Business News

Sam Bankman-Fried's bond guarantors should be public, judge says

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Sam Bankman-Fried's bond guarantors should be named publicly, a federal judge ruled Monday after news organizations objected to the names being redacted.

Bankman-Fried was released on a $250 million personal recognizance bond co-signed by his parents and two other non-parental sureties.

The judge agreed with news organizations who argued the public interest weighed in favor of allowing the two names to be released. Bankman-Fried argued there was a risk of physical threats to the parties if their names were exposed.

"If the names of the non-parental sureties are disclosed, it is reasonable to assume that those individuals will become subject to publicity that they would prefer not to attract," Judge Lewis Kaplan said. "But that alone does not do the trick."

The judge's decision comes as prosecutors pushed again on Monday for a ban on Sam Bankman-Fried reaching out to potential witnesses

Kaplan stayed his order until Feb. 7 to allow for an appeal.

Bankman-Fried was charged with fraud and conspiracy following the collapse of the crypto platform he founded, FTX.

Prosecutors asked the judge to modify the conditions of the bond and order Bankman-Fried not to contact or communicate with current or former FTX or Alameda employees and not to use any encrypted messaging apps.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Johnson & Johnson can't invoke bankruptcy to stop cancer lawsuits, court says

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(NEW YORK) -- Johnson & Johnson cannot use bankruptcy court to resolve civil lawsuits that claim its iconic baby powder caused cancer, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.

The opinion foiled Johnson & Johnson's plan to shift onto a new entity, LTL Management LLC, some 38,000 lawsuits that alleged the talc in Johnson's Baby Powder has caused ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.

LTL Management filed for chapter 11 protection in hopes of resolving the claims that have already cost Johnson & Johnson $1 billion.

The pursuit of bankruptcy protection by LTL Management does not meet the bankruptcy code's intended purpose, since LTL Management is not in financial distress, the court opinion said.

"Good intentions— such as to protect the J&J brand or comprehensively resolve litigation—do not suffice alone," the opinion added.

Johnson & Johnson, which maintains its baby powder is safe and does not cause cancer, said it would challenge the ruling.

"LTL Management LLC initiated this process in good faith and our objective has always been to equitably resolve claims related to the Company's cosmetic talc litigation," the company said in a statement.

"Today's ruling does not reflect the facts established during the Bankruptcy Court's trial regarding the appropriateness of LTL's formation and filing, nor the Company's intention to efficiently resolve the cosmetic talc litigation for the benefit of all parties, including current and future claimants," the company added.

Critics had urged the court to reject the legal maneuver fearing it could prompt other big companies to avoid bringing mass tort lawsuits before juries.

Brian Glasser, an attorney at Bailey & Glasser and trial counsel to the Official Committee of Talc Claimants in the Johnson & Johnson bankruptcy, welcomed the court ruling.

"J&J has no special right to put talc victims in a bankruptcy box. It now has to face these claims in front of juries around the nation," Glasser said in a statement.

Talc, a mineral used in a host of cosmetic products, forms under similar environmental conditions as asbestos, causing the two to occasionally mix in mines.

In 2019, Johnson & Johnson recalled a shipment of baby powder when a sample tested positive for a trace amount of asbestos, the Food and Drug Administration said. Sales of the talc-based product ended in North America the following year.

The company announced last year that it would stop using talc in its baby powder worldwide in 2023. The ingredient would be replaced with cornstarch, the company said.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Over 50,000 pounds of charcuterie-style sausage recalled over listeria contamination

USDA

(NEW YORK) -- Before you start on that charcuterie board, check your meats to ensure they're safe to consume.

Over 50,000 pounds of ready-to-eat sausage products were recalled Sunday due to possible listeria contamination, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced.

The agency's Food Safety and Inspection Service, along with Daniele International LLC, a Rhode Island-based food manufacturer, announced that the recall affected nearly 52,914 pounds of products, which "may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes."

"FSIS discovered the problem during routine inspection activities where Listeria monocytogenes was found on surfaces in which the product came into contact," the recall stated.

The affected products were produced on dates spanning from May 23, 2022 through Nov. 25, 2022, and were shipped to retailers nationwide through Jan. 17, 2023, FSIS announced.

Eight SKUs under various brand labels are subject to the recall and bear the establishment number "EST. 54" inside the USDA mark of inspection, according to the agency:

- 6-ounce plastic tray of "FREDERIK'S by meijer SPANISH STYLE charcuterie sampler tray" with sell by date 4/15/23.

- 6-ounce plastic tray of "Boar's Head CHARCUTUERIE TRIO" with sell by dates 4/13/23, 4/14/23, and 4/15/23.

- 7-ounce plastic tray of "COLAMECO'S PRIMO NATURALE GENOA UNCURED SALAMI" with sell by date 12/23/23.

- 7-ounce plastic tray of "COLAMECO'S PRIMO NATURALE BLACK PEPPER UNCURED SALAMI" with use by dates 12/22/23, 12/30/23, and 1/17/24.

- 1-pound plastic tray of "DEL DUCA SOPRESSATA, COPPA & GENOA SALAMI" with sell by dates 4/13/23 and 4/14/23.

- 1-pound plastic tray of "DEL DUCA CALABRESE, PROSCIUTTO & COPPA" with sell by date 5/6/23.

- 1-pound plastic tray of "DEL DUCA GENOA SALAMI, UNCURED PEPPERONI & HARD SALAMI" with use by date 5/4/23.

- 12-ounce plastic tray of "Gourmet Selection SOPRESSATA, CAPOCOLLO, HARD SALAME" with sell by date 4/14/23.

Click here for additional label information and product details provided by the USDA and Daniele International LLC.

"FSIS is concerned that some product may be in consumers' refrigerators. Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase," Sunday's recall announcement stated.

As of time of publication, USDA officials said there had been "no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products."

"Anyone concerned about an injury or illness should contact a healthcare provider," the recall added.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), listeria can cause severe illness "when the bacteria spread beyond the gut to other parts of the body" after a person consumes contaminated food.

"Listeria is especially harmful if you are pregnant, aged 65 or older, or have a weakened immune system due to certain medical conditions or treatments," the CDC states. "If you are pregnant, it can cause pregnancy loss, premature birth, or a life-threatening infection in your newborn. Other people can be infected with Listeria, but they rarely become seriously ill."

Those at lower risk of severe illness can experience "mild food poisoning symptoms like diarrhea and fever, and usually recover without treatment," the CDC adds.

ABC News' Good Morning America has reached out to Daniele International LLC for comment on the recall.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


'I'm still shocked': Tech workers offer insider account of mass layoffs

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(NEW YORK) -- Layoffs have battered the tech industry in 2023, carrying over a series of job cuts that began last year. In all, about 50,000 people have lost their positions this month.

