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Quarantined with Kids: How to Work from Home During the Coronavirus

Advice to help you and your children of all ages get through the COVID-19 lockdown. Read


Monetizing Litigation Claims for COVID-19 Budget Constraints

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Autonomous Vehicles – Future Risks Come to Roost

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What Your Business Needs to Know about the EU Cybersecurity Certification Framework

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Preparing for the 2020 DOL Changes under the Fair Labor Standards Act

Avoid the pitfalls of noncompliance ⁠— and hefty fines ⁠— with these strategies. Read


In Brief

Today's Top Story

Australia Launches Investigation Into Ruby Princess After Hundreds Get the Coronavirus

Australian police are investigating the handling of the Ruby Princess cruise ship. The ship departed Sydney on 8 March, the same day the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urged Americans to avoid cruise travel, and returned to Sydney on 19 March, according to the Miami Herald (5 April, Dolven). At that time, 2,700 passengers were allowed to disembark without medical screening, even though some showed symptoms of COVID-19. In subsequent weeks, hundreds of passengers have tested positive, and 11 have died. The homicide squad of the New South Wales Police Department is handling the criminal probe, which could have serious repercussions for the cruise industry. "Was Carnival or crew transparent in contextualizing the true patient/crew health conditions relevant to COVID-19?" said Police Commissioner Mick Fuller. According to Fuller, Carnival told Australian authorities before the ship docked that COVID-19 was not a problem on the Ruby Princess. For its part, Carnival said in a statement it would "vigorously respond" to any allegations that come out of the criminal investigation.

From "Australia Launches Investigation Into Ruby Princess After Hundreds Get the Coronavirus"
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Legal Actions

Silicon Valley Startup Firings Over Virus Face Early Court Test

The sensor system startup Velodyne Lidar Inc. now faces a court challenge for laying off 140 workers with a day's notice. The Velodyne case will be an early test of whether courts will get involved as the coronavirus wipes out jobs in Silicon Valley, notes Bloomberg (4 April, Burnson). Workers alleged that Velodyne used the coronavirus as an excuse for the mass lay-offs, when in reality the company was planning sweeping US job cuts so that it could move its production overseas. According to a complaint filed Friday in federal court in San Jose, Velodyne should have given its laid-off workers 60 days of notice, rather than just one. Layoffs.fyi, a site that keeps track of the impact of the coronavirus on the tech industry, said the Velodyne cuts were among more than 5,000 firings of startup employees by the end of March.

From "Silicon Valley Startup Firings Over Virus Face Early Court Test"
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Regulatory Developments

Caesars in United Kingdom Is Fined for Allowing Problem Gamblers to Keep Betting

The UK Gambling Commission has fined Caesars Entertainment US$16 million for failing to prevent money laundering and for allowing people with gambling problems to lose huge amounts over repeated visits to its casinos. The British gambling authority said the US-based hotels and casino company had racked up a "catalogue" of failures over a three-year period, reports the New York Times (2 April, Tsang). In addition to the fine, three senior managers had to surrender their licenses to work in a casino. The Gambling Commission investigated the 11 Caesars locations in the United Kingdom and found systemic failings. In one case, a customer who had signed up for a program to be denied service at casinos was nevertheless permitted to continue gambling at Caesars, losing £240,000 over 13 months. Meanwhile, the commission said Caesars casinos did not do enough to properly vet where gambling money originated. The record US$16 million fine came as a segment of the UK public is increasingly calling for gambling reform.

From "Caesars in United Kingdom Is Fined for Allowing Problem Gamblers to Keep Betting"
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In Blow to Airbnb, EU Court Adviser Says Solving Housing Shortage Is Priority

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) lent its support Thursday to European cities cracking down on short-term rentals of private homes like those on Airbnb. Michal Bobek, the advocate general of the CJEU, said cities have the right to vet such rentals to tackle the shortage of long-term housing, reports Reuters (3 April, Chee). Airbnb's rapid growth in recent years has vexed European cities like Amsterdam and Paris, who believe the short-term rental company is exacerbating housing shortages and pushing out low-income individuals. Paris authorities fined two Parisian apartment owners for renting out their units on Airbnb, and the apartment owners took the case to the courts. Bobek said that public interest trumps EU directives allowing for the freedom to provide services in the bloc. "A shortage of long-term housing constitutes an overriding reason of public interest capable of justifying a national measure, which requires authorization to be obtained for the repeated letting of residential accommodation for short periods to a transit clientele," Bobek concluded. The court will rule in the coming months. Judges usually follow four out of five such recommendations.

From "In Blow to Airbnb, EU Court Adviser Says Solving Housing Shortage Is Priority"
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Governance

China's Luckin Coffee Slumps on 'Fake' Data News

Shares in the Chinese coffee chain Luckin Coffee slumped after the company admitted that top executives and other employees faked sales numbers, reports the BBC (3 April). Jian Liu, Luckin's chief operating officer, has been suspended, as have staff members who report to him. Luckin appointed a special committee to investigate issues in its financial statements for 2019, and that probe turned up the fake data scheme. Luckin reportedly fabricated US$310 million in sales in 2019, accounting for some 40 percent of the estimated annual sales. The company competes with Starbucks, and was one of China's few successful US stock market listings last year.

