Bitcoin has rebounded from major losses before, and its long-term growth remains impressive. Before the pandemic boom in crypto prices, its value hovered well below $10,000. True believers, who call themselves Bitcoin maximalists, remain adamant that the cryptocurrency will eventually break from its correlation with risk assets.

Michael Saylor, the chief executive of the business-intelligence company MicroStrategy, has spent billions of his firm’s money on Bitcoin, building up a stockpile of more than 125,000 coins. As the price of Bitcoin has cratered, the company’s stock has dropped roughly 75 percent since November.

In an email, Mr. Saylor blamed the crash on “traders and technocrats” who don’t appreciate Bitcoin’s long-term potential to transform the global financial system.

“In the near term, the market will be dominated by those with less appreciation of the virtues of Bitcoin,” he said. “Over the long term, the maximalists will be proven correct, because billions of people need this solution, and awareness is spreading to millions more each month.”

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Will President Biden Forgive Student Loan Debt?

Justin Nelson’s letter, one of the thousands that arrived at the White House this month, said he was proud to vote for President Biden back in 2020. Now he had a request: Would the president please honor a campaign promise and use the enclosed pen to wipe out thousands of dollars he owes in student loans?

The letter-writing campaign — #PensForBiden — is the latest attempt to sway Mr. Biden on a high-stakes dilemma as the midterm elections approach and much of his domestic agenda remains stalled: What to do about the $1.6 trillion that more than 45 million people owe the government?

So far, Mr. Biden has extended the pandemic pause on student loan payments four times, most recently until Aug. 31. Payments have now been on hold for more than two years, over two presidential administrations.

But all that time poses problems. Many of the issues that have long bedeviled the loan system have only grown more complicated during the pause, and receiving bills again will infuriate and frustrate millions of people who feel trapped by a broken system and crushing debt.

progressive wing of his Democratic Party. He backed the idea on the campaign trail in 2020. “I’m going to make sure that everybody in this generation gets $10,000 knocked off of their student debt as we try to get out of this God-awful pandemic,” he told an audience in Miami.

Senate Democrats lack the votes to help make good on that promise, leaving executive action as the only possible pathway. But close allies say some influential members of Mr. Biden’s team have been reluctant for him to do it — some because they disagree with the idea of forgiveness and some because they don’t believe he has the authority.

“He’s got lawyers telling him he shouldn’t,” said Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the third-ranking House Democrat and a key supporter of Mr. Biden. But Mr. Clyburn, the most senior Black lawmaker in Congress, said presidential actions had brought sweeping changes before, including Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and Harry Truman’s order banning segregation in the military.

“If executive orders can free slaves and integrate the armed services, it can eliminate debt,” Mr. Clyburn said.

analysis released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York last week. A separate study by the bank found that surveyed borrowers reported a 16 percent chance of quickly missing a payment if the moratorium ended.

Mr. Nelson, a 32-year-old bank operations associate in Minneapolis, said the pause had freed up $120 a month for home repairs and other expenses.

recent Morning Consult poll found that more than 60 percent of registered voters were in favor of some level of student debt cancellation. But despite Mr. Biden’s campaign promise, his advisers have been divided, three people with knowledge of the discussions said.

Some view debt cancellation as relief for critical constituencies, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. Others oppose it as bad policy or because they fear the economic effects of putting more money in consumers’ pockets when inflation is soaring.

But the pressure on Mr. Biden to act has only grown.

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, whose pledge to cancel up to $50,000 per borrower was a centerpiece of her 2020 presidential primary bid, and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, led more than 90 congressional Democrats in sending Mr. Biden a letter last month asking him to “provide meaningful student debt cancellation.”

voting rights protections and Mr. Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, as reason for the president to take matters into his own hands.

The New Georgia Project, a group focusing on voter registration founded by the gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, has cast debt relief as an action that would serve Mr. Biden’s pledge to put racial equity at the forefront of his presidency.

“Much of your administration’s legislative priorities have been stymied by obstructionist legislators,” the group wrote in a joint letter with the advocacy group the Debt Collective that was reviewed by The New York Times. “Student debt cancellation is a popular campaign promise that you, President Biden, have the executive power to deliver on your own.”

announcing the latest pause extension last month, Mr. Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, said he “hasn’t ruled out” the idea.

But Mr. Biden’s power to act unilaterally remains an open legal question.

Last April, at Mr. Biden’s request, the Education Department’s acting general counsel wrote an analysis of the legality of canceling debt via executive action. The analysis has not been released; a version provided in response to public records requests was fully redacted.

Proponents of forgiveness say the education secretary has broad powers to modify or cancel debt, which both the Trump and Biden administrations have leaned on to carry out the payment freeze that started in March 2020.

Legal challenges would be likely, although who would have standing is unclear. A Virginia Law Review article this month argued that the answer might be no one: States, for example, have little say in the operation of a federal loan system.

scathing criticism from government auditors and watchdogs, with even basic functions sometimes breaking down.

Some problems are being addressed. The Biden administration has wiped out $17 billion in debt for 725,000 borrowers by expanding and streamlining forgiveness programs for public servants and those who were defrauded by their schools, among others. Last week, it offered millions of borrowers added credit toward forgiveness because of previous payment-counting problems.

But there’s much still to do. The Education Department was deluged by applicants after it expanded eligibility for millions of public servants. And settlement talks in a class-action suit by nearly 200,000 borrowers who say they were defrauded by their schools recently broke down, setting up a trial this summer.

will be restored to good standing.

Canceling debt could make addressing all this easier, advocates say. Forgiving $10,000 per borrower would wipe out the debts of 10 million or more people, according to different analyses, which would free up resources to deal with structural flaws, proponents argue.

“We’ve known for years that the system is broken,” said Sarah Sattelmeyer, a higher-education project director at New America, a think tank. “Having an opportunity, during this timeout, to start fixing some of those major issues feels like a place where the Education Department should be focusing its attention.”

Voters like Ashleigh A. Mosley will be watching. Ms. Mosley, 21, a political science major at Albany State University in Georgia, said she had been swayed to vote for Mr. Biden because of his support for debt cancellation.

Ms. Mosley, who also attended Alabama A&M University, has already borrowed $52,000 and expects her balance to grow to $100,000 by the time she graduates. The debt already hangs over her head.

