Business agenda sees mixed results - Columbia Daily Tribune Business agenda sees mixed results - Columbia Daily Tribune

Monday, May 21, 2012

Business agenda sees mixed results - Columbia Daily Tribune

Business agenda sees mixed results - Columbia Daily Tribune


JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Despite repeated attempts during two legislative sessions, the Republicans who control Missouri's legislature have passed only part of the six-point pro-business agenda outlined by the state's main business groups that are some of their biggest supporters.

The package, dubbed "Fix the Six," includes changes to the state's workplace discrimination laws, its workers' compensation system, a phasing out of its franchise tax, a change to its minimum wage laws, tort reform and a restructuring of the state's unemployment benefits system.

Lawmakers have passed some of the agenda, and as the latest session ended Friday, they touted their passage of measures that hold the line on taxes and eliminate regulations they believe are unduly burdensome on companies, but they've failed to meet all the goals laid out at the start of the 2011 session to make the state more business-friendly and jump-start the economy.

Business groups pushed the agenda hard during that session, and lawmakers themselves referred to "fixing the six" frequently. That session saw bills pass that will do away with the state's franchise tax by 2016 and reduce the number of weeks unemployed people in the state can receive benefits from 26 weeks to 20. Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon signed both bills.

Legislation dealing with workplace discrimination laws was vetoed this year and last. A measure dealing with the workers' compensation system was vetoed this year, but a new, scaled-down version later passed and is on its way to Nixon's desk.

Measures dealing with the minimum wage and tort reform did not advance beyond the House.

"I'd be crazy if I said we didn't expect more," said Dan Mehan, president of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. "But we got something, so that's very important. If you get out of the pocket and off the back of business, business will do fine. This bunch gets that."

Mehan noted the franchise tax change would save businesses $80 million. The six-week reduction of state-paid unemployment benefits also will boost companies' bottom lines because they'll now pay less into that system, he said.

This year saw lawmakers give much less attention to the "Fix the Six" package. In an interview, Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer seemed to only vaguely remember the package's six parts and said passing the entire agenda was not one of his primary goals.

But he also pointed out that four of the six priorities had come through — and passed — his chamber. While the Senate passed workplace discrimination and workers' compensation bills with veto-proof majorities, the House did not have nearly enough votes on either measure to plausibly attempt to override Nixon.

On Friday, House Majority Leader Tim Jones defended his chamber's efforts, pointing to the scaled-back workers' compensation measure, which Nixon has indicated he will sign. That measure, which Jones sponsored, would bar employees from suing each other over accidental on-the-job injuries.

Although that issue "was very contentious over the last two years," we have "something with nearly universal agreement with labor and the workers and the business owners," said Jones, R-Eureka. "Good employees will not face the choice of losing their jobs and being sued."

Lawmakers in both chambers seemed resigned to continue chipping away at the six-part list in future legislative sessions. Mehan conceded that passing one law — let alone a package of six — can take several years. But he said they need to be passed soon if the state's business climate — and economy — are to improve.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Stocks rise from year's lows, euro flat -

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The absence of negative news from Europe revived some appetite for U.S. equities despite a sell-off of Facebook shares following its lacklustre debut on Friday.

In midafternoon trading, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 93.39 points, or 0.76 percent, at 12,462.77. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 15.46 points, or 1.19 percent, at 1,310.68. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 53.79 points, or 1.94 percent, at 2,832.58.

U.S. stocks came off their worst weekly loss in a year as Friday's sloppy debut by Facebook disappointed investors. The social networking company's stock last traded down 10 percent at $34.21 (21.63 pounds) on Monday. It fell as low as $33, $5 below its initial offering price.

While Facebook shares faded after much fanfare, established technology companies did better, led by Apple Inc whose shares rose 4 percent to $552.80.

The FTSE Eurofirst index of top European shares closed up 0.5 percent at 975.04 after losing 5.1 percent last week to reach its lowest level of the year.

