Business briefing

The daily business briefing: December 23, 2020

DOJ accuses Walmart of contributing to the opioid epidemic, Trump demands $2,000 stimulus checks in coronavirus package, and more

1

DOJ sues Walmart over alleged role in opioid epidemic

The Justice Department on Tuesday filed a lawsuit accusing Walmart of contributing to the nation's opioid epidemic by pressuring its pharmacies to fill potentially suspicious painkiller subscriptions. Walmart allegedly illegally sold thousands of prescriptions its pharmacists "knew were invalid," said Jeffrey Clark, the acting assistant attorney general in charge of DOJ's civil division. The company is required by law to report suspicious orders for controlled substance to the Drug Enforcement Administration, but for years "reported virtually no suspicious orders at all," said Jason Dunn, the U.S. attorney in Colorado. Walmart pushed back, denying the allegations and saying that the federal investigation was "tainted by historical ethics violations."

2

Trump demands $2,000 stimulus checks in coronavirus relief bill

President Trump on Tuesday called the $900 billion coronavirus relief package just passed by Congress a "disgrace," saying it was full of "wasteful spending" and failed to meet the needs of millions of Americans. Trump suggested in a video posted to Twitter that he wouldn't sign the legislation unless it is changed. He called on Congress to increase individuals' stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000, saying the initial figure was "ridiculously low" but didn't acknowledge that his treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, had proposed it. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said via Twitter that Republicans had "repeatedly refused to say what amount the president wanted for direct checks. At last, the president has agreed to $2,000... Let's do it!"

3

Stock futures edge higher after Trump calls for more coronavirus stimulus

U.S. stock index futures made modest gains early Wednesday after President Trump slammed the $900 billion coronavirus relief package Congress just approved and called for sending bigger stimulus checks to Americans struggling financially due to the pandemic. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were up by about 0.3 percent several hours before the opening bell. Nasdaq Composite futures gained about 0.2 percent. The three main U.S. indexes were mixed on Tuesday. The Dow and the S&P 500 fell by 0.7 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively, despite the passing of the coronavirus relief bill after months of negotiations. In addition to $600 stimulus checks to individuals, the package includes additional small business loans and jobless benefits.

4

Trump's private banker abruptly resigns from Deutsche Bank

President Trump's longtime banker, Rosemary Vrablic, has resigned from Deutsche Bank, according to a company spokesman. Vrablic, a managing director and senior banker in Deutsche Bank's wealth management division, arranged for the German bank to lend Trump's company hundreds of millions of dollars. "I've chosen to resign my position with the bank effective Dec. 31 and am looking forward to my retirement," Vrablic, 60, said Tuesday in a statement. Trump's relationship with the bank came under intense scrutiny after he took office. Deutsche Bank in August opened an internal review of a 2013 real estate transaction between Vrablic and a company partly owned by Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, also a Vrablic client. Another Deutsche Bank employee involved in the transaction is also leaving.

5

France eases ban on British freight, passengers

France on Tuesday relaxed a two-day ban on entry by passengers and freight from Britain that was imposed after a new, fast-spreading coronavirus variant prompted a strict lockdown in the London area. France's blockade had left about 4,000 trucks stranded in Britain, raising the threat of food shortages. Truck drivers lined up along a highway leading to the English port of Dover were being tested for the virus. Travelers entering France from Britain must show a negative test taken within 72 hours of entry into France from the United Kingdom. The agreement to start letting people through came after two days of negotiations that started when numerous European countries closed their doors to British travelers.

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