A Third of a Start-Up’s Workers Quit After a Ban on Talking Politics at Work: Live Updates – The New York Times

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“Every discussion remotely related to politics, advocacy or society at large quickly spins away from pleasant,” Jason Fried, Basecamp’s chief executive, wrote in a blog post.
Credit…Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images

About a third of Basecamp’s employees have said they are resigning after the company, which makes productivity software, announced new policies banning workplace conversations about politics.

Jason Fried, Basecamp’s chief executive, detailed the policies in a blog post on Monday, calling “societal and political discussions” on company messaging tools “a major distraction.” He wrote that the company would also ban committees, cut benefits such as a fitness allowance (with employees receiving the equivalent cash value) and stop “lingering and dwelling on past decisions.”

Basecamp had 57 employees, including Mr. Fried, when the announcement was made, according to a staff list on its website. Since then, at least 20 of them have posted publicly that they intend to resign or have already resigned, according to a tally by The New York Times. Basecamp did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Fried and David Hansson, two of Basecamp’s founders, have published several books about workplace culture, and news of their latest management philosophy was met with a mix of applause and criticism on social media.

After the newsletter Platformer published details of a dispute within the company that contributed to the decision to ban political talk, Mr. Hansson wrote in another blog post that Basecamp had offered severance of up to six months of salary to employees who disagreed with the founders’ choice.

“We’ve committed to a deeply controversial stance,” Mr. Hansson, Basecamp’s chief technology officer, wrote. “Some employees are relieved, others are infuriated, and that pretty well describes much of the public debate around this too.”

Coinbase, a start-up that allows people to buy and sell cryptocurrencies, announced a similar ban last year, with a similar offer to give severance to employees who disagreed. The company said 60 of its employees had resigned, about 5 percent of its work force.

Stewart Bainum’s bid for Tribune Publishing is contingent on finding an additional backer to take on the Chicago Tribune and fill a gap in financing.
Credit…Taylor Glascock for The New York Times

With time running out, Stewart W. Bainum Jr. is making a renewed effort to buy Tribune Publishing, the newspaper chain that agreed in February to sell itself to its largest shareholder, the hedge fund Alden Global Capital.

Mr. Bainum, a Maryland hotel mogul, notified Tribune Publishing on Wednesday that he planned to have $300 million in financing that would go toward a revised offer valuing the company at roughly $680 million, according to three people with knowledge of the proposal. As part of the would-be arrangement, $200 million would come from his own fortune, the people said. The additional $100 million would come from new debt, the people said.

The proposal is not quite firm. Mr. Bainum hopes that his willingness to put in $200 million of his own money, along with the debt financing, will attract others to join his effort, the people said.

His offer is contingent on his finding a backer who will take on Tribune’s flagship paper, The Chicago Tribune, and fill the remaining gap of $380 million, the people added. After discussions with possible investors, Mr. Bainum has yet to find one willing to assume responsibility for the Chicago daily, the people said.

Mr. Bainum, the chairman of Choice Hotels International, one of the world’s largest hospitality chains, has been trying to put together an acceptable offer for Tribune for months.

At the start of his involvement, in February, he agreed to buy The Baltimore Sun and two smaller Tribune papers in Maryland for $65 million, a deal that would have been completed after Alden had taken full ownership of the company. That plan went awry over details of operating agreements that would be in effect as the Maryland papers transitioned from one owner to another, prompting Mr. Bainum to set his sights on all of Tribune.

He made a solo offer for the entire company on March 16 that valued it at roughly $680 million, or $50 million more than Alden had bid under its February proposal. But Tribune was unswayed, saying it wanted proof that Mr. Bainum had the financing to back his proposal.

At the end of March, he got the company’s attention by joining with the Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss to add weight to the offer. Under the plan, Mr. Bainum would have spent $100 million of his own money and Mr. Wyss would have come through with the rest.

Tribune announced on April 5 that the offer from Mr. Wyss and Mr. Bainum was likely to lead to a “superior proposal.” But less than two weeks later, Mr. Wyss abruptly backed out, forcing Mr. Bainum to revise his bid and seek new deal partners.

