Business Headlines
Subscribe To This Feed

subjug/iStock(ALEXANDRIA, Va.) -- A group of 34 college seniors set to graduate in May had their student debts paid off thanks to a local church that raised more than $100,000 during a month-long fast.

Mya Thompson, a senior at Howard University, was one of the 34 students at the Washington, D.C., college who had their debts erased thanks to Alfred Street Baptist Church in nearby Alexandria, Va.

"I was overwhelmed and excited," Thompson, 25, said about the surprise. "I’ve always applied for a scholarship but I’d never received one and it was kind of like, 'Wow, I finally got chosen.'"

Thompson is a single mother of a 6-year-old son and works an overnight shift as a call taker for 911 emergency services, in addition to her college classes. She received $2,500, the amount she needed to pay off to Howard in order to graduate.

"Of course it’s stressful to know that you have to have $2,500 to come out of your pocket," she said. "However, no matter what, I would have paid that by any means, so it’s the fact that I don’t have to worry about paying that on top of my bills and other stuff."

Thompson, a first-generation college student, and the other 33 seniors learned that their debts were being paid earlier this month when they were called to the university's financial office. Instead of meeting with a school official, they met with Rev. Dr. Howard-John Wesley, the pastor of Alfred Street Baptist Church.

Wesley led his 8,000-member congregation in a period of prayer and fasting during the month of January. Congregants were asked to fast not only with their diets but also with social media and their finances.

Wesley, for example, cut his $4 per day coffee purchase and donated that money as part of his offering.

"We said we would pray as a church to what the Lord was telling us to do [with the money] and that we would donate it 100 percent outside of the church," he said.

The financial donations from the fasting, which took place during the government shutdown, far surpassed church leaders' expectations. Instead of the $25,000 they expected, the church members had donated $150,000 by the end of the month, according to Wesley.

Wesley credits his assistants, Mark Lavarin and Elijah McDavid, with coming up with the idea to donate $100,000 to Howard University and another $50,000 to Bennett College, a historically-black women's college in Greensboro, N.C.

Around 75 percent of the church's congregants attended historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), according to Wesley.

"It's very easy to see the impact in communities that these schools have," said Wesley, who worked with Howard officials to identify students who overcame financial hardships, had good GPAs and only had debt holding them back from graduating.

Wayne A. I. Frederick, the president of Howard University, said he expects the church's donation to have a ripple effect that will reach far beyond the 34 seniors who received the money.

 

Thank you @AlfredStreetBC for paying the balances that stood between 34 graduating seniors and their graduation in a few short months.

We appreciate your investment into our students and the priority placed into supporting the HBCU community. pic.twitter.com/UgoCGx9PEP

— Howard University (@HowardU) February 4, 2019

 

"It will have a massive impact," he said. "I tell the students all the time when they come to Howard that they’re not here for a degree, they’re here for an education."

"What is equally important are the experiences they have outside of the classroom and this is another experience," Frederick said. "It will teach them about paying forward and teach them about the responsibility to the community around them."

Thompson, a public relations major who hopes to work for a record label, said she is already planning how she can pay the donation forward.

"What Alfred Street did for me, I feel like next semester or next year as an alumna of the university I can come back and do something nice, maybe pay for their books or pay for their graduation fee," she said. "I feel like it’s my duty to do that for students of my university."

Thompson said she also plans to attend service at Alfred Street Baptist church this weekend. Wesley said the church has received thank you letters from some of the Howard students, as well as some of their parents and even grandparents.

Making the $150,000 raised by Alfred Street Baptist Church even more remarkable is that congregants did not know ahead of time where their money would be donated. They found out a few days after the students were told, when the church played a video of the surprise.

"The entire congregation was just moved to tears," said Wesley. "In this time ... we feel it is important as a body of faith that we exemplify what it means to take care of strangers."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Kwangmoozaa/iStock(NEW YORK) -- If you’ve taken a trip to the supermarket lately, you may have been hit with a higher grocery bill at checkout.

The United States Department of Agriculture is forecasting food prices to increase up to 2 percent overall, with even bigger jumps expected in categories like dairy, fresh vegetables, fruits and cereals.

The hike in prices is affecting all grocery stores, including Whole Foods, which had been touting drops. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Amazon is raising prices at the supermarket chain.

So how can you save money the next time you shop for groceries? ABC News’ Becky Worley shares her tips in the video below:

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

NiroDesign/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Presidents Day is just around the corner and the sales are already starting to heat up.

ABC News' Good Morning America teamed up with Lori Bergamotto, style director of Good Housekeeping magazine, to find the biggest can't-miss deals for the upcoming holiday weekend and help breakdown which items to buy now for the biggest savings.

Compared to bigger retail holidays, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Presidents Day deals can sometimes be overlooked, but it is a key time to shop, according to Bergamotto.

On some of the bigger retail holidays, many products will go on a flash sale for a limited time. When Presidents Day rolls around, a lot of items are already on sale and companies will start offering even steeper discounts.

Here, Bergamotto breaks down some of the biggest Presidents Day sales to look out for this weekend by category:

Fashion

Presidents Day is actually a great time to invest in a good winter coat. Some of the biggest deals to look out for this weekend will be on Nordstrom (up to 40 percent off), Old Navy (up to 50 percent off) and BooHoo (up to 80 percent off).

