December 2012

  • champagne

    Opening Bell

    Holiday Bell: 12.31.12

    Cliff’s Edge Draws Close (WSJ)
    What happens Monday could go some way to determining the short-term fate of the U.S. economy and the reputation of the government, both of which have been dinged by the spectacle of endless seemingly circular negotiations. Carrying the baton late into Sunday evening were Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky) and Vice President Joe Biden. A spokesman for Mr. McConnell said Monday morning that the two men “will continue to work toward a solution.” In the past two weeks, at least three different sets of negotiation teams have sought a way out…Still, some remained hopeful elements of a deal were on the table and could be brought into alignment at the last minute. “We’re very close,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D., Md.). “It is like a kaleidoscope,” meaning there are many moving parts that can look beautiful or ugly depending how they’re arrayed.

    Experts Forecast The Cost Of Failure To Compromise (NYT)
    In the event no compromise is found, however, the Congressional Budget Office and many private economists warn that the sudden pullback in spending and the rise in taxes would push the economy into recession in the first half of the year. Under this outcome, Mr. Gault said, the economy could shrink by 0.5 percent over all of 2013. With the clock ticking, some observers bolstered their criticism of Washington. “If we have a recession, it’s unforgivable,” said Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at the Economic Outlook Group. “For the first time in modern history, we will have a self-inflicted recession in the U.S.”

    New Year’s Countdown To Higher US Taxes Starts (Bloomberg)
    The IRS has said it will issue guidance by today on paycheck withholding for 2013, which depends on the income-tax rates Congress is debating. Higher rates would mean less take- home pay for workers starting as early as the first paycheck in January. Both Democrats and Republicans support extending current rates for families making less than $250,000. They disagree on whether to raise levies for top earners. Rates are scheduled to increase for all income levels Jan. 1 if Congress doesn’t act.

    Parties Pivot To Blame (WSJ)
    If Congress and the White House fail to strike a deal to avert the so-called fiscal cliff, Republicans are under few illusions as to who will get much of the blame—even if past polls suggest there will be plenty to go around. “The poor Republicans will get the brunt of it, which may be unfair, but such is life,” said Republican Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a former White House budget chief under George W. Bush. “The Republicans are seen as the obstinate ones, where at the very least, the president and his side are equally so.” Polls since the November election have found Americans more ready to blame the GOP than President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats if the two sides fail to reach a deal to avoid the wave of tax increases and spending cuts coming Jan. 1. A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll earlier this month showed 24% would blame Republicans while 19% would blame Democrats.

    Merkel Says Euro Zone Crisis Far From Over (Reuters)
    FYI.

    Mario Batali wins biz feud over UK chef Gordon Ramsay (NYP, related, related)
    Batali says the prickly Brit star has agreed to give up on using the name The Spotted Pig for a London eatery — amid outcry that he had swiped it from Batali and his partners. “It didn’t make him look great,” Batali said of Ramsay’s recent trademarking of the name in the UK. “I don’t think it was an intentional shot across the bow by Gordon,” Batali told the Eater Vegas blog. “His team is just [trying] to build businesses. There’s got to be a thousand other animals they could have chosen besides The Spotted Pig. A striped minx, for example.”

    Experts Back Deutsche Whistleblowers (FT)
    Accounting experts say Deutsche Bank appears to have improperly accounted for billions of dollars of credit derivatives trades by failing to value adequately the risk that its trading counterparties could walk away.

    Jersey woman charged at boyfriend with hammer after he refuses to pay for laundry, reports say (NJ)
    Jazmin Duran, 24, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, terroristic threats, criminal mischief, domestic violence, possession of weapon, unlawful possession of a weapon, resisting arrest police reports said. Police were called to Garfield Avenue near Armstrong Avenue at 2:52 p.m. on a report that a man was locked in the bathroom and his girlfriend was hitting the door with a hammer, reports said. When police arrived, the 49-year-old boyfriend, was still locked in the bathroom, reports said. After a brief struggle, police were able to detain Duran, reports said. When he came out he told police that Duran was mad at him and attacked him with a hammer, reports said. The victim said that he was undressing to get in the shower while talking to his girlfriend about getting her eyebrows done, when she asked for him to pay for doing her laundry, reports said. He responded that he didn’t have money to pay for her laundry, reports said. He said she became irate and began to scream, reports said.

    BofA Settlement Hits Snags (WSJ)
    A big legal settlement usually marks the end of the bulk of the work for the Justice Department. But a year after a $335 million deal with Bank of America Corp. to compensate minority borrowers for alleged discrimination, much remains to be done. The department’s settlement administrator just began notifying affected borrowers in November, about five months later than originally planned. Then, weeks after letters went out to more than 233,000 presumed victims, about 10% of those letters have been returned as undeliverable, according to Justice Department officials. U.S. officials had warned that it might take two years for eligible borrowers to receive money from the settlement, but they also expressed hope that checks could be mailed out sooner. Those hopes have dimmed.

    Facebook Analysts Stick To Script (WSJ)
    Facebook Inc. FB +1.03% has gotten a thumbs-down from investors since its initial public offering. But securities analysts who work at the investment banks that did the deal have never wavered in their enthusiasm. Since the social-networking company went public in May, analysts at Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs—Facebook’s three biggest underwriters—have issued 40 reports on the stock. Every report has urged investors to buy.

    Skin In The Game (NYP)
    West Village cosmetic doctor Yelena Yeretsky usually works to make the power women of Wall Street look flawless. But now men are asking for her services. Yeretsky says, “The men usually want chemical peels so they look glowy. I remove lesions and skin tags and non-cancerous growths from years of playing golf in the sun.”

    French Court Says 75% Tax Rate on Rich Is Unconstitutional (Bloomberg)
    President Francois Hollande’s 75 percent millionaire-tax is unconstitutional because it fails to guarantee taxpayer equality, France’s top court ruled today. The tax, one of Hollande’s campaign promises, had become a focal point of discontent among entrepreneurs and other wealth creators, some of whom have quit French shores as a result. The ruling comes as the president seeks to cut France’s public deficit to 3 percent of gross domestic product next year from a projected 4.5 percent this year.

    For Euro, All Eyes On ECB’s Playbook (WSJ)
    “Global central banks are engaged in a race to the bottom. It’s difficult to call which major currency will be the ugliest,” said Munich-based Thomas Kressin, who heads currency strategy for Pacific Investment Management Co., one of the world’s biggest bond-fund managers.

    Expert: Champagne cork can put an eye out (UPI)
    The pressure inside a champagne bottle can launch a cork at 50 miles per hour as it leaves the bottle, fast enough to shatter glass, U.S. eye experts say. Dr. Monica L. Monica, an ophthalmologist and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, said the speed at which a cork can be unleashed is fast enough to permanently damage vision, including rupture of the eye wall, acute glaucoma, retinal detachment, ocular bleeding, dislocation of the lens and damage to the eye’s bone structure. These injuries sometimes require urgent eye surgeries, Monica said. “When a champagne cork flies, you really have no time to react and protect your delicate eyes,” Monica said in a statement.

