Category Archives: Finance


$2 Billion of Retail Fraud..

By; Alexandra Mondalek Nordstrom store front, from the interior of a generic mall.

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Taylor Swift’s $25 million Beverly Hills mansion 

Pop star Taylor Swift has turned five Beverly Hills public officials into adoring fans — and their love has nothing to do with music.

Swift, who bought the family estate of iconic Hollywood producer Samuel Goldwyn for $25 million a year ago, is going to great lengths to have the property restored to its original 1934 condition. Her architects are painstakingly rehabbing the main house’s oversized windows, replicating wooden fencing from nearly a century ago and even reconstructing columns at the pool cabana.

On Wednesday, the Beverly Hills Cultural Heritage Commission’s five members voted enthusiastically in favor of Swift’s request to turn her new digs into a local landmark for its connection to Goldwyn. Now, the Beverly Hills City Council will vote to finalize the historic designation at an upcoming, yet unscheduled, meeting.

Judging by the gushing approval by the Heritage Commission, it appears that the pop singer-turned-conservator is likely to get her way.

“This is one of the great estates in this city, and it’s very important to the history of the city. And I’m thrilled that whoever the owner is, they’ve found it important to keep this house and spend the money to restore it because it’s no small thing to do,” said Noah Furie, vice chair of the commission during the meeting Wednesday.

To help shield her identity, Swift bought the home under a limited liability company linked to her managers in Nashville, Tennessee, called Leo Realty, according to property records. The home had been on and off the market since 2008, at one point with a price tag of $32 million, meaning Swift got somewhat of a deal when she closed in September 2015.

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Taylor Swift performs in Sydney, Australia, in 2015.

Publicists for Swift declined to comment for this article.

Before her tenure, Goldwyn and his heirs had continuously owned the property for more than 80 years, according to a report on the property from the Heritage Commission.

Goldwyn immigrated by himself to the United States from Poland at the turn of the 20th century, starting his life as a salesman in New York City before moving to California. His story is an American cliche — what started as a modest production company with his brother-in-law was his ticket to becoming one of the founders of the Hollywood film industry, according to the report.

Goldwyn co-founded Goldwyn Pictures, which later merged into Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, or MGM, known by its iconic roaring lion in the intro credits. His most-acclaimed movies include 1946 drama “The Best Years of Our Lives,” “Dead End” starring Humphrey Bogart, musical “Guys and Dolls” and one of his last productions, “Porgy And Bess.”

In the early 1930s, Goldwyn was looking to move from his house in Hollywood Hills to a more spacious estate, where he could better entertain and host film screenings, when he settled on a plot of land in Beverly Hills. Goldwyn and his wife Frances hired renowned architect Douglas Honnold to build a Georgian Revival house on the plot, even bringing in set designers to help with construction, according to a separate report Swift commissioned from architects Barbara Lamprecht and George Taylor Louden.


A view of the back of the house and pool of the Goldwyn mansion.

In the end, Honnold created a two-story, 11,000-square-foot house made of white-painted brick and stucco. The dramatic windowed entryway leads to a sweeping, curved staircase that leads to four bedrooms, including a master suite, on the second floor. The home has an additional guest suite located above the garage.

The terraced grounds include a swimming pool and cabana, tennis court and a tool shed.

It was not disclosed how much Swift is spending on the restoration of the Goldwyn house. But construction has been underway for over a year, said Swift’s architect, Monique Schenk.

“Really when this project’s done, hopefully this year sometime soon, it’s going to be really spectacular,” Schenk said at the commission meeting on Wednesday. “We’ve preserved and maintained a lot of the elements and those that were deteriorating, we’ve replicated.”

That includes carefully restoring the original, 100-year-old double-hung windows and preserving the original plaster moulding on the curved interior staircase.

Swift has even signed off on preserving the wisteria foliage climbing over part of the exterior. Crews have removed the vines onto temporary scaffolding while they finish work on the facade, Schenk said.

One commission member wants to make Swift the local poster child of historic preservation. “It would be wonderful to have some kind of press conference or event for people in the city,” suggested commissioner Lisa Greer, to dispel the idea “that landmarking is a pain in the neck and, you know, that it’s nothing but trouble.”

Swift, who has homes in New York City and Nashville, is also reportedly in the middle of renovating her Tribeca penthouse.

It’s not clear what her motivation is in taking on a restoration project in Beverly Hills. And while some have speculated she’s seeking a historic designation to boost the value of the home, landmarks can work the opposite way. In Los Angeles, the heirs of icon Bob Hope are fighting tooth-and-nail against the city, which is attempting to landmark his former home. They claim the proposal has already cooled interest and market price for the property.

A historic designation means that future construction requires special approval from the city, so as not to damage or alter the historic integrity of a property.

