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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How Roman Abramovich Used Shell Companies and Wall Street Ties to Invest in the U.S.

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.

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.

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Russians have up to $213 billion stashed offshore in Swiss banks, article with image

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Russian rouble banknotes are seen in this illustration picture taken in Moscow, September 30, 2014. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev/File Photo

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ZURICH, March 17 (Reuters) – Switzerland’s secretive banks hold up to $213 billion of Russian wealth, the country’s financial industry association estimates, as sanctions on Russia give a rare glimpse inside Swiss vaults.

The Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) estimated that the banks hold between 150 billion and 200 billion Swiss francs ($213 billion) of Russian client money in offshore accounts.

This indicates that the extent of wealthy Russians’ business with banks in Switzerland, the world’s biggest centre for offshore wealth, is far more extensive than the on-balance sheet exposures several of its financial firms have begun to detail.

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The SBA’s revelation is rare for Switzerland, which has stone-walled many previous transparency requests, and comes as it took the unusual step of applying European Union sanctions to Russian cash following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine last month.

There is growing Swiss public debate about its role, with Mattea Meyer, co-president of the Social Democrats, calling for Switzerland to clamp down on any cash belonging to Russians close to President Vladimir Putin and his government.

“Part belongs to oligarchs loyal to the Kremlin. The money and their activity … helps finance the war,” she said, adding that Switzerland “must do everything possible to turn off the money taps”.

The SBA estimate, which dwarfs initial indications of the credit exposure to Russia, makes clear the scale of the task of imposing sanctions, such as by freezing the cash.

The Swiss economy ministry said that it had no meaningful estimates on frozen Russian assets as it tallies reports from banks facing a growing Swiss sanctions list. read more

Despite its Russian tally estimate, the SBA stressed that this was small compared to overall assets held in Switzerland, which has been regarded by generations of wealthy individuals from around the world as a safe haven for their money.

“The share of assets held for Russian clients likely accounts for a share in the low single-digit percentage range of the total cross-border assets deposited with Swiss banks,” it said in an emailed statement to Reuters on Wednesday, referring to money held for clients residing abroad.

RUSSIAN RISK

As Western governments unleash a growing list of sanctions in response to Russia’s invasion, banks are seeing their business with Russian clients scrutinized far beyond the loans they have granted or business done out of Russian subsidiaries that could lead to balance sheet losses.

Analysts have said direct Swiss bank exposures to Russian clients look manageable, based on what has been made public.

Switzerland’s two biggest banks last week detailed “limited” exposures to Russia, with the largest UBS saying a $634 million direct exposure had been cut since year-end. read more

Credit Suisse (CSGN.S) Chief Executive Thomas Gottstein on Tuesday said some 4% of the assets Switzerland’s second-biggest bank manages for wealthy clients belong to Russians, amounting to tens of billions of dollars. read more

That is far greater than the 848 million Swiss franc net credit exposure in Credit Suisse’s annual report. read more

While the bank has not provided an updated tally, it managed 827 billion francs in its wealth management businesses at end-2021, so 4% would amount to some 33 billion Swiss francs in assets associated with Russian customers.

UBS (UBSG.S) and Switzerland’s third-largest listed lender, Julius Baer (BAER.S), have declined to detail assets they hold for Russian customers, but UBS CEO Ralph Hamers indicated sanctions were keeping the country’s biggest bank busy.

“New lists come out every night,” he said, adding that UBS was looking to shield not only against current compliance but also against the risk of future penalties.

($1 = 0.9395 Swiss francs)

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Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi and Oliver Hirt; Additional reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by John O’Donnell and Alexander Smith

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Shell to stop buying Russian crude oil, issues apology, article with image

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  • Shell to stop all spot purchases of Russian crude oil
  • Says it’s sorry it bought Russian crude cargo last week
  • Shell says Russia withdrawal could slow some refinery output

March 8 (Reuters) – Shell (SHEL.L) stopped buying Russian crude on Tuesday and said it would phase out its involvement in all Russian hydrocarbons from oil to natural gas over Ukraine, becoming one of the first major Western oil companies to abandon Russia entirely.

While Russian crude and gas has been exempt so far from Western sanctions, oil soared above $139 a barrel on Monday to its highest since July 2008 as the United States and European allies began to consider banning Russian oil imports.

