Quote of the Day - Retirement at sixty-five is ridiculous. When I was sixty-five I still had pimples.
Gold Watch For Retirement? How About An Escrow Account Instead?So, you want a nice severance package when you leave the company? How about finding out that your severance just got placed into escrow?
All $37 million of it.
Admittedly, that's quite a going-away present, but it's still less than tonight's $42M Super Lotto. Yours (and my) chances of a $37M departure bonus is just about as good as holding the winning ticket). Still, if I got that kind of money for quitting, I wouldn't be happy to discover that it's stuck in escrow.
The SEC under SOX can force "extraordinary" payments to employees into escrow if the agency starts an investigation of the publicly traded company. You probably didn't know that the company that publishes TV Guide made that much money, or for that matter, tried to pay $37M to two top execs.
The Ninth Circuit is the first federal circuit court to determine what "extraordinary" payments means. Here, the two execs got severance payments of five to six times their base salaries.
The SEC then started an investigation to - you guessed it - determine if the company had overstated revenues and understated liabilities. That investigation forced the $37M into escrow, and the execs have been fighting for two years to get it out of escrow and into their accounts.
The Ninth Circuit said, "do not pass go, do not collect $37M." Oh yes, and by the way, welcome to TV (Guide) hell.
How much would have avoided escrow? We don't really know. Senior Judge Steven Trott said, " 'out of the ordinary' means a payment that would not typically be made by a company in its customary course of business." What's typical in corporate America? Not much these days.
That guidance is about as clear as mud.
Some Advice Please: To A High-schooler Who Wants To Be A LawyerJohn, a high-schooler, wants to become a lawyer. He wrote to me (and I presume a number of other Law.com bloggers since he found me through Law.com). I cleared it with his mother, and we will likely correspond through email about his desire to become a lawyer.
Here's his email as it came to me, with only his name changed to protect his privacy:
"Hello Mr. Craig. My name is John. I am only a junior in High School. And I already know what career I desire to persue. I worked at a law firm for the past 2 years (during summer, spring and winter breaks). I love law. I participate in anything law related. Debating, Mock trials, moot court and mono congress.
I am seeking your advice. I want to get ahead start.
If you have the time, and your willing, I would love to speak with you regarding this issue.
Please acknowledge your willingness by replying this email. John."
Now's your chance to give some advice to an aspiring lawyer. Comment away.
Podcasts and Vidcasts On Hold - MIPTC Hit *One*Thanks to some astute readers, listeners and watchers, you discovered that MIPTC crashed over the weekend. MIPTC hit its server capacity limit (one gigabyte) and the server went haywire. Ernie may have turned three (hat tip to Denise), but MIPTC hit one gig.
We're working on moving to a dedicated server with more storage capacity. As soon as we find a new home, podcasts and vidcasts will return. Those two features are largely responsible for running out of space. Here are the stats, in case you were wondering: 212 podcasts, using a total of 648mb of space (from 10/30/04 - 3/18/05), and 18 videocasts, using 295mb of space (from 1/17/05/ - 3/5/05), totaling 943mb. The remainder, some 57 megs, is comprised of all the text.
Thanks for your patience until we get this problem resolved. In case you were wondering, MIPTC is just one year and seven months old. Ernie's the old man on the blog block.
Bloggers Get FOIA Fee WaiverApparently, I haven't been paying close enough attention. If you're a blogger, you can now get a fee waiver from the Freedom of Information Act to get information from the government.
Bet you can't wait.
The Little Costs Of Doing Business?Last week, Wal-Mart announced that it has agreed to pay $11 million to settle federal allegations that the chain used illegal immigrants to clean its stores. The settlement also requires Wal-Mart to develop procedures that require that its stores, as well as its contractors, to comply with federal immigration laws.
Interestingly, Wal-Mart also announced an increase in excess of 15% in its annual dividend today as well. As large as $11 million is, it apparently hasnít affected the financial situation of the company too significantly. Iím no math expert, but if my Excel calculations are correct the fine works out to approximately twenty minutes worth of sales to the company. Frightening in so many ways isnít it? First, that any company can generate that type of cash in twenty minutes and second that the largest civil immigration fine in history amounts to little more than a drop in the bucket to such a massive organization.
Without the stipulation that Wal-Mart develop measures to ensure its future compliance with immigration laws, I wonder how much impetus would exist to enact such changes in light of the settlement amount and the decision by US Immigration not to pursue criminal charges.
Foreign Operations Place Foreigners In Forlorn JeopardyThe Indonesia Supreme Court upheld the jailing of three executives of Newmont Mining Company late last year. They were held for 30 days and then released. Indonesian officials were investigating possible environmental contamination. Newmont disputes the environmental allegations (scroll down to "Indonesia" section).
Back in October last year, Reuters explained the allegations.
Newmont mines gold and touts its environmental compliance. Indonesian environmental activists claim the company discharges arsenic and mercury into the ocean and air as part of its operations. The company has numerous press releases addressing these issues (see sidebar on right).
It appears, however, that Indonesia will be pursing charges against the Denver-based company's executives that could result in prison terms of up to 15 years. Things on the civil front don't appear much better. Although Newmont notes that a nearly half-billion dollar lawsuit was dropped by activists in Indonesia, a new, $133 million lawsuit popped up last week. An AP article published Thursday in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer noted, "Jakarta's determination to press charges against Newmont has cheered green activists, who have long complained that foreign mining operations in Indonesia skirt environmental laws. But it risks spooking investors who complain that Indonesia's legal system and police are inefficient and corrupt."
The World Health Organization and an Indonesian environmental ministry first found no mercury pollution, but a later study by the Indonesian government apparently found high levels in the seabed.
Newmont's executives are essentially free on bail, and must check in periodically with local authorities.
MIPTC's Friday At The Movie Series: Reel Reviews Looks at: HeatIt's Friday again, and time for another installment in the Friday At The Movies series, brought to you by my friend Michael Geoghegan. Here it is:
Reel Review #30: ďI do what I do best, I take scores. You do what you do best, try to stop guys like me.Ē Check out this Michael Mann written and directed film that puts Al Pacino and Robert De Niro on the screen together. A wild ride that blends action and drama. I go a little longer than usual, but can you blame me with so much great stuff to talk about. Check it out.
Heat DVD at Amazon
MIPTC's Friday Series: Grape Radio - Letís Celebrate ChampagneGrape Radio #13: Come join along with guest Joanne Beamon, of the Moet Hennessy Corporation in exploring the effervescent drink that has delighted the world for the past two hundred years. Whether itís French champagne or sparking wine we learn how bubbly is made and that itís not just for toasting anymore.
You can find more information on Veuve-Clicquot at: Clicquot Inc.