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Microsoft leaders warned Bill Gates over ‘inappropriate’ emails.

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Credit…Calla Kessler/The New York Times

Microsoft executives warned Bill Gates in 2008 about inappropriate emails he had sent to a female employee, a Microsoft spokesman said on Monday.

The warning involved messages in which Mr. Gates, who at the time was a full-time employee and the company’s chairman, asked an employee out on a date. Senior Microsoft executives learned of the emails in 2008, according to Frank Shaw, a Microsoft spokesman.

“These emails proposed meeting outside of work and off campus,” Mr. Shaw said. “While flirtatious, they were not overtly sexual, but were deemed to be inappropriate.”

After they discovered the messages, executives warned Mr. Gates that his behavior was inappropriate and notified a small group of board members about the incident, Mr. Shaw said. Mr. Gates told the board members that he agreed that what he had done was inappropriate, and the board took no further action.

Mr. Gates left the company shortly thereafter in a long-planned departure, though he remained a member of its board until last year. The executives’ warnings to Mr. Gates were reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal.

Bridgitt Arnold, a spokeswoman for Mr. Gates, told The Journal, “These claims are false, recycled rumors from sources who have no direct knowledge, and in some cases have significant conflicts of interest.” She had no additional comment when reached by The New York Times.

In 2019, after The Times reported on Mr. Gates’s long-running relationship with the sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, Microsoft’s board began looking into a report that Mr. Gates had, years earlier, had a sexual relationship with a subordinate at Microsoft.

Mr. Gates and his wife, Melinda French Gates, announced this year that they were ending their 27-year marriage.

The Times reported in May that Mr. Gates had developed a reputation for questionable conduct in work-related settings. The article described an overture he made to a female Microsoft employee after attending a presentation by her while he was the company’s chairman. Mr. Gates left the meeting and immediately emailed the woman to ask her out to dinner, The Times reported.

“If this makes you uncomfortable, pretend it never happened,” Mr. Gates wrote in an email, according to a person who read it to The Times.

Mr. Shaw said on Monday that Mr. Gates’s emails to that female employee triggered executives’ warnings to Mr. Gates in 2008.

Credit…Apple

Apple on Monday unveiled in an hourlong virtual event new MacBook computers powered by Apple-made processors and an updated model of its popular AirPods.

Last year, Apple introduced a new line of computers with processors made by Apple with the assistance of a manufacturing partner, breaking its reliance on the chip maker Intel. The company said at the time that the new chip, called the M1, would make Apple devices faster and more power efficient.

The new processors, the M1 Pro and the M1 Max, power a new MacBook Pro that comes in a 14-inch and 16-inch model, starting at $2,000 and $2,500. The upgraded computers will have faster processing speeds, better graphics, improved audio quality and a better camera, the company said.

Apple also rolled back some of the changes it has made to its laptops over the years, bowing to consumer demand by getting rid of the unpopular Touch Bar, a touch screen strip above the keyboard, and re-adding ports for an HDMI cable and an SD memory card.

Credit…/EPA, via Shutterstock

Apple also released a third generation of AirPods with better audio quality and longer battery life, for $179 — a $20 increase from the second iteration of the product — along with a new Apple Music subscription.

Apple computers helped make the company a famous brand, but the Mac lineup — luxury devices that typically cost upward of $900 — has always been a small fry in the PC market. Last quarter, Apple computers accounted for 7.4 percent of the global PC market, far behind Lenovo, HP and Dell, which made up more than 60 percent of sales, according to the research firm IDC.

Apple’s AirPods have been immensely popular since their debut in 2016. The wireless earbuds are top sellers among “hearables,” wireless earphones with sensors that talk to phones. This year, AirPods have accounted for 57 percent of the market for high-end hearables, far ahead of Samsung, which had 17 percent, according to a report by Counterpoint Research.

Apple’s announcement on Monday came just over a month after the tech giant unveiled a new line of iPhones — the iPhone 13 series — an upgraded Apple Watch and a new iPad.

Aside from the hardware announcements, the company has faced increasing turmoil in recent months, including more frequent calls for regulation. Apple recently appealed a court decision in its lawsuit against Epic Games, which accused it of engaging in monopolistic behavior, and last week fired a leader of the #AppleToo movement, a group of employee activists.

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Dawn Hudson, the chief executive of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, is beginning a long goodbye from the job she’s held since 2011.

The academy announced Monday that Ms. Hudson, 65, will step down at the conclusion of her current contract. It expires at the end of 2023.

