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Westlake Legal Group > News Media (Page 59)

Enjoy The Extra Day Off! More Bosses Give 4-Day Workweek A Try

Westlake Legal Group gettyimages-1185957282-2-1ad676bc6169d8db863284e6eb39af45a04a265e-s1100-c15 Enjoy The Extra Day Off! More Bosses Give 4-Day Workweek A Try

Shake Shack shortened managers’ workweeks to four days at some stores a year and a half ago. Recently, the burger chain expanded the trial to a third of its U.S. stores. Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group via Getty Images hide caption

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Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group via Getty Images

Westlake Legal Group  Enjoy The Extra Day Off! More Bosses Give 4-Day Workweek A Try

Shake Shack shortened managers’ workweeks to four days at some stores a year and a half ago. Recently, the burger chain expanded the trial to a third of its U.S. stores.

Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group via Getty Images

Companies around the world are embracing what might seem like a radical idea: a four-day workweek.

The concept is gaining ground in places as varied as New Zealand and Russia, and it’s making inroads among some American companies. Employers are seeing surprising benefits, including higher sales and profits.

The idea of a four-day workweek might sound crazy, especially in America, where the number of hours worked has been climbing and where cellphones and email remind us of our jobs 24/7.

But in some places, the four-day concept is taking off like a viral meme. Many employers aren’t just moving to 10-hour shifts, four days a week, as companies like Shake Shack are doing; they’re going to a 32-hour week — without cutting pay. In exchange, employers are asking their workers to get their jobs done in a compressed amount of time.

Last month, a Washington state senator introduced a bill to reduce the standard workweek to 32 hours. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is backing a parliamentary proposal to shift to a four-day week. Politicians in Britain and Finland are considering something similar.

In the U.S., Shake Shack started testing the idea a year and a half ago. The burger chain shortened managers’ workweeks to four days at some stores and found that recruitment spiked, especially among women.

Shake Shack’s president, Tara Comonte, says the staff loved the perk: “Being able to take their kids to school a day a week, or one day less of having to pay for day care, for example.”

So the company recently expanded its trial to a third of its 164 U.S. stores. Offering that benefit required Shake Shack to find time savings elsewhere, so it switched to computer software to track supplies of ground beef, for example.

“It was a way to increase flexibility,” Comonte says of the shorter week. “Corporate environments have had flexible work policies for a while now. That’s not so easy to do in the restaurant business.”

Hundreds — if not thousands — of other companies are also adopting or testing the four-day week. Last summer, Microsoft’s trial in Japan led to a 40% improvement in productivity, measured as sales per employee.

Much of this is thanks to Andrew Barnes, an archaeologist by training, who never intended to become a global evangelist. “This was not a journey I expected to be on,” he says.

Barnes is CEO of Perpetual Guardian, New Zealand’s largest estate planning company. He spent much of his career believing long hours were better for business. But he was also disturbed by the toll it took on employees and their families, particularly when it came to mental health.

So two years ago, he used Perpetual Guardian and its 240 workers as guinea pigs, partnering with academic researchers in Auckland to monitor and track the effects of working only four days a week.

“Core to this is that people are not productive for every hour, every minute of the day that they’re in the office,” Barnes says, which means there was lots of distraction and wasted time that could be cut.

Simply slashing the number and duration of meetings saved huge amounts of time. Also, he did away with open-floor office plans and saw workers spending far less time on social media. All this, he says, made it easier to focus more deeply on the work.

Remarkably, workers got more work done while working fewer hours. Sales and profits grew. Employees spent less time commuting, and they were happier.

Barnes says there were other, unexpected benefits: It narrowed workplace gender gaps. Women — who typically took more time off for caregiving — suddenly had greater flexibility built into their schedule. Men also had more time to help with their families, Barnes says.

The company didn’t police how workers spent their time. But if performance slipped, the firm could revert back to the full-week schedule. Barnes says that alone motivated workers.

The Perpetual Guardian study went viral, and things went haywire for Barnes.

Employers — including big multinationals — started calling, seeking advice. “Frankly, I couldn’t drink enough coffee to deal with the number of companies that approached us,” Barnes says.

Demand was so great that he set up a foundation to promote the four-day workweek. Ironically, in the process, he’s working a lot of overtime.

“You only get one chance to change the world. And, it’s my responsibility at least, on this one, to see if I can influence the world for the better,” he says.

To date, most of that interest has not come from American employers.

Peter Cappelli, a professor of management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, says that’s because the concept runs counter to American notions of work and capitalism. Unions are less powerful, and workers have less political sway than in other countries, he says.

So American companies answer to shareholders, who tend to prioritize profit over worker benefits.

“I just don’t see contemporary U.S. employers saying, ‘You know what, if we create more value here, we’re gonna give it to the employees.’ I just don’t see that happening,” Cappelli says.

Natalie Nagele, co-founder and CEO of Wildbit, has heard from other leaders who say it didn’t work for them. She says it fails when employees aren’t motivated and where managers don’t trust employees.

But Nagele says moving her Philadelphia software company to a four-day week three years ago has been a success.

“We had shipped more features than we had in recent years, we felt more productive, the quality of our work increased. So then we just kept going with it,” Nagele says. Personally, she says, it gives her time to rest her brain, which helps solve complex problems: “You can ask my team, there’s multiple times where somebody is like, ‘On Sunday morning, I woke up and … I figured it out.’ “

Mikeal Parlow started working a four-day week about a month ago. It was a perk of his new job as a budget analyst in Westminster, Colo.

He works 10 hours a day, Monday through Thursday. Or, as he puts it, until the job is done. Parlow says he much prefers the new way “because it is about getting your work done, more so than feeding the clock.”

That frees Fridays up for life’s many delightful chores — like visits to the DMV. “For instance, today we’re going to go and get our license plates,” Parlow says.

But that also leaves time on the weekends … for the weekend.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Ilhan Omar slams Meghan McCain, accuses ‘View’ co-host of hypocrisy on Sanders backers’ online attacks

Westlake Legal Group AP19240050434551 Ilhan Omar slams Meghan McCain, accuses 'View' co-host of hypocrisy on Sanders backers' online attacks fox-news/person/meghan-mccain fox-news/person/ilhan-omar fox-news/person/bernie-sanders fox-news/media fox-news/entertainment/the-view fox news fnc/politics fnc Brie Stimson article 12ab8944-fc1b-59d6-ba89-d27b38f77829

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., accused Meghan McCain of hypocrisy Thursday over “The View” co-host’s criticism of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., supporters’ misogynistic attacks on social media.

Omar claimed McCain and other conservatives regularly use anti-Muslim smears against her online.

“The same people who chastise the progressive movement regularly traffic in anti-Muslim smears and hate speech against me and those I represent,” Omar, who has endorsed Sanders, tweeted. “It’s almost as if they don’t genuinely care about online harassment.”

‘THE VIEW’ CO-HOSTS ARGUE WITH GAETZ OVER STANCE ON ROGER STONE PARDON: ‘OH, COME ON CONGRESSMAN!’

After Sanders was criticized at Wednesday’s Democratic debate of not effectively curbing social media harassment by some of his most virulent supporters, McCain weighed in on Twitter.

