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Among several steps consumers can take to try to minimize the damage caused by the Equifax Inc. (NYSE: EFX) leak of personally identifiable information on 145.5 million Americans is to place a freeze on their credit report. Depending on which state you live in, that can range in cost from zero to $10, and a request to “unfreeze” or “thaw” the report may cost a similar amount.
Only four states — Indiana, Maine, North Carolina, South Carolina — require the firms to provide both freezes and “thaws” at no charge to consumers. Four other states — Colorado, Maryland, New Jersey, New York — require the firms to provide freezes at no charge but allow them to charge for thawing the freeze either temporarily or permanently. Victims of identity theft get free freezes and thaws in every state, and many states waive or reduce fees for certain categories of consumers.
If all 148 million consumers in the other 42 states and the District of Columbia ordered a credit freeze today, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion (NYSE: TRU), the three major U.S. credit reporting companies, would rack up $4.1 billion in revenues, according to researchers at U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG).
The fees the firms charge vary by state. In Texas, for example, a freeze costs $10 at Experian and TransUnion and $10.83 at Equifax (includes tax). Temporary or permanent thaws cost the same. To get the best protection from misuse of the data stolen from Equifax, consumers are urged to freeze their credit reports at all three firms. That will cost Texans $30.83.
USPIRG calculates that fees to freeze all records for all Texans would dump $509 million into the revenue stream of the three firms. An interactive map at the USPIRG website gives the fees in all 50 states.
On Tuesday, former Equifax CEO Richard Smith appeared before a U.S. House committee and outlined the company’s response to the data breach. During questioning by committee members, it became clear that neither Smith nor anyone else at Equifax felt any sense of urgency or had any real understanding of what had happened. For a good description of the company’s lackadaisical response, see the story at Wired.com.
As of Monday, two bills have been introduced in the U.S. Senate and one in the House to make credit freezes free nationwide. The bills should also include a refund to consumers who have paid for the freezes at any time since the three credit reporting agencies began selling personal information on consumers and charging them for exercising their right to keep the information private. Except, of course, when the firms carelessly expose it.
Office Depot Inc. (NASDAQ: ODP) saw its shares dip on Wednesday after the firm announced that it would be changing its business model and taking a new strategic direction as a company. As part of this shift, Office Depot is acquiring CompuCom Systems to move into a broader business services and technology products platform. The firm also gave a preliminary estimate of third-quarter financial results and a lowered outlook for Office Depot’s stand-alone business for 2017.
For some quick background: CompuCom is a market-leading provider of award-winning IT services, products and solutions that enable the digital workplace for enterprise, small and midsize businesses.
Under the terms of the agreement, Office Depot will acquire CompuCom from Thomas H. Lee Partners (THL), for $1 billion, which includes the repayment of CompuCom debt and issuance of new Office Depot shares. Following the transaction, THL will hold an equity position in Office Depot of roughly 8% of total shares outstanding.
The combined company expects to capture $25 billion in market share. At the same time, CompuCom is adding $1.1 billion in revenue, and it is expected to deliver cost synergies of over $40 million within two years.
Gerry Smith, CEO of Office Depot, commented:
Technology is the office supply of the future. Today marks a significant milestone as we move to provide a unique business services platform for our current and future customers. Acquiring CompuCom is the first step in this new strategic direction. The combination of CompuCom’s enterprise IT services with our millions of customers and approximately 1,400 distribution points gives us the credibility and scale to build a sustainable platform and stand apart from the competition. The company will create value for shareholders from a diversified revenue base with a clear opportunity to grow higher value services and business-to-business revenues.24/7 Wall St.
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In terms of the outlook for the third quarter, the company expects to see operating income in the range of $125 million to $135 million and a total sales decline in the range of 7% to 8%. The consensus estimates call for earnings of $0.17 per share and $2.63 billion in revenue for the coming quarter.
Shares of Office Depot were last seen down about 15% at $3.92, with a consensus analyst price target of $5.09 and a 52-week range of $3.01 to $6.26.
OCTOBER NEWSLETTER 4
Top administration officials told Congress on Tuesday that illegal immigrant Dreamers should be granted a full pathway to citizenship, seemingly contradicting President Trump who said last month that citizenship wasn’t on the table.With just two days to go before the final deadline for Dreamers to renew protections under the Obama-era deportation amnesty program known as DACA, officials were on Capitol Hill to defend their handling of the situation.They said that with the exception of Puerto Ricans affected by hurricanes, the Oct. 5 renewal deadline will remain in place, saying it’s up to Congress to figure out some more permanent protections.
Michael Dougherty, assistance Homeland Security secretary for strategy and policy, said the nearly 700,000 Dreamers currently protected by DACA have earned it.They’re a benefit to the country, as are many immigrants coming in,” he said. “They are a valuable contribution to our society. We need to regularize their status through some legal means.”Pressed by Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, about whether that status should stop short of citizenship, Mr. Dougherty said citizenship has to be available to Dreamers.
“Creating second-class citizens or people who are never able to naturalize is not a good model,” he said. He said Mr. Trump shares that view.
