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IBM ‘not cooperating’ with discovery in discrimination case • The Register

IBM has been accused of trying to avoid its legal discovery obligations in Kinney v. IBM, one of many age discrimination lawsuits that have been brought against the IT titan in the past few years.

In a motion [PDF] to compel discovery filed on February 28, 2022, attorneys for the current plaintiffs – who claim [PDF] IBM fired them as part of a company-wide effort to get rid of older workers – accuse Big Blue of trying to avoid providing relevant documents by insisting that layoffs were relevant to specific corporate groups and weren’t part of a company-wide scheme.

“To date, IBM has refused to provide the requested discovery in part by arguing it is overbroad and should be limited – once again – to smaller layoff sub-units,” the attorneys from Wright & Greenhill, P.C., and Kaplan Law Firm wrote in their court filing.

IBM has refused to provide the requested discovery in part by arguing it is overbroad and should be limited – once again – to smaller layoff sub-units

That motion followed revelations arising two months ago from a different age discrimination case, Lohnn v. IBM [PDF], initially filed in July 2021 on behalf of former IBM employee Jorgen Lohnn, who took his own life after being laid off from the company.

The Lohnn complaint against IBM, brought by his widow, contends Lohnn’s termination followed from “a years-long companywide discriminatory scheme implemented by IBM’s top management to build a younger workforce, by reducing its population of older workers in order to make room for the hiring of younger workers.”

Such allegations came to public attention in 2018 following a joint report from ProPublica and Mother Jones that claimed IBM had undertaken a company-wide campaign to get rid of older workers. In 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) concluded “top-down messaging from IBM’s highest ranks directing managers to engage in an aggressive approach to significantly reduce the headcount of older workers to make room for Early Professional Hires.”

Though the Lohnn case recently settled – a sign the discrimination claim had some merit – documents disclosed prior to the case’s conclusion painted IBM in a particularly bad light. They describe how IBM aimed to “correct” its “seniority mix” by weeding out older workers it called “dinobabies” and called for efforts to change the company’s “dated maternal workforce.”

The publication of these documents proved sufficiently damaging that IBM’s chief human resources Officer Nickle LaMoreaux published a lengthy defense of the company.

“Discrimination of any kind is entirely against our culture and who we are at IBM, and there was (and is) no systemic age discrimination at our company,” said LaMoreaux in a public statement posted to the company’s website.

‘Gerrymandering’ internal teams

The critical word here is systematic. LaMoreaux’s wording allows for the possibility that isolated instances of age discrimination may have occurred – though the company has not acknowledged such incidents, it has nonetheless settled age discrimination claims without admitting guilt while requiring silence from those winning settlements. But LaMoreaux is emphatic that de-aging the workforce was never part of a grand corporate plan.

IBM’s defensive legal strategy against age discrimination claims has relied on this divide and conquer approach. Legal limits on the scope of discovery requests have made it difficult to trace a specific termination up through the conveniently compartmentalized corporate structure to executive leadership.

But lately efforts to keep cases contained look strained. The company’s response to news coverage of the Lohnn case led to its disclosure of company-wide age data about its workforce, something it stopped publishing for layoffs in 2014.

In Kinney v. IBM, attorneys for the plaintiffs argue in their motion to compel that IBM should not be allowed to limit discovery “to gerrymandered layoff sub-units” instead of providing broader data on its workforce. The attorneys asked for “names and ages of all IBM employees contemplated and selected for three specific layoffs – Concord, Maple, and Palm – that resulted in their respective terminations.”

IBM can produce extensive employee age information when it suits its own purposes to counter unfavorable publicity but claims to be unable … to produce it for legitimate litigation purposes

The lawyers noted that the demographic data the company produced in response to coverage of the Lohnn case shows “that IBM can immediately produce extensive employee age information when it suits its own purposes to counter unfavorable publicity but claims to be unable – or just unwilling – to produce it for legitimate litigation purposes.”

