Published On: Wed, Jul 28th, 2021

Business News: Mask Guidance Complicates Return to Office Plans


Daily Business Briefing

July 28, 2021, 4:25 p.m. ET

July 28, 2021, 4:25 p.m. ET

Credit…Dado Ruvic/Reuters

Facebook said on Wednesday that revenue rose 56 percent to $29 billion in the three months ending in June compared with the same period last year, while profits rose 101 percent to $10.4 billion, as the social network continues to benefit from a surge of users spending more time online during the pandemic.

Advertising revenue, which continues to be the bulk of Facebook’s income, rose 56 percent to $28.6 billion, easily surpassing Wall Street expectations. Roughly 3.51 billion people now use one of Facebook’s apps every month, up 12 percent from a year earlier.

The results follow the company’s continued strong performance over the last 18 months as the pandemic pushed people indoors toward their computers and other devices. Facebook recorded highs in users and revenues while continuing to expand its employee base and reinvest in infrastructure like data centers.

While Facebook’s core properties, including the main Facebook app and Instagram, continue to see surging ad revenue, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, is planning for the company’s future growth, including investing in projects like virtual reality and a next-generation computing platform he calls “the metaverse.”

“We had a strong quarter as we continue to help businesses grow and people stay connected,” Mr. Zuckerberg said. “I’m excited to see our major initiatives around creators and community, commerce, and building the next computing platform coming together to start to bring the vision of the metaverse to life.”

Google’s campus in Mountain View, Calif. The company will delay its return to office and mandate vaccines for its workers.
Credit…Christie Hemm Klok for The New York Times

Google said Wednesday that it would require employees who returned to the company’s offices to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. It also said it would push back its official return-to-office date to mid-October from September, joining a host of other companies whose plans have been scrambled in recent days by the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

Sundar Pichai, the chief executive of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, announced the news in a note to employees, which was reviewed by The New York Times.

“Getting vaccinated is one of the most important ways to keep ourselves and our communities healthy in the months ahead,” Mr. Pichai wrote. He added that the vaccine mandate would apply to U.S. office locations “in the coming weeks” and to other regions “in the coming months.”

Google has more than 144,000 employees globally. A Google spokeswoman said the company did not have any current vaccination rates to share, though Mr. Pichai wrote that it was “encouraging to see very high vaccination rates” among employees in places where vaccines were widely available.

Mr. Pichai also said in the note that Google’s voluntary work-from-home policy was being extended through Oct. 18. Previously, employees had been planning to return in September, though no specific date had been set.

“We recognize that many Googlers are seeing spikes in their communities caused by the Delta variant and are concerned about returning to the office,” Mr. Pichai wrote. “This extension will allow us time to ramp back into work while providing flexibility for those who need it.”

The decision followed a similar announcement from Apple, which said last week that it would push back to October, from September, the date by which employees would need to return to its offices.

Some Google employees have been returning to work in the office on a voluntary basis. In California, as the Delta variant of the coronavirus has surged, workers began donning masks in Google offices again.

Silicon Valley tech companies like Google led the push to remote work in the beginning of the pandemic, but Google has not fully pivoted away from office work, and it has said it expects most employees to eventually return to in-person work at least three days a week.

The company said in March that it would spend $1 billion on California developments this year, including two office complexes in Mountain View. It is also building a 7.3 million-square-foot office space in San Jose.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its mask guidance for vaccinated Americans on Tuesday.
Credit…Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

Two months after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was OK for vaccinated people to forgo masks indoors, the agency reversed course on Tuesday, saying that Americans should put masks on again — at least in areas where the coronavirus infection rate is high.

The announcement complicates return-to-office plans for many companies at a time the Delta variant is already forcing some of them to push back their start dates.

Apple told employees on Tuesday it was reinstating mask requirement for everyone indoors in certain U.S. offices, according to an internal memo that was obtained by The New York Times.

And Asana, a software company, told employees last week that it was pushing its return-to-office date for all employees in San Francisco and New York to no earlier than Feb. 1, a person familiar with the situation said. The company is also mandating vaccines for all employees coming into the office.

