Boeing joins other federal contractors in dropping its vaccine mandate.

A court has blocked enforcement of President Biden’s executive order that had instructed federal contractors to require coronavirus vaccines for employees.,

ImageIn a note to employees, Boeing also strongly encouraged all workers to get a vaccine and booster shots.
In a note to employees, Boeing also strongly encouraged all workers to get a vaccine and booster shots.Credit…Paulo Whitaker/Reuters

Boeing said on Friday that it had suspended a vaccination requirement for employees after a court blocked enforcement of an executive order by President Biden that instructed federal contractors to impose such mandates.

The announcement comes after several other companies, including Amtrak, General Electric, Union Pacific and BNSF Railway, recently dropped their vaccine mandates, citing the court order. Some employers have also said that the vaccine mandate has made it harder to hire people at a time when workers are in short supply.

Boeing said that about 92 percent of its more than 110,000 U.S. employees were fully vaccinated or had secured exemptions from the mandate. Overall, about 72 percent of all adult Americans have received the one or two shots of coronavirus vaccines regulators have determined provide protection from the virus. Some companies that required employees to be vaccinated months ago, like United Airlines, a Boeing customer, have said close to 100 percent of their employees have been vaccinated.

“After careful review, Boeing has suspended its vaccination requirement in line with a federal court’s decision prohibiting enforcement of the federal contractor executive order and a number of state laws,” the company said in a statement. “As we have throughout the pandemic, we will continue to monitor and follow federal, state and local requirements.”

But in a note to employees, Boeing also strongly encouraged all workers to get a vaccine and booster shots, highlighting how companies are struggling to strike a balance on coronavirus vaccines, an issue that has become freighted with politics as many conservatives rail against mandates. Managers are contending with two contradictory pressures: from workers who do not want to be required to get the vaccine and from employees worried about getting sick or infecting vulnerable family members and friends.

“According to the C.D.C., the vaccines are safe, effective and our best tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Dr. Laura Cain, Boeing’s chief medical officer, said in the note. “I want to strongly encourage our employees to get vaccinated or get a booster if they have not done so to help protect their teammates, families and communities.”

On Tuesday, Amtrak said it was dropping its mandate, though about 97 percent of its work force had already received a shot or an exemption from the vaccine mandate. Fewer than 500 Amtrak employees have not been vaccinated, its chief executive said. The government-owned railroad acted after federal contractors like G.E., Union Pacific and BNSF Railway did away with their mandates last week.

Stocks on Wall Street dropped on Friday, with the S&P 500 set to end the week with a loss, in another day of turbulent trading that reflected uncertainty about the path for interest rates and the coronavirus.

Trading has been volatile all week as investors absorbed a shift in policy from the Federal Reserve and its counterparts in Europe. Major indexes soared on Wednesday, then dropped on Thursday, after the Fed said it would pull back faster on the monetary policy stimulus that has helped support the economy since the start of the pandemic.

The Fed’s decision to end its bond-buying program by March could lead to higher interest rates in 2022.

On Friday, John C. Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, suggested that he did not expect the Fed would need to move more quickly to end its bond-buying program than it had already signaled. Mr. Williams also said any decision to raise interest rates would depend on progress in the economy.

After falling more than 1 percent in the morning, the S&P 500 was down around 0.7 percent in early afternoon trading. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite was unchanged.

For the week, the S&P 500 is poised to end with a decline of more than 1.7 percent. The Nasdaq composite is on track to end the week down close to 3 percent.

Some of the selling this week could reflect the decision among investors to lock in their profits for the year, ahead of the Christmas and New Year holiday stretch, said Anu Gaggar, global investment strategist for Commonwealth Financial Network.

“With the Fed raising rates, the Omicron variant spreading faster and the holidays coming up, people don’t want to keep that exposure or risk open on their box when their off for the holidays,” said Ms. Gaggar said. “They would rather be more on the defensive side.”

The indication that rates are going to rise is curbing investor appetite for risky investments, like technology stocks, which swung between gains and losses on Friday. Microsoft and Alphabet were down more than 1 percent in midday trading, while Apple was down 0.9 percent. All four are down for the week.

