The daily business briefing: September 5, 2019

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Harold Maass
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1.

Bill blocking no-deal Brexit passes House of Commons

Britain's House of Commons on Wednesday approved a bill seeking to block a no-deal Brexit, dealing a fresh defeat to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his effort to usher the U.K. out of the European Union in late October with or without an agreement. Opposition lawmakers and dissenters in Johnson's own Conservative Party took over control of the legislative agenda late Tuesday when a defector deprived Johnson of his majority. Next, the bill against a no-deal Brexit goes to the House of Lords. Lawmakers rejected Johnson's request to call a snap election in mid-October, two weeks before the country's scheduled exit from the trading bloc. After Johnson threatened the early elections, more than 100,000 people applied to vote over 48 hours. [The New York Times, The Guardian]

2.

China confirms October trade talks, lifting stock futures

U.S. stock index futures jumped early Thursday after China confirmed plans for trade talks with the U.S. early next month, with futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 rising by about 0.9 percent and those of the Nasdaq gaining more than 1 percent. China's Commerce Ministry said Beijing's top negotiator, Liu He, had spoken by phone with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and that the two sides would "conduct conscientious consultations" in mid-September to prepare for talks in early October on ending the U.S.-China trade war. U.S. stocks made solid gains on Wednesday after Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam withdrew a controversial extradition bill that ignited months of protests. [CNBC, MarketWatch]

3.

Trump administration weakens requirements on energy-saving light bulbs

The Trump administration on Wednesday announced rules dialing back requirements for energy-saving light bulbs. The new standards were passed into law in 2007 to help reduce energy use and emissions of greenhouse gases scientists say fuel climate change. Environmentalists said they would challenge the change in court. "We will explore all options, including litigation, to stop this completely misguided and unlawful action," Noah Horowitz, director of the Center for Energy Efficiency Standards at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said last week with the rule change looming. The shift to energy-saving light bulbs has been credited with reducing household energy consumption by 6 percent since 2010. [The New York Times]

4.

Google to pay $170 million after FTC's YouTube probe

Google will pay $170 million following a Federal Trade Commission probe into YouTube. The FTC had been investigating the Google-owned video platform for allegedly violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act by improperly collecting children's data. The Wall Street Journal reported the FTC settlement was "expected to require significant changes," and Bloomberg recently reported YouTube would soon end targeted advertising on videos directed at children in order "to satisfy regulators." This comes after Facebook last month agreed to a $5 billion FTC settlement over privacy violations. Some criticized the fine on Google as too low, with Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) saying the FTC "appears to have let YouTube off the hook." [The Washington Post]

5.

Ex-UAW official pleads guilty to kickback scheme

A former United Auto Workers official, Michael Grimes, pleaded guilty Wednesday to fraud and money laundering charges stemming from an ongoing FBI investigation. Grimes, who was on the executive board of the Center for Human Resources training facility, was accused of soliciting kickbacks worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from vendors who supplied union members with watches and jackets. "The conduct admitted by Mr. Grimes in his plea today is shocking and absolutely disgraceful," the union said in a statement. A defense lawyer said Grimes was "devastated." The case could complicate looming contract negotiations with General Motors, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler. [Reuters]