Tech giants such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon have led the sector in the size of their cuts. While a slew of smaller companies like Spotify, Vox Media and IBM have imposed layoffs too.

Sales at top tech firms have retreated from the blistering pace attained during the pandemic, when billions across the world were forced into isolation.

Company officials have often cited economic uncertainty and recession fears in their layoff announcements.

While the large-scale job cuts sound economic alarm, they mark a more immediate, intimate rupture for the workers who suffer them. ABC News spoke with three laid-off workers about what the experience was like and how they're coping with it.

Nneoma Ajiwe, Spotify

What started as a normal morning turned into a surprise for 29-year-old Nneoma Ajiwe.

Around 5:14 am, Ajiwe says she received a calendar invite requesting her attendance in a one-on-one meeting with someone on Spotify's HR team.

"It's funny because the night before I was texting my coworker Tiktoks that we were laughing at and she's like 'I don't mean to alarm you' and sent this Bloomberg article about Spotify doing layoffs as early as this week," Ajiwe said. "I told her that we're probably okay."

Little did she know, she'd be one of the 6% of employees, roughly around 600, to be slashed from Spotify's workforce this year.

About an hour after Ajiwe received her calendar invite, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek sent out an email to employees breaking the news.

"I was literally driving on my way to the gym," Ajiwe said.

The Houston native is a 2016 graduate from the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor's degree in public relations. She'd worked for a plethora of companies in the industry such as Billboard, Genius, Sirius XM and XXL Magazine but always saw her career at Spotify as "unattainable."

Ajiwe had applied five times before she was granted the job of social marketing manager for Spotify for Artists and Spotify Charts in May 2022.

Having been laid off from a different employer before, Ajiwe shared that she felt many different emotions this time around but the one that she felt just days after the Monday layoff was "annoyed."

"This sucks because I particularly loved this team. I just got there. I loved my job," Ajiwe said. "I'm still shocked and just trying to sort through feelings and think about what I need to do."

In response to a request for comment, Spotify provided the memo about the layoffs that Ek sent to employees.

"Like many other leaders, I hoped to sustain the strong tailwinds from the pandemic and believed that our broad global business and lower risk to the impact of a slowdown in ads would insulate us," Ek said. "In hindsight, I was too ambitious in investing ahead of our revenue growth."

Although layoffs can cause an immediate bout of financial trouble, Ajiwe works as a photographer on the side and calls herself a "good saver."

Because of this, she figures she will take a month or so to figure out her next move.

"I wasn't devastated by the fact that I may not have any money coming in for three months, because I know I have stuff that I do on the side. But it does suck because this was the highest I was making. It was my career," she said.

"I just think that with every opportunity that has closed for me, something better has always happened. I firmly believe that God is going to put me in a better place," Ajiwe said.

Jonathan Bellack, Google

Jonathan Bellack, 50, who worked at Google for nearly 15 years, said he knew his tenure was nearly over -- and he wanted it that way. Two months ago, he told the company he sought to leave early in 2023.

When he made the request, Bellack had expected Google to work with him on a plan for handing off his duties and saying goodbye. Instead, he didn't hear much, he said.

"I had an inkling that something was up," said Bellack, who lives in Montclair, New Jersey.

A self-described "workaholic," Bellack had climbed the ranks at Google, becoming a senior director of product management who oversaw a team of about 45 employees devoted to developing systems that protect users from phishing schemes and other attacks.

Over time, he says he came to enjoy the mentorship and relationships more than other parts of the job, he said.

Bellack says he woke up at about 5 a.m. on Jan. 20 and found an email telling him "'the company no longer has a position for you,'" he said.

His access to work email remained long enough for him to see another message announcing company-wide layoffs. Within minutes, he was locked out, he said.

In all, Google slashed 12,000 jobs or about 6% of its workforce. Having watched the onslaught of layoffs in the tech industry, Bellack wasn't surprised.

"It seemed like the thing all the cool kids were doing in Silicon Valley," he said of the layoffs.

Google did not respond to a request for comment. In an email to employees last Friday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said: "This will mean saying goodbye to some incredibly talented people we worked hard to hire and have loved working with."

The layoffs left Bellack "very torn," he said. The forced exit clarified his status, allowing him to move on; but he felt badly for colleagues who hadn't expected it.

"A lot of people had no idea that this was happening or that they might be involved," he said. "For them, it's obviously a shock."

Bellack is not worried about his financial outlook, he said, characterizing his previous job as "aggressively compensated." Further, he praised the severance package provided by the company, which gave departing employees a 16-week base compensation with an extra two weeks for every year of employment.

A new project already awaits, Bellack said. He has launched a consulting service that advises start-ups and other companies on how to grow.

The father of two sons, aged 9 and 14, Bellack looks forward to lunches with his wife and time with his kids, he said. Their first big move: Getting a dog.

"If you put that in the article, my 9-year-old will be excited," he said. "It'll mean I've firmly committed."

Phoebe Gavin, Vox

Phoebe Gavin, 37, the former executive director of talent and development at digital news outlet Vox, was laid off by the company last week. But she had been preparing for something like this ever since a "very scary situation" nearly a decade ago, she said.

In 2014, Gavin lost her job at a different media company. Lacking any savings, she had to "put everything on my credit card to get to my next job," she said. Since then, she said, she began placing 10% of every paycheck into savings and later cultivated a side gig as a career coach.

Last Friday, Gavin had a previously scheduled meeting with her boss, who told her she was being let go and that she should take the rest of the day off, she said. Vox Media, the parent company of Vox, laid off 130 workers, which amounts to 7% of its staff.

Gavin, who worked at Vox for a little more than a year, oversaw the internal experience of employees, so she understood what her manager could and couldn't say about the decision. "I wouldn't have expected her to tell me more," she said.

The news surprised Gavin, but she knew she worked in a tumultuous business.

"It was a little bit of shock and a little bit of 'well, I work in the media industry,'" she said.

Vox Media declined comment about the layoffs. In a memo to employees last Friday, Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff cited "the challenging economic environment impacting our business and industry."

After years of planning for a possible career setback, Gavin isn't worried about her finances, she said. In fact, she's ready to turn her side gig into a full-time job, having turned away clients from her career coaching business over the past six months.

"I've had to strike a balance of making sure the side hustle fit into side-hustle time -- I don't have to do that anymore," she said. "Instead of 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., I'll work on it from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m."

Gavin, who is Black, said her commitment to protecting her career owes in part to her knowledge that widespread job losses disproportionately affect people of color and women.

"That's something that as a society we clearly have to take strong steps to address," she said. "The system is not going to improve fast enough to keep us safe as individuals."

To weather the mental health challenges of job flux, Gavin says she will draw on therapy that has helped her assemble an "emotional toolbox," she said, noting that a more flexible schedule will help her do stress-relieving activities.

