Business and Technology News
Bay Area home prices hit another record in June Bay Area home prices marched to a fourth consecutive monthly record in June as limited supply, especially among lower-price homes, failed to keep up with demand, according to a CoreLogic report issued Wednesday. Real estate agents say there has been some softening in prices at the upper end of the market, and in some new condos. In any of the resale neighborhoods, there is just no supply, said Robin Hubinsky, an agent with Zephyr Real Estate in San Francisco. Hubinsky said there are few single-family homes on the market, because empty-nesters who might want to move to a condo are finding them too expensive and the dues too high. Garrett Frakes, a managing partner with Polaris Pacific, said prices of new condos in San Francisco have fallen about 3 or 4 percent since their peak in early 2015. Some homes in the popular areas of Oakland and Berkeley are selling for 60 percent more than the asking price and approaching San Francisco on a price-per-square-foot basis, said Linnette Edwards, associate broker with Abio Properties. A study released Friday by the California Association of Realtors that covered all nine Bay Area counties said the median price hit a third consecutive monthly record in June — $908,740. The mix-up probably resulted from a change in the company that microfilms documents from the San Mateo County recorder’s office for long-term storage.
U.S. airline passengers will have to take tablet computers and other large electronic devices out of carry-on bags for inspection as the government phases in tighter screening prompted by fears that terror groups can hide bombs in them. Most passengers already had to remove laptops from their bags when going through security, and now they will need to remove e-readers, tablet computers and other devices so they can be X-rayed separately, the Transportation Security Administration announced Wednesday. “It is critical for TSA to constantly enhance and adjust security screening procedures to stay ahead of evolving threats and keep passengers safe,” TSA Acting Administrator Huban A. Gowadia said in an email. By separating personal electronic items such as laptops, tablets, e-readers and handheld game consoles for screening, TSA officers can more closely focus on resolving alarms and stopping terror threats. The move, which comes at the peak summer travel season, is part of a sweeping overhaul of how airport security agencies screen electronics following intelligence that terror groups have refined their ability to sneak bombs in laptops and other devices. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly had threatened for months to impose a ban on large electronic devices in airline cabins for all flights headed to the U.S. after imposing such restrictions in March on flights leaving from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa. Airport lines surged in 2016, prompting thousands of travelers to miss flights, as TSA staffing levels fell and screeners became overwhelmed by rising numbers of travelers. Airlines for America, a trade group representing large carriers, said in an email it “remains committed to working collaboratively with DHS officials to strike the appropriate balance of maintaining the efficiency of the system, while ensuring the highest levels of security are in place.” American Airlines isn’t concerned that the enhanced screenings will slow movement through airport security lines because the procedures were tested in TSA lanes at its hubs in Los Angeles and Phoenix, said spokesman Ross Feinstein. American is working with Analogic Corp. to expand the use of a new X-ray scanner borrowed from the medical industry to create a higher-definition, three-dimensional image that is better able to detect explosives.
Proterra, the Burlingame builder of electric buses, opened a factory in the Los Angeles area Wednesday, in an effort to move some of its manufacturing closer to its West Coast customers. The company’s new plant, in the City of Industry, will build buses for public transit agencies throughout California and other Western states. [...] all of its battery-powered buses have been built in South Carolina and shipped to customers — a sometimes expensive proposition. “We can redirect the billions of dollars we’re spending on dirty fuel and equipment, mostly from vendors out of state, and clean up our air while employing our neighbors,” said Proterra CEO Ryan Popple Wednesday, at an opening ceremony for the factory. Gov. Jerry Brown, who a day earlier signed a law allowing California’s cap-and-trade market for curbing greenhouse gases to continue to operate past 2020, told the crowd of dignitaries and Proterra employees that the switch to electric buses is inevitable.
Waymo claims Uber Technologies Inc. had an accomplice in the theft of invaluable driverless technology trade secrets — the ride-hailing giant’s own lawyers. Waymo is aiming to use those details to buttress its claims Uber colluded with Levandowski to steal prized technology in the heated race to commercialize autonomous vehicles. Uber contends Waymo is mischaracterizing the actions of its outside lawyers, who it says did the right thing by hiring cyberforensics firm Stroz Friedberg to quarantine any sensitive information Levandowski had from Waymo or Google — and wall it off from Uber — during the due-diligence vetting of the Ottomotto acquisition. “MoFo and Stroz were retained for the very purpose of preventing any violation of intellectual property rights in connection with Uber’s acquisition of Ottomotto, and were contractually bound not to (and did not) disclose to Uber any confidential or proprietary Waymo information,” Uber argued in a court filing. In recent weeks, lawyers at another firm representing Uber — Boies, Schiller & Flexner — have taken on a more prominent role drafting court filings and representing the company in hearings. Waymo has also accused Stroz and Morrison of violating court orders to turn over proprietary information, including files from the law firm’s representation of Levandowski in arbitration proceedings brought by Google last year. Haag held her post as Northern California’s top prosecutor from 2010 to 2015 under President Barack Obama, leading one of the largest regional outposts of the Justice Department and one of the most active in white-collar prosecutions.
