Opening Bell

Opening Bell: 02.28.14

Bitcoin Derivatives Sprout as Regulators Play Catch-Up (Bloomberg)
The closing of a major Bitcoin exchange in Japan not only focused attention on the digital currency’s risks, it also rattled a still-newer market that regulators are just starting to monitor: Bitcoin derivatives. George Samman, a former Wall Street investment adviser who in May helped start a platform for betting on Bitcoin’s price swings, saw trading on his BTC.sx website grow to more than $35 million by Jan. 21. After the shutdown at Mt. Gox, the Tokyo-based exchange for buying Bitcoins, BTC.sx suspended trading — because it had to find another exchange partner for its customers. “It is semi-Wild West, but that’s only because it’s new,” Samman said before the Mt. Gox shutdown.

Bitcoin owners find safe place for digital currency: on paper (Reuters)
Canadian mortgage broker and bitcoin enthusiast Chung Cheong writes out his secret number by hand and puts it in a safety deposit box. “The only way to ever access that address and those bitcoins is that piece of paper,” said Cheong. “I pray that there isn’t a big fire and the bank burns down. Because if that happens, I’m out of luck.”

Third Point’s Loeb Ramps Up Fight with Sotheby’s (WSJ)
Mr. Loeb nominated himself and two others to Sotheby’s board of directors early Thursday, setting up a potentially distracting fight for shareholder votes. The move came hours before the company said its profit jumped 37% in the fourth quarter amid strong sales of Asian and Impressionist art. The two sides are battling over Mr. Loeb’s arguments that Sotheby’s needs to improve its performance online and expand its presence in contemporary art. In a scathing letter to the board in October, Mr. Loeb criticized Sotheby’s as an “old master painting in desperate need of restoration.”

State Street Enters Fray as Corporate-Bond Broker (WSJ)
As Wall Street banks pull back from some corporate bond trades with clients, other large financial institutions are looking to step in. A State Street Corp. unit has begun handling corporate-bond trades between large investment firms as an intermediary, company officials said. That job is often done by a bank-owned broker-dealer. Rival Bank of New York Mellon Corp. is considering offering a similar service, said people familiar with the matter. The move marks the latest effort to profit from a gradual shift in how trades are handled in the $9.6 trillion corporate-bond market. As banks have retreated from acting as middlemen for bond trades, citing tough new regulations on their capital and risk-taking, a host of financial firms, including some small regional dealers, have looked to cash in on the void they leave behind.

Microsoft Chairman Says Company Must Focus Under Nadella (Bloomberg)
“The issue for us is, quite frankly, about focus,” Thompson said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “One of the reasons we chose Satya Nadella is he has a strong technology background. He understands exactly what needs to happen to move Microsoft forward.”

The Battle to Cheer Up Africa’s Last Polar Bear (WSJ)
Wang was sprawled on his back in the sweltering heat, when veterinarian Katja Koeppel approached with apple slices and the daunting task of cheering up Africa’s last polar bear. “Wang!” she called. “Here, Wang!” Ms. Koeppel threw the sliced green apples 30 feet down into his rock-and-grass enclosure. Wang ambled toward the apples, ate them and went back to lying listlessly on the grass. Ms. Koeppel looked resigned. It was another dreary day for one skinny, dirt-covered and depressed polar bear. Wang has been on his own since Geebee, his companion at the Johannesburg Zoo for nearly three decades, died of heart failure in January. Wang’s keepers fear grief on top of liver trouble and a summer heat wave in the Southern Hemisphere could combine to kill the 29-year-old bear. So they’re ramping up his behavior enrichment with a full regimen of toys, treats and psychological intervention aimed at lifting his spirits. On Valentine’s Day, keepers wrote “We love you, Wang” on a cardboard box filled with treats and lowered it into his enclosure. As couples watched from above, Wang nosed the package into a dark room, delicately opened the lid and devoured the fruit and heart-shaped beef steak within. “Wang is pining for Geebee,” says Ms. Koeppel, the zoo’s manager of veterinary services, “and is understandably very stressed.” As was true of Geebee, Wang is nearing the limits of polar-bear life expectancy, so the zoo says it’s too late for him to adjust to a new partner. Read more »

Opening Bell: 02.27.14

Bitcoin Foundation Aided Prosecutor’s Probe of Mt. Gox (Bloomberg)
The Bitcoin Foundation, an advocacy group for the nascent digital currency, provided information to federal prosecutors this week that aided a probe into Mt. Gox, a shuttered exchange in Tokyo. “The Bitcoin Foundation proactively reached out to the Southern District of New York to offer assistance,” the Seattle-based organization said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. “We are continuing to help them and we are cooperating fully with their investigation.” Shortly after Mt. Gox’s chief executive officer, Mark Karpeles, resigned from the foundation’s board on Feb. 24, the organization briefed the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office with information about the possible theft of as much as $400 million from the Bitcoin exchange, according to two people familiar with the effort. They requested anonymity because the talks were private.

