Ten states, however, have adopted their own laws that specify which patients, based on their income and family size, qualify for free or discounted care. Among them is Washington, where Providence is based. All hospitals in the state must provide free care for anyone who makes under 300 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that threshold is $83,250 a year.

In February, Bob Ferguson, the state’s attorney general, accused Providence of violating state law, in part by using debt collectors to pursue more than 55,000 patient accounts. The suit alleged that Providence wrongly claimed those patients owed a total of more than $73 million.

Providence, which is fighting the lawsuit, has said it will stop using debt collectors to pursue money from low-income patients who should qualify for free care in Washington.

But The Times found that the problems extend beyond Washington. In interviews, patients in California and Oregon who qualified for free care said they had been charged thousands of dollars and then harassed by collection agents. Many saw their credit scores ruined. Others had to cut back on groceries to pay what Providence claimed they owed. In both states, nonprofit hospitals are required by law to provide low-income patients with free or discounted care.

“I felt a little betrayed,” said Bev Kolpin, 57, who had worked as a sonogram technician at a Providence hospital in Oregon. Then she went on unpaid leave to have surgery to remove a cyst. The hospital billed her $8,000 even though she was eligible for discounted care, she said. “I had worked for them and given them so much, and they didn’t give me anything.” (The hospital forgave her debt only after a lawyer contacted Providence on Ms. Kolpin’s behalf.)

was a single room with four beds. The hospital charged patients $1 a day, not including extras like whiskey.

Patients rarely paid in cash, sometimes offering chickens, ducks and blankets in exchange for care.

At the time, hospitals in the United States were set up to do what Providence did — provide inexpensive care to the poor. Wealthier people usually hired doctors to treat them at home.

wrote to the Senate in 2005.

Some hospital executives have embraced the comparison to for-profit companies. Dr. Rod Hochman, Providence’s chief executive, told an industry publication in 2021 that “‘nonprofit health care’ is a misnomer.”

“It is tax-exempt health care,” he said. “It still makes profits.”

Those profits, he added, support the hospital’s mission. “Every dollar we make is going to go right back into Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Alaska and Montana.”

Since Dr. Hochman took over in 2013, Providence has become a financial powerhouse. Last year, it earned $1.2 billion in profits through investments. (So far this year, Providence has lost money.)

Providence also owes some of its wealth to its nonprofit status. In 2019, the latest year available, Providence received roughly $1.2 billion in federal, state and local tax breaks, according to the Lown Institute, a think tank that studies health care.

a speech by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures.”

Ms. Tizon, the spokeswoman for Providence, said the intent of Rev-Up was “not to target or pressure those in financial distress.” Instead, she said, “it aimed to provide patients with greater pricing transparency.”

“We recognize the tone of the training materials developed by McKinsey was not consistent with our values,” she said, adding that Providence modified the materials “to ensure we are communicating with each patient with compassion and respect.”

But employees who were responsible for collecting money from patients said the aggressive tactics went beyond the scripts provided by McKinsey. In some Providence collection departments, wall-mounted charts shaped like oversize thermometers tracked employees’ progress toward hitting their monthly collection goals, the current and former Providence employees said.

On Halloween at one of Providence’s hospitals, an employee dressed up as a wrestler named Rev-Up Ricky, according to the Washington lawsuit. Another costume featured a giant cardboard dollar sign with “How” printed on top of it, referring to the way the staff was supposed to ask patients how, not whether, they would pay. Ms. Tizon said such costumes were “not the culture we strive for.”

financial assistance policy, his low income qualified him for free care.

In early 2021, Mr. Aguirre said, he received a bill from Providence for $4,394.45. He told Providence that he could not afford to pay.

Providence sent his account to Harris & Harris, a debt collection company. Mr. Aguirre said that Harris & Harris employees had called him repeatedly for weeks and that the ordeal made him wary of going to Providence again.

“I try my best not to go to their emergency room even though my daughters have gotten sick, and I got sick,” Mr. Aguirre said, noting that one of his daughters needed a biopsy and that he had trouble breathing when he had Covid. “I have this big fear in me.”

That is the outcome that hospitals like Providence may be hoping for, said Dean A. Zerbe, who investigated nonprofit hospitals when he worked for the Senate Finance Committee under Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa.

“They just want to make sure that they never come back to that hospital and they tell all their friends never to go back to that hospital,” Mr. Zerbe said.

The Everett Daily Herald, Providence forgave her bill and refunded the payments she had made.

In June, she got another letter from Providence. This one asked her to donate money to the hospital: “No gift is too small to make a meaningful impact.”

In 2019, Vanessa Weller, a single mother who is a manager at a Wendy’s restaurant in Anchorage, went to Providence Alaska Medical Center, the state’s largest hospital.

She was 24 weeks pregnant and experiencing severe abdominal pains. “Let this just be cramps,” she recalled telling herself.

Ms. Weller was in labor. She gave birth via cesarean section to a boy who weighed barely a pound. She named him Isaiah. As she was lying in bed, pain radiating across her abdomen, she said, a hospital employee asked how she would like to pay. She replied that she had applied for Medicaid, which she hoped would cover the bill.

After five days in the hospital, Isaiah died.

Then Ms. Weller got caught up in Providence’s new, revenue-boosting policies.

The phone calls began about a month after she left the hospital. Ms. Weller remembers panicking when Providence employees told her what she owed: $125,000, or about four times her annual salary.

She said she had repeatedly told Providence that she was already stretched thin as a single mother with a toddler. Providence’s representatives asked if she could pay half the amount. On later calls, she said, she was offered a payment plan.

“It was like they were following some script,” she said. “Like robots.”

Later that year, a Providence executive questioned why Ms. Weller had a balance, given her low income, according to emails disclosed in Washington’s litigation with Providence. A colleague replied that her debts previously would have been forgiven but that Providence’s new policy meant that “balances after Medicaid are being excluded from presumptive charity process.”

Ms. Weller said she had to change her phone number to make the calls stop. Her credit score plummeted from a decent 650 to a lousy 400. She has not paid any of her bill.

Susan C. Beachy and Beena Raghavendran contributed research.

