Archive for the “Business News” Category

In case you missed the news a Federal Appeals Court ruled this week on if the FCC has the authority to dictate to Internet Providers how the manage the data being sent through their networks. In 2007 the FCC judged that Comcast could not throttle or delay certain types of traffic such as Bit Torrent, a type of file transfer, however Comcast argued the FCC did not have the authority to make such a ruling or issue any fines. This week a D.C. Appeals Court agreed with Comcast that the FCC’s statutory authority does not extend into how ISP’s manage their network traffic or content.

Now on to why this has any bearing on your day to day life or business.

The term Net Neutrality in it’s basic form means all traffic on a public network (Internet) must be treat equally. This means your video watching of YouTube and your neighbors online gaming both must travel across the Internet unencumbered by traffic management which places one type of web use above another. Sounds simple and basic enough right? Well ISP’s argue that for one they need to manage their networks to provide quality service to all customers and if one customer or type of use is putting a strain on the system they need to be allowed to adjust that traffic so all users get acceptable access. Well that also sounds reasonable enough doesn’t it? Thus the problem, should all access be equal or should an ISP be able to control the bandwidth so all users get reasonable performance.

Now for the Dark Side. Let’s say ISPs such as Comcast and Time Warner have certain content on the web. As a Road Runner customer I find I can access that Time Warner content extremely fast but when I try to watch something Comcast is providing I find it’s horribly slow, hmm, is it fair for Road Runner to slow down access to competitive services or product? Better yet let’s say a Road Runner calls up Google who owns YouTube and says, “we need you to start paying for the amount of data people are using to view your content or we will start slowing that content delivery down. Don’t forget Google is saying they want to drop fiber in a couple of cities and those cities are bending over backwards to get Google’s money but what if Google did lay fiber in say Winston-Salem then turned around and only allowed high speed access to Google services and slowed down access to everything else? Well I think it would be easy to argue none of us think either of those situations would be a good idea.

So should we be upset that the courts ruled the FCC doesn’t have the right to say no to either of the above thus giving the FCC carte blanche to be the sole authority on how network bandwidth is provided? To steal a movie line from a great movie , “I Think NOT!” and the reason is simple, the so called Fairness Doctrine and it’s new Obama appointed Czar, The Chief Diversity Officer. Now I’m not going to get all political in this however it should be noted that if the court had let the FCC’s argument stand then there is absolutely nothing to stop the FCC from saying there has to be not only equal access to the networks but the content on the web must also be equal in it’s “diversity”. Now this is a very scary thought that a group of unelected officials could in fact determine if you get to listen to Rush Limbaugh online because there would have to be an equal liberal voice so as to keep the Internet “diverse”. Let’s bring it even further down to the local level let’s say you run a website where you share your political views but to keep things “diverse” you would be forced to have an equal amount of opposing content. Okay you think that’s absurd the FCC could not ever do that however if the ruling had stood they could have in fact done just that. Your church website could have been ordered to put up links to gay websites, local bars, Las Vegas casinos or anything else because everything had to be equal and “diverse”.

Sure, sure the above would have hopefully never happened however by allowing a commission to expand it’s powers beyond what our elected officials have given them we have to assume the worse since who knows what could happen and we would have had no recourse. By the courts stepping in the concept of Net Neutrality is now tossed back to Congress where hopefully we will have public and well as industry input to come up with rules which are fair but more importantly have a system of checks and balances. Should Road Runner be able to slow down Skype because Road Runner sells VOIP or should you be able to watch MSNBC or FOX at equal speeds and who is to be the judge and jury of that is not something we want a few beltway insiders to determine.

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In a case of Wrongful Discharge and Defamation that dates back to 2007 Judge Jeffrey Tureck has ordered BB&T to rehire Amy Stroupe. BB&T has said they disagree with the Judge’s findings and have said they will appeal.

In 2005 Amy Stroupe was hired by BB&T after recruiter her from the Cleveland Couty Sheriffs Department to work as an corporate Fraud Investigator. Shortly after her employment at BB&T she investigated strange loan approvals for a land development company in Mitchell County, Peerless Development Group. It appears certain people involved with the land company as well as the single loan officer who was approving the loans were not following proper procedures so Stroupe’s investigation grew to the point she involved multiple managers at BB&T, county attorneys, tax offices and even the FBI. In 2007 after the loan officer who approved the various Peerless loans was first removed from his position of approving loans and later released Stroupe was first transferred then fired. The legal filings say the actions taken against Stroupe were vindictive for her pursuing one of BB&T’s best loan generators as well as informing outside parties of BB&T’s possible improper actions during the whole process. One should note that five people involved in the Village of Penland development have pleaded guilty to Federal charges.

This week Judge Tureck agreed and order Stroupe rehired and given her back pay with interest. BB&T Spokesman Cynthia Williams said, “"BB&T adamantly denies doing anything wrong and will be filing an appeal in this matter”.

Original Case Filing

If the charges are valid as the Judge has agreed they are it would appear BB&T had no interest disclosing to anyone outside of BB&T of it’s links to North Carolina’s largest fraud scheme ever.

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Court Appointed PACE Bankruptcy Trustee, Edwin Allman III, has subpoenaed for seven Pace accounts held by Platte Valley Bank of Platte City, Mo. It appears Allman is still trying to unravel who owns what and who owes what in the case of the imploded PACE Airlines. Allman states he considers the owners to be William Rodgers and Lee Booth although earlier reports said Rodgers had signed away his ownership.

