The Week in Business: Fraud Charges for a Media Founder

What’s Up? (Feb. 19-25)

A Precipitous Fall

Carlos Watson, the founder of Ozy Media, a digital media start-up that attracted funding from high-profile investors, was arrested by the F.B.I. on Thursday and charged with fraud and aggravated identity theft more than a year after the company announced it was shutting down. In court filings, prosecutors said Mr. Watson had been “engaged in a scheme to defraud Ozy’s potential investors, potential acquirers, lenders and potential lenders” by misrepresenting its audience numbers and financial results. In September 2021, The New York Times wrote about an instance in which a top official at Ozy appeared to have posed as a YouTube executive on a call with Goldman Sachs bankers, assuring them that Ozy’s videos performed well on the platform, when Ozy was trying to raise $40 million. Mr. Watson later identified Samir Rao, the company’s former chief operating officer, as the impersonator. Mr. Rao and Suzee Han, Ozy’s former chief of staff, previously pleaded guilty to related charges.

Change at the World Bank

The Biden administration tapped Ajay Banga, a former head of Mastercard, to be the next president of the World Bank, a pick aimed at reshaping the organization’s priorities around climate change. The current president, David Malpass, who was picked by President Donald J. Trump, recently announced that he would step down by the end of June. He had come under fire for his views on the issue after he sidestepped an interview question about whether he accepted the scientific consensus linking fossil fuels and global warming. “I’m not a scientist,” he said during the exchange, which took place in September at a New York Times event. While former Vice President Al Gore, known for his climate work, praised the nomination of Mr. Banga, Mr. Biden’s choice drew criticism from some activists who had hoped for someone with a stronger climate background.

The Fed’s Resolve

While investors on Wall Street have been more bullish recently about the outlook for interest rates, minutes from the Federal Reserve’s last meeting showed that officials felt they had more work to do to slow down the economy and bring inflation under control. According to the notes, “all participants” believed it was necessary to continue raising rates, and many thought that easing the central bank’s monetary policy now would risk halting the progress it had made in moderating inflation. While prices have begun to climb more slowly, data released since the Fed’s Jan. 31-Feb. 1 meeting have included worrisome signs of inflation’s staying power. According to a fresh reading on Friday from the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge — the measure on which it bases its 2 percent inflation target — price increases unexpectedly picked up in January after slowing in recent months.

What’s Next? (Feb. 26-March 4)

Student Loan Cancellation

Supreme Court justices will hear arguments on Tuesday on whether President Biden’s executive action to cancel billions of dollars in student debt is constitutional. Mr. Biden announced the policy in August, saying he would wipe out up to $20,000 per borrower who met certain criteria. While celebrated by the millions of borrowers who would be eligible for the program and by progressive Democrats who had long been pushing for such a measure, Mr. Biden’s plan faced swift backlash from political opponents and led to several lawsuits accusing the president of overstepping his authority and depriving states of future tax revenue. Justices put the case on an unusually fast track after the Justice Department filed an emergency application asking the Supreme Court to lift an injunction put in place by a lower court that blocked the policy from going into effect.

More Support for Ukraine

As President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine observed the first anniversary of Russia’s war last week, the United States renewed its dedication to helping his country. On Friday, President Biden and his administration announced new economic sanctions on more than 200 individuals and entities, including a dozen Russian banks as well as people tied to the country’s military and technology industries who have helped the country evade previous sanctions. The Biden administration has been concerned about Russia’s trading partners like China and Turkey, which have supplied Russia with products that military forces as well as civilians could use. U.S. officials are also continuing discussions with Ukraine about funding its fighting: On the heels of Mr. Biden’s trip to the war zone, when he pledged another $500 million in military aid, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen will visit Kyiv this week to meet with Ukrainian officials.

Gag Rules Are Curbed

Workers who lose their jobs — and many have recently — could be freer to speak about their workplaces and the terms of their departures as a result of a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board. Officials said last week that it was generally illegal for companies to ask workers to sign severance agreements that barred them from making disparaging statements about their employers or from disclosing details of the agreement. The decision, which the board said aligned with a longstanding precedent, could have a significant effect on workers and companies as industries like tech and media continue to conduct mass layoffs. But its scope remains limited to the protections guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act, which ensures workers’ rights to draw attention to unsafe working conditions or engage in other activities that benefit workers as a group.

What Else?

A pilot program testing out a four-day workweek was overwhelmingly popular with the 61 British companies that participated, according to a new report. Federal prosecutors added more details to the charges against Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced FTX founder, accusing him of relying on straw donors to influence politicians in Washington. And a Delaware judge heard arguments last week in a suit brought by shareholders over Elon Musk’s executive compensation at Tesla.

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