Microsoft announced Monday that it would begin allowing more workers back into its headquarters in Redmond, Wash., starting on March 29.
In this stage of reopening, which Microsoft described as Step 4 in a six-step “dial,” the Redmond campus will give nonessential on-site employees the choice to work from the office, home or a combination of both. Microsoft will also continue to require employees to wear masks and maintain social distancing.
Microsoft plans to open its office without restrictions only once the virus acts “more like an endemic virus such as the seasonal flu,” wrote Kurt DelBene, an executive vice president at the tech giant. But even then, office life for Microsoft’s 160,000 employees is not likely to look like what it did before the pandemic.
“Once we reach a point where Covid-19 no longer presents a significant burden on our communities, and as our sites move to the open stage of the dial, we view working from home part of the time (less than 50 percent) as standard for most roles,” Mr. DelBene wrote on the company blog.
Microsoft also released on Monday the results of a survey of that it says shows the work force has changed after a year of working remotely. In the survey of more than 30,000 full-time and self-employed workers, 73 percent said they wanted flexible remote work options to continue, and 46 percent said they were planning to move this year now that they could work remotely.
“There are some companies that think we’re just going to go back to how it was,” Jared Spataro, the corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, said in an interview. “However, the data does seem to indicate that they don’t understand what has happened over the last 12 months.”
Last week, a presentation by a group of junior bankers at Goldman Sachs went viral on social media, in which they complained about what they described as workplace abuse, including 100-hour weeks.
The DealBook newsletter’s inbox has been overflowing with reactions, notably from current, former and aspiring investment bankers. Here’s what some had to say — most requested anonymity to speak freely about their experiences — edited and condensed for clarity:
“My view is that if it’s not to your liking, quit and find another line of work. It won’t pay as well, but it’s also possible that you won’t learn as much. I am still reaping the benefits of what I learned.” — Anonymous in Sydney
“I had heard all about the long hours, but once I was in it, I found that I had underestimated. I threw in the towel and left banking, because no amount of money was worth the terrible lifestyle.” — Anonymous in New York
“I knew I was worked like a donkey but quid pro quo. I could leave, work fewer hours and make less money. But I wasn’t interested in that.” — Anonymous in London
“In our day, we may have complained to our friends or our family, but we knew that short-term pain was good for long-term gain. I now live a comfortable life enabled by my first years at Goldman Sachs.” — Anonymous in New York
“We would do the math on the compensation and realize that we were making less than minimum wage per hour. It wasn’t worth being tortured. My health still suffers from my years on Wall Street.” — Anonymous in New York
“The learning experience was incredible and career-wise it set me on the right track. In hindsight, it could have actually killed me, but I was too young to realize this.” — Anonymous in Dubai
“Yes, we were ‘abused’ and yelled at, but this was expected and how we learned. My message for these analysts is: If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” — Anonymous in New York
“There is no money that rewards the mental and physical harm that investment banking does to you. Of course, it’s a hell of an experience, Excel and PowerPoint-wise.” — Anonymous in São Paulo
“I spent many long nights in the office at the behest of associates and V.P.s, most of the time for no reason but ‘they might need me.’ Then I joined the military, where I had better work-life balance and more respectful leadership than I did in banking.” — Anonymous in New York
“I am an incoming Goldman Sachs intern. I knew about the work conditions before applying to the job. Anyone engaging in a career at a top investment bank knows about it, or else they applied for the wrong reasons.” — Anonymous in Europe
Turkey’s currency tumbled on Monday after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan fired the head of the central bank, who had been in the job just four months and had pursued policies aimed at taming inflation. The Turkish lira plunged 10 percent against the U.S. dollar.
Wall Street stock futures were higher, and stock market indexes were mixed in Europe in Asia.
The removal of Turkey’s central bank chief, Naci Agbal, signals a return to the unorthodox policies that Mr. Erdogan has long favored, such as cutting interest rates to lower inflation, but which most economists regard as counterproductive. Mr. Erdogan has repeatedly meddled in the central bank’s activities and over the years traders have dumped the lira.
Since his appointment in November, Mr. Agbal has raised the central bank’s benchmark interest rate from 10.25 percent to 19 percent in an effort to slow the overheating economy, control inflation and lure in foreign investment. He had succeeded in pulling the lira up from its record low. The most recent increase in the benchmark rate was on Thursday and he was fired on Friday.