This isn’t the first time Swift has sugared up her new neighbors. Shortly after moving to her penthouse in Tribeca, the singer pledged to donate proceeds from her aptly titled song “Welcome to New York” to New York City public schools.

Heritage Commissioner Maralee Beck offered another possibility: The owner simply wants a Hollywood artifact.

“Yes it’s easier to start from scratch,” Beck said. “But it isn’t quite as satisfying as owning a piece of history?”





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Farm to produce greens without sun, soil or water 

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Gates may become world’s first trillionaire

Catherine Clifford 

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Are rotating homes the future of architecture? 




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Sallie Krawcheck: Get ready for ‘financial feminism’ 

Sallie Krawcheck

Krawcheck is frustrated by a male-dominated industry she says has a blind spot for women

Sallie Krawcheck wants to see a particular brand of feminism in 2017. She calls it “financial feminism.”

Former Wall Street standout Krawcheck, who was vocal about the intersection of politics, money and culture throughout the presidential campaign — she told an interviewer before the election that Donald Trump’s candidacy could be “one of the best things that’s ever happened for feminists” — hasn’t changed that tune in 2017.

Earlier this month, with Trump’s inauguration nearing, she wrote to members of digital investment advisory service Ellevest that women “control $5 trillion of investible assets, jointly control another $6 trillion of investible assets and make up half of the workforce. And today we have more options than ever for using that power.”

Krawcheck is CEO and co-founder of Ellevest, which she aims to grow by targeting women, raising their financial profiles in the meantime. She is also promoting a book, “Own It,” released Jan. 17, that merges her personal experience with viewpoints on feminism, work, and how the financial services industry should serve women.

Women have only half the retirement savings of men, even though they control $5 trillion in investible assets. Can Wall Street get women to invest more?

In conversations with MarketWatch, she expressed frustration with a male-dominated industry she says has a blind spot for women, tailoring messaging and products to men. An example: product descriptions that focus on how they “beat” or “outperform” the market rather than build wealth.

“Women would like to make sure there is enough money to pay for [their child’s] college, and not whether their portfolio is doing better than somebody else’s,” Krawcheck told MarketWatch. “It’s not a coincidence that an opportunity like Ellevest exists.”

Krawcheck grew up in Charleston, S.C., a straight-A student whose obsession with grades helped her earn the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s prestigious Morehead-Cain Scholarship. But when she graduated, she first aimed for journalism, not finance.

“I tried to get a job at Time magazine,” she said. “They would not give me one, so I applied for a job on Wall Street.”

Krawcheck eventually cut her Wall Street teeth at Salomon Brothers, briefly overlapping with Michael Lewis, who later described his tenure there in “Liar’s Poker.” (In the book, Lewis describes scenes of misogyny and sexism at the firm; Krawcheck does the same in hers.)

Krawcheck quit after three years to pursue an M.B.A. at Columbia University. At a commencement speech some two decades later, she told the crowd about the rejection letters she received after applying for Wall Street jobs — three, she recalled, just from Lehman Brothers — upon graduating from business school.

She accepted the only offer she got, covering the life insurance industry for Sanford Bernstein “for half of my old salary and at a lower level of seniority.”

Then she began to climb, earning acclaim as she progressed: When she was appointed CEO of Citi’s C, -1.27% new Smith Barney unit, Time listed her in its 2002 list of “Global Influentials.” Fortune named her Most Influential Person Under the Age of 40.

She became CFO of Citigroup in 2004 and CEO of Citi’s wealth management business in 2007.

Krawcheck, now 52, was fired from Citigroup in September 2008 over an argument with then-CEO Vikram Pandit in which she felt the company should compensate clients who lost money after following the bank’s investment advice.

In 2009, she was hired to run Bank of America’s BAC, -0.44% Merrill Lynch advisory unit, but was fired by new CEO Brian Moynihan as part of a restructuring two years later.

She contemplated a move to regulation, with stints as a consultant working with leaders in Washington, D.C., in the wake of the financial crisis. But in 2013 she bought 85 Broads, a network of professional women that aims to “help women advance in the workplace, both for themselves and the greater good” and is now called Ellevate.

With a background in financial services and a passion for improving women’s financial lives, Krawcheck says it was natural for her to start a digital adviser geared specifically toward them. Ellevest officially launched in May.

And she views her high-profile firings as part of the life of a Wall Street executive. At a conversation with Columbia students not long after her dismissal by Moynihan, she answered questions about banking, the financial crisis, women on the Street and her career without euphemisms or jargon. “Life,” she said, “goes on.”

Closing the investment gap

Krawcheck, a prolific writer, speaker and social media maven, understands the power of the message. She writes regularly for news sites, her columns are widely shared via LinkedIn, and Ellevest clients regularly get her missives on personal finance, feminism and tips on how to ask for a raise.

It’s 2017. Why do we hire for diversity & then coach them to conform to the majority? There’s a better way. 

