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Germany Threatens Retaliation If US Sanctions Harm Its Firms

Reuters

BERLIN/BRUSSELS, June 16 (Reuters) – Germany threatened on Friday to retaliate against the United States if new sanctions on Russia being proposed by the U.S. Senate end up penalising German firms.

The Senate bill, approved on Thursday by a margin of 98-2, includes new sanctions against Russia and Iran. Crucially, it foresees punitive measures against entities that provide material support to Russia in building energy export pipelines.

Berlin fears that could pave the way for fines against German and European firms involved in Nord Stream 2, a project to build a pipeline carrying Russian gas across the Baltic.

Among the European companies involved in the project are German oil and gas group Wintershall, German energy trading firm Uniper, Royal Dutch Shell, Austria’s OMV and France’s Engie.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman described the Senate bill, which must be approved by the House of Representatives and signed by President Donald Trump before it becomes law, as “a peculiar move”.

He said it was “strange” that sanctions intended to punish Russia for alleged interference in the U.S. elections could also trigger penalties against European companies.

“That must not happen,” said the spokesman, Steffen Seibert.

In an interview with Reuters, German Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries said Berlin would have to think about counter-measures if Trump backed the plan.

“If he does, we’ll have to consider what we are going to do against it,” Zypries said.

The sharp response from Berlin comes at a time of deep strains in the transatlantic relationship due to shifts in U.S. policy and a more confrontational rhetoric towards Europe under Trump.

The new U.S. president has lambasted European partners for not contributing more to NATO, slammed Germany for running a large trade surplus with the United States and broken with allies on climate change with his decision to exit the landmark Paris agreement on combatting greenhouse gas emissions.

Ironically, the part of the Senate bill that targets Russia was introduced by some of the president’s top critics, including Republican hawk John McCain.

They are intent on limiting Trump’s ability to forge warmer ties with Russia, a key foreign policy pledge during his campaign for the presidency, but one he has been unable to deliver on amid investigations into alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. election.

Dialogue Breaks Down

Under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, Washington and Europe coordinated closely as they ramped up sanctions against Moscow for its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.

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Germany claims US harming EU firms with Russia sanctions

Berlin: Germany on Friday accused Washington of hurting European power companies through its new sanctions against Russia that target the planned Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Europe.

The new measures, approved by the US Senate on Thursday, include a threat to penalise companies that provide “goods, services, technology, information or support” for the construction of Russian energy export pipelines.

Berlin noted that this would directly impact European companies involved in the construction of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline which would pump Russian gas under the Baltic Sea directly to Germany.

“It is strange that in the sanctioning of Russia’s behaviour, with regards to the US elections for instance, the European economy should become a target of American sanctions,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert.

“That must not happen.”

He added that Merkel shared the concerns raised by German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern, who charged in a joint statement Thursday that the measure brings a “completely new and entirely negative quality to European-US relations”.

They also accused Washington of using the sanctions to squeeze Russian gas supplies out of Europe in favour of US energy exports.

Separately, France’s foreign ministry called on Washington to respect the need for coordination with its European allies before deciding new sanctions.

“For several years, we have stressed the difficulties that extra-territorial legislations could generate,” said a spokesman at the French foreign ministry, referring to measures that could have a spillover effect to countries besides the one directly sanctioned.

“On issues linked to security and European industrial policies, we hope that the United States respect necessary coordination, including within the framework of the G7.”

Russian energy giant Gazprom is building Nord Stream 2 in cooperation with Anglo-Dutch Shell, Germany’s Uniper and Wintershall, Austria’s OMV and France’s Engie.

The project bypassing conflict-torn Ukraine and also Poland would double the flow of the Nord Stream pipeline currently linking Germany and Russia.

But it has sparked criticism within the EU, with members including Italy and Poland accusing Germany of selfishly seeking a reliable energy supply route from President Vladimir Putin’s Russia while pressuring other countries to back sanctions against Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine.

