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QUEST MEANS BUSINESS

Department of Justice Acts To Block T-Mobile; August's Wild Ride; Watching Wall Street; Obama on Jobs; Transfer Window; Spain Tourism Boost; Corporate Tax Dodging; On the Picket Line; Cuba's Oil Hunt; Old Heroes, New Look

Aired August 31, 2011 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello to you.

It's a serious threat to the world's biggest mobile merger. The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a -- a movement to block AT&T's take over of T-Mobile. The $39 billion merger would create the largest mobile phone company in the United States. It would have meant just two providers, the combined AT&T and T-Mobile, along with Verizon Wireless, would control more than two thirds of the whole market.

Now, if this lawsuit, it's possible action from the FCC were to derail the merger, it would be a very expensive failure for AT&T. It has promised to pay T-Mobile a cash break-up fee of $3 billion and valuable spectrum space if the deal does fall through.

Investors are already getting edgy. AT&T's share price is current down more than 4 percent in New York.

Shares in Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile's parent company, fell more than 7.5 percent in Frankfurt.

So concerns amongst many investors.

Maggie Lake joining us now from New York -- was this a shock, Maggie?

We were sort of like expecting some investigation. But it -- it seems really dramatic, though.

MAGGIE LAKE, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, but we also knew this was going to be controversial and a risky deal to get through, a tough one to get through. But it's the timing that's really caught everyone by surprise, Max, because the regulators, the government regulators had just restarted the clock after they requested and got more information from AT&T.

So the timing of this really catching investors, and, evidently, the executives at the companies by surprise.

The Department of Justice, remember, is the part of the government regulatory body that focuses on competition. And in a press conference earlier today, they said, bottom line, this deal is not good for U.S. consumers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COLE, DEPUTY U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The Department filed its lawsuit because we feel the combination of AT&T and T-Mobile would resolute in tens of millions of consumers all across the United States facing higher prices, fewer choices and lower quality products for their mobile wireless services.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAKE: Now AT&T was quick to respond and they used pretty strong language, saying, quote, in a release: "We are surprised and disappointed by today's action, particularly since we've met repeatedly with the Department of Justice and there was no indication from the DOJ that this action was being contemplated. We plan to ex -- ask for expedited hearings so that the enormous benefits of the merger can be fully reviewed."

And they go on to say the DOJ has the burden of actually proving this.

Now, you'll remember, I interviewed the AT&T CEO, Randall Stephenson, back in March, at the time that they announced the deal. And he insisted, and continues to today, that this deal is not only good for U.S. consumers, but for the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RANDALL STEPHENSON, AT&T CEO: What this transaction does is allows us to go a step further. By putting these two companies together, it will allow us to do what neither company could do independently, and that is cover 95 percent of the country with these LTE capabilities. And so here's 47 million Americans in rural America who will now have access to mobile broadband on the LTE, the latest technology.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAKE: He's saying you've got to be big, we need this to build out that infrastructure that we all use for our Smartphones and our iPad and tablet computers.

Max, the interesting thing here, which makes this a bit different, is that he's all along stressed that the union supports this deal, too. Very unusual to see these two sides on the same page in a merger. And, in fact, the communication workers union issued a release today saying that DOJ has it wrong. And, in fact, they say in today's sinking economy, where millions of Americans are looking for work, the DOJ is shutting down a merger that would create 96,000 jobs.

So this is complicated, a lot of politics involved and certainly some strange bedfellows, as well -- Max.

FOSTER: Now, I'm looking at the share prices. The investors are very worried about this.

So the question is, for them, I guess, can it still happen?

LAKE: Yes, it's a big one. It's complicated. And it's certainly not over yet.

First of all, you heard AT&T say they are going to go after this in court. And with that $3 billion break-up fee, which is an extremely large break-up fee, and the spectrum give back, they have to really pursue it.

The question is, do they -- are they willing to come up with more concessions that would keep this from being a protracted legal battle, make the regulators happy and push this deal through?

That depends. All sides are mum right now on whether any concessions, particular concessions are on the table. The thought is they'd have to give up subscribers and (INAUDIBLE) them, which is painful.

Are they willing to do it to make this deal go through?

There's what we're all waiting for now -- Max.

FOSTER: Maggie, thank you very much, indeed.

We'll be watching it very closely.

Now it is the last day of August, a pretty quiet month for investors.

Well, not this year. It's been 31 days of shocking volatility, so besides the mattress, where's a safe place to stash money right now?

We'll put that question to an expert in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOSTER: The Dow Jones is moving higher to round off a month that Wall Street may never forget. Right now, the index is up. It's up .35 percent, about 40 points. If it keeps up, it'll be a four day winning streak.

Now, after this brutal -- brutally volatile August, the damage has pretty much already been done. If we look at the Dow's performance this year, it has been making Saturday progress, with a few modest peaks and troughs here and there. But as we come up to August, we can see the rot really setting in.

The debt ceiling debate knocked investor confidence initially and then the S&P downgrade on August the 5th shattered it.

And what followed was a series of violent lurches -- 500 point swings became the norm for just a few days. And at the end of it all, we're still more than 1,000 points off the Dow's high point at the very start of May.

Now, the fight back on the European markets has been underway for a couple of weeks now. The gains continue today. The continent's four main indices were up by 1.5 percent or more. Financial stocks led the way, with Soc Gen, Lloyd's and Germany insurers Allianz among the top performers.

And, in fact, almost all of the shares on the DAX saw gains, with the notable exception of Deutsche Telekom, up by almost 8 percent due to that hiccup in that mega merger mobile we were talking about a bit earlier on.

