Posts tagged with "Chicago Tribune"

Chicago places ad in Texas paper to lure businesses, residents angry over Lone Star State’s new abortion, voting laws

September 14, 2021

Chicago is messing with Texas: Indeed, World Business Chicago, the public-private operation that serves as the city’s economic development arm, says it took out a full-page ad in the Sunday Dallas Morning News on September 12—inviting corporations to head north for the warm business climate and stay for the more liberal abortion and voting laws, The Chicago Tribune reports

The red, white, and blue print ad represents a swipe at restrictive legislation the Lonestar State passed on both fronts in recent months.

The ad opens with a friendly “Dear Texas” and proceeds to note that there “were always more than 100 Reasons” for companies to set up shop in Chicago, from the tech boom to the city’s place as a transportation hub.

But it quickly turns from a recruitment message to a political statement, offering “a few more” reasons to come to Chicago, including “Every person’s right to vote” and “Protecting reproductive rights” and “Science to fight COVID-19.”

As the Tribune reports, Texas is in the throes of several political battles on abortion and voting rights that have divided the nation. The state’s new abortion law, signed by Republican Governor Greg Abbott, prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect a baby’s heartbeat, usually around six weeks (and before many women know they’re pregnant).

This week, Abbott signed an elections overhaul into law that adds more voting restrictions in the booming state, after Democrats spent months protesting what they say are efforts to weaken minority turnout and preserve the GOP’s eroding dominance.

And last month, Abbott banned government mandates on mask-wearing and vaccines as the Delta variant of COVID-19 surges across the nation.

World Business Chicago spokesperson Andrew Hayes calls the ad “a bold step” on the city’s part, explaining that it’s an invitation to “Texans and Texas-based companies, challenged by recent controversial state laws and policies, to consider relocating to Chicago.”

The ad sets the stage for a new round of Democrats vs. Republicans. No doubt Texas GOP officials will fire back at Chicago and Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the chair of World Business Chicago, over soaring crime in that city—and as the reason Texas businesses should stay put.

Asked about the forthcoming ad, Governor Abbott’s Press Secretary Renae Eze said in a statement: “The Texas economy is booming. People and businesses vote with their feet, and month after month they are choosing to move to Texas more than any other state in the country. Businesses are relocating to and investing in the Lone Star State at a record pace because we’ve built a framework that allows free enterprise to flourish and hardworking Texans to prosper.”

Research contact: @chicagotribune

GM walks away from stake in Nikola after EV maker is accused of ‘intricate fraud’

December 1, 2020

General Motors has backed away from taking an initial stake in the Phoenix-based electric vehicle (EV) company Nikola—which, as a result, announced on November 30 that it would scuttle one of its marquee vehicles, an electric- and hydrogen-powered pickup that was to be called the Badger, The Chicago Tribune reports.

GM intends to be a major player in the EV market, pledging on its website:  “GM is on its way to an all-electric future, with a commitment to 30 new global electric vehicles by 2025 …. GM is positioned to design, engineer, and produce EVs for every style and price point, and we are rapidly building a competitive advantage in batteries, software, vehicle integration, manufacturing and customer experience.”

However, the decision to step away from the deal came after Nikola founder and Chairman Trevor Milton resigned abruptly from the company in September amid accusations of “intricate fraud” and “an Ocean of Lies” by Hindenburg Research. At that time, Nikola denied the allegations and called them “misleading.”

According to the Tribune’s report, Hindenburg said Nikola’s success amount to a hoax—including a video showing a truck rolling downhill to give the impression it was cruising on a highway, and stenciling the words “hydrogen electric” on the side of a vehicle that was actually powered by natural gas.

At that point, the seeds of distrust had been sown at GM. Indeed, the deal appeared to be in jeopardy as early as late September—when the Detroit-based major U.S. automaker evinced ambiguity about whether the $2 billion partnership would close as scheduled, saying that the deal had not closed and discussions with Nikola were continuing.

For its part, Nikola on Monday, November 30, released updated terms between the companies for a supply agreement related to GM’s fuel-cell system , replacing an agreement signed in September. That deal would have given GM an 11% stake in Nikola.

The early agreement would also have allowed Nikola to use GM’s new battery electric truck underpinnings for the Badger, and its fuel cell and battery technology as well. That is no longer part of the agreement, essentially gutting Nikola’s plans for the Badger. Nikola said Monday that it will begin refunding deposits made by customers who wanted first dibs on that pickup.

GM still will be part of a global supply agreement that would integrate GM’s Hydrotec fuel-cell system into Nikola’s commercial semi-trucks.

Nikola said Monday that its work on heavy trucks will continue. “Heavy trucks remain our core business and we are 100% focused on hitting our development milestones to bring clean hydrogen and battery-electric commercial trucks to market,” said Nikola.

The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department are reportedly investigating Hindenburg’s allegations. GM has said it did proper due diligence before entering the partnership.

Research contact: @chicagotribune

StarKist faces $100 million fine for fixing tuna prices

October 23, 2018

Charlie the Tuna is “on the hook” for a felony. StarKist—which has long been represented by the cartoon mascot (or spokes-tuna) in its brand advertising—has agreed to plead guilty for its role in a conspiracy to fix prices of packaged seafood sold in the United States, the Department of Justice announced on October 18.

The DOJ said StarKist—which is owned by Dongwon Industries of South Korea— faces up to a $100 million fine when it is sentenced, the Chicago Tribune reported. In addition to pleading guilty, StarKist has agreed to cooperate in the investigation.

Prosecutors allege that the industry’s top three companies conspired between 2010 and 2013 to keep prices artificially high.

“The conspiracy to fix prices on these household staples had direct effects on the pocketbooks of American consumers,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.  “All Americans have the right to the benefits of free and open competition—the best goods and services at a price free from collusion.  We will continue to hold companies and individuals who cheat consumers accountable.”

“Our citizens’ confidence in the ability to buy goods within an unbiased market is key to sustaining an efficient and fair economy,” said Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett, FBI-San Francisco. “This investigation stands as a symbol of our commitment to holding corporations and senior leadership accountable and ensuring that activities such as price-fixing will not be tolerated.”

“We have cooperated with the DOJ during the course of its investigation and accept responsibility,” said StarKist CEO Andrew Choe in a formal company statement, adding, “We will continue to conduct our business with the utmost transparency and integrity.  While this process is long-term in nature, we have addressed the necessary actions required in this plea agreement, including continuing to strengthen related compliance best practices.”

The scheme came to light when Thai Union Group‘s Chicken of the Sea tuna brand attempted to buy San Diego-based Bumble Bee failed in 2015, according to court records. Chicken of the Sea executives then alerted federal investigators, who agreed to shield the company from criminal prosecution in exchange for cooperation.

Bumble Bee Foods last year pleaded guilty to the same charge and paid a $25 million fine—$111 million lower than prosecutors said it should have been, the Tribune reported. Prosecutors said they feared putting the financially struggling Bumble Bee out of business with a high fine and agreed to let the company make interest-free payments for five years.

Two former executives of Bumble Bee and one from StarKist have also each pleaded guilty to price-fixing charges. None of them have been sentenced, the Tribune said..

In addition, the three companies face mounting lawsuits from wholesalers, food service companies, and retailers—among them, Walmart, Target, and Kroger.

Research contact: @TheJusticeDept