Daily Business Briefing

Sept. 10, 2021, 8:46 a.m. ET

Sept. 10, 2021, 8:46 a.m. ET

Expanded loan forgiveness covers ITT Technical Institute students who dropped out after March 2008, which was when, the government said, the chain was concealing its finances.
Credit…Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post, via Getty Images

In a move that will wipe out $1.1 billion in debt owed by 115,000 borrowers, the Education Department said on Thursday that it would forgive the federal loans of students who attended ITT Technical Institute but left after March 2008 without completing a degree.

The decision is the latest action by the agency to use relief programs that languished during the Trump administration to eliminate the student loans of some of the country’s most distressed borrowers. ITT, a large for-profit chain accused by federal and state officials of fraudulently luring students with inflated claims about its graduates’ earnings and career prospects, collapsed in 2016.

Around 43 percent of those now eligible to have their debt eliminated had defaulted on their loans, the agency said.

“Today’s action continues the department’s efforts to improve and use its targeted loan relief authorities to deliver meaningful help to student borrowers,” the education secretary, Miguel A. Cardona, said. “At the same time, the continued cost of addressing the wrongdoing of ITT and other predatory institutions yet again highlights the need for stronger and faster accountability.”

Because ITT went bankrupt, the cost of the forgiven debt will largely fall on American taxpayers.

Mr. Cardona announced the forgiveness under a provision known as closed school discharge, which allows those left stranded by an abrupt closure to have their federal student loans wiped out. The discharge had previously been offered to ITT students who were enrolled when the school shut down, but the announcement on Thursday significantly expands the pool of borrowers who will benefit from it.

The March 2008 date was chosen, the Education Department said, because that was when ITT’s executives engaged in a scheme to disguise the company’s true financial condition, which drove up costs for students and reduced the quality of the education ITT provided.

Borrowers who did not enroll elsewhere will have their loans automatically eliminated, the agency said. Those who enrolled elsewhere but did not complete their degree will need to apply for the debt relief by contacting their student loan servicer or submitting an application form to their servicer.

The Vice Media offices, currently in Williamsburg, are expected to move to the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Credit…Stephen Speranza for The New York Times

A month ago, Vice Media announced a plan to reduce the number of text articles it publishes on Vice.com, Refinery29 and other Vice-owned sites by 40 to 50 percent as the company shifts its emphasis to video. On Thursday, Vice Media laid off more than a dozen employees, many of them writers and text editors.

Cory Haik, Vice Media’s chief digital officer, shared the news of the layoffs with the staff on Thursday in an email that The New York Times obtained. After noting recent successes on video, including the milestone of hitting one million TikTok subscribers for Vice Indonesia this week, Ms. Haik described larger changes at the company worldwide.

“As part of this continued global alignment,” the email continued, “we’ve unfortunately had to say goodbye to some of our friends and colleagues today. We wish them well and thank them for their dedicated service over the years.”

Writers and editors for Refinery29 and Vice shared news of their terminations on Twitter. Nearly 20 full-time jobs were cut, mostly in the United States, a person with knowledge of the layoffs said. The job cuts did not affect Vice News or Vice World News. Vice Union said 17 workers had been laid off from Vice and Refinery 29, and criticized Ms. Haik for only including the fact of the layoffs toward the end of her email to the staff.

“We have worked in this industry long enough to know today’s metrics are tomorrow’s punch lines, and yesterday’s pivot is today’s clumsy tumble,” the union said in a statement.

One former Vice staff member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe an internal matter, said she had been given a few minutes’ notice before a Google Meet call with Ms. Haik, during which she was told she had lost her job. Access to email was cut within minutes, the former staff member said.

Vice Media is shifting to video and laying off staff as it considers deals that could take it public. Last year, Vice Media laid off 155 workers, mostly overseas, with about 55 jobs cut in the United States, in response to business pressures resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

The real estate website The Real Deal reported on Thursday that Vice Media was planning to move its headquarters from the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn to the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Eva Longoria and Steve Forbes during the 2019 Forbes Women’s Summit in New York. Forbes said it had an audience of more than 150 million through its journalism, events and marketing programs.
Credit…Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Forbes announced on Thursday that it planned to go public through a deal with a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC.

The venerable business publication, owned by Integrated Whale Media and the Forbes family, said in a news release that it had reached an agreement to merge with Magnum Opus Acquisition, a publicly traded blank-check firm.

