YouTube star Jimmy Donaldson, known to his 172 million subscribers as MrBeast, filed a lawsuit on Monday against his food delivery service partner, Virtual Dining Concepts, claiming the company damaged his reputation by serving customers “low quality” and, at times, “inedible” food.

Donaldson, famous for his expensive stunts and viral charity projects, partnered with the Florida-based “virtual dining” brand to launch MrBeast Burger, which in December 2020 began selling branded burger-and-fries combos through restaurants and commercial kitchens across the U.S. Customers order through major food delivery service apps or via the MrBeastBurger website, which states menu items are available “for restaurants to prepare out of their existing kitchens as a way to generate a new revenue stream.’

But Donaldson, who in November became the most-followed individual YouTuber, is now seeking to end his agreement with Virtual Dining Concepts, citing a lack of quality control and noting that his complaints “fell on deaf ears.” 

A spokesperson for Virtual Dining Concepts did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday. A representative for Donaldson declined to comment. 

The “goal of the business,” according to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. Southern District of New York, “was simple: relying entirely on the strength of MrBeast’s brand, the business would create a virtual restaurant with a selection of MrBeast-branded food items, but would then partner with existing restaurants who would prepare those items and share in a significant portion of the revenue from their sales.”

However, the lawsuit claims, “Virtual Dining Concepts was more focused on rapidly expanding the business as a way to pitch the virtual restaurant model to other celebrities for its own benefit, it was not focused on controlling the quality of the MrBeast Burger customer experience and products.”

Customers received orders that were “delivered late, in unbranded packaging, fail to include the ordered items, and in some instances, were inedible,” the lawsuit states.

Attorneys for the YouTuber submitted examples of thousands of reactions online about the food, including screenshots and links to YouTube reviews as well as viral images of customers saying they were served raw meat. In some complaints made by consumers, MrBeast was blamed for the poor service.

“Customers have referred to the burgers as being ‘disgusting,’ ‘revolting,’ and ‘inedible.’ They have claimed that ‘it is sad that MrBeast would put his name on this,’ ‘MrBeast is being cancelled over burgers;’ ‘never had something so nasty;’ ‘inaccurate marketing;’ ‘Orlando’s worst burger;’ ‘big name, poor food;’ ‘very upsetting for the high price;’ and ‘likely the worst burger I have ever had,” the complaint states.

The suit also claims that the images of Donaldson are being used without permission and that Virtual Dining Concepts registered MrBeast-related trademarks they were not allowed to register. 

As of Monday afternoon, MrBeast Burger, as well as imagery of Donaldson, was still featured on Virtual Dining Concepts’ website. 

“Virtual Dining Concepts repeatedly denied MrBeast his valuable approval rights by posting his name, image, and brand on social media and elsewhere without first obtaining his written approval and consent,” the lawsuit claims. “Further, in violation of their agreements and trademark law, Virtual Dining Concepts registered various trademarks throughout the world using MrBeast’s name and brand, without any right to do so and without his consent or knowledge (and they listed themselves as the sole owners of the trademarks).”

The news of the lawsuit, which was first reported by Bloomberg, comes as ‘ghost kitchens’ see a boom on food delivery apps. The celebrity “ghost restaurant” has been a particularly fruitful market. Virtual Dining Concepts lists Mariah Carey’s “Mariah’s Cookies,” Bravo’s “The Real HouseBowls,” and baker Buddy V’s “Cake Slice” as some of its other ventures. 

Despite the negative reviews, MrBeast Burger generated “millions of dollars,” according to the lawsuit. However, “MrBeast has not received a dime,” the lawsuit states.

MrBeast has generated backlash before, including for his snack brand Feastables, but he said in a tweet that he enjoys “Feastables 100x more” than MrBeast Burger. 

On June 16, when a fan asked in a tweet “Is @MrBeastBurger done?” Donaldson himself replied.

“Yeah, the problem with Beast Burger is i can’t guarantee the quality of the order,” Donaldson tweeted. “When working with other restaurants it’s impossible to control it sadly And tbh I just enjoy Feastables 100x more. Making snacks is awesome and something I’m way more passionate about.”

