Starkist Agrees to Plead Guilty in Tuna Price-Fixing Scheme, Faces $100 Million Fine

(SAN FRANCISCO) — Authorities say StarKist has agreed to plead guilty to price fixing as part of a broad collusion investigation of the canned tuna industry.

Federal prosecutors announced the plea agreement Thursday and said the company faces a fine up to $100 million. Bumble Bee Foods last year pleaded guilty to the same charge and paid a $25 million fine.

Chicken of the Sea has not been charged because prosecutors say the company exposed the scheme and cooperated with the investigation.

Two former Bumble Bee executives and a former StarKist executive also each pleaded guilty to price-fixing charges.

Former Bumble Bee chief executive Christopher Lischewski has pleaded not guilty to a price fixing charge.

The three companies are accused of conspiring to keep canned tuna prices artificially high between 2010 and 2013.

MoviePass Under Investigation by New York Attorney General

(NEW YORK) — The company that runs the beleaguered MoviePass discount service for theater tickets is being investigated by the New York Attorney General on allegations that it misled investors.

Parent company Helios and Matheson of New York said in a prepared statement that it is aware of the investigation, but that it believes, “our public disclosures have been complete, timely and truthful and we have not misled investors.”

The investigation was first reported by CNBC.

The company has struggled financially and is facing class action lawsuits filed on behalf of investors claiming the company failed to disclose aspects of a business model that were unsustainable.

Shares of Helios and Matheson, which is in danger of being delisted by Nasdaq because they had fallen to about a penny, plunged at the opening bell.

Bug in libssh could make it amazingly easy for hackers to gain root access

Bug in libssh could make it amazingly easy for hackers to gain root access

There’s a four-year-old bug in the Secure Shell implementation known as libssh that makes it trivial for just about anyone to gain unfettered administrative control of a vulnerable server. While the authentication-bypass flaw represents a major security hole that should be patched immediately, it wasn’t immediately clear what sites or devices were vulnerable since neither the widely used OpenSSH nor Github’s implementation of libssh was affected.

The vulnerability, which was introduced in libssh version 0.6 released in 2014 makes it possible to log in by presenting a server with a SSH2_MSG_USERAUTH_SUCCESS message rather than the SSH2_MSG_USERAUTH_REQUEST message the server was expecting, according to an advisory published Tuesday. Exploits are the hacking equivalent of a Jedi mind trick, in which an adversary uses the Force to influence or confuse weaker-minded opponents. The last time the world saw an authentication-bypass bug with such serious consequences and requiring so little effort was 11 months ago, when Apple’s macOS let people log in as admin without entering a password.

The effects of malicious exploits, assuming there were any during the four-plus years the bug was active, are hard to fathom. In a worst case scenario, attackers would be able to use exploits to gain complete control over vulnerable servers. The attackers could then steal encryption keys and user data, install rootkits and erase logs that recorded the unauthorized access. Anyone who has used a vulnerable version of libssh in server mode should consider conducting a thorough audit of their network immediately after updating.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Uber Could Be Valued at $120 Billion in Possible IPO: Report

(Bloomberg) — Uber Technologies Inc. has recently received proposals from banks for an initial public offering valuing the ride-hailing company at as much as $120 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

An IPO at that amount, which could take place early next year according to the Journal, is almost double Uber’s recent valuation of about $70 billion. Uber had long been one of the most valuable startups in the world, until China’s Bytedance Ltd. was said to be valued at $75 billion.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley delivered the proposals to San Francisco-based Uber last month, the Journal reported, citing the unnamed people.

Uber has been among the most highly anticipated IPOs. The company, founded in 2009, has raised a sizable amount of private capital, including from SoftBank Group Corp., which is its largest shareholder.

Paul Allen Was So Much More Than Microsoft’s Co-Founder

Personal computers, conservation, pro football, rock n’ roll and rocket ships: Paul G. Allen couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend, invest and donate the billions he reaped from co-founding Microsoft with childhood friend Bill Gates.

