Massive Settlement Awarded to Widow of Chain Smoker

In a fascinating ruling, a Florida jury has just awarded the widow of a chain smoker who died of lung cancer 18 years ago more than $23 billion against RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company. These are punitive damages and represent the largest award given in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by a single plaintiff.

Cynthia Robinson sued RJ Reynolds in 2008 saying that the company conspired to conceal the health dangers of their product. Her husband died of lung cancer in 1996 at the age of 36, having smoked one to three packs a day for more than 20 years.

The jury awarded $7.3 million to the widow and the couple’s child and $9.6 million to another son of Johnson’s. They then awarded $23.6 billion in punitive damages.

Of course, J. Jeffery Raborn, vp and assistant general counsel for RJ Reynolds, said that they plan to challenge “this runaway verdict.”




Mine for Sale in Dawson City

Clearly, gold has dropped a great deal recently, and one mine owner has felt this personally. The owner of a mine in Canada’s Yukon gold belt is selling his property for $2 million in bitcoin. The minor hasn’t made his name known, but he is selling the property on BitPremier, a bitcoin marketplace for “luxury items and opportunities”.

The mine in Dawson City can product as much as 4000 ounces of gold a year. This is worth $5.9 million at the current market rate. The sale also includes $1 million worth of equipment.

As the ad says,

“A well-respected, fully compliant and profitable company, any new buyer could recoup their initial investment in as little as two mining seasons.”

See the full story here.

Experts Advise Caution as Housing Market Grows

With low mortgage rates and growing prices, the housing market is on the rise. Still, the U.S. economy has yet to truly stabilize, making it hard to guarantee the continuing growth of the real estate sector. Some experts are warning potential buyers to be aware of and prepare for potential shifts in the market.

Reuters discusses several key points made by Stan Humphries of


U.S. Economy on the Rise

Economists estimate that retail sales increased at a faster pace last month, while the U.S. housing market saw some improvement as the economy recovers.

According to the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg, purchases at retailers rose 0.8%, the highest in four months. May also saw a 0.6% climb. Household wealth and the labor market are both on the rise, leaving Americans less hesitant in their spending. Cars and trucks were purchased at the fastest rate since 2007.

Millan Mulraine of the U.S. rates research at TD Securities USA LLC explained: “The transition from a soft patch to a more sustained rebound is slowly beginning to take shape. The underlying tone of retail sales is encouraging. The positive momentum in housing will continue. Manufacturing has stabilized.”

Jenny Lin of Ford added, “Economic indicators continue to improve.” The “consumer spending growth pace is slowly picking up.”

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Experts Predict Increased Retail Sales in May

Economists believe that sales at U.S. retailers rose in May as the job market looks up and consumer confidence rises to boost automobile, home furnishing and clothing sales.

Experts predict a 0.4% rise, which would be the biggest in three months. April saw an increase of 0.1%, according to a forecast from a Bloomberg survey.

Gap Inc. and General Motors are two companies who have reported significant gains and hiring increases thanks to higher home and stock prices. Other brands who revealed May gains include L Brands Inc., Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works.

Glenn Murphy, Gap chairman and CEO, said: “We are pleased with the positive customer response to summer product across our brands and the continued momentum in the business.”

Ted Wieseman, an economist at Morgan Stanley, explained: “Consumers are not feeling the need to pare back their spending to offset the impact of the tax increases, with confidence in the labor market rising and balance sheets improving.”

In April, payrolls rose by 149,000 workers, and last month saw another 175,000 enter the labor force.

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U.S. Housing Business Looking Up

John Paulson has a solid history investing in the construction industry. Slow but steady increases in the market have pushed Paulson & Co. to support William Lyon Homes, a homebuilding company based in Newport Beach, CA. The company raised $217.5 million with its initial public offering earlier this month.

Despite hitting rough times in previous years, William Lyon’s sales jumped by over a third last year to $76.4 million. Last November, Paulson & Co. invested $30 million in the company. The firm now owns 21% of the stock as well as 10% of the voting power.

