Two men plead guilty in a personal injury scheme involving pelvic mesh implants.

A World Bank investigation said Kristalina Georgieva, now the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, pressured staff to improve China’s ranking in a report when she was at the World Bank.

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A sample of transvaginal mesh used to treat women for pelvic floor disorders and incontinence.Credit…Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

A Florida doctor and a medical consultant pleaded guilty this week to federal charges arising from a scheme to pressure hundreds of women to get their pelvic mesh implants removed. The effort was intended to increase the value of personal injury claims against the manufacturers of the medical devices.

The guilty pleas — by Dr. Christopher Walker on Friday and Wesley Blake Barber on Tuesday — bring to a close a criminal case brought two years ago by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn. The two men pleaded guilty to violations of the federal Travel Act, a law that prosecutors have used to pursue charges of bribery in the health care profession.

Mr. Barber, 51, could face at least four years in federal prison when he is sentenced in December by Judge Raymond J. Dearie of U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Dr. Walker, also 51, who pleaded guilty to two counts, could be sentenced to at least eight years when he appears before the judge in January. Lawyers for both men are expected to ask for lesser sentences under the federal guidelines.

The scheme was one of the more unsavory sides of the mass tort case against a half-dozen manufacturers of pelvic mesh including Boston Scientific and Johnson & Johnson. The case has led to more than $8 billion in settlements for roughly 100,000 women in the United States. Dozens of personal injury firms also collected billions in fees in the process.

Prosecutors charged the two men in 2019 with participating in a network to get women from across the country who had pending personal injury claims against the device manufacturers to agree to hastily arranged surgical procedures to remove the implants. The pitch was that women who had the implants removed were getting bigger settlements than women who still had the implants inside them.

However, removing the implants, a synthetic product that can bond with a woman’s internal organs, can be tricky. Some women who had mesh removed were worse off, or no better, than they were before the operation. Many of the women lured by the network had the procedures done without getting a second opinion.

Mr. Barber was one of the architects of the scheme, according to prosecutors, and a firm he worked with helped arrange for the surgical procedures to be performed at outpatient medical centers in Florida — some in nondescript strip malls. The procedures were paid for with money from high-interest cash advances arranged by a group of so-called litigation finance firms. But the women had to pay the money back to those lenders after receiving the settlement proceeds.

The charging document filed by prosecutors in 2019 said the women had been unaware that Dr. Walker and others who had performed the implant removal surgery had paid kickbacks and bribes to Mr. Barber’s firm and others for the surgical referrals.

Brooklyn prosecutors filed the charges after an article in 2018 in The New York Times about how some women said they felt pressured into getting the mesh removed by a network of consultants, personal injury lawsuit marketers, lawyers and doctors. Most of the women said they did not fully understand what they had agreed to.

The use of mesh to strengthen weakened pelvic muscles that can cause the bladder, the uterus and other organs to sag into the vaginal area long has been controversial. After years of complaints from women about bleeding, leaking bladders, searing pain and other ailments, the Food and Drug Administration stopped the sale and distribution of pelvic mesh in 2019 for treating organ prolapse. By then, the mesh had been implanted in millions of women around the globe.

Jodi Avergun, a lawyer for Dr. Walker, said that her client’s involvement in the scheme “was unfortunate” and that he “accepted responsibility for his actions in order to move forward and resume his career caring for patients.”

The criminal case may be over, but civil litigation continues. In December, a lawsuit filed on behalf of 188 women who claimed to have been victimized by the network was filed in a Florida circuit court. The lawsuit, which seeks monetary damages, named some two dozen defendants, including Mr. Barber, Dr. Walker and other doctors.

“I would ask staff to please check, double-check, triple-check, but never change, never manipulate what the data tells us,” Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, told staff on Friday.Credit…Pool photo by Clemens Bilan

WASHINGTON — In remarks to staff on Friday, Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, denied allegations that she pressured staff to manipulate a report to placate China when she was a top World Bank official and said she cares deeply about the integrity of data and analysis, according to people familiar with the meeting.

“I disagree with the implications for my role, and let me put it very simply to you: Not true,” she said, according to a transcript of her remarks.

