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SoftBank picking its battles with U.S. national security committee

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SoftBank picking its battles with U.S. national security committee

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – SoftBank Group Corp has agreed to give up board seats and access to sensitive information, take a more passive role in startups and make other concessions to get government clearance for its technology deals, as the Japanese investor confronts a new U.S. law aimed at cracking down on foreign investors.

FILE PHOTO – SoftBank Corp. placard is prepared during a ceremony to mark the company’s debut on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo, Japan December 19, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato

SoftBank’s investment style has made it a frequent visitor of a U.S. government group known as the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), charged with reviewing foreign investment for national security and competitive risks.

“We know the deals are going to be reviewed,” Marcelo Claure, chief operating officer of SoftBank Group Corp, said in an interview with Reuters this week. “We have abided by what the U.S. government wants.”

SoftBank likes to take large stakes in companies working on artificial intelligence, data analytics, financial services and self-driving cars — technologies increasingly viewed as critical to national security. This puts them in the crosshairs of a law signed by U.S. President Donald Trump last year expanding the powers of CFIUS.

Giving up board seats and access to private information would make SoftBank’s less of a threat in the eyes of CFIUS, giving its deals a better chance of approval.

“We would not accept this if we were in the business of running companies,” Claure said of the concessions. “We’re not. We are in the business of investing.”

Claure declined to provide specifics on investments where SoftBank has had to make concessions or give up board seats and the U.S. government does not comment on CFIUS reviews.

The regulations have deterred many foreign investors from even attempting investment in U.S. tech companies.

“Everything is a conversation with the government so you figure you are going to pick your battles,” Claure said.

One regulatory battle SoftBank has chosen, so far, to sit out is regarding Uber Technologies Inc’s board seats. As part of an $8 billion investment SoftBank closed in January 2018, which gave it a 16 percent stake in Uber and made it the largest shareholder, SoftBank was supposed to get two board seats.

CFIUS reviewed SoftBank’s investment in Uber, but SoftBank has not yet initiated the formal review of the two board seats, Claure told Reuters.

As a result, more than a year later, Claure and Rajeev Misra, who oversees SoftBank’s $100 billion Vision Fund, have not taken their board seats. The result is that Uber on Thursday kicked off its initial public offering with a board of 12 directors, not the 17 members long ago agreed upon.

Another three independent directors cannot be appointed until after Misra and Claure join the board.

By the time Uber’s shares start trading on the New York Stock Exchange in early May, SoftBank may have missed its opening. When it becomes public, Uber’s bylaws will change, erasing old agreements with its directors, according to Uber’s IPO filing posted Thursday.

Claure said SoftBank may still submit its board seat plan to CFIUS, but added that “it hasn’t been a priority for us” and SoftBank still has the access it wants to Uber’s executives.

BUILDING A TEAM OF LOBBYISTS

After becoming chief operating officer in May of 2018, Claure increased SoftBank’s presence and lobbying power in Washington.

“The first job was to change the conversation with the U.S. government and explain to the U.S. government what is SoftBank,” said Claure.

It hired former Ford Motor Co lobbyist Ziad Ojakli to improve relations with regulators.

SoftBank added a former White House staffer and a Department of Commerce deputy to its Washington staff last fall, and hired Jeffrey Dressler, previously a national security adviser to members of the U.S. Congress, as its national security policy director in January.

Even without board seats or more control in a company, SoftBank still wields a lot of influence. SoftBank at times requires companies to meet performance goals before receiving money and generally prohibits founders and employees from selling their company shares.

SoftBank last month unveiled a $5 billion fund to invest in technology companies in Latin America, where it will be well outside of CFIUS’ control. Claure said SoftBank has already looked at more than 140 companies for investment and closed a few deals.

But Claure said SoftBank is not retreating from CFIUS.

“We will find ways to invest in the United States,” Claure said.

Reporting by Heather Somerville; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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Hundreds of decks of playing cards arrive for Washington state lawmaker who criticized nurses

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Washington state lawmaker riles nurses by saying that some spend 'considerable' time playing cards

The Washington state senator who suggested that some nurses “play cards” during a “considerable” portion of their shifts received more than 600 packages of playing cards Tuesday as backlash over her remarks continued to grow.

The United Parcel Service location in Tumwater, Wash., said that it received 667 packages of playing cards addressed to state Sen. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, after an open letter criticizing her remarks circulated on Facebook last week and included Walsh’s P.O. box address, Seattle’s KOMO-TV reported.

“You said that not all nurses deserve breaks as they just sit around playing cards while on shift anyway,” the letter read. “I know nurses who can go all night without food or a bathroom break. I know nurses with nerve damage and back pain from doing whatever it takes to take care of patients. I know nurses who cry in their cars. Do you think that’s where they play cards, Senator Walsh?”

