A House mutiny messes up the markets
Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida moved on Monday to oust Kevin McCarthy as speaker, looking to exact punishment on the top House Republican for siding with Democrats to forge a short-term deal to avert a government shutdown.
The extraordinary power play — just the third time in more than 200 years that such a move has been made against a speaker — risks throwing the House into more turmoil. The shutdown crisis isn’t over, as the deal expires next month. And the repercussions are already being felt in the rocky bond market.
The clash between McCarthy and hard-right Republicans is coming to a head. Gaetz’s move kick-starts a process that could lead to a vote on whether McCarthy can remain in his post. The speaker has two legislative days to address the motion, and he seems to be girding for a fight. “Bring it on,” McCarthy posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, shortly after the motion was filed.
If unable to block the motion, McCarthy would need backing from a majority of the voting House members to stay in power.
McCarthy’s fate may (once again) depend on Democrats. But they have expressed reluctance to extend another lifeline to a political opponent. “I am not a cheap date,” Rep. James McGovern of Massachusetts, the top Democrat on the Rules Committee, told The Times.
The Capitol Hill uncertainty is adding to market volatility. The Dow Jones industrial average fell on Monday, and stock futures were pointing to another weak open on Tuesday. The biggest damage was in the bond market, where the yield on a 10-year Treasury bill topped 4.7 percent this morning, a 16-year high. (Yields rise when prices fall).
Some observers had predicted that a shutdown might bring some relief to bonds. A closed-for-business government, the theory went, would have likely meant that some economic data, like Friday’s jobs report, would not be published. That “would leave the Fed flying blind,” the BMO Capital Markets strategists Ian Lyngen and Ben Jeffery wrote to investors, possibly forcing the central bank to hold off on any planned interest rate increases.
That scenario looks unlikely. Loretta Mester, the Cleveland Fed president, delivered another hawkish call on Monday for the central bank to raise borrowing costs to defeat inflation. Markets seem to be listening: The odds of an interest-rate increase at the December meeting hit nearly 40 percent this morning.
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial begins. The former president sat in uncomfortable silence in a Manhattan courtroom as New York State prosecutors laid out their case that he improperly inflated his wealth by $2 billion to get better deals with banks, and for bragging rights. Meanwhile, it turns out his lawyers failed to ask for the trial to be decided by a jury, as he preferred.
Covid vaccine pioneers win a Nobel prize. Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman, whose research on tweaking messenger RNA led to the development of breakthrough coronavirus vaccines, were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. Their legacy: About 400 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 250 million doses of the Moderna vaccine have been administered in the U.S. alone.
Tesla’s sales slip, spurring concern about competition. The automaker’s deliveries fell 6.6 percent in the third quarter from the preceding one, to 435,000 vehicles. The company cited production slowdowns as it retooled its factories, but the news may stoke worries that rivals like Rivian and China’s BYD are gaining market share.
Birkenstock seeks a valuation of up to $9.2 billion in its I.P.O. The sandal maker disclosed in a regulatory filing that it intends to price its shares at between $44 and $49 each. Birkenstock is testing investor appetite for new stock listings, after a trio of prominent companies — Arm, Instacart and Klaviyo — saw their stock prices fizzle after buoyant debuts.
What Bankman-Fried’s lawyers want to ask potential jurors
The criminal fraud trial of Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of the bankrupt crypto exchange FTX, begins in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday. Proceedings will start with jury selection — even as lawyers for the fallen mogul wait to see if the presiding judge reconsiders rulings that limit what they can argue.
Picking a jury for the biggest trial in crypto’s history is likely to be tricky, given how contentious the topic is for many and how much of a lightning rod Bankman-Fried has become. Here are some of the questions his defense lawyers intend to ask prospective jurors:
Do you have a negative opinion about cryptocurrency?
If a company involved in the cryptocurrency industry or the financial industry fails, do you feel that only the owners of the company must be to blame?
Do you have any negative opinion about amassing wealth to support causes to improve the world or help others?
The defendant in this case has ADHD, which might affect things like his physical behavior, body language, or eye contact. Please raise your hand if you have never had any personal or professional experience with ADHD. Do you have any opinion about the fact that the defendant has ADHD?