The complaint claims that because of the poor customer service experience and poor quality of the items served at MrBeast Burger, “MrBeast’s reputation and brand has, indeed, been materially and irreparably harmed.”  

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Fitch downgraded its credit rating for the U.S. government, from AAA to AA+, two months after the debt-ceiling crisis was resolved.

“In Fitch’s view, there has been a steady deterioration in standards of governance over the last 20 years, including on fiscal and debt matters,’ the rating agency said Tuesday. Fitch said the U.S. appeared to suffer from an “erosion of governance,’ pointing to the Washington brinkmanship over the debt ceiling as an example.

With a rating of AA+, the U.S. still holds among the highest possible ratings, which Fitch saying the nation still benefits from a “large, advanced, well-diversified and high-income economy.”“I strongly disagree with Fitch Ratings’ decision,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement Tuesday, calling the change “arbitrary and based on outdated data.”

Fitch is one of three major credit rating agencies, along with S&P Moody’s, that evaluate a company or country’s ability to pay its debts. The agencies use scales to “rate” a debtor’s risk of making full and timely payments, helping investors understand the credit history and outlook associated with any bonds they choose to buy.

The move came after Fitch placed the country’s AAA rating on negative watch on May 24, citing political brinksmanship over the debt ceiling.

The first and only other time the U.S. has faced a credit downgrade was in 2011, when S&P lowered its rating from AAA, meaning “outstanding,” to AA+, or “excellent.” That move, which came days after Congress resolved an earlier debt-ceiling standoff, coincided with a stock market drop and a spike in interest rates for consumer-facing products like auto loans and mortgages.

President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan bill on June 3 to lift the federal debt ceiling, a legal limit on how much the debt government is allowed to issue to pay bills it has already racked up through spending legislation. The move avoided a default that economists warned would have had devastating consequences for the U.S. and global economy.

While a broader crisis was sidestepped, the Fitch downgrade underscores concerns among analysts and holders of U.S. Treasury bonds — widely seen as extraordinarily safe investments — that partisan wrangling over the debt ceiling puts the country at heightened risk of eventually missing a payment on its more than $31 trillion in debt at some point in the future.

“The repeated debt-limit political standoffs and last-minute resolutions have eroded confidence in fiscal management,” Fitch said.

S&P’s U.S. credit downgrade in 2011 came on Aug. 5, three days after then-President Barack Obama signed a bill to avoid a government default. But the agency said at the time that “political brinksmanship” had already compromised the effectiveness and predictability of federal policymaking, creating longer-term doubts about the nation’s ability to manage its debt.

The downgrade more than a decade ago, which has never been reversed, caused stock markets to tumble, with the S&P 500 losing 17% between July 22 and Aug. 8. The move also raised government borrowing costs by an estimated $1.3 billion.

Although the debt ceiling is a mechanism to cap government borrowing, it does not cap spending. The federal budget process, separate from the debt ceiling, determines how much money the government spends in which areas.

Until relatively recently, raising or suspending the debt limit was a routine procedural affair. The Treasury Department has noted that since 1960 Congress has acted 78 separate times to resolve the debt limit — 49 times under Republican presidents and 29 times under Democratic ones.

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Ford is recalling more than 870,000 newer F-150 pickup trucks in the U.S. because the electric parking brakes can turn on unexpectedly.

The recall covers certain pickups from the 2021 through 2023 model years with single exhaust systems. Ford’s F-Series pickups are the top-selling vehicles in the U.S.

The company says in documents posted by government safety regulators Friday that a rear wiring bundle can come in contact with the rear axle housing. That can chafe the wiring and cause a short circuit, which can turn on the parking brake without action from the driver, increasing the risk of a crash.

Drivers may see a parking brake warning light and a warning message on the dashboard.

Ford says in documents that it has 918 warranty claims and three field reports of wire chafing in North America. Of these, 299 indicated unexpected parking brake activation, and 19 of these happened while the trucks were being driven.

The company says it doesn’t know of any crashes or injuries caused by the problem.