Former US vice president Joe Biden has also called the planned pipeline a “fundamentally bad deal for Europe” as it locks in greater reliance on Russia.

But Germany’s Gabriel and Austria’s Kern said Washington’s intention was purely economic.

“The aim is to secure jobs in gas and oil industries in the US,” said Gabriel and Kern.

“Political sanctions should not be mixed up with economic interests,” they warned, stressing that “Europe’s energy supply is Europe’s business and not that of the United States”.

“We decide who delivers energy to us and how, according to rules of openness and economic competitiveness,” said Gabriel and Kern.

“We cannot accept the threat of extra-territorial sanctions against European companies that participate in the expansion of European energy supplies”, they said, adding that this would “violate international law”.

Gazprom’s vice president Alexander Medvedev also charged that the US had a vested interest in hurting the project.

“With regards to the introduction of sanctions, they don’t hide the fact that it’s an anti-competition tool to favour US gas deliveries in Europe,” he said according to Russian news agencies.

The US bill as originally introduced was exclusively about slapping new sanctions on Iran. But lawmakers attached a bipartisan amendment on Russia to it early this week.

The addition came with the White House deeply embroiled in crisis over whether Trump’s campaign team colluded with a Russian effort to sway the 2016 election.

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Pomerantz Law Firm Announces the Filing of a Class Action against KBR, Inc. and Certain Officers …

NEW YORK, June 16, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Pomerantz LLP announces that a class action lawsuit has been filed
against KBR, Inc. (“KBR” or the “Company”) (NYSE:KBR) and certain of its officers.   The class action, filed in United
States District Court, Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, and docketed under 17-cv-01840, is on behalf of a class
consisting of investors who purchased or otherwise acquired KBR securities, seeking to recover compensable damages caused by
defendants’ violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

If you are a shareholder who purchased KBR securities between February 27, 2014 and April 27, 2017, both dates
inclusive, you have until July 3, 2017 to ask the Court to appoint you as Lead Plaintiff for the class.  A copy of the
Complaint can be obtained at www.pomerantzlaw.com.   To discuss this action, contact Robert S. Willoughby at rswilloughby@pomlaw.com 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 number of shares purchased. 

[Click here to join this class action]

KBR provides professional services and technologies across the asset and program life-cycle within the
government services and hydrocarbons industries worldwide. The company operates through three segments: Government Services,
Technology & Consulting, and Engineering & Construction.

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’s United Kingdom (“UK”) subsidiaries had violated applicable
bribery and corruption laws; and (ii) as a result of the foregoing, KBR’s public statements were materially false and misleading at
all relevant times. 

On April 28, 2017, the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office confirmed that it had opened an investigation into
“the activities of KBR’s UK subsidiaries, their officers, employees and agents for suspected offences of bribery and
corruption.” 

On this news, KBR’s share price fell $1.43, or 9.24%, to close at $14.05 on April 28, 2017.

The Pomerantz Firm, with offices in New York, Chicago, Florida, and Los Angeles, 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 www.pomerantzlaw.com

CONTACT: Robert S. Willoughby Pomerantz LLP rswilloughby@pomlaw.com

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Legal Investigation Commenced by Girard Gibbs LLP for Potential Securities Law Violations

Girard Gibbs LLP is investigating potential claims on behalf of
investors of World Acceptance Corporation (WRLD) regarding allegations
that the company may have issued materially misleading statements to
investors. On June 14, 2017, it announced that it will launch an
internal investigation into its operations in Mexico, focusing on the
legality of certain payments related to loans.

To speak with a securities attorney regarding this class action
lawsuit investigation,
click
here
.

On June 14, 2017, after the close of trading, World Acceptance
Corporation disclosed that it would not be able to file a 10-K on time,
stating it was “conducting an internal investigation of its operations
in Mexico, focusing on the legality under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt
Practices Act and certain local laws of certain payments related to
loans, the maintenance of the Company’s books and records associated
with such payments, and the treatment of compensation matters for
certain employees.” World Acceptance said that it has informed the SEC
and the U.S. Department of Justice of the investigation.

