Walmart tests iPhone app checkout feature

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Thu Sep 6, 2012 – Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is testing a system that would allow shoppers to scan items using their iPhones and then pay at a self-checkout counter, a move that could trim checkout times and slash costs for retailers.

If the “Scan & Go” test by the world’s largest retailer is successful, it has the potential to change the way people shop and pay, making the process more personal and potentially faster.

Earlier this week, Walmart invited employees with Apple Inc. iPhones to participate in a test at a Walmart supercenter in Rogers, Ark., near the company’s headquarters, according to a form on the Survey Monkey website.

“All of the effort is to speed your way through the checkout so that we can reduce costs and improve the shopping experience,” said Paul Weitzel, managing partner at retail consulting firm Willard Bishop, who said he had not seen Wal-Mart’s test. “With smartphones and improved technology we’re only going to see more of this.”

The test comes months after Wal-Mart said that it would add more self-checkout lanes at its Walmart and Sam’s Club stores as it continues to look for ways to lower costs and prices for its shoppers.

Pushing more shoppers to scan their own items and make payments without the help of a cashier could save Wal-Mart millions of dollars, CFO Charles Holley said on March 7. Wal-Mart says it can save $12 million a year for every second it can cut from the average checkout time at the Walmart chain in the United States.

Two jurors drop out of Gupta insider-trading trial

NEW YORK, Tue May 29, 2012 – Two jurors have dropped out of the insider-trading trial of former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. board member Rajat Gupta, who is charged with giving corporate secrets to imprisoned hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam.

Both were excused from the 12-person jury in Manhattan federal court because of family emergencies. The place of Juror No. 12, a professor of strategic design and behavior, was taken on Thursday by one of four alternates, a retired librarian. Juror No. 4, an executive assistant at a hospital, was excused on Tuesday and replaced by another alternate, a marketing manager for a publishing firm.

Gupta, 63, a former global head of management consulting firm McKinsey & Co, is the most prominent corporate figure indicted in the U.S. government’s broad crackdown on insider trading in recent years. He is charged with tipping Rajaratnam between March 2007 and January 2009 while he was a director of Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble Co.

Gupta has pleaded not guilty and argues that the prosecution’s evidence is circumstantial.

Galleon Group hedge fund founder Rajaratnam, 53, was convicted a year ago on evidence largely based on court-approved wiretaps of his phones. He is appealing the use of wiretaps as he serves an 11-year prison term, the longest handed down for insider trading in the United States.

Gupta’s trial began last week and is expected to run about three weeks. To convict him of insider trading, the jury must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that he breached his fiduciary duties and that he did it intentionally and in anticipation of at least some modest benefit in return.

Google did not infringe Oracle patents: jury in smartphone trial

SAN FRANCISCO, Wed May 23, 2012 – Google Inc.’s Android mobile platform has not infringed Oracle’s patents, a California jury decided in a high stakes trial fought by the two Silicon Valley giants over smartphone technology.

The verdict was delivered on Wednesday in a San Francisco federal court, and confirmed by a Google spokesman. An Oracle attorney declined to comment on the decision.

Because the same jury could not unanimously agree on the copyright allegations earlier in the case, the latest verdict on patents effectively puts an indefinite hold on Oracle’s quest for damages. Oracle at one point was seeking roughly $1 billion in damages.

The jury found earlier that Oracle had proven copyright infringement for parts of Java. But the jury could not unanimously agree on whether Google could fairly use that material.

Oracle sued Google in August 2010, saying Android infringes on its intellectual property rights to the Java programming language. Google says it does not violate Oracle’s patents and that Oracle cannot copyright certain parts of Java, an “open-source” or publicly available software language.

Without a finding against Google on that fair use question, Oracle cannot recover damages on the bulk of its copyright claims.

Gupta insider-trading trial jury told of ‘top secret’ Buffett deal

NEW YORK,Wed May 23, 2012 – The deal that gave Goldman Sachs Group Inc. a $5-billion boost from renowned investor Warren Buffet at the height of the 2008 financial crisis was “as top secret as you could get,” a leading banker testified on Wednesday at the insider-trading trial of onetime Goldman board member Rajat Gupta.

