October 28, 2021

Dawn Hudson’s New Job as the Academy’s Chief Is a Balancing Act

Dawn Hudson, the first person to hold a newly created post as the organization’s chief executive, has hung in more than twice as long. But that does not mean Hollywood’s film academy is at ease with the latest strong-willed woman to promise what has always come hard for it: change.

In June, Ms. Hudson was named to replace the academy’s retiring executive director, Bruce Davis. A 20-year presence on the independent film scene, she arrived with a commitment to social and ethnic diversity, a determination to raise the academy’s public profile and a reputation for shaking things up.

“If you don’t want to say yes, don’t take her phone call,” advises Michael Donaldson, an admirer who was Ms. Hudson’s general counsel at a nonprofit called Film Independent, which supports independent filmmakers, and its predecessor, the Independent Feature Project/West.

In Bette Davis’s day, the fights were about whether to charge for Oscar night tickets and cutting screen extras out of the academy.

At issue today is whether Ms. Hudson can accomplish a delicate balancing act: opening the group to fresh talent and unleashing its vast resources — net assets topped $258 million last year, while television deals for the Academy Awards guarantee a billion dollars in revenue over the next decade — without losing the confidence of a 43-member board that built its nest egg, and the Oscar brand, by protecting what already works.

For some, this seems to be a defining moment in a film industry that has surrendered energy to television and other media, adding urgency to Ms. Hudson’s task as the awards season churns toward the Oscar ceremonies on Feb. 26.

“It’s about preserving the emotional connection that people have to the movies,” said Terry Press, a publicist who serves on one of the academy’s internal boards. “That’s got to be the mission.”

Ms. Hudson and Tom Sherak, the academy’s elected president, declined to be interviewed. Both said it was too early in Ms. Hudson’s tenure to discuss the direction that she might take the academy.

But interviews with academy members, including past and present governors, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of prohibitions on public discussion of internal deliberations, make clear that Ms. Hudson was recruited to help fix what not everyone inside believes to be broken.

In the last few months, for instance, Ms. Hudson ruffled feathers by suggesting her own choices for annual invitations to the membership rolls — something that has largely been left to directors, writers and other artists in the academy’s various branches. Within the secretive academy, even small things like this can loom large. Some governors were offended, though as a member herself Ms. Hudson was entitled to offer names.

Backers say moves of that sort reflect Ms. Hudson’s conviction that the academy needs new faces, many from underrepresented ethnic or social groups.

“I don’t think anyone, any white person, in this town is more dedicated to diversity than Dawn Hudson,” said Stephanie Allain Bray, a black producer who is an academy member and who worked with Ms. Hudson on the board of Film Independent.

Diversity is not a strong suit of the academy’s governors; all but one are white, only six are women, and the average age appears to be over 60.

Along with prominent names like the director Kathryn Bigelow and the actor Tom Hanks, the board includes seasoned but less-recognized film workers like Kevin O’Connell from the sound branch, and Richard Crudo, a cinematographer.

Because physical attendance is expected at board meetings, virtually all of the governors are Californians. Making the rounds at private meetings in New York recently, Ms. Hudson suggested opening up the board with the help of video technology like Skype, something Mr. Sherak has also advocated.

“She’s a woman of intelligence, guts and compromise,” offered Sidney Ganis, a past academy president who was on the search committee that recruited Ms. Hudson, and who became acquainted with her as a member of the Film Independent board. Ms. Hudson, Mr. Ganis said, has been raising questions since she took over in an attempt to understand the academy, not dictating changes in practice or policy.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=37d04b7aff5ed3ed2740f228b084b79b

‘Safety Myth’ Left Japan Ripe for Nuclear Crisis

“It’s terrible, just terrible,” the White Rabbit says in the first exhibit. “We’re running out of energy, Alice.”

A Dodo robot figure, swiveling to address Alice and the visitors to the building, declares that there is an “ace” form of energy called nuclear power. It is clean, safe and renewable if you reprocess uranium and plutonium, the Dodo says.

“Wow, you can even do that!” Alice says of nuclear power. “You could say that it’s optimal for resource-poor Japan!”

Over several decades, Japan’s nuclear establishment has devoted vast resources to persuade the Japanese public of the safety and necessity of nuclear power. Plant operators built lavish, fantasy-filled public relations buildings that became tourist attractions. Bureaucrats spun elaborate advertising campaigns through a multitude of organizations established solely to advertise the safety of nuclear plants. Politicians pushed through the adoption of government-mandated school textbooks with friendly views of nuclear power.

