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Bank Earnings Show Diverging Fortunes on Wall Street and Main Street

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Hundreds of thousands of small businesses are closing for good. Temporary layoffs at larger companies are becoming permanent. But the country’s largest banks, which together serve a majority of Americans through loans, credit cards or deposit services, are not raising an alarm.

In their third-quarter earnings reports this week, big banks have said they are generally prepared for a wave of loan defaults they expect in the second half of next year. And their own fortunes are just fine: A trading and investment banking bonanza on Wall Street is helping them stay profitable.

A few common themes have emerged from the reports.

The pandemic has made for a turbulent year across a wide range of markets, but all the trading that investors have done in response has kept the revenue rolling into the banks.

Goldman Sachs reported strong markets revenue on Tuesday, helping it generate profits of $3.62 billion — far surpassing analyst expectations of $2 billion. Trading of bond products linked to interest rates, corporate credit, mortgages, and the prices of oil and other commodities lifted the bond division’s quarterly revenue 49 percent higher from the same period last year. In stocks, divisional gains were 10 percent.

In a call with analysts, Goldman executives said some of the boom had come because the firm increased its share of trading activity on behalf of the market’s 1,000 biggest money managers and other active traders who give business to Wall Street.

Goldman’s asset-management operations benefited from a rally in stock prices as well. A rise in the value of its positions in companies like the online commerce platform BigCommerce (up more than 40 percent since its shares began trading in August) and the medical equipment maker Avantor (up nearly 30 percent this year) helped the division generate 71 percent more revenue.

But it was not just Goldman that benefited. Bank of America’s investment banking business had the second-best performance in its history in the third quarter, trailing only this year’s second quarter, according to the bank’s chief financial officer. At JPMorgan Chase, trading revenue rose 21 percent and investment banking revenue 52 percent from a year earlier.

ImageWells Fargo spent nearly $1 billion to come up with new payment plans for struggling loan customers.
Credit…Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Steeling themselves for widespread defaults by customers unable to pay credit-card, home-loan or other debts because of the pandemic, the biggest banks have sent vast sums of cash into special pools they will draw from to cover losses in the future. But in general, the banks say, their customers are doing better than they expected.

The reason? Bank officials pointed to the trillions of dollars the federal government has distributed in the form of enhanced unemployment benefits, forgivable small-business loans and other programs created this spring by the CARES Act.

“Recent economic data has been more constructive than we would have expected earlier this year,” JPMorgan’s chief financial officer, Jennifer Piepszak, said on a call with journalists on Tuesday. “Over all, consumer customers are holding up well. They have built savings relative to pre-Covid levels and, at the same time, lower debt balances.”

This quarter, the banks each set aside less money than in previous quarters to prepare for losses. Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase said their credit-card customers were making their payments again.

The bank with the most strained customers seems to be Wells Fargo, which said it had spent nearly $1 billion trying to help customers who were struggling to repay their loans come up with new payment plans to keep them from defaulting. Even so, the bank said, its borrowers are less likely to fall behind now than they were earlier this year.

While government relief programs have prevented serious problems so far in the financial sector, none of the banks are banking on more stimulus.

In their economic forecasting, each bank takes a range of possible outcomes into account, from better than expected to doomsday. On Wednesday, Bank of America’s chief financial officer, Paul Donofrio, said just one of the scenarios it was looking at might contain more stimulus money. And that model is based on a consensus of various Wall Street economists’ forecasts; the bank’s own internal models aren’t counting on further relief.

JPMorgan’s economic forecast accounts for the effects of a government stimulus package only until the end of 2020. No more stimulus is built into its models for 2021.

The bank’s chief executive, Jamie Dimon, and his peers have all pointed out that the industry is grappling with a great deal of uncertainty about the future. JPMorgan might be overprepared if the economy fares better than expected — but a worst-case scenario could still expose the bank to heavy losses.

Although his bank is not expecting further federal relief next year, Mr. Dimon said another round of stimulus would be important.

“There are still 12 million people unemployed. There is still a lot of pain and suffering. There are still a lot of small businesses that need help,” he said.

Indeed, calls for more government aid to struggling businesses are growing, even as an impasse in Washington seems unlikely to end as Election Day draws near.

