NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Stake, which provides Cash Back and banking services to renters, announced today the completion of its $12 million Series A financing round. With Stake, renters earn Cash Back when they take positive actions, like signing a lease and paying rent. Owners save money with every renter action.
The round was led by RET Ventures, which selected Stake as one of the first investments for the new RET Ventures ESG Fund (the “Housing Impact Fund”). Participation also included: Enterprise Community Partners, which, since 1982, has helped create or preserve 873,000 homes; Hometeam Ventures; Operator Stack; and Second Century Ventures, the investment arm of the National Association of Realtors. Existing investors Shadow Ventures and Olive Tree Ventures also participated in the round.
Today more than 44 million American households pay rent every month, and from 1985 to 2020, median rent prices increased by nearly 150% despite income growing just 35%. Leveraging behavioral science, Stake was founded in 2018 to empower renters by providing them with Cash Back on their rent as well as no-fee banking services to build savings. Stake also mitigates pain points for building owners, increasing lease-ups, reducing economic vacancy, improving maintenance, and increasing ancillary revenue.
Using Stake, property managers receive a 130% return on every dollar spent. Renters earn an average of 4% Cash Back on their rent each month. Across the $385 million in annual leases connected to the platform, 65% of renters have more money in their Stake account than any other banking account. In the past year, the number of residences that offer Cash Back with Stake has grown by 10x.
“Renters don’t need more debt or loans,” noted Rowland Hobbs, Co-Founder and CEO of Stake. “What renters need is money to help with everyday essentials and to establish long-term savings. With Stake, we have reimagined the classic ‘rainy day fund’ for renters to build the sort of wealth traditionally associated with home ownership. Now, their largest expense is also their largest source of savings.”
The new funding round will enable Stake to continue building out its financial infrastructure and suite of solutions that address difficult issues for renters and property owners alike.
“Stake’s approach to housing affordability is perfectly aligned with the mission of our ESG-centric fund,” said John Helm, partner at RET Ventures, who will join Stake’s board. “While a slew of platforms offer renters innovative payment options, they are all credit or debt-based. They ultimately encourage dangerous behaviors as part of their proposed solution. Stake flips the script on this model by offering a risk-free, renter-centric, efficient, and easy-to-use pathway toward building wealth.”
“Unlike homeowners, renters rarely reap financial benefits from paying for their homes – and families who rent tell us they could use a little extra cash each month. This is why Stake’s goal of empowering more economically resilient renters through cash back and no-fee banking services resonated with us,” said Enterprise Community Partners President and CEO Priscilla Almodovar. “It’s not just a good deal for renters. It makes sense for landlords, too, who are more likely to retain residents, which in turn strengthens communities.”
Stake is building the financial infrastructure for the next generation of rentals. Stake aligns incentives between renters, operators, owners, and investors, so everyone earns the Return on Rent™ they deserve. Stake’s revenue management tools outperform, returning 130% on every dollar spent. These savings return millions of dollars to renters each year in the Stake app. Thousands of renters use Stake to earn Cash Back, grow their savings, and access free and equitable banking services. Headquartered in New York City and Seattle, Stake is on a mission to empower wealthier, happier, and more resilient renters. For more information, please visit https://www.stake.rent/
About RET Ventures
A leading real estate technology investment firm, RET Ventures is the first industry-backed, early-stage venture fund strategically focused on building cutting-edge “rent tech” — technology for multifamily and single-family rental real estate. RET invests out of core venture funds and a Housing Impact Fund, backing companies that address a range of pain points for real estate operators. Through its deep expertise and connections, RET provides solutions to issues ranging from housing affordability and sustainability to risk management and operational efficiency. The firm’s Strategic Investors include some of the largest REITs and private real estate owner-operators and managers, who control approximately 2.4 million rental units worth $600 billion. For more information, please visit www.ret.vc
About Enterprise Community Partners
Enterprise is a national nonprofit that exists to make a good home possible for the millions of families without one. We support community development organizations on the ground, aggregate and invest capital for impact, advance housing policy at every level of government, and build and manage communities ourselves. Since 1982, we have invested $54 billion and created 873,000 homes across all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico – all to make home and community places of pride, power and belonging. Join us at enterprisecommunity.org.
