FILE PHOTO: Tesla CEO Elon Musk attends the Tesla Shanghai Gigafactory groundbreaking ceremony in Shanghai, China January 7, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song
March 19, 2019
(Reuters) – A tweet about Tesla Inc production targets by Elon Musk was “a blatant violation” of a court order to get his written communications pre-approved, U.S. securities regulators told a judge on Monday, doubling down on the government’s demand to find the Tesla CEO in contempt of a previous fraud settlement.
The Securities and Exchange Commission wrote in a filing in federal court in Manhattan that Musk’s Feb. 19 tweet to his more than 24 million Twitter followers claiming the electric vehicle-maker would build around 500,000 cars in 2019 contained or could have contained information material to Tesla or its shareholders.
The ongoing public battle between Tesla’s chief executive and the top U.S. securities regulator adds pressure on Musk, the public face of Tesla, who is struggling to make the company profitable after cutting the price of its Model 3 sedan to $35,000.
The regulator last month alleged that Musk had violated a September settlement of fraud charges by tweeting material information about Tesla without pre-approval from the company.
In response, Musk had argued that his “single, immaterial” tweet was in compliance with the settlement, and that the SEC’s push to find him in contempt infringed on his free speech..
The fraud settlement between Musk, Tesla and the SEC resolved a lawsuit brought by the regulator over claims Musk made on Twitter in August that he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private at $420 per share. The SEC called those tweets “false and misleading” and a go-private deal never materialized.
As part of that settlement, Musk stepped down as the company’s chairman and he and Tesla agreed to pay $20 million each in fines.
He also agreed to submit written communications that could materially impact Tesla for pre-approval to the company before publishing them.
“It is therefore stunning to learn that, at the time of filing of the instant motion, Musk had not sought pre-approval for a single one of the numerous tweets about Tesla he published in the months since the court-ordered pre-approval policy went into effect,” the SEC said in Monday’s filing.
Tesla has backed off a plan to close all its U.S. stores and said it will instead raise prices of its higher-end vehicles by about 3 percent on average. Last week, Tesla unveiled its Model Y crossover SUV, targeted to begin production in 2020.
Musk called the regulator the “Shortseller Enrichment Commission” on Twitter after the settlement, and tweeted that “something is broken with SEC oversight” just one day after the agency started pursuing the contempt order.
Legal experts have said the SEC could pursue multiple avenues, including a higher fine, imposing further restrictions on Musk’s activities or removing him from Tesla’s board or helm.
Tesla published a new communications policy in December for senior executives as part of the settlement. It called for Tesla’s general counsel and a newly designated in-house securities law attorney to pre-approve any written statements about Tesla that could be material.
A disclosure controls committee, made up of board members Brad Buss, Antonio Gracias and James Murdoch, was tasked with overseeing compliance with the new policy.
The case is U.S. SEC v Elon Musk, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 1:18-cv-8865-AJN-GWG
(Reporting by Alexandria Sage in San Francisco; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
A Justice Department official who worked on former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s case is leaving the special counsel’s office, a spokesman for Robert Mueller said Monday.
“Zainab Ahmad has concluded her detail with the Special Counsel’s Office but will continue to represent the office on specific pending matters that were assigned to her during her detail,” special counsel spokesman Peter Carr said in a statement, first reported by Yahoo! News.
Ahmad’s departure is the latest signal that Mueller’s probe is nearing its end. Carr confirmed Thursday that Andrew Weissmann, the high-profile Mueller prosecutor who handled cases against Paul Manafort, is planning to leave the team. (RELATED: Mueller’s ‘Pit Bull’ Is Leaving, Signaling Investigation Is Nearly Over)
Ahmad, a counterterrorism prosecutor, is one of the Mueller team members to sign Flynn’s guilty plea for lying to the FBI regarding his contacts with former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Flynn has cooperated with several investigations as part of his plea agreement. He is expected to testify later in 2019 in a trial against his former business partner, Bijan Kian. Kian was indicted on charges of failing to register as a foreign agent of Turkey.
Ahmad and Weissmann recently came under scrutiny over their interactions during the 2016 campaign with Justice Department official Bruce Ohr.
It recently emerged that Ohr testified to Congress on Aug. 28, 2018, that he briefed Ahmed, Weissmann and FBI officials in September 2016 about his interactions with Christopher Steele, the former British spy who wrote the anti-Trump dossier.
