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CEO Daily: Wednesday 31st August

Good morning.

 

The European Union’s $14 billion Apple tax grab could be a spur to action on U.S. corporate tax reform. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are eager to see a change in tax laws that would make it easier for companies like Apple to bring their overseas profits back home. They disagree over how much of a toll Uncle Sam should take; but they can certainly agree that they don’t want the money going to Europe. “Today’s decision should be a spur to action,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan. But don’t expect any real action on this, or anything else, until next year.

 

Meanwhile, Donald Trump is making a quick visit to Mexico to meet with President Enrique Pena Nieto, just hours before a scheduled speech where he is reportedly going to clarify his views on immigration. We don’t know what’s on the agenda with Pena Nieto, but two topics come to mind: 1) Trump’s demand that Mexico pay for his wall, and 2) Pena Nieto’s comparison of Trump to Mussolini and Hitler. Should be interesting.

 

Finally, Fortune’s Chris Matthews writes this morning about the eerie similarities between conditions in today’s stock market and those that preceded the 1987 crash. You can read it here.

 

 

More news below.

 

 

Alan Murray
@alansmurray
alan.murray@fortune.com

Top News

• #AppleTax Reaction – It’s Everyone’s Fault Except Mine

The reaction to Apple’s tax bill from the EU Commission has been fast and, for the most part, furious. Speaker Paul Ryan called it a “disaster”, Democratic Senator Charles Schumer a “cheap money grab” and Senate finance committee chairman Orrin Hatch “an extraordinary decision that targets U.S. business by rewriting already existing tax policies.” The Irish government was no better pleased, seeing it as the thin end of a wedge that ends in the loss of its tax sovereignty, so crucial to attracting foreign investment. Apple opened its eyes as wide as a kitten and said it paid all taxes due, everywhere, while NGOs and Dermot and Siobhan O’Taxpayer ranted at the injustice of evasion by multinationals while they suffered from years of post-bailout austerity. In short, everyone zeroed in on the specific absurdity of current tax rules that displeased them most, ignoring or deflecting attention from their own contribution to the creation of the current mess, and any benefits they might derive from it. The issue will take years to resolve in the courts, but the precedent it sets will be far more important than a $14.5 billion headline figure which is highly unlikely to be paid in full. Fortune

No Zika-Based Redemption for Theranos

Theranos withdrew its request for emergency clearance of a Zika virus blood test after the Food and Drug Administration found it didn’t include proper patient safeguards in a study on the test, according to The Wall Street Journal. The news is a disappointment for a company hoping to restore its reputation with a real response to one of the hottest health topics around. Embattled CEO Elizabeth Holmes had claimed earlier this month that Theranos’ diagnostic test for Zika could detect additional strains of the mosquito-borne virus from blood drops finger-pricked from patients. The company said that it collected finger-stick blood samples from patients, including in the Dominican Republic, and ran the tests. However, during an inspection by the FDA earlier this month, regulators concluded that it had collected some data supporting the accuracy of the Zika test without implementing a patient-safety protocol approved by an institutional review board, according to the WSJ. Fortune

SWIFT’s Cyber Problems Are Spreading

There appears to be more than one cockroach. SWIFT, the company that runs the payments system that is one of the key pieces of the global financial markets’ infrastructure, said that there have been more successful cyber-attacks on its clients (i.e. banks around the world) since it told them about the heist on Bangladesh’s central bank in June. “The threat is persistent, adaptive and sophisticated – and it is here to stay,” the cooperative said in a letter to its members. All the victims shared one thing in common, according to the letter: weaknesses in local security that attackers exploited to compromise local networks and send fraudulent messages requesting money transfers.   Fortune

Google Pilots Ride-Sharing in Uber’s Backyard

Only days after Alphabet’s David Drummond stepped down from Uber’s board over a conflict of interest that had become unmanageable, it emerged that Google has begun a pilot ride-sharing program around its California headquarters. The pilot program, which started in May according to The Wall Street Journal, helps San Francisco commuters join carpools with the help of the Waze app. Waze is currently limited to the employees of a handful of large companies, of which Google is one. But the WSJ said Google plans to open the program to all San Francisco-area Waze users this fall. The program isn’t directly linked to Google’s experiments with driverless cars but is obviously a step further into the mobility sphere—the turf of its one-time partner Uber. WSJ, subscription required

 

 

Around the Water Cooler

SEC Awards  Monsanto  Whistleblower $22 Million

The Securities and Exchanges Commission has awarded $22 million from its whistleblower program to a former employee of Monsanto who alerted it to accounting improprieties at the company. Monsanto had settled the ensuing investigation for $80 million in February. The news is a little more like the kind of publicity the SEC wants for its whisteblower protection plan than when a Deutsche Bank employee threw its money back in its face last week at its perceived failure to go after the individuals responsible for faking the numbers at the German bank’s giant derivatives portfolio. Fortune

SpaceX’s First Deal to Reuse a Rocket

SpaceX is a big step closer to its strategic goal of running a satellite launching service on reusable (and hence much, much cheaper) rockets. The company has signed its first contract to launch a communications satellite from an already-used Falcon 9 rocket. Luxembourg-based satellite operator SES—already a customer of SpaceX, is perhaps unsurprisingly the first to take a punt on the technical and operational expertise of Elon Musk’s operation. The launch is planned for sometime in the fourth quarter. After numerous failed attempts, SpaceX made history in December when it successfully launched a commercial satellite and then recovered its booster rocket. It has repeated that feat successfully five times since then, including four recoveries on a floating platform at sea. Fortune

English Soccer – A Seller’s Market

And people say inflation’s dead…For the last year, it’s been fashionable to argue that the fresh influx of TV money to Europe’s (especially England’s) soccer leagues has made clubs more commercially attractive than ever before. There’s certainly been a transformation in valuations: Fenway Sports Group, which bought Liverpool FC in 2010 for 300 million pounds, is now fielding interest from Chinese investors at a valuation north of 700 million. But soccer costs have a nasty habit of keeping pace with even the most abundant revenues. Today is deadline day for player transfers between Europe’s top clubs, and English clubs alone will likely have spent over $1.4 billion on transfer fees in the summer window by the time it shuts, smashing all previous records. Manchester United have spent 100 million pounds ($130 million) on one player alone, French midfielder Paul Pogba. Even mediocre players are changing hands for fees of over $15 million. With no shortage of supply (1 billion players worldwide), such inflation can ultimately mean only one thing: mismanagement. From a business perspective, it’s a boom with its next bust firmly baked in. FT, metered access