Opening Bell

Opening Bell: 05.08.14

World Economy Stabilizes in Great Moderation 2.0 (Bloomberg)
Volatility in growth among the main industrial countries is the lowest since 2007 and half that of the 20 years starting in 1987, according to Bloomberg calculations based on International Monetary Fund data. Investors also are becalmed, with a risk measure that uses options to forecast fluctuations in equities, currencies, commodities and bonds around the weakest level in almost seven years.

Hedge Funds Extend Their Slide (WSJ)
Big stumbles by some star managers drove hedge funds to back-to-back monthly declines for the first time in two years, according to researcher HFR Inc. The lackluster showing—the average hedge fund trailed benchmarks for both stocks and bonds in April—was a blow for an industry that charges more than other fund managers but pitches steady returns in both good times and bad. Hedge funds on average dropped 0.17% in April, HFR said Wednesday, following a 0.33% decline in March. Funds hadn’t turned in two consecutive losing months since April and May of 2012, HFR said.

Son Makes $58 Billion on Alibaba With Buffett-Type Return (Bloomberg)
With Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. filing to go public, the biggest winner won’t be founder Jack Ma or his fellow executives or even venture capital backers like Silver Lake Management LLC. It’ll be Japan’s Masayoshi Son. Fourteen years ago, Son’s SoftBank Corp. (9984) started with a $20 million bet on a then-unknown Web portal connecting Chinese manufacturers with overseas buyers. That site evolved into China’s biggest Internet shopping mall and SoftBank’s stake is now estimated to be worth about $58 billion, an exceptional return even by Silicon Valley’s standards. The IPO burnishes Son’s reputation as one of the world’s savviest investors and provides more capital to a man on the hunt for deals. After taking control of the U.S. carrier Sprint Corp. last July, Son made no secret of his interest in T-Mobile US Inc. (TMUS) Analysts say he may also pursue European wireless operators or take another look at music labels, after his $8.5 billion bid for Vivendi SA’s Universal Music Group was rebuffed.

Meet the eccentric founder of Alibaba (NYP)
Ma has been described as an eccentric and a “scrappy fighter” who practices kung fu and other Chinese martial arts. Last year, he opened a tai chi school with Jet Li, the Hong Kong star who starred in “Hero” and other martial arts classics…Ma indicated that he is fretting the trap doors that lie within the US capital markets, and not the other way around. In a letter to employees on Tuesday, Ma warned of “unparalleled ruthlessness … lying behind the massive allure of the capital market.” To combat it, he reminded his employees’ to stick to the company’s principle of “customer first, employee second, shareholder third.”

Seeking Tough Justice, but Settling for Empty Promises (Dealbook)
The Justice Department is talking tough. In an unusually frank video statement, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. proclaimed that he was personally overseeing major financial investigations and that his department was poised to bring charges against several large institutions. The United States attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, gave a rousing speech several weeks ago, declaring that the era of “too big to jail” is over…Despite Mr. Holder’s tough-sounding video appearance, it is clear that prosecutors are twisting themselves into awkward yoga poses to minimize the damage any charges against companies might inflict on the larger economy. That’s prudent, of course, but it also suggests that the companies still have considerable leverage in preserving their essential profit centers.

Dog driving car one of a few odd calls for Alamance law enforcement (NR)
Burlington police issued a BOLO, or “be on the lookout,” for a black vehicle apparently being driven by a canine Tuesday afternoon. “There was a car in the area of Cum Park Plaza driving recklessly, and it appeared a dog was driving the vehicle,” Long said. A description of the dog was unavailable, and as of late Tuesday afternoon, police had not located the vehicle. “We have not been able to confirm that the dog was not driving,” Long said. Read more »

Opening Bell: 05.07.14

Fat-Destroying Machine Doubted by Stock Traders (Bloomberg)
The way Shimon Eckhouse sees it, his company’s fat-busting technology gives him a direct line into what he calls one of the holy grails of beauty treatment. Everyone, he says, is worried about being overweight. So when Syneron Medical Ltd. (ELOS), the Israeli company Eckhouse co-founded in 2000, failed to rally in the stock market after the U.S. approved the ultrasound device on April 14, he was surprised. “I expected to see much more of a jump in the stock,” Eckhouse, Syneron’s chairman, said in a May 2 phone interview. There is “huge potential” in the business, he said…Now that the Food and Drug Administration has approved the device, Syneron will begin selling UltraShape machines to a limited group of doctors in the second quarter of 2014 to test its model of revenue sharing, Eckhouse said. The company plans to apply the model to Syneron’s other products, which include devices for skin whitening, wrinkle treatment, and hair-removal. The UltraShape machine painlessly destroys fat cells by heating them with ultrasound waves that penetrate 1.5 centimeters (0.6 inch) below the skin, according to a company presentation.

