Lyft pushes office return date to February as Twitter closes offices it had reopened.

Daily Business Briefing

July 29, 2021, 7:53 p.m. ET

July 29, 2021, 7:53 p.m. ET

In the latest corporate reactions to the highly infectious Delta variant, Lyft said on Wednesday that it would not require employees to return to the office until February, while Twitter said it would close its newly reopened offices in San Francisco and New York and indefinitely postpone other reopening plans.

The companies are among many in tech that are changing their office plans as coronavirus cases spike. Last week, Apple announced that employees would not be expected to return to the office until at least Oct. 1, pushing its return plans back by at least a month. On Wednesday, Google said it would extend its voluntary work-from-home policy until mid-October.

By pushing back its plans from September to February, Lyft’s return-to-office date now falls well beyond what Apple and Google have set.

Twitter made no announcement about when it would allow employees to return. The social media company had allowed employees to return to its San Francisco and New York offices on July 12.

“This six-month extension is meant to provide a buffer of several weeks after the winter holiday for team members to settle into their assigned offices,” Lyft executives wrote in the email to employees.

But Lyft said its offices would remain open for employees who wish to go in. Starting Aug. 2, workers in the office will be required to submit proof of vaccination.

A Twitter spokesman said the company had made the changes “after careful consideration of the C.D.C.’s updated guidelines, and in light of current conditions.” The C.D.C. changed its guidance on Tuesday to recommend that vaccinated people wear masks in indoor public spaces in areas with high case counts. Twitter will closely monitor local conditions, the spokesman added.

Apple’s new mask policy will affect its stores where Covid-19 cases are high.
Credit…Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

Apple will start requiring employees and customers to wear masks regardless of their vaccination status in more than half of its stores in the United States, it said on Wednesday, a new sign that shopping in the country may soon resemble the earlier days of the pandemic.

Apple said that it was choosing stores based on the rate of coronavirus cases in the area, and that its policy followed new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

After lifting mask requirements in American stores earlier this year, Apple in recent weeks had begun requiring store employees in some regions to wear masks again as coronavirus cases rose, fueled by the Delta variant. Now it has extended that requirement to customers in some places.

Apple has continued to require masks in its stores in most places outside the United States, and that policy hasn’t changed.

Apple also told its employees on Tuesday that they would soon have to wear masks when inside the company’s main offices in the United States, regardless of whether they were vaccinated. Last week, Apple delayed its timeline on requiring workers to return to the office.

Bloomberg earlier reported Apple’s decision to require masks in its stores.

The Durst Organization, one of the largest private real estate developers in New York City, is requiring all of its employees in nonunion positions to be vaccinated by early September.

The company told its workers last month that they must show proof of vaccination by Sept. 6 or face termination. The order does not apply to workers who have a medical or religious exemption, a spokesman said.

The Durst Organization, which has about 350 nonunion employees and about 700 union workers, expects most of its employees to be in compliance by the deadline, though the company does not know how many employees are vaccinated currently.

Durst owns more than 13 million square feet of Class A office and retail space in Manhattan, including One Bryant Park in Midtown and One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan.

Union workers in the company are protected by a collective bargaining agreement, which leads to a more rigid process for implementing a vaccination requirement.

Facebook is requiring employees in its U.S. offices to be vaccinated, the social media giant said on Wednesday.

Facebook, which employs roughly 60,000 people, said in June that it would permit all full-time employees to work from home when feasible. It last said it was planning to open most of its offices at half capacity by early September and would likely reopen fully in October.

Lori Goler, Facebook’s vice president of people, said in a statement that there would be a process to request exemptions for medical or other reasons, and that Facebook “will be evaluating our approach in other regions as the situation evolves.”

The news comes amid the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus. President Biden is set to announce that all civilian federal workers must be vaccinated or face testing, and Google announced Wednesday that it was mandating vaccines for workers in its U.S. offices and was pushing back its official return-to-office date to mid-October from September.

Many companies have been weighing for months whether to mandate the vaccines but have feared employee pushback or litigation. Recent court decisions have upheld employers’ rights to require vaccinations, including a ruling that said Houston Methodist Hospital could require health care workers to get shots. Last week, a federal judge ruled that Indiana University could require students to be vaccinated as well.

