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Dec 17, 2019

Rick Gates sentenced to 45 days in jail, 3 years probation for conspiracy and lying to FBI in Mueller probe

Spencer S. Hsu

BREAKING: Rick Gates was sentenced to 45 days in jail and three years probation for conspiracy and lying to the FBI. The jail time can be served over weekends or on a schedule developed in agreement with federal officials. This story will be updated.
Rick Gates, once the indispensable right-hand man to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and a star witness in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia probe, is being sentenced Tuesday morning in federal court in Washington.
A globe-trotting lobbyist who for a decade helped manage Manafort’s affairs in Ukraine and London, Gates, 47, pleaded guilty in February 2018 to lying to the FBI and conspiring to conceal tens of millions of dollars earned from lucrative lobbying work he and Manafort had done for Ukraine.
Gates, dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and light blue tie, appeared relaxed as U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson began the proceedings by noting she had read letters supporting a lenient sentence.
Gates’s original plea deal called for a possible five- or six-year prison term, but federal prosecutors in court filings last week said they would not oppose his attorney’s request for no prison time, citing “extraordinary assistance” in the special counsel investigation, which sought to learn whether any Americans conspired with Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election.
“Under exceedingly difficult circumstances and under intense public scrutiny, Gates has worked earnestly to provide the government with everything it has asked of him and has fulfilled all obligations under his plea agreement,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Molly Gaston wrote in a sentencing recommendation this month.
Gates’s attorney requested probation and community service.
“We submit that Richard Gates has accepted responsibility for his misconduct in every way possible,” his attorney, Thomas Green, wrote.
Several former members of the special counsel team came to court for the sentencing, including Andrew Weissmann, who oversaw the Manafort investigation. He warmly greeted both Gates and his lawyer Thomas Green. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District assumed the case in March when the special counsel probe concluded.
Gates, of Richmond, has complied with three congressional subpoenas and spent more than 500 hours with federal and state prosecutors, Green said. He cooperated with prosecutors while caring for his wife, whom supporters said was diagnosed with breast cancer this year, and their four children.
Tuesday’s sentencing comes more than two years after Gates and Manafort became the first individuals publicly charged in Mueller’s investigation of Russian election interference, in October 2017.
Manafort served as Donald Trump’s campaign chairman until August 2016, when he resigned as word of his Ukraine work surfaced. However, Gates remained until Election Day, working at one point for the Republican National Committee, and then became deputy chairman of Trump’s inaugural committee.
While Manafort battled some of his charges through trial and reneged on a plea deal by lying to prosecutors after admitting guilt to other offenses, Gates never backtracked from his plea or cooperation.
Gates voluntarily admitted to criminal conduct that prosecutors did not previously know of and pledged to keep cooperating “in several ongoing matters” after his sentencing, prosecutors said.
Gates is one of six Trump aides or associates convicted in cases arising from the special counsel probe, and he served as a witness in three trials. He provided firsthand insights into the president’s senior aides and activities and gave information used in a dozen search warrant applications, the government said.
During a 2018 trial of Manafort in Virginia, Manafort’s defense attorneys hammered Gates’s credibility, pressing him to admit to jurors that he had embezzled from Manafort, kept mistresses and doctored tax returns.
But Gates’s testimony proved crucial, leading the Virginia jury to convict Manafort, who later pleaded guilty in another federal case in Washington.
Manafort was sentenced early this year to 7½ years in prison in both cases for conspiring to defraud the United States by concealing $30 million of what he earned while working for a Russia-backed political party in Ukraine; conspiring to tamper with witnesses; and committing bank and tax fraud to buy properties and support his lavish lifestyle.
The conduct at the heart of the charges against both men mostly predated their time on the campaign and Mueller’s appointment in 2017.
Jackson presided over Manafort’s case in Washington and two other trials in which Gates testified for the government: against Trump confidante Roger Stone and Democratic power lawyer Gregory B. Craig.
Gates was in court as a witness in August assisting Mueller’s spinoff probe of Washington lobbyists and the foreign influence industry. He testified for the government in the prosecution of Craig, a former top legal adviser to presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Craig was found not guilty at trial in September of lying to the Justice Department to conceal media contacts in 2012 related to his work with Manafort for the Ukrainian government.
In Stone’s trial in November, Gates revealed details of the Trump campaign’s intense interest in emails that the government alleged were hacked by Russia and released by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks to derail Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Gates’s testimony included describing a phone call between Stone and Trump at a key moment in the campaign in late July 2016, in which Gates said Trump seemed to discuss WikiLeaks, calling into question the president’s assertion to Mueller’s office that he did not recall such discussions with his longtime friend.
As part of Gates’s plea, he admitted to conspiring to defraud the United States with Manafort, including keeping $3 million himself. He also pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during an interview in which he was trying to secure a plea deal.
The charge of lying concerned Gates’s claim that a March 2013 meeting with a lobbyist and a congressman did not include a discussion of Ukraine.
“Gates’ cooperation has been steadfast,” Gaston wrote, “despite the fact that the government has asked for his assistance in high profile matters, against powerful individuals, in the midst of a particularly turbulent environment.”

