TIME Australia

Former Co-Workers Sue Australian Man Over a $12.5 Million Powerball Prize

He says he won the prize with a ticket he bought for himself, not for them

A man from the state of Victoria, Australia, who was part of a 16-person lottery syndicate with his colleagues, has been accused of making off with roughly $12.5 million in lottery winnings.

But Gary Baron, who was entrusted to buy tickets on behalf of the syndicate, says he won the Powerball prize with a ticket that he had bought separately, reports the Age newspaper.

The 49-year-old former courier says he has evidence to substantiate his claim. But 14 members of his former syndicate are taking Supreme Court action against him on Thursday, in which they will say they have a right to an equal share of the prize money.

According to the Age, Baron repeatedly denied winning the money to several colleagues, and reportedly told one former co-worker that he had received a large inheritance.

[The Age]

TIME Israel

Ex-Israeli Premier Olmert Sentenced to 8 Months in Prison

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem, Israel on July 10, 2012.
Ariel Schalit—AP Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem, Israel on July 10, 2012.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gets eight months in prison for accepting money from a U.S. supporter

(JERUSALEM) — Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was sentenced Monday to eight months in prison for unlawfully accepting money from a U.S. supporter, capping the dramatic downfall of a man who only years earlier led the country and hoped to bring about a historic peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Olmert was convicted in March in a retrial in Jerusalem District Court. The sentencing comes in addition to a six-year prison sentence he received last year in a separate bribery conviction, ensuring the end of the former premier’s political career.

Olmert’s lawyer, Eyal Rozovsky, said Olmert’s legal team was “very disappointed” by the ruling and would appeal to Israel’s Supreme Court. They were granted a 45-day stay, meaning the former Israeli leader will avoid incarceration for now.

Olmert also was given a suspended sentence of an additional eight months and fined $25,000.

A slew of character witnesses had vouched for Olmert, including former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Israeli Mossad chief Meir Dagan in written statements read aloud Monday. The verdict stated that it recognized Olmert’s vast contributions to Israeli society and sentenced him to less than the prosecution had demanded. Still, it ruled that “a black flag hovers over his conduct.”

Olmert was forced to resign in early 2009 amid the corruption allegations. His departure cleared the way for hard-liner Benjamin Netanyahu’s election, and subsequent peace efforts have not succeeded.

Olmert, 69, was acquitted in 2012 of a series of charges that included accepting cash-stuffed envelopes from U.S. businessman Morris Talansky when Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem and a Cabinet minister. Olmert was found to have received about $600,000 from Talansky during his term as mayor, and additional amounts in cash during his term as a Cabinet minister, but a court did not find evidence the money had been used for unlawful personal reasons or illegal campaign financing.

Talansky, an Orthodox Jew from New York’s Long Island, had testified the money was spent on expensive cigars, first-class travel and luxury hotels, while insisting he received nothing in return.

The acquittal on the most serious charges at the time was seen as a major victory for Olmert, who denied being corrupt. He was convicted only on a lesser charge of breach of trust for steering job appointments and contracts to clients of a business partner, and it raised hopes for his political comeback.

But Olmert’s former office manager and confidant Shula Zaken later became a state’s witness, offering diary entries and tape recordings of conversations with Olmert about illicitly receiving cash, leading to a retrial. In the recordings, Olmert is heard telling Zaken not to testify in the first trial so she would not incriminate him.

The judges concluded that Olmert gave Zaken part of the money in exchange for her loyalty, and used the money for his own personal use without reporting it according to law. They convicted him on a serious charge of illicitly receiving money, as well as charges of fraud and breach of trust.

In a separate trial in March 2014, Olmert was convicted of bribery over a Jerusalem real estate scandal and was sentenced to six years in prison. He appealed and has been allowed to stay out of prison until a verdict is delivered.

At the time Olmert resigned as prime minister, Israel and the Palestinians had been engaged in more than a year of intense negotiations over the terms of Palestinian independence. The Palestinians seek all of the West Bank and east Jerusalem, in addition to the Gaza Strip, for an independent state. Israel occupied all three areas in the 1967 Mideast war, though it withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

Since leaving office, Olmert has said he presented the Palestinians the most generous Israeli proposal in history, offering roughly 95 percent of the West Bank, along with a land swap covering the remaining 5 percent of territory. In addition, he proposed international administration in east Jerusalem, home to the city’s most sensitive religious sites.

