Shares of leading insurers and drug stores tanked after Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway announced they would enter the insurance business.
They didn’t offer many details, but investors swiftly punished traditional health care companies anyway because of fears that the new venture could disrupt the industry.
Top insurer UnitedHealth ( fell 3%, helping drive a )more than 300-point drop in the Dow. Two other big insurers, Cigna ( and )Anthem (, dropped more than 5%. )Aetna ( and )Humana ( were each down about 3%. )
Drug store giants CVS ( and )Walgreens ( both declined more than 4%. Pharmacy benefits manager )Express Scripts ( plummeted nearly 7%. )
The clear worry: The alliance of Buffett, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon is only the beginning of big changes for the insurance business.
“This is the start of a restructuring of the health care industry. This could be the catalyst for something bigger,” said Chuck Self, chief investment officer with iSectors. “It’s part of the Amazon-ization of the nation, but it’s now clearly more than just Amazon.”
In some respects, the entry of big new corporate players into health care could be more disruptive than Obamacare ever was — or President Trump’s efforts to neuter it.
But other analysts wondered whether the market was overreacting.
It’s unclear just what Berkshire Hathaway (, )Amazon ( and )JPMorgan Chase ( plan to offer their employees — and how regulators will respond. )
“Considering the regulatory burden around every aspect of healthcare any new entrant in the space is at a huge disadvantage,” Moody’s vice president Mickey Chadha wrote in a report.
Big insurers, pharmacies and drug distributors “already have large scale,” Chadha said. That allows them to negotiate for better drug prices with pharmaceutical giants.
What’s more, some of the big health care companies are getting even bigger — and more deals could be on the way after CVS agreed last year to buy Aetna for $69 billion.
That merger has led to speculation that other insurers could be a good fit for Walgreens as well as Walmart (, which operates a lucrative pharmacy business. )
So even though the threat from a Berkshire-Amazon-JPMorgan partnership is formidable, health care’s leading players aren’t exactly tiny companies that will roll over easily in the face of new competition.
–CNNMoney’s Matt Egan contributed to this report.
CNNMoney (New York) First published January 30, 2018: 12:13 PM ET
Chad Hugo, from left, Shae Haley and Pharrell Williams of N.E.R.D, whose new album is “No_One Ever Really Dies.” (Driely S)
Jay-Z had big hits before “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me),” his playful 2000 single that pleads with a woman for “that funk, that sweet, that nasty, that gushy stuff.”
There was “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem),” which sampled the musical “Annie” and reached No. 15 on Billboard’s Hot 100. And there was the sleek “Can I Get A…,” which drove 1998’s “Rush Hour” soundtrack to platinum sales.
But it was arguably “I Just Wanna Love U,” with its danceable groove and its chorus sung in a goofy yet cool falsetto, that turned the once-gruff Jay-Z into a cuddly mainstream pop star. And behind that transition was Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, known then as the Neptunes, the production duo who over the next decade would go on to help redefine hip-hop’s sound — and propel its reach into R&B and pop.
A source familiar with the issue confirmed the change to CNNMoney. The move to The Undefeated was her choice, according to the source.
Hill began anchoring the 6:00 pm showing of SportsCenter in February alongside co-host Michael Smith. He will continue to anchor the show, but it’s unclear whether he will host solo or if ESPN will fill Hill’s spot.
However, she made news in September for tweets she posted about President Donald Trump, calling him a “white supremacist.”
Hill apologized for the tweets and said she regretted that her comments “painted ESPN in an unfair light.”
ESPN released a followup statement, saying that “Jemele has a right to her personal opinions, but not to publicly share them on a platform that implies that she was in any way speaking on behalf of ESPN.”
The network said it had accepted Hill’s apology.
After a second violation of ESPN’s social media policies in October, Hill was suspended for two weeks.
The shakeup to SportsCenter comes as ESPN is also looking for a replacement for John Skipper, who resigned from his role as president in December. Skipper, who promoted the Hill-Smith pairing and the SportsCenter show, left the network citing a substance addiction.
CNNMoney (New York) First published January 26, 2018: 10:20 AM ET
(Frederic J. Brown / AFP/Getty Images)
All that Oprah-for-president talk? Never mind.
Prospects for a White House bid by the multimedia superstar appeared to dim with the release Thursday of an interview throwing cold water on the notion.
“I’ve always felt very secure and confident with myself in knowing what I could do and what I could not,” Winfrey told InStyle magazine when asked about the possibility of a 2020 run for president.
“And so it’s not something that interests me. I don’t have the DNA for it.”
The interview took place three weeks before Winfrey’s rousing speech on the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements at the Jan. 7 Golden Globe Awards, which set off speculation that she wanted to run for president.
Her longtime partner Stedman Graham told The Times that night that she “would absolutely do it,” despite her previous statements that she did not want to run.
