China’s Anger at Foreign Brands Helps Local Rivals

Tim Min once drove BMWs. He considered buying a Tesla.

Instead Mr. Min, the 33-year-old owner of a Beijing cosmetics start-up, bought an electric car made by a Chinese Tesla rival, Nio. He likes Nio’s interiors and voice control features better.

He also considers himself a patriot. “I have a very strong inclination toward Chinese brands and very strong patriotic emotions,” he said. “I used to love Nike, too. Now I don’t see any reason for that. If there’s a good Chinese brand to replace Nike, I’ll be very happy to.”

Western brands like H&M, Nike and Adidas have come under pressure in China for refusing to use cotton produced in the Xinjiang region, where the Chinese government has waged a broad campaign of repression against ethnic minorities. Shoppers vowed to boycott the brands. Celebrities dropped their endorsement deals.

But foreign brands also face increasing pressure from a new breed of Chinese competitors making high-quality products and selling them through savvy marketing to an increasingly patriotic group of young people. There’s a term for it: “guochao,” or Chinese fad.

HeyTea, a $2 billion milk tea start-up with 700 stores, wants to replace Starbucks. Yuanqisenlin, a four-year-old low-sugar drink company valued at $6 billion, wants to become China’s Coca-Cola. Ubras, a five-year-old company, wants to supplant Victoria’s Secret with the most non-Victoria’s Secret of products: unwired, sporty bras that emphasize comfort.

The anger over Xinjiang cotton has given these Chinese brands another chance to win over consumers. As celebrities cut their ties to foreign brands, Li-Ning, a Chinese sportswear giant, announced that Xiao Zhan, a boy band member, would become its new global ambassador. Within 20 minutes, almost everything that Mr. Xiao wore on a Li-Ning advertisement had sold out online. A hashtag about the campaign was viewed more than one billion times.

China is undergoing a consumer brand revolution. Its young generation is more nationalistic and actively looking for brands that can align with that confidently Chinese identity. Entrepreneurs are rushing to build up names and products that resonate. Investors are turning their attention to these start-ups amid dropping returns from technology and media ventures.

When patriotism becomes a selling point, Western brands are put at a competitive disadvantage, especially in a country that increasingly requires global companies to toe the same political lines that Chinese firms must.

a jump in Tesla deliveries. IPhones remain immensely popular. Campaigns against foreign names have come and gone, and local brands that emphasize politics too much risk unwanted attention if the political winds shift quickly.

Still, interest in local brands marks a significant shift. Post-Mao, the country made few consumer products. The first televisions that most families owned in the 1980s were from Japan. Pierre Cardin, the French designer, reintroduced fashion with his first show in Beijing in 1979, bringing color and flair to a nation that during the Cultural Revolution wore blue and gray.

Chinese people born in the 1970s or earlier remember their first sip of Coco-Cola and their first bite of a Big Mac. We watched films from Hollywood, Japan and Hong Kong as much for the wardrobes and makeup as the plot. We rushed to buy Head & Shoulders shampoo because its Chinese name, Haifeisi, means “sea flying hair.”

“We’ve gone through the European and American fad, the Japanese and Korean fad, the American streetwear fad, even the Hong Kong and Taiwan fad,” said Xun Shaohua, who founded a Shanghai sportswear company that competes with Vans and Converse.

Now could be the time for the China fad. Chinese companies are making better products. China’s Generation Z, born between 1995 and 2009, doesn’t have the same attachment to foreign names.

Even People’s Daily, the traditionally staid Communist Party official newspaper, is getting into branding. It started a streetwear collection with Li-Ning in 2019. That same year, it issued a report with Baidu, the Chinese search company, called “Guochao Pride Big Data.” They found that when people in China searched for brands, more than two-thirds were looking for domestic names, up from only about one-third 10 years earlier.

makes up only about 40 percent of China’s economic output, much less than it does in the United States and Europe.

Patriotism aside, entrepreneurs argue that their ventures rest on a solid business foundation. Similar trends happened in Japan and South Korea, both now home to strong brands. Local players better know the abilities of the country’s supply chains and how to use social media.

