Illusion of security?
Gun control proponents today petitioned the Federal Trade Commission to investigate and regulate the firearms industry, as it does with tobacco, alleging that gun manufacturers use deceptive advertising practices.
The petition, which DealBook is the first to report, is the latest salvo targeting the marketing tactics of an industry largely protected from liability for the damages of its products by federal laws. The groups pushing for action by the FTC include Brady, the Giffords Law Center, March for Our Lives, and the FACT Coalition.
Gun marketing promotes an illusion of security, the petitioners say. Americans have been “erroneously led to believe that gun ownership is a safe way to protect their homes and families,” they claim. The CDC reported 45,222 deaths from gun-related injuries last year. The FTC has “actually given the arms industry a license,” the petitioners say.
Proponents have asked the FTC to investigate the weapons industry soonerbeginning in 1996. The FTC may choose to address or ignore this latest petition, which comes as the Biden administration has expressed support for greater transparency about arms manufacturers’ activities and state-level lawsuits over the industry’s barriers to lawsuits begin to break through.
In February, the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting settled a $73 million lawsuit against Remington, who alleged that the gunmaker’s aggressive marketing violated Connecticut law by promoting firearms to troubled men like the one who was responsible for the massacre. The settlement makes internal company documents available for inspection, which would provide a rare insight into how arms makers like Remington develop their marketing messages. President Biden described it as a move to “hold arms manufacturers accountable for manufacturing weapons of war and marketing these firearms irresponsibly.”
Last year, a New Jersey judge ruled in favor of the state’s attorney general in a lawsuit against Smith & Wesson for its advertising practices, requiring the company to release internal documents. The ruling was recently overturned, leaving the state’s lawsuit intact, but the release of documents uncertain. Smith & Wesson said in a filing that the lawsuit sought “to suppress and sanction lawful expressions related to gun ownership to advance an anti-Second Amendment agenda.”
The FTC’s enforcement of federal consumer protection laws could look to these state precedents, such as the Connecticut consumer law that allowed the Sandy Hook families to sue. “If a company is violating consumer protection laws with false advertising, that is not a protected activity,” said David Pucino of the Giffords Law Center. “They are breaking the law.”
HERE’S WHAT HAPPENS
Shell will face a blow of up to $5 billion by withdrawing from Russia. This morning, the British oil giant detailed the extent of the write-down resulting from its exit from joint ventures with Gazprom and other activities in Russia. It’s big, but high energy prices are expected to bolster Shell’s earnings this year, with analysts predicting it will earn more than $30 billion by 2022.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen talks about crypto. Today, in her maiden speech on the regulation of digital assets, she will advocate for “a consistent and comprehensive policy framework that promotes responsible innovation of digital assets and appropriately assesses and mitigates the risks they may pose”, in support of the recent executive order of President Biden on Cryptocurrency.
Central bankers support higher interest rates. The minutes of the Fed’s March meeting said that: “a lot” Officials would have preferred a bigger rate hike than the quarter-point hike they were aiming for, but postponed it amid concerns about the fallout from the war in Ukraine. Markets now expect the Fed to hike by half a point in May and possibly June.
Corporate insolvencies are at their lowest level in more than a decade† Only 87 U.S. companies filed for bankruptcy in the first quarter of the year, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence, the lowest first-quarter total in at least 13 years. Businesses have benefited from pandemic stimulus programs and cheap financing, but rising interest rates could put more strain on balance sheets in coming quarters.
Fanatics raises $1.5 billion in fresh money. The round, which values the fast-growing sporting goods company at $27 billion, included investments from several leagues, such as the NFL and MLB, as well as player associations and team owners.
Elon Musk insure
Twitter investors seem convinced Elon Musk can make the social media company better. Shares of the company have risen 30 percent since news broke that Musk had bought a large stake in Twitter and was going to join its board. That added about $9 billion to the company’s market value. But when Musk becomes a director at Twitter, he may also incur some costs.
What will happen to Twitter’s insurance premiums? Most public companies have policies that protect directors and officers from personal liability, also known as D&O insurance. Musk’s previous legal battles include a settlement with the SEC over a market-moving tweet about Tesla (which Musk is trying to delete) and a defamation lawsuit by a British cave explorer, who in a tweet called Musk a “pedo man” (which Musk won). . In buying his Twitter share, Musk appears to have filed the required disclosures late and may have used the wrong type of form initially. “I’d be very concerned if I were the insurance company asked to insure and provide it,” Peter Taffae, a managing partner of D&O insurance brokerage Executive Perils, told DealBook.
