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Employees at the $2 billion e-commerce startup Rokt once saw a photo of a colleague in blackface during a company Zoom meeting

Tue, 03/28/2023 - 2:41pm
  • An employee at e-commerce firm Rokt shared a photo of a colleague in blackface, shocking colleagues.
  • Rokt's leaders responded to the incident, but many employees felt they didn't go far enough.
  • The episode, and claims involving drugs and sexual remarks, raise questions about Rokt, which plans an IPO.

Employees at Rokt were shocked when an employee shared a photo of a colleague in blackface during a Zoom meeting in 2020. 

The Zoom meeting, a company-wide get-together, was held just a few weeks into COVID-19 lockdowns. An employee shared the photo, from an event in 2012, that appeared to show another employee in blackface and dressed as Michael Jackson.

A handful of workers expressed their dismay in the meeting's chat box. "Did my eyes just see what it was?" recalled one of more than a half-dozen former employees who told Insider they saw the photo. "It was almost like you were seeing a naked picture."  

Elizabeth Buchanan, the company's chief commercial officer and the wife of CEO Bruce Buchanan, acknowledged what had happened in an all-staff email sent out that night and later viewed by Insider. She included brief apologies from the person pictured as well as the person who presented the picture, who happened to be related to a cofounder of a previous iteration of the company. Rokt said that both employees completed a session of unconscious bias training with an expert facilitator, who also held a session for the whole company.  

But Bruce Buchanan doubled down. Current and former employees recalled him saying at a later all-hands meeting that blackface — a racist performance from the Jim Crow era where white performers colored their faces to mock Black people — was not a big deal in Australia, where Buchanan and the offending employees are from. Buchanan denied saying this.

Rokt CEO Bruce Buchanan.

 "We were all, in America, like, 'We don't need to learn about blackface from you,'" the second former employee said. Buchanan said this criticism was based on a mischaracterization of his remarks.

The incident was one of several that Insider learned about when interviewing more than 30 current and former employees of the e-commerce company, which was recently valued at $2.4 billion by investors. 

Interviews with dozens of employees painted a picture of a "family business" that's been slow to mature. Some said that Rokt executives engaged in or tolerated misogynistic conduct, as well as excessive drinking and drug use, and resisted holding employees accountable for alleged bad behavior.

One lawsuit brought by a former employee alleged a co-founder encouraged female employees to get their "beach bodies" ready ahead of a company retreat. The company denied all of the claims but paid an undisclosed sum to settle the case in 2019, according to court filings. Another woman's lawsuit claimed the CEO told her he'd like to see her in a bikini. Buchanan denied saying that.

Rokt, which sells e-commerce marketing and advertising tools, focused on post-transaction sales, to big companies like Disney, Domino's, and JCPenney, says it's on track to go public. 

Read Insider's investigation into Rokt's workplace here. 

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Payment Channels and Types of Transactions: Digitization, Integration, and the Economy

Tue, 03/28/2023 - 2:30pm
  • While most retail sales still occur in-store, digital is driving innovation as ecommerce grows.
  • Domestic P2P and digital remittance providers will diversify to lure users and monetize solutions.
  • Digitization is dominating B2B and disbursement innovation.

Ongoing ecommerce growth is pushing payment providers to make efficient and inexpensive digital payment solutions their top priority despite the ever-changing post-pandemic landscape. 

In-store shopping remains the largest US retail channel by both share and dollars. By the end of 2026, brick-and-mortar will still account for $4 in $5 spent in retail—making it a critical investment for payment providers despite being less flashy than ecommerce and emerging digital channels. In order to keep shoppers in-store, merchants must broaden their accepted payment methods by allowing proximity mobile payments; contactless cards; buy now, pay later; and account-to-account payment options. According to Zebra Technologies,  as of July 2022, 45% of retailers worldwide were planning to convert cash register space to self-checkouts due to consumer interest, cost-saving potential, and the need to cut or reallocate labor.

Though we forecast ecommerce sales will remain above $1 trillion for the second consecutive year in 2023, some changes will need to be made to the purchasing landscape to address declining computer and desktop retail sales. Because consumers have been spending more time on mobile devices, it is predicted that smartphones will generate 87.2% of mcommerce sales this year. As a result of this uptick, payment providers must invest in their mobile shopping and buying experience. Social commerce and connected devices are also showing larger adoption rates and can be expected to continue rising over the next few years.

Other payment sectors to watch include domestic peer-to-peer payments, which more than 3 in 5 smartphone users have adopted despite the high level of fraud; digital remittance, which nearly doubled between 2022 and 2027 even with its high fees; B2B payments, which are focused on cutting transaction time and making the shift to digital; B2C payments, which about half of the US population received a disbursement from in 2022, according to; and cross-border payments, which are bouncing back after the pandemic despite high inflation rates.

Overall, it is clear that in order to retain and build business, companies must shift to focus on digitization and integration. Curious to learn more about payment channels and types of transactions? Click here to purchase this report directly from Insider Intelligence. Want more data? Click here to purchase The Payments Ecosystem collection.

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Burger King is closing 26 locations in Michigan. See the full list.

Tue, 03/28/2023 - 2:28pm
26 Burger King locations are closing in Michigan, including this one at 34835 Plymouth Road in Livonia.
  • 26 Burger King locations are closing in Michigan by April 15, predominantly in the Detroit area.
  • Burger King franchisee EYM King of Michigan said it failed to reach a deal with the fast-food giant.
  • As part of the decision, 424 Burger King employees will lose their jobs, EYM said. 

Burger King franchisee EYM King of Michigan is closing all 26 locations in the state, citing a failure to come to terms with the fast-food chain on a new deal. 

The Texas-based franchisee called its ceasing of operations an "unforeseen business circumstance" in a WARN notice filed with Michigan's Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. 

As part of the store closures, 424 employees will lose their jobs, including general managers, and shift managers. 

EYM began shuttering Burger King locations on March 17 and expects to shutter all locations by the middle of April. Most of the Burger King store closures will impact the Detroit area.

A sign at a now-closed location at 34835 Plymouth Road in Livonia, Michigan, says, "This locations staff will miss the customer relationships we have established, it was a pleasure serving you." Another franchisee may take over the Burger King location in the future, EYM said. 

This note was left for customers at a now-shuttered Burger King location in Livonia, Michigan.

The news of over two dozen Burger King locations closing in Michigan comes as the chain, owned by Restaurant Brands International, undergoes a brand reset in the US. In September, the company announced it will invest $400 million over the next two years to supercharge Burger King's US growth and cement the chain's position as a premium fast-food restaurant. Burger King's top 800 restaurants will also be remodeled under the new plan. 

RBI said on an earnings call with analysts last month that it invested $30 million of the allocated funds towards the turnaround plan in the fourth quarter. The parent company also named a new CEO of Burger King in Joshua Kobza, formerly the chain's COO.

Here's a list of the stores closing: Dearborn Heights: 
  • 20401 West Warren Ave.
  • 17440 East Warren Ave. 
  • 20200 Grand River Ave.
  • 2155 Gratiot Ave.
  • 9239 Gratiot Ave.
  • 18021 Kelly Road
  • 16245 Livernois Ave.
  • 9871 Livernois 
  • 12661 Mack Ave. 
  • 20240 Plymouth Road
  • 13600 West McNichols Road
  • 15500 West 7 Mile Road 
  • 8201 Woodward Ave.
  • 3863 West Jefferson Ave.
  • 10336 West 8 Mile Road
  • 3801 Clio Road
  • 3625 South Dort Highway
Highland Park:
  • 13324 Woodward Ave.
  • 28203 Plymouth Road
  • 34835 Plymouth Road
Royal Oak:
  •  31456 Woodward Ave.
  • 30711 Southfield Road
  • 23660 Telegraph Road
Walled Lake:
  • 1113 E. West Maple Road
  • 2411 East 8 Mile Road
Whitmore Lake:
  • 9774 East M-36
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DeSantis' policies are controversial even among his supporters. They might come back to bite him, even in a primary

Tue, 03/28/2023 - 2:25pm
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
  • A recent poll from YouGov asked respondents if they'd vote for Gov. Ron DeSantis if he received the GOP presidential nomination.
  • The pollster then asked about eight of his policies without noting they were enacted or pushed by him.
  • YouGov then revealed the policies were his and followed up about voting for him. DeSantis supporters revealed they were less inclined to vote for him after learning about his policies.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has a problem: prospective voters are turned off by his actual achievements in the governor's mansion.