But the prospects of higher interest rates is good news for banks because they mean increased profits from loans. After gaining earlier in the week, shares of banks were lower Friday. Bank of America was down 2.6 percent and JPMorgan Chase falling 2.5 percent.

In Europe, the Bank of England and the European Central Bank also took steps toward combating inflation during their policy meetings on Thursday. Britain’s central bank decided to increase its main interest rate for the first time, while the eurozone’s central bank said it would stop purchases under a bond-buying program in March.

European stock indexes dropped on Friday, with the Stoxx Europe 600 closing 0.6 percent lower.

All three central banks have made the approach to pull back on their economic support even as uncertainties over the Omicron variant of the coronavirus continue to linger. The emergence of the new form of the virus has also pushed stocks lower this week as the United States faces a 40 percent surge in cases from two weeks ago.

Last week, preliminary research signaled that the Omicron variant was less severe than other forms of the virus, driving shares higher. However, more recent studies suggest Omicron is highly transmissible and less susceptible to vaccines than other variants.

Oil prices also fell on Friday, with West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, down 2 percent to $70.93 a barrel. Energy stocks fell, with Diamondback Energy down 2.2 percent and Enphase Energy down nearly 1 percent.

Gary Kelly, chief executive of Southwest Airlines, during a Senate hearing on Wednesday.Credit…Pool photo by Tom Brenner

The chief executive of Southwest Airlines, Gary Kelly, tested positive for the coronavirus after appearing at a Senate hearing with other airline industry officials this week, the company confirmed on Friday.

Mr. Kelly tested negative several times before attending the hearing on Wednesday, but received a positive result after returning home and experiencing mild symptoms. Mr. Kelly, who is 66, is fully vaccinated, has received a booster shot and is resting at home, Southwest said.

Mr. Kelly appeared before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Wednesday to discuss the impact of billions of dollars of federal pandemic aid to the airline industry. He was joined in person by Scott Kirby, the chief executive of United Airlines; Doug Parker, the chief executive of American Airlines; John Laughter, the chief of operations at Delta Air Lines; and Sara Nelson, the head of the Association of Flight Attendants. Each was unmasked for at least part of the hearing. Many senators on the committee also did not wear masks, but they sat further apart from each other.

At one point during the hearing, Senator Roger Wicker, Republican of Missouri, asked Mr. Kelly if passengers would ever be able to travel on planes without masks.

“I think the case is very strong that masks don’t add much, if anything, in the air cabin environment,” Mr. Kelly said, praising the air filtration on planes. “It’s very safe and very high quality compared to any other indoor setting.”

Mr. Kirby, the United executive, who is vaccinated and led an early charge to require vaccination at his company, tested negative for the virus on Friday, the airline said. Mr. Laughter tested negative on Thursday and Friday. American said in a statement that Mr. Parker was “symptom-free, fully vaccinated and getting tested this afternoon.”

Ms. Nelson, of the flight attendants union, said in a statement that she was notified of Mr. Kelly’s positive test just as she was returning to work from getting a booster shot.

“I am following C.D.C. protocols and will test several times within the 5-7 day recommended period, and before traveling with my family for the holidays,” she said in a statement. “Get vaxxed, wear a mask, and be kind!”

Correction: Dec. 17, 2021

An earlier version of this article, using information provided by Southwest Airlines, misidentified the age of Gary Kelly, the airline’s chief executive. He is 66, not 67.

Elizabeth Holmes leaving court on Thursday. Ms. Holmes is accused of fleecing investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars and misleading patients and doctors.Credit…Nic Coury/Associated Press

SAN JOSE, Calif. — For more than three months, the defendant has donned a medical mask, clutched arms with her mother and entered the Robert F. Peckham Federal Building in San Jose, Calif., where executives, scientists and investors have accused her of fraud.

Soon a jury of strangers will decide on her guilt.

Lawyers on both sides of the trial of Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of the blood testing start-up Theranos, continued their closing arguments on Friday, inching the monthslong saga closer to a verdict.

