Friday, August 31, 2018

Final Ferry Ride

Globe goes down like a cup of seawater these days:

"In latest mishap, seawater rains down inside a Martha’s Vineyard car ferry" by Matt Rocheleau Globe Staff  June 21, 2018

A Steamship Authority boat’s sprinkler system poured seawater onto vehicles parked on the vessel’s car deck as it journeyed to and from Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday — just the latest in a series of recent mishaps for the agency.

Seawater, which can damage cars because of its corrosive salt content, spewed out for nearly an hour at varying rates over the course of two trips, one from the island to Woods Hole and another in the opposite direction, the authority’s general manager, Robert Davis, said in an e-mail.

He said the agency did not receive reports of damage to any cars or any complaints that riders had gotten wet, but he said authority officials had reached out to one passenger.

“While the customer did not immediately report any issues, we wanted to follow up to make sure that there were no problems for example we were not sure if their windows were open for any water to splash inside,” Davis wrote.

There were 46 vehicles on the first trip and 44 on the second, Davis said.

He said there was “only minor puddling in a few low spots” on the car deck, which is a separate space from the passenger cabin.

Davis said the incident occurred after crews conducted “routine tests” of the sprinkler pump while it was on the first trip, adding that it was “normal procedure to test the sprinkler pump both with vehicles and without vehicles” aboard; however, it’s not normal for the system to discharge water. The Martha’s Vineyard Times published a brief video of the leaking water.

It happened aboard a ferry called the “Martha’s Vineyard,” which has been plagued lately by a series of mechanical issues ever since coming back from an $18 million refurbishment project in early March.

That project was done by Rhode Island contractor Senesco Marine. After the vessel returned to the Steamship Authority, staff there documented more than 250 problems. The problems identifed included a need for modifications to sprinkler piping.

Davis said Wednesday’s sprinkler issues were not connected to any of the work that was done as part of that project.

The authority has cast blame on Senesco for other problems recently, saying the company’s work was subpar and played a role in mechanical breakdowns of that boat and two other authority boats that also underwent upgrades at Senesco’s facility.

Senesco has defended its work, attributing many of the issues on authority boats to work done by other vendors selected by the authority.

The authority countered that by saying no matter which company did the work, Senesco is contractually responsible for the results.

The back-and-forth has significant implications as Senesco is one of just two companies the authority has relied on for major boat projects.

The breakdowns of the three boats Senesco worked on, coupled with other mechanical problems that sidelined other ferries, have put the Steamship Authority in an unflattering spotlight.

The agency had to cancel more than 550 trips due to mechanical problems in just the first four months of the year, an unprecedented total about 15 times the yearly average.

Since the end of April, there have been more cancellations, including two trips that had to be canceled Wednesday when the agency’s fast ferry needed repairs to its radar system.

Still, the number of mechanical-related cancellations fell to 80 in April, a marked improvement from March when they were at their worst with 441, and in May, only 19 trips were canceled due to mechanical issues. Still, even that total was about four times higher than the average number of cancellations during that month over the previous four years, according to internal records provided by the authority.

Davis has acknowledged that his quasi-public agency bears some responsibility for the problems.

The authority’s governing board recently directed the agency to hire consultants to conduct a review. On Tuesday, the board chose Seattle-based HMS Consulting and Technical, LLC, to conduct the review. The firm has quoted the agency a cost of $217,976.



"The agency’s problems haven’t been limited to its ships: On Saturday, a Steamship Authority bus burst into flames, destroying the bus and damaging more than a dozen vehicles....."

I was gaining steam before running out again.

"Intel CEO out after consensual relationship with employee" by Barbara Ortutay Associated Press  June 22, 2018

NEW YORK — Intel CEO Brian Krzanich resigned Thursday after the company learned of what it called a past, consensual relationship with an employee.

Intel said the relationship was in violation of the company’s non-fraternization policy, which applies to all managers. Spokesman William Moss said Intel has had the policy in place for ‘‘many years.’’ He declined to comment further.

Chief financial officer Robert Swan will take over as interim CEO immediately. A search for a new CEO is underway.

In this #MeToo era, corporate America is under intense pressure to enforce workplace policies on gender equality and sexual harassment. Even relationships that appear consensual are closely scrutinized — and often prohibited by companies — if they involve a power imbalance such as the one between a manager and an employee.

Earlier this month, Guess Inc. cofounder Paul Marciano stepped down following a company investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and assault.

