Monday, December 14, 2009

Corporate Crime Report Interview with Lloyd Constantine


Lloyd Constantine on the Underside of Antitrust

23 Corporate Crime Reporter 48, December 14, 2009

He was an assistant Attorney General.  In New York State. He was head of the Antitrust Division.

And Lloyd Constantine for months had been investigating what he believed to be an illegal merger of the debit card networks of Visa and MasterCard. It was July 1989. And it was time to act.

Constantine – acting on behalf of a number of state AGs – sent to both Visa and MasterCard a letter of intent to sue.  He had gathered at his Manhattan apartment assistant AGs from 14 states to discuss the impending lawsuits against the two credit card giants.

After dinner, Constantine gets a call from a colleague – Tim Cone. Cone had been out to dinner at a Rusty Staub’s new restaurant on Fifth Avenue. Tim, his fiancĂ© Diana and his father Terry Cone, a senior partner at Cleary Gottlieb, overheard three men discussing the meeting they were going to have with Constantine the next day.

The men said that an investigator would be hired to uncover something about Constantine that he wouldn’t want revealed. And they would threaten to expose him unless he laid off MasterCard.

“From Tim’s description, I was reasonably sure that one of the three men was Bob Norton, MasterCard’s General Counsel, and that another was Stanley Robinson, a senior antitrust partner at the Kaye Scholer law firm,” Constantine relates in the opening to his new book – Priceless: The Case that Brought Down the Visa/MasterCard Bank Cartel (Kaplan, 2009).

The next day, Constantine confronted Norton and Robinson.

Norton was identified as the lawyer who had said he would have Constantine investigated and threatened.

Constantine asked the lawyers if they had dined at Rusty Staub’s the previous night.

“Yes,” Norton said.

Constantine asked if Norton were going to hire an investigator to try to uncover illegal or embarrassing activities.

“Norton unraveled,” Constantine says.

“Oh my God, Oh my God,” Norton blurted out. “I know you’re not supposed to talk in bathrooms. I know you’re not supposed to talk in elevators. I said it. But I didn’t mean it. It was a joke. You’ve got to believe me, it was a joke! No matter what we found out about you, we wouldn’t use it. If you used drugs, we wouldn’t use it. If we found out about some weird sexual behavior, we wouldn’t use it. No matter what, we wouldn’t use it. Lloyd, you’ve gotta believe me!”

Norton continued to rattle on until Robinson cut him off.

“Bob, shut up,” Robinson said to him.

“You have to believe me, Lloyd, that I didn’t think Bob was serious,” Robinson said.

Constantine asked Robinson what he had done to make sure that Bob wasn’t serious.

Robinson didn’t answer.

“Then I had a choice about what to do about this,” Constantine told Corporate Crime Reporter last week. “Do I file a complaint with the disciplinary committee? Do I bring a lawsuit? And I thought at the time – if I do that, if I get really involved in going after them for this incident, it’s going to make it difficult for me to do what I really wanted to do – and that was to go after Visa and MasterCard for antitrust violations.”

“So, I made a decision at the time – I don’t know whether it was right or wrong – but I made a decision at the time to not file the disciplinary action charge against them or bring a lawsuit.”

“We did sue Visa and MasterCard. We broke up their merger. Using that experience, I really started a whole new area of antitrust law. I considered this to be one of the two most successful cartels in the world – the other one being OPEC."

After successfully settling the case, Constantine left the New York Attorney General’s office and signed on with McDermott Will & Emery in 1991 to do plaintiff’s side antitrust work.

That McDermott stint didn’t go well.

“On the first day I got to McDermott, American Express called me and said they wanted me to represent them in a potential lawsuit against Visa,” Constantine says.

“And I said – yes. Your complaint is valid. But McDermott would not let me do that because they said they represented a number of banks who were members of Visa. And therefore it would present an issue conflict and therefore they couldn’t do it.”

Then the firm told him he couldn’t represent Visa. Or Dean Witter – the then owner of Discover.

“Within a few weeks – I can’t represent Visa, I can’t represent American Express. I can’t represent Dean Witter. And pretty much this new area of the law, which I felt I had created, I had no possible work in because my firm wouldn’t let me represent anybody,” Constantine said.

In April 1994, Constantine left McDermott and started his own antitrust boutique – Constantine and Partners – now Constantine Cannon.

“Based upon a lot of work I had done involving Visa and MasterCard – mostly when I was in the Attorney General’s office – I was approached by The Limited,” Constantine says.

“It’s a big clothing conglomerate. They own The Limited, Victoria’s Secret, Abercrombie & Fitch. They said they were being forced to take Visa and MasterCard debit cards because they voluntarily accepted Visa and MasterCard credit cards. The Limited said they were being forced to take the debit cards at the same price as the credit cards. And actually, they didn’t know they were taking them, because the identity of the cards, the physical design of the cards made it impossible to know that they were taking them at the store.”

“Whether or not they did know that, they were being forced to take them anyway. They were being forced to pay the same price for them. They objected to that for a variety of reasons, but mostly because the debit card transaction is a substitute for a cash or check transaction. There is no extension of credit. There is very little risk for the bank and for Visa and MasterCard. But the retailers were being forced to take them at the same very high price that Visa and MasterCard were charging for their credit card transactions.”

Constantine tried to get the federal antitrust authorities involved – to no avail.

