Tag Archives: Greenwich Time

Greenwich Time finally discovers tax bill problem

And whitewashes it. Only two weeks after the blogosphere started writing about the late mailing of tax bills, and days after our paper of record disclosed that jelly fish are late in arriving this year, Greenwich Time has decided that the late arrival of tax bills is almost as important as jelly fish and has finally published (or will tomorrow) a silly, incomplete article that completely exonerates the current town government. lays all the blame on an outside firm and makes no mention at all of what’s going to happen to homeowners who pay their taxes in escrow to their mortgage lenders.

But if they won’t,  I will: your payment will be made late and you will be charged a 3% penalty – 1.5% for July and 1.5% for August. Is Greenwich Time just engaged in lazy, sloppy and incomplete reporting, or has its editor decided he will refrain from saying anything harsh about Peter Tesei and his inept staff ? (I happen to be a registered Republican, for what that’s worth)

I don’t know the answer to that but I do know I cancelled my subscription to the paper long ago when my cat Henry stopped accepting it as a substitute for genuine clay kitty litter in his pan.

It’s sort of like “the check is in mail,” but in this case, it is the tax bill that will be in the mail — although later than previous years. [And weeks after the legal deadline - Ed]

And it’s not the fault of the town, said Tax Collector Tod Laudonia, who added the bills should be in the hands of taxpayers by the end of the week.

He blamed Tyler Technologies, a Dallas company that processes the tax information the town provides. He said the company needed more than two weeks to resolve a software error.

“I am very disappointed with the customer service they provided us,” Laudonia said. “It took them 15 working days to resolve the problem.”

Look: when Laudonia took the job as tax collector and even before he was sworn in in January, he knew that tax bills were required to be sent out by June 30th. So he does nothing for six months and then complains that it took 15 days for the vendor to correct a problem? Suppose, instead of golfing in Florida all winter, he’d addressed the issue in, say, February. Fifteen days wouldn’t have been an issue, eh?

Peter Tesei isn’t quoted in the article at all, either because the GT reporter was too lazy to call him or couldn’t reach him at the nudie beach but we do learn that “Town officials will meet with Tyler Technologies later in the summer to review what went wrong.” My hope is that we send a couple of janitors and food servers from the basement cafeteria to that meeting, rather than Laudonia or anyone else associated with Tesei. Something might get accomplished.

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So what’s going on at Greenwich Time?

Winding down

L.T. arrested for statutory rape, they can cover. Domestic dispute on Buxton Lane? Yeah, they got that, with names. Michael Metter, president of WGCH and Greenwich resident arrested at dawn yesterday by the FBI and charged with all sorts of nefarious crimes related to his penny stock scam, SpongeTech? Nah – no interest. Doesn’t that strike you as curious?

I’m not going to suggest to a dying newspaper what they might want to report on, but in town populated with financial types, I’d think news of Metter’s arrest would be of more interest than a drug-addict ex-football player getting in trouble again, in New Jersey, no less, or a couple not getting along. But heck, if they could figure that out, they wouldn’t be following WGCH into the graveyard, would they?

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This should put an end to SpongeTech’s suit against Teri Buhl

UPDATE: Metter has been arrested, along with the lawyers he used to issue his phony documents, and an international manhunt is underway for the PR firm that collaborated with him. Perhaps they should look in Dubai?

SEC charges WGCH’s Michael Metter with penny stock pump and dump scam. This was, I believe, the story that got Teri fired from Greenwich Time.[Teri Buhl has written that this isn't so - of course, since she still doesn't know why she was fired, I choose to believe she was fired for offending someone and Metter, the fat bully, is as good a candidate as any].  Here at FWIW we’ve encouraged Teri to write what she likes and I hope we’ll have her report on this soon. In the meantime, here’s to you, Greenwich Time.

Washington D.C., May 5th 2010 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged New York City-based Spongetech Delivery Systems Inc., an affiliate, and five people involved in a massive pump-and-dump scheme that deceived investors into believing they were buying stock in a highly successful company.

