Tag Archives: Trade

Federal Trade Commission Fines Robocallers Millions of Dollars
March 27, 2019 6:08 pm|Comments (0)

The Federal Trade Commission has put four large robocall operations out of business.

The scams have allegedly made billions of calls to people across the U.S. pitching auto warranties, debt-relief services, and home security systems, among others. The FTC said Tuesday those responsible are settling lawsuits with the agency.

Facing legal action are NetDotSolutions, Higher Goals Marketing, Veterans of America, and Pointbreak Media, which the FTC filed complaints against in 2017 and 2018.

“Under the court orders…the defendants are banned from robocalling and most telemarketing activities, including those using an automatic dialer, and will pay significant financial judgments,” the FTC said in the statement. “The defendant in one of these cases provided the software platform that resulted in more than one billion illegal robocalls.”

The fines imposed range from $ 500,000 to $ 3.64 million.

The FTC filed a complaint in June 2018 in federal district court against James “Jamie” Christiano who manages NetDotSolutions.

The complaint said Christiano and NetDotSolutions operated “TelWeb,” which the FTC described as a “computer-based telephone dialing platform that can be used to blast out a large volume of telephone calls‒‒especially robocalls‒‒in a short time.” The technology was allegedly used by robocallers in at least eight other FTC cases. Defendants named in the NetDotSolutions complaint will pay $ 1.35 million.

Pointbreak, for its part, allegedly claimed to be Google in robocalls made to small business owners, and told them their businesses would be listed as “permanently closed” in Google searches. The spam callers then asked for hundreds of dollars from the businesses if they wanted to keep their listing.

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China's ties with Taiwan chip firms under scrutiny as U.S. trade war heats up
November 7, 2018 12:03 am|Comments (0)

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Washington’s decision to cut off U.S. supplies to a Chinese chip-maker spotlights mounting tensions over China’s drive to be a global player in computer chips and the ways in which Taiwan companies are helping it get there.

FILE PHOTO: Men walk past a signboard of chipmaker United Microelectronics Corp (UMC) in Hsinchu, Taiwan January 10, 2006. REUTERS/Richard Chung/File Photo

Shut out of major global semiconductor deals in recent years, China has been quietly strengthening cooperation with Taiwan chip firms by encouraging the transfer of chip-making expertise into the mainland.

Taiwan chip giant United Microelectronics Corp (UMC) (2303.TW) last week halted research and development activities with its Chinese state-backed partner Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit Co Ltd, following the U.S. move.

Taiwan firms such as UMC have helped supply China with a steady pipeline of chip expertise in exchange for access to the fast-growing chip market there.   

China has faced a shortage of integrated circuit (IC) chips for years. In 2017, it imported $ 270 billion worth of semiconductors, more than its imports of crude oil.  

At least 10 joint ventures or technology partnerships have been set up in the last few years between Chinese and Taiwanese firms, according to industry experts, luring Taiwanese talent with hefty salaries and generous perks.

“Such companies will need to also take care to ensure no patent or IP infringement is involved as the U.S. has export control means to restrict support of critical technology,” said Randy Abrams, an analyst at Credit Suisse in Taipei.

Among the most valuable cross-strait partnerships for China would be ones that strengthen its foundry services and memory chip production. Those two sectors require much-needed help from overseas firms due to the complexity of the manufacturing technologies and intense capital requirements, analysts have said.

TRADE TENSIONS

But the technology transfer between China and self-ruled Taiwan has raised concerns amid the Sino-U.S. trade war and escalating tensions across the Taiwan Strait.

China has aggressively used “market-distorting subsidies” and “forced technology transfers” to capture traditional and emerging technology industries, Brent Christensen, the director of America’s de facto embassy in Taipei, told a business gathering in late September.

“These actions are harming the United States’ economy, Taiwan’s economy, and other economies.”

Taiwan is one of the largest exporters of IC globally and many worry the island could lose a key economic engine to its political foe.

Taiwan’s government views the island’s chipmakers’ cooperation with China cautiously and has implemented policies to ensure Taiwan’s most advanced technology is not transferred.

“When businesses go to the mainland to invest in wafer production, they must accept controls including one that requires the manufacturing technology to be a generation behind,” the economics ministry’s industrial development bureau said in a statement to Reuters.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY CONCERNS

Cooperation between UMC and Fujian Jinhua came under scrutiny last month, when the U.S. government put the Chinese company on a list of entities that cannot buy components, software and technology goods from U.S. firms amid allegations it stole intellectual property from U.S.-based Micron Technology. Fujian Jinhua denied the allegations.

Fujian Jinhua now faces big challenges to reach commercial high volume production as expected in 2020, industry observers say.

