Top 10 Stories of Last Week! 02/08/2021

The week’s news included; Apple to scan iPhones for child abuse images, Zoom pays $85m to settle privacy breach lawsuit, Square buys Afterpay for $29bn, CNN fires 3 unvaccinated staff members.

Below are our top 10 stories that you need to know about. Be sure to check our twitter page, Facebook page and Instagram 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: 

  • LawCareers.net – Coronavirus and company dividends
  • Business Insider – The co-heads of Goldman Sachs’ powerhouse M&A business just gave 4 big reasons why they think a huge surge in dealmaking isn’t ending anytime soon.
  • City A.M – Fertility benefits – for lawyers or for law firms?
  • Bloomberg – Messi Transfer Is a Big Opportunity for Barcelona.

1. APPLE TO SCAN PHONES FOR ABUSE

Apple has announced it will scan its US user iPhones to find child sexual abuse images. Before images are uploaded to the iCloud, the system will scan for matches of known abuse images. Apple’s system will compare images to the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) database. If there is a match, a human review will assess it and then report the user to law enforcement.

There are, understandably, significant concerns over privacy. The technology used to scan for images of abuse could be easily expanded to cover. Additionally, there is the risk of false positives. Apple argues that the technology is exceptionally accurate and that there is a “one in one trillion chance per year” of incorrectly flagging a photo.

The concern for many critics is that tech companies have the power and ability to access and scan users’ personal information seemingly at will. Many will argue outrage over this is too little too late. Tech firms already have all our personal details, our purchases, our home and work locations, biometric details and more. This case, however, appears to be a significant step into personal privacy. Undoubtedly, cracking on child sexual abuse is very a positive and important step to take, but Apple’s next steps with such technology will be closely watched.

2. ZOOM PAYS $85M SETTLEMENT

Zoom has agreed to pay $85 million to settle allegations that the company allowed hackers to access meetings. The video conferencing company allegedly failed to prevent hackers from hijacking meetings and “zoombombing”. Zoombombing is where people access meetings and display explicit, racist, or other inappropriate content. Furthermore, Zoom allegedly shared personal data with Facebook, Google and LinkedIn.

The lawsuit against Zoom is being held in San Jose, California. Zoom has denied wrongdoing but has said it will improve security measures and increase staff training on data privacy. Subscribers affected by zoombombing could receive refunds of up to 15% of their subscription fee, if approved by the judge.

3. SQUARE BUYS AFTERPAY FOR $29BN

Square has bought Australian “buy now, pay later” firm Afterpay for $29 billion, marking the nation’s largest ever acquisition. Afterpay boasts over 100 million business customers worldwide after just 7 years in business. This rapid growth and potential are reflected in the purchase price which is nearly $6 billion higher than its most recent market capitalisation. The acquisition will allow Afterpay to grow its presence in the US. Square is a digital payments company founded by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey. The company posted a huge $9.5 billion in revenue last year and made a profit of $1.14 billion in Q2 2021 alone.

Buy-now-pay-later firms are becoming large players in the financial world. Klarna recently became the largest fintech start-up in Europe. Now, other financial players like PayPal and retailers such as Apple are ramping up their buy-now-pay-later offerings.

4. CNN FIRES UNVACCINATED STAFF

CNN has fired three employees for entering their office without being vaccinated against COVID-19. Since May, US law allows companies to oblige employees to be vaccinated. Media outlet CNN set a company policy that allows only vaccinated staff to return to the office. Furthermore, any staff reporting in the field are required to be vaccinated. The company says it has a zero-tolerance policy and released a memo confirming the staff who attended the office without having been vaccinated had been dismissed. US airlines Delta and United have both required staff to be vaccinated but CNN is one of the first major companies to fire staff over the issue.

Check out our article exploring the legal issues in the UK around compulsory vaccinations.

5. LORRY DRIVER SHORTAGES

A widespread shortage of lorry drivers has seen numerous supermarkets boost pay and benefits to incentivise new drivers. M&S became the latest retailer to do this, offering new HGV drivers a £2000 signing bonus and a further £3000 in retention payments. Staff discounts and pensions have also been boosted to improve the offering. Tesco has also offered a £1000 signing bonus while Aldi is also increasing wages for its HGV drivers.

