The annual letter to shareholders by JPMorgan Chase’s chief Jamie Dimon was just published. The widely read letter is not just an overview of the bank’s business but also covers Mr. Dimon’s thoughts on everything from leadership lessons to public policy prescriptions.
“The U.S. economy will likely boom.” A combination of excess savings, deficit spending, a potential infrastructure bill, vaccinations and “euphoria around the end of the pandemic,” Mr. Dimon wrote, may create a boom that “could easily run into 2023.” That could justify high equity valuations, but not the price of U.S. debt, given the “huge supply” soon to hit the market. There is a chance that a rise in inflation would be “more than temporary,” he wrote, forcing the Fed to raise interest rates aggressively. “Rapidly raising rates to offset an overheating economy is a typical cause of a recession,” he wrote, but he hopes for “the Goldilocks scenario” of fast growth, gently increasing inflation and a measured rise in interest rates.
“Banks are playing an increasingly smaller role in the financial system.” Mr. Dimon cited competition from an already large shadow banking system and fintech companies, as well as “Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and now Walmart.” He argued those nonbank competitors should be more strictly regulated; their growth has “partially been made possible” by avoiding banking rules, he wrote. And when it comes to tougher regulation of big banks, he wrote, “the cost to the economy of having fail-safe banks may not be worth it.”
“China’s leaders believe that America is in decline.” While the U.S. has faced tough times before, today “the Chinese see an America that is losing ground in technology, infrastructure and education — a nation torn and crippled by politics, as well as racial and income inequality — and a country unable to coordinate government policies (fiscal, monetary, industrial, regulatory) in any coherent way to accomplish national goals,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, recently, there is a lot of truth to this.”
a leveraged buyout offer from the private equity firm CVC Capital, sending its shares to a four-year high. Toshiba has had a series of scandals, and faces pressure from activist investors.
raising the corporate rate to help pay for President Biden’s infrastructure plans — though he didn’t mention the White House’s proposed rate, 28 percent. Other corporate chiefs are privately criticizing the potential tax rise.
The company behind the Johnson & Johnson vaccine mix-up has a history of errors. Emergent BioSolutions, which the U.S. relied on to produce doses by J.&J. and AstraZeneca, had a made manufacturing errors before. Experts worry this may leave some Americans more wary of getting vaccinated, even as Mr. Biden has moved up the eligibility deadline for U.S. inoculations.
An electric aircraft maker sues a rival for intellectual property theft. Wisk, which is backed by Boeing and the Google founder Larry Page, said that former employees downloaded confidential information before joining Archer, a competitor. Archer, which is going public by merging with a SPAC run by Moelis & Company and which counts United Airlines as an investor, denied wrongdoing and said it was cooperating with a government investigation.
A blistering start for venture capital in 2021. Start-ups set a fund-raising quarterly record in the first three months of the year, raising more than $62 billion, according to the MoneyTree report from PwC and CB Insights. That’s more than twice the total a year earlier and represents nearly half of what start-ups raised in all of 2020.
Why is the Amazon union vote taking so long?
Voting in the union election at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., ended on March 29, and counting began the next day, but the outcome is still unknown. What’s going on? It’s less about the number of ballots than how they’re counted.
The stakes are high, for both Amazon and the labor movement. Progressive leaders like Bernie Sanders have argued a victory for the union, the first at an Amazon facility in the U.S., could inspire workers elsewhere to unionize. And Amazon is facing increased scrutiny for its market power and labor practices.
a painstaking process:
Once Amazon and the union have gone back and forth over disputed voters, the N.L.R.B. counts the uncontested ballots anonymously and by hand, on a video conference open to reporters. This could start today.
“Economic fortunes within countries and across countries are diverging dangerously.”
— Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the I.M.F., on how the uneven rollout of vaccines poses a threat to the global economic recovery.
Credit Suisse’s expensive mistakes
After the 2008 financial crisis, Credit Suisse emerged battered by high-risk bets and promised to do better. A series of recent scandals suggests it hasn’t, The Times’s Jack Ewing writes.
A recap of the Swiss bank’s troubles over the past year or so:
A spying scandal that led to the ouster of Tidjane Thiam as C.E.O.
Ties to Greensill Capital, the SoftBank-backed lender that has filed for insolvency and will lead to losses at the Swiss bank.
Its involvement with Archegos, whose hugely leveraged stock bets went south, saddling the bank with a big hit.
30-day comment period on to-be-drafted regulations that would make it harder to obscure who controls a company. Among the details to be worked out are what entities should report and when; how to collect, protect and update information for a database; and the criteria for sharing with law enforcement.
