Opening Bell

Opening Bell: 12.20.13

Steve Cohen’s Frat Star Days (NYP)
A classmate from the University of Pennsylvania at Wharton, from which the hedge-fund tycoon graduated in 1978, shared this photo from the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity, where Cohen was treasurer…Cohen donated $2 million to the fraternity four years ago, but he has declined to give a dime to Wharton, claiming it didn’t teach him anything. Instead, he donated $30 million to Brown University, from which his son Robert graduated.

Lew Says U.S. Ability to Borrow May Run Out by Late February (Bloomberg)
Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew warned Congress that the U.S. will exhaust its borrowing authority as soon as late February and urged lawmakers to raise the federal debt limit weeks before then. The Treasury Department estimates that so-called extraordinary measures used to avoid breaching the debt limit “would be able to extend the nation’s borrowing authority only until late February or early March 2014,” Lew said in a letter today to House Speaker John Boehner and other congressional leaders. “While this forecast is subject to inherent variability, we do not foresee any reasonable scenario in which the extraordinary measures would last for an extended period of time — principally because the government experiences large net cash outflows in February and March due to tax refunds,” Lew wrote.

$114M townhouse comes gift-wrapped (NYP)
If you’ve got $114 million left to spend this holiday season, you can unwrap this red-ribboned Upper East Side townhouse and move right in. The spectacular seven-bedroom residence at 12 E. 69th Street is on the market for that asking price — which would be a record sale. Wall Street investor Vincent Viola and his wife Teresa bought the nine-bath mansion for a cool $20 million just eight years ago. The building, built in 1883, now has features like a duplex library, a recording studio, red velvet movie theater, and a mahogany bannister on the Italian granite grand staircase—not to mention the onyx elevator that goes from the pool and spa in the basement to the outdoor shower on the roof. All told, the six story, forty-foot wide home – which “towers” over the other homes on the block just off of Fifth Avenue, according to the broker – includes a whopping 20,000 square feet of living space.

Ex-Morgan Stanley Fund Manager Must Pay Back $31 Million (Bloomberg)
Ex-Morgan Stanley (MS) fund manager Joseph “Chip” Skowron, who’s serving a five-year prison term for insider trading, must pay back $31 million in compensation for failing to fulfill his duties to the bank, a judge ruled. U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin today agreed with Morgan Stanley that Skowron was a “faithless servant” and must forfeit salary and incentive pay from April 2007 to November 2010. Skowron, 44, managed Morgan Stanley’s FrontPoint Partners LLC until he was charged in 2011 with using inside information to avoid $30 million in losses. The bank sued Skowron after he pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit securities fraud and obstruct justice.

Forex Traders Said to Have Colluded in Effort to Profit (WSJ)
A global probe into foreign-exchange markets has unearthed what some banks believe is evidence that senior London-based traders frequently colluded to try to manipulate currencies in order to maximize profits and minimize losses, according to people familiar with the investigations. The evidence, in the form of electronic chat-room messages, appears to show what banks have feared for months: that traders from different banks shared information about client orders and agreed to a sequence for placing their own trades to their advantage, these people say. The evidence marks a serious turn for the investigation. Until recently, many industry officials said they hadn’t seen evidence of collusive behavior. In recent weeks, that has changed, with new evidence seeming to show traders improperly working as a pack, these people say.

Rob Ford, obviously: ‘Women love money. Give ‘em a couple thousand bucks and they are happy’ (National Post)
Rob Ford offered husbands everywhere some dubious Christmas gift-buying advice Thursday: “Women love money. Give ‘em a couple thousand bucks and they are happy.” Ford made the statement on his weekly appearance on the Washington, D.C. sports radio show, The Sports Junkies. The mayor said he follows his own advice when it comes to Christmas with his wife. “At the end of the day, she wants her cash, so I give her a nice cheque and we’re all happy,” Ford said about his little-seen wife, Renata Ford. “She says ‘Honey, I want cash.” Renata Ford is rarely seen in the media, although she notably became part of an international story last month after her husband made comments about their oral sex life while denying he made sexually explicit comments to a female staffer…The interview…briefly skirted into politics, although it was his dancing that the hosts really wanted to talk about. “I like Bob Marley. I like dancing. I like having a good time,” Ford said when asked about city council’s awkward boogie earlier this week.

Ex-broker pleads guilty to insider trading over 2009 IBM deal (Reuters)
A former stock broker pleaded guilty on Thursday to charges stemming from a conspiracy to engage in insider trading ahead of a 2009 acquisition by IBM Corp (IBM.N). David Weishaus, 33, told a federal judge in Manhattan that he had traded on a tip a friend got from his roommate that IBM had agreed to buy Chicago-based software company SPSS Inc before the $1.2 billion deal was publicly announced.

