US stocks slip as weak Amazon sales outlook highlights growth challenges for tech giants

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US stocks closed lower on the last trading day of the month, as a weak sales forecast from Amazon clouds the outlook for technology stocks.

After the close on Thursday, Amazon reported quarterly earnings that fell short of expectations, with the company missing quarterly sales estimates for the first time since 2018. Its sales and profit forecasts were below expectations, stoking concern among investors.

Shares of the e-commerce giant took their biggest tumble since May 2020, falling by as much as 8%. This translated to a loss of around $148 billion to Amazon’s market value.

Tech giants have been some of the pandemic’s biggest winners. However, Amazon’s latest report underscores the challenge of keeping the strong pace of sales as the economy reopens.

“While outlook was disappointing, and bears could argue Amazon is investing in 1-Day fulfillment out of competitive necessity, we think Amazon remains in a solid position, with US retail growth likely above industry growth rates,” Bank of America analysts Justin Post and Michael McGovern said in a Friday note.

Here’s where US indexes stood shortly after the 4:00 p.m. ET close on Friday:

Pinterest shares tumbled by 19% to a two-month low after the company reported a quarterly loss in active users on the social media site as easing of COVID-19 restrictions led more people to engage in other activities.

US stocks in recent weeks have climbed mostly higher as investors cheered robust corporate earnings and the accelerating pace of global economic recovery. The COVID-19 Delta variant, along with inflationary concerns, has dampened positive sentiment.

The S&P 500 still managed to close out its sixth straight month of gains.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was 1.231%, down by 3.8 basis points.

The Personal Consumption Expenditures price index – a closely monitored measure of nationwide inflation – gained 0.5% last month, suggesting that prices continued to climb amid supply chain issues across the US.

The reading exceeded the median estimate of a 0.4% increase from economists surveyed by Bloomberg. It also matched the May print of 0.5% growth.

Oil prices were up. West Texas Intermediate crude rose 0.41%, to $73.92 per barrel. Brent crude, oil’s international benchmark, increased 0.37%, to $76.33 per barrel.

Gold slipped 0.93% to $1,813.49 per ounce.

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Billionaire investor Leon Cooperman rules out an imminent market crash, trumpets ‘big tech’ stocks, and sounds the national-debt alarm in a new interview. Here are the 10 best quotes

Leon Cooperman holding his glasses up to his right temple.
Leon Cooperman.

  • Leon Cooperman dismissed fears of an imminent market downturn.
  • The billionaire investor defended “big tech” valuations and called for fiscal discipline.
  • Cooperman is wary of meme stocks and sees minimal value in owning government bonds.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Leon Cooperman ruled out an imminent market crash, warned that stimulus efforts are ballooning the national debt to dangerous levels, and emphasized the appeal of “big tech” stocks in a CNBC interview this week.

The billionaire investor, who converted his Omega Advisors hedge fund into a family office in 2018, also dismissed government bonds as virtually worthless and some meme stocks as ridiculously overvalued.

Here are Cooperman’s 10 best quotes from the interview, lightly edited and condensed for clarity:

1. “The conditions for a bear market are just not present. Bear markets don’t materialize out of immaculate conception.” – Cooperman pointed to recession fears and rising inflation as potential drivers of a downturn.

2. “Inflation becomes a problem when the central bank begins to fight inflation, because fighting inflation is tantamount to curbing growth.”

3. “We’ve already injected into the economy $1 trillion of stimulus in excess of wages lost. The central bank and the fiscal authorities are focused exclusively on employment, they’re not worried about the debt creation. I worry about it because debt’s growing too rapidly, it’s not sustainable. We are heading for a fiscal crisis one of these days. “

4. “The most dangerous instrument today is buying a long-term US government bond. Basically you’re getting your capital confiscated. I could buy a lot of stocks that have a much better valuation profile than the US government bond.” – noting that bonds are almost worthless when yields are low, 40% of any profit goes toward taxes, and inflation is trending at 3% or higher.

