• 24 Feb 2012 at 9:30 AM

Opening Bell: 02.24.12

Lampert Gains $160 Million on Sears Shares (Bloomberg)
Eddie Lampert, the hedge fund manager who controls Sears Holdings Corp. (SHLD), has more than $160 million in paper profits on shares of the retailer acquired last month from a long-standing client, the Ziff family. The billionaire paid $130 million in early January to personally acquire Sears shares from ESL Investors LLC, a partnership he runs for the Ziffs that follows the same strategy as his hedge fund, according to court documents and regulatory filings. The retailer’s stock has more than doubled since then, rebounding from a three-year low and ranking as the best- performing member of the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

AIG Cites ‘Sustainable Operating Profit’ (Bloomberg)
AIG’s biggest unit, property-casualty insurer Chartis, and its plane-leasing business swung to operating profits in the period, the New York-based company said in a statement yesterday as it posted net income of $19.8 billion.

Japanese Fund Loses $2.3 Billion (WSJ)
Japan’s financial regulator said Friday it has halted operations of a little-known Tokyo money-management company after the firm allegedly lost billions of dollars in client money. In one of the biggest cases of its kind in Japan, with Tokyo’s reputation as a financial center still bruised by the billion-dollar Olympus Corp. accounting scandal, the regulator said investigators found that AIJ Investment Advisors Co. can’t account for “most of” the 183 billion yen, or about $2.3 billion, in pension-fund assets under management.

Delusions About The Detroit Bailout (NYT)
Steve Rattner: “As a presidential aspirant, Mr. Romney evidently hasn’t felt a need to be consistent or specific as to what should have been done to address the collapse of the auto industry starting in late 2008. But the gist is that the government should have stayed on the sidelines and allowed the companies to go through what he calls “managed bankruptcies,” financed by private capital. That sounds like a wonderfully sensible approach — except that it’s utter fantasy. In late 2008 and early 2009, when G.M. and Chrysler had exhausted their liquidity, every scrap of private capital had fled to the sidelines. I know this because the administration’s auto task force, for which I was the lead adviser, spoke diligently to all conceivable providers of funds, and not one had the slightest interest in financing those companies on any terms. If Mr. Romney disagrees, he should come forward with specific names of willing investors in place of empty rhetoric. I predict that he won’t be able to, because there aren’t any.”

ECB’s Mario Draghi Takes Tough Line On Austerity (WSJ)
No more Mr. Nice Guy! “You know there was a time when [economist] Rudi Dornbusch used to say that the Europeans are so rich they can afford to pay everybody for not working. That’s gone,” Mr. Draghi said.

There’s ‘No Quick Fix’ to Sharp Rise in Oil Price Says Geithner (CNBC)
Geithner attributed the rise in crude prices, which have sent gasoline above $4 a gallon in some parts of the country to two factors: Better growth expectations, along with “saber rattling” from Iran over its desire to advance its nuclear program. “There’s no quick fix to this, no short-term fix,” Geithner said. “The best strategy for the country is to continue to make some long-term investments, to expand production in the United States, to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, to encourage Americans to use more efficient clean sources of energy, to encourage Americans to be more efficient in how they use energy.”

Darren Rovel Did An Investigative Report On Girl Scout Cookies (CNBC)
It turns out that Thin Mints are made in the same factory as Keebler Grasshopper cookies. Tagalongs are made in the same factory as Keebler Peanut Butter-Filled cookies and Samoas are made in the same factory as Keebler Coconut Dreams. One might think that Kellogg is cannibalizing sales of Girl Scout Cookies by producing look- and “tastealikes” year round, but Amanda Hamaker, manager of product sales for the Girl Scouts says that’s not the case. “We’ve had the conversation about the cookies being made in the same factory,” Hamaker said. “But we haven’t seen a decline in Girl Scout Cookies because of what they’re doing…Girl Scout consumers love our cookies, but they purchase them because there are supporting girls. That’s not happening at the supermarket.”