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–>The SEC alleges that Spongetech CEO Michael Metter and another senior executive, Steven Moskowitz, hyped fictional customers and grossly exaggerated sales figures through dozens of bogus press releases and fraudulent SEC filings to pump up demand for stock in Spongetech, a company that sells soap-filled sponges. After flooding the market with the false information to fraudulently inflate the stock price, Metter, Moskowitz, and Spongetech dumped approximately 2.5 billion shares by illegally selling them to the public through affiliated entities in unregistered transactions. They spent portions of their illicit profits in highly visible sponsorship deals with professional sports teams to further create the aura that Spongetech was a well-known and prosperous business.

The SEC suspended trading in Spongetech stock on Oct. 5, 2009, due to questions about the accuracy of the company’s press releases and SEC filings. In today’s enforcement action, Spongetech is accused of obstructing the SEC’s investigation by producing phony sales documents in an attempt to legitimize the make-believe customers it hyped to the public. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York today announced a parallel criminal action in the matter.

“Spongetech used a menu of manipulative strategies to perpetuate this scheme, including fake sales orders and public statements as well as obstruction of the SEC’s investigation,” said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “We will utilize all available means, including referral to criminal authorities, to prosecute those who attempt to thwart our investigations.”

Christopher Conte, Associate Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, added, “Investors were deceived into believing that Spongetech was a successful business, while Spongetech and its senior executives were illegally dumping shares into the market.”

Two of Spongetech’s former attorneys — Jack Halperin and Joel Pensley — and stock promoter George Speranza are also charged in the SEC’s complaint, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. RM Enterprises International Inc., an affiliate through which Spongetech dumped shares, is also charged.

According to the SEC’s complaint, after several years of relatively little business with a single customer comprising the bulk of Spongetech’s limited sales, Metter and Moskowitz began to paint a more promising and misleading picture of Spongetech’s business. Beginning in approximately April 2007, Spongetech issued dozens of phony press releases touting increasingly larger, yet fictitious, sales orders and revenue. The press releases fraudulently exaggerated the demand for pre-soaped sponges by referencing millions of dollars in sales orders, business, and revenue from five primary customers that purportedly accounted for 99 percent of Spongetech’s business, yet none of those customers actually existed.

The SEC’s complaint alleges that Metter, Moskowitz, Spongetech, and RM Enterprises used false and baseless attorney opinion letters by Pensley and Halperin to distribute shares of Spongetech to the public. Metter, Moskowitz, and Spongetech also used false and misleading attorney opinion letters — forged in Pensley’s name and in the name of a fictitious lawyer, David Bomart — which were transmitted to Spongetech’s transfer agents. The SEC further alleges that Speranza created websites and rented unoccupied office space for the fictional customers in an attempt to legitimize them.

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Too funny – Greenwich Time is looking for (another) financial blogger

And what an attractive job it seems to be!

Financial Services Reporter

Hearst Connecticut Media Group is seeking a financial services reporter to blog, break stories, investigate and lead coverage of the high-end financial services industry and community in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Blogging and writing for our online products will constitute about 70 percent of the job.

The beat will include hedge funds, investment banks, private equity, insurance, and financial instruments and commodities trading. A major focus will be on the people involved in the industry and those affected by it.

The successful candidate will be an excellent people person, able to develop sources and establish a constant flow of information from a traditionally closed-mouth community. He or she must have strong familiarity with the industry and a high comfort level in reporting on complex financial and economic matters, interacting with C-level executives and high-net-worth individuals, and translating it all into compelling copy for our newspaper and online readers.

Excellent story-crafting skills are a must, as is experience with online reporting through blogs, Twitter and Facebook, etc., as well as traditional news Web sites. Video skills are a plus.

Requirements include boundless enthusiasm for the beat, a bachelor’s degree, outstanding business clips in his or her portfolio, and the ability to juggle multiple print and online assignments and deadlines.

The position will be based in Greenwich and report to Business Editor Jim Zebora in Stamford. Anyone interested should contact Jim at 203-964-2420 or jim.zebora@scni.com.

Gee, it seems to me they had all these skills, and more, in Teri Buhl, yet she lasted just three months on the job. Mr. Zebora should, in fairness to job applicants, add a few more requirements to that skill set, including ass-kissing and fear of and respect for the rich, powerful or influential in Greenwich. Maybe you can make it one of those unpaid intern jobs for teenagers, Jim – they’ll need the experience and the resulting cynicism.

