The Week in Business: Striking Deals Left and Right

While you were rushing around buying gifts this past week, lawmakers were busy getting along for once (well, at least when it came to international trade). Here’s all you need to know about the latest news in business and tech as we head into the holidays.

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Credit…Giacomo Bagnara

After more than two years of legal wrangling, the case that kicked off the #MeToo movement may soon come to a conclusion. The film producer Harvey Weinstein has reached a tentative $25 million settlement with more than 30 actresses and former employees who accused him of offenses ranging from sexual harassment to rape. According to the settlement’s terms, Mr. Weinstein would not be required to admit any wrongdoing nor pay anything himself. Instead, the funds would be covered by insurance companies representing the producer’s former studio, the Weinstein Company, which is currently in bankruptcy proceedings. The deal still needs a final sign-off by all parties involved.

In a legal complaint made public on Monday, Amazon accused President Trump of using “improper pressure” to reject its bid for a $10 billion contract to build a cloud computing system for the Pentagon. Mr. Trump has made no secret of his dislike for Amazon’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, and had vowed to take “a very strong look” at the contract — which was then awarded to Microsoft. Amazon’s complaint said that Mr. Trump had meddled with the process with the specific purpose of hurting Mr. Bezos, “his perceived political enemy,” and that such actions by a sitting president were legally improper. The Department of Defense has claimed that there were “no external influences” on its decision.

Looks as if our current low interest rates are here to stay. After cutting them three times in 2019, the Federal Reserve left rates unchanged at its meeting last week and said it planned to keep a hands-off approach for all of next year. But as the Fed chair, Jerome H. Powell, said, “None of us have much of a sense of what the economy will look like in 2021.” Also tough to predict? The labor market. Unemployment remains at a record low, but wage growth hasn’t kept up. One explanation is that the United States has a large shadow labor force that was never counted as officially “unemployed.” As the job market heats up, that population has trickled back into the work force, keeping wages down.

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Credit…Giacomo Bagnara

Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, had a simple campaign message: “Get Brexit done.” And it worked. Mr. Johnson and his Conservative party won a sweeping majority in a rare December election on Thursday, which is exactly what he needs to finalize legislation for Britain’s departure from the European Union before the Jan. 31 deadline. The value of the pound surged as the voting results rolled in, a sign of rising confidence in Britain’s economy now that its future looks more clear. Whether you’re a fan of Mr. Johnson and his policies or not, you have to admit: Won’t it be nice for all that hemming and hawing about Brexit to end?

The House expects to vote this week on a renegotiated trade agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada. Known as “the new NAFTA” — which is certainly catchier than its official name, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement — it’s a replacement for the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement, which Mr. Trump pledged to rip up as part of his campaign platform. The latest version makes good on at least part of his promise, and will provide protections for some American farmers and autoworkers. And to get Democrats on board, lawmakers included environmental provisions and labor reforms. Look, compromise! The legislation is expected to be approved before Friday, when Congress starts its holiday break.

United States negotiators agreed to an initial trade deal with China shortly before the long-running trade war was set to escalate on Dec. 15. As part of the agreement, Mr. Trump pledged to reduce the tariffs he has placed on $360 billion of Chinese goods, in return for China’s commitment to ratchet up its purchases of American agriculture products. Officials say that the pact will also require China to enforce stronger protections for American intellectual property and open its markets to American financial institutions, two major sticking points that helped set off the trade war in the first place. But this preliminary, “phase one” deal is far from comprehensive on those issues. Mr. Trump said that negotiations on a secondary agreement would begin immediately.

This article is from NYT – go to source

Secondhand Gifts and ‘Experiences’ Still Top Holiday Lists

Once upon a time you might have been red-faced giving a secondhand sweater or a tin filled with homemade cookies for the holidays. It seemed out of step in a culture that pushes designer clothing, the newest action toys or S.U.V.s with giant red bows.

Of course, extravagant gifts still overshadow the humbler ones. But there are signs that more Americans are taking a quiet stand against materialism. Some are just embracing simplicity and rejecting clutter, while others want to avoid overspending and debt. Still others worry about environmental waste and climate change.

Whatever the reason, more people are giving and receiving used goods, making their own gifts, choosing “experiences” like cooking classes and travel, or even requesting charitable donations in their names or (gasp!) nothing at all for the holidays.

Nearly 190 million Americans shopped online or in stores over the Thanksgiving weekend this year, a 14 percent increase from last year, according to the National Retail Federation. Most bought new merchandise, with only 7 percent doing even part of their shopping in thrift stores, said J. Craig Shearman, spokesman for the federation.

But the preference for secondhand goods, homemade presents or experiences like going to the symphony or on exotic trips has continued to grow since 2016, when analysts began noticing the trend. Using online surveys of 1,700 shoppers in 2018, the market research firm Mintel found about a fifth of them agreed that “experience gifts” were superior to tangible goods. In 2019, a similar survey showed about half agreed with that.

Credit…Photographs Maridelis Morales Rosado for The New York Times

A different recent online survey found that roughly half the shoppers who responded would consider giving secondhand clothes and would also welcome such gifts. “That whole stigma of secondhand is waning or really vaporizing,” said Jill Standish, senior managing director for global retail consulting at Accenture, the consulting firm that conducted the research.

Industry watchers say these alternative forms of giving started out as a way to save money but have quickly evolved as a way to reflect other values.

One of those values: protecting the environment. Climate crisis warnings have more people picturing oceans filled with plastic and skies choked with smoke from textile mills in China. That clashes with images of presents lovingly wrapped in expensive paper under a live tree harvested and shipped from the countryside.

Eva Raposa, 37, a business strategist in Martha’s Vineyard, has told relatives that if they want to get her 8-year-old daughter a gift, they need to buy from the island’s consignment shops.

“I just started to feel very strange about how our relatives were lavishing my young daughter with items from overseas,” Ms. Raposa said. “It was fast fashion. It had love behind it, but to me it was junk.”

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Credit…Maridelis Morales Rosado for The New York Times

And some say there is a sense that we have prioritized material possessions for our families and friends over something far more valuable: our time with them.

Michelle Murré, owner of a luxury travel agency in St. Helena, Calif., said that in the last two years, she had noticed her client base grow in the months leading up to the holidays. Consumers ask her to organize motorcycle treks through Marrakesh, romantic getaways to Tuscany and family hikes in the Caribbean that they can give as holiday gifts.

Clients are looking for “lasting memories versus the gift that might be the big wow for a week or a month but will be forgotten,” Ms. Murré said. “It’s a shared experience. They realize that these are the experiences that last a lifetime.”

Who benefits from the trend? We just mentioned luxury travel agents. And obviously secondhand shops are downright giddy.

Milo Bernstein, one of the owners of Ina, a group of four high-end consignment boutiques in New York, said sales at his stores used to drop off in November and December. That was when people stopped buying for themselves and began buying new retail for others.

In the last four years, sales those months have stayed steady or even ticked up, a sign people are using consignment for holiday shopping.

“Men would come in and say: ‘I want to buy a Fendi bag for my girlfriend. Do you have the original box because I don’t want her to think I didn’t get a new bag’?” Mr. Bernstein said.

No more. Customers are more likely to brag to their loved ones that they bought them secondhand gifts, he said.

“In some ways it’s even better because you’re contributing less to the world of waste,” Mr. Bernstein said.

The arts have also seen a boost. Bernadette Horgan, spokeswoman for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, said the organization sold 308 gift certificates in November and December this year, up from 253 during the same period last year and 196 in 2017. It is safe to assume those are mostly holiday gifts, she wrote in an email.

Yes and no. The Mintel survey showed that the majority of respondents who identified as millennials or members of the even younger Generation Z preferred experiences over gifts.

But 44 percent of shoppers who identified as Generation X and 40 percent of those who described themselves as baby boomers also said they would prefer the gift of an experience over something material.

“That shows to me there is a universal agreement to how consumers are prioritizing what matters to them most,” said Diana Smith, associate director for retail and apparel at Mintel.

And when it came to buying or receiving secondhand gifts, there was no difference in attitudes among the age groups surveyed by Accenture, Ms. Standish said.

More than half of the shoppers in that survey also said they wanted to know that products were made in sustainable or ethical ways.

Adriana Compagnoni, 53, was motivated by that desire in 2012, when she began making homemade presents from the honey and beeswax she collected from the hives she keeps in her backyard in South Orange, N.J.

“Maybe I was delusional, but I was pretty confident people would like it,” said Ms. Compagnoni, who also sells the homemade items at holiday pop-ups. “It’s not a trinket that’s going to end up in a landfill or cluttering their homes.”

Just look at the numbers. In 2018 the secondhand market in the United States brought in $24 billion. By 2023, that figure is expected to grow to $51 billion, Ms. Standish of Accenture said.

“This is where we’re going forward as consumers are shopping more with their values and with social consciousness,” Ms. Smith of Mintel said. “It’s kind of moved beyond a trend. It’s just more a lifestyle choice and a reflection of how we’re living our lives. People are defined more these days not by what they own but what they value, and their buying habits are reflecting that.”