On Wednesday, a former Goldman Sachs executive, Gary Cohn — who served for a year as President Trump’s economic adviser — urged lawmakers to get a deal done quickly.

“This isn’t a matter of politics, this is a matter of protecting our economy as we know it,” Mr. Cohn wrote on Twitter.

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10 Products to Help You Be a Better Parent While Working From Home

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October 22, 2020 3 min read

Disclosure: Our goal is to feature products and services that we think you’ll find interesting and useful. If you purchase them, Entrepreneur may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners.

Life has changed in many ways over the past few months. Many Americans are working from home and, now, many of their children are attending school virtually. That means your home life is likely a bit … chaotic. Parents working from home could use as much help as possible to reduce some of the chaos.

Fortunately, technology can help. These 10 products can make parenting while working remotely a little bit easier.

Circuit Scribe: DIY Circuit Kits

Circuit Scribe: DIY Circuit Kits

Image credit: Entrepreneur Store

Circuitry can be a ton of fun for kids, just so long as it’s safe. This kit includes everything kids need to explore electricity and circuitry in a fun, safe way. It’s education made it exciting!

Get Circuit Scribe: DIY Circuit Kits for $32.99 (Orig. $58). 

Papumba Fun Learning App for Kids: Lifetime Subscription

Papumba Fun Learning App for Kids: Lifetime Subscription

Image credit: Entrepreneur Store

Meet the #1 play-based pre-school platform in more than 30 countries. Papumba provides more than 500 interactive games and activities on iOS and Android to engage your kids in STEAM learning. They’ll have a headstart when it comes time to go to school.

Get Papumba Fun Learning App for Kids for $49.99 (Orig. $358). 

FamiSafe: 3-Yr Subscription

FamiSafe: 3-Yr Subscription

Image credit: Entrepreneur Store

Stop worrying about what your kids are doing on the Internet when you can’t look over their shoulders. FamiSafe lets you protect your kids from cyberbullying, controls their screen time, and limits their use of certain apps or content, all from a central hub.

Get FamiSafe: 3-Yr Subscription for $49.99 (Orig. $199). 

DIY Coding Kit for Ages 8 to 12

DIY Coding Kit for Ages 8 to 12

Image credit: Entrepreneur Store

Designed for late elementary and early middle school kids, this coding kit makes computer programming easy. It includes all the essentials kids need to grasp the fundamentals of coding and start honing their programming skills. With project-based education, kids can start creating an infinite number of projects immediately. Plus, they’re LEGO-compatible!

Get DIY Coding Kit for Ages 8 to 12 for $54.97 (Orig. $99). 

Speech Blubs Language Therapy: Lifetime Subscription Bundle

Speech Blubs Language Therapy: Lifetime Subscription Bundle

Image credit: Entrepreneur Store

Whether you have preschool-age children or your kids are struggling a bit with virtual school, Speech Blubs can help. With two science-backed apps for speech and reading, your kids will learn new sounds and words through video modeling, face filters, speech recognition, and more fun activities.

Get Speech Blubs Language Therapy for $59.99 (Orig. $199). 

Crowtail STEAM Educational Basic Starter Kit (with Microbit Board and Tutorial)

Crowtail STEAM Educational Basic Starter Kit (with Microbit Board and Tutorial)

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Technical kids will love this starter kit for programming and electronics. This kit comes with a detailed tutorial with 17 innovative projects and 17 missions to give your kids a step-by-step introduction to programming the world around them.

Get Crowtail STEAM Educational Basic Starter Kit for $65.99 (Orig. $74). 

ArckitPLAY Cityscape Architect Building Kit for Kids

ArckitPLAY Cityscape Architect Building Kit for Kids

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Help your kid develop into an urban planner and architect with this interactive kit. A winner of an Architeizer A+ Award, ArckitPLAY provides a to-scale cityscape model and empowers your kid to put it together however it makes the most sense. You may just have the next Robert Moses on your hands.

Get ArckitPLAY Cityscape Architect Building Kit for Kids for $69.99.

