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Airlines required to refund passengers for canceled, delayed flights

EllenMoran/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Good news for airline travelers: the Department of Transportation on Wednesday announced it is rolling out new rules that will require airlines to automatically give cash refunds to passengers for canceled and significantly delayed flights.

The delays covered would be more than three hours for domestic flights and more than six hours for international flights, the agency said. This includes tickets purchased directly from airlines, travel agents and third-party sites such as Expedia and Travelocity.

"This is a big day for America's flying public," said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg at a Wednesday morning news conference. Buttigieg said the new rules -- which require prompt refunds -- are the biggest expansion of passenger rights in the department's history.

Airlines can now decide how long a delay must be before a refund is issue -- however, these new rules define "significant" delay standards that trigger refunds.

The DOT rules lay out that passengers will be "entitled to a refund if their flight is canceled or significantly changed, and they do not accept alternative transportation or travel credits offered."

DOT will also require airlines to give cash refunds if your bags are lost and not delivered within 12 hours.

The refunds must be issued within seven days, according to the new DOT rules, and must be in cash unless the passenger chooses another form of compensation.

Airlines can no longer issue refunds in forms of vouchers or credits when consumers are entitled to receive cash.

Airlines will have six months to comply with the new rules.

"Passengers deserve to get their money back when an airline owes them -- without headaches or haggling," Buttigieg said in a statement.

The DOT said it is also is working on rules related to family seating fees, enhancing rights for wheelchair-traveling passengers for safe and dignified travel and mandating compensation and amenities if flights are delayed or canceled by airlines.

Buttigieg said the DOT is also working to protect airline passengers from being surprised by hidden fees -- a move he estimates will have Americans billions of dollars every year.

The DOT rules include that passengers will receive refunds for extra services paid for and not provided, such as Wi-Fi, seat selection or inflight entertainment.

The rules come after the agency handed Southwest Airlines a record $140 million fine for its operational meltdown during the 2022 holiday travel season.

Buttigieg said Southwest's fine sets a "new standard" for airlines and passenger rights.

"To be clear, we want the airline sector to thrive. It is why we put so much into helping them survive the pandemic and honestly it's why we're being so rigorous on passenger protection," he said.

Buttigieg reiterated that refund requirements are already the standard for airlines, but the new DOT rules hold the airlines to account and makes sure passengers get the "refunds that are owed to them."

"Airlines are not enthusiastic about us holding them to a higher standard," Buttigieg said, adding that he "knows they will be able to adapt to this."

Airlines for America, the trade association for the country's leading passenger and cargo airlines, told ABC News in a statement that its members "offer a range of options -- including fully refundable fares." Is said consumers are "given the choice of refundable ticket options with terms and conditions that best fit their needs at first search results."

The group said the 11 largest U.S. airlines issued $43 billion in customer refunds from 2020 through 2023.
 

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


What to know for booking summer travel: Expert tips on airfare, destinations and more

Craig Hastings/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- As the surge of summer travel draws near, the race to book a great vacation is on.

"If you're looking to travel domestically within the U.S., I think you should be booking now for summer travel," Clint Henderson, travel expert and managing editor of The Points Guy, told ABC News' Good Morning America.

Earlier this month while reporting quarterly earnings, Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian projected "record advance bookings for the summer," telling CNBC that the carrier's credit card data and bookings show customers are highly interested in air travel.

An increase in budget airline routes that has created more competition, paired with an easing of the post-pandemic revenge travel surge, means travelers could see more deals.

"Overall prices are down from where they were when we just had that boom out of the pandemic," Henderson said. "So things are more reasonable."

Hopper, the flight booking app, has shown predicted fares for flights to Europe will be down 10% in price from the same time last year.

Google recently announced its top 20 trending summer destinations, which saw a few newcomers on the list and Paris rose to the No. 2 spot.

With the Olympics taking place there from July 26 through Aug. 11, an uptick in airfare and hotel pricing is expected during the Games.

But those willing to wait out the Olympics could find big savings for flights to the host nation.

The Points Guy has featured deals from Atlanta, Dallas and Charlotte to Paris for as low as $515 from August through the fall.

Amsterdam, Prague, Spain and Iceland are among the most reasonably priced European destinations, as seen on Hopper.

Tips for booking summer travel

Don't forget to stay flexible with travel dates and keep midweek in mind for possibly lower fares.

There's also a time during the post-summer rush known as "shoulder season," between September and October, when fares could drop by as much as 30%.

When it comes to airfare purchase timing, the experts at The Points Guy have found prices dip eight to four weeks before the outbound flight, but after the one-month mark, prices will creep back up.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Superfakes: Copycat manufacturers are becoming increasingly skilled at producing knock-off designer handbags

In this Feb. 1, 2006, file photo, an unidentified woman holds up a counterfeit Coach handbag in the back room of tourist shop in New York's Chinatown. (Bloomberg via Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) -- Counterfeit luxury handbags have become a social media phenomenon. Instead of cheaply made knockoffs, the latest crop of counterfeit handbags, known as "superfakes," looks very similar to the authentic luxury item.

As high-end luxury brands including Hermes, Chanel, and Prada have boosted their prices in recent years, many consumers turned to deceivingly high-quality replicas for a fraction of the price.

The precision and attention to detail put into making replica handbags have made it easier for them to pass off as genuine luxury products, with hardly any noticeable differences to the untrained eye.

“Twenty years ago, counterfeits were terrible. Those things were $25… [Now,] some counterfeit Birkins are $6,000 plus, handmade,” Sarah Davis, president and founder of Fashionphile, a high-end consignment boutique, told Impact x Nightline, which takes a look at the counterfeit luxury goods market. This episode is now streaming on Hulu.

“[With] technology, the ability to make a superfake is easier now than ever before,” said Frank Russo, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Director of Field Operations.

According to the agency’s reports, counterfeit goods comprise a staggering 2.5% of global trade. Luxury goods are the most commonly counterfeited items. Last fiscal year, Russo’s team seized nearly 23 million counterfeit goods nationwide worth over $2 billion in estimated retail value, calculated as if they were authentic.

Even some celebrities have been sporting the superfake merchandise. The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City star Jen Shah made headlines when federal agents seized dozens of counterfeit handbags found in her possession, after her arrest in 2021 for a telemarketing fraud scheme.

