Tag Archives: news

Alcatel-Lucent, Occupy Wall Street: Intellectual Property

Alcatel-Lucent (ALU), which prevailed in
a patent-infringement case brought by Chalumeau Power Systems
LLC
, has now won a motion for attorneys’ fees.

A federal court in Delaware held Sept. 12 that “Chalumeau
filed a frivolous lawsuit with the sole purpose of extorting a
settlement fee.” The court said “Chalumeau’s entire litigation
strategy was devoted to stringing out the case in the hopes that
Alcatel would incur fees while Chalumeau would not. Chalumeau
did not even disclose an expert until Nov. 8, 2013, days before
fact discovery ended.”

The behavior of Chalumeau, owned by Acacia Research Corp.,
allowed it “to keep its costs low while forcing Alcatel to
spend considerable sums defending a frivolous lawsuit,” the
court found.

As a result, the judge awarded attorneys’ fees to Alcatel,
which was represented by Goodwin Procter LLP.

The court relied on the U.S. Supreme Court, which in April
held that companies which successfully fight off
“unreasonable” patent suits can get their legal fees paid.

The high court April 29 gave trial judges more power to
impose fees if they determine a case “stands out from others”
in the conduct of the losing party. In a related opinion, the
court limited the ability of an appeals court to overturn a
trial judge’s decision in such cases.

Brian Farnan, one of the lawyers listed on the docket as
representing Chalumeau, didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking
comment on the fee ruling.

The case is Chalumeau Power Systems LLC v. Alcatel-Lucent,
11-cv-01175, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware
(Wilmington). The high court cases are Octane Fitness v. Icon
Health Fitness, 12-1184, and Highmark v. Allcare Health
Management Systems, 12-1163, U.S. Supreme Court (Washington).

CBS Loses Texas Trial in Personal Audio Patent-Infringement Case

A federal jury in Marshall, Texas, on Sept. 15 found that
CBS Corp. (CBS) infringed a patent held by Personal Audio of Beaumont,
Texas.

Personal Audio claimed the network infringed its patent for
distributing media content. A jury agreed and awarded it a total
of $1.3 million.

“The decision was faulty and we plan to appeal,” Shannon
Jacobs, a CBS spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

Personal Audio lawyer Jeremy Pitcock said he was satisfied
with the verdict.

The case is Personal Audio LLC v. Togi Entertainment Inc.,
2:13-cv-00013, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas
(Marshall).

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Independent Scotland Would Need New IP Laws, Attorney Group Says

If voters approve today’s referendum on Scottish
independence, intellectual-property law is yet another part of
the country’s economy that would be upended, according to the
Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys.

Current laws cover the U.K as well as the European Union,
but would no longer cover Scotland, the institute said yesterday
in a statement. The country would need new laws “to protect
long-standing Scottish brands from counterfeiting and
imitation,” it said.

“For a modern, successful future, Scotland needs more
detailed options on how the law would make provision for IP
rights under independence,” Chris McLeod, president of ITMA,
said in the statement.

“Within Scotland itself, iconic brands such as McVitie’s,
Johnny Walker, House of Fraser or Lipton tea could lose their
brand protection in the country from which they originated,”
McLeod said. “Many of the long-established independent whiskey
distilleries could also be under threat from imitation.”

For more trademark news, click here. For copyright news, click
here.

In the News

House Judiciary Committee Approves Trade-Secrets Legislation

The House Judiciary Committee yesterday approved H.R. 5233,
the Trade Secrets Protection Act. The bipartisan bill would
amend the Economic Espionage of 1996 to create a federal right
of action for trade-secret misappropriation.

“While current federal law protects other forms of
intellectual property by providing access to federal courts for
aggrieved parties to seek redress, there is no federal option to
do so for trade-secret theft,” committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, along with representatives John Conyers, Howard Coble, Jerrold Nadler and George Holding, said yesterday in a
statement.

The congressmen said the bipartisan bill will allow
companies to “seek civil penalties in order to protect their
businesses from those engaging in economic espionage.”

If the bill is not taken up by the House before the
election break, it could be considered when Congress reconvenes
following this year’s elections.

The Senate separately is considering the Defend Trade
Secrets Act of 2014.

