Talking Points

GE’s Latin America CEO arrested in Brazil health care fraud probe

Daurio Speranzini Jr (center), CEO of General Electric for Latin America, was escorted to the superintendence in Sao Paulo on Wednesday.
Daurio Speranzini Jr (center), CEO of General Electric for Latin America, was escorted to the superintendence in Sao Paulo on Wednesday.(Marcelo Chello/European Pressphoto Agency/Shutterstock)


GE’s Latin America CEO arrested in Brazil health care fraud probe

(Editors note: This item has been updated to include GE statement’s that Speranzini did not work at GE during the period being investigated.)

General Electric Co.’s chief executive for Latin America was arrested in Brazil as part of a corruption probe into an alleged health care cartel that operated for more than two decades. Daurio Speranzini Jr. was served an arrest warrant Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro, along with eight other people. Police are allowed to hold him for five days. Thirteen so-called preventative arrest warrants, which have no set time for release, and 44 search warrants were also issued, Brazil’s Federal Police said. GE’s press office in Brazil confirmed the arrest but said GE is not the target of the investigations. According to the police statement, the cartel was formed by at least 33 companies and operated between 1996 and 2017. The alleged cartel is accused of steering contracts with the state of Rio and a medical institute to members of the group, while working to disqualify competitors. Speranzini took over as CEO of GE’s Latin American operations in January 2018, according to his LinkedIn page. Prior to that, he had held various executive roles at GE Healthcare in the region and the United States since 2011. Police also searched the offices of Philips, which makes medical equipment, and detained two people linked to the Dutch company. The investigation is linked to a larger probe into official corruption that has focused on the inflating state contracts with construction companies. The larger investigation, known as Operation Car Wash, has shaken Brazil’s elite, resulting in the jailing of many of its most powerful businessmen and a former president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Prosecutors also allege employees of the medical technology companies Stryker, a US company, and Drager, of Germany, participated in the scheme. — GLOBE WIRES


VW to start electric car-sharing service to boost lineup

Volkswagen AG’s namesake brand is entering the so-called car-sharing market with an electric-only offering, more than a decade after operators like Zipcar and Daimler’s Car2Go started their services As the German manufacturer outlined its plans, it also raised the possibility battery-car sales under the VW brand could be “far more” than the more than 1 million vehicles it said it would sell by 2025. Volkswagen, which also has the Audi, Porsche, and Skoda brands, among others, last year delivered a total of 10.7 million cars. VW will start its rollout of electric car rentals in Germany next year before a push in 2020 into major global cities. The decision could help boost demand for VW’s planned lineup of electric vehicles, with its first stand-alone battery car, the I.D. hatchback, due to start production next year. It plans to flank the all-electric hatchback, which will be sold for a price equivalent to a Golf Diesel, with a compact crossover, a microbus, and a four-door limousine by about 2022. The move into car rentals is part of a push to tackle the seismic shift toward electric cars and digital services. VW’s new chief executive, Herbert Diess, has pledged to turn VW into a global provider of mobility beyond the manufacturing and selling of vehicles. Car2Go started to rent cars by the minute in 2008, while BMW started DriveNow in 2011, offering vehicles that can be returned anywhere within a defined area. The pair have announced plans to merge their services in a bid to make the business a global player. — BLOOMBERG NEWS



Amazon takes a page from Toys ‘R’ Us with a holiday catalog

In a drive to win the business up for grabs after the demise of Toys “R” Us, Amazon.com is going conventional with plans to publish a holiday toy catalog, said people with knowledge of the strategy. The guide will be mailed to millions of US households and handed out at stores run by Whole Foods Market. It’s part of Amazon’s push to incorporate traditional retailers’ tools into its business model. It even looked at acquiring some Toys “R” Us locations, said people familiar with the situation at the time. That came after its $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods made a splash as it pushed into brick-and-mortar retailing. Amazon has since been integrating the chain into its larger business, including marketing its voice assistants and discount membership in stores. Amazon declined to comment. Toys “R” Us, which is closing all US stores after failing to emerge from bankruptcy, was still a force during Christmas. Its Big Book toy catalog was a staple at 100 pages or more, perhaps because kids still enjoy searching through toy catalogs. Amazon has become a toy-shopping destination in its own right. In 2007, it copied traditional retailers and published an online hot-holiday toy list. It’s been gaining market share in the category ever since. — BLOOMBERG NEWS



Dartmouth College to study nerve signaling with grant

Dartmouth College is receiving an $800,000 federal grant to research nerve signaling. Professor Michael Hoppa will research the stimulus of nerve signaling to the brain. Such research could help explain how certain defects at the molecular level lead to immune diseases and uncover new treatments. The National Science Foundation grant will also support training undergraduates in visualizing cellular activity with new techniques. Dartmouth had also received another federal grant for its Institute for Biomolecular Targeting. The institute’s work looks at additional sources of flexibility in nerve signaling. Democratic US Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said she’ll continue to push for federal assistance in scientific and medical research at Dartmouth and other colleges and universities. — ASSOCIATED PRESS



Chicago now requires ‘panic buttons’ for hotel workers

Workers at Chicago hotels now have ‘‘panic buttons’’ to summon help if needed. An ordinance that took effect this week requires hotels to provide the buttons. They’re intended to protect housekeeping staff and others who work alone in guest rooms from sexual harassment and other crimes. A survey of 500 workers conducted by Unite Here Local 1 found that 58 percent reported they’ve experienced at least one incident of sexual harassment by guests. The most common was guests answering their door naked. The buttons trigger a message to the cellphone of the employee’s supervisor, manager, and human resources department and provides the employee’s name and location. Karen Kent, president of Unite Here Local 1, said it’s ‘‘a new day for women working in Chicago hotels.’’ — ASSOCIATED PRESS