Hackers are sending customers fake shipping messages appearing to come from Amazon and UPS as a ‘shipageddon’ is expected during a hectic shopping season

Fake delivery notices imitating Amazon, UPS, FedEx surge during biggest online shopping season ever

By Katie Schoolov, Business Insider

Online shopping is in the midst of its biggest season ever, with Amazon reporting third-party sales of $4.8 billion in the days after Thanksgiving, up 60% from last year. Now, hackers are sending out fake shipping notification links to capitalize on the surge.

The fraudulent delivery messages appear to come from Amazon, FedEx, UPS and other major shippers, but they launch malware or mine for personal information. Cybersecurity firm Check Point Software Technologies found these messages impersonating shippers were up 440% from October to November, and 72% since November last year.

Long Beach realtor Tom Hoehn was expecting a package from UPS when he got one of these emails.

“It looked like it was from UPS and it said we were unable to deliver your package. However, if you click on the following link you can look up the tracking information on that package and then you can reroute it back to your place. At that point, I clicked on the link and my screen started flashing,” Hoehn said.

“The message said, ‘You have been hacked. We have encrypted all of your files. Send, I think it was like 150 bitcoins to this address.”

A fake shipping link can launch ransomware like it did for Hoehn, or it can redirect to a counterfeit branded page that asks for credit card or personal information to reroute a package, or tricks you into entering your username and password.

When Hoehn chose not to pay the ransom of some 150 bitcoins, the equivalent of more than $66,000 at the time, he lost everything on the computer including his family pictures and business contacts. Months later, the IRS informed him his identity had been stolen. Then his email was hacked, with phishing emails sent to thousands of his contacts.

“We have our mind on other things like pandemic and our kids getting remotely educated,” said Brian Linder, a threat prevention manager at Check Point. “And it’s a perfect time for these bad actors to prey on consumers that are not paying close attention.”

Check Point found that 65% of fake shipping messages in the U.S. impersonate Amazon.

“They’re successful because most of us are doing business with Amazon. We’re ordering on Amazon. And for us to get an email from Amazon about a package we ordered would be perfectly normal and expected,” Linder said.

Amazon told CNBC it works with the Federal Trade Commission or Better Business Bureau to go after scammers and said in a statement, “Any customer that receives a questionable email, call or text from a person impersonating an Amazon employee should report them to Amazon customer service. Amazon investigates these complaints and will take action, if warranted.”

The phishing messages also commonly impersonate UPS, FedEx and DHL, which all have their own dedicated reporting emails. The companies that make our devices are also on guard. Microsoft, for example, has a Digital Crimes Unit that works with law enforcement and claims to have “rescued” more than 500 million devices from cyber criminals since 2010. Apple, meanwhile, offers public recognition and even bounties of up to a million dollars to users who report security issues.

Some big warning signs to watch out for include slight misspellings or incorrect logos, unencrypted landing sites, and messages with a countdown urging consumers to act quickly.

The best protection, experts say, is to prevent the scam messages from reaching your device in the first place. Operating systems have built in security protections, which is one reason software updates are crucial. Apps like Nomorobo offer additional blocking features, and users can help by changing passwords often, turning on two-factor authentication and using a variety of different email accounts and passwords for different online activities.

Investigations into phishing attacks are usually conducted by the Federal Trade Commission.

“It’s really important that we empower and adequately fund the agencies that go after these scammers. Number one, the Federal Trade Commission, they have a huge responsibility to police unfair and deceptive practices across the entire economy and yet their workforce and their funding is only a fraction of what it was in the 1970s,” said John Breyault, vice president of public Policy, telecommunications, and fraud at the National Consumers League.

As enforcement struggles to keep up, scammers are constantly finding ways to exploit the next trend.

“Consumers should really expect to start seeing messages on social media, emails, phone calls, text messages offering to get you to the front of the line for the vaccine if you’ll pay some money up front. That is a big worry for us.”

If you do fall victim to one of these scams – or even just come across one – report it directly to the Federal Trade Commission or through the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker tool. You can inform mobile carriers of a spam text by forwarding it directly to SPAM.


Jeff Bezos just sold $1.8 billion worth of Amazon stock. Here’s why

New York (CNN Business) — Jeff Bezos has sold more than $1.8 billion worth of stock, as the world’s richest person continues to sell his Amazon stake to fund his space venture.

