Top 10 Stories of Last Week! 23/05/2022

The week’s news included; Boehly’s £4.25bn Chelsea takeover approved by government, Boohoo settles misleading ads lawsuit for $100m, Missguided facing collapse as suppliers launch winding-up petition.

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: 

  • FT – European football now belongs to the highest bidder.
  • City A.M. – Another wasted crisis as government shows no appetite for growth
  • BBC News – Could hydrogen ease Germany’s reliance on Russian gas?
  • CNBC – ‘We’re in a bear market. And I think that’s good’: Crypto firms hope market slump shakes out bad players

1. COST OF LIVING CRISIS

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a new £15 billion support package to help households with the cost of living crisis. The poorest households will receive a one-off payment of £650 directly into their bank accounts. Every household in the UK will receive a £400 energy bill discount in October, instead of the initially planned £200 interest-free loan. Pensioner households and individuals receiving disability benefits will receive an additional £300 and £150 respectively. The Household Support Fund will be extended from £500 million to £1.5 billion, giving councils more scope to provide targeted support. The announcements have been welcomed but another energy price cap rise of £800 is expected in October. This means average energy bills will rise by £1500 in 2022 alone. Chancellor Sunak recognised the measures will do little to stem inflation but will help those hardest affected. 

To fund the new payouts, the government U-turned on its decision against imposing a windfall tax on oil and gas giants. Boris Johnson had previously dismissed calls for a windfall tax as a symptom of the Labour Party’s “lust for high taxes”. Now, the government will issue a 25% levy on oil and gas firms and it is expected to raise £5 billion. We explore the merits of a windfall tax in our article

While signing off on the new support package, Boris Johnson quietly changed the ministerial code. Previously, any MP who broke the ministerial code in any way was expected to resign. Now, MP’s who break the code in “a minor way”, as judged by the Prime Minister, will not be expected to resign. Johnson claims the previous convention was disproportionate. This comes amid an investigation into Boris Johnson himself over claims he misled Parliament over parties held in Downing Street that broke lockdown rules. 

2. CHELSEA TAKEOVER APPROVED

Todd Boehly’s £4.25 billion takeover bid for Chelsea F.C. has been approved by the UK government. Roman Abramovich’s assets, including Chelsea, have been frozen by the UK government since March and the sale needed special approval to pass. Once the deal goes through, the proceeds due to Abramovich will be frozen until it is established that the funds will go to humanitarian causes in Ukraine. As part of the deal, Boehly will invest £1.75 billion in the club, including into the stadium, women’s team and the youth academy.

The deal brings an end to an unprecedented situation but raises crucial questions about how the government whether the government should allow UK businesses to be owned by individuals with ties to hostile foreign powers. The sale is expected to be finally completed this week. Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003 and brought about an unparalleled era of success for the club. The new owners, a consortium led by US billionaire sports magnate Todd Boehly and private equity firm Clearlake Capital will have big boots to fill.

3. EY TO SPLIT BUSINESS

EY is planning to separate its audit and advisory businesses on a global scale. The accounting giant is exploring floating its advisory business on the stock market. EY’s advisory business is by far the largest income generator, turning over $26 billion in 2021, compared to $14 billion in its audit business. EY, along with other large auditors, have been facing pressure from regulators in the UK and the US over failures regarding high-profile audits. Regulators argue there is a conflict of interest where firms provide both audit and consultancy services to the same client. There is concern the audit business doesn’t carry out its duty diligently to avoid harming the relationship and causing the loss of the lucrative advisory work. In the UK, firms have been ordered to split their audit businesses from their advisory businesses by 2024. A new regulator is also on the way with greater powers to sanction auditors and ultimately improve standards. 

This news came as the accounting giant is facing a huge $2.7 billion lawsuit over its audit of NMC Health. Administrators of NMC claim that EY was negligent in its audit for failing to flag a billion dollar case of fraud that ultimately led to its collapse in 2020. EY performed NMC’s audit between 2012 and 2018. 

4. GLENCORE FACES $1BN FINE

Mining giant Glencore will pay over $1 billion in fines after it pleaded guilty to multiple counts of bribery. The UK Serious Fraud Office found bribery and corruption throughout Glencore’s oil business in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and South Sudan. Between 2011 and 2016, the firm authorised $25 million worth of bribes paid to officials. These bribes were paid to secure preferential access to oil. Currently in the UK, firms can be sanctioned for acts of bribery committed by their employees or agents, even when done without the firm’s knowledge, failing the existence of adequate safeguards.  Glencore faced similar charges in the US and Brazil. The company has set aside a huge $1.5 billion to settle these claims. Glencore is no stranger to controversy. In 2018 and 2019 it faced criminal investigations in the US and UK over alleged money laundering. Swiss authorities also launched a criminal probe into the firm in 2020. 