Despite counterfeit sellers conducting business publicly, law enforcement said it’s difficult to crack down on their activity. ABC News contacted over 50 sellers based in China. While most declined to respond, one seller disclosed that the operation is often exceedingly discreet, with each link of the process isolated from the others.

Buying, however, is an easier process. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Amy X. Wang, assistant managing editor for the New York Times Magazine, reported on the superfake industry.

“It's not really a secretive process,” said Wang, “[It’s] almost disappointingly easy,” Wang said.

Wang discovered an online ecosystem of replica handbags that paralleled luxury brands, making counterfeit goods easily accessible. On Reddit forums such as “r/Wagoonladies,” interested buyers can find detailed purchase guides, thorough customer reviews, and contact lists for sellers primarily based in China.

"Some people think it's an embarrassing secret," Wang said. "But to the other people, it's fun. It's subversive. It's actually really edgy that they have a fake bag maybe.”

Despite the increased prevalence of counterfeit luxury goods, authentic luxury brands continue to be solid investments. Resale data from Rebag indicates that popular styles from brands such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Hermes are being resold second-hand for prices higher than their original purchase price. Luxury brands are keeping their goods exclusive and their prices high.

Sarah Davis, president and founder of Fashionphile, has created a resale platform that sells pre-owned luxury handbags, allowing consumers to buy authentic bags, in most cases, for a fraction of the retail price.

"The truth is, there's never been more counterfeits that are better, the superfakes, like today," Davis said. "And yet the luxury brands have never been stronger."

Dallas-based leather expert and social media personality, Volkan Yilmaz, who calls himself Tanner Leatherstein, has a popular YouTube series dedicated to demystifying leather in luxury handbags. He deconstructs designer purses and comes up with his own cost estimates.

“Is it worth the price? Well, it's up to you,” Leatherstein told Impact x Nightline.

He draws a line at counterfeits. 

“Somebody's stealing the brand's property, that intangible prestige…which is insanely difficult to create,” Leatherstein said. “But I'm no one to judge.”

In November 2023, federal agents executed the largest seizure of counterfeit goods in U.S. history. Authorities announced the seizure of around 219,000 counterfeit bags, clothes, shoes, luxury products, and other items. The total estimated manufacturer’s suggested retail price of these items was approximately $1.03 billion.

“China and Hong Kong are [the origins of] probably closer to 70% of all the counterfeit goods that we see,” CBP Director Russo said. 

“Counterfeit goods are a direct link to terrorist organizations,” said Russo.

When CBP was asked for evidence linking counterfeits to terrorism in the U.S., they cited the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center as an example. Additionally, they asserted that "other terrorist organizations have engaged in the sale of counterfeit goods and stolen cultural artifacts to help fund their organization."

Terrorists responsible for the 2015 terror attack in France on employees of the magazine Charlie Hebdo financed their weapons partly by selling fake Nike sneakers, according to authorities.

The department declined to provide specifics when Impact x Nightline asked for evidence linking counterfeits to terrorism in the United States.

“I would say to people who are thinking, ‘well, I'm just buying a purse,’ it's still the same issue,” Marc Miller, senior vice president of the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition, told ABC News. “One, it's a crime. Two, it's bad for the economy. But three, they're also giving their financial information to organized crime.”

"Counterfeiting is a major problem throughout the United States," said Michael Alfonso, who heads the division investigating large-scale counterfeiting networks for Homeland Security Investigations in New York. "Our law enforcement task force looks at a lot of different factors. We look at the scope of the organization. Are they importing? Are they distributing? Where are they importing from? Where's there money moving from? And that's how we scale our investigations."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Are lab-grown diamonds as sustainable as advertised?

This photograph taken Feb. 6, 2024 shows a laboratory technician monitoring the progress of lab-grown diamond seeds at Greenlab Diamonds manufacturing firm on the outskirts of Surat. (Sam Panthaky/AFP via Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) -- The natural diamond industry has been fueled by a glittering marketing strategy for decades, but is the sustainability of modern, lab-grown diamonds as clear-cut as consumers believe?

Since De Beers Group's 1940s "a diamond is forever" advertising campaign, dubbed by Advertising Age as the "slogan of the 20th century" in 1999, the natural diamond industry exploded into a multi-billion-dollar industry and cemented itself into modern culture.

"Diamonds are very ingrained in our culture," Paul Zimnisky, a leading diamond industry analyst, told ABC News. "I think, as humans, we just desire these rare, precious gemstones and metals. It's not practical, but it makes us feel good."

In 2022, the global natural diamond market was valued at $100.4 billion and is projected to reach $155.5 billion by 2032, according to Allied Market Research.

However, the natural, mined diamond industry has been disrupted by a just as shiny and substantially less expensive competitor -- lab-grown diamonds.

General Electric first produced lab-grown diamonds in 1954, according to the International Gem Society (IGS), using a high-pressure belt press to subject small seed crystals to temperatures of 2,912 Fahrenheit and atmospheric pressures of 100,000 atm.

Over the next several decades, researchers in the United States, China and Russia adopted varied methods of the initial GE patent to create lab-grown diamonds that exceed mined, natural diamonds in carat size, color and clarity, according to IGS.

Demand for lab-grown diamonds has increased every year but gained mainstream attention in 2017, according to Zimnisky.

"Production has just absolutely skyrocketed," Zimnisky said. "The production technologies in the production capacity have rapidly advanced in just the last three, four years. And because of that, the cost of production is dropped, and the cost to the consumer has dropped."

To the naked eye, lab-grown diamonds are identical to their mined counterparts but cost 40% to 50% less. A one-carat lab-grown diamond costs about $1,200, depending on quality, while a similar natural diamond can cost $4,200, according to The Diamond Pro.

In 2022, the global lab-grown diamonds market was valued at $24 billion and is projected to reach $59.2 billion by 2032, according to Allied Market Research.

How are lab-grown diamonds made?

Lab-grown diamonds share identical chemical and physical properties with natural diamonds, Dr. Ulrika D’Haenens-Johansson, senior manager of Diamond Research at the Gemological Institute of America, told ABC News, the difference is the origin in which they were made: In a lab vs. being mined after forming 150 miles below the Earth's surface.

