May 19, 2022

Inquiry Focuses on BBC Severance Payments

Mr. Thompson is scheduled to testify before Parliament on Sept. 9 about severance payouts that were given to high-ranking officials at the organization. A recent report from the National Audit Office found that the BBC paid out £60 million (about $93 million) in severance between April 2005 and March 2013, and that a quarter of the senior managers who received payments were given more than they were entitled to. A BBC spokesman told the British newspaper The Telegraph that the audit “found no evidence of wrongdoing.”

Since Mr. Thompson left the BBC, Parliament has called him back several times for its investigations of events that took place under his tenure as director general, which began in 2004. He was recalled to testify about how the BBC handled sexual abuse accusations against one of its longtime television hosts, Jimmy Savile. Then in June, Mr. Thompson agreed that he would testify before Parliament about questions he answered for members in 2011 about a program called the Digital Media Initiative, which fell under his jurisdiction.

That program had started in 2008 and was intended to convert all of the organization’s production and archived materials to a digital format. The project was halted in October 2012 for a performance review, and in May, the BBC’s current director general, Tony Hall, decided to cut the program after it had accumulated about $154 million in costs. It remains unclear when Mr. Thompson will testify on the Digital Media Initiative.

Eileen Murphy, a Times Company spokeswoman, declined to comment about the news that the British police have started to investigate the severance payouts. But in June, after the announcement that Mr. Thompson had been called to testify about the Digital Media Initiative, Ms. Murphy said, “Mark has always been cooperative with inquiries when they arise, and he fully intends to continue that practice.”

E-mails sent late Friday evening to both the British police and the BBC for comment were not returned.

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Media Decoder Blog: Chief Executive at Pandora Media to Step Down

The chairman and chief executive of Pandora Media, the company behind the popular Internet radio service, announced on Thursday that he would be leaving the company after nine years, on a day when Pandora reported growth and better-than-expected earnings for its fiscal fourth quarter and full year.

Joseph J. Kennedy, the company’s chief since 2004, said he would remain in place until a successor was found. He informed the board at its meeting on Tuesday, and in the earnings call on Thursday gave no reason for his decision other than hinting at the toll of running a technology company for nearly a decade.

“As I approach the start of my 10th year,” Mr. Kennedy said, “my head is telling me it’s time to get to a recharging station sooner rather than later.”

Mr. Kennedy’s tenure illustrates how much Pandora — and streaming music in general — has changed. When he joined the company it was called Savage Beast, and had not developed the music genome technology that allows Pandora to tailor a stream of songs to its users’ tastes.

The service was introduced — and the company renamed — in 2005, and now its more than 67 million regular users listen to 1.4 billion hours of music each month.

Pandora dominates the Internet radio market, and has begun to challenge terrestrial radio stations for advertising. But its financial results, released after the close of trading on Thursday, show the challenges the company faces.

Its revenue for its fiscal year, which ended in January, was $427 million, up 56 percent from the year before. For the fourth quarter, it had $125 million in revenue, and an adjusted net loss of 4 cents a share, beating analysts’ expectations by 1 cent.

The stock closed at $11.73 for the day, up half a percent; shares gained more than 20 percent in after-hours trading.

While the amount of money Pandora earns from advertising on mobile devices, where about 75 percent of its listening takes place, has gradually increased, the rate for its desktop ads has been dropping. Last year, its revenue per thousand mobile listener hours — almost entirely from advertising — rose 9 percent to $23.83, but for all of its users, that measurement fell 8.5 percent to $30.49.

The company’s music licensing costs also remain high, at almost 61 percent of total revenue for the year, a recurring concern for investors.

The rates for the bulk of Pandora’s royalties are set by a panel of federal judges, and last year the company supported a bill, the Internet Radio Fairness Act, that could have resulted in lower rates.

That bill never made it out of committee, but a version of it is expected to be introduced again this year. The music industry, which mobilized against the bill last year, is gearing up for another fight in Washington.

“Joe Kennedy has done an incredible job of turning a concept into a company, and a company into a game-changing leader in online radio,” said Jordan Rohan, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus in New York. “But succeeding Kennedy as C.E.O. of Pandora will not be easy.”

One bright spot for Pandora is bad news for Apple. Last year, reports emerged that Apple was planning to introduce an Internet radio service early in 2013 that would compete directly with Pandora. Whenever crumbs of news were published about the so-called iRadio service — which Apple has not announced — Pandora’s shares would tumble temporarily.

