previously reported that they were involved in some of the early talks with Mr. Orlando.

Mr. Moss and Mr. Litinsky, who at one time were senior executives with Trump Media, didn’t respond to requests for comment. Mr. Litinsky no longer works for Trump Media; Mr. Moss’s job status is unclear.

Securities regulators also have asked for information from Digital World about the role played by the SPAC’s financial adviser, Shanghai-based ARC Group, according to regulatory filings. Federal regulators previously have reprimanded ARC. In 2017, the S.E.C. stopped ARC’s executives from listing shares of three companies, citing “material misstatements” in their securities filings and a lack of cooperation from the executives.

Ben Protess contributed reporting. Susan C. Beachy contributed research.

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U.S. bars Cuba, Venezuela from Americas summit; Mexican leader sits out

WASHINGTON/MEXICO CITY, June 6 (Reuters) – The White House on Monday excluded Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua from the U.S.-hosted Summit of the Americas this week, prompting Mexico’s president to make good on a threat to skip the event because all countries in the Western Hemisphere were not invited.

The boycott by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and some other leaders could diminish the relevance of the summit in Los Angeles, where the United States aims to address regional migration and economic challenges. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, hopes to repair Latin America relations damaged under his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, reassert U.S. influence and counter China’s inroads.

The decision to cut out Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua followed weeks of intense deliberations and was due to concerns about human rights and a lack of democracy in the three nations, a senior U.S. official said.

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U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the Biden administration “understands” Mexico’s position, but “one of the key elements of this summit is democratic governance, and these countries are not exemplars, to put it mildly.”

Biden aides have been mindful of pressure from Republicans and some fellow Democrats against appearing soft on America’s three main leftist antagonists in Latin America. Miami’s large Cuban-American community, which favored Trump’s harsh policies toward Cuba and Venezuela, is seen as an important voting bloc in Florida in the November elections that will decide control of the U.S. Congress, which is now in the hands of the Democrats.

Lopez Obrador told reporters that his foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, would attend the summit in his place. The Mexican president said he would meet with Biden in Washington next month, which the White House confirmed. read more

“There can’t be a Summit of the Americas if not all countries of the American continent are taking part,” Lopez Obrador said.

Lopez Obrador’s absence from the gathering, which Biden is due to open on Wednesday, raises questions about summit discussions focused on curbing migration at the U.S. southern border, a priority for Biden, and could be a diplomatic embarrassment for the United States.

A caravan of several thousand migrants, many from Venezuela, set off from southern Mexico early Monday aiming to reach the United States. read more

But a senior administration official insisted Lopez Obrador’s no-show would not hinder Biden’s rollout of a regional migration initiative. The White House expects at least 23 heads of state and government, which the official said would be in line with past summits.

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat and chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, criticized the Mexican president, saying his “decision to stand with dictators and despots” would hurt U.S.-Mexico relations.

CUBA CRITICAL

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing populist and Trump admirer who leads Latin America’s most populous country, will attend after initially flirting with staying away. read more

The exclusion of Venezuela and Nicaragua had been flagged in recent weeks. President Miguel Diaz-Canel of Communist-ruled Cuba said last month he would not go even if invited, accusing the United States of “brutal pressure” to make the summit non-inclusive.

On Monday, Cuba called the decision “discriminatory and unacceptable” and said the United States underestimated support in the region for the island nation.

The United States invited some Cuban civil society activists to attend, but several said on social media that Cuban state security had blocked them from travel to Los Angeles. read more

Having ruled out Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the Biden administration expects representatives for opposition leader Juan Guaido will attend, Price said. He declined to say whether their participation would be in person or virtually.

The senior administration official, asked whether Biden might have a call with Guaido during the summit, said there was a good chance of an “engagement,” but declined to elaborate.

Washington recognizes Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate president, having condemned Maduro’s 2018 re-election as a sham. But some countries in the region have stuck with Maduro.

Also barred from the summit is Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a former Marxist guerrilla who won a fourth consecutive term in November after jailing rivals.

Most leaders have signaled they will attend, but the pushback by leftist-led governments suggests many in Latin America are no longer willing to follow Washington’s lead as in past times.

Faced with low expectations for summit achievements, U.S. officials began previewing Biden’s coming initiatives. Those include an “Americas partnership” for pandemic recovery, which would entail investments and supply-chain strengthening, reform of the Inter-American Development Bank, and a $300 million commitment for regional food security.

