Yes. The F.D.A. has updated its authorizations to allow medical providers to boost people with a different vaccine than the one they initially received, a strategy known as “mix and match.” Whether you received Moderna, Johnson & Johnson or Pfizer-BioNTech, you may receive a booster of any other vaccine. Regulators have not recommended any one vaccine over another as a booster. They have also remained silent on whether it is preferable to stick with the same vaccine when possible.

The C.D.C. has said the conditions that qualify a person for a booster shot include: hypertension and heart disease; diabetes or obesity; cancer or blood disorders; weakened immune system; chronic lung, kidney or liver disease; dementia and certain disabilities. Pregnant women and current and former smokers are also eligible.

The F.D.A. authorized boosters for workers whose jobs put them at high risk of exposure to potentially infectious people. The C.D.C. says that group includes: emergency medical workers; education workers; food and agriculture workers; manufacturing workers; corrections workers; U.S. Postal Service workers; public transit workers; grocery store workers.

Yes. The C.D.C. says the Covid vaccine may be administered without regard to the timing of other vaccines, and many pharmacy sites are allowing people to schedule a flu shot at the same time as a booster dose.

Chris Hipkins, the minister responsible for New Zealand’s Covid-19 response, acknowledged earlier this month that the decision to enlist gang leaders was an unusual one.

“Our No. 1 priority here is to stop Covid-19 in its tracks, and that means doing what we need to do to get in front of the virus,” he said. “Where we have been able to enlist gang leaders to help with that, and where they have been willing to do so, we have done that.”

Some gang leaders have acted independently to help the vaccination effort. They have connected members of their community to health officials, organized events with health professionals like Dr. Jansen, and streamed events on Facebook Live to allow an open forum for questions about rare health risks. In some cases, they have taken vaccines to communities themselves.

“Our community is probably less well informed; they’re probably not as health literate,” said Mr. Tam, the Mongrel Mob member, who is a former civil servant and who received the border exemption. Constant media criticism has turned them off from reading traditional news outlets, he added.

“They then resort to social media, because they have much greater control,” he said. “It’s also a space that perpetuates conspiracy theories and false information and all the rest of it.” Health advice has to come from trusted individuals and leaders in the community, he said.

In the past week, Mr. Tam has traveled almost the length of the country organizing pop-up vaccination events for members and their communities, as well as coordinating with other chapter leaders to get their members vaccinated, he said.

It was difficult work that put him at personal risk, he said, and that invited intense skepticism from people who thought of gangs only as violent or connected to organized crime.

“Why do we bother?” Mr. Tam said. “We bother because we care about those people that others don’t care about, as simple as that. They can talk about my gang affiliation, all the rest of it. But it’s that affiliation that allows me to have that penetration, that foot in the door. I can do the stuff that they can’t do.”

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Alec Baldwin Fatally Shoots Crew Member With Prop Firearm on Film Set, Authorities Say

The director of photography in an Alec Baldwin movie was killed and the film’s director was injured on Thursday afternoon when the actor fired a prop firearm on the set of a movie in New Mexico, the authorities said.

Halyna Hutchins, 42, was killed and Joel Souza, 48, was injured around 1:50 p.m. on the set of “Rust,” a Western being filmed in Santa Fe County, Juan Rios, a spokesman for the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office, said. The circumstances of the shooting are under investigation.

Mr. Rios said the shooting at Bonanza Creek Ranch happened in the middle of a scene that was either being rehearsed or filmed. He said the Sheriff’s Office was interviewing people on the set to determine how the two had been shot.

“We’re trying to determine right now how and what type of projectile was used in the firearm,” he said.

Instagram in his film costume, which included what appeared to be a prosthetic wound on his torso.

statement from the New Mexico Film Office on Oct. 6 said the movie’s production company, Rust Movie Productions LLC, would employ 75 crew members, 22 actors and 230 “background talent.”

IMDb. The movie, which was set to be filmed this month and next month, is directed by Mr. Souza and stars Frances Fisher and Mr. Baldwin, who is also producing the film.

The shooting echoed an accident on a movie set in 1993 in which the actor Brandon Lee, Bruce Lee’s son, was shot and killed during a scene when a bullet that was lodged in the barrel of a gun was discharged along with a blank cartridge.

