News round-up: Karen Hanover, Archstone Consulting, Charles

Published: Feb 11, 2011


Friday is upon us. To celebrate the occasion, let's start with something completely ridiculous.

Karen Hanover, a 44 year old Orange County resident, is accused of concocting and executing a scheme so harebrained that she must actually be a consultant. And indeed, that is the case! The FBI published a press release yesterday confirming that the Bureau had arrested Hanover, a self-employed real estate consultant, on suspicion of "impersonating a federal agent". Here's the story: Hanover was peddling "unique information about favorable commercial properties" to Los Angeles buyers in exchange for a $30,000 "consulting fee" for her services. After making the requisite payments to Hanover, several of her clients realized that she did not, in fact, have "unique information" of any real value, and became predictably disgruntled. Some clients connected with one another, even posting warnings to prospective property buyers on online forums to steer clear of Karen Hanover. Karen was enraged. So, she did what any normal person would do: she logged onto a sketchy website that provides voice changing and caller ID altering services, and went to work. She began calling dissatisfied customers using the "spoofing" software to disguise her voice as a man's and rewiring her caller ID to show the FBI's Los Angeles, Miami, and Washington DC offices as the source of each call. Speaking as an unnamed FBI agent, Hanover demanded that the clients stop the slander or face lengthy imprisonment. It didn't work. Hanover made her first appearance in federal court yesterday.

Archstone Consulting is at the center of a political debate regarding the future of winemaking and vending in New York State. The firm was contracted by New Yorkers for Economic Growth, a lobbying advocate of "fiscal responsibility", to study the economic effects of a proposal that would see wine hit the shelves in grocery stores statewide (currently, wine can only be sold by liquor stores). Archstone's findings have galvanized wine producers and merchants alike; as many as 6,400 new jobs would be created as a result of the new legislation, the firm asserts, in the first year of its implementation alone. The state government could expect to see a one-time windfall of nearly $350 million from grocers and small vendors, Archstone's report details, as well as an extra $71 million annually in excise taxes and fees. Sounds fine and dandy, but there's a counterargument. For one, liquor store owners are furious about what they see as an unwelcome encroachment on small business. "Another year, another study from the big-box stores," said Michael McKeon, a spokesman for liquor store interests. "The only fact that comes from this work of fiction is that these greedy grocers will spend any amount of money to shutter small business across the state." Further, McKeon suggested that new legislation would close up to one thousand state liquor stores, resulting a loss of 4,500 jobs. Who to believe? The strategy consultants or the lobbyists?

Last up for this week we hear from Charles River Associates (CRA), which published some interesting financial data this morning. Instead of reporting quarterly or yearly numbers, CRA released data from the previous five weeks, which it called a "transition period"—the result of the firm's decision to shift the parameters of its fiscal year. CRA has struggled over the past several years and, despite some improvements of late, this mini-report offered little change. Though revenue increased 9.3 percent from the same stretch last year, the firm still lost $600k, double what it lost in last year's same timeframe. Paul Maleh, CRA's president and CEO, tried to paint a positive picture. The results, he said, "reflect a continuation of the improvements across the firm that we began to see in the second half of fiscal 2010." He also notes that utilization hit 67 percent during the period, an increase from 61 percent in 2009 but still well below that of many of its competitors.

Happy weekend.

For more information:
FBI: Woman Arrested For Impersonating FBI Agents
The Business Review: New push to sell wine in supermarkets
WBNG-TV: Group Rekindles Wine Sales Debate
Charles River Associates Announces Financial Results for Five-Week Transition Period