*Stake is a financial technology company and is not a bank. Banking services provided by Blue Ridge Bank N.A; Member FDIC. The Stake Visa® Debit Card is issued by Blue Ridge Bank N.A. pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. and may be used everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted.
BLUE BELL, Pa.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–BrightView Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: BV), the leading commercial landscaping services company in the United States, today announced that members of its management team will participate in the following investor conferences:
Baird 2022 Global Consumer, Technology & Services Conference (New York City)
On June 7, management will participate in a fireside chat presentation at 10:15 am ET.
UBS Global Industrials & Transportation Conference (New York City)
On June 8, management will participate in a fireside chat presentation at 8:00 am ET.
A live webcast and archived replay of each presentation will be accessible by visiting BrightView’s investor website at https://investor.brightview.com.
BrightView is the largest provider of commercial landscaping services in the United States. Through its team of approximately 20,000 employees, BrightView provides services ranging from landscape maintenance and enhancements to tree care and landscape development for thousands of customers’ properties, including corporate and commercial properties, HOAs, public parks, hotels and resorts, hospitals and other healthcare facilities, educational institutions, restaurants and retail, and golf courses, among others. BrightView is the Official Field Consultant to Major League Baseball.
When Jack Welch died on March 1, 2020, tributes poured in for the longtime chief executive of General Electric, whom many revered as the greatest chief executive of all time.
David Zaslav, the C.E.O. of Warner Bros. Discovery and a Welch disciple, remembered him as an almost godlike figure. “Jack set the path. He saw the whole world. He was above the whole world,” Mr. Zaslav said. “What he created at G.E. became the way companies now operate.”
Mr. Zaslav’s words were meant as unequivocal praise. During Mr. Welch’s two decades in power — from 1981 to 2001 — he turned G.E. into the most valuable company in the world, groomed a flock of protégés who went on to run major companies of their own, and set the standard by which other C.E.O.s were measured.
Yet a closer examination of the Welch legacy reveals that he was not simply the “Manager of the Century,” as Fortune magazine crowned him upon his retirement.
broken up for good.
the fateful decision to redesign the 737 — a plane introduced in the 1960s — once more, rather than lose out on a crucial order with American Airlines. That decision set in motion the flawed development of the 737 Max, which crashed twice in five months, killing 346 people. And while a number of factors contributed to those tragedies, they were ultimately the product of a corporate culture that cut corners in pursuit of short-term financial gains.
Even today Boeing is run by a Welch disciple. Dave Calhoun, the current C.E.O., was a dark horse candidate to succeed Mr. Welch in 2001, and he was on the Boeing board during the rollout of the Max and the botched response to the crashes.
When Mr. Calhoun took over the company in 2020, he set up his office not in Seattle (Boeing’s spiritual home) or Chicago (its official headquarters), but outside St. Louis at the Boeing Leadership Center, an internal training center explicitly built in the image of Crotonville. He said he hoped to channel Mr. Welch, whom he called his “forever mentor.”
The “Manager of the Century” was unbowed in retirement, barreling through the twilight of his life with the same bombast that defined his tenure as C.E.O.
He refashioned himself as a management guru and created a $50,000 online M.B.A. in an effort to instill his tough-nosed tactics in a new generation of business leaders. (The school boasts that “more than two out of three students receive a raise or promotion while enrolled.”) He cheered on the political rise of Mr. Trump, then advised him when he won the White House.
In his waning days, Mr. Welch emerged as a trafficker of conspiracy theories. He called climate change “mass neurosis” and “the attack on capitalism that socialism couldn’t bring.” He called for President Trump to appoint Rudy Giuliani attorney general and investigate his political enemies.
