Daily Archives: December 30, 2011

Tami Highbaugh – End of day productivity tools

Popular Spurs…

Confirmed – Ancelotti new coach at PSG…

Yahoo! News – China’s factories falter, pro-growth policies eyed

China’s factories falter, pro-growth policies eyed – http://news.yahoo.com/chinas-factories-falter-pro-growth-policies-eyed-063527625.html

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CNNMoney Mobile: Google+ off to better-than-expected start


CNNMoney Mobile: Is Verizon still ‘most reliable?’


(BN) Former HP CEO Hurd Tried to Cajole Fisher Into Sex, Letter Says

Bloomberg News, sent from my iPhone.

Former HP CEO Hurd Tried to Cajole Fisher Into Sex, Letter Says

Dec. 30 (Bloomberg) — Former Hewlett-Packard Co. Chief Executive Officer Mark Hurd tried to persuade Jodie Fisher to have sex and kissed and touched her inappropriately while she was a company events contractor, according to a much-contested letter that was ordered to be released by a court yesterday.

During dinners, hotel-room visits and other meetings in cities such as Los Angeles, Atlanta, St. Louis and Madrid between 2007 and 2009, Hurd kissed and embraced Fisher, brushed his hand against her breast and attempted to initiate an affair, according to the letter sent to Hurd on June 24, 2010, by Fisher’s lawyer, Gloria Allred. Hurd, who is now a president at Oracle Corp., wasn’t found to have committed sexual harassment by Hewlett-Packard, and Fisher herself later said the document contained inaccuracies.

“You had designs to make her your lover from the onset using your status and authority as CEO of HP,” Allred said in the letter to Hurd, the contents of which were first reported by Bloomberg News. “At times you would behave professionally seemingly ‘getting’ that she was not going to have sex with you. At other times, not, and you would relentlessly attempt to cajole her into having sex with you.”

The letter, which sought a settlement for sexual harassment, was obtained after a ruling by the Delaware Supreme Court that it should be unsealed as part of the evidence in a shareholder lawsuit against the Palo Alto, California-based company. Hurd’s relationship with Fisher led to his resignation as CEO on Aug. 6, 2010, after a company investigation found he had violated its standards of business conduct. Hurd settled with Fisher the week he resigned.

Hurd’s Aftermath

Since Hurd’s departure, Hewlett-Packard has struggled to revive sales and seen its stock tumble 45 percent. He was replaced last year by Leo Apotheker, who himself was ousted on Sept. 22 and replaced by Meg Whitman.

Allred and Michael Thacker, a Hewlett-Packard spokesman, declined to comment.

In settling with Hurd last year, Fisher and Allred said there was no romantic or sexual affair between the two. Hewlett- Packard’s investigation found that he didn’t violate the sexual- harassment policy.

Fisher told Hurd in a 2010 letter, also obtained by Bloomberg News, that the Allred document had “many inaccuracies in the details” and that the CEO’s behavior didn’t hurt Hewlett-Packard or its reputation.

Contrasting Views

The Allred “letter was recanted by Ms. Fisher,” said Ken Glueck, a senior vice president for Redwood City, California- based Oracle. “She admitted it was full of inaccuracies.”

Allred’s letter portrays Fisher as being nervous in Hurd’s presence because of his advances. In contrast, e-mails from Fisher to Hurd show her enthusiastically discussing her job. The messages, also obtained by Bloomberg News, depict her politely inquiring about Hurd’s family and describing him as “fun” to work with.

The eight-page letter from Allred to Hurd portrays a two- year romantic pursuit of Fisher, an actress and former contestant on the reality show “Age of Love.” She worked as a greeter at Hewlett-Packard events around the world. Her job was to introduce key customers to Hurd at the events.

According to Allred’s letter, Hurd, who is married with two daughters, made sexual advances toward Fisher during dinners and other meetings. During an October 2007 visit to her hotel room at the Ritz Carlton in Atlanta, Hurd twice touched Fisher’s breast and asked her to stay in his room for the night, the letter said. Two months later in a hotel room in St. Louis, he embraced her and quickly kissed her on the lips.