A day earlier, an internal World Bank investigation concluded that Ms. Georgieva was among a group of senior World Bank officials who pressured the team that conducts the annual Doing Business survey to inflate China’s standing in its 2018 report. The findings have raised questions about Ms. Georgieva, who was the World Bank’s chief executive at the time, and have led to a review by the ethics committee of the I.M.F.

The meeting on Friday, which was held mostly virtually, had been previously scheduled to prepare the staff of the I.M.F. for its annual meeting held jointly with the World Bank.

Ms. Georgieva addressed the controversy at the outset of the meeting, reiterating her public statement that she “fundamentally disagrees” with the characterizations in the report and insisting that the inquiry would not be a distraction. She did not litigate the details of the allegations, but she said that asking staff to double-check something was not the same as pressuring it to change data, methodology or an outcome.

“Neither in this case nor before or after have I put pressure on staff to manipulate data. I would ask staff to please check, double-check, triple-check, but never change, never manipulate what the data tells us,” she said. “Why? Because I believe so strongly in the value of credible data and analysis that leads to policy recommendations for the benefit of our members. For the benefit of people.”

Ms. Georgieva expressed remorse that the inquiry had caused an uproar, but she insisted that it would not be a distraction.

“It is my responsibility that this does not interfere with the incredibly important work we do,” she said. “So let’s focus on that work, and that is what the focus of the discussion we will have today is all about.”

According to the World Bank investigation, which was conducted by the law firm WilmerHale at the request of the bank’s ethics committee, officials in 2017 were concerned about negotiations with members over a capital increase and were under pressure not to anger China, which was ranked 78th on the list of countries that year and was set to decline in the 2018 report.

The investigation found that Ms. Georgieva was “directly involved” with efforts to improve China’s ranking. At one point, according to the report, Ms. Georgieva chastised the bank’s China director for mismanaging the bank’s relationship with the country.

On Thursday, the World Bank said it was ending its annual Doing Business survey.

The Treasury Department, which serves as America’s liaison to the I.M.F. and has significant voting power, expressed concern over the allegations and said it was analyzing the findings of the investigation.

A food shopper in London. Britain’s meat processors said a potential shortage of carbon-dioxide gas could affect the country’s supplies of chicken, beef and pork.Credit…Henry Nicholls/Reuters

Concern over the impact of high energy prices in Britain reached a new level on Friday when the country’s meat industry warned that supplies of chicken, beef and pork could be hit.

The British Meat Processors Association said that the recent shutdown of fertilizer plants in Britain and elsewhere in Europe because of soaring natural gas prices threatened to create shortages of carbon dioxide, which is widely used in the industrial food business.

A spokesman for the meat processors said that carbon dioxide is used to stun animals like pigs and chickens before they are slaughtered, under regulations intended to protect animal welfare. The gas is also injected into meat packaging to extend the shelf life in supermarkets.

The group said in a statement that once current stocks of carbon dioxide run out — it estimated there were less than 14 days left — some companies would need to “stop taking animals and close production lines.”

The association added that production problems in the pork industry could force farmers to cull their animals soon. Retailers of food and other products in Britain have been complaining for weeks that a shortage of truck drivers, caused by Brexit among other reasons, was crimping supplies.

The sudden worries about food supply illustrate how problems in one industry — in this case record-high natural gas prices — can quickly ripple across into others in a tightly interconnected economy like Britain’s. Analysts blame the high gas prices on surging demand from China and low storage levels in Europe with winter coming.

High gas prices have already caused electricity prices in Britain, Spain and elsewhere in Europe to soar, putting pressure on consumers and industry. A fire that caused a major outage in an electric cable running between Britain and France on Wednesday put further pressure on power prices.

Fertilizer makers use massive volumes of natural gas to make ammonia, producing quantities of carbon dioxide as a byproduct. The gas is captured and sold to food companies and other industries for, among other things, putting fizz in carbonated drinks.

The first indication that the flow of carbon dioxide could be crimped came Wednesday when U.S.-based fertilizer maker CF Industries said that it was responding to the recent jump in natural gas prices by shutting two large plants in northern England, at Ince and Billingham.

