The daily business briefing: March 22, 2019

Harold Maass
British Prime Minister Theresa May
Emmanuel Dunand/Getty Images
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EU agrees to a short Brexit delay

European Union leaders on Thursday granted British Prime Minister Theresa May's request for a brief delay to her country's exit from the trading bloc. The U.K. had been scheduled to leave on March 29, but British lawmakers twice rejected May's Brexit plans. They also ruled out a "no-deal" Brexit. European leaders called on May to pass a deal or present a workable alternative by April 12. If Parliament does endorse a deal, Britain will be able to leave the EU on May 22. European leaders grilled May Thursday on why she had requested a three-month delay and why British politicians couldn't agree to the negotiated deal. "You could feel the patience running thin," an official said. [The Washington Post, BBC News]


Indonesian airline seeks to cancel $4.9 billion Boeing order

Indonesian airline Garuda on Friday announced it would cancel a $4.9 billion order for Boeing 737 Max 8 jets following two crashes in less than five months. Garuda ordered 50 of the planes in 2014 and has received just one. It sent Boeing a letter saying it did not want the rest. "Our passengers have lost confidence to fly with the Max 8," Garuda's Ikhsan Rosan said. The airline expects Boeing representatives to travel to Jakarta next week to discuss the matter. Boeing 737 Max jets have been grounded by countries around the world, including the U.S., following the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max 8 that killed all 157 people on board, which came after the similar deadly crash of a Lion Air plane in October. [CNN]


Facebook left unencrypted passwords on internal database

Facebook on Thursday acknowledged having stored hundreds of millions of user passwords in plain text when they should have been encrypted. The practice was initially reported by cybersecurity journalist Brian Krebs, who said this has been happening "in some cases going back to 2012." Krebs reported that "between 200 million and 600 million" users have been affected. In a blog post, Facebook didn't provide an exact number but said it would notify "hundreds of millions" of affected Facebook and Instagram users. These unencrypted passwords were reportedly searchable in a database that could be accessed by 20,000 Facebook employees. Facebook says it discovered this during a security review in January but found "no evidence to date that anyone internally abused or improperly accessed the passwords." [TechCrunch, Facebook]


Boeing to make safety extras standard following crashes

Boeing plans to make once-optional safety equipment a standard feature in the wake of the deadly crashes of two Boeing 737 Max 8 planes that lacked the gear. The equipment alerts pilots when key sensors are providing faulty information. The causes of the crashes of a Lion Air plane in October and an Ethiopian Airlines jet in March have not been determined, but investigators are focusing on an automated flight control system that uses two censors to prevent a steep climb that could cause engines to stall. Bad data might have caused the system to push down the noses of the planes. The Lion Air flight data recorders indicated that the sensors on that plane malfunctioned before it crashed shortly after takeoff. [The Associated Press]


GM to announce $300 million investment in Michigan plant

General Motors on Friday is expected to announce it will invest $300 million in a Michigan plant that builds Chevrolet Bolt electric cars and Cruise self-driving test vehicles, Reuters and Bloomberg reported Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter. GM said in a media advisory Thursday that its leaders would be at the suburban Detroit plant to unveil plans for a "major new investment focused on development of GM future technologies." United Auto Workers union Vice President Terry Dittes and government officials are expected to join GM officials for the announcement. The largest U.S. automaker has faced criticism from President Trump over its decision to end production at its Lordstown, Ohio, assembly plant, which made Chevy Cruze vehicles. [Reuters, Bloomberg]