Opening Bell: 02.14.14

Banks in London Devise Way Around Europe’s Bonus Rules (Dealbook)
…the bank giants operating in London — including Goldman Sachs, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Barclays — are seeking to outflank the new restrictions. Responding to the law, they are structuring new pay packages that try to satisfy both their emboldened regulators and their very expensive employees. So goodbye, big bonus. Hello, role-based pay. Other banks have called their new payments “allowances.” At least one labeled it “reviewable salary.” One of the European lawmakers who led the push for bonus caps is not buying the semantic somersaults. “These are bonuses in disguise,” said Philippe Lamberts, a Belgian member of the Green Party in the European Parliament. “I wonder how they will hold up in a court of law.”

AIG Ramps Up Reward To Investors (WSJ)
The insurer, which nearly collapsed during the financial crisis, boosted its common-stock dividend and share-repurchase target in the latest sign of the insurer’s improved health since it nearly collapsed in 2008. Not everyone will cheer Thursday’s news. The company, already roughly half its precrisis size, said it will eliminate about 3% of its workforce. The cuts, totaling about 1,600 jobs, will be made by year-end, according to a person familiar with AIG’s plans.

New Mexico County’s Bond Buys Set Off Alarm, Probes (WSJ)
New Mexico’s most populous county is facing a budget crunch amid allegations that its treasurer’s office mismanaged more than $250 million in its investment portfolio, a situation that has triggered state investigations and a recall drive. Bernalillo County, which includes about a third of the state’s two million residents, has responded by implementing cost-cutting measures and is exploring selling a jail and other real estate in Albuquerque to raise funds. Treasurer Manny Ortiz also sold some bonds early, at a loss of about $750,000, to address cash-flow concerns. Through his lawyer, Mr. Ortiz has denied wrongdoing.

Ackman talks Herbalife, P&G, Target, Air Products (NetNet)
On Target, Ackman warned that the company had lost the buzz that once surrounded it and is likely to lose additional sales to online retailers like Amazon. “It’s a well-run retailer but it has lost some of its magic,” Ackman said. “It seems to have lost some of its brand appeal. It’s become more of a commodity retailer. It’s selling food. It seems more like a slightly higher-end Wal-Mart. That’s a bit of a risky place to be in the world.”

Al Roker & de Blasio in Twitter feud over snow (NYP)
Roker, at the Olympics in Sochi with the “Today” crew, was incensed that de Blasio allowed public schools to open during this snow storm. “I knew this am @NYCMayorsOffice @NYCSchools would close schools. Talk about a bad prediction,” Roker tweeted from Russia. “Long range DiBlasio forecast: 1 term.” Roker misspelled the mayor’s name. The mayor fired back, telling Roker to stick to weather. “I respect Al Roker a lot, watched him on TV for many years,” de Blasio said. “It’s a different thing to run a city than give the weather on TV.” The mayor added: “It’s weather, none of us controls this.” But Roker stuck to his guns. “Gov Cuomo declaring state of emergency for the Mid-Hudson, New York City, and L.I. as a Nor’Easter storm continues to affect NY,” Roker tweeted. The normally jovial weatherman accused de Blasio of wrongly blaming the National Weather Service. “How dare @NYCMayorsOffice @NYCSchools throw NWS under the school bus,” Roker wrote.

Goldman Misses Out, Barclays Scores in Cable Deal Outcome (WSJ)
Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the perennial leader in the rankings of merger advisers, will come away empty-handed should Comcast manage to consummate the deal. That is because Goldman is among the banks that signed up to back Charter Communications Inc.’s now-thwarted pursuit of Time Warner Cable…Among the banks where a lot of high-fiving will be taking place are J.P. Morgan and Barclays PLC, which are advising Comcast; and Morgan Stanley, Allen & Co., Citigroup Inc. and Centerview Partners, which are advising Time Warner Cable. Paul J. Taubman, also advising Comcast, continues his streak of advising on virtually all the deals that really matter since he departed Morgan Stanley last year. Mr. Taubman also advised Verizon Communications Inc. on its $130 billion agreement last year to buy the chunk of Verizon Wireless it didn’t own from Vodafone PLC.

Topless trio make Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover (Reuters)
Sports Illustrated magazine on Thursday unveiled its annual swimsuit issue with models Nina Agdal, Lily Aldridge and Chrissy Teigen on the cover of its 50th anniversary edition. Agdal, 21, from Denmark, and Americans Teigen and Aldridge, both 28, are the latest models to win a spot on the cover of the magazine’s swimsuit issue, which has boasted the likes of Heidi Klum, Elle Macpherson, Tyra Banks and Kate Upton on its cover early in their careers. The three models, wearing just bikini bottoms and knee-deep in light blue water, coyly turn their heads and smile with their backsides facing the camera on the cover…The 50th anniversary cover that is seen by some 70 million readers in the magazine, online and on mobile devices was unveiled on ABC’s late night talk show “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”…

