Court Overturns Obama-Era Rule on Retirement Planners

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As a next step, the Labor Department may request that all of the judges in the appeals court hear the case, rather than the three-judge panel, lawyers said. Because there was at least one decision in another circuit court that conflicts with the most recent case, it is also possible the Supreme Court could eventually weigh in.

“The outcome could continue to be uncertain for quite a while,” said Fred Reish, a lawyer who represents clients in fiduciary issues.

The Obama-era fiduciary regulation, drafted over roughly six years, had thus far survived intense criticism and resistance from the industry, which argued that the rule would make it too costly to work with smaller investors. The rule, which took partial effect in June 2017, requires financial advisers to act as fiduciaries when providing advice related to a client’s retirement accounts, including individual retirement accounts and 401(k)’s.

The future of the rule was already murky. The Trump administration’s Labor Department, which oversees retirement accounts, said last year that it was reviewing the regulation and pushed back its full implementation by 18 months, to July 2019.

Consumer advocates and others who are in favor of a strong fiduciary rule called the decision a blow to retirement savers.

“This case was wrongly decided,” said Micah Hauptman, financial services counsel to the Consumer Federation of America. “The industry opponents went forum shopping and finally found a court that was willing to buy in to their bogus arguments. This is a sad day for retirement savers.”

Several of the plaintiffs — including the U. S. Chamber of Commerce, Financial Services Institute, Financial Services Roundtable, Insured Retirement Institute, and Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association — said the court’s decision would preserve access to affordable financial advice.

“Our organizations have long supported the development of a best interest standard of care,” they said in a statement, “and the Securities and Exchange Commission should now take the lead on a clear, consistent, and workable standard that does not limit choice for investors.”

The S.E.C. is reportedly working on its own rule. But consumer advocates have long said that the financial services industry would prefer that the S.E.C. write a rule, which they believe would not be as strong as the Labor Department’s rule.

The Department of Labor could not be immediately reached for comment on Thursday night.

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Stormy Daniels Interview to Air on ‘60 Minutes’ This Month

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The porn star Stephanie Clifford, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels, will appear on “60 Minutes” on March 25th. Credit Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images

The CBS News program “60 Minutes” has set a date of March 25 for when it will show a recently conducted interview with the pornographic film actress who says she had an affair with Donald J. Trump.

A person briefed on the process, who would speak about it only on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that the segment with the porn star, Stephanie Clifford, would run then.

Ms. Clifford, who goes by the stage name Stormy Daniels, spoke with the “60 Minutes” contributor Anderson Cooper last week.

Ms. Clifford went forward with the interview, which her lawyer first hinted about in a tweet featuring a photograph of him, Ms. Clifford and Mr. Cooper. It proceeded despite an arbitrator’s ruling reaffirming an agreement that she reached with Mr. Trump in October 2016 to remain silent about their alleged relationship in exchange for $130,000.

She has said she had a consensual relationship with Mr. Trump that started in 2006 and lasted several months.

In recent weeks, Ms. Clifford’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, has led a publicity blitz, appearing frequently on cable news shows, since she filed a lawsuit on March 6 seeking to break her 2016 agreement. She asserts that the nondisclosure agreement was void because Mr. Trump did not personally sign it.

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Nike Executive Resigns; C.E.O. Addresses Workplace Behavior Complaints

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In both the memo and the company’s public announcement, Mr. Parker said Mr. Edwards was relinquishing his position as Nike’s brand president and would retire in August. Mr. Edwards, who has been with Nike, based in Beaverton, Ore., since he joined as a regional marketing manager in 1992, will serve as an adviser to Mr. Parker until then.

Mr. Parker, who has held his position for more than a decade, will remain in the role past 2020, the company said.

“We are fortunate to have a strong management team in place who is well suited to drive our next stage of growth and to steward and evolve our culture in the future,” Mr. Parker said in the public statement, thanking Mr. Edwards for his work.

The company, which did not say why Mr. Edwards is leaving, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

As part of the management shakeup, Mr. Parker promoted Elliott Hill, the former president of Nike Geographies, to a newly created position, president of the consumer and marketplace division. Mr. Hill joined the company in 1988.

