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The Secret to Effective Time Management? Smaller Time Blocks

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October 11, 2020 5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Most entrepreneurs wish they were better at managing their . There are only eight hours in a standard work day, but it feels like you have 20 hours worth of tasks to do every day.

There are many legitimate solutions to this dilemma. One of the most valuable strategies is learning to delegate effectively to reduce your total workload. You can also automate certain tasks so you no longer have to actively manage them.

But once you’ve used all these tactics, you’ll be left with only one real solution to optimize your productivity: time management. Only by better managing your time will you be able to accomplish the greatest number of tasks in a day.

There are plenty of pieces of advice floating around about effective time management, but some of them are contradictory, and some are downright counterintuitive. I’ve found one of the most important approaches to time management — and a recurring source of higher productivity — is rooted in a simple concept: relying on smaller time blocks.

How time blocks work

In case you aren’t familiar, “time blocks” are intervals of time that you can use to schedule tasks, or groups of tasks, for your workday. Most people use blocks of an hour or half an hour to block out time throughout the day. For example, they might dedicate an hour to a morning meeting, half an hour to catching up on emails, half an hour for a client meeting and an hour for a heads-down project.

This system is effective because it helps you estimate the amount of time each task takes, helps you group similar tasks together and allows you to set priorities for your day proactively.

The problem is, if you’re only using blocks of 30, 45 or 60 minutes, you won’t be getting the full benefits of the strategy. Instead, you should be working with much shorter intervals — like 10 minutes, or even five minutes (a strategy famously used by Elon Musk).

Why are smaller time blocks so effective?

Related: 8 Daily Habits of Effective Business Leaders

Countering Parkinson’s Law

One of the biggest benefits of using smaller time blocks is that they allow you to counteract the effects of Parkinson’s Law. In case you aren’t familiar, Parkinson’s Law is an informal adage that states that work has a tendency to expand to fill whatever time was allocated for it. In other words, if you schedule a task to take an hour, it will probably take an hour — or nearly an hour. But if you impose tighter time restraints, you’ll naturally be inclined to finish the task faster.

This is especially helpful for things like meetings, which suffer from lax scheduling approaches. Instead of blocking out 30 minutes, consider blocking out 20 or 25; chances are, you won’t notice much of a difference, but you’ll instantly free up more time for your day.

Specificity and awareness

Smaller time blocks are also much more specific than their larger counterparts, allowing you to estimate and measure your time expenditure with more precision. This, in turn, allows you to zoom in on the tasks that are eating up your day and identify sources of time waste more easily. The more aware you are about how you’re spending your time, the more effectively you’ll be able to change your habits and work environment.

Control over breaks

Tighter time intervals also opens the door to an oft-neglected productivity booster: breaks. Breaks are shown to have a measurable positive effect, both reducing stress and increasing productivity, and should be taken throughout the day. The trouble is, when we feel overwhelmed with work, breaks feel like an impossibility (or a symptom of laziness). That said, if you can schedule a meeting for 55 minutes (instead of a full 60) or a project for 20 minutes (instead of a full 30), you’ll open up micro-intervals where breaks can fit naturally. You can also schedule breaks with greater regularity and experiment with length and placement. Eventually, you’ll find a break rhythm that supports your productivity without distracting you, and none of your other priorities will suffer from the change.

Related: 11 Secrets to Staying Productive and in Control

Issues with the strategy

None of this is to say that small time blocks are a perfect strategy, or that they’re guaranteed to work for every individual. There are some issues with the strategy. For starters, planning your day in five-minute intervals takes much more time than planning it in one-hour chunks. Additionally, there are more contingencies and dependencies to worry about; if a five-minute task takes 10 minutes, suddenly the rest of your day is going to be pushed back. And of course, this strategy is going to work better for some types of workers than it is for others.

Still, most of these downsides can be compensated for. For example, if you’re worried about too many dependencies, you can build in small buffers where you can catch up your work. If you’re the type of person who struggles with conventional approaches to time management, give this strategy a try and see if it works better for you. You might be surprised at the results.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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