Posts tagged with "SEC"

Hellmann’s quadruple dips on Super Bowl with ‘most impactful’ ad yet

December 6, 2023

Hellmann’s will return to the Super Bowl for the fourth consecutive year with another spot centered on its program combating food waste, reports Marketing Dive.

Announcing its plans, the Unilever-owned mayonnaise marketer indicated that the annual sporting event is a major source of food waste, providing a timely opportunity to promote “Make Taste, Not Waste,” which encourages creative use of leftovers. Previous Hellmann’s Super Bowl commercials have also focused on the topic, seeking to balance a purpose-led message with the entertainment value fans seek during TV’s biggest night.

“Given what we know about food waste the day after the game, there couldn’t be a more relevant moment to drive awareness and make an impact about the issue,” said Chris Symmes, marketing director of Dressings North America at Unilever, in a statement. “For the last three years, we’re proud to say that our message got people talking about leftovers—we even saw an increase in the conversation about food waste by double digits—and we have plans to make this year the most impactful yet.”

Hellmann’s will run a 30-second ad for the CBS broadcast slated for February 11 during the second quarter, the company confirmed. Agency Wunderman Thompson developed the creative.

The brand’s latest big game play follows a Super Bowl campaign earlier this year that paired actors Jon Hamm and Brie Larson, punning on their food-friendly names. The effort, which ends with a cameo from Pete Davidson, was also made with Wunderman Thompson and received a muted reception.

Hellmann’s has ramped up its football presence in recent months, inking a lifetime endorsement deal with Titans quarterback Will Levis in August. The strategy has extended to the college arena, as well, through a partnership with the SEC that included the inaugural Hellmann’s Award.

The Hellmann’s news arrives as a deluge of Super Bowl-related advertising announcements are expected in the weeks ahead as brands try to stoke anticipation for what are often exorbitantly pricey campaigns. CBS in November said it was “virtually sold out” of Super Bowl LVIII inventory, with reports suggesting the network has sought between $6.5 million to $7 million for 30 seconds of airtime.

Hellmann’s factoring a purpose-driven theme into its Super Bowl strategy also comes as parent Unilever reassesses the tactic that it helped popularize. The packaged goods giant, which is in the midst of a leadership transition, has stated that it will not force-fit purpose on all of its brands after its approach became unfocused in recent years.

Research contact: @marketingdive

Representative George Santos is charged with 13 counts of fraud, financial crimes

May 11, 2023

Representative George Santos, the freshman Republican congressman serving New York whose myriad falsehoods became both a scandal and a national punchline, has been charged with a host of financial crimes in court papers unsealed on Wednesday, May 10, reports The Washington Post.

Santos, 34, surrendered to federal authorities and was expected to appear in a federal courthouse in Central Islip, on Long Island, later on Wednesday. The congressman and his lawyer did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Santos stands accused of deceiving prospective donors to his campaign and defrauding the state of New York, as well as making false statements to the House Committee on Ethics. He faces seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds, and two counts of lying to the House of Representatives on financial forms.

Details of his dealings with would-be donors and false statements on his ethics disclosures had been revealed in earlier reporting. But the indictment includes previously unknown accusations about a scheme to unlawfully obtain unemployment benefits.

According to prosecutors, Santos falsely claimed to have been unemployed in the summer of 2020 when he applied for benefits through the New York State Department of Labor; and continued to falsely certify his unemployment through the following spring, receiving more than $24,000 from the state. During that time, he was employed as a regional director for a Florida investment firm. That firm goes unnamed in the indictment, but its details match those of a company called Harbor City Capital, which was forced to shut down in 2021 after the Securities and Exchange Commission called it a “classic Ponzi scheme.”

“Taken together, the allegations in the indictment (document attached) charge Santos with relying on repeated dishonesty and deception to ascend to the halls of Congress and enrich himself,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement. “He used political contributions to line his pockets, unlawfully applied for unemployment benefits that should have gone to New Yorkers who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and lied to the House of Representatives.”

The federal allegations mark the latest chapter in a saga that has put Santos under a bright spotlight in Washington and beyond. The lies he told voters in a district stretching from parts of Long Island to Queens in New York largely escaped national attention until after his November victory. Once they were revealed on a broad scale, Santos, who flipped a seat previously held by a Democrat, apologized for what he called “résumé embellishment.”

