How to find and cancel unused subscriptions with Rocket Money

Jnemchinova | Istock | Getty Images

I spent about 30 minutes using one app to cancel a bunch of subscriptions I no longer use. I’ll save about $1,235 this year.

If you’re like me, you might sign up for lots of subscriptions using different credit cards and then forget to cancel them when you no longer use them.

I used the Rocket Money app to see all of my subscriptions. It let me cancel the ones I don’t need without opening a bunch of other apps or websites and then figuring out how to unsubscribe.

I canceled the meal-prep subscription service Hello Fresh, saving me $980 for the year right off the bat. I also nixed a subscription to a $180 workout app and cut my $75 Instacart membership. Rocket Money might also help you discover and cancel subscriptions to streaming services you no longer use or other recurring bills you’ve long forgotten about.

The app offers new users a 7-day free trial, enough time for you to cancel your subscriptions, but otherwise costs $3 to $12 per month, billed annually, depending on what you need. There are other features of Rocket Money, such as budget tracking and savings tools that may make a monthly fee worth it for you. I just needed it to aggregate all of my subscriptions in one place so I could cancel the ones I haven’t been using.

Here’s what I did.

How to find and cancel unwanted subscriptions

It’s easy to create an account and navigate Rocket Money as long as you remember the passwords to your many accounts. Here’s what to do:

Pro tip: If you’re having trouble remembering all of your accounts, go to annualcreditreport.com to obtain your free credit report, which will include all of your open accounts. Every year, you can download a copy of your annual credit report for free, without dinging your credit score. This will allow you to see some of those random credit accounts you may have opened and forgotten about that you may want to link to Rocket Money.

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Who would buy WWE, as McMahon returns to board to pursue sale

World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. Chairman Vince McMahon is introduced during the WWE Monday Night Raw show at the Thomas & Mack Center August 24, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Ethan Miller | Getty Images

Vince McMahon has returned to the World Wrestling Entertainment board of directors to facilitate potential sale talks ahead of the company’s media rights renewal.

The notion of WWE selling isn’t new. CNBC reported it looked like a sale target in April and that it appeared only more attractive in July after a sexual misconduct scandal. The rationale is fairly straightforward: WWE is valuable intellectual property.

Owning IP allows streaming services to exclusively offer content without the annoyance of winning licensing rights in an auction every few years. WWE also has value to offer in merchandising and theme park businesses.

WWE has hired JPMorgan to help the company advise on a potential sale, according to people familiar with the matter. JPMorgan declined to comment. A WWE spokesman couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

If a deal occurs, it would likely occur in the next three to six months, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. WWE plans to talk to potential buyers before it makes a decision on TV rights renewal agreements.

Facilitating a sale

Mansoor (bottom) competes with Mustafa Ali during the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Crown Jewel pay-per-view in the Saudi capital Riyadh on October 21, 2021.

Fayez Nureldine | AFP | Getty Images

Whether a buyer would be comfortable with McMahon taking a more hands-on role at the company is unknown. But WWE is McMahon’s life work. It’s possible a sale may only happen with at least some strings attached.

WWE has a market capitalization of more than $6 billion after rising nearly 17% percent on Friday, buoyed by heightened sale speculation.

There are three categories of likely buyers for WWE — the legacy media companies, the streamers and the entertainment holding companies. Here’s who might be interested.

Comcast

Fox

Disney

Disney CEO, Bob Iger attends the European film premiere of ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ at Cineworld Leicester Square on 18 December, 2019 in London, England.

Wiktor Szymanowicz | Future Publishing | Getty Images

Warner Bros. Discovery

Netflix

Amazon

Endeavor Group Holdings

Ari Emanuel speaks onstage during the 2017 LACMA Art + Film Gala Honoring Mark Bradford and George Lucas presented by Gucci at LACMA on November 4, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. 

Stefanie Keenan | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

Endeavor’s enterprise value of just about $11 billion makes WWE a huge swing for the company. The company’s relatively small balance sheet would likely prevent Endeavor from winning a bidding war against media giants. But McMahon’s outsized personality may fit with the brash Emanuel and UFC President Dana White.

Selling to a third party would also allow WWE to increase rights renewals every few years. That may or may not be a positive for the long-term future of the company as the media distribution ecosystem changes.

Liberty Media

Jim Cramer gives his take on Disney

Phishing attacks are increasing and getting more sophisticated

cyano66 | iStock | Getty Images

Phishing is on the rise, and anyone who uses email, text messaging, and other forms of communication is a potential victim. 

These attacks, in which a cybercriminal sends a deceptive message that’s designed to fool a user into providing sensitive information such as credit card numbers or to launch malware on the user’s system, can be extremely effective if done well. 

