Drug Labs, Hoarding, and Murder: The Crime Scene Cleanup Industry Is Booming

On November 19, 2017, first responders raced to a home in Coventry, Rhode Island to treat an unresponsive infant. But, it was too late; by the time the medics brought the baby to a nearby hospital, the 8-month-old was already dead. Later, the parents were arrested and charged with felony child neglect after a toxicology report found the powerful opioid painkiller fentanyl was present in the child’s system.

When a tragedy like this happens, someone has to clean up what remains at the scene, whether it’s blood, body fluid, or deadly drugs. In this case, Michael Wiseman was called to the home to get rid of all traces of fentanyl, a particularly potent opioid that, if inhaled or comes in contact with the mouth or eyes, can cause someone to overdose, according to the Center for Disease Control. 

“I’ve been in the business for 30 years and I have never seen anything like this,” says Wiseman, whose Easton, Massachusetts-based crime scene cleanup company, 24Trauma, was commissioned to clean up the grim aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. “Fentanyl has changed the ballgame.”

24Trauma is part of a thriving, little known industry that is as fragmented as it is lightly regulated. At one end of the spectrum are small, untrained ambulance chasing outfits; at the other, are large operations that have contracts with law enforcement agencies and local governments, certified to handle and dispose of biohazard medical waste.

As the opioid epidemic rages across the country, this niche industry is experiencing a boom. Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50, according to numbers from the CDC. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, fentanyl, which is stronger than heroin and available via prescription, is now being made illegally to boost heroin’s potency. 

In New England, one of regions where the opioid epidemic has hit hardest, fentanyl is involved in over half of all overdose deaths, the New York Times reports. As a result, 24Trauma has become the go-to bio-hazmat contractor for fentanyl contamination sites in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. It’s landed contracts with the DEA, various police departments, along with two major rental car companies (rental cars are a common backdrop for fentanyl users and dealers).

All this has been a boon to Wiseman’s company, which in the past two-and-a-half years has ballooned from 35 employees to 90. “We’ve grown because of the opioid epidemic,” says Wiseman, who’s also expanded from two to five offices. Each week–for between $5,000 to $50,000 a job–his company decontaminates half a dozen rental cars, along with residential homes, where drug dealers typically protect themselves by wearing full-face respirators. Last summer, when a batch of heroin was cut with too much fentanyl, 24Trauma was called in to clean up homes and public bathrooms in Brockton, Massachusetts, where 35 people overdosed.

What remains both the biggest challenge and opportunity for the industry is solving the problem of cleaning up fentanyl safely. “How to effectively neutralize fentanyl is our industry’s million dollar question,” says Thomas Licker, president of the American Bio Recovery Association, an organization that certifies biohazard recovery technicians. For other biohazardous materials or drugs–like blood and crystal meth–there are standards set by federal government or state agencies that mandate environmental limits and remediation guidelines. But no standards or accepted protocols currently exist for fentanyl cleanup in residential spaces, says Licker. “Fentanyl and its analogues are the scariest things we are dealing with on an everyday basis,” he says. “These substances are weapons of mass destruction, in my opinion.” 

Companies are now racing to develop what could become the EPA-registered solution to deactivate fentanyl. First Line Technologies, a Virginia-based chemical company, already has a popular solution on the market called Dahlgren Decon that claims to neutralize fentanyl in five minutes.

The company licensed the chemical from the U.S. Navy to sell to the broader U.S. military market for its original use–cleaning up after chemical warfare attacks. But First Line’s CEO Amit Kapoor found a new application after testing it on fentanyl with a third party lab. In the last year, Kapoor’s business has managed to expand its customer base from the U.S. military to all law enforcement agencies across the federal and state level, as well as private companies including Bio-One, Servpro–and 24Trauma.

“It’s our blockbuster chemical,” says Kapoor, noting that sales for Dahlgren Decon have increased the company’s revenue by millions of dollars. “We’ve found a whole new customer base and we’re trying to keep up,” he says. “We’re growing exponentially.”