“I don’t think I’m going to even have enough money to start a family or buy a house because of the loans,” she said. “It’s just not designed for us to win.”

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Ukraine Live Updates: Putin Says Peace Talks Hit ‘Dead End’ and Vows That War Will Go On

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said on Tuesday that peace talks with Ukraine had reached a “dead end” and he falsely called the evidence of Russian atrocities in a Kyiv suburb “fake,” using his first extended remarks about the war in nearly a month to insist that Russia would persist in its invasion.

Speaking at a news conference at a newly built spaceport in Russia’s Far East, Mr. Putin said that Ukraine’s negotiating position at the talks, last held in Istanbul two weeks ago, was unacceptable. He pledged that Russia’s “military operation will continue until its full completion.”

But the operation’s goals, he said, centered on the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russia separatists have been fighting since 2014. It was the first time that Mr. Putin himself had effectively defined a more limited aim for the war, focusing on control of the Donbas — and not all of Ukraine, which Mr. Putin and his subordinates have said should not even be an independent country.

“We will act rhythmically and calmly, according to the plan that was initially proposed by the general staff,” Mr. Putin said. “Our goal is to help the people who live in the Donbas, who feel their unbreakable bond with Russia.”

Credit…Ronaldo Schemidt/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Just over a month ago, by contrast, Mr. Putin warned that Ukraine’s leaders risked “the future of Ukrainian statehood” by resisting the Russian invasion, which Kremlin military planners appeared to have mistakenly thought could be achieved with relative ease.

Still, Mr. Putin’s assertion of Russia’s more limited war aims in Ukraine cannot necessarily be taken at face value, and he may yet harbor an ultimate goal of taking control of the former Soviet republic. For months leading up to the Feb. 24 invasion, as Russian forces massed on Ukraine’s border, Russian officials insisted there were no plans to invade and that the buildup was merely a military exercise.

Ukrainian and Western officials have said they expect that Russia, having failed to seize the capital Kyiv and most other key cities in an invasion hampered by poor logistics, would soon mount an intense offensive in the Donbas, where the Russian military has been pouring in troops.

But almost seven weeks into the war, the Russians have yet to conquer Mariupol, the strategically important southern Donbas port that has come to symbolize the death and destruction wrought by the invaders so far. Western officials said they were evaluating unverified accounts that Russian forces may have dropped chemical weapons on a Mariupol steel mill that has become a bastion of Ukrainian army resistance. The use of chemical weapons is a war crime.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, referring to the unverified accounts from Mariupol, said he took them “as seriously as possible.”

“Even during the Second World War, the Donbas did not see such cruelty in such a short period of time,” Mr. Zelensky said in a video released early Wednesday. “And from who? From Russian troops.”

Russian forces also have repeatedly fired missiles and artillery indiscriminately at civilian targets they have little or no hope of taking, including those in and around the eastern city of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest. On Tuesday, New York Times journalists witnessed the aftermath of a Russian cluster munitions attack on a Kharkiv suburb that left a trail of casualties, craters and punctured roofs.

And the outside pressure on Mr. Putin continued to rise. On Tuesday evening, Ukraine’s security service said it had detained Viktor Medvedchuk, a pro-Russian oligarch and politician who is Mr. Putin’s closest ally in Ukraine, releasing a photo of him handcuffed and disheveled. President Biden took a new swipe at Mr. Putin, calling him a “dictator” who has committed “genocide,” and a U.S. official said the White House would soon announce new military assistance for Ukraine worth $750 million.

Credit…Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

Mr. Putin’s appearance on Tuesday — coming after several weeks in which the public glimpsed the Russian leader mainly in Kremlin footage showing him holding meetings by videoconference — appeared intended to shore up domestic support for a war with no clear end in sight.

Marking Cosmonauts’ Day — the anniversary of the Soviet Cold War triumph in which Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space — Mr. Putin used the new spaceport, the Vostochny Cosmodrome, as his stage.

He was accompanied to the spaceport by President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, Mr. Putin’s closest ally, an apparent reminder to Russians that they were not completely isolated in the war.

Mr. Putin parried a question from a Russian journalist about the atrocities in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha by retreating into his familiar arguments about Western “double standards.” He claimed that the world had been silent when the United States bombed Syria in the campaign against the Islamic State, and that Mr. Lukashenko had provided evidence that the scenes in Bucha were an orchestrated, British “provocation.”

“We discussed in detail this psychological special operation that the English carried out,” Mr. Lukashenko said in a news conference alongside Mr. Putin, referring to Bucha.

Credit…Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik

In fact, independent investigators, including journalists for The New York Times, have documented evidence of numerous execution-style killings, rapes and acts of torture against civilians in Bucha that had been carried out by Russian occupation troops before they retreated last month.

But inside Russia, Mr. Putin’s pronouncements are going increasingly unchallenged, with access to Facebook and Instagram and many independent news websites blocked, and a draconian wartime censorship law punishing any deviation from the Kremlin line with as much as 15 years in prison. While prices are rising and layoffs loom as Western companies pull out of Russia, there has been no sign yet of widespread public discontent, and pollsters see significant public support for the war.

It was the alliance of Western countries, Mr. Putin insisted, that would soon feel the political backlash from the economic pain wrought by the sanctions, as evidenced by rising prices for food and fuel. European countries, in particular, had shown yet again that they were collectively acting as a “poodle” of the United States, he said.

“They always miscalculate, not understanding that in difficult conditions, the Russian people always unite,” Mr. Putin said.

Ever since he appeared before tens of thousands at a Moscow stadium on March 18, Mr. Putin’s public appearances have been limited to brief clips showing him meeting with government officials, mostly by video link, in which he does not comment on the peace talks or the war. Instead, he lets his Defense Ministry and other officials do the talking.

Mr. Putin emerged from his cocoon on Monday for an off-camera meeting at his residence outside Moscow with Chancellor Karl Nehammer of Austria, the first Western leader to visit with him since the Feb. 24 invasion. Mr. Nehammer said the session left him convinced that Mr. Putin was planning a large and violent military assault on the Donbas.

On Tuesday, Mr. Putin arrived in the Amur Region of Russia’s Far East and was shown in video released by the Kremlin chatting informally with workers at the Vostochny Cosmodrome, a sprawling facility that has been plagued by construction delays and remains unfinished.

