Capital One has agreed to pay $80 million to settle federal bank regulators’ claims that it lacked proper cybersecurity protocols, more than a year after a Seattle-based software engineer hacked into a cloud storage facility and stole customers’ social security numbers, bank account information and credit card applications, regulators said Thursday.
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which oversees large U.S. banks, said in a regulatory filing that the bank had failed to establish proper risk assessment procedures in 2015 after it began using cloud storage technology. Later, its board failed to hold the managers in charge of the area accountable for their neglect.
In addition to the civil penalty, Capital One must come up with plans to improve its security procedures within the next three months, according to a separate regulatory filing by the Federal Reserve, which also has authority over the bank.
The hacker was Paige Thompson, a former Amazon employee who broke into an Amazon data storage server and then boasted about it in several internet forums. Ms. Thompson was arrested in July 2019 and charged with one count of computer fraud and abuse. Her trial is scheduled to begin in February.
Prosecutors say Ms. Thompson stole data relating to more than 100 million Capital One customers, including 140,000 Social Security numbers and 80,000 bank account numbers. The bulk of the information taken involved credit-card applications.
Tatiana Stead, a Capital One spokeswoman, said controls put in place before the hack had allowed the bank secure customer information before it could be used or disseminated.
“In the year since the incident, we have invested significant additional resources into further strengthening our cyber defenses, and have made substantial progress in addressing the requirements of these orders,” she said.
Household debt fell in the second quarter as consumers stuck at home because of the coronavirus pandemic spent less on their credit cards, based on a new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
That may seem surprising on face value, with millions of American workers out of jobs and the economy experiencing a sharp recession caused by shutdowns meant to contain the virus. But the Fed’s findings, released Thursday, contribute to a growing body of evidence that suggests the government’s rescue programs and bill deferrals helped to keep many families from falling far behind financially during the early months of the pandemic.
Total household debt decreased between April and June, falling by $34 billion or 0.2 percent. It was the first decline since 2014 and the largest since 2013.
Credit card balances plummeted by $76 billion, the steepest drop on record.
Mortgages were another story entirely. Refinances and other originations boomed after the Fed slashed interest rates to near-zero in March, reaching $846 billion — the highest volume since 2013.
But there are signs that those cheap home loans are going to only the most creditworthy borrowers. Credit scores at origination ticked up sharply.
Debt delinquency rates dropped across credit categories. The New York Fed said that was “likely reflecting the impact of government stimulus programs and various forbearance options for troubled borrowers.”
The Federal Reserve Board has unanimously approved a system to support instant payments that could help cash-strapped consumers receive money transfers more quickly, allowing them to avoid overdrafts and payday-lender borrowing.
“In good times as well as bad, instant payments will enable millions of American households and small businesses to get instant access to funds, rather than waiting days for checks to clear,” a Fed governor, Lael Brainard, said in a speech accompanying an announcement on Thursday.
The Fed said that the system would not be fully launched until 2023 or 2024, and that it would roll it out in phases, starting with a bare-bones version and adding features over time.
Banks have their own real-time payment system run by the Clearing House Payments Company. But the Fed said that it was important that the financial system have more than one provider of real-time money transfers, adding that the central bank’s FedNow operation would “promote competition by providing choice of instant payment services.”
Randal K. Quarles, the Fed’s vice chair for bank supervision, voted against the decision to create a Fed offering in 2019, but he approved the design laid out on Thursday.
Ms. Brainard said that the pandemic has emphasized the need for real-time payments, because households increased their spending noticeably after receiving emergency relief payments — a reality especially true for those with low incomes and low savings.
“The urgency with which the emergency payments were spent underscores the importance of rapid access to funds for many households and businesses that face cash flow constraints,” Ms. Brainard said.
The coronavirus pandemic wiped out a large portion of ViacomCBS’s advertising business and its box-office take in the second quarter, the company reported Thursday. ViacomCBS owns CBS, Nickelodeon, MTV, Showtime and the Paramount film studios. The company’s ad revenue in the United States fell 24 percent to $1.7 billion, and its theatrical business dropped a staggering 98 percent from the same time last year, to $3 million. Total sales fell 12 percent to $6.2 billion, and profit was halved to $478 million.
