OpenAI"s employees were given two explanations for why Sam Altman was fired. They"re unconvinced and furious.

During a late Sunday meeting, Ilya Sutskever relayed two explanations for Altman's ouster. They are furious. Sam AltmanJustin Sullivan/Getty ImagesDuring a meeting with employees, OpenAI's Ilya Sustkever offered two explanations for the ousting of CEO Sam Altman.The explanations involved statements he made to the board regarding personnel. Employees didn't buy these reasons. Most of the company is now prepared to quit.OpenAI's current independent board has offered two examples of the alleged lack of candor that led them to fire co-founder and CEO Sam Altman, sending the company into chaos.Late Sunday night, Ilya Sutskever introduced to staff Emmett Shear, the former Twitch CEO, who was named OpenAI new interim CEO, replacing his predecessor of two days Mira Murati, who herself had replaced Altman on Friday. The brief meeting was held at one of OpenAI's San Francisco offices, and only a handful of the company's employees attended, according to a person familiar with the company and the events of Sunday. The rest of the staff effectively staged a walk-out. The Verge also reported the meeting took place.Staff had spent the day expecting to be told of the reinstatement of Altman as CEO. Over a roughly 30-minute period on Sunday night, staff was told internally that Altman was returning, then that he wasn't, then that Shear had been appointed, another person familiar with the matter said. The people asked for anonymity because they are not authorized to share internal matters. Their identities are known to Business Insider.As staff learned of Shear's appointment, most took the news "extremely poorly," one of the people said. It was yet another shock to employees, who had been on tenterhooks all weekend.It was left to chief scientist and co-founder Sutskever, who helped vote Altman out and did the actual firing of him over Google Meet, to deliver the news of Shear's arrival. Sutskever appeared "subdued" during the meeting, one of the people said.Staff, along with tech industry observers, had wondered for days what was behind the harshly worded statement from OpenAI that said Altman "was not consistently candid in his communications with the board."Sustkever is said to have offered two explanations he purportedly received from the board, according to one of the people familiar. One explanation was that Altman was said to have given two people at OpenAI the same project.The other was that Altman allegedly gave two board members different opinions about a member of personnel. An OpenAI spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.These explanations didn't make sense to employees and were not received well, one of the people familiar said. Internally, the going theory is that this was a straightforward "coup" by the board, as it's been called inside the company and out. Any reason being given by the board now holds little to no sway with staff, the person said.A few hours after that meeting, an open letter was drafted, circulated among staff overnight, and signed by OpenAI leadership including Murati and Sutskever, in which they protested the board's decision to not bring Altman back. By mid-day Monday, it had been signed by over 90% of the employees, according to the latest count.In the letter, employees insisted they would resign if remaining members of board did not, if new board members were not appointed, and if Altman was not returned to the company.At the moment, Altman is said to still be negotiating a possible return while he has an interim position at Microsoft, orchestrated by CEO Satya Nadella. Microsoft is OpenAI's largest investor, with at least $10 billion put into the company."People are raging mad and mass quitting is imminent," one of people familiar with the situation said.The company's current board is made up of Adam D'Angelo, CEO of Quora; Tasha McCauley, a tech entrepreneur; Helen Toner, of the Georgetown Center for Security and Emerging Technology; and Setskever. Although Setskever also signed the open letter threatening to leave the company, he is said to still technically be a member of the board. Altman and Greg Brockman, OpenAI's president, were also previously on the board.Although Murati was a source of anger for many employees soon after Altman's ouster, given that she was his initial replacement and was said to have known he was being removed the day prior, that sentiment has cooled.She is said by the people familiar to have "deferred" constantly to Sustkever in the immediate aftermath of Friday. Now that she's decided to leave the company should Altman not return, along with Sustkever, who also publicly expressed his "regret" for taking part in the board's move against Altman, some wonder if all these top players could continue to work with the OpenAI team and leadership elsewhere. Others, however, believe that Sustkever won't be easily forgiven and won't be invited to stay, or join a new venture at Microsoft.Are you an OpenAI employee or someone with a tip or insight to share? Contact Kali Hays at, on secure messaging app Signal at 949-280-0267, or through Twitter DM at @hayskali. Reach out using a non-work device.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 20th, 2023

Chaos at OpenAI ensues

Former OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has come out looking like a hero in the wake of his dismissal from the buzzy AI startup. But will it last? OpenAI CEO Sam Altman will join Microsoft after negotiations for him to return to OpenAI broke down.Justin Sullivan/Getty Images This post originally appeared in the Insider Today newsletter. You can sign up for Insider's daily newsletter here. Hey there! If you're hitting the road for Thanksgiving this year, here are tips about the worst times to drive over the holiday weekend.  In today's big story, we're looking at the continued fallout from the shocking Sam Altman ouster at OpenAI.What's on deck: Markets: Volatility in the market is here to stay, according to BlackRockTech: Nvidia's top recruiter shares tips on how to land a job there.Business: The state leading America's clean energy future might be the last place you'd expect.But first, if you come at the king, you best not miss.The big storyOpenRevoltTomohiro Ohsumi/Getty ImagesEver dreamed of attending your funeral to see what people think of you?In a way, Sam Altman is living out that fantasy.Altman is alive and well, but his run as CEO of OpenAI ended abruptly on Friday. But in the days since his firing, he's escaped a messy weekend looking like the ultimate hero, Business Insider's Katie Notopoulos writes.(For a complete timeline of the chaos, start here. And for a breakdown of why the fiasco is still important to people who aren't in the tech industry, check this out.) Most notable among Altman's supporters were his former employees. Just about everyone at OpenAI has signed a letter threatening to quit the company if Altman isn't reappointed and board members resign. Even someone who kicked off the entire mess — OpenAI cofounder and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever — signed the letter and said he deeply regrets participating in Altman's ouster. A key issue among employees is the lack of an adequate explanation of what got Altman fired. What employees have been told by Sutskever about the reason for the ouster has left them unconvinced and furious, writes Business Insider's Kali Hays. To be fair, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and OpenAI CEO Emmett Shear don't seem to know why either.Altman also has some fans in the market. In the wake of news that Altman would land at Microsoft, the tech giant saw its shares hit record highs on Monday. And now Altman is reportedly angling for a return to OpenAI, a fitting culmination to perhaps the wildest coup in Silicon Valley history. Microsoft CEO Satya NadellaStephen Brashear/Getty ImagesAt first glance, the past few days' events had me marveling at the power Altman seemed to hold.How many executives' dismissals would elicit a full-blown revolt like Altman's removal did at OpenAI?But as Business Insider's Julie Bort writes, Microsoft's Nadella really holds all the cards. Nadella averted a complete disaster by hiring Altman. Whether he ends up back at the helm of OpenAI or remains at Microsoft, Nadella has kept a vital piece of the company's AI strategy in his back pocket.Of course, that's not to say there aren't risks for Microsoft. Some of OpenAI's customers are already looking to jump ship, Business Insider's Madeline Renbarger reports. Failing to reinstate Altman at OpenAI could ultimately lead to its demise. That's not an ideal scenario for a startup you've invested billions into.It's also doubtful Microsoft could retain all the talent from OpenAI, should it dissolve. In fact, OpenAI staffers that pledged to leave the company to join Altman at Microsoft don't actually have official job offers, sources tell Kali and Ashley Stewart.Meanwhile, Salesforce's Marc Benioff is already actively recruiting OpenAI employees on X. 3 things in marketsScott Olson/Getty ImagesIt's going to be a bumpy ride for the foreseeable future, according to BlackRock. Strategists at the world's largest asset manager wrote they "see volatility as a constant in the new regime." A key issue will be high interest rates amplifying the US's debt problem keeping the market on edge.Bridgewater is letting AI take the wheel with a new fund. The world's largest hedge fund is launching a fund on July 1 that will replicate every step of the investment process with AI and machine learning. Bridgewater's co-chief investment officer Greg Jensen detailed how the fund will work. Jim Chanos is not a fan of Elon Musk supporters. The legendary short-seller, who has also bet heavily against Tesla, unloaded an expletive-laden tirade against fans of Musk on, coincidently, X. Chanos's rant comes just days after news emerged of him closing his funds.3 things in techA passenger enters an Uber car in New YorkJefferson Siegel/ReutersSome Uber and Lyft drivers make more money by being picky. Some drivers revealed that canceling certain trips can help drivers avoid situations that aren't profitable. For example, being discerning can help drivers avoid "one-way rides."Nvidia's VP of recruitment revealed how to land a job in AI at the company. The rise of AI has also powered the rise of Nvidia — its CEO Jensen Huang even became the world's 27th-richest person. The company's top recruiter said emphasizing skills and differentiating themselves are some of the top methods to getting hired there.X CEO is reportedly getting texts from ad execs to resign over Elon Musk endorsing an antisemitic post. An executive reportedly told Linda Yaccarino that she needs to "save" her reputation.3 things in businessArantza Pena Popo/InsiderTexas — weirdly — is leading America's clean energy future. The state has been America's oil capital for more than a century. But now, Texas is also one of the country's top producers of renewable energy.Underwear startup Parade went bust, and employees blame the founder. Is it okay to write about it? Parade's cofounder and former CEO Camila Téllez asked Business Insider's Melkorka Licea how she could write what she saw as another takedown of a female founder — especially a female founder of color. But many of the 26 current and former employees Melkorka spoke to said the way Téllez ran her company was at least partially responsible for its flameout.The experience economy could be a good industry to bet your career on. Millennials and Gen Zers are driving demand for experiences. For example, cooks at restaurants are expected to increase 20% between 2022 and 2032.In other newsStaff at Pure Barre and other boutique gyms say a major franchisee stiffed them on pay, sent bizarre emails, and talked about drinking his own urine.Chinese electric car maker BYD is about to steal Tesla's crown. Here's why it's winning the race.Democrats could easily lose the White House and Senate next year.A Harvard professor said balls found in the ocean might be alien tech. A new theory points to industrial waste instead.Wall Street banks want AI to write performance reviews.Argentina's new president Javier Milei thinks adopting the US dollar can rescue its screwed economy.After a devastating breakup, I moved from Brooklyn to West Virginia to rebuild a life. Then I got lonelier than ever.CHART OF THE DAY: Recession fears appear to be cooling among US companies.What's happening todayIt's World Hello Day. The day is celebrated by greeting 10 different people. This highlights "the importance of personal communication for preserving peace."Happy birthday, Carly Rae Jepsen. Björk, Davido, and Colleen Ballinger were also born on this day.Earnings today: Lowe's, Best Buy, HP, Nvidia, Nordstrom, and other companies.For your bookmarksFormal dinner etiquetteDr. Clinton LeeInternational wine and etiquette expert shares seven etiquette tips and mistakes. His warnings include to never force guests to join you in prayer and to not hold the top of your wine glass.The Insider Today team: Dan DeFrancesco, senior editor and anchor, in New York City. Diamond Naga Siu, senior reporter, in San Diego. Hallam Bullock, editor, in London. Lisa Ryan, executive editor, in New York.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytNov 21st, 2023

20 Most Dangerous Towns In America

Planning on moving to a new city and worried about finding a safe place to live? If you watch or read the news at all, you’re probably been warned about rising crime rates, dangerous cities, and waves of violent crime. No matter where you live, or what political party you claim to belong to, there […] The post 20 Most Dangerous Towns In America appeared first on 24/7 Wall St.. Planning on moving to a new city and worried about finding a safe place to live? If you watch or read the news at all, you’re probably been warned about rising crime rates, dangerous cities, and waves of violent crime. No matter where you live, or what political party you claim to belong to, there are always going to be warnings and panic-mongering about cities you should avoid. This is definitely true in the United States. Our two-party system has driven many people to near hysteria and violent conflict over their politics. This blind adherence to dogma and politics leads many to believe and accept things that simply aren’t true. When asked what the most dangerous towns in America are, for example, you are going to get wildly different answers from all sides of the political divide, none of which are based on facts or actual statistics. Interestingly enough, most of them are wrong. The truth about the most dangerous towns in America is surprising. They are definitely not the towns you would expect, or where you would think they should be. Crime in America Compared to the rest of the world, the United States has a relatively low violent crime rate. On the other hand, when you compare the U.S. to other similar Western countries, our crime rate is significantly higher. For the year 2018, for example, the homicide rate in the United States was 4.96 per 1000 people. In Spain that rate was .62, in France, it was 1.2, and in Germany it was .95, just to name a few. Even in Canada, which is almost identical to the U.S. in race, gender, immigration, income distribution, media consumption, entertainment, mental health, and other demographics, the homicide rate is only 1.76. In Australia, where population demographics are also similar to the U.S., the homicide rate is .89. With these two cases, appeals to racist and xenophobic explanations lose almost all their steam.  In fact, the United States has more than double the number of gun deaths per capita than Jordan, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and other Middle Eastern countries. We are only in second place, losing the top spot to Iraq. So, in reality, comparing different U.S. cities to each other based on their crime rates is splitting hairs when it comes to safety in our country. However, crime of all kinds, violent and nonviolent, has been falling in the U.S. ever since the late 1980s. There has been a small rise in the last couple of years, but not nearly as high or as rapid as some headlines make it seem. Yet, like every country, some places are more dangerous than others. It makes sense that we would want to raise our families in the safest places possible. Or, better yet, we would want to know what places are struggling the most so we can help in some small way, instead of isolating them away from the rest of civilization. For our list, we included only violent crime rates per 1000 residents. We used the statistics on violent crime collected by the FBI and published by Neighborhood Scout. These are the 20 most dangerous towns in America. #20 Rockford, IL Violent Crime Rate: 15.0 per 1,000 residents Rockford is the fifth largest city in Illinois, along its northern border with Wisconsin. It used to be one of the major industrial centers of the Midwest and was the second-largest producer of furniture in the country before most companies left the town, driving up unemployment. During the 1980s recession, Rockford became one of the highest unemployed towns in the United States. Since poverty is the primary driving factor for crime, the crime rate subsequently rose as well. #19 Spartanburg, SC Violent Crime Rate: 15.2 per 1,000 residents Spartanburg used to be known as a hub city for South Carolina. Many different railroads connected and intersected within the city, making it a crossroads for the south and a bustling industrial center. At one point, there were over 40 textile mills operating within the city. During the 1950s, however, these companies had left the city, moving their operations overseas, and unemployment skyrocketed.  #18 Springfield, MO Violent Crime Rate (per 1,000 residents): 15.6 per 1,000 residents Springfield is known as the birthplace of the famous Route 66, the highway that stretched all the way from Chicago to California. It is the third largest city in Missouri and one of the least diverse cities in the United States with a population of 87.6% white, 4% black, and 5% other races. #17 Baltimore, MD Violent Crime Rate: 15.6 per 1,000 residents The first of our large metropolitan areas, Baltimore is the largest city in Maryland and the 30th largest in the United States. Crime has been high in Baltimore almost since the day it was founded, but it dropped by nearly 60% since the 1990s. Even though crime has fallen, it still remains a problem in a city with so many people. Baltimore even implemented a youth curfew in 2015 to prevent young people from being on the streets at night. #16 Lansing, MI Violent Crime Rate: 15.7 per 1,000 residents Lansing is the capital of Michigan. It is a major center of industry and education, being home to several universities and colleges and the headquarters of four national insurance companies. It was, and remains, a major center in the automotive industry, with General Motors (NYSE: GM) having several offices and locations in the city. The decline of American car production, however, has caused the city to try to expand its employment options and invite more high-tech companies. #15 Danville, IL Violent Crime Rate: 15.8 per 1,000 residents Like most of the cities on this list, Danville quickly grew to become an industrial center during the 1800s and 1900s. It was an important coal mining center and then expanded to become a manufacturing and automotive powerhouse and its population doubled from 1900 to 1920. By 1966, however, all but six of the coal mines closed, most manufacturing companies left, and General Motors closed its offices. As a result, poverty and unemployment skyrocketed and many people left the city to seek employment elsewhere. #14 Gadsden, AL Violent Crime Rate: 15.8 per 1,000 residents During the 1800s, Gadsden was the second-most important industrial center in Alabama. It was a major hub for riverboat transportation and shipping in the region. In the 1900s, the city gradually transitioned into heavy industry which included tires and steel. But as the country continued to change, most of these companies either closed their offices or moved their business overseas during the 1970s and 1980s. The city continues to struggle to readjust to this change and has yet to recover. #13 Albany, GA Violent Crime Rate: 16.1 per 1,000 residents Albany began a major transportation and shipping center for Georgia, primarily servicing riverboats and steamboats. When railroads spread through the South, Albany became a center for several rail lines and the U.S. Government opened a number of military bases within the city limits. During the 1970s, the country was moving away from railways and the government closed most of the bases, this caused a dramatic drop in employment. Most of the wealthy, white residents who could afford to move out of the city did so, leaving poor, black residents behind. Struggling with sky-high poverty and unemployment, Albany was named the “murder capital of America” in 1988. #12 Milwaukee, WI Violent Crime Rate: 16.6 per 1,000 residents Our second metropolitan city, and the biggest city in Wisconsin. It is one of the most segregated cities in America, due in large part to redlining practices in the 1900s. It is, however, one of the most culturally diverse cities in the Midwest, known for its beer and brewing industry thanks to a large influx of German immigrants in the 19th century. Milwaukee has fallen down on this list, as it used to be in the top ten most dangerous cities in the United States during the early 2000s. It is the second-poorest city in America among cities with over 500,000 residents, only Detroit is poorer. This high poverty and homeless population contribute to its high violent crime rate. #11 Kalamazoo, MI Violent Crime Rate: 16.8 per 1,000 residents Kalamazoo used to be known as the “paper city” due to the large number of paper mills and logging companies that operated there. It was, not surprisingly, a center of manufacturing during the 19th and 20th centuries, producing everything from mandolins, buggies, and cars, to windmills, cigars, and stoves.  As the forests were completely destroyed by logging, the paper companies moved on. The remaining car companies closed after the 2008 recession, leaving many unemployed. #10 Cleveland, OH Violent Crime Rate: 17.1 per 1,000 residents Cleveland is a port city and the largest city along the banks of Lake Erie. Naturally, this would make it a valuable trade and manufacturing center for the Midwest. During the late 1900s, however, the city began to struggle economically. First, it defaulted on its federal loans in 1978, and the national recession of the 1980s almost completely destroyed any industry that remained. Many steel mills closed, causing Cleveland’s unemployment to stay higher than the already-high national average. The city continues to struggle with population decline until today. It has not yet been able to reverse the consequences of its economic decline. #9 Alexandria, LA Violent Crime Rate: 18.8 per 1,000 residents Alexandria is the center of what is known as the Alexandria metropolitan area. It began as a small trading outpost for French traders in the area, native communities, and small permanent settler towns further south. Over 27% of the population of Alexandria live below the poverty line  #8 Little Rock, AR Little Rock, Arkansas, USA skyline on the river at twilight. Violent Crime Rate: 20.2 per 1,000 residents Little Rock is the capital of Arkansas. Little Rock is named after a small rock outcropping along the Arkansas River that early riverboats used as navigation and marked a popular river crossing. The rock is still there today. In 1994, Little Rock was the fifth most dangerous city in America. This was following decades of violent race riots, lynchings, and racial conflict during and following integration. Crime remained high ever since, setting new city records for homicides, and in 2022 it had its most dangerous year yet. #7 Pine Bluff, AR Violent Crime Rate: 20.5 per 1,000 residents Pine Bluff’s economy was primarily centered around agriculture, timber, and the railroad during most of its history. When the Great Depression came, it hit Pine Bluff particularly hard. The Great Flood of 1927 and a severe drought in 1930 made the situation worse and prevented recovery. Two of the largest banks in the city failed immediately after. Like most of the South during this time, racial tension and conflict were major issues preventing many cities from developing and integrating further. Every time black residents of Pine Bluff demanded an end to segregation or equal treatment, white people responded by bombing and burning black businesses, churches, and homes, further destroying the city’s economy.  #6 Birmingham, AL Violent Crime Rate: 20.6 per 1,000 residents Birmingham was listed as the third-most dangerous city in America in 2011, right behind Atlanta and St. Louis, by U.S. News & World Report. Its economy has expanded and shrunk a number of times since its founding but has struggled to grow in recent years. It remains the state’s largest metropolitan area, but “white flight” (when wealthy, white residents of a city flee to better areas) continues to hinder the city’s growth and recovery. #5 Detroit, MI Violent Crime Rate: 23.0 per 1,000 residents Detroit remains the second-largest metro area in the Midwest after Chicago, and it is probably one of the only cities most people expect to see on this list. There are good reasons why Detroit has become famous for being dangerous. First, Detroit was a powerful center for the KKK, and by 1940 over 80% of all land deeds prohibited African Americans from buying houses that they otherwise could afford. High racial conflict continued for decades, destroying businesses and homes and forcing many people out of the city.   Second, incompetent city management lead to wasteful spending, lost federal contracts, and ineffective public services. Much of what makes other cities function properly simply was not built or implemented correctly in Detroit, like public transportation. Third, Detroit was once the car capital of America. After the fuel crises in the 1970s, Americans started buying cheaper, smaller cars. As a result, U.S. car companies struggled, and they fired thousands of employees in Detroit and closed many plants in the city. Other businesses that relied on the auto industry also closed and left the city. Detroit leadership focused too much on downtown development to replace the lost businesses instead of investing in city services and reducing poverty outside the city center. Economic trouble, mismanagement, and gentrification downtown have all prevented the city from recovering. #4 Memphis, TN Violent Crime Rate: 25.1 per 1,000 residents Memphis is the famous “Home of the Blues” and the music scene here thrives among a diverse population and rich history. This city has the highest African American population in Tennessee, but in 1970, 60% of the population was white, and only 38% were black. After several riots against desegregation and the courts ordered the local school district to desegregate, 40,000 wealthy, white people left the system, leaving the city with a black majority. Famous musicians, Elvis Presley, B. B. King, Johnny Cash, Three 6 Mafia, and many more have called Memphis home. #3 Saginaw, MI Violent Crime Rate: 25.1 per 1,000 residents During the 20th century, Saginaw was an important lumber and manufacturing city. Even today, it still has a larger proportion of manufacturing jobs than the rest of the United States. Much of its industry was tied to the auto industry in Detroit, and its prospects fell along with it. Like Detroit, population decline, and high unemployment has led to significant urban blight of abandoned homes and businesses. #2 Monroe, LA Violent Crime Rate: 26.3 per 1,000 residents Monroe is the center of the second-largest metro area in Louisiana. Much of Monroe’s early growth was due to the Great Migration in the early 1900s when millions of African Americans fled the failing farms of the South and the oppressive racial conditions of Southern cities. Around 36.8% of the population of Monroe lives below the poverty line, which contributes significantly to high crime rates. #1 Bessemer, AL Violent Crime Rate: 33.1 per 1,000 residents   Bessemer was a major mining and steel-making city during the 19th and 20th centuries. Large deposits of iron, coal, and limestone contributed to the city’s early success. As companies abandoned the city, all the steel factories closed and many people left for better opportunities. In 2019, 24/7 Wall Street named it Alabama’s “worst city to live in”. Ever since the collapse of the mining and manufacturing industries and the flight of large companies, crime has been on the rise. Bessemer remains the most dangerous city in the United States among cities with more than 25,000 residents. There is nothing special about Bessemer that makes it more dangerous than any other city on this list. each suffer from high rates of unemployment, high income inequality, and high rates of poverty. Poverty and unemployment continue to be the primary driving factors in crime of all kinds. Many of the solutions proposed by politicians, news pundits, and amateur sociologists only seek to treat many of the symptoms of poverty and income inequality. Expert economists and social scientists have pointed out for decades that improving the economic conditions of the poor and disenfranchised is the best and easiest way to reduce crime rates and improve the quality of life for people at every level. It’s not easy to reverse or undo the effects of hundreds of years of oppression, persecution, racism, and institutionalized corruption. But there is no better time to start than today. Sponsored: Attention Savvy Investors: Speak to 3 Financial Experts – FREE Ever wanted an extra set of eyes on an investment you’re considering? Now you can speak with up to 3 financial experts in your area for FREE. By simply clicking here you can begin to match with financial professionals who can help guide you through the financial decisions you’re making. And the best part? The first conversation with them is free. Click here to match with up to 3 financial pros who would be excited to help you make financial decisions. The post 20 Most Dangerous Towns In America appeared first on 24/7 Wall St.......»»

Category: blogSource: 247wallstDec 3rd, 2023

Sam Altman is back as CEO of OpenAI with a new board that includes Microsoft. Here"s everything we know about the chaotic coup.

Sam Altman's ousting from OpenAI set off a dramatic chain of events, resulting in his eventual return. Here's what we know. Sam Altman got pushed out of OpenAI.Toby Melville/Getty ImagesOpenAI CEO Sam Altman was suddenly ousted by the company's board earlier in November.Within a week, he was back and a new board that included lead investor Microsoft was announced.The tech world is still wondering what led to the shock firing.Sam Altman is back in control of OpenAI and the CEO has a brand new board.The tech boss was fired in a shock board decision earlier this month, kickstarting a chaotic week for the company.The move initially shocked the tech community and OpenAI investors, including Microsoft. Reports quickly started circulating that the board was wavering on its controversial decision and actively trying to get Altman back.Three days later, it all appeared to have fallen apart. Former Twitch CEO and cofounder, Emmett Shear, was named interim CEO of the company, and Altman had joined Microsoft.But the chaos was far from over.Most employees who returned to work after the weekend were less than impressed with the new company leadership.Staffers staged a revolt in the form of an open letter demanding the board's resignation and the reinstatement of their former chief. By the end of the day, nearly all employees at the company had added their names.Negotiations between OpenAI and Altman were restarted and last week the company announced he was set to return as CEO. Altman's return also came with a new board that included lead investor Microsoft.Here's a timeline of everything we know so far:Altman was ousted from OpenAI in a shock board decisionAltman was immediately ousted from OpenAI in a dramatic board decision on Friday. The nonprofit board of the company announced it no longer had "confidence in his ability to continue leading."A timeline provided by fellow OpenAI cofounder Greg Brockman showed that Altman received a text from board member Ilya Sutskever asking to talk at midday Friday.When Altman joined the meeting, the whole board, excluding Brockman, was on the call and he was told by Sutskever he was being fired, per Brockman's post.OpenAI staffers resignedBrockman, the former OpenAI president and cofounder, quit his role at the company shortly after the news broke. He said he was told that he was being removed from the board and that Altman had been fired at about the same time OpenAI published a blog post about the incident.Brockman said he was originally told he was "vital to the company and would retain his role," but decided to part ways with the company shortly after.The tech community was shocked by the decision, and at least three other OpenAI researchers followed the former president in giving up their roles.The OpenAI board was optimistic about getting Altman backInvestors, including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, were reportedly blindsided by the decision to remove Altman.Several investors began pushing the board members to reverse their sudden leadership decision, Bloomberg reported.In an internal memo cited by The Information, OpenAI's chief strategy officer, Jason Kwon, wrote to staff late Saturday night, saying the company remained optimistic that it could bring back Altman and other senior employees who had left.Microsoft chief Nadella reportedly led the high-stakes talks on Altman's return over the weekend.On Sunday, the former OpenAI chief returned to the company's HQ. He posted a picture of himself wearing a guest badge captioned, "First and last time I ever wear one of these."Discussions fell apart and a new CEO was announcedThe Information reported that on Sunday night, Sutskever told OpenAI staffers that Altman would not return, prompting several more employees to quit.Discussions to bring Altman back had reportedly fallen apart, per The Verge. The board then named former Twitch CEO and cofounder Emmett Shear as interim CEO. Shear took over the role from OpenAI's former CTO Mira Murati, who had publicly supported Altman.Altman and Brockman joined MicrosoftIn a dramatic twist, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella scooped up Altman and Brockman to lead "a new advanced AI research team" at Microsoft.In a post on X, Brockman said the new Microsoft team would comprise him, Altman, Aleksander Madry, Szymon Sidor, and Jakub Pachocki. He said the team planned to "build something new" and "incredible."Nadella announced on Monday the company remained "committed to our partnership with OpenAI" and had "confidence in our product roadmap."A key board member said he regretted ousting AltmanOpenAI cofounder and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever said on Monday he deeply regretted his involvement in firing Altman.Many had theorized that Sutskever had a major role in the decision, with reports highlighting the differing priorities between Altman and the nonprofit board."I deeply regret my participation in the board's actions. I never intended to harm OpenAI," Sutskever said in an X post Monday. "I love everything we've built together and I will do everything I can to reunite the company."The chief scientist also added his name to an open letter calling for the board, which he sits on, to resign.Employees staged a revoltMost employees returning to work on Monday were unhappy with the chaos the OpenAI board had kickstarted.Former CTO Mira Murati was installed as interim CEO, following Altman's departure. CEO Emmett Shear, who cofounded Twitch, then took over from her. This meant the company had three CEOs in as many days.The majority of OpenAI staffers just wanted Altman back.By the end of the day, nearly the entire OpenAI staff had threatened to quit and join Altman at Microsoft. They signed a letter calling the board to resign, accusing members of undermining the company.Altman's return rumoured to still be on the cardsDespite publically joining Microsoft that morning, by Monday evening, Altman was reportedly still considering returning to his old post at the AI lab.The Verge reported that Altman and Brockman were considering going back to OpenAI if the board members who ousted Altman stepped down.Multiple sources told the outlet that Altman, along with Brockman and OpenAI's investors, were trying to find a plan for board members to exit the company.Altman and Brockman set to return to OpenAIOn Tuesday night Pacific Standard Time, OpenAI confirmed that Altman was set to return as CEO.The ChatGPT said in a post on X they "reached an agreement in principle" for Altman's return.Shortly after OpenAI broke the news, Altman reflected on his decision to join Microsoft, saying he thought "it was clear that was the best path for me and the team."He continued: "With the new board and w satya's support, i'm looking forward to returning to openai, and building on our strong partnership with msft."Nadella also commented on the move, adding Microsoft was "encouraged by the changes to the OpenAI board."OpenAI also announced a "new initial board" consisting of Bret Taylor, Larry Summers, and Adam D'Angelo. Taylor, a former Salesforce executive, will serve as board chair.Microsoft snags a board seatMicrosoft announced on Wednesday that the company was getting a non-voting board seat.There had been speculation that Satya Nadella would seek more control over OpenAI following the board's failed coup.The CEO was reportedly frustrated by the board's lack of communication during the firing and re-hiring of Altman, later telling journalist Kara Swisher he did not plan to be surprised by the company again.In a message to employees posted on the company's website, re-instated CEO Altman said: "We clearly made the right choice to partner with Microsoft and I'm excited that our new board will include them as a non-voting observer."One board member speaks outFormer OpenAI board member Helen Toner announced her resignation from the company on Wednesday.In a post on X, Toner sought to quell rumors the board was attempting to slow some of OpenAI's work.She said: "To be clear: our decision was about the board's ability to effectively supervise the company, which was our role and responsibility. Though there has been speculation, we were not motivated by a desire to slow down OpenAI's work."Several reports had pointed to a mysterious new OpenAI model known as Q* as a potential trigger for the chaos. The model is said to have sparked concern at the startup.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytNov 30th, 2023

Ilya Sutskever did not attend OpenAI"s party celebrating Sam Altman"s return as CEO

OpenAI's chief scientist and co-founder was a key participant in the recent ouster of CEO Sam Altman. Ilya Sutskever regrets his involvement in ousting Sam AltmanJACK GUEZ/ GettySam Altman returned Tuesday night as OpenAI's CEO.Relieved staff had an impromptu party at the company's San Francisco headquarters. Sutskever was absent.A lawyer for Sutskever told BI: "Ilya wants what is best for the company."Ilya Sutskever was nowhere to be found Tuesday night at the impromptu party OpenAI staff threw to celebrate the return of Sam Altman as CEO.OpenAI's chief scientist, co-founder, and board member who was a key participant in the sudden ouster last week of Altman, did not attend the festivities, according to two people who did. The party itself was first reported by The Information.An OpenAI spokesperson declined to comment. A lawyer representing Sutskever, Alex Weingarten of Willkie Farr & Gallagher, who chairs its litigation practice, told BI: "You shouldn't read anything into the fact that Ilya was not at the party last night.""Ilya wants what is best for the company and has been very clear that what is best is having Sam back as CEO," Weingarten added.Sutskever was directly involved in Altman's abrupt removal as CEO last Friday by OpenAI's board, of which Sutskever was a member. He is the one who told Altman over a Google Meet call that he was being effectively fired. Sutskever then proceeded to address staff on Sunday, when yet another interim CEO was chosen by the board, telling employees for the first time two official explanations for why Altman was forced out at all, as BI reported. It led to an open revolt of employees, nearly all of whom were prepared to quit if Altman did not return.As Altman continued to negotiate a possible return to the company he co-founded, as reported by The Verge and other outlets, Sutskever made his first public statement about the situation. He expressed his "regret" for taking part in what he framed as "the board's actions."With Altman now back leading the company, a new smaller board in place, and additional members imminent, staff are unsure if Sutskever will return at all. He remains respected within OpenAI, despite his actions against Altman. One of the people referred to him as "the galaxy brain" at the company.Another person familiar with both men thinks it is possible Sutskever could return and mend fences, however unlikely."If Sam thinks it's what's ultimately best for the company, that's what will happen," the person said. Greg Brockman, OpenAI's president and another co-founder who quit in solidarity with Altman, is less magnanimous, the person said. Brockman feels "extremely betrayed." But, the person noted, "If he sees the utility, he will get on board."Are you an OpenAI employee or someone with a tip or insight to share? Contact Kali Hays at, on the secure messaging app Signal at 949-280-0267, or through X/Twitter DM at @hayskali. Reach out using a nonwork device.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 22nd, 2023

Sam Altman is set to return as the CEO of OpenAI after he was dramatically fired last week. Here"s a full timeline of the chaos.