Boeing Crisis Could Hit the Broader Economy

11-14 minutes - Source: NYT

Credit...Lindsey Wasson/Reuters
Boeing halts production of the 737 Max
Boeing’s announcement that it would suspend production in January of its most popular plane, the 737 Max, is the culmination of the worst crisis in the company’s 103 years, the NYT’s David Gelles and Natalie Kitroeff report.
The plane has been grounded since two crashes killed nearly 350 people within five months, and its return to service remains uncertain. Rather than continue making new jets, Boeing will focus on delivering the 400 Max planes it has waiting for clients.
The company’s reputation and stock price have been battered, with shares falling 25 percent since March. Boeing has announced more than $8 billion in charges related to the crisis, and more are expected.
The production halt will affect hundreds of suppliers around the U.S. and is expected to be felt across the economy, because Boeing is the country’s largest manufacturing exporter.
“It would be hard to have any other single company stop the production of a single product and have it hit the economy as hard as this would,” one economist told the WSJ.
But the decision will reduce losses for Boeing: The suspension will cut in half the $4.4 billion that Boeing has burned through each quarter by making and storing jets, a Jeffries analyst estimated.
Members of the Sackler family, the owners of Purdue Pharma, took $10 billion out of the company as pressure on the drugmaker over the opioid crisis increased in the past dozen years, the NYT’s Jan Hoffman and Danny Hakim report.
The money was distributed among trusts and overseas holding companies, according to a new audit commissioned by Purdue. The findings renew questions about how much the Sacklers should pay to resolve more than 2,800 lawsuits that seek to hold Purdue accountable for the opioid crisis.
The family has offered to contribute at least $3 billion as part of a settlement to resolve thousands of lawsuits brought by state and local governments against Purdue. But 24 states, led by New York and Massachusetts, have declined to sign the agreement.
“Ultimately, it does not answer a key question for investigators — how much the Sacklers are actually worth and where their money is,” the reporters write.
The judge overseeing Purdue’s bankruptcy has extended a shield against litigation to cover the Sacklers, hoping to encourage negotiations, the WSJ reports.
The American economy is on sounder footing after worries of a recession, but one part of the country is struggling: the Midwest, a region where President Trump had promised to restore jobs, write the NYT’s Ben Casselman and Karl Russell.
Mr. Trump has made the economy a centerpiece of his re-election campaign, after pledging in 2016 to restore jobs in long-struggling Midwestern communities.
“But job growth has slowed sharply this year in Michigan, Pennsylvania and other states that were critical to Mr. Trump’s victory in 2016, as well as in states like Minnesota that he narrowly lost,” the reporters write.
The two hardest-hit sectors are manufacturing and agriculture, both of which are suffering in Mr. Trump’s trade war. “We do believe that manufacturing is in a recession,” an economist at Moody’s Analytics said.
Yet voters in Midwestern states appear to be shrugging off the slowdown. “Early polls show Mr. Trump leading in the Midwest against several of his prospective Democratic opponents, and his approval ratings have remained largely steady,” Mr. Casselman and Mr. Russell write.
Rock-bottom interest rates that were meant to bolster an economic recovery in Europe are igniting a property boom that is creating new worries, reports the NYT’s Liz Alderman.
Lured by cheap money, borrowers are flocking to buy apartments and houses, and institutional investors are acquiring large tracts of residential real estate across Europe.
Soaring valuations are leading to concerns of a housing bubble: “Prices jumped at least 30 percent in Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Madrid and other metropolitan hot spots,” Ms. Alderman writes.
Local governments are intervening with rent controls, higher property taxes and subsidized housing programs as homeownership becomes increasingly unaffordable for almost anyone except high earners.
The financial authorities are on the alert, pursuing regulations and tax measures meant to rein in prices and promote housing affordability and availability.
More: The global economy is showing signs of strength, based on recent economic and trade reports from the U.S. and China, but Europe remains weak.
Amazon is blocking its third-party sellers from using FedEx’s ground delivery network for Prime shipments, citing a decline in performance heading into the final stretch of the holiday shopping season, writes the WSJ.
The ban on using FedEx’s Ground and Home services starts this week and will last “until the delivery performance of these ship methods improves,” according to an email, reviewed by the WSJ, that Amazon sent to merchants on Sunday.
The retailer had already stopped using FedEx for its own deliveries in the United States, but third-party sellers — whose merchandise represents half of sales on the site — were allowed to use it.
FedEx attributed some delays to weather conditions and said it recently had some of its highest-volume days ever, adding that its networks were “designed to accommodate the surge of packages.”
Amazon and FedEx ended two major contracts this year that totaled about $900 million in revenue for FedEx. The delivery company is shifting its focus to retailers that compete with Amazon, including Walmart and Target.
Amazon ships nearly a third of its packages on its own, Morgan Stanley has estimated, and could start a third-party shipping option that would present a threat to the established shipping channels.