These types of attacks have become increasingly sophisticated — making them more dangerous — and more common. An October 2022 study by messaging security provider SlashNext analyzed billions of link-based URLs, attachments, and natural language messages in email, mobile and browser channels over a six-month period, and found more than 255 million attacks. That’s a 61% increase in the rate of phishing attacks compared with 2021. 

The study revealed that cybercriminals are shifting their attacks to mobile and personal communication channels to reach users. It showed a 50% increase in attacks on mobile devices, with scams and credential theft at the top of the list of payloads. 

“What we’ve been seeing is an increase in the use of voicemail and text as part of two-pronged phishing and BEC [business email compromise] campaigns,” said Jess Burn, senior analyst at Forrester Research. “The attackers leave a voicemail or send a text about the email they sent, either lending credibility to the sender or increasing the urgency of the request.” 

The firm is receiving a lot of inquiries from clients about BEC attacks in general, Burn said. “With geopolitical strife disrupting ransomware gang activity and cryptocurrency — the preferred method of ransom payment — imploding as of late, bad actors are going back to old-fashioned fraud to make money,” he said. “So BEC is on the rise.” 

Criminals using phishing attacks based on tax season, shopping deals

One of the iterations of phishing that people need to be aware of is spearphishing, a more targeted form of phishing that often uses topical lures.

“While it is not a new tactic, the topics and themes might evolve with world or even seasonal events,” said Luke McNamara, principal analyst at cyber security consulting firm Mandiant Consulting. “For example, as we are in the holiday season, we can expect to see more phishing lures related to shopping deals. During regional tax seasons, threat actors might similarly try to exploit users in the process of filing their taxes with phishing emails that contain tax themes in the subject line.” 

Phishing themes can also be generic, such as an email that appears to be from a technology vendor about resetting an account, McNamara said. “More prolific criminal campaigns might leverage less specific themes, and conversely more targeted campaigns by threat actors involved in activity like cyber espionage might utilize more specific phishing lures,” he said.

What people should do to ward off phishing attempts

Individuals can take steps to better defend themselves against phishing attacks. 

One is to be vigilant when giving out personal information, whether it’s to a person or on a website.

“Phishing is a form of social engineering,” Burn said. “That means that phishers use psychology to convince their victims to take an action they may not normally take. Most people want to be helpful and do what someone in authority tells them to do. Phishers know this, so they prey upon those instincts and ask the victim to help with a problem or do something immediately.” 

If an email is unexpected from a specific sender, if it’s asking someone to do something urgently, or if it’s asking for information or financial details not normally provided, take a step back and look closely at the sender, Burn said. 

“If the sender looks legitimate but something still seems off, don’t open any attachments and mouse or hover over any hyperlinks in the body of the email and look at the URL the link points to,” Burn said. “If it doesn’t seem like a legitimate destination, do not click on it.” 

If a suspicious-looking message comes in from a known source, reach out to the person or company via a separate channel and inquire as to whether they sent the message, Burn said. “You’ll save yourself a lot of trouble and you’ll alert the person or company to the phishing scam if the email did not originate from them,” he said. 

It’s a good idea to stay up on the latest phishing techniques. “Cyber criminals constantly evolve their methods, so individuals need to be on alert,” said Emily Mossburg, global cyber leader at Deloitte. “Phishers prey on human error.” 

Another good practice is to use anti-phishing software and other cyber security tools as protection against potential attacks and to keep personal and work data safe. This includes automated behavior analytics tools to detect and mitigate potential risk indicators. “The use of these tools among employees has increased significantly,” Mossburg said. 

Another technology, multi-factor authentication, “can provide one of the best layers of security to secure your emails,” McNamara said. “It provides another layer of defense should a threat actor successfully compromise your credentials.”

What small business owners can do to protect themselves from hackers

U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy pledges to tackle immigration, ‘woke’ education policies and IRS funding

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) addresses the House of Representatives for the first time after being elected Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives in a late night 15th round of voting on the fourth day of the 118th Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 7, 2023. 

Jon Cherry | Reuters

Newly elected U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy took the gavel of the chamber after a bruising weeklong battle within his own party, promising to carry out a conservative, America-first agenda, tackling the immigration crisis at the Mexican border, cutting back funding at the IRS and fixing “woke indoctrination in our schools.”

After 14 failed votes since Tuesday, the California Republican was able to overcome opposition after making extraordinary concessions to a small bloc of far-right holdouts who refused to support his speaker bid.

McCarthy laid out an ambitious plan in addressing the 118th congressional session early Saturday morning, saying he wants to “be the check and provide some balance” to President Joe Biden’s policies. He said the first legislation he plans to tackle will repeal funding for more than 87,000 new IRS agents. He highlighted immigration reform as a top priority, saying the Republican-controlled House will hold some of its first hearings of the year at the Southern border.