‘Major Strings Attached’

At another meeting, Hurd told Fisher he had girlfriends in New York and San Francisco, according to the letter. He also told her that many women were “crazy about” him, including singer Sheryl Crow, the document said. Jay Cooper, a lawyer at Greenberg Traurig LLP who represents Crow, said he’d never heard her name in connection with Hurd.

At a final meeting in Boise, Idaho, in October 2009, Hurd “grabbed and kissed” Fisher, the letter said. The meetings made her nervous and worried about her employment status, according to the document.

“She felt tired, irritated and depressed, sad and mad with the growing unbending realization that her great new job had some major strings attached,” said Allred, who works at Allred Maroko & Goldberg in Los Angeles.

EDS Deal

Hurd also told Fisher of plans to buy technology services company Electronic Data Systems Corp., a deal that was ultimately completed in 2008 for $13.9 billion, according to the letter. During a meeting in Madrid in March 2008, Hurd walked Fisher to an ATM and showed her his checking account balance of more than $1 million to impress her, the document said.

Amy Wintersheimer, an employment attorney for Hurd at the firm Allen Matkins, said in an e-mailed statement that she sought to keep the letter confidential because it is “filled with inaccuracies.”

“The truth is, there never was any sexual harassment, which HP’s investigation confirmed, and there never was any sexual relationship, which Ms. Fisher has confirmed,” Wintersheimer said.

Hewlett-Packard shareholder Ernesto Espinoza sought the letter, along with company books and records, in a suit aimed at investigating possible corporate wrongdoing in conjunction with the payment of Hurd’s severance package of as much as $40 million, according to court papers.

After Hurd received Allred’s letter, he turned it over to Hewlett-Packard’s general counsel. Espinoza’s lawyer has said publicizing the letter would help “air out” details of Hurd’s departure from the company.

This week’s court decision followed Oct. 12 arguments in Dover challenging a ruling in March by Delaware Chancery Court Judge Donald Parsons Jr. that most of the letter should be released.

To contact the reporters on this story: Aaron Ricadela in San Francisco at aricadela

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom Giles at tgiles5

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(BN) Gingrich Signals Attack on Leader Romney as Contest Moves to New Hampshire

Bloomberg News, sent from my iPhone.

Gingrich Signals Romney Attack as Contest Moves to New Hampshire

Dec. 30 (Bloomberg) — Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has largely refrained from attacking Republican rivals in the race for the party’s presidential nomination, signaled that he is ready to confront Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor favored in early contests.

“We’re going to have a great time with Romney in New Hampshire,” Gingrich said in an interview yesterday with Bloomberg News aboard his campaign bus in Iowa after leaving an event in Storm Lake. “He’ll win, probably, but it will be much more interesting than he wants.”

Romney holds a slight advantage over Republican opponents in a poll this week of likely Iowa caucus-goers in advance of the nation’s first presidential nominating contest on Jan. 3, and he holds a commanding lead heading into New Hampshire’s first party primary election on Jan. 10. Gingrich, who had surged in recent polling, slid in the latest Iowa survey.

Gingrich, in the Bloomberg News interview, said that, while Romney is likely to win the New Hampshire primary, he still will have the resources to carry his challenge forward. The next chances for slowing any Romney momentum would come in South Carolina and Florida party primaries later in January.

While he may not win in New Hampshire, Gingrich said, he can’t skip the nation’s first primary election. “Each race generates a wave of national media,” Gingrich said. “My goal is to have this become a race between a Massachusetts moderate and a Georgia conservative.”

“The trick is to relax and gradually consolidate the conservatives,” Gingrich said.

Freddie Mac

Gingrich, in an interview spanning about 20 minutes, declined to release the financial records of his consulting firm’s agreement with Freddie Mac, the government-backed mortgage company that paid his firm at least $1.6 million, or for other companies that hired his services.

He said Freddie Mac declined a request to waive a confidentiality agreement to release the records.

Gingrich also said he didn’t believe any of his clients were banks during the federal government’s bailout of financial institutions in 2008. “I don’t believe we had any financial institutions,” he said.