The Netflix offices in Los Angeles. The city has reinstated its mask mandate.
Credit…Philip Cheung for The New York Times

Netflix said Wednesday it would require the cast members of all its U.S. productions to be vaccinated, along with anyone else who comes on set. The move, which was first reported by Deadline, makes the streaming service the first studio to establish such a policy.

The policy follows an agreement between the Hollywood unions and the major studios last week that gave producers “the option to implement mandatory vaccination policies for casts and crew in Zone A on a production-by-production basis.” Zone A refers to the main cast and the group of people who interact with them, like the director and camera operators.

The company’s mandate comes amid a newly resurgent Covid wave fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant, which has prompted Los Angeles to reissue its mask mandate and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to encourage vaccinated people in areas of the country with rising cases to wear masks when indoors.

Google’s campus in Mountain View, Calif. The company will delay its return to office and mandate vaccines for its workers.
Credit…Christie Hemm Klok for The New York Times

Google said Wednesday that it would require employees who returned to the company’s offices to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. It also said it would push back its official return-to-office date to mid-October from September, joining a host of other companies whose plans have been scrambled in recent days by the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

Sundar Pichai, the chief executive of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, announced the news in a note to employees, which was reviewed by The New York Times.

“Getting vaccinated is one of the most important ways to keep ourselves and our communities healthy in the months ahead,” Mr. Pichai wrote. He added that the vaccine mandate would apply to U.S. office locations “in the coming weeks” and to other regions “in the coming months.”

Google has more than 144,000 employees globally. A Google spokeswoman said the company did not have any current vaccination rates to share, though Mr. Pichai wrote that it was “encouraging to see very high vaccination rates” among employees in places where vaccines were widely available.

Mr. Pichai also said in the note that Google’s voluntary work-from-home policy was being extended through Oct. 18. Previously, employees had been planning to return in September, though no specific date had been set.

“We recognize that many Googlers are seeing spikes in their communities caused by the Delta variant and are concerned about returning to the office,” Mr. Pichai wrote. “This extension will allow us time to ramp back into work while providing flexibility for those who need it.”

The decision followed a similar announcement from Apple, which said last week that it would push back to October, from September, the date by which employees would need to return to its offices.

The companies are among many in tech that are changing their office plans as coronavirus cases spike. Lyft said on Wednesday that it would not require employees to return to the office until February, while Twitter said it would close its newly reopened offices in San Francisco and New York and indefinitely postpone other reopening plans.

Some Google employees have been returning to work in the office on a voluntary basis. In California, as the Delta variant of the coronavirus has surged, workers began donning masks in Google offices again.

Silicon Valley tech companies like Google led the push to remote work in the beginning of the pandemic, but Google has not fully pivoted away from office work, and it has said it expects most employees to eventually return to in-person work at least three days a week.

The company said in March that it would spend $1 billion on California developments this year, including two office complexes in Mountain View. It is also building a 7.3 million-square-foot office space in San Jose.

Credit…Dado Ruvic/Reuters

Facebook said on Wednesday that revenue rose 56 percent to $29 billion in the three months ending in June compared with the same period last year, while profits rose 101 percent to to $10.4 billion, as the social network continues to benefit from a surge of users spending more time online during the pandemic.

Advertising revenue, which continues to be the bulk of Facebook’s income, rose 56 percent to $28.6 billion, easily surpassing Wall Street expectations. Roughly 3.51 billion people now use one of Facebook’s apps every month, up 12 percent from a year earlier.

The results follow the company’s continued strong performance over the last 18 months as the pandemic pushed people indoors toward their computers and other devices. Facebook recorded highs in users and revenues while continuing to expand its employee base and reinvest in infrastructure like data centers. More than 63,000 people now work for Facebook full-time, up 21 percent from the year earlier.

While Facebook’s core properties, including the main Facebook app and Instagram, continue to see surging ad revenue, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, is planning for the company’s future growth, including investing in projects like virtual reality and a next-generation computing platform he calls “the metaverse.”

“We had a strong quarter as we continue to help businesses grow and people stay connected,” Mr. Zuckerberg said. “I’m excited to see our major initiatives around creators and community, commerce, and building the next computing platform coming together to start to bring the vision of the metaverse to life.”

