Author Archive: Brian Sanchez

Is landmark UK law falling short in fight against…


By Ana Ionova

LONDON, March 19 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Britain is uncovering more cases of slavery from the sex trade to car washes but it is not doing enough to jail traffickers, support victims or drive businesses to take action, activists said on the third anniversary of a landmark law.

Britain has been regarded as an international leader in the fight against human trafficking since passing the Modern Slavery Act in March 2015 to tackle a crime affecting an estimated 40.3 million people worldwide.

The law introduced life sentences for traffickers, measures to protect people at risk of being enslaved, and made large companies scrutinise their supply chains for forced labour.

Three years on the law has been hailed for shining a spotlight on the drive to end modern slavery with other nations – from the Netherlands and India to Australia – mulling similar action to combat the estimated $150 billion a year crime.

But anti-slavery activists said the law has not yet made a serious dent in the illicit trade in Britain where at least 13,000 people are estimated by the government to be victims of forced labour, sexual exploitation and domestic servitude.

“The Act has done a lot to raise awareness,” said Kate Roberts, head of office at the Human Trafficking Foundation.

“Unfortunately, in practice, we’re still waiting to really see many tangible outcomes from it yet,” she added.

Police in England and Wales recorded 2,255 modern slavery crimes in 2016/17, up from 870 cases in 2015/16, according to Kevin Hyland, Britain’s first anti-slavery commissioner, who was appointed in late 2014.

From Asian gangs trafficking women to Britain to work in the sex trade, to vulnerable Polish workers being lured to England into low-paid jobs, newspaper headlines have illustrated the extent of the crime that was invisible until recent years.

But even as more arrests are made, authorities are struggling to jail slavemasters. Trafficking prosecutions rose to 295 in 2015/2016 from 187 in 2014/15, but have since levelled off, according to data from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Conviction rates in slavery cases fell to about 61 percent from nearly 70 percent over that period, CPS figures show.

This is partly because police are still grappling with the law and learning how to implement it effectively, Hyland said.

“We still haven’t seen the numbers I would like to see,” the former cop said. “But we’re not actually using what we’ve got.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said “preventing and tackling modern slavery remains a top priority” for the government and the increase in trafficking cases signals Britain is already beginning to see the result of the law.


Rights groups said the key to stamping out slavery in Britain is bolstering support for victims so they can escape the cycle of exploitation and feel safe to cooperate with police.

Although the law shields victims forced to commit crimes by their traffickers, it does not outline a timeframe or standard of care for those who have escaped slavery, leaving them open to being deported, exploited or enslaved again, activists said.

“They become easy targets again,” Jakub Sobik of Anti-Slavery International told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “It’s literally releasing them back into the paws of traffickers.”

The British government said last year it would overhaul the way it handles potential victims, with a raft of changes including drop-in services and extra shelter.

In a landmark judgment this month, Britain’s High Court ruled that former prostitutes should not be forced to reveal their convictions as some were sex trafficking survivors and criminal records stopped them from getting other jobs.

But rights groups said a government decision recently to halve financial aid for slavery survivors to just 37 pounds per week could make them even more vulnerable.

Lawmakers are mulling a bill to ensure victims have support – as well as the right to remain in Britain – for a whole year.

More stability and better long-term support for victims could also improve conviction rates, campaigners said, by making those who have been trafficked more open to working with police.

“Unless victim protection is enshrined in law, you can forget it when it comes to securing convictions of traffickers,” said Parosha Chandran, a top anti-slavery barrister in Britain.

The CPS called slavery cases among the most challenging to prosecute and said it is training prosecutors to build better cases against enslavers without relying on victim testimony.

“(Modern slavery) cases have many complex features. Victims are often involved in criminal activity, there may be jurisdictional issues, victims are vulnerable, and there may be cultural and language barriers,” a CPS spokeswoman said.


Campaigners said Britain has been too soft on businesses.

Under the law, firms with a turnover of at least 36 million pounds must issue a statement outlining steps they have taken to identify the risk of forced labour within their operations.

But there are no penalties for companies that fail to do so – and they can meet requirements by stating they are doing nothing to spot or curb the threat of slavery, activists said.

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC), a pressure group, estimated only about two-thirds of up to 11,000 firms required to comply have issued statements so far.

“There is a very low level of compliance that we’re seeing,” said Patricia Carrier of the BHRRC.

“And generally, when companies do publish statements, most of the reporting is of very low quality.”

This is often because companies fear competitors will use information about their supply chains to gain an advantage.

