Numlock News: June 23, 2023 • Bees, Cheese, Fees
By Walt Hickey
Have an excellent weekend!
JPMorgan Chase is paying a $4 million fine to settle an allegation from the Securities and Exchange Commission that the bank permanently deleted 47 million electronic records of emails and instant messages sent between January and April of 2018. This whoopsie-daisy has significant implications for a bank, because they’re required by the feds to retain all business communications sent and received for at least three years, records that are a necessity when regulators are investigating potential financial crimes. The SEC alleged that the deletion was just a mistake that happened when the bank was troubleshooting glitches and a vendor overpromised that the records would be safe. The result was the bank being unable to produce requested documents in no fewer than eight eventual SEC investigations and four other probes.
The FDA has cracked down on Elf Bar, right now the best-selling brand of disposable electronic cigarettes, sending warning letters to dozens of brands and following up on an order last month directing customs officials to seize shipments of Elf Bar at U.S. ports. The number of e-cig brands in the U.S. is up from 184 in 2020 to 269 brands as of late last year, and wildcat brands operating without federal approval continue to infiltrate the market. The disposable vape marketshare in particular is growing, with disposables rising from 24.7 percent of vaping sales in 2020 to 52 percent last year.
Last year 48 percent of honey bee colonies died, according to the annual survey conducted by the University of Maryland and Auburn University, the second-highest rate on record after 2020-21’s 50.8 percent death rate. That 48 percent colony loss is well above the 39.6 percent average over the past 12 years, a distressing number for American apiculture. That said, the overall number of colonies is generally pretty steady, as beekeepers assiduously split up and restock hives, get new queens, and manage their swarms. Enemy number one is the mite varroa, a parasite that can wreck havoc on a dense colony.
Cottage cheese is having a moment on social media, with the #cottagecheese tag on TikTok racking up 323 million views, many from younger consumers who are getting turned onto the cheese that has long been considered a diet aid but is now finding its way into all sorts of creamy recipes. Cottage cheese sales are up considerably, up 15.9 percent to $1.2 billion over the past 52 weeks, and producers who have long served stable markets are cranking up production.
Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning, Part One opens worldwide in three weeks, and early estimates have the Tom Cruise-led film on track toward the best opening weekend in the history of the franchise, with current projections putting it at $90 million in the domestic box office over its first five days. This comes a year after Cruise’s Top Gun: Maverick brought in $1.5 billion globally, shooting it to the second-biggest release of the year.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation announced that today the temporary lanes of I-95 built following a fire that destroyed a large section of roadway will indeed open, only two weeks after the initial destruction on June 11. Six lanes of traffic on the corridor will reopen at noon. The last thing needed to build the temporary lanes was some dry weather to complete the paving and striping process, dry weather that Philly lacked. To compensate, at the request of the governor, racetrack Pocono Raceway sent over their jet dryer — which is a pickup truck with a helicopter turbine on the back that is used to dry the racetrack following rain — to dry the section of I-95 and keep the rebuild on schedule. The final cost of the project came in at $25 million to $30 million, with the federal government poised to cover most if not all of the cost.
There’s a huge backlog for heavy-duty electrical equipment as multiple industries attempt to electrify their businesses simultaneously. According to Siemens, which makes a lot of that gear, even though production is up anywhere from 50 percent to 75 percent, demand is up double that, and it’s contributing to long lead times. The wait time for the electrical switchgear used in power systems rose from 12 to 16 weeks a few years ago all the way up to 40 to 50 weeks today.
This week on the Sunday edition, I spoke to my friend Julia Alexander, the director of strategy at Parrot Analytics. We talk all about the streaming business; it’s unlocked and free to read, and contains one of the single most coherent distillations about why the movie business is extremely weird right now from a financial perspective, and why this summer will actually tell us where it’s going. Julia’s newsletter is over at Puck. It’s great and I’m a huge fan.
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