Palestinian officials have said that while progress was made, Olmert’s assessment was overly optimistic.

TIME Fast Food

McDonald’s Has a Major New Problem on Its Hands

Adding more to the pre-existing string of problems to solve

McDonald’s has a new group of investors pulling up to its drive-thru window. And they may soon be ordering changes.

Recently, a number of shareholder activists—hedge funds that typically push for companies to make changes, like splitting off divisions or buying back stock—have been loading up on shares of the fast-food giant. On Friday, Jana Partners reported in a filing that it had bought 125,000 shares of McDonald’s in the first quarter. The $11 billion hedge fund is run by Barry Rosenstein, who is one of the more aggressive shareholder activists. Last year, Jana won two board seats at drug store chain Walgreen, and it pressured PetSmart, along with another hedge fund, into selling itself to private equity firm BC Partners in one of the biggest deals of the year. Recently, Jana has bought a stake in Qualcomm, pushing for the telecommunications company to split off a chip division.

If Rosenstein does pick a fight with McDonald’s, he’ll have more than one not-so-silent partner. Also eyeing McDonald’s is Keith Meister, who runs Corvex Management. Corvex bought 205,000 shares of McDonald’s in the first quarter. Meister is a former right-hand man to Carl Icahn. But the activist who looks most likely to aggressively pursue McDonald’s is lesser known Larry Robbins. Robbins’ Glenview Capital bought 2.9 million shares of McDonald’s in the first quarter. Another hedge fund, Highfields Capital, which is led by sometimes activist investor Jonathan Jacobson, upped its stake in McDonald’s in the first quarter as well. That fund now owns nearly $1.4 billion worth of stock and options in the fast food chain.

McDonald’s has struggled lately (well documented by Fortune here). Its stock is down 5% in the past year and it has significantly lagged the market over the past three years. But it’s not clear what the activist play with McDonald’s might be. McDonald’s is already doing many of the things activists normally push for. Last year, the company said that it would return as much as $20 billion in cash to investors in the form of increased share buybacks and dividends. And it looks to be cutting costs and selling off assets. It also named a new CEO, Steve Easterbrook, in March. Earlier this month, Easterbrook announced a plan to reduce the company’s corporate overhead and sell off as many as 3,500 company-owned restaurants to franchisees. And the company only has $1.6 billion in cash, down $400 million in the first three months of the year alone, and $14 billion in debt, so it’s not clear it could boost buybacks.

Activist investors could push for McDonald’s to make change to its real estate portfolio. Activists Stocks, a finance newsletter that follows shareholder activism, recently wrote that “the real value lies in getting the company to spin its real estate off” into a real estate investment trust or a REIT.

But it’s not clear how much of a boost that would offer McDonald’s shares. According to its latest 10-k, McDonald’s says it has nearly $25 billion in land and buildings. Just $6 billion of that is in actual land. The rest of that $25 billion is the approximate value of its buildings and equipment, like signs, which would have much less value to another owner. McDonald’s market cap is over $90 billion, so the company’s real estate would have to fetch considerably more on its own to make a difference to shareholders.

It looks likely that McDonald’s would fight an effort to force it to sell off its real estate. In the past, McDonald’s has said that owning its real estate “enables us to achieve restaurant performance levels that are among the highest in the industry,” though the later part of that is debatable at this point.

But the fact that activists are circling McDonald’s shows, once again, that hedge funds are willing to go after bigger and bigger targets. And the fact that McDonald’s shares are struggling could make it a viable target. Qualcomm, Jana’s other recent target, has a market cap of nearly $115 billion.

TIME Companies

Lyft Just Secured a Major Investor Against Uber

Carl Icahn, Chairman of Icahn Enterprises participates in an interview at the CNBC Institutional Investor Delivering Alpha Conference in New York City on July 16, 2014.
CNBC—NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images Carl Icahn, Chairman of Icahn Enterprises participates in an interview at the CNBC Institutional Investor Delivering Alpha Conference in New York City on July 16, 2014.