The recent investment indicates that Paulson may be shifting his focus back to the housing industry as the market improves. Prices of new homes are on the rise, and have increased by 11% since this time last year. According to the Financial Post, a Brooklyn townhouse on sale for $950,000 attracted over 300 visitors. While many investors and entrepreneurs are placing their bets with homebuilders, others are approaching the market from other angles.

Bill Smead of Smead Capital Management, for example, explained that he bought shares in Home Depot because it sells home construction equipment, and also invested in banks with inventories of foreclosed homes, like Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JP Morgan.

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DWP Employee Pay Rose 15% in Five Years

According to records released this week, average employee pay at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power rose 15% over the past few years despite the national economic slump.

DWP workers generally receive more generous pay raises than other city workers. Household income for LA residents fell from $48,882 to $46,148 over a similar period. DWP pay rose from $88,299 to $101,237.

The LA Times explains that “DWP compensation has become a central issue in the May 21 mayoral election, in which there has been much debate over whether the city’s labor contracts are too costly given the fiscal problems that have resulted in major cuts in services.

“The union representing most of the DWP’s workers has become the single biggest source of campaign cash in the race, giving $1.45 million to an independent effort backing City Controller Wendy Greuel.

“The only pay growth comparable to the DWP came at the city Fire Department, where average total salary and other payments also rose 15% over the five years to $132,131. But officials note that about 300 positions were cut from the Fire Department in that period, which required increased overtime payments to fill positions.”

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Center for Discovery Annual Economic Impact Reaches $184M

A recent analysis reveals that the Center for Discovery is one of the biggest economic engines in the history of Sullivan County. Generating $134 million every year, the Center provides more than 1,400 employment opportunities in Sullivan County alone. In the state of New York, the Center’s total economic impact reaches $184 million annually.

Patrick Dollard, Center for Discovery President and CEO, said:

“The data confirms that The Center for Discovery is a major regional economic force, and while that is an important part of our story, it isn’t all of it. What is more telling is the work we do every day, and the role we have assumed as a national leader in developing innovative care for children and adults with severe disabilities and autism spectrum disorders. Our strong commitment to patient care, education and research makes us a model in our industry.”

The Center has proposed a new $20 million project to build a High-Risk Assessment Clinic in Harris. The clinic should add around 400 new jobs over the first few years.

Dr. Theresa Hamlin, Center Associate Executive Director, explained:

“The Assessment Clinic is the only project of its kind. We feel strongly that it will not only be a game-changer for New York but for the entire world.”

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What is a Hedge Fund?

Since many individuals new to the world of investing are confused about the various terms used in this industry, here as an article that broaches the question, what is a hedge fund? In layman’s terms, a hedge fund is an investment partnership established by a money manager.  A hedge fund can be a limited liability company or a limited partnership.  Thus if the company falls into bankruptcy the creditors are not able to ask the investors for more money than they have deposited into the hedge fund. In addition, hedge fund investments are illiquid as investors generally are forced to keep their funds in for at least a year, often more.

Hedge fund managers are paid a percentage of the profits they earn on the money the investor has deposited to his/her company. When hedge funds first started out, they were seeking to turn a profit irrespective of if the market went up or down since the managers were able to either buy stocks or short them (make money when a stock plummets).  Later on, “hedge fund” became a generic term.

Going a little deeper to answer the question, what is a hedge fund, one finds that it is a group of investments that is managed utilizing advanced investment strategies.  Such hedge fund strategies include: short, long and leveraged derivative positions in domestic and international markets in an attempt to get high returns.

Furthermore, the term “hedging” is used to describe what happens when hedge fund managers try to reduce risk. In general though, this is not a common hedge fund strategy since most managers are actually seeking to maximize return on the investment.

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Zarsha Leo Defies Economic Challenges

Economic turmoil has brought forth many challenges for businesses all over the world. Zarsha Leo, a restaurant-bar franchise based in NY, has managed to avoid many of the pitfalls thanks to its flexible approach and simple appeal.

CEO Evan Burschkopf explains:

“Our services are quite simple, and our appeal undeniable. We offer affordable entertainment and a local getaway from everyday pressure, making us invaluable to communities all over the world. Sure, people are cutting their expenses, but barbeques, beer and sports always make the cut.”