Jack Dorsey, a founder of Twitter, got a subpoena. So did Marc Andreessen, a prominent venture capitalist. Larry Ellison, Oracle’s chairman, and the investors David Sacks and Joe Lonsdale received them, too.
They were all summoned to share what they know about the rancorous, knock-down, drag-out tech spectacle of the year: the fight between Twitter and Elon Musk, the world’s richest man.
Mr. Musk enthusiastically agreed to buy Twitter in April for $44 billion, but has since tried to back out of the blockbuster deal, leading to lawsuits and recriminations. Both sides are set for a showdown in Delaware Chancery Court in October over whether Mr. Musk needs to stick with the acquisition. The torrent of legal demands in the case has forced a who’s who of Silicon Valley to now lawyer up, creating a heyday for top-tier law firms.
unsolicited bid worth more than $40 billion for the social network, saying he wanted to make Twitter a private company and allow people to speak more freely on the service.
Of the two sides, Twitter has so far been more aggressive in the discovery process for the case. The company has issued more than 84 subpoenas to uncover discussions that might prove that Mr. Musk soured on the acquisition because the economic downturn decreased his personal wealth. (Mr. Musk’s net worth still stands at $259 billion, according to Bloomberg.)
Twitter has sent subpoenas to Mr. Musk’s friends and associates, such as the former SpaceX board member Antonio Gracias and the entertainment executive Kristina Salen, to get insight into their group chats. The company has also summoned investors like Mr. Andreessen and Mr. Ellison, who agreed to pony up money so Mr. Musk could do the deal.
Mr. Musk himself has agreed to sift through every text he sent or received between Jan. 1 and July 8 for messages relevant to Twitter. His side’s subpoena total stands at more than 36 — including one to Mr. Dorsey — as Mr. Musk tries to show that Twitter lied about the number of inauthentic accounts on its platform, which he has cited as a reason to pull out of the deal.
Mr. Musk has demanded voluminous data from Twitter, including correspondence among its board members and years of account information. Last Thursday, the court granted Mr. Musk a limited set of 9,000 accounts that Twitter audited to determine how many bots were on the platform during a particular quarter. He has also subpoenaed the company’s bankers, Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan.
But Mr. Musk has also shown his unhappiness over Twitter’s attempts to obtain his group chats. This month, his lawyers tried limiting the company’s inquiries, saying they did not plan to turn over messages from “friends and acquaintances with whom Mr. Musk may have had passing exchanges regarding Twitter.”
Mr. Sacks, another friend of Mr. Musk’s who worked with him at PayPal, responded to a subpoena from Twitter with a tweet that included an image of a Mad magazine cover featuring a giant middle finger.
In a court filing on Friday, Mr. Sacks’s lawyers, who filed a motion to quash the subpoenas, said he had produced 90 documents for Twitter so far. They accused the company of “harassing” Mr. Sacks and creating “significant” legal bills for him by subpoenaing him in California and Delaware.
A lawyer for Mr. Sacks did not respond to a request for comment.
Kathaleen McCormick, the judge overseeing the case, has largely waved off Mr. Musk’s objections about the subpoenas to his friends. Mr. Musk’s conduct in discovery “has been suboptimal,” and his requests for years of data were “absurdly broad” she wrote in rulings last week.
“Defendants cannot refuse to respond to a discovery request because they have unilaterally deemed the request irrelevant,” Ms. McCormick wrote. “Even assuming that Musk has many friends and family members, Defendants’ breadth, burden, and proportionality arguments ring hollow.”
Ed Zimmerman, a lawyer who represents start-ups and venture capitalists, said it wasn’t surprising that Silicon Valley techies appeared unwilling to be drawn into the case. The venture industry has long operated with little regulatory oversight. Investors have only begrudgingly become more accustomed to legal processes as their industry has fallen under more scrutiny, he said.
“Venture for so long has been very accustomed to being an outsider thing,” he said. “We didn’t have to focus on following all the rules, and there wasn’t that much litigation.”
For law firms, Mr. Musk’s battle with Twitter has become a bonanza — especially financially.
“I’m sure they’re all hiring fancy high-end law firms,” Mr. Melkonian said. “Those guys are going to charge thousands of dollars per hour for preparation.”
That’s if you can find a lawyer at all. Between Mr. Musk and Twitter, they have sewn up a passel of top law firms.
Twitter has hired five law firms with expertise in corporate disputes and Delaware law: Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; Potter Anderson & Corroon; Ballard Spahr; Kobre & Kim; and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. Mr. Musk has retained a team of four firms: Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan; Chipman Brown Cicero & Cole; and Sheppard Mullin.
