04/18/2014 (4:24 pm)

RCMP arrests London man in Heartbleed CRA hacking

Filed under: mortgage, real estate |

A Western University computer science student has been charged in connection with a breach of the Canada Revenue Agency’s website.

The RCMP said in a news release that it has charged Stephen Arthuro Solis-Reyes, 19, of London, Ont., with one count of unauthorized use of a computer, and one count of mischief in relation to data.

“It is believed that Solis-Reyes was able to extract private information held by the CRA by exploiting the security vulnerability known as the Heartbleed bug,” said the RCMP’s National Division Integrated Technological Crime Unit in the release issued Wednesday.

“The RCMP treated this breach of security as a high-priority case and mobilized the necessary resources to resolve the matter as quickly as possible,” said assistant commissioner Gilles Michaud in the release.

A search was conducted at the suspect’s residence and computer equipment was seized, the RCMP said.

Faisal Joseph, a senior partner at Lerners law firm, which represents Solis-Reyes, said his client went to meet RCMP officers on Tuesday afternoon at the London police headquarters.

“He turned himself in voluntarily after he was threatened that if he did not, because they did not have a warrant for him . . . they would humiliate him and pull him out of exams at university, if he didn’t go voluntarily,” Joseph said in a telephone interview jail records.

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Password savvy: How to protect yourself from hackers

Joseph accused the RCMP of denying him access to his client, for nearly six hours after initially being advised Solis-Reyes, an A student in his second year, would be released within 10 minutes.

“To my shock and surprise, the RCMP lead investigator refused to allow me to see my own client,” Joseph said, noting Solis-Reyes was shuttled back and forth between a small interview room and a cell.

“He was interrogated for almost six hours, with his lawyer demanding to see him every half hour, for almost six hours,” Joseph said.

Joseph waited with Solis-Reyes’ father, Roberto Solis-Oba, an associate professor at Western’s computer science department, at London’s police headquarters.

Joseph said his client’s father was deeply distraught and was “an emotional wreck” during the wait to speak with Solis-Reyes.

Solis-Reyes was eventually released just before 11 p.m. and formally charged. He is to appear in an Ottawa court on July 17.

Joseph added he does not know what evidence there is, and he won’t get disclosure until July.

When asked whether Solis-Reyes would write his final exams this week, Joseph said he did not know, given he has been through a harrowing experience.

When asked whether Joseph would be filing a complaint, he said: “I will definitely be following up and taking the appropriate action with respect to how my client was treated in custody, and how I was denied access to him for hours, after he called me from the police headquarters.”

The RCMP declined to comment on Joseph’s allegations.

“The investigation is still ongoing and in order to protect the integrity of the investigation we will not be commenting any further,” RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Lucy Shorey said in an email.

The RCMP investigation was conducted with the co-operation of the London Police Service.

Heartbleed is a massive security flaw that, by some estimates, affects two-thirds of all websites.

IT security experts believe that it allowed pulses of unencrypted data — including names, passwords, credit card numbers and other personal information — to leak out of computer servers for as long as two years, undetected.

The flaw and a patch to fix the leak, one line of computer code, were released by researchers last week.

Major websites, including Google and Yahoo, along with Google smartphones and networking equipment makers Cisco Systems Inc. and Juniper Networks, said their systems were at risk.

CRA shut down public access to its website for five days last week, with the April 30 income tax deadline looming, to fix the problem and test its system criminal record checks.

This week, after it restored its website, the CRA announced it was notifying 900 Canadians that their social insurance numbers were removed from its system as a result of the Heartbleed bug flaw.

The RCMP then announced that it was investigating.

Experts say it’s too early to know to what extent the defect was used by hackers and thieves to steal sensitive personal information.

Publicity over the bug drew in security experts, would-be hackers, and those who were simply curious, Carmi Levy, a technology analyst and journalist said in an interview.

Instructions for breaching computer servers and websites compromised by Heartbleed were easily available online, Levy added.

“It’s still early days and we don’t know the details,” Levy said. “But I would be incredibly surprised if this were a case of a hardcore hacker deliberately attacking a system. This has all the signatures of curiosity and going along with the big IT security story of the day.”


