The daily business briefing: April 15, 2021

Harold Maass
Coinbase app
CHRIS DELMAS/AFP via Getty Images

1.

Coinbase stock soars in market debut

Coinbase shares surged in their debut on the Nasdaq Global Select Market, rising from $381 to as high as $429.54 within minutes to reach a valuation of nearly $100 billion. The stock later eased back a bit, but remained far above its reference price of $250. The cryptocurrency trading platform's strong first day as a publicly traded company was widely seen as a watershed moment in the mainstream acceptance of digital currency. The company lets investors buy and sell bitcoin and about 50 other cryptocurrencies. The start-up has more than 1,000 employees, and 56 million customers in 100 countries. "For both Coinbase and crypto, this is the graduation from the early, nascent days," said Coinbase investor Barry Schuler, managing director of DFJ Growth Fund and the former chairman and chief executive of AOL Time Warner. [The Wall Street Journal]

2.

Bernie Madoff, infamous Ponzi scheme mastermind, dies in prison

Notorious Ponzi scheme mastermind Bernie Madoff has died at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina, the Federal Bureau of Prisons confirmed Wednesday. He was 82. Authorities did not immediately announce the cause of death. Madoff served 12 years of a 150-year sentence for bilking an estimated $65 billion from thousands of investors in the largest Ponzi scheme in history. His victims included small-time investors and the rich and famous, including movie director Steven Spielberg, actors Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, New York Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, and L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt. "Because of how long this lasted, it was completely devastating to so many victims," said Matthew L. Schwartz, the former New York prosecutor who led the investigation. [NBC News]

3.

Corporate leaders sign statement against laws making voting harder

Hundreds of leaders from Amazon, Google, BlackRock, Starbucks, and other high-profile companies signed a statement expressing opposition to legislation proposed or adopted in several states seeking to make voting harder. The statement, printed Wednesday in an advertisement in The New York Times, said "we must ensure the right to vote for all of us." The message was organized by two prominent Black corporate leaders, Ken Chenault and Ken Frazier. The statement described the message as "bipartisan," and didn't directly mention specific legislation, such as measures in Georgia, Texas, and other states where Republican lawmakers are pushing tougher voting restrictions. "We all should feel a responsibility to defend the right to vote," the statement said. [CNN]

4.

Stock futures rise after Dow sets record, S&P 500 retreats

U.S. stock futures rose early Thursday after mixed trading on Wednesday in which the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit another record high but the S&P 500 edged down from its latest record. Futures tied to the Dow and the S&P 500 were up by 0.4 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively, several hours before the opening bell. Those of the tech-heavy Nasdaq gained 0.6 percent. The Dow edged up by nearly 0.2 percent on Wednesday with a boost from Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase. Both banks reported quarterly earnings that beat expectations. The S&P 500 fell by 0.4 percent as pressure on big tech stocks offset optimism at the start of earnings season. The Nasdaq fell by 1 percent as Tesla dropped by 4 percent and Netflix and Facebook both lost more than 2 percent. [CNBC]

5.

U.S. to expand sanctions on Russia over corporate hacking and other actions

The Biden administration plans to impose sanctions on Russia on Thursday in response to Moscow's hacking campaign against U.S. government and corporate computer systems, its election meddling, and other actions, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. An executive order reportedly will expand existing measures barring U.S. banks from trading in Russian government debt, according to one of the Journal's sources. U.S. banks will be barred from buying new bonds directly from Russian government institutions or its huge sovereign-wealth fund. The previous prohibitions rattled Russia's markets. The U.S. also will expel 10 Russian diplomats, some over allegations that Moscow offered bounties to militants for killing U.S. service members in Afghanistan. [The Wall Street Journal]