“We could not be more excited,” Kenneth Blanco, the director of the Treasury’s Financial Criminal Enforcement Network (FinCEN), told bankers recently. The U.S. has been under pressure to address its vulnerability to money laundering and financial crimes:
In 2016, the international Financial Action Task Force gave the country a failing grade on transparency of company ownership.
In 2018, banks and financial institutions began having to collect that information from clients to help law enforcement identify individuals.
In January, Congress passed the Corporate Transparency Act, which requires businesses to report ownership to the government.
New rules could make forming small businesses, special purpose vehicles and other closely held entities “significantly” more burdensome, said Steve Ganis of Mintz, an expert in anti-money laundering regulation. “FinCEN’s new regime will make things much more complicated for start-ups, where control and ownership are highly fluid,” he said. Public companies and many larger businesses would be exempt because they already face stricter scrutiny.
THE SPEED READ
Flipkart, the Indian e-commerce company owned by Walmart, is reportedly planning to go public through an I.P.O. this year. (Bloomberg)
Grab, the Singaporean tech giant, is near a deal to merge with a SPAC backed by Altimeter Capital at a $35 billion valuation. It would be the biggest-ever blank check deal. (FT)
Fox sued the owner of FanDuel over the price of its option to buy a stake in the sports betting service. (CNBC)
Politics and policy
Coinbase, whose direct listing is set for next week, said it collected more revenue in the first quarter this year than in all of 2020. (CNBC)
The audio chat start-up Clubhouse is said to be raising funds at a $4 billion valuation. (Bloomberg)
The S.E.C. accused an actor of running a $690 million Ponzi scheme built around false claims of deals with Netflix and HBO. (Bloomberg)
Best of the rest
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HONG KONG — Political opposition has been quashed. Free speech has been stifled. The independent court system may be next.
But while Hong Kong’s top leaders take a tougher line on the city of more than seven million people, they are courting a crucial constituency: the rich. Top officials are preparing a new tax break and other sweeteners to portray Hong Kong as the premier place in Asia to make money, despite the Chinese Communist Party’s increasingly autocratic rule.
So far, the pitch is working. Cambridge Associates, a $30 billion investment fund, said in March it planned to open an office in the city. Investment managers have set up more than a hundred new companies in recent months. The Wall Street banks Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley are increasing their Hong Kong staffing.
“Hong Kong is second only to New York as the world’s billionaire city,” said Paul Chan, Hong Kong’s financial secretary, at an online gathering of finance executives this year.
erupted two years ago. At the same time, it is trying to charm the city’s financial class to keep it from moving to another business-friendly place like Singapore.
“It is a one-party state, but they are pragmatic and they don’t want to hurt business,” Fred Hu, a former chairman of Goldman’s Greater China business, said of Chinese officials.
For apolitical financial types, the changes will have little impact, said Mr. Hu, who is also the founder of the private equity firm Primavera Capital Group. “If you’re a banker or a trader, you may have political views, but you’re not a political activist,” he said.
flowed out of local Hong Kong bank accounts and into jurisdictions like Singapore.
Tensions run taut inside Hong Kong’s gleaming office towers. Even executives who are sympathetic to the government have declined to speak publicly for fear of getting caught in the political crossfire between Beijing and world capitals like Washington and London. Hong Kong’s tough rules on movement in the pandemic may also spark some expatriates to leave in the summer once school ends.
Today in Business
For now, however, financial firms are doubling down on Hong Kong. Neal Horwitz, an executive recruiter in Singapore, said finance was likely to remain in Hong Kong “until the ship goes down.”
carried interest, which is typically earned by private equity investors and hedge funds. Officials had discussed the plan for years but didn’t introduce a bill until February, and it could pass in the coming months through the city’s Beijing-dominated legislature.
sparked criticism elsewhere, including in the United States. But Hong Kong fears a financial exodus without such benefits, said Maurice Tse, a finance professor at Hong Kong University’s business school.
“To keep these people around we have to give a tax benefit,” he said.
Hong Kong has also proposed a program, Wealth Management Connect, that would give mainland residents in the southern region known as the Greater Bay Area the ability to invest in Hong Kong-based hedge funds and investment firms. Officials have boasted that it would give foreign firms access to 72 million people. Hong Kong and mainland Chinese officials signed an agreement in February to start a pilot program at an unspecified time.
Pandemic travel restrictions have slowed the proposal’s momentum, said King Au, the executive director of Hong Kong’s Financial Services Development Council, but it remains a top priority.
“I want to highlight how important the China market is to global investors,” Mr. Au said.
