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.”