Sam Altman's ousting from OpenAI set off a dramatic chain of events, resulting in his eventual return. Here's what we know. Sam Altman got pushed out of OpenAI.Toby Melville/Getty ImagesSam Altman got pushed out as OpenAI CEO last Friday.He was ousted by the company's board, kickstarting days of chaos.On Tuesday, OpenAI announced Altman was coming back. Here's a timeline of the events at OpenAI. Sam Altman is heading back to OpenAI after a chaotic few days.The tech boss was fired in a shock board decision on Friday, kickstarting a chaotic weekend.The move shocked the tech community and OpenAI investors, including Microsoft. Initial reports quickly started circulating that the board was wavering on its controversial decision and actively trying to get Altman back.By Monday, it all appeared to have fallen apart. Former Twitch CEO and cofounder, Emmett Shear, was named interim CEO of the company, and Altman had joined Microsoft.But the chaos was far from over.Most employees who returned to work on Monday were less than impressed with the new company leadership.Staffers staged a revolt in the form of an open letter demanding the board's resignation and the reinstatement of their former chief. By the end of the day, nearly all employees at the company had added their names.Negotiations between the OpenAI and Altman were restarted and by Tuesday night the company had announced he was set to return as CEO.Here's a timeline of everything we know so far:Altman was ousted from OpenAI in a shock board decisionAltman was immediately ousted from OpenAI in a dramatic board decision on Friday. The nonprofit board of the company announced it no longer had "confidence in his ability to continue leading."A timeline provided by fellow OpenAI cofounder Greg Brockman showed that Altman received a text from board member Ilya Sutskever asking to talk at midday Friday.When Altman joined the meeting, the whole board, excluding Brockman, was on the call and he was told by Sutskever he was being fired, per Brockman's post.OpenAI staffers resignedBrockman, the former OpenAI president and cofounder, quit his role at the company shortly after the news broke. He said he was told that he was being removed from the board and that Altman had been fired at about the same time OpenAI published a blog post about the incident.Brockman said he was originally told he was "vital to the company and would retain his role," but decided to part ways with the company shortly after.The tech community was shocked by the decision, and at least three other OpenAI researchers followed the former president in giving up their roles.The OpenAI board was optimistic about getting Altman backInvestors, including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, were reportedly blindsided by the decision to remove Altman.Several investors began pushing the board members to reverse their sudden leadership decision, Bloomberg reported.In an internal memo cited by The Information, OpenAI's chief strategy officer, Jason Kwon, wrote to staff late Saturday night, saying the company remained optimistic that it could bring back Altman and other senior employees who had left.Microsoft chief Nadella reportedly led the high-stakes talks on Altman's return over the weekend.On Sunday, the former OpenAI chief returned to the company's HQ. He posted a picture of himself wearing a guest badge captioned, "First and last time I ever wear one of these."Discussions fell apart and a new CEO was announcedThe Information reported that on Sunday night, Sutskever told OpenAI staffers that Altman would not return, prompting several more employees to quit.Discussions to bring Altman back had reportedly fallen apart, per The Verge. The board then named former Twitch CEO and cofounder Emmett Shear as interim CEO. Shear took over the role from OpenAI's former CTO Mira Murati, who had publicly supported Altman.Altman and Brockman joined MicrosoftIn a dramatic twist, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella scooped up Altman and Brockman to lead "a new advanced AI research team" at Microsoft.In a post on X, Brockman said the new Microsoft team would comprise him, Altman, Aleksander Madry, Szymon Sidor, and Jakub Pachocki. He said the team planned to "build something new" and "incredible."Nadella announced on Monday the company remained "committed to our partnership with OpenAI" and had "confidence in our product roadmap."A key board member said he regretted ousting AltmanOpenAI cofounder and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever said on Monday he deeply regretted his involvement in firing Altman.Many had theorized that Sutskever had a major role in the decision, with reports highlighting the differing priorities between Altman and the nonprofit board."I deeply regret my participation in the board's actions. I never intended to harm OpenAI," Sutskever said in an X post Monday. "I love everything we've built together and I will do everything I can to reunite the company."The chief scientist also added his name to an open letter calling for the board, which he sits on, to resign.Employees staged a revoltMost employees returning to work on Monday were unhappy with the chaos the OpenAI board had kickstarted.Former CTO Mira Murati was installed as interim CEO, following Altman's departure. CEO Emmett Shear, who cofounded Twitch, then took over from her. This meant the company had three CEOs in as many days.The majority of OpenAI staffers just wanted Altman back.By the end of the day, nearly the entire OpenAI staff had threatened to quit and join Altman at Microsoft. They signed a letter calling the board to resign, accusing members of undermining the company.Altman's return might still be on the cardsDespite publically joining Microsoft that morning, by Monday evening, Altman was reportedly still considering returning to his old post at the AI lab.The Verge reported that Altman and Brockman were considering going back to OpenAI if the board members who ousted Altman stepped down.Multiple sources told the outlet that Altman, along with Brockman and OpenAI's investors, were trying to find a plan for board members to exit the company.Altman and Brockman set to return to OpenAIOn Tuesday night Pacific Standard Time, OpenAI confirmed that Altman was set to return as CEO.The ChatGPT said in a post on X they "reached an agreement in principle" for Altman's return.Shortly after OpenAI broke the news, Altman reflected on his decision to join Microsoft, saying he thought "it was clear that was the best path for me and the team."He continued: "With the new board and w satya's support, i'm looking forward to returning to openai, and building on our strong partnership with msft."Nadella also commented on the move, adding Microsoft was "encouraged by the changes to the OpenAI board."OpenAI also announced a "new initial board" consisting of Bret Taylor, Larry Summers, and Adam D'Angelo. Taylor, a former Salesforce executive, will serve as board chair.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 22nd, 2023

The biggest potential loser of the OpenAI fiasco was Satya Nadella. Now he"s outsmarted them all.

Microsoft had no AI backup plan besides OpenAI. By hiring Sam Altman, he's won in every way. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman (L) talking to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella about their partnership at OpenAI's DevDay.Barbara Ortutey/APSatya Nadella was instrumental in the failed talks to bring Sam Altman back to OpenAI.Of all the parties on the losing end of this fiasco, Microsoft was potentially the biggest.But Nadella made a move for the history books by hiring Altman and his loyalists to work directly for Microsoft.By Monday morning, it was official: Sam Altman couldn't be convinced to return to OpenAI. But, in a brilliant strategic move, CEO Satya Nadella instantly found a way out of what would have been a catastrophe for his company, Microsoft.Nadella hired Altman, and the other prominent people who left OpenAI, to work directly for Microsoft "to lead a new advanced AI research team," Nadella wrote on Monday in a post on X.As soon as Altman's ouster from the company he co-founded shocked the tech industry on Friday, VCs were, no doubt, formulating plans to write checks for his next venture, as the memes on X joked.Prominent VC Vinod Khosla said as much on X. "To be clear, Khosla Ventures wants @sama back at @OpenAI but will back him in whatever he does next," he posted.If that next venture was a generative AI startup that competed with OpenAI and had no qualms about pursuing commercial success (a likely choice!), Altman would also have no trouble poaching the brightest minds from OpenAI. His cofounder, Greg Brockman, immediately quit in protest of Altman's removal, as did three senior researchers.More staffers were threatening to resign if Altman wasn't reinstated, the Verge reported. And, on Monday nearly 500 of them are still threatening to quit unless the board resigns and Altman comes back. Over the weekend, as this was unfolding, staffers were sending mysterious heart emoji X posts to Altman, who replied to them with a post on X of his appreciation, "i love the openai team so much."Was he implying he loved them enough to hire them for a new venture that would be swimming in venture cash? As that's how so many startups launch— by hiring people from the last company — I'm going to say yes.All of which means that the biggest potential loser of Altman being fired wasn't Altman. And it wasn't OpenAI employees.It's Microsoft and CEO Satya Nadella."OpenAI is like Mahomes to the Chiefs. Nadella recognizes this and losing Sam is not an option. This OpenAI board is way over its head and the failed coup is now backfiring," investor Dan Ives, an analyst at Webush, told Business Insider on Sunday, before the news of Nadella's hiring coup was announced.Microsoft has invested a reported $10+ billion dollars and owns a sizeable stake — some reports say as much as 49% — in a for-profit unit run by the non-profit OpenAI. (Although Microsoft has never publicly confirmed the size of that stake.)The OpenAI non-profit was run by a six-person governing board who owned no equity and included Altman and Brockman. So a simple majority vote was all it took to fire Altman and install CTO Mira Murati as interim CEO. (Murati also publicly supported Altman with heart emojii X posts, and is already out as interim CEO, replaced by former Twitch CEO and cofounder, Emmett Shear.)OpenAI only gave Microsoft a few minutes advance warning before announcing Altman's ouster, sources told Business Insider. Until Friday, Microsoft's deal with OpenAI was a major coup for Nadella, giving Microsoft deep access to the technology at the center of AI, while preventing its competitors from doing the same.But when the prospect of Altman leaving to form a new AI startup loomed, one that he could certainly easily fill with the people who know the secrets of OpenAI technology, Microsoft looked to in big trouble. Because a startup like that would have likely sought out another cloud investor/partner. Generative AI needs massive, specialized compute power to perform, especially to perform for millions of customers. Google or Amazon would almost certainly try to make Altman a deal he couldn't refuse."The biggest worry is the Altman sweepstakes end up in the Google or Amazon backyard which would be a nightmare for Microsoft," Ives wrote in a research note, before the news of Nadella's coup was announced.The issue wasn't just the money invested, and the gains of that investment, that would be lost for Microsoft.Microsoft has been baking OpenAI technology into pretty much all of its major products, and beating its rivals to market.Earlier this month the company made over 100 announcements of integrations with OpenAI tech across Microsoft's AI tools, AI models, tools in its cloud, the company told Business Insider. It put Copilot — its chat assistant based on GPT — everywhere.But Microsoft has also been making cuts, or outright winding down, various other internal homegrown AI projects to lean into OpenAI tech, sources have told Business Insider.It shut down various "industrial metaverse" projects and laid off staff, as BI previously reported. That homegrown "industrial metaverse" had been a key AI strategy before ChatGPT took off like it did this year.And that meant (and might still mean) that if OpenAI up and implodes, Microsoft doesn't have a fast backup plan.Even as Nadella hires Altman and team, Microsoft still needs OpenAI. On Monday, Nadella reiterated that its commitment to the OpenAI entity, whatever will become of it, stands. "We remain committed to our partnership with OpenAI and have confidence in our product roadmap, our ability to continue to innovate with everything we announced at Microsoft Ignite, and in continuing to support our customers and partners," he wrote.While the 500 employees are still hoping that their mass departure threat might fix the current OpenAI train wreck and bring Altman back, various reports — and just plain common sense — say that Altman won't come back. There might be a small chance if the management structure of OpenAI is altered. But that turned out to be a bigger lift for a weekend negotiation, and possibly longer term, than even Nadella could pull off.In any case, for Microsoft, it doesn't matter now. Nadella just hired the golden goose, while still having nearly exclusive access to the golden eggs it previously laid. OpenAI may, or may not, recover. But Nadella's ambitious to continue to beat its rivals in all things generative AI certainly has.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 20th, 2023

The biggest potential loser of the OpenAI fiasco wasn"t Sam Altman. It was Satya Nadella.

If OpenAI up and implodes, Microsoft no longer has a fast AI tech backup plan. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman (L) talking to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella about their partnership at OpenAI's DevDay.Barbara Ortutey/APMicrosoft is reportedly pressuring OpenAI to bring Sam Altman back.Of all the parties on the losing end if Altman doesn't return, Microsoft is the biggest.On the other hand, if he returns, Microsoft could be even better positioned, Webush's Dan Ives says.If Sam Altman can't be convinced to return to OpenAI, Microsoft is in trouble.As soon as Altman's ouster from the company he co-founded shocked the tech industry on Friday, VCs were, no doubt, formulating plans to write checks for his next venture, as the memes on X joked.Prominent VC Vinod Khosla said as much on X. "To be clear, Khosla Ventures wants @sama back at @OpenAI but will back him in whatever he does next," he posted.Should that next venture be a generative AI startup that competes with OpenAI and has no qualms about pursuing commercial success (a likely choice!), Altman would also have no trouble poaching the brightest minds from OpenAI. His cofounder, Greg Brockman, immediately quit in protest of Altman's removal, as did three senior researchers.More staffers were threatening to resign if Altman wasn't reinstated, the Verge reported. And Altman called to them with a post on X of his appreciation, "i love the openai team so much."Does he love them enough to hire them for a new venture that would be swimming in venture cash? As that's how so many startups launch— by hiring people from the last company — I'm going to say yes.All of which means that the biggest loser if Altman can't be convinced to return isn't Altman. And it isn't OpenAI employees.It's Microsoft and CEO Satya Nadella."OpenAI is like Mahomes to the Chiefs. Nadella recognizes this and losing Sam is not an option. This OpenAI board is way over its head and the failed coup is now backfiring," investor Dan Ives, an analyst at Webush, told Business Insider.Microsoft has invested a reported $10+ billion dollars and owns a sizeable stake — some reports say as much as 49% — in a for-profit unit run by the non-profit OpenAI. (Although Microsoft has never publicly confirmed the size of that stake.)The OpenAI non-profit was run by a six-person governing board who owned no equity and included Altman and Brockman. So a simple majority vote was all it took to fire Altman and install CTO Mira Murati as interim CEO.OpenAI only gave Microsoft a few minutes advance warning before announcing Altman's ouster, sources told Business Insider. The company has, publicly at least, stood by the board's decision. "We have a long-term agreement with OpenAI with full access to everything we need to deliver on our innovation agenda and an exciting product roadmap; and remain committed to our partnership, and to Mira and the team," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a statement.Until Friday, Microsoft's deal with OpenAI was a major coup for Nadella, giving Microsoft deep access to the technology at the center of AI, while preventing its competitors from doing the same.But should Altman refuse to return and instead form a new AI startup, he can certainly easily fill it with the people who know the secrets of OpenAI technology. And he's also likely to seek another cloud investor/partner. Generative AI needs massive, specialized compute power to perform, especially to perform for millions of customers. Google or Amazon would almost certainly try to make Altman a deal he couldn't refuse.It would be much safer for Nadella to pressure OpenAI into getting Altman to come back."The biggest worry is the Altman sweepstakes end up in the Google or Amazon backyard which would be a nightmare for Microsoft," Ives wrote in a research note.But it's not just the money invested, and the gains of that investment, that would be lost for Microsoft.Microsoft has been baking OpenAI technology into pretty much all of its major products, and beating its rivals to market.Earlier this month the company made over 100 announcements of integrations with OpenAI tech across Microsoft's AI tools, AI models, tools in its cloud, the company told Business Insider. It put Copilot — its chat assistant based on GPT — everywhere.But Microsoft has also been making cuts, or outright winding down, various other internal homegrown AI projects to lean into OpenAI tech, sources have told Business Insider.It shut down various "industrial metaverse" projects and laid off staff, as BI previously reported. That homegrown "industrial metaverse" had been a key AI strategy before ChatGPT took off like it did this year.And that means that if OpenAI up and implodes, Microsoft no longer has a fast backup plan.On the other hand, various reports — and just plain common sense — say that Altman won't come back unless the management structure of OpenAI is altered, and the four board members who fired him resign.Should that happen, Microsoft could actually wind up in a better position to influence this all-important company that seems to need badly need the guidance, probably with a board seat."The growing consensus from Silicon Valley and Wall Street is that the days for this four-person board are numbered and Altman will be back at OpenAI and ultimately Microsoft in an even stronger position to control OpenAI's strategic direction," Ives said.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytNov 19th, 2023

Baker Hughes Company Announces Third Quarter 2023 Results

Orders of $8.5 billion for the quarter, up 40% year-over-year. Revenue of $6.6 billion for the quarter, up 24% year-over-year. Net income attributable to Baker Hughes Company of $518 million for the quarter, up $534 million year-over-year. Adjusted net income attributable to Baker Hughes* (a non-GAAP measure) of $427 million for the quarter, up $163 million year-over-year. GAAP diluted earnings per share of $0.51 for the quarter. Adjusted diluted earnings per share* (a non-GAAP measure) was $0.42 for the quarter. Adjusted EBITDA* (a non-GAAP measure) of $983 million for the quarter, up 30% year-over-year. Cash flows generated from operating activities were $811 million for the quarter. Free cash flow* (a non-GAAP measure) for the quarter was $592 million. Baker Hughes' Board of Directors approved a quarterly cash dividend of $0.20 per share of Class A common stock. HOUSTON and LONDON, Oct. 25, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Baker Hughes Company (NASDAQ:BKR) (Baker Hughes or the Company) announced results today for the third quarter of 2023. "We were pleased with our third quarter results and remain optimistic on the outlook. We maintained strong orders performance in both Industrial & Energy Technology (IET) and Oilfield Services & Equipment (OFSE), with large awards coming from Venture Global in Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and Vår Energi in subsea. We also delivered strong operating results at the upper end of our EBITDA* guidance range, booked almost $100 million of new energy orders and generated $592 million of free cash flow*. We continue to see positive momentum across our portfolio despite persisting global economic uncertainty," said Lorenzo Simonelli, Baker Hughes chairman and chief executive officer. "Oil prices have rebounded as the combination of resilient oil demand and production cuts have tightened the market. As a result, the oil market is likely to see inventory draws through the rest of 2023. Continued discipline from the world's largest producers, the pace of oil demand growth in the face of economic uncertainty, and geopolitical risk will be important factors to monitor as we look into 2024." "Outside of the upstream markets, the global LNG market remains fundamentally tight despite recent economic softness. This tightness is evidenced by the recent LNG price spikes that resulted from the current Middle East conflict and strikes by LNG workers in Australia, which temporarily interrupted operations at several LNG facilities. Globally, we expect 2023 LNG demand to approach 410 million tons per annum (MTPA), or up about 2% compared to last year. With estimated global nameplate capacity of 490 MTPA this year, effective utilization is expected to be over 90%, which has historically represented a tight market. As a result, the LNG project pipeline remains strong, both in the U.S. and internationally." "As we enhance our position as a leading energy technology company, we remain excited about the continued growth that we see across both segments. While there is a growing consensus the energy transition will likely take longer and be more complex than many expected, our unique portfolio is set to benefit irrespective of the pace of development. Importantly, we are laying the foundation today for a more durable earnings and free cash flow growth profile, enabling best-in-class returns and structurally increasing shareholder returns. I want to thank our shareholders, our customers, and our employees for their continued support as we continue to take energy forward," concluded Simonelli.   Three Months Ended   Variance (in millions except per share amounts) September 30, 2023 June 30, 2023 September 30, 2022   Sequential Year-over-year Orders $ 8,512 $ 7,474 $ 6,063     14 % 40 % Revenue   6,641   6,315   5,369     5 % 24 % Net income (loss) attributable to Baker Hughes   518   410   (17 )   26 % F   Adjusted net income attributable to Baker Hughes* (non-GAAP)   427   395   264     8 % 62 % Operating income   714   514   269     39 % F   Adjusted operating income* (non-GAAP)   716   631   503     13 % 42 % Adjusted EBITDA* (non-GAAP)   983   907   758     8 % 30 % Diluted earnings per share (EPS)   0.51   0.40   (0.02 )   26 % F   Adjusted diluted EPS* (non-GAAP)   0.42   0.39   0.26     8 % 61 % Cash flow from operating activities   811   858   597     (6 %) 36 % Free cash flow* (non-GAAP)   592   623   417     (5 %) 42 % "F" is used in most instances when variance is above 100%. * Please see reconciliations in the section entitled "Reconciliation of GAAP to non-GAAP Financial Measures." Quarter HighlightsSupporting Our Customers The OFSE business segment secured a significant contract from a sub-Saharan African operator for subsea equipment in its Subsea & Surface Pressure Systems (SSPS) product line offshore Angola. The order for 11 deepwater horizontal trees, four Aptara™ manifolds and SemStar5™ subsea controls expands Baker Hughes' presence in Angola. OFSE also saw continued regional growth in the North Sea with two major multi-year contracts from Vår Energi. The first, a nine-year contract in OFSE's Completions, Intervention & Measurements (CIM) product line, will enhance well intervention and exploration services to further Vår's Norwegian Continental Shelf prospects and seamlessly integrate Baker Hughes' technologies into their operations to assist Vår's carbon reduction efforts. The second, a 15-year contract in OFSE's SSPS product line, will deliver bespoke vertical tree systems selected for the complexities of the Balder Field. During the third quarter, OFSE also booked several major awards from a Middle East operator, including a long-term directional drilling services contract spanning the entirety of the customer's oil and gas rigs both on- and offshore. The contract is one of the largest in the region and demonstrates a range of Baker Hughes' cutting-edge technologies and services capabilities in drilling and delivering vertical and directional wellbores at unprecedented speeds. A second award will use Baker Hughes' coiled tubing drilling technology for an integrated project for natural gas development to support the country's self-reliance aims. The IET business segment's third quarter orders confirmed Baker Hughes' continued strength in the natural gas and LNG growth cycle with several awards for gas technology equipment and services. IET received a major Gas Technology Equipment contract for modularized LNG systems and power island for Venture Global LNG. The contract was awarded under a master equipment supply agreement between Venture Global LNG and Baker Hughes for more than 100 MTPA of production capacity, which was recently expanded from 70 MTPA. The award builds on previous orders for Baker Hughes to provide comprehensive LNG technology solutions for the Calcasieu Pass and Plaquemines LNG projects in Louisiana. The Gas Technology Services product line secured multiple orders to support energy customers across various segments. IET was also awarded a contract by a Latin American customer to train its personnel, and provide technical engineering assistance and service advisory for all its in-service floating production storage and offloading units located in the region. A contract with an LNG customer in the Middle East will see support for capital and insurance spares, and finally, IET secured an upgrades contract with a North American customer to increase LNG trains availability and reliability to maximize production. Also in the third quarter, Baker Hughes was awarded an important Gas Technology Equipment order to provide rotating equipment for the gas refrigeration process of an offshore LNG facility in the Eastern Hemisphere. The order consists of four turbo-compression trains for mix refrigeration services based on aeroderivative gas turbine technology and driving centrifugal compressors. A successful track record with a North American LNG producer earned IET's Condition Monitoring product line a contract to deliver asset health solutions for a major plant expansion. The scope includes Bently Nevada's monitoring and protection systems and System 1 software for 18 LNG trains to deliver data driven insights and help improve the safety, efficiency and reliability of the customer's operations. The contract supports the customer's long-term expansion plans and positions Baker Hughes well for the future as natural gas continues to play a critical role in the energy transition. Executing on Priorities and Leading with Innovation In the third quarter, IET secured important new energy contracts, notably in the carbon capture space. Baker Hughes was awarded a front-end engineering and design (FEED) study by the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) for carbon capture and storage (CCS) at a 700 megawatt (MW) coal-fired electric generating unit. The FEED study will assess chilled ammonia process (CAP), a solvent-based CO2 capture technology, for NPPD's project to capture and store up to 90% of the unit's CO2. Baker Hughes received multiple orders from Air Products to support its hydrogen projects across the globe, adding another milestone in the two companies' partnership inaugurated in 2021. Orders include compressors for projects in Europe manufactured at Baker Hughes' Florence, Italy, facility. IET also secured a third contract with Air Products to provide Control Valves and Consolidated Relief Valves from the Pumps, Valves & Gears product line, for integration into their Louisiana Clean Energy Complex. IET expanded its industrial presence with several contracts in mining, specialty chemicals and renewables. A major mining client awarded the Condition Monitoring product line a multimillion-dollar global agreement for asset strategy consulting services, expanding its scope from seven to 16 sites across three regions. Elsewhere, a specialty chemicals customer awarded a contract to deliver asset strategy software, consulting services and training across seven sites in four countries. Finally, an additional award was granted to deliver Bently Nevada protection and condition monitoring systems for a new alternative fuel refinery in Europe. Also, Condition Monitoring received an order to replace a European customer's existing monitoring systems with Bently Nevada next generation Orbit 60 monitoring and protection technology, continuing to drive growth in digital transformation. A second contract with the same customer was secured to conduct an availability study and equipment criticality assessment for a new renewable fuel complex. These awards build on an existing multi-year agreement with the customer to deploy software, services and training across four plants in Europe. IET's Inspection product line continued to advance the energy transition and support Baker Hughes' industrial growth in the third quarter. IET's Waygate Technologies' advanced computed tomography (CT) solutions for battery inspection reached a milestone within the electric vehicle (EV) sector, with eight of the world's top 10 EV manufacturers now using Waygate technology to ensure safety and productivity, and with over 130 CT systems installed in gigafactories and automotive plants across the globe. OFSE achieved several strategic wins in Production Solutions, supporting a key growth area for the business segment. The business marked 30 years of upstream chemical supply to a large Canadian operator with a contract renewal, recognizing Baker Hughes' strong service delivery. The broadening of the Oilfield & Industrial Chemicals portfolio to add defoamer technology at the site reflects new product revenue for the business. Also in Canada, Baker Hughes was chosen to be the preferred supplier of production chemicals for two customers. MEG Energy extended a multi-year contract, a demonstration of OFSE's product performance and service delivery. Vermillion Energy, advancing digitization of their business, selected Baker Hughes to supply required production chemicals to manage current assets and grow their footprint in northeast British Columbia. Baker Hughes' tank level monitors helped solidify OFSE as Vermilion's chemical vendor of choice. On October 25, 2023, Baker Hughes' Board of Directors approved a quarterly cash dividend of $0.20 per share of Class A common stock payable on November 17, 2023, to holders of record on November 6, 2023. Baker Hughes expects to fund its quarterly cash dividend from cash generated from operations. Consolidated Revenue and Operating Income by Reporting Segment (in millions) Three Months Ended   Variance   September 30, 2023 June 30, 2023 September 30, 2022   Sequential Year-over-year Oilfield Services & Equipment $ 3,951   $ 3,877   $ 3,403     2 % 16 % Industrial & Energy Technology   2,691     2,438     1,967     10 % 37 % Total segment revenue   6,641     6,315     5,369     5 % 24 % Oilfield Services & Equipment   465     417     324     11 % 43 % Industrial & Energy Technology   346     311     282     11 % 23 % Total segment operating income   811     728     606     11 % 34 % Corporate   (95 )   (97 )   (103 )   3 % 8 % Inventory impairment   —     (15 )   —     100 % — % Restructuring, impairment & other   (2 )   (102 )   (235 )   98 % 99 % Operating income   714     514     269     39 % F   Adjusted operating income*   716     631     503     13 % 42 % Depreciation & amortization   267     276     254     (3 %) 5 % Adjusted EBITDA* $ 983   $ 907   $ 758     8 % 30 % *Non-GAAP measure. See reconciliations in the section titled "Reconciliation of GAAP to non-GAAP Financial Measures" later in this document. "F" is used in most instances when variance is above 100%. Revenue for the quarter was $6,641 million, an increase of 5% sequentially and an increase of 24% year-over-year. The increase in revenue was driven by higher volume in both IET and OFSE. The Company's total book-to-bill ratio in the quarter was 1.3; the IET book-to-bill ratio in the quarter was 1.6. Operating income on a GAAP basis for the third quarter of 2023 was $714 million. Operating income increased $200 million sequentially and increased $445 million year-over-year. Total segment operating income was $811 million for the third quarter of 2023, up 11% sequentially and up 34% year-over-year. Adjusted operating income (a non-GAAP measure) for the third quarter of 2023 was $716 million, which excludes adjustments totaling $2 million before tax. A complete list of the adjusting items and associated reconciliation from GAAP has been provided in Table 1a in the section titled "Reconciliation of GAAP to non-GAAP Financial Measures." Adjusted operating income for the third quarter of 2023 was up 13% sequentially and up 42% year-over-year. Depreciation and amortization for the third quarter of 2023 was $267 million. Adjusted EBITDA (a non-GAAP measure) for the third quarter of 2023 was $983 million, which excludes adjustments totaling $2 million before tax. See Table 1b in the section titled "Reconciliation of GAAP to non-GAAP Financial Measures." Adjusted EBITDA for the third quarter was up 8% sequentially and up 30% year-over-year. The sequential increase in adjusted operating income and adjusted EBITDA was driven by higher volume in both segments and price in OFSE, partially offset by negative equipment mix in IET. The year-over-year increase in adjusted operating income and adjusted EBITDA was driven by volume and pricing in both segments and structural cost out initiatives, partially offset by cost inflation in both segments, and higher equipment mix and higher research and development (R&D) spend in IET. Corporate costs were $95 million in the third quarter of 2023, down 3% sequentially and down 8% year-over-year. Other Financial Items Remaining Performance Obligations (RPO) in the third quarter ended at $32.4 billion, an increase of $1.4 billion from the second quarter of 2023. OFSE RPO was $3.6 billion, up 5% sequentially, while IET RPO was $28.8 billion, up 5% sequentially. Within IET RPO, Gas Technology Equipment RPO was $12.8 billion and Gas Technology Services RPO was $13.8 billion. Income tax expense in the third quarter of 2023 was $235 million. Other non-operating income in the third quarter of 2023 was $94 million. Included in other non-operating income were net mark-to-market gains in fair value for certain equity investments of $99 million. GAAP diluted earnings per share was $0.51. Adjusted diluted earnings per share was $0.42. Excluded from adjusted diluted earnings per share were all items listed in Table 1a as well as the "other adjustments (non-operating)" found in Table 1c in the section entitled "Reconciliation of GAAP to non-GAAP Financial Measures." Cash flow from operating activities was $811 million for the third quarter of 2023. Free cash flow (a non-GAAP measure) for the quarter was $592 million. A reconciliation from GAAP has been provided in Table 1d in the section entitled "Reconciliation of GAAP to non-GAAP Financial Measures." Capital expenditures, net of proceeds from disposal of assets, were $219 million for the third quarter of 2023. Capital expenditures, net of proceeds from disposal of assets, were $161 million for OFSE, and $41 million for IET. Results by Reporting Segment The following segment discussions and variance explanations are intended to reflect management's view of the relevant comparisons of financial results on a sequential or year-over-year basis, depending on the business dynamics of the reporting segments. Oilfield Services & Equipment (in millions) Three Months Ended   Variance Segment results September 30, 2023 June 30, 2023 September 30, 2022   Sequential Year-over-year Orders $ 4,178   $ 4,192   $ 3,707     — % 13 % Revenue $ 3,951   $ 3,877   $ 3,403     2 % 16 % Operating income $ 465   $ 417   $ 324     11 % 43 % Operating income margin   11.8 %   10.8 %   9.5 %   1pts   2.2pts   Depreciation & amortization $ 206   $ 219   $ 204     (6 %) 1 % EBITDA* $ 670   $ 636   $ 528     5 % 27 % EBITDA margin*   17.0 %   16.4 %   15.5 %   0.6pts   1.4pts                                 (in millions) Three Months Ended   Variance Revenue by Product Line September 30, 2023 June 30, 2023 September 30, 2022   Sequential Year-over-year Well Construction $ 1,128 $ 1,076 $ 991   5 % 14 % Completions, Intervention & Measurements   1,085   1,090   920   — % 18 % Production Solutions   967   959   931   1 % 4 % Subsea & Surface Pressure Systems   770   752   561   2 % 37 % Total Revenue $ 3,951 $ 3,877 $ 3,403   2 % 16 % (in millions) Three Months Ended.....»»

Category: earningsSource: benzingaOct 25th, 2023

It"s not just you. LinkedIn has gotten really weird.