Carl Icahn cited a much lower valuation versus Uber as one reason for the decision

Activist investor Carl Icahn sees a big opportunity in Uber’s main competitor Lyft.

He just pumped $100 million into the lesser-known ride-sharing startup, according to The Wall Street Journal. A managing director from Icahn Enterprises will join Lyft’s board of directors. The company raised an additional $50 million from an anonymous source, the Journal said.

Icahn told the paper that investing in Lyft was a “no-brainer,” given that it’s being valued at just $2.5 billion compared to Uber’s $41 billion.

Icahn appears to be trying to cash in on the difference between the two companies, or to start a fight with Uber. Yet he appears unfazed: “If you look at the way the market evaluates Uber and then look at the valuation of Lyft—Lyft is a tremendous bargain,” Icahn said in an interview. “There is room for two.”

Lyft president John Zimmer told the newspaper that Icahn’s new role with the San Francisco-based company could prove helpful going forward, and could include him making connections and fundraising. “As we look to the future to raise capital, whether it’s next year or whenever, that’s going to be a large validation,” Zimmer told the Journal.

Icahn’s $100 million investment in Lyft pales in comparison to some of his multibillion-dollar investments in Apple, CVR Energy and eBay, according to the article.

While Uber has an international focus with service in over 250 cities around the world, Lyft is still confined to the U.S., where it operates in 65 cities.

Interestingly, Icahn is now an investor in the same company as Marc Andreessen with whom he had a very public spat last year over Icahn’s fight to have eBay spin off its PayPal unit (Andreessen is on the eBay board of directors). In a statement this morning to Fortune’s Dan Primack, Andreessen joked: “Rumors that Lyft is spinning off the ride-sharing business from the mustache-licensing business are completely untrue.”

Additional reporting by Dan Primack.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com.

TIME Economy

The Real Way to Fix Finance Once and for All

Bull statue on Wall Street
Murat Taner—Getty Images

Changing the way financial institutions operate will require more than calculations and complex regulation

We live in an age of big data and hot and cold running metrics. Everywhere, at all times, we are counting things—our productivity, our friends and followers on social media, how many steps we take per day. But is it all getting us closer to truth and real understanding? I have been thinking about this a lot in the wake of a terrific conference I attended this week on “finance and society” co-sponsored by the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

There was plenty of new and creative thinking. On a panel I moderated in which Margaret Heffernan, a business consultant and author of the book Willful Blindness, made some really important points about why culture is just as important as numbers, particularly when it comes to issues like financial reform and corporate governance. As Heffernan sums it up quite aptly in her new book on the topic of corporate culture, Beyond Measure, “numbers are comforting…but when we’re confronted by spectacular success or failure, everyone from the CEO to the janitor points in the same direction: the culture.”

That’s at the core of a big debate in Washington and on Wall Street right now about how to change the financial system and ensure that it’s a help, rather than a hindrance, to the real economy. Everyone from Fed chair Janet Yellen to IMF head Christine Lagarde to Senator Elizabeth Warren—all of whom spoke at the INET conference; other big wigs like Fed vice chair Stanley Fischer and FDIC vice-chair Tom Hoenig were in the audience—agree more needs to be done to put banking back in service to society.

MORE: What Apple’s Gargantuan Cash Giveaway Really Means

But a lot of the discussion about how to do that hinges on complex and technocratic debates about incomprehensible (to most people anyway) things like “tier-1 capital” and “risk-weighted asset calculations.” Not only does that quickly narrow the discussion to one in which only “insiders,” many of whom are beholden to finance or political interests, can participate, but it also leaves regulators and policy makers trying to fight the last war. No matter how clever the metrics are that we apply to regulation, the only thing we know for sure is that the next financial crisis won’t look at all like the last one. And, it will probably come from some unexpected area of the industry, an increasing part of which falls into the unregulated “shadow banking” area.

That’s why changing the culture of finance and of business is general is so important. There’s a long way to go there: In one telling survey by the whistle blower’s law firm Labaton Sucharow, which interviewed 500 senior financial executives in the United States and the UK, 26% of respondents said they had observed or had firsthand knowledge of wrongdoing in the workplace, while 24% said they believed they might need to engage in unethical or illegal conduct to be successful. Sixteen percent of respondents said they would commit insider trading if they could get away with it, and 30% said their compensation plans created pressure to compromise ethical standards or violate the law.