Other leading tech law firms — including Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Perkins Coie, Baker McKenzie, and Fenwick & West — declined to comment, citing conflicts in the case.
Lawyers sitting on the sidelines probably feel left out, Mr. Zimmerman said. “If I were a trial lawyer in San Francisco, with a specialty of dealing with venture funds and the growth companies they invest in, there ought to be that FOMO,” he said, referring to the shorthand for the “fear of missing out.”
For those who have been tapped, the next several months are likely to be chaotic.
“For people who do this work, this is what we live for,” said Karen Dunn, a litigator for tech companies who has represented Apple and Uber, and who is not involved in the Twitter case. “It moves incredibly fast, it is all consuming.”
LONDON, July 15 (Reuters) – Traditional debt crisis signs of crashing currencies, 1,000 basis point bond spreads and burned FX reserves point to a record number of developing nations now in trouble.
Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Russia, Suriname and Zambia are already in default, Belarus is on the brink and at least another dozen are in the danger zone as rising borrowing costs, inflation and debt all stoke fears of economic collapse.
Totting up the cost is eyewatering. Using 1,000 basis point bond spreads as a pain threshold, analysts calculate $400 billion of debt is in play. Argentina has by far the most at over $150 billion, while the next in line are Ecuador and Egypt with $40 billion-$45 billion.
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Crisis veterans hope many can still dodge default, especially if global markets calm and the IMF rows in with support, but these are the countries at risk.
The sovereign default world record holder looks likely to add to its tally. The peso now trades at a near 50% discount in the black market, reserves are critically low and bonds trade at just 20 cents in the dollar – less than half of what they were after the country’s 2020 debt restructuring.
The government doesn’t have any substantial debt to service until 2024, but it ramps up after that and concerns have crept in that powerful vice president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner may push to renege on the International Monetary Fund. read more
Russia’s invasion means Ukraine will almost certainly have to restructure its $20 billion plus of debt, heavyweight investors such as Morgan Stanley and Amundi warn.
The crunch comes in September when $1.2 billion of bond payments are due. Aid money and reserves mean Kyiv could potentially pay. But with state-run Naftogaz this week asking for a two-year debt freeze, investors suspect the government will follow suit. read more
Africa has a cluster of countries going to the IMF but Tunisia looks one of the most at risk. read more
A near 10% budget deficit, one of the highest public sector wage bills in the world and there are concerns that securing, or a least sticking to, an IMF programme may be tough due to President Kais Saied’s push to strengthen his grip on power and the country’s powerful, incalcitrant labour union.
Tunisian bond spreads – the premium investors demand to buy the debt rather than U.S. bonds – have risen to over 2,800 basis points and along with Ukraine and El Salvador, Tunisia is on Morgan Stanley’s top three list of likely defaulters. “A deal with the International Monetary Fund becomes imperative,” Tunisia’s central bank chief Marouan Abassi has said. read more
Furious borrowing has seen Ghana’s debt-to-GDP ratio soar to almost 85%. Its currency, the cedi, has lost nearly a quarter of its value this year and it was already spending over half of tax revenues on debt interest payments. Inflation is also getting close to 30%.
Egypt has a near 95% debt-to-GDP ratio and has seen one of the biggest exoduses of international cash this year – some $11 billion according to JPMorgan.
Fund firm FIM Partners estimates Egypt has $100 billion of hard currency debt to pay over the next five years, including a meaty $3.3 billion bond in 2024.
Cairo devalued the pound 15% and asked the IMF for help in March but bond spreads are now over 1,200 basis points and credit default swaps (CDS) – an investor tool to hedge risk – price in a 55% chance it fails on a payment. read more
Francesc Balcells, CIO of EM debt at FIM Partners, estimates though that roughly half the $100 billion Egypt needs to pay by 2027 is to the IMF or bilateral, mainly in the Gulf. “Under normal conditions, Egypt should be able to pay,” Balcells said.
Kenya spends roughly 30% of revenues on interest payments. Its bonds have lost almost half their value and it currently has no access to capital markets – a problem with a $2 billion dollar bond coming due in 2024.
On Kenya, Egypt, Tunisia and Ghana, Moody’s David Rogovic said: “These countries are the most vulnerable just because of the amount of debt coming due relative to reserves, and the fiscal challenges in terms of stabilising debt burdens.”
Addis Ababa plans to be one of the first countries to get debt relief under the G20 Common Framework programme. Progress has been held up by the country’s ongoing civil war though in the meantime it continues to service its sole $1 billion international bond. read more
Making bitcoin legal tender all but closed the door to IMF hopes. Trust has fallen to the point where an $800 million bond maturing in six months trades at a 30% discount and longer-term ones at a 70% discount.