On this news, the share price of World Acceptance Corporation fell more
than 12% at the close of trading on June 15, 2017.

If you purchased or acquired World Acceptance Corporation shares and
would like to speak privately with a securities attorney to contribute
to or learn more about the investigation, visit our website
or contact the securities team directly at (800) 254-9493.

Girard Gibbs LLP is one of the nation’s leading firms representing
individual and institutional investors in securities
litigation to correct abusive corporate governance practices,
breaches of fiduciary duty, and proxy violations. The firm has recovered
over a billion dollars for its clients against some of the world’s
largest corporations, and has earned Tier-1 rankings and been named in
the U.S.
Lawyers – Best Law Firms list for five consecutive years.

This press release may constitute Attorney Advertising in some
jurisdictions under the applicable law and ethical rules.


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Firms face no deadline or fine for non-amendment…

Companies in the UAE that have not changed their memorandum of association (MoA) in accordance with the provisions of the new Commercial Companies Law can now take it easy.

They will not be under pressure to comply with the new law before the June 30, 2017, deadline set earlier by the Ministry of Economy, nor do they have to face the hefty fine of up to Dh2,000 per day for non-compliance.

According to a notification by the Ministry of Economy obtained by Khaleej Times, the MoA of companies that have been in operation before the new Commercial Companies Law (CCL) came into effect would remain valid regardless of the latest deadline given for compliance.

This means, there will be no more deadline to be met by companies to amend their MoA and make the necessary modifications in accordance with the new law. Companies are also not required to pay fines for non-compliance within a specified timeline, Essam Al Tamimi, Senior Partner, Al Tamimi & Company, said.

As per the New Commercial Companies Law, which came into effect on July 1, 2015, existing companies were required to comply with the new MOA format and regulations before June 2017. Those that do not comply with the new deadline would have faced a fine of Dh2,000 a day and in extreme cases dissolution.

The long-awaited new regulations are aimed at refining regulatory structures within LLCs and Joint Stock Companies and expected to transform the business landscape of the national economy by raising the level of competitiveness as well as corporate rules to international standards.

The ministry said in its Ministerial Order No. 694 of 2016 that memorandum of association or articles of association of existing companies shall remain valid. “Any expression, text or article stated in such memorandum of association or articles of association inconsistent with provisions of law shall be deemed amended and replaced by texts of the law from the date this order is valid.”

“Companies shall comply with such amended texts and shall deemed conciliated its positions and consistent with Article No. 374 of the law.”

However, new companies applying for approval to its formation following issuance of the new Commercial Companies Law (CCL) “shall include in its memorandums of association the provisions stated in law and any provisions requested by the competent authority to be included in such memorandum of association or articles of association,” the notification said.

As per some of the critical changes in the law relating to the new law, every Joint Stock Company or Limited Liability Company shall have one or more auditors to audit the accounts of the company every year. The company shall apply the International Accounting Standards and Practices upon preparing its periodical and annual accounts, to give a clear and accurate view of the profits and losses of the company. As per the new CCL, if the company’s MoA does not stipulate the proportion of a partner in the profits or losses, his share thereof shall be pro rata to his stake in the capital. If the MoA is limited to specifying a partner’s share in the profits, his share in the losses shall be equivalent to his share in the profits and vice versa.

Addressing over 500 guests and members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India UAE (Dubai), Al Tamimi said the new CCL introduces some incremental reforms, mostly maintaining the fundamental framework and features of the old provisions such as foreign ownership restrictions and preemption rights in LLCs. “The new law also introduces new concepts such as allowing sole shareholder companies either in limited liability or private joint stock companies and addresses employees incentive share schemes,” he said. At the event, Al Tamimi also answered a range of questions on the DIFC law and wills among other legal topics.