The official guidance — swayed by research on the Delta variant, which is causing rising case counts and “breakthrough” infections of vaccinated people — is aimed at places where the virus is surging. At the moment, that covers nearly two-thirds of U.S. counties. Per the guidance, all residents of Florida, vaccinated or not, should wear masks indoors.

Companies that have already opened their doors must decide whether to retrench on masking policies. When the C.D.C. lifted its masking guidance in May, many companies issued new guidelines allowing fully vaccinated employees and customers to return without masks. The move served as an important incentive for workers, as well as a signal that the pandemic was winding down. For employees, it provided a sense of safety and normality in returning to offices.

Walmart, which began to allow fully vaccinated employees to go mask-free in May, did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did a spokeswoman for Kroger, which has likewise reduced its masking restrictions.

In New York City, finance firms have already begun to call back workers. Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, which allow fully vaccinated employees to go mask-free, had no comment about the C.D.C.’s announcement. A spokeswoman for American Express said the company had “no updates to share,” as the company is not back in the office yet.

“People are enjoying their freedom, so I don’t know if we’re going to go back or not,” said Alana Ackels, a labor lawyer at Bell Nunnally. She added that after the C.D.C.’s guidance in May, her phone “was ringing off the hook because everyone wanted to get rid of the mask.” On Tuesday evening, after the agency’s reversal, “I haven’t gotten a single call about it,” she said.

MGM Resorts International, the casino and hotel giant, said Tuesday it would require all guests and visitors to wear masks indoors in public areas, “based on the latest information and guidance from health experts and public officials.”

The National Retail Federation, which represents businesses on the front lines of managing and enforcing public masking policies, said in a statement that “retailers will continue to follow the guidance of the C.D.C.” It added, “It is truly unfortunate that mask recommendations have returned when the surest known way to reduce the threat of the virus is widespread vaccination.”

The C.D.C.’s move may spur more corporate vaccine mandates, said David Schwartz, who runs the labor group at the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. This might be a preferable alternative to “requiring employees and customers to wear masks and not being able to maintain a consistent policy,” he said. The Washington Post on Tuesday joined a short but growing list of private companies requiring vaccination as a condition of employment.

If businesses think vaccine mandates are beneficial, “we encourage them to do so,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the C.D.C.’s director.

Government officials have been imposing vaccine mandates at the state, local and federal levels recently, and encouraging private companies to follow suit. President Biden is expected to announce a vaccine mandate for all two million civilian federal employees on Thursday.

Kellen Browning and Sarah Kessler contributed reporting.

To ease the forgiveness process for most Paycheck Protection Program loans, the Small Business Administration plans to create its own online portal for borrowers next Wednesday, which will allow many of them to eliminate their loans without going through their lender.

The portal will be available for borrowers of loans up to $150,000, which covers around 92 percent of the program’s loans. Banks must opt in to allow their customers to use the portal. So far, around 600 of the program’s nearly 5,500 lenders have done so, according to the federal agency.

Nearly nine million businesses received Paycheck Protection Program loans, totaling $800 billion. The loans were created to be forgiven if the program’s rules were followed, but that discharge process has been complicated for some banks and borrowers. Each lender had to build its own loan-forgiveness system and submit its borrowers’ applications to the Small Business Administration. Now, lenders will instead be able to instead steer borrowers directly to the agency.

Banking trade groups welcomed the news, saying it would help reduce the burden on their members.

“After P.P.P. funds were distributed, bankers worked tirelessly to assist small businesses with the burdensome and tedious loan forgiveness process,” said Richard Hunt, the chief executive of the Consumer Bankers Association. The new portal “will allow more small businesses to focus their time and resources on successfully reopening,” he said.

The Small Business Administration’s public data on loan forgiveness — which has not been updated for two months — shows that as of May 24, nearly 33 percent of last year’s borrowers had not yet applied to have their loan forgiven. Some of those recipients will be required to start making loan payments as soon as next month if their loans are not forgiven.

Economists mostly expect the Federal Reserve to announce plans to slow its bond-buying this year.
Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

The Federal Reserve kept interest rates unchanged on Wednesday and said it would continue buying large quantities of government debt, but suggested that it could slow those purchases before long if the economy continues to strengthen.

