Outgoing FDA chief Gottlieb gets personal about leaving ‘the best job’

For the last two years, Scott Gottlieb missed a lot of time with his wife and three daughters — back-to-school nights, school plays and parent-teacher conferences.

He loved his job running the Food and Drug Administration, but hated leaving his wife Allyson, nine-year-old twins and five-year-old in Connecticut every Sunday to head to Washington, DC. Leaving work on Fridays was also hard. Allyson would tease him about how he wouldn’t want to leave D.C. at the end of the week, but didn’t want to leave his home in Westport, Connecticut on Sundays either.

Gottlieb said he was used to traveling for work every week when President Donald Trump tapped him to be his FDA commissioner in March 2017.

The commute didn’t bother him so much until late last year when he was on a call with a U.S. senator and his other line kept ringing. It was his wife; she was hit by a car while walking in a strip mall parking lot and slightly fractured her knee. He flew home that day, but there was no quick way to get to her between the flight and hour-long drive home from the airport.

“It put a bigger weight on me in terms of feeling disconnected and far away and not being there,” said Gottlieb in an interview. “There was a fear that, God forbid, if something happened and I need to be home quickly, I just couldn’t.”

Although he originally planned to stay at the agency through August, the accident helped put his priorities in order, he said. At the top of the list: spending the summer at home with his family.

That’s essentially what he told his staff when he resigned March 5; he wanted to spend more time with his family.

Usually, when an official of Gottlieb’s stature resigns in Washington or Wall Street, “spending more time with my family” is rarely the real reason. And his unexpected departure, just two months after denying plans to step down, fanned speculation that he was at odds with the Trump administration and forced out like so many other top officials over the last two years.

Not true, Gottlieb said in an interview at the agency’s Silver Spring, Maryland headquarters where his office bookcase is filled with family photos. Befitting for the nation’s top food regulator, who is also a medical doctor, the White House candy dish on his desk is covered with plastic wrap to guard against germs.

The 46-year-old still has a full career in front of him. He’s worked at the FDA multiple times, invested in health-care companies as a venture capitalist and written about health policy at the conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute. He denied knowing what he’s going to do next.

In his nearly two years at the helm of the FDA, Gottlieb advanced sweeping initiatives like making cigarettes minimally or non-addictive and approving generic drugs faster. He published roughly 175 commissioner statements and gave countless media interviews, helping raise the FDA’s stature and influence.

Just two weeks before Allyson’s accident, Gottlieb announced the FDA would seek to limit the sales of fruity flavored e-cigarettes. That is part of the biggest and controversial issues of his tenure: curbing epidemic levels of teen vaping.

He’ll step down before the policy is finalized or implemented. It’s one of a number of initiatives he advanced that he leaves unfinished. He says he would have liked the tobacco policies to be further along, though he’s “confident” they will get out.

Ned Sharpless, currently director of the National Cancer Institute, is filling in as acting FDA commissioner after Gottlieb’s last day, which is Friday.

Right now, the only future plans Gottlieb said he’s sure of: going to Disney World for spring break. (He let his daughters pick the vacation.)

“That last week is going to be hard. The first week after I announced, it was difficult,” Gottlieb said. “I was very emotional because in some respects, I’m walking away from the best job I’ll ever have. That’s hard to do.”

The night before Gottlieb announced his resignation, he called his old boss and friend, former FDA commissioner Mark McClellan.

“He said, ‘just make sure you’re ready to do this because there’s nothing like this. You’ll never have another job like this again,'” Gottlieb recalls him saying. “And I know that. I know enough to know that.”

He also called as many of his FDA colleagues as he could before announcing his resignation. When the Washington Post’s story broke, Gottlieb was sitting with two of his senior advisers in his office at the Health and Human Services Department headquarters. Their phones immediately started ringing.

Gottlieb said his predecessor Robert Califf warned him that it’s going to feel weird when his phone stops ringing the day after he leaves.