He approached Robert Pitofsky – then chair of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

“I had known him for 15 years,” Constantine. “He was the guy I thought was the best qualified lawyer for his position as an antitrust enforcement official in a generation. He and I shared a lot of viewpoints about activism and antitrust law.”

“I met with him. And I met with the FTC’s Bill Baer. They were very polite and very dismissive. On the one hand, they said – you don’t need us. You are representing two huge companies, including Wal-Mart. I said – this affects every merchant in the United States and every consumer in the Untied States. It is quintessentially the kind of case that the federal government ought to handle.”

“They listened politely, but they were dismissive.”

“They also said – we don’t think you have a case. We don’t think what you say Visa and MasterCard are doing constitutes an antitrust violation. They didn’t think it constitutes an illegal tying arrangement. They didn’t think they had tied debit to credit.”

“And I said – yes they have.”

“Their answer to me disclosed a basic legal flaw in their analysis. Not only was this an illegal tying arrangement, but it was an incredibly predatory tie. The kind of tie that the Justice Department utilized later on in their big case against Microsoft. It was the exact same type of tie.”

“Indeed, the economist that we utilized to break up this tie between debit and credit between Visa and MasterCard – Franklin Fischer – two years later agreed to be the economist for the Justice Department in its case against Microsoft.”

“He utilized the exact same analytical framework, which he first developed with us for our case.”

“In any event, Pitofsky was polite but dismissive. And he said – sorry, we’re not going to join in.”

“Seven years later, after we won the case, Pitofsky went out of his way to call me, compliment me, and remember what he had done. And he was very gracious about it. It showed me that he was a good guy and he hadn’t forgotten.”

The case went on for seven years of active litigation.

“It involved 400 depositions, 350 motions, hundreds of thousands of pages of trial exhibits,” Constantine says. “On the day the trial began, there were 713 witnesses ready to testify at trial. And on that morning that the trial began – April 28, 2003 – MasterCard capitulated. Within 50 hours, Visa also capitulated. They agreed to pay my clients a $3.4 billion cash payment. And they agreed to stop doing what they had been doing – forcing merchants to accept their debit card at the same price.”

Then there was the question of his fee.

Twelve years of work – five preparing the lawsuit, and seven litigating.

“We went to the judge – John Gleeson – and said – we don’t want to ask for any specific amount of money,” Constantine said. “We want to set forth for you the facts, the pre-existing legal precedent and how courts have awarded fees in these cases.”

“And the court said – no, I won’t do that. You have to ask for a specific amount.”

“So, we did the research. There had been 13 previous cases in which a mega-antitrust settlement – over $100 million – had been arrived at.”

“The previous highest settlement had been a bit above $1 billion. That was In Re Nasdaq Antitrust Litigation.”

“So, there was really no precedent. We were three times higher than the previous high. We were higher than the previous eight highest put together.”

“The research said that the average fee awarded in the mega-settlements was 24.6 percent.”

“Then there were these other factors – the difficulty of the case, the length of the case, the public benefit. In every category, our case had been superior.”

“We recovered more money, we worked harder and longer, the risk was higher, the case was more difficult.”

“We got expert opinions from John Coffee, Arthur Miller, Harry First – they all said that a comparison to any other case was ludicrous.”

“Given the fact that the average fee in these other cases was 24.6 percent, we asked for 18 percent – $600 million – taking into consideration just how much money was involved.”

“And still, the court said – the request was ludicrous, insulting. He insulted us and awarded us a fee of $225 million. Which as far as I was concerned was fine. We initially asked him – just give us whatever the hell you want.”

“But he had refused to do that. He made us ask him for a specific amount. So, we asked what we considered to be well within the precedent. And actually somewhat lower than the precedent should have suggested. And he used it as a vehicle to insult us. I wrote about that. And I criticized the judge for doing it. It was a classic case of the judge grandstanding.”

[For a complete transcript of the Interview with Lloyd Constantine, see 23 Corporate Crime Reporter 48(8), print edition only.]

CO-OP Financial Services Partners with NCR to Enhance ATM Network Management

Outsourced Approach Simplifies Billing and Provides Ongoing Update of ATM Functionality. Product Suite Will Also Increase Operational Efficiencies for Credit Union Clients

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--CO-OP Financial Services, the industry leader in access and convenience products for credit unions, is partnering with NCR Corporation to offer a comprehensive suite of managed ATM services to enhance the profitability of ATM management for credit unions.

CO-OP ATM Managed Services, available in early 2010, includes hardware, software, service upgrades and ATM processing options. This approach to ATM deployment and management will be attractive to credit unions seeking to outsource these functions, as capital expenses grow with the size of the ATM fleet. Participating credit unions clients will benefit from:
  • A simplified, fully-bundled billing process that includes the option of leasing ATM hardware if desired.

  • Ongoing upgrades to maintain compliance and state-of-the-art functionality.

  • Positive impact on resource allocation for ATM monitoring and management.

  • A robust suite of ATM processing options to enrich the member experience.

  • A single contact point for all issues related to managing an ATM fleet, instead of managing multiple vendors.

“The partnership between NCR and CO-OP Financial Services is focused on helping credit unions increase operational efficiencies and reduce the cost of support services associated with maintaining an ATM network,” said Stan Hollen, President/CEO, CO-OP Financial Services. “CO-OP ATM Managed Services is a perfect fit for our credit union members who are looking for cost effective ways to manage or grow their ATM fleets.”

