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Bankruptcy doesn’t mean what it used to; no longer the end

(FINANCE NEWS) With the way the world works now, bankruptcy doesn’t necessarily mean game over.

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When it’s over, it’s over. Perhaps you heard your best friend utter this phrase after a bad break-up. It’s true, most things that end, end for good. Except in this case, when it comes to the retail business.

We have seen a record number of retailers declare bankruptcy this year. Beloved teen retailers like Wet Seal have closed down their stores and malls have become ghost towns.

Reuters estimates that nineteen major retail chains have already shut down for good. While you may not miss the tight, neon dresses sold at Bebe, closures of all of these retailers result in a tremendous loss of jobs.

And it is not only job losses from the store in your hometown, often it is hundreds of locations across the nation.

For most of these retailers, bankruptcy was the definitive end to the business. After filing, most companies choose to close all locations and liquidate the assets. This is the most common path to take, until now.

Even with the surge of bankruptcy, those behind the business are finding alternative paths to keep the business alive.

Behind the scenes, there are three core groups invested in every business: the company’s creditors, vendors, and landlords. All of these groups have a vested interest in keeping the company alive even if they are in debt.

The most recent trend for bankrupt businesses has been to keep stores open and negotiate debt loans rather than shutting down everything. The truth is that a lot of these businesses still attract customers and have a large cash flow, even if they are technically bankrupt.

For instance, Toys ‘R’ Us manages to take in $800 million each year on average which makes it a viable business. Of course, they are $5 billion in debt, but with an extension and restructuring of their business, they could one day turn a profit. However, this will only happen if they are given the chance to keep their doors open.

There are other options to lending helping hands to bankrupt businesses. After the popular teen retailer Rue21 declared bankruptcy landlords agreed to reduce their rents 20% on average. Though these situations are not ideal, this mentality gives businesses a life beyond bankruptcy and save thousands of jobs in the process.

Natalie is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and co-founded an Austin creative magazine called Almost Real Things. When she is not writing, she spends her time making art, teaching painting classes and confusing people. In addition to pursuing a writing career, Natalie plans on getting her MFA to become a Professor of Fine Art.

Business Finance

Should research papers remain behind a paywall or be fully accessible?

(FINANCE) Paywalls restrict 65% of research papers, but some argue it’s for good reasons. Others say the walls should come down.

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Paywalled research papers might be the current business model, but scientific research should be available to all, not just those who can pay for it.

In academia, published papers are part of the tenure process. You not only have to do research, publish papers, and hope that your work is cited in other research to get promoted.

Despite the notion that this research needs to be available to everyone, much of it is still behind a paywall. Josh Nicholson and Alberto Pepe estimated that about 65 percent of all cited papers are behind a paywall. Why is this important? They say it is because “some of the world’s most important scientific research is inaccessible from the majority of the world.”

A case for paywalls:
Publishing is big business. It takes a staff to manage a journal that publishes research. Essentially, someone has to pay. Most journals have chosen to charge the reader, because the alternative, charging the scientist for publication, is not a viable business model.

Publications that charge for access are generally considered more prestigious in academic circles. Thus, it’s safe to assume that the best research is published in paywalled journals. In my research for this article, I did learn that taxpayer-funded research through the NIH was supposed to be accessible to the public one year after it was published.

A case for open access:
Nicholson and Pepe averaged the cost of the paywalls at $32.33 for one access point. That is way too costly for a graduate student or an average individual (or journalist whose boss refuses to pay).

One key reason the internet was developed was to share research between scientists. Although universities often buy subscriptions to paywalled journals, most research is not accessible to the average person some four decades later. It’s been argued that research should be made public to hold scientists and the government accountable. Published research should be promptly and broadly disseminated, according to a policy statement made by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Can the business model hold up?
The tide is slowly changing, but most say that it’s not quick enough. Some experts believe that the scientific publishing process is not a business model that can withstand the changing culture. I’m sympathetic to the publishers, but I’d like to see more scientific research available to individuals at a price point that makes sense.

It’s going to take a shift in attitude at many levels to see change. Scientists need to utilize open access journals. Universities need to change policies. Publishing journals need to look at their business model. The generation that wants change is not in a position to make that change, but in a few years, they may be.

We can only hope that they find a new process to allow everyone access.

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Business Finance

Square tests buying and selling bitcoin inside its payment app

(FINANCE NEWS) Cryptocurrency lovers rejoice, you can now buy, sell, and store bitcoin in your Square wallet.

