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A scramble at Cisco exposes uncomfortable truths about U.S. cyber defense


SAN FRANCISCO When WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange disclosed earlier this month that his anti-secrecy group had obtained CIA tools for hacking into technology products made by U.S. companies, security engineers at Cisco Systems (CSCO.O) swung into action.

The Wikileaks documents described how the Central Intelligence Agency had learned more than a year ago how to exploit flaws in Cisco’s widely used Internet switches, which direct electronic traffic, to enable eavesdropping.

Senior Cisco managers immediately reassigned staff from other projects to figure out how the CIA hacking tricks worked, so they could help customers patch their systems and prevent criminal hackers or spies from using the same methods, three employees told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The Cisco engineers worked around the clock for days to analyze the means of attack, create fixes, and craft a stopgap warning about a security risk affecting more than 300 different products, said the employees, who had direct knowledge of the effort.

That a major U.S. company had to rely on WikiLeaks to learn about security problems well-known to U.S. intelligence agencies underscores concerns expressed by dozens of current and former U.S. intelligence and security officials about the government’s approach to cybersecurity.

That policy overwhelmingly emphasizes offensive cyber-security capabilities over defensive measures, these people told Reuters, even as an increasing number of U.S. organizations have been hit by hacks attributed to foreign governments.

Larry Pfeiffer, a former senior director of the White House Situation Room in the Obama administration, said now that others were catching up to the United States in their cyber capabilities, “maybe it is time to take a pause and fully consider the ramifications of what we’re doing.”

U.S. intelligence agencies blamed Russia for the hack of the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 election. Nation-states are also believed to be behind the 2014 hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment and the 2015 breach of the U.S. Government’s Office of Personnel Management.

CIA spokeswoman Heather Fritz Horniak declined to comment on the Cisco case, but said it was the agency’s “job to be innovative, cutting-edge, and the first line of defense in protecting this country from enemies abroad.”

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the CIA and NSA, referred questions to the White House, which declined to comment.

Across the federal government, about 90 percent of all spending on cyber programs is dedicated to offensive efforts, including penetrating the computer systems of adversaries, listening to communications and developing the means to disable or degrade infrastructure, senior intelligence officials told Reuters.

President Donald Trump’s budget proposal would put about $1.5 billion into cyber-security defense at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Private industry and the military also spend money to protect themselves.

But the secret part of the U.S. intelligence budget alone totaled about $50 billion annually as of 2013, documents leaked by NSA contractor Edward Snowden show. Just 8 percent of that figure went toward “enhanced cyber security,” while 72 percent was dedicated to collecting strategic intelligence and fighting violent extremism.

Departing NSA Deputy Director Rick Ledgett confirmed in an interview that 90 percent of government cyber spending was on offensive efforts and agreed it was lopsided.

“It’s actually something we’re trying to address” with more appropriations in the military budget, Ledgett said. “As the cyber threat rises, the need for more and better cyber defense and information assurance is increasing as well.”

The long-standing emphasis on offense stems in part from the mission of the NSA, which has the most advanced cyber capabilities of any U.S. agency.

It is responsible for the collection of intelligence overseas and also for helping defend government systems. It mainly aids U.S. companies indirectly, by assisting other agencies.

“I absolutely think we should be placing significantly more effort on the defense, particularly in light of where we are with exponential growth in threats and capabilities and intentions,” said Debora Plunkett, who headed the NSA’s defensive mission from 2010 to 2014.

GOVERNMENT ROLE

How big a role the government should play in defending the private sector remains a matter of debate.

Former military and intelligence leaders such as ex-NSA Director Keith Alexander and former Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter say that U.S. companies and other institutions cannot be solely responsible for defending themselves against the likes of Russia, China, North Korea and Iran.

For tech companies, the government’s approach is frustrating, executives and engineers say.

Sophisticated hacking campaigns typically rely on flaws in computer products. When the NSA or CIA find such flaws, under current policies they often choose to keep them for offensive attacks, rather than tell the companies.

In the case of Cisco, the company said the CIA did not inform the company after the agency learned late last year that information about the hacking tools had been leaked.

“Cisco remains steadfast in the position that we should be notified of all vulnerabilities if they are found, so we can fix them and notify customers,” said company spokeswoman Yvonne Malmgren.