The CO-OP ATM Managed Services suite includes flexible ATM terminal driving, implementation support, cash management, terminal monitoring, IP data communication as well as the options to add features like check imaging, content distribution and other state-of-the-art ATM functionality. NCR will continue to handle ATM sales, deployment and servicing as part of the integrated package. Credit union clients will receive one consolidated CO-OP invoice for all suite services.

For more information on CO-OP ATM Managed Services, please contact CO-OP’s Business Development Department at 800-782-9042, ext. 7140, via e-mail at:

About CO-OP Financial Services

Based in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. CO-OP Financial Services is the industry leader in access and convenience products for credit unions. Nearing 30 years of credit union service, CO-OP connects credit union members to offerings like their nationwide ATM network, debit processing services, ATM processing and other account-driven access channels such as shared branching, check imaging services and mobile payments. A total of 3,000 credit union members, 26 million cardholders, 28,000 surcharge-free ATMs, 3,700 shared branch locations, plus 160 million-plus monthly transactions, make CO-OP the nation’s largest credit union service organization, offering the tools, knowledge and leadership to help credit unions prosper. To learn more, visit

Malware Webinar: What You Don't Know CAN Hurt You...(Tomorrow)

HERNDON, Va.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Trusted Computer Solutions, Inc. (TCS), a leading developer of cross domain and cyber security solutions, today announced it will host a complimentary webcast titled “What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt You” taking place on December 15, 2009 at 11 a.m. EST.

This educational webcast will look at CounterStorm™, a solution that reinforces existing network security methods by stopping zero day and targeted attacks, and how anomaly detection techniques can be used in conjunction with traditional detection solutions to locate malicious behavior quickly and without known signatures.

At the Black Hat USA conference in July, Trusted Computer Solutions announced the general availability of CounterStorm. The solution employs an integrated suite of sophisticated detection engines that are uniquely correlated to provide unparalleled accuracy and speed in identifying and automatically stopping the new generation of increasingly destructive attacks.

The webcast will include discussion around the following topics:
  • Current network defenses against known malware

  • Advanced threats

  • Mitigating advanced threats with anomaly detection

  • The CounterStorm approach



Brian Lindauer, Senior Software Engineer – CounterStorm, Trusted Computer Solutions

What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt You

Tuesday, December 15; 11 a.m. – Noon EST

Webcast; Registration for the event can be accessed at TCS Webinar Registration

About Trusted Computer Solutions, Inc.

Founded in 1994, Trusted Computer Solutions (TCS) is an industry leader in providing cross domain and cyber security solutions for both the private and public sectors. The Company’s portfolio of security products include the SecureOffice® Suite, a group of cross domain solutions that allow the secure transfer and sharing of information; Security Blanket™, an industry award-winning operating system lock down and security management tool; and CounterStorm™, a behavioral, statistical and content-based anomaly detection system that rapidly identifies targeted and zero day attacks. All TCS solutions are backed by the company’s Professional Services group, which consists of nationally recognized experts in security policy, architecture, planning, and implementation. TCS is headquartered in Herndon, Va., with offices in Champaign, Ill. and San Antonio, TX. For more information, visit

Trusteer Named 2009 Innovator of the Year by SC Magazine

http://www.trusteer.comTrusteer Named 2009 Innovator of the Year by SC Magazine for Addressing Internet’s Leading Form of Criminal Activity

Rapport Web Browser Security Service is First Recipient of Innovator Award in the New E-commerce ID Theft/Fraud Prevention Category

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Trusteer, the customer protection company for online businesses, today announced that it was named the first recipient of the SC Magazine Innovator of the Year Award in the newly created E-commerce identity theft/fraud prevention category. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), identity theft and identity fraud are the fastest growing crimes in the United States. The SC Magazine Innovator Award recognizes Trusteer for developing a unique web browser security solution to address these crimes and setting up a distribution model that has produced rapid adoption in a tough market.

The complete Trusteer profile is published in the December issue of SC Magazine and is online at

According to SC Labs, the testing arm of SC Magazine, one of the leading innovations of the Rapport web browser security service is that its technical proposition is simple: identify relevant data, such as a bank transaction, and don't allow anything to touch the data or the browser during the transaction, validate the banking site before allowing a connection from the user's browser to avoid phishing attacks, and encrypt the data and protect the encryption from compromise.

“If you do all of these things (that Trusteer does), you don’t need to worry about identifying and responding to specific pieces of malware, and zero-day exploits become far less of a concern,” said Peter Stephenson, Technology Editor of SC Magazine. “Trusteer has taken an innovative approach to our number one criminal activity and made its solution widely available through strategic partnerships with banks. The banks provide one end of the pipe and the users provide the other with help from their bank. For the creative way Trusteer addresses both the technology and the go-to-market strategy, we named Trusteer our first innovator in this new category.”

“Being named Innovator of the Year by SC Magazine and having a new category created for our product is an honor and serves as powerful, independent market validation for our approach to securing browser communication and transactions,” said Mickey Boodaei, CEO of Trusteer. “It was gratifying that SC magazine recognized Trusteer for both technical and business innovation. Getting Rapport installed on over three million machines in less than one a year required a creative approach to distribution and almost transparent installation for end-users. It has paid off, Rapport is currently being offered as a free download by more than 50 banks and financial institutions in North America and Europe.”

