Opening Bell

Opening Bell: 06.20.14

Star-Struck Bankers Return to Hollywood to Finance Movies (Bloomberg)
When Jay Cohen sought funding for a new independent film company, Wing and a Prayer Pictures, he had bankers falling over themselves to finance it. “We had seven banks call and offer us lines of credit,” says Cohen, head of film financing and distribution at Gersh Agency in Beverly Hills, California, and an executive producer of the 1994 comedy “Swimming With Sharks.” “They had never met anyone involved in the company,” he says. From big banks like JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) to billionaires like John Paulson, investors are putting their money into movies again after pulling back during the financial crisis, Bloomberg Businessweek reports in its June 23 edition. Filmmakers are able to borrow at the lowest rates since 2008, bankers say. “There is a lot more activity than I have seen in a long time,” says David Shaheen, head of JPMorgan’s entertainment industries group in Los Angeles. “There is increased comfort in the future of the business relative to a few years ago.”

Mexico’s Drug Cartels Scare Oil and Gas Investors (BusinessWeek)
Lawmakers in Mexico City are preparing rules that will allow foreign companies to drill in the country for the first time since 1938. But the violence may keep wildcatters away from the area, which is rich in oil and gas deposits. “Shale will not take off in Mexico like it did in Texas in the near future,” says Dwight Dyer, a Mexico City-based senior analyst for consulting firm Control Risks. “Unless the security situation along the northeastern border improves significantly, smaller companies will probably take their time before jumping in.”

Argentina’s comments put U.S. lawyers in awkward spot (Reuters)
At a hearing Wednesday afternoon in Manhattan, Argentina’s lawyer, Carmine Boccuzzi of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, informed U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa that Argentine officials “will be in New York next week” in order to begin negotiations with the hedge funds whose bond litigation has forced the country to the brink of a sovereign debt crisis. The very next morning, at a press briefing, Argentine Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich appeared to contradict Cleary’s representations to Griesa: “There is no delegation prepared for a possible trip to the United States,” he said, according to a Reuters report from Buenos Aires.

Toppled American Apparel CEO plots to retake helm (NYP)
The board of the struggling clothing chain has hired boutique investment bank Peter J. Solomon as a financial adviser as it braces for blowback from its surprise move to oust Charney as CEO, The Post has learned. Charney is looking to corral shareholder support to seize back the reins, according to sources. While he can’t oust current directors, he’s angling to gain a voting majority by packing the seven-member board with additional seats. “Dov isn’t going down without a fight, and there’s an argument to be made that the board has overreached,” said a source close to the situation. The board blitzed Charney at a Wednesday board meeting, citing personal-conduct issues. The board offered Charney, who has weathered sex-harassment allegations from female employees for years, a four-year consulting contract that he turned down, according to insiders.

Regulatory Scrutiny Transforms Washington’s Political-Intelligence Business (WSJ)
Alex Vogel spent the last decade building a Washington lobbying business with a successful practice feeding investors information about potentially market-moving changes in policy. But with federal investigators scrutinizing Washington’s interactions with hedge funds and other traders, Mr. Vogel is quitting his firm. His new venture, VogelHood Research, will make all its predictions based on computer algorithms using publicly available information—without ever talking to members of Congress or other policy makers. Mr. Vogel’s shift shows how Washington’s political-intelligence business is going through a wrenching transformation in the face of heightened legal and regulatory scrutiny, including insider-trading probes. In recent months, a number of lobbyists have left the political-intelligence business, and several lobbying and law firms have created new internal procedures and protocols to guard against violating insider-trading rules. Some hedge funds and other Wall Street firms have, meanwhile, scaled back their own information-gathering activities in the capital, and others are conducting reviews of their Washington operations, according to people familiar with the political-intelligence industry. The Wall Street Journal profiled the political-intelligence practice at New York broker-dealer JNK Securities in 2011. It later exited the business. A company official declined to comment for this article.

Kanye West wants to ‘redo’ Instagram (Guardian)
Kanye West has offered to redesign Instagram, suggesting that it would be “a simple task” for him to beautify the popular photo app. Speaking at a seminar at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, West cited the success of his instagrammed wedding kiss with Kim Kardashian, which is already the most-liked photo in the history of the app. “The world as a whole is fucking ugly,” West said on Tuesday, during an appearance at the festival. “The internet as a whole is fucking ugly, too.” West said he asked Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom: “Why don’t you let us redo Instagram? Now, you know, Instagram is nice. It’s nice looking – I’m not knocking it. But in general, everyone spends all of their time looking at their screens or their phones. And just as a simple task, we could clean that up.” […] Although he doesn’t have a public account, he follows Kardashian’s posts and took an active role in refining the couple’s famous photo clinch. “Can you imagine telling someone [like Kim], who wants to just instagram a photo, who’s then number-one person on Instagram, ‘We need to work on the colour of the flower wall?'” he said. “[But] the fact that the number-one most-liked [photo] has a kind of aesthetic was a win for what the mission is, which is raising the palette.” West said he worked on the photo for four days.