How to change this? For starters, more collaboration–as Heffernan points out, economic research shows that successful organizations are almost always those that empower teams, rather than individuals. Yet in finance, as in much of corporate America, the mythology of the heroic individual lingers. Star traders or CEOs get huge salaries (and often take huge risks), while their success is inevitably a team effort. Indeed, the argument that individuals, rather than teams, should get all the glory or blame is often used perversely by the financial industry itself to get around rules and regulations. SEC Commissioner Kara Stein has been waging a one-woman war to try to prevent big banks that have already been found guilty of various kinds of malfeasance to get “waiver” exceptions from various filing rules by claiming that only a few individuals in the organization were responsible for bad behavior. Check out some of her very smart comments on that in our panel entitled “Other People’s Money.”

MORE: The Real (and Troubling) Reason Behind Lower Oil Prices

Getting more “outsiders” involved in the conversation will help change culture too. In fact, that’s one reason INET president Rob Johnson wanted to invite all women to the Finance and Society panel. “When society is set up around men’s power and control, women are cast as outsiders whether you like it or not,” he says. Research shows, of course, that outsiders are much more likely to call attention to problems within organizations, since not being invited to the power party means they aren’t as vulnerable to cognitive capture by powerful interests. (On that note, see a very powerful 3 minute video by Elizabeth Warren, who has always supported average consumers and not been cowed by the banking lobby, here.)

For more on the conference and the debate over how to reform banking, check out the latest episode of WNYC’s Money Talking, where I debated the issue on the fifth anniversary of the “Flash Crash,” with Charlie Herman and Mashable business editor, Heidi Moore.

MONEY Marriage

5 Ways to Protect Your Money Without a Prenup

"His" and "Hers" towels
Ethan Myerson—Getty Images

If a prenuptial agreement is not in the cards, you can still keep your cash secure.

Prenuptial agreements can be a great tool for protecting assets for married couples who ultimately end up divorcing. But what happens when you don’t have a prenup? Or if you wanted one but your spouse refused to sign and you decided it wasn’t worth the aggravation? Can you still protect your assets? The answer, as is so often the case in law, is that it depends. Certain assets can absolutely be protected. Others not so much. Here is the list of ways you can protect (at least some of) your money and assets without a prenup.

1. Keep your own funds separate.

The word “commingling” is often synonymous with “lottery winnings” to one spouse; and “gambling losses” to the other. If you have an account that has funds in it that you either 1) owned prior to the marriage; or 2) received during the marriage as inheritance or a non-marital gift; and then mixed in your earnings from your pay, or joint funds from another bank account – then poof! The entire account becomes marital. Why? Because the courts consider money to be “fungible” meaning that once that marital dollar goes in, you can’t tell which dollar is coming back out. So Rule #1 – Keep your separate funds separate!

2. Keep your own real estate separate.

Many people own a home prior to getting married. Oftentimes, especially if that home becomes the home for the married couple, the homeowner decides to throw the other person’s name onto the deed. What harm could that be? Right? I mean what happens if the owner died – wouldn’t you want your spouse to have it? The answer is that once the non-owning spouse’s name is on that deed, even if it is removed again down the road, the result is that the court will presume that you have given half the value to that spouse as a gift. And yes, you can sit on the stand and testify that it was only done for “estate planning” purposes, but most times that kind of testimony just comes off as self-serving and falls flat. So, you can always create a will or trust that leaves your property to your spouse. Rule #2 – do not put your spouse’s name on the deed unless you are prepared to hand over half the value of it in a divorce.

3. Use nonmarital funds to maintain non-marital property.

Here’s where the waters get murkier. It is easy enough to decide to keep your own property in your own name. The rub comes when it comes to maintaining that property. This is where the couple is using their paychecks to pay the mortgage on that property, or to make renovations or improvements to that property. Now the court is going to be faced with trying to carve out which part of the value of the property might be marital and which part of the value has remained non-marital – a tedious and tortuous task. To keep it all clean, just use your funds from your premarital or inherited account to maintain your non-marital property, too.

