JPMorgan CEO: US economy is 'strong and it's getting stronger'

JPMorgan CEO: US economy is ‘strong and it’s getting stronger’

Jamie Dimon says that President Donald Trump should get some credit for the economy.

“When President Trump was elected, confidence skyrocketed,” the JPMorgan Chase CEO told ABC News’ Rebecca Jarvis in an interview that aired on Sunday’s “This Week.” “Pro-business, pro-competitive taxes, pro- some regulatory reform, and that has helped the economy. It’s impossible for me to tease out how much, but it has helped the economy.”

“He should take some credit for that.” Dimon added.

Jarvis asked what grade Dimon would give the president on economic policy.

“I’d say pretty good,” he said. Jarvis pushed him: “B+? A-?

“Yeah, something like that,” Dimon said.

Dimon spoke with Jarvis privately after a panel at JPMorgan Chase’s New York headquarters that was the center of a controversy last week.

During the public event, Dimon said he “could beat Trump” in a presidential election.”I’m as tough as he is, I’m smarter than he is. I would be fine.”

He later said in a statement that he should not have made the remarks “I’m not running for President,” he said.

But that didn’t stop the president from firing off an angry tweet directed at Dimon: “[H]e doesn’t have the aptitude or ‘smarts’ & is a poor public speaker & nervous mess – otherwise he is wonderful,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning. “I’ve made a lot of bankers, and others, look much smarter than they are with my great economic policy!”

In addition to his assessment of President Trump’s impact, Dimon also said the next time the economy goes south, it won’t be the fault of banks.

“The banking system is very, very, very healthy,” he said.

His comments come just over 10 years to the day after investment bank Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Dimon said regulators deserve to take a victory lap for the protections that have been put in place since the collapse.

“There will be a recession one day,” he said. “But it won’t be the banking system” that causes it. “It’ll probably be something else.”

Dimon said he recognized people were hurt by the recession and angry with banks for engaging in the risky mortgage lending practices that triggered the economic meltdown.

“Some [banks] caused the problem and I understand that the American public looks at it and it’s unfair, and it was,” Dimon said.

And many of those banks were then aided by the US government.

“Banks got help. I mean I think the government did the right thing, I want to give full credit,” Dimon said. “But not all the banks needed that. And all those banks, including JPMorgan, continued to lend money every day to all their clients nonstop around the world.”

Dimon was asked how he, as the head of one of the world’s largest banks, could help ease that anger.

“I can’t,” he said. “There’s nothing I can do. All I can do is serve my client everywhere around the world, do good things.”

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Michael Avenatti: Fox host lost respect

Michael Avenatti: Fox host lost respect

Many Democrats, even presidential hopefuls, avoid appearing on Fox News.

Michael Avenatti, the attorney for adult film star Stormy Daniels who is mulling a possible bid for president, did the opposite.

He appeared on the network in a raucous interview with Tucker Carlson on Thursday.

Why did he decide to go straight into the “lion’s den” of Fox News?

Brian Stelter, host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” asked Avenatti, who has made the rounds on cable news outlets like MSNBC and CNN over the past few months, about the strategy behind appearing on the conservative network and Carlson’s show.

“If you’re going to be a fighter, and you’re going to fight for the future of this country and lead the Democratic Party, then you can’t be ducking fights,” Avenatti said. “Frankly, sometimes you have to go into the belly oft he beast, as they say, and take on some of these individuals even if they’re entirely unprofessional, like Tucker Carlson.”

Carlson has repeatedly referred to Avenatti as “creepy porn lawyer.” On Thursday, Carlson pledged to be respectful during the interview. But the insult appeared on screen in text: “Tucker takes on creepy porn lawyer,” one chyron read.

Avenatti said he was not aware of the text while he was on the program, but found out later.

“I thought that was completely unprofessional,” he said.

Fox News did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the text used to describe Avenatti.

Stelter also asked Avenatti how serious he is about a potential bid for the Democratic nomination in 2020.

“I’m very serious, Brian,” he said. “People are encouraging me to do it.”

He thinks his media savvy will help.

“We live in a different media age, a different realm if you will. And whoever is going to aspire to the presidency is going to need to understand what that realm entails and how to navigate it,” Avenatti said.

“And Donald Trump, you can say a lot of negative things about him, and I do, and I think he’s completely unprepared for the office and he lacks the fabric to lead this nation, but if there’s one thing that he understands, it’s branding and how to navigate the media,” he said.

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Salesforce CEO: Facebook and Twitter may need more regulation

Salesforce CEO: Facebook and Twitter may need more regulation

Another tech CEO is buying a prestigious print publication.