Allen used the fortune he made from Microsoft — whose Windows operating system is found on most of the world’s desktop computers — to invest in other ambitions, from tackling climate change and advancing brain research to finding innovative solutions to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges.

“If it has the potential to do good, then we should do it,” Gates quoted his friend as saying.

Allen died Monday in Seattle from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, according to his company Vulcan Inc. He was 65. Just two weeks ago, Allen, who owned the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, had announced that the same cancer he had in 2009 had returned.

Gates, who met Allen at a private school in Seattle, said he was heartbroken to have lost one of his “oldest and dearest friends.”

“Personal computing would not have existed without him,” Gates said in a statement, adding that Allen’s “second act” as a philanthropist was “focused on improving people’s lives and strengthening communities in Seattle and around the world.”

Over his lifetime, Allen gave more than $2 billion to efforts aimed at improving education, science, technology, conservation and communities.

“Those fortunate to achieve great wealth should put it to work for the good of humanity,” Allen wrote several years ago, when he announced that he was giving the bulk of his fortune to charity. He said that pledge “reminds us all that our net worth is ultimately defined not by dollars but rather by how well we serve others.”

Allen, who played guitar, built a gleaming pop culture museum in his hometown to showcase his love of rock n’ roll, and funded underwater expeditions that made important shipwreck discoveries, including a U.S. aircraft carrier lost during World War II.

Yet in a sense, Allen also lived up to the moniker once bestowed on him by Wired Magazine: “The Accidental Zillionaire .” He was a programmer who coined Microsoft’s name and made important contributions to its early success, yet was overshadowed by his partner’s acerbic intellect and cutthroat business sense.

At the company’s founding, for instance, Allen let Gates talk him into taking the short end of a 60-40 ownership split. A few years later, he settled for an even smaller share, 36 percent, at Gates’ insistence. Reflecting on that moment In his memoir, Allen concluded that he might have haggled more, but realized that “my heart wasn’t in it. So I agreed.”

Allen was born in Seattle. After graduating from the city’s private Lakeside School, where he met Gates, Allen spent two years at Washington State University. The two friends both dropped out of college to pursue the future they envisioned: A world with a computer in every home.

“There would be no Microsoft as we know it without Paul Allen,” said longtime technology analyst Rob Enderle, who also consulted for Allen.

Allen and Gates founded Microsoft in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and their first product was a computer language for the Altair hobby-kit personal computer, giving hobbyists a basic way to program and operate the machine.

After Gates and Allen found some success selling their programming language, MS-Basic, the Seattle natives moved their business in 1979 to Bellevue, Washington, not far from its eventual home in Redmond.

Microsoft’s big break came in 1980, when IBM Corp. decided to move into personal computers and asked Microsoft to provide the operating system.

Gates and Allen agreed, even though they didn’t have one to offer. To meet IBM’s needs, they spent $50,000 to buy an operating system called QDOS from another startup in Seattle — without, of course, letting on that they had IBM lined up as a customer. Eventually, the product refined by Microsoft became the core of IBM PCs and their clones, catapulting Microsoft into its dominant position in the PC industry.

The first versions of two classic Microsoft products, Microsoft Word and the Windows operating system, were released in 1983. By 1991, Microsoft’s operating systems were used by 93 percent of the world’s personal computers.

Allen served as Microsoft’s executive vice president of research and new product development until 1983, when he resigned after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease.

But Allen left Microsoft knowing he and Gates would be forever linked in the history of technology.

“We were extraordinary partners,” Allen wrote. “Despite our differences, few co-founders had shared such a unified vision — maybe Hewlett and Packard and Google’s Sergey Brin and Larry Page, but it was a short list.”

After leaving Microsoft, Allen would remain interested in technology, especially the field of artificial intelligence, which recalled first piquing his interest while he was still a teenager after reading “I, Robot,” a science fiction book by Isaac Asimov.

“From my youth, I’d never stopped thinking in the future tense,” Allen wrote in his 2011 memoir, “Idea Man.”