But some of the scrutiny has been aimed at more serious potential wrongdoing—including allegedly misrepresenting his campaign’s finances and deceiving people for his financial gain.

According to the indictment, Santos used tens of thousands of dollars that ostensibly was raised for his 2022 congressional race to pay for designer clothes, pay off debts, and give money to associates. The indictment adds significantly to understanding of an alleged scheme to defraud would-be donors to Santos’ congressional campaign — an effort that prosecutors say Santos directed in violation of federal campaign finance law.

He is accused of soliciting funds, personally and through his campaign treasurer, to a company that he falsely represented both as a social welfare organization and a super PAC supporting his bid for federal office. In fact, prosecutors claim, funds from the company ultimately went to bank accounts controlled by Santos.

Santos is also charged with lying on congressional financial disclosure forms when he claimed that he earned $750,000 in salary from a firm he owned, had received between $1 million and $5 million in dividends from that firm, and had a checking account with a balance of more than $100,000 and a savings account with a balance of more than $1 million. None of those things were true, authorities said.

Wide-ranging complaints filed by watchdog groups with the Federal Election Commission earlier this year accused Santos of misrepresenting campaign spending and using campaign resources to cover personal expenses, among other allegations.

In January, the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section asked the FEC to hold off on any enforcement action against Santos—suggesting that prosecutors were examining overlapping issues.

The congressman has also come under fire for allegedly pocketing $3,000 from a GoFundMe page he purportedly set up for a homeless veteran to help pay for surgery for the man’s dying service dog—allegations that are not part of the indictment.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Elon Musk takes over at Twitter—and fires top execs

October 31, 2022

Elon Musk paid a visit to Twitter’s headquarters on Wednesday, October 26, ahead of an end-of-week deadline to close his deal to buy the company—posting a video of himself in the company’s San Francisco lobby carrying a sink, reports The Guardian.

“Entering Twitter HQ—let that sink in!” he tweeted. Musk also changed his Twitter profile to refer to himself as “Chief Twit” and his location as Twitter headquarters.

The new CEO didn’t waste any time taking charge—firing several Twitter executives after completing his takeover of the company, according to people familiar with the matter.  Vijaya Gadde, the woman behind former President Donald Trump’s Twitter suspension, was among the first to go.

Indeed, according to The Wall Street Journal, in a message to advertisers on Twitter on Thursday, October 27, Musk said he was buying the company to “have a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner.” He said Twitter “cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!”

A self-described free-speech absolutist, Musk has pledged to limit content moderation in favor of emphasizing free speech. However, that approach risks causing conflicts with some advertisers, politicians, and users who would prefer a more-moderated platform.

Musk said the platform must be “warm and welcoming to all” and suggested Twitter could let people “choose your desired experience according to your preferences, just as you can choose, for example, to see movies or play videogames ranging from all ages to mature.”

Musk also fired Chief Executive Parag Agrawal, Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal, and Sean Edgett, general counsel. Spokespersons for Twitter didn’t comment.

Hours after those actions, Musk tweeted “the bird is freed” in a seeming reference to Twitter, which has a blue bird as its logo. A Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Friday, October 28, confirmed the deal closed Thursday, and that Twitter is now part of Musk’s X Holdings, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Musk first agreed to buy Twitter in April for $44 billion, then threatened to walk away from the deal, before reversing course this month and committing to see through the acquisition.

He previously indicated unhappiness with some of the top ranks at Twitter, at one point responding to a tweet from Agrawal with a poop emoji. He also used the site to mock Gadde, the top legal boss—tweeting an image overlaid with text that repeated allegations Twitter had a left-wing political bias.

It wasn’t immediately clear who would step into the top positions left vacant by Thursday’s exits. CNBC earlier reported the departures of Agrawal and Segal.

The deal, in which Twitter will again become a private company, adds to Musk’s expansive business reach, which includes running Tesla, the world’s most-valuable car company; and rocket company SpaceX, among other endeavors.

Musk, who has become Twitter’s largest individual shareholder, previously said he would pay for the acquisition mostly with cash, some contributed by co-investors, and $13 billion in debt.

Research contact: @guardian

Twitter’s former security chief accuses it of ‘egregious deficiencies’

August 24, 2022

Twitter’s former head of security has accused the company of “extreme, egregious deficiencies” in its spam- and hacker-fighting practices, according to a whistle-blower complaint, reports The New York Times.