The MSCI world equity index rose 0.9 percent. It is below where it started the year, having given up all the gains made after a concerted round of easing by central banks in the first quarter.

Spain's prime minister said on Monday that urgent solutions were needed to guarantee financial stability in Europe. [ID:nL5E8GLD9A] On Friday Spain revised up its estimated 2011 budget deficit.

Spanish benchmark 10-year bond yields held at 6.29 percent, while the 10-year Italian debt yield was flat at 5.94 percent. These long-term borrowing costs are seen as unsustainable for the euro zone's fourth- and third-largest economies, respectively.

The euro was barely up in choppy trading at $1.2787, well above Friday's four-month low of $1.2642, which was not far from its lowest point for 2012.

The dollar index slipped 0.2 percent at 81.154 after touching its highest level since mid-January on Friday on heavy bids for the U.S. currency and other perceived safe-haven assets.

Nagging jitters over the financial contagion from the festering debt problem in Europe offset earlier profit-taking on U.S. and German government debt.

Benchmark U.S. Treasury yields touched historic lows and Bund futures hit contract highs last week on bids from nervous investors.

U.S. 10-year Treasury notes were down 2/32 in price for a yield of 1.73 percent, just 6 basis points above its lowest intraday level in at least 60 years, while German Bund futures edged down 6 basis points to 143.58 after touching a contract high of 144.06 last week.


Signs that China, the world's second-largest economy, was willing to support measures to boost growth offset some of the euro zone worries in global share and commodity markets.

"We should continue to implement a proactive fiscal policy and a prudent monetary policy while giving more priority to maintaining growth," Premier Wen Jiabao said in comments reported by state news agency Xinhua on Sunday.

Brent crude rose toward $108 per barrel, recovering from a 2012 low, on hopes the Chinese premier's announcement could mean strong fuel demand by the world's second-largest oil user, although concerns about the euro zone crisis capped gains.

Brent gained for the first time in four sessions, rising $1.48 cents to $108.62 a barrel. In New York, U.S. oil futures were up 92 cents at $92.38 a barrel.

Three-month copper futures on the London Metal Exchange settled 1.29 percent higher at $7,746.75 a tonne.

Spot gold prices dipped 0.18 percent to $1,589.01 an ounce after rising the previous two sessions.

(Reporting by Ed Krudy and Richard Leong in New York; Richard Hubbard, Anirban Nag, Jessica Donati in London; Umesh Desai in Hong Kong)

Business links and the threat to university independence - The Guardian

In recent years, British universities have come to accept that alongside their traditional teaching and academic study, dons are increasingly engaged in consultancy and commercial research. Involvement in the outside world brings advantages; new research gets a practical application while academics get insight into what society needs.

But these links have the potential to cause profound embarrassment, as the scandal over the London School of Economics' relations with Saif al-Islam Gaddafi showed.

An investigation by Lord Woolf, a former lord chief justice, found serious failures in the way a £1.5m donation from Saif al-Islam was handled. At a key meeting to discuss the gift, the LSE's governing body was given no paperwork and had to rely on an oral presentation from the academic who solicited the funding. That academic, David Held, was appointed to the board of the Gaddafi charity which channelled the donation a few days after the LSE had discussed and accepted the gift. Woolf's report describes this as an "obvious conflict of interest". At stake was the academic integrity of Britain's leading social science university. Leaked documents showed that Saif al-Islam was allowed to lay out "objectives and expectations" for the LSE's North Africa research programme.

Woolf recommended the adoption of an ethics code that would deal with such conflicts. Almost all universities have policies on this now, and codes of conduct for academics to follow.

The LSE scandal – which claimed the scalp of its director Howard Davies – may be an egregious one; but it is unlikely to be the only such conflict that will emerge as universities increasingly turn to commercial income. This has explicit government support. A few weeks agoThis month, universities minister David Willetts announced a new £100m investment fund to support collaboration between universities, businesses and charities. The funding is for "long-term capital projects that leverage in significant private funding". But with the lure of cash and the stimulus of working with business comes a hazard to universities' most precious asset – their reputation for academic independence.

