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Facebook just got slapped with a big ole $122M fine from the EU

(BUSINESS NEWS) Facebook got in trouble for lying about a huge break of EU anti-trust laws in the EU and was slapped with a $122M fine.

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Facepalm

Facebook is having a hard time in Europe lately. And it is proving costly, both for its coffers and image.

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On Thursday, the European Union’s antitrust agency slapped a fine of $122 million, one the largest regulatory penalties levied against the social networking giant.

What gives?

Facebook, the EU said, intentionally mislead regulators over the $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp in 2014.
During the acquisition, Facebook promised the European Commission that the company’s data would not be combined with WhatsApp, allaying fears of gaining unfair advantages over its market rivals.

The EU now says, that promise was a deliberate misinformation.

Last August, Facebook announced that it would begin sharing WhatsApp data with the rest of the company, which gave it access to additional data from a billion WhatsApp users.

E.U. is not having it

“Today’s decision sends a clear signal to companies that they must comply with all aspects of E.U. merger rules,” said Chief of Antitrust Agency Ms. Vestager in a statement. “And it imposes a proportionate and deterrent fine on Facebook. The commission must be able to take decisions about mergers’ effects on competition in full knowledge of accurate facts.”

However, the EU fine does not endanger the merger itself. Antitrust officials did not deem it necessary to void the deal, without which Facebook faces relatively little risk.

That explains why Facebook is not fighting the fine, a paltry sum for one of the most valued Fortune 100 companies of the world.
So in essence, the company has accepted its fault, although not the intent of wrongdoing.

Sorry you feel that way

“The errors we made in our 2014 filings were not intentional,” Facebook said in a statement. “The commission has confirmed that they did not impact the outcome of the merger review.”
This is not the first time an American tech company has run into legal hurdles under European antitrust laws.

Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft have all been investigated and fined by the EU authorities.

However, the latest Facebook fine is noteworthy. It signals European officials are getting stricter about tech companies’ online data gathering practices within the Union.

Cracking down

Just a few days earlier, both Dutch and French privacy watchdogs ruled that Facebook had broken strict data protection rules for failing to provide European users sufficient control over how their data is collected and used by the company. In France, they will have to pay the maximum privacy fine— 150,000 euros.

Facebook has 1.5 billion users outside North America, and a significant portion of them reside within the EU.

The new regulations shall disrupt Facebook’s modus operandi in the short time, and how they adapt to the new challenges might even instruct their approach elsewhere in the world.

Trying to enact change

Privacy activists have already lodged complaints similar to the EU antitrust agency against Facebook at the Federal Trade Commission. None of them heard back from the agency. So far, the US government has been lenient on Facebook.
That may not be a good thing.

#FacebookEU

Barnil is a Staff Writer at The American Genius. With a Master’s Degree in International Relations, Barnil is a Research Assistant at UT, Austin. When he hikes, he falls. When he swims, he sinks. When he drives, others honk. But when he writes, people read.

Business News

Working through job interview adrenaline and anxiety

(CAREER NEWS) Find out how to use the pressure and adrenaline of a face-to-face job interview to your advantage.

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It’s undeniable that there is a certain amount of adrenaline that flows through you during a face-to-face job interview. You’re theoretically vying for a job you really want (or need), so you have to make sure that you put in your best effort.

Even under the best of circumstances, this can make you feel like you’re in an interrogation room being asked what you were doing the night of December 2nd, 1997. This is where that adrenaline can come into play, which can make things harder – just make sure you’re properly utilizing it.

First off, use that adrenaline to get you to the interview location with plenty of time to spare. No employer values tardiness, and it’s good to walk into a high-pressure situation with all of your ducks in a row.

Being early also gives you a chance to get a feel for the environment and gives you a chance to make an impression with the receptionist. Speaking as a former receptionist, this is not something you should overlook as our opinions are often asked by the employer.

Once you’re in the interview setting, use the adrenaline to keep you engaged in the conversation. An important aspect of this is making eye contact.

Don’t confuse this with being creepy and staring without blinking. Just be sure to look into the eye of the person you’re speaking to, and be sure to share that eye contact with others if you’re speaking to a panel of interviewers, keeping a happy, interested (but not scared or overly enthusiastic) look on your face.

