The week’s news included; FTC moves to block Microsoft Activision Blizzard deal, JP Morgan settles Epstein facilitation lawsuit for $75m, Ex-banker charged with insider trading after passing tips via Xbox 360 chat.
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. – We need to get to net zero, but we will fail if we lose public support
- BBC News – Metaverse: What happened to Mark Zuckerberg’s next big thing?
- CNBC – Hollywood is paying a steep price for never really figuring out the streaming model
- City A.M. – Scrapping HS2 could jeopardise all of our efforts to level up cities across the UK
1. FTC MOVES TO BLOCK MICROSOFT ACTIVISION DEAL
It’s not over till it’s over. The US FTC is reigniting its legal action to block Microsoft’s $69 billion takeover of Activision Blizzard. A US appeals court had already rejected the FTC’s attempt to block the deal. This was because the court did not believe that the deal substantially weakened competition. Typically, this marks the end of a legal challenge for the FTC. In this case however, the regulator is holding an internal trial to lay out its objections to the deal. Following this trial, the FTC will consider its options and could challenge the deal. The deal is currently on track to be completed by the end of 2023. The FTC may continue to challenge the deal even after completion. UK regulators have already signalled that they are likely to approve the deal (see previous top 10).
Amazon has been hit with a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) lawsuit alleging that it has an unlawful monopoly. The FTC argues that Amazon uses anticompetitive practices to restrict sellers and rivals, ultimately driving up prices for consumers. 17 US state attorneys are also involved in the lawsuit. Amazon rejects the allegations and has said it will defend itself. Google is facing similar legal action in Europe over its own dominance in the search engine space.
Amazon is betting big on AI with a $4 billion investment. The tech giant is investing in AI company Anthropic. Anthropic has its own generative AI system, similar to ChatGPT, called Claude. It is hoped the deal could help develop Amazon’s Alexa home assistant and boost its presence in the AI space. Through the deal, Anthropic will have access to Amazon’s vast resources and computing power, allowing it to further improve its own technology. Amazon is emulating Microsoft who also invested billions in ChatGPT maker, OpenAI, to cement its holding in the AI space.
3. JPM SETTLES EPSTEIN LAWSUIT
JPMorgan has settled another lawsuit with regards to its relationship with disgraced sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. The investment bank will pay $75 million to the US Virgin Islands. As part of the deal, they neither accept or deny any wrongdoing. Epstein’s islands, where young girls were trafficked to, were located in the territory of the US Virgin Islands. The territory alleged that JPMorgan was aware of Epstein’s operations but continued to retain him as a client. Epstein was a client of JPMorgan from 1998 until 2013. He was arrested in 2006 on prostitution charges. A confidential settlement was also reached with former JP Morgan CEO Jes Staley. JPMorgan had already paid out $290 million earlier this year to settle claims from Epstein’s victims, avoiding a trial.
4. FORMER GOLDMAN EMPLOYEE CHARGED WITH INSIDER TRADING
A former Goldman Sachs and Blackstone associate has been charged with insider trading after using Xbox 360 game chat and messaging apps to tip off his friends. The employee had tipped off two of his friends about deals his company was working on and encouraged them to make trades based on the information. The individuals made over $400,000 from these trades.
Prosecutors found evidence of the employee passing information on apps such as Signal as well as via game chat on his Xbox 360. The employee had tried to evade authorities by using encrypted messaging on Signal along with the disappearing message feature. When a friend questioned whether the unlawful tips could be retrieved, the employee confidently said “Nah. Nah… Signal, or….XBOX 360 chat, there’s no tracing that. Good luck ever finding that.” Authorities were in fact able to source all the evidence they needed. Both Goldman Sachs and Blackstone are cooperating with regulators.
The punishment for insider trading in the US can include fines of up to $5 million and imprisonment of up to 20 years. Offenders can also be banned from serving as an officer or director of a public company.