In the courtroom on Friday morning, Kevin Downey, a lawyer for Ms. Holmes, stood behind a podium and spoke for several hours, attempting to discredit each of the government’s witnesses and raise doubt in jurors’ minds. As he flipped through slides with headings that included “All of this is accurate” and “Not every potential issue is an actual issue,” a few jurors scribbled notes.

Ms. Holmes faces 11 charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud for claims she made to investors and patients about Theranos’s technology and business dealings. She has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in prison.

The trial, which has alternated between media spectacle and business school cautionary tale, has come to represent a moment of truth in Silicon Valley, where executives have rarely faced consequences for their inflated claims. If Ms. Holmes is found guilty, prosecutors could begin to more aggressively dig into the wildly optimistic tales of rocket ship growth at more start-ups.

Even if she is acquitted, some executives may still tread more carefully in their optimistic pitches. Start-ups have been riding a wave of investor exuberance for nearly a decade, despite repeated warnings of bubble-like behavior that could lead to more disasters like Theranos.

“I would suspect that C.E.O.s of similar companies will be more careful when they talk,” said Andrey Spektor, a lawyer at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner and a former federal prosecutor in New York’s Eastern District. He said recordings of Ms. Holmes pitching her company to investors and on TV were among the most incriminating evidence in the case.

Prosecutors used dozens of witnesses and hundreds of documents to argue that Ms. Holmes, 37, knowingly lied to investors about Theranos. She said the company had military contracts when it did not, that its technology was “comprehensively validated” by pharmaceutical companies when it had not been, and that its machines could do hundreds of tests when it could only do a dozen.

On Thursday, Jeff Schenk, an assistant U.S. attorney and one of the lead prosecutor, summarized the government’s case simply: When Theranos was almost out of money, Ms. Holmes could have let it fail. But she chose to defraud investors instead, he said.

“That choice was not only callous, it was criminal,” Mr. Schenk said.

Ms. Holmes’s lawyers countered with a range of responses: She had been told by her colleagues that the technology worked, she hid information to protect trade secrets, she was being controlled by her much-older boyfriend, who was also her business partner, and the broader narrative was more complicated than the prosecution made it seem.

“The government is showing an event that looks bad, but at the end of the day, when all the evidence flows together, it isn’t so bad,” said Mr. Downey. He showed slides illustrating the steep burden of the government to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that Ms. Holmes had knowingly lied to get money.

Ms. Holmes’s defense primarily relied on her own testimony, which lasted seven days and upended the narrative of the case. It was the first time that Ms. Holmes had told her version of the events leading to Theranos’s collapse, which has been widely documented in podcasts, books, documentaries and news reports.

On the stand, Ms. Holmes painted herself as a hardworking and ambitious entrepreneur who believed in her company’s technology and potential. Any exaggerations or misleading statements were merely her projecting grand plans for the future, she implied.

She further said Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, her longtime boyfriend and business partner, had berated her and controlled every aspect of her life. She also accused him of sexual abuse, which he has denied. Their relationship had been kept a secret at the time.

But in court, every aspect of the relationship — text messages, emails, conversations, infidelities and the limited liability company through which they owned a home — were picked apart. Prosecutors dug in to try to show the pair conspired to commit fraud. Ms. Holmes’s lawyers tried to show she was a victim.

It is rare for defendants in white-collar criminal trials to take the stand, and it is even rarer for them to introduce testimony of abuse. Ms. Holmes’s lawyers were expected to call an expert witness to tie her claims of intimate partner abuse to the alleged fraud, but they did not.

On Thursday, Mr. Schenk asked the jury not to dwell on the abuse accusations. “The case is about false statements made to investors and false statements made to patients,” he said. “You do not need to question whether that abuse happened.”

Ms. Holmes’s testimony added to the spectacle of the trial, drawing large crowds of onlookers who often waited more than five hours outside the courtroom for one of its limited seats. One man yelled that Ms. Holmes was a “girl boss” as she entered the building, and a trio of attendees pretended to sell black turtlenecks — Ms. Holmes’s business uniform during Theranos’s rise — as part of a performance art piece.