John Lasseter, cofounder of Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney’s animation chief, also recently said he was resigning over what he called ‘‘missteps’’ with employees.

Years before #MeToo, the CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co., Mark Hurd, was ousted following accusations of sexual harassment by a female contract worker. Hurd settled with the woman in 2010.

In 2012, Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn resigned abruptly after the company launched an internal investigation into what the company called his ‘‘personal conduct’’ unrelated to Best Buy’s business. An audit later revealed the issue was an ‘‘extremely close personal relationship with a female employee.’’

The male-dominated tech industry has been a hotbed for allegations of harassment and discrimination, and in some ways foreshadowed #MeToo as female employees began speaking out. In February 2017, former Uber engineer Susan Fowler wrote an explosive, detailed blog post about the culture of systemic harassment and abuse that she experienced at the ride-hailing company. It wasn’t until the fall that #MeToo began taking off.

Krzanich joined Intel Corp. in 1982 as an engineer and rose through the ranks until he became CEO in 2013. During his tenure, Intel worked to push into growing businesses such as Internet-based computing, high-speed memory chips and smart, connected objects that make up what’s known as the ‘‘Internet of Things,’’ or IoT — along with fields such as artificial intelligence and self-driving cars.

Earlier this year, Google security researchers announced that they have discovered serious security flaws affecting computer processors built by Intel and other chipmakers. Google’s Project Zero team disclosed the vulnerability not long after Intel said it’s working to patch it.

Krzanich sold about $39 million in Intel stock and options in late November of last year, after Intel was notified but before the security vulnerability was publicly known. Intel had said it was notified about the bugs in June. But the company also said at the time that the stock sale was unrelated to the security flaws.

Intel faces scrutiny as questions swirl over chip security, but it's the timing that drew the fire.

Krzanich had also been a champion of workplace diversity. In 2015 at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas, Krzanich challenged the tech industry to increase the hiring of women and minorities, and he set a goal of full representation in his company’s workforce by 2020. Intel said it was investing $300 million to improve diversity at the company.

Krzanich’s resignation ‘‘comes at a difficult time for Intel,’’ said Cowen analyst Matthew Ramsay in a note to investors. He added that he does not see a ‘‘clear internal long-term successor’’ given recent high-profile departures at the company. Diane Bryant, the former president of Intel’s data center group, went to Google in 2017. Former CFO Stacy Smith announced his retirement last summer and Renee James, Intel’s former president, left in 2015.

Given that so much change at the company was driven by Krzanich, Ramsay said his departure could make succession planning and further transitions ‘‘challenging.’’

His abrupt departure overshadowed otherwise positive news for the giant chip maker.

Intel said Thursday that it expects to post a per-share profit of 99 cents in the second quarter, 13 cents better than Wall Street was expecting, and revenue of $16.9 billion, which is also better than had been projected by industry analysts.

Shares of Intel Corp., based in Santa Clara, Calif., slid 2.38 percent Thursday, to close at $52.19.

Mo$t important thing!


I guess asking you to the movies or park is out, huh?

"Fannie-Freddie rise as White House proposes privatization" by Gregory Mott Bloomberg News  June 22, 2018

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration wants Congress to remove the federal charters for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as part of a plan to release the mortgage giants from US control, according to a sweeping proposal for reorganizing the government released Thursday.

The two companies, which have been under US conservatorship since 2008, could have their market dominance challenged by new competitors under the plan. Fannie, Freddie, and any rivals would be overseen by a government entity with power to approve guarantors, change regulations, and ensure market participants are adequately capitalized, the report said.

The changes, which would require congressional approval, would give Fannie, Freddie, and their competitors access to an explicit guarantee on mortgage-backed securities that would only be accessible in “limited, exigent circumstances,” according to the report.

“Taxpayers would be protected by virtue of the capital requirements imposed on the guarantors, maintenance of responsible loan underwriting standards, and other protections deemed appropriate by their primary regulator,” the report said.

Fannie preferred shares rose 5 percent, while Freddie’s climbed by 4 percent.

Fannie and Freddie don’t make loans themselves. They buy them from lenders, wrap them into securities, and make guarantees to make investors whole if the loans default.

Federal regulators took over the two companies during the 2008 financial crisis, eventually injecting them with $187.5 billion in bailout money. They have since returned to profitability and paid the government more in dividends than they got in aid.

Uh-huh, $ure, the government (meaning taxpayers) profited from the bank bailouts. 

Still, some members of Congress and other policy makers have said the companies should be replaced with a system that doesn’t leave taxpayers on the hook for losses.

