Opening Bell

Opening Bell: 12.18.13

Goldman Dances to the New Street Beat (WSJ)
The Wall Street company, which clung to its trading roots even after a regulatory overhaul drove rivals to change course, is now reining in riskier activities, shrinking its balance sheet and steering clear of trades that don’t produce the double-digit-percentage returns its shareholders crave, Goldman executives and people familiar with the company’s plans said…Goldman, which derives about half its revenue trading stocks, bonds and other securities, has begun moving away from trades that require it to set aside more capital. The company is demanding to be paid more from clients for the money it does commit. At the same time, it is shrinking the inventory of securities it holds for clients, a step that frees up capital and boosts its returns. The goal is to eke out more profit from its trading unit, which in recent quarters has struggled amid tepid client activity. The changes have been gradual, as Goldman waited for the regulations to take shape, and the company’s overarching strategy remains intact.

Jury Still Out On SAC’s Steinberg (NYP)
Jurors in the federal insider-trading trial of SAC Capital moneyman Michael Steinberg ended their first day of deliberations without a verdict. They will resume Wednesday at Manhattan federal court. Steinberg is the first of eight employees of Steve Cohen’s SAC Capital caught in the feds insider-trading probe to go to trial. Six others have pled guilty while the eighth, Mathew Martoma, is scheduled to go on trial in January.

Ex-SAC manager Martoma fails to end part of insider case (Reuters)
A federal judge on Tuesday rejected former SAC Capital Advisors LP portfolio manager Mathew Martoma’s request to dismiss some insider trading charges because they were based on transactions not covered under U.S. securities laws. U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe in Manhattan said Martoma’s alleged trades in American depository receipts of Irish drugmaker Elan Corp (ELN.I) qualified as domestic transactions covered by U.S. securities laws. As a result, the judge rejected Martoma’s request to dismiss one of two securities fraud charges, as well as related allegations in a conspiracy count. The defendant has pleaded not guilty to the three counts, and faces a January 6 trial.

UBS, Credit Suisse Payout Hopes Ebb as Regulators Tighten Leash (Bloomberg)
Prospects for fatter dividend payouts from Switzerland’s biggest banks are receding as Swiss authorities ratchet up capital demands. UBS AG (UBSN), the nation’s largest bank, was told to hold more capital for legal risks this quarter, while the finance minister said last month leverage rules might be tightened. Credit Suisse Group AG (CSGN), the No. 2 bank, is in talks with the regulator that may also lead to a demand for more capital, though it would be much smaller in scope than for UBS, a person with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified said this month.The tighter requirements, on top of stricter rules implemented over the past five years, arrived as the banks were preparing to start paying higher dividends. UBS Chief Executive Officer Sergio Ermotti, 53, pledged to pay out more than half of profits to shareholders once the company reaches a common equity ratio of 13 percent — a level that probably would have been achieved this year without the fresh demands. “The message from regulators is very clear: ‘if you think you can pay dividends, forget it,’” Oswald Gruebel, who served as CEO of both Zurich-based UBS and Credit Suisse, said by phone. “They don’t want to let banks pay any dividend. It’s totally open how long this will last.”

Duck penis studies, lifecoaches for Senate staff: $30B in government spending questioned (NYP)
While the White House and Congress griped this year about the pain of automatic budget cuts, the federal government still managed to spend billions of dollars on seemingly frivolous projects – from a $384,989 grant for Yale University to study the duck penis to $1.9 million for “lifestyle” lessons for Senate staffers. Nearly $30 billion in questionable federal spending is detailed in the “Wastebook” that was released Tuesday by the Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who annually compiles the report…Taxpayers also got stuck with the bills for: $17.5 million for special tax exemptions for Nevada brothels, including tax deductions for groceries, wages for prostitutes, rent and utilities…$630,000 spent by the State Department to buy followers on its Facebook and Twitter accounts…$325,525 for a National Institutes of Health study that found wives would be happier if they could calm down faster during arguments with their husbands…$150,000 to support the Puppets Take Long Island festival in Sag Harbor. Read more »

Opening Bell: 12.17.13

Volcker Rule Shows Its Wide Reach (WSJ)
Unforeseen consequences of the Volcker rule already are rippling into the furthest corners of the economy and financial markets. Financial institutions and investors are scrambling to line up a new way to finance municipal-bond investments, with the week-old rule set to curtail banks’ dealings in so-called tender-option bonds—a $75 billion niche of the market for debt issued by cities, states and local governments. Meanwhile, more than a dozen small and midsize banks likely will need to sell collateralized debt obligations under a Volcker rule provision limiting certain risky bank investments, according to analysts.