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TikTok’s CEO Navigates the Limits of His Power

TikTok recently tried to tamp down concerns from U.S. lawmakers that it poses a national security threat because it is owned by the Chinese internet company ByteDance. The viral video app insisted it had an arm’s-length relationship with ByteDance and that its own executive was in charge.

“TikTok is led by its own global C.E.O., Shou Zi Chew, a Singaporean based in Singapore,” TikTok wrote in a June letter to U.S. lawmakers.

But in fact, Mr. Chew’s decision-making power over TikTok is limited, according to 12 former TikTok and ByteDance employees and executives.

Zhang Yiming, ByteDance’s founder, as well as by a top ByteDance strategy executive and the head of TikTok’s research and development team, said the people, who declined to be identified for fear of reprisals. TikTok’s growth and strategy, which are led by ByteDance teams, report not to Mr. Chew but to ByteDance’s office in Beijing, they said.

increasingly questioned TikTok’s data practices, reigniting a debate over how the United States should treat business relationships with foreign companies.

On Wednesday, TikTok’s chief operating officer testified in Congress and downplayed the app’s China connections. On Thursday, President Biden signed an executive order to sharpen the federal government’s powers to block Chinese investment in tech in the United States and to limit its access to private data on citizens.

a March interview with the billionaire investor David Rubenstein, whose firm, the Carlyle Group, has a stake in the Chinese giant. Mr. Chew added that he had become familiar with TikTok as a “creator” and amassed “185,000 followers.” (He appeared to be referring to a corporate account that posted videos of him while he was an executive at Xiaomi, one of China’s largest phone manufacturers.)

Jinri Toutiao. The two built a rapport, and an investment vehicle associated with Mr. Milner led a $10 million financing in Mr. Zhang’s company that same year, three people with knowledge of the deal said.

The news aggregator eventually became ByteDance — now valued at around $360 billion, according to PitchBook — and owns TikTok; its Chinese sister app, Douyin; and various education and enterprise software ventures.

By 2015, Mr. Chew had joined Xiaomi as chief financial officer. He spearheaded the device maker’s 2018 initial public offering, led its international efforts and became an English-speaking face for the brand.

“Shou grew up with both American and Chinese language and culture surrounding him,” said Hugo Barra, a former Google executive who worked with Mr. Chew at Xiaomi. “He is objectively better positioned than anyone I’ve ever met in the China business world to be this incredible dual-edged executive in a Chinese company that wants to become a global powerhouse.”

In March 2021, Mr. Chew announced that he was joining ByteDance as chief financial officer, fueling speculation that the company would go public. (It remains privately held.)

appointed Mr. Chew as chief executive, with Mr. Zhang praising his “deep knowledge of the company and industry.” Late last year, Mr. Chew stepped down from his ByteDance role to focus on TikTok.

Kevin Mayer, a former Disney executive, left after the Trump administration’s effort to sunder the app from its Chinese parent. China was also cracking down on its domestic internet giants, with Mr. Zhang resigning from his official roles at ByteDance last year. Mr. Zhang remains involved in decision making, people with knowledge of ByteDance said.

Mr. Chew moved to establish himself as TikTok’s new head during visits to the app’s Los Angeles office in mid-2021. At a dinner with TikTok executives, he sought to build camaraderie by keeping a Culver City, Calif., restaurant open past closing time, three people with knowledge of the event said. He asked attendees if he should buy the establishment to keep it open longer, they said.

a TikTok NFT project involving the musical artists Lil Nas X and Bella Poarch. He reprimanded TikTok’s global head of marketing on a video call with Beijing-based leaders for ByteDance after some celebrities dropped out of the project, four people familiar with the meeting said. It showed that Mr. Chew answered to higher powers, they said.

Mr. Chew also ended a half-developed TikTok store off Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, three people familiar with the initiative said. TikTok briefly explored obtaining the naming rights of the Los Angeles stadium formerly known as the Staples Center, they said.

He has also overseen layoffs of American managers, two people familiar with the decisions said, while building up teams related to trust and safety. In its U.S. marketing, the app has shifted its emphasis from a brand that starts trends and conversations toward its utility as a place where people can go to learn.

In May, Mr. Chew flew to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum, speaking with European regulators and ministers from Saudi Arabia to discuss digital strategy.

June letter to U.S. lawmakers, he noted that ByteDance employees in China could gain access to the data of Americans when “subject to a series of robust cybersecurity controls.” But he said TikTok was in the process of separating and securing its U.S. user data under an initiative known as Project Texas, which has the app working with the American software giant Oracle.

“We know we’re among the most scrutinized platforms,” Mr. Chew wrote.

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Biden To Tell Ohioans His Policies Will Revive Manufacturing

Intel had delayed groundbreaking on the $20 billion plant until Congress passed the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act.

President Joe Biden wants to put the spotlight on a rare bipartisan down payment on U.S. manufacturing when he visits Ohio on Friday for the groundbreaking of a new Intel computer chip facility.

President Biden heads to suburban Columbus to take a victory lap just as voters in the state are starting to tune in to a closely contested Senate race between Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan and Republican author and venture capital executive JD Vance. They’re competing in a former swing state that has trended Republican over the last decade.

Intel had delayed groundbreaking on the $20 billion plant until Congress passed the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act. Both Ryan and Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, who is facing Democrat Nan Whaley in his reelection bid, plan to be at Friday’s groundbreaking.

In his State of the Union address last March, President Biden said he envisioned the Intel plant as a model for a U.S. economy that revolves around technology, factories and the middle class. The plant speaks to how the president is trying to revive American manufacturing nationwide, including in states that are solidly Republican or political toss-ups.

Chipmaker Micron committed $15 billion for a factory in Idaho, Corning will build an optical fiber facility in Arizona and First Solar plans to construct its fourth solar panel plant in the Southeast, all announcements that stemmed from President Biden administration initiatives.

As part of President Biden’s visit, Intel will announce that it’s providing $17.7 million to Ohio colleges and universities to develop education programs focused on the computer chips sector.

