Business this week

An internal memo written by a male engineer at Google that claimed biological factors accounted for the gender gap in Silicon Valley sparked an uproar. James Damore said he had wanted to start an “honest discussion” about the lack of women in senior jobs, a discussion he argued was impossible in the tech industry because of an intolerance of views from outside the liberal mainstream. Google subsequently sacked Mr Damore for violating its code of conduct. See article.

After weeks of negotiations, Vantiv struck a deal to buy Worldpay, which the companies valued at £9.3bn ($ 12bn). Based in Cincinnati, Vantiv is one of America’s biggest processors of credit-card payments and electronic money-transfers. Worldpay is Britain’s biggest payment-processor. Vantiv’s shareholders will own 57% of the combined group, to be called Worldpay.

Not so intelligent

Commonwealth Bank of Australia scrapped bonuses for its chief executive and senior management, after Australia’s financial-intelligence agency charged it with breaching money-laundering and anti-terror laws. The lawsuit alleges that the bank lapsed in checking 53,500 transactions over a three-year period at its “intelligent” cash machines, where money can be deposited anonymously. The bank has blamed a software error, since rectified, for not alerting the authorities to suspicious activity. See article.

Royal Bank of Scotland reported a net profit of £939m ($ 1.2bn) for the first half of the year, its best six-month performance in three years. The bank booked some of the costs it incurred from a recent settlement with America’s housing finance agency for mis-selling risky mortgage-backed securities. The Department of Justice is expected to levy a separate fine in the case by the end of the year, which may push RBS into an annual loss. The British government still retains a majority stake in RBS, nine years after its bail-out.

The national statistics agency in Greece suspended public publication of “flash” estimates of GDP. Officials from the IMF and euro zone have raised concerns that these initial calculations of Greek economic growth vary greatly from the “provisional” estimates that follow. Flash estimates will be provided again once the number-crunchers improve their data-gathering.

Altice, a French telecoms company that has splurged on debt-laden acquisitions, was reported to be interested in buying Charter Communications, America’s second-biggest provider of cable-TV. Other companies are circling Charter, notably SoftBank of Japan, lured by its 26m subscribers. A deal could be worth upwards of $ 180bn.

Brave

Disney said it planned to launch two online streaming networks—one for its films and the other for its ESPN sports channel—and that in two years’ time its new movies would no longer be available on Netflix. It is the biggest move yet by a Hollywood studio to take back control of the distribution of its content online. From 2019 fans will have to sign up for Disney’s online services if they want to watch the latest releases featuring Disney characters, including those from its Pixar studio subsidiary.

Meanwhile, Netflix made its first-ever acquisition by agreeing to buy Millarworld, a publisher of comic books. Netflix will produce its own programming based on Millarworld’s stable of characters, though the deal does not include the successful Kingsman and Kick-Ass series.

A jury in Manhattan convicted Martin Shkreli of three counts of securities fraud related to hedge funds he once ran. Mr Shkreli hit the headlines in 2015 when a drugs company he founded increased the price of some medicines by up to 5,000%. His nonchalant response to that furore made him the bête noire of Wall Street. He was similarly laid back at his fraud trial, receiving a rebuke from the judge to stop talking. He will be sentenced within the next few months.

At the conclusion of his trial on bribery charges, Lee Jae-yong, the de facto head of the Samsung conglomerate, fought back tears as he denied any wrongdoing. Prosecutors are seeking a 12-year prison sentence. The case is connected to the scandal that led to the downfall of Park Geun-hye as South Korea’s president. The court will pronounce its verdict on Mr Lee on August 25th.

Out of the shadows

India’s government said the number of tax returns filed by this stage of the year had risen by 25% compared with the same period in 2016. It attributed this to its crackdown on tax evasion through measures such as demonetisation, which took large-denomination notes out of circulation. Still, the 28m tax returns filed so far is about the same number as in 2013.

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