The daily business briefing: September 15, 2020

1. The Trump administration on Monday banned imports of cotton apparel, computer parts, and other products from companies and suppliers suspected of using forced and imprisoned laborers in China’s Xinjiang region. “The scourge of forced labor practices used in China is an unconscionable assault on innocent people and a threat […]

1.

The Trump administration on Monday banned imports of cotton apparel, computer parts, and other products from companies and suppliers suspected of using forced and imprisoned laborers in China’s Xinjiang region. “The scourge of forced labor practices used in China is an unconscionable assault on innocent people and a threat to American producers,” said Mark Morgan, acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Under the orders, stemming from two years of investigation, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials put holds on shipments from four commercial entities, a training center, and an industrial park. U.S. officials have condemned China in recent years for abuses against the region’s mostly Muslim Uighur minority population. A representative of China’s embassy repeated the Chinese government’s past assertions that companies in the region follow international labor laws. [The Wall Street Journal]

2.

Billionaire hedge fund manager Steve Cohen on Monday announced that he would buy the New York Mets in a deal estimated to value the baseball team at nearly $2.5 billion. “I am excited to have reached an agreement with the Wilpon and Katz families to purchase the New York Mets,” Cohen said. Cohen reportedly will own 95 percent of the franchise, although he still must get approval from at least 23 of the other 29 Major League Baseball team owners. Owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon have controlled the Mets since 2002, and the team said late last year that they were open to selling a majority stake. The Mets were founded in 1962 and have won two World Series titles, the last one in 1986. The financial resources of a new billionaire owner were expected to strengthen the team’s chances of becoming contenders again. [Reuters, Sports Illustrated]

3.

Former Nissan executive Greg Kelly pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to helping hide some of Carlos Ghosn’s compensation when he was the automaker’s leader. “I deny the allegations,” Kelly said as his trial began before a three-judge panel in Tokyo District Court. “I was not involved in a criminal conspiracy.” Prosecutors say Ghosn, Kelly, and Nissan underreported Ghosn’s compensation by $87 million over eight years, ending in 2018. A Nissan representative entered a guilty plea on behalf of the company. Ghosn and Kelly were arrested nearly two years ago, but Kelly faces trial alone because Ghosn fled house arrest and went to Lebanon last December, saying the Japanese justice system was rigged. Kelly defended Ghosn, crediting him with leading Nissan back to profitability and growth after it flirted with insolvency in the late 1990s. The trial is expected to last 10 months. [The Associated Press, The New York Times]

4.

U.S. stock index futures climbed early Tuesday, extending Monday’s broad rally. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were up by about 0.6 percent several hours before the opening bell, while those of the tech-heavy Nasdaq rose by nearly 1 percent. All three of the main U.S. benchmarks gained on Monday following back-to-back weekly losses. The Nasdaq gained 1.9 percent on Monday, bouncing back from its worst week since March as big tech stocks regained some of the strength that made them market leaders through the coronavirus crisis. The The Dow and the S&P 500 also rose by more than 1 percent. Investor sentiment got a lift from positive news on coronavirus vaccine research, including AstraZeneca’s decision to resume its phase three trial in the United Kingdom. [CNBC]

5.

The Treasury Department said Monday that it would review Oracle’s plan to take control of TikTok’s U.S. operations in a deal with the short-video app’s Chinese owner, ByteDance. President Trump has threatened to shut down TikTok unless ByteDance sells its U.S. business to an American company, citing fears that Beijing could access users’ data. TikTok said Monday it believed the proposed arrangement “would resolve the administration’s security concerns.” ByteDance on Monday said it had chosen Oracle as its “trusted technology provider.” Oracle beat out the other main suitor, Microsoft, which had made a bid to buy TikTok’s U.S. operations. Oracle, and possibly Walmart, could get stakes in TikTok but would not own all of its U.S. assets, although the full terms of the deal have not been released. [The Wall Street Journal, CNBC]

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