Regulators Step Up Probe Into Bank Hiring Overseas (WSJ)
The Securities and Exchange Commission in early March sent letters to a group of companies including Credit Suisse Group AG , Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, and UBS AG seeking more information about their hiring in Asia, according to the people. It is examining whether the banks or their employees violated antibribery laws by hiring relatives of well-connected officials.

UBS, Barclays Contrast Shows How Slimmed-Down Investment Banking Bolsters Bottom Line (WSJ)
At Zurich-based UBS, which significantly curbed its trading operations after the financial crisis, first-quarter earnings beat analysts’ expectations. The bank’s shares gained 1.2% By contrast, Barclays, which is still to shrink its securities unit, missed forecasts amid a collapse in operating profit at its investment bank. London-based Barclays’s shares fell 5.2%. Since the start of the year, investors have sent UBS stock up by about 9% while Barclays’s has fallen by a similar amount. The contrast reflects different approaches at the two banks since the financial crisis. UBS, laid low by the crisis in 2008, bit the bullet of a major revamp. The bank has undergone years of restructuring that curbed its presence in investment banking, particularly in the costly and relatively high-risk debt-trading business, and refocused its efforts on wealth management and private banking.

As Lockup Expires, Twitter Holders Fly the Coop (WSJ)
The expiration of the six-month “lockup” imposed by the securities firms that sold the Twitter initial public offering freed holders of 83% of shares outstanding to sell for the first time. Tuesday’s decline, Twitter’s second-biggest one-day percentage drop, marked the worst performance for a technology stock on its lockup-expiration day since at least the start of 2013, according to data provider Dealogic.

Insight: Pimco’s bad bets on emerging markets add to firm’s troubles (Reuters)
In particular, it has made made some ill-timed bets in the Brazilian, Mexican and Russian debt markets. It made substantial investments in some companies that have gone belly-up, such as Brazilian oil company OGX Petróleo e Gás Participações SA, which was controlled by Eike Batista, who only two years ago was estimated to be the world’s seventh-richest man but whose business empire has now largely crumbled.

World’s largest legal pot facility to open (NYP)
CEN Biotech — a nutrition company best known for an amino acid supplement — is working on opening the “largest and most advanced” legal marijuana production facility in the world. The Ontario site will be able to grow 1.3 million pounds of pot from 50,000 plants — an operation that could produce $5 billion in sales per year when it starts producing in a few weeks after it passes government inspections. No more hiding grow lamps in closets: This $20 million facility will churn out pot like other factories churn out aspirin. And it has plans to expand to the US. Read more »

Opening Bell: 05.06.14

Credit Suisse Said Near U.S. Tax Deal for Over $1 Billion (Bloomberg)
Credit Suisse Group AG (CSGN), facing a U.S. criminal probe of whether it helped Americans evade taxes, is close to resolving the case with an agreement that may include a penalty of more than $1 billion and a guilty plea, according to a person familiar with the matter. The person, who asked not to be named because the negotiations are confidential, didn’t specify whether the plea would be entered by the entire firm or a subsidiary. Credit Suisse, the largest of 14 Swiss banks facing criminal tax probes by the U.S., was told in 2011 that it was a target of prosecutors.

UBS First-Quarter Profit Up (WSJ)
Swiss bank UBS AG said Tuesday that first-quarter net profit was 1.1 billion Swiss francs ($1.25 billion) compared with 988 million francs reported a year earlier and against analyst forecasts of 838 million francs.

Einhorn Plays Athenahealth for Laughs and Decimates Its Shares (BusinessWeek)
As he dismantled the bull case for Athenahealth and then mounted a lengthy bear case, Einhorn repeatedly turned for help to none other than Athenahealth Chief Executive Jonathan Bush when he played embarrassing video clips of the high-strung CEO. Bush was shown spouting techo-verbiage at various interviewers and acknowledging that his company was not worth its valuation. The snappily cut footage, complete with freeze frames of Bush looking foolish with his mouth open, lent the presentation a Daily Show-esque vibe. It’s a new way for Einhorn and his $10 billion Greenlight Capital hedge fund to publicize short sales.