On Friday, Yara, a large Norwegian fertilizer maker, said it was also suspending production of about 40 percent of its European capacity.

“Record high natural gas prices in Europe are impacting ammonia production margins,” Yara said in a statement.

According to the meat processors association, those factory closures involved plants that Britain could have turned to for emergency supplies.

The group said that the carbon dioxide market was not regulated, and so there was little information about how much of the gas was available. It called on the British government to intercede “to prevent this happening again.”

Stocks on Wall Street tumbled again on Friday, with the S&P 500 heading for a second consecutive weekly drop and extending a slow decline that has been weighing on the stock market all month.

The index fell about 0.8 percent by midday, on track for its eighth daily drop since it hit a record on Sept. 2. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.9 percent, while stocks in Europe were also broadly lower.

Mining, chemical and resources companies led the declines, and oil prices also slipped, moves that usually reflect concerns about global growth. Also lower on Friday were the largest technology stocks — Apple, Alphabet, Facebook and Microsoft. Along with Amazon, they make up more than 20 percent of the market value of the S&P 500 and have an extraordinary amount of pull over the direction of the stock market. All four were down by 1.5 percent or more, and Amazon was also slightly lower.

The decline of S&P 500 since its record, about 2 percent in total over two weeks, hasn’t been dramatic, but it marks a clear shift in the market’s tone. Before this month, Wall Street had been enjoying a seven-month run that had lifted stocks more than 20 percent, as investors seemed to shrug off any bad news.

Analysts have struggled point to any single reason for the September funk, but they do point to several factors that could be worrying investors as they consider what to do next. Here are a few.

The Fed’s decision on bond buying: The central bank is holding its next policy meeting next week, and it is expected to send a clear signal on when it plans to start winding down its purchases of government bonds. That program, an emergency response to the pandemic, is meant to keep cash flowing through the economy.

Changing expectations about the economy: Even if the U.S. economy seems to be weathering the resurgence of Covid, the latest data has fallen short of analysts’ expectations. One measure of whether reported economic numbers are better or worse than analysts expected, the Citigroup U.S. Economic Surprise Index, is at its most-negative level since the start of the pandemic last year.

Supply chain trouble: The outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus was particularly serious in Asia, and it delayed the rebuilding of supply lines from manufacturers to American companies. In some cases it made the snarls worse.

China’s changing regulations: Investors have grown wary of a wave of new restrictions from Beijing on subjects like online gaming and data sharing by tech companies. The latest blow came to American casino operators that count on Macau, a special administrative region of China and a gambling haven for Chinese high rollers, for their profits. After the local government there signaled that it would begin to tighten restrictions, shares of companies like Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands plunged.

A plan to tax buybacks: Senate Democrats seem to be coalescing around a new tax on stock buybacks by companies, something that could potentially weaken a key source of demand for stocks.

The debt ceiling: Not raising the U.S. debt limit would effectively amount to a default on the U.S. government’s debts, and yet wrangling and rhetoric around it are likely to worsen in coming weeks. Almost no one expects that the government will actually default, but past debt-ceiling fights, such as a particularly noisy one in 2011, have proved unsettling to investors sending stocks sharply lower. Analysts say that until the ceiling is raised, investor exuberance could be hard to find.

Housing being built in Los Angeles.Credit…Philip Cheung for The New York Times

With the recall behind him, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California has begun working through the hundreds of bills that piled up on his desk during the campaign. On Thursday, he turned to housing, signing a pair of measures to speed construction in the state.

The first, called Senate Bill 9, would essentially eliminate single-family zoning by allowing duplexes in most neighborhoods across the state. The other, Senate Bill 10, would reduce environmental rules on multifamily housing and make it easier for cities to add high-density development.

Faced with a deepening housing affordability crisis, Mr. Newsom has poured billions of dollars from the state’s budget surplus and federal stimulus packages into investments to ease problems with housing and homelessness. But California remains one of the hardest places in the country to build, resulting in a longstanding housing shortage that is the root of its cost problems.

For years, the state legislature has tried to pass state pre-emption rules that force local governments to allow higher-density housing in single-family housing neighborhoods. But resistance from suburban cities and homeowners has been fierce.