Mr. Xun’s sports brand has half a million followers on Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace and sells at the same prices as Vans and Converse, or even slightly higher. He said his brand competed by making shoes that fit Chinese feet better and offering colors favored locally, such as mint green and fuchsia. He sells exclusively online and teams up with Chinese and foreign brands and personalities, including Pokemon and Hello Kitty. At 37, he’s the only person in his company who was born before 1990.

The guochao fad has also reinvigorated older Chinese brands, like Li-Ning. For many years, sophisticated urbanites considered the brand, created by a former world champion gymnast of the same name, ugly and cheap. Its signature red-and-yellow color combination, after the Chinese flag, was mockingly called “eggs fried with tomato,” an everyday Chinese dish. Li-Ning was losing money. Its shares were on a losing streak.

Then the company introduced a collection at New York Fashion Week in early 2018. Its edgy look, combined with bold Chinese characters and embroidery, created buzz back home. Its shares have risen nearly ninefold since then. Now Li-Ning’s high-end collections sell at $100 to $150 on average, on a par with those of Adidas.

National Basketball Association and Dolce & Gabbana passed pretty quickly, this bout could linger, many people said.

“In the past, some Western brands didn’t understand or failed to respect the Chinese culture mostly because of lack of understanding,” Mr. Xun said. “This time it’s a political issue. They have violated our political sensitivities.”

Then, like any savvy Chinese entrepreneur who knows which topics are sensitive, he asked, “Could we not talk about politics?”

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Applications Now Open for PeerStreet’s Evolving Neighborhood Uplift Fund

LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–PeerStreet, an investment platform that drives wealth creation through real estate, has announced that applications for their E.N.U.F. Mentorship program is now open. The E.N.U.F. project was launched in February 2021 and is now accepting qualified applicants to apply for seed capital and mentorship through the program.

E.N.U.F. is a program designed for real estate entrepreneurs from underserved backgrounds who are committed to improving their communities and closing the wealth gap using the power of real estate. Ideal applicants have the talent, drive and commitment to invest in real estate but face barriers to mentorship and capital. The program created by PeerStreet includes a fund component carried out in partnership with the Tides Foundation, a philanthropic partner and nonprofit accelerator dedicated to building a world of shared prosperity and social justice.

Entrepreneurs who have identified a property may apply to E.N.U.F for seed capital in the form of an equity investment and will receive mentorship and training from industry experts that are passionate about helping others create wealth. Founding mentors include Ashley Flucas, GP of Flucas Ventures; Cheta Ozougwu, Investor at Tidal Loans; Ndukwe Kalu, Managing Member and Head of Operations at Tidal Loans; Jason Lewis, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Aryming Capital LP; and others.

Ten entrepreneurs will be selected as the first cohort for this program and applications opened on April 1, 2021 and will be accepted on a rolling basis. For entrepreneurs selected to move forward in the application process, interviews will take place in June and July, and accepted applicants will be announced in August.

“We’ve all heard the proverb ‘give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.’ Instead of fishing, we’re focused on real estate,” said Brew Johnson, CEO of PeerStreet. “We want new entrepreneurs to learn the entire investment lifecycle: find deals, analyze numbers, pick comps, secure financing, work with contractors, etc. Our hope is that they can take on real estate projects and replicate success, ultimately building a cycle of wealth creation for small businesses, job creation, and property ownership in the communities they live and work in.”

“The best corporate social programs create lasting change, and the PeerStreet E.N.U.F. program is structured to do that,” said Edward Wang, Director of Corporate Social Impact, at the Tides Foundation. “By ensuring that program participants receive the skills and guidance they need to independently achieve success is so much more valuable than just providing funding alone. We’re excited to see graduates of this program be representative of a diverse group of entrepreneurs making a difference in America’s housing market.”

Real estate entrepreneurs who are interested in applying for the Mentorship program can visit www.peerstreet.com/enuf for more information. For any questions, please reach out to us at enuf@peerstreet.com.

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Minority Entrepreneurs Struggled to Get Small-Business Relief Loans

Of the 1,300 Paycheck Protection Program loans that Southern Bancorp made last year, many went to customers who had been turned away by larger banks, Mr. Williams said.