Now, none of these four markets have been spared from the month of volatility, however. All other indices have lost value after going through the August roller coaster.

The DAX, the worst performer, losing almost 20 percent. Deutsche Bank's shares have fallen almost 30 percent over August. Commerce Bank also down more than 20 percent on the month, but all sectors have suffered over the summer.

So where can you find a safe haven these days?

(NOISE)

FOSTER: Excuse me.

Sorry, I dropped a glass of water, sir.

But we'll carry on.

Or will the volatility stretch into September, as well?

Fredrik Nerbrand is HSBC's global head of asset allocation.

The water avoided you, thankfully.

FREDRIK NERBRAND, GLOBAL HEAD OF ASSET ALLOCATION, HSBC: Yes.

FOSTER: How can people avoid losing money right now?

The volatility is very scary. You have to be an experienced investor to get into those share markets right now.

So where's a safe place to put your money?

NERBRAND: Well, look, cash is always going to be the safe choice, right?

But more than anything else, as far as we're concerned, is how to split those assets. And more and more what the market is actually starting to think about, at the moment, is not just what's going to happen over the next couple of quarters, but rather, are we in a Japan-like scenario in terms of very meager economic growth, no inflation and for a protracted period of time?

And that process of moving through, of looking at equity shares and everything else, that will take a long time to -- for the markets to digest. And that's really this volatility that we're -- that we're seeing now.

FOSTER: The big question lots of investors have who bet on the markets every day is should they keep their money in those investment funds, the share markets, the money that they have, their pension funds, for example, their other investments?

Should they keep it there long-term or should they get out now?

NERBRAND: Well, I mean that's a very difficult question that would be very different for different individuals. But either way, we would probably tilt more to the fact of saying yes, what you should be owning is a relatively safe portfolio rather than anything else.

FOSTER: The world.

NERBRAND: You should keep your shares. You should keep them...

FOSTER: If you've got them.

NERBRAND: -- keep them -- but, actually, what you should be looking at in terms of what kinds of equities that you should be owning, if anything, is companies and shares that are giving you yields. More and more, the world is going to come to what would give me yield today and what will feed me today and while -- and what will feed me in the future?

So it's focusing on today's yield, stable companies, stable balance sheets more than looking for capital growth, right?

FOSTER: To keep you on top of the shares and actually buying in out of them more often than you would have done in the past?

NERBRAND: Well...

FOSTER: Or do you leave that to the investment manager.

NERBRAND: Yes, yes. I think you leave that to the investment manager...

FOSTER: OK.

NERBRAND: -- rather than trying to pump in and out of individual stocks (INAUDIBLE).

FOSTER: And you talked about keeping your money in cash.

But what sort of currency should you be keeping your money in, because we saw this huge surge toward the -- the Swiss currency, didn't we, recently, that was perhaps a bit overdone.

But when should you -- which currency should you keep?

NERBRAND: Yes, I mean if you -- depending on, of course, where you sit and if you -- you can invest -- whether you're an American investor or in the Eurozone, is really a question of not only sisters contest (INAUDIBLE)...

FOSTER: Yes.

NERBRAND: -- is the euro, the dollar or the sterling, it's all pretty ugly, in all honesty. So -- and everyone kind of knows that that's an ugly story. So where money is moving toward is more in toward emerging markets. And I would suggest that at least have some part of the currency allocation into non-G-3 currencies.

But, also, I would suggest that gold is also one of those almost a currency these days, especially as long as interest rates are remaining at low levels, which the Fed has now told us that they will keep for the foreseeable future.

FOSTER: But it's gone so extraordinarily high, hasn't it gone?

NERBRAND: Well...

FOSTER: At what point do you start worrying that it could head for a crash or that there's a bubble?

NERBRAND: Well, everything can head for a crash. But when we compare it to -- we haven't been here before in terms of looking at it's fiat money, of paper currencies, is that really something that you want to own?

And that type of...

FOSTER: Gold is not based on anything.

NERBRAND: It's not, but it's based on the fact that no one can make it anymore, right?

So -- and it also, what it does for your overall portfolio is that it tends to limit volatility of your overall portfolio more than anything else.

And, actually, in a world which is increasingly correlated, things that are not correlated is a good thing.

So the combination of having a little bit of gold -- I'm not saying that it's going to go up or down, but what it will do to your overall portfolio is it will tend to limit that volatility, even though it might look volatile by itself.

FOSTER: OK, Fredrik Nerbrand of HSBC, thank you very much, indeed, for coming in.

NERBRAND: Thank you.

FOSTER: Let's check on the action on Wall Street then.

Felicia Taylor is at the New York Stock Exchange for us -- hi there, Felicia.

FELICIA TAYLOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Max, how is it going?

We've had pretty -- pretty volatile times here on Wall Street in the last month or so. Stocks are continuing to trade to the up side for a fourth straight day, but were way off session highs. And, actually, the NASDAQ he's just dipped into the red.

So we've got, what, a couple of hours left in trading. I'm not so sure we're going to be able to keep on those gains.

Gains by the Dow are being held in check by the -- what is now a, almost a 7 percent -- excuse me, excuse me -- a 4 percent drop in AT&T on the -- that move by the Department of Justice to block that T-Mobile deal.

Financial shares are also making up some lost ground. We've got gains in Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup, all trading to the up side, between about 1.75 and 2 percent.

Remarkably, the Dow is back in positive territory for the year. But I wouldn't get too optimistic, because September is historically the worst month for stocks. And, in fact, the pattern goes that whenever the market has performed poorly in the preceding month, September performs even worse.

