DealBook Briefing: Google’s E.U. Fine Might Not Matter

DealBook Briefing: Google’s E.U. Fine Might Not Matter

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A $5.1 billion penalty won’t stop the next antitrust war

The European Commission hit Google with a record antitrust fine yesterday for its deals with smartphone makers to give pride of place to its own apps, such as the Chrome browser, in its Android operating system. The E.U. also ordered Google to change several practices. The goal: more competition on smartphones.

But as the WSJ argues, it may already be too late for that. As this case plays out — the appeals could last years — smartphone apps will lose ground to voice assistants, virtual reality and the like. Which will have their own antitrust issues.

The E.U. might hope to make Google tread more carefully during the next tech wave, as Microsoft did on mobile after being punished for how it pushed its internet browser. But companies seem to do pretty well after huge antitrust fines. Why would Google ease up?


Today’s DealBook Briefing was written by Andrew Ross Sorkin in New York, and Michael J. de la Merced and Jamie Condliffe in London.


Zuckerberg stumbles over Facebook’s misinformation clampdown

The social network is promising to remove misinformation that could cause violence. Rumors spread on Facebook have ignited attacks on ethnic minorities in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and India. The NYT explains, for instance, how WhatsApp led mobs to murder in India.

But Mark Zuckerberg misstepped when describing the policy. Discussing how to balance free speech and safety in an interview with Recode, he gave Holocaust denial as an example of something that might not deserve deletion.

Mr. Zuckerberg later tried to clarify his remarks. But the outcry they prompted on social media shows how thorny the question of misinformation is for Facebook.

The U.S. wants a Mexico deal. Europe wants to save free trade.

President Trump wants to overhaul American trade by cutting deals with individual nations. Mexico is top of the list, according to Axios. The Trump administration hopes to use a deal there as leverage to get one with Canada. Then the European Union. Then China.

So can the Trump team win over Mexico’s newly elected populist president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador? As yet, he looks to be sticking with Nafta.

Meanwhile, the E.U. is pressing Beijing to support the global free trade order, in part by cooperating in an overhaul of the World Trade Organization. An unnamed European official told the WSJ that a W.T.O. 2.0 “doesn’t only require the U.S., but also China.”

Elsewhere in trade news: Airbus masked the identity of Chinese buyers at the Farnborough Airshow, fearing U.S. anger. President Trump stands by his threat of tariffs on E.U. car imports. And why damage to international trade could take years to repair.

Wall Street isn’t ready to lose Libor

Regulators are giving 2021 as a date to scrap the London interbank offered rate, a consensus interest rate that sets the rates in many deals but became infamous in a market-manipulation scandal. Matt Phillips of the NYT finds finance unprepared:

Contracts must be changed. Computer systems must be updated. Customers must be communicated with. Such costly administrative work does not yield bonus-increasing fees, and it is not generally considered glamorous on Wall Street.

Warren Buffett isn’t seeking a big deal, and investors don’t care

Berkshire Hathaway changed its rules yesterday to let Mr. Buffett buy back more of its stock. That allows the Oracle of Omaha to put down his so-called “elephant gun” for huge acquisitions.

For decades, Mr. Buffett has maintained that big deals are the best way to use Berkshire’s cash hoard, currently $106 billion. But with many stock valuations so high, acquisitions look less attractive.

There’s no guarantee that Mr. Buffett and his partner, Charlie Munger, will ever make a buyback. But the move to let them still pleased investors, who pushed Berkshire shares up 5 percent — and made Mr. Buffett a profit in a week when he donated $3.4 billion to charity.

Winning the U.S.-China tech race needs federal spending, not tariffs

President Trump is worried that China will beat America at building next-generation technologies like A.I. and quantum computing. Others worry that a handful of private companies, some supported by Beijing, will dictate the future.

The solution? Farhad Manjoo of the NYT suggests Washington should invest billions in tech research:

If executed carefully, such a plan could stimulate wider competition in tech, and allow for broader economic and social gains. Perhaps a whole set of new companies, rather than just the giants you’re used to, could plan a role in the future.

Revolving door

Tom Gruber, the last of Siri’s co-founders at Apple, is leaving. (Information)

Uber has hired Ruby Zefo, who led Intel’s privacy and security team, as its first chief privacy officer. (TechCrunch)

The speed read


■ Sinclair Broadcasting tried to appease F.C.C. concerns about its bid for Tribune’s TV stations. It didn’t work. (NYT)

■ Before the founder of Papa John’s was ousted, he is said to have held talks about selling to Wendy’s. (WSJ)

■ Tilray, the first cannabis company to I.P.O. on an American stock exchange, raised $153 million. (Seattle Times)

Politics and policy

■ The Justice Department hopes to expedite its appeal against AT&T’s Time Warner deal. (Reuters)

■ Novartis joined Pfizer in freezing prices to appease President Trump. (NYT)

■ Kathleen Kraninger, nominated to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, can expect a congressional grilling over her lack of experience. (NYT)


■ The latest social network with a bot problem: Instagram. (Information)

■ Prime Day glitches may have cost Amazon up to $99 million in sales. (Axios)

■ New York City will force Airbnb to turn over data. (NYT)

Best of the rest

■ Inside Tiffany’s efforts to find younger jewelry buyers. (Bloomberg)

■ Goldman Sachs may be edging away from bonus culture. (DealBook)

■ Health insurers want your data, perhaps to raise your premiums. (ProPublica)

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