"Laboratory-grown diamonds have the same composition and crystal structure as natural diamonds, resulting in essentially the same physical, chemical and optical properties," D’Haenens-Johansson said. "While laboratory-grown and natural diamonds may appear identical to the naked eye, they fundamentally differ in several ways: their age, the way that they grew, and the environment in which they formed."

Lab-grown diamonds mimic the conditions natural diamonds are formed in, where carbon is compressed due to extreme temperatures and pressures.

The manufactured stones are created in two ways: through high pressure/high temperature (HPHT) and chemical vapor deposition (CVD) processes, according to IGS.

Both HPHT and CVD lab-grown diamond productions require recreating temperatures over 1,472 Fahrenheit and atmospheric pressures up to 70,000 atm, according to IGS.

Are lab-grown diamonds sustainable?

The variation in the production of lab-grown diamonds is where the sustainability of the man-made product comes into question, according to Zimnisky, who notes, "Man-made diamonds require an enormous amount of energy."

"You could go to a producer that's using coal-fired, grid power, or a producer that's using hydropower or solar power," Zimnisky said. "Obviously, the environmental impact is going to be different depending on the source of energy."

The production of laboratory-grown diamonds is an energy-intensive process, according to D’Haenens-Johansson, who notes, many -- if not most -- lab-grown diamond producers use electricity from fossil fuels such as coal.

Additionally, D’Haenens-Johansson explained that the raw materials that are used for lab-grown diamond growth, such as methane gas and graphite are "generally intrinsically tied to mining processes."

On average, producing one polished carat of lab-grown diamond releases approximately 511 kg of greenhouse gases, according to IGS.

Amid the lab-grown diamond industry boom, China and India have risen as the top-producing and exporting countries, relying largely on coal to produce lab-grown diamonds, according to the Natural Diamond Council.

Over 60% of lab-grown diamonds are produced in China and India where 63% and respectively 74% of grid electricity results from coal, the council said in its 2023 analytical report.

"India and China right now are by far the largest producers of the man-made diamond," Zimnisky said. "I expect them to continue to be the largest producers."

In 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warned eight jewelry marketers that some of their online advertisements of jewelry made with lab-grown diamonds "may deceive consumers," in violation of the 2018 FTC Act -- updated Guides for the Jewelry, Precious Metals, and Pewter Industries.

According to the FTC press release, "the companies in question advertised their jewelry as 'eco-friendly,' 'eco-conscious,' or 'sustainable,' and that such terms can be interpreted to imply certain specific environmental benefits."

The FTC "admonished" the companies, saying it's "highly unlikely that they can substantiate all reasonable interpretations of these claims," according to the release.

Environmental and ethical impact of mined diamonds

Mined diamonds are collected through open-pit, underground and marine mining, which can disrupt ecosystems and release carbon and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, according to IGS.

Clean Origin compares the environmental footprint between mined and lab-grown diamonds, claiming one carat of mined diamond equates to nearly 100 square feet of disturbed land and nearly 6,000 pounds of mineral waste.

Meanwhile, one carat of lab-grown diamond disrupts just 0.07 square feet of land and results in 1 pound of mineral waste, according to Clean Origin.

Diamond mines are also dangerous for workers, with the mines being vulnerable to collapse and explosions, according to Clean Origin, which notes increased cancer risk, hearing loss, lung problems and other health issues are associated with diamond mining.

The term "blood diamonds," also known as conflict diamonds, originated in the African countries Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone in the 1990s, according to Britannica.

Rebel groups used forced labor in lucrative diamond mining war zones to finance armed conflicts, which led to widespread human rights abuse, according to Britannica.

In 2003, the Kimberly Process was enacted to stop the illegal trade of conflict diamonds and protect the legitimate diamond trade, according to Britannica, which notes the agreement involves 49 participating countries including the European Union.

Why brands and consumers believe in lab-grown diamonds

Alexander Weindling, a third-generation diamond jeweler and CEO of Clean Origin, a completely lab-grown diamond company, told ABC News the ethos and affordability of lab-grown diamonds motivate his business.

Weindlings says a one-carat mined diamond can retail for $4,000 or $5,000, while Clean Origin offers what appears to be an identical stone for under $1,000.

However, regarding the sustainability and environmental effect of the industry, Weindling was careful to dub lab-grown diamonds "green-ish."

"How many greenish alternatives are less expensive than the old technology they're displacing?" Weindling asked. "A Tesla costs more than a Ford, and an organic apple costs more than a Costco apple."

"So we have, what I believe to be, if not a more sustainable than a far less disruptive product on so many levels. And it's less expensive," Weindling said, adding, "It's a win-win."

Melissa Jawaharlal, the co-owner of STEM Center USA and bride-to-be in Southern California, told ABC News choosing an engagement ring with less ethical and environmental impact was important to her.

"We all make a footprint, and I know every one of my choices has implications," Jawaharlal said. "Choosing a lab-grown diamond was a way to still have that sparkle, have that symbol of love -- but do it in a way that wasn't going to feel ethically compromising."

In terms of "eco-friendly" and "sustainable" marketing, Jawaharlal believes "clarity and transparency in marketing is always so important."

"If it's not done that way, it's just going to hurt the industry more later on," she added.

Looking to the future of the lab-grown diamond industry, Weindling believes that advances in sustainability are on the horizon, but in the meantime, "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."

"Evolution is perfect," Weindling added.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Corporations struggle on climate goals amid backlash over 'woke capitalism,' experts say

ABC News

Corporate America took notice four years ago when Larry Fink, CEO of investment giant BlackRock, declared climate change a top concern. “Climate risk is investment risk,” Fink wrote in an annual letter popular in C-suites.

His latest letter, released last month, spans well over 100 paragraphs before the first mention of “climate.” Whereas Fink mentioned “climate” a total of 29 times in the 2020 letter, he wrote it just four times in the missive last month.

The shift in Fink’s letters has coincided with an apparent wider chill of momentum behind climate action among many of the world’s largest companies, which have faced a conservative backlash against sustainable business practices derided as “woke capitalism,” experts told ABC News.

