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Westlake Legal Group > High Net Worth Individuals

Laurene Powell Jobs Is Putting Her Own Dent in the Universe

Before I could interview Laurene Powell Jobs, she wanted to interview me.

It was an unusual request, but not a particularly surprising one coming from Ms. Powell Jobs. Nearly a decade after the death of her husband, the Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, she remains an intensely private person.

When Mr. Jobs was alive, Ms. Powell Jobs stayed out of the public eye. She ran a natural food company, worked on education and immigration reform, and cared for their family. And while Ms. Powell Jobs has in recent years become increasingly ambitious with her business and philanthropy, she keeps a low profile, granting relatively few interviews and eschewing the spotlight. If she was going to agree to a sit-down, she wanted some sense of who would be asking the questions.

So on a cold morning late last year, we settled onto plush couches in the dimly lit drawing room of the Greenwich Hotel in New York, warmed by a raging fireplace. As she sipped green juice, we spoke about climate change, a shared interest in Buddhism and more. That conversation wasn’t on the record. But two months later we settled onto the same couches, by the same fire, and this time my recorder was on.

It soon became clear why Ms. Powell Jobs is careful with her public appearances. In an era of tweets, she speaks in long, discursive paragraphs that weave together personal narrative, politics and her views on social change. She invokes Dante, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Ross Perot without irony. Her ideas are nuanced, and she doesn’t pretend to have easy solutions to complex problems.

Ms. Powell Jobs also believes that, at least in some ways, her husband was misunderstood. The popular interpretation of one of his most popular quotes — “We’re here to put a dent in the universe” — is, she contends, all wrong.

They met in 1989 when Mr. Jobs gave a lecture at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where Ms. Powell Jobs was studying after a stint at Goldman Sachs. They married two years later in Yosemite National Park, hiking in the snow after the ceremony. Mr. Jobs was running NeXT at the time, having resigned from Apple years earlier. Over the next two decades, he returned to Apple, introducing the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad.

As Mr. Jobs was busy upending the personal technology industry, Ms. Powell Jobs founded College Track, which helps underprivileged youths get into college, and Emerson Collective, an umbrella organization for her philanthropic and business interests.

After Mr. Jobs died from cancer, in 2011, she spent several years out of public view. But more recently, Ms. Powell Jobs — the 35th-richest person in the world, worth some $27.5 billion — has begun to exert her influence.

She acquired Pop-Up Magazine and major stakes in the Atlantic magazine and in Monumental Sports, which owns the Washington Wizards and Mystics basketball teams and the Washington Capitals hockey team. She is working with the former education secretary Arne Duncan to reduce gun violence in Chicago. At the Sundance Film Festival this year, a new documentary studio backed by Ms. Powell Jobs made a splash.

It’s a diverse set of concerns, and reflects her belief that issues like poverty, education, personal health and environmental justice are all interconnected.

“When you pull one thread, you get the whole tapestry,” she said. “When you’re working in the social sector, you actually cannot make any lasting forward movement if you’re only focused on one thing.”

Ms. Powell Jobs, 56, is acting with a sense of urgency these days. She believes that President Trump’s statements and policies have unleashed dark forces that are tearing apart the very fabric of society.

“There’s been a significant breakdown in Americans’ ability to speak to one another and to hear one another,” she said. “That’s become much worse in the last three years, where there’s been full license given to the otherization of our neighbor.”

Her conviction has brought Ms. Powell Jobs off the sidelines and into some of the most contentious political fights of the day. A longtime supporter of people brought into the United States as children, known as Dreamers, she bought television ads opposing Mr. Trump’s decision to end a program that gave the group temporary protection from deportation. Last year, she said Mr. Trump’s attacks on the media were “right out of a dictator’s playbook,” and went on to give a speech defending independent journalism.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 26CORNEROFFICE-02-articleLarge Laurene Powell Jobs Is Putting Her Own Dent in the Universe Jobs, Steven P Jobs, Laurene Powell High Net Worth Individuals Emerson Collective Apple Inc

Laurene Powell Jobs has come off the sidelines to enter some of the most contentious political fights of the day.Credit…Craig McDean for The New York Times

As someone attuned to society’s structural inequalities, Ms. Powell Jobs grasps the immensity of her privilege. She is a Silicon Valley billionaire, pushing back against the wealthy occupant of the White House. The very fact that such fortunes exist while others struggle to get by strikes her as unjust.

“It’s not right for individuals to accumulate a massive amount of wealth that’s equivalent to millions and millions of other people combined,” she said. “There’s nothing fair about that.”

And yet Ms. Powell Jobs is hardly apologetic. “I inherited my wealth from my husband, who didn’t care about the accumulation of wealth,” she said. “I am doing this in honor of his work, and I’ve dedicated my life to doing the very best I can to distribute it effectively, in ways that lift up individuals and communities in a sustainable way.

“I’m not interested in legacy wealth buildings, and my children know that,” she added. “Steve wasn’t interested in that. If I live long enough, it ends with me.”

This interview was condensed and edited for clarity.


What was your childhood like?

I grew up in northwestern New Jersey, on a small lake. Behind my house were five miles of watershed property, all wooded with some large boulders. The lake was frozen in the winter, when we ice skated, and was swimmable and navigable by boat. We had a canoe and this little Sunfish, so I learned the basics of sailing.

The physical environment was a huge influence for me. My mother felt very strongly that kids needed to be outside in the fresh air. If I would try to sneak inside and read a book, she would catch me and lock away my books and force me outside. Just being outside and being surrounded by nature was a big, formative part of me.

How did you spend your time when you weren’t outside?

I was an early reader. In the first grade, my teacher brought me to the library, and that was my key to the wonderment of the written word. I took adventures everywhere outside of my little town in New Jersey through books, and it gave me a whole sense of the world and what was going on, and also what was possible for me.

School was a happy place for me. I ended up going to a good college, even though my high school wasn’t particularly outstanding. But there was a library, and everywhere I’ve gone in my life, the library was the place where I felt most happy.

I know your father was a military pilot and died in a plane collision. How did losing him so early affect the family?

My father died the day before his 31st birthday, when I was 3. My mom remarried, so we had a blended family growing up. My stepfather was a high school guidance counselor, and my mother was a substitute teacher for a long time.

It’s quite a world-shaping event when you lose a parent in a tragic accident. All of us, my siblings and I, grew up knowing the impermanence of this existence. And while that’s very difficult for a child to make sense of, it’s the greatest blessing of my life, that I understand the temporal nature of our existence deeply, and the fragility of everything that we witness. To have the gift of the day is a very real and profound thing.

What was your first job?

If we wanted money for anything, we had to earn it. My brothers all had paper routes, and I inherited one of them when I was really young. And then I tried everything that a child can do and get paid for it. On snow days, we’d shovel people’s driveways. I was a babysitter. I was a lifeguard. I was a swim instructor. When I turned 16, I first was a bus girl and then a waitress. And then for college, I had to use every source of revenue I could find: loans, scholarships, work-study and more waitressing.

How did you first get involved with social welfare issues?

When I moved to California from New York, I lived in Palo Alto, which is right next door to East Palo Alto. It was a situation where there was one side of the community that was low income, and it has entirely different human outcomes than the other side of the town that might as well be hundreds of miles away. We know about this kind of dichotomy that exists in American cities, and Palo Alto and East Palo Alto are as divided and separated as any of these.

The air quality in East Palo Alto is worse than anywhere around. The land is poisoned. A lot of the Silicon Valley fabricators have used it as their dumping ground over the years. There’s arsenic in the water table.

I was completely taken with this notion that there were communities two miles away from my house that, by bad design and bad information flows, had no chance. It was a structural deficit, and structural deficits actually need to be restructured. Ross Perot had a saying that went something like “Never forget there is a child on the streets in Calcutta today who’s dying and who was way smarter than you.”

This is your story, but how did Steve influence your thinking on these issues?

I can talk about him for hours. I met Steve when I was 25 years old. And from the day we met, we were together for 22 years. So he influenced everything. I grew up with him. Just like anyone that you share your life with, there’s an exchange and a robustness. We had a very, very beautiful and rich connection. We talked a lot, for hours every day. To pull out any one way in which he affected my worldview is impossible, because I have integrated so much of him.

One profound learning I took from him was that we don’t have to accept the world that we’re born into as something that is fixed and impermeable. When you zoom in, it’s just atoms just like us. And they move all the time. And through energy and force of will and intention and focus, we can actually change it. Move it.

People love to quote him saying, “Put a dent in the universe.” But that’s too flippant. It’s too cavalier. He was thinking of it as “We are able, each of us, to manipulate the circumstances.” I think about it as looking at the design of the structures and systems that govern our society, and changing those structures. Because those structures, when they’re elegantly designed, should be frictionless for people. They shouldn’t require you to make huge course corrections that impede your ability to live a productive and fulfilling life. It took me a while to understand that was truly possible. But that’s at the core of everything we do at Emerson Collective. We all believe that it’s truly possible.



How did College Track, which was very narrowly focused on education, lead to Emerson Collective, which is working on a much broader set of issues?

I came in through the education door, looking at equity and access of quality education. And of course that was connected to immigration and health and well-being, and clean air, water and soil, and access to opportunity, and also other obstacles that are thrown in the way of impoverished communities, like lack of access to financial services and health services. All of that has to be addressed in a holistic way, and that’s why we started building a matrix organization. I wanted our organization to be just as connected as all the issues that we’re working on.

Our very first graduating class of seniors at College Track included students who were undocumented. They only found out when they were applying to college that they didn’t have a Social Security number. They had come when they were toddlers. And then we all realized that means that they had to apply as international students. They couldn’t access any state or federal funding for education, even though they had grown up here. I thought, this is an obvious glitch in our immigration system. It was obviously a federal law that needed to be changed.

It’s been almost 20 years that you’ve been working on legislation for Dreamers, and yet not much has changed.

Students and I collected signatures and wrote a whole petition in 2002. We brought it to Washington, D.C., and Jon Corzine in the Senate and Anna Eshoo in the House brought the petition to the nascent Dream Act legislation. I thought that it would shortly pass and that this wouldn’t be an issue that our amazingly talented, promising students would have to be dealing with, and they still are, 18 painful years later. We have, as a country, failed every single time. We have failed to be generous and generative and smart about including all people in America as active citizens or even active residents. It’s maddening. Really, it hurts to contemplate. But I am resolved to never give up as long as I live.

Sometimes it seems like Americans with different political views can barely talk to one another these days. How do you think about repairing that?

One conversation at a time. And it often starts with our own families. In my own family, there are Trump supporters. I knew I was going to be with them over Christmas, and I actually want to engage, and want to understand and I want to be able to disagree without being disagreeable. I want to be able to find the areas where we can agree.

How did that go?

We’re finding lots of areas of agreement. We can agree on core American values of liberty and dignity and freedom and justice. We can talk about what it means when we’re demonizing people who immigrated from their dysfunctional countries, just like everyone we’re related to did. What does it mean that we want to shut the door on them? Can we examine that in ourselves, that desire to shut the door? It’s not the first time that the demonization of others has been used as a political tactic. And once people remember that, then you can start looking at what Trump is saying a little bit differently.

