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The college admissions scandal brings down financiers
Some business leaders are feeling the swift and sharp repercussions of charges issued by federal prosecutors relating to a college admissions scandal, in which wealthy parents were accused of using fraud and bribery to help their children get places at elite schools.
• Gordon Caplan, a co-chairman of the global law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher, was put on leave by the firm yesterday. He may face legal challenges from regulators and his own company, according to the New York Law Journal. He is accused of paying $75,000 to have someone improve his daughter’s score on the ACT exam.
• William McGlashan, a partner at the private equity firm TPG, was placed on leave by the company. Yesterday, he stepped down from the board of STX Entertainment, the film studio he helped found. He is accused of having his son’s ACT answers corrected and athletic profile faked.
• Manuel Henriquez, the C.E.O. of Hercules Capital, stepped down from that role yesterday, though he remains on the company’s board of directors. He and his wife, Elizabeth, are accused of spending over $400,000 in a scheme for their daughter.
More: Inside the pricey, totally legal world of college consultants.
Today’s DealBook Briefing was written by Andrew Ross Sorkin in New York and Jamie Condliffe in London.
America grounded Boeing’s 737 Max jets. What now?
After days of mounting pressure, the U.S. grounded Boeing’s 737 Max 8 aircraft on Wednesday, reports the NYT.
The turnaround came after Canadian and American aviation authorities studied newly available satellite-tracking data. It suggested similarities between Sunday’s crash in Ethiopia and one involving a Boeing 737 Max 8 in Indonesia in October. Boeing’s C.E.O. said the company was “supporting this proactive step out of an abundance of caution.”
The cost to Boeing could be huge. Airlines have “begun to demand compensation for their losses during the grounding,” Natalie Kitroeff of the NYT writes. And one analyst estimated that the company may have to spend nearly $1 billion to resolve issues with the 737 Max fleet. It could also face lawsuits from the families of passengers who died in the disasters.
“But the bigger financial unknown is whether airlines lose confidence in the Max,” Ms. Kitroeff adds. If that happens, orders for the 737 Max — the company’s best-selling jet — could dry up, handing an advantage to Boeing’s European rival, Airbus, which makes a similar plane, the A320neo. But outright cancellations of orders seem unlikely, because airlines typically put down large deposits.
U.K. lawmakers reject a no-deal Brexit
The British Parliament voted last night to oppose the prospect of Britain’s withdrawal from the E.U. without an agreement with the bloc, writes Stephen Castle of the NYT.
“The vote was another harsh blow” to Prime Minister Theresa May, Mr. Castle writes. “A critical part of her strategy has been to play for time and use the fast-approaching threat of a chaotic, disorderly and economically damaging exit as leverage.”
“Mrs. May said that if lawmakers can support a deal in the next few days, she could request a Brexit delay until June 30 to put it in place,” he adds. “But that appears unlikely. Parliament rejected the agreement she negotiated with the European Union in a humiliating 432 to 202 vote in January, and defeated it again on Tuesday, 391 to 242.”
“Without an approved agreement, a longer extension would be needed, forcing Britain to take part in European Parliament elections in May. That suggests Mrs. May might make one more effort to get her unpopular plan through Parliament, threatening hard-line Brexit supporters that, if it fails, she will seek a long delay that could, potentially, mean Brexit never happening.”
Watch out, Blackstone
Brookfield Asset Management announced yesterday that it had agreed to buy most of Oaktree Capital Management for about $4.8 billion, creating an alternative asset manager giant that will rival the likes of Blackstone.
Brookfield and Oaktree would control $475 billion of assets under management, including debt, according to Reuters. Blackstone, the industry leader, has at least $650 billion including debt, according to a spokesman of the firm who spoke to the news agency.
“The deal is a bet by Brookfield, which currently focuses on private equity, real estate, infrastructure and renewable power, on the prospects for investing in debt, which makes up around 70 percent of Oaktree’s assets under management,” Reuters adds.
The purchase is “the latest sign of how Toronto-based Brookfield has quietly come to dominate the alternative asset management industry,” according to the FT.
Trump says a trade deal can wait
Just one day after the White House’s chief trade negotiator, Robert Lighthizer, said that a result from trade talks with China would be agreed “before too long,” President Trump undermined his efforts.
“I’m not in a rush whatsoever,” Mr. Trump told reporters yesterday, according to Bloomberg. The WSJ reports that Mr. Trump said that President Xi Jinping of China knows that the U.S. would walk away from a poor deal, and that he said, “China very much wants to make a deal.”
This could be a negotiating tactic. “Trump can use this for leverage and could also be mindful he would be criticized for a weak deal,” Christopher Adams, a former official in the Treasury Department and U.S. trade negotiator in Beijing, told the WSJ.
But it suggests there will be no deal in March. Mr. Trump spoke in February of a possible summit meeting at his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, with Mr. Xi this month to sign an agreement. But unidentified officials told the WSJ that an April date now looks more likely.
