Business

Europe Risks a New Economic Downturn as Lockdowns Return

“We are completely reliant on the development of the virus,” said Sylvain Broyer, chief economist at S&P Global Ratings in Europe.The volatile growth pattern repeated itself at the national level. Germany recorded an 8.2 percent increase in G.D.P. in the third quarter compared with the previous quarter, but business surveys indicate that the pace is likely to slow markedly in months to come.France grew more than 18 percent in the quarter, according to official data published Friday. But Bruno Le Maire, the French finance minister, said a tough fourth quarter would cause the economy to shrink by 11 percent for the full year.The economic cost is particularly high in industries that depend on person-to-person contact. The longer the pandemic lasts, the greater the risk of mass bankrupt...

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Business

Two Museums Tried to Sell Art. Only One Caught Grief About it.

Two museums planned to sell works from their collections at a Sotheby’s auction on Wednesday night.One moved forward seamlessly, with the Brooklyn Museum reaping almost $20 million for seven works by artists including Henri Matisse, Joan Miró and Claude Monet.The other, the Baltimore Museum of Art, decided to pull its paintings — by Clyfford Still and Brice Marden — two hours before the heavily criticized sale after discussions with the Association of Art Museum Directors, a professional organization advancing best practices in the field.If the disparate reactions to the two sales is a bit bewildering, welcome to the world of deaccessioning, the often byzantine process by which museums get rid of items that no longer serve their long-term interests, whether by sale or donation.It’s comm...

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Business

Eurozone growth surges, but another slowdown is probably ahead.

Growth in Europe rebounded sharply in the third quarter of the year, according to data published Friday, but hardly anyone was celebrating. Economic activity remains well below what it was a year ago as a surge in coronavirus cases and new lockdowns have raised the risk of another slowdown.Gross domestic product in the 19 countries that use the euro rose 12.7 percent from July through September compared with the previous quarter, the European Union statistics office said. But economic output was 4.3 percent lower than the same time last year — a severe recession by any standard — and could sink further as Germany, France and other countries order restaurants and theaters to close and restrict travel.European countries are increasingly desperate to contain the virus before it overwhelms ...

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Business

Peter Secchia, Confidant of Ford and Bush, Dies at 83

This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.Peter Secchia rarely boasted about his success, but he often marveled at it.At 25, he went to work as a salesman for a lumber company that grossed $1 million annually. He ultimately worked his way up to chief executive and transformed it into a global conglomerate, with annual sales of $1.6 billion by the time he retired in 2002.Buoyed by his financial success, he emerged as a major donor to his alma mater, Michigan State University, and a civic leader and philanthropist in Grand Rapids, his adopted hometown, and adjacent Western Michigan.As a prominent Republican contributor and fund-raiser, Mr. Secchia (pronounced SUCK-ee-uh) also became a confidant of two presidents.Under ...

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Business

Boarded-Up Windows and Increased Security: Retailers Brace for the Election

Nordstrom, the high-end department store chain, said it planned to board up some of its 350 stores and hire extra security for Election Day on Tuesday. Tiffany & Company, the luxury jeweler, said “windows of select stores in key cities will be boarded in anticipation of potential election-related activity.” Saks Fifth Avenue said it was “implementing additional security measures at certain locations in the event of civil unrest due to the current election.”In Beverly Hills, the police said they would take a “proactive approach” and close Rodeo Drive, a renowned strip of luxury retailers, on Tuesday and Wednesday, citing the likelihood of increased “protest activity.” The police, working with private security companies, said they would also be on “full alert” throughout Beverly Hills...

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Business

Without More Enforcement, Tax Evasion Will Spread Like a Virus

Few people enjoy paying taxes, but as Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. reminded us, “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.” On reflection, most of us therefore offer at least implicit support for penalties against tax evasion — penalties that have little meaning unless backed by significant enforcement resources.Yet prodded mainly by anti-tax Republicans, Congress has cut the Internal Revenue Service budget steadily since 2011. By 2019, the agency was auditing only one in every 222 individual returns, down from one in 90 in 2011. Similar reductions have occurred for corporate returns, and were proportionately larger for the wealthiest individuals and largest corporations.These cuts have not saved the government money. The former I.R.S. commissioner John A. Koskinen estimated, for exampl...

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Business

How Does Harris View Big Business? Her Time as California’s Top Lawyer Offers Clues

Ms. Harris told her team to study the matter, but to avoid making requests for information that Herbalife would have to disclose publicly — a move that might affect the company’s share price.“We need to find out if Herbalife has violated the law,” a former senior lieutenant, Nathan Barankin, recalled Ms. Harris saying, “but we should not go about our business of figuring that out in a way where we are being used to make one billionaire richer than another one.”Her office met with consumers who said the company had deceived them, but ultimately the lawyers came to believe that the 1986 state order contained too many loopholes to make a successful case, said two aides to Ms. Harris from that time.Other Herbalife investigations continued. In 2016, the Federal Trade Commission won an injunc...

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Business

Whitewater Unions, and a Toobin-Like Bathroom Mistake

Zoom Zoom in the BathroomToday I went to the bathroom while in a Google meeting with a colleague and forgot to turn off my camera. I kid you not. I remembered to turn off the sound, but I had switched to a different tab during the meeting and forgot about the video. After we ended the meeting, I recreated the whole situation to see what she might have seen. Fortunately, I had kept the light off, and I had perched my laptop on the sink so that you could only have seen me from the waist up. But if you were paying attention, you would have been able to tell I was in a bathroom.Do I acknowledge this and apologize? Or do I pretend it didn’t happen and move on?— AnonymousOne of the strangest aspects of this new normal is that our homes have now become our workplaces. Our colleagues now know f...

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Business

How a Century of Real-Estate Tax Breaks Enriched Donald Trump

In 1993 Congress restored those breaks. At the same time, it carved out another advantage for the real estate industry. For most businesses, canceled or forgiven debts had to be recognized as income. Real estate investors for the most part got a pass, though they had to relinquish some future deductions. Mr. Trump has benefited from those rules, such as when his lenders canceled about $270 million of debt on his Chicago skyscraper, his tax records show.Then Mr. Trump ran for president. On the campaign trail, he acknowledged that he had been a big winner from the tax code’s favoritism toward the real estate industry. He said his expertise on the subject would help him close loopholes and make the tax code fairer.“The unfairness of the tax laws is unbelievable,” Mr. Trump said in 2016. “I...

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Business

Tiffany Deal Is a Signature Move by the Sun Tzu of Luxury

In 2001, LVMH quietly bought an initial stake of 4.9 percent through subsidiaries, and continued to accumulate shares by buying equity derivatives through financial intermediaries, always in holdings below 5 percent. In October 2010, LVMH announced that it had acquired 14.2 percent of its rival. By December 2011, that had risen to 22.6 percent, prompting Patrick Thomas, then the Hermès chief executive, to react with a notoriously crude statement.“If you want to seduce a beautiful woman, you don’t start by raping her from behind,” he said at a news conference, where he called on Mr. Arnault to reduce the LVMH holding to 10 percent in order to show that he was not intending a takeover attempt. Mr. Arnault did not, and in 2013 the LVMH stake in Hermès grew to 23.1 percent.There was eventua...

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