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Russian man charged with hacking LinkedIn and other tech firms

LinkedIn has suggested the 29-year-old’s arrest is tied to a 2012 breach that resulted in more than 100 million of its users’ passwords being compromised

LinkedIn has said: ‘We appreciate the ongoing work by the FBI to pursue those responsible for the 2012 breach of member information.’
LinkedIn has said: ‘We appreciate the ongoing work by the FBI to pursue those responsible for the 2012 breach of member information.’
Photograph: Robert Galbraith/Reuters

A Russian man has been charged with hacking and stealing information from computers at LinkedIn and other San Francisco Bay Area companies.

The US attorney’s office in San Francisco announced Friday that a grand jury indicted 29-year-old Yevgeniy Aleksandrovich Nikulin, of Moscow, Russia, a day earlier on charges including computer intrusion and aggravated identity theft.

Prosecutors say Nikulin used a LinkedIn employee’s credentials to access the company’s computers in 2012. Nikulin is also accused of hacking two other companies, Dropbox and Formspring, and conspiring to sell stolen user names, passwords and email addresses of Formspring customers.

He was arrested on 5 October by officials in the Czech Republic and remains there, according to prosecutors. Russian officials have said they are working to prevent his extradition to the United States.

LinkedIn has suggested that Nikulin’s arrest was tied to a 2012 breach of member information. In May, LinkedIn said the 2012 breach resulted in more than 100 million of its users’ passwords being compromised, vastly more than had been previously thought.

Abraham Simmons, a spokesman for the US attorney’s office, declined to comment on whether the charges against Nikulin related to that breach.

Simmons said he did not know the name of Nikulin’s attorney.

LinkedIn said in a statement that it appreciated the FBI’s ongoing work to “pursue those responsible for the 2012 breach of LinkedIn member information”.

The indictment alleges three unnamed co-conspirators, one of whom offered to sell the stolen Formspring user information to another for 5,500 euros, or about $6,000 in current US currency.

The US has accused Russia of coordinating the theft and disclosure of emails from the Democratic National Committee and other institutions and individuals in the US to influence the outcome of the election. Russia has denied that.

There was no indication the LinkedIn case was connected to that accusation.

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Foreign firms need permit to get involved in Speakers' Corner events

SINGAPORE — Four months after it warned foreign organisations against interfering in domestic issues, especially those of a political or controversial nature, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Friday (Oct 21) reiterated that foreign firms have to get a permit if they want to get involved with events at the Speakers’ Corner.

The reminder came as it announced that Singaporean entities, such as companies, are exempted from applying for a permit, and spelt out what constitutes such entities.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said: “Our principle has always been the same — underlying it, politics in Singapore is for Singaporeans and controversial, social, political issues are to be discussed and dealt with by Singaporeans. Foreigners cannot play a role in that.”

He added: “Likewise, Speaker’s Corner is for Singaporeans to articulate views, particularly when it comes to social and political issues. Foreigners can take part in events with permit but we will have to look at the kind of events. What we have been observing is that foreign participation in socio-political issues, controversial issues, relating to Singapore was increasing. So we needed to make that clear.” 

Under amended rules that will take effect from next month, Singapore entities — such as local companies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) — can organise, sponsor, publicly promote, or organise its members to take part in activities at Speakers’ Corner, without a permit. However, the exemption does not apply to their foreign counterparts.

A “Singapore entity” is defined as one that is incorporated or registered here, and controlled by a majority of Singapore citizens, said the MHA. If the entity is a company, for example, the majority of its directors must be Singapore citizens, and it must be majority-owned by citizens or one or more Singapore entities. The MHA said the changes “reinforce the key principle that the Speakers’ Corner was set up primarily for Singaporeans”.

The conditions applicable to public speaking at Speakers’ Corner will be extended to include speaking through remote means, such as through tele-conferencing and pre-recorded messages. Rules for exempted indoor assemblies under the Public Order (Exempted Assemblies and Processions) Order 2009 will be amended to align with the new Speakers’ Corner rules. 