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Reporting By Matt Spetalnick in Washington and Dave Graham in Mexico City; Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Eric Beech and Patricia Zengerle in Washington, Kylie Madry and Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City, Jose Torres in Tapachula and Dave Sherwood in Havana; Writing by Ted Hesson; Editing by Grant McCool, Alistair Bell and Leslie Adler

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Biden to unveil economic partnership for Americas – U.S. official

A LAPD helocopter flies near the LA Convention Center during the first day of the Ninth Americas Summit in Los Angeles, U.S., June 6, 2022. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril

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WASHINGTON, June 6 (Reuters) – President Joe Biden will announce this week at the Summit of the Americas an economic partnership for the Western hemisphere focusing on promoting economic recovery by building on existing trade agreements, U.S. administration officials said on Monday.

Dubbed the “Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity”, the plan will cover five areas including mobilizing investments, reinvigorating institutions, clean energy jobs, resilient supply chains and sustainable trade.

“The overall objective is to build our economies from the bottom up and middle out by building on the foundation established by our free trade agreements with the region to better address inequality and lack of economic opportunity,” a senior administration official told reporters in a call.

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The plan would aim to offer an alternative in a region where China has been expanding its sphere of influence. It was unclear, however, how many countries in economically troubled Latin America would buy into such an arrangement.

The United States is hosting the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, a gathering where Biden aims to address regional migration and economic challenges. On Monday, the White House said it was not inviting Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, prompting Mexico’s president to skip the event.

The summit is being convened in the United States for the first time since the first such gathering in Miami in 1994, as Biden seeks to reassert U.S. leadership and counter China’s growing clout. He is due to formally open the summit on Wednesday.

Biden will put forward “an ambitious reform” of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the official said, adding that the United States would also seek an equity stake at the bank’s private sector lending arm to support the deployment of private capital.

“Because the private sector has a central role to play,” the official said.

Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas think tank, told a Senate subcommittee last week that the Biden administration should push for a regional trade initiative similar to the one for the Indo-Pacific that Biden announced during his Asia tour in May.

But the idea of creating a hemisphere-wide trade bloc has never gotten off the ground, partly because of protectionism sentiment among U.S. labor unions and some lawmakers.

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Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick in Los Angeles; Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Eric Beech; Editing by Chris Reese and Stephen Coates

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Analysis: Why Twitter has ignored Elon Musk’s ‘trolling’

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Elon Musk twitter account is seen through Twitter logo in this illustration taken, April 25, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

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May 17 (Reuters) – A unilateral pronouncement that the acquisition of Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) is “on hold”. Fierce criticism of the social media company’s handling of spam accounts. A “poop emoji” directed at Twitter’s chief executive, Parag Agrawal.

These are just some of Elon Musk’s tweets in the last four days, culminating in a suggestion by the Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) chief executive at a conference in Miami on Monday that his $44 billion deal could be renegotiated at a lower price. read more

Twitter believes Musk’s comments have been in breach of the non-disparagement terms of his agreement to buy Twitter, according to people familiar with the matter.

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Yet the San Francisco-based company has not taken any legal action against Musk over what it sees as his “trolling” of the deal, and plans to do so only if he does not carry out the tasks needed to complete the transaction, the sources said.

One of the sources involved in the deal added that Twitter was trying to “block out the noise”.

Musk’s representatives have continued to collaborate with Twitter, according to the sources. They have been preparing information for submission to regulators, the sources said.

Twitter’s proxy statement on Tuesday, which outlined for its shareholders everything they need to know to vote on the transaction, made no mention of Musk’s comments about the deal being on hold or that it could be done at a lower price.

At the same time, some Twitter executives and advisers are concerned that Musk may be laying the groundwork for renegotiating the agreement and are preparing to defend the deal in court, according to the sources. They pointed to Musk’s comments about the deal becoming increasingly negative.

“My offer was based on Twitter’s SEC filings being accurate. Yesterday, Twitter’s CEO publicly refused to show proof… This deal cannot move forward until he does,” Musk tweeted on Tuesday morning.

The sources requested not to be identified because they were discussing confidential deal planning. Representatives for Twitter and Musk did not respond to requests for comment.

Some of Twitter’s leaders have not been indifferent to Musk’s comments. Agrawal took to Twitter on Monday to defend the company’s methodology for accounting for spam accounts, while Twitter chairman Bret Taylor tweeted on Friday that “we remain committed to our agreement”.