The failure of the Bainum-Wyss plan came as a disappointment to journalists at Tribune newspapers across the country, many of whom had been publicly critical of Alden for its strategy of making deep cuts at the roughly 60 daily newspapers it controls through MediaNews Group.

Mr. Bainum declined to comment. Tribune did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Since Mr. Wyss stepped away, the hedge fund has re-emerged as the most likely future owner of the newspaper chain. Tribune has scheduled a shareholder vote for May 21 to approve the bid by Alden, which has a 32 percent stake in the company.

Mr. Bainum, 75, remains committed to his quest to buy Tribune, the people said, largely because he is passionate about keeping his hometown paper, The Sun, out of Alden’s control.


By: Ella Koeze·Data delayed at least 15 minutes·Source: FactSet

April, which saw every state open the Covid-19 vaccine to all adults and a string of strong economic reports, was the S&P 500’s best month since November.

On Friday, the S&P 500 fell 0.7 percent, pulled lower by energy and tech stocks, as traders closed positions for the end of the month and continued to react to company earnings. But the index ended the month with a 5.2 percent gain.

The S&P 500 had hit a record on Thursday after data showed the American economy grew strongly at the start of the year. Forecasters predict the economy will be back to its prepandemic size by the summer and will help drive global economic growth.

Oil prices fell, with futures on West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, dropping 2.2 percent to about $63.58 a barrel.

  • Twitter was the worst-performing stock in the S&P 500, with its shares dropping 15 percent after the social media platform cautioned investors that its user numbers were unlikely to increase substantially this year when compared with the spike caused by the pandemic.

  • AstraZeneca rose 4.3 percent in London after the drugmaker’s first-quarter earnings beat analysts expectations. The company also said that the vaccine it developed with the University of Oxford brought in $275 million in sales from about 68 million doses in the first three months of the year; the company has pledged not to profit from the vaccine.

  • Barclays shares plunged 7 percent in London and were down 10.4 percent in the U.S. after what the bank’s chief executive described as a “mixed result” for its first-quarter earnings. Income from trading in equities rose but fell for other assets. Still, the bank has a sunny outlook for the future. Jes Staley, the chief executive, said he expected the British economy to grow at the fastest pace since 1948.

  • The eurozone economy contracted by 0.6 percent over the first three months of the year, sliding back into recession, as the pandemic prompted governments to extend lockdowns. The decline puts much of Europe in a double-dip recession.

  • A day earlier, the United States disclosed that its economy expanded by 1.6 percent over the same period — a robust annualized rate of 6.4 percent — on the strength of substantial public expenditures aimed at stimulating growth. The recession in the 19 nations that share the euro currency reflects far less aggressive stimulus spending and a botched effort to secure vaccines that has left many major economies contending with continued restrictions on daily life.

Exxon reported a $2.7 billion profit in the first three months of the year, thanks to rising production and higher chemical prices.
Credit…Lee Celano/Reuters

Exxon Mobil and Chevron, the two biggest oil companies in the United States, on Friday reported their first quarterly profits after several quarters of losses, signaling that the energy industry is rebounding from the coronavirus pandemic.

Oil prices have climbed in recent months and are now roughly where they were before the pandemic’s full force was felt. As a result, Exxon reported a $2.7 billion profit in the first three months of the year, compared with a loss of $610 million in the same period a year ago. Chevron said its profit was $1.4 billion, down from $3.6 billion a year earlier. Chevron this week raised its dividend by nearly 4 percent.

The American oil benchmark price, now around $64 a barrel, has tripled since last April. Natural gas prices have also strengthened during the recovery.

“The strong first quarter results reflect the benefits of higher commodity prices and our focus on structural cost reductions,” Darren Woods, Exxon’s chief executive, said in a statement.

