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SEC opens probe as GM CEO Mary Barra defends Nikola partnership

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General Motors CEO Mary Barra defended the company’s decision to partner with Nikola Motors on Monday, days after short-seller Hindenburg Research after the upstart electric vehicle firm of conducting an “intricate fraud.”

Speaking at the RBC Capital Markets Global Industrials Virtual Conference, Barra said GM performed the “appropriate diligence” prior to closing its $2 billion transaction with Nikola. GM acquired an 11 percent stake in the electric vehicle maker and agreed to manufacture the Nikola Badger, a full-size pickup truck, using its own fuel cell and battery technology.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has opened a probe into the allegations against Nikola, Bloomberg reported. The SEC declined to comment on the situation.

“On September 11, Nikola’s legal counsel proactively contacted and briefed the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regarding Nikola’s concerns pertaining to the Hindenburg report. Nikola welcomes the SEC’s involvement in this matter,” the company said in a statement.

NIKOLA RESPONDS TO SHORT-SELLER HINDENBURG RESEARCH’S FRAUD CLAIMS

Hours before the SEC’s probe came to light, Barra said GM’s strategic partnership with Nikola “validates” the automaker’s technology.

“It allows us to have more people using the technology, which gives us the advantage of scale, which will help us drive costs down,” Barra said. “And then from a fuel cell perspective, using the Hydrotec fuel cell technology, and entering a new segment for us, a growth segment, again validating our fuel cell technology, I think it starts to unlock an all-new growth area for us as it relates to fuel cells.”

Barra declined to comment further on the allegations against Nikola and directed questions to that company’s management.

WHAT IS A SHORT-SELLER?

After spiking on news of the GM partnership, Nikola shares plunged last week in response to Hindenburg Research’s scathing report post on its operations, titled “Nikola: How to Parlay An Ocean of Lies Into a Partnership With the Largest Auto OEM in America.”

The firm accused Nikola and its leadership of misleading investors and argued the company is an “intricate fraud built on dozens of lies over the course of its Founder and Executive Chairman Trevor Milton’s career.”

In one instance, Hindenburg claimed that Nikola faked a January 2018 video that appeared to show the Nikola One semi-truck driving down a highway and “simply filmed it rolling down the hill.”

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Nikola shares bounced back in trading Monday after the company issued a lengthy dismissal of Hindenburg Research’s claims.

“Nikola believes that the Hindenburg report, and the opportunistic timing of its publication shortly after announcement of Nikola’s partnership with General Motors Co. and the resulting positive share price reaction, was designed to provide a false impression to investors and to negatively manipulate the market in order to financially benefit short sellers, including Hindenburg itself,” the company said in a statement.

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This story has been updated.

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Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

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Amnesty International to halt India operations

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The watchdog says it has had to suspend its campaign and research work in India (file photo)
The watchdog says it has had to suspend its campaign and research work in India (file photo)

Amnesty International says it has been forced to halt its India operations due to “reprisals” from the government.

The watchdog also accused the government of pursuing a “witch-hunt” against human rights organisations.

Amnesty said its bank accounts had been frozen and it had been forced to lay off staff in the country and suspend all its campaign and research work.

India’s government said in a statement that the accusations were “unfortunate, exaggerated and far from the truth”.

Rajat Khosla, Amnesty’s senior director of research, advocacy and policy, told the BBC: “We are facing a rather unprecedented situation in India. Amnesty International India has been facing an onslaught of attacks, bullying and harassment by the government in a very systematic manner.

“This is all down to the human rights work that we were doing and the government not wanting to answer questions we raised, whether it’s in terms of our investigations into the Delhi riots, or the silencing of voices in Jammu and Kashmir.”

In a report released last month, the group said police in the Indian capital, Delhi, committed human rights violations during deadly religious riots between Hindus and Muslims in February.

Rebutting the claims, the Delhi police told The Hindu newspaper that Amnesty’s report was “lopsided, biased and malicious”.

Earlier in August, on the first anniversary of the revocation of Indian-administered Kashmir’s special status, Amnesty had called for the release of all detained political leaders, activists and journalists, and for the resumption of high-speed internet services in the region.

In 2019, the watchdog testified before the US Foreign Affairs Committee during a hearing on human rights in South Asia, where it highlighted its findings on arbitrary detentions, and the use of excessive force and torture in Kashmir.

Responding to Amnesty’s announcement on Tuesday, the government said the group had broken the law by circumventing rules around foreign donations.

“India, by settled law, does not allow interference in domestic political debates by entities funded by foreign donations.” the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement. “This law applies equally to all and it shall apply to Amnesty International as well.”