SEC seeks $1.1 million-plus from ex-Goldman VP Tourre (Reuters)
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission asked a federal judge to order former Goldman Sachs Group Inc vice president Fabrice Tourre to pay more than $1.1 million for his role in a failed 2007 mortgage deal, according to a court document filed Monday in Manhattan federal court…The agency asked that Tourre pay a civil monetary penalty of $910,000. It also asked that he pay $175,463 in ill-gotten gains, plus interest of $62,858.03, according to the document. The SEC also said Tourre should be prohibited from accepting reimbursement for the penalty from Goldman

More Asia Hedge-Fund Managers Expect Rising Bonuses, Survey Says (Bloomberg)
More Asia hedge-fund industry employees are expecting increases in bonuses this year as they delivered returns, a survey by executive recruitment firm Heidrick & Struggles International Inc. showed. The share of respondents anticipating their bonuses to increase climbed to 48 percent in a survey carried out in September by the Chicago-based executive recruitment firm, up from 45 percent in last year’s poll. By contrast, those anticipating a decline in their bonuses shrank to 11 percent from about 25 percent last year.

Insider-Trading Case May Hinge on Phone Call (WSJ)
The phone call was between Mr. Steinberg and former SAC analyst Jon Horvath, who worked under Mr. Steinberg and, according to court documents, is the only witness who can connect his former boss to the alleged insider-trading conspiracy. n his closing arguments Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Harry Chernoff said Mr. Steinberg received the phone call one minute before making a huge bet against Dell Inc. on Aug. 18, 2008. On the call, Mr. Steinberg received an inside tip from Mr. Horvath that Dell’s gross margins would disappoint ahead of the company’s earnings announcement, Mr. Chernoff told jurors. Jurors could begin deliberating as soon as Tuesday to decide the fate of Michael Steinberg, right. “They didn’t need more than two minutes for that call, because Michael Steinberg already knew the score,” Mr. Chernoff said. Barry Berke, an attorney for Mr. Steinberg, painted a completely different picture. The call was “rushed,” Mr. Berke said, because Mr. Horvath was calling from an airport before leaving for Mexico. The former analyst passed “perfectly proper” information to his boss ahead of the Dell announcement, said Mr. Berke.

Steinberg wife to pals: No wearing bling near jury (NYP)
Liz Steinberg, who has been noticeably dressed down during her husband’s four-week trial in Manhattan federal court, sent an email to supporters days before the trial started to instruct them to leave the bling at home if they plan to attend the trial. “Dress conservatively,” the email instructed, adding that women would be wise to check their furs, jewels and designer handbags at the door. “We request that women wear no jewelry or furs, and no designer scarves, handbags, etc.,” said the Nov. 15 email, a copy of which was obtained by The Post.

Capitals fan takes a puck to the head, refuses to get stitched up until after the game (NIS)
Tricia Drummond, a Capitals fan and hockey player herself, took a puck off the head late in the third period of yesterday’s Caps-Flyers game in Washington, opening up a pretty nasty cut on her forehead that would require stitches to repair. Those stitches would have to wait though, as Drummond refused repairs until the game was over despite leaking quite heavily from her skull. The Caps trailed by one goal with just over three minutes left to play in regulation when Drummond suffered the injury, but they managed to tie the game up and force OT before winning 5-4 in a shootout…Drummond wound up getting five stitches following the game but said it was worth it to see her team pull out the victory. Read more »

Opening Bell: 12.16.13

Germany Appears To Backtrack On EU Banking Deal (WSJ)
EU finance ministers have promised to agree on a so-called single-resolution mechanism—consisting of more centralized decision-making and financing for the shuttering or downsizing of failing banks—before the end of the year. But a letter sent by Wolfgang Schäuble to some of his counterparts sets clear limits on how far Europe’s biggest economy is willing to go. Mr. Schäuble’s letter, dated Dec. 12 and seen by The Wall Street Journal, was described by German officials as reiterating Berlin’s concerns expressed in recent talks. But several other European officials see it as backtracking on earlier German concessions that had made possible an agreement last Tuesday on broad principles among the finance ministers of the euro zone’s biggest countries. That preliminary agreement was meant to lead to a more-specific and detailed deal among 28 EU countries this week.

