Inside Corporate America’s Frantic Response to the Georgia Voting Law

On March 11, Delta Air Lines dedicated a building at its Atlanta headquarters to Andrew Young, the civil rights leader and former mayor. At the ceremony, Mr. Young spoke of the restrictive voting rights bill that Republicans were rushing through the Georgia state legislature. Then, after the speeches, Mr. Young’s daughter, Andrea, a prominent activist herself, cornered Delta’s chief executive, Ed Bastian.

“I told him how important it was to oppose this law,” she said.

For Mr. Bastian, it was an early warning that the issue of voting rights might soon ensnare Delta in another national dispute. Over the past five years, corporations have taken political stands like never before, often in response to the extreme policies of former President Donald J. Trump.

After Mr. Trump’s equivocating response to the white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, Ken Frazier, the Black chief executive of Merck, resigned from a presidential advisory group, prompting dozens of other top executives to distance themselves from the president. Last year, after the killing of George Floyd, hundreds of companies expressed solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

But for corporations, the dispute over voting rights is different. An issue that both political parties see as a priority is not easily addressed with statements of solidarity and donations. Taking a stand on voting rights legislation thrusts companies into partisan politics and pits them against Republicans who have proven willing to raise taxes and enact onerous regulations on companies that cross them politically.

Major League Baseball pulled the All-Star game from Atlanta in protest, and more than 100 other companies spoke out in defense of voting rights.

The groundswell of support suggests that the Black executives’ clarion call will have an impact in the months ahead, as Republican lawmakers in more than 40 states advance restrictive voting laws. But already, the backlash has been swift, with Mr. Trump calling for boycotts of companies opposing such laws, and Georgia lawmakers voting for new taxes on Delta.

eliminate a tax break for Delta, costing the company $50 million.

Yet as 2021 began and Mr. Bastian focused on his company’s recovery from the pandemic, an even more partisan issue loomed.

In February, civil rights activists began reaching out to Delta, flagging what they saw as problematic provisions in early drafts of the bill, including a ban on Sunday voting, and asking the company to use its clout and lobbying muscle to sway the debate.

Delta’s government affairs team shared some of those concerns, but decided to work behind the scenes, rather than go public. It was a calculated choice intended to avoid upsetting Republican lawmakers.

In early March, Delta lobbyists pushed David Ralston, the Republican head of the Georgia house, and aides to Gov. Brian Kemp to remove some far-reaching provisions in the bill.

followed the same script, refraining from criticizing the bill.

That passive approach infuriated activists. In mid-March, protesters staged a “die in” at Coca-Cola’s museum. Bishop Reginald Jackson, an influential Atlanta pastor, took to the streets with a bullhorn and called for a boycott of Coca-Cola. Days later, activists massed at the Delta terminal at the Atlanta airport and called on Mr. Bastian to use his clout to “kill the bill.” Still, Mr. Bastian declined to say anything publicly.

Two weeks to the day after Delta dedicated its building to Mr. Young, the law was passed. Some of the most restrictive provisions had been removed, but the law limits ballot access and makes it a crime to give water to people waiting in line to vote.

The fight in Georgia appeared to be over. Days after the law was passed though, a group of powerful Black executives frustrated by the results sprang into action. Soon, Atlanta companies were drawn back into the fight, and the controversy had spread to other corporations around the country.

spoke with the media. “There is no middle ground here,” Mr. Chenault told The Times. “You either are for more people voting, or you want to suppress the vote.”

“This was unprecedented,” Mr. Lewis said. “The African-American business community has never coalesced around a nonbusiness issue and issued a call to action to the broader corporate community.”

Mr. Bastian had been unable to sleep on Tuesday night after his call with Mr. Chenault, according to two people familiar with the matter. He had also been receiving a stream of emails about the law from Black Delta employees, who make up 21 percent of the company’s work force. Eventually, Mr. Bastian came to the conclusion that it was deeply problematic, the two people said.

accused Mr. Bastian of spreading “the same false attacks being repeated by partisan activists.” And Republicans in the Georgia house voted to strip Delta of a tax break, just as they did three years ago. “You don’t feed a dog that bites your hand,” said Mr. Ralston, the house speaker.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida posted a video in which he called Delta and Coca-Cola “woke corporate hypocrites” and Mr. Trump joined the calls for a boycott of companies speaking out against the voting laws.

Companies that had taken a more cautious approach weren’t targeted the same way. UPS and Home Depot, big Atlanta employers, also faced early calls to oppose the Georgia law, but instead made unspecific commitments to voting rights.

declared their opposition to proposed voting legislation in that state. And on Friday, more than 170 companies signed a statement calling on elected officials around the country to refrain from enacting legislation that makes it harder for people to vote.

It was messy, but to many activists, it was progress. “Companies don’t exist in a vacuum,” said Stacey Abrams, who has worked for years to get out the Black vote in Georgia. “It’s going to take a national response by corporations to stop what happened in Georgia from happening in other states.”

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American Airlines and Dell push back against restricting voter access in Texas.

More large companies have voiced their opposition to Republican-led efforts to restrict voting, this time in Texas.

On Thursday, American Airlines and Dell Technologies declared their objections to proposals in the state that would restrict local measures intended to make voting easier, such as by extending early voting hours.

The pushback in Texas came just a day after Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola spoke out against similar efforts in Georgia, though both companies waited until after Georgia’s governor had already signed the law to criticize it.

“I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values,” Ed Bastian, Delta’s chief executive, wrote in an internal memo to employees on Wednesday that the company has posted on its website. Delta is Georgia’s largest employer.

Coca-Cola, which had also declined to take a position on the legislation before it passed, made a similarly worded statement.

Those comments came a day after a group of Black executives, led by the former chief executive of American Express and the current chief executive of the drugmaker Merck, called on companies to oppose proposed bills making it more difficult to vote across the country — saying that they would particularly impact the voting rights of Black Americans.

On Thursday, American Airlines and Dell each addressed separate bills making their way through the Texas legislature.

“Earlier this morning, the Texas State Senate passed legislation with provisions that limit voting access, ” the airline said in a statement on Thursday, referring to Senate Bill 7. “To make American’s stance clear: We are strongly opposed to this bill and others like it.”

Michael Dell, the chief executive of the Round Rock, Texas-based company that bears his name, took to Twitter to voice his company’s opposition to House Bill 6, a measure that would stop local election officials from proactively sending out applications for mail-in ballots.

“Free, fair, equitable access to voting is the foundation of American democracy,” Mr. Dell wrote on Thursday. “Those rights — especially for women, communities of color — have been hard-earned. Governments should ensure citizens have their voices heard. HB6 does the opposite, and we are opposed to it.”

Southwest Airlines, which is based in Dallas, declined to comment on specific legislation. “In our view, the right to vote is foundational to our democracy and a right coveted by all,” the company said in a statement on Friday. “We believe every voter should have a fair opportunity to let their voice be heard.”

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Frontier Airlines I.P.O. Signals a Travel Industry Recovery

“We just believe we’ve got more embedded growth, we’ve also got lower costs, and we believe we’ve got a great brand that positions us well in the low-fare space,” Mr. Biffle said.

The airline claims it is unique among low-cost airlines. While Spirit tends to serve more-crowded markets and Allegiant Air less-crowded ones, Frontier is more evenly distributed. The airline said it kept planes moving for more hours every day than most other major airlines and offers some flights only a few days a week, allowing it to serve smaller cities. In addition to Denver, Frontier has a big presence in Orlando, Fla., and Las Vegas.