Leading Florida since 2019, DeSantis has signed into law a number of controversial bills, such as ones that restrict access to abortion services and ones that bar school libraries from carrying books containing LGBTQ themes.

DeSantis has become one of the most popular GOP governors, and a regular on Fox News, by leaning into cultural topics like fighting "wokeism" that animates the GOP base. But while his policies are popular with his Florida base, they'll likely be a hurdle in his expected presidential race as polling shows Americans outside of the state are lukewarm and even outright opposed to of some of the laws he's championed.

A recent poll from YouGov and Yahoo News highlighted this dynamic and showed that as supporters of DeSantis learned more about his policies, the less willing they were to vote for him.

A poll presents some vulnerabilities

The YouGov survey was conducted between March 16-20 with 1,582 respondents. YouGov first asked if the respondents would vote for the Florida governor if he received the Republican presidential nomination. Diving into the poll's results, 40% of all respondents — over 620 respondents — said they "definitely" or "might" vote for DeSantis.

The pollster then asked respondents about eight of the policies that DeSantis has championed as governor, but didn't note the relation to DeSantis.

More respondents opposed seven of eight of DeSantis' policies than favored them:

  • Banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy (34% favored, 50% opposed)
  • Banning public colleges and universities from funding campus activities or programs that promote diversity,
    equity and inclusion (32% favored, 48% opposed)
  • Allowing people to carry a concealed firearm without a license or safety training (22% favored, 66% opposed)
  • Banning majors or minors in critical race theory, gender studies or intersectionality at public colleges and universities (35% favored, 43% opposed)
  • Requiring all books available to children in public schools, including those selected by their teachers, to be separately reviewed by a media specialist (like a school librarian) for content the government deems inappropriate (36% favored, 44% opposed)
  • Permanently banning schools and businesses from imposing COVID-19 mask or vaccine requirements (35% favored, 46% opposed)
  • Granting political appointees the power to fire tenured faculty members at public colleges and universities at any time and for any reason (21% favored, 55% opposed)
  • Banning transgender female athletes from playing on women's and girls' teams at public schools (52% favored, 31% opposed)

This polling holds up with other polling about controversial social policies recently pushed by several governors. 

After inquiring about each of DeSantis' policies, the pollster told respondents that "All of the proposals from the previous question have been put forward or signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. If DeSantis is the Republican presidential nominee in 2024, which of the following best describes your chances of voting for him in the general election?"

Once again, 40% of all respondents said they'd vote for DeSantis. On its face, it doesn't look like anything changed. 

Looking at the poll's crosstabs, however, and it appears that DeSantis supporters were less likely to vote for him after learning about his policies.

When YouGov first asked if they would vote for him should he be the GOP nominee, 82% of those who preferred DeSantis over Trump said they'd "definitely" vote for him along with 13% who said they "might." After hearing about his policies, however, the share of his backers over Trump who "definitely" would vote for him dropped to 71%, and "might vote" for him rose to 21%.

And while the Florida governor still has time to assuage his supporters — he hasn't even declared to run for president as of yet — it's certainly not ideal that his own policies are potentially pushing supporters away. 

DeSantis' signature achievements are unpopular amongst the masses

DeSantis, along with the Florida legislature, hasn't shied away from unpopular policies in the past. While in office, the governor signed into law an abortion ban that limited abortions to the fifteen-week mark of pregnancy. He and the legislature are now pushing for an even stricter ban, one that limits doctors from performing the procedure after 6 weeks of gestation.

While Republican legislatures around the country — especially Florida's — have pushed for restrictive abortion bans, they've been wildly unpopular to most Americans. A 2022 Pew Research poll survey found that more than 6-in-10 Americans think abortion should be legal in most or all cases. 

DeSantis and the Florida legislature also enacted laws that have led to some classroom libraries shuttering and certain books being banned. According to a February survey from YouGov, however, there wasn't a single book topic in the survey that a majority of Independents or Democrats thought should be restricted. 

These unpopular policies have likely factored into DeSantis' poor polling amongst potential Republican primary voters —he's heavily lagging behind former President Donald Trump in polling on the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. According to a Morning Consult survey from March 24-26, DeSantis only pulled in 26% support for the nomination while Trump received 52%. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

NYC's famous Flatiron Building that's been empty for years could get a new start with potential $190 million sale

Tue, 03/28/2023 - 2:23pm
The Flatiron Building has been used as both a retail and office space throughout its 120-year history, and it achieved national landmark status in 1989.
  • The historic Flatiron Building went to a court-mandated auction Wednesday.
  • Investor Jacob Garlick cast the winning bid of $190 million, but he hasn't submitted the required 10% deposit, NY1 reported.
  • Garlick didn't return NY1's request for comment; the building's sale could now be uncertain.

The Flatiron Building is one of New York City's most recognizable structures — and it could have a new owner after an auction earlier in March drew a bid of $190 million.

Still, investor Jacob Garlick — who cast the winning bid — hadn't submitted the required 10% deposit that was due by the end of the day Friday, NY1 reported. The news outlet said Garlick also hadn't responded to its request for comment as of Monday.

Now, the famed building could go to the second-highest bidder, NY1 reported, citing the terms of the deal. But real estate investor Jeffrey Gural, who already owns part of the building, told The Real Deal on Tuesday that he and a group of investors wouldn't exercise their option to buy the entire thing. They had placed the No. 2 bid at $189.5 million, The Real Deal reported.

That means the building's future still appears up in the air. And another auction could be in the cards, The Real Deal said.

In the auction earlier this month that had been ordered by the New York Supreme Court, investor Garlick outbid the building's current owners and other big names in real estate with his $190 million offer, Smithsonian Magazine reported.

In that auction, dozens of onlookers gathered in Manhattan to watch the historic building go on the block with an opening bid of $50 million. 

"It's been (a) lifelong dream of mine since I'm 14 years old. I've worked every day of my life to be in this position," Garlick, managing partner at firm Abraham Trust, told NY1 on March 22. "We are honored to be a steward of this historic building, and it will be our life's mission to preserve its integrity forever."

The Flatiron Building was completed in the summer of 1902 at 175 Fifth Avenue, and has become an iconic tourist attraction for visitors of New York City. It's known for its triangular shape where the tip of the structure is as narrow as six feet wide. 

But more recently, its interior has been of little use as its previous owners struggled to agree on what renovations and the building's future should look like, Smithsonian Magazine and other publications reported.

According to NY1, its last office tenants left four years ago, and the previous owners spent around $100 million reducing the building's carbon footprint and modernizing the landmark.

One witness to the auction, real estate broker Tom Brady, told NY1 that the sale was an "iconic moment." The last time the building went up for public auction was in 1933, and it sold for $100,000, according to a New York Times report.

"Look, you're talking about one of the most famous buildings in the world — iconic," Brady said. "One of the most photographed manmade structures in the entire world, and I think it's kudos to the new owner."

It's unclear what Garlick had planned for the 22-story building — or whether he'll even end up taking possession.

Correction: March 28, 2023 — An earlier version of this story didn't make clear that investor Jacob Garlick hadn't submitted the required 10% deposit by the end of business on Friday; that makes the sale uncertain. Also, an earlier version of the story misinterpreted a comment from investor Jeffrey Gural in The Real Deal about the potential future cost of the building. That paragraph has been removed.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Buying a house is getting harder. Blame homeowners who refuse to move.