Divorce, trouble peeing, and stealing hotel food: Why did a job network become everyone's favorite place for oversharing? Is aggressively posting on LinkedIn actually good for your career? That may depend on your prospective employer's LinkedIn persona.Xavier Lalanne-Tauzia for InsiderIt was a hard day for Matthew Sciannella: He was officially getting divorced.After 12 years of marriage and multiple children, he and his wife had drifted apart during the pandemic. In early 2021, they decided to call it quits. As the Washington, DC-area marketing executive grappled with the realities of being suddenly single again, he told his friends, he journaled about it, and he told his family. And then he told LinkedIn."I'm getting a divorce. God it sucks to write that," Sciannella shared with his several thousand professional connections.He explained why he'd decided to publicize his news on the work-focused social network. "This is a human network for me now. A place where I feel most myself. Most at home. And most among my peers," he wrote. "We all build our professional castles here on LinkedIn, but real life shit happens, too."Over the past year, remote work across the world had blurred the lines between work and life. Sciannella's post touched a nerve. It accrued thousands of reactions and hundreds of comments. "Let it out brother," a growth advisor wrote. "Fuck the ROI conversations right now and focus on your family."Then the backlash began. Other commenters started criticizing his decision to share so openly with his colleagues, clients, and potential future employers. And a meme account on Instagram, @BestOfLinkedIn, screenshotted and mocked his post to its tens of thousands of followers. It wrote: "Maybe this wouldn't have happened if you didn't share every detail of your personal life on a professional networking platform?"It was the start of a madcap workplace drama that laid bare an awkward truth: No one really knows what it means to be "professional" anymore.With 950 million members as of July, LinkedIn is poised to soon have a billion users, joining a rarefied three-comma club with the likes of Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. Started in 2003 as little more than an online repository for résumés, the Microsoft-owned behemoth has recently transformed. Not only are there more users to post, but they're posting much more often. The number of LinkedIn posts grew 41% from 2021 to 2023. But it's the content of the posts that's shifted the most, turning LinkedIn into one of the world's strangest social networks.Take one post from Peter Rota, an SEO specialist from Massachusetts. "I have a secret," he wrote to his thousands of followers in August 2022. "Most people are not even aware this is a real thing. Since 2015, I have struggled with peeing in public restrooms." Rota went on to explain that his social-anxiety condition, also known as shy-bladder syndrome, had caused years of discomfort, and even provoked him to miss friends' weddings. He had a blowout trip planned to tour Europe with friends, he wrote, and was seriously considering not going.So why post it? "I had basically seen other people, I guess, share more vulnerable things, so to speak — and I feel like it's kind of just something that I wanted to share," he told me. Over the past couple of years, he'd seen and taken part in a pivot toward personal sharing on LinkedIn, and saw posting about his condition as a way to both confront his demons and help with the condition for others. "I feel like sometimes it just helps other people to know that it's possible to do something," he added.Personal sharing on LinkedIn is booming, people who use the platform say, because of tidal shifts in both social norms and the social-media marketplace.For one, broad cultural attitudes toward the workplace, as well as what's appropriate to share, are evolving. This is partly driven by the coronavirus pandemic: People were suddenly given free rein to be vulnerable and express their fears in front of their colleagues, while remote work simultaneously lowered inhibitions and eroded much of in-office etiquette.Xavier Lalanne-Tauzia for InsiderThere's also a generational shift, with some younger people having fewer hang-ups sharing with their colleagues. Oversharing comes "pretty much down to Gen Z, to be honest with you," said Catalina Valentino, a 21-year-old entrepreneur. She found some notoriety from Davos earlier this year when she posted on LinkedIn about taking off her "swanky new pair of Louboutins" to walk nearly a mile barefoot in the snow to a meeting at the World Economic Forum after her car got stuck. "People were shocked, but to me it seemed normal to stop at nothing," she wrote. "And that's exactly the mindset of an entrepreneur."LinkedIn was also, for a long time, virgin territory for posters. As the platform built out its sharing functionality, it had hundreds of millions of users but without the same culture of posting as Twitter or Instagram. "It was very untapped," Rota says. Some users found that the same post would receive far more engagement on LinkedIn as compared with rival social platforms — making it an attractive place to concentrate their energies.And now it's becoming the only game in town. Facebook has been a wasteland for years. X, as Twitter is now known, is subject to Elon Musk's mercurial whims. TikTok's short-form video is a different form of content. Users have stopped posting on most other platforms. As Sarah Frier wrote in a Bloomberg column in August, "LinkedIn is becoming a site where regular people actually want to hang out and post their thoughts. It might even be cool."In 2018, John Hickey was working in tech sales and sick of the culture of endless self-promotion. He wanted to be a writer, but his days were filled with self-aggrandizing emails. So he decided to have some fun.The millennial in San Francisco started posting the worst-offending "LinkedInfluencers" he found to his personal Twitter page — the shameless humblebrags, the personal anecdotes of dubious veracity, the #HustleCulture koans promoting a questionable approach to work-life balance. They were an instant hit, and the retweets rolled in. So he decided to spin up a dedicated meme page poking fun at the excesses of online professional culture and the Ted Talkification of LinkedIn. He called it @BestOfLinkedIn. "If you worked for me, and you represented my brand this way, you'd be terminated immediately."It quickly racked up tens of thousands of followers on Twitter and Instagram, and people started sending Hickey examples they found from their own networks. He had inadvertently transformed into a warrior on the front lines of the internet's weirdest, lowest-stakes culture war.In one post, he skewered a CEO who talked about being "vulnerable" and shared a crying selfie after laying off employees. In another, he criticized a user who wrote about taking time off after her father died but made sure to keep checking LinkedIn. (He also leaked Peter Rota's bashful urinary tract.) A larger rival account emerged, State Of LinkedIn, and a Reddit community thrived — "LinkedIn Lunatics."When Hickey came across Sciannella's post about his divorce, he thought it was a perfect example of online oversharing. "It was like, 'Oh, my God — he really just put that all out there,'" he recalled thinking. He redacted Sciannella's name, as he always did for the posts he featured, but it made it back to Sciannella anyway.Hickey wasn't ready for what happened next. A couple of days after he posted, an angry email landed in his inbox — from Sciannella's boss. "Do you realize how dangerous it is to troll via LinkedIn posts? In two seconds, I found who you work for, who the partners of your agency are, who your clients are, etc.," he warned ominously. "If you worked for me, and you represented my brand this way, you'd be terminated immediately."The message Hickey received from Sciannella was even more blunt. It sent him an address and challenged him to repeat what he had written to his face.In the surest sign of LinkedIn's hotness, its posts are now the subject of scathing satires. Jack Raines, an MBA student at Columbia Business School, has perfected the art of LinkedIn parodies. After New York announced a $100 incentive to encourage residents to get vaccinated, he posted that he'd earned $100,000 by getting 1,000 jabs in 16 days. "Opportunities like these are rare, but you have to capitalize on them if you want to successfully build wealth," he sagely advised his followers. Some of them inevitably fall for his shtick and believe they're real.Alexander Cohen, a healthtech executive in the San Francisco Bay Area, is another prolific LinkedIn shitposter, whose best work includes an infamous lifehack post about cooking butter-garlic chicken in a hotel coffee machine. ("Although my company allows me to expense dinner while traveling, I wanted to save money because I know that every dollar counts on the P&L," he explained.)Xavier Lalanne-Tauzia for InsiderCohen's and Raines' posts now sometimes play off each other, creating a kind of LinkedIn Cinematic Universe of connected stories. This summer, Raines posted a "new personal finance tip" — sell off the furniture of the Airbnbs you stay in on vacation for free money! — prompting Cohen to post a tongue-in-cheek PSA for Airbnb entrepreneurs about the issue. "The suspected culprit — a woman named Jacqueline Rainey — has secured bookings at my other four properties for the next three months," he lamented.But the irony of Raines is that despite his insincerity, he's just as relentlessly self-promotional as the LinkedIn users he mocks. He consistently hawks the newsletter he works for, Young Money, and has started running sponsored posts for health supplements. He intends to parlay the audience he's built into a content-related finance job once he finishes his MBA. "My way of looking at it is being funny on the internet, and, yeah, it's the same thing as somebody building a YouTube channel: They're trying to get engagement, but if their content's good, is it really engagement-bait?" he said. "No. The ones that I don't like are people trying to act like they're some finance guru — 'Here's how you get rich, escape the 9-to-5' — and then sell you some pyramid scheme-leadership course."He has also faced blowback for his posting. In the fall of 2022, he wrote a satirical post about how he'd found a way to avoid paying for food in New York City: wandering into hotel restaurants and charging the meal to a random room. "Follow me for more personal finance tips," he signed off with.Not long after, he found himself abruptly called into the Columbia dean of students' office. An outraged alum had complained about what they thought was a sincere admission of theft by a student and wanted him punished. Thus proceeded a surreal conversation in which he explained to the dean the ironic bent of his LinkedIn persona and that, no, he wasn't really stealing food from hotels around Manhattan.She ultimately thought it was "funny," he said. (The dean declined to comment.) And he doesn't regret the post: The meeting with the dean was a good networking opportunity.Is aggressively posting on LinkedIn actually good for your career? That may depend on your prospective employer's LinkedIn persona. John Reid is skeptical of LinkedIn self-aggrandizement. A creative director in the Bay Area, he's hired, fired, and managed throughout his career — and views a lot of nominally self-promotional posts as potentially problematic."I think the oversharing in general is definitely at least a pink flag, probably a red flag," he said. "It just shows, to me, misunderstanding how that platform in particular, in social media in general work, and it just shows bad judgment. So I think looking out at people's social footprint or hiring, is there evidence of spectacularly bad judgment?"His feelings on the subject were perhaps hardened by an unusual phone call to his employer, an Oakland marketing firm, in early 2021. At the other end of the line was a man named Jon Franko, and he was furious about one of Reid's subordinates: John Hickey. Speaking with Reid's boss, the outraged Franko asked whether the company knew that Hickey operated a pseudonymous meme account on Twitter and Instagram — and that @BestofLinkedIn had just mocked an employee at Franko's marketing firm: Matthew Sciannella, the divorcé. Franko wanted to see consequences.After a short and surreal conversation, Reid and his boss spoke with Hickey. Hickey had already deleted the post, as he does when he gets blowback. Reid viewed Franko's call as an implicit demand for Hickey to be fired, but that was never going to happen —  because he had actually taken a chance and first hired Hickey for his copywriting job off the strength off the meme account. "He obviously understood how to mold culture through media and social media, " Reid had thought. (Franko said he would not have asked for Hickey to be fired, though he may have called for a disciplinary conversation.)Sciannella was acting hypocritically, Reid believed: He was willing to put himself out there with highly personal posts but couldn't take the heat that came with being in the public eye. "Jump in the snake pit, and you get bit," he said.Franko, meanwhile, thought that the @BestOfLinkedIn post was an unfair and wildly unprofessional jab — and that he had a duty to have his employees' backs. "Frankly, there are a lot of people that use LinkedIn in a really bad way that's super annoying and is a major turnoff," he told me. "'I saw a starving dog today and I saved it, and then it made me think about business.' That shit's annoying, and I get it. I didn't see Matt's posts like that at all."For most people, their LinkedIn posts don't escalate so rapidly. According to Joseph Yeh, a tech recruiter in California who used to work for LinkedIn, revelatory posting is a balancing act. "I think it is important to engage, and at least be relevant and know that you are checking in and that you're commenting and it's a quote-unquote a 'live profile,' right?" he said. "It helps for, A, for people to remember who you are. Two, it also helps for you to understand what the ecosystem is looking at."On the flipside, the wrong content can be off-putting: "On LinkedIn people will still be looking at it going: This is how I want to present myself as a professional to the outside world."Xavier Lalanne-Tauzia for InsiderExactly what is and isn't acceptable on LinkedIn depends on the norms of your industry; tech sales representatives may have very different ideas of professionalism compared with arbitration lawyers. Played right, it can help you stand out and get ahead — as long as you don't push it too far. And opting out of the rat race entirely by not having a LinkedIn account may also be viewed as a red flag, Yeh warned.LinkedIn does not want to be a place where posts go viral. That's the message from Daniel Roth, the site's editor in chief who has been with the company since 2011, after a previous stint as Fortune magazine's managing editor.Over the past year or so, the site's algorithm has been tweaked to prioritize what Roth calls "knowledge" content — posts that will actually help people get ahead in their jobs — rather than self-promotional diatribes.Since the COVID-propelled boom in personal sharing, Roth says, the pendulum has swung back — but not all the way back to how things were before the pandemic. "The new normal is that you do talk in the office, you are more willing to show who you are as a person as well as how you operate as a professional," he said. "That kind of vulnerability I think is a permanent part of how people are posting on LinkedIn. So it's knowledge first, but it's knowledge plus humanity."Hickey and Sciannella's imbroglio may be telling of which way the wind is blowing. Sciannella didn't actually know his boss Franko had called Hickey's employer until days after the fact. He had just flagged the @BestOfLinkedIn post in a company Slack channel, and Franko decided to take matters into his own hands. Nothing more came of Franko's demands, and he subsequently wrote about the episode on LinkedIn: "I simply hope this is a reminder for all of us to play nice on LinkedIn. Because if we don't, we can be seconds away from the unemployment line and burning all of the bridges we've worked so hard to build."Hickey and Sciannella did not, ultimately, fight. Instead, Hickey kept working at the firm for roughly another year before becoming an associate creative director, working with top-tier clients including Salesforce, Jameson, and the New York Mets. Two years on, he rarely checks LinkedIn, now posting to his meme account only about once a month, down from his daily peak a year or so ago. "Those lightning-rod moments on LinkedIn, well, I can't not say something about these," he said. "But kind of going through the daily — 'Let's make fun of this stay-at-home-mom who's putting up on LinkedIn that her 6-year-old told her that she's Superwoman' — it just feels like I'm punching down a little bit at this point." Sciannella, meanwhile, is in a good place. "I was very, very angry at that moment. It was obviously a very turbulent time in my life," he said. "I think I have a little bit more peace of mind about it. And I think foundationally, I'm a lot more happy." He's had a few promotions and job changes. And he's still active on the social network, where he now has about 6,000 followers, sharing updates on his work and career.Earlier in 2023, he remarried. He posted about it on LinkedIn.Rob Price is a senior correspondent for Insider and writes features and investigations about the technology industry. His Signal number is +1 650-636-6268, and his email is the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytSep 25th, 2023

The Incredible Shrinking NATO

The Incredible Shrinking NATO Submitted by Dmitry Orlov, I've been waiting for the hubbub to die down since the NATO conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, on 11-12 July 2023, waiting for someone — anyone — to point out the obvious reason for why the Ukraine's cocaine-sniffing mascot-president Zelensky, having been lionized only a year ago, has suddenly fallen into disfavor with this organization. Yes, the Ukraine might still some day be invited to start the long and arduous process of joining NATO, but only after some undefined number of NATO members decide that it has done enough to comply with "NATO standards" (I'll explain what those are later) and various other vague things. Keeping in mind that back on 20 September 2018 the Ukrainian parliament approved amendments to the constitution that would make the accession of the country to NATO and the EU a central goal and the main foreign policy objective, such a turn of events is most embarrassing for the mascot president and his backers and handlers. Oh, the vicissitudes of fortune! Lots of analysis and commentators offered ready explanations for this turn of events. Yet not a single one of them saw it fit to dig just the tiniest bit and discover the glaringly obvious reason for this momentous shift. Perhaps all of them, for a variety of reasons, loathe to admit the reality of what NATO is, what it does, and why the Ukraine is suddenly a threat rather than a boon to its core mission. You may want to read all of that commentary at your leisure — if you have trouble falling asleep. The official NATO Summit Communiqué, fantastically verbose and filled with irrelevancies, makes for particularly somniferous reading. So, what did the Ukraine do to fall into such disfavor? Perhaps it did something that jeopardized NATO's core mission? That seems like a good guess. But then what is NATO's core mission? In the movie "Silence of the Lambs," Hannibal Lecter refers to a quote by Marcus Aurelius when he says to Clarice Starling, "First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask: what is it in itself? What is its nature?" The quote is from Book Three of "Meditations" by Marcus Aurelius, and it emphasizes the importance of understanding the essence of things. NATO was formed on 4 April 1949 with the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty, more popularly known as the Washington Treaty, supposedly for the purpose of thwarting the Soviet Union in Europe. The USSR responded by forming the Warsaw Treaty Organization (also known as the Warsaw Pact) — a political and military alliance established on May 14, 1955 between the Soviet Union and several Eastern European countries for the express purpose of defending them from NATO. The Warsaw Pact was dissolved on 1 July 1991 and, shortly thereafter, on 26 December 1991, the USSR itself followed suit, but NATO continues to exist. By this point, the Warsaw Pact had existed for slightly less than NATO has existed, and the USSR had existed for only slightly more than that. Clearly, the communist threat as a rationale for NATO's existence was but a ruse, a smokescreen... a red herring. So, what was NATO's real purpose? There are many ways to answer this question, but the Ukraine's sudden fall from grace offers what is perhaps the most graphic explanation. Was it that the war there was dragging on? No, a slow burn would be exactly what the Pentagon ordered, so that it would have a chance to keep up with Russia's hectic pace of weapons and ammunition deliveries. Was it that the Ukraine was losing the war? No, the Ukraine wasn't losing; it just wasn't winning. In particular, its attacks on Russia's defensive lines, which the Russian troops termed "meat attacks" because of the huge and useless losses they incurred on the Ukrainian side, seemed rather futile. Was it that the Ukraine was about to be defeated? Again, no, the Russians were happy to advance a few kilometers here and there, with their main objective the establishment of a buffer zone wide enough so that Ukrainian artillery would stop shelling what are now Russian civilian districts. Was it that NATO ran out of weapons and ammo to give to the Ukrainians? Again, no, there is still quite a lot of semi-obsolete junk that could be handed over to the Ukrainians. So, what did the Ukrainians do to raise the ire of the Pentagon so suddenly, and as a direct consequence, fall into disfavor with NATO? In short, the Ukrainians demonstrated that NATO's weapons are crap. Evidence of this built up slowly over time. First, it turned out that various bits of US-made shoulder-fired junk — anti-aircraft Stingers, anti-tank Javelins, etc — are rather worse than useless in modern combat. Next, it turned out that the M777 howitzer and the HIMARS rocket complex are rather fragile and aren't field-maintainable. The next wonder-weapon thrown at the Ukrainian problem was the Patriot missile battery. It was deployed near Kiev and the Russians quickly made a joke of it. They attacked it with their super-cheap Geranium 5 "flying moped" drones, causing it to turn on its active radar, thereby unmasking its position, and then fire off its entire load of rockets — a million dollars' worth! — after which point it just sat there, unmasked and defenseless, and was taken out by a single Russian precision rocket strike. This was sure to have seriously pissed off US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, whose major personal cash cow happens to be Raytheon, the maker of the Patriot. Yes, the Patriot proved useless using the First Gulf War, where it failed to protect Israel against ancient Iraqi Scud missiles; and it proved useless later on when it failed to protect Saudi oil installation against ancient Yemeni Scud missiles... but you aren't supposed to advertise that fact. And now this! And to top it all off, the German-donated Leopard 2 tanks and the US-donated Bradley infantry vehicles, not to mention the silly French wheeled non-tanks, performed absolutely miserably during the recent Ukrainian efforts to approach, never mind penetrate, Russia's first line of defense. Rubbing salt into the wounds, Putin remarked off-the-cuff that Western armor burns rather more easily than the old Soviet-made stuff. The latest desperate move would be to give the Ukrainian air force (which, by the way, no longer exists) some older F-16 fighter jets. These can be anywhere up to 50 years old and are peculiar in having an air intake that's very close to the ground, making them very effective as runway vacuum cleaners during takeoff. They cannot operate from the dirty and pitted runways that are typical in the Ukraine because the debris would get sucked into the engine and destroy it. If the Ukrainians attempt to pave new runways for them, the Russians would instantly spot this from the geosynchronous satellite that is permanently pointed at Ukrainian territory. Rather than put some fresh bomb craters on these new runways, they could do something more subtle: use one of their super-cheap Geranium 2's to spread metal shaving for the F-16's engines to vacuum up... and burn up in flight. And since these are single-engine planes, there is no possibility of limping home on the remaining engine: the pilot would have to catapult and the plane would crash. But there is an even more important reason why the idea of giving F-16's for the Ukraine is unworkable: these planes are able to carry nuclear bombs and Russia has already announced that it would see this step as a nuclear escalation. But provoking a nuclear conflict with Russia is verboten, so F-16's are a no-go. Why is the failure of relentlessly propagandized Western weaponry more important than just about anything else, including the increasingly dire state of Western finances, the ridiculous failure of anti-Russian sanctions, the obscenely huge numbers of Ukrainian casualties or the general Western fatigue with all things Ukrainian and especially with the flood of Ukrainian refugees that the West can no longer cope with? The reason is simple: NATO is not a defensive organization (remember, USSR has been gone for over 30 years); nor is it an offensive organization (well, it did bomb Serbia and a few other relatively defenseless countries, but it can't possibly think about facing off against Russia or any other well-armed nation). Rather, NATO is a captive buyers' club for US-made weapons. That is what vaunted NATO standards, with which the Ukraine must comply before it is deemed worthy to be invited to join NATO, are all about: to comply with these standards, your weapons have to be mostly US-made. That is also the reason for all of the various wars of choice, from Serbia to Iraq to Afghanistan to Libya and Syria: these were demonstration projects for US weapons, with the additional goal of using up the weapons and the munitions so that the Pentagon and the rest of NATO would have to reorder them. The geopolitical rationales for these military conflicts are mere rationalizations. For instance, between 1964 and 1973, the U.S. dropped more than 2.5 million tons of bombs on Laos during 580,000 bombing sorties—equal to a planeload of bombs every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine years. What was the geopolitical rationale? Nobody can even remember if there ever was one. But those bombs were about to expire and needed to be used up and reordered to keep the money flowing. In response to such strange inducements, US-made weapons tend to be overly complex (so that their makers can charge more for the useless extra features) and rather fragile (never tested against a peer adversary like Russia or China, or even against Iran), developed slowly (to clean up on R&D funding), built slowly (because what's the rush?) and very high-maintenance (so that US defense contractors can get even richer delivering spare parts and service). These weapons were supposed to be tested every so gently by giving hell to backward tribesmen armed with old Kalashnikovs and RPGs. Ukraine is a different story altogether. There, the Ukrainians, with their mismatched hand-me-down Western armor, are being asked to penetrate three lines of hardened Russian defenses. After about a month of effort and staggering losses of men and equipment, they haven't yet been able to reach the first defensive line. The sight of Western armor ablaze does not make good advertising. Consequently, the US defense contractors must be very eager to stop this steady stream of negative advertising for their products to stop right this second — before their reputations end up completely ruined; hence the unseemly haste with which the entire Ukrainian project is being orphaned. The alternative to active warfare, now that that's failed, is what in the West is usually called "negotiation" but in reality would involve acceding to Russian demands made in November of 2021 (which include NATO rolling back its weapons to where they were in 1997), plus more recent requirements, such as denazification, demilitarization and neutrality for what remains of the Ukraine, recognition of Russia's new borders (which include Crimea, Kherson, Zaporozhye, Donetsk and Lugansk regions) and prosecution for all of the Ukrainian war criminals, including all the ones that have been torturing prisoners of war and shelling civilians since 2014. Oh, and the lifting of all the insipid sanctions would be required as well. But this is rather a lot to take in at a single sitting, and so NATO has decided to take lots of bite-sized pieces. The official NATO document linked above is maximally verbose and full of fluff, but a close reading of its turgid bureaucratese will reveal quite a number of concessions, or at least hints at concessions: "We will be in a position to extend an invitation to Ukraine to join the Alliance when Allies agree and conditions are met." To use a vernacular Russian saying, this will happen "when a crawfish up on a mountain whistles" — i.e., never. That is, the Ukraine will never become part of NATO. "The circumstances in which NATO might have to use nuclear weapons are extremely remote." Translation: We're standing down! Please don't kill us! Apparently, NATO heads have been briefed on the capabilities of Russia's new strategic weapons, both offensive and defensive, and don't want to even consider any sort of direct military confrontation with Russia. "We urge all countries not to provide any kind of assistance to Russia’s aggression..." Translation: we wish they would stop, although we've asked enough times already and they haven't listened and so we aren't holding out much hope that they will listen now. "The deepening strategic partnership between the PRC and Russia and their mutually reinforcing attempts to undercut the rules-based international order run counter to our values and interests." But the deepening strategic partnership is entirely congruent with both Russia's and China's values and interests and they aren't about to ask anyone for permission. Yammering on about the "rules-based international order," even though it no longer exists, is a bit pathetic, but what else is there left for them to do? Boo-hoo! "Russia’s deepening military integration with Belarus, including the deployment of advanced Russian military capabilities and military personnel in Belarus, has implications for regional stability and the defence of the Alliance." Well, that's exactly what that military integration was designed to accomplish and it's good that they've noticed. The implication is that NATO will never mess with Belarus again. "We remain willing to keep open channels of communication with Moscow to manage and mitigate risks, prevent escalation, and increase transparency." That's welcome news indeed! Phone the Kremlin any time you want to hear a recitation of Russia's security demands, to refresh your memory. "The People’s Republic of China’s stated ambitions and coercive policies challenge our interests, security and values." And NATO's interests and values challenge the PRC and its security, so we're at an impasse. In other news, Russia just passed a law banning all sex change operations; how does that comply with "Western values"? Come on, shake your tiny fists in impotent rage! "NATO does not seek confrontation and poses no threat to Russia.  In light of its hostile policies and actions, we cannot consider Russia to be our partner." And in light of NATO's hostile policies and actions, Russia considers NATO countries to be hostile nations (and certainly not partners). How does giving weapons to Ukrainian Nazis not pose a threat to Russia? "We reiterate our clear determination that Iran must never develop a nuclear weapon.  We remain deeply concerned about Iran’s escalation of its nuclear programme." So, Iran is the only country that toothless old NATO can still find the courage to bark at. That seems safe, since by now Iran can't even hear them. And that's where it stands. Europe looks in horror at the US, which is still its weapons purveyor and security guarantor, but is headed by a barely functioning senile old man whose furious outbursts are causing his cabinet members to shy away from the Oval Office, and whose only possible replacement — the imbecilic, cackling Kamala — would hardly be any better. It may be slowly dawning on some of the more lucid European leaders that a way of backing out of the Russophobic cul-de-sac, of their own creation, in which they now find themselves, must somehow be found, but they see no way of achieving that without a massive loss of face. Let's give it another year and see whether by then they still have a face to save. Tyler Durden Sun, 07/16/2023 - 07:00.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytJul 16th, 2023

Tech workers feel jilted and betrayed by how firms like Meta and Google handled layoffs. HR professionals say the issue isn"t malice, it"s just poor planning.

Why did the recent round of layoffs in tech seem especially brutal? Consultants said it's a mix of a well-planned strategy and simple oversight. Former employees of companies like Google and Meta say they were treated poorly in the layoff process. HR pros say it wasn't out of malice, but rather logistical challenges.andresr/Getty Images Laid off tech workers feel like they were treated poorly by their ex-employers after years of loyalty. Ex-Googlers and Meta employees say they were laid off while on maternity leave or suddenly got locked out of systems. HR consultants told Insider that many companies are ill-prepared for the logistics of mass layoffs. Why do the recent round of layoffs in tech seem especially brutal?In March, a group of over 1,400 Googlers petitioned CEO Sundar Pichai to show workers respect and to not "Be Evil" as the company cuts its workforce by 12,000. The outcry came after a number of former employees publicly shared how they felt the company handled their dismissals in a distinctly un-Google-y way. Some discovered they were laid off while on parental leave. Current employees said they learned colleagues were let go when emails to them bounced back.Then there's the matter of severance packages: some ex-employees begged the company to honor their approved parental leave or paid-time off, while others lamented the miscalculations of their stock options. These unfortunate situations are part of a growing chorus of laid-off tech workers across the industry who feel they're being given the cold-shoulder by their once-beloved employer. When Meta started its first round of mass layoffs in November, some employees realized their fate when they couldn't log back into their laptops while working from home. One laid-off Meta employee described the experience as "cold" and "impersonal."After years of pampering — some would say spoiling — their employees, why is it that the layoffs have been handled in such an impersonal way that leaves workers feeling alienated? Insider spoke with three human resources consultants about the way companies perform layoffs. Consultants said some of what we saw in the layoffs is part of a well-planned strategy, while the rest is likely an oversight. And in the case of Google and Meta, who have never done mass layoffs before, some of it can be chalked up to inexperience."There are a volume of people that need to be communicated with about the company's decision. And most companies are ill-prepared to deal with the logistics around that," said David Lewis, CEO of OperationsInc, a human-resources consulting company.No plan is flawlessCompanies usually plan weeks or months in advance of any layoff announcements.Once the finance department determines that steep cost cutting measures are in order, leadership meets with HR, legal, and consulting teams to devise a plan of action. They'll try a hiring freeze and limit travel, among other relatively easy money-saving measures. But when that doesn't work, they'll try the quickest route: reduce the workforce, said Jaime Klein, CEO of Inspire Human Resources.Companies then mull over who to let go. "Last one hired, first one fired" is a common phrase, but consultants told Insider that it's never that simple. Many of the recent layoffs included people who had been with their companies for years. It could be that the employee had the highest salary in a role, making them more expensive than others. Or maybe the role was going to eventually be phased out and the company chose to start the process with the layoffs. Whatever the reason, only the people behind the layoffs know the full story.Despite all the planning that goes into the big announcement, there's still hiccups. Klein said sometimes the layoffs get rushed because of the urgency of needing to cut costs. According to Lewis, no matter the method tried, there's going to be flaws – even when you call in the pros."You've seen companies gather groups together. That seems impersonal and cold and demeaning and undignified. You've seen companies do so through companies like me, total strangers in this equation. And that stands out like a sore thumb, as well," he said.Lewis also said that companies often forget about the people on vacation or those who called in sick and may not have a plan in place to get the message out to them. It may seem nefarious, but it's usually a genuine oversight.There's no warm and caring way to protect company data Nobody likes being escorted out of their workplace, told they can't return to their workstation to collect their things, or suddenly locked out of their laptop. But experts say that the few incidents where things went horribly wrong during layoffs have ruined it for everyone. "No one's gonna take this news lightly. Some people react very impulsively and may start sending out emails that are inappropriate, might destroy certain pieces of work," said Lauren Winan, CEO and principal HR consultant at Next Level Benefits.Winan describes a client who waited 24 hours to shut off access so their employees could say their farewells and help with the transition of their work to another colleague or team. More than a few employees took advantage of the time to send emails with expletives, or destroy files out of spite.Lewis recalled a client who told him it was rude to deny employees the right to go back to their desk to gather their own belongings. So, she allotted a few hours for workers to do just that. A few days later Lewis and his team learned from the IT records that an employee downloaded a full client list from the company and had started to reach out to the clientele.But, along with protecting the company, there's an interest in protecting the laid off employees, too."You don't want them to end up in a situation where they do something they regret, because it might follow them around in their career for a while," Winan said.These possible explanations don't speak to every layoff. There's always exceptions. But for the majority of layoffs, companies try to choose the lesser of all possible evils, which have the least chance of creating liability for all parties involved, Lewis told Insider.Yet, even in that, everyone must remember, as Klein pointed out, "we're all gonna bump into each other again in life, in our careers. And people remember who treated them with respect or not."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytMar 25th, 2023

Elon Musk reportedly fired a Twitter engineer on the spot after the worker told him his popularity was sinking on the site

The billionaire had previously assigned workers to look into whether his reach on Twitter had dropped due to a potential issue with the algorithm. Elon Musk fired a Twitter employee who showed him data that his account had become less popular on the site, Platformer reported on Thursday.David Odisho/Getty Images; Gotham/Getty Images Elon Musk fired a Twitter engineer who showed him his popularity was declining, Platformer reports. Musk had given engineers the assignment to see why his tweets were getting less views, the publication said. Elon Musk has fired thousands of Twitter employees since taking the company private in October. Elon Musk fired a top Twitter engineer who told him he was declining in popularity on the site, according to a recent report from the tech newsletter Platformer.Musk met with several Twitter engineers on Tuesday to discuss his view count on Twitter, which had been on a downward spiral in recent months, Platformer reported. The billionaire had previously assigned workers to look into whether his reach on the platform had been restricted due to a potential issue with Twitter's algorithm, according to the report."This is ridiculous," Musk told the employees, Platformer said, citing multiple sources with direct knowledge of the meeting. "I have more than 100 million followers, and I'm only getting tens of thousands of impressions."The employees showed Musk internal data and a Google Trends chart that indicated public interest in the billionaire was waning, Platformer reported. Google Trends data shows his popularity peaked at a score of 100 in April — around the time he offered to buy Twitter — and has since dropped to a 9.Interest in Elon Musk over time on Google Trends.Google TrendsWhen one of the engineers said Musk's popularity might be declining due to a lack of public interest since his Twitter purchase, Musk told the employee he was fired, according to Platformer. The billionaire also told some employees to track how often his tweets are recommended on the site as he was unconvinced by the meeting that his view count had not been impacted by an internal issue, the publication said.Musk and a spokesperson for Twitter did not respond to a request for comment from Insider ahead of publication.Last week, the billionaire temporarily set his Twitter profile to Private to test whether it could increase the view count on his tweets. The social media first added a public view count to users' tweets in December.On Wednesday, Twitter suffered an outage that left several users unable to send tweets or direct messages after the company attempted to roll out several new features. Insider's Kali Hays previously reported that the social media site could face some hiccups in the coming months after the company laid off thousands of employees.It's not the first time that Musk has fired an employee on the spot. Only a few weeks after taking Twitter private, Musk fired three Twitter employees that criticized him on social media.Read Platformer's full story on the newsletter's website.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytFeb 9th, 2023