But Apple’s efforts have been held up by licensing negotiations with music companies, causing the service to be delayed at least until the summer, according to a number of people briefed on the talks, who were not authorized to discuss them because they were private. An Apple spokesman declined to comment.

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NBA TV Hires Isiah Thomas as Studio Analyst

Thomas will make his debut as a studio analyst for NBA TV on Friday, during a pregame show at 7 p.m. He will not be a regular contributor but will make several appearances a month on the network and will contribute to, according to a statement.

The hiring brings an informal end to Thomas’s four-and-a-half-year absence from the N.B.A. after his dismissal by the Knicks in 2008. It is the longest he has been out of the league since he was drafted in 1981.

From 1994, when he retired as a player, through 2008, Thomas stayed attached to the N.B.A. as either a team executive, a coach or a television commentator, with a two-year break to run the Continental Basketball Association from 1998 to 2000.

The Knicks fired Thomas as president and coach in the spring of 2008 after a disastrous four-and-a-half-year tenure. The owner, James L. Dolan, tried to rehire Thomas as a consultant in 2010, but the N.B.A. nullified the deal because Thomas was coaching at Florida International University. The university fired him in April.

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Executives Organized Olympus Cover-Up, Panel Finds

TOKYO — Top executives at Olympus, the Japanese maker of cameras and medical equipment, devised an elaborate scheme to cover up investment losses involving at least $1.7 billion and should face legal action, a third-party panel said Tuesday in a highly anticipated report that called the company’s management “rotten to the core.”

The panel’s findings appeared to vindicate, to a great extent, the company’s ousted president, Michael C. Woodford, who had made public allegations and called for an inquiry into a series of exorbitant acquisition payments made by the company before his tenure. Mr. Woodford has called for the entire Olympus board to resign and has said he is in talks with shareholders to help install fresh management at the company.

The report also highlights the role played by three former Nomura bankers in arranging the cover-up, as well as alleged failings of Olympus’s auditors, especially KPMG’s Japan affiliate, in exposing fraud at the company. It alleges that several banks, including Société Générale, submitted incomplete financial statements to auditors, in effect aiding the cover-up.

“The management was rotten to the core, and infected those around it,” said the report, more than 200 pages long with appendices.

Still, concerns remain over the true independence of a panel appointed by the Olympus board, as well as just how fully a monthlong investigation could have investigated a complicated program involving numerous overseas funds and financial advisers. The panel cleared the cover-up of alleged links to Japan’s notorious criminal underworld, for example, despite acknowledging that it did not know for sure where some of the money ended up or whether individuals had pocketed money.

The possibility of organized crime involvement in the cover-up had become a critical issue in the investigation, as any proof of mob links could wipe out all shareholder value in the company by causing its shares to be delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The Japanese police are investigating possible links to organized crime, according to several people close to the inquiry.

Tatsuo Kainaka, the panel’s chairman and a former judge of Japan’s Supreme Court, acknowledged that a forensic accounting by Olympus’s auditors, as well as an investigation by the Japanese and overseas authorities, was needed to bring all facets of the scheme to light.

“We do not know for sure where funds ultimately flowed to and how,” Mr. Kainaka said at a news conference after the report’s release. But the panel “could not find any evidence of a flow of funds to organized crime,” he said.

In a separate statement, the Tokyo Stock Exchange warned that the company could still be delisted if it failed to meet a Dec. 14 deadline to submit its latest financial statement. Olympus shares have already lost half their value in the scandal.

According to the report, Olympus executives plotted with several former investment bankers to hide ¥117 billion in losses made from investments that went sour in Japan’s stock bubble crash in the early 1990s.

The company later used a series of acquisition-related payouts to settle those losses, including an outsize $687 million in fees paid to a now-defunct fund incorporated in the Cayman Islands for Olympus’s takeover of a British medical equipment maker in 2008. Olympus also paid $773 million for three companies in Japan that appeared unrelated to its main business, including a face cream maker, only to quickly write down the bulk of their value.

The report denied speculation that those acquisitions had been made solely to cover up losses. However, Olympus executives saw the purchases as an opportunity to hide irregular transactions, the report said.

The report also alleged that Olympus’s auditors KPMG AZSA and Ernst Young Nippon had not done enough to expose Olympus’s financial maneuvers. In 2009, KPMG AZSA raised serious concerns with the company’s recent acquisitions, the report said, but backed down and gave Olympus’s finances the all-clear when the company insisted that a third-party inquiry had found nothing wrong.

