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Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn Fired Following Arrest

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TOKYO (AP) — Nissan Motor Co. fired Carlos Ghosn as chairman Thursday, curtailing the powerful executive’s nearly two-decade-long reign at the Japanese automaker after his arrest for alleged financial improprieties.

In an hours-long meeting, the company’s board of directors voted unanimously to dismiss Ghosn as chairman and as a representative director, Nissan said in a statement. It said its own internal investigation, prompted by a whistleblower, found serious misconduct including under-reporting of his income and misuse of company assets.

It was a stunning downfall for one of the biggest figures in the auto industry, a man who helped drive turnarounds at both France’s Renault SA and at Nissan and then managed an alliance between them that sold 10.6 million cars last year, besting its rivals.

Nissan said in a statement filed to the Tokyo Stock Exchange that its investigation uncovered misuse of company investment funds and expense money for personal gain.

Earlier this week, Renault voted to keep Ghosn as its chief executive but appointed Thierry Bollore, its chief operating officer, as its interim chief.

Another Nissan executive, Greg Kelly, was arrested in Japan on suspicion of collaborating in the wrongdoing and also will be dismissed as a representative director, Nissan said. Their replacements will be decided later, it said.

Ghosn, 64, is suspected of under-reporting $44.6 million in income from 2011 to 2015, according to Tokyo prosecutors.

Nissan’s board consists of nine members, including Ghosn and Greg Kelly. The seven other board members voted at the meeting, including two members from Nissan and two from Renault.

Ghosn and Kelly will remain on Nissan’s board for now as that decision will be up to shareholders. No date has been set yet for a shareholders meeting.

Ghosn is also chairman at Mitsubishi Motors Corp., a smaller Japanese automaker that’s partnering with the Renault-Nissan alliance and plans to hold a board meeting next week.

Ghosn has been held since his arrest Monday at a Tokyo detention center, under the same Spartan conditions as other detainees, Tokyo deputy prosecutor Shin Kukimoto told reporters Thursday. He gave few details about the case.

Under Japanese law, suspects can be held for 20 days per possible charge without an official indictment. Additional charges can be tagged on, resulting in longer detentions. Neither has been charged so far.

The maximum penalty upon conviction for violating finance and exchange laws is 10 years in prison, a 10 million yen ($89,000) fine, or both.

A French citizen born in Brazil, Ghosn became something of a corporate superstar in Japan as he led Nissan’s revival from near bankruptcy after Renault sent him to help in 1999.

Ghosn served as Nissan’s chief executive from 2001 until last year. He became chief executive of Renault in 2005, leading the two automakers simultaneously. In 2016, he also became chairman of Mitsubishi Motors Corp. after Nissan took it into the alliance.

Kelly, 62, joined Nissan, maker of the Leaf electric car and Infiniti luxury models, in the U.S. in 1988. He became a board member in 2012. His background is in human resources and alliance management.

Analysts say the future of Nissan’s alliance with Renault may be at stake, though Nissan’s statement Thursday said the company’s leadership was determined to minimize the impact from Ghosn’s case on the partnership. Renault owns 43 percent of Nissan, and Nissan owns 15 percent of Renault.

“The longstanding alliance partnership with Renault remains unchanged,” the Nissan statement in English said, stressing the alliance rather than the misdeeds.

It also said the board will study setting up a third-party committee to beef up governance in management and compensation at Nissan.

CEO Hiroto Saikawa, in a lengthy news conference on Monday, said too much power had been concentrated in Ghosn, with too little credit given to the many others working for the company’s success.

Janet Lewis, managing director and head of industrial research, Asia, at Macquarie Capital Securities in Tokyo, said in an interview that an adjustment was needed to give Nissan more say in the alliance with Renault.

The partnership remains crucial for both companies, she said, since apart from financial ties the companies share technology and parts.

The automakers need to be more like roommates than a married couple, “So they have to find a way to share their house and share all of their expertise because it’s very necessary in terms of new automotive technology, new platform development,” Lewis said.

“They need to figure out how they can continue this and still live happily together in the same house.”

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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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