The White House brokers an A.I. safety pledge
In a potentially significant victory for the Biden administration, top players in artificial intelligence, including Microsoft, Google and OpenAI, are to meet at the White House on Friday to pledge to build safeguards into their development of a technology that has captivated Wall Street and rattled many world leaders.
The commitments are voluntary, but industry watchers see the move as an important first step toward protecting consumers and businesses.
The White House wants the companies to commit to “responsible” development. Concerns are rife that A.I. could turbocharge misinformation and cybercrime, and pose a national security risk. There also are fears that the technology will steal jobs and that unethical players will misappropriate the intellectual property of companies, artists and ordinary people in the commercialization of their generative A.I. tools. Such complaints have already led to a string of lawsuits.
The White House said it would work with overseas allies, including Britain, Germany, Japan and South Korea, to develop common groundwork on A.I. governance. It comes as China is developing its own guidelines for A.I. and chatbots, which have exploded in use in recent months.
Congress has been slow to legislate A.I., despite calls from the industry for regulation. The Biden administration, which hosted tech executives at the White House in the spring for a “frank discussion” about the future of A.I., said it was working on “an executive order and will pursue bipartisan legislation to help America lead the way in responsible innovation.”
An industry effort is probably the quickest way to see an impact. The safeguards include pledges not to commercially release A.I. products until they’ve undergone safety tests; to institute a watermarking system to minimize fraud and deception; to publicly disclose the capabilities and limitations of the tools; and a commitment to research the societal risks of the technology.
Such commitments are significant, Mikko Hypponen, the chief research officer at the software company WithSecure and a cybercrime adviser to Europol, told DealBook. Among his chief concerns are malware writers using generative A.I. to develop powerful hacking tools. These developments are inevitable, he said, but until rules are established, the risks can be minimized by industry cooperation. Otherwise, the corporate focus will be on a competition for market share and “a race is a dangerous thing when you are trying to do things safely and securely,” he said.
Those scheduled to attend the White House session include: Brad Smith of Microsoft, Nick Clegg from Meta, Kent Walker of Google, Greg Brockman of OpenAI, Adam Selipsky of Amazon Web Services, Dario Amodei of Anthropic and Mustafa Suleyman of Inflection AI.
In other A.I. news: Sergey Brin, the Google co-founder who stepped down from his leadership role in 2019, is reportedly back and working closely with researchers on the company’s A.I. initiatives.
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
Microsoft overcomes another F.T.C. hurdle. The agency said it would withdraw its administrative case looking into the software giant’s $69 billion bid for Activision Blizzard, clearing the way for Microsoft to negotiate a settlement or argue that the F.T.C. ought to drop its objections.
FTX sues Sam Bankman-Fried, Caroline Ellison and others for $1 billion. The bankrupt crypto exchange is seeking to claw back funds from the FTX founder, Mr. Bankman-Fried, and his former lieutenants, including Ms. Ellison. The firm accuses them of misappropriating funds before the company collapsed.
Ben Bernanke says the Fed is nearly done raising interest rates. The former central bank chief says a rate increase at next week’s Fed meeting is highly likely but a September move is “up for grabs.” The markets have been rallying lately on hopes that the Fed is nearing the end of its tightening cycle as inflation starts to fall.
The Biden administration plans to raise drilling costs on federal lands. It would be the first change in more than a century to the royalties that energy companies pay to extract gas, oil and coal from government-owned territory. The Interior Department estimates that energy firms will incur $1.8 billion in additional costs by 2031 as a result of the move.
Dan Snyder breaks two records
The N.F.L. on Thursday approved the sale of the Washington Commanders to a group led by Josh Harris, the Apollo co-founder, for a record $6.05 billion.
The deal represents a huge return for Dan Snyder, who bought the team in 1999 for $800 million. But a different number has dominated the headlines: Mr. Snyder has been fined a record $60 million for sexually harassing a female employee.
The finding follows a 17-month investigation led by Mary Jo White, a former federal prosecutor and chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. She concluded that Mr. Snyder sexually harassed Tiffani Johnston, who was a former cheerleader and a marketing employee for the Commanders.
The report also found that the team had intentionally shielded and withheld at least $11 million of revenue that should have been shared among the league’s 32 teams. The investigation did not rule out the possibility that Mr. Snyder had directed or participated in this revenue-shielding, but that “at a minimum, he was aware of certain efforts to minimize revenue sharing.”
What next? Mr. Harris will focus on improving the team’s image and is exploring options for repairing or replacing FedEx Field, the team’s home since 1997. (Local politicians had been wary of working with Snyder.) “This franchise is part of who I am and who I am a person,” Mr. Harris, who grew up in nearby Chevy Chase, Md., told The Times.
The activist investor with an eye for luxury
The French luxury holding company Kering shocked the fashion industry this week when it announced a sweeping reorganization of its top ranks, including the departure of the longtime C.E.O. of its premier brand, Gucci.