Still, she said, consumers need to consider whether it really is socially responsible to give luxury travel packages and restaurant gift certificates as presents, considering the carbon footprints of air travel and discarded food.

“If you think about it, emphasizing experiences can lead to more waste,” Ms. Smith said.

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Prime Leverage: How Amazon Wields Power in the Technology World

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Credit…Nolan Pelletier

Software start-ups have a phrase for what Amazon is doing to them: ‘strip-mining’ them of their innovations.


SEATTLE — Elastic, a software start-up in Amsterdam, was rapidly building its business and had grown to 100 employees. Then Amazon came along.

In October 2015, Amazon’s cloud computing arm announced it was copying Elastic’s free software tool, which people use to search and analyze data, and would sell it as a paid service. Amazon went ahead even though Elastic’s product, called ElasticSearch, was already available on Amazon.

Within a year, Amazon was generating more money from what Elastic had built than the start-up, by making it easy for people to use the tool with its other offerings. So Elastic added premium features last year and limited what companies like Amazon could do with them. Amazon duplicated many of those features anyway and provided them free.

In September, Elastic fired back. It sued Amazon in federal court in California for violating its trademark because Amazon had called its product by the exact same name: ElasticSearch. Amazon “misleads consumers,” the start-up said in its complaint. Amazon denied it had done anything wrong. The case is pending.

Not since the mid-1990s, when Microsoft dominated the personal computer industry with Windows, has a technology platform instilled such fear in competitors as Amazon is now doing with its cloud computing arm. Its feud with Elastic illustrates how it brandishes power in that technical world.

While cloud computing may appear obscure and wonky, it underlies much of the internet. It has grown into one of the technology industry’s largest and most lucrative businesses, offering computing power and software to companies. And Amazon is its single-biggest provider.

Amazon has used its cloud computing arm — called Amazon Web Services, or A.W.S. for short — to copy and integrate software that other tech companies pioneered. It has given an edge to its own services by making them more convenient to use, burying rival offerings and bundling discounts to make its products less expensive. The moves drive customers toward Amazon while those responsible for the software may not see a cent.

Even so, smaller rivals say they have little choice but to work with Amazon. Given the company’s broad reach with customers, start-ups often agree to its restrictions on promoting their own products and voluntarily share client and product information with it. For the privilege of selling through A.W.S., the start-ups pay a cut of their sales back to Amazon.

Some of the companies have a phrase for what Amazon is doing: strip-mining software. By lifting other people’s innovations, trying to poach their engineers and profiting off what they made, Amazon is choking off the growth of would-be competitors and forcing them to reorient how they do business, the companies said.

All of this has fueled scrutiny of whether Amazon is abusing its market dominance and engaging in anticompetitive behavior. The company’s tactics have led several rivals to discuss bringing antitrust complaints against it. And regulators and lawmakers are examining its clout in the industry.

“People are afraid that Amazon’s ambitions are endless,” said Matthew Prince, chief executive of Cloudflare, an A.W.S. competitor that protects websites from attacks.

A.W.S. is just one prong of Amazon’s push to dominate large swaths of American industry. The company has transformed retailing, logistics, book publishing and Hollywood. It is rethinking how people buy prescription drugs, purchase real estate and build surveillance for their homes and cities.

But what Amazon is doing through A.W.S. is arguably more consequential. The company is the unquestioned market leader — triple the size of its nearest competitor, Microsoft — in the seismic shift to cloud computing. Millions of people unknowingly interact with A.W.S. every day when they stream movies on Netflix or store photos on Apple’s iCloud, services that run off Amazon’s machines.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, once called A.W.S. an idea “no one asked for.” The service began in the early 2000s when the retailer struggled to assemble computer systems to start new projects and features. Once it built a common computer infrastructure, Amazon realized other companies needed similar capabilities.

Now companies like Airbnb and General Electric essentially rent computing from Amazon — otherwise known as using the “cloud” — instead of buying and running their own systems. Businesses can then store their information on Amazon machines, pluck data from them and analyze it.

For Amazon itself, A.W.S. has become crucial. The division generated $25 billion in sales last year — roughly the size of Starbucks — and is Amazon’s most profitable business. Those profits enable the company to plow money into many other industries.

In a statement, Amazon said the idea that it was strip-mining software was “silly and off-base.” It said it had contributed significantly to the software industry and that it acted in the best interest of customers.

Some tech companies said they had found more customers through A.W.S.; even some companies that have tangled with Amazon have grown. Elastic, for instance, went public last year and now has 1,600 employees.

But in interviews with more than 40 current and former Amazon employees and those of rivals, many said the costs of what the company was doing with A.W.S. were hidden. They said it was hard to measure how much business they had lost to Amazon, or how the threat of Amazon had turned off would-be investors. Many spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of angering the company.

In February, seven software chief executives met in Silicon Valley and discussed bringing an antitrust lawsuit against the giant, said four people with knowledge of the gathering. Their grievances echoed a complaint by vendors who use Amazon’s shopping site: Once Amazon becomes a direct competitor, it is no longer a neutral party.

The C.E.O.s did not press forward with a legal action, partly out of concern that the process would take too long, the people said.

Now regulators are approaching some of Amazon’s software rivals. The House Judiciary Committee, which is investigating the big tech companies, asked Amazon in a September letter about A.W.S.’s practices. The Federal Trade Commission, which is also investigating Amazon, has questioned A.W.S. competitors, according to officials at two software companies who were called in but were not authorized to discuss the matter.

What Amazon is doing to software start-ups is unsustainable, said Salil Deshpande, founder of Uncorrelated, a venture capital firm.

“It has intercepted their monetization, it has forcibly wrestled control of software from their owners and it has siphoned customers to its own proprietary services,” he said.

When Amazon Web Services began last decade, Amazon was struggling to turn a consistent profit. A service to provide computing power seemed like a distraction.

Yet start-ups embraced A.W.S. They saved money because they did not need to buy their own computing equipment, while only spending on what they used. Soon more companies flocked to Amazon for computing infrastructure and, eventually, the software that ran on its machines.

In 2009, Amazon established a template for accelerating A.W.S.’s growth. That year, it introduced a service for managing a database, which is critical software to help companies organize information.

The A.W.S. database service, an instant hit with customers, did not run software that Amazon created. Instead, the company plucked from a freely shared option known as open source.

Open-source software has few parallels in business. It is akin to a coffee shop giving away coffee on the hopes that people spend on milk or sugar or pastries.

But open source is a tried and true model nurtured by the software industry to get technology to customers quickly. A community of enthusiasts often springs up around the shareable technology, contributing improvements and spreading the word about its benefits. Traditionally, open-source companies later earn money for customer support or from paid add-ons.

Technologists initially paid little attention to what Amazon had done with database software. Then in 2015, Amazon repeated the maneuver by copying ElasticSearch and offering its competing service.

This time, heads turned.

“There was a company that built a business around an open-source product that people like using and, suddenly, they have a competitor using their own stuff against them,” said Todd Persen, who started a non-open-source software company this year so there was “zero chance” that Amazon could lift his creations. His previous start-up, InfluxDB, was open source.

Again and again, the open-source software industry became a well that Amazon turned to. When it copied and integrated that software into A.W.S., it didn’t need permission or pay the start-ups for their work, creating a deterrent for people to innovate.

That left little recourse for many of these companies, which could not suddenly start charging money for what was free software. Some instead changed the rules around how their wares could be used, restricting Amazon and others who want to turn what they have created into a paid service.

Amazon has worked around some of their changes.

When Elastic, now based in Silicon Valley, shifted the rules for its software last year, Amazon said in a blog post that open-source software companies were “muddying the waters” by limiting access to certain users.

Shay Banon, Elastic’s chief executive, wrote at the time that Amazon’s actions were “masked with fake altruism.” Elastic declined to make Mr. Banon available for an interview.

Last year, MongoDB, a popular technology for organizing data in documents, also announced that it would require any company that manages its software as a web service to freely share the underlying technology. The move was widely viewed as a hedge against A.W.S., which does not openly share its technology for creating new services.

A.W.S. soon introduced its own technology with the look and feel of MongoDB’s older software, which did not fall under the new requirements.

That experience was top of mind this year when Dev Ittycheria, MongoDB’s chief executive, attended the dinner with the heads of six other software companies. Their conversation, held at the home of a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, shifted to something drastic: whether to publicly accuse Amazon of behaving like a monopoly.

At the meal, which included the heads of the software firms Confluent and Snowflake, some of the C.E.O.s said they faced an uneven playing field, according to the people with knowledge of the gathering. No complaint has materialized.

“A.W.S.’s success is built on strip-mining open-source technology,” said Michael Howard, chief executive of MariaDB, an open-source company. He estimated that Amazon made five times more revenue from running MariaDB software than his company generated from all of its businesses.

Andi Gutmans, an A.W.S. vice president, said some companies wanted to be “the only ones” to make money off open-source projects. He said Amazon was “committed to making sure that open-source projects remain truly open and customers get to choose how they use that open-source software — whether they choose A.W.S. or not.”

