Business roundup: Big payout to whistleblower; Merck planning more layoffs

October 1, 2013
Regulation
Whistleblower gets $14 million from SEC

The Securities and Exchange Commission awarded more than $14 million to a whistleblower whose tip allowed regulators to recover investor funds through an enforcement case, the agency said in a statement Tuesday.

The award is the largest ever made by the SEC, which was given authority in the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial regulation law to reward people who volunteer original information that leads to successful enforcement actions.

The agency can issue awards that are between 10 and 30 percent of the money collected from the wrongdoer.

“Our whistle-blower program already has had a big impact on our investigations by providing us with high quality, meaningful tips,” SEC Chairman Mary Jo White said in a statement. “We hope an award like this encourages more individuals with information to come forward.”

The SEC’s announcement didn’t name the whistleblower or the case that resulted from the tip.


The agency received 3,001 whistle-blower complaints last year.

It made its first payment to a whistleblower in August 2012, when it gave $50,000 to a tipster who helped the SEC stop a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme, the SEC said in its most recent report on the program.

— Reuters

Pharmaceuticals
Merck planning more cuts in its workforce

Merck & Co. plans to cut 8,500 jobs as the drugmaker continues its struggle with competition from cheaper generic medications that have squeezed the pharmaceuticals industry for several quarters.

The New Jersey-based company said the reductions it announced Tuesday are in addition to a total of 7,500 cuts it had previously announced but hasn’t carried out. That means it is slashing about 20 percent of its workforce, currently about 81,000 people.

Merck, the world’s third-
largest drugmaker, said the restructuring will cost $2.5 billion to $3 billion before taxes, mainly because of employee severance costs. But Merck expects the moves to help generate annual savings of about $2.5 billion by the end of 2015. Most of the savings are projected to come from marketing and administrative expenses and research and development.

Company shares rose $1.13 Tuesday, or 2.4 percent, to close at $48.74. Merck’s stock is up about 19 percent this year.

— Associated Press

Also in Business

U.S. consumer demand for new vehicles cooled slightly in September, as expected, with Ford Motor Co. topping analysts’ expectations but General Motors falling short. The annual auto sales rate was 15.28 million vehicles, the slowest since April and down considerably from 16.09 million in August — but close to what many analysts expected. Overall, U.S. auto sales fell 4.2 percent in September, to 1.14 million vehicles, according to industry research firm Autodata. It was the industry’s first year-on-year sales decline in more than two years.

Investor Carl Icahn is pressuring Apple to spend $150 billion buying back its stock, more than double the amount that the company’s board authorized in a previous attempt to placate shareholders. Icahn took to the Internet and television Tuesday to make it clear that he believes Apple isn’t doing nearly enough to boost its stock price, which has fallen 30 percent from its peak, reached in September 2012.

A government lawyer says the drive to win that helps Mark Cuban succeed in business led the billionaire basketball owner to cheat by using insider information to sell stock in an Internet company. “Mark Cuban violated the law, and he knew better,” Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer Jan Folena said Tuesday during opening statements to jurors at Cuban’s insider-
trading trial. One of Cuban’s attorneys said that the SEC’s chief witness was lying. The defense portrayed the case as government overreach.

Online document-sharing site Scribd is taking a page from Netflix’s success story as it sets out to create the world’s largest subscription service for digital books. Scribd on Tuesday introduced a $9 monthly e-book subscription service that will boast thousands of titles published by HarperCollins before July 2012. HarperCollins, owned by News Corp., becomes the first of the five largest U.S. publishers to join a service vying to create an alternative to buying individual titles.

Amazon.com intends to boost its holiday temporary hiring in the United States by 40 percent this year, even as rivals such as Target scale back. Seattle-based Amazon plans to add 70,000 full-time seasonal jobs at its 45 warehouses in the country. Last year, when it had 40 warehouses, it hired 50,000 seasonal workers.

— From news services

Coming Today

8:15 a.m.: ADP employment report released.

Earnings: Monsanto.

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