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Beirut Port Disaster: The Lesson was Tough, The Experience was Devastating

Regardless of what caused the tragedy, port facilities must have guidelines for safe storage of chemicals. Read


In-house at Home: How a Chemical Manufacturer Responded to the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Sexual Harassment at Indian Workplaces: Bridging the Legislative Gap for a Better Tomorrow

The POSH Act has helped Indian companies progress with gender rights. Here are suggestions to improve the Act. Read


Well-being During the Pandemic: How to Use the IRAC Method to Focus on Fitness

Stay active during lockdown with this throwback law school method. Read


How In-house Leaders Can Use Technology to Better Prepare for the Next Crisis

The next crisis and its potential damage are uncertain. Here’s how to safeguard your company now. Read


In Brief

Today's Top Story

US Appeals Court Throws Out Antitrust Ruling Against Qualcomm

A federal appeals court on Tuesday threw out a sweeping antitrust judgment against Qualcomm Inc., reports the Wall Street Journal (11 August, Kendall, Fitch), ruling the federal government did not prove the dominant cellphone chip maker engaged in illegal monopolization. The Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had not proven that San Diego-based Qualcomm's core business practices related to its patents and cellphone chips were anything more than lawful attempts at profit maximization. Judge Consuelo Callahan wrote that it is not the court's job to "condone or punish" a company for its success. Instead, he asserted, it's the court's task to assess whether the FTC "has met its burden . . . to show that Qualcomm's practices have crossed the line to conduct which unfairly tends to destroy competition itself." The decision is a major triumph for Qualcomm after years of litigation.

From "US Appeals Court Throws Out Antitrust Ruling Against Qualcomm"
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Legal Actions

UK Court Says Face Recognition Violates Human Rights

The UK Court of Appeal on Tuesday ruled that the use of facial recognition by UK police has violated human rights and data protection laws, the Associated Press (11 August, Kirka) reports. Ed Bridges, a civil rights campaigner, brought the original lawsuit, arguing that police in South Wales caused him "distress" by scanning his face as he shopped in 2017 and attended a peaceful anti-arms protest in 2018. The appeals judges ruled that the way the system was being used during tests was unlawful. The ruling does not mean that facial recognition can never be used at all, instead setting out parameters for how police can deploy it. The judges said they faced two questions about how the technology is applied: who is captured in the video surveillance and where. As of now, "too much discretion is currently left to individual police officers" on both questions, the judges said. In addition to limiting officers' individual ability to deploy facial recognition technology, the judges urged law enforcement to "satisfy themselves that everything reasonable which could be done had been done in order to make sure that the software used does not have a racial or gender bias."

From "UK Court Says Face Recognition Violates Human Rights"
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New York Accuses Egg Producer of Price Gouging in Pandemic

Letitia James, the attorney general of New York, filed suit Tuesday against Hillandale Farms for alleged price gouging. According to the lawsuit, Hillandale as much as quadrupled the price of eggs to cash in on a surge in demand during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. The New York Times (11 August, Wright) reports that Hillandale allegedly targeted distributors in New York City, West Point, Fort Hamilton, and Fort Drum. According to the lawsuit, hundreds of disgruntled consumers reached out to the office of the state attorney general to complain about the sudden increase in price for eggs. The New York lawsuit is one of several in the country accusing major egg producers of illegally taking advantage of heightened demand for their products. Other lawsuits have been filed in Texas and California.

From "New York Accuses Egg Producer of Price Gouging in Pandemic"
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Regulatory Developments

EPA to Rescind Methane Regulations for Oil and Gas

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is preparing to adopt new rules that would rescind Obama-era regulations for methane-gas emissions, including ending requirements that oil and gas producers have systems and procedures to detect methane leaks in their systems, senior administration officials said. According to the Wall Street Journal (11 August, Puko), the rule changes will apply to wells drilled since 2016 and going forward, and remove the largest pipelines, storage sites, and other parts of the transmission system from EPA oversight of smog and greenhouse-gas emissions. The changes also ease reporting requirements for the industry and, for some facilities, how often a plant must check for leaks of other pollutants, the officials said. The new rules, expected to be signed and issued this week, adopt most of the core elements of two proposals from 2018 and 2019. Agency officials are fulfilling a directive by President Trump to ease regulations on US energy producers, and have said the rules being eliminated are duplicative of other federal and state rules.

From "EPA to Rescind Methane Regulations for Oil and Gas"
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Labor and Employment

Major Companies Commit to Hiring 100,000 Low-income New Yorkers by 2030

Chief executives at 27 major companies, including JPMorgan Chase, Amazon, and Alphabet, have committed to hiring 100,000 low-income and Black, Latino, and Asian New Yorkers by 2030. The companies' new initiative, the New York Jobs CEO Council, comes amid a monthslong wave of protests against racial inequality, reports the Wall Street Journal (11 August, Li). That initiative also includes nonprofits and New York schools, aiming to prepare students for jobs that will lead to careers. The scheme has marked a quarter of the new jobs for students from the City University of New York (CUNY) system, which is collaborating with the council to tweak its curriculum for well-paid careers. That could include creating new classes, updating curricula in existing classes, and integrating paid internships into its education system. The pledged jobs will be full-time positions, but participating companies are also looking into internships and apprenticeships.