“Bernie – your army of Bernie bro’s are the worst in all of the internet and every woman on both sides knows it,” McCain wrote. “Mysoginistic, abusive and inspired by you. There’s no army of Pete bots or Biden bots abusing women!”

Omar then tweeted a screenshot of McCain’s tweet plus another in which the TV host retweeted an unsubstantiated claim that Omar had married her own brother.

“How is this not a bigger deal?” McCain wrote.

The congresswoman has strenuously denied the claim, which she calls “disgusting lies.”

This isn’t the first time the two have clashed.

Last year, McCain said Omar’s rhetoric — that some have called anti-Semitic — needed to be addressed following a deadly shooting at a synagogue in Southern California.

“I do think when we are having conversations about anti-Semitism we should be looking at the most extreme on both sides, and I would bring up Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and some of her comments that got so much attention,” McCain told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

Omar, who has apologized for some tweets perceived as anti-Semitic, simply responded, “Oh, bless her heart!”

Westlake Legal Group AP19240050434551 Ilhan Omar slams Meghan McCain, accuses 'View' co-host of hypocrisy on Sanders backers' online attacks fox-news/person/meghan-mccain fox-news/person/ilhan-omar fox-news/person/bernie-sanders fox-news/media fox-news/entertainment/the-view fox news fnc/politics fnc Brie Stimson article 12ab8944-fc1b-59d6-ba89-d27b38f77829   Westlake Legal Group AP19240050434551 Ilhan Omar slams Meghan McCain, accuses 'View' co-host of hypocrisy on Sanders backers' online attacks fox-news/person/meghan-mccain fox-news/person/ilhan-omar fox-news/person/bernie-sanders fox-news/media fox-news/entertainment/the-view fox news fnc/politics fnc Brie Stimson article 12ab8944-fc1b-59d6-ba89-d27b38f77829

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

A Billion-Dollar Scandal Turns the ‘King of Manuscripts’ Into the ‘Madoff of France’

PARIS — A letter from Frida Kahlo, signed and twice kissed with red lipstick, fetched just over $8,800. A page of scribbled calculations by Isaac Newton sold for about $21,000. A 1953 handwritten speech by John F. Kennedy took in $10,000.

“Adjugé!” said a gray-haired auctioneer, over and over, as he gaveled away nearly every one of the 200 lots for sale at Drouot, an auction house, in Paris in mid-November. The sale generated $4.2 million, which might sound like a triumph.

Actually, the sale was a fiasco, or, more precisely, one part of an ongoing fiasco. All of the items came from a now-defunct company, Aristophil, which starting in 2002 built one of the largest collections of rare books, autographs and manuscripts in history — some 136,000 pieces in all.

The buying spree turned the company’s founder and president, a stout 71-year-old named Gérard Lhéritier, into a celebrity. He opened the stately Museum of Letters and Manuscripts in a pricey neighborhood in Paris, and surrounded himself with French luminaries. They included former presidents, authors and journalists, who crowned him the “king of manuscripts.”

Today he’s widely known by a less flattering name, “the Bernie Madoff of France.”

Six years ago, the French authorities shut down Aristophil and arrested Mr. Lhéritier, charging him with fraud and accusing him of orchestrating what amounts to a highbrow Ponzi scheme. As he bought all those rare manuscripts and letters, he had them appraised, divided their putative value into shares and sold them as if they were stock in a corporation. Those shares were bought by 18,000 people, many of them elderly and of modest means, who collectively invested about $1 billion.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_164853789_db955bf6-4d33-4510-a9c6-21cd5be898d6-articleLarge A Billion-Dollar Scandal Turns the ‘King of Manuscripts’ Into the ‘Madoff of France’ Writing and Writers Ponzi and Pyramid Schemes Paris (France) Manuscripts Lotteries Libraries and Librarians France Europe Books and Literature Art

As France decides whether to prosecute Mr. Lhéritier, auction houses are selling his seized documents for pennies on the dollar.Credit…Ben Quinton for The New York Times

Owning a stake in a Marquis de Sade scroll or a letter from Gandhi proved irresistible, in large part because that stake was supposed to grow. The wording of Aristophil’s contracts left investors with the vivid impression that after five years, the company would buy back their shares for at least 40 percent more than their original price. Lawyers for Mr. Lhéritier say the contracts never made any such a promise.

Some investors who wanted to cash in found that Aristophil would not pay out. In 2014, their complaints, along with a growing number of skeptical articles in the French media, prompted a police investigation, which concluded that Aristophil was sustained only by a regular flow of new investors and thus was doomed.

The authorities seized the entire collection and hired a company to catalog and auction off all 136,000 pieces, a process that will take years and hundreds of sales, just like the one in November. The hope is to return as much money as possible to investors, which, based on the more than two dozen auctions already held, will amount to perhaps 10 cents on the dollar.

The problem has nothing to do with quality. Everything in the collection is authentic, and a large part of it is highly coveted. But the authorities say that with the help of pliant experts, Mr. Lhéritier grossly inflated the value of pieces before he sold shares in them. A set of Einstein documents he bought from Christie’s in 2002 for $560,000, for instance, was divided into hundreds of shares and sold at a valuation of $13 million.

“He tricked us,” said Jean-Marie Leconte, a retiree who invested about $260,000 in shares of letters by Baudelaire, Charles de Gaulle and others. “There are people who lost all of their retirement money and had to sell their homes.” There has also been at least one suicide.

Other victims are furious at the government for intervening. Aristophil was solvent, so why close it? And why expect anything but disastrous auction results, with more than 100,000 items set to flood the market?

The outrage is heartily echoed by Gérard Lhéritier himself. Currently free on $2.1 million in bail, he predicted in December during a three-hour interview at his home near Nice that he would be vindicated.

“The government will see it made a huge mistake,” he said, by turns indignant and impishly grinning. “I hope that in the coming years, my 18,000 investors file a lawsuit against the government, demanding compensation. I would be happy to help.”

If nothing else, L’Affaire Aristophil is arguably the Frenchiest of all financial scandals. The country has a singular reverence for books and writers, reflected in statues of great authors that dot Paris, and one of the largest national archives in the world. It’s hard to imagine another place on earth where a frenzy could be whipped up over the personal letters of Voltaire or autographed scores by Mozart.

Mr. Lhéritier seems an unlikely figure to spark this mania. He was raised in a small village in the east of France, the son of a plumber, and he wrote “self-taught” in the diplomas section of his Who’s Who entry. Other than some handsome volumes he published to hype his collection, there aren’t a lot of books in his home.

Which is a villa, valued at $6 million, with a swimming pool, a panoramic view of the coast and, rather incongruously, a number of chickens roaming the backyard. In an expansive living room crammed with photographs and art, a huge TV played a loop of burning logs, right next to a log-less, ornate hearth.

“It’s a good time to save money,” Mr. Lhéritier said with a shrug.

None of it belongs to him anymore. All of his assets have been confiscated by the authorities. A judge has allowed him to continue living here as his case is adjudicated.

But he seemed every bit the lord of the manor, wearing an electric-blue sport jacket over a Hitchcockian frame. With surprising serenity and flashes of wit, he argued that he was the victim of petty French officials, who he believes were embarrassed by and resented his success. The logic of his narrative could be hard to follow, and the facts maddeningly difficult to pin down. He lectured, backtracked, dissembled and fibbed. (In a postinterview email, he claimed to be 82 years old, for some reason.)

