Thursday, May 26, 2016

Night at the Taj

I'll pay for the room:

"TD Bank’s Penny Arcade machines are down for the count. The fourth-largest retail bank in Massachusetts announced on Thursday that it would retire its fleet of 1,000 coin-counting machines citing performance issues, after getting complaints that they short-changed customers.  The coin counting machines had been a major selling point for the bank, but TD said that usage of the machines had declined over the years."

I wonder what was the rea$on.

Maybe you would like a drink before heading up to your room?

"Profits lagging, Taj hotel is for sale" by Tim Logan Globe Staff  May 19, 2016

The luxury hotel that Travel + Leisure magazine calls “the epitome of Boston sophistication” is back on the market. But luxury and sophistication, it appears, don’t necessarily guarantee big profits.

The owner of the Taj Boston put the classic hotel overlooking the Public Garden up for sale this week, saying it wants at least $125 million, about one-fourth less than it paid for the property a decade ago.

In documents filed with securities regulators in India, Mumbai-based Indian Hotels Co. said it plans to sell the Taj to shed debt and focus on faster-growing markets overseas. But it also disclosed that the establishment, with Tiffany & Co. in the lobby and its much-loved tea service, is a money-loser and has been for years.

It’s a sign of the times in Boston’s luxury hotel market, where high-flying newcomers such as the Mandarin Oriental have surpassed — if only by a degree — classic stalwarts like the Taj, which for most of its nearly century of history was a Ritz-Carlton and the city’s finest hotel.

The Taj, at the corner of Arlington and Newbury streets, still ranks among Boston’s nicest places to spend the night — the presidential suite can run $6,000 a night — and the staff includes a fireplace butler to start a nice winter blaze in your room.

But the top of the city’s hotel market is a more crowded place these days, and that competition is a bit more freshly updated.

Still, in a market where foreign capital is pouring in to buy trophy real estate and where good hotel rooms remain a scarce investment asset....


I'll send some girls up:

"Sex trafficker sentenced to 30 years in prison" by Milton J. Valencia Globe Staff  May 20, 2016

One of Raymond Jeffries’ victims was a teenage heroin user when she met him. She was paraded on the streets of Boston and forced to prostitute herself to feed her addiction, she said in federal court Thursday. Another victim said she was just 17 when Jeffries forced her into prostitution.

“I want you to know how this messed with my life, messed my life up,” yet another of Jeffries’ victims told US District Judge Denise Casper Thursday, struggling to hold back tears while speaking in a packed courtroom. “I was so afraid of this man.”

In letters and impassioned pleas Thursday, several of Jeffries’ victims confronted him with accounts of how he preyed on them when they were vulnerable, gave them a false sense of security, and forced them to sell themselves in hotels in Boston, Georgia, and California.

Jeffries, 28, was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison Thursday for running a sprawling sex trafficking ring, a sentence Casper said would serve as just punishment and a deterrent to those considering similar crimes. She also ordered Jeffries to undergo sex offender counseling.

“The labels of these crimes do not describe the true nature of the harm you placed on these victims,” Casper told him. “You preyed upon these women, young women – some even girls.”

The sentence Thursday capped an investigation into the biggest and most violent sex trafficking ring the US attorney’s office in Boston has targeted in the last decade, part of a nationwide push to investigate sex trafficking crimes in the federal court system, where punishments are harsher.

“Law enforcement has just dealt a serious blow to those who think they can sell a person in Boston for commercial gain,” said Matthew Etre, special agent in charge of the Boston office of Homeland Security Investigations, a branch of the US Department of Homeland Security. He said law enforcement “will continue to aggressively pursue criminals who engage in sexual slavery at the cost of the victim’s lives.”

In all, eight people were charged in four indictments that described the prostitution of at least 20 women, including teenagers and young mothers.

And at the helm of the ring was Jeffries, a Boston native and wannabe rapper who glamorized his lifestyle in rap songs and on his social media accounts with pictures of cash and jewelry. Jeffries pleaded guilty to charges that he threatened the women and ordered a hit on a partner he thought had been cooperating with authorities. The intended target survived.

One of Jeffries codefendants is scheduled to go to trial in that shooting next week.

Jeffries faced life in prison under sentencing guidelines, but he pleaded guilty under an agreement that he serve a sentence of 25 to 30 years in prison.

At Thursday’s hearing, a Northeastern University professor described the world of sex trafficking rings, in which pimps prey upon vulnerable women and “groom” them to earn their trust. They then convince the women to sell themselves, and threaten them if they fail to obey.

“He will be the one to protect her, and law enforcement will not,” said the professor, Amy Farrell, a former assistant director at the Institute on Race and Justice. 

Related: Shapiro Ran Sex Ring at Northeastern? 

Assistant US Attorney Amy Burkart told Casper that Jeffries enticed women to work as prostitutes in the same way: They were heroin addicts, or abused alcohol, and had histories of abuse.

“Every single woman had problems in their lives,” she said. “That’s why they were attractive to Raymond Jeffries. That’s why they were brought into his web.”

His lawyer, Keith Halpern, sought to distance Jeffries from other convicted sex traffickers saying his crimes were not as severe because he targeted older women, and did not beat them. He also sought to generate sympathy for his client, saying Jeffries was raised by a mother who was addicted to crack cocaine and surrounded herself with pimps.

Casper cut Halpern off. In his remarks, Jeffries sought to explain his actions.

“I grew up in a harsh environment,” he pleaded, fidgeting with his prison garb. “I grew up thinking I was going to be a pimp, I was going to be a drug dealer. I grew up in an environment where turning 21 was a long-term goal.”

But, he added: “I’m not the monster I’m portrayed to be. . . . I know that it was wrong, and if I could go back and change it, I know I would. I know I can’t.”

Casper acknowledged his tough upbringing — he has been shot twice, and was first arrested at 12 years old — but added, “sadly, there are no good beginnings here, and sadly there are no good endings here either.”

Yet it will have to do.


I left a wake-up call for 6 a.m.

UPDATE: Taj Boston sold

Either they were late or I missed it.

Boston Globe Garbage Truck

It's a cancer and they are the Crews picking it up:

"Scientist wants to hijack cells’ tiny garbage trucks to fight cancer" by Eric Bodman STAT  May 19, 2016

NEW HAVEN — The idea was born over beer in a hotel bar.

It would spark a revolutionary approach to treating cancers, attract tens of millions in investments, and set rival companies on a scientific race. At the center of it all? A tiny garbage truck.

It’s called the proteasome, and its job is to chew up and get rid of your cells’ obsolete and broken proteins. When biochemists Craig Crews and Raymond Deshaies discussed it over brews at a conference in 1998, the proteasome had been described but not domesticated.

They knew that it naturally destroys proteins the cell no longer needs. But could they hijack that machinery to treat diseases?

Crews has built a career on that question. A 51-year-old professor at Yale, he has spent the past 20 years fiddling with cellular garbage trucks. “I was always a tinkerer,” he said — but “tinkering” doesn’t exactly capture the complexity of his work.

He has already taken one molecule given up on by a pharma giant, and with help from colleagues, turned it into a successful cancer drug. Now, using the proteasome, he aims to revisit hordes of other drug discovery projects that have stalled or failed. And he’s founded a New Haven company, called Arvinas Inc., built around the premise that harnessing the proteasome will open the door to new treatments for diseases that are currently considered “undruggable.”

He isn’t the only one. “Every big pharmaceutical company in the world is thinking about this area,” said Andrew Phillips, chief scientific officer of C4 Therapeutics Inc., a biotech startup in Cambridge that’s working on the same question.

Crews was a new professor at Yale, sniffing around for projects, when he read about a strange molecule produced by certain soil-dwelling bacteria.

Scientists at the pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. had found that it was startlingly good at killing melanoma cells. But they couldn’t figure out why. In 1992, they published a detailed report on everything they knew about the substance.

“This had a particular appeal to me, because it had such potency, but there was this mystery about it,” said Crews. “They didn’t know how it worked. All they knew was that it would kill tumor cells. And that, to me, is this wonderful invitation. I was curious.”