    Programming Note: We’re on an abbreviated, vacation-esque schedule. Opening wraps and brief updates should anything happen that people need to know about (fiscal cliff deal is struck, Raj Rajaratnam leads his fellow inmates in a NYE flashmob set to ‘Thriller,’ etc). Happy New Year and we’ll see you in 2013!

    / Dec 31, 2012 at 10:10 AM
  • stevecohen

    Opening Bell

    Opening Bell: 12.28.12

    Blackstone seen sticking with SAC despite insider trading probe (Reuters / Matthew Goldstein)
    Three sources said the asset management arm of Blackstone, which has $550 million invested with SAC Capital, is in no rush to redeem money from the Stamford, Connecticut-based hedge fund. Blackstone has had at least three discussions with the $14 billion hedge fund’s executives about the insider trading investigation and talked to its own investors, which include state pension funds, endowments and wealthy individuals.

    Hitler parody leaves French bank BNP red-faced (IN24)
    French banking giant BNP was left red-faced this week after it emerged managers were shown a motivational video featuring a parody of a famous scene from the film “Downfall” in which Adolf Hitler is portrayed as the boss of Germany’s Deutsche Bank. It’s a scene that has been parodied thousands of times before to comic effect. But it appears not many people have seen the funny side of one particular version made by executives of French bank BNP Paribas…In the video, which was shown to around 100 managers from around the world at a seminar in Amsterdam last year, Hitler is turned into a fuming boss of Germany’s Deutsche Bank reacting furiously to news that BNP has gained an edge in the foreign exchange market. But far from being motivated, many of the managers who saw the video were outraged. “We could not believe the bank had actually dared to do that – make an analogy between our competitors and the Nazi regime. It took us a few minutes to take it in,” one BNP employee told French daily Liberation, who revealed the story this week. “We were shocked. Nobody knew how to react. Some Jewish employees from the United States did not find it funny at all,” another employee told the paper. “If this video had been shown by an American bank it would have been a major scandal,” an angry BNP source added. Rather surprisingly the video is believed to have been uploaded to the bank’s internal Intranet site before the management realised it might prove embarrassing and quickly removed it. A spokeswoman for BNP told FRANCE 24 on Friday that the bank’s senior management were totally unaware the video had been made until they were contacted by Libération this week. The spokeswoman said BNP’s CEO Jean Laurent Bonnafé had called his counterpart at Deutsche Bank Jürgen Fitschen to personally apologise for the stunt. In a statement in Libération the bank added that the message in the video was “contrary to the values of BNP.”

    Obama Summons Congress Leaders as Budget Deadline Nears (Bloomberg)
    Obama, who had been negotiating one-on-one with House Speaker John Boehner, will meet today with Republicans Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, both Democrats.

    Cliff Talks Down To The Wire (WSJ)
    It is still possible the two sides can reach a deal, especially with the leaders meeting Friday. Any resolution would be a scaled-back version of the package Mr. Obama and congressional leaders had anticipated passing after the November election. The White House is pressing for the Senate to extend current tax rates for income up to $250,000, extend unemployment benefits, keep the alternative minimum tax from hitting millions of additional taxpayers and delay spending cuts set to take effect in January. The 11th-hour strategy carries enormous risk because it leaves no margin for error in Congress’s balky legislative machinery. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said the prospects for passage of a bill before the last day of the year are fading rapidly. “I have to be very honest,” he said. “I don’t know time-wise how it can happen now.”

    Spain’s PM does not rule out asking for European aid (Reuters)
    Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Friday he did not rule out tapping the European Central Bank’s bond-buying program for troubled euro zone governments but said Spain did not expect to have to ask for aid for now. “We are not thinking of asking the European Central Bank to intervene and buy bonds in the secondary market,” he said at a news conference in Madrid. “But we can’t rule it out in the future.”

    Banks pay $4.5M for muni charges (NYP)
    Citigroup and Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch are among five firms that will pay $4.48 million to settle regulatory claims they used funds from municipal and state bond deals to pay lobbyists. Local authorities were unfairly asked to reimburse payments that the firms made over five years to the California Public Securities Association, a lobbying group, to help influence the state, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, which oversees securities firms, said yesterday. The firms inadequately described the fees, wrapping them into bond-underwriting expenses, Finra said…The banks, also including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley, agreed to pay $3.35 million in fines and reimburse certain California bond issuers $1.13 million.

    Porsche Wins Dismissal of US Hedge Fund Lawsuit Over VW (Reuters)
    A five-justice panel of the New York State appeals court in Manhattan unanimously found that Porsche had met its “heavy burden” to establish that the state was the wrong place in which to bring the lawsuit. That panel reversed an Aug. 6 ruling by New York State Supreme Court Justice Charles Ramos that let the case by hedge funds including Glenhill Capital LP, David Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital LP and Chase Coleman’s Tiger Global LP proceed. The funds accused Porsche of engineering a “massive short squeeze” in October 2008 by quietly buying nearly all freely traded ordinary VW shares in a bid to take over the company, despite publicly stating it had no plans to take a 75 percent stake.

    IPOs Slump To Lowest Levels Since Financial Crisis (Bloomberg)
    IPOs have raised $112 billion worldwide this year, the least since 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Initial sales in western Europe dropped to one-third of last year’s level, while concern about China’s economy helped cut proceeds in Asia by almost half. U.S. offerings raised $41 billion, little changed from last year, as Facebook’s IPO spurred a monthlong drought in U.S. deals.

    Avery Johnson Jr. vents on Twitter after dad, Avery Johnson, is fired by Brooklyn Nets (NYDN, RELATED)
    The ex-Nets coach’s teenage son took to Twitter to vent after news broke that his dad had been given a pink slip by billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov and the Nets. “This is a f—— Outrage. My dad is a great coach, he just got coach of the month and they Fire him. #Smh. Completely new team he had,” Johnson Jr. wrote on Twitter. “The expectations were way to high for this team. We didn’t even have a losing record…. Didn’t even give my dad a full season. #OUTRAGE,” Johnson Jr. continued. Johnson was fired a day after the new-look Nets fell to .500 following a listless road loss to the Bucks. The canning comes on the heels of Deron Williams saying he’s never been comfortable playing in Johnson’s offense. Williams, who did not play in Wednesday night’s loss, is mired in a season-long shooting slump with field goal and 3-point percentages at career-worst levels. “I’m sorry (our) best players couldn’t make open shots. Yeah that’s my dad’s fault totally,” Johnson Jr. tweeted.

    ‘Whale’ Capsized Banks’ Rule Effort (WSJ)
    Wall Street banks entered 2012 confident they could stall a wave of rules that they feared would hurt profits. But they are ending the year largely resigned that their activities will be constrained and monitored more closely by the government. One big reason for the change: J.P. Morgan Chase JPM -0.76% & Co.’s “London whale” losses. The bad trades, ultimately resulting in about $6 billion in losses, disrupted the banks’ campaign against the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul, according to regulators, lawmakers and close observers of policy debates in Washington. The trades damaged the reputation of J.P. Morgan, which suffered less than other banks from the financial crisis, and its chief executive, James Dimon, during a crucial period of policy debate in Washington, putting critics of Dodd-Frank on the defensive. Before news of the whale losses emerged, banks were arguing, with some success, that too-tight regulations were crimping lending during a time of slow growth. Michael Greenberger, a finance professor at the University of Maryland and an advocate of regulations aimed at reining in bank trading, said that in early 2012 his allies’ “backs were against the wall.” “Then the London whale blew all of that out of the water,” he said.

