Data Theft From Sentry Insurance Compromises Information on 112,000 Customers

Standard

A recent [tag]theft of data[/tag] involving over 112,000 customers at Sentry Insurance is currently being investigated by the U.S. [tag]Secret Service[/tag]. The thief was a “lead programmer” with a computer consulting company hired by Sentry. In carrying out his job duties, he had access to the information on customers. He has been arrested, and faces felony charges in federal court.

The company is aware that the personal information of 72 customers with workers compensation claims has been sold on the internet. The additional 112,198 claimants involved in the theft do not appear to have had their information sold. The information being sold includes names and Social Security numbers.

Conviction of Bernie Ebbers Upheld by Appeals Court

Standard

Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the conviction and prison sentence of former WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers. The 64-year-old defendant was convicted in 2005 of nine counts of conspiracy, securities fraud, and false SEC filings. He received a 25-year prison sentence, which all but assures that he will die in prison.

WorldCom’s demise was an $11 billion accounting fraud that included improper capitalization of operating costs, among other things. It sent WorldCom, a company with stock previously valued at $180 billion, into bankruptcy. Ebbers’s defense was that the CFO, Scott Sullivan, and his subordinates committed the fraud without his knowledge.

Ebbers’s attorney argued that the sentence was excessive and that Ebbers did not receive a fair trial because potential defense witnesses weren’t offered immunity from prosecution in exchange for their testimony. The witnesses said they would use the fifth amendment to avoid testifying.

Ebbers has been free while the appeal was pending, and is expected to be ordered to prison soon.

Milwaukee Alderman Michael McGee Gets Away With Criminal Behavior Again

Standard

mcgee.jpgAfter deliberately lying during testimony in a Milwaukee County courtroom, Milwaukee Alderman Michael McGee (aka Jackson) will not be charged with perjury.

The perjury occurRed on April 12, May 12, and May 16, 2006 during Domestic Abuse Injunction Hearings before the Family Court Commissioner and Judge Clare Fiorenza. The hearing involved McGee/Jackson and his pregnant former mistress Kimley Rucker. Continue reading

Kazaa settles piracy lawsuits

Standard

Sharman Networks Ltd., the company behind the music-swapping service called Kazaa, has agreed to pay $115 million ot the entertainment industry to settly piracy lawsuits. The company has also agreed to help discourage piracy of music online.

Kazaa software was downloaded more than 389 million times, and the company used a “Fast Track” file sharing network to connect millions of personal computers. Sharman Networks is now negotiating distribution licenses with entertainment companies, which would allow the company to legally distribute music and movies through its service.

Update on the McGee/Jackson Restraining Order

Standard

In the ongoing saga of the life of Alderman Michael McGee (aka Jackson), there is a new development. McGee/Jackson had a restraining order against him, which prohibited contact with his ex-mistress Kimley Rucker.

Rucker was pregnant, allegedly by McGee/Jackson. She got a restraining order against him due to domestic volence, and in court the day of the restraining order, McGee/Jackson told her that if she drove by his house, he’d kill her. Continue reading

Public companies required to report more details on pay and perks

Standard

Today the [tag]Securities and Exchange Commission[/tag] ([tag]SEC[/tag]) voted to require public companies to report the details of pay and perks for executives. The new rule will take effect in 2007, and is aimed at making total [tag]executive compensation[/tag] clearer.

The details companies will be required to provide about the executive compensation include:

  • Salary
  • Bonus
  • Dollar value of stock options
  • Changes in the value of pension benefits
  • Above-market earnings on deferred compensation
  • All perks exceeding $10,000 per year
  • Golden parachutes and other benefits paid to executives who are fired or released pursuant to a merger

These disclosures will be required for a company’s top five executives, including the CEO and CFO. The disclosures must be made in “plain English” so that investors can understand the items.

McGee/Jackson Will Not Be Held Accountable for Criminal Behavior

Standard

Today Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Karen Loebel issued a letter stating that charges would not be filed against Milwaukee Alderman Michael McGee (aka Michael Jackson) for threatening to kill his ex-mistress while in court for a hearing on a restraining order.

During the May 17 hearing, McGee/Jackson turned to Kimley Rucker and said:

If you drive past my house, I will kill your ass.

The District Attorney’s Office was supposedly considering charges of disorderly conduct and violation of a domestic abuse injunction. Continue reading

Misrepresenting Milwaukee’s property tax problem

Standard

On Sunday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had an article on [tag]property taxes[/tag] with the subtitle: “By one measure, Milwaukee is among ‘tax havens’ in area.” That subtitle and the information in the information in the article are completely misleading and Milwaukee is NOT a property [tag]tax haven[/tag]. Here’s why.

The original theory to be tested was whether or not high property tax rates in Milwaukee have prompted people to move to the suburbs. The rates themselves are high. $22.93 per thousand of assessed value in Milwaukee County, compared to $15.59 per thousand in Waukesha County.

The Public Policy Form studied the rates and said the following: By one key measure, the city of Milwaukee ranks as a “property tax haven.” The folks doing the study found that the average property tax bill in the region was over $4,000 in 2006, while the average tax bill was under $3,500 in the city of Milwaukee. The city of Waukesha had a average property tax bill of $4,079.

Why is this misleading? The average home sales prices were $299,023 for Waukesha County and $176,837 for Milwaukee County. As you can see, even though Milwaukee might have lower property tax bills in raw dollars, when compared to the value of the property, Milwaukee’s taxes are sky-high.

If you compare the average tax bill to the average property sales value, the numbers look like this:

$3,500 / $176,837 = .0198
So the average property taxes equal 1.98% of the home’s value in Milwaukee.

$4,079 / $299,023 = .0136
So the average property taxes equal 1.36% of the home’s value in Waukesha.

That calculation puts Milwaukee’s property taxes at a rate that is 45.5% higher than Waukesha.

The effect of inflated home appraisals

Standard

A slowing housing market is bringing attention to the issue of inflated [tag]property appraisals[/tag]. While home values were climbing and interest rates were low, this wasn’t a problem. Even if an appraisal was too high, the [tag]market value[/tag] of the home would quickly catch up. But now that the market is slowing down, some homeowners are finding out that their market values are below their old appraisals.

Inaccurate appraisals become a problem when it is time to sell or [tag]refinance[/tag] a house. Homeowners are finding that they have less equity in their homes than they thought. This is especially critical for those who bought homes with no downpayment or those who used all of their equity for improvements or debt consolidation. As homeowners borrowed against inflated and unrealistic values, they now have fewer options when looking to sell or refinance. Some are finding that their home value is less than the amount they have borrowed against it.

It is believed that loan officers put subtle pressure on appraisers to declare a home’s value at or above the buyer’s offer. Without such an appraisal, a deal will almost certainly fall through. Since appraisers depend upon loan officers for their business referrals, it is in their best interest to help close as many deals as possible.

Ringtone rip-off?

Standard

I was checking out the blog P2P Filesharing, and I found Marc’s post about ringtones. He makes a good point that the rintones people pay $2 or $3 for a rea a rip-off. He mentions that it’s possible to download a whole song for a fraction of the cost, and then make your own ringtone.