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Cybersecurity in the Age of COVID: How to Protect Your Data

Anyone with a digital footprint should be on alert, especially GCs who safeguard consumer data. Read


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Regardless of what caused the tragedy, port facilities must have guidelines for safe storage of chemicals. Read


In Brief

Today's Top Story

Australia to Amend Law Making Facebook, Google Pay for News

The author of proposed Australian laws to make Facebook and Google pay for journalism said Thursday his draft legislation will be altered to allay some of the digital giants’ concerns, but remain fundamentally unchanged, reports the Associated Press (17 September, McGuirk). Australia’s fair trade regulator Rod Sims, chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, said he would give his final draft of the laws to make Facebook and Google pay Australian media companies for the news content they use by early October. Facebook has warned it might block Australian news content rather than pay for it. Google has said the proposed laws would result in “dramatically worse Google Search and YouTube,” put free services at risk, and could lead to users’ data “being handed over to big news businesses.” Sims said he is discussing the draft of his bill with the companies. It could be introduced into Parliament in late October. “Google has got concerns about it, some of it is that they just don’t like it, others are things that we’re happily going to engage with them on,” Sims told a webinar hosted by The Australia Institute. “We’ll make changes to address some of those issues — not all, but some,” Sims said. Among the concerns is a fear that under the so-called News Media Bargaining Code, news businesses “will be able to somehow control their algorithms,” Sims said. “We’ll engage with them and clarify that so that there’s no way that the news media businesses can interfere with the algorithms of Google or Facebook,” Sims said.

From "Australia to Amend Law Making Facebook, Google Pay for News"
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Legal Actions

Top EU Court Closes a Major Loophole in Europe's Net Neutrality Rules

Fortune (15 September, Meyer) reports that the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on Tuesday decreed that EU telecommunication providers cannot block or slow down online Internet traffic once a customer reaches their data cap, simply because that traffic is not covered by zero-rating agreements. Such agreements bundle online access with services whose use is excluded from data caps, and the court's move closes a key loophole in the bloc's 2015 net neutrality law. Net neutrality advocates alleged the loophole would give operators license to favor some traffic over other traffic for commercial gain. The CJEU ruling outlaws traffic discrimination and says the mere existence of such a policy is harmful to Internet users' rights.

From "Top EU Court Closes a Major Loophole in Europe's Net Neutrality Rules"
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Regulatory Developments

FTC Preparing Possible Antitrust Suit Against Facebook

Sources have told the Wall Street Journal (16 September, Kendall, McKinnon, Tracy) that the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is gearing up to file a possible antitrust lawsuit against Facebook Inc. by the end of the year. The case has the potential to challenge the company's dominant position in social media. The case preparations come after the FTC has spent more than a year investigating concerns that Facebook has been using its powerful market position to stifle competition, part of a broader effort by US antitrust authorities to examine the conduct of a handful of dominant tech companies. As the probe has been progressing into its late stages, Facebook has been in the process of making its case to the commission. Recent efforts by FTC staffers have included taking testimony from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, something they did not do during a previous investigation into the company's privacy practices that resulted in a US$5 billion settlement.

From "FTC Preparing Possible Antitrust Suit Against Facebook"
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Governance

Investors Expect Reprieve on Contentious US Shareholder Voting Rights Rule

Investors expect the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to drop a controversial provision in a new rule that would make it more difficult for them to push companies on issues such as climate change and social justice, three sources told Reuters (16 September, Johnson, DiNapoli). Later this month the SEC is scheduled to finalize the rule that would increase the threshold for submitting shareholder proposals at companies' annual general meetings. The securities regulator believes the decades-old rule should be modernized, but investors have made last-ditch attempts this month to stop the changes, the sources said. As a result, the SEC is expected to scrap one of the most unpopular provisions of the new rule, which would have permitted companies to exclude proposals that have declining shareholder support. The likely removal of the provision would be an important reprieve for supporters of social and environmental motions, which can take years on the ballot to gain support.

From "Investors Expect Reprieve on Contentious US Shareholder Voting Rights Rule"
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Technology

Nikola Board Member Defends Company Against Fraud Claims

Jeff Ubben, the founder of ValueAct and an early investor in Nikola, has strenuously defended the electric truck start-up and its leadership against fraud allegations from a short-seller, the Financial Times (16 September, Aliaj) reports. Nikola says it designs and manufactures trucks that run on hydrogen fuel cells or batteries as well as hydrogen fueling stations. In a scathing report released last week, short-seller Hindenburg Research called Nikola "an intricate fraud" and claimed the company is exaggerating progress on its technology. Hindenburg alleged Nikola faked a video and passed off technology it had bought as its own. "Nikola is a prototype shop," Ubben said. "We are not trying to sell trucks, we are trying to sell hydrogen." Nikola shares have fallen 40 percent since the publication of the Hindenburg report, and US regulators are looking into Nikola to examine Hindenburg's claims.

From "Nikola Board Member Defends Company Against Fraud Claims"
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Energy

EU Parliament Votes to Allow Some Gas Projects to Get Green Transition Money

The European Parliament announced Wednesday it has voted to allow some gas projects to tap the European Union’s flagship green transition fund, Reuters (16 September, Abnett) reports. The vote is likely to trigger a dispute with the bloc's executive and national governments, which have already agreed to exclude the fuel. The European Union is looking to launch a multibillion-euro Just Transition fund with cash from its coronavirus recovery fund and budget. The program's goal is to push members toward the EU goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. It also includes a stricter 2030 target for emission cuts. The final rules of the fund must be decided jointly by the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the bloc's national governments.