So not so good news there.

But we did have some economic reports that were helping the rally early on in the session, including two positive readings on manufacturing. That sector is higher across the board, such as Caterpillar, GE, Alcoa, all those others approaching some pretty solid gains.

We also had a pretty good jobs report. Payroll processing firm ADP said U.S. employers added 91,000 private sector jobs in July. That was short of estimates, but the market is overlooking it. They've all (AUDIO GAP) on corrupt lay-offs that showed a big improvement from recent months.

Of course, Friday is the day that we get the official government jobs report. And that's the report that the market is really going to be concentrating on, because it takes both private and public sectors into account.

We're expecting a gain of about 110,000 jobs. Any surprise on that number, though, the market is sure to react (ph) and react (ph) quickly -- Max.

FOSTER: Well, Felicia, thank you very much, indeed, for that.

(AUDIO GAP)

FOSTER: -- which he says will strengthen small businesses and get the unemployed back into work.

Brianna Keilar joins us now from the White House with more on this.

This is -- it's his big challenge, isn't it, jobs in America?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a very tough challenge, because some of the things, Max, that you look at, we know sort of generally some of the things the president wants to do, even though it's a week now before he unveils his jobs plan. And it's a very tough environment in which he's doing it, because there's this appetite to curb spending. And yet some of the things the president wants to do -- most of them, in fact -- would cost money.

For instance, payroll taxes, he wants to continue to allow employees, who normally pay a certain amount of payroll taxes, to allow them to continue to pay less. They're already getting a break on that. He wants to continue that and also to have a break for employers so that then it would free up some money so that they could hire more people and also, perhaps put in place a tax cut for new hires. If a business were to hire someone new, then they would be able to get a tax break.

One of his big priorities -- and Republicans have not loved this idea, is infrastructure spending, trying to put to work a lot of out of work construction workers by getting shovel ready products -- projects out there.

You have a lot of Republicans saying this sounds just like some of the stimulus that has been tried in the past and we don't want that. And then also, we can't forget, one of the big priorities of the White House has been to put some help out there for the long-term unemployed. You have millions of Americans who have been unemployed for more than a year.

And, Max, it's also interesting to note the sort of form in which the president wants to do this. He's put forward a joint -- a request for a joint session of Congress. This is a pretty dramatic setting to do this, to ask the House and the Senate to come together, almost like in a State of the Union situation, and address them as he unveils his jobs plan during prime time. It would be 8:00 p.m. that he's asked for next Wednesday -- Max.

FOSTER: OK, Brianna.

Thank you very much, indeed.

We will, of course, bring you the jobs numbers in the U.S. as they come out on Friday.

Now, it's had football fans across Europe glued to their computer screens all day today. We'll take you through the last minute madness of the transfer window after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOSTER: Well, Europe's top football clubs are scrambling like desperate parents on Christmas Eve. They have just four hours to buy new players before the transfer window closes for the year.

Jim he's been following all these events today, glued to the television, weren't you?

JIM BOULDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a lot (AUDIO GAP) right now. There are guesses, of course, because many of the contracts, many of the transfer fees are only leaked or not confirmed. So these are raw transfer numbers that we have for the last couple of hours.

Let's look at some of the leagues.

Serie A and Italy, we think the transfer spending is just shy of $600 million.

La Liga in Spain, $478 million. Some of that, of course, was for Cesc Fabregas to go to -- from Arsenal over to Barcelona.

Bundesliga much, much lower, $197 million, below $200 million. Of course, there are different rules in Germany. And these teams have to be a bit more sensible when it comes to how they spend their money.

Now, who has spent the most?

No surprise, right here in England, the English Premier League. Grant Thornton, the accountancy firm, estimates $632 million in transfer fees so far. And I can tell you, though, there are a lot of spectators, a lot of people speculating on some more movements in the next couple of hours. So it's very likely that number will rise.

One reason this is $55 million more than was spent in the summer last year. Many teams are now buying up young English players, the under 21 signings. And that's one reason people are come -- that teams are spending more money on those players, to get them in when they're younger. And that has helped this number to increase.

Now, who's the biggest signing?

Again, we're here in England, Manchester City, of course, Sergio Aguero, $65 million from Atletico Madrid. Another big signing was Javier Pastore. He is another Argentinian who went to another wealthy club. Paris Saint-Germain signed him, $57.7 million. And, Max, if you have time, ask me an Arsenal question.

FOSTER: I'm going to ask you, because you're the Arsenal expert. And I know you've been a bit down about things recently.

BOULDEN: (INAUDIBLE).

(LAUGHTER)

FOSTER: But a lot of fans around the world very worried about Arsenal right now. Give us your sense of how things stand.

BOULDEN: Well, from a business point of view, if you look at the numbers, very, very good indeed. Arsenal has made a profit. It was $108 million from filling players this summer alone. They have, of course, signed a few players, so they're still about $58 million into the good, as profit.

But there are certain deals that may come through in the last (INAUDIBLE)...

FOSTER: They could have saved that money.

BOULDEN: -- last few hours. A lot of...

FOSTER: (INAUDIBLE) the team.

BOULDEN: -- Arsenal supporters hope that they'll spend the money now and worry about the books later in the year.

FOSTER: But they've got enough money to...

BOULDEN: They do.

FOSTER: -- make the signings they need.

BOULDEN: They do.

FOSTER: OK, Jim, good luck.

Now, what what's your favorite club?

What were they doing today?

Could it be make or break for the entire season?

