A potential end to a high-profile fight
JPMorgan Chase on Monday reached a tentative settlement with the victims of Jeffrey Epstein, weeks after enduring embarrassing disclosures about its longstanding ties to the convicted sex offender.
If approved, the deal would ease some of the pressure on JPMorgan as it defends itself against accusations that it ignored repeated warnings about Mr. Epstein’s crimes. (The bank has denied any wrongdoing.) But the banking giant isn’t completely free from legal entanglements over its 15-year relationship with the deceased financier.
The victims’ lawsuit accused JPMorgan of overlooking red flags about Mr. Epstein, because it valued him as a wealthy client who could help connect the bank with even more deep-pocketed people. (The Times previously reported that bank employees had filed several suspicious-activity reports about Mr. Epstein’s repeated large withdrawals and kept him on as a customer despite flagging him as a “high risk client” in 2006.)
The deal was reached about two weeks after Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan’s C.E.O., testified about the matter. In a daylong deposition in the case, filed last November in Manhattan federal court, Mr. Dimon said he had barely heard of Mr. Epstein before the financier’s 2019 arrest.
It also comes after Jes Staley, the former JPMorgan executive who had close ties to Mr. Epstein, testified over the weekend in the case. The bank has sued Mr. Staley, seeking to ensure that he can be held liable for any damages the bank ends up paying. (Mr. Staley has denied any wrongdoing.)
But JPMorgan still faces a lawsuit by the U.S. Virgin Islands, which contends that the bank should pay damages for letting Mr. Epstein set up a sex trafficking operation on his private island off St. Thomas. The bank has shot back in legal filings that government officials there cozied up to Mr. Epstein for nearly two decades.
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
UBS closes its takeover of Credit Suisse. The combination of Switzerland’s two biggest banks, completed on Monday, will create a financial giant with $1.6 trillion in assets and a formidable presence in wealth management. To prevent more of the kinds of scandals that plagued Credit Suisse, UBS has reportedly imposed restrictions on its former rival’s bankers, including a ban on doing business with countries like Libya and Venezuela.
A major British hedge fund scrambles from #MeToo fallout tied to its founder. Odey Asset Management, which oversees $4.4 billion in assets, is said to be weighing limits on investor withdrawals after The Financial Times reported on sexual assault and harassment allegations against its namesake, Crispin Odey. The financier was ousted by his partners on Saturday, but suggested he would fight the move.
Reddit users rebel against the social network. Thousands of message threads on the platform will go dark over the next two days to protest the company’s plan to charge more for access to its fire hose of data. (Several third-party apps have already shut over the changes.) The move is a black eye for Reddit as it prepares to go public as soon as the second half of the year.
What could trip up the LIV-PGA deal
Ahead of the U.S. Open golf championship this week, questions hang over the sport. Chief among them: Will the PGA Tour actually merge with its erstwhile rival, the Saudi-backed LIV Golf?
Last week’s stunning announcement came together quickly: a clandestine meeting in Venice between Jay Monahan, commissioner of the tour, and Yasir al-Rumayyan, the governor of Saudi Arabia’s $700 billion sovereign wealth fund, proved decisive. Still, doubts persist that the deal, which has not yet closed, will even happen.
Regulatory questions remain. Since the deal is not an acquisition in the traditional sense, it is not clear whether the tour and LIV will need to file for antitrust regulatory clearance. That doesn’t mean regulators won’t move to block it. The Justice Department has demonstrated a willingness to go after non-M.&.A. deals. (Given the tour’s European ambitions, regulators there also may scrutinize the matter.)
Adding to the complications: The D.O.J. continues to investigate the PGA Tour’s seemingly cozy ties to powerful golf tournament organizations as observers see it as “a dominant monopolist.” Matt Stoller, a prominent critic of big mergers, wrote in a scathing blog post: “There is a lot of grey area in antitrust law, but when two companies want to merge to a monopoly, and announce it as such, that’s a violation of black letter law. In fact, this deal is so wildly and comically against the law that I actually don’t think it is intended to close.”
Mr. Monahan may have fed that narrative when he said last week that a PGA-LIV alliance was good for the sport as it would “take the competitor off the board.”
The PGA Tour board would need to approve it. Initial deal talks excluded most of the board members, including the former AT&T chairman Randall Stephenson. Rory McIlroy, a player-director on the board, gave the deal a grudging blessing last week. The sport’s most famed star, Tiger Woods, has yet to weigh in — ditto for most sponsors and advertisers.
The deal essentially would create a new entity. But the parties have yet to agree on respective valuations and the share of equity apportioned to each side. (Ongoing litigation prevented them from delving into each other’s books.) Sticking points could linger over how to value the contracts of existing players or individual teams.