About Rapport

Rapport from Trusteer is a lightweight browser plug-in plus security service that prevents criminals from tampering with a user’s browser and protects against man-in-the-browser, man-in-the-middle, and phishing attacks. When users browse to sensitive websites such as internet banking, Webmail, or online payment pages, the Rapport plug-in immediately locks down the browser and prevents any unauthorized access to web pages and confidential information that flow through the browser. Trusteer also offers in-the-cloud reporting services. When unauthorized access attempts are detected by Rapport, these are analyzed by fraud experts who provide actionable intelligence to financial institutions.

About Trusteer

Trusteer enables online businesses to secure communications with their customers over the Internet and protect personally identifiable information (PII) from a user's keyboard into the company's Web site. Trusteer's flagship product personally identifiable information, Rapport, allows online banks, brokerages, healthcare providers, and retailers to protect their customers from identity theft and financial fraud. Unlike conventional approaches to Web security, Rapport protects users' (PII) even if their computer is infected with malware including Trojans and keyloggers, or is victimized by pharming or phishing attacks. Trusteer is a privately held corporation led by former executives from Cyota/RSA Security, Imperva, and NetScreen/Juniper. For more information visit

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Finovate Announces 2010 Event Series Showcasing the Future of Financial Technology

SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Finovate event series is back for 2010, showcasing cutting-edge companies demoing the latest and greatest technological innovations in finance and banking. FinovateSpring will take place in San Francisco on May 11, and FinovateFall will take place in New York City on October 5.

Both events will feature Finovate’s signature fast-paced, demo-only style. The on-stage demos will be followed by several hours of high-quality networking time, giving attendees a chance to interact with presenting executives in a one-on-one setting. Hundreds of financial executives, industry leaders, and press are expected to attend.

The companies featured at the 2010 Finovate series will consist of a mix of the best new startups and leading established companies. A list of presenting companies will be released closer to the event date. Last year’s Finovate events saw a 20% growth in attendance over the previous year, and we expect that growth to continue in 2010.

Press passes are available by emailing More information and ticket registration for the Finovate Series is available at

About Finovate Events

Finovate events are the first demonstration-based conferences for the financial and banking technology industries. With annual conferences each spring in San Francisco and each fall in New York, the Finovate Series offers a chance for leading industry professionals to explore the future of finance in a fast-paced and unique environment. For more information on our current events, past attendees, and to see video from prior Finovate events, please visit

About Online Financial Innovations

Founded in 1995 by former banker Jim Bruene, Online Financial Innovations is a Seattle-based research company. OFI is best known for publishing the Online Banking Report, a regular newsletter featuring in-depth analysis, relevant data, and informed recommendations to financial services executives in 50 countries. For more information and free sample reports, visit, email or call (206) 517-5021. You may also find OFI’s blog covering the latest in online finance & banking at

BankCard USA Launches 5 Point Service Guarantee Program

http://www.bankcardusa.comCompany Says it Continues to Lead Industry in Merchant Services Best Practices

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--‘Keeping it all under one roof’ is the mantra of BankCard USA, a merchant services company, servicing merchant needs from start up to expansion. In an era where passing the buck and outsourcing business is all too common, BankCard USA does business differently. Operating in an industry that has become predatory and has left a bad taste in more than one business owner’s mouth, BankCard USA is pushing back to lead the way in best practices.

Most recently, the company announced its newly operational merchant account review hotline where companies can call and have their existing merchant services contract evaluated and receive advice on how to get out of unfair contracts. BankCard USA has now launched another step in restoring VIP customer service to the merchant services industry with their 5 Point Service Guarantee Program.

Currently, most merchant service providers are resellers that make a sale and then pass the customer to a processor. These resellers do not have the ability to handle customer account information and directly service them. BankCard USA is different. By managing the account, all under one roof, the merchant receives the benefit. The newly launched 5 Point Service Guarantee Program states:

  1. New customers are never sent refurbished equipment or outdated POS software—BankCard USA ensures that all hardware and software is the newest and most updated available, reducing potential malfunctions and resulting in faster transactions for the merchant.

  2. Your Business Deadline comes first - Whether merchants need new POS equipment for a grand opening, convention, or a merchant needs to make a quick switchover, BankCard USA will take care of you. Equipment can be delivered within 24-hrs.

  3. No Contracts! BankCard USA doesn’t lock customers into contracts. They take a different approach, relying on good service to maintain customer loyalty.

  4. Customer requests must and will be handled on the first call. BankCard USA knows that merchants are far too busy to worry about following up with their merchant servicer. Time is valuable and we don’t waste it.

  5. Same-Day Problem Resolution- BankCard USA’s goal is to make sure all problems no matter how big are solved within 24 hours.

BankCard USA founder Shawn Skelton comments, “Customer service is so important to us because by definition we are a service business. Part of what a customer pays for is the value of being serviced professionally and timely. We treat every merchant like a VIP and we take pride in the fact that from A to Z we can handle everything that a merchant will need in house and within 24 hours.”

In response to the 5 Point Service Guarantee, customers are already raving about the service they are receiving from BankCard USA including:

“I just wanted to thank you for going the extra mile to get our account set up and approved. From start to finish, you had us approved in less than 24 hours. Other companies I have dealt with have taken much longer. Being a business owner, I can also appreciate the fact that you were easy to get in touch with and responded to emails very quickly. Once again, thank you for your great service.” Scott Brown, Quality Floors Direct.

