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Talking points

Boston software-pricing startup bought by UK firm

Pricing their software and retaining users is a challenge for tech companies.Andrey Rudakov/Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Blo

DEALS

Software pricing startup bought by UK firm

Boston software company ProfitWell is being acquired for more than $200 million by British payments company Paddle. All of ProfitWell’s 90 employees, who work in Boston, Salt Lake City, and Rosario, Argentina, will join Paddle. Founder and chief executive Patrick Campbell will become Paddle’s chief strategy officer. Founded in 2012, ProfitWell has thousands of business customers including Canva, Autodesk, and Notion using its software to help price their subscription software offerings and retain users. That’s an obvious fit with London-based Paddle, which provides checkout, payment, and subscription management for software companies. “Paddle and ProfitWell share a common goal: maximizing our software customers’ revenue by taking care of the operational and financial obstacles that cost unnecessary time and manpower,” Paddle CEO and cofounder Christian Owens said in a statement. — AARON PRESSMAN

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HOUSING

Somerville housing nonprofit sues tenant screening service, alleging racial discrimination

A Somerville housing group and two Boston-area tenants sued national rental-screening service SafeRent in federal court in Boston Wednesday, alleging the service discriminates against Black and Hispanic renters by including credit scores and eviction history — but not the value of rental vouchers — in their tenant-selection process. The suit, filed by Community Action Agency of Somerville and Greater Boston Legal Services, charges that SafeRent — formerly known as CoreLogic Rental Property Solutions — said the practice violates the Fair Housing Act. Credit scores include nonhousing debts, the suit notes, and on average Black and Hispanic consumers have lower credit scores than white consumers. Meantime, SafeRent’s tenant “score” does not account for whether a prospective renter receives federal housing vouchers, which pay, on average, 73 percent of recipients’ monthly rent. “We are bringing these claims against SafeRent because its actions interfere with our ability to stabilize low-income families in housing with their vouchers,” said CAAS executive director David Gibbs. “The tenant screening software makes it almost impossible for us to place families in many developments because these otherwise qualifying applicants often have non-tenant consumer debt.” — TIM LOGAN

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RETAIL

Amazon shareholders reject call for audit of warehouse working conditions

Amazon shareholders on Wednesday voted down a proposal calling for an independent audit of working conditions at the e-commerce behemoth’s warehouses. The proposal’s defeat at the Seattle-based company’s annual shareholder meeting came despite calls from activist groups and unions to improve labor conditions at the warehouses where customer orders are sorted, packaged, and shipped. Amazon had recommended shareholders vote against the proposal and 14 others presented at the meeting, a record for the company. All the resolutions were voted down by a majority of shareholders, the company said, citing preliminary voting results. It did not release shareholder vote totals Wednesday, but it’s expected to release them in regulatory filings. Many of the resolutions focused on workers’ rights and issues such as further disclosure of the company’s lobbying and taxes. The resolutions are nonbinding, but usually pressure corporate boards to take action. Shareholders also voted to approve compensation packages for six of Amazon’s top executives, including CEO Andy Jassy. Two investor advisory firms, Glass Lewis and Institutional Shareholder Services, had recommended shareholders vote against the pay packages. Jassy received a compensation package worth about $214 million last year, with nearly all of money coming through Amazon shares to be vested over 10 years. ― ASSOCIATED PRESS

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FOOD INDUSTRY

Egg prices could increase by as much as 21 percent this year

Eggs will get even more expensive after US production plummeted to a seven-year low during one of the worst-ever bird flu outbreaks. The price for eggs is set to rise as much as 21 percent compared with a year ago, the biggest increase among all food staples tracked by the US Department of Agriculture. In April, the outlook was for an increase of 6 percent to 7 percent. The outbreak of avian influenza has affected more than 38 million birds in the US, driving both the number of egg-laying birds and the production of table eggs down to the lowest level since 2015, the last time the bird flu virus ran rampant in the poultry industry. ― BLOOMBERG NEWS

FARMING

Farms say ban on foie gras in New York City would be devastating

New York City’s planned ban on the sale of foie gras is being challenged in court by two upstate farms that claim it would leave them financially devastated. The two major foie gras producers, Hudson Valley Foie Gras and La Belle Farm, said the law enacting the ban set to go into effect Nov. 25 should be declared “invalid and void” in a lawsuit filed Friday in state court in Manhattan. Proponents say the production of foie gras — the fattened liver of a duck or goose — is cruel to the animals because it involves force feeding. While the ban has been cheered by animal welfare advocates, the farms said the loss of the vital city market would jeopardize their operations. La Belle anticipates having to let go most of its 100 employees and may be forced out of business. Hudson Valley would have to terminate dozens of employees, according to the complaint. The farms argue the city law should be invalidated in part because it imposes a ban on the sale of products that can be produced and sold in compliance with state and federal law. The lawsuit also argues that the city exceeded its authority by “attempting to eliminate” farming operations about 80 miles away. A spokesperson for the city corporation counsel said the lawsuit is under review. ― ASSOCIATED PRESS

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AUTO INDUSTRY

Fiat reaches reaches criminal plea deal to pay $300m in US diesel case

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV’s US business has reached a plea deal to resolve a years-long criminal probe into allegations it rigged diesel-powered vehicles to cheat on emissions, according to a person familiar with the agreement. The accord with the US Justice Department would include a guilty plea and a payment of about $300 million and could be announced as soon as next week, according to the person, who asked not to be identified because the pact isn’t yet public. The company, now known as Stellantis NV, has been under investigation since at least 2017 for allegations the automaker equipped roughly 100,000 diesel-fueled Ram trucks and Jeep SUVs with software designed to evade US pollution tests. A spokeswoman for Stellantis, formed from the merger of Fiat Chrysler and France’s PSA Group, and the Justice Department declined to comment on the agreement. ― BLOOMBERG NEWS

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FINANCE

Crypto investing shows signs of life

Blockchain startup StarkWare said its valuation quadrupled to $8 billion in a funding round, adding to tentative signs that venture capitalists are looking past a rout in cryptocurrency markets. The Israeli company, whose technology speeds up blockchain transactions, raised $100 million in the financing, which was led by Greenoaks Capital. StarkWare’s announcement came on the same day as Hong Kong-based crypto firm Babel Finance disclosed a funding round that valued it at $2 billion. In another sign that VC investors aren’t turning their backs on digital assets, Andreessen Horowitz said it raised a $4.5 billion crypto fund, the largest to date. Even with the latest deals, VC investment in digital-asset startups this quarter looks unlikely to match the previous three months, when the sector raised $9.7 billion according to PitchBook data. So far this quarter, the tally stands at roughly $5.3 billion. Crypto proponents like Andreessen Horowitz’s Chris Dixon have argued recently that bear markets tend to serve as springboards for technological leaps. Some have drawn parallels with the dot-com shakeout of the early 2000s, out of which companies like Twitter and Facebook eventually rose. ― BLOOMBERG NEWS