The MHA’s latest announcements follow its statement in June, made a few days after the annual Pink Dot gathering at Speakers’ Corner in Hong Lim Park. Pink Dot, which supports the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community here, has grown in scale since beginning eight years ago and drawn more corporate sponsorship. It had 18 sponsors this year including Google, Facebook and Bloomberg, up from nine the year before.

Bloomberg Singapore also released a video in support of Pink Dot, featuring its founder Michael Bloomberg and staff members from around the world, including those who were LGBT.

But the event’s greater visibility drew vocal opposition of some Christians and Muslims, who called on supporters to wear white on the same day as the Pink Dot gathering to promote traditional family values.

Mr Shanmugam said it is unlikely that foreigners would get a permit for events that are controversial or about socio-political issues, but the Government is unlikely to say no to foreign sponsorship of events such as for those with disabilities. “I think we will probably, generally, try and be accommodating, unless it is really something that has the potential to really rile up opinion on both sides,” he said.

When approached, Pink Dot spokesperson Paerin Choa said the group respects and understands the MHA’s position. However, it is disappointed by its latest clarifications. Pink Dot has always been a local movement dedicated to bringing LGBT Singaporeans closer to their families and to Singapore society, and it does not consider the aspiration to be controversial or political, he said. The group remains committed to organising Pink Dot and staying within legal boundaries, said Mr Choa, who called for support from more Singaporeans and local companies that share its vision, “in light of the new rules”.

Political observer and law don Eugene Tan of the Singapore Management University said the new rules reaffirm the longstanding principle of not having foreign parties interfere in domestic issues, especially controversial ones. But he said: “I won’t be surprised if people perceive this to be an attempt to restrict civil society activism, to close civil society space.” He noted that the new rules will not stop corporations from promoting policies of diversity and inclusion within their offices here. 

The new rules were only a matter of time, in the context of Singapore’s “increasingly externalised security concerns” relating not only to terrorism, but also to maintaining social cohesion and unity while engaging with the global economy, said Associate Professor Alan Chong of the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies. “I think the government recognises that if it wants to move forward on gay rights, it cannot be done in the American or European way (of legislation after sheer lobbying),” he said. “The idea of a Singapore identity is important – they don’t want foreign sponsors to try and foment change through other means… It does not mean no one can say anything in favour of or against gay rights, people can still (speak up) but on the basis of being a Singaporean entity.” ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY VALERIE KOH AND KELLY NG

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SHAREHOLDER ALERT: Pomerantz Law Firm Reminds Shareholders with Losses on their Investment in Mylan N.V. of Class Action Lawsuit and Upcoming Deadline – MYL



NEW YORK, Oct. 21, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Pomerantz LLP announces that a class action lawsuit has been filed against Mylan N.V. (“Mylan” or the “Company”)












MYL, -1.57%










and certain of its officers.   The class action, filed in United States District Court, Southern District of New York, and docketed under 16-cv-08000, is on behalf of a class consisting of all persons or entities who purchased or otherwise acquired Mylan securities between February 21, 2012 and October 5, 2016 inclusive (the “Class Period”).  This class action seeks to recover damages against Defendants for alleged violations of the federal securities laws under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”). 

If you are a shareholder who purchased Mylan N.V. securities and/or the securities of Mylan’s SEC registrant predecessor, Mylan Inc., during the Class Period, you have until December 12, 2016 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]

Mylan, together with its subsidiaries, develops, licenses, manufactures, markets, and distributes generic, branded generic, and specialty pharmaceuticals worldwide.  The Company provides generic or branded generic pharmaceutical products in tablet, capsule, injectable, transdermal patch, gel, cream, or ointment forms, as well as active pharmaceutical ingredients.  Among other products, Mylan manufactures and sells the EpiPen Auto-Injector (the “EpiPen”), a branded device for injecting a measured dose of epinephrine by means of auto-injector technology to treat severe allergic reactions.  Mylan is based in Hertfordshire, the United Kingdom. 