    Mortgages Fueled Hedge Funds To 13.9 Percent Gain (NYP)
    Hedge funds that invest in mortgage-backed securities gained 13.9 percent through November to make them the industry’s best-performing strategy, according to the Absolute Return index. Top players that did even better included Metacapital Management, Pine River, Axonic Capital, and Greg Lippman’s LibreMax Capital.

    High-Speed Traders Race to Fend Off Regulators (WSJ)
    Defenders say high-frequency trading keeps markets lubricated with a constant supply of buy and sell orders that enables all participants to trade more efficiently and get better pricing. High-speed traders, supporters add, have helped foster competition among exchanges and other trading venues, lowering commission-based fees for small investors and helping bring down overall costs for mutual-fund managers. Another benefit some cite: Technology innovations spurred by high-speed traders serve to connect more investors to more trading venues, broadening their options in the markets. Critics, for their part, worry that the traders’ order torrent makes markets more opaque, less stable and ultimately less fair.

    Will ‘Fiscal Clif’ Accelerate Millionaire Deaths? (NetNet)
    John Carney: “…it at least seems likely that some deaths that might otherwise have occurred shortly after January 1 will occur shortly before.”

    Man gets DUI after driving on AA co-founder’s lawn (AP)
    Vermont State Police say a man faces a drunken driving charge after driving onto the lawn of a historic home once owned by the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. Police say 55-year-old Donald Blood III of Marlborough, Mass., was ordered to appear in court in Bennington on Jan. 14. Police say Blood thought he was driving into a parking lot, but actually it was the lawn of the Wilson House, built in 1852 in Dorset, the birthplace of AA co-founder Bill Wilson. The Wilson House’s website describes it as a “place of sanctuary where people can come to give thanks to God for their new lives.” It still hosts several AA meetings each week.

    Programming Note< : We’re on an abbreviated, vacation-esque schedule this week (opening news roundups and limited updates whenever the urge to reach out and touch you moves us). We still want to hear from you, though, so if anything happens that you think might tickle our fancy, do not hesitate to let us know.

    / Dec 28, 2012 at 9:46 AM
  • shark

    Opening Bell

    Holiday Bell: 12.27.12

    Debt Ceiling Nears As Talks Stymied (WSJ)
    The Treasury Department said Wednesday the government would hit its legal borrowing limit by Monday, setting in motion emergency measures to keep the government operating for several more weeks and serving as a reminder that the nation’s budget wrangling could continue well into 2013. The Treasury’s financial maneuvering is designed to put off until February or March the prospect of a full-blown debt crisis. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s two-paragraph letter to Congress didn’t specify when the emergency measures might be exhausted, blaming the “significant uncertainty that now exists with regard to unresolved tax and spending policies for 2013.” The White House and congressional leaders have shown no signs of progress toward crafting an agreement to avoid the year-end tax increases and spending cuts known as the fiscal cliff.

    Rajaratnam Pays $1.45 Million Over Gupta Insider Tips (WSJ)
    As part of a consent agreement signed by Mr. Rajaratnam earlier this month and approved by a federal judge on Monday, he agreed to disgorge more than $1.29 million, representing his profits or losses avoided as a result of his alleged trading on Mr. Gupta’s tips, and to pay prejudgment interest of $147,738.

    SeaWorld Files For IPO (WSJ)
    Though the number of shares and the price range for offering haven’t been determined, the filing pegged it at up to $100 million.

    IBM Insider Net Expands (Reuters)
    Federal prosecutors charged Trent Martin, a research analyst at a Connecticut brokerage firm, with trading and tipping others before computer giant IBM’s $1.2 billion acquisition of SPSS in 2009, expanding a related insider-trading case filed last month. Martin was also charged with passing the information to others, including two stockbrokers and his roommate. The group allegedly netted more than $1 million.

    Shark Tank Explodes In Shanghai Mall (NYDN)
    Security video inside a Shanghai shopping mall captured the terrifying moment an aquarium with live sharks burst open, injuring at least 15 people and leading to the death of dozens of animals. The chaotic scene on Dec. 18 inside the Shanghai Oriental Shopping Center left many of the victims with cuts from the broken glass, while one of them suffered a broken ankle, according to the China Daily. Many of those hurt were mall employees. In addition, three lemon sharks and dozens of smaller fish and turtles were killed when the 33-ton tank exploded, sending water and glass cascading through part of the shopping center, the BBC reported. At least four people were standing right in front of the display at the time. “It was horrible, like a bomb explosion,” one mall vendor told the China Daily. “Some pedestrians were pushed (6-1/2 feet) away by the force of the water.” Officials were investigating whether low temperatures in Shanghai combined with shoddy building materials to make the shark tank — built just two years ago — suddenly rupture. This isn’t the first time the display has been damaged: A broken water pipe in June led to the death of three sharks, according to reports. Mall officials have apparently had enough and told local media they don’t plan to rebuild.

    Jobless Claims Drop as U.S. States Tally Data After Break (Bloomberg)
    Applications for jobless benefits decreased 12,000 to 350,000 in the week ended Dec. 22, Labor Department figures showed today. Economists forecast 360,000, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey. Claims in 19 states and territories were estimated because government office closures on Dec. 24 prevented a complete count, a Labor Department spokesman said as the figures were released.

    France, Italy See Economic Bright Spots (WSJ)
    So that’s nice.

    Gross Doubles New York Bet as California Loses Lead (Bloomberg)
    The $285 billion Total Return Fund, which Gross runs at Pacific Investment Management Co., boosted its New York state allocation to about a $3 billion market value in the quarter ending Sept. 30, from $1.4 billion as of June 30, according to a semiannual filing the firm released this month. It was the largest increase by amount among U.S. states.

    Zuckerberg’s Sister Can’t Keep Privacy Rules Straight (NYP)
    Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg’s older sister, Randi, complained yesterday when one of her Twitter followers publicly posted a photo of the family, including her famous brother, standing in the kitchen reacting to the company’s new Poke app. “Not sure where you got this photo,” Randi tweeted in response @cschweitz. “I posted it only to friends on FB. You reposting it on Twitter is way uncool.” It turns out that not even Randi — Facebook’s former marketing director — is up to speed on the site’s often-confusing privacy settings. Her gaffe provided fodder for critics of the site, which in the past has changed its policies with little warning and to the dismay of users. “We’ve all been dealing with loss of privacy in Facebook, now she feels what we all do everyday,” one Twitter user responded.

    Apple CEO Cook Gets $4.17 Million Compensation, No Stock (Bloomberg)
    The total includes $1.36 million salary and $2.8 million in incentive plan compensation, Cupertino, California-based Apple said today in a regulatory filing. Cook’s 2011 compensation of $378 million, one of the biggest pay packages on record, was boosted by $376.2 million in stock awards that he’ll get over a decade.

