Opening Bell

Opening Bell: 12.18.14

MoziloCountrywide Whistle-Blower to Receive More Than $57 Million (Dealbook)
A former Countrywide Financial executive who became a whistle-blower is collecting more than $57 million for helping federal prosecutors force Bank of America to pay a record $16.65 billion penalty in connection with its role in churning out shoddy mortgage and related securities before the financial crisis. Edward O’Donnell reached an agreement last week with the government that enables him to collect part of the settlement that Bank of America agreed to pay in August in a deal with federal prosecutors and a number of state attorneys general, according to a court filing. The payment to Mr. O’Donnell arises from a federal civil lawsuit he filed under the False Claims Act earlier this year and which Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for Manhattan, joined and used as the basis for pressing Bank of America to reach a deal. “In my opinion, Edward O’Donnell is the person most responsible for bolstering the bank settlements and holding Wall Street accountable,” said David G. Wasinger, the lawyer for Mr. O’Donnell, who worked at Countrywide from 2003 to 2009.

Ackman Says Pershing ‘Meaningfully’ Built Fannie-Freddie Bet (Bloomberg)
Bill Ackman, founder of Pershing Square Capital Management, said he’s added “meaningfully” to his bets on U.S. mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the past two weeks. His New York-based hedge fund firm is wagering that Congress or the courts will restore value to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac securities after the companies were seized by regulators in 2008. Securities in both plunged after a federal judge threw out a lawsuit on Sept. 30 that would have forced the government to share the companies’ profits with private investors. “The government cannot act outside the law,” Ackman said Wednesday in an interview on Bloomberg Television with Erik Schatzker and Stephanie Ruhle. “This is a decision that will never stand.”

BlackBerry Tries to Win Back Die-Hards With ‘Classic’ (Bloomberg)
BlackBerry Ltd. (BBRY) is going back to its roots with a keyboard-equipped phone that looks like the original “crackberrys” that made the Canadian smartphone maker a household name. The Classic smartphone, which features a qwerty keyboard, trackpad and call and hang-up buttons nestled below a touch screen, was debuted today by Chief Executive Officer John Chen at an event in New York. It restores features largely abandoned on BlackBerry devices last year with the introduction of a new operating system. “When I went to visit customers — and these are the CEOs of top banks in this town — a lot of them pulled out their BlackBerrys,” Chen said at the event. Chen said one financial executive told him: “Don’t mess around with this thing.”

Office Parties—Without the Awkwardness (WSJ)
Keep office parties short—“no more than 30 minutes or an hour,” says Ms. Roth. “You don’t want to distract them for too long, and if you’re serving any alcohol, you want to watch it and not have people get too drunk, because that could get awkward.”

Intercontinental Exchange Proposing Major Stock-Market Overhaul (WSJ)
In a draft letter being circulated among large banks and investment firms, ICE is proposing a trade-off between exchanges and brokers, according to people familiar with the matter. The NYSE would drop the fee for trading stocks at its exchanges to five cents per 100 shares from 30 cents per 100 shares. Banks, in exchange, would accept a rule known as “trade at” that would give more precedence to the stock exchanges, except for transactions involving large blocks of stock and retail investors. A trade-at rule would mandate that stock trades take place on exchanges unless private venues, such as dark pools, offered a significant price improvement. It would force a significant chunk of the estimated 40% of all stock trades that occur away from exchanges back onto exchanges.

Pot shop removes smoking Santa window painting (UPI)
A Los Angeles medical marijuana dispensary removed a pot-smoking Santa painting from its window following complaints from members of the public.
The Harbor House of Dank in San Pedro hired an artist last week to create window paintings including Santa Claus smoking a blunt and a snowman holding a prescription bottle. Pictures of the paintings were posted on Facebook, where they drew hundreds of complaints. Posts on the closed “Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Watch” Facebook group criticized the paintings for being prominently displayed in an area frequented by children. The paintings were removed from the windows Tuesday. The store manager said he had the artist scrape them off the windows when he learned about the complaints from the public. The furor over the pot-smoking St. Nick may have caused further troubles for the Harbor House, as Los Angeles Councilman Joe Buscaino’s office said the business is operating illegally. Read more »

