“There is no playbook for this,” said Logan Wright, director of China research at Rhodium Group, a consulting firm. China’s regulators are now faced with the challenge of following through with a promise to clean up the financial system while also preventing a possible meltdown, he said.

“You’re pitting Beijing’s new rhetoric that they are cracking down against the assumption that they will ensure the stability of the system,” he said.

The government is likely to inject some money into whatever reorganized company eventually emerges from Huarong’s difficulties, but it is not prepared to inject enough money to pay off all of the bonds, the two people familiar with the government’s plans said.

Even as the government crafts a plan to downsize Huarong, the company has sought to calm investors’ nerves, promising that it can pay its bills. Speaking to state media, Xu Yongli, vice president of Huarong, likened his firm to other critically important Chinese financial institutions.

“The government support received by Huarong is no different,” he said.

Alexandra Stevenson and Cao Li reported from Hong Kong and Keith Bradsher reported from Beijing.

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Goldman Sachs to Call Workers Back to Office by June

Goldman Sachs became one of the first big banks to put an end to remote work on Tuesday, when it asked a majority of its workers in the United States and Britain to return to the office in June.

In a memo to employees, Goldman executives asked that workers “make plans to be in a position to return to the office” by June 14 in the United States and June 21 in Britain.

“We are focused on progressing on our journey to gradually bring our people back together again, where it is safe to do so,” said the memo, which was signed by David M. Solomon, the firm’s chief executive, as well as his two top lieutenants, John E. Waldron and Stephen M. Scherr. The executives said the bank was “now in a position to activate the next steps in our return to office strategy.”

Exceptions would be made where warranted, according to the memo, which noted that in India and Latin America, where Goldman also employs workers, the health challenges remained substantial. But in New York, where the bank has its headquarters, pandemic restrictions are being lifted on May 19 as coronavirus cases fall and vaccination rates increase. The city is expecting fuller offices, restaurants and subways over the summer.

JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s biggest bank, plans to open all its U.S. offices on May 17 for employees who wish to return voluntarily. A compulsory return will follow in July, when workers will rotate in and out of the office in accordance with safety measures that will limit capacity at each office.

Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan’s chief executive, who has previously spoken about the advantages of working from the office, reiterated his comments at a Wall Street Journal C.E.O. conference on Tuesday morning.

“We want people back at work, and my view is that sometime in September, October it will look just like it did before,” Mr. Dimon said. “And yes, the commute, you know, yes, people don’t like commuting, but so what.”

Mr. Dimon, who said he was “about to cancel all my Zoom meetings,” also acknowledged some pushback to the return-to-office news. “The wife of a husband sent me a nasty note about ‘How can you make him go back?’” he said.

Other banks have not yet mandated a return.

Citigroup has said that while it will invite additional workers back to the office in July, it expects to have only about 30 percent of its North America-based employees back by the end of the summer. Bank of America plans to issue 30-day notices to employees it wants to invite back, a spokeswoman said. The firm has not announced a schedule for doing so, although Brian Moynihan, its chief executive, said recently that the transition would not occur until after Labor Day.

The Goldman Sachs memo on Tuesday targeted the roughly 20,000 employees who are based in the firm’s New York headquarters as well as other U.S. cities, including San Francisco and Dallas, a person familiar with the figures said. Goldman employs another 6,000 or so in Britain, where it operates in London and another, smaller office, this person added.

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Goldman Sachs’s Top Image Maker, Jake Siewert, Will Leave

Elliott may start a fight at GlaxoSmithKline. The big activist hedge fund has taken a multibillion-pound stake in the British medical and consumer products giant, DealBook has learned. The Financial Times, which first reported the news, said it came as other investors expressed worries that the company was underperforming, particularly in its drug pipeline.

Amazon published its founder’s latest letter to shareholders yesterday. It is likely the last such letter written by Jeff Bezos as C.E.O., since he plans to step down later this year and become executive chairman. In the letter, Mr. Bezos, the richest man in the world, laid out his view of Amazon’s impact during his 27-year tenure.

Mr. Bezos calculated the value he thinks Amazon creates for society. The total came to $301 billion last year, he said, with more than half going to customers (via time savings and the cost improvements of cloud computing), followed by employees (via compensation), third-party sellers (via profits from selling on Amazon) and finally shareholders (via the company’s net income). “Draw the box big around all of society, and you’ll find that invention is the root of all real value creation,” Mr. Bezos wrote. “And value created is best thought of as a metric for innovation.”

  • But “money doesn’t tell the whole story,” he wrote, and there is naturally a lot left out of such an expansive equation. If anything, using net income to measure Amazon’s value to shareholders understates its impact, since the company’s market cap grew by more than $700 billion last year. Elsewhere in the letter, Mr. Bezos noted that Amazon’s market value has grown by $1.6 trillion since its founding, which suggests that shareholders (Mr. Bezos among them) might rank higher — if not highest — in the accounting of who benefits most from Amazon’s operations.

Mr. Bezos said that Amazon’s goal is to become “Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work.” He disputed the characterization of Amazon warehouse employees as “being treated as robots” (the jobs have been criticized over workplace safety measures during the pandemic, algorithmic management and productivity quotas), and highlighted Amazon’s $15 minimum hourly wage, which one study suggested led to increased wages at other businesses nearby.

  • Mr. Bezos also addressed the recent union election at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., which Amazon won by a wide margin. “Does your Chair take comfort in the outcome of the recent union vote in Bessemer? No, he doesn’t,” Mr. Bezos wrote, adding that Amazon needs to “do a better job for our employees.”