Medicaid is a U.S. government insurance program for persons whose income and resources are insufficient to pay for health care.  Jointly funded by the state and federal governments, Medicaid is the largest source of funding for medical and health-related services for Americans with low income.  Between 2011 and 2015, Medicaid spent approximately $797 million on purchases of EpiPens from Mylan.

The Complaint alleges that throughout the Class Period, Defendants made materially false and/or misleading statements, as well as failed to disclose material adverse facts about the Company’s business, operations, and prospects.  Specifically, Defendants made false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose that:  (i) Mylan paid Medicaid significantly lower EpiPen rebates than legally required; (ii) Medicaid had previously advised Mylan of the Company’s obligation to pay higher rebates; (iii) Mylan therefore knowingly and systemically overcharged Medicaid for EpiPens in violation of federal law; (iv) millions of dollars of Mylan’s revenue from EpiPen sales were the result of the foregoing illegal conduct by the Company; and (v) as a result of the foregoing, Mylan’s public statements were materially false and misleading at all relevant times. 

On September 2, 2016, Inside Health Policy published an article stating that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”), a federal agency whose responsibilities include, inter alia, working in partnership with state governments to administer Medicaid, had “informed Mylan that [the Company] incorrectly classified EpiPen as a generic under the Medicaid rebate program, which caused financial consequences for federal and state governments by reducing the amount of quarterly rebates Mylan owed for its product.”

On this news, Mylan’s share price fell $1.95, or 4.65%, to close at $39.97 on September 2, 2016.

On October 5, 2016, Bloomberg reported that the CMS had issued a letter stating that Mylan had for years overcharged Medicaid to buy the Company’s EpiPen shot, despite being told that the Company needed to provide bigger discounts under the law.  The CMS letter stated that from 2011 to 2015, the U.S. Medicaid health program spent approximately $797 million on EpiPens, including rebates of roughly 13%, rather than the discount of 23.1% that the U.S. should have received.  The letter stated that the government had previously “expressly told Mylan that the [EpiPen] product is incorrectly classified.” 

On this news, Mylan’s share price fell $1.19, or 3.13%, to close at $36.84 on October 6, 2016. 

On October 7, 2016, Mylan announced that it had reached a $465 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and other agencies to resolve questions raised about the classification of EpiPen for Medicaid rebate purposes.

On October 7, 2016, Mylan also announced that the Company had “received a document request from the Division of Enforcement at the [SEC] seeking communications with the CMS and documents concerning Mylan products sold and related to the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program, and any related complaints.”

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

To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/shareholder-alert-pomerantz-law-firm-reminds-shareholders-with-losses-on-their-investment-in-mylan-nv-of-class-action-lawsuit-and-upcoming-deadline–myl-300349390.html

SOURCE Pomerantz LLP

Copyright (C) 2016 PR Newswire. All rights reserved



















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SHAREHOLDER ALERT: Pomerantz Law Firm Reminds Shareholders with Losses on their Investment in Tenet Healthcare Corporation of Class Action Lawsuit and Upcoming Deadline – THC



NEW YORK, Oct. 21, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Pomerantz LLP announces that a class action lawsuit has been filed against Tenet Healthcare Corporation (“Tenet” or the “Company”)












THC, +0.04%










and certain of its officers.   The class action, filed in United States District Court, Northern District of Texas, and docketed under 16-cv-02848, is on behalf of a class consisting of all persons or entities who purchased or otherwise acquired Tenet securities between February 26, 2013 and September 30, 2016 inclusive (the “Class Period”).  This class action seeks to recover damages against Defendants for alleged violations of the federal securities laws under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”). 

If you are a shareholder who purchased Tenet securities during the Class Period, you have until December 6, 2016 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]

Tenet, together with its subsidiaries, primarily operates acute care hospitals and related healthcare facilities. The Company operates through three segments: Hospital Operations and Other, Ambulatory Care, and Conifer. As of December 31, 2015, the Company operated 86 hospitals, 20 short-stay surgical hospitals, approximately 475 outpatient centers, and 9 private hospitals and clinics, as well as 249 ambulatory surgery centers, 20 imaging centers, and 35 urgent care centers in the United Kingdom.

