Business News for May 20, 2022 – The New York Times

A complaint by the agency accuses the coffee chain of illegally intimidating and retaliating against workers in an election that the union lost.
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The National Labor Relations Board is seeking to order Starbucks to recognize a union at a Buffalo-area store where the union lost an initial vote last year.
The move is part of a larger effort by the board to scrutinize the coffee chain’s response to a nationwide union campaign. In an amended complaint against the company, the agency on Thursday accused Starbucks of intimidating and retaliating against workers who are seeking to unionize.
The labor board’s attempt to order the company to bargain at a store where the union didn’t win is “aggressive” but within the normal range of remedies for such cases, said Matthew Bodie, a former lawyer for the labor board who teaches law at St. Louis University. “The complaint sends a message,” Mr. Bodie added.
Workers have voted to unionize at more than 70 Starbucks stores since December, and they have filed petitions for union elections at more than 150 additional cafes. Starbucks owns and operates roughly 9,000 outlets in the United States.
Regional offices of the labor board issue complaints after finding merit in accusations against employers or unions. The complaints are litigated before an administration law judge, and a judge’s rulings can be appealed to the national labor board in Washington.
The regional office overseeing Buffalo issued an initial complaint two weeks ago accusing Starbucks of firing employees because they supported the union; promising benefits to workers as a way to discourage them from unionizing; intimidating workers who sought to unionize by subjecting them to surveillance; and other illegal behavior.
The labor board noted that workers at the store, known as Camp Road, had indicated their desire to unionize and that there was little chance a fair election could be held.
“Therefore, on balance, the employees’ sentiments regarding representation, having been expressed through authorization cards, would be protected better by issuance of a bargaining order for the Camp Road store,” the complaint states.
The amended complaint also accuses the company of “packing” another Buffalo-area store with outside employees in the run-up to a union election last fall. The union won an election at that store nonetheless.
“The N.L.R.B. choosing to pursue a bargaining order at Camp Road is nothing short of exceptional,” said Gianna Reeve, a shift supervisor at the store, in a statement. “The partners at this location have been subjected to some of the most aggressive union-busting seen in recent years.”
Starbucks said in a statement that the complaint doesn’t constitute a judgment by the labor board. “We believe the allegations contained in the filing by the N.L.R.B. regional director are false, and we look forward to presenting our evidence when the allegations are adjudicated,” the company said.

Vista Equity Partners, the $90 billion software-focused private equity firm, will announce on Friday that the chief executives of every company it owns have agreed to measure greenhouse gas emissions and set annual targets for reducing them. Those that miss their targets will be required to buy carbon offsets to make up the shortfall.
The annual climate targets build on a pledge Vista made last year to move its portfolio companies to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
“As a firm, we are very concerned about climate change and the climate condition of the globe,” David Breach, the president and chief operating officer at Vista, told DealBook.
Private equity firms have been grappling with how to tackle climate change. Many have been resistant to signing net-zero pledges in part because, they say, there are difficulties in applying uniform goals across a diverse array of companies. And setting long-term goals as short-term owners can be tricky. Vista, for its part, was one of the first major private equity firms to sign the net-zero pledge, last July. (Carlyle, one of the biggest private equity firms, signed it this year.)
Vista, which is headed by the billionaire Robert Smith, says it wants to do more on the climate front. The firm is letting the chief executives at each company set their own annual targets, with the firm-wide 2050 goal in mind. Vista probably has an easier road to net zero than some of its peers: The software firms it invests in tend to have ties with progressive-leaning companies in Silicon Valley. And software as an industry tends to have lower emissions than, say, energy companies. “I don’t know that it’s easier for us,” Mr. Breach said. “I think any company that wants to can measure, reduce and offset.”

