Opening Bell: 04.02.14

JPMorgan Assailed by Russia as Bank Blocks Payment (Bloomberg)
The biggest U.S. bank thwarted a remittance from the Russian embassy in Astana, Kazakhstan, to Sogaz Insurance Group “under the pretext of anti-Russian sanctions imposed by the United States,” the ministry said yesterday in a statement on its website. Sogaz lists OAO Bank Rossiya, a St. Petersburg-based lender facing U.S. sanctions over the Ukrainian crisis, as a strategic partner on its website. Interfering with the transaction was an “absolutely unacceptable, illegal and absurd decision,” Alexander Lukashevich, a ministry spokesman, said in the statement.

Virtu Said to Delay IPO Amid Furor Spurred by Michael Lewis Book (Bloomberg)
Virtu Financial Inc., the high-frequency trader that announced plans last month to sell shares, has delayed the deal, two people with knowledge of the matter said. Virtu’s bankers won’t start marketing the initial public offering until after April 20, delaying the process from this week, according to the people, who asked not to be named because the decision is private. The delay comes amid unprecedented scrutiny of high-frequency traders. “Flash Boys,” the Michael Lewis book released yesterday, argues that high-speed traders, Wall Street brokerages and exchanges have rigged the $23 trillion U.S. stock market. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is examining privileges such as enhanced data feeds marketed to high-speed firms, while the Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into whether those traders are breaking U.S. laws by acting on nonpublic information.

SEC Investigations Into High-Frequency Trading Under Way (WSJ)
U.S. securities regulators are examining whether some rapid-fire trading firms are engaged in unlawful trading practices, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Jo White said Tuesday. Ms. White, testifying before a House Appropriations subcommittee, said the SEC currently has “a number” of ongoing investigations regarding “market integrity and structure issues, including high-frequency traders.” She declined to provide specifics about the investigations, but said they have been under way for “quite some time.” “We’re very much focused on any abuses in that space,” she said.

High-Frequency Hyperbole, By Cliff Asness (WSJ)
A few nights ago, CBS’s “60 Minutes” provided a forum for author Michael Lewis to announce that Wall Street is “rigged” and for the sponsors of a new trading venue called IEX to promise to unrig it. The focus of the TV segment was high-frequency trading, or HFT, an innovation now over 20 years old. The stock market isn’t rigged and IEX hasn’t yet generated a lot of interest. In our profession, what we saw on “60 Minutes” is called “talking your book”—in Mr. Lewis’s case, literally.

Bitcoins aren’t cash, so Silk Road creator’s clean: lawyer (NYP)
In papers seeking to dismiss the feds’ case against Ross Ulbricht, lawyer Joshua Dratel said the IRS recently ruled Bitcoin is property – and not a “monetary instrument” – so the money laundering charges against his client should be tossed. “Bitcoins, the exclusive means of payment on Silk Road, do not qualify as ‘monetary instruments,’ and therefore cannot serve as the basis for a money laundering violation,” Dratel wrote.

French artist starts fortnight inside bear (BBC)
Abraham Poincheval first performed Dans La Peau de l’Ours – Inside the Skin of the Bear – at the CAIRN Centre for Contemporary Art in Digne last year. He is now reprising the piece at the Hunting and Wildlife Museum in Paris, where he will remain until 13 April. Poincheval previously spent a week in an underground hole beneath a bookshop in Marseilles in October 2012. According to the Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature, Poincheval is a performance artist “familiar with extreme situations”. The performance piece will see him eat, drink, sleep and relieve himself inside the sterilised carcass of a bear while being filmed by two cameras.

Wall Street Cuts Swaps Exposure (WSJ)
Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc. and Deutsche Bank AG are among the banks that have stepped up efforts to reduce their piles of derivatives. In January, Morgan Stanley executives said a push to cut its exposures and shed riskier assets would add 0.3 to 0.4 percentage point to a leverage ratio it expects to exceed 5% by 2015. The firm’s ratio stood at about 4.2% at the end of 2013.