If anyone is following the case and has taken the time to pull any public records please feel free to comment or upload anything you have.

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U.S. Prosecutors claim Mexican drug cartels laundered hundreds or even billions of dollars through one of the largest banks in the United States. For four years, between May 2003 and May 2007, Wachovia Bank traded with Mexican exchange houses which served the laundering of drug trafficking groups.

The Justice Department claims that Wachovia traded well over $350 Billion with Mexican "casas de cambio” (currency- exchange houses) between 2004 and 2007. These exchange houses are used by “immigrants” to send money back to Latin American but prosecutors claim drug cartels also use these same facilities to laundry and transfer their own money. Prosecutors further claim Wachovia transferred over $4 Billion in bulk cash from foreign Latin exchanges to Wachovia accounts in the U.S.

Prosecutors claimed the Bank does not have proper controls in place to prevent the use of these money exchanges for illegal activity. The Lead Prosecutor in Miami U.S. Attorney Jeffrey H. Sloman actually stated Wachovia blatantly disregarded the banking laws:

"Wachovia’s blatant disregard for our banking laws gave international cocaine cartels a virtual carte blanche to finance their operations by laundering at least $110 million in drug proceeds. Corporate citizens, no matter how big or powerful, must be held accountable for their actions."

The $160 million fine represents the biggest penalty ever imposed under the Bank Secrecy Act, which requires financial institutions to carefully track transactions to detect suspicious activity. Wachovia has agreed to pay $110 million which constitutes the profits from these transactions and $50 million in fines while the actual prosecution has been delayed for 12 months while Wachovia meets it’s obligations under the settlement.

Scarface Tony Montana Cocaine

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Verizon is putting the final touches on it’s new plans and for the most part if you want any type of phone that does more than dial a number you WILL buy a data plan. Overall Verizon says this will average out for most users so the monthly cost are about the same yet they also admit they see the revenue per user continuing to rise.

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In what is the final act for PACE Airlines Judge Thomas Waldrep has entered PACE into involuntary Bankruptcy. On December 2, 2009 multiple creditors filed a petition to start the liquidation of PACE Airlines almost a year and half after PACE stopped paying it’s lease agreement with Smith Reynolds Airport. Interesting enough nobody representing PACE Airlines showed up at the December hearing.

We posted back on October 27th that it had been reported that CEO William Rodgers had signed away any interest in the company. What information was available appeared to point to Lee Booth had taken various assets and was likely setting up shop in Burlington however that is about all that was known or maybe rumored would be better. It appears the attorney appointed by the courts to handle this case is as much in the dark as everyone else as he was quoted as saying, “I will examine corporate officers under oath to determine the ownership.” Edwin Allman III who was appointed as Trustee further went on to say if he can recover any assets the legal fees will be paid first then creditors with the 400 or so employees owed back pay “would be pretty high up" the list of creditors”. While I would like to think he is right I have enough experience with things like this to know employee back pay will be considered unsecured debt while the multiple companies owed $10 million or more will likely be seen as secured debt and secured debt always gets paid first.

Of course there are still charges against William Rodgers for failure to pay insurance premiums while months later the N.C. Labor Department is still “investigating” the failure to pay wages.

My last comment on this is at what point is the Airport Commission called to the carpet on allowing PACE to go a year without paying it’s lease obligations? Remember the Airport Commission is also in hot water for allowing it’s contractor in charge of runway expansions per a 1997 Grant to not pay it’s subcontractors. I’ve not heard or seen anything else on this and the Journal certainly hasn’t covered this.

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Reports and rumors are coming out that Verizon will be releasing multiple new phones in the upcoming months. From the much anticipated iPhone to more Android based phones it looks like Verizon has finally decided it’s time to upgrade their less than unique phone lineup.

The latest rumor to show up is all about a new Android phone from Motorola called the Devour. Basically it appears to be a slightly less advance version of the Motorola Droid so expect to see pricing be slightly lower although it will run Android 2.1.

It also appears HTC will be releasing an update for the Eris to push it to Android 2.0 or 2.1. Of course how quickly Verizon will make the update available is anyone’s guess. If your wondering why running Android 2.x is such a big deal it has several major updates such as supporting multiple Exchange accounts as well as a browser update.

Of course with CES coming up there’s always a lot of news and rumors about new products and not to be outdone Palm is rumored to have a new Palm Pre Plus ready for Verizon. This will be a slightly larger and newer version of the Palm Pre.

Lastly will there be an iPhone for Verizon? It was a given last year but as the year ended most had cast doubts on Verizon’s iPhone plans. There are those however that still see an iPhone in Verizon’s future probably sometime in the summer as Apples releases it’s newest version of the huge successful iPhone. With little to go on the belief is the new iPhones will be smaller, have a 5MP camera, be built by AsusTek vs. Hon Hai which makes the current models, use a Qualcomm hybrid CDMA/WCDMA chip that allows multiple cell carrier signal types and show up mid year.

Of course let’s not forget to warn anyone looking at Verizon for a new phone they have enacted a new $350 cancellation fee on their “Smartphone” line so if your thinking of buying now and switching if and when they release an iPhone you may want to change those plans.

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Word is Dell will keep the Winston-Salem plant open for a few more months allowing around 400 workers a little more breathing room. No further information is out there as of yet but I’m sure we will see local leaders take all the credit somehow.

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