The actor who led a team of teenage superheroes on “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” has been accused of helping steal millions of dollars from the government’s Paycheck Protection Program pandemic relief fund.
Jason Lawrence Geiger, 47, who played the Red Ranger under the stage name Austin St. John, and 17 others were charged with fraud this week in a Texas federal court over what prosecutors described as a conspiracy to illicitly obtain $3.5 million in P.P.P. loans.
Mr. Geiger and the others he is said to have worked in coordination with used a mix of genuine and sham businesses to obtain loans from the relief program, prosecutors said. According to court filings, they fabricated documents and made false claims about sales and payroll to obtain inflated loans, then spent the cash on jewelry, precious metals and cars.
Mr. Geiger received a loan of $225,754 in June 2020 for his company St. John Enterprises, which sells Power Rangers memorabilia, such as $60 autographed photos and $100 personalized video messages. Instead of using the money to pay workers — the relief program’s intended purpose — Mr. Geiger funneled most of the money to two of his co-defendants, prosecutors said in court filings.
Mr. Geiger was arraigned Wednesday on a single charge, conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The charge carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
“Mr. Geiger intends to vigorously defend himself against this allegation,” David Klaudt, Mr. Geiger’s lawyer, said in a written statement.
A statement posted on Friday on Mr. Geiger’s Facebook page by Zachery McGinnis of Galactic Productions, an event booking service for actors, cast Mr. Geiger as a victim of his business partners.
“The indictment detailed today is populated by a multitude of individuals — the majority of which Austin has no knowledge of, and has never met or interacted with,” Mr. McGinnis wrote. “It is our understanding that Austin put his faith, reputation, and finances in the hands of third parties whose goals were self-centered and ultimately manipulated and betrayed his trust.”
Mr. Geiger fought intergalactic evil on the original “Power Rangers” series that debuted in 1993 and played the Gold Ranger on a later iteration, “Power Rangers Zeo.” He spent 16 years as a paramedic before retiring in 2014, according to a biography posted on St. John Enterprises’ website.
The hurriedly created Paycheck Protection Program deliberately did away with many of the checks and safeguards that normally accompany business loans — creating an opportunity for some unusually brazen thievery. The Justice Department has charged hundreds of people with fraudulently taking billions of dollars from it and other pandemic relief programs.
The list of ailments troubling the eurozone economy was already stark: the highest inflation rate on record, energy insecurity and increasing whispers about a recession. This month, another threat emerged. The weakening euro has raised expectations that it could reach parity with the U.S. dollar.
One euro will be worth one dollar by the end of the year and fall even lower early next year, according to analysts at HSBC, one of Europe’s largest banks. “We find it hard to see a silver lining for the single currency at this stage,” they wrote in a note to clients in early May.
The currency, which is shared by 19 countries, hasn’t fallen to or below a one-to-one exchange rate with the dollar in two decades. Back then, in the early 2000s, the low exchange rate undercut confidence in the new currency, which was introduced in 1999 to help bring unity, prosperity and stability to the region. In late 2000, the European Central Bank intervened in currency markets to prop up the fledgling euro.
Today, there are fewer questions about the resilience of the euro, even as it sits near its lowest level in more than five years against the dollar. Instead, the currency’s weakness reflects the darkening outlook of the bloc’s economy.
And while a weak euro is a blessing for American tourists heading to the continent this summer, it is only adding to the region’s inflationary woes by increasing the cost of imports and undercutting the value of European earnings for American companies.
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People searching on Facebook for footage of Saturday’s racist shooting rampage in Buffalo, N.Y., may have come across posts with footage of the attack or links to websites promising the gunman’s full video. Interspersed between those posts, they may have also seen a variety of ads.
The social network has sometimes served ads next to posts offering clips of the video, which a gunman live streamed on the video platform Twitch as he killed 10 people. For the past six days, recordings of that livestream have circulated across the internet including on Facebook, Twitter and fringe and extremist message boards and sites, despite some companies’ efforts to remove the content.