Many firms have struggled to follow through on ambitious, years-old climate pledges, in part due to high interest rates that make funding more expensive, the experts added, noting that some environmentally conscious companies have bucked the trend.

“BlackRock is still considering climate risk but boy has their message changed,” Mindy Lubber, chief executive of environmental advocacy group Ceres, which examines corporate conduct, told ABC News.

“The pushback has been fierce and severe, and we’re seeing things slow down,” Lubber added.

BlackRock did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

In a statement on its website, BlackRock says a worldwide transition to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 would "benefit the global economy and our clients in aggregate." In turn, BlackRock encourages clients to develop "robust transition plans" by 2030, the statement adds, noting the limitations of BlackRock's role as an asset manager.

"BlackRock’s role in the transition is as a fiduciary to our clients," the statement says. "Our role is to help them navigate investment risks and opportunities, not to engineer a specific decarbonization outcome in the real economy."

A little over half of the world’s largest 2,000 companies have adopted pledges to achieve net-zero carbon emissions, according to data from research firm Net Zero Tracker reviewed by ABC News. Net zero marks the point at which a given firm offsets its emissions by removing the same amount of carbon from the atmosphere.

The number of companies with net-zero pledges has jumped 40% over the past 16 months, the data showed. However, the vast majority of the company pledges lack credibility, Net Zero said, noting that only one out of every 20 commitments meets United Nations guidelines for what constitutes a quality pledge.

To meet the U.N. threshold for a quality pledge, a company must adopt a plan to address all forms of carbon emissions, present intermediate goals for emissions cuts by 2030 and align its government lobbying with the objective of net zero, among other criteria.

“There is unequivocally a massive lack in the quality of these plans,” John Lang, the project lead at Net Zero Tracker, told ABC News. “We just haven’t seen momentum or movement on that.”

“It’s easy to set a target,” Lang said. “It’s much harder to create a robust plan to meet that target.”

Dave White, director of the Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation at Arizona State University, said the evidence of major companies fulfilling climate pledges is “mixed at best.”

“We’ve seen important progress but many of these companies are realizing they’re meeting only a small fraction of the aspirational goals they've made,” White said.

Experts who spoke with ABC News attributed the corporate difficulties to a surge of conservative criticism over sustainable business practices as well as high interest rates, which make it more costly for companies to pursue capital-intensive climate initiatives.

Conservatives have directed much of their ire at environmental, social and governance investing, or ESG, a type of investing that takes into account non-financial information about a company, such as its climate impact and staff diversity.

Prominent Republican politicians, such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, have assailed ESG as a portfolio strategy that prioritizes liberal goals over investor returns. Eighteen states have adopted anti-ESG legislation -- and all but one features a Republican governor, law firm K&L Gates found in July.

"When it comes to things like these Wall Street banks, what they're doing to try to impose an agenda is something that's very, very troubling," DeSantis said last May upon signing a law that prohibits state officials from investing state money to further ESG goals.

Some on the left have questioned the rigor of ESG funds, warning that they establish insufficient standards for companies seeking to qualify.

ESG investing, meanwhile, has sharply declined. Funds worldwide categorized as "responsible investing" received $68 billion of net new deposits in 2023 through November, according to data from financial firm LSEG Lipper. That amount had fallen dramatically from $158 billion for all of 2022 and $558 billion for all of 2021.

The backlash from conservatives, White said, has hampered corporate conduct beyond ESG, including carbon emissions commitments.

“The politicization of this area in some cases is providing cover for corporations to backslide on their commitments,” White said.

To be sure, some companies have continued to achieve progress toward achieving net-zero emissions, some experts said, noting that the recent hiccup in climate action owes more to the scale of the task than the reluctance of the corporations.

“The transition to a carbon neutral economy that we’re experiencing is really a transition on the scale of the great industrial revolution,” George Georgiev, a professor at Emory University School of Law, told ABC News.

“I don’t think it’s a retrenchment -- it’s more of a professionalization of the function within companies and them being more careful,” he added. “We’re probably not moving fast enough but that doesn’t mean we can’t adjust course.”

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Volkswagen workers in Tennessee have voted to join UAW, union says

Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

(CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.) -- In a seismic union election Friday evening, Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, voted to join the United Auto Workers Union.

The workers voted 2,628 to 985 for union representation, according to a spokesperson for the National Labor Relations Board.

"There were seven challenged ballots that won’t be counted, because they aren’t determinative to the outcome of the election. There were three void ballots. The total number of eligible voters was 4,326," according to a statement from the NLRB.

The employer will begin "bargaining in good faith" with the union, with parties having five days to file objections to the election.

The vote to unionize has the potential to supercharge organizing in the nation's auto sector and demonstrate the strength of a resurgent labor movement through a victory in the South, a region typically resistant to unions.

Workers began casting ballots this week in the most significant test for the UAW since a strike last fall against the Big 3 U.S. carmakers that delivered substantial gains and a burst of interest from employees at non-union firms.

"Workers in America are fed up with being left behind and unions are the path to dignity on and off the job," UAW president Shawn Fain said in February in a post on X, after having met with workers at the Volkswagen facility.

The labor agreements at the Big 3 last year prompted some non-union competitors to offer pay increases and other benefits, putting their employees in closer alignment with UAW members. Honda, Nissan and Tesla are among the companies that raised wages for U.S. employees after the UAW deal.

The breakthrough also triggered a wave of UAW organizing, the union says. Over 10,000 non-union auto workers have signed cards in support of the UAW in recent months and organizing campaigns have broken out at more than two dozen facilities, the union said in a statement last month.

The election at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga offered a difficult test, even as the union appears poised for growth. The UAW suffered narrow defeats in two elections at the facility over the past decade.

Governors of six southern states, including Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, issued a joint statement this week criticizing the UAW and voicing general opposition toward unions.

"As Governors, we have a responsibility to our constituents to speak up when we see special interests looking to come into our state and threaten our jobs and the values we live by," they wrote.

For its part, Volkswagen has remained publicly neutral toward the union drive. In a statement, the company told ABC News that it supports the union election process.

"We respect our workers' right to a democratic process and to determine who should represent their interests," Volkswagen said.