Last week, both UMC and Fujian Jinhua, which was only founded in 2016, were charged with conspiring to steal trade secrets from Micron in a U.S. Justice Department indictment.

“Taiwanese tech companies need to carefully re-evaluate their positions and supply chain arrangements as the tension between the two super powers escalates,” Bernstein analyst Mark Li said.

While China will need at least six years before it can catch up in chip manufacturing, according to some estimates, the scale of its chip-making abilities is already seen as a threat in other parts of the chip supply chain.

Barely 2-1/2 years after breaking ground on a 12-inch wafer plant in China, Nexchip, a joint venture between the Chinese city of Hefei and Taiwan DRAM maker Powerchip, started producing 8,000 wafers a month. Wafers are thin pieces of material, usually consisting of silicon, used to make semiconductor chips.

Nexchip’s main goal is to produce liquid crystal display driver ICs for flat-panel makers.

Using Powerchip’s resources and Taiwanese talent, which make up a quarter of its 1,200 employees, Nexchip is helping reduce China’s reliance on foreign chip suppliers.

With an aim to become “the world’s No.1 chipmaker for display drivers,” Nexchip plans to build three more 12-inch wafer plants and ramp up its monthly production to 20,000 wafers by 2019, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

After visiting Nexchip late last year, researchers from Taiwan’s chip hub, Hsinchu Science Park, said progress at the Hefei plant was a “breakthrough”.

“This will likely increase Taiwan firms’ needs to invest in the China market, and it will be a test for the (Taiwan) government’s industrial policy.”

Reporting by Jess Macy Yu and Yimou Lee in Taipei

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Taiwan's Foxconn calls Sino-U.S. trade spat a 'tech war'
June 22, 2018 6:10 am|Comments (0)

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics contract manufacturer, on Friday said the U.S. and Chinese governments are engaged in a technology war, not a trade war, describing the spat as the biggest challenge the Taiwanese company is facing.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Foxconn, the trading name of Hon Hai Precision Industry, is seen on top of the company’s building in Taipei, Taiwan March 30, 2018. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

President Donald Trump on Monday said Washington would hit $ 200 billion of Chinese imports with 10 percent tariffs if Beijing retaliates against his previous announcement to target $ 50 billion in imports. The United States has accused China of stealing U.S. intellectual property, a charge Beijing denies.

“The biggest challenge we’re facing is the U.S.-China trade war. In terms of how we manage and adapt, this is something all our high-level managers are making various plans on,” Chairman Terry Gou said at the company’s annual general meeting.

He did not elaborate on the kind of plans under consideration.

“What they are fighting is not really a trade war, it’s a tech war. A tech war is also a manufacturing war,” he said.

Foxconn is formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd. It employs over a million workers and has clients including Apple Inc.

Analysts have said a Sino-U.S. trade war could disrupt supply chains for the technology and auto industries – sectors heavily reliant on outsourced components such as those supplied by Foxconn – and derail growth for the global economy.

FILE PHOTO: A motorcyclist rides past the logo of Foxconn, the trading name of Hon Hai Precision Industry, in Taipei, Taiwan March 30, 2018. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

The United States and China are Taiwan’s top export markets.

On Wednesday, shareholder adviser Hermes EOS urged Foxconn to provide more details to investors about succession planning for senior executives and consider separating the chairman and chief executive roles.

Gou, who recently celebrated Foxconn’s 30 years of doing business in China, on Friday said he had no plan to retire in the next five years – years which he described as “important”, without elaborating.

Earlier this month, U.S. watchdog China Labor Watch criticized Foxconn for what it described as harsh working conditions. Gou on Friday said issues such as lengthy overtime were products of Chinese law.

For 2018, Gou said it was necessary to be mindful of uncertainties regarding inflation and the pace of interest rate rises, and that China’s economy continues to be affected by “structural adjustments”.

Shares of Foxconn were down 0.7 percent on Friday, in line with the benchmark stock price index.

Reporting by Jess Macy Yu; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Christopher Cushing

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China's Leshi questioned by bourse over trade suspension risk
May 9, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Leshi Internet Information & Technology Corp Beijing has been formally asked whether its assets, which have fallen 98 percent over the past year, are at risk of turning negative and triggering a share trading halt and possible eventual delisting.

The logo of of Leshi Internet Information & Technology Corp is seen on its building in Beijing, China March 15, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

The Shenzhen Stock Exchange’s website on Wednesday showed the bourse had sent Leshi 33 questions, including about its assets. Under its rules, a year of negative net assets results in “suspension from being a listed company”, with two years ending in delisting.

