TYLER MATHISEN, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT ANCHOR: Taking sides. President Obama takes a firm stand on a controversial Internet issue. And cable company shares fall sharply.
SUSIE GHARIB, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT ANCHOR: New e-mails and new questions about when General Motors (NYSE:GM) knew of those defective ignition switches.
MATHISEN: Dirty laundry. Detergent pods are big sellers for some very big consumer product companies. But do they pose a safety risk for children?
All that and more tonight on NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for Monday, November 10th.
GHARIB: Good evening, everyone.
President Obama taking a strong stand today on an open and free Internet. He called for strict new rules that would regulate the Internet and web access as if it were a public utility like electricity or water. Specifically, the president is asking the Federal Communications Commission to reclassify web access to prevent cable and telephone companies from providing special access to some content providers.
Well, cable company stocks sold off sharply on news of President Obama’s proposal. Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) Cable tumbling 5 percent. Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) (NYSE:CCS), the parent of CNBC, which produces this broadcast, down 4 percent. Charter Communications (NASDAQ:CHTR) was the hardest hit, off more than 6 percent. And Cablevision lost about 1 1/2 percent.
Eamon Javers has more on the president’s call for so-called net neutrality and why the cable giants oppose it.
So, Eamon, what exactly do the president say today?
EAMON JAVERS, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: Well, the president went farther today than he’s ever gone before in the so-called net neutrality debate. The whole debate is about whether or not Internet service providers can charge different speeds for access of different Web sites, or speed up or slow down service to particular Web sites based on who’s paying them money.
The president saying he doesn’t want those Internet service providers to be allowed to do that, weighing in today by calling for the FCC to use its so-called Title II regulatory authority to oversee this entire process. The president was in China today, but the White House released this web video.
Take a listen to the president in this video which was released earlier this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The FCC is an independent agency and ultimately this decision is theirs alone. But the public has already commented nearly 4 million times asking the FCC to make sure that consumers, not the cable company, gets to decide which sites they use.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JAVERS: The telecommunications industry doesn’t necessarily like this, though. We talked to Michael Powell. He’s the former chairman of the FCC, now active in the industry. We asked him what he made of the president’s decision today. He said it was surprising.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL POWELL, NCTA PRESIDENT: By radically asking for this kind of tectonic shift in national policy, you’re talking about dumping public utilities regulation over the most vibrant infrastructure in the history of the world, with I think unforeseeable and unintended consequences that will hurt consumers and I think hurt the U.S. economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JAVERS: Interestingly, what Powell said, those unintended consequences might be, include foreign policy complications for the Obama administration which has been arguing overseas that other countries like China and Russia should not try to regulate the Internet, and he also said that the implications for Silicon Valley firms which have been innovating so aggressively over the past decade or so on the Internet, those could be unforeseen as well, guys.
So, a very complicated issue, the president weighing in here today big time.
MATHISEN: What have you heard today from some of the companies that would be affected here both the Silicon Valley companies are the content creators or deliverers, and the companies that carry their signals?
JAVERS: Well, look, Tyler, it really depends on whose ox is being gored here. If you talk to Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) (NYSE:CCS), they say they don’t like this decision. They don’t think that the government should have any role here. But if you talk to Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), for example, which stands to benefit, they say they like it very much. It’s a very appropriate decision by the president.
So, it’s all in where you sit depends on where you stand in all this.
GHARIB: And, Eamon, any news or any reaction from the congressional leadership on this issue?
JAVERS: Yes, we saw some really interesting politics around this today. Senator Ted Cruz, Republican from Texas, who might be a 2016 presidential candidate for the Republicans, tweeted out that he thinks that this regulation here could be the new Obamacare, and we saw John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the House, come out and say he doesn’t think that federal bureaucrats should be in charge of regulating the Internet at all.
GHARIB: All right. Well, that’s certainly going to heat up things in Washington — Tyler.
MATHISEN: All right. Thank you very much, Eamon.
Let’s turn to our guests now who have very opposing views on this topic. Craig Aaron is president and CEO with the advocacy group Free Press and he favors the president’s position on regulating the Internet as a utility.
While Scott Cleland, a broadband consultant and president of his observe firm, Precursor, disagrees, saying it could break the Internet.
Gentlemen, I know I’m not going to have to do much to get you guys talking here.