Mr. Baldwin, an Emmy Award-winning actor, has had long career in movies, plays and television shows. In one of his best known roles, he played Jack Donaghy, an oblivious, domineering TV executive on the sitcom “30 Rock,” which ran on NBC from 2006 to 2013.

He also portrayed Donald J. Trump on “Saturday Night Live” with a custom-made wig, glued-on eyebrows and puckered lips. He and Mr. Trump sometimes sparred on social media.

Mr. Baldwin also has a history of run-ins with the police.

In 2014, he was arrested after he rode his bicycle the wrong way on Fifth Avenue near 16th Street in Manhattan. He was not carrying identification and the officers who took him to a station house charged him with disorderly conduct after they said he became belligerent.

In 2019, Mr. Baldwin pleaded guilty to harassment in Manhattan Criminal Court and agreed to take an anger management course in a deal with prosecutors to dispose of charges that he assaulted a man during a dispute over a parking spot.

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Stocks Hit a Record as Investors See Progress Toward a Spending Deal

Wall Street likes what it’s hearing from Washington lately.

The S&P 500 inched to a new high on Thursday, continuing a rally aided by signs of progress in spending talks that could pave the way for an injection of some $3 trillion into the U.S. economy.

The index rose 0.3 percent to 4,549.78, its seventh straight day of gains and a fresh peak after more than a month of volatile trading driven by nervousness over the still-wobbly economic recovery and policy fights in Washington.

market swoon that began in September.

Share prices began to rise this month when congressional leaders struck a deal to allow the government to avoid breaching the debt ceiling, ending a standoff that threatened to make it impossible for the country to pay its bills. The rally has gained momentum as investors and analysts grow increasingly confident about a government spending package using a recipe Wall Street can live with: big enough to bolster economic growth, but with smaller corporate tax increases than President Biden’s original $3.5 trillion spending blueprint.

continuing supply chain snarls, higher prices for businesses and consumers and the Federal Reserve’s signals that it would begin dialing back its stimulus efforts all helped sour investor confidence. The S&P 500’s 4.8 percent drop in September was its worst month since the start of the pandemic.

It has made up for it in October, rising 5.6 percent this month. But it’s not just updates out of Washington that have renewed investors’ optimism.

The country has seen a sharp drop in coronavirus infections in recent weeks, raising, once again, the prospect that economic activity can begin to normalize. And the recent round of corporate earnings results that began in earnest this month has started better than many analysts expected. Large Wall Street banks, in particular, reported blockbuster results fueled by juicy fees paid to the banks’ deal makers, thanks to a surge of merger activity.

Elsewhere, shares of energy giants have also buoyed the broad stock market. The price of crude oil recently climbed back above $80 a barrel for the first time in roughly seven years, translating into an instant boost to revenues for energy companies.

debt limit, is a cap on the total amount of money that the federal government is authorized to borrow via U.S. Treasury bills and savings bonds to fulfill its financial obligations. Because the U.S. runs budget deficits, it must borrow huge sums of money to pay its bills.

On Thursday, analysts spotlighted the news that the White House and congressional Democrats were moving toward dropping corporate tax increases they had wanted to include in the bill, as they hoped to forge a deal that could clear the Senate. A spending deal without corporate tax increases would be a potential boon to profits and share prices.

“A stay of execution on higher corporate tax rates would seem a potentially noteworthy development,” Daragh Maher, a currency analyst with HSBC Securities, wrote in a note to clients on Thursday.

An agreement among Democrats on what’s expected to be a roughly $2 trillion spending plan would also open the door to a separate $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan moving through Congress. Progressives in the House are blocking the infrastructure bill until agreement is reached on the larger bill.

But the prospects for an agreement have helped to lift shares of major engineering and construction materials companies. Terex, which makes equipment used for handling construction materials like stone and asphalt, has jumped more than 5 percent this week. The asphalt maker Vulcan Materials has risen more than 4 percent. Dycom, which specializes in construction and engineering of telecommunication networking systems, was up more than 9 percent.

The renewed confidence remains fragile, with good reason. The coronavirus continues to affect business operations around the world, and the Delta variant demonstrated just how disruptive a new iteration of the virus can be.

