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Gay Marriage Financial Check List

After celebrating the Supreme Court’s historic rulings on gay marriage last week, it’s time for same-sex married couples to sit down and go over their finances.

That’s because legally married same-sex couples are now entitled to the same federal benefits as their straight counterparts. Married gay couples can file joint federal income taxes for the first time, and as spouses they won’t have to pay inheritance taxes when one partner dies.

But the decision still leaves a lot of unanswered questions. What do couples who move to states that don’t recognize gay marriage do? Can they file taxes jointly? (Thirteen states — California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington — and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage.)

It could take a few months before there are clear answers, says Lisa Siegel, a senior wealth planner at Wells Fargo Private Bank. The Internal Revenue Service says that it is reviewing the Supreme Court decisions, and will offer “revised guidance in the near future.”

But gay married couples can take action now by checking in with an adviser. Advisers may not have all the answers yet, but they can set out a plan and begin to get familiar with your circumstances, says Siegel.

FIND GOOD HELP

Before you start making financial plans, make sure the lawyer or accountant you hire has experience working with same-sex couples. “Ask them; it’s very important,” Siegel says.

Look for financial planners who have received the accredited domestic partnership adviser designation, or ADPA. You can search for planners with an ADPA designation here:http://apne.ws/12HkbAo.

Lambda Legal, a legal nonprofit that fights for equal rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, can refer you to lawyers if you call its help desk. Go to www.lambdalegal.org/helpfor the phone numbers.

Pride Planners, an organization of financial professionals that helps gay and lesbian people, has a search function on its websites to find financial planners and accountants in most states around the country. Go to PridePlanners.com to conduct a search.

CALL A TAX ACCOUNTANT

Married couples who filed separate federal income taxes in the past couple of years may be entitled to a refund, says Elda Di Re, a partner in Ernst & Young’s personal financial services group.

Ask a tax accountant to amend your past returns to determine if you would have gotten a refund if you had filed jointly. The IRS allows taxpayers to amend income taxes from the past three years.

Filing jointly is not always beneficial. Couples in which one person earns much more than the other could see a refund. But if both people have high incomes, they will probably pay more taxes than if they filed separately, says Mark Luscombe, an analyst at tax software and services company CCH.

It’s still unclear if the IRS will be giving out refunds, but experts expect the agency to allow couples to amend their returns. So ask your accountant to run the numbers now, or amend the returns yourself on any tax software you may have used.

Widowed individuals who were in same-sex marriages and paid inheritance taxes may be able to get money back, says Luscombe.

REVIEW YOUR BENEFICIARY DESIGNATIONS

Check with your employer and see who the beneficiary is on your 401(k) plan. 401(k) account holders should know that their spouse will automatically inherit the account, unless the spouse signs a waiver. So if couples want to make other arrangements, it needs to be outlined clearly in the beneficiary form and, if necessary, a waiver needs to be in place from the spouse, says Alexander Popovich, a wealth adviser at JP Morgan Private Bank.

You should also check to see if your spouse is a beneficiary on your life insurance and any other retirement accounts, such as an individual retirement account, says Alexander Popovich, a wealth adviser at JP Morgan Private Bank.

RE-EXAMINE REAL ESTATE DEEDS

Some married gay couples may have left spouses out of real estate deeds to avoid a gift tax, says Popovich. Same-sex married couples no longer have to pay gift taxes after the ruling. If you want to add a spouse to a real estate deed, speak to a lawyer.

REVISIT YOUR WILL

Now that married gay spouses don’t have to pay federal estate taxes on anything they inherit after a spouse’s death, married couples should review their will, says John Olivieri, a partner at law firm White & Case.

CHECK HEALTH BENEFITS

If your employer didn’t allow your spouse on your health insurance, it should now, says Frank Fantozzi, founder of Planned Financial Services. Find out whose benefits are cheaper, or which employer offers more coverage, and decide if you want a change.

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CPUC Filing by City of San Bruno Calls for PG&E to Pay Maximum Penalty without Credits for San Bruno Blast and Fire

San Francisco—The City of San Bruno filed legal arguments this week calling for the California Public Utilities Commission to levy the maximum penalty against the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. without granting it hundreds of millions in past repair credits for its gross negligence that caused the explosion of PG&E’s line 132 in San Bruno on Sept. 9, 2010.

San Bruno’s motion filed late Monday calls on the CPUC to strike the vague “credit” concept altogether from the CPUC safety division’s so-called penalty proposal of $2.25 billion – which has been revealed to provide significant tax benefit rewards in addition to huge credits to PG&E – and to prohibit PG&E from deducting an ill-defined list of safety improvements made to date since the 2010 explosion and fire.

“These credits would let PG&E off the hook for more than 50 years of  systematic safety failures that caused the 2010 explosion and fire, which took the lives of eight citizens of our city, destroyed 38 homes, and left a hole in the heart of San Bruno,” said Mayor Jim Ruane. “We ask that this ill-defined provision be struck completely from the penalty recommendation so that PG&E can be held accountable for this tragic disaster and justice for the victims of San Bruno can finally be served.”

The concept of allowing PG&E to deduct for past safety repairs made since the 2010 explosion and fire surfaced first in the so-called penalty recommendation of Jack Hagan, director of the CPUC’s safety division.  That recommendation is now mired in controversy after it was revealed to be 100 percent tax-deductible and littered with credits and perks to benefit PG&E, amounting in a net penalty of almost nothing for PG&E.

Senior attorneys on the CPUC’s safety division refused to sign the proposal – calling it “unlawful” and “contrary to what our team had worked to accomplish in the last two and a half years” – and, bowing to political pressure, the lead attorney on the case, Frank Lindh, a former PG&E attorney, has since recused himself entirely from the investigation.

San Bruno city officials contend that allowing PG&E to reduce its penalty by amounts already spent on safety improvements since 2010 will result in a calculation that is an “untested, unaudited, unverified back of the envelope calculation of alleged PG&E shareholder expense,” according to San Bruno’s filing with the CPUC.

“To award PG&E a massive, and in San Bruno’s view, undeserved ‘credit’ against the significant fines, penalties and remedies warranted by PG&E’s decades of irresponsible and deadly mismanagement in this manner does not comport with due process or offer the residents of San Bruno any measure of justice,” the filing states.

San Bruno has instead called for PG&E to be penalized a total of $3.8 billion – or $2.45 billion in after-tax dollars – the maximum financial consequences that the CPUC safety division experts determined it can bear without giving PG&E the benefit of significant state and federal tax breaks and no credits for past expenses.

San Bruno has also demanded that the CPUC direct PG&E to adopt and fund a series of remedial measures to ensure systemic regulatory change in the future. These include funding  for a California Pipeline Safety Trust advocacy organization, an Independent Monitor to make sure PG&E follows its own safety plan in the face of possible lax enforcement, and the installation of lifesaving fully Automatic Shutoff Valves.

“The concept of granting so-called credits for safety improvements that PG&E should have been making for the past 50 years is a slap in the face to the residents of San Bruno and the citizens of California who place trust in our public utility system to keep our gas lines functioning safely,” Ruane said. “We ask that the CPUC do the right thing by eliminating this onerous credit concept and by penalizing PG&E so that we can ensure this tragedy never happens again, anywhere.”

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BART Strike Update: Former BART Director Michael Bernick Calls for Parties to Continue Negotiations, Not Strike

Oakland–Former BART Director Michael Bernick today called for BART management and unions to continue negotiations, if no agreement is reached by 12:00 a.m. July 1, according to a news release just issued by the transit district and its communications agency Singer Associates Public Relations and Public Affairs.

 “In 1991, 1994 and 2009 the parties continued negotiating past the strike deadline, and a settlement was reached without a strike. The same process at least should be tried this time,” said Bernick, who formerly served as  a director of the BART transit system.

The former director noted that the collective bargaining process by which the parties negotiate with the threat of a Bay Area transit strike needs to be changed by the state legislature. The same dynamics of negotiations to the end and threat of a transit strike have occurred in each of the negotiations over the past three decades. The current process is a disservice to Bay Area residents, and over the past negotiations has not resulted in better settlements for the BART workers.

Regarding the structure of a settlement,  Bernick noted that Governor Brown has set a structure for pension contributions that should guide BART negotiations.

Bernick also urged other politicians to stay out of the process. “The BART Board is a responsible body and should be given the authority to handle the negotiations.”

Bernick was elected to the board of directors of the Bay Area Rapid Transit rail system in 1988 and soon began to note the lack of land development linked to rail. With UC Berkeley Professor Robert Cervero, he established a research center at UC-Berkeley focused on the link of land use and transit, and together they published a series of articles leading to their 1996 book, Transit Villages in the 21st Century.  The book helped to develop and popularize the transit village concept.

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San Francisco’s Unique Character Crumbling as Wealthy Techies Take Over

From AlterNet

America’s favorite city is being Googlized, stripped of artists, minorities, and the non-rich.

It’s not just the 22 construction cranes dotting the San Francisco skyline and 5,000 pricey condos and apartments under construction. Nor is it the fleet of private buses ferrying 14,000 tech workers to Silicon Valley, or the explosion of restaurants and boutiques, or rents doubling, or the spike in evictions, or home sales now averaging $1 million.

What’s happening to San Francisco goes beyond the accelerating gentrification in multicultural districts like the Mission or Mayor Ed Lee minimizing affordable housing woes. The city that’s been a magnet for free spirits and immigrants and working-class people for decades seems to be losing its famous heart. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that its heart is being replaced by a software update.

The best encapsulation of this sea change, which is driven by a booming tech sector that’s generated 13,000 jobs since early 2012, might be this blog from former San Francisco Bay Guardian editor Tim Redmond, who begged the techie beneficiaries to stop treating the city he loves like a “rich kid’s playground.”

“When a 1990s tech-startup guy who admits he was part of the last generation of gentrification is now so fed up with the new arrival of high-paid techies that he’s ready to leave, it’s pretty serious,” he wrote in a piece titled, “The Mission ‘douchebags.’” He ended, “I know, I’m an old fart who is not rich and never will be… But if you’re lucky enough to be rich in your 20s, show some respect.”

All economic booms bring dislocations, but what San Francisco is undergoing seems deeper because unlike past decades, when hippies arrived in the 1960s and gays came a decade later, locals were not displaced. That distinction has also been noted by longtime San Francisco Chronicle columnist Carl Nolte and by author Rebecca Solnit, another longtime resident, who recently wrote, “The problem is that we understand Silicon Valley’s values all too well, and a lot of us don’t like them.”

Today’s construction cranes and skyrocketing housing costs are merely the most visible signs of a city in transition. There are two ways to look at that boom—from the vantage of the tech elite like Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who brought the America’s Cup yacht race here but made it so expensive that almost no one can compete, or from the ground up where more of the city’s more pedestrian classes are feeling pressured by the boom.

Websites tracking apartments have declared, “You’re Never Moving Again,” noting that rents in desirable neighborhoods have doubled in less than two years and keep going up. Home prices are not far behind, jumping 35 percent since last year, one-and-one-half times the rate of the region. Downtown parking spaces are selling for $80,000.

Contrary to the breezy headlines, people are moving in and out. But in the latter case it’s not because they want to. Evictions have hit a 12-year high, in part because investors are using loopholes in otherwise strong tenant laws to buy apartment buildings and convert them to private homes. The business model, the San Francisco Tenants Union said, is targeting rental buildings with long-term tenants—as that makes them cheaper—and evicting everyone for resale as condos, tenancies-in-common or new mansions.

Meanwhile, hundreds more longtime residents have been put on notice for possible eviction. The Tenants Union says that the Mission, Haight-Ashbury, North Beach and Inner Richmond neighborhoods are the hardest hit, with upward of 100 households a month losing their longterm housing through a mix of evictions and paid buyouts, most of which aren’t recorded in city hall statistics.

The newly vulnerable are the outside-the-box and working-class people who always have given this city its character, but like San Francisco’s vanishing African Americans, seem destined for one-way tickets out of town.

