By the time Melinda French Gates decided to end her 27-year marriage, her husband was known globally as a software pioneer, a billionaire and a leading philanthropist.
But in some circles, Bill Gates had also developed a reputation for questionable conduct in work-related settings. That is attracting new scrutiny amid the breakup of one of the world’s richest, most powerful couples.
In 2018, Ms. French Gates wasn’t satisfied with her husband’s handling of a previously undisclosed sexual harassment claim against his longtime money manager, according to two people familiar with the matter. After Mr. Gates moved to settle the matter confidentially, Ms. French Gates insisted on an outside investigation. The money manager, Michael Larson, remains in his job.
On at least a few occasions, Mr. Gates pursued women who worked for him at Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, according to people with direct knowledge of his overtures. In meetings at the foundation, he was at times dismissive toward his wife, witnesses said.
public view, Ms. French Gates was unhappy. She hired divorce lawyers, setting in motion a process that culminated this month with the announcement that their marriage was ending.
a public appearance in 2016.
Long after they married in 1994, Mr. Gates would on occasion pursue women in the office.
In 2006, for example, he attended a presentation by a female Microsoft employee. Mr. Gates, who at the time was the company’s chairman, left the meeting and immediately emailed the woman to ask her out to dinner, according to two people familiar with the exchange.
“If this makes you uncomfortable, pretend it never happened,” Mr. Gates wrote in an email, according to a person who read it to The New York Times.
in a column in Time magazine announcing the pledge.
money manager, earning solid returns on the Gateses’ and the foundation’s combined $174 billion investment portfolio through a secretive operation called Cascade Investment. Cascade owned assets like stocks, bonds, hotels and vast tracts of farmland, and it also put the Gateses’ money in other investment vehicles. One was a venture capital firm called Rally Capital, which is in the same building that Cascade occupies in Kirkland, Wash.
Rally Capital had an ownership stake in a nearby bicycle shop. In 2017, the woman who managed the bike shop hired a lawyer, who wrote a letter to Mr. Gates and Ms. French Gates.
The letter said that Mr. Larson had been sexually harassing the manager of the bike shop, according to three people familiar with the claim. The letter said the woman had tried to handle the situation on her own, without success, and she asked the Gateses for help. If they didn’t resolve the situation, the letter said, she might pursue legal action.
The woman reached a settlement in 2018 in which she signed a nondisclosure agreement in exchange for a payment, the three people said.
While Mr. Gates thought that brought the matter to an end, Ms. French Gates was not satisfied with the outcome, two of the people said. She called for a law firm to conduct an independent review of the woman’s allegations, and of Cascade’s culture. Mr. Larson was put on leave while the investigation was underway, but he was eventually reinstated. (It is unclear whether the investigation exonerated Mr. Larson.) He remains in charge of Cascade.
published an article detailing Mr. Gates’s relationship with Mr. Epstein. The article reported that the two men had spent time together on multiple occasions, flying on Mr. Epstein’s private jet and attending a late-night gathering at his Manhattan townhouse. “His lifestyle is very different and kind of intriguing although it would not work for me,” Mr. Gates emailed colleagues in 2011, after he first met Mr. Epstein.
(Ms. Arnold, the spokeswoman for Mr. Gates, said at the time that he regretted the relationship with Mr. Epstein. She said that Mr. Gates had been unaware that the plane belonged to Mr. Epstein and that Mr. Gates had been referring to the unique décor of Mr. Epstein’s home.)
The Times article included details about Mr. Gates’s interactions with Mr. Epstein that Ms. French Gates had not previously known, according to people familiar with the matter. Soon after its publication she began consulting with divorce lawyers and other advisers who would help the couple divide their assets, one of the people said. The Wall Street Journal previously reported the timing of her lawyers’ hiring.
The revelations in The Times were especially upsetting to Ms. French Gates because she had previously voiced her discomfort with her husband associating with Mr. Epstein, who died by suicide in federal custody in 2019, shortly after being charged with sex trafficking of girls. Ms. French Gates expressed her unease in the fall of 2013 after she and Mr. Gates had dinner with Mr. Epstein at his townhouse, according to people briefed on the dinner and its aftermath. (The incident was reported earlier by The Daily Beast.)
For years, Mr. Gates continued to go to dinners and meetings at Mr. Epstein’s home, where Mr. Epstein usually surrounded himself with young and attractive women, said two people who were there and two others who were told about the gatherings.
Ms. Arnold said Mr. Gates never socialized or attended parties with Mr. Epstein, and she denied that young and attractive women participated at their meetings. “Bill only met with Epstein to discuss philanthropy,” Ms. Arnold said.
On at least one occasion, Mr. Gates remarked in Mr. Epstein’s presence that he was unhappy in his marriage, according to people who heard the comments.
Leon Black, the head of Apollo Investments who had a multifaceted business and personal relationship with Mr. Epstein, according to two people familiar with the meeting. The meeting was held at Apollo’s New York offices.