"I'm mostly focused on being able to go to the gym in the middle of the day when it's empty," she said. "One of the things that helps is picking up heavy things and putting them down."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Remember 'quiet quitting'? 'Quiet hiring' is the new workplace trend of 2023

Marko Geber/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- The term "quiet quitting" went viral last year, describing people who stay in their jobs but mentally take a step back -- for example, working the bare minimum and not making their job the center of their lives.

Now in 2023, there is a new workplace trend on the horizon, called "quiet hiring."

The term -- a way to obtain new talent without hiring new employees -- was declared one of the nine workplace trends of the year by Gartner, a technological research and consulting firm.

The trend has understandably caught people's attention as it comes amid continued recession fears and a wave of tech industry layoffs.

Here is what to know:

What is quiet hiring?

Quiet hiring is a strategy companies are using to fill in holes without hiring new full-time employees, according to Emily Rose McRae, senior director of research at Gartner.

Before people get concerned the trend is a just a fancy term for cutting headcount and giving more work to existing employees, McRae said it's more specific than that.

"With quiet hiring, we're talking about an organization strategically, at a leadership level, looking at the talent they have across the organization and where the critical gaps are and finding ways to fill those," she said. "It's trying to acquire new skills and capabilities without acquiring new people."

As an example, McRae said a company may determine it needs to add five more data scientists to its team in order to meet its strategic goals for the year.

The company may then look at the hiring forecast and see it could take as long as nine months to fill those five roles, which would mean they could not meet their 2023 goals.

As a solution, the company may decide to temporarily move five employees from another department, like data analysts in the human resources and marketing department, into the five open data scientist roles, and that is quiet hiring, McRae explained.

"The idea is that you have a finite amount of talent in your organization, and you need to make a call about where it's going to have the best impact," McRae said. "In this case, you're saying, 'We're going to intentionally deprioritize analytic support for HR and marketing for the next six months so that we can increase the productivity of our data science team, and we are saying this very explicitly. Everyone knows this.'"

According to McRae, the important distinction with quiet hiring is that a company is openly communicating with employees about its priorities and temporarily moving employees to areas that serve those priorities, versus just loading employees with more work instead of hiring more people.

"A company is saying, 'We are intentionally deprioritizing that space right now in order to prioritize another part of the business,'" McRae said.

Why is quiet hiring a 2023 trend?

The current economic uncertainty is one reason why quiet hiring is a current trend, as companies may be more likely to slow down hiring, according to McRae.

Another reason, she explained, is a widespread talent shortage.

"We do not have enough talent for the roles that are available," McRae said. "The jobs report that just came out said we had the lowest number of job seekers in months, so we're not in a situation where we're easily finding lots more talent."

According to McRae, the talent shortage means it may take employers several months to fill a position, while the economic uncertainty means companies may intentionally keep their employee count at a minimum.

In both scenarios, she said, companies would turn to existing employees to fill mission-critical roles.

What should I do if my employer is quiet hiring?

While a workplace trend that involves being assigned to a new role may seem scary, McRae said quiet hiring should be both beneficial and reassuring to employees.

"If you were asked to do a totally different role, or to take on additional responsibilities, they're asking you to do that because your work is valued," she said. "They value you enough to say, 'Please can you do this for us.'"

McRae said the key with quiet hiring is that your employer is explicitly telling you what is happening and what is expected.

That means there is also an opportunity for you, as an employee, to learn new skills, possibly transition to a different line of work within the company and to negotiate.

"One thing that an employee could get out of it is by asking, 'OK, I will do this rotation but I actually want to move over there permanently, so how can we make that happen?'" said McRae, noting that an employee could negotiate having the company pay for additional training or providing a mentor.

McRae said she recommends that employees use the opportunity to negotiate a one-time bonus or salary increase for the time of their rotation, or a greater amount of paid time off or more flexibility if a company says it cannot increase pay.

"An employee might say, 'If it's not possible to increase my compensation, can we make it so that I can work from home five days a week, reducing my my commute costs?'" McRae said. "Or, 'Can we make it so that I can work flex hours, which makes it easier for me to live the rest of my life?'"

McRae added that while an individual conversation may be intimidating, if you're part of a department or team being asked to switch roles, leverage that power and approach human resources as a group.

For example, McRae said employees could say, "This is a group wide challenge. We'd like to make sure we have an understanding of it."

Employees should also feel empowered to "nudge" their employer towards quiet hiring.

"If there are roles within your organization that you work with a lot or that require similar skills that you think would be interesting, talk to your manager about what opportunities are available," McRae said. "Could you do some trainings? Could you rotate in over time? You can nudge your company in the direction of quiet hiring, if you want."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden climate law spurred billions in clean energy investment. Has it been a success?

Alex Wong/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- When President Joe Biden signed the $369 billion Inflation Reduction Act in August, supporters hailed the measure as the largest climate investment in the nation's history -- but questions remained about what the spending would ultimately achieve.

The majority of the funding took the form of tax credits meant to incentivize private investment in clean energy, such as wind and solar, and in theory, boost U.S. production of renewables as the nation pursues ambitious carbon emissions goals and a supply chain less dependent on China.

The success of the strategy, however, in a large part hinged on the willingness of companies to pursue those tax credits. So far, dozens of firms have announced projects that qualify for government relief, totaling more than $40 billion in clean energy investment and adding nearly 7,000 jobs, according to a report from Clean Power America, an industry group representing green energy companies.

New plans range from a battery manufacturing plant in Georgia to a solar complex in Alabama to the expansion of a wind turbine facility in Colorado, the report found.

As the global supply chain struggles to recover from the pandemic, the early wave of investment proves the wisdom of the landmark energy law, foretelling significant growth for U.S. clean energy and easing the sector's reliance on China, some industry representatives and analysts said.

But some climate experts cautioned that the tens of billions in investment makes up a fraction of the scale required, leaving the effectiveness of the environmental measure in question. The law left out key parts of the climate change fight that could imperil carbon emissions goals regardless of the amount of investment, they added.

"Friction in the global economy is causing difficulties getting solar panels and lithium batteries," David Victor, a professor of innovation and public policy at the University of California, San Diego, told ABC News. "It's hard to deploy the commitments we've made, let alone bring a radical expansion."

"This is a massive amount of money behind that ambition that we've never seen before in American history," he added.

To be sure, a host of industry groups and economists opposed the Inflation Reduction Act altogether, warning that the billions in spending would exacerbate inflation rather than alleviate it. Congressional Republicans tried to obstruct the law with a party-line "no" vote.

“We share the goal of addressing climate change," the American Petroleum Institute, a trade group representing about 600 companies in the oil and natural gas industry said in a letter to House leaders before the law's passage. "The considerable tax increases and new government spending in the IRA amount to the wrong policies at the wrong time.”

Last decade, the use of renewable electricity in the U.S. skyrocketed. Between 2011 and 2020, the U.S. quadrupled the share of electricity it gets from wind and solar, according to a report from the nonprofit Environment America Research and Policy Center and the nonpartisan research organization Frontier Group.