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Recently, Square rolled out a special new feature to select users, allowing them to store bitcoin in-app. Square Cash started moving away from immediate transactions when the company released Cash Drawer in February of 2016, allowing users to stash currency in a digital wallet for later use.

Now, Square has dubbed some of its Cash users chosen ones, giving them the ability to buy, sell, and store bitcoin. Unlike Cash Drawer, users do not yet have the option to send bitcoin to others.

Those with the new feature can simply swipe right from the Cash Card page to buy and sell bitcoin – the screen also compares the current price of bitcoin against the U.S. dollar with a handy graph.

A Square spokesperson noted, “We’re exploring how Square can make this experience faster and easier, and have rolled out this feature to a small number of Cash app customers. We believe cryptocurrency can greatly impact the ability of individuals to participate in the global financial system and we’re excited to learn more here.”

Bitcoin is the most popular kid in school right now when it comes to rise in popularity. In January, the currency was valued at $1000 per unit, but is now flirting with the $10,000 milestone. Users that opted in to the new feature rejoiced on Twitter, making this a marketing plus for CEO Jack Dorsey who also heads Square.

However, not everyone is so optimistic.

This Monday, BTIG analyst Mark Palmer expressed concerns about Square Cash adding the bitcoin feature, noting it adds an unnecessary risk to users. Palmer downgraded Square from Neutral to Sell, setting a $30 target for the stock.

Other investors aren’t so keen on the volatile cryptocurrency making its way into Square. Mark Tepper, CEO of Strategic Wealth Partners, said in the long run, Square won’t be able to support bitcoin. “Square has a good track record of losing money, and there’s just no clear path to profitability in the near future,” Tepper noted on CNBC.

Despite these concerns, this cryptocurrency remains wildly popular. And Jack Dorsey has just made it significantly easier to people to purchase the cryptocurrency. Of course, investing in an unregulated market is risky, so if you’re one of the few with Square’s new bitcoin feature, proceed with caution. But also feel free to brag that you’re a chosen one.

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Business Finance

Why are health insurance premiums higher in the healthiest areas?

(FINANCE) Rising health insurance costs are a perplexing mystery in some of the nation’s healthiest places to live, but why?

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You would never guess it by the fit people, the Whole Foods Markets, the abundance of cycling and snow sports, but some of the highest insurance costs can be found in some of the county’s with the nation’s lowest mortality rates.

Counties home to famous mountain towns like Breckenridge, Aspen, and Vail are home to some of the highest insurance costs for individuals and families purchasing insurance in the marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act.

According to research done by FiveThirtyEight, premiums in Summit County, home of Breckenridge, have gone up 32 percent for 2018 over the previous year. Summit County has the lowest mortality rate in the nation, yet still is home to some of the highest premiums provided by the ACA. This problem has even gotten itself some statewide recognition, being dubbed the “Summit County Paradox.”

Its not just Summit County. With the second and third lowest mortality rates in the country, Pitkin and Eagle counties are facing the same problem. Despite low rates of smoking and obesity, the unsubsidized lowest-cost bronze premium for a 40 year old in Summit, Eagle, and Pitkin counties (Eagle home to Vail and Pitkin home to Aspen) is above the 95th percentile when compared to the rest of the nation.

Generally, when rates are rising for insurance, it is due to the high cost of insuring sick people. But these counties show that this is not always the rule. Being healthy doesn’t always mean paying less for insurance.

Summit County officials are baffled by the high costs and are left searching for answers, “It’s something we’re scratching our head about,” Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs said. “It’s a crisis situation for many working families who can’t afford health insurance now.”

As one of the states that created its own ACA health insurance exchange, Colorado government has been very hands-on when it comes to managing insurance in their state, and their constituents have let them know that that something has gone awry here.

Two big reasons found for this spike in insurance cost are availability of services and residents of these counties’ needs for more thorough, and subsequently more expensive, services. In an area with so few people yet such high cost of living, convincing health care workers to move permanently to the area is difficult, without paying them through the roof.

While there are extra hospital wings open to treat ski injuries through peak seasons, the availability of services is extremely low compared to a big city.

Also, residents seem to be requiring MRI and other imaging services at a much higher rate than the rest of the nation, and not just looking for bone breaks and tendon tears, but for cancer and other problems as well.

With multiple reasons for this spike in cost, there is no simple solution. However, recent studies and reports are teaching us a lesson regarding overall healthcare costs. Not only do we need to worry about getting people healthy, it is also extremely important to make the best use of expensive care and overuse of expensive testing.

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