Talking points newsletter

Down day on Wall Street, Biogen gets a legal boost

Traders worked on the floor before the closing bell of the Dow Jones at the New York Stock Exchange earlier this month.
Traders worked on the floor before the closing bell of the Dow Jones at the New York Stock Exchange earlier this month.AFP/Getty Images/File

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Chesto means business

Opposition in the pipeline: Kinder Morgan pulled the plug on its big New England pipeline, and a court ruling sidelined Spectra Energy’s proposal.

But that was just Round 1 in the state’s pipeline wars. Now, comes Round 2.

The Northeast Gas Association is launching a campaign to promote the economic benefits of natural gas and the state’s transmission constraints, in part to revive Spectra’s $3 billion pipeline expansion. No formal advertising is planned yet, but the state’s news outlets can expect plenty of pitches and editorial board meetings, along with the inevitable report showing how valuable gas is to the region’s future.

Meanwhile, the industry’s foes have been relentless. They’ve delugedGovernor Charlie Baker’s office with complaints. On Tuesday,environmental advocates lined up several small business owners in different corners of the state to speak for their cause. Hundreds of small businesses signed a petition urging Baker to not support expanded gas capacity in the state. 

Spectra still needs to figure out how to pay for its Access Northeast project, alongside partners Eversource and National Grid, after the state’s Supreme Judicial Court ruled last summer that pipeline costs couldn’t be passed on to electric ratepayers. 

Eversource executive Lee Olivier told analysts last month that his team hasn’t given up. He mentioned a potential change in state law — a tough sell in the State House, particularly in the Senate — or the possibility of securing contracts with gas distribution companies. Eversource and its partners have apparently invested far too much in this expansion to walk away now.

Jon Chesto is a Globe reporter. Reach him at jon.chesto@globe.com and follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.

Executive summary

Downward spiral: As we mentioned in our opening, it’s been a dark day on Wall Street where all of the major indexes were down . The Dow lost almost 238 points, or 1.14 percent. Banks and biotech were hard hit.

Some analysts were putting the blame squarely on ineffectiveness of President Donald Trump and his administration to push ahead with policies promised in the campaign. There are doubts that Trump has enough votes to get the Republican health care plan passed, which is leading to speculation that tax cuts won’t be coming any time soon either.

When things were going well, Trump took credit for the market’s surge. Will he take the blame for the slump? In his press briefing, White House spokesman Sean Spicer cautioned making too much of one day.

A billion reasons to vote no: That’s what Republican Governor Charlie Baker is telling the Massachusetts congressional delegation about the Republican bill to replace the Affordable Care Act.

In a letter sent Tuesday, Baker writes that the estimated loss to the Bay State in 2020 would be $1 billion, which would rise to $1.5 billion by 2022. The bill would strain the state’s ability to continue providing universal health care, he wrote.

The House is expected to vote on the health care bill on Thursday. On Tuesday, President Trump warned House Republicans they could lose their seats in the next election if they don’t vote for it.

Seeking leniency: James Merrill, who pleaded guilty to his role in the $3 billion TelexFree fraud case, is due in court Wednesday for sentencing . His attorney, his friends, and his family are requesting leniency from the judge, painting Merrill as someone who was taken and betrayed by his Brazilian business partners.

TelexFree was an Internet phone service. You may remember that back in January authorities found $20 million stuffed in a mattress during the search of a Westborough apartment that led to another arrest in the TelexFree case.

Though Merrill is guilty of “extreme recklessness,” his attorney Robert Goldstein said, he was not the mastermind behind the pyramid scheme that bilked people out of millions.

Patently positive: Biogen Inc. got a boost from a legal decision on Tuesday. The Cambridge-based biotech’s patent on its top-selling multiple sclerosis treatment was upheld by the US Patent Trial and Appeals Board.

That gave its stock a boost, as well. At midday, Biogen jumped more than 3 percent before ending the day at $275.79, up 0.4 percent.

Biogen has been battling a patent challenge by Texas hedge fund manager Kyle Bass.

Putnam invests in a Diamond: Putnam Investments, the Boston-based mutual fund firm, has hired David Diamond, a veteran small-cap specialist.

The move comes at a time when investors nationwide have turned to more passively managed index funds. Putnam is betting that it can find a niche business in more research and focused stock picking.

Diamond's hiring is part of an overall shakeup at Putnam, which manages $160 billion overall and nearly $3 billion in small-cap funds.


Trending pick

Shiny red Apples: The computer giant is introducing a revamped iPad in its most popular size and at its lowest price. The company also unveiled a red iPhone 7, with part of the proceeds from its sale going to the Global Fund to help fight HIV and AIDS.


Line items

Ghost Tequila looks to drink up success:
Fireball creator could pour another winner with Boston startup -- Bloomberg

Interest in Arctic heats up:
Burlington semiconductor firm sells for $68 million -- Boston Business Journal


New calling card for Avon:
Company seeks to rekindle sales of its cosmetics -- Wall Street Journal

Leave the laptop at home: 
Newest travel ban involves electronics -- New York Times



Tough cell: Laws were changed in an attempt to make it easier for ex-offenders to find a job.

But as was reported in today's Globe, the numbers tell a different story.

Changes to the Criminal Offender Information system don't appear to have been effective. The law, enacted in 2010, forbids employers from asking about criminal records on an application. They can still do background checks, but records are more easily sealed.

Still, the average employment rate for people with a criminal record dropped 2.6 percentage points compared to people without a record.

One possible explanation is that more ex-convicts are seeking employment now than they have in the past. That may be providing more competition and skewing the overall numbers.


Talking Points newsletter is compiled by George Brennan. Follow George on Twitter at @gpb227 If you liked what you've read, please tell your friends to sign up