Vertiv & The E&I Acquisition: Lies, Damn Lies And Offshore Cash

“Vertiv Holdings Co (NYSE:VRT) is laser-focused on executing well, ensuring we are well positioned to benefit when supply chain conditions improve. Together with E&I, the future of Vertiv has never been brighter and we are excited about the potential value creation opportunities for our shareholders in both the near- and long-term.”- Rob Johnson, CEO “…our […] “Vertiv Holdings Co (NYSE:VRT) is laser-focused on executing well, ensuring we are well positioned to benefit when supply chain conditions improve. Together with E&I, the future of Vertiv has never been brighter and we are excited about the potential value creation opportunities for our shareholders in both the near- and long-term.”- Rob Johnson, CEO “…our team has thoughtfully followed acquisition best practices during the process of identification, valuation, due diligence and integration planning. E&I represents a unique opportunity for Vertiv and it fits well in the Vertiv portfolio. I am excited about the potential of these two great businesses coming together as one,” – Dave Cote, Executive Chairman .first{clear:both;margin-left:0}.one-third{width:31.034482758621%;float:left;margin-left:3.448275862069%}.two-thirds{width:65.51724137931%;float:left}form.ebook-styles .af-element input{border:0;border-radius:0;padding:8px}form.ebook-styles .af-element{width:220px;float:left}form.ebook-styles .af-element.buttonContainer{width:115px;float:left;margin-left: 6px;}form.ebook-styles .af-element.buttonContainer input.submit{width:115px;padding:10px 6px 8px;text-transform:uppercase;border-radius:0;border:0;font-size:15px}form.ebook-styles input.submit{width:115px}form.ebook-styles .af-element.privacyPolicy{width:100%;font-size:12px;margin:10px auto 0}form.ebook-styles .af-element.privacyPolicy p{font-size:11px;margin-bottom:0}form.ebook-styles .af-body input.text{height:40px;padding:2px 10px !important} form.ebook-styles .error, form.ebook-styles #error { color:#d00; } form.ebook-styles .formfields h1, form.ebook-styles .formfields #mg-logo, form.ebook-styles .formfields #mg-footer { display: none; } form.ebook-styles .formfields { font-size: 12px; } form.ebook-styles .formfields p { margin: 4px 0; } Get The Full Ray Dalio Series in PDF Get the entire 10-part series on Ray Dalio in PDF. Save it to your desktop, read it on your tablet, or email to your colleagues (function($) {window.fnames = new Array(); window.ftypes = new Array();fnames[0]='EMAIL';ftypes[0]='email';}(jQuery));var $mcj = jQuery.noConflict(true); Q3 2022 hedge fund letters, conferences and more   Rating UNDERPERFORM Price (5-December-22): $14.35 Target price: $2.00 52-week price range: $7.76 – $27.97 Market capitalization: $5.41 B Enterprise value: $8.36 B Legal Disclaimer After extensive research, we have taken a short position in shares of Vertiv Holdings Co. (NYSE:VRT). This report represents the summation of our opinions. In no way should this report be taken as investment advice or constitute responsibility for investment gains or losses. The information in this report should not be relied upon for investment decisions. All investors must conduct their own due diligence and consult their own investment advisors in making trading decisions. Investors seeking investment guidance on VRT should consult resources with professionals licensed to provide investment advice. The investment banks Cowen & Co., Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan are all listed as having securities analysts that cover VRT. These institutions have significantly greater resources than Dalrymple Finance and the banks’ opinions may differ greatly from ours. We strongly encourage investors to consult these professionals for advice. This is not a solicitation to transact in any of the securities mentioned. The data herein has been obtained from public sources we believe to be reliable. However, the information is presented on an ‘as is’ basis and we make no warranty of any kind as to the accuracy, timeliness and/or completeness of any material contained in this opinion piece Table of Contents Summary Déjà vu: E&I Collapse & Aggressive Guidance – Management again misleads investors and faces “unexpected” business collapse VRT Modus Operandi: Guide High, Ride Stock, Miss Big The Irish Entities Show Collapsed Profitability How Much Was Known Excessive Valuation – VRT paid at least double the industry multiples for E&I Extremely High 30x EBITDA Multiple No Fairness Opinion or Financial Statement Disclosures Hiding Problems at the Underlying Business Accounting & Legal Issues Offshore Cash History of Guidance and Accounting Issues Déjà vu: Another Lawsuit Questionable Practices The Real Competitive Advantage Evidence from South Carolina, Ireland and the UAE A Déjà vu Conclusion Summary VRT often come with a strong sense of déjà vu, where enthusiasm forecasts of fine performance end in disappointment and poor actual results. Unfortunately, the E&I transaction fits the pattern. On September 8, 2021, Vertiv announced its intention to acquire E&I Engineering Group, an Ireland-based PDU and busway manufacturer serving data center customers. The company has production bases in Ireland, the United Arab Emirates (since 2007) and South Carolina, US (since 2014). Total consideration was $1.77B of which $1.16B cash and $600M in shares of the company. On October 27, VRT raised $850M 4.25% 144A notes to fund the transaction, which closed promptly on November 1, 2021. The incoming “change agent” CEO for VRT Mr. Giordano Albertazzi was head of the company’s EMEA region between 2016 and March 2022. He was likely directly responsible for the segment and due diligence of the major acquisition. Knowingly presenting unrealistic financial targets The consideration of $1.8B is 30X the actual 2021/2022 EBITDA and more than double the industry standard multiple. Equally aggressive were the financial targets in the company’s transaction presentation. The table below shows them along with the actual results achieved by E&I since the acquisition: After the transaction close in November 2021 the first reported actual results on Feb 23, 2022 were far below expectations. VRT reported negative operating income from E&I in the quarter and only $7M of EBITDA. The annualized proforma disclosures in the 10K provide EBITDA of $54M for the year, a staggering 55% miss off the management’s presentation. Given performance at the underlying businesses, management must have known expectations put forth were unobtainable. The Irish entities show clear collapse in profitability before the time of purchase Publicly available financial statements of the Irish subsidiaries show EBITDA margins collapsing. Audited financial statements show sales declined by -31% and -6% in 2021 at the two main businesses, while EBITDA was off by staggering –63% and -79% even after adjusting it for substantial acquisition costs. None of the statements or historical audited performance was disclosed by management. Further, VRT’s own 2022 FY guidance is a -56% and -23% negative variance on EBITDA and Sales of E&I from original presentation a little over a year ago. VRT overpaid by $1B for E&I and sent the cash offshore Over 99% of the $1.8B purchase price is allocated to goodwill and intangibles warranting a critical audit note making it is unclear why VRT paid roughly 2x the industry EBITDA and Sales multiples for the collapsing E&I business. There was no fairness opinion disclosed, and the E&I numbers were excluded from the VRT 2021 audit and most of the cash was sent to a Cyprus entity controlled by Philip O’Doherty, formerly CEO of E&I and now a VRT employee. The YTD 22 numbers show that VRT needed a European boost to obfuscate some problems in the segment amid booming industry conditions. A lawsuit by SAI alleges theft of intellectual property and customers by E&I According to the lawsuit, E&I won three bids SAI had expected from large customers. The initial revenue was $18.7M with $20-30M of follow-on for a total of $38.7M-$48.7M. We estimate that the $18.7M of revenue associated with the three accounts cited by SAI accounted for ~20% of E&I US sales in 2020. SAI sent E&I a letter demanding E&I cease (1) interfering with the non-compete agreements; (2) interfering with SAI’s economic opportunities; (3) exploiting SAI’s trade secrets to infringe on SAI’s customer relationships. We contacted SAI, but management declined to comment on the ongoing matter. The cheap labor competitive advantage raises serious ESG issues From allegations of seizing passports in the UAE to an interview with a former South Carolina employee who stated: “Because recruitment and retention were such an issue, even when the felons with sexual convictions were hired, when they repeated these behaviors to others in the workplace they were not fired, they were moved to another area where they had the opportunity to repeat offenses to others. E&I clearly has some HR issues to straighten out. It makes one wonder where some of that extra $1B went to from the Cyprus account. Déjà vu: E&I Collapse & Aggressive Guidance – Management Again Misleads Investors And Faces “Unexpected” Business Collapse Throughout 2021, VRT management assured shareholders higher margins and profitability would arrive by the end of the year. They didn’t. Rather, 4Q21 became known as the ‘big miss’ where promises and guidance were held until the final moment before reported results led to a collapse. Thus far, 2022 has been similar with the bullish early forecasts fading as actual results bring reality to the fore. The same pattern is evident with the E&I transaction. VRT Modus Operandi: Guide High, Ride Stock, Miss Big E&I has followed the data center industry power distribution architecture evolution by adding busway products with better margins (20%+) to the traditional power distribution units (10-15%). It also operates a sheet metal division which provides material to the powerbar and switchgrear manufacturing. The company was presented to investors as a high-margin, growth business, as is evident in what little management disclosed about the operating history and expectations, which is shown below. E&I was purchased as a 33% EBITDA margin business in 2020 with $480M in sales, projected to come down on both the revenue and profitability lines to $460M in sales and $120M in EBITDA in 2021 and then stage strong growth to deliver $570M in sales and $150M in EBITDA in 2022, starting short four months away from the time of presentation. The actual quarterly performance of the business is presented in the table below. Q4 2021 brought only $7M of EBITDA for a total of $54M for 2021 compared to the $120M target presented by management three months beforehand. Sales targets were off by 15% as well. Given the magnitude of VRT’s overall miss and the granularity of analysis needed to confirm these facts, we believe investors were unaware of it. The ambitious 2022 guidance is not fairing any better YTD. The initial $570M in projected sales are now guided down to $437M with $317M realized through Q3. More importantly, the 26% projected EBITDA margin, which was touted as a big reason for the “accretive” transaction, is only 14% and $150M of initial projected EBITDA is now expected to come in at $67M with only $45M realized YTD. These numbers represent a -56% and -23% negative variance on EBITDA and sales of E&I from original presentation a little over a year ago. The Irish Entities Show Collapsed Profitability The E&I transaction involved the purchase of two separate entities: 1) E&I Engineering Ireland which includes five entities, two US production and sales and three domiciled in Ireland, the most important of which are E&I Engineering Ltd and Powerbar Ltd and 2) Powergulf LLC, the UAE entity involved in production and sales in the Middle East. The consideration was split 84% to 16% between them. While we had no access to the UAE company statements, the Irish filings are a matter of public record. We have summarized them in the table below. The operating companies show demonstrable deterioration of performance off the 2020 highs and peak profitability. Powerbar’s sales declined over 30% in 2021 and EBITDA slipped by 63%. We believe powerbar to be the most profitable business within the E&I Group. E&I Engineering’s sales were relatively stable YoY 2020/2021 but EBITDA margins collapsed to 4% even after we adjusted for ₤12M of acquisition costs booked in 2021 (we similarly adjusted Powerbar for ₤6M of acquisition costs). Absent the adjustment the E&I Engineering business booked a loss for the year. Both entities collected a lot of cash in 2021, which was upstreamed as a ₤100M dividend as AR were settled and prepayments decreased signaling weakening order flow. All these developments should have been clearly visible to anyone conducting due diligence on the business. The consolidating entity E&I Engineering Ireland has transitioned to holding company accounting in 2021 following the change in control. However, there is enough historical information to draw similarly informed conclusions on the direction of the business. The summary financials we constructed are presented below. We have translated them to USD for ease of comparison. Overall sales of the group ex the UAE business declined by 17% while the EBITDA margin plunged from 31% to 12%. The statements also highlight the abnormal 2020 profitability with margins in the 22%-25% range in the preceding five years. Also of note is the apparent loss of 200 employees from 2019 to 2020 signaling either temping solutions to boost profitability or expected order flow declines. We have also constructed financial statements of the consolidated group including Powerbar Gulf, the UAE entity, using historical data and publicly available information in the table below. While the numbers have an element of estimate, they do conform to the publicly disclosed financial performance of the business. Again, there is a clear collapse in the performance of the combined entities with EBITDA margin halving YoY. Given the exceptional nature of the FY 2020 margin of 33% a return to the historical norm would have been likely. However, profitability appears to have been pulled forward preventing margins from recovering to historical levels in 2022. The financial patterns evident on the combined statements suggest eroding results must have been expected at the time of purchase. We believe this is evident in how management comments on questions relating to the E&I’s sub-par performance. On VRT’s 3Q22 conference call an analyst noted that E&I had contributed EPS of $0.02 vs $0.10 at the time of the transaction and asked if something had fundamentally changed? The question was not answered directly. Rather than explaining why E&I was seemingly producing at only 20% of its previously stated run-rate and sales would miss by $130M, the question was avoided. CFO Dave Fallon said “part of the value was based on synergies. And our expectations are probably 3x or more of what we originally anticipated. Unfortunately, that’s not showing up in the numbers this year.” The newly appointed CEO, former EMEA manager Giordano Albertazzi, echoed Mr. Fallon adding “I think it strategically made sense, and all the more reason it makes a ton of sense, a ton of sense now.” Neither Mr. Fallon nor Mr. Albertazzi’s answers were forthright. Rather than provide an explanation as to why E&I was underperforming to such a magnitude, they simply doubled-down on the future. In what has become a well-established, identifiable pattern of behavior, management supplants either delivering on expectations or frank explanations of variance with grandiose pronouncements. How Much Was Known Data from the public documents show that E&I’s problems were partially or completely known to users of original financial statements. Further, in its 10K 2021 filing, VRT’s own numbers confirm that the company knew that the business has only generated $47M in EBITDA in the year of acquisition up to transaction close. The number is based on the proforma disclosures which contain adjustments to “proforma events that are directly attributable to the transaction, factually supportable and expected to have a continuing impact on the combined results.” The purchase and sale agreement filed with the SEC, defines Management Accounts as “accounts of the E&I Group and Powerbar Gulf, comprising the unaudited aggregated balance sheet … profit and loss accounts … for each of the monthly periods from the Last Accounts Date (Dec 31, 2020) to March 31, 2021 inclusive.”VRT was given 40 days to file any disagreements with the Completion Accounts prepared as of June 30, 2021. Additionally, there is a pre-completion provision requiring the Sellers to “as soon as reasonably practicable, give to the Buyers reasonable details of any material change in its business, financial position or assets” Despite the factually supportable results, management still chose to not discuss its $120M guidance for the year ending two months prior. Unlike the factually supportable low EBITDA numbers, VRT has avoided putting forward any audited information and has tried to disclaim the high guidance numbers as much as possible. For example, in an 8K filing dated October 13, 2021 as part of raising $850M 4.25% Notes for the transaction the company noted: “While Vertiv has reviewed the unaudited historical data related to E&I provided by E&I in the course of Vertiv’s due diligence, it has not independently verified such data. In addition, this information has not been audited, reviewed, examined, compiled or verified by any independent auditor and has not been prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles in the United States. The forecasts in the acquisition presentation are similarly disclaimed. Further, although a transaction that represented 28.7% of VRT assets at FY end 2021, E&I was excluded from the company’s audit opinion. “management’s assessment of and conclusion on the effectiveness of internal control over financial reporting did not include the internal controls of E&I. Given the nature of the assets, the exclusion could represent a material risk. Over 99% of the E&I transaction net consideration of $1.765M is allocated to Other Intangible Assets $1B of which customer relationships is $731M and Goodwill of $748M. As we detail later in the report, there is a lawsuit against E&I for fraudulently acquiring customers. Not surprisingly, the valuation of these intangible assets valuation warranted a special mention by E&Y in the audit as a critical audit matter. “The significant assumptions used to estimate the fair value of customer relationships included the forecasted earnings before interest, taxes, and amortization, customer attrition rates and a discount rate. The significant assumptions used to estimate the fair value of developed technology included the forecasted revenue, royalty rates and a discount rate. These significant assumptions are forward looking and as such inherently uncertain.” If the valuation was based, in part, on the original $150M 2022 EBITDA estimates management provided to investors, there should be an impairment logged at year end. 99% of the large $1.8B purchase price allocated to two intangibles raises questions about the nature of the valuation. It is a pattern more reminiscent of technology company rather than a switchgear and powerbar manufacturer. Excessive Valuation – VRT paid at least double industry multiples for E&I Extremely High 30x EBITDA Multiple VRT paid a staggering ~30x EBITDA 2021 or 2022 for the E&I business and over 4x revenue. These valuation metrics are at least double the industry standard for much better capitalized and diversified public companies as shown below. Public companies average 15x EV/EBITDA with a range of 10-20x. EV/sales multiples are tighter, around 3x. E&I’s transaction multiple on 2021 took place far above any publicly traded comparable. In 2016, Platinum purchased the debt-free VRT for $4B at an EV/sales of ~1x and ~7x EBITDA. The deal is even more overvalued relative to private transactions. Over the last several years, M&A transactions in VRT’s industrial space have typically taken place at EV/EBITDA multiples of 11-13x and ~2-3x sales. The table below shows several recent acquisitions to provide context. Schneider paid 15x for a high-end Indian switchgear manufacturer with other more representative transactions at 11 to 13x. Further, both the Indian and Turkish deals come with a low-cost manufacturing bases in reliable jurisdictions and sales concentration in the local market – 60% in the case of Ulsoy Turkey – which creates strong international growth prospects under the umbrella of the larger organizations. In 2019 Legrand acquired Universal Electric Corporation with its line of Starline busways for power distribution. Starline is considered to be the top in the business and competes with E&I’s power bar products. Although valuation data on the transaction was not disclosed, we know the company generated $175M in sales in the year acquired. Assuming a margin comparable to E&I’s Powerbar of 22% and an industry multiple of 12x EBITDA, we estimate it was purchased for ~$460M. Legrand’s financial statements for 2019 note that the company made three acquisitions that year with Starline being the largest. Reported acquisitions’ net cash outflow was EUR 452.7M or $507M at the average exchange rate for the year. We believe our estimate is corroborated by the audited data. At the time VRT purchased E&I, we estimate it was worth $700-800M at the top end. An EV/EBITDA multiple of 12x on 2021’s $54M of EBITDA yield a $650M value. The same multiple on 2022E EBITDA of $67M yields a value of $804M. Blending the values obtained from industry normalized multiples shows E&I was worth ~$726M. At $1.76B, VRT paid roughly 2.4x the valuation overpaying by a total of $1B. Press reports support our thesis that VRT vastly overpaid for E&I. In 2019 it appears Mr. O’Doherty began signaling that E&I was for sale. There were two pieces in the press at the time that discussed the profitability of the enterprise. A November 2019 article in the Sunday Times was particularly glowing, noting that revenues and profits surged in 2018, making it one of the most profitable companies in the country. It cited ‘industry sources’ valuing the company at approximately GBP 500M, a multiple of ~10x operating income, which equates to a price of ~$640M. VRT paid 2.76x what E&I was estimated to be worth, and presumably Mr. O’Doherty thought fair, only two years prior on lower income. The context of both industry multiples and a relatively recent valuation ‘signal’ to potential acquirers begs the question: why did VRT pay nearly $2B for this company when it was clearly worth less than ~50% of the price? No Fairness Opinion or Financial Statement Disclosures VRT did not publish detailed financial statements on E&I, despite the fact that they are available. Given the excess valuation paid in the face of a company past peak profitability with declining sales, we have to question VRT’s board’s due diligence efforts in contrast to Mr. Cote’s statement. As a $1.77B transaction that increased VRT’s net debt by ~33%, the E&I deal has had a material financial impact on the company. We assume that the board, at minimum, obtained one fairness opinion – often two are commissioned. The fairness opinion would include financial information and comparable valuation data that would provide some context and justification for the purchase. To our knowledge, a fairness opinion on E&I, assuming one exists, has not been made public or even referenced in public filings. We strongly encourage management to publish all fairness opinions obtained prior to the transaction. In our view, publication could help resolve a number of the many questions arising from the financial anomalies and excessive valuation associated with the transaction. Hiding Problems at the Underlying Business Giordano Albertazzi, currently COO and President of the Americas is set to become the CEO of VRT in January 2023 when Robert Johnson steps down. Previously to assuming his current post in October 2022, Mr. Albertazzi was President of the company in Europe. We believe that in the capacity of President, Mr. Albertazzi would have been instrumental in bringing the E&I acquisition to Vertiv. Analysis of sales as reported and adjusted for E&I’s contribution shows Mr. Albertazzi’s legacy to be the largest beneficiary of the transaction. On an as reported basis, EMEA is a growth market, but excluding E&I sales shows significant erosion of sales throughout 2022. We disaggregated E&I sales from the combined results to show the organic change in VRT’s business. In the table below we compare sales in two ways. We show total sales for all segments for the 9-month periods of 2022. The panels on the left show sales as reported, on the right, we remove E&I’s contribution to show VRT’s organic change in sales. In the bottom part of the exhibit, we show the same 9-month changes, but with both panels adjusted for the FX losses in the period. The right panel also has E&I removed. All E&I sales are recorded in the Critical Infrastructure segment. We have highlighted the appropriate numbers to show the impact of the adjustment. The comparison highlights two issues. On an as reported basis, Europe shows respectable 15.8% growth overall, with 30% growth in Critical Infrastructure, where E&I sales are recorded. The top right panel adjusted for E&I shows an overall decline of 9.5%, indicating results in the segment would have been deeply negative without the acquisition. Critical Infrastructure, the largest segment, would have been down 12%. The bottom panels show sales adjusted for FX losses. Excluding E&I sales but adjusted for FX losses shows below-industry growth of 7.5% down from proforma +30%. The Services segment is particularly weak; and although growth is strong with Integrated rack solutions, the division is very small. The lack of growth in Europe is particularly disconcerting because competitors have noted the strength of markets thus far in 2022. Schneider Electric noted on its conference call that its data center business was experiencing ‘double-digit’ growth on a y/y basis. Western Europe was up 14% on an organic basis. Eaton noted “solid growth in Europe”. Similarly, Legrand reported that the data center business was up despite difficult y/y comparisons and Europe; business was up 10.5%. VRT’s European business is weak and without the acquisition would have shown -9.5% revenue decline while the industry was recording 10%+ results. We suspect that Mr. Albertazzi and VRT management were aware of the European trends when the purchase E&I was proposed. Although E&I has dramatically underperformed expectations, it has effectively masked weakness in the company’s European business. Legal and Accounting Issues Déjà vu – Another lawsuit Lawsuits are an important feature of VRT’s history and operations. Our first report on the company relied heavily on lawsuit testimony from executives indicating that management lied to investors throughout 2021 in effort to inflate the stock price. Prior to the current class action, the company was sued in conjunction with Facebook for stealing the intellectual property regarding warehouse sized pre-fabricated, modular designed data centers of the Bladeroom Group. Litigation began prior to Platinum’s acquisition of VRT. A $120M judgement (indemnified by Emerson) against VRT was recently vacated and the matter is ongoing. As part of E&I’s acquisition, VRT must contend with a multi-faceted lawsuit alleging theft of intellectual property, trade secrets and customers. E&I was sued in March 2021 in US District Court in Illinois by a Chicago-based competitor, SAI Advanced Power Solutions (SAI). In the second amended complaint filed on 12/21/21, SAI makes several allegations centered around the activities of VP of Sales, Shane Wolfram, who left SAI to work for E&I. The lawsuit states that at the time just prior to VRT’s acquisition of E&I, the company was retooling its US switchgear business, incorporating SAI technology and confidential information on what wins bids and targeting a number of SAI’s large clients with some success with the help of Mr. Wolfram. The plaintiff alleges E&I fraudulently acquired some switchgear technology and customers. SAI alleges that the former employee, in violation with his non-compete and separation agreement, worked with E&I to co-opt SAI technology and ‘pilfer’ top-10 customers. Customers on the non-solicitation list include large hyperscale developers and operators, such as CloudHQ, Stack Infrastructure, Iron Mountain and Toshiba. E&I won contracts with CloudHQ and Stack Infrastructure following the hiring of Mr. Wolfram. The suit alleges collusion between Wolfram and E&I and CEO O’Doherty. SAI supports its claims with telephone records, emails and texts likely obtained in discovery. The suit notes that Mr. Wolfram deleted 200 text messages to E&I representatives before turning in his company phone to SAI. The suit details an incident where Mr. O’Doherty, unaware that Mr. Wolfram has turned his corporate phone in to SAI, calls and immediately begins discussing how to recruit another SAI employee to E&I – a prohibited action under Wolfram’s agreement with SAI. Mr. O’Doherty was unaware that it was not Mr. Wolfram who answered, but a loyal SAI employee. The conversation was subsequently reported to SAI management. The matter is ongoing but the case should be concerning to VRT. It is a lawsuit management must have encountered during due diligence, and did not disclose to investors. More importantly, it appears VRT did not have the matter indemnified in the purchase and sales agreement. The purchase and sales agreement specifically cites an ongoing matter related to an insurance claim, but states that “no group company is the subject of any legal or regulatory investigation, inquiry or audit, in each case, in respect of which the liability of the Group is likely to be in excess of $1,000,000 individually.” Although the Bladeroom action has reverted back to the starting position, the original $120M liability is suggestive of the scale of awards. The E&I lawsuit suggests there was $39-49M in sales directly attributable to three customers ‘pilfered’ from SAI. A loss in court would mean that VRT purchased an under-performing company at a sky-high valuation that included a significant legal liability. $731M or 40% of the purchase price of E&I was allocated to “customer relationships”. Perhaps the lawsuit’s allegations that some customers were fraudulently obtained was the impetus for E&Y tagging the intangible with a critical audit matter. History of Guidance and Accounting Issues VRT has a history of guidance and accounting issues in its short history of an independent public company since February 2020. First, on March 1, 2021 E&Y gave its 2020 audit a qualified opinion on account of deficient controls over financial reporting. “In our opinion, because of the effect of the material weaknesses described below on the achievement of the objectives of the control criteria, the Company has not maintained effective internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2020, based on the COSO criteria. A material weakness is a deficiency, or combination of deficiencies, in internal control over financial reporting, such that there is a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of the company’s annual or interim financial statements will not be prevented or detected on a timely basis. The following material weaknesses have been identified and included in management’s assessment. Management has identified material weaknesses in controls related to (a) not fully designing, implementing and monitoring general information technology controls in the areas of user access and program change-management for systems supporting all of the Company’s internal control processes; (b) the aggregation of open control deficiencies across the Company’s financial reporting processes because the controls were not fully designed and operating effectively.” Secondly, on February 23, 2022 after repeatedly guiding revenue and AOP expectations higher, VRT missed its own months old guidance by an exceptionally large margin of 80% on the profitability metric of adjusted operating income sending the stock down 37% on the day of the reporting. A number of shareholder lawsuits ensued and at least one appears to be settled. However, on September 16, 2022 an amended suit was filed for the City of Riviera Beach General Employees Retirement System v Vertiv Holdings Co. Et al, case number 1:22-cv-3572. It provides testimony from high level VRT employees that management deliberately mislead investors about the nature and prospects of the business in order to help effect sales of shares for the private equity owner at inflated prices. Here is a link to the amended complaint. VRT has not publicly commented on the allegations and its defense strategy and none of the sell side analysts mention its existence or relevance to the company. Offshore Cash In addition to collapsing profitability and excess valuation, the E&I Group has been stripped out of cash on a regular basis via its controlling shareholder Cyprus offshore entity Powerbar Limited Cyprus which holds controlling share of the two underlying companies. The table below summarized the data from Irish & Cypriot disclosures: dsadas More than 2/3 of all the cash generated by the E&I group has been paid out via the entity. Further, the cash and share consideration of $1.8B paid by VRT was very likely received by the same entity and distributed offshore. None of this was disclosed and Philip O’Doherty, the CEO of E&I and controlling party of the Cypriot firm is a VRT employee. Questionable Practices The Real Competitive Advantage E&I does not hold a technological, distribution or other advantage in the commoditized business of PDU and powerbars. In fact, the company faces stiff competition from large and well-established and better-capitalized entities. The only real advantage (other than customer poaching discussed previously) is ability to access cheap labor in relative proximity to its end markets in order to keep transportation costs low. However, there is an issue with how E&I is able to achieve its competitive edge which impacts its sustainability. Evidence from South Carolina, Ireland and the Persian Gulf There are consistent themes with employee reviews across E&I’s three manufacturing locations. They center around low pay, high turnover, few opportunities for advancement unless a ‘friend of management’, favoritism displayed by management, an unprofessional ‘manage by fear’ style. There are distinctions among them. Reviews indicate Powerbar Gulf in the UAE is the most troubling work environment. They site behavior that goes beyond the overwork, bad management and poor conditions cited at other facilities, and include harassing and threatening behavior by managers, financial penalties and threats, and passport seizure, which would make a worker more akin to a slave. South Carolina’s complaints are just behind the UAE, centering on what should be unacceptable behavior, including tolerating serial sexual harassment offences from felons. E&I Engineering U.S. and Ireland E&I Glassdoor reviews in the U.S. show 7 1 and 2 star reviews and 5 4 and 5 star reviews. E&I Ireland and the U.S. has 13 5-star reviews and 9 1-star reviews. However, all 9 1-star reviews were marked as helpful by one or more individuals; only 1 of the 13 5-star reviews received a helpful vote. E&I’s South Carolina facility has a deeply troubling reputation. There are a number of reviews on Glassdoor. However, a quoted text from a conversation with an employee provides details of what appears to be a significant, ongoing corporate problem. The text below are unedited outtakes from our conversation: “The overall morale at the plant is extremely poor, many folks feel they're underpaid, overworked and underappreciated. I found the staff, both in US and Ireland, to make a lot of promises and pledges and frequently not uphold them. Annual reviews were not conducted in a timely manner, raises and bonuses were not implemented when promised either.” “Americans at the factory believe they cannot be promoted unless they're Irish and this resulted in a lot of turnover. Devices, equipment and products frequently left the plant with significant issues and possible hazards and dangers. The production workers were being led by unqualified individuals. Many of the workers and staff had significant criminal records, convictions of sexual offenses were common for hires. Because recruitment and retention were such an issue, even when the felons with sexual convictions were hired, when they repeated these behaviors to others in the workplace they were not fired, they were moved to another area where they had the opportunity to repeat offenses to others.” “The Anderson, SC facility is a disaster and I fully anticipate future lawsuits and issues to plague the company until significant changes are implemented…” 1.0 ★★★★★ Current Employee Terrible Workplace - Burnfoot Jun 10, 2021 - Accounts Assistant in Burnfoot Pros It's easy to get a job here due to the high turnover Cons Staff are discouraged from talking even about work so the atmosphere is horrible. Pay is low for most and there is no real payscale and major inconsistencies. Employees are discouraged from discussing their pay. The atmosphere is horrible as everyone fears management. They do nothing to benefit the lives of employees, no clubs, no events, not even a canteen on site. Management use punishment rather than praise to "motivate" staff. Bullying by management is common. Innovation is discouraged Staff are generally unhappy and this unhappiness is contagious. If you are on a salary, expect to do a lot of unpaid overtime. Staff are not valued. They would rather replace you than give you any kind of pay increase. There is more staff than there is parking. Staff turnover is high so it can be hard to know who's doing what. Advice to Management Place more value in staff. Do more to support staff. Encourage innovation. Listen to staff and their needs. Powerbar Gulf Reviews We have included several employee reviews on Powerbar Gulf from two sites below. To put the reviews in context, both groups are rated from 1 to 5 stars. had only 15 reviews, roughly evenly split between 1 and 5 star with approximately 18% for each group. Google has 75 reviews, split almost 50/50 between 1 and 5 star. However, Google provides a ‘thumbs up’ option if readers find the reviews helpful. The more detailed 1-star reviews showed below were voted most helpful, suggesting that the reviews resonated with readers. Sachin Prajapati - 2 reviews - 7 months ago - 1/5★ Worst company do not deserve even a single star. First of all, The whole recruiting and staffing procedures are horrible. Moreover, once you board, they started treating inhumanely with you. Even they don't have felicitous amenities for their employees and doesn't wants to ameliorate either. In case, you want to leave or deny to work, they charges enormous penalties and cease passport too. As a result, you found yourself in big trouble. What ever I have written here, is from the worst experienced had by my one of the friends so, i thought to narrate it with you, in hope to depicts real picture of this firm before to opt. Lastly, it might be the best for some other guy, but it was scarred stiff for my friend. Miyatra Dolly - 2 reviews - 7 months ago - 1/5★ Zero star One of the worst HR team. If you want to left the company, then they will terrorize you and will tell you that you will be not able to work in gulf if you left our company. They will be polite on mail but in actual they will insult and scarify you in personal. A worst place to work U will have to work under a revenging GM, management is very much incapable to handle employees. You will feel like in a jail under jail warden . People get runaway from the company or will be terminated with silly reasons Déjà vu Conclusion VRT is a chronic underperformer having missed every material financial goal set, yet management’s forward-looking statements are replete with grandiose expectations. Even what should be mundane 8-K on bonus compensation filed on November 21, 2022 attempted to strike an inspirational tone of hope for the future finances of the company. The board set performance compensation levels at $1B on AOP, 35% above what we believe is already an unobtainable $740M. The 8-K states that the board believes it’s a stretch. It’s not. It’s ridiculous. Part of a much larger pattern of behavior where facts and reality are eschewed in favor of great proclamations signaling a profitable future. Less than 3-years into its life as a public company, the rhyming pattern is evident in VRT’s failures. Promised margins fail to materialize, bullish guidance is lowered and missed, and the high growth and profit expectations of the acquisition target disappear as results shift from estimated to actual. Over time these series of failures evoke a sense of déjà vu. Evidence in the lawsuit suggests that investors and analysts were being misled regarding various aspects of the business, including the likelihood of financial performance. Our research and analysis of E&I’s financial statements indicate that management and the board must have known that the company would not meet near-term projections. There is what is becoming a firmly established pattern of intent. There is a playbook in the pattern and management appears to stick to it. And why wouldn’t they? Every time management offers up a new higher financial target analysts seems to forget the immediate recent past and help support the stock. The problem is that the great expectations put forth to investors by management are not factually supported, but at best hopes and dreams, at worse intentional distractions. Our analysis is factually supported. E&I financial statements show that the company was destined to miss management’s guidance. The transaction provided a great hope during a trying time for shareholders, but as befitting with VRT’s history, it too is a disappointment – except to the sellers......»»