Three Bankers Bolster Blankfein as Goldman Trading Sinks (Bloomberg)
Led by David M. Solomon, Richard J. Gnodde and John S. Weinberg, the investment-banking division last year generated the second-highest revenue and profit since the firm went public in 1999, trailing only 2007, when the volume of global mergers was almost twice as high. The unit boosted revenue and market share in each of its three businesses: underwriting equity, advising on mergers and acquisitions and underwriting debt. Its share of fees from debt underwriting was the greatest since 1999, and it made about $2 billion from advisory work, 50 percent more than its closest competitor, JPMorgan Chase & Co. — a $660 million gap, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The dominance was even more pronounced in the first quarter of 2014, when Goldman Sachs almost doubled the advisory revenue of every other bank and led in total investment-banking fees for the first time since the financial crisis.

Calstrs to Vote Against BofA Directors in Proxy Campaign (WSJ)
The California State Teachers’ Retirement System pension fund voted against four members of Bank of America Corp.’s board in response to the bank’s announcement last week that it had miscalculated capital levels. The move is largely symbolic, because many big shareholders have expressed support for Bank of America’s management and are expected to vote for the current board.

Grilled cheese set to parachute into New York City (USAT)
The Australian pop-up restaurant Jafflechutes has announced plans to bring its parachute-delivered grilled cheese sandwiches to New York City. The Melbourne group raised funds to bring its whimsical sandwich delivery system to North America — possibly this month, according to a Facebook post — but they say they aren’t in it for the money. “We do this purely for fun,” Adam Grant, one of Jafflechutes’ founders, told Fast Company in April. If you’d like to catch an airborne jaffle (that’s an Australian word for grilled cheese), Jafflechutes says they will announce the next drop one day in advance on Twitter and Facebook. Interested parties can then order via Paypal, $5 for cheese and tomato and $6 for cheese and ham. At a predetermined time the following day, stand on an “x” marked on the street at a secret location and look to the sky. Jafflechutes will drop the sandwich, complete with its own tiny parachute, into waiting hands below. Read more »

Opening Bell: 05.02.14

Criminal Charges Against Banks Risk Sparking Crisis (Bloomberg)
Stung by lawmakers’ criticism that multibillion-dollar settlements have done too little to punish Wall Street in the wake of the financial crisis, prosecutors are considering indictments in probes of Credit Suisse Group AG and BNP Paribas SA, a person familiar with the matter said. Even after talking with financial regulators about ways to mitigate damage — such as ensuring banks keep charters — prosecutors might not fully understand consequences for the market, according to industry lawyers and bankers who are following the case. Bank clients — including trustees, fiduciaries and pension funds — could be forced to cut ties with a financial institution labeled a criminal enterprise, the lawyers and bankers said, asking not to be named because they weren’t authorized to talk publicly. Counterparties also might think twice before entering into billion-dollar transactions with such firms. Damaging a bank’s business could lead to broader fallout across the financial industry, just as Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.’s collapse in 2008 prompted investors to withdraw from other firms on concern its exit would set off a wave of losses.

U.S. Looks Into Wagers, Pro and Con, on Herbalife (Dealbook)
Three federal agencies and one billionaire hedge fund manager have placed Herbalife under the microscope, scrutinizing whether the diet-supplements company is a pyramid scheme. But Herbalife is not the only one under investigation. Some federal authorities are pursuing other inquiries that might expand the regulatory gaze from Herbalife to the traders who traffic in the company’s stock. The authorities have trained their focus on traders with contrasting views of Herbalife, according to people briefed on the matter who spoke only on condition of anonymity. As one group wagered that Herbalife was a pyramid scheme — William A. Ackman, the billionaire hedge fund manager, has staked a $1 billion bet on that belief — other investors expected the company to emerge unscathed. Neither side has been accused of wrongdoing. Still, a number of well-timed bets for and against Herbalife caught the eye of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the F.B.I., the people briefed on the matter said, raising questions about possible insider trading, disclosure violations and market manipulation.

Yellen’s Fed Resigned to Diminished Growth Expectations (Bloomberg)
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and her colleagues have lowered their sights on how fast the economy needs to expand to meet their goal of cutting unemployment. No longer are they saying growth must accelerate from the 2 percent to 2.5 percent pace it has generally averaged since the recession ended. Instead, they are stressing the importance of preventing the expansion from faltering. Exhibit number one: the Fed chief herself. Yellen said on April 16 that a key question facing the central bank is what “may be pushing the recovery off track.” Contrast that with her comments on March 4, 2013, of the importance of seeing “a convincing pickup in growth.”

