What Are the Markets Afraid Of?

What the once-warring sides are now saying:

  • “The board concluded it was in the best interests of all of our stakeholders to achieve certainty of closing,” said Roger Farah, Tiffany’s chairman.

  • “We are as convinced as ever of the formidable potential of the Tiffany brand and believe that LVMH is the right home for Tiffany and its employees during this exciting next chapter,” said Bernard Arnault, LVMH’s chairman and C.E.O.

This week, DealBook is highlighting how corporate America is preparing for a momentous election. Today, partners at the law firm Baker McKenzie tell Ephrat Livni what’s on their minds as they work with anxious clients across the country.

A boss’s job in 2020 is not what it was in 2016, or even last year. When the pandemic began, keeping spirits up became a primary preoccupation for Baker McKenzie’s North America chief, Colin Murray. “A high-stakes, polarizing election” amid coronavirus outbreaks only made wellness more of a focus, he says.

“It’s been a tough go for the country,” Mr. Murray says. “We want to encourage people to engage and channel energy in a positive way.” The firm is giving employees time off to participate in nonpartisan volunteer efforts, like election-related pro bono work or responding to calls on a voter hotline. And because of the heightened anxiety of the pandemic, a licensed therapist is available to the staff and holds “very well attended” virtual seminars, Mr. Murray adds.

At the same time, partners are trying to help clients deal with their own stresses. In the past, companies have simply encouraged employees to be civil if they discuss politics at the workplace, says Mike Brewer, a partner in San Francisco specializing in employment law. But with partisan tensions running increasingly high, conditions are now more conducive to conflict.

Online political talk can quickly get out of hand, unlike face-to-face office conversations in which social cues suggest when it’s time to calm down and get back to work. And words written in emails or text chats don’t fade away in the same way that verbal exchanges do.

Policy uncertainty around the election adds to the anxiety. Alexandra Minkovich, a partner in Washington, says she’s spending much of her time with clients assessing candidates’ diverging tax proposals. Denmon Sigler, a partner in Houston, is fielding “plenty of inquiries” from energy industry clients who wonder what might happen with environmental regulations.

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