5. “There’s nothing overvalued in today’s interest-rate environment except the bonds. Look at Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon – if you believe the economy’s gonna grow and interest rates are gonna stay where they are, they’re not overvalued.” – Cooperman’s family office owns shares of those four “big tech” companies.

6. “I’m a stock jockey, I like what I own. I’m having no trouble finding things that I wanna own. I have an eye on the exit because monetary policy and fiscal policy have pulled demand forward and this game and this party, when it ends, is not gonna end well.”

7. “These algorithms know nothing about value, they know everything about price. I try and bring some sanity to the picture.” – blaming increased volatility on quantitative trading and changes to market structures.

8. “It’ll be Fed speak, it’ll be inflation, it would be the overall performance of the economy, it would be gold and bitcoin which represent speculative fever, it would be the stock market itself. I watch everything like a hawk. Most importantly, I watch what I own.” – listing some of the factors that might lead him to cash out his holdings.

9. “Six or eight months from now, we’ll start to see liquidity coming out of the market and I’ll have a different view of the market.”

10. “I stay away from the Robinhood stocks. I don’t get the valuations, they’re crazy. Some of these Robinhood stocks, some of these 100x revenue stocks with no earnings, that’s where the correction has been greatest. And when I look at them, they still look overpriced.”

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WhatsApp is a step closer to bringing Snapchat-style disappearing photos and videos to iPhones

The new update, entitled “View Once,” will be available for all iOS beta users.

  • WhatsApp rolled out disappearing photos and videos to iOS beta testers on Friday.
  • View Once lets users send photos and videos that vanish from chats after a single view.
  • View Once continues Facebook’s push to mirror popular features of Snapchat.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

WhatsApp is a step closer to bringing disappearing photos and videos to iPhones after rolling out the functionality to beta testers.

The new feature, dubbed View Once, was released to iOS beta testers on Friday, WABetaInfo reported. It comes after a rollout to Android beta testers in June.

WhatsApp and Instagram are owned by Facebook. View Once continues Facebook’s push to mirror popular features of Snapchat and is similar to one already found on Instagram.

According to WABetaInfo, View Once will not stop recipients taking screenshots of disappearing photos and videos, and senders will not be notified if screenshots are taken.

Users of View Once will be able to see when their content has been viewed by looking out for an “Opened” message, per WABetaInfo. Other details, such as knowing who opened your photo or video, are available in “Message Info.”

WhatsApp already allows users to send messages that automatically delete themselves after seven days.

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Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak says he’s ‘totally supportive’ of tech users right to fix their gadgets, which Apple has been lobbying against

steve wozniak apple
Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak.

  • President Biden has signed an order calling for fewer limits on customers’ right to fix their tech products.
  • Apple and other tech giants are vigorously opposing laws at the federal and state levels.
  • Steve Wozniak says he’s for the right-to-repair, and that open tech is better for businesses and consumers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple with Steve Jobs, says he’s fully in support of the movement to make it easier for users to fix their tech gadget themselves or through a third-party.

“It’s time to recognize the right to repair more fully,” he said in a recent video message on Cameo.

That stance puts him at odds with the company he helped launch (but left in 1985), and a broad range of other tech companies that want to retain control over who is allowed to service products from iPhones to Xboxes and wheelchairs to farm tractors.

“This one has really gotten to me – really affected me emotionally,” Wozniak said. “We would not have had Apple had I not grown up in a very open technology world.”

In the video, Wozniak explained how early tech products like TVs and radios were shipped with paper schematics that made it possible for many users to easily repair broken circuits and tubes, and enabled more technologically inclined people to invent new hardware and software too.

By contrast, the monopoly of the Bell telephone system prevented people from creating a better phone or answering machine.

“You wouldn’t even get a choice of color,” he said.

When Jobs and Wozniak launched the Apple II, the computer was shipped with full schematics and specifications that allowed customers to bring their own engineering creativity to the product.

“The Apple II was modifiable and extendable to the maximum,” he said. “This was not a minor product, and it was not that successful on pure luck. There were a lot of good things about it being so open that people could join the party.”