Pakistan struck a crucial IMF deal this week. read more The breakthrough could not be more timely, with high energy import prices pushing the country to the brink of a balance of payments crisis.
Foreign currency reserves have fallen to as low as $9.8 billion, hardly enough for five weeks of imports. The Pakistani rupee has weakened to record lows. The new government needs to cut spending rapidly now as it spends 40% of its revenues on interest payments.
Western sanctions wrestled Russia into default last month read more and Belarus now facing the same tough treatment having stood with Moscow in the Ukraine campaign.
The Latin American country only defaulted two years ago but it has been rocked back into crisis by violent protests and an attempt to oust President Guillermo Lasso. read more
It has lots of debt and with the government subsidising fuel and food JPMorgan has ratcheted up its public sector fiscal deficit forecast to 2.4% of GDP this year and 2.1% next year. Bond spreads have topped 1,500 bps.
Bond spreads are just over 1,000 bps but Nigeria’s next $500 million bond payment in a year’s time should easily be covered by reserves which have been steadily improving since June. It does though spend almost 30% of government revenues paying interest on its debt.
“I think the market is overpricing a lot of these risks,” investment firm abrdn’s head of emerging market debt, Brett Diment, said.
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Reporting by Marc Jones; Additional Reporting by Rachel Savage in London and Rodrigo Campos in New York; Editing by Susan Fenton
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Twitter may be moving closer to a deal with Elon Musk.
The board of the social media service met on Sunday morning to discuss Mr. Musk’s unsolicited $46.5 billion bid to buy the company, after he began lining up financing for his offer last week, two people with knowledge of the situation said. The financing was a turning point for how Twitter’s board viewed Mr. Musk’s bid of $54.20 a share, enabling the company’s 11 board members to seriously consider his offer, the people said.
Twitter’s board planned to meet with Mr. Musk’s side later on Sunday to discuss other contours around a potential deal, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss confidential information. Those details include a timeline to close any potential deal and any fees that would be paid if an agreement was signed and then fell apart.
Any deal remains far from certain, but the willingness of Twitter’s board to engage with Mr. Musk, the world’s richest man, represents a step forward. Mr. Musk, who has more than 83 million followers on Twitter and began amassing shares in the company earlier this year, declared his intent to buy the company on April 14 and take it private. But his proposal was quickly dismissed by Wall Street because it was unclear if he could come up with the money to do the deal. Twitter also adopted a “poison pill,” a defensive maneuver that would prevent Mr. Musk from accumulating more of the company’s stock.
Mr. Musk updated his proposal last week, putting pressure on Twitter to more seriously consider his bid. In a securities filing that was made public on Thursday, Mr. Musk detailed how he had put together financing from the investment bank Morgan Stanley and a group of other lenders, which were offering $13 billion in debt financing, plus another $12.5 billion in loans against his stock in Tesla, the electric carmaker that he runs. He was expected to add about $21 billion in equity financing.
earlier reported Twitter’s increased receptivity to Mr. Musk’s bid.
Wall Street was likely to view the openness of Twitter’s board to Mr. Musk’s bid as “the beginning of the end for Twitter as a public company with Musk likely now on a path to acquire the company unless a second bidder comes into the mix,” Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, wrote in a note on Sunday.
Mr. Musk’s offer for Twitter is a 54 percent premium over the share price the day before he began investing in the company in late January. But Twitter’s shares traded higher than Mr. Musk’s bid for much of last year.
when the company announced goals to double its revenue, but has since fallen to around $48 as investors have questioned its ability to meet those targets.
Mr. Musk, 50, has made clear that he sees many deficiencies in Twitter as a social media service. He has said that he wants to “transform” the company as a “platform for free speech around the globe” and that it requires vast improvements in its product and policies.
Mr. Musk has tried to negotiate with Twitter using the service itself, threatening in several tweets that he might take his bid directly to the company’s shareholders in what is called a “tender offer.” A tender offer is a hostile maneuver in which an outside party circumvents a company’s board by asking shareholders to sell their shares directly to them.
He has also acted erratically on the platform, raising concerns over how he might manage the service should he be in charge of it. On Saturday, Mr. Musk took aim at the billionaire Bill Gates, saying that Mr. Gates had taken a “short” position on the stock of Tesla, which meant that Mr. Gates was betting the carmaker’s shares would fall. On Sunday, Mr. Musk tweeted that he was “moving on” from making fun of Mr. Gates.