Goldman Sachs announced an alternative-investments group yesterday in a preview of a strategic plan ahead of its investor day next month, writes the FT.
The strategy is a “unique opportunity” to attract more funds from outside investors, David Solomon, Goldman’s C.E.O., said in a staff memo about the platform, called the Alternatives Capital Markets and Strategy Group.
The platform will cover a wide range of investment strategies, “from the private equity, infrastructure and debt investments offered by Goldman’s merchant bank to the partnerships, co-investments and funds offered through Goldman’s investment management arm,” the FT writes.
“Attracting more third-party funds has been a key aim of Mr. Solomon and his lieutenants, who have spoken about creating an investment business like Blackstone, perhaps the world’s most powerful alternative money manager,” the FT reports.
• The group will be run by Chris Kojima, the company’s global head of alternative investments, and Mike Koester, the chief commercial officer for Goldman’s merchant bank.
The London Stock Exchange Group is set to reshuffle top management in a bid to turn around the unit that supplies technology to other exchanges and electronic marketplaces around the world.
Jeff Shell, head of NBCUniversal’s film and entertainment division, will become C.E.O. of NBCUniversal on Jan. 1.
• Intel is expanding its push into artificial intelligence with the acquisition of Habana Labs, a start-up based in Israel, for about $2 billion. (Reuters)
• Cineworld, a movie theater chain based in Britain, will buy Cineplex of Canada for $1.65 billion, making it the biggest cinema operator in North America. (Reuters)
• Hellman & Friedman, a private equity firm, is close to a deal to acquire the auto-trading unit of the German classifieds company Scout24. (Bloomberg)
• Uber is in talks to sell its food delivery business in India for about $400 million. (NYT)
Politics and policy
• Michael Bloomberg, a 2020 Democratic primary candidate, is showing the power of a virtually bottomless advertising budget. (NYT)
• Why wealthier families get a bigger tax credit for their children. (NYT)
• Ninety-one Fortune 500 companies essentially paid no federal taxes in 2018. (CNBC)
• Nearly all of Representative Jeff Van Drew’s staff in Washington resigned over the weekend as both Democrats and Republicans criticized his decision to switch parties. (NYT)
Trump impeachment inquiry
• Democratic lawmakers representing conservative-leaning districts announced yesterday that they would vote this week to impeach President Trump. (NYT)
• Rudy Giuliani said he had provided Mr. Trump with detailed information this year about how the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was, in Mr. Giuliani’s view, impeding investigations that could benefit the president. (NYT)
• More than 700 historians signed a letter urging the House to impeach Mr. Trump, saying that his disregard for the rule of law represented a “clear and present danger to the Constitution.” (The Hill)
• Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to change the law to guarantee that the Brexit transition phase is not extended, which could take Britain out of the E.U. without a deal. (Bloomberg)
• Technology companies have resisted a Trump administration request to stop sourcing supplies from some Chinese companies, a move that would essentially shut out Huawei. (FT)
• Companies in Poland are turning to robots amid labor shortages that are constraining one of Europe’s fastest-growing economies. (FT)
• Cisco Systems won a court challenge to halt the sale of Chinese counterfeit networking equipment on online marketplaces like Amazon and Alibaba. (WSJ)
• Netflix released new metrics showing its expansion overseas as competition stiffens in the U.S. (NYT)
• Hundreds of freelance writers at Vox Media will lose their jobs as the company prepares for a California law that will force companies to reclassify contractors as employees. (NYT)
• Two Las Vegas programmers have pleaded guilty to running huge unauthorized streaming services that the authorities say rivaled the libraries of Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu. (WaPo)
• Travis Kalanick, the Uber co-founder, sold $350 million in stock this month, bringing his proceeds to more than $2.1 billion since a share lockup ended in early November. (Bloomberg)
Best of the rest
• Retailers have made e-commerce easy for shoppers, but with online returns eating into profits, some companies are taking steps to discourage abuse of their policies. (Bloomberg)
• Friction between Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain and the BBC extends to its journalism as the country’s leader delivers broadsides against the broadcaster. (NYT)
• In a whistle-blower complaint to the I.R.S., a former investment manager says that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has amassed about $100 billion in accounts intended for charitable purposes, possibly violating federal tax rules. (WaPo)
• There are no standard clothing sizes, and the problem has worsened as shopping has shifted online. But a crop of companies is trying to solve the problem. (WSJ)
• Securities regulators have barred Tim Leissner, a former Goldman Sachs partner, from working in the industry just over a year after he pleaded guilty to helping orchestrate the looting of billions from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund. (NYT)
• A disease spreading from China has wiped out roughly one-quarter of the world’s pigs, reshaping farming and hitting the diets and pocketbooks of people around the globe. (NYT)
• Just 31 counties — the top 1 percent by share — made up 32.3 percent of U.S. gross domestic product last year. (Bloomberg)
• Some funds marketed as socially responsible by investment firms are drawing regulators’ attention to determine whether those claims are at odds with reality. (WSJ)