It is unclear whether Ms. French Gates was aware of the latest meetings with Mr. Epstein. A person who recently spoke to her said that “she decided that it was best for her to leave her marriage as she moved into the next phase of her life.”
The Israeli military abruptly announced after midnight on Friday that its ground forces had begun “attacking in the Gaza Strip,” saying it on Twitter, in text messages to journalists, and in on-the-record confirmations by an English-speaking army spokesman.
Several international news organizations, including The New York Times, immediately alerted readers worldwide that a Gaza incursion or invasion was underway, a major escalation of Israeli-Palestinian hostilities.
Within hours, those reports were all corrected: No invasion had taken place. Rather, ground troops had opened fire at targets in Gaza from inside Israeli territory, while fighters and drones were continuing to attack from the air. A top military spokesman took responsibility, blaming the fog of war.
But by Friday evening, several leading Israeli news outlets were reporting that the incorrect announcement was no accident, but had actually been part of an elaborate deception. The intent, the media reports said, was to dupe Hamas fighters into thinking that an invasion had begun and to respond in ways that would expose far greater numbers of them to what was being called a devastatingly lethal Israeli attack.
headlined a report by its military reporter, which called the spread of misinformation to foreign journalists a “planned ploy.”
The Israeli press cited the military as saying the plan had worked. That claim could not be independently verified.
Hezbollah missile attack had caused Israeli casualties.
The spokesman’s office waited two hours — long enough for Hezbollah fighters to declare victory and stand down — before announcing that no Israeli troops had actually been hurt.
provided answers with certitude: “This is not a ground invasion. Repeat: There is no ground invasion into the Gaza Strip. I don’t understand this strange briefing.”
By then, according to Israeli reports, the military operation had already concluded.
If you’ve enjoyed working from home during the pandemic — no commute, cooking lunch in your own kitchen or being around family more often — the chief executive of WeWork has some thoughts about you.
“Those who are least engaged are very comfortable working from home,” Sandeep Mathrani, the C.E.O. of the coworking company said at a Wall Street Journal event on Wednesday. “Those who are überly engaged with the company want to go to the office two-thirds of the time, at least.”
“People are happier when they come to work,” he added. The company is betting on people wanting to — or being required to — work outside of their homes once it is safe to do so widely.
His comments were not received well by many online as many companies and employees consider the post-Covid-19 workplace after more than a year of doing their jobs from home.
wrote one Twitter user.
Others noted that working from home has benefited parents, and that working from home has improved some workers’ mental health.
Ann Johnson, a corporate vice president at Microsoft, wrote: “If the only way you can keep your employees engaged is by being in the office with them, you have a leadership issue — not an employee engagement issue.”
Google said this month it would relax its remote work protocols, and that it expected 20 percent of its employees to work remotely after its offices reopen. The tech giant had previously been one of the industry’s holdouts on flexible remote work, and Insider reported that some employees had threatened to quit if they couldn’t keep working from home.
Marie Neige, a call center operator in Seychelles, was eager to be vaccinated. Like the majority of the residents in the tiny island nation, she was offered China’s Sinopharm vaccine in March, and was looking forward to the idea of being fully protected in a few weeks.
On Sunday, she tested positive for the coronavirus.
“I was shocked,” said Ms. Neige, 30, who is isolating at home. She said she has lost her sense of smell and taste and has a slightly sore throat. “The vaccine was supposed to protect us — not from the virus, but the symptoms,” she said. “I was taking precaution after precaution.”
China expected its Sinopharm vaccines to be the linchpin of the country’s vaccine diplomacy program — an easily transported dose that would protect not just Chinese citizens but also much of the developing world. In a bid to win good will, China has donated 13.3 million Sinopharm doses to other countries, according to Bridge Beijing, a consultancy that tracks China’s impact on global health.
Instead, the company, which has made two varieties of coronavirus vaccines, is facing mounting questions about the inoculations. First, there was the lack of transparency with its late-stage trial data. Now, Seychelles, the world’s most vaccinated nation, has had a surge in cases despite much of its population being inoculated with Sinopharm.
has managed to beat back the virus. A study has shown that the Pfizer vaccine that Israel used is 94 percent effective at preventing transmission. On Wednesday, the number of daily new confirmed Covid-19 cases per million people in Seychelles stood at 2,613.38, compared to 5.55 in Israel, according to The World In Data project.
Wavel Ramkalawan, the president of Seychelles, defended the country’s vaccination program, saying that the Sinopharm and AstraZeneca vaccines have “served our population very well.” He pointed out that the Sinopharm vaccine was given to people age 18 to 60, and in this age group over all, 80 percent of the patients who needed to be hospitalized were not vaccinated.
according to the Seychelles News Agency. Sinopharm did not respond to a request for comment.
an article from The Wall Street Journal on Seychelles, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry blamed Western media for trying to discredit Chinese vaccines and “harboring the mentality that ‘everything involving China has to be smeared.’”
