Business briefing

The daily business briefing: December 17, 2021

Meta bans 7 surveillance firms from Facebook and Instagram, a judge overturns Purdue Pharma settlement that shielded Sacklers, and more

1

Meta bans 7 'surveillance-for-hire' firms

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, said Thursday that it had banned seven firms it has concluded used its platforms to spy on 50,000 users in more than 100 countries. The people allegedly targeted included human rights activists, government critics, celebrities, journalists, and others. Meta said the "surveillance-for-hire" firms were associated with 1,500 Facebook and Instagram accounts used to spy on people and get them to provide personal information, which let the companies infect the users' devices with spyware. Some of the spy companies also used Meta's WhatsApp to place malware on people's phones. "Each of these actors rely on networks of fake accounts on our platforms that are used to deceive users and mislead them," Nathaniel Gleicher, Meta's head of security policy, told NPR.

2

Judge throws out Purdue Pharma bankruptcy settlement that shielded Sackler family 

U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon in New York on Thursday rejected OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma's bankruptcy settlement because of a provision protecting members of the Sackler family, who own the drug maker, from separate lawsuits over the role of the company's drug OxyContin in the opioid crisis. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, one of the state attorneys general opposing the deal, called the ruling "a seismic victory for justice and accountability" that will "force the Sackler family to confront the pain and devastation they have caused." Steve Miller, chair of Purdue's board of directors, said the ruling would "delay, and perhaps end," the ability of communities and individuals affected by opioid abuse to receive billions to fight the opioid crisis.

3

McDonald's takes back $105 million severance from ousted CEO

McDonald's on Thursday announced that it had reached a settlement in its lawsuit against former CEO Steve Easterbrook, who was fired in 2019 after an internal investigation found that he had a consensual relationship with an employee. The board fired him but granted him $105 million in cash and equity on the way out, only to determine later that Easterbrook had lied during the inquiry and destroyed evidence of his inappropriate behavior, which included three sexual relationships with employees. McDonald's sued Easterbrook in August 2020 and accused him of lying and fraud. Under the settlement, McDonald's clawed back the lucrative severance package. Easterbrook also apologized for his behavior, saying he "failed at times to uphold McDonald's values."

4

Stock futures fall after central bank policy shifts

U.S. stock futures fell early Friday morning as investors continued to digest a flurry of policy shifts by the Federal Reserve and other central banks around the world. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were down by 0.1 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively, at 6:30 a.m. ET. Nasdaq futures were down by 0.7 percent. The tech-heavy Nasdaq plunged by 2.5 percent on Thursday, its worst day since September. The Dow and the S&P 500 fell by 0.1 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively. Wall Street rallied on Wednesday after the Fed announced that it would fight high inflation by accelerating its plan to taper asset purchases it has used to boost the economy during the coronavirus pandemic, but since then concerns about inflation and the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant have dragged down stocks.

5

Kellogg reaches 2nd tentative deal with union representing striking workers

Kellogg said Thursday it had reached a second tentative agreement with a union representing workers striking at four cereal plants. Union members rejected the first deal a week and a half ago, and Kellogg responded by saying it would start hiring permanent replacements, although it was not immediately clear whether the company had done so yet. About 1,400 workers went on strike at the plants in early October. They voted down the first tentative agreement after many workers objected to the company's two-tier compensation system giving people hired after 2015 lower wages and benefits than workers hired earlier. Newer workers make just under $22 an hour on average, while those employed longer get more than $35 an hour.

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