The pace at which an 18-year-old gunman’s ephemeral livestream morphed into a rapidly proliferating, permanent recording shows the challenges large tech platforms face in policing their sites for violent content.
Facebook and its parent company, Meta, rely on a combination of artificial intelligence, user reports and human moderators to track and remove shooting videos like the Buffalo one. But in some search results, Facebook is surfacing the violent video or links to websites hosting the clip next to ads.
It is not clear how many times ads have appeared next to posts with the videos. Searches for terms associated with footage of the shooting have been accompanied by ads for a horror film, clothing companies and video streaming services in tests run by The New York Times and the Tech Transparency Project, an industry watchdog group. In some cases, Facebook recommended certain search terms about the Buffalo gunman video noting that they were “popular now” on the platform.
In one search, the platform surfaced an ad for a video game company two posts below a clip of the shooting uploaded to Facebook that was described as “very graphic….Buffalo Shooter.” The Times is not disclosing the exact terms or phrases used to search on Facebook.
Augustine Fou, a cybersecurity and ad fraud researcher, said that large tech platforms have the ability to demonetize searches around tragic events. “It’s that easy technically,” he said. “If you choose to do it, one person could easily demonetize these terms.”
“Our aim is to protect people using our services from seeing this horrific content even as bad actors are dead-set on calling attention to it,” Andy Stone, a Meta spokesman, said in a statement. He did not address the Facebook ads.
Facebook also has the ability to monitor searches on its platform. Searches for terms like “ISIS” and “massacre” lead to graphic content warnings that users must click through before viewing the results.
While searches for similar terms about the Buffalo video on Google did not result in any ads, Mr. Fou said there was an inherent difference between the search platform and Facebook. On Google, advertisers can pick which keywords they want to show their ads against, he said. Facebook, on the other hand, places ads in a user’s news feed or search results that it believes are relevant to that user based on Facebook interests and web activity.
Michael Aciman, a Google spokesman, said that the company had designated the Buffalo shooting as a “sensitive event,” which means that ads cannot be served against searches related to it. “We don’t allow ads to run against related keywords,” he said.
Facebook has come under fire in the past for ads appearing next to right-wing extremist content. Following the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, BuzzFeed News found that the platform was surfacing ads for military gear and gun accessories next to posts about the insurrection.
Following that report, the company temporarily halted ads for gun accessories and military gear through the presidential inauguration that month.
“Bringing down the deficit is one way to ease inflationary pressures in an economy,” President Biden said this month. “We reduce federal borrowing and we help combat inflation.”
The tie between budget deficits and inflation is more complex than Mr. Biden’s statements suggest, Talmon Joseph Smith and Jeanna Smialek report for The New York Times.
Deficits, which are financed by government borrowing, are not inherently inflationary: Whether they push up prices hinges on the economic environment as well as the nature of the spending or cutback in revenue that created the budget shortfall.
Policies that reduce the deficit could be inflationary, for instance. A big, broadly distributed stimulus that gives direct cash aid to low- and middle-income households could be more than offset in a budget by revenue from large tax increases on the wealthy. But shuffling much of that money to people who are likely to spend it quickly could cause demand to outstrip supply, leading to inflation. Alternatively, spending that would enlarge deficits — like debt-financed investments in energy infrastructure — could reduce inflation over time if the program improves efficiency, expands capacity or makes production cheaper.
“I’ll fall back on the typical economist answer and say: It depends,” said Andrew Patterson, a senior international economist at Vanguard.
Complicating matters in the current situation, the stimulus from the last couple of years is still trickling out into the economy. READ THE FULL ARTICLE →