Ohr, who served as a back-channel between Steele and the FBI, said he told the Justice Department and FBI officials Steele’s reporting on the Trump campaign was unverified and needed further investigation. Nevertheless, the FBI relied heavily on the dossier’s allegations to obtain surveillance warrants against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
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Source: The Daily Caller
FILE PHOTO: The ESPN logo is seen on an electronic display in Times Square in New York City, U.S., August 23, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Segar
March 18, 2019
By Hilary Russ
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The streaming digital sports service ESPN+ will become the exclusive distributor of pay-per-view events for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in the United States, the companies announced on Monday.
The events will begin on April 13, almost exactly a year since parent company Walt Disney Co launched ESPN+ to retain viewers as traditional cable audiences started migrating to online services such as Netflix Inc.
ESPN+ lured 568,000 new subscribers when UFC debuted in January after the Las Vegas-based mixed martial arts promoter, a unit of Endeavor, LLC, moved fights there from Fox Sports.
By the time Disney held its quarterly earnings call with investors in February, it said ESPN+ had signed up 2 million paying subscribers. It is the model for Disney+, a streaming service for family-friendly Disney content that is supposed to launch later this year.
The UFC deal takes the traditional pay-per-view (PPV) model to a new level, giving ESPN+ subscribers exclusive access to the “biggest and most important fights,” said Russell Wolff, ESPN+ executive vice president.
He would not say how many paying subscribers ESPN+ currently has.
The deal will also give the UFC something it has never had before: data about its PPV audience, including information about who is buying event access and viewers’ propensity to purchase goods, said UFC Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Epstein.
Fans will be able to access UFC content in one place, rather than having to jump to different platforms as they did in the past. The agreement does not impact UFC’s commercial sales to the thousands of U.S. bars and restaurants that air its fights, Epstein said.
Monday’s UFC deal is an expansion of its previous ESPN+ agreement, which covered media rights to UFC Fight Night and now runs through 2025 along with the PPV deal.
The expanded agreement covers 12 live PPV events per year that will be streamed in high definition in English and Spanish.
PPV UFC fights will cost $59.99 per event for current ESPN+ subscribers, slightly less than the $64.99 fans usually paid in the past. New subscribers will pay $79.99 for their first PPV event and get one-year of ESPN+ access.
(This story corrects name of UFC parent company to Endeavor, LLC in third paragraph)
(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Susan Thomas)
Emilia Clarke has no regrets about the sex scenes she’s done on “Game of Thrones.”
As everybody who watches the show knows, there can be some pretty wild sexual encounters and other scenes of nudity, and Clarke has been involved in a few of them. You’d be entirely wrong if you were expecting her to have any second thoughts about those infamous moments. (SLIDESHOW: These Women On Instagram Hate Wearing Clothes)
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“There’s not one part of the show that I would go back and redo. People ask me the nudity question all the time. But the short answer is no, I would never change anything. You had to see those sex scenes, as they couldn’t just be explained,” the “GoT” star recently told The Sun. (SLIDESHOW: 142 Times Josephine Skriver Barely Wore Anything)
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I always knew Clarke was one of the good ones out there. She just gets it. Those scenes weren’t simply about sex! They were about character development. What? Are we supposed to cut corners? (SLIDESHOW: 71 Times Samantha Hoopes Stripped Down)
I don’t think so. They just couldn’t be explained any other way. It wouldn’t make sense if we just didn’t see it! I think we’re all in agreement, right? (SLIDESHOW: This Blonde Bombshell Might Be The Hottest Model On The Internet)
I can’t wait for April 14. The eighth and final season is going to be so damn epic. I honestly just need it to get here ASAP. (RELATED: These Are The Sexiest Photos Of ‘Game Of Thrones‘ Star Emilia Clarke On The Internet)
The only thing getting my through is the fact we have March Madness. That’s it. Once that’s done, then we’ve nothing except “GoT.”
Sound off in the comments with your predictions for season eight. It should be great.
Source: The Daily Caller
FILE PHOTO: An EU flag flutters during an anti-Brexit demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain January 28, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
March 18, 2019
By Huw Jones
LONDON (Reuters) – Euro-denominated government bond, repurchase agreement and foreign exchange trading at CME Group has moved from London to Amsterdam to avoid disruption from Brexit, the exchange said on Monday.
CME Group, one of the world’s biggest exchanges, set up new units in the Dutch financial capital to avoid European Union customers being disrupted by whatever form Britain’s departure from the bloc takes.
Clearing of its euro repo trades at London Stock Exchange’s LCH unit in London had already moved to LCH’s Paris arm in order to be inside the EU after Brexit.
