25 Jun

$54 million lawsuit over a pair of pants is decided

The case of the pants lost by the drycleaners and the ensuing $54 million lawsuit has been decided. District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff ruled that Custom Cleaners did not violate the Consumer Protection Act with its “Satisfaction Guaranteed” sign.

Administrative law judge Roy L. Pearson accused the business of fraud under the Consumer Protection Act when they lost his pants and gave him a pair that was not his.

A two-day trial was heard earlier this month, the judge has just ruled. The judge has awarded Pearson no damages, and he has been ordered to pay the costs of the defendants, Soo Chung, Jin Nam Chung and Ki Y. Chung.

25 Jun

Two-year-old admitted to Mensa

Wow! A two-year-old with an IQ of 152 is being admitted to Mensa in Britain. Her recent IQ test results indicate she’s at the level of a five or six-year-old.

Mensa is the “High IQ Society,” or the international society for highly-intelligent people. Members are said to be in the top two percent of the population in intelligence. The organization has about 100,000 members worldwide, but reports that there are only 30 members under the age of 10. Normally, only people 10 years and older are tested by Mensa, but younger children are accepted if they qualify.

25 Jun

Survey Considers Downside of Time-Based Billing

A recent survey completed by William G. Ross, professor at the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University, is ruffling some feathers. Ross has a special interest in billing ethics, and has done two previous surveys of this sort.

In the current survey, 5,000 randomly sampled attorneys were asked about their billing practices. Only 251 responses were received, and that number of responses seems a bit thin to provide reliable results. However, I think that the results are interesting nonetheless and bear discussing.

The focus of the survey was time-based billing, and whether or not such billing leads to inefficiencies, fraudulent billing, or other negative consequences.

Survey Results
Ross notes that this survey’s results were very similar to the results of previous surveys. He opines that “a distressingly high percentage of attorneys believe that time-based billing results in bill padding and provides incentives for attorneys to perform unnecessary work.” Read More

24 Jun

Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC)

Did you know that I’m a graduate of the Criminal Investigator Training Program (CIT) at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Georgia?

This site gets lots of hits from people searching for information on FLETC, so I thought it was a good time to highlight this topic!

A summary of the program can be found here. The best part of the program was becoming firearms certified. I was trained with a 9mm Sig Sauer, and have enjoyed shooting at the range with my own Sig since then.

The training program includes plenty of classroom work, but some of the more interesting training exercises included scenes that were acted out by members of the Glynco community. FLETC actually paid people to come to the training grounds and be actors in crime scenes. We did mock search warrants and arrests, among many other practical exercises.

One of the most exhilerating exercises was a shootout in a dark trailer. We had paintball handguns, and the most important part of the exercise was to come out unscathed by any paint balls. We also had a cool shoot/don’t shoot exercise. You passed if you only shot people who had guns, and if you shot them before they shot you. Shooting someone who looked like they had a gun, but really didn’t, gave you a failing grade. I passed both of these exercises on the first try.

I got the highest score in our class on testifying in court. We were witnesses in a pretend courtroom, complete with actors playing the judge, jury, and attorneys. We had to testify as if we had investigated a case and were presenting the evidence to the jury. That was easily my strongest test performance.

24 Jun

When is a public company required to file a Form 8-K?

Several people have questioned whether Usana Health Sciences must file a Form 8-K with the SEC to notify them of the recent distributor class action suit. It seems to be the common belief that the lawsuit is a “material event” requiring the filing of an 8-K.

So here it is, straight from the Securities and Exchange Commission. Yes, the suit may be considered a material event, but the 8-K only needs to be filed if the material even falls under one of the below categories: Read More

23 Jun

Interesting question posed to Patrick Byrne of Overstock.com

Sam Antar has uncovered some interesting information. I would love for Patrick Byrne, Overstock CEO to respond to Sam’s questions about this (and now the questions are mine too!).

Patrick is involved with an organization called National Coalition Against Naked Shorting (NCANS). Naked short selling, as defined by Wikipedia:

Short selling is the practice of borrowing stock, then selling it in hopes that the price will go down and it can be bought back at a lower price with shares to replace the borrowed ones. “Naked shorting” refers to short selling a stock for sale without first borrowing the shares or making an “affirmative determination” that the shares can be borrowed. The U.S Securities and Exchange Commission has issued a regulation, known as Reg SHO, seeking to curb abusive naked shorting.

On the NCANS message board, Patrick Byrne (aka Hannibal) posted the following : Read More

23 Jun

Herb Greenberg on Crazy Eddie Antar

Herb Greenbergs thinks the former CEO of Comverse Technology, Jacob “Kobi” Alexander can learn a thing or two from Eddie Antar. Alexandar fled the United States with his family, going to Namibia, allegedly with over $57 million transferred out of the country before he left. He is currently awaiting an extradition trial, and faces U.S. charges of conspiracy to commit mail, wire and securities fraud.