Adobe Systems’ Flash service — which had long faced criticism for its cumbersome user experience and vulnerability to hacking — is finally set to fade into history. At the end of 2020, the company will stop updating and distributing the online tool, a separate plug-in that improves graphically intensive activities for Web surfers like video and playing games, Adobe said in a blog post. Once a key tool for accessing dynamic Internet content, Flash has come under growing scrutiny with many of its functions now folded into Web browsers through new open standards — eliminating the need to download the program separately. Apple’s Steve Jobs criticized the software in a 2010 open letter about its technical drawbacks, and in 2015, Facebook’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, called for its demise. PayPal Holdings’ strategy of turning one-time rivals into allies is paying off, leading the company to raise its forecast for full-year earnings. Second-quarter earnings also beat analysts’ average estimate, validating the rationale for new agreements with Apple and JPMorgan Chase. PayPal CEO Dan Schulman is forging partnerships to increase the number of places shoppers can transact through the San Jose company, including a push into physical stores, not just websites. President Trump said Wednesday that Electronics giant Foxconn — possibly best known for assembling iPhones in China — will build a $10 billion factory in Wisconsin that’s expected to create 3,000 jobs. The factory will produce LCD panels that are used in televisions and computer screens, according to a senior White House official who insisted on anonymity to discuss the announcement. BetterWorks Systems Chief Executive Officer Kris Duggan is stepping down as head of the startup he founded following a lawsuit alleging he sexually harassed and physically assaulted a former employee. Duggan will serve as interim CEO until the board of directors finds his replacement, the company said Wednesday.
Iowa businessmen filed a lawsuit Wednesday against United Airlines over the death of a giant rabbit after a flight from London to Chicago. The businessmen filed the lawsuit more than three months after airline workers found the continental rabbit named Simon dead on April 20. The animal had been placed in a United kennel in Chicago’s O’Hare airport while awaiting a connecting flight to Kansas City, where his new owners planned to pick him up. The suit seeks unspecified damages to cover the costs of the rabbit, as well as punitive damages. Chipotle Mexican Grill, grappling with a fresh round of food-safety concerns, is looking for redemption in the gooey embrace of melted cheese. The chain expects to add queso soon, trying to boost sales with a Tex-Mex staple that Chipotle once derided because it’s traditionally made with Velveeta.
The Securities and Exchange Commission took its first steps to rein in startups that have raised money by selling their own virtual currencies, a growing trend known as initial coin offerings. Since the beginning of the year, startups and entrepreneurs have raised more than $1 billion by selling custom-made virtual currencies to investors in initial coin offerings. Most companies selling virtual currencies in recent months have done so with little regulatory oversight and have not made any effort to comply with securities laws, which, among other things, requires companies to disclose information about their operations before collecting money from U.S. investors. Lawyers have said that coins could avoid being categorized as securities if they do not promise any returns to investors and do not represent any sort of ownership in the company that creates the coin, among other attributes. The project aimed to raise money from investors and then invest it in other projects, like a leaderless venture capital fund.
LONDON — Britain will ban the sale of new cars and vans using diesel and gasoline starting in 2040 as part of a sweeping plan to tackle air pollution that experts say is feasible, if ambitious. The government announcement Wednesday follows similar moves in France and Norway and comes amid a global debate on how quickly electric and hybrid cars can replace internal combustion engines. Traditional engines running on diesel and gasoline are still popular with consumers as they’re relatively cheap and do not face some limits of electric cars, such as a limited range. On Wednesday, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said that diesel engines can help lower overall carbon dioxide emissions because they emit less than gasoline cars. Environmental activists note, however, that diesels emit more nitrogen oxide, which is harmful for people’s health. Analytics company IHS Markit estimate that sales of internal combustion engines are expected to fall from 17 million vehicles in 2015 across the EU to about 12 million in 2025, which would still make up a significant portion of cars on the road.