"We fully support an NLRB vote so every team member has a chance to a secret ballot vote on this important decision. Volkswagen is proud of our working environment in Chattanooga that provides some of the best paying jobs in the area," the company added

A union victory would help bolster the UAW's membership, which has dropped steadily from a peak of 1.5 million workers in 1970 to 370,000 last year.

The opportunity for membership expansion at the UAW, just months after its high-profile strike against the Big 3, exemplifies a wider trend in the U.S. labor movement.

More than 500,000 workers went out on strike nationwide in 2023, more than doubling the figure recorded a year earlier, according to Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

The uptick in activity, however, failed to translate into union membership gains. Only 10% of U.S. workers belonged to unions last year, little changed from the year prior, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data showed.

The election in Chattanooga will test whether the headline-grabbing labor strikes can translate into a resurgence of union growth, said Stephen Silvia, a professor at American University and the author of "The UAW's Southern Gamble."

"Historically, unionization has proceeded in waves," Silvia said. "Is this a wave? That's what we'll see."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


UAW vote at Tennessee plant will test resurgent labor movement

A United Auto Workers (UAW) lawn sign sits on the ground near a Volkswagen automobile assembly plant on March 20, 2024 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. (Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) -- Carmakers and labor leaders are closely watching for results to be released on Friday in a seismic union election that could supercharge organizing in the nation’s auto sector and demonstrate the strength of a resurgent labor movement through a victory in the South, a region typically resistant to unions.

As many as 4,300 employees at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, are voting on whether to join the United Auto Workers.

Workers began casting ballots this week in the most significant test for the UAW since a strike last fall against the Big 3 U.S. carmakers that delivered substantial gains and a burst of interest from employees at non-union firms.

"Workers in America are fed up with being left behind and unions are the path to dignity on and off the job," UAW president Shawn Fain said in February in a post on X, after having met with workers at the Volkswagen facility.

The labor agreements at the Big 3 last year prompted some non-union competitors to offer pay increases and other benefits, putting their employees in closer alignment with UAW members. Honda, Nissan and Tesla are among the companies that raised wages for U.S. employees after the UAW deal.

The breakthrough also triggered a wave of UAW organizing, the union says. Over 10,000 non-union auto workers have signed cards in support of the UAW in recent months and organizing campaigns have broken out at more than two dozen facilities, the union said in a statement last month.

The election at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga offers a difficult test, even as the union appears poised for growth. The UAW suffered narrow defeats in two elections at the facility over the past decade.

Governors of six southern states, including Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, issued a joint statement this week criticizing the UAW and voicing general opposition toward unions.

"As Governors, we have a responsibility to our constituents to speak up when we see special interests looking to come into our state and threaten our jobs and the values we live by," they wrote.

For its part, Volkswagen has remained publicly neutral toward the union drive. In a statement, the company told ABC News that it supports the union election process.

"We respect our workers' right to a democratic process and to determine who should represent their interests," Volkswagen said.

"We fully support an NLRB vote so every team member has a chance to a secret ballot vote on this important decision. Volkswagen is proud of our working environment in Chattanooga that provides some of the best paying jobs in the area," the company added

A union victory would help bolster the UAW’s membership, which has dropped steadily from a peak of 1.5 million workers in 1970 to 370,000 last year.

The opportunity for membership expansion at the UAW, just months after its high-profile strike against the Big 3, exemplifies a wider trend in the U.S. labor movement.

More than 500,000 workers went out on strike nationwide in 2023, more than doubling the figure recorded a year earlier, according to Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

The uptick in activity, however, failed to translate into union membership gains. Only 10% of U.S. workers belonged to unions last year, little changed from the year prior, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data showed.

The election in Chattanooga will test whether the headline-grabbing labor strikes can translate into a resurgence of union growth, said Stephen Silvia, a professor at American University and the author of The UAW's Southern Gamble.

"Historically, unionization has proceeded in waves," Silvia said. "Is this a wave? That’s what we’ll see."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


What is a tourist tax? Fees for foreign tourists at hot summer destinations

Tetra Images/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Barcelona is among the top 20 summer destinations of 2024, and for anyone planning to visit the bustling Mediterranean metropolis known for its art and architecture, or other tourist-filled hotspots during high-season, there may be some additional costs to consider.

Many countries across Europe including Spain, Greece, and Germany have implemented fees for foreign visitors to help support local costs of doing business, especially during the busy summer months. It's similar to that of a hotel occupancy tax that American travelers may be more familiar with for domestic stays.

What is a tourist tax?

"Tourist taxes are a rapidly growing trend," Clint Henderson, Managing Editor at The Points Guy, told ABC News' Good Morning America, adding that the fee system is increasingly popular "because it’s an easy way for cities to raise revenues without taxing local citizens. It’s also more politically palatable and it has the added benefit of helping to deal with over-tourism."

Henderson also pointed out that "Crowding at especially popular spots made famous by Instagram are simply out of control."

"Locals in places like Venice, [Italy] and Maui are also getting more vocal about problematic tourists," he said. "We think you’ll only see this trend of tourist taxes spread. Look for action from places like Hawaii in the future, which has been considering some kind of tax for a few years now."

The rural town of La Salut, located just outside Barcelona and best known for Park Güell mosaic-covered buildings, tapas bars and seafood restaurants, was recently removed from Google and Apple maps, Yahoo first reported, after being inundated with tourists taking over the locals' main bus route.

What to know about tourist fees abroad this summer

Henderson said tourism taxes "are not yet that widespread," with the caveat that "local taxes and fees are very common and often hidden in your hotel bill."

His tip? "Google your destination to see about potential fees before you go," he said.

"Many hotels are now listing local taxes and fees in their online pricing, but you can always call ahead of time to make sure you won’t be facing additional 'destination' or 'resort' fees," he suggested.

Summer vacation destinations with a tourist tax

There are some newcomers adding a tourist tax for the first time this summer, and other nations increasing percentages that people will be expected to pay.

"Galapagos National Park is charging $200 as of August 1 to visit. Bhutan charges $100 per day. Wales and Hawaii are among the locations now considering tourist taxes," Henderson listed.

Barcelona

The Barcelona municipality recently increased its tourist tax from 2.75 euros to 3.25 euros on April 1.