BofA Ends Sales of Certain Mortgages to Fannie (WSJ)
The Charlotte, N.C., company said Thursday in its annual report filed with regulators that it stopped selling mortgages to Fannie Mae this month, with the exception of loans made under the government’s Making Home Affordable Program. Bank of America said in the filing that its decision to slow loan sales to Fannie “was influenced, in part, by our ongoing differences with FNMA in other contexts, including repurchase claims,” referring to Fannie Mae’s requests that the bank buy back mortgages that didn’t meet underwriting standards.

Torre-Caruso out of Dodgers’ bidding (AP)
Joe Torre’s group has dropped out of bidding for the bankrupt Los Angeles Dodgers because current owner Frank McCourt won’t include the parking lots outside the stadium…Under McCourt’s agreement with MLB, filed with U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, he is to select a winning bid by April and close a sale by April 30 — the day he is to make a $131 million divorce payment to former wife Jamie. Also considered among the favorites are bids by Steve Cohen of the hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors and by a group that includes Mark Walter, chief executive officer of the Guggenheim Partners financial services firm.

Casino mogul eager to throw dice in New York (NYP)
Billionaire gambling mogul Sheldon Adelson is considering building a massive betting and convention resort in New York if the state legalizes Las Vegas-style casinos. Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp.’s interest in New York would appear to be a direct challenge to Genting, the firm that now operates the racino at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens and that plans to build the nation’s largest convention center there, with the blessing of Gov. Cuomo.

Buffett Reveals Warts as He Prepares Annual Letter (Bloomberg)
Warren Buffett bought oil stocks near the peak of an energy boom, declined to spend $35 million on a growing television station and swapped a Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/A) stake for a shoe company he later said was worthless. In each case, shareholders of Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire were charged or deprived of at least $1 billion. And in each case, Buffett apologized in writing.

John Edwards Sex Tape Suit Settled, Tapes to Be Destroyed (ABC)
The long-running court battle over a sexually explicit videotape featuring former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards and his mistress, Rielle Hunter, has been settled out of court today and all copies of the tape will be destroyed, ABC News has learned. According to North Carolina court officials and a Hunter spokesperson, Hunter and former Edwards’ aide Andrew Young, along with his wife Cheri, agreed to end their dispute more than two years after the case was originally filed. Under the terms of the settlement, all known copies of the sex tape are to be destroyed within 30 days. If other copies of the tape surface later, the agreement requires those to be destroyed as well…Hunter spokesperson RoseMarie Terenzio told ABC News today that ”Ms. Hunter is very pleased. She won.”

41 comments (hidden to protect delicate sensibilities)
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Comments (41)

  1. Posted by Merchant Refugee | February 24, 2012 at 9:46 AM

    I just ate an entire sleeve of Thin Mints.

  2. Posted by PMCO's Ghost | February 24, 2012 at 9:49 AM

    A Dingo ate my baby.

  3. Posted by PermaGuestII | February 24, 2012 at 9:55 AM

    Isn't Rattner banned from life from the securities business?

  4. Posted by guest | February 24, 2012 at 9:58 AM

    "Under the settlement announced Thursday — just two days before Mr. Cuomo becomes New York’s governor — Mr. Rattner will pay restitution to the state pension fund and will be barred from appearing in any capacity before a public pension fund within the state for five years. "

  5. Posted by Charlie S. | February 24, 2012 at 9:59 AM

    ”Ms. Hunter is very pleased. She won.”

    Loser troll

  6. Posted by VonSloneker | February 24, 2012 at 10:06 AM

    Rovell you sly boots. Now you can say you've known an entire generation of Girl Scouts since they were 12. I'm sure Mrs. Rovell will find it hilarious when you start taking them to prom.

  7. Posted by Girl Scout | February 24, 2012 at 10:07 AM

    Darren Rovel's investigative reporting is the NKI

  8. Posted by The Internet. | February 24, 2012 at 10:07 AM

    "All copies of the tape will be destroyed."

    We'll see about that.

