Top 10 Stories of Last Week! 16/08/2021

The week’s news included; T-Mobile data hack affects 50m customers, Big Four rejects shared audit proposals, Morrisons accepts £7bn takeover bid, Jeff Bezos sues NASA over $2.9bn contract.

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: 

  • BBC News – Would you let a robot lawyer defend you?
  • Business Insider – These 12 stocks will benefit most from Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan, according to Bank of America.
  • FT – Private equity and the raid on corporate Britain.
  • City A.M – Net zero must be at the heart of Britain’s taxation system if we want to meet our carbon commitments.

1. MASTERCARD CLASS ACTION

The UK Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) has approved a £10 billion class action lawsuit against Mastercard. This is the first consumer class action in UK legal history and covers 46 million consumers. The claimants allege that Mastercard charged excessive interchange fees over a 16-year period. Interchange fees are paid by retailers to credit card companies, but costs are usually passed onto consumers, hence the massive range of eligible claimants.

The CAT rejected an attempt to make Mastercard eligible to pay out to deceased persons’ estates or pay compound interest. This slashes the claim size moving to trial by £5 billion to roughly £10 billion. Former financial ombudsman Walter Merricks is leading the legal action.

2. T-MOBILE DATA BREACH

T-Mobile has announced that nearly 50 million customers have had their data stolen in a hack. A huge chunk of data was on sale on the dark web. A hacker offered 30 million “fullz” (full identity data) of allegedly T-Mobile customers for 6BTC (roughly £195,000). The data includes first names, last names, dates of birth, SSN, and ID information. Credit card information is not thought to be stolen. T-Mobile has secured the vulnerability that allowed hackers to access the data and is working with law enforcement to identify them.

3. TESLA’S AUTOPILOT INVESTIGATED

Tesla’s autopilot driving feature is being investigated by the US government over severe safety concerns. The automaker’s Models Y, Z, S and 3 will be reviewed. Roughly 760,000 vehicles will be investigated in the probe, covering almost every vehicle sold by Tesla in the US since 2014.

There are concerns the systems struggle to identify parked emergency vehicles and hazard cones. Since 2018, Teslas on Autopilot have crashed into 11 emergency or hazard scenes, injuring 17 and killing one. The investigation will be led by the National Transportation Safety Board. Drivers are required to be at the wheel and pay attention to the road even on Autopilot. Despite this, Tesla drivers have been found ignoring the roads or even some cases sitting in the backseat. The investigation will comprehensively review the system and whether it is safe for the roads.

4. BIG FOUR REJECT SHARED AUDITS

Deloitte, EY, PwC, and KPMG have rejected government plans to force them to share audits with smaller firms. The auditor sector has come under increased after several high-profile collapses such as Carillion and BHS. Auditors here failed to pick up on dire financial problems. The government has been working with the audit regulator, the FRC, to devise reforms for the sector.

The Big Four audit all of the FTSE 100 and nearly all of the FTSE 250. A shared audit would be designed to increase the capacity and experience of smaller auditors. Consequently, the firms would be able to compete more effectively against the Big Four and reduce their dominance in the market.

The Big Four firms said they would not support the proposals on the grounds of practicality. Each auditor needs a holistic view of the client’s business and accounts, meaning auditors will both need to conduct full separate audits. Such duplication of work would likely lead to higher costs for clients and unviable complexity. PwC have claimed this pitch amongst others, such as a wholesale breakup of the Big Four, will not improve standards. In our article we argue that only a change in culture will suffice.

5. MORRISONS ACCEPTS £7BN TAKEOVER BID

Morrisons has accepted a £7bn takeover bid from US private equity group Clayton, Dubilier & Rice (CD&R). The board overwhelmingly voted in favour of the bid. The bidding war has ensued for months for the UK’s fourth largest supermarket. CD&R had previously bid £5.5 billion for Morrisons in July but this was rejected as shareholders felt it undervalued the company. US investment group Fortress then swooped in with a £6.7 billion bid which was accepted by shareholders. Now however, with CD&R’s improved bid, the board have accepted this and changed their recommendation. The deal will be voted upon in October at the next meeting.

CD&R recognised the branding and culture at Morrisons and is keen to retain that going forward. Morrisons holds a 10% share of the UK supermarket sector and turned over £17.54bn last year.

6. BLUE ORIGIN SUES NASA

Jeff Bezos’ space tourism company Blue Origin is suing Nasa over its decision to grant Elon Musk’s SpaceX a $2.9bn contract. The contract will see SpaceX take astronauts to the moon. Blue Origin claims the decision-making process was “unlawful and improper” and wants issues identified to be addressed “to restore fairness”. Blue Origin had already unsuccessfully protested the decision last month but so is now taking its protest to the courts. NASA said SpaceX offered the cheapest contract and costs were a primary factor. Regardless, NASA has until October 12 to respond to the lawsuit. Musk also struck back via Twitter saying: “If lobbying & lawyers could get u to orbit, Bezos would be on Pluto rn.” This project marks the first-time manned attempt to go to the moon since 1972.

7. TOYOTA SLASHES PRODUCTION

Toyota has announced that it will slash its global vehicle production by 40% in September due to the semiconductor chip shortage. The automotive sector has been reeling from a global slump in the supply of chips. Increased demand for chips along with the pandemic have all contributed to the problem. Toyota has said it will aim to produce 540,000 cars next month, 360,000 less than originally planned. The problem is rife across the sector as GM Ford, Nissan and BMW have all cut production due to the shortage. Although Toyota aims to make up for the production cuts by the end of the year, the coronavirus situation in Asia could impact these plans. For more information on the shortage check out our recent article.

8. LLOYDS BANK PIVOTS TO RENTAL

Lloyds Banking Group is set to become the one of the UK’s largest private landlords as it seeks to buy 50,000 homes. The bank is already the UK’s largest mortgage lender, so it has strong experience in the real estate sector. Lloyds will launch its rental arm under a new Citra Living brand and aims to buy 50,000 homes by 2030. This would make its portfolio over five times larger THAN the current market leader Grainger. Retailer John Lewis also recently announced plans to buy and build a total of 10,000 homes over the coming years. Businesses are recognising the lucrative potential of the rental sector and are looking to cash in.

9. NANDOS FACES CHICKEN SHORTAGE

Nandos was forced to close 50 restaurants last week due to a shortage of chicken. Stores are now open, but it was so severe, Nandos offered to send its own staff to suppliers to help. Whether this offer was taken up has not been revealed. They aimed to restore normal levels of supply. Fast food rival KFC also cut its menu due to the shortage. The “pingdemic” had a severe impact on supply chains and agriculture was no exemption. Chicken producers are also blaming post-Brexit immigration rules for staff shortages that are ultimately causing a shortage in supply.

10. MISSGUIDED ASDA DEAL

Online fashion brand Missguided has struck a deal with Asda which will see its products available in George at Asda both online and in over 100 stores. Missguided’s best selling products will be stocked and are currently on sale. This is part of Asda’s long-term strategy to attract younger shoppers to George. Traditional high street retailers should certainly learn from such partnerships as these could provide long-term viability. With the growing popularity of online retailers, stocking their popular products could draw in a wider customer base and ultimately boost their bottom lines.

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