The week’s news included; UK general election called, Live Nation lawsuit could force it to sell Ticketmaster, Citigroup fined £61m for £1bn fat finger error, Mondelez sued over anticompetitve behaviour.

Below are our top 10 stories that you need to know about. Be sure to check our X page, Facebook page, TikTok 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. – AIM high: Why the London Stock Exchange still matters
  • BBC News – Finances a ‘dark cloud’ over election campaign, says IFS
  • The Times – How to land a £150,000 job in law — just don’t expect to have a life.
  • BBC News – Why technology has not transformed building

1. UK GENERAL ELECTION CALLED

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced a general election. The election will take place on 4 July. Sunak said the economy was beginning to stabilise as inflation hit 2.3% in April, its lowest rate in almost 3 years. Analysts question whether Sunak expected an increase in inflation later this year so opted for a snap election while economic figures look more positive. In any case, the election is a huge gamble as Labour are 23 points ahead in the polls. Labour are predicted to win over 450 of 650 seats in Parliament. A party needs just 326 seats to win an election, so Labour are set to win by a landslide. 

The Conservative Party is in disarray as around 80 Tory MPs including big names have announced they will not contest their seats. Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom are the most high profile Tory MPs who have said they will not run at the upcoming election. The election also means that the bills to ban no–fault evictions and to ban smoking for young people will be shelved. 

2. LIVE NATION SUED FOR ANTI-COMPETITIVE PRACTICES

Live Nation, the owner of Ticketmaster, is being sued by the US government over alleged anti-competitive practices. The US Department of Justice along with various state attorneys will jointly sue the entertainment business. They claim they hold a monopoly over the live music industry. Live Nation holds an 80% share of all major US entertainment ticket sales via Ticketmaster. The company also manages about 60% of concert promotions at its 250 venues. Ultimately, Live Nation could be forced to sell off Ticketmaster if the allegations hold up in court. Prosecutors claim that the company has too much power in the live entertainment industry and cements its position by squeezing out smaller promoters. This limited choices of ticketing services and has ultimately pushed up prices for customers, according to the DOJ. 

3. CITIGROUP FINED FOR £1BN FAT FINGER ERROR

Citigroup has been fined £61.6 million by the FCA and PRA for accidentally placing £1 billion of orders instead of £46 million. In 2022, a trader at the bank was meant to sell $58 million (£46 million) of shares but a “fat-finger” error saw orders to sell £1 billion of shares. This caused the stock market across Europe to crash. The trader had put 58 million into the box for the quantity of shares sold as opposed to the notional. Notional is the quantity multiplied by the price. This created a basket with a notional size of $444 billion instead of $58 million. $255 billion of this was blocked by Citigroup’s systems but $189 billion of assets was sent by trading algorithms into the market. Ultimately, $1.4 billion of stocks were sold off across European markets in the day. This fiasco resulted in a $48 million loss for Citigroup. 

The Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulatory Authority fined the bank $27 million and $34 million respectively. The bank failed to have proper controls in place as the trader could manually override alerts and the system did not quickly escalate the unusually large trade. Citigroup cooperated with the regulators’ investigations and received a discount on the fines. 

4. MONDELEZ SUED OVER ANTI-COMPETITIVE BEHAVIOUR

Consumer goods giant Mondelez International has been fined €337.5 million for restricting the trade of chocolate, biscuits and coffee goods in the EU. The Oreo maker had set up anticompetitive deals and abused its dominant market position. Mondelez restricted seven EU wholesalers from reselling their products in certain territories or customers between 2012 and 2019.Some EU distributors were also restricted from selling to customers in other EU locations between 2006 and 2020. Most of the offending took place before and were remedied before the EU investigation. Mondelez’s fine was reduced by 15% as it acknowledged its wrongdoing. 

5. SONY SUES MARRIOTT

Sony Music has filed a lawsuit against Marriott International alleged breaches of copyright.  The hotel chain allegedly uses copyrighted  Sony music in their social media posts. Sony counted 931 infringements, with the vast majority of these on social media posts on Marriotts own pages. 18 of the alleged infringements were in posts by influencers paid by Marriott. Sony claims these were wilful breaches designed to benefit off the popularity of its artists. The record label has copyrights on music from stars like Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson and Harry Styles. Sony could receive up to $140 million in damages if the court agrees with the allegations. The full complaint is available here.

6. HSBC FINED

HSBC has been hit by a £6.2 million fine by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) for failing to support 1.5 million customers in financial difficulties. The lender took disproportionate action and failed to take customers’ circumstances into account when payments were missed. Between June 2017 and October 2018 the bank did not always conduct affordability assessments when customers were reducing arrears. Furthermore, disproportionate action by the bank puts customers at risk of greater financial difficulty. HSBC has taken action to address these failures and has made redress payments of £185 million to over 1.5 million customers. The bank’s fine was reduced from £8.9 million to £6.2 million as it agreed to settle the case and took remedial action.

7. CAZOO COLLAPSE

Used car marketplace Cazoo has fallen into administration just 6 years after its inception. Founded in 2018, Cazoo reaped the benefits from a spike in second hand car demand between 2020 and 2021. A semiconductor shortage (see previous article) along with the pandemic, meant demand for used cars soared. The online car marketplace launched its IPO in 2021 and hit a huge $5 billion valuation. Cazoo has already sold off a number of assets but administrators will now seek to sell off the remaining business. 700 jobs have already been lost with roughly 300 remaining to continue operations during the administration process. 

8. UK INFLATION FALLS

Inflation has dropped to 2.3% in the UK, the lowest rate since 2021. This figure is tantalisingly close to the Bank of England’s 2% target rate. It is, however, slightly above the expectation of analysts who largely predicted a 2.1% rate for April. If the UK can sustain low levels of inflation then there is a strong possibility that interest rates could be reduced. There is some caution at the Bank of England about cutting rates too soon and causing inflation to spike again particularly as the economic growth figures, while encouraging, are not particularly strong. 

9. VET INDUSTRY UNDER REVIEW

The vet industry is facing an investigation from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) as concerns mount of unfair practices. Over 56,000 consumers responded to a CMA review and expressed concerns that customers could be overcharged and too many small practices have been snapped up by larger groups. Nearly 60% of vets are owned by larger groups, a 50% increase in just 10 years. CVS Group is one of the largest groups with over 2000 vets under its umbrella. The CMA is now launching a formal market investigation. 

10. VICTORIAN PLUMBING BUYS VICTORIA PLUM

Victorian Plumbing has bought its rival online bathroom retailer Victoria Plum for £22.5 million. Victoria Plum fell into administration last year and undertook a restructuring plan. The company had been struggling due to increased freight costs and reduced customer demand. Since its turnaround plan it now hopes to break even in H2 of 2024. Victorian Plumbing hopes this acquisition will accelerate their growth.