“I would like to inform you of my satisfaction with the company’s customer service. The quality of service was to meet my needs and this put you, BankCard USA, above your competitors. ..Great customer service will always make the customer come back time and time again.” Bonnie Martin, Bon Mar Productions.

“Just a note to thank you and the extremely helpful staff at BankCard USA. The entire transaction went seamlessly, and now we are up and running and ready to accept payments of all types. I will definitely be recommending your service to all my business associates.” Cosmo Miller, Cold Fresh Inc.

Find out more about the 5 Point Service Guarantee at Additionally, merchants can contact the merchant account review hotline by calling 866-259-9777 or visiting the BankCard USA’s web site at

About BankCard USA:

Founded in 1993 by Shawn Skelton and Alan Griefer, BankCard USA is a registered merchant service provider. BankCard USA specializes in credit card processing for new or existing businesses. They offer payment solutions for all types of businesses, including internet, retail store-front, mail-order, phone-order, trade shows, professionals, service industry and home-based businesses. For more information visit us at

American Express' New Holiday Survey - 66% Yet to Finish Shopping

New Holiday Shopping Survey Reveals Consumers Plan to Shop Later and Party into the New Year YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--As the clock winds down on the final holiday shopping dash, a new survey from American Express (NYSE: AXP) reveals that 66 percent of consumers have yet to finish their holiday shopping and that holiday festivities will spur spending among partygoers in a variety of ways--from party primping expenses to purchasing hostess gifts.

The latest American Express Spending & Saving Tracker, the fourth in a monthly series, reports about consumers’ views on the economy, what they plan to spend on and what motivates them to spend or save. The research sample of 2,005 adults included the general U.S. population1, as well as two subgroups – the affluent2 and young professionals3.

Shopping Later

Less than a month away from Christmas, the majority of shoppers say they have yet to finish their holiday shopping. In fact, more than one-in-five (21%) will still be shopping for gifts the week leading into Christmas and a small but surprising four percent of consumers expect to be standing on checkout lines as late as Christmas Eve. However, according to the survey data, these consumers are not necessarily procrastinating; while some are in fact time-strapped (18%), many are practicing savvy shopping tactics, specifically:

  • Thirty-one percent are holding out for the best deals

  • Almost one in five consumers (19%) is still saving money for holiday gifts before they can purchase them

  • Eleven percent will wait to use their last paycheck

  • A staggering 10 percent of shoppers indicated that they are waiting for post-holiday sales to buy presents for those on their lists this year

  • Five percent of the general population, and 12 percent of young professionals, are holding out for an end-of-year bonus

Consumers who are expecting to spend more (32%) or the same (33%) in the next 30 days than in the previous 30 days will do so primarily on holiday gift purchases. They attribute the expected spending increase to:

  • Decreases in prices (22%)

  • Making trade-offs with other expenses (21%)

  • Having finally saved enough money to afford items (20%)

“It’s clear from this survey that there is still a lot of shopping and spending that will take place between now and end of year,” said Pamela Codispoti, American Express senior vice president and general manager, Cardmember Services. “The survey data shows that consumers will be spending on holiday gifts for loved ones and on celebrating with friends and family, but they are focused on doing that in very smart and savvy ways this year.”

Party-Driven Spending

Through New Year’s Eve, festivities will be in full swing. Seven in ten (69%) consumers plan to celebrate with friends or family and 90 percent intend to make purchases tied to these occasions. Specifically, among the affluents and young professionals group, an average of $750 and $470, respectively, will be spent on purchases related to holiday festivities such as food and spirits.

But, party prepping will also drive spending. More than one-fourth (27%) of the general population and 54 percent of young professionals intend to spend on primping themselves for these holiday gatherings.

  • Almost half (44%) of young professionals plan to buy a new outfit to wear to a holiday party.

  • Affluents and young professionals especially intend to put their best foot forward, with 24 percent and 31 percent, respectively, intending to get their nails or hair done.

With almost half (45%) of consumers planning to attend holiday parties, a token of appreciation for holiday hosts will be in order. Sixty-eight percent of partygoers expect to buy a hostess gift and spend on average $35; however, a sizeable 26 percent of partygoers plan to show up empty-handed.

Showing up without a hostess gift is fine with 21 percent of the general population, but young professionals want to receive a gift with only seven percent saying they don’t want anything.

The most popular gifts consumers usually receive from guests is food (43%) and beverages (38%) to serve at the party, which happen to be the top two choices for what people really want when hosting. Gifts for the home or kitchen also seem to be safe with 17 percent of consumers wanting them. However, once guests deviate to other items, they sometimes lean towards gifts that their hosts may not appreciate as much.

  • Don’t bring the sweets: More than one-fourth (26%) of gifts received by hosts fall into the category of chocolates, cookies and candies – but only eight percent of those opening their doors say that this is what they would most like to receive.

  • Let the host do their own decorating: Holiday gifts or decorations, such as ornaments, account for 14 percent of what hosts receive from their guests, yet a mere four percent name this as a gift they would most like to receive.

The American Express Spending & Saving Tracker research was completed online among a random sample of consumers aged 18+. The research sample of 2,005 adults surveyed the general U.S. population, as well as two sub-groups – the affluent and young professionals. Interviewing was conducted by Echo Research between November 25 and December 1, 2009. Overall, the results have a margin of error of +/- 2.2 (or +/- 4.0 among affluent and +/- 4.3 among young professionals) percentage points at the 95% level of confidence. For access to previous American Express Spending & Saving Tracker results, please visit

About American Express

American Express Company ( is a leading global payments, network and travel company founded in 1850.

