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CEO Of Tech Business Publication Impacted By SVB Collapse; CNN's Bill Weir Gives Sneak Peek Into New Antarctica Special; A Key Measure Of Inflation Fell Dramatically In February; ESPN's Seth Greenberg Evaluates CNN This Morning's Brackets; Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired March 15, 2023 - 08:30   ET



JESSICA LESSIN, FOUNDER, THE INFORMATION: And we actually didn't pull our money out before we reported on it, but I was certainly paying attention --


LESSIN: -- in this situation. You know, I think it's about what's news? What are facts? What are we confirmed? You know, the information we don't handle and speculation, but we look for reaction. What are founders doing? And when the former CEO of Silicon Valley Bank held a secret phone call with venture capitalists and told them to stay calm, as we grow, that was new stuff. And so that was our first piece.

Luckily, we have an amazing team at the information on the business and news side. So we could multitask a little. But when it comes to the journalism, it's about the facts, and we were first with those.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Right on. So, you can -- there was concern, I'm sure about a conflict of interest or the appearance, Jessica, of a conflict of interest, of course, right?

LESSIN: I mean, I -- we're always thinking about that. I mean, candidly, I think about, you know, what's journalism? What are facts? What can we -- and do we owe readers? You know, I think, to have a bunch of people in Silicon Valley sort of secretly moving things around and not be able to inform our subscribers what was happening, you know, we don't do that.

And so I think in the past few days, I've heard from so many readers of the information, you know, hundreds of thousands of people across the country that we help them get their money out by reporting on the situation on the ground. And that's very important to us.

So, you know, that was my main concern. And then, of course, we have a payroll that had to clear on Monday, like many other startups out here. And I think ultimately sitting in the shoes of some of those founders enabled us to think a few steps ahead of what should we be covering? What are the next shoes to drop? And I still think there are going to be a lot of shoes to drop.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: One thing that you have also been vocal about is the way the Wall Street Journal framed why SVB collapsed.


COLLINS: This is something we've asked every lawmaker we've had on today about because we keep hearing this out of Washington, which is some of -- some of the Republicans blaming them for their, you know, ESG-type policies, DEI, their diversity statement saying that that -- essentially, they were too distracted focusing on stuff like that, instead of managing risk and that. Can you tell us, essentially, your pushback on that?

LESSIN: Yes. No, look, I mean, I spent eight years at the Wall Street Journal, which was why this issue is close to my heart. And, of course, this was a -- an opinion piece, not something from their newsroom, but for any commentator to say that having non-white men on the board of Silicon Valley Bank has anyway contributed to this. I think it's just not informed, frankly.

You can set aside, you know, their lack of appreciation for diversity, but I think it's just not informed. And to imply that by issuing a proxy statement, they were distracted. I'm pretty sure companies are required to issue such disclosures.

So, you know, it's basically nonsense, but I do think it has to be called out because it actually struck me as quite shocking that they would say that.

COLLINS: All right. Jessica, you've had a very busy few days. We really appreciate you joining us this morning.

LESSIN: Well, thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.

HARLOW: I'm glad you asked her that. I was so stunned when I read that journal piece on, I think it was Monday. Even though it was opinion piece. It was I couldn't believe I was reading it.

COLLINS: It is a good point to -- that she makes to point out. It was from the opinion section.

LEMON: But I think it's also an interesting what she said, it helped in this case to have a personal connection because it informed --


LEMON: her journalism. Very -- that was very important for her to say.

HARLOW: So we're going to keep following this. Look what's going on with the banking sector and stocks right now. Tonight on CNN Primetime, we'll ask the experts about the failure of Silicon Valley Bank. How did this happen? What does it mean for the banking system at large bank bust? What's next for America's money tonight, 9:00 PM Eastern.

A view you'll only see -- look at that live right here on CNN. Our chief climate correspondent, Bill Weir, went to Antarctica for an upcoming climate special. BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Gets all the good assignments.

HARLOW: He does get all the good assignments and he will share some of these incredible images and what he learned, next.


WEIR: Welcome to Antarctica. It's the welcoming party. Hi, guys.




HARLOW: Well, since we sadly cannot all go to Antarctica, we have transformed the studio into Antarctica for you. Check out this stunning view here with Bill Weir from the bottom of the world that you'll only see here this way on CNN. You know who did get this assignment? Of course, our chief climate correspondent, Bill Weir. He made the trek south, as scientists announced the Antarctic sea ice hit record lows for the second time in two years.

I'm so glad you went. You were greeted by the penguins.

WEIR: Greeted by the penguins. I've been in this giddy since Show and Tell. Fifth grade. It was mind blowing, Poppy. I can't even tell you. You watch The Wonder List. You know how much --


WEIR: -- I adore Alaska and Greenland and Iceland. This place is all of those on steroids.


