January 21, 2018

Tax Day Is Finally Here (or So We Think): DealBook Briefing

Tax Day Is Finally Here (or So We Think): DealBook Briefing


Among the groups that are expected to pay more, according to Politico: private colleges, charities, companies that provide meals to employees and insurers.

The rollout: Gary Cohn will deliver a midday speech to the Economic Club of Washington, while Steven Mnuchin will speak at the International Franchise Association conference in Los Angeles.

Potential stumbling blocks

A big one, according to Axios, is the treatment of pass-through businesses, which include partnerships like real estate trusts as well as small businesses:

Some influential Republican House members are saying final language on the tax bill’s treatment of those situations will disadvantage some small firms and could imperil G.O.P. support for the plan. “This is supposed to be a simplification. It’s not,” a House G.O.P. member told me. “It’s going to be the most explosive thing once members hear about it.”

Representative Tom MacArthur of New Jersey and other Republicans from high-tax states are still pressing to maintain healthy deductions for state and local taxes, according to The NYT.

Homebuilders have already signaled that they will oppose the bill because it would effectively reduce the home mortgage interest deduction.

And Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, the leader of the House Freedom Caucus, has unfavorably compared the secretive talks over the tax bill to the efforts to overhaul health care, according to Politico:

“Anything that gets done in a cloak of secrecy is certainly not what an open and deliberative body should do.”

Critics’ corner

• The bill “is a tacit admission of something the rest of the world has already concluded: It’s better to tax people than capital,” writes Greg Ip of The WSJ.

Elsewhere in Washington

• The president has revived a feud with a fellow native New Yorker, the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, in the wake of the terrorist attack in Lower Manhattan that killed eight people. (Politico)

• Apple, IBM and Google were among the tech companies that signed a legal brief challenging the White House’s efforts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program. (Axios)

Are tech giants stepping up their response to public criticism?

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Sean Edgett, Twitter’s acting general counsel, testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday.

Credit
Eric Thayer for The New York Times

If lawmakers’ questions for the top lawyers at Facebook, Google and Twitter on Wednesday were a clue, tech giants will continue to face heightened scrutiny from Washington and beyond.

• Senator Dianne Feinstein of California: “I must say, I don’t think you get it.”

• Senator Angus King of Maine: “I’m disappointed that you’re here, and not your C.E.O.s.”

Revelations about tech companies’ actions before the 2016 elections don’t help those companies’ cause. Lawmakers made public some of the political ads that Russian entities bought on social media. Twitter offered 15 percent of its election-related ad inventory to the Russian television network RT, according to BuzzFeed.

And Britain’s elections watchdog has begun an inquiry into whether Russia used social media to interfere with last year’s “Brexit” referendum, according to The Times of London.

Tech companies’ response to the interference — and the power their size affords them in general — weighed heavily on lawmakers’ minds.

But there are signs that tech titans are recognizing that they must do more to appease Congress and the public. During a call to discuss Facebook’s latest blockbuster quarterly earnings, Mark Zuckerberg said:

“I’ve directed our teams to invest so much in security on top of the other investments we’re making that it will significantly impact our profitability going forward. And I wanted our investors to hear that directly from me. I believe this will make our society stronger and, in doing so, will be good for all of us over the long term.”

And Tim Cook of Apple told NBC News:

“I think they learned along the way a lot. And, you know, I think it’s best to ask them if they projected it or not. I don’t believe that the big issue are ads from foreign government. I believe that’s, like, 0.1 percent of the issue. The bigger issue is that some of these tools are used to divide people, to manipulate people.”

How Farhad Manjoo learned to stop worrying and love big tech

He asks in his latest NYT column: “The tech giants are too big. But what if that’s not so bad?”

‘He’s boring, but he’s to the point.’

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Credit
Joshua Roberts/Reuters

That’s what the Jeffries chief economist Ward McCarthy wrote of Jerome Powell, above, whose nomination as the next Federal Reserve chairman is expected to be announced at 3 p.m. today.

What do other economists think of a Powell Fed?

• “He represents a bit of the continuation of the status quo without being named Yellen,” said Gennadiy Goldberg, an interest-rate strategist at TD Securities. (Bloomberg)

• “You get, broadly speaking, continuity of Yellen’s careful and relatively dovish approach to monetary policy, but with somebody who is a card-carrying Republican,” said Krishna Guha, vice chairman at Evercore ISI and a former New York Fed official. (WSJ)

More macroeconomic news

• The Fed left its benchmark interest rate unchanged but suggested that a rate increase would be coming next month. (NYT)

• The Bank of England is expected to raise its benchmark interest rate for the first time in more than a decade. (WSJ)

• The rise and fall of Gary Cohn, also-ran for the Fed chairmanship. (Politico)

The fallout from sexual misconduct accusations widens.