Occupy Wall Street Sues One of Its Own Over Twitter Account

It seems so competitive, but OWS Media Group, Inc., which
claims to own the Twitter account @OccupyWallStNYC, has sued
Justin Wedes, one of the protesters who had access to the
account.

OWS said Wedes converted the account by changing the
password, locking out others and using it to air his own views.

According to the complaint, Wedes “seized the Twitter
account and appropriated it to his own use.” He did so because
“he was unhappy with some of the content of the speech that was
being disseminated,” OWS said.

The suit seeks injunctive relief and $500,000 in damages.

Efforts to reach Wedes were unsuccessful.

The case is OWS Media Group Inc. v. Wedes, 159126/2014, New
York
State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan).

To contact the reporter on this story:
Ellen Rosen in New York
at erosen14@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.
Charles Carter, Andrew Dunn

Corinthian Colleges Harangued By Regulators, Occupy Wall St Into Earnings

Corinthian Colleges (NASDAQ:COCO), once a bellwether among for-profit colleges, has fallen on hard times. The for-profit education industry has been criticized for recruiting students most-likely to qualify for government-backed student loans, yet not improving their job prospects after graduation. Corinthian and ITT Educational Services (NYSE:ESI), another for-profit college under regulatory scrutiny, have been hit hardest; both are in financial straits. In July, Corinthian reached an agreement with the Department of Education to sell most of its campuses or close them down. About 85 of its 107 campuses are on the block, but the company has yet to find a buyer. Set to announce quarterly earnings on Monday, Corinthian disclosed late last week that an accreditation agency is examining its placement records:

The placement results for the 2013 reporting year is under review. The agency wants the company to respond to questions regarding the findings in the independent audit of 2013. The accreditation agency for Corinthian’s 40 campuses has also asked the college to conduct a third-party audit on reported employment on all its campuses in its 2014 annual report.

For the quarter, analysts are expecting revenue of $337.4 million, about 2% less than the $349.8 million earned in the previous quarter. Analysts also project earnings per share (“eps”) of $0.11. Below are Corinthian’s historical financial results:

(click to enlarge)

The company’s revenue declined from $1.8 billion in FY 2011 to $1.6 billion through last 12 months ended March 31, 2014 (“LTM0314″). Bottom line results have been uneven, as Corinthian’s operating income margin of 2% leaves little room for error. The company is facing the following issues while its future as a going concern hangs in the balance.

Lack of Liquidity For To Student Loans

According to Corinthian’s S-1, in 2008 three origination and servicing providers, including Sallie Mae, decided to no longer make private loans to the company’s students. Corinthian created a new lending program with a new student loan originator, Genesis Lending Services, Inc. (“Genesis”), in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2008. The Genesis program ended in fiscal 2012. In June 2011 the company entered into a loan origination agreement with ASFG, LLC (“ASFG”); net of estimated refunds, ASFG has funded about $444 million of Corinthian students loans. However, ASFG ceased funding new loans for the company’s students in January 2014. Corinthian has yet to find a replacement lender. Meanwhile, the company has been funding student loans with its own capital, which has caused its operating cash flows to decline by $4 to $8 million.

Declining Student Enrollment

The majority of Corinthian’s revenue is derived from student tuition and fees; students rely on federal financial aid programs provided by the government. That said, recruiting and retaining students is key to the company’s survival. Student enrollment has declined from 105 thousand at the end of December 2010 to 75 thousand in March 2014 – a compound annual growth rate of -10%. After Corinthian shutters the majority of its schools, student enrollment, revenue and the company’s going concern value will most likely decline precipitously.

Dwindling Cash Balance

After losing its student lending facility, Corinthian’s cash flow and cash balance have declined over time. Cash on hand has declined from $209 million at December 31, 2010 to $28 million at March 31, 2014. With its liquidity dried up, Corinthian has little margin for error going forward. Any operational mistakes and it risks running out of cash.

Negative Publicity

In addition to the accreditation agency investigation, Corinthian recently received a federal grand jury subpoena in Florida related to employee misconduct and return of student aid funds. Last week Occupy Wall Street created even more negative attention after it bought $3.8 million in student loan debt made by Corinthian’s Genesis loan program:

The group’s Strike Debt initiative said on Wednesday that it had been buying delinquent and defaulted student loans for pennies on the dollar and claimed that since January, it has abolished $3.8 million in private student loans – those made by Corinthian Colleges Genesis loan program … The debt Occupy bought belonged to 2,700 people who had taken out private student loans to attend Everest College, which is run by Corinthian Colleges.