Mainland money has already helped Hong Kong look more attractive. Chinese firms largely fueled a record $52 billion haul for companies that sold new shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange last year, according to Dealogic, a data provider. New offerings this year have already raised $16 billion, including $5.4 billion for Kuaishou, which operates a Chinese video app. The record start has been helped in part by Chinese companies that have been pressured by Washington to avoid raising money in the United States.
triple its hires across China, and a spokeswoman said a Hong Kong staff increase was part of that. Bank of America is adding more people in Hong Kong, while Citi has said it will hire as many as 1,700 people in Hong Kong this year alone.
hew to the party line. Still, it is considering moving some of its top executives to Hong Kong, because it will be “important to be closer to growth opportunities,” Noel Quinn, HSBC’s chief executive, said in February.
Investment funds are flocking to Hong Kong, too, after officials in August lowered regulatory barriers to setting up legal structures similar to those used in low-tax, opaque jurisdictions like the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. Government data shows that 154 funds have been registered since then.
Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, and Li Zhanshu, the Communist Party’s No. 3 official, at one point owned Hong Kong property, according to a trail that can be traced partly through public records.
While officials have welcomed business, they have made clear to the financial and business worlds that they will brook no dissent. In March, Han Zheng, a Chinese vice premier, praised the stock market’s performance and the finance sector in a meeting with a political advisory group but made its limits clear.
“The signal to the business community is very simple,” said Michael Tien, a former Hong Kong lawmaker and businessman who attended the closed-door session. “Stay out of politics.”
Until recently, Bill Hwang sat atop one of the biggest — and perhaps least known — fortunes on Wall Street. Then his luck ran out.
Mr. Hwang, a 57-year-old veteran investor, managed $10 billion through his private investment firm, Archegos Capital Management. He borrowed billions of dollars from Wall Street banks to build enormous positions in a few American and Chinese stocks. By mid-March, Mr. Hwang was the financial force behind $20 billion in shares of ViacomCBS, effectively making him the media company’s single largest institutional shareholder. But few knew about his total exposure, since the shares were mostly held through complex financial instruments, called derivatives, created by the banks.
That changed in late March, after shares of ViacomCBS fell precipitously and the lenders demanded their money. When Archegos couldn’t pay, they seized its assets and sold them off, leading to one of the biggest implosions of an investment firm since the 2008 financial crisis.
Almost overnight, Mr. Hwang’s personal wealth shriveled. It’s a tale as old as Wall Street itself, where the right combination of ambition, savvy and timing can generate fantastic profits — only to crumble in an instant when conditions change.
in a 2019 speech. “I couldn’t go to school that much, to be honest.”
Grace and Mercy Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit that sponsors Bible readings and religious book clubs, growing it to $500 million in assets from $70 million in under a decade. The foundation has donated tens of millions of dollars to Christian organizations.
“He’s giving ridiculous amounts,” said John Bai, a co-founder and managing partner of the equity research firm Fundstrat Global Advisors, who has known Mr. Hwang for roughly three decades. “But he’s doing it in a very unassuming, humble, non-boastful way.”
Today in Business
But in his investing approach, he embraced risk and his firm ran afoul of regulators. In 2008, Tiger Asia lost money when the investment bank Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy at the peak of the financial crisis. The next year, Hong Kong regulators accused the fund of using confidential information it had received to trade some Chinese stocks.
In 2012, Mr. Hwang reached a civil settlement with U.S. securities regulators in a separate insider trading investigation and was fined $44 million. That same year, Tiger Asia pleaded guilty to federal insider-trading charges in the same investigation and returned money to its investors. Mr. Hwang was barred from managing public money for at least five years. Regulators formally lifted the ban last year.
ViacomCBS announced plans to sell new shares to the public, a deal it hoped would generate $3 billion in new cash to fund its strategic plans. Morgan Stanley was running the deal. As bankers canvassed the investor community, they were counting on Mr. Hwang to be the anchor investor who would buy at least $300 million of the shares, four people involved with the offering said.
But sometime between the deal’s announcement and its completion that Wednesday morning, Mr. Hwang changed plans. The reasons aren’t entirely clear, but RLX, the Chinese e-cigarette company, and GSX, the education company, had both spiraled in Asian markets around the same time. His decision caused the ViacomCBS fund-raising effort to end with $2.65 billion in new capital, significantly short of the original target.
ViacomCBS executives hadn’t known of Mr. Hwang’s enormous influence on the company’s share price, nor that he had canceled plans to invest in the share offering, until after it was completed, two people close to ViacomCBS said. They were frustrated to hear of it, the people said. At the same time, investors who had received larger-than-expected stakes in the new share offering and had seen it fall short, were selling the stock, driving its price down even further. (Morgan Stanley declined to comment.)
