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Monica Vaca, the Associate Director of the Division of Consumer Response and Operations at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) just released the results from last year regarding the top frauds of 2017. Topping the list of reported frauds are the imposter scams, with nearly 350,000 reported.

Questions:
1. How many people fell for someone pretending to be a loved one in trouble, a government official, tech support, or someone else who’s not who they say they are?
2. How much money was lost to imposter scams?
3. Which type of fraud composed 23% of the fraud reports to the FTC last year?
4. What were the top fraud report states per 100,000 population? Why do you think those states are targeted?
5. What was the most interesting statistic for you and why?

Source:
Vaca, M. (2018). The Top Frauds of 2017. The FTC, March 1 (Retrievable online at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2018/03/top-frauds-2017).

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Sheriff Mike Williams of Jacksonville, Florida, announced Tuesday the results of a multi-agency, undercover investigation into the exchange of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for cash and, in at least one case, cocaine.

Questions:
1. From 2012 to 2017, how many food stamp transactions were fraudulent in Jacksonville and what was the dollar amount?
2. In most cases, what percentage did food-stamp recipients receive for each dollar of SNAP used?
3. What was the name of the undercover operation in Jacksonville?
4. How were those individuals with SNAP/EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) cards complicit in the fraud?
5. What was the most interesting statistic in the article to you and why?

Source:
Parenteau, C. (2018). 198 ensnared in Jacksonville food stamp fraud totaling $3.7M. Jacksonville Channel 4 www.news4jax.com, March 16 (Retrievable online at https://www.news4jax.com/news/local/jacksonville/jacksonville-busts-organized-fraud-ring)

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According to Bloomberg, U.S. central bankers seem to feel that when it comes to employment, they’ve done about as much as they can. As a result, the Federal Reserve’s Monetary Policy Report (released last week) concluded that the labor market was “at or a little beyond full employment.”

Questions:
1. If you boil the whole article down to one word, what would it be?
2. What is happening with unemployment according to the article?
3. What has been a critical development in recent years regarding labor force participation and how does it typically trend?
4. What has a recent study from the Kansas City Fed argue?

Source:
Dutta, N. (2018) The Fed May Have Jumped the Gun on Full Employment. Bloomberg.com, March 26 (Retrievable online https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-03-26/fed-may-have-moved-too-quickly-to-proclaim-full-employment)

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According to Bloomberg.com, Bitcoin began the week on a down note, declining as much as 8.7 percent and pushing the biggest cryptocurrency’s decline for March to about 25 percent.

Questions:
1. Who has confirmed that it will ban Bitcoin offering advertisements?
2. How is the SEC involved with Bitcoin in recent weeks?
3. Why have some called Bitcoin an investment fad and what is the composition of an investment fad?

Source:

Russo, C. (2018).Bitcoin Breaches $8,000 Level as March Slump Accelerates. Bloomberg.com, March 26 (Retrievable online at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-26/bitcoin-approaches-8-000-level-as-march-slump-accelerates)

Kharif, O. (2018). The Bitcoin Fad Is Fading—for Now. Bloomberg.com, March 14 (Retrievable online at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-14/bitcoin-pop-culture-moment-fades-as-fad-gives-way-to-regulators)

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According to Bloomberg, Facebook Inc. is heading toward its worst month since May 2013 after an analyst report warned of a temporary pullback in advertising and the FTC confirmed it’s investigating the social network’s privacy practices.

Questions:

  1. How much market value for Facebook stock has been erased in the last 10 days?
  2. What is the new probe by the FTC into Facebook privacy issues?
  3. When is Facebook is scheduled to report quarterly earnings and what is the prediction on results?

Source:

Verhage, J. (2018).Facebook Stock Heading Toward Worst Month in Over Four Years. Bloomberg.com, March 26 (Retrievable online at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-26/facebook-heading-toward-worst-month-since-august-2012)

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According to the New York Times, after many employee complaints, United Airlines said it was “pressing the pause button” on a plan to replace its modest monthly bonuses with a lottery system that would have offered large rewards to a few workers at random.

