The daily business briefing: November 6, 2019

Harold Maass
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images


U.K.'s Johnson asks Trump to lift new tariff on Scotch whiskey

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked President Trump to lift his new tariffs on Scotch whiskey and other goods, a Johnson spokesperson said Tuesday. Johnson, who is struggling to save his Brexit plan, also asked Trump in the same phone call not to impose levies on imported British cars. The White House declined to provide details on the trade discussion, offering only a general statement. "The two leaders again reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening the special relationship through a robust bilateral free trade agreement once the United Kingdom leaves the E.U.," the White House said. "The president also stressed the need for NATO allies to robustly fund their defenses," it said. The Trump administration last month imposed a 25 percent tariff on Scotch and several other products to retaliate for European Union aircraft subsidies. [Reuters]


AT&T to pay $60 million FTC settlement over 'unlimited' data plans

AT&T has agreed to a $60 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission for allegedly misleading customers about its "unlimited" data plans. The FTC sued AT&T in 2014, saying it failed to "adequately disclose" to people who signed up for unlimited data plans that their data speeds would be throttled if they used a certain amount of data in a billing cycle. Under the settlement, AT&T can't represent its data plans as "unlimited" without "disclosing any material restrictions on the speed or amount of data." The $60 million will be deposited into a fund used to provide partial refunds to current and former customers who signed up for the unlimited plans before 2011. [The Verge]


SoftBank says WeWork investment resulted in $4.6 billion hit

SoftBank Group said Wednesday it took a $4.6 billion financial hit from its investment in struggling U.S. office-sharing startup WeWork. Masayoshi Son, leader of Japan's SoftBank, acknowledged that he had misjudged WeWork's ousted leader and co-founder Adam Neumann. "I overestimated Adam's good side," he said, adding that he had "turned a blind eye" to Neumann's negative traits, "especially when it comes to governance." Still, Son defended the investment against recent criticism, saying his tech conglomerate's recent bailout of WeWork was "not a rescue" but a chance to buy discounted shares to reduce the average cost of SoftBank's shares in the company. "We may not be able to make a big gain, but at least we may be able to get back our investment," he said. [The New York Times]


Stocks struggle after the Dow hits a fresh record

U.S. stock index futures were flat on Wednesday, bouncing between slight gains and losses after Tuesday's fresh record for the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Futures for the Dow, S&P 500, and Nasdaq Composite were down, but by less than 0.1 percent. The Dow gained 0.1 percent on Tuesday, marking its third straight day of gains. Investors are showing caution as they await new signs of progress toward a deal toward ending the U.S.-China trade war. China is urging President Trump to lift new tariffs imposed in September on $125 billion worth of Chinese imports as the two sides try to negotiate "phase one" of a deal. Also on Wednesday, corporate earnings season continued with reports from CVS Health before the bell, and from Qualcomm and several others after trading closed. [CNBC]


Lawyer tells Buffalo Wild Wings to make changes or face discrimination lawsuit

An attorney for black customers asked to change tables at a Chicago-area Buffalo Wild Wings over their skin color held a news conference Tuesday calling for the restaurant chain to make broad changes or face a discrimination lawsuit. A racially mixed group of about 20 people went to the restaurant on Oct. 26 for a child's birthday party, and say an employee asked them to move to a different table because a regular customer didn't want to sit near black people. "I was appalled," Justin Vahl, one of the adults in the party, said. The franchise fired two employees involved in the incident and said others would undergo sensitivity training, while the customer who started the controversy was banned from the chain's 1,200 restaurants. [The Associated Press, Chicago Tribune]