“I am a 62-year-old senior living with AIDS. After living in the heart of the Castro district in SF for four decades and in my apartment for over 18 years, I am going through the eviction process brought on by the new owners (real estate speculators) through the use of the Ellis Act and through no fault of my own,” wrote Jeremy on his website.

The Ellis Act is a state law that allows rental apartment owners to evict tenants to go “out of business.” Other longtime city residents feel they are not far behind Jeremy.

“Our building is being painted and we are terrified that our landlord will sell the building to someone who will convert it into condos and evict us all! If I am forced out of my place, I will have to leave SF because I have absolutely been priced out as an arts administrator, non-profit worker, and fundraiser for LGBTQ artists,” Elizabeth wrote on TenantsTogether.org, adding she mistakenly thought she was protected by rent control.

These dislocations are the tip of an iceberg of even more startling negative social metrics. Homelessness in the entire Bay Area is up 20 percent since 2011. Food stamp use is at a 10-year high. Latinos are the hardest hit, the S.F. Examiner reports, in the city and to the south in Silicon Valley where’s there’s an educated but struggling tech underclass. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, alcohol-related emergency room visits are up 50 percent compared to five years ago, although it’s mostly people age 45 to 64, not yuppies.

“San Francisco used to be an eclectic city, filled with working-class folks, people of color, lots of artists, and families,” wroteMaria Zamudio, an organizer for Causa Justa, a low-income advocacy group. “But that’s changed dramatically. The black population has dismally plummeted, to 6.3 percent, according to the most recent census. Families of color are streaming out, expensive condos and sky-high rentals are shooting up, and the unique mix that once was the city and made it such a diverse and culturally rich place to live and thrive is changing.”

Zamudio’s comments were in an op-ed in an alternative weekly newpaper urging San Francisco City Hall to take back some of the subsidies given to developers during the Great Recession. Her argument underscores a larger reality about the latest development spree: that it’s been wholeheartedly encouraged by City Hall and business lobbies, despite the city’s rancorous and often ludicrous local politics.

Paving Over Tony Bennett’s Heart

San Francisco’s low-income advocates are well-organized, but most have not focused on development with the persistence of downtown’s business elite and the mayor’s office. The current building boom has been on architects’ drawing boards and in city planning documents for years. Progressive urban non-profits like SPUR have steadily worked to revise city codes to channel development into the neediest zones, but the biggest projects away from downtown have yet to break ground.

SPUR correctly says that nothing in San Francisco development circles is supposed to be fast-tracked. But even their magazine, the Urbanist, becomes breathless when reporting on the scope and speed of the current boom. It’s as if the San Andreas fault exploded from pent-up pressures and released a tsunami of projects flooding the city—starting in desirable areas.

“Twenty-two tower cranes dot the city,” the Urbanist reported. “By year’s end, there will be 26. Many of these cranes are for public projects rather than private development, yet these numbers are staggering by historic standards. Local union halls’ out-of-work lists are empty, and some unions are even calling in workers from other parts of the country.”

The public projects are transit hubs, hospital remodels and new university campuses. But those are not what’s driving longtime San Franciscans from their homes. It’s skyrocketing rents and property values. The new cafes with hand-picked coffee beans from around the world, or new bars with European beers on tap and $20 desserts, are following the infusion of new wealth.

“Halfway into 2012, more than 4,200 new residential units were under construction in San Francisco,” the Urbanist reported. Today, that number tops 5,000. “This is 20 times the number of units that were added in 2011… An additional 32,120 new residential units have been approved by the Planning Department, and applications for another 6,940 units have been filed.”

SPUR notes that historically “spikes in permitting activity are echoed by spikes in new construction three-to-five years later.” That means the city will be entering a growing development cycle that will change its face and continue for years, although, as SPUR notes, not every proposal will be built and at some point the factors driving today’s development surge will expire.

But for now the boom is back and is driven by an exploding technology sector. Many of the world’s top firms have campuses 20 miles to the south. Downtown San Francisco is now home for companies including Twitter, Square, Pinterest, Yelp, Airbnb and others.

The city had 44,429 tech jobs as of the third quarter of 2012, the most recent figures from City Hall. The sector has grown by 50 percent since Mayor Ed Lee took office in 2011 and has an annual job growth rate of 20 percent. These kinds of job figures are seen throughout the Bay Area, but one big difference is lots of people who work in Silicon Valley want to live in San Francisco. As a result, Google, Yahoo, Apple, eBay, Genetech and Facebook all have fleets of buses taking 14,000 people to and from the city.

Silicon Valley is a patchwork of upscale surburbs—not where most young techies want to live. They want San Francisco’s hipper urban neighborhoods, which has often been where artists, writers, musicians, immigrants and other outsiders living paycheck-to-paycheck have lived. That’s caused a cultural clash, because, beyond the jump in housing costs, today’s tech world has strong libertarian and solipsistic streaks. Its droves flocking to the city are often blissfully unaware of their impact outside their ranks.

That’s the bottom line in former Guardian editor Tim Redmonds’ plea to wake up and stop stepping on the vibrant but fragile cultures that came before them. Redmond was taken to task by readers for editorials saying, “Dear newly arrived tech population — with privilege comes responsibility.” But his complaints are not unique. Rebecca Solnit also notes that the Valley’s tech elite are not known for their charitable ways, saying, “Medici in their machinations, they are not Medici-style patrons.”

Yet apparently, this is the demographic that Mayor Lee and the business community wants. The mayor was unaware of a city rent board report putting evictions at a 12-year high, until questioned by a reporter. He recently said he didn’t think the city had an affordable housing crisis, because SF has strong pro-tenant laws. The Board of Supervisors recently restricted the number of tenancy-in-common units that can be converted into condos. That initiative removed an incentive for one corner of the real estate speculator market, and was seen as a victory by low-income advocates. But it’s not the only property play out there.

What’s clear is that the scale of change in the city—the building boom, its dislocations and cultural consequences—is larger than any of the planning efforts and counter measures by local government and activists. Perhaps the most optimistic comment about all this came from a recently arrived New Yorker who works in computer graphics. San Francisco seemed destined to remain hipper than lower Manhattan, he said, where the financial sector has driven almost everyone else away.

Indeed, many San Franciscans are determined to stay put. In the Mission, bar-hopping hipsters and liberal supervisors are trying to save the ‘Tamale Lady,’ who sells snacks after midnight—apparently violating city codes. But others, like Jeremy, the four-decade Castro resident with AIDS facing eviction after 18 years in a rent-controlled apartment, stopped updating his website. He has to watch his health before preparing for a Ellis Act court date, he said in an e-mail.

It may be that the affordable housing of the future is in the city’s outlying blighted corners or in 300-square-foot micro units in trendy neighborhoods, which have also been seen in New York. But San Francisco is undeniably being colonized by a new generation of tech workers, and longtime residents who aren’t part of that workaholic world are seeing their homes and lifestyles imperiled. And there’s little they feel they can do to stop that demise.

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San Bruno Demands Release of All CPUC Records in PG&E Explosion Penalty Phase Case

San Bruno officials today demanded the release of key internal California Public Utility Commission documents relating to the CPUC’s penalty decision-making process in the PG&E San Bruno explosion case following the San Francisco Chronicle’s disclosure of internal emails suggesting illegal interference by CPUC Commissioners.

San Bruno also demanded that the CPUC identify the individuals, or “fairies” as the CPUC safety division director Jack Hagan has called them, who supplied the information used to come to a decision on a recommended — and now controversial – failure by the CPUC to fine PG&E for the Sept. 9, 2010 PG&E explosion that killed eight San Bruno residents, destroyed 38 homes and tore a hole in the center of the city.

The City has called for the information to be provided to San Bruno by close of business tomorrow, June 26 or the city will take further legal action.

Further, the City said it demanded correspondence among CPUC Commissioner Mike Florio, Executive Director Paul Clanon, and Administrative Law Judges Mark Wetzel and Amy Yip-Kikugawa.  The city believes this correspondence “will show impropriety between senior management and the administrative law adjudicatory process.  This clearly raises serious questions of objectivity and fairness.  Under the law and basic tenets of transparency in government, San Bruno has a right to receive this email chain immediately.  If the CPUC makes a false claim of privilege in order to save face, San Bruno will file a writ of mandate demanding that the documents be produced,” the demand to the CPUC states.

“The latest revelations add to a long list of possible illegal activity at the CPUC,” said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane. “The integrity of the CPUC is at stake–as is the safety of every Californian. We are calling for full transparency of all communications so that we can feel confident that the CPUC is not in the pocket of the very utility company it has been tasked to regulate.”

San Bruno recently called for an investigation by the California Attorney General and the State Legislature into the re-assignment of top CPUC safety division attorneys handling the PG&E investigation who refused to sign Hagan’s $2.25 billion penalty recommendation. Two weeks ago, all were reassigned by Frank Lindh, head of the PUC’s legal team and a former legal counsel for PG&E, after raising concerns over what one of them called Hagan’s “unlawful” proposal that was “contrary to what our team had worked to accomplish in the last two and a half years.”

The new revelations in today’s leaked emails, obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle, reveal Hagan not only threatened and intimidated CPUC attorneys – Hagan is known to carry a concealed gun and a knife into the state agency’s San Francisco office – but that he also credited anonymous individuals he called “fairies” as having supplied him with the terms of his recommendation favorable to PG&E.

San Bruno officials have said the revelations demonstrate that even highly regarded career professionals within the CPUC are fed up with the cozy relationships and conflicts of interest between the CPUC’s leadership and PG&E.

“The CPUC attorneys who refused to buckle to Hagan and his “fairies” should be considered public heroes for their refusal to follow Hagan’s orders,” said Ruane.

According to the leaked e-mails, two of the reassigned attorneys questioned Hagan about the list of PG&E expenses he had wanted to include as deductions in his $2.25 billion recommendation. When asked who had compiled the list, Hagan had responded: “Some fairies… I don’t have to tell you. Just include the items or else.”

San Bruno officials are now demanding to know the identity of the “fairies” as a matter of public interest, saying those sources suggest possible ex-parte contact and could pose an illegal interference in the case.

“We demand to know who the “fairies” are, their identifies, and any telephone, email, or other records that shed light on who really directed Hagan’s recommendation not to fine PG&E,” Ruane said.

Other attorneys within the PUC seem to share San Bruno’s concerns, revealing in emails that they believe Hagan may be operating with PG&E’s interest in mind – without any concern for the victims of San Bruno demanding justice. One PUC attorney, Travis Foss wrote in an email to Lindh that Hagan “is taking a position that is antithetical to the public interest, and directly beneficial to PG&E.”

San Bruno officials are demanding that the CPUC not destroy any documents or e-mails – which would violate state law – and instead make all records public immediately.

“The City of San Bruno is seeking justice for PG&E’s decades of mismanagement and yet the CPUC’s top staff and PG&E continue to play Russian roulette with the lives of Californians,” Ruane said. “We ask for full transparency so that some semblance of integrity can be restored in this process.”

 

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Top CPUC Attorney Calls upon Attorney General Kamala Harris to Investigate Charges Against Him of Unethical Action in PG&E San Bruno Explosion Case

This evening there is a growing firestorm in the California Public Utilities Commission legal department as attorneys are openly questioning the ethical behavior of the CPUC’s General Counsel Frank Lindh in removing attorneys from the penalty phase against PG&E for its gross negligence in the San Bruno explosion and fire.

The top public safety division attorneys quit the case this past week after spending nearly three years of their careers attempting to bring Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to justice for the death and destruction caused by its failure to maintain its pipeline in the center of the City of San Bruno.

The safety division attorneys rebelled and had refused to put their names to a CPUC document because they told the CPUC General Counsel Frank Lindh of its illegality.  Insiders say the overwhelming majority of attorneys in the CPUC are now lining up against Lindh and in support of their colleagues.  They are privately raising issues of conflict of interest between CPUC President Michael Peevey, PG&E and Frank Lindh, who formerly was a PG&E employee prior to joining the CPUC.

