest new investments are overseas, including $240 million for three bottling plants in Inner Mongolia as part of a three-year, $2 billion investment in China. The three plants will create 2,000 new jobs in the area. In September, Coca-Cola pledged $1 billion to the Philippines over five years.

The strategy isn’t restricted to just the largest American companies. Entrepreneurs, whether in technology, retail or in manufacturing, today hire globally from the start.

Consider Vast.com, which powers the search engines of sites like Yahoo Travel and Aol Autos. The company was founded in 2005 with employees based in San Francisco and Serbia.

Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria worries that the trend could be dangerous. In an article in the November issue of the Harvard Business Review, he says that if U.S. businesses keep prospering while Americans are struggling, business leaders will lose legitimacy in society. He exhorted business leaders to find a way to link growth with job creation at home.

Other economists, like Columbia University’s Sachs, say multinational corporations have no choice, especially now that the quality of the global work force has improved. Sachs points out that the U.S. is falling in most global rankings for higher education while others are rising.

“We are not fulfilling the educational needs of our young people,” says Sachs. “In a globalized world, there are serious consequences to that.”

29
Dec
10

For the small or solo practitioner, Google calendar fits

If you have an Android phone, Google calendar is a helpful application for the small or solo practitioner.  I can go to Google calender and enter my meetings, hearings, to do’s, etc.  The calendar on my Android is instantly updated so I always have my calendar handy whether it’s in court, at a meeting, sitting at home.  The other great thing about Google calendar is presumably Google isn’t going to implode any time soon so my calendar should be adequately backed up.  This doesn’t mean you should keep a manual written calendar like your malpractice insurer always asks.

28
Dec
10

tax lien offer in compromise? ask pamela anderson

Reportedly, Pamela Anderson had a $180,000 tax lien recorded against her.  She had a tax lien in excess of $252,000 recorded last year but paid it off saying that there were some mistakes in calculating her taxes.  With accountants like this, who needs enemies?!

http://www.financialfreshstart.org

27
Dec
10

choose your clients wisely. otherwise……

From the ABA Journal:

Angry at a Minnesota attorney, a neighbor hacked his encrypted Wi-Fi account and e-mailed pornography labeled as family photos to his colleagues at a Minneapolis law firm, seeking to make trouble for him, authorities say.

Barry Vincent Ardolf, 45, also sent threatening e-mails purportedly from the attorney to the Minnesota governor and Vice President Joe Biden, reports IDG News Service, and set up a fake MySpace page in the lawyer’s name.

Although the news service doesn’t identify the lawyer, he is Matthew Kostolnik, a civil litigator with Moss & Barnett, according to the Pioneer Press.

The newspaper says Ardolf also sent a mash note, purportedly from Kostolnik, to his legal assistant and posed as a fictitious woman with a sexual harassment complaint against the attorney in a communication to the head of the firm’s environmental law department.

Ardolf pleaded guilty last week, in the midst of a federal district court trial, to hacking, identity theft and possession of child pornography charges, as well as making threats to Biden.

He was identified as the culprit after the law firm retained a security consultant to investigate, who put a capture device on the lawyer’s network and found evidence that Ardolf had logged in, the IDG article says.

Child porn was also posted on the fake MySpace page Ardolf created in the attorney’s name, the article reports, along with an arrogant message: “I bet my co-worker that since I’m a lawyer and a darn great one that I could get away with putting up porn on my site here. I bet that all I have to do is say there is plausible deniability since anybody could have put this up on my site.”

“It was terrible, and I wouldn’t want anyone to go through it,” Kostolnik tells the Pioneer Press.

 

27
Dec
10

credit card offers coming back

According to the Wall Street Journal, after more than two years of tight lending, banks have begun originating more mortgages and offering customers with credit card offers.  With the economy seemingly improving in 2010, banks feel more secure to offer credit.

Recent law changes have placed limits on fees credit card issuers for charges such as late payments and frequency of interest rate increases.  Subprime credit issuers that relied on such fees to generate revenue determined that such debtors were more of a liability than a source of profits. Therefore, credit card providers have targeted borrowers with a credit score of at least 720, says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education for SmartCredit.com, a credit-monitoring web site.

The number of credit card applications sent to potential credit card users more than doubled through November, to four billion, according to Mintel Compremedia, which tracks direct marketing data.

http://www.financialfreshstart.org




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