“No more ignoring this crisis of safety and sovereignty,” he said. “We must secure our border.”

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) bangs the Speaker’s gavel for the first time after being elected the next Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives in a late night 15th round of voting on the fourth day of the 118th Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 7, 2023. 

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

McCarthy claimed he will pass bills fixing “urgent” problems in the nation with an America-first approach. In addition to immigration, he said he wants to address “America-Last” energy policies and “woke indoctrination” in schools, noting that children come first and should be taught to “dream big.”

He added that he will also plan to address long-term challenges like debt and the Chinese Communist Party, and he affirmed his commitment to law enforcement and criminal prosecution.

McCarthy said the tense showdown on the House floor this week was proof that he is not someone who gives up easily.

“You know – my father always told me: It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” he said. “And now we need to finish strong for the American people.”

Though his election marked the end of a long week and night in Washington, McCarthy said it was also a new beginning for the nation.

Republican members-elect celebrate as House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is elected Speaker of the House in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 07, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Anna Moneymaker | Getty Images

Biden congratulated McCarthy on his election as House Speaker in a statement issued shortly before 1 a.m. ET.

“Jill and I congratulate Kevin McCarthy on his election as Speaker of the House,” said Biden. “I am prepared to work with Republicans when I can and voters made clear that they expect Republicans to be prepared to work with me as well,” he added.

Other Democratic leaders were less congratulatory following McCarthy’s victory.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a tweet Saturday that “Speaker McCarthy’s dream job could turn into a nightmare for the American people.”

House Democrat Cori Bush of Missouri said the GOP elected a speaker who enabled the violent insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

“McCarthy sold out his gavel like he sold out our democracy—to white supremacist insurrectionists,” she said in a tweet Saturday. “That’s not leadership.”

In a press conference early Saturday morning, McCarthy thanked former President Donald Trump for his support and said he was crucial in securing the final votes McCarthy needed.

“I don’t think he should, anybody should doubt his influence,” McCarthy said. “He was with me from the beginning.”

Trump publicly voiced his support for McCarthy on his social media platform Truth Social Saturday. The former president said the Republican Party came together and that it was “a beautiful thing to see.”

“The ‘Speaker’ selection process, as crazy as it may seem, has made it all much bigger and more important than if done the more conventional way,” he said. “Congratulations to Kevin McCarthy and our GREAT Republican Party!”

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell also shared support for McCarthy Saturday, saying in a tweet that Senate Republicans look forward to working with him.

McCarthy’s first job as speaker was to swear in the other 433 members of Congress, who had been in limbo as members-elect since Tuesday, when the 118th Congress first opened. Once all the new members were sworn in, the House approved the new package of rules that McCarthy negotiated with hard-right Republicans.

McCarthy said negotiating was difficult given the slim margins in the majority, but that his victory shows that the Republican party can work together.

“I think what you will see by having this now, we’ve worked out how to work together,” he said.

— CNBC’s Christina Wilkie contributed to this report

Geoengineering startup mimicking volcanic eruption to cool Earth

Luke Iseman conducting his balloon launch in Apr. 2022, before Make Sunsets was formally incorporated.

When Luke Iseman was thinking of launching a solar geoengineering startup, he talked to experts in the field. The strongest advice they gave him was not to use the word “geoengineering.”

The term refers to manipulating the Earth’s climate for human benefit, but in recent years it’s been used as shorthand for “solar geoengineering,” a theoretical process of releasing chemicals into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight away from the Earth and mitigate the effects of global warming. It’s controversial because it hasn’t been studied comprehensively, and we don’t know whether the unintended side effects will be better or worse than the impacts of climate change.

Iseman’s startup Make Sunsets, which has raised at least half a million dollars in venture capital, mostly skates around the hot-button word on its website.

“We make reflective, high-altitude, biodegradable clouds that cool the planet. Mimicking natural processes, our ‘shiny clouds’ are going to prevent catastrophic global warming,” reads the site’s About page. On the FAQ page, Make Sunsets calls what it is doing “albedo enhancement,” a scientific term for reflecting sunlight.

But Iseman confronted it head-on in an interview.

“I’m very opposed to geoengineering. I want no geoengineering to occur,” Iseman told CNBC. “Unfortunately, I was born into a world with a poorly geoengineered atmosphere where I, and everyone before me for the last couple hundred years, were emitting huge quantities of carbon dioxide to build the modern world. So I want to do as little geoengineering as necessary to fix that.”

I’m doing this because it needs to be done. And no one else is.

Luke Iseman

founder, Make Sunsets

Whatever you call it, we know the cooling part works. The 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines released thousands of tons of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, temporarily lowering average global temperatures by about 1 degree Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The idea of replicating these conditions to fight climate change has generally been dismissed as more science fiction than real science. But as the effects of climate change have grown more dire and obvious, the idea has gotten more serious attention, and the White House is in the process of coordinating a five-year research plan to study it.

