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Weekly News Roundup: #MeToo Backlash, US-China Trade War, Facebook Working Conditions

Here's everything you might have missed in the world of corporate law this week. Read

Weekly News Roundup: Uber Lawsuit, Union Protests, Blackmailed IT Firm

Here’s the news you might have missed in the world of corporate law this week. Read

Employment Law Developments Around the World

EU whistleblower protections, gender parity in China, and more global labor updates. Read

Weekly News Roundup: Fashion Workers’ Rights, EU Auto Emissions

From ransomware attacks to companies banning countries, here’s what you might have missed in the news. Read

The World’s Biggest Data Dump (Soon to be Broken)

More than 2.2 billion passwords and usernames have been posted online. Read

In Brief

Today's Top Story

Europe's Privacy Rules Experiencing Growing Pains

When Europe’s tough privacy rules came into force in 2018, policymakers and industry executives expected a series of dominoes would soon start to fall, but a year later none of those dominoes have yet fallen, according to interviews with senior policymakers, tech executives, and privacy campaigners. Big fines and sweeping enforcement actions have been largely absent, as under-resourced European regulators struggle to define their mission, and new forms of data collection, including Facebook’s reintroduction of its facial recognition technology in Europe and Google’s efforts to harvest information on third-party websites, have been given new leases on life under Europe's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The patchy record of Europe’s data protection overhaul — on the one-year anniversary of its implementation — has given industry an opportunity to blunt similar efforts outside the European Union to emulate the region’s new privacy rules, according to Politico Europe (22 May, Scott, Cerulus, Overly). Aggressive industry lobbying in capitals worldwide has worked hard to frame Europe’s laws as overly cumbersome, particularly for small companies, with technology groups warning other politicians not to merely copy Europe in the rejiggering of their own local privacy standards.

From "Europe’s Privacy Rules Experiencing Growing Pains"
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Mergers and Acquisitions

Natura to Buy Avon Products

Reuters (22 May) reports that Brazilian makeup brand Natura Cosmeticos has agreed to purchase Avon Products in an all-stock deal that values the US group at more than US$2 billion. Both companies' boards of directors have approved the deal, which has been in the works for several months. Natura will end up owning about 76 percent of the combined group, while the rest will be owned by Avon shareholders.

From "Natura to Buy Avon Products"
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Amazon Faces a Large Slate of Shareholder Proposals

Amazon received more shareholder resolutions than any other company this year, according to an Alliance Advisors study cited by CNN (21 May, DePillis). Although a few were either withdrawn by their proponents or excluded with the permission of the SEC, shareholders will still vote on a dozen measures at Amazon's annual general meeting, on issues ranging from hate speech to food waste to Amazon's facial recognition technology. Nine of the resolutions were coordinated by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, a coalition of about 300 institutional investors that press their portfolio companies to take action on human rights, gender and racial diversity, and the environment. The group opted to zero on Amazon after finding that many members had been frustrated over the years in attempting to engage the company through less confrontational means.

From "Amazon Faces a Large Slate of Shareholder Proposals"
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Board/Management Relations

Misconduct Tops Reasons for CEO Departures Among Largest Companies, Study Finds

Misconduct and ethical lapses occurring in the #MeToo era are now the No. 1 driver behind a CEO falling from grace, according to a new study from PwC's consulting division cited by National Public Radio (20 May, Allyn). This marks the first time since the group started tracking executive turnover nearly two decades ago that scandals over bad behavior instead of poor financial performance was the top cause of CEO dismissals among the world's 2,500 biggest public companies. "Thirty-nine percent of the 89 CEOs who departed in 2018 left for reasons related to unethical behavior stemming from allegations of sexual misconduct or ethical lapses connected to things like fraud, bribery, and insider trading," the researchers determined. "Executives are still being pushed out because of poor financial performance, but only about 35 percent of the time." Corporate boards are now approaching allegations of executive misconduct with a "zero-tolerance stance," partly fueled by societal pressures since the rise of the #MeToo movement.

From "Misconduct Tops Reasons for CEO Departures Among Largest Companies, Study Finds"
Abstract News © 2019 Information, Inc. Read  

Labor and Employment

McDonald's Faces Sexual Harassment Charges

NBC News (21 May, Silva) reports that more than two dozen McDonald's workers have filed sexual harassment charges and complaints against the fast-food chain, in what rights groups supporting the employees said was an ongoing effort to address widespread harassment. The American Civil Liberties Union joined with the labor group Fight for $15 and the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund to announce the new complaints during a news teleconference. The claims include 20 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints, along with three civil rights lawsuits and two lawsuits based on previous allegations. The allegations include claims of groping, lewd comments, indecent exposure, and propositions for sex by supervisors. The workers further charge that when they reported the harassment, their complaints were either "ignored or treated as a joke" and some suffered such repercussions as reduced hours and even termination.