Twitter shares ended trading on Monday at $37.39, 5% lower than where they traded before Musk revealed on April 4 he had amassed a stake in the company, and 31% lower than the $54.20 per share deal price. This indicates that investors deem it highly likely that Musk will walk away or renegotiate the deal at a lower price.

Twitter is continuing to provide Musk with information on spam accounts, the sources said. Musk is entitled to this data as part of his planning to own Twitter under the terms of his agreement with the company.

Musk has questioned the accuracy of Twitter’s public disclosures in which the company has said that these accounts make up “well under 5%” of its user base. Twitter has cautioned that this is an estimate.

Independent researchers have projected that 9% to 15% of the millions of Twitter profiles are bots. Musk said on Monday that he suspects they make up at least 20% of Twitter’s users. read more

One concern weighing on Twitter as it shares information with Musk is that he may violate his non-disclosure agreement with the company and share confidential information about its platform and users, one of the sources said. Musk has argued that Twitter needs to make more information public about how its platform operates.

WAIVED DUE DILIGENCE

Musk, the world’s richest person, waived due diligence when he agreed to buy Twitter on April 25, in an effort to get the San Francisco-based company to accept his “best and final offer.”

Since then, technology stocks have plunged amid investor concerns over inflation and an economic slowdown.

Musk is contractually obligated to pay Twitter a $1 billion break-up fee if he does not complete the deal. But the contract also contains a “specific performance” clause that a judge can cite to force Musk to complete the deal.

In practice, acquirers who lose a specific performance case are almost never forced to complete an acquisition and typically negotiate a monetary settlement with their targets. read more

Wedbush Securities called Musk’s citing of the spam accounts as grounds to put the deal on hold a “dog-ate-the-homework excuse” given that the company was making the same disclosure on the matter since it went public in 2013.

“The stark reality for Twitter is that no other strategic/financial bidder will come near this deal and Musk knows that,” the Wedbush analysts wrote.

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Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis and Krystal Hu in New York. Editing by Gerry Doyle and Louise Heavens

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Allianz to pay $6 billion in U.S. fraud case, fund manager charged

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NEW YORK/MUNICH, May 17 (Reuters) – Germany’s Allianz SE (ALVG.DE) agreed to pay more than $6 billion and its U.S. asset management unit pleaded guilty to criminal securities fraud over the collapse of a group of investment funds early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Allianz’s settlements with the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission are among the largest in corporate history, and dwarf earlier settlements obtained under President Joe Biden’s administration.

Gregoire Tournant, the former chief investment officer who created and oversaw the now-defunct Structured Alpha funds, was also indicted for fraud, conspiracy and obstruction, while two other former portfolio managers entered related guilty pleas.

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Once with more than $11 billion of assets under management, the Structured Alpha funds lost more than $7 billion as COVID-19 roiled markets in February and March 2020.

Allianz Global Investors US LLC was accused of misleading pension funds for teachers, bus drivers, engineers, religious groups and others by understating the funds’ risks, and having “significant gaps” in its oversight. read more

Investors were told the funds employed options that included hedges to protect against market crashes, but prosecutors said the fund managers repeatedly failed to buy those hedges.

Prosecutors said the managers also inflated fund results to boost their pay through performance fees, with Tournant, 55, collecting $13 million in 2019 and becoming his unit’s highest or second-highest-paid employee from 2015 to 2019.

Investigators said the misrepresentations began in 2014, and helped Allianz generate more than $400 million of net profit.

At a news conference, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams in Manhattan said more than 100,000 investors were harmed, and that while American prosecutors rarely bring criminal charges against companies it was “the right thing to do.”

Investors “were promised a relatively safe investment with strict risk controls designed to weather a sudden storm, like a massive collapse in the stock market,” he said. “Those promises were lies…. Today is the day for accountability.”

BLAMING COVID

Also known for its insurance operations, Allianz is among Germany’s most recognizable brands and an Olympic sponsor.

Its namesake arena near its Munich headquarters, meanwhile, houses Bayern Munich, one of world’s best-known soccer teams.

The settlement calls for Allianz to pay a $2.33 billion criminal fine, make $3.24 billion of restitution and forfeit $463 million, court papers show.

Williams said the fine was significantly reduced because of Allianz’s compensation to investors.

Even so, the payout is close to twice the $3.3 billion in corporate penalties that the Justice Department collected for all of 2021.

An Allianz lawyer entered the guilty plea at a hearing before U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska in Manhattan.

Allianz also accepted a $675 million civil fine from by the SEC, one of that regulator’s largest penalties since Enron Corp and WorldCom Inc imploded two decades ago.

