The year in business: The biggest stories of 2015

This year, the business scene has been both turbulent – with global economies, particularly China, suffering heavy blows that had financial markets jittery and panicky – and fascinating – with the corporate landscape facing significant transformation in terms of power unions and generous work-life policies. To recap, below are three of the most notable stories that stirred up the business community this year:

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Corporate mea culpas: 2015 saw big-name companies taking a hit reputation-wise and prompting a wave of product recalls and a massive overhaul of business procedures. One of the brands that faced intense scrutiny for its transgressions was Volkswagen. In September, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revealed that the German automaker cheated on emission tests for hundreds of thousands of diesel cars it had touted as “green.” Volkswagen admitted to its misdeeds, leading to the resignation of its CEO, Martin Winterkorn and a plan to recall 11 million cars globally.

Another company that took a beating this year was Chipotle, with reports of food-borne disease outbreaks hitting its restaurants and more than 500 people in various states falling in. The crisis prompted the fast-casual chain to close several stores and re-evaluate its food safety program.

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M&A mania: Bursting with corporate deals year-round, 2015 saw global merger and acquisition activities surpass $5 trillion, a record-setting feat, according to Dealogic data. The number of mega-mergers, or deals worth $10 billion or more, was also at a record high at 10. Among this year’s highlights are the $160 billion merger of drug firms Pfizer with Allergan, Dell’s $67 billion tech deal with EMC Corp, and the $106 billion transaction between arch-rival brewers Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller.

The rise of the ‘gig’ economy: The idea of a lifetime career was tested this year as more people chose to make a living as freelancers rather than full-time employees. While the concept of part-time work is not entirely a new one, 2015 saw a shift in employment buoyed by technology and global trade. Even traditional companies are more open to the idea of hiring independent contractors. Although the gig economy encourages more empowered workers and boundless innovation and creativity, it also raises questions about workplace protection and benefits.

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