Something that I find really deeply disturbing is the level of hate speech and hate crimes that are happening in elementary and middle school. And it started three years ago, right away. It’s so painful. Children are listening to things that adults are saying, and it’s given them permission to repeat. We have this in our own nature. We know this. This is no mystery. So giving airtime to the dark side of our nature is a painful, painful moment.

To what extent does the growing backlash against big philanthropy and billionaires inform your work?

I think about it a lot. It’s not right for individuals to accumulate a massive amount of wealth that’s equivalent to millions and millions of other people combined. There’s nothing fair about that. We saw that at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries with the Rockefellers and Carnegies and Mellons and Fords of the world. That kind of accumulation of wealth is dangerous for a society. It shouldn’t be this way.

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One Guaranteed Winner in the Democratic Primary: Plans to Tax the Rich

Westlake Legal Group 22dems-taxes-SUB-facebookJumbo One Guaranteed Winner in the Democratic Primary: Plans to Tax the Rich Warren, Elizabeth United States Politics and Government Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 Payroll Tax Klobuchar, Amy Inheritance and Estate Taxes Income Tax High Net Worth Individuals Health Insurance and Managed Care Federal Taxes (US) Democratic Party Capital Gains Tax Buttigieg, Pete (1982- ) Bloomberg, Michael R Biden, Joseph R Jr

WASHINGTON — The Democratic primary race remains highly unpredictable as Nevada’s caucuses are held on Saturday, but there is one thing we already know for sure about the party’s next presidential nominee: She or he has big plans to tax the very rich.

Every leading candidate in the party’s 2020 field — from relative moderates like Joseph R. Biden Jr., Michael R. Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar to liberals like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — has proposed trillions of dollars in new taxes on businesses and wealthy Americans. In each case, and to wildly varying degrees, the money would fund new government spending in areas like health care, education, housing and climate change, and a range of other programs meant to help the poor and the middle class.

Democratic candidates have long campaigned on higher taxes for the rich, but this year’s set of plans represents a striking escalation from past party nominees. They are a product of what longtime Democratic policy hands describe as a confluence of inequality trends, grass-roots pressure, the severing of some candidates’ ties with the wealthy liberal donor class and a Democratic voter backlash against the 2017 tax cuts signed by President Trump, which delivered their largest benefits to corporations and high earners.

In a campaign where the leading candidates have sparred over electability and progressivity, the Democrats’ tax and spending plans provide one of the most vivid illustrations of how widely their ambitions for the size of government diverge — and how far their party has moved in the last four years toward taxing the small slice of Americans who reap the economy’s largest rewards.

The most modest of the leading Democrats’ proposals, Mr. Biden’s, would raise taxes by more than twice as much as Hillary Clinton proposed in 2016. Mr. Buttigieg and Ms. Klobuchar would raise them by twice as much as Mr. Biden. Ms. Warren would raise taxes by three times as much as Mr. Buttigieg and Ms. Klobuchar. Mr. Sanders has not yet detailed all his proposed tax increases, but to cover his full spending ambitions, he would need to raise even more revenue than Ms. Warren.

Even Mr. Bloomberg, a billionaire himself, would raise taxes on the rich and corporations by an estimated $5 trillion, which is about 50 percent more than Mr. Biden would.

“The ground has shifted for everybody,” said Neera Tanden, the president of the liberal Center for American Progress in Washington and a former top aide to Mrs. Clinton, the last Democratic presidential nominee. “People believe the taxes are too low on the very wealthy. That’s become a cornerstone belief.”

It is also, polls suggest, a popular belief for a populist era. Surveys find large majorities of voters, including a majority of Republicans, favor plans like the so-called wealth taxes proposed by Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders, which would tax the very wealthy on the assets they hold, not just the income they earn. As a candidate, Mr. Trump tapped into those sentiments by sometimes promising to raise taxes on the rich, though his signature 2017 law cut them instead.

The Democrats’ plans this time leave little question that, if they were enacted, taxes would rise for millionaires and billionaires. Even some other high-earning taxpayers — those earning more than $250,000 a year in many cases, though the thresholds vary by candidate — would see significant tax increases. Most of the candidates would make those households pay additional payroll taxes, in order to fund an expansion of Social Security benefits. In some cases those households would see their income taxes rise, too.

In the 2020 race, Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders have made a point of not courting millionaires and billionaires to help finance their campaigns. Instead of holding private fund-raisers with wealthy donors, both candidates are relying on small-dollar donations raised from a vast group of supporters. Some Democrats say that decision has emboldened those candidates to propose taxing the rich more heavily than past party nominees would have.

“We are in a very different place, where the kind of fund-raisers that every politician is used to doing are now flash points for criticism,” said Heather McGhee, a distinguished senior fellow at the liberal group Demos Action, who advised Mrs. Clinton in 2016 and has endorsed Ms. Warren this cycle. “And that’s a great thing. But it’s a huge change. And I think it has shifted the policy conversation.”

The Democratic candidates have put forward their plans to spend trillions of dollars on new social programs at a time when the federal budget deficit is expected to exceed $1 trillion this year — having risen sharply under Mr. Trump, in large part because of his tax cuts.

Studies by the Penn Wharton Budget Model at the University of Pennsylvania have found that the tax proposals from Mr. Biden, Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren would most likely fall hundreds of billions — or even upward of $1 trillion — short of what the campaigns claim they will raise over the course of a decade.

Some economists question whether it is possible for Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders, in particular, to raise the tens of trillions of dollars their spending programs would require largely through taxing corporations and the very rich. Those economists say it will be easier for the wealthy to avoid taxes, and harder for the government to assess and collect those taxes, than the candidates’ estimates suggest.

“We are living in a world where basically everything is unknown” about how much money it is possible to raise from the very wealthy, said Natasha Sarin, an economist and professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s law school, who has critiqued Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders’s plans as being overly optimistic. “We don’t know how much wealth the top has. We have some guess about what kind of avoidance we’re going to see.”

“I just think it’s important to be somewhat humble in the face of all these unknowns,” she said.

In many areas, the leading candidates’ tax plans overlap or even mirror one another. They all would raise income taxes on high earners, raise taxes on capital income like the sale of stocks and bonds and raise the corporate income tax rate. Where they disagree is on which specific new taxes to pursue — and just how much money to attempt to raise.

Mr. Sanders’s policy agenda is by far the most expensive of the leading candidates, though estimates vary. The cost of his policy plans on just a handful of topics — health care, higher education, housing and climate change — could exceed $50 trillion over 10 years. By contrast, the federal government is currently projected to spend roughly $60 trillion over the next decade.

A huge chunk of that spending would go toward “Medicare for all,” the single-payer health insurance system he has championed. A single-payer system would require $34 trillion in additional federal spending over a decade, according to the Urban Institute.

Mr. Sanders has declined to specify how he would pay for it, though he released a list of financing options last year, including a 4 percent “income-based premium” that employees would pay.

He has also proposed an annual tax on household wealth that would apply to married couples worth over $32 million, a proposal that would raise an estimated $4.35 trillion over a decade.

Mr. Sanders has made clear he would significantly increase income taxes on the wealthiest Americans. In his 2016 presidential campaign, he called for a 52 percent top marginal income tax rate. He would also expand the estate tax and increase Social Security taxes on high earners.

Ms. Warren’s signature “two cents” wealth tax proposal would kick in on net worth over $50 million and would raise an estimated $3.5 trillion over a decade. The tax would increase to six cents on the dollar for net worth over $1 billion.

Ms. Warren would raise taxes on wealthy people in several other ways. She wants to reverse Mr. Trump’s tax cuts for high earners, which lowered the top personal income tax rate to 37 percent, from 39.6 percent. She would also revamp the estate tax, and she would increase taxes on capital gains for the top 1 percent of households. In addition, she would increase Social Security payroll taxes on high earners and create a new Social Security tax on their investment income.

In addition to a Medicare for all program that would require an estimated $20.5 trillion in new federal spending over 10 years, Ms. Warren’s proposals include a sweeping set of new programs addressing areas like Social Security, climate change, higher education, K-12 schools and housing. Taken together, those proposals and her Medicare for all plan have an estimated 10-year price tag of more than $30 trillion.

Several other leading Democratic candidates have smaller aspirations for taxing the rich. But they still want to do so.

Mr. Bloomberg offered plans this month to raise taxes on the rich and corporations by what his campaign estimated would be $5 trillion over 10 years. He would do so by raising taxes on capital gains, labor income, inherited wealth and other income streams, all limited to high-earning Americans. Under Mr. Bloomberg’s plan, the top income tax rate would be 39.6 percent, with an additional 5 percent surcharge for incomes above $5 million.

Mr. Buttigieg would also set the top income tax rate at 39.6 percent. He would increase Social Security taxes and capital gains taxation for high earners, and he would expand the estate tax.

The Buttigieg campaign says the new spending it has proposed — on areas like health care, climate change and child care — adds up to more than $7 trillion over a decade. His health care plan, which would create a public health insurance plan that people could buy into, would cost $1.5 trillion, according to his campaign.

Mr. Biden would also raise the top income tax rate to 39.6 percent. He would tax capital gains as ordinary income for taxpayers with over $1 million in income, and he would cap the value of tax breaks for high earners.

Three of Mr. Biden’s major plans — on climate, health care and higher education — add up to $3.2 trillion. By itself, his health care plan, which like Mr. Buttigieg’s would offer a government plan that consumers could buy into, has a price tag of $750 billion, according to the Biden team.

Ms. Klobuchar would also raise income taxes on high earners, and she would impose a top rate of 44.6 percent for those earning above $500,000. She would also increase Social Security taxes and capital gains taxes for high earners, and expand the estate tax.

Over all, she has proposed about $7 trillion in new taxes, with roughly $5 trillion coming from the rich and corporations, and the rest from a plan to tax carbon emissions.

Jim Tankersley reported from Washington, and Thomas Kaplan from Reno, Nev.

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The Liberal Economists Behind the Wealth Tax Debate

Westlake Legal Group 21DC-WEALTHTAX-01-facebookJumbo The Liberal Economists Behind the Wealth Tax Debate United States Economy Presidential Election of 2020 Income Tax Income Inequality Income High Net Worth Individuals Federal Taxes (US) Affordable Housing

BERKELEY, Calif. — One of the most liberal policy proposals animating the Democratic presidential primaries is the handiwork of two French economists who are not formally advising any campaign and have barely met the candidates running for the White House.

Gabriel Zucman and Emmanuel Saez are the driving force behind proposals for a wealth tax, an idea embraced by Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as a way to reduce economic inequality by forcing the richest Americans to pay taxes on everything they own and diverting that money to public services like universal health care and free college tuition.

Their efforts documenting a sharp increase in the concentration of wealth at the very top and their outspokenness have vaulted the tax from a fringe idea in American politics to the center of a reinvigorated debate on taxing the rich.

They have also made Mr. Zucman and Mr. Saez the most visible, and polarizing, economists in the 2020 campaign.