With his sister Jody Allen in 1986, Allen founded Vulcan, which oversees his business and philanthropic efforts. He founded the Allen Institute for Brain Science and the aerospace firm Stratolaunch, which has built a colossal airplane designed to launch satellites into orbit. He has also backed research into nuclear-fusion power and scores of technology startups.

Allen also funded maverick aerospace designer Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne, which in 2004 became the first privately developed manned spacecraft to reach space.

The SpaceShipOne technology was licensed by Sir Richard Branson for Virgin Galactic, which is testing a successor design to carry tourists on brief hops into lower regions of space.

Yet Allen never came close to replicating Microsoft’s success. What he always seemed to lack, Enderle said, was another Bill Gates to help fulfill his visions.

“He was a decent engineer who got the timing on an idea right once in his life, and it was a big one,” Enderle said.

When Allen released his memoir, he allowed “60 Minutes” inside his home on Lake Washington, across the water from Seattle, revealing collections that ranged from the guitar Jimi Hendrix played at Woodstock to vintage war planes and a 300-foot yacht with its own submarine.

“My brother was a remarkable individual on every level,” his sister Jody Allen said in a statement. “Paul’s family and friends were blessed to experience his wit, warmth, his generosity and deep concern,” she added.

Paul Allen’s influence is firmly imprinted on the cultural landscape of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, from the bright metallic Museum of Pop Culture designed by architect Frank Gehry to the computer science center at the University of Washington that bears his name.

In 1988 at 35, he bought the Portland Trail Blazers professional basketball team. He told The Associated Press that “for a true fan of the game, this is a dream come true.”

He also was a part owner of the Seattle Sounders FC, a major league soccer team, and bought the Seattle Seahawks. Allen could sometimes be seen at games or chatting in the locker room with players.

Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen Dies After Lymphoma Battle

SEATTLE — Paul G. Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with his childhood friend Bill Gates before becoming a billionaire philanthropist who invested in conservation, space travel and professional sports, died Monday. He was 65.

He died in Seattle from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, his company Vulcan Inc. announced.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella called Allen’s contributions to the company, community and industry “indispensable.”

“As co-founder of Microsoft, in his own quiet and persistent way, he created magical products, experiences and institutions, and in doing so, he changed the world,” Nadella wrote on Twitter.

Two weeks ago, Allen announced that the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that he was treated for in 2009 had returned and he planned to fight it aggressively.

“My brother was a remarkable individual on every level,” Allen’s sister Jody Allen said in a statement. “Paul’s family and friends were blessed to experience his wit, warmth, his generosity and deep concern,” she added.

Allen, an avid sports fan, owned the Portland Trail Blazers and the Seattle Seahawks.

Allen and Gates met while attending a private school in north Seattle. The two friends would later drop out of college to pursue the future they envisioned: A world with a computer in every home.

Gates so strongly believed it that he left Harvard University in his junior year to devote himself full-time to his and Allen’s startup, originally called Micro-Soft. Allen spent two years at Washington State University before dropping out as well.

They founded the company in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and their first product was a computer language for the Altair hobby-kit personal computer, giving hobbyists a basic way to program and operate the machine.

After Gates and Allen found some success selling their programming language, MS-Basic, the Seattle natives moved their business in 1979 to Bellevue, Washington, not far from its eventual home in Redmond.

Microsoft’s big break came in 1980, when IBM Corp. decided to move into personal computers and asked Microsoft to provide the operating system.

Gates and company didn’t invent the operating system. To meet IBM’s needs, they spent $50,000 to buy one known as QDOS from another programmer, Tim Paterson. Eventually the product refined by Microsoft — and renamed DOS, for Disk Operating System — became the core of IBM PCs and their clones, catapulting Microsoft into its dominant position in the PC industry.

The first versions of two classic Microsoft products, Microsoft Word and the Windows operating system, were released in 1983. By 1991, Microsoft’s operating systems were used by 93 percent of the world’s personal computers.

The Windows operating system is now used on most of the world’s desktop computers, and Word is the cornerstone of the company’s prevalent Office products.