In a news conference, Kate O’Brien, director of immunizations at the World Health Organization, said the agency is evaluating the surge of infections in Seychelles and called the situation “complicated.” Last week, the global health group approved the Sinopharm vaccine for emergency use, raising hopes of an end to a global supply crunch.
She said that “some of the cases that are being reported are occurring either soon after a single dose or soon after a second dose or between the first and second doses.”
According to Ms. O’Brien, the W.H.O. is looking into the strains that are currently circulating in the country, when the cases occurred relative to when somebody received doses and the severity of each case. “Only by doing that kind of evaluation can we make an assessment of whether or not these are vaccine failures,” she said.
But some scientists say it is increasingly clear that the Sinopharm vaccine does not offer a clear path toward herd immunity, particularly when considering the multiple variants appearing around the world.
Governments using the Sinopharm vaccine “have to assume a significant failure rate and have to plan accordingly,” said John Moore, a vaccine expert at Cornell University. “You have to alert the public that you will still have a decent chance of getting infected.”
Many in Seychelles say the government has not been forthcoming.
“My question is: Why did they push everyone to take it?” said Diana Lucas, a 27-year-old waitress who tested positiveon May 10. She said she received her second dose of the Sinopharm vaccine on Feb. 10.
Emmanuelle Hoareau, 22, a government lawyer, tested positiveon May 6 after getting the second dose of the Sinopharm vaccine in March. “It doesn’t make sense,” she said. She said the government had failed to give the public enough information about the vaccines.
“They are not explaining to the people about the real situation,” she said. “It’s a big deal — a lot of people are getting infected.”
Ms. Hoareau’s mother, Jacqueline Pillay, is a nurse in a private clinic in Victoria, the capital. She said she believes there is a new variant in Seychelles because of an influx of foreigners who have arrived in recent months. The tourism-dependent country opened its borders on March 25 to most travelers without any quarantine.
“People are very scared now,” said Ms. Pillay, 58. “When you give people the right information, then people would not speculate.”
Health officials have recently appeared on television to encourage those who have only taken the first dose of the Sinopharm vaccine to return for the second shot. But Ms. Pillay said she is frustrated that the public health commissioner has not addressed why the vaccines don’t appear to be working as well as they should.
“I think a lot of people aren’t coming back,” said Ms. Pillay.
Marietta Labrosse, Elsie Chen and Claire Fu contributed research.
As American companies prepare to bring large numbers of workers back to the office in the coming months, executives are facing one of their most delicate pandemic-related decisions: Should they require employees to be vaccinated?
Take the case of United Airlines. In January, the chief executive, Scott Kirby, indicated at a company town hall that he wanted to require all of his roughly 96,000 employees to get coronavirus vaccines once they became widely available.
“I think it’s the right thing to do,” Mr. Kirby said, before urging other corporations to follow suit.
It has been four months. No major airlines have made a similar pledge — and United Airlines is waffling.
herd immunity has slipped as the pace of vaccinations has slowed.
But making vaccinations mandatory could risk a backlash, and perhaps even litigation, from those who view it as an invasion of privacy and a Big Brother-like move to control the lives of employees.
survey of 1,339 employers conducted by Arizona State University’s College of Health Solutions and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, 44 percent of U.S. respondents said they planned to mandate vaccinations for their companies. In a separate poll of 446 employers conducted by Willis Towers Watson, a risk-management firm, 23 percent of respondents said they were “planning or considering requiring employees to get vaccinated for them to return to the worksite.”
two hours of pay for each dose they receive, while emphasizing it would not make doses mandatory. Target is offering a $5 coupon to all customers and employees who receive their vaccination at a CVS at Target location.
Supreme Court ruled about a century ago that states could require vaccinations for children attending public school. And universities like Rutgers have instituted mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations.
But the pandemic brings up a host of complications that companies typically prefer to avoid, involving the private lives, religious preferences and medical histories of employees, such as whether an employee is pregnant, breastfeeding or immuno-compromised, information they may not want to reveal.
Major union groups, like the A.F.L.-C.I.O., have not aggressively pushed the issue either. They are facing dueling forces — standing up for individual worker’s rights on the one hand and protecting one another on the other. Unions have also been arguing for stronger workplace safety measures, efforts that could be complicated by companies’ arguing that mandatory vaccinations reduce the need for such accommodations. The return to work protocols negotiated between the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers and Hollywood’s unions, for instance, will not include mandatory vaccinations.
“There are going to be some people who may have legitimate reasons for not getting the vaccine or for not wanting to talk about it,” said Carrie Altieri, who works in communications for IBM’s People and Culture business. “It’s not an easy issue at this point.” IBM is working with New York State on a digital passport linking a person’s vaccination records to an app to show businesses, like performance venues, that may require vaccination. It is not, though, requiring vaccinations for its employees.
already struggling to hire workers, mandating vaccinations could make hiring even more difficult. And there are questions of logistics and execution. How can companies confirm the veracity of those who say they’ve been vaccinated?