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Michael Getler, Ombudsman at PBS and Washington Post, Dies at 82

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Serving in that watchdog role from 2005 to 2017 at PBS, Mr. Getler understood firsthand the pressures journalists face. When he was a reporter for The Post, his coverage of the Vietnam War and its impact — at a time when the Nixon administration was illegally spying on suspected dissidents in the United States — prompted the Central Intelligence Agency to tap his telephone in 1971, according to government documents.

Mr. Getler was also the Post editor who in 1995 received a 56-page single-spaced typed manifesto from the man, known as the Unabomber, who was responsible for a string of bombings. It arrived on the same day that The New York Times received a copy. The author of the document, titled “Industrial Society and Its Future,” vowed to refrain from further violence if the newspapers published it. They did, and nearly seven months later Ted Kaczynski was arrested and identified as the bomber.

As an ombudsman, Mr. Getler could be critical of his colleagues. He repeatedly complained that reporters and editors had failed to fully explore and challenge the government’s rationale for going to war against Iraq in 2003.

“Almost everything we were told before the war, other than that Saddam Hussein is bad, has turned out, so far, not to be the case,” he wrote in The Post in 2004.

The next year he wrote, “I cannot think of a story in the past 40 years that offers more warning signs for journalism and for the role of the press in our democracy.”

While he was scrupulous and judicious, Mr. Getler was not immune to criticism himself. The online news site Slate called his insistence on objectivity “perverse” when he criticized a Post national reporter for committing what Slate described as “the unpardonable journalistic crime of writing his own mind” in a review of a campaign book about Hillary Clinton.

One observer likened the grenades lobbed by Mr. Getler to the booming pronouncements of a biblical prophet whose credibility was rarely questioned.

“Because people know Mike so well and respect him so much,” Leonard Downie Jr., the Post’s executive editor at the time, told The Times in 2001, “any criticism from Mike feels different than criticism from anyone else.”

Mr. Getler was born on Nov. 13, 1935, in the Bronx to Alfred Getler, an advertising salesman, and the former Rose Holzweig, who sold silverware.

After growing up on the Grand Concourse and graduating from DeWitt Clinton High School, he earned a bachelor of business administration degree from City College of New York in 1956 and began his journalism career as a student at The Riverdale Press, a neighborhood newspaper.

Beginning in 1961, Mr. Getler was a reporter and editor for magazines published by American Aviation Publications. He also served in the Naval Reserve from 1956 to 1960, rising to lieutenant. He joined The Post in 1970 and became military affairs correspondent, covered Europe and was named the paper’s national security correspondent.

He went on to rise in the editing ranks, becoming foreign editor, assistant managing editor for foreign news and, during a period when the paper won three Pulitzer Prizes, deputy managing editor.

Besides his wife, the former Sandra Curhan, Mr. Getler is survived by their children, Belinda and Warren Getler; four grandchildren, and his sister, Mae Maidman.

Mr. Getler was executive editor of The International Herald Tribune from 1996 to 2000, a period when the paper was jointly run by The Post and The Times and published in Paris. (It is now the international edition of The Times.)

Appointed The Post’s internal critic and liaison with readers in 2000, he immediately challenged the newsroom, saying it was putting too much emphasis on feature articles over hard news and long series over daily beat coverage. He also complained about an increasingly snarky tone.

As Mr. Getler was leaving the job in 2005, overwhelmed by the flood of email — much of which he said was “nasty and crude” — he agreed with the assessment that the press was under siege.

He attributed that beleaguered state to “the polarization of the country, the intensity of political feelings on the left and the right, combined with the technology to express it easily and quickly, combined with a sort of rash of journalistic missteps and in some cases scandals and misjudgments that become immediately known and widespread and have conveyed the sense that journalism is less trustworthy than it used to be.”

Earlier, he had written in The Columbia Journalism Review: “What is most crucial for news organizations, and what is most useful to the public, is news that is delivered in a manner that is beyond reproach journalistically.

“Readers understand, and can factor in, government or special-interest spin,” he added. “But they can smell reportorial opinion and bias a mile away, and that is guaranteed to distract from the power of the news.”

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‘A Punch in the Gut’: Toys ‘R’ Us Closings Rattle Nostalgic Customers

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At Toys “R” Us, emotions always seemed to run high.

