Thomson to Unload American Banker and Media Group

Thomson Corporation this morning confirmed plans to unload its Thomson Media group which produces a wide range of financial services publications including American Banker, and card industry-focused publications: Card Management magazine, Card Industry Directory, and CardLine. American Banker, once the cash cow jewel of Thomson, has been published since 1836. Thomson Media had 2003 revenues of approximately $170 million. This is the second time in three years the company has tried to sell the media group. Morgan Stanley has been retained to be its financial advisor on the sale and expects to complete the sale of the business later this year. The Thomson Corporation had 2003 revenues from continuing operations of $7.6 billion. The Company provides value-added information, software tools and applications to more than 20 million users in the fields of law, tax, accounting, financial services, higher education, reference information, corporate training and assessment, scientific research and healthcare.

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Stratus Rewards VISA Gets an RMA

Atlanta-based Intellinet has designed and developed a “Rewards Management Application” for Stratus Rewards. Los Angeles-based Stratus Rewards launched its new super affluent, co-branded VISA card in April. The card offers rewards for private jet travel. The new white-colored “Stratus Rewards VISA,” issued through U.S. Bank, is by-invitation-only credit card and carries a $1,500 annual fee. The application developed by Intellinet enables Stratus Rewards to manage memberships online. The new Intellinet solution was a user-friendly custom web application built on a .NET platform that allows participants to view spending points and activity, browse product catalogs to redeem rewards and view order history. Program administrators can manage profiles of credit card holders while interfacing with reward suppliers. The application also features a reporting module with pre-defined and ad-hoc reports.

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High Gas Prices to Affect Other Spending

Cambridge Consumer Credit Index released a survey this morning that found 53% of Americans indicating that rising gas prices will force them to make sacrifices or cut back on other spending. These findings are the result of monthly nationwide telephone poll of 1000+ adults conducted by ICR/International Communications Research in the past week, sponsored by the Debt Relief Clearinghouse. In conjunction with the Index, the Cambridge Credit Counseling Corp. is releasing its monthly survey of people who have called in for credit counseling services over the past month. The Index survey is conducted by ICR of Media, Pennsylvania over five days in the week before the Index is released.

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JPMorgan EFS Renews Fiserv EBT Gateway

Fiserv EFT/CNS unit has extended its national EBT gateway switch agreement with JPMorgan Electronic Financial Services. Fiserv will continue to provide JPMorgan EFS with the technical infrastructure that connects acquirers to authorization endpoints for processing Food Stamp Program and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families transactions, among others. In addition to Fiserv’s transaction processing capability, JPMorgan EFS is leveraging Fiserv’s single-point corrections and single-point settlement service capabilities. Fiserv, Inc. provides information management systems and services to the financial industry, including transaction processing, business process outsourcing and software and systems solutions.

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AmEx Sponsors Bravo Show for the OPEN Network

American Express announced it will sponsor Bravo’s new series “Blow Out” in an effort to reach small business owners. “OPEN: The Small Business Network” from AmEx will be a primary sponsor of the unscripted drama series that debuts on Bravo at on June 8. The six-episode series offers a behind-the-scenes look at famed stylist Jonathan Antin as he expands his business from one salon in West Hollywood, California by opening and operating a second salon in Beverly Hills. AmEx is launching an integrated marketing campaign that includes print, television and radio advertising featuring Jonathan Antin. Antin will also lead a dialogue with other successful business owners around the challenges of running a growth business. Business owners who visit the site can provide their own insight and commentary on the business issues Antin faces throughout the series. In addition, the series will show how Antin uses OPEN Network products, tools and services to help manage his business. Most recently, the “OPEN Network” launched an advertising and marketing campaign featuring David Collins, the co-founder of Scout Productions and creator of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” in February 2004.

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SCTN Gets a New SVP of F&A

Smart Chip Technologies has hired Joseph Diamond as a Director and SVP/Finance and Administration. Mr. Diamond brings nearly four decades of expertise in intellectual property, corporate, and tax law and litigation with Arthur Anderson & Co., Coopers & Lybrand (now Price Waterhouse Coopers), as an agent with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, and is currently a partner in the Diamond Law Firm, with offices in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. Smart Chip Technologies’ “gateway” patents, owned in the U.S., Mexico, Australia, Japan, and Canada, cover the business process of storing consumer incentives on a smart chip or device.