The Complaint alleges that throughout the Class Period, Defendants made materially false and/or misleading statements, as well as failed to disclose material adverse facts about the Company’s business, operations, and prospects.  Specifically, Defendants made false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose that:  (i) certain of Tenet’s hospitals had paid kickbacks for obstetric referrals; (ii) these kickbacks were in violation of federal law; (iii) these kickbacks subjected Tenet to the risk of heightened regulatory scrutiny, as well as substantial fines; and (iv) as a result of the foregoing, Tenet’s public statements were materially false and misleading at all relevant times. 

On August 1, 2016, post-market, Tenet announced that the Company had reached an agreement in principle with federal and state authorities pursuant to which the Company would pay nearly $514 million to settle allegations that four Tenet hospitals in Georgia and South Carolina paid kickbacks for obstetric referrals.  Under the settlement, two Tenet subsidiaries would plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate federal kickback laws.

On this news, Tenet’s share price fell $1.34, or 4.64%, to close at $27.57 on August 2, 2016.

On October 3, 2016, Tenet issued a press release and filed a Current Report on Form 8-K with the SEC, announcing that the Company had finalized the agreement in principle announced on August 1, 2016.

On this news, Tenet’s share price fell $0.91, or 4.02%, to close at $21.75 on October 3, 2016.

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

To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/shareholder-alert-pomerantz-law-firm-reminds-shareholders-with-losses-on-their-investment-in-tenet-healthcare-corporation-of-class-action-lawsuit-and-upcoming-deadline–thc-300349388.html

SOURCE Pomerantz LLP

Copyright (C) 2016 PR Newswire. All rights reserved



















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U.S. credit union regulator paid law firms $1 billion to sue banks

By Nate Raymond
| NEW YORK

NEW YORK The top U.S. credit union regulator said on Thursday it had paid more than $1 billion in legal fees to two law firms to pursue lawsuits against various banks over their sales of toxic mortgage-backed securities before the 2008 financial crisis.

The National Credit Union Administration said the contingency fees represented 23.2 percent of the $4.3 billion the agency recovered in settlements with banks over their sale of faulty securities to five credit unions that later failed.

The announcement marked the first time the NCUA had revealed the lawsuits’ costs. NCUA Board Chairman Rick Metsger said the agency previously withheld disclosing its fee arrangements to protect its litigation position and ensure maximum returns.

“Without this fee arrangement, which shifted most of the risk of these legal actions to outside counsel, there would have been no legal investigation of potential claims, no litigation, and no legal recoveries,” Metsger said.

The payouts came after settlements with banks, including Morgan Stanley, (MS.N) Bank of America Corp,(BAC.N) JPMorgan Chase & CO (JPM.N) and Barclays Plc(BARC.L). Most recently, last month the NCUA announced a $1.1 billion deal with Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc(RBS.L).

The payouts went to two law firms, Korein Tillery LLC and Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel PLLC, which pursued lawsuits against the banks. Neither firm immediately responded to a request for comment on Thursday.

The sum was more than double what another regulator that pursued a similar set of lawsuits against many of the same banks last year said it paid while obtaining an even larger amount of recoveries.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which has acted as conservator for mortgage funders Fannie Mae (FNMA.PK) and Freddie Mac FMCC (FMCC.PK) since their government takeover in 2008, in September 2015 disclosed paying two other law firms $406.7 million.

The sum, which reflected around 2 percent of the $18.7 billion it obtained through settlements and judgments against 16 banks, has likely grown since then amid ongoing litigation by FHFA against RBS.

The FHFA had no immediate comment on Thursday.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Dan Grebler)


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Abu Dhabi's financial centre gets interest from 160 firms

Abu Dhabi’s financial centre Abu Dhabi Global Market, or ADGM, has registered and granted licences to 160 companies from a range of industries and sectors.

The financial free zone, which has completed its first year of operation, said the group of first movers comprises financial, non-financial and retail businesses.

