A grand jury in Austin, Texas, has indicted Gov. Rick Perry on charges of abusing his official powers. For more on the indictment, Robert Siegel talks with NPR's Wade Goodwyn.
An ethics complaint was opened last year after the governor vetoed funding for state public corruption prosecutors. Perry had said he would carry out the veto unless a district attorney resigned.
Everybody has one, a moment or a story where money changes your life. This week, the band Future Islands and the unexpected financial side of making it.
“I think a big turning point was when we got picked up by a booking agent," says band member William Cashion. "That was the first allegiance in the music industry. We always felt like we were kind of on the outside. I booked our shows for about seven years, and we all just did everything, especially the first five or six years. We were going to Kinko's, making black and white Xerox copies and cutting them out in the van and burning CDRs."
"As soon as we brought on a booking agent it was like somebody waved a magic wand and we were just getting guarantees everywhere we went," Cashion says. "Which wasn’t a lot of money but it was like a door deal, it was like a pre-arranged amount of what we would get paid which totally changed the game for us as far as the kind of money we were making.”
But even when the band started making more money on the road, there were other unexpected financial problems.
“We were pretty far in the red at the end of last year," says Samuel Herring. We pretty much sunk everything into the music as well as getting hit with 2012 taxes in the middle of producing the album and we were just like, 'Oh, we forgot about that.' We got hit really hard with taxes last year. Our accountant called us in one day and [said], ‘Umm … well first off you guys have very high taxes, because you made a lot of money last year, a lot more than I expected. And because you’re an LLC you’re in the highest tax bracket.’ I was kind of looking at the guys, ' Should we high five? We made it! Highest tax bracket!' And we got destroyed. We got destroyed by the US Government. Maybe they’ll come after us.”
But with the band's recent success, Future Islands is learning to balance their DIY upbringing.
“We’ve always worked solely out of necessity with what we could do, and I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve survived," says Herring. "It’s funny because now it’s at the point where we’re realizing we do need these certain crew members. And I’m fiercely shacking my head like, no, like I don’t want to do that! Even though it is time to give the reigns over because it’s too much for us now.”
Future Islands' latest album is "Singles." They're touring the U.S. this summer and fall.
When it comes to celebrity endorsements, there are plenty of success stories. Michael Jordan’s name brought in more than $2 billion for Nike last year, and back in May, Apple paid $3 billion to snap up rapper Dr. Dre’s Beats.
But there are some things a famous name just can’t seem to sell. Case in point: prepaid debit cards.
Magic Johnson and financial adviser Suze Orman pulled their prepaid cards about a month ago. Lil Wayne appears to be the latest celebrity to bow out. Try applying online for the Young Money card he endorsed, and you get an error page.
"This was sort of low-hanging fruit," says Matt Britton, CEO of the marketing agency MRY. "Prepaid cards is a growing phenomenon, so I think celebrities initially saw this as a great opportunity for 'me to be able to leverage my fan base.'"
Consumer spending with prepaid cards jumped 6 percent last year to more than $118 billion, according to the Nilson Report. The cards are increasingly popular with people who don’t want traditional checking accounts - and those who can't get them.
"A lot of these - particularly newer prepaid card offerings that have more transparent fee structures - make a pretty compelling option for them," says Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com.
Hidden fees helped tank the Kardashian family’s attempt at a prepaid card a few years ago, and more cards now disclose their costs.
"The lack of regulation is the downside," says Susan Weinstock, director of consumer banking for the Pew Charitable Trusts. "These cards do not have any protection should you lose the card or it gets stolen."
Weinstock says federal regulators plan to weigh in on prepaid cards this summer. As for whether celebrities should keep endorsing them, Britton says it takes a star with a "pristine brand" and a broad enough fan base to make it work.
"LeBron James, maybe, especially since his move to Cleveland," she says.
Coca-Cola is buying a nearly 17 percent stake in Monster Beverage for $2.15 billion. Reaction can be summed up as such: It’s been a long-time coming, and it’s a win-win for both companies.