The Trump administration is weighing whether to support online sales taxes that could give state governments greater flexibility in their budgets. Mnuchin told members of the appropriations subcommittee that the policy could be an important way for states to fund infrastructure — an issue that President Trump has touted as a key part of his agenda with a $1 trillion spending plan. A bill in Congress, the Marketplace Fairness Act, would make collection of online sales taxes mandatory for companies. During Wednesday’s hearing, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., told Mnuchin that collection of online sales taxes would be “almost salvation to most of the states, especially rural states that don’t have the expertise or the far-ranging ability to chase down all these Internet sales that are coming in.” Even if the Trump administration comes out in support of online sales taxes, that won’t necessarily mean the rapid passage of congressional legislation.
Two California governors — one a Republican, the other a Democrat — joined together Tuesday to celebrate the extension of one of the state’s key global warming programs and slam the federal government for abandoning the climate fight. On the same spot in 2006, Schwarzenegger signed the landmark global warming law that authorized the cap-and-trade system and committed California to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. While only one Republican legislator sided with Schwarzenegger to pass that law, AB32, eight Republicans supported the new legislation, negotiated in months of closed-door talks involving Brown, legislative leaders, environmental advocates and business representatives. “It’s a message that we have a functional government here in California where Democrats and Republicans work together,” Schwarzenegger said at the signing ceremony. Schwarzenegger accused conservative Republicans, with whom he often sparred as governor, of “lying to the people” on global warming. [...] following President Trump’s move to withdraw the United States from the global climate agreement forged in Paris in late 2015, Schwarzenegger said the vote demonstrated that many Americans remain committed to fighting climate change. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District had been poised to slap firm limits on greenhouse gas emissions from the area’s five local refineries. California law calls for reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Cap and trade sets a declining annual limit on California’s greenhouse gas emissions and forces businesses to buy a type of permit, called an allowance, for every metric ton of gases they emit. [...] in 2015, the most recent year for which data are available, California’s greenhouse gas emissions fell less than 1 percent. Since peaking in 2004, they have dropped about 10 percent.
Takata, the Japanese auto parts maker hurt by air bag recalls, has filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States and said it would sell its surviving operations to a Chinese-owned American rival, Key Safety Systems. The deal seals the fate of the company at the center of the farthest-reaching auto safety crisis in history. Carmakers have recalled nearly 70 million of the company’s air bags in the United States, in 42 million vehicles, as well as millions overseas. Takata said it will sell its factories and other assets to Key Safety Systems, which makes air bags and other auto safety equipment. A new corporate entity will take over Takata’s production operations, which encompass seat belts and other equipment as well as air bags. Takata owes billions of dollars to banks and automakers, which have been paying to replace tens of millions of potentially dangerous Takata air bag inflators. Ratings service Nielsen announced Tuesday that it will begin to tabulate how many people get their live TV from Hulu and YouTube, an effort to provide a more accurate picture of how many people now watch broadcast networks by streaming them, rather than watching them on traditional TV. Hulu and YouTube have not revealed how many people have subscribed to their live TV services, introduced in the spring as a counter to cable TV. Media companies base the amount they charge advertisers on the number of people who are watching at a particular time, and want to insure that online viewers are also counted as more people shift to using online streaming services. Home prices reached a high in May for the sixth straight month, raising concern about another housing bubble roughly a decade after a previous one burst. Some analysts downplay the notion of a new bubble, and the unrelenting price increases may already be cooling sales. Other aspects of the last decade’s housing boom and bust, such as rapid sales increases and more home building, aren’t happening now. The Conference Board, a New York business research group, says its consumer confidence index in July rose to 121.1, up from a revised reading of 117.3 in June. Views on current conditions hit the highest level since July 2001, while expectations for the future rebounded after a slight dip in June. Michael Pearce, a U.S. economist for Capital Economics, said the strong confidence readings are a sign that recent weakness in retail sales will prove to be temporary. Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of U.S. economic growth. President Trump said Tuesday that he’s considering either renominating Janet Yellen for a second term as Fed chief or replacing her with someone else, possibly Gary Cohn, who leads his National Economic Council. The home delivery meal-kit company said that co-founder Matthew Wadiak would step down as chief operating officer to become a senior adviser. Tim Smith, vice president of supply chain, has been named senior vice president and general manager of consumer products, a newly created role overseeing efforts to personalize and expand offerings for customers. Blue Apron said Pablo Cussatti, a senior vice president of operations, would also now report to Salzberg. Since its initial public offering in late June, Blue Apron has struggled to gain momentum.