By the time A.W.S. held its first developer conference in 2012, Amazon was no longer the only big player in cloud computing. Microsoft and Google had introduced competing platforms.

So Amazon unveiled more software services to make A.W.S. indispensable. In a speech at the event, Andy Jassy, the head of A.W.S., said it wanted to “enable every imaginable use case.”

Amazon has since added A.W.S. services at a blistering pace, going from 30 in 2014 to about 175 as of December. It also built in a home-field advantage: simplicity and convenience.

Customers can add new A.W.S. services with a single click and use the same system to manage them. The new service is added to the same bill and requires no extra permission from a finance or compliance department.

In contrast, using a non-Amazon service on A.W.S. is more complicated.

Today when a customer logs onto A.W.S., they see a home page called the management console. At the center is a list of about 150 services. All are A.W.S.’s own products.

When someone types “MongoDB,” the search results do not fetch information for MongoDB’s service on A.W.S.; it instead suggests an offering from Amazon that is “compatible with MongoDB.”

Even after a customer has selected a non-Amazon option, the company sometimes continues pushing its own product. When someone creates a new database, they are presented an ad for Amazon’s own technology called Aurora. If they pick something else, Amazon still highlights its option as “recommended.”

Mr. Gutmans said A.W.S. worked closely with many companies to integrate their offerings “as seamlessly as possible.”

Amazon’s A.W.S. developer conference is now one of the world’s biggest technology events, drawing tens of thousands of people to Las Vegas every year.

The highlight is a speech from Mr. Jassy where he showcases new services. Because a new A.W.S. feature often spells hardship for some start-up, the presentation has earned the nickname “The Red Wedding,” a bloody event in a “Game of Thrones” episode.

“Nobody knows who is going to get killed next,” said Corey Quinn of the Duckbill Group, who helps companies manage their A.W.S. bills and writes a newsletter called “Last Week in A.W.S.

At last year’s conference, Amazon unveiled a new tool — Amazon CloudWatch Logs Insights — to help customers analyze information about its services.

Daniel Vassallo, a former A.W.S. software engineer who helped develop the product, said executives wanted to go after the market, but were worried it would look like Amazon was targeting a company called Splunk, which offers a similar tool and is also a major spender with A.W.S.

So Amazon previewed its new product to Splunk before the conference and agreed not to announce it during Mr. Jassy’s speech, Mr. Vassallo said.

“They weren’t particularly happy. Who would be?” Mr. Vassallo, who left Amazon in February, said of Splunk. “But we still went ahead and did it anyway.”

Splunk said it had a “strong partnership” with A.W.S. and declined to comment further.

Amazon has also created rules for its developer conference. Companies that pay tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars for a booth said they must submit their banners, pamphlets and news releases to Amazon for approval.

According to an A.W.S. document from August explaining marketing guidelines for companies it works with, Amazon bans certain words or phrases, such as “multi-cloud,” the concept of using two or more cloud platforms. An Amazon spokesman said it had stopped this practice.

Companies are also instructed to strike claims about being “the best,” “the first,” “the only,” “the leader,” unless substantiated by independent research.

Redis Labs was founded in 2011 in Tel Aviv, Israel, to build a business around managing a free software called Redis, which people use to organize and update data quickly. Amazon soon offered a competing paid service.

While that created a formidable rival to Redis Labs, Amazon’s move also validated Redis technology. The start-up has since raised $150 million, exemplifying the can’t-live-with-can’t-live-without relationship that many software companies have with Amazon.

Former Redis Labs employees estimate that Amazon generates as much as $1 billion a year from Redis technology — or at least 10 times more revenue than Redis Labs. They said Amazon also tried to poach its staff and undercut it with hefty discounts.

A.W.S. offers a discount to customers who commit to spending at least a certain amount with it, but it does not treat money spent on A.W.S.’s own services and rival services equally. Spending on outside services counts as only 50 cents on the dollar toward the balance. And discounts do not apply to non-Amazon products, according to A.W.S. customers.

If a customer still chooses Redis Labs through A.W.S., Redis Labs is required to kick back around 15 percent of its revenue to Amazon.

At one point, Amazon’s attempts to hire Redis Labs employees became so aggressive that executives removed some online biographies of its technical staff, said the former employees. A Redis Labs spokesman said the start-up had no recollection of that.

Some Redis Labs executives considered bringing an antitrust action against Amazon this year, the former employees said. Others balked because 80 percent of the start-up’s revenue came from customers on A.W.S.

“It was a love-hate relationship,” said Leena Joshi, a former vice president of marketing at Redis Labs. “On one hand, most of our customers ran on A.W.S. so it was in our interest to be tightly integrated with them. At the same time, we knew they were taking away our business.”

Redis Labs declined to comment on its revenues or A.W.S. actions. It said Amazon offered “important services.”

Not every company views A.W.S. as a threat. Ali Ghodsi, chief executive of Databricks, a San Francisco start-up that uses artificial intelligence to analyze data, said A.W.S. salespeople have lifted sales of his company’s products.

“I don’t see them using shenanigans to stop us,” he said.

But Saket Saurabh, chief executive of Nexla, a 14-person start-up in Millbrae, Calif., said he had reservations about Amazon.

In August, Amazon began a service for processing and monitoring data that competes with Nexla. Investors warned him about sharing too much information with the giant.

Mr. Saurabh went ahead anyway and signed his company up to work with Amazon in September. The reason? Amazon’s giant sales teams can give Nexla access to a vast audience.

“What choice do we have?” he said.

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Fire Breaks Out at New Texas Rangers Stadium

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A fire broke out on Saturday at the new stadium for the Texas Rangers that is set to open next year, fire officials said.

The fire was reported about 2:30 p.m. at the ballpark, which is under construction, in Arlington, Texas, about 20 miles west of Dallas.

The fire was contained “in the upper sections of the stadium,” and there were no injuries reported, Lt. Mike Joiner, a spokesman for the Fire Department, said. The cause of the fire was under investigation. The extent of the damage was not immediately available.

Manhattan Construction, which is working on the $1.1 billion project, said in a statement that a “crate of materials staged in the roof area” of the stadium, known as Globe Life Field, caught fire. The Texas Rangers on Saturday referred to the Manhattan Construction statement.

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Felix G. Rohatyn, Financier Who Piloted New York’s Rescue, Dies at 91

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Felix G. Rohatyn, a former child refugee from Nazi-occupied France who became a pillar of Wall Street and a trusted government adviser who engineered the rescue of a beleaguered New York City from insolvency in the 1970s, died on Saturday at his home in Manhattan. He was 91.

His death was confirmed by his son Nicolas Rohatyn.

Mr. Rohatyn’s journey from war-ravaged Europe to the pinnacle of the illustrious investment house Lazard was a quintessential tale of immigrant success. As one of the world’s pre-eminent financiers, he brokered numerous mergers and acquisitions, leaving his stamp on Avis, Lockheed Martin, Warner Bros., General Electric and other corporations. He counseled innumerable business leaders and politicians.

For nearly two decades, from 1975 to 1993, as chairman of the state-appointed Municipal Assistance Corporation, Mr. Rohatyn had a say, often the final one, over taxes and spending in the nation’s largest city, a degree of influence for an unelected official that rankled some critics.

His efforts to meld private profit with the public good defined him: In the perception of many his name was synonymous with two institutions — the M.A.C., which was hastily created in 1975 to save the city from insolvency, and Lazard (formerly Lazard Frères), the storied investment firm that started as a dry-goods business in New Orleans in 1848.

What distinguished him in both domains were his deft negotiating skills, his access to power and his understanding of it, his management of public perception (and of the journalists who shape it), and his adeptness not only with numbers but also with words. He had a genius for finding solutions that satisfied both political and economic imperatives.

Indeed, Mr. Rohatyn (pronounced ROE-ah-tin) was given the nickname Felix the Fixer (one not always used as a compliment). But he likened his work to that of a surgeon. “I get called when something is broken,” he explained to The Associated Press in 1978. “I’m supposed to operate, fix it up and leave as little blood on the floor as possible.”

Though he reached the heights of success and power on Wall Street, some of his loftiest ambitions were frustrated. President Bill Clinton considered Mr. Rohatyn, a longtime Democratic donor, for Treasury secretary but passed him over, and a Republican-controlled Senate later scuttled a plan to name him vice chairman of the Federal Reserve. Mr. Clinton named him ambassador to France, the country to which he had fled from his native Austria, as something of a consolation prize.

After returning from four years in Paris at the end of 2000, Mr. Rohatyn, a compact man of sober, occasionally stern rectitude, settled into the role of wise eminence. He began writing, often for The New York Review of Books. He denounced the foreign and fiscal policies of President George W. Bush; published a book warning that an aging infrastructure would soon be a national crisis; rejoined Lazard as a senior adviser after the death of Bruce Wasserstein, its chief executive; and wrote a memoir, partly in response to the global financial crisis of 2008.