A culprit for financial site glitches: you and your apps

BOSTON (Reuters) – Jittery investors and their smartphones stressed out leading U.S. online financial sites last week as heavy volatility shook markets, technology analysts said.

Major firms including Vanguard Group, TD Ameritrade Holding Corp (AMTD.O) and Fidelity Investments reported service slowdowns on their websites amid heightened demand from clients.

For many firms an issue was the growing adoption of financial apps on mobile devices, which make it much easier for clients to check their balances or watch market indexes. That created greater network loads, even when clients were not looking to trade.

“The app is in their hands and they can check it as they get out of the car. That’s different than what many systems were built for,” said Kendra Thompson, a managing director for Accenture, which advises big asset managers on technology.

Delays were magnified as frustrated consumers returned repeatedly, conditioned by social media to expect a quick informational hit.

“Access troubles beget more traffic,” she said.

Rich Bolstridge, chief strategist for financial services at cloud services provider Akamai Technologies Inc, (AKAM.O) described the wide adoption of mobile apps in finance as “the number one factor in the riskier situation that brokers and investment firms face today,” as customers get used to logging in with the ease of a thumbprint.

Richer graphics and video on company websites also put IT systems under pressure.

Akamai shared data with Reuters showing how at one investment firm, traffic to its homepage surged on Feb. 5 and Feb. 6. It spiked at 9:50 a.m. EST (1450 GMT) on Tuesday when it ran to four times where it stood at the same point a week earlier, and remained higher than usual on Feb. 7-8.

Bolstridge said traffic may have eased off as people got used to the market volatility during the trading week, the worst in two years for U.S. stocks.

“My best guess would be that people were a little bit numb to the news,” he said.

Vanguard spokesman John Woerth said rising smartphone use played a role in the heavy online traffic the firm faced on Feb. 5, when some clients had trouble logging in to its website.

“It is now easier than ever to get market updates on your smartphone and be impelled to act on market movements. Impulse is an investor’s worst enemy, and we caution investors from succumbing to emotion,” he said.

TD Ameritrade spokeswoman Kim Hillyer said the firm received unprecedented traffic last week, slowing down one of its mobile apps on Feb. 5 and creating a 45-minute period of slowness on its trading website the next morning. She said the company reminded customers they could use other options, such as another mobile app it offers.

Reporting by Ross Kerber, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

France's Thales sees more cybersecurity sales after strong 2017

PARIS (Reuters) – French defense electronics group Thales (TCFP.PA) enjoyed a jump in sales at its cybersecurity business in 2017 and expects further strong growth in the coming years, said executive Laurent Maury.

Maury said the business generated about 900 million euros ($1.10 billion) in sales over 2017, up from 700 million euros a year earlier. He added it is expected to grow by about 10 percent annually in the coming years.

Governments and companies are behind a surge in demand for services and products aimed at better protecting data and information systems, in the wake of several global cyber attacks last year.

“We’re only at the dawn of a world in which this kind of risk emerges, constantly evolving with increased virulence,” Maury told reporters on Monday.

“Every additional interconnection represents a potential vulnerability,” he added.

Last December, research firm Gartner published a report which forecast that worldwide enterprise security spending would total $96.3 billion in 2018, an increase of 8 percent from 2017.

Thales has strengthened its range of cybersecurity products over the last few years.

In 2016, it bought data protection services provider Vormetric for 375 million euros ($460 million) – a deal which Maury said had enabled Thales to win a data security contract with BNP Paribas (BNPP.PA), France’s biggest bank.

Thales, led by chief executive Patrice Caine, is also expecting its 4.8 billion-euro ($5.9 billion) takeover of digital security group Gemalto (GTO.AS), due to be finalised later this year, to reinforce its cybersecurity expertise further.

On the cybersecurity front, Thales’ competitors include the likes of telecoms operator Orange (ORAN.PA), digital consulting firm Atos (ATOS.PA) and Raytheon (RTN).