Tue, 03/28/2023 - 2:21pm
Prospective buyers are returning to the US real estate market as mortgage interest rates trend lower.
  • This spring, homebuyer demand is increasing and houses are selling faster. It would seem promising.
  • But buyers won't have many homes to pick from, which can lead to competition that keeps prices high.
  • Why? Owners are reluctant to sell because they would have to give up locked-in low mortgage rates.

Mortgage rates have been declining, but that won't make buying a home any easier this spring.  

The average US fixed interest rate for a 30-year mortgage fell to 6.42% last week.

While it's well above the 4.42% borrowers were offered during the same period in 2022, it's below the near 7% levels that chilled the market at the beginning of March. Considering growing expectations that the Federal Reserve will stop, or even reverse, its benchmark rate hikes this year, mortgage rates may fall further in the weeks to come. 

Lower rates have already translated to renewed interest from prospective buyers — but they've created a Catch-22 scenario for the US real estate market.

The crux of the issue is that there are still not enough homes available for sale.

Owners happy with their homes and low, locked-in mortgage rates, aren't moving much. New supply is still lagging demand, with the gap between single-family home constructions and the number of households formed growing to 6.5 million homes in 2022, according to

With inventory so thin, the few homes that are on the market are selling quickly

The cocktail of heightened demand and limited supply means that homebuying could become more competitive this spring. 

"Because there's so little to choose from, homebuying speed is picking up even while rates stay high and demand remains low compared with last year," Dana Anderson, a data analyst with Redfin, wrote in a March housing report. "Nearly half of homes that went under contract had an accepted offer within two weeks of hitting the market, the highest share since June."

Take a tiny one-bedroom cottage in the middle of Connecticut, which attracted 300 people to an open house in March — precisely because the options for sale in the area were so paltry.

Megan Hicks, an agent with Austin, Texas-based NextGen Real Estate Properties, told Insider that while competition has yet to return to levels seen in 2020 and 2021, homebuyers are nonetheless facing difficulties. 

"There's not as many bidding wars as there were, but there is still competition because the supply is low," Hicks said.

Despite an increase in February, the city still only had 2.6 months of housing supply by month's end, according to the Austin Board of Realtors. That is well below the 5 to 6 months of supply that experts consider healthy for a housing market.

More competition, or demand, for a smaller number of homes, or supply, usually keeps prices high. Home prices in Austin, however, actually dropped 12.2% year-over-year in February. It's a sign that in hot pandemic housing markets, where prices skyrocketed the most since the summer of 2020, buyers may see prices fall — though they'll still hover well above prepandemic levels.

It's partly an American problem: In other countries, where many buyers have mortgages with terms shorter than 30 years, home prices are falling at faster rates.

Because finding a home in the US is as hard as ever, Hicks suggested that buyers have all their ducks in a row in order to compete for a home this spring. 

"You do need to have your preapproval ready," she said. "You also need to have a really solid idea of what you need in a house, and when it shows up on the market, you need to be quick to move on it."

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Warehouse workers around the world are being told to kick bags of nickel to make sure they're not filled with stones like JPMorgan recently discovered

Tue, 03/28/2023 - 2:15pm
Warehouse workers are on a campaign to confirm that the nickel in their warehouses— is really nickel.

Last week's revelation that JPMorgan's bags of nickel were actually bags of stones seemed nothing short of a fable.

The mega-bank had stored bags of what was presumed to be 54 metric tons of nickel at a warehouse in the Dutch city of Rotterdam. Yet when the bags were weighed earlier this month, it turned out that they were filled with stones instead of nickel briquettes. 

Since then, the tale has only continued, with warehouse workers around the world frantically checking tens of thousands of two-ton bags of nickel — by kicking them, in some instances — to ensure they're the real deal, Bloomberg reported

The London Metal Exchange — a commodities exchange that deals in metals futures and options — has been advising workers to wear steel toe-capped boots for protection, Bloomberg reported, citing one person who received the instructions.

(It hurts to kick a bag of nickel, you know —the LME itself does not own any warehouses but operates a list of approved storage facilities across the world.)

The mass inspection across the world's warehouses has also involved carefully weighing and scanning the bags, Bloomberg reported. While no other discrepancies have yet been discovered, Bloomberg said, the mystery of what happened to JPMorgan's bags remains unsolved. The firm's nine contracts with the LME have since been invalidated; all of their bags were found to be filled with stones, Bloomberg said

Access World — the logistics company that manages the warehouse in Rotterdam where JPMorgan's bags were held — is leaning towards the idea that someone snuck into the warehouse and stole the nickel, Bloomberg said. That's because there is a record of the material being weighed when it was first entered into the warehouse, Bloomberg said

Neither Access World nor the LME immediately responded to Insider's request for a comment.



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North Korea's showing off an underwater nuclear attack drone it says can cause a 'radioactive tsunami,' but the threat is likely 'exaggerated'

Tue, 03/28/2023 - 2:13pm
n this undated photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects what it says unmanned underwater nuclear attack craft "Haeil" which was tested during exercises held on March 21 - 23, 2023 in North Korea.
  • North Korea has tested an underwater nuclear attack drone, similar to Russia's Poseidon torpedo.
  • Pyongyang claims the weapon could cause "radioactive tsunamis," but it has been met with skepticism.
  • The new weapon's reveal comes as Kim Jong Un is ramping up efforts to boost nuclear development.

North Korea has released new imagery of testing of what it claims is an underwater nuclear attack drone that can be deployed to devastating effect, but officials and expert observers believe Pyongyang's claims to be "exaggerated."

Pyongyang first tested the weapon last week after over a decade of development, sending it cruising off the country's eastern coast at a depth of up to nearly 500 feet for around 60 hours. State media said that a test warhead detonated underwater and hailed the mission as a success because it "fully confirmed" the weapon's capabilities. 

"The mission of the underwater nuclear strategic weapon is to stealthily infiltrate into operational waters and make a super-scale radioactive tsunami through underwater explosion to destroy naval striker groups and major operational ports of the enemy," state-run media outlet KCNA said.

"This nuclear underwater attack drone can be deployed at any coast and port or towed by a surface ship for operation," state media boasted.

A screen grab shows shows an underwater strategic weapons system test at an undisclosed location in this undated combination still image used in a video out March 28, 2023.

Another round of testing for the drone — named "Haeil-1" — was conducted over the weekend, and that time, the North Korean device traveled over 370 miles for more than 41 hours, state media reported, adding that the test warhead was "correctly set off."  

The recent testing marks the first time that North Korea has publicly revealed this type of potential weapon, which seems to resemble a similar device in development by another isolated government — Russia.

For years, Moscow has been working on a intercontinental autonomous nuclear torpedo, sometimes referred to as a drone, called the Poseidon. That weapon has been described as a "doomsday" device because it has been speculated that the payload could potentially cause a radioactive tsunami, as Pyongyang claims its weapon can do.

But like Poseidon, rumors of the Haeil drone's capabilities have potentially been exaggerated, and there's no guarantee that it will even work. North Korea's claims about the weapon have already been met with by skepticism by experts and officials. 

—Joseph Dempsey (@JosephHDempsey) March 28, 2023

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) expressed its doubts about the weapon and said its military believes that it is "highly likely" Pyongyang's claims "are exaggerated and manipulated," according to Seoul-based NK News.

"There have been signs that North Korea has been developing unmanned submarines, but we assess that they are still at an elementary level," South Korea's JCS added.

Ankit Panda, a senior fellow in the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, also questioned the weapon's future. "There are good reasons to maintain skepticism that North Korea will widely produce or deploy the Haeil system," he wrote in an NK Pro analysis.

That said, Panda noted in an interview with CNN that "there's nothing preventing North Korea from, in principle, putting a nuclear device on an underwater vehicle like this and detonating it," but a lot of questions remain about how it works and what this system is actually capable of compared to the claims of North Korean state media. 

This photo provided on Tuesday, March 28, 2023, by the North Korean government shows underwater weapon test by drone named Haeil, held between March 25 and March 27, 2023, in undisclosed location, North Korea.