Outside the studios of Fox News Media in New York. The network has been accused of advancing lies that devastated the reputation and business of Dominion Voting Systems.Credit…Ted Shaffrey/Associated Press

A judge on Thursday rejected an attempt by the Rupert Murdoch-owned Fox News Media to dismiss a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems over the network’s coverage of the company’s role in the 2020 presidential election.

In the ruling, Judge Eric M. Davis of the Superior Court of Delaware, where Fox is incorporated, wrote that he had denied Fox News Media’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit because it was “reasonably conceivable that Dominion has a claim for defamation.”

Dominion, an election technology company, sued Fox News Media in March, accusing it of advancing lies that devastated its reputation and business. More than two dozen states, including several carried by former President Donald J. Trump, made use of Dominion, a Denver company founded in 2002, in last year’s election.

Along with another vote tabulating company, Smartmatic, Dominion was at the center of a baseless pro-Trump conspiracy theory about rigged voting machines that gave the election to President Biden. The false claims were promoted by the president and his advisers, including Rudolph Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who appeared on Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network.

In May, Fox filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that Dominion’s lawsuit threatened the news media’s First Amendment right to chronicle and assess newsworthy claims.

In his ruling, Judge Davis disputed the arguments put forth by Fox, including that its employees were reporting in a neutral manner on statements made by advisers of the then-president and that claims made on its channels were opinion, and thus constituted protected speech.

The judge wrote that he was not persuaded by Fox’s “neutral reportage” and “opinion” arguments. He added that the company either “knew its statements about Dominion’s role in election fraud were false” or that it “had a high degree of awareness that the statements were false.”

Judge Davis also noted that Dominion had objected in writing to Fox’s coverage, seemingly to no avail. The allegations made by Dominion in its complaint, he wrote, “support the reasonable inference that Fox intended to keep Dominion’s side of the story out of the narrative.”

A Dominion spokeswoman said in a statement: “We are pleased to see this process moving forward to hold Fox accountable.”

In a statement on Thursday, a Fox spokeswoman said, “We remain committed to defending against this baseless lawsuit and its all-out assault on the First Amendment.”

The 52-page ruling included examples of statements made on shows hosted by Mario Bartiromo, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro and Lou Dobbs, whose Fox Business Network program was canceled in February.

The judge wrote that those hosts had provided platforms to people who were spreading the false narrative of election fraud involving Dominion and that the hosts’ own statements sometimes lent weight to the baseless claims. Also figuring in the court’s decision to allow the case to go forward was the fact that other Fox journalists had publicly stated the claims of widespread vote fraud were false.

“The nearby presence of dissenting colleagues thus further suggests Fox, through personnel like Mr. Dobbs, was knowing or reckless in reporting the claims,” Judge Davis wrote.

Barring a successful appeal of the ruling, Dominion now has the power to compel Fox to produce internal documents related to the issues raised in the suit and to have its employees testify in deposition.

Don Herzog, who teaches First Amendment and defamation law at the University of Michigan, said in an interview that Fox faced a decision: It could settle, which might be seen as an admission of wrongdoing, or it could go through the discovery process, which could eventually make its internal communications public.

Timothy Zick, a professor at William & Mary Law School who specializes in First Amendment law, said that Fox would be more incentivized to settle the suit than it previously was. “The danger for them is that a lot of embarrassing email correspondence and other documents will come out, if they don’t settle the case,” he said. Mr. Zick added that Dominion might not be willing to settle.

The prospect of the publication of Fox’s internal communications concerning its coverage of the 2020 election follows the recent disclosure of text messages sent by its hosts to Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s final White House chief of staff, during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. On their shows this week, the hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham vociferously defended the messages, which made vivid the close relationship between the network and Mr. Trump’s administration. Mr. Hannity and Ms. Ingraham said that nothing in their text messages differed from their public statements.

Fox faces another high-stakes legal battle over its election coverage because of a defamation lawsuit filed in February by Smartmatic.

The day after Smartmatic filed its suit, Fox Business Network abruptly canceled “Lou Dobbs Tonight.” Mr. Dobbs, a loyal supporter of Mr. Trump, was the host of the channel’s most-watched show.