Opening Bell: 12.17.14

Dov CharneyPlunging Ruble Unsettles Russians, Poses Test for Putin (WSJ)
As Russian President Vladimir Putin has ratcheted up the conflict with the West for most of the year, the economic fallout on ordinary Russians has been limited. Suddenly, though, the plunging ruble is reawakening fears of rising prices and the kind of financial crisis Mr. Putin has sought to put behind his country. As the ruble hit a record low, falling as much as 20% against the dollar Tuesday, Moscow residents rushed to buy electronics and other big-ticket items and drained rubles from ATMs to swap them for dollars and euros—signaling a new feeling of vulnerability among Russians and a fresh challenge to their leader. From St. Petersburg to Siberia, money changers ran out of foreign currency and were raising exchange rates. Sberbank , Russia’s state savings bank, and Alfa Bank, Russia’s largest private lender, said they were experiencing a rush for dollars and euros.

A Pimco Emerging-Market Fund Hit by Russian-Debt Bet (WSJ)
The $3.3 billion Pimco Emerging Markets Bond Fund has lost 9% this month, according to Morningstar Inc., fueled by the decline in oil prices and the gathering effect on Russian economic output of U.S. sanctions.

American Apparel Executives Call for Charney’s Return (Bloomberg)
Paula Schneider, American Apparel Inc. (APP)’s incoming chief executive officer, hasn’t even started work yet and she’s already facing a group of disgruntled managers. More than 30 executives asked the board to reconsider their decision to fire former CEO and company founder Dov Charney, according to a letter obtained by Bloomberg News. Charney should be a part of the retailer’s future by helping the next CEO improve the chain because he is what “makes this thing tick,” the managers said. Charney’s loyalists bring an additional headache to a new CEO already coping with red ink and sluggish sales. The chain has racked up more than $300 million in net losses since 2010, forcing it to raise capital to make ends meet — most recently in July. Schneider also has to contend with image problems at a company that’s been criticized for its racy advertising and sexually charged culture.

Billionaires who made and lost the most in 2014 (CNBC)
In a volatile year for the world’s rich, Jack Ma saw his fortune surge to $29.2 billion from just over $10 billion, according to Wealth-X. That 175 percent increase made him the biggest financial gainer of the year for billionaires, Wealth-X said. Warren Buffett came in second place, with a gain of $13.5 billion in 2014, a 23 percent increase from last year, to push his fortune to US$72.6 billion. Bill Gates saw his net worth grow by US$10.5 billion in 2014 to reach US$83.1 billion. The biggest loser, according to Wealth-X, was Russian energy tycoon Leonid Mikhelson, whose fortune shrank to $10 billion from $17 billion.

“I spend 11,000 a year on takeout” (NYP)
A few months ago, Kris Ruby lost her credit card and briefly had to borrow her dad’s while waiting for the replacement. When her dad saw the bill, it wasn’t clothes, cabs or nightclub charges that gave him a fright — it was sushi. “Dad was like, ‘What are all these charges for Seamless?’ ” Ruby, 27, recalls. She used his card for just one week, but in that amount of time she racked up about $225 worth of sushi, superfood salads and other takeout to her Wall Street home. He promptly banned her from using his card on any future delivery purchases. “I felt like it was my guilty little pleasure and secret,” Ruby says. “I couldn’t wait to put my own card back on it so no one could see my meals.” Ordering through Seamless’ handy delivery app almost every night chomps $900 a month off Ruby’s salary as president of her own p.r. and social media agency — almost $11,000 a year, enough for 98 unlimited MetroCards or 4,720 pizza slices. “Oh, my God, this is shocking,” she says, when realizing just how much she spends. “Sometimes I look at this and I’m like, ‘I need to stop this with Seamless.’ ” Read more »

Opening Bell: 12.16.14

Obie and friendsCohen Seeks Law Experts For Fund (Dealbook)
The billionaire investor, who managed to fend off a criminal insider trading investigation of himself, if not of his former hedge fund, is looking for a former prosecutor and several agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to join his new $10 billion investment firm, Point72 Asset Management, said several people briefed on the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity…So far, none of the F.B.I. agents or former prosecutors approached about taking a job at Point72 have expressed any serious interest despite the promise of hefty salaries, the people briefed on the matter said. One person briefed on the matter said F.B.I. agents have “rebuffed” the overtures.