The former House speaker, who has denied lobbying for any of his corporate clients, has faced a barrage of attack TV ads leading to questions from audience members on the campaign trail. At an event in Storm Lake, a man asked Gingrich to explain his relationship with Freddie Mac.

‘All the Zeroes’

“I don’t understand all of the zeroes,” the man said, referring to the $1.6 million Gingrich’s consulting firm was paid. Gingrich thanked him for the question and said he never worked as a lobbyist. He said his firm had a contract with Freddie Mac to consult on strategic issues and was paid over six years. He personally received about $35,000 a year, Gingrich said in the Bloomberg interview.

“I’m a citizen,” Gingrich told the man. “I do my citizen duty; I tell people exactly what I think. I’m not a lobbyist. I have never lobbied once.”

While reiterating plans in the interview to keep his television commercials positive, Gingrich this week has been stepping up criticism on the Iowa campaign trail of his two main rivals, Romney and Texas Representative Ron Paul. A Paul victory in Iowa could weaken the future importance of the caucuses in the nominating process, Gingrich suggested.

“It would be very good for the future of the Iowa caucuses for somebody other than Ron Paul to win,” he said in the interview. “Somebody who wins because a lot of college students show up in favor of drug legalization doesn’t exactly strengthen the idea that this is a good environment to fight in.”

Laffer With Gingrich

Paul, who was the Libertarian Party’s candidate for president in 1988, has argued that states should have the right to set their own laws on matters such as marijuana.

Gingrich, trying to frame himself as the Republican candidate in line with Ronald Reagan’s supply-side economic philosophy, was joined in Storm Lake by Art Laffer, the Reagan- era tax policy expert.

“Of the candidates today, Newt Gingrich is far and away the best person to bring this country back into prosperity — period,” Laffer said.

A CNN/Time/ORC International poll of likely Iowa caucus- goers released yesterday showed Gingrich in fourth place in Iowa, with 14 percent support. Romney held a lead, with 25 percent. He was followed by Paul, with 22 percent, and former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania with 16 percent. The poll of 452 likely caucus-goers was conducted Dec. 21-27 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

“It’s all going to be turmoil until Tuesday night,” Gingrich said yesterday on the campaign trail in Sioux City. “On Tuesday, probably a third to half the people that walk in will be open to changing their minds about all of us.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Tim Higgins in Carroll, Iowa, at thiggins21

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34

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(BN) Bank of America’s ‘Three-Ring Circus’ Tops Dow Jones List of 2011 Laggards

Bloomberg News, sent from my iPhone.

BofA’s ‘Three-Ring Circus’ Posts Worst Showing in Dow Average

Dec. 30 (Bloomberg) — Bank of America Corp. is on track to be this year’s worst performer in the Dow Jones Industrial Average as concern about mounting mortgage losses and a global economic slowdown weighed on the second-biggest U.S. lender.

The 59 percent decline through yesterday erased almost $80 billion of shareholder value at Charlotte, North Carolina- based Bank of America. It’s the firm’s largest drop since a 66 percent plunge in 2008, when a U.S. bailout staved off a collapse. The bank probably will also end 2011 last in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Financials Index and the KBW Bank Index.

“What you have is like a three-ring circus, and in all the rings for Bank of America, the show isn’t any good,” said Greg Donaldson, chairman of Evansville, Indiana-based Donaldson Capital Management LLC, which oversees $500 million including Bank of America shares. He cited new regulations, mounting costs of bad loans and a lack of confidence in management. “You just got one surprise after another this year,” Donaldson said.

Chief Executive Officer Brian T. Moynihan, 52, told his staff in a year-end progress report last week that his effort to boost the company’s value “is not yet translating into returns for our shareholders.” Moynihan said he has prepared for turmoil ahead by selling assets, reducing mortgage and credit- card loans and pledging to lower annual costs by $5 billion, including about 30,000 job cuts.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 6.1 percent this year through yesterday, led by McDonald’s Corp.’s 31 percent advance, while the 80-company S&P Financials slid 18 percent and the 24-member KBW Bank Index lost 24 percent. Larry DiRita, a Bank of America spokesman, declined to comment.