5. NEW UK OIL DRILLING APPROVED
An offshore oil field has been granted approval for development. This will see drilling begin in the Rosebank oil field 80 miles west of Shetland, Scotland. There has been staunch criticism over the approval due to the environmental impact of oil drilling. Over 200 million tonnes of carbon dioxide could be produced by the drilling. Furthermore, the government is set to dish out hundreds of new oil and gas exploration licences. There is concern that the government is rolling back on its environmental commitments, namely the 2050 net zero target.
Roseland is estimated to hold 300 million barrels of oil and is owned by Norwegians Equinor and Ithaca Energy. The owners say the development will create 1600 jobs during construction and 450 jobs during its lifetime. Advocates say this will reduce the UK’s reliance on foreign oil producers. It is worth noting however, that the owners have said the oil extracted will be sold on the open market so in reality, the impact on the UK’s reliance on imports may be limited as Rosebank oil may not be cheaper or even sold to the UK.
6. HOLLYWOOD WRITERS STRIKE ENDS
Hollywood writers have now ended their industrial action after five months of striking. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) secured a deal with studio heads and will now put this forward to its 11500 members. The deal will see increased pay and new protections around the use of AI technology in production. A huge number of shows and films were halted due to the strikes. Strike action began on 2 May and cost the US economy $5 billion. The deal above only covers writers and actors remaining on strike. The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) joined on 13 July.
7. US GOVERNMENT AVOIDS SHUT DOWN
US lawmakers struck a last minute funding deal preventing a total shutdown of the government. With only a few hours before the deadline lawmakers agreed a funding package which covers expenditure for the US federal government until 17 November. Crucially however, the new package does not include financial support for Ukraine. This was a key demand for Democrats but they were forced to concede to avoid a shutdown. A shutdown would have seen most civil service workers furloughed and federal services closed.
8. UK DEAL MAKING PLUNGES
UK merger and acquisition activity has sunk to a 14-year low, down 45% from 2022. Rising interest rates and concerns about the economic outlook has dampened demand for deal making. UK M&A activity hit £144.7 billion so far this year. Which is nearly half as low as the same period in 2022, which was already a slow year. 2023 so far has been the worst year since for deal making since 2009 in the depths of the financial crisis. So far in the year, M&A involving a UK target company fell to $93.7 billion. With inflation falling and an end to interest rate hikes in sight, dealmaking could begin to pick up again in 2024.
9. CAR INDUSTRY
New post-Brexit rules on electric vehicles come into force next year which could cost carmakers £3.75 billion over three years. A new rule of origin requirement comes into force in January, requiring EU or UK made vehicles to source 45% of their components by value from UK or EU factories. For electric vehicles, the majority of the cost lies in the battery, meaning European carmakers must source their batteries locally. Most carmakers currently source batteries from China so this will see a significant shift in their supply chains. Cars failing to meet this criteria will face a 10% tariff. Industry bodies have warned this will increase prices for consumers and reduce European output by nearly 500,000.
Despite this, car maker Nissan is well prepared for the rules. Nissan is the only car maker with a UK battery plant and confirmed it will continue with plans to make all of its vehicles produced in Europe electric by 2030. This comes despite the UK government delaying the ban on new petrol and diesel vehicle sales until 2035. The automaker said it was “the right thing to do” for its business, customers and the planet. Nissan is aiming to significantly reduce the costs of electric vehicles down to parity with combustion engine vehicles. The company is investing in new battery technology that would be cheaper, more efficient and longer lasting. Nissan had already announced a £1 billion expansion of its Sunderland car plant.
10. EPIC GAMES SLASHES JOBS
Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, is cutting 870 jobs. The studio is “spending way more money” than they earn. The cuts amount to 16% of its total workforce. It has not yet been announced where these cuts will take place. Epic Games is also selling off music site Bandcamp, just a year after it purchased the company. Epic Games has soared to the top of the gaming world. Alongside its hugely popular Fortnite game, Epic also makes the Unreal Engine gaming engine. This technology powers a number of huge gaming titles.