Other economists, including some who held top jobs under past Democratic presidents, have attacked Mr. Zucman and Mr. Saez over their research methods, their policy conclusions and their data. Conservative economists say their proposals would cripple economic growth.

Last year, the faculty at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government voted to offer Mr. Zucman, 33, a tenured position. But Harvard’s president and provost nixed the offer, partly over fears that Mr. Zucman’s research could not support the arguments he was making in the political arena, according to people involved in the process. He has since been awarded tenure alongside Mr. Saez, 47, at the University of California, Berkeley.

The pair have won praise from some liberal activists. Felicia Wong, the president of the Roosevelt Institute, a progressive think tank, said Mr. Saez and Mr. Zucman had helped bring large tax increases on the rich into the mainstream, winning support even from Democratic candidates who do not support their wealth tax.

“It’s a very different debate,” Ms. Wong said, “and now we’re having it on Saez and Zucman’s terms.”

The effect was evident in the Democratic presidential debate on Wednesday in Las Vegas. Over two hours that included few concrete economic policy proposals, Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders both promoted their wealth-tax plans. Mr. Sanders leaned on Mr. Zucman and Mr. Saez’s data to denounce “the insane situation that billionaires today, if you can believe it, have an effective tax rate lower than the middle class.”

Late last month, Mr. Zucman and Mr. Saez discussed their work from their university offices in Berkeley, with billion-dollar views of the San Francisco financial district in the background.

They acknowledged their critics and the uncertainties involved in their research, which attempts to assemble a picture of America’s wealth distribution that is essentially invisible in standard economic data. But they defended their methods and conclusions, and said they were not surprised that the wealth tax, which polling shows is popular even with a majority of Republicans, had captured the imagination of candidates and voters.

“Clearly it’s been central to the campaign,” Mr. Zucman said, citing voter dissatisfaction with the levels of inequality in America.

But he added: “Let me be very clear that the wealth tax is not going to solve all these problems. It’s part of the solution.”

Both Mr. Saez and Mr. Zucman have built their careers studying the rise of inequality and its intersections with tax policy. In 2009, Mr. Saez won the John Bates Clark Medal for leading what the American Economic Association called “a remarkable resurgence of interest in tax policy research over the last decade.”

Mr. Zucman began his doctoral studies in economics that year. The son of two doctors in Paris, he wrote his master’s thesis on the effects of France’s wealth tax on the migration of high earners and spent the fall of 2008 interning at a Parisian financial firm. Lehman Brothers, the investment bank, collapsed on his first day, and he found himself explaining the macroeconomic dynamics of a financial crisis to panicked traders. It helped inspire him to pursue a doctorate in economics.

Mr. Zucman eventually made his way to Berkeley, where he teamed up with Mr. Saez, who, along with another French economist, Thomas Piketty, was producing pioneering research that documented the rising share of income earned by the very richest Americans in recent decades. Mr. Saez and Mr. Zucman, building on that data, showed that wealth had grown more concentrated as well.

In their book published last fall, the pair estimated that the top tenth of 1 percent of Americans — fewer than 250,000 adults, with an average wealth of about $70 million each — held 19.3 percent of all wealth in 2018. That was triple their share from four decades earlier.

That statistic has helped galvanize the left, prompting lawmakers and other Democrats to call for a complete overhaul of how America thinks about taxation. Every major Democratic presidential candidate has proposed trillions of dollars in tax increases on the rich and corporations to pay for government programs to help reduce inequality, like affordable housing, debt-free college and universal health coverage.

“In terms of Democratic thinking, it’s been enormously influential, both in highlighting the issue of inequality — particularly how concentrated it is at the very top — and the way the tax system has been inadequate in combating that increase in inequality,” said Jason Furman, a Harvard economist who was a chairman of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Four years ago, Mr. Saez and Mr. Zucman pitched the leading Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton and Mr. Sanders, on their wealth tax proposal, but both campaigns passed.

This cycle has been different. Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren have both proposed wealth taxes. A third leading candidate, Pete Buttigieg, has said America “should consider” a wealth tax, though he has criticized Ms. Warren’s. Michael R. Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York, this month proposed raising taxes on the richest Americans but stopped short of endorsing a wealth tax.

“They are the experts on wealth and income inequality in America,” said Warren Gunnels, a senior adviser to Mr. Sanders’s campaign. “Those that disagree with Saez and Zucman,” he added, “are the types of groups and academics that are funded by the powers that be, the establishment, the billionaire class.”

Mr. Sanders is counting on the wealth tax to raise more than $4 trillion over a decade, which he would spend on universal child care, affordable housing and part of the financing for his “Medicare for all” plan. Ms. Warren sees it supplying $2.75 trillion for education and child care and $1 trillion for Medicare for all.

Mr. Saez and Mr. Zucman produced those revenue estimates. Leading economists have challenged them, most notably Harvard’s Lawrence Summers, a former chairman of Mr. Obama’s National Economic Council, and Natasha Sarin, a University of Pennsylvania law school professor, who calculated that the tax would raise less than half that amount.

The debate has turned ugly on Twitter, a development that Mr. Zucman has embraced. He engages in prolonged back-and-forth debates with his critics, defending his views with charts, data, emojis and sarcasm.

In December, he dismissed Mr. Summers and Ms. Sarin’s revenue estimates as “unserious.” A month earlier, when The New York Times and other outlets reported that Mr. Bloomberg was prepared to spend as much as $1 billion on his presidential campaign, Mr. Zucman feigned surprise: “This is astonishing, because what I learned from Larry Summers and others is there’s no evidence that the wealthy have a lot of influence on US politics. Very confused right now.”

Mr. Zucman seems to regard social media as a necessary but unfortunate venue for advocacy. Asked in an interview if he enjoyed Twitter, he let out a long sigh. “Who does?” he said. As for losing out on the opportunity at Harvard, he said it was appropriate for social scientists to contribute to policy debates and said Harvard’s decision “should not discourage young scholars in the U.S. to publicly defend new ideas.”

Mr. Zucman dives into long back-and-forth debates with critics on Twitter.Credit…Ian C. Bates for The New York Times

He seemed disappointed in Mr. Summers, whom he regards as a brilliant economist who has strayed into a subfield where Mr. Zucman claims more expertise. Mr. Summers regards Mr. Zucman as highly talented, and was among the economists who argued strongly in favor of his hiring at Harvard.

“These things get sorted out over time,” Mr. Summers said in an interview, after praising Mr. Zucman and Mr. Saez for pushing the debate on inequality. “Most serious professionals in the tax policy area think that the polemical urge at some points has gotten the better of Gabriel and Emmanuel, especially when Gabriel starts to tweet.”

Other economists have challenged the details of Mr. Zucman and Mr. Saez’s wealth inequality calculations. They have engaged in a debate with the economists Matthew Smith, Eric Zwick and Owen Zidar, whose work shows a much smaller concentration of wealth among top earners. The competing study implies there is less for the government to gain by taxing the very wealthy.

And while candidates like Mr. Sanders support raising taxes on the wealthy by citing Mr. Zucman and Mr. Saez’s claim that the rich pay lower effective tax rates than poor and middle-class Americans, many liberal economists say the claim is wrong since the calculations do not include some tax benefits for the poor, like the earned-income tax credit.

“Leaving them out seems both analytically and politically mistaken,” said Jared Bernstein, a former top economist for Mr. Obama who counts himself a fan of Mr. Zucman and Mr. Saez.

Some economists have long been critical of Mr. Saez and Mr. Zucman’s work, including Wojciech Kopczuk, a Columbia University economist who published a rebuttal to the pair’s wealth data in 2015. But their rising public profile has brought more scrutiny. Mr. Kopczuk argues that, compared with their earlier work, the Berkeley economists’ recent book made more aggressive — and he believes incorrect — assumptions.

“That’s when you can say without any doubt they crossed from academic research to advocacy,” Mr. Kopczuk said. “It’s liberating when you don’t have to deal with reviewers.”

Mr. Saez and Mr. Zucman defend their methods as “conservative” estimates and note that the imposition of an American wealth tax would provide much more transparent evidence on wealth concentration.

“If we have the wealth tax data, we will see who is right,” Mr. Saez said. “If we’re wrong, fine. If it turns out there is no wealth concentration in the United States, we don’t need a wealth tax.”

Jim Tankersley reported from Berkeley, and Ben Casselman from New York.

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Jeff Bezos Buying $165 Million Estate, a California Record

Westlake Legal Group merlin_168888906_401808ea-4b6a-4113-9d3c-7468ee5c4969-facebookJumbo Jeff Bezos Buying $165 Million Estate, a California Record Warner, Jack (1892-1978) Real Estate and Housing (Residential) Los Angeles (Calif) High Net Worth Individuals Geffen, David Bezos, Jeffrey P Beverly Hills (Calif)

The national housing market has cooled, but in Los Angeles the ultrarich are still shattering price records. An heiress to the Formula One racing empire sold her home for $119.75 million last July. In December, Lachlan Murdoch paid $150 million for a home in Bel Air.

The latest buyer at the top: Jeff Bezos, the Amazon chief and world’s richest person.

Setting a new high for a home sold in California, Mr. Bezos is paying $165 million for a Beverly Hills estate owned by David Geffen, the media mogul and co-founder of DreamWorks, according to two people familiar with the purchase.

That wasn’t all. In a separate transaction, Bezos Expeditions, which oversees The Washington Post and Mr. Bezos’ charitable foundation, is buying 120 undeveloped acres in Beverly Hills for $90 million, the two people said. The land was put on the market for $150 million in 2018 by the estate of Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder, who died that year. Most recently, the asking price was $110 million.

Both deals are in the contract stage and not yet final.

The superrich are spending huge amounts for some of California’s premier properties. Mr. Murdoch, chief executive of the Fox Corporation, bought Chartwell, which TV viewers of a certain age may remember as the Clampetts’ home in “The Beverly Hillbillies.” Petra Ecclestone, whose father, Bernie Ecclestone, ran Formula One for more than 40 years, sold the Manor. The television producer Aaron Spelling had built the mansion, in the city’s Holmby Hills neighborhood, in 1988.

For Mr. Bezos, it was the Warner Estate, which was designed in the 1930s for Jack Warner, the president of the Warner Bros. film studio. The roughly 13,000-square-foot home is considered one of the premier mansions built during Hollywood’s golden era.

It wasn’t the first home Warner built on the nine-acre property. When he married his second wife, Ann, she demanded that he tear down the first home and replace it with a new one, according to “The Legendary Estates of Beverly Hills,” by Jeffrey Hyland, a longtime luxury real estate agent in Los Angeles.

Warner spent over a decade building the mansion and, unlike other movie moguls of the era, didn’t give it a fancy name to emulate European aristocracy. He simply named it after himself. The Georgian Revival-style estate was designed for hosting the Warners’ elaborate parties, with guests like Albert Einstein and Howard Hughes.

The property also included a nine-hole golf course, which Mr. Geffen removed when he renovated the grounds, Mr. Hyland said in an interview. A home next door also had a nine-hole course, allowing the Warners and their neighbors to play 18 holes right in the middle of Beverly Hills.