Questions:

  1. Why were the employees furious and what did they do about it?
  2. What were the qualifiers on the program?
  3. After reading the article, why do you think United wanted to go to the lottery reward system?
  4. What was the most interesting thing you learned in the article?
Source: Caron, C. (2018). United Airlines Pauses Lottery for Bonuses After Employees Rebel Online. The New York Times, March 4 
(Retrievable online at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/05/business/united-airlines-employee-bonuses-lottery.html)

 

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According to Politico, the new tax law includes a little-noticed blacklist barring people working in certain fields, and earning more than $157,500, from claiming a new 20 percent deduction for unincorporated businesses called pass-throughs.

Questions:

  1. Why did the Congressmen decide that pass-throughs should be limited?
  2. Who ultimately gets to make the decision?
  3. According to Acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter, when will the new rules be released?
  4. What was the most interesting part of this article from your standpoint?

Source:

Faler, B. (2018). Hidden blacklist in GOP tax law could hit everyone from LeBron James to doctors. Politico, March 8 (Retrievable online at https://www.politico.com/story/2018/03/08/hidden-blacklist-republican-tax-law-445645?lo=ap_c1)

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According to Masunaga and Peterson, four years ago, the Silicon Valley firm Theranos Inc. was valued at $9 billion and its founder and Chief Executive Elizabeth Holmes was hailed as a potentially revolutionary force in the blood-testing industry. Today, she is deemed a fraudster.

Questions:

  1. Theranos’ proprietary analyzer could only perform __________ of the 200 tests on the company’s website regarding the blood test analyzer.  How did they do the other tests?
  2. In May 2016, what did the company do regarding the results of tens of thousands of blood tests that doctors had depended on to care for patients over the previous two years?
  3. What has happened to the company since this time?
  4. When did the company’s downfall begin?
  5. Who do you think were the big losers in this story of fraud?
  6. What was Holmes’ role in the fraud?

Source:

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In a ballroom of a mountain lodge, diversity coach Miguel Joey Aviles, asked whether anyone knew how to merengue. Only two replied: Yes.

These were Branson Missouri managers, who said they’re desperate for employees and are paying $50 each for the workshop. They came from hotels, hospitals, hardware stores and banks. The goal of “Hispanics 101” is to urge Branson employers to stay champions of Puerto Rican workers that have been recruited to the town, long after their first day on the job.

 

Questions:

  1. What is some of the miseducation that has spread about this movement?
  2. According to this article, since last April, how many Puerto Ricans have been recruited?
  3. What problems has Branson had with recruiting foreign workers due to the actions of the Trump administration?
  4. What was the most interesting part of this article for you?

Source:

Paquette, D. (2018). Why a white town paid for a class called ‘Hispanics 101.’ The Washington Post, March 7 (Retrievable online at https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/why-a-white-town-paid-for-a-class-called-hispanics-101/2018/03/07/ca37a44a-1cd1-11e8-ae5a-16e60e4605f3_story.html?utm_term=.60359ac5cc83)

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According to Douglas House, a new analysis has been released that shows patients with type 2 diabetes (T2D) that are treated with Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) unit Janssen Pharmaceuticals’ INVOKANA (canagliflozin) experienced significantly less risk of cardiovascular (CV) death or hospitalization for heart failure (HHF).

Questions:

  1. Based on the data, what is the reduction of fatal heart failure?
  2. Where was the study published and where was it presented?
  3. Does the company have the permission to market it as a cardiovascular reduction drug?
  4. What effect do you think this will have on the stock price of (JNJ) and why?

House, D. (2017). Johnson & Johnson’s Invokana lowers risk of CV death or hospitalization in T2D. Seaking Alpha news blog, March 12 (Retrievable online at https://seekingalpha.com/news/3338393-johnson-and-johnsons-invokana-lowers-risk-cv-death-hospitalization-t2d?app=1&uprof=14&dr=1#email_link)