7 Republicans Swear Off Campaign Money From Big Tech: Live Updates

Here’s what you need to know:

Credit…Joe Skipper/Reuters

A group of seven House Republicans said on Wednesday that they would no longer take donations from major tech companies or their top executives, a sign of the growing distance between some conservatives and big business.

The lawmakers said in a letter that the companies limited the reach of conservative voices, citing bans on the chat app Parler after it was used by participants in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, and abused their market power.

“These monopolies have shown that personal liberty can be threatened by corporate tyranny just as much as by government tyranny,” they said in the letter. All but one of the lawmakers are members of the Judiciary Committee, which oversees the antitrust questions confronting the tech companies.

The pledge was led by Representative Ken Buck of Colorado, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee. Mr. Buck said last month that he would not accept money from the tech giants’ political action committees.

For years, lawmakers on the right have attacked Google, Twitter and Facebook, accusing the companies of unfairly removing content posted by conservatives. The lawmakers have also accused Amazon and Apple of stifling competition. In recent weeks, some conservatives have turned on other major businesses — traditionally their allies in efforts to deregulate the economy — that have opposed their positions on voting rights and other issues.

Five of the lawmakers received donations from the corporate political action committees of Google, Facebook and Amazon in the last election cycle. Representatives Chip Roy of Texas, Gregory Steube of Florida and Andy Biggs of Arizona, who signed the pledge, all received a combined $3,500 in donations. Representative Ralph Norman of South Carolina (not Oklahoma, as previously reported here) received $1,000 from Amazon’s political committee.

But it is also possible that some of the lawmakers who signed the pledge will not have to turn any donations down in the near future. Amazon and Google froze donations to lawmakers who voted against certifying the election results after the Jan. 6 attack. Facebook paused all of its political donations.

Mr. Steube and Mr. Norman, as well as Representatives Dan Bishop of North Carolina and Burgess Owens of Utah, all objected to the results of the presidential election.

Mr. Bishop and Mr. Owens both signed the pledge even though they did not receive money from the firms’ political committees last election cycle.

JPMorgan Chase said it was bringing on more workers and focusing on managing its bankers’ hours better. Credit…Justin Lane/EPA, via Shutterstock

On Tuesday, JPMorgan Chase’s co-heads of investment banking, Jim Casey and Viswas Raghavan, announced policies aimed at improving working conditions amid record deal volume and an industrywide debate about banker burnout, especially in the junior ranks.

The country’s largest bank has tried similar moves before. Mr. Casey spoke with the DealBook newsletter about the company’s latest plan — and whether this one will stick.

Burnout became the buzz on Wall Street after a group of 13 anonymous first-year analysts at Goldman Sachs described how frequent 100-hour weeks were taking a toll on their mental and physical health.

To help alleviate that level of exhaustion among its own ranks, JPMorgan is bringing on more workers to help cope with heavy deal volume, which generated $3 billion in investment banking fees in the first quarter, up nearly 60 percent from the previous year. It has already hired 65 analysts and 22 associates this year and plans to add another 100 junior bankers and support staff, “if we can find them, as quickly as we can,” Mr. Casey said.

It’s also focused on managing its bankers’ hours better. JPMorgan will tell associates not to do marketing work on weekends. It will encourage all bankers to go home by 7 p.m. on weekdays and add more flexibility for personal time. It will force bankers to take at least three weeks’ vacation a year. It will require group heads to call two to three junior bankers every day to find out what’s working.

Some of these actions are similar to what JPMorgan rolled out in 2016, but “it wasn’t stringently enforced,” Mr. Casey said. Why not? “Laziness.”

This time, junior bankers’ hours and feedback will figure in senior managers’ performance evaluations and — crucially — compensation.

One thing the bank won’t be doing: offering one-time checks or free Peloton exercise bikes to staff after a big rush, like at some other banks. “It’s not a money problem,” Mr. Casey said. “If we just cut the junior bankers a check now,” he said, “then that would be the excuse that everybody says, ‘Well, OK, the problem is fixed.’ No, it’s not.”

