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17th March 2023
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Microsoft adds OpenAI technology to Word and Excel
Microsoft says it is bringing generative artificial intelligence technologies such as the ChatGPT chat assistant to its Microsoft 365 suite of business software. The company said the new AI features, dubbed Copilot, will be available in some of its most popular business apps including Word, PowerPoint and Excel. In February, Microsoft debuted a new version of its Bing search engine that included a chatbot powered by OpenAI’s GPT-4 language technology. OpenAI publicly revealed its GPT-4 software earlier this week and pitched it as being more capable than the GPT-3 technology. “Today marks the next major step in the evolution of how we interact with computing, which will fundamentally change the way we work and unlock a new wave of productivity growth,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said, adding “With our new copilot for work, we’re giving people more agency and making technology more accessible through the most universal interface — natural language.”
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Courts siding with large companies in privacy appeals
The Wall Street Journal looks at how big companies are winning appeals to overturn regulatory decisions they claim violate European privacy laws. In recent rulings, courts in the U.K., Spain, Italy and Germany sided with companies including Experian, Amazon and Italian energy giant Enel SpA, in some cases quashing multimillion-dollar fines and reaffirming companies’ arguments that their data practices comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Edward Machin, a lawyer in the London office of Ropes & Gray, said: "We’re starting to see the through line of companies starting to pick their battles and spend the time and effort on the appeals they think they can win and would have an effect on their business models." Flora Egea Torrón, a partner at Spanish law firm Legal Army S.L., said appeals of major GDPR decisions show a significant amount of “gray area” where privacy lawyers, regulators and courts disagree over what the law allows. “There’s so much room still to interpret GDPR, so that’s why [companies] have to fight against the decisions” from regulators, she said. 
Amgen sued for failing to timely disclose $10bn tax bill
Pharmaceutical giant Amgen misled investors about its financial health by failing to reveal that it may be liable for payment of more than $10bn in back taxes and penalties, the Detroit-based United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers, Local 149, has claimed in a lawsuit. Lawyers for the pension fund said Amgen’s failure to disclose the tax dispute caused its stock to trade at artificially inflated prices — “ultimately causing investors to suffer hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.” Separately, Amgen said on Thursday it would cut 450 jobs, or less than 2% of its workforce, making it the company's second round of layoffs this year amid intensifying pressure on drug prices and high inflation. "We made these changes to realign our expense base in the face of intensifying pressure on drug prices and high levels of inflation," a company spokeswoman said in a statement to Reuters.
HR layoffs at Meta
Meta has begun the job cuts announced by the social media company earlier this week, starting with 1,500 employees in recruiting and human resources, according to people familiar with the matter. During an internal meeting with employees, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the economic climate of layoffs and restructuring could last “many years,” the people said.
Swiss banks oppose idea of forced merger
UBS and Credit Suisse are opposed to a forced merger, Bloomberg has reported, citing people with knowledge of the matter. UBS prefers to focus on its own wealth-centric strategy and is reluctant to take on risks related to Credit Suisse, the report said, as the smaller rival seeks additional time to complete its restructuring efforts after receiving financial support from the Swiss central bank. Wall Street bank JPMorgan on Wednesday said that Credit Suisse's takeover by another lender, probably UBS, was the most likely scenario for the beleaguered bank.
SEC proposes new cybersecurity rules for financial firms
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has proposed new cybersecurity and resiliency rules that would require brokers and asset managers to inform their customers of data breaches. The customer-notification requirement would give firms no more than 30 days to alert individuals whose sensitive information was likely to have been accessed without authorization. The new rule would come alongside additional expansions to the SEC’s 24-year-old regulation governing financial firms’ protection of customer data. SEC chair Gary Gensler said the market turmoil since last week’s failure of Silicon Valley Bank highlights the importance of such projects. Meanwhile, the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has launched an inquiry to examine companies that track and collect personal data, requesting public feedback about the business models and practices data brokers use. It marks the latest move from the regulator to explore how various firms use personal financial data, and could inform future rulemaking. “Modern data surveillance practices have allowed companies to hover over our digital lives and monetize our most sensitive data,” said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra in a statement. “Our inquiry will inform whether rules under the Fair Credit Reporting Act reflect these market realities.”
