Top 10 Stories of Last Week! 11/03/2019

This week’s news includes; Brexit delay, Levi Jeans stock exchange listing, JLR wins important trademark case, JD acquires Footasylum, Google creates cloud based gaming system  

Below are our top 10 stories that you need to know about. Be sure to check our twitter page and Facebook page for regular posts of important headlines. Get all the important stories and insights straight into your inbox by subscribing to our mailing list here.

Opinion articles of the week: 

  • Bloomberg: Fighting climate change won’t be painless
  • Law In Sport: Why Spain’s approach to taxing image rights and agency income is discouraging overseas footballers.
  • City A.M – Diversity inside law firms is shifting from exceptional to expected.

1. BREXIT

It was a momentous week as Parliament has voted to reject a no-deal and delay Brexit beyond March 29. In a series of votes throughout the week, the Brexit process was reshaped. We summarise the week’s action;

Theresa May’s deal rejected

Last Sunday, Theresa May secured legally binding changes to the agreement and appeared triumphant. On Monday however, the Attorney General Jeffrey Cox issued a fatal blow. His legal advice stated that the changes did not prevent the UK from being trapped in the backstop indefinitely so in essence, nothing changed. On Tuesday, Theresa May’s Brexit deal was rejected emphatically, albeit by a lesser margin than the 1st vote. Her deal was rejected by 149 votes.

No deal rejected

On Wednesday, Parliament voted in favour of an amendment to block a no-deal Brexit under any circumstances. The amendment passed by just four votes. Many government ministers defied whips to vote in favour of keeping no-deal as an option and abstained from the vote. The frequency and scale of defiance shows the extraordinary state of affairs. Although, this vote is not legally binding as it stands, the UK is still set to leave on 29 March.

Second referendum rejected

On Thursday, MP’s also voted to reject a second referendum by 334 to 85. Even ardent advocates of a people’s vote admitted that the timing was not right to vote on the matter.  Labour MP’s were told to abstain from the vote. Logistically, a second referendum would require a lengthy extension to implement, an extension that looks increasingly unlikely to be granted.

Extension of article 50

MP’s voted overwhelmingly by a majority of 211 to delay Brexit. Theresa May will now go back to Brussels and seek an extension of Article 50, beyond 29 March. Theresa May’s same deal will now come back to Parliament for a third time this coming week, and if its approved, Theresa May has suggested Brexit could be delayed by three months. If it is rejected then she will seek a longer extension.

Crucially, any extension must be approved by the 27 other EU member states. Each state has a veto. It has been made clear that the extension must be for purpose. There is also a reluctance on the EU side to extend Article 50 because it does not want the UK to partake in the European Parliament elections. The elections take place between 23 and 26 May but new members are not sworn in until 2 July.  An extension until June 2019, as proposed by Theresa May, could be feasible in light of this. A longer extension raises key legal and political questions and may not receive approval.

This extension of provides more uncertainty for businesses. New Financial think tank revealed 275 financial firms have moved £924 billion in assets and funds from the UK to the EU due to Brexit.

2. BOEING

Aviation authorities across the world have grounded Boeing’s 737 Max Eight and Nine Models after the second crash in five months. Two weeks ago, an Ethopian Airlines plane crashed shortly after take-off tragically killing all 157 onboard. Last October, an identical model crashed in similar circumstances, killing all 189 onboard. The precise cause of the crash is still unknown. The black box which records flight data and cockpit conversation has been recovered. 354 jets have been delivered globally as of January 2018. There are over 5,500 of this aircraft model are still in order. Orders are not necessarily expected to be cancelled but it has raised significant concerns. Boeing shares slumped 8% following the crash.

3. DEUTSCHE BANK MERGER

German heavyweights Deutsche Bank are set to announce that they have entered merger talks. This follows a tumultuous few years for Deutsche Bank who has been plagued by scandals. Deutsche Bank had its offices raided in November 2018 and is currently under investigation in a money laundering probe. New CEO John Sewing was appointed in 2018, vowing to turn the business around. The bank had been involved in Libor rigging, mortgage backed securities mis-selling and Russian money laundering . Deutsche Bank’s share price fell 50% in 2018 alone. Commerzbank has also faced issues. Commerzbank has scrapped much of its 2020 financials targets as revenues stutter. It is hoped that this consolidation can help restore some stability

Any merger would undoubtedly see swathes of job cuts but greater technological investment and capacity. Analysts argue however, that a merger does not cure the core issues of the banks. The banks have both lost over 90% of their value since their all-time highs. The banks have a combined value of roughly 25 billion euros. Bloomberg explores the potential merger in greater detail.

4. VOLKSWAGEN SUED BY US OVER DIESELGATE

The US Securities and Exchange Commission is suing Volkswagen and former executives over the diesel gate scandal. In 2015, Volkswagen was found to have inserted cheat devices in some models of its diesel cars. The devices would recognise test conditions and reduce emissions fraudulently allowing the cars to pass tests. The emissions of the vehicles outside of test conditions, were in some case 40 times over the legal emissions levels.

