senior fellow at the Atlantic Council who works in the financial services industry, said of Russia’s cooperation with a price cap. “If that were the case, he wouldn’t have invaded Ukraine in the first place.”

But proponents believe that if the European Union bans insurance transactions, an oil price cap may be the best chance to mitigate the economic fallout.

John E. Smith, former director of the foreign assets control unit, said the key was ensuring that financial services firms and maritime insurers were not responsible for vetting every oil transaction, as well as providing guidance on complying with the sanctions.

“The question is will enough jurisdictions agree on the details to move this forward,” said Mr. Smith, who is now co-head of Morrison & Foerster’s national security practice. “If they do, it could be a win for everyone but Russia.”

Matina Stevis-Gridneff contributed reporting from Brussels.

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U.S. Economy Shows Another Decline, Fanning Recession Fears

A key measure of economic output fell for the second straight quarter, raising fears that the United States could be entering a recession — or perhaps that one had already begun.

Gross domestic product, adjusted for inflation, fell 0.2 percent in the second quarter, the Commerce Department said Thursday. That drop followed a decline of 0.4 percent in the first quarter. The estimates for both periods will be revised in coming months as government statisticians get more complete data.

News of the back-to-back contractions heightened a debate in Washington over whether a recession had begun and, if so, whether President Biden was to blame. Economists largely say that conditions do not meet the formal definition of a recession but that the risks of one are rising.

a bid to tame inflation, and the White House has argued that the slowdown is part of an inevitable and necessary transition to sustainable growth after last year’s rapid recovery.

“Coming off of last year’s historic economic growth — and regaining all the private-sector jobs lost during the pandemic crisis — it’s no surprise that the economy is slowing down as the Federal Reserve acts to bring down inflation,” Mr. Biden said in a statement issued after the release of the G.D.P. report. “But even as we face historic global challenges, we are on the right path, and we will come through this transition stronger and more secure.”

rising consumer prices and declining spending, the American economy is showing clear signs of slowing down, fueling concerns about a potential recession. Here are other eight measures signaling trouble ahead:

“When you’re skating on thin ice, you wonder about what it would take to push you through, and we’re on thin ice right now,” said Diane Swonk, the chief economist for KPMG.

Matthew Martin, 32, is paying more for the butter and eggs that go into the intricately decorated sugar cookies he sells as part of a home business. At the same time, his sales are falling.

“I guess people don’t have as much money to toss at cookies right now,” he said.

Mr. Martin, a single father of two, is trying to cut back on spending, but it isn’t easy. He has replaced trips to the movies with day hikes, but that means spending more on gas. He is hoping to sell his house and move into a less expensive place, but finding a house he can afford to buy has proved difficult, especially as mortgage rates have risen. He has thought about finding a conventional 9-to-5 job to pay the bills, but he would then need to pay for child care for his 4-year-old twins.

“Honestly, I’m not 100 percent sure what I’m going to do,” he said.

defines a recession as “a significant decline in economic activity that is spread across the economy and lasts more than a few months,” and it bases its decisions on a variety of indicators — usually only months after the fact.

Some forecasters believe a recession can be avoided, if inflation cools enough that the Fed can slow interest rate increases before they take too much of a toll on hiring and spending.

The economy still has important areas of strength. Job growth has remained robust, and, despite a recent uptick in filings for unemployment insurance, there is little sign of a broad increase in job losses.

Households, in the aggregate, are sitting on trillions of dollars in savings built up earlier in the pandemic, which could allow them to weather higher prices and interest rates.

“What drives the U.S. consumer is the healthy labor market, and we should really focus on job growth to capture the turning point in this business cycle,” said Blerina Uruci, an economist at T. Rowe Price. The Labor Department will release data on July’s hiring and unemployment next week.

The lingering effects of the pandemic are making the economy’s signals harder to interpret. Americans bought fewer cars, couches and other goods in the second quarter, but forecasters had long expected spending on goods to fall as consumers shifted back toward prepandemic spending patterns. Indeed, economists argue that a pullback in spending on goods is needed to relieve pressure on overstretched supply chains.

At the same time, spending on services accelerated. That could be a sign of consumers’ resilience in the face of soaring airfares and rental car rates. Or it could merely reflect a temporary willingness to put up with high prices, which will fade along with the summer sun.

“There is going to be this element of, ‘We haven’t had a summer vacation in three years, so we’re just going to take one, no matter how much it costs,’” said Aditya Bhave, a senior economist for Bank of America. “The question is what happens after the summer.”