“Sometimes when companies cooperate together with others they can actually have better business than if they’re totally protective and monopolistic,” he added.

While the federal government has some say in the matter, the real fight over the right to repair is in state governments where in recent years, Apple along with Microsoft, Google, and other large companies, have been waging a campaign against the movement.

So far this year, 27 states have considered legislation that would loosen restrictions on who is allowed to modify or repair consumer products but more than half have failed, according to Bloomberg.

“These companies have monopoly power,” Colorado legislator Brianna Titone, who sponsored a repair bill, told Bloomberg. “They’re not looking for a compromise. They’re looking for, ‘Leave us alone. Stop this. Go away.'”

President Joe Biden’s executive order on competition, signed Friday, encourages the FTC to make rules against manufacturers’ restrictions on self-repairs or third-party repairs of their products.

TechNet, a trade group that includes Apple as a member, said in a statement about the order, “Allowing unvetted third parties with access to sensitive diagnostic information, software, tools, and parts would jeopardize the safety of consumers’ computers, tablets, and devices and put them at risk for fraud and data theft.”

In May, the US Federal Trade Commission concluded in a report to Congress that the coronavirus pandemic made the repair problem worse, especially for low-income users and schools. The agency also said it could not find substantial evidence to support the arguments in favor of restricting repairs.

“I believe that companies inhibit it because it gives the companies power and control over everything,” Wozniak said in his video. “Is it your computer, or is it some company’s computer?”

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Biden will sign an executive order cracking down on Big Tech firms buying up smaller companies and hoarding user data

President Biden
President Biden speaks to reporters on July 8

  • Joe Biden will sign a sweeping executive order on Friday, which includes a crackdown on Big Tech.
  • Biden’s order will tell agencies to scrutinize Big Tech mergers more closely.
  • It will also tell the FTC to draw up rules for how tech companies can gather and use consumer data.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden will on Friday sign an executive order cracking down on the power of Big Tech firms, as first reported by The New York Times.

The fact-sheet for the wide-ranging executive order focusing on “promoting competition in the American economy” was posted by the White House Friday morning. Technology makes up just one part of the order, which also targets sectors like the job market, healthcare, and transportation – but it takes specific aim at Big Tech platforms.

The order will, first, tell federal agencies to scrutinize mergers involving Big Tech firms more closely, especially when these firms try to buy smaller companies that could one day become their competitors.

Second, the order says Big Tech platforms are “gathering too much personal information,” and will instruct the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to draw up rules and limitations on how Big Tech companies can hoover up consumer data.

The order also says Big Tech companies can use their troves of data to give themselves an advantage over smaller businesses, and asks the FTC to draw up rules “barring unfair methods of competition on internet marketplaces.”

On top of the orders specifically targeting Big Tech companies, Biden will also reportedly ask the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to create new rules for broadband internet providers, and encourage the FCC to readopt net neutrality rules.

Big Tech companies including Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google are already under intense antitrust scrutiny in Washington.

In June, Congress introduced a series of bills directed at these four companies, and Biden appointed renowned Big Tech critic Lina Khan as head of the FTC, a move that prompted Amazon to ask that Khan be removed from any enforcement decisions involving the company.

Read more: Amazon is finally terrified of someone in Washington. That’s great news for America.

Facebook faces lawsuits for its acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp in 2012 and 2014 respectively. In December 2020, the FTC and 46 states filed two lawsuits seeking to break off Instagram and WhatsApp from Facebook. The lawsuits allege Facebook acquired the companies to stifle competition.

Facebook responded that the lawsuit was an attempt to revise history, and that the acquisitions had been cleared by agencies at the time. “We have operated and continue to operate in a highly competitive space. Our acquisitions have been good for competition, good for advertisers and good for people,” it said in a statement at the time.

Amazon has also been the target of criticism from lawmakers, who claim that it can use consumer data to get a competitive advantage over third-party sellers on its platform. Biden’s executive order specifically cites an October 2020 House Judiciary Committee report which alleged that Amazon used data from third-party sellers to develop its own competing products. Amazon has repeatedly denied this claim.