Asia Hedge Funds Survive in Year of Pain for Global Industry (Bloomberg)
In a punishing year for global hedge funds, those investing in Asia are the survivors. Stung by poor returns and large redemptions, 889 hedge funds worldwide shut in the first 11 months of the year, above the annual average of 810 in the five years since the global financial crisis of 2008, according to figures from research firm Eurekahedge Pte. In contrast, 56 Asia-focused funds had closed by the end of November, less than half the average 135 closures in the previous five years.

Foreign Investors Pile Into Bonds (WSJ)
Foreign investors are snapping up Treasury bonds at the fastest clip in two years, propelling yields to fresh lows even as the U.S. economy gains steam. Purchases by China, Japan, Switzerland and others underscore the broad demand for safe government debt amid global turmoil and uneven economic growth, according to new data from the Federal Reserve and Crédit Agricole.

New Hampshire Businessman Files to Set Up Rare New Bank (WSJ)
Bill Greiner is fed up with banks. But instead of quietly seething or complaining to customer service, the 48-year-old is taking a more radical approach: He is trying to launch his own lender. Mr. Greiner’s proposal, filed with regulators in October, is the first deposit-insurance application for a new bank that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has received all year. If Primary Bank, Mr. Greiner’s proposed firm, wins approval, it would be only the second new bank the FDIC has cleared in the U.S. since 2010. The FDIC declined to comment on Primary Bank. “We’re going against the grain, and we’re OK with that because we see a need,” said Mr. Greiner, a Bedford, N.H., real-estate developer and restaurant owner. Mr. Greiner is taking a gamble: Ever since the financial crisis, banks have been struggling with renewed regulatory scrutiny, competition for a limited pool of loans and low interest rates, which squeeze margins and put pressure on profits.

Carlyle’s Holiday Video, With ‘Rap Star’ David Rubenstein (Dealbook)
Mr. Rubenstein, whose firm generated a handsome profit this year on its investment in Beats Electronics, the headphone maker co-founded by Dr. Dre, lays down some finance-themed rhymes in a corporate holiday video released on Monday night. “You know, Dr. Dre is an incredible businessman and artist, and he even inspired me to write my own rap,” Mr. Rubenstein, in a recording studio, says in the Carlyle video. “Let’s hear it,” Daniel A. D’Aniello, Carlyle’s chairman, gamely replies. What follows is not exactly “Straight Outta Compton” or “The Chronic.” Wearing a pair of Beats headphones, Mr. Rubenstein launches into his composition: “It takes a lot of brains to do what we do, Looking for a way to make some dough for you. Energy, commodity, we do it all, So pick up the phone and give us a call. Corporate mezzanine, private equity, Carlyle Group is the place to be. We’re global, we’re mobile, we’re aiming to please. Only goal in mind: serve the LPs.

Obie the fat fighting daschund shows off his incredible 4st weight loss in ‘inspirational’ dog diet calendar (Telegraph)
An obese daschund who lost almost 4st and had a tummy tuck has released an inspirational calendar for animal weight loss. Two years ago Obie tipped the scales at 5st 7lbs and needed to wear a special harness to prevent injury to his bulging belly. However, after being adopted by former veterinary technician Nora Vanatta in August 2012, he was put on a strict diet and exercise regimen. After two years of hard work and surgery to remove excess skin, the svelte seven-year-old now weighs a healthy 1st 9lbs. Now the previously dumpy daschund’s new owner has released an inspirational calendar for 2015 to help motivate other podgy pets shed their pounds. Ms Vanatta, from Portland, Oregon, said: “I feel blessed to be involved in Obie’s rehab and hope he can be an inspiration to any person or animal trying to lose weight. Read more »

