Emmanuel Faber, the chairman and chief executive of the French consumer group Danone, abruptly left the company on Monday under pressure from activist investors. Now, shareholders of the company, which owns Evian and several yogurt brands, including Dannon, are fighting among themselves about it.
CtW, an adviser to union pensions with more than $250 billion in assets, sent a sharply worded letter to Artisan Partners, the firm that led the revolt over Mr. Faber’s leadership. The twist in the letter, which was reviewed by the DealBook newsletter, is that CtW owns a “substantial” number of Artisan shares — and said that the fund needed the sort of governance shake-up it pushed for at Danone.
Artisan had criticized Danone’s performance versus competitors like Nestlé and Unilever, calling for boardroom changes, including someone other than Mr. Faber becoming chairman. Mr. Faber had been chief executive since 2014 and added the chairman role in 2017. Danone said at the beginning of the month that it would search for a new chief executive, but Mr. Faber would remain as chairman. Mr. Faber shed both of those roles on Monday.
“The appointment of new leadership and better corporate governance will strengthen the company for the benefit of all stakeholders,” Artisan said in a statement on Monday welcoming Mr. Faber’s departure.
CtW says Artisan’s own policies are inconsistent with its demands for Danone. Notably, one person, Eric Colson, serves as Artisan’s chairman and chief executive. “Artisan’s call for an independent chair at Danone while maintaining the positions of C.E.O. and chair combined on its own board is inconsistent with best governance practices,” wrote Dieter Waizenegger, CtW’s executive director. He also questioned the firm’s use of “large discretionary cash bonuses” and demanded a discussion with Artisan’s management by the end of the month.
Artisan did not respond to a request for comment.
Danone, which reported $28 billion in sales in its latest fiscal year, was the first public company to adopt the French legal framework of “Entreprise à Mission,” which allows companies to take greater consideration of social and environmental issues in their business model. Some 99 percent of shareholders, but not Artisan Partners, approved the move in June last year.
The turmoil raises the question whether business models that take all stakeholders into account can survive resistance from activist investors focused primarily on shareholder returns. Danone said in a statement announcing the management changes that it “believes in the necessity” of combining “high economic performance” with Danone’s “unique model of a purpose-driven company.”
Signal, the encrypted chat app, had stopped functioning in China as of Tuesday, in what appeared to be a block of one of the last major foreign messaging services still available in the country, where the internet is closely controlled.
Users in China on Tuesday morning reported widely that the app had stopped working. A New York Times test of the app in Shanghai and Beijing confirmed the reports. Signal did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
The outage appeared likely to be a government-led block. The app continued to work when users in the mainland logged on to the service via a virtual private network, software that routes their connections outside the country.
Signal allows messages to be sent with “end-to-end encryption,” which blocks anyone but the sender and receiver from reading the contents. The app has soared in popularity globally in recent months a fears have grown over data harvesting from large internet companies.
The likely block further limits communication options on China’s internet, where the government has built a sophisticated system of censorship and surveillance to control speech. Over the past 15 years, Beijing has steadily winnowed down the major foreign communication tools available to regular Chinese users. Services like Google’s Gmail, Facebook’s WhatsApp and Twitter are all blocked.
In recent years, Signal had grown a modest following in China among activists, journalists, lawyers and others as China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, has presided over a series of campaigns to crack down on the media, civil society groups and online speech broadly.
For years, it had been a parlor game among its users in China to guess why Signal, long a well-known tool for secret communications, remained unblocked. One theory was that it helped the authorities find who was trying to hide from government spies because, when first downloaded, the app sends the new user a text message that they could possibly track. Still, China’s government often waits for apps to reach larger scale before banning them. Last month, the social media site Clubhouse fell afoul of the blocks after it soared in popularity.
The Taiwanese electronics behemoth Foxconn, which is aiming to become a contract manufacturer of electric cars, is considering a plant in the United States for production of its first battery-powered vehicles, the company’s chairman said on Tuesday.
Foxconn is weighing whether to use its facility in Wisconsin or one of its plants in Mexico to make its clients’ vehicles, Young Liu, the company’s chairman and chief executive, said at a news briefing in Taipei, the Taiwanese capital.
Foxconn, best-known for making iPhones for Apple, has moved eagerly to expand its car business as the world shifts away from internal combustion engines. Last month, it signed an agreement with the California-based start-up Fisker to develop a new electric vehicle. The two companies said they would aim to start jointly producing cars in 2023, with a goal of eventually making more than 250,000 of them a year.
On Tuesday, Mr. Liu emphasized that Foxconn had not made a final decision about where to manufacture cars for Fisker or any other potential partners.
Foxconn has taken its time figuring out what to produce at its site in Wisconsin, a reflection of the complicated economics of manufacturing in the United States.
