DealBook Briefing: Jana’s Apple Campaign Shows Growing Tech Backlash

Good Tuesday morning, and congrats to Alabama on its come-from-behind win last night (even if some of us are more Bulldogs fans …). The shine is coming off the tech industry more and more. Talk of an Oprah presidential run has boosted at least one company. And will the tax overhaul induce American companies to move overseas?

Let’s count the ways:

• Apple is being pressed to protect young users from smartphone addiction by an unusual coalition: the hedge fund Jana Partners and the California public pension fund Calstrs.

• Alphabet, Facebook and Twitter are under scrutiny over Russia’s use of social media to manipulate elections.

• Amazon is facing scrutiny for its effect on jobs.

• Europe is examining many U.S. tech companies on competition and privacy grounds.

As Barry Rosenstein, the managing partner of Jana, told David Gelles of the NYT:

The growing fear about tech addiction: Two former Facebook executives, Sean Parker and Chamath Palihapitiya, spoke last year about how the company hooks into users’ psyches. And Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, held a briefing on the issue. (Axios has more.)

One place you don’t yet see a problem: These companies’ stocks. Apple’s shares dipped only slightly yesterday, and its market capitalization is still just shy of $900 billion. Shares in Facebook, Alphabet and Twitter gained slightly.

Critics’ corner

• Shira Ovide writes, “When financial mercenaries start caring about the potential human harm of technology, Silicon Valley should be extremely nervous.” (Gadfly)

• Jennifer Saba writes of Jana’s campaign, “It’s an unusual issue for an activist, and apps from Facebook and Snap would make better targets.” (Breakingviews)


Today’s DealBook Briefing was written by Andrew Ross Sorkin (@andrewrsorkin) in New York, and Michael J. de la Merced (@m_delamerced) and Amie Tsang (@amietsang) in London.


Shares in the weight-loss company, of which Ms. Winfrey owns 10 percent, jumped as much as 13 percent yesterday amid speculation that she may run for president.

Not everyone was as euphoric about the possibility. Here’s what Rebecca Katz, a Democratic strategist, told the NYT:

It comes down to how they respond to the provision that taxes the income of overseas subsidiaries at half the domestic rate — even as Mr. Trump has promised to bring jobs back to struggling cities.

Companies have a new reason to move plants abroad, Natalie Kitroeff of the NYT reports:

The caveat: Some companies may want to stay, for America’s legal system and skilled workers. But big manufacturers like auto companies may be tempted to move anyway.

More in taxes

• Mr. Trump celebrated the passing of the tax overhaul in Nashville, where he overstated the size of the cuts. (NYT)

• Residents of high-tax states rushed to prepay their bills before deductions are capped, giving those areas a welcome, if brief, revenue boost. (Bloomberg)

• Robert Mueller is likely to seek an interview with President Trump as part of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. (NYT)

• Meet the former WSJ reporter who founded Fusion GPS, the research firm whose work is central to the Russia investigations. (NYT)

• Good economic conditions tend to lift presidents’ approval ratings. Not this one’s. (NYT)

• Mr. Trump told farmers in Nashville that he wants to improve Nafta, but didn’t repeat his threats to withdraw. (WSJ)

• The hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer said he wouldn’t run for political office this year, but would give Democrats $30 million to fight fore House seats. (WaPo)

• The NYT reviewer found “Fire and Fury,” Michael Wolff’s book on the Trump White House, “fitting, if ultimately unsatisfying.” (NYT)

• Some Senate Republicans are quietly urging J.D. Vance, the investor and author of the book “Hillbilly Elegy,” to run against Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio. (Politico)

Federal regulators blocked an Energy Department proposal to subsidize struggling coal and nuclear power plants. That raises questions about what else the Trump administration can do to prop up an industry that — even as pollution regulations loosen — is being battered by market forces.