Occupy Wall Street (“OWS”) which started out as a protest movement against Wall Street bailouts in 2011, has at times operated like a consumer watchdog group. The trillion dollar student debt bomb is one of OWS’ pet peeves; it targeted Corinthian because it is one of the largest for-profit institutions. That said, having a high-profile activist organization protest that Corinthian is making indentured servants of consumers with the falsehood of a quality education, cannot be good for the company’s future recruitment efforts.

Conclusion

With declining enrollment, loss of liquidity for student loans and regulators questioning whether it meets the requirements for accreditation, Corinthian’s going concern value is in serious doubt. With a stock price hovering at $0.16 per share, shareholders seem to concur. Avoid this stock.

Editor’s Note: This article covers one or more stocks trading at less than $1 per share and/or with less than a $100 million market cap. Please be aware of the risks associated with these stocks.

Disclosure: The author is short ESI. The author wrote this article themselves, and it expresses their own opinions. The author is not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). The author has no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article. (More…)

Climate protesters march on Wall Street, block street near NYSE


NEW YORK (Reuters) – Hundreds of protesters marched through New York City’s financial district on Monday and blocked streets near the stock exchange to denounce Wall Street’s role in raising money for businesses that contribute to climate change.

Protesters stopped traffic on Broadway south of the New York Stock Exchange. Occupying about two blocks, some were standing while others sat. Two were arrested after trying to cross a police barricade.

The demonstration, called Flood Wall Street, came on the heels of Sunday’s international day of action that brought some 310,000 people to the streets of New York City in what activists was said was the largest protest ever held on climate change.

Sunday’s turnout was about triple that of the previous biggest, a Copenhagen demonstration staged five years ago. ID:nL1N0RM0QQ]

Kai Sanburn, a 60-year-old nurse and mother of two from Los Angeles, said she had traveled to New York for Sunday’s march and wanted to do more.

“Marching is wonderful but to really change things we really need to change things,” Sanburn said on Monday. “The action here against Wall Street is really expressive of the feeling that corporations and capitalism no longer serve people.”

The group has roots in the Occupy Wall Street movement that started in a downtown Manhattan park in 2011 to protest what it called unfair banking practices that serve the wealthiest 1 percent, leaving behind 99 percent of the world’s population.

Flood Wall Street organizers said they hope Monday’s action will draw a link between economic policies and the environment, accusing top financial institutions of “exploiting frontline communities, workers and natural resources” for financial gain.

The event is part of Climate Week, which seeks to draw attention to carbon emissions and their link to global warming, and it comes ahead of a Tuesday United Nations Climate Summit.

(This story inserts dropped letter in second paragraph)

(Writing by Victoria Cavaliere and Scott Malone; Editing by Fiona Ortiz, Sandra Maler, Susan Heavey and Cynthia Osterman)

Occupy Wall Street activists sue over Twitter account



On Wednesday, three years to the day since the beginning of Occupy Wall Street, one of its former leaders has sued another leader over a disputed Twitter account.

@OccupyWallStNYC has 177,000 followers, and it’s apparently controlled by Justin Wedes, a self-identified “educator and activist based in Detroit, Michigan” and a “founding member” of the New York City General Assembly. Wedes did not respond to Ars’ requests for comment.

According to the suit, which was filed by the OWS Media Group in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Wedes “hijacked” the account in early August 2014, “making himself the sole person in control of the Twitter Account.”

The suit demands that the court declare the OWS Media Group as the account’s rightful owner (bar any future transfer of the account), compel Wedes to return it, and award $500,000 in monetary damages.

The account was originally created by the Canadian organization AdBusters, which helped spawn the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. As the protests grew, AdBusters handed the account over to Marisa Holmes, a local activist. She expanded the circle of people that had access, including Wedes.

Holmes is now a director of the OWS Media Group, an organization that sprung from the protest movement.

A “last resort”

Earlier this year, Holmes, Wedes, and others began to argue about what was an appropriate use of the Twitter account. In particular, Wedes began tweeting about the Detroit Water Brigade, another activist group in the Motor City that he is heavily involved in.