Meanwhile, monitoring compliance is difficult for watchdogs and consumers since there is no complete public list of all the companies required to produce statements, rights groups said.

The Home Office said it is working to raise awareness of the law through a campaign targeting 10,000 businesses.

“While we want to see businesses look deeper into their supply chains, we understand new legislation takes time to embed,” the spokeswoman for the Home Office said.

There are some signs the law might be spurring better practices as more large brands are now training their suppliers to spot slavery, creating a trickle-down effect, and also leading other countries to follow suit, Carrier said.

“We are seeing more legislation by countries being passed or considered around the issue,” she said.

“There is a bigger international movement that is gaining momentum around transparency in supply chains.” (Reporting by Ana Ionova, Editing by Kieran Guilbert and Belinda Goldsmith)

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Wireless firms seek to preempt local authority to install 5G equipment in neighborhoods

(c) 2018, The Washington Post.

The next big thing in cellular technology, 5G, will bring lightning-fast wireless Internet – and thousands of antenna-topped poles to many neighborhoods where cell towers have long been banned.

Wireless companies are asking Congress and state lawmakers to make it easier to install the poles by preempting local zoning laws that often restrict them, particularly near homes. The lobbying efforts have alarmed local officials across the country. They say they need to ensure that their communities do not end up with unsightly poles cluttering sidewalks, roadsides and the edges of front yards.

They also are hearing from residents worried about possible long-term health risks. Until now, much of the cell equipment that emits radio-frequency energy has been housed on large towers typically kept hundreds of feet from homes. The new “small cell” technology uses far more antennas and transmitters that are smaller and lower-powered, but clustered closer together and lower to the ground.

“We want to see the future of wireless infrastructure happen, but we want a say in how that happens,” Montgomery County (Maryland) Council President Hans Riemer said.

Riemer said the county anticipates more than 600 applications for new small cell facilities over the next several years, including in neighborhoods with underground utilities. He called the state legislative proposals “a giveaway to the industry.”

“Companies could put a lot of junk on telephone poles and light poles in our neighborhoods and change the appearance of the communities we live in,” he said.

Industry leaders say they cannot meet the surging demand for faster and more reliable Internet service unless local governments streamline their 1990s-era zoning regulations written for the far fewer, and much larger, cell towers.

Over the next several years, they expect to deploy as many as 300,000 small cell sites nationwide – about the same number of cell sites installed over the past 35 years, according to CTIA, the industry’s trade association.

In addition to meeting the soaring demand for data, they say, 5G – or fifth-generation wireless broadband technology – is needed to operate self-driving vehicles, “smart cities,” and the growing number of Web-based home appliances, electronics and other devices.

“It’s important for us to get this network out there,” said Charles McKee, vice president of government affairs for Sprint. “I understand the sensitivities cities have and we understand their concerns. We want to work with them. Our goal here is not to force them to do things, but we need to deploy this, and we need to deploy it fast.”

Industry-backed legislative proposals introduced this year in 18 states, including Maryland and Virginia, would preempt most local zoning laws for small cell poles up to 50 feet tall. They would limit residents’ input on applications for small cell facilities and restrict local governments’ ability to reject them.

Thirteen states have adopted such laws since 2016, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Similar legislation recently passed the Virginia General Assembly, but Gov. Ralph Northam, D, has not said whether he will sign it. Virginia passed a law last year that weakened local authority over small cell equipment attached to existing structures. The latest legislation would cover new poles.

Maryland state senators have scheduled a hearing Tuesday on their legislation.

The industry has found a sympathetic ear at the federal level. The Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to vote Thursday on a proposal to no longer require companies to outline the environmental and historical impacts of proposed small cell facilities. The FCC has said the regulations create unnecessary expense and delays. The agency also has appointed an advisory group to recommend other ways to expedite the 5G network, including by “removing state and local regulatory barriers.”

Congress also has held hearings on the issue.

“In order to spur investment in these states, we need regulatory certainty for our members,” said Jamie Hastings, a CTIA senior vice president.

Many local officials say they want 5G – their businesses seek hiccup-free video conferences, and residents complain when their screens freeze while binge-watching shows on their favorite streaming service. But they say they should not be forced to cede so much control over publicly-owned right of way to profit-driven companies.

“I don’t think any of us want to say no” to small cell networks, said George Homewood, planning director for Norfolk and a point person on the issue for the American Planning Association. “We’re just saying these decisions are best for localities to make.”