The Amazon CEO offloaded roughly 960,000 shares, each worth around $1,900 on Wednesday, according to the company’s regulatory filings. Bezos sold the stake after Amazon reported weaker-than-expected profits in its quarterly earnings. Amazon’s (AMZN) stock is up 25% for the year.

Even with the massive stock dump, Bezos remains the world’s richest person, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He’s worth $117 billion.

Bezos has said he sells roughly $1 billion worth of stock a year to fund his space company, Blue Origin, and he pledged to sell more than $1 billion this year as Blue Origin gets closer to commercial operations.

Bezos has lofty expectations for Blue Origin. He unveiled a new rocket engine and a mockup of a lunar lander to use for shuttle cargo in May. He also said he wants to build giant orbital structures that could host self-sustaining colonies. It’s also close to selling tickets to send people to space.

Airbnb just debuted on Wall Street. Now it’s worth more than Marriott and Hilton combined

(CNN Business) — In the first half of this year, with its business decimated by the pandemic, Airbnb cut a quarter of its workforce and reportedly slashed its valuation as part of a deal to secure more financing.

Now, following a remarkable comeback, the home-sharing company is soaring in its long-awaited Wall Street debut just as the pandemic worsens and once again throws the state of the travel industry into question.

Airbnb began trading on Thursday at $146 per share, more than doubling from its IPO price and valuing the company at more than $100 billion. Airbnb stock closed the day slightly lower.

The $100 billion market cap represents a huge leap from its previous valuation high of $31 billion in a 2017 financing round. At its current trading valuation, Airbnb is worth more than Uber, and more than Marriott and Hilton combined.

Airbnb’s strong showing is just the latest sign of investor demand in what’s shaping up to be a good week for technology companies going public. On Wednesday, delivery app DoorDash saw its shares surge 85% in its public market debut.

<img alt=”DoorDash and Airbnb lead a parade of unicorn IPOs ” class=”media__image” src=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/201113085358-doordash-delivery-worker—stock-large-169.jpg”>

In an interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow on Thursday, CEO Brian Chesky said he “could have never imagined” the course of the rollercoaster year the company has experienced.

Chesky believes there are “two explanations” for the company’s stronger position today: one is that “people still do yearn to travel,” and the other stems from advice from his father.

“I’m also reminded of something that my dad used to tell me growing up — and I had to tell myself this a lot during the depths of our dark days. He said that things are never quite as good as they seem and as bad as they seem. You kind of have to remind yourself of that to find the midpoint between these highs and lows,” said Chesky.

While DoorDash has benefited greatly from people staying at home, Airbnb stands to benefit from a successful vaccine rollout that helps end the pandemic and allows people to travel more.

Founded in 2008 as Airbed & Breakfast, Airbnb upended the hotel industry by popularizing the once unthinkable idea of renting out rooms in the homes of strangers. Its platform is used to find and book accommodations in 220 countries and regions around the world. Airbnb now offers full apartments, homes, and hotel rooms for rent as well as travel experiences.

The pandemic rattled Airbnb’s business and many of the hosts who power it. The company was hit hardest in March and April when it had more cancellations than bookings.

In early May, the company cut 25% of its workforce, or 1,900 employees. Chesky told CNN that the company “would absolutely welcome people back” if it is in a position to do so, but added, “I want to see how the storm continues to play out.”

<img alt=”Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky.” class=”media__image” src=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/201208141847-03-airbnb-ceo-brian-chesky-file-large-169.jpg”>

Airbnb saw improvement in bookings the following months, driven by those using its platform for long-term stays as well as domestic and short-distance travel. Its business outpaced that of competitors like Expedia and Booking.com. In the third quarter of this year, Airbnb’s revenue fell just 18% as it managed to turn a rare profit; Expedia’s revenue fell 58%; Booking.com’s revenue fell 48%.

Then came another surge in coronavirus cases.

“During the fourth quarter of 2020, another wave of Covid-19 infections emerged. As a result, countries imposed strict lockdowns, in particular in Europe. Similar to the impact of the initial Covid-19 wave in March 2020, we are seeing a decrease in bookings in the most affected regions,” the company wrote in its prospectus.

