Business briefing

The daily business briefing: July 6, 2017

Hobby Lobby will pay $3 million fine to settle artifact case, Fed minutes show disagreement on reducing debt holdings, and more


Hobby Lobby to pay $3 million to settle antiquities smuggling case

Hobby Lobby has agreed to give up more than 5,500 ancient Iraqi artifacts in a settlement with the Justice Department that was announced Wednesday. The arts-and-crafts retailer bought the items, which included cuneiform tablets and other objects, for $1.6 million from dealers in Israel and the United Arab Emirates in 2010. The Justice Department said Hobby Lobby ignored an expert's warning that the artifacts could have been smuggled after being taken illegally from archaeological sites, and ignored other "red flags," including conflicting accounts on where the items were stored before they were inspected in the U.A.E. Hobby Lobby, which will pay a $3 million fine, pledged to change how it acquires "cultural property." "We should have exercised more oversight and carefully questioned how the acquisitions were handled," Hobby Lobby's president, Steve Green, said.


Fed minutes show disagreement on timing of trimming debt holdings

Federal Reserve policy makers hinted in meeting minutes released Wednesday that they might start reducing the debt holdings the central bank bought up to help the economy recover from the 2008 financial crisis. Fed leaders remained divided about the timing of the drawdown. The Fed said after its June meeting that it would start reducing its pile of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities at some point this year, although the minutes said that several senior Fed officials "preferred to announce the start of the process within a couple of months." Still others wanted to wait to announce anything until they could see where an unexpected slowdown in inflation would lead. Overseas markets lost some ground Thursday following the release of the Fed minutes, and U.S. stock futures edged down, too, before the opening bell.


Qatar Airways joins regional rivals in securing exemption from laptop ban

Qatar Airways said Thursday that it had obtained an exemption from the Trump administration's ban on laptops and other large electronic devices in carry-on luggage on U.S.-bound flights from certain overseas airports. The devices will be allowed on all flights out of Doha's Hamad International Airport because the hub has met U.S. Homeland Security Department requirements, the carrier said Thursday. Qatar Airways' announcement came after several Middle East rivals got the restriction lifted. Dubai-based Emirates and Turkish Airlines of Istanbul made similar announcements on Wednesday. Escaping the ban, imposed at 10 airports to foil potential terrorist bomb plots, is considered a priority for carriers, because some travelers have switched airlines to make sure they could use their devices in the air.


Judge orders Shkreli to stop speaking and tweeting about his case

A federal judge on Wednesday ordered controversial former pharmaceutical and hedge fund executive Martin Shkreli to stop speaking publicly and tweeting about his federal securities-fraud trial. Prosecutors requested the gag order after Shkreli, who came to be known as "pharma bro" after he drastically hiked the price of a life-saving drug, criticized prosecutors, witnesses, and the media last week in a courtroom, calling the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of New York the "junior varsity." Shkreli's lawyers said silencing him would violate his right to free speech. "All your client has to do is stop talking in the courthouse and around the perimeter of the courthouse," U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto said.


Tesla shares drop following report of slowed deliveries

Tesla shares plunged by more than seven percent on Wednesday after the electric car maker announced lower-than-expected deliveries. The decline, Tesla's biggest in more than a year, came after the stock fell by 2.5 percent on Monday after Tesla reported first-half deliveries of electric sedans and SUVs in the low end of its forecast. Tesla blamed a "severe shortfall" of new battery packs, but said that it expected deliveries of the Model S sedan and Model X sports utility vehicle to increase in the second half. The bumps came as Tesla gears up to start production of its first mass-market car, the Model 3, on Friday.


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