Over the first six months of 2022, nearly a quarter of U.S. electricity generation came from renewable sources, according to the Energy Information Administration, a government agency. But the progress falls well short of the Biden administration's goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035.

The need for additional U.S. clean energy capacity has drawn attention to the nation's renewables manufacturing sector, which pales in comparison to China, the source of more than 80% of components in all of the key stages of solar production, the International Energy Agency said in July.

As global supply chain bottlenecks amid the pandemic have weighed on China's economy and hindered U.S. access to key parts, the need for a fix has gained added urgency, some analysts said.

"Frankly, we've seen a slowdown," John Hensley, vice president for research and analytics at American Clean Power, told ABC News. "The inability to source solar modules is front and center."

The three-month period ending in September marked the slowest quarter for renewable energy growth in three years, a report from American Clean Power found. Wind installations fell 78% compared with the previous quarter, while solar installations dropped 23%, the report showed.

By dramatically expanding U.S. clean energy production, the Inflation Reduction Act, or IRA, will help the nation circumvent a fragile global supply chain and return it to a trajectory of robust growth, industry representatives and some analysts said.

A pronounced impact is expected in the solar market. The law will lead to over $600 billion in new investment over the next decade, bringing 50% more solar investment than the country would've drawn without the measure, the Solar Energy Industry Association found.

Hanwha Qcells, a Korean solar company, announced earlier this month more than $2.5 billion in new investment to build a manufacturing facility about 50 miles northwest of Atlanta. The company said it will also expand an existing plant in Dalton, Georgia, bringing a total of 2,500 new jobs.

"The U.S. solar manufacturing industry has really struggled over the last couple decades," Scott Moskowitz, senior director, head of market strategy and public affairs at Qcells North America, told ABC News. "The IRA marks a turning point in the history of the industry."

The Republican party, whose members on Capitol Hill uniformly opposed the energy law, retains one-party control of Georgia's state legislature. But government officials in the state have backed the solar project, Moskowitz said.

"We've had nothing but support from our elected officials," he said. "We've found there's universal support for manufacturing jobs and pretty wide support for a diversified and cleaner energy mix."

Despite signs of success, some analysts warned that the investment so far remains far short of what the country will require to achieve its climate goals.

"It's definitely good," Mark Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, told ABC News. "The issue is we need much more."

The law hamstrings itself, Jacobson said, since it includes tax credits for what he says are unproven technologies like carbon capture, a way of reducing emissions at their source by trapping and storing carbon before it releases into the air. Such tax credits are "basically taking money away from real solutions," he said.

The market will limit the use of credits for technology that proves ineffective, limiting that potential waste, said Hensley, of American Clean Power.

"If you have a project that doesn't have great economics, that doesn't have a great production profile, that isn't delivering on goals and benefits, not many of those projects are going to get done," he said.

While improving the output of clean energy, the IRA doesn't address the issue of fossil fuel consumption, Jacobson said. As long as cars, homes and offices use fossil fuels, the benefits of clean energy will prove limited, he said.

"The IRA isn't addressing that problem of getting rid of fossil fuels," he said. "The big problem is we need to stop burning things."

Hensley acknowledged that the climate fight will require initiatives that extend beyond clean energy production.

"It will take a joint effort to get there," he said. "The country has a good track record of rising to the occasion."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Sam Bankman-Fried has tried to contact potential witnesses, government says

(NEW YORK) -- Disgraced crypto executive Sam Bankman-Fried has made “recent attempts” to contact prospective witnesses in his criminal case, federal prosecutors said Friday in a letter to the judge that sought new conditions of his release.

Bankman-Fried has been free on a $250 million bond after he was charged with fraud and conspiracy following the collapse of the crypto platform he founded, FTX.

Prosecutors asked the judge to modify the conditions of the bond and order Bankman-Fried not to contact or communicate with current or former FTX or Alameda employees and not to use any encrypted messaging apps.

“The imposition of these new conditions is justified in light of the nature of the case, as well as the defendant’s recent attempts to contact prospective witnesses,” assistant United States Attorney Danielle Sassoon wrote in the government’s letter.

“It has recently come to the Government’s attention that the defendant has been in direct communication with the current General Counsel of FTX US who may be a witness at trial, and who is represented by counsel.”

The outreach was made through Signal, prosecutors said, and by email that said, “I would really love to reconnect and see if there’s a way for us to have a constructive relationship, use each other as resources when possible, or at least vet things with each other.”

Prosecutors said they were concerned the message proposed an alliance and suggested an effort to influence the general counsel’s potential testimony.

“This is particularly concerning given that the defendant is aware that Witness-1 has information that would tend to inculpate the defendant. The Government has interviewed Witness-1, who has firsthand knowledge of the defendant’s conduct during the charged conspiracies, including during the collapse of FTX in November 2022,” the letter said.

The defendant has also contacted other current and former FTX employees, prosecutors said.

There was no immediate response from the defense or the judge.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


What to know about severance pay amid high-profile layoffs

Anchalee Phanmaha/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Continued recession fears and a cascade of tech industry layoffs have drawn renewed attention to severance packages, the compensation offered to some departing employees.

Severance packages, which range widely in size and duration, offer newly unemployed workers a financial buffer as they face an uncertain job market.

But laid-off workers may not fully understand the terms of a severance package, or could feel pressure to accept the terms without looking them over closely, legal and career experts told ABC News.

As employees depart a company, they should be fully informed of the details of a separation and negotiate for the best outcome they can get, the experts added.

"If employers give money, there's a carrot in front of employees," Matt Blit, an attorney at employment law firm Levine and Blit, which handles severance cases, told ABC News. "Employees typically sign without even reading them."

Here's what you need to know about severance packages:

Why do companies offer severance?

Companies are not required by law to offer severance.

They provide ex-employees with financial and other benefits to blunt the damage caused by a termination that may be unrelated to a worker's performance, experts told ABC News.

The move also helps companies minimize the public relations backlash that can result from layoffs, they said.

"It sends a message about how you take care of your people," Alexandra Levitt, a career expert and author of the forthcoming book "Deep Talent," told ABC News. "Severance is a very important part of that."

In exchange, workers who accept severance agreements are often required to forgo publicly criticizing the company or bringing legal action against it, the experts said. In some instances, the agreements also stipulate that ex-employees cannot work at rival companies or seek business from the same clients, they added.

"Companies pay severance so that they never have to worry about an employee ever again," Blit said. "Companies are not in the business of giving away money."

What's in a typical severance package?

Experts on severance cautioned there is no common template used for the agreements, leaving the onus on departing employees to ensure they understand a package before accepting it.

"There's no such thing as a standard severance agreement," Blit said.