($1 = 0.8151 euros)

Reporting by Mathieu RosemainEditing by Sudip Kar-Gupta

Gut Vs. Emotion

My Esquire piece on big tech getting bigly (I know, I know…) is live online and hits newsstands next week.

What. A. Thrill.

Gut vs. Emotion

Instinct is powerful, and useful. We’re blessed with millions of years of experience that register a strong sense you shouldn’t pet a snake or eat things that smell foul. The heart is often linked to emotion. But it ends up the gut and the vagus nerve are the original gangsters, with a direct line to your brain, influencing how you feel and behave. Similar to the brain, a plethora of neurons form neurotransmitters in your gut. Supposedly the gray matter of a cat’s brain is nestled in your girth. The good-time hormones, serotonin and dopamine, spend more time hanging in your gut than your brain. So, the key to someone’s heart is in their gut.

It’s an upward journey via the brain-gut axis that originates from bacteria in your GI tract, moves past the heart via the vagus nerve, picks up momentum fueled by budding emotion, and then hits the TSA that is the brain — slow down, put all your emotions in a gray bin. You can leave your shoes on, and laptop in your bag, if you aren’t prone to wild mood swings (Pre-Check).

We need our emotions to run through a metal detector. Emotions are an important and rewarding part of life, but they’re often poor inputs to decision-making. It’s wonderful to feel love, but its ability to blur judgment, which informs good decisions, is the grist of war, child support, and other uber-bad outcomes.


The Dow Jones puked a thousand points Thursday, after doing the same last week. Boom, the neurons in your gut start churning and sending signals that get emotion and momentum. I bought a retail stock three months ago, thinking it had been so badly beaten up, it was due for a pop. People would realize that, while the firm is in fact going out of business, it’s going to die more slowly than the market thinks. By the way, this is a decent descriptor of every old-media firm right now. This company’s stock, after Thursday’s close, is off 25%, and… that hurts my feelings. That is, if hurt were a mix of anger, embarrassment, and self-loathing. But I digress.

Not wanting more tears in the rain, my emotions tell me to sell, to limit my downside of hurt. But the TSA steps in and asks, if I hadn’t bought higher, and the stock was here now, sans the pain, how would I feel then? The answer is, I’d want to buy a bunch, instead of sell. Barry Ritholtz pointed out this phenomenon to me as the reason most retail investors have portfolios that underperform the market, and do worse than even the stocks in their portfolio. People let emotion get in the way. They sell when things have declined, and are good values, and fall in love with stocks that have skyrocketed, and may be overvalued. If you had opted to get off the roller coaster of the markets in March of ’08 (understandable), you’d have sold at a low, missed the short 14 months it took to recover all of it, and be much, much worse off.


The markets are Bishop from Aliens. They move and reflect traits of the sentient, but have no heart. The market doesn’t feel sorry for you when you’re about to lose your home, nor is it jealous of you when you buy a jet — it doesn’t care at all. If the markets registered emotion, would Jeff Bezos have accrued a personal net worth higher than the GDP of Ukraine?

Sidebar: I wonder if AI is a step to artificial emotion, and what that might mean for us. The adaptation central to AI sounds to me like the process of when your brain and emotion begin to improve or worsen decisions. #deepthoughts

To be one with the markets, and be a great investor, you have to be somewhat synthetic. Your role model is the cold, mission-focused android officer of the Sulaco — Bishop, not Ripley.

For the last decade, the markets have rewarded, more than any human or synthetic, the only other true android investor… the market itself. The greatest reallocation of capital in history has been flows of capital out of active investors, like hedge funds, even bypassing the near-synthetic of quant funds, and going to full Bishop with ETFs, void of all humanity. ETFs are structured to balance and rebalance to mimic the market, or sector, with no gut or emotion getting in the way. Active managers as a profession could best be described, over the last decade, as awful… but expensive. Pension funds, sovereigns, and family offices have paid rich fees for the pleasure of underperforming the S&P by the amount of their fees, and then some.

Who is the Warren Buffett of our age? Bishop.

