Good morning! If you’ve been too busy avoiding the heat to stay on top of the news, never fear. Catch up and prepare for the week ahead with the top stories in business and tech, and then get back to your lawn chair — the last weekend of July is best spent horizontal.
What’s Up? (July 21-27)
A Record-Breaking Fine, or a Slap on the Wrist?
The Federal Trade Commission has ordered Facebook to pay $5 billion for mishandling users’ data — the largest fine the F.T.C. has ever imposed. Sound familiar? The company also paid a record-breaking settlement to the Securities and Exchange Commission for a similar charge earlier this year. The latest deal requires Facebook to create a privacy committee and increase transparency and accountability of how it treats people’s personal information. But critics say the punishment is trifling to the tech giant, which posted rip-roaring quarterly growth numbers on Thursday. Enter Chris Hughes, one of Facebook’s founders, who believes the company has gotten too big and is working with the government to break it up.
Taking Aim at Food Stamps
The Trump administration has proposed new restrictions on food stamps — namely, who’s eligible for them and who isn’t. More than 38 million low-income Americans rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, but 3.1 million of them would lose access under the new rule. Supporters of the measure say it closes a “loophole” that allows people to qualify for SNAP even when they “clearly don’t need it.” They also claim that the change would save taxpayers $2.5 billion a year — a slight dent in the ever-ballooning federal deficit. Opponents call the resolution “cruel, ideological and inhumane,” and say it will harm the country’s working poor.
Deutsche Bank’s Next Headache
The embattled German bank hemorrhaged money and jobs in a costly restructuring last quarter. Now, it’s dealing with another public relations nightmare: Jeffrey Epstein, the financier and convicted sex offender who is facing new charges of human trafficking and sexual abuse. Mr. Epstein was a Deutsche Bank client from 2013 to 2018 and used its wealth management services to move money outside the United States — potentially to nefarious ends. The financial institution is already under scrutiny for suspected money laundering and its ties to President Trump. How did things get so out of hand? As part of an aggressive, 20-year push to expand internationally, Deutsche Bank took on many high-risk clients that others avoided. Now, it’s paying the price.
What’s Next? (July 28-Aug. 3)
Tech Takes Center Stage
The top 20 Democratic presidential candidates will face off in their second round of debates on Tuesday and Wednesday. Expect more talk about how to better regulate the role of Big Tech in the next election. Or they could just cut to the chase and sue Google for $50 million, as Representative Tulsi Gabbard, the long-shot candidate from Hawaii, did last week. Ms. Gabbard claims that Google infringed on her free speech when it briefly suspended her campaign’s advertising account after the first Democratic debate in June. (Google says the shutdown was caused by the account’s “unusually high activity” — often a sign of fraud that its systems are designed to flag.) The lawsuit raises larger questions about the power of tech companies over candidates’ online exposure.
Keep an Eye on Your Phone Bills
T-Mobile and Sprint, the country’s third- and fourth-biggest wireless networks, just got a green light from the Justice Department for a huge merger that’s been years in the making. Their combined forces will create stiff competition for the top two phone companies, AT&T and Verizon. But it’s also being watched by antitrust hawks who argue that it monopolizes too much of the market. The Justice Department’s blessing is a major victory for the merger, but now it must clear another hurdle: a lawsuit brought by several states that claim it would hit consumers with higher charges.
A Booster Shot
That interest rate cut that Mr. Trump has been demanding for ages? It’s finally expected to materialize when the Federal Reserve meets this week. Investors are anticipating a quarter-point rate decrease as a means to stimulate the economy and counteract trade uncertainties (see above re: China) and weakening global growth. But some analysts argue that the rate cut is premature, given the health of the American economy, which still boasts record low unemployment. The latest report shows a significant deceleration from the first quarter, but the economy still grew by a robust 2.1 percent — nothing to sneeze at.
Lots of auto news last week. Four of the world’s biggest car companies struck an agreement with California to tighten emissions rules, rejecting Mr. Trump’s latest attempts to roll back federal pollution standards set by the Obama administration. Nissan, not among the deal makers, announced it was laying off 12,500 workers and doing damage control on its plummeting profits. Speaking of transportation woes: The grounding of Boeing’s troubled fleet of 737 Max jets is taking a major toll on airline profits — and no one knows when they’ll be back in the air.
Facebook scams are hitting vulnerable women. Impostors use stolen identities to lure victims into online relationships and con them out of money. What is Facebook and the military doing to stop them? Watch an hourlong special of “The Weekly,” The Times’s new TV show, on FX and Hulu.