Greece Begins Talks With Troika (WSJ)
Greece on Friday began meeting with a visiting delegation of international auditors for a new bailout loan, coinciding with parallel negotiations with private creditors to restructure the country’s debt. The talks with the auditors from the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank—known locally as the “troika”—are expected to focus on structural changes Greece must make to secure a new financial-rescue package. “Most of the emphasis will be on structural reforms,” said a Greek government official. The specific focus will be on steps needed to boost Greece’s hidebound economy, now in its fifth year of recession, by liberalizing industries and cutting bureaucratic red tape.
Greek Default Won’t Lessen Contagion Risk, Says Strategist (CNBC)
“An orderly default in the short term is the most likely scenario but this situation is not going to go away. We might get a hard default in 3 to 6 months time,” Ostwald added.
Schwarzman: None of Your Business (WSJ)
Blackstone Group LP is changing the structure of its investment in a Florida bank after Mr. Schwarzman, founder and chief executive of the private-equity firm, balked at providing information about his personal finances to the Federal Reserve, according to people familiar with the situation. Blackstone is converting part of its 14.1% stake in BankUnited Inc. to nonvoting preferred stock, these people said. The deal will shrink its voting stake to less than 10%, pushing the New York firm below the level at which the Fed requires personal financial data from the Florida bank’s owners. It isn’t clear why Mr. Schwarzman is sensitive about providing such information. The longstanding Fed rule is in place to allow the regulator to gauge the safety of banks by evaluating the financial resources of their owners. The financial information gathered about a bank’s owners isn’t available to the public, even if requested under the Freedom of Information Act, according to people familiar with Fed policies.
PETA asks Jamie Dimon for O.J.’s house (CNN Money)
In a letter addressed to Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase’s CEO, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals asked if the bank would either donate or sell the house to the animal rights group for a “nominal sum” once the bank completes the foreclosure it’s pursuing on Simpson’s home. Ingrid Newkirk, PETA’s president, assured Dimon in the letter that if the organization is able to acquire the five-bedroom Kendall, Fla. home, it would put it to good use by turning it into a “Meat Is Murder” museum that would teach visitors that “nonviolence begins on our plates.” PETA said it chose Simpson’s home because the former football star actively endorsed the consumption of meat. Simpson, they said, was a spokesman for a chicken restaurant chain, owned two restaurants himself and held an ownership stake in several HoneyBaked Ham stores.
Credit Scoops Up AIG Bonds (WSJ)
The bonds were part of a portfolio that the New York Fed took on as part of the 2008 bailout of American International Group Inc. The deal came after the regional Fed bank quietly solicited bids from four large securities dealers, and could set a precedent for how it disposes of other assets in the coming months, market participants said. The New York Fed didn’t disclose how much Credit Suisse paid for the bonds, which had an unpaid principal balance of $7 billion, but the amount is likely to be more than $3 billion based on prices of comparable debt. The Swiss bank’s U.S. securities arm is expected to resell most of the securities to investors.
Man arrested over importation of Saddam Hussein statue’s buttock (Guardian)
A 66-year-old man has been arrested by detectives investigating claims that a buttock from a statue of Saddam Hussein was illegally brought back to the UK after the invasion of Iraq. Derbyshire police said the man was detained on suspicion of breaching the 2003 Iraq Sanctions Order, which governs the importation of “Iraqi cultural property” – including items of archaeological, historical or religious importance. The buttock – a 2ft lump of bronze – was saved from being melted down for scrap metal by 52-year-old former SAS soldier Nigel “Spud” Ely after he witnessed the statue being toppled by US marines in Baghdad in 2003.
New Normal on Wall Street: Smaller and Restrained (NYT)
“No matter how you cut it, the Goldman Sachs of tomorrow is not going to be the Goldman Sachs of 1999, when it did its I.P.O., or the Goldman Sachs of 2006, when it was at the high point of the cycle,” said Brad Hintz, a senior analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Company. As profits fall way short of internal targets, the executives who run Wall Street may have to cut back hard, to stop profits from falling even further. When asked by an analyst on Wednesday whether Goldman Sachs was thinking of downsizing to deal with the difficult business conditions, David A. Viniar, the bank’s chief financial officer, said, “That is one of the most critical questions and a very difficult one to answer.”
Foreclosure Deal By February (NYP)
State AGs are expected to meet in Washington on Monday to nail down terms of the settlement, which could hit mortgage servicers with as much as $25 billion in fines and penalties. The Obama administration has been pressing participants to reach a pact before his State of the Union address on Jan. 24. Sources said while it’s unlikely that a deal will be reached by that time, some are hopeful that one could be reached by the end of the month.
Fed Holds Off For Now On Bond Buys (WSJ)
Some Fed officials are open to more bond buying if the economy doesn’t continue to improve, or if inflation falls much below their objective of about 2%, but they believe the outlook is too murky to move now, and views vary on the costs and benefits.
Marianne Gingrich on Nightline: Newt Requested Divorce on the Phone (Daily Intel)
Marianne says that he asked for an open marriage after already carrying on an affair with Gingrich’s now-wife Callista (his third wife), which Marianne says she refused to accept. Marianne also says that Newt requested a divorce from her by telephone after she had been recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Gingrich divorced his first wife, Jackie, when she was battling cancer.