What’s Happening With Elon Musk’s Bid for Twitter?
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The offer. Elon Musk, the world’s wealthiest man, made an unsolicited bid worth more than $43 billion for the social media company. Mr. Musk said that he wanted to make Twitter a private company and that he wanted people to be able to speak more freely on the service.
What’s next? On April 21, Mr. Musk said he had received commitments worth $46.5 billion to finance his bid. He added that he was considering pursuing a hostile takeover with a move, known as a tender offer, that would see him take his offer directly to Twitter shareholders.
Even so, Mr. Musk maintains amicable ties with some high-ranking members of Twitter. Over the weekend, Mr. Musk traded friendly tweets with Jack Dorsey, the company’s co-founder and a board member. Mr. Dorsey stepped down as Twitter’s chief executive in November and soon will be leaving its board.
Both men share similar views on cryptocurrencies and on promoting more free speech online. When Mr. Musk briefly flirted with joining Twitter’s board this month, Mr. Dorsey tweeted, “I’m really happy Elon is joining the Twitter board! He cares deeply about our world and Twitter’s role in it.”
Elon Musk is racing to secure funding for his $43 billion bid to buy Twitter.
Morgan Stanley, the investment bank working with Mr. Musk on the potential deal, has been calling banks and other potential investors to shore up financing for the offer, four people with knowledge of the situation said. Mr. Musk is first focused on raising debt and has not yet begun to seek equity financing for his bid, one of the people said.
Mr. Musk is evaluating various packages of debt, including more senior debt known as preferred debt and a loan against his shares of Tesla, the electric carmaker that he runs, two of the people said. Apollo Global Management, the private equity firm, is among the parties considering offering debt financing in a bid for Twitter. The equity he needs is likely to be sizable.
Mr. Musk is aiming to pull together a fully funded offer as soon as this week, one of the people said, though that timeline is far from certain. The people with knowledge of the discussions were not authorized to speak publicly because the details are confidential and in flux.
It is unclear if Mr. Musk’s efforts will be successful, but they go toward addressing a key question about his Twitter bid. Last week, Mr. Musk, the world’s wealthiest man, made an unsolicited offer for the social media company, saying that he wanted to take it private and that he wanted people to be able to speak more freely on the service. But his offer was regarded skeptically by Wall Street because he did not include details about how he would come up with the money for the deal.
poison pill.” A poison pill would effectively prevent Mr. Musk from owning more than 15 percent of Twitter’s shares. The 50-year-old had been building up a stake in the company and owns more than 9 percent of Twitter, making him at one point its single-biggest individual shareholder.
Read More on Elon Musk and His Twitter Bid
The billionaire’s offer could be worth more than $40 billion and have far-reaching consequences on the social media company.
Mr. Musk, whose net worth has been reported at $255 billion, did not respond to a request for comment. On Tuesday, in what appeared to be a veiled allusion to Twitter, he tweeted his thoughts about social networks and their policies.
funding secured,” propelling Tesla shares higher. He did not have financing prepared for such a deal. The Securities and Exchange Commission later filed a securities fraud lawsuit against him, accusing him of misleading investors. Mr. Musk paid a $20 million fine and agreed to step aside as Tesla’s chairman for three years.
Some investors are wary of getting involved in financing Mr. Musk’s Twitter bid, concerned about the risks of teaming up with the mercurial billionaire and a company as politically contentious as Twitter, one person with knowledge of the situation said. For banks, offering a loan against Tesla stock is also risky, given the stock’s volatility.
Mr. Musk has not publicly articulated his business plan for Twitter, though he has spoken about reversing Twitter’s moderation policies and providing additional transparency about how its algorithms work. He has made clear that profit is not his focus, potentially complicating efforts to invest with traditional Wall Street financiers.
“This is not a way to sort of make money,” Mr. Musk said in an interview at a TED conference last week. “My strong intuitive sense is that having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important.”
Mr. Musk’s offer for Twitter stands at $54.20 a share. Several analysts have said the company’s board is likely to accept only an offer of $60 a share or more. Twitter’s stock rose above $70 a share last year when the company announced goals to double its revenue, though its stock has since fallen to around $45 as investors have questioned its ability to meet those targets.
join the company’s board. At the time, Parag Agrawal, Twitter’s chief executive, and other board members said they welcomed Mr. Musk as a director given his use of the platform. Mr. Musk has more than 82.5 million Twitter followers and tweets frequently.
