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Your daily news from Morning Brew.

TECH

Meta downsizes…again

Mark Zuckerberg lookin sadIllustration: Morning Brew, Photo: Getty

We’re beginning to learn what Meta’s “year of efficiency” means in practice: fewer employees.

Yesterday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Meta plans to lay off 10,000 employees, just four months after it laid off 11,000 staff members. That round of layoffs, impacting 13% of Meta’s workforce, represented the biggest job cuts in the company’s history.

Not only is Meta laying off 10k employees, but it’s also closing 5,000 open roles. This is not a company that wants to onboard many people right now.

Why is that?

Meta is looking to reduce costs as part of what Mark Zuckerberg calls the “year of efficiency.” Last year was “a humbling wake-up call,” Zuck said, citing economic uncertainty and increased competition (aka TikTok) for denting the company’s ad revenue.

But Meta made plenty of unforced errors, too. And by dubbing 2023 “the year of efficiency,” it’s acknowledging that previously, things were not very efficient.

That starts with hiring. Meta has been criticized for growing its headcount so rapidly that many employees had nothing to do.

  • In a viral TikTok video, one former Meta employee said, “we were just sitting there” and “you had to fight to find work.”
  • report in Wired argues that Meta’s headcount got bloated due to “ghosts in the machine”—employees who were brought on to launch new products and stayed on the payroll even when those products failed.

Putting the recent layoffs in context: Even after shedding 21,000 jobs, Meta will still have a higher headcount than it did before the pandemic. In the boom times of 2020 and 2021, it hired more than 27,000 employees.

Zoom out: While the US labor market remains strong, layoffs have spiked in 2023. Companies announced 180,713 job cuts in January and February—the most to start any year since 2009, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas. About one-third of the layoffs took place at tech companies.—NF

            

WORLD

Tour de headlines

An MQ-9 Reaper takes off August 8, 2007 at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, NevadaEthan Miller/Getty Images

 A Russian fighter jet crashed into a US drone. In the first known physical contact between US and Russian aircraft since the invasion of Ukraine, a Russian fighter jet collided with a US surveillance drone in international airspace above the Black Sea, damaging a propeller and forcing the US to bring the drone down. At least that’s what the US claims happened: Russia denied that the plane came into contact with the drone. According to one US official, drones have been intercepted in the area before, but this incident was particularly “unsafe and unprofessional.”

 ​​ChatGPT is old news. OpenAI released its much-hyped GPT-4 AI language model yesterday, representing an advancement over the tech that powers ChatGPT. GPT-4 is wowing reviewers with its ability to understand not only text but also images (even complex memes). Plus, it crushes its predecessor GPT-3.5 on academic assessments: On a simulated bar exam, GPT-4 scored around the top 10% of test takers, while GPT-3.5 scored around the bottom 10%.

 EPA moves to get “forever chemicals” out of drinking water. The EPA proposed regulations yesterday to limit the amount of six types of industrial chemicals allowed in drinking water. PFAS, as they are known, cause health problems including cancer. Though many companies have begun phasing out the chemicals, a 2020 study found that 200 million Americans are exposed to PFAS in tap water.

FINANCE

What happened to Signature Bank

Signature logo with downward arrowJakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

We’ve written at George R. R. Martin-length about the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, the second-largest banking collapse in US history. But did you know that the third-biggest bank failure happened just two days after SVB imploded? The deets are juicy.

On Sunday, regulators seized the assets of NY-based Signature Bank and gave senior management the boot, but they assured its depositors that they could access all of their money. Signature was deemed a threat to the US financial system after panicked customers reportedly withdrew 20% of its total deposits.

But leaders inside the bank say authorities overreacted, led by none other than Barney Frank, the former US representative on Signature’s board. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Frank crafted key banking regulations in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis (the Dodd-Frank Act).

Frank argues that Singature was singled out because of its ties to crypto—it was one of the go-to banks for crypto companies. Frank told Bloomberg that he believes Signature wasn’t on the verge of collapse, and regulators only shut it down “to send a message to get people away from crypto.”

Authorities have pushed back on the pushback. The New York State Department of Financial Services, which initiated the closure, claims that Signature executives were elusive in sharing data with regulators during the bank panic, causing a “crisis of confidence.”—SK

            

FOOD

Boneless wings are going to court

Chicken nugget in a sea of boneless wingsIllustration: Morning Brew, Photos: Getty

Everyone with a complex about getting wing sauce all over their face has a new hero. Aimen Halim of Chicago filed a class-action lawsuit against Buffalo Wild Wings that accuses the restaurant chain of falsely advertising its boneless wings when they are allegedly just chicken nuggets.

The lawsuit, filed last Friday, states that Halim believed BWW’s boneless chicken wings were actually deboned wings. If he had known the breast-meat truth, Halim claims he would have ordered something else, and therefore he’s suffered “financial injury.”

This debate has been a hot one. A man went viral in 2020 for giving an impassioned speech to the Lincoln, NE, city council about why the term “boneless wings” should be stripped from every menu in the city.

But we’ve been having the conversation even before that. In the early 2000s, boneless wings gained popularity when the price of chicken breast—which is what boneless wings are usually made of—cratered, while wings remained expensive. And wing purists have always pushed back against the bone-free option. The prices of both items have fluctuated in the past few years, but the debate over what, if anything, constitutes a boneless wing has raged on.—MM

            

GRAB BAG

Key performance indicators

Argentina fans at the last World CupHannah Peters—FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

Stat: Calling it now—summer 2026 will see the lowest worker productivity on record. The World Cup is expanding to 104 games, a considerable increase from the 64 matches played last year in Qatar. That’s the result of more teams in the field (48 vs. 32 previously) and a bigger group stage. The next tournament will be hosted in North America over a span of nearly six weeks.

Quote: “The standard deli sandwich with processed meat and cheese, you’re literally eating a heart bomb.”

An article from the WSJ ruined sandwiches for us, and now we’re ruining them for you, too. Sorry. This quote about the health risks of sandwiches comes from a cardiologist and nutrition professor at Tufts University, who, along with other health experts, is warning about the high levels of sodium, sugar, and saturated fat in Americans’ favorite lunch option. A typical turkey sandwich in the 1980s had ~320 calories; in the 2000s, it had 820, per the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Read: Influencer parents and the kids who had their childhood made into content. (Teen Vogue)

NEWS

What else is brewing

  • Silicon Valley Bank’s new CEO said that rebuilding has begun and asked customers to return: “We are open for business.” Meanwhile, the DOJ and the SEC have begun investigating the bank’s collapse.
  • Ohio sued Norfolk Southern to ensure the railroad pays for damage caused when its train containing hazardous chemicals derailed in East Palestine in early February.
  • Boeing notched a big order for 78 787 Dreamliners from two Saudi airlines.
  • Argentina’s inflation topped 100% on an annual basis last month.
  • Google Health rolled out a bunch of new initiatives—many of them leveraging AI—aimed at improving access to care.

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