Frontier also claims to be more fuel-efficient than its peers, which it hopes will appeal to environmentally conscious consumers.

The airline earned $251 million in 2019 before losing nearly as much last year. It has about $1 billion in cash or cash equivalents and employs about 5,000 people.

Deregulation of the U.S. airline industry in 1978 paved the way for the growth of low-cost carriers, which tend to operate direct, point-to-point flights, often to secondary airports in major cities — an approach pioneered by Southwest. That strategy makes it easier to put planes and crews to efficient use, allowing the airlines to offer relatively low fares. The more traditional hub-and-spoke model used by American, United and Delta is more expensive to maintain but easier to grow once established.

The ultra-low-cost model is a more recent creation, one that Europe’s Ryanair is often credited with popularizing. Companies that use it are much more aggressive about keeping costs low and maximizing revenue. These airlines tend to use their planes an hour or two more each day than other airlines and tend to cram more and smaller seats into planes. They also charge for lots of services that even many conventional discount airlines include in the ticket price, such as seat selection or printed boarding passes.

But larger airlines are unlikely to easily cede ground to Frontier and its ilk. In March, for example, United, which operates the most flights at the Denver airport, announced plans to add dozens of nonstop flights between small Midwestern cities and a handful of tourist destinations. Even before the pandemic, United and other large airlines were copying ultra-low-cost companies by offering lower fares and charging for more services.

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Business Groups Push Back on Tax Increase in Biden Plan: Live Updates

15 years of higher taxes on corporations to pay for eight years of spending. The plans include raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent. The corporate tax rate had been cut from 35 percent under former President Donald J. Trump.

The Business Roundtable said it supported infrastructure investment, calling it “essential to economic growth” and important “to ensure a rapid economic recovery” — but rejected corporate tax increases as a way to pay for it.

Policymakers should avoid creating new barriers to job creation and economic growth, particularly during the recovery,” the group’s chief executive, Joshua Bolten, said in a statement.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce echoed that view. “We strongly oppose the general tax increases proposed by the administration, which will slow the economic recovery and make the U.S. less competitive globally — the exact opposite of the goals of the infrastructure plan,” the chamber’s chief policy officer, Neil Bradley, said in a statement.

Wall Street has been wary of possible tax increases since the presidential election and has hoped that gridlock in Washington would moderate Mr. Biden’s agenda. On Wednesday, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase said the bank’s chief executive, Jamie Dimon, believed “that the corporate tax rate for companies in the U.S. has to be competitive globally, which it is now.”

But “he has no problem with high-income people like himself paying a higher tax rate,” said the spokesman, Joseph Evangelisti.

The Biden administration has indicated that tax increases for wealthy Americans will help fund the second phase of the infrastructure plan, which is expected to be announced next month and will focus on priorities like education, health care and paid leave. The increase in corporate taxes is an effort to “ensure that corporations pay their fair share,” White House officials said in a news release.

“With vaccinations becoming more widespread and confidence in travel rising, we’re ready to help customers reclaim their lives,” the chief executive of Delta Air Lines said.
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Delta Air Lines said Wednesday that it would sell middle seats on flights starting May 1, more than a year after it decided to leave them empty to promote distancing. Other airlines had blocked middle seats early in the pandemic, but Delta held out the longest by several months and is the last of the four big U.S. airlines to get rid of the policy.

The company’s chief executive, Ed Bastian, said that a survey of those who flew Delta in 2019 found that nearly 65 percent expected to have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by May 1, which gave the airline “the assurance to offer customers the ability to choose any seat on our aircraft.”

Delta started blocking middle seat bookings in April 2020 and said that it continued the policy to give passengers peace of mind.

“During the past year, we transformed our service to ensure their health, safety, convenience and comfort during their travels,” Mr. Bastian said in a statement. “Now, with vaccinations becoming more widespread and confidence in travel rising, we’re ready to help customers reclaim their lives.”

Air travel has started to recover meaningfully in recent weeks, with ticket sales rising and as well over one million people per day have been screened at airport checkpoints since mid-March, according to the Transportation Security Administration. More than 1.5 million people were screened on Sunday, the busiest day at airports since the pandemic began. Air travel is still down about 40 percent from 2019.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend against travel, even for those who have been vaccinated. This week, its director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, warned of “impending doom” from a potential fourth wave of the pandemic if Americans move too quickly to disregard the advice of public health officials.

Delta also said on Wednesday that it would give customers more time to use expiring travel credits. All new tickets purchased in 2021 and credits set to expire this year will now expire at the end of 2022.

Starting April 14, the airline plans to bring back soft drinks, cocktails and snacks on flights within the United States and to nearby international destinations. In June, it plans to start offering hot food in premium classes on some coast-to-coast flights. Delta also announced changes that will make it easier for members of its loyalty program to earn points this year.

Deliveroo is now in 12 countries and has over 100,000 riders.
Credit…Toby Melville/Reuters

Deliveroo, the British food delivery service, dropped as much as 30 percent in its first minutes of trading on Wednesday, a gloomy public debut for the company that was promoted as a post-Brexit win for London’s financial markets.

The company had set its initial public offering price at 3.90 pounds a share, valuing Deliveroo at £7.6 billion or $10.4 billion. But it opened at £3.31, 15 percent lower, and kept falling. By the end of the day, shares had recovered only slightly, closing at about £2.87, 26 percent lower.

The offering has been troubled by major investors planning to sit out the I.P.O. amid concerns about shareholder voting rights and Deliveroo rider pay. Deliveroo, trading under the ticker “ROO,” sold just under 385 million shares, raising £1.5 billion.

The business model of Deliveroo and other gig economy companies is increasingly under threat in Europe as legal challenges mount. Two weeks ago, Uber reclassified more than 70,000 drivers in Britain as workers who will receive a minimum wage, vacation pay and access to a pension plan, after a Supreme Court ruling. Analysts said the move could set a precedent for other companies and increase costs.

Deliveroo, which is based in London and was founded in 2013, is now in 12 countries and has more than 100,000 riders, recognizable on the streets by their teal jackets and food bags. Last year, Amazon became its biggest shareholder.

Demand for Deliveroo’s services could soon diminish, as pandemic restrictions in its largest market, Britain, begin to ease. In a few weeks, restaurants will reopen for outdoor dining. Last year, Deliveroo said, it lost £226.4 million even as its revenue jumped more than 50 percent to nearly £1.2 billion.

Last week, a joint investigation by the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism was published based on invoices of hundreds of Deliveroo riders. It found that a third of the riders made less than £8.72 an hour, the national minimum wage for people over 25.

Deliveroo dismissed the report, calling the union a “fringe organization” that didn’t represent a significant number of Deliveroo riders. The company said that riders were paid for each delivery and earn “£13 per hour on average at our busiest times.”

On Monday, shares traded hands in a period called conditional dealing open to investors allocated shares in the initial offering. The stock is expected to be fully listed on the London Stock Exchange next Wednesday and can be traded without restrictions from then.

Last week, Ed Bastian, the chief executive of Delta, said he thought Georgia’s voting law had been improved, but on Wednesday he sounded a very different note.
Credit…Etienne Laurent/EPA, via Shutterstock

The chief executive of Delta, Ed Bastian, sent a letter on Wednesday to employees expressing regret for the company’s muted opposition to a restrictive voting law passed last week by the Georgia legislature.

“I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values,” he wrote in an internal memo that was reviewed by The New York Times.