Tax agency begins to ‘support and protect’ 900 people whose SIN numbers were stolen


04/18/2014 (10:52 am)

5 Mount Everest climbers feared missing in avalanche

Filed under: finance, real estate |

KATMANDU, NEPAL—Officials say about five climbers are feared missing after an avalanche swept the slopes of Mount Everest and hit a popular route used to assent the world’s highest peak.

Nepal Tourism Ministry official Madhu Sudan Burlakoti says the avalanche hit the area just below Camp 2 around 6:30 a.m. Friday. Rescuers and fellow climbers at the base camp are heading to the area to help. A helicopter is on the way from Kathmandu.

Ang Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Association says four or five climbers are believed to have been buried and more injured by the avalanche.

Hundreds of climbers, their guides and support guides have gathered at the base camp, gearing up for their final attempt to scale the 8,850-metres (29,035-foot) peak early next month when weather and snow conditions get favourable.

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04/11/2014 (10:40 pm)

A look at Ukraine’s fast-growing Russian gas bill

Filed under: real estate, uk |

MOSCOW (AP) — The amount Russia says it is owed by Ukraine’s cash-strapped government for natural gas has ballooned as if by magic — from $1.7 billion at the beginning of April to a staggering $35.4 billion, according to a letter sent by President Vladimir Putin this week to 18 European leaders.

Here’s a look at how Moscow got those figures, and what options Ukraine has.


On April 1, Alexei Miller, the head of Russia’s energy giant Gazprom, estimated that Ukraine owed $1.7 billion in unpaid gas bills to Russia.

Two days later, Miller added $500 million more for unpaid gas supplies in March. Gazprom then announced it would be scrapping all gas discounts, meaning an 80 percent price hike that would further increase the debt in coming months.

The bill further increased after Russia moved to annul agreements with Kiev on Russia’s navy base in the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in March. In 2010, Ukraine extended the lease of the base for an annual rent and discounts on gas, but Moscow revoked that agreement after Crimea effectively became Russian territory. Now Moscow says Ukraine owes it $11.4 billion in gas discounts given in advance for the base.

In his letter on Thursday, Putin said that the gas-related debt was actually $17 billion, although it’s unclear how he reached that figure.

He also said Ukraine owed Russia an additional $18.4 billion in past fines on its gas contracts. The contracts, called take-or-pay, say Ukraine has to pay for all the gas it imports for domestic use, whether it actually uses it or not.

Putin then mentioned $3 billion Russia loaned Ukraine in December, bringing the grand total to $38.4 billion.

“It’s kind of like the drug dealer and the addict here. The Russians kept lending (Ukraine) money and knowing they’re not going to pay,” said Andrew Neff, an analyst at IHS Energy.


The money Russia is demanding is far greater than the $14 billion to $18 billion bailout expected from the International Monetary Fund over two years. It would also exceed the $15 billion the European Union has said it will help with.

Analysts like Valery Nesterov, of Sberbank CIB, warn that Putin’s figures should not be taken at face value no fax payday advance. “They’re a means of showing the seriousness of the problems between the two countries.”

But if relations worsen, Moscow could push for repayment of some of that money, and Ukraine would be in trouble.

Ukraine will try to get some money from its own citizens — it will hike domestic gas prices by 50 percent on May 1. But that will not raise any new money, as it will barely match the gas price hike Russia made.

Ukraine’s options are limited at this point.


Kiev could sue Gazprom in an international arbitration court for retroactively annulling the Black Sea navy base deal. Ukraine has said it was considering legal action.

But going to court could open a Pandora’s box of litigation: Russia and Ukraine have bickered over gas and finances for years, and many previous debts have been swept under the rug or settled out of court. The finances and politics of the two neighboring countries have been so entwined that Russia has countless scores that it could settle, if Ukraine chose to take the legal path.


If desperate, Ukraine could opt to sell the pipeline system that brings gas across its territory from Russia to Europe. Moscow has coveted the pipeline for years, making multiple offers to buy it to settle Ukraine’s debts.

But for Ukrainian politicians, the idea of selling the pipeline has so far been unpalatable.