Unable to access the mysterious molecule described by Bristol-Myers Squibb, Crews had his team make their own version in the lab.

Then, they took a string of minuscule plastic beads, each about the size of a grain of sand, coated them with the molecule they were interested in — and went fishing. They poured the contents of a cell over the molecule-slathered beads. Only one thing stuck: a cylinder of proteins called the proteasome.

It turned out that the mystery molecule blocked the proteasome from doing its job, namely disposing of junk proteins in the cell. “By gumming it, by blocking the action of the proteasome, you get buildup of toxic proteins that should have been removed,” explained Crews.

This affected all cells. But it affected cancer cells more than healthy cells, because cancer cells proliferate uncontrollably, constantly making and discarding proteins. So with the proteasome jammed, toxic levels of old proteins built up quicker in the cancer cells. And then the cells died.

To Crews, that sounded like more than basic science. It sounded like a drug.

So he and Deshaies started a company called Proteolix. With a few tweaks, that molecule was turned into a drug for multiple myeloma, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2012.

And if money is any measure, that drug — called Kyprolis — was a success. Proteolix was sold to Onyx Pharmaceuticals in a deal worth $850 million in 2009, and then Onyx was sold to Amgen Inc. for around $10 billion in 2013.

Stopping the garbage truck from working was one promising path to treatment.

Crews, however, had already been wondering about the opposite. He wanted to hijack the proteasome so it gobbled up the proteins that help cause disease.

Many, many drugs — what Crews calls “traditional” drugs — try to stop these rogue proteins by blocking up their docking ports.

What Crews and Deshaies first discussed in 1998 was a different tack completely. They wanted to tag the nasty proteins that cause disease, the way a city puts pink ribbons around trees that need cutting down.

The proteasome would notice the tags, and do what it does best: “taking the protein that’s been tagged, unwinding it, threading it in, and chewing it up,” said Crews.

The niftiest part of the idea: The chain of molecules that tags harmful proteins, and feeds them to the cellular garbage disposal, does not get chewed up. Instead, it’s freed to go off and hunt for more proteins.

They called this chain of molecules PROTACs.

“As far as tagging the protein itself and dragging it off to the shredder, no one has ever tried to treat disease like that,” said Derek Lowe, a longtime drug discovery researcher for pharmaceutical companies. “It’s coming in from a totally different direction that no one else has come in from before.”

Lowe still isn’t sure if it will work in humans, but he said “it really has a lot of promise.”

That promise was reinforced in 2010, when a Japanese team published a paper showing that an old drug, in use since 1957 but never fully understood, worked by tagging proteins so that they’d be destroyed by the proteasome. That drug was thalidomide, and it was widely prescribed to pregnant women to prevent nausea, until it was found to cause birth defects.

Oh, that's just conspiracy talk.

Crews found the news exciting: It proved the approach could work. In 2012, he founded Arvinas, to try to capitalize on the promise of the proteasome. It’s now racing against competitor C4, which was unveiled earlier this year, to develop possible cancer treatments. C4 calls its molecular chains “degronomids,” but the idea is the same.

Both companies emerged from basic science labs, and both have big-name partnerships: Arvinas with Merck and Genentech, and C4 with Roche.

Crews hopes that within a year, Arvinas will be testing the idea he hashed out over beer two decades ago. All he needs are patients willing to have their cellular garbage trucks hijacked.


Related(?): La$t Drop of Blood 

AbbVie & Al$heimer's

"AbbVie bases Alzheimer’s effort in Cambridge" by Robert Weisman Globe Staff  May 19, 2016

CAMBRIDGE — AbbVie Inc. will direct an effort to cure Alzheimer’s disease from its new research facility in Cambridge.

The drug maker, based in North Chicago, Ill., on Wednesday formally opened a 43,000-square-foot Foundational Neuroscience Center on two floors of a former Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. building on Sidney Street.

AbbVie vice president Eric Karran, a biopharma veteran hired from the United Kingdom to lead the new center, said its mission is ambitious: to take on Alzheimer’s, the neurodegenerative disease estimated to affect more than 40 million people worldwide.

The center, which moved its first employees into the refurbished space in April, will hire about 50 people — mostly scientists and researchers — by next year. AbbVie received a $525,000 tax break from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center last month based on a commitment to hire 35 employees here and at its much larger facility in Worcester during 2016.

AbbVie, spun off from Abbott Laboratories three years ago, has focused on drug discovery primarily in the fields of immunology, virology, and cancer. But when Michael Severino was hired from Amgen Inc. in 2014 to be AbbVie’s chief scientific officer, he decided to make a play in neuroscience and set up a research outpost in the biomedical cluster around Cambridge and Boston.

SeeAmgen reports big rise in quarterly profit

In an interview on his visit to the new office, Severino said academic and industry researchers have made enough progress in understanding the pathology involved in Alzheimer’s that it makes sense to invest resources in drug discovery. Other companies, including Biogen Inc., Eli Lilly & Co., and Merck & Co., already have Alzheimer’s drug candidates. But while there are treatments for symptoms, there are still no disease-modifying therapies.

There are some job cuts coming down at Biogen, so hold your horses:

Cambridge startup teams up with Biogen on hemophilia drugs
Biogen to spin off hemophilia business
Biogen could get $6b for hemophilia business, analyst says

It's okay with Europe; must have been the ads as seen on TV.

"Biogen, which last year announced job cuts and other cost reductions to offset weak earnings, easily topped Wall Street expectations for the first quarter and shares rose sharply Thursday. Net income rose to $971 million."

Gotta keep that blood flowing.

Meanwhile, over at Merck:

"Merck will pay $830 million to resolve a federal class-action lawsuit involving shareholders and the painkiller Vioxx, which the drugmaker pulled from the market years ago over safety concerns. Merck said Friday that the case involved people who purchased its securities between 1999 and 2004. The litigation focused on statements Merck made regarding Vioxx’s cardiovascular safety. Merck & Co. Inc. removed Vioxx from the market in 2004 after evidence showed it doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke. The Justice Department has said that the company made false statements about Vioxx to increase sales. Merck said the settlement doesn’t constitute an admission of any liability or wrongdoing."

They are working on a hepatitis drug with Harvard now and things are looking good (don't expect a refund, though).

While the Cambridge site is AbbVie’s first foothold in the Boston area, the company is no stranger to Massachusetts. The campus in Worcester it inherited from Abbott employs about 800 people in immunology drug research, protein engineering, and manufacturing small batches of biotech drugs for clinical trials. That site was involved in the development of Humira, the rheumatoid arthritis drug that is AbbVie’s best known product.

In 2014, AbbVie pulled out of its agreement to acquire Shire PLC — which is based in Ireland, though its management sits in Lexington — after the US Treasury Department said it was imposing new rules to prevent companies from capitalizing on the foreign domicile of merger partners to lower their corporate taxes.... 

I have no wish to return there.



"The health care sector saw a lot of deal action Thursday, with Abbott Laboratories spending $25 billion for another device maker, while its pharma spinoff AbbVie Inc. plunked down nearly $6 billion for a biotech developing a raft of cancer treatments. Meanwhile Sanofi, the French drug maker that owns Genzyme in Cambridge, made a $9.3 billion bid for San Francisco pharmaceutical firm Medivation, part of its effort to expand its portfolio of cancer treatments. Medivation has so far resisted overtures from Sanofi. Abbott Labs’ purchase of St. Jude Medical Inc. is its biggest ever and aims to strengthen the medical device maker’s stake in cardiovascular care. The combined company will offer devices in nearly every area of cardiovascular care. And AbbVie, which was spun out of Abbot as a separate company in 2013, agreed to buy Stemcentrx Inc. for $5.8 billion. Fidelity Investments is among those that stand to profit in the deal, having invested tens of millions of dollars in Stemcentrx last August, in several of its mutual funds. Based in San Francisco, Stemcentrx has five experimental drugs in human trials, with its leading candidate a treatment for small-cell lung cancer, a deadly subset of the disease with few existing options for treatment. The drug, known as Rova-T, could be on the market by 2018 and eventually have sales of as much as $5 billion a year, according to AbbVie chief executive Rick Gonzalez."