But let me begin with you, Craig, with respect to the companies that have spent billions of dollars building this infrastructure, cable companies, telephone companies and the like, why shouldn’t they be able to set whatever price they want to charge the so-called data hogs who want to send massive amounts of data through their system at higher speeds? Why shouldn’t they be allowed to do that?
CRAIG AARON, FREE PRESS PRESIDENT & CEO: Well, who I’m really concerned about is the end user and the end user is paying their $70, $80, $100 a month to those big Internet service providers in order to have them send whatever they ask for, whether that’s Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), whether that’s the blog, whether that’s video of this program, the end user should be in control of their Internet experience. They shouldn’t have to seek permission from the phone or cable company, and that phone or cable company shouldn’t be able to decide which Web sites are going to work and which won’t based on who pays them the most.
These companies are going to make plenty of money from the $100 or more that each of us are paying a month. They don’t need to have an extra set of controls and more gatekeeper power over what we can watch, see, read, hear and do online.
GHARIB: All right. Well, let’s get Scott involved in this conversation.
Scott, what do you think about what Craig just said? I know you are opposed to any kind of regulation here.
SCOTT CLELAND, PRECURSOR LLC PRESIDENT: Well, let’s talk about the consumer. Right now the way the system is set up is now the FCC has prevented payment for downstream traffic from the large Silicon providers, Silicon Valley providers.
So, when you talk about the consumer bill, the consumer bill if you — could go down over time if you allowed a two-sided market to develop. And so — and also remember, users do pay for higher speeds. We all know you pay more as a user. And they’re now saying that we can have no fast lanes. So, the big Silicon Valley providers, they want one price and that is a price of zero permanently. That’s, you know, an industrial policy, it’s corporate welfare.
MATHISEN: What about that, Craig? As you were talking just a moment ago, I thought exactly what Scott said. Right now I the consumer pay 100 percent of the costs and if I want a higher data speed, I pay a higher price for it. What if, on the other hand — if companies were allowed to charge different prices to the content provider, might not that mean that the consumer would pay less because there would be a second revenue stream?
AARON: Consumers benefit from competition and choice and they benefit from control of their experience. So they want to pay for what they want to pay for, and that is to go online and go wherever they want. The cable and phone companies coming out and their representatives like Scott claiming that prices are going to go down if they’re allowed to be gatekeepers seems pretty ridiculous to me because when we left them in charge, prices have only gone up and up and up some more.
The beauty of the free and open Internet is anybody with a good idea, a new product or service, can find an audience, can go build their company, and they don’t need AT&T (NYSE:T) or Comcast’s permission to do it.
GHARIB: Well, you know, Craig, on the whole issue of new ideas, one of the critics against this kind of regulation is that we would lose a lot of the breakthroughs and innovation if these big companies are strictly regulated. We certainly saw that in the telephone industry with Ma Bell. What do you say to that —
AARON: Let’s look at who’s innovating in this economy, and I think we’ll see that it is the start-ups, companies that, five years ago, we didn’t know about and now they’re indispensable to our lives. It’s independent content. It’s user-generated content. It might not be Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) (NYSE:CCS), AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ).
And their answer is, let’s put together the old Ma Bell or maybe replace it with “Pa Cable”, that’s who’s paying Scott’s bill, and they’re looking to control the future of all media.
AARON: Those of us advocating for net neutrality are saying we want no discrimination. We want to leave users in charge of the user experience and that’s why we’ve been fighting so hard to make sure these rules are in place because we need a counterweight to the biggest phone and cable companies.
MATHISEN: So, Scott, what do you say to those who agree with Craig who would say that, if we allow a buyer — a content provider to have better access, more speed or to pay a cable company an ISP, an internet service provider, to favor their site over someone else, then the big company like — and I’m just making this up — Walmart could pay more to have their service favored over another provider who could not possibly compete at the same speed with the same amount of dollars?
CLELAND: This is total a misdirection because, you know, we can have entrepreneurs — what he’s saying is start-ups won’t be able to compete. But tell me where start-ups, do they get free electricity, free gas, free water, free transport? No. I mean, on —
AARON: And they pay for their internet connection, too.