The Fed’s two key policy tools fuel demand by making money cheap to borrow and spend. Officials are actively debating when and how to slow their bond-buying program, which will be their first step toward a more normal policy setting as the economy rebounds. Officials hinted that they will continue thinking about when to begin what they refer to as tapering at upcoming policy meetings.

“Last December, the committee indicated that it would continue to increase its holdings” steadily “until substantial further progress has been made toward its maximum employment and price stability goals,” the Fed said in its post-meeting statement. “Since then, the economy has made progress toward these goals, and the committee will continue to assess progress in coming meetings.”

The central bank has been buying $120 billion in mortgage-backed securities and Treasury debt each month since last year, but economists expect the Fed to begin slowing those purchases later this year or early next.

Facebook argues it does not have a monopoly.
Credit…Laura Morton for The New York Times

More than 40 state attorneys general on Wednesday said they planned to appeal the dismissal of their antitrust lawsuit against Facebook, setting up a protracted legal fight to rein in the power of the Silicon Valley giant.

The states would be pushing back on a decision made last month by a federal judge who eviscerated their arguments that Facebook had obtained a monopoly through its acquisitions of Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014 and had harmed competition. The judge said that the regulators’ attempts to break up the social media company came too many years after the mergers were approved.

“The court is aware of no case, and plaintiffs provide none, where such a long delay in seeking such a consequential remedy has been countenanced in a case brought by a plaintiff other than the federal government,” the judge, James E. Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, said.

Mr. Boasberg also dismissed a similar complaint brought by the Federal Trade Commission, criticizing the agency’s claims of monopolization, but he directed the agency to rewrite its lawsuit. The F.T.C. is expected to resubmit its lawsuit to the court by Aug. 19. The states’ notice of plan to appeal did not include new antitrust arguments and was filed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

“We filed this notice of appeal because we disagree with the court’s decision and must hold Facebook accountable for stifling competition, reducing innovation, and cutting privacy protections,” said Letitia James, New York’s attorney general. “We can no longer allow Facebook to profit off of exploiting consumer data.”

Facebook has vociferously refuted the state and federal regulators’ lawsuits, saying most the evidence used against the company now were presented to the F.T.C. when that agency approved the mergers years earlier. The company argues it does not have a monopoly, pointing to competition from Snap, Twitter and messaging applications.

Credit…Twitter

Twitter said on Wednesday that it had begun testing a new feature that lets people shop for products on its service, a rare foray by the company into online shopping as rivals like Snapchat and Instagram push further into e-commerce.

Twitter has been working to build revenue streams beyond advertising, which has been the core of its business. The company recently acquired Revue, a service that helps writers charge for newsletters and takes a cut of the subscription earnings, and it has introduced other money-earning tools like ticketed live audio events.

The new shopping module, which debuted in the United States, will allow businesses to display a carousel of products on their Twitter profiles. Users can scroll through the products for sale and buy them without leaving Twitter’s app.

Twitter previously experimented with shopping in 2015, when it let retailers add a “Buy Now” button to their profiles. But by 2017, Twitter had phased out the button and disbanded its commerce team to focus product development on other areas. In the years since, competitors like Instagram and Snapchat have built large e-commerce operations and featured shops prominently in their apps.

“We’re back and putting more energy into testing out the potential for shopping on Twitter,” Bruce Falck, the head of revenue product, wrote in a blog post announcing the effort. “With this pilot, we’ll get to explore how our engaged, responsive and chatty audience reacts to products.”

Twitter also plans to create a Merchant Advisory Board made up of brands that are active on the service, Mr. Falck said. The board will advise Twitter on how to best serve businesses.

Refinery29 launched a new video series this week called “Sex Re-Education.”
Credit…Refinery29

As Vice Media considers deals that could take it public later this year, it is putting a greater emphasis on videos and other forms of visual storytelling, a shift that the company signaled this week with a new video series, “Sex Re-education,” on the Vice-owned site Refinery29.

Van Scott, a Vice Media spokesman, said the company will reduce the number of old-fashioned text articles on Vice.com, Refinery29 and another Vice-owned site, i-D, by 40 to 50 percent.

