Monday, September 19, 2016

Unilever to Buy Seventh Generation

Posted By on Mon, Sep 19, 2016 at 2:52 PM

Company headquarters in Burlington - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • Company headquarters in Burlington
The same multinational company that purchased Ben & Jerry’s back in 2001 is scooping up another Vermont-based company.

Unilever announced plans Monday to purchase Burlington-based Seventh Generation for an undisclosed sum.

Unilever North America President Kees Kruythoff hailed the acquisition of Seventh Generation — which makes Earth-friendly laundry soap, toilet paper, dishwashing detergent and personal care products — as beneficial for both companies. 

“We’re thrilled to add Seventh Generation to our brand portfolio, providing us with the opportunity to accelerate growth with our retail partners and connect in new ways with consumers,” Kruythoff said in a press release. 

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Friday, September 16, 2016

The Rutland Herald and Times Argus Are Officially Sold

Posted By on Fri, Sep 16, 2016 at 5:56 PM

The headquarters of the Rutland Herald - FILE: CALEB KENNA
  • The headquarters of the Rutland Herald
The Rutland Herald and the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus newspapers were officially sold Friday, according to the newspapers’ own report.

Terms of the deal were not released, but the transaction was expected after reports of financial difficulties at the papers. Rob Mitchell, whose grandfather purchased the Herald in 1947 and the Times Argus in 1964, will stay on in his role as editor in chief. 

The new owners, Reade Brower of Maine and Charles “Chip” Harris of New Hampshire, have extensive experience owning and printing newspapers in New England.

As part of the sale, current employees can stay in their positions, Rutland Herald reporter Susan Smallheer reported Friday.

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Shumlin, Locals Celebrate Opening of Scandal-Tainted Burke Hotel

Posted By on Thu, Sep 8, 2016 at 5:00 PM

Gov. Peter Shumlin, left, and Michael Goldberg, the receiver appointed by a federal judge to oversee Jay Peak Resort and Burke Mountain - MARK DAVIS
  • Mark Davis
  • Gov. Peter Shumlin, left, and Michael Goldberg, the receiver appointed by a federal judge to oversee Jay Peak Resort and Burke Mountain
Gov. Peter Shumlin and Caledonia County officials on Thursday celebrated the opening of the Burke Mountain Hotel & Conference Center, one of many Northeast Kingdom projects whose completion was thrown into doubt by the EB-5 foreign-investor scandal.

Speakers said the $66 million hotel was desperately needed to keep the ski resort and surrounding communities economically viable, but they acknowledged the controversy surrounding it.

The hotel was one of many projects of former Jay Peak Resort president Bill Stenger and his business partner, Ariel Quiros, that were funded by foreigners who each invested at least $500,000 in exchange for citizenship consideration. In April, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil case against the men that accused them of running a "Ponzi-like" scheme and defrauding investors out of $200 million.

The SEC recently entered a settlement agreement with Stenger, and it continues to pursue the case against Quiros. The U.S. Attorney's Office has not ruled out pursuing criminal charges against both men.

Shumlin, in both prepared remarks to the crowd and later with reporters, offered a full-throated defense of his administration's work both in detecting alleged wrongdoing and then allowing construction and investing in the Burke hotel to continue after the SEC filed suit.

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Friday, September 2, 2016

Stenger, SEC Reach Settlement Agreement in EB-5 Fraud Case

Posted By on Fri, Sep 2, 2016 at 1:37 PM

Bill Stenger at Q Burke Mountain Resort - DON WHIPPLE
  • Don Whipple
  • Bill Stenger at Q Burke Mountain Resort
Former Jay Peak Resort president Bill Stenger has reached a settlement agreement with the Securities and Exchange Commission in its civil case alleging fraud in the Northeast Kingdom EB-5 investor program.

Stenger, who along with former business partner Ariel Quiros was accused of running a “Ponzi-like scheme” in their development projects, agreed to cooperate with investigators and forfeit any right to an appeal in paperwork filed in U.S. District Court in Florida on Thursday.

