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Netflix (NFLX) to spend $500 million in South Korea in 2021

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In this photo illustration the Netflix logo is seen displayed on a smartphone.

Rafael Henrique | SOPA Images | Getty Images

Netflix said Thursday that it will spend $500 million this year on films and series produced in South Korea to broaden its growing slate of content from the country.

Korean filmmakers and stars gathered in Seoul where the U.S. streaming giant announced its investment plans and also previewed images from its upcoming slate of local-language series.

Netflix disclosed that as of the end of last year, the streaming service had 3.8 million paid subscribers in South Korea.

Over the last two years, we’ve seen the world falling in love with incredible Korean content, made in Korea and watched by the world on Netflix.

Ted Sarandos

co-CEO and chief content officer, Netflix

In the last five years — from 2015 to 2020 — Netflix invested $700 million to expand its slate of Korean content and established two purpose-built production facilities in the country. Besides acquiring rights to existing Korean content, Netflix has made more than 80 original shows and films locally, including the popular zombie thriller “Kingdom” from creator Kim Eun-hee.

“Over the last two years, we’ve seen the world falling in love with incredible Korean content, made in Korea and watched by the world on Netflix,” Ted Sarandos, co-CEO and chief content officer at Netflix, said via video at the event.

“Our commitment towards Korea is strong. We will continue to invest and collaborate with Korean storytellers across a wealth of genres and formats,” he added.

On Thursday, Netflix also announced two new original films out of South Korea.

South Korean cinema has gained international prominence in recent years.

Filmmaker Bong Joon-ho shot to global fame last year when his critically acclaimed movie “Parasite” dominated the awards season. It made history to become the first non-English language film to win the best picture Oscar at the Academy Awards.

Netflix, for its part, has turned its focus on Asia-Pacific in recent years as new subscriber growth in other parts of the world slowed on account of many people already having paid memberships.

The California-headquartered streaming giant is betting big on markets like South Korea, India and the whole Southeast Asia region to drive its future growth momentum. Netflix has created more than 200 Asian original series and films since 2016, according to Sarandos.

As of December 2020, Netflix reported more than 25 million paid memberships in the Asia-Pacific region compared to more than 200 million globally.

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Mastermind of the nation’s biggest investment fraud was 82

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Bernard Madoff leaves federal court in New York on Tuesday, March 10, 2009.

Jin Lee | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Bernard Madoff, mastermind of the biggest investment fraud in U.S. history, ripping off tens of thousands of clients of as much as $65 billion, died early Wednesday, The Associated Press reported. He was 82.

Madoff died at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina, apparently from natural causes, the AP reported, citing an unidentified person familiar with the matter. He would have turned 83 on April 29.

Madoff was serving a 150-year sentence at the prison, where he had been treated for what his attorney called terminal kidney disease.

He pleaded guilty in 2009 to a scheme that investigators said started in the early 1970s and defrauded as many as 37,000 people in 136 countries over four decades by the time Madoff was busted on Dec. 11, 2008 — after his two sons turned him in. Victims included the famous — director Steven Spielberg, actor Kevin Bacon, former New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon, Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Weisel — and ordinary investors, like Burt Ross, who lost $5 million in the scheme. 

Madoff insisted the fraud did not begin until the early 1990s, when, he said, “the market stalled due to the onset of the recession and the Gulf War.”

In a 2013 email to CNBC from prison, Madoff claimed the break in the market that started the Great Recession led to his scam.

“I thought this would be only a short-term trade which could be made up once the market became receptive,” he wrote. “The rest is my tragic history of never being able to recover.”

In fact, investigators said, Madoff did not execute a single trade for his advisory clients for years. Rather than employing a so-called split-strike conversion strategy as he claimed, he simply deposited investors’ funds in a Chase bank account, paying off new customers with funds from earlier customers — a classic pyramid scheme — and providing his clients with falsified account statement. The investment “returns” shown on those statements — some $50 billion in all — were pure fiction.

The scandal at Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities shattered investor confidence, which was already damaged by the financial crisis. And it led to sweeping changes at the Securities and Exchange Commission, which missed the fraud for years despite repeated warnings, including from independent investigator Harry Markopolos, who set out to analyze Madoff’s improbable returns and pronounced them fraudulent as early as 2000.

