T-Mobile Facing Fines; Coinbase Buys Earn.com; US Bans ZTE

The Water Coolest

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Estimated Read Time: 3 minutes and 23 seconds



T-Mobile is facing a $40M fine for allegedly defrauding their customers in rural areas (read: the middle of nowhere). Users in East Bumf*ck with poor cell coverage would still hear a ringtone, even when the call couldn’t be completed due to poor network performance. Didn’t anybody wonder why they never got answering machines?

The discovery came as the FCC was investigating T-Mobile for violating rules which aim improve cell coverage in rural areas. When the phone rings and no one picks up, users often assume that the receiving party couldn’t make it to the phone, rather than blame their cell service provider.

In addition to the $40M fine, the John-Legere-run cell service provider will need to provide employees with training on the new rules and file regular compliance reports with the FCC. Lucky for Johnny Cellphones, T-Mobile doesn’t need to give any refunds.

Water Cooler Talking Point: “As someone who will look for every reason not to talk to people on the phone, this is perfect. It’s all of the not-having-to-talk-to-people with none of the guilt that you never try!”



Coinbase just purchased Earn.com for a cool $100M. The purchase brings even more legitimacy to the popular bitcoin exchange. Earn is a crypto-centric platform that allows a user to pay other users (in bitcoin) for providing feedback about new blockchain and crypto technologies.

Earn CEO Balaji Srinivasan will join the Coinbase team as CTO. Balaji is a former partner at Andreessen Horowitz and is seen as one of the most respected technologists in the space … according to Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong.

Since March they’ve brought in former execs from LinkedIn, Twitter and the NYSE. And just this past Friday they purchased Etherereum mobile app and wallet Cipher Browser. They also opened up a new incubator to fund early-stage startups. Someone call TJ Miller. Too soon?

Water Cooler Talking Point: “Balaji Srinivasan holds a BS, MS, and Ph.D. in electrical engineering and an MS in chemical engineering. What have you done lately?”



As if tensions between the U.S and China weren’t already high enough, an investigation dating back to 2012 resulted in the US banning sales to network gear and smartphone maker, ZTE for seven years. The company also faces upwards of $1.2B in fines. US companies provide an estimated 25% to 30% of components for the manufacturer.

The phone provider for AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint pleaded guilty last year to illegally shipping tech hardware from the US to Iran and ran an elaborate scheme to cover it up.

Not only did the fourth largest cell phone manufacturer violate sanctions, but they lied about it to federal investigators. Unsurprisingly the Shaggy defense still doesn’t hold up. 

Massachusetts based, Acacia Communications took the biggest hit of component suppliers as 30% of their revenue comes from ZTE. Diversification … ever heard of it?

Water Cooler Talking Point: “It seems like ZTE thought this was all over. Clearly, they didn’t know how capable the DoC is of holding a grudge. I’m all for trust in business, but I’d like to see the analysis on US companies taking a hit from this.”



  • Netflix added 8M users last quarter vs. an expected 6M.
  • President Trump plans to nominate economist Richard Clarida as Vice Chair of the Fed’s Board of Governors and Michelle Bowman, a Kansas banking regulator as a member of the Board.
  • Carl Icahn is selling Tropicana Entertainment, the gambling and gaming giant, for $1.85B. The exodus of the geriatric billionaire in the gambling industry continues.
  • Shire Pharma will sell its cancer drug division to Servier for $2.4B. Food for thought: the worst part of working in Big Pharma has to be that you can’t use the excuse “we’re not saving lives here.”
  • Adecco buys General Assembly for $412.5M. Their business model is basically “Grad School” for ITT Tech alum.
  • Facebook spent $7.3M on Mark Zuckerberg’s “safety” last year.
  • US indices were up yesterday:
    • DOW: +0.87%
    • S&P 500: +0.81%
    • NASDAQ: +0.70%




What to watch instead of practicing for that big speech: Why prepare for your big speech, when you could just watch videos about how to prepare for your big speech.

The Golden Rule of presentations: Move over 80/20 rule, there’s a new sheriff in town: meet the 10, 20, 30 rule. Marketing guru Guy Kawasaki explains why the length, time, and size of your fonts makes all the difference.

How standup comedy can improve your presentations skills: We’re not saying that you should turn your twelve slide PowerPoint into a roast of your boss, but there’s something to be said for getting used to being heckled mercilessly.

You aren’t the only person in the room who knows you pulled this together last minute: If your co-presenter’s name is Lorem Ipsum you probably didn’t bring your A-game on this deliverable. Sarah Cooper outlines the signs that you mailed this one in.