At a groundbreaking ceremony for the plant in 2018, President Donald J. Trump said it would be the “eighth wonder of the world,” as a manufacturer of flat-screen TVs. But those plans have stalled, and the company will announce what it decides to make in Wisconsin — whether electric cars or something else — before July, Mr. Liu said.
In October, Foxconn unveiled a kit of technology and tools aimed at helping automakers develop electric vehicles. It also said it was aiming to release a solid-state battery by 2024. Many companies are investing in the technology behind such batteries, which would allow electric cars to travel farther and be charged more quickly than current batteries.
“It’s just the beginning of this E.V. era,” Mr. Liu said. “We have to be ready for that.”
President Biden plans to visit a small business in Pennsylvania on Tuesday to promote the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which contains an assortment of measures aimed at helping small employers and their workers endure the pandemic’s economic shocks.
The aid bill created a $29 billion grant fund for restaurants and set aside additional money for several relief programs run by the Small Business Administration, including a long-delayed grant program for music clubs and other live-event businesses that the agency said would start accepting applications early next month.
But the Biden administration’s most sweeping small-business initiative has been hindered by problems. Last month, the administration announced changes to the Paycheck Protection Program that were intended to get more money to freelancers, gig workers and other self-employed people.
Women and minority owners are much more likely to run tiny businesses than larger ones, and they were disproportionately shut out of the Paycheck Protection Program under earlier rules that calculated such companies’ forgivable relief loans based on the size of their annual profit. The Biden administration’s more forgiving formula lets those businesses instead use their gross income, a switch that significantly increased the money available to many applicants.
But the change was not retroactive, which has set off a backlash from the hundreds of thousands of borrowers who got much smaller loans than they would now qualify for. Many have used social media or written to government officials to vent their anger.
JagMohan Dilawri, a self-employed chauffeur in Queens, got a loan in February for $1,900. Under the new rules, he calculates that he would have been eligible for around $15,000. That wide gulf frustrated Mr. Dilawri, who has struggled to keep up on his mortgage, car loan and auto insurance payments since the pandemic took hold.
“When the Biden administration came, they said, ‘We will be fair with everyone,’” he said. “But this is unfair.”
Small Business Administration officials have said that only Congress can fix that disparity. Some key Democratic lawmakers say they are willing.
“I am aware of the situation facing these sole proprietors and am working to ensure they get the funds they are entitled to under the Biden administration’s rule changes retroactively,” said Representative Nydia M. Velázquez, a New York Democrat who leads the House Small Business Committee. “My staff and I are working with the S.B.A. and congressional Republicans to find a path forward, whether that be through agency action or additional legislation.”
Wall Street followed European and Asian markets higher on Tuesday, adding slightly to gains that on Monday lifted the S&P 500 to a record.
The S&P 500 rose about 0.1 percent in early trading while the Nasdaq composite gained more than half a percent. The Stoxx Europe 600 and FTSE 100 rose about 0.8 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index and the Nikkei in Japan had climbed more than half a percent earlier.
The gains came despite recent turmoil about the vaccine rollout in Europe, and growing expectations of a new round of pandemic-related restrictions there.
Several European countries, including Germany, France, Denmark and Norway, have halted the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine after reports that some people had developed fatal brain hemorrhages and blood clots after receiving the vaccine. AstraZeneca has said there is “no evidence” of a link, and the European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organization have warned that countries suspending use of the vaccine would disrupt the rollout.
But investors are in wait-and-see mode ahead of central bank meetings this week.
On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve will announce its policy stance and publish new economic forecasts. Analysts at BNP Paribas said the Fed chair, Jerome H. Powell, faces a tricky balancing act: acknowledging the improved economic outlook and increase in bond yields, while defending the central bank’s easy-money policies.
Investors have been focused on interest rates and inflation expectations for the past several weeks, concerned that resurgent growth in the United States might prompt the Fed to start to wind down efforts to keep rates low sooner than they’d expected. Fed officials have repeatedly said that they’re not concerned about lasting inflation, and that they have no intention of ending their efforts to keep the financial system functioning smoothly.
On Thursday, the Bank of England will announce a rate decision. Economists are not forecasting a change in policy.
A survey of investor confidence in Germany’s economic outlook rose in March, for the fourth consecutive month. The Stoxx Europe 600 index rose 0.5 percent and the DAX index of Germany’s 30 largest companies by market value gained 0.6 percent.
Shares in NatWest, formerly known as Royal Bank of Scotland, fell 1.8 percent after Britain’s financial regulator said it has begun criminal proceedings against the bank for failing to properly follow money laundering rules.
Oil prices fell. Futures of West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, dropped 1.5 percent to about $64.50 a barrel.