1 The research was conducted online November 25 – December 1, 2009 among a random sample of 2,005 adults aged 18 and older.

2 Affluent - defined as having a minimum annual household income of $100,000.

3 Young Professional - defined as less than 30 years of age, having a college degree, and a minimum annual household income of $50,000.

FBI - Online Bank Account Theft Rises DRAMATICALLY

Here's an interesting article published at American Banking News talking about the ongoing, (and on-growing) threat of online banking.  A threat that can easily be thwarted by sending out a PCI 2.x Certified PIN Entry Device to every online banking customer. 

Again..."It's the Stupid Typing.  If someone is going to be swiping your card details, it should be you doing the swiping.

Here's a snippet from the article:

Most of us know about the threat faced by criminals working to steal our credit card numbers, but a growing threat to our capital has grown from these cyberhackers who have figured out a number of ways to access corporate bank accounts and draw money out of them.

2009 has been an especially bad year, as the FBI has stated bank account theft has risen dramatically for the year.

They state that the banking system is actually behind the curve when it comes to defending their customers’ accounts, especially in relationship to firewalls and antivirus programs.

While big banks aren’t immune to the problem, it is by far a larger problem of small and mid-sized banks, which in many cases don’t have the security measures in place its larger competitors do. Unfortunately, this means small and mid-size businesses, who can afford it the least, suffer the most, as they tend to do business with banks that are of that size as well.

There are a number of ways the cybercriminals get access to accounts, but one of the more popular is through what is called “spear phishing.”

What is usually looked for from the hackers is for the recipient of the communication, whether it’s via instant messaging, social networking or e-mail, to click on a link which will then secretly install software which is able to identify the logging keystrokes of the computer uses, which of course ends up revealing the usernames and/or passwords used. From there the hacker has access to accounts and can siphon money from them.

Continue Reading at American Banking News

Amazon Infected with Zeus?

Zeus crimeware using Amazon's EC2 as command and control server
From ZDNet

Security researchers have intercepted a new variant of the Zeus crimeware, which is using Amazon’s EC2 services for command and control purposes of the botnet. The cybercriminals appear to be using Amazon’s RDS managed database hosting service as a backend alternative in case they lose access to the original domain, which would result in the complete loss of access to the compromised financial data obtained from the infected hosts.

Continue Reading at ZDNet

One Time Passwords Not Secure - Gartner

One-Time Passwords, even biometrics...that rely on browser communications are useless against the bad guys...two factor authentication must be done "outside the browser." 

Attacks on strong authentication factors need new defenses

According to Gartner...Fraudsters have started to raid user accounts by beating strong two-factor authentication methods. Gartner analysts said that Trojan-based, man-in-the-browser attacks are circumventing strong two-factor authentication, enabled through one-time password (OTP) tokens.

Other strong authentication factors, such as those using chip cards and biometric technology that rely on browser communications, can be similarly defeated.

Two-factor authentication based on telephony is also being circumvented, using call forwarding so that the fraudster, rather than the legitimate user, is called by the service provider performing the authentication.

"These attacks have been successfully and repeatedly executed against many banks and their customers across the globe in 2009," said Avivah Litan, VP and analyst at Gartner. "However, while bank accounts are the main immediate target, these attack methods will migrate to other sectors and applications that contain sensitive valuable information and data."

Examples of attacks that have worked to date include:

1. Malware overwrites transactions sent by a user to the online banking website. This happens behind the scenes, so that the user does not see the revised transaction values. Many online banks will then communicate back to the user's browser the transaction details that need to be confirmed by the user with an OTP entry, but the malware will change the values seen by the user back to what the user originally entered. This way, neither the user nor the bank realizes that the data sent to the bank has been altered.

2. Authentication that depends on out-of-band authentication using voice telephony is circumvented by a simple technique whereby the fraudster asks the phone carrier to forward the legitimate user's phone calls to the fraudster's phone.

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Online Banking Authentication a Weak Link in Fraud Prevention

Guardian Analytics Webinar: Online Banking Authentication a Weak Link in Fraud Prevention

CEO Terry Austin to discuss how criminals are bypassing existing online banking security methods, and new approaches to combating fraud

Los Altos, CA (PRWEB) December 14, 2009 -- Guardian Analytics, a provider of online fraud prevention software for the financial services industry, will host a free educational webinar tomorrow, Dec. 15, from 10-11 a.m. PST entitled "Authentication: The Weak Link in the Battle Against Fraud."

In recent months, the FBI, FDIC, FS-ISAC, Gartner and other organizations all have all issued alerts on the rise in cybercriminal attacks targeting online bank accounts, indicating that many financial institutions' existing security systems have not been effective. In the webinar, Guardian Analytics will provide an overview of the methods fraudsters are using today to repeatedly bypass multiple forms of strong authentication and compromise online banking accounts. The webinar will also cover the latest statistics on the growth of online banking fraud, and how building a layered security approach that includes both front-end and back-end security will strengthen defenses and protect against fraud.

Authentication is important, but just isn’t enough anymore to counter the increasingly stealthy methods cybercriminals are using to perpetrate Internet banking fraud.