As Mr. Lhéritier thumbed endlessly through receipts, catalogs and lists, his show-and-tell lacked neither vigor nor conviction.

“One day, if you want to be a crook, ask me about it,” he said at one point, smiling. “Because it’s a lot of work.”

Seventeen years ago, Mr. Lhéritier crashed through the doors of the genteel market for manuscripts with all the subtlety of a famished wild boar. That Einstein collection was the first he divvied into virtual shares. Soon, representatives of Aristophil were rampaging through auctions around Europe and the United States, outbidding everyone for anything of quality.

The inventory suggests a hoarder with taste. There are letters from Fidel Castro, Lincoln and Dickens; first editions by Charles Darwin, Jack Kerouac and Balzac; and sketches by Salvador Dalí, Andy Warhol and Federico Fellini. There’s even a musical score composed in Alcatraz by Al Capone.

By one estimate, Aristophil wound up with 5 percent of the global market for rare books and manuscripts. Many dealers were shut out for years, and not just at auction. In 2009, Anne Lamort, a seller in Paris, was on the verge of a career-making deal to buy a newly surfaced collection of Stendhal letters from a library in a castle in the south of France. After months of negotiations with the owner, she called one day to complete the details.

Sorry, said the seller. Aristophil had just offered three times as much money.

“This is what arrived in our quiet, polite, fair-play market,” Ms. Lamort said, sitting in her shop on Rue Benjamin Franklin one recent afternoon. “And it was sort of my fault because I spoke to someone about this collection, and that person told Lhéritier.”

Most dealers surrendered to this newcomer with the indomitable checkbook. Many took monthly retainers of 10,000 euros (about $10,800 today) for leads, like the Stendhal tip. Others earned millions selling pieces to him, in exchange for providing the most essential spring in Aristophil’s moneymaking contraption: generous appraisals.

Among the emails seized by investigators was one from Mr. Lhéritier to Jean-Claude Vrain, a fedora-wearing fixture of Paris’s rare books market. In December 2012, Mr. Lhéritier asked Mr. Vrain to appraise a manuscript by a survivor of the Titanic, Helen Churchill Candee.

In his email, Mr. Lhéritier suggested that €1.1 million sounded about right, which was roughly five times what it had cost him. A few hours later, Mr. Vrain concurred.

“I declare that I have appraised the manuscript for an insurance value of 1,100,000,” he wrote. “Certified sincere and genuine.”

Expert opinion in hand, Mr. Lhéritier could get the document insured for the new, higher sum, which lent credibility to the price he charged investors for a piece of it.

The relationship was spectacularly lucrative for Mr. Vrain. Between 2009 and 2014, according to French media reports, he sold Aristophil more than €90 million worth of rare documents, including letters from Jean Cocteau and the manuscript of a Flaubert novella.

He was indicted along with Mr. Lhéritier for “gang fraud.” In an email, he declined to comment, beyond saying that his dealings with Aristophil were no different than with his other customers and were above reproach.

Mr. Lhéritier disputed that there was anything wrong with his arrangement with Mr. Vrain. He executed tens of thousands of similar transactions, and had similar email exchanges, with other dealers.

“Where’s the problem?” Mr. Lhéritier asked during the December interview. Markups are part of every business, he said, and who knows the real value of a document as rare as, say, a shopping list penned by Beethoven, circa 1817?

Mr. Lhéritier’s assumption when the company began was that the rare books market was undervalued because it was small and drowsy. He would jolt it awake with salesmanship, and by pitching it to a huge pool of middle-class investors.

“The will of Aristophil,” the company said in one of its brochures, “is to allow everyone to hold one day in their hands one of these fragments of history.”

Transforming the rare books market would take all of Mr. Lhéritier’s considerable gifts for razzle-dazzle. Money poured in and promptly went back out. It was spent on the museum, which welcomed more than 20,000 visitors a year. Then there was $40 million for a mansion in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, which was turned into an office with space for small exhibitions. It opened in 2013 with a gala where guards in Napoleonic-era garb played a drum roll as each guest arrived on the red carpet.

Mr. Lhéritier constantly gave out awards — trophies, checks, sales bonuses, anything to attract a crowd and lend Aristophil an aura of opulence and gravity. At conventions in Monaco, audiences sipped champagne and were serenaded by an orchestra as he handed plaques to employees, authors, journalists and experts, including Mr. Vrain, who was hailed for his “scientific” approach.

He created the Grand Prize of the Institute of Letters and Manuscripts and bestowed it, along with a check for €10,000, on people such as Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the former president of France. (The money was donated to a nonprofit, Mr. Giscard told the media.)

He donated nearly $3 million to the National Library of France. Reporters were paid $1,100 to moderate panels about rare books. To sell shares in the documents, Aristophil relied on a long-established, nationwide network of about 800 professional financial advisers. Top performers won a trip on the Orient Express or a cruise on the Queen Elizabeth 2.

The largess helped spread word of the extraordinary sums Aristophil was paying for rare books. And that caused Europeans to rummage through their libraries and sell off their treasures. Typically, rare manuscripts trickle into the market as they are inherited or discovered. Now, there was a flood. One expert estimates that a century’s worth of items were coaxed out of private hands in 15 years.

Mr. Lhéritier benefited from a cycle: The publicity pried loose more documents, and the documents brought in more investors, which generated more publicity, which brought in more documents, and so on.

His profile might have peaked with his appearance in July 2013 on the cover of Winner magazine. It was the sort of publication that accepted a roughly $140,000 check from Mr. Lhéritier to plaster the image on news kiosks around Paris.

“I’ll show you the articles before Nov. 18, 2014, the day the police raided Aristophil,” Mr. Lhéritier said during the December interview. “Figaro, Le Monde, Nice Matin — they all loved me and my museum. Everything was fine.”

By then, in fact, there was trouble.

Several doyens of the rare books realm had become alarmed after looking into Mr. Lhéritier’s background. Following service in the army, then a stint in the diamond business that ended in bankruptcy, he had figured in a 1990s scandal in Monaco involving commemorative stamps, which Mr. Lhéritier resold as investments at a fantastic markup. About 1,200 people, mostly French, parted with more than $50 million before the stamps proved worthless.

Mr. Lhéritier was eventually given a suspended prison sentence. In a preview of his current defense, he blamed the French government for conspiring against him.

The Monaco story only confirmed the suspicions of Frédéric Castaing, who owns the oldest rare manuscripts shop in Paris, on Rue Jacob in the heart of city’s antiques neighborhood. From the day the two met, years ago at a restaurant on the Champs-Élysées, he considered Mr. Lhéritier something akin to an invasive species.

“He explained Aristophil and that the autographs market is old, closed and snooty,” Mr. Castaing said in his shop one evening, under a photograph of Proust. “It was the last segment of the art market where there was no speculation, and he was going to change that.”

Mr. Lhéritier brought along figures that he considered proof that manuscripts by Baudelaire appreciated at 15 percent a year, Victor Hugo at 12 percent and so on.

“I told him, ‘I can’t work with you,’” Mr. Castaing remembered. “And after that, I criticized him nonstop, as publicly as I could.”

