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Jamie Dimon, Steve Mnuchin And Wall Street CEOs Set To Attend Saudi Conference Despite Journalist’s Disappearance

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Even amid reports that agents for Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman brazenly killed a Saudi journalist working for The Washington Post, some of the world’s richest and most influential business, media and political figures still plan to attend a Saudi-sponsored schmoozefest in Riyadh this month.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde plan to attend the event, the second annual Future Investment Initiative, scheduled for Oct. 23 through 25. It is a government-backed conference bankrolled by the country’s sovereign wealth fund.

On the agenda at what has been dubbed Davos in the Desert, after a similar gathering of elites every winter in Switzerland, are the sorts of topics beloved by the globe-trotting superrich. “Investing in transformation,” “technology as opportunity” and “advancing human potential” are listed as the conference’s broad themes. The real attraction, to be sure, is the promise of lucrative deals with the Saudi government.

HuffPost reached out to over a dozen companies and individuals set to speak at, sponsor or attend the conference. Only a handful, including The New York Times and The Economist (both media sponsors of the conference), said they had pulled out in light of recent events. CNN, Bloomberg and CNBC, also sponsors, later ended their involvement as well.

Arianna Huffington, who sits on Uber’s board and runs a consulting firm called Thrive Global, said through a spokeswoman she would no longer attend. (Huffington is no longer affiliated with HuffPost.) 

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi announced late Thursday evening that he would not be going. “I’m very troubled by the reports to date about Jamal Khashoggi,” Khosrowshahi said in a statement. “We are following the situation closely, and unless a substantially different set of facts emerges, I won’t be attending the FII conference in Riyadh.”

Mellody Hobson, the president of Ariel Investments, resigned from the FII advisory board on Thursday. Steve Case, co-founder of AOL and head of the Case Foundation, tweeted on Thursday that he would be putting his plans to attend on hold pending further information about Khashoggi. 

On Friday, a spokeswoman for Rob Lloyd, the CEO of Virgin Hyperloop One, said that he was dropping out of the event, according to a report in Axios.

Fox Business Network — another media sponsors of the event — said they were monitoring the situation. Nikkei, a Japanese conglomerate that owns The Financial Times, did not respond to a request for comment, though the newspaper reportedly said it, too, was monitoring the situation.

In another change to the FII event, the section of its website listing the conference program removed the names of all executives participating in panels. It is unclear whether those executives still plan to attend.

Others didn’t respond to HuffPost’s queries, including investment firms Blackstone, BlackRock and TPG Capital; and former Gen. David Petraeus, currently the chairman of investment firm KKR. (See below for a list of attendees.)

It’s perhaps not surprising that so many companies are sticking with Saudi Arabia, since the White House has so far been unwilling to condemn Mohammed for human rights abuses, including the alleged killing of Khashoggi, who disappeared on Oct. 2. He was last seen entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and has not been seen in public since.

A senior Turkish official told The New York Times that a team of Saudi agents killed him and then dismembered his body with a bone saw. However, those reports have not yet been confirmed.

The Saudi government has reportedly been unhappy with Khashoggi’s columns, which were critical of the country’s recent policies.

The White House has so far given a muted response, with President Donald Trump saying he has discussed the case with Saudi leadership but little else. It’s unclear if the U.S. government plans to introduce any punitive measures against the Saudi government, with which Trump and his family have developed extensive ties in recent years.

Khashoggi’s alleged killing was predated by a string of rights abuses and warning signs of the Saudi government’s willingness to use violence. The FII is being held at the same Ritz-Carlton that Mohammed turned into a makeshift jail during a crackdown late last year, in which the government rounded up hundreds of political and business elites on thin corruption charges. After they were released, some detainees spoke of beatings and constant threats.

Mohammed’s crackdown went beyond his mass sweep at the Ritz, extending to human rights proponents and dissidents, including prominent women’s rights activists. In a bizarre incident last December, the Saudi government essentially kidnapped Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri. Saudi Arabia has fiercely contested any international pushback — for example, demolishing its relations with Canada over the summer in response to a fairly milquetoast Canadian statement on the arrest of human rights activists.

Then there is the brutal ongoing Saudi-led military offensive in Yemen, which is one of the deadliest facets of a civil war that has killed thousands of civilians. Saudi bombings have resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties. In August alone, a Saudi airstrike killed 40 young children after one of its U.S.-supplied bombs hit a school bus.

