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20th October 2021
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Facebook settles U.S. worker discrimination claims
Facebook has agreed to pay a record $14.5m to settle U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) claims that the tech giant discriminated against U.S. workers in its hiring practices and routinely favored overseas staff on temporary visas. The DOJ alleged that from January 2018 until September 2019, Facebook "refused" to recruit, consider or hire U.S. workers for more than 2,600 jobs. Under the settlement, Facebook will pay a civil penalty of $4.75m to the U.S. government, and up to $9.5m to eligible victims of the alleged discrimination. The pay-out is the biggest penalty of its kind issued by the DOJ's Civil Rights Division. Facebook said it "strongly believes" it met the federal government's standards. Separately, The Verge reports that Facebook is planning to change its company name next week to reflect a focus on building the so-called “metaverse.” The report, which cited a source with direct knowledge of the matter, said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg intends to discuss the rebranding at the company's annual Connect conference on October 28th, but the name could be revealed sooner. Facebook told Reuters that it "does not comment on rumor or speculation." Facebook describes its metaverse project as "a new phase of interconnected virtual experiences" that makes use of virtual and augmented reality.

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Credit Suisse spied on seven executives, regulator says
Switzerland’s financial regulator Finma says efforts by Credit Suisse to spy on top executives were broader than previously known, and senior managers were aware of at least some of the seven surveillance campaigns it documented, refuting the lender’s claims that rogue employees were to blame.  The report from the regulator, which says the bank breached Swiss supervisory law, concludes a nearly two-year investigation into the spying scandal that ultimately precipitated the departure of CEO Tidjane Thiam.  Credit Suisse had previously acknowledged that it surveilled two executives in 2019. Two additional cases were reported by the Wall Street Journal whereby private investigators were hired to follow one employee in New York suspected of using confidential information and another Asia-based employee in Asia who had threatened colleagues. Credit Suisse said on October 19th  that additional incidents cited by Finma were planned by a small group of former executives and were partly aimed at protecting employees’ physical safety. Meanwhile, Credit Suisse is to pay $475m in fines and forgive $200m of debt owed by Mozambique in a series of co-ordinated settlements with four regulators in three countries over the company’s role in the long-running “tuna bonds” loan scandal. The Swiss bank has reached separate agreements with the US Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission, the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority and Switzerland’s Finma over the affair. The loans were said to be aimed at government-sponsored investment schemes including maritime security projects and a state tuna fishery – but some funds were unaccounted for, with one of Mozambique’s contractors later found to have secretly arranged “significant kickbacks” worth at least $137m, including $50m for bankers at Credit Suisse meant to secure more favorable deals on the loans, according to regulators.
Southwest drops plan to put unvaccinated staff on unpaid leave
Southwest has scrapped a plan to put unvaccinated workers with pending exemptions on medical or religious grounds on unpaid leave after a December 8th  deadline. Airline spokeswoman Brandy King said that staff must produce proof that they got the shots, or file a request for an exemption from vaccination, by November 24th. Employees whose requests have not been processed or approved by the deadline date will be allowed to keep working, she said, in a move which sees the company backtrack from a previous position that staff who had not been vaccinated or received an exemption would be put on unpaid leave. "While we intend to grant all valid requests for accommodations, in the event a request is not granted, the company will provide adequate time for an employee to become fully vaccinated while continuing to work and adhering to safety protocols," King said. Meanwhile, American Airlines has said that staff who are granted medical or religious exemptions will probably have to wear face masks and be regularly tested. "American will not be placing any team members on unpaid leave as part of the federal vaccine mandate," said American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller.
Government moves against three states over Covid-19 worker safety
The Labor Department is moving to revoke state-level oversight of workforce safety programs in Utah, Arizona and South Carolina as a consequence of the three GOP-led states’ failure to adopt Covid-19 safety standards at least as effective as the federal government's standard, which includes requirements on masking, social distancing and paid leave for Covid-19 recovery. The Wall Street Journal describes the move by the federal government as the latest development in a fight between the Biden administration and some states over federal coronavirus rules. “The longer these states refuse to adopt an emergency temporary standard for health-care workers, the longer they're needlessly putting thousands of workers at risk of the spread of the coronavirus,” Jim Frederick, acting assistant secretary of Labor for OSHA, said.
Apps helps navigate the intricacies of office life as workers return
Real estate software and data business VTS is buying office-app developer Lane Technologies in a $200m deal. Toronto-based Lane’s platform aims to simplify the complexities of office life, including booking conference rooms, ordering food and negotiating security, as more workers return to their desks. VTS plans to combine Lane with its own VTS Rise to create the world’s largest office-app firm. VTS's chief executive and co-founder, Nick Romito, said the deal is indicative of how companies and landlords are exploring new ways to make returning office workers feel comfortable after more than 18 months of remote work.
Working families struggle to find child care
As Congress continues to debate a spending package that would expand child care and provide universal pre-K, parents across the U.S. are struggling to find ways to pay for the child care they now need. According to a new poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 34% of families with young children are facing serious problems finding child care when adults need to work, while 44% of households with children under age 18 have been facing serious financial problems. That figure jumps to 63% for Black families and 59% for Latino households. Some 36% of adults in households with children said they experienced serious problems meeting both their work and family responsibilities in the past few months.