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In Her First Week, Lagarde Stresses Diversity at I.M.F.

Ms. Lagarde, formerly the French finance minister, faces the challenge of lifting the morale of bruised employees even as the fund confronts one of its greatest tests, preserving the financial stability of Europe.

On Tuesday, she held a meeting at the fund’s headquarters in Washington to introduce herself to the staff, which is still shaken by the abrupt resignation of her predecessor, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, after he was charged with the sexual assault of a hotel maid. On Friday, she holds her first board meeting to consider another round of emergency funding for Greece.

“I thought it was necessary to come back to D.C. very promptly simply because there are so many issues to address,” Ms. Lagarde said by way of introduction to her first official press conference. “It cannot wait for another summer holiday. Here I am, and for good.”

When Ms. Lagarde last met with reporters at the fund’s headquarters, during the organization’s annual spring meetings, she appeared as a representative of France and made a point of speaking mostly in French. On Wednesday, settling into her new role as an international official, she spoke exclusively in English, even when addressed in French.

She mostly dodged questions about Greece, saying that she would not prefigure Friday’s meeting, but she did provide a measure of her thinking on the fund’s mission and priorities.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn, a member of the Socialist Party in France who expanded the fund’s traditional focus on financial stability to include broader goals like reduced unemployment, argued that the benefits of prosperity did not necessarily flow to the broader populace, and that the fund needed to measure its success in terms of that broader impact.

Ms. Lagarde, by contrast, is a political conservative. She said Wednesday that people should judge her tenure by her actions rather than making assumptions based on political labels. She said that she needed time to study the fund’s policies before offering her own opinions.

But she sounded a note of caution about those policies at the outset.

“We should not become a specialized boutique to reduce unemployment,” she said, although she added that she did support elements of the fund’s current “comprehensive” approach.

“Some of the things that Dominique Strauss-Kahn has started are excellent reforms,” she said, including the “comprehensiveness that we should adopt embracing the unemployment and social issues as well as the economic trends that are more traditional.”

Much of the press conference was devoted to questions about the fund itself. Mr. Strauss-Kahn was allowed to remain atop the fund after the disclosure of an affair in 2008 with a subordinate, a decision that some considered a mistake at the time, and many more came to regret.

A number of women have come forward in recent months to describe the fund as a problematic workplace, where superiors often felt free to press subordinates for dates and little effort was made to prevent or to punish sexual harassment.

Ms. Lagarde campaigned to replace Mr. Strauss-Kahn largely on the strength of Europe’s determination to maintain leadership of the fund, particularly at a time when its primary challenge is to help the governments of Europe.

The fund was created by the United States and its allies after World War II as a lender of last resort for troubled governments. Since that time it has always been run by a European, though the United States maintains effective control.

Ms. Lagarde has said on several occasions, however, that a female executive would be an advantage for the fund, reducing what she described as the level of testosterone.

On Wednesday, she added a personal note: “For all the young girls that are in school at the moment, I’d like to say that they should each consider that everything is possible,” she said.

But she was otherwise more circumspect, speaking repeatedly about the importance of diversity.

“Together with diversity comes respect for everybody,” Ms. Lagarde continued, “and it’s been the case in the past that people have been respected and I will make sure that they continue to be respected no matter what their differences are.”

The fund has made a number of recent changes in its policies to improve its workplace culture. Ms. Lagarde’s contract includes a number of brand-new injunctions, including, “You shall strive to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.” And Ms. Lagarde noted Wednesday that she would soon attend a new ethics program now required for all employees.

Ms. Lagarde will make $467,940 in her new job, plus a stipend of $83,760, all of it untaxed.

She also addressed Wednesday widespread speculation that the fund would elevate a Chinese executive, Min Zhu, to the rank of deputy managing director.

Three people now hold that title. One of them, John Lipsky, an American, plans to retire at the end of August. But the United States is likely to insist on an American replacement.

Ms. Lagarde said the most likely solution was to name a fourth deputy.

It is, she said, “not a bad idea, and I’m going to consult in the next few days on this matter.”

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Wholesale Inventories Rise, but Sales Fall Unexpectedly

Opinion »

Why Corporate Skills Weren’t Enough

A Room for Debate forum on what Cathleen Black’s brief tenure says about running New York’s schools.

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