US regulators subpoenaed Tesla production data, company says
By TOM KRISHER
AP Auto Writer
Friday, November 2
DETROIT (AP) — U.S. securities investigators have subpoenaed information from Tesla about production forecasts for the Model 3 electric car that were made last year, the company acknowledged in a regulatory filing Friday.
The disclosure in Tesla’s quarterly financial report also says the Securities and Exchange Commission subpoena covered other public statements made about Model 3 production.
The filing adds that Tesla is cooperating with a Justice Department request for information about Model 3 forecasts.
It’s the first time Tesla has formally disclosed the SEC subpoena in a regulatory filing, but there have been widespread news reports about its investigation into production forecasts.
The Model 3 is a central part of Tesla’s plan to expand from a niche player in the luxury segment to a car maker with broader appeal. It’s also key to the company’s cash flow and pledge to make quarterly net profits into the future. In 2017 and this year, Tesla had trouble producing the cars, drawing a lawsuit from investors who said they were misled by CEO Elon Musk’s production targets.
Early last year the Palo Alto, California, company announced plans to produce up to 5,000 Model 3s a week by the end of 2017. But the company fell far short due to problems with automation at its Fremont, California, factory, making just 793 in the last week of 2017 and 2,700 for the entire year. It didn’t hit the 5,000-a-week target until June 2018.
The Wall Street Journal reported last month that the FBI is doing a criminal investigation into whether Tesla misled investors by overstating Model 3 production forecasts.
Tesla Inc. says in the filing that to its knowledge, no government agency in an ongoing investigation has determined that it did anything wrong.
A company spokesman wouldn’t comment beyond the filing. Messages were left Friday seeking comment from the SEC and the Justice Department.
In September, Tesla settled a civil lawsuit by the SEC over tweets by Musk that funding was in place to take the company private. Musk and Tesla agreed to pay a combined $40 million without acknowledging or denying wrongdoing.
“Aside from the settlement with the SEC relating to Mr. Musk’s statement that he was considering taking Tesla private, there have not been any developments in these matters that we deem to be material,” the company wrote in the filing.
But the company also says if the government decides to take enforcement action “there exists the possibility of a material adverse impact on our business, results of operation, prospects, cash flows, and financial position.”
Last month Tesla reported a $311.5 million profit for the July-through-September period, its first quarterly profit in two years. The company said it produced about 4,300 Model 3s a week, excluding planned shutdowns, and 5,300 in the final week of the quarter.
A year ago, a group of shareholders sued the company in federal court alleging that it made false statements about Model 3 production and misled investors. The original complaint was dismissed but was refiled in September.
“We believe that the claims are without merit and intend to defend against this lawsuit vigorously,” the company said in its filing.
Opinion: Postal Service, Other Agencies Must be Held Accountable for IP Violations
By Ross Marchand
Eureka moments are as rewarding as they are rare, propelling innovation and entire industries forward and shaping countless lives.
The U.S. patent system ensures that innovators with groundbreaking ideas are rewarded for their efforts and protects discoveries from copycats … most of the time. Since 2011, however, people who want to profit off others’ labor have made use of the Patent Trial and Appeals Board (PTAB) to render patents invalid in a “streamlined” process completely lacking in due process. Now, the federal government, via the U.S. Postal Service, is trying to push the PTAB’s limits even further, arguing that it should be allowed to have patents invalidated through PTAB without legal recourse. Normalizing this troubling practice would strike a devastating blow against intellectual property and innovators everywhere.
The Postal Service brouhaha over intellectual property began in 2011 when a small Alabama company known as Return Mail Inc. alleged that the service was stealing its technology for processing undeliverable mail. The business’s original patent involves putting scannable data on all mail and creating a pairing system between the digital code and a database of recipient addresses in order to deliver the mystery mail.
Like most other government agencies, the Postal Service uses the principle of “sovereign immunity” to shield itself against legal claims and is therefore shielded from the typical laws protecting patents (ie. the Patent Act). However agencies are liable for claims if they “use or manufacture” inventions protected by intellectual property. Now this battle over patent rights has made it all the way to the Supreme Court.