By Thursday, March 25, Archegos was in critical condition. ViacomCBS’s plummeting stock price was setting off “margin calls,” or demands for additional cash or assets, from its prime brokers that the firm couldn’t fully meet. Hoping to buy time, Archegos called a meeting with its lenders, asking for patience as it unloaded assets quietly, a person close to the firm said.
Those hopes were dashed. Sensing imminent failure, Goldman began selling Archegos’s assets the next morning, followed by Morgan Stanley, to recoup their money. Other banks soon followed.
As ViacomCBS shares flooded onto the market that Friday because of the banks’ enormous sales, Mr. Hwang’s wealth plummeted. Credit Suisse, which had acted too slowly to stanch the damage, announced the possibility of significant losses; Nomura announced as much as $2 billion in losses. Goldman finished unwinding its position but did not record a loss, a person familiar with the matter said. ViacomCBS shares are down more than 50 percent since hitting their peak on March 22.
Mr. Hwang has laid low, issuing only a short statement calling this a “challenging time” for Archegos.
After the implosion of a little-known investment firm saddled banks around the world with billions of dollars in losses last week, one big question is being asked all over Wall Street: How did they let this happen?
The answer may stem from the way the firm, Archegos Capital Management, with ample assistance from at least half a dozen banks, made bets on stocks without actually owning them.
Archegos used esoteric financial instruments known as swaps, which get their name from the way they exchange one stream of income for another. In this case, Wall Street banks bought certain stocks Archegos wanted to bet on, and Archegos paid the banks a fee. Then, the banks paid Archegos the stocks’ returns.
These swaps magnified the fund’s buying power, but they also created a two-pronged problem. Archegos was able to build up much more influence over the share prices of a few companies, including ViacomCBS and Discovery, than it could afford on its own. And because there are few regulations about these types of trades, it was under no disclosure obligations.
was embroiled in an insider-trading case under his leadership. But it used leverage — essentially, trading with borrowed money to amplify its buying power — perhaps as much as eight times its own capital, some Wall Street analysts calculated.
In this case, leverage showed up in the form of swap contracts. In return for a fee, the bank agrees to pay the investor what the investor would have gotten from actually owning a share over a certain period. If a stock rises in price, the bank pays the investor. If it falls, the investor pays the bank.
Today in Business
Archegos focused its bets on the share prices of a relatively small number of companies. They included ViacomCBS, the corporate parent of the country’s most-watched network; the media company Discovery; and a handful of Chinese technology firms. The banks it used to buy swaps held millions of shares in ViacomCBS alone.
Normally, big institutional investors are required by the S.E.C. to publicly disclose their holdings of stock at the end of each quarter. That means investors, lenders and regulators will know when a single entity holds a big ownership stake in a company.
But S.E.C. disclosure rules don’t usually cover swaps, so Archegos didn’t have to report its large holdings. And none of the banks — at least seven that are known to have had relationships with Archegos — saw the full picture of the risk the fund was taking, analysts say.
the most recent data available, according to the Bank for International Settlements, an international consortium of central banks.
Mitsubishi UFJ Securities Holdings Company, a unit of the Japanese financial conglomerate, reported a potential loss of around $270 million.
Analysts say the damage was relatively contained, and while the losses have been large for some players, they’re not big enough to pose a threat to the broader financial system.
But the episode will most likely reinvigorate a push to expand the regulation of derivatives, which have been associated with many prominent financial blowups. During the 2008 crisis, the insurance giant AIG nearly collapsed under the weight of unregulated swaps contracts it wrote.
The cascade of problems that began with Archegos was only the latest example of derivatives’ ability to increase unseen risk.
“During the financial crisis of 2008, one of the biggest problems was that many of the banks didn’t know who owed what to whom,” said Tyler Gellasch, a former S.E.C. lawyer who heads the Healthy Markets Association, a group that pushes for market reforms. “And it seems that happened again here.”
Companies were quick to speak out during the racial justice protests last year, putting out statements of solidarity and posting black squares on Instagram. But after Georgia Republicans passed broad voting restrictions, Atlanta’s corporate giants have been much more muted — and activists are now talking boycotts, The Times’s David Gelles writes.
Among the targets:
Delta, which has publicly defended gay rights and said it stood with Black people after the police killings of George Floyd and others. But on the voting legislation, the airline has only issued a statement about a need for broader voter participation. It told employees that it had “engaged extensively” with lawmakers in creating the legislation, and that the measure had “improved considerably” during the process, though it noted that “concerns remain.”