The company is also going all-in on luring more content creators to Facebook and Instagram, a move to counter the success that platforms like YouTube and TikTok have had with attracting in the so-called creator economy.

Over the past few years, Facebook has watched as influencers flocked to other platforms and built businesses from their followings. Now, Mr. Zuckerberg wants to build a similar model on his own properties, which could eventually lead to new revenue streams for the company.

But executives at Facebook warned that earnings in future quarters may not be as rosy. In a note to investors, Facebook said privacy changes to Apple’s mobile operating system could hurt the social network’s advertising business. The company also noted that its rapid growth may not last, especially as more people are vaccinated and begin to venture out of their homes and away from their computers.

Investors appeared to flinch at Facebook’s guidance; Facebook stock dropped 3.5 percent in after-hours trading.

Facebook also announced on Wednesday that it would require employees who work at any of the company’s United States campuses to be vaccinated, depending on local conditions and regulations. The move follows a similar policy announced earlier by Google and an announcement from Apple that it would delay workers’ return to the company’s offices until later in the year.

Ford Motor said on Wednesday that its profit for the three months that ended in June fell by about 50 percent, to $561 million, in large part because a global shortage of computer chips kept the company from selling more cars and trucks.

The result, however, was not as bad as the automaker had feared. Ford also gave a more upbeat outlook for the full year, saying it now expected an adjusted operating profit in the range of $9 billion to $10 billion, some $3.5 billion more than it had previously forecast.

“We really leaned into allocating chips to our higher profit vehicles,” John Lawler, Ford’s chief financial officer, said in a conference call with reporters. “Pricing remained very strong, much higher than we thought it would.”

Ford reported revenue of $26.8 billion in the second quarter, up 36 percent from the same period a year earlier, when sales were slowed by the coronavirus pandemic.

For parts of this month, Ford has had to halt or slow production of highly profitable models like the F-150 pickup truck and various sport-utility vehicles. It has also slowed production of the Mustang Mach-E, an electric vehicle that Ford has been counting on to compete with Tesla and win new customers.

The company said the supply of computer chips would improve in the second half of the year but would remain tight. One of its main suppliers, the Japanese company Renesas, is increasing its production after a fire at one of its plants this year.

Mr. Lawler said Ford raised its profit outlook because it now expects to ship 30 percent more vehicles to dealers in the second half of the year than in the first half. Some of those cars will come from the 60,000 to 70,000 vehicles that the company has already produced without electronic components. Most of those will be send to dealers this quarter, he said.

General Motors has seemed to handle the shortage better than Ford, but it too has had to cut production of profitable pickup trucks this month. G.M. reports its second quarter results on Aug. 4.

Tesla on Monday reported a record profit of $1.1 billion for the second quarter. While the company has been affected by the shortage, it has been able to switch to types of chips that are more readily available.

Still, Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk, said that the chip shortage was limiting the company’s output. “It seems like it is getting better, but it is hard to predict,” he told analysts in a conference call.

The semiconductor shortage has limited the auto industry’s ability to take full advantage of robust demand for cars and trucks in the United States.

Ford, in particular, is rolling out several new models that it has been counting on to turn around its business, which has struggled in recent years. The company’s new models include a redesigned F-150, a Bronco S.U.V. and the Mustang Mach-E. It is poised to add a brawnier Bronco S.U.V. and an electric F-150 in the coming months.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its mask guidance for vaccinated Americans on Tuesday.
Credit…Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

Two months after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was OK for vaccinated people to forgo masks indoors, the agency reversed course on Tuesday, saying that Americans should put masks on again — at least in areas where the coronavirus infection rate is high.

The announcement complicates return-to-office plans for many companies at a time the Delta variant is already forcing some of them to push back their start dates.

Apple told employees on Tuesday it was reinstating mask requirement for everyone indoors in certain U.S. offices, according to an internal memo that was obtained by The New York Times.

And Asana, a software company, told employees last week that it was pushing its return-to-office date for all employees in San Francisco and New York to no earlier than Feb. 1, a person familiar with the situation said. The company is also mandating vaccines for all employees coming into the office.