Sinclair Broadcast Group hit by ransomware attack
Sinclair Broadcast Group has been hit by a cyberattack that disrupted several of its television stations over the weekend, the company has announced in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Sinclair, which is one of the largest media companies and broadcasters in the U.S., reported that several stations were encrypted with ransomware. Sinclair identified “certain servers and workstations in its environment were encrypted with ransomware, and that certain office and operational networks were disrupted” and that “data also was taken from the company's network,” adding “The company is working to determine what information the data contained and will take other actions as appropriate based on its review,” and a “forensic investigation” is ongoing. Sinclair owns or operates nearly 200 stations in 86 markets across the U.S., including local affiliates for ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox.
Toyota and Stellantis to both build EV-battery plants in North America
Toyota and Jeep parent Stellantis have both announced that they are to build battery factories in North America. The Japanese auto maker said it planned to invest $3.4bn through 2030 to build electric-car batteries in the U.S., and it and an affiliated company would spend $1.29bn on a new battery factory to commence production in 2025 and create 1,750 new jobs. Meanwhile, Stellantis is to partner with LG Energy Solution, the battery-making unit of South Korea's LG conglomerate, to build a new factory for lithium-ion batteries in North America.
Pelosi urged to pause plan raising corporate global tax rate
A trio of moderate House Democrats is urging party leaders to "pause" a key piece of President Joe Biden's tax plan that would raise the minimum rate that U.S. corporations pay on their overseas income. In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelos (D-CA) and House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA), Reps. Tom O’Halleran of Arizona, Lou Correa of California and Henry Cuellar of Texas, said they wanted to wait and see how other countries implement a new global agreement that would establish a 15% minimum rate on multinational corporations, regardless of where they're headquartered. That deal, struck by 136 countries and jurisdictions, could take years to enact worldwide. "These new rules in the Ways and Means draft would allow other countries to take advantage of our rules, and harm U.S. companies," they said. "If we wait, it will allow Congress the opportunity to adjust the implementation of the policy based on how G-20 countries write their own GILTI regimes."
How companies use psychology in their financial planning
There is a growing emphasis on psychology in financial planning, merging traditional advice with elements of behavioral finance, according to the Certified Financial Planner Board’s 2021 Practice Analysis Study. “The objective of understanding the psychology of financial planning is not to turn financial planners into therapists,” said CFP Board chief executive Kevin Keller. “But to help professionals strengthen their listening and communication skills.” Asset managers may also use financial psychology when guiding clients through investment decisions, particularly when the stock market dips.
Top editor fired over affairs
German publishing giant Axel Springer has sacked Julian Reichelt, the editor-in-chief of the country's top-selling Bild newspaper, for having affairs with subordinates amid allegations that he misused his power over female employees. Reichelt was on temporary leave earlier this year after admitting to having affairs with female staff but was cleared of wrongdoing by a compliance probe. But Axel Springer said it had "gained new insights" about Reichelt's behavior following recent media reports. "The management board learned that Julian Reichelt had not clearly separated private and professional matters even after the compliance proceedings were concluded in the spring," the company said.
Hong Kong broadcaster takes cyberbullying claims to police
Hong Kong broadcaster TVB has filed a report with local police alleging cyberbullying by netizens who the company claims have launched an online smear campaign against the station, its advertisers and artists. The city-state’s biggest free-to-air television broadcaster described what it called the “harassment, molestation, pestering, threats and intimidation” employed by netizens attempting a boycott of the business and those buying advertising time on it. “This cyberbullying behaviour may cause psychological or property damage to these parties and subsequently lead to social unrest,” the company said, adding “To protect TVB and our advertisers, as well as to stop indiscriminate cyberbullying, TVB filed a report to the police in the morning.”
Xiaomi plans to mass produce electric vehicles
Chinese electronics maker Xiaomi plans to mass produce its own electric cars in 2024. Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun said the company’s first vehicle factory will be in Beijing, and the new electric-car unit has added more than 450 hires to its research and development team.  The Wall Street Journal notes that the Chinese government wants to see consolidation in the crowded local EV sector, but analysts believe the market, with sales more than tripling in the first nine months compared with the same period last year, remains attractive to newcomers, including technology firms.
Saudi vice prevention unit plans to hire female staff
Saudi Arabia’s Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (Haia) has announced that it plans to appoint female staff members in the near future. “The commission has drawn up a strategic plan to take advantage of the female component to carry out its functions and tasks comprehensively in the fields of guidance, counselling and awareness,” said commission president Dr. Abdul Rahman Al-Sanad, adding that the new appointees will be based on their specializations in various disciplines.

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