IBM’s opposition to that motion [PDF] offers a variety of reasons why its Resource Actions – layoffs – were properly carried-out decisions of isolated corporate units. And the company’s legal team maintains the company has already gone above and beyond what’s required to assist discovery.

‘[A]llegations of a ‘pattern’ of discriminatory actions do not give plaintiffs carte blanche to demand company-wide discovery,” the IBM brief declares.

Yet, the public disclosure of internal files calling for efforts to “fund an influx of [early professionals] to correct [the] seniority mix” undercut arguments that company layoffs were conducted without regard to employee age. These files and other charts were presented as evidence in Langley v. IBM, an age discrimination claim filed in 2018 that settled two years later. And they recently reappeared in an exhibit [PDF] in Rusis et al. v. IBM [PDF], a class action brought by a group of nine former IBM employees who claim they were fired. And the Kinney attorneys, some of whom were involved in the Langley case, know this only too well.

On Tuesday, the Kinney lawyers filed a reply [PDF] in support of their February motion to compel IBM to be more cooperative. They’re seeking documents related to Maple, Concord, and Palm, which the plaintiffs say are Resource Actions – layoffs.

IBM however has resisted providing such documents on the basis that it used four-letter codes for its resource actions – GMST, HYCD, CGTZ, CDWP, CGMP, SYMP, and DCPL – and that Maple, Concord, and Palm “refer not to resource actions but to pools of restructuring funds.”

The Kinney legal team contends these four-letter groups “are not the real and relevant populations” and have cited IBM’s own attorney-provided spreadsheets to show that the names within these groups are inconsistent. They urged the judge not to limit discovery to “IBM’s fantasy world.”

“IBM’s own executives and the discovery produced in this case accordingly demonstrates that the true RA populations were the companywide codenamed ‘Projects,'” the reply filing this week says. “As demonstrated in the Motion to Compel – Maple, Concord and Palm were the RA’s that affected these Plaintiffs.”

“IBM’s discriminatory scheme to fire older workers and replace them with younger workers both domestically and through off-shoring was controlled at by IBM’s CHQ and its HR department. To execute the plan, CHQ issued ‘targets’ to the various IBM Groups with HR and Finance driven parameters and restrictions designed to make it impossible for frontline managers not to fire their older workers and still comply with CHQ’s parameters. This is the definition of a cat’s paw discriminatory scheme – merely modernized for the 21st century.”

IBM maintains this is all much ado about nothing and insists the law doesn’t require it to indulge such extensive discovery.

“Even if IBM did conduct companywide resource actions (it did not, and does not), Plaintiffs still would not be entitled to companywide demographic data,” the company said in its opposition brief.

It now falls to the judge hearing the case to decide whether to grant or deny the motion to compel IBM to be more forthcoming. ®

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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.

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China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending ‘Taikonauts’ To The Moon From 2030 Onwards

China Reveals Lunar Mission

The Voice Of EU | In a bold stride towards lunar exploration, the Chinese Space Agency has unveiled its ambitious plans for a moon landing set to unfold in the 2030s. While exact timelines remain uncertain, this endeavor signals a potential resurgence of the historic space race reminiscent of the 1960s rivalry between the United States and the USSR.

China’s recent strides in lunar exploration include the deployment of three devices on the moon’s surface, coupled with the successful launch of the Queqiao-2 satellite. This satellite serves as a crucial communication link, bolstering connectivity between Earth and forthcoming missions to the moon’s far side and south pole.

Unlike the secretive approach of the Soviet Union in the past, China’s strategy leans towards transparency, albeit with a hint of mystery surrounding the finer details. Recent revelations showcase the naming and models of lunar spacecraft, steeped in cultural significance. The Mengzhou, translating to “dream ship,” will ferry three astronauts to and from the moon, while the Lanyue, meaning “embrace the moon,” will descend to the lunar surface.