Wailing tantrums were pitched in the aisles between the Barbies and the Beanie Babies. Allowances were giddily relinquished for Super Soaker water guns. Frantic parents scrambled to snag Tickle Me Elmos.

Patrons were taken by surprise when the chain said it would close or sell all of its American stores.

On Thursday, they eulogized Toys “R” Us as a temple to playtime and worried that toy shopping would now be quietly carried out on a laptop, alone.

Some, waiting in line for stores to open, said they had visited the chain ahead of every holiday season for decades. Many arrived bearing gift cards. One woman got a head start on Christmas shopping, spending $400.

A multigenerational destination

Mary Nicholas of Carthage, Mo., remembered going to the zoo one year when her daughter, Emma, was around 4 years old. At one point, Emma pointed to a giraffe and said, “Look, Mama, it’s Geoffrey” — the chain’s gangly cartoon mascot.

“So, yeah, it’s kind of a punch in the gut for us to see how much online shopping has affected things,” Ms. Nicholas said, lamenting how the digital age is, as she put it, swallowing us whole.

“I’m going to miss the magic,” she said. “I want to cry right now because we had so much fun there.”

The fun of seeing toys in person

Marilyn Tandy lives in a rural part of Jasper County, Mo., and has shopped for at least two generations at the Toys “R” Us store in Joplin.

Her great-granddaughter Brynleigh, 2, enjoys waddling through the aisles and admiring toys. Brynleigh’s mother, Madison Shores, used to do the same.

“That’s the fun of it, taking them and letting them see everything they like,” Ms. Tandy said. “It’s much easier to do that in a store than on a computer.”

Inside a Toys “R” Us in New York on Thursday. More than 30,000 American jobs are at risk as the company winds down.CreditJeenah Moon for The New York Times
Clarissa More, 6, at the store in Maplewood, Minn., on Thursday. When Clarissa heard that the stores would be closing, she broke down in massive tears, her mother said.CreditJenn Ackerman for The New York Times

A disappearing relic

“I grew up somewhere with lots of toy stores, so it’s going to be weird that there are none left. I’m just trying to show my little guy what it’s like while I still can.”

— Ian Ainslie, who wandered the Toys “R” Us in the Rego Park section of Queens with his 5-month-old son, Kiann, strapped to his chest.

A moment of fame

A professional wrestler who performs under the name Zack Ryder wrote on Twitter about his memories of Toys “R” Us and the WrestleMania XX action figures it sold.

You can find, for now, Zack Ryder memorabilia on Toys “R” Us’s website, where a figure costs $9.99. (On Amazon, it cost $8.37.)

Mitch Pose, a 26-year-old car wash manager, collects toys, mostly Matchbox and Hot Wheels brands, in addition to die-cut cars.CreditJenn Ackerman for The New York Times

A mecca for collectors

Toys “R” Us is a go-to source for affordable toy cars, said Mitch Pose, who owns 6,000 of them.

On Thursday, at the store in Maplewood, Minn., he bought a blue Cadillac DeVille model from the Matchbox brand.

The chain, which he visits once a month, also carries GreenLight and Johnny Lightning brands of collectibles, which Mr. Pose said were in short supply at Walmart and Target stores.

“I’m bummed about it,” he said of the Toys “R” Us closings. “This is hard to find.”

Around noon, the store had a sign on its front door that read, “We are not closing.”

By 1:30 p.m., the sign was gone.

Gillian Dosse with her son, Liam. “There are hardly any big, great toys stores where a kid can just wander,” Ms. Dosse said.CreditJenn Ackerman for The New York Times

The pleasure of waiting

Gillian Dosse of Roseville, Minn., loved Toys “R” Us as a child, and is especially nostalgic about reading the holiday catalogs. She would take a marker to them and circle the toys she wanted. It’s a tradition she taught her 6-year-old son, Liam.

“It was like looking back through a time machine,” she said. “It brings back the simplicity of picking out what you would like and hoping to see it under the tree instead of getting that, at one click of a button, delivered to your doorstep.”

“Toys ‘R’ Us is nostalgia and a big part of American consumerism,” said Scott Bleicher, left, who was at a store in Queens on Thursday with a colleague, Carlo Mantuano.CreditJeenah Moon for The New York Times

Not necessarily the first choice

“We’re Amazon shoppers for better or worse. I guess we’re part of the problem.”