WEIR: -- as one process. It makes Alaska suddenly tastes like light beer, because it's so extreme. You've got these mountains, these glaciers surrounded by whales. We're doing a big special coming up, but I couldn't wait to just share. Here's my first impressions waking up at the frozen world. Few people ever get to see.



WEIR: You know, some days are more fun to get out of bed than others. Kind of like the morning when you wake up in Antarctica. Look at this. We made it to the bottom of the world. This is so gorgeous.

First steps on my seventh continent. Welcome to Antarctica. Here's the welcoming party. Hi, guys.

A colony of Gentoo penguins greeting us as we arrive.



WEIR: Realize that sort of wonder turns to worry when you understand that those particular penguins will show you some more adorable pictures. They move like my toddler on land. They swim like Michael Phelps. They seem like superheroes, but they're in real trouble. They are already being forced to adapt to the warming at the bottom of the world.

The penguin nests that we were looking at, sadly, the chicks there and those eggs will not survive because they had a freak snowstorm. Normally those chicks should have been hatched by Christmas.

HARLOW: Right.

WEIR: But like we're having these freak weather events up here, they're having them down there, it delayed the nesting season. So those babies won't have enough for their seat feathers to survive the coming winter right now.

And on top of that pressure, as the sea ice goes away, that is devastating to krill. Krill, these little --


WEIR: Shrimpy crustaceans and they feed everything from the penguins to the seabirds to the humpback whales. And so now ecologists are worried about a crash and the food stocks down there. We were actually hung out spent three days chasing whales on Zodiac rafts. These are scientists who are taking pregnancy tests with crossbows.

HARLOW: Of the -- of the whales?

WEIR: Yes. We'd shoot a minke whale or this is one of the best shots you'll ever see. It will make you whale that came right under our raft here. And we were taking samples from the blubber to test their pregnancy rates. Compare that to the food stocks --


WEIR: -- you know, ice goes low. Also their stress levels. They put it -- we put sensors on them with cameras, so we'll be able to follow them. Hopefully, we're going to follow some of the same whales all the way up to their breeding grounds up in Columbia.


WEIR: But amazing. Can't wait to share all that story.

HARLOW: We can't wait to see it. When is the special coming?

WEIR: I don't know yet. It's coming up soon. Stay tuned.

HARLOW: Soon. So soon. But really, gosh, and especially having little ones at home, you must think about what you get to see versus how the world will be so changed by the time that they are adults speaking of --

WEIR: Yes.

HARLOW: -- is largely dependent on what we do and don't do to the world. So let's talk about the Biden ministration become very controversial move, approving this big drilling project called the Willow oil drilling project in Alaska, really letting down many progressives and many climate activists.

WEIR: Right.

HARLOW: What is it do? I know there have been two lawsuits filed now against it.

WEIR: This will drag out. You know, even if ConocoPhillips gets everything they want, oil won't start pumping out of there for six years or so, and that's a long time.

HARLOW: Wait, it's in ANWR.

WEIR: It is. Well, it's close to --

HARLOW: Well, next ANWR.

WEIR: ANWR is over here, the petroleum reserve. It's interesting how names matter. It's hard to defend not drilling in the petroleum reserve. But that was made in his 20s to get the Navy off of coal, basically.

But the Willow Project right there may never be exploited. The economics of oil exploration, for example, ANWR --

HARLOW: Right.

WEIR: Republicans wanted to drill ANWR for 20 years.


WEIR: President Trump finally got permission to do that. But three companies that had leases, they pulled out. It's not worthy to them.

HARLOW: Did make economic sense.

WEIR: It's not enough oil there, so it may not happen. But in the near-term, there's a lot of disappointed young people in President Biden.

HARLOW: Of course. Thank you, Bill. I cannot wait to see it. That was --

WEIR: You bet.

HARLOW: -- highlight of all our mornings. Thank you, friend. Don. LEMON: So this just released moments ago, several key economic reports on inflation and retail sales. Straight now to CNN's chief business correspondent, Christine Romans. She's here to break it down. Christine, back with us. What are you seeing?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: So inflation cooled dramatically in February. This is factory level inflation. You want to see this, 4.6 percent year-over-year inflation number. You know, that's down from like six percent the last stream. That's good, under five percent, going in the right direction.

And from month to month, prices actually fell at the factory level, down 0.1%. So you want to see that. We're definitely seeing a peaking in producer prices. That is good news. The Fed has been raising interest rates. This is why they've been raising interest rates.

Another measure of retail sales. Remember, this was super strong in January. Well, that pulled back a little bit. Retail sales pulled back in the month of February, down 0.4 percent from January. Still running about five percent, five and a half percent year over year. It's not adjusted for inflation.