A number of news stories by the San Francisco Chronicle’s Jaxon Van Derbeken, NBC 11 investigative reporters Tony Kovaleski and Liz Wagner, Mercury News Reporter Joshua Melvin and editorials in the Merc News and Sacramento Bee have shed light on CPUC conflicts and now the State agency appears to be spinning out of control.

Last night a special investigative report by NBC 11 reporters Kovaleski and Wagner showed CPUC President Peevey at a PG&E employee union event honoring him for his ‘leadership in safety’ which raises questions about conflict of interest as well as video footage that shows his possibly illegal ex-parte contact with CPUC safety division director Jack Hagen.

There is a growing revolt and more news and action is expected this week from attorneys inside the CPUC as well as parties in the case against PG&E, which includes its own Division of Ratepayer Advocates,  consumer advocate TURN, the City and County of San Francisco’s City Attorney Dennis Herrera, and the City of San Bruno, which has called upon attorney General Kamala Harris—followed by the same call from Lindh—to investigate the CPUC immediately.

The conflict has broken out into an open dispute this week when Lindh found he was talking to an unfriendly forum—his own staff—when he gave the keynote speech Monday at a legal conference his agency is hosting, according to a report first published by The Recorder reporters Max Taves and Cheryl Miller yesterday and picked up today in the American Bar Association Journal and Law.Com.

Attendees from around the country watched as top in-house CPUC lawyer Frank Lindh was heckled during his speech about staff attorneys at a “hypothetical” utility regulator who lacked judgment and loyalty, the Recorder reports.

Specifically, his speech discussed what duty of loyalty is owed by a staff lawyer who strongly disagrees with a client’s legally permissible position on a rate-setting proposal.

“My solution in this circumstance would be to ask for a reassignment, but also to take steps to make sure I am not leaving my client in the lurch by withdrawing at the last minute,” said Lindh. “In the end, it all comes back to loyalty.

Under the canons of ethics, I simply cannot be disloyal to my client, even in the circumstance where I disagree strongly with my client’s wishes.”

His comments at the National Conference of Regulatory Attorneys conference in San Francisco were apparently relevant to the recent reported reassignment of an entire team of CPUC lawyers. They were responsible for handling litigation over Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s culpability in a 2010 natural gas explosion and fire that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.

The four-lawyer team had taken a position that supported the city of San Bruno’s call for more than $2 billion in fines to be imposed on the gas company, and the city asked earlier this month for the state attorney general and lawmakers to look into the lawyers’ reassignment.

In a Friday interview, Lindh also said the AG should investigate—to set the record straight—and said he “begged the attorneys to stay on the case,” the Bay Area News Group reported in an article published by the San Mateo County Times.

They withdrew from the case,” Lindh said, “and they left me with the obligation to fill in behind them.”

However, in an email to Lindh leaked to the newspaper that was also sent Friday, assistant CPUC general counsel Harvey Morris said the team had not sought reassignment. He said they had refused to sign a brief they believed to be unethical, apparently over concerns that it made unlawful recommendations about the penalties that should be assessed against the gas company in the San Bruno case, according to the Bay Area News Group article and other media reports.

Because you did nothing to resolve our ethical concerns, one attorney asked to be taken off the case, and then you claimed that all of us asked to be reassigned,” Morris wrote.

Frank Lindh, CPUC General Counsel Accused of Conflicts with PG&E, calls upon California Attorney General to Investigate Him, CPUC Actions

 

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Bank of America Lied to Homeowners and Rewarded Foreclosures, Former Employees Say

Pauline Kiel, ProPublica

Bank of America employees regularly lied to homeowners seeking loan modifications, denied their applications for made-up reasons, and were rewarded for sending homeowners to foreclosure, according to sworn statements by former bank employees.

The employee statements were filed late last week in federal court in Boston as part of a multi-state class action suit brought on behalf of homeowners who sought to avoid foreclosure through the government’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) but say they had their cases botched by Bank of America.

In a statement, a Bank of America spokesman said that each of the former employees’ statements is “rife with factual inaccuracies” and that the bank will respond more fully in court next month. He said that Bank of America had modified more loans than any other bank and continues to “demonstrate our commitment to assisting customers who are at risk of foreclosure.”

Six of the former employees worked for the bank, while one worked for a contractor. They range from former managers to front-line employees, and all dealt with homeowners seeking to avoid foreclosure through the government’s program.

When the Obama administration launched HAMP in 2009, Bank of America was by far the largest mortgage servicer in the program. It had twice as many loans eligible as the next largest bank. The former employees say that, in response to this crush of struggling homeowners, the bank often misled them and denied applications for bogus reasons.

Sometimes, homeowners were simply denied en masse in a procedure called a “blitz,” said William Wilson, Jr., who worked as an underwriter and manager from 2010 until 2012. As part of the modification applications, homeowners were required to send in documents with their financial information. About twice a month, Wilson said, the bank ordered that all files with documentation 60 or more days old simply be denied. “During a blitz, a single team would decline between 600 and 1,500 modification files at a time,” he said in the sworn declaration. To justify the denials, employees produced fictitious reasons, for instance saying the homeowner had not sent in the required documents, when in actuality, they had.

Such mass denials may have occurred at other mortgage servicers. Chris Wyatt, a former employee of Goldman Sachs subsidiary Litton Loan Servicing, told ProPublica in 2012 that the company periodically conducted “denial sweeps” to reduce the backlog of homeowners. A spokesman for Goldman Sachs said at the time that the company disagreed with Wyatt’s account but offered no specifics.

Five of the former Bank of America employees stated that they were encouraged to mislead customers. “We were told to lie to customers and claim that Bank of America had not received documents it had requested,” said Simone Gordon, who worked at the bank from 2007 until early 2012 as a senior collector. “We were told that admitting that the Bank received documents ‘would open a can of worms,’” she said, since the bank was required to underwrite applications within 30 days of receiving documents and didn’t have adequate staff. Wilson said each underwriter commonly had 400 outstanding applications awaiting review.

Anxious homeowners calling in for an update on their application were frequently told that their applications were “under review” when, in fact, nothing had been done in months, or the application had already been denied, four former employees said.

Employees were rewarded for denying applications and referring customers to foreclosure, according to the statements. Gordon said collectors “who placed ten or more accounts into foreclosure in a given month received a $500 bonus.” Other rewards included gift cards to retail stores or restaurants, said Gordon and Theresa Terrelonge, who worked as a collector from 2009 until 2010.

This is certainly not the first time the bank has faced such allegations. In 2010, Arizona and Nevada sued Bank of America for mishandling modification applications. Last year, Bank of America settled a lawsuit brought by a former employee of a bank contractor who accused the bank of mishandling HAMP applications.

The bank has also settled two major actions by the federal government related to its foreclosure practices. In early 2012, 49 state attorneys general and the federal government crafted a settlement that, among other things, provided cash payments to Bank of America borrowers who had lost their home to foreclosure. Authorities recently began mailing out those checks of about $1,480 for each homeowner. Earlier this year, federal bank regulators arrived at a settlement that also resulted in payments to affected borrowers, though most received $500 or less.

The law suit with the explosive new declarations from former employees is a consolidation of 29 separate suits against the bank from across the country and is seeking class action certification. It covers homeowners who received a trial modification, made all of their required payments, but who did not get a timely answer from the bank on whether they’d receive a permanent modification. Under HAMP, the trial period was supposed to last three months, but frequently dragged on for much longer, particularly during the height of the foreclosure crisis in 2009 and 2010.

ProPublica began detailing the failures of HAMP from the start of the program in 2009. HAMP turned out to be a perfect storm created by banks that refused to adequately fund their mortgage servicing operations and lax government oversight.

Bank of America was far slower to modify loans than other servicers, as other analyses we’ve cited have shown. A study last year found that about 800,000 homeowners would have qualified for HAMP if Bank of America and the other largest servicers had done an adequate job of handling homeowner applications.

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Elizabeth Warren: SEC ‘Actively Reviewing’ Big Bank Settlement Policy

The new head of the Securities and Exchange Commission told Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) Monday that she is reviewing whether her enforcement division has been too lax on Wall Street by allowing banks to settle enforcement actions without going to trial.

“I am actively reviewing the scope of the Commission’s neither-admit-nor-deny settlement policy with the leadership of the Division of Enforcement to determine what, if any, changes may be warranted and whether the SEC is making full appropriate use of its leverage in the settlement process,” Mary Jo White told Warren in the letter, provided to HuffPost.

The letter is in response to questions Warren raised in May letters to the SEC, , Attorney General Eric Holder and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

“Have you conducted any internal research or analysis on trade-offs to the public between settling an enforcement action without admission of guilt and going forward with litigation as necessary to obtain such admission and, if so, can you provide that analysis to my office?” Warren asked on May 14.

Earlier this year, Warren embarrassed bank regulators by pressing them during a Senate hearing whether any had taken a bank to trial. A video of the senator’s vigorous questioning went viral online. Many of the regulators struggled for answers, pledging to get back to Warren with more information. (White had not yet been appointed SEC chairwoman.)

“There are district attorneys and United States attorneys out there every day squeezing ordinary citizens on sometimes very thin grounds and taking them to trial in order to make an example, as they put it. I’m really concerned that ‘too big to fail’ has become ‘too big for trial,’” Warren said at the hearing.

From the Huffington Post

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California Center for Sustainable Energy Rolls Out Plug in Vehicle Presentation in San Francisco

San Francisco residents learned about recent advancements in the electric vehicle revolution sweeping across California this week at a presentation by California Center for Sustainable Energy.  The event featured presentations and an owner panel discussion on plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) as well as test-drives of some of the newest models for 2013.

“The Future is Electric: Plug In and Get There” was sponsored by the California Center for Sustainable Energy, SF Environment and San Francisco Clean Cities Coalition.

California is the nation’s largest PEV market with roughly 35 percent of the U.S. total. During the fourth quarter 2012, sales of PEVs in California reached a record-setting 2.5 percent of all new cars purchased or leased in the state.

During the workshop, Colin Santulli a CCSE transportation program manager outlined the financial and environmental benefits of PEV ownership and the currently available incentives. CCSE administers the statewide Clean Vehicle Rebate Project, a program of the California Air Resources Board. Since 2010, CCSE has issued more than $42 million in vehicle incentives and helped to educate Californians on the availability and benefits of zero-emission vehicles.

“By making the switch to cleaner, more efficient plug-in electric vehicles, individuals can reduce their use of petroleum and help create cleaner air for all of us,” Santulli said. “This workshop was a great opportunity for people to learn about the first-hand experiences of their neighbors who already own PEVs.”

Representatives from Pacific Gas & Electric and ICF International gave presentations aimed at consumers considering making the switch to a PEV. After the presentations, a PEV fair on Fulton Street included vehicle displays and test-drives and exhibit booths featuring PEV technologies, car-sharing and alternative transportation. Cars available included the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, BMW ActiveE and Ford Focus.

The California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) is an independent, nonprofit organization that accelerates the adoption of clean and efficient energy solutions including administration of the statewide Clean Vehicle Rebate Project for the California Air Resources Board. For more information and workshop listings, visit www.energycenter.org or call 858-244-1177.

 

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Santa Clara Supervisor Candidate Teresa Alvarado Lobbied for PG&E—Now Advocates Reform, but in the Past She Lobbied for 37% Energy Rate Hikes

Currently promoting herself as ‘the candidate for reform,’ District 2 Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors candidate Teresa Alvarado was once a lobbyist for Pacific Gas & Electric Co., where her job was to defend residential and commercial utility price increases of up to 37 percent for Bay Area residents, records show.

Today, Alvarado likes to position her role at PG&E as an advocate for solar energy, but records show she was also a government relations lobbyist for the monopoly utility. One of her jobs was to advocate for rate hikes and urge consumers to reduce energy consumption to decrease utility bills.