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Sub-Primer Cross Country Sued in Sixth State

Sub-prime specialist Cross Country Bank has been sued by the Texas Attorney General for egregious and offensive tactics against Texans who sought to establish decent credit ratings through the Banks’ credit card program. Cross Country currently faces lawsuits in New York, West Virginia, Minnesota, Wisconsin and New Hampshire over its credit card program. The Texas Attorney General says consumers received little or no usable credit after receiving solicitations for credit limits up to $2,500. Most of the credit cards allegedly had limits as low as $200 to $400 with interest rates of about 20% after the origination fee, annual fee, and other additional charges consumed half or more than their credit limit. The Texas Attorney General’s Office also contends that the bank’s affiliate, Applied Card Systems, then began harassing their customers and family members with repeated and sometimes threatening or obscene telephone calls seeking to collect outstanding debts. The West Virginia Attorney General filed a lawsuit in March against Cross Country Bank and its affiliate Applied Card Systems. The WV suit charges that Cross Country engaged in deceptive marketing of credit cards, offering low credit limits and charging exorbitant hidden fees to consumers who already had bad credit. The suit contends that Applied Card Systems used a wide range of abusive collection practices to coerce consumers into making payments if they contested the fees or defaulted on the account. (CF Library 3/22/04)

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Providian Building Blocks Launched

San Francisco-based Providian Financial has launched a new employee program called “Providian Building Blocks”. The employees then work with the organization to plan a volunteer Saturday, where employees come together to complete projects–such as painting, landscaping, minor construction, and general spruce up–that will have a lasting effect on the organization, and the community as a whole. Providian Building Blocks events kick off in Oakland, California with a work day at the Lincoln Child Center on June 5. Providian ([www.providian.com][1]) is a leading provider of credit cards to mainstream American consumers throughout the United States.

[1]: http://www.providian.com

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CyberSource Adds PIN-less Debit to Online Payments

CyberSource has announced the immediate support of “PIN-less debit” transactions-transactions made over the Internet or via IVR systems where consumers can use their ATM cards but are not required to enter a PIN. Any organization that qualifies to accept this payment method may be eligible for significantly lower processing costs. CyberSource is the only major payment gateway provider to support PIN-less debit transactions and the company is adding the option to both its hosted payment services and its enterprise software platforms. CyberSource Corporation is a leading provider of electronic payment and risk management solutions.

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VISA Takes Magic Minutes Promotion to Singapore

VISA has launched its first magic minute sweepstakes in Singapore. The “Win What You Buy” cardholder shopping program will run through August 15th or until S$500,000 is redeemed. If the computerized date and time stamp on the cardholder’s charge slip match the day’s selected “magic minute”, the cardholder just needs to present the VISA charge slip to “Win What You Buy” redemption counter within the designated period, whatever the purchase is will be free of charge. The amount will be credited to the cardholder’s VISA card account and shown on the next statement. There is no minimum purchase amount required or lucky draw involved. VISA is also running a similar “Win What You Buy” promotion at Changi Airport through June 25th in conjunction with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore. CardFlash International also reported this week that credit card losses for April in Singapore declined nearly 4% compared to one-year ago, and more than 27% compared to December’s record losses of S$21.8 million. Banks reported total loses of S$15.9 million for April compared to S$16.3 million in the previous month, and S$16.5 million one-year ago. ([www.cardflashinternational.com][1])

[1]: http://www.cardflashinternational.com

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Symbol Technologies Settles DOJ & SEC Complaints

Symbol Technologies has resolved the investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office by executing a non-prosecution agreement. The Company also reached an agreement with the SEC regarding the settlement of allegations against Symbol that have been under investigation since May 2001. As a result, no criminal complaint will be filed against the Company. The agreements with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and SEC call for Symbol to pay $37 million in cash to a restitution fund for members of the class consisting of purchasers or acquirers of Symbol stock from February 15, 2000, to October 17, 2002, and $3 million to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service Consumer Fraud Fund. Also, as part of its settlement of private shareholder litigation, brought separately against the Company by this class, which is subject to court approval, Symbol will pay an additional $98 million, composed of $1.75 million in cash and $96.25 million in stock, to the class.

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Pay By Touch Closes $25MM Second Tier Funding

Pay By Touch announced a $25 million soft closing in its ongoing second investment round, led by Mobius Venture Capital and including the Gordon Getty Family Trust, bringing total invested capital in the biometric authentication and payment solutions company to $37 million. Pay By Touch is the pioneer of end-to-end biometric authentication and payment processing services, and boasts patented front-end biometric payment system. The Gordon P. Getty Family Trust is one of several private Getty family trusts that are successors to a trust created by Sarah C. Getty for her son, J. Paul Getty, and his descendants in 1934. Pay By Touch offers patented biometric payment processing services, including a free consumer payment service that allows shoppers to pay for purchases using a finger scan to access their financial accounts and loyalty programs.

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