Here is a list of the individuals HuffPost has reached out to who are slated to attend the event:

  • David Bonderman, chairman and founding partner, TPG Capital
  • Jamie Dimon, CEO, JPMorgan Chase
  • Larry Fink, chairman and CEO, BlackRock Inc.
  • John M. Flint, executive director and group chief executive, HSBC Holdings PLC
  • Christine Lagarde, managing director, International Monetary Fund
  • Jean Lemierre, chairman, BNP Paribas
  • Kanetsugu Mike, president and CEO, MUFG Bank Ltd.
  • Steven Mnuchin, secretary, U.S. Treasury
  • Lubna S. Olayan, CEO and deputy chairperson, Olayan Financing Co.
  • David Petraeus, chairman, KKR
  • Jeremy Weir, executive chairman and CEO, Trafigura Group Pte. Ltd.
  • Stephen Schwarzman, CEO, Blackstone
  • Peter Thiel, partner, Founders Fund

Alexander Kaufman contributed reporting to this article.

This story has been updated to note that Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Case Foundation chairman Steve Case, Virgin Hyperloop CEO Rob Lloyd, CNN and CNBC will not attend the Saudi conference.

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U.S. Charges Chinese Tech Giant Huawei, Top Executive

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department is filing charges against Chinese tech giant Huawei.

A 13-count indictment was unsealed Monday in New York charging Huawei, two of its affiliates and a top executive at the company.

The charges include bank fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

A separate case filed in Washington state charges Huawei with stealing trade secrets from T-Mobile.

Meng Wanzhou, the company’s chief financial officer, was arrested in Canada on Dec. 1. Prosecutors allege she committed fraud by misleading American banks about Huawei’s business deals in Iran.

Prosecutors charge Huawei used a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment in Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions.

Huawei is the world’s biggest supplier of network gear used by phone and internet companies.

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24 Million Mortgage And Bank Loan Documents Leaked Online

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A trove of more than 24 million financial and banking documents, representing tens of thousands of loans and mortgages from some of the biggest banks in the U.S., has been found online after a server security lapse.

The server, running an Elasticsearch database, had more than a decade’s worth of data, containing loan and mortgage agreements, repayment schedules and other highly sensitive financial and tax documents that reveal an intimate insight into a person’s financial life.

But it wasn’t protected with a password, allowing anyone to access and read the massive cache of documents.

It’s believed that the database was only exposed for two weeks — but long enough for independent security researcher Bob Diachenko to find the data. At first glance, it wasn’t immediately known who owned the data. After we inquired with several banks whose customers information was found on the server, the database was shut down on January 15.

With help from TechCrunch, the leak was traced back to Ascension, a data and analytics company for the financial industry, based in Fort Worth, Texas. The company provides data analysis and portfolio valuations. Among its services, the Ascension converts paper documents and handwritten notes into computer-readable files — known as OCR.

It’s that bank of converted documents that was exposed, Diachenko said in his own write-up.

Sandy Campbell, general counsel at Ascension’s parent company, Rocktop Partners, which owns more than 46,000 loans worth $4.4 billion, confirmed the security incident to TechCrunch, but said its systems were unaffected.

“On January 15, this vendor learned of a server configuration error that may have led to exposure of some mortgage-related documents,” he said in a statement. “The vendor immediately shut down the server in question, and we are working with third-party forensics experts to investigate the situation. We are also in regular contact with law enforcement investigators and technology partners as this investigation proceeds.”

An unspecified portion of the loans were shared with the contractor for analysis, the statement added, but couldn’t immediately confirm how many loan documents were exposed.

TechCrunch has learned that the vendor is New York-based company OpticsML. Efforts to reach the company were unsuccessful. Its website is offline and its phone number was disconnected from service.

In a phone call, Campbell confirmed that the company will inform all affected customers, and report the incident to state regulators under data breach notification laws.

From our review, it was clear that the documents pertain to loans and mortgages and other correspondence from several of the major financial and lending institutions dating as far back as 2008, if not longer, including CitiFinancial, a now-defunct lending finance arm of Citigroup, files from HSBC Life Insurance, Wells Fargo, CapitalOne and some U.S. federal departments, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Some of the companies have long been defunct, after selling their mortgage divisions and assets to other companies.

Though not all files contained the highly sensitive and personal data points, we found: names, addresses, birth dates, Social Security numbers and bank and checking account numbers, as well as details of loan agreements that include sensitive financial information, such as why the person is requesting the loan.

Some of the documents also note if a person has filed for bankruptcy and tax documents, including annual W-2 tax forms, which are targets for scammers to claim false refunds.

But the database stored documents in a random order, and were not easily followable or presented in an easy to read or formatted way, making it difficult to follow from one document to another, said Diachenko.

