MyCoin Scandal

Check out Timothy T Brock’s latest blog post!

Timothy T Brock Bitcoin

In the aftermath of media reports that a bitcoin exchange may have run off with $387 million in client funds, Hong Kong’s central bank has been warning people against investing their money in virtual currencies.  Yesterday, the South China Morning Post reported that clients of MyCoin, a Hong Kong-based bitcoin exchange firm, had approached a local lawmaker claiming that the company had absconded with their money.  An assistant for Legislative Council claimed to have received more than 15 complaints from MyCoin clients regarding this alleged fraud, which would be passed on to the police tomorrow.

Late yesterday, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) mentioned in a statement that this case could involve fraud or pyramid schemes, and given the highly speculative nature of bitcoin, they have continued to urge the public to exercise particular caution when considering making transactions or investments using this virtual currency.

Bitcoins are created through a “mining” process, where a computer’s resources are used to perform millions of calculations.  According to advocates of bitcoin, the virtual currency is so revolutionary because it isn’t controlled by a central bank, giving it worlds of potential as an alternative means of online payment.  However, the rise of bitcoin has stoked concerns that it can be used for less-than-savory purposes, such as laundering money or financing extremist groups.  For example, it was the currency used for the illegal online drug service “The Silk Road”.

Mt. Gox, previously the largest bitcoin exchange in the world, filed for bankruptcy a year ago after claiming to have lost around $500 million worth of customer bitcoins in a hacking attack.  On its website, MyCoin claims to be a leading global bitcoin trading platform, with a China-based research and development team.  MyCoin promised clients a HK$1 million ($128, 976) return over the course of 4 months, based on a HK$400,000 investment that would produce 90 bitcoins on maturity.  MyCoin also claimed to have 3,000 customers each, investing on average HK$1 million.  The price of bitcoin has seen a significant slump from its late-2013 high of above $1,000 to currently around $220.


Why Declining Industry Doesn’t Mean Decline

The latest from Timothy T Brock, right here!

When people talks about a depressed US city, the city’s plight is typically explained by a departed industry, overseas competition or a natural disaster.  For example, the Rust Belt is currently so poor because of the decline of the steel industry, Galveston has yet to recover from a devastating 1900 hurricane and Flint and Detroit owe their misery to the struggling US car industry.  Yet such disasters don’t necessarily have to destroy a city.  Take, for example, New York.  Up until the 1920s, it was one of the largest manufacturing centers in America, although now, virtually nothing Timothy T Brock detroitconsumed in New York is actually made there.  While the city has definitely seen some hard times in the past, it’s currently the richest city in the world.  I recently came across an article that discusses why it is that the departure of a major business from a city doesn’t have to spell its demise.

One thing that ended manufacturing in New York was the rise of more advanced forms of commerce.  For instance, take a look at Google: the Silicon Valley-based company currently owns over 3.5 million square feet of office space in Manhattan, much of which is in a former Nabisco factory.  And this strongly symbolic story is the norm.  Former factories and warehouses have gone on to be converted into restaurants, loft spaces and apartments.  As opposed to making products themselves, the majority of New Yorkers now import their products, made around the world, which gives them time to pursue higher-yielding work in such fields as the arts, advertising and finance.

Across North America, Los Angeles is much the same story.  In 1927, the City of Angels could claim the 4th most manufacturing output in the country, behind New York, Milwaukee and Flint.  Nowadays, however, LA is hardly known to be a manufacturing hub, signaling that the city has been able to positively evolve with the economic times.  Much like New Yorkers, Angelenos import products such as shoes, televisions and fruits, and can pay for these imports through their work in such fields as technology, finance and film.  North of Los Angeles, Seattle is much the same story: once defined by manufacturing, much of its production base departed for cheap labor locales, and industry was replaced by tech when billionaire Bill Gates moved Microsoft from Albuquerque to Seattle.  Other major companies, such as Amazon, came to the city, making it the “jewel of the Pacific Northwest”.

It’s important to remember that while factory work once provided a solid wage, living on factory work alone is nearly impossible in the current day and age, and most investors have deemed it unworthy of Americans’ abilities.  Cities like Flint and Detroit, the article states, are struggling so much because the Big Three automakers based there are doing well enough to still create jobs which have no appeal to the state of Michigan’s best and brightest, causing them to seek their fortunes elsewhere.  Back in the day, Nabisco, based in Manhattan, created plenty of manufacturing jobs in Manhattan, although these jobs have since gone elsewhere.  Which could be a good thing: can you imagine how less vibrant the New York economy would be if it still relied on an industry as outdated as manufacturing?  The article claims that Detroit’s problem is easy to solve: they need to stop clinging to a work that richer cities recognized as obsolete.