Paris

The tourist tax for the Olympics host nation is based on a municipal rate. Typically the cost has been under $6 per night, but starting in January officials increased the visitor fee up to $17, depending on the hotel type.

Seville

Earlier this year the mayor of Seville, José Luis Sanz, announced on X plans to "close the Plaza de España and charge tourists to finance its conservation and guarantee its safety."

Sanz shared a video along with his post that showed missing tiles, damaged facades and street vendors occupying alcoves and stairs.

The southern Spanish city will now charge visitors to enter the historic area that has been at risk of irreversible damage to its famed tile floors, bridges and towers.

Venice

Earlier this year, the coastal city known for it's canals, blown glass and close proximity to the heart of Italy's Prosecco region implemented a fee of 5 euro per day tripper through a new reservation system.

Travelers can download an app to pay and attain a QR code which will be shown to enter the city as a visitor.

"It is not a revolution, but the first step of a path that regulates the access of daily visitors. An experiment that aims to improve the liveability of the city, who lives there and who works there. We will carry it forward with great humility and with the awareness that there may be problems," the mayor of Venice, Luigi Brugnaro, stated on X in the announcement.

"The margins of error are wide, but we are ready, with humility and courage, to make all the changes that will serve to improve the procedure. Venice is the first city in the world to implement this path, which can be an example for other fragile and delicate cities that must be safeguarded," he continued.

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New Beyond Meat plant-based beef made with avocado oil for nutrient-dense, simplified ingredients

Beyond Meat

(NEW YORK) -- Beyond Meat has pared down its ingredient list and upgraded the recipe to add more nutrient-dense plant-based ingredients -- including heart-healthy avocado oil -- for its latest innovation of the plant-based meat alternative.

The California-based company announced its new and improved Beyond Meat IV on Thursday as two new products, Beyond Burger and Beyond Beef, roll out with a fresh new look at grocery stores nationwide.

Thanks to the nutritional advancements in Beyond Meat's new recipe, the company is the first to be recognized by the American Heart Association, as well as the American Diabetes Association for its Better Choices for Life program, which is reflected on the new packaging.

The fourth generation of Beyond Meat products is also the first in the category to be Clean Label Project Certified, from the nonprofit that works to provide transparency in food labeling on products that use as few ingredients as possible, ensuring those ingredients are wholesome.

What changed in the new Beyond Meat burgers and beef alternative?

The fourth generation of Beyond Meat boasts 21 grams of plant-based protein that comes from the addition of red lentils and faba beans, 20% less sodium and 60% less saturated fat than the previous version -- after swapping out coconut and canola oils for avocado oil.

The new statistics are compared to beef with an 80/20 lean to fat ratio, which typically contains 70-80 mg of sodium for 4-ounces, which is the labeled serving size of Beyond Ground Beef and Beyond Beef Burger reflects.

Sodium in the new Beyond Beef is 310 mg, which was reduced from 390 mg in the previous version.

Registered dietitian, author, and nutrition advisor Joy Bauer, who was tapped to consult on the new product development, told ABC News' Good Morning America that "the best news of all is a simplified ingredient list."

"It's easy to enhance nutrition labels, it's a whole other challenge to have it taste just as yummy," she said, adding that in blind tastings with existing Beyond Meat consumers, they preferred the new version over the old one.

The addition of avocado oil, which contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fats according to the American Heart Association, also makes for a better sizzle and sear like traditional beef thanks to its higher smoke point.

Diana Stavaridis, Senior Culinary Manager for Beyond Meat who oversaw the development of the new recipe and tested the product in a variety of applications, said this version has a "beefier flavor and texture" that's easy to prepare.

"They caramelize and brown beautifully when cooked, and offer the juicy, tender culinary experience of beef," Stavaridis said of the beef alternative that's naturally colored with pomegranate concentrate and beet juice.

In tandem with the product launch, Beyond Meat created a short documentary-style film, "Planting Change," to give consumers an inside look at how the product is made. The film includes interviews with leading medical and nutrition experts, ecologists, and historians talking about plant-based diets and nutrition.

The company's Chief Marketing Officer Akerho Oghoghomeh said in a statement, that Beyond Meat is proud to create a burger alternative "while offering health and environmental benefits to the consumer."

"We know that health is a top driver for the plant-based meat category, and with the advancements in taste and nutrition of our new Beyond Burger and Beyond Beef, we’re giving consumers a really compelling reason to make the switch,” he said.

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Dr Pepper announces brand-new creamy coconut flavor

Dr Pepper

(NEW YORK) -- Dr Pepper has a new flavor hitting stores soon to jumpstart the summer mood.

The soda company announced that Dr Pepper Creamy Coconut and Creamy Coconut Zero Sugar drinks are coming to stores starting May 1.

"Dr Pepper Creamy Coconut brings together the perfect combination of the original 23 Dr Pepper flavors with layers of tropical coconut flavor and a delicious, creamy finish," read an announcement for the new flavor, which also added that the new drink "pairs perfectly with a hot summer day."

The drinks will be sold in 12-packs of 12-fluid-ounce cans as well as 20-fluid-ounce bottles and will be available from May until July. The standard version comes in a light blue and red can with a coconut image on it, and the Zero Sugar variety is packaged with a brown and light blue theme.

According to Dr Pepper, the new drinks are "the only coconut-cream-flavored dark soda on the market" currently.

The new beverages are reminiscent of the so-called "dirty sodas" popular in Utah, which are traditionally made with flavored syrup, soda and cream, and are sold at various restaurant locations across the state. The drive-through soda-fountain chain Swig, for example, which was founded in Utah and has several locations across other western states, offers its own version of a Dr Pepper-based concoction with coconut, as well as Coca-Cola and Pepsi-based coconut drinks, and Mountain Dew and Sprite-based coconut drinks, among others. 

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Red Lobster eyes bankruptcy option after $11M in losses from endless shrimp

Via Red Lobster

(NEW YORK) -- Red Lobster is in hot financial waters, attempting to stay afloat by eyeing Chapter 11 bankruptcy to restructure its debts after an endless shrimp promotion sank the seafood restaurant chain's bottom line, Bloomberg reported this week.

According Bloomberg, the restaurant is considering filing for Chapter 11 on the advice of law firm King & Spalding, which would allow the chain to stay open while dealing with its debt and help reevaluate long-term contracts and leases.

