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North American Edition
21st July 2021
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Returning workers may bring new addictions
As employees return to offices, they may bring new addictions with them, reports the Chicago Tribune. Some people have been able to hide alcohol and drug use precipitated by the isolation and stress of the past year while working from home, but companies may soon have to contend directly with substance abuse as workers return to physical workspaces. “Without question, the workforce that’s returning is not the same as the one that left,” said Paula Allen, global leader of research and total well-being at LifeWorks, a Chicago-based company which promotes services to help employers with worker health and well-being. “We have a lot of anxiety. We have a lot of people on edge. We are seeing more unhealthy behaviors, including more risky substance use,” she says. Tom Britton, president and CEO of the Gateway Foundation, an Illinois-based addiction treatment organization, says employers risk being unable to spot problems until they become disruptive, noting that many managers are not trained to identify substance abuse issues or may feel uncomfortable asking staff about such matters. “Somebody has to (do something) really, really significant, do something obvious, to get caught in the workplace,” Britton said.
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Government-linked hacking may herald new era for cybersecurity
Cybersecurity and foreign policy experts say a ‘new normal’ of continuous, government-linked hacking may now be a permanent feature of the global order. The New York Times notes that a “near-bottomless pool of hackers-for-hire” has emerged amid globalization and advances in consumer technology. Many of the hackers – who are usually hired through dark web platforms that offer anonymity for both parties – are typically young people in countries where legitimate employment is scarce. Joshua Rovner, who was scholar-in-residence at the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command until 2019, has said that hacking had become “an open-ended competition among rival states” that resembles, and is often an extension of, the espionage that was prevalent in the 20th century.
Credit Suisse loses Middle East staff amid ‘toxic’ work culture
Interviews with more than two dozen individuals familiar with Credit Suisse’s Middle East and Africa wealth business, including past and present employees, suggest a toxic office culture including intimidation and bullying, reports Bloomberg.  Some people were pushed to take excessive risks that contributed to client losses, according to the interviews. The nominal focus of the complaints is Bruno Daher, the Swiss lender’s top executive in the Middle East. His management style has made Credit Suisse a regional powerhouse – but some of the interviewees have said that they are traumatized even just recalling their experience of working under Daher. The interviewees said they were willing to speak about their experience because they have more potential career options now that other banks, including UBS, Julius Baer and Goldman Sachs, intend to expand in the Middle East.
Amazon to slow COVID-19 testing for U.S. warehouse workers
Amazon is to slow COVID-19 testing for its U.S. warehouse employees by July 30th, according to a source familiar with the matter who said the retailer’s testing program for workers would resume if there were any changes in national or local public health guidance. The news was first reported by The Information, which cited a note circulated through an internal company app which indicated that free testing is "widely available" and employees "have many options available to them, including through health providers and public testing sites." Reuters notes that coronavirus cases in the U.S. are growing rapidly as the highly contagious Delta variant takes hold and vaccinations lag in a number of states.
U.S. food retail executives still mostly white and male
An investigation by USA Today reveals that America's food retail executives are still mostly white and male. Across the U.S., the largest demographic groups in the workforce are 63.6% white, 16.8% Hispanic of any race, and 11.2% Black, according to U.S. Census data compiled to match EEO definitions of industries and jobs. However, white people fill the overwhelming majority of executive jobs at Costco (87%), Starbucks (81%), Target (79%), Pepsi (77%), Mondelez International (76%), and Coca-Cola (74%), records obtained by USA Today show. McDonald's most closely reflects the nation's demographics among food and retail businesses, with white workers holding 66% of executive jobs while Hispanic workers hold 15% and Black workers 10%.
Ben & Jerry's to halt sales in Palestinian territories
Ben & Jerry's has said it will end the sale of its ice cream in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Unilever-owned ice cream maker said it was "inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry's ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT)." Ben & Jerry's said the move reflected the concerns of "fans and trusted partners." In a statement it said the changes will be made by allowing current licensing arrangements to expire at the end of next year. But the company will not say how it will stop its products from reaching places that it doesn't want them to be sold in. The Wall Street Journal reports on how Unilever has been put in a "tough spot." The Israeli government has called on the London-listed company to reverse its brand's decision, with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warning Unilever CEO Alan Jope in a call of “severe consequences,” and other Israeli lawmakers calling for a boycott.