Opening Bell: 12.15.14

Bill GrossBigger Is Better for Retaining Junior Analysts, Report Says (WSJ)
The study found that one-third of investment-banking analysts who started working at the biggest U.S. banks in 2012 remained with the same firm this year. At smaller boutique banks, only about half that percentage—17%—stayed on after two years. Many top boutiques have a disproportionate presence in mergers and acquisitions, promising analysts more exposure to deal making. That often appeals to the buy-side firms. After two years, 63% of bankers who worked in the M&A group, at both big and small banks, left to join buy-side firms, predominantly private equity and hedge funds. “The deal-making skill set is highly valued by buy-side recruiters,” said Alex Orn, director of analytics at Vettery.

Meet the SEC’s Brainy New Crime Fighters (WSJ)
While SEC investigators have been using computer models for several years to detect fraud, the approach has gained added steam under Ms. White, agency officials say. The regulator, known for its platoons of lawyers with little experience in math or coding, is hiring more employees versed in computer programing and mathematics and pressing the old guard to get up to speed with the new methods, these officials say.

A Stuyvesant Senior Made $72 Million Trading Stocks on His Lunch Break (NYM)
Over late nights out and dinners at Morimoto, the three hatched a plan to start a hedge fund. “There are a lot of steps we have to follow through,” said Patrick, calling to mind a more serious Chuck Bass. “But we’re on the right track.” They plan to launch in June, after Mo turns 18 and can get his broker-dealer license. “Mo’s our maestro,” Patrick said. “He’s going to be earning the big bucks. We’re just going to try to fill his needs.” All three plan to attend college next year, but they’re not concerned about classes getting in the way of their goal: “A billion dollars!” Damir said. “By next year!” Mo affirmed the number with a nod. “But it’s not just about money,” he added. “We want to create a brotherhood. Like, all of us who are connected, who are in something together, who have influence, like the Koch brothers …”

Fed considers time to end free money pledge (Reuters)
The U.S. Federal Reserve would give the clearest signal next week that its easy money stance is ending if, as some expect, it drops its two-year long pledge to keep interest rates close to zero for a “considerable time”. The Fed, which meets on Tuesday and Wednesday, first inserted that wording in its post-meeting statements in December 2012, promising then to maintain its highly accommodative monetary stance for a considerable time after its asset purchase program ends and the economic recovery strengthens. Both have occurred.

Amid Crisis, Pimco Steadies Itself (WSJ)
In November, three of Mr. Gross’s former lieutenants delivered by one measurement the best monthly performance in more than a decade by the Total Return bond fund, where he became one of the world’s most famous investors. Prices for some of the investments held by Pimco fell right after Mr. Gross, the firm’s co-founder and chief investment officer, walked out the door of Pimco’s headquarters here for the last time. As investors left, rival traders expected Pimco to be forced to sell some bonds to raise cash. Instead, Pimco executives decided to buy more of certain hard-hit investments, including Mexican, Italian and Spanish debt, according to people at the company. Prices on those securities soon began to rebound—and have grown into a profit of more than $200 million so far. That isn’t much money for Pimco, which manages $1.9 trillion, but it boosted the confidence of executives as they continue a sprawling strategy to end the outflow of cash.

Bungled Marriage Proposal Forces Evacuation (AP)
A Dutchman’s attempt at a romantic wedding proposal was simply smashing. The unidentified lover in the central town of Ijsselstein rented a crane, planning to descend in front of his girlfriend’s bedroom window first thing Saturday morning, play her a song and then pop the question. Instead the crane toppled over, smashing a large hole in the neighbors’ roof…According to the Algemeen Dagblad newspaper, the girlfriend said “yes” anyway. After speaking with police, the pair traveled to Paris to celebrate. Then the crane fell again during attempts to right it with a larger crane, bashing in the rest of the neighbors’ roof. The town’s mayor is on the spot after the building was declared unsafe. Six apartments were evacuated. Read more »