Factory work is one of the few issues going into November’s midterm elections that has crossover appeal at a time when issues such as abortion, inflation and the nature of democracy have dominated the contest to control Congress.

Ryan had largely been hesitant to share a stage with President Biden, as appearing with the country’s top Democrat could hurt his chances in a state that backed Republican Donald Trump by eight points in both 2016 and 2020.

Ryan skipped the president’s July 6 visit to Cleveland to plug his administration’s efforts to shore up troubled pension programs for blue-collar workers. President Biden nonetheless referred to him as the “future Senator Tim Ryan” and thanked him for his “incredible work” on the legislation.

The Youngstown-area congressman committed to appearing with President Biden this week because of the importance of the Intel facility in a state that has long defined itself through its factories, mills and working-class sensibilities.

“This is a huge opportunity,” Ryan told CNN on Sunday. “The CHIPS Act that we passed is all about reshoring high-end manufacturing jobs.”

Yet in a Thursday TV interview with Youngstown’s WFMJ on the eve of President Biden’s visit, Ryan said he is “campaigning as an independent.” When asked if President Biden should seek a second term, Ryan said, “My hunch is that we need new leadership across the board, Democrats, Republicans, I think it’s time for like a generational move.”

The open Senate seat in Ohio, currently held by the retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman, is one of several hotly contested races that could determine whether Democrats can hold their slim majority in the chamber for the second half of President Biden’s term.

Several Democrats in competitive races have at moments sought to maintain some distance from President Biden, whose public approval ratings have ticked up in recent weeks but remain underwater.

A spokesman said DeWine also plans to attend the groundbreaking, making him among the few Republicans on the ballot this year who are willing to share a stage with the president. President Biden has in recent weeks said that extremist Republican lawmakers who refuse to accept the results of the 2020 election are a threat to democracy, a charge that has only intensified partisan tensions with control of the House and the Senate on the line.

Vance, the Republican Senate candidate in Ohio, hailed the Intel plant in a statement at as “a great bipartisan victory” for the state. He specifically applauded the “hard work” of GOP lawmakers including DeWine and Portman, but Vance pointedly made no mention of President Biden.

The shortage of semiconductors has plagued the U.S. and global economies. It cut into production of autos, household appliances and other goods in ways that fueled high inflation, while creating national security risks as the U.S. recognized its dependence on Asia for chip production.

The mix of high prices and long waits for basic goods has left many Americans feeling disgruntled about President Biden’s economic leadership, a political weakness that has lessened somewhat as gasoline prices have fallen and many voters have grown concerned about the loss of abortion protections after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

The new law would provide $28 billion in incentives for semiconductor production, $10 billion for new manufacturing of chips and $11 billion for research and development. The funding follows similar efforts by Europe and China to accelerate chip production, which political leaders see as essential for competing economically and militarily.

President Biden has pitched the legislation as a “once-in-a-generation investment in America” that could reduce U.S. dependence on Taiwan and South Korea at a time when China is seeking to expand its presence across Asia and its shipping lanes.

Lawmakers crafted the semiconductor investments to favor areas outside the wealthier coastal cities where tech dominates. That means change will be coming to the Ohio city of New Albany, where the Intel plant is being constructed, as well as nearby Johnstown.

Don Harvey, a sporting goods store owner and longtime Johnstown resident, likes the idea of a company making things again in the United States, and also providing potentially high-paying jobs for his five grandchildren down the road. Intel has said pay will average $135,000 for its 3,000 Ohio workers.

“What an opportunity in my eyes for Ohio and the United States as a whole,” said the 63-year-old Harvey.

Elyse Priest lives in a subdivision just up the road from the plant, and received a firsthand taste of the construction recently as she watched a huge cloud of dust roll up from the 1,000-acre site currently being leveled. Priest, 38, also knows the road-widening and added traffic will affect her commute to downtown Columbus where she works as a legal assistant.

“I’m concerned about losing the small town feel I’ve always had and loved about Johnstown,” Priest said. “But I know it’s going to be a greater good for the whole state.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Serena Williams Not Done Yet; Wins 1st Match At U.S. Open

Three weeks ago, Williams told the world that she was ready to concentrate on having a second child and her venture capital firm.

They came from far and wide for Serena — no last name required, befitting someone as much an icon as superstar athlete — to see her practice and play and, it turned out, win a match at the U.S. Open on Monday night, turning out in record numbers to fill Arthur Ashe Stadium and shout and applaud and pump their fists right along with her.

Serena Williams is not ready to say goodbye just yet. Nor, clearly, are her fans. And she heard them, loud and clear.

In her first match at what is expected to be the last U.S. Open — and last tournament — of her remarkable playing career, even if she insists that she won’t quite say so, Williams overcame a shaky start to overpower Danka Kovinic 6-3, 6-3 amid an atmosphere more akin to a festival than a farewell.

What memory will stick with her the most from the evening?

“When I walked out, the reception was really overwhelming. It was loud and I could feel it in my chest. It was a really good feeling,” said the owner of six U.S. Open championships and 23 Grand Slam titles overall, numbers unsurpassed by any other player in the sport’s professional era.

“It’s a feeling I’ll never forget,” she added. “Yeah, that meant a lot to me.”

This opening outing against Kovinic, a 27-year-old from Montenegro ranked 80th, became an event with a capital “E.” Spike Lee participated in the pre-match coin toss. Former President Bill Clinton was in the stands. So were Mike Tyson and Martina Navratilova, sitting next to each other. And sitting with Dad and Grandma was Williams’ daughter, Olympia, who turns 5 on Thursday, wearing white beads in her hair just like Mom did while winning the U.S. Open for the first time at age 17 back in 1999.

Williams is now 40, and told the world three weeks ago via an essay for Vogue that she was ready to concentrate on having a second child and her venture capital firm.

Asked after her victory Monday whether this will definitively be her final tournament, Williams replied with a knowing smile: “Yeah, I’ve been pretty vague about it, right?”

Then she added: “I’m going to stay vague, because you never know.”

The night session drew 29,000 folks, a high for the tournament — more than 23,000 were in Ashe; thousands more watched on a video screen outside the arena — and the place was as loud as ever. Certainly louder than any other first-round match in memory.

