Elon Musk says Tesla has not signed a deal with Hertz yet.

Hertz had said that it would convert more than 20 percent of its rental fleet to Tesla’s cars, a deal that helped propel Tesla’s stock value beyond $1 trillion for the first time.


A Hertz location at Miami International Airport.Credit…Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk, said Monday that the electric vehicle manufacturer had not yet signed a contract with Hertz to sell the car rental agency 100,000 of its vehicles, a deal that was announced last week as Tesla’s stock value pushed past $1 trillion for the first time.

Mr. Musk made the comment on Twitter late Monday in response to a user who had posted a chart depicting Tesla’s skyrocketing stock price.

“If any of this is based on Hertz, I’d like to emphasize that no contract has been signed yet,” he said. “Tesla has far more demand than production, therefore we will only sell cars to Hertz for the same margin as to consumers. Hertz deal has zero effect on our economics.”

A Hertz spokeswoman affirmed last week’s announcement.

“Hertz has made an initial order of 100,000 Tesla electric vehicles and is investing in new EV charging infrastructure across the company’s global operations,” Hertz’s communications director, Lauren Luster, said in a statement. “Deliveries of the Teslas already have started. We are seeing very strong early demand for Teslas in our rental fleet, which reflects market demand for Tesla vehicles.”

The car rental agency’s order for 100,000 Teslas represented a bold move for a business just out of bankruptcy and a sign of growing momentum behind the shift away from gas-powered vehicles.

The cars were to be sold at list price, Mr. Musk said. Tesla’s share price has continued to rise since that announcement, and stock in the company is now valued at a collective $1.2 trillion.

After announcing the deal with Tesla, Hertz said it had also teamed up with Uber, the ride-share company, to rent about 50,000 Teslas to its drivers.

A scene from “Squid Game,” the Netflix show that inspired the cryptocurrency called Squid.Credit…Youngkyu Park/Netflix, via Associated Press

Millions of dollars vanished in a matter of minutes after investors piled into a new cryptocurrency inspired by “Squid Game,” the popular Netflix survival series, only to watch its value plunge to nearly zero in a few short hours.

The cryptocurrency, called Squid, began trading early last week at a price of just one penny per token. In the following days, it drew attention from a number of mainstream media outlets. By early Monday, it was trading at $38 a token on a cryptocurrency exchange called Pancakeswap.

Then Squid went on a roller-coaster ride. In a 10-minute span later on Monday, the token’s value grew from $628.33 to $2,856.65, according to CoinMarketCap, a crypto data tracking website. Then, five minutes later, it traded at $0.0007.

More than 40,000 people still held the token after the crash, according to BscScan, a blockchain search engine and analytics platform. One of them was John Lee, 30, of Manila. He said he had spent $1,000 on the Squid tokens, thinking “somewhat instinctively” that the token had been authorized by the Netflix show.

Mr. Lee said he was surprised when he learned that he was not be able to sell the token immediately. He can sell the tokens now, but he’d be left with “almost nothing,” he said.

Sharon Chan, a spokeswoman for Netflix, declined to comment.

The reasons behind Squid’s collapse, reported earlier by Gizmodo, weren’t clear. Neither were the identities of its creators. Its website appeared to have been taken offline. An email sent to its developers bounced back. Its social media channels appeared to have been shut down. Its Twitter account was not accepting direct messages or replies.

Pancakeswap, the trading platform, did not respond to a request for comment.

In the aftermath, the cryptocurrency world is mulling whether Squid was what Molly Jane Zuckerman, head of content at CoinMarketCap, called a “rug pull,” in which a cryptocurrency’s backers effectively leave the market and take their investors’ funds with them.

“I’m not seeing the developers coming online and saying, ‘Hold with us, so sorry, we’ll figure this out,’ which is what happens when there’s some sort of non-malicious problem,” she said.

Squid’s crash highlights the regulatory gaps over cryptocurrencies, as government agencies and private firms rush to get a grip on the volatile yet increasingly popular investment.

