Potentially Big News: Top CEOs Realizing That 'Maximizing Shareholder Value' Isn't A Great Idea

Found on Techdirt on Wednesday, 21 August 2019
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Conceptually, maximizing shareholder value makes some sense, but only if you don't think about it for more than a few minutes. Because the whole thing falls apart as soon as you ask "over what time frame?"

Taking a longer term view suggests that "maximizing" profits in the short run is likely to create significant problems in the long run, whether it be competition or customers annoyed at you and the like.

Perhaps much bigger news is that the Business Roundtable, a gathering of top CEOs, has now put out a letter saying that shareholder value cannot and should not be the only focus of a corporation.

In the past the boss of a company either started it, or worked the way up from apprentice level. Today, managers who have no real background knowledge about the company itself get hired to maximize its value; then when everything begins to topple over, they leave and move on to the next victim; and with a resume showing how much success they had at previous companies.

WeWork IPO filing shows it's losing nearly $5,200 per customer

Found on CBS News on Saturday, 17 August 2019
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WeWork's corporate parent We Company revealed in documents for its upcoming initial public offering that the office-share company lost more than $1.3 billion from its operations in the first half of this year.

"It is an interesting parallel with the dotcom companies," said Greg Kyle, director at the Bates Group who helped publicize the staggering losses being run-up by Internet start-ups during the late 1990s dotcom craze. "They're following the same pattern, in terms of spending to acquire customers. For some, like Amazon and Ebay, it worked out, but for many others much less so."

For some people it looks like a big failure, but for some CEO, this is pure gold.

Amazon Squeezes Sellers That Offer Better Prices on Walmart

Found on Bloomberg on Sunday, 11 August 2019
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Amazon constantly scans rivals’ prices to see if they’re lower. When it discovers a product is cheaper on, say, Walmart.com, Amazon alerts the company selling the item and then makes the product harder to find and buy on its own marketplace -- effectively penalizing the merchant.

Antitrust experts say the Amazon policy is likely to attract scrutiny from Congress and the Federal Trade Commission, which recently took over jurisdiction of the Seattle-based company.

Merchants have long complained that Amazon wields outsize influence over their businesses. Besides paying higher fees, many now have to buy advertising to stand out on the increasingly cluttered site. Some report giving Amazon 40% or more of each transaction, up from 20% a few years ago.

Amazon has turned into an utterly useless mess. It is badly structured, full of obvious attempts to make you buy more and more that it's turned into a pain so it's better to just avoid it at all. Besides, in often the product is cheaper on the seller's own shop outside the Amazon world.

MoviePass reportedly changed account passwords to prevent users from seeing films

Found on The Verge on Saturday, 10 August 2019
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The goal was to get critical mass of new subscribers to boost profits, with the hope that a majority of users wouldn’t see more than one movie a month.

Employees say Lowe demanded they change the passwords of “a small percentage of power users” ahead of those releases to prevent them from ordering tickets through the app, telling people that it was a “technical issue.”

The company also implemented a “trip wire,” which would cut off users once the company reached a certain monetary threshold each day. Users were told “there are no more screenings at this theater today,” when in reality MoviePass was disabling its services to prevent it from burning through too much cash.

That sounds like a lawsuit is just around the corner. Maybe that will finally put them out of their misery.

UK parliament sends snippy letter to Zuck and his poodle Clegg as it seems Facebook has been lying again

Found on The Register on Saturday, 03 August 2019
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Most of the questions revolve around a simple question that Facebook has squirmed over for more than a year: when did it become aware that Cambridge Analytica was abusing access to its systems?

But while pretty much no one believed Facebook was telling the truth at the time, in recent months evidence has come to light that would appear to prove its mendacity.

His notorious poor poker face is likely why he has repeatedly refused to attend in person at committee hearings, despite some aggressive requests for him to do so.

It always has lied, always lies, and always will lie. It's about time those in charge realize that Facebook makes a fool of them and act.

The Encryption Debate Is Over - Dead At The Hands Of Facebook

Found on Forbes on Sunday, 28 July 2019
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The encryption debate was back in the news this week as Attorney General William Barr railed against “warrant-proof” encryption that he argued protects criminals and terrorists, continuing the same arguments that have been made for almost 30 years.

In Facebook’s vision, the actual end-to-end encryption client itself such as WhatsApp will include embedded content moderation and blacklist filtering algorithms.

The company even noted that when it detects violations it will need to quietly stream a copy of the formerly encrypted content back to its central servers to analyze further, even if the user objects, acting as true wiretapping service.

Like it has been since the beginning, Facebook is the worst option for anybody. Not only does it sell all their users' privacy, but it does everything it can to stop users from protecting themselves. With a bit of luck however, this will fuel alternative open source software and hardware.

AT&T Loses 1 Million Video Users After Spending Billions On Mergers To Dominate Video

Found on Techdirt on Friday, 26 July 2019
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In AT&T executives heads, the 2015, $67 billion acquisition of DirecTV and the 2018 $86 billion acquisition of Time Warner were supposed to be the cornerstones of the company's efforts to dominate video and online video advertising. Instead, the megadeals made AT&T possibly one of the most heavily indebted companies in the world.

The company's latest earnings report indicates that AT&T not only lost another 778,000 "traditional" video subscribers last quarter (satellite TV, IPTV), but it lost another 168,000 subscribers at its DirecTV Now streaming service -- due to "higher prices and less promotional activity".

Rising prices is rarely a good way to keep, or even attract, new customers. Executives should know that if they are worth a dime.

Venezuela: widespread blackouts could be new normal, experts warn

Found on The Guardian on Tuesday, 23 July 2019
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“This blackout is the result of negligent mis-operation of the power grid,” said José Aguilar, a Venezuelan energy and risk consultant based in the US. “These will keep happening and it will get worse before it gets better.”

Other analysts express similar incredulity. “It’s hard to believe that it was an electromagnetic attack, when you’ve seen years of theft and corruption in the energy sector,” said Geoff Ramsey, an analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America. “This blackout shows government doesn’t have the tools to return to normalcy.”

Corruption aside, many power grids all over the world are not as robust as one would expect.

Fatal Accident With Metal Straw Highlights a Risk

Found on New York Times on Sunday, 14 July 2019
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A British woman was impaled by a metal straw after falling at her home, a coroner said in an inquest this week that highlighted the potential dangers of metal straws. Such straws have surged in popularity as cities, states and even countries have banned single-use plastic straws.

Many people with disabilities rely on straws to drink, Ms. Sauder said, but could have difficulties finding them in states and cities, such as California and Seattle, that have banned or restricted single-use straws.

While his is an unfortunate accident, it does not really prove anything. If plastic straws are essential for people with disabilities, then the solution is simple: provide them on prescription. That still reduces he junk of single use plastic by an immense amount; those used by disabled people won't be much of an issue. All that aside, media needs to stop with fear mongering: you can kill yourself in many various ways that would normally never happen; that's why it is called an accident. Teach people to think a little instead of wrapping everything in bubble-wrap.

'The kids emptied our bank account playing Fifa'

Found on BBC News on Tuesday, 09 July 2019
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In Fifa, special players can be bought in packs, but the contents are only revealed after payment is completed.

Mr Carter said his children, who are all under the age of 10, felt very remorseful and had not understood the impact of what they were doing.

However, he also said he felt that the in-game concept of buying player packs without knowing what was inside them was unethical.

So, it's nothing else but gambling; there are laws out there dealing with that.