The week in business: the escalating battle over ESG End-shutdown

Senate Republicans, along with two Democrats, voted Wednesday to pass a resolution, already passed by the House, to block a Labor Department rule that would allow retirement plan administrators to incorporate environmental, social and corporate governance considerations. in their investment decisions. This practice, known as ESG, was a widely accepted norm in financial circles for nearly 20 years until it recently became a target for conservatives and others who argued that ESG investing was hurting companies and was little more than a scam. trend that they called “awakening capitalism”. The Labor Department rule was intended to reverse a Trump-era policy that limited investment options to purely financial matters. The Biden administration argued that it was necessary to allow retirement advisers to take into account issues such as climate change, which has economic consequences. President Biden is expected to use the first veto of his presidency to override the anti-ESG measure.

The Supreme Court heard arguments last week in a case that would decide the fate of some 26 million student loan borrowers who applied to have their debts canceled under President Biden’s forgiveness plan. At issue is not whether it is constitutional to eliminate billions in student debt, but whether Mr. Biden has the authority to do so without congressional approval. Mr. Biden introduced the policy by executive order in August, announcing that the federal government would write off up to $20,000 per borrower. After facing a series of legal challenges, a lower court blocked Biden’s plan from taking effect in November. During arguments last week, conservative Supreme Court justices, who hold a majority, were skeptical of the Biden administration’s power to carry out sweeping debt cancellation, while liberal court members they said there was precedent for the education secretary to address emergencies like the student debt crisis.

One year after the start of the war in Ukraine, hundreds of Western companies remain in Russia despite a wide range of sanctions, as well as pressure from boycott campaigns and human rights groups. Some of these companies began winding down operations immediately after the invasion of Russia, but have yet to complete a full exit from the country. Pfizer, for example, has stopped investing in Russia but still sells some products there, sending the proceeds to humanitarian groups in Ukraine. Carlsberg, the world’s third-biggest brewer, said it would leave Russia last March but was still trying to find a buyer for its Russian breweries who would agree to let the company buy them back after the war ends. The companies have encountered other obstacles to leaving Russia, including, beer maker Heineken said, warnings from Russian prosecutors that shutting down or suspending operations would be considered intentional bankruptcy.

After the January jobs report beat the consensus forecast (employers added 517,000, up from 260,000 the previous month), it’s hard to say for sure what the February report will show on Friday. Analysts expected to see the economy add 215,000 jobs last month, which would be in line with the overall downward trend in jobs reports through January. But those startling numbers suggested it might not be a smooth or predictable decline for the job market. That’s a growing concern for Federal Reserve officials, who are looking for signs that their efforts to control inflation are trickling down throughout the economy.

As Fox News headed to trial with Dominion Voting Systems, the company accusing Fox of defamation in a $1.6 billion lawsuit, Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch acknowledged that several hosts on his networks promoted the false narrative that the 2020 election was stolen from President Donald J Trump. “I wish we were stronger in calling it out with hindsight,” Murdoch said in a statement released last week. He added that he could have stopped these hosts, including Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, Lou Dobbs and Maria Bartiromo, but didn’t. There has been a steady trickle of revelations like these over the past two weeks, including legal filings with private messages between Fox News anchors showing that what they were saying publicly often conflicted with their private views. But news coverage of the filings has been largely absent from the vast majority of the conservative media. Fox News and its half-brother, Fox Business, have thus far also avoided the story.

Jerome H. Powell, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, will appear before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday and before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday. The Fed chair reports to Congress twice a year to discuss how the central bank is responding to economic conditions and the general economic outlook. He will also answer questions from lawmakers. When Powell last met with the committee in June, he stressed the Fed’s commitment to bring inflation down to its 2 percent target, which had become increasingly difficult, he said. A recession, he added, was a “possibility.” At this week’s hearing, Mr. Powell is likely to address the strong jobs numbers and the persistent pace of inflation. But he’ll probably avoid saying anything too definitive, as there is one more jobs report and new inflation data due ahead of the Fed’s next rate decision later this month.

Some lawmakers in Congress fear that developments in artificial intelligence will far outpace their ability to regulate the technology. The Biden administration unveiled rules Tuesday for its “Chips for America” ​​program, which would allow $50 billion to prop up semiconductor research and manufacturing in the United States. And a nearly two-year coal mining strike ended without a deal on Friday; Negotiations on a contract are expected to continue once the miners return to work.

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