Some Companies Alter the Bonus Playbook (WSJ)
U.S. companies increasingly are using unconventional earnings measures in determining bonuses, making it easier for them to appear more profitable when they reward executives with big paydays. Last year, 542 companies said they determine compensation using financial measurements that differ from U.S. accounting standards, according to an analysis performed by consultant Audit Analytics for The Wall Street Journal. That is more than double the 249 companies that did so in 2009. The practice can be controversial because it strips out various costs—from employee stock payments to asset write-downs—that can depress profits. Such moves are on the rise at a time when the Securities and Exchange Commission has said it is scrutinizing nonstandard earnings measures. The commission declined to comment on their use in executive-pay decisions. “Everything you can think of to manipulate this has been done,” said Gary Hewitt, head of research at GMI Ratings, a corporate-governance research firm.

Is Wall Street Pay Hampering U.S. Innovation? (BusinessWeek)
…venture capitalist Andrew Yang is here with yet another critique of the fact that a disproportionate number of college graduates are squandering their hard-earned educations on Wall Street careers. “A friend told me about a young Princeton graduate she knew named Cole. Cole studied mathematics and went to work for a hedge fund directly out of school. He’s now making well into six figures at the age of 24. That’s his whole story to date,” Yang writes in an excerpt from his book, Smart People Should Build Things. “That’s success and the American way. And yet how excited are you about Cole’s trajectory?” Yang argues that our idea of achievement has become far too narrow and materialistic. It is hurting the economy by taking math, science, and liberal arts graduates away from fields where they might invent and build and hire people at new companies they found and concentrating them in the financial sector, where they aren’t likely to contribute to future economic growth. He asserts that many of the most highly educated young people are also some of the most risk-averse, overly concerned about predictable career advancement and impressing their parents and friends.

Corporate Economists Are Hot Again (WSJ)
Many companies had corporate economists on staff in the volatile 1970s and ’80s, but dropped them when the U.S. economy was steady and strong. Information from government agencies, such as industrial output from the Federal Reserve, was plentiful, along with research from private consultants, including Macroeconomic Advisers LLC in St. Louis and IHS Global Insight of Englewood, Colo. “The reaction in the corporate world was: ‘I can get my average GDP forecasts from anybody. Why do I need an economist in my shop?’ ” said Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, chief economist for Ford Motor Co. The key to the revival of in-house economists, companies and economists say, is the need to digest huge amounts of data—from production volumes in overseas markets to laptop usage in urban areas—to determine opportunities and risks for companies’ business units, not just in the U.S. but around the world…Richard DeKaser, a vice president and corporate economist at Wells Fargo, leads a team of eight people, including six economists, who standardize the models and data used to measure risk in different business units, such as mortgage lending and credit cards. Previously, one unit might base unemployment figures on payroll data, while another would use household surveys. Doing so undermined the accuracy of tests to measure risks for losses and contributed to mistakes in business planning. “The great recession laid bare a lot of fundamental mistakes that an economist can be useful in preventing,” said Mr. DeKaser, who was previously chief economist for National City Bank.

Suspect: I didn’t know cocaine is illegal (KIN)
A Key West man was jailed Sunday for alleging trying to ditch a bag of cocaine in a planter at the Pier House Resort at 1 Duval St. in Key West. Guy Lanchester, 46, reportedly told Officer Darnell Sealy he didn’t know why he was being arrested: “I don’t understand. I thought cocaine wasn’t illegal in Florida.” Sealy arrested Lanchester about 2 a.m. following a call from a Pier House security guard who saw Lanchester and two others walk onto the property, then heard a scream. In addition to cocaine possession, Lanchester is charged with felony tampering with evidence. Sealy describes the second charge: “I asked Lanchester what he had in his hand and Lanchester quickly shoved his hands into the flower pot and yanked them back out.” Read more »

Opening Bell: 02.26.14

Billionaire Paulson Said in Talks to Buy Puerto Rico Resort (Bloomberg)
Paulson & Co. is seeking to acquire La Concha Resort and the Condado Vanderbilt, neighboring beachfront hotels in the capital city of San Juan, according to two people with knowledge of the transaction. The firm will pay about $200 million for the properties, in which the territory’s Government Development Bank owns a stake, said the people, who asked not to be named because the deal hasn’t been completed.