In a recent Federal Reserve survey, nearly 80 percent of small-business owners who are Black or of Asian descent said their companies were in weak financial shape, compared with 54 percent of white business owners. And Black owners face unique challenges. While owners from all other demographics told the Fed that their main problem at the moment was low customer demand, Black respondents cited a different top challenge: access to credit.

When Jenell Ross, who runs an auto dealership in Ohio, sought a Paycheck Protection Program loan, her longtime bank told her to look elsewhere — a message that large banks like Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo delivered to many of their customers in the program’s frenzied early days.

Days later, she obtained a loan from Huntington Bank, a regional lender, but the experience stung.

“Historically, access to capital has been the leading concern of women- and minority-owned businesses to survive, and during this pandemic it has been no different,” Ms. Ross, who is Black, told a House committee last year.

Community lenders and aid organizations took a shoe-leather approach to filling the gaps.

Last year, the American Business Immigration Coalition, an advocacy group, worked with local nonprofits to create a “community navigator” program that sent outreach workers to Black, minority and rural businesses in Florida, Illinois, South Carolina and Texas. They plowed through roadblocks, Whac-a-Mole-style.

Language barriers were common. Many business owners had never sought a bank loan before. Several didn’t have an email address and needed help creating one. Some hadn’t filed taxes; the coalition hired two accountants to help people sort out their financials.

“Our folks literally went door to door and walked people through the process,” said Rebecca Shi, the group’s executive director. “It’s time-consuming.”

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Discord and Microsoft Said to Discuss Deal That Could Top $10 Billion

SAN FRANCISCO — Discord, a social media company popular with gamers, has held deal talks with Microsoft for a transaction that could top $10 billion, according to people briefed on the situation.

The talks were preliminary and no deal is imminent, said one of the people, who declined to be identified because the discussions are confidential. The talks have taken place as video gaming has boomed in the pandemic and as Microsoft, one of the world’s most valuable tech companies, has bolstered its gaming business with deal making.

Many of Microsoft’s acquisitions in recent years have focused on online communities, such as its purchases of LinkedIn, GitHub, and the gaming developer that created Minecraft. Last summer, Microsoft was in talks to buy the video app TikTok in what would have been a blockbuster acquisition; the discussions later fell apart. In September, Microsoft also bought ZeniMax Media, the parent company of several large gaming studios, for $7.5 billion.

Discord, which counts more than 100 million monthly active users, has been highly popular in the pandemic, as people have used the service to chat with one another while playing games. The San Francisco-based company, which has raised nearly $600 million in funding since 2014, has had preliminary deal talks with various suitors over the years, said another person with knowledge of the matter.

previously reported that Discord was holding deal discussions, and Bloomberg reported Microsoft’s involvement.

Joost van Dreunen, a New York University professor who studies the business of video games, said that if a deal were to happen, Discord “would be a natural fit” with Microsoft’s Xbox video gaming business. He said Microsoft has been “building hardware, buying software, and is now stitching it all together with the connective tissue of a community layer.”

Microsoft has said it wants to make it easier for people to play games at home on its Xbox consoles, or on-the-go on their phones. In the last three months of 2020, its gaming business generated $5 billion in revenue for the first time, following the release of new Xbox consoles.

Discord was founded in 2015 by Jason Citron and Stan Vishnevskiy, programmers and entrepreneurs, as a platform for video game players to chat and hang out while gaming. It gained mainstream attention as a gathering ground for the far right, who used Discord to organize the white nationalist Charlottesville, Va., rally in 2017.

Discord has since implemented stricter content moderation rules and banned alt-right communities. The app, which allows people to create private servers — in essence, small communities — features audio, text and video chat options.

Last year, Discord announced plans to expand beyond gaming into everyday usage among online groups of all kinds. It has been used for activities like college classes and organizing events like the Black Lives Matter protests.

The company crossed $100 million in revenue last year, one of the people said. Discord makes money by selling subscriptions to a premium version of the service.

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Biden nominates Lina Khan, a vocal critic of Big Tech, to the F.T.C.