Migration of trading and clearing is a blow to London as a global financial center, with more business to follow the Chicago-headquartered exchange.
While Brexit is due to take place on March 29, it now looks increasingly likely that it will be delayed.
Cboe Europe, the largest pan-European share trading platform, plans to move euro-denominated share trading from London to a new unit in Amsterdam, with trading starting on April 1.
But Cboe Europe said last week it was “closely monitoring” political discussions and would react as quickly as possible to any developments that would alter this launch date.
Britain’s government is scrambling to get support in parliament for a Brexit deal ahead of an EU summit on Thursday.
Separately on Monday, EuroCCP, a clearing house for stock trades, said it had obtained regulatory approval to clear trades for the new EU entities of Cboe Europe, Aquis Exchange, and London Stock Exchange’s Turquoise from April 1.
EuroCCP said it had also “on-boarded” six new EU-based entities acting as clearing members, and more than 10 new EU-based trading members.
EuroCCP, which clears over 30 percent of European share trades, is incorporated in the Netherlands and owned by Dutch Bank ABN Amro, Cboe Europe, Euronext, Nasdaq, and the U.S. Depository Trust & Clearing Corp (DTCC).
The announcement means that a large chunk of clearing in euro-denominated share trades, currently handled by EuroCCP and rivals like LCH in London, is also set to move to Amsterdam.
Clearing refers to a third party that ensures completion of a trade even if one side goes bust.
EuroCCP said it would activate the new clearing arrangements in EU-listed securities as soon as the new EU-based venues are ready
“While the uncertainty continues and despite the increasing likelihood that there may be a delay to Brexit, we are still focused on our preparations in case the UK leaves the EU on 29 March,” said EuroCCP Chief Executive Cécile Nagel.
Aquis is opening a new hub in Paris for trading euro-denominated shares, while the Turquoise unit is in Amsterdam.
(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Louise Heavens/Mark Heinrich)
FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May arrives at church in Sonning, Britain March 17, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
March 18, 2019
By Guy Faulconbridge and Elizabeth Piper
LONDON (Reuters) – One of the most influential Brexit-backing lawmakers in Prime Minister Theresa May’s party gave the strongest hint to date on Monday that rebels might back her departure deal, saying that a bad exit accord was better than staying in the European Union.
May has warned lawmakers that unless they approve her Brexit divorce deal after two crushing defeats, Britain’s exit from the EU could face a long delay which many Brexiteers fear would mean Britain may never leave.
After two-and-a-half years of tortuous negotiations with the EU, the final outcome remains uncertain – with options including a long delay, exiting with May’s deal, a disorderly exit without a deal or even another EU membership referendum.
May is scrambling to rally support ahead of a summit of EU heads of government on Thursday and Friday where she has warned she will ask for a long Brexit delay unless parliament ratifies the deal she struck in November.
Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group of euroskeptics in Britain’s House of Commons, said he had not yet made up his mind how to vote on May’s deal but any Brexit was better than staying in the bloc.
If Rees-Mogg did swing behind May, dozens of rebels could follow him, although it is unclear if that would be enough to save her deal.
“No deal is better than a bad deal but a bad deal is better than remaining in the European Union in the hierarchy of deals,” Rees-Mogg told LBC radio. “A two-year extension is basically remaining in the European Union.”
Rees-Mogg said his dream option would be a no-deal exit on March 29 but that he felt May – a former supporter of EU membership who won the premiership in the turmoil that followed the 2016 Brexit referendum – would seek to stop a no-deal.
“The question people like me will ultimately have to answer is: can we get to no-deal instead? If we can get to no-deal instead, that is a better option… but I am concerned the prime minister is determined to stop a no-deal.”
May’s deal, a bid to keep close trading and security ties with the EU while leaving the bloc’s formal political structures, was defeated by 230 votes in parliament on Jan. 15, and by 149 votes on March 12.
If she could get the deal approved after the biggest parliamentary defeat for a government in modern British history, it would mark a spectacular and surprising turnaround and by far the biggest achievement of her crisis-riven tenure.
To get her deal through parliament, May must win over at least 75 lawmakers – dozens of rebels in her own Conservative Party, some Labour lawmakers, and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up her minority government.
The biggest issue is the so-called Northern Irish border backstop, an insurance policy aimed at avoiding post-Brexit controls on the United Kingdom’s border with EU-member Ireland.
Many Brexiteers and the DUP are concerned the backstop will trap the United Kingdom in the EU’s orbit indefinitely, and have sought guarantees it will not.
THIRD TIME LUCKY?
