FirstFT: Today’s top news | Financial Times

FirstFT: Today’s top news | Financial Times

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Wirecard executive Jan Marsalek touted secret documents about the use of a Russian chemical weapon in the UK, as he bragged of ties to intelligence services in order to ingratiate himself with London traders.

The documents, which have been reviewed by the Financial Times, included the formula for novichok, the world’s deadliest nerve agent. His use of the documents in meetings in the summer of 2018, which were described by two traders who attended, show the mysterious connections and bizarre tactics of a man who helped run the German payments group for a decade before it collapsed last month in a fraud scandal.

The German authorities and Wirecard’s lenders are picking through the wreckage of the insolvent group in an attempt to discover what sort of business really took place inside a company with privileged access to global payments networks.

Mr Marsalek disappeared last month in the run-up to Wirecard’s collapse. Before then he had presented himself as an international man of action, using secret documents to forge links with traders in a years-long operation to identify speculators betting against the Wirecard share price. (FT)

Coronavirus digest

US stocks fell amid concerns over the impact of rising coronavirus cases, even as technology stocks powered the Nasdaq Composite to another record high. Follow the latest in our live blog.

In the news

Global backlash over HK security law Democratic governments stepped up retaliation against China over its security crackdown in Hong Kong, as France and Germany proposed EU countermeasures for the first time and Australia suspended its extradition treaty with the territory. Separately, the Trump administration is finalising a federal contract ban on companies that use products from five Chinese companies, including Huawei. (FT, Reuters)

US Supreme Court rules for handover of Trump tax returns The 7-2 ruling will allow the Manhattan district attorney’s office to obtain President Donald Trump’s financial records, dealing a blow to a president who has broken with decades of tradition by keeping his tax returns secret. In a second case, the high court temporarily blocked similar subpoenas issued by Congress. (FT)

Donald Trump and his lawyers have argued that the US president is broadly protected from legal scrutiny while in office. © Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg

US sanctions China over human rights abuses The Trump administration has sanctioned several top Chinese Communist party officials over their involvement in the detention of more than 1m Muslim Uighurs in re-education camps in Xinjiang province. (FT)

Wells Fargo considers cutting thousands of jobs America’s third-biggest bank is considering the move as part of a broad strategic review to restore the bank’s profits from unsustainably low levels, according to a person familiar with the situation. (FT)

China says ties with US at lowest point since 1979 The remarks by Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, were an unusually frank admission from a senior Chinese official and suggest that Beijing is eager to halt any further escalation of disagreement, analysts said. China’s currency, meanwhile, has hit its highest level since March. (FT)

Seoul mayor found dead after sexual harassment claims published Park Won-Soon’s body was found in Mt Bukak in northern Seoul, according to the police, after SBS, a large South Korean broadcaster, reported on Thursday evening that a secretary of Mr Park’s had filed a complaint with Seoul police the day before. The Financial Times has not confirmed the SBS report. (FT)

Malaysia maintains 1MDB fight Malaysia is targeting a settlement of between $2bn and $7.5bn with Goldman Sachs over the bank’s involvement with the 1MDB state investment fund, Zafrul Aziz, finance minister, told the FT. “We continue to engage (Goldman) . . . It will stop when we get the right number.” (FT)

Which world leader has tested positive for coronavirus? Viktor Orban? Jair Bolsonaro? Benjamin Netanyahu? Take our quiz.

The days ahead

Singapore general election The estranged brother of Singapore’s prime minister has taken aim at the family’s dominance of the city-state’s politics on the last day of campaigning ahead of general elections on Friday. (FT)

Trump campaign rally Donald Trump will hold a campaign rally in New Hampshire on Saturday, even as public health officials warn Americans to avoid big gatherings to slow the spread of coronavirus. A health official in Tulsa, Oklahoma, said Trump’s June rally “likely” contributed to a rise in Covid-19 cases in the city. (FT, AP)

What else we’re reading

Should Big Tech flee Hong Kong? The sweeping new security law imposed by Beijing on Hong Kong last week has left Silicon Valley scrambling. One tech executive told the FT his company was considering “all options”. For the FT editorial board, technology is at the frontier of the decoupling between China and the west. (FT)

How Mafia infiltrated Italy’s hospitals The ’Ndrangheta is a Mafia that remains little-known outside Italy but that has grown into one of the most dangerous, internationally active and financially sophisticated criminal enterprises in the western world. Our investigation has tracked down the trail of money that was washed into global financial centres. (FT)

© Sergiy Maidukov

China’s threat to the UK In the past, Chinese sanctions against the UK amounted to, as the Chinese saying goes, “loud thunder, little rain”. But the UK should now tread more carefully, amid the current geopolitical tensions, writes George Magnus, associate at Oxford university’s China Centre. (FT)

Why ESG investing makes fund managers more money The pattern of standout returns in ESG investing is so striking that Al Gore, former US vice-president, told the FT “investors who do not recognise this new reality . . . are in serious danger of violating their fiduciary responsibility to their clients”, writes Gillian Tett. Read more from the FT’s interview with Mr Gore in Moral Money. Sign up for the newsletter here. (FT)

Inside China’s stock market frenzy “There’s no way I can lose,” said one retail investor of the current state of China’s stock market. But China’s last equity boom in 2015, which ended with a swift bubble pop, has left some more wary of the recent surge that has seen stocks gain more than $1tn in value in the last week. (Bloomberg)

The humbling of the Anglo-American world Some scholars have likened premature relaxation of social distancing to a failure of Stanford University’s marshmallow test, in which children were offered one marshmallow now, or two a few minutes later, writes Edward Luce. The fate of our pandemic economies is tied to our ability to resist temptation. (FT)

How Uniqlo reinvented itself When Yanai Tadashi took over his father’s clothing business in 1984, the family had 22 stores, with all the clothing made in-house. From there, Yanai’s global adaptation began. He started by importing American labels to the Japanese, but ended up exporting Japanese ingenuity to the world. (The Economist — 1843)

Bias against black researchers harms science One of the most shocking discoveries about Covid-19 has been its disproportionate impact on black, Asian and other ethnic minorities. But just as scandalous is that few black scientists are leading research into why this is the case. (FT)

Science needs to attract more people from under-represented groups © Diego Cervo/Dreamstime

Podcast of the day

Putin: a president trapped in power Now in command until 2036, Vladimir Putin faces a difficult future as the Russian economy stagnates and popular unrest grows. Gideon Rachman speaks with Catherine Belton, author and former FT journalist. (FT)

“I think he’s hostage to the system that he created. The way that he and his security men shored up power makes any transfer of power fraught with risk for them.”

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