Mr. Bastian’s position is a stark reversal from last week. As Republican lawmakers in Georgia rushed to pass the new law, Delta, along with other big companies headquartered in Atlanta, came under pressure from activists to publicly and directly oppose the effort. Activists called for boycotts, and protested at the Delta terminal at the Atlanta airport.

Instead, Delta chose to offer general statements in support of voting rights, and work behind the scenes to try and remove some of the most onerous provisions as the new law came together. After the law was passed on Thursday, Mr. Bastian said he believed it had been improved and included several useful changes that make voting more secure.

But on Wednesday, after dozens of prominent Black executives called on corporate America to become more engaged in the issue, Mr. Bastian reversed course.

“After having time to now fully understand all that is in the bill, coupled with discussions with leaders and employees in the Black community, it’s evident that the bill includes provisions that will make it harder for many underrepresented voters, particularly Black voters, to exercise their constitutional right to elect their representatives,” he said. “That is wrong.”

Mr. Bastian went further, saying that the entire premise of the new law — and dozens of similar bills being advanced in other states around the country — was based on false pretenses.

“The entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie: that there was widespread voter fraud in Georgia in the 2020 elections,” Mr. Bastian said. “This is simply not true. Unfortunately, that excuse is being used in states across the nation that are attempting to pass similar legislation to restrict voting rights.”

Also on Wednesday, Larry Fink, the chief executive of BlackRock, issued a statement on LinkedIn saying the company was concerned about the wave of new restrictive voting laws. “BlackRock is concerned about efforts that could limit access to the ballot for anyone,” Mr. Fink said. “Voting should be easy and accessible for ALL eligible voters.”

Kenneth Chenault, left, a former chief executive of American Express, and Kenneth Frazier, the chief executive of Merck, organized a letter signed by 72 Black business leaders.
Credit…Left, Justin Sullivan/Getty Images; right, Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Seventy-two Black executives signed a letter calling on companies to fight a wave of voting-rights bills similar to the one that was passed in Georgia being advanced by Republicans in at least 43 states.

The effort was led by Kenneth Chenault, a former chief executive of American Express, and Kenneth Frazier, the chief executive of Merck, Andrew Ross Sorkin and David Gelles report for The New York Times.

The signers included Roger Ferguson Jr., the chief executive of TIAA; Mellody Hobson and John Rogers Jr., the co-chief executives of Ariel Investments; Robert F. Smith, the chief executive of Vista Equity Partners; and Raymond McGuire, a former Citigroup executive who is running for mayor of New York. The group of leaders, with support from the Black Economic Alliance, bought a full-page ad in the Wednesday print edition of The New York Times.

“The Georgia legislature was the first one,” Mr. Frazier said. “If corporate America doesn’t stand up, we’ll get these laws passed in many places in this country.”

Last year, the Human Rights Campaign began persuading companies to sign on to a pledge that states their “clear opposition to harmful legislation aimed at restricting the access of L.G.B.T.Q. people in society.” Dozens of major companies, including AT&T, Facebook, Nike and Pfizer, signed on.

To Mr. Chenault, the contrast between the business community’s response to that issue and to voting restrictions that disproportionately harm Black voters was telling.

“You had 60 major companies — Amazon, Google, American Airlines — that signed on to the statement that states a very clear opposition to harmful legislation aimed at restricting the access of L.G.B.T.Q. people in society,” he said. “So, you know, it is bizarre that we don’t have companies standing up to this.”

“This is not new,” Mr. Chenault added. “When it comes to race, there’s differential treatment. That’s the reality.”

A Huawei store in Beijing. The United States has placed strict controls on Huawei’s ability to buy and make computer chips.
Credit…Greg Baker/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Chinese tech behemoth Huawei reported sharply slower growth in sales last year, which the company blamed on American sanctions that have both hobbled its ability to produce smartphones and left those handsets unable to run popular Google apps and services, limiting their appeal to many buyers.

Huawei said on Wednesday that global revenue was around $137 billion in 2020, 3.8 percent higher than the year before. The company’s sales growth in 2019 was 19.1 percent.

Over the past two years, Washington has placed strict controls on Huawei’s ability to buy and make computer chips and other essential components. United States officials have expressed concern that the Chinese government could use Huawei or its products for espionage and sabotage. The company has denied that it is a security threat.

In recent months, Huawei has continued to release new handset models. But sales have suffered, including in its home market. Worldwide, shipments of Huawei phones fell by 22 percent between 2019 and 2020, according to the research firm Canalys, making the company the world’s third largest smartphone vendor last year. In 2019, it was No. 2, behind Samsung.

Huawei remained top dog last year in telecom network equipment, according to the consultancy Dell’Oro Group, even as Britain and other governments blocked Huawei from building their nations’ 5G infrastructure.

Announcing the company’s financial results on Wednesday, Ken Hu, one of its deputy chairmen, said that despite the challenges, Huawei was not changing the broad direction of its business. Another Huawei executive recently revealed on social media that the company was offering an artificial intelligence product for pig farms, which some people took as a sign that Huawei was diversifying to survive.

Mr. Hu took note of the news reports about Huawei’s pig-farming product but said it was “not true” that the company was making any major shifts. “Huawei’s business direction is still focused on technology infrastructure,” he said.

Apple led the $50 million funding round in UnitedMasters, which allows musicians keep ownership of their master recordings.
Credit…Kathy Willens/Associated Press

Apple is investing in UnitedMasters, a music distribution company that lets musicians bypass traditional record labels.

Artists who distribute through UnitedMasters keep ownership of their master recordings and pay either a yearly fee or 10 percent of their royalties.

Apple led the $50 million funding round, announced on Wednesday, which values UnitedMasters at $350 million, the DealBook newsletter reports. Existing investors, including Alphabet and Andreessen Horowitz, also participated in the funding.

Musicians are increasingly taking ownership of their work. Taylor Swift, most famously, and Anita Baker, most recently, have publicized their fights with labels over their master recordings. Artists once needed the heft of major publishing labels — which typically demand ownership of master recordings — to build a fan base. But with social media, labels no longer play as significant a gatekeeping role. UnitedMasters has partnerships with the N.B.A., ESPN, TikTok and Twitch, deals that reflect the new ways that people discover music.

“Technology, no doubt, has transformed music for consumers,” said Steve Stoute, the former major label executive who founded UnitedMasters. “Now it’s time for technology to change the economics for the artists.” The deal with UnitedMasters is about “empowering creators,” Eddy Cue, Apple’s head of internet software and services, said.

As streaming services, including Apple’s, compete for subscribers, they are cutting more favorable deals with the artists who attract users to platforms. Spotify announced an initiative called “Loud and Clear” this week to detail how it pays musicians following public pressure.

An H&M store in Beijing. The retailer’s chief executive, Helena Helmersson, said H&M had a “long-term commitment” to China.
Credit…Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

More than a week after the Swedish retailer H&M came under fire in China for a months-old statement expressing concern over reports of Uyghur forced labor in the region of Xinjiang, a major source of cotton, the company published a statement saying it hoped to regain the trust of customers in China.

In recent days, H&M and other Western clothing brands including Nike and Burberry that expressed concerns over reports coming out of Xinjiang have faced an outcry on Chinese social media, including calls for a boycott endorsed by President Xi Jinping’s government. The brands’ local celebrity partners have terminated their contracts, Chinese landlords have shuttered stores and their products have been removed from major e-commerce platforms.

Caught between calls for patriotism among Chinese consumers and campaigns for conscientious sourcing of cotton in the West, some other companies, including Inditex, the owner of the fast-fashion giant Zara, quietly removed statements on forced labor from their websites.