The most telling example of Mr. Welch’s foray into political commentary, and the beliefs it revealed, came in 2012. That’s when he took to Twitter and accused the Obama administration of fabricating the monthly jobs report numbers for political gain. The accusation was rich with irony. After decades during which G.E. massaged its own earnings reports, Mr. Welch was effectively accusing the White House of doing the same thing.
While Mr. Welch’s claim was baseless, conservative pundits picked up on the conspiracy theory and amplified it on cable news and Twitter. Even Mr. Trump, then merely a reality television star, joined the chorus, calling Mr. Welch’s bogus accusation “100 percent correct” and accusing the Obama administration of “monkeying around” with the numbers. It was one of the first lies to go viral on social media, and it had come from one of the most revered figures in the history of business.
When Mr. Welch died, few of his eulogists paused to consider the entirety of his legacy. They didn’t dwell on the downsizing, the manipulated earnings, the Twitter antics.
And there was no consideration of the ways in which the economy had been shaped by Mr. Welch over the previous 40 years, creating a world where manufacturing jobs have evaporated as C.E.O. pay soars, where buybacks and dividends are plentiful as corporate tax rates plunge.
By glossing over this reality, his allies helped perpetuate the myth of his sainthood, adding their own spin on one of the most enduring bits of disinformation of all: the notion that Jack Welch was the greatest C.E.O. of all time.
LONDON — When Andy Byford ran New York City’s dilapidated subway system, fed-up New Yorkers hailed his crusade to make the trains run with fewer delays and lamented his premature exit after clashes with the governor at the time, Andrew M. Cuomo. He was a familiar, unfailingly cheerful presence on its often-restive platforms. Straphangers even took to calling him “Train Daddy.”
Nobody calls Mr. Byford Train Daddy in London, where he resurfaced in May 2020 as the commissioner of the city’s transit authority, Transport for London. But on May 24, when he opens the Elizabeth line — the long-delayed, $22 billion-plus high-speed railway that uncoils from west and east underneath central London — he might find himself again worthy of a cheeky nickname.
“That was fun in New York,” said Mr. Byford, 56, a gregarious public transport evangelist who grew up in Plymouth, England, began his career as a tube-station manager in London, and has also run transit systems in Toronto and Sydney, Australia. “But I’m really enjoying almost complete anonymity in London.”
Second Avenue subway or the extension of the No. 7 line, which are tiny projects by comparison.”
Mr. Cuomo resigned last year, his successor, Gov. Kathy Hochul, put a proposed $2.1 billion AirTrain project to LaGuardia airport on ice. That leaves the newly renovated airport without a rail link to Manhattan, to the enduring frustration of many New Yorkers.
Heathrow Airport has had a subway link for decades. When the Elizabeth line’s next phase is opened in the fall, passengers will be able to travel from Heathrow to the banks at Canary Wharf in East London in 40 minutes; that is a prime selling point for a city desperate to hold on to its status as financial mecca after Brexit. All told, the line has 10 entirely new stations, 42 miles of tunnels and crosses under the Thames three times.
“We’re jealous, it’s fair to say,” said Danny Pearlstein, the policy director for Riders Alliance, a transportation advocacy group in New York. “Imagining a new, full-length underground line here is not something anyone is doing. The Second Avenue subway, which people have been talking about for 100 years, has three stations.”
To be fair, Transport for London is not without its problems. It has shelved plans to build a north-south counterpart to the Elizabeth line, not to mention an extension to the Bakerloo tube line, because of a lack of funding. Still reeling from a near-total loss of riders during pandemic lockdowns, the system faces many of the same financial woes as New York’s subway.
Though ridership has recovered from a nadir of 5 percent, it is still at only 70 percent of prepandemic levels. Transport for London is also heavily dependent on ticket fares to cover its costs, more so than the New York subway, which gets state subsidies, as well as funds from bridge and tunnel tolls.