Scott Bleicher and a colleague needed props for a photo shoot. They ended up at the Rego Park Toys “R” Us — only after hunting around online first.

A home for tantrums

The child bawling for just one more toy was long a fixture of Toys “R” Us stores. That used to be Joe Lotempio, now a bankruptcy lawyer who can buy Lego sets for himself, as he did on Thursday at the store in Fort Myers, Fla.

“Toys ‘R’ Us is the last of the toy stores,” said Mr. Lotempio, who likes to collect action figures and video games. “It’s a little upsetting.”

Ryan Santos, 36, with his son, Remy. “It’s great for kids because you can run around and play with stuff.” Mr. Santos said, “but it’s expensive, unfortunately.”CreditThomas Patterson for The New York Times

The price equation

“Just across the way, the same products are 10, 15, 20 percent cheaper. It’s hard to give them dollars just because of nostalgia.”

Ryan Santos, who took one of his young sons to a Toys “R” Us in Portland, Ore., said from the parking lot, which was also by a Target store.

Reporting was contributed by Christina Capecchi, Ron Feemster, John Hacker, Courtney Sherwood and Zach Wichter.


An earlier version of this article misstated the given name of a customer at the Toys “R” Us store in Fort Myers, Fla. He is Joe Lotempio, not Jo.

Tiffany Hsu is a breaking news reporter on the Business Desk. Before joining The Times in 2017 she covered economic news for The Los Angeles Times and earned an M.B.A. from Columbia University. @tiffkhsu


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Republicans Find Undoing Bank Rules Is Easier Said Than Done

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Currently, banks with $50 billion or more in assets — a threshold that includes many smaller regional lenders — are treated under the 2010 law as “systemically important.” That designation subjects them to more stringent regulations. The Senate bill would raise that threshold to $250 billion, leaving only a handful of the biggest banks facing the toughest oversight.

The Senate legislation would also exempt banks with less than $10 billion in assets from the so-called Volcker Rule, which prohibits banks from making wagers in their own behalf rather than for clients.

President Trump said in a statement that he would sign the Senate bill in its current form. The problem is that it doesn’t go far enough for Republicans in the House.

“Why would we look at this product in the Senate as the max that should be done?” asked Representative Bill Huizenga, a Republican from Michigan.

The House passed its own measure to overhaul Dodd-Frank last year, but it was declared dead on arrival in the Senate. Mr. Hensarling, who is retiring next year, said components of that bill must be incorporated in a final package. He cited measures that would make it easier for start-ups to give presentations about their businesses without violating Securities and Exchange Commission rules and that would expand the types of investors who could participate in private corporate fund-raising.

Mr. Hensarling said he expected to gather Republicans and Democrats from both chambers to chart a path forward. He said Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, had promised not to hold a vote on the Senate bill in its current form.

While the banking world welcomed the passage of the Senate bill, they hope the House will take the legislation further in the industry’s direction.

The challenge is that if House Republicans insist on a much more aggressive regulatory rollback, it probably won’t be acceptable to moderate Democrats in the Senate, where 60 votes are needed for passage.

Analysts at the financial services firm Keefe, Bruyette & Woods gave the banking bill an 80 percent chance of being passed eventually, although House Republicans could still scuttle it if they overreach.

“It would be the greatest irony if House Republicans wind up killing the bill and doing what Senator Elizabeth Warren could not,” the analysts wrote in a note to clients.

Ms. Warren, an opponent of loosening bank rules, has publicly criticized her Democratic colleagues who supported the Senate legislation. Liberal interest groups, such as the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, are planning to unveil online advertisements in the coming days accusing senators who supported the legislation of voting with Wall Street and against working families.

Some Democratic leaders worry that such tactics might endanger the seats of senators up for re-election this year in states that Mr. Trump carried in 2016.

Republicans have been watching the infighting among Democrats with a quiet sense of glee.

And while congressional Republicans are pushing to broaden the Senate legislation, they are shelving some of their previous priorities for the sake of expediency.

Mr. Hensarling, for instance, has long wanted to dismantle the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the brainchild of Ms. Warren. But on Thursday he signaled that he wouldn’t insist on that being included in the current legislation.

