French bank being investigated for role in Olympics bribery scandal

French bank Société Générale facilitated a $2 million dollar wire transfer that prosecutors now believe was part of a bribe to ensure the 2016 Olympics would be held in Rio.  According to the NY Times, the transaction in question occurred between a Brazilian businessman and the family of an IOC member days before the selection was announced.  The bank has already been fined $6 million for inadequate anti-money laundering controls, but it appears they are going to put up a lengthy legal fight in this case.

Lord knows they have the resources.

The news reminded me of the FIFA bribery scandal that blew up a few years ago following a lengthy FBI investigation.  In that case a Swiss banker was implicated for his role facilitating the bribes, though no fines or sanctions were levied against the bank itself.

Stay tuned to see whether prosecutors in this case have more substantial proof showing institutional complicity involving money laundering, and if so expect a significant fine against Société Générale announced in the coming months.

And by significant I mean an amount that will have no effect on their bottom line whatsoever.


Disney wants to start their own Netflix

A few weeks ago and without much fanfare, Disney announced it was buying 42 percent of an internet distribution company called BamTech for $1.6 billion.  The purchase brought Disney’s total stake in the company to 75 percent, and signaled the beginning of what will be Disney’s own direct-to-consumer streaming service.

Disney, it would appear, is jumping full-fledged into the distribution game.  In doing so, they will have to sever a very lucrative licensing deal with Netflix, as the two companies will now be direct competitors.  The official amount has never been disclosed, but the NY Times estimated Netflix pays Disney somewhere between $220 million and $300 million each year to be able to play their content.  This partnership is now singing its swan song, and the implications will drastically affect the streaming landscape.

The power-grab comes as Google, Apple and Facebook have announced plans to spend billions on original programming, echoing Amazon’s efforts and signaling a drastic shift in the media market in the coming years.

DMX facing jail time for tax evasion

After pleading not guilty to 14 charges of tax fraud, DMX (aka Earl Simmons) stated he was relying on his faith to get him through the troublesome times.  “My life is in God’s hands” the rapper stated after spending the night in a New York jail and being released on a $500,000 bond.

Prosecutors claim he avoided at least $1.7 million in taxes between 2002 and 2005, and “went out of his way to evade taxes, including by avoiding personal bank accounts, setting up accounts in other’s names and paying personal expenses largely in cash” (according to the indictment).

The once bombastic rapper known simply as “X” was also charged with failing to file tax returns from 2010 through 2015, and filing a false affidavit in United States Bankruptcy Court.  If convicted he faces up to 44 years in prison.

One of his first jams came to my mind:


One interesting note is that although the bail agreement stipulated confinement to the New York City area, his lawyer is requesting travel permission to allow for future DMX shows.

Stay tuned for updates..

John Oliver reeaaally wants to talk about the Murray lawsuit..

But he can’t..

During a recent appearance on The Late Show, Oliver was asked about it and looked physically pained at having to comply with the advice of HBO’s Counsel not to speak on the matter.

Here’s a brief clip:

Murray Energy Corporation, one of the largest coal mining companies in the country, recently sued HBO and Oliver over a piece aired on the comedian’s show.  It is the latest in a string of lawsuits Murray Energy Corp has filed against media entities.  This includes a recent suit against the NY Times for publishing an article stating Bob Murray, the company’s founder, had falsely insisted a fatal mine collapse had been caused by an earthquake, and that Murray Energy was a serial violator of mining regulations.

The Times has moved to dismiss that case, and dismissal indeed appears likely in both cases given the weakness of Murray’s position.  There are indisputable facts on record showing Murray’s lengthy mining safety violations, and Oliver saying Bob Murray looked like a “geriatric Dr. Evil” is going to be hard to dispute.



Warner Bros settles lawsuit with the Tolkien Estate

After years tangled up in court, Warner Brothers has finally settled a copyright infringement lawsuit for $80 million filed by the Tolkien estate.  The lawsuit was centered on a breach of contract claim for merchandising Tolkien’s characters beyond what was originally agreed to by both parties.  This included the rights to an online gambling game, which Tolkien’s estate (rightfully) argued denigrated the author and his work.  Warner Brothers had originally countersued, claiming millions of dollars in losses directly caused by the lawsuit.

It now seems they’ve exhausted all efforts to jam this up in court in deciding to settle the case, finalizing what’s been an embarrassing chapter for Warner in their relationship with Tolkien’s work.