Dealers will inspect the rear wiring harness. If protective tape is worn through, the harness will be replaced. If the tape isn’t worn, dealers will install a protective tie strap and tape wrap.

Owners will be notified by letter starting Sept. 11.

Owners with questions can call Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332.

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Heineken’s chief executive says the company has learned lessons from the social media controversy around a campaign for rival beer Bud Light — but still believes businesses should stand up for their “values.”

“Particularly in the Western world, we do see a lot of polarization in society. And that’s affecting all players, all actors in society, also businesses and also brands,” Dolf van den Brink told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe.”

“You have to be thoughtful, you have to be balanced. And at the same time, you need to stand for your values and your principles. And we try to do that to the best of our abilities,” he continued. “So far, I’m proud of how our brand teams across our operating companies are navigating this new world.”

Bud Light lost its spot as the top-selling beer in the U.S. in May, after conservatives boycotted the brand following a brief product placement deal with transgender social media influencer Dylan Mulvaney. Bud Light sales fell 24.6% in the period year-on-year, according to NielsenIQ data from consulting firm Bump Williams.

Bud Light is owned by Belgium’s Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s biggest brewer, which will report its second-quarter results on Thursday. The furor has garnered political attention, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis calling for a probe into whether the company breached its duties to shareholders.

AB InBev has also been criticized for failing to stand behind Mulvaney, amid wider debate over whether corporations will continue to back social or political causes. Industry groups including Outvertising have called on brands not to back away from campaigns and partnerships supportive of the LGBTQ+ community over fears of a similar backlash.

Heineken’s Dolf van den Brink said advertising remained crucial in a challenging market environment, and that it had increased marketing spend by 200 million euros ($221 million) in the first half.

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Heineken on Monday cut its 2023 profit growth forecast, as it reported a 5.6% decline in beer sales and an 8.8% like-for-like fall in operating profit, coming in below a company-compiled consensus forecast.

“We always knew the first half of the year would all be about the inflationary pressures on our input costs, particularly in Europe which is an important region to us,” van den Brink told CNBC.

“We frontloaded the year with pricing, as such as we expected some volume softness in the beginning of the year. Overall we are quite happy with our strong revenue growth, we grew revenue between nine and 10% in three out of four regions.”

In a note, analysts at RBC Europe called the results the “worst set … we’ve had so far,” highlighting the forecast misses in the Americas and Europe and significant challenges in Asia supply chains and sales.

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It seems like a contradiction: How would increasing the cost of monthly credit payments help to bring down the price of goods and services in the economy?

But that is the logic Federal Reserve officials are following as they raise interest rates to 5.5%, their highest point in more than 22 years, to combat a pace of inflation that Fed Chair Jay Powell said Wednesday remains ‘much too high.’

As Americans are now well aware, the cost of seemingly everything — hotels, cars, dining out — has gone up at a pace the Fed is deeply uncomfortable with.

“My colleagues and I are acutely aware that high inflation imposes significant hardship, especially on those least able to meet the higher costs of essentials like food, housing and transportation,” Powell said.

How the Fed thinks about inflation

By making it more expensive for consumers and businesses to borrow money, it hopes to reduce overall economic activity — too much of which tends to cause inflation.

‘We do want to see demand running below potential for a sustained period to create slack and give inflation a chance to come down,’ Powell said.

It’s a trade-off: Raise costs now so that consumers and businesses don’t expect prices to increase in the future.

“If you fail to deal with it in the near term,’ Powell said of inflation, ‘it only raises the cost … of dealing with it later to the extent people start to see it as just part of their economic lives,” Powell explained, suggesting that a high level of inflation — which is anything above 2% — could become entrenched, making it harder to pull down.

For the average consumer, that means higher credit card interest rates, higher auto loan rates and higher mortgage rates. In some cases, it means being denied when you apply for new credit, said Mark Hamrick, Washington Bureau Chief for the financial services website Bankrate.