To Mr. Castaing, the business model for Aristophil was preposterous. No Baudelaire letter is worth the same as any other, and none appreciate in the large, predictable steps that Mr. Lhéritier promised, he said.

Further, the market for rare books is about 2,500 people worldwide, by Mr. Castaing’s estimation. That’s because paintings and manuscripts are inherently different objects, with very different markets. A painting can be hung on a wall, where it can be viewed and appreciated by its owner, and signal discernment and wealth to everyone else. A letter from Mark Twain should be kept in a protective sheath somewhere dark. What’s more, artists can be rediscovered and their reputations can rise with exhibitions, enhancing the value of their work. Authors, especially long-deceased ones, rarely go in or out of vogue in ways that drastically affect the value of their letters and documents.

To Mr. Castaing, there was another flaw with Mr. Lhéritier’s plan. He could sell to investors, but who would later buy from them?

The ostensible answer was Aristophil. The contract signed by Mr. Leconte, the retiree who lost more than $250,000, and others included a seemingly straightforward line in the “Agreement to Sell” section. As he read it, the document stated that the company would buy back shares after five years, at a price that “may in no case be lower than the purchase price increased by 8.95 percent per year.”

Mr. Lhéritier said in the December interview that it was absurd to believe Aristophil would promise those kinds of returns. “If we did, we would have had 18 million clients, not 18,000,” he said. The contract stipulated that Aristophil might buy back shares at a premium, he said, but was not obliged to do so.

The facts here are not black and white, and there were dozens of variations of Aristophil contracts. A consumer group, Que Choisir, studied one and described it in 2011 as “frighteningly ambiguous.” Its report ended with an ominous prediction: “The last investors to enter the dance are likely to be losers.”

Few knew that by 2012, the final dance seemed imminent. Mr. Lhéritier said in the interview that articles like Que Choisir’s had reduced the number of new clients and that his cash flow was dangerously low.

He needed a miracle — and he got the secular version of just that. On Nov. 13, 2012, Mr. Lhéritier hit the lottery. Specifically, he hit the EuroMillions, which paid him €169 million, then worth about $215 million.

“When I looked at my computer, I checked the numbers 10 times,” Mr. Lhéritier recalled. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Neither could the police. They studied the ticket and concluded, to their astonishment, that the win was legitimate. Mr. Lhéritier had been playing the same numbers for years — the birth dates of children and grandchildren — and the ticket was bought at the tobacco shop where he had dropped thousands of euros on lottery tickets in the past.

He would eventually give millions to his family, keep millions for himself and pump about $40 million into Aristophil.

To Mr. Lhéritier, this is proof that Aristophil was no Ponzi scheme, because only a lunatic would sink money into a doomed venture. Not so, say critics. If Mr. Lhéritier hadn’t infused his company with cash, Aristophil would have collapsed and he would have instantly gone from eminence to pariah.

Regardless, winning the lottery wasn’t enough. Far more cash was needed to cover the hundreds of millions of dollars that aging investors had begun to demand.

“By 2014, these people wanted to sell their assets,” said Philippe Julien, an attorney with PDGB, a law firm leading one of several class-action suits on behalf of investors. “Aristophil was unable to say yes. The company didn’t say no, either. It just was unable to pay, or it would pay a little and say it would pay more in a few years.”

Mr. Lhéritier scrambled. Through an intermediary, he tried to sell his Einstein documents to a list of notables, including the Aga Khan, Harvey Weinstein and Steven Spielberg, for $32 million. “They all require second opinions,” the intermediary wrote to Mr. Lhéritier. The potential buyers passed.

Prodded by angry investors, the French authorities shut down Aristophil on a Tuesday morning in November 2014. Mr. Lhéritier’s home was searched, too.

A criminal investigation is underway to determine whether Mr. Lhéritier’s indictment will continue into prosecution, and if there is a trial the proceedings could stretch on for years. In the meantime, he spends most days at home, in search of proof that well-placed civil servants targeted him for destruction.

At present, Mr. Lhéritier has more hunches than hard evidence. He says he angered influential players in the investment world, and regulators in their thrall, because Aristophil was a disrupter. He also says he embarrassed government officials by giving them color photocopies of letters by de Gaulle after they demanded the originals displayed in his museum.

The implication is that Aristophil, and its many investors, were ruined out of pique. This sounds entirely plausible to Mr. Lhéritier’s publicist, Christophe Reille, who said the French government’s behavior toward his client “falls somewhere between the Soviet Union and the Republic of North Korea.”

He also said class resentment, a perennial bugbear of France, had played a major role. “The government was offended that he is a modest man,” Mr. Reille said. “He didn’t have the right education, the right credentials.”

The Aristophil auctions continue apace, with eight more planned in the coming year. While many experts anticipate severely depressed prices, others see opportunity. They include the indicted Jean-Claude Vrain, who provided many on-demand estimates for Mr. Lhéritier and earned a fortune as the market soared to its pre-calamity heights.

Now, because nothing in his legal situation prevents it, he is discovering bargains in the wreckage. He has been spending liberally at Aristophil auctions, starting with the first in 2015, when he spent nearly $2 million. His haul included a copy of “Madame Bovary” dedicated by Flaubert to Victor Hugo. In an article published by L’Express the next day, he sounded pleased by the $400,000 price.

“I think it’s not very expensive,” he said.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Colorado squatters leave behind underwear, a snake and sex toys

Westlake Legal Group DirtyDishesIstock-2 Colorado squatters leave behind underwear, a snake and sex toys fox-news/us/us-regions/west/colorado fox-news/us/crime fox-news/real-estate fox-news/odd-news fox news fnc/us fnc Brie Stimson article 5a69718b-0fa0-546f-9696-9ae3b6c0107a

A Colorado condominium owner said this week she had to spend hundreds of dollars and lost about two months’ worth of rent, in an effort to evict squatters who left behind underwear, dirty dishes, a snake and sex toys.

Sarah Feldman told Denver’s FOX 31 that after a tenant broke their lease another woman moved in without her knowledge and refused to leave.

“She was being difficult, she didn’t want to leave,” Feldman said. “There was her and two guys I’ve never seen before.”

CALIFORNIANS WHO CAN’T AFFORD TO LIVE ON LAND INCREASINGLY TURNING TO WATER

After a month, Feldman got a lawyer and obtained a writ for the Denver Sheriff’s Department to evict the squatters.

“There were guys’ underwear all over. It was just really disgusting,” Feldman told FOX 31. “There were sex toys found in the condo as well that I did not want to touch.”

The squatters also left behind stained carpets and even left a snake in a cage with no lid.

Aside from the rent loss, Feldman had to pay her legal fees, $150 for the writ, and the costs of fixing the damage left by the squatters.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

The Denver Sheriff’s Department said it receives a high number of squatting eviction requests and is backlogged because of limited resources, according to the station.