Brimming with nostalgia for a bygone Wall Street, in which relationships and reputation mattered, and dripping with disdain for its newer incarnation, driven by quantitative models and short-term profits — “an electronic game,” as he put it — the memoir concluded with an admonition:

“Investment banking is not a business; it is a personal service where bankers work hand in hand with their clients. And it is a service that must not simply be about making bigger and bigger deals that reap rewards for only a small group of executives.”

Mr. Rohatyn’s knack for cultivating and capitalizing on relationships — and for fixing — was in greatest evidence in the spring of 1975, when Wall Street refused to extend New York City additional short-term credit. For more than 10 years, a period of sluggish economic growth, the municipal work force and budget had grown even as the city’s population and tax base shrank. To cover mounting deficits, the city had relied on short-term financing — a practice originally intended to make up for normal, seasonal cash shortfalls. This led only to steadily higher debt-service payments.

Worse yet, the city had turned to management and accounting gimmicks, like transferring salaries and other operating expenses to its capital budget, which was supposed to be used for long-term infrastructure projects, not day-to-day operating expenses. (Spending on infrastructure had declined to the point where streets and bridges lacked even basic minimum maintenance.)

For a time the city had gotten by on these methods — until the banks, ever more afraid that they would never be repaid, decided that they had had enough. They summarily closed off the city’s access to credit, refusing to market the short-term notes that the city needed to cover its expenses and pay off maturing notes.

Just before Memorial Day, at the suggestion of the longtime Democratic kingmaker Robert S. Strauss, Mr. Rohatyn was summoned from Lazard to the Midtown Manhattan offices of Gov. Hugh L. Carey. A crash was imminent, he was told. The shortfall was $3 billion: $900 million was due in June, and two installments of $1 billion each were due in July and August.

Mr. Carey named Mr. Rohatyn and three others to an advisory panel, which quickly determined that the city needed a financing vehicle that would be a creature of the state, not the city. It would be assured of revenues and have the political credibility to turn to Wall Street for cash. It would be governed by a nine-member board, with only four of the seats filled at the recommendation of the mayor, Abraham D. Beame. And it would have first call on city sales taxes and stock-transfer taxes, giving it the power to turn them into state revenues and thus shelter them from creditors in the event of a city bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, the news kept getting worse. The city disclosed that it had $2.5 billion more in short-term housing notes coming due. It later emerged that the city’s annual deficit had risen to $1.5 billion a year — about three times the official estimate — on a budget of around $12 billion.

Mr. Rohatyn brokered a $900 million emergency plan to stave off a bankruptcy projected for June 18. It included a $100 million loan from banks; an agreement by the banks to extend for another year $280 million in notes coming due immediately; and a $200 million advance by the state against further education payments.

Over raucous objections by municipal unions, Mr. Carey signed the legislation, setting up what became popularly known as “Big MAC” on June 10. By then the city was living hand-to-mouth. Mr. Rohatyn helped orchestrate a combination of bank loans and loan extensions, bond sales, wage deferrals, union investments and advance payments in state aid to get the city through July and August. But the market for M.A.C. bonds shriveled. Default loomed once again.

“It was like climbing sand dunes — a grueling and ultimately futile exercise,” Mr. Rohatyn later recalled. “Something had to change.”

That something was the city’s control over its affairs. At Mr. Rohatyn’s direction, Albany set up the Emergency Financial Control Board, with Mr. Rohatyn as a member. It would set the amount of revenues available to the city, control all borrowing and labor contracts, and ensure that the city stuck to its fiscal plan each quarter.

The unions agreed to cut the city’s payroll by 50,000 workers, on top of the 14,000 layoffs already announced — a total reduction of some 20 percent. The M.A.C., with Mr. Rohatyn now installed as chairman, devised what ended up being a $6.6 billion rescue package. It included a three-year “moratorium” on repayment of short-term notes, hefty investment from union pension funds, and federal loan guarantees.

President Gerald R. Ford, who had portrayed New York, not inaccurately, as an emblem of mismanagement, refused to go along with the loan guarantees, saying that a municipal bankruptcy would be temporary and tolerable. The Daily News trumpeted that veto threat with the memorably economical headline “Ford to City: Drop Dead.”

Only after the Fed’s chairman, Arthur F. Burns, returned from a meeting with European leaders and warned Mr. Ford of the threat to global financial markets did the White House agree to the loan guarantees.

Mr. Rohatyn was hailed for standing up to Mayor Beame and for his ability to reach agreement with bankers and union leaders alike. But the turmoil — a strike by sanitation workers, a wave of police layoffs, increases in transit fares, the imposition of tuition fees for the first time at the City University of New York and, above all, the loss of city autonomy, however temporary — redounded for decades.

The crisis did not abate until 1978, when Mr. Rohatyn devised a four-year financing package, which exchanged short-term high-interest loans for equivalent amounts of lower-interest M.A.C. bonds. Under a new mayor, Edward I. Koch, the city balanced its budget in 1980. It re-entered the municipal bond market in 1981, and by 1985 the M.A.C. had stopped selling new bonds; the final M.A.C. bonds were not paid off until 2008.

Investors who bought the bonds made healthy returns, and, starting in 1983, the M.A.C. threw off healthy surpluses, which Mr. Rohatyn used tactically to guide policy from behind the scenes. Calmly pointing out to mayors and union leaders that he thought they were spending money unwisely, he made their receipt of the surplus funds conditional on their cutting expenses. He also used the surpluses to set aside billions for schools, transit, low- and middle-income housing, and the hiring of police officers in response to the crack cocaine epidemic.

It was an unprecedented exercise of private power at City Hall, and it prompted Mr. Koch, both a friend and a foe, to ask, “Who elected Felix mayor?”

Mr. Rohatyn was so stung by attacks from organized labor that in 1990, during another, less severe downturn in the city’s fortunes, he announced his resignation. Wall Street shuddered, and Gov. Mario M. Cuomo persuaded him to stay on for three more years.

Like the city he helped save, Mr. Rohatyn’s early life was a mixture of luxury and hardship. Born in Vienna on May 29, 1928, Felix George Rohatyn was the only son of Alexander Rohatyn, a Polish Jew, and the former Edith Knoll, the daughter of a prosperous Viennese banker. Alexander managed his father-in-law’s breweries in Austria, Romania and Yugoslavia until 1934, when the rising Nazi menace prompted the family to uproot itself to France.

Mr. Rohatyn’s parents were divorced a few years later. His mother remarried, and in 1942, with France under Vichy control, she decided to flee once again.

Mr. Rohatyn would recall that their escape was nearly disrupted at a German checkpoint: The soldier posted there, momentarily distracted when he reached into his pocket for a cigarette, waved their car forward but stopped the following one.

They had taken little with them. His mother had directed her son to empty toothpaste tubes and fill them with dozens of gold coins; their Polish cook had helped them tie mattresses to the top of their car.

“We had been well off, but that was all we got out,” Mr. Rohatyn wrote. “Ever since, I’ve had the feeling that the only permanent wealth is what you carry around in your head.”

Reunited with Felix’s stepfather, who had escaped from a Nazi internment camp in Brittany, Edith traveled to the United States by way of Casablanca, Morocco; Lisbon; and Rio de Janeiro. (They were aided by Brazil’s ambassador to France, Luis Martins de Souza Dantas, who helped some 400 Jews, including Felix, reach safety.)

Resettled in Manhattan, Felix attended McBurney School, where he perfected his English, and then Middlebury College in Vermont, where he majored in physics.

While in college, Felix returned to France to get reacquainted with his father and try his hand at the brewery; for six months he cleaned out fermentation vats, worked in a bottling plant and loaded trucks. (On his way back to the United States, he met the singer Édith Piaf; after he graduated, in 1949, he tutored her in English, for $5 an hour, in a Park Avenue apartment she shared with other nightclub singers.)

It was through a friend of his stepfather’s that Mr. Rohatyn met André Meyer, a mercurial French financier who controlled Lazard. Mr. Meyer would become his mentor and guide. After a training period in Europe, Mr. Rohatyn devoted himself to the practice of buying securities in one currency and selling them in another. He left Lazard after the Army drafted him in 1950; he was an infantry sergeant in Germany. Discharged in 1953, he rejoined Lazard two years later.

He would stay there for the next 40 years, becoming a partner in 1960. Encouraged to move into corporate finance and mergers on the advice of Samuel Bronfman, who acquired Seagram, the Canadian distiller, Mr. Rohatyn became so adept at deal-making that Mr. Meyer would later say of him, “He is better than the teacher.”

Mr. Rohatyn compared deal-making to a puzzle that required “not simply diligence and strategy but at times an iron will.” He brokered the acquisition of Avis, the rental car company, for about $5 million; Lazard turned the company around and quadrupled its investment in five years. He helped Steve Ross gain control of the Warner Bros. film studio — now part of AT&T. He engineered the merger of the Loews Corporation with the Lorillard tobacco fortune.

Mr. Rohatyn’s penchant for deal-making could attract controversy. In the 1960s, he helped the ITT Corporation, which had started as a telephone concern, assemble one of the first modern corporate conglomerates, starting with the $420 million purchase of Jennings Radio, a small high-tech company in Silicon Valley.