Leshi, a video-streaming company that also makes internet-connected television sets, has seen revenue and profit dwindle since mid-2017 amid a funding crisis involving parent conglomerate LeEco and its founder Jia Yueting.

Net assets attributable to shareholders stood at 304 million yuan ($ 47.70 million) at the end of March, from 13.6 billion yuan a year earlier. It reported a net loss of 307 million yuan for January-March 2018 and a loss of 13.9 billion yuan for all of 2017.

The Shenzhen bourse also questioned Leshi about its operations, asset impairment and auditing. It asked the firm to detail its debts, explain slumping performance at subsidiaries, and disclose ownership relations with other companies as well as whether units conduct transactions with other group companies.

It also asked for an update on Jia and his related parties’ repayment of debt to Leshi, and whether there has been a change in the company’s decision-making personnel.

Leshi, which since July has been managed by second-largest shareholder Sunac China Holdings Ltd, in January said Jia and LeEco owed it 7.5 billion yuan. LeEco disputed the figure.

Jia, who remains Leshi’s largest shareholder, has been residing in the United States to work on his electric vehicle start-up company, though Chinese regulators have requested his return.

The Shenzhen exchange has also asked Leshi to explain how its salary expense rose in 2017 though headcount dropped.

It has requested a reply from Leshi by May 18.

A Leshi spokeswoman said the company had no immediate comment when contacted by Reuters.

Leshi’s shares were down 2.6 percent in morning trade in a flat broader market.

Reporting by Sijia Jiang and Hong Kong newsroom; Editing by Christopher Cushing

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Biotech companies Alnylam, Dicerna settle trade secrets case
April 20, 2018 6:05 pm|Comments (0)

BOSTON (Reuters) – Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc said on Friday that Dicerna Pharmaceuticals Inc will pay it $ 25 million in cash and stock to resolve a lawsuit claiming it stole trade secrets about gene-silencing technology used to develop drug treatments.

The settlement between the two biotech companies resolves a lawsuit that Alnylam filed against Dicerna in 2015. The accord came ahead of a jury trial that was set to begin on Monday in state court in Woburn, Massachusetts.

Under the agreement, Dicerna said it will pay Alnylam $ 2 million up-front plus 983,208 shares of its common stock.

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Dicerna said it will also pay Alnylam another $ 13 million over the next four years, the timing of which is dependent on revenue Dicerna receives pursuant to future RNAi technology-based partnerships under its GalXC brand.

Alnylam, also Cambridge-based, in a statement said the deal would also place certain restrictions on Dicerna. Neither company admitted wrongdoing.

Dicerna’s stock was trading at $ 13.20 midday on Friday, up 29.12 percent. Shares in Alnylam were trading at $ 97.59, up 1.46 percent.

Alnylam’s lawsuit accused Dicerna of misappropriating confidential information related to RNAi technology Alnylam acquired when in 2014 when it bought a Merck & Co Inc subsidiary in a deal it valued in court papers at $ 325 million.

RNAi, or RNA interference, prevents a defective gene from making disease-causing proteins.

The lawsuit said Dicerna, which unsuccessfully tried to acquire RNAi assets from Merck, used confidential information it reviewed while considering the potential transaction in violation of a confidentiality agreement.

Alnylam contended Dicerna also hired several Merck scientists who had been involved in developing the technologies its rival acquired as part of an intentional scheme to gain access to trade secrets and confidential information.

Alnylam in court papers filed in Middlesex County Superior Court said the scheme allowed Dicerna to develop “strikingly similar” technologies within a year and unjustly enriched the company by up to $ 325 million.

Dicerna denied the allegations. It filed a counterclaim alleging Alnylam was pursuing a frivolous lawsuit that improperly interfered with its funding sources and partnership opportunities in order to crush its smaller competitor.

Dicerna sought $ 42.2 million in damages. It also filed a related federal antitrust case against Alnylam, which is also being settled.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Tom Brown

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U.S. biotech companies Alnylam, Dicerna settle trade secrets case
April 20, 2018 6:01 pm|Comments (0)

BOSTON (Reuters) – Dicerna Pharmaceuticals Inc on Friday said that it will pay $ 15 million plus stock to Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc to resolve a lawsuit claiming it stole trade secrets about gene-silencing technology used to develop drug treatments.

The settlement between the two biotech companies resolves a lawsuit that Alnylam filed against Dicerna in 2015. The accord came ahead of a jury trial that was set to begin on Monday in state court in Woburn, Massachusetts.

Under the agreement, Dicerna will pay Alnylam $ 2 million up-front plus 983,208 shares of its common stock, worth around $ 13.7 million based on the stock’s price at midday on Friday. Dicerna’s stock price was up 38.68 percent.

