Former Siemens Executive Pleads Guilty in Argentine Bribery Case

A former midlevel employee of German industrial giant Siemens pleaded guilty Thursday of conspiring to pay tens of millions of dollars to Argentine officials to win a $1 billion contract to create national ID cards.

Eberhard Reichart, 78, who worked for Siemens from 1964 to 2001, appeared in federal court in New York to plead guilty to one count of conspiring to violate the anti-bribery Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and to commit wire fraud.

Reichart was arraigned last December in a three-count indictment filed in December 2011 charging him and seven other Siemens executives and agents with participating in the decadelong scheme, the Justice Department said Thursday. 

The men were accused of conspiring to pay more than $100 million in bribes to high-level Argentine officials to win the contract in 1998. 

As part of his guilty plea, Reichart admitted in court that he engaged in the bribery conspiracy and that he and his co-conspirators used shell companies to conceal the illicit payments to Argentine officials.

The Argentine government terminated the contract in 2001, but the Siemens executives “sought to recover the profits they would have reaped” through an illicitly obtained contract, said Preet Bharara, former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, in 2011. 

“Far too often, companies pay bribes as part of their business plan, upsetting what should be a level playing field and harming companies that play by the rules,” acting Assistant Attorney General John Cronan said Thursday.

In 2008, Siemens pleaded guilty of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in connection with the Argentine bribery scheme, agreeing to pay the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission $800 million in criminal and civil penalties.

The company paid the German government another $800 million to settle similar charges brought by the Munich Public Prosecutor’s Office.

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act bars U.S. companies and foreign firms with a presence in the U.S. from paying bribes to foreign officials.

Last year, 11 companies paid just over $1.92 billion to resolve charges brought under the anti-bribery law, according to data compiled by the FCPA Blog.



Trump to Weigh New Tariffs Targeting China 

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said Thursday that President Donald Trump would soon consider new punitive measures against China for its alleged “theft” of intellectual property.

U.S. officials, according to news accounts, are considering imposing as much as $60 billion in annual tariffs against Chinese information technology, telecommunications and consumer exports to the U.S. in an effort to trim its chronic annual trade deficit with Beijing by $100 billion. Last year, the U.S. says it imported Chinese goods worth $375 billion more than it exported to China.

“In the coming weeks, President Trump is going to have on his desk some recommendations,” Navarro told CNBC. “This will be one of the many steps the president is going to courageously take in order to address unfair trade practices.

“I don’t think there’s a single person … on Wall Street that will oppose cracking down on China’s theft of our intellectual property or their forced transfer,” Navarro said.

The new tariffs and other measures would be in addition to the 25 percent tariff on steel imports to the U.S. and 10 percent levy on aluminum that Trump announced last week, some of which affect China.

​At a political fundraiser Wednesday, Trump attacked several trading partners for the billions of dollars in trade surpluses they have built up against the U.S. He contended that China had become an economic power — the world’s second biggest economy — because of its trade surplus with the United States.

China warned it would likely retaliate against any new tariffs the U.S. imposes.

Foreign minister spokesman Lu Kang said, “History has proven that a trade war is in no one’s interest.”

He said that “if an undesirable situation arises, China has the intention of safeguarding its legitimate rights.”

Trump’s new tariffs on metal imports have led in recent days to volatility on U.S. stock exchanges, with wide day-to-day swings of hundreds of points in stock indexes. 

But Navarro said the U.S. can impose the tariffs in a way that can be good for the American people and good for the global trading system. We can do this in a way that is peaceful and will improve and strengthen the trading system. … Everybody on Wall Street needs to understand: Just relax.”



HSBC Has 59 Percent Gender Pay Gap, Biggest Among British Banks

HSBC will reveal a gender pay gap of 59 percent at its main U.K. banking operation, the biggest yet disclosed by a British bank, according to a copy of the lender’s report on the subject seen by Reuters on Thursday ahead of its publication.

The bank will also disclose a mean gender bonus gap of 86 percent at HSBC Bank Plc, which is the biggest of the lender’s seven entities in Britain and employs 23,507 people.

A spokeswoman for the bank confirmed the contents of the report.

The gender pay gap is the biggest yet reported by a British financial firm, according to government data, with some firms yet to provide figures ahead of an April deadline set by Prime Minister Theresa May last year.

Almost 50 years since the passage of Britain’s equal pay act, the continued gulf in earnings between men and women has attracted significant public attention over the past year or so.

In common with other banks, HSBC said its pay gap was largely accounted for by the bank having fewer women in senior roles.

The gender pay gap measures the difference between the average salary of men and women, calculated on an hourly basis.

HSBC said women held only 23 percent of senior leadership positions in its workforce in Britain, despite accounting for more than half of total staff.

The bank said it was taking a number of steps to reduce the pay gap, including committing to an aspirational target of women holding 30 percent of senior roles by 2020.

Last month, Asia-focused Standard Chartered reported a gap of 30 percent in Britain, while Virgin Money — the only major UK lender run by a woman — said its female staff earned on average 32.5 percent less per hour than its male workforce.

Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland reported gender pay gaps of 32.8 percent and 37 percent respectively.

Barclays said last month it paid women in its international division, which houses its investment bank, on average 48 percent of what men earned in fixed pay.

The pay gaps have drawn criticism from lawmakers and are likely to spur questions from investors in the upcoming season for shareholder meetings, with stock prices and future earnings potential strongly linked to banks’ efforts to revive their reputations in the wake of the global financial crisis.



Independent Chefs Exchange Referrals, Constructive Criticism and Support

Cooking is Chris Spear’s passion. He’s been professionally cooking since he was 16. Over the years, he worked for big restaurants and reached a point where he had almost 100 employees reporting to him. That’s when he missed flexibility and wanted to be more creative. So, he quit working for restaurants and founded his own catering company, Perfect Little Bites in Frederick, Maryland.

“Not that having your business is easy, but I want to have the flexibility to say, ‘It’s Valentine’s Day, and it’s more important to me to stay home with my wife,’ or to be home cooking for someone. I really wanted something that I felt was mine,” Spear explained.

Spending long hours in the kitchen doesn’t tire Spear, but he had often been concerned that becoming an independent chef would make him feel lonely. That inspired him to found Chefs Without Restaurants, an online resource for chefs. 

“I’ve been thinking about the Chefs Without Restaurants for about five years now, even before I took Perfect Little Bites full time, because I kept thinking about, ‘Well, when I do this full time, who are going to be my colleagues? Who are going to be the people who I can bounce ideas off? Who am I going to be able to [get to] do things like cater an event that’s maybe outside my range of 30 people? Like, do I have a resource where I can pull in one or two other people?’ ” he said. ” … And what I started to see was other independent chefs were referring customers to me, [and] I started to do that back to them. I kind of thought, ‘There’s got to be an easier way to do this.’ ”

Dozens have joined

Since the group started last January around 100 chefs have joined it.

“We’re caterers,” he said. “We’re personal chefs. We run food trucks. We have awesome food specialty shops.” Spear said he wanted to find an arrangement that would be beneficial to all such groups but didn’t cost them any money. 

So now he has a Facebook group where he can post information about, for instance, a potential customer who wants to arrange a dinner in a given location and within a certain price range, and he can offer interested chefs more information.

Customers can also benefit from this network. Spear said he’s building a website where customers will be able to check out profiles of the Chefs Without Restaurants members, learn about their specialties and see what kinds of events they can cater, large or small.

Lana and Bobby Browner are a wife-and-husband team who own their own catering company, Bent and Bent Events, in Frederick.

“We’ve been doing this for five years, since he graduated from a culinary school,” Lana Browner said.

“We specialize in Creole cuisine, Caribbean cuisine. So we blend flavors and bring a nice flavor, a different flavor in the field of food in Frederick County,” Bobby Browner said.

When the Browners heard about Spear’s group, they decided to become members. 

“I think the biggest hurdle for a lot of chefs is that they don’t really form an alliance because they’re all kind of competing with each other, but you don’t have that in this group,” Lana Browner said. “What we’ve experienced so far is a lot of learning about different chefs in the area. It’s even been interesting to get feedback from chefs that are not in this immediate area.”

Her husband added, “It’s a really competitive field,” but there’s “a lot of camaraderie, a lot of openness and a lot of sharing” within the group.

Shared kitchen

The group is also bringing more business to local facilities, like a shared kitchen called Maryland Bakes where members often meet and work. Terri Rowe, a food entrepreneur and owner of Maryland Bakes, said the group brings more energy to the small food businesses in the area.

“They bring connections,” she said. “They bring a variety of talents and gifts. They bring creative ideas and just the whole network of independent people joining together. So it’s a big community.”

The whole local food community seems to embrace Chefs Without Restaurants.

Oil & Vinegar Frederick is one of the local shops Spear likes. The place often hosts events to introduce cooking ideas and chefs to their customers.

Store owner Sharon Streb said small businesses should help one another succeed. 

When other chefs and businesses come to her store, “they get in front of our customers and hopefully we get in front of their customers. That’s a win-win for both of us,” she said. “It’s tough out there for a small business, and not a lot of small businesses succeed. It’s important that we can work together and be successful, both of us.”

That’s the goal for Spear, who wants to carve out a space for independent chefs on the food map in the area.



Trump Admits Making up Trade Claim in Trudeau Talk

President Donald Trump freestyled with the facts when talking trade with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The Republican described the discussion during a fundraising speech in St. Louis on Wednesday.


According to audio obtained by The Washington Post, Trump insisted that the United States runs a trade deficit with Canada.


Trump said Trudeau told him there was no trade deficit. Trump said he replied, “‘Wrong, Justin, you do.’ I didn’t even know. … I had no idea. I just said, ‘You’re wrong.'”


Trump claimed the figures don’t include timber and energy.


However, the Office of the United States Trade Representative says the United States has a trade surplus with Canada.