Gates and Allen became billionaires when Microsoft was thrust onto the throne of technology.

With his sister Jody Allen in 1986, Paul Allen founded Vulcan, the investment firm that oversees his business and philanthropic efforts. He founded the Allen Institute for Brain Science and the aerospace firm Stratolaunch, which has built a colossal airplane designed to launch satellites into orbit. He has also backed research into nuclear-fusion power.

Over the course of several decades, Allen gave more than $2 billion to a wide range of interests, including ocean health, homelessness and advancing scientific research.

“Millions of people were touched by his generosity, his persistence in pursuit of a better world, and his drive to accomplish as much as he could with the time and resources at his disposal,” Vulcan CEO Bill Hilf said in a statement.

Allen was on the list of America’s wealthiest people who pledged to give away the bulk of their fortunes to charity. “Those fortunate to achieve great wealth should put it to work for the good of humanity,” he said.

When he released his 2011 memoir, “Idea Man,” he allowed 60 Minutes inside his home on Lake Washington, across the water from Seattle, revealing collections that ranged from the guitar Jimi Hendrix played at Woodstock to vintage war planes and a 300-foot yacht with its own submarine.

Allen served as Microsoft’s executive vice president of research and new product development until 1983, when he resigned after being diagnosed with cancer.

“To be 30 years old and have that kind of shock — to face your mortality — really makes you feel like you should do some of the things that you haven’t done yet,” Allen said in a 2000 book, “Inside Out: Microsoft in Our Own Words.”

His influence is firmly imprinted on the cultural landscape of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, from the bright metallic Museum of Pop Culture designed by architect Frank Gehry to the computer science center at the University of Washington that bears his name.

In 1988 at 35, he bought the Portland Trail Blazers professional basketball team. He told The Associated Press that “for a true fan of the game, this is a dream come true.”

He also was a part owner of the Seattle Sounders FC, a major league soccer team, and bought the Seattle Seahawks. Allen could sometimes be seen at games or chatting in the locker room with players.

Palm’s Weird New Tiny Smartphone Sidekick Says Something Sad About Our Phones

Remember Palm, the company behind those handheld PDAs (no, not that kind of PDA) that were so prevalent in the 90s? It’s back Monday with something truly weird: The Palm, a tiny Android-powered smartphone that’s meant to supplement, not replace, your current handset. You can’t even buy the Palm on its own — it’s available only as an add-on to your existing smartphone plan, and, at least for now, only on Verizon.

The idea here is that the diminutive Palm offers a way to stay connected when you don’t want to lug around your primary smartphone, which, if you haven’t noticed, has utterly Hulked out over the last few years. Apple’s smallest offering, for instance, is now 5.8 inches across, a relative monster compared to the now-dead iPhone SE’s 4 inches.

The Palm looks useful enough: It get calls and texts, it has front- and rear-facing cameras, and it runs apps like Spotify via the Google Play store. It’s small enough to easily toss in your purse for a night out or in your gym bag for a quick workout. Palm wants you to think of it as the Mazda Miata you take out for weekend drives rather than the Ford Escape that gets you to and from work every day. “Palm isn’t a replacement for your primary smartphone, it’s a fully connected companion that is in-sync with your primary device, making mobile truly mobile again,” reads Palm’s website. (It’s also pitching the Palm as a way to help people “get out of their tech and into their lives,” but the solution to tech overload is rarely more tech — it’s better mastery of your settings and an occasional willingness to silence and ignore your phone.)

But Palm’s “phone companion” pitch quickly breaks down for exactly the same reason most people don’t have separate workday and weekend rides: Cost. The Palm is $349.99, then you have to pay Verizon every month to keep it on your plan. Even if the idea of a smartphone sidekick is appealing, that pricing is going to be prohibitive for a lot of people — though you have to begrudgingly respect the tech industry’s brazen attempt at getting people to buy not one but two smartphones. And while the Palm is a welcome experiment in a generally snoozy gadget category, it’s not likely to become a massive hit, even with a celeb endorsement from Stephen Curry.