More from Brad Plumer of the NYT:

The policy flyaround

• A Senate resolution to block the F.C.C.’s repeal of net neutrality rules has enough support to force a vote — but the House is unlikely to follow suit. (Axios)

• The Labor Department revived guidance on overtime regulations from the George W. Bush era. (WaPo)

The plaintiff: James Damore, the engineer who gained fame when he was fired for criticizing Google’s diversity efforts and asserting that fewer women held engineering jobs because of biological differences.

His lawsuit: It claims that he and others were “ostracized, belittled and punished for their heterodox political views, and for the added sin of their birth circumstances of being Caucasians and/or males.” It also includes screenshots from internal company forums.

The context: Google is already responding to a lawsuit from four women asserting that it has systematically paid women less than men for the same work.

• AT&T has backed out of a long-awaited deal to sell Huawei phones in the U.S., according to unnamed sources. (WSJ)

• Intel’s C.E.O., Brian Krzanich, said there had been “no known exploits” compromising consumers’ information using two recently revealed chip security flaws. (Axios)

• Google, Amazon and Samsung are adding their virtual assistants to ever more devices, including — seriously — refrigerators.

• Advocates for women in technology say that CES must address its diversity problem. (Recode)

Questions about CES? Ask Brian Chen, the NYT’s personal tech columnist.

Speaking of gadgets

GoPro disappointed Wall Street yesterday morning when it cut its sales expectations for its fourth quarter, saying it would lay off more than 250 employees and stop making drones. Its founder and C.E.O., Nick Woodman, cut his cash salary to $1.

The company’s shares climbed back amid news reports that it had hired JPMorgan Chase to run a sales process. But Mr. Woodman eventually told Bloomberg that while JPMorgan is the company’s main bank, GoPro wasn’t actively looking to sell itself.

GoPro’s problem: It’s too dependent on its action cameras, according to Dan Gallagher of Heard on the Street.

Some investors have apparently decided that protecting themselves against a decline in the markets is a waste of money, Gunjan Banerji of the WSJ reports:

At the same time, analysts have raised their forecasts for corporate profits as fast as they have in a decade. History suggests that might presage a slump.

“That’s made it the best penny stock and the worst currency in the world.”

— Matt O’Brien of the WaPo, writing about why Bitcoin is doing well as a speculative investment and terribly as a way to buy and sell things. (For what it’s worth, Jamie Dimon now regrets calling Bitcoin a “fraud,” though he’s still not interested in it.)

Or maybe it’s this, from the S.E.C.’s Fort Worth division:

• Jack Ma said he would seriously consider listing Alibaba in Hong Kong, which is preparing to allow dual-class share listings. (Reuters)

• A website called removed data from some South Korean exchanges from its price quotes on Monday, prompting drops in some popular cryptocurrencies. (WSJ)

• Saudi Aramco has invited banks pitching for roles in its listing, including Citi and Goldman Sachs, to go to the kingdom to make their case, according to three people familiar with the matter. (Reuters)

• The private equity group Rhône Capital has placed a binding offer to acquire Nestlé’s U.S. confectionary business, joining Ferrero and Hershey in the $2.5 billion race. (FT)

• Amazon’s rising share price brought Jeff Bezos’s net worth to $105.1 billion on Monday, beyond the high Bill Gates reached in 1999. (Bloomberg)

• The telecoms group Altice will spin off its U.S. business and restructure its European operations to address investor concerns about the group’s viability and debt-laden deals. (FT)

• The quantitative hedge fund industry is on the brink of surpassing $1 trillion in assets under management after an increase in automated investment. (FT)

• Investors are souring on meal-kit start-ups. They cite logistical hurdles, high costs for attracting and retaining customers and big-company competition. (WSJ)

• Aston Martin is targeting a valuation of as much as $6.8 billion in a potential initial public offering, according to people familiar with the matter. (Bloomberg)

• An expensive, highly classified U.S. spy satellite is presumed lost after it failed to reach orbit on a SpaceX rocket on Sunday, according to industry and government officials. (WSJ)

• Banks are aggressively handing out leveraged loans to highly indebted companies, because the fees offer strong revenue growth when many of their traditional businesses are posting low returns. (Bloomberg)

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