SIDE BY SIDE

A recent reorganization at the NSA, known as NSA21, eliminated the branch that was explicitly responsible for defense, the Information Assurance Directorate (IAD), the largest cyber-defense workforce in the government. Its mission has now been combined with the dominant force in the agency, signals intelligence, in a broad operations division.

Top NSA officials, including director Mike Rogers, argue that it is better to have offensive and defensive specialists working side by side. Other NSA and White House veterans contend that perfect defense is impossible and therefore more resources should be poured into penetrating enemy networks – both to head off attacks and to determine their origin.

Curtis Dukes, the last head of IAD, said in an interview after retiring last month that he feared defense would get even less attention in a structure where it does not have a leader with a direct line to the NSA director.

“It’s incumbent on the NSA to say, ‘This is an important mission’,” Dukes said. “That has not occurred.”

(Reporting by Joseph Menn in San Francisco. Additional reporting by Warren Strobel in Washington.; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Ross Colvin)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/O35xSALt3Rk/us-usa-cyber-defense-idUSKBN17013U

Global stocks slip, sterling steadies as Brexit becomes real


LONDON European shares drifted lower on Wednesday, while sterling battled back from a one-week low and regained its composure amid the drama of Britain formally triggering its exit process from the European Union.

The pound was the biggest loser on major currency markets as European trading got underway. But it clawed back almost all its losses after a draft EU document made no mention of the possibility that the two sides will fail to strike a deal.

“What is priced in at the moment is a hard Brexit, so if there is something being constructed by the EU that is a little softer, that would send sterling sharply higher,” said Mizuho’s head of hedge fund FX sales, Neil Jones.

Prime Minister Theresa May will notify EU Council President Donald Tusk in a letter that Britain really is quitting the bloc it joined in 1973, pitching the United Kingdom into the unknown and triggering years of uncertain negotiations.

The start of the formal Brexit process comes a day after the Scottish Parliament backed a bid to hold a second independence referendum that could break up the UK, adding another layer of uncertainty for investors to navigate.

The longer term picture may be a more volatile one.

“Sterling will be incredibly sensitive to negotiations and will offer a clear gauge of how things are panning out. We could see it move lower still if negotiations take a sour turn – $1.10 is feasible,” said Neil Wilson, senior markets analyst at ETX Capital.

Sterling hit a one-week low of $1.2378 GBP= earlier, but was last trading down 0.1 percent against the dollar at $1.2432.

Elsewhere in currencies, the euro was down a fifth of one percent at $1.0793 EUR= and the dollar was down slightly against the yen at 111 yen JPY=.

The dollar bounced from 4-month lows as a top Federal Reserve official talked of more rate hikes to come. Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer, one of the more influential policymakers with markets, said two more rate increases this year seemed “about right”.

WALL STREET RECOVERY

In stocks the leading index of 300 European shares gave up all its early gains to trade down 0.1 percent .FTEU3 at 1,486 points, while Germany’s DAX halved its gains to trade up 0.3 percent .GDAXI.

Britain’s FTSE 100 .FTSE fell 0.2 percent as sterling bounced back from its one-week low.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS rose 0.3 percent and back toward recent 21-month peaks, while Japan’s Nikkei .N225 added 0.1 percent.

The Dow Jones snapped an eight-day losing streak on Tuesday, its longest run of losses since 2011, in part as a survey showed consumer confidence surged to a more than 16-year high.

SP 500 futures ESc1 pointed to a flat open on Wall Street.

“Economic fundamentals still remain exceedingly sound here in 2017 and you do not need Trump’s pro-growth fiscal agenda for this to be one of the best years for growth since the recovery started,” argued Tom Porcelli, chief U.S. economist at RBC Capital Markets.

“We still think tax reform happens, but you are better off thinking about the timing as an end of year event at best.”

In commodity markets, oil prices gained after a severe disruption to Libyan oil supplies and as officials suggested the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers could extend output cuts to the end of the year. [O/R]

U.S. crude CLc1 added 0.4 percent to $48.57 a barrel, while Brent LCOc1 rose 0.5 percent to $51.57.

Spot gold XAU= was little changed at $1,251 an ounce.