    McDonald’s trips cost high school secretary $9,000 in fines (NYDN)
    Kappry Vera of the Urban Assembly School for Construction and Design in Hell’s Kitchen made more than $3,000 in personal purchases on the school credit card from August 2009 through May 2011, investigators charge. The administrator, who lives in Williamsburg, spent most of the money on fast food — including $765 on dozens of visits to McDonald’s between October 2009 and May 2011, charging the city for purchases there up to four times each day. Vera, 33, also dropped $342 at Subway and spent another $190 on Burger King in illegal uses of her city-funded credit card that was only meant for official school purchases, investigators said. Vera only halted her runaway junk-food spending after her principal noticed “questionable purchases” in the school budget and confronted her about it, investigators said. Under questioning, Vera admitted that she bought food for herself on the school card on five occasions, but she wouldn’t give investigators receipts to explain the bulk of her purchases.

    Programming Note: We’re on an abbreviated, vacation-esque schedule this week (opening news roundups and limited updates whenever the urge to reach out and touch you moves us). We still want to hear from you, though, so if anything happens that you think might tickle our fancy, do not hesitate to let us know.

    / Dec 27, 2012 at 11:30 AM
  • berniemadoffheadshot

    Opening Bell

    Holiday Bell: 12.26.12

    Budget Talks Cloud Outlook (WSJ)
    Lawmakers returning to town this week will see whether they can agree on a plan to avoid the full brunt of the fiscal cliff, the combined $500 billion in tax increases and spending cuts set to begin next week. Little if any progress was made in the talks before Congress and President Barack Obama left town last Friday for Christmas. The president plans to leave his vacation in Hawaii late Wednesday night, returning to Washington on Thursday, the White House said. Aides in both parties say they expect a potential solution to start taking shape by the end of the week. But with so little time, hopes are dimming for anything other than a partial agreement, which would prolong the uncertainty and leave in place some tax or spending measures that act as a serious drag on the weak recovery. This could even trigger another recession, exacerbating the global economic slowdown.

    Grand Bargain Shrinks as Congress Nears U.S. Budget Deadline (Bloomberg)
    “At this point there’s zero percent chance of a big deal and maybe a 10 percent chance of a small deal before Jan. 1,” said Stan Collender, a former staff member of the House Ways and Means Committee and the House and Senate Budget committees who is now at Qorvis Communications in Washington. He has predicted a no-deal scenario since before Memorial Day, and said the past two weeks of inaction reinforced his projection. At this point, Collender said, whether the Senate moves first won’t matter. “Nothing will move House Republicans if they don’t feel like getting moved,” he said. “They’ve never been swayed by the Senate before.” The remaining option for averting the cliff, he said, would be if Boehner risks his House speakership to put to the floor a tax deal that would get a majority of Democrats to support it and few — perhaps less than 50 — Republicans. “The Republican caucus would never forgive him,” he said. “The statesmanlike thing to do would be to say I’m the speaker of the House, not the head of the Republican party. That is the equivalent of never running for speaker again.”

    Some ‘Cliff’ With Your Coffee? Starbucks Urges Unity (Reuters)
    Chief Executive Howard Schultz is urging workers in Starbucks’ roughly 120 Washington-area shops to write “come together” on customers’ cups on Thursday and Friday, as U.S. President Barack Obama and lawmakers return to work and attempt to revive fiscal cliff negotiations that collapsed before the Christmas holiday.

    Herbalife Goes On Offensive (WSJ)
    Herbalife Ltd. said it has hired a strategic adviser and will hold an analyst and investor meeting next month in an effort to thwart a wave of criticism reignited by investor William Ackman. In addition, Herbalife is working with law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP in connection with the dispute, according to people familiar with the matter. It wasn’t immediately clear what kind of counsel Boies Schiller might provide…The company’s moves, announced Monday, come after Mr. Ackman last week revealed that his firm has been betting against Herbalife shares for months in a negative wager that he characterized as “enormous.” He also said the nutritional-supplement maker operates as a “pyramid scheme.” He said distributors, or salespeople, for the Los Angeles-based company make more money by recruiting other distributors than by selling the company’s diet and nutritional products. Herbalife last week called Mr. Ackman’s stance “a malicious attack on Herbalife’s business model based largely on outdated, distorted and inaccurate information.”

    NJ Pension Fund Sues NYSE-Euronext on ICE Deal (Reuters)
    The New Jersey Carpenters Pension Fund on Friday filed a complaint in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan contending that NYSE-Euronext breached its duty to maximize returns for shareholders. The lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of other NYSE-Euronext shareholders and aims to block the sale.

    Titan to Withdraw Money From SAC (WSJ)
    Titan Advisors LLC recently told clients that it had decided to withdraw its entire investment from SAC, said clients who received phone calls from Titan. “They’ve told us they still think SAC is a good firm but Titan doesn’t need the headline risk, and we sure don’t,” said Tom Taneyhill, executive director of the Fire & Police Employees’ Retirement System of the City of Baltimore, on Friday…Titan’s departure is significant given SAC’s long-standing relationship with one of Titan’s founders. Titan co-founder George Fox began investing in SAC in the mid-90s, several years after Mr. Cohen started what became the firm in 1992.

    Madoff, in Christmas Eve Letter, Says Insider Trading Has Gone on ‘Forever’ (CNBC)
    In a Christmas Eve letter from the medium security federal prison in North Carolina where he is serving a 150-year sentence for running a massive Ponzi scheme, Madoff tells CNBC that insider trading has been around “forever.” He also rails against what he calls a lack of transparency in the financial markets, and says the growth of hedge funds is forcing market players to take outsized risks in order to earn decent returns. […] “(O)ne would be led to believe that with the recent spate of insider trading prosecution that insider trading is a new development,” Madoff writes. “This is false. It has been present in the market forever, but rarely prosecuted. The same can be said of front running of orders.”

    Venture Capital to Suppress Its Appetite for Risk in 2013 (WSJ)
    Internet entrepreneurs have had the upper hand over venture capitalists in recent years but that balance of power is now showing some signs of shifting, a trend that could accelerate in 2013. Spurring the change is a dramatically lower appetite for risk from venture capitalists. Many investors rushed to get into Web startup deals in 2010, 2011 and in the early part of this year, often acceding to entrepreneurs’ demands for rising valuations in order to snag a stake in their companies. But following the disappointing stock market performances of recently public Web companies Facebook, Zynga, and Groupon venture capitalists are reining in their spending in areas like the consumer Internet.

    Israel Hedge Funds Defy Iran Threat Multiplying in Tech Center (Bloomberg)
    Tal Keinan, an Israeli fund manager, was ready for the question he’s always asked when he met with investors in New York in October: Why put your money with a manager whose country Iran has threatened to obliterate. “We tell them ‘if the Iranians attack, the worst thing that can happen is you lose your money manager not your money’,” Keinan, chief executive officer of Tel Aviv-based KCPS & Company, which oversees $1 billion in assets, said in an interview on Oct. 14. “The notion is trade global markets with global assets and clients, but just do it from Israel because of the concentration of talent here.” The country is becoming a magnet for hedge fund managers as lower operating costs, the world’s highest number of Ph.D.s and hi-tech startups per capita overshadow concern that Israel may be attacked by missiles from Tehran. The number of funds has grown to 60 overseeing about $2 billion from 13 in 2006, according to a survey of the local industry published in July by Tzur Management. Israel may be on track to replicate the growth that propelled Singapore’s industry from fewer than 20 managers in 2001 to 320 overseeing $48 billion in 2009, Yitz Raab, founder and managing partner of the Tel Aviv-based fund administration company, said in an interview on Nov. 11.