Coca-Cola, which pledged last summer to “invest our resources to advance social justice causes.” When it came to the recent bill, Coke said that it was aligned with local chambers of commerce, which also spoke mainly of increasing voter participation and avoided sharp criticism. (Late yesterday, Coke said it was “disappointed” in the new law, but added, “We don’t see this as the final chapter.”)
“It’s not as though corporations are unwilling to speak powerfully about social justice issues,” Sherrilyn Ifill, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense, told David. Companies spoke out forcefully against bills on gender and bathroom access, even threatening to pull out of states like Indiana and, yes, Georgia.
What changed? Companies may be shying away from political fights, after spending four years speaking out against the Trump administration. And the Georgia laws were spearheaded by mainstream Republicans, making executives less eager to cross lawmakers they may need on other issues.
Ms. Ifill raised a provocative third potential reason. “Why is it that corporations that could speak so powerfully and unequivocally in opposition to discrimination against the L.G.B.T.Q. community and immigrants are not speaking as clearly about the disenfranchisement of Black people?” she said. “This is a race issue.”
For activists, the next step is calling for boycotts on companies with big Georgia presences, including Coke, Delta, Home Depot and UPS. If “Coca-Cola wants Black and brown people to drink their product, then they must speak up when our rights, our lives and our very democracy as we know it is under attack,” Bishop Reginald Jackson of the African Methodist Episcopal Church told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
The Suez Canal is clear. Now what? The 224,000-ton Ever Given was freed from the vital shipping passage days after being stuck, hindering global trade. After the celebrations will come two big questions: What happened, and how can the disruptions be sorted out?
prevented 90 percent of Covid-19 infections by two weeks after the second shot. But President Biden and the head of the C.D.C., Dr. Rochelle Walensky, urged Americans to maintain virus safety measures in the face of “impending doom” from a potential fourth wave of cases.
The White House pushes for tax increases to pay for its infrastructure and jobs plan. As it rolls out its multitrillion-dollar spending initiative, the Biden administration is likely to call for about $3 trillion in new taxes, The Washington Post reports.
President Tayyip Reccip Erdogan of Turkey fired another top central bank official. The removal of Murat Cetinkaya, a deputy governor, was announced with no explanation. It came 10 days after Mr. Erdogan fired the bank’s chief, setting off a sell-off in Turkey’s currency.
The Supreme Court wonders what to do in an investor fraud lawsuit against Goldman Sachs. Justices noted that both sides agree that general statements about professional integrity could be the basis for a lawsuit, and that their positions had moved closer over the course of litigation.
huge stock sales tied to Archegos Capital Management, one thing has become clear: Cooperation is not the finance industry’s strong suit.
Archegos’ main lenders met on Thursday to discuss an orderly wind-down of the firm’s trades, according to The Wall Street Journal. The idea was to limit the damage from several banks dumping huge blocks of stock in ViacomCBS and other companies, potentially tanking prices and hurting their own balance sheets.
You can guess what happened next. Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley sold small amounts of stock after that meeting. But Goldman Sachs opened the floodgates the next day, quickly followed by Morgan Stanley. By market close, the two had sold nearly $20 billion worth of Archegos assets.
That left Goldman and Morgan Stanley with relatively little damage to their businesses, while banks that didn’t move as quickly — notably Credit Suisse and Nomura — warned investors that they could suffer huge hits. As one banker involved told the FT, “The reality is in a fire sale, if you’re not first out the door you’re going to get burned.”
What a SPAC believer thinks of SPAC mania
Kevin Hartz, the founder of Eventbrite, believes in the value of SPACs: In February, his first SPAC (named “One”) acquired the industrial 3-D printing company Markforged in a $2.1 billion deal. His second blank-check fund — named “Two,” of course — raised $200 million yesterday. Still, he told DealBook that he believes some SPACs pose risks to retail investors.
Below are edited excerpts from their conversation.
On why S.E.C. scrutiny is needed:
Because people are getting hurt. “For some millennial family to invest in a SPAC, or invest in a SPAC merger, and then see that crater is why we need the S.E.C. to be more involved here,” he said.
What could happen next:
Mr. Hartz pointed to the dot-com bubble as a warning: “We still kind of point to 1999, 2000 as an indicator of what SPACs will need to go through, unfortunately, and that is kind of extreme euphoria, followed by the reality of most losing money for investors.”
corporations and governments has grown in recent years. Yet when it comes to the Supreme Court, some are resisting efforts to allow more sunlight into the institution, as demonstrated in the debate over a bipartisan bill that aims to televise the court’s proceedings.