List of Laggards

Some of Bank of America’s biggest peers also made the list of laggards, with Citigroup Inc., the third-biggest U.S. bank by assets, dropping 43 percent. JPMorgan Chase & Co., the largest lender, slid 21 percent. American International Group Inc., the insurer owned mostly by the U.S. after its near-collapse in 2008, fell 52 percent for the second-worst showing in the S&P Financials, and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. lost 46 percent.

Moynihan is trying to reverse a stock decline that began soon after he replaced Kenneth D. Lewis at the end of 2009, when the bank also repaid $45 billion of U.S. bailout funds. The company’s shares, which reached $19.48 in April 2010, closed at $5.46 yesterday as settlements with mortgage-bond investors and insurers failed to stanch losses tied to the 2008 takeover of subprime lender Countrywide Financial Corp.

The status of an $8.5 billion accord resolving some claims from mortgage-bond buyers including BlackRock Inc. and Pacific Investment Management Co. is being contested by outside investors and may be tied up in courts through 2012. Meanwhile, U.S.-owned mortgage firm Fannie Mae has stepped up demands that Bank of America repurchase defective loans.

Subprime Mortgages

“They have this big exposure to subprime mortgages, to potentially settling with buyers of securitized subprime and buying back loans that were improperly” bundled into bonds, said Steven Persky, who oversees $1.4 billion in equities and distressed debt as CEO of Los Angeles-based Dalton Investments LLC. “Bank of America is too big to fail, but I’m not sure I’d want to be an equity holder.”

Banks are grappling with more stringent requirements for capital and new limits on fees at the same time the European sovereign debt crisis threatens to derail the global economic recovery. A $5 billion investment by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. announced in August only temporarily arrested a slide triggered that month after markets were roiled by Standard & Poor’s downgrade of the U.S. government’s debt.

The stock’s drop has stung investors including Bruce Berkowitz, whose Fairholme Capital Management LLC owned 105 million shares as of Sept. 30, and John Paulson, whose hedge fund held 64.3 million shares, according to Bloomberg data.

Five Dollars

This month, Bank of America shares sold below $5 for the first time since March 2009 as concern over Europe’s debt crisis intensified. A sustained decline below $5 in 2012 could reduce the bank’s appeal to investors, said Eric Teal, chief investment officer at First Citizens Bancshares Inc., which manages $4 billion in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Moynihan has said that while he is confident the bank can withstand fallout from Europe, growth in the U.S. may be slowed if a European nation defaults on its debts.

Bank of America had about $363 billion of cash as of Sept. 30, enough to fund operations for two years without going to the markets. The company also has been reducing risk related to the weakest European nations, Chief Financial Officer Bruce Thompson said in October.

“The market has given up on Moynihan, given up on their story,” Donaldson said. “I may start buying Bank of America shares soon. It’s priced as if it’s going out of business, and it’s not going out of business.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Hugh Son in New York at hson1

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rick Green at rgreen18 Nick Baker at nbaker7 .

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(BN) Spain Will Temporarily Raise Taxes to Plug Bigger-Than-Forecast 8% Deficit

Bloomberg News, sent from my iPhone.

Spain to Temporarily Raise Tax on Income, Savings, Large Homes

Dec. 30 (Bloomberg) — Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government plans to temporarily raise tax on income, savings and high-value homes after the euro-region’s third- biggest budget deficit topped forecasts for this year.

The government will raise the levies for two years in a bid to move the deficit toward the euro-region limit of 3 percent of gross domestic product. The deficit this year will reach 8 percent, more than the 6 percent forecast by the outgoing government that Rajoy unseated in Nov. 20 general elections, said government spokeswoman Soraya Saenz de Santamaria at a press conference in Madrid.

To contact the reporter on this story: Angeline Benoit in Madrid at abenoit4

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Davis at abdavis

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2011 Tech Rewind: This year in Silicon Valley


“Official” Siri app hits the Android Market, highlights Google’s app issues


2011: The year Facebook came of age


Go Daddy boycott slows, domain transfers in almost doubles those going out


Forget Dropbox, Insync is your Google Docs-loving alternative and it’s free