The complaints by Peiter Zatko, the former executive, said that the shortcomings in enforcing security, privacy, and content moderation policies dated to 2011.

Zatko, a well-known hacker who is known in the security community as Mudge, joined Twitter in late 2020 and was terminated by the company in January of this year.

His complaints were sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Justice Department, and Federal Trade Commission on July 6. The Washington Post and CNN first reported on the complaints.

Zatko accuses Twitter, its CEO Parag Agrawal, and other executives and directors of “extensive legal violations,” including making misleading statements to users, misrepresentations to investors and acting with “negligence and even complicity” toward efforts by foreign governments to infiltrate the platform, according to the complaint filed with the SEC, which was obtained by The New York Times.

The allegations come at a perilous time for Twitter, which is locked in a legal battle with Elon Musk over his efforts to walk away from a $44 billion agreement to acquire the social media company. Twitter has sued Musk to force him to close the deal, and the two sides are set to go to trial at the Delaware Chancery Court in October.

The complaints put forward by Zatko and Musk are in some ways similar—focusing on the number of fake users on Twitter’s website. Musk claims that Twitter’s public disclosures about those figures are materially misleading.

Perhaps most damaging, if true, is Zatko’s allegation that Twitter is in violation of its 2011 settlement with the FTC over its safeguarding of user information. The agency had accused Twitter of “serious lapses” in data security that “allowed hackers to obtain unauthorized administrative control of Twitter” including the ability to send out phony tweets.

A spokesperson for Twitter said Zatko was fired for ineffective leadership and poor performance. “What we’ve seen so far is a false narrative about Twitter and our privacy and data security practices that is riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies and lacks important context,” she said.

“Zatko’s allegations and opportunistic timing,” she said, “appear designed to capture attention and inflict harm on Twitter, its customers, and its shareholders. Security and privacy have long been companywide priorities at Twitter and will continue to be.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Elon Musk scoops up 9.2% of Twitter after attacking the social media platform over ‘free speech’

April 5, 2022

For many years it has been his favorite method of communicating with his adoring fans and for needling regulators at the Securities and Exchange Commission. So, perhaps, it was not entirely surprising to learn on April 4 that Elon Musk—one of the world’s richest men and an electric vehicle visionary—has built up a 9.2% stake in Twitter, according to filings made with the SEC on Monday, reports The Daily Beast.

The immediate impact of the news was simply to make Musk even richer, as Twitter shares jumped 26% in reaction to the news. Musk’s 73,486,938 Twitter shares were worth just under $2.9 billion on Friday, April 1’s closing price, but jumped to a $3.6 billion valuation as Musk acolytes rushed to buy positions in the stock.

Musk is now estimated to be worth around $287 billion, making him definitively much richer than the former holder of the top spot, Jeff Bezos, who languishes in second place with a mere $189 billion.

Just last month, The Daily Beast notes, Musk suggested he wanted to create his own social media network, while blasting Twitter’s approach to “free speech.”

“Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy. Do you believe Twitter rigorously adheres to this principle?” Musk asked his followers.

“Given that Twitter serves as the de facto public town square, failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy,” Musk added. “Is a new platform needed?”

Musk’s acquisition of a significant stake in Twitter has been revealed after many years of sometimes compulsive tweeting, during which time he has become one of the social media platform’s most followed contributors, and also been accused of using the platform to pump up his stock value.

In 2018. he famously tweeted that he was “considering taking Tesla private at $420,” adding, “Funding secured.” Musk later said he picked the number 420, code for smoking weed in marijuana culture, to amuse his then-girlfriend, the musician and singer Grimes.

Grimes may have been entertained but the SEC were not, and the tweet triggered an investigation by them, which established that not only had Musk not secured funding for the proposed transaction but that “he allegedly knew that the potential transaction was uncertain and subject to numerous contingencies.”

The SEC said: “According to Musk, he calculated the $420 price per share based on a 20% premium over that day’s closing share price because he thought 20% was a ‘standard premium’ in going-private transactions.

“This calculation resulted in a price of $419, and Musk stated that he rounded the price up to $420 because he had recently learned about the number’s significance in marijuana culture and thought his girlfriend ‘would find it funny, which admittedly is not a great reason to pick a price’.”

