many of the same ships have recently started trading Venezuelan oil that is under U.S. sanctions.

The spread of AIS manipulation by E.U.-registered vessels shows how advances in technology allow some shipowners to earn windfall profits from commodities under sanction while benefiting from European financial services and legal safeguards.

Cyprus’s deputy shipping minister, Vassilios Demetriades, said illegal manipulation of on-ship equipment is punishable by fines or criminal penalties under the island’s laws. But he has downplayed the problem, saying AIS’s “value and trustworthiness as a location device is rather limited.”

According to Cyprus’s corporate documents, Reliable belongs to a company owned by Christos Georgantzoglou, 81, a Greek businessman. The ship crossed the Atlantic for the first time shortly after Mr. Georgantzoglou’s company bought it last year, and has transmitted locations around eastern Caribbean Islands since, according to Windward’s analysis.

But Venezuela’s state oil company records reviewed by The New York Times show that Reliable was working for the Venezuelan government in the country during that time.

Mr. Georgantzoglou and his company did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Their Venezuelan dealings appear to contradict a promise made by Greece’s powerful shipowners association in 2020 to stop transporting the country’s oil. The association did not respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, Reliable is still moving fuel around Venezuelan ports or loading crude onto Asia-bound ships in open waters to hide its origin, according to two Venezuelan oil businessmen, who asked not to be named for security reasons. It still broadcasts coordinates of a ship adrift in the Caribbean Sea.

Adriana Loureiro Fernandez and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.

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Wall Street Banks Are Getting Flexible on Working From Home

When Tom Naratil arrived on Wall Street in the 1980s, work-life balance didn’t really exist. For most bankers of his generation, working long hours while missing out on family time wasn’t just necessary to get ahead, it was necessary to not be left behind.

But Mr. Naratil, now president of the Swiss bank UBS in the Americas, doesn’t see why the employees of today should have to make the same trade-offs — at the cost of their personal happiness and the company’s bottom line.

Employees with the flexibility to skip “horrible commutes” and work from home more often are simply happier and more productive, Mr. Naratil said. “They feel better, they feel like we trust them more, they’ve got a better work-life balance, and they’re producing more for us — that’s a win-win for everybody.”

Welcome to a kinder, gentler Wall Street.

Much of the banking industry, long a bellwether for corporate America, dismissed remote working as a pandemic blip, even leaning on workers to keep coming in when closings turned Midtown Manhattan into a ghost town. But with many Wall Street workers resisting a return to the office two years later and the competition for banking talent heating up, many managers are coming around on work-from-home — or at least acknowledging it’s not a fight they can win.

rolled out its plan last month to allow 10 percent of its 20,500 U.S. employees to work remotely all the time and offer hybrid schedules for three-quarters of its workers.

“Talent will move, and it’s not only about a paycheck,” he said.

said. Wells Fargo started bringing back most of its 249,000-person work force in mid-March with what it calls a “hybrid flexible model” — for many corporate employees, that entails a minimum of three days a week in the office, while groups that cater to the bank’s technology needs will be able to come in less often.

BNY Mellon, which has nearly 50,000 employees, is allowing teams to determine their own mix of in-person and remote work. And it introduced a two-week “work from anywhere” policy for people in certain roles and locations. “The energy around the office has been palpable” as employees eagerly map out their plans, said Garrett Marquis, a BNY Mellon spokesman.

Moelis & Company, a boutique investment bank, has strongly encouraged its almost 1,000 staff members to come to the office Monday through Thursday, but with added “intraday flexibility” over their hours, said Elizabeth Crain, the company’s chief operating officer. That might mean dropping children off at school in the morning, or taking the train during daylight hours for safety reasons, she said. The new approach fosters teamwork and enables employees to learn from one another in person, while also giving them more control over their schedules.

Ms. Crain said everyone was much more flexible. “We all know we can deliver,” she said.

Ms. Crain, who has worked in the financial industry for more than three decades, recently committed to something that would have been unthinkable before the pandemic: a weekly 9 a.m. session with a personal trainer near her office. She said she hoped that breaking out of the confines of the traditional workday sent a message to employees that they were trusted to get the job done while making time for their personal priorities.

said last month.

But he and Goldman’s David Solomon have welcomed efforts to get workers back into Manhattan offices. Mr. Solomon echoed Mayor Eric Adams at a talk at Goldman’s headquarters in March, saying it was “time to come back.”

Andrea Williams, a spokeswoman for Goldman Sachs, said returning to the office “is core to our apprenticeship culture” and client-focused business. “We are better together than apart, especially as an employer of choice for those in the beginning stage of their career,” she said.

For months, Mr. Dimon has made a similar argument at JPMorgan — and continued to even as he said about half its employees would work from home at least some of the time.

“Most professionals learn their job through an apprenticeship model, which is almost impossible to replicate in the Zoom world,” he wrote. JPMorgan has hired more than 80,000 workers during the pandemic, he said, and it strives to train them properly.

building a new headquarters in Midtown that will be the home base for up to 14,000 workers, will move to a more “open seating” arrangement.