The law aims to relax rules covering stock market flotations and seeks to attract more investment by moving corporate regulation closer to international standards. The law reduces the minimum free float of shares in company flotations on the UAE’s two main stock markets to 30 per cent from 55 per cent in a move aimed at encouraging company owners to go public. At present company owners are not allowed to divest less than 55 per cent stake in their firms in a public offering.

The new CCL retains a 49 per cent limit on foreign ownership. Under the new law, any foreign investor can own a maximum of 49 per cent of a locally-incorporated company, apart from companies incorporated in a free zone in which they can own 100 per cent. Where a public joint stock company lists, there is not a 51 per cent UAE ownership required, but there is a 51 per cent GCC requirement.

Under the new CCL, companies in the UAE can make their employees stakeholders in the firm in line with an employee share incentive scheme.

The most useful changes adopted in the new CCL are provisions allowing sole shareholder limited liability companies, or LLCs, and private joint stock companies; exempting government-owned companies from the new CCL if the company includes a provision in their memorandum to that effect; allowing partners to pledge their interests in LLCs; allowing certain non-pre-emptive share issuances by joint stock companies, or JSCs; and allowing founders to list their businesses yet retain 70 per cent of the shares.– issacjohn@khaleejtimes.com

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Firms face no deadline or fine for non-amendment of MoA

Companies in the UAE that have not changed their memorandum of association (MoA) in accordance with the provisions of the new Commercial Companies Law can now take it easy.

They will not be under pressure to comply with the new law before the June 30, 2017, deadline set earlier by the Ministry of Economy, nor do they have to face the hefty fine of up to Dh2,000 per day for non-compliance.

According to a notification by the Ministry of Economy obtained by Khaleej Times, the MoA of companies that have been in operation before the new Commercial Companies Law (CCL) came into effect would remain valid regardless of the latest deadline given for compliance.

This means, there will be no more deadline to be met by companies to amend their MoA and make the necessary modifications in accordance with the new law. Companies are also not required to pay fines for non-compliance within a specified timeline, Essam Al Tamimi, Senior Partner, Al Tamimi & Company, said.

As per the New Commercial Companies Law, which came into effect on July 1, 2015, existing companies were required to comply with the new MOA format and regulations before June 2017. Those that do not comply with the new deadline would have faced a fine of Dh2,000 a day and in extreme cases dissolution.

The long-awaited new regulations are aimed at refining regulatory structures within LLCs and Joint Stock Companies and expected to transform the business landscape of the national economy by raising the level of competitiveness as well as corporate rules to international standards.

The ministry said in its Ministerial Order No. 694 of 2016 that memorandum of association or articles of association of existing companies shall remain valid. “Any expression, text or article stated in such memorandum of association or articles of association inconsistent with provisions of law shall be deemed amended and replaced by texts of the law from the date this order is valid.”

“Companies shall comply with such amended texts and shall deemed conciliated its positions and consistent with Article No. 374 of the law.”

However, new companies applying for approval to its formation following issuance of the new Commercial Companies Law (CCL) “shall include in its memorandums of association the provisions stated in law and any provisions requested by the competent authority to be included in such memorandum of association or articles of association,” the notification said.

As per some of the critical changes in the law relating to the new law, every Joint Stock Company or Limited Liability Company shall have one or more auditors to audit the accounts of the company every year. The company shall apply the International Accounting Standards and Practices upon preparing its periodical and annual accounts, to give a clear and accurate view of the profits and losses of the company. As per the new CCL, if the company’s MoA does not stipulate the proportion of a partner in the profits or losses, his share thereof shall be pro rata to his stake in the capital. If the MoA is limited to specifying a partner’s share in the profits, his share in the losses shall be equivalent to his share in the profits and vice versa.