Eddie was the founder and CEO of Crazy Eddie, a chain of electronics stores that was discovered to be in the midst of a $100 million fraud in the 1980s. The store was famous for its slogan “Our prices are INSANE,” and the case against Eddie and his cousin Sam Antar was equally as crazy. The fraud included document shredding, inflated inventory, inflated earning, skimming, and money laundering.
He went on the run for over two years before he was arrested in Israel in 1992. Eddie dodged the law by running through United Kingdom, France, Canada, Switzerland and Israel with fake passports. He was in an Israeli prison for 8 months before being extradited to the United States. Here, he spent over seven years in federal prison after his guilty plea to conspiracy charges, and was released in 1999.

Now, Eddie Antar says people don’t want to have anything to do with him. He spends a quiet life as a grandfather in New York, and says that he deserved the punishment. The company had a 22 year run, so at least some of the operations were legitimate. Herb quotes Eddie:

Mr. Antar’s advice to others: “All the money in the world is not worth a day in prison — ain’t worth one day.” If he hadn’t broken the law, he says, “I’d be a Best Buy today, or I would have been sought to be bought out by many companies. I’d be a billionaire today. I had around $100 million that [the government] took from me. That was cash in the bank. It was everything I had. Can you imagine what that would be worth today? I blew it big time.”

Mr. Alexander, are you listening?

More on Eddie Antar and his cousin Sam on CNBC on Wednesday night at 10pm EDT.

22 Jun

The effect of Sarbanes-Oxley on boards of directors

Earlier this year, a paper was released called “The Effects and Unintended Consequences of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and its Era, on the Supply and Demand for Directors.” Clearly there is a one significant cost of SOX noted here – an increase in the D&O premiums.

The abstract of the paper (emphasis added):

We provide the first comprehensive study on the impact of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) on the supply and demand of directors using broad sample evidence from more than 8,000 public companies as well as detailed analysis of smaller subsamples. Post-SOX boards are larger and more independent. Director workload and risk increased: audit committees meet more than twice as often post SOX as they did pre SOX, and Director and Officer (D&O) insurance premiums more than doubled. The corporate director pool also changed post SOX: more post-SOX directors are lawyers/consultants, financial experts and retired executives and fewer are current executives. These changes drove a large increase in the cost of the board, particularly for small firms. For example, small firms paid $3.19 in director fees per $1,000 of net sales in 2004, which is $0.84 more than they paid in 2001 and $1.21 more than in 1998. In contrast, large firms paid $0.32 in director fees per $1,000 of net sales in 2004, seven cents more than they paid in 2001 and ten cents more than in 1998. Overall, our evidence suggests that SOX, as well as activities leading and pursuant to SOX, had a dramatic impact on corporate boards and the cost thereof.

22 Jun

Canaccord Adams negative report on Usana

USANA Health Sciences | Scott Van Winkle, CFA, 1.617.371.3759
USNA : NASDAQ : US$43.16 | US$814.9M | Buy , Target US$55.00

Negative news continues

A former distributor in California has filed a lawsuit accusing USANA of fraud and deception. While the plaintiff lost just $500, the suit seeks class action status and an injunction to stop USANA from operating in California.

Negative. While we are confident in the multilevel business model in general as well as USANA’s specifically, this lawsuit represents yet another negative headline for USANA, which is likely to impact investor and distributor confidence, as well as strain management resources. Although our anecdotal conversations with distributors have found a lack of business impact from the negative press, the duration of these issues for USANA give us caution. The near-term outlook for the shares remains weak, in our view. While the attack on the company has been sustained much longer than we expected when initially recommending the shares following the first report on the company, we continue to believe that the allegations are unfounded and that an appropriate valuation for USNA will ultimately be realized.

Maintain estimates, price target and BUY rating.

Shares trade at 16.6x this year’s earnings forecast and EV of 10x 2007E EBITDA. With a free cash flow yield of over 6%, we view the valuation as attractive. Our $55 price target reflects an 18 P/E on our C2008 EPS estimate of $3.05.

Next Catalyst
Q2 earnings are expected to be reported in mid-July.

22 Jun

PCAOB Slaps Deloitte on the Hand, Sort Of

According to CFO.com, the most recent evaluation of Deloitte & Touche by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board has them coming up a bit short. The PCAOB report said that four times in 2005, Deoitte failed to do enough work related to its audit clients’ fair value calculations. The auditors did not do enough testing to confirm management’s assertions related to those fair values.

This is the third time PCAOB has inspected Deloitte’s work, and the Board found “significant audit deficiencies” with eight of Deloitte’s clients. Some of the errors by the auditors may be material to the financial statements they audited.

Following the inspection by PCAOB, one of Deloitte’s clients has already issued a restatement related to the fair value of warrants issued to purchase common stock.

The eight audits with deficiencies represent an improvement for Deloitte. The inspection of its 2005 work uncovered audit deficiencies at 17 of Deloitte’s clients.