The official guidance — swayed by research on the Delta variant, which is causing rising case counts and “breakthrough” infections of vaccinated people — is aimed at places where the virus is surging. At the moment, that covers nearly two-thirds of U.S. counties. Per the guidance, all residents of Florida, vaccinated or not, should wear masks indoors.

Companies that have already opened their doors must decide whether to retrench on masking policies. When the C.D.C. lifted its masking guidance in May, many companies issued new guidelines allowing fully vaccinated employees and customers to return without masks. The move served as an important incentive for workers, as well as a signal that the pandemic was winding down. For employees, it provided a sense of safety and normality in returning to offices.

Walmart, which began to allow fully vaccinated employees to go mask-free in May, did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did a spokeswoman for Kroger, which has likewise reduced its masking restrictions.

In New York City, finance firms have already begun to call back workers. Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, which allow fully vaccinated employees to go mask-free, had no comment about the C.D.C.’s announcement. A spokeswoman for American Express said the company had “no updates to share,” as the company is not back in the office yet.

“People are enjoying their freedom, so I don’t know if we’re going to go back or not,” said Alana Ackels, a labor lawyer at Bell Nunnally. She added that after the C.D.C.’s guidance in May, her phone “was ringing off the hook because everyone wanted to get rid of the mask.” On Tuesday evening, after the agency’s reversal, “I haven’t gotten a single call about it,” she said.

MGM Resorts International, the casino and hotel giant, said Tuesday it would require all guests and visitors to wear masks indoors in public areas, “based on the latest information and guidance from health experts and public officials.”

The National Retail Federation, which represents businesses on the front lines of managing and enforcing public masking policies, said in a statement that “retailers will continue to follow the guidance of the C.D.C.” It added, “It is truly unfortunate that mask recommendations have returned when the surest known way to reduce the threat of the virus is widespread vaccination.”

The C.D.C.’s move may spur more corporate vaccine mandates, said David Schwartz, who runs the labor group at the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. This might be a preferable alternative to “requiring employees and customers to wear masks and not being able to maintain a consistent policy,” he said. The Washington Post on Tuesday joined a short but growing list of private companies requiring vaccination as a condition of employment.

If businesses think vaccine mandates are beneficial, “we encourage them to do so,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the C.D.C.’s director.

Government officials have been imposing vaccine mandates at the state, local and federal levels recently, and encouraging private companies to follow suit. President Biden is expected to announce a vaccine mandate for all two million civilian federal employees on Thursday.

Kellen Browning and Sarah Kessler contributed reporting.

To ease the forgiveness process for most Paycheck Protection Program loans, the Small Business Administration plans to create its own online portal for borrowers next Wednesday, which will allow many of them to eliminate their loans without going through their lender.

The portal will be available for borrowers of loans up to $150,000, which covers around 92 percent of the program’s loans. Banks must opt in to allow their customers to use the portal. So far, around 600 of the program’s nearly 5,500 lenders have done so, according to the federal agency.

Nearly nine million businesses received Paycheck Protection Program loans, totaling $800 billion. The loans were created to be forgiven if the program’s rules were followed, but that discharge process has been complicated for some banks and borrowers. Each lender had to build its own loan-forgiveness system and submit its borrowers’ applications to the Small Business Administration. Now, lenders will instead be able to instead steer borrowers directly to the agency.

Banking trade groups welcomed the news, saying it would help reduce the burden on their members.

“After P.P.P. funds were distributed, bankers worked tirelessly to assist small businesses with the burdensome and tedious loan forgiveness process,” said Richard Hunt, the chief executive of the Consumer Bankers Association. The new portal “will allow more small businesses to focus their time and resources on successfully reopening,” he said.

The Small Business Administration’s public data on loan forgiveness — which has not been updated for two months — shows that as of May 24, nearly 33 percent of last year’s borrowers had not yet applied to have their loan forgiven. Some of those recipients will be required to start making loan payments as soon as next month if their loans are not forgiven.

Officials at the Federal Reserve voted on Wednesday to keep interest rates near zero and maintain its pace of buying bonds for now.
Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

The Federal Reserve kept interest rates unchanged on Wednesday and said it would continue buying large quantities of government debt, but suggested that it could slow those purchases before long if the economy continues to strengthen.