ITT’s growth prompted an antitrust investigation by the Justice Department. It was settled, but then a leaked memo from an ITT lobbyist suggested that the company had offered $400,000 in contributions to the 1972 Republican National Convention in return for the Nixon administration’s agreeing to settle the case. (ITT denied the accusations, which were never proved.)

There were also allegations that ITT had tried unsuccessfully in 1970 to block the election of Salvador Allende Gossens as president of Chile. A Marxist, Mr. Allende nationalized an ITT subsidiary; in 1973, he was overthrown by the military and killed.

ITT’s chief executive, Harold S. Geneen, maintained that the company’s $350,000 payment for “supporting the democratic, anti‐Communist cause” in Chile had been legal and that it had not been used to support violence, but Mr. Rohatyn’s reputation for probity suffered. On the advice of his friend Katharine Graham, the publisher of The Washington Post, he resigned from ITT’s board. In the meantime, he had faced withering questioning while testifying before Congress and endured negative coverage in the news media, notably by the investigative columnist Jack Anderson.

Mr. Rohatyn later described his shepherding New York City toward financial stability as a way to make up for the ITT embarrassment.

He had earlier gained crisis-management experience as a member of the board of governors of the New York Stock Exchange. In 1970, after a string of corporate failures, the old-line investment house McDonnell went under, and Wall Street seized up. The exchange’s chairman, Bernard J. Lasker, asked Mr. Rohatyn to lead a “crisis committee.”

The panel, among other things, revised the exchange’s archaic capital rules. Banks were supposed to have a ratio of debt to capital no higher than 20 to 1, but the definition of capital was vague and overly broad. Mr. Rohatyn helped arrange the rescues of the banks Hayden Stone (by a group of Oklahoma investors) and Goodbody (by Merrill Lynch, with the exchange providing indemnifications for potential liabilities).

By the mid-1970s, when Mr. Rohatyn was most in the headlines, the world of gentlemen’s agreements he had mastered had begun to give way. The unwritten ban on hostile takeovers was upended when Morgan Stanley made an uninvited bid for the battery manufacturer International Nickel.

In the 1980s, corporate raiders like Michael Milken exploited the use of so-called junk bonds to achieve the leverage to take over and break up much larger companies. Traders like Ivan Boesky mastered the strategy of “risk arbitrage,” now commonly used by hedge funds, to bet on corporate takeovers. (Both men went to prison for securities violations.)

Even Lazard, one of the most lucrative of the old-shoe firms, felt the ground shifting. Mr. Rohatyn wrote:

“In time the profitable, low-risk, non-capital-intensive advisory business of the firm would be subsidizing the high-risk, capital-intensive trading activities. And this discrepancy in our internal balance sheet would lead to tension within the firm.”

The tension was no doubt one reason Mr. Rohatyn rebuffed pleas by his mentor, Mr. Meyer, to take over Lazard. Mr. Rohatyn, who wanted to maintain his role in public life, instead advised Mr. Meyer to name as his successor Michel David-Weill. Mr. Weill would eventually reunite the three branches of Lazard, in New York, London and Paris.

Mr. Rohatyn remained the company’s leading rainmaker. Lazard represented RJR Nabisco when it was acquired in 1989 by the private equity firm KKR for $25 billion — the largest leveraged buyout to that point. The next year, he helped broker the merger of the entertainment giant MCA with Matsushita, the Japanese electrical concern (which was itself later sold to Seagram). He worked on the merger of Warner Communications with Time Inc.; the purchase of The Limited, the clothing retailer, by the company that operated Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus; and the acquisition by Viacom of Paramount Communications.

Mr. Rohatyn liked to quote Mr. Meyer: “Public service is like having a young mistress. You should be careful. It’s tempting.” His political acumen, however, did not quite match his financial and managerial skill.

Mr. Rohatyn backed Edmund S. Muskie in 1972 and Henry M. Jackson in 1976 for the Democratic presidential nomination. He upbraided President Jimmy Carter for not delivering more aid to the city. He urged Mr. Cuomo to seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 1992; after the governor declined, he backed the independent presidential candidacy of the businessman H. Ross Perot. In the 1970s, Mr. Perot had taken over a troubled investment house in a deal that Mr. Rohatyn helped arrange.

That support for Mr. Perot — who lost to Mr. Clinton — probably helped dash Mr. Rohatyn’s highest aspirations, to become Treasury secretary. After the Senate blocked his appointment to the Fed, Mr. Rohatyn even had to fight to succeed Pamela Harriman as ambassador to France. (The position had been dangled before Frank Wisner, a career diplomat who had helped found the C.I.A., and Mr. Clinton’s chief of staff, Erskine B. Bowles, had tried to persuade Mr. Rohatyn to go to Tokyo instead.)

Mr. Rohatyn’s years in France were largely uneventful; he fostered a friendship with President François Mitterrand, promoted museum exchanges and helped create the French-American Business Council.

Mr. Rohatyn married Jeannette Streit in 1956, and they had three sons, Pierre, Nicolas and Michael. The marriage ended in divorce; she died in 2012. In 1979 he married the former Elizabeth Fly, whose two earlier marriages had ended in divorce. Ms. Rohatyn, a longtime supporter of education and the arts, died in October 2016.

In 2009, at 80, he turned his attention to the nation’s aging infrastructure, warning in a book, “Bold Endeavors: How Our Government Built America, and Why It Must Rebuild Now,” that only major investments in public works could avert an even more costly crisis later on.

The next year he published his memoir, “Dealings: A Political and Financial Life.” And in 2012, following Hurricane Sandy, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo named him co-chairman of a commission entrusted with finding ways to improve the resilience of the state’s infrastructure in the face of natural disasters and other emergencies.

In 2016, Mr. Rohatyn and his wife, a former chairwoman of the New York Public Library, announced that they had given the New-York Historical Society a collection of his letters, documents and other papers related to the New York City fiscal crisis and his business career.

A fixture in philanthropic circles — an annual Easter egg hunt on the lawn of his Southampton home on Long Island was a high point on the city’s social calendar — Mr. Rohatyn professed ambivalence about high society, frequently reminding his fellow wealthy that their social obligations meant more than attending gala events.

Mr. Rohatyn often said that the legacy of the fiscal crisis should be “balanced-budget liberalism”; he advocated a modern-day version of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Depression-era lending entity, to help rebuild cities.

He deplored the layoffs and instability set off by some of the very corporate marriages he had arranged, and called for a new partnership between business and labor. As early as 1982, in a commencement address at his alma mater, Middlebury, Mr. Rohatyn warned: “Maybe for the first time in history, the United States is faced with doubts about its destiny. In less than 25 years, we have gone from the American Century to the American crisis.”

In a 2007 history of Lazard, William D. Cohan, the closest Mr. Rohatyn had to a biographer, wrote: “For much of the Reagan era, Felix predicted the decline and fall of American society at the very moment American economic and political power was reaching its zenith worldwide.”

But by 2010, with the economy in its worst rut and inequality rising toward its highest level since the Depression, what once seemed preachy now looked prophetic.

“The basic test of a functioning democracy is its ability to create new wealth and see to its fair distribution,” Mr. Rohatyn said in 1982. “When a democratic society does not meet the test of fairness — when, as in the present state, no attempt seems to be made at fairness — freedom is in jeopardy.”

Mariel Padilla contributed reporting.

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Man Accused of Smacking Reporter’s Rear on Live TV Is Charged

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Credit…WSAV

Alex Bozarjian, a reporter for WSAV-TV in Savannah, Ga., was laughing and smiling as she updated viewers on the latest of the 2019 Enmarket Savannah Bridge Run on Dec. 7.

Runners darted by, making silly faces and waving their hands to the camera during her live broadcast.

Suddenly, Ms. Bozarjian’s expression changed from one of joy to disbelief. A passing runner appeared to have slapped her on the rear. She looked shocked and upset as she tried to compose herself on camera. Mouth agape, she was speechless for about three seconds.

Ms. Bozarjian, 23, a multimedia journalist at the station, posted a video clip of the episode on Twitter, where it drew outrage.

“To the man who smacked my butt on live TV this morning: You violated, objectified, and embarrassed me,” she wrote. “No woman should EVER have to put up with this at work or anywhere!”

The man, Thomas Callaway, was charged by the police on Friday with misdemeanor sexual battery, Bianca Johnson, a Savannah Police Department spokeswoman, said. Mr. Callaway, 43, turned himself into detectives, was booked at the Chatham County Jail and was released on $1,300 bond, Ms. Johnson said.

The video has been seen 12 million times and liked about 736,000 times on Twitter. Supporters of Ms. Bozarjian zoomed in on the runner’s face and the time stamp of the runners around him in the hope that someone could identify him.

The Savannah Sports Council, which organized the run, said on Twitter the day after the event that it was helping Ms. Bozarjian and the television station to identify the runner.

“Yesterday afternoon we identified him and shared his information with the reporter and her station,” the organization said. “We will not tolerate behavior like this at a Savannah Sports Council event. We have made the decision to ban this individual from registering for all Savannah Sports Council owned races.”

