Author Archives | Jim OBrien

Mobile Banking Industry in India Expected to Grow

Experts say that millions of Indians who are below the poverty line and have no access to major financial services may gain huge benefits from mobile banking as the use of cellphones continue to increase in great numbers.

Banking thru mobile phones could transform the face of India’s rural economy. However, experts say that the industry has to first alleviate concerns regarding transaction security. Furthermore, they need to overcome limited reach in far-flung areas and low literacy rate.

Amit Ahire, Ambit Capital analyst, said that the mobile banking potentials in India are huge. In a meeting Mumbai a few days ago between the banking and telecom sectors, they agreed that mobile banking is yet to be tapped. Mobile banking includes bill payments, remittances, and money transfers.

In India, there are about 19 million new mobile phone subscribers each month; the world’s quickest growing market. In fact, 10% of the world’s cellphones are sold in India according to Gartner, a technology research specialist. In the country, there are around 775 million people who use mobile phones.

In contrast, almost 50% of the adult population in India do not have bank accounts. If the banking and mobile phone sectors are tapped and used to their full potentials, consumers and the country’s economy will benefit greatly from it.

A total of 39 banks have been given permission by the Reserve Bank of India to offer mobile banking services. They have also raised the amount limit of mobile banking transactions from 5,000 to 50,000 rupees.

Posted in Business

Money Launderers Found a New Tool in Prepaid Cards

21-st century money launderers have forgotten about bulk cash that is hard to hide; it is simply too inconvenient for them. They have found a rather safer way to stash money in the form of prepaid cards.

Prepaid cards are electronically loaded with cash. Moreover, getting them does not necessitate a bank account. In fact, many of these prepaid cards can be bought and used anonymously.

In the past couple of years drug dealers have increasingly used prepaid cards to pay for couriers that transport illegal drugs, said senior United States Immigration Customs Enforcement agent John Tobon. He added that the use of prepaid cards is a huge threat that regulators may have overlooked.

No one knows yet how often prepaid cards are used to move drug earnings across the U.S and Mexico borders; an estimate of at least $20 billion dollars cross the borders every year. Anyone who crosses the border carrying more than $10,000 in cash must declare it to authorities, while prepaid cards are exempted by law.

Tobon said that a lot of law enforcers all over the world give up their lives to fight drugs and money laundering; and prepaid cards are helping these people get away with it.

Furthermore, a report from the U.S. Treasury Department sited an observation that the 9/11 hijackers were identified due to bank and wire-transfers. The report further said that had they used prepaid cards, they could have very well covered their financial footprints.

Posted in Business

Sony Defends Themselves in the Issue of Hacker Breach

Chief Executive Howard Stringer, CEO of Sony Corporation, was not a least bit apologetic regarding Sony’s delay in informing their at least 100 million customers in the hacker breach they faced a few weeks ago. The information of the customers in the company’s PlayStation Network were stolen by a hacker or several hackers April this year.

As a complete contradiction to the apologetic tone of the company half a month ago, when Kazuo Hirai and the rest of the senior executives bowed in apology in Tokyo; Stringer fired back on Sony’s critics who claim that the company did not act timely in notifying their customers once they found out about the hacker attack.

Stringer told the press on Tuesday that it was an unprecedented situation. He added that most of the information and security breaches are unreported by many companies; and 43% of those that do, notify within as long as a month. He said that Sony announced the breach in a week. He even challenged the critics who say his one week is too long.

Lawmakers and a some state attorneys general have started an investigation regarding the hacker attack and the possibility of identity and credit card theft.

The hacker attack is said to be the biggest in the history of the Internet. It even prompted Sony to shut down the PlayStation Network and all other related services for nearly a month.

This attack allegedly stems from a case issued by Sony to a famous hacker George Hotz. The company sued Hotz this year for copyright infringement. Hotz is known for unlocking Apple’s iPhone. Hotz, however, denies the allegations in his blog saying he is not involved in the break-in.

Posted in Business

Banks Proposed to Pay $5 Billion to Settle Probe on Foreclosures

Two major banks and three other mortgage servicers in the United States proposed to pay up to $5 billion to resolve their foreclosure probes by federal and state officials based on a report released by the Wall Street Journal.

The bank’s proposal was made Monday when federal officials and state attorneys general presented a scheme and modified settlement terms on how banks can fund homeowner’s principal write-downs.