Mr. Musk and Mr. Agrawal also share similar perspectives about how to decentralize Twitter so that users can gain more control over their social media feeds, a tactic that both men see as a way of promoting more free speech. That move would also reduce the burden on Twitter, which has faced questions about toxic content and misinformation, to decide what posts can stay up and what should be taken down.
But then Mr. Musk rejected the board seat and began the effort to take over the company.
Twitter, which has brought on advisers from Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, has also been weighing whether to invite bids from other potential buyers, two people close to the company said. At least one interested party, the private equity firm Thoma Bravo, has emerged, though it is unclear whether it will ultimately submit an offer.
Kate Conger, Mike Isaac and Jack Ewing contributed reporting.
Twitter’s board is considering a defensive move known as a poison pill that would severely limit Elon Musk’s ability to acquire the social media giant, two people with knowledge of the situation said.
The board met on Thursday to discuss Mr. Musk’s offer to buy the company, according to one of the people, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly. The directors are weighing whether to move ahead with the poison pill — formally called a shareholder rights plan — that would limit the ability of a single shareholder, like Mr. Musk, to acquire a critical mass of shares in the open market and force the company into a sale.
The poison pill defense is a common tactic used by companies that want to fend off unwelcome takeover offers. It essentially lets the company flood the market with new shares or allow existing shareholders other than the potential acquirer to buy shares at a discount. This dilutes the bidder’s stake and makes buying shares more expensive.
The Wall Street Journal earlier reported that Twitter was weighing a poison pill.
If Twitter’s board rejects Mr. Musk’s bid, he could put his offer directly to shareholders, rather than the board, by launching a so-called tender offer. If Twitter’s other shareholders like Mr. Musk’s offer, which is currently at $54.20 a share, they could sell their stock directly to the billionaire, allowing him to gain control of the company.
“It would be utterly indefensible not to put this offer to a shareholder vote,” Mr. Musk said in a Twitter post on Thursday. “They own the company, not the board of directors.”
But Twitter’s investors on Thursday seemed underwhelmed with Mr. Musk’s bid, potentially over concerns as to how he would finance it. While shares of companies typically rise when there is takeover speculation, Twitter’s were down almost 2 percent on Thursday.
Prince Al Waleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia, who described himself as one of Twitter’s largest and most long-term shareholders, said that Twitter should reject Mr. Musk’s because the offer was not high enough to reflect “intrinsic value” of the company.
Twitter’s other top shareholders, according to FactSet, include the Vanguard Group, the company’s largest shareholder, with a 10.3 percent stake; Morgan Stanley Investment Management, with a 8 percent stake; and BlackRock Fund Advisors, with a 4.6 percent stake. Vanguard and Morgan Stanley Investment Management declined to comment on Mr. Musk’s bid.BlackRock did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Mr. Musk turned down a seat on Twitter’s board over the weekend, leaving directors who had recently welcomed him to their ranks to weigh a proposal in which Mr. Musk said he had no confidence in their management of the company.
The board is made up of Twitter insiders, including Jack Dorsey, a co-founder, and its chief executive, Parag Agrawal, in addition to independent directors.
Bret Taylor, the co-chief executive of the business technology company Salesforce, chairs the board. Mr. Musk texted Mr. Taylor on Wednesday evening, making his intent to buy Twitter known, according to a regulatory filing. “After the past several days of thinking this over, I have decided I want to acquire the company and take it private,” Mr. Musk wrote.
Salesforce considered purchasing Twitter in 2016, but the deal never materialized. Mr. Taylor, who has been on Twitter’s board since 2016, joined Salesforce a year later after it acquired his own company, Quip.
Another key player on the board is Egon Durban, the co-chief of Silver Lake, a private investment firm. Mr. Durban joined Twitter’s board in 2020 as part of a deal the company struck with another activist investor who wanted to shake up Twitter’s management.
At the time, Silver Lake invested in Twitter and helped steady its management, preventing the immediate ouster of Mr. Dorsey. Because Silver Lake has helped Twitter out of a difficult situation in the past, Mr. Durban could face questions about whether his firm can double down and help fend off Mr. Musk.
Mr. Dorsey could also influence the decision. He is friendly with Mr. Musk and initially celebrated Mr. Musk’s investment in the company and decision to join the board. But Mr. Dorsey has often delegated major decisions to his team, preferring to rely on their expertise. And Mr. Dorsey is also set to leave the Twitter board next month, which could give him another reason to recuse himself.
His allies on the board are Mr. Agrawal, who was named as his successor late last year, and Patrick Pichette, a general partner at the venture capital firm Inovia Capital and the former chief financial officer at Google.