As they develop there is more room to grow and they will no doubt ri$e before falling back to Earth.

"Jittery investors dumped shares of Alere Inc. on Wednesday amid sudden fears that its blockbuster $5.8 billion deal to be acquired by Abbott Laboratories might be in jeopardy. The selloff, sending Waltham-based Alere’s stock down more than 12 percent by day’s end, was triggered by Abbott chief executive Miles White’s refusal to answer questions about the Alere buyout during a conference call with stock analysts. That fueled speculation that Abbott, a global health care company based outside Chicago, might be reassessing the takeover. White cited Alere’s delay in filing a regulatory report with the Securities and Exchange Commission and its disclosure the Justice Department had subpoenaed documents from the Waltham company in a foreign corruption inquiry into its sales practices in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Alere last month disclosed it would miss the March 15 deadline for filing the SEC report because it was gathering information on how it recognized foreign revenue." 

Government reject it, did they?

"Fourteen years after it was spun out from Johnson & Johnson, Waltham-based Alere Inc., a maker of medical diagnostics products, will be folded into another giant health care company. Abbott Laboratories said Monday that it agreed to buy Alere for $5.8 billion, a vote of confidence in a company that has quietly grown into a global leader in devices used for so-called point-of-care tests performed at doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, and patients’ homes."

"Waltham-based Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. has agreed to acquire Affymetrix Inc. in a deal valued at about $1.3 billion, adding technology used by scientists and biologists to analyze specimens at the cellular and genetic level. JPMorgan Chase & Co. advised Thermo Fisher on the deal. Morgan Stanley was Affymetrix’s financial adviser."

It's board rejected the advice.

Also seeAbbVie slides as US agency questions Humira patent

Place your bets

I'm not trying to be flip, but I'm going to forget about blogging for the rest of today.

UPDATE: Biogen wins FDA approval on new multiple sclerosis drug

Also see:

Biogen stock hammered on dismal drug results

Biogen to end Cambridge drug production

It's a move that could idle up to 285 workers as the company consolidates. 

Mass. biotechs cut nearly 70 jobs after drug setbacks

Talk about chutzpah.


Infinity Pharma cuts 100 jobs after AbbVie deal is terminated

Research consortium aims to speed up development of Alzheimer’s therapy

Smaller Servings From Whole Foods

Here is your portion:

"Whole Foods seeks to shed ‘Whole Paycheck’ rap with smaller stores" by Craig Giammona Bloomberg News  May 19, 2016

Whole Foods Market, stung for years by snarky comments about its prices, is about to find out if it can dispel the notion that its name should really be “Whole Paycheck.”

Next week, the company will open the first of several smaller stores that will specialize in cheaper private-label groceries. It’s seeking to demonstrate that Whole Foods isn’t just for foodies willing to pay a premium for grass-fed beef and organic kale.

Called 365 by Whole Foods Market, the new concept is designed to help the retailer compete in an era when the organic food it first brought to the masses is now widely available at convenience stores and supermarkets. Company officials are trying to ignite growth.

“They have to do this,” said Allen Adamson, the former North American chairman of the branding firm Landor Associates. “They’ve played out their hand.”

“We want it to appeal to a wider audience,” said Jeff Turnas, a company veteran who is running 365. “This model allows us to compete with everybody in the market.” 

Cool name, seeing as people need to eat every day.

Expanding from its original store in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods rose to prominence over the past 20 years by popularizing organic food, prepared meals, and craft beer. The company helped cultivate the rising foodie culture in the United States while benefiting from the increased interest in healthy eating. Its sales and share price rose in tandem for the better part of a decade.

But with that success came stiff competition. Conventional retailers like Kroger and Walmart have expanded their organic and natural offerings, undercutting Whole Foods on price.

Analysts aren’t convinced the new concept will stabilize the company. For one, they warn that the cheaper 365 concept might cannibalize sales from existing Whole Foods markets. Scott Mushkin, an analyst at Wolfe Research, recently called the 365 rollout a “sign of the company’s search for answers.”

“The company has lowered prices, remodeled stores and launched a national advertising campaign all to no avail as sales continue to slip,” Mushkin wrote.

Of course, this isn’t the first time a high-end retailer has rolled out a lower-priced sister chain to draw in more budget-minded consumers. Nordstrom, the premium department store, had success when it started Nordstrom Rack, as did Gap with Old Navy.

For a while anyway.

Whole Foods appears to be following the Nordstrom model, said Michelle Grant, a grocery analyst at Euromonitor International.

The new venture will provide the company with a chance to showcase its 365 private label while also taking advantage of the fact that grocery shoppers are increasingly agnostic about where they buy food.

Are they? Do we really not care what goes into our bodies?

More and more, consumers will visit two or three grocery stores on a regular basis, a departure from the days when loading up at the local supermarket once a week was the norm, Grant said. And the lower prices at 365 should appeal to millennials who respect the Whole Foods brand but can’t afford to shop there.

“For a consumer who wants to eat healthy, on a budget, this will have a really strong appeal,” Grant said.

Whole Foods might never be able to fully shed its reputation. Stories about hefty prices for water infused with asparagus or prepeeled oranges will enforce the notion that the store is for wealthier shoppers, and advertising touting lower prices might not easily erase that image....


I'm sure I've eaten from the Globe's spread on the Whole Foods table over the years, but those plates are gone and I go to Market Basket now.

Food is not the only thing I will be soon cutting back.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Obesity is $eriou$ Bu$ine$$

One might almost believe they want to fatten you up:

"Drug makers struggle to revive interest in anti-obesity pills once seen as surefire hits" by Meghana Keshavan, May 17, 2016

SAN DIEGO — Obesity may be on the rise, but the market for fat-loss pills? Flat.

With more than one-third of Americans obese, the market seemed ripe for a pharmaceutical that promotes weight loss. Yet company executives acknowledged in a recent earnings call that Contrave sales have basically flatlined.

CEO Mike Narachi said on the call that his team has developed “a focused, creative” plan to promote the drug — in part by targeting patients who are highly motivated to lose weight — and predicted the company would turn a profit in the “near term.”

As recently as five years ago, analysts were predicting that anti-obesity drugs could ring up as much as $3 billion in sales by 2020. Companies were racing to develop next-generation medication that would boost metabolism, dampen appetite, and melt away fat.

Now the mixed me$$ages and ma$$ marketing regarding bad food makes $en$e.

In 2012, San Diego’s Arena Pharmaceuticals launched a new weight loss drug called Belviq, and San Francisco’s Vivus introduced one called Qsymia.

But physicians proved reticent to prescribe the new drugs as they hit the market, in part because of a cultural reluctance to see obesity as a disease requiring medication.

Now your very metabolism is a disease.

Others feared a redux of the diet pill horror stories of the 1990s, imagining the new wave of obesity medications would harm more than help.

“Most doctors are kind of scared to prescribe these drugs,” said Dr. Eduardo Grunvald, director of the University of California, San Diego, Weight Management Program. “That said, I don’t think we’ve done a good job on educating doctors on how to manage obesity today.”

Grunvald said he’s “had great success” prescribing all of the approved weight loss meds.

How much has the industry they paid you?

But the market continues to struggle. Patients who do try one of the new medications often see only modest benefits, in part because some individuals are simply wired to respond better to certain drugs than others.

Newer weight loss drugs only command a small portion of the broader US obesity market, Narachi said. About 75 percent of the prescriptions doled out for weight loss are actually generic amphetamines. Orexigen’s angle, now, is to point out to doctors that these amphetamines can be addictive and only work in the short term — whereas weight loss drugs like Contrave could prove safer.

“In order for us to win, to succeed, our bet is pretty simple: About 18,000 prescribers write the mass majority of obesity prescriptions, and we think they’ll respond to our message of differentiation against generics,” Narachi said.

I thought we all won when.... never mind.