Companies may need to hire additional staff, potentially with medical training, to handle such tasks, which could saddle businesses — particularly small ones — with burdensome costs.
Vivint, a home security company based in Utah with 10,000 employees, began offering vaccines in its on-site clinic this week, after the state approved the company to distribute 100 shots a week to its staff. It paid $3,000 for the necessary medical-grade freezer.
“We’re not requiring employees to get vaccinated, but we’re highly encouraging it,” said Starr Fowler, senior vice president for human resources. “For a lot of our employees, particularly those that are younger, the easier that we make it for them, the more likely they’re going to do it.”
Salesforce is introducing a policy in certain U.S. offices, including Salesforce Tower in San Francisco, where up to 100 fully vaccinated employees can volunteer to work on designated floors. The New York Stock Exchange issued a memo to trading firms saying they would be allowed to increase their staff on the floor, provided all the employees have been vaccinated.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued guidance in December stating that employers were indeed legally permitted to require employees to be vaccinated before they return to offices. But the threat of litigation still looms.
plans to open its offices on May 17 on a voluntary basis, said it strongly encouraged vaccines for employees — barring any religious or health restrictions — but would not require them. A spokeswoman for Goldman Sachs, which has not guided employees either way, declined to comment.
One potential path for companies seeking a middle ground is to mandate the shots only for new hires. Still, there is a fine line between encouraging and requiring shots — sometimes resulting in conflicting messages to employees.
The investment bank Jefferies sent a memo to employees in early February stating “verification of vaccination will be required to access the office.” On Feb. 24 came a follow-up memo. “We did not intend to make it sound as if we are mandating vaccines,” it said.
Reporting was contributed by Rebecca Robbins, Sapna Maheshwari, Kellen Browning, Niraj Chokshi and Eshe Nelson.
Goldman Sachs has joined JPMorgan Chase in telling its bankers that it’s almost time to come back to the office. David Solomon, Goldman’s C.E.O., sent a memo to employees advising them to “make plans to be in a position to return to the office” by June 14 in the U.S. and June 21 in Britain. JPMorgan plans to open its offices on May 17 on a voluntary basis and require that workers return to their desks in rotations starting in July.
Goldman and JPMorgan’s moves put pressure on other banks to put an end to remote work, several bankers told DealBook. While many thought they could work from home through the summer, some executives are keen to get employees back into the office sooner. (Retail branches have been open throughout the pandemic.) Other major banks aren’t expecting employees to return in meaningful numbers for several months:
Citigroup expects to have about 30 percent of its North America-based employees back in the office by the end of the summer.
Bank of America’s C.E.O., Brian Moynihan, said recently that a return to the office probably wouldn’t take place until after Labor Day.
Wells Fargo said it was “optimistic” that workers would be able to return to the office on Sept. 6.
These decisions may be complicated by where the banks’ offices are. It could be easier to coax workers back to JPMorgan’s headquarters in Midtown East, for example, than to Times Square, home to Barclays and Morgan Stanley, where businesses were especially hard-hit by the pandemic and a handful of highly publicized crimes have recently taken place. “People are so on edge and so uncertain about their own future that all these situations are exaggerated,” Kathryn Wylde, the president of the Partnership for New York City, told The Times.
Jamie Dimon appears eager for the end of remote working. “I’m about to cancel all my Zoom meetings,” the JPMorgan chief said at an event hosted by The Wall Street Journal. Working from home “does not work for younger people, it doesn’t work for those who want to hustle, it doesn’t work in terms of spontaneous idea generation,” he noted. Dimon said his bank had lost some business because rivals had visited a potential client in person and JPMorgan’s bankers hadn’t. He acknowledged that there was some pushback on the bank’s plans, but didn’t seem willing to give in. “Yes, people don’t like commuting, but so what,” he said.
In other Manhattan workplace moves, the New York Stock Exchange issued guidance that allows trading firms to increase their staff on the floor if the employees provide proof of vaccination. And the United Nations is taking a more cautious approach to reopening than its host city, saying that it was premature to plan for an in-person General Assembly in September.
Zoom fatigue. As a result, he has stopped scheduling back-to-back video chats. “I’m so tired of that,” he said.
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
Business groups oppose voting restrictions in Texas. A coalition including HP and Microsoft published a letter yesterday criticizing “any changes that would restrict eligible voters’ access to the ballot.” A second letter, signed by more than 100 Houston executives, criticized the Texas legislation as “voter suppression.” Both show how companies are more willing to wade into the debate over voting limits after Georgia enacted a bill with restrictions last month.
More details emerge about the Gates divorce. Cascade Investment, a holding company owned by Bill Gates, transferred over $1.8 billion worth of assets to Melinda Gates on Monday, the day that the two announced their plans to split. And although they will retain their roles as co-chairs and trustees of the Gates Foundation, questions remain about whether they will focus more on their individual philanthropies after they divorce.
The White House alters its Covid-19 vaccination strategy. The Biden administration will shift emphasis from mass inoculation sites to smaller ones like pharmacies to get more people in the U.S. vaccinated. Meanwhile, the campaign to vaccinate the world is floundering, with the virus spreading more rapidly than ever, driven by new waves in South America and India.