So, you know, we could go. These were the most important things we were looking at to decide what the Fed was going to do on interest rates. But I don't think that's the case anymore. I mean, I like what I see on that inflation number, retail sales cooling a little bit. That gives the Fed some room, I think, to slow down the pace of its interest rate increases.

COLLINS: Yes, but now everything is changed as the world like upended with the collapse of SVB. Larry Fink is weighing and he's the Chief Executive of BlackRock. People, very closely, watch his letter that he sends out to investors.

And in that letter today, he warns about the specter of a slow rolling crisis and he says, he does expect there to be more seizures and more shutdowns coming and he says that SVB's collapse is an example of, quote, the price we're paying for decades of easy money.

ROMANS: Yes. And easy money, that means zero percent interest rates. So there was all this money sloshing around the system and it's flooding into these banks, right? These banks are taking that money, all those deposits and they're putting it long dated treasuries. And now what happens? Interest rates go up. Those are worth less. At the same time, people are starting to withdraw there. It's just a perfect -- a perfect storm.

We are seeing today weakness in the Futures market and in regional bank stocks a little bit again and it's coming from Europe. You have bank stocks in Europe that are down sharply here today, some of them have been halted. Credit Suisse is trying to raise money because it has had material weakness it told shareholders this week. So now it's the European banks that are kind of causing the problem in global markets today.

[08:45:18] LEMON: So at least we don't have to ask you, when it comes to inflation and the retail sales numbers, this is good. I'm always, is that good, Christine? Not bad.

ROMANS: The retail sales number is good.

LEMON: You like what you see?

ROMANS: I like the retail sales -- or I'm sorry. I like the inflation number.

LEMON: The inflation number.

ROMANS: The retail sales number shows a little more cautious consumer. And that's probably what the Fed wants to see. So that's good.

LEMON: Thank you, Christine Romans. Appreciate it.

COLLINS: All right. There's vibeology and there is bracketology.

LEMON: Oh, geez.


LEMON: Here we go.

COLLINS: -- analyst Seth Greenberg is going to personally review our own March Madness' brackets and tell us how we did, give some pointers for some people at the table.

HARLOW: And obviously --

LEMON: Why are you dragging me into this?

COLLINS: Out one of your office pool. We'll be right back.

LEMON: Oh, boy.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of it. But they really have to control the rebound. [inaudible] way down town, it's good.


COLLINS: All right. It is here at the first game of the NCAA Tournament Texas A&M Corpus Christi officially joining the madness. The islanders won its first game, first war game, defeating the Southeast Missouri State for a spot in the round of 64, waiting for them now, my alma mater, the University of Alabama.

I don't know if I've ever mentioned that I went to school there on this program. The top overall seed. First time they've been the number one seed in the program's history.

LEMON: Where's that school?

COLLINS: They tip off tomorrow afternoon. We're all going to be watching. We've all filled on our brackets. How do we have in the Final Four? How do our brackets stack up?

Here to tell us that is ESPN college basketball analyst, Seth Greenberg.

SETH GREENBERG, ESPN COLLEGE BASKETBALL ANALYST: Well, I'll tell you what, first, this is the best week of the year. If you're sporting fan.


GREENBERG: All right. You can talk about the World Series. You can talk about the Grand Prix. You can talk about the Super Bowl from the day the brackets come out to the end of the first and second round or close to work. Maybe you guys.

COLLINS: They feel like --

GREENBERG: No, no one else. I mean, like people don't go to work. I mean, my 95-year-old mother fills out a bracket. Who doesn't fill up bracket? Everyone fills out a bracket, so. You guys did a pretty good job.

LEMON: How do we do?

GREENBERG: You know, it's kind of interesting to me. Like, Poppy, your bracket on the east and the south. He did a great job. I have one question for you. You don't have one Ivy League degree, you have two Ivy League degrees.

Can you give Princeton a little love?



HARLOW: I'm letting go there. No. We're like rivals.

GREENBERG: I mean, you can't be -- you can't be an Ivy League home?

HARLOW: No. And can you please tell the world who I put winning?

GREENBERG: You picked winning Alabama.

HARLOW: Thank you. So, who do you think?

GREENBERG: That's good teammate.

HARLOW: If it's not Minnesota.

GREENBERG: Now, on the other side of the bracket though, we've got some issues. I mean, UCLA losing to UNC Asheville.

HARLOW: I know. And Coach K even told me UCLA was underrated, so I should have put them higher.

GREENBERG: Yes, probably.

COLLINS: They're also ranked number two. And I'm sorry.

GREENBERG: That's a little shaky. And then, you know, at the top of the bracket, you have some issues, Texas A&M, giving them all that stuff. Texas A&M is probably not going to be Penn State. So -- but you did a pretty good job because you got to Alabama to win it. I've got Alabama to win it. Good.

