Top tech industry executives have spent their week speaking with the Senate and answering tough questions about their data security, fake news, and political content. Many fear it is a preamble to a big regulatory crackdown on the sector by the Senate. Well, that has not occurred yet, but in a worrying development US attorney general Sessions has announced that his department is looking into the tech sector in regards to competition and free speech issues. Sessions said he would be meeting with state attorney generals to discuss a “growing concern” that tech companies “may be hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas”.
FINSUM: This might be the beginning of a major regulatory move against the sector. We think the market will start handicapping the odds of a big crackdown as more news comes out.
Over the last few months there were growing fears that the US tech industry, a stock market stalwart, might be poised for a damaging crackdown by regulators. This fear had somewhat subsided in the last few weeks as no new worries had arisen, until now. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin has just now called for an anti-trust review of the US tech industry following a 60 Minutes story on Google’s monopoly power. Mnuchin said the power to do so was not part of his mandate, but that someone in the government needs to be looking at the issue. “These are issues that the Justice Department needs to look at seriously — not for any one company — but obviously as these technology companies have a greater and greater impact on the economy”.
FINSUM: This is a very worryingly development for the tech industry and its investors, but not one we think is unwarranted. We suspect this is going to wound tech stocks, especially if the idea of an anti-trust review gets traction in Washington.
The scandal for Wells Fargo’s wealth management division is deepening. The bank has already experienced major reputational damage following its checking account scandal, and now the US Department of Justice is investigating the wealth management division’s alleged misconduct. The move is part of an extension of the investigation into the retail banking misconduct, and the FBI is reportedly holding interviews in the Phoenix area. Earlier this month the bank disclosed its own independent review of its wealth management unit included “whether there have been inappropriate referrals or recommendations, including with respect to rollovers for 401(k) plan participants, certain alternative investments, or referrals of brokerage customers to the company’s investment and fiduciary services business”.
FINSUM: This scandal looks like it is going to keep moving deeper and deeper. We wonder how much damage this might ultimately have on Wells Advisors’ own businesses. This seems like a situation where advisors might be seen by clients as guilty by association.
The huge public pushback against Apple’s revelation that it intentionally slowed older iPhone speeds to keep them from crashing is now turning into an ugly, and possibly legal, scandal. The US Department of Justice and the SEC are now launching probes into Apple’s handling of the situation. While the DOJ probe will likely look broadly at behavior, the SEC is looking into whether Apple violated securities laws with regard to its disclosures about software updates.
FINSUM: We have a feeling there is a big fine on the horizon for Apple. The bigger question is whether this hurts their public image and could spark the beginning of the end of the Age of Apple.
President Trump has mostly been very quiet about the DOJ investigation into the White House’s potential ties to Russia. Until today, that is. Yesterday, coming just days after Mike Flynn pled guilty to lying to federal investigators about his connections with Russia, Trump went on a Twitter tirade lambasting the DOJ. The focus of his tirade was on the unfair handling of Mike Flynn and “Crooked Hillary Clinton”. Trump said, amongst other tweets, “So General Flynn lies to the FBI and his life is destroyed, while Crooked Hillary Clinton, on that now famous FBI holiday “interrogation” with no swearing in and no recording, lies many times . . . and nothing happens to her? Rigged system, or just a double standard?”.
FINSUM: We think Trump has decided to go on offense instead of playing it cool. Why not?