Rabu, 07 Desember 2011

Obama administration criticizes JPMorgan over mortgages

NEW YORK -- The Obama
administration criticized JPMorgan Chase
on Wednesday for failing to effectively
assist struggling homeowners. In the November edition of the
administration's "Housing Scorecard" on

the performance of mortgage servicers,
Chase ( , Fortune 500) "was found to be in need of substantial
improvement" in its dealings with homeowners, the departments of Treasury and Housing and Urban
Development said in a statemen

The report came in conjunction with the
administration's Making Home
Affordable program, which works with
mortgage services to help homeowners
in danger of foreclosure. The report said Chase needed to
improve its communication with
struggling homeowners and has
demonstrated a "lack of progress in
implementing previously identified

" As a result, the Treasury Department will withhold
servicer incentive payments to the bank
for the third consecutive quarter. Tom Kelly, a spokesman for Chase, said
in an email that the bank was
"disappointed with our rating, and will
continue to work hard to improve our
processes and controls." The Treasury Department is also
withholding servicer incentive payments
from previous quarters for Bank of
America ( , Fortune 500) due to its limited improvements in performance
versus prior months. Rick Simon, a spokesman for BofA, said
in an email that the bank had made
strides in assisting homeowners, with
more than 180,000 of its customers
completing modifications under the
Obama administration's Home Affordable Modification Program

"In spite of progress made, the
committee has chosen to continue to
withhold incentive payments," Simon
said. "While we are disappointed with
this decision, these financial incentives
do not drive our efforts to help our customers in need of assistance." Chase and BofA were among the banks
named in a lawsuit filed last week by Massachusetts Attorney General
Martha Coakley that accused them of large-scale fraud in the foreclosure

The Obama administration has unveiled a variety of programs to assist homeowners and promote loan
modifications, though these initiatives
have had limited success. The Home
Affordable Modification Program has
secured 1.7 million trial modifications
since it began in 2009, Wednesday's report said, though the program has
fallen short of initial promises to lower
mortgage payments for 3 to 4 million

Yahoo wins $610 million from lottery scammers

NEW YORK -- Congratulations, you've won millions in a
lottery that you didn't enter! Just wire us
some money first to cover fees, and
we'll send you your winnings!

These fake lottery email scams have
become ubiquitous, with scammers
sometimes posing as well-known
companies to boost their credibility. In
2008, Yahoo sued several "John Does"
for using its name and logo as part of a scam.

On Monday, a federal judge awarded
Yahoo ( , Fortune 500) $610 million in damages from the Thai and
Nigerian scammers that the company
was eventually able to identify through
Internet records.

Yahoo's complaint reveals that between December 2006 and May 2009, more
than 11.6 million hoax lottery emails
were sent through its email system. The
court awarded Yahoo $50 per scam
email, a total of $583 million, for its victimization through violations of the
Can-Spam Act. The remaining $27 million is an award for trademark infringement.

Yahoo was
also awarded attorneys' fees. Yahoo could use the cash: The court's
total award is about half of the $1.2
billion profit that Yahoo netted for 2010. But Yahoo stands little chance of actually

None of the defendants -- a
group of Thai and Nigerian individuals, a
Nigerian corporation, and a Taiwanese
corporation -- have responded to
Yahoo's complaint. Nigeria is a famous haven for e-mail scammers. The New York district court judge, Laura
Taylor Swain, noted in her ruling that

"apart from minor variations in phrasing
and style, the [individual] emails [in the
scam] are strikingly similar." Swain concluded that the "circumstantial
evidence is sufficient to support the
reasonable inference that defendants
are co-conspirators."(cnn.com)

LCD makers fined $388 million for alleged price fixing

According to Bloomberg, which obtained court papers filed yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco, Sharp and Samsung paid $105 million and $82.7 million, respectively, for their alleged involvement in driving up prices for LCDs sold between 1999 and 2006. Chimei Innolux paid $78 million as part of the class action lawsuit's settlement.

The eight companies cited in the lawsuit paid a total of $388 million, Bloomberg said.

The settlement, which is headed for final approval later this month, and includes a denial of guilt from all the companies, spells the end of what has been a four-year court battle over the allegations. It's also the latest payment the companies have made over the issue.

In October, South Korea fined six LCD makers, including Samsung and LG Display, $176 million for alleged "collusion" to control LCD prices in TVs and PCs between 2001 and 2006.

"They colluded on minimum prices of panels, pricing policies on each product type, timing of price increases, and a ban on cash rebates," the country's Fair Trade Commission said at the time. "They were aware that such action was illegal, and kept their gatherings and information secret."