Tech

Presidents Day weekend is the ideal time to buy a new laptop, according to Bergamotto. Best Buy and Dell are offering discounts of up to $400 off. Also be sure to check out Lenovo, which is slashing prices up to 45 percent.

Home decor

If you're looking to refresh your space, be sure to check out West Elm and Pottery Barn, which are both slashing prices up 70 percent off this weekend. Ashley Furniture is also having a sale this weekend of up to 30 percent off.

Appliances

This weekend is a great time to invest in big indoor home appliances, such as fridges. Lowes and Home Depot are offering discounts of up to 35 percent on select home appliances, while Sears is offering up to 40 percent.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Spinel_S/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Real estate agents in the New York City neighborhood where Amazon was set to build one of its newest campuses are lamenting the retail giant's announcement to pull the deal after the industry saw an uptick as a result of the plans.

Amazon canceled its plan Thursday to build a headquarters in the Queens neighborhood of Long Island City — a plan that would have brought 25,000 jobs to the area. The retail giant wrote in a statement on its blog that it did not receive an entirely "positive" collaborative effort with some state and local officials who opposed the deal.

The real estate market in Long Island City, which sits across the East River from Manhattan, experienced an uptick in prices and sales as a result of Amazon's November announcement to open a campus there, even when the industry in hot markets like Brooklyn and Manhattan dwindled, experts told ABC News.

Still, even with the headquarters no longer being built in the waterfront neighborhood, real estate experts are still confident in the future of the industry, they told ABC News.

Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com, told ABC News that she expects an immediate slowdown in housing prices and sales in the short run, but believes that the real estate market in Long Island City will continue "flowing in activity."

January data shows that prices in Queens as a whole — both units for renting and buying — are up 8.3 percent from last year, Hale said.

But, Hale believes that the lifestyle amenities in Long Island City, such as waterfront parks, universities and transportation, are enough to keep the market booming.

"I think the residents in that area show that it's a great place to live," she said. "That's something that makes an area a good investment in real estate in the long run."

Lauren Bennett, a real estate broker for the Corcoran Group, specializing in Long Island City, told ABC News that while she is "disappointed" in the canceled plan, which she believed would "be a great benefit for the neighborhood," Amazon's November announcement put Long Island City on the map, making it a household name for the first time ever.

The plan inspired buyers to move a little more quickly with their decisions, slicing the inventory of available units by four or five times, she said.

Listings practically "disappeared" after Amazon made the announcement, Bennett said.

"I couldn't keep it online fast enough," she said. "It certainly made my job easier."

Silvette Julian, a real estate agent specializing in Long Island City and Manhattan, described the latest announcement as "crazy," adding that she was surprised because she was convinced it would push through.

"I just feel that it was announced way too premature — too early," Julian said. "But, it's worked to some agents' advantage. We got to close on some deals that were priced a bit higher thanks to Amazon. There's still some good things that happened from it."

The first few weeks after the November announcement Julian's open houses were "fully booked," she said.

"All of a sudden, just really, really, busy, and people were coming out of the woodwork to look at the properties — investors, buyers," she said. "All of a sudden they were taking it seriously, and they did not want to be outbidded by other buyers coming in from elsewhere."

Eric Benaim, CEO and founder of Modern Spaces, told ABC in a statement that he believes the decision to pull the Amazon campus from Long Island City is "a mistake" due to the tens of thousands of lost jobs.

While the neighborhood will operate as "business as usual," he believes the real estate market will continue to "stay hot."

"LIC was named the fastest growing city in the country and it will only continue to grow in the years to come," Benaim said.

Opposition against the decision was rampant, with politicians such as U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York state Senator Michael Gianaris of Queens and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, as well as neighborhood advocates, speaking out against it. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio supported the new campus.

On its website, public advocate group Long Island City Coalition wrote that the move represented Amazon representing itself, not the neighborhood.

Those who opposed the campus admonished the plan for the state to give Amazon $3 billion in tax dollars as an incentive to build in Queens, adding that the land could instead be used for schools and sports and community centers.

LIC Coalition also said that Amazon's presence would cause rents and costs of living to skyrocket and accused Amazon of bringing thousands of workers to the neighborhood rather than hiring from within.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Andrei Stanescu/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Amazon announced Thursday morning it was canceling its plans to build a massive new headquarters in Long Island City, a waterfront section of New York City's borough of Queens.

One group that's not sad to see the online retailer go? New York City's independent bookstores, some of which took to social media to celebrate Amazon's retreat in no uncertain terms:

 "After much thought and deliberation, we’ve decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens," an Amazon spokesperson said this morning. The move followed pushback from advocacy groups, and some elected city officials and representatives over tax incentives, workers' rights and more.

Dennis Johnson -- publisher of Melville House Books, which has a brick-and-mortar store in Brooklyn, told ABC News that today's decision was "really the first time that there's been that kind of opposition mounted, that also involved some elected officials, that worked."

Johnson, a longtime Amazon critic, said he was less worried about the new campus' potential impact on other booksellers in the city as he was its impact on New York City's workers and the community at large.