Tangiplay: Tangible Coding Toys + Interactive Puzzles Solving Games for Kids

Tangiplay: Tangible Coding Toys + Interactive Puzzles Solving Games for Kids

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Occupy your kids with an education! These clever toys interact with your tablet to help kids develop coding and cognitive skills through problem-solving games.

Get Tangiplay: Tangible Coding Toys + Interactive Puzzles Solving Games for Kids for $84.99 (Orig. $99). 

Jamstik® Guitar Trainer

Jamstik® Guitar Trainer

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Occupy musical kids with this tech-driven guitar trainer! When paired with the app, Jamstik® lights up on the fretboard to show you where to place your fingers while playing different songs. It’s the most budget-friendly, seamless way to learn guitar.

Get Jamstik® Guitar Trainer for $199 (Orig. $229). 

Autonomous Vehicle Kit

Autonomous Vehicle Kit

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Let your kids‘ imagination run wild with this DIY vehicle kit. IT comes with everything they need to assemble a toy car and comes with artificial intelligence to teach them how technology transforms transportation.

Get Autonomous Vehicle Kit for $234.99 (Orig. $249). 

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Quibi’s Investors Count Their Losses

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This Nov. 17 and 18, DealBook opens its doors to our first Online Summit. Join us as we welcome the most consequential newsmakers in business, policy and culture to explore the pivotal questions of the moment — and the future. Watch from anywhere in the world, free of charge. Register now.

ImageJeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman in happier times.
Credit…Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

The embattled short-video streaming app announced its demise yesterday, just six months after its debut. But investors who poured $1.75 billion into the start-up may take less of a financial hit than it first appears.

“The world has changed dramatically since Quibi launched, and our stand-alone business model is no longer viable,” Jeffrey Katzenberg, the company’s founder, told employees. For weeks, he has blamed the pandemic, which reduced demand for a service meant to be watched on the go.

  • Analysts blamed the belief that people would pay to watch five-minute shows on their phones. The company also faced a patent-infringement lawsuit that is being financed by the hedge fund Elliott Management.

A last-minute sales effort failed. Companies — reportedly including Apple and Facebook — were deterred by the fact that Quibi doesn’t own many of the shows on its platform. Advisers from AlixPartners presented the board with options, including shutting down. (Mr. Katzenberg told investors that Quibi would return $350 million in capital.)

Damage to some investors may be less than expected. The company’s backers included most of the big studios, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Google, Alibaba and the billionaire Carlos Slim. But many entertainment companies produced content in round-trip deals, in which studios invested in Quibi — and then got money back to produce content. This may be why Hollywood didn’t join the public criticism. (That said, Mr. Katzenberg and Quibi’s C.E.O., Meg Whitman, are expected to lose millions.)


Today’s DealBook newsletter was written by Andrew Ross Sorkin and Lauren Hirsch in New York, Ephrat Livni in Washington, and Michael J. de la Merced and Jason Karaian in London.

Leon Black’s ties to Jeffrey Epstein have made some Apollo investors uneasy. A retirement fund for teachers in Pennsylvania said that it wouldn’t make any new investments in Apollo’s funds, after The Times reported that Mr. Black, its C.E.O., had paid at least $50 million to Mr. Epstein, a convicted sex offender. (Apollo says that Mr. Epstein never did any work for the firm.) The pension consulting firm Cambridge Associates is reportedly weighing whether to stop recommending the firm.

Wall Street donors keep their distance from President Trump. Previous supporters like Steve Schwarzman of Blackstone, Steve Cohen of Point72, Stephen Feinberg of Cerberus, Henry Kravis of KKR and Paul Singer of Elliott haven’t donated to the president’s campaign since at least January, CNBC reports. Efforts to attract smaller donations have burned cash, costing 75 cents for every dollar raised in the past three months.

Here’s the latest on the stimulus talks: They’re still deadlocked.

The maker of OxyContin pleads guilty to criminal charges for opioid sales. Purdue Pharma’s settlement, which includes $8.3 billion in penalties, will end a Justice Department investigation. The agreement could lead to the resolution of thousands of other lawsuits, though it doesn’t preclude criminal charges against company executives or founding family members.