Developers of meme coins like Squid rarely identify themselves, said Yousra Anwar, an editor at CoinMarketCap. If investors suspect financial wrongdoing, they could get passed from country to country, or from regulator to regulator, to investigate.

Squid came with some unusual features that might have alarmed investors, Ms. Anwar said. The developers required that buyers outnumber sellers two-to-one to allow a sale.

The developers called the sales limit an “anti-dump” mechanism, according to a white paper — the document in which developers describe the features and technical underpinnings of their cryptocurrency — that had once been online. Ms. Anwar said such mechanisms were meant to stem crashes, not prevent holders from selling in the normal course of trading.

The developers also required users to obtain tokens of a second cryptocurrency, called Marbles, to sell their Squid tokens, according to the white paper. Marbles could be earned only by participating in an online game inspired by the show. To participate in the first game, for example, players needed to pay a steep entry fee of 456 Squid tokens. The subsequent levels cost thousands of tokens to enter.

Those features prevented many holders from selling as the value plunged, Ms. Zuckerman said.

The amount of money invested and lost in the tokens is difficult to quantify, she said. But BscScan labeled two crypto addresses as being associated with what it called a “rug pull” of Squid. One of them swapped $3.38 million worth of Squid into a popular crypto called BNB, the BscScan page showed. To complete transactions, both addresses used Tornado Cash, which is a “coin mixer,” or a software company that serves as a middleman between parties and makes it hard to trace transactions, Ms. Zuckerman said.

“Anyone can make up the name of any cryptocurrency,” she said. “You could make up a ‘Mad Men’ token, a ‘Succession’ token. So it’s really important to do your own research.”

A BP oil platform in the North Sea. BP’s quarterly earnings were lifted as the price of oil has risen steadily over the past year.Credit…Pool photo by Andy Buchanan

BP said Tuesday that higher oil and natural gas prices had led to sharply higher earnings in the third quarter. The company said that its “underlying replacement cost profit” for July through September was $3.3 billion, compared with $86 million in the period a year earlier.

Prices for oil have steadily risen over the last year as economies have expanded since pandemic lockdowns, and BP joined other oil companies in reporting a big jump in quarterly earnings.

BP, which is based in London, said that it received about $66.39 on average for a barrel of oil in the quarter, compared with $37.77 in the earlier period. BP also said it earned $868 million from its minority holding in the Russian oil giant, Rosneft, compared with a $278 million loss a year ago.

Analysts said the results were slightly better than forecasts.

“Rising commodity prices certainly helped,” the chief executive, Bernard Looney, said in a statement.

Acknowledging the role that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies have played in lifting prices in recent months, BP said that the producers’ “decision making on production levels continues to be a key factor in oil prices.”

OPEC and its allies, including Russia, are expected to meet on Thursday to discuss production levels. President Biden is leaning on them to accelerate their pace of increasing output to bring down gasoline prices for consumers. Brent crude, the international benchmark, is now selling for about $85 a barrel.

BP held its dividend steady for the quarter at 5.46 cents per share, and announced a $1.25 billion share buyback.

On a call with analysts, Mr. Looney shrugged off what may be growing pressures to break up big oil companies. Recently, Third Point, a New York-based fund management firm, suggested that Royal Dutch Shell, BP’s rival, could be substantially more valuable if broken up into an oil business and a lower carbon energy business.

“We are not hearing that call from our investors,” Mr. Looney said.

Supporters of same-sex marriage celebrate outside the Supreme Court in 2015 after a ruling enabling couples across the country to marry.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Surviving members of same-sex couples who weren’t able to marry because it wasn’t yet legal may be newly eligible for survivor benefits from Social Security.

Even after winning the right to marry across the United States more than six years ago, some same-sex couples have faced challenges accessing certain benefits. To qualify for survivor benefits, for example, couples need to have been married for at least nine months. But some survivors lost their spouses before meeting that threshold, even though they legalized their unions as soon as they were eligible. Others died before they were able to marry at all.

