Weekly reading – 2nd April 2022

Business

FTC Sues Intuit for Its Deceptive TurboTax “free” Filing Campaign. The FTC is suing Intuit for bombarding tax filers with a message that its product is free while 2 out of 3 filers couldn’t use its “free” service in 2020. I am surprised that it took the government this long to go after Intuit and that the IRS has been lobbied away from launching its own free tax-filing website.

Brand Loyalty Takes a Hit From Inflation, Shortages. “Well-known brand names and flashy ad campaigns are no longer enough to command U.S. consumers’ loyalty in grocery stores, retail executives said. As inflation spreads and stretched supply chains leave gaps on shelves, shoppers are becoming increasingly fickle, with availability and price determining what goes into their shopping carts.”

Apple now allows video, music apps to sign up new subscribers without paying fees. “Reader” apps can now display an external link to their website and process payments without using Apple’s own system. There will be a hit to Apple’s bottom line, but I doubt it will be a big one as most of the App Store revenue is concentrated on games which still need to adhere to Apple’s payment rules. The motivation for the move is likely to appease lawmakers and reduce regulatory pressure. To me, it seems a shrewd move, but we’ll see whether it will yield the intended results and how big a financial hit there will be.

Apple wants to bring more financial services in-house. I agreed with Mark Gurman that Apple won’t be a bank in the future. Being a bank brings a lot of regulatory scrutiny and compliance issues. Apple doesn’t need it. The drive to bring more in-house is likely to add more margin, cut the middlemen and improve the customer experience. Why would you need someone else in the middle when you could do more for customers and save money in the process? Apple is about personal computing and improving personal life. Few things are as personal as financial well-being.

Cross River Bank hit $3+ billion valuation and plans to move forward with a crypto-first strategy. Growing their loan balance from $2.4 billion to $24 billion in 7 years is quite an achievement. We often get to know fintech startups such as Marqeta, Affirm or Square, but the banks who partner with these guys don’t receive enough attention. Good to have an article like this on one of such banks.

Stuff that I found interesting

The secret police: Inside the app Minnesota police used to collect data on journalists at protests. The thought that the police have a secret app profiling journalists at protests is disturbing and, as cliche as it may sound, unAmerican.

Technicolor Tokyo. Beautiful and colorful photos of Tokyo at night

How Your Shadow Credit Score Could Decide Whether You Get an Apartment. A nice investigate piece by ProPublica on how poorly regulated the tenant screening industry is and how it is doing real harm to consumers. This is where consumers really need lawmakers to be on their side, not only for the screening issue but also renting in general. Far too often do landlords draw up rental agreements with favorable terms for themselves. Lucky tenants have choices, but less lucky ones have to be legally cornered. Furthermore, tenants are often restricted to exclusive service providers such as Cox for Internet. These providers have all the power to drive up prices every year for the same services and there is nothing that tenants can do about it. It’s just ludicrous.

The Maya—and the maize that sustained them—had surprising southern roots, ancient DNA suggests. The migration from South America might allegedly have resulted in the Maya’s adoption of corn which plays a pivotal role in the Mayan culture

Stats

“In 2020, recycled toilet paper accounted for just 1.6% of sales from U.S. retailers, while the big three — P&G, Kimberly-Clark and Georgia-Pacific — controlled 70% of the market, according to Euromonitor International”

Source: Morgan Stanley
Source: Bloomberg

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