"They’re not a good employer, they’re union busting, they have a terrible history of the way they treat their employees," Johnson said, adding that "we were worried about the impact that this would have had about the community it was moving into...That was not a rich neighborhood and it was going to force a lot of people out."

"It's very revealing of Amazon that they didn’t want to interact with the community at all. They just took their ball and went home in a pout."

Greenlight Bookstore, which has two locations in Brooklyn, agreed.

"It might seem as though bookstores in particular have the most to celebrate about Amazon's retreat from Queens, but the victory is larger than that: it belongs to advocates for workers, immigrants, residents, and small businesses throughout our city," Greenlight Bookstore co-owner Jessica Stockton Bagnulo said in a statement to ABC News.

"I think it's important to realize that it is possible to say 'no' to even the largest economic players," Stockton Bagnulo continued. "I hope this is a clear message to the leadership of our city and our state about what matters to New Yorkers: sustainable jobs, affordable housing, and our city's unique culture that can never be replaced or replicated online."

Amazon's announcement produced disparate reactions among top New York politicians who heralded Amazon's initial decision to build its campus in Queens.

"We gave Amazon the opportunity to be a good neighbor and do business in the greatest city in the world," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement Thursday afternoon. "Instead of working with the community, Amazon threw away that opportunity."

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's reaction was starkly different.

"A small group politicians put their own narrow political interests above their community -- which poll after poll showed overwhelmingly supported bringing Amazon to Long Island City -- the state's economic future and the best interests of the people of this state," Cuomo said in a statement. "The New York State Senate has done tremendous damage. They should be held accountable for this lost economic opportunity."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

jetcityimage/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Amazon has canceled its plans to build a headquarters in New York City, according to a company spokesperson.

"After much thought and deliberation, we’ve decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens," Amazon spokesperson Jodi Seth told ABC News.

The company wrote in a statement on its blog that the commitment to build a new headquarters requires "positive, collaborative relationships with state and local elected officials," but added that a number of politicians "have made it clear that they oppose our presence."

Amazon thanked New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for "enthusiastically and graciously" inviting the company to build in New York City.

Among the politicians who were outspoken against the plans were newly elected U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York state Senator Michael Gianaris of Queens and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.

"We are disappointed to have reached this conclusion -- we love New York, its incomparable dynamism, people, and culture -- and particularly the community of Long Island City, where we have gotten to know so many optimistic, forward-leaning community leaders, small business owners, and residents," the statement reads.

Last week, The Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, reported that Amazon was re-considering its decision to split its headquarters between New York and Virginia after mounting local opposition in New York City.

The retailer was set to bring 25,000 jobs to its New York campus, located in the Queens neighborhood of Long Island City.

Currently, there are more than 5,000 Amazon employees in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island, and Amazon plans on growing those teams, according to the statement.

Amazon does not plan to reopen its search for a new headquarters at this time, but will proceed with plans to build in northern Virginia and Nashville, it said.

As of last week, Amazon had not leased or purchased office space for the project, and final approval from New York state was not expected until 2020, according to The Post.

Almost as soon as Amazon made the announcement that it would build two separate second headquarters in November, politicians on the New York City Council and New York State Legislature, as well as residents and unions, voiced opposition to plans to offer a $3 billion incentive to the company.

"Rather than addressing the legitimate concerns that have been raised by many New Yorkers Amazon says you do it our way or not at all, we will not even consider the concerns of New Yorkers -- that’s not what a responsible business would do," said Chelsea Connor, director of communications for the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, in a statement on Thursday.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

playb/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Men and women looking for prospective romantic partners online should take note of these two: Laura Cahill, who described herself as an aspiring young model living in Paris, and Britney Parkwell, who pointed to her relative youth as a 27-year-old from sunny San Jose, California.

There's one big problem: Despite profiles that said they were seeking love online, they never existed.

They were fake personas created as part of an elaborate scheme run out of Africa to con hundreds of thousands of dollars from vulnerable Americans, according to the California-based cyber-security firm Agari.

A firm report details how men and women were targeted by fraudsters.

Crane Hassold, the senior director of threat research at Agari, spent 11 years at the FBI profiling criminals and told ABC News these scams often prey on the most vulnerable people.

"At the end of the day, when you look at cyber threats, we always think of cyber threats as technical things and a lot of people equate cyber threats to malware, but at the end of the day most cyber threats are social engineering," Hassold said in a phone interview.

He said he's seen farmers and religious people fall victim the most to this type of scam.

The Federal Trade Commission says, overall, Americans lost $143 million on romance scams last year.

Hassold notes that these scams often have a low rate of success.

In the report, researchers warn that individuals and businesses are "far more likely to be targeted by West African crime groups" than by hackers working for the Russian or North Korean governments.

The online love scam reviewed by Agari was largely based in Nigeria, the report concluded. And while many unsuspecting Americans have likely received emails from scammers claiming to be "a Nigerian prince," Agari's new report focuses on a scam that is far more elaborate and believable, especially because it preys on vulnerable people searching for love, according to the report.

The report includes emails from scammers with phrases the firm says might tip off the recipient.