The agency eventually settled with Musk, and he was ordered to pay $20 million and step down as chairman of Tesla. Tesla had to pay another $20 million. Musk also had to agree that he would not tweet without pre-approval from a company attorney. The billionaire has subsequently sought to challenge that settlement, saying the SEC has used the court agreement “to trample on Mr. Musk’s First Amendment rights and to impose prior restraints on his speech.”

The SEC disclosed recently that it is once again investigating Musk over a tweet. This time, the offending message was a November 2021 post in which he asked his 80 million followers if he should sell 10% of his stake in Tesla.

The SEC is seeking to establish if Musk obtained the necessary approval from company lawyers before posting the message.

Musk is also reportedly being investigated to see if he tipped his brother off about the poll.

Research contact: @thedailiybeast

Microsoft to buy gaming company Activision Blizzard in a deal valued at $68.7 billion

Janaury 19, 2022

Microsoft is paying nearly $70 billion for Activision Blizzard, the maker of Candy Crush and Call of Duty, as it seeks an edge in the fiercely competitive businesses of mobile gaming and virtual-reality technology, reports ABC-TV.

The all-cash $68.7 billion deal will turn Microsoft, maker of the Xbox gaming system, into one of the world’s largest video game companies and help it compete with tech rivals such as Meta, formerly Facebook, in creating immersive virtual worlds for both work and play.

If the deal survives scrutiny from U.S. and European regulators in the coming months, it also could be one of the priciest tech acquisitions in history, since Dell bought data-storage company EMC in 2016 for around $60 billion.

Activision has been buffeted for months by allegations of misconduct and unequal pay, and that was addressed on Tuesday, January 18,  by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a conference call with investors.

“The culture of our organization is my number-one priority,” Nadella said, adding that “it’s critical for Activision Blizzard to drive forward on its” commitments to improve its workplace culture.

Activision disclosed last year it was being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission over complaints of workplace discrimination.

Activision CEO Bobby Kotick will retain his role, and he and his team will maintain their focus on driving efforts to further strengthen the Santa Monica, California, company’s culture and accelerate business growth.

Wall Street saw the acquisition as a big win for Activision Blizzard and shares soared 27% in early trading Tuesday. Shares of Microsoft slipped less than 1%.

Microsoft said it expects the deal to close in the upcoming 2023 fiscal year, which starts in July. The Activision business unit would then report to Phil Spencer, who has led Microsoft’s Xbox division and will now serve as CEO of Microsoft Gaming.

Research contact: @ABC

Nunes quits Congress for Trump Media job

December 8, 2021

Representative Devin Nunes (R-California)—a close ally of former President Donald Trump and the former chair of the House Intelligence Committee—has announced that he will resign from Congress later this month in order to run Trump’s new social media company, reports Politico.

Nunes—a ten-term Congressman first elected in 2002—ascended to chair the Intelligence Committee in 2015. But he recused himself temporarily from an inquiry into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election while the Ethics Committee examined his handling of the committee’s investigation.

He is not leaving totally on his own steam: While the independent commission charged with redrawing California’s congressional map is still completing its work, an early draft tilted Nunes’ Central Valley district toward Democrats—potentially complicating his path to reelection.

The Palm Beach-based Trump Media & Technology Group said in a statement on Monday, December 6, that Nunes would become CEO of the company in January.

“The time has come to reopen the Internet and allow for the free flow of ideas and expression without censorship,” Nunes said in the statement. “The United States of America made the dream of the Internet a reality and it will be an American company that restores the dream.”

While Trump’s fledgling media company makes a logical landing spot for Nunes given his closeness with the former president—and their shared animosity toward the mainstream media—Trump’s media entity also is facing legal headwinds. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority are scrutinizing a special purpose acquisition company working with Trump Media & Technology Group.

According to Politico “In choosing not to remain in Congress, Nunes is achieving on his own terms what California Democrats could not in multiple well-funded attempts to unseat him. A Republican representing California’s agriculture-dominated Central Valley, Nunes has become a primary campaign target for Democrats, given Nunes’ loyalty to Trump.”

Democrats seeking to unseat Nunes have raised millions of dollars in past cycles — much of it from out of state, underscoring the broader fervor for toppling Nunes. But the lawmaker handily turned back those attempts.

Nunes’ pending resignation will set up two elections next year: a special election for the remainder of his term under the old district lines, and the regular election under the new lines for the next Congress beginning in 2023.