“The Ukrainians have made the pipeline system into this national strategic asset that is a symbol of sovereignty,” said Neff. “When you’re in desperate straits, you sell the family jewels. It’s one of the few assets the Ukrainians have that has value.”

In the end, Ukraine will most likely have to call Russia’s bluff and hope it will accept to be repaid little by little. Experts say that considering Ukraine’s cash problem, Russia is likely to be realistic about the issue if it wants to get its money back at all.


04/05/2014 (10:56 am)

Will politics force down excessive CEO pay?: Olive

Filed under: real estate, uk |

Excessive pay for corporate CEOs is shaping up as a political issue at home and abroad.

This week’s Question Period was marked by accusations of Harper government callous regard for hard-pressed middle-class Canadians by a tag team of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair.

There were echoes of the Occupy movement in the opposition leaders’ critiques of a government they say has presided blithely over a shift of society’s resources to the 1 per cent at the expense of the rest of us.

To be sure, globalization plays a role in our income inequality crisis. But unwinding trade pacts and the Industrial Revolutions underway in the developing world are a practical impossibility. Which means if there is to be a battle over income inequality, it will be fought on the playing fields of Corporate Canada.

CEOs make easy targets for politicians eager to be seen as populist champions. Last year, average total compensation for Canada’s 100 highest-paid corporate CEOs was $7.9 million. That’s 171 times more than the average pay of their workforces. (The U.S. figure is 354 times. In Britain it is 133 times.)

Fairness and common sense dictate that no man or woman is “worth” 171 times the value of those in the front lines, where the day-to-day work gets done.

Nor is it explainable that in the 1980s, when Nortel Networks Corp. was pioneering the fibre optics that are the backbone of today’s Internet and Magna International Inc. was placing the bets that would make it the world’s third-largest auto-parts maker, the pay ratio was about 20 to 1.

Have CEOs become 151 times smarter since then? Consider the tragedies of Lac Megantic and the oil-spill catastrophe wrought by BP PLC in the Gulf of Mexico, the implosion of Wall Street that triggered the Great Recession or the demise of Nortel through chronic incompetence and the answer is obvious.

U.S. financier J. Pierpont Morgan and, much later, management guru Peter Drucker, each thought the pay ratio should be set at 20:1. CEO pay restraint was appropriate, said Drucker, since “So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.”

Instead, the compensation rewards reaped by Canada’s business elite are way out of line.

Canada’s economy grew by a substandard 1.7 per cent in 2013. Wages for everyday Canadians inched up by just 2.5 per cent. Our anemic export growth came in at 1.4 per cent. Canadian rates of industrial productivity growth remain among the worst in the industrialized world. And the average investor in Canadian stocks saw a modest 6 per cent gain in the S&P/TSX last year.

Yet CEO pay growth outpaces all those leading indicators. For the top 100 highest-paid Canadian CEOs — who set the benchmark for all of Corporate Canada — 2013 average pay jumped by 52 per cent in what by most measures was a lousy year.

Corporate pay routinely outpaces economic growth and corporate performance. Economics 101 tells us that this is unsustainable, except that the 1 per cent’s haul comes at the expense of everyone else.

The European Union, the world’s biggest economy, will soon adopt measures requiring that the EU’s 10,000 publicly traded businesses reveal the pay ratio between CEOs and average workforce pay. The U.S. already requires that pay ratios be disclosed, as part of the Great Recession’s Dodd-Frank Act.

Excessive CEO pay is a comparative anomaly in Germany, with its two-tiered structure of traditional and supervisory boards. The latter are made up of everyday shareholders and of directors elected by rank-and-file employees.

In 2012, the supervisory board of Volkswagen A.G. imposed a 20 per cent pay cut on the CEO, despite record VW profits, feeling that his pay out of line with stagnant shop floor pay, and that his bonus targets were set too low — a trick that’s long been a mainstay of complaisant corporate remuneration committees.

British reforms in corporate governance in 2013 give shareholders a binding vote on executive pay every three years. And the pay of the total workforce must be shown to influence how pay is set for top executives.

The pro-business Conservative government headed by British Prime Minister David Cameron is irate over foot-dragging by Corporate Britain on those reforms. It is feeling the heat after recent disclosures of huge bonuses even at British companies whose profits have fallen or remain on government life support dating from taxpayer-funded bailouts during the Great Recession.

