RETAIL

New owner to close 96 Sears, Kmart stores

The owner of Sears and Kmart is closing almost a third of its remaining stores just months after buying the struggling retailer out of bankruptcy.

Transform Holdco’s shutdown of 96 locations will leave just 182 outlets for the company, which was once America’s biggest department store chain. The merchant “has faced a difficult retail environment and other challenges” and is “pruning operations that have struggled due to increased competition and other factors,” Transform said in an emailed statement Thursday.

The company is getting $250 million of new capital from its owners, led by Eddie Lampert’s hedge fund ESL Investments, along with a third-party investor.

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“This is an acceleration of the death march that Eddie Lampert began when he combined Sears and Kmart over a decade ago,” said Burt Flickinger, managing director of the retail advisory firm Strategic Resource Group. “It is a classic illustration of how most Wall Street types have a deficient understanding of what’s required for a Main Street retail company to be effective.”

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The announcement shows that Sears, which narrowly escaped liquidation after its 2018 bankruptcy, is withering as consumers move on from the chain. Lampert bought Sears’ assets out of bankruptcy earlier this year, expressing faith in its future and vowing to preserve jobs, but it’s still facing the same fundamental problems that led it to seek court protection last year.

— Bloomberg News

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CRYPTOCURRENCY

International group targets cybercriminals

The Internal Revenue Service’s criminal division identified “dozens” of potential cryptocurrency tax evaders or cybercriminals after a meeting this week with tax authorities from four other countries.

Officials from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and the Netherlands — known as the Joint Chiefs of Global Tax Enforcement — shared data, tools and tax enforcement strategies to find new leads in a quest to mitigate cross-border money-laundering, tax evasion and cybercrime.

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The IRS’s cybercrime unit has developed expertise in “who is moving the money and where it’s going,” Ryan Korner, a senior special agent in the IRS’s Criminal Investigations office in Los Angeles, said in a call with reporters Friday. “We have tools in place that we didn’t have six months or a year ago.”

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The effort is part of the IRS’s renewed focus on fighting tax evasion tied to cryptocurrency as digital currency has become more popular and gained in value. The agency has struggled in recent years to enforce tax laws and keep up with criminals as technology has advanced.

“Tax fraud is not a new crime, but the sophistication with which criminals commit tax fraud has significantly increased through cyber-related activities in recent years,” the joint chiefs said in a statement. “Data breaches, intrusions, takeovers and compromises are the new tools that criminals use to commit tax crimes.”

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— Bloomberg News

Also in Business

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to consider a bid by a federal agency to prevent the popular hotel reservation website Booking.com, a unit of Booking Holdings, from trademarking the site's name, contending that it is too generic to deserve legal protection. The justices will hear an appeal by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office of lower court rulings that the addition of ".com" to the generic word "booking" made it eligible for a trademark.

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BB&T and SunTrust Banks have won U.S. antitrust approval to merge on condition that they divest 28 branches in three states, the Justice Department said on Friday. The merger of equals, announced in February, will create the sixth-largest U.S. bank holding company, SunTrust has said. It still needs approval from the Federal Reserve System and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

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The Federal Communications Commission on Friday said it was directing nine broadcast station groups to return to the negotiating table over whether to allow local stations to air on AT&T Inc's DirecTV after some consumers have been without access for five months. In June, AT&T filed a bad faith complaint against the nine individual station owners, which collectively pulled 20 stations in 20 cities from DirecTV, DirecTV NOW and/or U-verse. The nine station groups are either managed or controlled by Sinclair Broadcast Group.

— From news services

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