Category: blogSource: valuewalkDec 6th, 2022

Durham Prosecutes FBI Informants, While Protecting Their Handlers: Sperry

Durham Prosecutes FBI Informants, While Protecting Their Handlers: Sperry Authored by Paul Sperry via RealClear Investigations, Since being named special counsel in October 2020, John Durham has investigated or indicted several unscrupulous anti-Trump informants. But he has spared the FBI agents who handled them, raising suspicions he's letting investigators off the hook in his waning investigation of misconduct in the Russiagate probe. In recent court filings, Durham has portrayed the G-men as naive recipients of bad information, tricked into opening improper investigations targeting Donald Trump and obtaining invalid warrants to spy on one of his advisers. But as the cases against the informants have gone to trial, defense lawyers have revealed evidence that cuts against that narrative. FBI investigators look less like guileless victims and more like willing partners in the fraudulent schemes Durham has brought to light. Notwithstanding his reputation as a tough, intrepid prosecutor, Durham has made excuses for the misconduct of FBI agents, providing them a ready-made defense against any possible future prosecution, according to legal experts.  "Durham was supposed to clean up the FBI cesspool, but it doesn't look like he's going to be doing that," said Paul Kamenar, counsel to the National Legal and Policy Center, a Washington watchdog group. "He started with a bang and is ending with a whimper." In the latest example, critics point to a flurry of pretrial motions in Durham's case against former FBI informant Igor Danchenko, the primary source for the false claims regarding Trump and Russia advanced by the opposition research paid for by Hillary Clinton's campaign known as the Steele dossier. Next month, Danchenko faces charges he lied to FBI investigators multiple times about the sourcing of the information in the dossier, which the bureau used to secure wiretap warrants to spy on a former Trump campaign adviser. Relying on Danchenko's reporting, the FBI claimed that the adviser, Carter Page, was a Russian agent at the center of "a well-developed conspiracy of cooperation" between Trump and the Kremlin to steal the 2016 presidential election. Igor Danchenko, dossier fabulist: Trial upcoming. "The defendant was providing them with false information" as part of "a concerted effort to deceive the FBI," Durham alleged in a recent filing with the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., where the trial is scheduled to be held Oct. 11. Had agents known Danchenko made up the allegations, Durham asserted, they might have asked more questions about the dossier and not relied on it to swear out the ultra-invasive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants to electronically monitor Page, a U.S. citizen who was never charged with a crime. But Danchenko's legal team points out that he turned over an email to the FBI during a January 2017 meeting with agents and analysts that indicated a key dossier subsource may have been fictionalized. Stuart Sears, one of Danchenko's attorneys, argued earlier this month in a motion to dismiss the charges that investigators "essentially ignored" any concerns they may have had about Danchenko's sourcing, because they continued to renew the FISA warrants based upon it. Therefore, he argued, any lies his client allegedly told them were inconsequential, making them un-prosecutable under federal statutes requiring such false statements to have a "material" impact on a federal proceeding. While Durham did not dispute the FBI's apparent complicity in the fraud, he waved it aside as immaterial to the case at hand. "The fact that the FBI apparently did not identify or address these inconsistencies is of no moment," he said in his filing. At the same time, Durham acknowledged agents allowed the fabrications to contaminate their wiretap warrants – noting they were "an important part of the FISA applications targeting Carter Page." But he stopped short of blaming the FBI, even for incompetence. According to Durham, the nation's premiere law enforcement agency was misled by a serial liar and con man. "He's painting it as though the FBI was duped when the FBI was more than willing to take the initiative and go after Trump," Kamenar said, adding that though Danchenko may have been a liar, he was a useful liar to FBI officials and others in the Justice Department who were pursuing Trump. The special prosecutor's indifference to the FBI's role in the scandal is more remarkable in light of what Danchenko admitted in his January 2017 interviews with the FBI. He told investigators that much of what he reported to Steele was "word-of-mouth and hearsay," while some was cooked up from "conversation that [he] had with friends over beers," according to a declassified FBI summary of the interviews, which took place over three days. He confessed the most salacious allegations were made in "jest." Still, the FBI continued to use Danchenko's claims of a "well-developed conspiracy of cooperation" between Russia and Trump to convince the FISA court to allow investigators to continue to surveil Page, whom the FBI accused of masterminding the conspiracy based on Danchenko's bogus rumors. Agents even swore in FISA court documents reviewed by RealClearInvestigations that Danchenko was "truthful and cooperative." Carter Page, junior Trump campaign aide: Spied on without justification. The combination of Danchenko reporting a "conspiracy" and the FBI vouching for his credibility persuaded the powerful FISA court to continue to authorize wiretapping Page as a suspected Russian agent for almost a year. In addition to collecting his emails and text messages in 2017, agents were able to sweep up all his prior communications with Trump officials from 2016. If the FBI were skeptical of Danchenko, it didn't show it. The next month, the bureau put him on its payroll as a confidential human source, or CHS, making him part of the bureau's untouchable "sources and methods" sanctum and thereby protecting him and any documents referencing him from congressional and other outside scrutiny. It made him a paid informant in spite of knowing Danchenko was a potential Russian spy threat who could be feeding federal agents disinformation. The FBI had previously opened a counterespionage probe of Danchenko from 2009 to 2011, and as his lawyers pointed out in a recent court filing, agents who were part of the case probing Trump/Russia ties, codenamed Crossfire Hurricane, "were well aware of the prior counterintelligence investigation" when they were supposedly conned by their informant. "It stretches credibility to suggest that anything else would have caused the FBI to be more suspicious of Mr. Danchenko's statements and his potential role in spreading disinformation than the very fact that he was previously investigated for possibly engaging in espionage on behalf of Russia," Sears said. "Armed with that knowledge, however, the FBI nevertheless persisted" in using him as a source – while never informing the FISA court of the prior investigation. The FBI didn't terminate Danchenko until October 2020, the month after the Senate declassified documents revealing the FBI had investigated him as a Russian agent. It also happened to be the same month Durham was appointed special counsel. On Oct. 19, 2020, then-Attorney General Bill Barr tapped Durham "to investigate whether any federal official, employee, or any other person or entity violated the law in connection with the intelligence, counter-intelligence, or law-enforcement activities directed at the 2016 presidential campaigns, individuals associated with those campaigns, and individuals associated with the administration of President Donald J. Trump, including but not limited to Crossfire Hurricane and the investigation of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, III."  So far, Durham has focused on the "any other person" part of his mandate. Federal officials and employees appear to be getting a pass. Kevin Clinesmith, FBI lawyer: Doctored exculpatory evidence. Though Durham prosecuted former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith in August 2020, when he was acting as a U.S. attorney, he did not initiate the case. Rather, it was referred to him by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who first exposed how Clinesmith had doctored exculpatory evidence in the Page warrant process. Even though Clinesmith admitted forging a CIA email to make it look like Page never helped the agency monitor Russia, when in fact he did and clearly wasn't acting as a Russian agent, Durham failed to put him behind bars. Clinesmith was sentenced to 12 months' probation and 400 hours of community service, which as RCI first reported, the registered Democrat satisfied by researching and editing articles for his favorite liberal weekly newspaper in Washington.  Kamenar said the Clinesmith case was a "bad omen" for how Durham would handle dirty FBI agents. He pointed out that the prosecutor could have charged Clinesmith with the more serious crime of altering a CIA document, but instead negotiated a deal letting him plead to the lesser offense of lying to a government agency, which Kamenar called "a garden variety process crime." And "now he's got his law license back." Clinesmith worked closely on the case with FBI Supervisory Intelligence Analyst Brian Auten, who was singled out by Horowitz in a 2019 report for cutting a number of corners in the dossier verification process and even allowing information he knew to be incorrect slip into the FISA affidavits and mislead the court. Auten met with Danchenko at the bureau's Washington field office and helped debrief him about the dossier in January 2017. And he wrote the official FBI summary of those meetings, which noted Danchenko "contradicted" himself several times. Auten learned firsthand that the information Danchenko passed to Steele was nothing more than bar gossip, and that his "network of subsources" was really just a circle of drinking buddies. Also at those meetings, the analyst received an Aug. 24, 2016, email revealing that Danchenko never actually communicated with Sergei Millian, the Belarusian-born American businessman whom he had identified as his main source of Trump/Russia connections – the all-important, albeit apocryphal, "Source E" and "Source D" of the dossier. It turns out Danchenko attributed the critical "conspiracy of cooperation" allegation the FBI cited as probable cause for all four FISA warrants to this made-up source, meaning the cornerstone evidence of suspected Trump-Russia espionage was also made up. What's more, Auten learned that though Danchenko was born in Russia, he was not based there and had no access to Kremlin insiders. On the contrary, he confirmed that Danchenko had been living in Washington and had previously worked for the Brookings Institution, a Democratic Party think tank whose president at the time was tied to Clinton. Yet Auten and his Crossfire team led the FISA court to believe Danchenko was "Russian-based" – and therefore presumably more credible. They used this same description in all four FISA affidavits, including the two renewals that followed the January 2017 meetings with Danchenko. Internal FBI emails from two months later revealed that Auten knew that using the term "Russian-based" was deceptive. While tasked with helping review Crossfire documents requested by Congress, including FISA applications, he worried about the description and whether it should be corrected. He discussed the matter with Clinesmith. But the falsehood reappeared in subsequent FISA applications. It was also in January 2017 that Danchenko revealed to Auten and his FBI handlers that one of his subsources was his childhood friend Olga Galkina, whom he said supplied him the rumor that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen traveled to Prague during the campaign to hatch a plot with Kremlin officials to hack Clinton campaign emails.  Michael Cohen, Trump lawyer: Baseless rumor victim. The FBI already knew from intelligence reports that Cohen had not, as the dossier claimed, traveled to Prague to conspire in the alleged Russian hacking of Democrats, or for any other reason. On Jan. 12, 2017, Auten and his Crossfire teammates received a CIA report that warned the Cohen rumor was likely part of a Russian disinformation campaign. The agency had discovered no such Prague meeting took place after querying foreign intelligence services, shooting a major hole in the dossier. The CIA report should have led the Crossfire team to treat any allegations sourced to Galkina with caution. But on the same day, the FBI got its FISA wiretap on Page renewed based on another groundless claim by Galkina – this one alleging the Trump aide secretly met with top Kremlin officials in Moscow to discuss removing U.S. sanctions. The falsehood showed up in two more FISA applications, which alleged "Russia's efforts to influence U.S. policy were likely being coordinated between the RIS [Russian Intelligence Services] and Page, and possibly others." Galkina also had a relationship with Charles Dolan, a Clinton adviser who figures prominently in the Danchenko case Durham is prosecuting. It turns out Dolan was one of the sources for the infamous "pee-tape" allegation about the Kremlin supposedly having blackmail evidence of Trump consorting with prostitutes at the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow, which has been debunked as another dossier hoax. But according to Durham, Danchenko tried to conceal Dolan's role in the dossier from the FBI. The special prosecutor argued that the deception deprived FBI agents and analysts information that would have helped them evaluate "the credibility, reliability and veracity" of the dossier. He said if they had known Dolan was a source, they might have, among other things, sought emails Dolan and Danchenko exchanged exposing their Ritz-Carlton hoax.  "Had the defendant truthfully told the FBI that Dolan played a role in providing certain information for the Steele reports the FBI might well have interviewed and/or collected such emails from Dolan," Durham speculated. In addition, the prosecutor said, investigators might have learned of Dolan's "involvement in Democratic politics" and "potential bias as a source for the Steele reports." Except that they already knew about Dolan and his politics – as well as his involvement in the dossier. It's also likely they already had his emails. In another interview with Danchenko about his dossier sources, which took place June 15, 2017, FBI agents asked Danchenko if he knew Dolan and whether he was "contributing" to the Steele reports. Though Danchenko acknowledged he knew Dolan, he denied he was a source. Agents didn't ask any follow-up questions. (They also never sought to charge him with making false statements to federal agents.) How did the FBI know to ask about Dolan? Because he was well-known to the bureau's Russia counterintelligence agents as a businessman who frequently traveled to Moscow and met with Kremlin insiders. But more importantly, his friend Galkina was under FISA surveillance as a suspected Russian spy at the time, according to declassified records. The FBI was collecting not only Galkina's emails, but also those of Dolan and Danchenko, all of whom regularly communicated in 2016 – which suggests that at the time the FBI asked Danchenko about Dolan, it had access to those emails and was reviewing them. This may explain why, as defense lawyer Sears noted, "the FBI never asked Mr. Danchenko about emails or any other written communications with Dolan" – and why it never interviewed Dolan. While Durham acknowledged that the FBI knew about Dolan's troubling ties at the time and neglected to dig deeper, he said he's not bothered by the oversight. "The fact that the FBI was aware that Dolan maintained some of these relationships and failed to interview Dolan is of no moment," he maintained dismissively in a court filing. All that matters, he suggested, is that the FBI was lied to. One of those emails was particularly alarming. In an Aug. 19, 2016, email to Dolan, Danchenko made it clear he was compiling dirt on Trump and his advisers and sought any rumor, no matter how baseless and scurrilous. He solicited Dolan, specifically, for "any thought, rumor, allegation" on former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Such emails called into question the veracity of the whole dossier and further tainted the credibility of Danchenko's "network of subsources." But on June 29, 2017 – two weeks after the FBI asked about Dolan – the FBI renewed the FISA wiretap on Trump adviser Page based on, once again, the dubious dossier. From its wiretapping of Galkina, moreover, Auten and others at the FBI who sorted through such FISA collections would have seen communications showing her strong support for Hillary Clinton, and how Galkina was expecting political favors in exchange for spreading dirt on Trump. In an August 2016 email to a friend, Galkina expressed hopes that Dolan would help her score a State Department job if Clinton won election. It was a major red flag. But like all the others, the FBI blew right past it. Agents continued to vouch for Danchenko as "truthful" and his subsources as reliable, and continued to cite Galkina's fabrications in FISA renewals. Under FISA rules, the FBI had a duty to "immediately inform" the secret court of any misstatements or omissions, along with any "necessary corrections" of material facts sworn in affidavits for warrants. But the FBI failed to correct the record, even after it became obvious it had told the court falsehoods and hid exculpatory evidence. In August 2017, agents finally got around to interviewing Galkina, who confessed the dossier allegations attributed to her were "exaggerated," according to the Horowitz report.  Scammed by the Alfa Bank Scam? Last year, Durham also painted the FBI as a victim of the 2016 political machinations of two other anti-Trump informants – Michael Sussmann and Rodney Joffe, who conveyed to investigators false rumors about Trump allegedly setting up a secret hotline with the Kremlin through Russia-based Alfa Bank. Michael Sussmann, Clinton lawyer: Acquitted. Durham charged Sussmann, a Washington lawyer who represented the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign, with lying to the FBI's top lawyer James Baker when he told him he was coming in with the tip – outlined in white papers and thumb drives – all on his own and not on behalf of Democrats and Clinton, whom he was billing for the Trump-Alfa "confidential project." "Sussmann's false statement misled the FBI general counsel and other FBI personnel concerning the political nature of his work and deprived the FBI of information that might have permitted it more fully to access and uncover the origins of the relevant data and technical analysis, including the identities and motivations of Sussmann's clients," Durham maintained in the indictment. But evidence emerged at the trial of Sussmann, who was acquitted, that bureau officials already knew the "political nature" of the tip and where the data came from, but withheld the information from field agents so they would continue investigating Trump through the election. For example, in a Sept. 22, 2016, email describing the "special project," an FBI official in Washington stated that "Counsel Baker provided [Supervisory Special Agent] Joe Pientka with 2 thumb drives and identified they were given to him by the DNC." "Everybody at the FBI actually thought the data came from a political party," Sussmann lawyer Sean Berkowitz argued, according to the trial transcript. "The (case) file is littered with references to the DNC." But Durham kept offering explanations for why FBI brass bit on the politically tainted tip, opening a full field investigation based on it.  "Had Sussmann truthfully disclosed that he was representing specific clients [the Clinton campaign], it might have prompted the FBI general counsel to ask Sussmann for the identity of such clients, which, in turn, might have prompted further questions," Durham argued. James Baker, top FBI lawyer: Close friend of Sussmann. "In addition, absent Sussmann's false statement, the FBI might have taken additional or more incremental steps before opening an investigation," he added. "The FBI also might have allocated its resources differently, or more efficiently, and uncovered more complete information about the reliability and provenance of the purported data at issue." Headquarters, however, did know the identity of the clients. Problem was, they blinded agents in Chicago, where a cyber unit was assigned to the case, to the fact that the source for the information was Sussmann and Joffe – a federal cyber-security contractor who was angling for a job in a Clinton administration. (A longtime FBI informant, Joffe was terminated last year after he was exposed as the ringleader of the Alfa Bank scam.) "You were not allowed to speak to either the source of the information, the author of the white paper, or the person who provided the source of the information and the data?" Berkowitz asked Chicago-based FBI agent Curtis Heide during the trial, according to transcripts. "Correct," Heide replied. Another Chicago investigator was led to believe the tip came into the bureau as a referral from the "U.S. Department of Justice." Rodney Joffe, cybersecurity contractor: "Remains a subject." Still, field agents were able to debunk it within two weeks. The FBI was not fooled by the hoax, yet nonetheless went along with it for the next four months. The case wasn't formally closed until Jan. 18, 2017, just two days before Trump was inaugurated. But then it was soon reopened after Clinton operatives again approached the FBI – as well as the CIA – with supposedly new evidence, which also proved false. "Comey and crew kept the hoax alive," former FBI counterintelligence lawyer Mark Wauck said, referring to then-FBI Director James Comey. They welcomed any predication that allowed them to open investigations on Trump, he added. Pientka testified that Comey was "fired up" about the tip, despite the fact nothing had been corroborated. Comey even held senior-level meetings on the Alfa investigation in his 7th floor office. (Pientka, who led the "close-hold" investigation from headquarters, also helped supervise the Crossfire Hurricane probe.) Ironically, no one knew better that Sussmann was a Democratic operative with an agenda than Baker – the official Durham claimed was the direct victim of the scam. Baker, a fellow Democrat, was a close friend of Sussmann, who had his own badge to get past security at the Hoover Building. Sussmann had Baker's personal cell number and Baker cleared his busy schedule to meet with him within hours of Sussmann calling to discuss his tip. Baker was well aware that Sussmann was representing the DNC, because Sussmann entered the building numerous times during the 2016 campaign to talk with top FBI officials about the alleged DNC hack by Russia. In fact, Sussmann had just visited headquarters with a delegation from the DNC on Aug. 12, 2016 – several weeks before he approached Baker with the bogus Alfa tip. They were there to pressure the FBI into concluding Russian intelligence was behind the "hacking" of DNC emails. "I understood he had been affiliated with the Democratic Party, but that he had come representing himself," Baker testified during the trial. Why didn't he tell investigators about Sussmann? "I didn't want to share his name because I didn't want to color the investigation," he said. "I didn't want to color it with politics." In his closing argument, Durham prosecutor Andrew DeFilippis told jurors the FBI's conduct was "not relevant." "Ladies and gentlemen, you've seen that the FBI didn't necessarily do everything right here. They missed opportunities. They made mistakes. They even kept information from themselves," he said. "That is not relevant to your evaluation of the defendant's lie." Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton complained Durham and his team have been acting more like apologists for the FBI than potential prosecutors of the FBI. "The FBI leadership knew full well the Clinton gang was behind the Alfa Bank-Russia smears of Trump," he said. "Durham tried to pretend (the) FBI was a victim (when) it was a co-conspirator." Wauck agreed. "The FBI-as-victim narrative was a bit of a legal fiction that Durham deployed for the purposes of the trial," he said. "The reality that emerged is that the FBI's top management was complicit in the Russia hoax that Sussmann was purveying." Folding Up His Tent Durham was first tasked with looking into the origins of the Russiagate probe in May 2019, before his formal appointment as special counsel in 2020. Trump and Republicans have expressed disappointment that after a total of more than three years of investigation, he has not prosecuted any top former FBI officials, including Comey and Andrew McCabe, who signed some of the FISA affidavits, or Peter Strzok, the biased leader of the Crossfire Hurricane probe who assured McCabe's lawyer in an August 2016 text that "we'll stop" Trump from becoming president. None has received a target letter. In recent months, McCabe and Strzok have gone on CNN, where they work as paid contributors, and smugly bashed Durham for running a "partisan" investigation, while at the same time gloating he's held the FBI up to be more of a victim than a culprit. "Comey and Strzok and McCabe have gotten a free ride out of all this," Kamenar said. James Comey, FBI director: Not prosecuted. Also, Durham went easy on Baker, another top FBI official, even after he held back key evidence from the special prosecutor before the Sussmann trial, a blatant lack of cooperation that may have cost Durham a conviction in the case. Comey's general counsel has received "favorable treatment," Wauck observed. Baker, who reviewed and OK'd the FISA applications, never told Durham about a damning text message he received from Sussmann on his cellphone. Durham had already indicted Sussmann for lying to Baker, and he could not use Sussmann's smoking-gun message – "I'm coming on my own – not on behalf of a client or company" – during the trial to convince jurors he was guilty of lying about representing the Clinton campaign. Legal analysts said it was slam-dunk evidence that would have sealed his case. Baker testified he didn't turn over the text to Durham because no one asked for it. He proved a reluctant witness on the stand against his old pal Sussmann.  Andrew McCabe, deputy director: Not prosecuted "I'm not out to get Michael and this is not my investigation. This is your investigation," he told DeFilippis during questioning. DeFilippis has since stepped down to take a job in the private sector. (Demonstrating the incestuous nature of the Beltway, Baker also happens to be an old friend of Bill Barr, who hired Durham. Barr hired Baker as his deputy when he ran Verizon's legal shop in 2008.) In another sign Durham has not lived up to his billing as an aggressive prosecutor, FBI Director Christopher Wray suggested in recent Senate testimony that Durham's team has not interviewed all of the Crossfire members still employed at the bureau. In lieu of face-to-face interviews, he said Durham's investigators have reviewed transcripts of interviews of the agents previously conducted by the Office of Professional Responsibility, the FBI's in-house disciplinary arm. Recent published reports say Durham is in the process of closing up shop and completing a final report on his findings by the end of the year. Republicans have promised to seize on the report if they win control of the House in November and take back the gavel to key oversight committees on the Hill, along with subpoena power. Peter Strzok, Crossfire Hurricane leader: Not prosecuted. Some former colleagues who have worked with Durham and are familiar with his inquiry blame COVID-19 for his relatively few prosecutions and lackluster record. They say pandemic-related shutdowns in 2020 and 2021 set back his investigation by limiting travel, interviews, and grand jury hearings. As a result, they say, the clock ran out on prosecuting a number of potential crimes. The last FISA warrant, which according to the court was illegally obtained, was approved June 29, 2017, which means the five-year federal statute of limitations for that crime expired months ago. Though Durham hinted in the Sussmann case about investigating a broader "conspiracy" or "joint venture," there are few signs pointing to such a massive undertaking. Bringing a "conspiracy to defraud the government" charge, naming multiple defendants, would require Durham adding staff and office space and beefing up his budget by millions of dollars, the former colleagues said. According to expenditure statements, Durham continues to operate on a shoestring budget with a skeletal staff compared with his predecessor Mueller's robust operation, which indicted 34 people. And one of the two grand juries Durham used to hear evidence has expired. It recently wrapped up work, apparently without handing down new indictments (though some could be under seal). "If Durham were building toward an overarching indictment alleging a corrupt conspiracy between the Clinton campaign and the FBI to deceive the court, he would not be charging people with lying to the FBI," former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy said. If there are any investigations still open after Durham retires, they could be handled by U.S. attorneys, the sources said. At least one of Durham's prosecutors works as a trial lawyer in the U.S. Attorney's Office in D.C. According to a court exhibit, Joffe "remains a subject" in the Sussmann-related investigation into alleged attempts by federal contractors to defraud the government with false claims about Trump and Russia. Joffe invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify after receiving a grand jury subpoena and has not cooperated with requests for documents. His lawyer did not return phone calls and emails. The Special Counsel's Office did not respond to requests for comment. The FBI declined comment for this article, but issued a statement last year saying it "has cooperated fully with Special Counsel Durham's review."  Tyler Durden Fri, 09/30/2022 - 21:15.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeSep 30th, 2022