JPMorgan to cut 8,000 jobs, lowers 2014 profit target (Reuters)
JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N), the largest U.S. bank, announced thousands of job cuts on Tuesday as the mortgage lending business slows, and said it was lowering its profitability target. The company said it expected total headcount to fall by 5,000 to 260,000 in 2014. Around 6,000 full-time and contractor jobs in JPMorgan’s home loans unit and 2,000 jobs in its branch and credit-card network will be cut. At the same time, the bank expects to add 3,000 new jobs in its control function, including areas like compliance.

Tell-all on Pimco was ‘overblown,’ Gross says (NetNet)
“All this discourse about an autocratic style from my standpoint and conflict between Mohammed and myself is overblown,” Gross said during an interview on “Street Signs.”

BofA Discloses New Probes Amid Surge in Possible Legal Costs (Bloomberg)
Bank of America Corp., the second-biggest U.S. lender, disclosed new probes into mortgage and foreign-exchange units and boosted an estimate of potential legal losses by 20 percent to $6.1 billion. The developments were reported in an annual regulatory filing today by the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company. The fresh estimate of litigation expenses, which concerns costs that aren’t covered by reserves as of Dec. 31, compares with $5.1 billion at the end of the third quarter.

Many big U.S. corporations pay very little in taxes: study (Reuters)
Citizens for Tax Justice looked at 288 profitable Fortune 500 companies and said that 26 of them – including Boeing Co (BA.N), General Electric Co (GE.N) and Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N) – paid no federal income tax in the five-year period. The group also said that 111 of the 288 companies paid no federal income tax in at least one of the five years measured. In a reflection of how the tax code’s complexity leaves many issues open to question, corporations sometimes dispute the way Citizens for Tax Justice calculates its numbers. Some of the companies singled out took exception to the findings. GE spokesman Seth Martin said: “For each year cited by Citizens for Tax Justice, GE paid income taxes in the U.S., as well as billions in other state, local and federal taxes in the U.S.”

‘Horny’ and drunk Florida woman arrested for calling 911, begging cop for sex: report (NYDN)
Maria Montenez-Colon, 58, was arrested Friday night in the misuse of 911. The officer drove to her home in Punta Gorda after she reportedly told a dispatcher that she wanted her late husband’s Corvette back after giving it to her son, authorities said. But it appears she really wanted to satisfy her lust for lawmen. The cop says Montenez-Colon was drunk when he arrived and immediately started making sexually suggestive comments such as “You are so sexy” and “Are you married?” But she saved the most lascivious for when he asked how he could help her. “You can f–k me,” she said, according to an arrest report obtained by The Smoking Gun. She allegedly grabbed the cop’s arm and tried to rub her hands across his chest so he told her that her behavior was inappropriate. Read more »

Opening Bell: 02.21.14

J.P. Morgan Holder Pulls Independent-Chair Proposal (WSJ)
A J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. shareholder has pulled a proposal calling for the largest U.S. bank to split the chairman and chief executive posts held since 2006 by James Dimon. A small Toledo philanthropic organization called The Needmor Fund had backed the nonbinding resolution asking J.P. Morgan to name an independent chair for its board. But J.P. Morgan said in a news release that it had reached an agreement with the group to withdraw the proposal. The decision by The Needmor Fund means that Mr. Dimon won’t face a vote from shareholders this month about whether they support the idea of having different people in the roles of chairman and CEO role, a company spokesman said. The bank said it agreed to an “ongoing dialogue” with the proponents and to hear any questions “directors might consider in reviewing the implications of combining or separating the roles of CEO and chair.”

Upstarts Hope to Make 2014 a Blowout Year for Hedge-Fund Debuts (WSJ)
A host of notable hedge-fund startups are expected to begin operating in 2014, each with at least $500 million—and in one case $2 billion—to invest. Bankers and lawyers who work with such funds say this is likely to be the busiest year for launches since the financial crisis. The resurgence comes even as the industry broadly has underperformed recently when compared with rebounding stock markets…Among the new entrants this year are veterans from established funds venturing out on their own, including Herb Wagner, formerly of Baupost Group LLC, Matthew Sidman, out of Highfields Capital Management LP, and Jim Parsons of Viking, according to people familiar with the matter. Baupost and Highfields are also closed, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Murdoch Buys 4 Floors of NYC Condo Tower for $57 Million (Bloomberg)
Murdoch, 82, who is also chief executive officer of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc., went into contract to purchase two units at One Madison, a triplex penthouse spanning the 58th through 60th stories and another full-floor apartment beneath it, his spokesman, Steven Rubenstein, said. The properties total about 10,160 square feet (944 square meters), according to a statement from Related Cos., one of the developers of the tower on East 22nd Street in Manhattan’s Flatiron neighborhood.