The passage of S.B. 9 and S.B. 10, which passed the Legislature in August after earning bipartisan support in a state dominated by Democrats, represents the capstone of those efforts. It is part of a nationwide trend in which other states faced with similar growing housing affordability problems have assumed more power over housing, which has traditionally been the province of local government.

“The housing affordability crisis is undermining the California Dream for families across the state, and threatens our long-term growth and prosperity,” Mr. Newsom said in a news release.

Erin Griffith (@eringriffith) and Erin Woo (@erinkwoo), two of our tech reporters, are covering the trial of Elizabeth Holmes, who dropped out of Stanford University to create the blood testing start-up Theranos at age 19 and built it to a $9 billion valuation and herself into the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire — only to flame out in disgrace after Theranos’s technology was revealed to have problems.

Follow along here or on Twitter as she is tried on 12 counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The trial is generally held Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Erin Woo

And, with that, Cheung has been dismissed. The government is calling Surekha Gangakhedkar now, a former Theranos team manager.

Erin Woo

The government is now asking questions about a document that says, among other things, that Theranos’s devices “can be operated with minimal training” and that its results have “precision and accuracy equivalent to traditional clinical laboratory analyzers.” Neither is true, Cheung says.

Erin Woo

Cheung said they were constantly having to recalibrate the machines, which made results take 2-3 days rather than the couple hours promised. “We had people sleeping in the car because it was taking too long,” she said.

Erin Woo

Cheung just said she “became concerned about a month in” with the vitamin D samples, in November of 2013. She was concerned about the performance of the tests and that they were being used on patient samples.

Erin Woo

Defense is done with cross-examination, after showing Cheung Theranos policy documents she said she’d never seen. The government is now asking questions again for redirect.

Who’s Who in the Elizabeth Holmes Trial

Erin Woo?Reporting from San Jose, Calif.

Who’s Who in the Elizabeth Holmes Trial

Erin Woo?Reporting from San Jose, Calif.

Carlos Chavarria for The New York Times

Elizabeth Holmes, the disgraced founder of the blood testing start-up Theranos, stands trial for two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 10 counts of wire fraud.

Here are some of the key figures in the case ->

Who’s Who in the Elizabeth Holmes Trial

Erin Woo?Reporting from San Jose, Calif.

Stephen Lam/Reuters

Holmes founded Theranos in 2003 as a 19-year-old Stanford dropout. She raised $700 million from investors and was crowned the world’s youngest billionaire, but has been accused of lying about how well Theranos’s technology worked. She has pleaded not guilty.

Who’s Who in the Elizabeth Holmes Trial

Erin Woo?Reporting from San Jose, Calif.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Ramesh Balwani, known as Sunny, was Theranos’s president and chief operating officer from 2009 through 2016 and was in a romantic relationship with Holmes. He has also been accused of fraud and may stand trial next year. He has pleaded not guilty.

Who’s Who in the Elizabeth Holmes Trial

Erin Woo?Reporting from San Jose, Calif.

Jefferson Siegel for The New York Times

David Boies, a prominent litigator, represented Theranos as its lawyer and served on its board.

He tried to shut down whistle-blowers and reporters who questioned the company’s business practices.

Who’s Who in the Elizabeth Holmes Trial

Erin Woo?Reporting from San Jose, Calif.

Getty Images

The journalist John Carreyrou wrote stories exposing fraudulent practices at Theranos.

His coverage for The Wall Street Journal helped lead to the implosion of Theranos.

Who’s Who in the Elizabeth Holmes Trial

Erin Woo?Reporting from San Jose, Calif.

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, via Getty Images

Tyler Shultz and Erika Cheung are former Theranos employees and were whistle-blowers. They worked at the start-up in 2013 and 2014.

Shultz is a grandson of George Shultz, a former secretary of state who was on the Theranos board.

Who’s Who in the Elizabeth Holmes Trial

Erin Woo?Reporting from San Jose, Calif.

Eric Thayer for The New York Times

James Mattis, a retired four-star general, was a member of Theranos’s board.