Analysis | The Cybersecurity 202: Pressure still on McConnell after $425 million election security deal

By Joseph Marks

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Democrats and activists plan to keep pressing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for major election security reforms — even after he endorsed delivering an additional $425 million to state and local election officials.
That money, which was part of a last-minute government funding deal, marks a major turnaround for McConnell, who for months refused to consider any new election security spending and only recently endorsed a far smaller cash infusion of $250 million.
But it doesn’t include any of the election security mandates that McConnell has long resisted and that cybersecurity experts say are vital, such as paper ballots and post-election audits.
Without those mandates, Democrats worry the Kremlin will still be able to upend the 2020 election by attacking the least-protected voting districts. Those concerns are also hyper-charged as intelligence and law enforcement agencies are already warning that not just Russia but also “China, Iran, and other foreign malicious actors” are all eager to compromise the election.
“Mitch McConnell refused to agree to safeguards for how this funding is spent, which means state and local governments will continue buying machines with major security problems,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who has called for strict security mandates on states. “Until Congress takes steps to secure the entire election system, our democracy will continue to be vulnerable to foreign interference.”
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) applauded the new funding on Twitter, but warned it is “*not* a substitute for passing election security reform legislation that Senate GOP leadership has been blocking all year.”
Let’s be very clear about this. More money for election security is good, but it is *not* a substitute for passing election security reform legislation that Senate GOP leadership has been blocking all year.
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) December 16, 2019
Some election security advocates, meanwhile, credited McConnell’s shift to a biting campaign that targeted the majority leader personally and during which activists and even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) branded him as “Moscow Mitch,” accusing him of being willing to accept Kremlin interference if he thought it would benefit Republicans.
“McConnell and other Republicans were under tremendous pressure to do something, and I don’t think the Moscow Mitch label hurt. I think the criticism clearly stung and was probably very helpful in getting their support for this,” Lawrence Norden, director of the Election Reform Program at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, told me.
“Moscow Mitch felt the pressure,” said Brett Edkins, political director for Stand Up America, which organized hundreds of calls to Senate Republican offices supporting election security funding and bought billboards mocking McConnell outside his Kentucky political offices.
McConnell deeply resented the smears and accused his critics of being part of an “outrage industrial complex” engaged in “modern-day McCarthyism.”
Republicans, meanwhile, were eager to present yesterday's deal as a responsible compromise that allows states to decide how best to spend their money rather than the federal government.
The deal also requires a 20-cents-on-the-dollar match by states that receive election security money, which was a key sticking point for Republicans who wanted to “make sure that states know that they need to invest in their own elections,” a person familiar with the negotiations told me.
McConnell hasn't yet commented on the new funding.
This is the second round of election security money from Congress, which delivered $380 million to states before the 2018 midterms, bringing the total value of state and federal money to about $900 million. That's a hefty sum but amounts to less than half of the $2.2 billion needed to fully upgrade the nation’s aging and vulnerable election infrastructure, according to a Brennan Center estimate.
It also comes close enough to the 2020 election that it's probably too late for many states and localities to use the money to buy new voting machines that will be ready for those elections. Instead, they're likely to use the money for things that don't require a complex certification process -- such as conducting post-election audits, hiring cybersecurity experts to advise on Election Day and developing plans to respond to hacking if it occurs.
“It’s fair to say there are probably many states who, if this money had come earlier, would have replaced voting machines and are now going to wait until after 2020,” Norden told me. “But there’s no question this is an important step.”
Some congressional Democrats and many state officials have urged Congress to provide a steady stream of election security funding so officials can keep machines consistently upgraded and respond to evolving threats.
That said, states won't look askance at the new money, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (R), president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, told me.
"A regular, steady stream is more useful to allow for better strategic planning, but I don’t think states are going to complain about receiving funds to help secure and improve elections," he said.
Pate also noted the funding is far from a cure-all.
“Election cybersecurity is a race without a finish line,” he said. “The threats are constantly evolving and we have to evolve with them.”