While a key initial thrust of Russia’s invasion ended in a retreat, Mr. Putin insisted on Tuesday — as he did in the first weeks of the war — that the plan for what he calls the “special military operation” had not been altered. And he argued that what he called the West’s economic “blitzkrieg” to humble Russia had failed, pointing back to Soviet achievements in the space race as evidence that Russians could thrive despite sanctions.

Mr. Putin said Russia would move ahead with its lunar program, which includes a moon lander scheduled to be launched this year. And in a nod to Belarus’s status as Russia’s key ally in the war, Mr. Putin promised to send a Belarusian cosmonaut into space as early as next year.

“We are not going to isolate ourselves, and it is generally impossible to isolate anyone in the modern world, and most certainly not as huge a country as Russia,” Mr. Putin said.

Western countries have promised to continue to strengthen sanctions against Russia, with Europe increasingly discussing limits on Russian energy imports and more international businesses quitting Russia entirely. On Tuesday, Nokia, the Finnish telecommunications giant, joined its Swedish rival Ericsson in leaving Russia, portending new problems for the country’s internal communications.

Mr. Putin offered no hint on Tuesday that he was prepared to make peace before assaulting Ukrainian troops in the Donbas, which Western officials fear could be the most violent phase of the war so far. He insisted, as he has before, that Russia had no choice but to invade, alleging that the West was turning the country into an “anti-Russian bridgehead.”

“What is happening in Ukraine is a tragedy,” Mr. Putin said. “They just didn’t leave us a choice. There was no choice.”

Reporting was contributed by Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Natalia Yermak from Babai, Ukraine; Ivan Nechepurenko from Istanbul; Marc Santora from Warsaw; and Shashank Bengali and Megan Specia from London.

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Ukraine Live Updates: Russia Prepares for Stepped-Up Assault on the East

Austria’s chancellor visited President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Monday — the first Western leader to see him in person since the Ukraine invasion — and said he came away feeling not only pessimistic about peace prospects but fearing that Mr. Putin intended to drastically intensify the brutality of the war.

Describing Mr. Putin as dismissive of atrocities in Ukraine, the visiting chancellor, Karl Nehammer, said it was clear that Russian forces were mobilizing for a large-scale assault in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, the next phase of a war now in its seventh week.

“The battle being threatened cannot be underestimated in its violence,” Mr. Nehammer said in a news conference after the 75-minute meeting at Mr. Putin’s residence outside Moscow that the visitor described as blunt and direct.

The Austrian chancellor said he had told the Russian president that as long as people were dying in Ukraine, “the sanctions against Russia will stay in place and will be toughened further.”

The Kremlin, playing down the meeting’s significance in a terse statement, said only that it was “not long by the standards of recent times.”

Even as Mr. Nehammer was visiting, Russian forces were bombarding Ukrainian cities and towns, and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said “tens of thousands are dead” in Mariupol, the besieged southern city that has been the scene of the most intense destruction of the war.

Credit…Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

And Mr. Putin, despite Russia’s military blunders in the war, and for all the Western efforts to ostracize him, still appeared in control of the crisis. He has severely repressed any dissent and benefited from widespread domestic support, continuing revenues from oil and gas sales to Europe, the implicit backing of China and the refusal of much of the world to join sanctions against Russia.

Many commentators in the West had criticized the Austrian chancellor — his country is a member of the European Union but not of NATO — for having visited Moscow at all, seemingly playing into Mr. Putin’s narrative that American-led efforts to isolate Russia would necessarily end in failure.

Mr. Nehammer told reporters afterward that he had tried to confront Mr. Putin with the horrors of war and of the war crimes that Russian troops are accused of having committed in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha and elsewhere. He said he also had told Mr. Putin about the destroyed Russian tanks he saw on a recent visit to Ukraine, to make clear the enormous loss of life that Russia was suffering.

Mr. Nehammer said that Mr. Putin had brushed aside the accusations of war crimes as having been staged by Ukraine.

At the end, Mr. Putin told him: “It would be better if it” — the war — “ended soon,” Mr. Nehammer said, but the meaning of those words was unclear, since they could either signal that Mr. Putin was prepared for further peace talks or that he could be readying a quick and brutal assault in the Donbas, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting Ukraine’s military since 2014.

“We can have no illusions: President Putin has totally adopted the logic of war, and is acting accordingly,” Mr. Nehammer said. “This is why I believe it is so important to permanently confront him with the facts of the war.”

Credit…Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press

How much more brutal the war could become was signaled in an interview with Eduard Basurin, a separatist commander, aired on Russian state television. Mr. Basurin said that with Ukrainian forces ensconced in underground fortifications at a steel plant in Mariupol, storming the redoubt did not make sense. Instead, he said, Russian forces needed to first block the exits and then “turn to the chemical troops who will find a way to smoke the moles out of their holes.”

Mr. Putin was silent on Monday but was expected to speak publicly on Tuesday, when he will travel to the Vostochny spaceport in Russia’s far east with President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, his ally, to mark the annual Cosmonauts’ Day.

The Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine has increasingly been framed by Mr. Putin as not against that country, but against the West — specifically, the United States, as the supposed patron of Mr. Zelensky’s government and its aspirations to escape Russia’s sphere of influence as a former Soviet republic.

Sergey V. Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said in a Russian television interview that aired on Monday that what the Kremlin calls its “special operation” in Ukraine is aimed at rolling back American influence — which the Russian government characterizes as the root of the world’s ills.

“Our special military operation is designed to put an end to the reckless expansion, and the reckless course toward complete dominance, of the United States,” Mr. Lavrov said.

The United States and European Union have imposed increasingly severe economic sanctions on Russia over the invasion and are sending weapons to Ukraine’s military. But they do not want to get drawn into a war with Russia. And the European Union remains reluctant to ban Russian oil and natural gas, which remain critical to the bloc’s own economic health.

E.U. foreign ministers met on Monday in Luxembourg and the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell Fontelles, said that “nothing is off the table, including sanctions on oil and gas.”

Credit…Pool photo by Chung Sung-Jun

While ministers discussed a possible phaseout of Russian oil, more easily replaceable from other suppliers than gas, the meeting also laid bare the bloc’s divisions. Austria, Hungary and Germany opposed any effort, for now, to restrict Russian gas imports.

