DealBook Briefing: Bitcoin’s Price Swings Raise Fears of a Crash

Good Thursday morning. Bitcoin’s wild swing yesterday has renewed worries about a bigger drop. Matt Lauer’s firing from NBC News raises questions about the business cost of sexual misconduct. And even though big businesses stand to benefit from the Republican tax plans, some are still unhappy.

Even non-fanatics are getting in on the action. The WSJ found a 70-year-old grandmother, Rita Scott, who reaped what her grandson said was a 45 percent gain on her investment.

From the WSJ:

Supporters say that there’s still plenty of room left for the digital currency to run, after technical glitches at some exchanges led to a 20 percent decline — and swift recovery — yesterday. But it highlights the mania over an asset whose price has climbed 69 percent in the past months.

Bloomberg outlines what could cut off Bitcoin’s ascent, from regulation to hackers to short-sellers.


Today’s DealBook briefing was written by Andrew Ross Sorkin in New York, and Michael J. de la Merced and Amie Tsang in London.


The firing of Matt Lauer from NBC News for “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace” marks one of the highest-profile dismissals yet in business for misconduct and abuse. It also highlights the potential financial impact of those violations.

From Michael Grynbaum and John Koblin of the NYT:

And while “Today” trails ABC’s “Good Morning America” in total viewers, it still leads in the coveted 25-to-54 advertising demographic.

Both the NYT and Variety reported on some of the accusations that Mr. Lauer faced.

Mr. Lauer is the latest star to be thrown out of a prominent media perch, following Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Mark Halperin, and an ever-growing list of others. His firing wasn’t even the only one to be announced yesterday: Garrison Keillor and a senior CNN producer were dismissed as well.

Among those who could replace for Mr. Lauer are Megyn Kelly and CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla, according to the WSJ.

And in tech: Andy Rubin, who spearheaded the creation of Google’s Android operating system, has taken a leave of absence from his new start-up following the revelation that he had an inappropriate relationship with a female subordinate while at Google. The Information, which first reported the news, also took a look at Google’s history of interoffice relationships.

The bigger picture

Tara Lachapelle of Gadfly writes:

A senior financial executive phoned Michael last night to complain about how the Senate tax plan would endanger the private equity industry because it limits the deductibility of corporate debt interest payments — and applies that even to existing investments. The provision could completely upend the private equity business model, this person asserted.

One example is Dell. A company executive explained to the WSJ:

But criticism of the Republican tax plan now appears focused on how much big business benefits compared with average Americans (even if that isn’t necessarily the case). For example, the NYT takes a look at the savings companies would enjoy from a lower tax rate from repatriating foreign profits.

It also isn’t clear that companies would spend their gains creating jobs. AT&T said that it could hire 7,000 new employees if the overhaul were passed. But executives at Coca-Cola and Pfizer said that they would pass most of the money onto their investors.

The state of play

The Senate could vote as soon as tomorrow on its tax plan. But there are plenty of unresolved matters:

• The Senate may need to cut the corporate tax rate a little less deeply, to 22 percent as opposed to 20 percent, to help raise much-needed federal revenue. Senators like John Cornyn of Texas aren’t in favor of that.

• A proposed fail-safe that would prevent the tax change from expanding the national deficit too much — it would automatically roll back some tax cuts — risks angering Charles Grassley of Iowa and John Kennedy of Louisiana.

Bloomberg put the huge drop in the stock prices of “FANG” — that’s Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and what was once known as Google — into perspective:

What’s behind the drop? It could be as simple as investors believing that the huge run-up in tech stocks this year has reached its natural end, and that changes to tax policy would provide a lift to other industries.

The tech and media flyaround

• Facebook has temporarily disabled a tool that could let advertisers exclude some races from seeing ads. The company president, Sheryl Sandberg, told the Congressional Black Caucus that Facebook “is determined to do better” in preventing discriminatory advertising. (Axios)

• Snapchat is redesigning its user interface, splitting content from users’ friends apart from that provided by media companies. (NYT, Snap)

• BuzzFeed plans to lay off 100 employees, or about 6 percent of its global work force, as it tries to maintain revenue growth. Derek Thompson of The Atlantic writes about the challenges for digital-media companies. (WSJ, Atlantic)

Speaking at the Economic Club of New York, Randall Stephenson of AT&T said that he had been one of Mr. Trump’s biggest defenders in the corporate world when it came to public policy. And then the Justice Department sued to block AT&T’s $85.4 billion takeover of Time Warner.

