Consumer protection takes a hit
A decade after the housing bust sparked the worse U.S. recession since the Great Depression and led to tighter lending regulations, the financial industry is succeeding in loosening its leash. In October, Congress voted to overturn a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rule that would have allowed consumers to hit banks with class-action lawsuits. A month later, after the bureau’s director, Richard Cordray, quit, Trump moved to neutralize the CFPB itself, installing White House budget director and harsh bureau critic Mick Mulvaney as its interim head. Next up: reworking regulations on unwinding failed financial institutions.
Stocks rise to new heights
Rising rates were supposed to kill it. So were North Korea’s saber rattling and doubts about President Donald Trump’s tax cuts. But nothing slowed the nearly 9-year-old bull market in stocks, now the second-longest on record. What might spark a reversal? Candidates include China’s shaky banks, a trade war, trading algorithms moving in lockstep, and the digital currency bitcoin crashing.
Airlines pressured to treat passengers better
The violent ejection of David Dao from a United Airlines plane became a viral video sensation in April as the bloodied physician was dragged out. That sparked a backlash from consumers and lawmakers, who pointed to a flurry of nasty incidents, usually captured on cellphone video. United and other carriers said they would reduce or eliminate overbooking, pay more to bumped passengers and bolster employee training to improve service and avoid confrontations.
Silicon Valley feels the wrath of Washington
This year marked the end of Silicon Valley’s honeymoon with America. Utopian visions of a digital future quickly turned dystopian after revelations that the country’s biggest tech companies were manipulated by Russian operatives to undermine the 2016 election. Google, Facebook and Twitter were forced to appear before Congress to explain how their platforms were infiltrated by trolls, bots and fake news. The scrutiny has made it more likely that new regulations will be imposed on the industry.
Amazon gets into the food business
Amazon.com this year bought Whole Foods for $13.7 billion and said it would immediately cut prices at the notoriously pricey grocery chain. Avocados, salmon, brown eggs and organic apples all got cheaper, although prices for other products went up. Meanwhile, Amazon continues to make significant strides in streaming video, fast delivery, voice-recognition personal assistants, music, audiobooks, online shopping, pharmacy — and even bricks-and-mortar stores.
Uber fights for its life
Uber started the year as the indisputable king of ride-hailing and startups. But a relentless string of scandals has weakened its standing. It lost executives over sexual harassment and bullying accusations, ousted CEO Travis Kalanick and concealed a data breach that affected more than 50 million customers. It was sued by drivers, passengers and Alphabet-owned Waymo, and was kicked out of London. Uber faces a huge markdown in its valuation as it tries to sell at least 14 percent of its shares to Japanese conglomerate SoftBank.
Tesla’s Model 3 is stuck in production
Elon Musk wants to fly people to Mars, but his big dreams won’t matter if he can’t fix Tesla’s Model 3 production line. Tesla’s first mass-market car launched in July and 400,000 were to be sold in 2018. But bottlenecks have held production to only a few of cars a day. Tesla’s sky-high stock value — which briefly passed General Motors’— depends on turning that around.
US sues to stop AT&T from buying Time Warner
It would create one of the biggest players in Hollywood, joining a telecommunications giant with the owner of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and the “Harry Potter” films. But the Justice Department sued to block AT&T’s $85 billion purchase of Time Warner, contending that it the combined companies would have too much control over entertainment. The court case could establish a benchmark for antitrust actions and have a chilling effect on other big media deals.