Why should we be worried about being on the hook for losses if we made money last time? Let's do it again, 'eh?

The White House proposal is similar to one developed by two senators who have played key roles in trying to advance an overhaul of US housing finance.

Republican Bob Corker of Tennessee and Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia tried to develop a bill that would have largely preserved the operations of Fannie and Freddie while opening the market to competition. Their effort foundered earlier this year after they failed to win support from Senate progressives, who wanted to preserve affordable-housing mandates.

The White House plan envisions an overhaul designed so that affordable-housing fees sent to the Department of Housing and Urban Development would enable the Federal Housing Administration to provide subsidies for lower-income borrowers “while maintaining responsible and sustainable support for homeownership and wealth-building.”

The proposal was applauded by Mortgage Bankers Association chief executive David Stevens, who noted its similarities with work already done by lawmakers on Capitol Hill. 

I can't think of a better rea$on to be against it.

“It includes many core principles that MBA has long advocated for, such as an explicit government guarantee on MBS only as a catastrophic backstop, allowing for multiple guarantors and ensuring small lender access,” Stevens said in a statement. “As with any proposal of this size, the devil is in the details.”

Let's take a look at the fine print in that mortgage application:

"There is a cost to being black or brown when it comes to banking, according to a New America report released Thursday. It can be more expensive to obtain loans — as recent fines against mega-banks Wells Fargo and J.P. Morgan Chase for discriminating against minorities have demonstrated. Now Thursday’s report from the Washington think tank suggests it can also cost substantially more for services as basic as opening and maintaining a checking account. The culprit? Small community banks whose wholesome image and limited geographic scope have allowed them to largely escape scrutiny. ‘‘If we care about racially disparate patterns in costs and fees and want to eliminate those in the financial system, our oversight has to include small and community banks where these practices are prevalent,’’ said Terri Friedline, a professor of social work at the University of Michigan who coauthored the report with Jacob William Faber, a New York University sociologist....."

It's a detail you can not hide.


"The average net worth of a black household in the Boston area is $8, compared with $247,500 for white households, according to the 2015 “Color of Wealth in Boston” report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Duke University, and the New School....."

The gap can be traced back to the GI Bill.


Better get a lawyer:

"Investigation alleges misconduct by Thornton Law Firm, recommends severe sanctions" by Andrea Estes Globe staff  June 29, 2018

An investigation unsealed Thursday in Boston federal court outlined a multimillion-dollar overbilling scheme by some of the nation’s top class-action law firms and alleged misconduct by a prominent former state lawmaker.

(Cue music)

The scathing 377-page report by a court-appointed special master took aim at the business practices of three well-known firms, including Boston-based Thornton Law Firm and its managing partner, former representative Garrett Bradley.

Among the report’s findings: Bradley and other attorneys were “hyper-focused on attempting to increase or ‘jack up’ ” billable hours, and lawyers had a “troubling disdain for candor and transparency that at times crossed the line into outright concealment of facts.” One lawyer with a Texas firm received $4.1 million and never appeared in court and performed no work, the report noted.

The long-awaited report, which recommends sanctions and the repayment of more than $10 million, may shape how courts across the country handle lawyers’ fees in class-action lawsuits.

The Thornton Law Firm, which made its name filing suits for victims of asbestos-related diseases, was a major donor to Democrats across the country.

The investigation stemmed from a 2011 class-action suit alleging State Street Bank overcharged institutional customers for foreign exchange trades. Several plaintiffs’ firms — including Labaton, Thornton, and Lieff — ultimately agreed to a $300 million settlement with the bank. Wolf awarded $75 million to the lawyers in November 2016.

The Globe reported a month later that the three firms double-counted lawyers — to the tune of 9,323 hours — and claimed exorbitant costs for dozens of low-paid lawyers, among them Bradley’s brother, Michael. Michael Bradley is a criminal defense attorney in Quincy and was reported as having worked 406.4 hours on the class-action case at $500 an hour.

Wolf appointed Rosen special master in February 2017, months after the Globe report.

Joan Lukey, who represents both Labaton and Lieff, fought to keep the report and its exhibits private, arguing that Rosen has drawn false conclusions that could cause serious damage to Labaton — one of the largest securities class-action law firms in the country.....

Then sue 'em!


Thornton Law Firm didn’t break state campaign finance laws, prosecutor says

Message: Campaign contributions and political corruption that favors Democrats is okay!