Another lingering concern involves the higher costs companies face for everything from raw materials to shipping to labor. If they are unable to pass those higher costs on to consumers, it will cut into their profits.

“That would be big,” Mr. McKnight said. “That would be a material impact to the markets.”

But going into the final months of the year — traditionally a good time for stocks — the market also has plenty of reasons to push higher.

The recent weeks of bumpy trading may have chased shareholders with low confidence — sometimes known as “weak hands” on Wall Street — out of the market, offering potential bargains to long-term buyers.

“Interest rates are relatively stable. Earnings are booming. Covid cases, thankfully, are dropping precipitously in the U.S.,” Mr. Zemsky said. “The weak hands have left the markets and there’s plenty of jobs. So why shouldn’t we have new highs?”

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J&J is using a bankruptcy maneuver to block lawsuits over baby powder cancer claims

In this photo illustration, a container of Johnson’s baby powder sits on a table in 2019. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images hide caption

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In this photo illustration, a container of Johnson’s baby powder sits on a table in 2019.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson is drawing criticism after using a controversial bankruptcy maneuver to block roughly 38,000 lawsuits linked to claims that its talc baby powder was contaminated with cancer-causing asbestos.

The health products giant used a quirk of Texas state law to spin off a new company called LTL, then dumped all its asbestos-related liabilities — including the avalanche of lawsuits — into the new firm.

LTL filed for bankruptcy last week in a federal court in Charlotte, N.C., a move designed to sharply limit efforts to recover damages for those who say they were harmed by J&J’s baby powder.

“Johnson & Johnson doesn’t have this liability anymore. They pushed all of it into the company they created just to file for bankruptcy,” said Lindsey Simon, a bankruptcy expert at the University of Georgia School of Law.

As a result, Simon said, “consumers can’t recover [damages] against a big solvent company. They have to recover against this smaller fictional company created [by J&J].”

October 19, 2021

The move sparked outrage from lawmakers and consumer advocates.

“J&J knew asbestos laced some bottles but kept it a secret for decades,” Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., tweeted on Tuesday. “Tens of thousands of women with ovarian cancer are suing, and the company wants to shield its assets.”

In 2018, separate investigations by Reuters and The New York Times revealed documents showing Johnson & Johnson fretted for decades that small amounts of asbestos lurked in its baby powder, without telling regulators.

J&J has repeatedly denied the claim. The company remains one of the wealthiest corporations in the world, with more than $25 billion in cash reserves, and has not filed for bankruptcy.

Johnson & Johnson says the bankruptcy move is legitimate

During a call with investors on Tuesday, J&J CFO Joseph Wolk defended the bankruptcy maneuver and again said its talc baby powder products, discontinued last year, were safe.

“There’s an established process that allows companies facing abusive tort systems to resolve claims in an efficient and equitable manner,” Wolk said.

“It’s really the bankruptcy courts that will ultimately decide this. It’s not plaintiff attorneys. It’s not Johnson & Johnson,” he added.

In a separate statement, LTL said J&J had agreed to provide the new firm with $2 billion, along with other funds, for future payouts linked to baby powder asbestos claims.

“We are confident all parties will be treated equitably during this process,” said John Kim, chief legal officer of LTL, in the statement.

But Andrew Birchfield, an attorney with the firm Beasley Allen who represents women who have sued J&J, said this legal maneuver could make it far more difficult for his clients to recover damages.

“Women and families would be devastated, and it would just be a get-out-of-jail-free card for Johnson & Johnson,” Birchfield said.

J&J has had a mixed record defending itself against these talc-asbestos lawsuits.

ordered the firm to pay $2 billion to women who say J&J’s talc product caused their ovarian cancer.

Advocates are raising alarms about “bankruptcy grifters”

Critics say this is another instance of a growing trend: corporations and wealthy individuals using bankruptcy to block lawsuits without actually filing for bankruptcy themselves.

“Another giant corporation is abusing our bankruptcy system to shield its assets and evade liability for the harm it has caused people across the country,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., tweeted last week.

The American Association for Justice, a coalition of trial lawyers, also blasted J&J’s maneuver and called for legislation to block this kind of legal tactic.