The *Waymo v. Uber* Settlement Marks a New Era for Self-Driving Cars: Reality

The sun had only just come up Friday, but the young self-driving car industry had already moved into a new era. From the bench, federal Judge William Alsup, recovering from a sore throat, called it: “This case is now ancient history.”

Waymo v. Uber, the first great legal fight over autonomous vehicles, ended in a peace treaty Friday morning: Uber gave Google’s sister company a 0.34 percent stake in its business (worth $245 million or $163 million, depending on how you count Uber’s worth), and pledged not to use any of Waymo’s software or hardware in its vehicles. “I want to express regret for the actions that have caused me to write this letter,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi wrote in a statement posted on the ride-hailing company’s website.

Waymo had alleged that when longtime Google engineer Anthony Levandowski resigned to start his own company, he took thousands of vital technical documents with him, including blueprints for the lidar laser sensor he had helped develop. Uber bought Levandowski’s startup a few months later for almost $600 million in equity and put Levandowski in charge of its struggling self-driving R&D effort. In Waymo’s telling, Levandowski and Uber used Waymo trade secrets to accelerate their efforts.

In large part, the lawsuit encapsulated the stakes in the early days of an industry that’s now booming. Back then, a good lidar system was so rare and coveted that it might be worth stealing. A single engineer like Levandowski, who helped found Google’s self-driving car team a decade ago, could merit a palace coup. And just two companies—Google, the progenitor of self-driving tech, and Uber, the virile challenger eager to convert its millions of human-operated cars into much more profitable robots—command nearly all the headlines and attention of anyone eager for a world where human drivers are a lol-worthy memory.

That world looks different now. More than 20 companies are currently developing lidar, making the sensor more necessary commodity than secret sauce. A pedigree like Levandowski’s loses its luster as a new generation of engineers, trained in robotics and machine learning, emerges. At least half a dozen companies not involved in this brouhaha have proven they can make cars drive about without human help. Waymo v. Uber was a fight over a once jealously guarded technology that today verges on commonplace. And now that the suit is settled, everyone can turn to the next chapter in the textbook, the one where all the companies grow up and figure out how to deploy the thing they’ve all created.

“This is evidence that the autonomous driving problem is not going to be solved by a single silver bullet,” says Shahin Farshchi, a partner at the venture capital firm Lux. “It’s a matter of building many things and getting many things to work together.”

As any good historian will tell you, a moment like the Visigoth-induced fall of Rome in 476 or Judge Alsup’s decree that “there’s nothing more for me to do here” doesn’t really trigger an epochal shift. It’s just a convenient marker. The transition from developing self-driving technology to actually deploying it happened independent of this case. Even before Waymo filed its lawsuit, others were turning a horse race into a stampede: General Motors acquired self-driving startup Cruise. The mysterious startup Zoox started testing in San Francisco. Waymo alum Bryan Salesky decamped for Argo AI and partnered with Ford. Former Google self-driving chief Chris Urmson founded Aurora and is now working with Volkswagen, Hyundai, and Chinese automaker Byton.

Of course, the settlement has tangible effects. First, Uber lives. The threat of a billion-dollar penalty or an injunction that could shut down its entire self-driving program has evaporated. As Uber co-founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick testified, the company sees autonomous vehicle tech as vital to its existence. If someone else figures out how to run a taxi service without a driver before Uber does, then Uber loses.

Uber wins that second life pretty cheaply, too. No money changes hands as part of this deal; Waymo receives a mere 0.34 percent stake in the ride-hailing company. Each party in the lawsuit will pay its own lawyers. And with that, Khosrowshahi ticks another box off his lengthy Fix Uber list, which also included a house cleaning after the company revealed it had paid off hackers following a 54-million-account security breach and an apology tour in London for safety infractions.

Waymo, meanwhile, maintains its position at the head of the self-driving pack, and shows competitors it’s willing to bleed a bit to stay there. “It was great from Waymo’s perspective to put everyone on notice: ‘We take our leadership position seriously and we will go hammer and tong after anyone who will upset that,”’ says Reilly Brennan, cofounder of the transportation-focused venture capital firm Trucks.