    Even Cupid Wants To Know Your Credit Score (NYT)
    The credit score, once a little-known metric derived from a complex formula that incorporates outstanding debt and payment histories, has become an increasingly important number used to bestow credit, determine housing and even distinguish between job candidates. It’s so widely used that it has also become a bigger factor in dating decisions, sometimes eclipsing more traditional priorities like a good job, shared interests and physical chemistry. That’s according to interviews with more than 50 daters across the country, all under the age of 40.

    Report: Hedgies prime for comeback (NYP)
    Banking giant UBS says so-called active investing could be making a comeback after several years of lagging performance, according to a recent report sent to clients. “Although the recent market environment has been difficult for active managers, conditions appear to be improving,” according to the report by UBS’s wealth-management group, which advises clients on their investment strategies. “We expect this to lead to better manager performance.”

    London VC Spared Jail After ‘Groin Thrusting’ Sexual Assault On Tube During Olympics (TechCrunch)
    Stefan Glaenzer, a partner in London VC firm Passion Capital has been spared jail after pleading guilty to, and being convicted of, sexual assault on the London underground during the Olympics period…In November, the former chairman of Last.fm admitted sexually assaulting an American tourist on a packed Central Line train by thrusting his groin into her back, Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard. His defence was that he was under the influence of cannabis.

    Programming Note: We’re on an abbreviated, vacation-esque schedule this week (opening news roundups and limited updates whenever the urge to reach out and touch you moves us). We still want to hear from you, though, so if anything happens that you think might tickle our fancy, do not hesitate to let us know.

    / Dec 26, 2012 at 9:43 AM
  • Write-Offs

    Write-Offs: 12.21.12

    $$$ Lawsuits cast darker shadow over banks than Libor fines [Reuters]

    $$$ Majority of Wealthy Support Taxing Themselves: Poll [CNBC]

    $$$ NRA Calls for Armed Guards in Schools to Prevent Killings [Bloomberg]

    $$$ ICE Would Owe $750 Million if NYSE Deal Blocked [WSJ]

    $$$ Daily Intel is live-blogging the Mayan apocalypse [DI]

    $$$ That’s it for us today. We’ll be on a light schedule next week, and will see you back here full time on January 2nd. Happy holidays!

    $$$ BoNY Mellon is looking for a wealth management sales director in Boston [DBCC]

    $$$ Swaps ‘Armageddon’ Lingers as New Rules Concentrate Risk [Bloomberg]

    $$$ New York Fed: Progress Being Made in Improving Tri-Party Repo Sector [RTE]

    $$$ “[C]lass actions are more closely associated with unreliable disclosures than are SEC investigations. Moreover, stand-alone class actions appear more likely to result in settlements, and those settlements are of greater magnitude, than stand-alone SEC investigations, and officers are more likely to be terminated. Our findings cast doubt on the claim that SEC investigations are superior to class actions in targeting fraud and imposing sanctions on companies.” [Harvard Law]

    $$$ “Plaintiff’s counsel hereby gives notice he will not be available any time after December 21, 2012, due to the end of the world.” [ATL]

    / Dec 21, 2012 at 4:21 PM
  • ubs_web_1759736c-260x162

    News

    Losing Anything < $2 Billion, Whether Through Trading Or Regulatory Fines, Now Considered A Victory At UBS

    UBS’s $1.5 billion settlement for manipulating interbank lending rates is the fourth separate regulatory finding […]

    / Dec 21, 2012 at 3:35 PM
  • News

    Robust Christmas Tree Sales Mean… Something? Maybe?

    The early numbers aren’t encouraging in terms of holiday sales. But let’s ignore them and rely on this instead:

    / Dec 21, 2012 at 3:04 PM
  • Too soon?

    Banks

    JPMorgan’s Regulators Plan To Ask Some Pointed Questions About … Sorry, Was It The London Quail? Something Like That.

    I didn’t really understand this morning’s Journal headline – “Regulatory ‘Whale’ Hunt Advances” – since […]

    / Dec 21, 2012 at 2:04 PM
  • Nassim+Nicholas+Taleb+2008+Festival+Della+GdXKlZdNFtil

    News

    Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Got Bad News For His Legions Of Soccer Mom Fans

    Greek god. Philosopher. Adonis. The only person on earth who has earned the right to have an opinion about anything. All appropriate characterizations of one Nassim Nicholas Taleb, and the way at least three-quarters of all living homo sapiens have described NNT in their conversations with friends and in their diaries. And while his many admirers have surely studied him in great detail in the hopes of one day having the opportunity to unlock his heart or simply bask in his reflected glory for a moment or two, not everyone has a comprehensive list of the things that rev Taleb’s engine and, more importantly, that tick him off. Luckily, a recent profile by Chronicle writer Tom Bartlett has produced a near-complete guide to the likes and dislikes of Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Read it, print it out, carry it in your pocket– but really, consider taking the time to commit it to memory. Your chance may only come along once and you don’t want to fuck it up by fumbling around your notes because you can’t remember what his thoughts are on “bourgeois bohemian bonus earners” or fruit.

    / Dec 21, 2012 at 1:16 PM
  • News

    Don’t Bury Your Ingots Before Ragnarok

    Convinced the impending Western economic collapse (or today’s end of civilization) will plunge the financial centers of North America and Europe into looting, murder and anarchy? Don’t trust the impregnability of Fort Knox or the New York Fed’s basement, let alone the places you actually keep you gold?

    / Dec 21, 2012 at 12:47 PM
  • News

    For The Federal Reserve Chief Who Has Everything (Except An Economic Recovery)

    Ben Bernanke’s a hard one to shop for. But his underlings are dropping some clear hints. And he’s OK with the fact that you’ve already missed Hannukah, as long as it gets to him sometime next year.

    / Dec 21, 2012 at 11:37 AM
  • Kweku-Adoboli

    News

    Kweku Adoboli’s Colleague Couldn’t Help But Admire The Cojones It Took To Lose UBS $2 Billion

    Not everyone would have the balls, but Adobli did and for that he deserved props.

    / Dec 21, 2012 at 10:40 AM
  • inflatablewhale

    Opening Bell

    Opening Bell: 12.21.12

    Critics Say UBS Let Off Too Easy (WSJ)
    Our goal here is not to destroy a major financial institution,” Lanny Breuer, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s criminal division, said Wednesday after the $1.5 billion fine against UBS was announced. Prosecutors have to at least “evaluate whether or not innocent people might lose jobs” and other types of potential collateral damage. Sen. Charles Grassley (R., Iowa), a Senate Finance Committee member, said he is unsatisfied that prosecutors didn’t go higher up the corporate ladder at UBS than its Japanese subsidiary…”The reluctance of U.S. prosecutors to file criminal charges over big-time bank fraud is frustrating and hard to understand,” Mr. Grassley said. The $1.5 billion fine is a “spit in the ocean compared to the money lost by borrowers at every level, including taxpayers.”