U.S. lawmakers have called for bans but President Joe Biden’s administration has only sanctioned Russian oil tankers. Britain and Canada have also barred Russian vessels from landing at their ports in protest at Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

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Shell apologised on Tuesday for buying Russian oil last week after it had said it would pull out of its Russian operations, including the Sakhalin 2 LNG plant in which it holds a 27.5% stake and which is operated by Gazprom . read more

“We are acutely aware that our decision last week to purchase a cargo of Russian crude oil … was not the right one and we are sorry,” Chief Executive Officer Ben van Beurden said.

A 3D printed natural gas pipeline is placed in front of displayed Shell logo in this illustration taken February 8, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/

Shell bought a cargo of Russian crude oil from Swiss trader Trafigura at a record low of dated Brent minus $28.50 a barrel, traders said on Friday. read more

British rival BP said last month it was abandoning its 19.75% stake in Russian oil giant Rosneft (ROSN.MM) in an abrupt move that could cost it up to $25 billion. read more

TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA) Chief Executive Patrick Pouyanne said on Monday that the French company had stopped buying oil from Russia, although one its landlocked refineries in Germany continued to receive Russian crude by pipeline. read more

Shell said it would change its crude oil supply chain to remove volumes from Russia “as fast as possible” and shut its service stations in Russia, as well as its aviation fuels and lubricants operations in the country.

The company said the supply chain change could take weeks to complete and would lead to reduced output from some of its refineries while its withdrawal from Russian petroleum products, pipeline gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) would be phased.

The company also plans to end its involvement in the Nord Stream 2 Baltic gas pipeline linking Russia to Germany, which it helped finance as a part of a consortium.

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Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Ahmad Ghaddar in London. Editing by Shinjini Ganguli, Louise Heavens and David Clarke

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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What Davos Looks Like When the World Economic Forum Is Cancel

For the second year in a row, the World Economic Forum scrapped its annual meeting in the Alpine resort town of Davos, Switzerland, because of the pandemic.

The gathering is an essential stop on the annual circuit for the global elite, a weeklong schmoozefest where billionaires and autocrats mingle over canapés while activists protest in the frigid mountain air. Companies make climate pledges. Economists discuss inequality. Everyone walks on the same slippery, slushy roads.

the patrician founder of the World Economic Forum, said in a statement on Thursday.

So far, however, there is little sign that the pandemic is beginning to wane. And for a second year in a row, with Davos the event on hold, the town of Davos, Switzerland, is stuck in limbo.

a study by University of St. Gallen that was commissioned by the forum. The bulk of that, roughly $70 million, was spent in Davos, which has a year-round population of about 11,000 people. That number essentially doubles when the forum comes to town.

Hotels, and in particular the Steigenberger Grandhotel Belvédère, will feel the pain particularly acutely. During the annual meeting, the Belvédère has its own center of gravity, erecting temporary structures to accommodate additional meeting rooms, allowing television networks to set up on its roof and hosting a constant string of receptions in its various bars.

Normally, it is all but impossible to get a room there during the third week of January, with rooms ranging from $1,000 to $10,000, if they are available. Now, during what is usually its busiest time of the year, rooms at the Belvédère are available for less than $300 a night on Expedia.com.

“Davos Man” has come to describe individuals so wealthy and powerful that they play by their own set of rules, and write the rules for the rest of us. The annual meeting has come to define the place more than the mountains, the ski slopes or the mulled wine served in chalet taverns. Even onetime critics of the World Economic Forum have come around and now embrace its singular place in Davos.

“In my early days, I was demonstrating during the W.E.F. for better action against climate change and social justice,” Philipp Wilhelm, the mayor of Davos, told the Guardian after last year’s event was canceled. “Now, I am trying to get the W.E.F. back to Davos.”

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Roche says at-home COVID-19 rapid test gets ok from FDA

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A box of material for rapid COVID-19 antigenic tests made by Swiss drugmaker Roche is pictured at the University Hospital (CHUV) during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Lausanne, Switzerland, November 13, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

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Dec 24 (Reuters) – Roche said on Friday that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to its COVID-19 at-home rapid test that can be used by people as young as 14.

The test, which uses a anterior nasal swab sample, is “able to produce accurate, reliable and quick results in as few as 20 minutes” for SARS-CoV-2 and all variants of concern, including Omicron, the drugmaker said in a statement.

The variant has become dominant in the United States with lightning speed, dashing hopes for a more normal holiday season, resurrecting restrictions and stretching the country’s testing infrastructure ahead of holiday travel and gatherings. read more

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“Roche has the capacity to produce tens of millions of tests per month to help support the pandemic response,” the Swiss firm said, adding that the test will be available across the U.S. from January.