  9. Posted by THEBro | February 24, 2012 at 10:17 AM

    AIG>AIJ …maybe

  10. Posted by Cookie Monster | February 24, 2012 at 10:18 AM

    Well, now I'm confused. I like Keebler cookies well enough, I mean if you're going to eat hockey puck style storebought cookies they're better than Nabisco, but I thought that this year's GS Thin Mints frankly sucked.

  11. Posted by pazzo83 | February 24, 2012 at 10:21 AM

    ***STOP: 0X00000008E(0XC0000090, 0X004B4BD8, 0XEE25885C, 0X00000000)
    Beginning dump of physical memory.
    Physical memory dump complete.
    Contact your system administrator or technical support group for further assistance.

    - M Romney

  12. Posted by Cut Me | February 24, 2012 at 10:23 AM

    I ate an entire box of Tag-Alongs

  13. Posted by The Truth | February 24, 2012 at 10:23 AM

    Buffett has warts? Now he tells me.

    - B. Quick

  14. Posted by Texashedge | February 24, 2012 at 10:29 AM

    I just snorted a whole box of caramel delights

  15. Posted by Alt_EST | February 24, 2012 at 10:33 AM

    Romney is STAR, STAR is Romney!

  16. Posted by Guest | February 24, 2012 at 10:33 AM

    Those weren't my balls…

    - W Buffet

  17. Posted by guest | February 24, 2012 at 10:36 AM

    Thanks, now I'm dry-heaving.

  18. Posted by pazzo83 | February 24, 2012 at 10:45 AM

    Just one box?

    - L Lohan

  19. Posted by Gaucho Fan | February 24, 2012 at 10:46 AM

    That would be serious grounds for a girl or two to lose the Cookie CEO and Business Owner badges if the goods weren't made in the same factory as the Keebler cookies!! Elves work round the clock with only one day off for Christmas and get paid in cookies. If you didn't use the same factory resources at Kellogg's, Girl Scout cookies would cost like $20 for a sleeve of cookies.

  20. Posted by VonSloneker | February 24, 2012 at 10:46 AM

    Romney is hollow, he goes on forever…my God, Romney is full of stars!

    - D. Bowman

  21. Posted by lucas | February 24, 2012 at 10:52 AM

    Using actual tape to shoot a sex video is the OKI.

  22. Posted by VonSloneker | February 24, 2012 at 10:56 AM

    I just free based a tray of Savannah-Smiles

  23. Posted by Gaspadingus | February 24, 2012 at 11:02 AM

    Please…..I just had my third muscle milk enema of the day.

  24. Posted by Shecky Smores | February 24, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    An investment banker encounters a group of Girl Scouts selling cookies near the entrance to a supermarket. He chats with the girls for a minute and studies the available cookie selections. He asks one of the Girl Scouts, "Well, which one is the slowest seller?" That Girl Scout points and says, "Mary…."

  25. Posted by Precious | February 24, 2012 at 11:16 AM

    I just ate a baby dingo.

    -Crikey Chris Christie

  26. Posted by Guest | February 24, 2012 at 11:20 AM

    Schwing….and a miss!

  27. Posted by Guest | February 24, 2012 at 11:23 AM

    Some Friday comments make me think that the writer must have pickled their brain in a Thursday night rager. Your comment makes me think that you have nothing upstairs to pickle.

  28. Posted by Guest | February 24, 2012 at 11:25 AM

    You'd done better than I had.

    Channeling the spirit of Whitney Houston

  29. Posted by Guest | February 24, 2012 at 11:25 AM

    I'd be interested in encountering a Girl Scout's entrance. Please be in touch.

    -J Epstein

  30. Posted by trojan_ | February 24, 2012 at 11:42 AM

    http://www.latimes.com/news/nation/nationnow/la-n
    i don't think they'll be interested, apparently they're all rug munchers

  31. Posted by Slow Friday Guy | February 24, 2012 at 11:45 AM

    Is there something funny here I missed?

  32. Posted by Guest | February 24, 2012 at 11:45 AM

    Amateurs.

    – C. Christie

  33. Posted by guestles | February 24, 2012 at 12:03 PM

    Pretty sure a girl not being interested never stopped him.