Lincoln Financial Names Stuber Managing Principal in Houston -

Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. has named Bob Stuber managing principal where he’ll be responsible for growing and servicing the firm’s client base in the Houston area.

"We are very excited that Bob has joined our firm to lead the Houston regional planning office,” Brett Collins, managing director of Lincoln Financial Advisors' Southern Regional Planning Group, said in a statement. “Bob's leadership skills and experience in sales, marketing, product development, and recruiting will bring great value to our advisors and organization.”

Prior to joining Lincoln Financial Advisors, Stuber served as director of RIA Sales for M.S. Howells & Co. in Scottsdale, Ariz.; senior vice president, national sales recruiting for Countrywide Investment Services in Chandler, Ariz.; senior regional sales manager for Wells Fargo Private Client Services for the Metro Phoenix region; and sales manager and member of the management committee for Wayne Hummer Investments in Chicago.

Stuber graduated from Penn State University with a degree in political science and holds FINRA Series 6, 7, 8, 24, 63, and 66 registrations along with Arizona and Texas Life Insurance licenses.

With headquarters in the Philadelphia region, the companies of Lincoln Financial Group had assets under management of $170 billion as of March 31.

Larry Barrett writes for Financial Planning.


Business Matters: Triton Media Helping Pandora Seem More Like a Radio Company - Billboard Business News

By Acting More Like Radio, Pandora Can Sell Advertising
Pandora Media will become a successful Internet radio service by acting more and more like a radio company. In order to be a radio company, you need to use metrics common in the radio business. In order to sell radio advertising, a company needs measurements familiar to ad buyers.

As of last week, Pandora is being measured by Triton Digital on both a national and a local level. Triton's data say Pandora is the biggest radio network in the 19 to 49 demographic with a cumulative audience, or cume, of 23.87 million (which is slightly bigger than Premiere Radio Network's Young Influencers Network of 23.7 million in March, according to Arbitron). Pandora has a 71% share of Internet radio listening among the top 20 stations and networks in the U.S., according to Triton.

Edison Research previously handled measurements of Pandora's webcasting activity. Triton's data is different in a few ways. Triton's data includes measurements of local markets, which Edison's data lacked. And Triton actually measures Pandora listening in real time whereas Edison validated Pandora's streaming data.

Triton announced on May 10 it would start providing data on average quarter-hour ratings by market. "This will allow subscribers the flexibility to combine their offline and online audience into a credible total audience number while maintaining the ability to position the attributes of either channel independently," the company explained in a press release. In other words, Triton's measurements speak to advertising buyers in a familiar language.

Pandora chief revenue officer John Trimble tells the Triton measurements "further validates our position" and is a "game-changer" in how Pandora is viewed in the marketplace by brands and advertisers. Triton's numbers provide a metric comparable to that of terrestrial radio even though Triton measures only Internet digital. Triton helps by establishing a solution that works for both terrestrial and Internet radio.

"It really starts to provide a big opportunity to have that apple-to-apple conversation," says Trimble, adding that clients and advertising agencies have pushed for this initiative because they have a need for comparable data.

Expect these developments in webcasting measurements to be a topic during Pandora's Wednesday afternoon earnings call for its first fiscal quarter ended April 30. The company has expanded its local and national ad sales teams and has been making a concerted effort to describe to analysts its long-term strategy for growing revenue by taking a chunk of the radio advertising market away from traditional broadcasters.