As word about what had happened spread, Ms. Bozarjian became a topic on national morning and midday talks shows. She also appeared on “CBS This Morning” and shared her story. “He took my power, and I’m trying to take that back,” Ms. Bozarjian said.

Mr. Callaway spoke to WSAV and apologized, saying he regretted what he had done.

“It was an awful act and an awful mistake,” he told the station. “I am not that person that people are portraying me as. I make mistakes, I’m not perfect and I’m asking for forgiveness and to accept my apology.”

Mr. Callaway and his lawyer could not be immediately reached Saturday morning. After his arrest, WSAV issued a statement in its story on Friday.

“This conduct displayed toward Alex Bozarjian during her live coverage of Saturday’s Savannah Bridge Run was reprehensible and completely unacceptable,” the statement said. “No one should ever be disrespected in this matter. The safety and protection of our employees is WSAV-TV’s highest priority. WSAV continues to support Alex completely as this case moves forward.”

Ms. Bozarjian referred inquiries Saturday to her lawyer, Gloria Allred, who told WSAV that “Alex is looking forward to justice in this case.”

Susan Walker, a journalism professor at Boston University and a former television news producer, said that what had happened to Ms. Bozarjian was “becoming a workplace hazard, particularly for young female reporters in local TV news.”

In September a man suddenly kissed WAVE broadcaster Sara Rivest as she reported live from a music festival in Kentucky.

“They do not have the protection of the entourage around network reporters,” Ms. Walker said of female local reporters.

Ms. Walker said that her school’s college of communications trained its journalism students about what to do if they found themselves in such a situation.

“We teach our journalism students to make the call if a scene is threatening in any way and pull out of the situation,” she said.

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Vermont, Oklahoma and Now Topeka, Kan., Want You

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By now, you are probably familiar with the pitch: Move to a town, a city or even a country you had never considered or maybe even heard of, and get cash in return.

Add Topeka, Kan., to the growing list of places offering financial incentives to attract new residents and buttress an aging or stagnating population.

On Thursday, Topeka officials and business leaders announced they were pooling their resources and offering up to $15,000 to people willing to live and work in the city or its home county of Shawnee.

Organizers say they know the money they are offering is not much of a lure.

But David Callanan, a founder of Advisors Excel and AE Wealth Management, an insurance brokerage consulting firm that is part of the program, said officials hoped publicity about the campaign would prompt outsiders to look into an area that has seen its population stagnate.

The population of Shawnee County has remained flat at about 178,000 for the last 10 years. The program would require people to live in the county and work for employers that, in turn, would pay up to $15,000 in moving costs, as a bonus or to help with buying a home. Renters would get $10,000.

If a person stayed at least a year, the county and city would reimburse the employer half the amount.

“I think it’s a way for the littler guy to level the playing field and compete in a different way,” Mr. Callanan said.

The plan is to attract at least 40 people — ideally young couples who have families or are looking to start them — who can fill jobs in sectors like animal health science and financial services.

Mr. Callanan said that in a community as small as Topeka, even a few dozen people could make a difference.

“You add 50 or 75 families, that has real impact,” he said. “Fifty to 75 families in New York, Jiminy Christmas, that’s not going to fill one building.”

On Friday, GO Topeka, the group behind the program, said it had been flooded with calls and emails from people from New York, Canada and the Philippines interested in the offer.

Similar programs have seen some success.

Vermont made headlines in 2018 when state officials announced they would offer $10,000 to anyone who moved to the state and work remotely. It was an aggressive attempt to counter the state’s aging population that officials said had paid off.

Since the program started in January 2019, more than 120 workers, along with their spouses and children — totaling more than 300 people — have moved to Vermont as part of it, said Joan Goldstein, the state’s commissioner of economic development. Their average age is 37, Ms. Goldstein said. Next year, grants of up to $7,500 will be offered to people who move to the state and work for Vermont employers, she said.

Barbara Stapleton, vice president of business retention and talent initiatives for the Greater Topeka Partnership, said she hoped the campaign would attract the same kind of people Vermont lured: young workers tired of crowded, expensive cities where personal connections are hard to make.

The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Topeka is around $750, and the average price of a home hovers around $140,000. Topeka, Ms. Stapleton said, has good schools and lots of parks, and is in the middle of a renaissance, with a downtown that has attracted a brewery and new restaurants.

“It offers a good life and excellent cost of living: all those things that people are starting to seek out if they want more intentional community,” she said. “People are feeling an anonymity within the larger cities and that can be oppressive.”

At least a dozen other communities have come up with similar ideas.

In Tulsa, Okla., officials offer $10,000 to people willing to move within six months. In Baltimore, new residents can get a $5,000 credit toward the purchase of a home. For those looking for an entirely fresh start, the leaders of the remote village of Molise, Italy, about 140 miles from Rome, have offered to pay newcomers 700 euros a month to move to the countryside and start a new business, CNN reported.

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The World Wants More Danish TV Than Denmark Can Handle

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COPENHAGEN — Merete Mortensen, the founder of a successful television production company here, is used to having her pick of the industry’s top talent in Denmark. But when she was trying to hire a new developer this year to help her create new shows, her first and even second choice turned her down.

She sweet-talked them with everything she could think of — a larger salary, a longer contract, beers — but with no luck.

“It’s been crazy this year in Denmark,” said Ms. Mortensen. “We’ve been having bidding wars over the best people.”

Netflix, Amazon Prime and their ever-growing number of competitors have dramatically reordered television, creating a boom in TV shows as well as jobs for actors, directors, producers and writers. A lot of that content is being developed far from the usual hubs in Hollywood, New York and London, as the streaming services mine international productions from countries including France, Japan and Brazil.

Perhaps nowhere is that expansion more evident than in Denmark, where thanks to years of rising demand, there are many more critically-praised series and movies being made than ever before. But what there isn’t, in this country of just 5.6 million people, is enough skilled professionals to produce them all.

Help-wanted ads are popping up all over industry Facebook groups. Certain shows have had to postpone production by six months, or indefinitely, said Claus Ladegaard, the director of the government-sponsored Danish Film Institute, which helps fund many productions here. There’s a two-year wait for skilled line producers, who oversee productions, Mr. Ladegaard said, noting there is also a shortage of scriptwriters, cinematographers and directors.

Both TV2, a public station, and the film institute recently called on the Danish Film School — the country’s only training center of its kind — to double its enrollment to meet the demand. Currently, only 42 students are admitted every two years.

A decade ago, there might be two or three television series in production in Denmark at any time, Mr. Ladegaard said. Now there are close to 20. That’s in addition to 20 to 25 films being shot, a number that has remained steady, but exacerbates the labor shortfall because they draw from the same talent pool. The country’s theater producers, who tend to book actors far in advance, are also suffering.

Stine Meldgaard, a television producer, said her staff frequently must coordinate with other shows over their actors’ increasingly complicated schedules.

“They’ll call another production and say, ‘We need him here until 2 p.m., but we can get him over to you after that,’” Ms. Meldgaard said during an interview on Thursday at Hvidovre Hospital outside Copenhagen, where her show about a con artist couple, “Pros and Cons,” was shooting in an examining room.

“Luckily,” she added, “we’re very cooperative in Denmark.”

Long known for generous social welfare benefits, minimalist furniture design and Lego, Denmark was until recently just a pixel in the television world.

About a dozen years ago, Danish broadcasters began ramping up their investments in high-quality TV dramas. Shows like “The Killing” and “The Bridge” helped establish the popular genre known as ‘Nordic noir,” which features brutal crimes set in bleak landscapes, and builds narratives around complicated, often tormented protagonists who contradict the region’s reputation for contented, well-behaved citizens.

Denmark is in demand for other genres, too. One of the most popular Danish shows of the last decade was a political drama, “Borgen,” a fictional series about the country’s first female prime minister struggling to balance the demands of family and consensus politics.

The Danish programs became huge hits at home and abroad and “broke the subtitle barrier for TV,” said Hanne Palmquist, the vice president of original programming for HBO Nordic. The shows also sparked a broader interest in Scandinavian productions, including Sweden’s “Wallander” and Norway’s “Lillehammer.”

“The Killing” and “The Bridge” earned English-language remakes in the United States, and many of the Danish projects in development today are being produced for American companies. On Dec. 3, HBO Nordic announced that its first Danish production, a young adult drama called “Kamikaze,” will begin shooting next year.

Netflix premiered its first Danish series, “The Rain,” in 2017. A sci-fi tale that follows a band of young survivors after a virus wipes out most of Scandinavia, the show is currently shooting its third and final season.

The first season was “one of Netflix’s most successful non-English series to date,” said Tesha Crawford, Netflix’s director of international original series. Yet it never would have been made, the show’s producer and co-creator Christian Potalivo said, had it not been for the streaming platform. “We knew that no big broadcaster in Denmark would have touched it,” he said. “Budget-wise and target audience-wise, it was out. We put it in a drawer until Netflix came along.”

