Blog Posts by Stacy Curtin

  • CALGARY, Alberta—The chief securities regulator in Alberta on Monday partially upheld a “poison pill” plan adopted by Canadian Oil Sands Ltd., complicating a hostile takeover bid for the company by Suncor Energy Inc., Canada’s largest oil producer.

    The decision comes ahead of a Dec. 4 deadline Suncor set for a response to its all-stock bid—currently worth about 4.47 billion Canadian dollars ($3.35 billion)—for Canadian Oil Sands, the largest owner of the Syncrude oil-sands mining consortium.

    Canadian Oil Sands last month rejected Suncor’s Oct. 5 bid as too low and asked securities authorities in its home province of Alberta to uphold provisions enacted after Suncor made its offer that give shareholders at least 120 days to consider a takeover.

    After two days of hearings late last week, the Alberta Securities Commission ruled Monday that Canadian Oil Sands shareholders will have until Jan. 4 to render a decision, according to spokesman Mark Dickey.

    Read More »from [$$] Canadian Oil Sands’ ‘Poison Pill’ Plan Upheld by Regulator
  • [$$] Boss Tweed Goes Down

    If you think Washington is corrupt, try America’s 50 state capitals. The latest proof came Monday in federal court in Manhattan, where a jury found the former speaker of the New York Assembly Sheldon Silver guilty of corruption.

    Silver, a 71-year-old Democrat, dominated Albany for 20 years. Like a modern Boss Tweed, he could dole out favors, crush opponents, and leverage political influence on behalf of those he favored and who in return favored him.

    The latter habit did him in as he was convicted for orchestrating two schemes by which he received $4 million in illegal payments in return for actions that benefited a cancer researcher and two real-estate firms. One of the schemes also showed how plaintiffs lawyers exploit the political system for private gain. Testimony at the trial showed that Mr. Silver arranged for state grants totalling $500,000 to Dr. Robert Taub, who then referred mesothelioma patients with potentially large legal claims to the Weitz &

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  • [$$] Liberalism’s Imaginary Enemies

    Little children have imaginary friends. Modern liberalism has imaginary enemies.

    Hunger in America is an imaginary enemy. Liberal advocacy groups routinely claim that one in seven Americans is hungry—in a country where the poorest counties have the highest rates of obesity. The statistic is a preposterous extrapolation from a dubious Agriculture Department measure of “food insecurity.” But the line gives those advocacy groups a reason to exist while feeding the liberal narrative of America as a savage society of haves and have nots.

    The campus-rape epidemic—in which one in five female college students is said to be the victim of sexual assault—is an imaginary enemy. Never mind the debunked rape scandals at Duke and the University of Virginia, or the soon-to-be-debunked case at the heart of “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary about an alleged sexual assault at Harvard Law School. The real question is: If modern campuses were really zones of mass predation—Congo

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  • [$$] The Fed’s Lift-Off: Keep Calm and Carry On

    You’re in a pretty strange place when the phrase “lift-off” evokes images of the Federal Open Market Committee rather than of Cape Canaveral. But here we are, with all financial eyes fixed on the Fed and most market participants expecting the first increase in the federal-funds rate in more than nine years to come on Dec. 16.

    Unless the outlook changes substantially between now and then—and we’re barely more than two weeks away—the Federal Reserve will move the target range for the rate up from the present 0-25 basis points to 25-50 basis points. Did Fed Chair Janet Yellen tell me that? Certainly not. But the Fed has dropped enough hints that only the stubborn remain unconvinced.

    In all likelihood, the FOMC is heading for an eventual federal-funds rate near 3.5%. The key word is “eventual.” The Fed is in no hurry and will probably take three years or so. If so, the tightening pace would be roughly 100 basis points a year, which is less than half the average of

    Read More »from [$$] The Fed’s Lift-Off: Keep Calm and Carry On
  • [$$] Ruling Will Thwart Biosimilar Drug Market

    The Europeanization of U.S. drug pricing that Scott Gottlieb warns about in his op-ed (“The Coming Government Takeover of Drug Pricing,” Nov. 23) already has begun. He warns of “reference pricing,” in which the government lumps together drugs that “bureaucrats feel are similar enough that they can be used in place of one another—even if a newer but also more expensive treatment might offer benefits over older alternatives.” In direct violation of congressional intent, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services finalized a rule Oct. 30 explaining how Medicare will pay for physician-administered biosimilar drugs, which are similar but not identical to the original brand-name biologic drug. It decided it would lump all biosimilars that mimic the same original into the same category, i.e., reference pricing.