RadioShack Declares Bankruptcy

The latest from Timothy T Brock!

Yesterday, RadioShack’s proposed bankruptcy financing cleared court, as the retailer continues the process of racing to sell out.  By March 31, the company plans to shut down 1,784 of its stores across North America.  RadioShack has planned for the closure to come in three waves, the first of which will be completed within the week, and will see 162 stores close down.  The second wave, ending on February 28, will end with 986 stores closing shop. Timothy T Brock radio shack And by the end of March, a final purge of 636 stores is scheduled to close.

Even though they filed for chapter 11, some RadioShack stores will continue to exist.  Currently, RadioShack operates 4,485 stores across the US, and General Wireless allegedly planned on purchasing between 1,500 and 2,400 stores.  As part of an agreement with the wireless service provider Spring, 1,750 RadioShack stores will also be transformed into a combination Sprint/RadioShack retailer.  According to the Delaware court filing, RadioShack representatives said that the company currently has $1.2 billion in assets against $1.38 billion in debt.

RadioShack had its humble beginnings in 1921 as a mail-order retailer for amateur ham-radio operators and maritime communications officers in Boston.  From there, it build a niche as a place for hard-to-find electronics, outlasting competitors such as Nobody Beats the Wiz and Circuit City.  However, their decline has been marked in recent years by an inability to compete with such names as Amazon, Walmart and Best Buy, who have stolen the company’s customer base.  While the company has teetered close to the edge before, this could very well spell the end of RadioShack’s prowess in the electronics retail industry.  With this company nearly out of the picture, many believe that it places online retail company Amazon in an excellent place to take their business.

Top 5 Soup Spots in New York

The latest from Timothy T Brock, right here!

So far, January has proven to be a brutal month for New Yorkers, with snow and bone-chilling cold leaving many reluctant to leave the comforts of their apartment.  If you do choose to brave the cold weather, you might be looking for some good soup.  If so, here’s a list of 5 of my personal favorite places in New York to grab a nice bowl of soup.

Timothy T Brock Hide Chan

Hide-Chan Ramen: This Japanese spot does quite possibly the best ramen noodle soup in New York.  When you go, you’re allowed to choose the texture and firmness of your noodles, as well as the richness of the broth (the richness is determined by how much pork fat they use).  I’d suggest getting something with pork in it, since Hide-Chan does an amazing job with their roast pork.  And if you’ve got a cold, nothing will clear you up quite like their spicy ramen, and it’s pretty darn tasty.

Timothy T Brock Bigos

Little Poland: This isn’t strictly a soup place, but anybody who knows Polish cooking can tell you that soup is a major part of Polish cuisine.  You really can’t go wrong with the chicken noodle soup here, but their soups in a bread bowl, particularly bigos and zurek, are really something else.  Reasonably priced and extremely filling, if you’re still hungry after finishing your bowl of soup, you can always order some tasty pierogies or kielbasa.

TImothy T Brock Soup Spot

Soup Spot: Every single day, Soup Spot cooks 17 different types of soups from scratch, and sells them until they’re gone.  These soups range from inventive creations such as cheeseburger chowder, to gourmet classics like salmon bisque to more traditional chicken soups.

Timothy T Brock Cozy Soup N BUrger

Cozy Soup ‘n Burger: This 24-hour diner has a pretty small soup selection, especially when compared to the rest of the menu, but their pea soup is legendary, with people coming from miles around to get a hold of it.  Their French Onion is also excellent, with a great broth, plenty of sweet onions and crunchy baguette making it something to remember.

Timothy T Brock Cafe Doppio

Café Doppio: At this family-run joint, the staff will let you sample their soups, whether they’re the seafood-stuffed paella, sausage-packed jambalaya or wonderful Italian wedding.  The soups change daily, and usually sell out early, meaning that you should hit them up as much as you possibly can.

Architecture Firm Applies For Chapter 11

The latest from Timothy T Brock!

Timothy T Brock Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty, one of the many projects of Swanke Hayden

Recently, the New York-based architecture and interior-design firm Swanke Hayden Connell, with roots dating back over a century, has filed for Chapter 11 protection, due to its failure to collect more than $2 million from an assignment across the ocean in Russia.  However, Swanke Hayden’s case in unique, in that they don’t actually have any major bank loans or other secured debt.  Rather, they firm says in court filing that their bankruptcy is the result of a cash shortage and inability to pay off its bills.

