Daily Digest: Egypt votes, SEC/Citigroup deal blocked over secrecy, study on social media marketing released

Katherine Lymn

Unexpectedly large lines formed in both rich and poor neighborhoods of Cairo Monday morning for the first Egyptian parliamentary vote since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster earlier this year.

The New York Times reported that the vote was dampened by doubts about its integrity, making it less exciting than Tunisia’s similar election a month ago, which was the first since the beginning of the Arab Spring. “If a sick person is dying, you still have to get him to the hospital,” was a running joke in Cairo among voters who laughed at their “stubborn determination to cast ballots they had little faith would make a difference.”

The Muslim Brotherhood‘s Freedom and Justice Party was poised to win. The group was “officially banned but unofficially tolerated” before the revolution for its cautious criticism of Mubarak. Members assisted in security and handing out flyers on election day, making it one of the groups that defied rules.  But experts said the infractions accounted more to disorganization than to calculated efforts to swing the vote. “It is the usual messiness,” said a researcher with Human Rights Watch. “But if the turnout remains as high as it looks, ultimately that is what matters, right?”

Thousands remained in Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the revolution, to continue pressing for an end to military rule.

In a ruling released Monday, a federal judge blocked a settlement between Citigroup and the Securities and Exchange Commission over the bank’s role in the economic collapse. In the $285 million settlement, Citigroup didn’t have to admit or deny the S.E.C.’s allegations over mortgage derivatives, or financial tools to reduce risk. That secrecy was “neither fair, nor reasonable, nor adequate, nor in the public interest” because it doesn’t provide the court evidence on which to judge the settlement, wrote Judge Jed Rakoff of U.S. District Court in Manhattan in the ruling. “In any case like this that touches on the transparency of financial markets whose gyrations have so depressed our economy and debilitated our lives” he wrote, “there is an overriding public interest in knowing the truth.” This decision could hurt S.E.C. enforcement in the future, the New York Times reported, because the agency often settles cases with companies with the condition that they don’t “admit that it violated the law while also promising not to deny it,” as it tried to this time. That condition helps the companies in any further civil suits, because cases in which no facts or evidence are established can’t be used as ammunition in other suits seeking damages, the Times reported.

In the case at hand, investors lost $700 million in the fund, according to the S.E.C., while Citigroup gained about $160 million in profits. But such allegations aren’t established as fact with the settlement, one example of the secrecy that prompted Rakoff to toss it.

MinnPost reported on a study released Monday about social media and marketing, the focus of which is often to engage the consumer with some sort of interaction, like a game or discussion. Of the companies surveyed, 40 percent said they plan to spend “substantially more” on social media marketing in the future. The top expense is hiring full-time social media employees. That money will be shifted away from ads on websites, “So if you hate ads on websites, rejoice — you may be seeing fewer of them,” MinnPost reported.