The result was the widespread adoption of the belief — called the “safety myth” — that Japan’s nuclear power plants were absolutely safe. Japan single-mindedly pursued nuclear power even as Western nations distanced themselves from it.

The belief helps explains why in the only nation to have been attacked with atomic bombs, the Japanese acceptance of nuclear power was so strong that the accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl barely registered. Even with the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the reaction against nuclear power has been much stronger in Europe and the United States than in Japan itself.

As the Japanese continue to search for answers to the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, some are digging deep into the national psyche and examining a national propensity to embrace a belief now widely seen as irrational. Because of this widespread belief in Japanese plants’ absolute safety, plant operators and nuclear regulators failed to adopt proper safety measures and advances in technology, like emergency robots, experts and government officials acknowledge.

“In Japan, we have something called the ‘safety myth,’ ” Banri Kaieda, who runs the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which oversees the nuclear industry, said at a news conference at an International Atomic Energy Agency meeting in Vienna on Monday. “It’s a fact that there was an unreasonable overconfidence in the technology of Japan’s nuclear power generation.”

As a result, he said, the nuclear industry’s “thinking about safety had a poor foundation.”

Japan’s government has concentrated its propaganda and educational efforts on creating such national beliefs in the past, most notably during World War II. The push for nuclear power underpinned postwar Japan’s focus on economic growth and its dream of greater energy independence. But as the carefully fostered belief in nuclear safety has dissipated in the three months after the March 11 disaster, Japanese are increasingly blaming the nuclear establishment for Fukushima. In a politically apathetic country, tens of thousands have regularly held protests against nuclear power. Young Japanese have used social media to organize and publicize demonstrations that have been virtually ignored by major newspapers and television networks.

A song, “It Was Always a Lie,” has become an anthem at the protests and a vehicle for Japanese anger on the Internet. Its author, a famous singer named Kazuyoshi Saito, wrote it by changing the lyrics of a love ballad, “I Always Liked You,” that he composed last year for a commercial for Shiseido, the cosmetics giant. Mr. Saito’s performance of the song, surreptitiously uploaded on YouTube and other sites, has gone viral.

“If you walk across this country, you’ll find 54 nuclear reactors/School textbooks and commercials told us they were safe,” the song goes.

“It was always a lie, it’s been exposed after all/It was really a lie that nuclear power is safe.”

Caught Unprepared

In the days after a giant tsunami knocked out Fukushima Daiichi’s cooling system, the prime minister’s office and the Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, the plant’s operator, wrestled over whether to inject cooling seawater into the reactor buildings to prevent catastrophic meltdowns, and then over how to do it.

With radiation levels too high for workers to approach the reactors, the Japanese authorities floundered. They sent police trucks mounted with water cannons — equipment designed to disperse rioters — to spray water into the reactor buildings. Military helicopters flew over the buildings, dropping water that was scattered off course by strong winds, in a “performance, a kind of circus” that was aimed more at reassuring an increasingly alarmed Japanese population and American government, said Kenichi Matsumoto, an aide to Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

What became clear was that Japan lacked some of the basic hardware to respond to a nuclear crisis and, after initial resistance, had to look abroad for help. For a country proud of its technology, the low point occurred on March 31 when it had to use a 203-foot-long water pump — shipped from China, an export market for Japanese nuclear technology — to inject 90 tons of fresh water into the No. 1 reactor building. But perhaps more than anything else, the absence of one particular technology was deeply puzzling: emergency robots.

Kantaro Suzuki contributed reporting.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=d012b17603157e56f239275bf14ceb7c

DealBook: Prosecutors Hope for Deterrent Effect

Preet S. Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan.Ozier Muhammad/The New York TimesPreet S. Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan.

Will the conviction of Raj Rajaratnam, the founder of the hedge fund firm Galleon Group, change anything on Wall Street?

Federal prosecutors hailed Wednesday’s verdict as a powerful deterrent to investors trying to gain an unlawful advantage in the stock market.

“We will continue to pursue and prosecute those who believe they are both above the law and too smart to get caught,” Preet S. Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, said in a statement after the verdict in the Rajaratnam case.

Mr. Bharara’s office, which has led the Justice Department’s pursuit of insider trading, has charged 47 individuals with insider trading crimes over the last 18 months — and secured 35 convictions.