“My other obsession is sorting out the finances,” Mr. Byford said. “One way is to wean us away from dependence on fares.”
He is somewhat vague about how to do that, and it is clear that Transport for London will depend on additional government handouts to get back on sound financial footing. That is why the opening of the Elizabeth line is so important to London: It makes a powerful case for public transportation at a time when people are questioning how many workers will ever return to their offices.
Mr. Byford lays out the case with the practiced cadence of a stump speech. The new line will increase the capacity of the system by 10 percent. Its spacious coaches are well suited to a world in which people are used to social distancing. It will revitalize economically blighted towns east of the city, while making central London accessible to people who live in far-flung towns to the east and west.
While Mr. Byford does not expect ridership ever to return completely, he thinks 90 percent is attainable. If office buildings remain underpopulated, London could develop like Paris, with more residential neighborhoods downtown. (The Elizabeth line bears a distinct resemblance to the high-speed RER system in Paris.) The line, he says, is an insurance policy against the “siren voices of doom” about Brexit.
At times, Mr. Byford slips perilously close to a real estate agent’s patter. “These super-high-tech stations simply ooze quality,” he said. But emerging from Liverpool Street, with its spectacular, rippling, pinstriped ceiling, it is hard to argue with his basic assertion: “This is a game changer.”
A Wall Street sign is pictured outside the New York Stock Exchange amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 16, 2021. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
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NEW YORK, May 6 (Reuters) – U.S. stocks’ tumble this year is putting an increased focus on equity valuations, as investors assess whether recently discounted shares are worth buying in the face of a hawkish Federal Reserve and widespread geopolitical uncertainty.
With the benchmark S&P 500 index (.SPX) down 13.5% year-to-date, valuations stand at their lowest levels in two years, putting the index’s forward price-to-earnings ratio at 17.9 times from 21.7 at the end of 2021, according to the latest data from Refinitiv Datastream.
Although many investors tended to brush off elevated valuations during the market’s dynamic surge from its post-COVID-19 lows, they have been quick to punish companies viewed as overvalued this year, as the Fed rolls back easy money policies that had kept bond yields low and buoyed equities.
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While recently discounted valuations may boost stocks’ appeal to some bargain hunters, other investors believe equities may not be cheap enough, as the Fed signals it is ready to aggressively tighten monetary policy to fight inflation, bond yields surge, and geopolitical risks such as the war in Ukraine continue roiling markets. read more
“Stocks are getting close to fair valuation … but they’re not quite there yet,” said J. Bryant Evans, portfolio manager at Cozad Asset Management in Champaign, Illinois. “If you take into account bond yields, inflation, what is going on with GDP and the broader economy, they’re not quite there yet.”
Wild swings shook markets in the past week after the Fed delivered a widely expected 50 basis point rate increase and signaled similar moves for the meetings ahead as it tries to quell the highest annual inflation rates in 40 years. The index has declined for five straight weeks, its longest losing streak since mid-2011. read more
More volatility could be in store if next week’s monthly consumer price index reading exceeds expectations, potentially bolstering the case for even more aggressive monetary policy tightening from the Fed. read more
“There has … been a healthy reset in valuations and sentiment,” wrote Keith Lerner, co-chief investment officer at Truist Advisory Services, in a recent note to clients.
“For stocks to move higher on a sustainable basis, investors will likely need to have greater confidence in the Fed’s ability to tame inflation without unduly hurting the economy.”
Though valuations have come down, S&P 500’s forward P/E stands above its long-term average of 15.5 times earnings estimates.
Potentially burnishing stocks’ appeal, S&P 500 companies are expected to increase earnings by about 9% this year, according to Refinitiv data, as they wrap up a better-than-expected first-quarter reporting season.