This time it’s Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and his wife Lynne Benioff. They are buying Time Magazine for $190 million from Meredith Corp.

“The Benioffs will hold Time as a family investment,” Time editor in chief Edward Felsenthal told his staffers when the deal was announced on Sunday night.

“It will have no connection to Salesforce, the software company Marc founded in 1999,” Felsenthal said. “While they will not be operators of the business, we are extremely fortunate to have Marc and Lynne’s guidance and mentorship as we set out to build a new company.”

Meredith said the deal is expected to close in the next 30 days. The Wall Street Journal first reported the sale.

The Time transaction immediately called to mind Jeff Bezos’s purchase of The Washington Post for $250 million. That deal, almost exactly five years ago, was an eye-popping example of a tech guru getting into the journalism business.

The Post purchase was separate from Bezos’s role as CEO as Amazon.

Benioff is promising a similar arrangement with Time.

“As almost everyone knows, Time is a treasure trove of our history and culture,” he said in an email message to CNN on Sunday night. “We have deep respect for their entire organization, and are honored to now have Time as part of our family impact investment portfolio.”

“The power of Time has always been in its unique story telling of the people and issues that affect us all and connect us all,” Benioff said. “Lynne and I will take on no operational responsibility for Time, and look only to be the stewards of this historic and iconic brand.”

Despite those reassurances, there will surely be some scrutiny about a Silicon Valley CEO taking over Time, a magazine that frequently covers subjects like technology’s impact on society.

The deal is also reminiscent in some ways of Laurene Powell Jobs’ acquisition of a majority stake in The Atlantic last year. Jobs, a well-known investor and philanthropist, is the widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs.

Felsenthal said in his memo to staffers that the Benioffs have “a confluence of purpose” when it comes to owning Time.

“One of the first challenges Marc and Lynne gave us is to think big, really big. Beyond the five-year plan, what will TIME look like in 2040? What will it mean to people decades from now?” Felsenthal said. “That’s what we’ll all be thinking about as we create a new home for TIME rooted in what we know how to do so well, with the resources we need to reach our greatest potential as individuals and as a team, supported by owners with a sterling record of innovation and of building collaborative, creative cultures.”

Meredith took control of Time magazine and the rest of Time Inc. last November. Meredith promptly turned around and said it would sell some titles that were not a great fit with its existing titles. Time, for example, is a weekly newsmagazine, while most of Meredith’s brands are monthlies.

Meredith confirmed the sale plans back in March. It had hoped to strike a deal within a couple of months, but the process took much longer than expected.

Meredith is still working on selling three other former Time Inc. titles: Fortune, Money, and Sports Illustrated. Benioff is not buying those.

It is unclear when the other three will be sold.

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SEOUL — With denuclearization talks between the U.S. and North Korea stalled, South Korean President Moon Jae-in is set to visit Pyongyang on Tuesday in a bid to revive diplomacy after a summer of challenges.

At a planned three-day summit, Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are expected to hold talks on a declaration to formally end the Korean War, more than six decades after fighting was halted by an armistice.

North Korea sees a permanent peace deal as an important indication that Washington is willing to end what it calls a hostile policy toward Pyongyang — and a step toward removal of U.S. forces from South Korea.

In exchange, U.S. and South Korean experts believe that the South Korean delegation will push the North to produce a detailed inventory of its nuclear and missile programs, something it has never before been willing to do.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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Time magazine will have a new home.

Nearly eight months after Meredith Corp.

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  completed its purchase of Time Inc., the publisher has agreed to sell Time magazine for $190 million to Marc Benioff, co-founder of Salesforce.com

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 , and his wife Lynne Benioff.

The proposed sale is expected to close within 30 days. The Benioffs are buying Time as individuals; the agreement is unrelated to Salesforce.com, where Marc Benioff also serves as chairman and co-chief executive.

In an interview, Marc Benioff said, “We’re investing in a company with tremendous impact on the world, one that is also an incredibly strong business. That’s what we’re looking for when we invest as a family.” The Benioffs are optimistic about Time’s large audience and growing video business. “The power of Time is its unique story telling of the people and issues that affect us all and connect us all,” said Lynne Benioff.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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BOSTON — The series of deadly gas explosions and fires in three communities north of Boston last week occurred after too much natural gas was pumped into a section of pipe owned by Columbia Gas, causing the combustible fuel to leak into homes, authorities said Sunday.

The National Transportation Safety Board “can confirm at this time that this was indeed an overpressure situation,” NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said at news briefing.