What happens if a deal doesn’t happen? It’s unclear whether either side would have to pay the other a breakup fee. Speaking of money, would the tour be in a position to keep its dwindling roster of golfers from defecting to a free-spending LIV? And, what’s to stop superstar golfers like Mr. Woods and Mr. McIlroy from making their tour the new disruptive force in professional golf?
Illumina loses its chief
Just weeks after surviving a proxy fight with Carl Icahn, Francis deSouza said on Sunday that he would resign as C.E.O. of Illumina, the gene-sequencing giant. It’s a belated victory for Icahn after winning just one of the three board seats he was seeking — and it raises questions about what’s next for Illumina as it faces pressure to divest an acquisition that has drawn regulatory opposition on two continents.
Mr. Icahn had sought to oust Mr. deSouza, arguing that Illumina’s $7 billion takeover of the cancer-detection specialist Grail was a mistake, especially after the company moved forward with the deal despite European regulators seeking to block it.
Though shareholders re-elected Mr. deSouza (who also serves as a Disney director) to the Illumina board last month, he faced opposition from the company’s newly appointed nonexecutive chairman, Stephen MacMillan, according to The Wall Street Journal. Mr. DeSouza told employees that he informed the board of his decision last week.
Icahn tweeted that Mr. deSouza’s departure was “a very positive occurrence.”
What’s next for Illumina? Mr. DeSouza — who will work as an adviser until July 31 — will be replaced on an interim basis by Charles Dadswell, the company’s general counsel, as it seeks a permanent successor. (Mr. Icahn’s choice, the former Illumina C.E.O. Jay Flatley, is unlikely to get the job, The Journal reports.)
But bigger questions hover around the Grail takeover. While Illumina has appealed efforts by the F.T.C. and the European Commission to block the transaction, analysts and investors increasingly believe the company will have little choice but to unwind the deal even if it wins those efforts.
An unlikely Soros heir rises
After decades running one of the most prominent and politically active financial empires, George Soros is handing the reins of his $25 billion Open Society Foundation to his son Alex.
It’s another example of succession planning by Wall Street’s old guard. But the changeover at the foundation is especially notable because it involves the elder Soros, whose unabashed support of liberal causes, to the tune of $1.5 billion a year, has long made him a boogeyman of the right.
Alex Soros will follow in his father’s footsteps. “We think alike,” George Soros told The Wall Street Journal. Alex Soros supports causes including voting and abortions rights and gender equity.
The younger Soros was elected the foundation’s chairman in December. He also serves as president of the Soros super PAC and is the only family member on the investment committee for Soros Fund Management.
Alex Soros’s rise was somewhat unlikely. The soft-spoken 37-year-old was better known in his younger days for high-profile partying than for high finance. Many had considered his half-brother Jonathan, a lawyer and former Soros employee, to be the more natural successor, until a falling-out with their father more than a decade ago.
Will Alex Soros become a political lightning rod like his father? George Soros has drawn criticism — some laced with antisemitism — for his political activities for years, including from Elon Musk, who recently compared him to the sometime X-Men villain Magneto.
The Journal notes that Alex Soros is a quieter public presence than his father, with the executive director of the A.C.L.U. telling The Journal, “Alex is unlikely to be the boogeyman that George Soros was for the right.” But the younger Soros is also more focused on domestic politics and is by his own admission “more political.”
“If even half of it is true, he’s toast.”
— William Barr, an attorney general under former President Donald Trump, says the charges against his ex-boss over handling of classified government documents seem “very, very damning.” Trump is set to be arraigned on Tuesday in a Miami federal court — and then will host the first fund-raiser for his 2024 campaign.
The week ahead
Interest-rate decisions, inflation reports — this is the week many investors have had circled on their calendars. Here’s what to watch:
Tuesday: The Consumer Price Index is scheduled for release. According to economists polled by Reuters, “core” inflation probably edged down to 5.2 percent on an annual basis.
Wednesday: The Fed wraps up its two-day rate-setting meeting. The futures markets this morning was pricing in no change to the prime lending rate, but a probable increase in July.
Thursday: It’s the European Central Bank’s turn. Economists widely expect the central bank to raise borrowing costs by another 0.25 percentage points.
Friday: The Bank of Japan is expected to stand pat. Elsewhere, the University of Michigan publishes its latest consumer sentiment report.
THE SPEED READ
Best of the rest
WeWork’s ongoing struggles have some investors and landlords worried that the office space company may file for bankruptcy. (NYT)
Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian media mogul turned polarizing and scandal-ridden prime minister, died on Monday. He was 86. (NYT)
“The A.I. Revolution Will Change Work. Nobody Agrees How.” (NYT)
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