Tuesday 23 January 2018

The Punt: Watermelon founder quits

Snow kidding - US secretary of state John Kerry was fined for not clearing the pavement outside his Boston mansion
Snow kidding - US secretary of state John Kerry was fined for not clearing the pavement outside his Boston mansion

The Punt is not one for the dog pose or greeting the sun. Still, we were sad to see Lululemon founder Chip Wilson is stepping down from the Canadian yoga wear retailer.

It has been a gradual process; Wilson, who founded Lululemon in 1998, withdrew from day-to-day management in early 2012, and stepped down as chairman in late 2013.

Wilson will be remembered for one faux pas but he should not be defined by that mistake. In early 2013, the company was hit by a high-profile recall of its signature yoga pants after complaints mounted that they were overly see-through. The public relation disaster was compounded later that year, when Wilson said fabric in some pants was not holding up because some customers' thighs rubbed together, adding that "some women's bodies just actually don't work" for Lululemon's clothing.

His comments sparked an uproar, in part because of the perception that Wilson was blaming quality issues on customers. Wilson later said he was "sad for the repercussions of his actions."

Wilson later sold half of his 27pc stake in Lululemon to a private equity firm for $845m. That must have surely taken some of the pain from the sorry saga?

Kerry blows hot and cold

Unfortunately we have no laws forcing people to clear the snow outside their houses here in Ireland but most well-run countries operate some sort of system. The Punt sometimes enjoys strolling around Dublin 4's embassy belt during a snowstorm to see who clears their pavements. No weather event brings out national characteristics more clearly than the white stuff. The Germans, Swiss, Americans and Chinese are usually first with their shovels while many other nations are slower off the mark.

Not all US diplomats are as good as the ones in Dublin. Spare a thought for US Secretary of State John Kerry who failed to have the snow shovelled from a portion of the pavement at his red brick mansion in Boston's Beacon Hill area.

That's a finable offense, even if you are fourth in line to succeed the leader of the free world.

Kerry had a pretty good excuse; He was in Saudi Arabia attending the funeral of King Abdullah with President Barack Obama but his spokesman told Bloomberg that Kerry would pay the fine.

Boston caught up with Kerry through a social-media application called "Citizens Connect" which allows residents to take a photo of snow that isn't removed and send it to the public works department.

That portion was missed by the neighbourhood association's contractor because police tape had been strung up to keep pedestrians from being hit by snow falling off roofs.

It couldn't happen to Charlie Flanagan.

Obama may just be all talk

President Barack Obama has announced his latest attempt to clampdown on global tax avoidance by big multinationals.

The President wants to slap a 19pc tax on US companies' future foreign earnings as well as a 14pc levy on profits being held off shore.

It's the latest attempt by the Obama administration to claw back tax from companies overseas and close a loophole that lets companies pay no tax on earnings held abroad.

But is he just talking tough, or can he ensure the proposal gets past his political adversaries, not known for their love of high taxes?

Republicans, which control the Senate and House of Representatives, are not big fans.

Some less than others.

They're committed to the idea of tax reform in the United States, where the corporate tax rate is 35pc, but some don't want to see companies lumped with large tax bills to recoup money. Obama has conceded that he would look at cutting the rate, but the lost revenue would be made up by closing loopholes.

Some Republicans are a little frosty about that.

So while the move has potentially big implications for the many US multinationals based in Ireland, there's just a possibility that the move may end up being stymied. Let's face it, tax reform has been a thorny issue for a long time.

It sounds good in theory, but putting it into practice may prove a lot more difficult.

Irish Independent

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