$$$ Ex-Jefferies trader guilty of fraud in bond probe [Reuters]
$$$ Satoshi Nakamoto Denies Creating Bitcoin [WSJ]
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$$$ Ex-Jefferies trader guilty of fraud in bond probe [Reuters]
$$$ Satoshi Nakamoto Denies Creating Bitcoin [WSJ]
Exclusive: Pimco’s Gross declares El-Erian is ‘trying to undermine me’ (Reuters)
Gross told Reuters that he had “evidence” that El-Erian “wrote” a February 24 article in the Journal, which described the worsening relationship between the two men as Pimco’s performance deteriorated last year, including a showdown in which they squared off against each other in front of more than a dozen colleagues at the firm’s Newport Beach, California headquarters. Gross, who oversaw more than $1.91 trillion in assets as of the end of last year and who is known on Wall Street as the ‘Bond King’, said in a phone call to Reuters last Friday: “I’m so sick of Mohamed trying to undermine me.” When asked if Reuters could see the evidence about El-Erian and the allegation he was involved in the article, Gross said: “You’re on his side. Great, he’s got you, too, wrapped around his charming right finger.” He said he knew that El-Erian, who had been widely seen as the heir apparent to Gross but is now due to leave in mid-March, had been in contact with Reuters as well as the Wall Street Journal. Gross indicated he had been monitoring El-Erian’s phone calls…A Pimco spokesman said in an emailed statement: “Mr. Gross did not make the statements Reuters attributes to him. He categorically denies saying this firm ever listened in on Mr. El-Erian’s phone calls or that Mr. El-Erian ‘wrote’ any previous media article.”
Putin Sparking Worst Stock Rout Since Moscow Crackdown (Bloomberg)
The last time Russian stocks fell as much as they have this week was when President Vladimir Putin cracked down on protesters following his election in May 2012. Putin’s incursion into Ukraine’s Crimea region, like the imprisonment of demonstrators following his return to the presidency two years ago, is sparking investor concern that Russia’s economic growth will falter as the U.S. and Europe threaten the country with sanctions. The Bloomberg Russia-US Equity Index of the most-traded Russian companies in the U.S. has fallen 5.1 percent this week, the most since the measure dropped 11 percent in the five days to May 18, 2012.
Man called Bitcoin’s father denies ties, leads LA car chase (Reuters)
In the afternoon, the silver-haired, bespectacled Nakamoto stepped outside, dressed in a gray sport coat and green striped shirt, with a pen tucked in his shirt pocket. He was mobbed by reporters and told them he was looking for someone who understood Japanese to buy him a free lunch. Newsweek estimates his wealth at $400 million. “I’m not involved in Bitcoin. Wait a minute, I want my free lunch first. I’m going with this guy,” Nakamoto said, pointing at a reporter from AP. “I’m not in Bitcoin, I don’t know anything about it,” he said again while walking down the street with several cameras at his heels. He and the AP reporter made their way to a nearby sushi restaurant with media in tow, before leaving and heading downtown. Los Angeles Times reporter Joe Bel Bruno followed the pair and described the chase in a running stream of tweets. Eventually, the pair dashed into the Associated Press offices in downtown Los Angeles.
Washington state issues first legal-marijuana business license (AP)
Sean Green, who has operated medical marijuana dispensaries in Spokane and the Seattle suburb of Shoreline, proclaimed the document “beautiful” as it was handed to him at a state Liquor Control Board meeting in Olympia. The license will allow him to grow 21,000 square feet of cannabis at his Spokane facility — the first pot that will be grown for sale under the highly taxed system approved by voters in 2012. The possession of marijuana became legal for adults over 21 soon after the vote, but it’s still illegal to grow or sell it for recreational use until pot shops open in the state later this year. Green plans to start by raising marijuana starter plants to sell to other growers, and later expand to growing buds for retail pot shops. “Cannabis prohibition is over,” Green declared to applause from a room packed with his supporters. “I’m coming home with jobs, Spokane.”