‘Medicine’ for the U.S. economy

Hamrick calls the higher interest rates ‘medicine’ designed to target inflation. He acknowledged that not everyone, including central bankers, understand exactly how the higher rates work their way through the economy because those costs can manifest in many different ways, but there remains ‘a high degree of confidence’ that the higher rates do help reduce inflation.

For businesses, the higher interest rates also mean it costs more to borrow money, thus making it tougher to hire people and invest.

‘That is an unfortunate fact,’ said Derek Tang, an economist, co-founder and CEO at Monetary Policy Analytics/LHMeyer, a Washington, D.C., research firm.

The way the Fed is bringing down inflation, Tang said, might cause workers to experience fewer or lower raises, or even lose their jobs outright.

‘On a human level, that hurts the poorest the hardest, because they already have less savings to draw on, because they’re also facing higher inflation and have to spend more on essentials like food, housing and gasoline,’ Tang said. ‘So really, there are no easy answers here.’

Ideally, the cost to people’s jobs because of higher interest rates will be minimal. And, so far, there’s been little significant impact to employment since the Fed began its current rate-hiking cycle in March 2022.

Notably, the unemployment rate, at 3.6%, remains at historic lows, and inflation has come down for 12-straight months.

This is what the Fed has sought all along. But Tang said the Fed hopes to make sure that inflation comes down — and stays down. Specifically, the Fed wants to see year-over-year price increases at 2%.

‘The inflation rate is not low enough, not yet at the target the Fed wants it to be,’ Tang said. ‘It needs to be confident it will be at that level in the future.’

Powell has acknowledged the difficult choice the central bank faces, but that for now it remains focused on wrestling down price increases, even if it comes with other costs.

“Restoring price stability is just something that we have to do,” Powell said Wednesday. “There isn’t an option to fail to do that because that is the thing that enables you to have a strong labor market over time. Without restoring price stability, you won’t be able, over the medium and longer term, to actually have a strong … sustained period of very strong labor market conditions,” Powell said.

And with a stronger labor market comes a more resilient economy, as long as the central bank can keep inflation in check.

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Facebook users have less than one month left to apply for their share of a $725 million settlement over the social network’s privacy violations, part of the lengthy fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal that rocked the U.S. electoral process and Silicon Valley.

The settlement, signed in December 2022, was the largest class action settlement of its kind, according to Keller Rohrback, the law firm that brought the class action suit. It ended years of litigation over Facebook’s role in improper data sharing with a data consultancy firm used by Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

In all, the Cambridge Analytica scandal cost Meta, Facebook’s parent company, nearly $5.9 billion. Beyond the $725 million settlement, the company paid a record $5 billion settlement to the Federal Trade Commission, alongside a further $100 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Facebook rebanded itself as Meta in 2021 and settled the suit a year later. In some ways, it’s a much different company than it was during the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The company has since expanded further into the metaverse with new hardware products like the Quest 3, coming this fall. It’s also revealed its Llama 2 large language artificial intelligence model, Reels to compete with TikTok and, more recently, Threads, which is taking on Twitter.

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The breach forced Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress and to take out full-page ads where he apologized for the missteps. “I’m sorry we didn’t do more at the time. We’re now taking steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” Zuckerberg said.

The $725 million settlement was not an admission of wrongdoing.

Facebook users can make a claim by visiting and entering their name, address, email address, and confirming they lived in the U.S. and were active on Facebook between the aforementioned dates.

People who had an active U.S. Facebook account between May 2007 and December 2022 have until Aug. 25 to enter a claim. Individual settlement payments haven’t yet been established because payouts depend on how many users submit claims and how long each user maintained a Facebook account.

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Trudi Shertzer can’t wait bring her 8-month-old to work every day.

An operations duty manager at Pittsburgh International Airport, she is counting the days until she can drop off her son at a 61-slot child care center opening there next month — the only such facility housed in a U.S. airport terminal.

“I’m just waiting for them to give us the list of stuff I need to start packing up for my son Hunter,” said Shertzer, whose husband, Ben, works as a wildlife manager at the airport. “This will be so convenient. With the facility right here, we’ll be able pop in and check on him, which will give us peace of mind.”