Still, European Union leaders were expected to approve another 500 billion euros in funds to repay member states for sending weapons to Ukraine, which would mean a total of 1.5 billion euros so far — nearly equivalent to the $1.7 billion in weapons that the United States has authorized.

Russian troops, having retreated from northern Ukraine after a failed effort last month to reach the capital, Kyiv, have been resupplying and regrouping in Russia and Belarus so they can join the battle in eastern Ukraine. But Western officials said on Monday that effort may still take some time.

Ukrainian officials have been warning since last week that civilians in east Ukraine should flee while they can. Mr. Zelensky warned that tens of thousands of Russian troops were preparing a renewed assault there.

If and when the southern port city of Mariupol finally falls, Russian troops can move north to meet up with Russian troops attempting to move south from Izyum and try to encircle the bulk of Ukraine’s army, which is concentrated further east, said Mathieu Boulègue, an expert on the Russian military at Chatham House, the London research institution.

Credit…Reuters

That is easier said than done, Mr. Boulègue said, as the battered Russian troops await reinforcements. The Ukrainians, he said, were trying to block the Russians and organize a counterattack that would be more complicated than the fighting around Kyiv, which had forced the Russians to retreat.

Given the reports of Russian atrocities at Bucha, Kramatorsk, Mariupol and other cities, negotiations between the Ukrainian and Russian governments are on hold.

But few believe that the antagonists are ready for real talks, because Mr. Putin needs to show more military gains and because the Ukrainians believe that they can still repel the Russians, said Ivo Daalder, former U.S. ambassador to NATO.

“The Ukrainians think they have an opportunity not just to prevent Russia from gaining more ground in the east but expelling them from there, while Putin needs to find something he can sell as a victory,” Mr. Daalder said. “So diplomacy is not going anywhere.”

If and when talks on a settlement finally occur, Mr. Putin will inevitably be part of them, said François Heisbourg, a French defense expert. Diplomats deal with leaders of governments, no matter how distasteful, he said.

The West also hopes that increasing economic pain will encourage Mr. Putin to scale down the war and end it. Russia is already is “deep recession” and its economy is expected to shrink by 11 percent this year, the World Bank reported.

Credit…Kirill Kudryavtsev/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

But the impact is severe on Ukraine, too. The bank forecast that Ukraine’s economy would shrink by about 45 percent this year because of the Russian invasion and the impact of a “deep humanitarian crisis.”

Mr. Putin originally named one goal of the war as the “denazification” of Ukraine, falsely labeling as Nazis those who resist Russian domination. An article on Monday in a Russian state newspaper, Parlamentskaya Gazeta, written by an adviser to the chairman of Russia’s lower house of Parliament, expanded on that concept to define the enemy as “Ukrainian-American neo-Nazism.”

The fight also included a “cold war” against enemies of the state inside Russia, the article said, adding: “The denazification of Ukraine is impossible without a parallel denazification of Russia.”

It was the latest sign that, even as the war in Ukraine rages, Mr. Putin is priming his security apparatus for an ever-widening intolerance for dissent. The crackdown has accelerated in recent weeks, with pro-war Russians turning in teachers and neighbors who speak out against the war.

Last Friday, Russia closed some of the last remaining independent institutions of civil society, including the Carnegie Moscow Center and the Moscow offices of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. It expanded the practice of naming government critics as “foreign agents,” for the first time adding a popular musician to the list: the rapper Ivan Dryomin, 25, who goes by the name Face.

Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Steven Erlanger reported from Brussels and Anton Troianovski from Istanbul. Reporting was contributed by Monika Pronczuk in Brussels.

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Elon Musk’s arrival stirs fears among some Twitter employees, article with image

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  • Concerns center around Twitter’s ability to moderate content
  • Fear Musk’s views on moderation may allow trolling to flourish
  • Twitter management, employees make daily decisions -spokesperson

April 7 (Reuters) – News of Tesla (TSLA.O) Chief Executive Elon Musk taking a board seat at Twitter (TWTR.N) has some Twitter employees panicking over the future of the social media firm’s ability to moderate content, company insiders told Reuters.

Within hours of the surprise disclosure this week that Musk, a self-described “free speech absolutist,” acquired enough shares to become the top Twitter shareholder, political conservatives began flooding social media with calls for the return of Donald Trump. The former U.S. president was banned from Facebook and Twitter after the Jan 6. Capitol riot over concerns around incitement of violence.

“Now that @ElonMusk is Twitter’s largest shareholder, it’s time to lift the political censorship. Oh… and BRING BACK TRUMP!,” tweeted Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert on Monday.

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Despite Twitter’s reiteration this week that the board does not make policy decisions, four Twitter employees who spoke with Reuters said they were concerned about Musk’s ability to influence the company’s policies on abusive users and harmful content.

With Musk on the board, the employees said his views on moderation could weaken years-long efforts to make Twitter a place of healthy discourse, and might allow trolling and mob attacks to flourish.

In the wake of Trump’s ban from Facebook and Twitter, the billionaire tweeted that many people would be unhappy with U.S. tech companies acting “as the de facto arbiter of free speech.”

MUSK’S INTENTIONS

Musk has not articulated what he wants to do as a new board member but he has telegraphed his intentions with his Twitter activity. A week before Musk disclosed a 9.1% stake in Twitter, he polled his 80 million followers on whether the site adhered to the principle of free speech, and the majority voted ‘no.’

The employees, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution, point to Musk’s history of using Twitter to attack critics. In 2018, Musk came under fire for accusing a British diver who had helped rescue children trapped in a cave in Thailand of being a pedophile.

Musk won a defamation case brought by the diver in 2019.

When asked for comment, a Twitter spokesperson repeated a statement from Tuesday that the board “plays an important advisory and feedback role across the entirety of our service,” but daily operations and decisions are made by Twitter’s management and employees.

“Twitter is committed to impartiality in the development and enforcement of its policies and rules,” the spokesperson said.

Some employees that Reuters spoke to were not so sure about the company’s commitment to this.

“I find it hard to believe (the board) doesn’t have influence,” said one employee. “If that’s the case, why would Elon want a board seat?”