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Dicerna said it will also pay Alnylam another $ 13 million over the next four years, the timing of which is dependent on revenue Dicerna receives pursuant to future RNAi technology-based partnerships under its GalXC brand.

“With today’s announcement of a settlement with Alnylam, we are now able to focus the entirety of our resources on the advancement of our key clinical and discovery programs,” Dicerna Chief Executive Douglas Fambrough said in a statement.

Alnylam, also Cambridge-based, did not respond to a request for comment.

Alnylam’s lawsuit accused Dicerna of misappropriating confidential information related to RNAi technology Alnylam acquired when in 2014 when it bought a Merck & Co Inc subsidiary in a deal it valued in court papers at $ 325 million.

(Corrects settlement amount in first paragraph to say $ 15 million)

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Tom Brown

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Sentiment Speaks: Mining Stocks Have Been The Most Frustrating Trade For The Last Year
February 11, 2018 6:01 pm|Comments (0)

For those that follow me regularly, you will know that I have been tracking a set up for the VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF (NYSEARCA:GDX), which I analyze as a proxy for the metals mining market. I believe that the GDX can outperform the general equity market once we confirm a long term break out has begun, and I still think we can see it in occur in 2018. But, after last week’s break down below the December 2017 low, the set up will have to be resurrected first in the coming months.

I am not sure what more there is to say. We have had several break-out set ups break down in the GDX over the last year. Yet, all the market has done is consolidate sideways for an entire year. Clearly, this is not something I would have or could have expected. Moreover, we still have a 5-wave structure off the 2015 lows, which still keeps us in a longer term bullish perspective.

Since the GDX is a composition of a whole host of mining stocks, I think I have to resolve myself to understanding that the weaker stocks have certainly been a strong drag on the overall fund. So, until the weaker stocks prove they have a bottom in place, it seems quite clear that the GDX will continue to frustrate us.

With that being said, the miners we are holding in our EWT Miners Portfolio are presenting as exceptionally strong, especially relative to the GDX as a whole. Many of them seem as ready to break out similarly to the manner in which GLD seems poised to break out. Yet, when I go back to look at stocks like ABX, it seems quite clear why the GDX has been underperforming.

As you can see from the attached ABX chart, it has followed through down to lower lows in this current pullback. When I highlighted this chart a few months ago to our members of my The Market Pinball Service, I noted this lower low potential, and the ABX is now fulfilling that potential. But, as I also noted in those updates, the long-term potential being presented by this chart is quite strong. As you can see, the positive divergences evident on this chart as the market has dropped down to just below its .618 retracement of its 2016 rally is quite stark. This is often a precursor to a strong reversal which will likely kick off the larger degree 3rd wave which has failed to take hold over the last year.

Within the micro count of ABX, it would seem we are completing the wave v of (C) of y of ii. But, within wave v, we may still see another 4-5 structure before this completes its downside. That means that the 14 region is going to be the resistance over which it will have to rally in impulsive fashion to begin to signal that this wave ii has finally completed. Should that occur, we may see the ABX catch up quite quickly to the rest of the complex behind which it has been lagging.

So, in order to align the GDX chart with the ABX chart, I have to consider any bounce below the 22-22.66 region as being a 4th wave bounce, similar to the potential we see in the ABX. It will take an impulsive rally through the 22.66 region to suggest that the lows have been struck in the GDX, assuming the ABX is also impulsively rallying through its 14 region. Again, we will have to start seeing the laggards in this complex catch up and potentially even outperform to signal that a true low has been struck.

But, in conclusion, even though the GDX technically broke its recent (1)(2) structure, the metals charts still give me reason to remain bullish in the larger degree. As I noted to my subscribers, the short-term indications in my 144-minute silver chart suggest it is trying to bottom out, while the longer-term structure in ABX suggests it should also catch up to the rest of the market, which would allow the GDX to finally break out when the ABX is finally able to complete its longer-term pullback. Until such time, it seems the market is trying to teach us a lesson in patience, such as that exhibited by the biblical figure Job.

Housekeeping Matters

Lastly, it seems that Seeking Alpha has changed the way they tag articles. So, while my articles used to be sent out as an email to those that follow the metals complex, they are now only being sent out to those that have chosen to “follow” me. So, if you would like notification as to when my articles are published, please hit the button at the top to “follow” me. Thank you.

Disclosure: I am/we are long PHYSICAL METALS AND VARIOUS MINING STOCKS.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Additional disclosure: I significantly reduced my hedges, and only hold an appropriate amount for portfolio insurance at this time.

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