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As the corporate world reckons with the impact that artificial intelligence may have on, well, everything, the consulting firm Accenture announced on Tuesday that it will invest $3 billion in the technology over the next three years.
It’s the latest sign of the growing enthusiasm for A.I., and how companies across the spectrum are moving to adapt and incorporate services like chatbots into their businesses. “There is unprecedented interest in all areas of A.I.,” Julie Sweet, Accenture’s C.E.O., said.
Accenture plans to double its A.I.-focused staff to 80,000, through a mix of hiring, acquisitions and training. (The firm has 738,000 employees.) It also plans to use generative A.I. more in its client work and help customers increase their use of the technology.
Other consulting firms have made big A.I. moves, too: PwC said in April that it would invest $1 billion over the next three years, while EY announced in 2021 that it would invest $2.5 billion over three years. Bain and Company has partnered with OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT, while Deloitte is teaming up with the chip maker Nvidia. And IBM, whose A.I. work dates back at least to the introduction of Watson, has announced a “Center of Excellence” for generative A.I.
The business world overall is going big on A.I. Investments on generative A.I. alone are expected to hit $42.6 billion by year end, according to PitchBook. And mentions of “A.I.” or “artificial intelligence” on corporate investor calls have soared this year.
But consulting giants are still grappling with what A.I. means for their business. They’re already under pressure to stay relevant amid challenges to their industry, including clients potentially cutting back on their services amid economic headwinds.
While many firms are embracing A.I. to automate a growing number of tasks, some executives are quick to note that the technology can’t replace all they do: “For any business, technology is usually not the real challenge, it’s the people component that slows things down,” Alex Singla, who leads McKinsey’s A.I. consulting team, told Observer last week. “That’s where I think management consulting still has a major role to play.”
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
Donald Trump is being arraigned on classified material charges on Tuesday. The former president will appear in a Miami courtroom to face accusations tied to taking national security materials after leaving office. This evening, he plans to host a fund-raiser at one of his New Jersey golf courses; however, a super PAC backed by the Koch network has begun running ads against him.
Hard-right Republicans relent on paralyzing the House. Rebellious lawmakers agreed to let the chamber vote on some matters yesterday, after seizing control of the floor in retribution for Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s role in the debt ceiling bill. They have threatened to stall further legislation if McCarthy doesn’t give them more power.
Binance’s U.S. arm fights an S.E.C. effort to freeze its assets. In a court filing ahead of a hearing scheduled for Tuesday, the crypto exchange urged a federal judge to reject the regulator’s move, which it said would make staying in business all but impossible. The S.E.C. sued Binance last week, accusing the exchange of violating securities laws.
Will Apple cross the $3 trillion threshold again? Shares in the iPhone maker rose nearly 1.6 percent yesterday, putting its market value just shy of $2.9 trillion. Enthusiasm for Apple’s new virtual-reality headset may help propel the company’s market cap past $3 trillion for a second time — it hit that level last year — though its shares were down slightly in premarket trading.
What to watch in the C.P.I. report
Stocks look set to extend their gains on Tuesday morning as investors await a pivotal Consumer Price Index report, due for release at 8:30 a.m. Eastern.
Market participants are betting that Tuesday’s inflation report will be relatively tame, giving the Fed the cover to leave interest rates unchanged at a meeting on Wednesday. The so-called “Fed pause” has helped turbocharge some rates-sensitive sectors — particularly tech stocks — in recent weeks, sending the Nasdaq and S&P 500 to 14-month highs yesterday.
The main thing to watch for: Economists are forecasting that inflation continued to ease last month, with the headline C.P.I. figure edging lower to 4.1 percent, a significant drop from last summer’s peak of 9 percent. Economists see good progress on food and energy prices, which have held steady or fallen in recent months.
It’s a different picture for “core” inflation, which strips out food and fuel prices. There’s been less improvement there as used car prices, airfares and vacation lodging prices climbed in recent weeks. That “speed bump,” said Michael Gapen, chief U.S. economist at Bank of America, will keep the pressure on the Fed to raise rates this summer, probably in July.