Mr. Agrawal and Mr. Dorsey have been closely aligned on a vision to make Twitter’s technology more decentralized, and Mr. Pichette has been a close confidant of Mr. Dorsey in discussions about the long-term plan for Twitter. Mr. Pichette may also have experience negotiating with Mr. Musk — he was at Google in 2013 when it considered buying Tesla.
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.”
In July 2012, a shell company registered in the British Virgin Islands wired $20 million to an investment vehicle in the Cayman Islands that was controlled by a large American hedge fund firm.
The wire transfer was the culmination of months of work by a small army of handlers and enablers in the United States, Europe and the Caribbean. It was a stealth operation intended, at least in part, to mask the source of the funds: Roman Abramovich.
For two decades, the Russian oligarch has relied on this circuitous investment strategy — deploying a string of shell companies, routing money through a small Austrian bank and tapping the connections of leading Wall Street firms — to quietly place billions of dollars with prominent U.S. hedge funds and private equity firms, according to people with knowledge of the transactions.
The key was that every lawyer, corporate director, hedge fund manager and investment adviser involved in the process could honestly say he or she wasn’t working directly for Mr. Abramovich. In some cases, participants weren’t even aware of whose money they were helping to manage.
asked Congress for more resources as it helps to oversee the Biden administration’s sanctions program along with a new Justice Department kleptocracy task force. And on Capitol Hill, lawmakers are pushing a bill, known as the Enablers Act, that would require investment advisers to identify and more carefully vet their customers.
Mr. Abramovich has an estimated fortune of $13 billion, derived in large part from his well-timed purchase of an oil company owned by the Russian government that he sold back to the state at a massive profit. This month, European and Canadian authorities imposed sanctions on him and froze his assets, which include the famed Chelsea Football Club in London. The United States has not placed sanctions on him.
a pair of luxury residences near Aspen, Colo. But he also invested large sums of money with financial institutions. His ties to Mr. Putin and the source of his wealth have long made him a controversial figure.
Many of Mr. Abramovich’s U.S. investments were facilitated by a small firm, Concord Management, which is led by Michael Matlin, according to people with knowledge of the transactions who were not authorized to speak publicly.
Mr. Matlin declined to comment beyond issuing a statement that described Concord as “a consulting firm that provides independent third-party research, due diligence and monitoring of investments.”
A spokeswoman for Mr. Abramovich didn’t respond to emails and text messages requesting comment.
Concord, founded in 1999, didn’t directly manage any of Mr. Abramovich’s money. It acted more like an investment adviser and due diligence firm, making recommendations to the directors of shell companies in Caribbean tax havens about potential investments in marquee American investment firms, according to people briefed on the matter.
Paycheck Protection Program loan worth $265,000 during the pandemic. (Concord repaid the loan, a spokesman said.)
Concord’s secrecy made some on Wall Street wary.
In 2015 and 2016, investigators at State Street, a financial services firm, filed “suspicious activity reports” alerting the U.S. government to transactions that Concord arranged involving some of Mr. Abramovich’s Caribbean shell companies, BuzzFeed News reported. State Street declined to comment.
American financial institutions are required to file such reports to help the U.S. government combat money laundering and other financial crimes, though the reports are not themselves evidence of any wrongdoing having been committed.
But for the most part, American financiers had no inkling about — or interest in discovering — the source of the money that Concord was directing. As long as routine background checks didn’t turn up red flags, it was fine.
Paulson & Company, the hedge fund run by John Paulson, received investments from a company that Concord represented, according to a person with knowledge of the investment. Mr. Paulson said in an email that he had “no knowledge” of Concord’s investors.
Concord also steered tens of millions of dollars from two shell companies to Highland Capital, a Texas hedge fund. Highland hired a unit of JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s largest bank, to ensure that the companies were legitimate and that the investments complied with anti-money-laundering rules, according to federal court records in an unrelated bankruptcy case.
“corporate governance services” to investment managers.
The Russia-Ukraine War and the Global Economy
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Shortages of essential metals. The price of palladium, used in automotive exhaust systems and mobile phones, has been soaring amid fears that Russia, the world’s largest exporter of the metal, could be cut off from global markets. The price of nickel, another key Russian export, has also been rising.
Financial turmoil. Global banks are bracing for the effects of sanctions intended to restrict Russia’s access to foreign capital and limit its ability to process payments in dollars, euros and other currencies crucial for trade. Banks are also on alert for retaliatory cyberattacks by Russia.
For $15,000 a year, plus other fees, HighWater would provide an employee to sit on the board of the financial vehicle that the fund manager was expected to launch to accept the wealthy family’s money, according to emails between the fund manager and a HighWater executive reviewed by The New York Times.