CLELAND: Yes, they do, but they also don’t want to pay for the costs that they cost. Two companies, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), YouTube and Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), are the ones that generate half of American downstream traffic. Really, there’s only about 10 companies that really this is all about.
CLELAND: About whether or not they help pay for some of the infrastructure. The biggest cost causers could pay, and that would alleviate having the consumer to pay for the entire bill.
Gentlemen we have to leave it there, alas. I’m sorry. We could go on and on. I’m sure we’re going to have both of you back and revisit this topic because it is a hot potato.
Craig Aaron with Free Press, Scott Cleland with Precursor.
GHARIB: All right. Let’s turn to what was happening on Wall Street today. And there were a lot more records to tell you about with the Dow and the S&P 500 closing at new highs. Here’s how things looked at the closing bell. Blue chip Dow stocks up 40 points and higher for a fifth straight session. The NASDAQ rose by 19, the S&P added 6 points.
MATHISEN: Far from Wall Street President Obama and other world leaders are in China tonight, attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. That’s a mouthful, looking to include global economic ties and maybe — just maybe secure some new trade agreements.
Susan Li has more now from Beijing.
SUSAN LI, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: In Beijing, we have the APEC leader summit dinner taking place. U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and I’ll even throw in Japanese Leader Shinzo Abe.
All guests are usually in the representative garb of the host country. This year, all four of them are looking good in their silk Mao suits.
Now, we got the U.S. President Barack Obama closing off a CEO Summit with an address. First time he’s addressed the CEO summit in three years and so, the most notable announcement he made was the extension of visas for Chinese nationals. So, if you’re a Chinese passport holder and you have a business visa, that lasts now for ten years. If you’re a student, that lasts for five years.
And speaking to APEC and the U.S. president ended his speech saying, “As long as I’m in office,” which is still another two years, “I will invest in you.” APEC representing about 60 percent of the globe’s economy, GDP and 40 percent of the population.
So, that was a good sign out there from the U.S. president. But the most significant event of the day has got to be this meeting between the Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, there’s a lot of questions about whether or not they would even shake hands at this event. So, the fact that they had informal sideline summit was quite a relief for those watching APEC thinking, well, the two large economies in the Asia Pacific, and the two leaders who haven’t met since both gone to office in 2012, at least they’re friends once again or trying to be friends and trying to find some sort of resolution.
Now, we did have the Russian president Vladimir Putin also in attendance and given that China and Russia really show a united front here, we have that $400 billion gas deal, 10 years already signed, but then they might open an eastern front as well. So, does that mean more gas supply and more energy supply coming from Russia? And does China, I guess, write the checks for some of this gas supply?
So, all in all, it’s been a very busy day here at APEC and we do still have the U.S. president’s state visit continuing in Beijing.
At APEC 2014, I’m Susan Li.
GHARIB: A real setback for President Obama’s signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act. The government has slashed its forecast for the number of Americans expected to sign up for a health care plan by a staggering 30 percent next year. That means fewer than 10 million enrollees in 2015, that’s much less than the 13 million previously expected.
MATHISEN: One day before the nation commemorates Veterans Day, a group of wounded vets and the families of soldiers killed in Iraq are suing five European banks. The suit charges that Barclays, Credit Suisse, HSBC, Standard Chartered, and the Royal Bank of Scotland all processed Iranian money. Plaintiffs say that helped pay for the terrorist shootings and roadside bombs in Iraq that caused their injuries and deaths.
GHARIB: The Department of Veterans Affairs has come under unprecedented scrutiny in the past year from allegations of substandard health care to mismanagement to even cooking the book. But the new guy in charge of the V.A., former Procter and Gamble CEO, Bob McDonald, says he has what it takes to clean up the beleaguered agency and the second largest in the federal government.
Dina Gusovsky has more.
ROBERT MCDONALD, SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: The V.A., we have lots of customers.
DINA GUSOVSKY, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Not too many people are envious of the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Bob McDonald. Why?
(on camera): So, it took you one year to get an appointment?
C.J. STEWART, AFGHANISTAN WAR VETERAN: Actually, a little over a year.
GUSOVSKY (voice-over): Because the former Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) CEO has to figure out how to tackle issues like this. But he says he viewed the problems as opportunities.
MCDONALD: The V.A. can accomplish more things now than it could ever have accomplished before.