Vince Cable, Cameron’s business secretary, told a gathering of British corporate CEOs in late March that “If companies and investors are unable or unwilling to act responsibly, the pressure for stronger measures will be hard to ignore.”

The pressure on politicians, that is. No amount of corporate lobbying will dissuade a government from action that will save its skin in a forthcoming election.

Cable got specific about his intended corrective measures. They include punitive action against firms that fail to comply with the reforms, naturally, but also include the unprecedented step of requiring shareholders to disclose how they voted on executive pay.

Will it come to that here? Conditions are ripe for it. Resentment is growing among financially struggling Canadians that a select few are getting much more than their fair share. Even the major institutional investors are restless over the disconnect between pay and performance.

Members of the family that controls Rogers Communications Inc. enjoyed an 18 per cent gain in their net wealth in 2013, while ordinary Rogers shareholders eked out an 8.7 per cent gain in a year in which Rogers’ profits actually dropped slightly.

If the U.S. president gets by with $400,000 (U.S.) in pay to run a $16-trillion economy, how is it that a crippled BlackBerry Inc. must pay fired CEO Thorsten Heins a reported $22 million in severance pay for a job poorly done?

The Harper government delights in cost-free populist measures. A Cameron-style Fairness in Business package of corporate governance reforms would cost the federal treasury nothing and be mighty appealing as an election promise.

It was sadly amusing to hear British shareholder advisory expert Sarah Wilson urging caution in forcing shareholders to vote on executive pay. “Voting is just one tool and sometimes it can be a blunt one. Sometimes a quiet conversation can achieve more.”

This is a bald fear of genuine shareholder democracy, of course. And really, what are the chances of Wilson or I having a quiet one-on-one with the head of a hulking multibillion-dollar enterprise — with, say, CEO Mary Barra about the faulty GM ignition parts tied to 13 deaths and millions of costly vehicle recalls?


04/03/2014 (6:40 pm)

John Tory vows not to make

Filed under: business, real estate |

If elected mayor of Toronto, John Tory has promised he won’t make “an enemies list.”

He’s promised to “show up for work each day” and “defend our laws, not break them.”

And he will “answer questions — not (run) from them” and release a “weekly schedule that is public.”

Each of these pledges is part of Tory’s 10-part “Code of Personal and Political Conduct,” which he announced at a Thursday morning press conference.

While the policy is largely an attack on Mayor Rob Ford’s work ethic, Tory also introduced other ideas, such as requiring “all lobbyists” to register — including union lobbyists in some situations, and expanding the number of penalties misbehaving elected officials and public servants can face. (Currently under council’s Code of Conduct, members can only be given a reprimand or a suspension of pay for up to 90 days guaranteed pay day loans.)

“Many Torontonians, myself included, supported elements of Mr. Ford’s fiscal plan when he was first elected. But things have changed with this mayor. Torontonians did not know they were electing a mayor who would hang out with criminals and people involved in drugs. The very people he should be trying to get off our streets,” Tory said.

“Today I want to leave no doubt about the conduct Torontonians can expect from me as their mayor.”

Shortly after Tory’s announcement, Olivia Chow’s campaign released a list of Tory’s “10 most-notable lapses” in terms of “questionable behaviour.”


03/29/2014 (11:40 pm)

Rob Ford: Prosecutors still seeking motive in Lisi case, court told

Filed under: real estate, technology |

Crown prosecutors are still seeking a motive in the extortion case against Mayor Rob Ford’s friend Alexander “Sandro” Lisi, a Toronto court heard Friday.

“We do not know precisely what motivated Mr. Lisi,” crown attorney John Patton told Mr. Justice Ian Nordheimer during arguments over how much more of two search warrant documents can be released.

Nordheimer approved the release of a few more sections at noon Friday, but has reserved his decision on the bulk of the information.

In the new documents released, detectives state that they intercepted calls between Ford and Lisi during the two-day time period when the alleged threats by Lisi were made to the people believed to have the video. Police only know the calls were made, not what was said on them.