The fund manager also brought on Boris Onefater, who ran a small U.S. consulting firm, Constellation, as another board member. Mr. Onefater said in an interview that he couldn’t remember whose money the Cayman vehicle was managing. “You’re asking for ancient history,” he said. “I don’t recall Mr. Abramovich’s name coming up.”
The fund manager hired Mourant, an offshore law firm, to get the paperwork for the Cayman vehicle in order. The managing partner of Mourant did not respond to requests for comment.
He also hired GlobeOp Financial Services, which provides administration services to hedge funds, to ensure that the Cayman entity was complying with anti-money-laundering laws and wasn’t doing business with anyone who had been placed under U.S. government sanctions, according to a copy of the contract.
“We abide by all laws in all jurisdictions in which we do business,” said Emma Lowrey, a spokeswoman for SS&C Technologies, a financial technology company based in Windsor, Conn., that now owns GlobeOp.
John Lewis, a HighWater executive, said in an email to The Times that his firm received four referrals from Concord from 2011 to 2014 and hadn’t dealt with the firm since then.
“We were aware of no links to Russian money or Roman Abramovich,” Mr. Lewis said. He added that GlobeOp “did not identify anything unusual, high risk, or that there were any politically exposed persons with respect to any investors.”
The Cayman fund opened for business in July 2012 when $20 million arrived by wire transfer. The expectation was that tens of millions more would follow, although additional funds never showed up. The Cayman fund was run as an independent entity, using the same investment strategy — buying and selling exchange-traded funds — employed by the fund manager’s main U.S. hedge fund.
The $20 million was wired from an entity called Caythorpe Holdings, which was registered in the British Virgin Islands.
Documents accompanying the wire transfer showed that the money originated with Kathrein Privatbank in Vienna. It arrived in Grand Cayman after passing through another Austrian bank, Raiffeisen, and then JPMorgan. (JPMorgan was serving as a correspondent bank, essentially acting as an intermediary for banks with smaller international networks.)
A spokesman for Kathrein declined to comment. A spokeswoman for JPMorgan declined to comment. Representatives for Raiffeisen did not respond to requests for comment.
The fund manager noticed that some of the documentation was signed by a lawyer named Natalia Bychenkova. The Russian-sounding name led him to conclude that he was probably managing money for a Russian oligarch. But the fund manager wasn’t bothered, since GlobeOp had verified that Caythorpe was compliant with know-your-customer and anti-money-laundering rules and laws.
He didn’t know who controlled Caythorpe, and he didn’t ask.
In early 2014, after Russia invaded the Ukrainian region of Crimea, markets tanked. The fund manager made a bearish bet on the direction of the stock market, and his fund got crushed when stocks rallied.
The next year, Caythorpe withdrew its money from the Cayman fund. Caythorpe was liquidated in 2017.
The fund manager said he didn’t realize until this month that he had been investing money for Mr. Abramovich.
Susan C. Beachy and Kitty Bennett contributed research. Maureen Farrell contributed reporting.
Wall Street has been quick to shift its Covid-19 protocols after New York State dropped its indoor mask mandate last month. At JPMorgan Chase, masks are now voluntary for vaccinated and unvaccinated employees, and the firm will discontinue mandatory Covid testing as well as the reporting of Covid infections by April 4. At Morgan Stanley, where vaccines are required to enter the office, the mask requirement was dropped early last month.
Goldman Sachs dropped mask requirements on Feb. 14, though it still requires testing. Citigroup dropped its mask requirement last week. Wells Fargo has maintained more rigid Covid protocols than some of its finance peers, requiring unvaccinated employees to wear a mask at all times unless they are eating, drinking or alone in an enclosed room.
Other industries that have made a push for in-person work, such as real estate, have also reformulated their Covid guidelines in recent weeks. BlackRock, which has asked its 7,600 U.S. employees to return to the office at least three days a week, no longer requires masks in its U.S. offices, though employees have to be vaccinated to enter the building and are asked to test twice a week. Prologis, a logistics real estate firm, said its office mask guidelines were consistent with local regulations. Guardian Life Insurance, which has about 6,300 U.S. employees, does not have an in-office mask requirement in most areas of the country.
Still, some tech companies are holding firm on Covid safety protocols. Google requires any unvaccinated employees with approval to enter its offices to test regularly and wear a mask. Meta, the parent company of Facebook, requires anyone entering the office to be vaccinated — including with a booster starting March 28 — and follows local guidelines on masking.