President Biden on Monday nominated Lina Khan to the Federal Trade Commission, installing a vocal critic of Big Tech into a key oversight role of the industry.

If her nomination is approved by the Senate, Ms. Khan, 32, would fill one of two empty seats earmarked for Democrats at the F.T.C.

Ms. Khan became recognized for her ideas on antitrust with a Yale Law Journal paper in 2017 called “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox” that accused Amazon of abusing its monopoly power and put a critical focus on decades-old legal theories that relied heavily on price increases as the underlying measure of antitrust violations.

She served as a senior adviser to Rohit Chopra when he was F.T.C. commissioner. Most recently, she was a leading counsel member to a 16-month-long investigation of online platforms and competition by the House antitrust subcommittee. As a result, Democratic leaders on the subcommittee called for the breakup of Big Tech and legislation to strengthen enforcement of competition violations across the economy.

said in an interview with The New York Times in 2018. “But as citizens, as workers, and as entrepreneurs, we recognize that their power is troubling. We need a new framework, a new vocabulary for how to assess and address their dominance.”

Ms. Khan is the second prominent advocate of breaking up the large tech companies placed by the Biden administration in top antitrust roles. Also this month, Mr. Biden picked Tim Wu, a prominent critic of Google, Facebook and Amazon, as special assistant to the president on competition policy.

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Foods From Afar Hope to Catch the Eye of American Shoppers

Fonio, a cereal grain imported from West Africa, was once relegated to the shelves of tiny grocery stores frequented by immigrants primarily from Senegal and Mali. But it has gradually made its way to Whole Foods, where pouches decorated with a painted map of Africa are nestled amid packages of rice and lentils, aimed at a broader range of American consumers.

That journey was pushed in part by a Brooklyn company, Yolélé, which roughly means “let the good times roll” in Fula, a West African language. Yolélé also offers seasoned fonio pilafs, a line of fonio chips and, coming soon, fonio flour.

The company was founded in 2017 by Philip Teverow, a food industry veteran, and Pierre Thiam, a chef from Senegal who grew up eating fonio. Mr. Thiam is confident that Americans would eat fonio, too, if they had better access to it.

American Community Survey by the New American Economy, a research organization. Chinese and Mexican immigrants owned most, selling cuisines familiar to American palates. But entrepreneurs from countries like Guinea, Kazakhstan and Senegal are gaining a foothold with less well-known cuisines.

Marketing these foods in the United States has its challenges, like cultural identity and consumer perception. The savviest entrepreneurs work with designers and brand strategists to make their products more approachable.

One of the biggest hurdles is choosing visual clues — fonts, colors, illustrations and photographs — that channel a product’s physical or conceptual provenance. A brand identity that’s too sleek and polished might appear inauthentic and lose credibility. Yet folksy designs or a reliance on regional symbols can look cliché and dated.

Creating the right visuals is a “subtle balance,” said Paola Antonelli, senior curator of the department of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art. A new foreign food’s packaging must stimulate curiosity and radiate authenticity, “making you feel like there’s some sort of familiarity that maybe you had not yet discovered in yourself,” she said.

Cultural heritage is crucial for a new product, said Phil Lempert, a food industry analyst known as the Supermarket Guru. “You have to stand out,” he said, adding that there is a strong appetite for foreign cuisines and products, especially among younger generations: “They love to experiment with food.”

The global food industry has changed substantially over the past several decades, Mr. Lempert said. New foreign food brands today tend to celebrate their origins, whereas businesses just 10 years ago might have pushed to Americanize their products.

“There was a stigma there,” he said.

Supermarket distribution has also changed. “A lot of these smaller ethnic brands used to be distributed by ethnic food distributors,” Mr. Lempert said. “Now, these companies are going direct to the supermarket.”

Other strategies include posting on social media, especially Instagram, which is considered an effective, low-cost way to market products, and selling directly to consumers through websites and e-commerce marketplaces like Amazon.

But the key is often packaging. A designer’s ability tends to be a blend of creative thinking, diverse professional experience and wide travels. This often outweighs a shared nationality, ethnicity or culture; in fact, many entrepreneurs prefer working with designers from different backgrounds to better see their story through a fresh lens.