Shares of Allianz closed up 1.7% in Germany, with the payout broadly matching reserves that the company previously set aside.

Tournant, of Basalt, Colorado, surrendered to authorities on Tuesday morning.

The U.S.-French citizen appeared briefly in Denver federal court, and was released after agreeing to post a $20 million bond. An arraignment was set for June 2 in New York.

Tournant’s lawyers, Seth Levine and Daniel Alonso, said the investor losses were “regrettable” but did not result from a crime.

“Greg Tournant has been unfairly targeted [in a] meritless and ill-considered attempt by the government to criminalize the impact of the unprecedented, COVID-induced market dislocation,” the lawyers said in a joint statement.

The other two portfolio managers – Stephen Bond-Nelson, 51, of Berkeley Heights, New Jersey; and Trevor Taylor, 49, of Miami – agreed to plead guilty to fraud and conspiracy, and cooperate with prosecutors. Their lawyers declined immediate comment.

VOYA PARTNERSHIP

Allianz’s guilty plea carries a 10-year ban on Allianz Global Investors’ providing advisory services to U.S.-registered investment funds.

As a result, Allianz plans to move about $120 billion of investor assets to Voya Financial Inc (VOYA.N) in exchange for a stake of up to 24% in Voya’s investment management unit. It expects a final agreement in the coming weeks.

Regulators said the misconduct included when Tournant and Bond-Nelson altered more than 75 risk reports before sending them to investors.

The SEC said projected losses in one market crash scenario were changed to 4.15% from the actual 42.15%, simply by removing the “2.”

Allianz’s alleged oversight lapses included a failure to ensure Tournant was hedging, though prosecutors said only people in his group knew of the misconduct before March 2020.

“No compliance system is perfect, but the controls at AGI didn’t even stand a chance,” Williams said.

Bond-Nelson, at Tournant’s direction, also lied to Allianz’s in-house lawyers after the company learned about the altered reports and the SEC probe, prosecutors added.

“Unfortunately, we’ve seen a recent string of cases in which derivatives and complex products have harmed investors across market sectors,” SEC Chair Gary Gensler said in a statement.

Investors have also filed more than two dozen lawsuits against Allianz over the Structured Alpha funds.

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Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York and Tom Sims and Alexander Huebner in Munich
Additional reporting by Luc Cohen in New York
Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Tomasz Janowski and Matthew Lewis

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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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Crypto Industry Helps Write, and Pass, Its Own Agenda in State Capitols

In July, the state ordered a dozen A.T.M. providers that sell crypto in exchange for cash — including Cash Cloud, Coin Now and DigiCash — to register as money transmitters, despite appeals from the companies, documents obtained by The Times show.

Last year, Mr. Aloupis introduced the bill to exempt two-party crypto transactions, after lobbying appeals by Mr. Armes and a trade group he leads, the Florida Blockchain Business Association. (Its members include Binance, the large crypto exchange.) The bill failed to win Senate approval, and it was reintroduced for this year’s session.

Russell Weigel, the Florida commissioner of the Office of Financial Regulation, said he endorsed the legislation that Mr. Armes had championed.

“If I go and buy groceries at your food store, that’s a two-party transaction,” Mr. Weigel said. “Do I need a license for that? It seems absurd.”

Lobbyists for Blockchain.com, a cryptocurrency exchange that moved last year from New York to Miami, and Bit5ive, which manufactures crypto mining equipment in the Florida area, joined the effort, contacting dozens of state lawmakers.

“They are very pro crypto,” Robert Collazo, the Bit5ive chief executive, said of Florida lawmakers.

In the future, the company plans to raise money for crypto-friendly legislators in Florida, said Michael Kesti, Bit5ive’s lobbyist. The legislative affairs director of the Florida blockchain association, Jason Holloway, is already running for the State House, with donations — some in cryptocurrency — from Mr. Armes and others.

“I don’t want it to seem like we are paying for the influence,” Mr. Kesti said. “But we do want to support them.”

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Peter Thiel, the Right’s Would-Be Kingmaker

Mr. Thiel has attracted the most attention for two $10 million donations to the Senate candidates Blake Masters in Arizona and J.D. Vance in Ohio. Like Mr. Thiel, the men are tech investors with pedigrees from elite universities who cast themselves as antagonists to the establishment. They have also worked for the billionaire and been financially dependent on him. Mr. Masters, the chief operating officer of Thiel Capital, the investor’s family office, has promised to leave that job before Arizona’s August primary.