No wonder this has all been all over social media today. Everyone has talked about it.

CNN digital producer, Ben Wyatt, has been sifting through the rumors and the speculation. There's all sorts of them going on out there.

And what have you found -- Ben?

BEN WYATT, CNN DIGITAL PRODUCER: That's right. Transfer deadline day in Europe is always a dramatic 24 hours for football fans, because the big clubs in Europe have such a global following, it means supporters all over the planet are on the edge of their seats waiting to see which players their club might sign.

Now, Trendsmap is always a good barometer for this kind of interest. And here we can see the transfer deadline day hash tag has been remarkably popular on Twitter today, right from Los Angeles to Europe all across Africa and even Indonesia, people very interested across the world in the deals that are going through.

And it's not just fans who are excited. Here's a message from serial Twitter, Rio Ferdinand. He's a defender for Manchester United and the England international side.

He wrote here: "All right, I'm home from training and set up on the sofa for the remainder of the day to see transfer deadline day. Popcorn, juice and remote control all within arm's reach."

Now, the best thing about transfer day is often the rumor and the intrigue that surrounds big deals that might be about to happen. And in London alone, there's been a lot of deals going through, as Jim touched on there. But one of the most rumored moves that of midfielder Luka Modric from Tottenham to Chelsea for an estimated 30 million pounds, has still yet to happen. And it's this transfer that really captured the imagination and divided opinion on the "WORLD SPORT" blog today.

Here are three of the comments that have come in. This one from Rob saying: "Modric to Chelsea was never going to happen."

Sources at the club -- at both clubs -- have said it's a dead issue."

This one here from Hope Harry, who said: "Spurs chairman should cash in on Modric and use the money for two other quality signings before the deadline closes."

And, finally, this is Colonel Paul, who said: "Luka Modric's mind left White Hart Lane," which is the home ground of the Spurs, "long ago from the first day Chelsea threw in a bid for him."

So there's lots of intrigue across the Internet and a few hours remaining. So plenty more to come, I feel.

FOSTER: Good stuff, Ben.

Thank you very much, indeed.

Now, for those players wanting to go to Spain, they're not alone in finding it an attractive destination. The beleaguered Spanish economy is getting a welcome boost now from tourism. In contrast to the rest of the economy, which grew only 0.2 percent in the second quarter, tourism spending in the country is up almost 10 percent from last year.

From Benidorm, Al Goodman reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AL GOODMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Alluring Mediterranean beaches, sun and sand, an old formula that's drawing tourists back. The government says tourism in Spain is making a rebound despite the economic crisis, especially here in Benidorm, where British visitors alone have increased by 15 percent this year compared to last.

This family from Sheffield, England is visiting for the first time.

DYLAN PURCELL: With my parents.

GOODMAN (on camera): So what do you think of this place?

D. PURCELL: It's very nice, because it -- it got very hot and I just keep going out there. It's got good waves.

PAT WOODLUFFE, DYLAN'S GRANDMOTHER: The food.

BOB WOODLUFFE, DYLAN'S GRANDFATHER: Oh, the food is wonderful.

P. WOODLUFFE: Everything is beautiful, isn't it?

B. WOODLUFFE: And the people.

(CROSSTALK)

B. WOODLUFFE: -- England and it's very cold there.

GOODMAN (voice-over): Tourism officials say Spain has benefited from visitors too worried to travel to turbulent North Africa. But price has been a key. Hotel prices along this coast have dropped 20 percent in the past few years.

This family is paying about $100 a day per person for a one week package that includes travel, hotel, meals and drinks.

(on camera): Tourism accounts for about 11 percent of Spain's

GDP and 11 percent of all jobs. Right now, tourism and Spanish exports are among the few bright spots for the beleaguered Spanish economy.

(voice-over): Spain's 21 percent unemployment rate is far higher than in Northern Europe and that has provided an opening for business, says the president of the Coastal Hotel Association.

ANTONIO MAJOR, PRESIDENT, HOSBEC HOTEL ASSOCIATION (through translator): There's a better economic perspective in Germany, Poland, Belgium and England. They don't have such a negative perspective as the Spanish consumer.

GOODMAN: In Madrid, the national tourism director says it also helps that the industry has built up loyalty from clients over the years.

JOAN MESQUIDA, TOURISM SECRETARY GENERAL (through translator): Of the nearly 53 million international visitors to Spain last year, 84 percent have been in Spain before and 41 percent have previously been here 10 times or more.

GOODMAN: At pool side in Benidorm, these friends from Kent, England, here for the first time, say they're already thinking of returning.

(on camera): Have you been awake mainly during the day or mainly during the night?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Both.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Both, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In this area and then we go out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, but we've only...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- the early hours of the morning, yes. A number of people stay overnight. It's good like, the night life is not quite good around here, as well. Like drinks are cheaper (INAUDIBLE) some drinks and things like that. So we're enjoying it.

GOODMAN: Spain's tourism industry is enjoying it, too, and hoping the lights won't go out on the recovery.

Al Goodman, CNN, Benidorm, Spain.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

FOSTER: Well, their profits are on the rise, but their tax bills aren't. When we come back, how some of America's biggest corporations somehow pay their CEOs more than they pay the tax man.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOSTER: Welcome back.

I'm Max Foster.

You're watching QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.

And here are the news headlines this hour.

Libyan civilians are celebrating Eid under some very difficult conditions. In Tripoli, supplies are running short and the price of food and fuel has shot up. Water is the most desperately needed commodity. The U.N. secretary-general says 60 percent of the city is without water or sanitation.