“There are countless Americans suffering from cancer, or mourning the death of a loved one, because of the toxic baby powder that Johnson & Johnson put on the market,” the group said in a statement. “Their conduct and now bankruptcy gimmick is as despicable as it is brazen.”

In recent months, legal scholars, bipartisan members of Congress and consumer advocacy groups have raised alarms about the use of bankruptcy courts by wealthy and powerful entities seeking to block lawsuits.

Simon, at the University of Georgia, published a widely read paper in the Yale Law Journal in April that described wealthy companies like Johnson & Johnson as “bankruptcy grifters.”

She argued such firms and organizations receive the benefits of Chapter 11 protection while “incurring only a fraction of the associated burdens.”

Critics also say lax bankruptcy laws allow companies to “venue shop,” choosing to file for bankruptcy in federal jurisdictions viewed as friendly to corporations.

In this case, Johnson & Johnson is headquartered in New Jersey, but these legal maneuvers have been executed in North Carolina and Texas.

Similar legal strategies have been used in bankruptcy courts by members of the Sackler family who own OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma, as well as by the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Boy Scouts of America, which face a barrage of sex abuse-related claims.

Simon said this bankruptcy maneuver offers J&J significant advantages in negotiations that are likely to follow over a final settlement.

But she said the company may still be on the hook for sizable payouts to victims as determined by the bankruptcy court.

“[J&J is] not completely wiping their hands of the issue, and I think probably awareness of how that would be perceived is the reason why,” Simon said.

Johnson & Johnson, meanwhile, has asked a federal bankruptcy judge to halt progress on talc-asbestos claims while LTL’s bankruptcy filing is under review.

Judge Craig Whitley will hold a hearing on that request on Friday in Charlotte.

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Stocks making the biggest moves before the bell: AT&T, IBM, Crocs, Blackstone & more

Crocs store in New York City.

Michael Brochstein | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

Check out the companies making headlines before the bell:

AT&T (T) – AT&T rose 1.5% in premarket trading, after the company beat estimates by 9 cents with an adjusted quarterly profit of 87 cents per share. Revenue also came in above analyst forecasts, with AT&T seeing growth in demand for its phone and internet services as well as HBO and HBO Max.

Danaher (DHR) – The maker of medical and diagnostic equipment earned an adjusted $2.39 per share for the third quarter, 24 cents above estimates, with revenue also topping predictions. Danaher saw a significant contribution to results from Covid-19 testing and treatment. Shares were flat in the premarket.

Blackstone (BX) – The private equity firm stock gained 2.8% in premarket action, after earnings per share came in at $1.28, topping a consensus estimate of 91 cents. Blackstone benefited from strong investment performance, among other factors.

Dow Inc. (DOW) – The chemical maker came in 19 cents above estimates with an adjusted third-quarter profit of $2.75 per share, with revenue also above estimates. Dow saw improved performance in packaging and specialty plastics as well as coatings, and the stock rose 1.2% in premarket trading.

Quest Diagnostics (DGX) – The medical lab operator saw its shares jump 3.4% in the premarket following better-than-expected quarterly results. Quest earned an adjusted $3.96 per share, compared to a consensus estimate of $2.88 per share. The company’s results got a boost from increased Covid testing, and it raised its full year outlook.

Crocs (CROX) – Crocs surged 11.1% in the premarket, following adjusted quarterly earnings of $2.47 per share compared to a $1.88 consensus estimate. The shoe maker’s revenue also beat forecasts, with digital sales up 69%.

IBM (IBM) – IBM beat estimates by 2 cents with adjusted quarterly earnings of $2.52 per share, but revenue fell below analyst forecasts amid some weakness in the company’s cloud business and a pullback in client spending. IBM slid 5% in premarket trading.

CSX (CSX) – CSX reported quarterly earnings of 43 cents per share, 5 cents above estimates, with the railroad operator’s revenue exceeding estimates as well. The beat was driven by an increase in shipping volumes that was 3% above the strong year-ago level. CSX shares rallied 3.9% in premarket trading.

Tenet Healthcare (THC) – Tenet earned an adjusted $1.99 per share for its latest quarter, well above the $1.02 consensus estimate, and the hospital operator also reported better than expected revenue as well as raising its full-year earnings forecast. Tenet’s results got a boost from increased admissions as well as a jump in revenue per admission. The stock jumped 4% in premarket action.