“The property is magnificent,” said David Parnes of the Agency, a luxury real estate brokerage in Beverly Hills, who wasn’t involved in the Warner Estate deal. “It’s the land. It’s the history. It’s the whole experience.”

Warner died in 1978, but Ann Warner kept the estate largely intact and lived there until 1990, when Mr. Geffen paid $47.5 million for it — a record at the time for a Los Angeles-area home. Mr. Geffen recently bought a $30 million lot in the Trousdale Estates section of Beverly Hills, where he plans to build a new house, according to a source familiar with that deal.

The Warner estate never officially hit the market, but one of the people familiar with the deal said it had been shopped around quietly for $225 million. The Warner Estate, whose sale to Mr. Bezos was reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal, stands out from the speculatively built glass-box homes that have flooded the local market. Listed in the $100 million-plus range, they have often taken years to sell or required steep price cuts.

“Everybody today would like to see classical architecture,” Mr. Hyland said. “They want substance. They want acreage.” He said he and his business partner, Rick Hilton, had the most expensive current listing in the area, the $225 million Conrad Hilton estate, which is on eight and a half acres in Bel Air.

Stephen Shapiro, an agent with the Westside Estate Agency in Beverly Hills, said that the Bezos purchase was likely to boost confidence in the market but that too many homes were still being built on speculation.

“The spec houses being built are equivalent to too many condos being built in New York,” he said. The houses fetching record prices “are one-of-a-kind, bespoke houses.”

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A Wall St. Giant Says Sanders Would ‘Ruin’ the Economy

Westlake Legal Group 12blankfein-1-facebookJumbo A Wall St. Giant Says Sanders Would ‘Ruin’ the Economy Warren, Elizabeth Sanders, Bernard Primaries and Caucuses Presidential Election of 2020 New Hampshire High Net Worth Individuals Goldman Sachs Group Inc Democratic Party Blankfein, Lloyd C

Bernie Sanders has proposed a wealth tax on the richest Americans, criticized big businesses for turning huge profits while paying little in taxes and said he believed billionaires should not exist.

His win in Tuesday’s Democratic primary in New Hampshire has made plausible what Wall Street has for months considered a worst-case scenario: the inauguration of President Sanders.

An avowed socialist whose plans include disemboweling the private health care system and cracking down on lending and other banking activities, Mr. Sanders is considered by many traders, investors and bankers to be the only candidate less desirable than the widely loathed Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Late Tuesday, as Mr. Sanders was pulling out a close win in New Hampshire, Lloyd Blankfein, the former Goldman Sachs chief executive, wrote on Twitter that the Vermont senator would “ruin our economy” if elected president.

He succinctly summed up Wall Street’s feelings, calling Mr. Sanders just as polarizing as President Trump, while being worse for the country. “If I’m Russian, I go with Sanders this time around,” he wrote.

The post quickly attracted thousands of comments from Mr. Sanders’s supporters — some of whom invoked Goldman’s position at the center of the 2008 financial crisis.

“This is what panic from the Wall Street elite looks and sounds like,” Faiz Shakir, Mr. Sanders’s campaign manager, responded in a tweet on Wednesday morning.

Mr. Blankfein, who once said that he was looking forward to “unrestrained tweeting” in retirement, did not respond to messages seeking comment on Tuesday. But his tweet — his latest tussle with a progressive candidate from his own party — was read by many as a direct manifestation of big money’s growing unease with the self-described democratic socialist.

Others on Wednesday brushed off Mr. Sanders’s victory, saying he would be an untenable nominee in a race against Mr. Trump, one that could make people do the unthinkable: vote to re-elect the president.

Mike Novogratz, a Goldman Sachs alumnus who runs the merchant bank Galaxy Digital, said Mr. Sanders’s oppositional nature had prompted “too many friends” to say they would vote against him in November. “And they hate Trump,” he said.

Mr. Sanders’s narrow victory in New Hampshire has helped position him as the candidate with the most enthusiasm from the party’s most liberal wing. Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., who finished just behind him, and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who surged to third, split the centrist vote on Tuesday.

Mr. Sanders’s surge has come at the expense of Ms. Warren, who some on Wall Street have warmed to. Ms. Warren, a self-described capitalist who says she wants to work within the system to affect change, appears to many to be more malleable: In recent months, she has already walked back aspects of her “Medicare for all” plan, a universal health care initiative similar to Mr. Sanders’s. She also has a history as a onetime Republican who wrote scholarly research on bankruptcy law as a professor and adviser to big corporate clients.

But either candidate would represent a stark reversal from Mr. Trump’s economic agenda, which has been centered on cutting taxes and rolling back regulations. Perhaps as a result of that, their campaign contributions from finance-industry workers have fallen well short of more moderate peers, like Mr. Buttigieg and Ms. Klobuchar, according to year-end figures collected by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Last year, Mr. Sanders proposed the creation of a wealth tax on the richest Americans to help pay for his own “Medicare for all” health program, universal child care and an overhaul to the housing market that would include big subsidies for first-time home buyers. The proposed tax on the assets of households with a net worth above $32 million — about 180,000 households in total — is projected to raise $4.35 trillion over a decade.

He pairs those proposals with a combative tone.

Frustrated over what he views as an “outrageous” degree of inequality in the United States, Mr. Sanders has said billionaires should no longer exist here. And a recent Sanders campaign ad took particular aim at Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, calling him “the biggest corporate socialist in America today,” an overpaid executive who embraces a brand of socialism “that has eroded our society.”

Vin Ryan, founder of the venture-capital firm Schooner Capital and a supporter of Ms. Warren’s, said he believed Mr. Sanders’s unrelenting approach would hurt his chances against Mr. Trump.

“Bernie Sanders, I think, is a lightning rod,” Mr. Ryan said. “And he’s going to be killed with the socialism by the Republicans.”

As much as many independent voters don’t like Mr. Trump, he said, they could be motivated to vote for him anyway by “pocketbook issues” and the relatively healthy economy that has marked his first term.

That has some in finance expecting that a general election involving Mr. Sanders would result in the president’s largely pro-business policies extending for four more years.

“The lack of any stock market reaction to Sanders’s surge suggests that investors either still don’t believe he can win the Democratic nomination against the more centrist candidates or, alternatively, that Sanders will win the nomination but, in doing so, his lack of appeal to independents makes it even more likely that Trump will be re-elected,” Andrew Hunter, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note to clients.

That could change, however, if Mr. Sanders shows signs of having a broader appeal as the primary season continues.

“If Sanders is the Democratic nominee and polls show a reasonable chance of him winning the election, then we expect a sharp market sell-off, especially for financials,” said Brian Gardner, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. “Part of the reason is that investors have discounted Senator Sanders’s chances. At some point investors might reassess this scenario and it is not, in our view, priced into the market.”

Mr. Blankfein, who left the top job at Goldman Sachs in 2018 after a 12-year tenure, has sparred with Mr. Sanders before, including over corporate stock buybacks, which Mr. Sanders wanted to limit.

The antagonism goes back years: In 2012, Mr. Sanders targeted Mr. Blankfein in a speech from the Senate floor, labeling him the “face of class warfare” for supporting cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Mr. Blankfein, a registered Democrat, supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election and has donated to Republicans in the past. At a CNN conference in October, he said he did not see himself reflected in the current party.

But as unloved as Mr. Sanders currently is in the finance industry, not everyone agreed with everything the former Goldman boss had to say.

Mr. Ryan, the Schooner Capital founder, said he didn’t think Mr. Blankfein’s suggestion of Russian favoritism — tongue-in-cheek as it was — invoked the right issue.

That notion is “nuts,” Mr. Ryan said.

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A Wall St. Giant Greets Sanders Victory With Venom

Westlake Legal Group 12blankfein-1-facebookJumbo A Wall St. Giant Greets Sanders Victory With Venom Warren, Elizabeth Sanders, Bernard Primaries and Caucuses Presidential Election of 2020 New Hampshire High Net Worth Individuals Goldman Sachs Group Inc Democratic Party Blankfein, Lloyd C

Bernie Sanders has proposed a wealth tax on the richest Americans, criticized big businesses for turning huge profits while paying little in taxes and said he believed billionaires should not exist.

His win in Tuesday’s Democratic primary in New Hampshire has made plausible what Wall Street has for months considered a worst-case scenario: the inauguration of President Sanders.

An avowed socialist whose plans include disemboweling the private health care system and cracking down on lending and other banking activities, Mr. Sanders is considered by many traders, investors and bankers to be the only candidate less desirable than the widely loathed Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Late Tuesday, as Mr. Sanders was pulling out a close win in New Hampshire, Lloyd Blankfein, the former Goldman Sachs chief executive, wrote on Twitter that the Vermont senator would “ruin our economy” if elected president.

He succinctly summed up Wall Street’s feelings, calling Mr. Sanders just as polarizing as President Trump, while being worse for the country. “If I’m Russian, I go with Sanders this time around,” he wrote.

The post quickly attracted thousands of comments from Mr. Sanders’s supporters — some of whom invoked Goldman’s position at the center of the 2008 financial crisis.

“This is what panic from the Wall Street elite looks and sounds like,” Faiz Shakir, Mr. Sanders’s campaign manager, responded in a tweet on Wednesday morning.

Mr. Blankfein, who once said that he was looking forward to “unrestrained tweeting” in retirement, did not respond to messages seeking comment on Tuesday. But his tweet — his latest tussle with a progressive candidate from his own party — was read by many as a direct manifestation of big money’s growing unease with the self-described democratic socialist.

Others on Wednesday brushed off Mr. Sanders’ victory, saying he would be an untenable nominee in a race against Mr. Trump, one that could make people do the unthinkable: vote to re-elect the president.

Mike Novogratz, a Goldman Sachs alumnus who runs the merchant bank Galaxy Digital, said Mr. Sanders’s oppositional nature had prompted “too many friends” to say they would vote against him in November. “And they hate Trump,” he said.

Mr. Sanders’s narrow victory in New Hampshire has helped position him as the candidate with the most enthusiasm from the party’s most liberal wing. Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., who finished just behind him, and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who surged to third, split the centrist vote on Tuesday.

Mr. Sanders’s surge has come at the expense of Ms. Warren, who some on Wall Street have warmed to. Ms. Warren, a self-described capitalist who says she wants to work within the system to affect change, appears to many to be more malleable: In recent months, she has already walked back aspects of her “Medicare for all” plan, a universal health care initiative similar to Mr. Sanders’s. She also has a history as a onetime Republican who wrote scholarly research on bankruptcy law as a professor and adviser to big corporate clients.

But either candidate would represent a stark reversal from Mr. Trump’s economic agenda, which has been centered on cutting taxes and rolling back regulations. Perhaps as a result of that, their campaign contributions from finance-industry workers have fallen well short of more moderate peers, like Mr. Buttigieg and Ms. Klobuchar, according to year-end figures collected by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Last year, Mr. Sanders proposed the creation of a wealth tax on the richest Americans to help pay for his own “Medicare for all” health program, universal child care and an overhaul to the housing market that would include big subsidies for first-time home buyers. The proposed tax on the assets of households with a net worth above $32 million — about 180,000 households in total — is projected to raise $4.35 trillion over a decade.

He pairs those proposals with a combative tone.

