Eight members of Congress are calling on the Small Business Administration to investigate whether the operator of a luxury Santa Monica hotel and dozens of other properties properly spent tens of millions of dollars in pandemic relief funding.



a group of people that are talking on a cell phone: A group prays during an August demonstration supporting Margarita Santos, center, who was fired from her housekeeping job at the JW Marriott Santa Monica Le Merigot hotel. The hotel's operator, Columbia Sussex, received tens of millions of dollars in PPP loans. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)


© Provided by The LA Times
A group prays during an August demonstration supporting Margarita Santos, center, who was fired from her housekeeping job at the JW Marriott Santa Monica Le Merigot hotel. The hotel’s operator, Columbia Sussex, received tens of millions of dollars in PPP loans. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) and seven of her Democratic colleagues issued a letter Tuesday urging the SBA to investigate how a hotel conglomerate that owns or operates at least 50 hotels spent the money it received — as much as $63 million — from the Paycheck Protection Program.

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The group of lawmakers said in the letter that the PPP was designed to keep workers employed but that the hotel company, Columbia Sussex, accepted the funding through multiple affiliates and still laid off thousands of workers.

“Columbia Sussex appears to have taken advantage of these policies — borrowing taxpayer money at artificially low interest rates through multiple entities while laying off workers,” their letter to SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza says.

Phone calls and emails to the Kentucky headquarters of Columbia Sussex were not returned Tuesday.

The PPP, part of the $2-trillion stimulus funding package approved by Congress in March, was promoted as a tool for keeping workers employed during the economic crisis. But experts, academics and union leaders told the Los Angeles Times that loopholes and flaws in the program allowed businesses to accept millions of dollars in forgivable loans without retaining or recalling most of their workers.

The program requires loan recipients to use at least 60%

Three years since the Tubbs fire, there have been some notable improvements for homeowners who are wrangling with their insurance carriers in the aftermath of a wildfire loss.

The state Legislature enacted some reforms, such as boosting rental living expenses from a maximum of two years to three years after a disaster while a homeowner waits for their home to be rebuilt. Last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation that required carriers to provide initial payments of at least 25% of their personal property that was destroyed without having the homeowner detail their entire inventory.

Yet there is still no solution for the most vexing problem of all: How to ensure that homeowners have sufficient coverage to rebuild their house and that they actually receive that amount?

In California, the onus is on the homeowner to ensure they have the right coverage amount to rebuild — a figure that only a local contractor would likely know. And most residents don’t reach out to a builder when pricing or updating their coverage.

That was proven after the 2017 wildfires when a survey by the consumer group United Policyholders found about two-thirds of those fire victims were underinsured — with some in pricey Fountaingrove facing a shortfall of more than $1 million. That number likely hasn’t changed much, said Amy Bach, executive director of the San Francisco-based consumer group. It is a cold reality that will soon be discovered by hundreds of homeowners in the wake of the Glass fire, which destroyed or damaged about 800 single-family homes.

“At this point, I’m convinced that insurers don’t want to solve the problem,” Bach said.

As the problem lingers, a Santa Rosa firm is attempting to help homeowners protect themselves. BW Builder Inc. assists homeowners in the aftermath of a fire by preparing detailed

BUDAPEST, Oct 9 (Reuters)Central European currencies firmed on Friday, with the Hungarian forint extending gains after a lower-than-expected September inflation reading took pressure off the central bank and the trade balance posted a sizeable surplus in August.

While the decline in inflation temporarily relieves the National Bank of Hungary, which is battling inflation and deepening recession worries, risks in Central European and emerging markets are high as COVID-19 cases spike.

“The slowing pace of recovery in CEE and the rising number of new COVID-19 cases will likely keep risks elevated,” Morgan Stanley analysts said in a note.

“While we think that the benign September inflation print will ease some of the pressure for the (Hungarian) central bank to deliver tighter monetary conditions, we think that it is too early for it to consider realigning the one-week depo rate to the base rate at 0.60%.”

The bank hiked the one-week depo rate by 15 basis points to 0.75% on Sept. 25, which helped shore up the weakening forint and reverse a negative trend.

On Friday, the forint EURHUF= was up 0.1% at 357.20 to the euro, after it outperformed peers on Thursday.

Hungary posted a foreign trade surplus of 251 million euros ($295.98 million) in August, above analyst forecasts for 140 million.

The Czech crown EURCZK= was also 0.1% firmer, even though the Czech Republic’s daily cases of the novel coronavirus rose to 5,394 on Thursday, the third record tally in a row.

“Thursday was a bad day for the CZK rates, (on) the long end dropping by 6 bps on disappointing retail sales, a record number of new COVID-19 cases and tighter government restrictions announced in the afternoon,” Komercni Banka trader Marek Lesko said in a morning note on Friday.

The Czech government will tighten anti-coronavirus measures from

Adds details from company statement, changes dateline

Oct 8 (Reuters)U.S. business analytics firm Dun & Bradstreet Holdings Inc DNB.N said on Wednesday it would acquire European data and analytics firm Bisnode from Swedish private equity firm Ratos AB RATOb.ST.

The company said in a statement it will purchase Bisnode through its unit Dun & Bradstreet Holdings BV for 7.2 billion SEK ($811.60 million) in a cash and stock deal.

Upon closing of the transaction, expected in 2021, Dun & Bradstreet will pay 75% of the price in cash to Bisnode and 25% in newly issued shares of common stock of Dun & Bradstreet.

Ratos is selling its 70% shareholding in Bisnode and will receive a dividend of 175 million SEK from Bisnode during fourth quarter 2020, it said in a separate statement.

Ratos Chief Executive Officer Jonas Wiström will join the Dun & Bradstreet International Strategic Advisory Board, the private equity firm said.

Ratos said its ownership in Dun & Bradstreet will be about 1% afer the completion of the transaction, corresponding to about 1 billion SEK.

($1 = 8.8714 Swedish crowns)

(Reporting by Juby Babu in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich)

(([email protected]; outside U.S. +91 80 6182 3397;))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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LAYOFFS



a blurry image of a person: LogMeIn


© Essdras M Suarez
LogMeIn

Remote-access software firm LogMeIn cuts jobs

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One of the industry leaders in software for remote work is going through another round of layoffs. Boston-based LogMeIn said it’s trimming “less than 100” of its global workforce of 4,000, with Boston workers accounting for “less than 20” of the job cuts. The company provided no details about which of its product lines are affected, but a spokeswoman said that the laid-off workers have been encouraged to apply for new jobs at LogMeIn, suggesting that the move is more of a reorganization than a downsizing. In February, the firm laid off about 300 employees, or 8 percent of its workforce. Chief executive Bill Wagner told the Globe in July that many of the company’s employees will keep working from home even after the pandemic lifts. A spokeswoman said that as a result, LogMeIn needs fewer workers to operate its offices, such as the technical staff who maintain the office computer networks. — HIAWATHA BRAY

DIVERSITY

Microsoft plan to add Black executives draws US Labor inquiry

Microsoft Corp. said the US Labor Department is questioning whether its commitment to promote more Black managers and executives violates civil rights laws. The software maker said it’s confident the diversity pledges are legal. The company, whose contracts with the US government mean it must comply with certain federal requirements on employment practices, said it was contacted last week by the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. Microsoft said in June that it would double the number of Black managers, senior contributors, and senior leaders in the United States by 2025. The federal outreach to Microsoft is an example of the Trump administration’s opposition to many programs meant to fight discrimination against the Black community and improve the