Lisi is facing drug trafficking and extortion charges, the latter related to his alleged attempt to retrieve the crack cocaine video of Ford from the man who made it and an associate. Lisi’s lawyer argued that releasing details of the alleged threats, and wiretap information connected to the allegations, would severely prejudice his client’s right to a fair trial. Media lawyers argued that the public has the right to know the details of the case because it involves a high-profile investigation of the top municipal politician in Canada’s largest city make quick cash.

In the portions that were released, investigators have noted they discovered telephone contact between Ford and Lisi during the May 16-18 2013 time period when Lisi allegedly threatened the two men to turn over the crack video.

Investigators say that during the key two-day time period (news of the video’s existence surfaced on May 17) they have learned from phone records that Lisi was in contact with Ford, both through his cell phone, ONSTAR and home number, and Lisi was also in contact with Elena Basso, the woman at whose house the video was filmed in February 17, 2013. Lisi was also in contact with Mohamed Siad, who made the video, his associate Liban Syad, and with the mayor’s assistant Thomas Beyer.

Also in the document released were reports of a death threat of sorts directed at Mohamed Farah, the man who tried to broker the sale of the video to the Star and Gawker.


03/16/2014 (10:48 pm)

Final words from missing Malaysian jet came after systems shutdown

Filed under: marketing, real estate |

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA—The final words from the missing Malaysian jetliner’s cockpit gave no indication anything was wrong even though one of the plane’s communications systems had already been disabled, officials said Sunday, adding to suspicions that one or both of the pilots were involved in the disappearance.

As authorities examined a flight simulator that was confiscated from the home of one of the pilots and dug through the background of all 239 people on board and the ground crew that serviced the plane, they also were grappling with the enormity of the search ahead of them, warning they needed more data to narrow down the hunt for the aircraft.

More: Missing Malaysian Airlines plane was deliberately diverted, says Malaysian PM

The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 took off from Kuala Lumpur at around 12:40 a.m. on March 8, headed to Beijing. On Saturday, Malaysia’s government confirmed that the plane was deliberately diverted and may have flown as far north as Central Asia, or south into the vast reaches of the Indian Ocean.

Authorities have said someone on board the plane first disabled one of its communications systems — the Aircraft and Communications Addressing and Reporting System, or ACARS — at 1:07 a.m. Around 14 minutes later, the transponder, which identifies the plane to commercial radar systems, was also shut down. The fact that they went dark separately is strong evidence that the plane’s disappearance was deliberate.

On Sunday, Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said at a news conference that that the final, reassuring words from the cockpit — “All right, good night” — were spoken to air traffic controllers after the ACARS system was shut down. Whoever spoke did not mention any trouble on board, seemingly misleading ground control.

Air force Maj. Gen. Affendi Buang told reporters he did not know whether it was the pilot or co-pilot who spoke to air traffic controllers.

Given the expanse of land and water that might need to be searched, the wreckage of the plane might take months — or longer — to find, or might never be located. Establishing what happened with any degree of certainty will likely need key information, including cockpit voice recordings, from the plane’s flight data recorders.

The search area now includes 11 countries the plane might have flown over, Hishammuddin said, adding that the number of countries involved in the operation had increased from 14 to 25.

“The search was already a highly complex, multinational effort. It has now become even more difficult,” he said.

The search effort initially focused on the relatively shallow waters of the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca, where the plane was first thought to be. Hishammuddin said he had asked governments to hand over sensitive radar and satellite data to try and help get a better idea of the plane’s final movements.

“It is our hope with the new information, parties that can come forward and narrow the search to an area that is more feasible,” he said.

Malaysia is leading the multinational search for the plane, as well as the investigation into its disappearance.

In the United States, Dan Pfeiffer, senior adviser to President Barack Obama, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the FBI was supporting the criminal probe.

Rep. Peter King, who is chairman of the House Homeland Security subcommittee on counterterrorism and intelligence, said on ABC’s “This Week” that so far “there’s nothing out there indicating it’s terrorists.”

Investigators are trying to answer these questions: If the two pilots were involved in the disappearance, were they working together or alone, or with one or more of the passengers or crew? Did they fly the plane under duress or of their own volition? Did one or more of the passengers manage to break into the cockpit, or use the threat of violence to gain entry and then pilot the plane? And what possible motive could there be for flying off with the plane?