To Stop the Coffee Apocalypse, Starbucks Buys a Farm (BusinessWeek)
Carlos Mario crouches next to a knee-high seedling growing in a plug of volcanic soil wrapped in black plastic. The young plant will one day be a coffee tree. A yellow sign identifies it as “Par 1 Plan 1,” the code name for a new coffee hybrid. The mermaid logo on Mario’s black cap identifies his employer. Par 1 Plan 1 is one of 165,000 seedlings growing on a Costa Rican ridge 4,500 feet above sea level. The plants are arranged in long, neat rows within a 7.5-acre trapezoid crisscrossed with white irrigation pipe; there are scores of varieties, with names like Obata, Bourbon 2, and Et 47-P1. The patch is an open-air laboratory where Mario, a slight, 52-year-old agronomist with a salt-and-pepper mustache, tends to what he calls his “little babies.” Caressing the leaves of Par 1 Plan 1, Mario says it’s a cross between a Costa Rican variety known for the bright flavor favored by U.S. coffee drinkers, and an African breed with a bitter taste but the resilience to battle a fungus ravaging Latin America’s coffee crop. After a year in the nursery, a few hundred of these seedlings will be replanted nearby. Seeds from the trees that can fend off disease and yield the most abundant, high-quality beans will be replanted again in a cycle that could take five years before Par 1 Plan 1 is ready for Costa Rican farmers. The plant Mario is holding might never be responsible for a Starbucks venti latte, but its grandchild or great-grandchild might. “We have hopes,” he says.

European Banks Avoiding Risky-Loan Disclosure Face Review (Bloomberg)
A dark corner of European finance is about to be illuminated by European Central Bank inspectors who are sifting through loans that banks restructure for clients and don’t fully disclose. “What’s scaring investors is the question of whether banks are giving money to companies that deserve to go bankrupt and keeping them alive to avoid recording losses,” Mascia Bedendo, an assistant professor of finance at Bocconi University in Milan, said in a phone interview. “The amount of forborne and nonperforming loans is still very obscure.”

Sochi Olympics: Under Armour Suits May Be a Factor in U.S. Speedskating’s Struggles (WSJ)
In the hours after gold-medal favorite Shani Davis finished nowhere near the podium, the U.S. speedskating team pored over data through the early morning Thursday, questioning everything from race strategy to skate blades. After an equally disastrous outcome in the women’s 1,000-meter race later on Thursday, a suspect emerged: the high-tech racing suits the team adopted for the Winter Olympics. These suits—designed by apparel sponsor Under Armour and billed before the Games as a competitive advantage—have a design flaw that may be slowing down skaters, according to three people familiar with the U.S. team. Vents on back of the suit, designed to allow heat to escape, are also allowing air to enter and create drag that keeps skaters from staying in the low position they need to achieve maximum speed, these people said. One skater said team members felt they were fighting the suit to maintain correct form. Kevin Haley, the senior vice president of innovation for Under Armour, which has sponsored the U.S. team since 2011, said he was confident the suits were fast, but, in the absence of medal-winning performances, “we’ll move heaven and earth to make them better.”

39 comments (hidden to protect delicate sensibilities)
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Comments (39)

  1. Posted by Guest | February 14, 2014 at 7:54 AM

    Al Roker, Willard Scott…. you've got to be insane to try to go against guys like that in the court of public opinion, even if they do have limited predictive ability.

  2. Posted by Guest | February 14, 2014 at 7:59 AM

    deBlasio go back to your liberal wigwam and eat pizza with a fork.

  3. Posted by Guesttt | February 14, 2014 at 8:00 AM

    There you go, Reuters: was that so hard?

  4. Posted by Dubiously Relevant | February 14, 2014 at 8:01 AM

    I haven't watched morning television since, like, the late 90's – which one of those is the guy that will take your grandma out for a nice seafood dinner and never call her again, and which one is the Magical Shrinking Guy?

  5. Posted by Guest | February 14, 2014 at 8:53 AM

    Thank you

    – Guy severely disappointed by no picture in Reuters article

  6. Posted by VonSloneker | February 14, 2014 at 9:05 AM

    Every moron can be heard then amplified in the echo chamber that is the Twitterverse. Give a *%$$#$ a rope and he'll wanna be a cowboy Gus…

    – The Ghost of Eddie Murphy's dad

  7. Posted by Guest | February 14, 2014 at 9:12 AM

    Exactly the point.

  8. Posted by Fewdollarsmore | February 14, 2014 at 9:15 AM

    Al Roker and de Blasio should try those Under Armour suits with vents to let the hot air escape – Lululemon's see-through Quant

  9. Posted by Guest | February 14, 2014 at 9:28 AM

    I respect a man that admits he crapped himself at the White House

  10. Posted by six to midnight | February 14, 2014 at 9:37 AM

    It wasn't hard before I saw the picture. It is now.

  11. Posted by VonSloneker | February 14, 2014 at 9:40 AM

    You guys trying to suppress clickthrough? Just because I'm over at Bloomberg now and can't go all with my inset photos, doesn't mean you guys have to try and class up the joint.

    – The Ghost of Matt Levine

  12. Posted by Guy who digs Becky | February 14, 2014 at 9:55 AM

    Pardon my ignorance, but can someone explain what purpose is served by having Al Roker at the Olympics?