Mr. Thiam wanted to use Yolélé to claim fonio’s West African identity while avoiding labels like “exotic” and “ethnic.” He and Mr. Teverow approached Paula Scher, a partner at the design firm Pentagram, where Mr. Thiam already had connections because of his cookbooks. He said that he would have liked to use a designer of African descent, but that when he saw Ms. Scher’s map of Africa, it was “love at first sight.”

After Ms. Scher’s design hit the shelves last spring, sales surged 250 percent, Mr. Teverow said.

Using product names in foreign languages is a common hurdle for food business owners. To broaden the appeal of her classic Middle Eastern spice blends like hawaij, baharat and ras el hanout, Leetal Arazi, a co-founder of New York Shuk, worked with the graphic designer Ayal Zakin to craft a visual solution.

The labels feature elegant illustrations of the contents in each jar, like turmeric or chili peppers, balanced with a modern gold logo and a tiny stylized camel in silhouette.

“All of a sudden, you are less afraid and intimidated to pick it up,” said Ms. Arazi, whose products are sold at supermarkets like Whole Foods and specialty stores.

Mohammed and Rahim Diallo, brothers from Guinea, faced the same challenge for their intensely flavored gingery drink, Ginjan. The designer Ruen Ellis removed any mystery about the drink by listing the ingredients — ginger, pineapple, lemon, vanilla and anise — on the label below a circular logo that centers on a silhouette of Africa.

A straightforward or celebratory story that can bolster a brand’s identity isn’t always possible. Some immigrant founders have fraught relationships with their homelands, or history has convoluted their story.

In late 2018, Daniyar Chukin and the design firm Little Fury rebranded Mr. Chukin’s vaguely Russian-sounding company, Misha, to the vaguely German-sounding Wünder Creamery.

Mr. Chukin had struggled with how to market quark, a creamy yogurtlike product popular in Germany. He grew up eating it in Kazakhstan, where the Soviets had brought it. “Here I am, a Kazakh guy, marketing a product I knew as a Russian one, as a German one to American consumers,” he said with a laugh. “It’s starting to work now.”

His quark is packaged in a yogurt cup with a clean, Nordic look, and Wünder Creamery’s annual earnings are about $1 million after growing 50 percent a year, he said.

Some immigrant entrepreneurs choose to have zero visual references to their food’s country of origin.

“What if we basically just remove the whole idea of being an ethnic food?” said Nigel Sielegar, a designer from Indonesia and the owner of Moon Man, minimalist Southeast Asia dessert stall in the cavernous basement below Essex Market on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

After pandemic restrictions closed his eatery, Mr. Sielegar pivoted in July to producing sweet kaya jams featuring purple ube, golden palm sugar and green pandan. The coconut milk-based jams are packaged in glass jars with “Moon Man” running diagonally in huge white type across a black label.

The company has sold more than 1,000 kaya jam jars directly to consumers nationwide, Mr. Sielegar said, and recently expanded to selling half-gallon containers wholesale to restaurants.

Package design and brand identity might seem superfluous, even shallow, but they are often the needed prompt for customers to buy, said Dan Formosa, a design consultant.

“There is a expectation of what it’s about and a sense that it’s worth trying,” he said.

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To Help Black Developers, Programs Start With Access to Capital

For 15 years, Harvey Yancey has been building and renovating market-rate homes, affordable housing and commercial spaces in Washington, D.C. During that time, his company, H2DesignBuild, has navigated funding challenges and found its way into beneficial deals.

But all along, Mr. Yancey, who is Black, said he was aware of the industry’s racial homogeneity and the limitations he faced because of his skin color. “It was always the quiet conversation in the room,” he said.

Today, commercial real estate remains a field in which the vast majority of developers are white. Few reliable statistics are available, but the industry association NAIOP reported in a 2013 survey, the most recent year available, that 4.4 percent of commercial real estate professionals were Black. This year, just 5 percent of Urban Land Institute’s members described themselves as Black or African-American.