Andy Spivak recalled the “uproar” two years ago in his North Potomac, Maryland, neighborhood outside Washington when residents heard about proposals to install small cell equipment along local roads. He and others were most concerned about the potential health effects. He said he also is worried that the wireless industry’s “astronomical” political sway could leave his local government powerless to require that new poles blend in, such as hidden among trees or disguised as street lamps.

“There’s no way we’re going to stop this technology from being deployed – it’s just the way of the world,” said Spivak, a lawyer. “But can they try to make them aesthetically pleasing or hide them so I don’t have to drive around my neighborhood and see ugly cell towers?”

Jim Sledge, of Germantown, Maryland, said he was surprised to learn two years ago that a company had proposed a new pole at the foot of his driveway – just beyond his young grandson’s bedroom window. The pole has not been installed, although Sledge said he’s been unable to learn why.

Sledge, a retired computer specialist for the federal government, said he has read studies showing possible links between long-term exposure to cell emissions and health problems such as cancer, neurological disorders, insomnia and depression.

“The antenna would have been 35 feet from his head as he slept 10 to 12 hours a day,” Sledge said of his grandson.

Under federal law, local governments may not reject a cell facility application for health reasons as long as the equipment meets FCC standards for radio-frequency radiation emissions. Some local officials say they are concerned those limits, which were set in 1996, could be outdated for wireless equipment closer to homes.

The FCC’s website says studies of potential links between cancer and radio-frequency radiation from cell emissions are “inconclusive.”

Asked about residents’ health concerns about small cell equipment closer to homes, FCC spokesman Neil Derek Grace said companies must continue to abide by the federal health limits.

“When it comes to radiofrequency emissions, small cells typically use much less power than their larger cell tower counterparts,” Grace said in a statement.

CTIA said federal health agencies and “numerous” health experts have found “no known health risk” from cell equipment. When asked specifically about small cell facilities, a CTIA spokeswoman referenced the FCC’s website, which states that “ground-level power densities are hundreds to thousands of times less than the FCC’s limits for safe exposure.”

Industry officials say the new equipment will be on poles up to 50 feet tall – compared with the large towers that are typically 100 to 250 feet – and will be far smaller than what residents are used to seeing. They say antennas are about the size of two to three paper towel rolls, and transmitters compared in size to a George Foreman grill. Much of it, they say, will attach to existing utility poles, streetlights, traffic signals and government buildings.

But in areas with no poles or other structures, such as those with buried utilities, new poles could be installed every 400 to 500 yards. In cities and dense suburbs, each carrier could install a pole every block.

State laws also typically allow equipment storage boxes totaling up to 28 cubic feet – about the capacity of a refrigerator – on the poles or at their base.

Monica Gambino, of Houston-based Crown Castle, which provides wireless infrastructure, said companies want new small cell structures to look like existing utility poles.

“Our goal is to blend with the aesthetics of the community,” Gambino said.

Rusty Monroe, a telecommunications consultant for local governments across the country, called small cell technology a “game-changer” for communities. Most important, he said, the industry-written state laws no longer allow local officials to require that companies prove they need what they have proposed.

“I could build almost anything I wanted almost anywhere I wanted,” Monroe said. “You get eyesores right in front of people’s homes.”

That idea does not sit well with residents such as Sledge, who said he worries that he and others will be left unaware when new cell equipment is headed their way.

“They’ll streamline the process so you’ll come home and see someone digging a hole in your front yard to put in a new pole with 300 pounds of antennas on top of it,” Sledge said. “At that point, it’s a little too late.”


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Law firms look to maul Tiger Brands

Three law firms are pursuing Tiger Brands in two separate class actions related to listeriosis deaths and illness that could result in the company paying out hundreds of millions of rands.

This week Johannesburg-based law firm LHL Attorneys launched a class action application against Tiger Brands, Enterprise Foods and RCL Foods, seeking up to half a billion rands in damages for injury and losses associated with the listeriosis outbreak.

“Tiger Brands received founding papers in a certification application this morning and is studying them. Once we have done so, we will be able to consider our position and response,” a Tiger Brands spokesperson said on Friday.

Richard Spoor Attorneys and US food safety firm Marler Clark are also ready to file a class action this week against Tiger Brands. The Marler Clark website said the firm had secured more than $600 million (R7 billion) in settlements for its clients to date.

Spoor has been leading legal action against gold producers over lung disease silicosis and represented mine workers suffering from asbestosis that resulted in more than R320 million in payouts.

LHL Attorneys’ class action is being spearheaded by Wendy Mnguni – an insurance consultant based in Johannesburg who claims to have become ill from eating processed meat contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, produced by Tiger Brands.