On Wednesday, H&M, the world’s second-largest fashion retailer by sales after Inditex, published a response to the controversy as part of its first quarter 2021 earnings report.

Not that it said much. There were no explicit references to cotton, Xinjiang or forced labor. However, the statement said that H&M wanted to be “a responsible buyer, in China and elsewhere” and was “actively working on next steps with regards to material sourcing.”

“We are dedicated to regaining the trust and confidence of our customers, colleagues, and business partners in China,” it said.

During the earnings conference call, the chief executive, Helena Helmersson, noted the company’s “long-term commitment to the country” and how Chinese suppliers, which were “at the forefront of innovation and technology,” would continue to “play an important role in further developing the entire industry.”

“We are working together with our colleagues in China to do everything we can to manage the current challenges and find a way forward, ” she said.

Executives on the call did not comment on the impact of the controversy on sales, except to state that around 20 stores in China were currently closed.

H&M’s earnings report, which covered a period before the recent outcry in China, reflected diminished profit for a retailer still dealing with pandemic lockdowns. Net sales in the three months through February fell 21 percent compared with the same quarter a year ago, with more than 1,800 stores temporarily closed.

Stocks on Wall Street rose as investors waited for President Biden to lay out plans for a $2 trillion package of infrastructure spending on Wednesday, which he is expected to propose funding with an increase in corporate taxes.

The S&P 500 index gained about 0.7 percent by midday, while the Nasdaq composite climbed about 1.9 percent. Bonds fell, with the yield on 10-year Treasury notes at 1.72 percent. On Tuesday, the 10-year yield climbed as high 1.77 percent, a level not seen since January 2020.

Prospects of a strong economic recovery in the United States, supported by large amounts of fiscal spending and the vaccine rollout, have pushed bond yields higher. Economic growth and higher inflation have made bonds less appealing as investors adjust their expectations for how much longer the Federal Reserve will need to keep its easy-money policies.

The Ever Given cargo ship was stuck in the Suez Canal nearly a week.
Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The traffic jam at the Suez Canal will soon ease, but behemoth container ships like the one that blocked that crucial passageway for almost a week aren’t going anywhere.

Global supply chains were already under pressure when the Ever Given, a ship longer than the Empire State Building and capable of carrying 20,000 containers, wedged itself between the banks of the Suez Canal last week. It was freed on Monday, but left behind “disruptions and backlogs in global shipping that could take weeks, possibly months, to unravel,” according to A.P. Moller-Maersk, the world’s largest shipping company.

The crisis was short, but it was also years in the making, reports Niraj Chokshi for The New York Times.

For decades, shipping lines have been making bigger and bigger vessels, driven by an expanding global appetite for electronics, clothes, toys and other goods. The growth in ship size, which sped up in recent years, often made economic sense: Bigger vessels are generally cheaper to build and operate on a per-container basis. But the largest ships can come with their own set of problems, not only for the canals and ports that have to handle them, but for the companies that build them.

“They did what they thought was most efficient for themselves — make the ships big — and they didn’t pay much attention at all to the rest of the world,” said Marc Levinson, an economist and author of “Outside the Box,” a history of globalization. “But it turns out that these really big ships are not as efficient as the shipping lines had imagined.”

Despite the risks they pose, however, massive vessels still dominate global shipping. According to Alphaliner, a data firm, the global fleet of container ships includes 133 of the largest ship type — those that can carry 18,000 to 24,000 containers. Another 53 are on order.

A.P. Moller-Maersk said it was premature to blame Ever Given’s size for what happened in the Suez. Ultra-large ships “have existed for many years and have sailed through the Suez Canal without issues,” Palle Brodsgaard Laursen, the company’s chief technical officer, said in a statement on Tuesday.

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CreditCredit…By Erik Carter

In today’s On Tech newsletter, Shira Ovide talks to New York Times reporter Karen Weise about the vote on whether to form a union at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., and how the outcome may reverberate beyond this one workplace.

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Delta reverses course, calling Georgia’s voting law ‘unacceptable.’

15 years of higher taxes on corporations to pay for eight years of spending. The plans include raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent. The corporate tax rate had been cut from 35 percent under former President Donald J. Trump.

The Business Roundtable said it supported infrastructure investment, calling it “essential to economic growth” and important “to ensure a rapid economic recovery” — but rejected corporate tax increases as a way to pay for it.

“Business Roundtable strongly opposes corporate tax increases” to pay for infrastructure investment, the group’s chief executive, Joshua Bolten, said in a statement. Policymakers should avoid creating new barriers to job creation and economic growth, particularly during the recovery.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce echoed Business Roundtable’s view. “We strongly oppose the general tax increases proposed by the administration, which will slow the economic recovery and make the U.S. less competitive globally — the exact opposite of the goals of the infrastructure plan,” the chamber’s chief policy officer, Neil Bradley, said in a statement.

Automakers embraced Mr. Biden’s bet to increase the use of electric cars. The plan proposes spending $174 billion to encourage the manufacture and purchase of electric vehicles by granting tax credits and other incentives to companies that make electric vehicle batteries in the United States instead of China.

“Customers want connected and increasingly electric vehicles, and we need to work together to build the infrastructure to help this transformation,” Jim Farley, the chief executive of Ford Motor, said in a statement. “Ford supports the administration’s efforts to advance a broad infrastructure plan that prioritizes a more sustainable, connected and autonomous future — including an integrated charging network and supportive supply chain, built on a foundation of safe roads and bridges for our customers.”

“With vaccinations becoming more widespread and confidence in travel rising, we’re ready to help customers reclaim their lives,” the chief executive of Delta Air Lines said.
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Delta Air Lines said Wednesday that it would sell middle seats on flights starting May 1, more than a year after it decided to leave them empty to promote distancing. Other airlines had blocked middle seats early in the pandemic, but Delta held out the longest by several months and is the last of the four big U.S. airlines to get rid of the policy.

The company’s chief executive, Ed Bastian, said that a survey of those who flew Delta in 2019 found that nearly 65 percent expected to have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by May 1, which gave the airline “the assurance to offer customers the ability to choose any seat on our aircraft.”

Delta started blocking middle seat bookings in April 2020 and said that it continued the policy to give passengers peace of mind.

“During the past year, we transformed our service to ensure their health, safety, convenience and comfort during their travels,” Mr. Bastian said in a statement. “Now, with vaccinations becoming more widespread and confidence in travel rising, we’re ready to help customers reclaim their lives.”

Air travel has started to recover meaningfully in recent weeks, with ticket sales rising and as well over one million people per day have been screened at airport checkpoints since mid-March, according to the Transportation Security Administration. More than 1.5 million people were screened on Sunday, the busiest day at airports since the pandemic began. Air travel is still down about 40 percent from 2019.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend against travel, even for those who have been vaccinated. This week, its director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, warned of “impending doom” from a potential fourth wave of the pandemic if Americans move too quickly to disregard the advice of public health officials.

Delta also said on Wednesday that it would give customers more time to use expiring travel credits. All new tickets purchased in 2021 and credits set to expire this year will now expire at the end of 2022.

Starting April 14, the airline plans to bring back soft drinks, cocktails and snacks on flights within the United States and to nearby international destinations. In June, it plans to start offering hot food in premium classes on some coast-to-coast flights. Delta also announced changes that will make it easier for members of its loyalty program to earn points this year.

Deliveroo is now in 12 countries and has over 100,000 riders.
Credit…Toby Melville/Reuters

Deliveroo, the British food delivery service, dropped as much as 30 percent in its first minutes of trading on Wednesday, a gloomy public debut for the company that was promoted as a post-Brexit win for London’s financial markets.