In line with ADGM’s strategy of fostering a broad based, thriving and sustainable business community, a large pool of companies in the non-financial category has made ADGM their home base include the law firms, professional and corporate service providers and family offices.

In other key sectors, real estate, investment and holding companies seeking to be close to the region’s business and growth opportunities are also among those who have also chosen ADGM as their hub. Adding to the dynamic mix is a sizable group of retail and hospitality businesses catering to the needs of the financial free zone. This achievement sets another new milestone in ADGM delivering on its ambition to support Abu Dhabi’s economic plan and long-term growth.

The varied consortium of well-established local family businesses and international companies registered with ADGM is testament to the free zone’s commitment to being an open, trusted and well-regulated financial and commercial hub, designed to serve the financial needs of Abu Dhabi and the UAE, said Dhaher bin Dhaher, chief executive officer of ADGM’s Registration Authority. Given its central location, retail businesses increasingly value Al Maryah Island as a highly attractive base and location for sustainable growth.

In making a choice, many companies have attributed the ease of doing business, level of efficiency, a comprehensive range of business offerings and investment vehicles, and adoption of the entirety of common law in legislative framework as some of the fundamental reasons for being attracted to ADGM

The financial zone has established a significant presence in the local and international business and financial regulatory scenes.

ADGM understands what businesses want and has been meticulous in developing a conducive ecosystem that enables local businesses to thrive, regional companies to expand their presence and global entities to access the growth opportunities in the region.

Dhaher says ADGM has been focused on creating a business-friendly and sustainable eco-system where local companies and international entities can grow together. “Through ADGM, businesses have access to and can conduct a wide range of activities to bolster their growth. We also have a supportive framework that meets the needs and requirements of family businesses by safeguarding their assets,” added Dhaher.

Numerous family businesses and individual companies have also set up in ADGM as it provides a supportive framework which allows them to manage family interests and safeguard their assets in the most efficient manner.

He highlighted, “Our registration process is efficient and straightforward. In some cases, we are able to issue licenses to companies within 48 hours of receiving their business registration.”

-haseeb@khaleejtimes.com

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PTC chairman schedules emergency meeting on agency's relationship with taxicab and limo firms

TAMPA — Public Transportation Commission chairman Victor Crist has called an emergency meeting that could determine the future of the embattled agency’s executive director, Kyle Cockream.

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In a memo sent Thursday to PTC board members, Crist said the board needs to discuss recent allegations “attacking the integrity, character and independence of our director, staff and board.”

It comes after the Tampa Bay Times reported that the PTC used workers from taxicab and limousine companies in sting operations targeting Uber and Lyft drivers for operating without permits and commercial insurance.

That led state Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, to request a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation into the agency, which regulates for-hire vehicles in Hillsborough County.

Other concerns include Cockream’s sharing of emails from the agency’s attorney and lobbyist with a taxicab owner.

Uber officials say the stings and emails prove the agency has sided with the taxicab and limousine industry in its battle with rideshare companies.

“We’re taking these allegations very seriously, and we want to get to the bottom of what happened exactly and why, and we want to be fair and judicious about it,” Crist said.

Cockream, who earns about $143,000 per year, was appointed PTC executive director in 2014. He served 28 years with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and was captain of a special investigations team.

He was scheduled to step down from the PTC in July but agreed to stay on through March, in part to help usher the agency through its dispute with Uber and Lyft.

He did not return calls seeking comment but issued a statement.

“I welcome the opportunity to meet with the PTC board to discuss the recent issues that have been covered in the news media, so that we can discuss how to move forward in a productive way,” he wrote.

Uber and Lyft began operating in Hillsborough at roughly the same time Cockream joined the agency.

Under pressure from owners of taxicab and limousine companies, the PTC has issued $700 citations to rideshare drivers for operating without permits, background checks or other insurance that is required of taxicab drivers.

The agency has also fought Uber and Lyft in court.