But other employees Reuters spoke to said that Musk’s involvement could help quicken the pace of new feature and product launches, and provide a fresh perspective as an active user of Twitter.

Neither Tesla nor Musk responded to requests for comment.

Twitter’s board figures prominently in discussions within Twitter, more so than at other tech companies, one employee said. That is because unlike Meta Platforms Inc, where founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg controls the company through a dual class share structure, Twitter only has a single class of shares, making it more vulnerable to activists like Musk. Teams within Twitter often consider how to communicate a strategy or decision to the board, for instance, the employee said.

On Thursday, Musk tweeted an image from 2018 of him smoking weed on the Joe Rogan podcast on Spotify, with the text: “Twitter’s next board meeting is going to be lit.”

TRUMP’S RETURN?

One employee familiar with the company’s operations said there were no current plans to reinstate Trump. A Twitter spokesperson said there were no plans to reverse any policy decisions.

But a veteran auto analyst who covers Musk’s operating style at Tesla said such a decision may only be a matter of time.

“If Donald Trump was actually rich, he would have liked to have done the same thing but he couldn’t afford it. So Elon is doing what Trump would have liked to have done,” said Guidehouse Insights analyst Sam Abuelsamid.

“I wouldn’t be surprised” if Twitter restores Trump’s account now that Elon owns nearly 10% of the company,” he said.

Longer term, employees said Musk’s involvement may change Twitter’s corporate culture, which they say currently values inclusivity. Musk has faced widespread criticism for posting memes that mocked transgender people and efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19, and for comparing some world leaders to Hitler.

Several employees were alarmed by the warm welcome Musk received from Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal and cofounder Jack Dorsey, which prompted them to hit the job market this week.

“Some people are dusting off their resumes,” one person said. “I don’t want to work for somebody (like Musk).”

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Reporting by Sheila Dang in Dallas; additional reporting by Hyunjoo Jin in San Francisco; Editing by Kenneth Li, Aurora Ellis and Bernadette Baum

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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How Roman Abramovich Used Shell Companies and Wall Street Ties to Invest in the U.S.

In July 2012, a shell company registered in the British Virgin Islands wired $20 million to an investment vehicle in the Cayman Islands that was controlled by a large American hedge fund firm.

The wire transfer was the culmination of months of work by a small army of handlers and enablers in the United States, Europe and the Caribbean. It was a stealth operation intended, at least in part, to mask the source of the funds: Roman Abramovich.

For two decades, the Russian oligarch has relied on this circuitous investment strategy — deploying a string of shell companies, routing money through a small Austrian bank and tapping the connections of leading Wall Street firms — to quietly place billions of dollars with prominent U.S. hedge funds and private equity firms, according to people with knowledge of the transactions.

The key was that every lawyer, corporate director, hedge fund manager and investment adviser involved in the process could honestly say he or she wasn’t working directly for Mr. Abramovich. In some cases, participants weren’t even aware of whose money they were helping to manage.

asked Congress for more resources as it helps to oversee the Biden administration’s sanctions program along with a new Justice Department kleptocracy task force. And on Capitol Hill, lawmakers are pushing a bill, known as the Enablers Act, that would require investment advisers to identify and more carefully vet their customers.

Mr. Abramovich has an estimated fortune of $13 billion, derived in large part from his well-timed purchase of an oil company owned by the Russian government that he sold back to the state at a massive profit. This month, European and Canadian authorities imposed sanctions on him and froze his assets, which include the famed Chelsea Football Club in London. The United States has not placed sanctions on him.

a pair of luxury residences near Aspen, Colo. But he also invested large sums of money with financial institutions. His ties to Mr. Putin and the source of his wealth have long made him a controversial figure.

Many of Mr. Abramovich’s U.S. investments were facilitated by a small firm, Concord Management, which is led by Michael Matlin, according to people with knowledge of the transactions who were not authorized to speak publicly.

Mr. Matlin declined to comment beyond issuing a statement that described Concord as “a consulting firm that provides independent third-party research, due diligence and monitoring of investments.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. Abramovich didn’t respond to emails and text messages requesting comment.

Concord, founded in 1999, didn’t directly manage any of Mr. Abramovich’s money. It acted more like an investment adviser and due diligence firm, making recommendations to the directors of shell companies in Caribbean tax havens about potential investments in marquee American investment firms, according to people briefed on the matter.

Paycheck Protection Program loan worth $265,000 during the pandemic. (Concord repaid the loan, a spokesman said.)

Concord’s secrecy made some on Wall Street wary.

In 2015 and 2016, investigators at State Street, a financial services firm, filed “suspicious activity reports” alerting the U.S. government to transactions that Concord arranged involving some of Mr. Abramovich’s Caribbean shell companies, BuzzFeed News reported. State Street declined to comment.

American financial institutions are required to file such reports to help the U.S. government combat money laundering and other financial crimes, though the reports are not themselves evidence of any wrongdoing having been committed.

But for the most part, American financiers had no inkling about — or interest in discovering — the source of the money that Concord was directing. As long as routine background checks didn’t turn up red flags, it was fine.

Paulson & Company, the hedge fund run by John Paulson, received investments from a company that Concord represented, according to a person with knowledge of the investment. Mr. Paulson said in an email that he had “no knowledge” of Concord’s investors.

Concord also steered tens of millions of dollars from two shell companies to Highland Capital, a Texas hedge fund. Highland hired a unit of JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s largest bank, to ensure that the companies were legitimate and that the investments complied with anti-money-laundering rules, according to federal court records in an unrelated bankruptcy case.

“corporate governance services” to investment managers.

For $15,000 a year, plus other fees, HighWater would provide an employee to sit on the board of the financial vehicle that the fund manager was expected to launch to accept the wealthy family’s money, according to emails between the fund manager and a HighWater executive reviewed by The New York Times.

The fund manager also brought on Boris Onefater, who ran a small U.S. consulting firm, Constellation, as another board member. Mr. Onefater said in an interview that he couldn’t remember whose money the Cayman vehicle was managing. “You’re asking for ancient history,” he said. “I don’t recall Mr. Abramovich’s name coming up.”

The fund manager hired Mourant, an offshore law firm, to get the paperwork for the Cayman vehicle in order. The managing partner of Mourant did not respond to requests for comment.

