Ken Fireman

Regulators can’t keep up with offshore tax havens

Apple CEO Tim Cook took great umbrage when a U.S. senator chided him in 2013 for seeking “the holy grail of tax avoidance” by shifting profits to Irish shell subsidiaries. “We pay all the taxes we owe – every single dollar,” Cook retorted. “We don’t stash money on some Caribbean island.”

True enough. The island where the tech giant parked […]

Hong Kong’s once-vibrant economy has “gone sideways”

For all its political resonance, the British handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997 merely ratified a long-standing economic reality. Since the late 1970s, when the People’s Republic began its transformation to a market-based system, Hong Kong’s economy has been deeply intertwined with the mainland. As China’s manufacturing muscle powered the country into the front rank of the […]

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    The gig economy reshapes how people work – and what they learn (or don’t)

The gig economy reshapes how people work – and what they learn (or don’t)

The trend has a catchy name, melding the vibe of edgy jazz clubs with the tech savvy of the smartphone era: the gig economy. And it’s catching on, especially among Millennials; a Brookings study found that the number of Americans, many of them young, employed as freelancers, contract workers and in other nontraditional work jumped 60 per cent between […]

How to avoid becoming the next late-night punchline

It was a shocking scene, and it achieved instant liftoff in cyberspace. For days on end in April, the video of a bloodied passenger being dragged off a United Airlines plane by his arms seemed to play in a continuous loop on the internet, social media and cable TV.

The predictable result was a full-blown reputational crisis for United – […]

On family leave, companies ‘step up’ to fill the vacuum

Google the phrase “lean in,” and almost the first thing that pops up is Sheryl Sandberg’s name. No surprise there, since the Facebook COO wrote a 2013 best-seller with that title urging women to accept no limits on their talents or ambitions.

In February, Sandberg offered up another two-word exhortation: “step up.” This one was aimed at companies like the […]

The underground economy casts an ever-longer shadow

Megan may not know it, or even care, but she’s become part of a trend. The 27-year-old mother of two works two jobs; one aboveground as a marketing and development employee in Tallahassee, Fla., and a second deep in the shadow economy. After she leaves her day job, she cleans an Airbnb condo and gets paid under the table, […]

Is free trade an economic example of asymmetrical warfare?

The so-called golden era of globalised trade that began shortly after World War II has more than a few things to recommend it. Trade liberalisation has lifted hundreds of millions of people from crushing poverty, promoted productivity and growth and linked once-hostile nations in a network of mutual dependence that lessened the chances of another ruinous military conflict.

So why […]

Beware Big Brother in the family room?

It was a dystopian revelation straight out of Orwell: The hyper-connected “smart TV” that lets you binge-watch your favourite Netflix or Amazon series at the touch of the remote has other capabilities that aren’t quite spelled out in the user’s guide. Like allowing the government to snoop on your conversations.

The news, contained in a trove of CIA documents released […]

Business accelerators: A user’s manual for entrepreneurs

Does participating in a business accelerator offer a shortcut to startup success? It can help, but it’s no guarantee, according to Peter Kirby, the CEO of Factom Inc. He spent three months in 2015 under the wing of Plug and Play, a Silicon Valley accelerator program, despite a colleague’s warning that he would be wasting his time. The colleague […]

Stagnant wages fuel revolt against globalisation

Clothing factory, by Jones Management, own work, under a CC-BY-SA-4.0 licence
The epicenter of the political earthquake that struck the United States on Nov. 8 ran through heartland states dominated by voters who told interviewers they felt left behind by the forces of globalization and technological change. Donald Trump promised to change all that: “The forgotten men and women of […]

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    Chinese leaders walk a tightrope on market reforms amid slowdown

Chinese leaders walk a tightrope on market reforms amid slowdown

Nanjing Road-Shanghai, by Khalid Albaih, under a CC-BY-2.0 licence
In August 2015, Chinese leaders announced policy changes aimed at making their currency more attuned to market forces. At first glance, the move seemed to fulfil a pledge made by President Xi Jinping in 2013 to give markets a “decisive” role in the economy. But the government coupled its plans with a […]

Fintech’s greatest promise may be in the developing world

M-PESA, by Rosenfeld Media, under a CC-BY-2.0 licence
For Mary Tonkei and Stephen Wainaina Waweru, and a lot of other people in the developing world, the fintech revolution is much more than a matter of convenience. It’s changing their way of life. Tonkei, a Maasai dairy farmer in Kenya, is able to run her entire business through her phone. Using a […]

The malling of America may be history

Mall of America interior, James Patterson, under a CC BY 2.0 licence, via Wikimedia Commons
Is the great American suburban shopping mall a dinosaur?

If you visit the site of Northland Center in suburban Detroit, you come away thinking so, because Northland was a trend-setter throughout its life cycle. It was the world’s largest shopping center when it opened in 1954, just as […]

A globalised economy requires a globally savvy workforce

With one deal, MetLife bought itself a great opportunity – and a significant problem. When the U.S. insurance giant acquired American Life Insurance Co. in 2010, it instantly enhanced its position as a global force in its industry. The company’s international presence rose from 17 countries to 64, with new operations reaching from Egypt to Lebanon to Nepal. But MetLife’s […]

In the skies, under the radar

Paul Doersch sells commercial drones, and he is relentlessly bullish on his product. Drone technology is “here to stay,” and unmanned aerial vehicles – UAVs – will eventually become must-haves for endeavours ranging from building inspection to land mapping, says Doersch, president of California-based drone manufacturer Kespry.

Perhaps; but in the here and now, some of Kespry’s customers have been […]

The art, and the deal, go global

Isabella Stewart Gardner was, in her day, the very model of a modern Medici. Beginning in 1891, she used her ample inheritance to buy up paintings by Old Masters and new artists alike during her frequent visits to Paris and Venice. She brought them back to her home town of Boston and displayed them in a museum built to […]

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    If you’d do anything to avoid meetings, you may be missing the point

If you’d do anything to avoid meetings, you may be missing the point

Think your latest office meeting was awkward? Consider the one that Tomoko Hamada, an anthropology professor at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, had to arrange between groups of American and Japanese business school students.

“The Americans were worried about how formal the Japanese usually are in how they dress, so they all put on neckties for the […]

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    Does flopping have an upside? Business rethinks the meaning of failure

Does flopping have an upside? Business rethinks the meaning of failure

Teresa Kohl knows from failure. Her parents’ family farm filed for bankruptcy. So did her first employer, a major accounting firm. Two other companies she worked for either folded or restructured. Today, Kohl puts her experience with the downside of business life to use, earning her living by advising faltering companies on how to turn things around. She says failure, […]

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    How to avoid a product recall? Test, test, and test some more

How to avoid a product recall? Test, test, and test some more

Randall Goodden’s business is advising companies on how to survive product liability lawsuits and recalls. He thinks the recent rise in recalls is being driven by regulators in “overkill mode.” But he has blunt advice for businesses seeking to avert the financial and reputational losses that flow from a recall: take pains to avoid putting out a defective product […]

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    American companies kick the tires of Cuba’s new-old economy

American companies kick the tires of Cuba’s new-old economy

The car was a Detroit classic on a Havana street, a pink and white 1956 Chevy Bel Air with a nickname out of a rock ‘n roll song: Lola. And parked behind the wheel was a distinguished American guest, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, come to Cuba in April 2015 on an official trip. But Lola carried a surprise under […]