From "McDonald's Faces Sexual Harassment Charges"
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Canada's Barrick Gold Makes Buyout Offer for Acacia Mining

Canada's Barrick Gold has offered to buy the remaining 35 percent of Acacia Mining it does not already own through an all-stock offer pitched at a discount to the prevailing share price. Barrick said that it made an indicative offer because it was clear the government of Tanzania was not prepared to deal directly with Acacia, an Africa-focused gold producer, to settle a long-running dispute over outstanding tax claims. Barrick, one of the world's biggest gold producers, is offering 0.1533 of its shares for every Acacia share. The proposal values London-listed Acacia at US$787 million, reports the Financial Times (22 May, Hume, Sanderson). Acacia said it was “considering these developments” and was attempting to seek clarification of Tanzania's position.

From "Canada’s Barrick Gold Makes Buyout Offer for Acacia Mining"
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Merck to Buy Peloton Therapeutics

Merck has agreed to purchase Peloton Therapeutics for US$1.05 billion in cash, reports Reuters (21 May), giving it access to the privately held company's renal cancer drug candidate. Peloton's lead drug candidate, PT2977, will be studied in a late-stage study for treating renal cell carcinoma. Peloton shareholders could receive a further US$1.15 billion on the achievement of certain milestones.

From "Merck to Buy Peloton Therapeutics"
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EU Commission Antitrust Inspectors Raid Two French Retailers

The European Commission (EC) reports its antitrust inspectors raided two companies active in the French grocery retail sector earlier this week. The Commission says it “has concerns that two grocery retail companies may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive businesses practices.” French retailer Casino had said earlier that EC agents visited its Paris headquarters, but did not provide further details. Meanwhile, EC agents also raided the headquarters of French rival Intermarche. There is no legal deadline to complete inquiries into anti-competitive conduct, notes Reuters (22 May, Strupczewski, Vidalon).

From "EU Commission Antitrust Inspectors Raid Two French Retailers"
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Shoe Retailers Urge a Halt to Tariffs

CNBC News (20 May) reports that more than 170 shoe retailers have penned a letter to the White House asking President Trump to consider a halt in raising tariffs on footwear imported from China. This comes after the Trump administration last week released a fresh list of approximately US$300 billion in Chinese goods that could get hit with 25 percent tariffs. The list includes footwear. The Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America estimates the tariffs could cost shoe shoppers over US$7 billion a year. The US imported more than US$11 billion worth of footwear from China in 2018. Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour are just three of the sneaker makers that have been steadily easing their reliance on China, shifting production to other locales, such as Vietnam, instead.

From "Shoe Retailers Urge a Halt to Tariffs"
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Dressbarn Plans to Shut All Its Stores

Ascena Retail Group announced it will be winding down its Dressbarn business, reports CNBC News (20 May, Thomas), with plans to close all 650 or so of the women's apparel stores in order to place greater emphasis on its more profitable brands. Dressbarn has struggled to grow in apparel retailing as more women steer toward such fast-fashion retailers as H&M, and off-price chains like TJ Maxx.

From "Dressbarn Plans to Shut All Its Stores"
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India Antitrust Watchdog Sniffs Around E-Commerce Players

The Competition Commission of India reports it is working to understand the evolution of the e-commerce industry, the sector’s methods and strategies, business practices, and "implications for competition," according to the watchdog’s questionnaire. The questions cover the percentage of products sold by categories, inventory practices, how pricing decisions are made, and total sales volume, among other subjects. Indian policy makers have been discussing ways to restrict US players in what many consider the world’s biggest untapped technology market, reports the Wall Street Journal (21 May, Purnell, Roy). "They're picking up from global trends, discussions about how online marketplaces dominate sales," says Satish Meena, an e-commerce analyst at research firm Forrester. Observers say the questionnaire is a step that could have consequences for many US companies, such as and Walmart, which dominate online sales in the country.

From "India Antitrust Watchdog Sniffs Around E-Commerce Players"
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Google Changes Abortion Ad Policy

Any advertisers planning to run ads on Google referring to abortion services in the United States, Britain, and Ireland must first get clearance from the search giant. For years, Google has faced complaints that its platform enables so-called crisis pregnancy centers, which oppose abortion, to present themselves as abortion providers in an effort to dissuade women from seeking the procedure. The new process is meant to make plain exactly what services an advertiser provides, reports the New York Times (21 May, Hsu).

From "Google Changes Abortion Ad Policy"
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