Still, severance packages usually include some or all of a common set of offerings: financial payment, continued access to health care and other benefits, job-search assistance and mental health support.

A company may offer some benefits in lieu of others, the experts said. The wide variation between severance agreements highlights the importance of reading the terms or asking a lawyer to examine them.

"There are so many different angles that employers take," Blit said.

How severance pay is calculated

The calculation behind the financial compensation offered in severance agreements varies from stingy to generous.

Favorable severance agreements offer one month's worth of salary for every year of tenure with the company; while more frugal packages provide just one week's worth of salary for each year, experts said.

If a laid-off employee worked for a company for five years, for instance, his or her compensation at the upper end of the range would amount to nearly a half year's worth of pay.

In some cases, companies offer a base amount of compensation and an additional sum tied to one's tenure. Google, which laid off 12,000 workers earlier this month, provided each employee with 16 weeks of severance pay, plus an additional two weeks for each year of tenure.

A federal law, called the WARN Act, mandates that large businesses give 60-day notice when undertaking a mass layoff. Some states, like Illinois and California, impose stronger versions of the nationwide law.

When layoffs must comply with such laws, companies either tell employees about the layoffs before they go into effect or keep workers on the payroll for two months afterward. If laid-off workers remain on the payroll, that compensation can be received separately from the pay offered in a severance package.

If a worker is set to receive a bonus, some employers pay a portion of that payout in the severance package, Blit said. Conversely, some employers demand repayment of a worker's signing bonus if he or she is terminated before reaching a given tenure threshold, he said.

"If an employee signs on to get a $5,000 bonus and gets terminated within the first year, he may have to give that money back," Blit said. "You can owe the employer money back."

When do companies pay severance?

Companies typically pay severance in a single lump sum or over a series of payments that mimic how an employee received his or her salary, experts said.

Under some severance agreements, ex-employees must stop receiving financial compensation if they find a new job, giving reason for some employees to opt for a lump payment.

But the size and timeline of a severance payment carries different tax implications, which can significantly affect the take-home pay enjoyed by a departing worker, experts said.

How is severance taxed?

Severance is taxed in the same manner as wage or salary income.

If payment is received in a large sum, therefore, the recipient faces the higher taxes associated with the elevated tax bracket in which that payment falls.

"You have to be careful looking at a huge sum, keeping in mind that it's going to be taxed at the same rate as income," Levitt said. "It's not a windfall -- it's taxed like any other income."

Ex-employees who take the income as a continuation of their salary payment will end up paying less in taxes, Blit said.

By comparison, the tax payment required for a lump sum is "astronomical," he said.

Can employees negotiate severance?

Severance experts encouraged departing employees to negotiate over their severance agreement since they have little to lose and potentially much to gain.

Laid-off workers can push for more compensation or a longer payment timeline, or they can try to exchange non-monetary benefits for monetary ones, Levitt said, adding that newly terminated employees should be sure to remain on good terms with their former employer.

"You don't have to be rude about it, but you can see if there's room for negotiation and just do your best," she said.

When asked whether laid-off workers should negotiate over the terms, Blit said, "Always."

When employers offer outplacement services, or job-search assistance, laid-off workers should try to exchange that benefit for its equivalent monetary value, he added.

"A lot of employers do provide some outplacement services – I find what employers typically provide to be kind of worthless," he said. "I usually tell clients to get the money value of it."

The negotiation over severance should resemble the initial push and pull over a newly hired worker's salary and benefits, Levitt said.

"There's negotiation at the start of engagement with an employer and negotiation at the end," Levitt said.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


What to know about PFAS after Thinx underwear settles class-action lawsuit

Nicky J Sims/Getty Images, FILE

(NEW YORK) -- Human-made chemicals known as PFAS are back in the spotlight after the feminine hygiene company Thinx settled a class-action lawsuit earlier this month for millions of dollars.

The lawsuit was brought against Thinx by customers who claimed testing showed the brand's period underwear -- advertised by the company as sustainable, organic and reusable -- contained PFAS, otherwise known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or forever chemicals.

PFAS are manufactured chemicals that have been used in products like nonstick cookware, cosmetics and water-repellent clothing for decades, but have more recently been discovered to cause adverse health effects in some instances, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the United States, manufacturers aren't required to identify PFAS on labels.

Thinx settled with the five plaintiffs late last year for up to $5 million, but a recently-launched website has reignited interest in the case and restarted the conversation on what consumers need to know about PFAS.

The website, Thinxunderwearsettlement.com, shares details on who is eligible to file a claim to be able to receive part of the settlement money.

Here is what to know about the Thinx settlement and the allegations over PFAS.

What led to the lawsuit against Thinx?

An article published in 2020 by Sierra magazine first brought attention to the ingredients in Thinx products.

The article's author, Jessian Choy, had Thinx menstrual underwear and a similar product from another brand tested by Dr. Graham Peaslee, a physics professor at the University of Notre Dame, whose research focuses on PFAS.

Peaslee found the presence of PFAS in the Thinx products at "high levels," "especially on the inside layers of the crotch," according to Choy's article.

Following the article's publication, several lawsuits were filed against Thinx, and eventually those cases were merged into the one class-action lawsuit against the company that was settled last year.

"The presence of these chemicals contradicts all of Thinx's unvarying representations that the product is nontoxic, harmless, sustainable, organic, environmentally friendly, and otherwise safe for women and the environment," the plaintiffs alleged in the lawsuit, also claiming the company "knowingly and willfully concealed and misrepresented the true nature of Thinx Underwear."

Erin J. Ruben, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told ABC News that the lawsuit focused on how Thinx marketed its products. She said the settlement in the case is "about more than just refunds."

"Thinx has agreed to make changes to its marketing, in addition to taking other measures to ensure that PFAS is not intentionally added to the product, which we believe will have lasting impact on consumers," Ruben said in a statement. "I also think it’s important that consumers understand that this case was about how Thinx's products were marketed -- not whether they caused harm to consumers."

What is Thinx's response to the lawsuit?

The lawsuit settlement includes no admission of wrongdoing by Thinx Inc., which includes the brands Thinx, Thinx Teens and Speax.

The company denies the allegations in the lawsuit, and denies it did "anything improper or unlawful," according to the settlement.

"Consumer health and product safety are top priorities for Thinx, and we stand by the quality, efficacy and safety of our products," a company spokesperson told ABC News in a statement. "The lawsuit is related to how products were marketed and not on product safety or any adverse health effects. PFAS has never been part of the brand’s product design and we continue to take measures to help ensure these substances are not added to our products."

The statement continued, "While the settlement included no admission of wrongdoing by Thinx, we have chosen to resolve this matter so that we can focus our attention on doing what the brand does best -- bringing innovative, safe and comfortable leak protection underwear to our consumers."

How common are PFAS in products?