The Fed’s two key policy tools fuel demand by making money cheap to borrow and spend. Officials are actively debating when and how to slow their bond-buying program, which will be their first step toward a more normal policy setting as the economy rebounds. Officials hinted that they will continue thinking about when to begin what they refer to as tapering at upcoming policy meetings.

“Last December, the committee indicated that it would continue to increase its holdings” steadily “until substantial further progress has been made toward its maximum employment and price stability goals,” the Fed said in its post-meeting statement. “Since then, the economy has made progress toward these goals, and the committee will continue to assess progress in coming meetings.”

The central bank has been buying $120 billion in mortgage-backed securities and Treasury debt each month since last year, but economists expect the Fed to begin slowing those purchases later this year or early next.

Facebook argues it does not have a monopoly.
Credit…Laura Morton for The New York Times

More than 40 state attorneys general on Wednesday said they planned to appeal the dismissal of their antitrust lawsuit against Facebook, setting up a protracted legal fight to rein in the power of the Silicon Valley giant.

The states would be pushing back on a decision made last month by a federal judge who eviscerated their arguments that Facebook had obtained a monopoly through its acquisitions of Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014 and had harmed competition. The judge said that the regulators’ attempts to break up the social media company came too many years after the mergers were approved.

“The court is aware of no case, and plaintiffs provide none, where such a long delay in seeking such a consequential remedy has been countenanced in a case brought by a plaintiff other than the federal government,” the judge, James E. Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, said.

Mr. Boasberg also dismissed a similar complaint brought by the Federal Trade Commission, criticizing the agency’s claims of monopolization, but he directed the agency to rewrite its lawsuit. The F.T.C. is expected to resubmit its lawsuit to the court by Aug. 19. The states’ notice of plan to appeal did not include new antitrust arguments and was filed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

“We filed this notice of appeal because we disagree with the court’s decision and must hold Facebook accountable for stifling competition, reducing innovation, and cutting privacy protections,” said Letitia James, New York’s attorney general. “We can no longer allow Facebook to profit off of exploiting consumer data.”

Facebook has vociferously refuted the state and federal regulators’ lawsuits, saying most the evidence used against the company now were presented to the F.T.C. when that agency approved the mergers years earlier. The company argues it does not have a monopoly, pointing to competition from Snap, Twitter and messaging applications.


Twitter said on Wednesday that it had begun testing a new feature that lets people shop for products on its service, a rare foray by the company into online shopping as rivals like Snapchat and Instagram push further into e-commerce.

Twitter has been working to build revenue streams beyond advertising, which has been the core of its business. The company recently acquired Revue, a service that helps writers charge for newsletters and takes a cut of the subscription earnings, and it has introduced other money-earning tools like ticketed live audio events.

The new shopping module, which debuted in the United States, will allow businesses to display a carousel of products on their Twitter profiles. Users can scroll through the products for sale and buy them without leaving Twitter’s app.

Twitter previously experimented with shopping in 2015, when it let retailers add a “Buy Now” button to their profiles. But by 2017, Twitter had phased out the button and disbanded its commerce team to focus product development on other areas. In the years since, competitors like Instagram and Snapchat have built large e-commerce operations and featured shops prominently in their apps.

“We’re back and putting more energy into testing out the potential for shopping on Twitter,” Bruce Falck, the head of revenue product, wrote in a blog post announcing the effort. “With this pilot, we’ll get to explore how our engaged, responsive and chatty audience reacts to products.”

Twitter also plans to create a Merchant Advisory Board made up of brands that are active on the service, Mr. Falck said. The board will advise Twitter on how to best serve businesses.

Refinery29 launched a new video series this week called “Sex Re-Education.”

As Vice Media considers deals that could take it public later this year, it is putting a greater emphasis on videos and other forms of visual storytelling, a shift that the company signaled this week with a new video series, “Sex Re-education,” on the Vice-owned site Refinery29.

Van Scott, a Vice Media spokesman, said the company will reduce the number of old-fashioned text articles on, Refinery29 and another Vice-owned site, i-D, by 40 to 50 percent.