The company’s valuation had been reportedly slashed to $18 billion when it raised debt financing during the pandemic.

Unlike many other highly-valued startups, Airbnb previously said it was profitable, excluding some expenses, in 2017 and 2018. But like other sharing economy startups, Airbnb has faced a number of regulatory battles over the years with local and state governments over how it operates in their jurisdictions. The issue remains an ongoing risk to its business.

In its filing, the company outlined that it is “subject to a wide variety of complex, evolving, and sometimes inconsistent and ambiguous laws and regulations that may adversely impact our operations and discourage hosts and guests from using our platform, and that could cause us to incur significant liabilities including fines and criminal penalties.”

Airbnb has also grappled with the misuse of Airbnb rental properties for house parties. In August, it announced a global ban on all parties and events at Airbnb listings, capping occupancy to 16 people. Over Halloween weekend, Airbnb prohibited one-night reservations of entire home listings in the United States and Canada in a move to stop parties that could contribute to the spread of coronavirus. It is deploying a variation of this for New Year’s Eve reservations in some regions.

During the pandemic, some cities temporarily cracked down on short-term rentals, and hosts were forced to pivot rentals to 30 days or longer.

As Chesky waited for Airbnb’s stock to officially begin trading on Thursday, he recalled to CNN a piece of advice given to him by former president Barack Obama, one of his many high-profile mentors.

According to Chesky, Obama told him, “It is just really important before you go public that you institutionalize your intentions so that even as a public company you can minimize what conflicts with your vision.” Chesky told CNN that means “trying to be really thoughtful about what kind of company we want to become.”

Airbnb to make IPO filing next week, braving Covid-19 surge, sources say


U.S. home rental company Airbnb plans to make its initial public offering (IPO) registration public as early next week, setting course for a stock market debut next month even as the Covid-19 pandemic intensifies, two people familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The IPO filing will give outsiders their first detailed look into Airbnb’s business. It will shed light on the company’s reinvention after the virus outbreak pushed it to shift focus from city apartments to holiday home rentals. It has seen demand for house listings surge as vacationers snub hotels to practice social distancing during vacation breaks.

The United States set a one-day record for new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, with at least 102,591 new infections reported, according to a Reuters tally.

Airbnb plans to set an IPO price range and kick off an investor roadshow in December, the source said, cautioning that the timing is subject to market conditions.

The U.S. election diminished uncertainty for IPO hopefuls this week, as the prospect of a divided government that would not raise taxes fueled a stock market rally. The CBOE volatility index, a gauge for short-term volatility that is closely monitored by IPO candidates, has hit a two-week low after spiking to a four-month high in the run-up to the election.

Airbnb is set to be one of the largest stock market listings of 2020 in what is already a blockbuster year for IPOs. The likes of record label Warner Music, data analytics firm Palantir Technologies and data warehouse company Snowflake went public this year.

Reuters reported last month that Airbnb was aiming to raise around $3 billion, and that it could achieve a valuation of more than $30 billion in the IPO.

It would follow a dramatic recovery from earlier this year. Airbnb secured emergency funding from investors, including Silver Lake and Sixth Street Partners, in April, amid the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The company said in July that customers had booked more than one million nights in a single day for the first time since March 3.


Dining bubbles are popping up everywhere, but are they safe? Experts weigh in.

By Allyson Chiu

Bubble tents. Domes. Dining pods.

Whatever you call them, the clear, igloo-like structures have started popping up in U.S. cities where colder weather threatens the outdoor dining that restaurants have turned to in their attempt to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

In Seattle, a local restaurant owner told KING-TV he spent thousands of dollars installing two large plastic domes outside his eatery that would hold one table each. Similar enclosures now line the streets of Chicago’s Fulton Market and Randolph Restaurant Row area, Eater Chicago reported, noting that the structures are made out of a material that traps heat and have controls to regulate airflow. Tent-style bubbles also have been spotted in New York City; a recent viral video showed groups of diners clustered closely around candlelit tables in individual plastic pods on the sidewalk.

Outdoor dining has helped restaurants avoid disaster. But winter is coming.

While infectious-disease experts warn that careless use of these bubbles could facilitate transmission of the coronavirus, they also say it is possible for dining in them to be relatively low-risk, as long as certain precautions are taken.