The Nordic streaming service Viaplay, which airs “Pros and Cons,” is even thinking of launching an all-Nordic platform in the United States and Britain. Anders Jensen, the chief executive of Viaplay’s parent company, Nordic Entertainment Group, said that today “the likelihood of a Nordic service finding an audience is much stronger.”

While all this global interest might be putting strain on production companies, it has been a boon for those working in the industry, especially people starting out. Mads Mengel, who graduated from the Danish Film School this summer, found high-profile work right away, directing a new series for DR, Denmark’s largest broadcaster. “You always hear, ‘Yeah, you want to be a film director, good luck with that,’” he said. “So it was way beyond what I expected, to find a job in one and a half months.”

As a producer of reality and documentary shows, Ms. Mortensen’s company, Heartland, tends to hire graduates of the journalism school, rather than the film school. But they, too, are in high demand. “You have people right out of school, with no experience, getting jobs that pay 40,000 krone ($6,000) a month,” she said.

Besides pushing the film school to increase enrollment, the Danish Film Institute is also collaborating on an initiative that, if it is approved, will require broadcasters and streaming services to pay Danish production companies to cover the costs of including trainees on all their feature films and TV shows, so people new to the industry can learn as they work.

Unlike other European countries, Denmark does not offer tax incentives to production companies. The Danish film and television industry does, however, have idiosyncrasies that serve it well. Professional relationships formed at film school tend to last throughout a producer or director’s career, and a strong subsidy system helps launch new filmmakers. Fluid boundaries between media mean that directors and screenwriters can bring the same degree of artistry to television as they do to film. “Even back in the 1990s,” said Ms. Palmquist of HBO, “it wasn’t shameful for a film director to do television.”

Most important to the success of these Danish exports, industry insiders agreed, is the local talent for storytelling.

“We are very good at telling stories about people and relationships,” said Louise Vesth, a producer of “A Taste of Hunger,” a new Danish film that faced difficulties hiring crew, despite having a prominent director and a starring role for Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who played Jaime Lannister in “Game of Thrones.”

“It goes all the way back to Nordic mythology,” Ms. Vesth said. “We’re very good at telling big stories about small problems.”

The “feeding frenzy,” as Ms. Palmquist described it, has led some to worry that by attempting to meet the demands of a global audience, Danish films and shows will sacrifice the things that made them great in the first place.

A reputation for complex narratives is one of them. So is faithfulness to a sense of place and national character, as seen in the post-apocalyptic but still recognizable Copenhagen of “The Rain,” and in the wry underdog spirit of “Pros and Cons.”

“It’s extremely important to write the story that is based on your own locally-based existence,” said Adam Price, the Danish writer and creator of “Borgen.”

“If you aim for too big an audience,” he said, “you might find yourself with no audience at all.”


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China’s Hard-Liners Win a Round in Trump’s Trade Deal

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BEIJING — President Trump’s initial retreat from his trade-war threats has handed hard-liners in China a victory. A longer, pricklier trade war and stiff Chinese resistance to economic reforms could result.

Mr. Trump on Friday outlined a partial trade deal that deferred new tariffs on $160 billion a year in Chinese-made goods, a move that would have had him taxing virtually everything China sells to the United States. He also agreed for the first time to broadly reduce tariffs he had already imposed on Chinese goods, halving tariffs on more than $100 billion a year worth of products like clothing and lawn mowers — a striking about-face for a protectionist president who last year described himself as a “tariff man.”

The White House called the deal a win. It said China had agreed to buy large quantities of American agricultural goods, giving farmers hit by the trade war some needed relief. It also means the United States economy will not suffer from new tariffs threatened for Sunday on Chinese-made goods that Americans love to buy, like toys and smartphones.

But the deal may be seen by Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, and his hard-line supporters as vindication of the intransigent stance they have taken since the spring, when a previous pact struck by Chinese moderates fell apart. Since then, China has asked that even a partial deal include tariff rollbacks. American officials resisted, debated, then relented.

In essence, a year and a half into the trade war, China seems to have hit on a winning strategy: Stay tough and let the Trump administration negotiate with itself.

“The nationalists, the people urging President Xi Jinping to dig in his heels and not concede much, have carried the day,” said George Magnus, a research associate at Oxford University’s China Center. “I don’t see this as a win for market liberals.”

Friday’s announcement makes it likelier that China will resist any further concessions next year, and perhaps beyond. It seems to affirm the belief, held by many Chinese officials, that Mr. Trump will back off from his trade-war threats if markets tumble, or if his supporters in agricultural states suffer too much.

Even before Friday, Mr. Trump had delayed or canceled tariffs four times this year. Such policy shifts could ultimately encourage Beijing to draw out negotiations even further, to reach the best possible deal.

The effects could ripple beyond trade. Friday’s deal essentially forestalls discussion of curtailing the Chinese government’s support for its homegrown industries, which China hawks within the Trump administration see as posing a direct threat to American businesses.

More broadly, the agreement could further marginalize already weakened Chinese moderates who want Beijing to ease state control over its economy.

Western economists warn that bloated state-owned industries are holding down the Chinese economy and soaking up money and attention that should go to private firms. Beijing’s tighter control could also make it harder for American companies to do business there.

Yet a tougher Chinese stance carries big risks for Mr. Xi. China’s growth has already slowed, in part because of the trade war, and it could sag further as the clash drags on. Significant American tariffs remain in place, keeping pressure on major companies to move their manufacturing in China elsewhere.

“Xi Jinping really needs the trade deal, both for economic reasons — to boost the flagging economy — and to strengthen his own position,” said Willy Lam, a specialist in Beijing politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

But for now, Mr. Xi appears to have a deal in hand that may reassure people in China that the worst of the trade war is over — although some legal details still need to be ironed out, and could prove troublesome. But the broad contours of the agreement are likely to satisfy Communist Party hard-liners who insist that Beijing make no compromises that would limit industrial policies aimed at turning China into a high-tech competitor with the United States.

One state-owned enterprise has erected 110 vast hangars, computerized design studios and other buildings on the outskirts of Shanghai to build commercial aircraft in competition with Boeing. Dozens of Chinese cities are erecting subsidized factories to churn out semiconductors in competition with American giants, as well as with companies in Taiwan and South Korea.

Trump administration trade hawks and American business groups say state-subsidized Chinese companies could wipe out international competitors. They point to the solar panel industry, which boomed in China thanks in part to almost unlimited financing from state-owned banks. Factory closings in the United States and Europe have left China in almost total command of that industry.

But Mr. Xi and his backers argue that China needs those subsidized industries. Mr. Trump’s moves this year to deprive Chinese companies of American-made chips, software and other essential goods of the modern age, after allegations that the companies were linked to human rights violations or intelligence-gathering activities, underscored for many in Beijing that China depends too much on the United States.

The Trump administration had a two-prong strategy for dealing with China’s industrial policy. Its first choice was for China to agree to tight limits on subsidies. The second was to leave steep tariffs in place across a wide range of goods as a kind of informal anti-subsidy measure, offsetting China’s support for its homegrown companies and giving American and other companies room to invest and compete in the United States.

The administration has now stepped back from the first position. And by cutting tariffs at all, the administration has shown a new willingness to retreat — although the products covered by the halving of tariffs on Friday were fairly low tech.

The issue of China’s state subsidies was more prominent in earlier talks. In April, Mr. Xi’s market-oriented team of trade negotiators accepted preliminary compromises in Washington that would have left a lot of tariffs in place and rolled back some Chinese laws that the White House said favored Chinese companies unfairly.

But Mr. Xi sided with hard-liners who demanded that the deal be torn up and renegotiated, because the deal did not include a broad reversal of tariffs that had already been imposed and because it demanded detailed changes in laws that were seen as violations of national sovereignty.

In October, trade negotiators reached another tentative deal without tariff rollbacks, only for hard-liners in Beijing to again demand revisions again and a removal of tariffs.

People close to China’s economic policymaking process say that as the trade talks progressed this past week, the mood among Chinese officials gradually shifted from deeply worried to cautious and finally, by late in the week, jubilant and even incredulous that the hard-liners’ goals had been achieved.

Even the major concession to the United States — China’s agreement to buy more agricultural goods — could enhance the power of the Chinese state. Those purchases would most likely be carried out by state-controlled companies, preserving their indispensable role in Chinese commodities trade.

China hard-liners are not the only ones who benefit from Friday’s deal, of course.

American companies and farmers are likely to find it easier in the coming months to sell everything from semiconductors to soybeans to China, making corporate sales goals and executive bonus targets easier to meet.

Mr. Trump himself may face only limited criticism. The companies likely to be upset about backing away from the issue of Chinese subsidies are based largely in states that vote Democratic, like California’s technology companies. Those businesses may also benefit in the short term from lower tariffs.

Still, the deal on Friday pushes the thorny issue of China’s state support for its industries down the road, most likely complicating relations between the world’s two largest economies for years to come.

“In the long term, the U.S. is going to have to address the practical impact, and not just the political impact, of the industrial imbalance caused by China’s policies,” said Malcolm McNeil, an international trade lawyer at the firm Arent Fox who advises Chinese and American companies.