Companies are still pushing obesity treatments through their pipelines, but investors have largely lost interest.


Zafgen reports promising results from drug study
Clinical results for obesity drug lift Zafgen shares
Zafgen ends obesity drug trial after patient death
Zafgen says patient died in clinical trial of obesity drug
Zafgen shares plummet after death of 2d patient
Zafgen drug trial halted after second patient dies

That's when the share price dropped as Zafgen perseveres despite the deaths of two patients.

When Arena launched its obesity drug four years ago, the share price hovered around $10; today, it’s a buck and change. When Vivus got regulatory approval for its drug, shares peaked above $28. It’s been more than a year since it traded above $2.

Novo Nordisk’s Saxenda had a strong start last year, but sales appear to be slowing for this weight loss drug as well.

As for Orexigen, it’s scaling back its dreams and forging ahead.

The company has partnered with Valeant Pharmaceuticals to sell the drug in Europe.

RelatedDrug prices keep rising despite intense criticism

'Twas a Valiant effort anyway.

The company projects it’ll command about 10 percent of the US obesity market by 2018.

But that market is a whole lot slimmer than investors once predicted....

No, thank you, I've had enough puns.


Have you gotten your cholesterol checked yet?

"Cambridge biotech Aegerion Pharmaceuticals Inc. said it is eliminating 80 jobs, about 25 percent of its workforce, as part of a cost-cutting push. The move, which will affect all major departments, will leave about 230 employees at the 11-year-old company, which develops treatments for rare diseases. Aegerion said in a statement that the cuts are an effort to conserve cash and reduce expenses in the face of increased competition. In particular, it cited the introduction of rival therapies vying with its cholesterol-lowering drug Juxtapid, approved by US regulators in 2012. Mary Szela took the helm at Aegerion at the start of 2016 after the resignation of her predecessor, Marc Beer, who was scolded in a so-called warning letter from the Food and Drug Administration in 2013 for exaggerating Juxtapid’s benefits in a television appearance."

More like $colded:

"Aegerion to pay $40M and plead guilty to illegally marketing cholesterol drug" by Ed Silverman, May 12, 2016

Aegerion Pharmaceuticals has agreed to pay $40 million and plead guilty to two misdemeanor charges to settle allegations of improperly marketing a pricey cholesterol drug and violating different federal laws.

Specifically, the company failed to market Juxtapid, which costs about $250,000 a year and is used to treat a rare form of high cholesterol, with adequate directions. The settlement, which is still preliminary, also notes that the drug maker failed to comply with the terms of a mandatory program for ensuring that the risks of taking the medicine are followed by doctors and patients.

In a statement released on Thursday announcing the settlement, Aegerion acknowledged obstructing justice concerning the risk management program, and violating both the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the False Claims Act. The specific nature of the violations was not disclosed.

The deal was reached with the US Department of Justice and the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The drug maker noted that under preliminary terms of the settlement, it will not be excluded from doing business with federal health care programs, such as Medicaid and Medicare. However, Aegerion will be required to enter into a Corporate Integrity Agreement, which means company executives will be responsible for bolstering and overseeing compliance efforts.

The settlement comes nearly a year after former Aegerion Chief Executive Marc Beer resigned amid a controversy over comments he made about Juxtapid during two different appearances on CNBC’s “Fast Money” television show in 2013. In one episode, Beer said that “patients are going to die of a cardiac event, either a stroke or a heart attack, if we don’t have them on therapy.”

The remarks raised the ire of the US Food and Drug Administration, which sent a letter to the company warning it that his comments “misleadingly” suggested that the drug could reduce cardiovascular events and prolong life.

Something ironic about a lying government accusing others of misleading.

The FDA approval was based on data showing that the pill lowers cholesterol levels in people with a rare genetic disease, homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia. But the company did not submit data showing its drug lowered the risk of a heart attack or death.

And in January 2014, the drug maker received a subpoena from the Justice Department requesting documents regarding its marketing and sale of Juxtapid. Aegerion and Beer are currently defendants in a class action lawsuit brought by shareholders, who claimed his remarks damaged the value of Algerian stock.

And that is the mo$t important thing, health-wi$e.


I'm so stuffed I haven't even read a word and look, it's past time for lunch.

Bayer offers $62b to buy Monsanto

It got $pit out and I missed it?

UPDATE: Aegerion Pharmaceuticals to merge with Canadian drug maker

Also see:

Bayer ups bid for Monsanto

Monsanto rejects latest takeover bid from Bayer

Aegerion to cut 25 jobs

Boston’s Zafgen cuts jobs, shifts focus on obesity drugs after deaths in clinical trials

Just $limming down?

Taking Stock in Staples

The word on the street is sell:

"Staples, Office Depot stocks plunge as merger is called off" by Deirdre Fernandes and Megan Woolhouse Globe Staff  May 10, 2016

Staples said it would consider “strategic alternatives” for its European business, cut an additional $300 million of costs by 2018, close more stores, and seek to grab a bigger share of the market for midsize companies by cutting prices and hiring more salespeople.

“It’s going to be a difficult road forward,” said Rajiv Lal, a professor of retailing at Harvard Business School.

The companies are stuck with too much of their money and resources in real estate, employees, and inventory, as demand for their products has shrunk, Lal said.

Were the economy recovering like the government and pre$$ claim, there would be need for such supplies.  

Sure, they can trot out the same tired excuses about online and all, but at the end of the day the size of both companies means they would simply be caught up in a rising tide were the economy rising. They couldn't help but benefit were it really happening. Same with McDonalds. They are so ubiquitous they benefit from spillover.

“They have to go back to the drawing board and think how you need to go forward,” he said.

The failure of the merger is likely to be a more serious blow for Office Depot, which is in a weaker position, said Oliver Wintermantel, a managing director at Evercore International Strategy & Investment Group, based in New York.

Office Depot will “go first and Staples will struggle,” Wintermantel said. “Staples will have to close a lot of stores. I think there will probably be a lot of layoffs.”

Staples, which opened its first store in Brighton in 1986, has been trying to revive its bottom line in recent years. Sales for 2015 fell by 6 percent to $21 billion from $22.5 billion in 2014. Staples also cut costs by $550 million in the last two years.

It laid off more than 1,000 employees between November and January, although it did not disclose exactly where the layoffs had occurred. It has closed more than 300 stores since 2011.

Staples has also been testing new concepts. In April, the company announced a partnership with Boston co-working startup Workbar to convert some of its stores into shared working space.

Related: Workbar to test Staples stores as suburban co-working venues

What's next, a return to tenements

Hey, you kids wouldn't remember what is was like.

Staples now also offers designer office supplies, such as its line created by New York sportswear and accessories designer Cynthia Rowley.

In 2013, the company launched a redesign of its website featuring faster speeds and more personalized product offerings to compete with

The company needs to do more of that, said Ani Collum, a partner and consultant at Retail Concepts in Norwell.

Its traditional business model is crumbling as work environments and consumer behavior evolve, she said.

Staples is still modeled as a one-stop shop for everything office-related and overwhelms customers with its selection, Collum said. It’s an experience that consumers no longer want, she said.

I certainly understand the feeling as I read a Globe.

“They need to think about how to shed this big corporate image,” she said of Staples.

Why after all the pro-corporate garbage would have been fed via the bu$ine$$ pre$$?

The failure of the Staples-Office Depot merger is the latest example of the Obama administration enforcing antitrust regulations. Last week, Halliburton and Baker Hughes abandoned a $34 billion merger after challenges from the Justice Department.

And late last year, General Electric scuttled the $3.3 billion sale of its appliance division to Electrolux of Sweden following complaints from the Justice Department.

Already vacuumed that up.

Last month, Attorney General Loretta Lynch warned about the risks to consumers from consolidation and vowed that the Justice Department, which shares antitrust jurisdiction with the FTC, would oppose problematic deals.

Debbie Feinstein, who heads the competition bureau at the FTC, heralded the ruling as ‘‘great news for business customers.’’ 

It will bring layoffs as the economy is cratering and everyone holds onto their money. That's why revenues are down.