Just months before PG&E would announce that it was declaring bankruptcy, records from the Los Altos City Council meeting of Feb. 27, 2001, note that “Teresa Alvarado, Public Affairs Representative from Pacific Gas and Electric, provided the Council with a history of deregulation in the industry and identified one of the major reasons for the electric and gas shortages and increased costs as supply and demand, noting that energy demands have grown faster than anticipated. She distributed and summarized a pamphlet entitled “An Important Energy-Saving Message from Pacific Gas and Electric Company” as well as an outline of her comments, as well as an outline of her comments, dated February 27, 2001, which were incorporated into the record.”

The Los Altos Town Crier newspaper reported that when Alvarado was a lobbyist for PG&E, PG&E had a program called “Riding out Summer 2001,” where she explained rate increases PG&E sought from the State of California.  At that time, the California Public Utilities Commission set new electric rates which increased small commercial users’ bills an average of 37 percent. Residential customers saw an average increase of 7 to 37 percent depending on usage.

“This is not a pleasant discussion,” said Teresa Alvarado, PG&E representative told the The Los Altos Town Crier in its May 23, 2001 edition. “We have a crisis this summer and you can make a difference by reducing 10 percent of your energy use.”

These days, Alvarado, a candidate for Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors District 2 in a run-off election with Cindy Chavez, to succeed disgraced former Santa Clara County District 2 Supervisor George Shirakawa Jr., is running to reform county government that she said allowed Shirakawa’s secretive ways to thrive, while Chavez is running on her accomplishments as a two-term San Jose City councilwoman.

One of Alvarado’s first direct mail pieces to voters in District 2 says one of her platforms to move half the Supervisor’s meetings from the daytime until after 6 p.m. “when community members can attend—not just paid lobbyists.”

Alvarado’s mailer positions her as “The Reformer We Need.”  Whether she is a reformer or a lobbyist cloaking herself in reformer’s clothing remains to be seen.

 

The Many Faces of Theresa Alvarado

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Rock Health to Move to Mission Bay

New Rock Health Lease Provides Space for New Innovative Digital Health Startup Companies & Highlights Mission Bay as Growing Center for Digital Health

Today Mayor Edwin M. Lee and Rock Health CEO Halle Tecco announced that digital health leader Rock Health will move their headquarters to Mission Bay in 2013. Rock Health supports entrepreneurs working at the intersection of healthcare and technology through a startup accelerator, public events, and open-source research.  Rock Health chose Mission Bay for its proximity to both the startup hub in South of Market (SoMa) and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

“Rock Health’s move to Mission Bay comes at a critical time as San Francisco implements national health care reform and is striving to give residents more choices for healthier lifestyles,” said Mayor Lee. “We are partnering with innovative companies such as Rock Health to disrupt the way we do business and, at the same time, improve the health care industry. Rock Health’s new proximity to UCSF doctors, entrepreneurs and scientists at our small startups, pharmaceutical companies and investors will accelerate advances in the life science, healthcare and technology industries here in San Francisco.”

“Rock Health is committed to engaging with the brightest minds in healthcare to further innovation. Our choice of Mission Bay and new partnership with Alexandria reaffirms this commitment, and will enable us to support not just our portfolio companies but also the broader startup ecosystem,” said Rock Health Founder and Chief Executive Officer Halle Tecco. “This move will enhance our ability to collaborate with groundbreaking researchers, clinicians, and corporate partners in our industry.”

Rock Health will establish an open and creative space designed to bring together Rock Health’s network of investors, startup founders, and healthcare professionals, who are working together to make meaningful change in health through scalable, innovative, and groundbreaking technology. Rock Health will begin its fifth accelerator program, comprised of 11 startups, on June 10th. These companies, which deliver everything from intelligent software to wearable sensors to smartphone-enabled personal diagnostics, were selected out of a competitive applicant pool from across the country.  Companies were selected based on their potential to provide disruptive and transformative solutions to the nation’s most pressing healthcare challenges.

Rock Health’s move from their current location at 615 Grant Avenue to Mission Bay follows on the UCSF announcement in May 2013 of the creation of a state-of-the-art Center for Digital Health Innovation.

The City’s Mission Bay development covers 303 acres of land between the San Francisco Bay and Interstate 280. The 35-year plan for Mission Bay includes 6,000 total residential units (1,700 of which are affordable units) and 1 million square feet are allocated for the two hospitals. Mission Bay currently includes more than 1.7 million square feet of commercial office and lab space as well as 3,455 housing units already available or in use with more units of retail and office space coming out of construction soon. Anchoring institutions include University of California San Francisco (UCSF), California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3), California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), Gladstone Institutes and the Veterans Administration. There are 130 life science companies which are located or announced moves to San Francisco, 57 of which are in Mission Bay.

The building where Rock Health will locate, 455 South Mission Bay Boulevard, is owned and operated by Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc.

“For years, Mission Bay has been at the forefront of life science innovation,” said Alexandria Real Estate Equities Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and Founder Joel S. Marcus. “Now, with Rock Health’s announcement that it will establish its global headquarters in Mission Bay, immediately proximate to UCSF and its new Center for Digital Health Innovation, this world-class ecosystem has emerged at the leading edge of the digital health revolution, as well. The intersection of life science and digital health is the wave of the future, and Mission Bay is poised to be at its epicenter.”

Mayor Lee last month announced a new biotech incubator at 953 Indiana Street in San Francisco’s Central Waterfront area called QB3@953 to advance QB3’s work to support life science companies and create jobs in California by providing two key elements of success for startups: efficiency and networking.

About Rock Health

Rock Health is powering the future of the digital health ecosystem, bringing together the brightest minds in health and technology to build better solutions. Rock Health supports digital health entrepreneurs through a startup accelerator, public events, and open-source research. Through their accelerator program, Rock Health provides crucial funding, mentorship and operational support to selected high-potential, early stage start-ups, nurturing the next generation of the digital health ecosystem to develop transformative tools that can be swiftly adopted by the marketplace to revolutionize health.  Founded in 2010, Rock Health is funded by top health, technology, venture capital and consumer product companies, and is backed by a wide network of mentors, advisors and partners, including leading hospitals.  Rock Health partners include Aberdare Ventures, Accel Partners, Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Boehringer Ingelheim, Fenwick & West, GE, Genentech, Harvard Medical School, Kaiser Permanente, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Mayo Clinic, Mohr Davidow Ventures, Montreux Equity Partners, NEA, Ogilvy Public Relations, Qualcomm Life, Quest Diagnostics, Silicon Valley Bank, UnitedHealth Group, and UCSF.  For more information, go to: www.rockhealth.com.

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Pentagon Has No Idea What 108,000 Contractors Are Doing

The number of contractors working in Afghanistan now vastly outnumbers American troops stationed there, according to a Congressional Research Service report. CRS, along with the Government Accountability Office, also determined that the Pentagon is unable to properly document the work these contractors are doing. And the information DOD is receiving is often unreliable and inaccurate.

According to CRS, there are now 108,000 private workers in Afghanistan, a workforce that dwarfs the 65,700 American troops still stationed there. That means there are 1.6 contractors for every American soldier in Afghanistan. This is an increase from last month, when The Fiscal Timesreported that there were 1.4 contractors per American soldier.

Given the size of the private forces, it’s not surprising that CRS found that in recent years, the Defense Department spent more than any other agency to support contractor work.

“Over the last six fiscal years, DOD obligations for contracts performed in the Iraq and Afghanistan areas of operation were approximately $160 billion and exceeded total contract obligations of any other U.S. federal agency,” CRS found.

The CRS report comes in the wake of a recent GAO report that the United States spent $195 billion for contractor services in 2010, or twice what it spent on contractors in 2001, before the start of the war in Afghanistan.

The increase in the contractors to troop ration is yet another indication that although the vast majority of troops are leaving Afghanistan, a private army will remain in the country for years.

But the CRS and GAO reports did more than simply document how much was being spent on contractors. They also explored contractor oversight and DOD’s ability to track contractor work.

Taken together, they amount to yet another indictment of how the Pentagon deals with private workers. CRS found that the Pentagon lacked the ability to document the work each contractor is performing. It also found even when the government has information on contractors, it’s often inaccurate and doesn’t reflect the actual work being done. This leaves the Pentagon unable to determine if the hundreds of billions it’s spending are leading to effective results.

GAO found a number of faults with DOD’s contracting process, beginning with their inability to account for work being done in each branch. It attributes this problem to one that has hamstrung the Pentagon’s financial auditing process: Different branches of the military use different systems to track contractor work.

“DOD components used various methods and data sources, including their inventories of contracted services, to estimate contractor [full-time equivalents] for budget submissions, but GAO’s analysis found that the contractor [full-time equivalents] estimates have significant limitations and do not accurately reflect the number of contractors providing services to DOD.”

Each report found that the inability to track contractor work makes it nearly impossible for DOD to budget in an effective way. But they also made clear that failures to properly monitor contractors ultimately hurt readiness on the battlefield.

“Given current concerns over the reliability of contracting data, the information in the central database may not be sufficiently reliable for decision making at the strategic level. This lack of data makes it difficult to determine to what extent the billions of dollars spent … have contributed to achieving the mission,” CRS found.

DAVID FRANCIS, The Fiscal Times

 

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City of San Bruno Calls for $3.85 Billion Penalty Against PG&E for San Bruno Blast and Fire

The City of San Bruno today filed its legal arguments today with the California Public Utilities Commission to levy the maximum financial pre-tax fine and penalty of $3.85 billion against Pacific Gas & Electric Co. for its gross negligence that caused the largest natural gas disaster in U.S. history on Sept. 9, 2010.

San Bruno’s filing is in response to the CPUC safety division’s proposed penalty of $2.25 billion, which was announced with much fanfare in May, but has since been revealed to provide huge credits and significant tax benefit rewards to PG&E.

This week all the CPUC safety division attorneys refused to sign the CPUC’s $2.25 billion penalty recommendation of Jack Hagan, director of the CPUC’s safety division, and all have resigned in protest over what one of them called Hagen’s “unlawful” proposal that was “contrary to what our team had worked to accomplish in the last two and a half years.”

PG&E should be forced to pay the maximum for its systematic safety failures that caused the 2010 explosion and fire, which took the lives of eight citizens of our city, injured countless more, destroyed 38 homes, and left a hole in the heart of San Bruno,” said Mayor Jim Ruane.

“We challenge the CPUC to not let PG&E off the hook for this devastating and entirely avoidable man-made disaster,” Ruane said. “The state and the nation are watching whether the CPUC, the agency tasked with protecting public safety, is capable of carrying out its duty.”

Given the scope and magnitude of PG&E’s misconduct, San Bruno is calling on PG&E to absorb the maximum financial consequences that the CPUC safety division experts determined it can bear.  To avoid giving PG&E the benefit of significant state and federal tax breaks, San Bruno’s legal filing calls for PG&E to be penalized $2.45 billion in after-tax dollars – a total of $3.8 billion –with no credits for past expenses.

San Bruno also demanded the CPUC direct PG&E to adopt and fund a series of remedial measures to ensure systemic regulatory change in the future. These include $5 million per year for a “California Pipeline Safety Trust,” and an Independent Monitor to make sure PG&E follows its own safety plan in the face of possible lax enforcement, and the installation of lifesaving Automated Shutoff Valves.

This week’s filing comes on the heels of significant turmoil at the CPUC after the resignation of the CPUC’s safety division attorneys who worked on the case since the beginning of the CPUC process, leaving no CPUC legal experts with detailed knowledge of the case during the final penalty phase against PG&E.

Ruane said the resignations of the CPUC’s safety division attorneys underscore the Commission’s ongoing illegal and unethical actions.  He called for an immediate investigation by the California Attorney General and the State Legislature to restore transparency and fairness.