Mr. Stephenson described the lawsuit as “a big curveball,” according to Bloomberg.

Who’s not buying CNN: The Murdochs’ 21st Century Fox, at least according to co-executive chairman Lachlan Murdoch. “We wouldn’t be allowed to buy CNN and we would never be interested in buying CNN,” he said at Business Insider’s Ignition media conference, according to Reuters.

The TV station WCHS of West Virginia reported that the former Massey Energy C.E.O. plans to run against Senator Joe Manchin next year. But how do West Virginians feel about the coal mogul who dominated their state’s business — and then went to prison for his role in the worst American mining disaster in decades?

Mr. Blankenship turned Massey into a giant of the coal mining industry. But the company was laid low after the Upper Big Branch explosion. The miner sold itself to a rival, Alpha Natural Resources, which later filed for bankruptcy. And Mr. Blankenship was eventually convicted of having deliberately skirted federal mining safety requirements.

There’s no guarantee that Mr. Blankenship would get the Republication nomination for the Senate seat. The WSJ notes that he faces two strong opponents for the position.

The company, which collects and analyzes data for industrial companies, got the money from a new investor, the British money manager Baillie Gifford, and the existing backers Revolution Growth and GreatPoint Ventures.

Co-founded and led by Brad Keywell, a co-founder of Groupon, Uptake partners not with Silicon Valley darlings but with more traditional corporate names. Think Caterpillar and Berkshire Hathaway Energy. But the business is becoming more competitive, with rivals like G.E. making it a bigger priority.

The start-up became a unicorn — that now-shopworn term for private start-ups valued at $1 billion or more — during its last financing round. Interestingly, while Caterpillar led that round as an investor, Uptake has since bought back the industrial equipment giant’s stake, in part to be able to work with other heavy equipment companies.

— Judge William Alsup, who is presiding over a trade secrets lawsuit against Uber and who upbraided the ride-hailing company for not producing evidence that may be relevant to the case.

• President Trump nominated Marvin Goodfriend, a leading critic of the Federal Reserve, to serve on the Fed’s board of governors. (NYT)

• Janet L. Yellen said that the expansion of the economy had broadened and strengthened in the United States, in an upbeat assessment that is likely to reinforce expectations of a rate increase in next month. (NYT)

• Nokia denied reports that it was planning to bid for a smaller rival, Juniper Networks. (Axios)

• Gawker’s bankruptcy lawyers said that Peter Thiel shouldn’t be allowed to bid on its namesake blog unless the venture capitalist agrees to settle or otherwise end potential legal claims Gawker is pursuing against him related to its demise. (WSJ)

• Chipotle Mexican Grill said it was looking for a leader to replace Steve Ells, the chief executive and founder. (NYT)

• D.J.I., the maker of drones, is fighting a claim by a United States government office that its commercial drones and software may be sending to China sensitive information about American infrastructure. (NYT)

• The former Twitter contractor who briefly disabled Mr. Trump’s account has revealed himself: His name is Bahtiyar Duysak. (TechCrunch)

• Credit Suisse plans to return half of its net income to shareholders through buybacks or special dividends, as a reward to investors who stumped up billions of dollars in capital to finance its turnaround. (Bloomberg)

• General Motors will demonstrate its growing fleet of computer-operated, battery-powered Chevrolet Bolts in San Francisco on Thursday, allowing investment analysts to evaluate its self-driving cars. (NYT)

• Amazon boasted of its lead in cloud computing, revealing a deal with the National Football League that showed how it was moving beyond basic online storage. (NYT)

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Follow Andrew Ross Sorkin @andrewrsorkin, Michael J. de la Merced @m_delamerced and Amie Tsang @amietsang on Twitter.

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