Business briefing

The daily business briefing: December 15, 2017

A split FCC ditches net neutrality, New York Times publisher Sulzberger passes the baton to his son, and more

1

Split FCC votes to end net neutrality rules

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted to repeal the Obama administration's landmark net neutrality rules, which were designed to guarantee open and equal access to the internet. The vote followed party lines, with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and the other two Republicans backing Pai's proposal, and two Democrats opposing it. The move marked a victory for internet providers such as AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon. Opponents, including Facebook and Google parent Alphabet, argued the change would disrupt online access by letting providers block, slow down, or charge more for certain content. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the administration "supports the FCC's efforts" and "a free and fair internet." New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) vowed to lead a multi-state challenge.

2

A.G. Sulzberger to succeed his father as New York Times publisher

New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. announced Thursday that his son, Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, will become the newspaper's publisher on Jan. 1. The younger Sulzberger, 37, was named deputy publisher just over a year ago. He is best known for leading the team behind the paper's 2014 "innovation report." "I am a unapologetic champion for this institution and its journalistic mission," A. G. Sulzberger said. "And I'll continue to be that as publisher." The elder Sulzberger, 66, has overseen the Times' digital transformation, which began bumpy but now boasts 2.5 million digital-only subscriptions. He will stay on as chairman. A.G. Sulzberger will be the sixth Ochs-Sulzberger family member to run the paper since Adolph S. Ochs bought it in 1896.

3

Potential defections threaten GOP tax overhaul

Congressional Republicans hit a potential obstacle to their joint tax overhaul deal next week when Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said he would vote against the bill unless it included a bigger expansion of the child tax credit. The final bill reconciling the House and Senate versions is expected to be unveiled on Friday. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) also wants more benefits for low-income families. The GOP has just a 52-48 Senate majority, soon to drop to 51-49 when Senator-elect Doug Jones (D-Ala.) takes his seat, so any defections could threaten the proposal. "I can't in good conscience support it unless we are able to increase [the child tax credit], and there's ways to do it and we'll be very reasonable about it," Rubio said.

4

Stocks waver over fresh questions about tax bill

Asian stocks struggled on Friday after key GOP senators' objections threatened the proposal to slash taxes for corporations and wealthy Americans. The new obstacle to Republicans' plan to pass a final bill reconciling the House and Senate versions next week dragged down the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 on Thursday, with the Dow falling by 0.3 percent and the S&P by 0.4 percent. Both indexes showed signs of bouncing back early Friday, with Dow futures gaining 0.2 percent and S&P 500 futures rising by 0.1 percent, putting both on track to post their fourth straight week of gains. Bitcoin soared to another record high near $18,000, as warnings of a bubble grew.

5

Labor board scraps Obama-era rule that gave chain employees leverage

The National Labor Relations Board on Thursday reversed an Obama-era rule change that gave workers greater leverage to challenge labor practices of fast-food and hotel chains. In 2015, the Obama administration said corporations, not just their franchisees, would have to negotiate with workers at a franchise if they unionized. Employers had opposed the rule from the start, and praised the NLRB's 3-2 vote (along party lines) undoing the change. "Today's decision restores years of established law and brings back clarity for restaurants and small businesses across the country," said Cicely Simpson, executive vice president of the National Restaurant Association. The change was expected but many were surprised at how quickly the NLRB made it. "Frankly, it's shocking," said Wilma B. Liebman, a former Democratic appointee on the board.

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