Energy Holdings Prepares for a Breakup (wSJ)
One of the biggest leveraged buyouts of an American company is preparing to file for bankruptcy protection, brought to its knees by heavy debt and a misguided bet on the direction of natural gas prices. Energy Future Holdings Corp., previously called TXU Corp., is lining up loans to keep two subsidiaries operating during bankruptcy proceedings after months of talks have failed to produce an agreement with creditors on reworking its $40 billion-plus in debt, according to people familiar with the matter.

Loeb: Spirituality is good for Wall Street (NYP)
“Meditation, contemplation — it’s not just for monks and hermits,” Loeb told attendees at an American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

World’s Largest Oyster Is Size Of A Man’s Shoe (NPR)
The world’s largest oyster is nearly 14 inches long and resides in Denmark, according to the folks at Guinness World Records. And it’s still alive and growing, according to Christine Ditlefsen, the biologist at the Wadden Sea Centre whose world record was recently certified. The oyster was found in October in Wadden Sea National Park, a shallow area off of the North Sea on Denmark’s southwestern coast. Its size and shape could be said to resemble a huge plaintain. But when they found it, the Wadden staff compared the oyster to a large and sturdy shoe. “My staff called me immediately and said we’ve found this oyster that’s as big as a 44 shoe,” Klaus Melbye, the head of the Wadden center, told the food website Fine Dining Lovers in October, when the discovery was first reported. Here in America, a European size 44 is equal to a men’s shoe size of 11 (or a largish 10-1/2; shoe sizes aren’t the most scientifically calibrated things). But the oyster might outgrow that comparison, because it could live another 10 years. Read more »

Opening Bell: 02.20.14

Zuckerberg Bonded With WhatsApp’s Koum Over Coffee and Chocolate (Bloomberg)
The relationship between Facebook Inc. and WhatsApp Inc. started in spring 2012 over coffee at a German bakery. It was consummated on Valentine’s Day with chocolate-covered strawberries, after just five days of talks…Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive officer, first reached out to WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum in early 2012, inviting him for coffee at the bakery in Los Altos, California. They ended up talking for more than two hours, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The two became friends, meeting frequently for dinners and hiking together. On Feb. 9 Koum went to Zuckerberg’s Palo Alto, California house for dinner. That’s when the conversation for a possible deal became serious, the person said. The two first talked about how they could work together more closely on Zuckerberg’s Internet.org initiative for connecting the world on mobile devices. Zuckerberg, 29, then proposed that their companies join together, and that Koum join Facebook’s board. Koum took a few days to think it over. Five days later, on Feb. 14, Zuckerberg was having dinner with his wife at home when Koum showed up, strawberries in hand. They then negotiated a price.

Fed Puts Rate Increase On The Radar (WSJ)
Conversation at the Federal Reserve’s most recent policy meeting turned to something that hasn’t been a serious topic for years: the possibility of interest-rate increases in the near future. The Fed has held short-term interest rates near zero since December 2008, near the height of the financial crisis, and Chairwoman Janet Yellen shows no appetite for raising them soon. Investors, seeing that, generally don’t see Fed rate increases until well into 2015, a view also held by many officials. Still, a “few” Fed officials argued at a Jan. 28-29 policy meeting that increases might be needed soon to prevent the economy from overheating, according to minutes of the meeting released Wednesday. These officials were most likely from the Fed’s band of policy “hawks” who have largely failed in resisting the central bank’s easy-money policies.

I Took the GMAT With No Preparation. Here’s What Happened (BusinessWeek)
My official score report arrived a week later and included an analytical writing assessment. My score was 4.5 out of 6, placing me in the 43rd percentile. Tracey Briggs at GMAC [the owner of the GMAT exam] was right: brushing up on high school algebra and geometry would have probably inched me higher than the 35th percentile on quantitative, and some preparation might have meant I’d have to read each question only once. My 640 puts me on the very low end of the range for ultra-elite business schools. Harvard Business School’s class of 2015 range was 550-789, with a median score of 730. The Wharton School’s class of 2015 range was 630-790, with a mean score of 725. Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, No. 15 on Bloomberg Businessweek‘s 2012 ranking, might accept me more easily: The median score for the class of 2015 was 664. All told, my score was respectable: The overall median is 546…The GMAT may test your mettle and your memory, but it doesn’t measure innovation or determination. If you don’t test well, persuade schools in your essays and interviews that they need to see beyond your first year—to your future. Tell them Amy, a 640, said so.

