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Salesforce and Microsoft Trade Blows at Dell World Conference

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via Stuart Kennedy, The Australian

MICROSOFT and Salesforce swatted each other around at the inaugural Dell World conference in Austin Texas last week in between sales pitches largely devoid of anything new.

The first blow came from Salesforce chief Marc Benioff, a veteran Microsoft baiter who during a lively, tent evangelist style presentation on Thursday evening took time out to mock the big M.
Mr. Benioff came off the stage and walked among the punters at the Austin Convention Centre as he talked up the wonders of cloud computing and social networking and alluded to their role in bringing on the Arab spring.

Pictures of protesters holding up signs thanking Facebook formed a backdrop to part of Mr. Benioff’s speech.

"People were thanking Facebook," he said. "They certainly weren’t thanking Microsoft."
Mr. Benioff’s speech included a hard sell of the company’s Chatter social networking application for business and much boasting of how Salesforce had rated much larger than Oracle on social networking sites during the Oracle Openworld conference earlier this month.

Mr. Benioff helped engineer a storm of social media angst when he tweeted that Oracle had cancelled his presentation at the Openworld event and that he was moving his appearance to another venue.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer kicked off the Dell World proceedings the morning after Mr. Benioff’s speech and hit back at the Salesforce chief by saying how glad he was to be presenting on day two of the conference along with Intel boss Paul Otellini and not with Mr. Benioff on day one.

"I was pleased not to be speaking on day one – a day of idle chatter in my opinion," said Mr. Ballmer, poking fun at Salesforce’s enterprise market social networking application.

That said, Mr. Ballmer launched into a preview of his firm’s next, tablet friendly Windows 8 operating system but did not offer when it would be available for beta testing, or when it would launch as a full blown product.

Mr. Ballmer did confirm that Microsoft had closed off its $US8.5 billion Skype acquisition on Thursday evening but gave no further update on the company’s plans for the internet communications outfit.

 

 

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Written by appraisalmanagementnews

October 24, 2011 at 7:21 pm

Trumbull Man Admits Mortgage Fraud

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by Aaron Leo, Patch

He and a Branford resident pleaded guilty before Senior United States District Judge Alfred V. Covello in Hartford. They both face 20 years in prison when they are sentenced Jan. 19, 2012.

According to a press release, Maurizio Lancia, 48, of Trumbull, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, and Stacey Petro, also known as Stacey Moises, 37, of Branford, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud.

According to court documents and statements made in court, Lancia, a licensed attorney and licensed mortgage broker, controlled and operated Royal Financial Services, LLC, and Petro, a licensed mortgage broker, controlled and operated First Source Mortgage Solutions, Inc. From approximately 2004 to 2007, Lancia, Petro, Jose Guzman, William Athan and others used these and other mortgage brokerage companies, as well as property management and home improvement companies, to arrange for individuals (“borrowers”) to purchase real estate, primarily residential housing properties located in New London Country, by obtaining funding from various mortgage companies and mortgage originators after submitting false information on the borrowers’ mortgage loan applications.

The fraudulent information included information regarding income, assets, employment, rent history, as well as the borrowers’ intention to make the properties their primary residence. The borrowers, who typically were individuals who had good credit but were of modest means with low levels of income, were compensated for participating in the scheme.

In 2004, Lancia, Guzman and Athan purchased a property at 349-351 Broad St. in New London and formed Broad Street Investment Group for the purpose of buying and selling properties.  Both Royal Financial Services, LLC and First Source Mortgage Solutions, Inc. operated out of 349-351 Broad St.

Guzman worked as a loan officer at both Royal Financial Services and First Source Mortgage Solutions, arranging for individuals to obtain funding from various mortgage companies to fund mortgages of houses.

Lancia acted as a mortgage broker and closing agent in connection with fraudulent real estate transactions.

Petro acted as a mortgage broker in connection with various fraudulent real estate transactions and, on numerous occasions, alerted co-conspirator Brian Guimond that mortgage lenders would be calling him to verify the borrowers’ employment information and income, and also provided instructions to Guimond how to handle the call. As part of the scheme, Guimond had signed employment verification forms falsely representing that borrowers were employed at his company, The Cutting Edge. Cutting Edge bank accounts also were used in connection with the scheme, receiving funds from lenders for purported home improvement work that not been done.

Scheme participants used a portion of the proceeds from the mortgage funding provided by the lenders to pay themselves large commissions, fees, and other monies for their own use and benefit.

According to previously filed court documents, the government believes that more than 200 fraudulent mortgages were funded through this mortgage fraud scheme. Many of the properties have been foreclosed on and lenders have suffered losses of more than $3.6 million.

Lancia and Petro are scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 19, 2012, at which time each defendant faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years.

To date, a total of 12 individuals have pleaded guilty to various charges stemming from this scheme. Guzman, Athan and Guimond have pleaded guilty and await sentencing.

This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael S. McGarry and David T. Huang.