Both players called the decibel level “crazy.” Kovinic said she couldn’t hear the ball come off Williams’ racket strings — or even her own.

Early, Williams was not at her best. Maybe it was the significance of the moment. There were double-faults. Other missed strokes, missed opportunities. She went up 2-0, but then quickly trailed 3-2. Then, suddenly, Williams looked a lot like the champion she’s been for decades and less like the player who came into this match with a 1-3 record since returning to action in late June after nearly a year off the tour.

“At this point, honestly, everything is a bonus for me, I feel,” Williams said. “It’s good that I was able to get this under my belt. … I’m just not even thinking about that. I’m just thinking about just this moment. I think it’s good for me just to live in the moment now.”

She rolled through the end of that opening set, capping it with a service winner she reacted to with clenched fists and her trademark cry of “Come on!” That was met with thunderous cheers and applause — as was the ending of the 1-hour, 40-minute contest, as if another trophy had been earned.

Instead, there is plenty more work to be done. Williams will play in the second round of singles on Wednesday against No. 2 seed Anett Kontveit of Estonia. And there’s also doubles, too: Williams and her sister, Venus, are entered together in that competition, with their initial match slated for Wednesday or Thursday.

“Just keep supporting me,” Williams told the spectators, “as long as I’m here.”

They surely will. They were there to honor her and show appreciation for what she’s done on the court and off. After watching the victory over Kovinic, spectators held up blue, white or red placards that were distributed at their seats to spell out “We (Heart) Serena.”

After Kovinic was introduced simply by name, making clear to even her what an afterthought she was on this muggy evening, Williams’ entrance was preceded by a tribute video narrated by Queen Latifah, who called the American the “Queen of Queens.” The arena announcer called Williams “the greatest of all time,” and intoned: “This U.S. Open marks the final chapter of her storied tennis history.”

She means a lot to a lot of people. As a tennis player. As a woman. As an African American. As a mother. As a businesswoman.

“When she started out, female athletes weren’t getting recognized. She’s done so much,” said Quintella Thorn, a 68-year-old from Columbus, Georgia, making her eighth trip to the U.S. Open. “And now, she’s …”

“Evolving,” chimed in Thorn’s friend, Cora Monroe, 72, of Shreveport, Louisiana, using the word Williams says she prefers to “retirement.”

Which is why Monday mattered more than the usual Day 1 at a major tournament. And why the daily program did not make mention of any other of the dozens of athletes in action, showing instead a montage of six images of Williams holding her six U.S. Open trophies above the title: “Serena Williams, A Legacy of Greatness.” And why there was a sense of less importance for matches involving wins for other elite players such as past U.S. Open champions Bianca Andreescu, Andy Murray and Daniil Medvedev, or French Open finalist Coco Gauff, an 18-year-old American.

After her own 6-2, 6-3 victory over Leolia Jeanjean earlier in the day, Gauff looked forward to sitting in Ashe herself to watch Williams, someone she credits with inspiring her to play tennis. Gauff’s original plan was to tune in on TV, but then she decided this was too important to miss.

“Everybody is going to be on her side. I’m going to be cheering for her,” Gauff said. “It’s going to be probably one of the most electric matches that will ever happen in tennis.”

She lived up to the billing. And now there is more to come for Williams and her supporters.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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A Who’s Who of Silicon Valley Lawyers Up for the Musk-Twitter Trial

Jack Dorsey, a founder of Twitter, got a subpoena. So did Marc Andreessen, a prominent venture capitalist. Larry Ellison, Oracle’s chairman, and the investors David Sacks and Joe Lonsdale received them, too.

They were all summoned to share what they know about the rancorous, knock-down, drag-out tech spectacle of the year: the fight between Twitter and Elon Musk, the world’s richest man.

Mr. Musk enthusiastically agreed to buy Twitter in April for $44 billion, but has since tried to back out of the blockbuster deal, leading to lawsuits and recriminations. Both sides are set for a showdown in Delaware Chancery Court in October over whether Mr. Musk needs to stick with the acquisition. The torrent of legal demands in the case has forced a who’s who of Silicon Valley to now lawyer up, creating a heyday for top-tier law firms.

unsolicited bid worth more than $40 billion for the social network, saying he wanted to make Twitter a private company and allow people to speak more freely on the service.

Of the two sides, Twitter has so far been more aggressive in the discovery process for the case. The company has issued more than 84 subpoenas to uncover discussions that might prove that Mr. Musk soured on the acquisition because the economic downturn decreased his personal wealth. (Mr. Musk’s net worth still stands at $259 billion, according to Bloomberg.)

Twitter has sent subpoenas to Mr. Musk’s friends and associates, such as the former SpaceX board member Antonio Gracias and the entertainment executive Kristina Salen, to get insight into their group chats. The company has also summoned investors like Mr. Andreessen and Mr. Ellison, who agreed to pony up money so Mr. Musk could do the deal.

Mr. Musk himself has agreed to sift through every text he sent or received between Jan. 1 and July 8 for messages relevant to Twitter. His side’s subpoena total stands at more than 36 — including one to Mr. Dorsey — as Mr. Musk tries to show that Twitter lied about the number of inauthentic accounts on its platform, which he has cited as a reason to pull out of the deal.

Mr. Musk has demanded voluminous data from Twitter, including correspondence among its board members and years of account information. Last Thursday, the court granted Mr. Musk a limited set of 9,000 accounts that Twitter audited to determine how many bots were on the platform during a particular quarter. He has also subpoenaed the company’s bankers, Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan.

But Mr. Musk has also shown his unhappiness over Twitter’s attempts to obtain his group chats. This month, his lawyers tried limiting the company’s inquiries, saying they did not plan to turn over messages from “friends and acquaintances with whom Mr. Musk may have had passing exchanges regarding Twitter.”

tweeted.

Mr. Sacks, another friend of Mr. Musk’s who worked with him at PayPal, responded to a subpoena from Twitter with a tweet that included an image of a Mad magazine cover featuring a giant middle finger.