Over the years, Swanke Hayden has worked on a number of well-known projects, both in New York and outside.  These include the Trump Tower, a facelift of the Statue of Liberty back in the 1980s and the recent rehabilitation of the classic Central Park institution Tavern on the Green.  They even designed the Manhattan office of the Wall Street Journal!  Recently, the firms has taken on several projects abroad, specifically in Russia.  One of these included a 70-story mixed-use tower in Moscow, and they were planning on a mega-complex in downtown Moscow.  In their filings, Swanke Hayden says that one of its Russian clients has failed to pay the $2.3 million they owe to the firm, due to claims that they had suffered “damages” from the debtor’s supposed delays and omissions.  Swanke Hayden believes that various political and economic issues could be playing a role in the project’s outcome.

Both Richard Hayden, the president of the Swanke Hayden, and the firm’s bankruptcy attorney, refused to comment on the situation.  Last year, two of the firm’s principals departed from the company.  According to the firm’s bankruptcy petition, this also served as a reason for their filing for Chapter 11.  The pair that did leave had been overseeing Swanke Hayden’s health care and public/municipal sectors, which altogether made up about half of its business.  At the time of this bankruptcy filing, the firm has 32 employees.  They currently have some $6.9 million in liabilities, including $3.2 million owed to a list of 20 engineering firms, landlords, consultants and others.  Its $6.5 million in assets include nearly $4 million in outstanding invoices, and $312, 677 in cash.

Trouble in France

Check out the newest blog post of Timothy T Brock!

Timothy T Brock Kouachi

A photo of Said and Cherif Kouachi, the two men responsible for the Charlie Hedbo attacks, taken in Syria.

Earlier today, two brothers who were suspected in the shooting deaths of 12 people earlier this week at Charlie Hebdo were killed during a standoff with the French police.  The two men were holed up with a hostage inside a printing store near the Charles de Gaulle Airport.  The hostage was unharmed.  Shortly afterwards, in a separate standoff at a Kosher market in Paris, police stormed the store where at least five people were being held by a gunman and his accomplice.  In response to these attacks happening so close to each other, one of which was the country’s worst terror attack in decades, France has been on high alert.

According to a police official, the two separate sets of hostage-takers knew each other, and reportedly had ties to Al-Qaeda.  The Paris mayor’s office immediately announced they would be closing all of the shops along Rosiers Street in Paris’ Marais neighborhood, in the heart of the tourist district.  The official also said that the gunman at the Kosher store was believed to be responsible for the roadside killing of a Paris policewoman yesterday.  At the store, the gunman burst in just a few hours before the Jewish Sabbath (typically the store’s most busy hours), declaring, “you know who I am”.  Police SWAT squads quickly descended on the area.  The suspects are Amedy Coulibaly and his accomplice, a woman named Hayet Boumddiene.  100 students were under lockdown in nearby schools, and the highway ringing Paris was closed.

Hours before the attack and just 25 miles away, a convoy of police trucks, helicopters and ambulances streamed toward Dammartin-en-Goele to seize the suspects of the Charlie Hedbo shootings, who had hijacked a car in a nearby town.  The two men, brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, said that they wanted to die as “martyrs”.  The two brothers were not unknown to authorities, with Cherif having previously been convicted of terrorism charges in 2008 for his ties to a terrorism network.  Both men were also on the US no-fly list.  Nine people, including relatives of the two brothers, have been detained by the French government for questioning.

Since the Charlie Hedbo attack, tens of thousands of French security forces have been mobilized to prevent a new terror attack.  Authorities around Europe have warned of the threat posed by Islamist militants returning to the area in the aftermath of fighting in the Middle East.  France currently has at least 1,200 citizens in the war zone in Syria, either headed there, returned or dead.

The Brand Graveyard

Check out the newest blog post of Timothy T Brock!

Timothy T Brock blockbuster gravestoneBack in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Finnish tech company Nokia became a technology powerhouse after they released the hottest cell phone in the market.  Yet before long, Nokia will be no more; in order to focus on their Lumia phone line, Microsoft has announced that they’ll be phasing out the Nokia brand that they recently purchased.  With a simple name switch, a 147 year-old company, one of the first names in mobile phones, will be no more.  However, Nokia isn’t the only well-known company to go away.  I recently came across an article discussing some of the well-known brands that have faded out over the years.

