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Apr 10, 2019

DealBook Briefing | Yes, the Economy Is Slowing. But Don’t Hyperventilate.

12-15 minutes

CreditYuri Gripas/Reuters
CreditCreditYuri Gripas/Reuters
Good Wednesday. (Want this by email? Sign up here.)
A lackluster start of the year for the global economy has prompted the International Monetary Fund to downgrade its predictions for growth in the coming months, the WSJ reports.
• “The I.M.F.’s latest economic forecasts cut the outlook for growth in 2019 to 3.3 percent from estimates of 3.5 percent in January and 3.7 percent in October. The decline has been broadly felt, with all major advanced economies, including the U.S., and most major emerging-market economies seeing deterioration in their outlook.”
• The I.M.F. pointed to “trade tensions and tariff hikes between the United States and China, a decline in business confidence, a tightening of financial conditions, and higher policy uncertainty across many economies” as reasons for the slowdown.
Don’t panic. As Daniel Moss of Bloomberg Opinion points out, the numbers aren’t so bad:
• “Yes, it’s a cut. But not a dramatic one. These numbers are a ways from one I.M.F. definition of recession, 2.5 percent, and miles from the contraction recorded in 2009.”
• “It’s entirely possible the world economy muddles through this year. It might be messy, and there will be regional divergences aplenty. The economy may not feel great, particularly depending on where you are. That doesn’t mean it’s terrible.”
Lori LoughlinCreditC.J. Gunther/EPA, via Shutterstock
Lori LoughlinCreditC.J. Gunther/EPA, via Shutterstock
Federal prosecutors unveiled new money-laundering charges against 16 parents in the college bribery case, including the actress Lori Loughlin, the former TPG executive Bill McGlashan and the former Pimco C.E.O. Douglas Hodge.
The new charges carry tougher penalties than the first wave of accusations of mail and wire fraud. The original charges command a fine of at least $250,000, while money laundering involves fines of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved.
Some legal experts think jail time is possible for these defendants. Duncan Levin, a former federal prosecutor, told the WaPo that money-laundering charges are “one of the most powerful weapons” that the Justice Department can wield in court, and can lead to much longer sentences than simpler fraud charges.
The new charges may be an attempt to force cooperation, legal commentators added. Some defendants, including the actress Felicity Huffman and the onetime corporate lawyer Gordon Caplan, said this week that they would plead guilty to the lesser wire fraud charges. They haven’t been charged with money laundering.
Mr. McGlashan still plans to fight. The financier is accused of paying $50,000 to cheat on his son’s ACT and agreeing to pay $250,000 to help get him into U.S.C. But a lawyer for Mr. McGlashan said, “The prosecutor’s case against Mr. McGlashan is deeply flawed and ignores important exculpatory facts.”
CreditMarcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
CreditMarcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
Lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic are clamping down on misleading tactics used by some major tech companies to gain data from users.
• Facebook will change its terms of service after bowing to pressure from the European Commission. The company “will spell out for users how the social-media platform makes money by using their personal information to sell targeted advertising, and clarify that it can be held liable for misuse of such data,” the WSJ reports.
• American lawmakers are scrutinizing how users are coaxed into handing over data. So-called dark patterns, like user-interface designs that encourage people to share data that they may otherwise have kept private, are the focus of a new bill introduced by Senators Mark Warner and Deb Fischer.
“For years, social media platforms have been relying on all sorts of tricks and tools to convince users to hand over their personal data without really understanding what they are consenting to,” Mr. Warner said in a statement.
“Our goal is simple: to instill a little transparency in what remains a very opaque market and ensure that consumers are able to make more informed choices about how and when to share their personal information.”
These are the latest efforts to regulate Big Tech, part of a campaign that is gathering pace among lawmakers around the world.
Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain is in Brussels again today for a summit meeting with European leaders, where she will seek an extension to the troubled Brexit process. She’s unlikely to get exactly what she wants.
Mrs. May went on a “begging tour,” in the words of the German publication Der Spiegel. She visited Berlin and Paris yesterday to plead with national leaders to grant her more time to salvage her faltering withdrawal plans, Stephen Castle of the NYT explains.
Mrs. May wants to delay Brexit until June 30. But that would require her to get a deal through Parliament quickly, which seems unlikely. If she can’t secure an extension, Britain would crash out of the bloc without a deal on Friday.
The E.U. is open to a longer postponement. The European Council president, Donald Tusk, is said to prefer an extension as long as a year, Bloomberg reports — with the option of an early exit if the British government ends its deadlock. (France reportedly wants such an extension to carry strict conditions.)
The hope for a longer extension is that a deadlock could be broken by any of these events happening by the end of the year:
• Parliament approving a deal.
• A general election.
• A second referendum.
• A new prime minister.
More: How London banks are trying to dodge Brexit.
Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinCreditPatrick Semansky/Associated Press
Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinCreditPatrick Semansky/Associated Press