In July 2009, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced the formation of the Connecticut Mortgage Fraud Task Force to investigate and prosecute mortgage fraud cases and related financial crimes occurring in Connecticut.

Citizens are encouraged to report any suspected mortgage fraud activity by calling 203-333-3512 and requesting the Connecticut Mortgage Fraud Task Force, or by sending an email to ctmortgagefraud@ic.fbi.gov.

The Connecticut Mortgage Fraud Task Force includes representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation; U.S. Postal Inspection Service; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General; Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Inspector General, and State of Connecticut Department of Banking.

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Written by appraisalmanagementnews

October 19, 2011 at 1:48 am

Piece of the Empire State Building Could Be Yours

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By CHARLES V. BAGLI and PETER LATTMAN –The New York Times

People who have always wondered what it might be like to dabble in a little New York real estate may soon be able to dabble in a lot of it — by buying a piece of its most famous skyscraper, the Empire State Building.

The Malkin family, which controls the 102-story Art Deco tower at Fifth Avenue and 34th Street, is planning to create a publicly traded real estate company featuring the building, according to three executives who had been briefed on the plans but spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

The skyscraper draws tens of thousands of tourists from across the globe every year to its 86th-floor observatory, 1,050 feet above the city streets. If the Malkin plan is successful, New Yorkers, and anyone else for that matter, will be able to buy stock in the company that owns the Empire State Building, much as Wisconsin residents bought stock in the Green Bay Packers.

The new company, the executives said, may include a number of other office buildings controlled by Anthony E. Malkin and his father, Peter L. Malkin, including 1 Grand Central, a 55-story, 1.3-million-square-foot building across 42nd Street from Grand Central Terminal, and a 26-story building at 250 West 57th Street, as well as six buildings in Westchester County and Connecticut.

Anthony Malkin declined to comment, but he, his father and their partners are hoping to cash in on the Empire State Building’s international cachet and a commercial real estate market in New York that is once again attracting buyers from around the world.

“Investors the world over are clamoring to invest in Manhattan office properties, both debt and equity,” said Michael Knott, a managing director of Green Street Advisors.

Still, the Malkins must clear a number of hurdles, not the least of which is gaining the support of their principal partner, the estate of Leona Helmsley, which has hired advisers to evaluate the proposal, and the 3,400 limited partners in the existing company that owns the Empire State Building.

A public sale would come amid a sharp rebound in the number of initial public offerings, which roughly tripled in the first quarter of 2011 compared with the same period a year ago. Stock offerings for real estate investment trusts have also surged, with a total volume of $1 billion, more than double the output during the same period last year. But Mr. Knott said that many of those recent offerings had not performed very well after selling in the public markets.

The Empire State Building did not get off to an auspicious start when it opened in 1931, during the Depression. Critics derided it as the “Empty State Building,” and it was not profitable until 1950.

Mr. Malkin’s grandfather Lawrence A. Wien, his father and Harry B. Helmsley created what became a model for real estate syndication when they bought control of the building in 1961 from Henry Crown and leased it to a group of investors, including themselves. Those investors then sold an operating sublease for the tower to another entity now controlled by the Malkins and the estate of Leona Helmsley, while Mr. Helmsley and Mr. Wien sold the title to the property to the Prudential Insurance Company.

After years of fighting among the owners and feuds with Donald J. Trump, the Malkins gained full control of the building about five years ago and embarked on what has become a $560 million effort to burnish the 2.9-million-square-foot landmark and more than double the rents.

They have renovated the lobby — restoring original Art Deco murals — refurbished the observatory and replaced the 6,514 windows as part of an effort to make it one of the city’s most energy-efficient buildings.

The Malkins and their brokers at Newmark Knight Frank have attracted a series of corporate tenants, including a division of Li & Fung, the giant trading firm, which signed a lease for 483,000 square feet in January. There are now about 200 tenants, down from 950 in 2002, though today’s tenants occupy far larger spaces. The building may never command rents as high as those at trophies like the General Motors Building, but real estate brokers say the tower now shines.

“They’ve moved the building, in my mind, to a Class A property,” said Peter Riguardi, president of Jones Lang LaSalle in New York. “It needed those upgrades. It’s now one of the top buildings in that area.”

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Written by appraisalmanagementnews

April 14, 2011 at 3:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Life in a 90 sq. ft. apartment – must watch video

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MortgageNewsClips.com

By choosing a studio that measures just 12 feet by 7 feet, Felice Cohen can afford to live in Manhattan’s Upper West Side where apartments rent for an average of $3,600 per month. She pays just over $700 for her 90-square-foot microstudio. After a bit of adjustment she now loves living smaller, simpler and cozier.

 

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Written by appraisalmanagementnews

April 13, 2011 at 5:37 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Where Are Americans Most Miserable?

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Wall Street Journal

The lot of the U.S. consumer hasn’t been a happy one. Weak labor markets, falling home values and, recently, soaring gas prices have gnawed away at confidence.

The economic angst was apparent Tuesday when the Conference Board reported its index fell to 63.4 this month, from 72.0 in February.

