The cost of rebuilding Ukraine
This month, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine announced that the country had assembled a team of bankers and researchers to solicit investments from private businesses to help pay for Ukraine’s recovery. Zelensky said the team had identified more than $400 billion of potential investment for what is effectively a Marshall Plan for Ukraine, the U.S. program that provided aid to Western Europe after World War II.
Yesterday, DealBook spoke with Ukraine’s prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, about what it would take to rebuild the country battered by Russia’s war.
Ukraine estimates it would cost $750 billion. The country hopes to develop a fund to invest the money it raises for its recovery after the war, Shmyhal said. The initial basis would be confiscated Russian assets, but Ukraine also said it wanted help from private businesses. Mr. Zelensky met virtually last week with BlackRock’s Larry Fink, and Shmyhal said Ukrainian officials would meet with other American business executives this week.
Insuring investments could be an option for money raised during the war. “All private businesses understand that, for every investment, there could be a loss during the second a rocket missile flies and destroys it,” Shmyhal said, adding that Ukraine was pushing to make an international form of war insurance available for investments within its territory.
Transparency and anti-corruption efforts will be key. Transparency International, an anticorruption watchdog, ranked Ukraine 122nd out of 180 countries on its corruption index last year. Shmyhal said that the country’s European Union membership bid came with stringent anticorruption requirements, and that it had taken steps to safeguard investments in its recovery. He said Ukraine reported how it spends global aid to the World Bank. And its recovery fund, Shmyhal said, would “be open for our partners in which we invite them to participate on the management basis and on a supervisory report basis.”
No matter how much money Ukraine raises, geography will be a challenge. Unlike the 16 countries that received Marshall Plan aid, Ukraine will continue to have a neighbor — Russia — that wants to take it over (and other neighbors, like Belarus, that are sympathetic to Moscow’s views.) Also complicating Ukraine’s pitch for aid is war fatigue. Inflation, and in particular food and energy prices, has spiraled since the start of war, sapping the resolve of some in Western countries to commit to further relief efforts.
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
The dollar extends its dominance against other currencies. The British pound, the euro and the Swiss franc all fell against the greenback — the first two to multiyear lows — as investors seek out a safe haven. Risky assets, including stocks, continue to slide after recent moves by central banks in several countries to raise interest rates to combat inflation.
Boeing settles securities fraud charges for $200 million. The fine resolves an investigation by the S.E.C. over whether the aircraft maker had misled investors about problems with the 737 Max. Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing’s former C.E.O., will pay a $1 million fine.
The World Bank’s president moves to allay climate change criticism. David Malpass, who was nominated by President Donald Trump, said he believed human activity was warming the planet, days after refusing to say so publicly. Critics have accused the World Bank of failing to do enough to help countries affected by climate disasters.
The S.E.C. reportedly won’t ban payment for order flow. Upcoming stock-trading rules from the regulator will stop short of preventing market makers from paying retail brokerages to execute customer trades, according to Bloomberg. The S.E.C. may still introduce provisions that make the practice less profitable.
Apple will sponsor the Super Bowl halftime show. The iPhone maker will replace Pepsi as the event’s backer, the N.F.L. announced yesterday. But Apple and the league are still negotiating over a much bigger deal: the streaming rights to Sunday Ticket games, for which the N.F.L. is seeking $2.5 billion.
Goldman’s ‘boys club’ culture to go on trial
Yesterday, 1,400 current and former Goldman Sachs executives and associates suing the bank for gender bias published unsealed records that shed new light on their claims that an illegal “boys club” culture pervades there. The suit claiming pay and performance discrimination was filed in 2010, and is set to go to trial in June in a New York federal court.
It “is an important moment for understanding issues women have been raising at the company and hearing their voices directly,” Kelly Dermody, a partner at Lieff Cabraser, which is coleading the plaintiffs’ case with Outten & Golden, told DealBook. Goldman did not respond to a request for comment.
Judging company culture. In court documents, one woman said that it was “widely known” an unnamed managing director is “inappropriate toward young women,” and that left her “terrified of being with him alone.” In all, 133 Goldman staff members — from the firm’s investment banking, investment management and securities divisions — reported incidents of discrimination, sexual harassment and assaults, retaliation and more. The case covers claims of discrimination beginning in 2002. The women also said that male managers organized trips to strip clubs and golf gatherings deliberately to exclude women. In addition, they claim managers “engage in gender stereotyping, sexual harassment, and/or gender favoritism,” including in performance evaluations.
Shareholders want answers. Last year, an investor group raised concerns that the bank’s mandatory arbitration policies, which are intended to help keep bank secrets, could allow harassment and discrimination to go unaddressed, limit legal relief and prevent employees from learning about repeat offenders. In December, the bank reported that a review of its dispute resolution policies found they were sound, making few adjustments.