A subsequent investigation by the agency’s inspector general, H. David Kotz, found that rather than following up on clear evidence of fraud, SEC enforcement staffers decided to take Madoff’s word that his operation was legitimate.

“When Madoff provided evasive or contradictory answers to important questions in testimony, they simply accepted as plausible his explanations,” Kotz wrote.

Last June, a judge denied a request for compassionate release, saying Madoff committed “one of the most egregious financial crimes of all time,” and that “many people are still suffering.” 

Bernard Lawrence Madoff was born in Queens, New York, on April 29, 1938, the son of Sylvia and Ralph Madoff, a plumber who became a stockbroker. 

For more than 50 years, Bernie Madoff was renowned on Wall Street, a big money manager who founded his own firm at age 22 and became nonexecutive chairman of the Nasdaq in 1990. He was credited with helping develop some of the systems and market structures that moved the stock market beyond the trading floor and gave rise to modern, electronic trading.

But Madoff’s life came crashing down in 2008, during the depths of the financial crisis.

Bernie Madoff walks out of Manhattan federal court in New York, U.S., on Monday, Jan. 5, 2009.

Jin Lee | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Flooded with redemption requests from his clients, Madoff could not keep the scam going any longer. On Dec. 10, 2008, he confessed to his sons, Mark and Andrew, that the investment advisory business was all a lie. Madoff had hoped to buy some time to distribute hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses to employees, then wind down the firm. But Mark and Andrew, who were senior managers in the firm’s trading operation — which operated separately from the fraudulent advisory business — would have none of it, and alerted authorities on the spot.

A day later, on Dec. 11, 2008, the FBI raided his offices in the Lipstick Building on Midtown Manhattan’s Third Avenue. 

On March 12, 2009, Madoff pleaded guilty to 11 federal crimes and admitted to operating the largest private Ponzi scheme in history. He was sentenced three months later to the maximum sentence: 150 years in prison with restitution of $170 billion.

In court, he insisted that it was all his idea — that his family knew nothing — even though his wife, Ruth, had once kept the books, his sons were senior officers, and his younger brother, Peter, was chief compliance officer.

Andrew Madoff sits between his girlfriend, Catherine Hooper, and his mother, Ruth Madoff, while appearing on NBC’s “TODAY” show in 2011.

Peter Kramer | NBC NewsWire | Getty Images

But a trustee appointed to track down funds for investors did not buy it. Irving H. Picard sued dozens of people and entities, including Madoff’s family members, alleging they either knew about the fraud or turned a blind eye, while reaping millions of dollars in benefits.

For older son Mark, the suspicion was too much. In 2010, two years to the day of his father’s arrest, he became the third suicide linked to the fraud. He was 46. Four years later, Andrew died of lymphoma at age 48.

Picard eventually reached settlements with the sons’ estates, and with Ruth Madoff, who has continued to deny any knowledge of the fraud, and is reportedly living modestly in Connecticut.

In the end, in addition to Madoff, more than a dozen individuals, including Peter Madoff, were convicted of federal crimes, but none of the others was accused of knowing about the fraud. JPMorgan Chase, Madoff’s primary bank, paid $2.6 billion to the U.S. government and Madoff victims in 2014 to settle allegations that it did not maintain adequate controls. After Chase instituted some unspecified reforms, prosecutors dropped charges against the bank.

Medical examiners remove the body of Mark Madoff from his New York apartment on Dec. 11, 2010.

Emmanuel Dunnand | AFP | Getty Images

As of mid-2020, Picard had recovered more than $14 billion for Madoff’s customers, or roughly 75 cents for every dollar in principal they invested, a figure normally unheard of in a Ponzi scheme. From prison, Madoff repeatedly tried to take credit for the recoveries, claiming he pressured his biggest investors to return some of their money.

“Those parties were well aware of the incriminating evidence I possessed about their complicit activity, and wisely came forward with settlements,” he wrote in 2013.

But Picard and federal investigators said Madoff never provided them any meaningful help. The remorse he claimed in every message was suspect as well. At his 2009 sentencing, Madoff turned to his victims. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I know that doesn’t help you.”