The PTC board is not due to meet until its next regularly scheduled meeting Nov. 9, when it is expected to vote on a 15-month agreement that would allow Uber and Lyft to operate legally in Hillsborough.

The emergency meeting is expected to take place next week depending on the availability of the seven board members.

Temple Terrace City Council member David Pogorilich, who is PTC board vice chairman, said he saw nothing wrong with the sting operations using workers from taxicab companies and questioned Crist’s authority to call the meeting.

“I think it’s a witch hunt,” he said. “No laws have been broken. There’s no ethics violations.”

Contact Christopher O’Donnell at codonnell@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times.

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Ministers order HMRC crackdown on ‘gig economy’ firms

Companies that use large numbers of agency or self-employed staff to be investigated

A spokeswoman for the delivery company Hermes said: “We are confident in the legality of our self-employed courier model and we will cooperate fully with any investigation.”
A spokeswoman for the delivery company Hermes said: “We are confident in the legality of our self-employed courier model and we will cooperate fully with any investigation.”
Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

Ministers have ordered a crackdown on companies that use large numbers of self-employed or agency workers following an investigation by the Guardian into low pay at delivery company Hermes.

The financial secretary to the Treasury, Jane Ellison, announced that HM Revenue and Customs was launching a specialist unit to investigate companies who opt out of giving workers employment protections by using agency staff or calling them self-employed.

Ellison said the government was “committed to taking strong action where companies, to reduce their costs, force their staff down routes which deny them the employment rights and benefits they are entitled to”.

The minister described the plans in a letter to Labour MP Frank Field, who wrote to Theresa May in the summer asking her to examine claims of false self-employment by couriers for the delivery company Hermes following the Guardian investigation.

The growing pressure comes as drivers for the taxi-app company Uber await an employment tribunal verdict on their claim that they should be classed as workers rather than self-employed and so should benefit from the minimum wage, sick pay, holiday pay and pensions.

The new HMRC unit will tackle misuse by companies of agency workers to avoid tax and other employment obligations. Agency workers at Sports Direct’s warehouse in Derbyshire are to receive £1m in back pay after it emerged that they had been paid below the minimum wage.

It is understood that the new HMRC unit – called the employment status and intermediaries team – will proactively investigate companies that declare they use significant numbers of self-employed workers and will also act on intelligence and complaints about alleged abuses of the rules around self-employment.

The verdict and a shifting HMRC approach to the way companies use labour could have widespread ramifications for the so called “gig economy”. Hermes uses 10,500 self-employed couriers, while Uber relies on 40,000 self-employed drivers in the UK. Takeaway delivery service Deliveroo is another fast growing gig-economy firmand uses 8,000 self-employed people.

Edward Troup, executive chairman of HMRC, said on Thursday that complaints of false self-employment by Hermes couriers, including several who said they were paid below the minimum wage, had been passed to HMRC compliance teams for detailed consideration.

He made clear that he could not comment on individual cases, but said: “Individuals cannot be opted out of employment rights and protections simply by calling them ‘self employed’. We are committed to tackling false self-employment.”

“Employment status in the UK is determined by the reality of the working relationship, not simply by the terms of any contract,” Ellison added. “Individuals cannot be opted out of employment rights and protections simply by an engager calling them ‘self-employed’.”

Field, the Labour MP who chairs the House of Commons work and pensions select committee, said: “The government is girding its loins for a serious fightback against those companies trying to wriggle out of their obligation to pay the minimum wage by enforcing ‘self-employment’ on their workers. The prime minister has set companies the task of delivering a decent minimum for their workers, and companies now know they will be caught out if they jeopardise this effort.”

Scores of Hermes couriers set out in testimonies to Field how their self-employment meant they received no paid holidays or sick pay – and in some cases were paid below the national living wage. They also said they risked losing work if they were unable to do their rounds because of ill-health or for other reasons. Twenty more also claimed they should be considered employees rather than self-employed.

A spokeswoman for Hermes said: “We are confident in the legality of our self-employed courier model and we will co-operate fully with any investigation, should there be one.”