Back in 1927, Pan Am was founded in Key West to carry mail between the US and Cuba.  Augmented by an increased interest in air travel after World War II, the company grew to serve as the US’ unofficial airline.  Yet following a golden age in the 1960s and 70s, the reign of Pan Am came to an end, due to such factors as the 1988 terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 and a jump in fuel prices caused by the Gulf War.  In January 1991, Pan Am filed for bankruptcy, closing shop in the end of the year.

In 2000, Reed Hastings (better known as the founder of Netflix) approached Blockbuster with a partnership proposal.  At the time, Blockbuster was at the top of the video rental market, so they turned down Hastings’ offer without much thought.  Yet shortly afterward, Blockbuster’s business began to falter, and the company declared bankruptcy in 2010.  Netflix, on the other hand, thrived.  Internet-based services such as Netflix have since continued to grow their business until one such service, Dish Network Corp, acquired Blockbuster in 2011 and closed the last of their retail stores in the US by early 2014.

In 1910, the company Amoco was formed following the Standard Oil Company’s acquisition of the American Oil Company.  Amoco went on to revolutionize the gas station in America, introducing such concepts as the metered gas pump, the drive-through gas station and the tanker trucks used to refill them.  They were soon a mainstay of American life, and their stations could be found across the country.  Yet back in 1998, Amoco announced that it was merging with BP in one of the largest takeovers of a US company by a foreign corporation.  While Amoco was originally meant to stay open in the US, BP ultimately changed their mind and announced that all Amoco stations would be rebranded as BP.

In the late 1990s, Enron cultivated a reputation as an innovative energy and commodities company, causing a massive stir in both industries.  They carved out whole new categories for commodities, including Internet bandwidth and weather futures, and made huge amounts of money where nobody ever had before.  Yet this all came to an end when it was discovered that Enron had been hiding losses and huge debts in a vast array of shell corporations and phony partnerships.  Enron declared bankruptcy in 2001, and an ensuing investigation revealed a massive fraud.

After its founding in 1897, Oldsmobile quickly became an American icon, selling 35 million units were sold.  Two of its models, the Cutlass and Cutlass Supreme, became some of the most recognizable cars coming out of Michigan.  Oldsmobile sold over 1 million vehicles every year during the 1980s, but its sales began to take a nosedive in the following decade.  By the time their centennial came around, it was clear that Oldsmobile couldn’t wouldn’t be able to compete with smaller and more fuel-efficient cars from competitors such as Hyundai, Toyota and Honda.  In 2000, GM announced that they would be phasing out the Oldsmobile brand, with the last Oldsmobile rolling off the assembly line in April 2004.

When Frank Woolworth first opened the Great 5 Cents store in Utica, NY in 1879, it completely changed the way that people shopped; his stores sold everything, from groceries to hardware to books, under one roof, paving the way for a future of other such stores (the most famous of which is Wal-Mart).  For much of the 117 years that it was in business, Woolworth’s dominated the discount market, pioneering retail marketing practices that are still in effect today.  Yet business started to decline in the 1980s and in 1987, the Woolworth Corporation announced that it was closing the last 400 of its shops.

Back in 1971, brothers Tom and Louis Borders founded Borders bookstore in 1971, and their business began to grow dramatically as they built more and more locations.  In 1992, the brothers sold the chain to Kmart, who spun off the brand, along with another of their book brands, Waldenbooks, and the company began to expand throughout the 1990s and 2000s.  However, the store ultimately failed to compete with technological advances in e-readers and the rise of digital music and online retailers such as Amazon.  The company’s original store in Ann Arbor closed shop in 2011, and the company declared bankruptcy.  In the aftermath of their bankruptcy, Barnes & Noble acquired the brand’s trademarks and customer list, so that web searches for Borders are now directed to the Barnes & Noble website.

Postum Cereal Company was originally founded in 1896, after they started to move beyond cereal, they changed their name in 1929 changed to General Foods.  General Foods steadily grew over the decades, acquiring such products as Kool-Aid, Tang, Jell-O, Bird’s Eye Frozen Foods, the Burger Chef restaurant chain and Oscar Mayer.  But in 1985, the tables were turned when General Foods was acquired by Philip Morris.  After acquiring Kraft three years later, the two food companies merged and spun off in 2007 as Kraft General Foods.