Google was hit with an antitrust suit from 36 attorneys general on Thursday over its control of the Android Play Store – six months after attorneys general filed a lawsuit claiming it abused its dominance in online ad sales. Google called the latest suit “meritless”, saying it was not about “helping the little guy.”

Apple is not the subject of any lawsuits from lawmakers, but pushed back against two of the five bills introduced by Congress in June, claiming they would damage the security of iPhones and, by extension, users’ privacy.

The New York Times reported CEO Tim Cook personally rang House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to lobby against the bills.

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Big tech and healthcare stocks stand to lose most from potential Biden tax hikes, BlackRock says

  • Large-cap tech and healthcare stocks could suffer the most if US taxes go up or if a global minimum tax is enacted, BlackRock analysts wrote in a note.
  • The category with the biggest market cap and lowest effective rate was information technology, including the likes of Amazon and Microsoft.
  • The analysts suggested investors consider small- and medium-cap firms that are less exposed to international tax changes.
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell.

Large-cap tech and healthcare stocks could suffer the most if US taxes go up or if a global minimum tax is enacted, BlackRock analysts wrote in a note on Monday.

The note examined effective tax rates for each sector of the S&P 500, comparing them to the sector’s relative market cap. The category with the biggest market value and lowest effective rate was information technology, including the likes of Amazon and Microsoft. Communications and healthcare also ranked among the sectors with the lowest effective tax rates.

Graph of effective tax rate versus share of S&P 500 market cap

Ongoing tax negotiations at the OECD could be particularly bad news for health-care and IT firms, which benefit disproportionately from international profit-shifting schemes, the BlackRock analysts noted. The OECD talks have focused on setting a global minimum rate that would prevent companies from using complex accounting tricks to lower their tax liability.

Another potential pain point could come with a domestic tax hike, as the Biden administration considers funding options for its bipartisan infrastructure package. Republicans have ruled out a corporate tax increase for the time being. But a Democrat-only spending package that might include a higher corporate or capital-gains rate remains possible.

The analysts suggested investors consider small- and medium-cap firms that are less exposed to international tax changes. They also pointed to ETFs and municipal bonds, which are tax-exempt, as options for coping with higher taxes.

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Meet the millennial dubbed the leader of ‘hipster antitrust’ who got appointed to police Big Tech largely off just one scholarly paper inspired by a trip to the grocery store

now-FTC chair lina khan speaks during a meeting in April
Lina Khan speaks during an April Senate meeting.

  • FTC chair Lina Khan is a graduate of Yale Law School and the author of “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox.”
  • Her paper and other government work have cemented her as a vocal critic of Big Tech.
  • Khan helped the House investigate Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook over online competition.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Lina Khan has been one of Big Tech’s biggest critics – and she just took the reins of the government agency empowered to enforce antitrust laws against them.

At 32-years-old, Khan is the youngest person to be appointed as chair of the Federal Trade Commission. She was confirmed to the post on June 15 as one of the agency’s five commissioners.

Khan has a rare background for someone assuming such an influential role in US government: an extensive knowledge of tech companies and how complex antitrust laws could apply to them. Some pro-Big Tech players already appear concerned, Vox reported, as the industry has long operated without strict regulation.

Khan attended Yale Law School and has been critical of Amazon

FTC chair Lina Khan in her home
Lina Khan in her home in 2017, the year she published her paper entitled “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox.”

Khan was born in the UK and moved to the US when she was 11. She initially wanted to be a journalist but delved into examining corporate monopolies and antitrust laws after graduating from Williams College in Massachusetts. Khan became a policy researcher at an antitrust think tank in Washington in 2011.

She told the BBC in January that she realized “markets had come to be controlled by a very small number of companies” and said that trend was “systemic” in the US. Khan was particularly inspired by a trip to the grocery store in 2013 when she realized the candy selection was largely owned by just two or three confectioners.