Two-thirds of companies say that most employees can work effectively remotely. A third expect to permanently reduce their office footprint, according to a new survey by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

One issue in the Justice Department’s antitrust suit against Google is resolved. We now know who is presiding over the case: Judge Amit Mehta, an Obama appointee, who faced a major antitrust case shortly after being seated in 2015.

Judge Mehta blocked a merger between Sysco and US Foods, the country’s two largest food distributors, and the companies abandoned the deal. There was no appeal, which antitrust experts say reflects the judge’s sound reasoning in the case.

The choice of judge is crucial. They make every decision, from pretrial questions to the ultimate ruling. But in big cases like the one against Google, managing public perceptions and maintaining the court’s reputation are also important, Paula Hannaford-Agor, a director at the National Center for State Courts’ project on high-profile cases, told DealBook.

  • Judge Thomas Jackson, who presided over the U.S. government’s antitrust case against Microsoft in the late 1990s, made little secret of his impatience with the company and gave embargoed media interviews displaying his distaste before ordering a breakup. The appeals court noted the indiscretion in overturning the decision.

You may recognize Judge Mehta’s name. He ruled that President Trump couldn’t block a subpoena from a House committee seeking his financial records. The Supreme Court decided the case in July, with other presidential tax matters. Now it’s back in Judge Mehta’s court.

  • As for the Google suit, the company says consumers are happy and that its deals with other companies help make products affordable. But the top investigator, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, who represented Netscape in the Microsoft case, tells The Times’s Cecilia Kang, “the monopolist almost always says that.”

Is antitrust law up to the job? Some say existing laws don’t work for digital business models. But economists and legal experts increasingly argue that more radical change is needed. They propose a specialist regulator that would focus on tech companies.

  • Big Tech’s “professional opponents” have been making their case for years. These lawyers, academics, and former corporate insiders supplied the arguments and data that suggest modern tools can be used to perpetuate old-fashioned antitrust abuses. They’re eager to see how their arguments hold up in the Google case. At any rate, Times Opinion’s Tim Wu writes, “the lawsuit has a significance greater than itself: It is a reminder that even the most powerful private companies must reckon with the still greater power of the people.”


— Dan Schulman, the C.E.O. of PayPal, announcing that the payments giant will soon allow customers to use cryptocurrencies, sparking a surge in the price of bitcoin.


“Fairly or not, Palantir has come to be regarded as an enabler and prime beneficiary of Trump’s presidency,” Michael Steinberger writes for The Times Magazine, in a big new profile of the data-mining company’s chief, Alex Karp. What happens to Palantir if Mr. Trump loses?

Mr. Karp acknowledges the risks of Palantir’s perceived links to Mr. Trump, which he calls “the guilt by association thing.” This is particularly the case with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which has been criticized for raids on undocumented immigrants and separations of families at the border. But he said that pulling out of those contracts would render him an unreliable partner for others who rely on his software, like soldiers: “Why would a war fighter believe you aren’t going to do the same thing to them when they’re in the middle of a battle?”

The C.E.O. says he’s a “progressive warrior.” He voted for Hillary Clinton (and is supporting Joe Biden this year), has a doctorate in social theory from Goethe University in Frankfurt and describes himself as a “racially amorphous, far-left Jewish kid who’s also dyslexic.” His personal politics and intellectual pedigree — staffers call him “Dr. Karp” — deflect some criticism of Palantir’s work, and stand in contrast to Palantir’s chairman, the billionaire investor Peter Thiel, an early Trump supporter.

Palantir has two overarching ambitions, and that’s what brought Mr. Karp and Mr. Thiel together. The first is to keep the U.S. safe from terrorism, and the second is to use technology to balance public safety and civil liberties. In an interview, Mr. Thiel laid out the company’s philosophy, which doesn’t fit neatly along a simple left-right political spectrum:

With a black marker, he drew a graph. At the end of one axis he wrote “Dick Cheney” and at the other end he wrote “A.C.L.U.” Cheney, he explained, represented “lots of security and no privacy” while the A.C.L.U. was “lots of privacy but little security.” Post 9/11, Thiel said, it seemed inevitable that the Cheney view would prevail. He then drew another axis, this one with “low-tech” at one end and “high-tech” at the other. “Low-tech” was a catchall for crude, highly intrusive technology. “High-tech,” he said, was more effective but also less invasive. Thiel’s fear was that we would end up with a combination of low-tech and Cheney, in which case civil liberties would likely be crushed.