North Korea's recent underwater drone testing — which came in tandem with the launch of several strategic cruise missiles — comes on the heels of extensive military drills by the US and South Korea, often regarded by Pyongyang as provocative, and as the country continues to advance its weapons programs.

Earlier this month, Pyongyang tested the Hwasong-17 — its largest intercontinental ballistic missile yet — which reached a maximum altitude of over 3,700 miles and flew over 620 miles off the coast of the Korean peninsula. It was one of several missile launches that took place this month. 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this week urged scientists to bolster production of weapons-grade nuclear material and work on expanding his country's nuclear arsenal "exponentially," according to a KCNA report, which added that Kim placed "important tasks" — which were not immediately identified — on Pyongyang's weapons industry. 

Meanwhile, the country on Tuesday unveiled photos of Kim inspecting new and smaller nuclear warheads, which experts speculate could be fitted on various types of delivery systems. 

A screen grab shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspecting nuclear warheads at an undisclosed location in this undated still image used in a video.—Joseph Dempsey (@JosephHDempsey) March 28, 2023

Despite international pressure to halt its weapons development programs, particularly its nuclear programs, North Korea effectively declared in September of last year that its nuclear course is irreversible.

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Meet Changpeng 'CZ' Zhao, the CEO of Binance, which is being sued by the CFTC over claims the exchange lacked 'basic compliance to prevent terrorist financing'

Tue, 03/28/2023 - 2:11pm
Binance CEO, Changpeng Zhao.
  • Changpeng Zhao, also known as CZ, is the wealthiest person in cryptocurrency.
  • His rivalry with Sam Bankman-Fried nearly saw Binance save FTX from bankruptcy.
  • The CFTC filed a lawsuit against Binance alleging "willful evasion" of US laws on March 27.
Changpeng Zhao is the founder and CEO of Binance, the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange.Changpeng Zhao, CEO of Binance.

Zhao — who's often known as CZ — is one of the most prominent people in cryptocurrency, as well as the wealthiest person in the industry.

With a net worth of $16.4 billion as of November 9, he's the 87th-richest person in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

But crypto winter has taken a toll across the industry, and Zhao is no exception. His real-time estimated net worth is a far cry from the peak of his personal wealth: His net worth peaked at $95.9 billion earlier this year, the Bloomberg Billionaires Index shows.

Zhao's interest in cryptocurrency began in 2013 when he first learned about Bitcoin, according to a 2018 Forbes report. His career in the up-and-coming digital currency industry started at, where he served as the head of development.

Zhao founded Binance in 2017 and powered it to become the biggest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume. The exchange handles some $76 billion in daily trading volume, according to Protocol. In 2021 alone, Binance generated over $20 billion in revenue, according to Bloomberg. Binance is bigger than its four largest competitors combined, per Bloomberg.

Editor's note: This story was first published in October 2022 and has been updated to reflect recent developments.

Zhao was born in a rural village in Jiangsu province in China in 1977 to a family of teachers.Nanjing, Suzhou, China.

Zhao, who is Chinese-Canadian, moved to Vancouver in the late 1980s with his family, according to Forbes.

Zhao's father, Shengkai, was a professor who was exiled to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution in China, according to the Maclean's report.

Zhao said in a September blog post that his family had to wait in line outside the Canadian embassy for three days to procure visas. He added that he was "lucky to have been able to leave at that time."

Shengkai immigrated to Canada to pursue a doctorate degree at the University of British Columbia, per Maclean's. After the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, Zhao and his family followed his father and moved to Vancouver. 

Zhao said he experienced food rationing growing up in rural China. "You get a ticket to buy meat," Zhao told Fortune in a March interview. Zhao told Maclean's that it wasn't until he moved to Canada that he ever drank fresh milk, because it was so rare to find it in China.

When Zhao moved to Canada, he held a number of part-time jobs, according to the Maclean's report.McDonald's in Richmond, BC, Canada.

He started working at McDonald's when he was 14 and worked there for two years, Dewi Mustajab, a spokesperson for Binance, told Insider.

Zhao also worked at a Chevron gas station and as a referee for volleyball games in his teens to earn money, per Maclean's.

Zhao said in the blog post that moving to Canada "changed my life forever." He added that he spent his "best years as a teenager" growing up in Vancouver.

Zhao is known to be frugal: He doesn't own cars, yachts, or luxury watches. Instead, he has digital watches like the Apple Watch,  and he recently bought a Toyota Velfire van, Mustajab said.

Zhao studied computer science at McGill University in Montreal, the same school where his father worked as a visiting scholar.McGill University.

Zhao's interest in technology was fueled by a $14,000 286 DOS computer that his father — "a math whiz and programmer" — bought when was Zhao was in his teens, per Maclean's. Before attending McGill, Zhao enrolled in programming classes in high school and started coding when he was just 16 years old, per Bloomberg.

After graduating from university, Zhao worked first on the Tokyo Exchange, and from 2001 to 2005, on Bloomberg's Tradebook, Mustajab said.

In 2005, Zhao quit the corporate life and moved to Shanghai to become a partner at the trading system company Fusion Systems. According to Zhao's Linkedin page, he left the company in December 2013.

The vast majority of Zhao's multibillion-dollar wealth comes from his controlling stake in Binance Holdings, per Bloomberg.Cryptocurrency exchange Binance founder and CEO Changpeng Zhao speaks at a Binance fifth anniversary event in Paris, France, July 8, 2022.

While Bloomberg estimates Zhao is worth around $25.8 billion from his majority stake in the cryptocurrency platform, it's not a complete picture of his wealth. Bloomberg said it did not include cryptocurrency directly held by Zhao in his net worth, as the amount is not publicly available. 

Zhao has personal cryptocurrency holdings in Bitcoin and Binance Coin, per a September report by Bloomberg. In 2021, Binance had over 90 million users, Bloomberg reported, citing an estimate from Zhao.

Zhao is said to have a considerable amount of wealth from Bitcoin, having bought $1 million worth of the digital currency when it was just $600 a unit, per Maclean's.

Mustajab declined to confirm Zhao's net worth and the source of his wealth to Insider.

But Zhao's journey at Binance has been far from smooth sailing — the company has been embroiled in several controversies.Changpeng Zhao, CEO of Binance.

In October, some $570 million worth of cryptocurrency traded on Binance was stolen in a blockchain hack, according to the New York Times. Zhao told CNBC in an October interview that no users had lost money in the attack, and that "software code is never bug free." The Binance hack is one of the biggest cryptocurrency hacks of all time.

Binance said in a blog post that in the event of a hack in the future, its validators will decide if the hacked funds will be frozen. The decision would be made through a series of "on-chain governance votes" — the system that manages and implements changes to the blockchain. Binance added they would also consider implementing a "bug bounty reward system," so users are incentivized to report bugs.

"Nearly $570 million were minted and taken by the hacker, $100 million are unrecovered and moved off chain by the hacker. No users or users funds affected," Mustajab said.

Binance has also been criticized for its ties to China. Binance only delisted Chinese yuan-based trading pairs on the exchange in 2021, and served customers in China for several years, according to September article by Protos. Chinese authorities banned all crypto-related transactions in September 2021.

Zhao responded to these allegations in a blog post published in September, where he clarified that Binance was never incorporated in China and said it does not "operate like a Chinese company culturally." He added that he is "a Canadian citizen, period."

Binance also garnered controversy for enabling Iran-based users to trade cryptocurrencies on the exchange despite US-imposed sanctions, according to a July report by Reuters. Binance informed traders in Iran to liquidate their accounts in November 2018, but seven traders continued until September 2021 to use the account even after the ban. Binance did not respond to Reuters' requests for comment at the time.

Zhao is known for his rivalry with FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried. In November, Binance looked set to rescue SBF's firm from bankruptcy, before backing out of the deal.Zhao Changpeng and Sam Bankman-Fried.

Binance signed a non-binding agreement to acquire FTX, Zhao said in a Twitter post on November 8.  FTX was the third largest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume after Binance and Coinbase, before filing for bankruptcy three days later.