That goes for its own engineers, too. Pierre-Yves Droz, Waymo’s current lidar technical head, testified Thursday that, OK, yes, he had taken an outdated version of one lidar setup to Burning Man. And yes, he had taken two other versions home (with his bosses’ permission). Uber lawyers seemed prepared to argue that this wanton toting-about of self-driving tech proved that Waymo’s lidar wasn’t a trade secret after all. You have to hide stuff for it to be a secret.

So expect no more lidar shows at Burning Man, and no more carelessly protected servers. It’s time for the self-driving space, Waymo included, to grow up and be diligent about keeping their tech in-house. This is a real industry now. The money is still theoretical, but the autonomous vehicle market could be worth $7 trillion by 2050, according to a 2017 Intel report.

Protecting intellectual property means telling employees what is and what isn’t secret—especially if they’re about to leave. “The critical juncture to reinforce those expectations is in the exit interview,” says John Marsh, a lawyer with the firm Bailey Cavalieri. “The employer says, “Hey, by the way, you signed this agreement about trade secrets when you started here; if you have questions, come see me. I expect you’re going to abide by this.’”

In the abridged trial, an Uber lawyer asked Waymo hardware engineer Sasha Zbrozek whether anyone at Google looked for activity that signaled someone was downloading huge numbers of files.

“No,” Zbrozek responded. “But nobody monitors when you get water from the fridge either.”

The time for such freedom could be ending. As autonomous driving technology approaches reality—the you give someone money to ride in this thing kind of reality—expect better defined policies and lots more rules. And maybe a camera watching the water dispenser, too.

Waymo’ Autonomy

Alibaba kicks off sponsor deal in Pyeongchang

PYEONGCHANG (Reuters) – Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (BABA.N) is launching a project that will create a “smarter” and more connected athletes’ village and stadia and make all Olympics stakeholders “more money”, its executives said on Saturday.

Many of Alibaba’s plans are still concepts since it has not had enough time to implement its technology after signing a deal last year worth hundreds of millions of dollars as a cloud and e-commerce partner with the International Olympic Committee.

But IOC president Thomas Bach said some of Alibaba’s plans “can become operational pretty soon” while Alibaba founder Jack Ma said they expected to be realized at the next Winter Games in Beijing in 2022.

“We want to make the Olympic Games so everyone can make more money,” Ma said, adding that “everyone” meant groups such as host cities’ organizing committees, athletes and sponsors.

Alibaba is one of the few top Olympics sponsors signed with the IOC until 2028.

It has said it wants to upgrade the technology that keeps the Games running.

It also unveiled its “sports brain,” on Saturday, a suite of software products designed to improve the back office of how sports events are run.

Ma, who appeared onstage with Bach, said he was moved by North Korea and South Korea marching together in the opening ceremony on Friday since it reflected “peace and prosperity”.

Former NBA player Yao Ming was in the audience at the media conference, which featured an interpretive dancer and a magician pulling a bird out of a hat.

Alibaba has about 200 to 300 employees on the ground in Pyeongchang to study how the games run and help find ways to save future host countries money.

Alibaba’s Tmall and Taobao shopping platforms dominate online retail in China. But it is not well known in many parts of the world, including in the United States where Amazon.com Inc is the e-commerce leader.

It is using an international branding campaign focused on the Olympics to help introduce it to markets such as the United States and Great Britain.

Editing by Greg Stutchbury

China's Shanda Games says Tencent to invest $474 million

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China’s Tencent Holdings Ltd will invest 3 billion yuan ($474 million) in smaller peer Shanda Games, the target firm said in a statement to Reuters on Friday, a move that will boost Tencent’s lead in the local video game market.

The Chinese market is the world’s largest, registering an estimated $32.5 billion in sales last year, according to data from gaming consultancy Newzoo. In second place is NASDAQ-listed NetEase Inc.

Shanda owns popular titles “Dragon Nest” and “The World of Legend”, and had been the main force in Chinese gaming before slipping behind local rivals including Tencent over the past decade.