He also hired GlobeOp Financial Services, which provides administration services to hedge funds, to ensure that the Cayman entity was complying with anti-money-laundering laws and wasn’t doing business with anyone who had been placed under U.S. government sanctions, according to a copy of the contract.

“We abide by all laws in all jurisdictions in which we do business,” said Emma Lowrey, a spokeswoman for SS&C Technologies, a financial technology company based in Windsor, Conn., that now owns GlobeOp.

John Lewis, a HighWater executive, said in an email to The Times that his firm received four referrals from Concord from 2011 to 2014 and hadn’t dealt with the firm since then.

“We were aware of no links to Russian money or Roman Abramovich,” Mr. Lewis said. He added that GlobeOp “did not identify anything unusual, high risk, or that there were any politically exposed persons with respect to any investors.”

The Cayman fund opened for business in July 2012 when $20 million arrived by wire transfer. The expectation was that tens of millions more would follow, although additional funds never showed up. The Cayman fund was run as an independent entity, using the same investment strategy — buying and selling exchange-traded funds — employed by the fund manager’s main U.S. hedge fund.

The $20 million was wired from an entity called Caythorpe Holdings, which was registered in the British Virgin Islands.

Documents accompanying the wire transfer showed that the money originated with Kathrein Privatbank in Vienna. It arrived in Grand Cayman after passing through another Austrian bank, Raiffeisen, and then JPMorgan. (JPMorgan was serving as a correspondent bank, essentially acting as an intermediary for banks with smaller international networks.)

A spokesman for Kathrein declined to comment. A spokeswoman for JPMorgan declined to comment. Representatives for Raiffeisen did not respond to requests for comment.

The fund manager noticed that some of the documentation was signed by a lawyer named Natalia Bychenkova. The Russian-sounding name led him to conclude that he was probably managing money for a Russian oligarch. But the fund manager wasn’t bothered, since GlobeOp had verified that Caythorpe was compliant with know-your-customer and anti-money-laundering rules and laws.

He didn’t know who controlled Caythorpe, and he didn’t ask.

In early 2014, after Russia invaded the Ukrainian region of Crimea, markets tanked. The fund manager made a bearish bet on the direction of the stock market, and his fund got crushed when stocks rallied.

The next year, Caythorpe withdrew its money from the Cayman fund. Caythorpe was liquidated in 2017.

The fund manager said he didn’t realize until this month that he had been investing money for Mr. Abramovich.

Susan C. Beachy and Kitty Bennett contributed research. Maureen Farrell contributed reporting.

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Ukraine Live Updates: Some Survivors Pulled From Damaged Theater Where Civilians Sheltered

It was a victory that came at the cost of a city.

After weeks of laying siege to Volnovakha in eastern Ukraine, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, the Russian defense ministry’s spokesman, claimed on March 11 that it had been “liberated.”

But after a relentless bombardment of the city, Russia was asserting control over a wasteland of rubble and ash.

When Russia launched its war in Ukraine last month, the Kremlin repeatedly said it was acting to prevent a “genocide” in the breakaway regions of Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.

As the war entered its fourth week on Thursday, Russian forces had their most complete control in territory around this area, known as the Donbas. They are also leaving a trail of death and destruction, the scope of which is only vaguely known to outside observers, as the fighting rages on. But witness testimony, photographs, video evidence, statements from local officials and satellite imagery all paint a consistent picture of destruction on a vast scale.

The city of Izyum — which is nearly 200 miles north of Mariupol, the besieged city on the Sea of Azov — has also been surrounded by Russian forces for two weeks, and officials there say that tens of thousands of people are facing a situation as dire as the one in Mariupol.

“No water, no light, no heat, no food, no medicine, no communication. The situation is no better than Mariupol,” Izyum’s deputy mayor, Volodymyr Matsokin, wrote on Facebook on Tuesday. “There is no one to bury the dead. Medical care is not provided.”

Before the war, Severodonetsk and Lysychansk were cities with populations of more than 100,000. Witnesses say both are in ruins. Russian shelling overnight targeting the city of Rubizhne, population 50,000, turned whole streets into caldrons of flames, the head of the Luhansk regional military administration, Sergiy Haidai, wrote on Telegram.

“At least 27 houses were set on fire,” he wrote.

Before it fell, Volnovakha issued the same kind of urgent pleas for help and humanitarian assistance now echoing out across the east.

About 40 miles north of Mariupol, Volnovakha was considered a key strategic target for Russian forces as they pressed to move on Mariupol, secure the region and establish a land bridge from Crimea to Russia.

Ukrainian officials estimate that 90 percent of the buildings have been destroyed and are uninhabitable. There is no official estimate of those killed.

“In general, Volnovakha with its infrastructure as such no longer exists,” Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of the Donetsk region, told the Ukrainian television channel Direct.

Credit…Maxar Technologies

Dmytro, 29, described a scene of chaos and desperation when he fled with three older relatives on March 4. People rushed to the main town square, hoping to escape, when more Russian shells exploded nearby.

“All these people had to hide in buildings,” he said. “But since these buildings were all destroyed, they just hid behind the burned walls. Wherever they could.”

“Around the square there are boutique shopping buildings, stores. Everything was burned black,” he said. The train station was also burning. He said that in the main square he saw a body, which he only realized was dead after approaching.

“Thank God it didn’t last long,” he said. “Someone came to pick us up. Regular civilians came in cars to help to get people out, too. Whoever had a place in the car were picking others up. Thank God we were able to get out of there.”

Pavlo Yeshtokin, 30, also escaped. But his father, who had worked at a supermarket called the Generous Basket, remained in the city longer. Just six days into the war, he told his son that almost everything was destroyed.

All of the newer buildings and the main city market were burned down, he said. Old houses are more durable, he said, and were standing even if they were missing a wall.

Mr. Yeshtokin, a journalist, said that when he fled, he did not take much, thinking he would be able to return. He said that there were no Ukrainian authorities left in the city, and that no humanitarian aid could be brought in from the Ukrainian government.

The day after the Russians took control, the Defense Ministry in Moscow issued a statement saying that “appropriate humanitarian measures are being carried out with the population, and none of the residents are going to leave their homes.”

The claim could not be independently verified.