State and federal authorities are investigating after at least 60 fires and explosions traced to gas lines erupted Thursday in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, about 25 miles north of Boston, killing an 18-year-old man and injuring multiple people.

The NTSB, which investigates major pipeline accidents as well as transportation incidents, believes that gas flowed into homes at “significantly greater” flow rates and pressure than it was supposed to, Sumwalt said. “The real question for this investigation is to answer why this occurred,” he said.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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More than two years after his ouster from LendingClub, Renaud Laplanche still owns millions of dollars worth of stock in the company he created, even though he’s since started a rival online lender that’s rapidly growing.

“I still very much believe in the company and the people who work there,” Laplanche told CNBC.

For his second act in financial services, Laplanche is focused on avoiding past mistakes. He was forced to resign suddenly from LendingClub in May 2016 for a convoluted set of events involving the questionable sale of certain loans by the company and a lack of transparency with the board.

LendingClub has struggled to recover. Since debuting on the New York Stock Exchange at $15 in late 2014, the shares have lost more than three-quarters of their value to $3.38 at Friday’s close.

Laplanche started his new company, Upgrade, in August 2016, three months after leaving LendingClub. His start-up passed $100 million in monthly loan originations in April. By way of comparison, LendingClub, founded in 2016, averaged almost $1 billion in monthly originations in the second quarter.

Laplanche sees plenty of room for both companies to succeed given that low unemployment and loosening regulations have spurred growth in consumer lending. At the end of the second quarter, there were $120 billion worth of outstanding personal loans in the U.S., according to TransUnion.

Here are some key things Laplanche said he’s doing differently with Upgrade:

While Upgrade is headquartered in San Francisco, just a few blocks from LendingClub, Laplanche has opted to hire people for the company’s call center in Phoenix, where real estate and talent are much cheaper. Upgrade has 100 employees in San Francisco, and 180 in Phoenix, with another 25 in Montreal.

Laplanche said that he’s able to find plenty of more affordable talent in the Phoenix region, hiring people with experience at banks and other financial institutions in the areas of customer service, loan servicing and collections. Those functions were all handled in San Francisco when Laplanche was scaling LendingClub.

Laplanche said he plans to eventually employ 300 people there.

LendingClub was founded in 2006, and was a product of its age, with its core consumer lending service built on a traditional Oracle database designed to serve one primary function: personal loans.

“That’s all it did for seven or eight years and the code was very specialized,” Laplanche said. “It was hard to build the next product because of that.”

A decade later, Laplanche has many more tools at his disposal. He built Upgrade using an open-source database called Postgres that allows him to link more services — or microservices — as the company grows. When Upgrade offers a tool to help customers monitor their credit or a new type of credit line and eventually a mortgage, the data from each source can be easily pulled together from different places.

There’s a microservice for income verification and another for fraud detection, and “all of these components can be rearranged in different ways to create new products,” Laplanche said.

In April, Upgrade introduced a personal credit line that allows borrowers to draw down money when they need it and only get charged interest on the amount they use. The balance turns into an installment loan, giving borrowers the ability to pay it off over a longer period of time at the same interest rate.

One problem Laplanche encountered at LendingClub was the way investments were made on the platform and how they were recorded. Big institutions, serving as lenders, could cherry-pick the loans they wanted to back, based on the data available about borrowers’ credit histories and their likelihood to repay. Smaller retail investors were often given access to the leftovers, or the loans the big players didn’t want.

There were also potential conflicts of interest. Laplanche and other executives were able to invest in various ways through third-party funds without a clear set of rules surrounding disclosures. One particular investment ultimately landed Laplanche in hot water.

At Upgrade, investors don’t get to pick their specific loans. Rather, they set out risk parameters and can invest in the classes of debt that meet those selected standards. And if Laplanche or another co-founder or senior executive wants to invest on the platform or be part of any related-party transaction, they first have to get shareholder approval.

“It separates two activities that should be separate,” Laplanche said. “What we do, which is loan origination and servicing, from what asset managers do, handling investor capital.”

Upgrade has raised three rounds of financing, most recently pulling in $62 million last month at a reported $500 million valuation. However, any investor coming on board is buying non-voting shares, meaning they’re leaving critical decisions to Laplanche and his team of co-founders.

It’s not uncommon for tech companies to put this kind of control in the hands of the founders. Google and Facebook investors have left much of their fate in the hands of Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Mark Zuckerberg. More recent examples include Snap and software company Domo, where the founders get to call the shots.

Laplanche said investors prefer it this way because it keeps the board and a few powerful investors from taking brash action that are not in the best interest of all shareholders.