A new Amnesty International report documents the death of 88 detainees in Syria. It says more than 50 of the victims were brutally tortured by security forces. The information comes from witness interviews and video footage. No immediate comment from Syrian officials, though.

U.S. President Barack Obama has signed a disaster (AUDIO GAP) the states of New York and North Carolina in the wake of Hurricane Irene. Flood warnings are still in effect for several areas hit by the storm. Irene is blamed for the deaths of 43 people. Nearly two million homes remain without power.

The United States government is seeking to block a proposed merger that would create the country's largest wireless phone company. The Department of Justice's anti-trust lawsuit contends the $39 billion merger of T-Mobile and AT&T will result in higher prices and fewer choices for consumers.

Corporate tax dodging is out of control according to a Washington think tank.

The Institute for Policy Studies says 25 of the 100 highest paid corporate CEOs were paid more last year in their company pay -- or pay -- they were paid more last year than their companies paid in federal income taxes.

Now, the Institute's 18th annual compensation report spotlighted 25 companies. Despite average global profits of nearly $2 billion, most of those companies actually got tax refunds averaging $300 million.

The report says 18 of 25 corporations investigated used offshore tax havens. Between them, they had 556 subsidiaries and tax haven locations. Twenty of the companies also spent more on lobbying lawmakers than they did in actually corporate income taxes. Eighteen of them gave more in donations to political candidates than they did to Uncle Sam.

Let's take a look at some of the worst of big profit, small tax offenders on the IPS think tank's list then.

And eBay CEO, John Donahoe made around $12.5 million last year. The company didn't spend a penny on taxes. In fact, it got a $131 million refund for the year.

Boeing's CEO, Jim McNerney, made around $14 million. Boeing paid less than that in income taxes and a lot more in lobbying and campaign spending.

General Electric's CEO, Jeff Immelt, earned $15 million last year. The company got a massive $3 billion tax refund. They spent a mammoth $42 billion on lobbying and campaign spending.

Scott Klinger is one of the authors of the "Excess 2011" report.

He joins me now live from Washington.

It's an interesting analysis, isn't it?

But what do you think it -- it really says about these companies and the system there of taxation in the U.S.?

SCOTT KLINGER, INSTITUTE FOR POLICY STUDIES: Well, thank you, Max.

It -- it says two things. It says that the U.S. tax system is rigged to reward corporations that avoid paying their taxes. And it also says that we haven't yet solved our problem of controlling excessive CEO pay.

And one of the things we're focusing on in this report is the way the two are linked. You mentioned that a lot of the companies are taking advantage of offshore tax havens to shift their U.S. profits overseas. And when they do (AUDIO GAP) the money goes directly to the (AUDIO GAP) corporate CEO pay (AUDIO GAP) company executives are (AUDIO GAP).

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOSTER: Just to reassure you, there isn't a problem with your TV. We are having some problems with our satellite signal, so we -- we've had some drop out in the signal, which is why we went to break early.

But I just want to go back to our interview with Scott -- Scott Klinger.

He's an author of the "Excess 2011" report.

And, Scott, you've been talking about how the 100 highest paid corporate CEOs in the U.S. were paid more last year than their companies paid in federal income taxes.

But they're hitting out at the report, saying it's not accurate, you're not taking into account state taxes, you're not taking into account taxes which were lumped together in previous years.

How academic, actually, was your study?

KLINGER: Well, we used a methodology that's been used by many other organizations, including "The New York Times" and Citizens for Tax Justice, a widely respected group here in the United States.

We looked at what the companies report in their Securities and Exchange Commission filings, our regulatory agency. Among -- for the current taxes they paid in 2010. This is the money that's supposed to best represent the money that was paid to the federal government and to state governments as a separate line item.

There's another number that is called the third taxes (ph). And that's taxes that the companies might pay some day. And we thought of that as roughly akin go telling the taxing authorities that the check is in the mail and it might arrive next year or it might arrive 20 years from now. U.S. families don't have that option and we think that's something in the U.S. tax code that needs to be examined.

FOSTER: Shareholders are obviously pleased that companies aren't over paying in tax. And they're operating, obviously, within the law.

So is the accusation here against the companies or the tax system, because the companies aren't actually doing anything illegal?

KLINGER: Well, the companies are playing by the rules, but as you noted in your introduction, they're spending a lot of money to influence those rules. So that's one thing to pay attention to.

The other thing is companies benefit tremendously from the services that the federal government provides, everything from roads to protection for their patents to education (AUDIO GAP) was that (AUDIO GAP) executives in this report were educated in public colleges and universities. So their very education (AUDIO GAP).

JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, I'm Jonathan Mann at the CNN Center stepping in for Max Foster while we sort out our satellite problems, with our apologies.

Looking elsewhere at the news now, the U.S. Labor Relations Board has just issued several new rulings favorable to the nation's unions, including one likely to make it easier for health care workers to unionize.

The rulings come just before America's Labor Day holiday this weekend and at a time when some wonder whether unions still have much of a future in the US.

Poppy Harlow has a look at that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROGER YOUNG, JR: This is basically my office. This is

Where I work.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Roger Young Jr spends his days in manholes, splicing

Cables for Verizon, just like his father did 40

Years ago.

(on camera): Are you a union proud family?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Definitely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, absolutely.

HARLOW (voice-over): But lately, it's not

The phone lines they've been focused on, it's the picket line.

Verizon and its unions have been bargaining hard over issues that include contributions towards health care premiums, freezing pension plans and job security.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Verizon can hear us

Now.

HARLOW: But have unions lost their voice?