Westlake Legal Group DirtyDishesIstock-2 Colorado squatters leave behind underwear, a snake and sex toys fox-news/us/us-regions/west/colorado fox-news/us/crime fox-news/real-estate fox-news/odd-news fox news fnc/us fnc Brie Stimson article 5a69718b-0fa0-546f-9696-9ae3b6c0107a   Westlake Legal Group DirtyDishesIstock-2 Colorado squatters leave behind underwear, a snake and sex toys fox-news/us/us-regions/west/colorado fox-news/us/crime fox-news/real-estate fox-news/odd-news fox news fnc/us fnc Brie Stimson article 5a69718b-0fa0-546f-9696-9ae3b6c0107a

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Enjoy The Extra Day Off! More Bosses Give 4-Day Workweek A Try

Westlake Legal Group gettyimages-1185957282-2-1ad676bc6169d8db863284e6eb39af45a04a265e-s1100-c15 Enjoy The Extra Day Off! More Bosses Give 4-Day Workweek A Try

Shake Shack shortened managers’ workweeks to four days at some stores a year and a half ago. Recently, the burger chain expanded the trial to a third of its U.S. stores. Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group via Getty Images hide caption

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Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group via Getty Images

Westlake Legal Group  Enjoy The Extra Day Off! More Bosses Give 4-Day Workweek A Try

Shake Shack shortened managers’ workweeks to four days at some stores a year and a half ago. Recently, the burger chain expanded the trial to a third of its U.S. stores.

Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group via Getty Images

Companies around the world are embracing what might seem like a radical idea: a four-day workweek.

The concept is gaining ground in places as varied as New Zealand and Russia, and it’s making inroads among some American companies. Employers are seeing surprising benefits, including higher sales and profits.

The idea of a four-day workweek might sound crazy, especially in America, where the number of hours worked has been climbing and where cellphones and email remind us of our jobs 24/7.

But in some places, the four-day concept is taking off like a viral meme. Many employers aren’t just moving to 10-hour shifts, four days a week, as companies like Shake Shack are doing; they’re going to a 32-hour week — without cutting pay. In exchange, employers are asking their workers to get their jobs done in a compressed amount of time.

Last month, a Washington state senator introduced a bill to reduce the standard workweek to 32 hours. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is backing a parliamentary proposal to shift to a four-day week. Politicians in Britain and Finland are considering something similar.

In the U.S., Shake Shack started testing the idea a year and a half ago. The burger chain shortened managers’ workweeks to four days at some stores and found that recruitment spiked, especially among women.

Shake Shack’s president, Tara Comonte, says the staff loved the perk: “Being able to take their kids to school a day a week, or one day less of having to pay for day care, for example.”

So the company recently expanded its trial to a third of its 164 U.S. stores. Offering that benefit required Shake Shack to find time savings elsewhere, so it switched to computer software to track supplies of ground beef, for example.

“It was a way to increase flexibility,” Comonte says of the shorter week. “Corporate environments have had flexible work policies for a while now. That’s not so easy to do in the restaurant business.”

Hundreds — if not thousands — of other companies are also adopting or testing the four-day week. Last summer, Microsoft’s trial in Japan led to a 40% improvement in productivity, measured as sales per employee.

Much of this is thanks to Andrew Barnes, an archaeologist by training, who never intended to become a global evangelist. “This was not a journey I expected to be on,” he says.

Barnes is CEO of Perpetual Guardian, New Zealand’s largest estate planning company. He spent much of his career believing long hours were better for business. But he was also disturbed by the toll it took on employees and their families, particularly when it came to mental health.

So two years ago, he used Perpetual Guardian and its 240 workers as guinea pigs, partnering with academic researchers in Auckland to monitor and track the effects of working only four days a week.

“Core to this is that people are not productive for every hour, every minute of the day that they’re in the office,” Barnes says, which means there was lots of distraction and wasted time that could be cut.

Simply slashing the number and duration of meetings saved huge amounts of time. Also, he did away with open-floor office plans and saw workers spending far less time on social media. All this, he says, made it easier to focus more deeply on the work.

Remarkably, workers got more work done while working fewer hours. Sales and profits grew. Employees spent less time commuting, and they were happier.

Barnes says there were other, unexpected benefits: It narrowed workplace gender gaps. Women — who typically took more time off for caregiving — suddenly had greater flexibility built into their schedule. Men also had more time to help with their families, Barnes says.

The company didn’t police how workers spent their time. But if performance slipped, the firm could revert back to the full-week schedule. Barnes says that alone motivated workers.

The Perpetual Guardian study went viral, and things went haywire for Barnes.

Employers — including big multinationals — started calling, seeking advice. “Frankly, I couldn’t drink enough coffee to deal with the number of companies that approached us,” Barnes says.

Demand was so great that he set up a foundation to promote the four-day workweek. Ironically, in the process, he’s working a lot of overtime.

“You only get one chance to change the world. And, it’s my responsibility at least, on this one, to see if I can influence the world for the better,” he says.

To date, most of that interest has not come from American employers.

Peter Cappelli, a professor of management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, says that’s because the concept runs counter to American notions of work and capitalism. Unions are less powerful, and workers have less political sway than in other countries, he says.

So American companies answer to shareholders, who tend to prioritize profit over worker benefits.

“I just don’t see contemporary U.S. employers saying, ‘You know what, if we create more value here, we’re gonna give it to the employees.’ I just don’t see that happening,” Cappelli says.

Natalie Nagele, co-founder and CEO of Wildbit, has heard from other leaders who say it didn’t work for them. She says it fails when employees aren’t motivated and where managers don’t trust employees.

But Nagele says moving her Philadelphia software company to a four-day week three years ago has been a success.

“We had shipped more features than we had in recent years, we felt more productive, the quality of our work increased. So then we just kept going with it,” Nagele says. Personally, she says, it gives her time to rest her brain, which helps solve complex problems: “You can ask my team, there’s multiple times where somebody is like, ‘On Sunday morning, I woke up and … I figured it out.’ “

Mikeal Parlow started working a four-day week about a month ago. It was a perk of his new job as a budget analyst in Westminster, Colo.

He works 10 hours a day, Monday through Thursday. Or, as he puts it, until the job is done. Parlow says he much prefers the new way “because it is about getting your work done, more so than feeding the clock.”

That frees Fridays up for life’s many delightful chores — like visits to the DMV. “For instance, today we’re going to go and get our license plates,” Parlow says.

But that also leaves time on the weekends … for the weekend.

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Pelosi Says Putin Shouldn’t Decide U.S. Election After Reports Of Russian Efforts To Get Trump Re-Elected

Westlake Legal Group K6YWFZJhW_XCfzrpM56I1sLmez2QbXziq1hDoJx3Nck Pelosi Says Putin Shouldn't Decide U.S. Election After Reports Of Russian Efforts To Get Trump Re-Elected r/politics

Jeebus, when did it get so bad that this type of statement has to be made publicly?

Please, call me coder. It’s significantly worse than they are letting on if you also become aware of the domestic efforts to get Trump re-elected. :/

From our hackathon to identify attack vectors in the billion-dollar disinformation campaign to reelect the president in 2020:

Parscale has indicated that he plans to open up a new front in this war: local news. Last year, he said the campaign intends to train “swarms of surrogates” to undermine negative coverage from local TV stations and newspapers. Polls have long found that Americans across the political spectrum trust local news more than national media. If the campaign has its way, that trust will be eroded by November.

When Twitter employees later reviewed the activity surrounding Kentucky’s election, they concluded that the bots were largely based in America—a sign that political operatives here were learning to mimic [foreign tactics].