WASHINGTON STATE LAWMAKER RILES NURSES BY SAYING SOME SPEND ‘CONSIDERABLE’ TIME PLAYING CARDS

Washington state Sen. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, angered nurses by commenting in a speech that some nurses may spend a lot of time playing cards in rural hospitals. (Associated Press)

Washington state Sen. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, angered nurses by commenting in a speech that some nurses may spend a lot of time playing cards in rural hospitals. (Associated Press)

The letter went on to predict that after the next election cycle Walsh may find herself with “plenty of time to play cards and plenty of cards to play with.”

Walsh first drew criticism from nursing professionals while debating a bill last week that would require uninterrupted meal and rest breaks for nurses and would also provide mandatory overtime protections for them.

She pushed for an amendment that would exclude hospitals with fewer than 25 beds from the provision, arguing that such small facilities struggle to provide 24-hour care as it is.

“I would submit to you that those (small hospital) nurses probably do get breaks,” Walsh said. “They probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day.”

Despite the bill being passed with Walsh’s amendment, her ill-received comments sparked a flurry of social media posts mocking her.

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Walsh addressed the issue Monday, apologizing to those who were offended and saying she would spend a day shadowing a nurse throughout his or her 12-hour shift.

“I want to offer my heartfelt apologies to those I offended with my comments on the Senate floor last Tuesday. I was tired, and in the heat of argument on the Senate floor, I said some things about nurses that were taken out of context – but still they crossed the line.”

In 2012, some comments by Walsh on a different subject also went viral, the News Tribune of Tacoma reported. That year Walsh bucked most other members of the state GOP by speaking out in support of same-sex marriage. The state’s House subsequently backed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage.

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Bernie Sanders wrong about prisoners and voting, ex-con released under Trump reform law says

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Bernie Sanders wrong about prisoners and voting, ex-con released under Trump reform law says

The first man released from prison under President Trump’s criminal justice reform law reacted to Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., saying that prisoners should be permitted to vote by noting the “logistical” problems of allowing prisoners serving a sentence to vote and backing prisoners who served their time to have their rights restored.

“I do know while you’re incarcerated you do lose some of your liberties. But my thing is, once a person has been completely released and they paid their debt to society and they are back in society actually functioning, paying taxes, then they should have their rights restored to vote,” Matthew Charles, who was released from prison under the First Step Act, said on Fox News’  “The Story with Martha MacCallum.”

KAMALA HARRIS BACKTRACKS, NOW SAYS CRIMINALS LIKE BOSTON BOMBER ‘SHOULD BE DEPRIVED’ OF RIGHT TO VOTE

“But during the period they’re incarcerated, it’s going to be like a complex issue because of the logistics. You got people incarcerated in states that they actually are not from.”

Sanders opened himself to scrutiny this week after saying that not only should incarcerated prisoners be permitted to vote but that Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should also be permitted to vote.

“If somebody commits a serious crime, sexual assault, murder, they will be punished. But I think the right to vote is inherent to our democracy. Yes, even for terrible people,” Sanders said Monday on a CNN Town Hall.

Trump’s re-election campaign called out Sanders Wednesday, describing his idea “deeply offensive.”

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“The extremity and radicalism of the 2020 Democrats knows no bounds,” Trump campaign press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told Fox News.

“Giving imprisoned terrorists, sex offenders, and murderers the right to vote is an outrageous proposal that is deeply offensive to innocent victims across this country, some of whom lost their lives and are forever disenfranchised by the very killers that 2020 Democrats seek to empower,” she said.

Fox News’ Sally Persons and Alex Pappas contributed to this report.

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George Conway praises Hillary Clinton for her op-ed on Mueller probe: ‘I’m with her’

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George Conway calls Trump a cancer that needs to be removed in blistering op-ed

The husband of top White House official Kellyanne Conway expressed solidarity with Hillary Clinton after the former secretary of state wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post urging Congress to pursue the findings from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, telling his followers on Twitter, “I’m with her.”

In the piece published Wednesday afternoon, Clinton called for holding President Trump “accountable for obstructing the investigation and possibly breaking the law” but insisted that choosing between “immediate impeachment or nothing” was a “false choice.” She also referred to the Mueller report as “road map” for Congress.

“It’s up to members of both parties to see where that road map leads — to the eventual filing of articles of impeachment, or not,” Clinton wrote. “Either way, the nation’s interests will be best served by putting party and political considerations aside and being deliberate, fair and fearless.”

George Conway, who has made a name for himself as an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, praised the 2016 presidential candidate on Twitter and highlighted a portion from her op-ed, where she acknowledged that some may say she’s “not the right messenger.”

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“Perhaps so. Probably so. But if she’s with the Constitution, I’m with her,” Conway tweeted.

Conway regularly slams the president and repeatedly has questioned his mental fitness. The president fired back on Twitter last month.

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