Avital Ungar is trying to interpret the conflicting signals in real time. Ms. Ungar operates a small business running food tours for tourists and corporate groups in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.

When restaurants closed and travel stopped early in the pandemic, Ms. Ungar had no revenue. She made it through by offering virtual happy hours and online cooking classes. When in-person tours came back, business was uneven, shifting with each new coronavirus variant. Ms. Ungar said demand remained hard to predict as prices rise and the economy slows.

“We’re in two different types of uncertainty,” she said. “There was the pandemic uncertainty, and then there’s the economic uncertainty right now.”

In response, Ms. Ungar has shifted her focus to higher-end tours, which she believes will hold up better than those aimed at more price-sensitive customers. And she is trying to avoid long-term commitments that could be difficult to get out of if demand cools.

“Every annual plan I’ve done in the past three years has not happened that way,” she said. “It’s really important to recognize that what worked yesterday isn’t going to work tomorrow.”

Lydia DePillis contributed reporting.

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Factbox: Now UK’s Boris Johnson has quit, who could replace him?

LONDON, July 13 (Reuters) – Boris Johnson is stepping down as British prime minister, with several of his Conservative lawmakers now taking part in a leadership contest to replace him. read more

There is no clear favourite and the candidates are not listed in order of likely prospects.

Eight candidates were formally nominated in the leadership contest, with two of those knocked out in the first round of voting on Wednesday. The second round of voting will take place on Thursday.

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REMAINING IN THE CONTEST:

KEMI BADENOCH

Elected to parliament for the first time in 2017, Badenoch has held junior ministerial jobs, including most recently minister for equalities, but has never served in Cabinet.

A former Conservative member of the London Assembly, she has also served as vice-chair of the Conservative Party. Badenoch, 42, supported leaving the European Union in the 2016 referendum.

SUELLA BRAVERMAN

As attorney general, Braverman, 42, was heavily criticised by lawyers after the government sought to break international law over post-Brexit trade rules in Northern Ireland.

She campaigned to leave the EU and served as a junior minister in the Brexit department under previous Prime Minister Theresa May, but resigned in protest at her proposed Brexit deal, saying it did not go far enough in breaking ties with the bloc.

PENNY MORDAUNT

The former defence secretary was sacked by Johnson when he became prime minister after she endorsed his rival, Jeremy Hunt, during the 2019 leadership contest.

Mordaunt, 49, was a passionate supporter of leaving the EU and said that she would aim to deliver the benefits of Brexit and recover from recent economic shocks such as the pandemic.

Currently a junior trade minister, Mordaunt called the COVID-19 lockdown-breaking parties in government “shameful” and has said that if she is prime minister, leadership has to change to be less about the leader.

RISHI SUNAK

Sunak announced his leadership bid with a campaign video in which he promised to confront the difficult economic backdrop with “honesty, seriousness and determination”, rather than piling the burden on future generations. read more

Sunak, 42, became finance minister in early 2020 and was praised for a COVID economic rescue package, including a costly jobs retention programme that averted mass unemployment.

But he later faced criticism for not giving enough cost-of-living support to households. Revelations this year about his wealthy wife’s non-domiciled tax status, and a fine he received for breaking COVID lockdown rules, have damaged his standing.

His tax-and-spend budget last year put Britain on course for its biggest tax burden since the 1950s, undermining his claims to favour lower taxes.

Sunak voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum.

LIZ TRUSS

The foreign secretary has been the darling of the Conservative Party’s grassroots and has regularly topped polls of party members carried out by the website Conservative Home.

Truss has a carefully cultivated public image and was photographed in a tank last year, echoing a famous 1986 photo of Thatcher.

She spent the first two years of Johnson’s premiership as international trade secretary and is now in charge of dealing with the EU over post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, where she has taken an increasingly tough line in negotiations.

Truss, 46, initially campaigned against Brexit but after the 2016 referendum said she had changed her mind.

TOM TUGENDHAT

The chair of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, and a former soldier who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, he is relatively untested because he has never served in Cabinet.

Tugendhat, 49, has been a regular critic of Johnson and would offer his party a clean break with previous governments.

He says he is a low tax Conservative who did not support the rise in National Insurance, and has said fuel tax is “crippling” for many people.

He voted to remain in the EU.

($1 = 0.7971 pound)

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Additional reporting by Alistair Smout
Editing by Angus MacSwan, David Evans and Jonathan Oatis

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Payment Data Could Become Evidence of Abortion, Now Illegal in Some States

Digital payments are the default for millions of women of childbearing age. So what will their credit and debit card issuers and financial app providers do when prosecutors seek their transaction data during abortion investigations?