(Additional reporting by Wayne Cole in Sydney and Jemima Kelly in London; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/iScVfO0H6Pc/us-global-markets-idUSKBN17002Q

Other Akzo shareholders also want talks with PPG: Elliott Advisors


AMSTERDAM Elliott Advisors, the activist investor with a 3.25 percent stake in Akzo Nobel (AKZO.AS), said on Wednesday other shareholders owning almost a quarter of the Dutch paints and chemicals group want it to enter into talks with spurned U.S. suitor PPG Industries (PPG.N).

Akzo has rejected a 24.4 billion-euro ($26.4 billion) takeover offer by PPG and declined to talk to the U.S. company to see if there was scope for a deal, saying it would press ahead with a new proposal to spin off its chemicals division instead.

But Elliott said it commissioned London-based shareholders’ advisory firm Boudicca Proxy to poll 300 institutional investors, around half of Akzo’s total shareholder base, on whether they thought Akzo should talk with PPG.

Half of those investors responded – accounting for about 24.6 percent of Akzo’s outstanding share capital – and virtually all wanted Akzo to open talks, Elliott said in a statement.

Akzo Nobel spokesman Andrew Wood said the company’s decision not to engage with PPG was based on taking into consideration the interests of all the company’s “stakeholders”, including not only shareholders but also employees and customers, as required by Dutch law.

“We have a plan for creating long-term value and we’re looking forward to sharing that with investors” on April 19, he said, referring to when management are due to announce the plan.

Elliott said in its statement on Wednesday that Akzo should hold talks with PPG ahead of the strategy presentation so that “an honest and objective consideration of the two alternatives can be made.”

Akzo’s share price was down 0.3 percent at 77.34 euros by 0920 GMT on Wednesday, well below the implied value of PPG’s share and cash offer of 89.7 euros.

(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/NLhZOyJM3BM/us-akzo-nobel-m-a-ppg-inds-shareholders-idUSKBN1700DA

Goldman Sachs reassures staff over Brexit in voicemail


LONDON Goldman Sachs (GS.N) sought to reassure London-based staff over potential disruption to its business as Britain prepares to leave the European Union, in a voicemail to staff sent by the Wall Street firm’s Europe CEO.

British Prime Minister Theresa May will trigger formal EU divorce proceedings on Wednesday, launching two years of negotiations that will shape the future of Britain and Europe as well as London’s place as a global financial center.

The move will also mark the point when investment banks, whose priority will be to ensure they can continue servicing their clients across Europe after March 29, 2019, begin taking concrete steps to prepare for Britain being outside the bloc.

Those steps could involve moving London-based staff to outposts on the continent or paying them off and hiring employees locally.

Richard Gnodde, CEO of the European arm of Goldman Sachs, said last week it would begin by moving hundreds of people out of London as part of its “contingency plans” for the first phase.

In a voicemail sent to all London employees’ phones on Friday, Gnodde sought to reassure staff that despite “intensively” preparing for a range of possible outcomes, no big changes were imminent.

“All of this work leads us to conclude that although Brexit may well bring some changes to our footprint, a lot will continue to operate as it does today.”

Gnodde said that the Wall Street firm would only be able to make long-term decisions on its future footprint once negotiations between Britain and the EU were complete.

“We also understand that you will have many questions regarding the implications of Brexit,” Gnodde said in the voicemail.

“We are sensitive to those concerns, and want you to know that we will share any information on changes that will impact our European footprint as quickly as we can.”

Banks are treading carefully, enacting two-stage contingency plans, to avoid losing nervous London-based staff as they work out how many jobs will have to move to continental Europe as Britain exits the European Union.

This first phase involves relatively small numbers to make sure the requisite licenses, technology and infrastructure are in place, while the next requires longer-term thinking on what their European business will look like in the future, which is when bigger moves might take place.

(Reporting By Anjuli Davies; Editing by Susan Fenton)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/TBsuonh-f-U/us-britain-eu-banks-idUSKBN1700YA

BlackRock cuts fees and jobs; stockpicking goes high-tech


NEW YORK BlackRock Inc (BLK.N) on Tuesday said it would overhaul its actively managed equities business, cutting jobs, dropping fees and relying more on computers to pick stocks in a move that highlights how difficult it has become for humans to beat the market.

