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Federal health agencies are getting under the hood to review 450 cases of mysterious lung injuries and at least 5 deaths related to vaping products in 33 states. The FDA and CDC, however, issued different warnings about what may be the cause.
The FDA issued a warning Friday, urging devil’s lettuce fans to avoid THC products. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on the other hand, released a statement warning about the broader dangers of vaping and e-cigarettes. Sooo, no fun?
Welcome to NY
New York’s health department who will oversee 34 of the 450 national cases (so far) believes that vitamin E-acetate, which is a vitamin found naturally in foods such as olive oil and almonds, may be the culprit.
E-acetate, which is typically used in nutritional supplements and skincare products, is now the key focus of the department’s investigation. While the product does not carry risks in its other uses, it could cause complications if inhaled.
At this time, the FDA is testing more than 100 samples of vaping products. The problem? Not one substance, including vitamin E-acetate, has been found in all of them.
In other words, the jury’s still out.
These negative headlines and warnings will likely have a short-term negative impact on the e-cig and cannabis markets. For what it’s worth shares of Altria and British American Tobacco rose on the news, with investors betting that a crackdown on nicotine vaping could lead to an increase in the demand for “healthier” alternatives … like traditional cigarettes.
THROW THE BOOK AT THEM
It appears that there is only one thing that can bridge political divides: a common hatred of Mark Zuckerberg.
Two large bipartisan squads of state attorneys general are out for big tech blood. Mind you, this is in addition to ongoing federal investigations. And if history is any indication, the states mobilizing doesn’t bode well for corporations.
One witch hunt will be led by New York AG Letitia James. The investigation will open the kimono on antitrust allegations levied against Facebook.
The AGs believe that “Facebook’s actions may have endangered consumer data, reduced the quality of consumers’ choices, or increased the price of advertising.” And don’t for a second think that the states don’t plan on revisiting the FTC’s record $5B fine, which focused on privacy practices and Zuck’s acquisitions with the intention of staving off competition.
In good company
Not be outdone, yet another set of state attorneys general led by Texas AG Ken Paxton plans to kick the tires on Google. The investigation, to be formally announced outside of the US Supreme Court today (it’s called PR 101, look it up) will focus on “whether large tech companies have engaged in anticompetitive behavior that stifled competition, restricted access and harmed consumers.”
Why is this a BFD?
States entering the battle royal means more boots on the ground (read: more interns to do monotonous tasks) and more resources to presumably go all SVU on big tech firms. It’s probably worth noting that more cooks in the kitchen could lead to a clusterf*ck of epic proportions …
But what if it doesn’t?
A textbook case of states lighting a fire under Uncle Sam’s ass is the Microsoft antitrust case. Ever heard of it? Twenty or so AGs helped the federal government tag team MSFT, leading to a slew of concessions that have helped shape the tech landscape today.
At the very least, historically state governments have had better luck at extracting large fines in antitrust cases than their federal counterparts.
IN OTHER NEWS
- The former head of the Galleon Group and current inmate Raj Rajaratnam will get to finish off his 11-year insider trading sentence in the comfort of his own home. Raj was sentenced back in 2011 as part of the FBI’s investigation to crack down on 1-percenters dabbling in shady sh*t. At the time Galleon was one of the largest hedge funds in the world and prosecutors claim the white-collar criminal made more than $72M from trades related to insider tips. Luckily for Raj, a new law allowing prisoners over the age of 60 to apply to finish prison sentences at home was created in 2018.
- Bill Ackman announced that he is having himself a year … and that all of his haters can go f*ck themselves. After a rough 2018 including a large investment in Valeant Pharmaceuticals and a failed short position on Herbalife Ackman announced a “strategy shift.” The move involved pouring some $500M of his own money into the public arm of his Pershing Square. It’s safe to say, the move paid off. Pershing is up 48% on the year resulting in a $200M payday for Ackman.
- Opioid manufacturer Mallinckrodt was able to agree to a settlement with the state of Ohio related to charges that the company contributed to the nationwide drug epidemic. Mallinckrodt, the largest manufacturer of opioids between 2006 and 2012 could face an estimated $5B in liabilities. The company agreed to pay $24M in fines and donate $6M more in generic products … which hopefully aren’t incredibly addictive. This settlement is not related to the current consolidation of over 2k lawsuits against multiple drug providers ongoing in Ohio.
- Saudi Arabia is going all Prince Ali-Ababwa on its oil ministry by naming the son of the King Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman as a replacement for the recently exported minister Khalid Al-Falih. The problem? Prince Abdulaziz is not qualified whatsoever for the role. Ahh, I love the smell of nepotism in the AM. All of the country’s moves have been under a microscope since it announced the IPO of a portion of its oil export business earlier this year.
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