“It’s really important historically to think about the legacy of Occupy and everything that meant, and going forward we want to be able to continue the movement work,” Holmes told Ars. “We want to be able to have the platforms available to us that we helped build. It’s really that simple. He stole it. We want it back and we want to get on with building the movement.”

Holmes noted that Wedes has yet to be formally served with the suit. She viewed it as a “last resort.”

“We’ve spent a lot of time talking with him over the course of several years now of trying to work together,” she said. “He’s just not interested in any nonviolent communication or mediation and has been unresponsive to that. This is the least harmful option that we could think of, and it’s unfortunate.”

She went on to call the alleged theft of the Twitter account a “moral and ethical breach.”

“It goes against everything that this movement was about, sharing and collecting resources—it’s equivalent to stealing money.”

“I had to say ‘enough!’”

In a blog post on his own website on August 12, 2014, Wedes said that earlier this month a thread on an internal e-mail list concerning appropriate uses of the Twitter account prompted him to seize control.

He wrote:

A thread about “self-promotion” became just another shaming session. If we start from a place of assuming bad intentions—i.e. discouraging “self-promotion” over encouraging solid, relevant content—we will end up with rules that shame rather than empower. Group members took on the task of limiting others to “1 to 2 tweets per day” (or week) on a topic, a form of censorship that would never have been allowed in the earlier days of the boat. I had to say enough!

This party is over. Time to go home. Time to clean house for the next party. Time to sleep, to heal, and to reflect.

Clearly the question of ownership of the account is a contentious one, and I don’t pretend to have all the answers. The success of the #TweetBoat was in creating shared ownership of this collective resource by many different people with often divergent perspectives on what Occupy is. Still, even collective resources like gardens need human stewardship. I don’t shy away from currently being the chief steward of this account, and my plan is to reinvigorate it again by putting it back in the hands of responsible stewards.

At that time, he stated that the Twitter account would remain inactive, but it picked up again just two days later.

“We don’t actually want money.”

While it may seem a bit ironic that an anti-capitalist activist group would sue for money, Holmes underscored that her organization “can’t deal with money.” According to her, the $500,000 figure was only imposed to prevent Wedes from further transferred ownership of the account.

It is unclear, however, why imposing such monetary damages prevents such a transfer.

“If we don’t have any damages, then he can decide to just give the password of the Twitter account to a friend and then we’d have to sue his friend and then it would be this endless ordeal,” she said. “We wanted it to be short and sweet. We don’t want to draw this out. We have no intention of collecting that money. We don’t actually want money. What we want is for him to give the account back.”

UPDATE Friday 11:54am: OWS Media Group’s attorney, Thomas Hillgardner, wrote to Ars to say:

If my clients get the account back, they’d be much more likely to forego damages. But if [Justin Wedes] further alienates the account from his possession and control, the only thing left for my clients to recover would be money and his exposure to a judgment for monetary damages would be at its zenith. The measure of damages if we get the account back would be far less and likely would be waived. We think these matters are not lost on Mr. Wedes who is a fairly sophisticated gentleman.

All’s Not Quiet on the Democratic Front: Why Occupy Wall Street Still Matters …

On the third anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, don’t be so sure that that the ranting and raving about income inequality, fracking and student debt is dead. Although thousands are no longer protesting in the streets, a quiet revolution inspired by Occupy principles has been brewing in the American public. It demands more from government representatives and was all too present in last week’s Democratic primary for the governor for the state of New York.

As one of the 34 percent who voted for Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu, I am part of the growing constituency demanding change. I am not an environmental fractivist or a disgruntled state employee — two groups that clearly have a bone to pick with the incumbent governor Andrew Cuomo. I am an Occupier and interested citizen who belongs to a new voting block between 30 to 45 years-old that is normally outside the political establishment. According to independent journalist Matt Stoller, we are the burgeoning “Occupy Bloc,” a social-media savvy group of techies, publishers, professionals, and students with energy and ambition to influence the political process. Who knows if we have enough strength to muster political revolt, but one thing is clear: if the mainstream Democratic party cannot show real conviction and take a stand for ordinary people, we will look elsewhere.