(H/T, Pulled Up in OG)

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A cautionary tale from David McCucumber

Wally Peepers struggles to extend his expiration date

Greenwich Time’s editor, shown below, is just a pathetic shadow of the man he once was. I was dismayed, after Googling the guy, to discover that he was once a kindred spirit and my own age. Spent a year ranching in Montana, went on the road, and was a truly adventurous guy. Now he’s just a hack, struggling to hang on until his pension comes through. How sad. Makes me think all the better about moving to Hong Kong. What do you say, Dave – want to try one last blast with me? It’s our last chance.

In better days

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Did WGCH’s Michael Metter get Teri Buhl fired?

Bill Clark writes that Ms. Buhl may have been fired from Greenwich Time for reporting on the stock scam WGCH owner Michael Metter is running. I don’t know – it seems to me that GT’s Dave McCucumber is a frightened rabbit, scared of his own shadow, and would a dump a reporter at the first sign that someone was “Angy” at McCucumber, but certainly Teri gave Metter something to be angry about. He’s running a penny stock fraud for something called SpongeTech and people running scams just hate when you point that out.

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A new Teri Buhl article

While Greenwich Time editor Dave McCucumber stil refuses to provide her with copies of her own stories (they’re ours,” he insists, “and we can do what we like with them” – like erase them – that’s a nice way to help a fired reported find new work, Dave), Teri graciously sent along this article that would have appeared over on the Elm Street rag, were she still there.

J.C. Flowers Exec says FDIC will allow single private investment firms to buy failed banks this year

by Teri Buhl

The FDIC is meeting with private equity titans today to talk about the
rules around private investment firms buying failed banks. Reuters was first
to report the pow-wow and quoted industry sources who said they don’t expect
the FDIC to make big changes to the rules <http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE62G50O20100317>
. Some of the tension between the FDIC, the OCC, and the private equity firms
centers around the percent of ownership individual P.E. firms can own in
banks and the higher levels of capital they are currently required to have
if they want to buy a bank. The FDIC would not admit the date of the
private meeting with industry financiers but told Reuters they will ‘issue additional clarifications’ about
the rules.

Two weeks ago Dow Jones held a distressed debt restructuring and turnaround
summit in New York where industry leaders talked about deal flow, economic
conditions, and regulatory or legal issues involved in buying bankrupt
companies. Industry speakers second the view that there will definitely be
more opportunity for private  investment firms to buy failed banks because
of the number of banks expected to continue to fail this year.

John Oros, managing director at J.C. Flowers & Co. who runs a fund that
invests in financial firms, told this reporter in an interview at the
conference that he believes in 2010 single private equity firms will be
allowed to buy failed banks. Oros is the first industry vet we’ve heard say
that.

Oros reminded us that his firm tried to bid twice for the assets of IndyMac
when the FDIC placed the failed bank out for bid in 2008 but were turned
down. Since his firm wasn’t allowed to buy the bank on their own, it ended up working with a group of other P.E. firms
<http://ml-implode.com/viewnews/2008-12-26_EXCLUSIVEFDICtoSellIndyMacToPriva
teEquityFirm.html> including Dune Capital, Paulson & Co, George Soros, and
Michael Dell’s investment firm to successfully win the bid to buy IndyMac.
It was the first time we’d seen the regulators allow a group of private investors to
buy a failed bank and many industry veterans thought they got a sweet-heart
of a loss sharing deal. At last weeks industry conference there was
consensus that margins on buying failed banks have shrunk since last year,
but the opportunity is still a viable economic investment for distressed
investors.

For now it’s a waiting game as the FDIC works to find the best possible
solution for how to unload the droves of toxic assets it’s taken on from
loss sharing in failed bank deals and prepares for future failures.
 
In an interview last week, Connecticut Banking Commissioner Howard Pitken told this reporter that they are carefully watching the commercial loan portfolios of banks in Fairfield County. He told this reporter there is concern about default levels in some local banks but they are trying to get ahead of the problems before failures occur. He would not name which banks he is currently worried could fail because of their troubled commercial loan book. Patriot Bank and Darien Rowayton Bank have both needed private investor funding as they neared collapse, but if they were seized and placed under FDIC conservatorship it is unlikely a single private equity firm would have been able to take control of the failed banks.

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