PFAS began to be used in manufacturing in the 1950s, and for decades showed up in products ranging from shampoo and dental floss to cosmetics, fast food wrappers, pizza boxes, water-resistant clothing, umbrellas and in cleaning products like stain removers, according to the CDC.

It has only been in the last 20 years that further research has shown the dangers of PFAS, according to Peaslee, the Notre Dame professor who tested the Thinx products.

Because of their ability to last forever and because of their past widespread use, PFAS are still present all around, Peaslee explained.

"These things are so inert that they last for thousands of years, and they break down to the simplest products, which are all the fluorinated compounds," Peaslee told ABC News. "And these will actually get into your body and they start piling up, so everybody in North America already has millions of these chemicals in their blood."

In addition to absorbing the chemicals from products, people can also be exposed to PFAS through environmental factors like drinking water, accidentally ingesting soil or dust and eating exposed animal proteins, according to the CDC.

PFAS are not banned at the federal level in the U.S., but some states have taken action to restrict the use of PFAS.

How harmful are PFAS to a person's health?

Research shows that exposure to high levels of PFAS can lead to adverse health effects, but it is not yet known exactly what the level of exposure is that leads to different health outcomes, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

So far, research has shown that "exposure to certain levels of PFAS" may lead to everything from developmental delays in children and increased risk of some cancers to increased risk of obesity and high cholesterol, according to the EPA.

In women, exposure to PFAS may lead to difficulty getting pregnant, hormone issues and increased high blood pressure when pregnant, according to the EPA.

Peaslee noted that wearing a period product that contains PFAS is not going to harm a person in the short-term, but it may contribute to a bigger issue.

He said the risk of PFAS exposure is higher in certain areas of the body, including the groin, neck and underarms.

"No, they're not going to die from their period underwear by wearing them today, but they will increase their risk of exposure to these chemicals," he said. "And these chemicals you don't really want in your body, and they're already there."

Peaslee continued, "For most people, especially those with children or of childbearing age, you'd like to not be exposed to an extra chemical, and this is one that we can avoid."

How can PFAS be avoided?

Since companies do not have to list the presence of PFAS on labels, Peaslee suggests keeping an eye out on products that have an extra label showing they are PFA-free.

"When you get a label that says 'no intentional PFAS added,' that company has done some diligence," he said. "They're putting an extra 5-cent label on it to say, you know, 'We checked.'"

Peaslee said consumers can also watch for products marketed with words like "water-resistant" and "long-lasting," as those are two qualities that PFAS are used to help produce.

"You can look at those as indicators that you might have a problem," he said. "But you don't know for sure until somebody does a test or until a product deems itself and has been tested to be PFA-free, and that means the company has done some tests."

The EPA says to be aware of the water and food you consume and ensure they do not come from contaminated sources.

While individuals do not need to be tested for PFAS exposure, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends undergoing regular routine health screenings and following a physician’s guidance.

What do I do if I own Thinx underwear?

The settlement applies to people who purchased certain types of Thinx underwear in the U.S. between Nov. 12, 2016, and Nov. 28, 2022, according to the settlement website.

People who submit a claim have options ranging from receiving a cash refund up to $21 to a voucher for 35% off future purchases.

People also have the option to exclude themselves from the settlement, which would then make them free to file their own lawsuit should they desire.

ABC News' Kelly McCarthy and Jacqueline Laurean Yates contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Tech layoffs 2023: Companies that have made cuts

Mateusz Slodkowski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Companies across the tech industry have announced layoffs, affecting thousands of workers in the first few weeks of 2023.

Sales at top tech firms have retreated from the blistering pace attained during the pandemic, when billions across the world were forced into isolation. Customers stuck at home came to rely on delivery services like e-commerce and virtual connections formed through social media and videoconferencing.

Company officials have often cited economic uncertainty and fears of a recession in their job-cutting, cost-cutting decisions. It follows a volatile 2022, which was also marred with layoffs by the thousands across major tech brands.

SAP

SAP, the biggest software company in Europe, will lay off 2.5% of its global workforce, which amounts to about 2,800 employees, an earnings report on Thursday showed.

The move, which the company described as a "targeted restructuring," will cost between 250 million and 300 million euros, the earnings report said.

The layoffs will deliver yearly cost savings in 2024, the company said.

IBM

IBM will lay off 1.5% of its workforce or about 3,900 employees, the company announced on Wednesday.

The move is tied to the previously disclosed spinoff of Kyndryl, an IT-management company, as well as the sale of two business units, a spokesperson told ABC News.

The layoffs will cost the company $300 million over the first three months of 2023, the spokesperson said.

Spotify

Spotify, the Sweden-based music streaming platform, announced on Monday plans to slash 6% of its workforce, which amounts to about 600 employees.

After strong pandemic-era performance, the company encountered a challenging business environment, CEO Daniel Ek told employees in a memo on Monday.

"Like many other leaders, I hoped to sustain the strong tailwinds from the pandemic and believed that our broad global business and lower risk to the impact of a slowdown in ads would insulate us," he said. "In hindsight, I was too ambitious in investing ahead of our revenue growth."

Wayfair

Online home goods retailer Wayfair will lay off about 1,750 workers or roughly 10% of its staff, the company announced Friday, Jan. 20.

Wayfair saw business surge during the pandemic, as people stuck at home eschewed brick-and-mortar shopping and increased spending on furniture, home renovations and other domestic improvements.

But the economic environment has turned against the company, as inflation has strained household budgets and limited nonessential purchases.

The move last week follows a previous round of layoffs in August that cut 5% of the company's workforce.

"We thrive when we are scrappy and dedicated to customer outcomes," Wayfair CEO and Co-founder Niraj Shah said Friday in a message to employees. "Unfortunately, along the way, we over complicated things, lost sight of some of our fundamentals and simply grew too big."

Google

Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google, said it will cut roughly 12,000 jobs from its global workforce on Friday, Jan. 20.

The decision will impact approximately 6% of the company's employees.

"This will mean saying goodbye to some incredibly talented people we worked hard to hire and have loved working with," said Google's CEO Sundar Pichai in an email to Google employees on Friday morning.

"I'm deeply sorry for that. The fact that these changes will impact the lives of Googlers weighs heavily on me, and I take full responsibility for the decisions that led us here."

Pichai told employees the company is "bound to go through difficult economic cycles" and will "reengineer our cost base, and direct our talent and capital to our highest priorities."

Microsoft

Microsoft said on Jan. 18 it will lay off 10,000 employees this year, affecting nearly 5% of Microsoft's global workforce.

The layoffs at Microsoft arrive in response to "macroeconomic conditions and changing customer priorities," the company said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

"As we saw customers accelerate their digital spend during the pandemic, we're now seeing them optimize their digital spend to do more with less," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a memo to employees on Wednesday.

He continued, "We're also seeing organizations in every industry and geography exercise caution as some parts of the world are in a recession and other parts are anticipating one."