Only six months ago, many analysts warned that Exxon would have to cut its dividend, but now the shareholder payout appears safe because of rising production and higher chemical prices. Exxon this month reported yet another in a string of big oil discoveries off the coast of Guyana, one of its most important growth areas.

At Chevron, sales and other revenue in the quarter increased to $31 billion, $1 billion more than the year-ago quarter.

“Earnings strengthened primarily due to higher oil prices as the economy recovers,” said Mike Wirth, Chevron’s chief executive.

Both companies suffered losses from the severe Texas freeze in February. Exxon reported that lost sales and repairs cost the company nearly $600 million. Chevron said its results were weakened by $300 million in lost oil and refining production and repairs.

Volkswagen wanted to have a little fun when it introduced the all-electric ID.4 to the United States in March. The Securities and Exchange Commission wasn’t laughing.
Credit…Bryan Derballa for The New York Times

Volkswagen’s American unit was only kidding when it put out the word late in March that it was changing its name to “Voltswagen” to show its commitment to electric vehicles. To say the April Fool’s joke didn’t land is an understatement. Now the misfired marketing gag has prompted an inquiry by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Volkswagen did not dispute reports in Der Spiegel and other German media that the S.E.C. was looking into whether the carmaker misled shareholders with the faux rebranding. Volkswagen in Germany declined to comment Friday.

Publicly listed companies are not supposed to fool their shareholders, even in jest. Some media reported the purported name change as fact until Volkswagen of America admitted it was all a joke.

German law also requires companies to be honest with their shareholders, but a spokeswoman for the stock market regulator, known as Bafin, said the agency saw no basis to investigate the Voltswagen issue.

It is unlikely that Volkswagen will face a serious penalty if the S.E.C. finds a violation, at least not compared to the tens of billions of dollars that an emissions scandal has cost the company since 2015. The gag does not appear to have had any influence on the price of Volkswagen shares, which rose for several days even after the company admitted it was all a ruse.

Like a comedian bombing onstage, the most painful consequence may be the humiliation.

Comments from Martin J. Walsh, the labor secretary, on gig workers sent shares of Uber, Lyft, Fiverr and DoorDash down sharply.
Credit…Pool photo by Pat Greenhouse/EPA, via Shutterstock

Martin J. Walsh, the labor secretary, said on Thursday that “in a lot of cases” gig workers in the United States should be classified as employees, not independent contractors. “In some cases they are treated respectfully and in some cases they are not, and I think it has to be consistent across the board,” he told Reuters.

Shares of Uber, Lyft, Fiverr and DoorDash fell sharply on the news. These companies’ business models depend on classifying workers as independent contractors, who are not entitled to labor protections like a minimum wage or overtime pay.

But how much control does Mr. Walsh have over how companies classify their employees?

There’s no single law that makes workers employees or contractors. The Labor Department can enforce the Fair Labor Standards Act, which establishes the federal minimum wage and overtime pay. This law applies only to employees, and who should fall into that category has been the subject of a long-running debate.

In 2015, the Obama administration issued guidance that many interpreted to mean that app-based workers should be considered employees. It was rescinded by the Trump administration.

In 2021, the Trump administration issued a rule that would have made it easier for the same companies to classify workers as contractors. It was nixed by the Biden administration. Mr. Walsh’s comments suggest his interpretation will be similar to the Obama administration’s. And David Weil, reportedly President Biden’s nominee to lead the Labor Department’s wage and hour division, wrote the 2015 guidance.

New guidance wouldn’t change the law, but it could change how the Labor Department decides whether to bring lawsuits against gig economy companies. “It’s implicitly a sign to employers that you should comply with this interpretation or there’s a risk of enforcement,” Brian Chen, a staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project, told the DealBook newsletter.

Although such guidance is nonbinding, Benjamin Sachs, a professor at Harvard Law School, said courts “tend to give it deference” when making decisions. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw specific action coming from the department sometime this year,” said William Gould, a Stanford law professor and the former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board.