In a court filing on Friday, Mr. Sacks’s lawyers, who filed a motion to quash the subpoenas, said he had produced 90 documents for Twitter so far. They accused the company of “harassing” Mr. Sacks and creating “significant” legal bills for him by subpoenaing him in California and Delaware.

A lawyer for Mr. Sacks did not respond to a request for comment.

Kathaleen McCormick, the judge overseeing the case, has largely waved off Mr. Musk’s objections about the subpoenas to his friends. Mr. Musk’s conduct in discovery “has been suboptimal,” and his requests for years of data were “absurdly broad” she wrote in rulings last week.

“Defendants cannot refuse to respond to a discovery request because they have unilaterally deemed the request irrelevant,” Ms. McCormick wrote. “Even assuming that Musk has many friends and family members, Defendants’ breadth, burden, and proportionality arguments ring hollow.”

Ed Zimmerman, a lawyer who represents start-ups and venture capitalists, said it wasn’t surprising that Silicon Valley techies appeared unwilling to be drawn into the case. The venture industry has long operated with little regulatory oversight. Investors have only begrudgingly become more accustomed to legal processes as their industry has fallen under more scrutiny, he said.

“Venture for so long has been very accustomed to being an outsider thing,” he said. “We didn’t have to focus on following all the rules, and there wasn’t that much litigation.”

For law firms, Mr. Musk’s battle with Twitter has become a bonanza — especially financially.

“I’m sure they’re all hiring fancy high-end law firms,” Mr. Melkonian said. “Those guys are going to charge thousands of dollars per hour for preparation.”

That’s if you can find a lawyer at all. Between Mr. Musk and Twitter, they have sewn up a passel of top law firms.

Twitter has hired five law firms with expertise in corporate disputes and Delaware law: Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; Potter Anderson & Corroon; Ballard Spahr; Kobre & Kim; and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. Mr. Musk has retained a team of four firms: Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan; Chipman Brown Cicero & Cole; and Sheppard Mullin.

Other leading tech law firms — including Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Perkins Coie, Baker McKenzie, and Fenwick & West — declined to comment, citing conflicts in the case.

Lawyers sitting on the sidelines probably feel left out, Mr. Zimmerman said. “If I were a trial lawyer in San Francisco, with a specialty of dealing with venture funds and the growth companies they invest in, there ought to be that FOMO,” he said, referring to the shorthand for the “fear of missing out.”

For those who have been tapped, the next several months are likely to be chaotic.

“For people who do this work, this is what we live for,” said Karen Dunn, a litigator for tech companies who has represented Apple and Uber, and who is not involved in the Twitter case. “It moves incredibly fast, it is all consuming.”

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Cannabis fintech Bespoke to expand BNPL base in cash-starved industry

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An employee puts down an eighth of marijuana after letting a customer smell it outside the Magnolia cannabis lounge in Oakland, California, U.S. April 20, 2018. Friday marked the first ‘4/20’ since the sale of recreational marijuana became legal on January 1. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

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Aug 25 (Reuters) – Fintech firm Bespoke Financial is looking to expand its ‘buy now pay later’ service for cannabis businesses in California and Massachusetts later this year, its Chief Executive George Mancheril said on Thursday.

The push comes after a successful pilot launch in July that allowed cannabis retail outlets to buy products from producers using the service that allows them to pay back after its sale.

The service that uses partner point-of-sales firm Blaze’s software is coming to the weed sector struggling to get funds from banks as it is classified as illegal under federal rules.

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Amid slow banking and legal reforms, the sector is going through a downturn, with marijuana stocks losing nearly 80% of their value from their high in February last year.

“Cannabis has always been its own microcosm, where because of federal illegality we have less access to capital relative to other industries,” Mancheril said in an interview with Reuters.

The plan by Bespoke and Blaze also comes at a stormy time for other BNPL firms as their valuations take a hit from spiraling inflation that has slowed consumer spending.

The two fintech firms believe their service can sidestep such worries as they tap into larger fees from companies, especially the niche cannabis industry, rather than consumers.

“With B2B, there’s a way to actually underwrite risk and to measure risk, in a way that’s much more difficult than on the consumer level,” Mancheril said.

The sector’s financing hurdles is a boon for Bespoke as there is no competition from larger BNPL firms, said Karan Wadhera, managing partner at Casa Verde Capital, a venture capital firm that funds cannabis startups including Bespoke.

“We’re not seeing Affirm or Klarna, and definitely not Apple come into our space anytime soon.”

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Reporting by Ruhi Soni in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Sen. Sinema Took Wall Street Money While Killing Tax On Investors

The revelation comes after Sen. Sinema single-handedly thwarted her party’s long-standing goal of raising taxes on such investors.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, the Arizona Democrat who single-handedly thwarted her party’s longtime goal of raising taxes on wealthy investors, received nearly $1 million over the past year from private equity professionals, hedge fund managers and venture capitalists whose taxes would have increased under the plan.

For years, Democrats have promised to raise taxes on such investors, who pay a significantly lower rate on their earnings than ordinary workers. But just as they closed in on that goal last week, Sinema forced a series of changes to her party’s $740 billion election-year spending package, eliminating a proposed “carried interest” tax increase on private equity earnings while securing a $35 billion exemption that will spare much of the industry from a separate tax increase other huge corporations now have to pay.

The bill, with Sinema’s alterations intact, was given final approval by Congress on Friday and is expected to be signed by President Joe Biden next week.

Sinema has long aligned herself with the interests of private equity, hedge funds and venture capital, helping her net at least $1.5 million in campaign contributions since she was elected to the House a decade ago. But the $983,000 she has collected since last summer more than doubled what the industry donated to her during all of her preceding years in Congress combined, according to an Associated Press review of campaign finance disclosures.

The donations, which make Sinema one of the industry’s top beneficiaries in Congress, serve a reminder of the way that high-power lobbying campaigns can have dramatic implications for the way legislation is crafted, particularly in the evenly divided Senate where there are no Democratic votes to spare. They also highlight a degree of political risk for Sinema, whose unapologetic defense of the industry’s favorable tax treatment is viewed by many in her party as indefensible.