We verified the authenticity of data by checking a portion of names in the database with public records.

“These documents contained highly sensitive data, such as Social Security numbers, names, phones, addresses, credit history and other details which are usually part of a mortgage or credit report,” Diachenko told TechCrunch. “This information would be a gold mine for cyber criminals who would have everything they need to steal identities, file false tax returns, get loans or credit cards.”

Although the documents originate from these financiers, one bank — Citi, which helped to secure the data — said it had no current relationship with the company.

“Citi recently became aware that a third party, with no connection to Citi, was storing certain mortgage origination and modification documents in an unsecure online environment,” said a Citi spokesperson. “These documents contained information about current or former Citi customers, as well as customers from other financial institutions. Citi notified law enforcement, initiated a thorough forensic investigation and worked quickly to ensure the information could no longer be publicly accessed.”

Citi confirmed that “third party is a vendor to a company that had purchased the loans and we have found no evidence that Citi’s systems were compromised.”

The bank added that it’s working to identify potentially affected customers.

Dozens of other companies are affected, including smaller regional banks and larger multinationals.

A Wells Fargo spokesperson said the data was obtained by Ascension from other entities that purchased Wells Fargo mortgages. HSBC said it was investigating if any of its customers’ data, including past customers, and confirmed it had “no vendor relationship with Ascension since 2010.” When reached, CapitalOne did not comment at the time of publication. A Housing and Urban Development spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. The department is currently affected by the ongoing government shutdown. If anything changes, we’ll update.

It’s the latest in a series of security lapses involving Elasticsearch databases.

A massive database leaking millions of real-time SMS text message data was found and secured last year, as well as a popular massage service and, most recently, AIESEC, the largest youth-run nonprofit for working opportunities.

Updated at 5pm ET: with comment from HSBC and additional details regarding OpticsML.

Got a tip? You can send tips securely over Signal and WhatsApp to +1 646-755–8849. You can also send PGP email with the fingerprint: 4D0E 92F2 E36A EC51 DAAE 5D97 CB8C 15FA EB6C EEA5.

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Brandon Truaxe, Founder of Deciem Skin Care Company, Is Dead At 40

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Brandon Truaxe, the former CEO and founder of the skin care company Deciem, has died at age 40.

An executive at the company confirmed Truaxe’s death in an email to Vox, which also obtained the email sent by acting CEO Nicola Kilner to Deciem’s staff.

“I can’t believe I am typing these words. Brandon has passed away over the weekend. Heartbroken doesn’t come close to how I, and how I know many of you will be feeling,” read the email, which also indicated that the company’s “offices, warehouses, factories and stores” would all be closed Monday to “take the time to cry with sadness, smile at the good times we had, reflect on what his genius built and hug your loved ones that little harder.”

A spokesperson for the Estée Lauder Cos., a minority investor in Deciem, told HuffPost: “Brandon Truaxe was a true genius, and we are incredibly saddened by the news of his passing. As the visionary behind Deciem, he positively impacted millions of people around the world with his creativity, brilliance and innovation. This is a profound loss for us all, and our hearts are with Nicola Kilner and the entire Deciem family.”

Representatives of Deciem did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment, but they did post a heartfelt message about Truaxe on their Instagram page.

“Thank you for every laugh, every learning and every moment of your genius. Whilst we can’t imagine a world without you, we promise to take care of each other and will work hard to continue your vision. May you finally be at peace. Love, (forever) your DECIEM,” they wrote.

The Toronto-based company, nicknamed “The Abnormal Beauty Company,” was called Deciem after Truaxe’s intention to launch 10 lines under the brand’s umbrella, though the brand has now exceeded that. Arguably its most famous line, The Ordinary, has gone on to achieve near-cult status for its affordable prices and ubiquity. The line is currently sold at Sephora.

As for Truaxe, he has had a multitude of highs and lows with the company. On the heels of a near-rave review in The New Yorker in early 2018, Truaxe began to appear erratic on social media and use the company’s pages to post bizarre messages and videos. By the end of the year, Estée Lauder took legal action against him, and Truaxe was ousted by a judge as CEO. Kilner has been the acting CEO ever since. Additionally, Truaxe was issued a restraining order by several executives at Estée Lauder.

While the cause of Truaxe’s death is currently unknown, a report published in Canada’s Financial Post in December 2018 indicated that he’d been previously hospitalized for mental health issues several times and had problems with drug use. 

The response on social media has been widespread, as many fans of his skin care brand mourn his death:

This article has been updated with comment from Estée Lauder Cos. and a message posted by Deciem.

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