The Huawei logo. (Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters)
PINGED: A bill the House passed would devote $1 billion to small and rural phone and Internet providers to rip out and replace gear from the Chinese firm Huawei, which White House officials say could help spy for the Chinese government.  
The law would also prohibit telecommunication providers from using federal money to buy new equipment from Huawei and some other providers, mirroring a recent Federal Communications Commission push to ban those companies.
“Companies like Huawei and its affiliates pose a significant threat to America’s commercial and security interests because a lot of communications providers rely heavily on their equipment,” Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.) and ranking Republican Greg Walden (Ore) wrote in a statement.
The bill also requires communications providers to submit an annual report to the FCC informing the agency whether they purchased rented, leased or used national security-threatening equipment in the past year.
A similar Senate bill would provide just $700 million to replace Huawei gear and hasn't yet reached a floor vote.

New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards. (Gerald Herbert/AP)
PATCHED: New Orleans municipal and traffic courts remained closed yesterday after a cyberattack caused the city to declare a state of emergency on Friday. The city detected both phishing attempts and ransomware, but has yet to receive a ransom demand from hackers, city Chief Information Officer Kim LaGrue told reporters.
The city is still working to fully recover a number of systems, but officials said they'd only lost a “minimal” amount of data.
The hack is just the latest in a string of ransomware attacks on American cities, including, recently, the Florida city of Pensacola. The governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards, declared a state of emergency in July and again in November after hackers targeted state computer systems.

 WhatsApp logo. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)
PWNED: Researchers at the cybersecurity firm Check Point are sounding an alarm about a WhatsApp bug that allowed hackers to crash the apps of every member of a group chat by sending a message loaded with malicious computer code. WhatsApp fixed the issue after Check Point researchers notified the company in September, but users still need to update their apps to make sure they’re protected, Check Point said.
To launch the attacks, hackers would need to surreptitiously join a group chat and then send a seemingly innocuous message that would crash the app. The attack is particularly dangerous because of the prevalence of group chats, which can grow to more than 250 members.
WhatsApp also added new controls to prevent people from being added to groups without their knowledge, WhatsApp software engineer Ehren Kret said in a statement.


Swiss energy company BKW's Muehleberg nuclear power plant. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo
The Department of Homeland Security’s top cybersecurity leader defended a bill that would give the department increased legal powers to find out the identities of potential hacking victims that could put national security in danger if they were attacked -- such as energy plants and telecommunications companies -- in an op ed on the blog Lawfare.
Chris Krebs also pushed back against critics who have said it goes too far and could damage companies’ privacy.
“All our cybersecurity programs and services are completely voluntary,” he wrote. “No one has to work with us, though many in the public and private sectors choose to because they find the information and services we provide beneficial to their organization’s security.”
— More cybersecurity news from the public sector:

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) released tips Monday for campaigns.
The Hill

A voting machine that is widely used across the country contains some parts made by companies with ties to China and Russia, researchers found, fueling security questions.
Wall Street Journal

Weak encryption protocols and limited supply chain visibility had the Navy warning its members about using DJI drones, according to an internal letter.


— Cybersecurity news from the private sector:

Our privacy experiment found hundreds of sensors and an always-on Internet connection. Driving surveillance is becoming very hard to avoid.
Geoffrey Fowler

Hackers sent images of flashing strobe lights to the foundation’s thousands of Twitter followers in several attacks.
The New York Times

New Jersey’s largest hospital system said last week it paid an extortion fee to hackers who had disrupted medical facilities with a ransomware attack.


— Cybersecurity news from abroad:

Authorities say the blackout, now more than four months old, is due to security concerns.

