The New York Times is reporting that the FBI and the US Justice Department are investigating the out-of-business political data company Cambridge Analytica. The company was recently implicated in a scandal over how it used the information it mined from Facebook users, bringing into question any ties it may have had with Russian agents engaged in meddling in the US elections.
Prosecutors from the US government have been questioning former employees and banks associated with Cambridge Analytica, said the Times, citing an American official and others familiar with the investigation.
The company already announced its intention to close by the end of this month since it lost many clients and faced growing legal fees as a result of reports that the company had taken personal data about millions of Facebook users without their knowledge, as far back as 2014.
The company is being accused of using the data of about 87 million Facebook users improperly. Cambridge Analytica was hired by the now President Trump’s 2016 election campaign. As a result several investigation were launched in the US and also in Europe.
GE has decided to back out of a deal to sell its appliance business to the Swedish appliance company Electrolux rather than face the US Justice Department who wish to block the sale due to its apparent antitrust nature.
The $3.3 billion deal was first challenged by Justice this past summer when they stated in court that the forging of the two companies into one would lead to “less competition, higher prices and fewer options for millions of Americans.”
GE’s move to terminate the sale should entitle them to receive a $175 million break-up fee, a term they parties agreed on as an insurance in case the deal fell apart.
No verdict was yet reached by the Washington court considering the status of the sale. GE nevertheless exercised its right to terminate the agreement after 15 months of talks. The collapse of the deal is disappointing to Electrolux. The Swedish white goods company was hoping to make themselves into an appliance company giant able to compete with the likes of Whirlpool Corp and equivalent companies in Asia.
“We are disappointed but we are certainly not defeated,” Elextrolux Chief Executive Keith McLoughlin said.
Today Apple Inc is going to trial over accusations being made by state and federal authorities that they conspired with book publishers to increase the cost of eBooks to consumers.
The US Justice Department is taking the famously popular producer of iPads and iPhones to court in a case that observers say will scrutinize how Internet businesses interact with their suppliers of content.
“This case will effectively set the rules for Internet commerce,” said David Balto, a former policy director for the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
The lawsuit was first filed against Apple along with five of the country’s six largest book publishers back in April, 2012. The suit alleges that they conspired to raise eBook prices in order to halt Amazon’s grip on book pricing.
Apple is on its own for the trial since all five publishers settled out of court by agreeing to halt their prohibitions on wholesale discounts in addition to paying together $164 million in damages for the benefit of consumers. The five publishers are: Pearson Plc’s Penguin Group, News Corp’s HarperCollins Publishers Inc, CBS Corp’s Simon & Schuster Inc, Hachette Book Group Inc and Macmillan.
The Justice Department is not pursuing monetary damages from Apple, but rather wants Apple to be forced to stop similar practices in the future. Apple is worried that if they are found guilty as charged they will then face separate trials by state attorneys general in which they will indeed by liable for monetary damages through class action lawsuits.
Apple’s chances of coming through the trial unscathed could be small, based on a comment made by the presiding judge at the last hearing before the trial.
“I believe that the government will be able to show at trial direct evidence that Apple knowingly participated in and facilitated a conspiracy to raise prices of e-books,” said U.S. District Judge Denise Cote on May 23. The judge will hear the case without a jury.
With the judge’s opinion before the trial apparently against Apple, why then isn’t the giant computer company settling out of court?
Chief Executive Tim Cook said in an interview with All Things Digital that Apple was “not going to sign something that says we did something we didn’t do.”
Google, the web-search giant, will be carefully scrutinized by US and European regulators as their bid to purchase Motorola Mobility is approved, giving Google possession of 17,000 patents and an additional 7,500 patent applications.
The purchase price for Motorola was a cool $12.5 billion, paving the way for Google to continue to compete with its market rivals such as Apple Inc and also defend itself and other Android manufacturers in patent lawsuits.
Regulators have said they will carefully monitor Google to ensure that all patents that are crucial to the telecommunications industry would be licensed at fair prices. European antitrust authorities as well as the US Department of Justice said they will watch how the patents are used to make sure that they comply with antitrust laws.
The regulators are concerned that the patents, which are critical in making sure that the large number of communications devices on the market, which are sold by many different companies, will be compatible with each other and are licensed for a reasonable fee.
“The (Justice Department’s antitrust) division will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action to stop any anticompetitive use of SEP (standard essential patent) rights,” the Justice Department said in a statement.
The deal with Motorola gives to Google one of the largest patent libraries in the mobile phone industry. Also included in the deal are Motorola’s manufacturing operations which will give Google the ability to create its own line of smart phones.