EBay Settles No-Poaching Antitrust Case (NYT)
The deal, announced by the Justice Department on Thursday, follows the pattern of the department’s 2010 settlement against Google, Apple, Intuit and other Silicon Valley companies over similar accusations. Like those companies, eBay is prevented from entering into anticompetitive hiring agreements for five years. A related case against eBay filed by the California attorney general’s office was also settled. EBay agreed to pay $3.75 million to the state, a sum it said would cover civil penalties, lawyers’ fees, administration of the settlement and compensation to those who worked at eBay and Intuit. Secret deals not to hire a competitor’s employees were common in Silicon Valley in the latter part of the last decade, and Steve Jobs of Apple was a major instigator and enforcer of the agreements. EBay is not a competitor of Intuit, which develops tax preparation software, but both embraced a hands-off relationship.

Macquarie Group Profit Jumps 49% as Trading Revenue Climbs (Bloomberg)
Profit for the year ended March 31 rose to A$1.27 billion ($1.17 billion), the Sydney-based firm said in a statement today. That beat the gain of as much as 45 percent the firm forecast on March 24 and compared with profit of A$851 million a year earlier. The bank’s shares fell the most in two weeks as it forecast similar earnings for the year to March 2015.

T0pless Woman Dances With 12,000 Bees (HP)
The Portland, Oregon-based beekeeper describes her bee dances as “a duet among many.” “These 12,000 bees push with their powerful wings from each side of my body, I resist and then I let go and flow and move with them,” she writes on her website.” It is a deep meditation and I feel the hive mind surround me, hold me, and expand my body on a cellular level.” In order to attract the bees to her topless body, Mapelli anoints her body with a special pheromone oil that is equivalent to the scent of 100 queen bees. The bees usually stay on her body for about two hours at a time. Mapelli says she’s been stung more than 100 times since her first bee dance in 2001, but that doesn’t bother her. “I just want people to understand that they don’t need to fear nature,” she said. Read more »

Opening Bell: 05.01.14

Fed Cuts Bond Buys, Sees Growth Pickup (WSJ)
The Federal Reserve said Wednesday it would reduce its bond purchases to $45 billion a month and it was starting to see a growth pickup in recent weeks after a harsh winter that hit the U.S. economy. The Fed is effectively in watch, wait and plan mode. The $10 billion cut in monthly bond purchases, the fourth this year, was widely expected by investors and represents a continuation of the policy strategy laid out in the past few months by Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen, who took over in February, and former Chairman Ben Bernanke.

U.S. Economy Starts Year With a Whimper (WSJ)
Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the economy, grew at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 0.1% in the first quarter, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. It marked the second-worst quarterly performance since the recession ended in mid-2009…Harsh weather likely slowed first-quarter business investment and discretionary consumer spending. It could have even blocked exports—which notched their sharpest decline since the recovery began—from reaching ports.

Moguls Winfrey, Geffen, Ellison Weigh Bid for Clippers (Bloomberg)
Winfrey, the former talk-show host turned network owner, is discussing a joint bid for the Clippers with fellow billionaires David Geffen, the ex-music industry executive, and Oracle Corp. Chief Executive Officer Larry Ellison. Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the Hall of Fame basketball player and part owner of baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers, said he was interested. “I will be owning an NBA team at some time,” Johnson said yesterday at the Milken Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California. “It has to be the right situation. Is the Clippers the right situation? Of course, it’s one of the premier franchises. Despite what we think of him, he’s done a good job with the business,” Johnson said of team owner Donald Sterling. “So we’ll just have to see.”

Buffett Pressures Coca-Cola Over Executive Pay (WSJ)
Coca-Cola likely will revise its executive-compensation plan before it goes into effect next year, bowing to pressure from billionaire investor Warren Buffett, according to people familiar with the matter. The potential changes come as a surprise after voting shareholders approved Coke’s plan last week—and Mr. Buffett declined to vote against it. Mr. Buffett aired his reservations about the plan privately in recent weeks to Coke Chief Executive Muhtar Kent in three conversations, including at a dinner in Mr. Buffett’s hometown of Omaha, Neb., according to some of the people familiar with the matter.

Accounting Group Taps Michael Bloomberg, Mary Schapiro (WSJ)
The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, which sets voluntary accounting standards for publicly traded companies, is expected to announce the appointments Thursday. Mr. Bloomberg will serve as chair of its board and Ms. Schapiro as vice chair.