Frustrated over what he views as an “outrageous” degree of inequality in the United States, Mr. Sanders has said billionaires should no longer exist here. And a recent Sanders campaign ad took particular aim at Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, calling him “the biggest corporate socialist in America today,” an overpaid executive who embraces a brand of socialism “that has eroded our society.”

Vin Ryan, founder of the venture-capital firm Schooner Capital and a supporter of Ms. Warren’s, said he believed Mr. Sanders’s unrelenting approach would hurt his chances against Mr. Trump.

“Bernie Sanders, I think, is a lightning rod,” Mr. Ryan said. “And he’s going to be killed with the socialism by the Republicans.”

As much as many independent voters don’t like Mr. Trump, he said, they could be motivated to vote for him anyway by “pocketbook issues” and the relatively healthy economy that has marked his first term.

That has some in finance expecting that a general election involving Mr. Sanders would result in the president’s largely pro-business policies extending for four more years.

“The lack of any stock market reaction to Sanders’s surge suggests that investors either still don’t believe he can win the Democratic nomination against the more centrist candidates or, alternatively, that Sanders will win the nomination but, in doing so, his lack of appeal to independents makes it even more likely that Trump will be re-elected,” Andrew Hunter, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note to clients.

That could change, however, if Mr. Sanders shows signs of having a broader appeal as the primary season continues.

“If Sanders is the Democratic nominee and polls show a reasonable chance of him winning the election, then we expect a sharp market sell-off, especially for financials,” said Brian Gardner, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. “Part of the reason is that investors have discounted Senator Sanders’s chances. At some point investors might reassess this scenario and it is not, in our view, priced into the market.”

Mr. Blankfein, who left the top job at Goldman Sachs in 2018 after a 12-year tenure, has sparred with Mr. Sanders before, including over corporate stock buybacks, which Mr. Sanders wanted to limit.

The antagonism goes back years: In 2012, Mr. Sanders targeted Mr. Blankfein in a speech from the Senate floor, labeling him the “face of class warfare” for supporting cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Mr. Blankfein, a registered Democrat, supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election and has donated to Republicans in the past. At a CNN conference in October, he said he did not see himself reflected in the current party.

But as unloved as Mr. Sanders currently is in the finance industry, not everyone agreed with everything the former Goldman boss had to say.

Mr. Ryan, the Schooner Capital founder, said he didn’t think Mr. Blankfein’s suggestion of Russian favoritism — tongue-in-cheek as it was — invoked the right issue.

That notion is “nuts,” Mr. Ryan said.

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Bernie Sanders Would ‘Ruin Our Economy,’ Says Ex-Goldman Sachs Boss

Westlake Legal Group 12blankfein-1-facebookJumbo Bernie Sanders Would ‘Ruin Our Economy,’ Says Ex-Goldman Sachs Boss Warren, Elizabeth Sanders, Bernard Primaries and Caucuses Presidential Election of 2020 New Hampshire High Net Worth Individuals Goldman Sachs Group Inc Democratic Party Blankfein, Lloyd C

Bernie Sanders has proposed a wealth tax on the richest Americans, blasted big businesses for turning huge profits while paying little in taxes and said he believed billionaires should not exist.

After his win in Tuesday’s Democratic primary in New Hampshire solidified Mr. Sanders’ status as a contender for the nomination, one Wall Street billionaire fired back.

Lloyd Blankfein, the former Goldman Sachs chief executive, took aim at Mr. Sanders on Twitter, saying the Vermont senator would “ruin our economy” if elected president.

He added that Mr. Sanders did not care about the military and was just as polarizing as President Trump.

“If I’m Russian, I go with Sanders this time around,” he wrote, referencing that country’s efforts to support Mr. Trump in 2016.

The post quickly attracted thousands of comments from Mr. Sanders’s supporters — some of whom invoked Goldman’s position at the center of the 2008 financial crisis.

“This is what panic from the Wall Street elite looks and sounds like,” Faiz Shakir, Mr. Sanders’s campaign manager, responded in a tweet on Wednesday morning.

Mr. Blankfein’s comments reflect the growing unease among corporate players and investors about the likely Democratic contenders for the presidential nomination. The narrow victory in New Hampshire has helped position Mr. Sanders as a front-runner with the most enthusiasm on the party’s most liberal wing. Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., was second and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota surged to third, with those two candidates splitting the centrist vote.

Mr. Sanders’ performance through the first two primary contests has pushed him ahead of Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in the race to grab voters looking to shake up the status quo.

Both candidates have been watched warily by Wall Street for months because they would represent a stark reversal from President Trump’s economic agenda, which has been centered on cutting taxes and rolling back regulations.

Last year, Mr. Sanders proposed the creation of a wealth tax on the richest Americans to help pay for his “Medicare for all” health program, universal child care and an overhaul to the housing market that would include big subsidies for first-time home buyers.

Mr. Sanders, when asked if billionaires should exist in the United States, said, “I hope the day comes when they don’t.”

Mr. Blankfein, a former investment banker who left the top job at Goldman Sachs in 2018 after a 12-year tenure, has not let the attacks on corporate America go unnoticed and has tussled online with both Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren.

In November, Mr. Blankfein took aim at Ms. Warren after being featured in one of her campaign ads, saying “vilification of people as a member of a group may be good for her campaign, not for the country.” In February 2019, Mr. Sanders and Mr. Blankfein sparred on Twitter over corporate stock buybacks, which Mr. Sanders wanted to limit.

The antagonism between Mr. Blankfein and Mr. Sanders goes back years. In 2012, Mr. Sanders targeted the then-chief of Goldman Sachs in a speech from the Senate floor, labeling him the “face of class warfare” for supporting cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Other business chiefs have weighed in. Leon Cooperman, the billionaire money manager of the Omega Family Office, a critic of Ms. Warren, said in an Oct. 30 letter to her that was made public that her “vilification of the rich is misguided.” Bill Gates, another billionaire, expressed his concern in November about a wealth tax.

Hillary Clinton, the former Democratic presidential nominee, has also criticized Mr. Sanders. Footage from an upcoming documentary about her showed her ripping into Mr. Sanders, saying, “Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done. He was a career politician.”

Mr. Blankfein, a registered Democrat, supported Mrs. Clinton in the 2016 presidential election and has donated to Republicans in the past. He said in October at a CNN conference that he did not see himself reflected in the current party.

Mr. Blankfein, a rare tweeter, used his first Twitter post to slam Mr. Trump for leaving the Paris climate accord in 2017.

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Maybe Information Actually Doesn’t Want to Be Free

Westlake Legal Group 07JESSICALESSIN-01-facebookJumbo Maybe Information Actually Doesn’t Want to Be Free Zuckerberg, Mark E Wall Street Journal Venture Capital Start-ups Silicon Valley (Calif) San Francisco (Calif) Newspapers News and News Media Murdoch, James R Mergers, Acquisitions and Divestitures Lessin, Jessica E Jobs, Laurene Powell Hoffman, Reid Garrett High Net Worth Individuals Harvard University Freedom of the Press Financial Times Facebook Inc Entrepreneurship Ek, Daniel Computers and the Internet Chesky, Brian Caldbeck, Justin Binary Capital airbnb 21st Century Fox

SAN FRANCISCO — Jessica Lessin thinks the biggest story of the moment — how tech is swallowing the universe — is hopelessly under-covered by the news media. The issue is “massive,” she said not long ago in her spare, cube-like office here, and “no one is paying attention.”

Of course, it can be hard to see the forest for the tweets. From analysis of Trump’s utterances to conspiracy-peddling publishers amplifying themselves on Facebook and YouTube, tech stories increase exponentially every day. But Ms. Lessin, founder of The Information, an influential Silicon Valley publication, thinks most reporters are still focusing on the wrong topics: glamorous cryptocurrency, for example, rather than the blockchain looming over bank loans and stock trades; or the number of cars sold, rather than the artificial intelligence and driver networks that threaten to make that number obsolete.

She has focused her site on the larger picture, pursuing industry scoops and keeping the publication ad-free, instead charging $399 a year for complete access. The Information achieved profitability in 2016, Ms. Lessin said, three years after she left The Wall Street Journal to start it. She added that she expected $20 million in sales by the end of 2020, and for her staff of two dozen reporters and editors in the Bay Area, Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, Washington and Hong Kong to grow. “The fact that we have a business that’s scaling makes me excited,” she said.

This sense of hope is discordant with the rest of online media, which seems in grim shape — last year, more than 1,000 people were laid off at BuzzFeed, AOL, Yahoo, HuffPost and Vice Media. (BuzzFeed is now back on more solid footing and could be headed for a sale.)

As other online organs have bloated and intermittently fasted, The Information’s reporters have become known in Silicon Valley for sniffing out the industry’s misdeeds and tweaking its powerful. A 2017 story revealed sexual harassment allegations against a venture capitalist that led to the shutdown of his firm. A recent article revealing hidden financial data at Quibi, a new streaming service, prompted its chief executive, Meg Whitman, to compare reporters to sexual predators. (She later apologized.)

The Information is sparely, almost clinically designed and frequently refreshed. Subscribers include Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, and the media investor James Murdoch (“Please write nice things about her,” he said of Ms. Lessin), corporate clients like Google and Goldman Sachs, and most of start-up royalty. Laurene Powell Jobs, the world’s seventh wealthiest woman and an influential philanthropist who also owns The Atlantic, finds the site useful. It covers “an ecosystem and an industry I care about,” she said, adding, “I’ve followed Jessica’s byline since The Journal.”

Ms. Lessin, 36, is the rare editor to have risen from ink-stained wretch to a player, much like Peter Bart when he ruled Variety, or Anna Wintour of Vogue. But her success, unlike the editors’ of an earlier time, owes as much to the data-driven discipline of her business as her editorial tastes. In an era when many pay walls, if they exist at all, are easily scaled, Ms. Lessin is fiercely guarding the fortress.

“I’ve said this from the beginning,” she said, “and I continue to say this, but you can’t give away what you expect the reader to find valuable.”

Ms. Lessin’s instinct for tradecraft showed up before the internet was ubiquitous, when she was editor of The Greenwich Academy Press, the half-size broadsheet of her private high school, and wanted to publish it in full color. To raise the money, she persuaded the school to allow her to auction off parking spots. “I just really wanted it to look as big and professional as possible,” she recalled.

While attending Harvard, she scored the coveted faculty beat at the Crimson newspaper. “It was like covering Congress,” Ms. Lessin said. “It’s fun because you get the bickering and the politics.” Lauren Schuker Blum, a friend who worked with her there and later at The Journal, remembered Ms. Lessin’s work habits. “We all had these reporter notebooks and most of us would use like half of it, or lose it, but she had like 30 of them, impeccably detailed,” Ms. Schuker Blum said. “She was like a libel lawyer’s dream.”

After graduating in 2005, Ms. Lessin completed an internship at The Journal, then kept coming back into the office to pitch stories. Eventually, she landed a full-time job covering personal tech, one of the least popular beats at the time. The year was 2005. BlackBerrys were the gold standard of smartphones and Facebook was just an online phone book for college students.