The number of visual stories, including videos suited to mobile-friendly formats like Instagram’s Stories feature, is likely to increase by the same amount, Mr. Scott said.

Cory Haik, the company’s chief digital officer, said videos and other visual content were increasingly popular with the Vice audience.

Since 2019, Vice’s YouTube channel has more than doubled its number of monthly views, to 87.8 million in May, and engagement on Vice’s Instagram account has had a similar rise. At the same time, engagement with text articles on Vice sites has dropped by 26 percent, Ms Haik said.

“You can’t be a youth media company if you’re not focused on where the youth are consuming media,” Ms. Haik said. “And more and more, that’s off-platform, that’s built-for-mobile.”

Mr. Scott said the company would be hiring more producers as part of its investment in visual storytelling.

Vice Media, which has long been known for its Vice News documentaries, premiered “Sex Re-education” on Monday. Simone Oliver, the global editor in chief of Refinery29, said the company was using Google Web Stories to produce the series and that it would be re-promoted across Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat.

“More and more our audiences want to consume information in a visual way,” Ms. Oliver said.

Boeing on Wednesday said that it made a $587 million quarterly profit, a result that surprised Wall Street.
Credit…Jason Redmond/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Boeing on Wednesday said that it made a $587 million quarterly profit, a result that surprised Wall Street, which had been expecting a loss, and a strong sign that the aerospace giant is overcoming the 737 Max crisis, problems with its 787 Dreamliner jet and the economic shock caused by the pandemic.

The profit for the second quarter, which ended in June, is a big turnaround from the $2.4 billion loss Boeing reported in the same period last year. Wall Street analysts had expected Boeing to lose more than $100 million in the quarter this year, according to S&P CapitalIQ.

Revenue totaled nearly $17 billion in the quarter, a big jump from $11.8 billion in the same period last year. Revenue surged this year in its troubled commercial jet operations, but the division still had an operating loss of $472 million in the three months ended June 30.

Boeing’s 737 Max was grounded for months after two fatal crashes. The company and regulators have had quality concerns about its 787 Dreamliner that have at times stopped delivery of the wide-body jet.

In the second quarter of this year, Boeing delivered 79 commercial airplanes, up from 77 in the first.

Boeing said it had delivered more than 130 737 Max aircraft since the Federal Aviation Administration in November cleared the plane to fly. The company said it expected to nearly double monthly production of the jet to 31 planes early next year, from 16 per month.

But production problems are still affecting the 787. The F.A.A. had questioned the quality of Boeing’s inspections, and the company temporarily stopped delivery of the airplane. Boeing said it would produce fewer than five 787s a month as it does more work on undelivered planes. It added that it expected to deliver fewer than half of the 787s in its inventory this year.

Boeing had said that it wanted to cut its work force to 130,000 employees by the end of this year, from 141,000. But on Wednesday, Dave Calhoun, the company’s chief executive, said it would keep its work force at its current size, citing “encouraging recovery trends” for the decision.

Members of the Evil Geniuses e-sports team during the Call of Duty World League Championship in Los Angeles in 2019.
Credit…John Mccoy/Getty Images

Evil Geniuses, one of the first professional e-sports teams, is selling a minority stake in its business to China’s Fosun Sports Group, the DealBook newsletter was first to report. The transaction, announced on Wednesday, values the squad of elite video gamers at more than $250 million, which would make it one of the most valuable in the sector.

The team, which was founded in 1999, well before e-sports became a billion-dollar industry, is also teaming up with an English Premier League soccer club, Wolverhampton Wanderers. That venture is aimed at tapping Asian markets, where the “Wolves” have training facilities, as well as at cross-promoting the teams to each other’s fan bases.

DealBook spoke with Nicole LaPointe Jameson, who took over as the chief executive of Evil Geniuses two years ago after its sale to the private equity firm Peak6. Three years earlier, Evil Genius’s players had bought back the company from Amazon’s Twitch, leaving it rudderless and struggling in competitions. Ms. LaPointe Jameson, 27, has also had to navigate the sometimes toxic culture of video gaming, including claims of harassment and racism by players on the team she runs.