The test’s approval comes at a time when companies such as Walmart Inc (WMT.N), Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA.O) and CVS Health Corp (CVS.N) have limited sales of at-home COVID-19 testing kits as demand surged owing to the swift spread of the variant of the coronavirus.

U.S. President Joe Biden recently unveiled plans to buy 500 million rapid COVID-19 tests to be distributed for free to Americans who request them starting in January. read more

The test can also be used by for children aged 2-13 years under adult supervision, according to the company. “The launch will be in partnership with SD Biosensor Inc (137310.KS), with whom Roche has a global distribution agreement.”

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Reporting by Vishal Vivek in Bengaluru; Editing by Sandra Maler

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Europeans Ponder Living With, Not Defeating, Covid

MADRID — Covid-19 infections were rising all across Spain, but the message from the country’s leader was clear: The government was not entering 2022 with the restrictions of 2020.

“The situation is different this time, and because of that, we’re taking different measures,” Pedro Sánchez, the prime minister, said this week, adding that he understood his people had grown impatient with the pandemic and that he was “fully aware of the fatigue.”

Across Europe, that fatigue is as palpable as the dampened Christmas spirit. The fatigue of another named variant of the coronavirus and another wave of infections. The fatigue of another grim year watching New Year’s Eve gatherings get canceled or curtailed, one by one.

But along with the exhaustion, another feeling is taking root: that the coronavirus will not be eradicated with vaccines or lockdowns, but has become something endemic that people must learn to live with, maybe for years to come.

reducing the risk of severe disease and hospitalization, according to recent studies.

Pfizer and Merck. The new drugs, which can be taken at home with a doctor’s prescription, will be available to some Covid patients who are at higher risk of becoming severely ill.

“I worry a bit because we don’t know much about Omicron,” Susanne Sesterer, 63, a retiree in Hanover, Germany, said on Thursday as she was doing her last shopping before Christmas. “But how much worse can it get?”

Others were giving up.

Dorotea Belli, a 42-year-old Italian who has had two vaccine doses, said she would not go to a family gathering for Christmas and instead stay home in Rome. Many of her colleagues had tested positive for the virus, she said, and her children, 4 and 1, are not eligible for vaccination.

“They and I will miss my parents very much,” she said. “But I don’t want to bring Covid around, and even if my husband and I are vaccinated, who knows?”

Spain’s calculus on new restrictions is not only factoring in the all-important holidays, but also legal barriers that emerged after measures taken by the government in 2020.

In July, Spain’s Constitutional Court ruled that the government did not have the authority to impose the lockdown measures that began in March 2020, which restricted Spaniards from leaving their homes except for essential trips like food shopping. Instead, the judges said, the measures required a full parliamentary vote, which few see passing with a majority in the future given how controversial the previous restrictions were.

“The government has its hands tied now,” said Luis Galán Soldevilla, a law professor at the University of Córdoba.

Spain’s lighter measures announced on Thursday received criticism from some sectors, like the Spanish Society of Public Health and Health Administration, a group that includes many health professionals.

“These measures don’t help much,” said Ildefonso Hernández, the group’s spokesman, saying limiting capacity indoors would be more effective. “It makes no sense that people walk the street with a mask and then take it off when they enter a bar.”

In Madrid, residents were charging ahead with their Christmas plans, despite the rising caseload and risks.

Fernando Sánchez, 55, a taxi driver, lost his mother and brother to Covid-19 six months ago. Nevertheless, he was unwilling to cancel his Christmas plans, which this year take place at the home of his in-laws, much as they had before the pandemic.

Antonio Jesús Navarro, 33, a software engineer, had been looking forward to spending Christmas with his girlfriend, who had traveled to Spain for the holidays from the United States. The two had not seen each other since before the pandemic began.

But then Mr. Navarro learned he had come into contact with someone who had tested positive for the coronavirus. The couple were isolating until he could get his own test results. He said he was frustrated with public messaging on how to stay safe from Omicron.

“Is an antigen test acceptable?” he said by telephone. “What happens if there are no symptoms?”

Hours later, Mr. Navarro called back to say he and his girlfriend had tested positive for Covid-19.

Nicholas Casey and José Bautista reported from Madrid, and Constant Méheut from Paris. Reporting was contributed by Raphael Minder from Geneva; Gaia Pianigiani from Rome; Christopher F. Schuetze from Hanover, Germany; and Léontine Gallois from Paris.

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