Starbucks reverses policy on employee mandates for COVID-19 vaccines and more business news

Starbucks reverses vaccine mandates

Starbucks is no longer requiring its U.S. workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, reversing a policy it announced earlier this month.

In a memo sent to employees, the Seattle coffee giant said it was responding to last week’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 6-3 vote, the court rejected the Biden administration’s plan to require vaccines or regular COVID-19 testing at companies with more than 100 workers.

“We respect the court’s ruling and will comply,” Starbucks Chief Operating Officer John Culver wrote in the memo.

Starbucks’ reversal is among the most high- profile corporate actions in response to the Supreme Court ruling. Many other big companies, including Target, have been mum on their plans.

On Jan. 3, Starbucks said it would require all employees to be vaccinated by Feb. 9 or face a weekly COVID-19 test requirement. At the time, Culver said it was the responsibility of Starbucks’ leadership “to do whatever we can to help keep you safe and create the safest work environment possible.”

In Tuesday’s memo, Culver said the company continues to strongly encourage vaccinations and booster shots. The company also told workers on Tuesday that they shouldn’t wear cloth masks to work, and should instead use medical-grade surgical masks.


Pinnacle boosts profits, deposits and loans in 2021

With so much liquidity in the market due to stimulus measures and pandemic uncertainty, loan demand was sluggish for many banks late last year. But Pinnacle Financial Partners Inc., the parent company of Chattanooga’s fourth-biggest bank, boosted its loans by 12% last year, not including the Paycheck Protection Program, to help boost the bank’s adjusted per share earnings by 56.3%.

“Despite a volatile and challenging operating environment, 2021 afforded us extraordinary opportunities for outsized growth,” said M. Terry Turner, Pinnacle’s president and chief executive officer. “Importantly, to bolster our future growth prospects, during 2021 we announced expansion into several new markets, including the Washington, D.C,. area, and we added 119 revenue producers to our ranks. As we enter 2022, we believe we are well-positioned to continue to execute on our rapid growth model.”

Total assets for Pinnacle on Dec. 31, 2021, were $38.5 billion, reflecting a year-over-year increase of 10.1%. Total deposits were up 10.7% from 2020.


Bank of America boosts profits, wages

Bank of America said its profits rose 28% last quarter from a year earlier, but the bank faced the same wage inflation as its Wall Street counterparts.

The bank said Wednesday that it earned a profit of $7.01 billion, or 82 cents per share, in the fourth quarter. That’s up from a profit of $5.47 billion, or 59 cents a share, in the same period a year earlier. Analysts surveyed by FactSet were expecting the bank to post a profit of 77 cents a share.

The bank, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, saw most of its businesses grow profits in the quarter. But much of the growth was in BofA’s investment banking division, which saw profits climb to $2.68 billion from $1.67 billion. Other banks with investment banking businesses saw a strong end to the year, as companies scrambled to close deals or go public.

Like its competitors, BofA is facing much higher compensation expenses. The bank spent $36.1 billion on wages and benefits last year, up 10% from a year earlier. BofA joined Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, and Citi in saying they were expecting to see higher salary costs as they compete for talent.


Nonprofit raises money for Houston newsroom

Five philanthropies have announced plans to spend more than $20 million to bolster news coverage in Houston and create what they say will be one of the largest local nonprofit news organizations in the country.

The donors said Wednesday in a news release that the newsroom is anticipated to launch later this year or early 2023 on multiple platforms. The goal is to “elevate the voices of Houstonians” and address information needs identified through focus groups, community listening sessions and multi-language surveys conducted with local residents.

The donors include the Houston Endowment, the Kinder Foundation and Arnold Ventures.


New home starts grow in December

Construction of new homes in the U.S. rose for the third consecutive month in December and data released Wednesday suggests the frantic pace of building will continue this year.

The December increase left home construction at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.7 million units, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. Applications for building permits, which can forecast future activity, rose a whopping 9.1% to a seasonally-adjusted rate of 1.87 million units.

Both starts and permits topped expectations. Analysts surveyed by FactSet were expecting 1.65 million starts and 1.70 million permit applications.

— Compiled by Dave Flessner

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