“I vote for a lot of things I’m not comfortable with,” Mr. Hensarling said. “Right now, I’m very happy” with the bureau under Mick Mulvaney, the acting director, who has vowed to soften the agency’s approach to the banking industry.

Mr. Hensarling added: “May he rule forever.”

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Vanessa Trump Files for Divorce From Donald Trump Jr.

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He has stayed in close contact with his father, often defending the Trump administration on Twitter and in interviews on Fox News, and he recently campaigned in Pennsylvania for the Republican candidate in a special election.

The White House special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is examining a June 2016 meeting Donald Trump Jr. had with Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton and the president’s role in providing a misleading response to The New York Times last summer for an article about the meeting.

Last month, Vanessa Trump and her mother were hospitalized as a precaution after opening an envelope containing a white powdery substance that was later determined to be cornstarch, police officials said. A Massachusetts man was charged with sending the threatening letter. “No one should ever have to deal with this kind of sickening behavior,” Donald Trump Jr. said on Twitter about the episode.

A onetime model with the Wilhelmina agency, Ms. Trump was raised on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and once dated the actor Leonardo DiCaprio. At the time of their engagement, Mr. Trump accepted a ring from the Bailey Banks & Biddle jewelry store in Short Hills, N.J., in exchange for publicity, recreating his proposal in a New Jersey mall.

The two were married 10 months after Donald J. Trump married the former model Melania Knauss. In an interview last year with The Times, Donald Trump Jr. said a romantic evening with his wife included dinner at home (he likes to cook) and, perhaps, a movie. He tweeted about when his wife “took/dragged” him to see “Fifty Shades Darker.” (He didn’t love it.)

Using her Twitter account with the handle @MrsVanessaTrump, Ms. Trump frequently retweeted her husband’s posts pertaining to family life, many of which include photographs of their weekends in the Catskills. But her tweets about him appeared to stop in June 2017. The last tweet referring to her husband was a family portrait in which she wished the president a happy birthday.

Mr. Trump, who is active on Instagram, has posted mostly photos of him and his children in recent months. The last photograph with his wife was a photo of the family in February, when they were in Palm Beach celebrating a son’s birthday.

The New York Post first reported the divorce filing on Thursday.

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Streaming Soon: A Fight Over AT&T, Time Warner, and the Future of TV

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The Justice Department’s move to block the deal in November took Wall Street and the entertainment industry by surprise. Many executives and lawyers thought President Trump’s administration would usher in a hands-off approach to antitrust enforcement, despite Mr. Trump’s criticism of the deal on the campaign trail.

Makan Delrahim, assistant attorney general in the antitrust division of the Justice Department. The department demanded the sale of certain assets before it would approve a merger of AT&T and Time Warner. Credit Stephen Voss for The New York Times

Instead, the Justice Department, under its antitrust chief Makan Delrahim, moved aggressively, demanding the sale of major parts of the businesses before a deal could go through. AT&T responded by suggesting that Mr. Delrahim’s decision was politically motivated and not based on established antitrust law.

In recent weeks, though, the judge overseeing the case, Richard Leon of the United States District Court of the District of Columbia, has rejected moves by AT&T to inject politics into the arguments.

Unless the two sides settle — and there have been no signs of that happening — the trial is expected to showcase two starkly different visions of the country’s video future. Drama is also in the cards: Executives from AT&T and Time Warner, as well as competing cable, satellite, tech and media firms, are expected to take the stand over the course of several weeks — and possibly reveal details about the inner workings of the industry.

The Justice Department argues that the merged company’s combination of distribution and content would give it too much leverage in negotiations with the rest of the industry. It also says that the new company would demand higher licensing fees from other cable and satellite firms for what the government calls “must-watch” programming. Those higher charges would immediately trickle down to consumers at an estimated cost of 45 cents a month, or a combined $436 million annually for cable and satellite subscribers, the agency said.

The government’s case will be led by Craig Conrath, a plain-spoken and longtime litigator who has worked on merger cases for several administrations. He is expected to argue that if the merger is approved, AT&T and Comcast, a corporation that owns distribution and programming — the same combination that AT&T is seeking — would have the incentive to raise prices for access to their shows. That would hurt other cable companies and online streaming businesses.