    Regulatory ‘Whale’ Hunt Advances (WSJ)
    The first regulatory ripples from the “London Whale” trading fiasco are about to hit J.P. Morgan Chase. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, led by Comptroller Thomas Curry, is preparing to take a formal action demanding that J.P. Morgan remedy the lapses in risk controls that allowed a small group of London-based traders to rack up losses of more than $6 billion this year, according to people familiar with the company’s discussions with regulators.

    Khuzami To Leave SEC Enforcement Post (WSJ)
    Robert Khuzami, head of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement unit, plans to leave the agency as soon as next month, a person familiar with the expected move said Thursday.

    Boehner Drops ‘Plan B’ as Budget Effort Turns to Disarray (Bloomberg)
    House Speaker John Boehner scrapped a plan to allow higher tax rates on annual income above $1 million, yielding to anti-tax resistance within his own party and throwing already-stalled budget talks deeper into turmoil. He will hold a news conference today at 10 a.m. Washington time to discuss the next steps in the budget dispute, a Republican leadership aide said. House members and senators won’t vote on the end-of-year budget issues until after Christmas, giving them less than a week to reach agreement to avert tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect in January. The partisan divide hardened yesterday, making the path to a deal more uncertain.

    BlackRock Sees Distortions in Country Ratings Seeking S&P Change (Bloomberg)
    Credit rating companies are distorting capital markets by assigning the same debt ranking to countries from Italy to Thailand and Kazakhstan, according to BlackRock, the world’s biggest money manager. While 23 countries share the BBB+ to BBB- levels assessed by Standard & Poor’s, the lowest investment grades, up from 15 in 2008 at the beginning of the financial crisis, their debt to gross domestic product ratios range from 12 percent for Kazakhstan to 44 percent for Thailand and 126 percent for Italy, International Monetary Fund estimates show. The cost of insuring against a default by Italy, ranked BBB+, over the next five years is almost triple that for Thailand, which has the same rating. For BlackRock, which oversees $3.7 trillion in assets, the measures are so untrustworthy that the firm is setting up its own system to gauge the risk of investing in government bonds. This year, the market moved in the opposite direction suggested by changes to levels and outlooks 53 percent of the time, data compiled by Bloomberg show. “The rating agencies were very, very slow to the game,” Benjamin Brodsky, a managing director at BlackRock International Ltd., said in a Nov. 23 interview from London. “They all came after the fact. For us, this is not good enough.”

    If You Bought Greek Bonds in January You Earned 80% (Bloomberg)
    Greek government bonds returned 80 percent this year, compared with 3.7 percent for German bunds and 6.1 percent for Spanish securities, Bank of America Merrill Lynch indexes show. It’s the first year since 2009 that investors made money on Greek securities, with 2012 providing the biggest advance since Merrill began compiling the data in 1998, according to figures that don’t reflect this month’s debt buyback by the government.

    Texas lawmaker: ‘Ping-pongs’ deadlier than guns (The Ticket)
    Incoming Texas State Rep. Kyle Kacal says guns don’t kill people—ping-pong kills people. “I’ve heard of people being killed playing ping-pong—ping-pongs are more dangerous than guns,” he says. “Flat-screen TVs are injuring more kids today than anything.” The lifetime rancher, who will take his seat in 2013 as a freshman, says that new gun restrictions are unnecessary. Kacal, who reportedly operates a hunting business, notably came out against a bill instructing Texans how to secure their assault weapons. “People know what they need to do to be safe. We don’t need to legislate that—it’s common sense,” he said. “Once everyone’s gun is locked up, then the bad guys know everyone’s gun is locked up.”

    Flare-up in war of words between Ackman, Herbalife (NYP)
    “This is the highest conviction I’ve ever had about any investment I’ve ever made,” Ackman said yesterday in a series of interviews. The investor told CNBC that he expects the Federal Trade Commission will take a “hard look” at the company. The heavyweight battle picked up steam over the last two days and has become, in the typically slow days leading up to Christmas, one of the most-watched events on Wall Street. As the financial world watched, Herbalife CEO Michael Johnson returned fire — calling Ackman’s statements “bogus” and asking the Securities and Exchange Commission to probe the motives of Ackman and his Pershing Square Capital hedge fund. A spokeswoman said if Johnson were allowed the chance to face-off against the investor at the Downtown conference, the CEO “would have been able to tear Mr. Ackman’s premises and interpretation of our business model apart.”

    Citigroup Said to Give CCA Managers 75% Stake in Funds for Free (Bloomberg)
    Among Vikram Pandit’s last jobs as Citigroup’s chief executive officer was to decide the fate of the bank’s hedge-fund unit, which employs some of his oldest colleagues. He agreed to give them most of it for free. While Citigroup is keeping a 25 percent stake, managers at the Citi Capital Advisors unit will pay nothing for the remaining 75 percent of that business as it becomes a new firm managing as much as $2.5 billion of the bank’s money, according to people with knowledge of the plan. The lender will pay the executives fees while gradually pulling out assets to comply with impending U.S. rules, said the people, who requested anonymity because the terms aren’t public. The deal was Citigroup’s response to the Volcker rule.

    Peter Madoff Is Sentenced to 10 Years for His Role in Fraud (Dealbook)
    A lawyer by training, Peter Madoff is the second figure in the scandal to be sentenced. His older brother, Bernard, pleaded guilty in March 2009 and is serving a prison term of 150 years.

    UK Boom in Pound Shops: An Austerity-Proof Business Model? (CNBC)
    Pound shops in the U.K. are reporting massive increases in profits across the board showing that the formula “pile ’em high and sell ’em cheap” has particular resonance in Britain’s current age of austerity. Names like “Poundstretcher,” “Poundland” and “99p Stores” in the U.K. have become high street stalwarts as other brands go bust. The chains, immediately recognizable on price point, are opening new stores and reporting record results reflecting the increasing public demand for cheaper goods. U.K. based “Poundland” is one such chain reporting steep sales growth as its range of 3,000 items — from umbrellas and pregnancy tests (it sells 14,000 a week) to bird feeders and bags of crisps all priced at one pound – resonates with cash-strapped Britons. In the year to April 2012, the Warburg Pincus owned company said its turnover increased 22 percent to 780 million pounds ($1.25 billion) and profits increased by 50 percent to 18.3 million pounds from last year’s figure of 12.2 million.

    Former Olympian Suzy Favor Hamilton admits to life as a $600-an-hour hooker (NYP)
    Steamy, lingerie-clad images of the champion runner helped tout her services on the Web site of a Vegas escort agency called Haley Heston’s Private Collection, where Favor Hamilton operated under the name “Kelly Lundy,” according to The Smoking Gun. Customers could hire her lithe Olympic-class runner’s body for $600 an hour, $1,000 for two hours and $6,000 for 24 hours. The site described her build as “athletic,” her bosom as “perky,” and her belly button as “pierced.” She was willing to provide horny customers the full “girlfriend experience,” and would also engage in a certain undisclosed sex act for an extra $300. “I enjoy men of all shapes, sizes and colors, and I have an affinity for women (I am bisexual),” “Kelly” wrote on her page on the escort service’s Web site. “I consider dates with couples an experience to cherish.” Her sexual skills reportedly earned her a high rating on The Erotic Review, a Web site frequented by prostitution fans. Favor Hamilton’s lusty secret life might have stayed secret if she had not made the mistake of revealing her true identity to some of her wealthy johns, who went to the media.