The full magazine story is worth your time, a deep dive into the players behind one of Silicon Valley’s most distinctive companies. It includes a narrated audio version.


The Times’s Emily Flitter has reported about the racial profiling that many Black Americans face while banking. Now, Senate Democrats have introduced legislation they say closes a federal loophole that allows banks to get away with discrimination.

It’s hard for victims of racial profiling to win cases against banks. Courts have ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibiting discrimination applies only to industries it specifically lists, like movie theaters, restaurants and hotels. The Senate bill says “all persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges and accommodations of financial institutions.” House Democrats plan introduce a complementary version of the bill.

  • “Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee have been keeping a close eye on the Trump administration’s various efforts to roll back anti-discrimination rules, but they weren’t focused on this loophole,” Emily tells DealBook. “It is an issue that is best known to the lawyers who handle cases for people who experience discrimination at bank branches.”

Lawyers aren’t sure the bill goes far enough. Emily reached out to Chezky Rodal, a lawyer in Florida who handles many cases brought by Black bank customers. Based on a summary, the bill might not help his clients, he said, because it doesn’t contain a “civil liability statute” that allows customers who have been wronged to seek damages. “I’m disappointed because I’ve seen so much over the last few months, so much lip service,” Mr. Rodal said. “We had the opportunity to do something real and we didn’t.”

Deals

  • Paul Singer’s Elliott Management is moving its headquarters to Florida. (Bloomberg)

  • Why Wall Street is eager to plow money into electric-car start-ups with zero sales. (WSJ)

  • The European Union’s first batch of coronavirus bonds was heavily oversubscribed, a sign of demand for alternatives to U.S. Treasuries. (NYT)

Politics and policy

  • Iran and Russia obtained American voter registration data and are seeking to influence the election by sending threatening emails, U.S. officials said. (NYT)

  • Amtrak warned that it would have to lay off employees and halt infrastructure improvements if it did not receive $2.8 billion in emergency funds by December. (NYT)

Tech

  • Tesla reported its fifth straight quarterly profit, but analysts see indications that sales are slowing. (NYT)

  • Airbnb has hired Jony Ive, Apple’s former design chief, as a consultant on new products and services. (CNBC)

Best of the rest

  • Tens of thousands of furloughed flight attendants are wondering when — or if — they’ll fly again. (NYT).

  • Boeing is considering a new plane model. (WSJ)

  • Why “Rudy Giuliani” and “Borat” are being mentioned in the same sentence. (NYT)

We’d like your feedback! Please email thoughts and suggestions to dealbook@nytimes.com.

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U.S. Weekly Jobless Claims Expected to Remain High: Live Updates

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Families at a food bank in Vallejo, Calif., on Wednesday. Every week, more Americans join the ranks of the long-term unemployed — those out of work for more than 27 weeks.
Credit…Sarahbeth Maney for The New York Times

The latest evidence of stress in the labor market will come Thursday at 8:30 a.m. when the government releases its weekly report on unemployment claims.

Wall Street analysts surveyed by Bloomberg expect new state claims to remain above 800,000, an extraordinary high level in past recessions but a floor rather than a ceiling in this one. Hundreds of thousands of other claims will be filed under federal pandemic unemployment insurance programs.

The Labor Department’s report comes as coronavirus cases are again surging in the United States and as a second round of federal relief faces opposition from Senate Republicans over a possible $2 trillion price tag.

“For a long time, individuals, investors, and corporate leaders were expecting some kind of extension of federal aid,” said Kathy Bostjancic, chief U.S. financial economist at Oxford Economics. “I do think many households will begin to feel the pinch because of the lack of fiscal stimulus.”

Seven months into the pandemic, the nature of the job losses is also changing. The hope that business interruptions would be brief and that most laid-off workers would be quickly rehired has faded. Every week, more Americans join the ranks of the long-term unemployed, defined as those out of work for more than 27 weeks.

