Dec 22, 2021 • 6M

🗞️ "Hack-tivist" Investors Face The Music

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This Week: The vaccine mandate dance, Russian hackers play the markets, and Fox News becomes the story. Plus, Moderna backs off patent claims, and its anyone's guess on the Theranos verdict.

💃 Dance Of The Vaccine Mandate

It's been a whiplash last few weeks on several fronts—COVID being the culprit behind much of it. Now, businesses are left confused by the back and forth legal saga of the Biden Administration's COVID vaccine mandate. Last week an appeals court lifted a previously imposed block on the federal mandate—that is to say, the mandate was back in effect for large employers nationwide—but new appeals piled on immediately, throwing the mandate back into legal limbo. 

  • “My clients are totally confused as, quite frankly, am I,” Erin McLaughlin, a labor and employment lawyer at Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney, told the New York Times. “My sense is that there are a lot of employers scrambling to try and put their [own] mandate programs in place.”

A Changing Landscape

The federal mandate is not the only COVID protocol employers need to figure out. States have been passing their own legislation (some banning mandates, others enforcing them) regarding vaccines, and the very question of what constitutes full vaccination has been thrown in the air with the new Omicron variant (to boost or not to boost, that is the question). And with cases spiking again, decisions need to be made fast.

The Verdict

Wherever the mandate lands in courts, it seems more and more large firms (airlines, banks, retailers, etc.) are creating their own mandates for employees. What's more? Those who require employees to vaccinate seem to be successful in their push.

🔐 "Hack-tivist" Investors Face The Music

Russian hacks are not limited to ransoms anymore. Five Russians (one with ties to the Kremlin) have been accused of hacking the servers of two companies that assist others with filing earnings reports with the SEC. The hackers then used this unreleased information to trade stocks, which banked them over $82.5 million. Vladislav Klyushin, one of those involved in the scheme, is facing a lawsuit by the SEC as well as criminal charges that include conspiracy and securities fraud.

  • Among the companies who earnings reports were targeted: IBM, Snap, and Tesla.

  • Ivan Yermakov, who authorities say was responsible for this hack, was one of several Russian military intelligence officers charged for their cyberattack operations designed to interfere with the 2016 US presidential election, notes Reuters

The New Face of Conflict

Cyber attacks are increasingly becoming the preferred tactic for organized criminals and nation-states alike. In Russia, the line between those two groups is especially blurred—and the Kremlin prefers it that way, says the New York Times. "For Mr. Putin, a cyber attack that he can officially deny, but no one doubts is his handiwork, is the best of both worlds." 

The Verdict

As Russian-linked hacks have intensified (and their targets/motives have become more diversified) in recent years, the US response has been anemic at best. Whether or not Klyushin is convicted (or any of the others involved are brought to justice) it took the US over 4 years to act in response. That's a century in Internet years. 

📰 Fox News Becomes The Story

It was the Big Story on Fox News for several weeks after the 2020 election: that the machines of Dominion Voting Systems were rigged and helped steal the election away from former president Donald Trump. These outlandish and patently-false claims led Dominion to slap Fox with a $1.6 billion defamation suit. But a recent attempt by the cable news network to dismiss the lawsuit has been rejected by a Superior Court Judge in Delaware.

  • Judge Eric M. Davis denied Fox News's motion as it was “reasonably conceivable that Dominion has a claim for defamation," reports the New York Times. Davis added that Fox had “a high degree of awareness” that its claims about Dominion were false.

  • Fox tried to defend its coverage stating that it was protected under the First Amendment and freedom of the press, says the AP. The news network added that it was simply presenting both sides of a story central to American Democracy.

Correcting The Record

Dominion had repeatedly tried to correct Fox News about its voting machines. In fact, Judge Davis noted that “when Fox guests spread or reiterated disinformation about Dominion, Fox did not use the information Dominion provided to correct its guests or to reorient its viewers,” cites the ABA Journal. The voting machine firm is suing Rudy Giuliani, personal lawyer for Trump, over similar claims of defamation. 

The Verdict

Should Fox News face no accountability for the baseless claims it peddled to millions of viewers for weeks, it would set a rather problematic precedent for media organizations covering future elections.

📤 What Else We're Forwarding

Theranos Verdict: With the jury in deliberation, is the Elizabeth Holmes/Theranos trial as sure a guilty verdict as it would seem, wonders Marketplace. The defense made a compelling case for Holmes’s honest intentions.   

Creation Myth: Moderna is backing off claims that the central component of its COVID-19 vaccine was solely its creation, says Law360. The NIH, which helped Moderna develop the vaccine during a 4-year partnership, is making similar claims about its role in the process.

🎧 Music We’re Working To

Today we’re listening to Tomu DJ, a California based producer and DJ. Way before even visiting a club, Tamu began to put in parties for friends while at college in Oregon. We’re listening to her debut album, FEMINISTA, which she started recording after surviving a car accident just before lockdown hit. It’s a delicate LP with muted tones that capture vulnerability and a gaze towards a lighter future.

FEMINISTA - Tomu DJ (40m, no vocals)
Spotify / Apple Music / YouTube Music / Amazon Music

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Happy holidays everyone, see ya next week!

✌🏽 Raad