Opening Bell: 12.12.14

mark zuckerbergCritics See Overreach in Prosecutors’ Insider-Trading PushPicking at Prosecutors’ Push (WSJ)
In the wake of Wednesday’s ruling, parties on both sides of the issue were sifting through the fallout and advocating their positions. Defense lawyers smarting from five years’ worth of defeats were seizing on the ruling as the final verdict of prosecutorial overreach. Lawyer Ross Albert of Morris Manning & Martin, who has worked at the Securities and Exchange Commission, said the ruling brings back “some needed balance to insider-trading law.” On the other side are alumni of the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office who said some of the judges’ admonishments weren’t fair. The hardest cases were saved for last, and there was always a chance of defeat. That prospect, however, wasn’t reason to avoid going to trial, they said. “When you get to the end of a series of prosecutions like these, the ones at the end are not as core and easy as the ones at the beginning,” said Jonathan Streeter, who prosecuted Raj Rajaratnam and is now a partner at Dechert LLP. Both sides agree the ruling will make insider-trading prosecutions tougher going forward. The court said prosecutors must prove traders knew that the person who provided an inside tip gained some sort of tangible reward for doing so.

Some Accused of Insider Trading May Rethink Their Guilty Pleas (Dealbook)
In legal circles it is seen as likely that the ruling will mean that Michael Steinberg, a former portfolio manager at SAC Capital Advisors, will have his conviction overturned because he traded on the same information that did not constitute an illegal tip for Mr. Chiasson and Mr. Newman. Several others who pleaded guilty and testified as cooperating witnesses in the trials of Mr. Chiasson, Mr. Newman and Mr. Steinberg may also seek to withdraw their pleas, since they implicitly pleaded guilty to something that was not a crime, according to the appellate court ruling. (Mr. Steinberg remains free pending an appeal.) Roland Riopelle, the lawyer for Danny Kuo, a former analyst who pleaded guilty to insider trading and cooperated with the government in its investigation of Mr. Chiasson and Mr. Newman, said he has contacted prosecutors in the wake of the appellate ruling.

House Narrowly Passes Bill to Avoid Shutdown; $1.1 Trillion in Spending (NYT)
The House on Thursday narrowly passed a $1.1 trillion spending package that would fund most government operations for the fiscal year after a rancorous debate that reflected the new power held by Republicans and the disarray among Democrats in the aftermath of the midterm elections. The accord was reached in a 219-206 vote amid last-minute brinkmanship and bickering that has come to mark one of the capital’s most polarized eras. The legislation now heads to the Senate, which is expected to pass it in the coming days. The split in the Democratic Party dramatically came into view when Representative Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader and one of President Obama’s most loyal supporters, broke with the administration over a provision in the bill that would roll back regulation of the Dodd-Frank Act, which Ms. Pelosi said was a giveaway to big banks whose practices helped fuel the Great Recession. She spoke on the House floor in the early afternoon, asking Democrats not to vote for the bill.

Corporate Germany Set for Gender Revolution (WSJ)
Corporate Germany is on the cusp of a gender revolution after Chancellor Angela Merkel ’s government adopted a bill on Thursday that will dramatically increase the number of women in the top echelons of the country’s mightiest corporations. The bill, which is now moving to Parliament for final approval, will require large listed companies to fill 30% of their supervisory board seats with female nonexecutive directors and force thousands of large and midsize businesses to set binding targets for women top managers.

Man has 8 minutes to convince prostitutes to quit in new reality show (EW)
A&E has greenlit a provocative new reality series in which a man tries to convince prostitutes to quit their jobs. EW has learned exclusively that the network has ordered eight episodes of 8 Minutes (working title), a series featuring cop-turned-pastor Kevin Brown surprising escorts in hotel rooms and offering to rescue them from a life of trading sex for cash. In each episode, Brown has eight minutes to make his case. Executive producer Tom Forman (Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, The Great Food Truck Race) says the show was inspired by a 2013 LA Times article about Brown, an Orange County vice cop turned pastor who teamed with his church to create an undercover prostitute intervention operation. Read more »

Opening Bell: 12.11.14

Small_USPS_TruckHarvard Business School Professor Is Sorry for Overreacting to a $4 Chinese-Food-Order Discrepancy (Daily Intel, earlier)
“Many people have seen my emails with Ran Duan of Sichuan Garden restaurant in Brookline. Having reflected on my interaction with Ran, including what I said and how I said it, it’s clear that I was very much out of line. I aspire to act with great respect and humility in dealing with others, no matter what the situation. Clearly I failed to do so. I am sorry, and I intend to do better in the future. I have reached out to Ran and will apologize to him personally as well.”