He went on to serve as President Donald J. Trump’s secretary of defense.

Who’s Who in the Elizabeth Holmes Trial

Erin Woo?Reporting from San Jose, Calif.

Edward Davila, a federal judge for the Northern District of California, will oversee the case.

Kevin Downey, a partner at the Washington law firm Williams & Connolly, is the lead lawyer for Holmes.

Robert Leach, an assistant United States attorney for the Northern District of California, will lead the prosecution for the government, along with other prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office.

Read more about Elizabeth Holmes:

Aug. 30, 2021

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Reporters at The New York Times are chronicling the prosecution of Elizabeth Holmes and her company, Theranos, which promised an innovation in blood testing that prosecutors say was too good to be true. The trial is expected to last four months.

To go deeper into our coverage, here are some of the stories — and a podcast — we recommend.

Schemer or Naif? Elizabeth Holmes Is Going to Trial.

The trial for the founder of Theranos, the once high-flying blood testing start-up, will cap a saga of Silicon Valley hubris, ambition and deception.

The venture’s first ship, the Scarlet Lady, has been cruising around Britain this summer on short trips open only to British residents.Credit…Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images

Virgin Voyages, a joint venture between Bain Capital and Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, made its United States debut this week, more than a year later than scheduled.

Ryan Cotton, the head of the consumer and retail group at Bain, spoke with the DealBook newsletter about the venture and the prospects for the cruise industry, which has been upended by the pandemic.

The industry has been desperate to get operations rolling again. Three of the world’s largest cruise operators — Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line — together lost nearly $900 million a month during the pandemic, the credit rating agency Moody’s reported.

Some companies, like Norwegian, have staged battles with government officials in states like Florida, a hub for the industry, over legislation barring businesses from requiring proof of vaccinations from customers.

The industry’s pandemic woes have not dissuaded Mr. Branson, who has wanted to start a cruise line for about 25 years, Mr. Cotton said. (He still has his original sketches.) Seven years ago, he got serious about it and brought in Bain to help with financing a Virgin-branded cruise ship. The idea was to bring to cruises the same sensibility that Branson brought to his airlines: younger and slightly edgy. (There is a tattoo parlor onboard.)

The venture’s first ship, the Scarlet Lady, has been cruising around Britain this summer on short trips open only to British residents. It was originally supposed to begin operations from the United States early last year, just as everything shut down. Some cruise ships were hit hard by Covid outbreaks early in the pandemic, which decimated the industry. But demand among aficionados has proved resilient, giving cruise lines hope.

“The Covid situation has not gone the way any of us expected,” Mr. Cotton said. But the vaccine rollout has given the new venture confidence in going ahead with a soft launch of the adults-only cruises in the United States.

The cruises are for vaccinated passengers only, and travelers need to be tested before they board. Onboard precautions include grab-and-go food options, capacity restrictions and an air ionization system. Activities on the adults-only cruises include yoga, meditation classes and late-night cabaret shows.

United Airlines issued a ground stop on all its traffic in the United States and Canada, according to the Federal Aviation Administration’s website.Credit…Chris Helgren/Reuters

United Airlines briefly paused flights nationwide on Friday morning amid reports of a system outage.

The airline issued a ground stop on all its traffic in the United States and Canada, according to the Federal Aviation Administration’s website.

In a statement before 8 a.m., the airline said it had “experienced technical system issues” and that all systems were working normally again.

“We are aware of the issue and are working to resolve it as quickly as possible,” the company wrote on Twitter, addressing consumer complaints. “We’re sorry for the inconvenience.”

Airlines occasionally pause flights, known as a ground stop, for technical reasons. Often, the stops are temporary and service resumes quickly after, though not without causing delays and possibly even some cancellations. Sometimes, a ground stop can be part of a more lasting disruption.

Prince Charles, left, with Richard Gnodde, the head of Goldman Sachs International, in London in July.Credit…Peter Nicholls/Reuters

The investment banking giant Goldman Sachs planted its flag far from any of the world’s major financial centers this week, opening a new office in Birmingham, Britain’s second-largest city after London. So far, about 100 people have been hired or moved there.