In recent years under Ms. Hudson, the Academy has moved aggressively to expand and diversify its membership, a response to the #OscarSoWhite controversy that arose in 2015 after the group nominated only white actors for the Oscars. Since then, the Academy has swelled to 9,362 voting members from 6,446, 33 percent of whom identify as women and 19 percent coming from underrepresented communities. (When Ms. Hudson came aboard, Oscar voters were 94 percent white and 77 percent male.)

Ms. Hudson was also integral in the opening of the Academy Museum, which debuted last month after a nearly decade-long slog and budget overruns that totaled close to $100 million.

“Dawn has been, and continues to be, a groundbreaking leader for the academy,” the academy’s president, David Rubin, said in a statement. “The diversity and gender parity of our membership, our increased international presence, and the successful opening of a world-class Academy Museum — a project she revived, guided and championed — are already part of her legacy.”

Ms. Hudson’s successor will face big challenges. As with all awards shows, the academy has seen the viewers for its annual telecast — which through its licensing deal with ABC generates the majority of the organization’s operating budget — decline precipitously over the years. This year brought a new nadir of only 10.4 million viewers, a decline of 56 percent from 2020. In 2012, the first year of Ms. Hudson’s tenure, 43 million people watched the show, with Ellen DeGeneres as the host.

The academy said it would begin looking for Ms. Hudson’s replacement shortly and “she will have a vital role in the transition.”

Credit…Matthew Ryan Williams for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of lawmakers pressed Amazon’s chief executive on Monday to respond to allegations that its executives provided a congressional inquiry with false answers to questions about its house-brand products.

Amazon executives, including its founder, Jeff Bezos, told lawmakers that the company did not allow employees to look at data from single sellers on its site when it planned for and developed its own products. But Mr. Bezos told lawmakers he couldn’t guarantee the policy hadn’t been violated at some point. Executives also told the House Judiciary Committee that the company did not purposefully give its house-brand products an edge in search results.

Last week, Reuters reported that Amazon had strategically copied products from third-party merchants while growing its business in India. Another publication, The Markup, reported a day later that the company’s house-brand products ranked higher than competitors sold by merchants, even when the third-party products had better ratings.

“At best, this reporting confirms that Amazon’s representatives misled the committee,” said the group of five lawmakers. “At worst, it demonstrates that they may have lied to Congress in possible violation of federal criminal law.”

In the letter, the lawmakers said they were considering referring the matter to the Justice Department for a potential criminal investigation. Their exchanges with Amazon came as part of a longer investigation into the market power of the nation’s largest tech companies.

“Amazon and its executives did not mislead the committee, and we have denied and sought to correct the record on the inaccurate media articles in question,” said Brooke Oberwetter, an Amazon spokeswoman.

She said that the company had a policy against using data from individual merchants in building house-brand products and that Amazon’s search results feature “the items customers will want to purchase, regardless of whether they are offered by Amazon or one of our selling partners.”

Credit…Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

Inflation is likely getting a temporary boost from the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that the Biden administration ushered in early this year, new Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco research released on Monday suggested.

The analysis may add fuel to a hot debate in Washington over whether the administration’s policies are contributing to a spike in prices. Critics of the government spending package that was signed into law in March, including former Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers, have said it was poorly targeted and risked overheating the economy. Supporters of the relief program have said it provided critical aid to workers and businesses still struggling through the pandemic.

The new paper comes down somewhere in the middle, finding that the spending had some effect on inflation but suggesting that it is most likely to be temporary. The economists estimated that it would add 0.3 percentage points to the core Personal Consumption Expenditures inflation index in 2021 and “a bit more” than 0.2 percentage points in 2022. Core inflation strips out volatile items like food and fuel.

While those numbers are significant, they are not what most people would consider “overheating” — the Fed aims for 2 percent inflation on average over time, and a few tenths of a percent here or there are not a reason for much alarm.

But the result is only a rough estimate, one the researchers came up with to help inform an continuing political and economic debate.

Both the Trump and Biden administrations signed trillions of dollars in virus relief spending into law. The packages included two bipartisan bills in 2020 that pumped more than $3 trillion into the economy, including direct checks to individuals and generous unemployment benefits. Another $1.9 trillion — called the American Rescue Plan — was passed this year by Democrats after they took control of both Congress and the White House.

“The later timing and large size of the A.R.P. stirred debate about whether it is causing an overheating of the economy and fueling a sustained increase in inflation,” the San Francisco Fed researchers noted.