Malaysia’s police chief, Khalid Abu Bakar, said he requested countries with citizens on board the plane to investigate their background, no doubt looking for any ties to terrorist groups, aviation skills or evidence of prior contact with the pilots online payday loans. He said that the intelligence agencies of some countries had already done this and found nothing suspicious, but that he was waiting for others to respond.

The government said police searched the homes of both pilots on Saturday, the first time they had done so since the plane went missing. Asked why it took them so long, Khalid said authorities “didn’t see the necessity in the early stages.”

Khalid said police confiscated the elaborate flight simulator that one of the pilots, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, had built in his home and reassembled it in their offices to study it for clues.

Zaharie, 53, who has three grown children and one grandchild, had previously posted photos online of the simulator, which was made with three large computer monitors and other accessories. Earlier this week, the head of Malaysia Airlines said this was not in itself cause for any suspicion.

Malaysian police are also investigating engineers and ground staff who may have had contact with the plane before it took off, Khalid said.

ACARS is used to send information about the plane’s engines and other parts to the airline. Even though it was disabled on Flight 370, it continued to send out faint hourly pulses that were recorded by a satellite. The last “ping” was sent out at 8:11 a.m. — 7 hours and 31 minutes after the plane took off. It placed the jet somewhere in a huge arc as far north as Kazakhstan in Central Asia or far into the southern Indian Ocean.

While many people believe the plane has crashed, there is a very small possibility it may have landed somewhere and be relatively intact. Affendi, the air force general, and Hishammuddin, the defence minister, said it was possible for the plane to “ping” when it was on the ground if its electrical systems were undamaged.

Australia said it was sending one of its two AP-3C Orion aircraft involved in the search to remote islands in the Indian Ocean at Malaysia’s request. The plane will search the north and west of the Cocos Islands, a remote Australian territory with an airstrip about 1,200 kilometres (745 miles) southwest of Indonesia, military chief Gen. David Hurley said.

Given that the northern route the plane may have taken would take it over countries with busy airspace, most experts say the person in control of the aircraft would more likely have chosen the southern route. The southern Indian Ocean is the world’s third-deepest and one of the most remote stretches of water in the world, with little radar coverage.

Malaysian officials and aviation experts said that whoever disabled the plane’s communication systems and then flew the jet must have had a high degree of technical knowledge and flying experience, putting one or both of the pilots high on the list of possible suspects.

Zaharie, the pilot, was a supporter of a Malaysian opposition political party that is locked in a bitter dispute with the government, according to postings on his Facebook page and a friend, Peter Chong, who is a party member.

Chong said that he last saw Zaharie a week before the pilot left on the flight for Beijing, and that they had agreed to meet on his return to organize a shopping trip for poor children.

“If I am on a flight, I would choose Captain Zaharie,” he said. “He is dedicated to his job, he is a professional and he loves flying.”


02/25/2014 (12:28 pm)

Late-payment rate on US auto loans rose in 4Q

Filed under: real estate, uk |

LOS ANGELES (AP) — U.S. car owners are carrying higher auto loan balances but still making timely monthly payments.

Auto loan debt per borrower grew 4.4 percent to $16,769 in the final quarter of 2013 from a year earlier — the 11th consecutive quarter to post an annual increase, according to data released Tuesday by credit reporting agency TransUnion.

Even so, the U.S. auto loan delinquency rate ended the last three months of last year at 1.14 percent, below the 1.3 percent average quarterly late-payment rate for every October-December quarter going back to 2007, the firm said.

The trend suggests borrowers with auto loans continue to keep up with payments, even as auto loan debt per borrower has grown steadily. It’s up 12 percent since the first quarter of 2011.

Stable fuel prices, low interest rates and the increased availability of credit helped propel U.S. new car and truck sales up 8 percent to 15.6 million last year. That was the industry’s best year since 2007 and the fourth year in a row sales increased by more than 1 million. New auto loans tend to have higher balances early on, which helps drive up auto loan debt.