Nearly 700 of the putative plaintiffs were originally excluded from the class action because of the bank’s arbitration process; several hundred have since opted in.
A risky bet on growth (and banks)
This morning, Britain’s chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng, introduced a long-awaited raft of new policies, including sweeping deregulation and a series of tax cuts. The plan was meant to harken back to Thatcher-era policies — but comes at a fraught time for Britain’s public finances.
Here’s what to expect:
Tax cuts: In a surprise move, Kwarteng will scrap Britain’s top income tax rate of 45 percent, applied to those who earn more than 150,000 pounds, or about $169,000, a year and cut the basic rate for lower earners. Kwarteng also said the government would abandon a planned rise in corporate taxes and another on national insurance contributions, and reduce a levy on home purchases.
Deregulation: The government will remove a cap on banker bonuses, a move made possible by Brexit that is meant to bolster London’s competitiveness as a global financial center. It will also end a ban on fracking and will streamline construction planning laws.
Kwarteng pitched the moves as a way to supercharge Britain’s economy, with a goal of getting back to 2.5 percent annual growth, a level not seen since the 2008 financial crisis. Since being elected as prime minister, Liz Truss has promised a return to the small-government, business-minded ethos of Margaret Thatcher, her political idol and a touchstone for the governing Conservative Party.
The strategy is a high-wire fiscal act. Truss is already planning to subsidize soaring energy costs for consumers and businesses, which will draw on a wave of government borrowing. British government bonds fell sharply after Kwarteng’s announcement, as did stocks on London’s FTSE 100 index. The pound fell to a 37-year low of $1.10. George Saravelos, Deutsche Bank’s global head of foreign exchange research, warned in a client note this morning that “sterling is in danger” of falling further.
Economists and investors have been worried about Britain’s dismal economic prospects, with climbing inflation and rising interest rates. An independent report this week said that the widely telegraphed budget proposals would put British public finances on an “unsustainable path.”
There are political risks as well. Polls suggest that Britons favor higher taxes and more government spending on areas like health care and education. And ending caps on banker pay is deeply unpopular. Truss and Kwarteng are hoping to get traction on an economic recovery ahead of national elections in 2024.
“He is this generation’s Alfred Barnes or Norton Simon.”
— Marc Porter, the chairman of Christie’s Americas, said of Paul Allen, comparing the Microsoft co-founder, who died in 2018, to two historically important collectors. A November auction of 150 paintings from Allen’s estate is expected to fetch more than $1 billion.
A workplace pipe dream closer to being a reality
The four-day workweek has long been a workplace dream. In 1956, Richard Nixon, who was vice president at the time, said he foresaw it in the “not too distant future.” Spoiler: Nixon was off.
In June, more than 70 companies in Britain decided to test that idea with a pilot program that allowed workers to get an extra day off weekly. More than 3,300 workers in banks, marketing, health care, financial services, retail, hospitality and other industries participated.
Productivity test. Halfway into the six-month trial, 46 percent of the companies that responded to a survey said they had seen no loss of productivity, and 15 percent said they had even seen significant improvements, writes The Times’s Jenny Gross. And 86 percent of the companies said they were “likely” or “extremely likely” to consider continuing the four-day week after the trial.
But can the economy sustain a trimming of the workweek? Proponents said a four-day workweek bolstered employees’ well-being and allowed them to be more present and effective. Critics worried about added costs and reduced competitiveness. And it still may be too soon to say how a shortened workweek would affect a company’s bottom line.
THE SPEED READ
The activist investor Ancora is pushing the retailer Kohl’s to replace Michelle Gass as its C.E.O. and Peter Boneparth as its chairman. (CNBC)
The activist investor Jana Partners is said to have bought a nearly 10 percent stake in the pet food company Freshpet, with plans to push for strategy changes or a sale. (WSJ)
Humana and CVS are reportedly among the bidders for the primary-care provider Cano Health, which could sell for over $4 billion. (WSJ)
A federal watchdog raised its estimate of pandemic unemployment insurance fraud to nearly $46 billion. (NYT)
Mounting legal challenges and troubles with taking his social-media company public are putting enormous financial stress on Trump and his business empire. (NYT)
A scandal involving Mississippi funds meant for the poor being spent on the wealthy and well-connected is growing beyond the former N.F.L. quarterback Brett Favre. (NYT)
Best of the rest
“Inside Russia’s Vast Surveillance State” (NYT)
Here’s an in-depth look at JPMorgan Chase’s deliberations on how to eliminate credit cards, and the internal division that caused. (FT)
Companies are increasingly paying up for chief metaverse officers, but what exactly are those executives doing? (Bloomberg)
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