Photo published for It’s 2017. Why are we still telling women to act like men at work?

It’s 2017. Why are we still telling women to act like men at work?

You may be familiar with some of the research on the power of diversity in driving company performance: that more gender diverse leadership teams can lead to higher returns on equity, lower risk,

She asserts that a lack of gender diversity on Wall Street is a big reason the financial services industry doesn’t serve women as well as it should. The industry has also noted this: In a 2014 white paper, CFP Board CEO Kevin R. Keller wrote that “the needs [of consumers] will go unmet unless the population of CFP professionals more closely reflects the demographics of the public they serve.”

Only 23% of financial advisers with the Certified Financial Planner designation are women, according to Cerulli Associates, a research firm that specializes in global asset management.

Meanwhile, women control more than half of U.S. personal wealth — but an average woman’s retirement account is just over half that of an average man’s, according to BMO Wealth Institute, partly because women earn less during their lifetimes, accumulate more debt, live longer and suffer more financially after divorces.

Women are also more likely to take career breaks to start a family or care for a family member, something Krawcheck says comes with a price tag higher than many realize — and that they often neglect to calculate, with unforgiving consequences.

According to the Center for American Progress, a nonpartisan policy institute, career breaks of just a few years can cost a worker hundreds of thousands of dollars due to a combination of lost wages, lost retirement, lost Social Security contributions and lost future wage growth.

“If you are earning $85,000 a year, and want to take a 2-year career break, most women assume the cost of such a break is $170,000,” Krawcheck said. “The right answer is it’s more than a $1 million.…When you calculate the true cost of a career break, you might just want to get a babysitter. The worst decision you make is to make a decision with poor information.”

Career breaks — and other decisions, such as failures to ask for promotions or raises — lead to financial gaps that leave women at a disadvantage, according to Krawcheck, who says she wants to help women make choices that put them on a stronger footing.

“I believe this fully and have seen it in action: Money is power, and women will not be fully equal with men until we are financially equal with men,” she said.

A different kind of robo adviser

Ellevest is a robo adviser designed specifically for women, taking into account likely gaps in pay and investment in recommending products and strategies. Rather than offering only a choice of portfolios in which to invest, Krawcheck says, “we put together a full financial plan together based on a woman’s goal,” combining data including their education, age, salary, ZIP Code and assets.

Their software also estimates the effect of career breaks on their planning. “We often have to deliver bad news to investors,” she said.


A sample view of the Ellevest interface.

Members can buy investment products directly through Ellevest or use the advice with their own advisers. When customers appear to fall behind on savings goals, Ellevest nudges them to get back on track, telling them how to adjust.

Ellevest is now available to anyone with a computer and a bank account. It is still relatively small, with 1,800 clients and $9 million under management, according to a Jan. 5 regulatory filing.

Krawcheck wants Ellevest, which has secured $19 million in funding, to become the go-to place for investment advice for women. She hopes to do that in part by distinguishing Ellevest from what she thinks is a mistaken stereotype of the robo adviser. “I’ve never been a fan of the term,” she said.

While individual clients’ investment needs and goals are analyzed by computer, she says, the products offered are hand-picked. (In Ellevest’s case, the hand belongs to Chief Investment Officer Sylvia Kwan, who has a Ph.D. in engineering economic systems from Stanford University and manages her family’s $22 million for Simply Smart Asset Management.)

“I think it’s dismissive of what these digital investment platforms do,” Krawcheck said. “The sense feels like there is no human engagement.”

But she also says the ease of using automated platforms helps all investors get started and choose products that meet their goals — and says Ellevest goes further by using terminology that is jargon-free and geared toward individual goals.

That, she hopes, will help customers overcome conditioning that tells women personal money management is man’s business — which cost them money if that leads them to put off investments.

“Wealth management in the U.S. is a $30 trillion industry, Krawcheck said. “Firms that provide value and differentiation are capable of massive scale and impact.”

Still, their success — as is the case with any adviser — will ultimately be determined by their ability to attract clients. Morningstar senior equity analyst Michael Wong believes that with their current fee structures, robo advisers need between $16 billion and $40 billion in assets under management to break even. (Morningstar is an investor in Ellevest.)

Betterment and Wealthfront, two early robo advisers, have about $6 billion and $4 billion, respectively. Their growth slowed when giants Vanguard and Schwab decided to offer their own platforms at even lower fees.

Ellevest’s fees, meanwhile, at 0.5% of assets under management — which are in addition to the expenses associated with whatever products you buy — are higher than what some rivals charge, though lower than a traditional adviser’s fee.

“People are telling me: ‘There are so many digital advisers, you can’t be successful,’” said Krawcheck. “But we have a gender investment gap. If women invested at the same level as men, I’d be doing something else.”






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Stark inequality: Oxfam says 8 men as rich as half the world








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