Bezos, Cook, Pichai and Zuckerberg Prepare For Grilling

There is a lot of chatter about David Solomon’s D.J. gig at a packed Hamptons concert over the weekend, where a seeming lack of social distancing has led to an investigation by the New York health authorities. For the Goldman Sachs chief, eyebrows are being raised about his judgment, along with a healthy dose of schadenfreude. More below. (Want this delivered to your inbox each morning? Sign up here.)

Four tech moguls are scheduled to testify before Congress tomorrow to defend their companies against accusations of monopolistic behavior. They will be spending today doing intense prep with advisers, because they have a tough task ahead.

Expect lawmakers to hammer the four C.E.O.s — Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Tim Cook of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Sundar Pichai of Google’s parent company Alphabet — over whether their companies are stifling rivals and harming consumers. (“It has the feeling of tech’s Big Tobacco moment,” a former F.C.C. adviser, told The Times.) The virtual hearing, to be held by the House’s judiciary antitrust subcommittee, could provide fodder for various investigations into the companies.

• Mr. Bezos could be in for a rough ride. The Amazon chief, who hasn’t testified before Congress before, had been hoping to avoid the political fray that his counterparts have been dragged into before. Instead, his company has drawn criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike over a variety of issues, from its competitive practices to its treatment of warehouse workers.

The C.E.O.s may wrap themselves in the flag as a defense. Bloomberg reports that Mr. Zuckerberg, for instance, is planning to portray Facebook as an American success story under threat from another Washington bugbear: Chinese tech companies like TikTok. The tech giants have also been lobbying lawmakers and preparing favorable studies that rebut claims of anticompetitive practices.

Some observers think the tech moguls already have the upper hand. Scott Galloway, a professor of marketing at N.Y.U. who often criticizes Silicon Valley, writes that letting all four C.E.O.s testify at the same time prevents deep scrutiny of any one of them. “Big tech has won before the hearing starts,” Professor Galloway writes.

• That said, he offers some detailed questions for the committee to ask. A sample query for Mr. Bezos: “If your firm can accrete the value of the largest firm in the world in five weeks, and money is power, then isn’t your firm the most powerful private entity in history?”


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Republicans unveiled their coronavirus aid package. The $1 trillion bill would cut extra unemployment benefits to $200 per week from $600, as G.O.P. lawmakers contend that the current amount discourages Americans from returning to work. Democrats are poised to reject any benefits cut. (A reminder: The enhanced jobless benefits officially expire on Friday, though some states’ programs have already lapsed.)

Malaysia’s former prime minister was found guilty of corruption. Najib Razak — who remains a member of Parliament — had been charged in connection with the disappearance of $4.5 billion from the 1MDB government fund he once controlled. Goldman Sachs has agreed to a $3.9 billion settlement over its role in the scandal.

Senator Susan Collins plans to vote no on Judy Shelton’s nomination to the Fed. Ms. Collins, a Republican from Maine who faces a tough re-election fight, said she cannot support Ms. Shelton because of the nominee’s comments questioning the need for an independent central bank. Ms. Collins is the second Republican senator to publicly oppose the nomination, but two more are needed to block Ms. Shelton — assuming all Democrats are opposed to the Trump nominee.

Moderna and Pfizer began late-stage trials for their coronavirus vaccines. Each drug maker will enroll 30,000 healthy people to receive their Covid-19 vaccine, the final step in testing potential treatments. Results aren’t expected until late this year.

Under Armour executives face potential civil charges from the S.E.C. The sportswear company said that its founder and executive chairman, Kevin Plank, and its C.F.O., David Bergman, had received so-called Wells notices — which indicate potential enforcement actions — over the company’s accounting practices in 2015 and 2016.

Goldman Sachs’s C.E.O. had a lot to celebrate over the weekend, when he took the stage in the Hamptons as the opening act for the Chainsmokers (under his alter ego DJ D-Sol). He may come to regret the gig, as New York’s health authorities investigate the concert.

Mr. Solomon spun records for an hour at the charity concert before the main event. Bloomberg’s Amanda Gordon describes the scene: He was “surrounded by animations of cherries and his deejay name, D-Sol, in flashing bubble letters. He put his hand up in the air, playing electronic dance beat takes on popular songs.” About a week earlier, Goldman Sachs had reported bumper quarterly earnings.

The concert was meant to be a model of pandemic safety, with thousands of attendees (including the Winklevoss twins) paying up to $25,000 to park their cars in a field facing the stage. Organizers conducted temperature checks and reminded people to wear masks around the venue.