At the office’s opening, Richard Gnodde, the head of Goldman Sachs International, spoke about Goldman’s future in Britain after Brexit and how the investment bank’s return-to-office plans were progressing. The conversation was condensed and edited for clarity.

Post-Brexit agreements between Britain and the European Union aren’t forthcoming, so British regulators are reviewing a lot of their financial rules. Is there anything you want to see changed?

Where we would want change is redundant, unnecessary regulation, which pushes up our cost of production because we are filing reports that no one ever looks at.

There’s a set of rules that right now is identical given that we were all joined up 12 months ago. If, on the margin, either side starts tinkering with those rules so there’s just a marginal difference but no real benefit, we can’t then apply one set of processes across the board. Let’s not make changes for changes’ sake.

Do you expect to move more staff out of London?

We are done with the work that we needed to do for Brexit. But our teams will continue to evolve. And so there will be movement from here into Europe.

Are you planning more acquisitions in Europe?

To the extent that we saw further interesting acquisition opportunities across the asset management space, we’d be interested in that. And something potentially in the consumer space.

You removed social distancing in your British offices, returned them to full occupancy and encouraged staff to return. Did you feel something was lost when most people were working from home?

Every year, we bring a lot of people into the firm. And how do you integrate, how do you train those people? Memories fade. The office is our center of gravity, absolutely crystal clear. People should be spending the majority of their time in the office, but around that there can be flexibility.

Why did you choose Birmingham for the new office?

We looked up and down the U.K. One, there is proximity to London, which is helpful. But the talent base is deep and it’s broad and it’s diverse. And there’s an efficiency, a cost advantage. Both of those things are obviously important. We opened our office in London just over 50 years ago. It’s taken us 50 years to go to the next step in the U.K.

CreditCredit…Erik Carter

More than 20 years ago, the internet drove an upheaval in the advertising industry. It eviscerated newspapers and magazines that had relied on selling classified and print ads, and threatened to dethrone television advertising as the prime way for marketers to reach large audiences.

Now the push for privacy is upending the ad industry again and disrupting the internet’s lifeblood.

The struggle has entangled tech titans, upended Madison Avenue and disrupted small businesses. And it heralds a profound shift in how people’s personal information may be used online, with sweeping implications for the ways that businesses make money digitally.

The fallout may hurt brands that relied on targeted ads to get people to buy their goods. It may also initially hurt tech giants like Facebook — but not for long. Instead, businesses that can no longer track people but still need to advertise are likely to spend more with the largest tech platforms, which still have the most data on consumers.

Brian X. Chen, our lead consumer technology writer, looks at how the internet is changing and what that means for you.

Ken Jennings, a former contestant, will share hosting duties with Mayim Bialik as “Jeopardy!” continues its rocky search for a permanent host.Credit…Associated Press

The game show “Jeopardy!” announced on Thursday that its host, Mayim Bialik, would split hosting duties with Ken Jennings, a former contestant, through the end of the year.

It was the latest twist in the game show’s drawn-out struggle to find a replacement for Alex Trebek, the popular longtime host whose death in November started a fraught succession battle.

“Jeopardy!” began by cycling through a series of guest hosts. Then it announced that the job would go to Mike Richards, who had been its executive producer. After a reporter unearthed a series of offensive and sexist comments that he had made on a podcast, he stepped down as host, and shortly after that left the program entirely.

Ms. Bialik, who had initially been tapped alongside Mr. Richards to host a series of prime-time “Jeopardy!” specials, was enlisted to begin hosting weeknight programs as well.

An investigation into manipulation of an annual World Bank report has found that Kristalina Georgieva, the bank’s former chief executive, who now leads the International Monetary Fund, directed staff to alter data to placate China.

The investigation focused on accusations that top bank officials pressured the team that conducts the Doing Business survey to inflate China’s standing in its 2018 report. There also were accusations that the 2020 report was manipulated to artificially bolster Saudi Arabia’s ranking.

At the time of the reported manipulation, World Bank officials were concerned about negotiations with members over a capital increase and were under pressure not to anger China, which was ranked 78th on the list of countries in 2017 and was set to decline in the 2018 report.

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