The world’s biggest money manager has faced active stock fund withdrawals and the revamp is its biggest attempt yet to engineer a turnaround.

Last May, BlackRock said it had recruited Mark Wiseman, the head of Canada’s biggest public pension fund, to oversee the stockpicking operations after he revamped that fund’s operations to embrace data-mining and other technological approaches to investing.

BlackRock is rebranding or adjusting investment strategies on about 11 percent of its $275 billion active stock fund business, putting a greater emphasis on technology-driven investing approaches in the largest set of sweeping changes for the business since transformational mergers that allowed it to grow to manage more than $5 trillion in assets.

Among the changes, BlackRock is removing some seven traditionalist “Fundamental” portfolio managers from their current assignments, according to a source familiar with the matter. More than 40 employees are being laid off, including some of the portfolio managers, according to another source.

The company will also cut fees on some products that are being rebranded as an “Advantage” series of lower-cost active funds.

Planned fee cuts on that group of funds and its “Income” products will slice about $30 million of BlackRock’s revenue, and the company will take a $25 million charge this quarter to reflect severance and other compensation expenses.

The company said it will also expand its investments in data-mining techniques that it said can improve investment performance. Other funds are being refocused to take “high-conviction” bets on stocks.

Active stock managers in the United States have been smacked with withdrawals in recent years as investors increasingly fled to lower-cost products, including index-tracking exchange-traded funds, some of which charge as little as $3 annually for every $10,000 they manage, while the average charged by U.S. stock mutual fund managers is $131, according to data for 2015 from the Investment Company Institute trade group.

An industry bellwether, New York-based BlackRock also owns one of the most prized businesses in asset management, its iShares ETF franchise purchased from Barclays in 2009. Much of the company’s active stock franchise is from its 2006 acquisition of Merrill Lynch Investment Managers.

The changes mark the latest of several attempts by BlackRock to boost an active fund business that represents nearly a third of its assets but an outsized near-50 percent of its fees.

BlackRock CEO Larry Fink has sometimes expressed disappointment in the performance of the company’s actively managed stock funds, and he has pivoted increasingly to focusing on the company’s data-driven “Scientific” equity teams.

“It seems like the Vanguard approach to active equity management,” said Jason Kephart, senior analyst at Morningstar Inc, referring to the giant BlackRock rival that aggressively cuts fees and has also invested in tech-driven investment styles.

“The easiest way to make an active strategy more attractive is just to charge less for it.”

BlackRock’s equity overhaul also invites comparisons to that of another major asset firm rival, Pacific Investment Management Co. In 2015, Pimco’s equity chief left and the Newport Beach, Calif firm liquidated two of its equity strategies after spending years attempting to diversify its investor base to include those buying equity products.

BlackRock shares rose 1.50 percent to $380.63 per share on Tuesday before the announcement.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Jennifer Ablan and James Dalgleish)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/jtv9HhRwofo/us-blackrock-funds-idUSKBN16Z2X9

Wells Fargo to pay $110 million to settle lawsuit over account abuses


Wells Fargo Co (WFC.N) said it agreed to pay $110 million to settle a lawsuit by customers challenging its opening of accounts without their permission, a practice that led to a scandal that cost the bank’s chief executive his job.

The bank said on Tuesday it expects the settlement to resolve claims in 11 other pending class actions, and will cover claims between Jan. 1, 2009, through the date the agreement is executed.

The settlement agreement is yet to be approved by the court.

After attorneys’ fees and costs of administration, claimants will be reimbursed for any wrong fees, Wells Fargo said on Tuesday.

The remaining amount will be distributed to the claimants, based on the number and kinds of unauthorized accounts or services claimed, the bank said.

The lawsuit resolves claims that Wells Fargo’s high-pressure culture drove branch workers needing to meet sales quotas to open unauthorized accounts, including with forged signatures.

Customers said this saddled them with accounts they did not need or want, and fees they knew nothing about.

The lawsuit dates from May 2015, sixteen months before Wells Fargo agreed to pay $185 million in penalties to settle regulatory charges over the sham accounts, estimated to number as many as 2 million.

That settlement with the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer prompted national outrage, leading to the departure in October of the bank’s longtime chief executive, John Stumpf.

The named plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Shahriar Jabbari, a Californian, and Kaylee Heffelfinger, from Arizona.