The company had set its initial public offering price at 3.90 pounds a share, valuing Deliveroo at £7.6 billion or $10.4 billion. But it opened at £3.31, 15 percent lower, and kept falling. By the end of the day, shares had recovered only slightly, closing at about £2.87, 26 percent lower.

The offering has been troubled by major investors planning to sit out the I.P.O. amid concerns about shareholder voting rights and Deliveroo rider pay. Deliveroo, trading under the ticker “ROO,” sold just under 385 million shares, raising £1.5 billion.

The business model of Deliveroo and other gig economy companies is increasingly under threat in Europe as legal challenges mount. Two weeks ago, Uber reclassified more than 70,000 drivers in Britain as workers who will receive a minimum wage, vacation pay and access to a pension plan, after a Supreme Court ruling. Analysts said the move could set a precedent for other companies and increase costs.

Deliveroo, which is based in London and was founded in 2013, is now in 12 countries and has more than 100,000 riders, recognizable on the streets by their teal jackets and food bags. Last year, Amazon became its biggest shareholder.

Demand for Deliveroo’s services could soon diminish, as pandemic restrictions in its largest market, Britain, begin to ease. In a few weeks, restaurants will reopen for outdoor dining. Last year, Deliveroo said, it lost £226.4 million even as its revenue jumped more than 50 percent to nearly £1.2 billion.

Last week, a joint investigation by the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism was published based on invoices of hundreds of Deliveroo riders. It found that a third of the riders made less than £8.72 an hour, the national minimum wage for people over 25.

Deliveroo dismissed the report, calling the union a “fringe organization” that didn’t represent a significant number of Deliveroo riders. The company said that riders were paid for each delivery and earn “£13 per hour on average at our busiest times.”

On Monday, shares traded hands in a period called conditional dealing open to investors allocated shares in the initial offering. The stock is expected to be fully listed on the London Stock Exchange next Wednesday and can be traded without restrictions from then.

Last week, Ed Bastian, the chief executive of Delta, said he thought Georgia’s voting law had been improved, but on Wednesday he sounded a very different note.
Credit…Etienne Laurent/EPA, via Shutterstock

The chief executive of Delta, Ed Bastian, sent a letter on Wednesday to employees expressing regret for the company’s muted opposition to a restrictive voting law passed last week by the Georgia legislature.

“I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values,” he wrote in an internal memo that was reviewed by The New York Times.

Mr. Bastian’s position is a stark reversal from last week. As Republican lawmakers in Georgia rushed to pass the new law, Delta, along with other big companies headquartered in Atlanta, came under pressure from activists to publicly and directly oppose the effort. Activists called for boycotts, and protested at the Delta terminal at the Atlanta airport.

Instead, Delta chose to offer general statements in support of voting rights, and work behind the scenes to try and remove some of the most onerous provisions as the new law came together. After the law was passed on Thursday, Mr. Bastian said he believed it had been improved and included several useful changes that make voting more secure.

But on Wednesday, after dozens of prominent Black executives called on corporate America to become more engaged in the issue, Mr. Bastian reversed course.

“After having time to now fully understand all that is in the bill, coupled with discussions with leaders and employees in the Black community, it’s evident that the bill includes provisions that will make it harder for many underrepresented voters, particularly Black voters, to exercise their constitutional right to elect their representatives,” he said. “That is wrong.”

Mr. Bastian went further, saying that the entire premise of the new law — and dozens of similar bills being advanced in other states around the country — was based on false pretenses.

“The entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie: that there was widespread voter fraud in Georgia in the 2020 elections,” Mr. Bastian said. “This is simply not true. Unfortunately, that excuse is being used in states across the nation that are attempting to pass similar legislation to restrict voting rights.”

Also on Wednesday, Larry Fink, the chief executive of BlackRock, issued a statement on LinkedIn saying the company was concerned about the wave of new restrictive voting laws. “BlackRock is concerned about efforts that could limit access to the ballot for anyone,” Mr. Fink said. “Voting should be easy and accessible for ALL eligible voters.”

Kenneth Chenault, left, a former chief executive of American Express, and Kenneth Frazier, the chief executive of Merck, organized a letter signed by 72 Black business leaders.
Credit…Left, Justin Sullivan/Getty Images; right, Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Seventy-two Black executives signed a letter calling on companies to fight a wave of voting-rights bills similar to the one that was passed in Georgia being advanced by Republicans in at least 43 states.

The effort was led by Kenneth Chenault, a former chief executive of American Express, and Kenneth Frazier, the chief executive of Merck, Andrew Ross Sorkin and David Gelles report for The New York Times.

The signers included Roger Ferguson Jr., the chief executive of TIAA; Mellody Hobson and John Rogers Jr., the co-chief executives of Ariel Investments; Robert F. Smith, the chief executive of Vista Equity Partners; and Raymond McGuire, a former Citigroup executive who is running for mayor of New York. The group of leaders, with support from the Black Economic Alliance, bought a full-page ad in the Wednesday print edition of The New York Times.

“The Georgia legislature was the first one,” Mr. Frazier said. “If corporate America doesn’t stand up, we’ll get these laws passed in many places in this country.”

Last year, the Human Rights Campaign began persuading companies to sign on to a pledge that states their “clear opposition to harmful legislation aimed at restricting the access of L.G.B.T.Q. people in society.” Dozens of major companies, including AT&T, Facebook, Nike and Pfizer, signed on.

To Mr. Chenault, the contrast between the business community’s response to that issue and to voting restrictions that disproportionately harm Black voters was telling.

“You had 60 major companies — Amazon, Google, American Airlines — that signed on to the statement that states a very clear opposition to harmful legislation aimed at restricting the access of L.G.B.T.Q. people in society,” he said. “So, you know, it is bizarre that we don’t have companies standing up to this.”

“This is not new,” Mr. Chenault added. “When it comes to race, there’s differential treatment. That’s the reality.”

A Huawei store in Beijing. The United States has placed strict controls on Huawei’s ability to buy and make computer chips.
Credit…Greg Baker/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Chinese tech behemoth Huawei reported sharply slower growth in sales last year, which the company blamed on American sanctions that have both hobbled its ability to produce smartphones and left those handsets unable to run popular Google apps and services, limiting their appeal to many buyers.

Huawei said on Wednesday that global revenue was around $137 billion in 2020, 3.8 percent higher than the year before. The company’s sales growth in 2019 was 19.1 percent.

Over the past two years, Washington has placed strict controls on Huawei’s ability to buy and make computer chips and other essential components. United States officials have expressed concern that the Chinese government could use Huawei or its products for espionage and sabotage. The company has denied that it is a security threat.

In recent months, Huawei has continued to release new handset models. But sales have suffered, including in its home market. Worldwide, shipments of Huawei phones fell by 22 percent between 2019 and 2020, according to the research firm Canalys, making the company the world’s third largest smartphone vendor last year. In 2019, it was No. 2, behind Samsung.

Huawei remained top dog last year in telecom network equipment, according to the consultancy Dell’Oro Group, even as Britain and other governments blocked Huawei from building their nations’ 5G infrastructure.

Announcing the company’s financial results on Wednesday, Ken Hu, one of its deputy chairmen, said that despite the challenges, Huawei was not changing the broad direction of its business. Another Huawei executive recently revealed on social media that the company was offering an artificial intelligence product for pig farms, which some people took as a sign that Huawei was diversifying to survive.