The economists tried to answer that question by looking at how much spare capacity is in the economy using a labor market measure — the ratio of job openings to unemployment. The logic is that inflation tends to pick up when there is very little labor market slack, because businesses raise wages to attract workers and then raise prices to cover their climbing labor costs.

Government stimulus can push up the number of job openings in the economy as it fuels demand while constraining the number of available workers because it gives would-be employees a financial cushion, allowing them to take their time as they search for a new job.

Based on the package’s size and using historical evidence on how fiscal spending affects the labor market, the researchers found that the American Rescue Plan might raise the vacancy-to-unemployment ratio close to its historical peak in 1968, fueling some inflation — but that the price impact would be small and short-lived.

“This minor impact is attributable to the small effect of slack on inflation and the strong historical stability of longer-run inflation expectations,” the economists wrote.

The researchers assumed that while the labor market is tight, that will not last. And they assumed that businesses and consumers will not come to expect much-higher prices as a result of the short-term inflation burst.

The new analysis is unlikely to be the final word on the matter. Inflation has jumped higher this year — the core P.C.E. measure climbed 3.6 percent in the year through August, and other measures of inflation are even higher. Many economists are concerned that the jump in prices will cause inflation expectations to shift, especially because some measures are already creeping higher.

Bitcoin has been on a tear in recent weeks, approaching record prices above $60,000, as crypto enthusiasts anticipate history in the making.

On Tuesday, ProShares will start a long-awaiting exchange-traded fund on the New York Stock Exchange linked to Bitcoin futures, the firm and the exchange told the DealBook newsletter. The E.T.F. will give investors exposure to Bitcoin without having to hold the cryptocurrency directly, via any ordinary brokerage account.

“2021 will be remembered for this milestone,” said Michael Sapir, the chief executive of ProShares. Investors who are curious about cryptocurrency but hesitant to engage with unregulated crypto exchanges want “convenient access to Bitcoin in a wrapper that has market integrity,” he said.

For nearly a decade, crypto entrepreneurs and traditional finance firms have sought permission to offer a Bitcoin E.T.F. in the United States, but their applications have been delayed or denied by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Many remain pending.

A Bitcoin futures E.T.F. falls short of what some purists want: a fund that holds crypto directly. Gary Gensler, the S.E.C. chair, recently suggested that the agency might allow crypto E.T.F.s based on futures — bets on Bitcoin’s price fluctuations rather than the underlying crypto itself — that trade on a highly regulated exchange.

Approval for the ProShares E.T.F., which is based on Bitcoin futures that trade on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, won’t be announced by the S.E.C., but the firm’s final prospectus met with no opposition ahead of its effective deadline, and the New York Stock Exchange is readying for its introduction on Tuesday.

Bitcoin’s true price isn’t easy to quote, Mr. Sapir said. There’s no single, reliable market reference, and prices vary up to 5 percent from one crypto exchange to another. Many analysts believe that futures prices on the Chicago exchange are the most accurate reflection of Bitcoin market sentiment. From Mr. Sapir’s perspective, the futures-linked fund is effectively a Bitcoin E.T.F., even if not tied to spot markets. (It also avoids issues like custody of cryptocurrencies.)

“This is an exciting step but not the last,” Douglas Yones, the New York Stock Exchange’s head of exchange traded products, told DealBook. He foresees a range of crypto-linked E.T.F.s getting approval, eventually.

The ProShares E.T.F. is another sign of crypto’s mainstream legitimacy in a year of milestones for the industry, including the crypto exchange Coinbase’s going public. Critics remain wary of cryptocurrencies, as do regulators, but the digital asset craze of 2021 shows few signs of abating.

Credit…Ritchie B Tongo/EPA, via Shutterstock

Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics giant that assembles Apple’s iPhones, on Monday showed off the first physical fruits of its effort to become a major player in electric vehicles: a luxury sedan, a sport utility vehicle and a bus.

The prototypes were unveiled in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital, just a year after Foxconn executives declared their grand ambitions in battery-powered vehicles, an area with which the company had limited experience.

Foxconn has since begun working on hardware elements and software that automakers can use in developing electric cars. It has also signed agreements with start-ups like Fisker and Lordstown Motors to help develop and mass-produce their vehicles.

The prototypes that Foxconn presented on Monday, which the company has christened Models C, E and T, are templates that clients can refer to when designing their vehicles. Foxconn worked with the Taiwanese carmaker Yulon Motor to develop the prototypes, and Yulon will be the first customer to bring the two companies’ efforts to market.

Foxconn’s chairman, Young Liu, expressed confidence that a company best known for assembling smartphones and laptops had a role to play in the car industry.