“From their vantage point, it’s a million dollars very well spent,” said Dean Baker, a senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a liberal-leaning think tank. “It’s pretty rare you see this direct of a return on your investment. So, I guess I would congratulate them.”

Sinema’s office declined to make her available for an interview. Hannah Hurley, a Sinema spokesperson, acknowledged the senator shares some of the industry’s views on taxation, but rebuffed any suggestion that the donations influenced her thinking.

“Senator Sinema makes every decision based on one criteria: what’s best for Arizona,” Hurley said in a statement. “She has been clear and consistent for over a year that she will only support tax reforms and revenue options that support Arizona’s economic growth and competitiveness.”

The American Investment Council, a trade group that lobbies on behalf of private equity, also defended their push to defeat the tax provisions.

“Our team worked to ensure that members of Congress from both sides of the aisle understand how private equity directly employs workers and supports small businesses throughout their communities,” Drew Maloney, the organization’s CEO and president, said in a statement.

Sinema’s defense of wealthy investors’ tax treatment offers a jarring contrast to her background as a Green Party activist and self-styled “Prada socialist” who once likened accepting campaign cash to “bribery” and later called for “big corporations & the rich to pay their fair share” before launching her first campaign for Congress in 2012.

She’s been far more magnanimous since, praising private equity in 2016 from the House floor for providing “billions of dollars each year to Main Street businesses.” After her election to the Senate, Sinema interned during the 2020 congressional recess at a private equity mogul’s boutique winery in northern California.

The soaring contributions from the industry to Sinema trace back to last summer. That’s when she first made clear that she wouldn’t support a carried interest tax increase, as well as other corporate and business tax hikes included in an earlier iteration of President Biden’s agenda.

During a two-week period in September alone, Sinema collected $47,100 in contributions from 16 high-ranking officials from the private equity firm Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe, records show. Employees and executives of KKR, another private equity behemoth, contributed $44,100 to Sinema during a two-month span in late 2021.

In some cases, the families of private equity managers joined in. David Belluck, a partner at the firm Riverside Partners, gave a $5,800 max-out contribution to Sinema one day in late June. So did three of his college-age kids, with the family collectively donating $23,200, records show.

“I generally support centrist Democrats and her seat is important to keep a Democratic Senate majority,” Belluck said, adding that his family has known Sinema since her election to Congress. “She and I have never discussed private equity taxation.”

The donations from the industry coincide with a $26 million lobbying effort spearheaded by the investment firm Blackstone that culminated on the Senate floor last weekend.

By the time the bill was up for debate during a marathon series of votes, Sinema had already forced Democrats to abandon their carried interest tax increase.

“Senator Sinema said she would not vote for the bill .. unless we took it out,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters last week. “We had no choice.”

But after private equity lobbyists discovered a provision in the bill that would have subjected many of them to a separate 15% corporate minimum tax, they urgently pressed Sinema and other centrist Democrats for changes, according to emails as well as four people with direct knowledge of the matter who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

“Given the breaking nature of this development we need as many offices as possible weighing in with concerns to Leader Schumer’s office,” Blackstone lobbyist Ryan McConaghy wrote in a Saturday afternoon email obtained by the AP, which included proposed language for modifying the bill. “Would you and your boss be willing to raise the alarm on this and express concerns with Schumer and team?”

McConaghy did not respond to a request for comment.

Sinema worked with Republicans on an amendment that stripped the corporate minimum tax on private equity from the bill, which a handful of vulnerable Democrats also voted for.

“Since she has been in Congress, Kyrsten has consistently supported pro-growth policies that encourage job creation across Arizona. Her tax policy positions and focus on growing Arizona’s economy and competitiveness are longstanding and well known,” Hurley, the Sinema spokesperson, said.

But many in her party disagree. They say the favorable tax treatment does little to boost the overall economy and argue there’s little compelling evidence to suggest its benefits are enjoyed beyond some of the wealthiest investors.

Some of Sinema’s donors make their case.

Blackstone, a significant source of campaign contributions, owns large tracts of real estate in Sinema’s home state, Arizona. The firm was condemned by United Nations experts in 2019 who said Blackstone’s financial model was responsible for a “financialization of housing” that has driven up rents and home costs, “pushing low-income, and increasingly middle-income people from their homes.”

Blackstone employees, executives and their family members have given Sinema $44,000 since 2018, records show.

In a statement, Blackstone called the allegations by the U.N. experts “false and misleading” and said all employee contributions are “strictly personal.” The firm added that it was “incredibly proud of its investments in housing.”

Another significant financial services donor is Centerbridge Partners, a New York-based firm that buys up the debt of distressed governments and companies and often uses hardball tactics to extract value. Since 2017, Sinema has collected at least $29,000 from donors associated with the firm, including co-founder Mark Gallogly and his wife, Elizabeth Strickler, records show.

In 2012, Centerbridge Partners purchased Arizona-based restaurant chain P.F. Chang’s for roughly $1 billion. After loading the struggling company up with $675 million of debt, they sold it to another private equity group in 2019, according to Bloomberg News. The company received a $10 million coronavirus aid loan to cover payroll, which the federal government later forgave, but shed jobs and closed locations as it struggled with the pandemic.

Centerbridge Partners was also part of a consortium of hedge funds that helped usher in an era of austerity in Puerto Rico after buying up billions of dollars of the island government’s $72 billion debt — and filing legal proceedings to collect. A subsidiary of Centerbridge Partners was among a group of creditors who repeatedly sued one of the U.S. territory’s pension funds. In one 2016 lawsuit, the group of creditors asked a judge to divert money from a Puerto Rican pension fund in order to collect.

A Centerbridge representative could not provide comment.

Liberal activists in Arizona say they plan to make Sinema’s reliance on donations from wealthy investors a campaign issue when she is up for reelection in 2024.

“There are many takes on how to win, but there is no universe in which it is politically smart to fight for favorable tax treatment of the wealthiest people in the country,” said Emily Kirkland, a political consultant who works for progressive candidates. “It’s absolutely going to be a potent issue.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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The Elon Musk-Twitter Saga Now Moves to the Courts

Now that Elon Musk has signaled his intent to walk away from his $44 billion offer to buy Twitter, the fate of the influential social media network will be determined by what may be an epic court battle, involving months of expensive litigation and high-stakes negotiations by elite lawyers on both sides.

