Directors Of Collapsed VTL Group Face Criminal Charges
AUKLAND, New Zealand — The receivers of Nathans Finance said they will take legal action against parties associated with the failed finance company and its parent company, global vending machine technology manufacturer and franchisor VTL Group, according to The New Zealand Herald.
PricewaterhouseCoopers receiver Colin McCloy stated in a recent letter to investors that he had identified potential claims and would begin action shortly. He also said that he had begun legal proceedings against trusts associated with Nathans Finance and VTL directors, and notified the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission about “matters of concern” relating to the company’s dealings in U.S.
According to the paper, PWC’s legal action follows criminal charges against the directors, filed in December by New Zealand’s Securities Commission, and a subsequent announcement from the Serious Fraud Office that it would investigate the company based on information provided by the receivers.
Nathans went into receivership in August 2007, reportedly owing 7,000 investors a total of $174 million. The directors of parent company VTL Group resigned in November 2008 and appointed McCloy as receiver.
According to recent reports, the Securities Commission alleges the Nathans Finance directors misled investors regarding its lending to VTL by signing untrue statements that the company had no bad debts and had adequate liquidity, as well as stating that its lending was diversified and that it made loans in accordance with sound policies.
The criminal charges they face carry maximum penalties of five years in jail or fines of up to $300,000. Civil proceedings are also underway, under which each director could be ordered to pay up to $500,000 in compensation.
VTL sold its 24seven Australasia and U.S. vending franchises last spring. The receivers said they realized $8 million from the sale of the assets, far short of the debt owed to investors, the Herald reported.
McCloy said he is continuing to work through the sale of VTL’s assets, but predicts investors will likely get back less than 10¢ on the dollar. Court action is the only other means of securing additional money from the failed company.
The Securities Commission case against Nathan’s directors is expected to go to the Auckland District Court on January 23.
Beverage Entrepreneur Calls On NY State Legislature To Reject Obesity Tax
NEW YORK CITY — Liz Morrill, founder and chief executive of Fizzy Lizzy, a maker of all-natural sparkling juices based here, has issued urgent appeals to all members of the New York State Legislature to reject Gov. David Paterson’s planned 18% “obesity tax.” In New York City, the tariff imposed on nondiet sodas and fruit drinks containing less than 70% natural fruit juice would increase the existing sales tax on nondiet soft drinks to more than 26%.
Morrill charged that the proposed tax is “completely irrational” because it exempts sugar-laden, calorie-dense “100% juice” drinks while penalizing low-calorie all-natural carbonated drinks like Fizzy Lizzy Tangerine (50% juice and 50% seltzer), which contains only 100 calories and 24g. of sugar per 12-fl.oz bottle.
“I started this company precisely because people wanted a lower-calorie and refreshing alternative to plain juice,” she continued. “Now it seems that Gov. Paterson wants to penalize my company, and others like it, for providing healthful, all-natural alternatives.”
What’s even more perplexing, according to Morrill, is the fact that diet sodas – which are loaded with artificial sweeteners and flavors and preservatives – are exempt, while all nondiet carbonated beverages, regardless of calorie and nutritional content, will be heavily taxed. Scientific studies, she points out, have shown that diet sodas actually increase yearnings for sweets.
“So nonsensical is this proposal that it even applies to flavored seltzer containing zero calories,” she added. “Oddly, almost all noncarbonated beverages, without regard to nutritional profile, get a pass. Instead of mindlessly demonizing carbonation, the tax, if any, should be based upon objective nutritional criteria such as calories and sugars per ounce. It should favor all-natural products that intrinsically provide vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.”
UK Targets ‘Lifestyle Revolution’ Through Change4Life Anti-Obesity Campaign
LONDON — The British government has launched an ambitious multimedia advertising campaign aimed at encouraging its citizens to eat well, move more and live longer.
“Change4Life has a critical ambition,” said Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo. “We are trying to create a lifestyle revolution on a huge scale – something which no government has attempted before. Change4Life is supportive, informative and reassuring – it’s not about telling families what to do and what to eat. We want families to engage with the campaign and understand that obesity is not someone else’s problem – it’s all of our problem.”
Advertisements featured on TV, on billboards and in magazines launching this month communicate to parents the harm that fat can cause to their children’s health, and warns consumers that an unhealthy diet and inactive lifestyle can lead to cancer, heart disease and diabetes. The ads also invite consumers to call a hotline manned by specialists trained by Change4Life scientific advisers for customized advice on healthy eating and physical activity.