The Anatomy Of Big Pharma"s Political Reach

The Anatomy Of Big Pharma's Political Reach Authored by Rebecca Strong via, They keep telling us to “trust the science.” But who paid for it? After graduating from Columbia University with a chemical engineering degree, my grandfather went on to work for Pfizer for almost two decades, culminating his career as the company’s Global Director of New Products. I was rather proud of this fact growing up — it felt as if this father figure, who raised me for several years during my childhood, had somehow played a role in saving lives. But in recent years, my perspective on Pfizer — and other companies in its class — has shifted. Blame it on the insidious big pharma corruption laid bare by whistleblowers in recent years. Blame it on the endless string of big pharma lawsuits revealing fraud, deception, and cover-ups. Blame it on the fact that I witnessed some of their most profitable drugs ruin the lives of those I love most. All I know is, that pride I once felt has been overshadowed by a sticky skepticism I just can’t seem to shake. In 1973, my grandpa and his colleagues celebrated as Pfizer crossed a milestone: the one-billion-dollar sales mark. These days, Pfizer rakes in $81 billion a year, making it the 28th most valuable company in the world. Johnson & Johnson ranks 15th, with $93.77 billion. To put things into perspective, that makes said companies wealthier than most countries in the world. And thanks to those astronomical profit margins, the Pharmaceuticals and Health Products industry is able to spend more on lobbying than any other industry in America. While big pharma lobbying can take several different forms, these companies tend to target their contributions to senior legislators in Congress — you know, the ones they need to keep in their corner, because they have the power to draft healthcare laws. Pfizer has outspent its peers in six of the last eight election cycles, coughing up almost $9.7 million. During the 2016 election, pharmaceutical companies gave more than $7 million to 97 senators at an average of $75,000 per member. They also contributed $6.3 million to president Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign. The question is: what did big pharma get in return? When you've got 1,500 Big Pharma lobbyists on Capitol Hill for 535 members of Congress, it's not too hard to figure out why prescription drug prices in this country are, on average, 256% HIGHER than in other major countries. — Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 3, 2022 ALEC’s Off-the-Record Sway To truly grasp big pharma’s power, you need to understand how The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) works. ALEC, which was founded in 1973 by conservative activists working on Ronald Reagan’s campaign, is a super secretive pay-to-play operation where corporate lobbyists — including in the pharma sector — hold confidential meetings about “model” bills. A large portion of these bills is eventually approved and become law. A rundown of ALEC’s greatest hits will tell you everything you need to know about the council’s motives and priorities. In 1995, ALEC promoted a bill that restricts consumers’ rights to sue for damages resulting from taking a particular medication. They also endorsed the Statute of Limitation Reduction Act, which put a time limit on when someone could sue after a medication-induced injury or death. Over the years, ALEC has promoted many other pharma-friendly bills that would: weaken FDA oversight of new drugs and therapies, limit FDA authority over drug advertising, and oppose regulations on financial incentives for doctors to prescribe specific drugs. But what makes these ALEC collaborations feel particularly problematic is that there’s little transparency — all of this happens behind closed doors. Congressional leaders and other committee members involved in ALEC aren’t required to publish any records of their meetings and other communications with pharma lobbyists, and the roster of ALEC members is completely confidential. All we know is that in 2020, more than two-thirds of Congress — 72 senators and 302 House of Representatives members — cashed a campaign check from a pharma company. Big Pharma Funding Research The public typically relies on an endorsement from government agencies to help them decide whether or not a new drug, vaccine, or medical device is safe and effective. And those agencies, like the FDA, count on clinical research. As already established, big pharma is notorious for getting its hooks into influential government officials. Here’s another sobering truth: The majority of scientific research is paid for by — wait for it — the pharmaceutical companies. When the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published 73 studies of new drugs over the course of a single year, they found that a staggering 82% of them had been funded by the pharmaceutical company selling the product, 68% had authors who were employees of that company, and 50% had lead researchers who accepted money from a drug company. According to 2013 research conducted at the University of Arizona College of Law, even when pharma companies aren’t directly funding the research, company stockholders, consultants, directors, and officers are almost always involved in conducting them. A 2017 report by the peer-reviewed journal The BMJ also showed that about half of medical journal editors receive payments from drug companies, with the average payment per editor hovering around $28,000. But these statistics are only accurate if researchers and editors are transparent about payments from pharma. And a 2022 investigative analysis of two of the most influential medical journals found that 81% of study authors failed to disclose millions in payments from drug companies, as they’re required to do. Unfortunately, this trend shows no sign of slowing down. The number of clinical trials funded by the pharmaceutical industry has been climbing every year since 2006, according to a John Hopkins University report, while independent studies have been harder to find. And there are some serious consequences to these conflicts of interest. Take Avandia, for instance, a diabetes drug produced by GlaxoSmithCline (GSK). Avandia was eventually linked to a dramatically increased risk of heart attacks and heart failure. And a BMJ report revealed that almost 90% of scientists who initially wrote glowing articles about Avandia had financial ties to GSK. But here’s the unnerving part: if the pharmaceutical industry is successfully biasing the science, then that means the physicians who rely on the science are biased in their prescribing decisions. Photo credit: UN Women Europe & Central Asia Where the lines get really blurry is with “ghostwriting.” Big pharma execs know citizens are way more likely to trust a report written by a board-certified doctor than one of their representatives. That’s why they pay physicians to list their names as authors — even though the MDs had little to no involvement in the research, and the report was actually written by the drug company. This practice started in the ’50s and ’60s when tobacco execs were clamoring to prove that cigarettes didn’t cause cancer (spoiler alert: they do!), so they commissioned doctors to slap their name on papers undermining the risks of smoking. It’s still a pretty common tactic today: more than one in 10 articles published in the NEJM was co-written by a ghostwriter. While a very small percentage of medical journals have clear policies against ghostwriting, it’s still technically legal —despite the fact that the consequences can be deadly. Case in point: in the late ’90s and early 2000s, Merck paid for 73 ghostwritten articles to play up the benefits of its arthritis drug Vioxx. It was later revealed that Merck failed to report all of the heart attacks experienced by trial participants. In fact, a study published in the NEJM revealed that an estimated 160,000 Americans experienced heart attacks or strokes from taking Vioxx. That research was conducted by Dr. David Graham, Associate Director of the FDA’s Office of Drug Safety, who understandably concluded the drug was not safe. But the FDA’s Office of New Drugs, which not only was responsible for initially approving Vioxx but also regulating it, tried to sweep his findings under the rug. "I was pressured to change my conclusions and recommendations, and basically threatened that if I did not change them, I would not be permitted to present the paper at the conference," he wrote in his 2004 U.S. Senate testimony on Vioxx. "One Drug Safety manager recommended that I should be barred from presenting the poster at the meeting." Eventually, the FDA issued a public health advisory about Vioxx and Merck withdrew this product. But it was a little late for repercussions — 38,000 of those Vioxx-takers who suffered heart attacks had already died. Graham called this a “profound regulatory failure,” adding that scientific standards the FDA apply to drug safety “guarantee that unsafe and deadly drugs will remain on the U.S. market.” This should come as no surprise, but research has also repeatedly shown that a paper written by a pharmaceutical company is more likely to emphasize the benefits of a drug, vaccine, or device while downplaying the dangers. (If you want to understand more about this practice, a former ghostwriter outlines all the ethical reasons why she quit this job in a PLOS Medicine report.) While adverse drug effects appear in 95% of clinical research, only 46% of published reports disclose them. Of course, all of this often ends up misleading doctors into thinking a drug is safer than it actually is. Big Pharma Influence On Doctors Pharmaceutical companies aren’t just paying medical journal editors and authors to make their products look good, either. There’s a long, sordid history of pharmaceutical companies incentivizing doctors to prescribe their products through financial rewards. For instance, Pfizer and AstraZeneca doled out a combined $100 million to doctors in 2018, with some earning anywhere from $6 million to $29 million in a year. And research has shown this strategy works: when doctors accept these gifts and payments, they’re significantly more likely to prescribe those companies’ drugs. Novartis comes to mind — the company famously spent over $100 million paying for doctors’ extravagant meals, golf outings, and more, all while also providing a generous kickback program that made them richer every time they prescribed certain blood pressure and diabetes meds. Side note: the Open Payments portal contains a nifty little database where you can find out if any of your own doctors received money from drug companies. Knowing that my mother was put on a laundry list of meds after a near-fatal car accident, I was curious — so I did a quick search for her providers. While her PCP only banked a modest amount from Pfizer and AstraZeneca, her previous psychiatrist — who prescribed a cocktail of contraindicated medications without treating her in person — collected quadruple-digit payments from pharmaceutical companies. And her pain care specialist, who prescribed her jaw-dropping doses of opioid pain medication for more than 20 years (far longer than the 5-day safety guideline), was raking in thousands from Purdue Pharma, AKA the opioid crisis’ kingpin. Purdue is now infamous for its wildly aggressive OxyContin campaign in the ’90s. At the time, the company billed it as a non-addictive wonder drug for pain sufferers. Internal emails show Pursue sales representatives were instructed to “sell, sell, sell” OxyContin, and the more they were able to push, the more they were rewarded with promotions and bonuses. With the stakes so high, these reps stopped at nothing to get doctors on board — even going so far as to send boxes of doughnuts spelling out “OxyContin” to unconvinced physicians. Purdue had stumbled upon the perfect system for generating tons of profit — off of other people’s pain. Documentation later proved that not only was Purdue aware it was highly addictive and that many people were abusing it, but that they also encouraged doctors to continue prescribing increasingly higher doses of it (and sent them on lavish luxury vacations for some motivation). In testimony to Congress, Purdue exec Paul Goldenheim played dumb about OxyContin addiction and overdose rates, but emails that were later exposed showed that he requested his colleagues remove all mentions of addiction from their correspondence about the drug. Even after it was proven in court that Purdue fraudulently marketed OxyContin while concealing its addictive nature, no one from the company spent a single day behind bars. Instead, the company got a slap on the wrist and a $600 million fine for a misdemeanor, the equivalent of a speeding ticket compared to the $9 billion they made off OxyContin up until 2006. Meanwhile, thanks to Purdue’s recklessness, more than 247,000 people died from prescription opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2009. And that’s not even factoring in all the people who died of heroin overdoses once OxyContin was no longer attainable to them. The NIH reports that 80% of people who use heroin started by misusing prescription opioids. Former sales rep Carol Panara told me in an interview that when she looks back on her time at Purdue, it all feels like a “bad dream.” Panara started working for Purdue in 2008, one year after the company pled guilty to “misbranding” charges for OxyContin. At this point, Purdue was “regrouping and expanding,” says Panara, and to that end, had developed a clever new approach for making money off OxyContin: sales reps were now targeting general practitioners and family doctors, rather than just pain management specialists. On top of that, Purdue soon introduced three new strengths for OxyContin: 15, 30, and 60 milligrams, creating smaller increments Panara believes were aimed at making doctors feel more comfortable increasing their patients’ dosages. According to Panara, there were internal company rankings for sales reps based on the number of prescriptions for each OxyContin dosing strength in their territory. “They were sneaky about it,” she said. “Their plan was to go in and sell these doctors on the idea of starting with 10 milligrams, which is very low, knowing full well that once they get started down that path — that’s all they need. Because eventually, they’re going to build a tolerance and need a higher dose.” Occasionally, doctors expressed concerns about a patient becoming addicted, but Purdue had already developed a way around that. Sales reps like Panara were taught to reassure those doctors that someone in pain might experience addiction-like symptoms called “pseudoaddiction,” but that didn’t mean they were truly addicted. There is no scientific evidence whatsoever to support that this concept is legit, of course. But the most disturbing part? Reps were trained to tell doctors that “pseudoaddiction” signaled the patient’s pain wasn’t being managed well enough, and the solution was simply to prescribe a higher dose of OxyContin. Panara finally quit Purdue in 2013. One of the breaking points was when two pharmacies in her territory were robbed at gunpoint specifically for OxyContin. In 2020, Purdue pled guilty to three criminal charges in an $8.3 billion deal, but the company is now under court protection after filing for bankruptcy. Despite all the damage that’s been done, the FDA’s policies for approving opioids remain essentially unchanged. Photo credit: Jennifer Durban Purdue probably wouldn’t have been able to pull this off if it weren’t for an FDA examiner named Curtis Wright, and his assistant Douglas Kramer. While Purdue was pursuing Wright’s stamp of approval on OxyContin, Wright took an outright sketchy approach to their application, instructing the company to mail documents to his home office rather than the FDA, and enlisting Purdue employees to help him review trials about the safety of the drug. The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires that the FDA have access to at least two randomized controlled trials before deeming a drug as safe and effective, but in the case of OxyContin, it got approved with data from just one measly two-week study — in osteoarthritis patients, no less. When both Wright and Kramer left the FDA, they went on to work for none other than (drumroll, please) Purdue, with Wright earning three times his FDA salary. By the way — this is just one example of the FDA’s notoriously incestuous relationship with big pharma, often referred to as “the revolving door”. In fact, a 2018 Science report revealed that 11 out of 16 FDA reviewers ended up at the same companies they had been regulating products for. While doing an independent investigation, “Empire of Pain” author and New Yorker columnist Patrick Radden Keefe tried to gain access to documentation of Wright’s communications with Purdue during the OxyContin approval process. “The FDA came back and said, ‘Oh, it’s the weirdest thing, but we don’t have anything. It’s all either been lost or destroyed,’” Keefe told Fortune in an interview. “But it’s not just the FDA. It’s Congress, it’s the Department of Justice, it’s big parts of the medical establishment … the sheer amount of money involved, I think, has meant that a lot of the checks that should be in place in society to not just achieve justice, but also to protect us as consumers, were not there because they had been co-opted.” Big pharma may be to blame for creating the opioids that caused this public health catastrophe, but the FDA deserves just as much scrutiny — because its countless failures also played a part in enabling it. And many of those more recent fails happened under the supervision of Dr. Janet Woodcock. Woodcock was named FDA’s acting commissioner mere hours after Joe Biden was inaugurated as president. She would have been a logical choice, being an FDA vet of 35 years, but then again it’s impossible to forget that she played a starring role in the FDA’s perpetuating the opioid epidemic. She’s also known for overruling her own scientific advisors when they vote against approving a drug. Not only did Woodcock approve OxyContin for children as young as 11 years old, but she also gave the green light to several other highly controversial extended-release opioid pain drugs without sufficient evidence of safety or efficacy. One of those was Zohydro: in 2011, the FDA’s advisory committee voted 11:2 against approving it due to safety concerns about inappropriate use, but Woodcock went ahead and pushed it through, anyway. Under Woodcock’s supervision, the FDA also approved Opana, which is twice as powerful as OxyContin — only to then beg the drug maker to take it off the market 10 years later due to “abuse and manipulation.” And then there was Dsuvia, a potent painkiller 1,000 times stronger than morphine and 10 times more powerful than fentanyl. According to a head of one of the FDA’s advisory committees, the U.S. military had helped to develop this particular drug, and Woodcock said there was “pressure from the Pentagon” to push it through approvals. The FBI, members of congress, public health advocates, and patient safety experts alike called this decision into question, pointing out that with hundreds of opioids already on the market there’s no need for another — particularly one that comes with such high risks. Most recently, Woodcock served as the therapeutics lead for Operation Warp Speed, overseeing COVID-19 vaccine development. Big Pharma Lawsuits, Scandals, and Cover-Ups While the OxyContin craze is undoubtedly one of the highest-profile examples of big pharma’s deception, there are dozens of other stories like this. Here are a few standouts: In the 1980s, Bayer continued selling blood clotting products to third-world countries even though they were fully aware those products had been contaminated with HIV. The reason? The “financial investment in the product was considered too high to destroy the inventory.” Predictably, about 20,000 of the hemophiliacs who were infused with these tainted products then tested positive for HIV and eventually developed AIDS, and many later died of it. In 2004, Johnson & Johnson was slapped with a series of lawsuits for illegally promoting off-label use of their heartburn drug Propulsid for children despite internal company emails confirming major safety concerns (as in, deaths during the drug trials). Documentation from the lawsuits showed that dozens of studies sponsored by Johnson & Johnson highlighting the risks of this drug were never published. The FDA estimates that GSK’s Avandia caused 83,000 heart attacks between 1999 and 2007. Internal documents from GSK prove that when they began studying the effects of the drug as early as 1999, they discovered it caused a higher risk of heart attacks than a similar drug it was meant to replace. Rather than publish these findings, they spent a decade illegally concealing them (and meanwhile, banking $3.2 billion annually for this drug by 2006). Finally, a 2007 New England Journal of Medicine study linked Avandia to a 43% increased risk of heart attacks, and a 64% increased risk of death from heart disease. Avandia is still FDA approved and available in the U.S. In 2009, Pfizer was forced to pay $2.3 billion, the largest healthcare fraud settlement in history at that time, for paying illegal kickbacks to doctors and promoting off-label uses of its drugs. Specifically, a former employee revealed that Pfizer reps were encouraged and incentivized to sell Bextra and 12 other drugs for conditions they were never FDA approved for, and at doses up to eight times what’s recommended. “I was expected to increase profits at all costs, even when sales meant endangering lives,” the whistleblower said. When it was discovered that AstraZeneca was promoting the antipsychotic medication Seroquel for uses that were not approved by the FDA as safe and effective, the company was hit with a $520 million fine in 2010. For years, AstraZeneca had been encouraging psychiatrists and other physicians to prescribe Seroquel for a vast range of seemingly unrelated off-label conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, anger management, ADHD, dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and sleeplessness. AstraZeneca also violated the federal Anti-Kickback Statute by paying doctors to spread the word about these unapproved uses of Seroquel via promotional lectures and while traveling to resort locations. In 2012, GSK paid a $3 billion fine for bribing doctors by flying them and their spouses to five-star resorts, and for illegally promoting drugs for off-label uses. What’s worse — GSK withheld clinical trial results that showed its antidepressant Paxil not only doesn’t work for adolescents and children but more alarmingly, that it can increase the likelihood of suicidal thoughts in this group. A 1998 GSK internal memo revealed that the company intentionally concealed this data to minimize any “potential negative commercial impact.” In 2021, an ex-AstraZeneca sales rep sued her former employer, claiming they fired her for refusing to promote drugs for uses that weren’t FDA-approved. The employee alleges that on multiple occasions, she expressed concerns to her boss about “misleading” information that didn’t have enough support from medical research, and off-label promotions of certain drugs. Her supervisor reportedly not only ignored these concerns but pressured her to approve statements she didn’t agree with and threatened to remove her from regional and national positions if she didn’t comply. According to the plaintiff, she missed out on a raise and a bonus because she refused to break the law. At the top of 2022, a panel of the D.C. Court of Appeals reinstated a lawsuit against Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Roche, and GE Healthcare, which claims they helped finance terrorist attacks against U.S. service members and other Americans in Iraq. The suit alleges that from 2005–2011, these companies regularly offered bribes (including free drugs and medical devices) totaling millions of dollars annually to Iraq’s Ministry of Health in order to secure drug contracts. These corrupt payments then allegedly funded weapons and training for the Mahdi Army, which until 2008, was largely considered one of the most dangerous groups in Iraq. Another especially worrisome factor is that pharmaceutical companies are conducting an ever-increasing number of clinical trials in third-world countries, where people may be less educated, and there are also far fewer safety regulations. Pfizer’s 1996 experimental trials with Trovan on Nigerian children with meningitis — without informed consent — is just one nauseating example. When a former medical director in Pfizer’s central research division warned the company both before and after the study that their methods in this trial were “improper and unsafe,” he was promptly fired. Families of the Nigerian children who died or were left blind, brain damaged, or paralyzed after the study sued Pfizer, and the company ultimately settled out of court. In 1998, the FDA approved Trovan only for adults. The drug was later banned from European markets due to reports of fatal liver disease and restricted to strictly emergency care in the U.S. Pfizer still denies any wrongdoing. “Nurse prepares to vaccinate children” by World Bank Photo Collection is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 But all that is just the tip of the iceberg. If you’d like to dive a little further down the rabbit hole — and I’ll warn you, it’s a deep one — a quick Google search for “big pharma lawsuits” will reveal the industry’s dark track record of bribery, dishonesty, and fraud. In fact, big pharma happens to be the biggest defrauder of the federal government when it comes to the False Claims Act, otherwise known as the “Lincoln Law.” During our interview, Panara told me she has friends still working for big pharma who would be willing to speak out about crooked activity they’ve observed, but are too afraid of being blacklisted by the industry. A newly proposed update to the False Claims Act would help to protect and support whistleblowers in their efforts to hold pharmaceutical companies liable, by helping to prevent that kind of retaliation and making it harder for the companies charged to dismiss these cases. It should come as no surprise that Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Merck, and a flock of other big pharma firms are currently lobbying to block the update. Naturally, they wouldn’t want to make it any easier for ex-employees to expose their wrongdoings, potentially costing them billions more in fines. Something to keep in mind: these are the same people who produced, marketed, and are profiting from the COVID-19 vaccines. The same people who manipulate research, pay off decision-makers to push their drugs, cover up negative research results to avoid financial losses, and knowingly put innocent citizens in harm’s way. The same people who told America: “Take as much OxyContin as you want around the clock! It’s very safe and not addictive!” (while laughing all the way to the bank). So, ask yourself this: if a partner, friend, or family member repeatedly lied to you — and not just little white lies, but big ones that put your health and safety at risk — would you continue to trust them? Backing the Big Four: Big Pharma and the FDA, WHO, NIH, CDC I know what you’re thinking. Big pharma is amoral and the FDA’s devastating slips are a dime a dozen — old news. But what about agencies and organizations like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), World Health Organization (WHO), and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)? Don’t they have an obligation to provide unbiased guidance to protect citizens? Don’t worry, I’m getting there. The WHO’s guidance is undeniably influential across the globe. For most of this organization’s history, dating back to 1948, it could not receive donations from pharmaceutical companies — only member states. But that changed in 2005 when the WHO updated its financial policy to permit private money into its system. Since then, the WHO has accepted many financial contributions from big pharma. In fact, it’s only 20% financed by member states today, with a whopping 80% of financing coming from private donors. For instance, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) is now one of its main contributors, providing up to 13% of its funds — about $250–300 million a year. Nowadays, the BMGF provides more donations to the WHO than the entire United States. Dr. Arata Kochi, former head of WHO’s malaria program, expressed concerns to director-general Dr. Margaret Chan in 2007 that taking the BMGF’s money could have “far-reaching, largely unintended consequences” including “stifling a diversity of views among scientists.” “The big concerns are that the Gates Foundation isn’t fully transparent and accountable,” Lawrence Gostin, director of WHO’s Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law, told Devex in an interview. “By wielding such influence, it could steer WHO priorities … It would enable a single rich philanthropist to set the global health agenda.” Photo credit: National Institutes of Health Take a peek at the WHO’s list of donors and you’ll find a few other familiar names like AstraZeneca, Bayer, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck. The NIH has the same problem, it seems. Science journalist Paul Thacker, who previously examined financial links between physicians and pharma companies as a lead investigator of the United States Senate Committee, wrote in The Washington Post that this agency “often ignored” very “obvious” conflicts of interest. He also claimed that “its industry ties go back decades.” In 2018, it was discovered that a $100 million alcohol consumption study run by NIH scientists was funded mostly by beer and liquor companies. Emails proved that NIH researchers were in frequent contact with those companies while designing the study — which, here’s a shocker — were aimed at highlighting the benefits and not the risks of moderate drinking. So, the NIH ultimately had to squash the trial. And then there’s the CDC. It used to be that this agency couldn’t take contributions from pharmaceutical companies, but in 1992 they found a loophole: new legislation passed by Congress allowed them to accept private funding through a nonprofit called the CDC Foundation. From 2014 through 2018 alone, the CDC Foundation received $79.6 million from corporations like Pfizer, Biogen, and Merck. Of course, if a pharmaceutical company wants to get a drug, vaccine, or other product approved, they really need to cozy up to the FDA. That explains why in 2017, pharma companies paid for a whopping 75% of the FDA’s scientific review budgets, up from 27% in 1993. It wasn’t always like this. But in 1992, an act of Congress changed the FDA’s funding stream, enlisting pharma companies to pay “user fees,” which help the FDA speed up the approval process for their drugs. A 2018 Science investigation found that 40 out of 107 physician advisors on the FDA’s committees received more than $10,000 from big pharma companies trying to get their drugs approved, with some banking up to $1 million or more. The FDA claims it has a well-functioning system to identify and prevent these possible conflicts of interest. Unfortunately, their system only works for spotting payments before advisory panels meet, and the Science investigation showed many FDA panel members get their payments after the fact. It’s a little like “you scratch my back now, and I’ll scratch your back once I get what I want” — drug companies promise FDA employees a future bonus contingent on whether things go their way. Here’s why this dynamic proves problematic: a 2000 investigation revealed that when the FDA approved the rotavirus vaccine in 1998, it didn’t exactly do its due diligence. That probably had something to do with the fact that committee members had financial ties to the manufacturer, Merck — many owned tens of thousands of dollars of stock in the company, or even held patents on the vaccine itself. Later, the Adverse Event Reporting System revealed that the vaccine was causing serious bowel obstructions in some children, and it was finally pulled from the U.S. market in October 1999. Then, in June of 2021, the FDA overruled concerns raised by its very own scientific advisory committee to approve Biogen’s Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm — a move widely criticized by physicians. The drug not only showed very little efficacy but also potentially serious side effects like brain bleeding and swelling, in clinical trials. Dr. Aaron Kesselheim, a Harvard Medical School professor who was on the FDA’s scientific advisory committee, called it the “worst drug approval” in recent history, and noted that meetings between the FDA and Biogen had a “strange dynamic” suggesting an unusually close relationship. Dr. Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, told CNN that he believes the FDA started working in “inappropriately close collaboration with Biogen” back in 2019. “They were not objective, unbiased regulators,” he added in the CNN interview. “It seems as if the decision was preordained.” That brings me to perhaps the biggest conflict of interest yet: Dr. Anthony Fauci’s NIAID is just one of many institutes that comprises the NIH — and the NIH owns half the patent for the Moderna vaccine — as well as thousands more pharma patents to boot. The NIAID is poised to earn millions of dollars from Moderna’s vaccine revenue, with individual officials also receiving up to $150,000 annually. Operation Warp Speed In December of 2020, Pfizer became the first company to receive an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the FDA for a COVID-19 vaccine. EUAs — which allow the distribution of an unapproved drug or other product during a declared public health emergency — are actually a pretty new thing: the first one was issued in 2005 so military personnel could get an anthrax vaccine. To get a full FDA approval, there needs to be substantial evidence that the product is safe and effective. But for an EUA, the FDA just needs to determine that it may be effective. Since EUAs are granted so quickly, the FDA doesn’t have enough time to gather all the information they’d usually need to approve a drug or vaccine. “Operation Warp Speed Vaccine Event” by The White House is licensed under CC PDM 1.0 Pfizer CEO and chairman Albert Bourla has said his company was “operating at the speed of science” to bring a vaccine to market. However, a 2021 report in The BMJ revealed that this speed might have come at the expense of “data integrity and patient safety.” Brook Jackson, regional director for the Ventavia Research Group, which carried out these trials, told The BMJ that her former company “falsified data, unblinded patients, and employed inadequately trained vaccinators” in Pfizer’s pivotal phase 3 trial. Just some of the other concerning events witnessed included: adverse events not being reported correctly or at all, lack of reporting on protocol deviations, informed consent errors, and mislabeling of lab specimens. An audio recording of Ventavia employees from September 2020 revealed that they were so overwhelmed by issues arising during the study that they became unable to “quantify the types and number of errors” when assessing quality control. One Ventavia employee told The BMJ she’d never once seen a research environment as disorderly as Ventavia’s Pfizer vaccine trial, while another called it a “crazy mess.” Over the course of her two-decades-long career, Jackson has worked on hundreds of clinical trials, and two of her areas of expertise happen to be immunology and infectious diseases. She told me that from her first day on the Pfizer trial in September of 2020, she discovered “such egregious misconduct” that she recommended they stop enrolling participants into the study to do an internal audit. “To my complete shock and horror, Ventavia agreed to pause enrollment but then devised a plan to conceal what I found and to keep ICON and Pfizer in the dark,” Jackson said during our interview. “The site was in full clean-up mode. When missing data points were discovered the information was fabricated, including forged signatures on the informed consent forms.” A screenshot Jackson shared with me shows she was invited to a meeting titled “COVID 1001 Clean up Call” on Sept. 21, 2020. She refused to participate in the call. Jackson repeatedly warned her superiors about patient safety concerns and data integrity issues. “I knew that the entire world was counting on clinical researchers to develop a safe and effective vaccine and I did not want to be a part of that failure by not reporting what I saw,” she told me. When her employer failed to act, Jackson filed a complaint with the FDA on Sept. 25, and Ventavia fired her hours later that same day under the pretense that she was “not a good fit.” After reviewing her concerns over the phone, she claims the FDA never followed up or inspected the Ventavia site. Ten weeks later, the FDA authorized the EUA for the vaccine. Meanwhile, Pfizer hired Ventavia to handle the research for four more vaccine clinical trials, including one involving children and young adults, one for pregnant women, and another for the booster. Not only that, but Ventavia handled the clinical trials for Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and Novavax. Jackson is currently pursuing a False Claims Act lawsuit against Pfizer and Ventavia Research Group. Last year, Pfizer banked nearly $37 billion from its COVID vaccine, making it one of the most lucrative products in global history. Its overall revenues doubled in 2021 to reach $81.3 billion, and it’s slated to reach a record-breaking $98-$102 billion this year. “Corporations like Pfizer should never have been put in charge of a global vaccination rollout, because it was inevitable they would make life-and-death decisions based on what’s in the short-term interest of their shareholders,” writes Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now. As previously mentioned, it’s super common for pharmaceutical companies to fund the research on their own products. Here’s why that’s scary. One 1999 meta-analysis showed that industry-funded research is eight times less likely to achieve unfavorable results compared to independent trials. In other words, if a pharmaceutical company wants to prove that a medication, supplement, vaccine, or device is safe and effective, they’ll find a way. With that in mind, I recently examined the 2020 study on Pfizer’s COVID vaccine to see if there were any conflicts of interest. Lo and behold, the lengthy attached disclosure form shows that of the 29 authors, 18 are employees of Pfizer and hold stock in the company, one received a research grant from Pfizer during the study, and two reported being paid “personal fees” by Pfizer. In another 2021 study on the Pfizer vaccine, seven of the 15 authors are employees of and hold stock in Pfizer. The other eight authors received financial support from Pfizer during the study. Photo credit: Prasesh Shiwakoti (Lomash) via Unsplash As of the day I’m writing this, about 64% of Americans are fully vaccinated, and 76% have gotten at least one dose. The FDA has repeatedly promised “full transparency” when it comes to these vaccines. Yet in December of 2021, the FDA asked for permission to wait 75 years before releasing information pertaining to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, including safety data, effectiveness data, and adverse reaction reports. That means no one would see this information until the year 2096 — conveniently, after many of us have departed this crazy world. To recap: the FDA only needed 10 weeks to review the 329,000 pages worth of data before approving the EUA for the vaccine — but apparently, they need three-quarters of a century to publicize it. In response to the FDA’s ludicrous request, PHMPT — a group of over 200 medical and public health experts from Harvard, Yale, Brown, UCLA, and other institutions — filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act demanding that the FDA produce this data sooner. And their efforts paid off: U.S. District Judge Mark T. Pittman issued an order for the FDA to produce 12,000 pages by Jan. 31, and then at least 55,000 pages per month thereafter. In his statement to the FDA, Pittman quoted the late John F. Kennedy: “A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.” As for why the FDA wanted to keep this data hidden, the first batch of documentation revealed that there were more than 1,200 vaccine-related deaths in just the first 90 days after the Pfizer vaccine was introduced. Of 32 pregnancies with a known outcome, 28 resulted in fetal death. The CDC also recently unveiled data showing a total of 1,088,560 reports of adverse events from COVID vaccines were submitted between Dec. 14, 2020, and Jan. 28, 2022. That data included 23,149 reports of deaths and 183,311 reports of serious injuries. There were 4,993 reported adverse events in pregnant women after getting vaccinated, including 1,597 reports of miscarriage or premature birth. A 2022 study published in JAMA, meanwhile, revealed that there have been more than 1,900 reported cases of myocarditis — or inflammation of the heart muscle — mostly in people 30 and under, within 7 days of getting the vaccine. In those cases, 96% of people were hospitalized. “It is understandable that the FDA does not want independent scientists to review the documents it relied upon to license Pfizer’s vaccine given that it is not as effective as the FDA originally claimed, does not prevent transmission, does not prevent against certain emerging variants, can cause serious heart inflammation in younger individuals, and has numerous other undisputed safety issues,” writes Aaron Siri, the attorney representing PHMPT in its lawsuit against the FDA. Siri told me in an email that his office phone has been ringing off the hook in recent months. “We are overwhelmed by inquiries from individuals calling about an injury from a COVID-19 vaccine,” he said. By the way — it’s worth noting that adverse effects caused by COVID-19 vaccinations are still not covered by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Companies like Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson are protected under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act, which grants them total immunity from liability with their vaccines. And no matter what happens to you, you can’t sue the FDA for authorizing the EUA, or your employer for requiring you to get it, either. Billions of taxpayer dollars went to fund the research and development of these vaccines, and in Moderna’s case, licensing its vaccine was made possible entirely by public funds. But apparently, that still warrants citizens no insurance. Should something go wrong, you’re basically on your own. Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine business model: government gives them billions, gives them immunity for any injuries or if doesn't work, promotes their products for free, and mandates their products. Sounds crazy? Yes, but it is our current reality. — Aaron Siri (@AaronSiriSG) February 2, 2022 The Hypocrisy of “Misinformation” I find it interesting that “misinformation” has become such a pervasive term lately, but more alarmingly, that it’s become an excuse for blatant censorship on social media and in journalism. It’s impossible not to wonder what’s driving this movement to control the narrative. In a world where we still very clearly don’t have all the answers, why shouldn’t we be open to exploring all the possibilities? And while we’re on the subject, what about all of the COVID-related untruths that have been spread by our leaders and officials? Why should they get a free pass? Photo credit: @upgradeur_life, Fauci, President Biden, and the CDC’s Rochelle Walensky all promised us with total confidence the vaccine would prevent us from getting or spreading COVID, something we now know is a myth. (In fact, the CDC recently had to change its very definition of “vaccine ” to promise “protection” from a disease rather than “immunity”— an important distinction). At one point, the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) and former Governor Andrew Cuomo prepared a social media campaign with misleading messaging that the vaccine was “approved by the FDA” and “went through the same rigorous approval process that all vaccines go through,” when in reality the FDA only authorized the vaccines under an EUA, and the vaccines were still undergoing clinical trials. While the NYS DOH eventually responded to pressures to remove these false claims, a few weeks later the Department posted on Facebook that “no serious side effects related to the vaccines have been reported,” when in actuality, roughly 16,000 reports of adverse events and over 3,000 reports of serious adverse events related to a COVID-19 vaccination had been reported in the first two months of use. One would think we’d hold the people in power to the same level of accountability — if not more — than an average citizen. So, in the interest of avoiding hypocrisy, should we “cancel” all these experts and leaders for their “misinformation,” too? Vaccine-hesitant people have been fired from their jobs, refused from restaurants, denied the right to travel and see their families, banned from social media channels, and blatantly shamed and villainized in the media. Some have even lost custody of their children. These people are frequently labeled “anti-vax,” which is misleading given that many (like the NBA’s Jonathan Isaac) have made it repeatedly clear they are not against all vaccines, but simply making a personal choice not to get this one. (As such, I’ll suggest switching to a more accurate label: “pro-choice.”) Fauci has repeatedly said federally mandating the vaccine would not be “appropriate” or “enforceable” and doing so would be “encroaching upon a person’s freedom to make their own choice.” So it’s remarkable that still, some individual employers and U.S. states, like my beloved Massachusetts, have taken it upon themselves to enforce some of these mandates, anyway. Meanwhile, a Feb. 7 bulletin posted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security indicates that if you spread information that undermines public trust in a government institution (like the CDC or FDA), you could be considered a terrorist. In case you were wondering about the current state of free speech. The definition of institutional oppression is “the systematic mistreatment of people within a social identity group, supported and enforced by the society and its institutions, solely based on the person’s membership in the social identity group.” It is defined as occurring when established laws and practices “systematically reflect and produce inequities based on one’s membership in targeted social identity groups.” Sound familiar? As you continue to watch the persecution of the unvaccinated unfold, remember this. Historically, when society has oppressed a particular group of people whether due to their gender, race, social class, religious beliefs, or sexuality, it’s always been because they pose some kind of threat to the status quo. The same is true for today’s unvaccinated. Since we know the vaccine doesn’t prevent the spread of COVID, however, this much is clear: the unvaccinated don’t pose a threat to the health and safety of their fellow citizens — but rather, to the bottom line of powerful pharmaceutical giants and the many global organizations they finance. And with more than $100 billion on the line in 2021 alone, I can understand the motivation to silence them. The unvaccinated have been called selfish. Stupid. Fauci has said it’s “almost inexplicable” that they are still resisting. But is it? What if these people aren’t crazy or uncaring, but rather have — unsurprisingly so — lost their faith in the agencies that are supposed to protect them? Can you blame them? Citizens are being bullied into getting a vaccine that was created, evaluated, and authorized in under a year, with no access to the bulk of the safety data for said vaccine, and no rights whatsoever to pursue legal action if they experience adverse effects from it. What these people need right now is to know they can depend on their fellow citizens to respect their choices, not fuel the segregation by launching a full-fledged witch hunt. Instead, for some inexplicable reason I imagine stems from fear, many continue rallying around big pharma rather than each other. A 2022 Heartland Institute and Rasmussen Reports survey of Democratic voters found that 59% of respondents support a government policy requiring unvaccinated individuals to remain confined in their home at all times, 55% support handing a fine to anyone who won’t get the vaccine, and 48% think the government should flat out imprison people who publicly question the efficacy of the vaccines on social media, TV, or online in digital publications. Even Orwell couldn’t make this stuff up. Photo credit: DJ Paine on Unsplash Let me be very clear. While there are a lot of bad actors out there — there are also a lot of well-meaning people in the science and medical industries, too. I’m lucky enough to know some of them. There are doctors who fend off pharma reps’ influence and take an extremely cautious approach to prescribing. Medical journal authors who fiercely pursue transparency and truth — as is evident in “The Influence of Money on Medical Science,” a report by the first female editor of JAMA. Pharmacists, like Dan Schneider, who refuse to fill prescriptions they deem risky or irresponsible. Whistleblowers, like Graham and Jackson, who tenaciously call attention to safety issues for pharma products in the approval pipeline. And I’m certain there are many people in the pharmaceutical industry, like Panara and my grandfather, who pursued this field with the goal of helping others, not just earning a six- or seven-figure salary. We need more of these people. Sadly, it seems they are outliers who exist in a corrupt, deep-rooted system of quid-pro-quo relationships. They can only do so much. I’m not here to tell you whether or not you should get the vaccine or booster doses. What you put in your body is not for me — or anyone else — to decide. It’s not a simple choice, but rather one that may depend on your physical condition, medical history, age, religious beliefs, and level of risk tolerance. My grandfather passed away in 2008, and lately, I find myself missing him more than ever, wishing I could talk to him about the pandemic and hear what he makes of all this madness. I don’t really know how he’d feel about the COVID vaccine, or whether he would have gotten it or encouraged me to. What I do know is that he’d listen to my concerns, and he’d carefully consider them. He would remind me my feelings are valid. His eyes would light up and he’d grin with amusement as I fervidly expressed my frustration. He’d tell me to keep pushing forward, digging deeper, asking questions. In his endearing Bronx accent, he used to always say: “go get ‘em, kid.” If I stop typing for a moment and listen hard enough, I can almost hear him saying it now. People keep saying “trust the science.” But when trust is broken, it must be earned back. And as long as our legislative system, public health agencies, physicians, and research journals keep accepting pharmaceutical money (with strings attached) — and our justice system keeps letting these companies off the hook when their negligence causes harm, there’s no reason for big pharma to change. They’re holding the bag, and money is power. I have a dream that one day, we’ll live in a world where we are armed with all the thorough, unbiased data necessary to make informed decisions about our health. Alas, we’re not even close. What that means is that it’s up to you to educate yourself as much as possible, and remain ever-vigilant in evaluating information before forming an opinion. You can start by reading clinical trials yourself, rather than relying on the media to translate them for you. Scroll to the bottom of every single study to the “conflicts of interest” section and find out who funded it. Look at how many subjects were involved. Confirm whether or not blinding was used to eliminate bias. You may also choose to follow Public Citizen’s Health Research Group’s rule whenever possible: that means avoiding a new drug until five years after an FDA approval (not an EUA, an actual approval) — when there’s enough data on the long-term safety and effectiveness to establish that the benefits outweigh the risks. When it comes to the news, you can seek out independent, nonprofit outlets, which are less likely to be biased due to pharma funding. And most importantly, when it appears an organization is making concerted efforts to conceal information from you — like the FDA recently did with the COVID vaccine — it’s time to ask yourself: why? What are they trying to hide? In the 2019 film “Dark Waters” — which is based on the true story of one of the greatest corporate cover-ups in American history — Mark Ruffalo as attorney Rob Bilott says: “The system is rigged. They want us to think it’ll protect us, but that’s a lie. We protect us. We do. Nobody else. Not the companies. Not the scientists. Not the government. Us.” Words to live by. Tyler Durden Sat, 04/09/2022 - 22:30.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytApr 9th, 2022

Sperry: Ukraine Worked With Democrats Against Trump In 2016 To Stop Putin -- And It Backfired Badly

