United Technologies announces hiring freeze

United Technologies Corp. said Monday it has instituted a hiring freeze and suspended all discretionary spending, including for its engineering and development programs.

UTC has about 1,500 employees with its Collins Aerospace division in Winston-Salem.

Gregory Hayes, the company’s top executive, said the COVID-19 pandemic has led to “global air traffic volumes dropping severely, leading airlines to cancel flights and ground planes.”

“This is having a direct and immediate impact on UTC’s commercial aerospace businesses, requiring us to take multiple steps to aggressively reduce costs.”

Additional actions include: “significant reduction” in capital investment in buildings and facilities, excluding safety-related investments; and deferral of annual merit increases for executive and salaried employees.

Hayes did not mention any impact on UTC’s pending megadeal purchase of Raytheon Co. that is projected to close April 3.

Richard Craver

Federal appeals court upholds Engle damages

A federal appeals court in Florida has affirmed this week a 2014 ruling that requires R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. to pay $14.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages in an Engle jury verdict.

The case in the Middle District of Florida also affects Philip Morris USA, which faces $23.6 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

In most verdicts, the jury assigns a percentage of the blame for the plaintiff’s disease on the plaintiff. In this case, 50% was put on Philip Morris USA, 31% on Reynolds and 19% on Kenneth Kerrivan, the latter valued at $3 million in compensatory damages.

For Reynolds and Philip Morris, the awards are among the largest in a long series of Engle cases that involved the Big 3 tobacco manufacturers.

The manufacturers argued that the compensatory damages were excessive and punitive damages were unconstitutional.

The appellate court said in its ruling that “without a doubt, the compensatory damages award in this case is higher than the awards in other Engle progeny cases, but this fact alone does not establish that the jury was swayed by passion or prejudice.”

Richard Craver

Truist provides $1 million to small business group

Truist Financial Corp. said Wednesday it is providing $1 million to the Natural Capital Investment Fund, a community development financial institution that assists small businesses with nine or fewer employees.

The funds will be provided to small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in communities that Truist serves, such as grants for operating capital shortages and critical needs. It will cover eight states, including North Carolina, and Washington, D.C.

Eligible small businesses cannot have annual gross revenue of more than $1 million from all business activities at all business locations based on Small Business Association guidelines.

Small businesses can apply for the grants, which will range from $5,000 to $25,000, at https://www.ncifund.org/.

Richard Craver

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