Top 10 Stories of Last Week! 15/04/2019

This week’s news includes; £14 billion Mastercard class action lawsuit revived, Pinterest debuts on the stock market, CMA clamps down on the Big Four, Netflix foresees slower growth but signs $60m Beyoncé deal

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: 

  • Law Careers.net – What does the legal profession look like for BAME candidates in 2019?
  • City AM – City grind: Will law’s stuffy image and long hours stop it attracting top talent?
  • BBC News – Will AI kill developing world growth?

1. MASTERCARD COURT RULING

The Court of Appeal has paved the way for the largest class action lawsuit in UK legal history. The lawsuit claims UK customers were charged excessively high transactions fees by Mastercard over a 16-year period. The case was thrown out by the Competition Appeal Tribunal but the Court of Appeal has ordered the tribunal to reconsider. If the tribunal approves the action, this could see a whopping £14 billion pay-out. Adults who can prove they were in the UK at any point between 1992 and 2008 could be eligible for a maximum £300 pay-out. It is estimated that 46 million UK adults could qualify for a pay-out.  This is the first test case brought forward under the Consumer Rights Act providing the opportunity for consumers to recover damages for competition law breaches.

2. PINTEREST IPO

Social media company Pinterest has launched its IPO and got off to a strong start. The company was valued at $10 billion ahead of its IPO as shares started $19. Last Thursday, Pinterest made its debut and it was a success, closing 25% up on the day at $23.75, taking its value up to nearly $13 billion.

The firm has however never turned a profit in its 10 year existence and has warned that it may never do. Pinterest is a picture sharing social media site with 250 million active monthly users.
Pinterest sees significant room for growth from its main revenue source, advertising. Pinterest posted revenue of $755 million in 2018 up by over $450 million in 2017. By 2022 digital advertising market is set to hit over $420 billion.

3. CMA CLAMPS DOWN ON BIG FOUR

The Competition and Markets Authority has recommended that the Big Four accountancy firms should completely separate their audit and consultancy & legal services. Some were concerned the CMA could suggest a break up of the Big Four but the authority stopped just short of this. MPs had also called for the Big Four to be broken up. Critics have argued however, that this would not increase the quality of audits.

The CMA’s primary recommendations are; splitting audit and advisory business, joint audits with Big Four collaborating with non-Big Four firm to carry out audits and regulation of those appointing audits.

The CMA sought took to take action after a number of high profile collapses where financial irregularities were not picked up due to poor auditing. The Big Four account for 97% of FTSE 350 audits.

4. APPLE AND QUALCOMM DROP LITIGATION

Apple and Qualcomm have reached a settlement agreement over its two year licensing dispute. Qualcomm collects royalty payments on the use of its chips in products and alleged that Apple failed to pay such royalties. Apple claimed that this practice unfairly inflated prices. Apple will now make a one-off payment to Qualcomm and make royalty payments in return for Qualcomm supplying chips and providing licensing to use the technology.  

This settlement allows Qualcomm to retain its royalty fee model in its highly profitable semiconductor business. For Apple, the settlement helps them stay in the race for 5G technology, as Qualcomm is front runner in the technology. Both sides conceded that it was in their best interests to settle. Qualcomm’s share price soared 23%in response to the news.

Check out Bloomberg’s report for more on the case. Our company watch page looks closer at Apple’s business.

5. NETFLIX

Netflix posted strong user growth, but it expects a slow down due to its planned increases in US subscription costs. In the first quarter of 2019, Netflix gained 9.6 million subscribers but expects just growth of 5 million for the next quarter. Netflix now boasts 148.9 million paid subscribers. Netflix plans to increase prices to help pay for its huge production costs. Netflix spent $7.5 billion on original content in 2018 and aims to increase for 2019. The streaming giant posted revenue of $4.5 billion in the last quarter.

Both Apple and Disney have revealed their plans to breaking into the streaming sector. Although their services will be cheaper, it will be difficult for them to truly take on the dominant force of Netflix.

Netflix also signed a $60 million deal for a three year-project with Beyoncé following the success of the “Home-Coming”. Check out our company watch page for more on Netflix.

6. VOLKSWAGEN

The former CEO of Volkswagen, Martin Winterkorn has been charged with fraud in Germany over the “dieselgate” scandal. He is already facing criminal charges in the US but Germany does not extradite citizens so Winterkorn is highly unlikely to face trial in the US. Germany has now charged him due to particularly serious fraud and breaches of competition law. Winterkorn now faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty. Germany has also charged four other senior VW officials.

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 scandal has cost Volkswagen roughly €28bn so far.

7. AMAZON OUTSED FROM CHINA

Amazon has announced that it will shut down its online store in China after struggling to gain a market foothold. Amazon faces stiff competition with JD.com and Alibaba who collectively hold 82% of the e-commerce market. Amazon will still offer cloud services and its global selling service but its e-commerce service, Amazon.cn, will close in July.

8. NIKE TRADEMARK

Nike is seeking to trademark the phrase “footware” for its new “smart” shoes. These shoes can be tightened or loosened using your smart phone. Nike has now filed an application to register the trademark with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The term “footware” will apply to footwear related “computer hardware modules for receiving, processing, and transmitting data in Internet of things electronic devices; electronic devices and computer software that allow users to remotely interact with other smart devices for monitoring and controlling automated systems,”. This new branding and footwear could be a game changer for Nike. (Fashion Law)

Check out our company watch page for more on Nike.

9. NO FAULT EVICTIONS

The government has announced that it will ban no-fault evictions for tenants. Landlords will now no longer be able to evict tenants without good reason, in a bid to prevent unethical renting. Under current legislation landlords can provide as little as 8 weeks notice upon the expiration of a fixed term contract. They will now have to provide valid legal reasons for evicting tenants.
Section 21 notices allow landlords to evict renters without a reason after their fixed-term tenancy period ends. This legislation will now no longer apply. There are concerns that this could create indefinite tenancies. Similar plans are being discussed in both Wales and Scotland.

10. M&A IN THE UK

Mergers and acquisitions have not declined too signifcantly in the UK and the US, despite a weak global economy. In the UK, M&A deal volumes fell only 6% in 2018 while across Europe, volumes sank 20%. US M&A also outpaced Europe falling by only 11%.

UK businesses, however, are increasingly attractive acquisition targets for European companies with deals rising from 240 in 2017 to 244 last year. UK businesses acquired 30% fewer European businesses over the same period. While foreign acquisitions can provide an economic boost, excessive levels of such purchases could lead to a drain of UK talent and capital. (City A.M)

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