With rushing adrenaline, you may use self-soothing movements like playing with your hair or wringing your hands. You may exhibit anxious movements like toe tapping. Don’t do any of these things – they’re within your control. But if something like a shaky voice from these nerves are not within your control, apologize up front (“Apologies for my shaky voice, I have normal interview jitters, I usually speak like a normal human person”) and move on.

Depending on how the interviewer leads the conversation, the entire interview doesn’t have to be this stiff discussion. If given the opportunity, use this time to work in some small talk so they can see the personable side of your personality. For example, you can keep it related to the situation by making small talk about the traffic and asking how the interviewer typically gets to work each day (buying time is another great way to work through the anxiety of rushing adrenaline).

Throughout the course of the conversation, whether the small talk or the interview itself, make sure you’re showing your true colors and not lying. It isn’t hard (especially these days) to be caught in a lie, so don’t waste anyone’s time with the nonsense.

Once everything is said and done, say your thank yous and your goodbyes and make your way to the exit. Don’t try and overstay your welcome or linger in the lobby, just be on your way. But, don’t forget to send a courteous “thank you” email.

Above all, remember that everyone is nervous in a job interview situation – you’re not alone!

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Business News

If Amazon puts HQ in Chicago, they’ll get a cut of their workers’ income taxes

(BUSINESS NEWS) Amazon continues the hunt for a new city to set up shop, and cities across the nation are offering plenty to attract the brand.

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If Amazon sets up a new headquarters in Chicago, the company could get over two billion dollars in tax breaks, including $1.32 billion from their workers’ income taxes. How would they achieve this fiendish feat?

With the magic of personal income tax diversion, where employers withhold state income taxes from employee paychecks. Workers still pay full income taxes, but the company holds onto all or part of the funds.

This happens when a city says to a business, “please come live here, we want your money so much you can just not pay taxes okay?” In this case, both Chicago and the state authorities of Illinois presented this offering to Amazon.

In September, Amazon announced plans for a second headquarters, which was very originally dubbed Amazon HQ2. The new headquarters is intended to supplement the existing one in Seattle. Amazon intends to spend around five billion on new construction alone, and said it plans on having 50,000 workers at HQ2.

Amazon outlined core requirements for HQ2, including access to mass transit, metropolitan population of over one million, and up to eight million square feet of office space just in case they need to expand even more. Proximity to major universities and airports with direct flights to New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington D.C. were part of the optional rider.

At least 238 other bids have been made for the headquarters. Chris Christie proposed paying Amazon up to $10,000 for every job created even though New Jersey has $60 billion in unfunded pension obligations.

Plenty of other cities want to take Amazon to prom too, and have launched promotional campaigns to stand out from the crowd. One Arizona economic development firm sent a 21-foot cactus, which was rejected due to Amazon’s corporate gift policy. Don’t worry about the cactus’ feelings though, it was donated to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

In another proposal, Kansas City, Missouri mayor Sly James purchased one thousand Amazon products, donated them to charity, then wrote five star reviews for every item, which all included shout outs to Kansas City’s positive attributes. James either has way too much time on his hands, or employs very productive interns.

This lovely display of cities offering incredible legal loopholes for Amazon is pretty heartwarming. After all, the company is definitely in need of financial help and government perks. Except that oh wait, founder Jeff Bezos is currently the only person in the world worth over $100 billion dollars.

Amazon’s soaring share price added around $43 billion to founder Jeff Bezos’ personal fortune this year, and Black Friday alone raked in $2.4 billion. There’s also all that fun stuff about subpar
workers’ conditions in Amazon’s warehouses that we all pretend to forget when there’s free two-day shipping on that thing you really, really want.

So far, Amazon has yet to accept Chicago’s tax-tastic bid, or any other offer. Based on the list of requirements, Moody’s Analytics released a data-specific analysis of the top cities.

Austin, Texas topped the list, followed by Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Rochester, New York. Other contenders include Pittsburgh, Portland, and New York City.

Amazon will announce the final site selection and plan sometime in 2018.

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Business News

The worst of the retail apocalypse is on the way

(BUSINESS NEWS) We’ve long lamented the decline of big box retail, but one report says the “Retail Apocalypse” is just beginning and it’s about to get much worse.