UBS Wins End to Suit Over Adoboli’s $2.3 Billion Losses (Bloomberg)
UBS won dismissal of a suit claiming the bank lied to investors about its risk-management practices before its disclosure of a $2.3 billion trading loss by “rogue trader” Kweku Adoboli. Adoboli, who worked in UBS’s London office, was convicted of fraud and sentenced to seven years in prison last year. The unauthorized trading loss was the biggest in British history. “That a ‘rogue trader’ was able to cause such a significant loss to UBS is more akin to a claim of mismanagement than of fraud,” U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan said yesterday in a ruling dismissing the suit.

Fed could set off year-end fireworks (Reuters)
Though the odds still point to no major policy change when U.S. central bankers meet December 17-18, most of the recent domestic economic data suggest the beginning of the end of their massive bond-buying program is coming sooner than later. If it acts it may reflect as much a growth in confidence in the global economy, for whom the withdrawal of the flow of cheap dollars will be a shock, as in the recovery in the United States alone. Growth in jobs, retail sales, services and overall output in the world’s biggest economy – combined with last week’s breakthrough budget deal in Washington – has convinced some economists that the Fed will announce a reduction to its $85-billion a month in purchases on Wednesday.

Gold Funds See Unprecedented 31% Slump as World Loses Faith (Bloomberg)
Holdings in the 14 biggest ETPs plunged 31 percent to 1,813.7 metric tons since the start of January, the first annual decrease since the funds started trading in 2003, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The removals erased $69.5 billion in the value of the assets as prices fell by the most since 1981. A further 311 tons will be withdrawn next year, according to the median of 11 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. ETP investments reached a record $148 billion last year, helping sustain the bull market that drove a more than sixfold increase in prices since 2001 by offering a way to own bullion without needing to store it. The slump shows some investors losing faith in gold as a preserver of wealth after inflation failed to accelerate and the Federal Reserve signaled it may curb stimulus. John Paulson, the biggest investor in the largest ETP, said last month he doesn’t plan to buy more.

A Cold Meal (NYP)
Billionaire businessman Steve Schwarzman likes cold hard cash. But a meat-locker-cold steakhouse? Not so much. With temperatures already dipping into the teens on Thursday night, a shivering Schwarzman groused multiple times at a private dinner hosted by the private-equity tycoon’s Blackstone Group at Smith & Wollensky. “Can we get some heat in here?” Schwarzman griped during the event at one point.

Wal-Mart Employee Arrested For Shooting Co-Worker’s Car Over Award (CBS)
According to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report last month’s employee of the month at a Deerfield Beach Wal-Mart store on South Military Trail had her car shot up by a co-worker who was angry after she won the award. Willie Mitchell is charged with discharging a firearm from a vehicle. The Broward Sheriff’s Office said surveillance video from a Wal-Mart parking lot shows Mitchell parking next to a co-worker’s earlier in December. A few minutes later, investigators said Mitchell rolls down a back window, fires a shot into his co-worker’s car then drives off. The co-worker was not in her vehicle at the time. BSO Spokesperson Veda Coleman-Wright said the shooting stemmed from some bad feelings after the victim won an Employee of the Month Award. “She was announced as the employee of the month which you would think that would be something good, people would be happy for her,” Coleman-Wright said. “But there was one employee who wasn’t happy.” Read more »

Opening Bell: 12.12.13

Banks Speeding Asia Promotions Doubles Rate of Pay Raises (Bloomberg)
Ang Eng Siong, 33, has been promoted every year since he completed Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp.’s management associate program in 2010, when he was put in charge of two older, higher-ranked colleagues. “My team members were all a lot more experienced in that particular role,” said Ang, now a vice-president of corporate treasury in Singapore under the chief financial officer. “An opportunity to manage an important project would be rare so they wanted just to give me the exposure.” Banks and companies across Asia are putting local employees like Ang on a fast track to senior roles to counter a dearth of management expertise in the region and to deter staff from being poached by rivals. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. opened its first leadership academy outside of Korea in Singapore in October, following companies from OCBC to Unilever Plc. that have spent millions on training institutes in the region. “Talent is in short supply and secondly businesses are growing faster than people can grow,” said John Nolan, Singapore-based senior vice president of human resources for global markets at Unilever. “One way to fill that talent shortage is to accelerate the rate of readiness of your people.” He said the company’s philosophy is to try to promote employees in emerging markets faster than the five to six years it takes globally to move up a level.