“I became severely ill with listeriosis after consuming affected products of [Tiger Brands and Enterprise Foods] and believe it is important to obtain justice for all class members affected by this terrible disease,” Mnguni said in court documents filed this week in Johannesburg.

“On or about 11 February, 2018, in Pimville, Soweto, I went to Pick n Pay near Baragwanath Hospital where I purchased Enterprise French Polony.

“During the week of 19 February, 2018, and at my house in Pimville, I consumed the Enterprise French Polony.

“On or about 5 March 2018, I became very ill. I began sweating a lot and vomiting, as well as having diarrhoea. I did not know what was wrong with me and I was in severe pain and agony.

“I was admitted to the hospital for two days and provided with treatment, including having a drip placed in me.” Mnguni attached her hospital records to the court application.

However, LHL Attorneys didn’t provide City Press with these records due to “client confidentiality”.

“The doctor attending to me diagnosed me with listeria and the doctor explained to me that the likely cause was the consumption of Listeria contaminated food products in the form of processed meat products.

“While I was admitted at the hospital I was placed in a ward with approximately nine other patients who had contracted [listeriosis]. They were all very ill and the majority of these patients had drips placed on them.”

Spoor said that he had amassed a group of about 100 clients in the matter, of which about 10 would be identified as “class action representatives”.

He said people involved in the matter were based in Cape Town, Durban, Limpopo, the Free State and Gauteng.

“We have a very good case for a class action,” he said.

A Tiger Brands spokersperson said that it was too early to comment on how the company might respond to the class action that Spoor had said he would be instituting. “Once we receive the founding papers we will be able to consider our position and response,” the spokesperson said

The first step in the process was to have a judge certify the class action, the next step would be to prove that Tiger Brands was the cause of the listeriosis epidemic and the last step would be for individuals to prove their claims once the first two steps had been completed, Spoor said.

Spoor said Marler Clark had been included in the case because there wasn’t a significant history of food safety litigation in South Africa and the US firm had a lot of legal expertise in this type of law.

Marler Clark would bring resources to the listeriosis case as it was a “huge, complex” litigation matter that required significant funding to proceed.

Spoor said if Tiger Brands opposed the matter the listeriosis case could take years to resolve. He said in conjunction with the court case, he would be pushing for the government to establish an inquiry into the listeriosis epidemic.

In another development, Forensics for Justice said they would open a criminal docket in respect of 180 counts of murder and 479 counts of attempted murder, in the alternative assault occasioning actual bodily harm or grievous bodily harm.

“We will share the criminal docket and all information received with attorney Richard Spoor who will be driving the class action against Tiger Brands,” Forensics for Justice said.

Paul O’Sullivan, Forensics for Justice founder, said on Friday that he wanted to open the criminal docket by the end of next week.

“Tiger Brands does not believe that it is criminally liable as alleged but we will deal with the charges as and when required to do so,” the Tiger Brands spokesperson said.

Earlier this month, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced that the source of the listeriosis outbreak came from two brands of polony made by Enterprise Foods, owned by Tiger Brands, and Rainbow Chicken, which is owned by RCL Foods.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases has put laboratory-confirmed listeriosis at 978 cases including 183 deaths.

Since Motsoaledi made his announcement, Tiger Brands’ market value has dropped from R81 billion to as low as R66 billion – a loss of R16 billion.

RCL Foods said that Motsoaledi stated that Rainbow polony products they have tested had not contained the Listeria ST6 “outbreak strain”.

“Our Wolwehoek polony facility [in the Free State] has been closed and polony products recalled, as a precautionary measure while government investigations continue,” RCL Foods said.

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Greek law firm, GLYKOS, poised to establish UAE operations through strategic partnerships

Greek law firm, GLYKOS, poised to establish UAE operations through strategic partnerships – World News Report – EIN News

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U.S. News and World Report Names Hulsey, P.C. Law Firm of Austin a 2018 “Best”

AUSTIN, TexasMarch 16, 2018PRLog — HULSEY, PC, the Texas-based Intellectual Property law firm started by Attorney William (Bill) Hulsey, has been named one of the “Best Law Firms in Texas for 2018” in U.S. News and World Reports.  The magazine publishes an annual list to recognize excellence and achievements by the legal community.