"Authentication is important, but just isn't enough anymore to counter the increasingly stealthy methods cybercriminals are using to perpetrate Internet banking fraud," said Terry Austin, CEO of Guardian Analytics.

"Millions of dollars are lost each year due to a false sense of security, calling for more sophisticated solutions that can keep pace with cybercriminal activity as it matures."

To register for tomorrow's webinar, visit

About Guardian Analytics

Headquartered in Los Altos, Calif., Guardian Analytics is focused on the prevention of online account fraud. The company's real-time risk management approach to fraud detection, forensics and risk monitoring is built on strong analytics and predictive models of individual behavior. Leading financial services institutions rely on Guardian Analytics to protect individual account assets and the integrity of their online channels. Founded in 2005, Guardian Analytics is privately held with venture funding from Foundation Capital. For more information, please visit

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Worlds Best Internet Banks

From Seeking Alpha

The Global Finance magazine has published the World’s Best Internet Banks Part II in the December issue. These winners were selected based on factors such as their ability in offering traditional products online, earning the trust of online customers, achieving customer cost savings through the use of the online channel, customer satisfaction, etc

Editor's Note:  Any bank not listed below can put themselves in position win next years Best Internet Bank Award for Security by providing their online banking customers with our PCI 2.x PIN Entry Device (magstripe version for the USA or Smart Card EMV Version anywhere else..

The Best Internet Banks in the global and regional categories are:

Global Winner
- Citibank

Best Consumer Internet Bank - HBC

Regional Winners
- Best Consumer Internet Banks:

North America - Wells Fargo

Europe - GarantiBank

Asia - Citi

Latin America - Banco Santander (STD)

Central and Eastern Europe - Swedbank (SWDBY.PK)

Middle East & Africa - HSBC

Source: Global Finance

According to the report:

Citi was named the overall global winner and the winner among corporate/institutional banks globally and took home seven regional and sub-category honors. The bank’s CitiDirect service garnered particular praise for its rich features, which include customizable reporting applications, a four-tiered security process, cash-flow planning and forecasting capabilities and an end-to-end trade solution on one secure platform that is available 24 hours a day from anywhere in the world. It also facilitates aggregation and visibility at the local, regional and global levels.

People Will Start to Think Twice About Transacting on the Web

Time is running out. We need to stop playing around with band-aids and fix what's wrong with financial transactions conducted over the web.  

-- The past 12 months have been a banner year for cyber crime. And that could be bad news for the future of e-commerce.

"At current trends, in three or four years people will start to think twice about transacting on the Web, individuals AND businesses," said Michael Fraser, director of the communications law centre at the University of Technology Sydney.

"The way it's trending now, the Web could be so full of rubbish that people won't trust it," Fraser said. "That could destroy the potential of the whole knowledge economy, which so many developed economies are counting on for the competitive advantage."

Looking ahead to 2010, antivirus maker Trend Micro predicts that there will be more attacks on Mac operating systems. Previously ignored by malware makers because of its relatively low market share, the booming popularity of iPhones is drawing the attention of cybercriminals.

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Reblog this post [with Zemanta] Announces New Gift Card Options Announces New Gift Card Options and Offers Customers Great Deals on Millions of Items with Free Shipping Through Thursday

New Gift Cards and Free Shipping Help Customers Save Time and Money This Holiday

SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--With less than two weeks until Christmas, (NASDAQ:AMZN) is now offering over fifty new greeting-card styles that can be personalized and affixed with an Gift Card. The new format allows customers to send a greeting card with a customizable message for free with any gift card purchase. Customers can set their own gift card value, choosing any denomination between $5 and $5,000. The greeting card and gift card ship for free and will arrive in time for the Christmas holiday if ordered by Dec. 21 from E-mail and printable gift cards can be sent immediately, at any time, even on December 25.

Customers can also take advantage of the millions of items and great deals available with FREE Super Saver Shipping until this Thursday, Dec. 17. FREE Super Saver Shipping is available on all orders of eligible items totaling over $25.

Additional holiday delivery deadlines are as follows:

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*Amazon Prime is an annual membership program that gives customers fast shipping on millions of items for only $79 a year. Members receive free two-day shipping on millions of items sold by and upgrades to one-day shipping are only $3.99 per item. To become a member of Amazon Prime, or to learn more about the membership program, customers can visit

About, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN), a Fortune 500 company based in Seattle, opened on the World Wide Web in July 1995 and today offers Earth's Biggest Selection., Inc. seeks to be Earth's most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices. and other sellers offer millions of unique new, refurbished and used items in categories such as Books; Movies, Music & Games; Digital Downloads; Electronics & Computers; Home & Garden; Toys, Kids & Baby; Grocery; Apparel; Shoes & Jewelry; Health & Beauty; Sports & Outdoors; and Tools, Auto & Industrial.

Amazon Web Services provides Amazon’s developer customers with access to in-the-cloud infrastructure services based on Amazon's own back-end technology platform, which developers can use to enable virtually any type of business. Examples of the services offered by Amazon Web Services are Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), Amazon SimpleDB, Amazon Simple Queue Service (Amazon SQS), Amazon Flexible Payments Service (Amazon FPS), Amazon Mechanical Turk and Amazon CloudFront.

Amazon and its affiliates operate websites, including,,,,,, and

As used herein, “,” “we,” “our” and similar terms include, Inc., and its subsidiaries, unless the context indicates otherwise.