Workers no longer eligible for state unemployment insurance can still receive 13 weeks of benefits under the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. As a result, some reductions in state jobless rolls may not mean that people are back at work, but rather that they have shifted to the federal program.

The report on Thursday may hint at October’s unemployment rate, since the counting overlapped with the Labor Department’s monthly job survey.

The Federal Trade Commission said reported losses from scams originating on social media, especially Facebook and Instagram, reached a record high of nearly $117 million in the first half of the year.
Credit…Johanna Geron/Reuters

The pandemic-fueled boom in online shopping has been accompanied by a spike in complaints about scams originating on social media, especially Facebook and Instagram, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Reported losses from such fraud reached a record high of nearly $117 million in the first six months of 2020, compared with $134 million in all of 2019, the F.T.C. said on Wednesday. The top sources of complaints were e-commerce sites that never delivered goods to consumers, many of whom said they had found the sites through Facebook or Instagram, which Facebook owns.

“These scam ads look real and can be carefully targeted to reach a particular audience,” the trade commission said in a report. “The scammers can delete comments on their ads or posts so that negative responses don’t show up and alert people to the con.”

People also reported losing money through so-called romance scams, in which fraudsters develop online relationships with people to obtain money from them, and through social media messages that offer “supposed economic relief or income opportunities,” the F.T.C. said.

The overall number of reports that people lost money to scams starting on social media in the second quarter more than tripled from a year earlier.

A pension fund for Pennsylvania teachers said it had frozen new investments with Apollo Global Management amid concerns about ties between its founder, Leon Black, and Jeffrey Epstein.

The $63 billion Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System said it spoke with Apollo officials last week after a New York Times report detailed the financial ties between the two men. Mr. Black made at least $50 million in payments and donations to entities affiliated with Mr. Epstein in the years after Mr. Epstein’s 2008 conviction for soliciting prostitution from a teenage girl.

Mr. Black has said the fees he paid were for services such as estate planning and philanthropic advice. In a letter to investors after the report was published, Mr. Black said he had “never tried to conceal” the work Mr. Epstein had done for him. Mr. Black and Apollo said Mr. Epstein did no work for the firm.

On Tuesday, an Apollo spokeswoman said that the investment firm’s board had retained the law firm Dechert to conduct an independent review of the dealings between Mr. Black and Mr. Epstein. Mr. Black has said he would cooperate with all legal inquiries.

The pension fund had initially been planning to meet with Apollo officials this week, but moved up the meeting after reading the Times report and Mr. Black’s letter, said Steve Esack, a spokesman for the retirement system.

“After that October 13th phone conversation, P.S.E.R.S.’s investment team informed Apollo that it will not consider any new investments at this time,” Mr. Esack said in an email. The retirement system “is closely following the ongoing legal issues and the newly launched internal Apollo investigation,” he said.

That means the fund’s existing investments with Apollo, worth $918 million, will remain intact and gradually decline as the projects they financed are completed and the money is returned to the teachers’ pension fund. Pension fund commitments to private equity vehicles typically last for a number of years.

Other public pension funds that work with Apollo have not gone so far as to freeze investments.

Rob Maxwell, a spokesman for the Texas teachers’ retirement system, said that fund had already been in touch with Apollo and was “closely monitoring the activities that the firm and its board are taking.”

Wayne Davis, a spokesman for the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, said the fund called Apollo last week about Mr. Black’s relationship with Mr. Epstein and would continue to monitor the situation. The system expects its outside investment managers “to follow the same core values of integrity and accountability that guide our own investment decision-making,” Mr. Davis said.

A spokesman for the Illinois teachers’ pension system, David Urbanek, said it was “going to monitor this situation very closely as it continues to unfold,” but the trustees responsible for selecting and monitoring outside investment managers had not yet discussed the matter.

A spokeswoman for Scott Stringer, the New York City comptroller who sits ex officio on the boards of pension funds serving teachers and other workers, said, “We are troubled by these reports, and we are closely monitoring the situation in accordance with our fiduciary duty and to protect the interests of our pensioners.”

Shares of Apollo were up 2.6 percent on Wednesday, but are still down more than 12 percent since Oct. 12.

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