GUSOVSKY: He calls this the road to Veterans Day plan, the biggest reorganization in the department’s history.
MCDONALD: We set our sights on three nonnegotiable goals. First is to rebuild trust.
GUSOVSKY (on camera): Referring to those who use the V.A. as stakeholders and customers, McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) private sector background comes through in more ways than one.
He says his second and third nonnegotiable goals are improving service delivery and setting the course for long term excellence and reform.
(voice-over): But excellence comes at a steep price. From the Veterans Choice and Accountability Act alone passed in the summer, $5 billion were allocated towards hiring more medical staff, another $10 billion to fund additional purchase care. The V.A.’s 2015 budget exceeds $163 billion.
Critics say instead of getting rid of bad employees, some of who are still on paid leave or getting severance, the department is just throwing money at the problem.
But those who will be most affected by the changes hope that whatever new rules are implemented, the sacrifices and compromises they made when they went into battle will end when our veterans come home.
For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I’m Dina Gusovsky.
MATHISEN: Still ahead, from cars to laundry detergent, to consumer product safety stories, from two very well-known companies. That’s next.
MATHISEN: Two disturbing reports tonight involving two well known consumer product makers.
First up, “The Wall Street Journal” says that General Motors (NYSE:GM) ordered half a million replacement ignition switches to fix defective cars two months before alerting U.S. safety officials about the problem. Shares of the automaker down about 1 1/2 percent today.
Phil LeBeau has the details.
PHIL LEBEAU, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: There are new questions tonight about whether or not General Motors (NYSE:GM) knew it had defective ignition switches for several models and actually ordered replacement switches well ahead of when it announced the recall for almost 800,000 vehicles due to those switches, which have been linked with dozens of deaths.
An e-mail has come out between a GM executive and Delphi Automotive from December 19th of 2013. In that e-mail, the GM executive says, “I would need to start seeing shipments ASAP. Please put together an aggressive plan and I can adjust the schedule accordingly.”
This e-mail highlights the question of when GM knew about faulty ignition switches and actually started ordering replacement issues and then issued a recall.
Remember, on December 17th, GM executives, senior executives, discussed the Chevy Cobalt and other models that may have faulty ignition switches, but at that time, GM did not issue a recall. In fact, a recall was not issued until February 7th of this year when GM made an initial recall of 800,000 vehicles.
General Motors (NYSE:GM) reacting to this e-mail coming to light, says these e mails are further confirmation that our system needed reform and we have done so.
So far, General Motors (NYSE:GM) has fixed 1.29 million with ignition switches and some still need repaired. And, in fact, General Motors (NYSE:GM) has not heard from about 700,000 owners of vehicles that need to have new switches put in, they’re now issuing gift cards or an offer for a gift card for those people to bring their vehicle in to have the ignition switches replaced.
Phil LeBeau, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, Chicago.
GHARIB: The other story involves a popular and convenient laundry product that’s become a serious and all too common threat to small children.
Sara Eisen has that story.
SARA EISEN, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The market for single-dose packets of laundry detergent exploded since the launch of Tide pods two years ago, but the packaging makes the soap look like candy to younger children according to a study published today in journal “Pediatrics.”
The study found more than 17,000 kids under age 6 had ingested a portion of the concentrated detergent inside those packets in 2012 and 2013. More than 4 percent of those children were hospitalized and one death has been linked to the product. Sales of single dose laundry detergent total almost $780 million in the past year.
Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), which makes the Tide pods, has more than 75 percent of the pod market share. Other players are Henkel which makes Purex, and Sun Products which makes the All Brand.
Along with the increased sales came an alarming jump in the number of calls to poison control centers referencing the product, from 137 in March 2012 to more than a thousand in April 2013.
A statement from the American Cleaning Institute points out changes to the packaging of these products. In some cases, child safety lids have been added. Clear plastic change to opaque and warning labels have improved.
(on camera): Over the years, children have sampled laundry detergent with no incident, but today’s report suggests it’s the highly concentrated detergent used specifically in the pods as well as materials use to encapsulate the soap that poses new dangers.
For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I’m Sara Eisen.
MATHISEN: Dean Foods (NYSE:DF) zooms on a smaller than expected loss, and that is where we begin tonight’s “Market Focus”.
