A post-September 11 foreign-spy technology crackdown by federal authorities has netted yet another San Diego company with ties to South Korea. Neopoint, a Rancho Bernardo-based maker of so-called smart cell phones, has been slapped with a $95,000 civil penalty "to settle allegations that the company exported encryption software to South Korea in violation of U.S. export control laws," according to a news release last week from the Commerce Department's Bureau of Export Administration. The government charged that between March 1998 and June 1999, "Neopoint exported 128-bit encryption software to two firms in South Korea without the required export licenses. In all but one of these shipments, [the bureau] alleged that Neopoint knew that an export license was required." Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Enforcement Michael J. Garcia was quoted as saying, "This case demonstrates that the U.S. government can and will enforce its export controls on encryption products." U.S. laws limit the export of sophisticated encryption software on the grounds that foreign enemies could use it to conceal hostile messages. Founded in 1997 by ex-Qualcomm executive William Y. Son, Neopoint closed its offices here last May and went dormant after going through at least $54 million in venture capital raised from some of the world's biggest telecommunications companies, including German-based Siemens and LG Information and Communications of Korea. In a related incident just last month, the federal government's National Counterintelligence executive office, which monitors industrial espionage, warned that a South Korean government plan to open a "BioValley" research lab in North County could jeopardize U.S. trade secrets.
No Cox A brief flurry of speculation about the name of the new downtown baseball stadium set off by a mention in the Union-Tribune has been put to rest. In a February 16 story, the paper reported that the team had "recently received an infusion of cash from a new long-term deal with Cox Communications" and "will not have to sell bonds to finance its portion" of the stadium. Since the Padres are supposed to come up with $146 million, the report spawned immediate conjecture that the cable giant would get naming rights in return for all that cash. But local Cox executive Dan Novak, who declined to say how much the company paid for its cable deal with the team, says no naming rights are in the cards. Ever since the demise of the likes of TWA and Enron, who both paid big money for stadium names and later went bankrupt, the naming-rights market has cooled considerably ... San Diego mayor Dick Murphy is officially off the hook for accepting two free tickets to the Padres' owner's box at Qualcomm Stadium while he was a Superior Court judge. In a recently released letter dated last year, Colleen McGee, a "political reform consultant" for the state's Fair Political Practices Commission, wrote that the "complaint alleged Dick Murphy, San Diego Superior Court Judge, failed to report two tickets to the owner's box at Qualcomm Stadium given to him by Padres owner John Moores. We have decided not to pursue this matter because Judge Murphy left the office of Superior Court Judge effective December 3, 2000, and the circumstances indicate a lack of public harm, if any, caused by the nondisclosure."