Almost a year ago to the day, the European Union was similarly critical of LCD makers, including LG Display and Samsung, calling the companies allegedly involved a "price-fixing cartel." The companies were ordered to pay a total of nearly 649 million euros.

In 2008, LG Display and Chunghwa, along with Sharp, pleaded guilty to fixing prices on LCD panels. The companies were forced to pay $585 million by the Department of Justice. LG Display paid $400 million of that sum, while Sharp agreed to pay $120 million, after pleading guilty.

The alleged price fixing impacted several markets and a host of companies, including Dell, Motorola, and Apple. In 2009, AT&T and Nokia sued Samsung, LG Display, and other panel makers, alleging that the companies artificially inflated prices on LCD panels. Dell followed with a lawsuit of its own last year, taking aim at Sharp, Hitachi, Toshiba, and others, accusing the firms of collusion on LCD panel pricing.(cnet.com)

Apple's iPad Sales Dinged by Amazon Kindle Fire: Analyst

Amazon’s Kindle Fire will contribute to reduced iPad sales in December, according to a new analyst report.

“With our expectations for a new iPad launch during the March quarter leading to potentially lower inventory levels combined with increased competition from the $200 Kindle Fire,” T. Michael Walkley, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity, wrote in a Dec. 5 research note, “we have slightly lowered our December quarter iPad estimates from 14M to 13M units.”

Despite that pressure from the Kindle Fire, he added, “we believe the iPad will continue to dominate both market share and value share of the growing tablet market.” Increased iPhone estimates offset that decrease in the firm’s iPad estimates.

Amazon claims the Kindle Fire is already its bestselling product at $199. The device offers a heavily modified Android interface, which facilitates purchasing streaming content and e-books from Amazon’s online storefront. That tight integration, along with a “virtual bookshelf” user interface that deviates from other tablets’ grid-like screens of individual apps, makes the Kindle Fire an altogether different animal from the Apple’s iPad. Customers evidently find it appealing.

Nonetheless, some analysts believe that the Fire won’t burn the iPad anytime soon.

“If anything, we believe that Apple is not too concerned about the low-priced entrants,” Mark Moskowitz, an analyst with J.P. Morgan, wrote in a Dec. 2 research note. “Recall, it has been our view that low-priced, reduced feature-set entrants, such as the Kindle Fire, are soap box derby devices stuck between a tablet and an e-reader.”

In other words, he concluded, “we are not concerned much about competitive pressures until the second or third generations.”

If Apple holds to its previous release pattern for the iPad, the new device will debut early next year. Current rumors suggest this “iPad 3” could offer a higher-resolution display than previous versions.

Meanwhile, Apple’s iPhone 4S continues to draw strong sales and high customer satisfaction ratings. According to a November survey from ChangeWave Research, a division of analyst firm The 451 Group, some 77 percent of respondents were “very satisfied” with the device, followed by 19 percent “somewhat satisfied” and 1 percent, each, for “somewhat unsatisfied” and “very unsatisfied.”

Despite reports of some battery issues with the iPhone 4S, the device managed to sell some 4 million units by the end of its first weekend of release in October. According to recent data from Nielsen, iOS accounts for some 28 percent of the U.S. smartphone market, behind Android at 43 percent but ahead of Research In Motion’s BlackBerry franchise at 17.8 percent and Microsoft’s smartphone franchises at just over 7 percent. (eweek.com)
The Web pioneer is in the midst of transforming 5,000 square feet of midtown Manhattan office space into a studio that will feature two sets, seven edit rooms, a state-of-the-art control room, and a green room, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The facility is expected to be used as part of a pact announced in October with ABC News, in which the media giant's news division will distribute some of its content via Yahoo News. The news departments from each organization are working together on developing content for Yahoo as well as for ABC News sites.

Michael Manas, head of production supervision for Yahoo Studios New York, wouldn't reveal how much the company is spending on its Manhattan project, except to say "Just enough to win."

"This is showing Yahoo's commitment to premium video content," he said. "The studio will be a massive source of pride and enhance our ability to grow and innovate."

The news comes as the fate of Yahoo, one of the most storied companies of the Web's first phase, is in quite a state of flux. Reports of potential buyers have been rampant in recent months since a leaked memo from Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang indicated the company could be for sale.

Yang said at a conference in October that the company's board of directors was exploring a number of strategic options beyond selling the company, presumably selling off one or more of the company's three units: its core search and content business, as well as stakes in Yahoo Japan and Alibaba.

Despite its tepid stock price, high employee attrition rate, and sputtering product development efforts, Yahoo has been attracting a lot of attention from possible suitors, including venture capitalist Andreessen Horowitz, fellow dot-com wunderkind AOL, and even Microsoft, which pursued Yahoo vigorously a few years back, to no avail.(cnet.com)