“There is no right answer to this,” said Aditya Shah, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who specializes in infection prevention and control. “But there’s various levels of risk that we have to think of before going to these spaces.”

Here are the safety measures Shah and other experts recommend to lower your chances of contracting or spreading the coronavirus if you decide to go “bubble dining.”

Know the risks and benefits

While the bubbles are physically out in the open air, enclosing people inside may be akin to “creating indoor dining outdoors,” said Wafaa El-Sadr, a professor of epidemiology and medicine at Columbia University.

The igloo structures and tents “seem to be quite tight,” El-Sadr said. “Therefore, there’s not much cross-ventilation that’s happening, and often they even will close the windows or zip up the windows and the doors of the enclosure.”

As restaurants reopen, here’s what you should know about air conditioning, air flow and the coronavirus

That means it is possible for the droplets people produce when they’re talking or breathing to build up inside the bubble, said Linsey Marr, a civil and environmental engineering professor at Virginia Tech who studies airborne transmission of infectious diseases. The novel coronavirus most commonly spreads through close in-person contact, but can also be transmitted through tiny droplets and particles that hang in the air for extended periods of time, especially in poorly ventilated indoor spaces, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“So, imagine that someone is smoking a cigarette in one of these tents,” Marr said. “The tent is going to kind of trap the smoke in there for a bit longer than if you are at an open table.”

CDC says airborne transmission plays a role in coronavirus spread in a long-awaited update after a website error last month

On the other hand, the bubbles could be an effective way to limit the amount of exposure a group of diners has to others around them, provided it is one table per bubble, said Paul Sax, clinical director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

“It keeps the group that you’re potentially exposed to while dining out much smaller,” Sax said. “From just a mathematical basis, it’s safer than dining in a restaurant, where you have, potentially, exposure to multiple other people.”

Restaurants have attempted to make indoor dining safer by requiring masks, reducing capacity and spacing out tables, but a growing body of evidence suggests it is still a high-risk activity. A recent CDC study of roughly 300 adults who tested positive for the coronavirus found that they were more than twice as likely to have eaten at a restaurant in the two weeks before getting sick compared to people who were not infected.

“The difficulty is you don’t know the ventilation” inside restaurants and bars, Sax said. “People who are dining and drinking are taking their masks off, they’re having conversations. If the noise level increases, they’re having loud conversations. And all of these things have been shown to increase the risk of spread of the virus.”

These behaviors probably occur inside dining pods, too, but the occupants are really only having prolonged, unmasked interactions with the other members of their group, Sax said.

“Clearly small spaces with poor ventilation are high risk,” he said. “But at the same time, limiting the numbers of people that you’re exposed to reduces the risk, so it’s a trade-off.”

Evaluate who you’re dining with

The level of risk a dining bubble poses largely depends on its occupants, said Erica Shenoy, associate chief of the Infection Control Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“If you put 20 of your closest friends in an igloo together, then there are 20 opportunities that one person in that group is infectious,” Shenoy said. It is much safer for people to have a meal with their immediate household in a bubble tent, she said, noting that the experience would be similar to eating at home.

Marr agreed. “I would eat with my own family in one of those, but not with anyone else,” she said.

Risk also could be fairly low for people who are dining with members of their pandemic pods, which could include trusted friends who are not part of their household, El-Sadr said. People who form these groups commit to following strict safety protocols, such as mask-wearing and social distancing, when they are in public or interacting with others outside their pod.

“It is obviously safer because then you know that the individuals you are with have been also observing the public health measures” and are likely all at lower risk, she said.

A pandemic pod could help you get through winter, experts say. Here’s how to form one.

Prioritize ventilation and sanitation

Once inside the bubbles, diners should find ways to make sure there is air flow within the space, experts said.

“You don’t need to feel a breeze, but it definitely shouldn’t feel stuffy,” Marr said. “Smells shouldn’t build up in there.”

Shah of the Mayo Clinic suggested keeping at least one side of the tent open. He added that experts have consistently recommended sitting outside for meals because of the importance of ventilation.

“If there’s no ventilation, then there’s no difference between sitting outside and inside,” Shah said. “If somebody else is infected there and within six feet of you, and you’ll be breathing stale air, then you do have a chance of getting infected.”

