Good morning. David Meyer here, filling in for Alan from Berlin.
The Google walkouts worked, at least on one point—following protests by workers over sexual harassment and its consequences at Google, the company has put an end to the reviled system of forced arbitration that made it impossible for workers to sue Google when they were harassed.
Arbitration will now be optional, not mandated in people’s contracts. And so, one of the main tools for brushing such cases under the carpet is vanquished (at Google, at least.) Transparency wins, and the consequences for sexual harassment suddenly become more meaningful to the company.
A couple of months ago, I noted that Google employees pushing back against their company’s planned Chinese re-entry, and its military deals, were doing what Google’s code of conduct exhorted them to do: “Don’t be evil, and if you see something that you think isn’t right—speak up!” The anti-sexual harassment campaign provides another example of that, albeit one with more immediately personal stakes for many employees.
It also reflects a repurposing of the workers’ day-job skills and technologies. One notable aspect of the campaign is that its organizers used Google’s own collaboration tools, such as Groups and Docs, to prepare their project by getting feedback from hundreds of colleagues.
“I think what we did was disprove the myth that it’s too hard to take collective action,” one worker, Celie O’Neil-Hart, told the New York Times. Another, Stephanie Parker, said: “It was really fun to see my fellow employees flex the skills that a lot of them had developed at Google—their program management skills, their marketing skills, their P.R. skills, but in the service of this movement.”
As noted before, it’s a real shame that this overdue change didn’t come from the top down. That said, the fact it came from the bottom up is testament to the more positive side of Google’s work culture.
It’s also a reminder that, despite the public’s view of Silicon Valley being harmed by the divisiveness and intrusiveness of Big Tech’s tools, the potential is still there for technology to be a unifying force for good.
Incidentally, Google CEO Sundar Pichai has suggested that the censorship implications of that potential Chinese re-entry are acceptable because the EU already requires a level of search-result censorship on privacy grounds. Europe’s rules provide a clear exception for information that’s in the public interest, while China’s rules are about hiding facts that people should know. So that’s not a great argument.
More news below.
Then-CEO Lloyd Blankfein has reportedly been identified as the unnamed Goldman Sachs executive who, per U.S. court documents, attended a meeting in 2009 with Malaysia’s prime minister that set things up for a profitable relationship between the bank and the country’s sovereign wealth fund. Goldman helped the 1MDB fund raise billions for investments, but over $2.5 billion was misappropriated. Bloomberg
Construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline must be halted, a federal judge ruled after finding that the U.S. government broke several rules in approving it: the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. This is a victory for environmental and Native American rights campaigners. CNN
The U.S. government has filed a civil fraud suit against Switzerland’s UBS, over its mis-selling of mortgage-backed securities ahead of the financial crisis. The DoJ alleges that UBS misled investors about the quality of over $41 billion worth of loans. The government proposed a $2 billion settlement but the bank reportedly refused. CNBC
The Federal Reserve, much criticized by President Trump over its continued raising of interest rates, has opted not to continue that trend just yet. The Federal Open Market Committee decided to keep the federal funds rate in the range of 2-2.25%, though the markets reckon it will approve a quarter-point hike next month. The Fed noted a slowdown in business investment. Financial Times
Around the Water Cooler
Saudi Arabia, which dominates the OPEC oil cartel, is looking into the possibility of a post-OPEC world. A government-funded think tank is examining what such a world might look like—apparently not as a result of President Trump’s accusations about the cartel pushing up prices, though the study will take such criticism into account. Wall Street Journal
Former Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, who had to leave the chipmaker after breaching rules by conducting a consensual relationship with an employee, has a new gig as CEO and chairman at CDK Global, a company that makes software for car dealerships. A smaller gig, certainly. Intel is still looking for a permanent replacement for Krzanich. Fortune
Bombardier is cutting 5,000 jobs around the world. Half of the cuts will be in Canada, and most will be in its aerospace division. The planes-and-trains firm is trying to “streamline” its operations, and it reckons slashing 7% of its workforce will save it $250 million. BBC
Sprint and Skype
Sprint is, according to a new study, “throttling” the performance of Microsoft’s Skype on its network. The study, conducted by Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts, suggests Sprint is the only carrier to be doing this. It denies the claim. If Sprint is throttling Skype, that’s a clear violation of the net neutrality principle that used to be a rule, until the FCC nixed it almost a year ago. Bloomberg