Here’s one thing that Bankman-Fried’s lawyers can’t discuss: The presiding judge barred any mention of lawyers’ “presence or involvement” in FTX or its affiliated trading firm, Alameda Research, at least during opening statements. He agreed with prosecutors that the claim that lawyers were involved in decisions there could give the misleading impression that outside legal counsel “blessed” what the government says was fraud.
A co-founder of Alameda, Tara Mac Aulay, quit as part of a major staff exodus and said she found Bankman-Fried “dishonest and manipulative.”
Lewis likens John Jay Ray III, the turnaround expert who now leads the company, to an “amateur archaeologist” who’d stumbled upon artifacts he didn’t understand.
Bankman-Fried couldn’t name two of FTX’s three directors. “The main job requirement is they don’t mind DocuSigning at 3 a.m.,” he said.
“Defaults are the only things that matter”
Microsoft is at least as big a tech titan as Google, and by some measures even bigger, with a $2.4 trillion market capitalization versus Google’s $1.7 trillion.
But testimony on Monday by Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s C.E.O., in the federal government’s antitrust trial over Google’s search dominance showed that even his corporate giant was struggling to compete.
Nadella is willing to lose billions to make Bing the iPhone’s default search engine, replacing Google. “It would be a game-changer,” he said, noting that he was prepared to give up as much as $15 billion a year for the privilege. The reason: Having billions more searches run on Microsoft’s search engine would yield more data that could make the product better, drawing more users, and so on.
But that virtuous cycle is possible only if Bing becomes the search engine of choice on iOS, since users are loath to change their settings. “Defaults are the only thing that matter” when it comes to user behavior, he said. “You get up in the morning, you brush your teeth and you search on Google.”
But Microsoft can’t seem to make Apple a better offer than Google, Nadella said. (When asked how efforts to get Apple to switch search engines have gone, he responded, “Not well.”) He also conjectured that Apple might be worried about what Google — which also makes popular apps like Gmail, Chrome and YouTube — might do if its search engine lost pride of place.
Artificial intelligence may not help Microsoft, despite the company’s enthusiastic embrace of the technology. Nadella said that his earlier boast that the company’s advances in A.I. could make “Google dance” were “the exuberance of someone who has 3 percent share” in search and was hoping to get to 3.5 percent.
In fact, Nadella added, Google could further cement its lead in search as A.I. use grows: Website owners could sign exclusive contracts to allow Google to use their content to train its large language models.
Google’s lawyers countered by noting Microsoft’s repeated business failures. The company’s lead counsel, John Schmidtlein, walked Nadella through ignominious moments in Microsoft history, from the Windows phone to search deals with Nokia and BlackBerry. Google was winning, Schmidtlein argued, because it had a better product and better strategy.
WeWork’s next phase
In a move meant to jump-start negotiations with lenders, WeWork skipped interest payments totaling about $95 million on Monday, DealBook’s Lauren Hirsch was first to report. The SoftBank-backed co-working firm, which is struggling with unprofitable leases, has a 30-day grace period to make the payment.
The company racked up $530 million in operating losses in the first half of the year, and it warned investors in August of “substantial doubt” about its “ability to continue as a going concern” if it was unable to decrease lease and debt burdens. Skipping the interest payments helps it conserve cash as it negotiates with landlords and plots next steps with lenders.
WeWork has the funds to cover payments. At the end of June, it had $205 million in cash and access to a $475 million credit line. WeWork last struck a deal in March with its lenders, including SoftBank, to cancel or convert into equity about $1.5 billion in debt and give the company until 2027 to repay a large portion of it.
Last month, WeWork said lease costs comprised more than two-thirds of its operating liabilities, straining cash flow. Not for the first time, the company is trying to renegotiate most of those contracts, many of which it accrued during a ravenous growth period, and pull out of unprofitable locations. In August, it turned to the adviser Hilco Global and a slew of restructuring experts.
David Tolley, WeWork’s interim C.E.O., told DealBook he sees growth potential for the company in a hybrid work world, but added that it is not “waiting for the market to carry us up and out of this window.”
THE SPEED READ
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