The delivery firm said that it has asked couriers who believe they are earning below the minimum wage to report that to managers, who will review parcel rates and increase them where appropriate. A spokeswoman said: “Three out of four of the pay-rate cases that were reviewed by the service complaints panel in its first month received a rate increase.”

Hermes couriers welcomed the HMRC’s examination of their case. “It is about time these big companies are looked into,” said Cherie Nolan, a long-term Hermes courier from Manchester who quit in the summer. “They have got away with it for years. I hope they are going to realise that the little man is not always the skivvy, that we are people and we have rights.”

“I feel like we are now being listened to,” said one Hermes courier in Manchester, Marie, 42, who estimates she earns £3.50 per hour after expenses. “My customers are asking me if it’s true I am earning less than the minimum wage and when I say ‘Yes’, they are disgusted.”

The move was also welcomed by the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, Frances O’Grady. “This investigation should be a warning shot to bad employers,” she said. “Those who force staff into bogus self-employment must be held accountable.”

Troup signalled the tax authority’s new priorities in a letter to Field that was published on Thursday. “If we find that companies have misclassified individuals as self-employed, we will take all necessary steps to make sure they pay the appropriate tax, national insurance contributions, interest and penalties,” he said.

Lawyers said that the HMRC’s increased focus on the rights of low-paid self-employed and agency workers, and the impending Uber employment tribunal verdict would put many firms on alert.

“This perhaps reflects an increasing concern that the growing army of workers in the fast expanding ‘gig economy’ are being exploited,” said Alex Bearman, partner at law firm Russell-Cooke. “Other firms with similar operating models will no doubt be keeping a close eye on the outcome in both cases.

“Even if the companies are found not to be at fault, this is unlikely to be the end of the matter given the recent announcement by Theresa May about a review of employment practices with a view to ensuring that the self-employed are properly protected.”

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Meet the man who quit his law firm job to run a Cubs blog

Even many of the most ardent supporters would say “No way.” But for Cubs fanatic Brett Taylor, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

Taylor is the founder of the Cubs-centric Bleacher Nation, a website that’s not affiliated with any team or media partner. Started in late 2008, it is becoming a “must-click” niche destination for tens of thousands of fervent Cubs believers, especially now as the team marches on to what hopefully will be its first World Series in over a hundred years.

The 34-year-old Taylor personifies the quintessential entrepreneur, a risk-taker who chucked a safe but unsatisfying profession to pursue a personal craving as his life’s work.

Taylor’s “passion play,” a term often used to describe such entrepreneurial zeal, will resonate with those making the same journey. Perhaps it will inspire others to forge a similar path and maybe scare off some folks who think being your own boss is a lot easier than working for someone else.

There’s a basic incongruity to Taylor’s Cubs connection. He’s never lived in the Chicago area so his formative youth wasn’t spent in Wrigley Field’s sun-kissed seats. Instead, he’s an Ohio native, who as a kid would catch Cubs games on WGN-TV’s cable channel.

“I lived my whole life in Ohio. But whatever it is about this team that gets its claws in you,” he said.

Even while attending college and getting a law degree from Ohio State University, Taylor’s Cubs fever never broke. Landing an attorney’s job at a major law firm in 2007, Taylor used his limited off-hours to post Cubs analysis and opinions on various sports blogs. In late 2008 he decided to launch Bleacher Nation part-time and in 2011 he left the law firm’s litigation practice to run his Cubs site as a full-time business.

“To be successful, clients want a killer instinct, and I would too if I were a client in high stakes litigation, but it’s not my style,” said Taylor, who preferred the extensive research and legal writing to the rough-and-tumble of trials.

Still, taking the plunge was scary because pursuing your dream doesn’t stop the bills from coming or life from occurring.

“Fortunately, I had squirreled away a fair bit from being a lawyer and we lived modestly,” said Taylor, who asserts his wife, Gretchen, a public school teacher, saved the day with her steady paycheck and access to health insurance benefits for their family.