Hastings is Latest Company to Blame Low Earnings on New Music
Hastings' music sales declined 9.4% in the first fiscal quarter of 2012. In its earnings release, the entertainment retailer blamed the decline in new and used CDs due to "a shift in sales to lower priced promotional product, along with a weaker slate of new release music during the current quarter." The games category declined 21.3% and movies fell 3.7%. The company's net income was $800,000, up from $400,000 in the prior-year-quarter. ( Press release)

Financial Times Calls Sony Music & Pictures Valuable, Underappreciated
The Financial Times has called on Sony to sells its entertainment assets -- sort of. Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson argues that investors are undervaluing Sony Music and Sony Pictures by giving all of Sony a market capitalization of $14 billion. Based on recent prices fetched by Warner Music Group and EMI Music, and considering Sony Pictures' revenue ($8 billion in 2011) and operating income ($416 million), the two divisions "could bring in $10bn or more," writes Edgecliffe-Johnson. Inside the large and diverse Sony Corp., however, the value of Sony's music and film divisions are hidden and underappreciated.

The timing may not be right, however. Edgecliffe-Johnson concludes Sony Music and Sony Pictures probably aren't going anywhere -- entertainment M&A has been slow and entertainment companies have not fetched good prices when standing apart from their conglomerate owners. "But unless it can convince investors of their value or show rapid evidence of an electronics turnround, it should [sell the two divisions]," he concludes. "Even if head office has no use for the cash, investors might like it back." ( Financial Times)

iHeartRadio Gets Makeover, Further Differentiates From Pandora
Clear Channel's got a facelift. The web-based version of the Internet radio service will get a "My Stations" tab for quicker access to favorite stations, a "Discovery Tuner" that allows the listener to choose between more or less familiar artists, an improve search function and new drop down menus meant to improve browsing.

The contrast between and Pandora has become clearer. iHeartRadio is part music portal (there's currently a link to an interview with John Mayer), part radio service and part promotional platform for Clear Channel (the home page features information on the iHeartRadio music festival). As a result, only three personal stations can be accessed with a single click and multiple clicks are often needed to start listening. Pandora appears to want listening to music to be incredibly easy, and getting to any one of a dozen personal stations on Pandora requires just a click. (

Disabled vet Sherman Barton battles for military contracts for business - Philadelphia Daily News

They were 12 hairy years in Sherman Barton’s life. The Burlington County resident worked in military intelligence for the U.S. Army in Germany and Italy from 1972 to 1984, getting shot three separate times while hunting terrorists, he said.

The personal toll was vast, including the loss of two ribs, a portion of his lower intestines and some hearing, along with three broken neck vertebrae, ankle stiffness and instability, muscle weakness and depression.

Those injuries earned Barton an honorable discharge and classification by the Department of Veterans Affairs as having “a 100 percent permanent and total service-connected disability.”

It was a tough-to-take classification for the Edgewater Park resident whose military career was distinguished by his ability to hold up against many physical challenges.

Twenty-six years later — and after an 18-year second career as a disabled veterans counselor and special projects coordinator at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Philadelphia — Barton would see a silver lining in his disability designation: a leg up in competing for federal government contracts as a small-business owner. Or so he thought.

Even with laws and a presidential executive order in place to help steer government work to Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses, or SDVOSBs, Barton said he has found the opportunities maddeningly few and the process for securing such work too slow and unreliable on which to build a business.

He’s on a mission to change that. His primary target is one of the largest Department of Defense purchasing centers in the United States — Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support in Northeast Philadelphia. The center provides more than $14.5 billion annually in food, clothing, textiles, medicines, medical supplies, construction equipment and industrial hardware to troops around the world and others in need.

After two years of e-mails, calls and near-monthly visits to DLA Troop Support — including an unauthorized failed attempt in October to see the commander — Barton’s supply company, VE Source L.L.C. in Shrewsbury, Monmouth County, which currently is solely focused on getting government work, has secured just one SDVOSB contract. Awarded in March, it is worth $111,420 for 250 portable tents.

“How can you call this trying?” Barton said he has asked officials at DLA more than once.

According to the agency, DLA had 1,045 SDVOSB contracts totaling $62 million in 2010, and 3,780 valued at $48 million last year.