They believed they each had two accounts at Wells Fargo, but said the bank opened a respective nine and seven accounts for them, according to court papers.

Wells Fargo, which has abandoned sales quotas, had already set aside enough money to cover the $110 million settlement.

Its new chief executive, Tim Sloan, in January told analysts that the bank still has “a lot of work to do” to rebuild trust with customers, employees and other stakeholders.

“This agreement is another step in our journey to make things right with customers and rebuild trust,” Sloan said in a statement on Tuesday.

The case is Jabbari et al v. Wells Fargo Co et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 15-02159.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York and Nikhil Subba and Swetha Gopinath in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/Tn4acBnqzFk/us-wells-fargo-lawsuit-idUSKBN16Z2WE

Trump applauds Ford’s previous planned investment in Michigan plants


DETROIT/WASHINGTON Ford Motor Co on Tuesday said it would invest $1.2 billion in three Michigan facilities and create 130 jobs in projects largely in line with a previous agreement with the United Auto Workers union, hours after U.S. President Donald Trump touted a “major investment” by the automaker on Twitter.

In January, Ford scrapped plans to build a $1.6 billion car factory in Mexico and instead added 700 jobs in Michigan following Trumps criticism that centered on trade and investing in America.

Ford said on Tuesday it would spend $850 million on a planned upgrade of a plant in Wayne, Michigan, for the Ford Bronco, an SUV model, and the Ford Ranger – a mid-size pickup truck. The company will also invest $150 million and create 130 or retain jobs at an engine plant in Romeo.

Both projects were part of 2015 negotiations with the UAW, when Ford said it would invest $9 billion in U.S. plants over four years.

Ford also said it would invest $200 million in a data center in Flat Rock to support advances in vehicle connectivity and future developments in autonomous vehicles, but it will not result in any new hourly jobs.

The move comes at a time when U.S. new car and truck sales are at an all-time high and investors are watching closely for signs of a possible downturn in the highly-cyclical industry.

“We’re optimistic that we’ll continue to see good economic growth for the U.S. in the near term,” Joe Hinrichs, president of the Americas at Ford, told Reuters. “We feel very confident about our plan and our products and about investing in Michigan and the U.S.”

Separately, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) approved nearly $30 million in state incentives for Ford over 15 years at a meeting Tuesday. Ford will use the incentives to partially defray the costs of the improvements.

The MEDC noted that Ford had considered locating some of the jobs in Mexico, where it is cheaper to employ workers. “Incentive assistance was necessary to ensure the project moves forward in Michigan,” the MEDC said.

The announcement by Ford on Tuesday comes less than two weeks after Trump visited Detroit to promise more auto jobs for Michigan and other Midwestern U.S. states.

Trump pounced on Ford’s announcement before the company could release its plans on Tuesday.

“Major investment to be made in three Michigan plants,” Trump posted on Twitter early Tuesday. “Car companies coming back to U.S. JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!”

Trump has at times promoted job announcements at the White House that had been previously planned or announced. Last week he praised an investment decision by Charter Communications Inc that the company announced before he was elected.

Steve Rattner, who was an automotive policy adviser under President Barack Obama, remarked on Twitter that Trump was misleading people about jobs, saying “the big news ended up being only 130 jobs in (Michigan) that were announced back in 2015.”

Ford said last week it expected higher investments, as well as other spending, to weigh on 2017 earnings.

U.S. sales of new cars and trucks hit a record high of 17.55 million units in 2016. On Friday, industry consultants J.D. Power and LMC Automotive maintained their 2017 sales forecast of 17.6 million vehicles, an increase of 0.2 percent from 2016.

But they said automakers’ incentive spending in the United States in the first half of March had hit a record for the month, breaking the previously set mark in March 2009 during the height of the Great Recession.

On Monday, Moody’s Investors service said it expected U.S. new vehicle sales to dip in 2017 and warned of a “significant credit risk” for auto lenders as competition for loans intensifies.

Trump has focused on U.S. automotive jobs, meeting with company executives as well as pressuring – and praising – them on Twitter. Executives have also said they hope his administration will pursue tax and regulatory policies that would benefit U.S. manufacturers.

Trump has repeatedly suggested automakers will build new plants in the United States, but no company has plans to do so.