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The Decade in Retirement: Wealthy Americans Moved Further Ahead

anastasios pallis

Retirement in America has become a tale of two very different realities in the decade now drawing to a close.

In 2010, the economy was just beginning to recover from the worst recession and financial crisis in recent memory. The unemployment rate was high, the stock market was coming back and millions of workers were worried that their retirement plans were ruined.

Since then, a robust economic rebound has put some Americans back on solid footing for retirement, but progress has been uneven. Despite the gains made in employment, wage growth has only recently begun to recover — and remained flat for older workers. Retirement wealth has accumulated almost exclusively among higher-income households, while middle- and lower-income households have only held steady or lost ground, Federal Reserve data shows.

Trends in Social Security and Medicare also are troubling. The value of Social Security benefits — measured by the share of pre-retirement income they replace — is falling, and the cost of Medicare is rising.

For members of the baby boomer and Gen X generations, the odds of success are mixed. The Employee Benefit Research Institute has developed a model that simulates the percentage of households likely to have adequate resources to meet retirement expenses, considering household savings, home equity and income from Social Security and pensions.

The model shows that the highest-income households have seen their odds of a successful retirement improve sharply during this decade, and have very high odds of success. Middle-income households, meanwhile, have seen some gains, but still have only 50-50 odds of success. And the lowest-income households have seen their retirement prospects diminish sharply — among these boomers approaching retirement, their odds of success have fallen during the decade from 26 percent to 11 percent.

“Retirement prospects improved significantly for higher-income workers who were fortunate enough to work for employers that sponsor retirement plans,” says Jack VanDerhei, the organization’s research director.

Let’s consider how the retirement landscape has changed during the decade now ending.

The stock market bottomed out in March 2009 — and it has more than quadrupled since then. Most retirement savers did not abandon equity markets during the crash, says Jean Young, senior research associate with the Vanguard Center for Investor Research. “Some did, but the vast majority stayed the course.”

But the recovery has seen retirement wealth accumulate almost exclusively among affluent households that had access to workplace retirement plans and the means to make contributions. For example, Vanguard reports that the average balance for plan participants with incomes over $150,000 in 2018 was $193,130, compared with just $22,679 for workers with income of $30,000 to $50,000.

Just 52 percent of American households owned retirement accounts in 2016, according to Federal Reserve data, not much changed from 2010, when that figure stood at 50 percent. Racial gaps in account ownership are especially pronounced — 58 percent of white households owned retirement accounts in 2016, compared with just 33.6 percent of black households and 27.8 percent of Latino households.

Federal efforts to expand the availability of retirement accounts foundered during the decade. During the Obama administration, Congress refused to enact a system of mandatory auto-enroll I.R.A.s that President Barack Obama had proposed for workers lacking access to workplace plans; since then, 10 states have enacted similar plans of their own and several have launched.

Among households that had workplace retirement plans, the gains have been substantial. Average account balances jumped 22 percent from 2006 to 2018, according to Vanguard data.

More workers are contributing to plans as a result of widespread adoption by plan sponsors of automatic enrollment features. Equally important has been a major shift toward the use of target date funds, which add a level of professional management by automating asset allocation between equities and fixed income, adjusting the mix as retirement approaches. Last year, 52 percent of participants were using a target date fund, up from 13 percent in 2008, according to Vanguard — a figure the company expects to reach 70 percent in 2023.

Workers who lost their jobs in the recession often lost not only their incomes, but also their health insurance. Older jobless people who were not yet eligible for Medicare were at the mercy of the individual insurance market, where the likelihood of pre-existing conditions meant that they paid much higher premiums — and higher deductibles — if they could find coverage at all.

But the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 changed that, and the number of pre-Medicare older Americans without health insurance has dropped during the decade.

This year, 9.4 percent of adults ages 50 to 64 were uninsured, a decline from 14 percent in 2010, according to the Commonwealth Fund. The decline would have been much greater if 14 states had not rejected the law’s Medicaid expansion, according to Commonwealth — in states that expanded, the rate for this age group has fallen to 6.4 percent.

“People in that age group have much better protection now,” says Sara Collins, vice president for health care coverage and access at Commonwealth. “If they have to leave a job, or elect to leave to do something different as they approach age 60, they can buy a policy in the individual market — that used to be quite risky and often out of reach due to pre-existing conditions.”

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In Medicare, the decade has been marked by sharp increases in enrollment and federal spending — and privatization.

This year, 61 million Americans are enrolled in Medicare, 33 percent more than in 2010. Program spending will be $749 billion, up 47 percent compared with 2010. And an aging population means there are just 2.9 workers contributing to the system for every Medicare enrollee this year, down from 3.4 in 2010, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of Medicare data.

The standard premium for Part B (which covers outpatient services) in 2020 will be $144.60 — 31 percent higher than it was in 2010. And Medicare’s trustees project annual increases of nearly 6 percent over the coming decade.

“The numbers speak to an underlying question and challenge that we have yet to embrace: How will we pay for a growing and aging population?” says Tricia Neuman, director of Kaiser’s program on Medicare policy.

Another striking trend has been the growth of privately offered Medicare Advantage plans, the all-in-one managed care alternative to original fee-for-service Medicare. This year, 34 percent of enrollees are in Medicare Advantage plans, up from 24 percent in 2010, according to Kaiser.

The growth comes despite studies that raise doubts about Advantage plans. For example, a report last year by federal investigators found a pattern of inappropriate denial of patient claims; other studies have questioned their quality of care. And this week, a report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General raised concerns that Advantage plans were overbilling the program by improperly adding conditions to patient records.

“The growing role of private plans — Medicare H.M.O.s and PPOs — stands out as perhaps the most significant change to Medicare over the past decade,” Ms. Neuman said. “This growth has occurred without an explicit policy debate or major change in policy.”

The last decade of work is especially important for any retirement plan — it’s the time when many workers enjoy peak earnings. In some cases, working longer helps people increase Social Security income by claiming benefits later, and by adding to savings.

But the surge in joblessness during the recession damaged the retirement prospects of millions of older Americans — and many have not recovered.

Unemployment for workers age 55 and older soared to a peak of 7.1 percent in the third quarter of 2010 from 3.1 percent in the first quarter of 2007, according to the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at the New School. But a broader measure of unemployment tracked by the center that includes people who were underemployed or had given up looking for jobs peaked at a much higher level: 14.6 percent in the first quarter of 2011.

The economic recovery has pushed those figures down dramatically — unemployment for workers 55 and older was 2.6 percent in the third quarter this year, and the broader unemployment measure that includes discouraged workers stood at 5.5 percent.

Older workers also are having an easier time regaining employment now than during the recession. The typical unemployed person over age 55 needed 21 weeks to find a new job during the third quarter this year — far less than at the peak of the recession, when they needed 35 weeks.

Despite this improvement, median weekly earnings of full-time workers age 55 to 64 have not risen appreciably during the recovery, standing at $872 during the third quarter of 2019, compared with $861 in the third quarter of 2008, adjusted for inflation, according to Census Bureau data.

And for many workers who lost a job in the recession, the damage was permanent, says Teresa Ghilarducci, a labor economist and the center’s director. “People who were 55 or older during the recession have never quite recovered — they are far behind in building up wealth again, and when they did find another job, it probably paid much less than they were earning before the recession.”

For most Americans, homeownership is a crucial part of retirement security. “Retirement accounts are one of the important ways people save for retirement — and the other is paying off the mortgage in retirement,” says Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

But homeownership rates for older Americans have fallen sharply since the recession, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. And an already-substantial racial gap in ownership rates has widened significantly during the economic recovery — for example, ownership rates for black households age 50 to 64 fell to 54 percent in 2018 from 62 percent in 2004.

The ownership trends are worrisome because homeowners can tap the equity in their homes by borrowing against it or by downsizing. Moreover, owners enjoy greater housing security and more predictable housing costs than do renters.

The researchers at Harvard also found that a growing share of older households are carrying mortgage debt, or that they are burdened by their housing costs — which the center defines as paying more than half of income for housing.

“Many of the indicators have not improved since the recession — and in fact many have become more negative,” says Jennifer Molinsky, a senior research associate at the center.

Social Security remains the linchpin of retirement security for most Americans 10 years after the crash — but the value of benefits has fallen during this decade, and will fall further in the years ahead.

That has nothing to do with economic cycles. Changes enacted in 1983 are gradually pushing up the program’s full retirement age — that is, the age when claiming gets you 100 percent of your earned benefit. That age is gradually increasing to 67 for workers born in 1960 or later.

A higher retirement age acts as a benefit cut, since it raises the bar for receiving full benefits. Net benefits are shrinking further because of rising Medicare Part B premiums, which typically are deducted from benefits. What’s more, a rising number of Social Security claimants owe income taxes on at least part of their benefits. The Center for Retirement Research calculates that an average earner retiring at age 65 could expect to replace 37 percent of pre-retirement income in 2010; that dropped to 35 percent in 2018 and will fall to 29 percent in 2035.

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