How $349 billion was doled out, Whole Foods' heat map, and what's next for oil


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The floodgates opened on April 3, just before 9 a.m. on the East Coast, as applications for Bank of America’s small business loans started pouring into its new online portal.

So starts a story from Alex Morrell, Dominick Reuter, Jennifer Ortakales and Rebecca Ungarino on how big banks decided the futures of America’s small businesses.

Their story provides fresh insight into how almost $350 billion of government money was divvied up by banks as part of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) in a process that’s drawn a bunch of scrutiny. Specifically:

  • Jennifer reported that there are five lawsuits claiming JPMorgan, Bank of America, US Bank, and Wells Fargo “prioritized corporate greed” when handing out the government cash.
  • Libertina Brandt reported on a new study that shows over 100 public companies got $550 million of federal loans intended for “small businesses.”
  • Tom LoBianco reported that a Trump megadonor who hired Trump fundraisers to lobby the Trump administration got the biggest payout from the PPP. Tom later reported that the hotel conglomerate owned by the Trump megadonor says it has no plans to return the money.

As Alex, Dominick, Jennifer, and Rebecca report in their story on how it all went down:

The launch, rollout, and exhaustion of the first round of the PPP was as high stakes as it was complicated.

Banks had to reconfigure how they worked and contend with antiquated government tech.

Larger customers often got hands-on treatment from bankers, while the smallest businesses had to go through online portals.

You can read the full story here:

The inside story of how $349 billion in government cash was doled out in just 12 days, leaving thousands of entrepreneurs without relief

On Friday, President Trump signed another coronavirus relief bill into law, including almost $500 billion of fresh funds to support small businesses and the healthcare system. Kimberly Leonard and Dominick break down what’s in it for small businesses, hospitals, and the public here. 

The package specifically includes $320 billion for PPP. Rebecca got her hands on a memo showing Bank of America’s talking points for staffers on how to handle this next round of PPP loans. It warned that funds likely won’t meet “extreme need and demand.”

whole foods heat map tracking unions amazon 4x3Whole Foods’ heat map

Hayley Peterson reported this week that Amazon-owned Whole Foods is keeping an eye on stores at risk of unionizing through an interactive heat map. From her story:

The heat map is powered by an elaborate scoring system, which assigns a rating to each of Whole Foods’ 510 stores based on the likelihood that their employees might form or join a union.

The stores’ individual risk scores are calculated from more than two dozen metrics, including employee “loyalty,” turnover, and racial diversity; “tipline” calls to human resources; proximity to a union office; and violations recorded by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

You can read the story in full here:

Amazon-owned Whole Foods is quietly tracking its employees with a heat map tool that ranks which stores are most at risk of unionizing

Elsewhere in the retail industry:

  • Hayley reported that Kroger published a 17-page guide to operating a business amid the ongoing pandemic. Here are the biggest takeaways.
  • Tanya Dua reported that $1 billion startup Rent the Runway has furloughed 35% of its employees as the coronavirus ravages retail. Its future is now in question as coronavirus ravages retail.
  • A Neiman Marcus bankruptcy could mark a major blow to NYC’s glitzy Hudson Yards, one of the most expensive mega-malls in US history. Dan Geiger explained why.
  • UBS expects 100,000 stores to close across the US in the next five years. Mary Hanbury reported that Walmart, Costco, and Target could be among the last left standing. 
  • Bethany Biron reported that feminine care startups like Thinx and Top see big opportunities in barren drugstore shelves. “Periods don’t stop for pandemics,” one executive told her.

FILE PHOTO: Crude oil storage tanks are seen in an aerial photograph at the Cushing oil hub in Cushing, Oklahoma, U.S. April 21, 2020. REUTERS/Drone Base/File Photo

What’s next for oil?

The oil industry had a week. 

As Benji Jones reported, near-term contracts for US crude oil traded negative on Monday for the first time, settling at about minus $38 a barrel. If you’re wondering how that’s even possible, I’d recommend a couple of stories from Benji:

The price of US crude oil just went negative for the first time. Here’s what that really means and why it’s not free to fill up your car.


Why the price of oil is continuing to free-fall after a historic supply cut — and when experts think it may finally reach rock bottom

In related news:

  • Morgan Stanley reveals 17 energy-stock picks to buy now that the price of oil has collapsed — and which companies it says to avoid
  • Goldman Sachs talked to more than 100 investors about the historic oil market meltdown. Here are their top 5 questions — and what the firm thinks about each one, from dividends to the prospects for oil stocks.
  • Petroleum engineers can earn six figures straight out of college — more than any other major. We asked 4 professors whether the degree will pay off now that oil markets have collapsed.

Below are headlines on some of the stories you might have missed from the past week. Stay safe, everyone.

— Matt

  • Wall Street’s best-performing fund this year breaks down its long-term strategy that’s outsmarting 99% of its peers — and shares 7 stocks to buy for a post-pandemic world
  • Private-equity firms are scrambling to save portfolio companies by calling in money from investors and rewriting worst-case scenarios
  • Acclaimed tech investor Mary Meeker reveals the 5 ways coronavirus will upend the way we go to the doctor
  • John Martinis, the Google computer scientist who helped the company achieve ‘quantum supremacy’ last year, has resigned: ‘There was a lot of tension going on’
  • BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti faces his toughest leadership test ever as coronavirus slams his already-injured digital media company
  • ‘More community, more content, less expectation’: 9 venture capitalists say the future of audio-chat app Clubhouse depends on whether it’s still appealing post-quarantine
  • How to become a highly successful online tutor and make a lucrative living as virtual learning becomes the norm

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