In late trading Tuesday, Ford shares were up 2.1 percent at $11.69.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey and David Shepardson in Washington, Nick Carey in Detroit; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Bernard Orr)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/uz4VxV_9ZWE/us-autos-ford-jobs-idUSKBN16Z19M

Depomed names new CEO, directors in deal with activist Starboard


Depomed Inc (DEPO.O) reached a deal with activist investor Starboard Value LP to name a new chief executive officer and two other directors to its board.

The drugmaker’s shares fell nearly 6 percent to $13.39 in extended trading after the company also forecast lower-than-expected first quarter sales.

Depomed said former Bayer Healthcare chief Arthur Higgins would take over as CEO from James Schoeneck, following his resignation.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement to work with Depomed and believe that Arthur Higgins is an excellent choice to lead Depomed,” said Gavin Molinelli, partner of Starboard.

Depomed named Higgins, Molinelli and William McKee, a former chief financial officer of Barr Pharmaceuticals LLC, as board directors.

Starboard said in September that it wanted to oust the drugmaker’s board. However, Starboard and Depomed struck a truce in October, with the hedge fund getting three seats on the board.

The investor had criticized Depomed’s board over alleged governance deficiencies and urged it to explore a sale.

The drug company said on Tuesday it expects first-quarter sales of $95 million to $100 million. Analysts on average were expecting sales of $114.6 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Earlier in the day, U.S. Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill asked the nation’s top opioid drugmakers, including Depomed, for internal estimates of the risk of abuse, addiction and overdose of opioids, as lawmakers step up efforts to tackle the deadly opioid crisis.

(Reporting by Akankshita Mukhopadhyay in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/LeDIqrjzX44/us-depomed-starboard-idUSKBN16Z2TL

Toshiba’s Westinghouse to file for U.S. bankruptcy Tuesday: sources


TOKYO U.S. nuclear developer Westinghouse Electric Co plans to seek bankruptcy protection from creditors on Tuesday as it struggles to limit losses that have thrown its Japanese parent Toshiba Corp into crisis, people familiar with Toshiba’s thinking said.

Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse, crippled by cost overruns at two U.S. power plant projects in Georgia and South Carolina, will file for protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, the people told Reuters on Tuesday.

One of the sources has direct knowledge of the decision and one has been briefed on the matter.

Toshiba media representatives could not immediately be reached for comment after business hours. On Monday, the company said it was premature to comment on a potential bankruptcy. Westinghouse declined to comment.

A Westinghouse bankruptcy filing will help limit future losses for Toshiba.

The move will trigger complex negotiations between the Japanese conglomerate, its U.S. unit and creditors, and could embroil the U.S. and Japanese governments, given the scale of the collapse and U.S. government loan guarantees for new reactors.

A Westinghouse bankruptcy is a “concern” for the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, which is in touch with the Japanese government on the matter, an administration official told Reuters on Tuesday.

“If several different things happen in a bad way, there’s a potential national security issue here,” the official said.

Among Westinghouse’s biggest creditors are the U.S. utilities that commissioned the two nuclear plants, sources have said.

Investment bank Lazard Ltd is working with Toshiba on its liabilities related to Westinghouse, according to people familiar with the matter who could not be named because the hiring has not yet been made public.

The bankruptcy filing will allow Westinghouse to renegotiate or break the construction contracts, although the utilities that own the projects would likely seek damages.

Southern Co, which owns the largest stake in the Vogtle nuclear power project in Georgia, said in a statement it was prepared for any potential outcome and would hold Westinghouse and Toshiba accountable for their responsibilities.

Scana Corp, which is the majority owner of the V.C. Summer nuclear project in South Carolina, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Moody’s Japan K.K. on Tuesday welcomed the prospect of bankruptcy for the parent. A Chapter 11 filing “would be credit positive, because this action could limit Toshiba’s contingent liabilities,” the ratings company said, maintaining its Caa1 corporate family rating and senior unsecured debt rating with a negative outlook.

(Reporting by Kentaro Hamada and Taro Fuse; Additional reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware, David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick in Washington and Jessica DiNapoli in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder, Bernard Orr and Lisa Shumaker)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/bIxm7YYt3nY/us-toshiba-accounting-westinghouse-idUSKBN16Z258