Judge Leon oversaw the final approval of Comcast’s merger with NBC Universal in 2011, the deal that added programming to Comcast’s holdings.

“Either important video content will be available through a competitive market to all distributors, including up-and-coming innovators,” the Justice Department said in pretrial filings with the court. “Or it will likely only be available through vertically integrated, well-funded silos.”

Time Warner’s cable and movie holdings would be paired with AT&T’s mobile and satellite distribution networks to create an entertainment giant. Credit An Rong Xu for The New York Times

AT&T scoffs at the government’s predictions of price increases. And even if the analysis is accurate, the company has said, it would amount to the price of a fancy cup of coffee for each consumer. Contrary to the government’s theory that it would withhold content, AT&T says it wants to make sure its shows and movies are as widely distributed as possible.

Leading AT&T’s defense is Daniel Petrocelli, a Los Angeles-based lawyer with a long track record in high-profile cases but not someone who is considered an antitrust expert. Two decades ago, he won a wrongful death case against O. J. Simpson on behalf of the family of Ron Goldman. In 2006, he lost a case defending Jeffrey Skilling, the chief executive of Enron, of fraud and conspiracy.

Mr. Petrocelli is expected to argue that the government is missing the bigger picture. AT&T says that Silicon Valley companies like Netflix, Amazon, and Google have disrupted the entertainment industry by spending billions of dollars a year on original content and pushing the programming through their own distribution systems. Facebook and Google dominate the market for advertisements that run with those videos.

AT&T argues that a merger with Time Warner would add a new competitor against those giants, instead of reducing competition. AT&T will also promise to work out any contract disputes with cable and satellite companies through a third-party arbitrator, he is expected to argue.

“The new video revolution is defined by the spectacular rise of Netflix, Amazon, Google and other vertically integrated, direct-to-consumer technology companies,” AT&T said in its pretrial brief.

The merger is opposed by several Democratic lawmakers and many consumer groups, who say that AT&T’s control of more than 100 million mobile phone subscriptions gives it unparalleled power. Google, Facebook and Netflix, though mighty, don’t own the pipes that connect people to the internet, they say.

Streaming competition is the “best hope consumers have, but network operators will kill that competition if they are not stopped,” said Mark Cooper, the director of research at the Consumer Federation of America.

Many Wall Street analysts, however, say the government’s intervention in the deal will eventually harm consumers, because it will limit true competitors to the big tech companies.

“The government is about three years behind reality and is defining the marketplace as it was about three years ago,” said Laura Martin, an analyst at Needham & Company.

AT&T had asked for detailed communications logs between the White House and Justice Department staff members, including Mr. Delrahim, a former Trump White House lawyer. Judge Leon rejected those demands, and AT&T ultimately decided to exclude its concerns of potential presidential interference — which it described as “selective enforcement” — from the case.

But even without arguments of political interference entering the trial, many on Wall Street will be looking for clues about the kinds of corporate deals that will pass muster during the Trump administration.

The decision to block a merger between companies that don’t directly compete is rare. Mr. Delrahim has said that one of the common regulatory remedies to prevent anticompetitive behavior in such deals — getting companies to promise they’ll be on their best behavior — is not effective.

That view may ripple across merger and acquisition plans in other sectors, including the drugstore chain CVS’s $69 billion bid for the health insurance provider Aetna — as well as proposed media deals like Disney’s acquisition of Fox and Sinclair Broadcasting’s purchase of Tribune Media. Wall Street analysts expect the results of the trial will determine if more telecom and entertainment companies will pursue ambitious vertical mergers.

“This could direct the future path of the industry,” said Steven Salop, a professor of economics and law at Georgetown University Law School. “If it is permitted, vertical integration will continue.”

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After Equifax Breach, Credit Freeze Provision Comes at a Price

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The new legislation might do more harm than good, Mr. Litt said. For example, it could stop states from requiring that all credit reports be frozen by default — an arrangement that would put consumers in control of who gains access to their data. As it stands, consumers must contact each of the three bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — to initiate a freeze. Likewise, they must also contact the bureaus to lift the freeze, which is necessary when applying for a loan or, say, car insurance.

There are also several states where a freeze blocks not just lenders but also insurers and employers from access to your credit files. “Those states would be overridden because this law would only extend to credit checks” from lenders, Mr. Litt added.