As for what comes next, Gottlieb said he has no idea.

“It’s the first time in my life I don’t know what I’m doing next,” he said. “I’m a doctor so I always had my next job planned out, but this is truly the first time I’m leaving a job and I do not have a job.”

The one job he said he’s looking forward to? Being a dad again.

Global growth fears overblown, even as growth to stay ‘sluggish’: PNC

Global growth fears may soon loosen their hold on the U.S. stock market, says PNC’s Jeff Mills.

“I think, as we move into the second half of the year, this narrative of global growth potentially causing problems here in the U.S. is going to shift to a stabilization of global growth and then more of a focus on things like earnings,” Mills told CNBC’s “Futures Now” on Thursday.

Mills, who is co-chief investment strategist at PNC Financial Services Group, wasn’t as fazed by last week’s yield curve inversion as most of Wall Street was. Shorter-term Treasury yields crossing above their longer-term counterparts is widely seen as a sign of an oncoming recession.

Instead, he said investors should take the inversion with “a grain of salt,” saying it was more of a technically driven move than an outright signal of the U.S. economy hitting the brakes.

“There is a nuance going on in the fixed-income market right now,” Mills said. “It might be underappreciated.”

“Structurally, the yield curve is actually a bit flatter than it normally would be, so you could see more frequent inversions that don’t necessarily have to do with growth,” the strategist explained. “From a timing perspective, we all know that the variability between inversion and recession is pretty large, and you usually actually see positive S&P 500 returns between the initial date of inversion and the next recession. So it’s certainly not time to hit the panic button and sell right away. You have to acknowledge it, but I think we probably still have a little bit more time.”

Mills also said that the world’s most pronounced areas of weakness, like the Chinese market, appear to be bottoming based on his analysis.

In China, for one, “you’re starting to see credit growth bottom, and typically that leads global PMIs,” Mills said, referring to Purchasing Managers’ Indexes, which serve as key indicators for the health of manufacturing and service markets around the world.

“Even if you look at Europe right now, it has been a bit of a black eye as it relates to global economic growth, … the Citi [Economic] Surprise Index looks like it’s starting to bottom,” Mills said.

The Citi Economic Surprise Index, which measures economic performance relative to economists’ expectations, hit its lowest level since August 2017 in early March.

And while fears of a recession in Germany have been simmering since the start of 2019, exacerbated last week by a worrying signal in the German bond market, Mills said the worst could be over there, too.

“I think the real ugliness of German data is probably behind us,” he argued, adding that uncertainty around Brexit has likely contributed to the weakness. “I think the German bund probably bottoms here. I think the downside to rates is probably a bit overdone. You actually saw the German 10-year Bund trade through the Japanese bond. That’s only happened twice in the last 30 years. So I think you probably see a bottoming out of rates here as you slowly start to see a stabilization of global growth going forward.”

All in all, while Mills predicted global growth would stay “sluggish,” he doesn’t think it’s anywhere near time for investors to call it quits.

“I’m not forecasting some sort of huge reacceleration, but I think all we need to see is a stabilization right now given expectations,” Mills said.

U.S. markets closed broadly higher Friday on renewed optimism around a potential U.S.-China trade deal. The S&P 500 logged its best start to a year since 1998.

Here’s how women can take charge of their money

To help women successfully take control of their finances, she encourages investing with confidence, rather than stashing cash in a low-yield savings account.

While zero-risk cash investments are entirely appropriate for short-term needs, such as an emergency fund, savers will lose money in the long run by trailing the rate of inflation.

“We put and keep far too much cash in the bank and we should be investing in the markets,” Chatzky said.

More from Invest in You:
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Women more likely to leave finances to spouses

The first step is to make savings a priority — aim to put aside 15 percent of whatever you earn, she advised — and put those dollars to work in an index fund. You don’t have to actively trade stocks, Chatzky said; just pay attention to your fund’s approach toward shifting from stocks to bonds.