Auto loan debt per borrower edged up in the fourth quarter by 0.5 percent from the previous three months. The increase was broad, with every state posting a bump in auto loan debt per borrower in the quarter, TransUnion said.

“Consumers are willing to take on more auto debt,” said Pete Turek, vice president of automotive at TransUnion’s financial services business unit.

Typically, the late-payment rate on auto loans, credit cards and mortgages rises in the October-December quarter, as many consumers hit the stores to buy gifts for the holiday season. The shopping sprees bust some consumers’ budgets, forcing them to put off making timely payments.

That seasonal trend also drove up the late-payment rate on auto loans in the last three months of 2013.

The rate of U.S. auto loan payments late by 60 days or more grew to 1.14 percent in the October-December period, rising from 1.04 percent in the previous quarter and 1.09 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, TransUnion said.

The late-payment rate among subprime borrowers, or those whom lenders deem a higher credit risk because of their track record of managing debt, rose to 6.1 percent in the fourth quarter from 5.7 percent in the prior-year period.

Many borrowers typically catch up in the first few months following the holidays, often with the aid of income tax refunds. That’s one reason TransUnion predicts auto loan delinquency will decline to 1.02 percent for the January-March quarter.

All told, TransUnion tracked 60.5 million auto loan accounts in the fourth quarter, up from 57 million a year earlier.

As more drivers have gone car shopping, lenders have responded, making loans available to more borrowers, even those with less-than-perfect credit.

The number of new auto loans increased about 11 percent to 6.6 million in the third quarter from a year earlier. The data lag by a quarter, so the latest TransUnion figures cover the July-September period.

Some 32.5 percent of new auto loans issued in the third quarter were made to nonprime borrowers, up from 32.4 percent a year earlier. That’s still less than the pre-recession share of nearly 37 percent in the July-September period of 2007, but up from a low of 25.6 percent in the third quarter of 2009.

Non-prime borrowers are defined as those with a score lower than 700 on the VantageScore credit scale, which runs between 501 and 990, with borrowers scoring at 900 or above being considered prime borrowers, or the safest credit bet.


02/07/2014 (2:44 pm)

Smart Money Seizes Fischer

Filed under: business, real estate |

In October 2001, Stanley Fischer traveled to the London School of Economics to speak on the lessons of his seven years battling turmoil in emerging markets as the International Monetary Fund

01/02/2014 (11:08 pm)

Hundreds wait in vain as ice storm vouchers gone

Filed under: real estate, term |

Hundreds of people lined up in the Golden Mile Mall for hours on Thursday morning were told all the food vouchers they came for were gone by mid-morning.

Even after security guards tried to get them to disperse, more than 100 stayed lined up in the hope that a new supply might arrive in the afternoon.

“There’s no more cards,” a guard called to the crowd. Some left, but others said they were willing to wait.

Staff at the employment and social services office said they had no guarantee of more cards, $50 for an individual and $100 for a family, by afternoon.

Dorothy Hrischenko, 54, explained she would stay as long as it took even though she had been at the mall office since 7:30 a.m.

She did admit she has been worried for her safety in the line-up as people yelled and jockeyed for position.

Rather than in a line, people were packed eight across at the social service office door. The police had shown up several times through the morning for crowd control.

“Apparently now they have no more cards left, and we’re the next people,” said Susan Ouellette, 30, who had been standing in the mall since 6:45 a.m.

She made it to the front of the line shortly after 10 a.m. only to be told the cards were gone.

Ouellette said the ice storm left her family without power over Christmas, and she was forced to throw away spoiled food, including the Christmas turkey.

“I have a toddler, a baby, a 17-year-old. All the food that got thrown out doesn’t come back for free,” she said.

Ouellette said she tried to get a card on Tuesday at the Kennedy office, but it was “packed like sardines.

“And I had two young babies with me, so I couldn’t even get into that office with a big stroller.”

Premier Kathleen Wynne had announced on Monday that more than $200,000 for grocery store vouchers would be available from Tuesday through Friday to people forced to throw out food because of the power cut caused by an ice storm that hit Dec. 21.

Ice storm victims are eligible for a $50 card for an individual and $100 for a family with contributions from Loblaw, Shoppers Drug Mart, Metro and Sobeys matched by the province.


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