Gupta is accused of tipping Galleon hedge fund founder Raj Rajaratnam about the deal in an illegal breach of his fiduciary duties.

Separately, a prosecutor told the judge on Wednesday, during a jury break, that a Goldman managing director, David Loeb, provided Rajaratnam with information about Intel Corp., Apple Inc. and Hewlett Packard.

Loeb’s name also came up Tuesday in evidence to the Manhattan federal court jury hearing the Gupta trial. A key defense argument is that Rajaratnam had sources other than Gupta to provide him confidential company information.

Loeb has not been charged. A Goldman spokesman declined to comment.

Former Goldman banker Byron Trott, a long-time Buffett confidant, told the jury that it was policy within a tightly-knit group of executives who negotiated such deals “never to talk about confidential information in public, or elevators. It was grounds for being fired.”

Oracle kicks off busy trial season against Google

SAN FRANCISCO, Fri Apr 13, 2012 – Oracle Corp is set to go to trial next week against Google Inc in a high-stakes dispute over smartphone technology, the biggest case in what is shaping up to be an intense year in court for the enterprise software giant.

Jury selection is set for Monday in San Francisco federal court. Oracle claims Google’s Android operating system tramples on its intellectual property rights to the Java programming language. Google says it doesn’t violate Oracle’s patents, and that Oracle cannot copyright certain parts of Java.

The case is the first of four big tech trials involving Oracle scheduled for the next few months – three in Northern California, and one in Nevada.

The others include one set for the end of May against Hewlett-Packard over the Itanium microprocessor, a retrial against SAP AG in June over alleged copyright infringement, and another copyright case against smaller competitor Rimini Street expected later in the year.

Fighting so many court battles back-to-back could be distracting for Oracle Chief Executive Larry Ellison and other top executives, not to mention costly, as legal fees pile up.

Yet, observers say it’s not surprising that Oracle would be so aggressive in court, pointing to Ellison’s reputation as unyielding. He once sued the city of San Jose — and won — when it tried to impose a curfew on his private jet.

And while risky, Oracle’s strategy could pay off if it succeeds in winning damages at trial, particularly in the Google case given the growing market for Android-powered devices.

“The real question is, does Oracle get a piece of Android, or not?” said Tyler Ochoa, a copyright professor at Santa Clara Law in Silicon Valley. “The money is so large we can see why they are willing to spend a lot of money fighting over it.”

An Oracle spokeswoman declined to comment about how the multiple trials impact top management.

Memory of accused swindler Stanford is impaired, witnesses say

HOUSTON ― Financier Allen Stanford is suffering from brain injury and memory loss, witnesses said on Wednesday at a hearing on whether the accused swindler can stand trial.

Stanford is accused of defrauding his investors with a $7 billion Ponzi scheme. His lawyers argue he is not competent to go to trial because a jailhouse fight has left him with severe memory loss.

“Mr. Stanford is not competent to stand trial today,” said forensic psychologist Victor Scarano, one of three doctors who testified for the defense on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, a prison psychologist testified that Stanford was competent.

The hearing goes into a third day on Thursday. Judge David Hittner, who must decide whether Stanford’s trial on fraud charges can go ahead as scheduled on Jan. 23, said he would make a quick decision. Stanford has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Stanford, 61, sat quietly at the defense table during Wednesday’s proceedings. Hittner allowed his handcuffs to be removed so he could take notes to communicate with his lawyers.

While Scarano testified that Stanford would be unable to analyze documents in a fraud trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregg Costa noted that Stanford had been able to file a lawsuit against the government during the time doctors said he was incompetent.

Stanford “fooled investors for 20 years. Why couldn’t he fool a few doctors,” Costa said.

Stanford once owned luxury homes in the Caribbean, Houston and Miami. He was arrested in June 2009 and has been indicted on charges of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering stemming from the alleged Ponzi scheme. A Ponzi scheme is a fraud in which existing investors are paid with the deposits of newer ones.