Robert Cagen, one of the attorneys who resigned, told the media that he could not continue working on the San Bruno penalty briefs after  concluding that the CPUC safety division’s  recommendations were unlawful and contrary to what his team had worked to accomplish in the last two and a half years.

Unlike a traditional “fine,” which is not tax deductible and is to be paid to the State of California, the CPUC’s so-called penalty is  100 percent tax-deductible and would be reduced to $1.3 billion after taxes, meaning state taxpayers will lose–not gain–tax revenues as a result. PG&E would also be allowed to reduce its penalty by amounts already spent to date on safety improvements since 2010, resulting in the overall penalty falling by another $900 million.

Ruane said if the CPUC’s five-member commission adopts the CPUC recommendation, PG&E would literally walk away from this man-made disaster without consequence.

“Nearly three years after this devastating tragedy, the only way to prevent future tragedies is by penalizing PG&E to the maximum,” Ruane said. “Unfortunately, the only way to ensure PG&E will finally take public safety seriously is by jeopardizing their bottom line.”

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Recognized Business and Community Leader Dennis Wu Elected Chair of Recology Board of Directors

Internationally recognized business leader and accountant Dennis Wu is the newly elected chairman of Recology, the leading independent employee-owned recycling and landfill diversion services company in the western United States.

Mr. Wu is the managing partner and co-founder of WuHoover & Co., a professional CPA firm, and has served as a member of the Recology board for the past five years.

He founded WuHoover after a 37-year career at Deloitte & Touche where he served as partner-in-charge of Deloitte’s Enterprise Group in Northern California, managing partner of the San Francisco Emerging and Midsize Business Group, national managing partner for its Southeast Asia Desk Program, and national managing partner for its Greater China Desk Program. He is a former president of the Commonwealth Club and a former member of the board of directors of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and San Francisco Ballet.

“We are pleased and honored that Dennis is the new chair of our board,” said Recology President and CEO Michael Sangiacomo. “Dennis’s knowledge of our business, coupled with his independent and visionary thinking, brings the type of independent leadership we are seeking for our board of directors.”

Wu’s experience ranges from serving start up, privately held, high growth, and publicly listed companies in a variety of industries including not-for-profit, distribution, electric and gas, financial services, health care, manufacturing, service oriented, and venture capital companies. He also led numerous diversity projects while at Deloitte and served as one of five national leaders for the firm’s Diversity initiative as well as regional diversity leader for Northern California, Hawaii, and the Pacific Northwest.

In April, insurance executive Larry A. Colton, CEO of G2 Insurance Services, and recycling executive George P. McGrath, EVP and COO of Recology, were named to Recology’s board of directors.

Recology is an employee owned integrated resource recovery and landfill diversion company that provides collection, recycling, compost, consulting and disposal services to homes and businesses in the western United States.

The company manages municipal processes and services, including urban cleaning services, collection, sorting, transfer, recovery, and landfill management.

The company name, Recology, reflects its unique success record in driving resource recovery to unparalleled levels through recycling and composting.

Recology companies operate in California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington coordinating dozens of recycling programs to recover a variety of materials. Recology programs have been replicated throughout the country and serve as a national model for resource recovery initiatives.

Recology is:
• The largest employee-owned company in the resource recovery industry, partnered with over 116 communities;
• Parent to over 40 subsidiaries that provides integrated services to over 670,000 residential and 95,000 commercial customers in California, Oregon, Nevada and Washington;
• Recognized as the industry leader in resource recovery, having established the first and largest curbside yard trimmings and food scraps collection program in the country.

Recology is 100 percent owned by the Recology Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) and not by any outside investors.

Recology has been honored multiple times by the national Employee Stock Ownership Plan Association for the quality of its ownership program and its positive impact on corporate performance.

The Recology ESOP makes it easy for Recology to focus on providing long-term, sustainable solutions to our customers. It strengthens teamwork and collaboration by tying employees’ performance to the overall success of the company.

As the largest employee-owned company in our industry, Recology believes that its individual and collective hard work and dedication directly correlates to its long term success

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Strike by Concession Workers at AT&T Park Will Not Impact Fans, Centerplate Says of Unite Here Local 2 One Day Strike at San Francisco Giants Game

San Francisco—AT&T Park concessionaire Centerplate said a strike at today’s baseball game by Local 2 Unite Here will not interrupt service to fans at the ballpark.

“Centerplate is prepared with senior managers and additional staff to ensure fans enjoy today’s baseball game and can get hotdogs, garlic fries, beer, soft drinks and other foods as they normally would,” said Centerplate spokesman Sam Singer.

Centerplate believes “this labor action by Local 2 is unnecessary, unfortunate and illegal.  The timing of the strike, coming as it does on Memorial Day Weekend, continues a disturbing pattern of disrespect for the military, veterans and servicemen and servicewomen by the UNITE HERE leaders.  Remember this is the same union whose President previously made derogatory remarks against veterans and veteran’s organizations during negotiations,” Singer said.

“Centerplate values our employees. That is why they are already the highest paid staff in the concession business, earning between $15 and $20 an hour, receiving full healthcare and other benefits for their part time work,” he added.

Centerplate has bargained in good faith and offered union members:

  • A 4.5 percent ratification bonus for those who worked more than 40 games in 2012
  • A 1.7 percent annual wage increase on top of the best compensation package in the industry
  • Increased contribution of 9.2 percent to the Unite Here benefit plans
  • Employer paid health care for employees and their families

Centerplate this week filed a lawsuit against Local 2 Unite Here for attempting to illegally mandate the signing of a “successor addendum” that would bind any future concessionaire at AT&T Park to the same terms Local 2 negotiates with Centerplate. This action is illegal under the federal labor laws, Centerplate officials said.

The lawsuit says Local 2 President Michael Casey seeks to end Centerplate’s relationship with nonprofit organizations, forcing out such groups as St. Teresa Music and Arts, Leukemia Lymphoma Society, Athletes Committed to Academics, Berkeley Youth Alternatives, the United States Navy, and other nonprofits, from working at the stadium to raise money for their charitable works.

“Local 2’s President scoffed at the value of the (nonprofit) program, stating that the U.S. Navy did not need to work a stand at the ballpark to pay for prosthetic limbs for wounded Veterans,” the lawsuit states. “Casey also quipped about the Marines, “‘Why don’t you have them man a boat and they can sell hot dogs on the water,’” according the Centerplate lawsuit against Local 2.

The nonprofits make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year through partnering with Centerplate at baseball games by staffing concession stands and earning commissions based upon sales for their charitable work. Local 2 is now demanding Centerplate pay a penalty of $200 for each volunteer used for charitable work, which would eliminate Centerplate’s ability to partner with nonprofits.

“Local 2 has overstepped the bounds of the law and of humanity,” said spokesman Singer. This past week, Local 2 union leaders walked out on contract negotiations with Centerplate and a Federal Mediator, refusing to accept or to even make an economic counter proposal and thereby denying, for the time being, Centerplate’s employees at AT&T Park the economic benefits that would flow from a new contract.

Centerplate, which manages concessions at 300 ballparks and arenas, said its current contract as well as its new offer keeps AT&T Park employees the highest paid in the concession business.

Local 2 Unite Here publically acknowledged that Centerplate’s employees are already the highest paid workers in the concession industry. In a YouTube video posted on May 12, the union spokesperson is quoted saying, “so what if they’re (the employees) the best paid…that doesn’t mean anything.”

Centerplate said it wanted to make clear that this strike is a dispute between Local 2 Unite Here and Centerplate and not the San Francisco Giants.

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PG&E: San Bruno Mayor Says “We Won’t Let Pacific Gas & Electric Off the Hook” for San Bruno Explosion and Fire, Deaths and Destruction

San Bruno–Mayor Jim Ruane reacted strongly this evening to a PG&E filing with the California Public Utilities Commission, in which the utility company rejected the a call for major fines and penalties for its explosion and fire of Sept. 9, 2010, in San Bruno that killed eight, harmed dozens of residents and destroyed a community neighborhood.  This is the official statement issued by the City of San Bruno:

“The City of San Bruno finds the PG&E filing with the California Public Utility Commission today deeply disappointing and of great concern.  PG&E continues to downplay its systematic failures and its personal and corporate responsibility for the Sept. 9, 2010 San Bruno explosion and fire.

“Eight people died in our community, scores more were injured and a giant hole was created by PG&E in the heart of our community.  Yet, as we near the third anniversary of this great tragedy, PG&E continues to fail to acknowledge its responsibly for this catastrophe.  The explosion and fire would have never occurred if the company hadn’t diverted monies meant for pipeline safety and had performed safety work that was legally, scientifically, contractually and morally required of them by the California Public Utility Commission, which also bears responsibility for this tragedy for its failure to regulate the utility company.

“We have only made a quick review of the voluminous PG&E filing today and expect to make further comments and filings of our own as part of the penalty phase by the CPUC against PG&E.  We will not let PG&E off the hook for the damage they have done to our community, to their reputation and the deep concern they have created throughout California about pipeline safety,” said Mayor Jim Ruane, City of San Bruno.

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Local 2 UNITE HERE Union Leader Mike Casey Denigrates Navy, Marines, Disabled Veterans: Sued by Centerplate For Violation of Federal Labor Law, Attempt to Eliminate Nonprofits In San Francisco AT&T Park Labor Dispute

 Local 2 UNITE HERE President Mike Casey: No Need for Military Veterans to Have Prosthetic Limbs

San Francisco– Centerplate, the concessionaire at AT&T Park today filed a dynamic lawsuit against Local 2 Unite Here union for violations of national labor laws and for attempting to block charity groups and nonprofits from raising money at the ballpark.

Centerplate said Local 2 is attempting to illegally force the San Francisco Giants into signing a “successor addendum” that would bind the baseball team, and any future concessionaire at AT&T Park, to the same terms Local 2 negotiates with Centerplate. This action is illegal under the federal labor laws, Centerplate officials said.

Normally, the legal charges as Centerplate made today are filed with the National Labor Relations Board, but Centerplate said immediate action is necessary by the legal system to protect the Giants, Centerplate and nonprofits from Local 2’s illegal activities, which could harm all the parties. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco and seeks damages and declaratory relief.

Furthermore, the lawsuit says Local 2 President Michael Casey seeks to end Centerplate’s relationship with nonprofit organizations, forcing out such groups as St. Teresa Music and Arts, Leukemia Lymphoma Society, Athletes Committed to Academics, Berkeley Youth Alternatives, the United States Navy, and others nonprofits, from working at the stadium to raise money for their charitable works.

“Local 2’s President scoffed at the value of the (nonprofit) program at one point stating that the U.S. Navy did not need to work a stand at the ballpark to pay for prosthetic limbs for wounded Veterans,” the lawsuit states. “Casey also quipped about the Marines, “Why don’t you have them man a boat and they can sell hot dogs on the water,” according the lawsuit against Local 2.

The nonprofits make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year through partnering with Centerplate at Giants games by staffing concession stands and earning commissions based upon sales for their charitable work. Local 2 is now demanding Centerplate pay a penalty of $200 for each volunteer used for charitable work, which would eliminate Centerplate’s ability to partner with nonprofits.

“Local 2 has overstepped the bounds of the law and of humanity,” said a spokesman for Centerplate.  “They are illegally attempting to force the Giants into a labor dispute between Centerplate and the union and wrongly trying to harm the many nonprofits that rely upon income from their charitable work at AT&T Park. We are going to fight to win this battle for Centerplate, our employees, our customers and the charitable causes which we support.”

This past week, Local 2 union leaders walked out on contract negotiations with Centerplate and a Federal Mediator, refusing to accept or to even make an economic counter proposal and thereby denying, for the time being, Centerplate’s employees at AT&T Park the economic benefits that would flow from a new contract.

Local 2 Unite Here publically acknowledged that Centerplate’s employees are already the highest paid workers in the concession industry. In a YouTube video posted on May 12, the union spokesperson is quoted saying “so what if they’re (the employees) the best paid…that doesn’t mean anything.”