Even so, misery isn’t blanketing the U.S. in equal measure. And gauging local gloom is possible using data collected at the city level. It turns out Boston is coping best. Clouds are darkest in sunny Phoenix.

The twin worries depressing consumers — slow progress on the job front and soaring gas prices — are reminiscent of the fears of the late 1980s. Back then, a misery index — the sum of the inflation and unemployment rates — illustrated the strains on households. In 1980, the index averaged 21%.

How miserable are consumers now? A 1980s index would total 11.0%, but recent inflation reports haven’t totally captured the pain drivers are suffering at the pump. Plus, any measure today would have to include the weakness in real estate. The January S&P/Case-Shiller report showed the fall in home prices is accelerating again. Declining home values make homeowners feel especially miserable.

One way to construct a current misery index would add the 12-month change in the jobless rate (to gauge improvement in the labor markets), the percent change in gas prices since the end of 2010, and the inverse of the yearly percent change in home values. That U.S. misery index would stand at 20% now, and up from 8.3% a year ago.

The national number, of course, masks the divergence across regions since some cities and real estate markets are recovering faster than others. Local misery indexes are possible using city unemployment rates from the Labor Department, local gas prices from gasbuddy.com, and home prices from the S&P report.

Although misery is in the eye of the beholder, the city with the mildest case of the blues is Boston. The Massachusetts city has seen home prices fall just 0.6% over the past year, and gas prices are up “only” 13.6%, compared with a nearly 18% gain nationwide.

Phoenix, Ariz., ranked last of the 20 cities. Home prices there led the S&P January survey with a yearly drop of 9.1%. And gas prices have jumped about 22%.

The magnitude of local misery will have an impact on struggling city governments. In Phoenix, the steep plunge in home values will constrain property tax collections. Miami and Denver have seen little progress on the jobs front, suggesting demand for public safety-net services will remain high.

Don’t expect misery to ease soon. Although the jobless rate is likely to fall gradually, gas prices are likely to keep rising as the U.S. nears the summer driving season. And the S&P/Case-Shiller report warned there was “no real hope in sight for the near future” concerning home prices.

Consumers are already braced for more pain ahead. The plunge in confidence was concentrated in expectations for the next six month. That index dropped to its lowest reading since November 2010.

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Written by appraisalmanagementnews

March 30, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Posted in Economy, Uncategorized

Where Are Americans Most Miserable?

leave a comment »

Wall Street Journal

The lot of the U.S. consumer hasn’t been a happy one. Weak labor markets, falling home values and, recently, soaring gas prices have gnawed away at confidence.

The economic angst was apparent Tuesday when the Conference Board reported its index fell to 63.4 this month, from 72.0 in February.

Even so, misery isn’t blanketing the U.S. in equal measure. And gauging local gloom is possible using data collected at the city level. It turns out Boston is coping best. Clouds are darkest in sunny Phoenix.

The twin worries depressing consumers — slow progress on the job front and soaring gas prices — are reminiscent of the fears of the late 1980s. Back then, a misery index — the sum of the inflation and unemployment rates — illustrated the strains on households. In 1980, the index averaged 21%.

How miserable are consumers now? A 1980s index would total 11.0%, but recent inflation reports haven’t totally captured the pain drivers are suffering at the pump. Plus, any measure today would have to include the weakness in real estate. The January S&P/Case-Shiller report showed the fall in home prices is accelerating again. Declining home values make homeowners feel especially miserable.

One way to construct a current misery index would add the 12-month change in the jobless rate (to gauge improvement in the labor markets), the percent change in gas prices since the end of 2010, and the inverse of the yearly percent change in home values. That U.S. misery index would stand at 20% now, and up from 8.3% a year ago.

The national number, of course, masks the divergence across regions since some cities and real estate markets are recovering faster than others. Local misery indexes are possible using city unemployment rates from the Labor Department, local gas prices from gasbuddy.com, and home prices from the S&P report.

Although misery is in the eye of the beholder, the city with the mildest case of the blues is Boston. The Massachusetts city has seen home prices fall just 0.6% over the past year, and gas prices are up “only” 13.6%, compared with a nearly 18% gain nationwide.

Phoenix, Ariz., ranked last of the 20 cities. Home prices there led the S&P January survey with a yearly drop of 9.1%. And gas prices have jumped about 22%.

The magnitude of local misery will have an impact on struggling city governments. In Phoenix, the steep plunge in home values will constrain property tax collections. Miami and Denver have seen little progress on the jobs front, suggesting demand for public safety-net services will remain high.

Don’t expect misery to ease soon. Although the jobless rate is likely to fall gradually, gas prices are likely to keep rising as the U.S. nears the summer driving season. And the S&P/Case-Shiller report warned there was “no real hope in sight for the near future” concerning home prices.

Consumers are already braced for more pain ahead. The plunge in confidence was concentrated in expectations for the next six month. That index dropped to its lowest reading since November 2010.

Written by appraisalmanagementnews

March 30, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Posted in Economy, Uncategorized