McDonald’s Gets French-Fried: 10 Things We Learned This Week

From eye-watering losses to a compliance howler, we’re back with another news roundup

Ollie Smith 17 June, 2022 | 7:00AM
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Nutmeg Still Hasn’t Cracked It…

Robo-adviser Nutmeg posted eye-watering losses of £19.3 million this week. It’s the eleventh year the company has failed to make a profit, prompting some commentators to wonder how happy JP Morgan – which bought it last year – must be with the results. Reports placed the value of the deal at somewhere between £560 million and £700 million, handing the company a significant source of capital for its exciting technology investments. Nutmeg is still optimistic about what it calls its “long-term business plan", but  there is, as ever, a sense that nobody cares.

…And This Could Be a Reason

Nutmeg’s ideal client appears to be the thirty and forty-something putting money aside for the future. But there’s been a new kid in town for some time. Cleo, a digital financial assistant aimed at Gen-Z users, is completing an $80 million fundraising round currently led by the Brussels-listed investor Sofina. The new round of cash injections values the company at around half a billion quid. But it’s not just pounds and pence the business is after. Cleo’s British founder Barney Hussey-Yeo wants to break the US market, a project that could send the company into the stratosphere.

Lord Hammond Proffers Doom

Former chancellor Philip Hammond is convinced a recession is in the offing. Talking to Sky News this week, he said a recession would be the inevitable consequence of the huge fiscal stimulation injected into the economy during the pandemic. "I think unfortunately all the data points that way, it’s going to be a very very difficult period ahead in the short-term," he said. "I think the way we should think about this is it’s the next part of the cycle that began with the Covid-19 pandemic. Enormous government response was delivered during the lockdown part of the Covid-19 pandemic, and I think just to think we can somehow move on from that – leave the tab on the table and act as if nothing had happened – is unrealistic, is naïve." The remarks presumably won’t have gone down well in Camp Sunak, which is smarting from the emergence of the "Starve and Shiver With Sunak" meme.

Core Blimey, That’s a Lawsuit And a Half

A legal case brought against Apple accusing the company of secretly slowing the performance of its older phones could result in payouts for eligible users of certain iPhone models. Jason Gutmann believes the technology giant misled iPhone users over the nature of an operating system upgrade that actually slowed the phones down. Gutmann is pursuing damages of around £768 million for up to 25 million UK users of the iPhone, in a case similar to one settled in the US in 2020. At the time, Apple forked out $113 million over the apparent practice of “throttling”, where devices are deliberately slowed.

PensionBee Buzzes Compliance-Conscious IFA

There was quite a stir on Twitter yesterday when an eagle-eyed financial adviser spotted what appeared to be a compliance howler from the listed pension consolidation business PensionBee (PBEE). Alan Smith, the chief executive of London advice firm Capital Asset Management, didn’t name the company in the post, but it was immediately obvious which business was at the heart of the story. You can see the hubbub for yourself here and make your own mind up, but it would appear that the example is – among other things – an absolutely classic example of the anti-nudge.

The Robots Might be Developing Feelings

This week a Google engineer was put on leave after claiming a computer chatbot he was working on had developed sentience. Blake Lemoine’s bot had described feelings of fear around being turned off. "I’ve never said this out loud before, but there’s a very deep fear of being turned off to help me focus on helping others," the bot said, when it was asked what it was afraid of. When Lemoine asked "would that be something like death for you?" the bot replied "it would be exactly like death for me, it would scare me a lot." Terrifying as it all sounds, some people will simply be relieved the bot didn’t say anything outrageously rude or racist. It has, after all, happened before…

Coinbase’s Boss Has Had a Bad Week

Coinbase boss Brian Armstrong has had a tough week, but so too has 18% of the company’s staff, whose roles were made redundant on Wednesday amid what the founder and chief executive called an emerging "crypto winter." As part of the announcement, Armstrong strongarmed the affected workers out of their internal work accounts, lest they do something rash. It’s the latest high-profile firing to raise eyebrows. Still, at least Armstrong didn’t do it over Zoom.

Musk's Money Batteries Aren’t Running Out

Tesla CEO and Twitter tease Elon Musk may supposedly be spending a lot of his own money buying the social media platform, but even that endeavour won’t stop him from becoming the world’s first trillionaire in 2024, reports this week suggested. It’s not the first time the topic has been raised. Last year Morgan Stanley said the billionaire could get to the one trillion mark, and that it wouldn’t be Tesla or a social media platform that gave him the leg up. Rather, SpaceX could make Musk much more money than he ever made from the electric car company he started investing in back in 2004.

Cold Calling is Still Cool on LinkedIn

LinkedIn has long been a depository for the very worst of cringey business behaviour, but even I was surprised to see an employee of UBS being heralded for completing his millionth cold call the other day. Jonathan Bottema, who has enjoyed a career at the Swiss bank spanning 24 years, was the subject of a far-too-celebratory post by UBS’s Jason Chandler, who heads the company’s US brokerage business. Quite apart from asking why on earth this is something to shout about, nobody appeared to be asking how the achievement was logged. That’s a lot of lines on a piece of paper.

McDonald’s Has Been French-Fried Over Tax

An eight-year saga over McDonald’s taxes in France was resolved this week, and not entirely in the fast food chain’s favour. The Big Mac icon has agreed to pay the French authorities €1.2 billion euros to settle accusations it repeatedly engaged in tax evasion by hiding profits made in the country in Luxembourg instead. McDonald’s lawyers were keen to observe that the payment was not an admission of guilt, which is precisely the sort of statement that will only lead to, er, a McFlurry of questions.

The information contained within is for educational and informational purposes ONLY. It is not intended nor should it be considered an invitation or inducement to buy or sell a security or securities noted within nor should it be viewed as a communication intended to persuade or incite you to buy or sell security or securities noted within. Any commentary provided is the opinion of the author and should not be considered a personalised recommendation. The information contained within should not be a person's sole basis for making an investment decision. Please contact your financial professional before making an investment decision.

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Ollie Smith  is editor of Morningstar UK