Business briefing

The daily business briefing: March 31, 2017

SpaceX reaches a key milestone by reusing a Falcon 9 rocket, VW settles 10 states' environmental claims, and more

1

SpaceX reaches milestone by reusing Falcon 9 rocket

SpaceX on Thursday successfully launched a rocket it had previously used in another mission, marking a crucial milestone in the private space-flight company's effort to cut costs with reusable rockets. Traditional rockets are used once, with the first stage simply destroyed during ascent, but SpaceX is focusing on recovering the first stages of its Falcon 9 rockets and using them on multiple missions to cut down on the time and expense involved in getting its next missions off the ground. Thursday's booster was returned to land on a barge in the Atlantic. "It's an amazing day for space," said SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

2

VW settles 10 states' environmental claims for $157 million

Volkswagen said on Thursday that it had agreed to pay $157 million to settle 10 states' environmental claims over excess diesel pollution linked to the German automaker's cheating on diesel emissions tests. VW last year reached a separate $603 million settlement with 44 states, but that agreement did not cover the claims covered in Thursday's deal. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said his state's $32.5 million share of the new settlement "makes clear that no company — however large or powerful — is above the law."

3

EU says Brexit terms must be met before talks on future U.K. trade deal

The European Union on Friday offered to start negotiations with the U.K. on a future free trade pact, but only if London first accepts EU demands on the terms of Britain's exit from the 28-nation trading bloc. Those terms include paying tens of billions of dollars, and securing residence rights for 3 million EU citizens living in the U.K. The EU's guidelines, which could be revised before the remaining EU leaders sign off on them at an April 29 summit, came after British Prime Minister Theresa May formally launched the Brexit process in a letter requesting parallel talks on Brexit and the future trade arrangement. "Once, and only once we have achieved sufficient progress on the withdrawal, can we discuss the framework for our future relationship," European Council President Donald Tusk said.

4

McDonald's switches Quarter Pounder from frozen to fresh beef

McDonald's announced Thursday that it was replacing frozen patties with fresh beef in its Quarter Pounder at most of its U.S. restaurants by next year. McDonald's has been testing the switch in Dallas and Tulsa as it responds to customer demands for fresh ingredients and healthier fare. Some of McDonald's rivals, including Wendy's and Five Guys, already tout the fact that their burgers are never frozen. The change to fresh ingredients comes with risks, such as the E. coli outbreak that rattled Chipotle. Some McDonald's franchisees expressed concerns to a McDonald's consultant during trials last year, writing, "If we do not handle the meat perfectly there is the opportunity for bacterial invasion of our product."

5

'Codfather' fishing magnate pleads guilty to evading quotas

U.S. fishing tycoon Carlos Rafael, also known as The Codfather, pleaded guilty in federal court on Thursday to charges of evading fishing quotas and smuggling money out of the U.S. into Portugal. Rafael owns one of the biggest commercial fishing operations in the U.S., with more than 30 vessels. He was accused of falsely claiming that his boats caught only haddock and pollock, but they really caught other species that had tighter quotas. He then sold the catch for cash and hid the money abroad. He had pleaded not guilty, but changed his plea in a Thursday hearing. "I am not proud of the things I did that brought me here, but admitting them is the right thing to do," he said.

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