Teachout’s campaign is an example of this. Her desire to break up the big banks responsible for the 2008 financial crisis, rid the state of monopolies like the Comcast-Time Warner merger and hold officials currently in office accountable for corrupt behavior, was our call to arms. Like Occupy, Teachout advocates examination of the power structures in society to do what really needs to be done: use government to limit the power of Wall Street and corporate America and give regular citizens the opportunity to participate in the political process and create policy.

2014-09-17-IMG_6604.JPG

This is not news to me. As a performance artist for Occupy Wall Street, I have been studying the financial industry since 2011 with the Alternative Banking Group, a close-knit group of academics, bloggers, activists and former Wall Street quants, which meets weekly at Columbia University. I have learned things that should infuriate us all. When I walk past HSBC, I don’t see a bank of convenience. I see a for-profit enterprise that admitted to laundering millions for the Mexican drug cartel and terrorist groups linked with al-Qaeda, but paid an insignificant ‘cost of doing business’ fine in 2012 so no high-level executives would go to jail.

Whenever I’m standing in front of the Federal Reserve near Wall Street, I know that it is not a federal agency but a privately owned central bank retained by the cartel of banks rich enough to belong to the Federal Reserve system. I’m aware that these banks can borrow at a huge discount at 0.75 percent interest, compared to students who pay nearly 5 times that amount on student loans. I would love to attend the World Business Forum in October, but can’t since it costs $3,000 a ticket. The elites of this world have gamed the system to make it work for them, a small minority, and they are banking on the fact that most of us will not notice.

Although many believe the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s trust busting agenda are gone — something interesting is happening. Three years ago, Occupy Wall Street thrust income inequality onto the national stage. At the same time, bank reform politicians like Elizabeth Warren were elected to Congress. Then in last week’s primaries, Teachout did nearly the impossible and won 34 percent of the vote against incumbent governor Andrew Cuomo, who had a $35 million dollar campaign war chest. With little money and no name recognition, she effectively challenged him. She had a clear message the public seems hungry for — to value regular citizens and their needs in the decision-making process.

The rest is up to us. It’s time for ordinary people to become part of the political process and contribute. Be a leader, collectively organize for your rights, become aware of who holds power and get involved. No more standing on the sidelines. Take charge of your destiny, and if you’re lucky, you might be taking charge of all of ours.

Marni Halasa, a lawyer, journalist and political performance artist, consults for citizens, unions, community groups and nonprofit organizations on how to stage effective protest and innovative resistance. Contact her at her website, Revolution Is Sexy.

Occupy Wall Street buys, forgives almost $4 million in student loan debt

This post is in partnership with Time. The article below was originally published at Time.com

By Sam Frizell, TIME

An Occupy Wall Street campaign says it has abolished almost $4 million in student loan debts, in a Tuesday announcement marking the third anniversary of the Occupy protests that brought renewed attention to the issue of income inequality.

The Rolling Jubilee Fund, an initiative of the Occupy movement, has been accepting donations and buying up student loan debt for pennies on the dollar from debt collectors, and then forgiving the loans altogether. The group has spent about $107,000 to purchase$3.9 million in debt, organizers said.

The debts were held by students who attended Everest College, a for-profit institution part of the Corinthian Colleges


COCO



network. The fund called Everest College a “predatory” institution that is helping fuel the $1.2 trillion in total student loan debt in the United States.

“We chose Everest because it is the most blatant con job on the higher ed landscape,” the organizers said. “It’s time for all student debtors to get relief from their crushing burden.”

The debt belonged to 2,761 people who had taken at loans at Everest College. The group is only able to purchase private student debt, not the majority of outstanding U.S. student debt that’s backed by the federal government. Corinthian Colleges told CNN it stands by the “high-quality” education it provides and denied charges of predatory lending.

 

Occupy Wall Street A Failure? OWS 2014 Marks Survival Of Brand With Blurred …


OWS


A demonstrator holds a sign during an Occupy Wall Street protest in lower Manhattan in New York, Oct. 3, 2011.
 Reuters/Mike Segar

Though its plan of attack was hazy, Occupy Wall Street took direct aim at corporations and financial structures considered “too big to fail.” If the protest movement’s primary targets are still thriving three years later, does that mean OWS was too sprawling to succeed? Or can we credit Occupy with planting the seeds of a dialogue that may eventually lead to shifts in income inequality? 
 