Research contact: @politico

Nikola founder Trevor Milton charged with fraud for lying about ‘nearly all aspects’ of EV business

July 30, 2021

Trevor Milton, the founder and former executive chairman of electric vehicle company Nikola, has been charged with two counts of securities fraud and one count of wire fraud by a federal grand jury. Milton has been accused of lying about “nearly all aspects of the business” to boost Nikola’s stock, reports Engadget.

The indictment alleges that Milton made it seem Nikola was much further along than it actually was in terms of having fully functional EVs. It asserts he had a hand in creating a video that made it seem as if a Nikola One prototype was able to move by itself when it was actually rolling down a slope.

According to Engadget, Milton falsely claimed the company had “billions and billions and billions and billions” of dollars’ worth of preorder reservations and that the company was producing its own hydrogen at four times less than market rates, according to the indictment.

He’s also accused of falsely claiming that Nikola had developed “game-changing” battery technology, that it was developing and making several key components for its EVs in-house and that “the total cost of ownership of Nikola’s trucks was 20% to 30% below that of diesel vehicles.”

Prosecutors claim Milton, who resigned in September in the face of a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) probe, targeted and misled amateur investors (or “retail investors”). According to the indictment, some of those investors lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

At Nikola’s peak valuation, Milton held around $8.5 billion worth of stock, as CNBC has noted. The grand jury argues that Milton should surrender property “traceable to the commission of said offenses.” That could include the over $1 billion Milton made when the company went public in June 2020.

The SEC also filed civil securities fraud charges against Milton on Thursday, July 29. The agency asked a district court to force Milton to forfeit “ill-gotten gains” and to pay a fine. It also called for a lifetime ban on Milton serving as an officer at a company that issues securities.

Research contact: @engadget

SEC charges Hollywood actor with operating $690M Ponzi scheme based on fake Netflix deals

April 8, 2021

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has obtained an asset freeze against Los Angeles-based actor Zachary Horwitz (also known by the stage name Zach Avery) in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme that raised over $690 million, Business Insider reports.

The U.S. regulator said in a Tuesday statement that Horwitz allegedly lied to investors that he and his company were buying film rights and reselling them to Netflix and HBO. In reality, his company had no business relationship with the entertainment giants and relied on fake emails to fool investors.

According to the SEC statement, Horowitz and his company, 1inMM Productions, promised investors returns in excess of 35%, and for years paid supposed returns on earlier investments using funds from new investments.

“We allege that Horwitz promised extremely high returns and made them seem plausible by invoking the names of two well-known entertainment companies and fabricating documents,” said Michele Wein Layne, director of the SEC’s Los Angeles Regional Office.

In addition, Business Insider reports, Horwitz misappropriated investor funds for his personal us,—using victims’ money to purchase a $6 million property in Beverlywood, California.

The US Justice Department separately issued a statement saying that the FBI arrested Horwitz on Tuesd, April 6. Horwitz was criminally charged with raising $227 million over the course of about five years that has yet to be repaid as part of a scheme in which he claimed he would acquire rights to films that Netflix and HBO would then distribute abroad, particularly in Latin America, the statement said.

Research contact: @BusinessInsider

Elon Musk officially has been crowned the ‘Techno-King of Tesla’

March 16, 2021

Tesla officially gave CEO Elon Musk the title of “Techno-King [AKA Technoking] of Tesla,” in a new regulatory filing on Monday, March 15, NBC News reports.

Musk will retain his position as CEO, Tesla said. Zach Kirkhorn, Tesla’s CFO, has also been given a new title: “Master of Coin.”

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on March 15, the electric vehicle company said: “Effective as of March 15, 2021, the titles of Elon Musk and Zach Kirkhorn have changed to Technoking of Tesla and Master of Coin, respectively. Elon and Zach will also maintain their respective positions as Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer.”

It’s unclear what has prompted the new titles, NBC news says. Last month, the Californian startup announced it had bought $1.5 billion worth of bitcoin.

Tesla shares surged by 600% last year, quadrupling Musk’s personal fortune and briefly putting him ahead of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos as the world’s richest man. Tesla shares have had a rockier start to 2021, but last week the stock surged 20% in one day after data from the China Passenger Car Association showed Tesla sold 18,318 Model 3s and Model Ys made at its Shanghai vehicle plant in China.

Research contact: @NBCNews