The investment comes as Tencent gears up to formally launch global hit game “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” in China, after saying last year it would give the game a socialist make-over to meet Chinese rules governing digital content.

Tencent also owns significant stakes in U.S. game developers Riot Games Inc, Epic Games Inc and Activision Blizzard Inc. In 2016, Tencent bought the majority of Finland-based “Clash of Clans” mobile game maker Supercell for $8.6 billion.

Shanda said Tencent’s investment would help “bolster” Shanda’s core business. It also said the two firms would collaborate on current businesses, including several of Shanda’s popular games.

Tencent is valued at over $510 billion and has seen its share price boom on the back of strong demand for its mobile games. The firm declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.

Reporting by Pei Li and Adam Jourdan; Editing by Christopher Cushing

Exclusive: China's Ant plans equity fundraising at potential $100 billion valuation – sources

HONG KONG (Reuters) – China’s Ant Financial Services Group is planning to raise up to $5 billion in fresh equity that could value the online payments giant at more than $100 billion, people familiar with the move told Reuters.

A fundraising would bring Ant, in which e-commerce firm Alibaba Group Holding Ltd is taking a one-third stake, a step closer to a hotly anticipated initial public offering by establishing a more current valuation.

Ant’s last fundraising in 2016 valued the owner of Alipay, China’s top online payment platform, at about $60 billion. The new round should start with a valuation of between $80 billion to $100 billion, the people said.

Ant is currently in talks to appoint advisers for the fundraising which is expected to be launched in the next couple of months, they added.

Ant declined to comment on its fundraising plans. All the people spoke to Reuters on the condition they not be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.

While no timetable for an IPO has been set, nor any location yet chosen, Ant’s plans are being viewed as a pre-IPO fundraising, the people said. A pre-IPO round is an increasingly common move by sought-after Chinese companies to establish valuations and widen their investor base ahead of going public.

It was not immediately clear how the company plans to use the fresh cash.

The exact timing and size of the fundraising still depends on investor feedback but any deal will add to an already hectic pace of domestic and offshore fundraising by Chinese tech firms that are looking to expand both at home and abroad.

Chinese e-commerce firm JD.com is raising funds for its logistics unit with a target of attracting at least $2 billion, while live-video streaming start-up Kuaishou is nearing the close of a $1 billion funding round, sources have said.

Ant’s own existing investments include stakes in Paytm, the Indian mobile payment and e-commerce website, and Thai financial technology firm Ascend Money.

Last month, however, Ant suffered a setback when a U.S. government panel rejected its $1.2 billion offer for money transfer company MoneyGram International over security concerns.

At home, in addition to its core online payments business, which Ant says has 520 million yearly users, the company also offers wealth management, credit scoring, micro lending and insurance services.

Last week, Alibaba announced it would take a 33 percent stake in Ant – replacing the current system where Alibaba receives 37.5 percent of Ant’s pre-tax profit – in what was viewed as an important step ahead of any IPO.

Alibaba set up Alipay in 2004, modeling the business on PayPal, to help Chinese buyers shop online, and later controversially spun it off ahead of its own listing in 2014. Jack Ma, Alibaba’s founder, controls Ant, according to Alibaba filings with the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission.

Ant is considered by some analysts as one of the most valuable Alibaba assets due to its unique position in Chinese e-commerce.

Current shareholders in Ant include large state-owned institutions such as China Life Insurance, China Post Group – parent of Postal Savings Bank of China – and a unit of China Development Bank.

Reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee and Julie Zhu; Additional reporting by Kane Wu; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Edwina Gibbs

Akamai revenue, profit top estimates on robust cloud demand

(Reuters) – Akamai Technologies Inc’s (AKAM.O) profit and revenue topped analysts’ estimates on Tuesday, and the company said it had cut about 400 positions, or 5 percent of its global workforce.

The company’s shares were up 8.2 percent at $68.87 in extended trading.