In its suit, Smartmatic cited a false claim made by Ms. Powell on “Lou Dobbs Tonight” that Hugo Ch?vez, the former president of Venezuela, had a hand in the creation of Smartmatic technology, designing it so that the votes it processed could be changed undetected. (Mr. Ch?vez, who died in 2013, did not have anything to do with Smartmatic.) Mr. Dobbs had also referred to the supposed vote conspiracy as “cyber Pearl Harbor,” borrowing a phrase that had been used by Ms. Powell.

Christopher J. Waller, a Fed governor. The Fed said Wednesday that would pare buying back even faster, so that it wraps up by mid-March.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Christopher J. Waller, a Federal Reserve governor, said it might be appropriate for policymakers to raise interest rates soon after they complete the bond purchase program they had been using to support the economy — suggesting he thinks higher borrowing costs could be appropriate as early as March.

The Fed had been buying $120 billion in bonds each month for much of the pandemic, but it announced in early November that it would begin to slow those purchases down in a bid to stop pouring additional fuel into a rapidly-growing economy. On Wednesday, the central bank said it would pare the buying back even faster, so that the program wraps up by mid-March. That will put Fed officials into position to raise interest rates, their more powerful and traditional tool, without worrying that their two policies are working at odds to one another.

“Given my expectations for inflation and labor market conditions, I believe an increase in the target range for the federal funds rate will be warranted shortly after our asset purchases end,” Mr. Waller said in a speech on Friday, hinting at a rapid path ahead for returning monetary policy to a more normal setting.

The decision to wrap up bond purchases sooner, he said, is “providing flexibility for other adjustments to monetary policy, if needed, as early as spring to accommodate changes in the economic outlook.” He later clarified that he saw March as a potentially “live” meeting for a rate increase.

“We could be ready for a liftoff in March or May,” Mr. Waller said, if his expectations came to pass. He then noted that officials could watch to see how rate increases affected the economy and if inflation slowed as expected later next year, potentially speeding up the pace if price gains remain brisk.

“Do some hikes, see what the impact is,” Mr. Waller said.

Mr. Waller’s haste came as he voiced concern about inflation, which has risen to the highest level in nearly 40 years, and optimism about growth.

Inflation “is alarmingly high, persistent, and has broadened to affect more categories of goods and services, compared with earlier this year,” Mr. Waller said.

Mr. Waller is just one of 12 people on the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee, so his view on when interest rates should rise reflects his opinion, rather than standing as a clear signal of what is coming. But he may be giving voice to concerns that are becoming more widely shared among policymakers.

Mr. Waller said the new Omicron coronavirus variant could hinder the labor market’s progress back to full employment, but could also help to keep inflation high.

“We also do not know if Omicron will exacerbate labor and goods supply shortages and add inflation pressure, derailing the moderation of inflation next year that is my baseline,” Mr. Waller said.

“We will have to be ready in the coming weeks to adjust as needed,” he later added.

His comments came on the heels of a CNBC interview in which John C. Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, suggested he did not expect that the central bank would need to move more quickly to end its bond-buying program than it had already signaled.

“We are ending the program pretty soon,” Mr. Williams said, adding that he did not see “any real benefit to trying to speed it up further — it’s really about getting our monetary policy stance in a good position.”

Mr. Williams said the goal with acceleration the end of the program was to create “optionality” — the ability to respond to inflation with higher rates if needed — without moving so abruptly that it created disruption in markets.

Rates are set to near-zero, but Fed officials released fresh projections this week showing that they expected to make three increases in 2022 and lift the federal funds rate to 2.1 percent by the end of 2024. That would make borrowing for mortgages, care loans and business expansions more expensive, slowing down the economy.

Mr. Waller seemed to see rate increases coming soon, but both he and Mr. Williams emphasized that the timing and pace of rate increases — which the Fed uses to make sure that growth does not overheat, keeping inflation elevated and potentially causing it to rocket out of control — would hinge on incoming economic data.

“It’s going to depend on the data,” Mr. Williams said, later adding, “I’m pretty optimistic, we are seeing strong improvement in the labor market.”