Amazon

In early January, Amazon announced plans to eliminate just over 18,000 roles total, including impending layoffs announced in November. The majority of roles being cut are in Amazon Stores and People Experience and Technology Solutions teams, according to an email sent to employees from Amazon CEO Andy Jassy.

Jassy had warned in November that job cuts at the e-commerce giant would continue in early 2023. Amazon employs roughly 1.5 million employees around the globe.

"This year's review has been more difficult given the uncertain economy and that we've hired rapidly over the last several years," the message read.

It continued, "We typically wait to communicate about these outcomes until we can speak with the people who are directly impacted. However, because one of our teammates leaked this information externally, we decided it was better to share this news earlier so you can hear the details directly from me."

Coinbase

Coinbase, a cryptocurrency trading platform, announced it will lay off 950 people, in a Jan. 10 statement from CEO Brian Armstrong.

"As we examined our 2023 scenarios, it became clear that we would need to reduce expenses to increase our chances of doing well in every scenario," Armstrong said in the statement.

"While it is always painful to part ways with our fellow colleagues, there was no way to reduce our expenses significantly enough, without considering changes to headcount."

Vox Media

Vox Media is also laying off employees, according to the Vox Media Union.

In a statement on Twitter, the union said, "We were informed today that the company is laying off around 7 percent of its workforce, and some of our members have been impacted. We're furious at the way the company has approached these layoffs, and are currently discussing how to best serve those who just lost their jobs."

Layoffs affecting other industries

Newell Brands -- the parent company of a host of consumer brands like outdoor goods company Coleman and cookware company Crockpot -- announced on Monday, Jan. 23, plans to lay off 13% of its office staff.

The move came in response to "the reality of the economic environment," CEO Ravi Saligram said in a message to employees.

"There’s no sugar coating this news," he added. "We will have to part with colleagues who we value and enjoy working with."

ABC News' Max Zahn and Jon Haworth contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


The year crypto broke: How customers, investors lost millions and what's being done

Curt Dell said he lost more than $200,000 worth of Bitcoin after Celsius filed for bankruptcy. - ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- It seemed like cryptocurrency was having a moment.

At the start of 2022, the Super Bowl featured celebrities like Tom Brady, Larry David and Matt Damon in commercials for crypto companies. Logos for crypto companies like FTX could be seen plastered on multiple sports arenas and a new wave of crypto influencers emerged, garnering hundreds of thousands of followers. Cryptocurrency was everywhere.

It was supposed to be an alternative to traditional finance.

Instead of exchanging money through a third party, like a bank, cryptocurrency allows users to transfer digital currency directly. However, unlike traditional forms of currency such as the U.S. dollar, the government does not insure deposits and federal agencies have taken limited steps to regulate the crypto industry.

But the major crash of the crypto market last year has brought headaches, fear and anger among the millions of people around the world who invested their savings and are left wondering whether they'll ever see their money again.

Curt Dell, a father of three from California, told ABC News' Rebecca Jarvis that he's lost over $200,000 in Bitcoin after the digital crypto lending company Celsius went bankrupt last year.

"It robbed [my family] of so much potential," said Dell, a California resident who works in sales. "It's such a bad situation."

"Impact x Nightline" takes a closer look at the chaos throughout the industry, speaking with executives at some of the biggest crypto companies, top officials at regulatory agencies, and the regular customers who suffered from the collapse. This episode is streaming now on Hulu.

"Crypto kind of rose out of the 2008 financial crisis," David Yaffe-Bellany, a New York Times reporter who covers crypto, told "Impact."

"That whole catastrophe was an example of the failures of the centralized financial system, and it helped inspire this movement to create a parallel financial system that didn't rely on the types of institutions whose bad behavior had caused a lot of people to suffer."

The crash shook the entire industry -- and multiple companies, including Celsius Network, filed for bankruptcy.

"What the crash did was prompt a kind of run on the bank. People panicked," Yaffe-Bellany said. "They thought that their cryptocurrencies were in danger, and they moved to withdraw everything that they deposited in Celsius, and that's what kind of exposed the kind of shaky foundations of the whole company."

Celsius was founded by Alex Mashinsky and two partners in 2017. Mashinsky used social media to promote his company and its high-yield crypto earnings.

"The whole idea of Celsius network was that it was a kind of crypto bank, except better than a bank," Yaffe-Bellany said. “You'd deposit your crypto. It would be safe there, but you'd also get these enormous returns on top of that.”

At its peak, Celsius had 2 million customers and a $3 million valuation. The company filed for bankruptcy in July.

In early January, New York Attorney General Letitia James sued Mashinsky, accusing him of defrauding investors. He didn't respond to multiple requests by ABC News for an interview or comment.

It’s too early to know how the Celsius bankruptcy process will play out, and whether customers will get back any of their money.

"I'd like to stay optimistic and think that I'll get at least a significant portion of it back," Dell said of his investment. "I don't think anybody really knows."

Celsius' bankruptcy has also been intertwined with the biggest scandal rocking the crypto industry: the fall of one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges, FTX.

Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder and CEO of FTX, posted on social media suggesting he might bid to take over Celsius’ assets shortly after the company filed for bankruptcy.

But that was before FTX found itself in trouble as well.

In early November, FTX filed for bankruptcy after a series of events exposed a multi-billion-dollar hole in the company’s balance sheet. A little over a month later Bankman-Fried was charged in federal court with eight counts of fraud. He has pleaded not guilty and his trial is slated to begin in October.

The series of high-profile collapses in the crypto industry has prompted calls for more regulation from the federal government.

The high-profile crypto collapses have prompted calls from activists, elected officials and others for more regulation from the federal government.

Christy Goldsmith Romero, a commissioner at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, told "Impact" that she agrees that the industry does need more oversight.

"We need, as regulators, the ability to go in to inspect, to go in and have exams, to set rules. And we need to ensure that there's no commingling of assets," she said.

Gary Gensler, the chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, told "Impact" he is willing to work more with the CFTC to protect consumers from shady crypto investments. In the meantime, he warned consumers to think hard before they invest their money in crypto.

"Don't get caught up in the FOMO, but you're also at risk of a field that the business model is taking your assets [and] co-mingling them, often in ways that are not allowed by our current laws," he said.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


US economy grew at end of 2022, defying recession fears

Javier Ghersi/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. economy grew robustly at the end of last year, defying recession fears and weathering an aggressive series of interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve, government data showed.

U.S. gross domestic product grew by a 2.9% annualized rate over the three months ending in December, according to data released Thursday. It marked a slowdown from 3.2% growth in the previous quarter.

The economy expanded despite interest rate hikes imposed last year by the Federal Reserve that aim to slow price increases by cooling the economy and choking off demand.

The approach, however, risks tipping the U.S. into a recession and putting millions out of work.