Global Task Force on Pandemic Response, organized by the Chamber of Commerce, Microsoft, IBM and Accenture, with support from the Business Roundtable, will organize assistance to the country. It will begin by sending 1,000 ventilators and 25,000 oxygen concentrators by the end of the month.
$3.5 billion in sales from the shot, likely equating to roughly $900 million in pretax profits. It plans to seek emergency approval to use the vaccine in children age 2 to 11 in September and full approval for use in adults this month.
Janet Yellen states the obvious, and markets shudder
Janet Yellen, the Treasury secretary and former Fed chair, got in a bit of a tangle yesterday. She rattled the markets at one event — then used her appearance at a second conference to clarify her remarks.
Today in Business
“It may be that interest rates will have to rise somewhat to make sure that our economy doesn’t overheat,” she said at the first event, hosted by The Atlantic. Investors seized on those words — tech stocks tumbled most of all on the prospects of higher rates — and critics said she was improperly interfering in monetary policy. Fed officials have said that any spike in inflation linked to robust government spending and a postpandemic reopening is likely to be temporary; the central bank has pledged to keep interest rates low for a long time.
“Let me be clear, it’s not something I’m predicting or recommending,” Yellen said at the second event, hosted by The Wall Street Journal, a few hours later. “If anybody appreciates the independence of the Fed, I think that person is me.” Indeed, when she was the Fed chair, Yellen had to deal with persistent jawboning from Donald Trump, who spoke out more explicitly about Fed policy than many previous presidents. Stocks pared their losses.
first appearance in court over criminal fraud charges in more than a year. A federal prosecutor responded that Holmes “defrauded patients by saying tests were accurate and reliable when they weren’t — and she knew it.”
host of “Saturday Night Live” could get more people interested in trading the crypto token. (It’s as good a reason as any for those who try to rationalize its movements.)
The latest bout of Dogecoin mania has overshadowed what’s going on in Ethereum, the second-largest cryptocurrency, which set records this week and made its 27-year-old co-creator, Vitalik Buterin, a billionaire (in dollars). Ethereum is up more than 350 percent for the year to date, outpacing Bitcoin’s relatively pedestrian 90 percent gain — which, for context, outpaces every stock in the S&P 500.
the Facebook Oversight Board will announce whether it believes Facebook was justified in barring Donald Trump after he used the platform to incite a mob of supporters who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6. Here’s what you need to know about what Mark Zuckerberg has called Facebook’s “Supreme Court,” whose decision could influence how all social networks treat political speech.
What is the Facebook Oversight Board? Facebook assembled the board to vet its most sensitive decisions on moderating content. It consists of 20 members, including experts in human rights, constitutional law and journalism. The board’s cases, which are referred by Facebook or the public, are reviewed by a panel of five members, who consider whether the company’s decision is consistent with its rules and human rights laws. A majority of the full board must approve the final decision.
Does the board have any power? Only what Facebook gives it. The company has said it will abide by the board’s rulings, and the board’s charter emphasizes its independence. But Facebook has no legal obligation to follow those decisions, and it funds the organization through a $130 million trust.
What exactly will the board decide in this case? It could vote to reinstate Trump’s Facebook account or uphold the ban. Or it could provide a ruling with more nuance, such as finding that the ban was appropriate at the time it was initiated but is no longer necessary. In addition to a ruling in this case, Facebook has asked for broader policy recommendations.
“Basically the board is setting the tone here for what they’re going to do going forward — how much power they’re going to have, how much power they’re not going to have, whether they’re even going to be constrained by how the question was posed to them with Facebook,” Kate Klonick, an assistant professor of law at St. John’s University, told NPR.
THE SPEED READ
Tiger Global, the big tech investment firm, reportedly plans to raise $10 billion for its next fund. (FT)
Listing news roundup: Jessica Alba’s Honest Company raised $413 million in its I.P.O. at a $1.5 billion valuation; JAB’s Krispy Kreme filed confidentially to go public; and the Equinox gym chain is reportedly in talks to merge with a SPAC founded by Chamath Palihapitiya. (Bloomberg)
Politics and policy
How two Black C.E.O.s got corporate America to pay attention to voting rights. (WaPo)
U.S. officials are pushing Taiwanese chip makers to prioritize American automakers’ demands to ease supply shortages. (Reuters)
Inside the debate about who would actually pay President Biden’s corporate tax increase. (WSJ)
China is building electric car plants nearly as fast as Europe and the U.S. combined. (NYT)
The privacy-focused messaging app Signal said Facebook had blocked it from buying Instagram ads about the social network’s user-data gathering practices. (Insider)
Best of the rest
A majority of G.E. shareholders voted to reject a $230 million compensation package for the company’s C.E.O., Larry Culp. (FT)
Pandora, the world’s largest jewelry maker, is abandoning mined diamonds for lab-created ones. (NYT)
We’d like your feedback! Please email thoughts and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Goldman Sachs became one of the first big banks to put an end to remote work on Tuesday, when it asked a majority of its workers in the United States and Britain to return to the office in June.