‘‘This deal would eliminate head-to-head competition between Staples and Office Depot, and likely lead to higher prices and lower-quality service for large businesses that buy office supplies,’’ Feinstein said in a statement to the Associated Press.

When a handful of companies control an industry, as across AmeriKa today, what difference does it make whether it is conglomerate #A or #B?


I gue$$ that means the contracts will be canceled.


Staples’ Sargent to testify in merger trial

"Staples Inc. chief executive Ron Sargent’s total compensation of $9.9 million was about $2.5 million less than his 2014 package because he didn’t receive any cash incentive award last year, according to documents the company filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission Tuesday." 

Took a real hit as his business model is crumbling, 'eh?

Judge hears final arguments on Staples case

Judge faults Staples’ legal strategy in merger bid

"Shares of Staples and Office Depot soared after a federal judge accused the government of trying to bend a witness’s testimony in its case against a merger of the last two major US office-supply chains."

This government would never do that.

Also see:

"Staples says the US government failed to show that the company’s takeover of Office Depot should be blocked and urged a federal judge to dismiss an antitrust lawsuit seeking to scuttle the deal. Diane Sullivan, a lawyer for Staples, told US District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington on Tuesday that Staples and Office Depot won’t present any evidence in the trial and that the judge can rule now solely on the government’s failure to make a convincing case that the deal will harm competition. ‘‘They haven’t met their burden,’’ she said, calling the government’s case an ‘‘utter failure.’’ The decision by Staples to decline to present witness testimony now puts the fate of the $6.3 billion takeover in the hands of the judge, who began hearing closing arguments from both sides Tuesday. A decision in favor of the government would spell the end of the merger. During her closing argument, the judge appeared skeptical of some parts of the FTC case. He questioned why the FTC was excluding ink and toner as part of the basket of products at issue in the case, calling it a ‘‘huge issue.’’ He also asked why the agency was focusing only on the biggest corporate customers rather than on smaller ones as well."

I think we know the an$wer.

"Clampdown chills megamerger deals" by Leslie Picker New York Times  April 15, 2016

On Wall Street, the phones have been a little quieter. The workload has been a little lighter. The happy hours have been starting earlier.

For most people, that would be a good thing. But not for deal-hungry lawyers and bankers, who are experiencing a recent slowdown in megadeals. The divergence in the deal market comes largely as a result of a regulatory clampdown.

Over the last year, with shareholder encouragement, companies ventured into large, complex, and risky deals. Last week, the government fought back, in a lawsuit by the Justice Department and new rules from the Treasury Department, to stop many of the transactions.

One lawyer described a depression that set over mergers and acquisitions as a result of those two actions. A banker said that Wall Street had come to a grinding halt. These deal makers requested anonymity, so as not to be seen at odds with the government’s decisions.

During an election year, advisers say, the big, politically unpopular deals may just have to wait.

Once the polerticks are over, they can quietly sail through.

There is plenty of blame to go around. Bankers and executives would argue that with little global economic growth, mergers have been the best way for companies to jump-start their businesses. Lately, though, they say there has been more uncertainty about what the government will and will not approve, resulting in an abatement in activity.

That has been a concern for months, some say, and last week’s government actions, and subsequent deal terminations, merely provided validation.

Obama’s statements on April 5 related to deal making caught Wall Street’s attention, and many turned on their televisions to listen. He spoke about “tax loopholes” and “tax breaks for millionaires.” It became clear that the trend of big inversions — or deals that allowed US companies to move their headquarters abroad for tax purposes — could be over. 

And then he will soon be gone.

Advisers gathered their tax experts to sift through the hundreds of pages of new tax rules released by the Treasury so they could guide their clients appropriately. Even though the rules target inversions, many legal experts say their implications will extend further.

The law firm Kirkland & Ellis said in a note Wednesday, “The proposed regulations are so far-reaching that, if finalized in their current form, they likely will affect the way every multinational corporate group with a US presence does business.”

The firm was referring to new rules regarding so-called earnings stripping, in which a US subsidiary borrows from its foreign parent and uses interest costs from the loan to help shrink its US tax bill.

The drugmakers Pfizer and Allergan called off their merger as a result of the new rules, which also essentially disqualified Allergan as a merger partner for Pfizer because it had made a few too many inversions. 

Related: Pfizer Finds Fountain of Youth 

Government ran it dry?

That day, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the combination of Halliburton and Baker Hughes, saying the $35 billion merger would harm competition in the oil field services industry.


"The deal is a sign of pressures on the oil-services industry, which performs much of the oil field work for major energy companies around the world, to reduce costs at a time of lower oil and gas prices...."  

Looks kind of arbitrary to me.

Some deals have been withdrawn before they really got off the ground because of concerns about government scrutiny. In February, United Technologies rebuffed Honeywell’s $90 billion takeover bid in a public dispute surrounding the viability of combining two large industrial conglomerates without antitrust obstacles. Canadian Pacific backed away this week from its pursuit of a fellow railway operator, Norfolk Southern, after the government criticized part of its plan.


Honeywell offer for United Tech worth more than $90 billion
Honeywell abandons bid for United Technologies

ever-optimistic bankers say there is opportunity to be had in all of this.

I just reached for my wallet.

After Pfizer’s and Allergan’s deal was terminated, pharmaceutical stocks rallied as investors speculated which companies would become the next targets. And the factors that led to such rampant deal making last year — slower growth and cheap financing — have not gone away.

It just may be the smaller companies that feel more confident in pulling the trigger.

“I wouldn’t call it a day yet on the M&A wave,” said Profusek of Jones Day.


Who el$e is being allowed to con$olidate?

"Also on Thursday, Charter Communications Inc., which recently acquired Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks in a $60 billion deal, said it’s planning to integrate Netflix and Hulu into its network. Meanwhile, Comcast Corp. last month began providing direct access to Crackle, an Internet TV network operated by Sony Corp. In fact, pushing Internet TV through the cable box could help cable companies retain their subscribers. If an Internet TV viewer must switch from the cable box to a separate device, there’s a chance he won’t come back. Instead, said Greg Ireland, a TV industry analyst for IDC Corp. of Framingham, “the cable provider can create a nice simple single-user experience,” giving the subscriber a reason to stick around." 

That crackle woke me up

I'm sorry, what is the New York Times $aying?

"After merger with Office Depot dies, Staples shareholders revolt" by Megan Woolhouse and Deirdre Fernandes Globe Staff  May 12, 2016

After its proposed buyout of Office Depot Inc. died Tuesday, Staples Inc. presented investors with Plan B: cutting costs and closing stores, a possible exit from Europe, and a pledge to compete aggressively for mid-size corporate customers in the market for office supplies.

Shareholders voted with their feet.

Staples’ stock fell 18.3 percent Wednesday, the biggest drop in its 27 years as a public company. Office Depot was hit even harder, losing 40.4 percent, also a one-day record.

The Staples sell-off wiped out gains earlier in the year, when the deal was seen as crucial to the survival of both companies.

“Staples is faced with a reorganization if it hopes to survive,” said James V. McTevia, founder of the strategy firm McTevia & Associates in Michigan. “If I were a shareholder, I would come to the conclusion that they need to do something — and do something quickly.”

Staples, the largest US office supply retailer, and number two Office Depot pulled the plug on their marriage plan after a federal judge on Tuesday backed the Federal Trade Commission’s decision to block the merger. The FTC was opposed on the grounds it would reduce competition and jack up prices for big companies.

“They’re doing the right things; it’s just a question of whether it’s going to be enough,” said Anthony Chukumba, an analyst at the North Carolina bank BB&T Capital Markets.

The way consumers and business handle their stationery and other office-supply needs is changing profoundly. With the ability to store data in the cloud, many people have less need for paper and packaging and shipping supplies. At the same time, companies like and Walmart are chomping at Staples’ heels.

I like to read it at breakfast.

This month, Amazon said its recently launched business marketplace generated $1 billion in sales in its first year. Amazon offers products such as computer equipment and office supplies, and the online retailer said it added 300,000 businesses to its customer rolls.