“I think there is a very coherent story to be told about how market power is harming us as a whole in all these bizarre ways that are not readily apparent,” she told Time in 2019.

She later decided to study law at Yale Law School. In 2017, during her time as a student there, Khan published a paper called “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox,” drawing attention to the current “unequipped” and unnuanced antitrust framework. She wrote that it enabled the tech giant to evade antitrust scrutiny.

She specifically said Amazon has focused on growing rapidly and using predatory pricing, which has helped it evade government scrutiny since the consumer stays unharmed.

Current US antitrust law stipulates that companies should be scrutinized when their bloated market power directly harms consumers, like if prices increase for them. But Khan instead says there are other, less obvious negative side effects that result from a small number of monopolies holding so much dominance – even if the consumer goes unharmed – like firms harnessing their market power to squeeze out smaller competitors.

The paper was widely publicized and cemented Khan as “Amazon’s antitrust antagonist,” as The New York Times wrote in late 2018. Then-Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch criticized Khan’s paper and dubbed her the leader of the “hipster antitrust” movement.

She’s become a vocal critic at large of big players in the tech world and has advocated for stronger anticompetitive regulation, an issue that has bipartisan support.

Republicans and Democrats agree that the tech industry should abide by a set of rules, though each party has its own motivations to strengthen regulation.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, have supported her ideology, and Sen. John Thune of South Dakota was one of the 21 Republicans that backed her FTC confirmation, NBC reported.

She’s already been helping the US crackdown on Big Tech

Lina Khan during a Senate meeting in April 2021.
Lina Khan during a Senate meeting in April 2021.

Khan was counsel to the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on antitrust, commercial, and administrative law while the group was investigating Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon over their role in online market competition. Khan sat behind lawmakers as they questioned the CEOs of the Big Four in a high-profile late July 2020 hearing.

House lawmakers released a report shortly after their months-long probe was complete calling tech companies “the kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons.”

She also was a legal adviser to now-fellow FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra.

Khan became an associate professor of Law at Columbia in late 2020. Her faculty page now reads that she is “currently on leave serving in the federal government.”

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Democrats plan to take on big tech with 5 major antitrust bills aimed at making it easier to weaken monopolies

big tech ceos

House Democrats plan to introduce five separate bills as early as this week that could dramatically reign in big tech companies’ economic dominance, Politico reported Wednesday.

The bills address a number of lawmakers’ concerns about the growing power of tech titans like Amazon, Apple, Alphabet-owned Google, and Facebook.

One bill, headed up by Rep. Pramilia Jayapal, of Washington, would let the Department of Justice or Federal Trade Commission sue to break up tech companies by forcing them to sell parts of their business that present a conflict of interest, Politico reported. That could spell trouble for companies like Amazon and Google, which critics say use their dominance of web hosting and digital ad markets to promote their own products and services.

A second bill, authored by Rep. David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island, would ban large tech companies from favoring their own products in digital marketplaces they operate and set the rules for, according to Politico. That takes aim at how Apple’s App Store policies impact app developers and how Amazon treats third-party sellers in its marketplace.

A third bill, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, of New York, would prohibit platform companies from acquiring or merging with potential competitors, Politico reported. That follows criticism of Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, and the FTC’s probe into potentially anticompetitive acquisitions by Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon.

A fourth bill, sponsored by Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, of Pennsylvania, would require platforms with more than 500,000 US users, or those designated by regulators as a “critical trading partner,” to make it easier for users to move their data to rival platforms, Politico reported. Lawmakers have criticized Facebook and Google for hoarding users’ personal data in an endless “feedback loop” that helps them maintain their market power.

The final bill, identical to one sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) in a spending bill that passed this week, Politico reported, would require companies to pay antitrust regulators more when seeking their approval for mergers. Regulators are vastly underresourced compared to the tech giants they’re tasked with regulating, placing them at a huge disadvantage if they seek to block a merger and it goes to court – increased legal fees could help balance the scales.