From "EU Parliament Votes to Allow Some Gas Projects to Get Green Transition Money"
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Food and Beverage

Kraft Heinz to Sell Part of Cheese Business to Lactalis in US$3.2 Billion Deal

Kraft Heinz has agreed to sell part of its cheese business to Lactalis in a US$3.2 billion deal, reports CNBC News (15 September, Lucas). Breakstone's, Polly-O, Athenos, Hoffman's, Knudsen, and Cracker Barrel are included in the deal, accounting for US$1.8 billion in net sales over the last 12 months. In addition, the French company will be licensing the Kraft cheese brand. The deal is on track to close in the first or second quarter of 2021 and is subject to regulatory approval. Kraft Heinz expects to use the proceeds to pay down its debt. As a result of the sale, Kraft Heinz CFO Paulo Basilio said the company expects its adjusted earnings per share to be diluted by five percent.

From "Kraft Heinz to Sell Part of Cheese Business to Lactalis in US$3.2 Billion Deal"
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Transportation

US Congressional Inquiry Faults Boeing and FAA Failures for Deadly 737 Max Plane Crashes

The US House Transportation Committee on Wednesday released an investigative report faulting both Boeing and the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for their roles in two fatal 737 Max airplane crashes that killed a total of 346 people, reports NPR (16 September, Schaper). The report, which was produced by the committee's Democratic staff, alleged a "disturbing pattern of technical miscalculations and troubling management misjudgments" by Boeing and "numerous oversight lapses and accountability gaps by the FAA." The report details the latest probe into the two fatal crashes, which occurred in autumn 2018 and spring 2019, and includes little new information. House Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, criticized Boeing and the FAA for their "mind-boggling' missteps. His committee is now drafting legislation that would overhaul the aircraft certification process and strengthen the FAA's oversight of airplane manufacturers.

From "US Congressional Inquiry Faults Boeing and FAA Failures for Deadly 737 Max Plane Crashes"
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Insurance

Cost of Insuring Board Directors From Lawsuits Doubles in COVID-19 Era

Data from Aon and Marsh show that the cost of protecting directors and senior company officials from lawsuits rose sharply in the second quarter of 2020, reports the Financial Times (16 September, Williams-Alvarez). Both Marsh and Aon tracked an increase in insurance premiums, with Marsh estimating a 60 percent rise and Aon a 74 percent rise. At AIG, the premium for directors and officers (D&O) coverage ending this year was US$18.3 million, up from US$17.3 million the year before. Industry insiders said the cost of D&O insurance was on the rise before the coronavirus pandemic, citing an increase in securities class action lawsuits, settlement amounts, cyberattacks, and controversies over corporate culture. Meanwhile, the varying sizes and scope of policies have made it harder to generalize the costs for individual companies. Most companies that have included insurance premium increases in regulatory filings report costs rising by the millions.

From "Cost of Insuring Board Directors From Lawsuits Doubles in COVID-19 Era"
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Economic Outlook

Americans Keep Spending, But Growth of Retail Sales Slows

New statistics from the US Department of Commerce showed that US retail sales rose 0.6 percent in August, the New York Times (16 September, Corkery, Maheshwari) reports, for a fourth consecutive month of growth. The gain was smaller than in recent months, however, prompting economists to warn that the retail recovery may be running out of steam. "The easy gains of reopening are behind us, and the down-side risk of slower growth is emerging,” said Scott Anderson, an economist at the Bank of the West. Retail outlook is further weakened by the fact that government stimulus programs that previously propped up consumer spending have ended, and Congress has not agreed on new stimulus measures yet. Meanwhile, unemployment remained high in August as large sectors of the economy, including hospitality, food service, and travel, remained shut down amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

From "Americans Keep Spending, But Growth of Retail Sales Slows"
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Cybersecurity

Dunkin Donuts' Hole in Cybersecurity Costs US$650,000 in Fines

Dunkin' Brands Group Inc., the parent company of Dunkin' Donuts, on Tuesday agreed to upgrade its cybersecurity protocols and pay US$650,000 in fines and costs to settle a New York state lawsuit, according to Fox Business (15 September). New York Attorney General Letitia James had brought the lawsuit against the company, alleging it ignored cyberattacks that compromised the online accounts and information of tens of thousands of customers. James said part of the settlement entails Dunkin' notifying customers who were impacted by the cyberattacks between 2015 and 2018, resetting their passwords, and providing refunds for unauthorized use of their Dunkin'-branded stored-value cards. Dunkin' did not admit fault as part of the settlement, which must still be approved by a judge.

From "Dunkin Donuts' Hole in Cybersecurity Costs US$650,000 in Fines"
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Corporate Social Responsibility

New Zealand Pushes Banks to Report on Climate Risks From 2023

New Zealand's Ministry for the Environment said the country plans to make climate-related disclosures mandatory for banks and other financial companies as soon as 2023, according to Bloomberg Green (15 September, Waite, Marsh). Roughly 200 organizations would be required to disclose exposure to climate risk, including listed companies and large financial institutions with over NZ$1 billion (US$673 million) in assets under management. Details to be provided would include descriptions of the board's management of climate-related risks and opportunities, along with processes and targets. New Zealand's Financial Markets Authority would oversee and enforce the regime.

From "New Zealand Pushes Banks to Report on Climate Risks From 2023"
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