Industry experts differ about whether Staples will be an acquisition target for another retailer or for private equity firms. Private investors eventually want to be able to sell a company and make money, said Joseph Feldman, a senior managing director at Telsey Advisory Group in New York.

“They want a path to an exit,” Feldman said. “But there’s concern that this is a very challenged industry and there may not be an exit strategy.”

Like the wars?

McTevia, the Michigan consultant — he specializes in crisis management — said Staples is ripe for a takeover by a firm looking for a distressed business to buy, overhaul, and sell at a profit. The climate is right, he said, because many investment firms are “sitting on a lot of money, on the sidelines.” 

I was wondering where it all went, and how ironic considering Staples was started by private equity Romney.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re considering all the options available,” he said of Staples.

It’s imperative for Staples to find a way to modernize and improve operations to compete with online retailers and remain relevant to a younger generation of customers, said Ben Gomes-Casseres, a professor of strategy at Brandeis International Business School.

Staples has been testing new concepts, such as a partnership with the Boston coworking startup Workbar, to convert some stores into shared work space.

And in 2013, the company redesigned with faster speeds and more personalized product offerings, to better compete with

But, Gomes-Casseres said, more needs to be done. Investors’ reaction to the nixed merger signaled “that people really think that these two don’t have a chance of surviving well enough on their own.”

“If they don’t find a way to get into the modern flow of e-commerce,” he said, Staples “will slowly fritter away.”

And what are they doing? 

Shuffling deck chairs.


Time to man the lifeboats!

"Staples reportedly laying off hundreds, but stays mum" by Megan Woolhouse Globe Staff  January 26, 2016

Staples Inc. is laying off hundreds of workers at its Framingham headquarters, a move that analysts said suggests the company is preparing for the likelihood its planned merger with Office Depot Inc. won’t win regulatory approval.

The job cuts were confirmed by a current employee and a former employee, both of whom asked for anonymity due to job and severance concerns. Staples spokesman Mark Cautela would not comment on layoffs, pointing only to a press release issued Monday in which chief executive Ron Sargent said the company was “streamlining.”

Staples has faced competition from Walmart Stores Inc., Target Corp., and online retailers, and it has also seen its revenues decline. Since 2011, the company’s annual sales have declined 9 percent. Over that period, the company has cut its full-time workforce by 16 percent. The stock, however, is down more than half from its 52-week high of $19.40

Staples wants to merge with rival Office Depot because it is losing market share to new competitors, such as, analysts said.

Charles Kane, a senior lecturer in international finance and entrepreneurial studies at the MIT Sloan School of Management, said, “I think it’s bad news, more bad news unfortunately for Staples. They’re in a very difficult market space competing with all kinds of new players. It sounds to me like this merger is more of a desperate thing.”

Staples also laid off employees in September 2013, saying only that it had eliminated a number of US jobs, most of them leadership positions at its corporate headquarters. Staples at the time refused to provide details, including how many people had been laid off....


Globe got a head count:

"Over 1,000 lost jobs at Staples, says company" by Megan Woolhouse Globe Staff  March 04, 2016

Staples Inc. executives laid off more than 1,000 employees between November and January, acknowledging the job losses for the first time as the company vigorously pursues a merger with its rival, Office Depot Inc.

Staples executives disclosed the layoffs in a conference call with analysts Friday after the company released earnings. A spokesman said the company did not track where the layoffs occurred, but current and former employees said in January that hundreds lost jobs at the Framingham headquarters.

In the call, Staples’ chief executive, Ronald Sargent, told analysts that the company would fight the Federal Trade Commission’s efforts to block the Office Depot deal. The proposed merger would not result in “higher prices for sticky notes,” he said, calling the FTC’s opposition to the merger flawed and evidence of its “deep misunderstanding” of the office supplies marketplace.

“Competition has materially intensified, not lessened,” Sargent said, noting the rise of Inc. and other competitors. “This has been a long and surprisingly frustrating road.”

Staples has sought the merger as part of a broader strategy to help revive a flagging business....


RelatedStaples-Office Depot merger approved in Europe, with concessions

Then they turned around and blocked it.

Better off ordering it online:

"Amazon stock dips as quarterly data lag" by Spencer Soper Bloomberg News  January 29, 2016

SEATTLE —’s holiday quarter profit missed estimates on stepped-up spending for new technology and delivery services, taking the shine off a year marked by record earnings and an aggressive expansion. The Web retailer’s shares fell as much as 15 percent.

They lied to keep the stock price up. 

Happy New Year!

Fourth-quarter net income was $482 million, Amazon said in a statement Thursday, short of analysts’ average projection for $742.9 million, while revenue rose.

That's a pretty steep drop.

The result was a surprise for investors who have become accustomed to Amazon’s ability to boost sales by spending heavily on delivery infrastructure and new products. The key question is whether the Seattle-based company can readjust its investments in the face of weaker-than-anticipated sales. Still, chief executive Jeff Bezos appears determined to show that Amazon can keep bringing in more money — he pulled back on spending last year to deliver a surprise jump in earnings and will be showing Amazon’s first Super Bowl commercial next week.

“When revenue goes up by more than $6 billion how are earnings only going up by 55 cents?” said Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities Inc. “That’s what investors are wondering right now.”

Looks to me like the numbers are getting shuffled around during shipping.

Amazon’s shares, which more than doubled last year, fell as much as 15 percent in extended trading. The share slide erased more than $5 billion from Bezos’s net worth, to $50.3 billion.

This was the first shopping season following Amazon’s Prime Day promotion in July, an effort to boost the company’s $99-a- year subscriptions that include delivery discounts and convert occasional shoppers into devotees. It was also the first season that Amazon offered same-day deliveries in most big cities around the country to cater to last-minute shoppers.

Not available in all areas. Please check skin color.

E-commerce is on track to make up 9.8 percent of all US retail sales in 2019, up from 7.1 percent in 2015, according to EMarketer.

At the end of 2015, there were more than 54 million Prime members, who get two-day deliveries and access to online movies and music, according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. That’s an increase of 35 percent, the researcher said, adding that the average Prime shopper spends $1,100 annually with Amazon, compared with $600 for nonmembers.

Are you Primed?

For the first quarter, Amazon forecast revenue of $26.5 billion to $29 billion, compared with analysts’ average estimates of $27.6 billion.

One bright spot was Amazon Web Services, the company’s cloud-computing division, which had fourth-quarter sales of $2.4 billion, up 69 percent from a year earlier. The unit, built on Amazon’s expertise in running its Web store and handing massive amounts of data and analysis, represents a fast-growing and profitable part of Amazon’s business, even though it makes up only about 7 percent of revenue, the company said.

On the spending side, operating expenses increased 21 percent to $34.6 billion, Amazon said. Bezos’s biggest challenge is balancing Wall Street’s thirst for profits against his own ambitions of using new technology — such as unmanned drones and intelligent household gadgets.

Bezos is also eager to replicate his US success abroad, including challenging Flipkart Online Services Pvt. for India’s fast-growing e-commerce industry.

I've got a flip for ya.



"Amazon has launched a self-publishing platform for video creators, a move that could make money for the company and budding filmmakers in the same way YouTube has created a community of online celebrities. Amazon Video Direct, which kicked off Tuesday, shares money with video creators through the method they choose: ads, subscriptions, rentals, or simply by the number of hours streamed to tens of millions of subscribers of Amazon Prime, its two-day shipping service. Amazon keeps about half the revenue, or if the video is restricted to Prime, it pays a set fee of 15 cents per hour viewed in the United States. Several production companies made videos available Tuesday including Baby Einstein, Pro Guitar Lessons, and Conde Nast. The service allows creators to publish videos in the United States, Great Britain, Germany, Japan, and Austria."

I don't know about Austria because the timing of the announcement came as a surprise to many Austrians.

Also see

Amazon looks to open more brick-and-mortar stores
Backstep on Amazon good news for Barnes & Noble
Amazon expands its Alexa line of voice-controlled devices

Sorry the delivery took so long; must be the warehouse workers.