The NY Times first reported the news, and although terms of the settlement were not disclosed, it was likely a hefty payday for the estate.  The original 1969 agreement between the parties only granted Warner the right to sell “tangible personal property” such as “figurines, tableware, stationery items, clothing and the like.”  Because electronic or digital rights weren’t included, Warner had little to stand on here.  Despite their best efforts to drag out the proceedings, their final decision to settle was the right one and reflects the overall weakness of their position.

JRR Tolkien 1955

Unreleased Prince music held up by legal disputes

Prince fans will have to wait a bit longer for a chance to hear the troves of unreleased songs found in a vault at his Minnesota home.  After his death, Universal negotiated for rights to some of the unreleased material, only to later find the artist had signed an agreement with Warner Brothers (relating to the same material).  Universal claims they were defrauded by the Bremer Trust, which managed Prince’s assets, into thinking the purchase was legitimate.  The NY Times has now reported that litigation over these songs appears to be imminent.

It’s not known how much material was found in the vault, but some have claimed it could be thousands of songs.  In June, Warner released a reissue of “Purple Rain” that included a bonus disc of unreleased material, but this apparently only scratches the surface.


Court orders exhumation of Salvador Dali’s body to settle paternity dispute

A Spanish court has ordered Salvador Dalí’s body be exhumed to settle a dispute filed by a woman claiming to be his daughter.  He is buried in a crypt in his hometown of Figueres, Spain, above which sits a theater and museum dedicated to his work.

The NY Times reported the Court’s findings, which included the determination that the exhumation was necessary because no other remains were available that could adequately settle the paternity claim.

The matter started when a Spanish Tarot card reader, Pilar Abel, claimed she was his daughter as a result of a “clandestine love affair” her mother had with the painter in the late 1950s.  Dalí left paintings worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the Spanish state, and Ms. Abel has filed a lawsuit against the Spanish state and Dali’s foundation, saying she wants “whatever corresponds” to her for being his heir.

Riwkin NEG 002

Actor James Cromwell sentenced to week in jail after power plant protest

013117-james-cromwell-kal-1080x608Actor James Cromwell has been sentenced to a week in jail after refusing to pay fines related to his protest over an Upstate New York power plant.  The Actor, who is 77, has been ordered to start serving the sentence in mid-July.  The protest itself involved blocking traffic at a natural gas power plant under construction in Wawayanda, NY.  Local citizens opposed to the plant have said it will have disastrous environmental implications for the surrounding area, and remain steadfast in their efforts to delay or hinder the project’s completion.

After hearing of the sentence, Cromwell said he hoped the sentence would inspire others to join the fight.

FTC says not so fast to fantasy sports merger

The Federal Trade Commission has announced plans to file a complaint challenging the merger between FanDuel and DraftKings, the two largest fantasy sports sites on the web.  The reasons cited were anti-trust laws, and the FTC noted that if the merger were to go through the resulting company would control more than 90% of the market.  The two companies are also both strikingly similar in terms of content and customer base.  Both sites make their money in essentially the same way; bilking analytics-obsessed nerds into thoughts of getting rich quick by building the right roster of real-life athletes.

This development comes as the industry has fallen under heightened scrutiny from lawmakers as to whether the industry constitutes illegal sports gambling or not.


The PGA and European Athletics address doping allegations

rory-mcilroy-explains-why-adding-20-pounds-of-muscle-is-good-for-his-game-and-the-sport-of-golfTwo striking developments occurred this month in the realm of performance enhancing drugs and those tasked with regulating them.

First, it was proposed by European Athletics that the IAAF, (the organization that oversees international track & field), should void all world records not set by athletes after 2005.  This was the year that serious drug testing really began, at least in terms of blood testing.  The proposal is certainly a harsh one, as it now puts 45 world records in jeopardy, and according to the NY Times, has created a sense of injustice among athletes of that era.  Among the world records in question are Flo Jo’s 100 and 200 meter times set in 1988.

While announcing the idea, the president of the European track association, said:

“Performance records that show the limits of human capabilities are one of the great strengths of our sport, but they are meaningless if people don’t really believe them.”         -Svein Arne Hansen of Norway

Meanwhile, the PGA announced it will start blood testing as part of its anti-doping program.  This change comes amid speculation of the prevalence of performance enhancing drugs on tour, and will certainly make it harder to cheat than the PGA’s current system, which has only suspended three players — Doug Barron, Bhavik Patel and Scott Stallings – in the nine years since the program has been implemented.