Consumers have little choice but to work with Equifax and its peers. Banks and other financial services firms feed consumers’ personal data to the bureaus, which keep files on more than 200 million people. That data is then crunched to calculate personal credit scores.

There is no way to opt out of this system. Mortgage providers, credit card companies, mobile phone providers and others won’t do business with you until they check your credit report at one or all of the big bureaus. If you freeze your file, these companies cannot get to it — and if they cannot get to it, they won’t issue credit. That protects you if thieves obtain your personal information and try to open accounts in your name.

The Consumer Data Industry Association, the credit bureaus’ trade group, did not oppose the language in the Senate bill. The big bureaus do not break out how much they collect in fees for initiating and lifting credit freezes, the association said.

“Consumers in every state will be protected by a strong federal law under this bill,” Francis Creighton, president and chief executive officer of the association, said in a statement.

But consumer advocates do not believe it goes far enough. They would like a law that gave regulators — such as the Federal Trade Commission or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — the power to oversee data security at the big credit bureaus, which could include inspections and penalties for poor practices or digital breaches. Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, introduced one such bill this year.

Such an approach would be proactive, rather than the currently reactive way of doing things, said Chi Chi Wu, a staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center.

“The fundamental premise is you want a regulator to supervise for data security at the credit bureaus and not just, ‘We can take enforcement action after you messed up,” Ms. Wu said. “That is a different way of regulating than suing them after they’ve lost everyone’s data.”

Another bill, introduced by Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, would essentially freeze credit reports by default. Anna Laitin, director of financial policy for Consumers Union, said that bill would “stop identity thieves in their tracks by freezing access to credit files unless the consumer gives their consent.”

The current bill’s free freeze provision was viewed as a bargaining chip — a little goody for consumers — in legislation that would roll back some of the banking regulations that were established after the financial crisis a decade ago. But there was also at least one nugget that would be good for the bureaus: A provision to provide free credit monitoring to active-duty members of the military would strip them of the right to take the agencies to court should something go wrong.

It remains to be seen if the House will pass the legislation, which means free credit freezes aren’t guaranteed just yet. If the bill does not move ahead, states will be free to consider their own changes. Some states, for example, are considering legislation that would let consumers place a credit freeze at all three agencies by making a request at just one, Ms. Laitin said.

“State lawmakers pioneered credit freeze protection and have been quicker to take action compared to Congress,” she said. “They should be allowed to continue to innovate so that consumers can more easily protect themselves from identity theft fraud.”

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In the Age of Amazon, Toys ‘R’ Us and Other Bankruptcies Test Private Equity’s Playbook

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Money, too, was tight. Most of its debt, totaling about $5 billion, had not been paid down since the buyout 12 years earlier. It was paying $400 million in interest payments each year.

“This company had a long history of taking on debt and kicking the can down the road for 10 years, and refinancing,” said Douglas M. Foley, a lawyer at McGuireWoods, who is representing a lender in the Toys “R” Us bankruptcy.

With sales falling and debt payments mounting, the company’s lawyer said in September that Toys “R” Us had “too much debt.” It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, seeking to shed some of its debt and reorganize its business.

The company secured new loans to keep operating into the critical holiday selling season and said it would hire hundreds of seasonal workers to help improve customer service. But the holidays were a bust for Toys “R” Us, even as other retailers reported strong sales. On Thursday, the company said that its earnings during the important shopping season were $250 million less than expected.

The lenders, which had given the company considerable leeway during the holidays, lost confidence in company’s turnaround plan. “The business plan was underwhelming, that is best way to say it,’’ said Mr. Foley.

The company has been hemorrhaging money. Mr. Foley calculated that company has spent nearly $50 million on legal, banking and consulting fees from September through January. The lenders determined that they needed to stop burning through cash and start selling off the company’s inventory and real estate.

The company said on Thursday that it talked to several possible buyers of its American operations. But it could not complete a sale, leading to the demise of the 70-year-old retailer.

“The retail industry is going through such a conclusion, it is not clear what the end of the road looks like,” said Stephen B. Selbst, a bankruptcy lawyer at Herrick Feinstein. “If you are an equity investor, you probably think ‘you know what? I have other uses for my money.”

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