    What does he do in Sochi, that he can't do in NY?

  13. Posted by Guest | February 14, 2014 at 9:58 AM

    Tap Russian hookers by the dozen on the network's dime.

  14. Posted by Guest | February 14, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    Al doesn't really do anything anyways. We just like to make him feel important by "deploying" him to different regions; mainly just to get him away from us for awhile.

    – WC Exec #2

  15. Posted by UnderArmour | February 14, 2014 at 10:26 AM


  16. Posted by Larry | February 14, 2014 at 10:38 AM

    I don't know if Bess wants me to bring my Garth Brooks side or Chris Gaines side on our date tonight.

  17. Posted by Laxbro | February 14, 2014 at 10:48 AM

    Been dating this naive girl for like maybe three weeks. I let her spend the night like twice. She's a masters student, fresh from undergrad, age is Kobe or LeBron, i.e. my target demo. Anyways family tree is full of hyper gunners c suite grandpas and uncles, seems like all of her cousins are associates at white-shoe firms or resident MDs. She seems pretty into school but last night even *after* she um.. arrived she asked me to arrive inside of her. Should I be concerned? She said she's on BC, obvs. Her fam is pretty religious, so I can't imagine she's hungry for a bastard child. I've heard the request before but usually from airheads with nothing to live for or long term main hangs.

  18. Posted by Guest | February 14, 2014 at 10:57 AM

    1) Lax is clearly an only child
    2) I would pay money to see Lax's Dad's reaction to his only son's level 10 reckless trysts

  19. Posted by Antonio Cromartie | February 14, 2014 at 11:01 AM

    Go for it.

  20. Posted by Guest | February 14, 2014 at 11:03 AM

    I'm not a basketball quant, but isn't LeBron wearing #6 now?

  21. Posted by Hazin Bin Laid | February 14, 2014 at 11:08 AM

    There is no God but Allah

  22. Posted by Scientist | February 14, 2014 at 11:16 AM

    After 25 the vagina begins to decay and rot from the inside.

  23. Posted by Im_a_Dude | February 14, 2014 at 11:19 AM

    Are you sure you were in the right um, uh, er….. Spot to be worried about that?

  24. Posted by DB decoder | February 14, 2014 at 11:24 AM

    lax slumming it with rich woof who's trying to capitalize on her only shot at a decent looking kid.

  25. Posted by Culinary Quant | February 14, 2014 at 11:35 AM

    All I know is that after someone asked about Lax's Dad's sage advice and he replied that the man preferred Herbes de Provence I have been putting that stuff on everything, and it's been fucking great!

  26. Posted by Most Interesting | February 14, 2014 at 11:40 AM

    I don't always pull and pray, and when I don't, I make sure the dame is the underachiever of her family hiding out in grad school and has a gang of lawyers in her family tree who will rape me at the custody and child support hearings.

    Stay fiercely reckless my friend.

  27. Posted by Guest | February 14, 2014 at 11:44 AM

    Is her brother named Ronald McDonald?

  28. Posted by pmco | February 14, 2014 at 11:48 AM

    u sure u don't mean herpes de provence?

  29. Posted by Reaper Capital | February 14, 2014 at 11:55 AM

    It's just dirty talk, something you say…. bla bla

  30. Posted by Futes | February 14, 2014 at 11:57 AM

    H de P is to the 90's

    Blasamic Vinegar is to 00's

    Both over.

    Think truffle oil you peasant.

  31. Posted by Not-a-psychic | February 14, 2014 at 12:04 PM

    Laxbro google search T+1month: "mifespristone liquid flavorless without prescription"

  32. Posted by feng shui quant | February 14, 2014 at 12:17 PM

    no bachelor pad is complete without an espresso machine and a handful of plan B pills in the kitchen. morning after lattes > going to prison for 20 years because you killed a fetus and have some random slam bleeding in the ER

  33. Posted by E. Spitzer | February 14, 2014 at 12:20 PM

    I think that's always been on the menu here in the Big Apple and two hours for him is probably less than his lunch tab.

  34. Posted by Guest | February 14, 2014 at 12:20 PM

    Plus plan B pills can be used as suppositories, so…

  35. Posted by Laxbro | February 14, 2014 at 12:22 PM

    Ha. 23 or 24 is the scope.

  36. Posted by Guest | February 14, 2014 at 12:26 PM

    Shoot yourself

  37. Posted by guest | February 14, 2014 at 12:32 PM

    That would require thinking ahead, which is probably not the strong suit of the Bro asking for advice the morning after from the DB peanut gallery!

  38. Posted by Quant me maybe... | February 14, 2014 at 4:10 PM

    'To Stop the Coffee Apocalypse, Starbucks Buys a Farm' and raises the world first hybrid coffee-marijuana plants.

    >That aught to fix the the flagging revenue seen in the rice crispy treats division.

  39. Posted by Quant me maybe... | February 14, 2014 at 4:12 PM

    It's purely an American power play. Know how the Russians feel about gays? Double it for black gay guys.