    / Dec 21, 2012 at 8:58 AM
  • I giggled. From like slide 8,000 of twelve million or whatever.

    News

    Bill Ackman Full Of Praise For Company He Thinks Is A Blood-Sucking Pyramid Scheme

    Well, the praise was brief but extravagant, specifically “this is the best managed pyramid scheme […]

    / Dec 20, 2012 at 2:22 PM
  • The 2013 model.

    News

    GM Is Buying Some Stock

    One thing to savor about Treasury’s plan to get out of GM is how many […]

    / Dec 20, 2012 at 11:01 AM
  • I don't think they've said the name of newco but obviously our vote is for something knight-related. There are no good pictures of getcos.

    M&A

    Getco Became $100 Million More Valuable While Negotiating To Buy Knight

    I give you a tiny puzzle. Getco offered to buy Knight Capital a month ago […]

    / Dec 20, 2012 at 9:35 AM
  • syrup2

    Opening Bell

    Opening Bell: 12.20.12

    Report Says Libor-Tied Losses at Fannie, Freddie May Top $3 Billion (WSJ)
    Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may have lost more than $3 billion as a result of banks’ alleged manipulation of a key interest rate, according to an internal report by a federal watchdog sent to the mortgage companies’ regulator and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The unpublished report urges Fannie and Freddie to consider suing the banks involved in setting the London interbank offered rate, which would add to the mounting legal headaches financial firms such as UBS AG and Barclays face from cities, insurers, investors and lenders over claims tied to the benchmark rate.

    Libor Documents May Boost Civil Suits (WSJ)
    Analysts have published a range of estimates of the potential impact to the industry of lawsuits stemming from the manipulation—in some cases they reach into the tens of billions of dollars or more. It likely will be years before the extent of any liabilities becomes clear. For the lawsuits to succeed, plaintiffs must prove that banks successfully altered the interest-rate benchmarks and caused the plaintiffs to suffer a loss. Michael Hausfeld, chairman of Hausfeld LLP, a co-lead counsel on one of the lawsuits, said the UBS settlement was “extremely useful” for the litigation. The “extraordinary emails” published by the regulators exposed the “pervasiveness of the culture and the activity.”

    UBS Trader Hayes Exposed at Core of Libor Investigation (Bloomberg)
    Tom Hayes, one of two former UBS AG traders charged by U.S. prosecutors, is portrayed by American regulators as the kingpin of a three-year campaign that succeeded in manipulating global interest rates. Hayes, 33, was charged with wire fraud and price-fixing, the Department of Justice said in a criminal complaint unsealed yesterday. The trader and Roger Darin, a former short-term interest-rates trader at UBS whose responsibilities included the firm’s yen Libor quotes, were also charged with conspiracy…Hayes colluded with brokers, counterparts at other firms and his colleagues to manipulate the rate, the Justice Department said. Between 2006 and 2009, a UBS trader made at least 800 requests to the firm’s yen Libor rate-setters, about 100 to traders at other banks, and 1,200 to interdealer brokers, according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which didn’t identify Hayes by name. “Many UBS yen derivatives traders and managers were involved in the manipulative conduct and made requests to serve their own trading positions’ interests,” the CFTC said. “But the volume of unlawful requests submitted by one particular senior yen derivatives trader in Tokyo dwarfed them all.”

    IntercontinentalExchange Agrees to Acquire NYSE Euronext (Bloomberg)
    IntercontinentalExchange Inc., the 12-year-old energy and commodity futures bourse, agreed to acquire NYSE Euronext for cash and stock worth $8.2 billion, moving to take control of the world’s biggest equities market. ICE, based in Atlanta, will pay $33.12 a share for the owner of the New York Stock Exchange, 38 percent above yesterday’s closing price, according to a statement today. Both boards approved the proposal and the companies expect to complete the transaction in the second half of 2013. Last year, the U.S. Justice Department blocked a joint hostile bid by ICE and Nasdaq OMX Group for the New York-based company on concern the combination would dominate U.S. stock listings.

    Greece Faces ‘Make or Break’ Year (FT)
    We can make it next year if we can stick to the program agreed with the EU and IMF,” finance minister Yannis Stournaras said in an interview with the Financial Times. However, “the break would be if the political system finds the situation too difficult to handle”, he added, referring to the danger of social unrest about austerity that could force the two left-of-center parties to bring down the governing coalition. “What we have done so far is necessary but not sufficient to achieve a permanent solution for Greece,” Mr Stournaras said. “The issue now is implementation.”

    Boehner’s ‘Plan B’ Gets Pushback (WSJ)
    The mood at the White House was gloomy, while on Capitol Hill it fluctuated. Few seemed confident the nation would avoid the tax increases and spending cuts known as the fiscal cliff, but others noted major Washington deals are usually reached only after several near-death experiences.

    Preparing for the World’s End, Just in Case (WSJ)
    Tony Brown, a private investigator in Southern California, says he has spent nearly $60,000 preparing for Teotwawki — an acronym for “the end of the world as we know it”—or SHTF—when the “s— hits the fan.” Mr. Brown has purchased an ultralight plane and amassed three tons of food in his kitchen, about a third in freeze-dried meals. About a year ago, Mr. Brown started a website to recruit a community of preppers to plan for a cataclysm. In the first several months, he said he received few inquiries. But by the summer, traffic to the site soared and applications have come rolling in since. He recently capped the group at 175 members—all are responsible for their own one-year supply of food—though he is still seeking a doctor, meteorologist and ham-radio operator. Mr. Brown has contingency plans for four doomsday scenarios he deems most likely—a supervolcano, solar flare, major earthquake or hyper inflation—and a large underground bunker in case of a nuclear attack. He doesn’t believe the world will end on Dec. 21, “but, just in case, I want to have everything ready by then,” he said.

    US Economy Grew 3.1%; Jobless Claims Rise (Reuters)
    Weekly jobless claims rose to 361,000 in the latest week. Claims has been expected to rise to 357,000, from 343,000 the prior week.

    BofA’s Moynihan Said to Kill Proposal to Cut Pay for Brokers (Bloomberg)
    Bank of America Corp. Chief Executive Officer Brian T. Moynihan blocked a proposal to cut the main component of most brokers’ pay for 2013, said a person with direct knowledge of the matter. The plan would have reduced the so-called grid payout for Merrill Lynch financial advisers by two percentage points, the person said, requesting anonymity because it wasn’t made public. The changes, which would have affected advisers generating less than $1 million in commissions, were seen as a way to cushion the costs of new bonuses, the person said.