Like many new business owners, Taylor found just loving his topic wasn’t enough to keep the operation humming. Out of necessity, he became tech support, marketing guru, salesperson and head content provider rolled into one. He runs the business from home in Dublin, a Columbus suburb.

“It’s been a challenge,” he said. “It was a grind getting the site on a stable footing and feeling confident that it was going to be sustainable.”

While no longer practicing law, Taylor’s background plays an important role in Bleacher Nation’s connection to its estimated 135,000 Facebook and 58,000 Twitter followers. Often, his posts are a combo of unabashed Cubbie love and a cold-eyed, legal-eagle assessment of the team.

For example, when anxious fans were losing patience with the Cubs’ transformation plan a few lousy seasons ago, Bleacher Nation took the long view, pointing out that progress was being made throughout the system and predicting that good things were about to happen on the major league level.

Bleacher Nation is not journalism, nor does it feature anywhere near the level of sports reporting dished out by mainstream media. It also doesn’t break news, rarely floats rumors or share insider tips like other sports sites.

“I’m speaking to readers as a fan,” Taylor said.

Bleacher Nation is starting to generate some money for expansion. While declining to give financial results, the site is increasingly running ads from retailers, travel firms, even a recent online advertisement for McCormick spices. Periodically, Taylor seeks to tap into his followers’ collective goodwill by imploring them not to block those ads and reduce the click count.

The extra cash also has allowed Bleacher Nation, which uses freelancers, to add a full-time writer.

Taylor also has tapped his fan base to raise $76,000 in donations for Make-A-Wish Illinois since 2013, according to the charity. Bleacher Nation does this via its annual Trade Deadline Blogathon, where Taylor riffs online about the Cubs for at least 24 hours straight while events unfold around the Major League Baseball trading deadline. By directing Bleacher Nation traffic to a dedicated donation site, the blog marathon rallies users to give to Make-A-Wish Illinois.

Harold Welsch, founder of DePaul University’s Coleman Entrepreneurship Center, says Bleacher Nation is among an emergent number of new stand-alone, sports-related ventures that aren’t aligned with a big company or major league team. His center has advised people starting baseball card stores, golf courses and other sports-minded endeavors.

“We find more people leaving professional jobs and giving it a try,” he said, adding they typically do so in pursuit of that philosophical chestnut “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

For Bleacher Nation there’s a lot of hard work ahead.

Eventually, the upstart brand must find ways to grow. It is doing some podcasting and has dabbled in web TV. Taylor has been a guest on local sports talk shows, so perhaps a radio show is an option.

Who knows?

As the Chicago Cubs are proving this season, anything can happen.

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PTC board chairman calls emergency meeting to discuss agency's relationship with taxicab and limo firms

The Public Transportation Commission governing board is to hold an emergency meeting next week to look at allegations that the agency collaborated with the taxicab industry

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PTC Board Chairman Victor Crist sent a memo to board members Thursday calling for the meeting that could determine the future of PTC Executive Director Kyle Cockream.

It comes after the Tampa Bay Times reported that the PTC used workers from taxicab and limousine firms in stings targeting Uber and Lyft drivers and that Cockream shared emails from the agency’s attorney and lobbyist with a taxicab owner.

In a memo to board members, Crist said the meeting is to discuss recent allegations “attacking the integrity, character and independence of our director, staff and board,” it states.

The Times report led State Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, to request an investigation of the agency by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Uber officials to claim that the PTC is siding with the taxicab industry, which has argued that Uber and Lyft should be subject to the same regulations they follow.

The PTC board is not due to meet until its next regularly scheduled meeting on Nov. 9 when it is expected to vote on a 15-month operating agreement that would allow Uber and Lyft to operate legally in Hillsborough County.

The emergency meeting will take place either on Wednesday or Thursday morning depending on the availability of other board members.

Cockream, who earns about $143,000 per years, was appointed as PTC executive director in 2014. He previously served 28 years with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office rising to the rank of captain of the special investigations team.

He was scheduled to step down from the PTC in July but agreed to stay on through the end of the year, in part to help usher the agency through its dispute with Uber and Lyft.

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