The current government has previously stated that Amnesty was being investigated over suspicions that the group was violating foreign funding laws.

“That’s a blatant lie,” Mr Khosla, the Amnesty spokesman, told the BBC. “Amnesty India is in full compliance with all domestic legal requirements and international legal requirements as well,” he said.

Amnesty has repeatedly condemned what it says is a crackdown on dissent in India. The group, which has faced scrutiny by different government agencies over the past few years, says the freezing of its bank accounts earlier this month was the final straw.

In August 2016, a case of sedition was filed against Amnesty India over allegations that anti-India slogans were raised at one of its events. Three years later, a court ordered the charges to be dropped.

In October 2018, the group’s offices in the southern city of Bangalore were raided by the Enforcement Directorate, which investigates financial crimes. Its accounts were frozen then too, but Amnesty says it was able to access them after seeking a court’s intervention.

In early 2019, the group says dozens of its small donors were sent letters by the country’s income tax department. And later in the same year, Amnesty’s offices were raided again, this time by the Central Bureau of Investigation, based on a case registered by India’s home affairs ministry.

India has had a fraught relationship with Kashmir for decades
India has had a fraught relationship with Kashmir for decades

Successive governments in India have been wary of foreign-funded non-profit organisations, particularly in the human rights field.

Amnesty had previously suspended its India operations in 2009, because of what the group said was repeated rejection of their licence to receive funds from overseas. India was then ruled by a Congress-led government, which sits in opposition now.

Over the years rules surrounding receiving foreign funds have been tightened, and thousands of non-profit groups have been banned from receiving money from overseas.

Amnesty’s announcement comes amid growing concern over the state of free speech in India. The development, activists say, could dent India’s long-standing reputation of being a thriving democracy.

“India does not stand in good company with these moves it is making,” says Mr Khosla. “I hope people around the world sit up and take notice. We are doing this with a very heavy heart, and a deep sense of anguish and grief.”

The group, which operates in more than 70 countries, says it will continue to fight its legal cases in India.

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Anita Hill’s Commission Launching Industry-Wide Platform to Report Sexual Harassment In Hollywood

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Anita Hill’s Commission Launching Industry-Wide Platform to Report Sexual Harassment In Hollywood

In her fight to end sexual harassment, Anita Hill — who became a national figure in 1991 when she accused U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas during his Senate confirmation — is providing major resources to put a stop to harassment in Hollywood.

The Hollywood Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality, founded by Kathleen Kennedy and Nina Shaw and led by Hill, has released its results of a survey of nearly 10,000 workers in the entertainment industry.

In addition to releasing survey results, the commission has announced a new platform that will help identify repeat offenders of sexual harassment, which Hill is hopeful will be utilized by major networks, studios and companies across the industry.

Hill — who was named chair of the commission in 2017 in the wake of the #MeToo movement, sparked by allegations against Harvey Weinstein — says stories of sexual abuse in Hollywood helped open the floodgates and start a conversation, but now the industry needs firm data to take the proper next steps necessary to create real change.

“The industry needs the numbers. Everybody needs to know exactly what is going on,” Hill tells Variety. “The more information we can provide, the better we will be able to come up with solutions together. People in power have the ability to make change. We’ve already noticed some change, but this information allows us to really focus on where are the most important areas of concern and what kind of structures need to be put in place to deal with this idea of the lack of accountability in the industry.”

The national, anonymous survey was conducted online between November 2019 and February 2020 with both men and women participating. Individuals of all levels participated in the industry-wide study, in order to accurately represent a wide range of workers.

The key findings of the study deal with accountability, the abuse of power, the difficulty of reporting harassment and retaliation. The study found that people of color and younger employees were among the most vulnerable workers in Hollywood.

In regards to accountability, the majority of workers do not believe that those in positions of power are held accountable for harassment. 45% of men believe someone in a position of power would be held accountable, while only 28% of women hold that same belief.

“What we learned from the men about accountability is that in just about every category of men, fewer than 50% believe that people in authority or people who are powerful in the industry will be found accountable if they are found to be harassed. With women, biracial woman are the most pessimistic about the accountability of people who are harassing,” Hills explains. “I think all of those are interesting numbers, but what it says in total is that overall, in the industry, workers have a very different view of accountability.”

She adds, “50% of men believe there isn’t accountability, but 50% also don’t think there is anything wrong — which is troubling.”

In regards to the abuse of power within the industry, the study found that the inequity of power perpetuates the lack of accountability with less than half (48%) of workers noting progress, since the #MeToo movement launched in the fall of 2017. Primary offenders in Hollywood are in powerful positions, meaning the can influence who is getting hired (55%), who gets to keep their job (59%) and have the ability to damage the reputations of those who complain about harassment (59%).

