Sound bites: Hydro One got rejected from a deal to acquire Avista • Facebook may have kept giving certain companies access to its user data • Brazil arrested 11 people in connection to a corruption scandal • Huawei’s CFO was arrested in Vancouver • France is completely scrapping a planned fuel tax increase.
U.S. regulators rejected a request by Hydro One, Ontario’s electric power company, to acquire Avista Corp. for $6.7-billion. FYI, Hydro One is 47% owned by the Ontario government. In 2017, the company made a bid to merge with Washington-based Avista, an electrical and natural gas company that operates in Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, and Alaska. Hydro One would have owned Avista, but Avista would have kept its HQ in Spokane, Washington.
Why did the deal get rejected?
The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) found that the proposed takeover wasn’t in the public interest because Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his government were behaving like micromanagers. UTC was savage in its takedown of the Ontario government, claiming there was no way the province would have been fair and unbiased in striking the deal. The regulator pointed to evidence such as Ford forcing Hydro One’s CEO Mayo Schmidt to retire (he called him the “six-million dollar man” for his $6-million salary). The forced resignation was followed by the entire board stepping down a few days later. UTC decided that Avista customers would be no “better off with this transaction than they would be without it.”
THE NEVERENDING BOOK OF SHAME
According to a trove of internal emails from 2012 to 2015, Facebook was giving special treatment (i.e. access to user data) to companies like Netflix, Airbnb, and Lyft. This is a big deal because in 2014, the social network publicly announced that it would stop giving apps access to this kind of data.
Did they lie?
Facebook may have continued giving certain companies access to its data in order to build partnerships and make money. As a strategy to get rid of the competition, it didn’t give the special data access to everyone. I.e. Vine, Twitter’s video app, did not get access. Vine shut down in 2016. Facebook acknowledged that it had conversations about how to best build a sustainable business, but insisted it never sold anyone’s data.
The release of Facebook’s internal communications is just the latest fiasco in what has been a terrible, horrible, no good very bad year for the company. In March, the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke. You know the one; a political consulting firm gained access to the data of 50 million Facebook users without permission. Facebook has also been in hot water for failing to prevent a Russian misinformation campaign from reaching Americans.
wORKING AT THE CAR WASH
The latest chapter of Brazil’s major corruption scandal, known as Lava Jato (Car Wash), is going global. Yesterday, Brazilian authorities launched an investigation into international oil trading companies suspected of paying more than $30-million in bribes to employees of Petrobras, a Brazilian oil company, between 2011 and 2014. The bribes were allegedly paid to ensure that contracts would be signed more frequently, and trading companies could get sweet deals on oil (i.e. below-market price). So far, 11 people have been arrested, including representatives of Trafigura, a multinational trading company in Brazil.
Back up. Lava what?
Operation Car Wash is a Brazilian investigation into the largest corruption scandal in Latin America. It began as a probe into money laundering but expanded into a major political corruption investigation. Oil company Petrobras, which is majority-owned by the government, was accused of taking bribes and giving construction contracts to certain firms at inflated prices. More than 1,000 search warrants have been issued in the ongoing investigation, and more than 130 people have been found guilty to date, including former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who is currently serving a 12-year jail sentence.
The Chief Financial Officer of Huawei, a massive Chinese tech company, was arrested in Vancouver, B.C. and appeared in court yesterday. Huawei CFO Wanzhou Meng is the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei. The Washington Journal reported that Meng may have been arrested for allowing Huawei to violate sanctions imposed on Iran by the U.S. The U.S. wants Meng to face charges on their turf, in New York. China called the arrest a human rights violation.
AND IT WAS ALL JUANES
The French government is officially scrapping a proposed 2019 fuel tax hike, a total 180 from Tuesday’s announcement to put the tax on hold. The tax hike was initially introduced by French President Emmanuel Macron as a way to fight climate change. But for regular citizens, it was seen as a tone-deaf move affecting the most vulnerable rural workers who rely heavily on cars and cheap diesel fuel. The latest announcement comes after three weeks of protests left four people dead, 133 injured, and over 400 arrested.
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Outdoor clothing brand Patagonia is giving an “urgent gift to the planet.” CEO Rose Marcario said the company plans to divvy up $10-million in savings it got from government tax cuts amongst organizations that protect the environment. It’s no wonder why the company recently landed on People’s list of the 50 best “companies that care.” We care that you care, Patagonia.
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