Saturday, August 12, 2017

Saturday Benchmarks

"Three Uber investors ask Benchmark to forfeit board seat" by Olivia Zaleski Bloomberg  August 11, 2017

Three Uber investors said a lawsuit against cofounder Travis Kalanick was designed to ‘‘hold the company hostage’’ and asked Benchmark, the venture capital firm that brought the suit, to step down from the board.

The investors sent a letter Friday addressed to Benchmark, saying they opposed the suit, according to a copy reviewed by Bloomberg. The investors are Sherpa Capital’s Shervin Pishevar, Yucaipa Companies’ Ron Burkle, and Maverick’s Adam Leber. They don’t hold seats on the board or a majority of the company’s stock, but the letter said they’re seeking other shareholders to add their signatures.

Battles among Uber stakeholders have spilled into public view, and the conflicts risk paralyzing the ride-hailing company at a crucial time. Uber is looking to quickly fill the vacant CEO position, while trying to boost morale, battle a trade secrets lawsuit from Alphabet Inc., and defend against well-funded rivals.

At least two people in consideration for the CEO job, including General Electric chairman Jeffrey Immelt, called Uber directors to express dismay after this week’s suit, people familiar with the discussions said.

On Thursday, Benchmark sued Kalanick in Delaware Chancery Court, alleging that he withheld material information before asking the board to vote on adding three additional board seats last year. Kalanick now occupies one of those seats, but Benchmark is seeking to eliminate all three, according to the complaint. A spokesman for Kalanick has said the suit is ‘‘completely without merit and riddled with lies and false allegations.’’

The firms didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. The board convened Friday to discuss the lawsuit.....



Amid turmoil, longtime Uber executive will step down

State governs Uber drivers, but couldn’t handle taxis, report says

Cabbie arraigned in vehicle crash outside Logan Airport that injured 10

Who did they arrest?

Finding it hard to get started these days:

"GM accuses bankruptcy trust of plotting with plaintiffs" by Erik Larson Bloomberg News  August 11, 2017

General Motors Co. accused the trust set up to handle its bankruptcy claims of secretly plotting with plaintiffs’ attorneys to make it pay $1 billion in stock as part of a $15 million class-action settlement.

The accord, revealed at a hearing Friday in federal court in New York, will pit GM against the “Old GM” General Unsecured Creditors Trust for the first time since the 2009 bankruptcy sale created the split to save the company.

The settlement between the plaintiffs and the trust for old GM is due to be signed Aug. 15, attorney Steve Berman said in a phone call. The deal will resolve hundreds of personal-injury cases stemming from GM’s faulty ignition switches, as well as a class-action suit over millions of vehicles that allegedly lost value due to a series of recalls in 2014, he said.

What gets me is no prison time for a cover up involving deaths, while VW gets a guy sent to prison for phoning up emissions software that didn't in fact kill anyone and which all the car companies were doing anyway!

Under the accord, which requires a judge’s approval, the trust will pay plaintiffs $15 million and accept $10 billion in previously disputed claims, thus pushing total approved claims in the case beyond a critical threshold of $35 billion, Berman said. That would then trigger a provision of the 2009 sale that would force GM to contribute $1 billion in stock to help pay the claims, he said.

GM, based in Detroit, is balking. The trust is only accepting the $10 billion in claims in order to trigger the provision requiring GM to pay stock, it said. GM has long said the remaining demands are bogus.

“This contrived scheme won’t work,” the company said in a statement. “We will aggressively protect our rights and our shareholders, and will work to hold the GUC Trust and plaintiffs accountable for their bad faith and improper actions.”

Berman said his team has plenty of evidence that the claims are genuine and said GM knew what it was doing when it agreed to the $35 billion claims threshold.

“This is what GM bargained for” as part of the 2009 bankruptcy sale, when it “got away from all these liabilities,” Berman said. “It’s working exactly the way it’s supposed to work.”

Daniel H. Golden, the trust’s attorney, didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment on GM’s reaction to the settlement.