COLLINS: I think Texas A&M is going to win. I picked Texas.

GREENBERG: Yes. Because you're the all-time SEC Homer. You're the SEC Homer. You're the SEC Homer, unless Auburn has evolved. You see, I --


GREENBERG: You know, I mean you got --

COLLINS: Well, that's personal against Bruce Pearl.

GREENBERG: -- advancing. You got -- you got Alabama advancing. You got Arkansas advancing. Auburn --

COLLINS: I'm a hometown gal.

GREENBERG: I mean, it's unbelievable.

COLLINS: I know my sister went to Auburn. Hopefully she's not watching. But if my dad is watching, he will be thrilled about that, and he -- I think he'll agree with me. I don't -- I don't know. I don't have faith in Auburn. I think they choke a lot.

GREENBERG: It's personal right there. It's personal right there. That side of the bracket, just when you look at it. Just when you fill out your bracket Midwest and West. There are so many injuries on that side of bracket. That's why I would suggest I know is that bracket of integrity around here.

But I might recommend a second bracket because if you look at it, Houston's got an injury, Kansas got an injury, UCLA has got an injury. A lot of injuries on that side that could kind of blow up your bracket.

Now, Don, my friend.

LEMON: Uh-oh. Here we go.

GREENBERG: No, actually, Don. Very nice drop. A good swing at Memphis.

LEMON: OK. GREENBERG: That was a good swing. I mean, I like Purdue but Memphis can pressure you. Penny Hardaway's done a great job. They got a great guard in Kendrick Davis. I like that swing. I like Missouri as kind of another swing. It was the way Missouri plays they shoot 35 percent -- they make 35 percentage points for the three point line. It's pretty good swing.

Baylor and Virginia. You're knocking out Bama?

COLLINS: I was literally just looking at his final four, I'm like -- I was like --


GREENBERG: I mean, where is the kumbaya? Knocking out -- they're knocking out Bama.

LEMON: I'm living in reality.

GREENBERG: I mean -- I mean, so that's a little issue. And then Baylor just a little heads up, you know, because you still have time.

COLLINS: Come on.

GREENBERG: Baylor has the best -- maybe the best backcourt in the country.


GREENBERG: If they're not guarding, I could get 20 on them. I mean -- I mean --

LEMON: The real thrill.

GREENBERG: I don't have a good first step anymore. My name is well past its prime right there. But again, a little bit of a risk. Kansas, it all comes down to Kevin McCullar. He didn't play in the Big 12 championship game. They got run by Texas.


GREENBERG: Texas is really good. They played without one of their best players.


GREENBERG: And they won that game.

LEMON: You know, I used to fill up my bracket every year because it never used to be -- sorry. My neck is -- sorry, neck injuries. You've noticed.

COLLINS: From playing basketball?

LEMON: Yes, from playing basketball, so a little basketball injury. It used to be Gonzaga, Gonzaga, Gonzaga every year. HARLOW: Oh, yes.

LEMON: So I used to just put Gonzaga there and I would win but not anymore. That is -- that's all.

GREENBERG: Don't know with the Zags. The Zags actually are sneaky choice right now because they're kind of off Broadway right now. You know, I mean, they didn't have great year. They have a good enough year. They're playing better defense. You might want to rethink that.

COLLINS: It's always about upsets. Who are you watching? Are you -- anyone?

GREENBERG: Yes. I like Penn State and Texas A&M game. I think that's really interesting matchup. They just lost in the finals of the Big 10 championship with Penn State. They have a guy named Jalen Pickett, he was about a six-seven guard. Upsets are all about imposing your identity on the game.

So like if you could impose say like Virginia, they impose their identity and they slow the game down. They're really good defensively. Or you can speed it up. Penn State shoots a kind of threes 47 percent of shots from the three point line.


LEMON: We didn't see your bracket. Who do you have on?

GREENBERG: Well, I'm sure it's somewhere around here.

LEMON: I have Kansas. Is that no -- yes, no, maybe?

GREENBERG: I do not have Kansas.


GREENBERG: But I have -- I have -- I have Alabama.

COLLINS: You have Bama winning?

GREENBERG: I have Alabama. Well, you know I have -- getting to the final four.

HARLOW: Three of four people at this table who have Alabama going all the way.

GREENBERG: Our whole game day crew picked Alabama, which is crazy. We don't -- we have to fill these things out in two seconds. The show comes on, we're filling them out. The brackets are coming. We're filling our brackets coming. And then we have to hand them in. It's brutal.

LEMON: We got to go.

GREENBERG: Let's go.

LEMON: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

COLLINS: [inaudible] roll tide.

GREENBERG: Roll tide.

LEMON: You can sign up for free for the -- thank you, Seth. For the ESPN bracket challenge on The news continues right after this.