Mayor Rob Ford ‘ready to take a break’ (Toronto Sun)
Mayor Rob Ford says he’s “ready to take a break” from the mayoral election campaign to “go get help.” The decision to immediately step away from the campaign — while staying on the ballot — came after the Toronto Sun exclusively obtained a new raunchy audio recording of Ford ranting and swearing in an Etobicoke bar. The Globe and Mail also published a report that a new video surfaced of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking what has been described as crack-cocaine early Saturday morning. Ford told the Sun columnist Joe Warmington that he realizes “it’s time” and that he “wants” to “deal with his issues.” He said he is being urged to not leave the mayoral race by people around him. The audio recording, covertly taped by a patron of Sullie Gorman’s Monday night, captures the mayor being unruly as he’s ordering booze at the Royal York Rd. bar, complaining about his wife Renata and making lewd comments about mayoral contender Karen Stintz. “I’d like to f—–g jam her (Stintz), but she doesn’t want … I can’t talk like this…I’m so sorry,” Ford is heard saying on the recording. “I forgot there’s a woman in the house.” According to one witness, Ford was seen buying shooters and tequila and trying to fight with patrons Monday. “He was really wasted,” said the witness. “And he was acting like a real ass.” [...] The mayor said he didn’t recall saying any of the things on the recording, but confirmed he was at Sullie Gorman’s that night. “I wouldn’t say that — I wouldn’t say the word, ‘jam,’ — that’s not my terminology,” he said in a phone interview with Warmington Wednesday afternoon. “I am appalled (at what I said). I’d like to verify this (audio) first. Of course, I’m just joking around. Clearly, that’s what I mean.” [...] Ford is heard using threatening language: “Give me a shot right now or I’ll f—–g break your legs. I want another one.” A few moments later, he says, “If you don’t give me a shot I’m going to knock your f—–g teeth out.” Read more »

Opening Bell: 04.30.14

Barclays Said to Name Bommensath to Oversee ‘Bad Bank’ (Bloomberg)
Barclays is planning to move its commodities division into a so-called bad bank of unwanted assets and units to be overseen by Eric Bommensath, according to a person familiar with the plan. Tom King, 53, co-head of the corporate and investment bank with Bommensath, will become its sole leader, the person said yesterday, asking not to be identified because the change hasn’t been made public. Bommensath will oversee businesses that the London-based firm previously designated as part of its “exit quadrant,” according to the person.

McGee Exiting Barclays Shows Lehman Legacy Fading Away (Bloomberg, related)
When Barclays Plc announced yesterday that McGee is stepping down from that role at the end of the month, it meant the London-based firm will lose a banker seen by U.S. colleagues as their advocate for risk, pay and aggressiveness. His departure is another step away from a pre-crisis Lehman culture whose competitiveness was written into the firm’s code of ethics. Almost six years after Barclays bought parts of the company, which filed the biggest bankruptcy in history, and following its own scandals from interest-rate rigging to selling insurance customers didn’t need, the lender is cutting jobs, rebuilding relationships with regulators and facing shareholder pressure to curb bonuses. “Barclays has to have its own identity and has to do its own thing, and I think it’s evolving to that now,” said American International Group Inc. General Counsel Tom Russo, a former Lehman vice chairman. “I think it’s becoming extraordinarily cost-conscious. It’s shrinking a bit.” McGee, 54, said in an e-mailed statement that he’s leaving because the job has changed. “My focus has always been on clients, but given the need for Barclays leadership to focus on regulatory issues for the foreseeable future, I have decided that it is time for me to move on to new challenges,” he said.

Third Point Asks Judge To Delay Sotheby’s Annual Meeting (Law360)
Third Point LLC asked a Delaware Chancery judge Tuesday to postpone Sotheby’s upcoming shareholder meeting, saying the auction house is improperly using a poison pill to thwart activist investor Daniel Loeb’s proxy fight for three board seats.

Twitter’s Stock Sinks Despite Growth in Revenue, Users (WSJ)
While Twitter has proven to be a powerful communications tool for celebrities, activists, marketers and journalists, it hasn’t caught on with mainstream users. Facebook, meanwhile, has become a required place to share photos and life’s daily happenings. Twitter reported Tuesday it added 14 million monthly active users in the first quarter, up 5.8% to 255 million from the previous three months. That growth was better than in the fourth quarter but failed to impress some analysts. Today one in five Internet users in the U.S. log into to Twitter once a month, and its global user base is about one-fifth the size of Facebook’s.