Niha Masih, Shams Irfan and Joanna Slate

Alnylam gene-silencing therapy to treat kidney disorder succeeds in late-stage study

Tamara Mathias

(Reuters) - Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc’s gene-silencing therapy for a rare kidney disorder met the main goal of a late-stage study on Tuesday, bringing the company a step closer to marketing the first approved treatment for the condition.
The study tested Alnylam’s experimental drug, lumasiran, against placebo in patients aged six and above with primary hyperoxyluria type 1 (PH1), a life-threatening condition that is estimated to affect one in 58,000 people globally.
Alnylam plans to file for the drug’s approval in the United States and Europe early next year and hopes to launch the drug before the end of 2020.
The company’s president, Barry Greene, estimates the market opportunity for PH1 treatments to be over $500 million.
Lumasiran works using a mechanism called RNA interference (RNAi) to target and “silence” the genetic material involved in making excess amounts of a chemical called oxalate.
Excess oxalate builds up in the kidneys of patients with PH1, eventually leading to kidney and bladder stones. In severe cases, they may have to undergo dialysis, kidney or liver transplants.
In the trial, lumasiran was found to significantly reduce the production of oxalate in patients taking a monthly dose for three months, followed by maintenance doses, compared to those administered with a placebo.
Needham analyst Alan Carr had forecast global peak sales of between $450 million and $500 million for lumasiran in 2032, before the trial results were announced.
Alnylam already has two gene-silencing treatments in the market for rare hereditary disorders.
In 2018, Onpattro, Alnylam's treatment targeting a symptom of a potentially fatal condition called hereditary ATTR amyloidosis, became the first RNAi treatment to be approved in the United States. (
In November, the company received approval for Givlaari to treat acute hepatic porphyria, a rare disorder that can lead to severe pain and paralysis, respiratory failure and seizures.
Reporting by Ruhi Soni and Tamara Mathias; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi

Market Insider | Biggest Moves Premarket: Stocks making the biggest moves premarket: Roku, Boeing, Navistar, Guess, Netflix & more

Peter Schacknow

Check out the companies making headlines before the bell:

Navistar (NAV) – The truck maker earned $1.02 per share for its fiscal fourth quarter, 6 cents a share above estimates. Its revenue came in below Wall Street forecasts, however, hurt by lower industry demand and supplier production constraints during the prior quarter.
Goldman Sachs (GS) – Wells Fargo Securities analyst Mike Mayo increased his price target on Goldman to $280 per share from $240 a share. Mayo notes an improved outlook after a year of transition including new management, and earnings estimates that are above the Street's consensus.
Boeing (BA) – Boeing will suspend production of its grounded 737 Max jet in January, after continuing delays in obtaining the necessary approvals to return the jet to service. Boeing said it would reassign workers and does not expect to furloughs or layoffs. The news could also hit shares of Boeing suppliers like Spirit AeroSystems (SPR) and General Electric (GE).
Roku (ROKU) – Roku Chief Financial Officer Steve Louden will step down from that position. The maker of streaming video devices said Louden would remain until a successor is named.
Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) – The home goods retailer is replacing six senior executives, with new CEO Mark Tritton saying the move would streamline the company's decision making.
Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) – The boards of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot parent PSA Groupe are expected to meet today to talk about finalizing an agreement for a planned $50 billion merger of the two automakers.
Spark Therapeutics (ONCE) – Roche's acquisition of the drugmaker is expected to be completed today, following news that the Federal Trade Commission had approved the $4.3 billion acquisition. British regulators had given their approval earlier Monday.
Micron Technology (MU) – Wedbush upgraded the chipmaker to "outperform" from "neutral," noting an improved pricing environment for memory chips.
Guess (GES) – The apparel retailer was upgraded to "outperform" from "market perform" at Cowen, which points to new emphasis by the company on profit margins and free cash flow.
Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) – The bank's shares are under pressure, following stress tests of Britain's biggest banks. Investors are concerned that plans to double the bank's capital buffer could put 2020 share buyback plans in jeopardy.
Meet Group (MEET) – Meet Group could become a target of ProSieben, according to a Reuters report which said the German broadcaster is exploring the acquisition of the U.S.-based live streaming app developer.
Netflix (NFLX) – Netflix's Asia-Pacific business is growing at its fastest pace in three years. That's according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing detailing growth in the streaming service's international business.
Novartis (NVS) – Novartis abandoned its experimental asthma drug fevipiprant after it failed in late-stage trials. The drugmaker had been regarding the treatment as highly promising.
AMC Entertainment (AMC) – AMC is no longer North America's largest movie theater operator after Britain's Cineworld Group – owner of the Regal chain – struck a deal to buy Canadas Cineplex for $1.65 billion.
Unilever (UL, UN) – Unilever expects sales growth to be slightly below prior targets for the current year, although the consumer products giant has reaffirmed its earnings outlook.
Groupon (GRPN) – Goldman downgraded the deals provider to "sell" from "neutral" noting negative customer trends in both North America and internationally.

