Wednesday August 8th, 2007

Protiviti survey: large companies improve risk management...ExecuNet Recruiter Confidence Index rebounds... Federal court approves settlement over fraudulent sale of Brazilian power project...

Large companies are getting better at managing risks, but many could still be vulnerable, according to a Protiviti survey. Their 2007 Risk Barometer study suggests 53 percent perceive themselves to be very effective at managing risk, but the rest are less confident about their firms identifying and managing significant risks. Protiviti's Jim LeLoach says risks varied by industry groupings, but some were more universal.

"Competitor risk was cited almost in every case across all industries at the top risk. But some industries, for example energy and utilities, which is so prevalent in our community, the regulatory environment was a critical factor. With respect to internal process risk, Ed, customer satisfaction and information systems and IT security risks were viewed as significant."

Some 77 percent of the respondents say they are planning at least some changes to their risk management capabilities and 14 percent are planning significant changes.

"There's a blueprint for improvement that's suggested by comparing the companies that rate themselves as very effective at identifying and managing risks versus companies that do not rate themselves as very effective. Several key practices were suggested. Those companies that rate themselves as very effective are more likely to have a formal risk management policy—a formal risk assessment process and a risk monitoring and reporting process across the organization than those other companies that rate themselves as not very effective."

There's been a 15 percent increase in the percentage of companies managing risk very effectively since the 2006 U.S. Risk Barometer.

The Recruiter Confidence Index, which edged down slightly in June, rebounded in July, according to Connecticut-based ExecuNet. The index rose two percentage points, as economic growth remained stable despite weakness in the national housing market. The index is based on a monthly survey of thousands of executive recruiters. According to July's survey, 69 percent are confident or very confident the executive employment market will improve during the next six months—up from 67 percent one month ago. To help manage this growth, 48 percent of all search firms are planning to add more staff in the next three months.

A federal court in Houston has approved a settlement alleging that two former Enron executives helped manipulate earnings through the fraudulent sale of a Brazilian power project. Jerry Castleman and Kathleen Lynn will pay civil penalties. The Securities and Exchange Commission alleges that Enron sold an interest in the Cuiaba power project to LJM Cayman—a partnership run at the time by Enron CFO Andy Fastow so that Enron could record earnings from the gas contracts. The SEC says there was no true transfer of risk from Enron to the partnership.

The Energy Department reports inventories of gasoline were down by 1.7 million barrels last week as refinery operations fell to 91.3 percent of capacity. Both were expected to show increases. In addition, stockpiles of crude oil were down by a bigger-than-expected 4.1 million barrels. Supplies of distillates, which include heating oil and diesel fuel, were expected to rise and did--by a million barrels.

A lawyer for nearly 100 sexually oriented businesses in Houston tells an appeals court that they'd face closure if tougher rules are now enforced. The case reached the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. The decade-old Houston city ordinance calls for doubling the required distance between such businesses and schools, churches, parks and day care centers to 1,500 feet. The Houston Chronicle reports John Weston told the court that what this guarantees is that businesses will close and free speech will be dramatically reduced. The businesses also must be 1,000 feet from each other and outside of residential areas. In February, a federal judge ruled that the distance requirement didn't violate the rights of the businesses--because they could relocate. Weston said the ruling relied on ten-year-old data that depicted more land than is currently available. But City Attorney Patrick Zummo said legal precedent only requires analysis from the time an ordinance is passed.

After an absence of six months, Peter Pan peanut butter will return to stores this month. Conagra Foods is offering a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee to reassure consumers it has fixed the problems that allowed salmonella to contaminate the product. The company recalled all its peanut butter in February after government investigators linked the bacteria outbreak to Conagra's Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linked the peanut butter to the illnesses of more than 625 people in 47 states. Conagra faces several lawsuits filed by people who say they got sick after eating Peter Pan.

Google Maps has added Houston to its Street View feature, featuring panoramic views of streets and buildings downtown and along major arteries. Smaller streets could be added in the future. Street views of San Diego, Los Angeles and Orlando, Florida, have also been added, joining San Francisco, New York, Las Vegas, Denver and Miami. Google says it will remove objectionable or sensitive images if a person is recognizable and asks for the photo to be taken down. A Web site has been collecting odd or embarrassing street view sightings.

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