Criminal Action Is Expected for JPMorgan in Madoff Case (Dealbook)
JPMorgan Chase and federal authorities are nearing settlements over the bank’s ties to Bernard L. Madoff, striking tentative deals that would involve roughly $2 billion in penalties and a rare criminal action. The government will use a sizable portion of the money to compensate Mr. Madoff’s victims. The settlements, which are coming together on the anniversary of Mr. Madoff’s arrest at his Manhattan penthouse five years ago on Wednesday, would fault the bank for turning a blind eye to his huge Ponzi scheme, according to people briefed on the case who were not authorized to speak publicly.

For No. 2 at Fed, White House Favors Central Banker in the Bernanke Mold (NYT)
Stanley Fischer, the former governor of the Bank of Israel and a mentor to the Federal Reserve’s chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, is the leading candidate to become vice chairman of the Fed, according to former and current administration officials. If nominated, and then confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Fischer, 70, would succeed Janet L. Yellen, whom President Obama nominated to succeed Mr. Bernanke as the Fed’s leader when his term ends in January. Mr. Fischer is at once a surprising choice and a popular pick among economists and investors. He is a highly regarded economist with significant policy-making experience, yet many had considered his selection improbable because of his recent service in a foreign government.

Manchester United Faces Doubter in the Market (Dealbook)
The British soccer team Manchester United has made a poor showing on the field this season. Now the British hedge fund manager Crispin Odey is making a multimillion-dollar bet that the club’s New York-listed shares are destined for a similar trajectory. Odey Asset Management, Mr. Odey’s fund, has taken a $22 million short position against Manchester United shares. Mr. Odey’s bet pits him against several investors who remain strong supporters of the team. George Soros has a 5.3 percent stake, and GLG, a division of the world’s biggest hedge fund, Man Group, has a 2.2 percent stake.

Kama Sutra cookie cutters set to raise bakers’ temperatures (Daily Mail)
The £17.99 set includes four raunchy positions to recreate in dough, including the naughtily-named ‘Baking From Behind’ and ‘Very Well Risen’ designs. Each cookie cutter depicts two gingerbread men/women positioned in a different sex act found in the ancient erotic manual the Karma Sutra…The instructions read: ‘Simply prepare your favourite type of cookie dough, cut out your shapes and then turn your oven into a sordid little dungeon of carnal pleasure. Whilst you furiously beat the dough, squirt the icing and grab yourself a nice big rack to cool your cookies on, you can think up all sorts of hilarious baking double entendres.’ Read more »

Opening Bell: 12.11.13

Deal Brings Stability to U.S. Budget (WSJ)
House and Senate negotiators, in a rare bipartisan act, announced a budget agreement Tuesday designed to avert another economy-rattling government shutdown and to bring a dose of stability to Congress’s fiscal policy-making over the next two years. Sen. Patty Murray (D., Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), who struck the deal after weeks of private talks, said it would allow more spending for domestic and defense programs in the near term, while adopting deficit-reduction measures over a decade to offset the costs. Revenues to fund the higher spending would come from changes to federal employee and military pension programs, and higher fees for airline passengers, among other sources. An extension of long-term jobless benefits, sought by Democrats, wasn’t included.

Regulators Vote To Back Volcker Rule (WSJ)
A broad new government rule to limit risk-taking by Wall Street will force banks to rethink virtually every aspect of their trading activities, setting the stage for more tumult at the largest U.S. financial institutions. The so-called Volcker rule, approved by five financial regulatory agencies on Tuesday, could lop as much as $10 billion total in yearly pretax profit from the eight largest U.S. banks through lower revenue and higher compliance costs, according to estimates from Standard & Poor’s. The 953-page edict, part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial overhaul, codifies and restricts the way banks trade securities. It curbs banks’ ability to bet with their own capital and forces them to draw bright lines separating trades for clients from trades to limit their risks and so-called proprietary bets.

Late Summer Meeting Gave Urgency To Regulators On Volcker Rule (Dealbook)
Gathered in the Roosevelt Room on a late summer afternoon, the regulators outlined their progress in carrying out the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law, save for one crucial element: the Volcker Rule. The rule, a centerpiece of Dodd-Frank and a symbol of the Obama administration’s effort to rein in risk-taking after the financial crisis, was mired in delays, a victim of internal regulatory squabbling and fierce lobbying from the financial industry. But when Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew spoke up, people briefed on the meeting recalled in recent interviews, he declared that the rule was too important to delay and that he wanted the deal done by the end of 2013.

