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Amazon.com Inc. has invited the world’s biggest brands to Seattle to persuade them that it’s time to start shipping products directly to online shoppers, thus bypassing chains like Wal-Mart, Target, and Costco.

Questions:
1. What would be the costs to these brand companies? What would be the benefits?
2. What would be the benefits to Amazon? What would be the costs to Amazon?
3. Discuss whether you think this would be a hard sell or an easy one.
4. What is Amazon’s threat if brand companies do not buy into this concept?

Source:
Soper, S. and C. Giammona. Amazon Wants Cheerios, Oreos and Other Brands to Bypass Wal-Mart. Bloomberg.com, March 30 (Retrievable online at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-30/amazon-wants-cheerios-oreos-and-other-brands-to-bypass-wal-mart)

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Some of the country’s largest and most innovative companies are moving to bring their work-from-home employees back to the office. IBM is the latest example.

Questions:

1. What percentage of U.S. workers do some or all work at home?
2. Why is the change being done?
3. Why does IBM have research on their side? Explain.

Source:
Marks, G. (2017). IBM is ordering its work-from-home employees to stop working from home. (Retrievable online at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/on-small-business/wp/2017/03/24/ibm-is-ordering-its-work-from-home-employees-to-stop-working-from-home/?utm_term=.22d275187e44)

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According to the New York Times, the world currency that has gained the most since Donald J. Trump’s inauguration as president is the Mexican peso.

Questions:
1. How much has the peso gained since the day that President Trump was inaugurated?
2. How much did the peso plunge on the day that President Trump was elected?
3. What are some of the explanations for this roller coaster ride in currency?

Source:
Sommer, J. (2017). The New Currency Champ Lives South of the Border. The New York Times, March 25 (Retrievable online at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/25/your-money/peso-emerging-markets-donald-trump.html)

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According to the New York Times, there is an expanding advertising boycott of YouTube. This is due to big-spending companies’ doubt about Google’s ability to prevent marketing campaigns from appearing alongside repugnant videos.

Questions:
1. Who are some of these companies and what type of content are they finding offensive?
2. Approximately how many hours of video is posted each hour on YouTube?
3. How does YouTube propose to fix the problem?

Source:
Associated Press staff. (2017). More Big Brands Pull Ads From YouTube in Widening Boycott. The New York Times, March 24 (Retrievable online at https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2017/03/24/business/ap-us-google-youtube-ad-boycott.html).

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Libre, a for-profit company whose name means “free” in Spanish, is charging immigrants who sign contracts $420 per month for their freedom while wearing the company’s GPS devices. The company is now subject to a number of lawsuits and allegations of fraud by immigrants.

Questions:
1. Do you think a company should be allowed to sell this type of service? Why or why not?
2. What other types of services does the company provide besides GPS monitoring?
3. What types of allegations are being made against the company?
4. According to the article, how many immigrants have worked with the company’s services?
5. What is the yearly revenue of the company and who is the CEO?

Source:
Miller, M.E. (2017). This company is making millions from America’s broken immigration system. The Washington Post, Mar. 9 (Retrievable online at https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/this-company-is-making-millions-from-americas-broken-immigration-system/2017/03/08/43abce9e-f881-11e6-be05-1a3817ac21a5_story.html)

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For 70 years, the LSAT has been a rite of passage to legal education, at Harvard, as well as other law schools. However, beginning this fall, Harvard Law School will allow either the Graduate Record Examination or the Law School Admission Test for applicants.

Questions:
1. Why is the GRE being considered instead of the LSAT?
2. What was the first law school to switch to the GRE?
3. What are the trends in the volume of applicants to law schools?
4. Why are accountants interested in going to law schools? List several reasons.

Source:
Svrluga, S. (2017). Harvard Law School will no longer require the LSAT for admission. The Washington Post, Mar. 9 (Retrievable online at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2017/03/08/harvard-law-school-will-no-longer-require-the-lsat-for-admission/?hpid=hp_hp-cards_hp-card-national%3Ahomepage%2Fcard&utm_term=.49019f5e06d6)

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Commonly called “pay-to-stay” or “private jail,” at least 26 jails in Los Angeles and Orange counties are opening their doors to defendants who can afford the option. This is evolving into a two-tiered justice system that allows people convicted of serious crimes to buy their way into safer and more comfortable jail stays.

Questions:
1. According to the Marshall Project and the Los Angeles Times, of the more than 3,500 people who served time in Southern California’s pay-to-stay programs from 2011 through 2015, how many were convicted of serious crimes?
2. What were the majority of violations for this private jail system?
3. How much did the region’s facilities earn in revenues from the program?
4. What is the average cost of the stay?
5. What was the most expensive stay?
6. Discuss your thoughts about whether this two-tier system should be allowed.

Source:
Santo, A., V. Kim, and A. Flagg. (2017). Upgrade your Jail Cell for a Price. The Los Angeles Times, March 9 (Retrievable online at http://www.latimes.com/projects/la-me-pay-to-stay-jails/#nt=oft12aH-1la1)

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Two new exchange-traded funds offer a “biblically responsible” investing approach by explicitly saying in their regulatory filing that they will avoid buying shares in companies that have “any degree of participation in activities that do not align with biblical values.” According to the New York Times, this includes what they call the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender “lifestyle.”

Questions:
1. What percentage of Fortune 500 companies include “sexual orientation” in their nondiscrimination policies?
2. What percentage of Fortune 500 companies include “gender identity” in their nondiscrimination policies?
3. Are these funds the first religion-oriented investment products on the market? Discuss.
4. The large-company fund tracks an Inspire-created index of 400 companies it screened to match its investment criteria, which follow conservative Christian values. The article gave four examples of companies that would and would not make the cut for the index. Find two more companies of each category that are not currently in the index that could and could not make the cut and discuss why.
5. Would you invest in these funds? Discuss why or why not.

Source:
Moyer, L. (2017). As Funds Invoke Bible Values, Others See Intolerance. The New York Times, Feb. 28 (Retrievable online at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/28/business/dealbook/christian-investment-funds.html)

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It was only a week ago that President Donald Trump was praising Caterpillar Co. for producing such great bulldozers, as he met with company Chairman Doug Oberhelman at the White House. Less than a week later, officials from the Commerce Department, Internal Revenue Service, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Illinois State Police moved in and raided the company’s corporate headquarters in Peoria, Illinois, seeking evidence related to exports and a Swiss subsidiary as part of a criminal probe.

Questions:
1. What type of information did warrants to search the company seek?
2. What happened to Caterpillar shares in the stock market after the raid?
3. What is the speculation as to why the FDIC was involved in the warrant and raid?

Source:

Deaux, J., M. Parker, and D. Voreacos. (2017). Caterpillar Goes From White House Kudos to Multi-Agency Raid. Bloomberg, Mar. 3 (Retrievable online at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-02/caterpillar-falls-most-in-eight-months-as-facilities-raided)

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According to the New York Times, over the last several years, Uber has engaged in a worldwide program of deceit aimed at keeping authorities in the dark regarding markets where the low-cost ride-hailing service violated regulations or avoided laws. This has occurred through actually banning ridership for authorities.

Questions:

1. How did they accomplish this and what is the name of the tool used?
2. What are the main markets where this is used?
3. What is the approximate value of Uber and how many countries is the service in?
4. Is the technique that Uber used legal or illegal? Ethical or unethical?

Source:
Isaac, M. (2017). How Uber Deceives the Authorities Worldwide. The New York Times, Mar. 3 (Retrievable online at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/03/technology/uber-greyball-program-evade-authorities.html)