Visitors to the Change4Life website can find a host of tips and healthy eating and fitness advice. They can also enter their postal code to find local services such as cooking clubs, after-school activities and sporting facilities in their areas that support the initiative.
However, critics say the program and catchy slogan is founded on corporate partnerships with giant food and beverage companies, which could use their association with Change4Life to subvert the central strategy and promote so-called unhealthy and fast foods.
Planet Green Pacts To Bring Biodegradable PET Plastic Bottles To Market
VANCOUVER — Planet Green Bottle Corp. (http://www.planetgreenbottle.com/) announced that it has entered into an agreement with bottle manufacturer Norland International (http://www.norlandintl.com/) to introduce Reverte oxo-biodegradable PET plastic bottles to the bottled water and beverage industries.
Plastic bottles produced with the technology break down naturally and, in most cases, turn into CO2 and moisture within five to 10 years, according to the company. Reverte, a registered trademark of Wells Plastics Ltd. (http://www.wellsplastics.com/), was developed as an additive for PET plastic bottles. It greatly enhances their degradability while maintaining their clarity and tensile strength.
Reverte is formulated to sustain packaged beverages with two-year shelf lives. Once disposed of and exposed to UV light, heat and moisture, the discarded bottle begins degrading, first becoming brittle and then breaking into small pieces. Broken-down matter becomes a food source for bacteria or microbial activity. The anticipated time to totally degrade the plastic bottle depends on environmental conditions in which the bottle has been placed.
Plastic bottles using the degradable technology will decompose in landfills, ditches, rivers and oceans, and are recyclable and fully compatible with municipal collection and recycling systems. According to PGBC, specialized industrial composting facilities are not required for biodegradable bottles that use the Reverte technology, as is the case with PLA (cornstarch-based) bottles.
Jury Awards JCM $11.4M In Patent Infringement Suit
LAS VEGAS — A Las Vegas jury awarded JCM Global more than $11.4 million in damages in a case that claimed patent infringement by MEI’s CashFlow SC Series. As a result of the decision, JCM said it anticipates the court will enjoin MEI against selling products that deploy the design found to infringe in the litigation.
JCM is a global provider of automated transaction technology for the gaming, banking, petroleum and vending industries. JCM’s infringement claim concerned its removable stacker mechanism, which the jury found MEI infringed in four separate claims. It relates to product in the gaming industry.
In a separate case, the District Court in New Jersey has dismissed a suit filed by Mars/MEI against JCM claiming patent infringement, due to the court’s findings that Mars Inc. did not have standing to sue at the time of the filing of the complaint. The District Court judge awarded JCM a portion of all legal fees and expenses incurred in preparation of its defense.
JCM president and chief executive Akiyoshi Isoi said the two legal victories come on the heels of the company’s recent contract wins of four major casino openings in Las Vegas, including the Encore Wynn, which opened last month.
NYC Terminates Citywide Snapple Vending Deal
NEW YORK CITY — Snapple sales have fallen far short of expectations, leading the Big Apple to remove 724 vending machines from all municipal buildings beginning in April, The New York Post reported.
Snapple was granted exclusive rights to sell noncarbonated beverages in city buildings in 2004 and has yielded only 26% of anticipated sales, according to the newspaper. As a result, the city is reportedly preparing to pull the machines one year before the six-year deal officially terminates.
In 2006, Snapple revised its contract with the city, adjusting its initially projected sales downward from 5 million cases to 330,000, and recalculating revenue projections to $33 million from $126 million. By the end of the contract, the city expects to receive $17.7 million from sales and marketing payments, and $15.3 million in value from Snapple’s obligation to promote the city through advertising.
Private Equity Firm Purchases FL Coke Bottler; First Choice Food Service Acquires Vending Division
SANFORD, FL — Arbor Investments, a Chicago-based private equity firm specializing in the food and beverage industries, has purchased family-owned Sanford Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Inc., a local paper here reported. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The Ingram family has owned the bottling company since J.R. Ingram Sr. founded it a century ago. The Sanford Herald reported that the family has sold a majority stake in the bottler’s full-line Triangle Vending Service division to First Choice Food Service (Wilson, FL), and that Triangle Vending will continue to service Sanford Coca-Cola vending machines.
Charles Ingram, president of Sanford Coca-Cola Bottling Co., will retire and be succeeded by John Adams, who currently serves as president of Northern Neck Coca-Cola Bottling Co. (Montross, VA).