But just last month Mr. Trump, explaining what he was looking for in a deal from Congress, seemed to rule out citizenship rights.
“We’re not looking at citizenship. We’re not looking at amnesty. We’re looking at allowing people to stay here,” Mr. Trump said after meeting with top Democratic leaders to talk about a path forward.
Mr. Trump had also expressed concern about whether the newly legalized children would be able to petition for their parents — often the ones who brought them here illegally — to eventually gain legal status, thereby benefiting from their illegal activity.
“CHAIN MIGRATION cannot be allowed to be part of any legislation on Immigration!” the president tweeted.
The Trump officials demurred on that question Tuesday, though, saying they’ll leave it up to Congress.I’d leave that to you. We’re happy to help in any way we can,” Mr. Dougherty said.Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, signaled he’s looking for a long list of add-ons to any legalization bill. He pointed to more border security, cleaner laws related to deportation, and mandatory use by businesses of E-Verify, the currently voluntary federal program that allows businesses to check potential hires’ work status.
“If everybody’s reasonable, we can reach a solution,” Mr. Grassley said.Administration officials insisted they didn’t have much choice in ending the DACA program, and said the six-month phaseout was the most humane option.With Texas promising to sue to stop DACA in the same courts that in 2015 had already halted a broader Obama amnesty, Trump officials said it was either do an “orderly wind down” or else risk a judge cutting off the program immediately.Under the phaseout, all current two-year permits will be honored until they expire. And anyone whose permit expires before March 5 has until Tuesday to apply for a two-year renewal.
Democrats pleaded for an extension of the Thursday deadline, saying thousands of Dreamers won’t have had enough time to gather paperwork or scrounge the nearly $500 filing fee required to reapply.
And they rejected the kind of list of security measures Mr. Grassley said he wants to see as part of a bill.
“If Republicans continue to insist on measures outside of the Dream Act and sensible border security that excludes the wall, they’re going to risk ruining a bipartisan agreement to protect the Dreamers,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.
In addition to the administration officials, also testifying Tuesday were Denisse Rojas Marquez, an illegal immigrant Dreamer currently protected by DACA, and Bill Hartzell, whose grandmother-in-law was slain by an 18-year-old illegal immigrant in Nebraska in 2013.
Ms. Marquez, who was brought to the U.S. as an infant and is now a medical school student in New York, said she lives in fear of being deported, saying that would derail her from her life’s goal of becoming a doctor.
“DACA lifted me out of the shadows, in every sense possible,” she said.
Mr. Hartzell, though, recounted the bedroom scene of the 93-year-old woman everyone knew as “Gram” — herself part of the wave of Italian immigrants in the 20th century — after she was beaten and raped by an illegal immigrant. He said her blood was spattered on every square foot of ceiling and wall.
Mr. Hartzell said allowing illegal immigrants to remain puts Americans in danger.
“When you go home tonight, or this weekend, and gather with your families around the dining room table, why don’t you go ahead and decide which child, parent or grandparent you will be willing to sacrifice so that others here illegally can realize their dreams,” he said.
During questions lawmakers ignored Mr. Hartzell, instead asking Ms. Marquez about her fears of deportation
Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) CEO Jim Hackett released his plans for the company’s next five years. The programs meant to change the cost structure and investments by Ford over that period involve huge cost cuts. Hackett did not say so, but it is difficult to see how he can meet his goals without “downsizing” his workforce.
Hackett is not alone in his need to cut people to shrink costs in a car market that grows more competitive by the day, particularly in the new electric and autonomous car businesses. Some of his solutions are not new. Among them is to move more cars to common platforms, shaving R&D and product development costs. In all probability this will save manufacturing expense as well, which means less use of factory time. This combined with factory automation will reduce the need for factory workers.
As a matter of fact, cost cuts were a primary, if not the primary, focus of Hackett’s plan:
Ford is attacking costs, reducing automotive cost growth by 50 percent through 2022. As part of this, the company is targeting $10 billion in incremental material cost reductions. The team also is reducing engineering costs by $4 billion from planned levels over the next five years by increasing use of common parts across its full line of vehicles, reducing order complexity and building fewer prototypes.
Ford is late in its decision to make large commitments to electronic and autonomous cars, which makes its future more risky than some other car companies. A very basic feature, connectivity, will finally be in 90% of Ford’s new global vehicles by 2020. Its specific goals for larger initiatives like electronic vehicles were not part of Hackett’s new vision. The lateness of the decisions means Ford has less room for error as it prepares for the next generation of global transportation. The ability to cut costs becomes even more central if Ford cannot keep pace with the other global manufacturers.
Ford listed a number of risk factors as it announced its new plans. Among them:
We cannot be certain that any expectation, forecast, or assumption made in preparing forward-looking statements will prove accurate, or that any projection will be realized. It is to be expected that there may be differences between projected and actual results.
Cost cuts, however, are something Ford investors, clients, suppliers and employees can count on. Some portion of those cuts almost certainly will mean people.