Jefferies Says COVID-19 Spike Was Not Caused by a Specific Incident

Jefferies Says COVID-19 Spike Was Not Caused by a Specific Incident

A spate of COVID-19 cases at Jefferies Financial Group Inc (JEF.N) was not caused by a specific incident, the Wall Street investment bank said on Thursday, and its decision to reinstate home working was erring on the side of caution.

Jefferies on Wednesday sent staff home and canceled client parties and virtually all but essential travel after nearly 40 new COVID-19 cases were reported at the firm, prompting speculation about the cause of the spike and whether other banks will follow suit. read more

The Jefferies spokesman said the number of cases was small – the Manhattan-headquartered bank has 4,500 employees worlwide, with offices in Asia and Europe as well as the United States – but it was getting out in front of the issue. He said the bank does not do routine staff COVID-19 testing.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have worked to put the health and safety of our employees first,” Jefferies Chief Executive Richard Handler said in a statement to Reuters on Thursday.

“Given the time of year and the increase in COVID cases happening everywhere, it just made sense to encourage people to work from home, be with their families, and avoid any unnecessary travel or large social events.”

The bank has felt the pandemic’s impact acutely, as its Chief Financial Officer Peg Broadbent died due to coronavirus complications in March 2020.

Two sources familiar with the matter also said on Thursday that the recent outbreak was not believed to be the result of a “superspreader” event.

Some Jefferies staff were surprised by Wednesday’s news and had been unaware of any fresh wave of cases, they told Reuters.

Handler said in a memo to staff on Wednesday that more than 95% of all employees were vaccinated, and 100% of those who enter its offices were vaccinated. Jefferies had called its staff back to offices in October.

The company did not specify the location of the 40 infected employees, nor whether the return to working from home had been imposed at all offices.

Several Wall Street firms are increasing efforts to ensure staff get coronavirus booster shots, as countries and industries grapple with how to respond to the spread of the Omicron variant.

Daily COVID-19 cases in New York City have surged in recent days and hospitalizations in the city are at their highest level since April, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While the Delta variant is still dominant in the United States, Omicron has been detected in many U.S. states including New York.


Most banks are strongly recommending staff get booster shots, sources said.

Jefferies will require everyone who wants to enter any of its offices to have their booster administered by Jan. 31, unless they are not yet eligible to do so, Handler wrote in a staff memo on Wednesday.

Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) has made COVID-19 boosters available to staff at its new headquarters in Columbus Circle since early November, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N) said on Wednesday it was providing all employees with four hours of paid leave to get the booster shot.

JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) and Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) also provide employees with paid time off to receive vaccines and booster shots.

U.S. private equity group KKR & Co Inc (KKR.N), headquartered in midtown Manhattan, also said on Thursday it was encouraging staff to obtain boosters. The firm sent notices to staff before Thanksgiving and after the Omicron variant was discovered, a spokeswoman said.

The firm is also testing staff coming into the office for COVID-19 even if they are fully vaccinated and requiring masks in all common areas, the spokeswoman said.

Banks and other financial firms are reluctant to reverse efforts since the summer to move staff who had been working from home back into the office. However, they are conscious that workers are increasingly concerned about the Omicron variant.

Banks and other financial firms are mostly allowing smaller teams to hold holiday parties to help maintain morale, but avoiding large-scale, firm-wide gatherings. Several firms are requiring COVID tests before parties, the sources said.

Some events have gone ahead.

The UJA-Federation of New York’s Wall Street Dinner, attended by Wall Street leaders including Goldman Sachs (GS.N) Chief Executive David Solomon, was held on Monday at the Marriott Marquis in midtown Manhattan, attended by 700 in-person guests.

Although proof of vaccination was required upon entry, in line with City of New York regulations, there was no requirement to mask and most guests chose not to as they mingled over hors d’oeuvres and cocktails.

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