And some other things won’t change. Banking is a client-service job, so managers sometimes have limited control over workloads and hours. “You might do 100 deals a year, but that client only does one deal every three years,” Mr. Casey said.

As to how the bank will measure the success of these policies, “ask me what our turnover ratio has gone to and I will tell you,” Mr. Casey said. What’s the target? “Lower.”

American Airlines expects to hire about 300 pilots this year and twice as many next year.Credit…Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

American Airlines plans to bring back all of its pilots by the end of summer and start hiring new ones this fall, reflecting optimism across the industry that widespread vaccinations will encourage more people to book flights.

The airline expects to hire about 300 pilots this year and twice as many next year, Chip Long, American’s vice president of flight operations, said in a note to pilots on Wednesday. He added the airline planned to honor offers it made to new pilots but didn’t fulfill last year when the pandemic crushed demand for tickets.

United Airlines also said this month that it would restart pilot hiring and expected to make about 300 offers this year.

“The return to flying of so many of our pilots and the addition of hundreds more, the resumption of many old routes and the introduction of new destinations are hopeful signs, opportunities to look beyond the immediate and into a brighter future,” Mr. Long said.

A spokesman for the union that represents American’s pilots, the Allied Pilots Association, welcomed the news but said it should come with more scheduling certainty for its members.

“We have faith that we can get it done, but we have to have the tools to do it,” said the spokesman, Dennis Tajer, who is also a pilot at American.

Airlines have been heartened by the increase in bookings over the past month and are optimistic that even more people will fly this summer. American has said it expects this summer to offer more than 90 percent of the seats on domestic flights as it did in 2019 and 80 percent of the seats on international flights.

Still, the airline is expected to report a large loss for the first three months of the year when it announces quarterly results on Thursday morning.

The company that began as Krystle Mobayeni's side project, BentoBox, scaled up significantly in the pandemic to help restaurants.Credit…Gili Benita for The New York Times

The past year has crushed independent restaurants across the country and brought a reality to their doors: Many were unprepared for a digital world.

Unlike other small retailers, restaurateurs could keep the tech low, with basic websites and maybe Instagram accounts with tantalizing, well-lit photos of their food. It meant businesses like BentoBox, which aims to help restaurants build more robust websites with e-commerce abilities, were a hard sell, Amy Haimerl reports for The New York Times.

For many, BentoBox’s services were a “nice to have,” not a necessity, the company’s founder, Krystle Mobayeni, said.

But the pandemic sent chefs and owners flocking to the firm as they suddenly needed to add to-go ordering, delivery scheduling, gift card sales and more to their websites. Before the pandemic the company, based in New York City, had about 4,800 clients, including the high-profile Manhattan restaurant Gramercy Tavern; today it has more than 7,000 restaurants on board and recently received a $28.8 million investment led by Goldman Sachs.

The moment opened a well of opportunity for other companies like it. Dozens of firms have either started or scaled up sharply as they found their services in urgent demand. Meanwhile, investors and venture capitalists have been sourcing deals in the “restaurant tech” sector — particularly seeking companies that bring the big chains’ advantages to independent restaurants.

“The E.U. is spearheading the development of new global norms to make sure A.I. can be trusted,” said Margrethe Vestager of the European Commission.Credit…Yves Herman/Reuters

  • The European Union on Wednesday unveiled strict regulations to govern the use of artificial intelligence. The rules have far-reaching implications for major technology companies including Amazon, Google, Facebook and Microsoft that have poured resources into developing artificial intelligence. “With these landmark rules, the E.U. is spearheading the development of new global norms to make sure A.I. can be trusted,” Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission executive vice president who oversees digital policy for the 27-nation bloc, said in a statement.