Alternatively, opt for a target-date fund, which gradually moves from riskier investments to more conservative options as you near retirement.

Then, remember to revisit your portfolio periodically and rebalance as necessary to ensure that your asset allocation is still in line with your short- and long-term goals.

If you want help, meet with a professional. “I am a big fan of financial advisors,” Chatzky said.

Financial advisors can play an important role, as well, in addressing any specific financial concerns you may have, such as a job change, move, illness, change in marital status, buying or selling a home, or paying for a child’s education.

“Your advisor may tell you to increase your savings rate, restructure the way you’re paying down your debts, [or] help you strategize to avoid taxes,” she added. “All of those provide a quantifiable return.”

Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.

American Airlines flight makes emergency landing after hitting flock of geese

A traveler walks past an American Airlines Group Inc. aircraft at Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Washington, D.C.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A traveler walks past an American Airlines Group Inc. aircraft at Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Washington, D.C.

An American Airlines flight safely landed in Boston after hitting a flock of geese on Sunday morning.

American Airlines flight 2163 took off from Boston Logan International Airport at 10:08 am eastern time, heading for LaGuardia Airport in New York City.

The flight had 99 passengers and a crew of four.

The plane returned to Boston after encountering a bird strike, according to a statement from the airline. The flight landed safely at 10:19 AM and taxied to the gate, American Airlines said.

Passengers boarded a replacement aircraft, which took off at 11:52 a.m. ET, said American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein.

The airline’s maintenance team in Boston will evaluate the Embraer E190 aircraft.

Luggage storage apps can solve the ‘where do I stash my bags’ problem

A vexing problem for travelers is finding a place to stash their suitcases when they arrive in a city too early to check into a hotel or Airbnb, or when they’ve checked out of their rooms and have adventures planned before heading to the airport.

Toting baggage to restaurants, museums or a meeting with a potential client is one option. But a growing number of start-ups promise apps that match travelers seeking short-term bag storage with coffee shops, restaurants, gift shops and other businesses that have secure storage space to spare.

These luggage storage networks, such as Vertoe, LuggageHero, Stasher, Nannybag, Knock Knock City and others, allow users to open an app, locate a vetted nearby drop-off spot, reserve a space and pay for the service online. Once dropped off, security ties are usually attached to bags to prevent tampering. Insurance is included in the fee and, after pick-up, users are invited to rate the experience online.

Storage fees vary and are charged by either the hour or the day. Both Knock Knock City and LuggageHero charge $1 per hour or $10 per day with a one-time handling fee of $2 per bag. Nannybag charges $6 per bag for the first day and $4 per bag for each additional day. Stasher’s fees are $6 per day per item and Vertoe’s fees start at $5.95 per day, per item (overnight storage counts as two days) and varies by location.

The services are still young and in the active learning and growth mode.

LuggageHero, which Jannik Lawaetz founded in 2016, currently has more than 300 storage locations in six cities (New York, London, Copenhagen, Lisbon, Madrid and Barcelona) and plans to expand to 39 cities by January 2020.

“The biggest challenges so far have been language,” said Lawaetz. The company started by working only with locations in English-speaking countries, but now is working where Spanish and Portuguese are spoken.

Knock Knock City, also founded in 2016, has dealt with some challenges as well.

“We started in New York City and Brooklyn with people offering bag storage in their apartments on Craigslist, like Airbnb for luggage,” said Selin Sonmez, co-founder of Knock Knock City, “But we found the business hours posted for some people’s homes weren’t reliable or always accurate and others required users to walk up flights of stairs with their suitcases.”

Knock Knock City now also operates in San Francisco, Boston, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Philadelphia, Chicago and Miami and only works with partners on a ground floor that have strict business hours. Sonmez said any location with an average star rating below 3.5 (out of 5) is removed.