  34. Posted by PermaGuestII | February 24, 2012 at 12:40 PM

    We need to talk.

    V. Nabokov

  35. Posted by Sting | February 24, 2012 at 1:02 PM

    Don't stand so close to me.

  36. Posted by Brown Nozer | February 24, 2012 at 1:42 PM

    Got 4 thin mint boxes on my desk right now bc my manager was selling them… They know why we buy…

  37. Posted by Admin WJEOTI | February 24, 2012 at 1:46 PM

    Loved it!

    -Admin
    "WorstJokeEverOnTheInternet.com"

  38. Posted by mike | February 24, 2012 at 2:16 PM

    Top notch commentary.

    - Someone who's been here from Day 1

  39. Posted by TheJokeBriefer | February 24, 2012 at 2:40 PM

    Perhaps there"'smores" to that jocular effort than we realize. Was the writer, Shecky Smores trying to "sleeve" a joke deal? Tag along with me as the joke is audited.

    It must be observed that there is a modicum of humor in the joke itself. The relationship in the investment banker's mind to the term "slow seller" and the misinterpretation of that by an attending Girls Scout meets the definition of a "joke". The basic premise of humor ( a tense situation's final expectation suddenly isn't tense at all ¹) is present in the attempt an apparently not considered powerful enough to create a cascade of "thumbs up" with the current Friday crowd of commenters.

    But…..is there something else being sold to us here? Could there be the hint of an "anti-joke" within Shecky Smores efforts?

    The "anti-joke" is a form of humor that doesn't meet the basic tenets of gag-u-mentation. An "anti-joke" is the "event horizon" at the farthest boundaries of attempted humor where the non-sensical makes sense. In Whippet's seminal work on "anti-humor" written during an English prison stay in 1644, it was observed that unless all parties are aware of the classification of an "anti-joke" such a joke may not be well received². Is that the case here? Was Shecky's joke a thinly veiled "anti-joke"?

    Noting that the audience and commentariat of Dealbreaker probably has a higher IQ than most business websites on a continual basis, it would not be surprising to learn that an anti-joke could slip through the beartrap like minds of the commentariat from time to time. While it may not be the case here, it is worth noting and making available an awareness of same. On the other hand, Shecky may be full of "wit", to wit:

    "Wit" is a branch of "rhetoric", and there are about 200 techniques (technically they are called "tropes", a particular kind of figure of speech) that can be used to make jokes. Perhaps some of us were expecting a "joke" when they got "wit" on them instead? Will we ever know?

    The anti-joke teller may be considered a "sad sack" or unlucky by others. The idea of an 'unlucky" joke or anti-joke can become the butt of humor itself. Colloquial phrases on luck in certain regions of the US would attest as in, "He's so unlucky that if it was rainin' titties he'd get hit by a dick…"³

    We are left to debate whether Shecky, in this instance, left us with a slight, normal joke or a more valuable anti-joke that was less appreciated?

    Further reading and notes:

    1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joke

    2. "Beating Them Off With A Stick – The Dangers of A Court Jester's Jokes About Royal Masturbation Techniques" by Dick Whippet, Sheltingham Press, page 15.

    3. "Examples of The Decline Curve of Joke Telling Skills As Blood Alcohol Levels Increase Among a Cohort of Oil and Gas Landmen on Expense Accounts In Populated Regions Known For High Annual Humidity Levels", Texas A&M Press, 1982.

  40. Posted by VonSloneker | February 24, 2012 at 3:45 PM

    Bravo. You've managed to hit many of my favorite areas in one post (Astrophysics, rhetoric, Aggie ridicule…and cookies), while paying stylistic homage to a masterwork of comedy¹. Had you found a means of shoe-horning in some stoic philosophy…nirvana.

    - Fanboy

    Further reading and notes:

    1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSgRkBWNlBo&fe

  41. Posted by Anti-Joke | February 24, 2012 at 4:11 PM

    Q: What's the worst thing you can hear when giving Willie Nelson a blowjob?
    A: "I'm not Willie Nelson"