Mr. Hulsey founded HULSEY PC in 2003, and practices Intellectual Property law in Austin, Texas; Silicon Valley, California; Rochester, New York; and Memphis, Tennessee. A native of Memphis, Mr. Hulsey earned a J.D. from the Vanderbilt School of Law where he was Senior Managing Editor of the Vanderbilt Law Review and graduated Order of the Coif; a Masters in Economics from the University of Virginia focusing on technology industry economic development; and served as an Officer on nuclear submarines in the U.S. Navy.

Early in his career, Hulsey says, he was drawn to work with “creative, inventive types,” especially engineers. “I continue to be amazed at the detailed and innovative ideas that clients bring to me. My goal is to help them protect and develop those ideas for the good of society and the benefit of the inventor.”

Mr. Hulsey has twice been formally recognized by the U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Commission’s Export Services Award for providing excellent patent, trademark, and copyright services to foreign companies seeking intellectual property assistance in the U.S.

About U.S. News and World Report: The magazine has a long history of ranking professional, educational, health, and other services and practitioners based on specific criteria. U.S. News and Best Lawyers, the leading survey of lawyers worldwide, have joined to rank law firms in the U.S. They currently rank firms in 75 National Practice Areas.

About HULSEY PC: In 2003, William (Bill) Hulsey started HULSEY PC, committed to promoting entrepreneurship and the protection and commercialization of his clients’ intellectual property rights. HULSEY PC takes pride in obtaining for its clients expertly drafted and strategically considered patents, trademarks, copyrights, and related agreements and official filings. Mr. Hulsey has been involved as IP counsel for the intensive due diligence phases of a number of multi-million dollar corporate transactions involving clients in the telecommunications, photovoltaic solar cell, and electronic medical sensor technology fields. As a result of the IP protection and commercialization efforts of his firm, clients have received multiples of their initial valuations in these transactions. For more information, visit

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Bye-bye Box Seats? Trump Tax Law May Curb Corporate Cash at Games

Could the crackdown on tax loopholes clamp down on corporate schmoozing?

The new tax law ends a benefit prized by business for impressing customers or courting new ones. And the impact could be felt in the pricey boxes at sports stadiums, or even at Double-A baseball games in small towns with loyal company backers. In Washington, lobbyists who helped craft the Republican tax legislation could now be pinched by it.

U.S. companies spend hundreds of millions annually on entertaining customers and clients at sporting events, tournaments and arts venues, an expense that until this year they could partially deduct from their tax bill. But a provision in the new law eliminates the long-standing 50 percent deduction in an effort to curb the overall price tag of the legislation and streamline the tax code.

“Congress didn’t feel the government should subsidize it anymore. Firms are going to take a hard look at their entertainment budgets,” said Ryan Losi, a certified public accountant based in Glen Allen, Virginia.

The provision is one of the many under-the-radar consequences slowly emerging from the new tax legislation, the most sweeping rewrite of the tax code in three decades. Also embedded in the law are little-noticed provisions with the potential to bring major changes to mundane parts of American life — including home-buying, saving for school and divorce.

“You can believe there’s going to be more pressure on the sales people and marketing people to not go so crazy on the expenditures,” predicted Ruth Wimer, an executive compensation attorney at law firm Winston & Strawn who’s also a certified public accountant. “It’s going to be a consideration for companies — it’s going to cost them.”

Ending the deduction will save the government about $2 billion a year and $23 billion through 2027 in formerly lost revenue, Congress’ bipartisan Joint Committee on Taxation estimates.

Of course many companies will continue to spend without the tax incentive, for the benefits they get from entertaining such as the payoff in future revenue. But the tax change still could have a financial impact on sports teams and cultural institutions.

The prestigious U.S. Open tennis tournament held for two weeks every summer in Flushing Meadows, New York, offers court-side suites. It sees around 40 percent of its revenue coming from corporate sales.

Chris Widmaier, managing director for corporate communications at the U.S. Tennis Association, said it hasn’t seen an impact yet on ticket sales, but noted it’s still fairly early in the sales season.

“It’s a fair question,” he said.

“It is a concern,” said Kate McClanahan, director of federal affairs at Americans for the Arts, an advocacy group that coordinates local cultural organizations and business donors around the country. “It can have a negative impact on both the commercial and nonprofit arts.”

The industries that spend the most on this type of entertaining are banks and financial services, airlines, automakers, telecoms and media. This kind of organized socializing also is a staple of lobbying firms, of course. The K Street lobbyists often party with clients at Washington Nationals ball games or Capitals hockey games. The firms may have tough decisions to make regarding spending on future outings.