Like the other luggage-storage app services, the list of Knock Knock City partner sites is eclectic. Customers can store their bags at bike shops, clothing stores, restaurants, a massage therapist’s office, an eyebrow bar, at hotels and in hostels.

In addition to helping businesses put unused or underutilized space to income-producing use, “we’re helping local economies by getting travelers to explore neighborhoods and getting foot traffic in the doors,” said Sonmez.

That’s the pitch that convinced Atlas Workbase, a co-working space by Seattle’s Space Needle, to sign up as a Knock Knock City site.

“There are a lot of Airbnb rentals in this area and a lot of tourists, so it solves a real need,” said Kim Burmester, Atlas Workbase vice president of sales and marketing. “But our real goal is to get traffic in here as our key target audience is the traveling professional.”

Vertoe, with luggage storage sites in 19 U.S. cities, has partnered with gift shops at transit nodes, hotels, cafes and dry cleaners. It will soon add some co-working spaces to its network as well.

“When we look for look for spaces, it is very important to us that our partners actually make money,” said Vertoe co-founder and chief marketing officer Neha Kesarwani. “We add the locations thoughtfully with that goal in mind. If it’s a marketplace, it needs to be a healthy one.”

Nannybag, which operates in 24 countries and 250 cities, reports some hotel partners that have signed up as luggage “nannies” are finding it more profitable to set aside some guests rooms for luggage storage instead of renting the rooms to guests.

Stasher, with more than 1,000 StashPoints in more than 160 cities across four continents, has partnered with everything from a flower shop to an art gallery for storage. But it finds that a third of its luggage storage sites are now hotels.

“They generally offer better customer service as they normally already deal with this kind of request, and have very convenient opening hours as well,” said Stasher marketing manager Elsa Corcione via email.

Stasher is also available in the Hotels.com concierge app and, like other luggage storage apps, is working with online travel companies to offer luggage storage as an add-on service.

As convenient as storing a suitcase at a coffee shop for a few hours may be, travelers who don’t want to deal with any baggage hassles have other options. Travelers can send luggage (and golf bags, ski and snowboard gear or bicycles) ahead with door-to-door shipping services such as Luggage Free or with services such as Lugless (part of the Luggage Forward family) that offer both drop-off and door-to-door luggage shipping services. Pricing depends on destination, weight and how soon you want your bag to arrive.

Or, business travelers may want to consider another option. For an introductory fee of $9.95 per month for storage, and $99 per standard round-trip U.S. shipment, travelers can skip worrying about making arrangements for toting around a suitcase altogether. Dufl sends customers a suitcase to be filled with clothes or accessories and then picks up the suitcase and stores the items in a “virtual closet.”

Customers can request that the suitcase, filled with any of the stored items, be waiting for them at a hotel and then, after their trip, return the suitcase and the clothes back to Dufl for dry cleaning and storage until the next trip comes around.

Special counsel Mueller Russia probe findings have little impact on views of Trump: NBC News/WSJ poll

News that special counsel Robert Mueller ended his investigation without recommending criminal charges against President Trump has had little effect on public opinion, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows.

The proportion of Americans who say the investigation has not increased their doubts about the Trump administration rose by ten points to 57 percent in the survey, while the proportion who say it has increased their doubts fell 12 points to 36 percent since February. But the president’s job approval dropped by three points to 43 percent during the same period.

Behind those offsetting results is the fact that Americans have not been nearly as attuned to news about the Mueller investigation as the political and media worlds have been. Just 39 percent said they had read or heard “a lot” of news coverage of the end of the probe.

“It was not an event that captured the American public,” said Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducts the NBC/WSJ poll with his Democratic counterpart Peter Hart.

So far, only Attorney General William Barr’s four-page summary of Mueller’s nearly 400 page report has been publicly released. Barr has promised to release the bulk for the report by mid April, but for now Americans are withholding definitive judgment.