Volkswagen shares spiked as much as 29 percent after the German carmaker said on Monday that it was going all in on electric cars, with plans to build battery factories in Europe and work out how to drastically cut charing times.
Facebook will pay Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp for its journalism in Australia. The deal, announced on Tuesday, comes a month after Facebook temporarily banned all news links from its platform in the country in response to legislation that sought to force digital giants to compensate publishers. Few details of the multiyear deal, including how much Facebook will pay News Corp, were released. Google reached its own three-year deal News Corp last month.
Commerzbank, one of Germany’s largest banks, said on Monday that Hans-Jörg Vetter would step down as chairman of the supervisory board for health reasons after barely six months in the position. Mr. Vetter, 68, was appointed chairman in August over the objections of shareholders led by Cerberus, the private equity firm, which owns a 5 percent stake in Commerzbank and wanted someone it thought would be more likely to force changes. The German government is the bank’s biggest shareholder with 15 percent.
Viewership for the Grammy Awards on CBS on Sunday fell to 8.8 million viewers, according to Nielsen, the television research firm. That’s a new low for the show and a 53 percent drop compared with last year’s show, which drew 18.7 million viewers. The previous low was 17 million viewers in 2006, when Green Day won record of the year.
The future for the travel industry is looking a little brighter as more Americans get vaccinated, states open up and resorts sell out, the nation’s largest airlines said Monday. Speaking at the J.P. Morgan Industrial Conference on Monday, the chief executive of Delta Air Lines, Ed Bastian, said he was starting to see “real glimmers of hope” as ticket sales accelerated. At the same conference, the United Airlines chief executive, Scott Kirby, said his company would end the month having taken in more cash from operations than it spent.
The Hatch is alive, albeit as a different place.
Louwenda Kachingwe used ingenuity and a bit of good fortune to take advantage of federal money and discounted leases to not only hold on but expand his Oakland, Calif., bar, Jack Nicas reports for The New York Times.
He lobbied city officials to close down a lane of traffic and then twice built a patio in its place. (Days of rain ruined the first patio.) He and staff built the takeout window, rewrote the menu, moved a projector and screen outside, and bought an outdoor sound system off Craigslist.
He said the Hatch was now better suited for a post-pandemic world, with more outdoor space and a takeout operation. It also suddenly has a few sister businesses.
Last month, he and the Hatch’s manager, Robin Easterbrook, opened Pothead, a flower and wine shop, next door to the Hatch. They also took on a third lease in the empty space next to Pothead as a place to build larger floral arrangements for events, to stage a new operation making bottled cocktails and sauces, and to sublease the storefront to some friends’ apparel business.
Such a bet in the midst of a pandemic was bold, but Mr. Kachingwe saw opportunity. He had just received his second $72,500 forgivable loan from the federal government, and his landlord was desperate. So Mr. Kachingwe negotiated a deal that gave him access to the three adjacent storefronts for $7,500 a month, or 20 percent more than what he was paying for only the Hatch before the pandemic. The landlord said they would assess the arrangement at the end of April.
Over two decades, as Amazon mushroomed from a virtual bookstore into a $1.5 trillion behemoth, it forcefully — and successfully — resisted employee efforts to organize. Some workers in recent years agitated for change in Staten Island, Chicago, Sacramento and Minnesota, but the impact was negligible.
The arrival of the coronavirus last year changed that, reports David Streitfeld for The New York Times. It turned Amazon into an essential resource for millions stuck at home and redefined the company’s relationship with its warehouse workers. Like many service industry employees, they were vulnerable to the virus. As society locked down, they were also less able to simply move on if they had issues with the job.
Now Amazon faces a union vote at a warehouse in Bessemer, Ala. — the largest and most viable U.S. labor challenge in its history. Nearly 6,000 workers have until March 29 to decide whether to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. A labor victory could energize workers in other U.S. communities, where Amazon has more than 800 warehouses employing more than 500,000 people.
“This is happening in the toughest state, with the toughest company, at the toughest moment,” said Janice Fine, a professor of labor studies at Rutgers University. “If the union can prevail given those three facts, it will send a message that Amazon is organizable everywhere.”
But a unionization effort in Chester, V.a., which The Times reconstructed with documents from regulators and the machinists’ union, as well as interviews with former facilities technicians at the warehouse and union officials, offers one of the fullest pictures of what encourages Amazon workers to open the door to a union — and what techniques the company uses to slam the door and nail it shut.
The tactics that Amazon used in Chester are surfacing elsewhere:
The retail workers union said Amazon was trying to surveil employees in Bessemer and even changed a traffic signal to prevent organizers from approaching warehouse workers as they left the site.
Last month, the New York attorney general said in a lawsuit that Amazon had retaliated against employees who tried to protest its pandemic safety measures as inadequate.