By Alan Murray and Geoffrey Smith
December 20, 2017

Good morning.

At Fortune each year, we spend a lot of time on our rigorous listings, which rank companies by size (Fortune 500, Global 500), reputation (World’s Most Admired), growth (Fastest Growing), worker satisfaction (100 Best Companies to Work For), commitment to society (Change the World), commitment to the future (Future 50) and overall performance (Businessperson of the Year.) This morning, we publish our year-end Blue Ribbon list, which highlights 32 companies that appear on at least four of the eight lists above.

There were four companies that made six of the eight lists in 2017. Drumroll, please:

Amazon

Facebook

Nvidia

Salesforce

 

And there were another five companies that made five of the eight lists:

Adobe

Alphabet (Google)

American Express

Centene

JP Morgan Chase

 

You can see the other 23 Fortune Blue Ribbon companies here. We aren’t saying these companies are perfect. But they had to do something right to get to the top of so many of our diverse rankings.

More news below, including the passage through the Senate of the tax bill by a 51-48 party-line vote.

Also this morning, we are publishing an investigation into one multi-billion-dollar abuse of the tax system that won’t be changed by the bill – the syndication of land conservation easements. You can read it here.

News below.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray
alan.murray@fortune.com

Top News

Defeat for Uber in EU’s Top Court

Europe’s top court ruled that Uber should be regulated as a transportation company rather than a technology company (you can find the full text of the ruling here and the press summary here). Uber has already started to retreat from its ‘we are a technology company’ strategy that it used to avoid regulation in the past, but the precedent still crimps its room for maneuver. However, it does the same for rival ride-hailing apps too, which may help Uber defend its first-mover advantage. The ruling may also be an unwelcome for other digital-economy companies that have enjoyed light-touch regulation in the past. The day when EU countries, for example, officially consider Facebook and Google media companies rather than technology platforms, and thus subject to traditional media regulation, has probably moved a lot closer.
Fortune

The Tax Bill Is Nearly Over the Line

The Senate passed the Republicans’ $1.5 trillion tax cut by a 51-48 party-line vote. The House, which had initially passed the bill 227-203, will have to vote on it again today after it emerged that two provisions violated Senate budget rules and had to be removed. Despite the sharp cuts in some nominal tax rates, including for individuals, an NBC/WSJ poll found only 24% of Americans think it a good idea, compared to 41% who say it’s a bad one. The stock market, which had rallied hard as the bill came into the home stretch, decided to take some profits.
Fortune

Microsoft Will No Longer Gag the Sexually Harassed

Microsoft said it would no longer use forced arbitration agreements to gag employees who had made sexual harassment claims. That’s a conspicuously enlightened move that addresses one of the biggest injustices in the whole sorry story that has come to dominate business news this year. “The silencing of people’s voices has clearly had an impact in perpetuating sexual harassment,” Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith told the New York Times.
Fortune

A Double Boost for Banks

The U.S.’s biggest banks got two pieces of good news from Washington. The House of Representatives voted to scrap the flat $50 billion asset threshold for considering a bank as systemically important, and thus subject to tighter capital rules. And the eight largest and most complex banks in the country got much-improved grades from the Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation on their “living wills”, the self-drafted plans that are designed to ensure they can be wound down without taxpayer-funded bailouts if they fail. Both pieces of news are consistent with the trend towards lighter regulation of the banking sector under the new administration this year.
WSJ, subscription required



Around the Water Cooler

YouTube Makes Nice With Music Giants

Alphabet’s YouTube signed a new long-term agreement with the top two music labels, promising stronger policing of user uploads of copyrighted songs and paving the way for a new paid service after two years of tumultuous negotiations. Vivendi’s Universal Music Group said its deal with YouTube will give artists more flexibility and better pay. Sony also signed a new agreement, Bloomberg reported.
Fortune

Youbit, Youbitter, Youbust

Another Bitcoin exchange was forced into bankruptcy after cybercriminals hacked it and made off with 17% of its assets. South Korea-based Youbit’s mishap was the second big breach it had had this year. Elsewhere, Coinbase, the biggest U.S.-based exchange for digital currencies, said it was investigating its staff and contractors after suspicious trading in ‘Bitcoin Cash’ a product that came into being through a technology ‘forks’ caused by disagreements over how to run the currency’s distributed ledger. Bitcoin Cash had risen as much as 33% on Tuesday. 
Bloomberg

Blackberry Aims at Driverless Cars

Blackberry is pushing into the field of software for autonomous vehicles, in what looks like a belated attempt to reinvent itself after the crushing of its once-dominant mobile device. The company’s stock has risen 52% this year as investors have zeroed in on the residual value of its patents and other IP, and CEO John Chen is determined to drive the company in the direction of AVs.   Blackberry is due to present its quarterly results later today and may disclose more details as it talks to investors and journalists.
WSJ, subscription required

HNA’s Empire Starts to Unravel

Paul Singer’s Elliott Management cashed in on the financial embarrassment of Chinese conglomerate HNA, relieving it of a 6% stake in duty-free retailer Dufry. HNA had built a stake of 20.9% in the Swiss company as part of its $40 billion acquisition spree, but had lent out a part of it to a bank in order to generate short-term liquidity. All its remaining stake is also similarly pledged, according to the Financial Times, an insight that raises questions as to how stable the rest of its financial empire is.
FT, metered access

[Summaries by Geoffrey Smith; geoffrey.smith@fortune.com]

@geoffreytsmith

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