The daily business briefing: February 17, 2017

Harold Maass
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Samsung chief arrested over presidential corruption scandal

Samsung Electronics vice chairman and heir apparent Lee Jae-yong was arrested early Friday on bribery charges in connection with the influence peddling scandal that led to the impeachment of South Korea's president, Park Geun-hye. A court last month rejected prosecutors' request to arrest Lee, but this time prosecutors presented new information and a judge said the court acknowledged "the cause and necessity of the arrest." Prosecutors accuse Samsung of paying $38 million in bribes to organizations linked to Choi Soon-sil, the president's confidante at the heart of the scandal. [Reuters]


Trump picks Alexander Acosta to head Labor Department

President Trump on Thursday nominated Florida law school dean R. Alexander Acosta as labor secretary. Acosta, a former assistant attorney general for human rights and one-time member of the National Labor Relations Board, replaces Trump's first pick for the job, lawyer and fast-food executive Andrew Puzder, who withdrew from consideration after facing opposition over his business record and hiring of an undocumented domestic worker. His ex-wife also filed domestic abuse charges against him decades ago, but dropped them. Trump noted that Acosta had already been confirmed for federal positions three times, and said he would "be a key part of achieving our goal of revitalizing the American economy." If confirmed, Acosta will be the only Hispanic member of Trump's Cabinet. [CNN]


Divided Senate confirms Rep. Mick Mulvaney as budget director

The Senate, split 51-49 along party lines, on Thursday confirmed budget-cut crusader Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) as President Trump's budget director. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) joined Democrats in opposing Mulvaney, accusing the fiscal hawk as being anti-military for supporting firm spending limits on the Defense Department. Mulvaney will need to hit the ground running to prepare a budget and address raising the debt limit within weeks. Trump has also promised to unveil a plan for tax cuts. Mulvaney has said cutting the deficit will be his priority, and that cuts to entitlement programs such as Medicare will be on the table. [The New York Times, USA Today]


Snap's IPO valuation comes in at bottom of expected range

Snapchat parent Snap on Thursday priced its initial public offering of stock at the low end of the predicted range, valuing the social media company at between $19.5 billion and $22.3 billion. Snap filed for its IPO earlier this month, and analysts had expected the company to be valued somewhere between $20 billion and $25 billion. [Reuters]


Court says florist discriminated against gay couple

Washington's state Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that a Richland florist violated anti-discrimination laws by refusing to sell a gay couple flowers for their 2013 wedding. The florist, Barronelle Stutzman, had provided flowers to longtime customers Rob Ingersoll and Curt Freed for years, but refused to do the flowers for their wedding because of her opposition to same-sex marriage on religious grounds. "The court affirmed that we are on the right side of the laws and the right side of history," Ingersoll and Freed said in a statement. Stutzman said it was "terrifying" that the government could tell a business owner "what to think and what to do." She and her attorneys plan to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. [The Seattle Times]