It didn’t entirely work out that way. Videos showed attendees gathering in crowds without masks, including in an apparently unsanctioned V.I.P. area, in seeming disregard for concert rules and New York State health guidelines.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted that he was “appalled” by “the illegal & reckless endangerment of public health.” The state’s health commissioner took local officials to task in a letter yesterday and demanded to know “what town officials were at the concert and why was it allowed to continue when it became clear violations were rampant?”

Around a quarter of S&P 500 companies have reported their second-quarter earnings thus far, and by the end of the week more than half will have done so. There are faint signs of increased confidence among executives — if you dig into the details.

A few companies are reinstating earnings guidance, according to FactSet, a sign that they are more comfortable with economic conditions during the pandemic. Nearly 200 blue-chip companies withdrew their usual earnings forecasts last quarter. In the past two weeks, 10 companies that withdrew or didn’t provide an earnings forecast in the first quarter reinstated guidance after the second.

• One of these is the personal care company Kimberly-Clark, which said: “The duration and impact of Covid-19 on our business remains unclear, and there continues to be uncertainty in the environment. However, our visibility is improving, and we’re restoring forward-looking guidance for 2020.” Others saying similar things include Intel, Philip Morris International and Walgreens.

The companies that are giving guidance are more bullish than before. More firms are maintaining or upgrading their full-year forecasts than downgrading them. But this strength is relative: Analysts expect average earnings for the S&P 500 to fall by 20 percent this year.

A coronavirus outbreak within the Miami Marlins is threatening to shut down Major League Baseball’s days-old season. Other sports leagues have reason to worry as well.

M.L.B. canceled two games yesterday after at least 14 members of the Marlins tested positive for the virus. The Marlins had played five games last week, in Atlanta and Philadelphia, before learning on Sunday that four players had tested positive.

The outbreak challenges its plan for its shortened 60-game season. Unlike the N.B.A. and the N.H.L., pro baseball games are taking place at nearly every stadium in the league, as opposed to self-contained bubbles. M.L.B. had considered a similar quarantined approach, but abandoned it as parts of the country appeared to be recovering and players opposed the stricter proposal.

It shows the fragility of restarting pro sports leagues. A team might be hit by only a few infections, but “the sense was things still would be manageable,” Thomas Boswell of The Washington Post writes. The approach taken by N.F.L., which looks set to start its season as usual in the fall, has more in common with M.L.B. than the quarantined bubbles of the N.B.A. and N.H.L.

There are other consequences of baseball’s troubles. Shares in DraftKings, the fantasy sports site, tumbled nearly 7 percent yesterday.

Sundar Pichai told some 200,000 employees and contractors at Alphabet yesterday that they could work from home until June 2021. That’s longer than most companies, which have told workers to expect a return to the office by the end of this year.

You have thoughts. In yesterday’s newsletter, we considered the consequences of widespread, long-term remote working. Here’s a selection of reader responses on the pros and cons:

The good …

“If management and H.R. have got it together, and there is a very good I.T. department, you will have higher productivity and attendance, eliminate commuting for many workers, allow them to take care of personal needs and end up with happier employees and more work done better.” — Ron in East Northport, N.Y.

“Individuals in countries where job prospects are limited are now able to work for international clients, often earning more than they would if they were to work for a local company.” — Meltem in Vancouver, British Columbia, who happens to work for a company that manages payroll for remote teams

The bad …

“The biggest risk is being overlooked for promotions and salary increases. Managers are only seeing snippets of your contributions.” — Karen in Providence, R.I.

“The boring work is even more BORING when done in your home and with no colleagues to share in the banter!” — Dorothy in Gwynedd, Wales

The ugly …

“Easy access to food, lack of exercise and other distractions such as family, entertainment, and hobbies will all conspire in an orgy of sloth.” — Chevy in South Hadley, Mass.


• Remington Arms, the gun maker, filed for Chapter 11 protection for the second time in two years. (NYT)

• Alstom of France is said to have won approval from European antitrust regulators for its $6.7 billion deal to buy Bombardier’s rail unit. (Reuters)

Politics and policy

• Pharmaceutical executives have reportedly backed out of a White House meeting with President Trump scheduled for today, citing White House efforts to lower drug prices. (Politico)

• Senate Republicans’ latest coronavirus stimulus bill may give big banks a gift: a relaxing of capital requirements. (NYT)


• Joe Biden’s presidential campaign staff members were told to delete TikTok from their work and personal devices, citing security and privacy concerns. (Bloomberg)

• Uber drivers in Europe are suing the company for their personal data, which they claim contains tags that can unfairly favor some drivers over others. (Business Insider)

Best of the rest

• U.S. agricultural officials are investigating mysterious packages of seeds that hundreds of Americans have received, mostly from China. (WSJ)

• Dr. Anthony Fauci can add another accomplishment to his résumé: best-selling Topps baseball card. (Sportico)

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