In the survey, 29 percent said they though Mueller had cleared Trump of wrongdoing, while a 40 percent plurality said he had not. Another 31 percent weren’t sure.

And Americans remain split on the prospect of impeachment proceedings. Sixteen percent of the public see enough evidence to begin impeachment hearings now, while another 33 percent say Congress should investigate before deciding the matter. Another 47 percent want Congress to eschew impeachment and allow Trump to complete his term.

Should the president seek re-election to a second term, he’d begin with a solid base of support but a larger group of voters with misgivings about his candidacy. The poll showed 40 percent of Americans would feel enthusiastic or comfortable about supporting him, while 59 percent would have reservations or be very uncomfortable.

Opinion divides more evenly on former Vice President Joe Biden. As he considers whether to enter the race, 47 percent say they’d feel enthusiastic or comfortable backing him, while 48 percent would not.

The early profile of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on this measure, 37 percent vs. 58 percent, resembles Trump’s. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has a similar standing at 30 percent vs. 51 percent.

Democratic contenders Sen. Kamala Harris of California and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas remain less well known. Both discomfort four in 10 Americans at this stage, while roughly one in four feel positively about their candidacies.

The telephone survey of 1,000 adults, conducted March 23-27, carries a margin for error of 3.1-percentage points.

North Korea calls for investigation into Madrid embassy attack

North Korea said Sunday it wants an investigation into a raid on its embassy in Spain last month, calling it a “grave terrorist attack” and an act of extortion that violates international law.

The incident occurred ahead of President Donald Trump’s second summit with leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi on Feb. 27-28. A mysterious group calling for the overthrow of the North Korean regime has claimed responsibility.

The North’s official media quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying that an illegal intrusion into and occupation of a diplomatic mission and an act of extortion are a grave breach of the state sovereignty and a flagrant violation of international law, “and this kind of act should never be tolerated.”

He claimed an armed group tortured the staff and suggested they stole communications gear.

The 10 people who allegedly raided the embassy in Madrid belong to a mysterious dissident organization that styles itself as a government-in-exile dedicated to toppling the ruling Kim family dynasty. The leader of the alleged intruders appears to be a Yale-educated human rights activist who was once jailed in China while trying to rescue North Korean defectors living in hiding, according to activists and defectors.

Details have begun trickling out about the raid after a Spanish judge lifted a secrecy order last week and said an investigation of what happened on Feb. 22 uncovered evidence that “a criminal organization” shackled and gagged embassy staff before escaping with computers, hard drives and documents. A U.S. official said the group is named Cheollima Civil Defense, a little-known organization that recently called for international solidarity in the fight against North Korea’s government.

Spain has issued at least two international arrest warrants for members of the group.

Comedian in front as curtain rises on election

Just 9 percent of Ukrainians have confidence in their national government, the lowest of any electorate in the world, a Gallup poll published in March showed.

Zelenskiy has tapped into the anti-establishment mood, though his inexperience makes Western officials and foreign investors wary and skeptics question his fitness to be a wartime commander-in-chief.

Inviting comparisons with U.S. President Donald Trump and Italy’s Five-Star movement, his campaign has relied heavily on social media and comedy gigs of jokes, sketches and song-and-dance routines that poke fun at his political rivals.

“He embodies the perceived need for ‘new faces’ in politics and could sway the young, pro-reform electorate to his side,” said Economist Intelligence Unit analyst Agnese Ortolani.

Zelenskiy’s campaign has blurred the line between reality and the TV series in which he plays a scrupulously honest history teacher who accidentally becomes president.

In series three, which began airing in March, his character is flung into prison and the country falls under the control of oligarchs, populists and ultranationalists, and eventually gets broken up into 28 states. Thinly-disguised characters resembling Poroshenko and Tymoshenko come to power.

The election has been marred by allegations of fraud and vote-buying, meaning one or more of the candidates could contest the result. Ultranationalists acting as election observers have also caused concern about the prospect of violence.