    However, the physical attributes of the biosimilar drug will never be exactly the same as the original biologic or any other biosimilar drug, and this diversity can

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  • American Airlines Group Inc. reservations and customer-service agents ratified a five-year contract that gives pay raises to 14,500 airline employees.

    The Communications Workers of America union and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, both of which represent the group, said about 9,500 workers voted, and 73% chose to ratify the contract.

    The new pact represents the first combined contract since American and US Airways merged in late 2013, the CWA said, and is the first contract ever for the American agents, who voted to join the unions last year after a yearslong effort to be represented. The former US Airways group had already been unionized.

    The contract will raise pay by 30% over the term and will provide pay equal to that of agents at Delta Air Lines Inc., plus 3% over the term, the union said. At a time when airlines are producing record profits, some labor groups in recent months have rejected tentative contract

    Read More »from [$$] American Airlines Customer-Service Agents Approve Labor Contract
  • [$$] The Yuan and Chinese Reform

    The International Monetary Fund announced Monday that it will include the Chinese yuan in its reserve-currency basket, also known as special drawing rights. The symbolic milestone shows the world is open to China playing a larger role as befits its status as the world’s biggest trading nation. But if the yuan is to become a real international currency, Beijing must prepare its financial system for far greater openness.

    The yuan now accounts for less than 3% of world trade and an even smaller fraction of foreign-exchange reserves. And while the IMF has declared it “freely usable,” that’s a stretch.

    Officially Beijing has lifted many of the limits on the international use of the yuan, but in practice its supply is limited. A true reserve currency can be accumulated freely, which requires running deficits on the current or capital accounts or both. To put yuan in the hands of foreigners, China must be a net buyer of goods or allow a net outflow of investment.

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  • [$$] The Big Number

    The number of companies whose cash reserves are double their annual revenue.

    U.S. companies are holding more than $1.4 trillion in cash—near record levels—but for some businesses cash stockpiles are beginning to dwarf sales.

    As of Sept. 30, 11 nonfinancial S&P 500 companies had more than double the amount of cash and short-term investments sitting on their balance sheets as they had in annual sales, according to an analysis by S&P Capital IQ.

    Ratios of cash-to-sales were more than double at Oracle Corp. and Cisco Systems this year, even as sales at both technology companies climbed. Oracle’s $56 billion cash stockpile at the end of the first nine months is about 1.5 times its sales. At Cisco, the company’s $60 billion stockpile is 1.2 times sales. Oracle declined to comment. A Cisco spokeswoman said the company returns at least 50% of its free cash flow to shareholders through annual dividends and buybacks.

    There are many reasons for

    Read More »from [$$] The Big Number
  • [$$] Business Watch

    The Food and Drug Administration said Monday that it approved Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s Empliciti to treat multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer. The FDA approved Empliciti to be used in combination with two other FDA-approved treatments, dexamethasone and Celgene Corp.’s Revlimid.

    In a 646-participant clinical trial, those treated with the three-drug cocktail took longer to relapse and had a higher chance of tumor shrinkage than those treated with the two-drug therapy.

    Multiple myeloma is a type of blood cancer that occurs in infection-fighting white blood cells found in the bone marrow. The National Cancer Institute estimates there will be 26,850 new multiple myeloma cases and 11,240 related deaths in the U.S. this year.

    Bristol-Myers and AbbVie Inc. are codeveloping the drug, with Bristol-Myers responsible for marketing and commercial activities.

    The monthly cost of Empliciti for biweekly doses is approximately $10,000. On

    Read More »from [$$] Business Watch
  • VTech Holdings Ltd. said Monday that 5 million of its customer accounts were leaked in a data breach that accessed users’ names, birthdays and passwords but not their credit card or personal identification information.

    The electronic toy maker said the hack was done by an “unauthorized party” without elaborating. It happened Nov. 14 and was discovered Nov. 24.

    The data accessed was on its Learning Lodge app store, which allows users to download learning games and other educational content. The information leaked includes customers’ names, email addresses, passwords, secret questions and answers for password retrieval, IP addresses, mailing addresses and download history. It didn’t include any credit card information or personal identification information such as Social Security numbers.

    The data also included information on children’s names, birthdays and genders, although the company didn’t specify what percentage were children’s accounts.

    Read More »from [$$] VTech Holdings: Data From 5 Million Customer Accounts Breached


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