LVMH and Tiffany may recut their deal
Exactly one year ago, the French luxury conglomerate LVMH acknowledged that it was in talks to acquire Tiffany, the American jeweler. The statement included the standard warning that “there can be no assurance that these discussions will result in any agreement.”
How right it proved: Although a $16.6 billion deal was announced a month later, the pandemic gave LVMH second thoughts and it eventually sued to cancel the deal — a move many suspected was an attempt to renegotiate the price.
It seems those efforts may be successful, as renegotiation talks are reportedly underway, with Tiffany signaling that it’s willing to accept less than the agreed-on $135 a share so long as the offer stays above $130 a share. That implies that LVMH could get as much as $600 million off the original asking price.
Big Tech’s video chat with Congress
The C.E.O.s of Facebook, Google and Twitter will appear virtually today before the Senate Commerce Committee to answer questions about Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields online platforms from liability for user-generated content. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are seeking changes (for different reasons), and experts say they all miss critical points. Here’s what to expect:
Censorship will be a major talking point. Democrats want platforms to police more content, like disinformation and hate speech. Republicans argue that content moderation rules are often used to mute conservative views.
Eric Goldman, a director at the High Tech Institute of Santa Clara University’s law school, has appeared at such hearings and predicts Republicans will invoke “censorship” and “free speech” often. However, he told DealBook, “everyone is in favor of censorship in D.C. right now,” insofar as both sides want more sway over content moderation, hoping the threat of litigation will motivate companies to bend.
Few use the word correctly, Mr. Goldman said. Only state actors can censor, and free speech rights only exist vis-à-vis government action. Tech companies are private actors, and users must follow their rules. In other words: There is no constitutional right to free speech on Facebook or Twitter. Legally speaking, it’s lawmakers who want to impinge on the platforms’ constitutional rights, Mr. Goldman said, since platforms are protected by the First Amendment when they act as publishers of third-party content (but not when it comes to liability, thanks to Section 230).
Something to watch: Only politicians call tech companies “platforms,” Mr. Goldman said, because “it’s a way of talking about ‘publishing’ without saying ‘publishers.’” Tech execs tend to avoid being pinned down on any particular term, given the legal gray areas.
The crux of the debate: What happens when the public square has corporate owners? People congregate on social media, but that doesn’t make Facebook or Twitter a state actor, explains Sophia Cope, a senior lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group. Cases against the tech companies based on freedom of speech have failed because these public forums belong to private entities. “We’re not blind to the fact that platforms don’t do moderation in a great way,” Ms. Cope said, but “you can’t just apply the First Amendment.”
The Times will provide live coverage and video of the hearings, which begin at 10 a.m. Eastern.
“Our working hypothesis, which might be disproven, is that Sept. 2, 2020, was the top and the bubble has already popped.”
— David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital in a letter to investors.