The number of visual stories, including videos suited to mobile-friendly formats like Instagram’s Stories feature, is likely to increase by the same amount, Mr. Scott said.

Cory Haik, the company’s chief digital officer, said videos and other visual content were increasingly popular with the Vice audience.

Since 2019, Vice’s YouTube channel has more than doubled its number of monthly views, to 87.8 million in May, and engagement on Vice’s Instagram account has had a similar rise. At the same time, engagement with text articles on Vice sites has dropped by 26 percent, Ms Haik said.

“You can’t be a youth media company if you’re not focused on where the youth are consuming media,” Ms. Haik said. “And more and more, that’s off-platform, that’s built-for-mobile.”

Mr. Scott said the company would be hiring more producers as part of its investment in visual storytelling.

Vice Media, which has long been known for its Vice News documentaries, premiered “Sex Re-education” on Monday. Simone Oliver, the global editor in chief of Refinery29, said the company was using Google Web Stories to produce the series and that it would be re-promoted across Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat.

“More and more our audiences want to consume information in a visual way,” Ms. Oliver said.

Boeing on Wednesday said that it made a $587 million quarterly profit, a result that surprised Wall Street.
Credit…Jason Redmond/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Boeing on Wednesday said that it made a $587 million quarterly profit, a result that surprised Wall Street, which had been expecting a loss, and a strong sign that the aerospace giant is overcoming the 737 Max crisis, problems with its 787 Dreamliner jet and the economic shock caused by the pandemic.

The profit for the second quarter, which ended in June, is a big turnaround from the $2.4 billion loss Boeing reported in the same period last year. Wall Street analysts had expected Boeing to lose more than $100 million in the quarter this year, according to S&P CapitalIQ.

Revenue totaled nearly $17 billion in the quarter, a big jump from $11.8 billion in the same period last year. Revenue surged this year in its troubled commercial jet operations, but the division still had an operating loss of $472 million in the three months ended June 30.

Boeing’s 737 Max was grounded for months after two fatal crashes. The company and regulators have had quality concerns about its 787 Dreamliner that have at times stopped delivery of the wide-body jet.

In the second quarter of this year, Boeing delivered 79 commercial airplanes, up from 77 in the first.

Boeing said it had delivered more than 130 737 Max aircraft since the Federal Aviation Administration in November cleared the plane to fly. The company said it expected to nearly double monthly production of the jet to 31 planes early next year, from 16 per month.

But production problems are still affecting the 787. The F.A.A. had questioned the quality of Boeing’s inspections, and the company temporarily stopped delivery of the airplane. Boeing said it would produce fewer than five 787s a month as it does more work on undelivered planes. It added that it expected to deliver fewer than half of the 787s in its inventory this year.

Boeing had said that it wanted to cut its work force to 130,000 employees by the end of this year, from 141,000. But on Wednesday, Dave Calhoun, the company’s chief executive, said it would keep its work force at its current size, citing “encouraging recovery trends” for the decision.

Members of the Evil Geniuses e-sports team during the Call of Duty World League Championship in Los Angeles in 2019.
Credit…John Mccoy/Getty Images

Evil Geniuses, one of the first professional e-sports teams, is selling a minority stake in its business to China’s Fosun Sports Group, the DealBook newsletter was first to report. The transaction, announced on Wednesday, values the squad of elite video gamers at more than $250 million, which would make it one of the most valuable in the sector.

The team, which was founded in 1999, well before e-sports became a billion-dollar industry, is also teaming up with an English Premier League soccer club, Wolverhampton Wanderers. That venture is aimed at tapping Asian markets, where the “Wolves” have training facilities, as well as at cross-promoting the teams to each other’s fan bases.

DealBook spoke with Nicole LaPointe Jameson, who took over as the chief executive of Evil Geniuses two years ago after its sale to the private equity firm Peak6. Three years earlier, Evil Genius’s players had bought back the company from Amazon’s Twitch, leaving it rudderless and struggling in competitions. Ms. LaPointe Jameson, 27, has also had to navigate the sometimes toxic culture of video gaming, including claims of harassment and racism by players on the team she runs.