“I also have several pairs of shoes. I am open to a new things and i am willing to try different stuff but if it doesn’t match with my personality i won’t wear it. I use facial cleansers at times, Lotions and eye creams. I generally don’t smell,” one email from the Laura Cahill persona reads.

Another email suggests that in addition to her favorite foods being sushi and tacos, "candy yams" were also a favorite. Candy Yams, as the report notes are a favorite West African dish.

The Laura Cahill persona was one of the most commonly-used fake identities, and it employed actual pictures from a real person. Specifically, scammers posted fake profiles on dating sites and waited for victims to send them an email, which allowed scammers to then engage in dialogue to test their targets' gullibility and willingness to send money, the Agari report said.

One way the scammers would allegedly persuade victims to send money with the Laura Cahill persona was to convince them that "Laura" wanted to travel from Paris to visit the victim, but her credit card was frozen. So, the scammers would tell victims, "Laura" needed help paying for an airline ticket -- and that sending a money order could resolve the issue.

If the victim expressed hesitation, there was even a "travel agent" willing to reassure the victim that the funds were, in fact, going to pay for travel, which was sent from a different email and made to look like a legitimate invoice.

According to the Agari report, one victim fell hard for the Laura persona, sending almost $50,000 to scammers. After almost a year of sending money, the man was convinced that they were meant for each other despite "Laura" offering excuse after excuse for not meeting up, according to Agari.

The relationship abruptly ended when "Laura" stopped responding to messages from the man, who was not named in the report.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Stephanie Keith/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The National Enquirer, which is under fire after the world’s richest man, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, accused the publication of blackmail, has another problem...and this one comes with dollar signs.

The NJ State Treasury, which has hundreds of millions of dollars in a fund heavily invested in the Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc., quietly raised questions about the tabloid’s practices in a recent phone call, an official told ABC News.

The office reached out to Chatham Asset Management, a hedge fund that manages nearly $600 million for New Jersey public pension holders, to remind the firm of its duty to protect investors from undue risks, according to Adam Liebtag, acting chairman of the state's investment council.

Liebtag said Chatham was responsive, but the state is exploring all available options because of the Enquirer’s alleged conduct.

"When the AMI-Bezos story came out we were deeply concerned with the allegations," Liebtag said. "The allegations, if they’re true, are unacceptable and violate the conditions we have for the pension funds."

Pecker has denied the allegations leveled by Bezos.

New Jersey’s pension funds do not directly invest in any company but place money in funds like Chatham. Chatham, in turn, holds a stake in AMI, which owns the Enquirer and is headed by President Donald Trump’s longtime confidante David Pecker.

Liebtag said Chatham performed well for pensioners but the state must adhere to higher standards.

"Performance has been good to date but that’s no excuse," Liebtag said.

The state treasury’s division of investment has invested twice in Chatham, once in 2014 and one in 2017.

"While DOI plays no role in the management of a fund’s portfolio companies, it expects the funds to invest in good businesses with strong management teams that follow all applicable laws," the NJ State Treasury said in a statement.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Starbucks(NEW YORK) -- Find the Starbucks drink that perfectly matches your zodiac sign this Valentine's Day!

Starbucks unveiled the 2019 Starbucks Zodiac, complete with beverage recommendations that take common personality traits between each sign and their beverages.

The coffee roastery released the chart just in time for Valentine's Day on Instagram with this cute caption: "Roses are red, the stars are aligned. Find the perfect drink for your Valentine."

Folks have already gone to the post's comments to declare their love for the drinks that they've been paired with.

"That's sooooo weird. Passion tango is what I get 99 percent of the time and I'm a Leo," one comment said.

"For me it's spot on," another wrote.

Of course, there are some skeptics who found the idea sweet in theory but said they'll stick to their usual order.

Check out all the sips that best suit the 12 signs below:

Starbucks

Aquarius
(1/20 – 2/18)
Starbucks Blonde Latte – Unconventionally awesome

Pisces
(2/19 – 3/20)
Java Chip Frappuccino – A daydream come true

Aries
(3/21 – 4/19)
Pink Drink – For colorful personalities

Taurus
(4/20 – 5/20)
Iced Matcha Green Tea Latte – Green means go, go, go

Gemini
(5/21 – 6/20)
Americano, Hot or Iced – Twice as nice

Cancer
(6/21 – 7/22)
Honey Citrus Mint Tea – When comfort is life

Leo
(7/23 – 8/22)
Iced Passion Tango Tea – The name says it all

Virgo
(8/23 – 9/22)
Iced Caramel Macchiato – Deliciously detailed

Libra
(9/23 – 10/22)
Flat White with Signature Espresso – Artful cravings

Scorpio
(10/23 – 11/21)
Espresso Shot – The best kind of intense

Sagittarius
(11/22 – 12/21)
Mango Dragonfruit Starbucks Refreshers – Wild at heart

Capricorn
(12/22 – 1/19)
Cold Brew – A recipe for success

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Adrian Edwards/GC Images(LONDON) -- Ahead of her fashion show scheduled for this weekend at London Fashion Week, Victoria Beckham announced she will officially be launching her own beauty line.