Accused of cheating by Tymoshenko, Poroshenko attended a public prayer on the banks of the Dnieper river in Kiev on Saturday to pray for the elections to be free and fair and, in his words, for “the wisdom of the people who tomorrow will determine the future of Ukraine.”

Batman turns 80 today and is still fighting crime and making money

Throughout the past eight decades, the iconic character created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger has faced his ups and downs, which is perhaps why he is so relatable.

The 1950s and early 1960s were defined by an era of a lighthearted science fiction, having “The Bat” fight space aliens and monsters. There was also the introduction of more family-oriented characters, like Robin, The Boy Wonder, and Ace the Bat Hound. With Marvel Comics starting to knock on DC’s door with its arrival in 1961, introducing characters like Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, the Fantastic Four and Marvel’s own crime-fighting, gadget-laden capitalist, Tony Stark (aka Iron Man), Batman started to see a decline in comic sales.

Longtime DC comic book editor Julius Schwartz, who oversaw Batman for 14 years, kept the print emphasis on Batman’s detective skills in the mid-1960s and removed some of the lighter elements that had come to define the character. But the “Batman” television show (1967–69) starring Adam West and Burt Ward was written as a family-oriented show with a comedic tone. Although the show and its featured film, titled “The Batman” (1966) kept the the comics from going out of print, it wasn’t until 1970 that Batman’s true presence was returned to form.

“Once the TV show went off the air, it was Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams who finally, permanently returned Batman to the shadows. Adams’ art, combined with O’Neil’s sharply written scripts, brought the air of menace and mystery back to Gotham,” Avila said. “They established the template that scores of creators, from Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers to [the concepts that] Frank Miller and Scott Snyder have been inspired by and built on.”

Wealthfront bets on ‘self-driving money,’ following Netflix’s playbook

Wealthfront’s strategy is to automate an investment process that was once largely done by humans, from account set up to fund selection and account maintenance. All of this hinges on its customers trusting computers, hence, the firm’s target audience are tech-savvy millennial investors.

So far, Wealthfront has signed up 270,000 accounts, with roughly $13 billion in assets under management. It is what the founders call “self-driving money.” Similar to how humans use an autonomous car, people using the Wealthfront app are investing automatically in accounts that are doing the work for them, but they can take control when they want.

Roughly 90 percent of these customers are under the age of 45. Young people are largely ignored by traditional brokers, who usually want hefty account balances, and they are “desperate for something,” Rachleff said.

Like Charles Schwab and an earlier generation of discount brokers, Wealthfront and its fellow robo advisors are changing how the brokerage industry works. But it’s taken about a decade to get here.

Rachleff spent many years as a Silicon Valley investor before deciding to retire in 2005 and teach at his alma mater, Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. There he has become something of a pied piper for newer generations of tech entrepreneurs.

Andy Dunn, the CEO of Bonobos, took Rachleff’s class when it was co-taught with Google CEO Eric Schmidt. The class was highly recommended but tough to get into, he told CNBC. It was one of those classes where “people walk in and everyone’s quiet and prepared,” he said. “People were hanging on his every word.”

Rachleff also became a trustee at the University of Pennsylvania, where he went to college and now chairs the endowment board. His experience with the endowment kindled the idea for what would become Wealthfront. Extremely wealthy people and big investors like endowments pay money managers big fees to generate returns using sophisticated models. Those managers demand high minimum investments, far beyond the reach of ordinary people.

Rachleff’s idea was to use software that would take those same sophisticated money management techniques and make them affordable and accessible to more people.

Dan Carroll had come to a similar conclusion. In 2009, Carroll took to Facebook to create an app where people could create virtual portfolios and learn how to invest without using any actual money. The app quickly amassed half a million users. Eventually he teamed up with Rachleff to start “KaChing” — a market place of vetted portfolio managers — which failed. They shifted gears to start Wealthfront in 2011.