Mr. Yeshtoken said he had seen videos on the Russian news media showing its soldiers giving out assistance, but he thinks they were a distorted version of reality. “Nobody looks normal, lively — they are red-faced, seemingly shellshocked, scared, moving slowly, sitting on the ground,” he said.

There has been no effort to rebuild anything, he said. “People keep living in the basements and just go around from house to house,” he said.

His grandmother is among those left to survive in the ruins.

“My father went to his 92-year-old mother,” Pavlo said. “She did not understand what was happening. He wrapped her in blankets, talked to her and left.”

“The next day he was evacuated, but his grandmother stayed there. We don’t know what’s happened to her,” he said.

Attempts to reach her have failed, he said. His father has not been allowed to return to look for her, and even relatives on the Russian side of the border cannot access the city. They have been told that people can come to Russia, but no one is allowed to travel from Russia to the ruins of Volnovakha.

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Why the Fed Raised Interest Rates

Prices for groceries, couches and rent are all climbing rapidly, and Federal Reserve officials have been warily eyeing that trend.

On Wednesday, they took their biggest step yet toward counteracting it, raising their policy interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point.

That small change carries a major signal: Policymakers have fully pivoted to inflation-fighting mode and will do what is necessary to make sure price gains do not remain hot for months and years to come.

The Fed is acting at a tense moment for many consumers and investors. Here’s what happened, and what it is likely to mean for markets and the economy.

other types of interest rates — on mortgages, car loans and credit cards. Some of the interest rates that consumers pay to borrow money have already moved higher in anticipation of the Fed’s coming adjustments.

Policymakers projected that six more similarly sized rate increases would happen this year.

perpetuate supply chain disruptions.

The Fed is also in charge of fostering maximum employment, but with hiring rapid and more open jobs than there are available workers, that goal appears to have been achieved, at least for now.

already beginning to see). With less activity happening, companies need fewer workers. Less demand for labor makes for slower wage growth, which cools demand further. Higher rates effectively pour cold water on the economy.

The effects of higher rates might be visible in markets. Higher interest rates tend to eventually lower stock prices — in part because it costs businesses more to operate when money is expensive to borrow, and in part because Fed rate increases have a track record of touching off recessions, which are terrible for stocks. Pricier borrowing costs also tend to weigh on the value of other assets, like houses, as would-be buyers shy away from the market.

The Fed is also preparing to shrink its balance sheet of bond holdings, and many economists expect Fed officials to release a plan to do so as soon as May. That could push up longer-term rates and will probably further pull down stock, bond and house prices.

You might wonder why the Fed would want to slow down the economy and hurt the stock market. The central bank wants a strong economy, but sustainability is the name of the game: A little pain today could mean less pain tomorrow.

The Fed is trying to get inflation down to a level where price increases do not influence people’s spending choices or daily lives. Officials hope that if they can slow the economy enough to reduce inflation, without damaging it so much that it tips into a recession, they can set the stage for a long and steady expansion.

“I think it’s more likely than not that we can achieve what we call a soft landing,” Mr. Powell said during recent testimony before lawmakers.

The Fed has let the economy down easy before: In the early 1990s it raised rates without sending unemployment higher, and it appeared to be in the process of achieving a soft landing before the pandemic struck, having raised rates between 2015 and 2018.

But economists have warned that it could be a tough act to pull off this time around.

“I wouldn’t rule it out,” Donald Kohn, a former Fed vice chair, said of a soft landing. But he said a clampdown on demand that pushed unemployment higher was also possible.

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Ukrainian Minister Has Turned Digital Tools Into Modern Weapons of War

After war began last month, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine turned to Mykhailo Fedorov, a vice prime minister, for a key role.

Mr. Fedorov, 31, the youngest member of Mr. Zelensky’s cabinet, immediately took charge of a parallel prong of Ukraine’s defense against Russia. He began a campaign to rally support from multinational businesses to sunder Russia from the world economy and to cut off the country from the global internet, taking aim at everything from access to new iPhones and PlayStations to Western Union money transfers and PayPal.

To achieve Russia’s isolation, Mr. Fedorov, a former tech entrepreneur, used a mix of social media, cryptocurrencies and other digital tools. On Twitter and other social media, he pressured Apple, Google, Netflix, Intel, PayPal and others to stop doing business in Russia. He helped form a group of volunteer hackers to wreak havoc on Russian websites and online services. His ministry also set up a cryptocurrency fund that has raised more than $60 million for the Ukrainian military.

The work has made Mr. Fedorov one of Mr. Zelensky’s most visible lieutenants, deploying technology and finance as modern weapons of war. In effect, Mr. Fedorov is creating a new playbook for military conflicts that shows how an outgunned country can use the internet, crypto, digital activism and frequent posts on Twitter to help undercut a foreign aggressor.

McDonald’s have withdrawn from Russia, with the war’s human toll provoking horror and outrage. Economic sanctions by the United States, European Union and others have played a central role in isolating Russia.

Mr. Zelensky was elected in 2019, he appointed Mr. Fedorov, then 28, to be minister of digital transformation, putting him in charge of digitizing Ukrainian social services. Through a government app, people could pay speeding tickets or manage their taxes. Last year, Mr. Fedorov visited Silicon Valley to meet with leaders including Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple.

Russia invaded Ukraine, Mr. Fedorov immediately pressured tech companies to pull out of Russia. He made the decision with Mr. Zelensky’s backing, he said, and the two men speak every day.

“I think this choice is as black and white as it ever gets,” Mr. Fedorov said. “It is time to take a side, either to take the side of peace or to take the side of terror and murder.”

On Feb. 25, he sent letters to Apple, Google and Netflix, asking them to restrict access to their services in Russia. Less than a week later, Apple stopped selling new iPhones and other products in Russia.

Russia damaged the country’s main telecommunications infrastructure. Two days after contacting Mr. Musk, a shipment of Starlink equipment arrived in Ukraine.

Since then, Mr. Fedorov said he has periodically exchanged text messages with Mr. Musk.

were put on pause following the invasion. Russia, a signatory to the accord, has tried to use final approval of the deal as leverage to soften sanctions imposed because of the war.

But while many companies have halted business in Russia, more could be done, he said. Apple and Google should pull their app stores from Russia and software made by companies like SAP was also being used by scores of Russian businesses, he has noted.