"So I'm very excited to announce that I am about launch Victoria Beckham Beauty," she said in a video on Instagram that also revealed a mirror with "#VBBeauty" written in pink.

Beckham's new beauty line will be direct-to-consumer and will initially be available primarily online.

"I want to take care of women inside and out, providing them with the must-have items in make-up, skincare, fragrance and wellness that I feel I need in my own life," Beckham said in a press release.

This actually isn't the former Spice Girl's first go around within the beauty space. In 2016, she collaborated with Estée Lauder to launch a makeup line, and one of the key collaborators in curating that launch, Sarah Creal, has once again been tapped -- this time as the co-founder and CEO of the new Victoria Beckham Beauty line.

While it isn't confirmed exactly which products will be included in the line yet, Beckham explained that she will keep the needs of customers top of mind when creating.

"Just like I spend so much time in the fitting room getting to know what my customers want to wear, I’m going to be asking women to tell me which products they want me to develop for them in the beauty and wellness arenas," she said. "It's important for me to know what they want."

According to Vogue UK, Victoria Beckham Beauty will officially launch in autumn/winter 2019. If Beckham's "Five-Minute Face" video and beauty secrets revealed are any indication of the vibes of her upcoming line, it's probably going to be one that beauty enthusiasts will love. Until then, we will have to sit tight and stay tuned.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

OlegEvseev/iStock(LONDON) -- The United States is now by far the largest market for Scotch whisky in the world, according to recently released data.

An analysis of official figures from the U.K. government by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) found that exports to the U.S were worth $1.3 billion in 2018, a 12.8 percent rise from the previous year. The next biggest market was France, at about $568 million.

Overall, total exports of the Highland delicacy grew by 7.8 percent by value in 2018, per the report.

Although the United States was the biggest export market by value, the SWA report actually shows that France is the largest export destination by volume. While the U.S. received the equivalent of about 137 million 24 fluid ounce bottles in 2018, France received about 188 million bottles.

Globally, exports of Scotch whisky are now worth over $6 billion. Blended Scotch whisky is the foundation of the industry, with exports worth $3.8 billion, while Single Malt Scotch grew 11.3 percent in 2018 to about $1.8 billion.

Scotch whisky must be produced in Scotland, according to U.K. law. The law also says there are five definitive categories of Scotch whisky: Single Malt, Single Grain, Blended, Blended Malt and Blended Grain.

The data came as no surprise to the SWA’s international director, Sarah Dickson.

"The U.S. has a long-standing love affair with Scotch Whisky, and in the week of Valentine's Day that desire seems to be growing,” she told ABC News in an email. "Scotch Whisky has been enjoyed in the U.S. for more than 150 years, with whisky pioneers like James Buchanan, Tommy Dewar and Alexander Walker taking Scotch out into the world. Today, brands named in their families' honour are still enjoyed by millions across the U.S."

"U.S. consumers know their whisky, and from Bourbon to Rye to Irish, more and more are enjoying a Scotch Whisky on their whisky journey," she added.

The report released by the SWA did come with a warning to U.K. lawmakers that Brexit could have a negative impact on the lucrative trade, but Dickson believes that transatlantic trade in Scotch whisky will continue as normal after the U.K. leaves the European Union.

"Last week the US-UK Spirits Agreement was signed -- good news for Scotland's national drink, giving Scotch Whisky continued legal recognition in our largest global market," she said. "This will help ensure that U.S. consumers can continue to enjoy Scotch Whisky post-Brexit."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Former CBS chief Les Moonves tried to profit from his ouster by selling CBS stock before the company publicly disclosed the sexual harassment allegations he faces, a new lawsuit alleged.

The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan federal court, named several other current and former CBS executives who, collectively, are alleged to have sold more than $200 million dollars’ worth of CBS stock “before the disclosures about the company’s sexual harassment and hostile work environment problems were revealed to the market,” the lawsuit said.

What the lawsuit called insider sales “were timed to capitalize on CBS’s inflated stock price before defendant Moonves’ misconduct and the pervasive sexual harassment that permeated the Company was revealed to the market.”

CBS denied the accusation and said all stock sales complied with applicable securities laws.

In addition to Moonves, the lawsuit said that acting chief executive Joe Ianniello, chief accounting officer Lawrence Liding and former communications chief Gil Schwartz collectively sold more than 3.4 million shares in advance of any public announcement about Moonves.

“The timing and amount of the Class Period CBS stock sales by these executives were unusual and suspicious, and further demonstrate defendants Moonves, Ianniello and Liding’s motive to commit fraud,” the lawsuit said.

The allegation was added to an existing lawsuit from the Construction Laborers Pension Trust for Southern California which had already sued the defendants for failing to disclose in a timely fashion “that CBS was beset by a company-wide pattern and practice of sexual harassment.”

The lawsuit alleged the “reputational risk” harmed shareholders as the company’s stock price dropped.

Moonves has denied allegations by six women first outlined in The New Yorker. The CBS board concluded in December it was justified in firing Moonves and denying him a $120 million severance. He has filed an arbitration claim to recover at least a portion of the money.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Pgiam/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- In the wake of a massive tax code overhaul and an unprecedented government shutdown, taxpayers are asking why long-expected refunds seem to be shrinking or disappearing and whether they'll owe a surprise bill to the IRS.