“Two years ago, we were worth nothing close” to the company’s current valuation, said Ms. LaPointe Jameson, who is the first Black chief executive of a major e-sports team. When she arrived, the company “had to make decisions at the $5 level very carefully,” she said.

Since she took over, Evil Geniuses has expanded into more games, notably League of Legends, and has hired a more diverse set of influencers to attract attention to its players (and sell merchandise and sponsorships).

“When I came into the e-sports space, I was unexpected in many different ways,” she said, noting her private equity background, where she specialized in turning around distressed businesses. “I kind of came out of Mars for them.”

Ms. LaPointe Jameson said she “won’t shy away from the negative reputation” of gaming, and described tackling reports of harassment by players as well as financial troubles as “trial by fire.” The company’s “robust curriculum” about antibullying should help reduce the stigma that turns some off from the industry, she said.

“We are happy to tackle that,” she added, “but it is a bit against the grain because that is not the easiest path to proceed as a company.”

Ms. LaPointe Jameson has focused on recruiting — more than half the members of her leadership team are women — and she has introduced benefits like parental leave.

“It was important for me to make sure those types of ‘unsexy back-end components’ were brought in,” she said, so people “who had never heard of e-sports would consider coming here.”

Stocks were unchanged on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve’s meeting, during which policymakers left interest rates unchanged.

  • The S&P 500 ticked down less than 0.1 percent. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.7 percent

  • The yield on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes rose slightly to 1.26 percent

  • Apple fell 1.2 percent, and Microsoft fell 0.1 percent. Google rose 3.2 percent. Apple, Google and Microsoft reported strong profits on Tuesday, fueled by a bounce-back in demand for online advertising and the continuation of remote work. The reports come during a time of growing scrutiny of Big Tech.

  • Boeing rose 4.2 percent after it reported a surprise quarterly profit.

  • Facebook rose 1.5 percent ahead of its quarterly earnings report, but dropped more than 4 percent in aftermarket trading after its report was released.

  • Markets in Europe were higher, with the Stoxx 600 Europe closing with a 0.7 percent gain. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng recovered some of its losses from Tuesday, rising 1.5 percent. Alibaba, which had fallen 6 percent on Tuesday, rose 1.8 percent on Wednesday.

President Biden is expected to sign an executive order aimed at protecting American infrastructure from cyberattacks like the Colonial Pipeline hack, which caused fuel shortages in large portions of the East Coast in May.
Credit…Sean Rayford/Getty Images

A day after President Biden warned that cyberattacks could lead to a “real shooting war,” he signed an executive order on Wednesday aimed at preventing hackings on America’s critical infrastructure.

While the order has been in the works for some time, the need was driven home by a series of major ransomware attacks, including against Colonial Pipeline, which provides the East Coast with 45 percent of its gasoline, jet fuel and diesel.

The order was mostly filled with voluntary measures for companies to meet a series of online security standards, like encrypting data and requiring two-factor authentication for all users on a system, to stymie hackers who possess stolen passwords. In a call with reporters Tuesday night, a senior administration official said the idea was to develop “cybersecurity performance goals” to assess how prepared each company or utility was.

The effort is a way to get beyond the “woefully insufficient” patchwork of mandates and voluntary actions to protect electric utilities, gas pipelines, water supplies and industrial sites that keep the economy running, the official said.

Such efforts have been tried before, dating to the presidency of George W. Bush. But Mr. Biden is the first president to talk about the issue — almost every week — as a national security imperative. It was the central topic of his meeting in June with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. And on Tuesday, visiting the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Mr. Biden gave a grim assessment of where he believed the constant, short-of-war attacks on the United States, both state-sponsored operations and criminal ransomware, are headed.

“If we end up in a war, a real shooting war with a major power,” he told the intelligence officers there, “it’s going to be as a consequence of a cyberbreach of great consequence. And it’s increasing exponentially — the capabilities.’’

Mr. Biden’s chief challenge now is a lack of authority to mandate changes. He has already imposed security standards on providers of software to the federal government, betting that if a company is banned from selling to the government, it will also suffer in the commercial marketplace. He has ordered a series of increased protections for federal agencies, 10 of which were affected by the SolarWinds hacking last year, a broad invasion of the software “supply chain” used by 18,000 companies and governments.

