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New SEC whistleblower data draws mixed reaction

In its first full year, a federal whistleblower program that boosted the amount of awards to employees and others who report credible information about fraud and other securities violations spurred more than 3,000 tips and resulted in one five-figure payout.

That data was released by the Securities and Exchange Commission in its most recent annual report on the Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Program, which has been in place for less than 18 months.

SEC officials and attorneys who represent plaintiffs hail the data as evidence that the program is working.

Ian J. McLoughlin, a partner in the Boston office of Shapiro, Haber & Urmy who represents shareholders and others, said the program “is still getting off the ground, so this is uncharted territory.” But the report suggests that the tips, “for the most part, are good ones,” he said.

Defense attorneys, on the other hand, say they are cautiously waiting for more data to evaluate whether the program aids the discovery of actual fraud or simply leads to longer, more costly litigation.

Dolan Media Newswires

Weather service seeks comments on hazard headlines

National Weather Service offices in more than a dozen states are surveying the public online about possible changes to how the agency delivers winter weather hazard messages.

The agency seeks to clarify terms such as “watch,” ”warning,” and “advisory.”

“We want to start a conversation on how we might simplify and clarify our products,” meteorologist John Paul Martin told The Bismarck Tribune. Martin is a National Weather Service warning coordinator in Bismarck, North Dakota’s capital.

The online survey provides side-by-side comparisons of actual weather headlines. During heavy snowfall in western South Dakota Jan. 3, for example, the official headline on the Rapid City weather service website notified the public of a “winter weather advisory” while an alternative advised “caution for snow and blowing snow.” Some areas got a foot or more of snow.

Twenty-six weather service offices in 15 states are taking part in the project through March. Most are in northern states, from Idaho in the west to Maine in the east.

The Associated Press

Rasure named Intermountain Region forester

A new person is in charge of national forests in five Western states.

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell announced Jan. 4 that Nora Rasure will replace Harv Forsgren as regional forester for the Forest Service Intermountain Region.

The region covers 13 national forests and one national grassland in Nevada, Utah, western Wyoming, southern Idaho and a small portion of California.

Forsgren is retiring and Rasure most recently has been acting regional forester for the Eastern Region.

Rasure will begin her new job Jan. 13.

The Associated Press

MWI buys New Jersey distributor of veterinary products

MWI Veterinary Supply boosted its presence on the East Coast Dec. 31 with the purchase of PCI Animal Health of Secaucus, N.J. for $17 million.  Boise-based MWI distributes animal health products to veterinarians in the United States and United Kingdom.

PCI had revenues of about $33 million in 2012, according to a news release.  The distributor reaches vets primarily in New England and the New York area.

The PCI acquisition adds to the company’s reach with domestic animal veterinarians in the Northeast, said Mary Pat Thompson, MWI’s chief financial officer, in a phone interview.

Thompson added MWI is planning to improve its market penetration.  MWI has less of a presence in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states than its competitors.

In 2012, MWI was relatively quiet in terms of company acquisitions. In 2011 the distributor bought Micro Beef Technologies, Ltd of Texas for about $60 million.  This purchase expanded MWI’s presence in Texas and in the livestock market.

MWI also bought Nelson Laboratories of South Dakota for about $7 million that year.  Nelson’s distribution network reached vets primarily in the Midwest.

MWI had revenues of $2.1 billion during its fiscal year 2012 that ended September 30.

Scott Ki

Congress extends wind, biofuels tax credits

The bill Congress approved Jan. 1 providing tax relief for most taxpayers also helps wind energy and ethanol producers by extending tax credits designed to encourage continued development. States like Texas, the nation’s leading wind energy producer, and Iowa, the leading ethanol maker, should benefit from the incentives. Many of the credits had expired in 2012.

The bill extends to the end of the year a production tax credit for wind energy on any facility under construction before the end of 2013. The bill also extends a $1.01-per-gallon tax credit for cellulosic ethanol made from corn plants, grasses, algae, and sources other than corn kernels. The bill allows ethanol makers to depreciate equipment for new plants placed in service in 2013 and extends biodiesel production tax incentives for two years.

The Associated Press

Chick-fil-A opens in Twin Falls Jan. 10.

Chick-fil-A is continuing its Idaho expansion, opening in Twin Falls on Jan. 10 on Blue Lakes Boulevard. The new 4,565-square-foot restaurant will have approximately 70 employees .

The Atlanta-based quick service restaurant’s first Idaho location was in Boise State University’s Student Union Building, which opened in the fall of 2010. Chick-fil-A’s first standalone store opened in Ammon in December 2011. The Treasure Valley added three more Chick-fil-A stores in late 2012.

“We are thrilled to open our first Twin Falls stand-alone restaurant as we continue to grow in Idaho and across the state and country,” said Dan T. Cathy, president and chief operating officer of Chick-fil-A, Inc.

The new Twin Falls location is the first of 102 new Chick-fil-A restaurants that will open in 2012. The store’s franchised operator is Bill Ystueta, who lived in Boise from 2006 to 2009 when he was working for Home Depot.

At all new Chick-fil-A openings, the first 100 people in line receive vouchers for 52 Chick-fil-A meals.

 Brad Iverson-Long

Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens launches comeback

Two months shy of his 50th birthday, Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens is launching a comeback this weekend at Santa Anita.

“My passion is still there,” said Stevens, who got his start racing at Les Bois in Boise in 1979. He announced his return after a seven-year retirement on Jan. 3. “Or I should say my passion has come back. I’ve worked a couple of very good horses in the morning at Santa Anita that kind of made the hair stand up on my neck and I haven’t felt that in a long time.”

Stevens’ first race will be Jan. 6 at Santa Anita, with his lone mount in a $50,000 claiming race on a horse named Jebrica.

“I’m going to be selective in what I ride and if that means not riding at all or upsetting people then so be it,” he said. “I didn’t come back to ride five days a week and ride nine races a day. I came back to ride some quality horses with hopefully some good futures.”

He retired in November 2005 after battling knee pain that had him downing anti-inflammatories every day for the last 15 years of his career.

 The Associated Press

Judge lets wolf season resume near Yellowstone

Wolf hunting and trapping can resume near Yellowstone National Park after a Montana judge on Jan. 2 blocked the state from shutting down the practice over concerns that too many animals used in research were being killed.

The restraining order from Judge Nels Swandal allows hunting and trapping to resume in areas east and west of the town of Gardiner in Park County.

State officials closed the gray wolf season in those areas on Dec. 10. That came after several wolves collared for scientific research were killed, drawing complaints from wildlife advocates.

The move prompted a lawsuit from sporting groups and a state lawmaker from Park County, Rep. Alan Redfield, who said the public was not given enough chance to weigh in on the closures.

A Jan. 14 hearing was scheduled in the case.

Park officials said at least seven Yellowstone wolves — including five wearing tracking collars — were shot by hunters in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. Also shot were four collared wolves originally from the park but now living outside it. Three more shot in the vicinity of the park had unknown origins and were not wearing collars, park officials said.

The current season marks Montana’s first experience with wolf trapping since the animals lost their endangered species protections last year under an order from Congress.

The Associated Press

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