It all started with a public spat on November 6, when Zhao announced on Twitter that Binance would be liquidating its FTT tokens, the cryptocurrency of FTX.

Anthony Scaramucci, who sold 30% of his business to FTX, told Insider in January that Bankman-Fried had been saying "nasty things" about Zhao during a fundraising tour in the Middle East – which may have prompted Binance to sell off its FTT holdings.

In a Twitter post, Bankman-Fried said that Zhao was "trying to go after us with false rumors," and that FTX and its assets "are fine."

But then Binance pulled out of the deal, and FTX filed for bankruptcy – while SBF is now awaiting trial for 12 criminal charges.

Now Binance has legal troubles of its own, facing a CFTC complaint for allegedly violating trading rules.Binance logo is displayed on a mobile phone screen.

On March 27, the Commodity Futures and Trading Commission sued Zhao, Binance, and its former chief compliance officer, Samuel Lim, for allegedly violating trading rules. 

It alleged a "willful evasion of federal law" because Binance ignored requirements to register the exchange, and helped customers to evade its "ineffective compliance program."

The CFTC said Binance didn't require customers to provide ID, and "failed to implement basic compliance procedures designed to prevent and detect terrorist financing and money laundering."

The filing shows officers discussing transactions from Hamas – a Palestinian group designated as terrorists by the US. "Like come on. They are here for crime," Lim said in internal communications, per the filing. 

"This filing is unexpected and disappointing as we have been working collaboratively with the CFTC for more than two years," a Binance spokesperson said in a statement, adding that it will continue to work with regulators "to develop a clear, thoughtful regulatory regime."

Zhao currently splits his time between Dubai and France, Mustajab said. He was previously based in Singapore.Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.

Zhao moved to Dubai in late 2021, where he leases an office to run what Bloomberg described as "a new phase" of Binance. Zhao also owns an apartment and a minivan in the city, the publication reported. 

"I have always liked placed with diverse cultures," Zhao told the Gulf News in an August interview. He described the city as "very pro-crypto," according to a 2021 interview with Bloomberg.

Previously, Zhao lived in Singapore from 2019 to 2021. The city-state spent hundreds of millions of dollars investing in the sector amidst a crackdown on the industry in the US, UK, and China.

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Mike Pence must testify before grand jury investigating Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election, judge rules

Tue, 03/28/2023 - 2:03pm
Former Vice President Mike Pence.
  • A federal judge ruled that Pence must provide testimony in the federal investigation into January 6.
  • Pence had sought to block the special counsel's subpoena.
  • A federal grand jury is investigating Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election and his role in January 6.

A federal judge has ordered former Vice President Mike Pence to testify before a grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election and his role in the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot, according to multiple news reports.

In a sealed ruling handed down on Monday, US District Judge James Boasberg dismissed Trump's attempt to prevent Pence from appearing before the grand jury, rejecting his legal team's claims of executive privilege, or the president's right to keep communications confidential. 

Yet Boasberg, the chief judge of the federal district court in Washington, DC, decided that Pence can refuse to answer some questions related to him presiding over Congress' joint session to certify the 2020 election results on January 6. 

The judge's order delivers the latest blow to Trump and win to US special counsel Jack Smith, who's been overseeing the investigation since Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed him in November. 

Earlier this month, Trump also lost his bid to block subpoenas issued to several of his former officials, including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, to provide more testimony in the grand jury investigation. Trump had similarly invoked executive privilege, but a federal judge dismissed his claims.

Smith had subpoenaed Pence for testimony and documents related to the probe in February. Both Pence and Trump had sought to block the subpoena, with the former vice president arguing that since he was acting as president of the Senate on January 6, he was protected by the Constitution's "speech and debate clause," which shields Congress members from providing testimony about their work. 

Pence and Trump's legal teams could seek to appeal Boasberg's ruling. Spokespeople for Pence and Trump did not immediately return requests for comment. 

As vice president, Pence played a mostly ceremonial role overseeing the certification of the 2020 election results as Congress met on January 6. Though Trump and his allies had repeatedly sought to pressure Pence to toss out electoral votes in battleground states that then-President-elect Joe Biden won. Pence had refused, citing his lack of constitutional authority to do so.

Pence has called the special counsel subpoena "unconstitutional" and said he'll fight it as far as needed, even if it ends up before the Supreme Court. 

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The State of Payment Methods: More Choice and Economic Changes Are Affecting How Consumers Spend

Tue, 03/28/2023 - 2:00pm
  • Cash and checks are declining but not disappearing.
  • Debit, credit, and prepaid cards will compete for growing digital spending.
  • FedNow's launch could increase the prominence of bank-based payments and intensify competition.

Although debit still reigns supreme, with consumer preferences moving toward digital, cash and checks will continue to be displaced in the US. 

Consumer interest has been skewing toward digital alternatives, and cash is taking a major hit: Less than one-fifth (19.0%) of US adults cited cash as their preferred method for in-person spending in 2021, according to the Federal Reserve Banks. Younger consumers and fewer low-value purchases are driving the dissipation of cash. But even though cash usage is dwindling, the Federal Reserve reports that 79% of US adults still hold cash daily. It is suspected that the wide availability of ATMs, state requirements for stores to accept cash, and typical weekly purchases among Black and Hispanic adults will keep cash from completely fizzling out. 

Along with cash, checks are trending downward: In October 2021, just 46% of US adults stated that they had used a check in the past 30 days, according to the Federal Reserve. Generally, consumers use checks for infrequent, high-value transactions. However, with the increasing availability of online bill pay and mobile peer-to-peer payment apps, digitization and convenience are hastening the check decline. Additionally, business transactions made with checks plummeted to 33.0% in North America last year due to a need for more efficient reconciliation, better fraud control, and cost savings, according to an Association for Financial Professionals survey. 

Cash and check usage may be dwindling, but debit and credit cards are seeing upticks among economic uncertainty. With that being said, an estimated 82% of US adults have access to a debit card, per Pulse, making growth difficult. For credit cards, the risk lies in the ability for consumers to make minimum payments paired with less frequent high-ticket purchases as concerns about inflation and job security persist. In order to circumvent these risks and keep consumers spending, issuers are beefing up their rewards programs. 

Another winner of the pandemic has been buy now, pay later (BNPL) as it combines the flexibility of credit with short repayment terms, app-based shopping, and a simple user experience. So long as consumers are struggling to make ends meet, merchant acceptance rates continue to increase, and new entrants improve accessibility, BNPL will keep growing and threatening the use of credit cards. 

As consumers become more concerned about the economy and job security while also steadily adopting new digital solutions, we are seeing shifts away from traditional payment methods. Curious to learn more about the state of payment methods? Click here to purchase this report directly from Insider Intelligence. Looking for more data? Click here to purchase The Payments Ecosystem 2023 collection.

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Binance 'could be in big trouble' as the CFTC lawsuit alleges the crypto behemoth dodged regulators and breached laws

Tue, 03/28/2023 - 1:58pm
Changpeng Zhao.
  • Binance is being blow-torched from all angles as US regulators close in on the world's largest crypto exchange. 
  • The CFTC sued the exchange this week for violating US financial laws, whilst some reports suggest Binance has engaged in secret fund transfers.
  • Here's what's happening with Binance, and where the company is under pressure. 

Binance, the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange, is braving one of the roughest patches since it was founded by Changpeng Zhao and He Yi in 2017.

Fighting on multiple fronts at the same time, the digital-asset giant is facing a raft of US regulatory probes while also trying to shore up investor confidence damaged by the so-called crypto winter and a string of high-profile bankruptcies and scandals in the industry.

On Monday, the Commodities Futures and Trading Commission (CFTC) sued Binance and Zhao himself, for allegedly breaching US financial laws. The regulator's 74-page complaint contains some staggering allegations about how the exchange tried to dodge US regulators, and claims that Binance staff knew its compliance efforts were just "for show".

"This lawsuit from the CFTC shouldn't be taken lightly. The CFTC takes less cases against crypto than the SEC but when they do they come in with force," Marcus Sotiriou, an analyst at digital asset brokerage GlobalBlock, told Insider.