“A skip is not the same as a prolonged pause,” he wrote in a preview note.
Elsewhere in the markets:
Stocks in Hong Kong and Shanghai closed higher on Tuesday after Beijing surprised the market with a cut to one of its short-term lending rates. Investors expect several stimulus measures in China to lift domestic demand in the world’s No. 2 economy as a downturn looms.
One of Google’s money machines is under new pressure
As regulators around the world aim to rein in Big Tech, the European Union is reportedly preparing to crack down on one of Google’s most profitable businesses: the technology that powers much of the internet’s advertising.
The European Commission is expected to file a formal antitrust complaint on Wednesday accusing Google of abusing its dominant position in ad tech, according to Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal. The division is big for Google, bringing in nearly 14 percent of the company’s $54.5 billion in ad revenue in the first quarter.
The commission began an investigation into Google’s ad-tech division in 2021, and it has already imposed three penalties, worth some $8.6 billion, on other parts of the company, including those tied to its Android operating system.
The demand this time may be more drastic, according to The Journal: European regulators may rule that only selling off parts of the ad-tech business will restore competitive balance.
It’s not just Europe piling on the pressure. The Justice Department has made similar accusations against Google’s ad-tech business, and is seeking to unwind some of its acquisitions. British regulators, who have been flexing their muscles in recent months, are also investigating.
But will this dent Google’s core business? Shares in its parent company, Alphabet, were up slightly in premarket trading on Tuesday despite the news, putting its market value at $1.5 trillion. And Google has been fighting the previous punishments from the E.U., having taken its defense in the Android case to the highest European regulatory court.
In other tech regulatory news, the F.T.C. sued in federal court to stop Microsoft from closing its $69 billion takeover of Activision Blizzard, a further hurdle for the megadeal.
“We were largely left on our own to fend off the attacks, ostensibly due to the United States’ complex geopolitical alliance with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
— Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner, writing to Congress about the standoff that ended last week with the professional golf body merging with LIV, a Saudi-backed rival competition. Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, announced an inquiry into the deal.
How the JPMorgan-Epstein settlement came together
JPMorgan Chase secured a potential $290 million deal with victims of the sex offender Jeffrey Epstein after a frantic weekend of calls, midnight meetings and last-minute negotiations.
But the bank’s lawyers are not done: JPMorgan is fighting a separate case brought by the U.S. Virgin Islands, which filed new evidence yesterday that the bank’s executives had known about the illegal activities of the disgraced financier, who died in 2019.
How the deal was reached: Lawyers for the bank and victims were far apart after weeks of negotiations that went down to the wire, David Boies, the lawyer who represents the victims, told DealBook. “It was very hard fought,” he said, of an agreement that still has to be approved by a judge.
On Sunday, Boies was taking calls as he dined with his family at a restaurant and negotiations continued past midnight after he got back home. They resumed around dawn yesterday. After the two sides finally landed on a figure, talks continued over what the bank would say. JPMorgan reiterated yesterday that it regrets associating with Epstein but did not admit liability.
What’s come out in U.S. Virgin Islands’ case: The territory, where Epstein had a home, sued JPMorgan last year because it says the bank failed to stop him from setting up a sex trafficking operation there. “No one wants him,” Epstein’s private banker wrote in a 2008 email, the territory’s new filing shows. It also disclosed a dozen communications from 2007 to 2013 that suggest executives were aware of Epstein’s crimes.
Will they settle? A deal in the Virgin Islands case could be appealing, especially if JPMorgan’s defense that the territory was complicit in facilitating Epstein’s crimes is thrown out. The cases have moved unusually quickly because Judge Jed Rakoff is forcing the lawyers to be “more realistic,” said Boies. He believes that the bank’s lawyers became more serious about settling with his clients after a May hearing, when Rakoff indicated he was inclined to certify the victims’ case as a class action.
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