“Two years ago, we were worth nothing close” to the company’s current valuation, said Ms. LaPointe Jameson, who is the first Black chief executive of a major e-sports team. When she arrived, the company “had to make decisions at the $5 level very carefully,” she said.

Since she took over, Evil Geniuses has expanded into more games, notably League of Legends, and has hired a more diverse set of influencers to attract attention to its players (and sell merchandise and sponsorships).

“When I came into the e-sports space, I was unexpected in many different ways,” she said, noting her private equity background, where she specialized in turning around distressed businesses. “I kind of came out of Mars for them.”

Ms. LaPointe Jameson said she “won’t shy away from the negative reputation” of gaming, and described tackling reports of harassment by players as well as financial troubles as “trial by fire.” The company’s “robust curriculum” about antibullying should help reduce the stigma that turns some off from the industry, she said.

“We are happy to tackle that,” she added, “but it is a bit against the grain because that is not the easiest path to proceed as a company.”

Ms. LaPointe Jameson has focused on recruiting — more than half the members of her leadership team are women — and she has introduced benefits like parental leave.

“It was important for me to make sure those types of ‘unsexy back-end components’ were brought in,” she said, so people “who had never heard of e-sports would consider coming here.”

Stocks were unchanged on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve’s meeting, during which policymakers left interest rates unchanged.

  • The S&P 500 ticked down less than 0.1 percent. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.7 percent

  • The yield on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes rose slightly to 1.26 percent

  • Apple fell 1.2 percent, and Microsoft fell 0.1 percent. Google rose 3.2 percent. Apple, Google and Microsoft reported strong profits on Tuesday, fueled by a bounce-back in demand for online advertising and the continuation of remote work. The reports come during a time of growing scrutiny of Big Tech.

  • Boeing rose 4.2 percent after it reported a surprise quarterly profit.

  • Facebook rose 1.5 percent ahead of its quarterly earnings report, but dropped more than 4 percent in aftermarket trading after its report was released.

  • Markets in Europe were higher, with the Stoxx 600 Europe closing with a 0.7 percent gain. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng recovered some of its losses from Tuesday, rising 1.5 percent. Alibaba, which had fallen 6 percent on Tuesday, rose 1.8 percent on Wednesday.

President Biden is expected to sign an executive order aimed at protecting American infrastructure from cyberattacks like the Colonial Pipeline hack, which caused fuel shortages in large portions of the East Coast in May.
Credit…Sean Rayford/Getty Images

A day after President Biden warned that cyberattacks could lead to a “real shooting war,” he signed an executive
order on Wednesday aimed at preventing hackings on America’s critical infrastructure.

While the order has been in the works for some time, the need was driven home by a series of major ransomware attacks, including against Colonial Pipeline, which provides the East Coast with 45 percent of its gasoline, jet fuel and diesel.

The order was mostly filled with voluntary measures for companies to meet a series of online security standards, like encrypting data and requiring two-factor authentication for all users on a system, to stymie hackers who possess stolen passwords. In a call with reporters Tuesday night, a senior administration official said the idea was to develop “cybersecurity performance goals” to assess how prepared each company or utility was.

The effort is a way to get beyond the “woefully insufficient” patchwork of mandates and voluntary actions to protect electric utilities, gas pipelines, water supplies and industrial sites that keep the economy running, the official said.

Such efforts have been tried before, dating to the presidency of George W. Bush. But Mr. Biden is the first president to talk about the issue — almost every week — as a national security imperative. It was the central topic of his meeting in June with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. And on Tuesday, visiting the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Mr. Biden gave a grim assessment of where he believed the constant, short-of-war attacks on the United States, both state-sponsored operations and criminal ransomware, are headed.

“If we end up in a war, a real shooting war with a major power,” he told the intelligence officers there, “it’s going to be as a consequence of a cyberbreach of great consequence. And it’s increasing exponentially — the capabilities.’’

Mr. Biden’s chief challenge now is a lack of authority to mandate changes. He has already imposed security standards on providers of software to the federal government, betting that if a company is banned from selling to the government, it will also suffer in the commercial marketplace. He has ordered a series of increased protections for federal agencies, 10 of which were affected by the SolarWinds hacking last year, a broad invasion of the software “supply chain” used by 18,000 companies and governments.

