The week’s news included; Jack Daniel’s wins trademark lawsuit against dog toy maker, Banks to soon be obligated to reimburse victims of fraud, Telegraph put up for sale due to £1bn debt dispute.

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: 

  • City A.M. – Artificial intelligence is bringing about a revolution that the UK shouldn’t try to resist
  • BBC News – Tesco could be breaking law on Clubcard pricing, says Which?
  • CNBC – What Tesla charging partnerships with Ford and GM mean for the EV industry
  • City A.M. – The CMA decision to block Microsoft’s Activision deal could cost us dearly in the UK

1. SEC CRACKS DOWN ON CRYPTO 

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has sued the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, Binance. Binance and its CEO Changpeng Zhao, and its exchange operator face 13 charges. The SEC claims Binance misled customers about its market surveillance measures, artificially inflated its trading volumes among other potentially unlawful practices. The SEC describes this as a “web of deception”. There is also concern that client money can be used freely by the company. Binance has denied the allegations and has said it will defend itself. Binance has a US entity responsible for dealing with US customers but is headquartered in the Cayman Islands.

The second largest exchange Coinbase was also in the SEC’s firing line. Coinbase was sued by the SEC for conducting business as an unregulated broker, exchange and clearing agency. The regulator is keen to crackdown on cryptocurrency exchanges to prevent another devastating collapse like FTX. FTX collapsed due to fraud and mismanagement so the SEC is reviewing and targeting poor governance (see our previous article). Major cryptocurrencies fell in response to the news of the legal action.

2. JACK DANIEL’S WINS TRADEMARK LAWSUIT

Whiskey maker Jack Daniel’s has won a trademark lawsuit against a dog toy company. US dog toy maker VIP Products LLC made a whiskey bottle soft toy that mimicked Jack Daniel’s design. The toy is styled like a Jack Daniel’s whiskey bottle and has “Old No. 2 on your Tennessee Carpet”, written on it. Jack Daniel’s own bottle reads “Old No. 7 Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey”. The US Supreme Court found that the toy’s design infringed upon Jack Daniel’s trademark. The court agreed that consumers would likely be confused about the relationship between the dog toys and Jack Daniel’s brand. A previous court found that the toy was protected by free speech laws as a non-commercial parody. This was, however, rejected by the Supreme Court. Jack Daniel’s has said it was pleased with the outcome. 

3. MICROSOFT SETTLES CHILD PRIVACY LAWSUIT

Microsoft is to pay $20 million to settle legal action over child privacy breaches. The tech giant was found to have unlawfully collected data from children with Xbox accounts. Parents were not informed about Microsoft’s data policies and parental consent was not properly obtained. Furthermore, children’s data was held for longer than necessary. The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found this conduct breached the  Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. A settlement was agreed and Microsoft will introduce better protection for children. Two weeks ago, Amazon was fined $25 million over similar privacy breaches related to children (see previous top 10). 

4. BANKS TO REIMBURSE FRAUD VICTIMS

UK banks will soon be obligated to reimburse victims of fraud. Under the financial services and Markets Bill, any UK customer who is tricked into sending money to scammers posing as a bank, HMRC or the police will be reimbursed by the bank. Such scams are known as authorised push payment fraud and has cost victims £485 million in the past year alone. The Payment Systems Regulator announced the plans and anticipates the rules to come into force from 2024. The rules are designed to push banks to improve their fraud prevention and better protect consumers. Costs of reimbursement will be split 50:50 between the customer’s bank and the receiving bank. Customers will not be entitled to reimbursement for payments regarding civil disputes, cash payments or international payments. 

5. PGA TOUR GOLF AND LIV TO MERGE

The PGA Tour and DP World Tour are merging with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF). Men’s golf has been split into separate concurrent competitions since the launch of LIV Golf. LIV Golf was founded in 2022 and funded by the Saudi PIF. This was problematic for PGA and DP as top players left their competitions and went to LIV due to bigger prize pots and alternative competition formats. Legal action was taken against LIV on antitrust grounds. Now, PGA and DP will merge with LIV, reuniting golf under one entity. The commercial operations and rights of the organisation will merge into one company. The pending will now end and reforms to competition formats are likely.