Still, the Palm’s very existence underscores a sad reality of today’s smartphone industry.

Companies like Apple and Samsung are making bigger and bigger devices because they tend to sell well. But that’s leaving the smaller-handed among us in the dust — Apple in particular caught a ton of flak for canceling without replacing the iPhone SE. There’s some logic there: It’s tough to design an interface that works well on a 4-inch screen and the gargantuan 6.5-inch display on the iPhone XS Max, the company’s biggest-screened offering to date (to be fair, it’s the same physical size as the older iPhone Plus models, but with a bigger screen thanks to the new design.) But the move still snubs people who prefer smaller gadgets. Even I struggle with the iPhone XS Max, and I’ve got big mitts and long fingers that’d make me a decent pianist if anybody ever explained to me what exactly a treble clef is.

So Palm’s entire raison d’etre stems from the mainline smartphone makers’ abandonment of the comparatively small-handed, or just people who prefer smaller devices. Those folks shouldn’t have to pay a $349+ premium just to have a device that better suits their needs — there should be both high-end smartphones small and large alike, just like Mazda makes both the Miata and the seven-passenger CX-9. Remember when miniaturization was seen as the height of technological progress? Let’s resurrect that ethos. And when it comes to the phablet fans and the mini-phone stans, let there be peace in our time.

Sears Becomes the Latest Retail Giant to File for Bankruptcy, Suffering From Massive Debt

(NEW YORK) — Sears has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, buckling under its massive debt load and staggering losses.

Sears once dominated the American retail landscape. But the big question is whether the shrunken version of itself can be viable or will it be forced to go out of business, closing the final chapter for an iconic name that originated more than a century ago.

The company, which started out as a mail order catalog in the 1880s, has been on a slow march toward extinction as it lagged far behind its peers and has incurred massive losses over the years. The operator of Sears and Kmart stores joins a growing list of retailers that have filed for bankruptcy or liquidated in the last few years amid a fiercely competitive climate. Some like Payless ShoeSource have had success emerging from reorganization in bankruptcy court but plenty of others haven’t, like Toys R Us and Bon-Ton Stores Inc. Both retailers were forced to shutter their operations this year soon after a Chapter 11 filing.

“This is a company that in the 1950s stood like a colossus over the American retail landscape,” said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a retail consultancy. “Hopefully, a smaller new Sears will be healthier.”

Given its sheer size, Sears’ bankruptcy filing will have wide ripple effects on everything from already ailing landlords to its tens of thousands of workers.

The filing, which is happening ahead of the crucial holiday shopping season, comes after rescue efforts engineered by its CEO and chairman Eddie Lampert have kept it outside of bankruptcy court — until now. Lampert, the largest shareholder, has been loaning out his own money for years and has put together deals to prop up the company, which in turn has benefited his own ESL hedge fund.

Last year, Sears sold its famous Craftsman brand to Stanley Black & Decker Inc., following its earlier moves to spin off pieces of its Sears Hometown and Outlet division and Lands’ End.

In recent weeks, Lampert has been pushing for a debt restructuring and offering to buy some of Sears’ key assets like Kenmore through his hedge fund as a $134 million debt repayment comes due on Monday. Lampert personally owns 31% of the company’s shares. His hedge fund has an 18.5% stake, according to FactSet.

“It is all well and good to undertake financial engineering, but the company is in the business of retailing and without a clear retail plan, the firm simply has no reason to exist,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, in a recent analyst note.

Sears’ stock has fallen from about $6 over the past year to below the minimum $1 level that Nasdaq stocks are required to trade in order to remain on the stock index. In April 2007, shares were trading at around $141. The company, which once had 350,000 workers, has seen its workforce shrink to fewer than 90,000 people as of earlier this year.

The company has racked up $6.26 billion in losses, excluding one-time events, since its last annual profit in 2010, according to Ken Perkins, who heads the research firm Retail Metrics LLC. It’s had 11 years of straight annual drops in revenue. In its last fiscal year, it generated $16.7 billion in sales, down from more than $50 billion in 2008.