While some question whether the rabid pursuit of insider trading has distracted the government from investigating senior executives at the center of the financial crisis, the success in the Galleon case vindicates the aggressive prosecutorial tactics and vast resources deployed in this area. For the first time in a securities case, the government used wiretaps to record traders’ telephone conversations — a tool traditionally used with drug traffickers and organized crime figures.

Prosecutors have readily employed hardball investigatory methods. Late last year, agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted simultaneous raids of three large hedge funds, sending shock waves across Wall Street. Two of those funds have since closed.

Federal authorities have pressured traders and analysts to record their calls in order to build their cases. Last October, F.B.I. agents appeared unannounced at the Portland, Ore., home of an analyst and asked him to tape his calls with a hedge fund client.

The analyst, John Kinnucan, refused to work with the government and e-mailed his trading clients that he had “declined the young gentleman’s gracious offer to wear a wire and thus ensnare you in their devious web.”

As recently as January, the F.B.I. instructed a cooperating witness in the Galleon case to record a call with a former colleague to elicit incriminating evidence.

Government crackdowns on insider trading tend to run in cycles. The last one that received as much attention was the Wall Street sweep in the 1980s that resulted in the convictions of Ivan Boesky and Michael Milken. Those prosecutions came during that era’s mergers-and-acquisitions boom, which was largely financed with the junk bonds popularized by Mr. Milken.

This time around, the insider trading scandals were borne out of the latest deal-making boom that occurred during the middle of last decade — a frenzied period in which some of America’s largest companies fall into private hands.

It coincided with the explosive growth of hedge funds, once-secretive investment partnerships that have emerged as a powerful force in the global economy — and minted more than two dozen billionaires, according to Forbes magazine. Among them: Mr. Rajaratnam, who at the peak managed $7 billion of investors’ money.

The insider trading investigation has spawned several arms of inquiry and has led to subpoenas of the world’s largest financial institutions and arrests in a number of states. Mr. Rajaratnam’s illegal stock tips came from all points of the globe. One witness testified that his chief source of confidential data about publicly traded technology companies came from a tipster in Taiwan. Another delivered secret information from Dublin about the investment activities of a Middle East sovereign wealth fund.

But some academics and Wall Street critics argue that prosecutors instead should have focused their efforts — and their resources — on ferreting out wrongdoing stemming from the crisis. The Justice Department has yet to bring criminal charges against any executive who ran a major financial-services firm leading up to the disaster, which was caused by aggressive risk taking and shoddy lending practices.

“The total amounts of money and the consequences in insider trading are trivial compared to the damage caused by the behavior that caused the financial crisis,” said Charles Ferguson, an academic and filmmaker whose movie about the financial crisis, “Inside Job,” won the 2011 Academy Award for best documentary.

“I’m not saying that insider trading isn’t a serious crime, but the government should be deploying more resources to investigate those cases,” Mr. Ferguson said.

Last week, Mr. Bharara filed a civil lawsuit against Deutsche Bank, accusing the firm of lying about the quality of mortgages it handled under a government program. At a news conference, he said there was not sufficient evidence to justify a criminal complaint.

Federal authorities have cited the loss of confidence in the stock market as a reason to pursue insider trading. In his closing argument in the Mr. Rajaratnam trial, Reed Brodsky, a prosecutor, belabored the point that such activities provided Wall Street professionals with an unfair advantage over the “average, ordinary investor.”

“The stock market is designed to make sure the investing public isn’t cheated,” Mr. Brodsky said. “Wall Street is supposed to be an even playing field.”

Whether the dozens of arrests and convictions will produce any meaningful change in the way professional investors trade stocks is unclear. Still, there has been a reaction as prosecutors’ tough talk and use of wiretaps spawn a culture of fear on Wall Street.

Security firms report an increase in hedge funds hiring them to conduct electronic sweeps of their offices to check for listening devices. Once lightly regulated, hedge funds have also stepped up their compliance procedures and increased their budget for legal services to ferret out illicit trading. Investors are also demanding a higher level of oversight at the funds and stepping up background checks on their managers.

“I probably get five or six requests every month seeking verification that we’re the auditor for a given fund,” said Alan Alzfan, a partner at accounting firm McGladrey and Pullen. “I used to get five or six a year.”

But for all the added scrutiny and negative publicity surrounding insider trading at hedge funds, investors — lured by the promise of outsize returns — continue to pour billions of dollars into them. Last month, the industry celebrated another milestone: the money under hedge fund control surpassed $2 trillion, an all-time high.

Article source: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2011/05/11/prosecutors-hardball-tactics-produce-big-results-in-galleon-case/?partner=rss&emc=rss