Fans could help with ventilation, but they must be positioned correctly to avoid just moving contaminated air around the space and potentially keeping the virus in the air longer, Marr said. She suggested that fans be placed facing outward near a tent’s openings.

People should also follow public safety guidelines inside the pods, including practicing good hand hygiene and wearing their masks when they aren’t eating or drinking, experts said.

“As people are talking to each other and socializing, I think keeping a mask on is very, very important,” El-Sadr said. “I do that because I think it’s also important to protect the servers.”

After each group of diners, the surfaces inside bubbles should be sanitized using soap and water or disinfectant, Shah said. El-Sadr recommended that tents also be aired out for as long as possible, though she said there is not clear guidance on the exact amount of time.

It is critical, Shah said, that such measures are diligently practiced.

“My fear is that as time goes on, these things get a little lax,” Shah said. “Everybody’s fatigued. I’m fatigued, but these precautions need to be maintained. . . . You cannot do a worse job at it now just because you’re fatigued from it.”


Walmart returns firearms and ammunition to store floors

By Jazmin Goodwin, CNN Business

New York (CNN Business)Walmart is returning firearms and ammunition to store shelves after the retail giant removed the products in some of its US stores as a “precaution” in response to protests in Philadelphia that followed the police shooting of Walter Wallace, Jr.

“After civil unrest earlier this week resulted in damage to several of our stores, consistent with actions we took over the summer, we asked stores to move firearms and ammunition from the sales floor to a secure location in the back of the store in an abundance of caution,” said Kory Lundberg, a Walmart (WMT) spokesperson. “As the current incidents have remained geographically isolated, we have made the decision to begin returning these products to the sales floor.”

The decision comes just days before the presidential election and as several businesses across the country begin to prepare for possible post-election unrest by boarding up store windows.

Concurrently, gun and ammunition sales have surged by an unprecedented amount during the pandemic. Gun retailers and industry analysts say the pick up in firearm and ammo purchases during an election year is normal, citing fears that a Democratic president could lead to restrictions on gun ownership.


First-time buyers fuel pandemic-related surge in gun sales

By Chauncey Alcorn, CNN

It’s been an unprecedented year for the firearms industry, which has seen a steady, pandemic-related surge in sales since Covid-19-related lockdowns began in March.

Gun retailers and industry analysts say its normal for Americans to stock up on firearms and ammo during an election year. In many cases, the analysts say, the surge is motivated by fears that a Democratic president might expand restrictions on gun ownership.

But this year’s sales spike is different because it’s being driven by a rise in first-time gun buyers, especially among African Americans and women.

About 40% of gun sales in the first four months of the year were made by first-time buyers — far higher than the annual average of 24% over the past two decades, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association that tracks gun sales and analyzes industry trends.

Gun sales among Black Americans are up 58% through September, according to the NSSF. Mark Oliva, the foundation’s director of public affairs, said the rise in Black gun ownership is unprecedented.

“We’ve never seen a year-over-year increase that large in African-American gun buyers,” Oliva told CNN Business. “It is the largest demographic increase we’ve seen. People that are buying guns today look a whole lot less like me and a whole lot more like the rest of America,” added Oliva, who is White.

Gun merchants and advocacy groups have noticed the trend as well.

‘I have a family to protect’

Douglas Jefferson, vice president of the National African American Gun Association, an advocacy group, says his organization has seen a major jump in membership that began around March when the Covid-19 lockdowns began.

Before the pandemic, Jefferson says, his organization, which promotes responsible gun ownership and training for Black Americans, had about 30,000 members nationwide. Since then, about 5,000 new members have joined.

“People are worried about people stealing from other people, breaking into homes,” Jefferson told CNN Business. “That was on top of the civil unrest that you’ve seen this summer, the demonstrations and some of the riots that you’ve seen.”

Jefferson said fears of violence by White supremacists and police have also been a major concern for his members, especially following the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in April, as well as the police killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks.

“It just seems we’ve had a lot more high-profile incidents where White supremacists have caused harm to Black people,” Jefferson said. “There’s a greater awareness of it and concern for it and people wanting to protect themselves and their families against it.”