“There’s also the psychological impact,” said Marc Ganis, a co-founder of Sportscorp Ltd., a sports consulting firm. “When something is deductible, people think it’s less expensive; effectively the government is paying for part of it.”

Companies could fall into two camps around the impact of the tax change, experts suggest. Those that are profitable, paying taxes at the former top rate of 35 percent and using the 50 percent deduction for entertainment, were previously able to cut their tax rate to 17.5 percent. Now, with a zero deduction and a new 21 percent corporate tax rate, their tax liability would increase by only 3.5 percent, not a huge deal. By contrast, companies that are struggling or have been paying an effective tax rate below 35 percent because they were using deductions — they could see a substantial impact on their bottom line.

The irony of Washington lobbyists falling victim to their own successful work on the tax bill isn’t lost on some in the “swamp.”

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, a member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee and a fierce critic of the tax legislation, called the end of the deduction for lobbyists’ entertaining “one positive sign in an otherwise dismal bill.”

Still, deductible or not, lobbyists and their company clients still will have “much to celebrate over fine wine and entertainment” from the legislation’s big corporate tax cuts, Doggett said.

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Police department breaching security by hiring drones from private firms, says Kerala criminologist

A file photo of a drone.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: According to James Vadakkumchery, criminologist, the police department is doing a wrong thing by hiring UAVs from private firms. He said it is a security breach and they should refrain from doing so. “Drones can be used in surveillance and law and order maintenance. For example, if the police used a drone for a mass demonstration which turned violent, then the visuals from drones could be an evidence. So the device should be presented in the court. So if they use hired drones, it can lead to some legal complications. So the police should buy brand new drones,” he said. 

Meanwhile, a top administrative officer of the state police said the tendering process for purchasing UAVS is underway and Rs 45 lakh was allocated for the same. He said the police are planning to purchase three UAVs in the initial phase and to buy more in the later phases. Sources said the police have decided to purchase UAVs equipped with night mode cameras and it could move at a speed of 25 kilometres per hour. 

When Express contacted State Police Chief Loknath Behera, he said they could not purchase the devices all of a sudden as it requires certain procedure. “There are some guidelines issued by the Union Government and defence ministry where to use the drones. We can’t use it near high-security zones and near installations. So, talks are on with the people including Defence Research and Development Organisation to come up with a viable solution. Hopefully, we can purchase some more UAVs in the coming financial year,” Behera said. 

He also pointed out he never hired UAVs from private firms or commercial market and they hired the devices from a university in Tamil Nadu. “We can’t hire the devices from the commercial market. So we hired the device from universities so that it could be secure,” Behera added.

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Big tech firms are behaving like big banks

Picture a bank that lends $1 billion to small businesses in 12 months, holds $150 billion in corporate bonds, runs the world’s largest money-market fund, offers mobile payments and credit cards, and gives customers cash balances that can be topped up across thousands of homely bricks-and-mortar outlets. 

Except it’s not really a bank at all, but a technology firm.

Google offers payments; Apple invests its cash in company securities; lends money and offers account balances in-store; Alibaba Group Holding manages customer funds like an asset manager. Many seem quite comfortable nibbling at the best bits of finance without actually taking on the burden of being a licensed bank.

Unsurprisingly, banks don’t like this state of affairs. Barclays  CEO Jes Staley predicted in October that technology would be a battleground for finance over the next 15 years, and called for regulators to “extend their reach” and level the playing field. Finance firms are lobbying heavily against an application by Square, a fintech start-up run by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, to be regulated as an industrial loan corporation, a kind of halfway house between bank and non-bank.

The bankers have a point, to a degree. The bigger and more sprawling tech firms get, the more regulators need to be alert to systemic risks posed by non-banks that could affect broader financial markets.

Apple owns more corporate debt than the world’s biggest bond funds; Alibaba’s financial affiliate is now being reined in after ballooning in size. The Financial Stability Board is studying how tech firms manage their cash as part of its regular report on shadow-banking assets. This chart helps to explain why they are looking. 

But regulators should also be wary of intervening too much. One reason why shadow finance is so popular is the wave of rules brought in after the financial crisis designed to shrink the banking industry. If risk is being spread across non-systemic actors who are unlikely to need a government bailout if things go wrong, what’s the problem? Tech firms, along with funds and insurers offering direct lending, are filling a void left by banks — not destabilising the system, reckons Norm Champ, a partner at law firm Kirkland & Ellis. They’re unlikely to go much further for now.