“They specifically asked for me and the co-founders to have the voting rights so they can’t be in a position where the board makes a decision that’s not necessarily aligned with shareholders,” he said. “Once you explain the rationale, it’s almost a shareholder protection feature.”

There are exceptions. For example, investments on the platform by founders require shareholder approval, as do things like mergers and acquisitions and capital raises.

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A new start-up is allowing some Uber users to kill two birds with one stone: Hailing a ride while checking off their shopping lists.

Cargo, a convenience store on the go, is giving Uber drivers the ability to sell items like snacks, beauty products and phone chargers from a console box located in the center of the vehicle. The company currently is active in nine cities, including New York, Atlanta, Dallas, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Through a partnership with Grab, Cargo currently has over 7,000 boxes on the road and is live in nine cities in the U.S. as well as internationally.

In a few cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, drivers are able to pick up Cargo at Uber’s Greenlight Hubs, where car operators come for on-boarding and personalized help. For its part, Uber hopes that the console, which is free for drivers to use, will help them earn extra income.

The company, founded by CEO Jeff Cripe and Jasper Wheeler in 2016, raised their initial seed round, $1.75 million through Techstars. This year, Cargo raised an additional $5.5 million from CRCM Ventures and eighteen94 capital, part of Kellogg’s venture capital fund.

In an interview, Cripe compared his product to Boingo — which provides Internet service at airports — and Panasonic Avionics, which allows video streaming on airplanes.

And much like startups who disrupted airplane service delivery, Cargo hopes to achieve the same for cars, especially as the industry prepares for a driverless future. For now, the company sees itself as a provider of food, but in the future expects to branch out to entertainment and beyond.

“You look at the airline industry and you think back to your last flight and you realize, ‘Wow, there was a big multi billion dollar company that provided me with all the snacking and beverage services on that flight.” Cripe told CNBC.

“All these things provide comfort, productivity and entertainment,” he added. “It’s really things that passengers want and opt into because they’re a passive audience.”

Here’s how it works: Riders can download Cargo’s app, then must scan the QR or Snapcode on the driver’s console. They can also navigate to Cargo’s website to brows items specific to the car they’re in. The menus include a range of items passengers can buy, as well as free samples.

After selecting an item, customers can checkout and the driver then hands them their purchase when it’s safe to do so. Customers can check out using Apple Pay, Venmo, Paypal, Android Pay, or by entering their credit card information.

For now, only Uber drivers with a 4.7 rating or above (on a scale of 1-5) are able to add Cargo to their car. Drivers make $1 per purchase, and can pocket 25 percent of the item’s cost. They can also give out free samples to customers: About 1 percent of every box is filled with samples, and drivers make money even if only free samples are selected.

The commission structure leads to Uber pilots making an extra $100 a month from Cargo on average, with top drivers making about $300, Cripe said.

Cargo has established partnerships with Kellogg’s, Starbucks and Mars Wrigley Confectionery, and has sold over $1 million worth of items via the platform, according to the company. The application also provides regional products like Korean face masks, or local brands. Cargo also shares limited user data with companies, such as which products were most popular, and what time of day they sold best.

Though the company does service cities outside of L.A. and San Francisco, those are the two locations in which drivers can pick up their boxes directly from Uber hubs. The deal is also helping earn money for Uber, which will be amassing equity in Cargo over a multi year period during the partnership. Cargo declined to specify Uber’s exact stake.

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Sebastian Thrun, one of the best known entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, is taking on a new challenge that’s a big shift from his work in autonomous transportation or online education:

He’s working to automate sales chats.

Thrun, who founded Google‘s research lab X and its autonomous car project, education start-up Udacity, and electric aircraft company KittyHawk, is a co-founder and chairman of a stealthy enterprise company called Cresta AI. He’s the elder statesman of the founding team, which includes Zayd Enam and Tim Shi, who are both in their late 20s.

Cresta’s artificial intelligence-powered system is designed to help automate mundane office jobs, allowing users to get work done more efficiently.

“If we train AI to take over boring repetitive tasks, we can free humanity and reach new heights,” Thrun told CNBC.

Enam, Cresta’s CEO, describes an unusual situation that he counts as a sign of the success.

A sales representative using Cresta’s product recently told him that she got a sudden nosebleed while on the clock sending chat messages to customers, but was able to continue her work unimpeded. While ebbing the bleeding with one hand, she could click Cresta’s conversational suggestions with the other.