(on camera): Are you afraid that unions are dying in America?

ROGER YOUNG, JR: I don't think they're dying. I think they're ill.

HARLOW (voice-over): Once a part of the

American way of life, membership has declined by the decade. In 1950, one third of American workers were unionized. Today, it's a mere 11 percent. Union members say outsourcing and technology have both contributed to eliminating some union jobs.

DR. HARRY KATZ, LABOR EXPERT: There's no doubt, unions overall have less bargaining power than they had 30, 20 years ago. They have less political power than they've had because, you know, they've shrunk as a share of the work force.

HARLOW (on camera): Do you ever -- ever feel like you're fighting for the survival of unions for your kids one day?

ROGER YOUNG, JR: Oh, I think I'm fighting for the survival of everybody's kids of unions someday because these are great jobs.

ROGER YOUNG, SR: The unions are what made this country great.

HARLOW (voice-over): Unions point to higher wages, guaranteed pensions for most members and better health insurance than their non- union counterparts. And all that, unions say, makes them strong contributors to overall economic growth.

RICHARD TRUMKA, PRESIDENT, AFL-CIO: Our economy is 72 percent driven by consumer spending. Unless people have in their pocket money, they can't create that demand. We know that we can't have a low wage, high consumption society.

ROGER YOUNG, JR: There's a decline in the middle class, but that decline in the middle class is directly related -- directly related to the decline in unions.

HARLOW: And that's the bigger question.

KATZ: If unions were stronger, I think the evidence from other countries and history is, we wouldn't have an extreme polarized income distribution the way we have it now.

HARLOW: Today, negotiations resumed between Verizon and the CWA and IBEW. The strikers have already left the picket lines and returned to work, but without a contract and still divided on key issues, like health care. The unions say the strike has shown the workers are serious about getting what they want.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is our fight for our lives.

HARLOW: In New York, Poppy Harlow, CNNMoney.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

FOSTER: And I'm back again.

Now, you did see John momentarily, it was true.

We're having some problems from our satellite signals here in London. So we're losing some signals.

But hopefully we're back and we should be with you for the next 20 minutes safe and sound. We've fixed the technical problems.

Now, to continue, Cuba believes it may have more than 20 billion barrels of recoverable oil in its untapped portion of the Gulf of Mexico. So Havana is kicking off a new era in offshore oil exploration.

As CNN's Shasta Darlington reports, U.S. officials are expressing concern, though.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Undaunted by last year's massive BP disaster on the other side of the Gulf of Mexico, Cuba plows ahead with an ambitious oil drilling plan.

(on camera): The island currently produces 60,000 barrels of oil a day -- about half its needs in onshore wells like this one. But now full scale offshore exploration is gaining momentum.

(voice-over): Spain's Repsol will drill an exploration well next year with a Chinese built rig in 5,600 feet of water, deeper than the BP well. Other companies have also set their sights on the rig.

The International Association of Drilling Contractors, or IADC, has held numerous talks with Cuban oil company, Cupet.

LEE HUNT, IADC PRESIDENT: They're planning, according to the information they provided us, with seven wells over the next two to four year period.

DARLINGTON: Estimates for Cuba's offshore reserves range from five billion to 20 billion barrels of oil. The country has dividend its share of the Gulf into 59 blocks. Foreign oil companies -- none from the United States -- have leased 21 of them. In the wake of the Gulf spill, some in Florida are worried about Cuba drilling so close to home.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Ultimately, if there is a spill, say, in a Cuban operation, its impact would be fully felt by the entire Gulf Region, actually, the entire Eastern Seaboard, potentially. But there's not a lot we can do about it.

DARLINGTON: But for the IADC, it's time to work together to prevent spills and quickly tackle disasters.

HUNT: With Cuba drilling 40 miles from Key West, we can't change that distance, so we'd better take a look at our attitudes.

DARLINGTON: The U.S. Trade embargo prevents American oil companies from operating in Cuba, both in terms of exploration and eventually providing equipment in the case of a spill. The results could be disastrous for marine life and the beaches on both sides of the Florida Straits. Tourism is a major money maker for both economies. As one expert put it, it would be a long trip if they also had to bring in an emergency rig from Asia.

Shasta Darlington, CNN, Havana.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

FOSTER: Well, wonderful weather over there, as usual -- Guillermo, not so good here in Europe, but I'm complaining a bit.

It is sunny.

GUILLERMO ARDUINO, ATS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, in Cuba...

FOSTER: (INAUDIBLE).

ARDUINO: -- the Cuba weather may change, I must say.

But you know what, it's changing in Europe, too.

This is the last part of this bad storm that we have into Scandinavia. And this brought some storms into Berlin and also in Cologne.

Now, we see the arrival of a new system into Spain. But you see the note is that conditions are going to warm up significantly in Central and Southern Europe. So we see the arrival of this low pressure center. And we -- we saw that yesterday, as it was coming in. It's allowing for some quieter conditions in the northern parts of the British Isles. And then in France is where we see some of those storms. So take it in -- taking it right, one by one, you see even in England, things are not that bad.

But in France, we see some storms here, especially the south, central and southeastern parts of the country, with some storms. Germany in the north, we still see some clouds and rain.

Temperature-wise, you see how gradually it's warming up. And also, the cold air is shrinking. So look at Germany, you see into Thursday and Friday. And then it warms up a little bit. And these are the numbers that we are expecting -- 27 in Vienna; London, 21; Paris, 25.

And remarkably cooler in Madrid, at 27.

Remember last month, when we were talking about 35 or so for so long?