This deal shows that investment in sport is undoubtedly a priority for Saudi Arabia as it seeks to reduce its dependence on oil income. De facto leader Mohammed bin Salman is seeking to achieve his Vision 2030 goal of a diversified Saudi economy. Football investment has been at the forefront of this. Football players such Ronaldo, Benzema and Kante all secured big money to move to the Saudi league. Check out our article exploring diversification Saudi’s goals. 

6. TELEGRAPH MEDIA UP FOR SALE 

Telegraph Media Group is to be put up for sale. Owners of the publisher, the Barclay family via their company B.UK, are in a £1 billion debt dispute. Over £1 billion is owed to Lloyds Banking Group and no suitable agreement was reached to resolve the matter. Consequently, receivers were appointed to seize assets with the Telegraph being the main target. The Barclay family has now relinquished control to the receivers, Alix Partners, and Barclay family members have been removed as directors. The organisation is now being put up for sale. Lloyds does not expect to recover the debt fully even after a sale given Telegraph Media Group’s estimated £500 million valuation. 

The Telegraph Media Group owns The Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Telegraph and The Spectator Magazine. Lloyds and Alix Partners have agreed not to make any editorial changes to the newspapers while in receivership. The Barclay family have attempted to regain control of the Telegraph and seek to write off some debt. Whether a deal can be agreed remains to be seen.

7. UK M&A ACTIVITY DECLINES

There was a steep decline in merger and acquisition (M&A) activity in the UK in Q1. The value of M&A deals in the first three months of 2023 fell by nearly 25% to £12.7 billion compared to the same period last year. The volume of deals also declined. Market fears about recession and the rapid rise in the cost of borrowing have tempered M&A activity. The value of deals however, doubled since Q4 of 2022. Markets were spooked into inertia by Liz Truss’ catastrophic mini-budget and the subsequent fallout. There doesn’t seem to be much of a pick up in M&A activity in Q2. The London Stock Exchange Group said that the first five months of 2023 have been the slowest since 2016 in terms of M&A deals. Dealmakers are anticipating a pick up later this year as inflation reduces and interest rates potentially decline. 

8. APPLE STEPS INTO AR

Apple has launched its new Vision Pro Augmented (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) headset. Industry experts liken the launch of this product to the launch of the iPhone. The headset provides a mixed reality experience that blends reality and the digital world. The headset looks like a pair of ski goggles and is “It’s the first Apple product you look through, and not at,”. Rather than looking at your phone or laptop, you can be immersed in the digital world like a typical VR headset but still see your surroundings. On Facetime calls for example, you can place other participants as video tiles around the room. You can even record and watch your recordings in 3D, 

Retailing from $3499 the product is a super luxury item and will not be mainstream for some time. Big players like Disney however, have already announced a partnership with Apple to offer Disney+ content on the Vision Pro at launch. Last week, Apple also bought AR startup Mira for an undisclosed sum. Mira produces AR gear for commercial organisations such as Nintendo and the US military. The Verge looks closer at the news.

9. GOOGLE TIGHTENS UP HYBRID WORKING

Google is set to tighten up its hybrid working model. The tech giant is introducing a tracking system to ensure staff are attending the office at least 3 days a week. Those who regularly fail to do this will be given reminders. Statistics on office attendance will also be included in performance reviews. Google believes working from the same space boosts productivity and collaboration. These changes apply to US staff only and could be rolled out to staff in other locations.

There is an ongoing debate about hybrid working. Staff across all sectors have reported improved well-being and productivity in a hybrid model. International firms are set to cut their office space by 2027. For some employers however, optics matter. In April, JP Morgan Chase ended remote working for its senior staff. They argue that senior staff should always be visible and available in person.

10. QATAR AIRWAYS REMOVES FIRST CLASS

Qatar Airways is removing first class cabins from its new long haul aircraft. CEO Akbar Al Baker says the cabin is pointless and doesn’t justify the returns. Business class customers in its Q Suite already receive the same amenities as first class customers. Only one of its aircraft types have First class cabins and have been seen as more of a gimmick than anything. Al Baker sees this as redundant given the quality of their business class offerings. First class flights typically start at roughly £7000. Commercially, a luxury but more affordable business class offering will make for fuller flights and generate more income in the long term. This could mark the start of a shift in the business models of airlines away from the first class offerings.