Sperry: Ukraine Worked With Democrats Against Trump In 2016 To Stop Putin -- And It Backfired Badly Authored by Paul Sperry via RealClearInvestigations, Six years ago, before Russia’s full-scale invasion of their country, the Ukrainians bet that a Hillary Clinton presidency would offer better protection from Russian President Vladimir Putin, even though he had invaded Crimea during the Obama-Biden administration, whose Russian policies Clinton vowed to continue. Working with both the Obama administration and the Clinton campaign, Ukrainian government officials intervened in the 2016 race to help Clinton and hurt  Donald Trump in a sweeping and systematic foreign influence operation that's been largely ignored by the press. The improper, if not illegal, operation was run chiefly out of the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, where officials worked hand-in-glove with a Ukrainian-American activist and Clinton campaign operative to attack the Trump campaign. The Obama White House was also deeply involved in an effort to groom their own favored leader in Ukraine and then work with his government to dig up dirt on – and even investigate -- their political rival. Ukrainian and Democratic operatives also huddled with American journalists to spread damaging information on Trump and his advisers – including allegations of illicit Russian-tied payments that, though later proved false, forced the resignation of his campaign manager Paul Manafort. The embassy actually weighed a plan to get Congress to investigate Manafort and Trump and stage hearings in the run-up to the election. As it worked behind the scenes to undermine Trump, Ukraine also tried to kneecap him publicly. Ukraine's ambassador took the extraordinary step of attacking Trump in an Op-Ed article published in The Hill, an influential U.S. Capitol newspaper, while other top Ukrainian officials slammed the GOP candidate on social media. Ukraine's ambassador to the U.S. attacked Trump in an Op-Ed weeks before the 2016 election. At first glance, it was a bad bet as Trump upset Clinton. But by the end of his first year in office, Trump had supplied Ukrainians what the Obama administration refused to give them: tank-busting Javelin missiles and other lethal weapons to defend themselves against Russian incursions. Putin never invaded on Trump's watch. Instead, he launched an all-out invasion during another Democratic administration – one now led by President Biden, Barack Obama's former Vice President, whose Secretary of State last year alarmed Putin by testifying, “We support Ukraine's membership in NATO.” Biden boasted he’d go “toe to toe” with Putin, but that didn't happen as the autocrat amassed tanks along Ukraine’s border in response to the NATO overtures. The Ukrainian mischief is part of Special Counsel John Durham’s broader inquiry – now a full-blown criminal investigation with grand jury indictments – into efforts to falsely target Trump as a Kremlin conspirator in 2016 and beyond. Sources say Durham has interviewed several Ukrainians, but it’s not likely the public will find out exactly what he's learned about the extent of Ukraine’s meddling in the election until he releases his final report, which sources say could be several months away. In the meantime, a comprehensive account of documented Ukrainian collusion – including efforts to assist the FBI in its 2016 probe of Manafort – is pieced together here for the first time. It draws from an archive of previously unreported records generated from a secret Federal Election Commission investigation of the Democratic National Committee that includes never-before-reviewed sworn affidavits, depositions, contracts, emails, text messages, legal findings and other documents from the case. RealClearInvestigations also examined diplomatic call transcripts, White House visitor logs, lobbying disclosure forms, congressional reports and closed-door congressional testimony, as well as information revealed by Ukrainian and Democratic officials in social media postings, podcasts and books. 2014: Prelude to Collusion U.S. envoys Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt helped bring to power Ukraine's Petro Poroshenko, right. (AP) The coordination between Ukrainian and Democratic officials can be traced back at least to January 2014. It was then when top Obama diplomats – many of whom now hold top posts in the Biden administration – began engineering regime change in Kiev, eventually installing a Ukrainian leader they could control. On Jan. 27, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt phoned Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland at her home in Washington to discuss picking opposition leaders to check the power of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, whom they believed was too cozy with Putin. “We’ve got to do something to make it stick together,” Pyatt said of a planned coalition government, adding that they needed “somebody with an international personality to come out here and help to midwife this thing.” Nuland responded that Biden’s security adviser Jake Sullivan had just told her that the vice president – who was acting as Obama’s point man in Ukraine – would give his blessing to the deal. “Biden’s willing,” she said. But they agreed they had to “move fast” and bypass the European Union. “Fuck the EU,” Nuland told the ambassador, according to a leaked transcript of their call. Hunter Biden: His father helped engineer the rise of an amenable Ukrainian leader who would later fire a prosecutor investigating the son.   Nuland’s role in the political maneuvering was not limited to phone calls. She traveled to Kiev and helped organize street demonstrations against Yanukovych, even handing out sandwiches to protesters. In effect, Obama officials greased a revolution. Within months, Yanukovych was exiled and replaced by Petro Poroshenko, who would later do Biden’s bidding – including firing a prosecutor investigating his son Hunter. Poroshenko would also later support Clinton's White House bid after Biden decided not to run, citing the death of his older son Beau. The U.S. meddling resulted in the installation of an anti-Putin government next door to Russia. A furious Putin viewed the interference as an attempted coup and soon marched into Crimea. Nuland is now Biden’s undersecretary of state and Sullivan serves as his national security adviser. Whispering in their ear at the time was a fiery pro-Ukraine activist and old Clinton hand, Alexandra “Ali” Chalupa. A daughter of Ukrainian immigrants, Chalupa informally advised the State Department and White House in early 2014. She organized multiple meetings between Ukraine experts and the National Security Council to push for Yanukovych’s ouster and economic sanctions against Putin. In the NSC briefings, Chalupa also agitated against longtime attorney-lobbyist Manafort, who at the time was an American consultant for Yanukovych's Party of Regions, which she viewed as a cat’s paw of Putin. She warned that Manafort worked for Putin’s interests and posed a national security threat. At the same time, Chalupa worked closely with then-Vice President Biden’s team, setting up conference calls with his staff and Ukrainians. Another influential adviser at the time was former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who provided Nuland with written reports on the Ukrainian crisis and Russia that echoed Chalupa’s warnings. Nuland treated them as classified intelligence, and between the spring of 2014 and early 2016, she received some 120 reports on Ukraine and Russia from Steele. 2015: The Move Against Manafort Commences Paul Manafort: Targeted by Chalupa over work for the ousted Ukrainian president and ties to Trump. (AP) In April 2015, the DNC hired Chalupa as a $5,000-a-month consultant, according to a copy of her contract, which ran through the 2016 election cycle. (Years earlier, Chalupa had worked full-time for the DNC as part of the senior leadership team advising Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.) After Trump threw his hat in the ring in June 2015, Chalupa grew concerned that Manafort was or would be involved with his campaign since Manafort had known Trump for decades and lived in Trump Tower. She expressed her concerns to top DNC officials and “the DNC asked me to do a hit on Trump,” according to a transcript of a 2019 interview on her sister’s podcast. (Andrea Chalupa, who describes herself as a journalist, boasted in a November 2016 tweet: “My sister led Trump/Russia research at DNC.”) Chalupa began encouraging journalists both in America and Ukraine to dig into Manafort’s dealings in Ukraine and expose his alleged Russian connections. She fed unsubstantiated rumors, tips and leads to the Washington Post and New York Times, as well as CNN, speaking to reporters on background so a DNC operative wouldn’t be sourced. “I spent many, many hours working with reporters on background, directing them to contacts and sources, and giving them information,” Chalupa said. But no reporter worked closer with her than Yahoo News correspondent Michael Isikoff. He even accompanied her to the Ukrainian Embassy, where they brainstormed attacks on Manafort and Trump, according to FEC case files. Chalupa was also sounding alarm bells in the White House. In November 2015, for example, she set up a White House meeting between a Ukrainian delegation including Ukraine Ambassador Valeriy Chaly and NSC advisers – among them Eric Ciaramella, a young CIA analyst on loan to the White House who later would play a significant role as anonymous "whistleblower" in Trump’s first impeachment. In addition to Putin’s aggression, the group discussed the alleged security threat from Manafort. Chalupa was back in the White House in December. All told, she would visit the Obama White House at least 27 times, Secret Service logs show, including attending at least one event with the president in 2016. Eric Ciaramella (middle right) across from Ukrainians in a June 2015 meeting at the White House, flanked by Biden security adviser Michael Carpenter and Ciaramella's NSC colleague Liz Zentos. ( January 2016: High-Level Meetings With Ukrainians in the White House On Jan. 12, 2016 – almost a month before the first GOP primary – Chalupa told top DNC official Lindsey Reynolds she was seeing strong indications that Putin was trying to steal the 2016 election for Trump. Emails also show that she promised to lead an effort to expose Manafort – whom Trump would not officially hire as his campaign chairman until May – and link him and Trump to the Russian government. That same day, Chalupa visited the White House. A week later, Obama officials gathered with Ukrainian officials traveling from Kiev in the White House for a series of senior-level meetings to, among other things, discuss reviving a long-closed investigation into payments to American consultants working for the Party of Regions, according to Senate documents. The FBI had investigated Manafort in 2014 but no charges resulted. One of the attendees, Ukrainian Embassy political officer Andrii Telizhenko, recalled Justice Department officials asking investigators with Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau, or NABU, if they could help find fresh evidence of party payments to such U.S. figures. (Three years later, Democrats would impeach Trump for allegedly asking Ukraine to dig up dirt on a political rival, Joe Biden.) The Obama administration’s enforcement agencies leaned on their Ukrainian counterparts to investigate Manafort, shifting resources from an investigation of a corrupt Ukrainian energy oligarch who paid Biden’s son hundreds of thousands of dollars through his gas company, Burisma. “Obama’s NSC hosted Ukrainian officials and told them to stop investigating Hunter Biden and start investigating Paul Manafort,” said a former senior NSC official who has seen notes and emails generated from the meetings and spoke on the condition of anonymity. Suddenly, the FBI reopened its Manafort investigation. “In January 2016, the FBI initiated a money laundering and tax evasion investigation of Manafort predicated on his activities as a political consultant to members of the Ukrainian government and Ukrainian politicians,” according to a report by the Justice Department’s watchdog. The White House summit with Ukrainian officials ran for three days, ending on Jan. 21, according to a copy of the agenda stamped with the Justice Department logo. It was organized and hosted by Ciaramella and his colleague Liz Zentos from the NSC. Other U.S. officials included Justice prosecutors and FBI agents, as well as State Department diplomats. The Ukrainian delegation included Artem Sytnyk, the head of NABU, and other Ukrainian prosecutors. Ciaramella was a CIA detailee to the White House occupying the NSC’s Ukraine desk in 2015 and 2016. In that role, Ciaramella met face-to-face with top Ukrainian officials and provided policy advice to Biden through the then-vice president's security adviser Michael Carpenter. He also worked with Nuland and Chalupa.Ciaramella was carried over to the Trump White House. As RealClearInvestigations first reported, he would later anonymously blow the whistle on Trump asking Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to help “get to the bottom of” Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election, a phone call that triggered Trump’s first impeachment by a Democrat-controlled House. Ciaramella’s former NSC colleague Alexander Vindman leaked the call to him. Vindman, a Ukrainian-American, is also aligned with Chalupa. (Vindman is now back in the news for his demands that the United States provide more active military support to Ukraine and his insistence that Trump shares great blame for the war.) As Manafort drew closer to Trump, Obama officials zeroed in, and the FBI reopened a closed 2014 probe. (Justice Department Office of the Inspector General) February 2016: Obama White House-Ukraine Coordination Intensifies On Feb. 2, two weeks after the White House meetings, Secret Service logs reveal that Ciaramella met in the White House with officials from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, known as FinCEN, which would later provide the FBI highly sensitive bank records on Manafort. (In addition, a senior FinCEN adviser illegally leaked thousands of the confidential Manafort records to the media.) On Feb. 9, less than a month after the White House summit, Telizhenko, who worked for the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, met with Zentos of the NSC at a Cosi sandwich shop in Washington, according to emails obtained by the Senate. It's not known what they discussed. In addition, on Feb. 23, the two emailed about setting up another meeting the following day. “OK if I bring my colleague Eric, who works on Ukraine with me?” Zentos asked Telizhenko, apparently referring to Ciaramella. In the emails, they discussed the U.S. primary elections, among other things. NSC's Zentos and Ukraine's Telizhenko would meet and correspond numerous times during 2016. (HSGAC-Finance Committee Hunter Biden Report) Telizhenko would later testify that Ambassador Chaly had ordered him then to “start an investigation [into the Trump campaign] within the embassy just on my own to find out with my contacts if there’s any Russian connection that we can report back.” He suspects the Ambassador delivered that report to Chalupa and the DNC. Chalupa visited the White House on Feb. 22, entrance records show, just days before the second meeting Telizhenko had planned with Zentos. March 2016: Chalupa Engineers Manafort Messaging Assault With Ukrainians After Manafort was named Trump campaign chair, the campaign against him went into overdrive. New York Times On March 3, Zentos and Telizhenko planned to meet again, this time at a Washington bar called The Exchange. According to their email, Zentos wrote, “I’ll see if my colleague Eric is up for joining.” The pair also met the next day at Swing’s coffee house in Washington. After the meeting, Telizhenko emailed Zentos seeking a meeting with senior Obama NSC official Charlie Kupchan, an old Clinton hand who was Ciaramella’s boss on the Russia/Ukraine desk. Kupchan is an outspoken critic of Trump who has made remarks suggesting what countries “can do to stop him” and “protect the international institutions we’ve built .” Zentos and Telizhenko also met on March 10, patronizing the Cosi coffee shop again. On March 24, 2016, four days before the Trump campaign announced that it had hired Manafort, Chalupa met at the Ukrainian Embassy with Ambassador Chaly and his political counselor Oksana Shulyar, where they shared their concerns about Manafort, according to Politico. When news broke on March 28 that Manafort was joining the Trump campaign, Chalupa could hardly contain herself. “This is huge,” she texted senior DNC officials. “This is everything to take out Trump.” She immediately began circulating anti-Manafort memos, warning the DNC of the “threat” he posed of Russian influence. The next day, March 29, she briefed the DNC communications team about Manafort. They, in turn, hatched a plan to reach out to the Ukrainian Embassy to get President Porochenko to make an on-camera denouncement of Manafort and feed the footage to ABC News, where former Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos works as a top anchor. On March 30, Chalupa fired off an email to Shulyar, her contact at the Ukrainian Embassy: "There is a very good chance that President Poroshenko may receive a question from the press during his visit about the recent New York Times article saying that Donald Trump hired Paul Manafort as an adviser to his campaign and whether President Poroshenko is concerned about this considering Trump is the likely Republican nominee and given Paul Manafort’s meddling in Ukraine over the past couple of decades,” Chalupa wrote. "It is important President Poroshenko is prepared to address this question should it come up. In a manner that exposes Paul Manafort for the problems he continues to cause Ukraine." Within minutes of sending the email, Chalupa wrote the DNC’s communications director Luis Miranda, “The ambassador has the messaging.” Then she reached out to a friend in Congress, Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, about holding hearings to paint Manafort as a pro-Kremlin villain. April 2016: Chalupa Solicits Ukrainian Dirt on Trump, His Campaign, and Manafort Though accounts differ, Chalupa discussed Trump dirt with Ukrainian representatives. Federal Election Commission American presidential campaigns aren't supposed to work with foreign governments to dig up dirt on their political opponents. Geneva Convention rules bar diplomats from becoming entangled in their host country’s political affairs, particularly elections. There are also federal laws banning foreign nationals from engaging in operations to influence or interfere with U.S. political and electoral processes. In 2018, Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals on charges of conspiring to defraud the U.S. government for that purpose. But just weeks after Manafort was hired by the Trump campaign, the Ukrainian Embassy appeared to be working with the Clinton campaign to torpedo him and the campaign. Emails reveal that Chalupa and Shulyar, a top aide to Ambassador Chaly, agreed to meet for coffee on April 7, 2016, at Kafe Leopold, a restaurant near the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington. (Chalupa had paid a visit to the White House just three days earlier.) One of the purposes of the meeting, according to FEC case files, was to discuss Manafort and the danger he allegedly posed. They were joined at the café by Telizhenko, who said he was working on a “big story” on Manafort and Trump with the Wall Street Journal. In a sworn 2019 deposition taken by the FEC, Telizhenko alleged that Chalupa solicited “dirt” on Trump, Manafort, and the Trump campaign during the meeting. Telizhenko also testified that Chalupa told him that her goal was “basically [to] use this information and have a committee hearing under Marcy Kaptur, congresswoman from Ohio, in Congress in September and take him off the elections." Telizhenko later approached Ambassador Chaly about the DNC representative's overtures and he responded: “Yes. And I know that this is happening. You should work with her." After speaking with Chaly, Telizhenko claims that he went back to Shulyar who instructed him to help Chalupa. “I went to Oksana and said, ‘Like what are we doing?’” he testified. " And she told me, ‘You have to work with Chalupa. And any information you have, you give it to me, I’ll give it to her, then we’ll pass it on later to anybody else we are coordinating with.’” Less than a week later, on April 13, Telizhenko met again with White House official Zentos, email records reveal. Telizhenko said he resigned the next month because of concerns regarding his embassy’s work with Chalupa and the Clinton team. In her sworn account of the meeting, Chalupa acknowledged discussing Manafort and the “national security problem” he allegedly presented, but denied asking the embassy for help researching him. She allowed that she “could have mentioned the congressional investigation … that I had talked to Marcy Kaptur,” but maintained she couldn't recall trying to enlist the embassy in the effort. Shulyar, however, clearly recalls that Chalupa sought the embassy’s help warning the public about Manafort – including pitching stories to the press and lobbying Congress, according to a 2020 written statement to the FEC. An “idea floated by Alexandra Chalupa was that we approach a co-chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus to initiate a congressional hearing on Paul Manafort,” Shulyar said, though she denied the embassy acted on the idea. Around the same time, two Ukrainian lawmakers – Olga Bielkova and Pavlo Rizanenko – visited the U.S. and met with journalists, as well as a former State Department official with close ties to Sen. John McCain – David Kramer of the McCain Institute. Kramer would later leak the entire Steele dossier to the media. The meeting was arranged by major Clinton Foundation donor Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian oligarch who lobbied Clinton when she was Obama’s secretary of state. Bielkova was also connected to the Clinton Foundation, having once managed a Clinton Global Initiative program for Ukrainian college students. While Clinton was at Foggy Bottom from 2009 to 2013, Ukrainians gave more money – at least $10 million, including more than $8 million from Pinchuk – to the Clinton Foundation than any other nationality including Saudi Arabians. Pinchuk's donation was a down payment on an astounding $29 million pledge. On April 12, 2016, Bielkova also attended a meeting with Ciaramella and his NSC colleague Zentos, head of the Eastern Europe desk, according to lobbying disclosure records. In late April, Chalupa helped organize a Ukrainian-American protest against Manafort in his Connecticut hometown. Activists shouted for Trump to fire Manafort, whom they called “Putin’s Trojan Horse,” while holding signs that read: “Shame on Putin, Shame on Manafort, Shame on Trump” and “Putin, Hands Off the U.S. Election.” Chalupa also organized social media campaigns against Manafort and Trump, including one that encouraged activists to share the Twitter hashtags: “#TrumpPutin” and "#Treasonous Trump." Also that month, Chalupa reached out to Yahoo News reporter Isikoff to pitch a hit piece on Manafort. She connected him with a delegation of Ukrainian journalists visiting D.C. Isikoff would later be used by Steele to spread falsehoods from his dossier. May-June 2016: Manafort Dirt Spreads In a May 3 email, Chalupa alerted DNC communications director Luis Miranda and DNC opposition research director Lauren Dillion that there was “a lot more [dirt on Manafort] coming down the pipe[sic].” Chalupa told them the dirt has “a big Trump component” and would “hit in the next few weeks.” It’s not clear if she was referring to the notorious "black ledger” smear against Manafort, who was promoted to campaign chairman on May 19, but a story about it was brewing at the time. On May 30, Nellie Ohr, an opposition researcher for the Clinton-retained firm Fusion GPS, emailed her husband, Bruce Ohr, a top official at the Justice Department who would become a prime disseminator of the Steele dossier within the government, and two federal prosecutors to alert them to an article indicating NABU had suddenly discovered documents allegedly showing Manafort receiving illicit payments. Amid the flurry of anti-Manafort activity, Zentos met again with Telizhenko on May 4, records show. And Chalupa visited the White House for a meeting on May 13. Chalupa paid another visit to the White House on June 14, Secret Service logs show. On June 17, Ciaramella held a White House meeting with Nuland and Pyatt of the State Department to discuss undisclosed Ukrainian matters. In late June, the FBI signed an evidence-sharing agreement with NABU, less than two months before the Ukrainian anti-corruption agency released what it claimed was explosive new evidence on Manafort. July 2016: Ukrainian Officials Attack Trump Publicly Chalupa continued to pow-wow with the Ukrainian Embassy and got so cozy with officials there that they offered her a position, which she declined, as an “embedded consultant” in the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. That same month, high-ranking Ukrainian officials openly insulted Trump on social media in an unusual departure from normal diplomacy. For instance, Ukraine Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov tweeted that Trump was a “clown” who was “an even bigger danger to the U.S. than terrorism.” In another July post, he called Trump “dangerous for Ukraine.” And on Facebook, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk warned that Trump had “challenged the very values of the free world." (After Trump upset Clinton, Avakov and other officials tried to delete their statements from their social network accounts, saying that they had been wrong and had rushed to conclusions.) “It was clear that they were supporting Hillary Clinton’s candidacy,” Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Artemenko told Politico. “They did everything from organizing meetings with the Clinton team to publicly supporting her to criticizing Trump." While attending the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, Chalupa spread the scurrilous rumor that Manafort was the mastermind behind the alleged Russian hacking of the DNC and that he “stole" her and other Democrats’ emails. She later told her sister’s podcast that she had reported her conspiracy theory to the FBI, eventually sitting down and meeting with agents in September to spin her tale of supposed espionage (the Senate has asked the FBI for copies of her interview summaries, known as FD-302s). Chalupa also prepared a report for the FBI, as well as members of Congress, detailing her Russiagate conspiracy theories, which Mueller later found no evidence to support. In addition, Chalupa helped spread a false narrative that Trump removed a reference to providing arms to Kiev from the Republican platform at the party's convention earlier that month. Internal platform committee documents show the Ukraine plank could not have been weakened as claimed, because the “lethal” weapons language had never been part of the GOP platform. The final language actually strengthened the platform by pledging direct assistance not just to the country of Ukraine, but to its military in its struggle against Russian-backed forces. August-September 2016: The Phony Manafort Ledger Leaks  A page released by Ukrainian authorities from the fake Manafort ledger. New York Times/NABU In another attempt to influence the 2016 election, Ukrainian lawmaker Serhiy Leshchenko leaked to the U.S. media what he claimed was evidence of a secret handwritten ledger showing Manafort had received millions in cash from Yanukovych’s party under the table. He claimed that 22 pages of the alleged ledger, which contained line items written by hand, had mysteriously appeared in his parliament mailbox earlier that year. Leshchenko would not identify the sender. A fuller copy of the same document showed up later on the doorstep of a Ukrainian intelligence official who passed it to NABU, which shared it with FBI agents stationed in Kiev. Leshchenko and NABU officials held press conferences declaring the document was “proof" of Manafort corruption and demanding he be “interrogated.” The Clinton campaign seized on the story. In an Aug. 14 statement, campaign manager Robby Mook stated: “We have learned of more troubling connections between Donald Trump's team and pro-Kremlin elements in Ukraine.” He demanded Trump "disclose campaign chair Paul Manafort's and all other campaign employees' and advisers' ties to Russian or pro-Kremlin entities." But there was a big hole in the story. Though Manafort was a consultant to Yanukovych's party, he was paid by wire, not in cash, casting serious doubt on the ledger’s authenticity. Another problem: the ledger was alleged to have been kept at party headquarters, but rioters had destroyed the building in a 2014 fire. Leshchenko admitted that he had a political agenda. He told The Financial Times at the time that he went public with the ledger because “a Trump presidency would change the pro-Ukrainian agenda in American foreign policy.” He added that most of Ukraine’s politicians are “on Hillary Clinton’s side." Leshchenko also happened to be "a source for Fusion GPS,” as Nellie Ohr confirmed under questioning during a 2019 closed-door House hearing, according to a declassified transcript. Fusion was a paid agent of the Clinton campaign, which gave the private opposition-research firm more than $1 million to gin up connections between Trump and Russia. Fusion hired Steele to compile a series of “intelligence” memos known as the dossier. As a former MI6 operative, Steele gave the allegations a sheen of credibility. FBI counterintelligence veteran Mark Wauck said the dossier and the black ledger both appear to have originated with Fusion GPS, which laundered it through foreigners who hated Trump – Steele and Leshchenko. "The ledger and the dossier are both Fusion hit jobs,” Wauck said. “The two items shared a common origin: the Hillary campaign’s oppo research shop." In an August 2016 memo written for Fusion GPS, “The Demise of Trump’s Campaign Manager Paul Manafort,” Steele claimed he had corroborated Leshchenko’s charges through his anonymous Kremlin sources, who turned out to be nothing more than beer buddies of his primary source collector, Igor Danchenko, a Russian immigrant with a string of arrests in the U.S. for public intoxication, as RealClearInvestigations first reported. Danchenko had worked for the Brookings Institution, a Democratic think tank in Washington that Durham has subpoenaed in connection to its own role in Russiagate. Danchenko was indicted last year by Special Counsel Durham for lying about his sources, including one he completely made up, as RCI reported. “YANUKOVYCH had confided in PUTIN that he did authorize and order substantial kick-back payments to MANAFORT as alleged,” Steele claimed in the unsubstantiated report, citing “a well-placed Russian figure” with knowledge of a "meeting between PUTIN and YANUKOVYCH” allegedly “held in secret” on Aug. 15. As a paid informant, Steele had long reported to the FBI about alleged corruption involving Yanukovych. The FBI used his Clinton-funded dossier as a basis to obtain warrants to spy on former Trump adviser Carter Page, including the false claim that Page acted as an intermediary between Russian leadership and Manafort in a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” that included sidelining Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue. Steele also falsely claimed that Page had helped draft the RNC platform statement to be more sympathetic to Russia’s interests by eliminating language about providing weapons to Ukraine, according to a report by the Department of Justice's watchdog. In fact, Page was not involved in the GOP platform. The misinformation came from Danchenko’s fictional source. Fusion co-founder Glenn Simpson worked closely with the New York Times on the Manafort ledger story. In his book, “Crime in Progress,” Simpson boasts of introducing Leshchenko to the Times as a source, who ended up providing the paper some of the dubious ledger records. On Aug. 19, Manafort stepped down from the Trump campaign the day after the Times reported what it had been fed by the anti-Trump operatives. In effect, Ukrainian government officials tried to help Clinton and undermine Trump by disseminating documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and telling the American media they were investigating the matter. In 2018, a Ukrainian court ruled that Leshchenko and NABU’s Sytnyk illegally interfered in the 2016 U.S. election by publicizing the black ledger. Among the evidence was a recording of Sytnyk saying the agency released the ledger to help Clinton’s campaign – “I helped her,” Sytnyk is recorded boasting. But the damage was done. The Ukrainians, along with Chalupa and the Clinton camp, achieved their goal of undermining the Trump campaign by prompting Manafort’s ouster though they never proved he was colluding with the Russians. Neither did Special Counsel Mueller. In fact, Mueller did not use the ledger to prosecute Manafort after a key witness for the prosecution told him it was fabricated. “Mueller ended up dropping it like a hot potato,” Wauck said.  Ukraine’s neutrality in the election was also called into further question that September, when Porochenko met with Clinton during a stop in New York. He never met with Trump, who appeared to get the cold shoulder from the Ukrainian leader. In statements following Trump’s surprise victory over Clinton in November, Ukraine’s embassy has denied interfering in the election and insisted that Chalupa was acting on her own. Epilogue After Trump won the election in spite of her efforts to sabotage him, Chalupa predicted: “Under President Trump, the Kremlin could likely invade U.S. allies in Europe without U.S. opposition.” Not only did Russia not invade Europe “under Trump,” it didn’t even invade Ukraine. Rather, the invasion came under Biden, whose campaign Chalupa supported. Yet she continues to blame Trump. Recent tweets show a still-obsessed Chalupa has not dialed back her extremist views about Trump or Manafort, whom she believes should be prosecuted for “treason." In a Feb. 28 post on Twitter, for example, Chalupa claimed that Putin installed “a puppet regime in the U.S. with the help of Paul Manafort.” The previous day, she tweeted, “We had a Putin installed Trump presidency.” A day before that, she wrote: “Now would be a good time to release the Putin-Trump treason calls.” And on Feb. 25, Chalupa tweeted another wild conspiracy theory: "It’s important to note that Putin’s imperial aspirations are of a global criminal empire, as we saw when he installed Donald J. Trump president and tried to turn the U.S. into a Russian satellite state." Tyler Durden Fri, 03/11/2022 - 19:00.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytMar 11th, 2022

Insiders say RAINN, the nation"s foremost organization for victims of sexual assault, is in crisis over allegations of racism and sexism