Ari Emanuel, the chief executive of the entertainment conglomerate Endeavor. “We’re platform agnostic, and we serve all parties,” he said of the streaming wars.
Credit…Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

The Endeavor Group, the entertainment conglomerate run by the Hollywood mogul Ari Emanuel, pulled its initial public offering at the last minute in 2019, amid lukewarm interest from investors. Last year posed its own difficulties, with a pandemic that hurt its live events business as well as its talent agency.

But Endeavor finally made its market debut on Thursday, closing the day with a market cap of more than $10 billion. Mr. Emanuel spoke with the DealBook newsletter about what changed — and what comes next.

On why the I.P.O. went ahead this time:

“There was confusion with regard to the U.F.C., so we cleaned that up,” Mr. Emanuel said about the mixed-martial arts league that Endeavor is acquiring full control of with proceeds from the offering. Debt was also a worry before, and the company’s leverage will be reduced with help from a $1.7 billion private placement, with Third Point and Elliot Management among the investors. S&P Global upgraded the company’s credit rating on Thursday.

Endeavor also used the pandemic period to restructure and consolidate, shifting further away from its talent agency roots. And Mr. Emanuel expects its events business, entertainment relationships and intellectual property will help feed a demand for “content in all forms” after the pandemic: “We’re the story about coming out.”

On Endeavor’s role in the streaming wars:

“We’re platform agnostic, and we serve all parties,” Mr. Emanuel said. The broadcasters are spending “huge” amounts to build out their streaming platforms. “I don’t have to do that,” he said. “I just have to supply it.”

On how he met Elon Musk, who is joining Endeavor’s board:

“I definitely cold called. That’s kind of in my nature,” Mr. Emanuel said. “We’ve represented him in some of his endeavors. And then over time, he and I became friendly.”

“He’s also a great entrepreneur, meaning he knows how hard it is to build and run a company,” he added, noting that they often call each other for advice.

On whether he has any concerns about putting Mr. Musk on the board given the Tesla chief’s run-ins with securities regulators:

“No.”

Receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine in Budapest.
Credit…Akos Stiller for The New York Times

The vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford brought in $275 million in sales from about 68 million doses delivered in the first three months of this year, AstraZeneca reported on Friday.

AstraZeneca disclosed the figure, most of which came from sales in Europe, as it reported its first-quarter financial results. It offers the clearest view to date of how much money is being brought in by one of the leading Covid vaccines.

AstraZeneca, which has pledged not to profit on its vaccine during the pandemic, has been selling the shot to governments for several dollars per dose, less expensive than the other leading vaccines. The vaccine has won authorization in at least 78 countries since December but is not approved for use in the United States.

The vaccine represented just under 4 percent of AstraZeneca’s revenue for the quarter; it was nowhere near the company’s biggest revenue generator. By comparison, the company’s best-selling product, the cancer drug Tagrisso, brought in more than $1.1 billion in sales in the quarter.

AstraZeneca has said it is planning to seek emergency authorization for its vaccine to be used in the United States, even as it has become clear that the doses are not needed. The Biden administration said this week that it would make available to the rest of the world up to 60 million doses of its supply of AstraZeneca shots, pending a review of their quality.

If the company does win authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it could help shore up confidence in a vaccine whose reputation been hit by concerns about a rare but serious side effect involving blood clotting. The F.D.A.’s evaluation process is considered the gold standard globally.

Johnson & Johnson, whose vaccine was authorized for emergency use at the end of February, reported last week that its vaccine generated $100 million in sales in the United States in the first three months of the year. The federal government is paying the company $10 a dose. Like AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson has pledged to sell its vaccine “at cost” — meaning it won’t profit on the sales — during the pandemic.

Vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna cost more, and neither company has said that it will forgo profits. Pfizer has said that it expects its vaccine to bring in about $15 billion in revenue this year; Moderna said it anticipates $18.4 billion in sales.

Both companies are scheduled to report their first-quarter results next week.

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Today in the On Tech newsletter, Shira Ovide writes that a year ago, even the tech giants were anxious about the pandemic economy. Now they have so much money, it’s awkward.

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