So no delays associated with the weather at the airports on this list in Central and Western Europe.

Copenhagen and also Northern Germany still some rain showers, but not expecting bad weather at all. So most of the cities are looking OK.

It's improving quickly into the Xiamen Fuzhou area because of the landfall we had of that cyclone that fizzled out very quickly, though we still see some rain lingering in Taiwan. So over saturated with rain, we see some more rain.

And then we're looking at Talas. This tropical storm that is moving into Japan and we have landfall very soon. You see it's forming or it's continuing to form very nicely. But we expect it to stay on a tropical storm basis. The winds around 100 kilometers per hour, perhaps a little bit more. But two days from now, we'll have it making landfall in the southern part of Hangzhou and into (INAUDIBLE).

Well, originally, we were looking at Tokyo, it seems that now we're focusing more into Shikoku.

And also, we have Tropical Storm Katia becoming a hurricane, probably a very significant hurricane, very soon, moving toward, let's say general - - listen to the vocabulary that I use -- general direction of the United States. So the models are mostly in agreement that it's going to go there. It may go a little bit farther to the south and into Bermuda. It's a little bit too early to know, a little bit -- a little bit early to say.

We also know that there's just a 10 percent of formation within 24 hours here with this tropical wave near Yucatan and Cuba.

And that's my comments that, when I started this segment.

But we may see a cyclone forming here. So if I were you, I would get all the gas in my car, petrol in my car right now, before the prices go up. We may see, Max, some system in the Gulf of Mexico in the next two days.

FOSTER: And you'll be watching it for us.

Guillermo, thank you very much, indeed.

ARDUINO: Thank you.

FOSTER: We're going to get on to other matters now. I don't know if Guillermo is a fan of comics, but Time Warner's DCComics is giving our all time heroes a modern makeover in a bid to appeal to a new generation of fans. From today, they will have new histories, new story lines, new costumes, would you believe?

Let me give you a glimpse of what a couple of them will be looking like.

This is Superman, the most notable costume change on the Man of Steel is he has shed that spandex for a more armor-like sculpted look. You see, here's the old one. Here's the new one. A bit of a bulkier physique and a scrappier look -- jeans, shockingly.

Wonder Woman, the old Wonder Woman, wore a one piece spandex, of course, a leotard to you and me. Now, she'll be alternating now between shorts and pants. So she's got flexibility in her wardrobe now. She's now showing much more flesh, a bit more Lara Croft, you could argue. That's what my producer thinks, anyway. He's the producer who produced this.

Now, Green Arrow has always dressed a bit like Robin Hood. You can see him there in his old garb. If you don't know who he is, he's an archer who invents tricks with arrows, explosive arrows, tear gas arrows, even.

Now, he's a -- he's a modern. He's an edgier figure, much tougher and a bit grittier. And, again, you can see, bulked up. Everyone is very fit in the cartoon world these days.

Now, the big rebrand is part of an industry-wide battle against slumping sales.

And CNN's Felicia Taylor, a comic expert, I'm toyed -- told, joined comic book diehards outside a New York store to see whether DC's bid to win over new fans has alienated its old ones.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FELICIA TAYLOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm in Midtown Manhattan, where there are many fans that have been lining up since about 11:00 on Tuesday morning for the release at midnight, August 31st, of this comic book. I happened to get my hands on one.

But what's important is that it's also going on the Web. And that's going to attract a whole new line of readers for the Justice League and other comic books like DCComics.

It's a multi-hundred million dollar business that's just about to expand.

I'm with a real comic book fan. He's gone to such lengths that he's actually tattooed himself all over with different characters.

How many do you have?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About nine tattoos.

TAYLOR: Nine?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Here's Batman. Then you have the Cat Woman down here.

TAYLOR: Ooh, that's my favorite. I like the Cat Woman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I've got the Ninja Turtles on my legs.

TAYLOR: Oh my God.

Tell me how long you've been out here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My husband and I were out here since noon today.

TAYLOR: And you're going to stay here until midnight tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are, yes.

TAYLOR: Why are you such avid fans of comic books?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't say that I'm a fan, but my husband is a huge DCComics fan, and especially Jim Lee. And he needed a companion to run and get the food and like relieve him, so...

TAYLOR: Oh, well, you're the gofer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am, yes.

CHRISTOPHER MURPHY, COMICSALLIANCE: This is huge. Comics, our readership has been going down. People aren't buying comics as much. And they've been jumping off because they're not happy with the story or because they've been digitally pirating comics. So this is -- this is do or die. This is either change or the industry could collapse.

TAYLOR (voice-over): Its large comic book stores just like this one that have been on the decline over the last few years, with only about 2,000 left across the entire United States.

And it's that lost audience, in addition to a new audience, that DCComics is hoping to capture on the Web.

JIM LEE, COO-PUBLISHER, DCCOMICS: Well, it's the first book of a huge initiative that we're doing in September, right?

So it's 52 books that we're relaunching, renumbering, with new costumes, new story lines.

TAYLOR (on camera): Do you think this is going to revolutionize the comic book industry?

LEE: It would.

TAYLOR: Well, but this is really what it is.

LEE: Yes, well, I think it -- it definitely it's going to change things. It's a game-changer because not only are we changing the content, but we're also changing some of the delivery. We're doing digital day and date, so that means you can download this comic book digitally the same day you can go into a shop and buy it in print.

So that's -- that's a big change for us, because it allows us to tap into new markets, hopefully find new readers. We want the comic books to really reflect the society that we live in. So we have lesbian characters. We have other gay characters that are members of a team called Storm Watch. We have a lot of different ethnicities. So we're really trying to mix things up and keep things as fresh and modern as possible.