In a memo to employees, Goldman executives asked that workers “make plans to be in a position to return to the office” by June 14 in the United States and June 21 in Britain.
“We are focused on progressing on our journey to gradually bring our people back together again, where it is safe to do so,” said the memo, which was signed by David M. Solomon, the firm’s chief executive, as well as his two top lieutenants, John E. Waldron and Stephen M. Scherr. The executives said the bank was “now in a position to activate the next steps in our return to office strategy.”
Exceptions would be made where warranted, according to the memo, which noted that in India and Latin America, where Goldman also employs workers, the health challenges remained substantial. But in New York, where the bank has its headquarters, pandemic restrictions are being lifted on May 19 as coronavirus cases fall and vaccination rates increase. The city is expecting fuller offices, restaurants and subways over the summer.
JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s biggest bank, plans to open all its U.S. offices on May 17 for employees who wish to return voluntarily. A compulsory return will follow in July, when workers will rotate in and out of the office in accordance with safety measures that will limit capacity at each office.
Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan’s chief executive, who has previously spoken about the advantages of working from the office, reiterated his comments at a Wall Street Journal C.E.O. conference on Tuesday morning.
“We want people back at work, and my view is that sometime in September, October it will look just like it did before,” Mr. Dimon said. “And yes, the commute, you know, yes, people don’t like commuting, but so what.”
Mr. Dimon, who said he was “about to cancel all my Zoom meetings,” also acknowledged some pushback to the return-to-office news. “The wife of a husband sent me a nasty note about ‘How can you make him go back?’” he said.
Other banks have not yet mandated a return.
Citigroup has said that while it will invite additional workers back to the office in July, it expects to have only about 30 percent of its North America-based employees back by the end of the summer. Bank of America plans to issue 30-day notices to employees it wants to invite back, a spokeswoman said. The firm has not announced a schedule for doing so, although Brian Moynihan, its chief executive, said recently that the transition would not occur until after Labor Day.
The Goldman Sachs memo on Tuesday targeted the roughly 20,000 employees who are based in the firm’s New York headquarters as well as other U.S. cities, including San Francisco and Dallas, a person familiar with the figures said. Goldman employs another 6,000 or so in Britain, where it operates in London and another, smaller office, this person added.
Tomorrow is Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder meeting, the gathering known as “Woodstock for capitalists.” Like last year, the company is bowing to the times by holding the meeting virtually. But another aspect of the discussion may show that Warren Buffett is increasingly out of step with the times, DealBook’s Michael de la Merced reports.
Investors are pressing Berkshire to disclose more about climate change and work-force diversity. Shareholders, including the Calpers public pension fund, argue that Buffett’s conglomerate isn’t doing enough to disclose its portfolio companies’ progress in addressing those issues. Buffett opposed these initiatives ahead of the meeting, arguing that they cut against Berkshire’s philosophy of letting its subsidiaries operate largely independently. “I don’t believe in imposing my political opinions on the activities of our businesses,” he said at Berkshire’s 2018 annual meeting.
Buffett is expected to get his way, for now. He controls over a third of Berkshire’s voting power and holds sway over faithful retail investors, virtually guaranteeing that the proposals will fail to pass.
Simiso Nzima, the head of corporate governance at Calpers, points out that the S.E.C. appears inclined to force more disclosure on climate change risks anyway.
The big question is whether this will tarnish Berkshire’s golden reputation. Corporate America is increasingly heeding investor demands — including from BlackRock, a major Berkshire shareholder — to do more to fight climate change and racial inequity. Berkshire does not dispute the importance of climate change and diversity, but Buffett’s pushback here risks denting his standing as perhaps the world’s most admired investor. “I don’t think at the moment there’s been a slip in the gold standard,” said Lawrence Cunningham, a professor at George Washington University and a Berkshire shareholder, “but if it’s not tended to, there might be.”
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
Big Tech finishes earnings season on a strong note. Amazon’s first-quarter earnings more than tripled — yes, tripled — to $8 billion, surpassing expectations. As our colleague Shira Ovide writes, the quarter showed that tech giants are “unquestioned winners of the pandemic economy.”
announced today that an E.U. investigation found that the iPhone maker abused its control over its App Store to charge its music-streaming rival more in fees.
A big day in New York City: July 1. Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would fully reopen by that day. But officials concede that tourism won’t fully return to prepandemic levels for years, and employers have been largely targeting the fall for bringing workers back to offices.
The head of the Credit Suisse board’s risk committee steps down. Andreas Gottschling won’t stand for re-election. He is the latest official at the Swiss bank to exit following scandals at Greensill and Archegos.
Good and bad news for AstraZeneca. The drug maker beat expectations for earnings and sales growth, but it is struggling to compile the data requested by U.S. officials to have its Covid-19 vaccine approved by the F.D.A., The Wall Street Journal reported.
given the Tesla chief’s history with the S.E.C.