In 2008, Ms. Lessin moved to San Francisco to cover the tech industry — and regularly broke stories. “I was like, ‘Who the hell is this girl?’” said Paul Steiger, the Journal’s managing editor at the time. “I kind of followed her work and asked people, ‘Is she as good as this looks?’ And they said yes.”

But it was also around this time that some people began to whisper about Ms. Lessin’s possible conflicts of interest. Through Harvard, she had become friends with start-up founders or fast-rising executives at places like Google and Facebook, ostensibly her key subjects. She was also dating another graduate, Sam Lessin, who had started a company that would later be acquired by Facebook. (The two married in 2012.)

A holiday excursion in 2008 resulted in a scolding for Ms. Lessin. As the economy was plummeting, she and Mr. Lessin jetted off to the vacation home of his family on the island of Cyprus with friends of theirs from the start-up scene.

The group passed the time as many people do on vacation, drinking and lounging around the pool. And before filming such activities and sharing them with strangers would become commonplace on Instagram, they posted footage online, including the women wearing matching black-and-white checkered swimsuits, lip-syncing to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.”

The Cyprus travelers were blasted for their stunning lack of self awareness as the nation’s economy teetered toward crisis and tech companies were laying off employees. Ms. Lessin was singled out by Valleywag, the now-defunct tech site, in a post headlined, “WSJ reporter parties in Cyprus with people she covers.”

“Oh, that never made sense to me,” she said. “These were not people I wrote about. These were friends.” (A scan of Journal articles from the period shows she interviewed at least one Cyprus attendee in an article — Mike Hudack, the head of Blip.tv, a video start-up that has since shut down. Ms. Lessin says they were not friends when she wrote the article.) Still, her vacation drew disapproving scrutiny from higher-ups at The Journal, though not an official reprimand.

Ms. Lessin, in turn, was beginning to chafe at how newsrooms were covering tech — from a cool remove, she thought, never going deep. In contrast were the many bloggers who could delve into the industry’s every incremental move, but who had become so close to subjects the stories read like ad copy. Ms. Lessin said she thought: Couldn’t you do both? In-the-know reporting that still held subjects to account?

“I knew if I didn’t do it, someone else would, and I’d be kicking myself,” she said.

Valley underminers like to snipe that Ms. Lessin never had to persuade investors to back her plan. She had her own money. Her father is Jerome C. Vascellaro, a partner at the private equity giant TPG, which is a significant investor in tech and media businesses like Uber, Vice and Airbnb. Her husband, a son of the late tech investor Robert H. Lessin, made a fortune from the Facebook stock he received as part of the company’s acquisition of his start-up years ago.

Ms. Lessin said she tapped her own bank account, using “less than $1 million,” to start The Information, and continues to own and control it wholly. She pays competitive salaries (albeit without equity) — as much as $180,000 or more for some top reporters. She refuses to spend more than she grosses, she said.

So far, this strategy seems to be paying off. A 2016 article on Tony Fadell, then the head of Google’s Nest division, exposed how the executive’s last-minute decrees and slow decision making had crippled the company’s hardware efforts. The story was so in demand it converted over 600 new subscribers in the first day, recalled the reporter who wrote it, Reed Albergotti, who worked at The Information from 2015 to 2019. “It blew up,” he said. “That was proof of the model.”

But is The Information — whose title anticipates an interest in nothing short of everything — just a trade publication, like Advertising Age or Publishers Weekly? (One heavily trafficked section features richly detailed organizational charts that executive recruiters mine for leads.)

Ms. Lessin, seeming a little annoyed by the question, tilted her head and widened her eyes as she computed her reply. “I think that misses the point,” she finally said. “There’s so much hunger for what we produce.”

In December, she introduced a consumer-friendly version of the site, an app called The Tech Top 10, priced at $30 a year. Instead of a dense story on Netflix’s debt structure, the app might publish a short explainer on Netflix’s price increase. “You’re matching the reader with the level of expertise they want,” Ms. Lessin said. “That’s what subscriptions allow you to do.”

She won’t say how many subscribers The Information has, but some back-of-the-envelope math suggests she’ll have to hit 40,000 paying readers by this year to reach her sales objective, which could be a significant challenge. According to three people familiar with the business, the publication surpassed 20,000 subscribers only around the middle of last year. “I can confirm we have more than that,” she said, declining to be more specific.

Her publication’s success has attracted suitors. Some time last year, John Ridding, the chief executive of The Financial Times, Britain’s pre-eminent business publication, met with Ms. Lessin in San Francisco. The salmon-colored broadsheet was interested in a possible takeover, three people familiar with the matter said. Mr. Ridding declined to comment, and Ms. Lessin said The Information was not for sale.

As at any start-up, the vibe at The Information’s open-plan offices is like a college dorm room that’s in the middle of being cleaned up ahead of Parents’ Weekend. A large part of the staff hails from The Journal, including Martin Peers, who used to be Ms. Lessin’s editor. Now, she’s his boss.

Mr. Peers, 59, is famous within journalism circles for his cantankerous nature and deep skepticism of Silicon Valley — and yet he came west. “I had been at the Journal for 15 years,” he said. “I was exhausted and what Jessica was proposing was the perfect antidote, and I thought, ‘Why not?’”

In June 2017, the site landed one of its biggest scoops: a feature that revealed sexual harassment allegations against one of Silicon Valley’s most well-connected venture capitalists. Six women had accused Justin Caldbeck, a partner at Binary Capital, of unwanted sexual advances, with three of them speaking to the reporter, Mr. Albergotti, on the record.

The story exposed a pervasive culture of misogyny and harassment within tech, immediately raised The Information’s profile and was a precursor of the broader #MeToo movement. But Mr. Albergotti, who now works at The Washington Post, remembered the staff’s anxiety as they got closer to publishing. They were keenly aware of what had happened to Gawker, which was sued for invasion of privacy by Hulk Hogan. The suit, which was financed by the venture capitalist Peter Thiel, drove Gawker into extinction and stoked a fear among publishers that anyone with enough money and willpower could vaporize a news outlet.

As the Caldbeck story was about to go to press, Ms. Lessin was in Italy attending a conference. She consulted the company’s liability insurance, which she had printed out, in her hotel room before heading to a dinner where she would be seated with Jeff Bezos. “I don’t remember if I vomited or not,” she said. “But I was very nervous.” She gave the green light.

Mr. Caldbeck didn’t sue. Instead, he resigned. A short while later, his venture firm collapsed. As a female entrepreneur, Ms. Lessin felt The Information’s work was “deeply personal,” especially as several men in the industry, who had heard the piece was in the works, contacted her to suggest the claims were overblown. These were “men I respect, who I was close to,” she said.

She wouldn’t name them. Ms. Schuker Blum, who worked with her at The Journal, said Ms. Lessin is not a gossip, like many reporters. “She’s not the journalist who’s always complaining,” Ms. Schuker Blum said. “She’s not a conspiracy theorist. She sees the best in people.”

Daniel Ek, the chief executive of Spotify, said he found the occasional, critical story on his company “not unfair.” But he added that Ms. Lessin “has to walk a tightrope given the level of access that she has. That’s got to be tough.”

Ms. Lessin’s connections continue to raise eyebrows, particularly those to Facebook. She and her husband are friends with their Harvard classmates Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s chief executive, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, who runs the couple’s philanthropy efforts. They attended each other’s weddings and both have young children. (Ms. Lessin’s two boys, Lion and Maverick, are both under the age of 3.) Mr. Zuckerberg was at The Information’s launch party, where she joked that for the super-high subscription rate of $10,000 a story could be killed (but just one). Recently, Ms. Chan was a speaker at an Information event.

The Information has published tough stories on Facebook, including a 2016 piece that revealed a weakness in its business. A more recent article exposed tensions between Chinese employees and Facebook’s leaders. But so far, it has only taken smaller swipes at the tech giant.

So how does The Information write about a company run by a friend of the site’s owner, one that is also perceived as having failed democracy, if not the universe?

Ms. Lessin was circumspect, her contralto voice echoing slightly off the glass walls of her office. “I’m very careful to draw lines around my personal life,” she said. “We have very clearly defined our culture around getting the best, most accurate story possible.”

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Trump Focuses on Economy at Davos, Seeking a Counter to Impeachment

Westlake Legal Group 21prexy-davos1sub-promo-facebookJumbo-v2 Trump Focuses on Economy at Davos, Seeking a Counter to Impeachment United States Politics and Government United States Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Switzerland High Net Worth Individuals Global Warming Ethics and Official Misconduct Davos (Switzerland)

DAVOS, Switzerland — President Trump swept into this glitzy Alpine village on Tuesday, full of flattery as he schmoozed with global business leaders, as if there were no talk of removing him from office and no impeachment trial unfolding 4,000 miles away in Washington.

Mr. Trump appeared to relish the escape offered by the World Economic Forum and the friendly — to his face, at least — crowd of elites in the snow-covered Alps. He was in a jovial mood, according to people who spoke with him, engaging in animated conversations with chief executives like Brian Moynihan of Bank of America, Sundar Pichai of Alphabet and Marc Benioff of Salesforce.

He congratulated them on their companies’ stock performances and joked that he should have bought shares but that he had been forced to sell his holdings when he took office. As Mr. Trump and his family members darted between meetings in makeshift pavilions, they studiously avoided questions about the drama back home, where the Senate was expected to begin a fierce partisan squabble over the rules for putting the president on trial.

Mr. Trump’s trip to Davos was his first appearance on the international stage since Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent the articles of impeachment to the Senate. Before he arrived in the Swiss town, the open question, as always with Mr. Trump, was how much he would stray from his script and vent his grievances about his legal and political predicament.

But Mr. Trump stuck to his prepared remarks, making inflated claims about his role in a global economic recovery and touting a message of America’s supremacy. When reporters asked him about the impeachment trial, he swatted it away as “just a hoax.”

“America’s economy was in a rather dismal state,” Mr. Trump said during his 30-minute speech. “Before my presidency began, the outlook for many economies was bleak.”

Although the economy’s recovery after its plummet was central to President Barack Obama’s legacy, Mr. Trump said that his administration had created a “roaring geyser of opportunity” and proclaimed that “the American dream is back bigger, better and stronger than ever before.”

Addressing a global audience, Mr. Trump delivered what amounted to a version of his campaign speech, speaking little of international alliances and touting America’s supremacy in the world.

At a conference that has dedicated itself this year to the issue of global warming, Mr. Trump also took a swipe at those demanding action. He announced that the United States would join an initiative to plant a trillion trees that was launched at the event, but he also declared that “we must reject the perennial prophets of doom” and that it was “not a time for pessimism.”

Former Vice President Al Gore, who was seen leaving Mr. Trump’s speech, declined to comment on the president’s remarks.

Mr. Trump arrived in Switzerland on Tuesday morning, taking a ride in Marine One over the Alps, from Zurich to Davos. The altitude increased the sense that the bitter partisan fight that would take place in the Capitol was a world away.

As his motorcade made its way through twisty, snow-covered streets to the Davos Congress Centre, a group of nine Swiss tenors entertained the crowd with a version of “Ranz des vaches,” a mellifluous song for calling home cows.