It’s a hypothetical question that’s almost certainly an inevitable one in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade last week. Now that abortion is illegal in several states, criminal investigators will soon begin their hunt for evidence to prosecute those they say violated the law.

Medical records are likely to be the most definitive proof of what now is a crime, but officials who cannot get those may look for evidence elsewhere. The payment trail is likely to be a high priority.

HIPAA — which governs the privacy of a patient’s health records — permits medical and billing records to be released in response to a warrant or subpoena.

“There is a very broad exception to the HIPAA protections for law enforcement,” said Marcy Wilder, a partner and co-head of the global privacy and cybersecurity practice at Hogan Lovells, a law firm. But Ms. Wilder added that the information shared with law enforcement officials could not be overly broad or unrelated to the request. “That is why it matters how companies and health plans are interpreting this.”

Card issuers and networks like Visa and Mastercard generally do not have itemized lists of everything that people pay for when they shop for prescription drugs or other medications online, or when they purchase services at health care providers. But evidence of patronage of, say, a pharmacy that sells only abortion pills could give someone away.

a new state law authorizes residents to file lawsuits against anyone who helped facilitate an abortion.

“With the ruling only coming down late last week, it’s premature to understand the full impact at the state level,” Brad Russell, a USAA spokesman, said via email. “However, USAA will always comply with all applicable laws.”

American Airlines Credit Union, Bank of America, Capital One, Discover, Goldman Sachs, Prosperity Bank USA, Navy Federal Credit Union, US Bank, University of Wisconsin Credit Union, Wells Fargo and Western Union did not return at least two messages seeking comment.

American Express, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo have all announced their intentions to reimburse employees for expenses if they travel to other states for abortions. So far, none have commented about how they would respond to a subpoena seeking the transaction records of the very employees who would be eligible for employer reimbursement.

Amie Stepanovich, vice president of U.S. policy at the Future of Privacy Forum, a nonprofit focused on data privacy and protection, said warrants and subpoenas can be accompanied by gag orders, which can prevent companies from even alerting their customers that they’re being investigated.

“They can choose to battle the use of gag orders in court,” she said. “Sometimes they win, sometimes they don’t.”

In other instances, prosecutors may not say exactly what they’re investigating when they ask for transaction records. In that case, it’s up to the financial institution to request more information or try to figure it out on its own.

Paying for abortion services with cash is one possible way to avoid detection, even if it isn’t possible for people ordering pills online. Many abortion funds pay on behalf of people who need financial help.

But cash and electronic transfers of money are not entirely foolproof.

“Even if you are paying with cash, the amount of residual information that can be used to reveal health status and pregnancy status is fairly significant,” said Ms. Stepanovich, referring to potential bread crumbs such as the use of a retailer’s loyalty program or location tracking on a mobile phone when making a cash purchase.

In some cases, users may inadvertently give up sensitive information themselves through apps that track and share their financial behavior.

“The purchase of a pregnancy test on an app where financial history is public is probably the biggest red flag,” Ms. Stepanovich said.

Other advocates mentioned the possibility of using prepaid cards in fixed amounts, like the kinds that people can buy off a rack in a drugstore. Cryptocurrency, they added, usually does leave enough of a trail that achieving anonymity is challenging.

One thing that every expert emphasized is the lack of certainty. But there is an emerging gut feeling that corporations will be in the spotlight at least as much as judges.

“Now, these payment companies are going to be front and center in the fight,” Ms. Caraballo said.

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Companies Scramble to Work Out Policies Related to Employee Abortions

There is no clear blueprint for corporate engagement on abortion. After numerous companies came forward to announce that they would cover travel expenses for their employees to get abortions, executives have had to move swiftly to both sort out the mechanics of those policies and explain them to a work force concerned about confidentiality and safety.

Few companies have commented directly on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which ended nearly 50 years of federal abortion rights. Far more have responded by expanding their health care policies to cover travel and other expenses for employees who can’t get abortions close to home, now that the procedure is banned in at least eight states with other bans set to soon take effect. About half the country gets its health care coverage from employers, and the wave of new employer commitments has raised concerns from some workers about privacy.

“It’s a doomsday scenario if individuals have to bring their health care choices to their employers,” said Dina Fierro, a global vice president at the cosmetics company Nars, echoing a concern that many workers have expressed on social media in recent days.

Popular Information. Match Group declined to comment.

tweet: “I believe CEOs have a responsibility to take care of their employees — no matter what.”