One likely factor is whether Treasuries extend a sell-off that has lifted the benchmark 10-year note yield, which moves inversely to prices, to its highest since late 2018.
Higher yields in particular dull the allure of technology and other high-growth sectors, as their cash flows are often more weighted in the future and diminished when discounted at higher rates.
The forward P/E for the S&P 500 technology sector (.SPLRCT) has declined from 28.5 times to 21.4 so far this year, according to Refinitiv Datastream data as of Friday morning.
“In terms of growth valuations, they have been hit the hardest and likely the most oversold,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities.
But the sector continues to trade at a nearly 20% premium to the overall S&P 500, above the 15% premium it has averaged over the broader index over the past five years.
If the 10-year yield hovers between 3% to 3.5%, after being a “fraction” of that level for a long period, “that is going to continue to be a weight on the P/E and therefore the discounting mechanism for the growth and technology space,” said John Lynch, chief investment officer for Comerica Wealth Management, which favors value over growth shares.
“To a large extent, (the pressure from higher yields) has been baked in,” Lynch said. “But I don’t think it is going to go away. I think it is going to persist.”
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Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf; Editing by Ira Iosebashvili and Richard Chang
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May 6 (Reuters) – A U.S. labor board official believes Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) violated federal law during mandatory staff meetings it held in New York City to discourage unionizing, a board spokesperson said on Friday, in what could lead to a new legal precedent.
The Amazon Labor Union alleged the retailer forced workers at an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island to attend the so-called captive audience trainings and said staff were threatened with dismissals if they joined the ALU, according to an amended complaint and an audio recording the union shared with Reuters.
The regional director of the Brooklyn-based office of the National Labor Relations Board has found merit to the allegations, in a potential first regarding captive-audience practices, board spokesperson Kayla Blado said. If the parties do not settle, the Brooklyn division will issue a complaint against Amazon that could be litigated up to the NLRB at the federal level.
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The NLRB’s Brooklyn region includes the borough of Staten Island.
An Amazon manager in March told workers that if they voted to organize, unions could bargain for a contract clause that “would require Amazon to fire you if you don’t want to join the union and pay union dues,” according to the recording the ALU shared.
In a statement, Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said, “These allegations are false and we look forward to showing that through the process.” Mandatory meetings have been legal for over 70 years and were commonly held by employers, Amazon said.
The NLRB precedent that the meetings are legal dates to the 1940s.
The New York warehouse elected to join the ALU within weeks of the March incident, becoming the first Amazon facility to vote to unionize in the United States. Amazon is contesting the result.
Amazon’s meetings have been a flashpoint for labor organizers who for years sought to represent workers at the second-largest U.S. private employer but lacked an equal venue to counter the company’s point of view.
Seth Goldstein, a pro bono attorney representing the ALU, said, “We hope that Amazon will cease their meritless objections to our overwhelming election victory and will instead focus on ending their unlawful union-busting practices.”
Last month, the NLRB’s top lawyer, Jennifer Abruzzo, asked the board to ban businesses from making workers attend anti-union meetings, calling them inconsistent with employees’ freedom of choice. In a future case, Abruzzo said she would ask the board to overturn the precedent that the meetings are legal.
President Joe Biden, considered the most pro-union U.S. president in decades, last year appointed Abruzzo as general counsel, a position independent from the five-member NLRB.
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Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in Palo Alto, Calif.; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Leslie Adler
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A screen displays trading information for ride-hailing giant Didi Global on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., December 3, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
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April 16 (Reuters) – Didi Global Inc (DIDI.N) will hold an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) on May 23 to vote on its delisting plans in the United States, the Chinese ride-hailing giant said in a statement on Saturday.
The company also said it will not apply to list its shares on any other stock exchange before the delisting of its American Depositary Shares from the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) was complete.
It added that it will continue to explore appropriate measures that include exploring a potential listing on another internationally recognized exchange, it said.