The question is whether Mr. Musk will be legally compelled to stick with his agreed-upon acquisition or be allowed to back out, possibly by paying a 10-figure penalty.

Most legal experts say Twitter has the upper hand, in part because Mr. Musk attached few strings to his agreement to buy the company, and the company is determined to force the deal through.

inauthentic accounts. He also said that Mr. Musk did not believe the metrics that Twitter has publicly disclosed about how many of its users were fake.

Twitter’s board responded by saying it intended to consummate the acquisition and would sue Mr. Musk in a Delaware chancery court to force him to do so.

At the heart of the dispute are the terms of the merger agreement that Mr. Musk reached with Twitter in April. His contract with Twitter allows him to break off his deal by paying a $1 billion fee, but only under specific circumstances such as losing debt financing. The agreement also requires Twitter to provide data that Mr. Musk may require to complete the transaction.

Mr. Musk has demanded that Twitter give a detailed accounting of the spam on its platform. Throughout June, lawyers for Mr. Musk and Twitter have wrangled over how much data to share to satisfy Mr. Musk’s inquiries.

as they face advertising pressure, global economic upheaval and rising inflation. Twitter’s stock has fallen about 30 percent since the deal was announced, and trades well under the Mr. Musk’s offering price of $54.20 a share.

Legal experts said Mr. Musk’s dispute over spam could be a ploy to force Twitter back to the bargaining table in hopes of securing a lower price.

During the deal-making, no other potential buyer emerged as a white knight alternative to Mr. Musk, making his offer the best that Twitter is likely to get.

Twitter’s trump card is a “specific performance clause” that gives the company the right to sue Mr. Musk and force him to complete or pay for the deal, so long as the debt financing he has corralled remains intact. Forced acquisitions have happened before: In 2001, Tyson Foods tried to back out of an acquisition of the meatpacker IBP, pointing to IBP’s financial troubles and accounting irregularities. A Delaware court vice chancellor ruled that Tyson had to complete the acquisition,

jittery employees.

attempted to break up its $16 billion deal to acquire Tiffany & Company, ultimately securing a discount of about $420 million.

“This stuff is a bargaining move in an economic transaction,” said Charles Elson, a recently retired professor of corporate governance at the University of Delaware. “It’s all about money.”

A lower price would benefit Mr. Musk and his financial backers, especially as Twitter faces financial headwinds. But Twitter has made clear it wants to force Mr. Musk to stick to his $44 billion offer.

The most damaging outcome for Twitter would be for the deal to collapse. Mr. Musk would need to show that Twitter materially and intentionally breached the terms of its contract, a high bar that acquirers have rarely met. Mr. Musk has claimed that Twitter is withholding information necessary for him to close the deal. He has also argued that Twitter misreported its spam figures, and the misleading statistics concealed a serious problem with Twitter’s business.

A buyer has only once successfully argued in a Delaware court that a material change in the target company’s business gives it the ability to cleanly exit the deal. That occurred in 2017 in the $3.7 billion acquisition of the pharmaceutical company Akorn by the health care company Fresenius Kabi. After Fresenius signed the agreement, Akorn’s earnings fell and it faced allegations by a whistle-blower of skirting regulatory requirements.

Even if Twitter shows that it did not violate the merger agreement, a chancellor in the Delaware court may still allow Mr. Musk to pay damages and walk away, as in the case of Apollo Global Management’s deal combining the chemical companies Huntsman and Hexion in 2008. (The lawsuits concluded in a broken deal and a $1 billion settlement.)

habit of flouting legal confines.

revealed in May that it was examining Mr. Musk’s purchases of Twitter stock and whether he properly disclosed his stake and his intentions for the social media company. In 2018, the regulator secured a $40 million settlement from Mr. Musk and Tesla over charges that his tweet falsely claiming he had secured funding to take Tesla private amounted to securities fraud.

“At the end of the day, a merger agreement is just a piece of paper. And a piece of paper can give you a lawsuit if your buyer gets cold feet,” said Ronald Barusch, a retired mergers and acquisitions lawyer who worked for Skadden Arps before it represented Mr. Musk. “A lawsuit doesn’t give you a deal. It generally gives you a protracted headache. And a damaged company.”

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Why a Rhodes Scholar’s Ambition Led Her to a Job at Starbucks

Most weekend mornings, Jaz Brisack gets up around 5, wills her semiconscious body into a Toyota Prius and winds her way through Buffalo, to the Starbucks on Elmwood Avenue. After a supervisor unlocks the door, she clocks in, checks herself for Covid symptoms and helps get the store ready for customers.

“I’m almost always on bar if I open,” said Ms. Brisack, who has a thrift-store aesthetic and long reddish-brown hair that she parts down the middle. “I like steaming milk, pouring lattes.”

The Starbucks door is not the only one that has been opened for her. As a University of Mississippi senior in 2018, Ms. Brisack was one of 32 Americans who won Rhodes scholarships, which fund study in Oxford, England.

in public support for unions, which last year reached its highest point since the mid-1960s, and a growing consensus among center-left experts that rising union membership could move millions of workers into the middle class.

white-collar workers has coincided with a broader enthusiasm for the labor movement.

In talking with Ms. Brisack and her fellow Rhodes scholars, it became clear that the change had even reached that rarefied group. The American Rhodes scholars I encountered from a generation earlier typically said that, while at Oxford, they had been middle-of-the-road types who believed in a modest role for government. They did not spend much time thinking about unions as students, and what they did think was likely to be skeptical.

“I was a child of the 1980s and 1990s, steeped in the centrist politics of the era,” wrote Jake Sullivan, a 1998 Rhodes scholar who is President Biden’s national security adviser and was a top aide to Hillary Clinton.

By contrast, many of Ms. Brisack’s Rhodes classmates express reservations about the market-oriented policies of the ’80s and ’90s and strong support for unions. Several told me that they were enthusiastic about Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who made reviving the labor movement a priority of their 2020 presidential campaigns.

