The daily business briefing: December 20, 2017
Republicans push their tax overhaul through the House and the Senate, Uber loses a big fight in Europe, and more
GOP lawmakers push through their tax overhaul
Republicans pushed their tax overhaul through the House and then the Senate on Tuesday and early Wednesday, putting the GOP on the cusp of their first major legislative victory since taking control of both houses of Congress and the White House this year. The Senate passed it 51-48, with no GOP defections and no Democratic support. The House will have to hold a quick second vote to sign off on minor changes the Senate had to make to keep the legislation within its rules, then the bill will go to President Trump for his signature. The $1.5 trillion plan includes new breaks for businesses and deep cuts in the corporate tax rate. It is projected to lower income tax bills for most households in 2018, with the wealthiest benefiting most. U.S. stock futures gained early Wednesday on enthusiasm for corporate tax breaks.
EU court deals major blow to Uber
The European Union's highest court handed Uber a major defeat on Wednesday by declaring that the ride-hailing service must comply with the same tough rules as conventional taxi companies. Uber had argued that it should be exempt because it is really just a digital services provider, helping to connect riders with independent drivers through its ride-hailing smartphone app. The decision threatens to hamper Uber's plans to expand in Europe by forcing it to spend a fortune on licensing fees and employee benefits. It also could signal broader changes in store for the gig economy, in which a growing number of people work as freelancers or under short-term contracts rather than as full-time employees with clear rights and benefits under established labor rules.
Facebook expanding use of facial recognition technology
Facebook announced Tuesday that it is expanding its facial recognition technology in the interest of user privacy. The tool will now be able to notify users when a picture of them is uploaded regardless of whether or not they are tagged in it; previously, Facebook would not flag an image for an untagged user, but if users encountered the photo organically, they'd be asked if they'd like to be tagged. Should you receive a notification that your visage was uploaded in another user's photo, you can then either tag yourself in the photo, leave it as is, or report the image. As part of Tuesday's updates, Facebook will also now give users the option to disable facial recognition technology altogether.
SEC halts trading of cryptocurrency company
The Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday suspended trading of The Crypto Company, a business centered on cryptocurrency assets and technologies, due to "concerns regarding the accuracy and adequacy of information" about compensation paid to promote the firm and plans for insider sales. The Crypto Company's shares have rocketed up along with the surge in prices for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, rising by 160 percent in the past five days and by 17,000 percent in the past three months. The surge has boosted the firm's market value to more than $11 billion, higher than that of big-name brands such as Macy's, The New York Times, and Under Armour.
McDonald's to sell McVegan burger in Sweden and Finland
McDonald's plans to start selling a McVegan burger in hundreds of restaurants in Sweden and Finland next week. The sandwich will include a soy patty, bun, tomato, lettuce, pickles, onion, ketchup, mustard, oil, and an egg-less sandwich sauce. "Like our other burgers, the McVegan is tasty and has a good texture," said McDonald's spokesperson Henrik Nerell. The meatless burger is seen as a way for the burger giant to lure customers seeking vegetarian fare. It also will help McDonald's "have a smaller climate impact," the company said. The United Nations says 14.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock farming.