Didi trading on the New York Stock Exchange in June. The company said it would delist from the exchange, and now plans a listing in Hong Kong instead.Credit…Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters

An American accounting board has started what could prove to be a three-year clock for the delisting of many Chinese companies traded on American stock exchanges, in a move involving audit standards that are at the center of a squabble between Beijing and Washington.

The move comes as some Chinese companies have already begun seeking listings on stock markets in mainland China or Hong Kong instead of New York in response to demands from Beijing for greater control of potentially sensitive data. Didi Chuxing, the Chinese ride-hailing giant, said two weeks ago that it would delist from the New York Stock Exchange, and now plans a listing in Hong Kong instead.

But Chinese regulators have wanted to preserve American stock listings as an option for Chinese companies that are not involved in potentially sensitive political or national security issues. The latest dispute over accounting could make that more difficult.

The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board said late Thursday that it had been unable to fully inspect the audit papers and other documents of accounting firms in mainland China and Hong Kong. The Securities and Exchange Commission has the power to delist companies that lack fully approved overseas audits for three years.

The board said that in the 13 months through the end of September, 15 accounting firms registered with the board and based in mainland China or Hong Kong had signed the audit reports for 191 publicly traded companies with a combined global market capitalization of $1.9 trillion.

The United States and China have been arguing about the audit issue for more than a decade. The China Securities Regulatory Commission has contended over the last several years, most recently in a statement on Dec. 5, that it is prepared to cooperate with the United States and reach a series of agreements that protect investors while also shielding China’s security and other interests.

The American accounting board, a nonprofit corporation that works closely with the S.E.C., disputes that China has shown flexibility. “They persistently have taken positions that prevent the finalization of, or their full performance under, such agreements,” the board said.

The Chinese commission had no immediate reaction on Friday. Chinese state-owned media groups were silent on the board’s decision.

Li You contributed research.

JPMorgan is fined after staff used personal chats for company business.Credit…Johannes Eisele/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

JPMorgan Chase was fined $200 million by regulators on Friday for failing to track work-related communication on employees’ personal cellphones and email.

Staff members in the bank’s securities division avoided oversight by discussing company business on their personal devices via text messages, the messaging service WhatsApp and personal email accounts, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which find the bank $125 million. The bank’s “widespread and longstanding failures” spanned from January 2018 to November 2020, the S.E.C. said.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission also fined the bank $75 million in a separate enforcement order for similar misconduct dating back to 2015.

JPMorgan admitted that its conduct violated federal securities and commodity-trading laws, which are aimed at protecting investors and maintaining fair markets. It also agreed to hire a compliance consultant to review its policies and procedures for retaining electronic communications.

Record-keeping is “an essential part of market integrity and a foundational component of the S.E.C.’s ability to be an effective cop on the beat,” Gary Gensler, the S.E.C. chairman, said in the statement. “As technology changes, it’s even more important that registrants ensure that their communications are appropriately recorded and are not conducted outside of official channels.”

A spokesman for the bank declined to comment.

The magnitude of the fines could serve as a warning to Wall Street, where bankers have increasingly relied on text messages and chats, preferring them to company email.

Serious penalties for failing to maintain proper records have generally been rare: The last major S.E.C. fine for such conduct was just $15 million against Morgan Stanley in 2006, for failing to produce emails during investigations on initial public offerings and research produced by analysts.

The S.E.C. has not yet closed its investigation into JPMorgan, which found that more than 100 people, including senior managers, used personal communications to send tens of thousands of messages that were not properly retained in the bank’s systems, according to an S.E.C. official briefed on the matter who declined to be identified discussing a still-open inquiry. The messages covered a wide range of topics, from investment strategy to client meetings, and involved various teams, including parts of the investment bank, the person said.

The regulator only learned about the unapproved communications through third parties, including in one instance in which it was investigating JPMorgan’s role as an underwriter, the S.E.C. said in enforcement order. Employees including desk heads, managing directors and other senior executives sent more than 21,000 texts and emails relating to work for an investment-banking client from January 2018 to November 2019. The bank did not keep records of those communications, according to the order.