Investec apologizes after ‘I can’t breath’ backlash (BBC)
South African bank Investec has apologized after the headline “I can’t breathe” on a research note caused an uproar on social media. The bank used it in a briefing about Standard Chartered facing regulatory hurdles in the US. It echoes the last words spoken by Eric Garner, an unarmed black man killed by US police in an apparent chokehold in July. The words have become a slogan in US protests against police violence. “Investec apologizes unreservedly for the inappropriate content in this morning’s research note on Standard Chartered and for any offence caused,” the bank said on Wednesday. “The content in question does not represent the views of Investec.” In the research note, London-based analyst Ian Gordon had originally drawn more comparisons between the Garner case and the US government’s scrutiny of British bank Standard Chartered, but that was edited out by Investec’s compliance team before it was published. Mr Gordon said the US government put too much control and influence on the bank’s business.

Treasury Pick’s Wall Street Ties Split Democrats (WSJ)
Five years after President Barack Obama decried “fat cat bankers on Wall Street,” he is being pilloried by fellow Democrats for nominating a Wall Street banker to a senior Treasury Department post. In tapping Antonio Weiss, Lazard Ltd. ’s global head of investment banking, as Treasury’s undersecretary for domestic finance, Mr. Obama has rekindled criticism he is appointing too many regulators with Wall Street ties who are unable—or unwilling—to engage in tough oversight of the big banks at the center of the 2008 financial crisis. The brawl has become a proxy battle for a deepening rift in the Democratic Party over its ties to the financial industry. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), Richard Durbin (D., Ill.), Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) and Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) all have expressed opposition to Mr. Weiss, as support for the 48-year-old banker continues to buckle.

Merrill raises broker bonuses for new accounts and assets (Reuters)
Merrill Lynch told its 14,000 brokers on Wednesday they will get higher bonus payments in 2015 for attracting new clients and assets but eliminated pay for servicing clients with less than $250,000. The brokerage subsidiary of Bank of America Corp will pay brokers .10 percent of new assets clients use to buy loans, banking and trust products, or put into fee-based advisory accounts. The cash bonus – half paid at yearend and half over eight years – doubles the .05 percent paid this year for such “strategic” money. Brokers attracting over $10 million of such assets get .20 percent and .23 percent for those reaching $50 million. However, bonuses in 2015 are being halved for new money put into low-profit money-market or bank accounts.

What an Appeals Court Insider Trading Decision Does, and Doesn’t, Do (Dealbook)
In a clear slap at Mr. Bharara’s campaign against insider trading, the appeals court criticized the “doctrinal novelty” of recent prosecutions aimed at tippees who receive information third- or even fourth-hand. “We note that the government has not cited, nor have we found a single case in which tippees as remote as Newman and Chiasson have been held criminally liable for insider trading,” the appeals court said. Thus, “the circumstantial evidence in this case was simply too thin to warrant the inference that the corporate insiders received any personal benefit in exchange for their tips.” Rather than just reverse the conviction and send the case back for a retrial, the appeals court went a step further by finding that the government failed to introduce enough evidence to convict them. This is something it typically doesn’t do even when siding with a defendant. Thus, these two defendants cannot be retried for their trading in this case.