    In $18 Million Theft, Victim Was a Canadian Maple Syrup Cartel (NYT)
    It was an inside job of sorts. Thieves with access to a warehouse and a careful plan loaded up trucks and, over time, made off with $18 million of a valuable commodity. The question is what was more unusual: that the commodity in question was maple syrup, or that it came from something called the global strategic maple syrup reserve, run by what amounts to a Canadian cartel. On Tuesday, the police in Quebec arrested three men in connection with the theft from the warehouse, which is southwest of Quebec City. The authorities are searching for five others suspected of being involved, and law enforcement agencies in other parts of Canada and the United States are trying to recover some of the stolen syrup. Both the size and the international scope of the theft underscore Quebec’s outsize position in the maple syrup industry. Depending on the year, the province can produce more than three-quarters of the world’s supply. And its marketing organization appears to have taken some tips from the producers of another valuable liquid commodity when it comes to exploiting market dominance. “It’s like OPEC,” said Simon Trépanier, acting general manager of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers. “We’re not producing all the maple syrup in the world. But by producing 70 to 78 percent, we have the ability to adjust the quantity that is in the marketplace.”

    NYers who believe in Mayan apocalypse search for sex before the world ends (NYP)
    While some people around the world are arming themselves and digging into bunkers, many New Yorkers are simply hoping for a hot time. “I will be looking for an end-of-the-world hook-up,” Dennis Cintron, 29, a Lower East Side bartender, told The Post. “If you’re going to go out, go out with a bang.” Cintron said he’ll buy new clothes and get a haircut for the big day because he wants some “companionship” to ring in the rapture. Sara Saperstein, 26, of Bushwick is also hoping for one last romp. “It’s like New Year’s. I want to go out on a wild note!” Saperstein said. She won’t have trouble finding a spot for that. More than a dozen bars and clubs in New York City are throwing end-of-days bashes, including a comedy show at the Bell House in Gowanus and an “End of the Funking World Party” at B.B. King Blues Club in Midtown. Other singles posted ads on Craigslist.org and OKCupid.com, seeking apocalypse-themed dates, “casual encounters” and even “end of the world sex.” “If you’ve got no plans for the apocalypse, let’s get together,” wrote a 30-year-old single guy from Midtown. He added, “Send me how you’d like to spend your last hours on earth — and a photo.”

    / Dec 20, 2012 at 9:14 AM
  • Write-Offs

    Write-Offs: 12.19.12

    $$$ ICE Said to Be in Talks to Merge With NYSE Euronext [DealBook]

    $$$ Report Says Libor-Tied Losses at Fannie, Freddie May Top $3 Billion [WSJ]

    $$$ Treasury to Sell G.M. Stake Within 15 Months [DealBook]

    $$$ All your bank frauds in one place [Counterparties]

    $$$ Ben Affleck may be running for Senate in Massachusetts [Politico via DI]

    $$$ A major energy trading firm is looking for two quantitative developers to join its data driven trading team [DBCC]

    $$$Bank of America Corp. has amassed $64 billion of mortgages that are at least six months delinquent and have yet to enter foreclosure, more than twice the amount held by its four largest competitors combined.” [Bloomberg]

    $$$ Money Funds Brace for Flood [WSJ]

    $$$ Greece faces ‘make or break’ year [FT]

    $$$ Holiday videos from First Round Capital and FT Alphaville [Pando Daily, FTAV]

    / Dec 19, 2012 at 7:48 PM
  • dominique-strauss-kahn

    News

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn To Be Tried For Alleged Side Gig As Pimp

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn failed to persuade French judges to dismiss pimping charges against him Wednesday, meaning […]

    / Dec 19, 2012 at 7:30 PM
  • But to be fair I love their hand sanitizer.

    Hedge Funds

    Bill Ackman Unimpressed By Business Model Of Selling Diet Shakes To Your Friends; Diet Shake Salesman Unimpressed By Business Model Of Being Bill Ackman

    What is the best line from Herbalife CEO Michael Johnson’s amazingly hostile call with CNBC […]

    / Dec 19, 2012 at 6:32 PM
  • john-paulson_82845s

    News

    Morgan Stanley Suggests Paulson And Co ‘Advantage’ Investors Pull Their Money And Run

    They were willing to ’em a chance, but no more.

    / Dec 19, 2012 at 5:08 PM
  • Financial violations, hurtling.

    Banks

    Sometimes UBS Traders Manipulated Libor Just To Mess With Each Other

    The last of the UBS Libor settlements to come out was the U.S. one and […]

    / Dec 19, 2012 at 3:50 PM
  • dick-bove

    News

    God Smiles On Rafferty Capital

    Noted bank analyst Dick Bove is joining New York-based brokerage firm Rafferty Capital Markets LLC. […]

    / Dec 19, 2012 at 1:05 PM
  • News

    Running Exchanges Is Too Hard, Exchange Chiefs Say

    U.S. exchanges have become a handful to handle. It seems that all of the order types they’ve instituted over the years to keep customers and regulators happy may have had the opposite result.

    But it’s not Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders or some other Capitol Hill communist levying these charges. It’s the exchanges themselves. And rather than doing something about the things they’ve done to make themselves “overly complex and opaque” at the expense of ordinary investors, they’d prefer to have Congress make them do something.

    / Dec 19, 2012 at 12:46 PM
  • News

    When Canadians And Romanians Conspire

    So here’s a little story about a man named Peter Beck. Once upon a time, he ran a day-trading operation with 5,000 traders in places like China, Nicaragua, Romania and, worst of all, Canada. And he used that network to manipulate markets, regulators say; at the very least, he knew his charges in 30 countries were doing so, it is alleged.

    / Dec 19, 2012 at 12:42 PM
  • williambryanjennings-260x260

    News

    In Wake Of Exec “Accidentally” Stabbing A Cab Driver, Morgan Stanley Insists You Ask, “What Would The Post Say?”

    A year ago this Friday, a Morgan Stanley banker named William Bryan Jennings attended a couple holiday parties, drank a few Coors Lights, and around 10:30PM hailed a cab and asked the driver, Helmy Ammar, to take him home to Connecticut. On the way, a hungry WBJ requested they stop at G&G Deli off 10th Avenue, where he bought “a 20 oz. bottle of Aquafina water, a sandwich and some Burger King cheesy fries.” As the cab entered approached Jennings’ hometown of Darien, a dispute reportedly broke out as to what the fare for the ride would be. Ammar claims that they’d agreed on $204 before leaving Manhattan, but once in Connecticut, Jennings said he’d only pay $50. Jennings claims that Ammar jacked the price up to $300 and was unhappy when the banker offered $160. Another matter of he said/he said is whether or not Jennings started shouting racial slurs at Ammar and told him, “I’m going to kill you. You should go back to your country!” (Jennings denies this happened and says that Ammar locked the doors and wouldn’t let him out of the cab.)

    The one aspect of the story that is not in dispute is that as tensions flared, WBJ whipped out a pen knife he had in his pocket. For those of you reading from Morgan Stanley, this is where the teachable moments occurs: if you ever find yourself in a situation wherein you’re winding up to stab a cab driver in the hand, stop and ask yourself, “Is this going to look bad in the Post tomorrow morning?” Jennings did not and now this is happening:

    / Dec 19, 2012 at 12:36 PM
  • Circle of life.

    Banks

    UBS Traders Convinced Brokers To Give Other Banks Fake Estimates Of Those Other Banks’ Fake Estimates Of Libor

    The UBS Libor settlements are really a garden of infinite delights; there are many semi-literate, […]

    / Dec 19, 2012 at 11:50 AM