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CEO Daily: Tuesday, 4th April

Good morning.

Donald Trump’s problems in getting his reforms of the country’s health and tax systems started are well documented. There is, however, one area where his deregulation agenda is making rapid progress: telecommunications.

The President Monday signed the repeal of rules introduced at the end of Barack Obama’s second term that obliged wireless carriers and internet providers to observe much stricter rules regarding use of their customers’ data than those faced by, for example, social media companies. Fortune’s Aaron Pressman has a valuable explainer of the implications of that which you can read here.

Just across town, the Federal Communications Commission was voting to strike down another Obama-era rule requiring Charter Communications to roll out broadband service to 1 million households already served by a competitor. That was a condition for the approval of its acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks last year.

The American Cable Association had called the requirement under then FCC chairman Tom Wheeler “stunningly bad and inexplicable government policy,” warning of “devastating effects on the smaller broadband providers Charter will overbuild.”

What is the read-across for the net neutrality rules that Tom Wheeler and the previous administration put so much energy into? At the very least, it seems fair to say that its opponents are rapidly building up a head of steam.

Other news below, including due acknowledgement of UNC’s sixth NCAA triumph. The old Tar Heel himself, Alan Murray, will be back tomorrow.

Geoffrey Smith

Top News

• Dems Prepare to Filibuster Gorsuch

Senate Democrats have mustered enough votes to block the confirmation of Supreme Court Neil Gorsuch. Forty-one senators said they would vote no on a procedural motion later this week to bring the nomination to a final vote. As such, the Democratic Party looks set to get its revenge for the blocking of Merrick Garland’s nomination last year. The Republican Party is now likely to change the procedural rules for Supreme Court nominations. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell had said at the weekend that “Neil Gorsuch will be confirmed this week…How that happens really depends on our Democratic friends.”  Fortune

Terrorism Returns to Russia

A bomb on the St. Petersburg subway killed 11 and injured dozens more, in what authorities believe was a suicide bombing. If that theory is confirmed, it would be the worst terrorist outrage against Russians since a Metrojet airliner flying tourists home from Egypt was brought down by a bomb in 2015. That attack was claimed by the so-called Islamic State, which has declared war on Russia due to its involvement in Syria. One of the more worrying elements for President Vladimir Putin, who was meeting his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko across town in St. Petersburg at the time, is that the prime suspect was a Russian citizen born in the central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan. Islamist terror networks in Russia have so far been concentrated in the North Caucasus, with few signs of central Asia being a direct threat to Russian security. Reuters

Tesla Overtakes Ford

A landmark day for Tesla, which overtook the august Ford Motor Company in market value for the first time. Founder Elon Musk delighted in the pain felt by those who have shorted his company’s stock, as it surged over 7% in response to a solid quarterly sales report. As noted here previously, they’re now betting against not just Musk, but the very deep pockets of Chinese games-to-social media holding Tencent, which has built a stake of over 5% in Tesla. Shares in Detroit’s big three all fell sharply yesterday after figures showing much weaker than expected sales in March. Ford at least had the consolation prize of a new report showing that its autonomous driving project was well ahead of Uber’s and that of Alphabet unit Waymo. Fortune

Waymo Widens Complaint Against Uber

Alphabet’s self-driving unit Waymo has added another former executive to its legal actions seeking compensation for the theft of trade secrets. Court filings made public on Monday showed that Lior Ron was also named alongside Anthony Levandowski in arbitration proceedings that started last year before Waymo filed suit in February. Both were co-founders of what was originally the Google parent’s project to develop autonomous vehicles. Levandowski and Ron both left Waymo and found a company called Otto, which was subsequently bought by Uber. Waymo accuses the employees of downloading large volumes of proprietary information before they left. Fortune

Around the Water Cooler

Mylan’s Epic Pain 

Drug company Mylan was forced to recall its EpiPen allergy treatment across the U.S., after two reported instances of the device failing to release its medicine. The recall comes as EpiPen is fast losing market share to generic rivals, to the delight of politicians who accused Mylan of price-gouging last year after it raised the price by 500%. Mylan had already paid $465 million to make that scandal go away. Given the hit to consumer loyalty generated by last year’s scandal, the recall risks hastening the decline in EpiPen’s value to Mylan.  Fortune

Mercedes Drops O’Reilly as Fox Harassment Suits Multiply

Sexual harassment problems continue to pile up at Fox. Democratic political consultant Julie Roginsky, who has appeared on Fox as a political commentator, filed suit against the company, ex-CEO Roger Ailes and Fox News President Bill Shine, alleging repeated harassment in 2015. Ailes described the suit as “hogwash.” The new lawsuit also comes after reportd that Fox News paid millions to five women in exchange for their agreement not to sue the company over sexual assault allegations against host Bill O’Reilly. Mercedes-Benz pulled its ads from The O’Reilly Factor, in response to the “disturbing” allegations. Fortune

Seadrill Investors Brace for Impact

The oil and gas industry may be recovering as crude prices settle into a range around $50 a barrel, but the future still looks bleak for some. Shares in Seadrill, the offshore drilling company controlled by billionaire John Fredriksen, fell 46% after it warned that both shareholders and bond holders can expect steep losses in a debt restructuring process that it was forced to extend once again. Seadrill’s $8.9 billion debt load is the heaviest in the sub-sector, and the relatively expensive business of offshore oil has not rebounded as quickly as tight oil plays onshore. Bloomberg

• UNC Triumphant

The University of North Carolina beat Gonzaga 71-65 in a foul-ridden but, for UNC at least, redemptive end to this year’s March Madness. The Tar Heels thus managed to notch their sixth national championship, after losing last year’s final to Villanova. Gonzaga had led 65-63 into the last two minutes, but was unable to close the game out. It’s still the best season in the history of the college from Spokane, Wash. Sports Illustrated

Summaries by Geoffrey Smith;