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Brett Ratner at a party for the 89th Academy Awards in February.

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Danny Moloshok/Reuters

And it has spread well beyond Harvey Weinstein.

• Warner Brothers severed ties with the producer and director Brett Rattner after The L.A. Times spoke with six women who accused him of harassment and assault.

• In Britain, Defense Minister Michael Fallon resigned over allegations about his past conduct, amid a growing outcry over claims of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior by politicians. (NYT)

• Netflix and Media Rights Capital halted work on the sixth and final season of “House of Cards” after an actor said that Kevin Spacey made an unwanted sexual advance on him when he was a 14-year-old in the 1980s. Mr. Spacey is now seeking “evaluation and treatment.” (People)

Michael Oreskes, the head of NPR’s news division and a former editor at The NYT, stepped down after being accused of sexually harassing women. (NPR)

• A woman who has accused Mr. Trump of unwanted sexual advances is pressing forward with a defamation lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court. (NYT)

The accusations have prompted anxiety among men and companies. From The Hollywood Reporter:

”We all wake up now thinking, ‘What’s next? Who’s next?’” says one network public relations chief.

Investors are spending less time hunting the next Uber.

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Thomson Reuters

But venture capital firms are putting more money into the deals they make.

Here’s what’s happening, courtesy of data that Thomson Reuters gave to us first: American V.C. firms invested $17.6 billion in 950 transactions during the third quarter of this year. That is a 5 percent increase in dollars invested but a 7 percent drop in the number of deals — and in fact is the lowest number of deals in a quarter since the beginning of 2012. But it was also the strongest quarter for venture dollars invested since the second quarter of 2015.

What that means: V.C.s are being more conservative about new ventures, even as they invest more. (Thomson Reuters also found that American V.C.s raised $4.4 billion during the quarter, setting a four-year low for fund-raising in a quarter.)

A bit of Silicon Valley humor

“When in San Francisco, I visit the Valley to watch unicorns prance with angels. They talk merrily about rounds and rounds of seeds.” (New Yorker)

Meet Goldman Sachs, purveyor of dad jokes.

From an event that Goldman hosted for its personal lending arm, Marcus, according to Olivia Oran of Reuters:

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The Speed Read

M. & A.

• Permira said it would buy the corporate finance adviser Duff & Phelps for $1.75 billion from a group that includes Carlyle. (WSJ)

• Qualcomm said its $38 billion buyout of NXP could take until early next year to complete, after European antitrust regulators extended their review of the deal. (FT)

• Hudson’s Bay Company said it had received an unsolicited offer from Signa Holding, an Austrian investment company, for its German department store chain, Galeria Kaufhof, but that the $3.5 billion bid was incomplete and lacked financing. (WSJ)

Policy and Legal

• Muddy Waters Capital has filed a petition in New York State Supreme Court seeking to make Google identify the people behind two email addresses. It says they were used deceptively to solicit information about one of its investment campaigns. (FT)

• Celebrities who promote coin offerings may be violating several laws, including antifraud regulations and rules that govern investment brokers, the S.E.C. said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. (NYT)

• WPP has started proceedings in Japan against its long-term partner there, Asatsu DK. They clashed after Bain Capital made a bid for the Japanese company. (FT)

• Sayfullo Saipov, the suspect in the New York terrorist attack, had passed a background check and driven more then 1,400 times for Uber in the past six months, a reflection of how difficult it is to screen for potentially criminal behavior. (USA Today)

Banks and Banking

• Credit Suisse hasn’t been immune to the trading slump, but Tidjane Thiam’s pivot to wealth management has propelled assets under management to a record level. (Bloomberg)

Private Capital (P.E. and V.C.)

• Price is still a stumbling block for SoftBank’s proposed Uber investment — shareholders are insisting on a valuation greater than the $50 billion under discussion, according to people with knowledge of the process. (Recode)

Money Managers

• A series of deals by top executives at Guggenheim Partners has set off concerns over possible favoritism and self-dealing from its internal compliance, auditing and investment teams. (FT)

Business and Economy

• Some analysts worry that the iPhone X, which starts at $1,000, could stunt holiday spending for sellers of clothing and other items. (WSJ)

• Tesla is hamstrung on the most basic part of the car business, getting vehicles built on time, and Elon Musk has been trying to calm investors. (NYT)

• Berkshire Hathaway’s insurance subsidiaries have yielded billions of investment dollars for Warren Buffett. That may change in the third quarter after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. (Bloomberg)

• Sales of Papa John’s pizza have suffered because of national anthem protests in the National Football League, the company’s founder said. (Sports Illustrated)

• Emmanuel Macron is going after France’s wealth tax, which has been sacrosanct since it was created in 1982, leading to accusations that he is the “president of the rich.” (NYT)

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