More Companies Take a Stand on Abortion

Yelp, the online search and review platform, is expected to announce today that, beginning next month, it will cover expenses for its employees and their spouses who must travel out of state for abortion care, The Times’s Alisha Haridasani Gupta and DealBook’s Lauren Hirsch report. It is the latest company to respond to the Texas law that bans abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy.

The company, which is based in San Francisco, has over 4,000 employees, with just over 200 workers in Texas, where the ban has been in place since September. But the benefit would extend to employees in other states who might be affected by “current or future action that restricts access to covered reproductive health care,” a spokesperson said.

Abortion is becoming a workplace issue. “The ability to control your reproductive health, and whether or when you want to extend your family, is absolutely fundamental to being able to be successful in the workplace,” said Miriam Warren, Yelp’s chief diversity officer. Last month, Citigroup became the first major bank to say it would pay travel costs for employees affected by the abortion law in Texas, where it has over 8,000 workers. Uber, Match Group and Salesforce have introduced similar policies.

“Backlash gets a lot more attention,” Warren said when asked whether she was concerned about potential pushback on the new company policy. (A Texas state legislator warned that he would seek to prevent Citi from underwriting municipal bonds in the state unless it rescinded its travel expense policy.) Instead, Warren said that she and other company executives had received personal notes thanking Yelp for previous measures supporting abortion access.

Executives increasingly find that they have to take a stand on divisive social issuessuch as reproductive rights, because their work force and customer bases have strong opinions on the subjects, which aren’t always in sync. For companies that operate nationwide, this is compounded by increasingly sharp political divisions among states.

This has implications for recruitment, which is particularly important in a tight labor market. “I think the question for these companies is really going to be: Where do you want to locate? Do you locate in a place where women have extraordinarily limited reproductive rights? Are you going to be able to recruit women to come there?” said Caitlin Myers, an economist at Middlebury College who tracks the economic impact of reproductive policies. Warren said the policy helps maintain a more diverse and inclusive work force. “We want to be able to recruit and retain employees wherever they might be living,” she said.

President Biden announces a new measure to ease gasoline prices. The White House plans to allow the sale of gas with higher ethanol content this summer, temporarily removing a restriction that blocks the blend in warmer months when smog is a problem. The move is expected to lower gas prices by about 10 cents per gallon.

PG&E reaches a $55 million settlement over two wildfires. The civil settlementwhich includes payments to local organizations, schools and government agencies, allows PG&E to avoid criminal prosecution for its role in the Dixie fire last year — the second-largest in the state’s history — and the Kincade fire in 2019.

Philadelphia is the first major U.S. city to bring back a mask mandate. Wearing masks indoors in the city will become mandatory again next week as officials try to stem a rise in coronavirus cases.

China’s Covid lockdowns lead to more shutdowns. The iPhone assembler Pegatron and German auto parts manufacturer Bosch are the latest companies to halt production in China because of pandemic restrictions.

An experimental drug for severe Covid cases cut deaths by half. The new drugsabizabulin, reduced deaths among hospitalized patients so drastically in a clinical trial that monitors recommended stopping it early, its manufacturer said. Shares of Veru, which plans to apply for emergency F.D.A. approval, more than doubled yesterday.

This morning, the government will report inflation data for March. Economists are expecting a big numberwith prices continuing to climb at their highest pace since the early 1980s, raising concerns that inflation will remain high even as economic growth slows — an unwelcome combination.

But while prices are rising, expectations for long-term inflation are not. Yesterday, the New York Fed reported that inflation expectations for three years from now, based on a survey of consumers, fell to 3.7 percent, down from the month before and below the 4-plus-percent readings late last year. Although that’s still higher than before the pandemic, the recent drift downward in three-year expectations is a contrast to the rise in one-year expectations.

It’s not clear why consumer predictions for long-term inflation haven’t risen more. The ingredients for continued price increases are apparent, with the pandemic still disrupting supply chains and the war in Ukraine raising the costs of commodities. It could be that since inflation has generally been low in recent decades, consumers have come to expect it to stay that way, removing the risk that inflation becomes self-fulfilling.

As a result, some economists are warning not to put too much faith in expectations. For much of the past few decades, as inflation was subdued, consumers consistently expected it to be higher than it actually turned out to be. So it could be that expectations are off again, this time in the other direction. “The link between inflation and expectations is less compelling than is often believed,” Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research told DealBook.

For full coverage of today’s inflation report, see The Times’s special briefingwhich will be updated throughout the day.