The company’s only bright spot, as at other media conglomerates, was its streaming business, which includes CBS All Access, Showtime and the free, ad-supported platform Pluto. CBS and Showtime now have 16.2 million subscribers. (The company refuses to break out figures for each platform.) Revenue jumped 25 percent to $489 million. The company also touted a new plan to add more content to CBS All Access that will include 3,500 episodes from BET, Comedy Central, MTV and others.
As the so-called streaming wars took off two years ago, ViacomCBS said it would play the arms dealer and license its content to top bidders. But recently, Robert M. Bakish, the chief executive, announced a new strategy to bolster its own streaming service. That raised a question: Would the company stop licensing its shows and films to other streamers in an effort to shore up its own offering? Mr. Bakish has said it’s not an either-or proposition and the company could still do both.
Quarterly results help put its streaming ambitions into perspective: ViacomCBS generates far more revenue from content licensing than streaming. That’s because the company produces a lot of the shows seen on streamers like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. It recently licensed the well-known “South Park” franchise to HBO Max for about $500 million, making that single deal worth more than an entire quarter’s streaming revenue. Total content licensing sales for the period topped $1.9 billion.
Elsewhere, CBS saw sales drop more than a fifth to $2.3 billion and profit drop more than a third to $392 million largely because of weaker advertising.
On the earnings call following the report, Mr. Bakish said he expected the decline in advertising to start to moderate in the current quarter, a sign that marketers were looking to open up their wallets a bit more.
The company also announced that Stephen Colbert and James Corden, its late night hosts, would be returning to the studio next week — but without a studio audience.
It didn’t just seem like everyone spent their lockdown playing Animal Crossing — they really were.
Nintendo, the creator of the game for its Switch consoles, reported on Thursday a staggering 541 percent increase in quarterly profit from the previous year.
Behind that number were 10.6 million sales of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, pushing the Japanese gaming company’s net income to 106.5 billion yen ($1 billion), and the company said “sales of this title continue to be strong with no loss of momentum.” Since it was released, there have been more than 22 million sales of the game, making it the most popular Animal Crossing game by a big margin. The only Nintendo Switch game that has ever sold more is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
Animal Crossing has brought in many new customers to Nintendo. Some of those new customers needed to buy a Switch console, and the company said the pandemic had made it difficult to get some of the parts needed to keep up with demand. In some regions there are still shortages. Still, in the second quarter, the Nintendo Switch platform accounted for about 340 billion yen in sales, more than double last year.
Another big-selling game was The Isle of Armor, an expansion of the Pokémon Sword and Shield game. Nintendo said it plans to sell another expansion of the game, The Crown Tundra, in the fall.
The government reported on Thursday that nearly 1.2 million workers filed new claims for state unemployment benefits last week. It was the lowest weekly total since March, but signaled the continuing damage that the pandemic is inflicting on the labor market.
An additional 656,000 claims were filed by freelancers, part-time workers and others who do not qualify for regular state jobless aid but are eligible for benefits under a separate federal unemployment insurance program, the Labor Department announced on Thursday. Unlike the state figures, that number is not seasonally adjusted.
“Over all, the data was modestly better than we expected, a surprising improvement,” said Kathy Bostjancic, chief U.S. financial economist at Oxford Economics. There were declines across nearly all the states, even those where there is a resurgence of the virus.
But jobless claims “remain at alarmingly high levels,” she said, and the stubbornly high number of people collecting unemployment — estimated by economists at 30 million — suggests that “temporary layoffs are becoming permanent.”
Although the number of new claims is down from the stratospheric levels reached in the early days of the pandemic, the million-plus tallies that have continued for 20 weeks in a row are still extraordinarily high by historical standards.
And now that emergency federal supplemental benefits have expired, the newest entrants to join the ranks of unemployed will not be receiving the extra $600 a week that has helped jobless workers pay bills through the spring and early summer.
Gannett and Tribune Publishing, two of the last remaining publicly traded newspaper chains, both reported impressive subscription growth alongside plummeting advertising sales during the second quarter of this year, which was dominated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Gannett — the largest newspaper chain in the country, publishing USA Today and more than 250 other dailies — saw a 31 percent increase in new digital subscriptions compared to the same quarter last year, it said Thursday morning. It has a total 927,000 digital subscribers.
But as marketers responded to the coronavirus and the economic slowdown it prompted by pulling back on ad spending, Gannett suffered, with print advertising falling 45 percent and digital advertising dropping 27 percent.