Unilever (UL) – Unilever gained 1.3% in premarket trading after the consumer products giant reported better than expected quarterly results. The maker of Dove soap and Hellman’s mayonnaise was able to raise prices to offset higher input costs, but warned that it expects inflation was likely to accelerate in 2022.

Canadian National Railway (CNI) – The Wall Street Journal reported that activist investor Elliott Management has taken a “substantial” stake in the rail operator. Another activist investor, TCI Fund Management, already has a more than 5% stake in Canadian National. Shares were flat in the premarket.

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China’s falling home prices cast another shadow over economy

China’s housing market slump has intensified in recent weeks as sales plunge and more developers default on their debt. Now the downturn has reached another milestone: home prices have begun falling for the first time in six years.

The 0.08% drop in new-home prices across 70 cities in September Jetblue may be small, but it poses a potentially big blow for an economy that counts on property-related industries for almost a quarter of output.

Homebuyer sentiment is evaporating as a crisis at China Evergrande Group ripples through the industry. With prospective buyers already wondering whether cash-strapped builders can deliver their apartments, the risk is that they stay away in droves on fears that real estate is no longer a safe bet.

“Now the priority is to prevent a state of panic,” said Yan Yuejin, research director at Shanghai-based E-house China Research and Development Institute. “The home market has clearly entered a downward cycle.”

Developers are struggling with regulatory tightening that has helped to choke off fresh financing and made it harder to pay bills. Evergrande alone owes more than $300 billion, and has yet to finish homes for 1.6 million buyers who put down deposits.

The drop in confidence has affected people like Carl, a property investment consultant in eastern Hangzhou. He says the number of prospective clients tumbled around 90% last month from the second quarter.

“Business is so light,” Carl said, asking not to give his full name while talking about government policy. One customer “became less and less interested each time we called him, and later on he wouldn’t even pick up our calls.”

The real estate downturn is already hurting China’s economy, which is also being dragged down by power shortages. Economic growth slowed in the third quarter as the property and construction industries contracted for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

September is traditionally a peak season for the home market. Yet residential sales tumbled 17%, investments slid for the first time since early 2020, and the rate of failed land auctions climbed to the highest since at least 2018 — potentially hurting local government coffers.

Smaller cities, where the economy is weaker, were hit the most by last month’s price declines. Existing-home values slid 0.21% in 35 so-called tier-3 cities, the most since early 2015, National Bureau of Statistics figures showed Wednesday.

About three-quarters of cities saw second-hand home values fall from a month earlier. A price war is set to intensify in the coming months as landlords in wait-and-see mode surrender to the cooling trend, Yan said.

The downturn has continued into this month. Existing-home sales plunged 63% from a year earlier in the first 17 days of October, according to a Nomura Holdings Inc. note Monday.

“The effects of developers’ price discounts are waning,” Yang Kewei, a research director at China Real Estate Information Corp., said before the figures were released.

A Bloomberg index of China developer stocks fell 0.5% on Wednesday, taking its decline to 24% this year.

Fears of contagion from the crisis at Evergrande are brewing. Sinic Holdings Group Co. became the latest Chinese real estate firm to default as investors wait to see whether Evergrande will meet overdue interest payments on dollar bonds this week.

Yields on Chinese high-yield dollar bonds, which are dominated by builders, have climbed to their highest in about a decade, hurting a key funding channel for the sector.

That will have a knock-on effect on the broader economy, since Goldman Sachs Group Inc. estimates the property sector and related industries make up about 23% of gross domestic product.

So far, authorities are largely resisting the urge to ease up on the industry. Regulators have told banks to speed up mortgage lending again, Bloomberg reported last week, but the central bank signaled on Friday it would keep monetary policy broadly unchanged in the near term.

Moves in the property and financial markets are a “stress reaction” to some defaults, People’s Bank of China Deputy Governor Pan Gongsheng said Wednesday at a Beijing conference, China Business News reported. Property sector financing and costs have gradually been normalizing, Pan was quoted as saying.

There are “individual problems” in the real estate market, but the risks are controllable overall, Vice Premier Liu He said at the same event, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. Reasonable funding needs in the sector are being met, Liu was quoted as saying.