Era of Lucrative Debt Traders Fades as Credit Suisse Sees Exits (Bloomberg)
At least six senior members of the firm’s U.S. credit team have departed its New York office this year as top pay for high-yield debt traders and salespeople fell to about $3.5 million in 2012 from as much as $5 million three years earlier, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. The bank has scrapped monthly commissions it had paid as part of efforts to retain a DLJ junk-bond team led by an associate of Michael Milken, who created the market in the 1980s, the people said.

Witness Describes Madoff’s Effort to Save Firm in Last Days (WSJ)
Frank DiPascali Jr. choked up while telling jurors in Manhattan federal court Tuesday that Mr. Madoff finally revealed to him the scope of the fraud during a late-night meeting in Mr. Madoff’s office just days before his arrest. “He turned to me and said, crying, ‘I’m at the end of my rope,’” said Mr. DiPascali, a high-school-educated, Queens, N.Y., native who worked for Mr. Madoff for 30 years. “What do you mean?” Mr. DiPascali said he responded. “I mean I have no more…money,” Mr. Madoff responded, according to his former employee. “Don’t you get it? The whole…thing was a fraud.”

Tacos or death, sword-wielding robber demands (Chron)
A San Antonio man threatened a waitress with a sword he had holstered on his waist last week after he was told he would indeed have to pay for the tacos he ordered at a South Side restaurant, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. Adam Kramer, 28, has been charged with aggravated robbery and remains in the Bexar County Jail with a bail amount of $50,000. Kramer ordered six tacos at Alondras De Jalisco on South Loop 1604 at about 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 2, according to documents released Friday. When the waitress told Kramer how much he owed, he responded that he was going to take them for free, officials said. When the waitress told Kramer that he had to pay for his food, he allegedly started sliding what is described as a large sword in and out of a black sheath on his waist, the affidavit says. The waitress asked the cook to come talk with Kramer, who left the building when the phone rang, according to the affidavit. Kramer went to his vehicle before walking back to the restaurant, still allegedly carrying the large sword, so the waitress locked the door, documents state. “Mr. Kramer was yelling that he wanted his free tacos or somebody was going to die,” the affidavit says. Read more »

Opening Bell: 12.10.13

Companies, Activists Declare Truce in Boardroom Battles (WSJ)
Activist investors are increasingly encountering an unusual reception when approaching corporate targets: an open door. Instead of pulling up the drawbridge as activists approach, corporate executives and directors more often are engaging, concluding that it is easier and cheaper to negotiate rather than resist and risk a public fight, advisers and executives said. Even Carl Icahn, long seen as the archenemy of chief executives, is finding the path to the boardroom easier to tread. Mr. Icahn, among the most relentless of activists, secured representatives on more boards this year than he ever has, without resorting to shareholder-vote battles. “I’m even surprised,” Mr. Icahn said in an interview. “Being admitted to all these boards without a proxy fight would have been unthinkable only a year ago.”

Hilton Moves Up IPO To Wednesday (WSJ)
Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. has accelerated the timetable for its potential $2.7 billion IPO and is now planning on pricing its shares after markets close on Wednesday, instead of on Thursday, people familiar with the matter said. The acceleration reflects strong demand for the IPO from investors who have met with management during the ongoing road show, the people said.

Candy Crush maker not sweet on IPO in ‘13 (NYP)
Candy Crush Saga — the popular mobile game — will not go public this year, according to published reports. The company behind the game — Midasplayer — has delayed its initial public offering on the Nasdaq until next year amid fears that the flagship game has been “too successful”. The British company does not wish to be seen as a one-trick pony with Candy Crush and wants to take some time developing other games to add to the portfolio before coming to public markets.

Nomura to Hire 20 U.S. Bankers in Bid to Regain M&A Rank (Bloomberg)
The company will seek people to work on leveraged lending and building relationships with private-equity firms such as KKR & Co., global investment banking head Kentaro Okuda said in an interview in Tokyo. Others will be recruited to cover the hotel, real estate, casino and gaming industries, he said. The hiring plans mark a shift by Chief Executive Officer Koji Nagai toward resurrecting Nomura’s global ambitions after spending the first 16 months of his tenure fixing his predecessor’s missteps, such as ballooning overseas costs and an insider-trading scandal that roiled domestic operations. The brokerage is expanding in leveraged finance as stricter global capital requirements make the business more expensive for banks. “We’ve entered the phase where we can think about how to make deals and obtain clients in the Americas,” Okuda, 50, said in the Nov. 28 interview. “There are tons of deals there.”

