Business briefing

The daily business briefing: December 7, 2017

Walmart changes its name to reflect its online push, Bitcoin's meteoric rise accelerates, and more

1

Walmart changes its name to reflect its e-commerce focus

Walmart said Wednesday that it is changing its legal name from Wal-Mart Stores to simply Walmart to better reflect its increasing focus on e-commerce. "While our legal name is used in a limited number of places, we felt it was best to have a name that was consistent with the idea that you can shop us however you like as a customer," Doug McMillon, Walmart's president and CEO, said in a statement. "As time goes on, customers will increasingly just think of and see one Walmart." The company's big-box stores made it the world's largest brick-and-mortar retailer, but it is making a push to better compete with Amazon by focusing on its offerings online.

2

Bitcoin soars to record high of $15,000

Bitcoin continued its meteoric rise on Thursday, passing $15,000 to hit a new record high after rising 20 percent in 24 hours. The cryptocurrency reached $12,000 for the first time Tuesday, and started the year under $1,000. It gained steadily then took off recently on the news that Chicago-based Cboe Global Markets plans to launch bitcoin futures on Sunday, to be followed the next week by the world's largest futures exchange, CME. The sale of bitcoin futures by two respected exchanges suggests the digital currency is gaining mainstream acceptance, although skeptics still warn it is a classic example of a bubble ready to burst.

3

Judge sentences VW executive to seven years over diesel emissions scandal

A federal judge on Wednesday sentenced Volkswagen executive Oliver Schmidt, a German national, to a maximum seven-year sentence for his role in the automaker's diesel emissions scandal. Schmidt pleaded guilty in August to two charges in the scheme to rig nearly 600,000 diesel vehicles to cheat on emissions tests. "This crime ... attacks and destroys the very foundation of our economic system: That is trust," U.S. District Judge Sean Cox said during the sentencing. "Senior management at Volkswagen has not been held accountable." The backlash to the scandal forced VW's former CEO, Martin Winterkorn, to resign. Six other former executives at the German automaker are still at large.

4

Women sue Weinstein and studio over sexual misconduct

Six women filed a lawsuit they hope will become a class-action case against disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein and the studio he co-founded, accusing them of a massive scheme to facilitate his alleged sexual assaults of actresses and other women. "We are but six women representing hundreds," the plaintiffs — Louisette Geiss, Katherine Kendall, Zoe Brock, Sarah Ann Masse, Melissa Sagemiller, and Nannette Klatt — said in a statement Wednesday. "Dozens have come forward so far, and many more remain in the shadows, still trying to find their courage." So far, more than 80 women have publicly accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct over four decades. Weinstein has denied through attorneys that he ever pressured anyone to have non-consensual sex.

5

UnitedHealth buys physician group as line blurs between insurers, care givers

UnitedHealth Group, one of the nation's biggest insurers, announced Wednesday that it planned to buy a large physicians group from dialysis-center chain DaVita for $4.9 billion, continuing a push into direct delivery of medical care. The purchase, which needs regulatory approval, will add to UnitedHealth's roster of 30,000 doctors. The deal comes after another major health insurance provider, Aetna, approved a proposal to merge with pharmacy chain CVS Health, potentially transforming 10,000 CVS stores into community health-care "hubs" where customers will be able to get basic health care such as blood tests. With the Republican tax overhaul potentially chipping away at ObamaCare, insurers and health-care providers are looking for new ways to strengthen their businesses.

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