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🐜 Ant's huge IPO: squashed

Good Monday afternoon. Congrats on making it through last week. You might be tired, but no one's as t
Good Monday afternoon. Congrats on making it through last week. You might be tired, but no one’s as tired as CNN anchor and chartthrob John King, who slept 6.5 hours during election week.
In today’s issue:
  • Ant’s IPO heartbreak.
  • Artsy money laundering.
  • Advertisers like data.
  • Trump lawyers up.
Also: you guys loved our mid-week election special. Email us with what type of law you’d like to see us cover next week!

Ant Gets Squashed
Regulators squashed Ant Group’s IPO on Thursday, two days before the Chinese company was due to go public in Shanghai and Hong Kong.
What’s Ant? A super profitable fintech spin-off of Jack Ma’s Alibaba. The jewel in Ant’s crown is Alipay, a financial app with over 1 billion users. Think PayPal, but on steroids.
Ant was scuttling towards a record-breaking $35 billion IPO.
Until China reached for the repellant. Jack Ma recently bad-mouthed China’s regulators and banks for stifling innovation with their “pawnshop” mentality. A few days later, Jack and Ant’s exec team were dragged into a private meeting with four Chinese regulators.
Based on what happened next, the meeting wasn’t a polite breakfast catch up over a tray of pastries:
  • Shanghai postponed the IPO, citing “major issues” like Ant not meeting certain listing conditions.
  • Ant willingly pulled its listing in Hong Kong because of vague disclosure requirements.
Beijing’s wish is Ant’s command. Jack Ma and Chinese authorities have always had a love-hate relationship:
  • Love when an IPO showboats China’s economic strength during a pandemic.
  • Hate when private companies veer outside the government’s control.
And their rocky affair is making Western markets antsy. Shares in Alibaba plunged 9% in New York, and look unlikely to recover until Jack Ma reconciles with regulators.
In other IPO news, Airbnb might be going public next month.
You’ve Been Framed
Last week, the US Treasury Department put art galleries on watch for money laundering.
Why? Galleries are the perfect financial crime scene. Transactions are shrouded in confidentiality and often involve mysterious shell companies that no one’s heard of.
Like Pantheon Worldwide, the since-vanished shell company that worked with art traffickers who looted archaeological sites.
So you might be buying your latest painting from a nice, cuddly Bob Ross type. Or a crime lord. Its 50/50.
Art can be sketchy. People have been taking advantage of how unregulated the US art industry is for years.
In 2014, Putin’s BFFs – Arkardy and Boris Rotenberg – embarked on a $18.4 billion art spree in an attempt to dodge US sanctions. Critics have also tutted at Christie’s and Sotheby’s for (supposedly) ignoring art with suspicious origins.
Looking ahead. One lawyer thinks the Treasury Dept.’s warning is a sign authorities might be gearing up to take legal action against suspicious art dealers.
Zoom out. America’s art scene has been a little lethargic. The UK (and most EU countries) introduced strict art money laundering regs earlier this year.
Clear Your Browser History
The Open Rights Group (ORG) is suing the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for closing its investigation into the adtech industry’s anti-GDPR practices.
Huh? Two years ago, ORG tattled on the advertising industry for routinely breaching the GDPR. The ICO did a little digging around and found a treasure trove of shady behavior.
Like companies collecting and sharing people’s browser histories without restricting who can access them in the future. It’s a systemic violation of privacy, and the reason you’re creeped out by how accurate Facebook’s targeted ads are.
Then things got weird. In September, the ICO pulled the plug on the investigation for no reason. ORG was pretty peeved and lawyered up. It’s convinced the ICO can’t be bothered with the hassle of holding adtech accountable, and would rather sweep the complex case under the rug.
For advertisers, the GDPR is the annoying little brother you have to take everywhere. Data privacy gets in the way of what adtech is supposed to do – trade as much personal data as possible.
Making the two see eye-to-eye is a mammoth job the ICO just wasn’t up for.
For everyone else, the story is a little different. People have an increasing sense of ownership over their data, and want authorities to curb when it’s used illegally.
Zoom out. 2020 hasn’t been kind to adtech. Earlier this week, Oracle and Salesforce were hit with big class action suits in the High Court for improperly using browser data.
Trump’s Season Finale
Image: Giphy
Image: Giphy
Longest. Election. Ever. While the world breathed a sigh of relief when America’s election finally ended this weekend, Trumpworld was busy plotting ways to stay in DC.
Trump’s advisors - led by Rudy Guiliani - have carefully drafted a really, really great legal strategy. Maybe the best legal strategy of all time.
Sue everyone for everything. Here’s a rundown of the lawsuits Trump’s campaign has filed so far:
  • Arizona. Trump filed a lawsuit alleging in-person votes were rejected on Election Day [case pending].
  • Pennsylvania. Trump’s crew (a) demanded to stop counting votes until monitors could observe the process [case dismissed]; and (b) challenged rules that let voters fix errors on their mail-in ballots [case pending].
  • Michigan. Trump wanted to stop counting absentee ballots because Republican officials (supposedly) hadn’t been given a chance to monitor the process [case dismissed].
  • Georgia. Trump asked to disqualify 53 ballots after a poll watcher reportedly saw late ballots get mixed with other ballots [case dismissed].
  • Nevada. Trump threatened to sue for “widespread voter fraud”, using one voter’s allegation she attempted to vote in person but was told she had already voted by mail [case not filed].
Will these lawsuits help Trump? Probably not. Coordinated voter fraud in a national election is incredibly rare, FBI Director Chris Wray told Congress last month. Americans have a higher chance of being struck by lightning.
“A lawsuit without provable facts is just a tweet with a filing fee,” explained one law professor. Even if one of the pending lawsuits gains traction, the chances of it reversing Biden’s win is minimal.
And Trump’s inner circle agree, thinking the President is egging on a futile legal fight. Meaning there’s probably a lot of awkward dinner convos happening in the White House this week.
  • Ex-Ebay execs are indicted after harassing Ebay critics with cockroaches, a bloody mask and threatening messages.
  • UK’s Supreme Court is left with with only one female justice, sparking gender diversity concerns.
  • Justice Department sues to block Visa’s $5.3bn acquisition of Plaid.
  • Kosovo’s president resigns to face war crime charges in The Hague.
  • UK lawyers are worried about plans to prosecute hate speech at home.
  • Hong Kong’s informer hotline receives 2,500 tip-offs from citizens reporting national security law breaches.
  • Uber and Lyft win California fight to classify drivers as ‘independent contractors’.
  • Jeff Bezos wins defamation suit.
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