Staples CEO to step down after failed Office Depot deal

The new Easy? Staples launches same-day delivery

B. Braun Syringe Got $tuck in Arm

"A Pennsylvania drug and medical device manufacturer has agreed to pay up to $7.8 million for selling contaminated syringes, federal prosecutors say. B. Braun will avoid criminal charges in exchange for implementing procedures to improve oversight of its suppliers, authorities said Wednesday. The company will pay $4.8 million in penalties and forfeited profits, plus up to $3 million in restitution. The company, based in Melsungen, Germany, has its US headquarters in Bethlehem, Pa. The settlement comes in response to the sale of contaminated syringes that prosecutors say led to an outbreak of bacterial infections and at least five deaths. The syringes were branded B. Braun but made by another firm."

Yeah, pa$$ the buck.

State Street Hooleygans

State Street Corp. eyes 7,000 layoffs by 2020

Never saw in print.

"State Street cutting 360 more jobs in cost reduction effort" by Beth Healy Globe Staff  March 16, 2016

State Street Corp. said it would lay off 252 people in Boston and Quincy, as part of a broad cost-cutting effort that comes on top of 170 local layoffs announced last fall.

The majority of the job cuts will focus on senior executives at the company, spokeswoman Anne McNally said. Ninety new people are expected to be hired, for a net local job loss of 162, she said.

The Boston-based financial services giant said in a filing with the securities regulators that it would take pretax charges of $300 million to $400 million for a multiyear expense-cutting program, called “State Street Beacon,” through 2020.

The company said the lion’s share of that, or as much as $300 million, would go toward severance and benefits costs related to the layoffs. About $100 million will be charged off in the first quarter of this year.

Globally, a net 360 jobs will be lost in this round, from a workforce of about 32,000. Last October’s total layoff company-wide was 600.

State Street, which manages money and also handles administrative services for mutual funds, pensions, and other large investors, is “looking at the different businesses we’re involved in, and their growth, and whether it makes sense to stay in them,’’ McNally said.

The layoffs were first reported by the Boston Business Journal.

The Beacon project is focused on further “digitizing” State Street’s business, so more functions are handled with technology. A major Massachusetts employer, State Street has been under pressure from Wall Street to slash expenses as low interest rates have eaten into its profits.

Meaning they DON'T NEED YOU, HUMAN!

The company also has faced numerous regulatory issues, including overbilling customers more than $200 million over 18 years. State Street last week said its chief financial officer, Michael Bell, is stepping down.

Overall, State Street has added 1,000 people over two years in Massachusetts, to 12,900, McNally said. But the mix of jobs is changing."

SeeState Street Global names new execs to top of ETF business

Why you out a job.

It's not like they aren't making money, either:

"State Street, an asset custodian and an investment manager for large institutions, said its fourth-quarter earnings rose 17 percent, despite a drop in revenue. The Boston financial giant reported net income of $547 million for the quarter."

For whom the Bell tolls:

"State Street Corp. said its chief financial officer, Michael W. Bell, will step down within the next year, after a successor is appointed. Bell, 48, is a member of the Boston financial service company’s management committee and became CFO in August 2013. According to a biography on State Street’s website, he is responsible for the company’s financial strategy, as well as treasury, accounting, tax and financial reporting, and investor relations. Carolyn Cichon, a spokeswoman for the company, in a statement said Bell staying on for a period would “enable a smooth transition.” State Street in recent years has been through a series of issues with regulators, including litigation over allegedly overcharging customers for foreign exchange services and a pay-to-play settlement related to paying consultants for pension business. And in December the company announced that it had overbilled certain customers by $200 million for administrative services over 18 years. In January, it said it would reimburse clients $240 million in that matter."

Get a good look; it's the last time you will see them here. 

Now take your medicine!


"State Street wants broader access to retirement plans" by Beth Healy Globe staff  June 05, 2016

State Street Global Advisors plans to start lobbying Congress to require universal access to workplace retirement plans in the private sector.

In an open letter to US lawmakers scheduled to be released Monday, the Boston investment giant will urge Congress to take steps such as requiring private employers to automatically enroll employees in 401(k)-type savings plans. They would also need to provide certain basic, default investments, such as target-date funds that own a mix of stock and bond funds, based on a person’s age and risk appetite.

In addition, the company is recommending tax credits for small employers to cover the administrative costs of the plans and is suggesting that businesses be allowed to band together to offer retirement plans.

“This is a problem that directly threatens the well-being of future generations and our overall society,” said State Street Global’s chief executive, Ron O’Hanley, in a statement. He said the company’s proposal “does not seek to reinvent the wheel or suggest a new expensive government program,’’ but to expand Americans’ access to workplace retirement plans. 

That's what all the sleight of hand, stealing, and lying was for?

As one of the world’s largest investment managers, overseeing $2 trillion, State Street stands to benefit from expanded retirement offerings.... 

But they are doing for the well-being of society and future generations, yup.


Drive-By $pying

So they $ay:

"When the billboard has a brain" by Hiawatha Bray Globe Staff  May 19, 2016

Once in a while, you drive past a billboard that’s advertising something you’d actually like to buy — a juicy hamburger, comfortable shoes, a better car. It’s as if the advertiser is reading your mind.

And maybe that is exactly what’s happening.

Billboard advertisers are getting inside our heads. For years, they’ve watched with envy as Internet advertisers have learned to precisely target our interests and tastes, by using personal data collected from our Web browsers. Now the billboard guys are assembling their own high-tech toolkits, full of slick and spooky new ways to pry open our wallets.

If lots of mothers are rolling by, the new billboards will know to skip the motorcycle ad and maybe push the new Disney movie instead.

The ads that appear on the billboard may depend on the electronic bread crumbs your cellphone leaves behind.

Sorry, but I'm not looking up there; I'm looking at the road.

Do you regularly visit a church, a strip club, or the public library? Drive a truck or lecture at Harvard? Give marketers a list of places you regularly visit, and they can accurately guess what you buy.

Your cellphone company has that list, and uses it to deliver targeted cellphone advertising. Make a lot of trips to the library, for instance, and you’ll get pop-up ads for the latest bestsellers.

Now the nation’s largest billboard company, Clear Channel Outdoor Inc., is bringing customized pop-up ads to the interstate. Its Radar program, up and running in Boston and 10 other US cities, uses data AT&T Inc. collects on 130 million cellular subscribers, and from two other companies, PlaceIQ Inc. and Placed Inc., which use phone apps to track the comings and goings of millions more.

All, I hate to say it, stored and stash in case government needs it.

Clear Channel knows what kinds of people are driving past one of their billboards at 6:30 p.m. on a Friday — how many are Dunkin’ Donuts regulars, for example, or have been to three Red Sox games so far this year.

The Radar program crunches the data and sorts them into categories of consumers: sports fans, home improvement buffs, fashionistas, and so on. Advertisers can learn demographic data such as the ages, ethnicities, and income ranges of groups of consumers. From this, Clear Channel can help its clients choose ads that will generate the maximum payoffs.

Radar is a perfect fit for digital billboards, which are basically giant video screens. There are 6,400 digital billboards in the United States (compared with 159,000 standard-sized models and 203,000 units of other varieties), and they can flash a different ad every 10 seconds or so. With Radar, Clear Channel can easily target different audiences at different times. And the company will also use the data to pick the most effective pitches for traditional billboards, the kind that stay in place for days or weeks.

Billboards are a mass medium, so Radar can’t get too personal. Indeed, Clear Channel and AT&T insist they’re aiming at groups of potential buyers, not you personally. They vow that information on individuals is never revealed, especially not names or addresses.

But it is there somewhere amongst all the numbers.

Still, AT&T can use its nationwide network to track individual responses to ads. Say you see a billboard ad for a Big Mac, then go to McDonald’s. Because AT&T provides the Wi-Fi Internet service in McDonald’s restaurants, it can track you going in, and McDonald’s will be informed that its Big Mac ad worked.

Will you at least chew the food first?