Running parallel to this effort, some conservatives have been experimenting with a scheme to exploit the credibility of local journalism. Over the past few years, hundreds of websites with innocuous-sounding names like the Arizona Monitor and The Kalamazoo Times have begun popping up. At first glance, they look like regular publications, complete with community notices and coverage of schools. But look closer and you’ll find that there are often no mastheads, few if any bylines, and no addresses for local offices. Many of them are organs of Republican lobbying groups; others belong to a mysterious company called Locality Labs, which is run by a conservative activist in Illinois. Readers are given no indication that these sites have political agendas—which is precisely what makes them valuable

Their shit looks really real: https://grandcanyontimes.com, until you start looking at all the articles at once: https://grandcanyontimes.com/stories/tag/126-politics

We’ve found 70 more and counting:

https://github.com/MassMove/AttackVectors

And are setting up a monitor to keep an eye on them for when they dare utter their final, most essential command and tell us to reject the evidence of our eyes and ears…

Barack Obama’s advice regarding the billion-dollar disinformation campaign to reelect the president in 2020:

Even if the methods are new, sowing the seeds of doubt, division, and discord to turn Americans against each other is an old trick. The antidote is citizenship: to get engaged, organized, mobilized, and to vote – on every level, in every election

Send dudes: r/MassMove

I’m in a fight. And need more men.

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‘TV President’ Martin Sheen Burns Trump With A New Running Mate For 2020

Actor Martin Sheen texted MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell in the middle of his show on Thursday night to share an image of a bumper sticker mocking President Donald Trump’s reelection bid. 

Sheen, who portrayed fictional President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet on “The West Wing” from 1999-2006, suggested that Trump could have a new running mate: Russian President Vladimir Putin.  

The text arrived as O’Donnell aired a segment on “The Last Word” about Russia’s latest attempts to interfere in the U.S. election, which was titled “Putin’s Running Mate.” O’Donnell, who was a producer, writer and occasional actor on “The West Wing,” shared the tweet on air and said it was from the actor and his wife, actress/producer Janet Sheen: 

Here it is a little closer, three bumper stickers with the one in the middle reading “TRUMP/PUTIN?” as if that was the GOP ticket: 

Westlake Legal Group 5e4f987f230000650539bf75 ‘TV President’ Martin Sheen Burns Trump With A New Running Mate For 2020

MSNBC Bumper Sticker

Earlier in the day, Trump ousted Joseph Maguire, his acting director of national intelligence, over a briefing intelligence officials delivered to Congress. The officials reportedly told lawmakers that Russia was continuing its attempts to interfere in U.S. elections, specifically to help Trump. The New York Times, citing five intelligence sources, said Trump was angry that Democrats could use that information against him.

O’Donnell didn’t mince words:

“Donald Trump is operating in the White House in conjunction with Vladimir Putin to hide what Vladimir Putin is doing to help Donald Trump get reelected. Donald Trump is a Russian operative, if tonight’s reporting by The Washington Post and The New York Times is true ― and everything else we know about Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin indicates that it is true.”  

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A Billion-Dollar Scandal Turns the ‘King of Manuscripts’ Into the ‘Madoff of France’

PARIS — A letter from Frida Kahlo, signed and twice kissed with red lipstick, fetched just over $8,800. A page of scribbled calculations by Isaac Newton sold for about $21,000. A 1953 handwritten speech by John F. Kennedy took in $10,000.

“Adjugé!” said a gray-haired auctioneer, over and over, as he gaveled away nearly every one of the 200 lots for sale at Drouot, an auction house, in Paris in mid-November. The sale generated $4.2 million, which might sound like a triumph.

Actually, the sale was a fiasco, or, more precisely, one part of an ongoing fiasco. All of the items came from a now-defunct company, Aristophil, which starting in 2002 built one of the largest collections of rare books, autographs and manuscripts in history — some 136,000 pieces in all.

The buying spree turned the company’s founder and president, a stout 71-year-old named Gérard Lhéritier, into a celebrity. He opened the stately Museum of Letters and Manuscripts in a pricey neighborhood in Paris, and surrounded himself with French luminaries. They included former presidents, authors and journalists, who crowned him the “king of manuscripts.”

Today he’s widely known by a less flattering name, “the Bernie Madoff of France.”

Six years ago, the French authorities shut down Aristophil and arrested Mr. Lhéritier, charging him with fraud and accusing him of orchestrating what amounts to a highbrow Ponzi scheme. As he bought all those rare manuscripts and letters, he had them appraised, divided their putative value into shares and sold them as if they were stock in a corporation. Those shares were bought by 18,000 people, many of them elderly and of modest means, who collectively invested about $1 billion.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_164853789_db955bf6-4d33-4510-a9c6-21cd5be898d6-articleLarge A Billion-Dollar Scandal Turns the ‘King of Manuscripts’ Into the ‘Madoff of France’ Writing and Writers Ponzi and Pyramid Schemes Paris (France) Manuscripts Lotteries Libraries and Librarians France Europe Books and Literature Art

As France decides whether to prosecute Mr. Lhéritier, auction houses are selling his seized documents for pennies on the dollar.Credit…Ben Quinton for The New York Times

Owning a stake in a Marquis de Sade scroll or a letter from Gandhi proved irresistible, in large part because that stake was supposed to grow. The wording of Aristophil’s contracts left investors with the vivid impression that after five years, the company would buy back their shares for at least 40 percent more than their original price. Lawyers for Mr. Lhéritier say the contracts never made any such a promise.

Some investors who wanted to cash in found that Aristophil would not pay out. In 2014, their complaints, along with a growing number of skeptical articles in the French media, prompted a police investigation, which concluded that Aristophil was sustained only by a regular flow of new investors and thus was doomed.

The authorities seized the entire collection and hired a company to catalog and auction off all 136,000 pieces, a process that will take years and hundreds of sales, just like the one in November. The hope is to return as much money as possible to investors, which, based on the more than two dozen auctions already held, will amount to perhaps 10 cents on the dollar.

The problem has nothing to do with quality. Everything in the collection is authentic, and a large part of it is highly coveted. But the authorities say that with the help of pliant experts, Mr. Lhéritier grossly inflated the value of pieces before he sold shares in them. A set of Einstein documents he bought from Christie’s in 2002 for $560,000, for instance, was divided into hundreds of shares and sold at a valuation of $13 million.

“He tricked us,” said Jean-Marie Leconte, a retiree who invested about $260,000 in shares of letters by Baudelaire, Charles de Gaulle and others. “There are people who lost all of their retirement money and had to sell their homes.” There has also been at least one suicide.

Other victims are furious at the government for intervening. Aristophil was solvent, so why close it? And why expect anything but disastrous auction results, with more than 100,000 items set to flood the market?

The outrage is heartily echoed by Gérard Lhéritier himself. Currently free on $2.1 million in bail, he predicted in December during a three-hour interview at his home near Nice that he would be vindicated.

“The government will see it made a huge mistake,” he said, by turns indignant and impishly grinning. “I hope that in the coming years, my 18,000 investors file a lawsuit against the government, demanding compensation. I would be happy to help.”