Unwilling to stop using Return Mail’s technology, the Postal Service successfully persuaded PTAB to invalidate the patent; the Board concluded that the invention was too obvious to be patented. Now, Return Mail is arguing before the highest court of the land that the Postal Service had no business invalidating its patent since it lacks standing before PTAB. And Return Mail certainly seems to have a point.
The disastrous 2011 America Invents Act (AIA), which created PTAB in the first place, specifies that a “person” must be the one filing a petition, and said a person needs to legally abide by whatever the Board decides about the patent’s validity.
More troublingly, the Postal Service is trying to have its cake and eat it too. Even though PTAB decisions have a strong bias against patent holders, copycats trying to get a patent invalidated nevertheless face a gamble before the Board. If PTAB upholds a patent, that’s the end of the line (notwithstanding appeals) because everyone must heed the final decision of the Board, full stop.
But the federal government is another beast entirely, and it’s an open question as to whether it must legally abide by the findings of the Board. Even if the Supreme Court finds that the federal government is in fact a “person” that can kickstart a PTAB review, there’s almost certainly no way it would be legally bound to the ruling of the Board.
To put it simply, the Postal Service is arguing the ludicrous position that if it wins at PTAB the other party must abide by the outcomes. But, if it loses at PTAB, it is free to ignore the ruling.
Federal Circuit Judge Pauline Newman rightly lambasts this, writing that “legislative intent (of AIA) was to silently give the United States the benefit of the AIA, but not the burden of the estoppel provision (which forces disputing parties to adhere to the outcome). The estoppel provision, however, is the quid pro quo that underlay enactment of the AIA. The estoppel provision is the backbone of the AIA, for it is through estoppel that the AIA achieves its purpose”
Despite being the underdog facing off against the full might of the federal government, Return Mail’s efforts could not be more essential to the preservation of intellectual property in the United States. Any system that binds patent holders to an outcome but cannot reign in infringers invites rampant abuse and unfairness.
Absent a favorable court decision, lawmakers must act decisively to remove the “sovereign immunity” protections that have kept the federal government unaccountable as its clout has grown. Without legal consequences for wrongdoing, the Postal Service (along with other government agencies) can’t hope to do better.
Holding the government accountable under the law would keep bureaucrats honest and pave the way for more innovations and more eureka moments.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Ross Marchand is the director of policy for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Does giving donors stuff actually raise more money?
November 2, 2018
Author: Jonathan Meer, Professor of Economics, Texas A&M University
Disclosure statement: Jonathan Meer received funding from the National Science Foundation for the research described in this essay.
Partners: Texas A&M University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
You’ve almost certainly opened an envelope containing a solicitation from a nonprofit and discovered a set of mailing labels with your name and address on them. Or a few bookmarks with the group’s branding. Or, just as likely, the offer of a mug, a tote bag or some other gift in exchange for your donation.
I get a few of these “tokens of appreciation,” known as donor premiums, every month. About 60 percent of American nonprofit solicitations for support include them upfront or dangle them as a reward for giving.
But why do charities give stuff away when they ask you for money? I am an economist who studies altruism and philanthropy. The prevalence of this fundraising mainstay sparked my curiosity. Clearly, charities think this kind of swag inspires people to give, but I wanted to find out whether they work and, if so, how.
Enticement or wasteful obligation?
Expert opinion and scholarly evidence on the effectiveness of donor premiums is mixed. Some nonprofit professionals claim that donors expect and want these premiums. Others point to surveys in which donors say would prefer that the group they’re supporting spend as much of their donation as possible on their work and not waste their money on trinkets.
Other economists who have researched this question have generally found that donor premiums do tend to induce more giving, but they are rarely cost-effective.
Along with other researchers, I have previously detected a strong distaste among donors for premiums as they can add to overhead, administrative and fundraising costs – potentially making people less motivated to give to a cause they support.
Together with my colleague Catherine Eckel at Texas A&M University and David Herberich, who is a vice president at Marqeta, a payment platform, I partnered with the Texas A&M alumni association to unpack how donor premiums work.
Tag, you’re it
If donors are driven by a need to give back, we hypothesized, they might be inclined to give more in response to a higher-quality gift sent to them unconditionally. But if they dislike overhead costs, pricier gifts might reduce their giving.