Goldman Said to Pursue Sale of NYSE Market-Making Unit (Bloomberg)
IMC Financial Markets is negotiating to buy the floor-trading business, according to two people familiar with the matter, who asked for anonymity because talks are private. Goldman Sachs is seeking as much as $30 million, one person said. The investment bank, which joined the NYSE in 1896, bought the operations in 2000 as part of a $5.4 billion purchase of Spear, Leeds & Kellogg.

Wells Fargo Names New C.F.O. (Dealbook)
Wells Fargo reshuffled some its top executives on Tuesday, naming a new chief financial officer and a new head of wholesale banking. Timothy J. Sloan, 53, is leaving the C.F.O. post to head Wells Fargo’s wholesale banking group, which includes range of businesses like middle market commercial lending and international banking. The bank named John R. Shrewsberry, 48, currently head of Wells Fargo Securities, as the new chief financial officer.

Fairbanks campus priest charged with DUI, drugs and weapons (Newsminer)
Thomson was driving a blue 2002 GMC Sierra pickup truck that was weaving, crossing the center line and speeding 79 mph in a 65 zone, trooper Christopher Bitz wrote in the criminal complaint. Bitz said Thomson seemed disoriented and produced a receipt when asked for his vehicle registration. Asked if he had any weapons, Thomson mentioned a .357 in the back seat but neglected to mention a 9mm pistol in his back pocket, Bitz said. Thomson had a bag with a small quantity of marijuana in the pocket of his hoodie sweatshirt, Bitz said. Thomson registered a breath-alcohol content of 0.247 on a handheld preliminary breath alcohol test machine. That figure is three times the 0.08 level that is one legal standard for intoxication. At the Healy trooper post Thomson refused to take a more-accurate Datamaster test because “(he) said he was drunk and did not feel the test was necessary,” Bitz said.

11 comments (hidden to protect delicate sensibilities)
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Comments (11)

  1. Posted by Guest | April 2, 2014 at 8:01 AM

    clifasness also looks like he spends too much time inside the bear.

  2. Posted by Quant me maybe ... | April 2, 2014 at 8:30 AM

    Re: According to the Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature, Poincheval is a performance artist “familiar with extreme situations”

    > If he really wants to enter the belly of the beast I'd like to see him endure for a week at the firm FKA SAC. That would impress.

  3. Posted by Guest | April 2, 2014 at 8:36 AM

    Would be nice to have some ML commentary RE: that Bitcoin defense

  4. Posted by He Who Notes Things | April 2, 2014 at 10:12 AM

    Comments this morning: ZZZZZZZZZZZZ

  5. Posted by Quant me maybe ... | April 2, 2014 at 10:59 AM

    Cliff Asness office > Bill Gross office

  6. Posted by guest | April 2, 2014 at 11:21 AM

    Cliff Asness' tie < Bill Gross' tie

  7. Posted by Ogre | April 2, 2014 at 11:24 AM

    One must remember that in all likelihood the French government is subsidized the bear artist

  8. Posted by Guest | April 2, 2014 at 11:25 AM

    A spokesman for Virtu Financial Inc. added, "look, I'm gonna level with you, we need sometime to rewrite the prospectus; we're adding Mr. Lewis to our Risk Factors section, and considering some rewrites in the MDA… particularly certain inspirations provided by Superman 3 and/or Office Space."

  9. Posted by Jerry | April 2, 2014 at 11:33 AM

    Awwwe come on guys, it was just farts.

  10. Posted by Guest | April 2, 2014 at 12:03 PM

    Good try Michael Lewis, you have managed to elicit some mild criticism from Cliff Assness. But you have yet to reach the level of vicious animal liar.

  11. Posted by yup | April 2, 2014 at 4:01 PM

    I have it on good authority that Michael Lewis is racist and in knowing this information, I've decided to disregard his theories