The SEC is now taking action claiming Volkswagen misled investors by issuing bonds and shares without disclosing to shareholders that it had cheated on emissions tests. Volkswagen only admitted the conduct in September 2015 but had sold $13 billion worth of Securities in the preceding 18 months. When the scandal broke Volkswagen stocks plummeted 40%.

This could be another hefty pay-out in a costly scandal. Volkswagen has already paid out over $30 billion in the US alone over the scandal. Investor lawsuits in Germany are also ongoing.

5. SPOTIFY LAUNCHES COMPETITON COMPLAINT AGAINST APPLE

Spotify has lodged a formal complaint against Apple for “stifling” its business through anti-competitive practices. The European Commission will now launch an investigation into the allegations. Spotify alleges that Apple “deliberately disadvantages” app develops through its App store. Due to the practices, Spotify is allegedly forced to increase the price of its paid previous service, above the price of Apple Music. Apple receives a 30% of all purchases on the app store and this includes Spotify’s premium service upgrade. If this cut is not received, the app will face experience-limiting restrictions.

The Commission will review any similarities between this case and Google’s recent breach. In 2017, Google was fined £2.2 billion for abusing its dominant market position through its search engine. Google gave its online shopping service an unfair advantage on the search engine. In the UK, traffic on its shopping service increased by 45 times once it began the practice. If Apple’s practice is found to be uncompetitive, there’s no reason it could not face a similar fine.

6. TESLA

Tesla has made a U-Turn on its plan to cut prices of its vehicles. Two weeks ago the car maker revealed it would be slashing prices of its cars, by shifting to online only sales and closing showroom. Now Elon Musk has announced that it would close half as many physical stores as planned. To keep the stores open, Tesla will raises prices by an average of 3%, excluding its landmark Model 3.

A number of ” high visibility stores” will remain open. The stores will not process sales but will show customers how to order online. In lieu of test drives, customers will be able to return their cars if they are not satisfied by the sooner of 1,000 miles or 7 days. Tesla has vowed to keep the Model 3 at $35,000 in order to truly breach into the mass market.

Tesla has launched its model Y SUV vehicle as it continues to expand into the mass market. The model Y will be released in Autumn 2020. The model Y will have all touch screen interface and will start at $39,000. The long-range version of the Model Y can go 470 miles on a single charge and will start at $47,000. Tesla will however, require a $2,500 deposit for pre-orders, notably more than the $1,000 to pre-order Model 3. Despite, looking up beat in quarter 3, Tesla’s cash position is raising concerns.

Find out more about Tesla on our company watch page

7. CARPHONE WAREHOUSE FINED

Carphone Warehouse has been fined £29.1 million by the Financial Conduct Authority for mis-selling its Geek Squad insurance. Geek Squad is the company’s insurance product and the FCA had received numerous complaints of poor practices. Between 2008 and 2015, Carphone Warehouse sold insurance products to customers who were covered by other policies and failed to handle complaints effectively. This mis-selling and failure to treat customers fairly breached regulations. The company said it had retrained staff and has made significant improvements since 2015. The Geek Squad unit turned over £445 million during the period.

8. CHINA NEW INVESTMENT LAW

China has introduced a new foreign investment law, ostensibly as a means to ease trade tensions. The law aims to lowers barriers to entry for foreign firms, who have traditionally faced great difficulty investing in China. The new law will be introduced on 1 January 2020. The legislation is however, quite general however and fails to address many of concerns raised by foreign businesses. Western commentators view this as means to appease the US and deescalate the trade war.

Check out our insight article explaining the impact of the US-China trade war.

9. MIKE ASHLEY PLOTS DEBENHAMS TAEKOVER

Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct has offered Debenhams a £150 million interest free loan, in return for control of the company. Mike Ashley aims to increase his nearly 30% stake to 35% without having to bid for the rest of the company. Takeover laws require shareholders with 30% unless independent shareholders waive the requirement to bid. If the stake is not granted, loan will come with a 3% interest charge.

Mike Ashley has been vying for struggling Debenhams, as he plots potential synergies with house of Fraser. Ashley has been very vocal in his criticism of the Debenhams board. He believes they have deliberately misled shareholders with their statements. Debenhams has issued a number of profit warnings and its seeking to refinance its £520 million of debt.  

10. HMRC USES NEW MONEY LAUNDERING POWERS

HMRC has begun its first criminal investigation under a new money laundering offence. The Criminal Finances Act 2017 introduced new measures to prevent facilitation of tax evasion and criminal penalties for non-compliance. Companies need not have directly engaged in tax evasion but providing services which facilitate evasion, where they should have reasonably been suspicious can constitute an offence. The offence is strict liability so companies can be held liable for the conduct alone. The legislation forms part of a wider money laundering clampdown and imposes greater responsibilities on financial services firms. While this is just the beginnings of the investigation, it’s an important first step in the fight against money laundering. 

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