The outlet reported that Fortress Investment Group, one of Red Lobster's key lenders, is also involved in current debt negotiations.

The chain recently added Jonathan Tibus as its new CEO. Tibus has worked with other restaurant chains to restructure their businesses through the Chapter 11 process, including Kona Grill, which filed for bankruptcy in 2019, and the fast foot chain Krystal, which filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2020.

Last year, Red Lobster reported $11 million in operating losses following its flubbed "Ultimate Endless Shrimp" deal, which backfired when it reeled in too many customers after the limited-time promo became a permanent menu fixture last June. The restaurant chain later reported $12.5 million in losses in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Earlier this year, Red Lobster's Thailand-based investor, Thai Union Group, announced it was divesting from the restaurant.

ABC News has reached out to Red Lobster for comment.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Why the UAW vote at Volkswagen is significant for workers across US

The Washington Post via Getty Images

(CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.) -- The United Auto Workers achieved a landmark victory last fall, when a strike against the Big 3 U.S. carmakers delivered substantial gains for nearly 150,000 employees.

The UAW stands poised for its next major test this week: A union election at a foreign-owned car plant in the South, where its workers have struggled to gain a foothold for decades.

Roughly 4,000 voters at a Volkswagen facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee, begin casting their union ballots today.

Experts who spoke to ABC News called the election an inflection point not only for the UAW but for the U.S. labor movement.

In the aftermath of the so-called “Year of Strikes” in 2023, experts said, the showdown in Chattanooga could illustrate whether that surge of labor activity can translate into membership growth and the worker gains likely to come with it.

"The stakes couldn’t be bigger," Stephen Silvia, a professor at American University and the author of "The UAW's Southern Gamble," told ABC News.

Here’s what to know about what the union election in Chattanooga means for the UAW and workers nationwide:

UAW aims to turn last year’s strike into a membership boom

The high-profile standoff between UAW and the Big 3 last year imposed billions of dollars in losses for the companies and put thousands of workers temporarily out of work. But the gamble paid off, helping the union achieve historic wage gains and other long-sought reforms.

The agreement prompted some non-union competitors to offer pay increases and other benefits, putting their employees in closer alignment with UAW members. Honda, Nissan and Tesla are among the car companies that raised wages for U.S. employees after the UAW deal.

The breakthrough also triggered a wave of UAW organizing, the union says. Over 10,000 non-union autoworkers have signed cards in support of the UAW in recent months and organizing campaigns have broken out at more than two dozen facilities, the union said in a statement last month.

The outcome of this week’s union election at Volkswagen will go a long way in determining whether the union’s momentum continues to crest or fizzles out, experts told ABC News.

In response to ABC News' request for comment, Volkswagen said it supports the union election process.

"We respect our workers' right to a democratic process and to determine who should represent their interests," the company said. "We fully support an NLRB vote so every team member has a chance to a secret ballot vote on this important decision. Volkswagen is proud of our working environment in Chattanooga that provides some of the best paying jobs in the area."

UAW did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

A wave of union victories would bolster the UAW’s membership, which has dropped steadily from a peak of 1.5 million workers in 1970 to 370,000 last year.

"This is huge for the UAW because they’re carrying so much momentum," Art Wheaton, director of labor studies at the Worker Institute at Cornell University, told ABC News. "The timing is now."

Union organizing pursues foothold in the South

The location of the Volkswagen plant in the union-unfriendly South holds significance for the prospects of a resurgent labor movement aiming to make inroads there, experts told ABC News.

For decades, states across the South have imposed so-called "right-to-work" laws, which give workers the opportunity to opt out of union membership in the event that their workplace votes to join a union.

Those measures make up part of a larger set of legal and cultural barriers that make union organizing more difficult in the South, experts said.

"Organizing is extremely difficult in the South not only because of management opposition but also workers don’t have as much experience with unions," Harry Katz, a professor of collective bargaining at Cornell University, told ABC News.

The UAW campaign exemplifies the significance of organizing in the South. Roughly 48% of U.S. autoworkers belong to the unionized Big 3 automakers –--Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, the owner of Chrysler, Wheaton said. Meanwhile, more than half of autoworkers are employed at foreign-owned, largely non-union car companies, many of which are located in the South.

The non-union companies put downward pressure on wages and benefits, making it more difficult for the UAW to bargain for gains at plants where it represents workers and in turn help preserve decent standards across the industry, he added.

"They need to have more people unionized so they have a larger impact on raising the wages for everyone," Wheaton added.

Labor movement seeks growth after 'Year of Strikes'

More than 500,000 workers went out on strike nationwide in 2023, more than doubling the figure recorded a year earlier, according to Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

The sharp escalation in worker protests arose from widespread dissatisfaction with sluggish wage gains, which in many cases had failed to keep up with rapid price hikes, experts previously told ABC News.

The surge of activity, however, failed to translate into union membership growth. Only 10% of U.S. workers belonged to unions last year, little changed from the year prior, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data showed.

The union vote at Volkswagen, which arrives months after the UAW strike against the Big 3, could show whether militant activity brings union growth, Silvia said.

"This is a test case for whether making gains at the bargaining table can then add to your membership down the road,” he added.

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PepsiCo recalls sugar-free Schweppes Ginger Ale for containing 'full sugar'

Pepsi Co

(NEW YORK) -- PepsiCo Inc has initiated a voluntary recall of some sugar-free and caffeine-free Schweppes Ginger Ale products because they contain "full sugar," according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA said in a report earlier this month that the company voluntarily issued the recall on March 9. According to the report, the recall impacts 233 cases of 7.5-fluid-ounce cans (221 milliliters) cans that were shipped to Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

The impacted products contain the code May 20 24 MAY20240520VS02164 - MAY20240550VS02164, the FDA said.

PepsiCo made the decision after an internal investigation discovered products labeled "zero sugar" in fact contained "full sugar product," the FDA reported.

It was not clear whether the recalled soda had been removed from store shelves.

No injuries or deaths have been reported and the current status of the recall is ongoing.

ABC News has reached out to PepsiCo for comment on the recall.