Some analysts expect the current real estate slump to be less harsh than previous ones because inventories remain relatively small. Developers have been more rational about building projects in coastal cities where demand is higher, said Chen Long, a partner at Beijing-based consultancy Plenum.

“The relatively low stock of unsold housing limits the risk of a major downturn,” Oxford Economics said in a note on Wednesday. “We think the most likely scenario is a contained short-term downturn.”

Still, any recovery will be difficult until home values resume rising.

“If property prices stop growing, we won’t buy,” said Jack, a tech worker in Shenzhen who didn’t want to be identified by his surname for fear of reprisals from his company. “Right now, I’ll sit and watch.”

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Values Like Teamwork, Integrity, Excellence Help Win Talent Wars, Outshine Rivals

When I founded Verit Advisors 12 years ago, I purposely embraced five values identified over 20 years of advising private culture-driven companies with an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). These values – Integrity, Partnerships, Excellence, Commitment and Innovation – are  listed prominently and proudly on our website’s Overview page. Several clients have told me they chose us as their ESOP advisor because we lead with and live our values.

Two recent surveys concluded that ESOPs and their employees weathered the pandemic better than comparable private and public companies. This stronger performance, I believe, demonstrates the worth of the principles and standards that many ESOPs live by. Together, these values represent a significant advantage in today’s riskier world, especially since a third new survey reports employees are drawn to values and “belief driven” employers.

Organizational psychologist Jack Wiley, for one, believes we’re in the midst of a Great Resignation, with 55% of people in the workforce reporting an intent to seek a new job within a year. But research he has done the past 10 years suggests that ESOP employees probably aren’t as apt to look elsewhere. His research covering 10,000 U.S. workers finds that nearly 40% want support, understanding and recognition from their managers and company. Research finds that employee ownership delivers those needs of employees.    

As I’ve written in the past, today’s business environment may be ideal for making the 2020s the “ESOP decade” – for both demographic and economic reasons. The pandemic has prompted Baby Boomer owners of successful private businesses, many of whom are reaching or have attained retirement age, to mull selling their company or divesting a stake in it. Economically, the positive elements include plentiful equity, low-cost debt financing, appealing valuations for private businesses, and the likelihood of higher tax rates that make a tax-advantage sale to an ESOP appealing.

More about that later. First, though, consider how ESOPs and their employees fared better during the pandemic.  A study completed by social survey firm SSRS for the Rutgers-funded Employee Ownership Foundation found that employees of ESOP firms with 50-500 associates suffered fewer economic hardships than those of conventional firms:


·        Employment dropped only 4.8% at ESOPs vs. 19.5% at others.

·        One-third of ESOPs cut hours vs. two-thirds at others.

·        Twenty-seven percent of ESOPs cut pay vs. 57% at others.

·        ESOP firms were more likely to adopt work-from-home options, with 81% of ESOPs sending workers home vs. 60% at others.

·        ESOPs were better able to preserve pre-pandemic work allocation, with 20% of ESOPs adopting work sharing vs. 41% at others.

In addition, the research affirmed the persistence of the better performance, noting that ESOPs outperformed non-ESOPs during the Great Recession of 2008.

A second survey, by John Zogby Strategies on behalf of the Employee-Owned S Corporations of America, also found that ESOP employees experienced dramatically less financial adversity during the pandemic and had more stable jobs and better housing security and retirement savings than their non-ESOP counterparts. This study documented that non-ESOP employees reported downsizing or job losses at six times the rate of their ESOP counterparts. And no ESOP employees surveyed were behind on their mortgage or rent versus over 25% of their non-ESOP peers.

In articulating the values that drive their responsibility to employees and their communities, ESOPs are ahead of the curve. A new study by Edelman, an authority on behaviors that build trust, found that the predominant employee today is “belief-driven,” as apt to seek employment and stay with a company because it is values-driven as is a consumer in buying and sticking long-term with a brand.

In the current talent wars, this values-based approach proves an advantage for employee ownership. Given ESOPs’ statistically superior track record against non-ESOPs in bad times and good, retirement-minded business owners who contemplate selling all or part of their business would do well to seriously explore the value – and differentiating values – of an ESOP.

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