No Supreme Court hearing has ever been filmed, though Congress has been trying to get cameras in federal courts since 1937. Most state courts allow cameras, and some federal circuit courts permit video with limits. But Chief Justice John Roberts and the five other veterans on the bench have said they fear that the presence of cameras would transform oral arguments into showy performances. (The court’s three most recent appointees have said they would consider it.)
Seeing arguments in “monumental cases” shouldn’t be a privilege of the few, said Senator Dick Durbin, the Democratic chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who is sponsoring the Sunshine in the Courtroom Act. Adding cameras “opens our democracy and gives millions of Americans a window into the room where decisions are made that have lasting effects for generations,” he told DealBook.
Then again, the court has adapted during the pandemic, allowing live audio feeds of arguments. Justices may clamp down on the public’s access to the court when the pandemic lifts, but the tech precedent may make that more difficult.
replace President Andrew Jackson on the bill. “The primary reason currency is redesigned is for security against counterfeiting,” Lydia Washington, a representative for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, told DealBook. “The redesign timeline is driven by security feature development.”
The Obama administration said it would unveil a design “concept” by 2020, to coincide with the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. Extensive redesign work was reportedly done, but in 2019 President Trump’s Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said the project would be delayed until at least 2026. (Insiders said they had always doubted that the 2020 deadline could be met).
It turns out that the complex design and testing process for currency can’t be hurried. “No final images have been selected,” Ms. Washington said. (The Treasury Department did not respond to a request for comment).
THE SPEED READ
Recent trades in the private markets reportedly valued ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, at more than $250 billion. (Bloomberg)
The food service Deliveroo lowered the high end of valuation expectations for its forthcoming I.P.O., to £7.85 billion ($10.8 billion). (Reuters)
Politics and policy
Best of the rest
Goldman Sachs said its interns would work out of its offices this summer. (Bloomberg)
If the minimum wage had grown at the same rate as Wall Street bonuses since 1985, workers would be paid $44 an hour today. (Insider)
Take a peek at the potential offices of the future: hot desks, Zoom rooms and more. (NYT)
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Mr. Hwang had worked under the billionaire hedge fund titan Julian Robertson at Tiger Management, making him one of the firm’s famous alumni, or “cubs,” when he started his own fund, Tiger Asia. But in 2012, he faced an insider-trading investigation; securities regulators said Tiger Asia had used confidential information to bet against the shares of Chinese stocks, and had manipulated other shares.
Mr. Hwang entered a guilty plea to wire fraud on behalf of Tiger Asia and paid millions of dollars in fines while also accepting a five-year ban on managing public money as a result of the settlement with the S.E.C. He reorganized the firm as a family office, meaning it was no longer managing outside money, and renamed it Archegos Capital Management; archegos is a Greek word meaning leader or founding father, and is used in the Bible to refer to Jesus.
“It’s not all about money, but it’s about long term,” Mr. Hwang said in a 2018 video in which he discussed his faith and work. “God certainly has a long-term view.”
According to four people familiar with the matter, Mr. Hwang had recently built large holdings in a small number of stocks, including ViacomCBS and Discovery, which also operates the cable channels TLC and the Food Network, and the Chinese companies RLX Technology and GSX Techedu. Those bets unraveled spectacularly in just a few days last week.
Last Monday, shares of RLX Technology, an e-cigarette company, tumbled sharply after Chinese regulators presented potential new regulations on the industry. RLX securities listed in the United States, called American depositary receipts, tumbled 48 percent. The next day, GSX Techedu, a tutoring company that has been a target of short sellers in recent years who claimed the firm’s sales numbers were overstated, fell 12.4 percent.
On Wednesday, ViacomCBS sold a batch of shares on the open market to raise money to finance its new streaming businesses, exacerbating Mr. Hwang’s situation. His firm began fielding queries from worried banks. Lenders at Goldman Sachs urged Archegos to pare its exposure, said two people familiar with those conversations. But Archegos pushed back, saying the battered stocks would recover, one of the people said.
By Friday morning, when Archegos was unable to post additional “margin,” Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse, two of Archegos’s main lenders, had declared the fund to be in default, four people briefed on the matter said. Their action paved the way for Goldman Sachs and others to do the same. Soon, huge blocks of stocks were on offer.
The case is a test of shareholders’ ability to sue over claims of investment fraud. The pension funds have sought to sue as a class over Goldman’s statements, saying that they believed the claims of honesty. Goldman has argued in its latest brief that the investors are resorting to “guerrilla warfare” and aren’t providing “serious legal arguments.” The bank says that an investor victory would lead to a barrage of future lawsuits over “general and aspirational statements” of the kind made by “virtually every public company in America.”