From "Major Companies Commit to Hiring 100,000 Low-income New Yorkers by 2030"
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United Kingdom Sheds Nearly 750,000 Jobs During Coronavirus Crisis

Official UK data showed Tuesday that the United Kingdom has shed nearly 750,000 jobs since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and more than a quarter of the workforce was still temporarily away from work when the economy began to reopen in June. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) issued the new data, revealing that a 2.5 percent fall in the number of employees on UK payrolls was largely caused by companies freezing hiring. Moreover, the Financial Times (11 August, Strauss, Parker) reports that more workers are at risk of falling into unemployment as the United Kingdom gradually winds down its job retention scheme. Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician at ONS, said as many as five million employees were still on the furlough scheme in June. Another 300,000 employees told the ONS they were temporarily off work without pay.

From "United Kingdom Sheds Nearly 750,000 Jobs During Coronavirus Crisis"
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Corporate Structure

Britain's Prudential to Exit US Business, Focus on Asia, Africa

The New York Times (11 August, Cruise) reports that the UK life insurer Prudential said Tuesday it plans to spin off its US business, Jackson, to focus on Africa and its largest market Asia, responding to investor pressure for a split. Prudential's shares hit eight-week highs as investors cheered news the company would follow in the footsteps of peers Standard Life and Old Mutual, which have both divided up their operations in recent years. "This new Prudential model will be a growth-oriented business," Prudential CEO Mike Wells, a former boss of Jackson, said on a media call. "Jackson is ready to be a standalone." A minority initial public offering of Jackson is planned for the first half of 2021, with "full divestment over time," Prudential said. It had already sold an equity stake in the US unit to Apollo Global-backed Athene Holding for US$500 million in June. Athene now owns 11 percent of Jackson and has reinsured US$28 billion of its annuity portfolio.

From "Britain's Prudential to Exit US Business, Focus on Asia, Africa"
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Tax Issues

Employers Cast Wary Eye on Trump Payroll Tax Deferral

Employers considering President Trump’s plan to allow deferred payment of payroll taxes face a series of costs, uncertainties, and headaches, reports the Wall Street Journal (11 August, Rubin). On Saturday Trump signaled he wants employers on 1 September to stop collecting the 6.2 percent levy that is the employee share of Social Security taxes for many workers. But his announcement does not change how much tax employees and employers actually owe, causing companies to worry that they will find themselves on the hook if they withhold taxes without any guarantee that Congress will forgive deferred payments. Companies and their lawyers are now waiting for the US Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to issue formal rules to turn the weekend directives about payroll tax deferrals into action. The longer it takes for the formal rules to be issued, the more difficult it will be for companies to implement any changes by 1 September, Trump's proclaimed deadline.

From "Employers Cast Wary Eye on Trump Payroll Tax Deferral"
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Energy

COVID-19 Curbing Corporate Deals for US Clean Energy Projects

Corporate appetite for clean electricity in the United States is waning as the COVID-19 pandemic upends how people consume energy and work. A report published Tuesday by BloombergNEF found that renewable power contracted by US corporations and public institutions this year will probably fall short of last year’s record-high 13.6 gigawatts. Bloomberg (11 August, Eckhouse) notes that procurement of clean energy through July stood at 4.3 gigawatts, down from six at the same point last year. The slump comes as corporations and public institutions are using less energy and rethinking their carbon footprints amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, sluggish demand for power and changing consumer activity has hurt the outlook on long-term power prices, adding to buyer apprehension.

From "COVID-19 Curbing Corporate Deals for US Clean Energy Projects"
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Economic Outlook

Record Stimulus Slows Credit Downgrades of Indian Companies

India’s unprecedented stimulus measures to fight the coronavirus crisis are starting to show signs of slowing the sharp worsening in corporate credit quality, reports Bloomberg (10 August, Joshi). Since 1 July there have been about five downgrades for every one upgrade of rupee debt at Indian firms. That compares to a ratio of almost 11 to one in the three months that ended 30 June — a record rate, according to a review of moves by India’s four main credit assessors. TN Arun Kumar, chief ratings officer at CARE Ratings Ltd., said India's stimulus has brought "incremental relief" to companies, "help[ing] corporates tide over cash problems." Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government unveiled US$277 billion of stimulus in May, while the central bank pumped US$50 billion of cash into domestic banks in March and has cut its benchmark repurchase rate to the lowest level ever.

From "Record Stimulus Slows Credit Downgrades of Indian Companies"
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Trade Issues

Hong Kong Goods for Export to United States to Be Labeled Made in China

A US government notice Tuesday alerted that goods made in Hong Kong for export to the United States must be labeled made in China after 25 September. The move follows China's imposition of a national security law on Hong Kong and Washington's subsequent decision to end the city's special status under US law. Reuters (11 August, Singh) reports that the latest escalation in bilateral tensions between the United States and China will see Hong Kong companies subject to the same trade war tariffs levied on mainland Chinese exporters. The step was taken after the United States determined that there was no longer a sufficient difference between China and Hong Kong to justify continued differential treatment.

From "Hong Kong Goods for Export to United States to Be Labeled Made in China"
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Compensation

Short-time Work Hits German Wages in Second Quarter

Gross monthly earnings for full and part-time workers in Germany fell 2.2 percent on average in the second quarter from a year ago, Germany's Federal Statistics Office said. The statistics agency attributed the drop to the widespread use of short-time work during the coronavirus pandemic, reports Reuters (11 August). But even though short-time work contributed to the drop in wages, the statistics office said the short-time work program cushioned the loss of income for employees to a large extent. The hardest-hit sectors in the second quarter were hospitality, auto, and tour operators.

From "Short-time Work Hits German Wages in Second Quarter"
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