Good morning. It’s April Fools Day, which makes it a good time to sort out what’s real out there, and what’s just, well, a joke. In the fooled-you department:
Anbang’s 14 billion bid for Starwood Hotels was withdrawn. It’s unclear why, but Marriott can now pick up the marbles.
Theranos’ proprietary blood testing machines generated an unacceptably high rate of errors, according to test results reviewed by the Wall Street Journal. The once high-flying company now appears close to a crash.
Pfizer, and at least one major newspaper, got fooled by a fake press release claiming the company would no longer increase the prices of its drugs. It had to deny the report.
Unicorns should stop fooling investors with exaggerated valuations, SEC Chair Mary Jo White said in a speech yesterday at Stanford University. That much is obviously not a joke. But it’s not clear what she can or will do about it.
And Google’s April Fools prank – a button that allowed you to attach a gif of a cartoon Minion dropping a mic to your gmail– backfired, as some claimed they mistakenly attached it to serious emails, with unfortunate consequences. It has been withdrawn.
Keep your guard up today. More news below.
• Theranos on the ropes again
Another punishing article in The Wall Street Journal revealed the depths of the problems that led federal regulators to cite a Theranos lab for multiple “serious deficiencies” in January. The article begs the question of how many more setbacks the young blood analytics company can survive. Regulators at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have reportedly found the company’s plan to fix deficiencies found at its Newark, Calif. lab last January “inadequate.” And they plan to impose sanctions against Theranos that could range from fines to suspension of their right to test human samples. Fortune
• Cheap oil has bankrupted more than 50 U.S. firms
As oil prices nosedived by two-thirds since 2014, a belief took hold in global energy markets that for prices to recover, many U.S. shale producers would first have to falter to allow markets to rebalance. With U.S. oil prices now trading below $40 a barrel, the corporate casualties are already mounting. More than 50 North American oil and gas producers have entered bankruptcy since early 2015, according to a Reuters review of regulatory filings and other data. While those firms account for only about 1% of U.S. output, based on the analysis, that count is expected to rise. Consultant Deloitte says a third of shale producers face bankruptcy risks this year. Reuters
• Steady jobs report expected for April
Payroll processor ADP’s report Wednesday that the private sector added a sturdy 200,000 jobs in March is reinforcing expectations that the government will announce more healthy employment gains on Friday. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg estimate the Labor Department’s survey of public and private sectors will tally 210,000 new jobs. A strong jobs report almost certainly will not be enough to prod the Fed to raise interest rates at a late April meeting after Fed Chair Janet Yellen said Tuesday that policymakers will “proceed cautiously,” given the weakness abroad and low inflation. But it could help convince Fed officials to act at its following meeting in June. USA Today
• Could AIG also escape “Too Big To Fail”?
After a judge ruled MetLife is not “Too Big To Fail,” other insurers may be sensing an opportunity to escape the costly and cumbersome designation. The ruling could open up an opportunity for insurer American International Group to seek an exemption from the ‘Systemically Important Financial Institution’ tag, AIG Chief Executive Peter Hancock told CNBC. AIG’s near-collapse in 2008 and its $182 billion bailout by the U.S. government was the driving force behind the inclusion of certain non-bank financial companies, including AIG, as SIFIs. That designation means regulators believe a collapse of the firm could devastate the U.S. financial system just as much as the failure of a major bank. It comes with increased regulatory oversight and capital requirements. Reuters
Around the Water Cooler
• How Trump crushed his biggest company
Donald Trump claims that as president he’d use his business prowess to tackle one of America’s most urgent problems: the towering national debt. “We’re getting to be like a large-scale version of Greece,” Trump warned in a Fox News interview last month. “Look at the country as a profit-making or losing corporation. Right now, we’re losing.” While Trump is busy trumpeting Trump-style management, it is important to note the GOP frontrunner’s actual track record shows he overindulged on credit time and again. Fortune specifically digs into Trump’s corporate credit record through the prism of Trump Hotels, the biggest company he ever ran. Fortune
• Musk unveils Tesla’s Model 3
Elon Musk revealed Tesla Motors Inc.’s Model 3, the sedan the electric-car maker is counting on to expand its customer base and reach sustainable profitability, capping a day in which fans lined up out the door of stores to reserve their vehicles sight unseen. The $35,000 Model 3 will have a minimum 215 miles range and Musk said he’s “fairly confident” deliveries will begin in 2017. Tesla received more than 115,000 reservations in 24 hours, Musk said on stage at the company’s Hawthorne, California, design studio. Orders reached at least 134,000 within the following two hours. Bloomberg
• FBI testing more ways to unlock iPhones
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is testing the method used to crack a terrorist’s iPhone to see how many other versions of the device it could open, but it could take officials many more months to decide what to do with their newfound ability. The showdown between the FBI and Apple over the locked iPhone of a California gunman came to halt this week when officials said that an undisclosed third party had shown the government a technique for decrypting the phone’s data. But importantly, that phone – the 5C – wasn’t a particularly big seller for Apple, limiting the technique’s value unless it works on other models. The Wall Street Journal (subscription required)