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Morgan Stanley CEO diagnosed with coronavirus in March, since recovered - bank video

By Elizabeth Dilts Marshall and Anirban Sen
FILE PHOTO: James P. Gorman, chairman & CEO of Morgan Stanley, testifies before a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington

By Elizabeth Dilts Marshall and Anirban Sen

(Reuters) - Morgan Stanley <MS.N> Chief Executive Officer James Gorman was diagnosed as being infected by the novel coronavirus after first experiencing symptoms nearly a month ago and has fully recovered, according to a video that was sent to the bank's employees on Thursday.

Gorman, 61, started to feel sick in mid-March, he said. After getting tested and confirmed as having COVID-19, he self-isolated at home but did not stop leading regular calls with Morgan Stanley's operating committee and board of directors, nor did he experience severe symptoms, he said.

His disclosure in a 10-minute video emailed to staff is one example of how and when financial firms are choosing to disclose sensitive health information during a global pandemic that has sickened half a million people, upended the global economy, and put banks at the center of relief efforts for any potential recovery. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission requires public companies to disclose material facts to the public, but there is widespread debate about when corporations must disclose information about the health of an executive, corporate governance lawyers said.

Last month, Jefferies Financial Group Inc <CFO.N> disclosed its chief financial officer, Peg Broadbent, died of complications related to the coronavirus. Perella Weinberg Partners LP founding partner Joseph Perella also tested positive for the coronavirus and recovered after treatment, said a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to discuss the information publicly.

A spokeswoman said it is the firm's policy not comment on the health of its employees.

In contrast, JPMorgan Chase & Co <JPM.N> disclosed that Chief Executive Jamie Dimon had emergency heart surgery within hours of the event happening last month.

Other CEOs – including Juan Domingo Beckmann Legorreta of Jose Cuervo tequila-owner Becle <CUERVO.MX>, Jeff Shell of Comcast-owned NBC Universal <CMCSA.O> and Glenn Fogel of online travel agency Booking Holdings – each received diagnoses of coronavirus infections and disclosed them shortly after.

Gorman’s staff-wide video was the first time Morgan Stanley shared with anyone beyond the board room and executive suite that its CEO had tested positive for the respiratory disease. It became public knowledge once news outlets including Reuters learned of the message.

A CEO of a major global financial firm developing an infection would naturally shake investors, employees and customers, but disclosure for SEC purposes is not always necessary, lawyers said.

"There is no specific requirement to disclose when an executive becomes sick, unless the information is material ... such as if the executive is unable to continue to perform even if only temporarily," said Michael Hermsen, a Chicago-based partner at Mayer Brown, who previously worked in the SEC's Division of Corporation Finance.


(Reporting by Elizabeth Dilts in New York and Anirban Sen in Bangalore, additional reporting by Katanga Johnson in Washington D.C.; Editing by Lauren LaCapra and Steve Orlofsky)