In all, DLA’s small business contracts totaled $2.4 billion in 2011, or 30.7 percent of the contract dollars eligible for small business. The remaining $5.4 billion in work eligible for small business awards went, instead, to larger domestic companies. DLA officials said they feel a responsibility to support bigger firms to ensure they will be around at times of heavy need, such as troop deployment.

Barton said he has been assured by DLA officials that more opportunities are coming for small businesses owned by disabled veterans. Those assurances have been accompanied by reminders that the agency must also answer to other mandates, including that it provide work when possible to programs that employ federal prison inmates, and the blind or severely disabled. DLA Troop Support’s contracts to two such primary programs, Federal Prison Industries and AbilityOne, totaled $422 million last year, said spokeswoman Stacey Hajdak. By law, those programs are given priority over service-disabled veterans and other small business subsets, such as women-owned and minority-owned firms.

“That’s kind of a delicate balancing act we have to go through,” Michael McCall, director of small business at DLA in Philadelphia, said in an interview earlier this month. “As the [federal] budget shrinks, that balancing act gets more and more difficult because everybody is trying to get their share of the pie.”

Barton, 59, VE Source’s president and majority owner, said he doesn’t begrudge set-asides for other groups. He just wants more action for himself and other disabled veterans trying to forge new careers. Those opportunities are imperative as troops return home from Iraq and Afghanistan to a stingy job market, said Barton, who plans to hire disabled veterans as soon as his company lands some substantial deals.

“With the downsizing of the military, there are going to be more and more veterans like myself trying to start companies because there is no employment for them in the civilian sector,” Barton said last week.

He formed VE Source with two partners in 2010 to take advantage of an executive order issued by President Bush in October 2004 to strengthen opportunities for SDVOSBs. That directive called on the heads of federal agencies to “more effectively implement” previously adopted SDVOSB initiatives.

They included the Veterans Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act of 1999, which established an annual governmentwide goal of awarding not less than 3 percent in total value of all prime contracts and subcontracts to SDVOSBs.

In December 2003, the Veterans Benefits Act was passed by Congress to build upon the 1999 measure. For instance, it allowed — but did not require — federal contracting officers to restrict competition to SDVOSBs and award a sole-source or set-aside contract under certain conditions, such as if it could be done at a fair market price.

In May 2004, the Small Business Administration (SBA) established a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Concern Program to implement the Veterans Benefits Act, establishing criteria and guidelines.

From Barton’s perspective, it was an encouraging string of initiatives — until he retired from his Veterans Administration job in December 2009 and ventured into the trying world of entrepreneurship and DLA Troop Support.

The military supply agency would represent little more than tantalizing but unrealized opportunities, Barton said. Take for example a $28 million contract for cold-weather jackets for which VE Source submitted a bid to provide in July 2010. Seventeen extensions later, the contract still has not been awarded, Barton said.

“It’s just bad bureaucracy,” he said, adding that few small businesses have the financial wherewithal to endure such a waiting game.

At a closed hearing in December held at Burlington County College in Mount Laurel, one of Barton’s partners, Christopher Neary, told the House Armed Services Committee’s Defense Business Panel that the DLA “is not doing right by the policy of the executive order for the SDVO small business program or the veterans themselves,” according to a copy of his remarks.

Long before that hearing, deficiencies with the SDVOSB procurement program had apparently registered at DLA headquarters in Fort Belvoir, Va., according to a July 2010 internal memo obtained by The Inquirer. In it, Nancy Heimbaugh, acquisition management director, and Peg Meehan, then-director of the office of small business programs, urged recipients to “reinvigorate your efforts to increase business opportunities for SDVOSB concerns.”

The memo concluded: “Our wounded warrior entrepreneurs deserve nothing less.”