The annual inflation rate was officially 15.6 percent in February but is probably much higher.
The new central bank chief, Sahap Kavcioglu, a university professor and former member of Turkey’s National Assembly, said in a statement that he would continue to fight inflation. But on Monday, the lira was trading at about 7.93 to the dollar, compared with 7.22 on Friday. The plunge in value was a sign that currency traders expect him to bow to pressure from Mr. Erdogan to cut rates, worsening the inflation problem and pushing the country of 82 million people closer to economic collapse.
“We have abandoned our cautiously optimistic view on the lira,” Piotr Matys, a strategist at Rabobank wrote in a note. Mr. Kavcioglu’s comments suggest he is clearly in favor of lower interest rates to stimulate growth, he added.
Elsewhere in markets
U.S. stock futures rose on Monday. Nasdaq futures climbed 0.8 percent and the S&P 500 was set to open slightly higher than Friday’s closing price. European and Asian stock indexes were mixed.
Shares in IAG, the airline group which owns British Airways, fell the most in the FTSE 100 index, by 4.5 percent, after the British government’s scientific advisers warned against overseas travel this summer. On Sunday, a government minister also indicated that travel restrictions could be extended. Shares in easyJet dropped 5.5 percent and shares in Ryanair fell 3. 4 percent.
Deliveroo, the food-delivery company, started taking orders for its initial public offering on Monday. The share sale would value the company up to 8.8 billion pounds ($12.2 billion). The company will be listed on the London Stock Exchange, and is the largest I.P.O. this year.
Tokyo prosecutors on Monday charged two Americans with helping Carlos Ghosn, the former Nissan chief, jump bail in Tokyo, where he was awaiting trial on four counts of financial wrongdoing.
Japanese prosecutors said in an indictment that the two men, Michael Taylor, 60, a former Green Beret, and his son Peter Maxwell Taylor, 27, assisted Mr. Ghosn’s efforts to escape the country, helping him flee to Turkey and then on to Lebanon, where he has been beyond the reach of Japanese law.
American officials arrested the men last May in Massachusetts. Earlier this month, they were extradited to Japan, where they have been held in a Tokyo detention center while undergoing questioning by prosecutors. A third man believed to have aided Mr. Ghosn’s escape remains at large.
The Japanese authorities have accused Michael Taylor of helping Mr. Ghosn travel by train to the western city of Osaka, through security checks at a private jet terminal and then onto a plane bound for Turkey. Once there, Mr. Ghosn transferred to a flight bound for Beirut. Peter Taylor assisted in planning for the escapade, visiting Mr. Ghosn several times before the escape, officials say.
Mr. Ghosn and his son, Anthony Ghosn, paid more than $1.3 million to the Taylors and a company they controlled, U.S. prosecutors have said in court filings.
Mr. Ghosn’s case raised international concerns about what some critics call Japan’s system of “hostage justice,” which includes lengthy detentions of criminal suspects without charge. While in the United States, the Taylors fought a long legal battle to prevent their extradition, with their lawyers arguing that they could be subjected to harsh conditions in a Japanese jail.
For the past year, people trying to go to China have run into some of the world’s most formidable barriers to entry. To stop the coronavirus, China bans tourists and short-term business travelers outright, and it sets tough standards for all other foreigners, even those who have lived there for years.
The restrictions have hampered the operations of many companies, separated families and upended the lives of thousands of international students, report Sui-Lee Wee and Keith Bradsher for The New York Times. Global companies say their ranks of foreign workers in the country have dwindled sharply.
As deadlier and more infectious virus variants appeared in other countries in recent months, China introduced onerous new requirements.
At the end of last year, it essentially stopped allowing anyone to bring a spouse or child into the country.
Since January, travelers arriving in Beijing from countries with severe outbreaks have had to endure weekly anal swab tests while in quarantine, with fecal material tested for traces of the virus.
Last month, the government announced that travelers from more than two dozen countries would have to do two weeks of quarantine overseas before they were even allowed to fly to China. After landing, they were expected to spend two more weeks at a government-managed quarantine facility.