Besides, are banks so sure that regulators would come down on their side? Regulators might take the view that banks and non-banks should be equally free to offer financial services on the same shelf as groceries or books, whether you’re Square, WalMart or Barclays. Banks may have the advantage of trust and experience in financial matters, but in a free-for-all war that pits platform against platform, they won’t all be winners.

Big Tech knows it has plenty to lose from a too-eager dive into the world of regulated banking (advertising revenue from banks, for one thing.) And lenders should also remember there is such a thing as healthy competition. A level field might be harder to play on than they think.

Gadfly’s Elaine He contributed graphics.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

© 2018 Bloomberg

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SHAREHOLDER ALERT: Pomerantz Law Firm Reminds Shareholders with Losses on their Investment Obalon Therapeutics, Inc. of Class Action Lawsuit and Upcoming Deadline – OBLN

Mar 17, 2018 (ACCESSWIRE via COMTEX) — NEW YORK, NY / ACCESSWIRE / March 17, 2018 / Pomerantz LLP announces that a class action lawsuit has been filed against Obalon Therapeutics, Inc. (”Obalon” or the ”Company”)

OBLN, +2.49%

and certain of its officers. The class action, filed in United States District Court, for the District Southern District of California, and Docketed under 18-cv-00407, is on behalf of a class consisting of investors who purchased or otherwise acquired acquired Obalon securities: (i) pursuant and/or traceable to Obalon’s false and misleading Registration Statement and Prospectus, issued in connection with the Company’s initial public offering on or about October 5, 2016 (the ”IPO” or the ”Offering”); and/or (ii) on the open market between October 5, 2016 and January 23, 2018, both dates inclusive (the ”Class Period”), seeking to recover damages caused by Defendants’ violations of the Securities Act of 1933 (the ”Securities Act”) and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the ”Exchange Act”).

If you are a shareholder who purchased Obalon securities between October 5, 2016, and January 23, 2018, both dates inclusive, you have until April 16, 2018, to ask the Court to appoint you as Lead Plaintiff for the class. A copy of the Complaint can be obtained at To discuss this action, contact Robert S. Willoughby at or 888.476.6529 (or 888.4-POMLAW), toll-free, Ext. 9980. Those who inquire by e-mail are encouraged to include their mailing address, telephone number, and the number of shares purchased.

[Click here to join this class action]

Obalon Therapeutics, Inc. is a medical device company that focuses on developing and commercializing medical gastric balloons for weight loss therapy. The Company claims that its initial product offering is the Obalon balloon system, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (”FDA”) approved swallowable, gas-filled intra-gastric balloon designed to provide progressive and sustained weight loss in obese patients.

The Complaint alleges that throughout the Class Period, Defendants made materially false and misleading statements regarding the Company’s business, operational and compliance policies. Specifically, Defendants made false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose that: (i) the Company recognized revenue in violation of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (”GAAP”); (ii) the Company lacked adequate internal controls over accounting and financial reporting; and (iii) as a result, Obalon’s public statements were materially false and misleading at all relevant times.

On January 23, 2018, Obalon issued a press release entitled ”Obalon Announces Termination of Public Offering of Common Stock,” revealing that ”a purported whistleblower contacted KPMG LLP, the Company’s independent auditors, to make certain allegations relating to allegedly improper revenue recognition during the Company’s fourth fiscal quarter of 2017.” The press release further stated that ”Obalon’s Audit Committee will oversee an internal investigation of these allegations.”

On this news, Obalon’s share price fell $1.73, or 33.33%, to close at $3.46 on January 23, 2018, on unusually heavy volume. The $3.46 closing price represented a total decline of $11.54, or nearly 77%, from the IPO price of $15.00 per share.

The Pomerantz Firm, with offices in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Paris, is acknowledged as one of the premier firms in the areas of corporate, securities, and antitrust class litigation. Founded by the late Abraham L. Pomerantz, known as the dean of the class action bar, the Pomerantz Firm pioneered the field of securities class actions. Today, more than 80 years later, the Pomerantz Firm continues in the tradition he established, fighting for the rights of the victims of securities fraud, breaches of fiduciary duty, and corporate misconduct. The Firm has recovered numerous multimillion-dollar damages awards on behalf of class members. See

SOURCE: Pomerantz LLP

Copyright 2018 ACCESSWIRE

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SHAREHOLDER ALERT: Pomerantz Law Firm Reminds Shareholders with Losses on their Investment in BRF S.A. of Class Action Lawsuit and Upcoming Deadline – BRFS

Mar 17, 2018 (ACCESSWIRE via COMTEX) — NEW YORK, NY / ACCESSWIRE / March 17, 2018 / Pomerantz LLP announces that a class action lawsuit has been filed against BRF S.A. (“BRF” or the “Company”)

BRFS, -0.26%

and certain of its officers. The class action, filed in United States District Court, Southern District of New York, and docketed under 18-cv-02213, is on behalf of a class consisting of investors who purchased or otherwise acquired BRF American Depositary Receipts (“ADRs”) between April 4, 2013 and March 2, 2018, both dates inclusive (the “Class Period”), seeking to recover damages caused by Defendants’ violations of the federal securities laws and to pursue remedies under Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”) and Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder, against the Company and certain of its top officials.