— Jason Goldman, who was on Twitter’s founding team and served on its board of directors, on the drama that the social media company faces with Elon Musk as its largest shareholder. All bets are off now that Musk, the billionaire Tesla chief and outspoken, unpredictable Twitter user, turned down an invitation to join Twitter’s board, which would have imposed various restrictions on his actions.


After fierce regulatory crackdowns on the private sector, the Chinese government’s campaign to redistribute wealth is on the back burner, The Times’s Keith Bradsher reports.

It’s more of a tactical retreat than an abandonment of the plan to promote “common prosperity.” The Communist Party’s shift acknowledges that its moves to rein in the country’s corporate titans has rattled investors at home and abroad. China’s top leader Xi Jinping is preparing to claim a third five-year term later in the year.

The government’s crackdown erased more than $1 trillion from the value of Chinese companieschallenging Xi’s efforts to show that the country was growing more prosperous under his leadership. China’s economic outlook has become more uncertain recently amid rising commodity prices and strict Covid lockdowns.

“Under President Xi Jinping, the Chinese government system runs like a sports car — the gas pedal and the brake pedal act extra fast,” said Li Daokui, director of the Center for China in the World Economy at Tsinghua University in Beijing. “When he wants to implement a policy, even a long-term policy, the car instantly accelerates, and that might not be what is intended.”


Silver Lake is leading a $150 million funding round for Genies, an avatar technology company that provides digital tools to create and sell online characters, clothes, spaces and social experiences, DealBook is first to report. It’s the latest push by traditional investment firms into web3the cryptocurrency industry’s name for a decentralized internet built on blockchain networks. The investment values Genies at $1 billion.

Genies, founded in 2017, had previously raised $100 million, with investors including Disney’s former C.E.O. Bob Iger, who now serves on the Genies board, and Mary Meeker’s venture firm Bond. The company declined to disclose any financial figures, or whether it was profitable.

How it works: Genies’ users mint nonfungible tokens, or NFTsthat they can sell in an online marketplace, with Genies taking a 5 percent cut from each sale. It opened up its consumer-focused “avatar tools” by invitation only, but plans to roll them out more widely this summer. The company’s success will depend in part on whether people spend time cultivating their digital identities in virtual worlds known as the metaverse.

“The metaverse is really about freedom,” Akash Nigam, a co-founder of Genies, told DealBook, saying that customizable avatars can allow people to express themselves in online worlds differently than they can in real life. The company has also partnered with record labels like Universal and Warner to be their official provider of avatars and NFTs, working with artists like Justin Bieber, Migos and Cardi B.

“We’re just trying to invest in the very best technology companies,” Egon Durban, the co-chief executive of Silver Lake, said. “Sometimes it’s a small company like this, and other times it’s huge, large companies that need to be transformed.” Silver Lake famously led the blockbuster buyout of Dellbut it has also put money into smaller, younger companies like Genies. The private equity group’s other investments in web3 include Fanatics, which owns the NFT sports collectibles company Candy Digital, and the blockchain development platform Alchemy.

Russia-Ukraine war

  • The governor of the Russian Central Bank spent years modernizing the country’s monetary policy, only to dismantle much of what she created. (WSJ)

  • The Russian T.V. producer who interrupted a news broadcast with an antiwar poster has been hired by a German newspaper. (Bloomberg)

  • Nokia said that it would exit Russia permanently, a day after its rival Ericsson made a similar move. (NOW)

  • “Bucha’s Month of Terror” (NOW)

Deals

  • Daily Journal, the publishing company chaired by Berkshire Hathaway’s Charlie Munger, cut its holdings in the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba by roughly half. (CNBC)

  • Israel’s NSO Group, the software company blacklisted for making spyware used by governments, was deemed “valueless” by its private equity backers. (FT)

  • Before many SPACs announced mergers, there was a curious spike in warrant trading. (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Policy

  • Amazon’s plan to fund affordable housing near its new Washington D.C.-area campus is benefiting few of the area’s poorest residents so far. (WaPo)

  • At least a dozen likely presidential candidates in 2024 are using nonprofits to raise “dark money” with few disclosures. (Politico)

  • The European Central Bank’s first chief economist said the bank is following “misguided policy” on inflation. (FT)

Best of the rest

  • The “Fearless Girl” statue will remain outside the N.Y.S.E., for now. (NOW)

  • Expletive-laced earnings calls and meetings are on the rise. (WSJ)

  • “As Remote Work Becomes Permanent, Can Manhattan Adapt?” (NOW)

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