Month: May 2016

Tantalum?! Amazon document is an inside peek at newest compliance woes for top brass

Amazon has just filed its annual “conflict” minerals report with the Securities and Exchange Commission on a detailed — and we mean detailed — survey of suppliers who might unwittingly work with armed groups committing war crimes in the Congo region.

Gold
Yes, it’s gold.

The scores of companies supply commodities for making Amazon’s Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets. Last year’s survey literally ran from A (Aida Chemical Industries Co. in Japan) to Z (Zijin Mining Group Co. Ltd. Gold Refinery in China) in nearly 60 countries on all seven continents. The minerals are gold, tin, tungsten, and tantalum. The bottom line:

“While, for 2015, we identified no suppliers that were sourcing minerals through a supply chain that benefitted armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo region, some of the suppliers for our Kindle/Fire products are still working to determine country of origin and facility information, and other suppliers are still investigating whether the facilities they identified were used to process the gold, tin, tungsten, or tantalum in our Kindle/Fire products.”

Related: SEC conflict reports explainer.

$17,000 to $23,000 a year: Blue is the new black in this Louisville job. (Just don’t have sex with the ‘clients’)

time-clockBoulevard reports extensively on executive pay at big local employers. But we also look at what folks make in the trenches — and in the slammer. This is from a recent ad in Craigslist’s etcetera help-wanted section in Louisville.

The job: halfway house corrections officer.

The duties: You’ll work at Community Transitional Services, a private Louisville halfway house under contract with the state Department of Corrections where paroled inmates land first after prison. Corrections officers count heads, monitor resident behavior, conduct searches for contraband, including drugs and alcohol surveillance, etc. (Boulevard worries about what “etcetera” might include.)

If this weren’t enticing enough, consider the wonderful work schedule: Full-time positions involve 12-hour shifts starting at 7 a.m. or 7 p.m., three and four days weekly,  alternating days every other week, with every other weekend off. Got that?

To qualify, applicants need a GED or high school diploma; a valid driver’s license, and a clean criminal background check (duh). Individuals on supervised parole needn’t apply (double-duh).

Big trouble in the house

Private lockups everywhere have a troubled history, and this place is no exception. Near the corner of 15th and Jefferson streets in the Russell community, CTS lost 329 offenders in 2013, when WDRB examined its history; nearly 1,000 had fled illegally since 2010. The company charged the state $31.61 per inmate daily, or $7,081 per day when the TV station visited. It’s had the corrections department contract since 2009.

Did we mention residents’ complaints about being sexually abused? In 2014, they lodged abuse allegations seven times; just two incidents were substantiated, according to the most recent report made public under the Prison Rape Elimination Act. None of them involved CTS staff, according to the report, which didn’t identify the offenders.

What it pays: $9.25 a hour, or $17,316 to $23,088 a year, depending on the number of days worked weekly.

Photo, top: Actor Matt McGorry as Corrections Officer John Bennet in Netflix’s dark comedy series Orange is the New Black, about a for-profit women’s prison. Here’s the trailer for season four, which starts June 17:

Summer’s officially here, so let’s love $3 balsamic strawberry pops, and the calliope of ice cream trucks

It’s now OK to wear white pants, cool off with abanicos — and binge on the ice cream we spotted Sunday at a Frosty Treats truck at the annual Willow Park Summer Concert Series. Cherokee Triangle street festivals are the go-to place for frozen treats: Steel City Pops was doing big business at last month’s Cherokee Art Fair, selling $3 craft popsicles from its new store at 1021 Bardstown Road; those are balsamic strawberry ones in the photo, top.

Ice cream street vendors have been around a long time, dating to the 19th century and advances in technology and sanitation, says Town & Country magazine. This summer, however, competition is igniting violent turf wars, according to this hair-raiser in yesterday’s New York Times.

That’s why we long for more genteel times in Louisville — like 1933, and this ice cream booth at the Kentucky State Fair from the University of Louisville’s Photographic Archives:

Ice Cream booth 1933

Amazon rips new high; B-F’s shares said looking ‘pricey,’ could tank 10%; and Pizza Hut, KFC push ahead in Myanmar

Amazon Japan
Amazon launched its Prime video service in Japan last fall.

A news summary, focused on big employers; updated 4:12 p.m.

AMAZON shares notched a record $724.23 intraday high before closing moments ago at $722.79, up 1.5%; U.S. markets overall were weak (Google Finance). The online giant announced at least a dozen original video series for Amazon Japan, less than a year after entering the video market there (Deadline). More fresh Amazon news.

BROWN-FORMAN‘s stock is now looking pricey after a decade of 12.5% average annual returns that beat the Standard & Poor’s 500 index by five percentage points, according to financial weekly Barron’s. Class B shares closed at $98 on Friday and are now trading at 27 times forward earnings forecasts vs. a 10-year average of 21. The culprit: Revenue growth at the spirits and wine giant has slowed on currency swings, a problem that could soon fix itself. But by then, the company will face tough comparisons in a market that’s already crowded. Only one or two things must go wrong for shares to fall 10% or more (Barron’s). B shares were trading modestly lower 90 minutes into trading; the voting Class A shares were flat. About Brown-Forman.