While the airport authority’s 475 employees get first dibs on enrollment, the child care center is also open to kids of other staffers at PIT’s 6,000-person campus, including concessionaires, cleaners and construction workers.

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Bed Bath & Beyond’s website relaunched Tuesday under its new owner,, breathing new life to the iconic home goods retailer declared bankrupt earlier this year.

The goal, said Overstock CEO Jonathan Johnson, is to combine Bed Bath’s brand name with Overstock’s business model ‘to create a business that can soar.’

Johnson said customers visiting the new website would see up to $50 of loyalty reward points reinstated from former Bed Bath & Beyond customer accounts, including a number of additional perks like 20% off initial purchase for signing up for a newly relaunched Welcome Rewards loyalty program; and 25% off initial purchases for anyone who downloads the new Bed Bath & Beyond mobile app.

When asked why Overstock is adopting the Bed Bath & Beyond name, Johnson said: “People view Overstock as liquidation, which is what we were 25 years ago when we started, but that’s not what we’ve been for the past two decades.”

“We’ve looked at Bed Bath and Beyond jealously for several years,’ Johnson said; ‘we really liked their name, and it was an iconic brand people loved.”

The relaunch was foreshadowed in June, when Overstock announced it had successfully purchased Bed Bath & Beyond’s intellectual property and digital assets out of bankruptcy for $21.5 million in cash.

Bed Bath & Beyond filed for Chapter 11 protection in April after years of failed attempts to reboot its long-running home goods business. All remaining Bed Bath & Beyond physical stores were officially slated to close this weekend., launched in 1999 as a liquidator and gone public in 2002, saw quarterly net revenues decline 20% year-on-year last quarter to $422 million. The company had a net quarterly loss of $73 million in the same three-month period. Its number of active customers for the quarter fell to 4.6 million, down 29% from the same period last year.

After seeing demand for its household goods boom during the Covid-19 pandemic, Overstock lost considerable sales momentum, reflected in its share price declining from about $121 in August 2020 to about $36 at the close of trading on Monday.

Johnson said an internal customer research survey showed Bed Bath & Beyond was still considered a top-five home goods retail brand among North American consumers. The new website recently went live in Canada and has been well received, he said.

But the relaunched Bed Bath website may have to lean heavily on deals and discounts in order to separate itself from the vast marketplace of competing online retailers, said Neil Saunders, managing director for retail at the GlobalData consultancy.

‘Offers and deals used to be a big part of Bed Bath & Beyond,’ he said.

The new company could also ultimately be hindered by the closure of Bed Bath’s stores, Saunders said.

‘What you don’t want is for Bed Bath & Beyond to drop off the radar,’ he said. ‘In two or three years, memories will fade. So you need a strategy to keep the brand alive in consumers’ minds.’

Johnson is confident that his company’s strategy will pay off.

‘Our view is bad management can kill companies, but it doesn’t kill brands,’ he said. ‘The Bed Bath brand is still strongly associated with home, and still much loved.’

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Six straight days of 12-hour driving. Single-digit paychecks. The complaints come from workers in vastly different industries: UPS delivery drivers and Hollywood actors and writers.

But they point to an underlying factor driving a surge of labor unrest: The cost to workers whose jobs have changed drastically as companies scramble to meet customer expectations for speed and convenience in industries transformed by technology.

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated those changes, pushing retailers to shift online and intensifying the streaming competition among entertainment companies. Now, from the picket lines, workers are trying to give consumers a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to produce a show that can be binged any time or get dog food delivered to their doorstep with a phone swipe.

Overworked and underpaid employees is an enduring complaint across industries — from delivery drivers to Starbucks baristas and airline pilots — where surges in consumer demand have collided with persistent labor shortages. Workers are pushing back against forced overtime, punishing schedules or company reliance on lower-paid, part-time or contract forces.

At issue for Hollywood screenwriters and actors staging their first simultaneous strikes in 40 years is the way streaming has upended entertainment economics, slashing pay and forcing showrunners to produce content faster with smaller teams.