On the downside, injecting sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere could damage the ozone layer, cause respiratory illness and create acid rain. It would also cost as little as $10 billion per year to run a program that cools the Earth by 1 degree Celsius, UCLA environmental law professor Edward Parson told CNBC in 2022. That’s remarkably cheap compared to other mitigation techniques.

So which of these two scenarios is less bad? Most scientists who study the problem aren’t sure, but they think it’s important to begin studying the ramifications.

Iseman doesn’t want to wait for those studies. There isn’t time, he says.

“There is not really anything that I’ve been able to find, other than albedo enhancement, that even has a chance of keeping us below more than two degrees Celsius of climate change. And that’s a that’s a pretty terrifying world to imagine,” Iseman told CNBC. “Basically, long answer short, I’m doing this because it needs to be done. And no one else is.”

Launching balloons in Baja and selling ‘cooling credits’

In January, Make Sunsets plans to launch three latex weather balloons that will release anywhere between 10 and 500 grams of sulfur dioxide. The balloons will include a flight tracking computer, a geo-locating tracking device, and a camera, mostly provided by hobbyist suppliers. Within a week of each flight, Make Sunsets will publish data on its website about what it was able to find.

Iseman is an experienced doer. He has designed, invented, built and deployed biochar kilns in rural Kenya, a solar-powered wifi-connected garden sensor, and tiny homes made out of shipping containers, among other projects. For a year and a half, Iseman worked as the director of hardware at the leading Silicon Valley startup shop, Y Combinator.

He is currently living off the grid in Baja, Mexico, on land he bought a couple years ago, where he continues to tinker. He has a publicly viewable Google document with 40 ideas he wants to build or test, including a solar-assisted composting toilet with time and temperature monitoring, freediving safety gear and a floating solar panel.

Make Sunsets started as simply an idea to test solar geoengineering in a quick, cheap way.

Iseman says the academic consensus starts with spending $20 billion over 10 years to build a high-altitude plane, or to put mirrors high in space.

That wasn’t practical enough for him. “Here in reality, I was like, ‘OK, what can I buy, ideally, on my credit card, ideally on Amazon, to see if I can even do this?’ Maybe I’m missing something fundamental about how hard this is.”

Back in April, Iseman did his own rudimentary experiment with a 6-foot weather balloon, sulfur, a stainless steel kitchen pot with a lid, a pump that he took out of a water dispenser, and a tank of helium. (That experiment can been seen in the photo here.)

Luke Iseman launching a balloon in April 2022 on his property in Baja, California.

Photo courtesy Luke Iseman

He gave himself until the end of 2022 to raise money to run more tests, or just publish a description of what he had done. Eventually, he got a bite for a half-million dollars, and incorporated on Oct. 1.

Make Sunsets is also selling what it calls “cooling credits,” starting at $10, which companies will be able to buy to offset the effects of their carbon emissions.

Iseman has been wary of the the idea of companies or individuals paying to remove carbon or mitigate global warming effects. “Initially, I was really skeptical entirely of the of the voluntary carbon credit market,” Iseman told CNBC. “I thought it was either really expensive for very legit things that in 50 to 200 years will save the world, hopefully. Or it was inexpensive things where you’re like trading the right to not cut down a future tree. Basically, most of the credits that I’ve found below $50 per ton feel very scammy.”

But Iseman believes future carbon markets will evolve to include two things that actually work: permanent carbon dioxide removal, which will be expensive, and sunlight reflection technology, which Iseman says will be incredibly inexpensive at scale. The primary cost of sunlight reflection technology efforts at scale is sulfur dioxide.

Apart from the unknown side effects, there’s another moral conundrum with solar geoengineering: If there’s a cheap and easy way to mitigate climate change, then there’s no incentive to do the hard work of eliminating carbon emissions.

“That’s a real concern philosophically and academically. However, back here in the real world, people are dying, right? Maybe 20 years ago should have had those discussions and had the time to think about that. And if we had a magical world government that could organize all of these things, then yeah, that would be great,” Iseman told CNBC. “If international law for that matter held meaningful teeth, or if we didn’t have a land war in Europe, then maybe we could have an adult conversation about this — that’s not the reality that we live in, unfortunately.”

Brayton Williams, a co-founder of San Mateo-headquartered venture capital firm BoostVC, told CNBC the firm invested $500,000 in Make Sunsets because they were impressed with Iseman’s dedication, and because tackling climate change is the kind of big, complicated problem the firm likes to tackle.

“We have invested in companies working on banking the unbanked of Latin America, eradicating heart disease, abundant nuclear energy, one-hour global travel and many, many more,” Williams told CNBC. “These are moonshot opportunities, but if they work they really do make a huge positive impact on the world.”

