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Report: Fidelity takes 10% stake in C.Wonder

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Fidelity, the Boston-based investment firm, has bought a 10% stake in C. Wonder, according to Women’s Wear Daily. Founded by Christopher Burch in 2011, the company has since expanded to 10 locations and also operates pop-up stores.

Burch has big plans for C.Wonder, which sells a mix of apparel, accessories and home goods, all under its own label. According to previous reports, he plans to expand it to 50 to 100 stores by the end of 2014, including locations abroad.

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Tax reform and e-fairness top RILA’s D.C. agenda

BY Marianne Wilson

Arlington, Va. — The passage of comprehensive tax reform and a more level playing field between online retailers and Main Street retailers for sales tax collection top the Retail Industry Leaders Association’s public policy priorities for 2013.

According to RILA, the retail industry pays among the highest domestic effective tax rates at 36.4% more than 10 percentage points higher than the average for all other industries.

Further, the same compliance challenges that burden retailers burden their customers and small businesses. Tax reform that substantially reduces the corporate rate, treats all businesses the same and simplifies the system for all taxpayers, will put more money in consumers’ pockets and allow businesses to invest and grow.

The laws governing sales tax collection put Main Street retailers at a competitive disadvantage to their online-only competitors, RILA said. Specifically, online retailers are exempted in many states from collecting the sales tax owed on purchases made online, resulting in a perceived price advantage. Because of public pressure brought to bear by RILA and its partners, Amazon.com will be required to collect sales tax in over 50% of the U.S. consumer market by the end of this year.

Here is a complete list of RILA’s 2013 Public Policy priorities:

Tax Reform: Pass comprehensive tax reform that lowers rates and simplifies compliance for corporations, consumers and small businesses.

E-Fairness: Level the playing field for Main Street retailers and give states the right to enforce their sales tax laws online.

Health Care: Protect retailers’ ability to continue to offer employees quality health coverage.

Labor: Stop job-killing labor regulations that create micro-unions and ambush elections.

Privacy: Promote a self-regulatory model to consumer privacy that recognizes the needs and expectations of consumers.

Swipe Fee Reform:
Extend debit swipe fee reforms to credit cards.

Trade: Pursue the adoption of simple, flexible rules of origin for apparel as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the expansion of the Information Technology Agreement.

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Report: J.C. Penney files lawsuit to block bondholders from declaring default

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — J.C. Penney Co. filed a lawsuit on Monday asking a Delaware judge to declare that it is not in a default of its bond agreements, protecting nearly $3 billion of debt from being due in the coming months, Reuters reported.

According to the report, J.C. Penney received a letter earlier on Monday from the Brown Rudnick law firm that said J.C. Penney had breached a covenant of a bond indenture agreement by granting a lien on its inventory. J.C. Penney filed the lawsuit after receiving the letter.

The indenture agreement related to $326 million of outstanding bonds that mature in 2037. However, the letter said that J.C. Penney could be in default on all of its $2.9 billion bond debt, according to the lawsuit.

"We believe this notice of default is invalid, completely without merit and is intended to create self-interested trading opportunities in the market, and we will therefore vigorously defend the interests of J.C. Penney and all of our constituencies," J.C. Penney CFO Ken Hannah said in a statement.

J.C. Penney said in the complaint that the demand from Brown Rudnick came as the company is investing significantly to update its stores.

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