Financial Regulation: How to Find the Right Balance - Huffington Post

The scales of financial justice are tilted by avarice and the power the investment bankers continue to assert. JP Morgan Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon pleads mea culpa for his part in the US$ 2 billion (and counting) derivative trading loss. Dimon and his staff were not hedging, they were speculating and came unstuck. What we have is another warning of the "too big to fail" syndrome. In this case size does matter because when leviathan banks are exposed and need propping up, the taxpayer foots the bill and public services are cut.

JP Morgan's multi-billion punt is the latest evidence that the financial sector remains a minefield five years on from the initial crisis. Despite the efforts of regulators there is a vacuum at the heart of financial global governance. We have global financial markets and global electronic trading with enormous flows of capital across borders but the supervisory mechanism is flawed. The Financial Stability Board does not have the necessary powers of enforcement -- it is a policeman without a baton. The European Union now has the European Banking Authority and surely the time has come for a Global Banking Authority which is independent and has real teeth, able to identify emerging risks. We do not just need a cop on Wall St or a bobby on the London Square Mile beat. What is required is a new financial global policeman or an Interpol for financial supervision to catch the financial jaywalkers and serial offenders.

The necessity of regulation and structural change to the world's banking system has been recognized by a raft of new legislation and proposals, the foremost being the Dodd-Frank legislation in the United States, Sir John Vickers' Independent Commission on Banking in the United Kingdom and the European Commission which has launched a high level consultation on reforming the structure of the EU banking sector. A move in the right direction but one which will not succeed without a change in banking culture and the bank bosses have made it abundantly clear that they will fight to maintain the status quo. Those working for sensible regulatory change should prepare for a renewed lobbying onslaught by bankers determined to influence the process to keep "business as usual".

A recent report by UNI Global Union ("Coining it in," Andrew Bibby) sets out how a section of investment bankers are already waging a cynical and effective campaign to influence the public and parliamentary decision-making institutions to prevent adequate regulation of the financial markets. The G20 has abrogated its responsibility to the Financial Stability Board which is trapped between the rock and the hard place of the financial community and the national financial ministries. The result has been an inability to deliver prudent banking rules. Government reforms are too modest and are barely laying a glove on the financiers who still regard themselves as the Untouchables. Fraudulent and criminally negligent investment bankers who bear a significant responsibility for the crisis have not been brought to justice. The bonus culture has remained unchanged and indeed a recent report published by Johnson Associates predicts bigger bonuses this year than last.

Let's be clear we are not criticizing bank workers of whom more than 750,000 have lost their jobs since the crisis began while only a handful of banking CEOs have been dismissed. UNI's finance sector represents more that 200 unions and three million workers and we are aware that this is not a zero sum game between bankers and the public. A balance has to be struck and what is essential is to regulate between the essential and positive banking services and their shadows. We have a long way to go to ensure that the regulatory framework in place will avoid another financial catastrophe. We must signal to the world's decision-makers that they have to deliver on improving financial regulation and that significantly not enough has been done to change banking behavior and culture.

Firstly, we need a clear distinction between core banking services indispensable to a market economy and other more exotic activities. We have a situation where all kinds of behavior are underscored or protected by the public purse. This is generosity bordering on madness and leads to a distorted and vulnerable market. A regulatory net has to be thrown over shadow banking to ensure that certain financial instruments, that only a handful of mathematicians profess to understand, do not continue to proliferate and endanger the market.

Secondly, the distinction between risk and fraud must be clearly defined and the courts given greater punitive powers to punish those who cross the line.

And thirdly, a bank's board of directors should be robust and independent and not made up entirely of the bankers it should itself be policing. Such a balanced board would be capable of seeing beyond the sort of profit maximization that has led to a high risk game and fraudulent activity.

These basic measures coupled with some of the regulatory reforms and structural reforms in the banking sector already on the table would help redress the balance of financial regulation in favor of a more just society.

Philip Jennings is General Secretary of UNI Global Union and a speaker on the OECD Forum panel, "FINANCIAL REGULATION: HOW TO FIND THE RIGHT BALANCE"

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