“This seems to happen to many places when the tech companies come in. Who are we crushing? It doesn’t matter,” said Danielle Sanchez-Witzel, a screenwriter and showrunner on the negotiating team for the Writers Guild of America, whose members have been on strike since May. Earlier this month, the Screen Actors Guild–American Federation of Television and Radio Artists joined the writers’ union on the picket line.

Actors and writers have long relied on residuals, or long-term payments, for reruns and other airings of films and televisions shows. But reruns aren’t a thing on streaming services, where series and films simply land and stay with no easy way, such as box office returns or ratings, to determine their popularity.

Consequently, whatever residuals streaming companies do pay often amount to a pittance, and screenwriters have been sharing tales of receiving single digit checks.

Adam Shapiro, an actor known for the Netflix hit “Never Have I Ever,” said many actors were initially content to accept lower pay for the plethora of roles that streaming suddenly offered. But the need for a more sustainable compensation model gained urgency when it became clear streaming is not a sideshow, but rather the future of the business, he said.

“Over the past 10 years, we realized: ‘Oh, that’s now how Hollywood works. Everything is streaming,’” Shapiro said during a recent union event.

Shapiro, who has been acting for 25 years, said he agreed to a contract offering 20% of his normal rate for “Never Have I Ever” because it seemed like “a great opportunity, and it’s going to be all over the world. And it was. It really was. Unfortunately, we’re all starting to realize that if we keep doing this we’re not going to be able to pay our bills.”

Then there’s the rising use of “mini rooms,” in which a handful of writers are hired to work only during pre-production, sometimes for a series that may take a year to be greenlit, or never get picked up at all.

Sanchez-Witzel, co-creator of the recently released Netflix series “Survival of the Thickest,” said television shows traditionally hire robust writing teams for the duration of production. But Netflix refused to allow her to keep her team of five writers past pre-production, forcing round-the-clock work on rewrites with just one other writer.

“It’s not sustainable and I’ll never do that again,” she said.

Sanchez-Witzel said she was struck by the similarities between her experience and those of UPS drivers, some of whom joined the WGA for protests as they threatened their own potentially crippling strike. UPS and the Teamsters last week reached a tentative contract staving off the strike.

Jeffrey Palmerino, a full-time UPS driver near Albany, New York, said forced overtime emerged as a top issue during the pandemic as drivers coped with a crush of orders on par with the holiday season. Drivers never knew what time they would get home or if they could count on two days off each week, while 14-hour days in trucks without air conditioning became the norm.

“It was basically like Christmas on steroids for two straight years. A lot of us were forced to work six days a week, and that is not any way to live your life,” said Palmerino, a Teamsters shop steward.

Along with pay raises and air conditioning, the Teamsters won concessions that Palmerino hopes will ease overwork. UPS agreed to end forced overtime on days off and eliminate a lower-paid category of drivers who work shifts that include weekends, converting them to full-time drivers. Union members have yet to ratify the deal.

The Teamsters and labor activists hailed the tentative deal as a game-changer that would pressure other companies facing labor unrest to raise their standards. But similar outcomes are far from certain in industries lacking the sheer economic indispensability of UPS or the clout of its 340,000-member union.

Efforts to organize at Starbucks and Amazon stalled as both companies aggressively fought against unionization.

Still, labor protests will likely gain momentum following the UPS contract, said Patricia Campos-Medina, executive director of the Worker Institute at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, which released a report this year that found the number of labor strikes rose 52% in 2022.

“The whole idea that consumer convenience is above everything broke down during the pandemic. We started to think, ‘I’m at home ordering, but there is actually a worker who has to go the grocery store, who has to cook this for me so that I can be comfortable,’” Campos-Medina said.

Associated Press video journalist Leslie Ambriz contributed from Los Angeles.

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A U.S. judge has ruled that former Bed Bath & Beyond investor Ryan Cohen can be sued by investors over a tweet he posted featuring an emoji that seemed to indicate an endorsement of the home goods retailer before it declared bankruptcy earlier this year.

The decision, issued Thursday by District Judge Trevor McFadden of Washington, D.C., concluded that Cohen and his company must face plaintiffs’ fraud claims, including their allegation that Cohen’s smiley moon emoji was a fraudulent misrepresentation.

