Business briefing

The daily business briefing: March 29, 2017

The U.K. formally launches the Brexit process, Wells Fargo agrees to a $110 million settlement over fake accounts, and more

1

May signs letter formally launching Brexit process

British Prime Minister Theresa May's government on Wednesday submitted a letter to European Union leaders invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, formally starting the process of pulling the United Kingdom out of the 28-nation trading bloc. In a statement to British lawmakers, May said the kickoff of the process was "the moment for the country to come together." Voters decided in a divisive June referendum to leave the EU. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party would hold the government accountable "every step of the way," and warned Brexit would be "a national failure of historic proportions" if the government doesn't protect worker rights. Brexit supporters praised the prime minister for sticking to her timetable for starting two years of formal negotiations.

2

Wells Fargo agrees to $110 million settlement over fake accounts

Wells Fargo announced Tuesday that it had reached an agreement to pay $110 million to settle dozens of lawsuits filed by customers nationwide over more than two million accounts its employees opened for customers without their approval. The settlement still must be approved by a federal judge. Six months ago, the bank agreed to pay $185 million in fines and penalties under a settlement with the Los Angeles city attorney's office and federal regulators. Regulators said the workers created the fake bank and credit card accounts to make more money and hit sales targets, a system Wells Fargo has since ended.

3

Trump signs executive order undoing Obama climate policies

President Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order seeking to undo Obama administration policies that were intended to address climate change. The White House had announced the move in advance, so it came as no surprise. In the sweeping order, Trump told the Environmental Protection Agency to review the Clean Power Plan, which limits greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. He also lifted a ban on new coal leases on federal lands, which Obama put into place for three years in 2016 so the program could be modernized. Trump said the changes would help revive the coal industry and recover lost jobs. Former Vice President Al Gore, an environmental activist, called Trump's order "a misguided step away from a sustainable, carbon-free future for ourselves and generations to come."

4

EU rejects proposed Deutsche Boerse-LSE merger

European Union regulators on Wednesday rejected Deutsche Boerse's proposed takeover of London Stock Exchange Group, saying the $31 billion merger would have created a de facto monopoly for clearing fixed income instruments. The deal would have created Europe's biggest stock exchange. The regulators' move blocked a bid for EU-U.K. integration on the same day British Prime Minister Theresa May formally launched the negotiations on Britain's exit from the 28-nation trading bloc. LSE balked at a demand that it sell a small unit to avoid potentially weakening rival Euronext NV. "The commission cannot allow the creation of monopolies, and that is what would have happened in this case," said Margrethe Vestager, the EU's antitrust commissioner.

5

Uber releases diversity report sparked by scandals

Uber Technologies said Tuesday in its first diversity report that women and minorities are underrepresented at the ride-hailing company. Many technology companies have similar diversity problems. Uber's workforce is made up of 36 percent women overall, but just 15 percent of its technical roles are held by women. Alphabet's Google has a staff comprised of 31 percent women. Uber's investigation, however, came as a response to a series of scandals over its corporate culture, including a sexual harassment complaint by a former employee last month that sparked criticism of Uber's aggressive atmosphere. "Every strength, in excess, is a weakness," said Uber's new chief human resources officer, Liane Hornsey. "What has driven Uber to immense success — its aggression, the hard-charging attitude — has toppled over. And it needs to be shaved back."

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