IMF’s Lagarde urges ECB to consider QE (CNBC)
“If inflation was to remain stubbornly low, then we would certainly hope that the ECB would take quantitative easing measures by way of purchasing of sovereign bonds,” Lagarde told CNBC on Thursday. She defines “stubbornly low inflation” as prices remaining well below target in spite of measures being taken to boost inflation.

Justices Deny Patent to Business Methods (NYT)
The Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Thursday that basic business methods may not be patented, even if computers are used to apply them. The case involved a method for reducing the risk that the parties to a transaction will not pay what they owe. Writing for the court, Justice Clarence Thomas said that was “a patent-ineligible abstract idea.” “Merely requiring generic computer implementation,” he added, “fails to transform that abstract idea into a patent-eligible invention.” The ruling appeared to be modest and in line with earlier decisions of the court that were wary of stifling innovation. Still, it will be carefully read in Silicon Valley for indications of how specific technical ideas need to be to become eligible for patent protection. Patent claims over the way ideas are incorporated into computers, cellphones and other devices have become a challenge for many high-tech companies. Justice Thomas indicated that the decision posed no threat to the concept of software patents. “There is no dispute,” he wrote, “that many computer-implemented claims are formally addressed to patent-eligible subject matter.”

Deutsche Bank warned on commodity trading (FT)
Germany’s financial watchdog has ordered Deutsche Bank to do more to ensure that commodity prices cannot be manipulated by its traders, in the latest sign that authorities believe some of the world’s largest financial markets are still open to abuse. Deutsche received a letter from BaFin, the German regulator, in April telling the bank it had found faults in the lender’s internal controls surrounding the reporting of commodity prices, according to people familiar with the investigation.

How to Give ‘Skipping Town’ a Whole New Meaning (NYT)
Along with 15 men and women who gathered in Madison Square Park on a recent cloudy Thursday afternoon, I took part in what the club’s founder, Michelle Joni, called “a themed fitness party in motion.” Ms. Joni, a 29-year-old event impresario who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, said it all started last year when she spontaneously skipped on her way to a manicure (to combat the cold) and noticed how good it felt. A quick Facebook post elicited such positive feedback that by the end of the manicure, she knew what had to be done and started Michelle Joni’s Skipping Club the following week. “I curate a different adventure for each time,” said Ms. Joni, dressed in a red cape, leopard-print stockings, fluorescent green glasses and other accouterments that matched the day’s theme — skipping to the future…On the corner of 23rd Street and Avenue of the Americas, we paused to catch our breath and then skipped south, with Ms. Joni directing us to skip sideways, facing one direction, then the other. Next, she had us link arms with a partner and skip in pairs. Later, we did it stepping lightly and also with tiny steps. She said to make the skips our own…Michelle Joni’s Skipping Club meets at 2 p.m. on Thursdays and some weekends and evenings until Aug. 7; $20 per skip, with “memberskip” options.

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15 Responses to “Opening Bell: 06.20.14”

  1. Shaz's beard says:

    “I curate a different CTRL-C/CTRL-V for each time,” said Mr. Shazar, dressed in a red cape, leopard-print stockings, fluorescent green glasses

  2. Guest says:

    I feel dirty after reading diz.

  3. Meagain says:

    tell Kanye to suck it!

  4. KingCo says:

    Exactly how high do you have to be to spend four days working on an instagram post?

  5. guest says:

    Kanye, you are an absolute knob. Fuck off.

    -everyone ever

  6. Shits weak says:

    Monday OB – 20 comments
    Tuesday OB – 16 comments
    Wednesday OB – 3 comments
    No OB yesterday
    5 comments on this OB.

    I'd make a shitty UBS joke, but this place is just getting depressing.

  7. Guest says:

    Kanye sounds totally reasonable to me.
    – bill gross

  8. Please, God says:

    Isn't it about time in his career for Kanye to take up race car driving, private piloting or barbituate experimentation? I'll supply the car, plane or sleeping pills.