In 2022, Cohen took a big stake in the tottering home goods giant, prodding the company to install three allies as board members and publicly floating his ideas for revitalizing the business.

Cohen’s hundreds of thousands of social media followers took note, turning Bed Bath & Beyond into a hot topic on social media forums for investors.

On August 12, 2022, Cohen posted a tweet responding to a CNBC story predicting that Bed Bath & Beyond’s share price would drop to $1. The CNBC story was accompanied by a photo of a woman shopping at a Bed Bath store. Cohen reposted the CNBC story with a quip — “at least her cart is full” — and an emoji of a smiling moon.

Cohen’s tweet, posted on a Friday, reverberated across Reddit and Twitter that day and over the following weekend.

In posts and tweets responding to Cohen’s message, many investors said they interpreted his use of the smiley moon emoji as a signal that he still believed Bed Bath & Beyond shares were ‘headed to the moon.’

That phrase has become a common idiom among so-called meme-stock investors indicating that the stock is poised to soar, McFadden said.

“So meme stock investors conceivably understood Cohen’s tweet to mean that Cohen was confident in Bed Bath and that he was encouraging them to act,” he wrote.

Buoyed by heavy volume, Bed Bath & Beyond shares rose from $10.63 on the Friday morning before Cohen’s tweet to $16 at the close of trading on Monday.

The share price continued to skyrocket after Cohen filed a document at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday night, formally disclosing his stake in the company. The filing made no mention of plans to sell. Bed Bath & Beyond’s share price topped out the following day at nearly $30 in trading so frenzied that it was halted several times due to volatility.

Over the next two days, Cohen quietly exited his position, which reportedly netted him $68 million.

When Cohen revealed he had sold all his shares in the company, Bed Bath & Beyond’s stock price plummeted. By August 22, shares were trading below $10. The company ultimately filed for bankruptcy the following April.

By January, investors had filed a securities fraud class action alleging they’d been duped by Cohen and his company, RC Ventures.

Among their claims: Cohen posted the smiley moon emoji because he knew his followers would read it as a sign of his confidence in the company, even though his true intention, according to the shareholders’ complaint, was to drive up the share price before he ditched his stake.

Neither Cohen, his company RC Ventures not his attorneys immediately responded to requests for comment from NBC News and Reuters.

Lead plaintiffs lawyers Omar Jafri and Jeremy Lieberman of Pomerantz did not respond to a Reuters query.

McFadden appears to be the second judge to hold that emojis have particular meaning to investors. U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero of Manhattan ruled last February in Friel v. Dapper Labs, Inc., that when a seller of non-fungible tokens posted a tweet with emojis of a rocket ship and money bags, the emojis signified a promise of profitability.

Cohen’s lawyers from Vinson & Elkins downplayed that case in their motion to dismiss the Bed Bath class action. They argued that it was unreasonable to infer a promise of profitability from the moon emoji in Cohen’s tweet, considering that Cohen reposted the CNBC article predicting a crash in Bed Bath & Beyond’s share price.

At worst, Cohen argued, the emoji was immaterial puffery.

“It is not plausible that an investor would have made an investment decision based on Mr. Cohen’s obscure tweet at a time when BBBY’s public financials showed the company’s sales declining precipitously, its losses skyrocketing and its cash dwindling,” Cohen’s lawyers argued.

Shareholders must show an alleged misrepresentation was false, Cohen’s brief asserted, but “there is no way to establish objectively the truth or falsity of a tiny lunar cartoon.”

McFadden, however, said the emoji was neither puffery nor immaterial to Cohen’s followers, who reasonably saw him as “as an insider sympathetic to the little guy’s cause.”

It was “not crazy,” the judge said, for the meme stock investors to read Cohen’s smiley-moon emoji as expert guidance to stick with Bed Bath & Beyond despite troubling reports on the company’s health.

“A fraudster may not escape liability simply because he used an emoji,” the judge said.

A follow-up hearing date was not immediately available.

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