The disparity has many sources, including many African-Americans’ unfamiliarity with the field and subsequent dearth of connections. But the biggest challenge, Black developers say, is gaining access to capital, including loans, loan guarantees and equity. That may be the result of limited balance sheets, short track records or a lack of wealthy and influential networks. As a result, their firms struggle to grow and remain on the margins as cities around the country see their downtowns reshaped by other, deep-pocketed developers.

overwhelmingly white, though its leaders are pledging to change.

Banking giants like Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase, as well as smaller institutions, have announced initiatives totaling billions of dollars that are largely focusing on communities and entrepreneurs of color. Some of the funding is earmarked for affordable housing and commercial development in low-income communities, which will benefit all real estate developers.

Longtime practitioners and analysts in the field say that if new dollars are to redress the industry’s racial imbalance, the funds need to be carefully designed so that more of the money winds up in the hands of Black developers.

In October, JPMorgan Chase announced a $30 billion initiative to advance racial equity that included substantial commitments for minority-led small businesses and Black and Latino households. The announcement also listed $14 billion in new loans and investments over the next five years to expand affordable rental housing in low-income communities.

announced $200 million of equity and financing for affordable housing projects by minority developers.

net worth of a typical Black family in America was one-tenth that of a white family, according to a study by the Brookings Institution. Black developers say that coming up with several million dollars in “friends and family” equity is often impossible because their networks don’t have that kind of money.

“Equity capital is not readily available,” said Craig Livingston, a managing partner at Exact Capital and the chairman of the New York Real Estate Chamber. He and his colleagues may have incredible track records, he said, “but when competing with second- or third-generation developers, we don’t have the same financial footing or access to risk capital.”

A few initiatives have emerged that focus on this problem. In June, for instance, Morgan Stanley and the Ford Foundation started a $26 million fund that provides equity to emerging minority- and women-owned companies. The fund — which is the result of almost a decade of strategizing about how to best help developers of color — will be managed by TruFund Financial Services, a Community Development Financial Institution.

And Blue Vista, an investment management firm in Chicago, is creating a $100 million private equity fund for minority and women-owned real estate businesses. Moved by the racial justice protests this summer, Robert G. Byron, a co-founder of the firm, examined the company’s history and found that the deals in which the company had provided capital to novice companies led by people of color and women had worked out well.

Blue Vista structured its new fund in response, with a plan to provide seed capital and mentoring to a handful of talented newer developers. Within a few years, recipients are more likely to be ready to seek capital from more established sources.

Blue Vista’s program is similar to one that Don Peebles, a successful Black developer in New York, announced in 2019. Mr. Peebles is aiming to gather $450 million in investments for undercapitalized developers in several key markets. But among private equity firms, Mr. Byron says, there doesn’t seem to be any real competition to find and invest in these developers.

“Just by scratching the surface, without marketing, we’ve found really capable people — smart, talented, experienced,” Mr. Byron said. And investors are excited, too.

“What I hear from both investors and potential users is, ‘This is exactly what we’ve been clamoring for,’” he said. “It’s kind of a no-brainer.”

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The S.E.C. Is Increasingly Making E.S.G. a Priority

Allison Herren Lee was named acting chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission in January, and since then she has been active, especially when it comes to environmental, social and governance, or E.S.G., issues. The agency has issued a flurry of notices that such disclosures will be priorities this year. Today, Ms. Lee, who was appointed as a commissioner by President Donald Trump in 2019, is speaking at the Center for American Progress, where she will call for input on additional E.S.G. transparency, according to prepared remarks seen by DealBook.

The supposed distinction between what’s good and what’s profitable is diminishing, Ms. Lee will argue in the speech, saying that “acting in pursuit of the public interest and acting to maximize the bottom line” are complementary. The S.E.C.’s job is to meet investor demand for data on a range of corporate activities, and Ms. Lee’s planned remarks suggest that greater transparency on E.S.G. issues won’t be optional for much longer. “That demand is not being met by the current voluntary framework,” she will say. “Human capital, human rights, climate change — these issues are fundamental to our markets, and investors want to and can help drive sustainable solutions on these issues.”