SAC analyst claims sleep kept him from passing along tips (NYP)
It is hard to do insider trading in your sleep. That just about sums up Jon Horvath’s testy comeback to defense lawyer Barry Berke’s continued jabs in Manhattan federal court Monday. On Feb. 9, 2009, Horvath received an email from Primary Global Research’s Danny Kuo, a member of his insider-trading circle, who had developed an accounting-manager source inside Nvdia who gave him inside information about upcoming earnings of the tech company. But Horvath did not pass the information along to his boss, portfolio manager Michael Steinberg, when the two communicated that day and Steinberg traded in the stock. Horvath, trying to show the jury that not every illicit tip was passed along, responded to Berke: “I think I was in Taiwan and didn’t see this at the time. It was difficult to do in my sleep.”

Bowlers Journal International Rolls On (WSJ)
In its October issue, Bowlers Journal International offered advice to college freshmen, encouraging them to study hard, think positive and avoid excessive curve on the ball. “You do not have to hook it that much,” said the column. The issue also profiled a Latvian bowling queen, identified the sport’s most powerful people and reviewed new balls such as the Reign On: “With the hybrid Reign On, players get the traction of a dull solid reactive, but with the extra backend of a pearl reactive.” As a magazine that covers bowling, Bowlers Journal operates at the intersection of bad and worse. Not only is the magazine industry troubled, losing advertisers to the Internet. But since 1980, the number of competitive bowlers in America has plummeted from almost nine million to about two million, leaving most bowling publications with no place to go except broke. The latest to tumble: 20-year-old Bowling This Month, a magazine that published its final issue this autumn, citing economic difficulties. By contrast, Bowlers Journal turned 100 last month, and marked the occasion by publishing a 300-page commemorative edition “celebrating 100 years of world-class bowling journalism.” It is a milestone few magazines ever reach, and those that do tend to cover topics that never fall out of style. For instance, Good Housekeeping. “You hear people say that magazines are dead, and you hear people say that bowling is dead. Yet here you have a 300-page bowling magazine,” says Samir A. Husni, director of the University of Mississippi’s Magazine Innovation Center. Read more »

Opening Bell: 12.09.13

Deutsche Bank creates new post to tighten controls (Reuters)
Deutsche Bank on Monday named 43-year-old Thomas Poppensieker as head of a new effort to tighten controls at Germany’s flagship lender, reporting directly to co-Chief Executives Juergen Fitschen and Anshu Jain. The move comes as Deutsche Bank pursues an ambitious cultural transformation plan led by Fitschen and Jain, and as it works through a long list of scandals, investigations and fines that came in the wake of the financial crisis.

Paulson Extends Comeback With Merger Bets as Stocks Rally (Bloomberg)
After wrong-way bets on the U.S. recovery, the euro crisis and gold had helped cut assets by about half from the 2011 peak, his main hedge funds are posting double-digit returns. The New York-based firm’s Advantage strategy, which suffered record losses in 2011, is up 30 percent this year through November, and the Recovery fund surged 55 percent, according to two people briefed on the returns, who asked not to be identified because the information is private.

Big Investors Change U.S. Trading (WSJ)
Some of the world’s biggest investors are changing the way they trade in U.S. markets in response to what they say are rising risks for institutions of their size. The strategies include conducting more “upstairs trades,” in which deals are executed among big institutions, bypassing the broader market, as well as other sophisticated order-routing techniques designed to avoid pitfalls that have become increasingly apparent to investment managers. Investors say such measures are increasingly necessary because the proliferation of algorithmic trading and other structural issues, including thefragmentation of the market, are hurting their ability to get the best prices and execute large trades quickly.

My Interview With Madoff (WSJ0
The 75-year-old, dressed in beige polyester pants and shirt with a matching canvas belt, showed no signs of stress. He told the occasional joke and said he was lucky to be in Butner, as it had a reputation of being “very laid back” and is kind of like a “camp.” “This is as good as it gets,” said Mr. Madoff.

Domestic Battery Rap Dropped In Water Pistol Case (TSG)
Giovanna Borge was busted in September following a confrontation with her beau in a Port St. Lucie apartment. Borge told officers that her boyfriend “said something to her that she did not like,” so she “took a water pistol and squirted him with water.” Following the pistol dripping, the pair tussled, with Borge claiming that her boyfriend struck her with a pillow and dumped a container of water on her head. But since Port St. Lucie Police Department officers decided that Borge was the “primary aggressor” during the September 27 incident, she was collared for “squirting water” on the victim to “antagonize and agitate him against his wishes.” Read more »