Addressing over 500 guests and members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India UAE (Dubai), Al Tamimi said the new CCL introduces some incremental reforms, mostly maintaining the fundamental framework and features of the old provisions such as foreign ownership restrictions and preemption rights in LLCs. “The new law also introduces new concepts such as allowing sole shareholder companies either in limited liability or private joint stock companies and addresses employees incentive share schemes,” he said. At the event, Al Tamimi also answered a range of questions on the DIFC law and wills among other legal topics.

The law aims to relax rules covering stock market flotations and seeks to attract more investment by moving corporate regulation closer to international standards. The law reduces the minimum free float of shares in company flotations on the UAE’s two main stock markets to 30 per cent from 55 per cent in a move aimed at encouraging company owners to go public. At present company owners are not allowed to divest less than 55 per cent stake in their firms in a public offering.

The new CCL retains a 49 per cent limit on foreign ownership. Under the new law, any foreign investor can own a maximum of 49 per cent of a locally-incorporated company, apart from companies incorporated in a free zone in which they can own 100 per cent. Where a public joint stock company lists, there is not a 51 per cent UAE ownership required, but there is a 51 per cent GCC requirement.

Under the new CCL, companies in the UAE can make their employees stakeholders in the firm in line with an employee share incentive scheme.

The most useful changes adopted in the new CCL are provisions allowing sole shareholder limited liability companies, or LLCs, and private joint stock companies; exempting government-owned companies from the new CCL if the company includes a provision in their memorandum to that effect; allowing partners to pledge their interests in LLCs; allowing certain non-pre-emptive share issuances by joint stock companies, or JSCs; and allowing founders to list their businesses yet retain 70 per cent of the shares.– issacjohn@khaleejtimes.com

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NAICOM Approves Accounts of 32 Insurance Firms

Ebere Nwoji

The National Insurance Commission (NAICOM), has approved the financial reports of 32 out of the existing 59 insurance and reinsurance firms in the country.

The commission, in a statement titled ‘Status of 2016 Financial Statements of Insurance Companies as at June 13th, 2017 gave the names of the approved firms as FBN General Insurance, Wapic Life Insurance, Ensure Insurance, Continental Reinsurance, Zenith General Insurance, FBN Insurance, Zenith Life Assurance and Consolidated Hall Mark Assurance.

Others are Custodian and Allied, Custodial Life, Law Union and Rock, Wapic General, AIICO Insurance, AXA Mansard, Prestige Assurance, Nem Insurance, Regency Insurance and LASACO Assurance Plc.

Also approved by the commission were the reports of the following Companies ‘UnityKapital Assurance, Cornerstone Insurance, Fin Insurance Royal Exchange General, Leadway Assurance Plc, Old Mutual General Insurance Plc, Staco Assurance, Mutual Benefit Life Assurance, Sovereign Trust Insurance, NSIA Insurance, Standard Alliance Life, Mutual Benefit Assurance Plc, Old Mutual Life Assurance,

The accounts of these companies have been approved.
NAICOM, however, did not approve the accounts of the following nine insurance firms that have submitted their accounts statements.

They include Guinea insurance, whose account was queried by the commission, ARM Life whose account is still undergoing review, Niger Insurance, still at review stage, Nigerian Reinsurance corporation, whose report was queried, United Metropolitan Nigerian Life report also queried, Standard Alliance General Insurance, report also queried, Linkage Assurance, review in process, sterling Assurance and KBL Insurance whose reports are under review in process stage. The firms are required to present their accounts accounting to international Finance Reporting requirements.

The insurance sector, fully adopted the International Finance Reporting Standard (IFRS) system of accounts presentation barely three years ago.

Since then, preparing and presenting their annual financial accounts has always been a big challenge to the industry operators, this is despite series of training given to them by the regulator, Some firms still find it difficult to get their accounts easily approved by the Commission due to poor presentation.

At the initial stage, many firms paid heavy fine to their regulators due to late filing of their reports.

But presently, there have been tremendous improvement on this in the past two year as more and more insurance firms are getting used to the system.