  • Netflix reported the addition of four million new customers in the first quarter, below the six million it had forecast. The company expects to add only one million new customers for this current quarter ending in June. Netflix shares plummeted about 10 percent in after-hours trading.

  • Apple unveiled new products on Tuesday that showed how it continued to center its marketing pitch on consumer privacy, at the potential expense of other companies, while muscling into markets pioneered by much smaller competitors. Apple showed off a new high-end iPad and an iMac desktop computer based on new processors that Apple now makes itself. The company said it was redesigning its podcast app, which competes with companies like Spotify, to enable creators to charge for their shows. It revealed the AirTag, a $29 disc that attaches to key rings or wallets so they can be found if lost. And after its product show, Apple said that it planned to release iPhone software next week with a privacy feature that worries digital-advertising companies, most notably Facebook.

U.S. stocks rose on Wednesday, reversing some of the previous day’s drop. The sentiment in stock markets this week has shifted from the optimism that recently set record highs amid growing concerns about coronavirus variants that are leading to new outbreaks.

The S&P 500 ticked up 0.4 percent after falling 0.7 percent on Tuesday.

The Stoxx Europe 600 index rose about 0.5 percent after plunging 1.9 percent on Tuesday. That was the biggest one-day decline since December.

Oil prices fell, with futures on West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, declining 1.2 percent to just below $62 a barrel.

  • Netflix shares dropped nearly 8 percent after its latest earnings report. For the first quarter of 2021, Netflix said after markets closed on Tuesday that it added four million new customers, less than the six million it had forecast. It’s another sign that, although Netflix still dominates streaming, its rivals are starting to catch up.

  • As plans for a European Super League for soccer rapidly fell apart on Tuesday, shares in publicly traded football clubs that had joined the group dropped. Manchester United shares fell in New York, extending a 6 percent drop from the previous day. Shares in Juventus, an Italian club, tumbled more than 10 percent.

  • Inflation in Britain rose less in March than economists predicted. The annual rate of price increases was 0.7 percent, data published Wednesday showed, up from 0.4 percent in February. The jump is notable, but it is less than the 0.8 percent analysts had predicted. As in the United States, policymakers and economists expect some of the increase to be temporary and explained by transitionary factors such as the steep drop in oil prices this time last year. Therefore, bets are that the central bank won’t reduce its monetary stimulus yet.

A growing number of retirees and those approaching retirement are in debt.

The share of households headed by someone 55 or older with debt — from credit cards, mortgages, medical bills and student loans — increased to 68.4 percent in 2019, from 53.8 percent in 1992, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. A survey at the end of 2020 by Clever, an online real estate service, found that on average, retirees had doubled their nonmortgage debt in 2020 — to $19,200.

Susan B. Garland reports for The New York Times on what to do if you’re in this position:

  • Consult a nonprofit credit counseling agency, which will review a client’s expenses and income sources and create a custom action plan. The initial budgeting session is often free, said Bruce McClary, senior vice president for communications at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. An action plan could include cutting unnecessary spending, such as selling a rarely used car and banking some proceeds for taxi fare.

  • Tap into senior-oriented government benefits, such as property tax relief, utility assistance and Medicare premium subsidies. The National Council on Aging operates a clearinghouse website for them, BenefitsCheckUp.org. “The average individual 65-plus on a fixed income is leaving $7,000 annually on the table” in unused benefits, said Ramsey Alwin, the council’s president.

  • Avoid using high-interest credit cards to fill income gaps. Medical bills typically charge little or no interest but turn into high-interest costs if placed on credit cards, said Melinda Opperman, president of Credit.org. Instead, she said, patients should call hospitals or other providers directly to work out an arrangement.

  • Avoid taking out home-equity loans or lines of credit to pay off credit cards or medical bills, said Rose Perkins, quality assurance manager for CCCSMD, a credit counseling service. Though tapping home equity carries a lower interest rate than a credit card, a homeowner could put a home at risk if a job loss, the death of a spouse or illness made it difficult to pay off the lender, she said.

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