As a seasonal, part-time labor force, Centerplate’s employees currently earn the highest wages in the nation, making an average of approximately $15 to $20 per hour. These part time employees also receive some of the best benefits, with fully paid healthcare individually and for their families. To ensure seamless exceptional service for fans, Centerplate has made an offer than includes:

  • A 4.5 percent ratification bonus for those who worked more than 40 games in 2012
  • A 1.7 percent annual wage increase on top of the best compensation package in the industry
  • Increased contribution of 9.2 percent to the Unite Here benefit plans
  • Employer paid health care for employees and their families

Since early this year, Centerplate has been in negotiations over a new contract. The previous one expired in 2010 but was continued from year to year when Unite Here failed to request new negotiations. Even after it sought to make changes to the existing agreement, Local 2 dragged its feet and delayed negotiations for months. Throughout this time, Centerplate has been encouraging Local 2 to move quickly to find a solution.

“Nothing is more important to Centerplate than our employee partners and the customer service experience we provide guests. Local 2’s threats are an attack against our guests and the community groups we partner with at AT&T Park. It is time for Local 2 to come back to the table and focus on a realistic agreement,” spokesman Sam Singer said.

Centerplate said in the unfortunate event of a strike by Local 2 that “protecting the guest experience at AT&T Park is paramount and it will not be disrupted as the company has contingency plans in place in the event of a labor action.”

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San Francisco Giants AT&T Ballpark Union Local 2 Refuses to Negotiate, Walks Out on Centerplate, Federal Mediator

Unite Here Local 2 union leaders have walked out on contract negotiations, refusing to accept or to even make an economic counter proposal and thereby denying, for the time being, Centerplate’s employees at AT&T Park the economic benefits that would flow from a new contract.

The union unilaterally left negotiations with Centerplate and a federal mediator last Thursday, refusing to make a counter offer to Centerplate’s economic package, which improves upon the industry leading compensation already received by Centerplate’s employees.

Local 2 Unite Here has acknowledged AT&T Park employees are already the highest paid workers in the concession industry. In a YouTube video posted on May 12, the union spokesperson is quoted saying “so what if they’re (the employees) the best paid…that doesn’t mean anything.”

For AT&T Park’s seasonal, part-time labor force, Centerplate’s employees currently earn the highest wages in the nation, making an average of approximately $15 to $20 per hour. These part time employees also receive some of the best benefits, with fully paid healthcare individually and for their families. To ensure seamless exceptional service for fans, Centerplate has made an offer than includes:

  • A 4.5 percent ratification bonus for those who worked more than 40 games in 2012
  • A 1.7 percent annual wage increase on top of the best compensation package in the industry
  • Increased contribution of 9.2 percent to the Unite Here benefit plans
  • Employer paid health care for employees and their families

Since early this year, Centerplate has been in negotiations over a new contract. The previous one expired in 2010 but was continued from year to year when Unite Here failed to request new negotiations. Even after it sought to make changes to the existing agreement, Local 2 dragged its feet and delayed negotiations for months. Throughout this time, Centerplate has been encouraging Local 2 to move quickly to find a solution.

“Nothing is more important to Centerplate than our employee partners and the customer service experience we provide guests. It is time for Local 2 to come back to the table and focus on a realistic agreement,” spokesman Sam Singer said.

Centerplate said in the unfortunate event of a strike by Local 2 that “protecting the guest experience at AT&T is paramount and it will not be disrupted as the company has contingency plans in place in the event of a labor action.”

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Loans Available to Boost Small Business and Kick Off Small Business Week

$12 Million in Affordable Loans to City’s Businesses & Entrepreneurs to Support Recovering Local Economy & Create Jobs

Mayor Edwin M. Lee today announced the launch of the Emerging Business Loan Fund which will make $12 million in affordable loans available to support small business, boost the local economy and create jobs.

“Not only do small businesses help keep our world famous neighborhood merchant corridors active and vibrant, they also help boost our local economy,” said Mayor Lee. “The Emerging Business Loan Fund will allow entrepreneurs and small businesses to secure the capital they need to innovate, grow their business and succeed.”

The Emerging Business Loan Fund (EBLF) program expands accessible financing to businesses that cannot access capital from traditional sources and institutions. The EBLF focuses on lending to entrepreneurs in communities and growing industries such as manufacturing, the apparel and the accessory sectors; while creating jobs for low income individuals. Qualifying businesses can apply for financing for a variety of investments including upgrades to equipment such as freezers, refrigerators, display cases, coolers and boilers, administrative costs such as permits and licenses and marketing, staffing,  real estate and space expansion or purchase, and to other physical improvements to the establishment.

The City selected the Bay Area Small Business Finance (BASBF), a non-profit community-based lender committed to delivering flexible affordable financing to businesses, to administer the EBLF loan program. It offers low interest financing, 50,000 – $1,000,000, to businesses. The program leverages federal dollars from the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Section 108 program to capitalize the $12,000,000 loan fund. This is part of the Mayor’s Invest in Neighborhoods program, an initiative to create cleaner, safer and more economically vibrant neighborhoods in 25 commercial corridors in San Francisco.

“Bay Area Small Business Finance is a 35-year-old non-profit organization dedicated to providing capital to Bay Area small businesses unable to obtain loans from banks,” said Bay Area Small Business Finance CEO Jacob Singer. “Based on recent demand from San Francisco businesses for this loan product, we know there is significant unmet need for flexible financing. Our partnership with the City will enable us to get more loans funded that otherwise would not be financed.”

The EBLF program builds upon the success of the City-sponsored microloan program, the Revolving Loan Fund (RLF).  This program was launched in July of 2009 with the intention of creating jobs and increasing access to capital for businesses. The Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) in partnership with Working Solutions continue to successfully administer and recapitalize the loan fund. Today, more than $1.3 million in loans have been given to 51 San Francisco small businesses and those owned by minority and women, generating more than 140 jobs. The RLF program provides eligible San Francisco small business owners an opportunity to borrow up to $50,000 with a fixed interest rate that ranges from 4-6 percent and a five year term.

“The Revolving Loan Fund made the process of getting a loan much easier by providing me the capital to open my very own café and employ four people,” said North of Panhandle’s Oasis Café Owner Taddesse Haile. “This café has been a dream and because of this support, I was able to secure a second loan to expand and build out a kitchen so that I can continue to provide Ethiopian fare to the community.”

San Francisco is also celebrating the business community with the 9th annual Small Business Week (May 13-18, 2013), which honors and recognizes the more than 85,000 small businesses and entrepreneurs for their innovation and contribution to the City. This year’s theme for Small Business Week is “Small Business: Shaping our Communities,” and includes a series of educational and networking events designed to inspire, educate and connect the members of the business community.

For more information about Small Business Week, go to: www.sfsmallbusinessweek.com

Interested business owners and entrepreneurs can get more information about the EBLF and RLP through the OEWD Invest In Neighborhoods initiative, go to: http://www.oewd.org/IIN.aspx

 

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Patton Boggs Law Firm Sued by Chevron for Fraud and Deceit in Ecuador Lawsuit: Did Patton Boggs Know of ‘Ghostwriting’ of Fraudulent Ecuador Judgement?

Since late 2010, Washington, D.C. law firm Patton Boggs has been poking a sleeping tiger. It has filed three peculiar federal lawsuits — in its own name, not on behalf of any client — against Chevron, the third-largest corporation in the United States. These cases have fared poorly; two were quickly dismissed, and a federal magistrate judge recommended tossing the third in March.

 

On Friday, the tiger awoke. Chevron (CVX) sought a federal judge’s permission to bring counterclaims against the 455-lawyer firm for alleged fraud and deceit for its conduct in representing the Amazon Defense Front, which obtained a $19 billion environmental judgment against the oil giant in Lago Agrio, Ecuador, in February 2011. Chevron also seeks to charge the firm with “malicious prosecution” for having pursued its three lawsuits in bad faith. Chevron seeks to hold the law firm liable for any damages Chevron suffers from the Front’s allegedly fraud-infested litigation, plus punitive and treble damages.

 

In a statement, Patton Boggs wrote: “Chevron’s proposed complaint against Patton Boggs is perhaps the starkest example yet of how Chevron will use its limitless resources to intimidate and harass anyone that dares to help the Ecuadorian Plaintiffs in their 20-year battle for justice … Patton Boggs has acted conscientiously, ethically and in good faith at all times since becoming involved in this case in 2010, and will not be intimidated by Chevron’s scare tactics.” (See the full document here.)

 

Patton Boggs began representing the Front in February 2010. The firm is being paid on a partial contingency fee basis, under an agreement that gives it a 2.4% stake in the Ecuadorian judgment, according to earlier filings by Chevron. Thus, the law firm theoretically stands to make about $450 million if the Ecuadorian judgment can ever be collected. (Chevron has virtually no assets in Ecuador.)

 

Patton Boggs’s team working on the Lago Agrio case has been led by James Tyrrell, Jr., a regional managing partner of the firm’s New York and New Jersey offices and a member of its executive committee.

 

At the time Patton Boggs got involved in the matter, Chevron’s lawyers had just begun filing a series of U.S. court proceedings, known as Section 1782 actions, to attempt to expose fraud, fabrication of evidence, and other chicanery that Chevron claims the Front engaged in to obtain the Ecuadorian judgment. Patton Boggs’s task was, among other things, to assist the Front in resisting Chevron’s efforts to unearth such evidence.

 

Notwithstanding the Front’s and Patton Boggs’s efforts, Chevron eventually did obtain much of the evidence it sought, and in February 2011 it filed a civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) case in Manhattan against the Front’s leaders, including its top U.S. lawyer and strategist, Steve Donziger. Last July, in a ruling on a partial summary judgment motion in that case, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan found that the March 2011 Ecuadorian judgment was, in fact, “unquestionably … tainted” by fraud. More recently, in a discovery order in March 2013, he also found that there was “probable cause” to believe that Front representatives “bribed the Ecuadorian judge to obtain the result they wanted and, as part of the deal, wrote the judgment to which the judge put his name.”

 

(The Front has repeatedly and unsuccessfully sought to remove Judge Kaplan from the case, accusing him of bias in strident and borderline contemptuous terms.)

 

One of the reasons Judge Kaplan found it likely that the Ecuadorian judgment was ghostwritten by the Front’s lawyers is that it incorporates large passages that appear to have been lifted verbatim from internal Front legal memoranda that were never introduced into the Ecuadorian court record. In the proposed complaint, Chevron alleges that at least one of the lifted passages incorporates Patton Boggs’s own work product.

 

Thus, it alleges, “Patton Boggs either knew in advance of the ghostwriting of the judgment against Chevron or must have become quickly aware of it once Chevron began to make the evidence known, and yet Patton Boggs continued to further the fraudulent scheme … Despite the uncontradicted evidence to the contrary, Patton Boggs has falsely asserted in the U.S. that this judgment is legitimate and not the product of a corrupt process in which Patton Boggs and/or its co-counsel colluded with the Ecuadorian court or court experts.”

 

Another focus of Chevron’s proposed complaint is Patton Boggs’s alleged role in “direct[ing] the creation of a declaration” signed by Front lawyer Pablo Fajardo that was filed in a Section 1782 action in Denver federal court in May 2010.

 

In his March 2013 ruling, Judge Kaplan called the Fajardo declaration “a seriously misleading account of what had happened” and, again, found “probable cause” to believe that “at least some” of the Front’s representatives “had committed mail and/or wire fraud and obstructed justice … by formulating and filing” it. The Front later filed the Fajardo declaration in at least eight other U.S. courts around the nation, including Kaplan’s.

 

Also in dispute is a strategy Patton Boggs allegedly “orchestrated” of hastily seeking testimony from seven newly hired experts — known internally at Patton Boggs as the “cleansing” experts — and introducing their written testimony into the Ecuadorian court record in late 2010 in an effort to give the Ecuadorian court something to base its opinion upon other than a court-appointed expert’s report that Chevron alleges (and appears to have proven) was secretly ghostwritten by the plaintiffs lawyers.