Martha Stewart Gives Sex Advice, Says She Had a Prison Name in Reddit Ask Me Anything (USW)
Stewart’s fans didn’t waste any time, asking her about bedroom secrets to abide by. “Always take a bath before and after,” Stewart said. When one suggested to just do the dirty during a bath, she quipped: “That’s good too, and don’t forget to brush your teeth.” She added: “What’s a d*ldo?” when asked how to clean the bed sheets afterward. Stewart’s AMA had its TMI moments, but she also chatted about her famous pals. “I wish I were closer friends with Snoop Dogg,” she admitted…Stewart braved the slew of questions, but also seemed to reach her limit when asked of her 2004 stint in jail. “I think I did, but I can’t remember,” she said on whether or not she had a prison name. “I don’t think about the past.” Read more »
$$$ Biggest Billionaire Losers in Crimea Crisis: Russians and Louis Vuitton [BusinessWeek]
$$$ Picking Up the Pace at the S.E.C. [NYT]
ECB set to act against low inflation, hold fire on bolder steps (Reuters)
The ECB currently “sterilizes” money it puts into the system though bond purchases by withdrawing other money to offset the effect. Stopping this would mean more money available for lending. The step is easier to swallow for the Bundesbank, Germany’s conservative central bank, and meets market expectations for some action by the ECB signaling its resolve to maintain its accommodative policy stance for an extended period of time. “This could be the compromise solution,” said Nick Matthews, economist at Nomura.
EBay CEO says top shareholders agree PayPal should stay put (Reuters)
EBay Inc CEO John Donahoe said on Wednesday that several of the online retailer’s most active shareholders have assured him they support his efforts to resist demands by activist investor Carl Icahn for a spin-off of the PayPal unit. Donahoe told Reuters on Wednesday he has spoken with as many as 16 of the 20 most-active shareholders in eBay, and most favored hanging on to the fast-growing PayPal payments unit. He did not say what percentage of the company’s shares were held by the investors who agreed with his resistance to Icahn.
After a Dazzling Early Career, a Star Trader Settles Down (Dealbook)
Over the last decade, Mr. Jones’s trading results have dimmed. His investors say the reasons include a deliberate move to trade more conservatively, fewer big interest-rate and currency moves as central banks kept short-term rates near zero and more competition as the hedge fund universe has mushroomed. While Mr. Jones can still claim long-term annual returns of close to 19.5 percent in his $10.3 billion flagship fund, Tudor BVI Global, it has been 11 years since he last hit that level, according to material provided to potential investors late last year. From 2010 to 2012, he had his worst three-year stretch ever, averaging just 5 percent annually. Last year, gains hit 14.3 percent, investors say, helped by winning bets on Japan’s stock market and against its currency. But two smaller funds managed by other traders have been unprofitable since 2011. One of them, Tudor Tensor, which had a 35 percent gain in 2008, has shrunk to $700 million from $1.4 billion in 2010.
For Bitcoin, Secure Future Might Need Oversight (NYT)
To save their nascent currency, Bitcoin’s backers may be forced to alter their philosophy and embrace the same messy humans — auditors, insurers and even regulators — that the currency’s most ardent supporters have long abhorred. This raises two difficult questions: Can human oversight integrate into Bitcoin’s free-for-all ethos quickly enough to render Bitcoin safe? And, can Bitcoin be made safer without tamping down on the very openness that proponents say makes Bitcoin such a cheap, efficient and innovative financial platform? At the moment, the answers are still very much up in the air.
Army commander bans sandwiches in attack on ‘barbaric habits’ (Telegraph)
Sandwiches have been banned from an officers’ mess after a commander noticed many soldiers were eating them with their hands as he insisted “a gentleman or a lady uses a knife and fork.” Major General James Cowan issued the note after he noticed officers were eating sandwiches with their hands and failing to stand when commanders entered the room. His three-page letter criticised standards at Bulford Camp in Wiltshire where he said he had seen many “frankly barbaric” techniques and habits displayed by soldiers and officers. The note, addressed to ‘Chaps’, said: “Quite a few officers in the divisional mess seem to be under the impression that they can eat their food with their hands. The practice of serving rolls and sandwiches must stop,” the Sun reported. The letter penned by Maj Gen Cowan, who is in charge of 20,000 soldiers and 2,500 officers in 3 UK Division, mostly based at Bulford, also criticised poor grammar and writing, advising against the “wanton use of capitals, abbreviations and acronyms” because they can leave the reader exhausted. Read more »
$$$ Wall Street’s Class of 2013 is being poached earlier than usual by private-equity and hedge funds, showing it’s going to take more than Saturdays off for the biggest banks to keep their most ambitious employees. The rookies, who typically graduated less than a year ago and already earn at least $100,000 annually, are being lured by offers that can double their salaries, bankers and headhunters said. [Bloomberg]
$$$ Yellen Says Economy Falling Short of Congress-Mandated Goals [Bloomberg]
Ballmer Says Microsoft a ‘Two-Trick Pony,’ Working on Third (Bloomberg)
“You’re pretty genius in our business if you’re a one-trick pony,” Ballmer said. “In our company, I’m very proud of the fact that we’ve done at least two tricks. Tricks are worth billions and billions of dollars.”