5. CHASE BANK LOSSES

JPMorgan has said it expects over $1 billion in losses in its digital retailer bank, Chase. Around $450 million in losses are expected for the bank this year and a similar amount is expected next year. The bank however, is not worried as its customer base is growing well. After opening in the UK in September 2021, Chase has surpassed 500,000 customers. Furthermore, JPMorgan as a whole enjoyed a bumper year, posting $48.3 billion in profit in 2021. In the US, Chase bank has over 60 million customers and this number is growing steadily. JPMorgan expects losses to shrink and for Chase Bank in the UK to eventually break even in 2027 or 2028. Chase Bank is a digital only bank and operates exclusively through a mobile app. This was designed to compete with Morgan Stanley’s Marcus which launched in 2018. 

The lack of profitability is common in fintechs and is not a cause for concern as long as investors continue to invest. Only a small fraction of challenger banks across the globe are profitable. This is due to most banks providing a plethora of free services at a loss to draw in customers. In the UK, the only profitable challenger banks are Starling Bank and OakNorth Bank.  

6. BOOHOO SETTLES $100M LAWSUIT

Boohoo has settled a class action lawsuit in the US for $100 million over allegedly using fake adverts to mislead customers. Discounts were allegedly offered to customers based on inflated prices which were never previously marketed. The case referred to Boohoo itself as well as its brands Nastygal and PrettyLittleThing. Boohoo did not accept liability but agreed to settle the case for $100 million. This sum covers all legal costs from this case and other related intellectual property and employment law cases it faced.

Boohoo, like many fashion retailers, is facing decreased customer demand globally due to the cost of living crisis. Pre-tax profits plummeted by 94% to £7.8 million while sales rose by 14%, a much slower pace than in the previous years. During the pandemic, Boohoo came under fire for poor working conditions at its supplier factories in the UK, causing huge reputational damage. Boohoo’s share price fell by 5% following the news of the settlement.

7. MISSGUIDED ON BRINK OF COLLAPSE

Fast fashion retailer Missguided is on the brink of collapse as creditors issued a winding-up petition. A winding-up petition is a legal action which can result in a court order to liquidate a company that is failing to pay its debts. Missguided has failed to pay suppliers and police were called to its Manchester headquarters demanding payment. Three suppliers of Missguided are also facing collapse due to the unpaid bills. Missguided’s current owners, Alteri Investors, is now seeking a buyer for the business just months after purchasing it. If this process is unsuccessful, it may fall into administration. 

Missguided was rescued in December 2021 by Alteri Investors but they have been unable to turn the company’s fortunes around. The retailer posted a £5.2 million operating loss on £300 million of revenue in the last financial year. Missguided employs 330 staff members and operates in 180 countries. 

8. TWITTER FINED

Twitter has been fined $150 million in the US for illegally selling users’ data. The social media giant sold data to advertisers to aid targeted ads, in violation of an agreement Twitter has signed with regulators. The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Justice found that Twitter collected personal data including phone numbers and emails and sold them to advertisers. Twitter had told users that this data would not be sold and was for security purposes. Their conduct affected 140 million Twitter users. Whether this will impact Elon Musk’s decision to purchase the site for $44 billion remains to be seen.

9. CBBC AND BBC FOUR TO SHUT DOWN

BBC has announced that it will shut down CBBC and BBC Four as it claims demand for the services have waned. Instead, the channels will become digital only and appear on iPlayer. BBC World News and BBC News Channel will merge to create one 24-hour channel. Radio 4 Extra will now be available only on BBC Sounds. The BBC argues that this will create a “digital-first BBC”. These changes will result in 1000 job cuts and bring £500 million in annual savings. The changes were required as the licence fee is frozen at £159 for two years so the national broadcaster was required to save at least an additional £285 million. BBC News explores the cuts in more detail. 

10. HSBC SUSPENDS SENIOR BANKER OVER ESG COMMENTS

HSBC has suspended a senior banker who claimed that climate change risks were overstated. Stuart Kirk was head of a responsible investing team in the asset management division, focused on ESG investments. His role was centered around researching the environmental, social and governance (ESG) impact of investments. Earlier this month however, Kirk gave a presentation to investors entitled “Why Investors need not worry about climate risk”. He argued that climate change is not an immediate financial risk to be concerned about. He also claimed the apocalyptic predictions are always wrong. Even if they were right, Kirk said “Who cares if Miami is six metres underwater in 100 years? Amsterdam has been six metres underwater for ages and that’s a really nice place.” The Financial Times first reported the story and a full investigation into Mr Kirk’s comments is pending. This case raises an interesting discussion over employee rights to express opinions contrary to that of the employer. Kirk’s case is somewhat distinct as his views directly impact the performance of his role.  

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