FL Red Light Cameras in Jeopardy

red light

Blame it on the sun glare. A slew of lawyer activity in the Sunshine State has led to what may be the beginning of the end of those sneaky red light cameras there. First the Supreme Court didn’t like a particular hearing method, then the Legislature fixed that and now an appeals court says it’s still no good. Why? Because the outside company that puts in the cameras effectively decides who gets a $150 ticket for going through a red light and getting caught on camera. Says court: only law enforcement folks can do that.

As a libertarian-ish person, I have had an issue with the ticket burdening the owner of the car regardless of whether they are driving at the time. Moving violations and such should be put on the driver in my humble opinion. I know the cameras help encourage safety. But everything has to be a balance as against personal freedoms.

Now the state is considering stopping all the cameras until the litigation is all resolved, because several class actions have already been filed to retrieve back fees that people have been paying all these years if the cameras and process are deemed illegal. Imagine if this spread to other states. I would get some dough back (and I wasn’t even driving, well not most of the time anyway)!

FINRA Plans OTCBB Shutdown

otcbb

There was a time in the 2000s during the boom of Chinese companies’ entering the US public markets when executives visiting from the PRC knew only one thing in English: “OTCBB.” Officially known as the OTC Bulletin Board and owned and operated by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), for decades it was the place for over-the-counter stocks to trade. It was pretty much this or the Pink Sheets until very recently.

Cromwell Coulson and his team at OTC Markets, owner of the Pink Sheets, OTCQB and OTCQX, have successfully defeated the BB. By offering a stronger, more supportive platform with much better execution and reliability, OTC Markets moved thousands of companies from the BB to their sites. The QB in particular, with its requirement to be fully SEC reporting, has effectively crushed the BB.

As a result, starting with a very quiet filing with the SEC back in June and a less quiet one earlier this month, FINRA has announced it is going to shut down the OTCBB. This following their failed attempt to sell the BB to Rodman & Renshaw a few years ago. FINRA also announced it is going to add regulatory burdens to the OTC Markets platforms (sour grapes maybe?). Currently the platforms are not really regulated, only the brokers who effect trades on them.

Frankly, the BB was already brain dead, it makes sense for FINRA to pull the plug.

Auditor Rotation: Time to Revisit

auditorThe Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, primarily a response to the fraud perpetrated by energy giant Enron and not detected by their then accountants, brought some good. However, in my view it was mostly an overreaction to a very limited issue, and thankfully its impact on smaller companies has been somewhat ameliorated by subsequent SEC and Congressional action.

One solution Sarbox brought: auditing firms must change the lead partner on an audit client at least every 5 years. The theory was the entrenchment some lead partners felt made them either not cautious enough or worse, in cahoots with a shady client. But companies don’t like having to change who is in charge with their audit. The partners don’t like taking over someone else’s client. And there’s no evidence that it has done anything to reduce fraud.

Last week the SEC brought an action against a Florida auditing firm for failing to do the rotation properly. I think it’s time for Congress to take a look at this 12 years after Sarbox and remove this awkward partner dance that leads to uncertainty and too many auditor changes. But that’s just me.

One Hand Moments

sunny day'I like to say that there are certain life events so special that when you add them all up, you can count them on one hand. I was thrilled to have one of those moments last week at a very special family event. And despite my aphorism, I’m happy to say that my list of these events has moved to that other hand.

Life throws you stuff for sure. Tough, challenging, even overwhelmingly difficult times. For some people, that list gets counted on fingers, toes, and borrowed third party digits. Others enjoy more limited exposure to the negative aspects of simply continuing to exist.

I think, in the end, it’s about two things. Not what life throws you but how you deal with what life throws you that matters. And second, it’s about reveling in the one hand moments, beaming, shining and glowing through them. Appreciating the good while facing up to the bad. I believe the positive attitude people give more meaning to their lives and those around them. Said Kipling, “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same…yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.”

Don’t forget to let the one hand moments swim over you like a glorious sunny day (that is pretending we didn’t have to worry about UV!).

5 Signs You are a Workaholic

workaholicIn some circles people view workaholism as a positive. You get a lot done. You are very committed and determined. Team members can rely on you to perform and be accessible. But being a hard worker is not the same as being a workaholic. Hard workers put in time because they believe that’s what’s necessary but would much rather have more down time. Workaholics get satisfaction out of living, breathing, eating and (not) sleeping work. They simply can’t stop themselves from continuing to work – hence the word being tied to addiction.

What’s the downside? As I laid out in my book, The Entrepreneur’s Growth Startup Handbook (John Wiley & Sons, 2013), aside from the many marriages and personal lives lost to workaholism, it can lead to less focus, less efficiency, less productivity and even health problems. In the book I talk about tips for reducing your workaholic tendencies such as time shifting, delegating and the like with the goal of actually increasing your likelihood of success in business or entrepreneurship. Here we focus on the five key signs you might be a workaholic:

1. Clock? What clock? You would actually rather be working at 1:00 am than in your bed asleep. Even when work is not that busy you find low-priority projects or take your existing work to even more depth.

2. Delegate? Ha. You must check and recheck everything your employees do because you simply cannot trust they will do things right, even if that takes all night. You take on many projects that could be delegated because you think no one can do them better than you can.

3. What are my kids names again? If you take an hour off to play with your kids, your mind immediately wanders back to the various work obligations you have and you find your interaction with your children stressful and difficult. Your spouse offers to treat for a night at a local hotel and you laugh out loud unable to even imagine that much time away from work.

4. Crackberry-itis. You would not be able to take the challenge of only answering emails and texts once per hour during the business day, even for just one week.

5. Calendar? What calendar? You always work Saturdays because you don’t even realize that Saturday is part of the weekend.

Even if you have these tendencies, there are strategies to battle this challenging addiction, which we will cover in more detail in a future post.

Madoff’s Son Leaves $15MM Estate

andrew madoff

Andrew Madoff (above), whose father Bernie admitted stealing billions in the biggest Ponzi scheme ever, died of cancer last month. According to NYC court documents, he has left an estate worth $15 million. He left a third to his mom and his estranged wife, a lot to his two college-age kids and the rest to his fiancee (including a $50,000 a month allowance for her while the case is pending). Nothing went to his Dad who is serving a 150 year sentence. Andrew was still fighting lawsuits from Madoff investors demanding money back from him to the tune of around $73 million, but he was never criminally charged in connection with his father’s crimes. Maybe Dad cut a deal to save his wife and sons from jail, but that has never been disclosed. The sons said over and over that they knew nothing about their father’s activities and in fact were the ones to report it to the FBI.

Andrew’s brother Mark killed himself in 2010 on the second anniversary of the day their father was arrested. Now mom Ruth faces the loss of her only other child. Ruth apparently was able to leave the scene with about $5 million. A lot to almost all of us but probably a pittance to the high-living wife of the former head of the Nasdaq. What did Ruth know? We will probably never know.

Receiver Irving Picard has recovered nearly $10 billion to cover losses from Madoff investors that most estimated at around $16 billion, but those estimates have ranged from $6 billion to $70 billion so it is not entirely clear. Some of his victims were his high school buddies from my parents’ alma mater, Far Rockaway High School in Queens, NY (my folks didn’t know him).  Advice to investors #1: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Advice #2: do not allow any one advisor to control all your assets.

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