Mr. Hu took note of the news reports about Huawei’s pig-farming product but said it was “not true” that the company was making any major shifts. “Huawei’s business direction is still focused on technology infrastructure,” he said.

Apple led the $50 million funding round in UnitedMasters, which allows musicians keep ownership of their master recordings.
Credit…Kathy Willens/Associated Press

Apple is investing in UnitedMasters, a music distribution company that lets musicians bypass traditional record labels.

Artists who distribute through UnitedMasters keep ownership of their master recordings and pay either a yearly fee or 10 percent of their royalties.

Apple led the $50 million funding round, announced on Wednesday, which values UnitedMasters at $350 million, the DealBook newsletter reports. Existing investors, including Alphabet and Andreessen Horowitz, also participated in the funding.

Musicians are increasingly taking ownership of their work. Taylor Swift, most famously, and Anita Baker, most recently, have publicized their fights with labels over their master recordings. Artists once needed the heft of major publishing labels — which typically demand ownership of master recordings — to build a fan base. But with social media, labels no longer play as significant a gatekeeping role. UnitedMasters has partnerships with the N.B.A., ESPN, TikTok and Twitch, deals that reflect the new ways that people discover music.

“Technology, no doubt, has transformed music for consumers,” said Steve Stoute, the former major label executive who founded UnitedMasters. “Now it’s time for technology to change the economics for the artists.” The deal with UnitedMasters is about “empowering creators,” Eddy Cue, Apple’s head of internet software and services, said.

As streaming services, including Apple’s, compete for subscribers, they are cutting more favorable deals with the artists who attract users to platforms. Spotify announced an initiative called “Loud and Clear” this week to detail how it pays musicians following public pressure.

An H&M store in Beijing. The retailer’s chief executive, Helena Helmersson, said H&M had a “long-term commitment” to China.
Credit…Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

More than a week after the Swedish retailer H&M came under fire in China for a months-old statement expressing concern over reports of Uyghur forced labor in the region of Xinjiang, a major source of cotton, the company published a statement saying it hoped to regain the trust of customers in China.

In recent days, H&M and other Western clothing brands including Nike and Burberry that expressed concerns over reports coming out of Xinjiang have faced an outcry on Chinese social media, including calls for a boycott endorsed by President Xi Jinping’s government. The brands’ local celebrity partners have terminated their contracts, Chinese landlords have shuttered stores and their products have been removed from major e-commerce platforms.

Caught between calls for patriotism among Chinese consumers and campaigns for conscientious sourcing of cotton in the West, some other companies, including Inditex, the owner of the fast-fashion giant Zara, quietly removed statements on forced labor from their websites.

On Wednesday, H&M, the world’s second-largest fashion retailer by sales after Inditex, published a response to the controversy as part of its first quarter 2021 earnings report.

Not that it said much. There were no explicit references to cotton, Xinjiang or forced labor. However, the statement said that H&M wanted to be “a responsible buyer, in China and elsewhere” and was “actively working on next steps with regards to material sourcing.”

“We are dedicated to regaining the trust and confidence of our customers, colleagues, and business partners in China,” it said.

During the earnings conference call, the chief executive, Helena Helmersson, noted the company’s “long-term commitment to the country” and how Chinese suppliers, which were “at the forefront of innovation and technology,” would continue to “play an important role in further developing the entire industry.”

“We are working together with our colleagues in China to do everything we can to manage the current challenges and find a way forward, ” she said.

Executives on the call did not comment on the impact of the controversy on sales, except to state that around 20 stores in China were currently closed.

H&M’s earnings report, which covered a period before the recent outcry in China, reflected diminished profit for a retailer still dealing with pandemic lockdowns. Net sales in the three months through February fell 21 percent compared with the same quarter a year ago, with more than 1,800 stores temporarily closed.

Stocks on Wall Street rose as investors waited for President Biden to lay out plans for a $2 trillion package of infrastructure spending on Wednesday, which he is expected to propose funding with an increase in corporate taxes.

The S&P 500 index gained about 0.7 percent by midday, while the Nasdaq composite climbed about 1.9 percent. Bonds fell, with the yield on 10-year Treasury notes at 1.72 percent. On Tuesday, the 10-year yield climbed as high 1.77 percent, a level not seen since January 2020.

Prospects of a strong economic recovery in the United States, supported by large amounts of fiscal spending and the vaccine rollout, have pushed bond yields higher. Economic growth and higher inflation have made bonds less appealing as investors adjust their expectations for how much longer the Federal Reserve will need to keep its easy-money policies.

The Ever Given cargo ship was stuck in the Suez Canal nearly a week.
Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The traffic jam at the Suez Canal will soon ease, but behemoth container ships like the one that blocked that crucial passageway for almost a week aren’t going anywhere.

Global supply chains were already under pressure when the Ever Given, a ship longer than the Empire State Building and capable of carrying 20,000 containers, wedged itself between the banks of the Suez Canal last week. It was freed on Monday, but left behind “disruptions and backlogs in global shipping that could take weeks, possibly months, to unravel,” according to A.P. Moller-Maersk, the world’s largest shipping company.

The crisis was short, but it was also years in the making, reports Niraj Chokshi for The New York Times.

For decades, shipping lines have been making bigger and bigger vessels, driven by an expanding global appetite for electronics, clothes, toys and other goods. The growth in ship size, which sped up in recent years, often made economic sense: Bigger vessels are generally cheaper to build and operate on a per-container basis. But the largest ships can come with their own set of problems, not only for the canals and ports that have to handle them, but for the companies that build them.

“They did what they thought was most efficient for themselves — make the ships big — and they didn’t pay much attention at all to the rest of the world,” said Marc Levinson, an economist and author of “Outside the Box,” a history of globalization. “But it turns out that these really big ships are not as efficient as the shipping lines had imagined.”

Despite the risks they pose, however, massive vessels still dominate global shipping. According to Alphaliner, a data firm, the global fleet of container ships includes 133 of the largest ship type — those that can carry 18,000 to 24,000 containers. Another 53 are on order.

A.P. Moller-Maersk said it was premature to blame Ever Given’s size for what happened in the Suez. Ultra-large ships “have existed for many years and have sailed through the Suez Canal without issues,” Palle Brodsgaard Laursen, the company’s chief technical officer, said in a statement on Tuesday.

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CreditCredit…By Erik Carter

In today’s On Tech newsletter, Shira Ovide talks to New York Times reporter Karen Weise about the vote on whether to form a union at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., and how the outcome may reverberate beyond this one workplace.

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Black Executives Call on Corporations to Fight Restrictive Voting Laws

Dozens of the most prominent Black business leaders in America are banding together to call on companies to fight a wave of voting-rights bills being advanced by Republicans in at least 43 states. The campaign appears to be the first time that so many powerful Black executives have organized to directly call out their peers for failing to stand up for racial justice.

The effort, led by Kenneth Chenault, a former chief executive of American Express, and Kenneth Frazier, the chief executive of Merck, is a response to the swift passage of a Georgia law that they contend makes it harder for Black people to vote. As the debate about that bill raged in recent weeks, most major corporations — including those with headquarters in Atlanta — did not take a position on the legislation.

“There is no middle ground here,” Mr. Chenault said. “You either are for more people voting, or you want to suppress the vote.”

The executives did not criticize specific companies, but instead called on all of corporate America to publicly and directly oppose new laws that would restrict the rights of Black voters, and to use their clout, money and lobbyists to sway the debate with lawmakers.

almost no major companies spoke out against the legislation, which introduced stricter voter identification requirements for absentee balloting, limited drop boxes and expanded the legislature’s power over elections.