Mr. Thiel, who declined to comment for this article, announced last week that he would leave the board of Meta, the parent company of Facebook, which conservatives have accused of censorship. One reason for the change: He plans to focus more on politics.

Born in West Germany and raised in South Africa and the San Francisco Bay Area, Mr. Thiel showed his provocative side at Stanford in the late 1980s. Classmates recalled Mr. Thiel, who studied philosophy and law, describing South Africa’s apartheid as a sound economic system. (A spokesman for Mr. Thiel has denied that he supported apartheid.)

Mr. Thiel also helped found The Stanford Review, a conservative campus paper that sought to provide “alternative views” to what he deemed left-wing orthodoxy.

In 1995, he co-wrote a book, “The Diversity Myth,” arguing that “the extreme focus on racism” had caused greater societal tension and acrimony. Rape, he and his co-author, David Sacks, wrote, sometimes included “seductions that are later regretted.” (Mr. Thiel has apologized for the book.)

In 1998, Mr. Thiel helped create what would become the digital payments company PayPal. He became Facebook’s first outside investor in 2004 and established the venture capital firm Founders Fund a year later. Forbes puts his fortune at $2.6 billion.

one 2009 piece, Mr. Thiel, who called himself a libertarian, wrote that he had come to “no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible,” arguing that American politics would always be hostile to free-market ideals, and that politics was about interfering with other people’s lives without their consent. Since then, he has hosted and attended events with white nationalists and alt-right figures.

His political giving evolved with those views. He donated lavishly to Ron Paul’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns before turning to candidates who were more extreme than the Republican establishment.

In 2013, Curtis Yarvin, an entrepreneur who has voiced racist beliefs and said democracy was a destructive system of government, emailed Mr. Thiel. Mr. Yarvin wrote that Mr. Cruz, then a newly elected senator, “needs to purge every single traitor” from the Republican Party. In the email, which The Times obtained, Mr. Yarvin argued that it didn’t matter if those candidates lost general elections or cost the party control in Congress.

Mr. Thiel, who had donated to Mr. Cruz’s 2012 campaign, replied, “It’s relatively safe to support Cruz (for me) because he threatens the Republican establishment.”

Mr. Thiel used his money to fund other causes. In 2016, he was revealed as the secret funder of a lawsuit that targeted Gawker Media, which had reported he was gay. Gawker declared bankruptcy, partly from the costs of fighting the lawsuit.

proud to be a gay Republican supporting Mr. Trump. He later donated $1.25 million to the candidate.

After Mr. Trump won, Mr. Thiel was named to the president-elect’s executive transition team. At a meeting with tech leaders at Trump Tower in Manhattan in December 2016, Mr. Trump told Mr. Thiel, “You’re a very special guy.”

A month later, Mr. Thiel, a naturalized American, was revealed to have also obtained citizenship in New Zealand. That prompted a furor, especially after Mr. Trump had urged people to pledge “total allegiance to the United States.”

During Mr. Trump’s presidency, Mr. Thiel became frustrated with the administration. “There are all these ways that things have fallen short,” he told The Times in 2018.

In 2020, he stayed on the sidelines. His only notable federal election donation was to Kris Kobach, a Trump ally and former secretary of state of Kansas known for his hard-line views on immigration. (Mr. Kobach lost his primary bid for the Senate.)

Mr. Thiel’s personal priorities also changed. In 2016, he announced that he was moving from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The next year, he married a longtime boyfriend, Matt Danzeisen; they have two children.

Mr. Thiel reduced his business commitments and started pondering leaving Meta’s board, which he had joined in 2005, two of the people with knowledge of his thinking said. At an October event held by a conservative tech group in Miami, he alluded to his frustration with Facebook, which was increasingly removing certain kinds of speech and had barred Mr. Trump.

a $13 million mansion in Washington from Wilbur Ross, Mr. Trump’s commerce secretary. In October, he spoke at the event for the Federalist Society at Stanford and at the National Conservatism Conference.

He also rebuilt his relationship with Mr. Trump. Since the 2020 election, they have met at least three times in New York and at Mar-a-Lago, sometimes with Mr. Masters or Mr. Vance. And Mr. Thiel invested in Mr. McEntee’s company, which is building a dating app for conservatives called the RightStuff.

Mr. McEntee declined to answer questions about his app and said Mr. Thiel was “a great guy.” Mr. Trump’s representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Thiel’s political giving ramped up last spring with his $10 million checks to PACs supporting Mr. Vance and Mr. Masters. The sums were his biggest and the largest ever one-time contributions to a PAC backing a single candidate, according to OpenSecrets.

