A judge in Oklahoma ruled that Johnson & Johnson had broken the state’s “public nuisance” law with its aggressive marketing of opioids and ordered it to pay $572m. It was the first time a drugmaker had stood trial for its part in creating America’s opioid-addiction crisis; others have so far elected to settle rather than face a courtroom. Oklahoma had sought $17bn in damages. J&J said it would nevertheless appeal against the judgment, arguing it followed the rules.
Following the judge’s ruling it was reported that Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, was in talks to settle its exposure to 2,500 outstanding opioid lawsuits. The negotiations involve the Sackler family, which owns Purdue and has seen some of its donations to museums returned over the opioid issue.
Tone it down, or else
Google laid out new staff guidelines in an effort to curb the disruptive internal political debates that have come to characterise its workforce. Its employees often take strident positions on social issues and have pressed management to cancel contracts, most notably with the Pentagon for an image-recognition system. This has left Google open to the charge that it has a leftish bias and stifles conservative views. Its latest rules ask staff “to do the work we’ve each been hired to do, not to spend working time on debates about non-work topics”.
The latest escalation of the trade war saw China announcing new tariffs on $75bn-worth of American goods from September 1st. Donald Trump responded by announcing a five-percentage-point increase on existing and planned tariffs on Chinese exports.
In a Twitter outburst, Mr Trump described Jerome Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, as an “enemy”, after he dodged mentioning any further cuts to interest rates in his speech to central bankers at Jackson Hole.
More concerns were raised about the independence of India’s central bank, after it transferred its entire annual net income and excess reserves to the government. The $25bn windfall, along with a set of stimulus measures, will help kick-start a slowing economy. The Reserve Bank of India has come under political pressure to do more for the economy; its previous governor, Urjit Patel, resigned amid a row with the government last year.
The Greek government said it would remove any remaining restrictions on the movement of capital from September 1st. Capital controls were introduced to avoid a run on the banks in 2015, when Greece failed to reach an agreement on extending its bail-out terms and was frozen out of international credit markets. The European Commission said ending capital controls was an “important milestone” for Greece, which now enjoys historically low borrowing costs in bond markets.
Argentina will delay payments on short-term debt held by institutional investors. It will also seek to replace another $50bn of securities with later-dated paper and reschedule $44bn owed to the IMF. That will leave it more money to defend the peso, which has fallen steeply on fears the government will lose the election in October to a Peronist opposition that may be even tougher on creditors.
With Germany’s economy in the doldrums, a poll of German executives found that business confidence had dropped to levels last seen in 2009, during the financial crisis. In a gloomy prognosis, the IFO survey said “Not a single ray of light was to be seen in any of Germany’s key industries.”
BP decided to dispose of its business in Alaska, bringing an end to the company’s 60-year association with the state. In a $5.6bn deal, BP is selling its assets, which include holdings in Prudhoe Bay on Alaska’s Arctic coast, to Hilcorp. Alaska was once a powerhouse in the oil industry, but it is now just America’s sixth-largest oil-producing state.
Boeing faced its first lawsuit from a customer over the grounding of its 737 max fleet following two fatal crashes. Avia, a Russian firm that leases aircraft, wants to cancel its order for the 737 MAX, arguing that Boeing misrepresented the safety design of the plane.
Philip Morris International confirmed it was holding merger talks with Altria, which, if successful, would create a behemoth in the tobacco industry.
The carmakers’ carmaker
Tributes were paid to Ferdinand Piëch, who died aged 82. Mr Piëch ran Volkswagen during its transformation into one of the world’s biggest car companies, heading the supervisory board until his departure in 2015 amid the dieselgate scandal. Mr Piëch was a brilliant engineer. His achievements included the Porsche 917, the most influential racing car of its time, and the Quattro, a four-wheel-drive sports car that turned Audi into a rival to BMW and Mercedes.