World Business | Economics: Global Stock Rally Stalls as U.S. Futures Struggle: Markets Wrap

By Todd White

U.S. stock futures dropped along with European shares on Tuesday as the global rally in equities eased. With the sugar rush of a partial trade deal between the two largest economies fading, investors pushed up the dollar and Treasuries.
Contracts on the S&P 500 index slipped from a record high close fostered by the partial U.S.-China trade agreement. Boeing Co. fell in pre-market trading after it decided to halt production of the grounded 737 Max model in January. The Stoxx Europe 600 likewise dropped from Monday’s record close, as Unilever tumbled in the wake of a sales-growth warning and led a slump in personal goods makers. U.K. shares were particularly volatile. Earlier in Asia a benchmark gauge rose to the highest level since mid-2018.
Sterling sank the most since July versus the euro after newly elected Prime Minister Boris Johnson proposed a legal change that revived the chances of a no-deal Brexit. European government bonds drifted higher. The dollar advanced against most of its biggest peers.

Record-breaking rally has turned global stocks overbought once again
Investor sentiment won a boost from the U.S. suspending its planned Dec. 15 tariff hike on Chinese imports. While a $44 trillion global gauge of stocks is close to an all-time high and benchmarks in Europe and the U.S. are also hovering near record levels, concerns linger over the strength of a China accord whose full details aren’t public. The warning by personal-goods bellwether Unilever also took some of the shine from improved forecasts for the global economy.
“We are in danger of peak optimism because we don’t have a trade deal signed and there are still some things that can go wrong,” Kristina Hooper, chief global market strategist at Invesco, said. “There is this general euphoria because economic policy uncertainty has come down, but I do think it could lead to frothy markets that could be made vulnerable if something goes wrong.”
Elsewhere, West Texas-grade oil held near a three-month high. In the metals market, palladium surged through $2,000 an ounce to a record, though it went on to erase the move and edge lower.
Here are some key events to watch for this week:
  • Policy decisions are due Thursday from the Bank of Japan and the Bank of England.
  • Federal Reserve district bank presidents including Robert Kaplan of Dallas, Eric Rosengren of Boston and John Williams of New York are scheduled to speak this week.
  • Revised U.S. GDP data are due Friday.
  • Friday brings quadruple witching in the U.S., the simultaneous expiration date of stock index futures, stock index options, stock options and single stock futures. Expect elevated trading volume, particularly in the last hour of trading.
These are the main moves in markets:


  • Futures on the S&P 500 Index dipped 0.1% as of 6:27 a.m. New York time.
  • The Stoxx Europe 600 Index sank 0.7%.
  • Germany’s DAX Index slumped 0.8%.
  • The U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index dipped 0.1%.
  • The MSCI Asia Pacific Index jumped 0.8%.


  • The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index increased 0.1%.
  • The British pound tumbled 0.9% to $1.3208.
  • The euro gained 0.2% to $1.1161.
  • The Japanese yen was little changed at 109.56 per dollar.
  • The South Korean Won advanced 0.5% to 1,166.10 per dollar.


  • The yield on 10-year Treasuries declined two basis points to 1.86%.
  • Germany’s 10-year yield dipped one basis point to -0.29%.
  • Britain’s 10-year yield decreased five basis points to 0.768%.


  • The Bloomberg Commodity Index was little changed at 80.22.
  • West Texas Intermediate crude increased 0.1% to $60.25 a barrel.
  • Gold gained 0.3% to $1,479.90 an ounce.
— With assistance by Abhishek Vishnoi, and Andreea Papuc

Europe Politics: Pound slumps 1% as Boris Johnson raises fresh risk of a no-deal Brexit

Holly Ellyatt

6-8 minutos - Source: CNBC

Premium: Prime Minister Boris Johnson Visits County Durham Following Election Victory
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures as he speaks to supporters on a visit to meet newly elected Conservative party MP for Sedgefield, Paul Howell at Sedgefield Cricket Club on December 14, 2019 in County Durham, England. F
WPA Pool

