Business Reaction to Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Nomination Is Mixed

Today, senators will begin hearings on the historic nomination of the federal appellate judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. She is the first Black woman nominated to serve on the court and the only candidate ever to have served as a public defender. Here’s what her nomination might mean for business.

Judge Jackson has a varied résumé. She handled civil and criminal cases, served on the federal sentencing commission, worked in private law firms, clerked for Stephen Breyer (the justice she’d be replacing), attended Harvard and briefly reported for Time magazine. She is facing pushback from some Republicans who say she was overly lenient in some cases, and even those who praise her credentials, like the minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, won’t commit to voting for her.

A leading business group is wary. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed the three most recent Supreme Court nominees appointed by President Donald Trump. The trade group, which traditionally leans conservative, has in recent years promoted bipartisanship, endorsing some Democratic candidates for office. It hasn’t yet expressed a position about Judge Jackson’s nomination. In an email to DealBook, a Chamber spokeswoman said: “It is clear that Judge Jackson is an accomplished lawyer and a respected jurist. We look forward to learning more about how she would approach serving on our nation’s highest court.” The U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and U.S. Black Chambers have endorsed her nomination.

“Diversity is a key pillar of America’s economic vitality,” said LeRoy Cavazos-Reyna of the Hispanic chamber. For minority-owned businesses, it is “critical” that the nation’s diversity is reflected on the high court, because it makes decisions “that directly correlate with the financial stability of our citizens, which translates into our collective American buying power.”

This nomination is a model for business leaders, said Ruchika Tulshyan, the author of a new book on diversity in the workplace, “Inclusion on Purpose.” As a candidate, President Biden promised to make a historic nomination, so the follow-through shows “a level of intentionality” that Tulshyan said is essential to promoting equality in the justice system and workplaces more generally.

Judge Jackson by the numbers:

  • She has been confirmed by the Senate three times, including for her current role at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, by a vote of 53-44 last June.

  • She has presided over 12 trials that made it to verdict, half civil and half criminal proceedings.

  • She’s written more than 560 opinions. The most recent denied Uber’s motion to dismiss in a case alleging discrimination against wheelchair users. She rejected arguments that Uber cannot be held liable for discrimination because it only serves as a “conduit” between passengers and drivers.

A commercial airliner crashes in southern China with 132 people on board. The Boeing 737 operated by China Eastern Airlines went down in the Guangxi region. The crash could be the worst in China since the 1990s, and raised investor concerns about the effect on Boeing, whose shares fell in premarket trading.

Hong Kong eases travel restrictions that worried big business. Local authorities said they would soon lift a flight ban from nine countries, including the U.S., for Hong Kong residents and shorten their quarantine period to seven days. The announcement came after many businesses sought to move employees out of the territory over the travel curbs.

Saudi Aramco reports blockbuster earnings. The Saudi-controlled oil giant said profits more than doubled, to $110 billion, as it benefited from the jump in crude prices. That will help Riyadh in its goal of investing abroad and diversifying the kingdom’s economy.

Elon Musk’s ties to China reportedly worry Washington. U.S. lawmakers are concerned about Beijing getting access to classified information at SpaceX, including through foreign suppliers to the space exploration company and through links between SpaceX and Tesla, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Computer chip makers face a dire component crunch, a key supplier warns. The chief of ASML, which makes equipment to produce advanced semiconductors, predicted that there would be supply-chain shortages for the next two years.

The International Energy Agency recently predicted that Russian oil exports would drop by 3 million barrels a day, or roughly a third of its total output, as soon as next month. Some are skeptical that the dropoff will be that big, but market watchers are tracking the effects of sanctions, embargoes and disruptions to oil supplies after Russia invaded Ukraine, a key determinant of where oil prices are headed.

It is hard to know if Russian oil sales have slid since the start of the war. The oil market is opaque and Russian oil sales, in particular, tend to be conducted in over-the-counter transactions. Most oil is sold 30 days before loading, so it may be a while before Russian oil deliveries reflect sales since the invasion. “If you stop buying crude that was going to be loaded mid-March, the impact of that doesn’t start getting really felt until April 1,” Andy Lipow, an oil industry consultant based in Houston, told DealBook.

That’s led to a hunt for clues in obscure energy industry data. Matt Smith, an oil analyst with the analytics firm Kpler, has been watching individual ships. Last week, he noticed a tanker carrying Canadian oil that left from a U.S. Gulf port headed for Ireland, a combination he hadn’t seen before. Smith says the unusual route may suggest that Europe is starting to diversify its supplies. “There are a few tentative signs that flows from elsewhere are picking up,” Smith told DealBook.