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Didi announced in December that it would delist from the NYSE and pursue a listing in Hong Kong after it ran foul of Chinese regulators by pushing ahead with its $4.4 billion U.S. IPO last year.
Chinese regulators had urged the firm to put its listing on hold while a cybersecurity review of its data practices was conducted, sources have told Reuters.
Days after it went ahead, the country’s powerful cyberspace watchdog ordered app stores to remove 25 mobile apps operated by Didi and told the company to stop registering new users, citing national security and the public interest.
China’s securities regulator, in a statement noting Didi’s Saturday announcement, said the decision was one that the company had made independently and had nothing to do with other U.S.-listed Chinese stocks or ongoing efforts between Chinese regulators and their U.S. counterparts to resolve an audit dispute affecting U.S.-listed Chinese firms. read more
Didi’s total revenue for the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2021 fell to 40.8 billion yuan ($6.40 billion) from 46.7 billion yuan a year earlier, the company said in a separate statement also issued on Saturday.
($1 = 6.3705 Chinese yuan renminbi)
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Reporting by Jahnavi Nidumolu in Bengaluru and Brenda Goh in Shanghai, Editing by Franklin Paul and David Evans
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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.”
It was a union organizing campaign that few expected to have a chance. A handful of employees at Amazon’s massive warehouse on Staten Island, operating without support from national labor organizations, took on one of the most powerful companies in the world.
And, somehow, they won.
Workers at the facility voted by a wide margin to form a union, according to results released on Friday, in one of the biggest victories for organized labor in a generation.
Employees cast 2,654 votes to be represented by Amazon Labor Union and 2,131 against, giving the union a win by more than 10 percentage points, according to the National Labor Relations Board. More than 8,300 workers at the warehouse, which is the only Amazon fulfillment center in New York City, were eligible to vote.
The win on Staten Island comes at a perilous moment for labor unions in the United States, which saw the portion of workers in unions drop last year to 10.3 percent, the lowest rate in decades, despite high demand for workers, pockets of successful labor activity and rising public approval.
including some labor officials — say that traditional unions haven’t spent enough money or shown enough imagination in organizing campaigns and that they have often bet on the wrong fights. Some point to tawdry corruption scandals.
The union victory at Amazon, the first at the company in the United States after years of worker activism there, offers an enormous opportunity to change that trajectory and build on recent wins. Many union leaders regard Amazon as an existential threat to labor standards because it touches so many industries and frequently dominates them.
likely to be a narrow loss by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union at a large Amazon warehouse in Alabama. The vote is close enough that the results will not be known for several weeks as contested ballots are litigated.
The surprising strength shown by unions in both locations most likely means that Amazon will face years of pressure at other company facilities from labor groups and progressive activists working with them. As a recent string of union victories at Starbucks have shown, wins at one location can provide encouragement at others.
Amazon hired voraciously over the past two years and now has 1.6 million employees globally. But it has been plagued by high turnover, and the pandemic gave employees a growing sense of power while fueling worries about workplace safety. The Staten Island warehouse, known as JFK8, was the subject of a New York Times investigation last year, which found that it was emblematic of the stresses — including inadvertent firings and sky-high attrition — on workers caused by Amazon’s employment model.
“The pandemic has fundamentally changed the labor landscape” by giving workers more leverage with their employers, said John Logan, a professor of labor studies at San Francisco State University. “It’s just a question of whether unions can take advantage of the opportunity that transformation has opened up.”
Standing outside the N.L.R.B. office in Brooklyn, where the ballots were tallied, Christian Smalls, a former Amazon employee who started the union, popped a bottle of champagne before a crowd of supporters and press. “To the first Amazon union in American history,” he cheered.
asked a judge to force Amazon to swiftly rectify “flagrant unfair labor practices” it said took place when Amazon fired a worker who became involved with the union. Amazon argued in court that the labor board abandoned “the neutrality of their office” by filing the injunction just before the election.