Big corporations based in Atlanta, including Delta Air Lines, Coca-Cola and Home Depot, offered general statements of support for voting rights, but none took a specific stance on the bills. The same was true for most of the executives who signed the new letter, including Mr. Frazier and Mr. Chenault.

Mr. Frazier said he had paid only peripheral attention to the matter before the Georgia law was passed on Thursday. “When the law passed, I started paying attention,” he said.

resignation led other chief executives to distance themselves from Mr. Trump, and the advisory groups disbanded.

“As African-American business executives, we don’t have the luxury of being bystanders to injustice,” Mr. Frazier said. “We don’t have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines when these kinds of injustices are happening all around us.”

a pledge that states their “clear opposition to harmful legislation aimed at restricting the access of L.G.B.T.Q. people in society.” Dozens of major companies, including AT&T, Facebook, Nike and Pfizer, signed on.

To Mr. Chenault, the contrast between the business community’s response to that issue and to voting restrictions that disproportionately harm Black voters was telling.

“You had 60 major companies — Amazon, Google, American Airlines — that signed on to the statement that states a very clear opposition to harmful legislation aimed at restricting the access of L.G.B.T.Q. people in society,” he said. “So, you know, it is bizarre that we don’t have companies standing up to this.”

“This is not new,” Mr. Chenault added. “When it comes to race, there’s differential treatment. That’s the reality.”

Activists are now calling for boycotts of Delta and Coca-Cola for their tepid engagement before the Georgia law was passed. And there are signs that other companies and sports leagues are becoming more engaged with the issue.

The head of the Major League Baseball Players Association said he “would look forward” to a discussion about moving the All-Star Game from Atlanta, where it is planned for July. And Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, released a statement on Tuesday affirming his company’s commitment to voting rights.

“Voting is fundamental to the health and future of our democracy,” he said. “We regularly encourage our employees to exercise their fundamental right to vote, and we stand against efforts that may prevent them from being able to do so.”

That language echoed statements made by many big companies before the Georgia law was passed. The executives who signed the letter are likely to seek more.

“People ask, ‘What can I do?’” Mr. Chenault said. “I’ll tell you what you can do. You can publicly oppose any discriminatory legislation and all measures designed to limit Americans’ ability to vote.”

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Here Are The High Costs of the Airline Bailouts

Major U.S. airlines have received more than $50 billion in grants in multiple rounds of taxpayer-funded bailouts during the pandemic. As travel begins to rebound and the stock market cruises to record highs, Andrew asks in his latest column: Was the rescue worth it?

The good news: The bailouts probably saved as many as 75,000 jobs and kept the airlines from declaring bankruptcy.

The bad news: Taxpayers probably overpaid, with the original grant of $25 billion implying that each job cost the equivalent of more than $300,000. (That price grew with subsequent bailouts.)

throw money at everything these days, and the Fed’s stimulus kept the credit markets open.

  • U.S. airlines were able to issue more than $30 billion in bonds last year, in some cases backed by their loyalty programs.

  • Boeing and Carnival Cruise Line also raised billions in debt from private investors.

We’ll never know what would have happened without the bailouts. The airlines say the government grants were crucial: As American Airlines put it, they “saved thousands of airline jobs, preserved the livelihoods of our hard-working team members and helped position the industry to play a central role in the nation’s recovery.”

  • There are conditions attached to the rescues, including halting share buybacks and limiting C.E.O. pay. But other things, like stock warrants issued to the government, are worth a small fraction of the grants the airlines received (unlike the majority equity stake that the government took when it rescued G.M. as part of its bankruptcy in 2009).

The debate about the appropriateness of the bailouts is just beginning, Andrew writes. “After the banking crisis of 2008 led to bailouts, the recriminations began when firms like Goldman Sachs had a banner year in the aftermath — and paid bankers record bonuses.” Will the same thing happen to the airlines?

Uber will classify British drivers as “workers.” The ride-hailing service’s decision will entitle more than 70,000 drivers to a minimum wage, vacation pay and access to a pension plan, but stops short of making them employees. It comes in response to a British Supreme Court ruling last month.

Wall Street firms plan for in-office workers. JPMorgan Chase expects summer interns in New York and London to work at the office. And Ralph Schlosstein, the co-C.E.O. of Evercore, told Bloomberg Television that he hoped to have some summer trainees “at least be partly in the office.”

its process for reviewing deals involving drug makers, following an investigation by Representative Katie Porter, Democrat of California, into the impact of consolidation. It’s the latest sign of the Biden administration’s stance on antitrust.

Treasury Department opens a racial equity review. It will examine its policies in an effort to ensure economic fairness, a priority of Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. The review will be led by Adewale Adeyemo once he is confirmed as deputy Treasury secretary.

The buyer of Jeffrey Epstein’s Manhattan mansion is revealed. Michael Daffey, a former Goldman Sachs executive, paid $51 million for the residence after racking up big gains on Bitcoin.

Amalgamated Bank, the New York-based lender with a history of supporting progressive causes, plans to announce this morning that it will endorse H.R. 40, legislation calling for a federal commission to study the lingering effects of slavery — and the merits of providing reparations.

The lender came to support the bill after racial justice protests last year. Lynne Fox, Amalgamated’s chair and interim C.E.O., told DealBook that the protests convinced the bank’s leaders that they needed to address structural racism with “systemic changes” to society. The bank, which has $6 billion in assets, has previously embraced policies that it said would help reduce gun-related violence.

A bank’s support is symbolically important, Ms. Fox said: “We acknowledge — and I think others in the financial industry need to acknowledge — the deep-rooted connections between the American financial sector and the slave economy.” Bank executives have noted that their firms’ histories have included financing slaveholders, and admitted more recently to racial discrimination against employees and customers. Lenders are under increasing pressure to promote racial equity, including by shareholders.

Amalgamated has moved to address racial equity within its walls, Ms. Fox said. Those steps include reviewing wage policies, forming an employee-led committee to review policies and practices, and providing antiracism training. In its statement endorsing H.R. 40, Amalgamated pledged to do more: “We believe the commission created through H.R. 40 is an important first step towards achieving racial justice. The work shouldn’t stop there.”


the addition of LeBron James as a co-owner of Fenway Sports Group — the owner of the Red Sox, the English Premier League’s Liverpool soccer club and more — grabbed headlines yesterday, an investment in the group by RedBird Capital Partners may be more noteworthy.

RedBird paid $750 million for an 11 percent stake in F.S.G., at a $7.3 billion valuation. That’s a huge gain for F.S.G.’s existing leaders, John Henry and Tom Werner, who paid just over $1 billion for the Red Sox and Liverpool. It will bring on board Gerry Cardinale, the head of RedBird and a former Goldman Sachs deal maker.

The funds could help the group make big purchases. The Boston Globe reports that F.S.G.’s wish list includes an N.F.L. or N.B.A. team, as well as a sports betting company.

Mr. James is getting a 1 percent stake in F.S.G. without paying a dime, Axios’s Dan Primack reports. The Times notes that the N.B.A. star already had a relationship with F.S.G.: Its affiliate, Fenway Sports Management, gained Mr. James’s global marketing rights in a 2011 deal that gave him a stake in Liverpool.


Work woes may hasten a manager’s demise, according to an academic study on C.E.O. stress, aging and death. The research found that anxiety at work affects an executive’s longevity and looks, and there’s a lesson for all workers, Marius Guenzel of Wharton, one of the authors, told DealBook.

entering and exiting office, showing the aging effects of a very stressful job.

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Were the Airline Bailouts Really Needed?