Lora Kelley contributed reporting.

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Legal clashes await U.S. companies covering workers’ abortion costs

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June 27 (Reuters) – A growing number of large U.S. companies have said they will cover travel costs for employees who must leave their home states to get abortions, but these new policies could expose businesses to lawsuits and even potential criminal liability, legal experts said.

Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), Apple Inc (AAPL.O), Lyft Inc (LYFT.O), Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) and JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) were among companies that announced plans to provide those benefits through their health insurance plans in anticipation of Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that had legalized abortion nationwide. read more

Within an hour of the decision being released, Conde Nast Chief Executive Roger Lynch sent a memo to staff announcing a travel reimbursement policy and calling the court’s ruling “a crushing blow to reproductive rights.” Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) unveiled a similar policy on Friday, telling employees that it recognizes the impact of the abortion ruling but remains committed to providing comprehensive access to quality healthcare, according to a spokesman. read more

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Health insurer Cigna Corp (CI.N), Paypal Holdings Inc (PYPL.O), Alaska Airlines Inc (DKS.N) also announced reimbursement policies on Friday.

Abortion restrictions that were already on the books in 13 states went into effect as a result of Friday’s ruling and at least a dozen other Republican-led states are expected to ban abortion.

The court’s decision, driven by its conservative majority, upheld a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks. Meanwhile, some Democratic-led states are moving to bolster access to abortion.

Companies will have to navigate that patchwork of state laws and are likely to draw the ire of anti-abortion groups and Republican-led states if they adopt policies supportive of employees having abortions.

State lawmakers in Texas have already threatened Citigroup Inc (C.N) and Lyft, which had earlier announced travel reimbursement policies, with legal repercussions. A group of Republican lawmakers in a letter last month to Lyft Chief Executive Logan Green said Texas “will take swift and decisive action” if the ride-hailing company implements the policy.

The legislators also outlined a series of abortion-related proposals, including a bill that would bar companies from doing business in Texas if they pay for residents of the state to receive abortions elsewhere.

LAWSUITS LOOMING

It is likely only a matter of time before companies face lawsuits from states or anti-abortion campaigners claiming that abortion-related payments violate state bans on facilitating or aiding and abetting abortions, according to Robin Fretwell Wilson, a law professor at the University of Illinois and expert on healthcare law.

“If you can sue me as a person for carrying your daughter across state lines, you can sue Amazon for paying for it,” Wilson said.

Amazon, Citigroup and other companies that have announced reimbursement policies did not respond to requests for comment. A Lyft spokesperson said: “We believe access to healthcare is essential and transportation should never be a barrier to that access.”

For many large companies that fund their own health plans, the federal law regulating employee benefits will provide crucial cover in civil lawsuits over their reimbursement policies, several lawyers and other legal experts said.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) prohibits states from adopting requirements that “relate to” employer-sponsored health plans. Courts have for decades interpreted that language to bar state laws that dictate what health plans can and cannot cover.

ERISA regulates benefit plans that are funded directly by employers, known as self-insured plans. In 2021, 64% of U.S. workers with employer-sponsored health insurance were covered by self-insured plans, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Any company sued over an abortion travel reimbursement requirement will likely cite ERISA as a defense, according to Katy Johnson, senior counsel for health policy at the American Benefits Council trade group. And that will be a strong argument, she said, particularly for businesses with general reimbursement policies for necessary medical-related travel rather than those that single out abortion.

Johnson said reimbursements for other kinds of medical-related travel, such as visits to hospitals designated “centers of excellence,” are already common even though policies related to abortion are still relatively rare.

“While this may seem new, it’s not in the general sense and the law already tells us how to handle it,” Johnson said.

LIMITS

The argument has its limits. Fully-insured health plans, in which employers purchase coverage through a commercial insurer, cover about one-third of workers with insurance and are regulated by state law and not ERISA.

Most small and medium-sized U.S. businesses have fully-insured plans and could not argue that ERISA prevents states from limiting abortion coverage.

And, ERISA cannot prevent states from enforcing criminal laws, such as those in several states that make it a crime to aid and abet abortion. So employers who adopt reimbursement policies are vulnerable to criminal charges from state and local prosecutors.

But since most criminal abortion laws have not been enforced in decades, since Roe was decided, it is unclear whether officials would attempt to prosecute companies, according to Danita Merlau, a Chicago-based lawyer who advises companies on benefits issues.