If she were to change her mind and seek the Democratic nomination, Winfrey would probably face a crowded field of rivals vying for the chance to challenge President Trump’s reelection. Winfrey’s wealth and fame would instantly make her a top contender.
“I met with someone the other day who said that they would help me with a campaign,” Winfrey told InStyle. “That’s not for me.”
Still, at 6.8%, black unemployment remains well above the rate for white people, at 3.7%. That disparity is deeply rooted and a continuing cause of concern for economists and advocates.
Take Columbia, Missouri. It has long had one of the lowest overall unemployment rates in the country. It’s now down to 2.5%, but black unemployment is far higher. In 2016, the last year for which such Census Bureau data is available, African American unemployment locally stood at 8%.
Mike Matthes, the city manager in Columbia, is acutely aware of the problem. African Americans make up 10% of Columbia’s population.
“We create the jobs, but never worry about how to get them to the people who need them the most,” Matthes said.
To try to narrow the gap, Columbia has worked to connect unemployed individuals with jobs. The city sends cops out on the beat with an app on their phones that can put struggling families into an employer database. Matthes has asked employers expanding in the area, like Aurora Organic Dairy, to make sure its new workforce fits the diversity of the city.
“They didn’t blink an eye,” Matthes said. An Aurora spokeswoman says the company “will plan to do our best to hire qualified employees who mirror the Columbia community, which would include both gender and racial diversity.”
Columbia’s projects reflect the larger challenge of making sure people of color, who suffered disproportionately through the Great Recession, share equally in an economy that appears to be picking up steam.
The racial unemployment gap is an enduring feature of the American labor market, with African Americans averaging about twice the rate of white people. The gap was worst during the late 1980s and has since improved slightly on average, but the white unemployment rate is still only 54% of the black rate. (The average is 4.1%.)
Scholars attribute the disparity to a combination of factors: Hiring discrimination, lower educational attainment, and a higher rate of people with criminal records, who are barred from many occupations.
There has been improvement over the years. In 1990, only 11.3% of African Americans had four-year college degrees, compared to 22% for whites, according to Census data. In 2017, those numbers had risen to 24% and 34.5%.
Still, the racial unemployment gap hasn’t receded much. One reason, experts say, is that white and black job applicants are still treated differently. Many studies, which typically test employer reactions to similar resumes with white and black-sounding names, have documented this disparity. A 2017 meta-analysis of the studies found that unequal treatment has remained consistent for the past 25 years.
“I think that the kind of biases that drive discrimination are very resilient and haven’t changed a lot,” said Northwestern University sociologist Lincoln Quillian, who conducted the meta-analysis, and believes that corporate diversity training hasn’t been very effective.
“There was a period of black catching up that occurred in the 1950s and ’60s after the civil rights movement,” Quillian said. “But after that, there’s been a lot more stability than change.”
Many employers continue practices that, while not explicitly discriminatory, tend to disadvantage black job-seekers, Quillian said. Allowing executives to hire through their networks, rather than interviewing several applicants for each position, often shut out people of color. Seniority-based systems can be particularly hard on diverse hires, especially when the economy weakens again.
“That tends to work against African Americans who are the last to benefit from strong economic growth,” says Valerie Wilson, director of Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy at the Economic Policy Institute. “Once things turn, they’re the first considered to be laid off.”
The stubborn disparity, Quillian says, underlines the continuing relevance of affirmative action programs in many fields. Other scholars have recommended government-created job programs to make sure people don’t fall out of the labor force if the private sector won’t hire them.
Some jurisdictions have banned employers from asking up front about an applicant’s past criminal convictions, in order to make sure they’re not discriminated against.
In addition to the employment gap, African American workers still earn less income and possess only 15% of the median wealth of white families, according to the Federal Reserve.
To Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, the unemployment rate news was only a small relief.
“When I saw it come down below 7, I partially exhaled,” Morial said. “But the fact is that while we’re glad people are working, their paychecks don’t buy what their paychecks used to buy. And that’s got to be a part of any conversation.”
Matthes, in Columbia, Missouri, is conscious of that problem as well.
Columbia has one of its lowest unemployment rates ever, but poverty in the city remains high, often for people who already hold down a job. He worries what might happen if the economy tanks again, especially for those on the fringes of the labor market.
To help build incomes, Matthes would favor raising the minimum wage locally, but the state of Missouri, where the minimum wage is $7.85, bars cities from doing so.
“What we’ve learned very slowly is that our choices create poverty,” he said. “You might gain some ground, but it’s not permanent.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the title of the Economic Policy Institute’s Valerie Wilson.
CNNMoney (New York) First published January 23, 2018: 7:25 AM ET
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Associated Press)
As Turkey continued air and ground attacks on U.S.-backed militias in neighboring Syria, President Trump urged the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Wednesday to limit its military operations and avoid civilian casualties, according to a White House statement.
In a phone call, Trump called on Erdogan to focus on the shared goal of fighting Islamic State militants and avoid military operations that could produce a clash between Turkish and U.S. military forces deployed near the border in northern Syria.