Today in Business
“The days of the bullpen, the trading floors — that’s over.”
— Whitley Collins of CBRE on how the pandemic has upended the commercial real estate market, reversing the trend of “more and more dense” office spaces.
A warning on gig workers
Marty Walsh, the labor secretary, said yesterday that “in a lot of cases” gig workers in the U.S. should be classified as employees, not independent contractors. “In some cases they are treated respectfully and in some cases they are not, and I think it has to be consistent across the board,” he told Reuters. Shares of Uber, Lyft, Fiverr and DoorDash fell on the news.
But how much control does Walsh have over how companies classify their employees?
There’s no single law that makes workers employees or contractors. The Labor Department can enforce the Fair Labor Standards Act, which establishes the federal minimum wage and overtime pay. This only applies to employees, and who should fall into that category has been the subject of a long-running debate.
New guidance wouldn’t change the law. But it could change how the Labor Department decides whether to bring lawsuits against gig economy companies. “It’s implicitly a sign to employers that you should comply with this interpretation or there’s a risk of enforcement,” Brian Chen, a staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project, told DealBook. The guidance is nonbinding, but Benjamin Sachs, a professor at Harvard Law School, said courts “tend to give it deference” when making decisions. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw specific action coming from the department sometime this year,” said William Gould, a Stanford law professor and the former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board.
In Her Words newsletter, explains why promising G.D.P. numbers aren’t the end of the story.
“A boom-like year” is how one economist described what the U.S. economy might look like in 2021. The latest data, published yesterday, showed that G.D.P. grew at a robust 6.4 percent annualized rate in the first quarter.
While the headline numbers may at first glance suggest that America’s economic health is on track for a full recovery, a closer look reveals an economy that is “profoundly unequal across sectors, unbalanced in ways that have enormous long-term implications,” as The Times’s Neil Irwin put it.
Growth has been fueled by consumer spending on goods, while the services sector has yet to recover. Services account for more than 95 percent of the jobs held by women, according to Michael Madowitz, an economist at the Center for American Progress.
“I’m a little worried we’re too confident the service job losses are just going to spring back to life,” Madowitz said. “If nobody closed a business that might be fine, but that seems unlikely.”
Roughly two million women have left the work force since last February. G.D.P. does not account for their lost productivity and earnings, nor for the hours of work at home that women shouldered in the past year, uncompensated.
from a sinking ship to a success proves that putting purpose first is good for profits. Joly spoke to DealBook about “The Heart of Business,” which is out next week.
Why did you write a book?
So much of what I learned in business school is either wrong, dated or incomplete. We urgently need a new philosophy of business and capitalism, a refoundation around purpose and humanity. There’s no going back after the pandemic. We’ve seen each others’ homes and vulnerability. We need to make a declaration of interdependence.
Isn’t pursuing profits the point?
Milton Friedman is on my “most wanted” list. People who oppose stakeholder capitalism are mistaken. We can create better economic outcomes by connecting with employees, customers, communities and the planet. People should refuse zero-sum games. The book is a practical guide for leaders who are eager to abandon the old way.
And it’s also spiritual?
Yes. Because work is fundamental. We should ask ourselves why we work, what drives us. At Best Buy, before the holiday season, we’d gather — even though it’s a very busy time — to talk about what gives people energy, what matters. Magic happens when work is connected to meaning and individual genius, to the thing that’s good or beautiful in each of us.
How does this “magic” manifest itself?
Two Best Buy employees performed pretend “surgery” on a broken dinosaur toy behind the counter and gave a boy back a new item, saying his baby dino recovered. That had to come from the heart. They could have just sent his mother to the shelf. Leaders need to use their heads and hearts and see and hear employees and give people the freedom to make work meaningful.
Shares in Darktrace, the British cybersecurity company, climbed after its I.P.O. was priced at a valuation of 1.7 billion pounds ($2.4 billion), below the reported target of $4 billion. (Reuters)
Politics and policy
The Senate approved a $35 billion bill to clean up the nation’s water systems, but further compromise on infrastructure spending looks unlikely. (NYT)
Apple and Samsung were the latest companies to report problems making products because of a shortage of computer chips. (WaPo)
How Google plans to revamp its offices for the postpandemic era: Goodbye, sit-down cafeterias; hello, outdoor meeting spaces. (NYT)
Best of the rest
The fight over control of Apollo Global Management has reportedly sidelined another co-founder, Josh Harris. (Bloomberg)
Vaccination passports could help countries reopen their borders more quickly — if they can agree on a common standard. (FT)
She rose to fame through the “Disaster Girl” meme. Then she made $500,000 by turning it into an NFT. (NYT)
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The S.E.C.’s new enforcement chief resigns unexpectedly. Days into her new job, Alex Oh, a former partner at Paul, Weiss, stepped down after a federal court ruling involving one of her former clients, Exxon Mobil. In a case involving claims of human rights abuses in Indonesia, the presiding judge rebuked Exxon’s legal team for derogatory comments about opposing counsel.