GM’s attempt to avoid the suits over economic losses was dashed in July 2016 when the federal appeals court in Manhattan ruled the bankruptcy sale didn’t trump claims by some people who were injured or whose vehicles lost value as a result of the recalls. The court determined that customers weren’t given a proper chance to challenge the hurried sale before its approval.

The dispute comes weeks after GM won another federal trial over the ignition switches. The devices in the initial recall were linked to more than 100 deaths, with GM paying at least $870 million to settle claims and an additional $900 million to the Department of Justice to resolve a criminal probe.

So they kicked back a few millions in fines, whoop-de-doo.


Now I've missed the turn, and what street was that?

What is interesting is Macron's poll numbers plunge and then the crisis drill goes live (anybody check him for a sleep disorder?).

They keep beating a dead horse as the fires in Portugal are still burning.

No wonder it took the mail so long to get here:

"More red ink, missed payments at US Postal Service" by Hope Yen Associated Press  August 10, 2017

WASHINGTON — The US Postal Service warned Thursday that it will likely default on up to $6.9 billion in payments for future retiree health and pension benefits for the fifth straight year, citing a coming cash crunch that could disrupt day-to-day mail delivery.

By the end of the article you will $ee that it is a planned de$truction.

The service said it expected cash balances to run low by October and to avoid bankruptcy would likely not make all of its payments as required under federal law. Postmaster General Megan Brennan stressed an urgent need for federal regulators to grant the Postal Service wide freedom to increase stamp prices to help cover costs, citing continuing red ink due to declining first-class mail volume and the expensive mandates for retiree benefits.

The Postal Service has already defaulted on $33.9 billion in health benefit prepayments. Left unresolved, the rapidly growing debt means that American taxpayers eventually could be forced to cover the massive costs when future postal retirees seek to cash in on the benefits to which they are legally entitled.

A Post Office bailout! Suppose that is the one time I'm for one. They are people you know who are your neighbor. 

The Postal Regulatory Commission is making a decision on stamp pricing next month.

‘‘Our financial situation is serious, but solvable,’’ Brennan said, citing an unreasonable rate cap that restricts stamp price increases to the rate of inflation. ‘‘We’re clearly looking for the PRC to establish a new pricing system for us.’’

The Postal Service on Thursday reported a quarterly loss of $2.1 billion, compared to a $1.6 billion loss in the same period ending June 30 last year. That came after double-digit growth in package delivery was unable to offset drop-offs in letter mail, which makes up more than 70 percent of total postal revenue.

Quarterly revenue came to $16.7 billion, a decline of $1 billion from the same period last year.


"More Americans applied for jobless aid last week. Despite the small increase, the number of people seeking benefits remained close to historic lows, the Labor Department said Thursday....."

That is a recording.

If the economy were truly doing well mail and McDonalds would be up. It's a rising tide effect, and they can't help but benefit by their ubiquitousness.

After a 10-year review, the regulatory commission appears likely to give the Postal Service more flexibility to raise rates, marking the biggest change in its pricing system in nearly a half-century. The commission might limit how high prices could go, but the cost of a first-class stamp, now 49 cents, could jump. It’s not known how much.

The Postal Service, an independent agency, is trying to stay financially afloat as it seeks to invest billions in new delivery trucks to get packages more nimbly to American homes.

Mail volume is dropping and demand for package shipping is surging due to the growth of online retailers such as e-commerce giant Amazon.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

With the holiday season approaching, Brennan said the Postal Service planned additional temporary hiring and was looking to expand its package deliveries in the mornings, evenings, and on Sundays.

‘‘The competition is most intense,’’ she said.

The Postal Service is also urging Congress to provide relief from the mandate to pre-fund retiree health benefits. Legislation in 2006 required the Postal Service to fund 75 years’ worth of retiree health benefits, something that neither the government nor private companies are required to do.

It is the best postal system in world and something we all like, and Congre$$ wants to ruin it.


Next time send it by air mail:

US airlines bump fewer passengers after dragging backlash

You won't have to worry about that on this flight:

"Sometimes a plane is just a plane, but not when it’s owned by the Patriots" by Billy Baker Globe Staff  August 11, 2017

Ever since news broke this week that the Patriots had become the first NFL team to buy its own airplane – two, actually – the world has divided along familiar lines: those who love the Pats, and those who find deep, evil symbolism in basically everything they do.