As part of the deal, Coca-Cola will transfer its existing energy drinks to Monster, and Monster will transfer its non-energy drinks to Coca-Cola.
“It really is well-suited for both organizations to focus on what they do, what they’re known for and what they do best,” says Darren Tristano, executive vice president with Technomic.
Consumers have been cutting back on sugary drinks lately, but the energy business has been growing. So while Tristano says these types of brand swaps are rare, it’ll allow each company to focus its strengths.
Coca-Cola was late to the energy drink game and its own brands haven’t been nearly as successful as Monster or its main competitor, Red Bull, says Ross Colbert, a global strategist for beverages at Rabobank International. Both companies have been successful at targeting younger, highly-active consumers.
“The category is very competitive,” he says. “It takes a lot of merchandizing.”
By clearing the decks of its other brands, Monster can focus on its core energy drinks, fed by the help of Coca-Cola’s huge distribution network. Coca-Cola will get some popular brands, too, like Hansen’s Natural Sodas.
“It adds some flesh to their portfolio, too,” says Tom Pirko, the president of the food and beverage consulting company Bevmark. “So we have a nice division of labor.”
Chalk one up for old media.
There was an article in the New York Times Thursday detailing the struggles of a woman working irregular hours at Starbucks. Really irregular, like working late into the night, then starting at 4 the next morning.
Now the company says it’ll do better.
Among other things, it has promised work hours will be posted a week ahead of time. And that it'll make its scheduling software more flexible.
Starbucks is far from the only company that uses workers when, and only when, it needs them. S0-called "just-in-time hiring" is a widespread practice in retail, hospitality and healthcare. There aren’t exact numbers on how many part-time workers fall into this category, but the number of people working part-time jobs, when they would rather be working full-time ones, was about 7.5 million in July.
The practice has caught on because employers don’t want to pay employees to sit around. And, thanks to computers, with all their fancy data and algorithms and software, employers can more easily figure out when all the sitting around might happen. Software scheduling programs ensure people are booked to work only when they are needed.
“They look at ongoing trends, they look at what a store or restaurant or whatever it is, did last year at this hour,” said Susan Lambert, a professor at the University of Chicago.
These predictive programs then factor in specifics. “In Chicago it might be whether there is going to be a Bears game, or what the weather is likely to be,” Lambert said.
And then they spit out a work schedule that can be tweaked again depending on how busy a place gets.
“It’s all about the cost-cutting,” said Peter Cappelli, a professor of management at the Wharton School of Business.
To make sure they have the staff they need, some businesses require employees to be on call 40 hours a week for part-time jobs.
“Sometimes they make them show up,” said Cappelli, “and you’ve got to commute and drive a fair bit, and then you discover whether or not they need you, but they require that you show up.”
All of which can make it very, very difficult to manage your life. To arrange daycare. Go to school. Work a second job.
There are companies out there staring to take these issues seriously, said Joan C. Williams, director of the center for WorkLife Law at the University of California Hastings College of Law.
Right now she’s working with the Gap on a pilot program to stabilize schedules.
In a statement, a Gap spokesperson said of the program: “We know that consistent and reliable scheduling is important to our employees. We are exploring ways to increase scheduling stability and flexibility across our fleet of stores.”
“If you want to be a high-road employer, who employs low-wage workers," says Williams, "'just-in-time' scheduling has begun to seem inconsistent.”
Williams said the focus on cutting costs by matching labor supply and labor demand ignores other business costs.
It also hurts a company’s bottom line, she said, when employees quit or don’t show up because they can’t balance their unpredictable work schedules with the rest of their lives.
Here's a neat confluence of my lousy night's sleep last night and the rise of big data and wearable technology.
Thanks to the Wall Street Journal and data provided by Jawbone, makers of one of those fitness bracelets, we now know all kinds of stuff. Like which city's residents get the most sleep: that'd be Melbourne, Australia at seven hours and five minutes a night.
The least? Tokyo at five hours and 45 minutes.
Kai looks back on this week, chatting with Linette Lopez from Business Insider and the Wall Street Journal’s Sudeep Reddy about the world economy and the spending power of the American consumer.