When the housing industry collapsed, claims of defective foreclosure practices arouse that triggered the foreclosure probe by all 50 states. According to state officials, it may have even violated their laws.

The original settlement plan proposed by federal and state agencies had opposed a deal that would diminish borrower’s principal amounts. The old proposal had gained criticisms from the banks, as well as Republican attorneys. The Republicans said the proposal will persuade borrowers to default on their mortgages to lessen their payments.

Spokesman Geoff Greenwood for Tom Miller said the new proposal will call for a fund that would partly pay for the principal write-downs. Miller is an Iowa attorney and a Democrat who leads the state negotiations. Greenwood also said that attorneys general have not yet offered a monetary proposal.

The banks involved in the foreclosure probes include Bank of America Corp, as well as JPMorgan Chase & Co. Meanwhile, the mortgage servicers include Ally Financial Inc, Wells Fargo & Co., and Citigroup Inc. According to Miller, these five companies make up 59 percent of the total home loans in the United States.

Posted in Finance

Cisco Earnings Down in 3Q

The world’s largest producer of computer networking devices, Cisco Systems Incorporated, announced on Wednesday that they are planning to remove thousands of jobs in line with their cost-cutting measures in order to increase their profits again.

Cisco’s sales have improved since the recession but started to decline again during third to fourth quarter of 2010. In the previous months, there are signs that CEO John Chambers is finally listening to long-standing criticism that Cisco is doing too many things at once; competing in varied markets. Chambers said that he vows to make radical changes in the company in order to simplify it.

However, Cisco is still in dangerous waters as they announced on Wednesday that their financial forecast for this quarter is way below what analysts expect.

Chambers then said that he aims to cut company’s annual expenses by a billion dollars or roughly 6 percent. The CEO did not say how many jobs he is expecting to eliminate basically by an early retirement program but basing on the 6 percent budget cut, 73,400 employees may lose their jobs.

In the fiscal third quarter, which officially ended in April 30th, the company said that their net income dropped by almost 18 percent earning only $1.8 billion compared to last year’s earnings of $2.2 billion.

Cisco started in 1984 by a couple Len Bosack and Sandy Lerner. They were later joined by Richard Troiano and officially founded cisco Incorporated. “Cisco” came from the city name San Francisco ; the exact same reason why they insisted on using lower case letters on “cisco” during the early years of the company.

Posted in Business

Absolute Poker Says Goodbye to U.S. Pros

The parent company of Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet – websites offering online poker games – said on Monday that they have laid off a total of 11 sponsored poker professionals as two of the company’s executives face charges of processing illegal payments.

Blanca Games, an Antigua-based company, said that it has cut off ties with sponsored professional poker players such as Prahlad Friedman, Joe Sebok, Scott Ian, and Trishelle Cannatella. The Company further said that it was an extremely difficult decision for the company and that they are saddened that they are under circumstances that have pushed them to make such actions.

Blanca’s management said that the indictments that were announced in April mean that the company is no longer capable of paying professional players to play poker. 11 of the company’s executives are the target of the legal actions filed in the federal court in New York. Alleged associates PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker are also included in the indictments.

Reports say that that Brent Beckley and Scott Tom of Absolute are stepbrothers and are the principal decision-makers of Absolute. The stepbrothers are also included in the indictment.

Sebok, one of the laid off sponsored players of Blanca Games, said that he had been talking with upper management since the indictment was released in April. He also said that it was quite obvious that no matter how things will turn out, his presence in the company will not be necessary or less necessary. He said he knew he will be let go.

PokerStars and FullTint announced that they have already formed an agreement with the Department of Justice agreeing to return money to a couple of their players. PokerStars said that the process has begun. Absolute, however, said that they will still review legal actions before they will begin paying back their players.

Posted in Business

Google and Apple to Face Lawmakers

Huge mobile companies such as Google and Apple are hoping that the tracks they set-up in millions of mobile device users will generate billions of dollars for them. However, lawmakers think they have crossed the line.

Last month’s revelation that Apple iPhones collect location data and store it for as long as 12 months has encouraged renewed interest and scrutiny over privacy and location. On Tuesday, Apple and Google senior executives are scheduled to face the congressional panel and be questioned on the possible violation of users’ rights because of their location-tracking software.

Advertising and smart phone companies say that they only use the data on what their users like (based on the frequently visited pages using their phone), where users are (based on their contact with cell phone towers), and who their friend and contacts are (based on the social media linked in their smart phones) so that these companies know which ads they should deliver to their individual customers.