22 current and former staffers said that RAINN, which has deep ties to Hollywood and corporate America, is facing an internal reckoning. Scott Berkowitz, RAINN's co-founder and CEO, began his career in politics, advising former Sen. Gary Hart's 1984 presidential campaign at just 14 years old.RAINN; Kris Connor/Getty Images; Alyssa Powell/Insider22 current and former staffers say the organization favored by Hollywood and corporate America is in crisis. 'How can RAINN be helping survivors externally, when they're traumatizing survivors and their own employees internally?'April Cisneros says the first time she was sexually assaulted at her private Christian college was in 2015, while she was playing piano in the school's conservatory. A music tutor came into the small practice room and began to touch her. The second time, one year later, she remembers waking up in a hotel room near campus after drinks with classmates. One man was forcing his hand into her pants while another ejaculated on top of her. The incidents were devastating, and further compounded by a conservative religious community that lacked empathy for her pain or a framework to understand it. "Maybe it's demons attached to you that attracted this fate," she recalls one pastor telling her. Others placed the blame on her, wondering if she set the right boundaries with men. While studying abroad at Oxford University in 2016, in an effort to get far away from what she suffered back home, Cisneros attempted to take her own life.Soon after, she Googled for help, and the website for the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, or RAINN, flashed across her computer screen. RAINN, which was founded in 1994 as a nonprofit, bills itself as the nation's largest anti-sexual-violence organization, operating a 24-hour hotline for victims and pushing for state and federal policies to punish sex offenders and support survivors. It has deep ties to corporate America and Hollywood, partnering with Google and TikTok and media like "I May Destroy You" and "Promising Young Woman," both of which center on sexual assault. (Insider itself utilizes RAINN's hotline; our publishing system automatically appends a referral link to RAINN at the bottom of every story about sexual assault.) In 2019, it reported nearly $16 million in revenue. It says its programs have helped 3.8 million people, and 301,455 people called its hotlines last year.The organization was a beacon in a difficult time, and Cisneros soon threw herself into supporting it. She cycled 1,500 miles across the country for a fundraising drive; later, after the Trump administration rolled back Title IX protections for campus-sexual-assault victims, she decided to get involved more directly. April Cisneros biked across the US to raise money for RAINN.April Cisneros"I was so angry," Cisneros told Insider. "I just remember thinking, 'Well, why don't I just, like, go try to be a part of the solution?'" She began working for RAINN in 2018 as a communications associate.But she soon discovered that it looked very different from the inside. Instead of the supportive, inclusive victims' advocacy organization that offered her hope in the depths of her depression, Cisneros found herself in a demoralizing workplace overrun by what she described as racism and sexism. She recalled that during the filming of a video about survivors' stories, her boss asked a participant to smile while recounting a sexual assault. "If you don't," Cisneros remembered her boss saying, "it'll look like you have a bitch face."Cisneros is among 22 current and former RAINN staffers who spoke to Insider and described a roiling crisis over race and gender in the over-200-person-strong nonprofit. These people described a culture in which a routine training was beset by racist caricaturing, executives ignored employees' requests for change, and people who were deemed political risks — including sexual-assault survivors — were silenced. According to these accounts, in one instance, a supervisor badgered an employee during the time she took off to recover from an abortion. In another, an Asian staffer was replaced on a project with a white man after their boss deemed him a better fit because of his race and gender. One staffer sent a resignation letter, obtained by Insider, in which she bemoaned "toxic managerial behavioral patterns" and worried that "young employees like myself, many of them survivors themselves, are currently being treated like their rights at work do not matter, like their comfort and security and health at work doesn't matter, like the skills they bring to work are worthless."RAINN declined to make its founder and president, Scott Berkowitz, available for an interview. In a statement, the group said it had made great strides in diversifying its workplace and addressing the concerns of its employees of color. It accused the current and former staffers who came forward to Insider of providing "incomplete, misleading, and defamatory" information about "a handful of long-outdated and disproven allegations.""RAINN is proud of the work our committed staff do, day in and day out, to support survivors of sexual violence," the statement read. "As an organization, we owe it to our committed staff to provide a work environment where they feel safe, appreciated, and heard … Over the last several years, like most organizations, RAINN has worked to expand and implement comprehensive Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policies and goals. We regularly update staff on our progress toward achieving those goals, and solicit feedback on potential areas of improvement. While there is always room to build on our efforts, we are continually working to foster an open dialogue between employees and leadership to ensure ideas and concerns can be heard and addressed."RAINN hired Clare Locke LLP, a boutique libel law firm that has gained a reputation for representing clients facing #MeToo allegations, including Matt Lauer and the former CBS News executive Jeffrey Fager, to respond to Insider's inquiries. During Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing, the firm's cofounder Libby Locke came to his defense, writing: "No wonder Judge Kavanaugh is angry. Any man falsely accused of sexual assault would be."When Insider asked RAINN whether Clare Locke's work was consistent with the organization's mission and values, the firm's partner Thomas Clare emailed a statement attributed to RAINN: "Given your questions contained outright lies about RAINN and our staff, and publication of those claims is potentially defamatory, we hired defamation counsel. We recognize we have a right to legal representation, and our attorneys have helped us disprove your ridiculous and libelous allegations."Some RAINN employees fear that the corporate dysfunction has poisoned the work of the largest sexual-violence organization in the country, which they continue to view as crucial, despite their own experiences. "How can RAINN be helping survivors externally when they're traumatizing survivors and their own employees internally?" Cisneros said.How RAINN became Hollywood and corporate America's go-to partner Through savvy marketing and hard work, RAINN has become to sexual assault what Planned Parenthood is to reproductive health: the premier, full-service resource for people struggling with a crisis and the ultimate destination for donations to help people who have been victimized.The global embrace of the #MeToo movement, and the contemporary focus on the depth and pervasiveness of sexual assault, has further aided RAINN's ascension. Companies in crisis often turn to the organization to telegraph their commitment to social responsibility. After dozens of women sued Lyft, claiming they were assaulted by its drivers, the company worked with RAINN to roll out extensive safety initiatives and contributed $1.5 million to its coffers.Hollywood has also embraced the organization. RAINN was cofounded by the Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Tori Amos, who promoted the organization's hotline at her concerts and sat on its advisory board. In 2018, Timotheé Chalamet pledged his earnings from Woody Allen's "A Rainy Day in New York" to groups including RAINN, as did Ben Affleck from productions affiliated with Harvey Weinstein. Christina Ricci, a star of Showtime's breakout hit "Yellowjackets," has served as an official spokesperson since 2007, and the platinum-selling pop artist Taylor Swift has donated to the organization, something it publicized from its social-media accounts.—RAINN (@RAINN) April 8, 2021 But Berkowitz has largely stayed out of the public eye. He began his career as a political wunderkind, advising Sen. Gary Hart's 1984 presidential campaign at just 14 years old. A profile in his grandparents' hometown newspaper in Pennsylvania said he was personally responsible for collecting $100,000 in donations for Hart — a feat achieved in between classes at American University, where he was already a sophomore. After graduation, Berkowitz continued to work in and around politics. His experience in the field, he said in a 2019 interview with RAINN, taught him about the "extent of the problem" of sexual violence in the United States and the opportunity to fill this "service gap.""I knew next to nothing about the issue," Berkowitz said. "It just seemed like a good idea." Christina Ricci has been a RAINN spokeswoman since 2007.Michael Kovac/WireImage/Getty ImagesEarly on, Berkowitz ran the day-to-day operations, and his early fundraising prowess served him well. After a series of sexual assaults at the infamous Woodstock '99 festival, promoters and record labels did damage control by giving RAINN 1% of the proceeds from the festival's CD and video releases. "In raw self-interest, the money and attention that would come from it would allow RAINN to promote the hotline better, provide more counseling, print more brochures," Berkowitz told the Village Voice. RAINN's budget swelled in tandem with its brand. Total revenue rocketed from more than $1.2 million in 2009 to nearly $16 million in 2019. Berkowitz's compensation grew from $168,000 to over $481,000 over the same period. Even though RAINN's tax returns list Berkowitz as its president and indicate that he was paid nearly a half a million dollars in the year ending in May 2020, RAINN says that he is not in fact an employee and does not receive a salary. Instead, for reasons that RAINN did not explain, he is paid through A&I Publishing, a company solely owned by Berkowitz that contracts with RAINN. "Scott Berkowitz is paid solely as an independent contractor through A&I Publishing and does not receive any salary or benefits," it said. "He has never received any employee compensation from RAINN."RAINN's tax records tell a slightly different story. The group has reported paying a total of $561,500 in consulting fees for "strategic and financial oversight" to A&I Publishing from 2001 to 2006, during which time Berkowitz drew no salary from RAINN. Since 2007, though, RAINN has reported directly paying Berkowitz a total of $3,529,000. (RAINN says he "is recused from all board consideration of his compensation.")Over the same period, RAINN also began reporting payments to A&I to service $288,000 in debt that it owed the consultancy at 5% interest. RAINN's tax records don't reflect that the organization ever received any cash from A&I; instead, the loan is described in its 2006 tax return as "issuance of debt for prior year services." RAINN says the loan, which has been repaid, stems from "deferred payment for fees" that RAINN owed A&I "for a number of years."'How does an organization like RAINN make such an egregious mistake?'With the Woodstock '99 deal, Berkowitz struck on a highly successful strategy — corporate penance — and he would often return to it. But he also looked to the public sector for funding opportunities.One of RAINN's largest sources of revenue — $2 million a year — is its contract to run the Department of Defense's Safe Helpline, which offers confidential, anonymous counseling to members of the military who have been affected by sexual violence. Multiple staffers who spoke with Insider said Berkowitz was exceedingly sensitive about maintaining the contract. They said that he had gone to great lengths to stay in the Department of Defense's good graces and that they believe RAINN has at times been overly deferential to its interests. Michael Wiedenhoeft-Wilder in February 2022.Evan Jenkins for InsiderMichael Wiedenhoeft-Wilder, a former flight attendant and roller-rink operator who previously served in the Navy as a medic, said that in 1982, just months after he enlisted, a Navy physician raped him. The doctor, who outranked Wiedenhoeft-Wilder, threatened him with prison time if he came forward. Wiedenhoeft-Wilder said it was the first of multiple sexual assaults he suffered, all of which resulted in a diagnosis of complex post-traumatic stress disorder.Wiedenhoeft-Wilder stayed silent about the assault for nearly 30 years. He became depressed and experienced paranoid suspicions that the government was spying on him, ready to silence him if he ever told the truth about his assault.But decades of therapy empowered Wiedenhoeft-Wilder to eventually come forward. He discovered the Safe Helpline, which then led him to RAINN's Speakers Bureau, a roster of more than 4,000 volunteer survivors who share their stories with the media, student groups, and other organizations. When Wiedenhoeft-Wilder signed up with the bureau, his story was selected for publication on RAINN's website. In October 2019, he worked with April Cisneros, who helped manage the Speakers Bureau, to prepare the story.But the story was abruptly killed. Cisneros said Berkowitz decided to pull Wiedenhoeft-Wilder's account once he realized that it involved an officer assaulting an enlisted man."Once we actually wrote up his story, Scott was like, 'No, we're not even getting into this,'" Cisneros told Insider, adding that Berkowitz refused to send the story to the Department of Defense for review, as it routinely did with accounts of military sexual assault. Cisneros said Berkowitz told members of the communications team that promoting the testimony of a man who had been assaulted by one of his superiors could harm the military's reputation and upset the Department of Defense. Cisneros told Insider she believed that Berkowitz did not want to risk losing the government's funding.Wiedenhoeft-Wilder was shocked. He had spent time with Cisneros revisiting the details of an assault that haunted him for 30 years, all for nothing."I've spent the last several days trying to deal with the devastating news that the article about my military sexual trauma being canceled for someone else," he told Cisneros in an email on October 31 that Insider reviewed. "How does an organization like RAINN make such an egregious mistake? Do you have any idea how this mistake has affected me? It's absolutely devastating. Just one more failure for me.""I feel victimized all over again," he wrote. "What did I ever do to you people to deserve this!"Cisneros, worried about Wiedenhoeft-Wilder's mental health, forwarded the exchange to Berkowitz and Keeli Sorensen, then the vice president of victim services, she said. "Maybe you just tell him you made a mistake," Cisneros recalled Sorensen telling her. She felt Sorensen's suggestion was, in effect, to "[fall] on my sword for RAINN."Cisneros told Insider that she told Wiedenhoeft-Wilder a lie about a scheduling conflict and blamed the mix-up entirely on herself. Wiedenhoeft-Wilder didn't believe her. "I know she wasn't telling me the truth," he told Insider. "I knew it wasn't her fault. It was a really weird, very strange thing to do to someone."Cisneros was heartbroken. She felt that she'd betrayed Wiedenhoeft-Wilder's trust and was distressed because she felt an anti-sexual-violence organization had asked her to deceive a rape victim. "What's so sad is people treat him like he's so paranoid about being silenced by the military, but that paranoia is at least … legitimate," Cisneros said. "And it happened again at RAINN."Sorensen denied having any involvement in the incident and said she was "not authorized in any way to instruct Ms. Cisneros in this matter," adding that Berkowitz had "total authority" with respect to the publication of Wiedenhoeft-Wilder's story. She said she did not know why Berkowitz pulled the testimony."I had no part in the matter," Sorensen said, "but it's my recollection, based on my conversation with Ms. Cisneros, that she had promised Mr. Wiedenhoeft-Wilder that she would publish their story before having secured final approval from Mr. Berkowitz."RAINN also said that if Cisneros had promised Wiedenhoeft-Wilder a spot on its website, it had "no knowledge of that and she was not authorized to make that commitment."Cisneros disputed that. She said that she provided Berkowitz with details of Wiedenhoeft-Wilder's story before reaching out and that he approved. "Scott gave me the greenlight to move ahead with the process if [Wiedenhoeft-Wilder] expressed interest," Cisneros said."We have no recollection as to why this survivor's story did not run in the fall of 2019," RAINN said, adding that some isolated quotes from Wiedenhoeft-Wilder's interview — stripped of their military context — were shared on RAINN's social-media accounts. The statement pointed to other stories from survivors of sexual assault in the military that RAINN had published; none of those featured scenarios in which an attacker outranked their victim.Evan Jenkins for Insider"We are not aware of the Department of Defense expressing concern over RAINN's coverage of military survivors," RAINN said, "nor is it standard practice for RAINN to consult with [the department] regarding the material and resources it publishes unless they directly mention Safe Helpline. RAINN frequently publishes the stories of military survivors and will continue to do so as it works to carry out the organization's mission to eradicate sexual violence from every corner of society."Anxiety around RAINN's relationship with the Department of Defense came up again in 2019. Six former staffers said one RAINN employee felt compelled to frantically retract public comments she had made in support of Black trans victims of violence amid the Trump administration's efforts to expel trans people from the military. The woman suddenly and mysteriously departed the organization on the day her remarks were published.(The woman's identity is known to Insider, which is not naming her because doing so may expose her to professional harm. The woman declined to comment for the record.) On March 7, 2019, to mark International Women's Day, the employee was one of "8 everyday women" featured by The Lily, a women-focused website published by The Washington Post. The Lily post listed the woman's age, background, position at RAINN, and responses to a questionnaire about her favorite fast-food chains and movies. But she came to fear that her seemingly uncontroversial answer to one question could become a professional liability.InsiderThe answer came a few months after the Trump-era transgender military ban went into effect, reanimating debates over trans rights. Two sources told Insider that the woman told them that RAINN's leadership expressed alarm over her contribution to the article and was frustrated that the woman had spoken to the media without getting consent from leadership.One source told Insider that Jodi Omear, then RAINN's vice president of communications, said minutes after reading the article that it was "too controversial" and that she worried it "could jeopardize our contract with the Department of Defense." The source said Omear escalated the article to Berkowitz and the human-resources director, Claudia Kolmer, because she was confident they would feel the same.Omear told Insider that because the former staffer had been under her supervision, it would be "inappropriate" to comment on her exit from the organization.On the day the questionnaire was published, the woman called the reporter at The Lily who'd conducted the interview and asked her to remove the reference to RAINN, as well as her comments about trans people, according to four sources familiar with the situation. The writer agreed. Insider viewed an original version of the interview that contained the employee's affiliation and comments about trans rights; the version currently published online does not.Two former employees said the woman was escorted out of the office by human resources the day the story was published. RAINN said that "it is standard practice that an employee separating from the organization is accompanied by a RAINN human resources representative when leaving the premises in order to collect their office keys, security fob and other credentials," adding that it "reached a separation agreement" with the woman a week after the story was published.One staffer who sat near her described the woman as a "fabulous" employee who was heavily invested in the projects they were set to work on together."It was one of the reasons why it was so shocking," the staffer said. "Like, where'd she go?"In its statement, RAINN claimed that the woman's remarks were an unauthorized attempt to speak on behalf of the Pentagon. "[The RAINN staffer] spoke with a Washington Post reporter on-the-record, on behalf of RAINN and the Department of Defense Safe Helpline, which she was not authorized to do," the statement said. "Contractually RAINN is barred from speaking on behalf of the Department of Defense or Safe Helpline." The Lily billed the interview as an opportunity to "step inside the lives of 8 everyday women." Aside from identifying her employer and job description — a format applied to other women featured in the post — the woman's interview did not touch on RAINN or the Department of Defense. Instead, she answered questions about her favorite body part and what she would change about her upbringing if she could.Still, RAINN said, the woman broke the rules: "The issue at hand centered around a clear violation of RAINN policy. RAINN supports all transgender survivors and has worked to remove the barriers to reporting sexual violence in LGBTQ communities, and to elevate the stories of transgender survivors, particularly for transgender persons of color for whom sexual violence is all too prevalent."Asked why, if that were the case, the woman would ask The Lily specifically to remove her comments about trans victims, RAINN said it was "unaware of any evidence indicating [the woman] was pressured to retract or remove" the comments. "RAINN is always mindful of honoring its contractual obligations not to speak on behalf of the DoD and the Safe Helpline," it said. "The fact someone commented on other subject matter or issues was irrelevant."A white male staffer was deemed a better fitJackii Wang joined RAINN's public-policy team in 2019, hopeful that she could use her experience working in national congressional offices to advance legislation that would help sexual-assault survivors. But she said her boss, RAINN's vice president of public policy, Camille Cooper, instead saddled her with administrative responsibilities like writing greeting cards. Wang said Cooper regularly discounted her ideas and "berated" her when they disagreed on issues the younger staffer considered minor. It became "psychologically terrifying," Wang said. Wang didn't immediately view that as discriminatory — multiple staffers said many of Cooper's employees complained of similar treatment. But during a performance review in December 2019, Wang said, Cooper attempted to explain her perception of Wang as defiant by rattling off stereotypes that Wang felt were "very targeted towards my Asian identity.""Camille asked me questions like, you know, 'Is your family very strict?' 'Do they expect perfectionism from you?' ... 'What was your childhood like?' Do I have problems with authority because of my family background?" Wang told Insider. What started as an implication became explicit, Wang said, when Cooper announced she would pull Wang off a lobbying assignment.Jackii WangDaniel Diasgranados for InsiderAt the time, RAINN was working on a Florida bill that would close a loophole in the state's statute of limitations for teen survivors. Cooper called Wang and another staffer into her office and told the two women she had decided to send a white male colleague in Wang's place, Wang said. Wang asked why."And she was like, 'Well, you know, because he's a white male,'" Wang recalled.Wang was mortified. While she had experience working with Florida legislators, her male colleague wasn't even registered to lobby in the state. Wang and the other staffer said Cooper argued that he would connect better with white conservatives in the state."He can talk about baseball. He can really, like, connect with these men," Cooper said, according to Wang and the other staffer present. "And these men really hate women.""Her reasoning for picking a white man over me for the project is that he'll be received better," Wang said. "But if that's the logic that she's following, then, like, I guess I shouldn't work anywhere because white men are received better everywhere."Neither Cooper nor the man responded to requests for comment.Wang said she reported the incident to Kolmer, the human-resources director, and Berkowitz in March 2020, along with a detailed recounting of other complaints about Cooper's leadership. But Wang said Kolmer never took serious action. When Wang quit that June, she sent Berkowitz a blistering resignation letter. "As you know, she has harassed and bullied every single person on our team, including an intern, and has blatantly discriminated against me," Wang wrote.Berkowitz thanked Wang for her time and for informing him, and asked Kolmer to discuss the issues Wang raised. Cooper continues to serve as a vice president, the face of RAINN's policy arm.RAINN said that Wang was too junior a staffer to lead a statewide lobbying effort and called her claims of discrimination "false and defamatory.""RAINN took Wang's allegations seriously and investigated the matter thoroughly," the statement said. "Ultimately it was determined that the basis of Wang's claims of discrimination were unfounded."RAINN did not deny Wang's claim that Cooper told her a white man would connect better with conservative legislators.Cooper wasn't the only executive to receive complaints. One current staffer and one former staffer described a meeting in which Jessica Leslie, the vice president of victim services, defended Berkowitz's unwillingness to address the concerns of staffers of color."You have to understand where he's coming from," they remember Leslie saying. "I mean, he's a white man, and you're all people of color — like, he's really nervous around you."One of the staffers was furious. "We just wanted to have a conversation. We're not about to berate the man," she told Insider. "This is not true," RAINN said. Its statement said that at a Safe Helpline shift managers meeting, a group of managers asked Leslie if Berkowitz would meet with them. When Leslie asked them to craft an agenda first, RAINN said, the shift managers asked Leslie if Berkowitz wanted an agenda because he was "uncomfortable talking to women of color." "The shift managers created this narrative," RAINN said, "not Leslie."Through an attorney, Leslie said she agreed with RAINN's responses and called the allegations against her "demonstrably baseless."A racist training, a pay disparity, and an email uprisingStaffers of color told Insider that they were often underpaid compared with their white counterparts; one, a nonwhite Latina woman who asked to remain anonymous, said she made $35,000 a year and lived in public housing to keep her head above water. After she quit for a higher-paying opportunity, RAINN filled her job with a white staffer who earned roughly $20,000 more, Cisneros said, adding that the white staffer disclosed her salary. (Three additional sources with knowledge of her salary corroborated Cisneros' account.) RAINN said the salary discrepancy was a result of both the role being "restructured" to include "significantly more responsibility" and the fact that the white staffer had an advanced degree.Four current and former RAINN staffers recalled that after RAINN's white office manager left for a new job, her replacement, a Black woman named Valinshia Walker, was asked to perform janitorial tasks that were not in her predecessor's job description — including scrubbing floors on her hands and knees, washing dishes, and disinfecting conference rooms. "Let me be very clear: [Walker's predecessor] never washed dishes from the sink. Ever," one former staffer said. "Val? You would come in, and Ms. Walker was cleaning the conference room. Like, wiping down all the tables. Spraying down the chairs. Doing the kitchen, she's washing dishes from the sink … You would see her walking around with the mask on and gloves because she literally cleaned. Like a cleaning lady."Walker declined to comment for the record. "The beliefs of your sources are simply not true," RAINN said, adding that Walker was hired as the "office coordinator," which had a different set of responsibilities than the "office manager" she replaced. "Maintaining a clean office has always fallen under the responsibilities of the HR and admin staff as a whole, this includes the office manager and office coordinator," the statement said. "We are not aware of any instances where Walker was asked to handle cleaning responsibilities beyond those that were part of the office coordinator's regular duties."Staffers also recalled what became a notorious and hamfisted mandatory sexual-harassment training in early 2020 led by an outside employment attorney hired by RAINN. According to more than a dozen employees, the attorney used a series of racist stereotypes to illustrate examples during the training."So let's just say, you know, there's Nicki [Minaj] and Cardi B are employees, and they're at their desks, and they start twerking," Cisneros recalled the lawyer saying. "Is that inappropriate workplace behavior?"At one point, Cisneros said, the lawyer proposed a hypothetical scenario in which a Latino-coded man — participants recalled his name was "Jorgé" or "José"—  kissed a coworker. The lawyer asked if the behavior could be appropriate "because this is Latino culture." "Your information regarding this training is inaccurate," RAINN said. "The examples in this legal training were all past legal cases using fictitious names." It added that staff concerns "were immediately addressed and the training was subsequently modified based on their feedback."Sarcia Adkins, a shift manager for the Department of Defense Safe Helpline who attended the training, was furious. She wrote an email to multiple executives, including Sorensen, Kolmer, and Berkowitz, on March 5 demanding action from the organization. "I wanted to get up and walk out at various points and it was one of the more traumatic experiences I've had at RAINN as a woman of color," she wrote. Kolmer acknowledged her complaints and promised to meet with Adkins alongside Berkowitz and Sorensen to discuss changes to the training and her issues with the nonprofit's culture.Adkins said that Kolmer didn't follow up that March but that Sorensen did reach out to schedule a one-on-one meeting. RAINN said Adkins agreed to meet Sorensen but "did not show up, without notification or explanation," and "did not follow up after she skipped the meeting." Several months later, after a former colleague intervened, Adkins did meet with Berkowitz and Sorensen. Adkins told Insider she was underwhelmed. "They pick what they want you to talk about," she said.The dysfunction came to a head during the summer of 2020, after the murder of George Floyd sparked a series of bitter internal conversations about RAINN's track record on race. In June 2020, Berkowitz sent an email with the subject line "A Note to the RAINN Family" to the entire staff. In it, he acknowledged the unrest and pledged to support the company's Black staffers.Sarcia Adkins replied to the email with a list of demands and copied the entire organization. She asked for mandatory cultural-competency training and a commitment to hiring Black employees for leadership positions. (RAINN says that 43% of its top seven staffers are people of color.) Adkins — who has been with RAINN since 2014 — asked Berkowitz why he hadn't reached out following the deaths of Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, and dozens of other victims of police violence."RAINN has never been a place [that] acknowledges or uplifts their black staff, not just people of color, and the injustices we face in the world and within the structure of RAINN," Adkins wrote.Following the police killing of George Floyd in 2020, Scott Berkowitz sent an email to staffers acknowledging the resulting unrest and pledging to support the company's Black staffers. But employees at RAINN began responding en masse, including one person who asked why a similar message was not sent after other police killings of Black people.Provided to InsiderIn 2021, in response to the outrage over the George Floyd email, the organization began internally releasing draft proposals on diversity, equity, and inclusion with goals the organization planned to achieve or had already accomplished. The laundry list of objectives, which Insider reviewed, included a plan to "develop new relationships to ensure a diverse pool of internal and external candidates for all open positions" and "collect more data to identify the causes of turnover."But people working in the organization say little has been achieved, or even attempted."Hiring practices are not getting better," said a current RAINN staffer, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. "There's been no management training. Turnover is horrendous." In its statement, RAINN recounted the diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts it began implementing in 2021, including "expanded recruiting," "revised exit interviews," and "researched training on DEI-related issues.""The summer of 2020 sparked important cultural conversations in companies and organizations across the United States, RAINN among them," the statement said. "As we've seen nationwide, there is more work to be done. Over the past two years, RAINN worked with experts and garnered input from staff to develop and implement Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policies and goals … Changes implemented to date include increasing diversity within senior management to better reflect our staff diversity and the people we serve, implementing an anonymous third-party ethics hotline where employees can voice concerns without fear of reprisal, offering expanded professional development and internal promotion opportunities, and increasing health and mental health benefits for employees, the four top priorities identified by staff."As evidence of its success in addressing the concerns of its employees of color, RAINN provided Insider an email that Aniyah Carter, a staffer on the Department of Defense Safe Helpline, wrote to the vice president of communications, Heather Drevna, in June 2020. Carter, who is Black, had been one of the most outspoken staffers demanding change at RAINN after Berkowitz's George Floyd email fiasco. When Drevna sent a follow-up email to staff announcing an employee survey and more personal and sick days, Carter replied with a note of thanks."I just want to personally thank you and the senior team for this," she wrote. "It's one thing to listen to and hear us. It's another thing to take action. I am proud of the responses of my colleagues and I am grateful for the swift action from leadership. It is my sincere hope that we continue to make a necessary shift in the right direction. Please let me know if there is any way I can be of assistance."Scott Berkowitz at the "Tina The Tina Turner Musical" Cocktail Reception, co-hosted by Anna Wintour in support of RAINN, on January 31, 2020.Tiffany Sage/BFA/ReutersWhen Insider asked Carter about the email, she said any movement in the right direction quickly stalled."They sent an email and that was it," Carter told Insider. "So my 'sincere hope' was crushed. It's so insulting for me. When this first happened and you were optimistic and gave us the benefit of the doubt, you say it here," she said, mocking RAINN's use of her email. "And it's like, OK, but two years later here we still are. And I've mentioned how I'm frustrated, but you're going to take words from two years ago feeling optimistic about the future and spin it as if that applies to today? Seriously? That was very upsetting because it makes me feel like this is more about optics than, like, how your staff really feels."'OK, well, who's gonna do the press clips?'When April Cisneros arrived at RAINN, she began working for Jodi Omear. Cisneros said she quickly ran up against Omear's domineering management style, which often seemed dismissive of and belittling to other women. Besides the "bitch face" comment, Cisneros said, Omear joked about how office dress codes could reduce the risk of sexual assault by preventing people from wearing provacative outfits. "I understand we're not supposed to blame the victim," Cisneros recalled Omear saying, "but, like, what do you expect to happen if you're in a dimly lit room and people of the opposite sex [are] wearing pants with holes in them?" Omear did not deny making either comment but told Insider that when training people who lacked experience with on-camera work, she directed them to "over-exaggerate facial expressions." She also said she "advocated for casual professional attire across the organization."Cisneros' low point at RAINN occurred in January 2019, when she unexpectedly became pregnant. She decided to take a sick day to visit a doctor. She told Insider she informed Omear the day before and outlined when her unfinished work would be completed.Omear became angry, Cisneros said, demanding to know why she didn't give more notice and insisting on further details. Omear called Cisneros at 9 p.m. demanding answers. Cisneros broke down and told her boss about the surprise pregnancy. According to Cisneros, Omear replied, "OK, well, who's gonna do the press clips?"The next day, as Cisneros met with her doctor, her phone buzzed with calls and texts from Omear. Between the stress of an unplanned pregnancy and Omear's incessant check-ins, Cisneros said, she "started bawling" under the stress.  A day later, Cisneros received a prescription for a two-day medical abortion. She requested an extra day off to recover, but Omear continued to pester her, texting and calling Cisneros for updates on RAINN's monthly marketing report. Cisneros said she finished the report from home while waiting for the bleeding to die down. (A RAINN staffer who was familiar with the incident corroborated Cisneros' version of events.)Omear told Insider that it would be "inappropriate" to comment on Cisneros specifically and did not directly answer a series of questions about Cisneros' allegations. "In general, when working with communications staff, especially in a fast-paced environment on such an important issue, it is/was important to ensure that other team members were able to cover assignments to meet any potential deadlines and organizational needs," she said in an emailed statement.RAINN said that it "was not aware of this incident happening in real time" and that it "supports employees taking time off and does not support managers encroaching on sick time."Omear's conduct was the final straw for Cisneros, and she wrote to human resources to complain. Cisneros said Claudia Kolmer told her in a meeting that the conflict "was a big misunderstanding" and that she should have come clean about her pregnancy sooner. (RAINN said that Kolmer told Cisneros that different managers have different preferences about how they should be notified of sick time and that "Cisneros was never asked to share sensitive personal or medical information.")Dissatisfied, Cisneros unloaded on Omear to Kolmer, accusing her boss of making inappropriate complaints about the loud breathing of a colleague who used a wheelchair and the habit of another colleague, who was blind, of walking into Omear's office by mistake, Cisneros said. (Another former RAINN employee corroborated the complaints to Insider.) Cisneros also said she told Kolmer that Omear made lewd remarks about the attractiveness of a sexual-assault victim set to make a public-service announcement. Omear denied making the lewd comments. She also denied complaining about disabled colleagues but said that she did recall "thanking one of my staff for helping" a blind colleague "when she couldn't find her way around the office."Cisneros rallied the entire RAINN communications department to put together a detailed list of other allegations of inappropriate behavior by Omear, which she collected in a memo for Kolmer and Berkowitz.Omear left RAINN that July, ostensibly to launch her own communications consulting firm. But Cisneros said Berkowitz told her that he had pushed Omear out in response to Cisneros' efforts. "We want you to know we're letting her spin her own story," Cisneros said Berkowitz told her. "But this is a direct result of the conversation you all have with us."The experience nonetheless angered staffers. Cisneros left RAINN the next year.Another colleague, Martha Durkee-Neuman, wrote a scathing resignation letter shortly after Omear announced her exit, addressing it to Omear, Berkowitz, and Kolmer."Jodi leaving of her own accord with no accountability is not justice," Durkee-Neuman wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained by Insider. "It is not justice for the countless people that she has fired or driven from RAINN. It is not justice to pretend that nothing has happened, that staff were not forced to go to HR over and over and over until something was finally done." "I do not believe any of this work of justice or restoration will happen at RAINN, so unfortunately, this is no longer the right organization for me," she added."After the communications team raised concerns [about Omear] with Claudia Kolmer," RAINN said, "RAINN worked swiftly and diligently to investigate the staff's complaints. RAINN took appropriate action to address the findings of that investigation and Omear separated with RAINN shortly thereafter."Martha Durkee-Neuman's resignation letter.Martha Durkee-Neuman'What is left?' On November 19, 2021, Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of charges related to the shooting deaths of two people at a civil-rights rally in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Some time later, Leslie, then the interim vice president of RAINN's victim-services department, addressed the organization's Black staffers. "I am deeply saddened by the pain and violence that has continued to plague our Black neighbors and communities," she wrote. "I want to recognize how this may be affecting you, as you navigate your day and the work you do at RAINN." She then touted the racial diversity of the victim-services department.Nearly 18 months had passed since the organization sent around its email about the death of George Floyd. Despite various promises and initiatives, in the eyes of many staffers, little had changed. But here it was again, another email promising to listen to staffers of color. Employees were enraged.Aniyah Carter, the Safe Helpline worker whose email RAINN provided to Insider, reminded her boss that nearly two weeks had passed since the verdict. "By now, we have already had to check in with ourselves so that we can continue our day-to-day lives," she wrote. "And while the opportunity to check in with managers is still absolutely available (and encouraged), the reminder to do so would have been more beneficial if it occurred when this took place." Carter also highlighted the gap she saw between leadership's stated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and its on-the-ground support of its employees of color, a sentiment echoed by other staffers who spoke to Insider.Daniel Diasgranados for InsiderFor Cisneros, the repeated failure of the organization to address the concerns of its staff speaks to something darker, and she is worried about how the culture at RAINN is affecting its ability to help abuse survivors."If church can't help, if school can't help, if the police can't help, if the hospital can't help, if my family can't help, my friends can't help — and now this nonprofit that is specifically saying that it's here to help people like me can't help?" she said."Like, what is left?"Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderFeb 25th, 2022

Sam Altman is "thrilled" that he"s not Time"s "Person of the Year" and is happy for Taylor Swift

Speaking on a podcast with Trevor Noah, the OpenAI CEO said he was pleased to be out of the spotlight for once. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman said he was pleased to be out of the spotlight for once.Sean Gallup/Getty ImagesSam Altman said not being named Time's "Person of the Year" has saved him from unwanted attention.The OpenAI CEO was on the shortlist for the accolade alongside Barbie and King Charles III.Altman told Trevor Noah that he'd received more attention in the past year than he would've liked.Sam Altman said he was "thrilled" at losing out on Time's "Person of the Year" accolade, which went to Taylor Swift instead.Speaking on the "What Now? with Trevor Noah" podcast, the OpenAI CEO said he was pleased to be out of the spotlight for once and "happy" for Swift. Altman was on the shortlist for the award alongside Barbie, King Charles III, the Hollywood Strikers, and Xi Jinping, and more."I've had more attention this year than I would have liked to have in my entire life," Altman told Noah during the podcast. "Thrilled to not get that," he said of the Time title.Altman said the attention he'd received over the past year had been fun in some ways but difficult for his personal life. He said he was often recognized in public and never got "to be anonymous anymore."With Altman at the helm, OpenAI has been at the forefront of the AI boom since the release of ChatGPT last year. The CEO has become a central figure in the tech world and a household name around the world. Over the past year, he's met several world leaders to discuss the future of AI.Altman has been under more intense scrutiny since his dramatic ousting from OpenAI last month. The CEO was suddenly fired in a shock board decision, briefly jumped ship to Microsoft, and was re-hired all in the space of a week.The failed coup caused chaos at OpenAI, with employees threatening to quit unless Altman was reinstated.Despite losing out to Swift for Time's top accolade, Atlman was named Time's "CEO of the Year."Fellow tech titan Elon Musk also weighed in on Swift's accomplishment, joking that her popularity might decline after winning the coveted Time title.The Tesla CEO was referring to the backlash he received after winning the award in 2021.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nyt16 hr. 23 min. ago

Elon Musk"s Twitter takeover involved him bringing in an advisor who wanted to cut 50% of the physical security budget "by midnight," former chief says

"This was done in hours, not days," said a lawsuit filed by Alan Rosa, who said the decision would have made Twitter breach FTC rules. Elon Musk speaks onstage during The New York Times Dealbook Summit 2023 at Jazz at Lincoln Center on November 29, 2023 in New York City.Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for The New York TimesA former security chief at Twitter said an advisor of Elon Musk's wanted make huge cuts in hours.Alan Rosa says in a lawsuit that the advisor wanted 50% of the security budget cut "by midnight."Rosa alleges that when he raised concerns, he was fired five days later in December 2022.Former Twitter head of security Alan Rosa is accusing Elon Musk and one of his advisors of cutting costs that would make the company breach federal rules — then firing Rosa when he tried to stop them.In a lawsuit against Musk and X filed on Tuesday in New Jersey, Rosa alleged that one of Musk's advisors, Steve Davis, ordered him to cut the company's physical security budget by 50% within hours."On or around the evening of December 1, 2022, Davis directed Plaintiff to cut the physical security budget by an additional 50% by midnight. This was done in hours, not days," Rosa's lawsuit said.Davis is the CEO of the Boring Company, another of Musk's firms that aims to build tunnel networks under major US cities to ease traffic.The exchange would have occurred around five weeks after Musk took over Twitter, which he renamed X, on October 28 that year.Musk and his circle of advisors had already cut the physical budget by 50% during that period, meaning Davis wanted it slashed even further, Rosa's lawsuit said.The security chief objected to the decision, saying it would put the company building at risk of violating a court order requiring Twitter to safeguard user data and privacy.The building's security staff were responsible for watching "over 800 laptops and other electronic devices" essential to the privacy safeguards, Rosa's lawsuit said.He was being told to cut these staff from the building, and Rosa was worried that there could be a security risk from "numerous protestors" outside the headquarters, per the lawsuit.Rosa says he was fired from Twitter days laterA few hours after raising his concerns, Rosa received a call from Davis, who told him he was no longer in charge of the physical security team and then hung up, the lawsuit said.Five days later, Rosa discovered he'd lost his company access and was effectively fired without an official explanation, the lawsuit added.The suit also alleges that Davis told him on November 11, 2022 to shut down Salesforce at Twitter, which the company used to share information with law enforcement about "time-sensitive and important legal matters."Rosa disagreed with the decision, and told a vice president of the company's legal team about his objections, the lawsuit added.Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that Rosa was denied his promised severance package and vested stock.He seeks compensatory, emotional distress, and punitive damages from Musk, advisors such as Davis, and X.Rosa's suit is one of several already filed by laid-off Twitter employees against Musk and X, and many say their contracts were breached and accused the billionaire of breaking state employment laws.Rosa was Head of Global Information Technology and Information Security when Musk assumed control of Twitter, and oversaw a team of around 500 staff, according to his lawsuit.His departure from the company came after Twitter's chief security officer, Lea Kissner, and Twitter's head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth, both left the company in the wake of Musk's takeover.The flurry of vacancies prompted worries from the Federal Trade Commission, which said in November that it was observing Twitter's compliance with "deep concern."Musk and an attorney for Musk did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent outside regular business hours.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytDec 6th, 2023

It"s about to be the perfect storm for big-time M&A deals to finally take off

Companies are getting more and more aggressive with their dealmaking despite a Biden administration that pledged to scrutinize M&A. President Joe Biden delivers remarks about his administration's approach to artificial intelligence during an event in the East Room of the White House on October 30, 2023, in Washington, DC.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images This post originally appeared in the Insider Today newsletter. You can sign up for Insider's daily newsletter here. Halfway to the weekend! A new (sort of) candidate has entered the debate over the top holiday song. Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" hit Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart for the first time in its 65-year existence. Could this be the beginning of the end for Mariah Carey's ubiquitous "All I Want for Christmas Is You"?In today's big story, we're looking at why corporate America isn't afraid of the Biden administration's anti-trust stance anymore and how that's leading to a wave of M&A.What's on deck: Markets: The top stock picks hedge funds and mutual funds agree on.Tech: A key player in the world of AI is an English professor you've likely never heard of.Business: Check out the $190 million Seattle real-estate empire Jeff Bezos is leaving behind with his move to Miami. But first, let's make a (big) deal.If this was forwarded to you, sign up here.The big storyAin't no stopping M&APresident Joe BidenKevin Dietsch/Getty ImagesBig deals are coming. And companies are betting there's nothing anyone — including the highest office in the land — can do to stop them. Shortly after US President Joe Biden took office in 2021, he looked to make good on his promise of scrutinizing corporate dealmaking, particularly in Big Tech. But as he enters the final year of his initial term, the floodgates for big M&A deals have opened, writes Business Insider's Matt Fox.The strict anti-trust stance of Biden and Lina Khan, the Federal Trade Commission chief he appointed, hasn't stopped a wave of deal announcements since September that total more than $170 billion.A key turning point was Khan's failure to stop Microsoft's $69 billion bid to buy Activision Blizzard. Like the first one to take a dip at a pool party, a court ruling in favor of Microsoft and against the FTC in July was a signal for companies and their bankers to join the fun.Now everyone from Cisco to Exxon Mobil is getting in on the action with pricey transactions of their own. Even Warren Buffett is reportedly considering helping to finance a high-profile deal in the energy space. But the starkest example of how bold dealmakers have gotten is a potential tie-up between giant health insurers Cigna and Humana, Matt writes. The deal is a longshot to get approved, but the fact both sides are even trying shows corporate America's ambivalent views toward the Biden administration's anti-trust agenda.Michael M. Santiago/Getty ImagesThe recent dealmaking spree is likely only the tip of the iceberg.Wedbush analyst Dan Ives told Matt, "there's going to be a tidal wave of M&A ahead," now that fear over Khan and the FTC squashing deals has mostly subsided. The revelation comes at a perfect time for the industry. Bankers have been desperate to get the M&A market going after an elongated drought. That, coupled with the market predicting significant cuts to interest rates next year, means things could ramp up quickly. And rest assured, bankers aren't interested in nickel-and-dime type deals. Earlier this year, Goldman Sachs was reportedly targeting mega deals — those over $10 billion — as a way to get back on track.  But it's not just the size of deals that'll be worth watching. There could be some interesting tie-ups between large incumbents and the startups that initially set out to disrupt them.With VC money drying up and an unwelcoming IPO market, late-stage companies might look to be acquired by the companies they once looked to topple.3 things in marketsREUTERS/Brendan McDermidHedge and mutual funds are buying these stocks by the boatload. Goldman Sachs analyzed more than 1,200 funds to find the stocks both mutual funds and hedge funds are betting on. These 10 stocks, from Mastercard to Uber, are some of their favorites.Reading between the lines of what central bankers are saying about rate cuts. The biggest question in the market is when the Fed will start cutting interest rates, with many expecting it to start early next year. These seven quotes from central bankers provide some clues.These predictions probably won't happen... but it'd be wild if they did. RFJ Jr. wins the US presidential election. McDonald's stock skyrockets as Ozempic encourages unhealthy habits. Saxo Bank's annual list of outrageous but underappreciated scenarios that would upend markets outlines fascinating "What ifs?"3 things in techL Brian Stauffer/University of Illinois; iStock; Rebecca Zisser/BIAmerica's smartest AI optimist. It's not Sam Altman, Satya Nadella, or any of the other big names you associate with AI. Instead, our greatest AI visionary is an English professor in Illinois named Ted Underwood. He's convinced that AI will help us all think more deeply and help scholars uncover exciting new truths.Leaked email: Microsoft is shaking up its security organization. The giant has named a new chief information security officer, according to an internal email. Bridgewater's former chief technology officer Igor Tsyganskiy will start his new role on January 1.The mini wave of Amazon employees quitting right now. Leaked internal messages showed that they cited issues like the strict RTO mandate, layoffs, and "lack of respect." One former employee even publicly shared that "the sheer number of AWS resignations in the last week is stunning."3 things in businessKarwai Tang/WireImage; Getty; Michael Walmsley; InsiderThe previously unreported Seattle properties of Jeff Bezos. He injected some serious cash into Seattle's real estate market. But now that he's moving to Miami with fianceé Lauren Sanchez, he leaves behind a mini-empire of eight homes in ritzy Seattle suburbs.Business Insider's fourth cohort of emerging commercial and residential real estate talent. The 20 professionals — all 35-years-old or younger — are making waves across a vast industry. The list of rising stars includes talent from firms like Cushman & Wakefield to startups rethinking old norms.How Mark Cuban forced the biggest US pharmacy to upend its business. CVS just announced a change to how prescription drugs get priced at pharmacies. It has been facing market pressure from new models like Cuban's Cost Plus Drugs.In other newsOne Medical employees are furious that Amazon is changing their compensation plan, leaked messages show.Twitch's chief revenue officer is set to leave the company.Tommy Tuberville finally caves and lifts hold on most military promotions.Elon Musk teases new details about Tesla's next car after the Cybertruck.Elder millennials are stuck in a lifestyle they can't afford.Here is one really great sentence about Taylor Swift after she got No. 5 on a "Most Powerful Women" list.A lot of things are getting cheaper. Here's why you probably haven't noticed.There haven't been this few job openings in two years. It's exactly what the Fed's been hoping for.Three things centenarians regret, according to longevity researchers who talk to the world's oldest people every day.There are four shakeups coming for the US housing market in 2024.Grand Theft Auto VI publisher's stock falls after first trailer reveals the video game won't come out until 2025.Prepare for the S&P 500 to plunge 23% by mid-2024 — and the US economy to sink into recession, JPMorgan's top charts guru says.What's happening todayThe fourth Republican presidential debate is tonight. Participants include Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, and Vivek Ramaswamy.Happy birthday to A Boogie Wit da Hoodie! Giannis Antetokounmpo, Princess Sofia, and Andrew Cuomo were also born on this day.Earnings today: Campbell Soup, Chewy, and other companies.For your bookmarks"Lazy girl" pastaSean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty ImagesMartha Stewart's favorite "lazy girl" pasta dish. Her cacio e pepe only needs butter, pepper, and Parmesan or Pecorino.The Insider Today team: Dan DeFrancesco, senior editor and anchor, in New York City. Diamond Naga Siu, senior reporter, in San Diego. Hallam Bullock, editor, in London. Lisa Ryan, executive editor, in New York.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytDec 6th, 2023