U.S. regulators to visit Hong Kong for audit inspections
Officials from the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) are set to start a fresh round of inspections of Chinese companies' auditors in Hong Kong. The audit watchdog will reportedly look at branches of EY, Deloitte, PwC and some other audit firms in both Hong Kong and mainland China. Sources say a group of Chinese officials from the China Securities Regulatory Commission and the Ministry of Finance will assist the inspection in Hong Kong. The U.S. last year agreed a deal with China to settle a dispute over auditing compliance of U.S.-listed Chinese firms. Authorities in China had been reluctant to let overseas regulators inspect local accounting firms, citing national security concerns. The first round of inspections saw the PCAOB select a mainland branch of KPMG and a Hong Kong branch of PwC.
FASB opens comment period on income tax disclosure improvements
The FASB is inviting public comment on a proposed accounting standard update that would require preparers and companies to provide more explicit breakdowns on the taxes they pay and where they pay them. The more stringent standards would make companies detail the income taxes paid to federal, state and foreign entities and, in effect, require companies to identify any jurisdiction that receives more than 5% of the company’s total tax payments. FASB Chair Richard Jones said: “The FASB’s proposed improvements to income tax disclosure, primarily related to the rate reconciliation and income taxes paid information, are intended to help investors better assess how an entity’s worldwide operations and related tax risks and tax planning and operational opportunities affect its tax rate and prospects for future cash flows." Comments on the proposed ASU, Income Taxes (Topic 740): Improvements to Income Tax Disclosures, will be accepted ahead of a May 30th deadline.
Trafigura’s head of metals operations to leave
Svetlana Kabanova, trading house Trafigura’s head of metals operations, is leaving the company as part of a global restructuring of its logistics team. The shakeup is just the latest at the metal trader since it was embroiled in a massive alleged nickel fraud. Trafigura’s metals team has been under pressure since it was revealed that it was facing losses of $577m after finding that metal cargoes it bought didn’t contain the nickel they were supposed to. Trafigura has said it doesn’t believe that any of its employees were complicit in what it called a “systematic fraud.”
Protests as French government pushes through higher retirement age
Police in Paris have clashed with protesters after the French government decided to force through pension reforms without a vote in parliament. Crowds converged on Place de la Concorde in response to a raise in the retirement age from 62 to 64. Unions vowed to maintain their opposition to the pension changes. The Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT) said another day of strikes and demonstrations is being planned for Thursday 23rd March. “By resorting to [constitutional article] 49.3, the government demonstrates that it does not have a majority to approve the two-year postponement of the legal retirement age,” tweeted Laurent Berger, head of the CFDT, one of the unions leading the protests.
Urgent investment is needed to improve conditions for key workers, ILO says
The International Labour Organization (ILO) says the essential workers who kept societies and economies going while the world was in COVID lockdown urgently need better pay and conditions if countries are to be ready for the next global crisis. “In a number of countries, key sectors are facing labor shortages, because people are increasingly reluctant to engage in work which is not properly, adequately, fairly valued by society and rewarded in terms of better pay and improved working conditions,” said Manuela Tomei, Assistant Director-General for Governance, Rights and Dialogue at the ILO. According to a new report from the ILO drawing on data from 90 countries, key workers remain severely “undervalued” and their contributions insufficiently recognised. Key recommendations in the ILO report include the strengthening of regulation in essential areas such as wages and workplace safety, and targeting investments in the health and food sectors and in support of small businesses.
Bank of Israel chief warns on risks from legal plans
Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron say the government's proposed legal overhaul could harm judicial independence and precipitate a dangerous brain drain. “The changes in the judicial reform could weaken some of this independence” of the legal system, Yaron said in an interview with CNN. “Moreover, the process itself is a hasty one and does not have a wide agreement in the public.” He added: “The independence of the governor, the independence of the central bank, are critical to the economy . . . Any country that has tinkered, let alone weakened, the independence of the central bank has suffered dire economic consequences. I believe all our leaders and decision-makers ultimately understand this and therefore would not come close to touching the independence of the bank.”
TikTok partners with UAE organisation on future of work
TikTok and INJAZ UAE, a member of the world's largest non-profit business education organisation for education and training in workforce readiness, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship across the Arab World, have partnered to explore the future of work through workshops and panel discussions at a day-long session examining shifting workforce trends, emerging industries, and the impact of technology. Talal Alfayez, Head of Public Policy, TikTok MENAT, said: “At TikTok, one of our long-term aims has been to educate and empower the region's youth with workforce readiness and entrepreneurship and help connect the right skills with the new opportunities emerging across the Middle East. Our partnership with INJAZ will strengthen the region's pivot to a knowledge economy and equip young people to be ready for the future, thereby transforming today's youth into tomorrow's leaders.”

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