The deal, which values the combined company at $630 million, is expected to close by the end of the year or early 2022. If it goes through, Forbes will list on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol FRBS.

Forbes is the latest media company to use the once obscure but increasingly popular SPAC maneuver to go public, rather than an initial public offering, which comes with regulatory hassles. In June, BuzzFeed said it would merge with the publicly listed shell company 890 Fifth Avenue Partners. Group Nine Media, the publisher of PopSugar and Thrillist, formed its own SPAC in December with the aim of going public.

Forbes, known for its rankings of wealthy businesspeople, said it had an audience of more than 150 million through its journalism, events and marketing programs. Founded as a magazine in 1917, it still publishes a print edition eight times a year in the United States. It also has 45 licensed local versions that cover 76 countries.

In 2014, the Forbes family sold a majority stake in the company to Integrated Whale Media.

TC Yam, the executive chairman of Integrated Whale Media, said in a statement on Thursday that the SPAC deal was “the next exciting chapter in the Forbes narrative.”

“It has been exciting to watch the Forbes management team successfully complete a digital transformation since we have been involved, and then deliver record annual returns,” Mr. Yam said.

A Gucci store in Beijing. China is Cettire’s second-largest market.
Credit…Nicolas Asfouri/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Cettire, a website offering discounts of up to 30 percent on the latest fashion styles, is part of the fast-growing, multibillion-dollar luxury “gray” market.

Unlike the illegal counterfeit goods often found on the black market, the gray market sells authentic luxury products — but at a significant discount, and with no contact with the brands, Elizabeth Paton reports for The New York Times.

Through a practice sometimes known as parallel importing, gray market sellers tend to take advantage of the varying pricing strategies and taxation requirements for luxury products across different regions in order to get certain hot products to those who want them for less.

The price differences between markets can be striking. According to research recently published by Money.co.uk, a customer in Europe will pay a little over $2,800 for an Yves Saint Laurent sac de jour, but the same bag will cost more than $3,700 in South Korea. A shopper can purchase a white Fendi canvas baguette bag for roughly $2,620 in continental Europe. That same item will cost about $3,350 if bought in mainland China.

Taking advantage of such disparities has become big business. Last year, the gray market was estimated to be worth up to 8 percent of the $257 billion personal luxury goods market, said Luca Solca, an analyst at the research firm Sanford C. Bernstein.

“The Cettire business model isn’t illegal — it’s just very good at exploiting legal loopholes in trade regulations,” said Tommy Mathew, a fashion e-commerce veteran. He noted that shipments valued less than $800 can generally be shipped free of import duties to the United States, where two-thirds of Cettire’s customers are. China, Cettire’s second-largest market, has a similar exemption.

“The main reason authorized retailers don’t exploit these sorts of loopholes is because they would likely lose access to products by openly undercutting the brands,” Mr. Mathew said. “Cettire obscures its suppliers to ensure their access to luxury goods while providing plausible deniability to suppliers who engage in this type of practice.”

Now, many brands are working with consultants and local governments to develop new ways to combat the gray market after previous attempts to control the practice — like buying back and destroying unsold stock — led to backlash over sustainability issues.

Veronica Garza and her brother, Miguel, of Siete Family Foods have offered employees Zoom workouts to replace the ones they did at the office and have even sent them weights.
Credit…Emil Lippe for The New York Times

Growing companies have struggled during the pandemic to find ways to make new hires feel they’re a part of the business when they can’t meet in person, Amy Haimerl reports for The New York Times. Without clues from the office setting and existing systems, how do you learn the company’s culture?

  • Siete Family Foods developed a game. New hires get a bingo card listing current employees’ hidden talents and stories, and are asked to set up video calls with those workers until they hit “bingo.” “It is just fun. It’s even fun for people who are already on the team,” Miguel Garza, the chief executive, said.

  • Standardized offer letters, clear payroll and benefits information, and a robust employee handbook are important, said Tolithia Kornweibel, chief revenue officer for Gusto, a payroll and benefits company that serves small and midsize businesses. But those things are not enough, especially in a tight labor market, she said. “You have to really make sure that the experience is warm and very human.”

  • Adam Bry, chief executive and a co-founder of the drone-maker Skydio, wanted to find ways to keep the team connected. In the early days of the pandemic, that meant trying to have some fun. He rented a drive-in theater near their Redwood City, Calif., office and showed the 2013 sci-fi movie “Gravity.” “We love things that fly, so we watched an aviation movie,” Mr. Bry said.

