Connect with us


Mandates, COVID spike bringing Wall Street back to square one




Mandates, COVID spike bringing Wall Street back to square one

The Wall Street holiday party circuit is a usually great place to have some laughs and pick up a few scoops. Not this year. The scoops are fewer than usual, as are the laughs, because COVID was supposed to be over and as we know, it’s not. 

No, the big story circulating among bankers and traders as they sip their party drink of choice is that we all should party like it’s 1999 because word from their bosses is that seriously protracted lockdowns could soon be coming.

The banks are actually moving back toward COVID square one: People working from home, many more Zoom meetings with clients and in general hiding from a virus that experience tells us can’t be escaped.

The Street isn’t ready to officially announce any of this, my sources say. And who knows, maybe the bank chiefs will soon grow a pair and learn to live with something that isn’t going away no matter how many times ­Anthony Fauci or ­Rochelle Walensky tell us to mask up on the treadmill. 

But you know something is up (aside from the ominous party chatter) when Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan and James Gorman of Morgan Stanley start doing 180s on their back-to-office mandates. Recall that along with Goldman Sachs’ David Solomon, they were the COVID tough guys: “Get to work or else” were their marching orders just a few weeks ago. 

Not so much anymore. “Between now and Jan. 3, 2022,” Morgan Stanley is telling brokers in NYC “to work remotely . . . limit business get-togethers” because of an uptick in COVID in the city and at the firm, an internal memo says.

David M. Solomon, Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs
Goldman Sachs’ CEO David Solomon previously demanded his employees to return to their offices as soon as possible.
REUTERS/Mike Blake/File

Gorman, who once likened office-hesitant employees to pantywaists, now tells CNBC “everyone is finding their way” and concedes he was too harsh in his strict office policy where he implored people to get back at their desks by Labor Day. That, of course, was two COVID variants ago. These days, Gorman isn’t challenging the toughness of people who prefer to do their jobs via Zoom.

Ditto for Dimon. The man who runs the nation’s biggest bank said COVID was in the “rearview mirror” a few months ago. He said he hated the work-from-home routine that the Street adopted during the initial phase of the pandemic so much that employees who didn’t return to the office without a medical reason faced disciplinary action.

These days, a kindler, gentler Jamie is roaming the halls of JPM. Word out of the bank is that the back-to-office mandate won’t be so hard and fast going forward. And if cases keep piling up, it could be ditched completely depending on the job as the bank scrambles to adjust to what it believes could be a 2020-like COVID situation.

James Gorman, chairman and chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley.
Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman admits COVID-19 variants are “continuing to be an issue,” in an interview with CNBC.
Scott Eells/Bloomberg

At JPM expect more Zoom meetings and conferences (another Dimon pet peeve). Example: Dimon’s biotech bankers couldn’t wait to mingle with drug-company clients at the firm’s annual health-care conference in early January after last year’s virtual event. 

But Moderna — the same biotech powerhouse that once boasted a 90 percent efficacy COVID vaccine — said its people wouldn’t attend in-person because of the new possible vaccine-resistant variant.

That means it’s back to the dreaded Zoom for conference attendees.

JP Morgan and Chase CEO Jamie Dimon
JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie ­Dimon had dismissed the remote work lifestyle.
REUTERS/Dylan Martinez/File

“The facts will determine where we go from here,” said one JPM exec. “If the variant get worse, if hospitals fill up, we will be taking more steps backward.”

At least we have Christmas parties, right? Well it seems the ones I attended were good while they lasted. A slew of big banks, including Citigroup and Jefferies, have been joined by Goldman Sachs CEO Solomon (yes the same one who wants everyone in the office), boutique bank LionTree as well as UBS in canceling such festivities even with one week to go before the holiday.

You can’t totally blame the executives for their inconsistent approach to dealing with COVID; they take their orders from the clown show that aptly described how our government, both at the federal and state level, has dealt with the pandemic.

The nanny-staters in Albany basically shut down New York City last year to businesses and turned Manhattan in a playground for the homeless and criminals. And they’re starting to put out similar feelers now: NY Gov. Hochul’s absurd mask mandate for businesses that in practicality extends to the vaccinated defies the reality of the pandemic: It’s mostly one of the unvaccinated getting seriously sick. Hospitals aren’t filling with vaccinated people, and it’s pretty hard to convince someone to get a jab if they still need to wear a mask.

On the federal level, Fauci and Walensky mean well, but they’re also fighting yesterday’s battles with mask rules and even hints that we could go back to hiding in our basements as Omicron spreads.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul
Gov. Kathy Hochul is threatening businesses once again with another mask mandate when the majority of New Yorkers are fully vaccinated.
Hans Pennink

COVID spread despite harsh lockdowns. Vaccines, while not perfect, clearly take the edge off the pandemic. Treatments like monoclonal antibodies work, and others that are more easily administered are on the way. And the evidence so far is that the Omicron variant is milder than the others.

The public knows much of this, which is why there is close to zero appetite for lockdowns other than from our medical bureaucracy, blue-state pols like Hochul and their media cheerleaders.

Here’s a thought: Why don’t Fauci, Walensky and Hochul, with some assistance from Dimon and Gorman, urge President Biden to redirect the trillions already authorized for a real stimulus: Making sure these new treatments are readily available to all Americans so we can just go back to work and really party like it’s 1999.


Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death




Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

Continue Reading


Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence




Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

Continue Reading


Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers




Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

Continue Reading


Copyright © 2017