The daily business briefing: February 7, 2017

Melania Trump sues Daily Mail publisher, Honda and Hitachi team up on electric cars, and more

First lady Melania Trump at an inaugural ball
(Image credit: Saul Loeb/Getty Images)

1. Lawsuit says false story on Melania Trump cost her business opportunities

A lawyer for first lady Melania Trump filed a lawsuit on Monday accusing the company that publishes the Daily Mail of damaging her chance to capitalize on her time as first lady by publishing a later-retracted article falsely suggesting she once worked for an escort service. The suit against Mail Media said the article cost her a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to establish potential "multimillion dollar business relationships" and "launch a broad-based commercial brand" during her time as first lady, when she will be "one of the most photographed women in the world." The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages of at least $150 million. Richard Painter, a White House ethics counsel under President George W. Bush, said the lawsuit was troubling because it marked the first time a first lady had "insinuated that she intended to make a lot of money because of the 'once-in-a-lifetime' opportunity of being first lady."

The Washington Post

2. Honda and Hitachi team up on electric car venture

Honda Motor Co. and Hitachi's auto parts subsidiary are forming a joint venture aiming to produce and sell electric vehicles, the companies announced Tuesday. The agreement marked the latest in a series of joint efforts by automakers to team up with parts suppliers to contain development costs while ramping up production in the booming electric car market. "In pairing up with Hitachi, we're hoping to tap into its expertise in volume production," Honda Chief Executive Officer Takahiro Hachigo said. The venture, with Hitachi Automotive Systems owning 51 percent and Honda owning 49 percent, will start in July, aiming to produce motors for hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and fully electric cars.

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3. Philadelphia Fed official says rate hike would be 'on the table' in March

Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia President Patrick Harker said Monday that an interest rate hike would be "on the table" at the Fed's March meeting. He said it all "depends on how the data evolve," as policy makers would have to see continued job market improvement, economic growth, and wage increases to justify acting so quickly. Harker was the second high-ranking Fed official to say publicly that the next rate increase could come in March, which would be earlier than analysts have predicted, due to uncertainty over how President Trump's policies will affect the economy.


4. France's turbulent presidential race rattles European markets

Uncertainty stoked by France's increasingly volatile presidential race dragged down European financial markets on Tuesday. The euro was headed for its steepest one-day decline this year. "It is clear the euro is vulnerable to political uncertainty," Rabobank analysts said. The turbulence came after far-right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen officially launched her campaign. Polls have indicated Le Pen, who wants France to leave the euro zone, was likely to qualify for a May run-off but go on to lose, although the outlook could change as conservative candidate Francois Fillon faces a scandal over taxpayer-funded payments to his wife.


5. Uber hires ex-NASA engineer to head flying car project

Uber has hired former NASA aircraft engineer Mark Moore to spearhead its effort to develop a network of flying cars, Bloomberg reported Monday. "I can't think of another company in a stronger position to be the leader for this new ecosystem and make the urban electric VTOL market real," Moore said, using the acronym for "vertical takeoff and landing." The company's Uber Elevate project could one day let people order an Uber from their homes to a "vertiport," where they could catch a flying car to another vertiport near their destination across town. "We don't need stinking bridges!" Moore said, adding that the flying cars could be a reality within a few years.


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