It was a more peaceful serenade than the songs that typically precede Mr. Trump’s entrance onstage, like “Macho Man” by the Village People and “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones.

Mr. Trump was also a more mellow version of himself.

He highlighted the first phase of his trade deal with China and another with Mexico and Canada. And the audience appeared receptive, having warmed to him over the past two years as they have benefited from his policies.

“Lev Parnas is not a topic of conversation at Davos,” said Ian Bremmer, the president and founder of Eurasia Group, a political research and consulting firm.

Mr. Parnas, an associate of Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, has been on a media tour over the past week, asserting that the president was fully aware of the campaign to pressure Ukraine to investigate Mr. Trump’s political rivals. Democrats have not ruled out trying to call Mr. Parnas as a witness in the impeachment trial.

In Davos, however, television screens were filled with the face of a different Trump antagonist: the teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, who was the other star speaker of the day. In a speech there, she warned that “our house is still on fire” and that “inaction is fueling the flames by the hour.”

Mr. Trump did not mention Ms. Thunberg by name in his speech. But when he talked about the importance of clean water and clean air, he added that “fear and doubt is not a good thought process.”

His speech also included inflated or false claims that seemed, at times, disconnected from the concerns of an international audience.

“I saved HBCUs. We saved them,” Mr. Trump claimed, referring to historically black colleges and universities. “They were going out and we saved them.” While the administration has increased investment in the schools 14.3 percent, and although a number of them have struggled financially, there is no evidence that they were on the verge of extinction. In the past six years, one has closed and about 100 remain.

Hanging over the conference was also the question of whether Mr. Trump would try to stage a surprise meeting there with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, even though officials said the optics of such a meeting would be unhelpful to Mr. Trump.

In Davos, however, Mr. Trump may have found the right audience for support to counter the impeachment trial that is dominating the news at home. There was less anxiety about him rippling through the 1 percent set on Tuesday than when he arrived at the annual forum two years ago, fresh off an “America First” campaign filled with promises to rip up international agreements and alliances.

This time, there was more concern about some of the progressive Democrats running to replace him. Through regulatory rollbacks, tax cuts and the success of the global economy, the president who ran as a populist has benefited many of the chief executives gathered at the event, even those who have taken public positions against some of his policies.

“There are lot of masters of the universe who think he may not be their cup of tea, but he’s been a godsend,” said Mr. Bremmer, of Eurasia Group. “It’s interesting to hear Mike Bloomberg saying he would fund Bernie Sanders’s campaign if he won the nomination. Very few people here would say that.”

Mr. Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City who is running for president, has said he is open to spending $1 billion to defeat Mr. Trump, whoever emerges as the Democratic nominee.

During Mr. Trump’s career in New York real estate, entertainment and business, he never cracked the Davos set, whose Fortune 500 chief executives dismissed him as something of a gaudy sideshow.

But the balance of power has shifted. And with progressives like Mr. Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts emerging as top-tier candidates in the Democratic primary, a crowd that once rejected Mr. Trump is now more willing to consider him one of its own.

On Tuesday, Mr. Trump happily embraced them back. After his speech, he met with the International Business Council, where he greeted every chief executive personally, according to attendees.

The meeting was less about substance and more about socializing, one attendee said, as Mr. Trump grilled corporate leaders about whether they liked his speech. His daughter, Ivanka Trump, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, also worked the room.

There were however, still points of contention during the conference for Mr. Trump, who planned to spend almost two days there in bilateral meetings with leaders of Iraq, Pakistan and the Kurdish regional government, as well as sitdowns with corporate chieftains. (The forum is also Mr. Trump’s first trip abroad since the drone attack that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s most important military official.)

And topping the conference’s agenda was climate change, an issue where Mr. Trump’s agenda is far out of line with the rest of the attendees. He was preceded onstage by Klaus Schwab, a founder of the Forum, who proclaimed that “the world is in a state of emergency,” and Simonetta Sommaruga, the president of the Swiss Federation, who said that “the world is on fire.”

Mr. Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, and his administration has expanded the use of coal, played down concerns about climate change and rolled back environmental protections.

The president mocked Ms. Thunberg after she was chosen last month as Time magazine’s Person of the Year. “So ridiculous,” he tweeted. “Greta must work on her anger management problem, then go to a good old-fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!”

In 2018, Mr. Trump was the first sitting president to attend the forum since President Bill Clinton did so in 2000. Last year, he abruptly canceled his plans to attend, citing a partial government shutdown.

This year, the administration delegation includes Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, as well as Robert Lighthizer, the trade representative. Other members of the administration who were expected to attend were Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary; Elaine Chao, the transportation secretary; and Eugene Scalia, the labor secretary. Mr. Trump was also accompanied by Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, and Stephen Miller, his policy adviser and speechwriter.

Keith Bradsher contributed reporting.

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How U.S. Firms Helped Africa’s Richest Woman Exploit Her Country’s Wealth

Westlake Legal Group 19dossantos-02-facebookJumbo How U.S. Firms Helped Africa’s Richest Woman Exploit Her Country’s Wealth United States Tax Shelters Sonangol Group PricewaterhouseCoopers Poverty Politics and Government Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Money Laundering McKinsey&Co Malta Lourenco, Joao LISBON, Portugal Jewels and Jewelry International Consortium of Investigative Journalists High Net Worth Individuals Galp Energia embezzlement Dubai (United Arab Emirates) Dos Santos, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Isabel Diamonds De Grisogono Corruption (Institutional) Consultants Angola Africa

LISBON — It was the party to be seen at during the Cannes Film Festival, where being seen was the whole point. A Swiss jewelry company had rented out the opulent Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, drawing celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Campbell and Antonio Banderas. The theme: “Love on the Rocks.”

Posing for photos at the May 2017 event was Isabel dos Santos, Africa’s richest woman and the daughter of José Eduardo dos Santos, then Angola’s president. Her husband controls the jeweler, De Grisogono, through a dizzying array of shell companies in Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands.

But the lavish party was possible only because of the Angolan government. The country is rich in oil and diamonds but hobbled by corruption, with grinding poverty, widespread illiteracy and a high infant mortality rate. A state agency had sunk more than $120 million into the jewelry company. Today, it faces a total loss.

Ms. dos Santos, estimated to be worth over $2 billion, claims she is a self-made woman who never benefited from state funds. But a different picture has emerged under media scrutiny in recent years: She took a cut of Angola’s wealth, often through decrees signed by her father. She acquired stakes in the country’s diamond exports, its dominant mobile phone company, two of its banks and its biggest cement maker, and partnered with the state oil giant to buy into Portugal’s largest petroleum company.

Now, a trove of more than 700,000 documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, and shared with The New York Times, shows how a global network of consultants, lawyers, bankers and accountants helped her amass that fortune and park it abroad. Some of the world’s leading professional service firms — including the Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey & Company and PwC — facilitated her efforts to profit from her country’s wealth while lending their legitimacy.

The empire she and her husband built stretches from Hong Kong to the United States, comprising over 400 companies and subsidiaries. It encompasses properties around the world, including a $55 million mansion in Monte Carlo, a $35 million yacht and a luxury residence in Dubai on a seahorse-shaped artificial island.

Among the businesses was the Swiss jewelry company, which records and interviews reveal was led by a team recruited from Boston Consulting. They ran it into the ground. Under their watch, millions of dollars in Angolan state funds helped finance the annual parties on the French Riviera.

When Boston Consulting and McKinsey signed on to help restructure Sonangol, Angola’s state oil business, they agreed to be paid in an unusual way — not by the government but through a Maltese company Ms. dos Santos owned. Then her father put her in charge of Sonangol, and the government payments soared, routed through another offshore company, this one owned by a friend of hers.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, now called PwC, acted as her accountant, consultant and tax adviser, working with at least 20 companies controlled by her or her husband. Yet there were obvious red flags as Angolan state money went unaccounted for, according to money-laundering experts and forensic accountants who reviewed the newly obtained documents.

When the Western advisory firms came into Angola almost two decades ago, they were viewed by the global financial community as a force for good: bringing professionalism and higher standards to a former Portuguese colony ravaged by years of civil war. But ultimately they took the money and did what their clients asked, said Ricardo Soares de Oliveira, an international politics professor at Oxford who studies Angola.

“They are there as all-purpose providers of whatever these elites are trying to do,” he said. “They have no moral status — they are what you make of them.”

Now, more than two years after her father stepped down after 38 years as Angola’s strongman president, Ms. dos Santos is in trouble.

Last month, an Angolan court froze her assets in the country as part of a corruption investigation, along with her husband’s and those of a Portuguese business associate. The Angolan attorney general claimed the couple were responsible for more than $1 billion in lost state funds, with particular focus on De Grisogono and Sonangol.

Ms. dos Santos and her husband could face years in prison if convicted, according to the office of Angola’s president, João Lourenço. At the heart of the inquiry: $38 million in payments from Sonangol to a Dubai shell company hours after Angola’s new president announced her firing. Ms. dos Santos’s half brother is also facing corruption charges for helping to transfer $500 million from Angola’s sovereign wealth fund. The asset freeze came soon after I.C.I.J. reporting partners asked the government about transactions in the documents.

In an interview with the BBC, Ms. dos Santos, 46, denied any wrongdoing and called the inquiry a “political persecution.” “My companies are funded privately, we work with commercial banks, our holdings are private holdings,” she said.

Her husband, Sindika Dokolo, 47, suggested the new government was scapegoating them. “It does not attack the agents of public companies accused of embezzlement, just a family operating in the private sector,” he told Radio France Internationale, another I.C.I.J. partner.

Global banks including Citigroup and Deutsche Bank, bound by strict rules about politically connected clients, largely declined to work with the family in recent years, the documents show.

“These guys hear about Isabel and they run like the Devil from the cross,” Eduardo Sequeira, head of corporate finance for Fidequity, a Portuguese firm that manages many of Ms. dos Santos’s companies, wrote in a 2014 email after the Spanish bank Santander turned down work with her.

Consulting companies, far less regulated than banks, readily embraced her business. American advisory firms market their expertise in bringing best practices to clients around the world. But in their quest for fees, several have worked for authoritarian or corrupt regimes in places like China or Saudi Arabia. McKinsey’s business in South Africa was decimated by its partnership with a subcontractor tied to a political scandal that took down the country’s president.

The new leaks show the pattern repeating itself in Angola, where invoices point to tens of millions of dollars going to the firms. They agreed to be paid for Angolan government work by shell companies — tied to Ms. dos Santos and her associates — that were in offshore locations long used to avoid taxes, hide illicit wealth and launder money. The arrangement allowed her to keep a large portion of the state funds, the records show.

(The documents, called the Luanda Leaks after the Angolan capital, include emails, slide presentations, invoices and contracts. They came to the I.C.I.J. through the Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa, a Paris-based advocacy and legal group.)

PwC, based in London, said it was investigating its dealings with Ms. dos Santos and would stop working with her family. Boston Consulting said it took steps, when hired, “to ensure compliance with established policies and avoid corruption and other risks.” McKinsey called the allegations against Ms. dos Santos “concerning,” and said it wasn’t doing any work now with her or her companies.