Since OWS first sprouted at Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park on Sept. 17, 2011, the decentralized opposition group has been routinely dismissed for its disorganization and lack of a core message. Within a year after the first Occupy encampment, news outlets were using the words “fizzled” and “failure” with notable regularity. And by this time last year, even many people who still associated with the group were expressing frustration over its wandering trajectory and leaderless makeup.
 
“I wouldn’t give them an ‘A’ for organization,” Lillian Pollak, a protester who showed up at Zuccotti Park for the second anniversary, told International Business Times.

But while the thrill is gone for many once-passionate Occupiers who believed the movement would enact real change for the 99 percent of Americans facing an increasingly bleak economic picture, some say thinking about Occupy in terms of success or failure misses the point.

“How would we define success anyway?” asked Lisa S. Banu, a scholar and former design professor at Purdue University in Indiana, who studies Occupy’s branding strategies. “The movement didn’t necessarily have a particular teleological goal. It wasn’t like, ‘Once we achieve this, our movement has won.’ The point was to start a conversation.”

And if starting a conversation was the point, Banu said it’s a point that stuck. Occupy may have been mocked for its hippy-like encampments and festive drum circles early on, but it was instrumental in pushing income inequality into the national conversation, an issue that has seeped its way into every part of the culture since — from viral videos to best-selling books like Thomas Piketty’s “Capital.”

Politicians both local and national have seized upon aspects of Occupy’s message as well. Making wealth disparity a core issue of his 2013 mayoral campaign, New York City’s then-public advocate, Bill de Blasio, vowed to tackle the “Tale of Two Cities” that he said defined the Big Apple during the Bloomberg years. A year earlier, issues like income inequality and class warfare dominated the 2012 presidential campaign. President Barack Obama continues to address these issues, whether it’s through pushing a higher minimum wage or discussing the decline of economic mobility. “I believe this is the defining challenge of our time,” he said in a 2013 speech.

The extent to which Occupy has influenced such political rhetoric is debatable, but it’s no small triumph that the very issues it set out to fight continue to permeate national politics three years later. “It’s hard to beat the bully pulpit of a U.S. presidency,” Richard Kaplan, a law professor at the University of Illinois College of Law, said. “If Obama’s talking about it then that has some significance.”

Of course, the problems Occupy was trying to tackle are bigger than simple rhetoric. As more and more data shows, income inequality is only getting worse, and it’s not expected to reverse anytime soon. “Most of the things that caused it to begin with are still very much in place,” Kaplan said. “If anything the same trends of globalization, returns to higher education and that sort of thing, have exacerbated. It’s not new. It’s been going on since even before Reagan.”

Amid its congested messages and image problems, Occupy’s most salient feature has always been basic branding — from its effective use of hashtags and memes to its populist catchphrases like “We Are the 99 Percent.” It’s a strategy that was brought into focus by Kalle Lasn, co-founder of the anti-consumerism magazine Adbusters, who registered the domain OccupyWallStreet.org in the summer of 2011 and used social media to build a buzz around the first Occupy Wall Street encampment. The Occupy brand has since become an international franchise.

In a paper published on Academia.edu in April 2012, Banu explored Occupy’s successful approach to branded anarchy, a concept she admits sounds oxymoronic on its face. “How do you brand a grassroots movement?” she said. “How do you give it a logo, when it’s supposed to be anti-logo to begin with?”

A protest celebrating Occupy’s third anniversary is planned for Zuccotti Park on Wednesday, although how many people will actually show up is anyone’s guess. The folks at Adbusters haven’t abandoned the cause either. They’re calling Occupy’s third anniversary “World Revolution Day,” and as usual they haven’t been very specific on what that means. The slogan this time around is “What Will You Do?”

It’s a good question — for people and for protest movements.  

Got a news tip? Email me. Follow me on Twitter @christopherzara.

Occupy Wall Street Offshoot Has Purchased Nearly $4 Million in Student Debt

Occupy Wall Street made a name for itself demanding systemic change that would help the country’s “99 percent,” but at least one offshoot of the movement has evolved into quietly helping individuals on a financial level in the years since its inception.

