June 16, 2019

The Week in Business: CBS News Gets Its First Female President, and Theranos Goes Back to Court

The Week in Business: CBS News Gets Its First Female President, and Theranos Goes Back to Court


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Hi there! Have you too been sucked into the decluttering vortex of Marie Kondo’s new Netflix show? You’re in good company. Who knew sock folding could be such a phenomenon?

I’m sure we’ve all got a lot of cleaning — er, “sparking joy” — to do today, so I’ll keep this week’s rundown of business news nice and tidy. Once you’re caught up, you’ll still have plenty of time to arrange all your T-shirts into neat little rectangles. It may not be quite as mesmerizing as watching strangers sort their laundry on television, but only just.


JAN. 6-12

The government shutdown continues to drag on, but at least tax refunds won’t be held up. The White House will order some Internal Revenue Service employees to return to work so that the tax filing season can begin and refunds can be issued. But this is a rare positive turn as the shutdown’s effects pile up. Crucial government loans have stalled. The Food and Drug Administration has stopped routine safety inspections of vegetables, fish, and other groceries (yikes). The Miami airport is closing a terminal because of a shortage of Transportation Security Administration officers. And despite volunteers’ efforts, the public bathrooms at some national parks remain gross.

You can stop fretting about loan rates going up, at least for now. The Fed is taking a more cautious approach to raising interest rates, according to documents released from its December meeting. Like the rest of us, officials are wary about downshifts in economic growth and trade tensions with China. (The latter seemed a bit less ominous after trade talks last week, but bigger sticking points have yet to be resolved.) The Fed still plans to increase rates twice this year, but probably not at its January or March meetings. As the Fed’s chairman, Jerome H. Powell, put it on Thursday, “We’re going to be patient and watching, and waiting and seeing.”

CBS News made a surprise announcement on Sunday that Susan Zirinsky would succeed David Rhodes as its new (and first female) president. The inspiration for the ambitious, principled character played by Holly Hunter in the movie “Broadcast News,” Ms. Zirinsky has been at CBS for over four decades. She’s got her work cut out for her: The network has recently weathered numerous bombshells about its corporate culture and fired several prominent figures — most notably its morning show anchor Charlie Rose and its chief executive, Leslie Moonves — after they were accused of sexual misconduct.


JAN. 13-19

Yes, we’ve heard this before: The British Parliament will vote this Tuesday on a proposal for Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. No one expects the beleaguered Brexit plan to pass, just as it didn’t back in December, and Prime Minister Theresa May is scrambling to pull together a backup strategy. Desperate measures may soon be in order, and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of Austria became the first European Union leader to suggest an extension of Brexit’s March 29 deadline. But would more time change anybody’s mind?

The six largest banks in the United States will report their fourth-quarter results this week. If they report lower than expected numbers, the news could be read as another canary in the coal mine for a potential economic slowdown. Most banks have booked record returns for almost a year, thanks to tax cuts and a humming economy, but volatile markets at the end of 2018 could have put an end to this streak. Citigroup will release its earnings on Monday, followed by JPMorgan and Wells Fargo on Tuesday and Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America on Wednesday.

We haven’t heard much recently about Theranos, the seemingly miraculous blood-testing start-up that last year turned out to a giant fraud. But that may change on Monday, when a federal court in California holds a hearing on criminal charges against Theranos’s former chief executive, Elizabeth Holmes, and its former president, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani (also Ms. Holmes’s erstwhile boyfriend). Indicted on charges of conspiracy and wire fraud last summer, they could each face prison sentences of up to 20 years.


Lots of car news these days. The North American International Auto Show, one of the world’s biggest, hits Detroit on Monday; electric cars are expected to be a hot topic. Fiat Chrysler agreed on Wednesday to pay nearly $650 million to settle lawsuits over its use of illegal software on diesel vehicles to produce false results on emissions tests. Tangentially related: The Chrysler building — once New York City’s tallest structure — is for sale.

$137 billion: The net worth of Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive and the world’s richest man. But that number may soon change, as Mr. Bezos and his wife of 25 years, MacKenzie Bezos, announced their divorce last Wednesday. Ms. Bezos, a novelist, may be entitled to a sizable stake in Amazon as well as half of all those billions, which would make her — you guessed it — the world’s richest woman.



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