From "China's Luckin Coffee Slumps on 'Fake' Data News"
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Labor and Employment

Labor Fight Collides with the Pandemic at Trader Joe's

On 23 March, the supermarket chain Trader Joe's wrote a letter to its store managers suggesting they dissuade employees from joining a union. The letter came as the coronavirus pandemic sparked a wave of worker activism, reports the New York Times (3 April, Yaffe-Bellany). Trader Joe's employees have criticized the chain's response to the crisis, and some discussions have started about forming a union. Those discussions appeared to alarm Trader Joe's, which circulated the memo with anti-union talking points and asked store managers to address their employees. Almost 20 current and former Trader Joe's employees confirmed that managers at stores across the United States held similar discussions as worker unrest intensified. Trader Joe's has a reputation as an employee-friendly grocery chain, offering generous pay and benefits. During the coronavirus crisis, Trader Joe's has cut store hours, extended bonuses to employees who continue to work, and given a week of paid leave to workers dealing with respiratory ailments. But many workers said the week of paid leave was insufficient and the bonuses insignificant.

From "Labor Fight Collides with the Pandemic at Trader Joe’s"
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Mining

Rio Tinto Faces Fresh Investor Revolt Over Mongolia Mine

The mining giant Rio Tinto is facing a new revolt from investors in its copper and gold deposit in Mongolia's Gobi Desert. Turquoise Hill Resources, a Rio-controlled company, is overseeing the Oyu Tolgoi mine. US hedge fund Pentwater Capital wants to appoint a new independent director to represents the interests of minority shareholders at Turquoise Hill, reports the Financial Times (3 April, Hume). Pentwater reportedly also wants other shareholders to be able to nominate three more non-executive directors. According to Pentwater, Turquoise Hill has engaged in chronic mismanagement of the mining project. "The tangled web that has been woven between Rio Tinto and Turquoise Hill has resulted in a lack of corporate governance controls, systemic disregard for the interests of minority shareholders, a sustained period of false and misleading disclosures, and irreparable harm to the interests of all Turquoise Hill stakeholders," Pentwater said in a statement. The Oyu Tolgoi mine is one of Rio's most important growth assets, and has the potential to become the world's third-largest source of copper. But the mine is over budget and behind schedule.

From "Rio Tinto Faces Fresh Investor Revolt Over Mongolia Mine"
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Manufacturing

The Coronavirus Is Spreading, but German Factories Keep Running

Even as the novel coronavirus continues to spread across Europe, Germany's factories are still running. Germany's approach to business could provide a blueprint for Italy and other hard-hit European countries, reports the Wall Street Journal (3 April, Fairless), as countries try to find a balance between promoting public health and keeping the economy going. In the United States, tensions have simmered between factories trying to stay open and their workers, but German factories have reached agreements with workers. They have also imposed strict cleanliness measures and organizational rules and, in some cases, brought in their own medical teams. Bankers, economists, and industry experts have predicted that German manufacturers are running at as much as 80 percent capacity. Still, more plants may have to shut down if lockdowns are extended far into the future.

From "The Coronavirus Is Spreading, but German Factories Keep Running"
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Food and Beverage

Corona Beer Stops Production

Grupo Modelo, the company responsible for Corona beer, has confirmed that Corona production has been temporarily suspended in Mexico. Corona production is being shut down because of a Mexican law limiting the operations of nonessential businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic, reports CNN (3 April, Valinsky). Grupo Modelo, which also owns Modelo and Pacifico beers, said it would enact a plan to "guarantee the supply of beer" if the Mexican government decides to include breweries as essential, according to a statement. Constellation Brands, which handles the import and distribution of Corona in the United States, said it does not anticipate shortages in the near future. Constellation also said the coronavirus has not dampened enthusiasm for Corona beer, with Corona one of the top-two sellers for the company in the first quarter.

From "Corona Beer Stops Production"
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Compensation

Companies Try to Preserve Jobs by Cutting Pay Amid Coronavirus Crisis

A growing number of companies are reducing pay during the outbreak of the coronavirus, the Wall Street Journal (3 April, Feintzeig, Thomas) reports. Companies say cutting pay can ease fixed costs and stave off greater job losses. They also want to have talent ready if the economy and hiring market recover sooner rather than later. Some companies have specified they plan to pay workers back for the lost pay. Rules for government aid might be prompting some companies to find a way to keep as many workers employed as possible, but stipulations also restrict companies from slashing pay deeply. Base pay used to be sacrosanct, with companies rarely slashing it even in bad times, said Kenan Abosch, a partner in benefits and risk-consulting firm Aon PLC's compensation practice. But half of employers cut pay during the 2008 financial crisis, according to a 2009 survey of 1,156 US employers by Aon. Only half of companies that reduced pay eventually boosted salaries again or repaid the losses, according to a subsequent Aon survey later that year.

From "Companies Try to Preserve Jobs by Cutting Pay Amid Coronavirus Crisis"
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Retail

Walgreens Sales Drop Off After Early Coronavirus Surge

Walgreens Boots Alliance reported Thursday that US store sales declined sharply in the final week of March, offsetting gains from an initial surge in demand as Americans rushed to stock up amid the spread of coronavirus. The Wall Street Journal (3 April, Terlep, Maidenberg) says the drop-off could have broader implications for US retailers given that drugstores are among the few businesses permitted to operate even in places with the tightest restrictions, and the chain sells staples and medications in great demand amid the pandemic. Sales of beauty products and so-called seasonal items such as holiday decorations fell sharply, while sales rose for health-related products and staples. Walgreens generated stronger-than-expected sales during its latest quarter. It reported US$35.82 billion in sales for the quarter ended 29 February, up from US$34.53 billion a year earlier. Operating income dropped 19 percent to US$1.2 billion, in part because of reimbursement pressure on prescription drugs. Walgreens, in the midst of a restructuring program, is diverting funds intended to enable cost-cutting to instead manage the coronavirus crisis. The company is paying bonuses to workers, increasing home delivery, and shortening store hours.

From "Walgreens Sales Drop Off After Early Coronavirus Surge"
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