A new report offers details on how the IRS is struggling to keep up with the backlog.

"The IRS is entering the filing season inundated with correspondence, phone calls, and inventories of unresolved prior year audits and identity theft cases," according to Tuesday's report from the National Taxpayer Advocate.

On top of the shutdown, the IRS is dealing with changes from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. There has been a sharp decline both in the initial number of tax refunds and the average dollar amount refunded -- changes that have set off a wave of panic, confusion and political debate over the Republican tax law.

"This was the biggest overhaul of the tax system in over 30 years," said Leigh Osofsky, a tax law professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"The IRS was under incredible pressure to get guidance out about the changes, and to change all of the forms and publications and instructions in response to the new law changes," Osofsky added.

Comparing the first weeks of the 2018 and 2019 filing seasons, wait times on calls went from four minutes to 17 minutes, and the IRS went from answering 86 percent of calls to 48 percent routed to an Accounts Management telephone assistor, the report says.

"It's going to be difficult for the IRS to really serve taxpayers the way that they would like to be able to, in the wake of tax reform," Osofsky said.

Nicole Kaeding, director of federal projects for the Tax Foundation, said: "In terms of your interactions with the IRS, be patient. They're trying to catch up as quick as they can."

Americans have been flocking to the IRS phone lines because of changes in their refunds resulting from the tax code overhaul.

The IRS released statistics for one week of filings that show refunds were decreasing by an average of approximately 8 percent.

However, Mark Mazur, director of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, a leading independent analyst group, told ABC News Live, "It's a little early to say what's going to happen for the entire filing season."

Even if the 8 percent holds true moving forward, that doesn't necessarily mean Americans are paying more in taxes. Kaeding said many people had less withheld from their paychecks than normal as a result of the new tax law.

"The difficulty, however, is that some individuals might not have noticed the lower tax withholding on their paychecks, because your paychecks reflect lots of different things," Kaeding said. "Maybe you got a raise in 2018. Maybe your health insurance premiums went up. Maybe you saved more in your 401(k). There are a lot of different reasons why your net pay would have changed outside of tax withholdings."

Mazur said we're witnessing a perfect storm: poor government messaging, lagging tax literacy among individuals and longstanding financial expectations that don't necessarily still apply.

The Tax Policy Center said most Americans -- 80 percent -- actually have seen an overall reduction in tax liability for 2018. Fifteen percent will see about the same, while 5 percent will end up paying more.

"For a lot of taxpayers, getting a tax refund each spring -- February, March, April –-- that's perhaps the biggest financial transaction they have all year. They count on getting that $2,000 or $2,500 or $3,000 refund," said Mazur. "If it's smaller or nonexistent, that's a real hardship. Even if they've gotten the extra $50 or $60 per pay period all year long that money has been spent and they were looking forward to the refund."

The report also reflected on the final day of the 2018 tax filing season, when the IRS experienced a systems crash. It resulted in taxpayers getting an extra day to file, but it hinted at underlying technological issues described in the report.

"The IRS desperately needs to replace its antiquated technology systems," the report said.

"Unfortunately, the IRS is a very, very under-resourced agency. And that's not a new problem. That's been going on for quite a long time," Osofsky said.

The IRS told ABC News in an email: "The Taxpayer Advocate Service plays an important role in the nation's tax system, and IRS leadership will be reviewing the details in this year's Annual Report to Congress. The IRS is committed to continue making improvements across our Information Technology, tax enforcement and taxpayer service operations."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Bill Gates said on Tuesday he favored raising taxes -- especially on the wealthy -- and dodged a question about fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos and his fight with The National Enquirer.

The Microsoft founder also reflected on the lack of women hired in the early days of Microsoft and his former "monomaniaical" management style in a wide-ranging interview with ABC News’ Brad Mielke, on the “Start Here” podcast.

Gates spoke to media on Tuesday after the release of the Bill & Malinda Gates Foundation's annual letter, in which the couple highlights initiatives and issues important to their philanthropy. He dedicated this year’s letter to his Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who died in 2018.

Gates confirmed that he is in favor of more progressive (higher) taxes on the wealthy, especially capital gains taxes on assets like stocks. The former richest man in the world has also consistently been a proponent of estate taxes.

“We should be collecting even more money,” Gates said. “It’s the capital gains income, though, that tends to be taxed the least. For the very rich, they didn't get rich from ordinary income from a salary.”

Although Gates reportedly called freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s advocacy of “modern monetary theory,” “crazy talk” in an interview with The Verge on Tuesday, he told ABC News' Mielke that he did not say that. Ocasio-Cortez is pushing for a 70 percent tax on income over $10 million per year.

Modern monetary theory is the idea that the government can continue to print money as needed, and spending would only be limited by inflation, which could be controlled by interest rates.

Gates did not give an exact figure for how much he would like to see taxes increase.

“We should have a more progressive tax system according to me, but not infinitely progressive. If you seize everybody's wealth then you do get innovation problems and you don't want to have people spending so much on taxes you’ll be spending tons of your time trying to maneuver around them,” Gates said. “The government is spending more than it's collecting, so someday taxes are going to have to fund that. Particularly if we want to do even more things -- to have the government do a better job on education or health-type things.”