If you are a shareholder who purchased BRF ADRs between April 4, 2013 and March 2, 2018, both dates inclusive, you have until May 11, 2018, to ask the Court to appoint you as Lead Plaintiff for the class. A copy of the Complaint can be obtained at To discuss this action, contact Robert S. Willoughby at or 888.476.6529 (or 888.4-POMLAW), toll-free, Ext. 9980. Those who inquire by e-mail are encouraged to include their mailing address, telephone number, and the number of shares purchased.

[Click here to join this class action]

BRF S.A. is a food processor and the world’s largest poultry exporter. Its portfolio includes established brands in Brazil and abroad, such as Sadia, Perdigão, Qualy, Chester, Perdix and Paty. The Company provides meat (poultry and pork), foods processed from meats, pizzas, pastas and frozen vegetables.

The Complaint alleges that throughout the Class Period, Defendants made materially false and misleading statements regarding the Company’s business, operational and compliance policies. Specifically, Defendants made false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose that: (i) BRF employees paid bribes to regulators and politicians to subvert inspections in order to conceal unsanitary practices at the Company’s meatpacking plants; (ii) the foregoing conduct, when it came to light, would foreseeably subject the Company and its officers to heightened regulatory enforcement and/or prosecution; and (iii) as a result of the foregoing, BRF’s public statements were materially false and misleading at all relevant times.

On March 17, 2017, news outlets reported that Brazilian federal police had raided the offices of BRF and dozens of other meatpackers following a two-year investigation into alleged bribery of regulators to subvert inspections of their plants. The probe, known as “Operation Weak Flesh”, had uncovered some 40 cases of meatpackers who had bribed inspectors and politicians to overlook unsanitary practices, such as processing rotten meat and running plants with traces of salmonella. According to media reports, police found evidence that the companies were tampering with packages to sell products that had already expired and that higher-than permitted levels of parts such as “pig heads” were mixed with sausages and cold cuts. Police arrested three BRF employees, as well as 20 public officials.

On this news, BRF’s ADR price fell $0.99, or 7.73%, to close at $11.81 on March 17, 2017.

On February 23, 2018, the Company held an earnings conference call with investors and analysts to discuss the Q4 2017 earnings results. In the call, Chairman of the Board Abilio Diniz and CFO Lorival Luz discussed the impact of “Operation Weak Flesh.”

On this news, BRF’s ADR price fell $0.76, or 8.00%, to close at $8.73 on February 23, 2018.

On March 5, 2018, Reuters reported that Brazilian federal police arrested BRF’s former Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) Pedro de Andrade Faria (“Faria”) on charges that he and other executives, including the Company’s Vice President of Global Operations Helio dos Santos Júnior, were aware that BRF committed fraud by trying to avoid food safety checks. According to the report, the “police cited evidence that five laboratories accredited by the Agriculture Ministry colluded with the analysis department of BRF to “falsify” test results related to the safety of its industrial process.” In a court ruling authorizing the arrests, Brazilian federal judge Andre Duszczak said, “Faria and other BRF officers sought to cover up claims of possible food contamination, as shown in certain laboratory tests, made by a former employee in a labor lawsuit.”

On this news, BRF’s ADR price fell $1.83 or 19.42% to close at $7.59 on March 5, 2018.

The Pomerantz Firm, with offices in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Paris, is acknowledged as one of the premier firms in the areas of corporate, securities, and antitrust class litigation. Founded by the late Abraham L. Pomerantz, known as the dean of the class action bar, the Pomerantz Firm pioneered the field of securities class actions. Today, more than 80 years later, the Pomerantz Firm continues in the tradition he established, fighting for the rights of the victims of securities fraud, breaches of fiduciary duty, and corporate misconduct. The Firm has recovered numerous multimillion-dollar damages awards on behalf of class members. See

SOURCE: Pomerantz LLP

Copyright 2018 ACCESSWIRE

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