A year ago this week, Doug Parker, the chief executive of American Airlines, flew to Washington to begin what became a yearlong lobbying campaign for a series of taxpayer-funded bailouts during the pandemic.

He wasn’t alone. The campaign also included leaders from Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, United Airlines, SkyWest Airlines and Southwest Airlines — all with their hands extended. The flight attendant and pilot unions were also part of the lobbying.

A year later, as the stock market cruises to new heights, questions should be asked about the $50 billion in grants that were used to prop up the airline industry. Was it worth it? And was it necessary?

The good news is that the rescue money likely saved as many as 75,000 jobs, most remaining at full pay. And that money also kept the airlines from filing for bankruptcy, and in a position to ferry passengers all over the country to jump start economic growth as the health crisis subsides.

throw money at everything these days, from celebrity-backed blank-check companies with no profits to troubled video game retailers, Bitcoin and digital art. Why not airlines?

Even during the depths of the pandemic, in April last year, Carnival Cruise Line managed to raise $4 billion in debt from private investors, just as the airlines were still negotiating their first rescue deal with the government. That said, Carnival had to pay dearly for the money, with an interest rate of around 12 percent.

Frequently Asked Questions About the New Stimulus Package

The stimulus payments would be $1,400 for most recipients. Those who are eligible would also receive an identical payment for each of their children. To qualify for the full $1,400, a single person would need an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or below. For heads of household, adjusted gross income would need to be $112,500 or below, and for married couples filing jointly that number would need to be $150,000 or below. To be eligible for a payment, a person must have a Social Security number. Read more.

Buying insurance through the government program known as COBRA would temporarily become a lot cheaper. COBRA, for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, generally lets someone who loses a job buy coverage via the former employer. But it’s expensive: Under normal circumstances, a person may have to pay at least 102 percent of the cost of the premium. Under the relief bill, the government would pay the entire COBRA premium from April 1 through Sept. 30. A person who qualified for new, employer-based health insurance someplace else before Sept. 30 would lose eligibility for the no-cost coverage. And someone who left a job voluntarily would not be eligible, either. Read more

This credit, which helps working families offset the cost of care for children under 13 and other dependents, would be significantly expanded for a single year. More people would be eligible, and many recipients would get a bigger break. The bill would also make the credit fully refundable, which means you could collect the money as a refund even if your tax bill was zero. “That will be helpful to people at the lower end” of the income scale, said Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. Read more.

There would be a big one for people who already have debt. You wouldn’t have to pay income taxes on forgiven debt if you qualify for loan forgiveness or cancellation — for example, if you’ve been in an income-driven repayment plan for the requisite number of years, if your school defrauded you or if Congress or the president wipes away $10,000 of debt for large numbers of people. This would be the case for debt forgiven between Jan. 1, 2021, and the end of 2025. Read more.

The bill would provide billions of dollars in rental and utility assistance to people who are struggling and in danger of being evicted from their homes. About $27 billion would go toward emergency rental assistance. The vast majority of it would replenish the so-called Coronavirus Relief Fund, created by the CARES Act and distributed through state, local and tribal governments, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. That’s on top of the $25 billion in assistance provided by the relief package passed in December. To receive financial assistance — which could be used for rent, utilities and other housing expenses — households would have to meet several conditions. Household income could not exceed 80 percent of the area median income, at least one household member must be at risk of homelessness or housing instability, and individuals would have to qualify for unemployment benefits or have experienced financial hardship (directly or indirectly) because of the pandemic. Assistance could be provided for up to 18 months, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Lower-income families that have been unemployed for three months or more would be given priority for assistance. Read more.

Airline chiefs and labor union bosses convinced Congress that the industry was different — and more indispensable. They made the case that if airlines were to fall into bankruptcy, there would be no planes ready to help revive the economy when the time came. They argued that pilots couldn’t be laid off and quickly rehired, since they need to be in flight regularly or training on simulators to be certified to fly.

Would airlines have stopped flying in bankruptcy? Nope. In previous airline bankruptcies — and there have been dozens — the companies kept operating. The government could have provided financing under that scenario, similar to the way it did when it rescued General Motors in 2009, taking a major equity stake in the company so that taxpayers could share in the upside when it recovered.

the company will issue warrants that are worth about $230 million today — a small fraction of the $4 billion that the taxpayers bequeathed the carrier’s shareholders in the first round of bailouts.

Of course, we’ll never know what would have happened to the industry had it been forced to raise money on its own.

“Congress has saved thousands of airline jobs, preserved the livelihoods of our hard-working team members and helped position the industry to play a central role in the nation’s recovery from Covid-19,” Mr. Parker and a top lieutenant at American Airlines said in a statement after the latest round of bailouts last week. “Lawmakers from both parties have backed legislation that recognizes the dedication of airline professionals and the importance of the essential work they do.”

After the banking crisis of 2008 led to bailouts, the recriminations began when firms like Goldman Sachs had a banner year in the aftermath — and paid bankers record bonuses.

Will the same thing happen to the airlines? Under the terms of their bailouts, the chief executives’ compensation this year and last was capped at about half what they received before the pandemic.

Delta has already begun to issue special payments to some other managers. It says this is to compensate them in part for extra hours worked during the pandemic. “The payment of special bonuses to management while the airline is still burning cash is premature and inappropriate,” said Chris Riggins, a spokesman for the Air Line Pilots Association, in a statement this month.

The worst for the airline industry may be over, but the debate about the appropriateness of the pandemic bailouts is just getting started.

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The Relief Bill Will Save Tens of Thousands of Airline and Airport Jobs

The pandemic relief bill that President Biden signed Thursday afternoon will protect tens of thousands of jobs in the aviation industry, which is likely to struggle for some time even as vaccinations accelerate.

After Congress this week approved the legislation, which includes $14 billion for airlines and an additional $9 billion for airports and other businesses, American Airlines and United Airlines told 27,000 employees that they could ignore the furlough notices they received earlier this year. The airlines had been preparing to cut those jobs when an earlier round of federal aid expired at the end of this month. The new bill extends that assistance for another six months.

“Thousands of frontline workers will now receive paychecks and health care through September, which is especially critical while vaccine distribution continues to ramp up,” United’s chief executive, Scott Kirby, said in a statement on social media.

The relief package, which Mr. Biden has said is needed to protect the economy and workers and many Republican lawmakers have criticized as excessive, is the third to provide funding to keep airline workers employed since the pandemic began. Last March, Congress provided passenger airlines $25 billion in loans and another $25 billion in payroll grants. It renewed the payroll funding in December with another $15 billion and again this week.

The bill passed this week also sets aside $1 billion for aviation contractors and $8 billion for airports to help them operate normally, limit the spread of the virus and pay workers and service their debts. In exchange for the aid, airports, contractors and airlines are banned from large layoffs through September.

The aviation and travel industry has been among the hardest hit by the pandemic. A year ago, the number of people flying started to plummet as the virus spread widely and government officials restricted or discouraged travel. By early April, the number of people flying every day had dropped 96 percent compared with a year earlier.

Travel has recovered somewhat since then. An average of about a million people have been screened at airport security checkpoints each day over the past week, just over half as many as were screened over the same period in 2019, according to Transportation Security Administration data.

Still, airlines are losing $150 million a day on average, according to Airlines for America, an association that represents American, United and the other major carriers. The widespread distribution of vaccines has given the industry hope for a rebound, but airlines are expected to continue to lose money through the summer, and most industry analysts and executives don’t expect travel to recover to 2019 levels until 2023 or 2024.

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