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You have likely already noticed the impacts of what has been darkly dubbed America’s “Retail Apocalypse”: Half-empty strip malls, brightly-colored signs announcing closing sales, or maybe your once-favorite department store has declared bankruptcy.

Whatever you’ve seen, it’s only going to get worse, according to a comprehensive report from Bloomberg, implying certainty in the fall of the retail industry as more than just sensational news headlines.

U.S. retailers announced more than 3,000 store openings in the first three quarters of this year, but that’s coupled with 6,800 chain store closures. All while consumer confidence levels are high and unemployment is low, and the economy keeps growing – a mix you’d think would be conducive to retail growth and strength.

However, more and more retail chains are filing for bankruptcy and financially distressed. This has caused an increase in the number of delinquent loan payments from malls and shopping centers containing said retailers.

So what’s the deal?

No, it’s not because Amazon.com is taking over the world (yet) or because millennials would rather travel than buy more “stuff.”

The primary cause for the retail apocalypse is not buying habits, it is that many failing retail chains are overloaded with debt.

There are billions of dollars tied up in the borrowings of troubled stores, and that strain is going to become even harder for the market to handle.

The impact of retail’s crash and burn will be felt across the country and economy. Low-income workers will be displaced, local tax bases will shrink, and investor losses on stocks, bonds, and real estate will grow.

In a nutshell: It’s only going to get worse.

Until recently, retailers avoided bankruptcy by refinancing their debts. However, as the market has evolved, lenders have become less forgiving, according to the Bloomberg report.

Additionally, an overwhelming amount of risky retail debt is coming due within in the next five years. For example, teen costume jewelry chain Claire’s Stores, Inc. has $2 billion in borrowings that will start maturing in 2019 – and it still has 1,600 stores open in North America.

In fact, $100 million of high-yield retail borrowings are set to mature this year alone and that will jump to $1.9 billion in 2018, according to Fitch Ratings Inc. data cited by Bloomberg. Between 2019 and 2025, that figure will expand to an annual average of almost $5 billion.

And, while the demand for refinancing increases, credit markets are tightening. Thus far, retailers have delayed their doom thanks to the money the Federal Reserve has pushed back into the economy since the Great Recession. Low interest rates made the risker retail debt (and the higher return it brings) more appealing. But now as the Feds raise their benchmark interest rates, that demand will decrease.

Then there’s the matter of store credit cards. The largest private-label card issuer, Synchrony Financial, has already increased reserves in order to help cover loan losses this year. Citigroup, Inc. has reported declining rates on retail portfolios, too. Why? Because shoppers are more likely to stop paying back their retail card debt if the store they went to has closed.

As all this compounds, it could directly impact the industry that employs the largest number of Americans who are at the low end of the income scale. According to Bloomberg’s research, salespeople and cashiers in this industry totaled a whopping eight million. Since our last financial crisis, employment rates have been steadily increasing, even in the retail industry. Until this year, that is. Retail store jobs have decreased by 101,000 this year so far, no thanks to store closures.

Many of the largest U.S. retailers (think Target and Walmart) have decided to reduce their brick-and-mortar space. Sure, the e-commerce boom has taken a toll, but the U.S. has been considered “over-stored” ever since investors poured money into commercial real estate as the suburbs boomed decades ago, which began an era of big box stores.

It’s time for that boom to bust.

At the end of Q3, 6,752 U.S. retail locations were scheduled to close, excluding grocery stores and restaurants, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. That’s more than double the 2016 total and inching close to the all-time annual high of 6,900 recorded in 2008, the midst of the recession.

Clothing stores have taken the hardest hit, as 2,500 locations are closing. Department stores aren’t faring well, either. Macy’s, Sears and J.C. Penney are all downsizing.

Overall, about 550 department stores plan to close their doors.

This really does sound apocalyptic, doesn’t it?

The consumer impacts of what’s to come will be widespread. Ohio, West Virginia, Michigan and Illinois have been some of the hardest hit so far, but other states will feel the burn, too. Florida, for example, relies on retail salespeople more than any other state, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics cited by Bloomberg.

Insert a grimacing emoji face here.

I think Charlie O’Shea, a Moody’s retail analyst for Moody’s, summed up the retail industry’s prospects impeccably at the end of Bloomberg’s report: “A day of reckoning is coming,” he said.

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