The agreement said Stenger could incur a financial penalty, but did not specify an amount. The SEC’s case against Quiros is still pending.

In a complaint filed in April, the SEC alleged that the men defrauded international investors of $200 million and “omitted key information” while raising money for the Northeast Kingdom Economic Development Initiative — a series of projects planned for Jay, Newport and Burke. The developers allegedly swindled several hundred immigrant investors, who each invested at least $500,000 in exchange for eligibility for U.S. citizenship. reported that Stenger released a statement after reaching the agreement saying that he was “fully cooperating” with the court-appointed administrator who has taken over business operations in the NEK and that the agreement “sets up a framework to fully resolve the case the SEC filed against me.”
Attorney General Bill Sorrell, Gov. Peter Shumlin, Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Susan Donegan and Secretary of Commerce Pat Moulton discuss allegations against Bill Stenger and Ariel Quiros. - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Attorney General Bill Sorrell, Gov. Peter Shumlin, Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Susan Donegan and Secretary of Commerce Pat Moulton discuss allegations against Bill Stenger and Ariel Quiros.
“Based upon the terms of the settlement, this is all I can say and will be saying,” Stenger said, according to VTDigger. “I ask that you please respect that I will not be making any more public statements about the settlement nor about the case. I want to focus my efforts fully to assist the receiver and to help the investors.”

The agreement does not cover any potential criminal investigation. It bars Stenger from participating in any EB-5 programs, except for work to help a court-appointed receiver in the Northeast Kingdom. Stenger also agreed to “appear and be interviewed” by SEC staff upon request.

U.S. Attorney Eric Miller, who has previously said he could launch a criminal investigation into Stenger and Quiros’ activities, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The agreement is here:

Bill Stenger

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Vermont Supreme Court Allows Gas Case to Continue

Posted By on Wed, Aug 17, 2016 at 8:34 PM

Skip Vallee - MICHAEL TONN
  • Michael Tonn
  • Skip Vallee
An attempt by four gas wholesalers to quash a class-action lawsuit against them has failed.

The companies — R.L. Vallee, SB Collins, Wesco Oil and Champlain Oil — are being sued by plaintiffs who allege they colluded to set retail gas prices in northwestern Vermont, where the cost of filling up is often higher than in other parts of the state. 

In this week's Seven Days, Mark Davis reported that the defendants had asked the Chittenden Superior Court to throw out the case, but Judge Helen Toor denied the request. The companies then sought to appeal to the state's highest court. On Wednesday, the Vermont Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal, allowing the case to move forward. 

It's far from the last legal hurdle the plaintiffs will encounter. As Davis reported, the Charleston, W. Va.-based firm Bailey & Glasser, which is representing the six residents who brought the case, has issued subpoenas seeking evidence. In response, the defendants have asked Toor to quash the subpoenas. 

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Air Show to Wow Burlington — Minus One Local Flight School

Posted By on Thu, Aug 11, 2016 at 12:45 PM

Thunderbirds - U.S. AIR FORCE
  • U.S. Air Force
  • Thunderbirds
Thousands of people and boats are expected to crowd the Burlington waterfront Saturday and Sunday for the Wings over Vermont air show. The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and vintage aircraft will wow crowds.

But you won’t see the Vermont Flight Academy among the list of sponsors.

The local pilot training school, based at Burlington International Airport, paid to have a table with promotional material on the waterfront during the aviation extravaganza. 

“At the last minute we got notified that they said they had a contractual arrangement that prohibited us from participating in the show,” said Ed Antczak, executive director of the academy.

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Friday, August 5, 2016

Vermont Supreme Court Approves Costco Gas Pumps, Rejects Vallee Appeal

Posted By on Fri, Aug 5, 2016 at 4:30 PM

Skip Vallee - MICHAEL TONN
  • Michael Tonn
  • Skip Vallee
The Vermont Supreme Court on Friday gave the green light for Costco Wholesale Corporation to add gasoline pumps to its Colchester store — rejecting a years-long appeal from influential Vermont gas distributor Skip Vallee. 

