White House defends ZTE deal
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.
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.