Radar’s pervasive spookiness has alarmed US Senators Al Franken and Charles Schumer, Democrats of Minnesota and New York, respectively, who have called for a federal investigation of Clear Channel’s “spying billboards.”

But that’s not quite right: The billboards themselves don’t track passing cars.

But Lamar Advertising Co. of Baton Rouge, La., has been doing exactly that. In an April campaign for General Motors Corp., Lamar and the digital ad company Posterscope USA tested electronic billboards that can see what kind of car you’re driving — then try to sell you a new one.

The Posterscope system ran in Chicago, Dallas, and parts of New Jersey. It used a high-resolution video camera that can identify the make and model of an oncoming car by looking at its grille. If the vehicle is a Ford Fusion or a Hyundai Sonata or a Toyota Camry, the image on the electronic billboard switches to General Motors’ Chevrolet Malibu, accompanied by a customized sales pitch that may go something like: “The Malibu has more available safety features than your Hyundai Sonata.”

Posterscope insists it poses no threat to privacy. Its software doesn’t capture license plate data, and all images are deleted after a few minutes.

To where?

Still, the brainy billboards are a little creepy — a Clear Channel executive used that very word when describing Radar to The New York Times. Perhaps they’re a worrisome reminder that digital surveillance never stops. Even when we’re out on the street, we’re on their radar.

Next thing you know the TV and desktop will be spying on yo.... !!!!!


Ready to go for a drive?

"GM sees sales tumbling as automaker shuns US rental-car market" by David Welch Bloomberg News  May 19, 2016

General Motors will probably report a US sales decline of more than 10 percent in May as it intensifies the strategy of shunning low-margin fleet deals with rental-car companies.

That's what was propping up sales!

The largest US automaker’s May performance underscores its mission to put fewer of its vehicles in rental-car fleets and more into the hands of retail consumers, who tend to buy better-equipped cars that sell at fatter profits. The Detroit-based company is also trying to limit the availability of used cars that get dumped onto dealer lots six or 12 months after rental firms buy them. Those models can drag down prices people will pay for new ones.

Looks like a glut of cars and a fal$e economy to me. Bubble getting ready to burst!

‘‘We’re going to stay very disciplined,’’ Alan Batey, president of GM North America, said in an interview. ‘‘We’ve seen this movie before and in fact probably played a leading role.’’


Retail sales bring in much more profit than sales to rental-car companies, which have the lowest margins of anything GM sells because those customers negotiate a volume discount, Batey said. In the past, the company would send almost 30 percent of its production to rental-car companies to sustain market share and keep factories running close to full production. GM plans to cut rental-fleet sales by 90,000 vehicles this year in total.

Prepare for lay-offs and job cuts (as they move more factories out of country!).

With a stronger market and its retail sales growing, GM doesn’t need to rely on fleet customers as much, Batey said.

GM’s strategy is starting to show results....


See: Morning Enabler 

Hey, a lot can change in three days!


Start 'er up!

Suzuki reports improper fuel economy tests but denies cheating

They lie even when they tell the "truth."

More than 500,000 Jeeps recalled 

I'd slow down if I were you.

Toyota expands recall over air bags

Now we have to call for a cab, 'er....

"Attorney for Uber drivers slams critics of $100 million settlement" by Dan Adams Globe Staff  May 23, 2016

The Boston labor lawyer who negotiated a controversial $100 million settlement on behalf of Uber drivers is responding forcefully to critics of the deal, saying drivers risk getting nothing if their lawsuits seeking benefits, higher pay, and job protections go to trial.

“If this settlement is scuttled, there is no guarantee that Uber drivers will get anything,” Shannon Liss-Riordan, the attorney, wrote in a response to objections that was filed Friday in federal court in San Francisco. “Plaintiffs negotiated the best deal possible that would result in fair monetary and non-monetary benefits to” drivers.

Liss-Riordan represented Uber drivers in Massachusetts and California who sued the ride-hailing company for misclassifying them as independent contractors, a policy they said illegally denied them the pay, benefits, and protections afforded to full employees.

That's the new gig, honk!

But in April, looming legal hurdles — in particular, an imminent court ruling that could have knocked thousands of drivers out of the case — prompted Liss-Riordan to work out a settlement with Uber rather than risk defeat at trial. Liss-Riordan has said she will apply to the court to receive 25 percent of the settlement amount as her fee.

She's getting how much?

A number of Uber drivers — including, embarrassingly, the initial plaintiff in Liss-Riordan’s case — expressed dismay at the deal. Many are angry they will still have to pay for their own gas and other expenses, while not receiving any wages for the time they spend waiting for fares.

Honk, honk!!

Some drivers also want more money than the $4,000 to $8,000 payouts frequent drivers would receive under the deal; others complained that the language of the pact allows Uber to continue deactivating drivers for any reason as long as it provides a written explanation.

“I feel the proposed amount offers drivers 10% of what they are entitled to,” an Uber driver named Gary Teitelbaum wrote in a submission to the court. “More worrisome, it fails to address, in any meaningful way, Uber’s ongoing unethical and illegal treatment of drivers. . . Seems this settlement is a boon only to Uber, who is getting off easy, and Ms. Riordan, who is getting rich while leaving [drivers’] situation not improved in any meaningful way.”

As a result, attorneys for some Uber drivers have filed objections to the settlement, or sought to replace Liss-Riordan as leader of the class-action lawsuits. They argued Uber made few meaningful nonmonetary concessions, and that even those will expire in two years. The settlement also conceded the central claim of the lawsuits too easily, they argued, allowing Uber to continue classifying its drivers as independent contractors and not employees..

In asking a judge to approve the agreement, Liss-Riordan said Los Angeles driver Steven Price and other critics were a vocal minority and had not carefully weighed the concessions offered by Uber against the risk of a trial. She blasted attorneys who filed objections as opportunistic, calling one a “celebrity lawyer” and suggesting the rest lacked her expertise. “Notably, some of the loudest objections come from lawyers who do not practice in this field,” Liss-Riordan wrote. “These lawyers have jumped into the fray to second guess [my] careful decision-making. . . . These same attorneys would have settled for a fraction of this amount were they given the opportunity, and . . . Uber drivers are tremendously fortunate to have experienced counsel negotiating on their behalves.”

Uber declined to comment. But in a recent filing, the company joined Liss-Riordan in defending the settlement.

The company’s attorneys said the objections were “largely irrelevant” and called the suggestion by some objectors that they had colluded with Liss-Riordan “laughable,” given the “hotly contested” proceedings before the settlement. They also noted that only about 30 drivers filed objections, out of a potential class of 380,000....


You know what would solve the problem?

Uber tests self-driving car in Pittsburgh

You are no longer cool, driver.

GAO report warns of cyberattacks on cars

Just trying to slow you down, and I'll never view car crashes the same.

So much for the gadgets, and it looks like the right time to be getting into the phone business.


AT&T wants to stream TV into your car

Time to get out of Dodge.

"LinkedIn said Wednesday that a 2012 breach resulted in more than 100 million of its users’ passwords being compromised — vastly more than previously thought. The business social network said that it believes a purported hacker’s claim that 117 million user e-mails and passwords were stolen in the breach, up from the 6.5 million user credentials that the company originally said were compromised. Those 6.5 million passwords were reset in 2012 and the company advised the rest of its users to change their passwords too. The hacker, who goes by the name ‘‘Peace,’’ was trying to sell the passwords on the dark Web for 5 bitcoin, or about $2,200, according to a Forbes report. Mountain View, Calif.-based LinkedIn Corp., which touts 400 million members in 200 countries and territories around the world, emphasized that there’s no indication of a new data breach. The company said it’s working to determine just how many of the passwords in question are still being used and is in the process of resetting them and notifying the users in question."

Takata taps financial adviser as recall costs mount

Uber rebuffs calls to release worker diversity numbers


Volkswagen reports profit drop as it deals with emissions scandal

Volkswagen talks cuts with unions as fallout from cheating scandal continues

Automakers still selling cars with riskiest Takata air bags

Uber initiates software improvements for drivers