A key refinery suggests Russian sales are under pressure. Most Russian oil is shipped out of the country as crude and refined elsewhere. But Russia has some refineries that specialize in processing foreign-bound oil. Lipow says the one to watch is Tuapse, the only Russian refinery on the Black Sea. About 10 days ago, Lipow said, the refinery had to slow operations because it had too much oil coming in and not enough going out.

Others are skeptical that the flow of Russian oil will slow. Simon Johnson, an economist at M.I.T., said he and his colleagues have been tracking the sale of Russian oil for weeks, out of a desire to do something to help Ukraine and point out who is funding the Russian war effort. Based on their analysis, it appears that Russian oil shipments are increasing, especially to India but also to Europe.

The latest in the Russia-Ukraine war:


— Kevin Roose, The Times’ tech columnist, in “The Latecomer’s Guide to Crypto,” part of a package answering the most common questions about cryptocurrency. There are also guides to web3, NFTs, DAOs and DeFi. (If you don’t know what those terms mean, the links are worth a click.)


Russian bonds: Investors continue to gauge the Russian government’s ability to repay foreign debts, with a $66 million payment due today on a dollar-denominated bond. Amid some doubts about its access to funds, Russia repaid $117 million in coupons last week.

Climate reporting: The S.E.C. meets today to consider whether companies should be required to report on their greenhouse gas emissions — and goals to reduce their carbon footprints.

Theranos trial: Opening statements for the trial of Ramesh Balwani, the former president of Theranos and ex-boyfriend of Elizabeth Holmes, are expected to begin on Tuesday. Balwani faces several fraud charges; prosecutors say he was a co-conspirator in defrauding investors.

Economic updates: The Fed chair Jay Powell is scheduled to speak at events on Monday and Wednesday, while on Friday the University of Michigan will release its final March reading of consumer sentiment, which has plunged as higher inflation has reduced spending power and presented problems for policymakers like Powell at the Fed.


The Y Combinator-backed investing app Alinea is designed by Gen-Z investors for, well, themselves. It was created to minimize anxiety and focus on social impact, say founders Eve Halimi and Anam Lakhani, who are both in their mid-20s. “Right now no one else is specifically targeting them,” Lakhani told DealBook.

Alinea’s founders, who bonded in college, wanted more young women to invest. They raised more than $2 million to take on what they call the “old school” online trading giant Robinhood (which launched in 2015). They criticized Robinhoods “triggering” bright colors and nudges to trade; Alinea’s interface relies on pastels and “playlists” that bundle investments.

“Gen-Z already experiences incredible amounts of anxiety, Lakhani said. “We wanted to make sure when people come on to the Alinea app they feel calm because there are so many anxiety-inducing products out there.” And to address customers’ moral and ethical concerns, the founders said, the playlists include investments around climate impacts, Black empowerment, women-led companies and more.

Crypto joins the mix today, with 20 digital currencies launching in 49 states. Crypto was part of the original vision, but approvals proved difficult, the founders discovered. They soon hope to offer more tokens and playlists for investors who might find venturing into these particularly volatile markets stressful.

Deals

  • Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway will buy the reinsurer Alleghany for $11.6 billion. (Bloomberg)

  • The TV-ratings company Nielsen said it had rejected a $9 billion takeover bid from an investor consortium as too low. (WSJ)

  • The business software company Anaplan, under pressure from activist investors, agreed to sell itself to the private equity firm Thoma Bravo for $10.7 billion. (FT)

  • G.M. bought out the SoftBank Vision Fund’s nearly 20 percent stake in Cruise, the carmaker’s autonomous-vehicle arm. (Reuters)

Policy

  • A Texas lawmaker threatened to bar Citigroup from underwriting municipal bonds in the state unless it stopped paying the travel costs for employees seeking abortions outside the state. (NYT)

  • “How Big Tech lost the antitrust battle with Europe” (FT)

  • Private student loan lenders are lobbying the Biden administration to restart federal student loan repayments, after a two-year pause. (Politico)

Best of the rest

  • A former Google employee sued the tech giant, claiming it systematically discriminated against Black workers. (NYT)

  • “Toronto, the Quietly Booming Tech Town” (NYT)

  • Inside the testy relationship between Bob Iger and Bob Chapek, Disney’s ex- and current C.E.O.s. (CNBC)

  • “Afghanistan’s last finance minister, now a D.C. Uber driver, ponders what went wrong” (WaPo)

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