De Grisogono, an upstart Swiss jewelry company, was on life support. Its business had never fully recovered from the global financial crisis, and by 2012, it was deeply in debt.

Mr. Dokolo, Ms. dos Santos’s husband, seemed to offer a way out. He teamed up with Sodiam, the Angolan state diamond marketer, in a 50-50 venture set up in Malta that took over the jeweler. The state enterprise eventually pumped more than $120 million into the business, acquiring equity and buying off debt, the records indicate. Documents show that shortly after the acquisition, Mr. Dokolo put in $4 million, an amount he had gotten from a “success fee” — drawn from the Sodiam money and shunted through a shell company in the British Virgin Islands — for closing the deal.

Mr. Dokolo, through his law firm, said he had initially invested $115 million and “has subsequently invested significantly more into the business,” but that could not be verified in the documents.

Flush with Angolan government money, the Geneva jeweler hired the Boston Consulting Group, an American management company with offices in more than 50 countries.

In 2012, according to the documents, a Lisbon-based team at the firm took a central role in helping to run De Grisogono — “shadow management” as John Leitão, a Boston Consulting employee who would become the jeweler’s chief executive, said in a November interview in Lisbon.

The consulting firm, however, said its employees worked only on three specific projects, ending its involvement in early 2013.

By that year, the consultants had started leaving the firm to join the jeweler, eventually occupying the positions of chairman, chief financial officer and chief operating officer alongside Mr. Leitão.

He said in the interview that the consultants had inherited “a total mess.” But under his watch, the company, with boutiques in London, New York and Paris, went deeper into the red, despite an initial uptick in sales, documents show.

De Grisogono had a run of bad luck, including economic pressures affecting Russian oligarchs and Saudi sheikhs who had been big customers, Mr. Leitão said. Yet many rich patrons, including Ms. dos Santos and her husband, would take jewelry and wristwatches without paying for them up front, the documents show. Marketing expenses also shot up — 42 percent during Mr. Leitão’s first year to $1.7 million, with the increase going to the Cannes party, according to an internal presentation.

Mr. Dokolo was unapologetic about spending big on parties. “You tell me what major luxury brand spends less than this on promotion to become a global brand,” he told the French radio service. In an interview with BBC, Ms. dos Santos said she was not a stakeholder in De Grisogono, though several emails and documents call that into question, indicating she had an ownership interest in the Maltese companies controlling it.

The jeweler gave the couple an ability to better market Angolan diamonds. Mr. Dokolo already controlled the rights to more than 45 percent of the country’s diamond sales through a company that bought uncut gems, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in income, according to the Angolan president’s office.

Mr. Dokolo’s lawyers said he aimed to integrate the country’s diamond industry, “from mining to polishing to retail sales.”

The Angolan people did more than pay dearly for a European jewelry company. They paid with money borrowed at a 9 percent annual interest rate from Banco BIC, an Angolan lender where Ms. dos Santos owns a 42.5 percent stake. The government will have to repay some $225 million, according to the Angolan president’s office. The loans had been guaranteed by Ms. dos Santos’s father.

For all the money it put in, Sodiam never exercised any management control of the jeweler and never recouped any of its investment. Now, Sodiam officials want out, and the business is for sale.

“It is strange,” said Eugenio Bravo da Rosa, Sodiam’s new chairman, speaking of the man he replaced, who had signed off on the investment. “I can’t believe a person would start a business and let its partner run the business with total power to make all the decisions.”

In 2016, Sonangol, Angola’s state oil company, was in crisis after a drop in market prices. One former Boston Consulting employee described a company in an “absolutely chaotic” state. The Angolan president fired the company’s board and appointed his daughter, Ms. dos Santos, as chairwoman that June. Boston Consulting was helping Sonangol come up with a “road map” to restructure.

Ms. dos Santos had a history with the company. A decade earlier, she and her husband made millions partnering with Sonangol and a Portuguese businessman to invest in a Lisbon gas company, Galp Energia. Their stake came courtesy of the Angolan government — through an $84 million loan from Sonangol, documents show. Their share in Galp is now worth about $800 million.

The former Boston Consulting employee, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that Ms. dos Santos — the president’s eldest child — was able to get things done that other executives could not because she wasn’t susceptible to pressure.

“We’re very committed to transparency,” Ms. dos Santos told Reuters at the time. “We’re very committed to improving our profits at Sonangol and to improving our organization.”

But transparency went only so far. More than half a year before she was named chairwoman, her father signed off on a decree drafted at the couple’s law firm, records show, that led to the awarding of $9.3 million to a Maltese company to oversee Sonangol’s restructuring. The business, Wise Intelligence Solutions, was owned by the couple and run by a close associate, Mário Leite da Silva, De Grisogono’s former chairman. Boston Consulting came on board, followed by McKinsey, with the Maltese firm acting as their manager.

Boston Consulting and other advisers billed for only about half of what Wise received from the Angolan treasury, receipts and invoices show, even though the Maltese company had only limited expertise of its own. Wise “does not have the human resources and specific know-how,” its Maltese accountant said in a March 2016 email. Ms. dos Santos disputed this, with her law firm saying Wise had “technical expertise.”

After she took charge of Sonangol, the payments to the offshore companies would surge even higher.

In May 2017, Wise was replaced as project manager by a company in Dubai owned by one of her friends. It issued a flurry of invoices later that year, some with the barest of details. One of them, simply marked “Expenses May-September 2017,” carried a charge of more than 470,000 euros (over $520,000). These invoices account for the $38 million Sonangol paid to the Dubai company in the hours after Ms. dos Santos was fired on Nov. 15, 2017.

The Sonangol account was with the Portuguese arm of Banco BIC, where she was the biggest shareholder. Shunned by global banks, the couple increasingly relied on the Angolan lender, which has a big office in Lisbon steps from her apartment. In 2015, Portuguese regulators said the bank had failed to monitor money flowing from Angola to European companies linked to her and her associates, concluding that the lender lacked internal controls.

“Paying huge and dubious consulting fees to anonymous companies in secrecy jurisdictions is a standard trick that should sound all alarm bells,” said Christoph Trautvetter, a forensic accountant based in Berlin who worked as an investigator for KPMG, a global business advisory firm.

Days before the invoices were issued, the Sonangol executive who would have approved them was fired, replaced by a relative of Ms. dos Santos, the documents show. The managing director of the Dubai company, Matter Business Solutions DMCC, was her frequent associate Mr. da Silva.

Months later, Carlos Saturnino, Ms. dos Santos’s successor as Sonangol’s head, publicly accused her of mismanagement, saying her tenure was marked by conflicts of interest, tax avoidance and excessive reliance on consultants. He also said she had approved $135 million in consulting fees, with most of that going to the Dubai shell company.

“We have there some situations of money laundering, some of them of doing business with herself,” Hélder Pitta Grós, Angola’s attorney general, said in an interview with I.C.I.J. partners.

Ms. dos Santos, speaking with the BBC, said the Dubai company supervised work for Sonangol by Boston Consulting, McKinsey, PwC and several other Western firms. When asked about the invoices, she said she was unfamiliar with them but insisted the expenses were legitimate, charged at “the standard rate” under a contract approved by Sonangol’s board.

“This work was extraordinarily important,” she added, saying that Sonangol cut its costs by 40 percent.

Her lawyers said the $38 million was “for services that had already been provided and delivered by consultants in accordance with the contract.”

By late 2017, Boston Consulting was winding down its work on the project, which ended that November. McKinsey and PwC declined to comment.

The consultants’ involvement with Ms. dos Santos extended far beyond the Swiss jeweler and Sonangol. McKinsey, for example, provided advice on a Portuguese engineering firm she had just acquired and the Angolan mobile phone company where she served as chairwoman, documents show.

Two of the “big four” accounting firms, PwC and KPMG, did consulting work for Urbinveste, another thinly staffed company she owned that acted as a public works contractor in Angola. It oversaw projects — such as road and port design and urban redevelopment — worth hundreds of millions of dollars, some set to be financed with loans from Chinese banks and built by Chinese state-owned companies. KPMG also audited at least two companies she owned in the country. The firm said that in Angola, it performs “additional due diligence procedures” for all the businesses it audits.

The other two major accounting firms, Deloitte and Ernst & Young, now known as EY, did work for companies tied to her as well.

Accounting firms in the European Union, where much of Ms. dos Santos’s business empire was located, are bound by the same rules banks are, requiring them to report suspicious activity. One firm in particular, PwC, had a broad view into the inner workings of Ms. dos Santos’s empire.

Ms. dos Santos had a long history with PwC. In the early 1990s, fresh out of King’s College London, she took a job with Coopers & Lybrand, soon to merge to become PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Her top money manager, Mr. da Silva, whose assets in Angola were frozen last month, was also a PwC alum. And when Ms. dos Santos took over Sonangol, she brought in a PwC partner, Sarju Raikundalia, as its finance head. The payments to Dubai in November 2017 happened on his watch before he, too, was fired. Neither of the businessmen responded to requests for comment.

PwC not only audited the books of her far-flung shell companies, but also provided her and Mr. Dokolo’s companies with tax advice and did consulting work for Sonangol.

Like Boston Consulting, PwC was paid by Wise Intelligence for its Angola work, and it audited the financial statements of the Maltese holding companies that controlled the Swiss jeweler.

In 2014, PwC accountants in Malta had a problem. As they prepared annual financial statements for Victoria Limited, one of the Maltese companies that controlled De Grisogono, they wrote in a draft that the ultimate owners were Mr. Dokolo and the Angolan government. But Antonio Rodrigues, an executive at Fidequity, objected — the couple had been facing increasing media scrutiny after a 2013 Forbes article examined the origins of their wealth. Such information, he wrote, should not “be mentioned.”

“Noted — we will discuss internally and revert,” a PwC accountant replied. The language was removed.

PwC accountants also noticed there was no paperwork to account for millions of dollars in loans being pumped into the Maltese holding companies and De Grisogono, according to emails.

Robert Mazur, who was an anti-money-laundering investigator for the United States Customs Service, reviewed the PwC financial statements at the I.C.I.J.’s request, along with email exchanges between the accountants and Ms. dos Santos’s money managers.

“The accountants and financial service providers involved in these transactions should have seriously considered filing a suspicious transaction report,” he said.

When presented with the I.C.I.J.’s findings, PwC said it would not comment on specific projects, citing client confidentiality, but said it was ending its work with Ms. dos Santos. “In response to the very serious and concerning allegations that have been raised,” the firm said, “we immediately initiated an investigation and are working to thoroughly evaluate the facts and conclude our inquiry.”

As for Ms. dos Santos’s assets, the bulk of her fortune is now outside Angola, much of it in tax and secrecy havens where it will be hard to pry loose.

Ana Gomes, a former European Parliament member, filed a complaint in November in Portugal alleging that Ms. dos Santos laundered money through Banco BIC. Ms. Gomes said that the network of professional service firms had enabled Ms. dos Santos to move her money out of Angola and into legitimate businesses in Europe and elsewhere.

“They are part of a system of finding the safest landing for all the assets that are siphoned off,” she said.

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