Pimco Gets Brush Off Close To Home (WSJ)
When the county pension fund serving cities and towns including Pacific Investment Management Co.’s headquarters of Newport Beach, Calif., met in November to decide how to put $100 million in new funds to work in the bond market, members of the investment committee made a surprising decision: They chose Swiss fund-management firm GAM Holding AG. The choice by the $11 billion Orange County Employees Retirement System shows how smaller fund managers are benefiting from Pimco’s loosening grip on the bond business, said GAM portfolio manager Jack Flaherty. The pension system regularly invests with other asset managers, but Pimco was its largest bond manager in November, public documents show…Until recently, GAM never considered going after customers in Pimco’s backyard, Mr. Flaherty said. But now, the Swiss asset-management firm is using turmoil at Pimco to get in the door with major potential customers.
Lehman Europe creditors in line for extra $8 billion payday (Reuters)
Hedge funds, asset managers and other creditors of Lehman Brothers’ European arm will next month be fully paid out from money recovered from the carcass of the bank and could get an extra 5 billion pounds ($8.4 billion). PwC, the administrator of Lehman Brothers International Europe (LBIE), is paying a fourth dividend of 7.8 pence in the pound to unsecured creditors on April 30, which will lift payouts to 100 percent after three bigger dividends in the past 15 months. PwC estimated another 5 billion pounds of surplus cash could be paid to creditors, but any extra cash cannot be paid until there is agreement on how it is shared.
Moelis IPO Filing Shows Rise of Small Advisers (WSJ)
The planned filing—and indeed Mr. Moelis’s founding of the firm seven years ago—represent a bet that big corporate clients will continue handing more lucrative M&A assignments to firms such as Moelis that have a narrower focus than their larger Wall Street peers and are perceived to be freer of potential conflicts of interest. Last year, 80% of the 10 largest M&A deals had independent advisers, up from 30% just 10 years earlier, the filing said. In Tuesday’s filing, Moelis said it has advised on more than $1 trillion of deals, including three of the 10 biggest announced global mergers in 2013. They include H.J. Heinz Co.’s $23 billion takeover by Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and Brazilian private-equity firm 3G Capital, and the $35.1 billion pending merger of Omnicom Group Inc. and France’s Publicis Groupe SA…Helping encourage Moelis to move on the share sale now, according to people familiar with the firm’s planning: Shares of other small investment banks that already are public have gained sharply over the past year. Evercore Partners Inc. shares, for example, have risen 38% in the past year.
Red Flags Amid Citi Losses (WSJ)
Oceanografía SA, the Mexican oil-services firm that Citigroup Inc. alleges is responsible for duping the bank out of $400 million, was well known in energy and investor circles as being behind on its bills despite a steady stream of contracts with state oil firm Petróleos Mexicanos. Operating out of this oil town on the Gulf of Mexico, Oceanografía had a history of late payments to bondholders, suppliers and even employees, according to workers, investors and legal filings. Investors say Oceanografía frequently leaned on its 30-day grace period to pay bond coupons late. “The traditional emerging market investor didn’t have the best image of the company,” said Jim Harper, director of corporate research at BCP Securities in Greenwich, Conn. Workers claiming they haven’t been paid have been protesting sporadically for more than a year outside the company’s headquarters, but the protests intensified in recent weeks. In a September bond prospectus, Oceanografía said it faced 352 labor disputes, which it estimated would cost less than $3 million to settle.