UniRush Renews TSYS Agreement

 TSYSALPHARETTA, Ga.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--UniRush and TSYS announced today an agreement to renew their longstanding relationship to continue offering prepaid payment and processing services. The RushCard™, a prepaid Visa® debit card, provides cardholders instant access to basic financial services and empowers them to achieve their financial goals.

“UniRush is very pleased to renew our long standing relationship with TSYS. We look forward to working and innovating together to better meet the needs of our members,” said Ram Palaniappan, General Manager, UniRush, LLC.

TSYS provides comprehensive core processing services for UniRush’s more than 2 million RushCard holders. TSYS is an industry leader in developing and processing customized solutions for the prepaid market, supporting key program elements such as instant issue, account roll-over, eligibility verification, web solutions and real-time loading integration.

“Our relationship with UniRush is one we are extremely proud of, and we’re excited to have the opportunity to continue partnering with a true innovator in the prepaid business,” said Rod Boyer, president of TSYS Loyalty and Prepaid. “This agreement is a strong indicator of the confidence our clients have in the services and technology TSYS provides.”

About UniRush Financial Services

Headquartered in Cincinnati, UniRush LLC was created to offer the over 48 million Americans without access to a traditional banking relationship an array of basic financial services via the Prepaid Visa RushCard. Benefits of the program include direct deposit, the ability to withdraw funds at over 850,000 ATMs globally, the ability to use the card wherever Visa debit cards are accepted and free 24/7 customer service. For more information about UniRush and RushCard visit

About TSYS

TSYS (NYSE: TSS) is one of the world’s largest companies for outsourced payment services, offering a broad range of issuer- and acquirer-processing technologies that support consumer-finance, credit, debit, healthcare, loyalty and prepaid services for financial institutions and retail companies in the Americas, EMEA and Asia-Pacific regions. For more information contact or log on to TSYS routinely posts all important information on its Web site.

Fiserv Awards One Million UChoose Reward Points to Ten Cardholders

Fiserv, Inc. announced that it has awarded ten winners of the national YOU WIN Sweepstakes a total of one million UChoose Rewards points, representing an approximate retail value of $10,000. UChoose Rewards from Fiserv is a turn-key debit and credit card rewards and loyalty program for financial institution clients.

Just in Time for the Holidays, Fiserv Awards One Million UChoose Rewards Points Worth $10,000 to Ten Lucky Cardholders in YOU WIN Sweepstakes

Brookfield, Wis., December 14, 2009 - Fiserv, Inc. (NASDAQ: FISV), the leading global provider of financial services technology solutions, today announced that it has awarded ten winners of the national YOU WIN Sweepstakes a total of one million UChoose Rewards points, representing an approximate retail value of $10,000. UChoose Rewards from Fiserv is a turn-key debit and credit card rewards and loyalty program for financial institution clients.

Cardholders registered for the sweepstakes by using their debit or credit cards for qualifying purchases between October 1 and October 31, 2009. The winners were notified this month. To redeem the points, winners can choose from among millions of products, travel, adventure experiences, event tickets, gift cards and in some cases, cash back, all just in time for the busy holiday shopping season.

"We are thrilled that one of our valued cardholders won the Grand Prize of 500,000 points in the sweepstakes," said James Duffett, vice president of Business Development/IT, Sperry Associates Federal Credit Union, located in Garden City, Long Island, New York with $365 million in assets. "Membership in the UChoose Rewards program is a very popular benefit among our cardholders because of the wide variety of redemption choices offered, the fact that they start earning points immediately upon using their card and they can start redeeming for great items with just a few points."

Part of the Fiserv core competency in Customer and Channel Management, UChoose Rewards allows banks and credit unions to compete with the well- established reward programs of the nation's largest banks. UChoose Rewards from Fiserv lets financial institutions select a merchant-funded or issuer-funded program -or a blend of the two - to meet their specific profitability objectives. UChoose Rewards allows financial institutions to leverage hundreds of name brand merchants along with local businesses to build a customized program of offerings. To maximize the rewards experience, financial institutions can allow customers to combine points earned for all their bank or credit union accounts.

"The sweepstakes was an effective way of generating additional excitement among bank customers and credit union members for using their credit and debit cards," said Andy Brown, vice president of Product Development for EFT Solutions from Fiserv. "Studies show that consumers who become familiar with the benefits of their credit and debit cards by using them - and then being rewarded for their usage through a program such as UChoose Rewards from Fiserv - are much more likely to remain loyal to their bank or credit union. In addition, cardholders seem to prefer using plastic over cash or checks, and this incremental card usage results in increased revenue for the financial institution through fees paid to them by merchants who accept the institution's cards."

UChoose Rewards from Fiserv was recognized this year by Cards International for being the "Best Innovation in a Loyalty Program." It has also been named one of the "Top 10 Technologies of 2009" by Bank Technology News, and Chessie Federal Credit Union, an UChoose Rewards client, was selected for Best Practice recognition by Credit Union Journal for debit card use and card rewards.

About Fiserv

Fiserv, Inc. (NASDAQ: FISV) is the leading global provider of information management and electronic commerce systems for the financial services industry, driving innovation that transforms experiences for financial institutions and their customers. Ranked No. 1 on the FinTech 100 survey of top technology partners to the financial services industry, Fiserv celebrates its 25th year in 2009. For more information, visit


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