vertical lineYear in Review: 2022-23 Through-threads

Dec 29, 2022 | From the Breakroom

By Carson Schatzman, Senior Copywriter

Each Monday, Athena employees receive a recap of important news stories from the past week. On Thursdays, our morning meeting is dedicated to a quiz testing our ability to retain the information. A free lunch is the reward for the winning team. We’re a competitive group, and the quizzes bring out that spirit. Over time a number of our clients have requested our weekly review as well, so we’ve begun to share it weekly now. See below for what we’re paying attention to and why.

From Big Tech shakeups to industry news and landmark legislation, here are a few notable news items from 2022 that we expect we’ll hear more about in 2023. Happy New Year!

Microsoft buys Activision for $69 billion – January 24th

Microsoft has begun the process of acquiring the video game publisher Activision Blizzard Inc. for $68.7 billion, marking Microsoft’s largest purchase ever and furthering the software giant’s future consumer strategy, Bloomberg reports.

What’s Next: The deal will face tough regulatory scrutiny before closing, and the Federal Trade Commission is now seeking to block the acquisition.

Big Tech’s AI Ambition – March 14th

Big Tech companies such as Meta, Alphabet, and Microsoft are making massive investments in AI technology research, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Why it Matters: The results of such massive and advanced R&D efforts can often be unpredictable, even to the companies who funded them. But it’s still worth keeping a close eye on this AI arms race as it will likely encourage similar investments across many sectors.

Looking Ahead: While unpredictable, The Washington Post expects Big Tech will return to its roots now that the tech bubble on Wall Street has burst following the pandemic expansion.

Consumers Can’t Afford Loyalty – April 4th

U.S. shoppers are switching brands more than ever. Rising inflation and supply shortages across the country has meant that consumers can no longer afford brand loyalty, instead choosing products based on their affordability and availability, The Wall Street Journal reports.
By the Numbers:

  • According to a survey by the retail giant Kroger, over 90% of consumers say they are willing to switch brands if their preferred choice isn’t available.
  • About 70% of U.S. shoppers said they had purchased a new or different brand than they had pre-pandemic.
  • Brands with low availability, or in-stock rates of between 72% and 85%, have lost 0.7 percentage points of wallet share on average.

Dive Deeper: Forbes published a pre-Holiday Season guide about retaining customers amid inflation by showing appreciation and offering product bundles.

Affordable Internet for Low-Income Americans – May 16th

The Biden administration announced a plan to partner with ISPs to provide low-cost, high-speed internet for low-income Americans, NPR reports.

The Plan: The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), part of the recent Infrastructure Bill, will offer internet service with speeds of 100+ Mbps for $30 or less. Twenty ISPs—including giants like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon—are participating in the program.

The Bottom Line: Affordable, high-speed internet is a necessary step in the right direction, but there is still work to be done to raise awareness and adoption among the nearly 50 million qualifying Americans.

How It’s Going: Yahoo! Finance finds that most eligible subscribers are also looking for wireless service and expanded payment options.


Women’s Sports on a Winning Streak – May 31st

As The Wall Street Journal headline reads: Star female athletes are fighting for more financial control—and winning.

Team Captain: Alex Morgan—two-time World Cup champion, star player, author, union organizer, and activist—was the lead plaintiff for a recently concluded gender discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer Federation. The landmark deal secures a $24 million settlement and equal pay for the U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams, including a unique measure to share the prize money from their respective World Cups.

Qatar World Cup Update: Since 90% of the prize money is now pooled and shared equally between teams, the U.S. Men’s National Team’s performance in Qatar has locked in at least $13 million to split, The New York Times reports.

Gun Reform Bill Signed into Law – June 27th

President Biden signed a bipartisan gun bill into law, significantly overhauling the nation’s gun laws for the first time in decades, The New York Times reports.

Overview: The 80-page legislation, called the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, is the result of four weeks of intense negotiations. Here’s what it includes:

  • Enhanced background checks targeting mental health records for those under 21.
  • Funding to help states carry out “red-flag laws” allowing authorities to temporarily confiscate guns from dangerous individuals.
  • Expands a federal law that bans domestic abusers from purchasing firearms.
  • Allocates funds towards mental health resources in communities and schools.
  • Funding to boost school security.
  • Tougher penalties for license violations and illegal purchases.

More to Come: The Hill now reports that efforts are being made to close a “ghost gun” loophole in the new rule.

Corporate Response to Dobbs – July 5th

The repeal of Roe v. Wade is a pivotal moment for the future of corporate America. Harvard Business Review points out that, in an employer-sponsored health care system, reproductive healthcare is a workplace issue, not a disconnected political one.

Immediate Responses: Businesses are increasingly expected to respond to social issues such as racial equity, climate change, and sexual orientation, among others. So much so that Edelman’s 2022 Trust Barometer finds businesses are the only institution Americans trust to act on social issues.

