White House de­fends ZTE deal

Houston Chronicle - - BUSINESS - From staff and wire re­ports

WASH­ING­TON — The White House is de­fend­ing its de­ci­sion to al­low Chinese tele­com gi­ant ZTE to buy com­po­nent parts from the United States.

Spokesman Ho­gan Gi­d­ley on Wed­nes­day pointed to “mas­sive penal­ties” im­posed on ZTE after the com­pany was ac­cused of vi­o­lat­ing sanc­tions.

The com­pany agreed to pay a $1 bil­lion penalty and re­place its top man­agers as part of the deal.

Gi­d­ley says the changes en­sure ZTE pays for its vi­o­la­tions and gives the U.S. govern­ment “com­plete over­sight” of its ac­tiv­ity.

United con­trib­utes to lo­cal food bank

United Air­lines is giv­ing $1 mil­lion to the Hous­ton Food Bank to sup­port its School Mar­ket pro­gram, the car­rier said Wed­nes­day.

This an­nounce­ment is part of a na­tion­wide ini­tia­tive in which United is giv­ing $8 mil­lion in grants to hub com­mu­ni­ties to sup­port the ar­eas where its em­ploy­ees live and work.

The food bank’s School Mar­ket pro­gram was ex­panded to help schools af­fected by Hur­ri­cane Har­vey.

Brothers sen­tenced for brib­ing doc­tors

NE­WARK, N.J. — Two brothers who ad­mit­ting brib­ing doc­tors in a $100 mil­lion health care scheme were sen­tenced to prison Wed­nes­day, clos­ing a case that fea­tured ac­counts of cash bribes, pros­ti­tutes and $300,000 lux­ury cars.

David Ni­coll, 44, con­sid­ered the or­ches­tra­tor of the sev­enyear scheme, re­ceived a six-year sen­tence for his role in a fraud author­i­ties said at the time of his ar­rest in 2013 was one of the largest of its kind ever un­cov­ered. His younger brother, Scott, re­ceived 43 months.

Both sen­tences were far be­low the 25-year com­bined max­i­mum sen­tences the brothers faced after they pleaded guilty to con­spir­acy to bribe doc­tors and money laun­der­ing through their New Jersey com­pany, Bio­di­ag­nos­tic Lab­o­ra­tory Ser­vices.

Both men co­op­er­ated with the govern­ment and were in­stru­men­tal in help­ing prose­cu­tors earn more than 50 guilty pleas or con­vic­tions.

Auto union elects new pres­i­dent

DETROIT — Mem­bers of the United Auto Work­ers union have elected re­gional direc­tor Gary Jones as the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s new pres­i­dent.

Jones was picked in a roll­call vote Wed­nes­day at the union’s 2018 con­sti­tu­tional con­ven­tion in Detroit.

He’ll take over a 400,000mem­ber union that’s fac­ing a fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion in a cor­rup­tion scan­dal in­volv­ing a worker train­ing cen­ter run jointly by Fiat Chrysler and the union.

The UAW also has had trou­ble or­ga­niz­ing at fac­to­ries in the South run by for­eign-based au­tomak­ers. But its fi­nances have sta­bi­lized un­der Pres­i­dent Dennis Wil­liams, who is re­tir­ing.

Airbnb’s state taxes more than pro­jected

Airbnb paid more than $15.3 mil­lion in home shar­ing and short-term rental taxes dur­ing the first year of its tax agree­ment with the state of Texas, the home-shar­ing com­pany said Wed­nes­day.

On May 1, 2017, the home shar­ing plat­form be­gan to au­to­mat­i­cally col­lect the 6 per­cent state ho­tel oc­cu­pancy tax on be­half of its host com­mu­nity and re­mit the rev­enue di­rectly to the state.

Airbnb said it ini­tially ex­pected to re­mit roughly $8 mil­lion to the state when it first an­nounced the agree­ment with the Texas Comptroller’s Office. The $15.3 mil­lion in rev­enue is nearly dou­ble that pro­jec­tion.

Oil com­pany’s out­put ques­tioned

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho of­fi­cials want a Texas oil com­pany to ex­plain what a state agency calls “dis­crep­an­cies” in­volv­ing oil and gas pro­duc­tion records for wells in Idaho fol­low­ing an evaluation of records dat­ing back to 2014.

The Idaho Oil and Gas Con­ser­va­tion Com­mis­sion on Wed­nes­day di­rected the Idaho De­part­ment of Lands to ask Hous­ton-based Alta Mesa to ac­count for ap­par­ent dis­crep­an­cies be­tween what was pro­duced and what was sold at spe­cific wells.

Alta Mesa didn’t re­spond to phone mes­sages.

Ger­many fines VW over emis­sions

FRANK­FURT, Ger­many — Even after Volk­swa­gen was hit with bil­lions of dol­lars in penal­ties in the United States over an emis­sions-cheat­ing scheme that con­tin­ues to un­fold, the com­pany re­mained mostly un­pun­ished in Europe.

That changed Wed­nes­day, when Ger­man prose­cu­tors said they had im­posed a fine of $1.2 bil­lion on the au­tomaker for fail­ing to prop­erly su­per­vise the em­ploy­ees who de­vised and de­ployed il­le­gal soft­ware in diesel mod­els to evade pol­lu­tion con­trols

The fine, based in part on how much money Volk­swa­gen is es­ti­mated to have saved via the cheat­ing scheme, pales next to the roughly $26 bil­lion the com­pany has paid in the United States to settle crim­i­nal charges and civil suits.

But it is a sig­nal that Ger­man author­i­ties will not let the au­tomaker es­cape pun­ish­ment de­spite its political clout and im­por­tance to the na­tional econ­omy.

Tyson Trish / As­so­ci­ated Press file

David Ni­coll, left, pres­i­dent of Bio­di­ag­nos­tic Lab­o­ra­tory Ser­vices, and em­ployee and brother Scott Ni­coll, right, leave fed­eral court in Ne­wark, N.J., after be­ing ar­rested in 2013.

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