Williams knows the investment is a bit of a risk, but cautions that the firm is still at a very early stage and the details could change along the way.

“I always encourage people to not judge an early stage two-person startup like you might a public entity,” Williams said. “If nothing else, I hope Make Sunsets helps encourage a bunch more founders to take action to really make a positive impact on our planet.”

Make Sunsets has also received venture capital funding from Pioneer Fund, which did not respond to requests for comment.

‘Crazy yes, but perhaps sign of the times?’

The climate crisis is getting worse by the day. The world is getting – and will continue to get — warmer. Governments are not taking their responsibilities seriously enough. And we live in a capitalist society where actors make money in many different ways, like it or not. So how surprising is this?

Janos Pasztor

Carnegie Climate Governance Initiative

Unsurprising or not, experts in the field object to what they see as rogue and dangerous boundary pushing.

“It makes no sense as a business nor as a statement,” said Harvard professor David Keith, who has been working on the topic since the late 1980s.

The critical issue with solar geoengineering is trust and that trust must be earned carefully, Keith said on Twitter after the MIT Technology Review earlier wrote about Make Sunsets.

“There is no reasonable doubt that commercial-off-the-shelf tech could be adapted to cool the planet at a tiny cost using strat aerosols. Science suggests benefits could be far larger than risks,” Keith wrote. “But the research community is thin and distrust is widespread. Trust must be earned with a far broader, more inclusive research effort, one that makes systematic efforts to look for errors and uncertainty.” 

Kelly Wanser, the executive director of SilverLining, an organization promoting research and governance of climate interventions, says that it’s impossible to measure the effects of solar geoengineering accurately enough to sell cooling credits.

“Currently, the effect of releasing quantities of particles into the atmosphere cannot be attributed or quantified, due to two major areas of uncertainty in related climate science: the effects of particles (aerosols) on clouds and climate, and uncertain side effects of specific approaches, for which any credits would have to be adjusted,” Wanser told CNBC. “No one who supports meaningful climate outcomes or healthy credit markets should engage with this now.”   

Pasztor objects because the impacts of solar geoengineering are global, so he believes it’s inappropriate for a single entity to be moving forward without careful governance structures and buy-in from a wide group of stakeholders.

Parson thinks the balloon launches aren’t codified enough for providing real research answers. He also believes injecting sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere shouldn’t be the work of a private company.

“There is plenty of incentive for self-interested actors, particularly those with revenues on the line, to misrepresent these. Nothing about this process, except perhaps specific aspects of implementation under some hypothetical future governmental or intergovernmental control, can be entrusted to private firms,” he wrote.

Iseman isn’t entirely comfortable with the idea of solar geoengineering being managed by a private company, either. But he doesn’t think international governments will cooperate and coordinate in enough time.

“While we don’t have meaningful enough international cooperation for something like the UN to run this right now, we do have plenty of companies that dominate their category worldwide. So as as depressing philosophically as that sounds, the most likely way that I think this will happen is that one company gets the social permission and government sign off — or at least turning a blind eye — to do this worldwide,” Iseman told CNBC.

“That is millions of lives and hundreds of thousands of species saved — compared to not doing this at all,” Iseman said.

Why poorer countries want rich countries to foot their climate change bill

SEC ends Richard Burr insider trading probe

U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, gives opening remarks at the confirmation hearing for Xavier Becerra, U.S. President Joe Biden’s nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, February 23, 2021.

Leigh Vogel | Pool | Reuters

The Securities and Exchange Commission has ended its insider trading investigation of former U.S. Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina and his brother-in-law without taking action against either man, their lawyers said Friday.

The SEC, which did not deny the attorneys’ statements, was eying Burr, a Republican, and his brother-in-law Gerald Fauth, who sits on a federal board, in a civil probe for their stock sales on the same day in February 2020.

The stock sales occurred, a week before equities markets in the U.S. and elsewhere plunged as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and after Burr had received briefings about the threat of the pandemic. Burr and Fauth had a very short phone call on the same day as the stock sales, the SEC has said in court filings.

Burr retired from the Senate on Tuesday after three terms. He had said before his 2016 reelection that he would not seek a fourth term if he won that year.

The SEC previously said in court filings that the agency was “investigating whether [Burr] sold stocks on the basis of nonpublic information.”

Members of Congress are barred by law from using nonpublic information that they obtain through their official positions to profit from stock trades.

Gerald Fauth

Source: Wikipedia

The Department of Justice earlier had closed a criminal investigation of Burr and Fauth without taking action against either man.

As part of that criminal probe, Burr had his cellphone seized by the FBI in May 2020, which led to him stepping aside as chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Burr, in a statement provided to CNBC on Friday, said, “This week, the SEC informed me that they have concluded their investigation with no action.”