The Woman Who Edited ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ (WSJ)
In an early scene in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” a fresh-faced stockbroker at L.F. Rothschild (Leonardo DiCaprio) is having lunch at a five-star restaurant with his new boss (Matthew McConaughey), who proceeds to openly snort cocaine, drink several martinis and hum a primal tune while beating his chest and uttering sporadic macaw-like sounds. The singing, like many of the more outrageous moments in the film, was entirely improvised…As a result, the film’s running time had ballooned to four hours and 10 minutes when it was screened for its producers over the summer. The first cut of Mr. McConaughey’s madcap lunch scene was six minutes, 11 seconds long. “It was painful to think of a single frame coming out,” says producer Emma Tillinger Koskoff. (The scene now runs more than five minutes.)

Gold’s Drop to Lowest Since ’10 Will Extend for Goldman Sachs (Bloomberg)
Gold closed at the lowest in three years as traders capitulated after the Federal Reserve said it would begin tapering its monetary stimulus, extending a slide that’s sending the metal to its biggest annual drop since 1981. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. says the declines aren’t over. Bullion for immediate delivery fell 2.4 percent to close at $1,188.68 at 5 p.m. yesterday in New York, the lowest settlement since Aug. 3, 2010. Prices will drop to $1,050 by the end of next year, Goldman Sachs said Nov. 20.

CFTC Opens Probe Into Fees Charged by Managed Futures Funds (Bloomberg)
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission is investigating the high fees charged to investors in the $337 billion managed futures market. CFTC Commissioner Bart Chilton says the agency initiated the inquiry after Bloomberg Markets magazine reported in its November issue that 89 percent of the $11.51 billion profits of 63 managed futures funds was consumed by commissions, fees and expenses.

Senate may vote on Yellen in rare Saturday session (Reuters)
The Democratic-led U.S. Senate set debate to begin on Friday on President Barack Obama’s nomination of Janet Yellen to head the Federal Reserve, with confirmation expected on Saturday. Democrats had hoped to confirm on Yellen on Thursday or Friday, and then adjourn for the year. But they failed to get a time agreement with Republicans to speed up the process. Regardless, Yellen, now the Fed’s vice chair, is expected to be confirmed with bipartisan support to replace Ben Bernanke, whose term expires next month.

Rodman back in North Korea; Executions ‘nothing to do with me’ (NYP)
Former NBA star Dennis Rodman arrived in North Korea on Thursday to meet leader Kim Jong Un and put the finishing touches on plans to bring 12 ex-NBA players to Pyongyang for a Jan. 8 exhibition game marking the leader’s birthday. Rodman said the game is on track despite the recent execution of Kim’s uncle in a dramatic political purge. Rodman’s visit comes less than a week after North Korea announced the execution of Jang Song Thaek, an unprecedented fall from grace for one of the most powerful figures in the country. Jang’s execution sparked speculation by foreign analysts over the future of the Kim regime. Rodman told The Associated Press in a brief interview at his Pyongyang hotel that he was undaunted by the recent political events…On the execution of Kim’s uncle, Rodman said: ”It has nothing to do with me. I mean, whatever his uncle has done, and whoever’s done anything in North Korea, I have no control over that. I mean, these things have been going on for years and years and years.” Rodman and Kim have struck up an unlikely friendship since the Hall of Famer traveled to the secretive state for the first time in February with the Harlem Globetrotters for an HBO series produced by New York-based VICE television. “I’ve come over to see my friend, and people always give me a little hard time about me saying that,” said Rodman, who was given the red carpet treatment at the airport by Vice Sports Minister Son Kwang Ho and O Hun Ryong, secretary-general of the North Korean Basketball Association. “I’m very proud to say he’s my friend, because he hasn’t done anything to put a damper, to say any negative things about my country.”

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33 Responses to “Opening Bell: 12.20.13”

  1. Sad but true says:

    I have slayed daebak poontang in North Korea.

    – D Rodman

  2. Shecky Hall says:

    Rodman's trip to North Korea reminded me of Kim Jong-Il's bio. In it, Kim is accused of drunkenness, sexual excess and dishonesty. So, if here were in the west he'd probably be a Brent crude oil trader.

  3. Guest says:

    Holy shit the trajectory of cohen's looks is scary.
    – guy who thinks he was weirdly handsome and of course…the hair

  4. Guest says:

    say what you will, but stevie not donating to wharton "because it didn't teach him anything" is a big time power move in my book.

  5. Guest says:

    I see New York has joined London in the "how stupid can Russian expatriates be" game when it comes to pricing of real estate.

    I would be impressed, except Vancouver and Orange County have been pulling that one on the Chinese for years.

  6. Guest says:

    “She says ‘Honey, I want cash." She added, "please can you try to stay off the rock this Christmas?"

  7. Guest says:

    Managed futures funds are in the shitter performance wise, of course fees are eating up all the "profits".

  8. Rebecca M. says:

    "Rob Ford, obviously: ‘Women love money. Give ‘em a couple thousand bucks and they are happy’"

    A hypothesis that can be proven true by the many examples that can be viewed at

  9. segoviacobain says:

    BREAKING: Toronto set to become global capital for hedge funds, event-driven merger arbitrage, and Valtrex.

  10. Movie Buff says:

    Retro Stevie kinda looks like Thornton Mellon's kid from "Back to School" and the owner of the devil car in "Christine".

    – Guy who has watched way too many 80's movies