The image of an employee working through the loss of vital fluids may seem bleak, but Enam says it illustrates the product’s value. Just imagine all the other types of distractions you may need to work through or the mundane tasks that could be breezed through faster. The Cresta system finds patterns from successful experiences and serves employees chat recommendations based on all that data.

“We want to build artificial intelligence that makes people experts on the first day of their job,” Enam said. “Ultimately we help sales agents make more money. They’re having more effective conversations and they’re having more of them.”

The company currently works with three chat centers across the country.

Cresta got its start in Stanford’s artificial intelligence research lab, where Thrun is an adjunct professor. Enam charts the genesis of the idea to a model he built using data about Udacity’s human graders. Udacity students can rank the people who grade their work based on how helpful they are. The system Enam and Shi built could make recommendations to low-scoring graders based on the successes of high-scoring graders.

“We’re trying to empower teams to operate like autonomous car fleets,” Enam said. “When one person does something effectively, everyone else learns from their success, and when someone makes a mistake, everyone can learn from that too.”

AI-powered enterprise technology is a hot space right now, with start-ups using systems that learn from vast amounts of data to automate processes in data centers, security, and communication.

David Hornik, a partner at August Capital who has invested in enterprise software startups including Splunk, said that AI and machine learning are the next obvious step after big data to help companies work smarter.

“Anyone who’s funded a company that has a call center knows that it’s extraordinarily hard to keep those employees on the payroll — there’s huge turnover,” he said. “If there’s an opportunity to remove the most menial and repetitive questions from the workload of those representatives, they’ll have a better more engaging job and stay at the company longer.”

It’s still very early days for Cresta. The company has about 20 employees and recently raised a seed round of funding.

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These self-driving concept vehicles are like nothing you've seen before

These self-driving concept vehicles are like nothing you’ve seen before

BMW has unveiled its vision for a self-driving electric crossover SUV and, if it actually ends up being a lot like the concept version, it should be a pretty cozy place to hang out.

The BMW Vision iNext is a concept vehicle for now. But BMW executives said they plan to put something like it into production in 2021.

The car was unveiled inside the belly of a cargo plane at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. Inside, BMW’s executives displayed working versions of some of the technologies being considered for the car, including touch sensitive fabrics and interactive projections. As with any concept vehicle, it’s not yet clear which aspects or capabilities will actually be in the production version.

The front end of the Vision iNext features a new version of BMW’s trademark “kidney” grill, which features two rounded rectangles. In the Vision iNext, the rectangular shapes are connected by a broad center section, creating something like a massive letter H. This grill is largely cosmetic, however, since a large radiator isn’t needed on a fully electric car. A major reason for this center section is to cover the front-mounted cameras and sensors that enable the car’s self-driving capabilities.

The interior of the car has a deliberately crafted room-like ambience. The seats, walls and even the dashboard are covered in richly textured fabrics. Instead of the usual center console between the front seats there is a table-like structure with a metal base and an inlaid wooden top.

BMW engineers are working on technologies that would allow the wood surface of the table to be used like a touch pad. This is similar to the way, in BMW cars now, drivers can write letters with their fingers on top of a large plastic control knob. Occupants of the iNext may also be able to write letters and shapes with their fingers on the car’s seat fabrics.

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The BMW Vision iNext’s grill hides sensors for autonomous driving.

BMW executives also showed off a projection technology that allows a user to hold a light cardboard sheet in their lap to use as a sort of tablet computer. Images, which the user can interact with, are projected from above onto the sheet which can even be moved around as it used. The projection beam follows the pad so that it never slips off the page.

BMW INext interior
The interior of the BMW Vision iNext is designed to be warm and homey.

One prevailing theme in the design of the Vision iNext is that technology should be, as much as possible, invisible until needed. (BMW calls it “Shy-tech.”) That helps the inside of the car be as comfortable and relaxing as possible. When the car is in self-driving mode, the steering wheel draws away from the driver and the brake and accelerator pedal retract into the floor. The front seat headrests also fold back so occupants can more easily see and speak with one another.

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The concept car was unveiled inside a cargo jet ithat traveled to four cities in five days.

BMW has said it plans to design and engineer future models so they can all be produced with a choice of internal combustion, electric or hybrid power. That will allow the company to easily shift production of new cars to suit consumer and regulatory demands as they shift.

The Vision iNext was revealed to journalists at four different airports — in Munich, New York, San Francisco and Beijing — over the course of five days earlier this week. The vehicle was packed into an exhibition space inside a Lufthansa Cargo jet that flew to each of the cities in succession. Journalists were invited on board the plane to see the car and speak with company officials.

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