The United States and Turkey are both members of the NATO military alliance, but relations between Ankara and Washington have been strained badly over the past year. Trump’s call was at least the third time the administration has complained about Turkish attacks, to no apparent effect.
LG Electronics told retailers on Wednesday that its laundry machines will get more expensive due to a tariff announced by the Trump administration earlier this week.
“As a result of the trade situation, we will be initiating pricing actions, which will be sent under separate cover shortly,” LG executive Thomas Yoon said in a memo obtained by CNNMoney. The note was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
An LG spokesman declined to comment as to how much more expensive the appliances will get, or on the timing of the price hike.
But consumers should be prepared for prices to go up by 15% to 20%, said Dinesh Kithany, asmart home and appliances analyst with IHS Markit. That could translate to washing machines that are $70 to $100 more expensive, he said.
Because washers and dryers are typically sold as a pair, prices for both appliances could go up.
On Monday, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced that President Trump approved tariffs on both washing machines and solar panels in order to protect U.S. manufacturing.
The tax starts at 20% for the first 1.2 million washers imported this year. The tariff goes up to 50% after that threshold is met.
“While this is disappointing news, let me assure you that we have planned for this possibility so we can minimize any disruption in supply of LG washers and dryers,” Yoon said in the memo.
LG said a new $250 million washer factory that’s being built in Clarksville, Tennessee should help ease some pressure, since those washers won’t be subject to the tariff.
Samsung, the other top South Korean washing machine manufacturer, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it will raise prices, too.
CNNMoney (New York) First published January 24, 2018: 4:00 PM ET
GE ( said on Wednesday that regulators are investigating a )$6.2 billion insurance loss that the company revealed last week. The disclosure is a new and potentially much more serious problem for a company already reeling from missteps and questionable management decisions.
The SEC is also investigating the company’s accounting, chief financial officer Jamie Miller told analysts during a conference call. Specifically, she said the agency is looking into “revenue recognition and controls” for the company’s long-term service agreements.
“We are cooperating fully with the investigation, which is in very early stages,” Miller said.
GE said it will restate its 2016 and 2017 quarterly numbers to reflect new accounting standards.
The SEC declined to comment.
Over the years, GE has gotten rid of most of GE Capital, its lending arm. GE sold most of its insurance business by 2006, but the company held on to a portfolio of policies. It’s been a decade since GE took on any more long-term care insurance, which protect against nursing home and assisted living costs.
That’s why Wall Street was so surprised last week when GE announced that a “comprehensive review” led by outside experts found that the insurance portfolio needs cash — a lot of it. Most of the money is going to shore up the long-term care policies.
Around the insurance industry, long-term care policies have been hurt by soaring healthcare costs and longer life expectancies. Other insurance companies have been forced to book losses in recent years.
But it wasn’t until last week that GE announced a $6.2 billion hit and warned it will devote $15 billion to boost insurance reserves.
GE said the SEC is probing “the process leading to the insurance reserve increase” as well as the fourth-quarter loss.
Lynn Turner, former chief accountant at the SEC, said the insurance problems raise questions about GE’s controls and bookkeeping.
“GE seems to be way behind the 8-ball on this. Others have been boosting reserves and GE hasn’t,” Turner said.
GE is facing a cash crisis that analysts blame on years of terrible deal-making, murky accounting and needless complexity.
Most of those decisions were made under former CEO Jeff Immelt, who was replaced last year by GE veteran John Flannery. Immelt certified GE’s most recent annual report, which covered 2016. A spokesman for Immelt declined to comment on the SEC investigation.
Miller, who was promoted to CFO last year, said an ongoing “very deep review” of GE’s books has thus far uncovered “nothing here that I’m overly concerned about.”
Scott Davis, lead analyst at Melius Research, pointed the finger at Immelt for the accounting issues. “We can’t be certain that prior management misled investors,” Davis wrote in a report on Wednesday, “but we certainly believe there were ethical lapses that deserve attention.”
GE’s accounting is currently overseen by the board’s audit committee. Former SEC chairman Mary Schapiro has chaired GE’s audit committee since April 2016.
In 2009, the SEC charged GE with accounting fraud, alleging the company used “overly aggressive accounting” to make false and misleading statements to investors. GE paid $50 million to settle the charges. It neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing.
“GE has a reputation for questionable and nontransparent financial reports that play too close to the line when it comes to accounting,” said Turner, the former SEC official.
Beyond the new SEC investigation, GE faces other legal troubles in its lending unit. GE Capital’s discontinued subprime mortgage business, known as WMC, is under investigation from the Justice Department. The government is probing WMC’s pre-crisis sale of subprime loans.
GE, which sold WMC in late 2007, has set aside $400 million to cover the subprime mortgage problems. Miller said GE has not yet had “substantive discussions” with the Justice Department.
CNNMoney (New York) First published January 24, 2018: 9:31 AM ET