How a former S.E.C. commissioner thinks the court will respond to Goldman’s arguments: “I expect the court to be troubled by the claim that companies cannot be held accountable for saying that clients come first and then acting otherwise,” Robert Jackson Jr., who served on the commission from 2018 to 2020 and is now an N.Y.U. law professor, told DealBook. (The justices probably won’t agree with the claim that making a company “mean what it says” will lead to a tsunami of meritless lawsuits, he added.) Regardless, Goldman is right that the stakes are high, he said, since the case will probably decide whether shareholders can “hold corporate insiders accountable when they tell investors one thing and do another.”
A Passover Seder that blends trend and tradition
What made last night different from all others? A diverse group of comedians, celebrities and venture capitalists doesn’t normally gather for a virtual Passover Seder on a chat app. But that is what happened last night on Clubhouse, which hosted what was possibly the world’s first hunt for a nonfungible token version of afikomen, the broken matzo ritualistically hidden for children to find and claim a prize.
Like an NFT, an afikomen is a unique object. “It feels like a reasonable updating of tradition,” said fnnch, the San Francisco street artist who created images of broken matzo for the event. NFTs are digital assets that represent sole ownership of things that are otherwise easily replicated — in this case fnnch’s pictures. He predicted that NFTs would eventually include a technological lock preventing copies from displaying, which would make owning them much more like possessing a physical artwork.
One afikomen NFT is being auctioned off to support Value Culture, a nonprofit that sponsors art, education and spiritual projects to foster community engagement. The other was nestled within the profile of someone in the Clubhouse room and given away for free. (Hints about to how to find them lay in the Passover tale that is traditionally told at a Seder.)
Value Culture’s founder, Adam Swig, came up with the reimagined Passover ritual, which was produced by Randi Zuckerberg, sister of Mark Zuckerberg. Guests included the actress Tiffany Haddish, the comedian Tehran Von Ghasri and the Clubhouse investors Marc Andreessenand Ben Horowitz. More than 3,000 people were in the room at the height of the event, which lasted four hours instead of the scheduled two.
March market madness
The annual college basketball championship — and betting bonanza — known as March Madness has been full of upsets, on both the men’s and women’s sides, blowing up many brackets.
If you no longer have hope of winning the office pool, here’s another contest to think about: March’s maddest markets. We’ve come up with a mini-tournament of seeded matchups to determine which mania is the most manic.
How would you bet? Let us know: email@example.com.
LONDON — The courthouse should have already been closed for the day.
At a hearing that began at 5 p.m. on March 1, lawyers for Greensill Capital desperately argued before a judge in Sydney, Australia, that the firm’s insurers should be ordered to extend policies set to expire at midnight. Greensill Capital needed the insurance to back $4.6 billion it was owed by businesses around the world, and without it 50,000 jobs would be in jeopardy, they said.
The judge said no; the company had waited too long to bring the matter to court. A week later, Greensill Capital — valued at $3.5 billion less than two years ago — filed for bankruptcy in London. An international firm with 16 offices around the world, from Singapore to London to Bogotá, was insolvent.
Greensill’s dazzlingly fast failure is one of the most spectacular collapses of a global finance firm in over a decade. It has entangled SoftBank and Credit Suisse and threatens the business empire of the British steel tycoon, Sanjeev Gupta, who employs 35,000 workers throughout the world. Greensill’s problems extend to the United States, where the governor of West Virginia and his coal mining company have sued Greensill Capital for “a continuous and profitable fraud” over $850 million in loans.
At the center of it is Lex Greensill, an Australian farmer-turned-banker, who in 2011 founded his company in London as a solution to a problem: Companies want to wait as long as possible before paying for their supplies, while the companies making the supplies need their cash as soon as possible.
The Australian newspaper that he did the same for President Barack Obama in the United States.
Eventually, Mr. Cameron would become an adviser to Greensill. Julie Bishop, Australia’s former foreign minister, also joined the company as an adviser.
Greensill Capital’s defining year was 2019, when SoftBank’s Vision Fund, the $100 billion investment vehicle built to make huge bets on disruptive technology companies, invested $1.5 billion. On the day the first of two SoftBank investments was announced, Mr. Greensill told Bloomberg TV that his company would have “multiple opportunities” to work with SoftBank and the other companies in their portfolio.
Mr. Greensill had become a billionaire.
Carillion in 2018 and the Spanish renewable energy company Abengoa, which filed for insolvency in February. Abengoa, an early customer of Greensill, narrowly escaped bankruptcy in 2015 when its huge debt load — billions of euros — was revealed.