TAYLOR: So if you were to draw me as a superhero, what would it look like?

LEE: Oh, yes, well, it would be...

(LAUGHTER)

LEE: -- on the spot woman, right?

So, right?

That would be her power.

TAYLOR: Yes, that would be my power, yes.

LEE: I guess.

TAYLOR (voice-over): Felicia Taylor, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

FOSTER: Even more famous now.

What a great cartoon.

Now, making it big in Mongolia, meanwhile. Up next, we meet the former sumo wrestler who's throwing his weight into a whole new career.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOSTER: Well, it is an economy on the move. Mongolia might be best known for its horse riding nomads, but the nation is now harnessing its vast mineral deposits to speed economic growth.

Mongolia is in Central Asia, between China and Russia. Nearly half of the 2.7 million strong population lives in urban areas, including the capital, Ulaanbaatar.

Here are some key facts about Mongolia's economy for you.

GDP grew 7 percent in 2010, largely due to its exports. More than three quarters of Mongolia's exports go to China.

The country was hit hard by the global financial crisis. The unemployment rate soared from 3 percent to more than 11 percent in 2009. But its economy is starting to take off now.

Domestic investment and savings rates are among the highest now in the world.

And Mongolia plans to tap into its ample natural resources, including gold, copper, coal and rare earth metals.

Next year, the Mongolian government could raise as much as $3 billion by privatizing a company that controls the vast coal fields in the Gobi Desert. According to reports, in an unusual step, the company's Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi will be listed on three stock exchanges in London, Hong Kong and Ulaanbaatar.

"The Financial Times" says politicians are promising to distribute 10 percent of the shares to the Mongolian people. The IPO is being arranged by Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, BNP Paribas and the Corey Group.

Big deals and growing ambitions -- that sums up the new Mongolia.

CNN's Stan Grant met a man who typifies that enter -- entrepreneurial spirit.

He's a former sumo wrestling champion who's reinventing himself as a property tycoon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STAN GRANT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's a big man with big ambitions.

(on camera): Do you have big dreams?

DOLGORSUREN DAGVADORJ, BUSINESSMAN, FORMER SUMO WRESTLER: Yes. Yes. Of course.

GRANT: Do you want to be president one day?

DAGVADORJ: Maybe.

(LAUGHTER)

GRANT (voice-over): You shouldn't laugh too loudly. In Mongolia, no one is more famous than Asashoryu. That's his Japanese sumo name. For 25 years, as a grand master, he dominated the sport. Now retired and back home, locals call him simply, "the champ."

Is he the symbol of the new Mongolia?

(on camera): There's that laugh again.

DAGVADORJ: Maybe.

GRANT (voice-over): "My whole generation," he says, "has experienced the opening of Mongolia. So I feel it is a great honor to be alive in this new, free country. I feel blessed."

The big man has actually slimmed down. Once 170 kilograms, he now tops out at 130. He's exercising and dieting, but his appetite for success is as big as ever.

"It's difficult to say if I'll become a world famous billionaire," he says. "Sumo and business are completely different, different worlds. But it is my ambition to become a big businessman. We should all strive for success, especially as Mongolia has such a bright future."

From the back of his expensive black Merc (ph), Asashoryu proudly shows off just how much he owns of Mongolia's capital, Ulaanbaatar.

(on camera): You've got a lot of land.

DAGVADORJ: This is my land. And this (INAUDIBLE) and this.

(CROSSTALK)

DAGVADORJ: Yes, it's common.

GRANT: This will be a major residential, commercial and entertainment complex.

(on camera): How much money to build this development?

(CROSSTALK)

DAGVADORJ: (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) $300 million.

DAGVADORJ: Three hundred.

GRANT: Ulaanbaatar is a boom town. There's a lot of cash chasing potential mining riches. New hotels are springing up. Restaurants are doing a roaring trade. Asashoryu isn't missing out. He owns a circus.

DAGVADORJ: Very good.

GRANT (on camera): Because (INAUDIBLE) if there were a 20 story building here.

DAGVADORJ: Yes.

GRANT (voice-over): This park bears his name. And to finance it all, he started his own investment bank.

Asashoryu has made it big in Japan, but he has made waves. He was criticized for being too brash. He retired in 2010 after apologizing for attacking a man outside a nightclub. But none of that has hurt his popularity at home.

President one day?

Don't laugh.

Stan Grant, CNN, Ulaanbaatar.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

FOSTER: And we'll get back to you with a recap of the stock markets after this short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOSTER: Let's take a last look at the stock market numbers for you here in Europe.

There have been some strong gains on all the major markets across the continent, with all the indices up by more than 1.5 percent.

Financial stocks more than 2 percent, particularly strong with the German insurers, Allianz, among the day's top performers. In fact, almost all shares on the DAX saw gains.

Deutsche Telekom was the lone exception. Its stock fell almost 8 percent after the U.S. Justice Department announced it will charge AT&T's merger with T-Mobile.

There's just over an hour of trading left on Wall Street right now. The Dow is showing slight gains. Manufacturing shares amongst the big performers following strong readings on factory orders and the Chicago Purchasing Managers Index. Now, that measures industrial sentiment in the Chicago area. The Dow currently up just over 1 percent, at .1 percent.

All three of Wall Street's major indices are looking at a loss, though, for August as a whole. It was a very volatile month.

That is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.

I'm Max Foster in London.

"PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT," though, is just ahead.

First, a check of the headlines for you.

END