If nothing else, L’Affaire Aristophil is arguably the Frenchiest of all financial scandals. The country has a singular reverence for books and writers, reflected in statues of great authors that dot Paris, and one of the largest national archives in the world. It’s hard to imagine another place on earth where a frenzy could be whipped up over the personal letters of Voltaire or autographed scores by Mozart.

Mr. Lhéritier seems an unlikely figure to spark this mania. He was raised in a small village in the east of France, the son of a plumber, and he wrote “self-taught” in the diplomas section of his Who’s Who entry. Other than some handsome volumes he published to hype his collection, there aren’t a lot of books in his home.

Which is a villa, valued at $6 million, with a swimming pool, a panoramic view of the coast and, rather incongruously, a number of chickens roaming the backyard. In an expansive living room crammed with photographs and art, a huge TV played a loop of burning logs, right next to a log-less, ornate hearth.

“It’s a good time to save money,” Mr. Lhéritier said with a shrug.

None of it belongs to him anymore. All of his assets have been confiscated by the authorities. A judge has allowed him to continue living here as his case is adjudicated.

But he seemed every bit the lord of the manor, wearing an electric-blue sport jacket over a Hitchcockian frame. With surprising serenity and flashes of wit, he argued that he was the victim of petty French officials, who he believes were embarrassed by and resented his success. The logic of his narrative could be hard to follow, and the facts maddeningly difficult to pin down. He lectured, backtracked, dissembled and fibbed. (In a postinterview email, he claimed to be 82 years old, for some reason.)

As Mr. Lhéritier thumbed endlessly through receipts, catalogs and lists, his show-and-tell lacked neither vigor nor conviction.

“One day, if you want to be a crook, ask me about it,” he said at one point, smiling. “Because it’s a lot of work.”

Seventeen years ago, Mr. Lhéritier crashed through the doors of the genteel market for manuscripts with all the subtlety of a famished wild boar. That Einstein collection was the first he divvied into virtual shares. Soon, representatives of Aristophil were rampaging through auctions around Europe and the United States, outbidding everyone for anything of quality.

The inventory suggests a hoarder with taste. There are letters from Fidel Castro, Lincoln and Dickens; first editions by Charles Darwin, Jack Kerouac and Balzac; and sketches by Salvador Dalí, Andy Warhol and Federico Fellini. There’s even a musical score composed in Alcatraz by Al Capone.

By one estimate, Aristophil wound up with 5 percent of the global market for rare books and manuscripts. Many dealers were shut out for years, and not just at auction. In 2009, Anne Lamort, a seller in Paris, was on the verge of a career-making deal to buy a newly surfaced collection of Stendhal letters from a library in a castle in the south of France. After months of negotiations with the owner, she called one day to complete the details.

Sorry, said the seller. Aristophil had just offered three times as much money.

“This is what arrived in our quiet, polite, fair-play market,” Ms. Lamort said, sitting in her shop on Rue Benjamin Franklin one recent afternoon. “And it was sort of my fault because I spoke to someone about this collection, and that person told Lhéritier.”

Most dealers surrendered to this newcomer with the indomitable checkbook. Many took monthly retainers of 10,000 euros (about $10,800 today) for leads, like the Stendhal tip. Others earned millions selling pieces to him, in exchange for providing the most essential spring in Aristophil’s moneymaking contraption: generous appraisals.

Among the emails seized by investigators was one from Mr. Lhéritier to Jean-Claude Vrain, a fedora-wearing fixture of Paris’s rare books market. In December 2012, Mr. Lhéritier asked Mr. Vrain to appraise a manuscript by a survivor of the Titanic, Helen Churchill Candee.

In his email, Mr. Lhéritier suggested that €1.1 million sounded about right, which was roughly five times what it had cost him. A few hours later, Mr. Vrain concurred.

“I declare that I have appraised the manuscript for an insurance value of 1,100,000,” he wrote. “Certified sincere and genuine.”

Expert opinion in hand, Mr. Lhéritier could get the document insured for the new, higher sum, which lent credibility to the price he charged investors for a piece of it.

The relationship was spectacularly lucrative for Mr. Vrain. Between 2009 and 2014, according to French media reports, he sold Aristophil more than €90 million worth of rare documents, including letters from Jean Cocteau and the manuscript of a Flaubert novella.

He was indicted along with Mr. Lhéritier for “gang fraud.” In an email, he declined to comment, beyond saying that his dealings with Aristophil were no different than with his other customers and were above reproach.

Mr. Lhéritier disputed that there was anything wrong with his arrangement with Mr. Vrain. He executed tens of thousands of similar transactions, and had similar email exchanges, with other dealers.

“Where’s the problem?” Mr. Lhéritier asked during the December interview. Markups are part of every business, he said, and who knows the real value of a document as rare as, say, a shopping list penned by Beethoven, circa 1817?

Mr. Lhéritier’s assumption when the company began was that the rare books market was undervalued because it was small and drowsy. He would jolt it awake with salesmanship, and by pitching it to a huge pool of middle-class investors.

“The will of Aristophil,” the company said in one of its brochures, “is to allow everyone to hold one day in their hands one of these fragments of history.”

Transforming the rare books market would take all of Mr. Lhéritier’s considerable gifts for razzle-dazzle. Money poured in and promptly went back out. It was spent on the museum, which welcomed more than 20,000 visitors a year. Then there was $40 million for a mansion in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, which was turned into an office with space for small exhibitions. It opened in 2013 with a gala where guards in Napoleonic-era garb played a drum roll as each guest arrived on the red carpet.

Mr. Lhéritier constantly gave out awards — trophies, checks, sales bonuses, anything to attract a crowd and lend Aristophil an aura of opulence and gravity. At conventions in Monaco, audiences sipped champagne and were serenaded by an orchestra as he handed plaques to employees, authors, journalists and experts, including Mr. Vrain, who was hailed for his “scientific” approach.

He created the Grand Prize of the Institute of Letters and Manuscripts and bestowed it, along with a check for €10,000, on people such as Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the former president of France. (The money was donated to a nonprofit, Mr. Giscard told the media.)

He donated nearly $3 million to the National Library of France. Reporters were paid $1,100 to moderate panels about rare books. To sell shares in the documents, Aristophil relied on a long-established, nationwide network of about 800 professional financial advisers. Top performers won a trip on the Orient Express or a cruise on the Queen Elizabeth 2.

The largess helped spread word of the extraordinary sums Aristophil was paying for rare books. And that caused Europeans to rummage through their libraries and sell off their treasures. Typically, rare manuscripts trickle into the market as they are inherited or discovered. Now, there was a flood. One expert estimates that a century’s worth of items were coaxed out of private hands in 15 years.

Mr. Lhéritier benefited from a cycle: The publicity pried loose more documents, and the documents brought in more investors, which generated more publicity, which brought in more documents, and so on.

His profile might have peaked with his appearance in July 2013 on the cover of Winner magazine. It was the sort of publication that accepted a roughly $140,000 check from Mr. Lhéritier to plaster the image on news kiosks around Paris.

“I’ll show you the articles before Nov. 18, 2014, the day the police raided Aristophil,” Mr. Lhéritier said during the December interview. “Figaro, Le Monde, Nice Matin — they all loved me and my museum. Everything was fine.”

By then, in fact, there was trouble.

