H&R; Block says it aims to regain lost customers
H&R; Block Inc. chief Mark Ernst on Wednesday attempted to soothe stockholder jitters over the company's declining number of retail tax clients and smaller profit margins in its mortgage business.
During the Kansas City Mo.-based company's annual shareholder meeting, Ernst said H&R; Block's plan to open 600 new offices next year in urban areas and 400 new kiosks in Wal-Mart Stores Inc. locations across the country would help regain customers who he said had left for more convenient competitors, such as Jackson Hewitt and Liberty Tax Service.
In June, the world's largest tax preparer said 3 percent fewer clients came into H&R; Block offices this year to have their tax returns prepared.
Star banker receives prison time for crimes
Former star investment banker Frank Quattrone, who made tens of millions of dollars riding the Internet stock boom, was sentenced Wednesday to 1 1/2 years in prison for obstructing government probes of hot new tech stock offerings.
U.S. District Judge Richard Owen granted a defense request to recommend that Quattrone be sent to a prison camp in California, where he lives. He also was fined $90,000 and sentenced to two years of probation.
Before the sentencing, Quattrone told Owen in a steady voice: "I humbly ask that you show mercy and compassion for me and my family, for whom any separation from me would be extremely detrimental."
Brazil wins ruling on farm subsidies
Latin America's agricultural giant scored two trade victories Wednesday against rich countries' farm subsidies after the World Trade Organization agreed with Brazil that its farmers have been hurt by government assistance for U.S. cotton farmers and European Union sugar beet growers.
Brazilian officials and the development charity Oxfam International hailed the rulings by the 147-nation WTO as evidence that subsidies considered lavish by poor countries violate trade rules and must be eliminated.
"This is about the whole way that rich countries support their domestic agriculture," said Phil Bloomer of Oxfam's fair trade campaign. "What we are seeing here is developing countries, led by Brazil, using the WTO to their own benefit. They are calling the big boys to account and forcing them to play by the rules."