“I am glad to have this matter in the rearview mirror as I begin my retirement from the Senate following nearly three decades of public service,” Burr said.

In her own statement, his attorney Alice Fisher said, “We have believed all along that this is the right result.”

Burr “is glad to put this matter behind him as he embarks on his retirement from his dedicated service in the Senate,” Fisher said.

In a statement, Fauth’s lawyer, F. Joseph Warin, said, “The SEC has closed its investigation into our client. “

“We are thrilled that the SEC and the DOJ appropriately closed their investigations without any findings of insider trading,” Warin said. “Mr. Fauth looks forward to continuing his public service and leadership in the transportation industry.” 

A spokesperson for the SEC, in an email to CNBC, said, “As a matter of policy, the SEC does not comment on the opening or closing of a possible investigation.”

Burr, like other senators, had been briefed by federal health officials in early 2020 about the coronavirus before it began spreading widely in the U.S., leading to nationwide lockdowns and decreases in business activities.

At the time, Burr, due to his membership on the intelligence committee, had access to classified intelligence reports that contained dire warnings about the pandemic.

Fauth, who is the brother of Burr’s wife, is a member and former chairman of the National Mediation Board, an agency that facilitates labor-management relations in the U.S. railroad and airline industries.

The SEC in court filings has said that on Feb. 13, 2020, Burr called his stockbroker and directed him to sell more than $1.65 million worth of stock. The holdings accounted for “all but one of the equities in his and his wife’s joint individual retirement account … portfolio.”

Almost three hours later, Burr called Fauth’s cellphone for a call that lasted 50 seconds, the SEC has said.

A minute or less after that, Fauth called his primary stockbroker, who did not answer, the SEC has said in a filing. Fauth then called a second broker within two minutes and “directed her to sell several stocks in his wife’s account,” the filing reveals.

That broker sold between $97,000 and $280,000 worth of Fauth’s shares in six companies, several of which ended up having their stocks plummet in the following weeks, the filing indicates.

After Burr’s stock sales came to light in March 2020, he said, “I relied solely on public news reports to guide my decision regarding the sale of stocks.”

“Specifically, I closely followed CNBC’s daily health and science reporting out of its Asia bureaus at the time,” Burr said at that time.

Amazon ‘fully committed’ to Alexa despite layoffs, hardware chief says

David Limp, senior vice president of devices and services at Amazon.com Inc., presents the Amazon Echo Dot smart speaker during an unveiling event at the company’s Spheres headquarters in Seattle, Washington, U.S., on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018.

Andrew Burton | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Amazon hasn’t given up on its Alexa voice assistant, hardware chief Dave Limp said Friday, even though the team behind the technology was a prime target of the largest layoffs in the company’s history.

Amazon last year began laying off employees in its corporate workforce as part of CEO Andy Jassy’s broader move to curtail expenses amid a worsening economic outlook and slowing revenue growth. The company’s devices and services organization, which oversees the development of products such as Alexa, Echo smart speakers and Kindle e-readers, was among the groups affected.

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Just under 2,000 people in Limp’s division were let go as a result of the job cuts, he told CNBC’s Jon Fortt in an interview on TechCheck.

This week, Jassy said the company aims to eliminate more than 18,000 roles, mostly in its stores and human resources organizations. Previously, a person familiar with the matter told CNBC that 10,000 employees would be cut, but noted that the number was fluid and could change.

Alongside the layoffs, Amazon has also frozen new hiring in its corporate workforce, and shuttered some of its more experimental projects, such as its telehealth service and a video-calling device for kids.

“What we did is we looked at projects that were probably, in this uncertainty, the risk-reward for those projects and what they might deliver for customers wasn’t quite there,” Limp said. “Part of that was in Alexa, part of that was in other parts of my organization.”

Still, Amazon remains “fully committed” to the Alexa unit despite the company taking steps to be more disciplined with costs in “a very uncertain economy,” Limp said.

“There’s still thousands and thousands of people working on this project,” said Limp, speaking from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. “It’s a big project.”

Since its launch in 2014, Amazon has made big investments in Alexa and assigned top talent to grow the technology, largely at the direction of Jeff Bezos, who first pitched Alexa and strongly believed voice would play a key role in how people interact with computers in the future. At one point, Amazon had 5,000 people working on Alexa and Echo.

Amazon has sold devices such as the Echo at or near cost because its goal isn’t to make money from them. Instead, the company sees them as a vehicle for bringing customers into the broader Amazon ecosystem, where they’ll purchase something from amazon.com or its other properties.

Limp rejected the idea that Amazon may have to raise prices significantly as it takes a harder look at costs. The prices of some commodities used in Amazon devices, such as memory and displays, has increased, and those could get passed along to consumers, he said. But generally Amazon’s hardware business model remains the same, Limp said.