Gates also said he wished he had hired more women in his earlier days at the company.

“The intensity I brought to the job, working day and night, being kind of monomaniacal, I'm sure for some of the people who worked for me it didn't get their best performance. Sadly it was mostly young males working on these things. Maybe we could have drawn more women in if we were a little bit less intense,” Gates said.

“I've certainly grown a lot. At the foundation, we need quite a mix of people -- not just men and women -- but people from different parts of the world,” he added. “Particularly with Melinda's help, you know, I do think my style of management or motivating people has developed over time. Now you know, those early days, we did get a lot done, but I bet I pushed things too hard.”

Modern monetary theory is the idea that the government can continue to print money as needed, and spending would only be limited by inflation, which could be controlled by interest rates.

Gates did not give an exact figure for how much he would like to see taxes increase.

“We should have a more progressive tax system according to me, but not infinitely progressive. If you seize everybody's wealth then you do get innovation problems and you don't want to have people spending so much on taxes you’ll be spending tons of your time trying to maneuver around them,” Gates said. “The government is spending more than it's collecting, so someday taxes are going to have to fund that. Particularly if we want to do even more things -- to have the government do a better job on education or health-type things.”

Gates also said he wished he had hired more women in his earlier days at the company.

“The intensity I brought to the job, working day and night, being kind of monomaniacal, I'm sure for some of the people who worked for me it didn't get their best performance. Sadly it was mostly young males working on these things. Maybe we could have drawn more women in if we were a little bit less intense,” Gates said.

“I've certainly grown a lot. At the foundation, we need quite a mix of people -- not just men and women -- but people from different parts of the world,” he added. “Particularly with Melinda's help, you know, I do think my style of management or motivating people has developed over time. Now you know, those early days, we did get a lot done, but I bet I pushed things too hard.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

jpgfactory/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The CEO of what has been noted as Canada's largest cryptocurrency exchange, whose death is mired in controversy and whose widow says went to his grave with the sole password to access hundreds of millions of dollars, may have wanted to exit his business before he died, another leading cryptocurrency executive said, adding to the mystery.

Gerald Cotten was the CEO of QuadrigaCX, and reportedly died of Crohn's disease in India in December. He was 30 years old at the time. "I knew Gerry, we talked about doing business. He’d always flake and never follow up," Cole Diamond, CEO and co-founder of Coinsquare which is now the largest Canadian crypto exchange, told ABC News. "I sent him an email asking to buy his company in December. We’re probably going through a consolidation phase in the crypto market and I thought based on previous conversations he might want out."

Diamond said he did not receive a response from Cotten, who died on Dec. 9 in Jaipur, India, according to a statement provided by J.A. Snow Funeral Home in Nova Scotia. Cotten's will was signed on Nov. 27, less than two weeks before his death, and filed in probate court in Nova Scotia on Dec. 21.

On Jan. 2, Cotten's widow, Jennifer Robertson, was named executor of his estate. On Jan. 15, she announced his death in a post on the company's Facebook page.

QuadrigaCX was already battling legal issues and a drastic plummet in Bitcoin value before Cotten passed away as the only person who knew the sole password able to unlock about $190 million in assets, his widow Jennifer Robertson claimed in Canadian court documents.

Robertson said the company had 363,000 registered users in its database, about 115,000 of whom had money in personal accounts with Quadriga. As of Jan. 30, the date of Robertson's affidavit, the company owed its affected users $250 million Canadian ($190 million U.S.), $180 million of which was held in cryptocurrency which she said she calculated using market prices as of Dec. 17, 2018.

The company had no bank accounts and Cotten used his personal bank account for business, according to Robertson's affidavit. She said she had conducted "repeated and diligent searches," in the couple's primary Nova Scotia home and other properties as well as hiring an expert to examine Cotten's encrypted laptop for business records and missing coins.

But other large players in the crypto world question the accounts of the inaccessible password and the timing of Cotten's death.

Michael Gokturk, CEO of Vancouver-based Einstein Exchange, told ABC News that the claim that such a large exchange could have run off of one personal laptop defies belief.

For one, QuadrigaCX was "very large. Odds that they ran it from one laptop at one guy’s house, it’s unbelievable at best. I have 50 staff running an exchange half the size," Gokturk said. “It’s not something you run from a home laptop, it was intricate -- was tied into Equifax. You need a team to integrate that.” Gokturk added that it "sounds very fictitious" for Cotten to be the only person who could have access to the password.

"Every new and old crypto company has security measures in place. A lot of crypto CEOs were getting kidnapped and extorted,” Gokturk said. “The ability to kidnap a single point of failure for Canada’s biggest exchange? Makes no sense for a pioneer [in the industry] to make such a rookie mistake. It’s like walking out on the street with $1 million in 100s on him at all times. Operating off a single laptop, it makes no sense.”

"It could be totally legitimate but it’s such a strange twist of events," Gokturk said. "In the middle of a massive lawsuit, the guy takes off to India to build an orphanage, it makes no sense. Nothing smells right."