Banks outside New York are also adapting: KeyCorp, which is based in Cleveland, hasn’t set a specific return-to-office date, but expects half its staff to eventually show up four or five days a week. Another 30 percent will probably come in for one to three days, with the ability to work from different offices. And 20 percent will work from home, albeit with in-person training and team-building events.

The new setup is “uncharted territory” that is necessary to keep the work force engaged, said Key’s chief executive, Chris Gorman. While he comes in every day and is a big believer in face-to-face meetings, Mr. Gorman said he had avoided a heavy-handed approach that could alienate employees and prompt them to look elsewhere.

Mr. Naratil, the UBS president, is also a believer in in-person gatherings — he still spends most of his week at UBS’s office in Weehawken, N.J. — but he said the great remote-work experiment of the last two years had debunked the myth that employees were less productive at home. In fact, he said, they are more productive.

The increasingly hybrid workplace has forced leaders to connect with their teams in new ways, like virtual happy hours, Mr. Naratil said. The rank and file have shown that they can rise to the occasion, and the onus is on bosses to attract workers back to physical spaces to generate new ideas and strengthen relationships.

Managers, he said, need to have a good answer when their employees ask the simple question: “Why should I be in the office?”

“It’s not ‘Because I told you to,’” he said. “That’s not the answer.”

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EXCLUSIVE HSBC steps up scrutiny of Russian clients worldwide as sanctions ratchet up, article with image

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The HSBC bank logo is seen in the Canary Wharf financial district in London, Britain, March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Reinhard Krause

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  • HSBC applying harsher scrutiny to Russia-related business
  • Managers told to refuse new loans, accounts -sources
  • Crackdown comes as U.S., European sanctions bite

HONG KONG/LONDON, March 25 (Reuters) – HSBC (HSBA.L) is shunning prospective Russian clients and declining credit to some existing ones, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters, as the bank seeks to shield itself from Western sanctions against Moscow.

The measures affect HSBC’s individual and business customers globally and go further than the bank’s previously stated intentions to wind down its relations with lenders such as VTB (VTBR.MM), which were placed under Western restrictions after Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. read more

The moves by Europe’s second biggest bank show how sanctions aimed at Russia’s financial system and its political and business elite are also ensnaring Russian nationals outside the country as lenders seek to avoid falling foul of the restrictions and potentially hefty fines.

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HSBC had said on March 14 it is “not accepting any new business in Russia,” without spelling out what that means for existing or prospective Russian customers in other markets.

The sources said the bank’s risk and compliance staff have told business managers to apply extra scrutiny to all prospective clients bearing Russian passports or furnishing Russian addresses, with the result that many more are turned away than would have been in the past.

The checks also extend to dual passport-holders as well as those with links to Belarus, seen as an ally of Moscow, as the bank’s staff scramble to ensure they do not inadvertently offer services to sanctioned individuals or businesses.

HSBC declined to comment.

Customers with business ties to Russia and receiving income in roubles, such as those deriving income from Russian employment, pensions, or investments, are also being impacted as those rouble cashflows are discounted to zero for credit purposes, one of the sources, who works at HSBC, told Reuters.

Business customers with Russian links, even those with no ties to sanctioned entities or individuals, face increased scrutiny on large deposits or withdrawals and are seeing new loan applications declined, the two sources said.

The invasion has triggered an exodus of foreign companies from Russia as Western authorities deploy sanctions at an unprecedented scale and pace to squeeze Moscow and prevent the global financial system from being a conduit for Russian money.

Reuters reported earlier this month that European Union regulators had told some banks to tighten control of all Russian and Belarusian clients, including EU residents, to ensure they are not used to circumvent sanctions. read more

Russia characterises its actions in Ukraine as a “special operation” to demilitarise and “denazify” the country.

BUSINESS FREEZE

Leading European banks such as Italy’s UniCredit (CRDI.MI) and France’s Societe Generale (SOGN.PA) said they could face a multi-billion dollar write-off of their businesses in Russia, but banks also face a wider chill on business as they grapple with sanctions. read more

HSBC does not operate a retail bank inside Russia but as of Feb. 22 it had around 200 staff there serving multinational corporations, its Chief Financial Officer Ewen Stevenson told Reuters at the time. The bank said on March 14 its business there “will continue to reduce.”

The latest HSBC measures go beyond the usual background checks, and show how banks’ policies are still evolving since the invasion as they try to implement multiple waves of sanctions without discriminating against legitimate customers.

They also show the tension between banks’ sanctions and compliance teams, who urge the strictest possible interpretation of new rules to satisfy regulators, and frontline staff tasked with growing the business and serving clients.

HSBC is under particular pressure to show regulators that it can identify illegal transactions. It had to tighten up its money laundering controls globally after a string of past scandals and, in 2012, agreed to pay $1.9 billion to U.S. authorities for allowing itself to be used to launder drug money flowing out of Mexico.

HSBC is reviewing all existing private and retail banking customers with Russian connections globally to see if they have ties to sanctioned entities or individuals, the sources said.

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Additional reporting by Vidya Ranganathan in Singapore. Editing by Jane Merriman and Carmel Crimmins

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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

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

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

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

market swoon that began in September.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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