Sunday, December 21, 2014

Archive: March, 2011

POSTED: Wednesday, March 9, 2011, 9:26 AM

The U.S. Senate last night passed a patent-reform bill designed to bring the nation's ancient invention-property process into the genome-and-Internet-protocol age. Read the bill here. AP summary here.

If the bill makes it through the House and past President Obama, patents would be granted the first inventor to file an idea at the patent office, not the ones who later proved they'd come up with the idea first. The idea is to speed patent grants and reduce litigation through "commonsense" reform, says sponsor Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

"Quicker review equals more innovation," says professor Michael Carrier of Rutgers Camden Law School, author of Innovation for the 21st Century, in which he argues that legal protections should be limited and clearly defined so they don't hold back creators of new ideas in favor of corporate owners and speculators in existing products and processes.

POSTED: Wednesday, March 9, 2011, 4:46 PM

When giant national investment houses led by Merrill Lynch, Smith Barney and Morgan Stanley tottered in the 2008 financial crisis, regional brokerages like Philadelphia's Janney Montgomery Scott and St. Petersburg-based Raymond James grabbed market share.

With Merrill and SB sold and Morgan Stanley on the defensive, "we staffed up," Thomas James, boss since 1970 of the firm named for his dad, told me on his visit to Philadelphia this week, where he brought local clients to the Marc Chagall exhibit at the Museum, and talked to students at Wharton.

Back in '08, "we didn't know if people were going to settle trades there for awhile" as Bear Stearns and Lehman Bros. fell. "But we had a lot of capital. We survived without TARP funds. And then we decided we'd actually invest."

POSTED: Wednesday, March 9, 2011, 4:22 PM

The PA State Employees' Retirement System (SERS) and the larger Public School Employees' Retirement System (PSERS) each say they beat their 8% target investment return last year, thanks largely to the stock market's 10% surge in the fourth quarter.

That's going to enable them to report slightly better results when they go before Harrisburg lawmakers later this Spring to justify their capital-intensive investment style. But both funds still face large and rising public payments (or huge future investment gains) to meet future retirement costs. The bigger the gaps, the more pressure they'll face to trim benefits for future retirees.

SERS says its investments gained 11.9% last year, thanks to a 20% gain in commodity prices, 18% in US stocks and in buyout funds (which are harder to verify), and lesser gains for foreign stocks, bonds, venture capital, hedge funds and real estate. PSERS says it was up 14.2%, led by 18% gains in US stocks and commodities,

POSTED: Tuesday, March 8, 2011, 12:43 PM

Despite sniping by conservative Republicans, Gov. Corbett has endorsed Pennsylvania tax breaks for movie makers. He also wants to deepen tax breaks for industrial research. Read full budget here. From his budget speech today:

"My budget retains an array of tax credits, not as a favor to businesses, but as a promise to their workers. New and growing industries, like the film industry that is growing around Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, need a government that knows enough not to shout 'cut' in the middle of production.

"The film tax credit, which we are retaining - and never thought to do otherwise - will attract jobs and pump money from outside the state into our economy.

POSTED: Tuesday, March 8, 2011, 12:37 PM

From Gov. Corbett's first budget address (See Corbett's budget here) (Inquirer story here), here's the gas section:

"Limited government means not mistaking someone else’s property for your own.

"There has been much pressure to tax the gas being drawn from the Marcellus Shale. The Marcellus is a resource, a source of potential wealth, the foundation of a new economy. Not just something new to tax.

POSTED: Tuesday, March 8, 2011, 11:00 AM

Hill International, the Marlton-based construction project management firm, got its foreign workforce out of Libya safely as armed rebels pushed towards the capital city, Tripoli, under fire from government fighters and airplanes in the past two weeks.

Hill risks losing up to $50 million in annual revenues and $4 million in profits (10 cents a share) "should work in Libya not continue," analyst Joseph D. Foresi told clients at Janney Capital Markets in a report this morning.

Libya is about 11% of Hill's global business. The firm was helping build leader Muamar Ghadafi's state university system.

POSTED: Tuesday, March 8, 2011, 9:52 AM

DuPont Co. and Johnson & Johnson are among US companies that have been hacked, possibly by Chinese rivals, says Bloomberg here. Excerpts:

"DuPont Co., Johnson & Johnson and General Electric Co. (GE) are among more than a dozen previously unidentified companies whose networks were broken into in the past two years by hackers intent on stealing some of their most valuable assets, confidential e-mails show.

"Some of the attacks mirror the one against Google Inc. (GOOG), which said in January 2010 that it had lost intellectual property assets to hackers based in China and that about 20 other companies were victims of the same kind of intrusions.

POSTED: Monday, March 7, 2011, 2:53 PM

Lame-duck Philadelphia City Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller has watered down her ex-offender anti-discrimination bill and is going to give it another hearing.

Pennsylvania state law limits employers from refusing to hire ex-offenders unless the crime for which they were convicted "relates to suitability for employment."

Philadelphia should go farther to prevent discrimination against people convicted of crimes, says City Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller, who represents Germantown-Mount Airy-Chestnut Hill.

Under Reed Miller's latest version, which gets a hearing in her Committee on Public Safety, Wed. March 16 at 10 a.m., an employer won't be able to ask about prior convictions "during the application, nor can you ask during the first interview," her policy director William Nesheiwat told me.

About this blog

PhillyDeals posts raw drafts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area finance, investment, commercial real estate, tech, hiring and public spending, which he's been writing since 1989, mostly for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn, taught writing at St. Joe's, and has written the book Comcasted, more than a thousand columns, and thousands of articles, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

Joseph N. DiStefano
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