But key elements of American infrastructure are run by private companies — and in Colonial Pipeline’s case, Russian-speaking hackers brought down the distribution system almost accidentally, after attacking the company’s business systems. That was followed by another ransomware attack on JBS, the world’s largest beef producer, which paid $11 million to start running again.

For years, many industries have maintained informal organizations that share cyberthreat information or best practices. But there are so many holes in the system that it has been relatively easy for Iran, Russia, China and ransomware groups to find ways to place malicious software in the systems, or initiate attacks that freeze data and make it impossible to operate, as happened to Colonial Pipeline and JBS.

The measures outlined in the new national security memorandum, called “Improving Cybersecurity for Critical Infrastructure Control Systems,” are being coordinated by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the Commerce Department’s unit that sets industrial standards.

Credit…Joshua Bright for The New York Times

Athleta, the women’s athleisure brand owned by Gap, will make an investment in Obé Fitness, a provider of on-demand workout classes, as it introduces a new platform for customers called AthletaWell, the retailer said Wednesday.

The brand said that its new AthletaWell site, which will be free through Athleta’s loyalty program, will include online discussion groups and exclusive workouts from Obé Fitness. The new site is part of a push to drive further sales at Athleta, which surpassed $1 billion in revenue last year and is one of Gap’s best-performing divisions. The company is hoping to attract more people to Athleta’s loyalty program, as those customers usually spend more than typical shoppers.

Athleta will also take advantage of the partnership with Obé in other ways. “We’ll be working together to co-create apparel,” said Kim Waldmann, Athleta’s chief digital officer. “We’ll be working on events together, both virtual and in-person, and new innovative shopping experiences.”

The investment comes roughly a year after Lululemon said it would buy Mirror, the fitness start-up, highlighting the potential in linking streaming workouts to athletic apparel.

Apple’s iPhone sales jumped 50 percent, even as it was set to release new phones in September.
Credit…Yara Nardi/Reuters
  • Deutsche Bank, Germany’s largest bank, beat expectations with a quarterly net profit of 692 million euros, or $817 million, compared to a loss a year earlier, the company reported Wednesday. Revenue dipped 1 percent to €6.2 billion, Deutsche Bank said, but that was more than offset by cost cuts and a reduction in the amount of money that the bank set aside to cover problem loans.

  • Apple’s profits nearly doubled in the latest quarter, showing that the world’s richest and most valuable public company is exhibiting little sign of slowing down. Apple said on Tuesday that its profits increased 93 percent to $21.7 billion in its fiscal third quarter compared with a year earlier, while sales rose 36 percent to $81.4 billion, both outpacing analysts’ expectations. Apple said its iPhone sales grew 50 percent to $39.6 billion, a quarterly increase that was high by even its lofty standards. Apple sold more of all of its other products, including iPads, Macs and wearable devices such as the Apple Watch and AirPods. The company’s sales also increased in every geographic area, led by its Greater China region, with 58 percent growth.

  • Alphabet, Google’s parent company, made in three months what it took until recently an entire year to earn. The search and advertising company on Tuesday reported record profits and revenue for the second quarter, vindicating the enthusiasm of investors who doubled its value on the stock market since early last year. Alphabet said it made a profit of $18.5 billion, or $27.26 a share, for the quarter. As recently as 2015, it made less than that all year. Revenue rose 62 percent to $61.88 billion from a year ago, a level of increase unseen since the company’s rapid growth around 2005, when it was still a start-up.

  • Microsoft continued its string of strong financial results. Sales in the three months ending in June hit $46.2 billion, up 21 percent from a year earlier, and profits rose 47 percent to $16.5 billion, producing its most profitable quarter, Microsoft said on Tuesday. The results surpassed analyst expectations. With the pandemic moving people online to a greater extent and the economy rebounding, companies have accelerated their spending in key areas where Microsoft has invested, including security and cloud services. Sales of Azure, the company’s flagship cloud-computing product, were up 51 percent.

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Today in the On Tech newsletter, Shira Ovide talks to Erin Griffith about Robinhood’s (highly unusual) initial public offering planned for this week and why the company has gotten so much attention.





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