‘Vulgar’ undies Comfyballs denied a U.S. trademark (UPI)
he Norwegian manufacturers of Comfyballs underwear said the U.S. patent office told them the brand name is too “vulgar” to trademark. Company founder Anders Selvig said officials filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office earlier this year with an aim toward bringing the products to the North American market, but the office’s reply said the name was too “vulgar” to trademark. “The mark does not create a double entendre or other idiomatic expression… When used in this way, the word ‘balls’ has an offensive meaning,” the office said in its reply to Comfyballs…Selvig called on the patent office to review its guidelines. “The trademarks ‘Nice Balls’ and ‘I love my balls’ have recently both been approved by the USPTO,” Selvig told The Telegraph. “Luckily, Europeans have a softer view on what is deemed to be vulgar and the [European Union] allowed Comfyballs to trademark without hassle earlier this year.” Read more »

Opening Bell: 12.10.14

browniesHarvard Business School Professor Goes to War Over $4 Worth of Chinese Food (Boston)
Ben Edelman is an associate professor at Harvard Business School, where he teaches in the Negotiation, Organizations & Markets unit. Ran Duan manages The Baldwin Bar, located inside the Woburn location of Sichuan Garden, a Chinese restaurant founded by his parents. Last week, Edelman ordered what he thought was $53.35 worth of Chinese food from Sichuan Garden’s Brookline Village location. Edelman soon came to the horrifying realization that he had been overcharged. By a total of $4. If you’ve ever wondered what happens when a Harvard Business School professor thinks a family-run Chinese restaurant screwed him out of $4, you’re about to find out. (Hint: It involves invocation of the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Statute and multiple threats of legal action.)

Ben Edelman email

U.S. extends scrutiny of Standard Chartered on sanctions compliance (Reuters)
Standard Chartered will face another three years of scrutiny by U.S. prosecutors for compliance with government sanctions against certain countries, according to documents filed on Tuesday that also noted another probe of the bank is underway. The original deferred prosecution agreements, struck with the U.S. Justice Department and the Manhattan district attorney over the bank’s violations related to U.S. sanctions on Iran and other countries, was due to expire on Wednesday. The agreement to extend the deals means that the bank will face enhanced oversight for a longer period of time and could be hit with harsher penalties.

After party claims, CTPartners pulls $11.9M stock sale (NYP)
Wall Street recruiter CTPartners pulled a public stock sale that would have raised $11.9 million after The Post published a complaint on Monday detailing sexual discrimination claims, including a boozy, naked romp led by the CEO. The stock, which tanked 24 percent the day of The Post’s story, closed up 8.8 percent at $15.23 on Tuesday after the company yanked the deal that would have diluted existing shareholders. The shares, which had risen 250 percent this year, are still down 18 percent from Friday’s closing price of $18.50. CEO Brian Sullivan and other honchos got so drunk they stripped bare and jumped into the ocean at the end of a four-day partner meeting at his home in May 2012, four workers alleged in a complaint.

Phibro To Shut Down US Business (WSJ)
Phibro Trading LLC is closing its doors in the U.S., marking the end of an era for a commodities firm that came to prominence under oil trader Andrew Hall. The 113-year-old company, founded in Germany by two scrap-metal dealers, is winding down its U.S. operations after it failed to find a buyer, according to a person familiar with the situation. The sale process for units in London and Singapore continues, the person said. Phibro specialized in physical trading of oil and other raw materials, seeking to profit by moving actual barrels and acting as an intermediary between producers and consumers. The pool of potential buyers for these kinds of operations has dwindled in recent years amid a regulatory crackdown on Wall Street banks’ involvement in these markets.

Student Charged After Teacher Eats Pot Brownie (AP)
Police say a Maryland teenager eating a pot brownie in class panicked when his teacher asked him for a piece of the treat, and that he is now charged for obliging. Anne Arundel County police said Tuesday that the 17-year-old didn’t tell the teacher that the brownie contained marijuana. She began feeling ill and acting disoriented, and was brought to the nurse’s office at Broadneck High School in Annapolis on Monday. The teacher told police that the student had given her the brownie during third period and that she suspected it contained marijuana. Read more »

