Business briefing

The daily business briefing: February 18, 2022

Judge orders Trump and 2 of his children to testify about business practices, Walmart reports strong sales despite inflation, and more

1

Judge says Trump, 2 of his children must testify about business practices

A New York judge ruled Thursday that former President Donald Trump and two of his adult children, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, must testify under oath in state Attorney General Letitia James' investigation into their business practices. The judge, state Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, rejected a request from Trump lawyers to quash James' subpoenas, which they said were part of a politically motivated investigation. Engoron wrote in his eight-page decision that James' office, having investigated a business and uncovered "copious evidence of possible financial fraud," clearly has the authority to question the company's principals under oath. Trump's lawyers indicated they planned to appeal.

2

Walmart reports a strong quarter despite inflation

Walmart reported quarterly earnings that beat analysts' expectations on Thursday. The retail giant also announced that it would boost its dividend. The news sent Walmart shares climbing by nearly 2 percent early in the day, although they closed down by 0.1 percent. Walmart said holiday shopping was strong and that its focus on value was helping it attract customers worried about rising prices of groceries and other products across the country. "We know that consumers are focused on inflation, and we're continuing to watch key item pricing to ensure that we help them through this," Chief Financial Officer Brett Biggs said. "This type of environment plays to our strengths." 

3

Appeals court says workers face irreparable harm under United Airlines vaccine mandate

A divided federal appeals court panel in New Orleans ruled Thursday that a United Airlines pilot and a flight attendant will suffer irreparable harm due to the airline's coronavirus vaccine mandate. The 2-1 ruling leaves the mandate in place but sends the case back to a lower court judge in Texas to consider suspending it until the challenge is resolved. The policy forces United employees to get vaccinated or go on leave, which "is an impossible choice for plaintiffs who want to remain faithful but must put food on the table," judges Jennifer Walker Elrod and Andrew Oldham wrote in the majority opinion. Judge Jerry E. Smith dissented, saying the company offered to accommodate workers' religious objections by offering them alternative jobs.

4

Stock futures rise despite lingering Ukraine fears

U.S. stock futures rose early Friday after Thursday's steep losses, which included the worst day so far this year for the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Futures tied to the Dow were up by 0.4 percent at 6:30 a.m. ET. S&P 500 and Nasdaq futures were up 0.5 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively. The Dow and the S&P 500 dropped 1.8 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively, on Thursday as investors expressed concerns about a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, and looming interest-rate hikes by the Federal Reserve to fight high inflation. "A perfect storm may be on the horizon if calmer heads don't prevail," said Peter Essele, head of portfolio management at Commonwealth Financial Network.

5

Tesla says regulators are harassing Elon Musk

Tesla attorneys on Thursday filed a letter with a federal judge accusing the Securities and Exchange Commission of harassing CEO Elon Musk over his compliance with a 2018 regulatory settlement over his use of social media. The lawyers said the regulator was conducting unfounded investigations of Musk and the electric-car company, "largely because Mr. Musk remains an outspoken critic of the government," attorney Alex Spiro wrote in the letter to U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan. Also on Thursday, U.S. auto safety regulators have launched another investigation of Tesla after receiving 354 complaints from owners about "phantom braking" in Tesla Models 3 and Y over the past nine months. No crashes or injuries were linked to the issue.

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