The Bottom Line: Businesses are responding to the repeal of Roe v. Wade. They are ensuring healthcare benefits to cover travel and relocation, reaffirming an unwavering commitment to employee wellbeing, and adjusting recruitment and professional development models.

What’s Next: According to Reuters, 2023 will focus on state laws, and lawsuits, around medication and abortion healthcare access.


Senate Passes Inflation Reduction Act – August 8th

The Senate passed a spending bill, the Inflation Reduction Act, allocating hundreds of billions of dollars to climate and healthcare programs and raising taxes on the most profitable companies, NPR reports.

Here’s what the bill will do:
Address climate change.

  • Invest over $300 billion in energy and climate reform, the largest federal clean energy investment in U.S. history.
  • Offer tax incentives for reducing carbon emissions to channel investment into wind, solar, and battery energy development.

Lower the cost of prescription drugs.

  • Empower Medicare to negotiate the price of a limited set of prescription drugs.
  • Caps out-of-pocket prescription drug costs at $2,000 and monthly insulin costs to $35 for people on Medicare.

Reform taxes.

  • Create a 15% minimum tax for corporations making $1 billion or more in income.
  • Introduce a 1% excise tax on stock buybacks.

Dive Deeper: The New Yorker takes an in-depth look at what’s required for a shift to renewable energy and how the Inflation Reduction Act can help.

EY to Spinoff Consulting Business – September 6th

Ernst & Young’s (EY) leadership is expected to approve splitting its accounting and consulting businesses, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Industry Impact:

  • EY’s $45 billion revenue network will be split 60:40 between its consulting business and its auditing services, the latter of which will retain the EY brand.
  • The new consulting company is expected to sell a 15% stake to the public to raise $10 billion and borrow an additional $17 billion, and partners will have shares in the company.
  • The thinking is that the consulting company, free of independence rules restricting the work accounting firms can do for audit clients, will be able to win billions in new business. However, the company will also have to spend big for a successful rebrand.

How It’s Going: The Financial Times reports that EY has been cutting costs to boost profits ahead of the split, and the firm is now considering mandating reinvestment for partners once the spin off happens.


Meta’s Vision Still Vague, Pixelated – October 10th

One year after the rebrand as a metaverse company, Zuckerberg’s Meta is struggling to settle on a coherent strategy and generate excitement, both internally and externally, according to The New York Times.

Low Traction, Long Road: Meta’s future shape is unclear, and executives are baffled over the amount of money the company is burning through with no clear direction. Last year, Meta reported $10 billion in loss from its A.R. and V.R. units. A decade ago, then-Facebook successfully overhauled the company to live on smartphones rather than desktops. Advanced planning for the next technological era could pay off, but the cart may be years ahead of the horse, and stuck in the mud, in this case.

State of Things: With slowing advertising revenue and no intention of slowing down spending, Meta has been laying off people to cut costs going into 2023, Forbes reports.

What’s Going on At Twitter? – November 21st

With new product rollouts (and withdrawals), mass layoffs, and ultimatums, there’s a lot going on at Twitter right now, according to The New York Times.

False Start: Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter, decided to monetize Twitter’s blue checkmark verification system, creating “Twitter Blue” for $8/month. This led to widespread impersonation of brands and people, and the subscription service was paused.

Seismic Changes: Twitter’s workforce, about 7,500 at the time Musk acquired the company, was first reduced by 50%. Some more public firings came later when Musk removed employees who disagreed with him on the platform.

Readjusting: Musk claims the platform will no longer promote hateful tweets, potentially drawing back advertisers. He’s also reinstated a number of high-profile accounts that were banned. Whether all of this is enough to keep the platform alive and avoid bankruptcy, and whether the platform can function with such dramatic personnel changes, remains to be seen. At the pace things have been moving, we may not have to wait long for an answer.

What’s Next: There’s a lot still happening here, and The Atlantic has begun to break down lessons from the ongoing Twitter saga.


A First-of-its-Kind Dollar – December 12th

Janet Yellen became the first female treasury secretary with a signature on the U.S. Dollar, The New York Times reports.

Cracks in the Glass Ceiling: In addition to Yellen, Marilynn Malerba, the first Native American treasurer, also signed the new currency. This marks the first time in history two women have been on the U.S. Dollar. As a spokesperson for women in economics, Yellen aims to bring more gender and racial diversity to the field. Yellen stated: “Today is not about me or a new signature on our currency, it’s about our collective work to create a stronger and more inclusive economy.” Currently, Yellen is spearheading an $80 billion revamp of the Internal Revenue Service.

More from Yellen: 60 Minutes sat down with Treasury Secretary Yellen to discuss the 2023 economic outlook.


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