Morning Agenda: Reflections on Wall Street Culture

Story image for todays news on banking and savings from New York Times

REFLECTIONS ON WALL STREET CULTURE | Last week, Thomas J. Hughes, a 29-year-old banker at Moelis & Company, was found dead with drugs in his system after falling from a building in Manhattan. In April, Sarvshreshth Gupta, a 24-year-old first-year analyst at Goldman Sachs, was found dead in San Francisco after telling his father about suffering from intense stress. The official cause of death has not yet been determined in either case, but a recent string of deaths among young Wall Street workers have prompted financial firms to re-evaluate their work policies’ impact on staff members, Andrew Ross Sorkin writes in the DealBook column. It’s difficult to definitively link a death to a firm’s work conditions, and Mr. Sorkin notes that studies have suggested that financial service employees are at higher risk than those in many other industries. “Still, the string of deaths on Wall Street appears to rise above the level of simple coincidence,” he writes.

Wall Street firms have changed their work policies in recent years, partly out of concern for workers’ stress levels but also to compete better with Silicon Valley for top talent. For example, Goldman Sachs has required that analysts take Saturdays off. “As the economy has heated up and the deal-making market has improved, however, young bankers are once again working long hours,” Mr. Sorkin writes. “Perversely, young analysts now say that having Saturdays off has often added to their stress because late nights on Sundays have become the norm.” As long as young analysts are expected to work 80 to 100 hours a week, it’s inevitable that some will find the workload too much to handle, he says. “It is incumbent on the industry to make sure it is doing everything possible to make sure that no one is too overwhelmed,” he writes.

URGENT MEETING ON GREEK CRISIS | Top European leaders met in Berlin on Monday night to discuss what to do about Greece as the cash-starved country faces a loan repayment of €300 million, or $329 million, to the International Monetary Fund on Friday, Liz Alderman, Niki Kitsantonis and Jack Ewing report in The New York Times. The unexpected gathering of the top representatives of Greece’s creditors included Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany; President François Hollande of France; Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission; Christine Lagarde, the I.M.F. managing director; and Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank.

The leaders did not issue a public statement after the meeting. A person with knowledge of the discussions said Ms. Merkel and the other leaders would avoid presenting anything to Greece that looks like an ultimatum, though their eventual proposal would be likely to amount to a last, best offer, with limited scope for negotiation. Greece may be given a deadline to provide an answer, though it was not certain when the deadline would be, the person said.

RISING COSTS OF CHIPS SPUR SEMICONDUCTOR MERGERS | The increasing cost of chip manufacturing is driving Intel’s $16.7 billion purchase of Altera, as well as the other big mergers sweeping the semiconductor industry, Quentin Hardy and Chad Bray write in DealBook. “Ten years ago the cost from designing a new chip to making it a product was $10 million to $50 million,” said Mark Hung, an analyst with Gartner. “Today it’s $100 million to $200 million. Solving weird and challenging physics problems at this small size requires a lot of expensive equipment. That’s why there’s all this M.&A.” (The New York Times compiled a list of recent deals.) However, Richard Beales of Breakingviews questions whether these cost savings will be realized in these mergers.

Besides gaining economies of scale in buying Altera, Intel would benefit in other ways. Altera’s primary chips would help Intel focus on two of the biggest emerging markets, large data centers and the so-called Internet of Things, or computer-enriched machines that work with other devices, Mr. Hardy and Mr. Bray write. Altera’s chips can be reprogrammed once they leave the foundry, while Intel’s semiconductors are more powerful but lack that flexibility. “By combining the two types on a single chip, Intel thinks that by late next year it can start offering its big business customers ways of fine-tuning performance to suit specific needs,” Mr. Hardy and Mr. Bray write.

Now, the question is: Who’s next to be acquired? Investors are betting that the next deal will involve one of Altera’s rivals, Xilinx, whose shares rose after about 2 percent after Intel announced its deal for Altera, The Wall Street Journal’s MoneyBeat blog reports.

ON THE AGENDA | The auto industry will report motor vehicle sales for May. The Commerce Department will reportfactory orders data for April at 10 a.m. Lael Brainard, a Federal Reserve governor, speaks on United States economic outlook and monetary policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington at 10 a.m. Companies reporting earnings today include Dollar General and Medtronic. Speakers at the Deutsche Bank Global Financial Services Investor Conference include Anshu Jain, the co-chief executive of Deutsche Bank, Gary D. Cohn, president of Goldman Sachs, and Laurence D. Fink, chief executive of BlackRock.

On the Hill: The Senate Banking Committee holds a hearing titled “Perspectives on the Export-Import Bank of the United States” at 10 a.m.

CONSUMER ADVOCACY GROUP HIRES TOP HOUSE AIDE | Better Markets, a group that advocates for more restrictions on Wall Street, has hired a new senior counsel from the top ranks of the Republican-led House Financial Services Committee, Peter Eavis writes in DealBook. Frank Medina was the deputy chief counsel at the committee, whose chairman, Jeb Hensarling, is an outspoken critic of the banking regulations created by the Dodd-Frank Act. At Better Markets, Mr. Medina will take on the roles of senior counsel and director of research and will help support the group’s positions.

His move to the nonprofit sector comes at a time when Republicans have introduced legislation that aims to change provisions of Dodd-Frank — an effort that has been criticized by groups like Better Markets, Mr. Eavis writes. However, Mr. Medina said in an interview that there was common ground between Republicans and Democrats on important regulatory issues. “I don’t think anybody is entirely happy with the act,” Mr. Medina said. “I am here at Better Markets to participate in that dialogue.”


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