Activist investor Elliott Management, which has disclosed a 6.5 percent stake, would push Akamai to curtail what the hedge fund sees as wasteful spending, among other measures, sources told Reuters in December.

“As part of our effort to improve operational efficiency, we reduced headcounts in targeted areas of business, most notably in areas tied to our media business,” Chief Executive Tom Leighton said on a post-earnings call with analysts.

Akamai’s media business, which helps in faster delivery of content through the web, has been under pressure from large customers, such as Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Amazon.com (AMZN.O), developing in-house capabilities to handle their web traffic.

Revenue in the unit declined 3 percent to $284 million in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, the ninth straight quarterly drop.

To offset the weakness, the company is bolstering its cloud security solutions.

Revenue in the company’s cloud unit surged over 32 percent to $135.2 million. Quarterly sales growth in the unit has averaged about 30 percent in 2017.

The company, which recorded a $52 million charge related to the restructuring in the fourth quarter, said it would take another charge of about $15 million in the current quarter.

Total revenue rose 7.7 percent to $663.5 million, beating analysts’ average estimate of $649.1 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The company’s net income plunged to $19.1 million, or 11 cents per share, from $91.6 million, or 52 cents per share, a year earlier, due to the charges.

Akamai also recorded a $26 million provisional charge associated with the recent U.S. tax law changes.

Excluding items, the company earned 69 cents per share, 6 cents above analysts’ average estimate.

The company forecast first-quarter revenue in the range of $647 million to $659 million, above analysts’ average estimate of $647.61 million.

Profit is expected to be about 67 cents to 70 cents per share, compared with expectations of 61 cents.

Reporting by Sonam Rai and Arjun Panchadar in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila

Seattle finds Facebook in violation of city campaign finance law

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Seattle’s election authority said on Monday that Facebook Inc is in violation of a city law that requires disclosure of who buys election ads, the first attempt of its kind to regulate U.S. political ads on the internet.

Facebook must disclose details about spending in last year’s Seattle city elections or face penalties, Wayne Barnett, executive director of the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, said in a statement.

The penalties could be up to $5,000 per advertising buy, Barnett said, adding that he would discuss next steps this week with Seattle’s city attorney.

It was not immediately clear how Facebook would respond if penalized. Facebook said in a statement it had sent the commission some data.

“Facebook is a strong supporter of transparency in political advertising. In response to a request from the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission we were able to provide relevant information,” said Will Castleberry, a Facebook vice president.

Barnett said Facebook’s response “doesn’t come close to meeting their public obligation.” The company provided partial spending numbers, but not copies of ads or data about whom they targeted.

The unregulated nature of U.S. online political ads drew attention last year after Facebook said Russians using fake names bought ads on the social network to try to sway voters ahead of the 2016 presidential election. Moscow denies trying to meddle in the election.

Buying online election ads requires little more than a credit card. Federal law does not currently force online ad sellers such as Facebook or Alphabet Inc’s Google and YouTube to disclose the identity of the buyers.

Legislation is pending to extend federal rules governing political advertising on television and radio to also cover internet ads, and tech firms have announced plans to voluntarily disclose some data.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said in September that his company would “create a new standard for transparency in online political ads.”

At the center of the Seattle dispute is a 1977 law that requires companies that sell election advertising, such as radio stations, to maintain public books showing the names of who bought ads, the payments and the “exact nature and extent of the advertising services rendered.”

The law went unenforced against tech companies until a local newspaper, The Stranger, published a story in December in the wake of the Russia allegations asking why.

Seattle sent letters to Facebook and Google asking them to provide data. The sides have been in talks, and last month Facebook employees met in person with commission staff.

“We gave Facebook ample time to comply with the law,” Barnett said.

Google has asked for more time to comply, and that request is pending, Barnett said.

Legal experts said they were unaware of any similar regulation attempts by other U.S. localities or states.

“Given the negative publicity around Facebook’s failure to provide adequate transparency in the 2016 elections, I would be surprised if they tried to challenge this law,” said Brendan Fischer of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit that favors campaign finance regulation.

Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Leslie Adler and James Dalgleish