The Week in Business: Facebook’s Role in Impeachment

on Oct14
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I get it: Your attention span has been consumed by impeachment news all week. But important stuff is happening in the business and tech worlds, too. Here’s what you should know heading into Monday.

CreditGiacomo Bagnara

What role will big tech play in the Trump impeachment inquiry? We got a taste last week when President Trump’s re-election campaign ran an ad on Facebook that claimed that Joe Biden had offered Ukraine $1 billion to scuttle an investigation of his son. Mr. Biden’s campaign said the video (and Facebook, by extension) was peddling false information, as did a chorus of news outlets including CNN, which refused to air the ad. But when the Biden camp requested that the ad be removed, Facebook declined, claiming that it did not violate company policy. The platform’s response set a laissez-faire tone toward the spread of misinformation about the impeachment inquiry — scary, considering the impact of social media on public opinion.

Tensions between the United States and China plagued yet another industry last week: the N.B.A. An exhibition game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets, held in Shanghai on Thursday, was supposed to symbolize common ground between the two countries. (Hey, we all like basketball — maybe our governments can agree on other things, too!) But the N.B.A.’s multibillion-dollar relationship with China became another lightning rod for conflict when an executive at the Houston Rockets tweeted his support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Chinese television networks dropped the game and some ticket holders boycotted it. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump announced that officials from the two countries had reached a “phase one” trade agreement that would halt the next round of tariff increases on Chinese goods, which were set to go into effect on Tuesday. The deal provides a temporary détente in a yearlong trade war.

Once famous for defining female sexiness (cleavage, minimal body fat, salivating men), the largest lingerie company in the United States has had a long fall in the #MeToo era. The brand laid off 15 percent of its staff last week — an unusual move for a retailer heading into the holiday season, but these are unusual times. Sales have sagged for years as consumers’ underwear tastes shifted toward more inclusive, body-positive brands. And it certainly didn’t help that Victoria’s Secret has been caught up in the Jeffrey Epstein sex-trafficking scandal ever since Lesley Wexner, the chief executive of the store’s parent company, was revealed as one of Mr. Epstein’s biggest financial clients and closest associates.

CreditGiacomo Bagnara

In an effort to prevent a repeat of last year’s devastating wildfires, California’s largest utility, Pacific Gas and Electric, shut down power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses in the northern part of the state last week. Citing dry conditions and extreme winds that could damage power lines and spark flames, PG&E said the blackouts could last several more days while electrical equipment is inspected. The economic fallout from the power cuts could be huge, but most residents would rather be safe than sorry — especially as fires have already displaced over 100,000 people in the Los Angeles area.

Remember when Brexit’s Oct. 31 deadline seemed ages away, giving Parliament plenty of time to sort out its differences with the European Union and create a sound plan for Britain’s withdrawal? Well. Unless an 11th-hour agreement is reached, Britain will need to extend the deadline once more. Which worked so well the previous times, right? Queen Elizabeth will outline Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s legislative plans when she opens a new session of Parliament on Monday, but lawmakers are expected to reject them. That could set off a no-confidence vote in Mr. Johnson’s leadership, followed by a new election. All of the above leaves Brexit — and Britain’s economy — in limbo for even longer.

The annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund take place in Washington this week, and it sounds like a real party! The I.M.F.’s new managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, will present its World Economic Outlook on Tuesday, and it won’t be good. She recently warned that Mr. Trump’s trade war with China could cost the global economy around $700 billion by 2020 — a loss equivalent to the size of Switzerland’s entire economy. Expect more hand-wringing this week, only with a bigger audience and further discussion of the threat of a recession.

Boeing and Porsche have teamed up to create a “premium” flight vehicle that basically sounds like a flying car. But the news was overshadowed by a damning report that found both Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration at fault for a flawed certification process that led to two fatal crashes of the 737 Max plane. In other news, New York City’s comptroller demanded that 56 companies adopt a version of the N.F.L.’s Rooney Rule, which aims to foster diversity in top roles by requiring leaders to consider women and ethnic minorities in their searches for chief executives and board members.

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