The JPMorgan inquiry has also prompted investigations into other financial firms’ records, the regulator said on Friday. It encouraged companies to come forward to report any similar issues. That is because firms that voluntarily report lapses in compliance to the authorities typically receive less severe punishments.

Lawmakers are still active buyers and sellers of equities, and they are dabbling in options and cryptocurrencies.Credit…Shawn Thew/EPA, via Shutterstock

Lawmakers traded fewer company stocks this year compared with last, perhaps because of the increased scrutiny that the questionable practice brings.

But they are still active buyers and sellers, courting controversy over potential conflicts of interest between their private financial dealings and public influence over rules and regulation.

They are also dabbling more than ever in options and cryptocurrencies, based on estimates provided in official disclosures, compiled by researchers at Capitol Trades for the DealBook newsletter.

Politicians and their immediate families bought $267 million and sold $364 million worth of assets this year, both down on levels in 2020 despite rising markets. About 60 percent of these trades were in company stocks, with the rest split among funds, bonds and other assets. Republicans bought $100 million worth of stocks this year, versus $75 million for Democrats, according to the average of ranges that lawmakers provide in filings.

Democrats were really into tech stocks, while Republicans were more about energy companies (and crypto).

Union members and supporters at a rally outside Kellogg’s headquarters in Battle Creek, Mich., in October.Credit…Alyssa Keown/Battle Creek Enquirer, via Associated Press

Kellogg said on Thursday that it had reached a second tentative agreement with a union representing about 1,400 workers at four U.S. cereal plants who have been on strike since early October.

The accord, which would cover five years, was announced about a week and a half after workers voted down an earlier agreement, prompting the company to announce that it would move ahead with hiring permanent replacements for the workers on strike.

Last week, President Biden weighed in on the standoff, saying in a statement that he was “deeply troubled” by the plan for permanent replacement workers, which he called “an existential attack on the union and its members’ jobs and livelihoods.”

The strike has partly revolved around the company’s two-tier compensation system, in which workers hired after 2015 typically receive lower wages and benefits than longer-tenured workers. The company has said that its veteran workers make more than $35 an hour on average, while the newer workers make almost $22 an hour on average.

Veteran workers have expressed concern that adding lower-paid workers will ultimately drag down their wages and benefits as well.

Under the agreement that was voted down last week, the company would have immediately converted all employees with four or more years at Kellogg to veteran status, then converted an amount equivalent to 3 percent of a plant’s head count in each year of the five-year contract.

The rejected agreement would have also given veteran workers a 3 percent wage increase in the first year of the contract and cost-of-living adjustments over the course of the contract. It offered newer hires a progression from the low $20s per hour to just over $28 after their sixth year.

A company spokeswoman said by email on Thursday that the new tentative agreement did not alter the process for converting newer hires to veteran status but that it “addresses the union’s request” for cost-of-living adjustments for all employees in each year of the contract.

The spokeswoman did not say whether Kellogg had hired permanent replacement workers.

“We value all of our employees. They have enabled Kellogg to provide food to Americans for more than 115 years,” Steve Cahillane, the chief executive, said in a statement. “We are hopeful our employees will vote to ratify this contract and return to work.”

The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, which represents the workers, declined to comment on the details of the agreement but said that the union would present the proposal to members over the weekend and that votes would be counted by Tuesday.

Earlier this week, Bernie Sanders, the independent U.S. senator from Vermont, announced plans to hold a rally Friday on behalf of Kellogg workers in Battle Creek, Mich., the location of the company’s headquarters and one of the striking cereal plants. A spokesman for Mr. Sanders said the trip was still on.

Dan Ammann announcing the Cruise Origin electric driverless shuttle at an event in San Francisco last year.Credit…David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

The high-profile head of Cruise, General Motors’ autonomous-driving unit, is leaving the company, the carmaker said Thursday.

The executive, Dan Ammann, a former investment banker who is from New Zealand, gave up his job as G.M.’s president to take over Cruise at the beginning of 2019. Since then, expectations for autonomous driving have cooled as the magnitude of the technical challenge has become clear and as serious accidents have highlighted the risks.