 

Chevron alleges that the cleansing experts in fact simply relied on the fraud-tainted report and that Patton Boggs’s lawyers tried to conceal that fact.

 

Chevron also takes issue with Patton Boggs’s continuing attempts to enforce the Ecuadorian judgment in foreign courts, including, so far, those of Canada, Argentina, and Brazil, “despite overwhelming and un-rebutted evidence that the Ecuadorian judgment itself, and the [court-appointed expert's report] upon which it is based, were fraudulently ghostwritten by the LAPs’ own team.”

 

Finally, Chevron faults Patton Boggs for having helped the Front secure funding for its allegedly fraud-tainted litigation by allegedly misleading the investment fund Burford Capital, which specializes in litigation finance. Burford has since renounced its interest in the case and has accused both the Front’s leaders and Patton Boggs’s Tyrrell of having made false representations to lure it into the case. (Patton Boggs has responded in the past that it is “fully confident that it has acted appropriately and ethically.”)

 

Chevron’s proposed complaint is based on documents already in its possession that relate to Patton Boggs’s role in the case, but it is already in the process of trying to obtain many more documents from the firm. In March Judge Kaplan ordered Patton Boggs to begin turning over millions of pages of files in the case, finding that any attorney-client privilege was pierced by the so-called crime-fraud exception. He wrote: “PB participated heavily in certain critical activities that make it likely that it is an important and, in many respects, unique source of evidence of the alleged fraud that is available nowhere else and that at least some of the materials in its possession or control were in furtherance of crimes or frauds regardless of whether PB was aware of them.”

 

Chevron’s new proposed claims against Patton Boggs are not being leveled in the RICO case itself, which is scheduled to go to trial in October, but rather as a counterclaim in a case Patton Boggs itself brought against Chevron in Newark last year, which was transferred to Manhattan earlier this year.

 

That case is the third of Patton Boggs’s suits against Chevron, which are the subject of Chevron’s “malicious prosecution” allegation against the firm. The string of Patton Boggs suits began in November 2010, when it sued Chevron seeking a preemptive declaration that Patton Boggs had no conflict of interest in representing the Front — though Chevron had not moved to disqualify it. (The potential conflict related to Patton Boggs’s July 2010 acquisition of the Breaux Lott Leadership Group, a lobbying firm that Chevron says was representing it with respect to its Ecuador litigation between 2008 and 2010.)

 

Patton Boggs later added Chevron’s main outside counsel, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, as a defendant, and also accused Chevron of “tortious interference with contract” for having allegedly interfered with the Front’s ability to find financing with which to pay Patton Boggs. U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy, Jr., dismissed this and a second, nearly identical Patton Boggs suit against Chevron in April, July, and August of 2011, and an appeals court unanimously affirmed both dismissals in June 2012.

 

By then, Patton Boggs had filed the third suit against Chevron in Newark. This one had to do with a $21.8 million appeal bond that Judge Kaplan had required Chevron to post when, in March 2011, he granted a preliminary injunction barring the Front from trying to enforce the Ecuadorian judgment outside Ecuador. After the injunction was vacated by an appeals court in January 2012, Chevron asked Judge Kaplan to release the bond — i.e., give Chevron back the money it had posted.

 

Patton Boggs opposed Chevron’s motion, but instead of simply doing so in a motion before Judge Kaplan on the Front’s behalf, it filed an entirely new lawsuit in Newark on Patton Boggs’s own behalf. Later Patton Boggs added a “malicious prosecution” claim against Chevron for its having identified Patton Boggs as a “co-conspirator” (though not a defendant) in its RICO suit. In December 2012, Newark federal judge Esther Salas transferred the case to Judge Kaplan in Manhattan, criticizing Patton Boggs’s “jurisdictional maneuvering.” (Judge Kaplan released the bond in April 2012, and Patton Boggs has appealed that order.)

 

In March 2013, Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV in Manhattan recommended dismissal of Patton Boggs’s third suit, and Patton Boggs has appealed to Judge Kaplan. Chevron’s new claims against Patton Boggs for fraud and deceit, filed today, come as counterclaims in that case.

 

It seems likely that Patton Boggs was already losing money from its representation of the Front — that was an underlying premise for all three of its lawsuits against Chevron — and the counterclaim against it by Chevron cannot help its situation. Patton Boggs did not respond to a request for comment on whether the Front was in arrears on payments owed to it.

 

Last week another of the Front’s U.S. law firms, Houston’s, Smyser Veselka & Kaplan, asked to withdraw from the RICO case, saying it was owed almost $1.8 million in fees. At the same time, Donziger’s law firm in that case, Keker & Van Nest — which the Front had also been paying, under the terms of its retainer agreement with Donziger — also asked to withdraw, saying it was owed more than $1.4 million in fees.

 

According to the Wall Street Journal, Patton Boggs laid off 65 lawyers and staff in late February, after a decline in profits. Its annual revenues were down 6.5% in 2012, the article said, while its profits fell 14%.

 

By Roger Parloff-Fortune, May 13, 2013

 

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Summer Jobs 2013 Initiative Will Create Unprecedented 6,000 Jobs and Paid Internships for SF Youth

Public & Private Partnership Builds on Success of 2012 Program That Placed More Than 5,300 Youth,

Including Disconnected & At-Risk Youth

Today Mayor Edwin M. Lee and the United Way of the Bay Area along with City Departments and private sector employers announced the launch of Summer Jobs+ 2013, challenging employers this summer to create 6,000 jobs and paid internships for San Francisco youth. Mayor Lee’s Summer Jobs+ 2013 will connect San Francisco employers with low-income and disconnected San Francisco youth.

“Last year, San Francisco worked together to answer President Obama’s call to provide meaningful work experience and a paycheck to San Francisco youth,” said Mayor Lee. “We not only answered that call, but exceeded our own aggressive goals of 5,000 jobs than 5,300 young adults in jobs and paid internships for the summer and beyond,” said Mayor Lee. “We are setting an even more ambitious goal for 2013 to create meaningful employment opportunities for our young people so we set them up for success now and in the future. I am again calling upon employers across San Francisco to join us in supporting the future of our young people.”

Last year, President Barack Obama issued a challenge to businesses, non-profits, and government: Work together to provide pathways to employment for low-income and disconnected youth. Last year through San Francisco Summer Jobs+, 5,200 young people participated in new job opportunities—over 1,700 of them worked in the private sector at 86 companies and organizations throughout the city including Starbucks, Advent and Uniqlo. Thirty nine percent (663 jobs) of these private sector summer jobs turned into permanent positions for San Francisco youth.

United Way of the Bay Area is leading San Francisco’s effort in support of Mayor Lee’s Summer Jobs+ Program along with Department of Children Youth and their Families (DCYF), Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) and the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD).

“We’re proud to again be partnering with Mayor Lee and employers throughout San Francisco on Summer Jobs+ 2013,” said United Way Bay Area Chief Executive Officer Anne Wilson. “No Mayor or city in America is doing more to get our young people into good jobs and internships for the summer; a critical steppingstone that will help set them on the path to success.”

Employers that have already committed to hiring Summer Jobs+ participants in 2013 include salesforce.com, Starbucks, Advent, Bank of America, Nektar, Twilio, Jawbone, members of SFMade and many more.

“It hasn’t always been easy for me – I’m independent, fighting to get a good education and make it here in San Francisco, the city of opportunity,” said LaRon Ryan, a 21 year old participant in Summer Jobs+ 2012 who worked at Jawbone, a San Francisco technology company. “Over the years I’ve learned how to advocate for myself and take initiative. You know, that’s how I got my tech internship at Jawbone through the San Francisco Summer Jobs+ program. It pretty much changed my life.”

Employers or youth interested in participating or learning more about San Francisco Summer Jobs+, go to www.matchbridge.org/summer or call 3-1-1 or 2-1-1.

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CPUC President Michael Peevey Caught in The Act: He Ducks California Senate Hearing for Napa Valley Drinks with PG&E Executives

The embattled president of the California Public Utilities Commission recently ignored the call to answer tough questions by state senators in Sacramento and instead decided to attend a conference at an exclusive Napa resort and a reception at an upscale winery in St. Helena, both of which were captured on hidden camera by the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit, headed by reporter Tony Kovaleski. See the shocking story that most likely will cost Peevey his job as head of the CPUC after Governor Jerry Brown sees this news video: http://www.nbcbayarea.com/investigations/LEGALPeeveys-Priority–205838301.html

Michael Peevey was asked to appear before the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review subcommittee on April 25 to justify keeping the job he has held for the past decade. The senate hearing was in response to growing conflict over a confidential report, uncovered by the Investigative Unit, which raises questions about the CPUC’s commitment to safety and its relationship with utility companies the agency regulates.

“The governor needs to replace the president of the Public Utilities Commission,” Sen. Jerry Hill said in an interview with NBC Bay Area last month. “The current president has been there for many years and he has had a very cozy relationship with the utilities, which this report indicates.”

Hill’s call for change at the CPUC was recently echoed by two lawmakers.

“I think the question is, who should be leading this organization so the people of California are safe,” San Jose assemblywoman Nora Campos said at a recent legislative hearing.

At that same hearing Los Altos assemblyman Richard Gordon added, “I have come to the point where we need serious change in the leadership of the PUC to bring change.”

After calling for his job two weeks ago, Hill wrote Peevey a letter formally requesting his presence at the subcommittee hearing. The letter states, “For all the shortcomings under your leadership at the CPUC over the last ten years as documented by independent reports… it’s critical that you testify…to justify your continued appointment as the president of the California Public Utilities Commission.”

Instead of addressing the conflict, Peevey kept a prior engagement at the Silverado Resort and Spa in the heart of Napa. According to the agenda, the conference was about clean energy, and Peevey was scheduled to give a short five to seven minute presentation for the non-profit organization, California Foundation for the Environment and the Economy (CFEE).

Before the conference started, at around 11 a.m.—the same time he was expected in Sacramento—NBC Bay Area’s hidden cameras spotted Peevey mingling with guests in the resort conference center.  The day officially started at noon, with a catered lunch after invited guests such as a representative from Pacific Gas & Electric and, somewhat ironically, more than two dozen Sacramento lawmakers, checked in at the event. Peevey gave his presentation at 1:30 p.m.—two and a half hours after he was scheduled to speak in Sacramento.

After four hours of conference sessions Peevey boarded a luxury bus and drove through the Napa Valley to the next event on the agenda—a reception and dinner at St. Helena’s exclusive Merryvalewinery. For more than three hours, Peevey ended his day inside the facility along with more than 100 guests.

Following the reception, NBC Bay Area’s Chief Investigative Reporter Tony Kovaleski met Peevey outside the winery to ask questions about his priorities, and the confidential report. Below is a transcript of a part of the conversation:

Tony Kovaleski: You were asked to speak to senators today about the safety of your PUC. Instead you spent your day here in Napa.

Michael Peevey: No, that’s not true.

Kovaleski: What is the message you sent by coming here to Napa instead of going to speak to the senate?

Peevey: You are very antagonistic you know. You are reading a script.

Kovaleski: Sir, I am not reading a script. I want to give you an opportunity to respond.

Peevey: But your questions are the wrong questions.

Kovaleski: You spent time here with the utilities you are paid to regulate.

Peevey: There’s no utilities here that I know of.

Kovaleski: PG&E was here. We saw them on the list.

Peevey: Oh, there may have been one person, I don’t know.

Kovaleski: That report said your agency is too cozy with utilities. Is that true?

Peevey: No. Stop. That’s one person who said that. That’s not what the report said. There was no conclusion in the report. It was an interview with various individual employees of the Public Utilities Commission.

Kovaleski: Sir, you have been asked by lawmakers to step down. Lawmakers have said you should be fired. Should you be fired, sir?

Man with Peevey: No, he shouldn’t be fired. They don’t have the authority.