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What parents should know about the new FAFSA

Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- At the end of 2023, the federal government said it would update the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, better known as FAFSA, ahead of the 2024-2025 school year. The change came three years after Congress mandated the update in 2020.

But four months since the changes went into effect, the updated form has brought on more hiccups and some headaches for colleges, administrators and parents.

What is the FAFSA?

The FAFSA is an online form used by schools, colleges and universities -- and sometimes, private scholarship programs -- to determine a student's eligibility to receive federal financial aid, which may include grants, loans, scholarships and work-study program funds. Multiple states also use the FAFSA form to figure out the amount of state financial aid a student can receive as well.

A student needs to file a FAFSA form each school year they wish to receive financial aid.

What changes were made to the FAFSA form?

The FAFSA previously asked students and their parents hundreds of questions to determine eligibility for federal financial aid, loans and work-study programs.

The revamped form is now simplified to include fewer than 50 questions -- down from more than 100 questions -- adds space to list up to 20 colleges instead of limiting it to 10 schools, and improves access by offering the form in 11 languages instead of only in English and Spanish.

To fill out the FAFSA, students and parents have to consent to allow information from the IRS to be imported into the FAFSA online form.

In addition, the FAFSA now features the Student Aid Index (SAI) in lieu of the Expected Family Contribution. The index will utilize a different formula to determine a student family's qualification for aid, expand the number of students eligible for aid, and not shut out students and families who are not required to file federal income taxes.

What problems have students and parents encountered since the FAFSA was updated?

Unlike in past years, where students could start filling out the FAFSA in October, access to the new form was delayed until January as the federal government completed the form's update. This, in turn, impacts when students will find out what financial aid packages they can receive for the upcoming school year and ultimately, their decisions on which schools to attend in the fall. The shaky rollout has also pushed multiple colleges and universities to extend their enrollment deadlines.

Even after students and families were able to submit their FAFSA forms, many reported encountering bugs and technical glitches during the process. Data from the Department of Education shows applications this year are down nearly 60% from past years.

What can parents do?

The Department of Education encourages all students considering college to submit a FAFSA form, even if they don't think they'll be eligible or qualify for financial aid, and to apply for scholarships as early as possible in their high school career.

Parents can use the department's online tools like the College Scorecard and the Federal Student Aid Estimator to get a better idea of future financial costs and the type of financial aid for which a student may qualify.

Parents can also consider college savings plans, some of which are state-sponsored, and other programs that may be available such as prepaid tuition plans.

Can I still fill out a FAFSA form?

The deadline to complete and submit a FAFSA form for the 2024-2025 school year is 11:59 p.m. CT on June 30, 2025. Corrections or updates may be submitted by 11:59 p.m. CT on Sept. 14, 2025. Individual states, colleges and schools have their own deadlines. To see what the deadline is for each state, visit the StudentAid.gov website.

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Why is Trump's Truth Social stock plummeting?

Andrew Harnik/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Shares of Truth Social soared after the company’s market debut last month -- but the stock price has plummeted since then.

After vaulting from an initial offering price of about $50 to a peak of nearly $80 in late March, the share price has dropped a staggering 68%. In early trading on Tuesday, the price stood at about $25.

The sharp decline traces primarily to the company’s status as a so-called meme stock, which appeals to investors on the basis of ideology rather than financial outlook, experts told ABC News. Since Truth Social suffers continued losses and lacks a path to profitability, the stock risks selloffs on even mildly negative news, they said.

“The political hope is meeting a financial reality,” Tyler Richey, an analyst at Sevens Report Research, told ABC News.

Truth Social did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

The stock performance holds significant financial implications for former President Donald Trump, whose 60% stake in the company could ultimately deliver a multi-billion dollar windfall. Truth Social shares make up a large portion of Trump’s overall net worth, according to Fortune.

During its initial days on the market, the stock rallied. The price climbed 16% on the company’s first day of listing and another 14% on its second. That growth granted Truth Social a valuation of more than $8 billion, even though the company has yet to turn a profit and generates quarterly revenue of barely $1 million.

“The valuation is just astronomical,” Richey said. “So it’s coming back to Earth.”

Truth Social, listed as ticker DJT, remains far smaller and less financially robust than its rivals in the crowded social media sector.

Research firm SimilarWeb estimates the company drew 5 million website visitors in February, which puts it well below the roughly 2 billion monthly active users reported by Instagram. TikTok boasts at least 1 billion monthly active users, the company said in 2021.

Truth Social generated roughly $3 million over the first nine months of 2023, government filings show. Meanwhile, the company reported $49 million in net losses over that period. By comparison, Instagram-parent Meta delivered nearly $135 billion in revenue last year, company earnings revealed.

“Truth Social is not attracting and holding users and it’s not attracting significant advertising revenue,” Jay Ritter, a professor of finance at the University of Florida, told ABC News. “Its current business model is a colossal failure.”

The absence of financial underpinning leaves the stock vulnerable to major declines even in response to mildly negative or routine news, experts said.

On Monday, the company released a government filing meant to formally establish millions of shares owned by Donald Trump and other investors. Investors holding shares in the pre-merger company that took Truth Social public could eventually convert those holdings into shares of Truth Social, the filing said.

The routine filing did not increase the number of outstanding shares but it still raised alarm among some investors for the potential to do so, Ritter said.

“This was going to happen sooner or later,” Ritter said. “In that regard, it wasn’t really news.”

The filing appeared to send the stock price tumbling. Shares of Truth Social fell 18% on Monday.

When traders buy into a stock for non-financial reasons, moments of risk can turn into a collapse, in part because opportunistic traders abandon the stock on the way down, experts said.

“There’s a domino effect,” Ritter said. “Selling led to more selling.”

The stock difficulty has coincided with financial challenges for Trump. Earlier this month, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee posted a $175 million bond in a New York civil fraud case.

Trump can’t sell or leverage his stake in Truth Social for at least six months due to a lockup provision intended to prevent a rapid selloff that could shake investor confidence.

Supporters of Trump could seek to reverse the company’s declining stock price, Richey said.

“You may have some die-hard supporters come in and support the stock,” Richey said, noting that such a move could elicit a response from skeptics of Trump or the company.

“In this political environment, there’s just as many people that would bet against the stock as would be for it,” Richey said.

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