In many instances, the Russian government is cutting itself off from the world, including blocking access to Twitter and Facebook. On Friday, Russian regulators said they would also restrict access to Instagram and called Meta an “extremist” organization.

Some civil society groups have questioned whether Mr. Fedorov’s tactics could have unintended consequences. “Shutdowns can be used in tyranny, not in democracy,” the Internet Protection Society, an internet freedom group in Russia, said in a statement earlier this week. “Any sanctions that disrupt access of Russian people to information only strengthen Putin’s regime.”

Mr. Fedorov said it was the only way to jolt the Russian people into action. He praised the work of Ukraine-supporting hackers who have been coordinating loosely with Ukrainian government to hit Russian targets.

“After cruise missiles started flying over my house and over houses of many other Ukrainians, and also things started exploding, we decided to go into counter attack,” he said.

Mr. Fedorov’s work is an example of Ukraine’s whatever-it-takes attitude against a larger Russian army, said Max Chernikov, a software engineer who is supporting the volunteer group known as the IT Army of Ukraine.

“He acts like every Ukrainian — doing beyond his best,” he said.

Mr. Fedorov, who has a wife and young daughter, said he remained hopeful about the war’s outcome.

“The truth is on our side,” he added. “I’m sure we’re going to win.”

Daisuke Wakabayashi and Mike Isaac contributed reporting.

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How Western Firms Quietly Enabled Russian Oligarchs

Behind a set of imposing metal doors in an easy-to-miss office building in a New York City suburb, a small team manages billions of dollars for a Russian oligarch.

For years, a group of wealthy Russians have used Concord Management, a financial-advisory company in Tarrytown, N.Y., to secretly invest money in large U.S. hedge funds and private equity firms, according to people familiar with the matter.

A web of offshore shell companies makes it hard to know for sure whose money Concord manages. But several of the people said the bulk of the funds belonged to Roman Abramovich, a close ally of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

Concord is part of a constellation of American and European advisers — including some of the world’s largest law firms — that have long helped Russian oligarchs navigate the Western financial, legal, political and media landscapes.

both said they were leaving Russia. A spokeswoman for another large firm, Debevoise & Plimpton, said it was terminating several client relationships and would not take any new clients in Moscow. Ashurst, a large London-based law firm, said it would not “act for any new or existing Russian clients, whether or not they are subject to sanctions.”

The accounting giants PwC, KPMG, Deloitte and EY — which have provided extensive services to oligarchs and their networks of offshore shell companies — also said they were leaving Russia or severing ties with their local affiliates.

wrote a letter to the White House arguing that Russia’s Sovcombank shouldn’t face sanctions, citing the bank’s commitment to gender equity, environmental and social responsibility.

Sovcombank had agreed to pay the lobbyist’s firm, Mercury Public Affairs, $90,000 a month for its work.

The Biden administration recently imposed sanctions on Sovcombank. Within hours of the announcement, Mercury filed paperwork with the Justice Department indicating that it was terminating its contract with Sovcombank.

As recently as mid-February, the British law firm Schillings represented the Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov, a longtime ally of Mr. Putin.

Two weeks later, the European Union and the U.S. Treasury placed sanctions on Mr. Usmanov. Nigel Higgins, a spokesman for Schillings, said the firm is “not acting for any sanctioned individuals or entities.”

say on its website that it represents “some of Russia’s largest companies,” including Gazprom and VTB. The firm said it was “reviewing and adjusting our Russia-related operations and client work” to comply with sanctions.

In Washington, Erich Ferrari, a leading sanctions lawyer, is suing the Treasury on behalf of Mr. Deripaska, who is seeking to overturn sanctions imposed on him in 2018 that he claims have cost him billions of dollars and made him “radioactive” in international business circles.

And the lobbyist Robert Stryk said he had recently had conversations about representing several Russian oligarchs and companies currently under sanctions. He previously represented clients targeted by sanctions, including the administrations of President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela and former President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mr. Stryk said he would consider taking the work if the Treasury Department provided him with the necessary licenses, and if the prospective clients opposed Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

online profiles of current and former Concord employees.

Wall Street bankers and hedge fund managers who have interacted with Concord and its founder, Michael Matlin, said it oversaw between $4 billion and $8 billion.

It isn’t clear how much of that belongs to Mr. Abramovich, whose fortune is estimated at $13 billion.

Mr. Abramovich has not been placed under sanctions. His spokeswoman, Rola Brentlin, declined to comment on Concord.

Over the years, Concord has steered its clients’ money into marquee financial institutions: the global money manager BlackRock, the private equity firm Carlyle Group and a fund run by John Paulson, who famously anticipated the collapse of the U.S. housing market. Concord also invested with Bernard Madoff, who died in prison after being convicted of a vast Ponzi scheme.

panel focused on European security, requested that the U.S. government impose sanctions on Mr. Abramovich and seize the assets at Concord, “as this blood money presents a flight risk.”

The work performed by law, lobbying and public relations firms often plays out in public or is disclosed in legal or foreign agent filings, but that is rarely the case in the financial arena.

While Russian oligarchs make tabloid headlines for shelling out for extravagant superyachts and palatial homes, their bigger investments often occur out of public view, thanks to a largely invisible network of financial advisory firms like Concord.

Hedge fund managers and their advisers said they were starting to examine their investor lists to see if any clients were under sanctions. If so, their money needs to be segregated and disclosed to the Treasury Department.

Some hedge funds are also considering returning money to oligarchs who aren’t under sanctions, fearful that Russians might soon be targeted by U.S. and European authorities.

Paradise Papers project, involved the files of the Appleby law firm in Bermuda. At least four clients owned private jets through shell companies managed by Appleby.

When sanctions were imposed on companies and individuals linked to Mr. Putin in 2014, Appleby jettisoned clients it believed were affected.

The Russians found other Western firms, including Credit Suisse, to help fill the void.

Ben Freeman, who tracks foreign influence for the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, said Russians were likely to find new firms this time, too.

“There is that initial backlash, where these clients are too toxic,” Mr. Freeman said. “But when these lucrative contracts are out there, it gets to be too much for some people, and they can turn a blind eye to any atrocity.”

David Segal contributed reporting. Susan Beachy contributed research.

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