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told House lawmakers yesterday that his department had discussed the potential release of President Trump’s tax returns with White House lawyers.
It was the first public acknowledgment that such discussions have taken place. Mr. Mnuchin, whose department oversees the I.R.S., will have a role in deciding whether to honor Democrats’ request for the president’s tax returns.
The Treasury secretary said that he hadn’t personally spoken with anyone from the White House, and that the discussions so far had been “informational.” He added that he had not been briefed on the talks otherwise.
Democrats have demanded the returns under a legal statute that they say gives them a right to the information. Mr. Trump and his staff have said they will fight the request.
Mr. Mnuchin deflected questions on how he will proceed. He told lawmakers that he wouldn’t let politics interfere with his decision, but added that Mr. Trump had a right to privacy.
Democrats were angry. “I think the fact that there was any communication with the White House about this is deeply troubling and certainly violates the spirit of the law, if not the letter of the law,” Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York said.
CreditScott Olson/Getty Images
CreditScott Olson/Getty Images
The firm said yesterday that it planned to raise its minimum wage over the next two years — just a day before its C.E.O., Brian Moynihan, is set to testify alongside other banking chiefs on Capitol Hill, Emily Flitter of the NYT reports.
• Mr. Moynihan said yesterday that Bank of America’s lowest-paid employees would earn $17 an hour starting next month. That will gradually tick up to $20 an hour.
• “It was another example of how big banks are trying to deal with shifting political winds in Washington, where they face new scrutiny under the Democrats, who now control the House of Representatives,” Ms. Flitter writes.
• Mr. Moynihan and the C.E.O.s of JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and other banks are scheduled to testify before the House Financial Services Committee this morning.
• “The banks’ leaders must explain to progressive representatives like Maxine Waters of California and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York why they are paid more than 700 times what low-wage workers, including some tellers in their branches, earn each year.”
• They will also be asked about diversity, fair lending and the financial services industry’s ties to gun makers.
You can watch the hearing here at 9 a.m. Eastern.
Magic Johnson unexpectedly resigned as the L.A. Lakers’ president after the team failed to make the N.B.A. playoffs.
UBS reportedly fired James Boland, who had led its leveraged-finance group in the Americas, for not telling his bosses that his team had altered the terms of a leveraged buyout bond.
• Saudi Aramco raised $12 billion from its bond sale after receiving huge demand from investors. Its debt is cheaper than the Saudi government’s. (Bloomberg)
• Uber reportedly hopes to raise about $10 billion from its I.P.O. (Bloomberg)
• Wynn Resorts has ended talks to buy Crown Resorts for $7.1 billion. (FT)
• AT&T reportedly discussed selling HBO’s European operations to pay down its $170 billion debt. (FT)
• Investors are reportedly buying shares of Slack on private markets at a $14 billion valuation, more than twice the company’s last fund-raising round. (Bloomberg)
Politics and policy
• House Democrats postponed a vote on a budget measure that would increase spending after opposition from both the party’s liberal wing and fiscal hawks. (NYT)
• President Trump plans to issue executive orders that would speed up the building of oil and gas pipelines and make it harder for state regulators to interfere. (WaPo)
• Lawmakers are pushing a bipartisan bill that would prevent the I.R.S. from offering its own free tax-filing software. (ProPublica)
• Attorney General William Barr said that he planned to release a redacted version of the Mueller report “within a week.” (NYT)
• Demand for 737 jets in the first quarter fell 74 percent from the same time last year. (NYT)
• Aviation regulators from China and Europe have joined the F.A.A. panel reviewing the safety of the 737 Max 8. (Axios)
• The Trump administration said that a plan to impose tariffs on $11 billion worth of E.U. imports was not an attempt to shape a trade deal. (WSJ)
• In the past, the E.U. hasn’t worried about China too much as a threat. But at a summit meeting yesterday, that had clearly changed. (NYT)
• Microsoft has worked with a Chinese military-run university on A.I. research, some of which could be used for surveillance. (FT)
• YouTube had to shut down commenting on the livestream of a House Judiciary Committee hearing on white nationalism after it was overrun by racist comments. (CNBC)
• Goldman Sachs is shutting down an in-house email app, in a sign that it’s refocusing how it uses its engineering team. (Business Insider)
• Qualcomm is building its own A.I. chips in a bid to compete against Intel and Nvidia. (Reuters)
• Malware that was used to disable the safety systems of a petrochemical plant in Saudi Arabia has been used to compromise a second, unnamed industrial facility. (TechCrunch)
Best of the rest
• Standard Chartered agreed to pay $1.1 billion to settle allegations by the authorities in the U.S. and Britain that it violated money-laundering laws and economic sanctions. (NYT)
• PG&E is one of three utilities that failed to protect against cyber and physical attacks, federal regulators said. (WSJ)
• Federal officials dismantled a $1.2 billion Medicare fraud scheme that spanned continents and ensnared hundreds of thousands of elderly and disabled patients. (NYT)
• JetBlue is expected to begin trans-Atlantic flights. (CNBC)
• A former lawyer for SeaWorld Entertainment has pleaded guilty to insider trading. (WSJ)

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