Zoom bets billions on continued remote working
Video conferencing firm Zoom has struck a multibillion dollar deal to buy a cloud-based call centre operator in a bet on the future of hybrid working. The company announced the $14.7bn acquisition of Five9 in a blog post on Sunday. Zoom boss Eric Yuan said the deal would allow the company’s customers to "reimagine the way they do business," adding "This acquisition is . . . positioning us to accelerate Zoom's growth and play an even stronger role in driving the digital future, bringing companies and their customers closer together."  Five9's call centre software is used by more than 2,000 clients such as Under Armour, Lululemon and Olympus, and the deal is expected to be completed in the first half of 2022 having been approved by the boards of both companies. BBC News notes questions over the future of hybrid working, although technology firms including Google and Microsoft have invested in their video-conferencing offer during the pandemic.
BlackRock increases opposition to high executive pay in Europe
BlackRock has increased its opposition to executive pay in Europe over the past year, details of the asset manager’s voting records show, indicating an increased willingness to drive up corporate governance standards. BlackRock said it voted against management on 33% of “say-on-pay” proposals in European companies in the year to the end of June – up from 26% last year. This increase in opposition votes was “largely attributed” to BlackRock's opposition to adjustments that companies made during the pandemic. “BlackRock opposed executive pay programmes when companies were not able to explain how these adjustments supported long-term, sustainable value creation for shareholders, ” said Sandy Boss, global head of investment stewardship.
U.S. COVID induced recession lasted two months
The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) has said that the U.S. officially climbed out of a recession in April 2020, concluding a pandemic-driven economic contraction that lasted two months, making it the shortest on record. The announcement also marks April as the official start of the economic recovery from the initial shock of the coronavirus pandemic last spring, which triggered widespread business and school closures, a steep drop in demand for services and record job losses. The recession ended the country’s longest recorded economic expansion, which began in June 2009 and lasted 128 months, according to the bureau’s Business Cycle Dating Committee. Robert J. Gordon, a member of the NBER committee, said the recession was short because lockdowns imposed by states and localities in the spring of 2020 were also short. “The initial shock phase was so brief in part because people partially returned to stores out of necessity, and also because businesses learned to cope with such partial solutions as takeout restaurant food, as well as masks and social distancing,” Mr. Gordon said. He added that the fiscal stimulus passed by Congress played a key role in keeping the recession brief.
KPMG settles legal claims after failing to spot fraud at Chinese group
KPMG will pay about HK$650m (US$84m) to settle legal claims after failing to identify fraud at China Forestry ahead of its listing in 2009. Liquidators for the Chinese timber company claimed KPMG failed to detect during a pre-IPO audit that executives had falsified the company’s assets and revenue by submitting forged bank statements and customer records. They also claimed that some KPMG staff fabricated audit papers while carrying out the work.
Workers who miss breaks are entitled to premium pay, court says
The seven-member California Supreme Court has ruled in a unanimous decision that employees who work through meal and rest breaks must be paid overtime premiums and other nondiscretionary compensation for those periods under state law. The court said state employees' "regular rate of compensation," which must be paid when they are deprived of breaks, is the same as the "regular rate of pay" that is used to calculate overtime premiums, and so includes overtime pay, bonuses and other wages. The court rejected claims by Loews Hollywood Hotel, which was backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, that the state legislature deliberately chose to use the word "compensation" instead of "pay" to distinguish between wages owed under the two laws.
Tycoon takes refuge in France as Mexico seeks arrest in tax case
Mexican businessman Miguel Aleman Magnani is residing in France and fighting an arrest warrant in his native country on charges of tax fraud. He is accused of not paying 65m pesos ($3.2m) in taxes dating back to 2018 that the airline he co-founded, Interjet, collected from customers and employees but failed to forward to the government. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s officials have made criminal enforcement of tax laws a linchpin of a crackdown that has helped shore up revenue even amid the collapse of the economy last year from the coronavirus pandemic.
UBS brokerage pays $8m to settle with SEC
The brokerage arm of UBS Group has agreed to pay $8m to the U.S. securities regulator to settle claims that the bank failed to protect its clients when advisors sold a volatility-linked, exchange-traded product, holding the product in client accounts for lengthy periods that resulted in "meaningful losses."

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