“Our biggest challenge is we don’t know how to make cars,” Mr. Liu told reporters on Monday.

But he said legacy automakers faced an even mightier challenge: They lack expertise in software and computer chips, both of which are important as cars acquire more digital smarts. That makes Foxconn’s background in consumer electronics an advantage, Mr. Liu said.

He added that the fact that Foxconn had given its electric bus the same name as what is possibly the most famous car ever made, the Ford Model T, should not be taken to imply that it was working with the American automaker.

Credit…Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Goldman Sachs has won approval to take full ownership of a joint venture in China, enabling the Wall Street firm to expand its operations in the country at a time when Beijing has made moves to open up its financial sector.

The China Securities Regulatory Commission gave Goldman Sachs the go-ahead to buy out Beijing Gao Hua Securities, its local partner, as Beijing tries to make good on a pledge it made in 2017 to allow foreign investment banks to fully own their China operations.

“This marks the start of a new chapter for our China business following a successful 17-year joint venture,” Goldman Sachs said in a memo on Sunday, adding that the approval would allow the investment bank to “position our firm for long-term growth and success in this market.”

Goldman Sachs reached a deal to buy a remaining 49 percent stake in Goldman Sachs Gao Hua from its Chinese partner in December. The price was not disclosed. The company will be renamed Goldman Sachs China Securities Company.

The Chinese authorities have courted global investment banks and pledged financial reforms even as they have cracked down on the operations and fund-raising activities of some of China’s best known companies.

This summer, not long after regulators barred private tutoring companies from making a profit and erased billions of dollars from the stock market overnight, Beijing approved a request by BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, to sell mutual funds in China. The move was seen as an attempt to help calm investor nerves and show that China was still open for business.

Goldman has a long history in China as one of the first foreign investment banks to open offices in the country in 1994. It teamed up with Beijing Gao Hua Securities in 2004 and began to offer investment banking services, like helping domestic companies raise money in financial markets.

Credit…Philip Cheung for The New York Times
  • Tesla earnings: The electric carmaker has already said it delivered 241,300 vehicles in the three months ending in September, its highest quarterly total so far. But investors will be watching for the company’s guidance on deliveries for the rest of the year and how it plans to weather the global shortage of semiconductors that is hampering car manufacturing.

  • WeWork goes public: The shared-office-space company is expected to merge with a SPAC, or special purpose acquisition company, after it withdrew its plans for an initial public offering in 2019. WeWork has said the SPAC deal values the company at $7.9 billion, but membership fell during the pandemic, and it’s unclear what the long-term impact of the change in office work will mean for WeWork’s business.

  • Southwest Airlines earnings: The company’s operational problems caused widespread cancellations over the summer and in recent weeks. How has that impacted bookings?

  • American Airlines earnings: Although corporate travel is still down, there’s hope that international travel and the holidays might help to make up for it. The quarterly earnings conference call will give company management a chance to lay out expectations for the coming months.

Credit…Jason Henry for The New York Times

Roblox was started in 2004 with the premise that most of its users were underage, so it put safeguards in place to protect children from online harassment and predators. It has long been wildly popular with children, particularly those between 9 and 12 years old.

This month, Roblox said that, for the first time, more than half of its users were older than 13. As its users age, it is trying to maintain a safe environment, writes Kellen Browning for The New York Times. Its efforts offer both a road map and a cautionary note for other internet companies trying the opposite: engaging with a younger audience.

It recently announced new tools intended to attract older players to the platform, like more-lifelike avatars; the ability for developers to restrict some games to 13-and-older players, or possibly those 17 and older; and a voice chatting feature available to those who are at least 13. To verify their age, users can upload government-issued identification along with a selfie.

But mixing older users with Roblox’s traditional crowd poses safety risks, such as the possibility that young children are exposed to predators or recruited by extremist groups. The company has tried to crack down on such misconduct, and Dave Baszucki, Roblox’s chief executive, said he recognized that integrating various ages on his platform was “a challenge.” But he said building an online world that was safe and open to all was part of his vision for the so-called metaverse, an idea that people can share an enormous online universe together.

Earlier this month, Roblox updated its community standards to ban any depictions of romance or discussion of political parties. It also explicitly barred terrorist or extremist groups from recruiting or fund-raising on the site — an issue that has plagued social media companies like Twitter for years.

Mr. Baszucki said integrating older users while maintaining the platform’s standards of civility and good behavior was a “huge responsibility.” But he was optimistic that the company would be successful, he said, because Roblox had a history of children behaving better than the adults on other social platforms.