Binance has denied the allegations. A spokesperson for the exchange told Insider on Tuesday that it has hired 650 compliance staff and spent $80 million to help with transaction monitoring, "know your customer" rules, and other compliance programs over the past two years, pointing to efforts to block US residents from trading on the exchange.

Following the shocking implosion of Sam-Bankman Fried's FTX exchange late last year, concerns have risen whether Binance faces similar risks. Type 'Binance' into search analytics tools such as AnswerThePublic and they throw up a raft of queries including "will binance collapse like FTX" and "can binance be trusted", or even "binance is next".

John Reed Stark, a former attorney of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, tweeted earlier in March that Binance is "FTX redux and an epic bank run seems inevitable".

'Binance could be in big trouble'

The company is now dealing with a raft of legal and regulatory probes over potential breaches of anti-money-laundering rules, and questions about whether it properly registered some crypto derivatives. The grilling comes as US regulators tighten their grip on the crypto industry following FTX's collapse.

The CFTC report "refers to 300 'house accounts' owned by CZ, Merit Peak and Sigma chain used in proprietary trading, suggesting that Binance was counterfeiting its customers. The damning part is that the CFTC has chat records and other documentation from CZ directly on these matters to prove this," GlobalBlock's Sotiriou said.

"Settlement could be the best case here for Binance, but that could still be billions in fines to cover making whole, disgorgement and civil penalty payments but may allow CZ et al to avoid admission of guilt. This lawsuit doesn't seem to be FUD this time, and Binance could be in big trouble here," he added.

FUD is short for fear, uncertainty, and doubt — a popular acronym in the digital assets space.

'Gauntlet of regulatory inspection'

While the exchange may not face the sort of existential threats that FTX had to contend with, it will likely remain under pressure from regulators and customers seeking greater transparency, Robert Le, a crypto analyst at data and software firm PitchBook, told Insider.

"We believe that post-FTX, the regulatory environment will be much less favorable for Binance and that they will face significant regulatory pressure across multiple jurisdictions. What this means is that the company will not only face substantial financial penalties but also the possibility of being forced to exit certain markets, restructure, or entirely segregate its various businesses," Le said.

Ed Moya, senior analyst at OANDA, holds a similar view.

"Binance is about to go through an intense gauntlet of regulatory inspection over their finances, operations, and compliance. The scrutiny will be relentless and potentially crippling for Binance. It appears that Binance will not have an easy path to operate in the US," he told Insider.

Here are six instances where the crypto giant has come under fire from regulators or lawmakers.

CFTC lawsuit

On Monday, the CFTC filed a complaint against Binance and its founder, listing eight provisions of the Commodity Exchange Act that the regulator claims were breached by the exchange.

Zhao and Binance's former chief compliance officer Samuel Lim solicited US customers, especially "lucrative and commercially important 'VIP'" ones, while ignoring rules to register under US law, it said.

By not registering with the CFTC, Binance "disregarded federal laws essential to the integrity and vitality of the U.S. financial markets, including laws that require the implementation of controls designed to prevent and detect money laundering and terrorism financing," the complaint said.

The CFTC has requested the court to place financial costs onto Binance, as well as trading and registration bans.

A botched plan to dodge US regulators 

A recent Wall Street Journal investigation revealed that Binance crafted a plan years ago to evade scrutiny from US watchdogs as authorities hinted their intention to clamp down on crypto businesses based overseas. 

The strategy sought to create a US entity that was wholly independent of Binance's global operations – so it set up Binance.US in 2019. Founded in 2017, had largely operated in a free-floating way out of hubs in China and Japan – putting it at a distance from regulatory checks. 

But the plan proved to be flawed given the two platforms were more entwined than publicly disclosed, per the WSJ. They both mixed staff and finances, and even shared an entity that dealt with cryptocurrencies. 

If US authorities decide the links meant the crypto exchange had control over the US platform, it could expose the company to enforcement action. 

Customer funds

Binance is also fending off concerns about its handling of customer funds, following some reports that it used customer assets for its own purposes like FTX. The exchange transferred $1.8 billion in stablecoin collateral to hedge funds, leaving its investors exposed, according to Forbes, which reviewed on-chain data from August 17 to early December.

While the shift in funds may not be illegal, it could pose risk to Binance's investors. For example, Sam Bankman-Fried lost more than $8 billion in customer funds after allegedly transferring FTX deposits for operations at its sister trading firm Alameda.

The exchange has never invested or "otherwise deployed" customer funds without their consent, a Binance spokesperson told Insider in emailed comments earlier this month.

"Binance holds all of its clients' assets in segregated accounts which are identified separately from any accounts used to hold assets belonging to Binance. It's important to note that our users are able to withdraw their funds whenever they wish - as has been demonstrated time and time again," the spokesperson added.

Secret transfers 

Binance secretly moved $400 million from its US partner to a company managed by the crypto giant's boss Zhao, called Merit Peak, Reuters reported last month.

Binance claims that Merit Peak and Binance's US partner Binance.US operate independently from the exchange.

Binance US's former CEO Catherine Coley called the transfers "unexpected," per Reuters. 

Unregistered securities 

Binance's American affiliate has also come under pressure after an SEC official said the company is operating unregistered securities in the US, per CoinDesk.

The accusations have raised hurdles for a $1.3 billion deal between Binance.US and embattled crypto firm Voyager, in which the former planned to snap up the latter's assets. On Monday, a federal judge temporarily halted the sale after a request by the United States government to pause Voyager's bankruptcy plan.

The SEC have clamped down on large crypto firms, including Gemini, Genesis and Kraken for operating assets that's not been rubber stamped by regulators. 


In another intervention by the SEC, crypto firm Paxos was ordered to stop minting Binance's dollar-pegged token BUSD because it was deemed an unregistered security. 

That came after the regulator launched a lawsuit against Paxos for offering BUSD to its customers. 

BUSD is the world's third largest stablecoin behind Tether and USD coin, with a market cap of more than $8.2 billion, according to CoinMarketCap

"There is many unknown unknowns to jump to conclusion on Binance's; however, the coming months will be crucial to gain more transparency and clarity on Binance's overall financial health in light of the recent regulatory headwinds," 21Shares's Wan told Insider.

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Lowe's started offering a 4-day work week after complaints of a 'chaotic' scheduling system. Employees say they love it.

Tue, 03/28/2023 - 1:54pm
Lowe's offered a four-day work week for hourly associates starting in August 2022.
  • Lowe's implemented a four-day work week in August 2022 following employee scheduling complaints.
  • Many employees say they are fans of the optional four-day work week, but some have seen issues.
  • Lowe's said in March that its staffing levels are the best the company has had in three years.

Jaden Walker was elated when Lowe's, his employer, offered four-day work weeks for full-time hourly associates in August 2022.

Like many Lowe's workers previously told Insider, Walker said the days he worked were "randomized," making it hard to make plans in advance. At some points, Walker would work eight days in a row, he said.

But last summer, after hearing complaints from workers about its "chaotic" scheduling system, Lowe's decided to give employees more flexibility, allowing them to work four 10-hour days versus five 8-hour days.

"So far, I am loving it," Walker told Insider. "The days are long, and on slower days it can be a bit of a slog to get through, but having an extra day off a week makes it worth it."

The best part for Walker is having more consistent breaks in his weeks. According to him, he never works more than three days in a row, making it "easier to have a work-life balance."

Insider spoke with seven current and former Lowe's employees about their experiences with the four-day work week at Lowe's. While most said they appreciated the move, some said scheduling complications have made it difficult to take advantage of the option, and at least one opted out of the four-day work week after giving it a try. Many of these workers asked to be anonymous for privacy concerns or fear of retaliation. Insider knows their identities. 

"It's a great scheduling practice that gives workers who value their personal time a lot more of it," said a former Lowe's employee in Washington state who left the company in February. "But it's being introduced by a company whose scheduling is such an unmitigated, disrespectful nightmare, that it's almost completely wasted."