That's how you game the $y$tem:

"State officials smash multimillion-dollar gaming ring; gangster’s stepson was kingpin, prosecutors say" by Travis Andersen Globe Staff  June 28, 2018

It was a probe into money laundering and illegal gambling that led to last year’s discovery of the remains of Donald Eugene Webb buried in his former wife’s yard in Dartmouth. Webb was a career criminal who allegedly killed a Pennsylvania police chief in 1980.

On Thursday, the initial investigation finally bore fruit with the indictments of Webb’s stepson, Stanley Webb, 62, as well as Stanley’s Webb’s daughter and son-in-law, their Dartmouth company, and another associate on a slew of illegal gambling and money laundering counts.

In a statement, Attorney General Maura Healey’s office said the defendants were allegedly “operating 130 illegal Nutel gambling machines they had placed near Massachusetts State Lottery products in various establishments including social clubs, sports bars, convenience stores and gas stations throughout eastern Massachusetts.”

Stanley Webb, his daughter, Jaqueline Webb, 35; her husband, Brian Pinheiro, also 35; the family company, Nutel Communications Inc.; and an associate, Romie Jones, 47, are all charged with keeping a place for registering bets, organizing and promoting gambling, unlawful operation of a gaming device, conspiracy to keep a place for registering bets, and conspiracy to operate an illegal gaming device, Healey’s office said.

The Webbs and Nutel also face 26 counts of money laundering and, along with Pinheiro, have been hit with one count each of conspiracy to commit money laundering, Healey’s office said.

In addition, the Webbs and Pinheiro were charged with failure to file income tax returns in 2016, and Stanley Webb was charged with four counts of improperly storing a firearm.

None of the defendants were charged criminally in connection with the disposal of Donald Webb’s remains, which were excavated on July 13, 2017.

Their gambling machines operated like slot machines and “were in direct competition with Lottery products and gambling dollars of customers who opted to play the games,” officials said. “The defendants also allegedly programmed the Nutel machines in a way that preyed on consumers by making it nearly impossible for them to win. The illegal machines were allegedly used to launder money, which the defendants would then split with the host establishments on a weekly or monthly basis.”

“Today’s charges are the result of the largest illegal gambling investigation ever conducted in our state that uncovered a multi-million-dollar illegal money laundering and gambling scheme,” Healey said in the release. “We allege these defendants were using illegal gambling machines designed to compete with our State Lottery, and manipulated them to maximize their profits and exploit compulsive gamblers. We thank the Massachusetts State Police, the Massachusetts Lottery and Treasury, and all of the other federal, state and local agencies that assisted us in dismantling this major criminal enterprise.”

State Police conducted raids in June 2017 that led to the dismantling of the criminal enterprise as well as the discovery of Donald Webb’s remains, which were unearthed from the yard of his former wife, Lillian Webb, authorities said.

Donald Webb had been charged with the fatal shooting of Chief Gregory Adams in Saxonburg, Pa., during a traffic stop on Dec. 4, 1980. Lillian Webb, who received immunity in exchange for her cooperation with helping authorities retrieve the body, filed for divorce in 2005, court records show.

Webb went missing soon after the slaying of Adams, who was shot twice at close range after being “beaten about the head and face with a blunt instrument,” according to the FBI.

At the time, Webb was living in New Bedford with his wife and stepson and had ties to mobsters in Rhode Island. His white Mercury Cougar was found in a Howard Johnson’s parking lot in Warwick, R.I., about two weeks after the chief’s murder.

On Dec. 31, 1980, a federal arrest warrant was issued for Webb alleging unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, after he was charged in Pennsylvania with first-degree murder for Adams’s killing.

Webb was a career criminal believed to be in Pennsylvania planning to rob a jewelry store, authorities said. He was wanted at the time for an earlier robbery in New York and allegedly decided to murder Adams rather than go back to prison.

Healey’s office said busting up Stanley Webb’s alleged illegal gambling and money laundering ring involved more than 300 police officers, the execution of 100 search warrants, and the seizure of more than $2.1 million in cash as well as precious metals and other property.

Arraignment dates for the suspects in Suffolk Superior Court haven’t been set.

State Police Colonel Kerry A. Gilpin also hailed the arrests.

“The Massachusetts State Police, through the work of various units, including our unit at the Attorney General’s Office and our statewide Special Services Section, are committed to dismantling organized criminal enterprises and combatting illegal gaming,” Gilpin said in the release. “This has always been, and always will be, an important part of our Department’s mission.”


Good thing they were along for the ride, huh?