(Peevey starts to walk away).

Peevey: You poor son of a b****. You have a job to do. It’s pathetic what you are doing. It’s pathetic.

(Peevey gets into a car).

Kovaleski: Sir, should you answer to lawmakers when they ask to speak with you? What’s the message you sent tonight by coming here?

(Car drives away).

NBC Bay Area asked to speak with Peevey about the confidential report prior to the conference in Napa, but did not receive a response to that request from the CPUC. The CPUC did provide a written statement about the report:

The CPUC has made safety an underlying principle in all its actions. As we work to instill a corporate culture in our regulated utilities that embraces safety as a tool and an enhancement to their mission, we must ensure we do the same at the CPUC. We have hired consultants to help us in our process of culture change across all the industries we regulate. As part of these efforts, our consultants conducted an informal survey of internal employees to see what they think safety means, how they see their role in safety, and how they think we can do better as an agency. The report is the result of the informal survey; it is not an analysis of our safety culture or conclusions by our consultants, but a reporting-back of what some employees said in informal focus groups. As the report says, “This report is not an evaluation of the objective truth of those views and perceptions.”  We will use the results of the report to help us define what we need to change, develop strategies and actions to implement the changes, and ensure accountability as the process continues.

This is not the first time Peevey has snubbed lawmakers for an all-expense paid event. He was asked to speak at an assembly committee meeting in 2011, but reports indicate he accepted a free trip to Sweden that was funded by the Swedish government and the California nonprofit, The Energy Coalition.

When asked by reporters in April about his confidence in the leadership of the CPUC, Gov. Jerry Brown said Peevey is “well-experienced.”

“He’s flawed like everyone else in this building,” Brown said, “but he has a lot of knowledge and he has great commitment.”

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Chuck Pacioni is New GM at San Francisco Marriott Marquis

San Francisco’s iconic Marriott Marquis has named Chuck Pacioni as its new general manager.

Mr. Pacioni, who has worked in some of California’s top hotels in a career spanning 24 years, takes the helm at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis this month, with a plan to expand on its success in the corporate and leisure markets. Mr. Pacioni takes over for long-time general manager, Dan Kelleher, who after serving the Marriott Marquis for seven years was promoted to area vice president for the region covering Northern California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Utah.

The 1,499-room hotel located steps from the Moscone Center, Union Square and other top attractions, is in the final phase of its $90 million, 10-year makeover.

The hotel has been completely transformed with a new lobby and great room concept, meeting spaces, guest rooms, fitness center and restaurants. It has also completely remodeled its second-floor Atrium to add 10 breakout rooms and raised the ceiling on its Golden Gate Ballroom.

Rising 39 stories high in the San Francisco skyline, the transformed San Francisco Marriott Marquis exudes an essence of modern luxury with a convenient and extraordinary downtown location. Just south of Market Street, the hotel’s renovation embodies the transformation of the neighborhood it calls home.  It is next to the Moscone Convention Center and steps away from Yerba Buena Gardens, renowned museums and cultural attractions, world-class shopping on Union Square, and AT&T Park — home of the San Francisco Giants.

Mr. Pacioni is no stranger to the hotel as he previously served as the director of marketing from 2000 to 2002.  He rejoins the four star San Francisco property from the Santa Clara Marriott, where he spent the past seven years as general manager and oversaw a $30 million renovation

Having previously gained experience in all sectors of the hospitality industry at a number of prestigious four and five star hotels around California, Mr. Pacioni’s extensive résumé includes stints at the San Diego Marriott Marquis and Emeryville Courtyard Hotel.

In addition to expanding its corporate and leisure trade, Mr. Pacioni will be looking to further strengthen San Francisco Marriott Marquis’ links to the local business community and develop its existing, strong relationship with neighbors.  Mr. Pacioni will also be exploring ways to maximize use of its leisure and conference facilities, build on the promise of offering something truly unique and exciting to guests and to maintain its position as a leading city center venue.

The San Francisco Marriott Marquis features 1,362 rooms and 137 suites featuring Marriott’s signature bedding with plush crisp linens, 32-inch LCD high definition TVs with a plug-in panel, high-speed Internet, and work desk.  Hotel amenities include the Fitness Center & Spa, an indoor pool, whirlpool, and onsite restaurants and bars including Mission Grille, The View, Bin 55 Restaurant and Wine Bar, and Starbucks.  The property features 117,000 square feet of meeting space and 59 meeting rooms, the largest of which is the Yerba Ballroom with a total meeting space of 39,621 square feet and a seating capacity of 5,500. For additional information, visit www.SFMarriottMarquis.com or call 415-896-1600.

 

 

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Chevron Wins Another Round in Ecuador Fraud Case: Case Against Oil Company in $19B Pollution Case Collapsing

Chevron continues to battle charges against the oil company in Ecuador and win victory after courtroom victory against Steven Donziger and the plaintiffs in the fraudulent case of pollution in the Amazon region of Ecuador.

Just yesterday, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice stayed an action initiated by the Ecuadorian plaintiffs seeking to have a judgment of an Ecuadorian court against Chevron Corp. [NYSE: CVX] recognized and enforced in Ontario.

This latest success for Chevron comes right after a series of blockbuster announcements by former members of Donziger’s plaintiffs’ team who have now switched sides and joined Chevron, announcing the work they did for Donziger and the Ecuadorian was fabricated or faulty because they, too, were misled by Donziger.

Add to these recent announcements that a former Ecuadorian judge revealed that he accepted bribes from the plaintiffs’ team along with another Ecuadorian judge to draft rulings in favor of the plaintiffs and you have a lawsuit that is a better read than anything John Grisham has ever written.

The Canadian court ruled yesterday in the case and wrote:

“The plaintiffs (Steven Donziger, Ecuadorians) have no hope of success in their assertion that the corporate veil of Chevron Canada should be pierced and ignored so that its assets become exigible to satisfy a judgment against its ultimate parent.  There is no basis in law or fact for such a claim.… Ontario courts should be reluctant to dedicate their resources to disputes where, in dollar and cents terms, there is nothing to fight over.  In my view, the parties should take their fight elsewhere to some jurisdiction where any ultimate recognition of the Ecuadorean judgment will have a practical effect.”

In response, Chevron Corporation issued the following statement:

“We are pleased with today’s decision from Justice Brown. The Ontario Superior Court ruled that it ought not to entertain the plaintiffs’ claims on the evidence before the court. This is a significant setback to the Ecuadorian plaintiffs’ worldwide enforcement strategy given that it is premised on seeking to enforce the judgment against assets of Chevron Corporation subsidiaries that were not even parties to the Ecuadorian litigation.”

“The plaintiffs should be seeking enforcement in the United States – where Chevron Corporation resides.  In the U.S., however, they would be confronted by the fact that eight federal courts have already found the Ecuador trial tainted by fraud.”

Meanwhile, Chevron Corp. has made additional notable progress in the legal proceedings in the United States exposing the fraudulent nature of the plaintiffs’ judgment.  This evidence further demonstrates that the judgment is illegitimate and should be unenforceable in any court that respects the rule of law.  Evidence of the plaintiffs’ fraud includes:

  • A former Ecuadorian judge has admitted his role in orchestrating the fraudulent judgment against Chevron and a half-million-dollar bribery scheme.
  • Stratus Consulting, the lead environmental consultants to the Ecuadorian plaintiffs’ lawyers, provided sworn declarations (here and here), highlighting the lack of scientific merit to the plaintiffs’ damage claims.
  • Another of the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ environmental consultants, Dr. Charles Calmbacher, has testified that plaintiffs’ evidence was being falsified from the very outset of the trial.
  • Litigation hedge fund Burford Capital has provided a sworn declaration outlining the firm’s knowledge of the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ misconduct, testifying that the proceeding is irredeemably tainted by fraud.

Chevron Corp. remains committed to holding the plaintiffs’ lawyers accountable for their misconduct and demonstrating the judgment is the product of a corrupted judiciary.

Chevron Corp. is defending itself against false allegations that it is responsible for alleged environmental and social harms in the Oriente region of Ecuador.  Chevron never conducted oil production operations in Ecuador, and its subsidiary Texaco Petroleum Co. (“TexPet”) fully remediated its share of environmental impacts arising from oil production operations, before leaving Ecuador in 1992.  After the remediation was certified by all agencies of the Ecuadorian government responsible for oversight, TexPet received a complete release from Ecuador’s national, provincial, and municipal governments that extinguished all claims before Chevron acquired TexPet in 2001.  All legitimate scientific evidence exonerates Chevron and proves that the remediated sites pose no significant risks to human health or the environment.

More information on the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ fraud can be found here.  Additional background on the Ecuador litigation can be accessed here and here.

 

Chevron is one of the world’s leading integrated energy companies, with subsidiaries that conduct business worldwide. The company is involved in virtually every facet of the energy industry.  Chevron explores for, produces and transports crude oil and natural gas; refines, markets and distributes transportation fuels and lubricants; manufactures and sells petrochemical products; generates power and produces geothermal energy; provides energy efficiency solutions; and develops the energy resources of the future, including biofuels.  Chevron is based in San Ramon, Calif.  More information about Chevron is available at www.chevron.com.

 

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Executive Recruiter David Nosal of Nosal Partners Convicted of All Charges in FBI Investigation and Federal Grand Jury Trial

SAN FRANCISCO—David Nosal, an executive recruiter based in San Francisco, was convicted of all charges in a six-count indictment by a federal jury today, United States Attorney Melinda Haag announced. Nosal is founder and president of Nosal Partners, a member of NGS Global.

The jury found that Nosal had conspired to gain unauthorized access to the computer system of his former employer, the executive search firm Korn/Ferry International, and to illegally obtain trade secrets belonging to Korn/Ferry. The jury also found Nosal guilty of three substantive computer intrusions in April and July 2005 and two substantives trade secret offenses that occurred in April 2005. The guilty verdict followed a two-week jury trial before U.S. District Court Judge Edward M. Chen.

Evidence at trial showed that Nosal, 55, of Danville, entered into an agreement with other Korn/Ferry employees in 2004 to take confidential and proprietary materials from Korn/Ferry’s computer system to be used in a new business that Nosal intended to establish with those individuals after he left Korn/Ferry’s employment in late 2004. The evidence showed that two of those employees downloaded large numbers of “source lists” (essentially, targeted lists of candidates developed by Korn/Ferry for the purpose of filling particular positions at particular client-companies) prior to their own departures from Korn/Ferry. Thereafter, those two employees used the Korn/Ferry login credentials of another conspirator who was still employed at Korn/Ferry to download additional source lists and other information from Korn/Ferry’s computer system in April and July 2005 for use in Nosal’s new business.

The trial in this case occurred after remand from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which had affirmed then-District Court Judge Marilyn H. Patel’s pre-trial dismissal of several computer intrusion counts.

Nosal was initially indicted by a federal grand jury on April 10, 2008. The government obtained superseding indictments on June 26, 2008 and February 28, 2013. In the most recent superseding indictment, Nosal was charged with one count of conspiracy, three counts of unauthorized access to a computer used in interstate or foreign commerce or communication, one count of unauthorized downloading and copying of trade secrets, and one count of unauthorized receipt and possession of stolen trade secrets. Nosal was found guilty on all six counts of this indictment.

The sentencing of Nosal is scheduled for September 4, 2013, before Judge Edward M. Chen in San Francisco. The maximum statutory penalty for the conspiracy charge in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371 and the unauthorized access charges in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1030(a)(4), is five years’ imprisonment and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution if appropriate. The maximum statutory penalty for the trade secret charges is 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution if appropriate. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

Assistant United States Attorneys Kyle F. Waldinger and Matthew A. Parrella and U.S. Department of Justice Trial Attorney Jenny C. Ellickson are the attorneys who are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Rayneisha Booth, Elise Etter, Beth Margen, and Hui Chen. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

 

David Nosal of Nosal Partners

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