It didn’t.

Cheers erupted as federal Judge Denny Chin ordered the maximum sentence for “extraordinarily evil” crimes.

Ross, a former mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, who testified at the hearing, told Chin: “Commit Madoff to prison for the rest of his life. May Satan grow a fourth mouth where Madoff can spend the rest of eternity.

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Bitcoin (BTC) and ether (ETH) prices rally ahead of Coinbase listing

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The Coinbase logo shown on a smartphone.

Chris Delmas | AFP via Getty Images

LONDON — Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies surged to new heights on Wednesday, with traders awaiting Coinbase’s highly anticipated stock market debut.

The world’s most valuable digital coin rallied to an all-time high of $64,841 Wednesday morning, according to data from Coin Metrics. The price of ether, the second-biggest token by market value, briefly touched the $2,400 level for the first time ever.

As of 8:30 a.m. ET, bitcoin was trading around $64,248, up 2.2%, while ether rose about 4.5%, to $2,390. Other bitcoin alternatives also climbed, with XRP up 0.5% to reach $1.81 and cardano hitting a new price record of $1.56.

Coinbase, the largest crypto exchange in the United States, is set to go public through a blockbuster direct listing Wednesday that could value the company at as much as $100 billion. The Nasdaq gave Coinbase a reference price of $250 a share, which would value the company at about $65.3 billion on a fully diluted basis.

Coinbase is the largest cryptocurrency company to go public so far. It’s the world’s second-largest digital asset exchange by trading volume, according to CoinMarketCap, and has been credited with bringing crypto into the mainstream with its easy-to-use app. The company posted an estimated $1.8 billion of revenue in the first quarter of 2021 as the value of bitcoin and other tokens skyrocketed.

The firm’s listing has led to renewed excitement in the crypto market, with some investors labeling it as a “watershed” moment for the industry. Analysts say the Coinbase debut shows crypto has matured a great deal in the last two to three years — but it’s still in its infancy and remains clouded by price volatility and regulatory uncertainty.

Bitcoin’s comeback — it’s more than doubled in price year-to-date — has been marked by big bets from mainstream investors, with Tesla investing $1.5 billion in the token earlier this year and Wall Street giants like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley looking to offer their wealthy clients some exposure to crypto.

Bitcoin bulls see it as a kind of “digital gold” that is uncorrelated with other assets and can serve as a hedge against rising inflation. However, skeptics say the digital asset is still highly speculative and view it as one of the biggest market bubbles in history.

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Ryanair CEO on why he is no longer an environment skeptic

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A Ryanair Boeing 737-800 aircraft parked at Eindhoven airport in the Netherlands.

Nicoloas Economou | NurPhoto | Getty Images

LONDON — Climate awareness has come a long a way, according to Ryanair‘s CEO Michael O’Leary, who concedes he was an initially an environmental skeptic himself.

Speaking to CNBC on Wednesday, O’Leary said: “I was one of the original skeptics.”

When asked what made him change his mind, he replied: “We learn from our experiences. Frankly, 20, 30 years ago we all thought the environmentalists were a bunch of nutters, you know. Clearly, it’s moved front and center, it is something that our customers and the people working here at Ryanair wants us to focus on and we tend to be very responsive.”

The airline industry has come under immense pressure to reduce carbon emissions in recent years, and policymakers have faced renewed calls to enact measures designed to tackle the climate emergency in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

This is paramount from an environmental perspective, but also for the airline business itself. Trends such as “flight shaming,” a term which refers to the feeling of guilt of travelling via plane due to its environmental impact, have gained ground and could severely disrupt business models.

In France, for example, lawmakers have voted to suspend domestic flights on routes that can be taken by a direct train in less than two-and-a-half hours.

When asked about the initiative, however, O’Leary said he was concerned about this sort of step.

“I get very worried about these, you know, big-stake initiatives. Largely speaking on flights below two-and-a-half hours, the trains (already) dominate that market,” he said, citing how traffic from London to Paris and Brussels is already done by train.

Eurostar trains, for example, allow customers to go from Paris to London in two hours.

But ultimately, the domestic short-haul flight was “never a big feature of our business,” O’Leary said.

 

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