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Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York, Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi, Grant McCool and Bill Berkrot

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Factbox: Companies offering abortion travel benefits to U.S. workers

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June 29 (Reuters) – A growing number of companies, including JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N), Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) and Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) are updating or changing their health insurance policies to offer travel benefits to U.S. employees who may need to access out of state abortion services.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday took the dramatic step of overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that recognized a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion and legalized it nationwide. read more

Below is a list of companies that have said they will cover or reimburse U.S. employees who need to travel to receive medical care, including abortion, if access where workers live is restricted.

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Airbnb Inc (ABNB.O)

Alaska Air Group Inc (ALK.N) read more

Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O)

Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) read more

American Express Co (AXP.N)

Apollo Global Management Inc (APO.N) read more

Apple Inc (AAPL.O)

AT&T Inc (T.N)

Bank of America Corp (BAC.N)

Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.TO)

Blackstone Inc (BX.N) read more

Block Inc (SQ.N)

Bumble Inc (BMBL.O) read more

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CM.TO)

Carlyle Group Inc (CG.O) read more

Chobani

Citigroup Inc (C.N) read more

CVS Health Corp (CVS.N)

Deutsche Bank AG read more

Dick’s Sporting Goods (DKS.N) read more

DoorDash Inc (DASH.N)

Equinox

Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) read more

Gucci (PRTP.PA)

H&M (HMb.ST)

HubSpot Inc

Intel Corp (INTC.O)

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) read more

JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) read more

Kroger Co (KR.N)

Levi Strauss & Co (LEVI.N) read more

L’Oreal (OREP.PA)

LVMH (LVMH.PA)

Lyft Inc (LYFT.O) read more

Macy’s Inc (M.N)

Mastercard Inc (MA.N) read more

Meta Platforms Inc (META.O) read more

Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) read more

Morgan Stanley (MS.N) read more

Netflix Inc (NFLX.O)

Nordstrom Inc (JWN.N)

OKCupid (MTCH.O) read more

PayPal Holdings Inc (PYPL.O)

Pinterest Inc (PINS.N)

Proctor and Gamble Co(PG.N)

Ralph Lauren Corp (RL.N)

Rivian Automotive Inc(RIVN.O)

Starbucks Corp (SBUX.O) read more

Target Corp (TGT.N)

Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) read more

TPG Inc (TPG.O) read more

Uber Technologies Inc (UBER.N)

Ulta Beauty Inc (ULTA.O)

Unilever PLC (ULVR.L)

United Talent Agency read more

Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc (WBA.O)

Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) read more

Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N) read more

Yahoo

Yelp Inc (YELP.N) read more

Zillow Group Inc (ZG.O)

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Reporting by Doyinsola Oladipo and Akash Sriram; Additional reporting by Chavi Mehta, Manas Mishra and Nichola Saminather; Editing by Anna Driver, Rosalba O’Brien, Bill Berkrot, Daniel Wallis, William Maclean

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Drivers’ Lawsuit Claims Uber and Lyft Violate Antitrust Laws

A group of drivers claimed on Tuesday that Uber and Lyft are engaging in anticompetitive practices by setting the prices customers pay and limiting drivers’ ability to choose which rides they accept without penalty.

The drivers, supported by the advocacy group Rideshare Drivers United, made the novel legal argument in a state lawsuit that targets the long-running debate about the job status of gig economy workers.

For years, Uber and Lyft have argued that their drivers should be considered independent contractors rather than employees under labor laws, meaning they would be responsible for their own expenses and not typically eligible for unemployment insurance or health benefits. In exchange, the companies argued, drivers could set their own hours and maintain more independence than they could if they were employees.

ballot measure in California that would lock in the independent contractor status of drivers. The companies said such a measure would help drivers by giving them flexibility, and Uber also began allowing drivers in California to set their own rates after the state passed a law requiring companies to treat contract workers as employees. Drivers thought the new flexibility was a sign of what life would be like if voters approved the ballot measure, Proposition 22.

Drivers were also given increased visibility into where passengers wanted to travel before they had to accept the ride. The ballot measure passed, before a judge overturned it.

The next year, the new options for drivers were rolled back. Drivers said they had lost the ability to set their own fares and now must meet requirements — like accepting five of every 10 rides — to see details about trips before accepting them.

bears little relationship to what drivers earn.

Whatever the case, courts in California could be more sympathetic to at least some of the claims in the complaint, the experts said.

gas prices have soared and as competition among drivers has started to return to prepandemic levels.

“It’s been increasingly more difficult to earn money,” said another plaintiff, Ben Valdez, a driver in Los Angeles. “Enough is enough. There’s only so much a person can take.”

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