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said that they would not comment on any possible investigation into the company unless charges have been filed. Through a spokesperson, the police issued a statement saying: “The RCMP is aware of the allegations against Quadriga CX.”

Within QuadrigaCX, the currency is divided between a hot wallet (coins in the server) and a cold wallet (an offline storage area to protect the coins from hackers). Allegedly, only Cotten could access the cold wallet, and according to his widow’s affidavit, only Cotton could transfer coins between wallets.

Cotten's widow claimed Cotten had no physical office, no cash management system and the work was done through his personal laptop.

The cryptocurrency world is almost by definition a community of sleuths obsessed with both security and transparency. Bitcoin and other virtual currencies have digital records that are publicly accessible and transaction histories can be traced. But several crypto analysts have claimed there is no QuadrigaCX “cold wallet.”

Researchers at the Zerononcense, a cryptocurrency website, analyzed dozens of aggregated wallet addresses and transaction IDs for bitcoin withdrawals and deposits for QuadrigaCX and concluded there appeared to be no identifiable cold wallet reserves for QuadrigaCX. “It appears that QuadrigaCX was using deposits from their customers to pay other customers once they requested their withdrawal...It is the author’s opinion that QuadrigaCX has not been truthful with regards to their inability to access the funds needed to honor customer withdrawal requests.” Gokturk agrees.

“For them to say, ‘We can’t access the cold wallets,’ fine, give us an address,” said Gokturk. The community have determined there is no cold wallet, a lot of the Bitcoin on reserve for clients were sent to other exchanges. When a client sends money to accounts, they have a specific address, that address can be traced back,” he said. “For them to say we can’t produce an address it just smells like something doesn’t make sense.”

Quadriga customer Yana Brenar saw the news about Cotten's passing and said she thought: "My money is gone."

"My first idea was to go to the blockchain.com and type in my wallet address," Brenar wrote in an email to ABC News. "Money has gone to someone's wallet with plenty of BTCs [bitcoins] balance...and, unfortunately, it's not my wallet."

"Honestly, I do believe that there is something going on behind this whole story, there are straightforward questions for Quadriga but no one could give straightforward answers," Brenar wrote. "If there is nothing to hide, then someone would stand up and answer, but no...they are hiding behind creditors protection so no one can sue them, no one can get answers."

Gokturk believes the value of the missing money is probably more than the reported $190 million. Bitcoin, for example, hit a high of $19,783.21 per coin in December 2017, but on Thursday, the price was $3,359.27. Customers have been trying to withdraw money from their QuadrigaCX accounts for over a year, according to posts on the company’s Facebook page.

In January 2018, CIBC froze $26 million worth of Quadriga assets, including customer accounts, and an Ontario Court ruled that $67 million in Quadriga transactions were improperly transferred, according to Robertson's affidavit. However it has been difficult to get a financial institution to accept bank drafts from Quadriga, she said.

"The litigation with CIBC had a significant impact on Quadriga's ability to operate and to ensure users of the Quadriga platform were kept whole," Robertson said.

Efforts by ABC News to contact Robertson for further comment have been unsuccessful.

Last week, QuadrigaCX was granted creditor protection by the Nova Scotia Supreme Court to avoid bankruptcy for 30 days while it tries to find money to pay its debts. The company also has 30 days to avoid creditor lawsuits while it tries to find the password-protected funds.

Gotkurk takes issue with the 30-day protection period, because he says that the company's records could be taken offline during that time.

"A lot of time critical evidence could be destroyed," Gotkturk said. "In that 30 days tons more chaos will unravel,” he said. “Information will unravel. You need to lock that information down and that begins with the servers. It runs off a cloud service somewhere. Who has seized the customers' data?"

The QuadrigaCX records are stored on an Amazon server, Robertson said in an affidavit.

Despite the fact that QuadrigaCX was referred to as a Vancouver-based business, Gokturk did not know Cotton personally. He did say, though, that he respected Quadriga as a pioneer in the cryptocurrency world.

For Gokturk and Diamond, the claims made by Robertson in court don't make sense.

Coinsquare’s CEO Diamond also called QuadrigaCX’s story "shady." He pointed out that Cotten was married, and presumably his wife would know the password.

"He’s got somebody who he agreed to trust for rest of his life. A back-up person and yet no access to the accounts. He's got a will, a plane. Everybody who has crypto in cold storage has to keep the recovery code somewhere because it’s a very long number. There’s not a true explanation. If the company decides to only have one person has a key, later on you can’t say, ‘Sorry, guys’ in bankruptcy," Diamond said.

“In 2017 Quadriga lost $16 million in an ethereum [form of cyrptocurrency] contract. Money disappeared into the ether. Our belief was it was not profit, it was probably customer funds. A lot of customers were requesting withdraws they were not receiving. Months pass, it smells of a possible Ponzi scheme,” Diamond said.

“The platform was plagued by issues, the whole thing stinks. Probably incredibly mismanaged,” he added.



Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Advertising Specials

Local News

News Headlines for Sat., Feb. 16, 2019

One killed, another seriously hurt in single-car accident in town of Gerry... One man was killed... while another was seriously hurt... in a one-car crash late Friday morning on the Gerry-Ellington R...

Read More


Join Us Online