Even more so than other indicators, such a shift could foretell a comeback for unions, whose membership in the United States stands at its lowest percentage in roughly a century. That’s because the kinds of people who win prestigious scholarships are the kinds who later hold positions of power — who make decisions about whether to fight unions or negotiate with them, about whether the law should make it easier or harder for workers to organize.

As the recent union campaigns at companies like Starbucks, Amazon and Apple show, the terms of the fight are still largely set by corporate leaders. If these people are increasingly sympathetic to labor, then some of the key obstacles to unions may be dissolving.

suggested in April. The company has identified Ms. Brisack as one of these interlopers, noting that she draws a salary from Workers United. (Mr. Bonadonna said she was the only Starbucks employee on the union’s payroll.)

point out flaws — understaffing, insufficient training, low seniority pay, all of which they want to improve — they embrace Starbucks and its distinctive culture.

They talk up their sense of camaraderie and community — many count regular customers among their friends — and delight in their coffee expertise. On mornings when Ms. Brisack’s store isn’t busy, employees often hold tastings.

A Starbucks spokesman said that Mr. Schultz believes employees don’t need a union if they have faith in him and his motives, and the company has said that seniority-based pay increases will take effect this summer.

onetime auto plant. The National Labor Relations Board was counting ballots for an election at a Starbucks in Mesa, Ariz. — the first real test of whether the campaign was taking root nationally, and not just in a union stronghold like New York. The room was tense as the first results trickled in.

“Can you feel my heart beating?” Ms. Moore asked her colleagues.

win in a rout — the final count was 25 to 3. Everyone turned slightly punchy, as if they had all suddenly entered a dream world where unions were far more popular than they had ever imagined. One of the lawyers let out an expletive before musing, “Whoever organized down there …”

union campaign he was involved with at a nearby Nissan plant. It did not go well. The union accused the company of running a racially divisive campaign, and Ms. Brisack was disillusioned by the loss.

“Nissan never paid a consequence for what it did,” she said. (In response to charges of “scare tactics,” the company said at the time that it had sought to provide information to workers and clear up misperceptions.)

Mr. Dolan noticed that she was becoming jaded about mainstream politics. “There were times between her sophomore and junior year when I’d steer her toward something and she’d say, ‘Oh, they’re way too conservative.’ I’d send her a New York Times article and she’d say, ‘Neoliberalism is dead.’”

In England, where she arrived during the fall of 2019 at age 22, Ms. Brisack was a regular at a “solidarity” film club that screened movies about labor struggles worldwide, and wore a sweatshirt that featured a head shot of Karl Marx. She liberally reinterpreted the term “black tie” at an annual Rhodes dinner, wearing a black dress-coat over a black antifa T-shirt.

climate technology start-up, lamented that workers had too little leverage. “Labor unions may be the most effective way of implementing change going forward for a lot of people, including myself,” he told me. “I might find myself in labor organizing work.”

This is not what talking to Rhodes scholars used to sound like. At least not in my experience.

I was a Rhodes scholar in 1998, when centrist politicians like Bill Clinton and Tony Blair were ascendant, and before “neoliberalism” became such a dirty word. Though we were dimly aware of a time, decades earlier, when radicalism and pro-labor views were more common among American elites — and when, not coincidentally, the U.S. labor movement was much more powerful — those views were far less in evidence by the time I got to Oxford.

Some of my classmates were interested in issues like race and poverty, as they reminded me in interviews for this article. A few had nuanced views of labor — they had worked a blue-collar job, or had parents who belonged to a union, or had studied their Marx. Still, most of my classmates would have regarded people who talked at length about unions and class the way they would have regarded religious fundamentalists: probably earnest but slightly preachy, and clearly stuck in the past.

Kris Abrams, one of the few U.S. Rhodes Scholars in our cohort who thought a lot about the working class and labor organizing, told me recently that she felt isolated at Oxford, at least among other Americans. “Honestly, I didn’t feel like there was much room for discussion,” Ms. Abrams said.

typically minor and long in coming.

has issued complaints finding merit in such accusations. Yet the union continues to win elections — over 80 percent of the more than 175 votes in which the board has declared a winner. (Starbucks denies that it has broken the law, and a federal judge recently rejected a request to reinstate pro-union workers whom the labor board said Starbucks had forced out illegally.)

Twitter was: “We appreciate TIME magazine’s coverage of our union campaign. TIME should make sure they’re giving the same union rights and protections that we’re fighting for to the amazing journalists, photographers, and staff who make this coverage possible!”

The tweet reminded me of a story that Mr. Dolan, her scholarship adviser, had told about a reception that the University of Mississippi held in her honor in 2018. Ms. Brisack had just won a Truman scholarship, another prestigious award. She took the opportunity to urge the university’s chancellor to remove a Confederate monument from campus. The chancellor looked pained, according to several attendees.

“My boss was like, ‘Wow, you couldn’t have talked her out of doing that?’” Mr. Dolan said. “I was like, ‘That’s what made her win. If she wasn’t that person, you all wouldn’t have a Truman now.’”

(Mr. Dolan’s boss at the time did not recall this conversation, and the former chancellor did not recall any drama at the event.)

The challenge for Ms. Brisack and her colleagues is that while younger people, even younger elites, are increasingly pro-union, the shift has not yet reached many of the country’s most powerful leaders. Or, more to the point, the shift has not yet reached Mr. Schultz, the 68-year-old now in his third tour as Starbucks’s chief executive.

She recently spoke at an Aspen Institute panel on workers’ rights. She has even mused about using her Rhodes connections to make a personal appeal to Mr. Schultz, something that Mr. Bensinger has pooh-poohed but that other organizers believe she just may pull off.

“Richard has been making fun of me for thinking of asking one of the Rhodes people to broker a meeting with Howard Schultz,” Ms. Brisack said in February.

“I’m sure if you met Howard Schultz, he’d be like, ‘She’s so nice,’” responded Ms. Moore, her co-worker. “He’d be like, ‘I get it. I would want to be in a union with you, too.’”

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