In conjunction with its third anniversary, which passed quietly this week without much media attention, the Occupy splinter organization Strike Debt and its project Rolling Jubilee announced they had purchased and forgiven nearly $4 million of student debt — the latest in a string of debt purchases made by the groups.

The purchase helped relieve the debts of nearly 3,000 individuals across the country, while at the same time drawing attention to what the group calls predatory practices by for-profit colleges and the Department of Education.

NYC’s pay out to the Occupy movement is not the end of angry protests. Read more here.

Strike Debt, the name of the debt forgiveness movement, bought $3.8 million in private student loan debt from lenders for students of Corinthian Colleges, a private for-profit college company that runs campuses around the country. The group spent just over $100,000 to buy the bundles of debt, using funds it collected during a telethon and viral campaign.

“It was very small donations, people would give $5, and say, ‘I’m completely broke but I want to help,'”Laura Hanna, one of Strike Debt’s organizers, told VICE News. “Our original plan was to raise $50,000 and prove a point, that $50,000 could simply buy $1 million of debt, to demonstrate that it wasn’t worth it. It’s taken some time to do it.”

Starting at the end of 2012, through the Rolling Jubilee project Strike Debt began purchasing medical debt for thousands of people, since buying more than $18 million worth. The organizers used their next batch of funds to go after private student loan debt.

“We knew we wanted to focus on issues around for-profit education and looking at education as a commodity. The basic challenge is that we shouldn’t need debt to finance basic necessities,”Hanna said.

The FBI is hiding details about an alleged Occupy Houston assassination plot. Read more here.

“We can’t solve the entire problem (of student debt) but we can help along the way while trying to fix the systemic problem,”she said.

Strike Debt volunteers worked with industry experts and pro-bono legal counsel to purchase the debt from debt collectors. They then sent letters to nearly 3,000 Corinthian Colleges students notifying them that at least one of their loans had been forgiven and they needn’t worry about paying it back.

Corinthian has been investigated by the federal government for its recruitment tactics and job placement rates, and was recently hit with a federal lawsuit from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau accusing the company of predatory loan practices. The CFPB has asked the courts to grant relief for more than $500 million worth of private student loans taken out by Corinthian Colleges students.

Kent Jenkins, a spokesman for Corinthian, criticized the complaint, saying in a statement to VICE that fewer that 40 percent of its students took the private loans with an average interest rate was 9 percent, which it called “well below market rates.” He said they forced students to repay them while still in school to “help them develop the discipline and practice”of repaying their loans each month.

Corinthian Colleges is currently in the process of selling off a large number of its campuses.

The case that could rock the Occupy movement. Read more here.

Strike Debt organizers pointed out that they were only able to buy the debt for private student loans, not the federal government-backed loans that most students at not-for-profit colleges take out to pursue education.

“While medical debt is widely available to debt collectors on secondary markets, most student debt is not, because it is guaranteed by the federal government and cannot be erased in bankruptcy,”the group said in a statement.

In order to help individuals in debt to the federal government, as well as those with medical debt or credit card debt, the group is launching the next phase of its project called The Debt Collective, a website and organization they hope will unite individuals and give them collective bargaining power.

Individuals can sign up on the website and input their debt and the region of the country they’re in. The group will hold meetings and calls to discuss tactics it could use to fight lenders, including “strikes” in which people refuse to pay or are late in paying their debts.

“We want it to be a virtual factory floor where we’re thinking about how can we build collective power in the face of financial markets that are almighty and powerful,” Hanna said. “We’re looking at how fragmentary the labor force is and labor rights are at this point, and looking at old models of unions and how much of that can apply.”

Photo by Flickr/Michael Fleshman

Topics:

occupy wall street, americas, student debt, rolling jubilee, strike debt, politics, department of education, corinthian colleges, consumer financial protection bureau, laura hanna, the debt collector, wall street

Occupy Wall Street Activists Suing Ex-Member Over Twitter Account

Occupy Wall Street Activists Mark 2 Year Anniversary Of Movement
Occupy Wall Street protesters wearing masks made out of enlarged dollar bills act in a short skit in Times Square in New York City on Sept. 17, 2013
Andrew Burton—Getty Images

Not only is Occupy locked out of the “1%,” they now can’t even get on Twitter