  • Ms. Lee will also argue that “political spending disclosure is inextricably linked to E.S.G. issues,” based on research showing that many companies have made climate pledges while donating to candidates with contradictory voting records. The same goes for racial justice initiatives, she will say.

This is not an interim priority. Ms. Lee is acting chief, but based on recent statements by Gary Gensler, President Biden’s choice to lead the S.E.C., she’s laying the groundwork for more action rather than throwing down the gauntlet. In his confirmation hearing this month, Mr. Gensler said that investors increasingly wanted companies to disclose risks associated with climate change, diversity, political spending and other E.S.G. issues.

Not everyone at the S.E.C. is on board. Hester Peirce and Elad Roisman, fellow commissioners also appointed by Mr. Trump, recently protested the “steady flow” of climate and E.S.G. notices. They issued a public statement, asking, “Do these announcements represent a change from current commission practices or a continuation of the status quo with a new public relations twist?”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggested, to varying degrees, that the governor of New York consider resigning over allegations of sexual harassment. He has rejected those calls and is considering running for a fourth term.

The U.S. is considering new ways to protect itself against cyberattacks. Efforts by China and Russia to breach government and corporate computer networks — and the failure of American intelligence to detect them — have spurred discussions about ways to organize U.S. cyberdefenses, including more partnerships with private companies.

Credit Suisse is accused of continuing to help Americans evade taxes. The Swiss bank aided clients in hiding assets, seven years after it promised U.S. federal prosecutors that it would stop doing so, according to a whistle-blower report. That puts the firm at risk of a fresh investigation and more financial penalties. The bank said it was cooperating with the authorities.

A veteran Democratic official is poised to join the Biden administration. Gene Sperling, an economic wonk who served in the Clinton and Obama administrations, is likely to oversee the implementation of the $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, Politico reports.

Stripe is now Silicon Valley’s most valuable start-up. The payments processor has raised funding from investors like Sequoia and Fidelity at a $95 billion valuation. Stripe plans to use the money to expand in Europe, including in its founders’ home country, Ireland.

chief counsel of the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase before joining the O.C.C. But his enthusiasm isn’t based on Bitcoin’s success as much as on his personal struggles, he told DealBook.

Mr. Brooks borrowed his way out of an ailing town. He grew up in Pueblo, Colo., a steel center that lost its purpose in the 1980s. His father took his own life when Mr. Brooks was 14, and he and his mother had little. In high school, he waited tables and took out loans for school, for a car and eventually for a home. Now, he’s betting that blockchain can help the underbanked do the same more easily.

“Unlocking credit availability allows people to move up the ladder,” Mr. Brooks said. Nearly 50 million Americans don’t have credit scores, but many are creditworthy. Traditional rating systems aren’t equipped for nuanced assessments that might include things like rent, Netflix bills or income from gig work. For many, the inability to borrow limits opportunities to achieve financial security.

Finding solutions to financial inclusion that are immune to politics is key, noted Mr. Brooks, a Trump administration appointee. Credit, he argues, lets people bet on themselves regardless of which party is making policy, and the current system excludes many worthy borrowers. “Let’s let more people climb ladders,” Mr. Brooks said.


— Howard Lindzon, an investor, entrepreneur and market commentator, speaking to The Times’s Erin Griffith on the booms (or bubbles) in everything from trading cards to Bitcoin, SPACs and so-called meme stocks.


new data from the Harris Poll, revealed exclusively in DealBook.

A year of living in fear created unlikely heroes. For the past year or so, the Harris Poll has monitored public sentiment in weekly surveys of more than 114,000 people. At the height of the emergency, more than half of respondents were afraid of dying from the virus and a similar share were afraid of losing their jobs. “Only in the past month, with vaccines rising and hospitalizations and deaths declining, is fear abating,” the report noted.

The Times’s Opinion podcast “Sway,” the economist Mariana Mazzucato told Kara Swisher that the traditional narrative has holes in it.

“Do you have any idea where the innovation in places like Silicon Valley came from?” asked Ms. Mazzucato, the founder of University College London’s Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose. She ticked off technologies like the internet and GPS: “We wouldn’t have any smart product without all the smart technology, which was government-financed.”

Listen to the conversation here.

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