Opening Bell: 12.9.14

mistletoe dronePwC sold ‘tax avoidance on industrial scale’ (FT)
MPs accused a firm of accountants of “selling tax avoidance on an industrial scale” on Monday after a tense parliamentary hearing sparked by the leak of hundreds of Luxembourg tax rulings. In the course of a two-hour grilling, MPs on the public accounts committee angrily denounced professional services firm PwC for devising financing structures that allowed companies to secure very low tax rates in Luxembourg. The MPs also attacked Shire, a FTSE 100 pharmaceutical company that was one of the companies that saw its tax affairs come under scrutiny after the leak of documents from Luxembourg. Margaret Hodge, chair of the committee, said: “The way in which you conduct your business is outrageous.” Both PwC and Shire denied the MPs’ accusations. The inquiry is the latest in a series of high-profile hearings into the tax affairs of multinationals, such as Google, Amazon and Starbucks, by the committee. Ms Hodge said the committee’s work had played a role in catalysing an overhaul of the international tax rules that she said was “making real progress”.

New York’s $500,000-a-Month Apartment Nabs a Tenant (WSJ)
A full-floor rental of New York’s Pierre Hotel that was listed for $500,000 a month has found a tenant, according to the listing agents. To boot, the same renter has also reserved a separate $150,000-a-month suite for guests. Jonathan Miller, president of appraisal firm Miller Samuel, said the $500,000-a-month listing sets a record for New York City residential leasing. The pricier rental, which came on the market at the end of October, leased for full asking price to an international renter, while the less expensive suite rented for close to asking price, according to listing agents Therese Bateman and Andres Perea-Garzon of Town Fifth Avenue. The tenant has reserved both spaces through the end of December, Ms. Bateman said…Located on the 39th floor of the luxury hotel, the full-floor listing has 4,786 square feet of living space, six bedrooms and 6½ bathrooms, including the Presidential Suite. The unit overlooks Central Park, the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir and the George Washington Bridge, among other sights. The less expensive unit is the Getty Suite, a 1,015-square-foot apartment on the 10th floor with a 920-square-foot terrace “for an extended family-entourage situation,” Ms. Bateman said. Amenities include a language-specific butler and concierge service and a chauffeur-driven Jaguar.

Bill Gross’s New Janus Fund Rises to $1.2 Billion in Assets in November (WSJ)
Janus Capital Group Inc. has rallied its sales force around Bill Gross, helping to push the assets in his new mutual fund past the $1 billion mark in November. Mr. Gross’s strong performance also contributed to the fund’s increased assets as bets on derivatives linked to China and Mexico appear to have paid off, analysts say. The Janus Global Unconstrained Bond fund returned 0.36% during the month, beating out 82% of similar mutual funds, according to fund research firm Morningstar Inc.

Fed Aims to Signal Shift on Low Rates (WSJ)
Federal Reserve officials are seriously considering an important shift in tone at their policy meeting next week: dropping an assurance that short-term interest rates will stay near zero for a “considerable time” as they look more confidently toward rate increases around the middle of next year. Senior officials have hinted lately that they’re looking at dropping this closely watched interest-rate signal, which many market participants take as a sign rates won’t go up for at least six months. “It’s clearer that we’re closer to getting rid of that than we were a few months ago,” Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal last week. New York Fed President William Dudley has avoided using the “considerable time” phrase in recent speeches and instead said the Fed should be “patient” before raising rates.

TGI Fridays drone delivers bloody ‘mistletoe mischief’ (CNBC)
TGI Fridays’ “mobile mistletoe drone” left a woman bloody and missing a piece of her nose last week. Photographer Georgine Benvenuto was at a Fridays in Sheepshead Bay, N.Y., when one of the operators tried to land the 10-inch aircraft on her head, but clipped off a part of her nose instead. “It literally chipped off a tip of my nose,” Benvenuto told the Brooklyn Daily. “It took off part of my nose and cut me here, right under my chin.” The drone’s operator said the mistake wouldn’t have happened if the woman hadn’t flinched, according to the website. TGI Fridays never officially acknowledged the injury. The drones were intended to hover over couples and inspire a little “mobile mistletoe mischief,” according to promotional material for the event. “If guests show a little love under the mistletoe, Fridays might just show them a little love with some nice holiday gifts,” Fridays said in a press release last week. Read more »