The diary company’s top and bottom line results were better than forecast. The company also said price increases and cost-cutting will help it churn out a profit in the current period. Shares surged higher by almost 14 percent to $16.40.
Sotheby’s saw its shares rise after announcing it narrowed its third quarter loss. The auction house benefited from lower costs and a tax benefit that offset a decline in revenue. Shares there up 5 percent to $41.45.
McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) served up better than expected sales results. The fast food giant saw its same-store sales fall globally and in all of its individual regions. That’s not such good news. What is, is that the drops were far smaller than Wall Street predicted. Still, shares were up a penny to $95.11.
GHARIB: GoPro slumped on news that it will sell $800 million worth of its stock in a secondary offering. The wearable camera maker’s sale comes ahead of its post-IPO share lock-up, which expires next month. Shares fell by more than $3 to $75.75.
Toll Brothers (NYSE:TOL) saw its revenue surge in October, up almost 30 percent. The home builder said that sales were lifted by strong demand in its West Coast division. The company won’t officially announce earnings until December, but investors cheered the results anyway. Shares rose 2 percent to $32.95.
And State Street (NYSE:STT) is being investigated by the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission. The subpoenas seek information about the firm’s effort to solicit business from its public retirement plans. Still, shares rose slightly to $78.12.
Still ahead, Dendreon’s downfall. The company pioneered a drug many considered the next big thing in cancer research. And today, it’s filing for bankruptcy.
MATHISEN: The ten S&P sectors that are widely followed are about to get a sibling. Standard & Poor’s says real estate will become the 11th sector. It’s kind of like the big ten adding an 11th team. The change could take effect in 2016.
GHARIB: Hey, you. Yes, you in row 13-D.
Flight attendants at American Airlines have rejected a new five-year labor contract. The deal, which lost by only 16 votes out of 8,000 cast, would have given members more money but would end their profit-sharing income. And, once bankrupt American makes a lot of profit these days. This stalemate forces the world’s largest carrier and the union into binding arbitration next month.
MATHISEN: And finally tonight, the drug Provenge once promised a one of a kind alternative to chemotherapy for men with prostate cancer. But now, Provenge’s maker Dendreon (NASDAQ:DNDN) has filed for Chapter 11 protection. Shares of the drugmaker tumbling a staggering 81 percent today.
So, how did something that looked so right suddenly go so wrong?
Meg Tirrell has the story.
MEG TIRRELL, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dendreon (NASDAQ:DNDN) was once the darling of the biotech industry, with a market value topping $7 billion at its peak. Now, the drugmaker is filing for bankruptcy. Its prostate cancer drug Provenge was considered breakthrough technology when it was approved in 2010 at a time when few therapies were available for the disease.
Since then, Dendreon (NASDAQ:DNDN) has run into a number of troubles, including taking on more debt than sales of Provenge were able to bear. The company has also faced increased competition from new drugs made by Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) and Medavision (ph).
MICHAEL YEE, RBC CAPITAL MARKETS ANALYST: But the downfall was a lot of its competition, low profitability, difficult to make, difficult to take and so, you know, nothing wrong with immunotherapy. So, if you want to read into that. There’s just — you know, a story that didn’t work out.
TIRRELL: The very breakthrough nature of the technology may have contributed to its downfall. Provenge is complicated and expensive to manufacture, involving taking each patient’s cells and re-engineering them to better fight cancer before re-introducing them to patients.
YEE: It was a breakthrough in the fact that we were trying to find a cancer vaccine, an immune system, a drug that could harness your immune system to work. It did that. It accomplished that. It was not refined.
TIRRELL: Dendreon (NASDAQ:DNDN) says Provenge will continue to be available to patients, but the question now is, will anyone buy the company out of bankruptcy?
(on camera): RBC Capital Markets analyst Michael Yee says that companies that already sell cancer drugs might be interested.
But Cowen’s Eric Schmidt says the complicated manufacturing process may deter buyers. He estimates 3,500 patients a year take Provenge and if the company can’t find a buyer, the drug may disappear.
For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I’m Meg Tirrell.
GHARIB: And that is NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for tonight. Thanks so much for joining us. I’m Susie Gharib.
MATHISEN: And I’m Tyler Mathisen. Thanks for me as well. Have a great evening. We’ll see you right back here tomorrow.
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