More: President Trump’s former economic adviser, Gary Cohn, told the podcast “Freakonomics”that Mr. Trump’s trade adviser, Peter Navarro, is in his view the only Ph.D.-holding economist in the world who thinks that tariffs do not hurt the economy.
Howard Schultz’s vision for a centrist presidency
The former C.E.O. of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, still hasn’t officially decided whether to enter the 2020 presidential race. But during a speech at Miami Dade College yesterday, designed to drum up support for such a bid, Mr. Schultz did outline what his independent presidency might offer. WaPo reports his remarks:
• “I would not sign any legislation — none — into law that does not have bipartisan support. … We need to be candid with the American people and admit, yes, that both sides have good ideas if we work together.”
• “The courts have become yet another battlefield in the ongoing war between Democratic and Republican leaders. … These battles have undermined our faith in the rule of law and the impartiality of the entire judicial system. All of this has to change.”
• “I will do everything I can to fight for the center, where the vast majority of Americans stand.”
Facebook’s data deals are under criminal investigation
A grand jury in New York has subpoenaed records from at least two prominent smartphone and device makers that had entered into partnerships with Facebook, gaining access to the personal information of hundreds of millions of users, according to the NYT:
“It is not clear when the grand jury inquiry, overseen by prosecutors with the United States attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York, began or exactly what it is focusing on.”
“We are cooperating with investigators and take those probes seriously,” a Facebook spokesman said in a statement. “We’ve provided public testimony, answered questions and pledged that we will continue to do so.”
“Facebook was already facing scrutiny by the Federal Trade Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission.” And the Justice Department’s securities fraud unit started an investigation last year in the wake of the company’s Cambridge Analytica data scandal.
Renault has removed Mouna Sepehri, an ally of its former chairman, Carlos Ghosn, from her role as general secretary and placed her in advisory role. It is part of broader shake-up of the company’s senior management.
At Mitsubishi, two other allies of Mr. Ghosn — Trevor Mann, the C.O.O., and Vincent Cobee, the head of product — have resigned.
Aurora Cannabis hired Nelson Peltz, the founder of the activist hedge fund Trian Partners, as a strategic adviser.
The U.S. Senate confirmed Neomi Rao to take Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s empty seat at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
The speed read
• Uber is in talks to sell a stake in its self-driving technologies unit to SoftBank and other investors for as much as $1 billion. (NYT)
• Purdue Pharma’s C.E.O. said that the company was considering bankruptcy protection as an option as it faces lawsuits over the role of its drug OxyContin in America’s opioid epidemic. (WaPo)
• Volkswagen has halted an I.P.O. of its truck division, Traton, until market conditions improve. (Reuters)
• Jumia, a pan-African e-commerce services widely thought of as the continent’s first tech unicorn, has filed for an I.P.O. (Axios)
Politics and policy
• Beto O’Rourke announced that he will be part of the 2020 presidential race. (NYT)
• A federal judge nearly doubled the prison sentence of Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, to seven and a half years. (NYT)
• The Justice Department is reportedly investigating whether a $100,000 contribution to a political fund-raising committee related to Mr. Trump came from the fugitive financier Jho Low, whom the authorities have tied to the 1MDB fraud scandal. (WSJ)
• A bid by the G.O.P. to avoid a showdown between Mr. Trump and Senate Republicans over his declaration of an emergency to build a border wall has failed. (NYT)
• House Democrats warned Mr. Trump of a “firestorm” in Congress if he pushes forward with Medicaid cuts. (NYT)
• Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram suffered global outages yesterday. Facebook reportedly considered giving advertisers refunds for the problem. (NYT, Bloomberg)
• Spotify has accused Apple of abusing its position as gatekeeper of the App Store and violating European antitrust laws. (NYT)
• How much will 5G cost you? Verizon says it’ll be about $10 more a month. (WSJ)
• The next Silicon Valley mafia will be made up of the millionaires produced by the likes of Uber and Airbnb going public. (NYT)
• Elon Musk reportedly became obsessed with rooting out — and destroying — a Tesla whistleblower. (Businessweek)
• On topics from airplane engineering to clean energy, President Trump has long encouraged a 1950s approach to technology. (NYT)
Best of the rest
• The F.D.A. has proposed requiring stores keep flavored e-cigarettes in areas off limits to anyone under 18. (NYT)
• Volkswagen is cutting 7,000 jobs as part of its push to focus on electric cars. Ford also said it was cutting an unspecified number of jobs in the U.S. (WSJ, Reuters)
• Fiat Chrysler is recalling nearly 863,000 vehicles in the U.S. after some didn’t meet federal emissions standards. (WSJ)
• The S&P 500 hit a four-month high yesterday, buoyed by strong economic data. (WSJ)
• A new report claims that two-thirds of investors think C.E.O.s are ill-equipped to handle the big challenges of the future. (Bloomberg)
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