The pound fell more than 1% in early trade Tuesday after media reports said that the British government will make it illegal for the post-Brexit transition period to be extended, leaving little time for a trade deal to be agreed with the EU.
Local media reported early Tuesday that Johnson will add a revision to the Brexit bill (formally known as the Withdrawal Agreement Bill) that would explicitly rule out any extension to the transition period beyond December 2020. The U.K. is due to leave the EU by January 31, 2020.
The reports have raised concerns that the U.K.’s new, more empowered government under Prime Minister Boris Johnson could be steering the country towards a harder Brexit.
The legislation, if implemented, would leave only 11 months for a trade deal to be struck with the EU and many people think that is not enough time.
The pound initially fell to a low of $1.3236, down 0.7% from late Monday levels following the report by British broadcaster ITV, and later reported by the BBC and other media outlets.
Early Tuesday morning, the pound was down almost 0.4% against the dollar, at $1.3282 before weakening further to fall below $1.32.

The transition period seen as a time of adjustment for both sides post-Brexit. Crucially, it’s a time in which the EU and U.K. can negotiate a trade deal.
During the transition period, EU laws continue to apply in the U.K. as if it’s a member state, but the country would no longer be represented in the EU’s decision-making bodies. Currently, the transition period has the option of being extended for up to two years if both sides agree.
British media reports say that the Johnson’s government will try to make it illegal for the transition period to be extended in a bid to put more more pressure on the EU and to fast-track a trade deal.
Boris Johnson’s move comes from an emboldened Conservative Party which won a resounding victory in last week’s general election and gained a majority of 80 seats in Parliament. The win was seen as enabling Johnson to pursue his party’s own Brexit agenda more easily and Tuesday’s news appears to support that.
The U.K. has a vested interest in signing a speedy trade deal. It is keen to strike trade deals with other nations outside the bloc (a large part of the pro-Brexit argument was that leaving the EU would allow the U.K. to trade freely with the rest of the world) and while it can negotiate trade deals during the transition period, these cannot come into force until the transition period ends.
Experts think most countries will want to see what the U.K.’s trading relationship will be like with the EU before they negotiate their own trade deals with Britain, however.

Johnson empowered

Close follower of Brexit proceedings and J.P. Morgan Economist Malcolm Barr said that Johnson’s move was a surprise in that it was done without apparent pressure from a group of influential hard Brexit supporters, known as the European Research Group (ERG), from within the Conservative Party.
“As much as we anticipated that the possibility of extending the transition period would be removed from U.K. law, it comes as something of a surprise to us that Johnson appears to have done this entirely voluntarily, rather than as a result of pressure from amendments proposed by the ERG as the legislation came to the (House of) Commons. The signal of intent on his part is, in our view, very clear,” he said in a note Tuesday.
Following the latest media reports, Barr said the risk of a “no deal” end to the transition period stood at 25%, “a number we regard as uncomfortably high.”
“The negotiation process is path dependent and we could find ourselves on that path even though neither negotiating views it as their first preference,” he warned, although J.P. Morgan believes that some form of “deal” has a higher probability of 50%.
“Within the spectrum of probabilities, however, we are changing the numbers so that a simple (Withdrawal) Treaty amendment which changes the end date of the transition has less probability, while some form of “deal” has more. Given the commitment Johnson is now set to enshrine in law, it looks like whatever agreement is reached will be presented as a new deal, even if it takes large parts of the transition conditions and pushes them into 2021.”


The reported move to block any delay to is seen as a way for the government to show voters that backed the Conservative Party (many of whom doing so for the first time having abandoned the opposition Labour Party in droves) that it is determined for the U.K. to leave the EU without further delay.
Since the EU referendum in June 2016, many British voters have become frustrated with multiple instances of political deadlock. The Conservatives were seen to have performed well with much of the electorate in the election due to its mantra that it would “get Brexit done.”
The latest government move has drawn criticism from the opposition, with the Labour Party’s Shadow Brexit Secretary Kier Starmer saying it represents “reckless and irresponsible behavior we have come to expect from Boris Johnson’s Government.”
But Conservative Minister Michael Gove said Tuesday that the government was committed to securing a trade deal with the EU by the end of 2020, Reuters reported.
A weaker pound gave a little boost to U.K. equities Tuesday with London’s FTSE 100 index trading in positive territory while its continental counterparts traded lower. Maarten Geerdink, head of European equities at NN Investment Partners, told CNBC Tuesday that the latest reports from the U.K. would “produce another cliffhanger for Europe.”
“It will be another target that the market can focus on,” he told CNBC’s Capital Connection. “But I do think the fact that he (Prime Minister Boris Johnson) has such a huge majority in parliament does give him a lot more room to get the deal done.” Geerdink cautioned investors that “there is still some time to see how this plays out,” however.