Amazon would need to prove that any claims of undue influence undermined the so-called laboratory conditions necessary for a fair election, said Wilma B. Liebman, the chair of the N.L.R.B. under President Barack Obama.
President Biden was “glad to see workers ensure their voices are heard” at the Amazon facility, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters. “He believes firmly that every worker in every state must have a free and fair choice to join a union,” she said.
The near-term question facing the labor movement and other progressive groups is the extent to which they will help the upstart Amazon Labor Union withstand potential challenges to the result and negotiate a first contract, such as by providing resources and legal talent.
“The company will appeal, drag it out — it’s going to be an ongoing fight,” said Gene Bruskin, a longtime organizer who helped notch one of labor’s last victories on this scale, at a Smithfield meat-processing plant in 2008, and has informally advised the Staten Island workers. “The labor movement has to figure out how to support them.”
Sean O’Brien, the new president of the 1.3 million-member International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said in an interview on Thursday that the union was prepared to spend hundreds of millions of dollars unionizing Amazon and to collaborate with a variety of other unions and progressive groups.
said he became alarmed in March 2020 after encountering a co-worker who was clearly ill. He pleaded with management to close the facility for two weeks. The company fired him after he helped lead a walkout over safety conditions in late March that year.
Amazon said at the time that it had taken “extreme measures” to keep workers safe, including deep cleaning and social distancing. It said it had fired Mr. Smalls for violating social distancing guidelines and attending the walkout even though he had been placed in a quarantine.
After workers at Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., overwhelmingly rejected the retail workers union in its first election last spring, Mr. Smalls and Derrick Palmer, an Amazon employee who is his friend, decided to form a new union, called Amazon Labor Union.
While the organizing in Alabama included high-profile tactics, with progressive supporters like Senator Bernie Sanders visiting the area, the organizers at JFK8 benefited from being insiders.
For months, they set up shop at the bus stop outside the warehouse, grilling meat at barbecues and at one point even passing out pot.(The retail workers said they were hamstrung by Covid during their initial election in Alabama.)
nationwide agreement to allow workers more access to organize on-site.
At times the Amazon Labor Union stumbled. The labor board determined this fall that the fledgling union, which spent months collecting signatures from workers requesting a vote, had not demonstrated sufficient support to warrant an election. But the organizers kept trying, and by late January they had finally gathered enough signatures.
Amazon played up its minimum wage of $15 an hour in advertising and other public relations efforts. The company also waged a full-throated campaign against the union, texting employees and mandating attendance at anti-union meetings. It spent $4.3 million on anti-union consultants nationwide last year, according to annual disclosures filed on Thursday with the Labor Department.
In February, Mr. Smalls was arrested at the facility after managers said he was trespassing while delivering food to co-workers and called the police. Two current employees were also arrested during the incident, which appeared to galvanize interest in the union.
The difference in outcomes in Bessemer and Staten Island may reflect a difference in receptiveness toward unions in the two states — roughly 6 percent of workers in Alabama are union members, versus 22 percent in New York — as well as the difference between a mail-in election and one conducted in person.
But it may also suggest the advantages of organizing through an independent, worker-led union. In Alabama, union officials and professional organizers were still barred from the facility under the settlement with the labor board. But at the Staten Island site, a larger portion of the union leadership and organizers were current employees.
“What we were trying to say all along is that having workers on the inside is the most powerful tool,” said Mr. Palmer, who makes $21.50 an hour. “People didn’t believe it, but you can’t beat workers organizing other workers.”
The independence of the Amazon Labor Union also appeared to undermine Amazon’s anti-union talking points, which cast the union as an interloping “third party.”
On March 25, workers at JFK8 started lining up outside a tent in the parking lot to vote. And over five voting days, they cast their ballots to form what could become the first union at Amazon’s operations in the United States.
Another election, brought also by Amazon Labor Union at a neighboring Staten Island facility, is scheduled for late April.
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.