“We try to sell our products roughly at break-even, sometimes a little bit more,” Limp said. “Then, as customers use them, say they shop from their Alexa, that benefits all of Amazon, and gives the customer a great shopping experience, and that’s how we want to monetize these things moving forward.”

WATCH: Amazon’s Dave Limp explains the company’s auto innovation heading into 2023

Amazon's Dave Limp explains the company's auto innovation heading into 2023

December’s jobs report fuels optimism that the economy could still pull off a soft landing

A “Now hiring” sign is displayed on the window of an IN-N-OUT fast food restaurant in Encinitas, California, May 9, 2022.

Mike Blake | Reuters

December’s strong job growth combined with slowing wage inflation is fueling optimism that the economy might just see a soft landing.

But economists disagree on whether that will be the case, given that a strong jobs market could continue to ignite price increases in the service sector and keep the Federal Reserve raising interest rates. Those higher interest rates could slow the economy further and push it into a recession.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the economy added 223,000 jobs in the final month of 2022, less than the 256,000 in November. Unemployment fell to 3.469%, which economists say is the lowest since 1969.

Meanwhile, average hourly wages increased 4.6% on an annual basis, less than the 5% economists expected. On a monthly basis, that was a gain of 0.3%, compared to Dow Jones expectations of 0.4%. The November wage gains were revised lower to a monthly gain of 0.4%, versus 0.6% previously reported.

“This may be the last hoorah. It’s about as close to a Goldilocks number the Fed could hope for at this point in time,” said Diane Swonk, KPMG chief economist. “You had a cooling in wage gains with an increase in participation and a fall in the unemployment rate. You hit it on all three notes.”

Stocks rallied after the report, and Treasury yields — which move opposite price — fell. Economists polled by Dow Jones expected 200,000 jobs were added in the month, and that the pace of job creation will continue to slow sharply.

S&P 500 rallies after December jobs report

Consumer inflation has been coming down. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones expect the consumer price index rose by 6.5% in December on an annual basis, down from 7.1% in November. The December CPI is slated for release Jan. 12.

“What the Fed is looking at is it is now getting into the stickiest part of inflation and that’s wages, and the market is looking at as the trend is in the right direction,” said Swonk.

Swonk said she expects job growth to slow more and the economy to fall into a shallow recession. Yet, the picture of the labor market is one of the strongest ever.

“We’ve got 4.5 million new payrolls for the year. That’s the second strongest year on record,” said Swonk. She said 2022 was second to 2021, when there were 6.7 million jobs created. “The only thing close was 1946 when soldiers returned to civilian work after World War II.”

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said the report is encouraging and confirms his expectation that there will be a soft landing for the economy. “It was about as perfect a report as one could ask for,” he said. “I don’t think there were any blemishes at all in the report. It shows a job market that is slowly but surely cooling off.”

While many economists expect a recession, Zandi points to strong growth even with a slowdown in the housing sector. According to the Atlanta Fed, gross domestic product was growing at a strong rate of 3.8% in the fourth quarter of 2022. Zandi notes wage growth is a full percentage point slower than when it peaked in the spring.

“This is consistent with the Fed threading the needle of slowing growth sufficiently to slow inflation but not pushing the economy into recession,” said Zandi. “We’re calling it a ‘slowcession.'”

The decline in unemployment came as the participation rate increased slightly to 62.3%. That is still a full percentage point below where it was in February 2020, the month before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

“It’s one thing to say momentum in the labor market is moderating, but it’s another thing to say imbalances are being removed,” said Michael Gapen, chief U.S. economist at Bank of America.

‘Something in the report for everyone’

The Federal Reserve has been hoping to crush inflation by raising interest rates enough to cool the economy, and that would be through the labor market. But with its fed funds rate at 4.25%-4.50%, the Fed has targeted more rate hikes until it reaches its forecast of 5.1% for the end, or terminal rate.

Gapen and other economists expect the Fed to increase rates by a half percentage point on Feb. 1, while traders in the futures market see just a quarter point hike. Gapen said the strong jobs report reinforces his rate hike forecast.

“There’s something in this report for everyone, but to look at this and say ‘soft landing,’ I don’t agree,” said Gapen. “The unemployment rate is falling and payroll growth is at 223,000. The Fed wants it below 100,000, probably more like 80,000.”

He expects to see negative job growth this year, after the Fed’s rate hikes. There have been seven rate hikes so far since March. “Here we are nine months later, and you’re still adding jobs at what would be considered a blowout rate in a normal recovery,” he said.

Gapen notes that there was still a surprisingly high 10.5 million job openings in November, according to the Jobs Opening and Labor Turnover Survey, released Wednesday.