Drawing inspiration from both Russian and American precedents, China’s lunar endeavor presents a novel approach. Unlike its predecessors, China will employ separate launches for the manned module and lunar lander due to the absence of colossal space shuttles. This modular approach bears semblance to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, reflecting a contemporary adaptation of past achievements.

Upon reaching lunar orbit, astronauts, known as “taikonauts” in Chinese, will rendezvous with the lunar lander, reminiscent of the Apollo program’s maneuvers. However, distinct engineering choices mark China’s departure from traditional lunar landing methods.

The Chinese lunar lander, while reminiscent of the Apollo Lunar Module, introduces novel features such as a single set of engines and potential reusability and advance technology. Unlike past missions where lunar modules were discarded, China’s design hints at the possibility of refueling and reuse, opening avenues for sustained lunar exploration.

China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending 'Taikonauts' To The Moon From 2030 Onwards
A re-creation of the two Chinese spacecraft that will put ‘taikonauts’ on the moon.CSM

Despite these advancements, experts have flagged potential weaknesses, particularly regarding engine protection during landing. Nevertheless, China’s lunar aspirations remain steadfast, with plans for extensive testing and site selection underway.

Beyond planting flags and collecting rocks, China envisions establishing a permanent lunar base, the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), ushering in a new era of international collaboration in space exploration.

While the Artemis agreements spearheaded by NASA have garnered global support, China’s lunar ambitions stand as a formidable contender in shaping the future of space exploration. In conclusion, China’s unveiling of its lunar ambitions not only marks a significant milestone in space exploration but also sets the stage for a new chapter in the ongoing saga of humanity’s quest for the cosmos. As nations vie for supremacy in space, collaboration and innovation emerge as the cornerstones of future lunar endeavors.

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Aviation and Telecom Industries Reach Compromise on 5G Deployment

The Voice Of EU | In a significant development, AT&T and Verizon, the two largest mobile network operators in the United States, have agreed to delay the deployment of 5G services following requests from the aviation industry and the Biden administration. This decision marks a crucial compromise in the long-standing dispute between the two industries, which had raised concerns over the potential interference of 5G with flight signals.
The aviation industry, led by United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, had been vocal about the risks of 5G deployment, citing concerns over the safety of flight operations. Kirby had urged AT&T and Verizon to delay their plans, warning that proceeding with the deployment would be a “catastrophic failure of government.” The US Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the issue further highlighted the need for a solution.
In response, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) head Steve Dickson sent a letter to the mobile networks, requesting a two-week delay to reassess the potential risks. Initially, AT&T and Verizon were hesitant, citing the aviation industry’s two-year preparation window. However, they eventually agreed to the short delay, pushing the deployment to January 19.
The crux of the issue lies in the potential interference between 5G signals and flight equipment, particularly radar altimeters. The C-Band spectrum used by 5G networks is close to the frequencies employed by these critical safety devices. The FAA requires accurate and reliable radar altimeters to ensure safe flight operations.

Airlines in the US have been at loggerheads with mobile networks over the deployment of 5G and its potential impact on flight safety.

Despite the concerns, both the FAA and the telecoms industry agree that 5G mobile networks and airline travel can coexist safely. In fact, they already do in nearly 40 countries where US airlines operate regularly. The key lies in reducing power levels around airports and fostering cross-industry collaboration prior to deployment.
The FAA has been working to find a solution in the United States, and the additional two-week delay will allow for further assessment and preparation. AT&T and Verizon have also agreed to not operate 5G base stations along runways for six months, similar to restrictions imposed in France.
President Joe Biden hailed the decision to delay as “a significant step in the right direction.” The European Union Aviation Safety Agency and South Korea have also reported no unsafe interference with radio waves since the deployment of 5G in their regions.
As the aviation and telecom industries continue to work together, it is clear that safe coexistence is possible. The delay in 5G deployment is a crucial step towards finding a solution that prioritizes both safety and innovation. With ongoing collaboration and technical assessments, the United States can join the growing list of countries where 5G and airlines coexist without issue.

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