Prized Corvettes rescued after falling into massive sinkhole (AP)
Two classic Corvettes re-emerged Monday from a giant sinkhole that gobbled up those and six other prized vehicles still trapped beneath the National Corvette Museum in Kentucky. Workers in a cage painstakingly hooked straps around the cars before a crane slowly hoisted them one by one from the enormous pit that opened up last month. Onlookers cheered after each car was rescued, but the joy was more subdued for the second car, which had more extensive damage. The first car hoisted out — a 2009 ZR1 Blue Devil — showed only minor damage that included cracks on lower door panels, a busted window and an oil line rupture that oozed oil, said Chevrolet spokesman Monte Doran. Workers were able to get that car running. Cheers went up as the engine revved at the Bowling Green museum. “It sounded awesome, just like before,” said museum executive director Wendell Strode. Doran said the car was in “remarkably good shape. You could have that car back on the road in a couple of days.” Not so for the other car retrieved Monday, a 1993 Ruby Red 40th Anniversary Corvette. The body panels and window glass need replacing, but the vehicle is salvageable, Doran added. Read more »
$$$ Gross Says Central Banks Must Sway Investors for Assets to Rise [Bloomberg]
$$$ Sarbanes-Oxley Whistle-Blower Shield Expanded by Court [Bloomberg]
$$$ Investment Bank Moelis Files IPO [WSJ]
$$$ Touching Boxer Shorts Makes Women Think Differently [Scientific American] Read more »
Singapore named the world’s most expensive city (BBC)
Singapore has topped 131 cities globally to become the world’s most expensive city to live in 2014, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). The city’s strong currency combined with the high cost of running a car and soaring utility bills contributed to Singapore topping the list. It is also the most expensive place in the world to buy clothes. Singapore replaces Tokyo, which topped the list in 2013. Other cities making up the top five most expensive cities to live in are Paris, Oslo, Zurich and Sydney, with Tokyo falling to sixth place…However, not all Asian cities are tough on the wallet. India’s major cities – including Mumbai and New Delhi – were found to be among the least expensive in the world.
Japan finance minister: Gathering facts on bitcoin, unsure whether crime involved (Reuters)
Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said on Tuesday that the government is still trying to figure out what has led to the collapse of the Tokyo-based bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox and is not sure whether crime is involved. “We still have not had a clear grasp of the situation,” Aso said in response to a reporter’s question after a cabinet meeting. “(We) don’t know if it was a crime or just a bankruptcy.” Mt. Gox, once the world’s biggest bitcoin exchange, filed for bankruptcy protection in Japan on Friday, saying it may have lost nearly half a billion dollars worth of the virtual currency due to hacking into its faulty computer system.
Mt Gox collapse could help Bitcoin, says US regulator (Telegraph)
“It’s on the one hand a setback, on the other hand it will cause further improvements in this industry and some more regulatory involvement,” Benjamin Lawsky, superintendent of New York’s Department of Financial Services, told Reuters. “It’s part of [a] shaking out,” he said on the sidelines of a banking conference in the US.
Citigroup: U.S. Sought Information From Mexico Unit (WSJ)
The New York bank said Monday it received subpoenas from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and U.S. prosecutors, three days after the bank disclosed it had found allegedly fraudulent billings at its Mexico unit that cost it up to $400 million. A regulatory filing Monday disclosed that Citigroup and related parties—including the U.S. unit of its Mexico business, Banco Nacional de Mexico, or Banamex—have received grand-jury subpoenas issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts tied to anti-money-laundering requirements. Meanwhile, Citigroup’s exposure to Russia and Ukraine came under the spotlight. The instability in the region hammered stocks and bank stocks in particular. Of major U.S. banks, Citigroup shares fell the most Monday, losing 2.1% to $47.61. So far this year, they are down 8.6%, also last among the big six U.S. banks.
Citigroup Joins JPMorgan in Seeing Trading-Revenue Drop (Bloomberg)
Citigroup finance chief John Gerspach said yesterday his firm expects trading revenue to drop by a “high mid-teens” percentage, less than a week after JPMorgan Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said revenue from equities and fixed income was down about 15 percent. If trading at the nine largest firms slumps that much, it would extend the slide from 2010’s first quarter to 36 percent. “It sounds like more bloodletting on Wall Street,” said Jeff Davis, a managing director for the financial-institutions group at advisory firm Mercer Capital in Nashville, Tennessee. “What we are seeing is a function of investors being scared of bonds because the math is bad. No one I talk to wants to take a chance adding bonds to the portfolio.”
Australia: Snake eats crocodile after battle (BBC)
The incident at Lake Moondarra, near Mount Isa (Australia), was captured on camera by local residents on Sunday. The 10-ft snake, thought to be a python, coiled itself around the crocodile and the two struggled in the water. The snake later brought the dead crocodile onto land and ate it. Tiffany Corlis, a local author, saw the fight and took these pictures, which have been widely used in the Australian media. “It was amazing,” she told the BBC. “We saw the snake fighting with the crocodile – it would roll the crocodile around to get a better grip, and coil its body around the crocodile’s legs to hold it tight.” “The fight began in the water – the crocodile was trying to hold its head out of the water at one time, and the snake was constricting it.” “After the crocodile had died, the snake uncoiled itself, came around to the front, and started to eat the crocodile, face-first,” she added. Ms Corlis said it appeared to take the snake around 15 minutes to eat the crocodile. The snake was “definitely very full,” when it finished, she said. Read more »