In a unanimous ruling, justices upheld a 2015 Environmental Court decision that concluded the Costco expansion was permissible under Vermont's Act 250 land-use laws.

The feud has pitted Vallee, owner of R.L. Vallee, Inc., which owns dozens of gas stations across Vermont under the Maplefields name, against the national corporation.

Costco secured several permits to add gas pumps and reconfigure its parking lot in Colchester, but Vallee, who owns a gas station close to the Colchester Costco, appealed to the Environmental Court and eventually the state's highest court.

Vallee argued that the gas pumps would worsen traffic at the busy intersection off Interstate 89 in Colchester and endanger local wetlands.

Costco accused Vallee of using the land-use process to stifle competition. 

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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Senate Advances GMO Bill That Would Preempt Vermont Law

Posted By on Wed, Jul 6, 2016 at 6:59 PM

  • John James
The U.S. Senate on Wednesday advanced a bill to set national standards for labeling food produced with GMOs — a measure that would preempt the more stringent Vermont law that took effect just last week.

Vermont’s congressional delegation opposes the bipartisan Senate bill. The bill would allow food manufacturers to disclose GMO ingredients by labeling products with codes that consumers could scan via smartphone. Critics say that would be insufficient to inform consumers.

The bill cleared the 60-vote threshold to advance on Wednesday, setting the stage for a formal Senate vote to pass it that could occur as early as Thursday.

It would supersede Vermont’s law, which requires food manufacturers and retailers to label products made with GMOs. The state’s law confused some local retailers.

The food industry is backing the Senate bill. Supporters argue that a national versus a state-by-state approach is preferable. Labeling advocates have criticized the Senate bill as too lax.

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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Financial Firm to Pay Vermont $5.95 Million in Jay Peak Case

Posted By on Thu, Jun 30, 2016 at 12:12 PM

A poster charts a web of financial transactions related to the EB-5 projects. Also shown: Attorney General Bill Sorrell, Gov. Peter Shumlin, Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Susan Donegan and Secretary of Commerce Pat Moulton. - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • A poster charts a web of financial transactions related to the EB-5 projects. Also shown: Attorney General Bill Sorrell, Gov. Peter Shumlin, Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Susan Donegan and Secretary of Commerce Pat Moulton.
The Department of Financial Regulation on Thursday announced it reached a $5.95 million settlement with financial firm Raymond James & Associates in connection with the alleged Jay Peak Resorts investor fraud. 

DFR said the settlement stems from misconduct in Raymond James' Miami office. That's where Jay Peak Resort co-owner Ariel Quiros held several accounts. The Securities and Exchange Commission says he used the accounts in a web of transactions to defraud EB-5 investors and misappropriate more than $200 million. 

Raymond James allowed Quiros to inappropriately transfer $13 million in EB-5 investor funds to purchase Jay Peak, and failed to obtain documentation establishing Quiros' control over the investors' funds, among other violations, according to the settlement.

The bulk of the settlement money — $4.5 million — will be used to compensate investors who claim they were defrauded, DFR said. Under the EB-5 program, foreign investors offer a minimum of $500,000 for projects in exchange for green cards.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

City Market May Open Store in Old North End

Posted By on Wed, Jun 8, 2016 at 1:53 PM

  • Matthew Thorsen
  • City Market
City Market is considering opening a new grocery store in Burlington’s Old North End.

The bustling downtown food co-op — its full name is City Market/Onion River Co-op — is already in the process of expanding to the South End. Its leaders hope to break ground this summer on a 31,000-square-foot store at the corner of Briggs Street and Flynn Avenue. 

General manager John Tashiro announced Wednesday that the co-op is also considering adding a third store, at 242 North Winooski Avenue. “Our Members have been clear that they’d like us to have a presence in Burlington’s Old North End,” he noted in the press release.

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