All posts by Michelle Grathers

About Michelle Grathers

Michelle Grathers is an international tax expert. She has consulted for a variety of firms and high net worth individuals on all tax- and legal-related issues. She also helps new companies develop payroll services, statutory audits and mergers and acquisitions. Contact Michelle at michelle[at]

Noble Group Selling Off US Energy Business to Calpine Corp.

In order to generate cash and improve liquidity, commodity trader Noble Group Ltd. Inked a deal to purchase its American energy business to US power generation company Calpine Corporation for $1.05 billion.

The deal is the latest action in a series of undertakings designed to lower its debt as well as improve its reputation. Shares of Noble have staggered badly since February 2015, when an anonymous research group accused it of questionable accounting methods. Noble insists it did nothing wrong, and even accelerated disclosures. Poor showing of commodity prices did not help the poor earnings experienced by the company.

Therefore, in order to create cash and ease liquidity, Noble announced a series of sales of assets and reduced expenditures.

In a statement released to the Singapore Exchange, Noble announced that it will receive $800 million for Noble Americas Energy Solutions. It will be paid an additional $248 million for the US unit’s working capital.

Calpine describes itself as America’s largest generator of electricity from natural gas and geothermal resources. In July it its third quarterly loss in a row.

McDonald’s Introduces the McFloat for First Time in USA

Grand Chicken Classic burger, fries & McFloat (McDonald’s) Photo by
Debbie Tingzon.

A drink that has proved popular in McDonald’s fast-food restaurants around the world, is finally making a debut appearance in a few select stores stateside. The McFloat is a combination of Dr. Pepper and soft-serve ice cream, and it will be selling for $1.99, at least for now, in the McDonald’s in Park Slope, Brooklyn and in San Francisco. The introduction of the McFloat is part of McDonald’s larger exploration into a more direct satisfaction of local tastes, such as offering garlic fries in San Francisco and Chobani Greek yogurt in 800 California branches.

“As part of our journey to build a better McDonald’s, our franchisees have more flexibility than before to offer new menu items like breakfast bowls, Gilroy garlic fries and yes, the Diet Dr. Pepper Float,” McDonald’s spokesperson Terri Hickey.

Across the globe the McFloat has taken on a variety of personas. Most international locations offer a Coke McFloat, but in the Philippines a thirsty customer can get a Green Apple Sprite McFloat. In Indonesia the locals love Iced Coffee McFloats.

McDonald’s is also considering the introduction of fresh beef, and is currently testing this item in 14 of its restaurants. If fresh beef is a hit, McDonald’s, floats or no floats, will never be the same.

The Best Places to Live in America

Denver Skyline. Photo by Hogs555
Denver Skyline. Photo by Hogs555

Every year US News and World Report evaluates US cities to find the 50 best places to live. Many parameters are universally desired, such as how affordable is the housing, are there well-paying jobs in the vicinity, are other expenses low, how are the schools, and what is the quality of the healthcare? Other issues are more subjective, such as the weather, the politics, and how far away are family members.

The newspaper then got the data on 100 US cities and divided it all into five main indexes: job market, value, quality of life, desirability, net migration. “Value” is a combination of annual household income versus the cost of living. “Quality of life” looks at crime, college readiness, commuting, and other factors.

Here are the top ten of the top fifty places to live in the USA:

  1. Denver, Colorado
  2. Austin, Texas
  3. Fayetteville, Arkansas
  4. Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina
  5. Colorado Springs, Colorado
  6. Boise, Idaho
  7. Seattle, Washington
  8. Washington, DC
  9. San Francisco, California
  10. San Jose, California

ECB Head Ready to Ease Monetary Policy


European Central Bank President Mario Draghi told the European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee that the ECB could decide to ease its monetary policy when it meets again in March. It is expected that this announcement might cause US markets to rally on Tuesday, the day after the US holiday of President’s Day, which is when Draghi’s speech was delivered.

Draghi said that when the central bank meets it will analyze how effective its monetary policy has been and how it has effected the general financial system, especially for banks. He added that the ECB will “not hesitate to act” to control inflation if they see any risks to price stability.

Increased volatility in global markets during the first two months of 2016 has heightened pressure on investors. They are worried that a slowdown in those markets could lead to a major recession in some of the world’s largest economies, including the US and Europe.
Draghi countered these fears by stating that the regulatory overhaul which was established after the Eurozone debt crisis, led to better, more durable foundations and resilience for the banking industry. Basically, he said, the situation today is not the same as back in 2012 during the crisis.

“Banks have built higher and better-quality capital buffers, have reduced leverage and improved their funding profiles… in 2015, the banks under ECB supervision further increased profits relative to 2014. This allows banks to have appropriate distribution policies while still meeting regulatory capital requirements and buffers, and to support lending to the economy,” he said.

US Expands Sanctions on Russia

The Obama administration angered Putin and the Kremlin by sanctioning 34 additional individuals and entities for assisting Russian and Ukrainian companies to avoid US penalties and other punishments.

The expansion of the sanctions will help to “maintain the efficacy of existing sanctions” which were put in place in reaction to the Russian annexation of the Crimea last year and for the support that Russian has given to eastern Ukrainian separatists.

Fourteen of the 34 are connected to “serious and sustained evasion,” or are divisions of firms already on the sanctioned list. The treasury department said that six separatists and two ex-government officials from the Ukraine are “complicit” in corruption, or in weakening the Ukrainian government. US citizens are restricted from doing business with those on this list, and any US assets held by these entities are now frozen.

The new sanctions match those put in place by America’s allies and demonstrate Washington’s “unwavering resolve to pressure Russia to respect the security and sovereignty of Ukraine,” John Smith, the acting sanction boss of the treasury department said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded to the US move:

“This is a continuation of the unfriendly line against Russia that runs counter to logic, ” he said.