Insurance firms have June 30th deadline to file their annual reports, failure to meet this attracts a daily fine of N5000 until such firms file and get their report approved by the regulator.


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New European rules will sting unprepared small firms the hardest

Separately, the company is to hire a key new data-protection executive in Dublin in response to tough new European laws that increase fines to €20m or up to 4pc of global turnover.

Facebook’s initiative against escalating extremism online comes after British prime minister Theresa May and French president Emmanuel Macron called on tech companies to do more to tackle dangerous and threatening content on the internet.

New measures include image-matching, language analysis and deeper forms of artificial intelligence to weed out threatening activity.

But Ms Bickert, pictured, said that the initiative is part of a longstanding company policy and not the direct result of calls from European leaders.

“We remove this content primarily because it’s not okay to have it on our site,” she said.

“That comes from us and the policies we’ve had for years. Recent attacks have made people question what we should be doing to stand up against radicalisation but our commitment is longstanding. This is something that we have cared about for a long time.”

Under the initiative, new technology will be able to match faces and other imagery with databases featuring previously flagged content.

“When someone tries to upload a terrorist photo or video, our systems look for whether the image matches a known terrorism photo or video,” said Ms Bickert.

Read more:

“This means that if we previously removed a propaganda video from Isil, we can work to prevent other accounts from uploading the same video to our site. In many cases, this means that terrorist content intended for upload to Facebook simply never reaches the platform.”

In a separate development, the company is reacting to next year’s EU General Data Protection Regulation law with the imminent appointment of a new “senior” executive to be based in Dublin.

“That’s a senior role coming into the team of many hundreds of people on our privacy program,” said Stephen Deadman, Facebook’s global deputy chief privacy officer.

He added:”It’s a key appointment for us.”

Facebook recently announced an expansion of its Dublin headquarters.

Mr Deadman was speaking at the Dublin Data Summit, where executives and regulators are meeting to discuss new developments.

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Opposing Donald Trump, conservative bloc demands reforms to internet spy law

WASHINGTON: An influential conservative bloc of Republican lawmakers on Thursday said it opposed renewal of an internet surveillance law unless major changes were made in how the US government collects and uses American data, reflecting disagreement within the majority party.

A week ago, President Donald Trump’s administration and 14 Republican US senators said they wanted the spying authority to be renewed without any changes before it expires at the end of the year.

Amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act adopted by Congress in 2008, including a controversial part known as Section 702, broadened the US government’s legal authority to conduct surveillance of phone calls, emails and other communications belonging to foreigners who live overseas.

US intelligence agencies and US allies consider the law vital to national security, but privacy advocates have criticized Section 702 for allowing the incidental collection of data belonging to an unknown number of Americans without a search warrant.

“Government surveillance activities under the FISA Amendments Act have violated Americans’ constitutionally protected rights,” the group of about three dozen lawmakers, known as the House Freedom Caucus, said in a statement. “We oppose any reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act that does not include substantial reforms to the government’s collection and use of Americans’ data.”

The caucus in the US House of Representatives has already had success in challenging the Trump White House and the Republican congressional leadership on other policy issues. It opposed legislation to overhaul the US healthcare system on grounds that it did not do enough to repeal former President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, earning concessions on a bill that passed the House in May.

The intraparty dissent among Republicans in Congress over Section 702 resembles a debate that took place two years ago, when lawmakers disagreed sharply over whether to curtail a National Security Agency program that collected US call metadata in bulk – a practice exposed publicly by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

The dispute led to the brief expiration of the USA Patriot Act before lawmakers passed a law effectively terminating the bulk collection practice.

The extent of Section 702 spying was also revealed in disclosures by Snowden, prompting outrage internationally and embarrassing some US technology firms.

On Wednesday, a declassified court document, made public in response to lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation, revealed that an unidentified US technology company objected in 2014 to participating in a Section 702 program, but was ordered by a judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to comply.

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