VW moves beyond criminal case, but not without a scolding

The New York Times
DETROIT — The criminal case against Volkswagen for its decadelong scheme to cheat on diesel emissions tests ended last week with a scolding, an apology and $4.3 billion in penalties. The sentence, affirmed at a court hearing, had been recommended by federal prosecutors in January as part of a deal in which the German automaker agreed to plead guilty to three felony charges for illegally importing nearly 600,000 vehicles equipped with devices to circumvent emissions standards. The conclusion of the criminal case, 19 months after the vast cheating operation was first revealed, was a milestone in Volkswagen’s recovery from a scandal that badly damaged its reputation and sales. Recently the company delivered an encouraging quarterly report, and has even been given permission to sell — with modifications — the diesel cars at the center of the case. But the hearing in U.S. District Court in Michigan was a reminder of the cloud under which Volkswagen remained.

What does conservative mean for older investors?

If you’re a certain age, or getting close to it, you might hear something like this: “Now that you’re older, you need to invest more conservatively.” But what exactly does this mean? For starters, it’s useful to understand that your investment preferences and needs will indeed change over time. When you’re first starting out in your career, and even for a long time afterward, you can afford to invest somewhat aggressively, in stocks and stock-based investments; because you have time to overcome the inevitable short-term market drops. At this stage of your life, your primary concern is growth — you want your portfolio to grow enough to provide you with the resources you’ll need to meet your long-term goals, such as a comfortable retirement. But when you finally do retire, and perhaps for a few years before that, your investment focus likely will have shifted from accumulation to preservation.


Book review: How can ‘Superfandom’ work for you?

“Superfandom: How Our Obsessions Are Changing What We Buy and Who We Are,” by Zoe Fraade-Blanar and Aaron M. Glazer, 2017, W.W. Norton, $27.95, 336 pages. Collect them all. These three words put a smile on every marketer’s face and fear in every parent’s heart. “Collect them all,” as you may remember, was kid-code for “bug your parents until they buy stuff,” making you the envy of everyone in third grade. Your goal now: to capture that buyer’s obsession at the level you’ll see in “Superfandom” by Zoe Fraade-Blanar and Aaron M. Glazer.

Mental health compensation bill removes objective standards

The Vermont Legislature appears poised to pass legislation this session that will broaden workers’ compensation coverage of mental injury claims.
The bill, H.197, contains language that would create a presumption that a professionally diagnosed mental health condition arose out of the course of employment for a class of employees including police officers, rescue or ambulance workers, and firefighters. The bill also proposes to expand the ability of the rest of the Vermont workforce to file stress-related claims.
Providing stronger protections in the Workers’ Compensation Act for fire, police and rescue workers is based in sound logic. These people perform some of the most difficult, vital jobs in our society, and on occasion witness horrific scenes that affect them deeply. From an employer/insurer perspective, it is the other provision, generally broadening compensable mental injuries for all Vermont workers, that is troubling. It raises questions about where the line will be drawn.

Manager Will Notte organizes books in the local interest section at Phoenix Book in Rutland on Thursday afternoon. Photo by Jon Olender

Community sustained indie bookstores through tough times

Things may be looking up for Vermont independent bookstore owners. A popular perception in recent years was that indie bookstores were being forgotten due to digital advances and big-box competition. In recent years however, the allure of the cheaper, more convenient option from Amazon, the ease of e-readers, and chain stores such as Barnes & Noble may be losing customers to community culture. Indie bookstores are gaining customers from the human connection they provide. “That sense of community, that spirit — there’s a shared culture and enjoyment within independent bookshops.

Magic Mountain’s Black Chair will receive upgrades that enable it to operate as a triple as part of a $1 million 2017 improvements program.
Provided photo

Ski areas keep pushing for bigger, better

Since 1980, Vermont has seen well more than $500 million invested in mountain projects that have improved and expanded ski areas with higher capacity lifts, new trails, base lodges, high-tech groomers and energy-efficient snowmaking. The result is 23 ski areas that now sport more than 1,200 trails on 7,300 acres of terrain, with 147 lifts. Parker Riehle, president of the Vermont Ski Areas Association, said, “The emphasis on consistently upgrading snowmaking systems has increased the quality and quantity of snowmaking, so about 5,000 acres of terrain statewide can now be covered by over 600 miles of snowmaking pipe and guns. This has improved early- season conditions, significantly reduced recovery time after ‘weather events,’ and also saved $25.5 million in energy and fuel costs in the last decade.”
The investments made by the ski areas that have continued to operate — down from 78 areas prior to 1980 — have “increased their capacity to serve skiers and, in doing so, have sustained Vermont’s standing as the top ski state in the East and perennially among the top three in the country alongside Colorado and California,” he said. Vermont resorts are expected to invest more than $40 million in new equipment and accommodations this year.

A snowmobiler enjoys excellent conditions on a VAST trail in East Montpelier. Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff File Photo

VAST wants state to be THE snowmobile destination

Vermont’s landscape offers endless opportunity for outdoor recreation, and some of the best snowmobiling in the world. Since 1967, The Vermont Association of Snow Travelers has groomed about 5,000 miles of terrain each year for snowmobiling enthusiasts. “The economic significance that the sport of snowmobiling has on the state of Vermont is outstanding, at approximately $500 million annually — which is second only to skiing in the state in the line of tourism,” said David Rouleau, president of the Barre Town Thunder Chickens club. According to the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association, there are more than 1.2 million registered snowmobiles in the United States, and snowmobilers in both the U.S. and Canada put $28 billion into local economies each year. This includes expenditures for equipment, clothing, meals and snowmobiling vacations.

Essential conversations about family wealth

How confident are you about your family’s finances? How often do you discuss money with your loved ones? According to the Family Wealth Checkup study by Ameriprise Financial, there’s a correlation between financial confidence and communication. While many families are discussing financial issues, they tend to shy away from diving deep into topics like inheritance and estate planning, leaving some family members with unrealistic expectations. Here are some tips to help you discuss money matters with your family.

State colleges pressured to cut ties with TD Bank

The Vermont State Colleges board of trustees is being asked to divest its holdings in fossil fuels and to cut ties with a Canadian bank that has a financial interest in the Dakota Access Pipeline. Fossil Free VSC is behind the effort to pressure the colleges’ trustees to shed investments in the fossil fuel industry and to sever its banking relationship with TD Bank. Brendan Lalor, one of the Fossil Free VSC organizers and a Castleton University professor, said continued investment in the fossil fuel industry is “morally unacceptable” given the environmental damage the pipeline will cause, as well as the continued violation of Native American treaty rights. Lalor said it’s his understanding that VSC not only does its regular banking with TD Bank, but also has some investments with the bank as well as with Morgan Stanley. “Both TD Bank and Morgan Stanley are significant investors in the Dakota Access Pipeline,” said Lalor, whose group includes faculty, staff, students and alumni of the state college system, which includes four colleges and one university.