Recent developments ensure that both groups of survivors — those who were able to marry and those who were not — will be permitted to collect benefits: On Monday, the Department of Justice and the Social Security Administration dropped their appeals of two class-action suits in the Ninth Circuit, which had initially ruled in favor of the surviving spouses and partners. And the Social Security Administration had already begun to update its policies last month.

“There are a significant amount of people for whom this could make a significant difference,” said Peter Renn, counsel at Lambda Legal, an advocacy group that represented plaintiffs in the two lawsuits. “Survivor benefits are now equally available to everyone, including potentially thousands of same-sex partners who could not marry their loved ones and may have thought it was futile to apply.”

The group filed the two suits in 2018. One was filed on behalf of Helen Thornton, now 66, who tried to receive benefits on the record of Marge Brown, her partner of 27 years. But Ms. Brown died in 2006, before they were permitted to marry in Washington State, where they lived. The district court in Washington ruled in her favor, but the lawsuit’s protections were limited to people who had applied by Nov. 25, 2020, according to Mr. Renn.

“Now, for the first time, surviving same-sex partners who apply after that date also have the same pathway to survivor’s benefits,” he added.

In the second suit, Michael Ely, now 68, married his partner, James Taylor, shortly after Arizona’s same-sex marriage ban was struck down in 2014. Mr. Taylor died just six months after they married, according to legal documents. Mr. Ely was unable to collect survivor benefits on Mr. Taylor’s earnings record, the legal complaint said, even though they were partnered for more than four decades and Mr. Taylor was the primary earner for the couple.

As long as the deceased person worked long enough, widows and widowers generally may receive survivor benefits as early as age 60, as well as a one-time lump-sum death payment of $255. (Disabled survivors may be eligible at age 50.)

The Social Security Administration and the Justice Department did not immediately comment.

In 2015, a monumental Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges declared that the Constitution guaranteed a right to same-sex marriage, enabling couples across the country to marry even if their states had banned it. That case came after a landmark in 2013, in United States v. Windsor, in which the court ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to federal benefits.

“I can finally breathe a sigh of relief that these benefits are now finally secure,” Mr. Ely said in a statement, “not only for me but for everyone else who found themselves in the same boat.”

Last year, venture capital funding for companies founded by women in the U.S. dropped substantially. But new research from PitchBook suggests that change is afoot.

U.S. venture capital raised by female-founded companies

The start of the pandemic had a disproportionate affect on investments in companies with at least one female founder. The number of deals involving companies with all-male founders dipped 5.4 percent in June 2020 compared with March, then rose again through the end of the year. But investment activity in companies with a female founder dropped almost 30 percent and remained suppressed for much of the year, PitchBook data shows.

This year, start-ups with female founders have fared much better. They have raised more venture capital dollars and have executed more exits at greater values than at any point in the last decade. Start-ups with a female founder raised more than $40 billion through September, almost double the amount invested in companies founded by women in all of 2020 or 2019.

Much of the investment surge was concentrated in the tech, health care and retail industries.

Still, those investments represented a small slice of the overall market, amounting to roughly 18 percent of the $239 billion raised by all venture capital-backed companies through September.

The PitchBook report suggests there is a growing pool of female angel investors and general partners at funds who are actively looking to support female founders. At the end of 2019, 12 percent of general partners at venture capital firms were women and there were 740 female angel investors. Today, women make up 15 percent of general partners at venture capital firms, and there are now about 1,000 female angel investors.

Many of Catch Co.’s advent calendars were stuck in the yard at the Port of Long Beach. Credit…Allison Zaucha for The New York Times

A Chicago company called Catch Co. had a deal to sell an advent calendar for fishing enthusiasts in 2,650 Walmart stores nationwide. But like so many products this holiday season, the calendars, “12 Days of Fishmas,” were stuck in a huge supply-chain traffic jam.