Reporting harassment is one of the biggest challenges, the study found, with only 23% of sexual harassment victims sharing their experience with a supervisor and a fare lower statistic formally reporting harassment with only 9% reporting to Human Resources and just 4% reporting to the legal department at their workplace.

“Enough people feel that not enough is going to happen, if you do something bad, and that includes people who are inclined to do something bad, as well as people who are trying to stop people from doing things that are bad,” Hill says.

Supporting coworkers is also a challenge, as retaliation was found to be one of the biggest fears with systemic, cultural harassment in the workplace. The survey found that witness were even more fearful of retaliation than the actual victims, and therefore, reluctant to report abuse of their coworkers because they did not believe any action would be taken. The fear of retaliation was supported by the study with 41% of respondents reporting that they did in fact experience some form of retaliation.

In response to the survey results, the commission will be launching a platform to help report serial offenders, and will also be investing in virtual and in-person bystander training.

The platform, which is currently being developed, will collect information and complaints filed, so that repeat offenders will be identified through matching technology in the system. The information will then be to designated organizations, like major film studios.

“The person identifies who they say has been victimizing them and then it goes into an account and if there is a match, there will be a trigger, so hopefully that will help us identify serial abusers,” Hill explains. “Some of them might not rise to the level of a harassment complaint, but they may be behaviors that the research tells us can lead to harassment or sexual assault, if they’re not addressed.”

With this information, the commission can advise different organizations about what is happening at their company. “We hope it will be a game changer,” she says.

Hill is hopeful that the information will actually be utilized by major corporations in Hollywood. She says she has been meeting on a weekly basis with partners across the industry, throughout the pandemic.

“Not one person from a studio has said that they don’t want to adopt it. They wouldn’t be coming to these meetings,” she shares. “I do trust our partners who will be opting into this system to get the information, take it seriously, and then do what they do.”

Looking back three decades, since she testified against Thomas, Hill believes society’s view on sexual harassment in the workplace is finally changing, though at a slow pace.

“I’m always hopeful, and I know things have changed — but I am absolutely sure that not enough has changed, Hill says.

“The survey shows that things have changed, even in the last year, there has been improvement, but not enough,” Hill continues. “We need to build those changes and the changing ways of thinking into our structures and into our cultures in our workplaces, and that just takes time. It takes a lot of concerted effort, and that’s what we’re doing.”

For the full survey results, go to hollywoodcommission.org.

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Hedge Funds Are Plowing Into Limelight Networks, Inc. (LLNW)

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The latest 13F reporting period has come and gone, and Insider Monkey have plowed through 823 13F filings that hedge funds and well-known value investors are required to file by the SEC. The 13F filings show the funds’ and investors’ portfolio positions as of June 30th, when the S&P 500 Index was trading around the 3100 level. Since the end of March, investors decided to bet on the economic recovery and a stock market rebound. S&P 500 Index returned more than 50% since its bottom. In this article you are going to find out whether hedge funds thought Limelight Networks, Inc. (NASDAQ:LLNW) was a good investment heading into the third quarter and how the stock traded in comparison to the top hedge fund picks.

Is Limelight Networks, Inc. (NASDAQ:LLNW) a worthy stock to buy now? Money managers were becoming hopeful. The number of long hedge fund positions moved up by 5 recently. Limelight Networks, Inc. (NASDAQ:LLNW) was in 24 hedge funds’ portfolios at the end of June. The all time high for this statistics is 19. This means the bullish number of hedge fund positions in this stock currently sits at its all time high. Our calculations also showed that LLNW isn’t among the 30 most popular stocks among hedge funds (click for Q2 rankings and see the video for a quick look at the top 5 stocks). Video: Watch our video about the top 5 most popular hedge fund stocks.

Why do we pay any attention at all to hedge fund sentiment? Our research has shown that a select group of hedge fund holdings outperformed the S&P 500 ETFs by 56 percentage points since March 2017 (see the details here). We were also able to identify in advance a select group of hedge fund holdings that’ll significantly underperform the market. We have been tracking and sharing the list of these stocks since February 2017 and they lost 34% through August 17th. That’s why we believe hedge fund sentiment is an extremely useful indicator that investors should pay attention to.