Several doyens of the rare books realm had become alarmed after looking into Mr. Lhéritier’s background. Following service in the army, then a stint in the diamond business that ended in bankruptcy, he had figured in a 1990s scandal in Monaco involving commemorative stamps, which Mr. Lhéritier resold as investments at a fantastic markup. About 1,200 people, mostly French, parted with more than $50 million before the stamps proved worthless.

Mr. Lhéritier was eventually given a suspended prison sentence. In a preview of his current defense, he blamed the French government for conspiring against him.

The Monaco story only confirmed the suspicions of Frédéric Castaing, who owns the oldest rare manuscripts shop in Paris, on Rue Jacob in the heart of city’s antiques neighborhood. From the day the two met, years ago at a restaurant on the Champs-Élysées, he considered Mr. Lhéritier something akin to an invasive species.

“He explained Aristophil and that the autographs market is old, closed and snooty,” Mr. Castaing said in his shop one evening, under a photograph of Proust. “It was the last segment of the art market where there was no speculation, and he was going to change that.”

Mr. Lhéritier brought along figures that he considered proof that manuscripts by Baudelaire appreciated at 15 percent a year, Victor Hugo at 12 percent and so on.

“I told him, ‘I can’t work with you,’” Mr. Castaing remembered. “And after that, I criticized him nonstop, as publicly as I could.”

To Mr. Castaing, the business model for Aristophil was preposterous. No Baudelaire letter is worth the same as any other, and none appreciate in the large, predictable steps that Mr. Lhéritier promised, he said.

Further, the market for rare books is about 2,500 people worldwide, by Mr. Castaing’s estimation. That’s because paintings and manuscripts are inherently different objects, with very different markets. A painting can be hung on a wall, where it can be viewed and appreciated by its owner, and signal discernment and wealth to everyone else. A letter from Mark Twain should be kept in a protective sheath somewhere dark. What’s more, artists can be rediscovered and their reputations can rise with exhibitions, enhancing the value of their work. Authors, especially long-deceased ones, rarely go in or out of vogue in ways that drastically affect the value of their letters and documents.

To Mr. Castaing, there was another flaw with Mr. Lhéritier’s plan. He could sell to investors, but who would later buy from them?

The ostensible answer was Aristophil. The contract signed by Mr. Leconte, the retiree who lost more than $250,000, and others included a seemingly straightforward line in the “Agreement to Sell” section. As he read it, the document stated that the company would buy back shares after five years, at a price that “may in no case be lower than the purchase price increased by 8.95 percent per year.”

Mr. Lhéritier said in the December interview that it was absurd to believe Aristophil would promise those kinds of returns. “If we did, we would have had 18 million clients, not 18,000,” he said. The contract stipulated that Aristophil might buy back shares at a premium, he said, but was not obliged to do so.

The facts here are not black and white, and there were dozens of variations of Aristophil contracts. A consumer group, Que Choisir, studied one and described it in 2011 as “frighteningly ambiguous.” Its report ended with an ominous prediction: “The last investors to enter the dance are likely to be losers.”

Few knew that by 2012, the final dance seemed imminent. Mr. Lhéritier said in the interview that articles like Que Choisir’s had reduced the number of new clients and that his cash flow was dangerously low.

He needed a miracle — and he got the secular version of just that. On Nov. 13, 2012, Mr. Lhéritier hit the lottery. Specifically, he hit the EuroMillions, which paid him €169 million, then worth about $215 million.

“When I looked at my computer, I checked the numbers 10 times,” Mr. Lhéritier recalled. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Neither could the police. They studied the ticket and concluded, to their astonishment, that the win was legitimate. Mr. Lhéritier had been playing the same numbers for years — the birth dates of children and grandchildren — and the ticket was bought at the tobacco shop where he had dropped thousands of euros on lottery tickets in the past.

He would eventually give millions to his family, keep millions for himself and pump about $40 million into Aristophil.

To Mr. Lhéritier, this is proof that Aristophil was no Ponzi scheme, because only a lunatic would sink money into a doomed venture. Not so, say critics. If Mr. Lhéritier hadn’t infused his company with cash, Aristophil would have collapsed and he would have instantly gone from eminence to pariah.

Regardless, winning the lottery wasn’t enough. Far more cash was needed to cover the hundreds of millions of dollars that aging investors had begun to demand.

“By 2014, these people wanted to sell their assets,” said Philippe Julien, an attorney with PDGB, a law firm leading one of several class-action suits on behalf of investors. “Aristophil was unable to say yes. The company didn’t say no, either. It just was unable to pay, or it would pay a little and say it would pay more in a few years.”

Mr. Lhéritier scrambled. Through an intermediary, he tried to sell his Einstein documents to a list of notables, including the Aga Khan, Harvey Weinstein and Steven Spielberg, for $32 million. “They all require second opinions,” the intermediary wrote to Mr. Lhéritier. The potential buyers passed.

Prodded by angry investors, the French authorities shut down Aristophil on a Tuesday morning in November 2014. Mr. Lhéritier’s home was searched, too.

A criminal investigation is underway to determine whether Mr. Lhéritier’s indictment will continue into prosecution, and if there is a trial the proceedings could stretch on for years. In the meantime, he spends most days at home, in search of proof that well-placed civil servants targeted him for destruction.

At present, Mr. Lhéritier has more hunches than hard evidence. He says he angered influential players in the investment world, and regulators in their thrall, because Aristophil was a disrupter. He also says he embarrassed government officials by giving them color photocopies of letters by de Gaulle after they demanded the originals displayed in his museum.

The implication is that Aristophil, and its many investors, were ruined out of pique. This sounds entirely plausible to Mr. Lhéritier’s publicist, Christophe Reille, who said the French government’s behavior toward his client “falls somewhere between the Soviet Union and the Republic of North Korea.”

He also said class resentment, a perennial bugbear of France, had played a major role. “The government was offended that he is a modest man,” Mr. Reille said. “He didn’t have the right education, the right credentials.”

The Aristophil auctions continue apace, with eight more planned in the coming year. While many experts anticipate severely depressed prices, others see opportunity. They include the indicted Jean-Claude Vrain, who provided many on-demand estimates for Mr. Lhéritier and earned a fortune as the market soared to its pre-calamity heights.

Now, because nothing in his legal situation prevents it, he is discovering bargains in the wreckage. He has been spending liberally at Aristophil auctions, starting with the first in 2015, when he spent nearly $2 million. His haul included a copy of “Madame Bovary” dedicated by Flaubert to Victor Hugo. In an article published by L’Express the next day, he sounded pleased by the $400,000 price.

“I think it’s not very expensive,” he said.

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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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Nevada Caucuses 2020: Live Results And Analysis

Westlake Legal Group nv_liveblog_web_wide-a1ce415cf4dc66fc91d3c8c5cba7a61f789860c2-s800-c15 Nevada Caucuses 2020: Live Results And Analysis
Caroline Amenabar/NPR
Westlake Legal Group  Nevada Caucuses 2020: Live Results And Analysis

Caroline Amenabar/NPR

The Democratic presidential primary is heading west for the third contest in the 2020 race. Nevada Democrats are hoping their caucuses avoid similar problems that plagued Iowa earlier this month.

Follow NPR’s coverage for the latest updates, analysis and results as the caucuses get underway.

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