The gross domestic product data arrives days before the Federal Reserve decides whether to impose another interest rate hike, its first opportunity to do so this year. Last month, the Fed raised its short-term borrowing rate 0.5%, slowing the pace from previous rate hikes.

Economic activity shrank a combined 2.2% over the first six months of last year, marking two consecutive quarters of negative GDP, which many consider shorthand for identifying a downturn as a recession.

The National Bureau of Economic Research, a research organization seen as the formal authority for identifying recessions, uses a more complicated definition that takes into account an array of factors. It did not declare a recession last year.

The labor market has proven resilient. Hiring remained strong last month as employers added 233,000 jobs and wages grew a robust 4.6% compared to a year earlier.

Meanwhile, inflation has softened. Consumer prices rose 6.5% last month compared to a year ago, extending a months-long slowdown of price hikes after reaching a 40-year high in June.

Still, most economists expect a recession later this year, as interest rate hikes weigh on the economy, according to a survey released by Bloomberg last week. Forecasters expect gross domestic product to fall over the second and third quarters of this year, the survey found.

Despite the robust job market, growing evidence suggests the Fed's rate hikes have put the brakes on some economic activity.

Home sales fell for the 11th consecutive month in November, reaching their lowest rate since November 2010, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Barbie pays tribute to Bessie Coleman with new Inspiring Women series doll

Mattel

(NEW YORK) -- Barbie is honoring the life and legacy of Bessie Coleman with a new doll.

Coleman, whose birthday falls on Jan. 26, was the first Black and Native American female aviator and the first Black person to ever earn an international pilot's license.

The late American pioneer is being honored as part of the toymaker's Inspiring Women line of dolls for inspiring generations of women and people of color to explore a career in aviation.

Barbie teamed up with Coleman's great niece Gigi Coleman, the president of The Bessie Coleman Aviation All-Stars, to ensure the aviator's legacy was represented in its truest form.

The doll wears a brown hat emblazoned with her historic initials -- "BC" -- an olive green belted aviator suit and lace-up boots, much like Coleman wore.

"As someone who has dedicated much of my life to encouraging youth of all backgrounds to explore careers in aviation, my family and I commend Barbie for expanding my great aunt's legacy in such an overwhelming tribute, with a Bessie Coleman Inspiring Women doll," Gigi Coleman said in a statement. "Keeping Bessie's legacy alive has always been a labor of love for my family, and we are proud to recognize her determination and accomplishments for Black women in aviation and continue to share my great aunt's pioneering spirit with fans of all ages."

She added, "We hope through this doll more people will discover Bessie's story and be inspired. Stories have power, I grew up on anecdotes of my great-aunt's courage and look forward to sharing them in my upcoming book."

Lisa McKnight, executive vice president and global head of Barbie & Dolls at Mattel, also spoke highly of the company's latest launch.

"Bessie is a remarkable icon to inspire children everywhere to soar to greater heights," she said in a statement.

The Bessie Coleman Inspiring Women Doll is now available to shop at several mass retailers.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


New York attorney general voices concern over facial recognition

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- A viral controversy over the use of facial recognition technology to bar customers from New York City performance venues has drawn the attention of the state's top cop.

New York Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday sent a letter to Madison Square Garden Entertainment -- the company that owns venues like Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden - requesting information about the policy and raising the possibility that it could be illegal, James' office said.

The letter also questions whether the facial technology is reliable and what safeguards are in place to avoid bias and discrimination, her office added.

The weekend after Thanksgiving, lawyer Kelly Conlon tried to join her daughter's Girl Scout troop at a Rockettes performance but the venue scanned her face and barred her entrance.

Conlon reportedly appeared on an "attorney exclusion list" created by Radio City Music Hall's parent company, MSG Entertainment, which bans employees at law firms engaged in litigation with the company, even if a given individual isn't involved directly.

In this case, Conlon wasn't involved directly, but her firm was engaged in litigation against one of the company's restaurants, the New York Times reported. The incident at Radio City Music Hall was first reported by a New York affiliate of NBC.

In a separate incident at Madison Square Garden last month, another attorney was removed from a basketball game with the use of facial recognition software for the same reason as Conlon, the New York Post reported.

"MSG Entertainment cannot fight their legal battles in their own arenas," James said in a statement on Wednesday.

"Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall are world-renowned venues and should treat all patrons who purchased tickets with fairness and respect," she added. "Anyone with a ticket to an event should not be concerned that they may be wrongfully denied entry based on their appearance, and we're urging MSG Entertainment to reverse this policy."

MSG Entertainment did not respond to a request for comment on the letter from James.

In a statement to ABC News earlier this month, a spokesperson for MSG Entertainment defended the company's use of facial recognition software.

"Facial recognition technology is a useful tool widely used throughout the country, including the sports and entertainment industry, retail locations, casinos and airports, to protect the safety of the people that visit and work at those locations," the spokesperson said.

"Our venues are worldwide destinations and several sit on major transit hubs in the heart of New York," the spokesperson added. "We have always made it clear to our guests and to the public that we use facial recognition as one of our tools to provide a safe and secure environment for our customers and ourselves."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


How financial savings trend 'credit card fast' helped one woman buy a home

Lisa Samalonis

(NEW YORK) -- Credit card debt is often easy to pile on, but hard to pay off. For Lisa Samalonis, smart credit card saving was the key to rebuilding her life after divorce.

"It was very important for me to preserve some of that money so that I could put it down for a down payment and also to preserve through the divorce, to preserve my credit score so that I would be eligible for a mortgage," Samalonis told ABC News' Good Morning America.

The New Jersey mother said she had to adjust to living as a single mother of two on one income, so she decided to go on what she calls a "credit card fast."

"Not using my credit card in the beginning was a key factor in that, because when you're using cash or debit, you can see [that] you don't have enough money," she said. "It's having the awareness to know that you're actually spending more than you have."

With the help of her new trick, Samalonis was able to buy her own home. She shared her top three steps to becoming financially free.

Break down your finances

Samalonis said she bought a notebook to write down her expenses, prioritizing what was most important.

"The ones that were most important at the top, like food and my mortgage or housing. And then down the list of things that were less important," she said, adding that she was able to grant her own freedom by being honest with herself.

"By kind of breaking it down, and really being honest or getting real with myself, that actually gave me control as I went forward," she said.

Use zero-based budgeting

Samalonis said if you must use a credit card, be sure to continue to allocate your expenses so your budget remains accurate.

"When you use your credit card, you take money that you have in your account and you put it into a category or you allocate it to what you've just spent," she said.

Plan ahead

Finally, Samalonis said the best way to be prepared for the "credit card fast" is to plan ahead. Unexpected expenses will always come up, but you can plan a savings cushion to help cover some of those surprises.

"When unexpected expenses came up, either if it was things that were owed or if it was things that we wanted to do, I tried to plan ahead and so I would be able to save money each month towards that goal," Samalonis said.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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