Gannett placed furloughs on most of its roughly 20,000 employees in response to the virus and, along with the related dip in travel expenses, this led to $125 million in savings during the quarter.
Absolute comparisons with a year ago are misleading, as an earlier, smaller version of Gannett merged last fall with the parent company of GateHouse Media to create the present, much larger version of Gannett. At the time of that deal, executive said it would result in $300 million in annual cost savings by the next year. On Thursday, Mike Reed, the chief executive, said in a statement that Gannett was on track to achieving that goal.
Though publicly traded and owned, Gannett is controlled under a deal that lasts through next year by a private equity firm, Fortress Investment Group, which is itself owned by the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank.
Tribune Publishing, owner of The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun and roughly 20 other newspapers, posted similar results. Digital subscribers rose 40 percent compared with the same quarter last year, to 419,000, while overall ad sales plunged 49 percent.
The growth in subscribers “marks our highest single quarter of digital subscriber acquisition since we launched our digital subscription product line many years ago,” said Terry Jimenez, the chief executive and president. “We are pleased that these new readers recognize the value in our product.”
The company also reported a 24 percent decline in operating expenses, reflecting efforts to reduce costs. Tribune Publishing journalists were offered buyouts at the beginning of the year, and once the pandemic arrived many were subject to furloughs or permanent pay cuts.
The hedge fund Alden Global Capital has a 32 percent stake in Tribune Publishing and three of seven board seats.
While the elevated levels of jobless claims show that businesses are still struggling to keep employees on the payroll, there has been some pickup in hiring. After drooping, job postings at the online jobs site ZipRecruiter rose by 7.4 percent in July and are still climbing, said Julia Pollak, the company’s labor economist.
But the latest economic data is mixed, she cautioned. Surveys from the Institute for Supply Management, for instance, showed that business activity in service industries expanded last month, but that the employment index declined, an indication that many companies are still not bringing back workers.
There were steep increases in joblessness related to the performing arts and other live events in July, Ms. Pollak said.
And announcements of impending layoffs continue to pile in. Ms. Pollak has been tracking plant closings and layoffs that the government requires to be announced in advance. “They are showing that new layoffs are still taking place at an alarming rate,” she said. “Plenty of layoffs are scheduled for August, September and October, as well.”
“Many companies are realizing now that the effects will be much longer than expected,” she said.
For Curtis Hoover, the freelance designing gig came just in time. His regular state unemployment benefits had run out, as had the weekly $600 supplement that Congress approved to help jobless workers make it through the pandemic. He was still eligible for payments under an emergency extension of benefits for 13 weeks, but the clock was ticking on that assistance as well.
“It couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Mr. Hoover, who got his first assignment this week. “I’m very grateful that I can work in my safe environment, although it’s odd jumping in as a team member when you have never met the team face to face.”
Mr. Hoover, who is 57 and lives in Reading, Pa., lost his job as a graphic designer last year. His search for new work got off to a slow start. He had an interview the week before the shutdowns — and remembers debating whether he should shake hands at the meeting — but it went nowhere. Two other interviews were canceled in the following weeks.
Last month, as the expiration of the $600 supplement loomed, he prepared for the steep cut in income. He pared his spending, canceling Netflix, ending his gym membership, and shopping more carefully at the supermarket.
“I’m in a fortunate position because I paid off my house several years ago,” Mr. Hoover said. “If I had a mortgage, I’d be in deep trouble by now.”
Wall Street’s rally stalled on Thursday, after a stretch of gains that had lifted the S&P 500 to within 2 percent of its record.
European shares were also lower, weighed down by warnings from Britain’s central bank of a slow recovery ahead. Asian stocks ended the day mostly in negative territory.
The U.S. Labor Department released data on Thursday showing that workers filed more than one million new state jobless claims for the 20th straight week, as the coronavirus pandemic continued to layoffs and business closures. But the tally for last week, of 1.2 million claims, was the lowest since March, and that helped limit the losses on Wall Street.
Also on Thursday, The Bank of England policymakers said that they expected the British economy to contract by 9 percent this year, a less severe downturn than they indicated a few months ago, but they also predicted that the economy would not return to its pre-pandemic levels until the end of 2021. Even in three years, they said, the economy will still be smaller than it would have been had the growth rate followed the path it was on at the end of 2019.