New gun owner Luther Thompson, 41, of Cartersville, Georgia, says he joined NAAGA during the spring not long after purchasing his first firearm. The divorced father of five says both pandemic-related crime and Arbery’s killing weighed heavy on his mind, motivating him to obtain a concealed carry license and buy his first gun.

Since then, he’s purchased four additional firearms and persuaded his ex-wife to get her own handgun and license to carry a concealed firearm.

“I have a family to protect,” Thompson told CNN Business. “You have people out here who are ignorant to the point where your life doesn’t mean anything to them. … It’s getting bad out here. You have no choice but to protect yourself.”

Thompson said fears of post election civil unrest have also compelled him to stock up on guns, as well as ammunition, which has been out of stock in many stores across the country.

“I’ve seen social media posts saying, ‘If President Trump isn’t re-elected, we’re going to start a war,'” he said. “You just don’t know how people are going to react.”

‘Our instructors, they’re being overrun’

Licensed gun instructor Kelly Pidgeon trains students Armed and Feminine, gun range for female gun owners in west central Pennsylvania on October 4, 2020.”

Licensed gun instructor Kelly Pidgeon trains students at “Armed and Feminine,” her gun range for female gun owners in west central Pennsylvania on October 4, 2020.

Sales to women are also up 40% through September when compared with the same period last year.

Oliva of the NSSF says the biggest sales increases have come from states that have stricter gun control measures in place.

“There are segments of our societies that haven’t been traditional gun buyers, more liberals, more Democrats,” Oliva said.

Retired police officer and professional markswoman Dianna Muller is the founder of the DC Project, an advocacy group that trains women to use firearms. She says the instructors she works with across the country have been adding classes to their schedules to keep up with the increased demand from female first-time gun buyers.

“Our instructors, they’re being overrun,” Muller told CNN Business. “They can’t keep up with the amount of requests.”

Another DC Project leader and instructor, Kelly Pidgeon, 53, of Pennsylvania, says the women who have taken her classes this year are concerned for their safety.

“They have been watching what has been going on in terms of rioting, looting, defunding police, police not being available to them and they’re afraid,” Pidgeon told CNN Business. “They understand they need to become their own first protector because dialing 911 does not mean anyone shows up at your doorstep.”

‘A year unlike any other’

2016 set the record for gun sales made during a single calendar year, with more than 15.7 million guns sold that year alone, according to the NSSF. So far in 2020, more than 15.4 million guns have been purchased, according to Oliva, who says he expects the 2016 record will be broken before the end of this year.

In September alone, 1.6 million guns were sold, a 61% increase from the same month in 2019.

“This is a year unlike any other. It’s unparalleled,” Oliva added. “”I’ve stopped using the word unprecedented. It’s losing its power.”


Texas software tycoon who ‘hid $2B in secret offshore accounts’ is charged with biggest tax evasion case in US history – after fellow billionaire Robert Smith turns against him in $139M settlement

By Karen Ruiz For Dailymail.com and Reuters

– Daily Mail

Federal prosecutors said Brockman used a web of off-shore companies in the Caribbean to launder money

A Texas software mogul accused of hiding billions of dollars in offshore accounts has been charged with the largest tax fraud scheme in US history, prosecutors said. 

Robert Brockman, 79, was charged with money laundering and evidence tampering on Thursday after allegedly hiding $2billion in income over a 20-year period.  

The 39-count indictment states the CEO of Ohio-based Reynolds and Reynolds Co, used a web of off-shore companies in Bermuda and St. Kitts and Nevis to hide and launder money.

Texas billionaire and CEO of Ohio-based Reynolds and Reynolds Co., Robert Brockman (pictured) was charged with money laundering and evidence tampering on Thursday after allegedly hiding $2billion in income over a 20-year period” class=”blkBorder img-share” />

Texas billionaire and CEO of Ohio-based Reynolds and Reynolds Co., Robert Brockman (pictured) was charged with money laundering and evidence tampering on Thursday after allegedly hiding $2billion in income over a 20-year period

He was indicted after fellow billionaire Robert Smith turned against him to avoid prosecution

Smith, accepted responsibility for his own crimes in the tax evasion scheme by agreeing to pay $139million in taxes and penalties.