“If you had Robert Kraft’s money and you could fly into town with five Lombardi trophies on your tail, of course you would,” said Nick Stevens, a comedian and radio host who plays the role of rabid Pats fan Paul “Fitzy” Fitzgerald in a popular Internet series. “They’re the dynasty. They’re America. They’re the country on top, and they want the rest of the league to know they’re just a bunch of struggling former Soviet republics that can’t catch a break.

“It just goes hand in hand with the dominance, the luxury, the opulence, the awesomeness – everything that everyone hates about us.”

Wow, look at the hubris!

The team says that the planes, two Boeing wide-body 767s they referred to as new “airkrafts” (get it, Kraft?) in an Instagram post, were purchased for boringly practical reasons.

The cost of chartering planes has skyrocketed in recent years, to the point where owning a plane – even for a team that could potentially only have to play 10 road games in a season – makes long-term financial sense. The team isn’t saying how much they paid. A new one goes for somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 million, though used versions can go for quite a bit less, as low as $5 million.

And then there is the practical aspect of moving some of our largest humans from one place to another. Offensive linemen and coach seats have never worked well together, so the planes have been retrofitted so that all the seats are first-class in size, and many of them fully recline, according to reports.

It is this aspect that has won the most praise from many former players who now work in the 24/7 world of sports talk radio.

“That’s what happens when you have all those Lombardi trophies, is you can do things like that,” said Mike Golic, a former lineman who is now co-host of Mike & Mike on ESPN Radio.

Of course, this being the Patriots, the move provided lots of low-hanging fruit for the online commenters who just love to hate Tom Brady and the boys, and still others took it as an opportunity to take a shot at their own sorry teams, pasting their team’s logos on sinking ships and crashed planes, but perhaps the biggest source of criticism had to do with the five Lombardi trophies that are painted on the tail of at least one of the planes. The haters hated it and thought it reeked of Patriots arrogance.

Many Patriots fans also questioned the move, though for practical reasons.

Because they are Trump's favorite team?

After this season, they pointed out again and again on social media, the Patriots are going to have to repaint the tail to add a sixth trophy.....


I suppose it all depends on which side of the ax you are on.


"He was a hard-working man who loved his family, enjoyed Jimmy Buffett’s music, and rooting for the New England Patriots....."

His favorite player is Julian Edelman.

"On the same day Tom Brady said his concussion history isn’t anybody’s business, a former Patriots quarterback revealed the painful toll the game of football has taken on his body. Jim Plunkett, who was the Pats signal-caller in the ’70s, says he suffers from chronic, debilitating pain as a result of being sacked, or hit, hundreds of times during his 15-year NFL career. Plunkett says he has to take a dozen pills every day to “quote-unquote survive.” In an agonizing interview with the San Jose Mercury News, the 69-year-old Plunkett put it this way: “My life sucks. It’s no fun being in this body right now. Everything hurts.” A Heisman Trophy winner at Stanford, Plunkett was drafted No. 1 by the Patriots in 1971. But the team was bad — 3-11 bad — and Plunkett was sacked 36 times in his rookie season. He was sacked 39 times the next season, and 37 the year after that. (Brady was sacked only 15 times last season, but No. 12 was sacked at least 30 times in 2002, 2003, 2011, and 2015, and 40 or more times in 2001 and 2013.) “[Plunkett] just got hammered — I mean hammered brutally,” former Pats receiver Randy Vataha told the Mercury News. “He got up a lot of times when he shouldn’t have. Probably played some games when he shouldn’t have.” Plunkett, who went on to win two Super Bowls with the Oakland Raiders, said he’s aware of the research linking football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). “I don’t know what there is to do,” he said. “If it happens, it happens. I don’t know how you stop it at this point.” 

Nothing he can do now except go down and take the sack.

Also see:

Matt Damon spotted at Fenway Park

The benchmark for pitchers?