PIZZA HUT and KFC are charging ahead with expansions in the former pariah nation of Myanmar after the U.S. Treasury’s easing of sanctions over human rights abuses. Pizza Hut opened one outlet last year; plans another three this year, and 20 over the next five years. KFC opened two locations  on top of five others — including one at Yangon International Airport that was blessed by monks during an opening ceremony April 6 (Global Meat News).

TACO BELL is planning three more urban-focused Cantinas, in Atlanta; Fayetteville, Ark., and Austin — areas with lots of coveted millennial college students attracted to the alcoholic beverages on menus; these newest locations follow another already in the works in Berkeley, Calif. (Eater Atlanta). Launched last year with locations in Chicago and San Francisco, Cantinas also rely heavily on technology: Every part of ordering is made easier through digital menu boards, TV monitors and Taco Bell’s mobile ordering and payment app pick up (press release). Also, 300 junior and senior high school students from 38 states who’ve won $1,000 scholarships from the Taco Bell and Get Schooled foundations will get their photos featured on a six-story digital billboard June 8 in the nation’s No. 1 tourist attraction: Times Square. This is the Graduate for Más Times Square Yearbook’s second year (Magnolia Reporter).

dd72ef_c0fd1a9b1cd54df5a2778d9922efc6eeIn other news, KMAC has postponed its reopening until July 1 because of construction delays. The $3 million renovation of the arts and crafts museum will streamline 20,000 square feet of exhibition space and 6,000 square feet of public area at its historic location at 715 West Main St. (press release). KMAC was to open June 4, with admission free for a year, underwritten by a gift from Dental Dental of Kentucky.

U.S. stocks zig-zagged, with major indices closely lower as traders looked for fresh clues on whether the Federal Reserve will hike interest rates in June (Google Finance). Shares in the 11-employer Boulevard Stock Portfolio tanked, too; Churchill Downs was the biggest loser, closing down 2% at $125.51.

And Louisville native Jennifer Lawrence’s newest entry in the “X-Men” franchise, “Apocalypse,” took the top box office spot with an estimated $80 million sales over the four-day holiday weekend. But that was a big decline from “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” which opened to $110.5 million on Memorial Day weekend in 2014 (WMDT). Watch the trailer:

Kentucky’s richest man is laughing all the way to the stable. (But Jack Conway isn’t)

Owner B. Wayne Hughes at Churchill Downs, 4.28.2005.
Hughes

He’s Wayne Hughes Sr. of Lexington, the 82-year-old horse breeder and retired co-founder of Public Storage, just named the state’s wealthiest resident — again — by Forbes. The magazine put his wealth at $2.6 billion, up $300 million from a year ago, after shares in the company soared 30% — far ahead of the basically flat S&P 500 index.

Hughes; his daughter, Tamara Hughes Gustavson, and son Wayne Hughes Jr., own a combined 18.1 million shares in the California-based storage chain started in 1972 — a stake worth $4.6 billion at current market prices. That’s a whopping $1.1 billion more than a year ago on the strength of the stock’s 30% jump.

Conway and Rove_edited-1
Conway and Rove

If Hughes Sr.’s name sounds familiar, it should: He’s been one of the biggest donors to American Crossroads, the conservative political action committee whose targets last year included Jack Conway — the Democratic nominee for Kentucky governor who lost big to Matt Bevin.

American Crossroads was launched six years ago by Republican strategist Karl Rove. Hughes gave the PAC nearly $6.8 million in 2010-14, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan group in Washington that tracks campaign finance. The breakdown:

Wayne Hughes donations

In the 2016 election cycle, however, Hughes’ donations have been much more modest. He’s given to just two GOP campaigns: former White House hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida $2,700), and U.S. Rep. Todd Young, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate for Indiana ($5,400).  Hughes has given nothing to Crossroads.

Dividing family money

Forbes credits Hughes with $2.6 billion of his family’s overall $4.6 billion in the magazine’s new Richest Person in Every State List. But Public Storage itself says only that he and his children own it collectively, according to this year’s annual proxy report to stockholders.

Still, no matter how you slice it, Hughes is mega-rich — even if a whole lot of people are still richer. He ranks only No. 293 on the magazine’s list of 400 wealthiest Americans, and just 810 on the world’s list of 1,810 billionaires. (No. 1 on both lists is  Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, with $76 billion.)

In fact, Hughes only ties for 293rd richest American; 13 others are just as wealthy, Forbes says. In retirement, he’s Public Storage’s chairman emeritus, and owns Spendthrift Farm in Lexington, with a stable of stallions that have sired championship horses.

Lots of millionaires statewide

Although Forbes says Hughes is Kentucky’s uber-wealthiest, there are plenty of others who are merely rich: The state has an estimated 74,000 households with $1 million or more in stocks and other investible assets, according to the Phoenix Global Wealth Monitor. That’s 4.2% of the state’s 1.7 million households. If Hughes’ fortune was spread across Kentucky, everyone would get $591; more Census facts about the state.