While there are no signs of widespread shortages, industry expected believe there is a national shortage of 60,000 lorry drivers.

The shortage is driven by several factors. Roughly 30,000 HGV driving tests did not take place due to the pandemic. Brexit also had a significant impact as numerous European nationals have returned to their countries of origin. Furthermore, new drivers face lengthy immigration processes as they are not deemed as “skilled workers” under government rules. There are concerns that despite government pledges to support HGV driver recruitment, the plans will not address the short-term issues. Many analysts warn of empty shelves at Christmas. Whether this will materialise remains to be seen.

6. GREGGS CREATES JOBS

Greggs has announced it will create 500 new jobs this year as part of an expansion plan. The bakery chain aims to open 100 new stores by the end of 2021. The easing of lockdown restrictions has seen business levels rebound to pre-pandemic levels and the company foresees a strong full-year profit. Greggs’ long term expansion plans will see it open 3000 shops in the UK, over 800 more sites than it currently has. The launch of its vegan range of products was a resounding success and it hopes to carry this momentum forward. Greggs posted a £55.5 million profit for the six months to 3 July.

7. STANDARD NDA LAUNCHED

The Law Boutique has created a standard non-disclosure agreement (NDA) designed specifically for corporate transactions. The “oneNDA” is designed as a generic off-the-shelf NDA for standard corporate transactions. It covers agreements covered by English, Californian or Australian law. While the text can be changed by users, it cannot be called the “oneNDA”. The NDA has support from over 1000 different companies and the creators collaborated with several leading law firms and in-house counsel.

The Law Boutique is an unregulated company that provides support for in-house lawyers. It spotted that firms were spending substantial time and effort drafting and negotiating corporate NDAs despite most NDAs covering the same things. The company aims to have 1000 subscribers by the end of the year. It has also set its sights on a standard NDA for mergers and acquisitions.

8. THE HUT GROUP BUYS CULT BEAUTY

THG, owner of the Hut Group, has acquired online beauty retailer Cult Beauty for £275 million. The deal is expected to help boost THG group sales by £140 million next full year. THG has been on an expansion drive, after receiving a £1.6 billion injection from SoftBank. THG recently bought skincare and haircare manufacturer Bentley Laboratories for £180 million. Cult Beauty sells independent brands including Charlotte Tilbury, Living Proof and Molton Brown.

The Hut Group launched its IPO last year and was valued at £5 billion. THG owns brands such as Lookfantastic and Myprotein as well as a range of hotels and spas.

9. CVC BUYS STAKE IN LA LIGA

Private equity firm CVC has announced that it will buy a €2.7 billion stake in Spain’s top football league, LaLiga. The deal, if approved by LaLiga heads and clubs, will see CVC take a 10% stake and  a share of revenue. For LaLiga it will provide a healthy injection of cash into the league. The cash will largely be going to the clubs and will be used for projects and to expand the leagues digital and global presence. LaLiga stressed that the deal was not a rescue deal.

The league’s two heavyweights, Barcelona, and Real Madrid have announced opposition to the deal. They claim that the plans have not been properly discussed with the clubs despite the impact on their broadcasting rights.

CVC was a majority owner of Formula 1 until 2017 and has invested heavily in rugby leagues and competitions over the past few years. The deal with LaLiga marks its first major step into European football.

10. MIKE ASHLEY STEPS DOWN

Mike Ashley is to step down as CEO of the Frasers Group. He will hand control over to his future son-in-law Michael Murray, while he remains on the board as an executive director. Murray, 31, founded a property consultancy firm in 2015 and had Frasers Group as a client. He was later appointed as head of elevation in 2019, tasked with modernising the business.

Ashley founded Sports Direct in 1982. The company bought a distressed House of Fraser in 2018 for £90 million. In 2019, the group company name changed from Sports Direct International to Frasers Group plc. Sports Direct has not been without controversy. The company came under fire in 2016 over conditions for its workers and its allegedly unfair use of zero-hours contracts. They faced more criticism at the start of the pandemic and were forced to apologise for requesting to be considered an “essential service”. Despite the controversy, Frasers Group turned over £3.6 billion last year.

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