Lowe's did not respond to requests for comment. When originally announcing the four-day work week, the company told Insider that it was meant to provide workers "more flexibility and consistency in their work schedules, while continuing to deliver outstanding customer service."

What is Lowe's four-day work week like for employees?

Lowe's merchandising store team associates, or those who help set up and maintain stores, have the option of working only weekdays, according to the company's website

Thus, when the four-day work week rolled around, those on that team could opt to create three-day weekends or break up their work week with a day off.

"I already had weekends off, but with the four-day work week they insisted that our other day off would be Wednesday," a Lowe's merchandising employee from Colorado who started the 4-day work week in September 2022 told Insider. "My wife works retail at a local mall so when she asked her manager if having Wednesdays as a dedicated day off would be okay, her manager approved, so now we have a dedicated day off together, which is awesome."

But for a Lowe's employee in Washington state who works in the hardware and tools department, the four-day work week forced him to work every Saturday and Sunday — days he said he had the option to occasionally take off in the five-day work week. That employee said he tried the four-day work week in October 2022 but decided to switch back to his previous five-day work week schedule in February.

"I didn't like giving up every weekend," he told Insider. "I did have three days off every week, but after working four 10-hour shifts, it didn't help to have an extra day off, and I would just prefer working that day."

For others, the four-day work week provides an opportunity to spend less time at a company they don't like.

"The only thing I like about it is that I have to spend one less day at a company that does not properly staff its departments so that they can assure maximum profits," an employee at a store told Insider.

On an earnings call in March, Lowe's Executive Vice President Joe McFarland said the company has had "the best staffing levels that we've had in three years."

Are you a worker at Lowe's who has tried the four-day work week? Contact the reporter Ben Tobin on email at or over encrypted messaging app Signal at +1 703-498-9171.

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EV startup Lucid plans to lay off hundreds of workers at every level of the company, leaked memo says

Tue, 03/28/2023 - 1:47pm
Lucid is planning to lay off hundreds of employees, sources tell Insider.
  • Lucid is planning to lay off hundreds of workers, the company told staff Tuesday. 
  • The cuts will affect about 18% of the company, according to five sources and a copy of an internal memo seen by Insider. 
  • Lucid has been struggling with demand and getting vehicles on the road.

Electric-vehicle startup Lucid is planning to lay off hundreds of employees, the company told staff during an all-hands meeting Tuesday, according to five sources familiar with the matter and a copy of an internal memo that was viewed by Insider. 

Lucid CEO Peter Rawlinson told employees the company will cut about 18% of its workforce, per the sources and the internal memo, which was sent after the short meeting. Given Lucid employed approximately 7,200 employees globally as of the end of 2022, according to regulatory filings, that would be about 1,290 employees.

The sources were granted anonymity as they are not authorized to speak publicly about the company, but their identities are known and verified by Insider.

The memo said that Lucid would communicate details about the layoffs over the next three days and that the cuts would impact every organization and level of the company, including executives. Impacted employees are expected to receive a severance package including access to career resources, healthcare coverage continuation, and acceleration of equity, according to the memo.

The memo also attributed the cuts to cost discipline, and said that the company's cost structure optimization efforts alone wouldn't achieve its objectives and that letting team members go was a "painful but necessary decision."

On Tuesday afternoon, a Lucid SEC filing confirmed the news and Rawlinson's memo. Lucid did not respond to Insider's request for comment.

The cuts mark yet another round of layoffs that have hit tech and mobility startups in recent months as economic concerns have companies cutting costs and watching their bottom lines. 

Lucid's journey

Lucid has been experiencing several challenging months amid a scramble to nail down manufacturing and production and get cars on the roads

An internal cancellation protocol was sent to sales employees late last year in an attempt to nip customer cancellations in the bud. Meanwhile, Lucid launched an employee purchase program incentivizing its workers to buy cars themselves and created an existing inventory website to sell cars that don't require a wait. 

Lucid has also emailed customers about utilizing the commercial EV tax credit for leasing, given its EV does not currently qualify for the new EV purchase credit. It has also cut prices for purchases delivered by the end of April.

Lucid's chief executive emphasized in the company's fourth-quarter earnings call last month that bolstering sales, marketing, and brand recognition would be priorities for 2023. 

"Last year, my focus was on manufacturing," Rawlinson said. "My focus now is on amplifying the message, attracting a broader audience, and ramping up our sales."

Are you a current or former Lucid employee? Do you have an opinion or tip to share? Contact this reporter at Signal and WhatsApp are available.

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The Evolving Payments Purchasing Chain: How Digitization and Economic Pressures Are Changing the Ecosystem

Tue, 03/28/2023 - 1:30pm
  • Acquirers and processors are competing to enhance their value propositions
  • Card and automated clearing house (ACH) payment networks are dueling for volume
  • Issuers can lean on customer relationships and tranches of data to respond to innovation

Amid economic uncertainty, payments providers are making meaningful shifts to digitize and innovate as they continue to grow at a projected 8.3% compound annual growth rate worldwide between 2021 and 2026, per Boston Consulting Group. 

The changing economic landscape is leading to consolidation and a stronger focus on innovation. Both large and small players in the space can adapt their products to address current market needs and press on toward digitization. Although driving towards digitization increasingly becomes the industry standard, networks like Visa and Mastercard will likely keep raising swipe fees under the argument that these fees are integral to funding security, innovation, and credit card rewards systems. As an alternative to networks, we are seeing strong adoption of instant payments (which nearly a third of US retailers are exploring, per a June 2022 survey) and buy now, pay later (which we forecast more than 2 in 5 US digital buyers will leverage in 2023). 


The rise of digitization and noncard payment methods could pose a large threat to issuers' transaction-based revenues. In order to stay afloat, issuers will look to reap more value from existing customers. This should not prove to be a challenge anytime soon, as consumers in North America still trust banks more than fintech providers, according to a December 2021 Mastercard survey. However, as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau makes moves to increase competition through regulation, consumers could find it easier to change banks in the future. To prevent a mass exodus, issuers will leverage customer data to create more personalized offerings. 


What is abundantly clear is that the diversification of the payments landscape paired with the threat of new regulation is creating more opportunities for the savvy consumer. In order to stay afloat, players must focus on the needs of their customers, convenience, and expanding their products to include more payment method options. Curious to learn more about the evolving payments purchasing chain? Click here to purchase this report directly from Insider Intelligence. Want more data? Click here to purchase The Payments Ecosystem collection.

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Flight attendants reveal the gross reason you shouldn't take your shoes off on an airplane

Tue, 03/28/2023 - 1:17pm
A woman's bare feet propped up on the business class cabin for Iberia Airlines.
  • Four flight attendants told Insider they recommend passengers keep their shoes on while flying.
  • That mysterious liquid covering the bathroom floor? Odds are it's not just water, they said. 
  • "It's probably bodily fluids that you're walking in," one flight attendant warns.  

Keeping your shoes on while flying isn't just the courteous thing to do — according to flight attendants, there's a hygienic reason to avoid walking around barefoot on an airplane. Warning: it's pretty gross. 

"It's not water that you're seeing on the bathroom floor sometimes," Leysha Perez, a regional flight attendant, told Insider. "It's probably bodily fluids that you're walking in."

While it may be tempting to kick your shoes off on longer flights, four flight attendants told Insider that passengers should avoid going barefoot inside the aircraft. Some have chosen to remain anonymous or omit the name of their airline due to their employers' media policies, but Insider has verified their positions.

"For the love of all things, wear shoes," one flight attendant at a major US airline said, adding that any urine that makes it onto the bathroom floor during turbulence is then tracked up and down the aisle. "Walking throughout the aircraft barefoot or even with socks is disgusting."

Jagdish Khubchandani, a public health professor at New Mexico State University, told The Huffington Post in 2021 that it's "unlikely" the liquid on the floors of airplane bathrooms is just water. 

"On long-duration flights, I have noticed people ― often, kids ― walk barefoot towards or into the bathroom," Khubchandani told the outlet. "This is a very unhygienic tendency with potential for infection if someone has skin cuts and injuries on their foot."