If it’s the thought that counts, we figured, then just offering a gift that’s conditional upon a donation should have the same effect as an unconditional gift received no matter what. And if donors have the opportunity to decline or opt into receiving premiums in exchange for donations, we believe that would signal whether they really want to maximize the charity’s funding – by turning them down – or if they really do desire the item.
With the help of our research partner, we mailed about 140,000 alumni one of seven different solicitation letters.
A control group received no gift offer. One group got a leather A&M-branded luggage tag in the mailing requesting a donation while another group received a plastic luggage tag.
Four groups received a conditional offer: a luggage tag in response to their donation. One group merely received the offer. Another group had an identical solicitation with related wording on the outside of the envelope. This tested whether prospective donors could be made more likely to open the mailing. The other two had the option to decline the tag or, to ensure our phrasing wasn’t driving the results, the option of receiving it.
Several months after the letters went out, we compared donation rates in response to the different letters.
Only 0.49 percent of the people in the control group donated in response to the premium-free solicitation. While it may seem quite low, that response rate is not unusual for direct mail.
Adding the plastic luggage tag as an unconditional donor premium increased the donation rate slightly, to 0.60 percent. The leather luggage tag group had a substantially higher response rate of 1.02 percent.
Those differences suggests that some sense of reciprocity – a donor’s perceived need to respond to the charity’s gift – does drive giving and that donors are responsive to higher-quality gifts. Aversion to overhead costs, that is, doesn’t completely undo the effectiveness of premiums in getting donors to give.
The four groups offered conditional gifts all donated at about the same rate as those in the control group. What that means is that a premium that’s mailed in response to a donation does not have the same impact as a “front-end” premium, at least in the context of these fundraising letters.
Those donors who did give in the conditional variations showed strong preference for receiving the luggage tags. When they had to make an active decision to receive the tag, 61 percent chose to get it while 88 percent chose not to opt out of receiving the tag. This suggests that many donors are not motivated by the desire to maximize the impact of their donation.
So unconditional premiums might be popular with donors – but do they help nonprofits raise money?
Not by a long shot. While donors gave the most in response to the leather luggage tag they got just for being asked to give, that trinket was much more expensive than the plastic tags. Including mailing costs, each solicitation actually cost US $2.87. Even though they didn’t raise as much, the plastic tags did better as a fundraising tool because they weren’t as pricey. But, on net, they still lost $0.59 per mailed letter.
Meanwhile, the solicitations that offered plastic tags in response to a gift raised an average of 40 cents each, net of cost – a sum that is statistically indistinguishable from the average of 39 cents collected in response to mailings that included and promised no premiums at all.
Fans of using premiums to raise money for causes believe that they are worth it even if they simply get donors in the door but do not raise more money than giving them away costs charities. That’s because, at least theoretically, they can form a habit of giving. But some researchers have found that donors who are lured into giving by donor premiums are unlikely to give again when asked without an incentive.
What should nonprofits and donors take away from our study? We conducted this experiment with just one organization, but the preponderance of the evidence from our work and the findings of others suggests that unconditional premiums are not worth it.
These trinkets may have been a good idea when they were novel and unusual, a few decades ago. But they are so common now that many donors probably don’t even notice them.
Columbus Used Car Seller Accused of Failing to Deliver Vehicle Titles to Consumers
November 2, 2018
(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today announced a consumer protection lawsuit against Ideal Motorcars LLC and its operators for failing to deliver vehicle titles to consumers as required by law.
More than 80 consumers have filed title-related complaints against Ideal Motorcars, which operated at two Columbus locations: one at 3613 Indianola Ave. and one at 6400 Huntley Road.
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section worked to assist consumers, in some cases making payments from the Title Defect Recision Fund, which helps used car buyers resolve certain title problems. Consumer claims totaling more than $145,800 have been paid from the fund thus far.
The Attorney General’s lawsuit, filed in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, accuses the dealership and its owners of selling vehicles despite knowing they would not be able to secure titles to the vehicles and failing to provide promised services to consumers.
In the lawsuit, the Attorney General seeks reimbursement for affected consumers, reimbursement for the Title Defect Recision Fund, and an order to prohibit the dealership’s owners, Saththia Lingan and Kandiah Lingan, from being granted an auto dealer license in Ohio.
Consumers who suspect an unfair or deceptive sales practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.