“From the point of view of an unemployed worker looking for jobs, it’s still a very good report and it’s still a very good labor market,” said Gapen. “If you’re a policy maker things are going to stay persistently strong in a way you can’t meet your inflation mandate.”

How to balance retirement and emergency savings in a shaky economy

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It’s not easy to prioritize financial goals, especially when choosing between two essentials in an unsteady economy: saving for retirement or building your emergency fund. 

While there are higher 401(k) contribution limits for 2023, you shouldn’t skip rainy day savings to max out your retirement plan, experts say. 

Indeed, more than half of savers are prioritizing short-term financial goals in 2023, including emergency savings, according to a recent study from Fidelity Investments. And a recent Personal Capital survey found building an emergency fund is a top priority for 2023.

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“It’s always a balance,” said certified financial planner Catherine Valega, founder of Green Bee Advisory in Boston. While maxing out your 401(k) should be the goal, your emergency savings is also important, she said.

Leslie Beck, a Rutherford, New Jersey-based CFP and owner of Compass Wealth Management, said she has a “rule of thumb” for how to decide between retirement and emergency savings.

She always recommends contributing enough money to your 401(k) to get the full company match. Then, if your emergency savings are short after that, you should “definitely” divert the funds, she said.

How to know if your emergency savings is enough

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If you’re single, Beck suggests keeping “close to a year’s worth of essential expenses” to cover necessities such as your home, food and utilities. 

“You should have a year’s worth [of essential expenses] in case there’s a downturn in the employment market, which we may or may not be heading into,” she said, noting that it often takes longer than expected to find a job after a layoff, especially for higher-compensated employees.

However, her recommendation changes for dual-earning couples. “I cut that back to six months, maybe even three months, depending on what industry you’re employed in,” she said. 

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Crypto exchange Huobi to lay off 20% of workforce

The Huobi crypto exchange logo displayed on a smartphone.

Nikolas Kokovlis | Nurphoto via Getty Images

Digital currency exchange Huobi on Friday said it plans to reduce its global headcount by about 20%, in the latest round of layoffs to hit the beleaguered cryptocurrency industry.

The Seychelles-based company is one of the largest crypto exchanges globally, handling about $370 million of trading volumes on a single day, according to data from CoinGecko.

“The planned layoff ratio is about 20%,” Justin Sun, a Huobi advisory board member, told CNBC, adding the cuts have not yet been implemented.

“With the current state of the bear market, a very lean team will be maintained going forward. The personnel optimization aims to implement the brand strategy, optimize the structure, improve efficiency and return to the top three.”

Huobi had about 1,600 employees worldwide as of October, according to a Financial Times report.

Huobi’s native HT token at one point sank as low as $4.3355 Friday, down more than 7% from the 24 hours prior, according to CoinMarketCap data.

After the collapse of FTX, crypto traders are scanning for clues as to what will be the next company to fall prey to the downturn in digital assets.

Floods of investors have piled out of centralized exchanges, with nearly 300,000 bitcoins being moved out from Nov. 6 to Dec. 7, according to the most recently available data from CryptoQuant.

Last month, Binance briefly paused withdrawals of the USDC stablecoin, prompting concerns over its own ability to cover client redemptions. It has since resumed USDC withdrawals.

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As much as $6 billion in digital tokens were pulled from the exchange between Dec. 12 and Dec. 14.

In a so-called “proof of reserves” statement on Nov. 25, the world’s largest crypto exchange revealed it had a reserve ratio of 101%, indicating it had more assets than liabilities.

Doubts have been raised about the effectiveness of proof of reserves reports, which offer only a snapshot of the assets an exchange holds at a single point in time.

Consultancy Mazars, which had compiled a separate proof of reserves report for Binance, stopped producing such documents altogether for crypto firms on Dec. 16, citing “concerns regarding the way these reports are understood by the public.”

Lately, crypto investors have raised doubts over Huobi’s financial health.

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Sun dismissed concerns over the company’s solvency as “pure FUD,” meaning “fear, uncertainty, doubt,” a phrase crypto investors use to describe what they perceive as negative or false information.

“Users’ assets are safe,” he said. “As a virtual asset trading platform that has been in operation for 10 years, Huobi’s business philosophy is to protect the safety of its users’ assets.”

Huobi has completed a proof of reserves review that shows its total assets now stand at $2.9 billion and match the number of funds deposited by users, Sun said.

Huobi was acquired by About Capital Management, a Hong Kong-based asset management firm, on Oct. 7. Sun, who founded the Tron blockchain project, serves an advisor to Huobi.

Huobi was originally founded in China, but it was driven out of the country after an intense crackdown from Beijing on the crypto industry.

Today, Huobi only does consulting and research out of China, while its trading operations are run outside of mainland China. The company has offices in Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and the U.S.