Officials regard travel restrictions as crucial to their success in containing the virus. Since the outbreak started, China has reported more than 101,000 Covid cases. Although questions have been raised about the accuracy of the numbers, they are far lower than in the United States, where 29.8 million people have tested positive for the virus.
China’s tough restrictions, including its recent ban on dependents, have exacted an emotional toll on some families who have been forced to live apart for months.
In February of last year, Jessie Astbury Allen took her two young daughters to England to wait out the outbreak as it swept across China, hoping they would reunite with her husband in Shanghai by Easter. It was a plan she would come to regret.
“I knew in my gut we were doing the wrong thing, but it was too late,” she said, weeping, as she described how she felt on landing at London’s Heathrow Airport.
Leon Black, the Wall Street billionaire who was the main client of the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein for the last decade of his life, is stepping down as chief executive and chairman of Apollo Global Management, several months ahead of schedule, the firm said Monday. Jay Clayton, the former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman who recently joined the firm as an independent director, will take over as chairman. Mr. Black said he had decided to leave now to focus on his family and his and his wife’s health. In January, the firm had said he would step down as chief executive before his 70th birthday in July while retaining the chairman role.
Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern announced plans on Sunday to combine in a $29 billion deal that would create the first railroad network connecting the United States, Mexico and Canada. It is an effort to capitalize on the flow of trade that is expected to increase as the three countries rebound from the pandemic. The boards of both companies have unanimously approved the cash-and-stock deal, which is expected to close by the middle of 2022, subject to customary approvals.
Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s national oil company, said on Sunday that its net income last year had fallen by 44 percent, to $49 billion, as lower oil prices stemming from the pandemic cut into earnings. The company’s chief executive, Amin H. Nasser, described 2020 in a statement accompanying the earnings data as “one of the most challenging years in recent history.” But Aramco, the world’s largest oil producer, said that it would stick by a pledge to pay a $75 billion dividend. Nearly all of the payment will go to the Saudi government, which owns about 98 percent of the company.
For a decade before the pandemic, small investors accounted for roughly a tenth of trading activity in the stock market. But in the last year, they have become responsible for close to a quarter, according to Goldman Sachs analysts.
The speculative appetite of small investors may seem at odds with an economy still reeling from a pandemic that has killed more than half a million Americans, decimated jobs and snuffed out businesses and livelihoods. But one of the biggest tools deployed by the U.S. government to cushion the economic blow — stimulus payments — is also driving a huge surge in investing by small traders, Matt Phillips reports for The New York Times.
Analysts at Deutsche Bank recently estimated that as much $170 billion from the latest round of stimulus payments could flow into the stock market. They conducted a survey of retail traders in which respondents said they planned to put roughly 40 percent of any payment they received — or $2 of every $5 — into the stock market. Traders between the ages of 25 and 34 said they expected to put half of their stimulus check into stocks.
“That could lead to a bit more mania, speculation in the market,” said Patrick Fruzzetti, managing director and partner at Hightower Advisors, an investment firm. The “stimmies,” he said — using a popular online term for stimulus checks — will go into people’s trading accounts, and “they will trade.”
In October 2015, a month after Volkswagen confessed to rigging diesel cars to conceal illegally high emissions, shellshocked company executives gathered in the brick-clad high-rise executive office building topped with a giant VW logo that looms over the carmaker’s main factory in Wolfsburg, Germany.
The executives authorized development of a collection of mix-and-match components that would serve as the basis for a range of electric models including sedans, S.U.V.s and vans, Jack Ewing reports for The New York Times. The standardized platform, called the Modular Electrification Toolbox, could also be used by other company brands, including Audi.
The platform will allow Volkswagen to exploit the big advantage it has over Tesla: size. With 665,000 employees and sales of 9.3 million vehicles last year, Volkswagen is the second-largest carmaker in the world after Toyota. It can spread the cost of developing new technologies over millions of vehicles and undercut Tesla on price.
The commitment Volkswagen made then is paying off now as the company rolls out a line of vehicles developed from the ground up to run on batteries, with more interior space and more appeal than adaptations of gasoline vehicles.
By 2025, Volkswagen will be able to produce electric vehicles for less than it costs to build a gasoline or diesel car, UBS analysts wrote in this month’s report. They cautioned that Tesla retained a significant lead in battery technology and autonomous driving software.