The set of bills reflects recommendations from a landmark 449-page House Judiciary Committee report last fall that called the companies monopolies that needed to be broken up.

The report was the result of an extensive investigation in which the committee probed whether major tech companies had used their size and market position to engage in anticompetitive behaviors that unfairly harmed rivals, consumers, and society more broadly.

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Apple’s new software features focus on post-pandemic life. Here’s what’s getting an update.

apple wwdc 2021
Apple kicked off its annual WWDC conference for developers with a keynote address showing off its new software features.

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Wondering why your engineering team stopped responding to you yesterday afternoon? Apple kicked off its annual WWDC conference for developers with a keynote address showing off its new software features.

So…what’s new?

Apple’s preparing for post-pandemic life with…a lot of tools that would have been helpful during the pandemic.

FaceTime updates: Video calls will get screen sharing capabilities, integrations with other apps like social media, and crisper audio. Users will also be able to schedule and send links to FaceTime calls (even to their Android friends).

Focus tech: To help you stay on task from 9-5, Apple will let users batch notifications and order them by priority, add a Focus mode to limit interruptions from non-work-related apps and friends, and add work, sleep, or do not disturb statuses to their Messages app.

Privacy: To bolster its reputation as Silicon Valley’s privacy leader, Apple is adding on-device speech processing for Siri, extra private browsing on Safari, and the ability to disable tracking pixels in email.

  • Tracking pixels? Apple users will be able to block tracking by email senders, a change that could mean big disruptions for businesses that depend on email marketing. If a user disables pixels, companies won’t know if their email even gets opened.

Other highlights: New features for developers to build apps in the cloud. Uploading your ID to Apple Wallet to use for TSA screening. Unlocking your car or front door from an iPhone. Fancier maps. And trusted contacts to get you back into iCloud after you forget your new password.

Between the keynote lines

This WWDC wasn’t unique just because execs spoke before a crowd of Memojis. Yesterday, Apple defended itself and said the App Store has paid over $230 billion to developers since opening in 2008.

The company wrapped up a trial last week with Fortnite maker Epic Games, which is accusing Apple of monopolistic practices for the 30% cut it takes on in-app purchases. If Apple loses, the company may have to rewrite the rules of its money-printing App Store.

This story is from today’s edition of Morning Brew, a daily email. Sign up here to get it!

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Apple employees have written a letter expressing their frustration over Tim Cook’s order to return to the office

Apple CEO Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook.

  • Apple employees are revolting against CEO Tim Cook over orders to return to the office.
  • Workers say they feel “unheard” and “ignored” over the company’s new work policy.
  • According to The Verge, around 80 people were involved in writing and editing the message.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Dozens of Apple employees have written a letter signaling their frustration with a policy asking them to return to the office for three days a week from September, The Verge reported.

Workers say they’d prefer a more flexible approach, where those who want to work remotely can do so, according to the internal letter, which was obtained by the outlet.

The letter began by addressing the growing concern that Apple’s location-flexible work policy, and the messaging around it, have already forced some of the staff to quit.

“Without the inclusivity that flexibility brings, many of us feel we have to choose between either a combination of our families, our well-being, and being empowered to do our best work, or being a part of Apple,” it added.

Employees also said they have felt “not just unheard, but at times actively ignored” over the past year in regards to communication between the company and its staff over remote work.

“It feels like there is a disconnect between how the executive team thinks about remote/location-flexible work and the lived experiences of many of Apple’s employees,” the letter said.

According to The Verge, around 80 people were involved in writing and editing the message. It all started in a Slack channel for “remote work advocates” which has approximately 2,800 members.

The complaint comes days after CEO Tim Cook announced the change in an email circulated to staff on Wednesday.

Most employees are being asked come in on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, and it would be up to them whether they work from home on Wednesdays and Fridays, Cook said.

Video calls from home “simply cannot replicate” some aspects of office life, he said.

Cook’s approach to post-pandemic work stands in contrast to some of the other tech giants. In March, both Twitter and Facebook informed employees they can work from home forever, even after the pandemic subsides.

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