‘Dark Wallet’ for Managing Bitcoin Arrives This Week (Digits)
Last year, the Journal told readers about Cody Wilson’s efforts to take the virtual currency off the grid through a project called Dark Wallet, the 26-year-old’s latest effort to use technology to sidestep the government. Mr. Wilson is most famous for creating the first working gun made by a 3-D printer. After months of programming, Wilson and his partner, British anarchist Amir Taaki, also 26, are releasing an early version of the software for free download. It will work as an add-on for Google’s Chrome browser….Among other things, Dark Wallet is designed to encrypt bitcoins as they’re spent, making it difficult to see who is buying what. Think of it as throwing a ball into a spinning lottery tumbler and picking out a different ball. If more people use Dark Wallet, the theory goes, more people put balls in the lottery tumbler and make it harder to determine which belongs to whom.

Cronut Chef Creates the Waffogato (Time)
Dominique Ansel, creator of the infamous cronut, is at it again. And this time, he’s taking on the waffle. Well, sort of. The New York-based chef has created a waffle made out of ice cream and topped with a maple syrup espresso, which will make its debut at a hunger relief fundraiser in New York City Monday night. Ansel’s waffogato, a breakfast-themed take on the Italian dessert of ice cream topped with espresso, will be available in his Soho bakery starting May 9. The vanilla ice cream “waffle” is laced with Belgium waffle bits and set in a cup where warm, maple syrup espresso is poured on top. “It’s a little like a milkshake at the end,” Ansel told the Wall Street Journal. If history tells us anything, it’ll likely spark flocks of New Yorkers and tourists to stand in line for hours for the latest Ansel concoction, much like the waffogato’s predecessor the cronut did. Not even a mouse infestation could dim the hype over the part-donut, part-croissant pastry. The waffogato could even spawn another underground pastry economy, though that could be tricky logistically—the chef told the Wall Street Journal that his latest creation is best eaten right away. Read more »

Opening Bell: 04.29.14

Deutsche Bank Profit Slides 34% on Debt Trading Slump (Bloomberg)
Net income dropped 34 percent to 1.08 billion euros ($1.5 billion) in the three months through March from a year earlier, the Frankfurt-based company said in a statement on its website today. That compared with the 1.01 billion-euro average of 10 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Revenue from trading fixed income, currencies and commodities fell 10 percent to 2.43 billion euros, beating the 2.12 billion euros average of nine estimates.

Herbalife plays hardball with buybacks (NYP)
Herbalife, the controversial nutritional supplements company, is pulling out all the stops to buy back its shares as the cost of its battle with activist Bill Ackman and multiple regulators continues to mount. While reporting record quarterly “adjusted” earnings on Monday, the company said it has abolished its $1.20 a share annual dividend and will instead plow that cash into a stock buyback plan. The plan allows it to more aggressively repurchase stock even in the face of civil and criminal investigations regarding allegations it is a pyramid scheme…The implementation of a special trading plan allows the Los Angeles company to buy back stock under a pre-arranged program even if it is in the possession of material nonpublic information and would normally be prohibited from trading. Herbalife has been aggressively buying back stock under the plan, spending $255 million in April, it said. Another $60 million will be spent in the next two days. Herbalife spent $685.8 million of a $1.1 billion convert offering in February to buy back shares, boosting its long-term debt to $1.85 billion.

Disney Considered Buying BuzzFeed, but Balked at $1 Billion Price (Dealbook)
As part of a routine effort to identify acquisition targets, Disney last year zeroed in on BuzzFeed, the fast-growing digital media company, but Disney’s interest quickly dissipated when BuzzFeed valued itself at nearly $1 billion, according to a person with direct knowledge of the talks.

Bitcoin traders settle class actions over failed Mt Gox exchange (Reuters)
The class action plaintiffs agreed to support a plan by Sunlot Holdings to buy the shuttered exchange and accept their share of bitcoins still held by Mt. Gox, according to a statement and court filings. Mt. Gox filed for bankruptcy in Japan and the United States earlier this year after saying it lost some 850,000 bitcoins – worth more than $400 million – in a hacking attack. It subsequently said it found 200,000 bit coins.

Man Who Allegedly Robbed Store With Potato Apprehended By Cops (HP)
…34-year-old Gary Deming of Cranston was arrested on robbery charges. Authorities say he pretended he had a gun when he demanded money from a convenience store and dry cleaner April 21. The convenience store manager chased him off with a baseball bat. A dry cleaner employee gave him a fake $20 from a decoy register. The station reports Deming is also accused of breaking into his sister’s home on the same day as the alleged potato incidents. She told police he took a purse, debit card and $100 in cash. Read more »