Intuit announced on Wednesday that starting on May 16, its 11,500 U.S. employees would return to the office in a hybrid model, in which teams determine how many days per week workers should be in person. While the company requires anyone entering its offices to be vaccinated, it follows local and state guidelines on masking, meaning masks are not required in any of its U.S. offices.
“We’ve tried to stress that people should feel comfortable doing whatever feels best for them,” said Chris Glennon, Intuit’s vice president of global real estate and workplace. “We are seeing some folks masking, particularly in public areas, but by and large most are not masking.”
A Gallup survey conducted this month found that Americans view the economy more negatively than positively — with only 29 percent saying that the economy is improving, while 67 percent believe it is getting worse.
Still, 72 percent say it is a good time to find a quality job.
“It’s all about what you prioritize,” said Allison Schrager, an economist and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. Policymakers in Washington decided to err on the side of delivering too much pandemic aid rather than too little — and Ms. Schrager is among the analysts who say the trade-offs of that decision are becoming evident. If there had been less stimulus, she said, “inflation wouldn’t be as bad as it is.”
At a news conference on Wednesday, Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, conceded that “bottlenecks and supply constraints are limiting how quickly production can respond to higher demand in the near term” and that “these problems have been larger and longer lasting than anticipated.”
As analysts mull the direction and degree of price increases this year, many see the spring months as a crucial pivot point, said Ellen Zentner, a managing director and the chief U.S. economist at Morgan Stanley. This is partly because the Consumer Price Index reports in March and April of this year will provide the first relatively stable year-over-year comparisons that experts will have seen in three years: 2020 data was juxtaposed with the prepandemic normal of 2019; reports in 2021 after the economy reopened were measured against the abnormal, partly depressed environment of the vaccine-less economy in 2020.
“The hope is that changes as we’re getting into the second quarter,” Ms. Zentner said. And that high-single-digit inflation “doesn’t drag on further into the year.”
During quarterly earnings calls, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, which serve a combined 140 million households, have reported that families’ finances are technically better off than before the pandemic. Bank of America said its customers spent a record $3.8 trillion in 2021, a 24 percent jump from 2019 levels. But analysts note that dwindling savings and continuing price increases — along with any new coronavirus variants — could curb consumption.
The report on Thursday indicated that the cash reserves many Americans were able to build up during the pandemic continued to dwindle: Real disposable personal income decreased by 5.8 percent in the fourth quarter, and the personal saving rate — the percentage of overall disposable income that goes into savings each month — was 7.4 percent, compared with 9.5 percent in the third quarter.
In private, many senior bank executives tasked with raising attendance among their direct reports expressed irritation. They said it was unfair for highly paid employees to keep working from home while others — like bank tellers or building workers — dutifully come in every day. Salaries at investment banks in the New York area averaged $438,450 in 2020, up 7.8 percent from the previous year, according to data from the office of the state comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli.
Two senior executives, who declined to be identified discussing personnel matters, said they might push out subordinates who are not willing to come back to the office regularly. Another manager expressed frustration about a worker who refused to show up at the office, citing concern about the virus — even though the person had recently traveled on vacation.
Executives “have not felt that they could put on pressure to get people back in the office — and those who have put on pressure have gotten real pushback,” said Ms. Wylde, of the Partnership for New York City. “Financial services is one of those industries that are hugely competitive for talent, so nobody wants to be the bad guy.” She expects that big financial firms will eventually drive workers back into the office by dangling pay and promotions.
For now, banks are resorting to coaxing and coddling.
Food trucks, free meals and snacks are occasionally on offer, as are complimentary Uber and Lyft rides. Dress codes have been relaxed. Major firms have adopted safety protocols such as on-site testing and mask mandates in common areas. Goldman, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup are requiring vaccinations for workers entering their offices, while Bank of America asked only inoculated staff to return after Labor Day. JPMorgan has not mandated vaccines for workers to return to the office.
At Citi, which asked employees to come back for at least two days a week starting in September, offices are about 70 percent full on the days with the highest traffic. Citi, whose chief executive, Jane Fraser, started her job in the middle of the pandemic, has hired shuttle buses so that employees coming into Midtown Manhattan from suburban homes can avoid taking the subway to the bank’s downtown offices. To allay concerns about rising crime in New York, at least one other firm has hired shuttle buses to ferry people a few blocks from Pennsylvania Station to offices in Midtown, Ms. Wylde said.
Remote working arrangements are also emerging as a key consideration for workers interviewing for new jobs, according to Alan Johnson, the managing director of Johnson Associates, a Wall Street compensation consultancy.