Glencore, the giant Swiss-based mining and commodities trader, said it would not pay shareholders a proposed $2.6 billion dividend because of continuing uncertainty caused by the coronavirus, and would instead focus on reducing its debt after reporting a loss for the first half of the year. Shares fell more than 4 percent before recovering, a main reason for the drop in the FTSE 100.
In Washington, prospects for a deal on a new rescue package to address the coronavirus’s toll on the economy appeared to dim. Top Democrats and White House officials on Wednesday remained nowhere close to an agreement and were growing increasingly pessimistic that they could meet a self-imposed Friday deadline as President Trump again threatened to act on his own to provide relief.
With rising concerns that temporary layoffs are turning into permanent job losses, economists worry what this will mean for workers at the bottom rungs of the labor market — those with the fewest skills and the lowest pay.
Workers in low-skill industries like restaurants and bars will need retraining to be hired in sectors like manufacturing, construction or technology, said Rebeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.
“It’s not easy to switch,” she said. “We are at risk of structural damage to the labor market.”
Ms. Farooqi also warned that the mounting number of school closings would make it difficult for parents — particularly mothers — to re-enter the work force, causing more lasting damage to the labor market.
Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other House Democrats signed on to a letter urging the Federal Reserve to do more to support state and local governments, adding to criticism that the central bank is being too cautious in some of the programs it set up to help the economy during the pandemic.
“Our states and cities are already anticipating unprecedented and catastrophic budget shortfalls,” according to the letter, shared with The New York Times ahead of its release on Thursday. It urges the Fed chair, Jerome H. Powell, to lower the rate charged on the loans the central bank makes to municipal bond holders to near-zero, while extending the debt payback period to at least five years.
The central bank is buying municipal bonds, something that Mr. Powell had long been wary of doing because he worried that it ran the risk of picking winners and losers. The Fed has restrained the pool of eligible borrowers and made the terms unattractive. Only Illinois has chosen to use the program to date, given its pricing.
The Fed generally charges relatively high rates in its emergency lending programs, because it tries not to compete with private capital. But the central bank’s role has blurred during the coronavirus crisis. For example, it now buys corporate bonds and offers loans to midsize businesses, backed by Congressional funding provided to the Treasury Department to protect the Fed against losses. Those programs have been difficult to run as a backup option, and in some cases provide credit alongside the private market rather than as a last resort.
The Democrat’s letter — led by Ms. Tlaib, Pramila Jayapal, Joe Neguse and Mark Pocan — argues that the central bank is offering friendlier loan terms to businesses than to state and local governments.
But it is difficult or impossible to make an apples-to-apples comparison between the terms of the corporate programs and the municipal facility, because the programs and the markets they aim to help are drastically different.
“The terms of borrowing are not particularly generous,” Charles Evans, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago told reporters this week, referring to the municipal program. “It would make sense for a lot of state and local governments to be waiting until they see what the parameters of fiscal support actually are.”
Mr. Evans said that lowering the interest rate could be a “sensible thing to do,” but he noted that the programs were settled on in conjunction with the Treasury Department.
“Sometimes there are differences of perspective there,” he said. The Treasury has generally been more risk-averse than the Fed in creating emergency facilities.
The Bank of England presented both a better and worse outlook for the British economy on Thursday. As the central bank left its monetary policy stance unchanged, policymakers said that they expected the British economy to contract by 9.5 percent this year, a less severe downturn than they indicated a few months ago, and the unemployment rate would peak at 7.5 percent at the end of the year.
But then the economy won’t return to its pre-pandemic level until the end of 2021, they said. Even in three years, the economy will still be smaller than it would have been had the growth rate followed the path it was on at the end of 2019.
The central bank said economic indicators suggested consumer spending was rising but the bank’s governor, Andrew Bailey, added that it was not possible to make confident forecasts based on the current state of the recovery. The latest projections have an “unusually large downside skew,” he said, meaning they included a wide range of possible negative outcomes.
While the central bank assumes the economic impact of the coronavirus will dissipate gradually over the next few years, its forecast is challenged by fears of a second pandemic wave. Even as the British government is encouraging people to eat out and return to their offices, it is putting parts of the country under another round of lockdown restrictions and delaying the reopening of some businesses because of flare-ups in the virus.
Amid speculation in financial markets about whether the Bank of England would adopt negative interest rates, the central bank published some analysis on the policy idea, saying that it would be less effective “at this time” but that negative rates were still an option.