He was indicted after fellow billionaire Robert Smith turned against him to avoid prosecution. Smith accepted responsibility for his own crimes in the tax evasion scheme by agreeing to pay $139million in taxes and penalties

Prosecutors said Brockman appointed nominees to manage the entities for him as a means of hiding his involvement, saying he even went so far as to establish a proprietary encrypted email system and used code words to communicate.  

Saudi Prince and Putin Urge OPEC+ Compliance as Oil Prices Sag

By Robert Tuttle

  • It’s getting harder for nations to stick to curbs, says Nomura

Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, and Russian President Vladimir Putin urged other OPEC+ oil producers to stick with agreed production cuts, as energy prices come under renewed pressure from an acceleration in coronavirus cases.

The two spoke on Tuesday, reviewing efforts to balance supply and demand in the oil market and boost the global economy, the official Saudi Press Agency said. They “agreed on the importance of all oil-producing countries to continue cooperating and abiding by the OPEC+ agreement to achieve these goals for the benefit of both producers and consumers,” according to SPA.

With new coronavirus outbreaks in Europe and the Americas weighing on demand, many in the market question whether OPEC+ will increase output by 2 million barrels a day from January as part of a plan to taper cuts started in May. The group — an alliance of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and others such as Russia and Mexico — is set to decide its policy when all members meet on Nov. 30-Dec. 1.

While oil prices have more than doubled since OPEC+ began curbing supplies — initially by almost 10 million barrels a day — Brent crude is still down 36% this year at around $42 a barrel.

Several OPEC+ nations have breached their quotas at various stages in the past six months, including Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Nigeria and Angola. Saudi Arabia and Russia, the leaders of the alliance, have sought compensatory cuts from them.

It’s getting tougher for producers to stick to supply caps with their economies under so much strain, according to Tarek Fadlallah, the chief executive officer of Nomura Asset Management’s Middle Eastern unit.

“The pandemic has persisted for much longer than had been anticipated in March or April,” Fadlallah, who’s based in Dubai, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Wednesday. “Oil supply has been relatively constrained by the agreement that OPEC+ has worked so hard to maintain. But it’s increasingly difficult for member states to keep to those quotas as they come under intensifying fiscal pressures.”

Tuesday’s phone call, also reported by the Kremlin, came before a small group of OPEC+ ministers are scheduled to review compliance with production cuts on Oct. 19.

— With assistance by Paul Wallace, Javier Blas, and Yousef Gamal El-Din

(Updates throughout, including with analyst’s quote in sixth paragraph.)


Remember those PPP loans? Now the paperwork’s coming due for small businesses.

By Jim Saksa, CQ-Roll Call

Tribune Content Agency

WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department and the Small Business Administration have released a simplified forgiveness application for Paycheck Protection Program loans under $50,000.

The simplified form, released late Thursday, cuts the application’s size down from five pages to two, and removes most of the questions aimed at ensuring that the loans were used for the program’s intended purposes of supporting payrolls and covering other fixed costs.

The PPP was established as part of the $2 trillion economic rescue package enacted in March to speed loans to small businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. The program relied on banks and other financial institutions to process and fund the loans, using a simplified SBA application form that skipped the usual due diligence lenders perform before lending.

The PPP instead delayed most of the paperwork until the forgiveness application, ensuring that the money got out quickly to the small businesses that needed it, but still making sure borrowers weren’t cheating the system. But small-business groups and lenders complain that detailing how the emergency funds were spent would distract the smallest entrepreneurs from running their businesses or force them to hire accountants they can’t afford.

Thursday’s announcement was met with mixed reviews from lenders, who say more should be done to cut down the program’s paperwork for smaller borrowers.

Shown is a portion of a Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program Borrower Application Form, on April 21, 2020 in Washington. (AP)

“While we appreciate SBA and Treasury attempting to streamline the forgiveness process, it is apparent Congressional action is needed for the true streamlined forgiveness mom-and-pop businesses need,” Consumer Bankers Association CEO Richard Hunt said in a statement. “This newest process still requires a significant investment of time and resources from small business owners — resources which could be better spent paying their employees and supporting local economies.”

The CBA supports a bipartisan bill from Sens. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., that would replace the forgiveness applications for loans under $150,000 with a single attestation from the borrower that the funds were used properly.

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After approving 5.2 million loans totaling $525 billion, the SBA began approving PPP forgiveness applications last week.