The Week in Business: The Sackler Family Gets Sued, and Theresa May’s Darkest Hour

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Here’s your checklist of everything to know in business and tech for the coming week, so you can feel up-to-date and well-rounded even if all you want to talk about is Meghan Markle’s baby. (Any day now!) Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

MARCH 24-30

Eight members of the Sackler family, owners of the pharmaceutical company that makes the potent (and highly addictive) opioid OxyContin, have been sued for fraud by New York State. They are accused of hiding profits and siphoning hundreds of millions of dollars from their company, Purdue Pharma, into personal offshore accounts while the business was under investigation for its role in stoking the opioid epidemic. Since OxyContin came on the market in 1996, more than 200,000 people in the United States have died from overdoses involving prescription opioids, and the Sacklers have become one of the country’s wealthiest families.

If you take a Lyft this week, pay attention — does it feel any different to use the world’s first publicly traded ride-hailing platform? Perhaps not, but at least you’re both going places. The company made its market debut on Friday, hitting the Nasdaq with much fanfare at $72 a share. It finished its first day of trading at $78.29 (putting its value at more than $26.4 billion), and its Silicon Valley brethren will be closely watching its progress. A wave of other big tech start-ups — known as “unicorns” once they cross the threshold of a $1 billion dollar valuation, although these are now technically “decacorns” — plan to follow in Lyft’s footsteps later this year, including Uber (Lyft’s bigger competitor), Slack, Pinterest and Postmates.

Apple is turning over a new leaf — or several. The tech company plans this fall to start streaming original programming and shows from partnering networks on an app called Apple TV Plus, intended to rival Netflix and HBO. It’s also rolling out a news service that charges users $10 a month to access over 300 different publications, some of which charge subscription fees otherwise. Plus, it’s introducing more games. And — why not? — a credit card with Goldman Sachs. It’s all part of a larger plan to diversify beyond hardware products like iPhones, which haven’t been bringing in as much revenue lately.


What’s to become of Brexit? As its original deadline of March 29 came and went, Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union is a bigger mess than ever. The British Parliament rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s last-ditch effort to pass her plan on Friday, even when she played her final bargaining chip — her own seat, which she offered to give up if opposing lawmakers would agree to the deal. That wasn’t enough. Now, Britain is lurching toward a potential “no-deal” Brexit on April 12. That could have catastrophic consequences for its economy and send shock waves through Europe and beyond.

Look out for more definitive news about what may have caused the two deadly Boeing 737 Max plane crashes, and what Boeing and the Federal Aviation Authority plan to do about it. Investigators reached a preliminary conclusion on Thursday that a glitchy system kicked in right before the Ethiopian Airlines flight went down earlier this month. Boeing has proposed updating the software and making other changes to the planes, which have been grounded for more than two weeks. The fixes would give pilots more control over the flight system and make it less likely to be set off by faulty data. Boeing didn’t provide a timeline for carrying out the fixes, since it needs the F.A.A. — also under intense scrutiny over its certification of the jet — to give its blessing first.

If you’re sick of the trade war between the United States and China, imagine how the negotiators on both sides feel at this point. Chinese officials will fly back to Washington this week to continue talks, just days after American representatives visited Beijing. But the needle is moving on one major sticking point: intellectual property. American companies have complained of pressure to share their proprietary technology as a condition of working with Chinese business partners, only to see that technology adopted by Chinese competitors. As part of a trade deal, the United States wants to put a lid on this practice, and officials say that progress is finally being made.

Facebook has been accused of causing housing discrimination by allowing advertisers to target ads on the platform based on characteristics like race, religion and national origin. Separately, the platform announced a ban on all white nationalist content after a New Zealand gunman used social media to post live video of his attacks on two mosques. In other news, Wow Air, an Icelandic budget airline, ceased operations with no warning on Thursday, leaving passengers stranded. And speaking of dud flights: The first all-female spacewalk was canceled when astronauts couldn’t find spacesuits to fit them at the International Space Station.