Titania Jordan, the chief parent officer at Bark, a tech company that uses artificial intelligence to monitor children’s devices, said that although bad behavior could sometimes slip through the cracks at Roblox, the company was still “commendable” in its approach to child safety, especially compared with sites like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

Despite Roblox’s efforts, explicit material slips through the cracks. And the fact that it still faces criticism could be another lesson to companies like Facebook. READ THE ARTICLE →

Credit…Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times

When Instagram reached one billion users in 2018, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, called it “an amazing success.” The photo-sharing app, which Facebook owns, was widely hailed as a hit with young people and celebrated as a growth engine for the social network.

But Instagram was privately lamenting the loss of teenage users to other social media platforms as an “existential threat,” according to a 2018 marketing presentation.

By last year, the issue had become more urgent, according to internal Instagram documents obtained by The New York Times. “If we lose the teen foothold in the U.S. we lose the pipeline,” read a strategy memo, from last October, that laid out a marketing plan for this year.

In the face of that threat, Instagram left little to chance, Sheera Frenkel, Ryan Mac and Mike Isaac report for The New York Times.

  • Starting in 2018, it earmarked almost its entire global annual marketing budget — slated at $390 million this year — to targeting teenagers, largely through digital ads, according to planning documents and people directly involved in the process.

  • Focusing so singularly on a narrow age group is highly unusual, marketers said, though the final spending went beyond teenagers and encompassed their parents and young adults.

The documents, which have not previously been reported, reveal the company’s angst and dread as it has wrestled behind the scenes with retaining, engaging and attracting young users. Even as Instagram was heralded as one of Facebook’s crown jewels, it turned to extraordinary spending measures to get the attention of teenagers.

“In any media industry, the newest, coolest thing sees the highest uptake among younger generations,” said Brooke Duffy, an associate professor at Cornell University who studies media, culture and tech. That puts incumbents on the defensive, she said, adding, “We’re in a cultural moment where people just seem to be getting tired of the aspirational, performative culture of Instagram.”

  • U.S. stocks rose slightly on Monday, with the S&P 500 ticking up 0.3 percent after sharp gains last week. The Nasdaq composite was 0.8 percent higher.

  • Monday’s trading came ahead of a week loaded with third-quarter financial reports from companies including Netflix, United Airlines, Tesla and American Airlines.

  • China’s economy grew by 4.9 percent in the third quarter, compared to the same period last year, the National Bureau of Statistics announced on Monday, a slowdown from the 7.9 percent increase the country notched in the previous quarter.

  • Bitcoin rose on Tuesday, hovering over $61,400, according to CoinDesk. ProShares will start a long-awaited exchange-traded fund on the New York Stock Exchange linked to Bitcoin futures on Tuesday. The E.T.F. will give investors access to Bitcoin, without having to directly hold the asset.

  • European stock indexes fell, with the Stoxx Europe 600 closing 0.5 percent lower. Airlines were among the worst performers, with International Airlines Group falling about 4 percent and Ryanair 3.9 percent lower.

  • Oil prices rose slightly on Monday, with West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, up 0.2 percent to $82.44 a barrel. Shares of Occidental Petroleum Corporation rose 4 percent.

  • Shares of Albertsons rose about 3.3 percent after the grocery chain raised its annual outlook for the year in its second-quarter earnings report. The company also reported that sales and other revenues were more than 4 percent higher during the quarter ending September compared with the same period last year.

  • China’s economy grew 4.9 percent in the third quarter compared with the same period last year, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Monday. The period was markedly slower than the 7.9 percent increase the country notched in the previous quarter. Industrial output, the mainstay of China’s growth, faltered badly, especially in September, posting its worst performance since the early days of the pandemic.

    Two bright spots prevented the economy from stalling. Exports remained strong, and families, particularly prosperous ones, resumed spending money on restaurant meals and other services in September, as China succeeded once again in quelling small outbreaks of the coronavirus. Retail sales were up 4.4 percent in September from a year ago.

  • A union representing Hollywood’s version of blue-collar workers — camera operators, makeup artists, prop makers, set dressers, lighting technicians, editors, script coordinators, hairstylists, cinematographers, writers’ assistants — reached a tentative agreement on Saturday for a new three-year contract with film and television studios, according to officials from both sides.

    The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees union had said that its members would go on strike beginning on Monday, a move that would have resulted in a production shutdown at a particularly inopportune time for the entertainment industry. IATSE negotiators agreed to a deal after winning concessions on several fronts.

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/10/18/business/news-business-stock-market