  • The board of Lordstown Motors, the electric vehicle start-up, appointed Daniel A. Ninivaggi as the new chief executive, the company announced on Thursday. Mr. Ninivaggi, the former chief executive of Icahn Enterprises, a holding company controlled by the billionaire investor Carl C. Icahn, takes the reins of troubled automaker trying to win back the confidence of investors after a turbulent year that started with a deal with a blank-check company to take the business public. Its fortunes turned in March after a research firm released a report critical of the company’s production claims. The company has since disclosed that it is being investigated by federal prosecutors in New York and by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

  • Facebook has approached academics and policy experts about forming a commission to advise it on global election-related matters, five people with knowledge of the discussions told The New York Times, a move that would allow the social network to shift some of its political decision-making to an advisory body. The proposed commission could decide on matters such as the viability of political ads and what to do about election-related misinformation, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions were confidential.

  • A producer at the ABC News program “Good Morning America” accused Michael Corn, a former senior executive producer of the show, of sexually assaulting her and creating a toxic work environment in a lawsuit filed Wednesday against Mr. Corn and ABC. Kirstyn Crawford said in the lawsuit that Mr. Corn sexually assaulted her in 2015 during a work trip to Los Angeles to cover the Academy Awards. Mr. Corn denied the allegations in a statement on Wednesday.

A Delta Air Lines counter at Los Angeles International Airport on Wednesday. Starting Nov. 1, employees who have not received a vaccine will have to pay an additional $200 per month to stay on the company’s health plan.
Credit…Mario Tama/Getty Images

Delta Air Lines’ plan to charge unvaccinated employees more for health insurance is an idea that has been widely discussed but is mired in legal uncertainty.

Starting Nov. 1, employees who have not received the vaccine will have to pay an additional $200 per month to remain on the company’s health plan. It is part of a series of requirements that unvaccinated workers will face in the months to come, the airline’s chief executive, Ed Bastian, said in a memo to staff.

“We’ve always known that vaccinations are the most effective tool to keep our people safe and healthy in the face of this global health crisis,” he said. “That’s why we’re taking additional, robust actions to increase our vaccination rate.”

Every Delta employee who has been hospitalized because of the coronavirus in recent weeks was not yet fully vaccinated, with hospital stays costing the company an average of about $50,000. Like most large employers, Delta insures its own work force, meaning it pays health costs directly and hires an insurance company to administer its plans.

Insurance surcharges may appeal to companies that are seeking a less coercive means to increase vaccination rates, said Wade Symons, a partner at Mercer, a benefits consulting firm. He has had conversations with about 50 large companies that are considering imposing such fees, he added.

Legally speaking, insurance surcharges are more complicated than simple employment mandates, which are widely considered legally sound. Federal law bars employers and insurers from charging higher prices to people with pre-existing health conditions. But the vaccine surcharges are being structured as employer “wellness” incentive programs, which are permitted under the Affordable Care Act. Such programs must be voluntary but can involve rewards or penalties as large as 30 percent of an employee’s health insurance premium.

Under federal law, employers must provide accommodations for workers who cannot receive a vaccine for health reasons or sincerely held religious beliefs.

“This is not rocket science, but it is not easy,” said Rob Duston, a lawyer with Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr in Washington, D.C., whose focus includes employment and disability issues.

“You are dealing with the overlap of at least three different laws,” he added, referring to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the Affordable Care Act, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s wellness plan, as well as Covid-19 guidelines. The companies would have to abide by the Americans With Disabilities Act and health privacy laws, too.

  • U.S. stocks fell on Thursday after climbing further into record territory on Wednesday. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq composite both dropped 0.6 percent.

  • Initial jobless claims rose slightly last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday, increasing to 353,000 from 349,000.

  • The Commerce Department revised higher its estimate of gross domestic product for the second quarter to 6.6 percent from 6.5 percent. G.D.P., the broadest measure of economic output, grew 6.3 percent in the first three months of the year.

  • European stocks also fell on Thursday, with the Stoxx Europe 600 dipping 0.3 percent. Asian stocks closed lower after. South Korea’s central bank raised its interest rate on Thursday, becoming the first Asian country to do so amid the pandemic.

  • Oil prices dropped. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, was down 0.8 percent to $67.82 a barrel.

  • Salesforce.com rose 2.5 percent after the software company reported revenue rose 23 percent in its latest quarter, compared with last year. During the quarter ending July 31, the company acquired the business communication platform Slack.