John Overdeck of Two Sigma

John Overdeck of Two Sigma Advisors

At Insider Monkey we scour multiple sources to uncover the next great investment idea. For example, legal marijuana is one of the fastest growing industries right now, so we are checking out stock pitches like “the Starbucks of cannabis” to identify the next tenbagger. We go through lists like the 10 most profitable companies in the world to pick the best large-cap stocks to buy. Even though we recommend positions in only a tiny fraction of the companies we analyze, we check out as many stocks as we can. We read hedge fund investor letters and listen to stock pitches at hedge fund conferences. You can subscribe to our free daily newsletter on our website to get excerpts of these letters in your inbox. Keeping this in mind we’re going to analyze the key hedge fund action encompassing Limelight Networks, Inc. (NASDAQ:LLNW).

Hedge fund activity in Limelight Networks, Inc. (NASDAQ:LLNW)

At second quarter’s end, a total of 24 of the hedge funds tracked by Insider Monkey were bullish on this stock, a change of 26% from one quarter earlier. On the other hand, there were a total of 11 hedge funds with a bullish position in LLNW a year ago. With the smart money’s positions undergoing their usual ebb and flow, there exists a few key hedge fund managers who were upping their holdings significantly (or already accumulated large positions).

Is LLNW A Good Stock To Buy?
Is LLNW A Good Stock To Buy?

Among these funds, Driehaus Capital held the most valuable stake in Limelight Networks, Inc. (NASDAQ:LLNW), which was worth $24.6 million at the end of the third quarter. On the second spot was Royce & Associates which amassed $15.4 million worth of shares. Marshall Wace LLP, Two Sigma Advisors, and Quaker Capital Investments were also very fond of the stock, becoming one of the largest hedge fund holders of the company. In terms of the portfolio weights assigned to each position Quaker Capital Investments allocated the biggest weight to Limelight Networks, Inc. (NASDAQ:LLNW), around 3.5% of its 13F portfolio. Harvey Partners is also relatively very bullish on the stock, dishing out 3.46 percent of its 13F equity portfolio to LLNW.

As aggregate interest increased, some big names were breaking ground themselves. Quaker Capital Investments, managed by Mark G. Schoeppner, established the biggest position in Limelight Networks, Inc. (NASDAQ:LLNW). Quaker Capital Investments had $7.7 million invested in the company at the end of the quarter. David Harding’s Winton Capital Management also initiated a $2 million position during the quarter. The other funds with brand new LLNW positions are Mario Gabelli’s GAMCO Investors, Dmitry Balyasny’s Balyasny Asset Management, and Bruce Kovner’s Caxton Associates LP.

Let’s now review hedge fund activity in other stocks similar to Limelight Networks, Inc. (NASDAQ:LLNW). We will take a look at GreenSky, Inc. (NASDAQ:GSKY), PAE Incorporated (NASDAQ:PAE), Upland Software Inc (NASDAQ:UPLD), Vapotherm, Inc. (NYSE:VAPO), Nexa Resources S.A. (NYSE:NEXA), Griffon Corporation (NYSE:GFF), and Heska Corp (NASDAQ:HSKA). All of these stocks’ market caps match LLNW’s market cap.

[table] Ticker, No of HFs with positions, Total Value of HF Positions (x1000), Change in HF Position GSKY,13,23118,4 PAE,17,145174,-4 UPLD,16,178656,-1 VAPO,18,257570,6 NEXA,4,3545,0 GFF,9,98383,-4 HSKA,14,170234,-1 Average,13,125240,0 [/table]

View table here if you experience formatting issues.

As you can see these stocks had an average of 13 hedge funds with bullish positions and the average amount invested in these stocks was $125 million. That figure was $97 million in LLNW’s case. Vapotherm, Inc. (NYSE:VAPO) is the most popular stock in this table. On the other hand Nexa Resources S.A. (NYSE:NEXA) is the least popular one with only 4 bullish hedge fund positions. Compared to these stocks Limelight Networks, Inc. (NASDAQ:LLNW) is more popular among hedge funds. Our overall hedge fund sentiment score for LLNW is 90. Stocks with higher number of hedge fund positions relative to other stocks as well as relative to their historical range receive a higher sentiment score. Our calculations showed that top 10 most popular stocks among hedge funds returned 41.4% in 2019 and outperformed the S&P 500 ETF (SPY) by 10.1 percentage points. These stocks gained 21.3% in 2020 through September 25th and still beat the market by 17.7 percentage points. Unfortunately LLNW wasn’t nearly as popular as these 10 stocks and hedge funds that were betting on LLNW were disappointed as the stock returned -21.5% since the end of the second quarter and underperformed the market. If you are interested in investing in large cap stocks with huge upside potential, you should check out the top 10 most popular stocks among hedge funds as most of these stocks already outperformed the market in 2020.

Get real-time email alerts: Follow Limelight Networks Inc. (NASDAQ:LLNW)

Disclosure: None. This article was originally published at Insider Monkey.

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Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

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