The letter ended on a philosophical note. “We all know that distinctiveness — originality — is valuable,” Mr. Bezos wrote. “We are all taught to ‘be yourself.’ What I’m really asking you to do is to embrace and be realistic about how much energy it takes to maintain that distinctiveness. The world wants you to be typical — in a thousand ways, it pulls at you. Don’t let it happen.”


— Jane Fraser, the C.E.O. of Citigroup, reporting a tripling of profit in its latest quarter.


Greenlight Capital’s quarterly report is out and the hedge fund’s founder, David Einhorn, has a lot to say.

He blames Chamath and Elon for the GameStop frenzy. “The real jet fuel on the GME squeeze came from Chamath Palihapitiya and Elon Musk, whose appearances on TV and Twitter, respectively, at a critical moment further destabilized the situation,” Mr. Einhorn wrote.

  • He questioned Mr. Palihapitiya’s intentions in joining the trading craze. “Mr. Palihapitiya controls SoFi, which competes with Robinhood, and left us with the impression that by destabilizing GME he could harm a competitor.” (Mr. Palihapitiya’s SPAC announced a deal to acquire SoFi in January, which Mr. Palihapitiya disclosed in his tweets about Robinhood.)

He’s not a fan of payment for order flow, which is how Robinhood makes money on free trading. It’s “just disguised commission,” Mr. Einhorn said.

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With Earnings Soaring, Wall Street Banks See Economic Boom Ahead

Strength in the banks’ investing, lending and trading businesses added to the euphoria. All three reported robust revenues across multiple lines of business, driven by a combination of active and rising markets, a flurry of new mortgage activity and the boom in special-purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs. Corporate merger and acquisition activity also marked an all-time high by dollar value.

Goldman — a dominant player in corporate advisory services and in markets — reported a doubling of revenue to $17.7 billion, from $8.7 billion, thanks to double-digit percentage gains in investment banking, money management and markets. JPMorgan reported a 14 percent rise in revenue to $33.1 billion from $29 billion, driven by both markets and investment banking.

Wells Fargo’s revenue rose 2 percent, buoyed partly by a 19 percent jump in home lending, as Americans migrated away from cities and into more suburban or rural areas. The results “reflected an improving U.S. economy,” but low interest rates and sluggish demand for loans were a “headwind,” said Charles W. Scharf, the bank’s chief executive.

The banks have been major — if somewhat unintended — beneficiaries of the government’s spending push over the last year that sought to keep the shock of virus-related economic shutdowns from sending the economy into a long-term tailspin.

A little over year ago, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates to near zero and restarted its bond-buying programs, effectively injecting trillions of freshly created dollars into financial markets, which helped bolster activity in mortgages, corporate bond issuance and deals.

Since then, stock markets have soared more than 80 percent, amid a boom in trading that crested this year. Both factors helped banks, which have businesses that buy and sell shares for clients. Goldman’s equities business made $3.7 billion in revenue in the first quarter, up 68 percent from last year. JPMorgan’s stock markets business notched $3.3 billion, up 47 percent.

Looking forward, several banks spotlighted the impact of recent infusions of stimulus checks on consumer accounts — a component of roughly $5 trillion the federal government has allocated to fighting the crisis over the last year. The influx of federal dollars has helped put the finances of American households on some of their firmest footing in years, bankers said, adding that there are growing indications consumers are eager to put the cash to work.

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What Working Too Much Does to Your Body

When these sorts of companies enact work-life policies, why don’t they seem to stick?

Look at the reward structure. You have an OK base salary, but then the bonus is allocated based on how you’re stacking up at the end of the year against your peers. It’s like a tournament. It’s like a race. And all you know is that the people next to you, against whom you will be measured, are just as smart as you. They work just as hard. And so the only lever you have is try to outwork them. These reward structures perpetuate this work ethic.

When an organization says “we value work-life balance, we want our people to not work on weekends, we want blah blah blah” — there is still this competitive structure where people have an incentive to work all they can because others are doing the same thing, and only winners get rewarded.

Churning through talent may work for a company. But you found that many employees choose these grueling schedules, even when they come at great personal cost. One associate told you: “I work hard because I want to.”

The people who get hired at banks have been through performance competitions all their lives. When I talk to students at the beginning of their undergraduate career and ask them, “what do you want to be?” very few want to go into banking.

So what happens? When these firms descend onto campus, people start competing because that’s what they have been conditioned to do throughout their lives. They chase after what everyone else chases after, regardless of whether they actually care about the work. Regardless of whether there are consequences or not, these people want to win.

This is maybe the final part that locks people into these intense work schedules. It is the idea that there is a cadre of individuals who are the best and brightest, and if you don’t keep up the pace you’ll end up at some kind of second-tier firm — part of an undefinable “rest.”

What’s so bad about that?

The people in the best and the brightest group, they have opportunities, they earn a lot, they work with other interesting people, they work on global deals. The rest push paper with uninteresting colleagues and over time, you’ll become like them. That’s what people sincerely believe. They believe that if you don’t work for an elite organization, you fall into an abyss of personal social status descent.

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With a Big Tax Break, Hong Kong Tries to Soothe the Rich

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.

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.”

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He Built a $10 Billion Investment Firm. It Fell Apart in Days.

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.”

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.

Kitty Bennett contributed research.

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