Like Mr. Trump in 2016, Mr. Vance and Mr. Masters lack experience in politics. Mr. Vance, the venture capitalist who wrote the best-selling memoir “Hillbilly Elegy,” met Mr. Thiel a decade ago when the billionaire delivered a lecture at Yale Law School, where Mr. Vance was a student.

Zero to One.” In 2020, Mr. Masters reported more than $1.1 million in salary from Thiel Capital and book royalties.

Mr. Vance, Mr. Masters and their campaigns did not respond to requests for comment.

Both candidates have repeated the Trumpian lie of election fraud, with Mr. Masters stating in a November campaign ad, “I think Trump won in 2020.” They have also made Mr. Thiel a selling point in their campaigns.

In November, Mr. Vance wrote on Twitter that anyone who donated $10,800 to his campaign could attend a small group dinner with him and Mr. Thiel. Mr. Masters offered the same opportunity for a meal with Mr. Thiel and raised $550,000 by selling nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, of “Zero to One” digital art that would give holders “access to parties with me and Peter.”

a 20-minute speech at the National Conservatism Conference in October, he said nationalism was “a corrective” to the “brain-dead, one-world state” of globalism. He also blasted the Biden administration.

“We have the zombie retreads just busy rearranging the deck chairs,” he said. “We need dissident voices more than ever.”

Cade Metz contributed reporting. Rachel Shorey and Kitty Bennett contributed research.

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SoftBank’s Woes Are Mounting

For the past decade, SoftBank and its founder, Masayoshi Son, grabbed headlines mainly for the Japanese conglomerate’s eye-popping investments, becoming a fixture in the American technology scene by spending freely on start-ups and fundamentally reshaping how such companies had been funded.

There was the world’s largest tech investment fund. The billions of dollars pumped into WeWork, the co-working giant. And Mr. Son’s splashy purchase of one of Silicon Valley’s priciest homes.

Now, the bad news is piling up.

This week, SoftBank’s planned $40 billion sale of Arm, a chip designer, to Nvidia, the Silicon Valley chip maker, fell apart because of regulatory setbacks. Shares in a handful of big tech companies that SoftBank owns stakes in, from the Chinese internet giant Alibaba to DoorDash, the food delivery service, have plunged in recent months amid a wider sell-off in high-growth tech stocks. And one of Mr. Son’s key deputies, Marcelo Claure, left the firm in January after a bitter pay dispute — the latest senior executive to depart the firm in the past year.

The slump in SoftBank’s fortunes was reflected in its latest earnings report. The firm said that its quarterly earnings fell 97 percent from a year ago, although it managed to eke out a small profit of $251 million during the three months that ended on Dec. 31. SoftBank’s shares, which trade publicly in Tokyo, stayed relatively flat this week, although they are already down by more than half in the past 12 months, as investors grow increasingly wary of SoftBank’s big bets that haven’t paid off.

he purchased an estate in Woodside, Calif., for $117 million — one of Silicon Valley’s most expensive homes. He then bought a majority stake in the mobile carrier Sprint in 2013 for roughly $22 billion, installing Mr. Claure as chief executive the next year. Sprint later merged with T-Mobile.

that country’s crackdown on its tech giants. SoftBank owns stakes in both companies, which trade on U.S. exchanges although Didi plans to move its listing to Hong Kong. While SoftBank invested far below the initial public offering price of DoorDash, the online food ordering company — one of the best performing stocks in 2021 — is now trading around its I.P.O. price.

The share price of SoftBank’s biggest holding, Alibaba, has dropped by about 60 percent from its October 2020 high. SoftBank put more than $10 billion into WeWork, which went public last year and is now trading at less than $6 billion. And after the Arm deal with Nvidia collapsed, SoftBank plans to take the chip design company public instead.

“Even if they’re going through this pain at the moment, they’re still actually in the black,” Mr. Ferragu said of the firm’s latest results.

SoftBank has seen its share of internal turmoil, too. In recent months, at least four senior investors have left or announced plans to leave.

Last month, SoftBank also lost Mr. Claure, one of its most high-profile executives, following an acrimonious compensation battle. Mr. Claure, once a key deputy and close confidante of Mr. Son’s, had argued that his boss had promised to pay him $2 billion over several years for his current and future work.

Twitter post: “People don’t leave their jobs or their companies. They leave their bosses. Treat the people who work for you right.”

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