Although G.M. did not provide an explanation for Mr. Ammann’s unexpected departure, the terseness of the company’s statement — lacking even perfunctory praise for his work — hinted at tension between him and top management.

Cruise, which G.M. bought in 2016 for $1 billion, is based in San Francisco. It is testing a fleet of more than 300 self-driving vehicles there and in Phoenix, according to its website. But a driverless ride service, which G.M. said would be available in 2019, has not materialized.

Less than nine months ago, John Krafcik stepped down as chief executive of Waymo, Alphabet’s autonomous-driving unit.

In both cases, executives “had promised road maps with different milestones and those milestones were not being met,” said Raj Rajkumar, who leads the autonomous driving program at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. “Eventually that takes a toll.”

Like Mr. Ammann, Mr. Krafcik, the former head of Hyundai’s North American unit, came from a management background at a time when the challenges for autonomous driving are mostly technical, requiring chief executives with deep knowledge of the technology.

G.M. said a Cruise co-founder, Kyle Vogt, currently the president and chief technical officer, would serve as interim chief executive — a change reflected almost immediately on Cruise’s website. Wesley Bush, a member of G.M.’s board who is a former chief executive of the aerospace company Northrop Grumman, will become a member of Cruise’s board.

Cruise has shown prototypes of an electric passenger vehicle called the Origin that has no pedals or steering wheel. The vehicle is “nearly ready to roll off the assembly line,” Cruise says on its website.

At an investor presentation in October, G.M. executives said they believed that an autonomous taxi service could eventually grow into a $50 billion business.

“We expect to be able to scale this business very rapidly,” said Mr. Ammann told investors during the event.

But robo-taxis like the Origin are among the most difficult types of autonomous vehicles to deploy. “The robo-taxi market is a hard sell given the current state of autonomous technology,” said Mr. Rajkumar, who previously received research funding from G.M.

Recently Cruise and G.M. have emphasized the role that autonomous driving technology can play in making cars safer. Cruise “will play an integral role” in helping G.M. pursue markets “beyond ride-share and delivery,” the automaker said in a statement Thursday.

Mr. Ammann did not respond to an email requesting comment. A spokesman for Cruise declined to comment.

Credit…Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Airplane travel. Mailing a package. Renting a car. Waiting for a Covid test. Talking to the cable company. In the second winter of this pandemic-altered world, all of it seems harder than ever. Workers and customers alike are growing increasingly weary and impatient.

The New York Times is working on an article about customer service during the pandemic: the challenges, the bursts of rage, the confusion — and the moments of connection and humanity. What is going on? We want to hear it all.

Please share your experiences using the form below. A reporter or editor might contact you to hear more. We will not publish your name or comments without contacting you first.

Credit…George Wylesol

Employers relied on jargon more than ever during the pandemic, according to Andr? Spicer, a professor at Bayes Business School, City, University of London, because the usual tools they had for building workplace community had disappeared.

That meant inventing fresh terms as well as leaning on the classics, like disruption and road map. Then there were oldies that got an update. “I hope this finds you well” gained the addendum, “in these trying and unprecedented times.”

Emma Goldberg, The New York Times’s future of work reporter, compiled some of newest office lingo.

Al Desko Dining

Remember the dash outside to buy a prepackaged sandwich, whose contents would end up nestled in the crevices of your laptop keyboard? Or the icy gazes directed toward colleagues who dared to bring in tuna? “Nostalgia about the office seems to have popped up in the hybrid age,” Mr. Spicer said. “What was ever so good about Lunch al Desko?”

Bookcase credibility

Some have a copy of Robert Caro’s “The Power Broker” on display for video calls. Others opt for something subtler — maybe “Jude the Obscure,” which the actor Paul Rudd chose, or Thomas Piketty’s “Capital,” featured behind Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “Seeing into every person’s home, no matter how well you knew them, felt intrusive,” Ms. Nancherla said. “But it was also bonding in that you’re like, ‘You’re stuck at home like me.'” Stars: They’re quarantined just like us.

Polywork, commuter’s delight, mask-issist and more: READ THE FULL ARTICLE ->

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