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, some airlines have increased how often airplane bathrooms are cleaned. Delta, for example, announced in 2020 that it would be adding hand sanitizer stations and hands-free features to its plane bathrooms, which they say are deep-cleaned prior to boarding and wiped down by flight attendants throughout the flight. 

One Delta flight attendant went a step further to advise passengers against wearing open-toed shoes like slippers while flying. Rich Henderson, a flight attendant and co-creator of the blog "Two Guys on a Plane" also suggests passengers wear "practical close-toed shoes."

"Airports can be quite large so you may be doing a lot of walking (or running!)" he said. "In some destinations, you may be boarding the plane via stairs or a ramp, so you always want to wear something that'll hold up in a variety of situations."

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'Dr. Doom' economist Nouriel Roubini says the crypto industry is a 'total criminal enterprise' riddled with market manipulation

Tue, 03/28/2023 - 1:04pm
Nouriel Roubini economics professor at New York University attends 48th edition of Economic Forum of Cernobbio on September 02, 2022 in Cernobbio, Italy.
  • Nouriel Roubini said crypto markets are chock full of criminal activity and manipulation. 
  • The famed economist described the industry as a "criminal enterprise" in a Tuesday tweet. 
  • Earlier this year, the crypto bear said the space is a "total real-bubble Ponzi scheme that is going bust."

Nouriel Roubini is taking aim at crypto again this week. 

The famed economist said in a tweet on Tuesday the trillion-dollar industry is chock full of "constant market manipulation" and a "total criminal enterprise."

—Nouriel Roubini (@Nouriel) March 28, 2023

His remarks pointed to claims from a well-known pseudonymous crypto blogger, Bitfinex'ed, that token prices jumped prior to financial regulators enforcement actions, accusing exchanges of inflating the market by coordinating with their "market faker friends."

This isn't the first time that the "Dr. Doom" economist has slammed digital assets. 

Earlier this month, he celebrated the downfall of banks that cozied up to the crypto industry. After Silicon Valley Bank, Signature Bank, and Silvergate failed, Roubini ratcheted up fiery commentary with a simple message: "Good riddance."

The US government's decision to backstop customer losses for Signature and SVB was "sickening," he wrote. "What is the logic of protecting the depositors of Signature Bank, a bank that recklessly decided to jump into the crappy crypto cesspool & bet the house on shitcoins biz?" 

In comments earlier this year, Roubini said "literally 99% of crypto is a scam" and a "total real-bubble Ponzi scheme that is going bust."

"You have to stay away [from crypto], you have to absolutely stay away," Roubini, one of the economists to call the 2008 recession, previously told Yahoo Finance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. 

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Americans haven't been this gloomy on home prices since at least 2014

Tue, 03/28/2023 - 1:04pm
More sellers are slashing prices and offering concessions.
  • A New York Fed survey found that Americans expect home prices to grow 2.6% in the next 12 months
  • That's down form 7% a year ago and the lowest reading since the data set started in 2014.
  • Rents are expected to jump by 8.2% in the next year and 8.8% in three years.

Household expectations for home price gains slumped to their lowest in nine years, according to a Survey of Consumer Expectations released on Tuesday by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Prices are projected to rise by 2.6% over the next 12 months, down from last year's forecast for a 7% gain and the lowest reading since the data set began in 2014.

The sudden decline could be due to steepening mortgage rates, which have risen on the back of the Federal Reserve's aggressive interest hikes over the past year. The average 30-year fixed rate was 6.42% last week, up from 4.42% a year earlier, Freddie Mac said.

And the New York Fed found that Americans see rates soaring even higher. Survey respondents expect mortgage rates to 8.4% a year from now and to 8.8% in three years' time.

Over the longer term, however, Americans are less downbeat about home prices. Across a five-year horizon, households anticipate average annualized price growth of 2.8%, improved from the prior reading of 2.2%.

Meanwhile, consumers are forecasting rent prices to remain historically elevated, though the outlook has dropped from last year's expectations of an 11.5% increase. Instead, rent is predicted to rise by 8.2% in the next year.

The latest housing data shows home prices in the US are in their longest slump in over a decade, with Case-Shiller data showing Tuesday that prices just fell for the seventh consecutive month. 

But the housing market is split as home prices on the West Coast have plunged as much as 10%, while homes in the East have surged.

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Tesla is being investigated after reports of seat belts disconnecting on their own

Tue, 03/28/2023 - 1:04pm
The NHTSA said it is investigating Model X SUVs from 2022 and 2023 over concerns of seat belt failure.
  • The NHTSA said it is investigating Model X SUVs from 2022 and 2023 over concerns of seat belt failure.
  • The agency said it received two reports of seat belt failure.
  • Earlier this month, the regulator began investigating reports of Model Y steering wheels falling off.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating Tesla over concerns of seat belt failure.

The safety regulator opened its investigation into Model X SUVs from 2022 and 2023 on Friday, according to a filing that was posted on the agency's website. The probe impacts about 50,000 vehicles, the agency said.

The NHTSA said it launched the investigation after it received two complaints that the SUV's front seat belt had failed to remain connected to its anchor while the owners were driving. 

"Both vehicles were delivered to the owners with insufficiently connected anchor linkages," the agency said in its report, adding that the allegations indicate the seat belt failure was because the product was "not properly connected during assembly."

Both reports said the seat belt issue occurred at low vehicle mileage and neither car was involved in an accident, according to the regulator.

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment ahead of publication.

It is one of several investigations that the NHTSA has launched into incidents involving Teslas. Earlier this month, the regulator said it was looking into reports of the steering wheel on the Model Y falling off while the vehicle was in motion. In February, Tesla issued an over-the-air recall for more than 362,000 of its cars over concerns its Full Self-Driving software may cause its cars to act "unsafe" around intersections.

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Powering the Point-of-Sale: How Providers Are Building Cost-Effective Omnichannel Solutions

Tue, 03/28/2023 - 1:00pm
  • POS infrastructure providers are scrambling to align their offerings
  • mPOS providers are trying to balance demands from upmarket sellers and micromerchants
  • Payment gateways must double down on omnichannel to woo customers

As the landscape of market leaders shifts, we forecast that the US point-of-sale (POS) terminal installed base will grow from 17.3 million this year to 20.2 million in 2026, largely due to providers upgrading technology. 

Consumer and merchant demands for all-in-one solutions are blurring the lines between POS hardware and software as the desire for simple, affordable, single-integration offerings increases. With terminal installation growth slowing due to digital payment acceptance approaching ubiquity, two types of technology—near-field communication-based and biometric terminals—are at the forefront of upgrades for POS in 2023. However, looming in the not-so-distant future is autonomous checkout, which poses a huge threat to traditional checkout methods as merchant interest and consumer readiness peak. 

Another strong contender to keep an eye on is mobile POS (mPOS). These solutions offer businesses a portable and affordable turnkey alternative that can turn smartphones into payment terminals. We project that the US mPOS market will grow at a 14.1% three-year compound annual growth rate through 2026, making up 47.2% of the US terminal market that year. Two groups are expected to drive the mPOS share growth: small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), which are looking for digital payment acceptance solutions; and enterprise businesses, which are supplementing their countertop hardware and kiosks with portable mPOS terminals. 

According to an October 2022 Paysafe study, 70% of SMBs cited a desire to simplify payments technology and partnerships. As a result, providers are more focused than ever to create a one-stop shop that meets business needs beyond payments. With this mounting demand, there is a resounding focus on cash flow, next-generation omnichannel, and fraud prevention and detection. Providers need to make quick changes to innovate or risk losing out on their customer base to new players like Amazon and Walmart, which are building their own POS software. 

Innovation is at the forefront of POS as the merchant and consumer needs for all-in-one solutions mount. Curious to learn more about powering the point-of-sale? Click here to purchase this report directly from Insider Intelligence. Want more data? Click here to purchase The Payments Ecosystem collection.

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