Regulators, auditors and ratings agencies have grown concerned about the lack of transparency that can make company balance sheets look stronger than they are. In June, the Securities and Exchange Commission asked Coca-Cola to provide more details about whether it was using supply chain finance after noticing an increase in its account payables of $1.1 billion.
After pleas from accounting companies, the rules might be tightened in the United States. In October, the U.S. Financial Accounting Standards Board said it would start developing stronger disclosure requirements, though two months later, an international accounting board decided not to do the same.
For Greensill Capital, signs of trouble began appearing in 2018, the year before SoftBank made its big investments.
GAM, the Swiss asset manager, rocked the London financial community when it suspended one of its top fund managers, Tim Haywood. He later lost his job for “gross misconduct,” Bloomberg reported, after an internal investigation raised questions about investments he made in companies tied to Mr. Gupta, who was fast-becoming a steel and metals tycoon. The middleman in the deals, Bloomberg said, was Mr. Greensill.
The next year, Mr. Greensill’s debt funds were attracting unusual interest from SoftBank. Even as the Vision Fund was investing in Greensill, a different arm of SoftBank poured hundreds of millions into the Credit Suisse funds, according to people with knowledge of the transactions. That arrangement put SoftBank in a complex position: One division was Greensill’s largest shareholder and another was a lender to Greensill, via the Credit Suisse funds.
BaFin said it had uncovered evidence that assets linked to Mr. Gupta listed on the bank’s balance sheet did not exist.
insolvency proceedings for Greensill Bank.
an 18 million euro state-backed loan in December from Greensill Bank. But two days later, the bank abruptly pulled back the funds, said Jean-Philippe Juin, a member of the Confédération Générale du Travail labor union representing the factory, where 600 people work.
While GFG said it had “strong cash flows” across the group, the workers at the Poitou plant were warned last week that there might not be enough money to pay their salaries for March, Mr. Juin said.
“Mr. Gupta presented himself to us as a savior, with hopeful words and many promises,” Mr. Juin said. “In the end, he turned out to be an empty shell.”
Michael J. de la Merced, Stanley Reed, Matthew Goldstein and Raphael Minder contributed reporting.
The Swiss bank also hired Mr. Wray, then a partner at King & Spalding in Washington who had served as the head of the Justice Department’s criminal division and oversaw the Enron task force. (Mr. Wray became the director of the F.B.I. three years after he negotiated the final plea deal for Credit Suisse.)
“It is a mystery to me why the U.S. government didn’t require as part of the agreement that the bank cough up some of the names of the U.S. clients with secret Swiss bank accounts,” Carl Levin, then a Michigan senator leading an investigation into offshore tax avoidance, said after the 2014 plea agreement.
In the interview, Mr. Neiman, the whistle-blower’s lawyer, said that in July 2014, after the plea deal was signed and as Credit Suisse awaited its final sentencing, he told officials at the tax division of the Justice Department and federal prosecutors who had worked on the case that his client had information that the bank had continued to cloak money held by some U.S. account holders. He gave them one name in particular — Dan Horsky, the retired business professor, who lived in Rochester, N.Y.
The tip checked out. The following year, federal agents arrested Mr. Horsky, who had amassed a $200 million fortune and hidden it with the help of Credit Suisse bankers using offshore shell companies, court documents show. The arrangement lasted for several months after the bank signed its plea deal.
It is unclear why the Justice Department did not notify the court and change the terms of its settlement with Credit Suisse based on the information from the whistle-blower — either before Credit Suisse’s final sentencing or after Mr. Horsky’s case became public. At the sentencing, lawyers for both sides told the court that they had no information to add that would affect the agreement.
Officials who would have had authority to make the decision to review the Credit Suisse case for possible breaches in 2014 and 2015 — including James Cole, who was then the deputy attorney general, and Dana Boente, the U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia — did not respond to requests for comment.
In 2015, Mr. Horsky pleaded guilty to defrauding the U.S. government and said that he would cooperate with prosecutors. In 2017, he was sentenced to seven months in prison. Some details of his sentencing are sealed, and a federal judge denied a request by Bloomberg News to unseal it. The judge said he denied the request after consulting with the Justice Department and Mr. Horsky’s lawyers.
Mr. Neiman’s client could be richly rewarded if prosecutors move to impose more fines on Credit Suisse. Under an I.R.S. rule, whistle blowers can get as much as 30 percent of the amount of any additional money the government gets. And, Mr. Neiman said, the whistle blower has more names of American account-holders beyond Mr. Horsky’s, although he wouldn’t say how many.