But key elements of American infrastructure are run by private companies — and in Colonial Pipeline’s case, Russian-speaking hackers brought down the distribution system almost accidentally, after attacking the company’s business systems. That was followed by another ransomware attack on JBS, the world’s largest beef producer, which paid $11 million to start running again.

For years, many industries have maintained informal organizations that share cyberthreat information or best practices. But there are so many holes in the system that it has been relatively easy for Iran, Russia, China and ransomware groups to find ways to place malicious software in the systems, or initiate attacks that freeze data and make it impossible to operate, as happened to Colonial Pipeline and JBS.

The measures outlined in the new national security memorandum, called “Improving Cybersecurity for Critical Infrastructure Control Systems,” are being coordinated by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the Commerce Department’s unit that sets industrial standards.

Credit…Joshua Bright for The New York Times

Athleta, the women’s athleisure brand owned by Gap, will make an investment in Obé Fitness, a provider of on-demand workout classes, as it introduces a new platform for customers called AthletaWell, the retailer said Wednesday.

The brand said that its new AthletaWell site, which will be free through Athleta’s loyalty program, will include online discussion groups and exclusive workouts from Obé Fitness. The new site is part of a push to drive further sales at Athleta, which surpassed $1 billion in revenue last year and is one of Gap’s best-performing divisions. The company is hoping to attract more people to Athleta’s loyalty program, as those customers usually spend more than typical shoppers.

Athleta will also take advantage of the partnership with Obé in other ways. “We’ll be working together to co-create apparel,” said Kim Waldmann, Athleta’s chief digital officer. “We’ll be working on events together, both virtual and in-person, and new innovative shopping experiences.”

The investment comes roughly a year after Lululemon said it would buy Mirror, the fitness start-up, highlighting the potential in linking streaming workouts
to athletic apparel.


CreditCredit…Maria Chimishkyan

Today in the On Tech newsletter, Shira Ovide talks to Erin Griffith about Robinhood’s (highly unusual) initial public offering planned for this week and why the company has gotten so much attention.

Apple’s iPhone sales jumped 50 percent, even as it was set to release new phones in September.
Credit…Yara Nardi/Reuters
  • Deutsche Bank, Germany’s largest bank, beat expectations with a quarterly net profit of 692 million euros, or $817 million, compared to a loss a year earlier, the company reported Wednesday. Revenue dipped 1 percent to €6.2 billion, Deutsche Bank said, but that was more than offset by cost cuts and a reduction in the amount of money that the bank set aside to cover problem loans.

  • Apple’s profits nearly doubled in the latest quarter, showing that the world’s richest and most valuable public company is exhibiting little sign of slowing down. Apple said on Tuesday that its profits increased 93 percent to $21.7 billion in its fiscal third quarter compared with a year earlier, while sales rose 36 percent to $81.4 billion, both outpacing analysts’ expectations. Apple said its iPhone sales grew 50 percent to $39.6 billion, a quarterly increase that was high by even its lofty standards. Apple sold more of all of its other products, including iPads, Macs and wearable devices such as the Apple Watch and AirPods. The company’s sales also increased in every geographic area, led by its Greater China region, with 58 percent growth.

  • Alphabet, Google’s parent company, made in three months what it took until recently an entire year to earn. The search and advertising company on Tuesday reported record profits and revenue for the second quarter, vindicating the enthusiasm of investors who doubled its value on the stock market since early last year. Alphabet said it made a profit of $18.5 billion, or $27.26 a share, for the quarter. As recently as 2015, it made less than that all year. Revenue rose 62 percent to $61.88 billion from a year ago, a level of increase unseen since the company’s rapid growth around 2005, when it was still a start-up.

  • Microsoft continued its string of strong financial results. Sales in the three months ending in June hit $46.2 billion, up 21 percent from a year earlier, and profits rose 47 percent to $16.5 billion, producing its most profitable quarter, Microsoft said on Tuesday. The results surpassed analyst expectations. With the pandemic moving people online to a greater extent and the economy rebounding, companies have accelerated their spending in key areas where Microsoft has invested, including security and cloud services. Sales of Azure, the company’s flagship cloud-computing product, were up 51 percent.