May’s finance minister, Philip Hammond, held talks with the DUP on Friday but said the government did not yet have support it needed and would only put the deal to a third vote if it felt it could win.
“There are some cautious signs of encouragement … but there is a lot more work to do,” Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the BBC on Monday.
If May could swing the DUP behind her, along with several dozen more Brexit supporters in her own party, she will be getting close to the numbers she needs.
Stepping up the pressure on the prime minister, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, said he could trigger another confidence vote in May’s government if she fails again to get her deal adopted by parliament.
Former British foreign minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday it was not too late for the government to get “real change” to May’s deal and cautioned against holding another parliamentary vote on the agreement this week.
Johnson, a prominent Brexit campaigner who might influence other lawmakers on which way to vote over May’s deal, asked in his column in the Telegraph newspaper whether there was a way forward to break the impasse of Brexit in parliament.
“Perhaps,” he answered. “There is an EU summit this week. It is not too late to get real change to the backstop. It would be absurd to hold the vote before that has even been attempted.”
He also said May should outline her strategy for talks on the future relationship with the EU to “reassure … understandably doubtful MPs (members of parliament) by answering some basic questions”.
EU leaders have said repeatedly that the terms of their Withdrawal Agreement with May cannot be revisited.
(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Giles Elgood and Mark Heinrich)
WASHINGTON — Those of us who have always thought that Brexit — Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union — was a bad idea should be feeling self-satisfied and vindicated now. Well, we’re not; at least this observer isn’t. The reason is obvious. Many of the things that we feared would happen have happened, or might still. Worse, the consequences aren’t confined to the United Kingdom.
If you take a crude and unscientific survey of some of Washington’s major think tanks, you discover (no surprise) that they’re generally agreed that the economic outlook for Britain is grim. Here’s a commentary by economist Desmond Lachman of the right-of-center American Enterprise Institute:
“Since the Brexit referendum, the U.K.’s economic performance has deteriorated. It has done so as the U.K.’s future access to the European single market, which buys around 50 percent of the U.K.’s exports, has come into serious question. … At a time that the European economy is already stuttering, with Italy in recession and the German economy on the cusp of recession, the last thing that Europe now needs is a sclerotic UK economy.”
A new study from the Peterson Institute for International Economics reviewed the forecasts of 12 economic models and found that only two of them predicted gains from Brexit. Other studies forecast losses up to 8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). The study also warns that “a no-deal ‘crash out'” — a reversion to higher tariffs rather than a “soft Brexit” of continuing the present no-tariff situation — “would have serious negative short-run impacts on the U.K., which are essentially impossible to model.”
Although EU countries would also lose some exports to the U.K., these are much smaller than the U.K.’s export losses to the EU. Thus, they’re more easily made up by boosting exports to other countries, the report contends.
The U.K.’s losses are not just theoretical. Already, some companies are announcing closures of U.K. manufacturing operations, a good example being Honda. Similarly, some banks are moving financial assets (stocks, bonds, other securities) from their London offices to locations on the continent. There is much fear that London will lose its traditional position as Europe’s pre-eminent financial center.
Meanwhile, the chaos, confusion and contradictions of Parliament’s efforts to find a tenable Brexit policy must seriously undermine confidence in Britain’s political system and its ability to attract future investors, domestic and foreign.
The prevailing political anarchy was on public display last week. On March 12, Parliament rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposed agreement with the EU for the second time. Then on March 13, it voted down a proposal for the U.K. to leave the EU without an agreement, failing to acknowledge “that this is precisely what will happen unless they reconcile themselves to the very deal they rejected the day before,” as Douglas Rediker of The Brookings Institution noted in a blog post. The deadline for deciding is March 29, though that could be extended.
The larger and more significant issue floating over this controversy involves the future of the world trading system. There has been a loss of authority among the corporate executives, governmental officials and economists whose support is crucial if the system is to survive and flourish.
It’s not that they have changed their minds about the value of open trade so much as the public has turned more skeptical and hostile to trade expansion. A less supportive public in turn alters the political climate, making governments more nationalistic and leading to more, not fewer, trade barriers. Multinational firms become more cautious in making new investments, because they can’t know how much open trade will be tolerated.
Brexit is one example of this break from the past. Others are well-known: the Trump administration’s renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico; its bargaining with China over trade practices; and the imposition of U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
The fate of Brexit is just a small part of this much larger story. Is the post-World War II global trading system, constructed gradually over the past half-century or so, breaking down? Or is it just in a state of temporary hiatus? History awaits an answer.
(c) 2019, The Washington Post Writers Group