Endeavor will finally go public. The entertainment giant co-founded by Ari Emanuel, which owns the WME talent agency and the UFC mixed martial arts league, raised $511 million in its I.P.O. at a $10 billion valuation, the top of its expected price range. Its successful offering comes two years after it called off an I.P.O. amid a lukewarm reception from investors.
Verizon considers selling its old-guard internet media business. The telecom giant is exploring the sale of assets like AOL and Yahoo, according to The Wall Street Journal. Potential buyers include Apollo Global Management, and the WSJ reports that a deal could be valued at up to $5 billion. Verizon spent $9 billion buying the once-dominant web giants.
A Bitcoin E.T.F. dream deferred
For many cryptocurrency supporters and investors, U.S. regulatory approval of a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund represents the holy grail. It would allow the crypto-curious to get exposure to Bitcoin without having to buy the tokens themselves, signifying that digital assets are really, truly mainstream. But it’s not meant to be — yet. Yesterday, the S.E.C. delayed a decision on a Bitcoin E.T.F. proposal from the investment manager VanEck, saying it needs more time but offering no other explanation.
Delay is not denial,and it may be a good sign,Todd Cipperman, the founder of the compliance services firm CCS, told DealBook. When considering the concept of a crypto E.T.F. in 2018, the S.E.C. raised questions about investor protection issues and put a “wet blanket on the whole idea,” he said. Now crypto is much bigger, and Gary Gensler, who taught courses about blockchain technology at M.I.T., is chair of the S.E.C. His expertise doesn’t guarantee success for crypto E.T.F.s, but it will be easier for an expert in the field to approve them, Cipperman suggested.
The deadline can be extended again. The S.E.C. gave itself until mid-June, with the option to take more time, but it must decide before year’s end. The regulator has rejected every proposal to date, starting with the first Bitcoin E.T.F. pitch in 2013, presented by the Winklevoss twins, which was eventually rejected in 2017 (and again in 2018). There are several E.T.F. proposals on the table now, including one from the traditional finance giant Fidelity.
John C. Martin, who became a billionaire by developing and marketing a daily single-dose pill that transformed H.I.V. into a manageable disease and who popularized another drug that cures hepatitis C, died on March 30 in Palo Alto, Calif. He was 69.
His death, in a hospital, was confirmed by Gilead Sciences, based in Foster City, Calif., where he was chief executive from 1996 to 2016 and executive chairman from 2016 until he retired two years later. The cause was head injuries suffered the day before, when he fell on a sidewalk while walking home in Old Palo Alto, according to the Santa Clara County medical examiner.
A chemist who rocketed from research director to chief executive of Gilead in six years, Dr. Martin turned a struggling pharmaceutical firm with a staff of 35 into a $100 billion company based in Foster City, Calif., with some 12,000 employees.
Gilead jolted the industry with several major scientific breakthroughs, beginning with the development of the first anti-influenza pill, Tamiflu, which the company licensed to the Swiss drugmaker Hoffman-La Roche in 1996. Its advance against hepatitis C came in 2014, with the marketing of Sovaldi, which has been said to cure 90 percent of patients with that liver virus.
Atripla, which combined Truvada with Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Sustiva in a single pill, replacing as many as 32 separate medications that some patients were taking daily to treat the virus, which can lead to AIDS.
The single-pill treatment was meant to be more than a convenience. By making it easier for patients to self-medicate, they were more likely to take the full doses that were prescribed, reducing the risk that they could become breeding grounds for drug-resistant strains of the disease.
During Dr. Martin’s tenure, Gilead also created remdesivir in 2009, which proved ineffective in its original mission, to treat hepatitis C and other viruses, but which turned out to be a therapeutic weapon during the Covid-19 pandemic.
While the company’s annual revenue soared past $20 billion and its products were hailed as medical miracles, the federal Department of Health and Human Services successfully claimed that Gilead had infringed government patents in making Truvada. The company also drew fire from state and federal regulators over the prices it charged — $1,000-a-month for Sustiva and $1,000 for each hepatitis pill.
donated drugs in some cases and that it had partnered with local manufacturers in developing countries to produce discounted generic versions of some treatments for H.I.V. and hepatitis C.
“John’s legacy,” Daniel O’Day, the company’s chief executive, said in a statement, “will be felt for generations to come, living on through the scientific progress made under his leadership and the programs he championed that expanded access to medications for people around the world.”
the $11 billion takeover of Pharmasset, a developer of antiviral drugs, in 2012. In addition to running Gilead, Dr. Martin was president of the International Society for Antiviral Research from 1998 to 2000.
His marriage to Ms. Martin ended in divorce. Among his survivors are their son and daughter, his three siblings and his partner, Lillian Lien-Li Lou, who was listed in a recent filing as the secretary-treasury of the John C. Martin Foundation, whose stated mission is to improve health care for medically-underserved populations.