Joseph Turrow, a marketing expert, said that this feature is one of the most terrific things about mobility. Companies that are capable of delivering only the right ad to individual consumers to a mobile format will allow them to generate millions if not billions of revenue.

Based on Mobile Marketer, a trade publication, 82 percent of smart phone users notice mobile ads; 74 percent of which make a purchase with the use of their smart phones.

Head of the Electronic Privacy Information Center Marc Rotenberg, however, said that the Congress needs to update privacy laws and they need to start in grass-roots level in order to ensure privacy of consumers.

Posted in Business

Is Skype Really Better With Facebook than Google?

As two of the biggest networks battle to gain collaboration with Skype, Facebook is more aggressive than Google. Analysts, however, say that the world’s biggest social network may actually be a better fit.

On Wednesday, Reuters reported that both Google and Facebook are trying to win partnership with Skype separately. Skype is currently the leading web video telephone services used by millions all over the world for cheap online communication.

Two undisclosed sources told Reuters that discussions about partnership are still in the preliminary phase however any deal that will stem out from this assures a joint venture partnership. One of the sources said that any partnership with Skype right now is valued at $3 to $4 billion.

Technology analysts and enthusiasts are rooting on Facebook, saying that the well-loved networking site that will complement Skype by giving it great features it currently lack.

Rory Maher, an analyst from Hudson Square Research, said that there is no doubt that Google will benefit from this partnership, but it is a bit sketchy compared to Facebook. He added that Google already has video and chat capabilities that Skype offers.

Moreover, Maher said that communication is very vital to Facebook and what its users do. It would be very interesting if Skype features will be enjoyed by Facebook users.

Skype was founded on 2003 and just last year, they boast a 124 million clientele. However, only 8.1 million of their total customers pay for their services to make traditional phone calls.

Posted in Business

Deutsche Bank Sued for Mortgage Fraud

The Deutsche Bank was sued by the US Justice Department on Tuesday for the case of mortgage fraud. The Justice Department said the bank illegally acquired government insurance for below standard mortgages at the time when US housing is flourishing.

The complaint from the Justice Department said the German Deutsche Bank repeatedly lied to be a part of a government program, wherein banks are offered with mortgage insurance.

The bank profited from the insured mortgages; however, many American homeowners received default and eviction. As a result, the government has paid for insurance claims worth millions of dollars- with more expected to come in the future.

The suit was filed in New York federal district court on Tuesday. According to the complaint, the Mortgage IT obtained the German bank in January 2007 and insured about 39,000 home mortgages worth beyond $5 billion through the Federal Housing Administration until 2009.

It says the company hastily approved the mortgages, without determining if the borrowers can pay for them. Still, the Mortgage IT claimed that it had acted diligently and alleged that it was qualified to get FHA insurance. The suit said it has also failed to examine defaults as necessary.

As of February 2011, the government has paid $386 million for claims on 3,100 home mortgages. About 1,100 of those defaulted in just one year. There are still 7,500 loans presently in default. The government is expected to pay more once insurance claims have been filed or paid.

Posted in Finance

Credit Card Executives Have High Hopes for the Future

For the first time in a very long time- or at least since the recession started- credit card executives are seeing bright sunny days and are looking far beyond the losses brought by the financial crisis. This is a really good thing considering the fact that the government is planning to tighten their grip on credit card companies.

Over the past few months, credit card company losses are falling. The overwhelming consumer acceptance of the smartphone payment systems and all other technologies has given credit card companies the opportunity to garner long-term revenue growth.

Now, executives strongly believe that they can easily do something to work around the effects of the recent regulatory changes of the card industry.

Credit card executive Stephen Eulie said that he is still very optimistic. There are no negative effects of our current economy that they cannot do something about, he said. Eulie spoke to Reuters in the credit card industry conference conducted every year.

In the recent years, most of the topics discussed in the conference are about the new regulations in place. Talks about the credit card law passed in 2009 and its lingering effects dominated the previous conferences. The Dodd-Frank financial reform law was also constantly a hot topic in the previous years.

However, banks are more positive and credit card companies are tapping new technologies this year to invest in developing countries wherein people use credit card as a luxury and not a necessity.

One of the conference attendee said that that the credit card industry has stopped finding ways to cease the regulations, and started looking for ways on how to get around it.

Posted in Finance