West Coast editor Verne Kopytoff reminds us this morning that Google cofounder Sergey Brin used to attack Microsoft as a “convicted monopolist.” Brin may regret that now that the European Union has filed formal charges against Google for favoring its own comparison shopping engine in search results. Buried in this morning’s Wall Street Journal story on the case is a nugget saying News Corp, which owns the Journal, “joined a group of companies that have filed formal complaints with the commission regarding Google’s competition practices.”
Meanwhile, Jacques Attali, first president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, came by Fortune’s offices yesterday. Attali believes Americans have become too pessimistic about Europe’s prospects. But he adds: “a central bank without a Treasury is not sustainable. Europe needs a Treasury.” Attali has criticized the European Central Bank’s loose money policies as a “Ponzi scheme.”
Separately, Draghi was attacked at his press conference yesterday by a confetti-throwing protestor. Video here.
Enjoy the day.
• A Brooklyn hipster goes public
Etsy, an e-commerce company that sells handcrafted and vintage goods and apparel, is expected to debut on the Nasdaq today, trading under the ticker symbol “ETSY.” Before jumping into the stock, keep in mind Etsy doesn’t earn a profit, losses have widened in recent years, and revenue from sales have slowed. But a fun fact: when Etsy begins to trade publicly it will be just the second company with headquarters in Brooklyn, the other is a savings and loan holding company called Dime Community Bancshares.
• Bernanke to advise hedge fund
Ben Bernanke, former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, has agreed to become a senior adviser to Citadel Investment Group, a $25 billion hedge fund founded by billionaire investor Kenneth Griffin, the New York Times reported. It isn’t the first time a former Washington insider has moved to work with the hedge fund industry after working for the federal governor. In fact, another former fed chair, Alan Greenspan, in early 2008 took on an advisor role at Paulson & Co.
New York Times
• McDonald’s frustrates franchisees
“Corporate has betrayed us. We are on our own.” Those aren’t the words a corporation wants to hear when enacting a turnaround effort, but that quote comes from the latest survey of McDonald’s franchisees by Janney Capital Markets. McDonald’s, which has reported weaker same-store sales for five quarters in the U.S., has unveiled a premium sirloin burger and aimed to curtail antibiotics used in chicken, both moves to lure back customers. Those plans have been announced under the new leadership of CEO Steve Easterbrook, though it looks like franchisees, like consumers, need some convincing.
• An uncertain future for jumbo jets
Here’s an interesting aerospace stat: last year there were zero orders placed by commercial airlines for the new Boeing 747s or the Airbus A380s, as the industry continues to favor smaller, twin-engine plans that cost less to fly than the four-engine jumbos. What does that mean for the industry? Well the slump could hurt production and affect thousands of jobs, including those at parts suppliers. Sales teams are fighting to keep production going beyond the end of the decade, and are reportedly offering discounts of at least 50% from catalog prices.
• China’s ideological divisions
Interesting research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has found that the Chinese from richer and more developed provinces are more liberal than those from poorer rural areas. As defined by the researchers, China’s liberals tend to support things like constitutional democracy, market-oriented reforms and modern science while the conservatives back nationalism, the supremacy of the state, and showed more support for a state-controlled economy. This division mirrors what we’ve long seen in the United States: heavily urban provinces along the coast are mostly liberal and the rural inland provinces are more conservative.
Around the Water Cooler
• Marijuana industry’s battle against the tax man
The businesses that grow and sell marijuana are staring at a steep federal tax bill. They can blame a little-known wrinkle in the U.S. tax law that is a major problem for the pot industry. In 1982, Congress closed a loophole that had successfully been used by a drug dealer to write off travel expenses, as well as the cost of a scale for weighing drugs. Estimates range, with one executive saying effective tax rates are between 40% to 70%. That’s too high, according to some of the industry’s advocates.
• Oil industry’s “man camps” becoming ghost towns
At the height of the shale boom, some companies were paying as much as $40 million a year to house and feed a group of just 1,000 workers. Competition to bring top talent to remote drilling areas in states like Texas and North Dakota led to lodging perks, catered meals and free air travel to commute between job sites and home during breaks. But with a steep drop in oil prices, energy companies are trimming jobs and also drastically cutting back on perks.
• Can things be looking up for Jawbone?
Check out this Fortune story that looks at a couple of new products from fitness band maker Jawbone. But the debut of new devices, often an exciting time for tech companies, also comes as Jawbone is just getting around to shipping a previously announced device, the UP3. Introduced in October, it finally starts shipping on Monday to customers who pre-ordered it. Jawbone is facing stiff competition on multiple fronts, from direct rivals like FitBit but also from smartphone makers like Samsung and Apple, which are debuting their own smartwatches that feature fitness tracking capabilities.