The move came amid a year of declining sales and stock performance. But the conglomerate run by the billionaire François-Henri Pinault is also under pressure from Bluebell Capital Partners, a London-based activist hedge fund that has tangled with luxury titans before, a person with knowledge of the matter told DealBook’s Michael de la Merced and The Times’s Elizabeth Paton.(Kering declined to comment.)
Activists have turned on the luxury industry in recent years. Dan Loeb’s Third Point and Artisan Partners called for change at Richemont, the owner of jewelry brands like Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels. But the most active of late is Bluebell, a four-year-old, $250 million firm that has also targeted Richemont, as well as the fashion brand Hugo Boss. (Bluebell has also pushed for change at BlackRock and the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline.)
Bluebell failed to persuade fellow Richemont shareholders to add Francesco Trapani, the former C.E.O. of Bulgari, as a director, but the conglomerate agreed to give public investors more influence.
Bluebell has an ambitious goal for Kering. Though the hedge fund is seeking a number of changes at the conglomerate and at Gucci, it has also proposed a merger with Richemont, the person with knowledge of the discussions said.
But making the deal happen won’t be easy. Richemont’s founder, Johann Rupert, said in May that he wasn’t interested in a merger — and had rejected such a proposal two years ago. And Pinault may not be interested either. Moreover, both luxury companies are controlled by their founding families, making it nearly impossible for outside investors to prevail in corporate elections.
Bluebell is hoping that restive shareholders will join its push. Kering’s stock price has been eclipsed by rivals such as Hermes and LVMH during the past year, while sales rose by just 1 percent, to 5.08 billion euros (then $5.58 billion) in the first quarter. But Kering’s stock rose more than 7 percent on Wednesday after Bloomberg first reported on Bluebell’s efforts.
“I actually through high school and college wanted to be a journalist.”
— Lina Khan, the F.T.C. chair, told The Wall Street Journal that she turned down a job offer to become a commodities reporter at the newspaper after graduating from college.
‘Barbenheimer’ shakes up the box office
The movie business is gearing up for what is expected to be one of its best weekends in years, with North American ticket sales expected to surpass $250 million for the first time since December 2021, according to Gower Street Analytics.
The reason? Two very different movies that have film executives rethinking the conventional wisdom about summer blockbusters: “Barbie,” Greta Gerwig’s bubble-gum-pink subversive take on the Mattel doll, and “Oppenheimer,” Christopher Nolan’s heavy three-hour biopic of J. Robert Oppenheimer and his role in creating the atomic bomb.
Consumers have bought more than 200,000 tickets to watch the films back-to-back, a double-feature known as “Barbenheimer,” according to the National Association of Theatre Owners, the industry lobby group. “There’s nothing like this I’ve ever seen before,” said Bob Bagby, chief executive of B&B Theatres, which operates more than 50 locations in the Midwest.
“Barbie” could bring in up to $189 million this weekend while “Oppenheimer” is expected to earn $55 million to $64 million, according to the film-tracking service The Quorum. Both are a departure from the superhero movies and sequels that studios tend to bet will be summer hits. “Normally in the summer the studios are very, very risk averse,” said Paul Dergarabedian, an analyst at Comscore. “You want the most commercial movies.”
“Barbie” is based on a doll everyone recognizes, but that’s not enough to guarantee a hit movie. And Mr. Dergarabedian said it was a risk to give the reins to Ms. Gerwig, the acclaimed director of “Lady Bird” and “Little Women,” rather than turn it into a rom-com (though the star power of the lead actors Margot Robie and Ryan Gosling, and a pervasive marketing blitz, certainly helped).
Big movies usually compete at the box office, but “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” seem to be helping each other. Even if a relatively small audience actually sees both movies, “there’s no denying that the profile of both films has risen exponentially,” Mr. Dergarabedian said.
But it’s not clear that Barbenheimer is a repeatable playbook. “Part of this was by design,” Mr. Dergarabedian said. “Some of it is by happenstance. And, you know, the movie gods played a role.”
THE SPEED READ
Blackstone President Jonathan Gray believes the deal drought may soon be over. (FT)
CVC Capital Partners has raised 26 billion euros ($29 billion) for the biggest private equity fund in history. (Bloomberg)
Twitter will subpoena Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, over her communications with regulators as part of its challenge to an F.T.C. consent order. (Reuters)
… and, Elon Musk tweeted that the company would stop using the poop emoji in response to press requests for comment. (Twitter)
The emails of the U.S. ambassador to China reportedly were hacked by an operation linked to Chinese spying. (WSJ)
Best of the rest
Millet, the “poor man’s” super grain, is having a moment, appearing in Michelin-star restaurants and at the White House. (Bloomberg)
“Why Is Switzerland — of All Places — Importing So Much Cheese?” (NYT)
We’d like your feedback! Please email thoughts and suggestions to email@example.com.