Over the last two years, a boom in cryptocurrency prices has minted a generation of millionaires, catapulting industry executives and even some regular investors to extraordinary wealth. But lately the crypto market has crashed. Last week, the collapse of a so-called stablecoin helped ignite a broader meltdown, tanking the price of Bitcoin and wiping $300 billion in value from the broader crypto economy. Some investors who had put their life savings into the crypto market lost everything.
The New York Times is reporting on the human consequences of both the recent meltdown and the broader volatility in cryptocurrency prices. We want to speak with investors about their experiences. Did you lose money in the recent crash? Were you an investor in Luna or TerraUSD, the sister currencies that crashed the most dramatically? Have your other crypto bets over the years resulted in lost savings?
We will not publish your name with your submission without contacting you first. We may use your contact information to follow up with you.

Gerhard Schröder, the former chancellor of Germany and personal friend of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, is stepping down as chair of the board of the state-controlled Russian oil giant Rosneft, the company announced Friday, according to the Interfax news agency.
The announcement came a day after Germany’s parliamentary budget committee voted to strip the former leader of more than 400,000 euros worth of privileges after he refused to distance himself from Mr. Putin and relinquish his links to Russian energy companies even as Russia is waging a brutal war in Ukraine.
Mr. Schröder had presided over the Rosneft board since 2017, being paid $600,000 a year. He remains chairman of the shareholder committee of Nord Stream, the company that operates a gas pipeline directly connecting Russia and Germany under the Baltic Sea, reportedly being paid about $270,000 a year.
He also served as head of the supervisory board of Nord Stream 2, which built a second pipeline, until it was shuttered before the war.
Gazprom, which owns 51 percent of Nord Stream and all of Nord Stream 2, had announced three weeks before Russia launched its attack on Ukraine that Mr. Schröder would join its board, too.

KÖNIGSWINTER, Germany — The Group of 7 economic powers agreed on Friday to provide nearly $20 billion to support Ukraine’s economy over the coming months to help keep the country’s government running while it fights to repel a Russian invasion.
In a joint statement after two days of meetings, finance ministers from the Group of 7 affirmed their commitment to help Ukraine with a mix of grants and loans. Ukraine needs approximately $5 billion per month to maintain basic government services, according to the International Monetary Fund.
The $19.8 billion of financing was agreed on after the United States, which is contributing more than $9 billion in short-term financing, pressed its allies to do more to help secure Ukraine’s future. The statement did not break down how much the other Group of 7 nations will contribute.
The European Commission, however, previously agreed to provide up to 9 billion euros of financial assistance. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Finance Corporation plan to provide an additional $3.4 billion to Ukrainian state-owned enterprises and the private sector.
“We will continue to stand by Ukraine throughout this war and beyond and are prepared to do more as needed,” the statement said.
The economic policymakers also acknowledged that more fallout from the war lies ahead, and they pledged on Friday to keep markets open as they combat rising food and energy prices around the world. They also said that their central banks would be closely monitoring inflation measures and the impact that rising prices are having on their economies.
“We are very concerned about crises and macroeconomic developments,” Christian Lindner, Germany’s finance minister, said during a closing news conference on Friday, according to an English translation.
The two-day summit on the outskirts of Bonn came at a pivotal time for the world economy, with concern mounting that a combination of war, supply chain problems and the lingering effects of the pandemic could lead to a contraction in global output. Finance ministers discussed ways to keep pressure on Russia while minimizing the damage to their economies as they debated the merits of a European embargo on Russian oil and whether seized Russian assets could be used to pay for Ukraine’s reconstruction.
“The values of the international community have been totally discarded by Russia,” Mr. Lindner said.
Officials from the world’s leading advanced economies discussed other areas for possible collaboration, such as combating climate change and making progress on a global tax agreement that was reached last year but faces implementation problems.
But the complicated mix of foreign policy challenges and economic headwinds dominated the meetings.
Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen warned this week that Europe could be vulnerable to a recession because of its exposure to Russian energy. She does not expect a recession in the United States but said on Thursday that a “soft landing” was not guaranteed as the Federal Reserve raises interest rates to tame inflation.
“I think it’s conceivable there could be a soft landing, that requires both skill and luck,” Ms. Yellen told reporters on the sidelines of the Group of 7 summit. “It’s a very difficult economic situation.”

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