4. Keep bank statements for retirement accounts issued at the date of marriage.

Unlike other accounts that are commingled, if you have retirement account assets at the date of marriage, and at the time of divorce, you can produce a statement that shows what you had in that account, then the court may let you carve off that amount and divide the rest. The challenge is finding those statements sometimes. Make sure you keep statements that show if the custodian changes.

5. Get a valuation of your business around the date of the marriage.

Also unlike bank accounts that are commingled, the court has the ability to potentially carve off the appreciated value of a non-marital business. So for example, if your business was worth $1 million on the date of your marriage and worth $2 million on the date of your divorce, your spouse would be entitled to the one half of the difference or $500,000. (Or you could have just had the spouse sign a prenuptial agreement that waived any and all appreciation — but assuming you didn’t, this is the next best option).

While a prenuptial agreement is the ideal way for specifying how assets are to be divided should there be a dissolution of marriage, all is not lost if there isn’t one. By following these five steps, you can still protect some, if not all, of your premarital or non-marital assets.

The financial effects of divorce can also have an impact on your credit. So both during and after your divorce, it’s important to keep an eye on your credit reports and credit scores to watch for inaccuracies or any other problems that need your attention. You’re entitled to a free annual credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies through AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also get your credit scores for free from many sources, including Credit.com.

More from Credit.com

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

MONEY Travel

5 Ways to Save on Summer Travel

camping by the river
Henry Georgi—Getty Images Kootenay National Park, Canada

A vacation during the hotter months doesn't have to bust your budget.

With the weather warming up and images of travel getaways looking even sweeter than before, you are probably looking forward to (or trying to figure out how to afford) getting some vacation time this summer. Even if your trip seems miles or months away, you can start figuring out how to save for it now. No matter what type of travel you have planned, take a look at these five ways you can pay less and travel more.

1. Know Your Style & Budget

Everyone travels differently, so it’s a good idea to identify what type of vacation or travel you want to have before you hit the road. Whether you are in the mood for beach time, big city exploration or extreme outdoors, it’s important to evaluate locations based on what you enjoy. Next comes creating a budget you can stick to for the place itself (staying in a hotel in the middle of New York City will likely be more expensive than camping at a national park) and your goals for your time there.

2. Research — & Let the Deal Inspire You

It’s important to schedule some research time ahead of your trip. There are tons of deals websites out there where you can find discounted prices on travel, accommodations and activities. This can be especially helpful if you know what you want to get out of the vacation (relaxation, beach time or city exploration) but aren’t tied to a specific location. Even if you can’t find a vacation package that interests you, look for coupons for certain aspects of the trip you do want. Thorough research can help you save time and money and avoid “tourist traps.”

3. Know When to Buy Airfare

Speaking of research, it’s a good idea to find out the best time to book your travel. Online resources can be great tools to finding the cheapest travel ideas. Use multiple sources to price out your travel and look for the value in non-peak travel times if you are able to schedule it. Even if you have to travel during a busy time, you can save big just by flying mid-week or buying your flight or hotel at the right time. Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons are usually best for securing discount rates and booking about eight weeks in advance seems to be the sweet spot.

4. Rent From the Owner

Think outside the hotel box. Whether you look into hostels or search Airbnb to find local hosts that will rent out their extra space or property, you can save big by avoiding the hotel. These options are often in good locations to give you an authentic experience. Many even have kitchens that can help you cut down on dining-out costs as well.

5. Maximize Rewards

Whether it is with your credit card or through a vacation and travel points program, you can save big if you take the time to understand your rewards. It’s important to make sure you are spending and using wisely along the way to help stock up for and make the most of your summer experience.

Many of us love to travel to take a break from the norm, but money can be a deterring factor. This summer, make sure you get the adventure or relaxation you crave without setting yourself back financially. You don’t want to go into debt that you could potentially be paying for months after your vacation is over. And you certainly don’t want to acquire so much debt that it has a negative impact on your credit score. If you do find yourself carrying a balance as a result of your summer fun, it can help to come up with a plan to pay it off (this credit card payoff calculator can help you do that). You may also want to get into the habit of checking your credit scores regularly so you can become more aware of how your debts affect your credit. You can get two of your credit scores for free, updated every month on Credit.com.

More from Credit.com

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.


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