Tesla has had to deal with high premiums because of Musk in the past. After Musk settled with the SEC, Tesla said in a regulatory filing that insurers were charging “disproportionately high premiums” for D&O insurance. Instead, Musk briefly assured the company himself. Tesla paid him $3 million for a three-month term before signing a new policy with “outside airlines.”
Twitter has had its own problems. Last year, the company reached an $800 million settlement with shareholders in a lawsuit alleging that Twitter inflated its user numbers. “Twitter had its own D&O challenges even before Musk added,” said Priya Cherian Huskins, a partner at Woodruff Sawyer. “Adding Musk to the board might be a great thing for investors, but the calculation is different for insurers.”
“By the way, Amazon, here we come. Watch.”
— President Biden, in remarks to: a conference of trade union workers† Days earlier, workers at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island voted to form a union, the first in the US at the e-commerce giant. (The White House later said the president was only expressing general support for unions.) Meanwhile, the success of Amazon’s independent, crowdfunded union campaign has fueled traditional unions. rethink their tactics†
Many publicly traded companies in the US are approaching the deadline to file their annual power of attorney statements, which include how much top executives were paid in the previous year. And while wages are rising for the average worker, many CEOs have received much larger pay increases.
This week, The Wall Street Journal published the numbers of companies that have reported so far, finding that the average CEO in the S&P 500 received an 11 percent pay increase last year, to a level nearly 190 times what the average worker earned. In a year of pandemic disruption, when many people’s wages have lagged behind inflation, executive compensation packages are likely to come under scrutiny, especially from those seeking to raise taxes on the richest.
Here are some of the biggest 2021 CEO compensation packages to date, including the value of share-based compensation that may not materialize if performance targets are not met:
Joseph Bae and Scott NuttallKKR . co-CEOs
Pay: $560 million (Bae) and $523 million (nuttall)
Notable Achievement: Adopted from the company founders
Inventory Performance: Up 84 percent
Revenues: up 133 percent
David Zaslav, CEO of Discovery
Pay: $247 million
Notable Achievement: Closed a Deal to Merge with WarnerMedia
Stock performance: 22 percent lower
Income: 17 percent lower
David Baszucki, CEO of Roblox
Pay: $233 million
notable achievement: Has Roblox made public
Inventory performance: up 130 percent (versus the direct listing reference price in March)
Revenue: Loss of $492 million, versus a loss of $253 million the prior year
READ THE SPEED
War between Russia and Ukraine
What a ban on Russian coal could mean for Europe. (NYT)
Russia’s two richest men, Vladimir Potanin and Leonid Mikhelson, and the largest bank, Sberbank, have been the target of the latest rounds of international sanctions. The US has also charged a Russian oligarch with “systematic” violation of sanctions. (Bloomberg, New York)
“Face Recognition Goes to Battle” (NYT)
For the latest developments, see The Times’ live blog and updated maps.
Berkshire Hathaway bought a stake in HP worth more than $4.2 billion, prompting a surge in the tech company’s shares. (Reuters)
A bidding war erupts over Italian infrastructure company Atlantia, which is controlled by the Benetton family, while Blackstone and Spanish billionaire Florentino Perez are reportedly considering offers. (Bloomberg)
Canada approved Equinor’s $12 billion offshore oil project at Bay du Nord in Newfoundland, angering some environmental groups. (Bloomberg)
The Supreme Court has reinstated Trump-era environmental regulations that limit the role states play in enforcing the Clean Water Act. (NYT)
Can the Fed Shrink Its Balance Sheet Without Causing Market Chaos? (FT)
The SEC is investigating how Amazon disclosed some details of its business practices. (WSJ)
Oil executives faced questions from lawmakers about price inflation during a House hearing. (NYT)
“What you need to know about the French presidential election” (NYT)
The best of the rest
“How many billionaires are there really?” (NYT magazine)
Since 2017, at least 50 drivers in the gig economy have died on the job. (NYT)
How LinkedIn’s Career Break Feature Can Help Caregivers. (WaPo)
Meta is reportedly working on in-app tokens that some employees have dubbed “Zuck Bucks.” (FT)
Type “a teddy bear playing a trumpet underwater”, and DALL-E, an AI image generation tool supported by Microsoft, will draw it. (NYT)
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