With Black Friday rapidly approaching, many of the calendars were sitting in a 40-foot steel box in the yard at the Port of Long Beach, blocked by other containers stuffed with toys, furniture and car parts, Ana Swanson reports for The New York Times. Truckers had come several times to pick up the Catch Co. container but been turned away. Dozens more ships sat in the harbor, waiting their turn to dock.

“There’s delays in every single piece of the supply chain,” said Tim MacGuidwin, the chief operations officer for Catch Co. “You’re very much not in control.”

Catch Co. is one of the countless companies at the mercy of global supply chain disruptions this year. Worker shortages, pandemic shutdowns, strong consumer demand and other factors have fractured the global conveyor belt that shuffles consumer goods from Chinese factories, through American ports and along railways and freeways to households and stores around the United States.

The Treasury Department identified regulatory gaps that it said Congress would need to address to regulate stablecoins.Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Financial regulators have urged lawmakers to act fast on legislation to address the rising risk of stablecoins.

This type of cryptocurrency — ostensibly backed one-to-one by a stable asset like the dollar, making it more practical as a means for trades and transactions — is booming, with some $130 billion now in circulation, up from less than $30 billion at the start of the year.

Stablecoin issuers, such as Tether and Circle, are not banks and they are not simply tech companies that sell online services: They operate as both and have few rules to guide them.

In an eagerly anticipated report that the Treasury Department released Monday, officials warned that without more oversight, the rise in reliance on stablecoins could result in bank runs, consumer abuse and payment snafus, and potentially threaten the wider financial system, Ephrat Livni and Eric Lipton report for The New York Times.

Stablecoin issuers should be treated like banks, the report recommended, subjecting them to the same reserve requirements as traditional financial institutions to ensure they can meet the demands of customers to cash out quickly.

Others involved in the stablecoin transfer process should be subject to more rules, too, regulators said. Currently, federal law cannot prevent retailers and other commercial companies from issuing their own stablecoins, potentially creating risky overlaps between commerce and banking.

Delay is dangerous, the regulators said. Stablecoins have not always been as securely backed as issuers claim. Agencies have the power to police certain stablecoin issuers, but the report identified regulatory gaps that only legislators could address.

Rivian makes an upscale pickup truck and a sport-utility vehicle, both designed to be driven off-road.Credit…Lyndon French for The New York Times

Rivian, an electric truck maker backed by Amazon and Ford Motor, is aiming to be valued above $50 billion in its initial public offering next week.

The company updated its registration documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday to say it was aiming to sell 135 million Class A common shares priced between $57 and $62 a share, raising up to $8.4 billion.

Rivian is one of many start-ups hoping to capture a share of the electric vehicle market, which is expected to grow exponentially over the next two decades. The company is chasing Tesla, the leader in the field. Tesla recently topped $1 trillion in value, and it made its first full-year profit last year.

Amazon has invested over $1.8 billion in Rivian, and it disclosed last week that it held a 20 percent stake in the company. Amazon, which has been building up its own delivery operation, has a contract to buy 100,000 delivery vehicles from Rivian.

Founded in 2009, Rivian makes an upscale pickup truck and a sport-utility vehicle, both designed to be driven off-road. “Keep the world adventurous forever,” the company proclaims in its I.P.O. filing.

At $62 per share, Rivian could have a value as high as $61 billion if extra shares that might get issued are counted. These include the additional shares that may get issued in the offering, if there is demand for them, and some shares underlying employee stock compensation, said Matthew Kennedy, a senior I.P.O. market strategist at Renaissance Capital.

Rivian first published its papers to go public in August, then aiming for a valuation of around $70 billion. Rivian has lost $2 billion since the start of last year, underscoring the costs and risks of developing electric vehicles. It expects to spend roughly $8 billion on facilities and equipment through the end of 2023.

Peter Eavis contributed reporting.

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