Ship traffic, July 26 Ship traffic Cap Capricorn Horizon Enterprise Mol Modern Port Unknown SFO CSL Frontier Port Unknown South Korea Horizon Enterprise SFO Irenes Wave Polynesia Papeete, Tahiti SFO South Korea Source: S.F. Marine Exchange
In October, AngelList, a company that helps tech startups raise money and hire employees, held an office retreat. In particular, the tech startup world has been roiled by accounts of workplace sexual harassment, and non-disparagement clauses have played a significant role in keeping those accusations secret. Non-disparagement clauses have become so common that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces federal discrimination laws, and the National Labor Relations Board, a federal agency that protects workers’ rights, have been studying whether they are having a chilling effect on workers speaking up about wrongdoing or filing lawsuits, said Orly Lobel, a law professor at the University of San Diego. Employees increasingly “have to give up their constitutional right to speak freely about their experiences if they want to be part of the workforce,” said Nancy E. Smith, a partner at the law firm Smith Mullin. At Binary Capital, a venture capital firm in San Francisco that collapsed last month under the weight of multiple sexual harassment allegations, new hires signed an employment contract that included the clause that “employee shall not disparage the company,” according to a contract quoted in a lawsuit filed against the firm last month. Ann Lai, a former employee, said in her lawsuit filed in San Mateo Superior Court in California that she had complained to her bosses about sexism, discrimination and inappropriate behavior in the workplace, and that Binary used the non-disparagement provision in her employment contract to threaten her. AngelList grappled with a harassment disclosure after the tech news site TechCrunch reported that AngelList was investigating whether a different partner had sexually harassed someone at a previous job. “I wonder how I may have disserviced other women working in tech, including my female colleagues, with my silence,” she said. “When we conduct investigations, individuals are removed from the workplace, given counseling if needed, and can’t contact complainants,” Graham Jenkin, AngelList’s chief operating officer, said in a statement. Jenkin disputed some of the details of the poolside incident, but would not provide clarification. Ruvolo, who was a freelance writer for AngelList and whose contract was not renewed this year, said she could not comment on the event that led to her agreement or on the terms of the deal. “Companies wave the agreements around and use them to force a settlement and make the problem go away,” said Karen Kessler, chief executive of the public relations firm Evergreen Partners.
Taco Bell has found a new marketing vehicle: Starting this week, some Lyft passengers in parts of Orange County will be able to request rides that incorporate a stop at a Taco Bell drive-through between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. The companies will test the option, which will appear as “Taco Mode” for the next two weeks, with plans to expand the program nationally next year. On Monday, Zuckerberg was asked in a chat on Facebook about the Tesla chief’s calls for regulation before artificial intelligence becomes dangerously smart and poses an existential threat to humanity. See’s Candies says it’s opening nearly a dozen chocolate boutiques by the end of the year. Daily Briefing is compiled from San Francisco Chronicle staff and news services.
SoftBank said to consider an investment in Uber SoftBank, the Japanese technology and media giant, is weighing an investment in Uber at a time when the San Francisco ride-hailing company’s leadership is in flux, according to three people with knowledge of the talks. SoftBank’s investment interest in Uber is nascent and the two companies have held only preliminary meetings, said the people, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. [...] if a deal were to be reached, it would add to a convoluted web of investments in the ride-hailing industry, where competitors have become strange bedfellows through investors who have placed bets on multiple companies. SoftBank holds a position in Ola, the dominant ride-hailing company in India, which is locked in a battle with Uber across the country. SoftBank has also invested in Didi Chuxing, which until last year was deadlocked with Uber for supremacy in China’s transportation market. On Sunday, SoftBank also invested in Grab, a Singaporean ride-hailing company, in a $2.5 billion round that Didi Chuxing also participated in. SoftBank’s interest in Uber indicates it may be hedging its bets amid intense competition in the ride-hailing industry. Many ride-hailing companies have been forced to raise billions of dollars in private capital to fund expansion of their operations, which often involves subsidizing trips for riders in new markets. Uber has been one of the companies that drove the cutthroat competition in the ride-hailing industry, by spending heavily and slashing costs for passengers. [...] that has begun to change in recent months as the company has dealt with turmoil in its executive suite. Last month, Travis Kalanick, an Uber founder and longtime chief executive, resigned after an investor coup pushed him out of his top position at the company. Kalanick was considered a key proponent of spending heavily to expand into new markets. The ride-hailing company is now in the midst of its search for its next leader. Uber has slowly begun to retrench on some of its more ambitious international expansion plans. Last year, the company sold its Chinese business to Didi for a stake in the Chinese company. Times writer.