As of May, it had fewer than 900 stores, down from about 1,000 at the end of last year. The number of stores peaked in 2012 at 4,000, including its Sears Canada division that was later spun off.

In a March 2017 government filing, Sears said there was “substantial doubt” it would be able to keep its doors open — but insisted its turnaround efforts would mitigate that risk.

But its losses continued into this year. In the fiscal second quarter ended Aug. 4, net losses in the quarter swelled to $508 million, or $4.68 per share, compared with a loss of $250 million, or $2.33 cents per share in the same quarter a year ago.

Such financial woes contrast with the promise that Lampert made when he combined Sears and Kmart in 2005, two years after he helped bring Kmart out of bankruptcy. Back then, it operated 2,200 stores in total.

Lampert pledged to return Sears to greatness by leveraging its best-known brands and its vast holdings of land, and more recently planned to entice customers with a loyalty program. But it struggled to get more people through the doors or to shop online.

Jennifer Roberts, 36 of Dayton, Ohio, had been a long-time fan of Sears and has fond memories of shopping there for clothes as a child. But in recent years, she’s been disappointed by the lack of customer service and outdated stores.

“My mom had always bought her appliances from Sears. That’s where my dad got his tools,” she said. “But they don’t care about their customers anymore.”

She said a refrigerator her mother bought at Sears broke after two years and it still hasn’t been fixed for almost a month with no help from the retailer.

“If they don’t value a customer, then they don’t need my money,” said Roberts, who voiced her complaints on Sears’ Facebook page.

Sales at the company’s established locations tumbled nearly 4 percent during its fiscal second quarter. Still, that was an improvement from the same period a year ago when it fell 11.5 percent. Total revenue dropped 30 percent in the most recent quarter, hurt by continued store closings.

The bleak figures are an outlier to chains like Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Macy’s, which have been enjoying stronger sales as they benefit from a robust economy and efforts to make the shopping experience more inviting by investing heavily on remodeling and de-cluttering their stores.

For decades, Sears was king of the American shopping landscape. Sears, Roebuck and Co.’s iconic catalog featured items from bicycles to sewing machines to houses, and could generate excitement throughout a household when it arrived. The company began opening retail locations in 1925 and expanded swiftly in suburban malls from the 1950s to 1970s. But the onset of discounters like Walmart created challenges for Sears that have only grown. Sears faced even more competition from online sellers and appliance retailers like Lowe’s and Home Depot. Its stores became an albatross.

Store shelves have been left bare as many vendors have demanded more stringent payment terms, says Mark Cohen, a professor of retailing at Columbia University and a former Sears executive.

Meanwhile, Sears workers are nervous about what kind of severance they’ll receive if their store closes.

John Germann, 46, works full-time and makes $14 per hour as the lead worker unloading merchandise from trucks at the Chicago Ridge, Illinois store, which has been drastically reducing its staff since he started nine years ago. Germann now has only 11 people on his team, compared with about 30 a few years ago.

“We’re doing the job of two to three people. It’s not safe,” he said. “We’re lifting treadmills and refrigerators.”

Real estate experts believe that Sears’ move to further shutter stores as part of its restructuring would be a mixed blessing for landlords. For the healthy malls, landlords would welcome a Sears departure, allowing them to cut up the space and fill it with several smaller successful stores that combined would bring in higher revenue.

But for the struggling malls, Cohen says it will be a “death knell” since it will be harder for them to bring in new tenants. Many of these malls already have had difficulty filling in the void from J.C. Penney and Macy’s closures.

Saunders of GlobalData Retail spared no criticism of Sears in his analyst note, listing failing after failing of the company.

“The problem in Sears case is that it is a poor retailer,” he wrote. “Put bluntly, it has failed on every facet of retailing from assortment to service to merchandise to basic shop keeping standards. Under benign conditions, this would be problematic enough but in today’s hyper-competitive retail environment it is a recipe for failure on a grand scale.”