Wall Street Girds for China Bribery Probe as IPOs Beckon (Bloomberg)
The Securities and Exchange Commission has asked several global investment banks for information about their hiring practices, according to four people familiar with the letters. The inquiry includes the leaders in international share sales by Chinese companies over the last five years: Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley, according to two of those people, who asked not to be identified because the review is confidential.

Enraged Surfer Allegedly Stabs Man In The Eye With A Surfboard (HP)
Mark Morlock, 41, was surfing the popular Australian surf break Snapper Rocks last Tuesday when he was approached by a man who he had accidentally cut off while surfing about five months earlier. According to Morlock, the attacker approached him from behind and asked if he remembered who he was. “I said, ‘Yeah I remember you, what do you want?’” Morlock recalled. “Then he let his board go from between his legs, straight into my face. He said, ‘You’re not laughing now, are you mate?’” The surfboard struck Morlock in his eye, leaving it severely damaged. Morlock was able to make his way back to shore, where he received first-aid from a lifeguard…But the altercation didn’t end there. Morlock said that while he waited to be taken to a hospital, the aggressive surfer approached him again, egging him on to continue the fight. “He was hiding in some bushes and came bolting down the stairs wanting to carry it on with my eye almost hanging out of my head,” Morlock said. Read more »

Opening Bell: 02.19.14

Fed adopts tough capital rules for foreign banks (Reuters)
The Federal Reserve on Tuesday adopted tight new rules for foreign banks to shield the U.S. taxpayer from costly bailouts, ceding only minor concessions despite pressure from abroad to weaken the rule. Foreign banks with sizable operations on Wall Street such as Deutsche Bank and Barclays had pushed back hard against the plan because it means they will need to transfer costly capital from Europe. The Fed, which oversees foreign banks, gave them a year longer to meet the standards, and applied it to fewer banks than in a first draft, but the rule was largely unchanged from when it was first proposed in December 2012.

New Push to Throw Assets Overboard (WSJ)
Companies ranging from chemical giants to restaurant chains have come under fire from shareholders wanting to break them apart, arguing that businesses perform better when they aren’t part of a sprawling conglomerate. The year isn’t even two months old, and already five companies have been targeted by investors pushing them to sell or spin off pieces, according to FactSet SharkWatch, which tracks such campaigns. That puts the year on pace to catch up with 2008, which marked the high-water mark for activism campaigns.

When the Boss Works Long Hours, Must We All? (WSJ)
In some cases, shifting your work hours can help. At companies where managers focus on face time, employees who work 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.—when more people are present—are more likely to get noticed than those who work 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Executive coach Michael Melcher was told in a previous job at an investment bank that “I wasn’t working long enough hours,” he says. “I started coming in later and staying later,” he says. “A couple of months later, my boss said, ‘It hasn’t gone unnoticed that you’re putting in additional hours.’”

How the Feds Can Take Even Legally Earned Bitcoins (BusinessWeek)
If you are paid in cash for mowing the lawn of a notorious drug dealer, the money is yours to keep even if the dealer obtained it illegally. But if the dealer pays you in Bitcoins, the government may seize them from you someday when you least expect it. This is Bitcoin’s nemo dat quod non habet problem, that being Latin for an old principle of English common law: “No one gives what he does not have.” If the drug lord didn’t legitimately own the Bitcoins in question because he got them via crime, then he can’t legitimately give them to you. You must give them up even if you’re not at fault. The same principle is at play when certain unwitting art buyers are forced to surrender works that were seized by the Nazis in World War II.

Tinder Makes Its First Match in Antarctica (The Cut)
On a lonely December night at Antarctica’s McMurdo Station, an American scientist conducting research there decided to log on to Tinder — “just for fun.” He’d been using the mobile dating app in the States for a few months, and wanted to see if there were any available women out on the loveless tundra. At first, no profiles showed up. But when he expanded the app’s location radius, he found someone: another researcher, working at a deep field camp a 45-minute helicopter ride away from the base station. He swiped right, indicating his interest, and a few minutes later, they matched. “She was actually in her tent in the Dry Valleys when we matched,” said the scientist, who asked not to be named out of concern that the government would revoke his internet privileges if anyone found out he was using precious broadband to look for hookups. Read more »

Opening Bell: 02.18.14

FX Traders Facing Extinction as Computers Replace Humans (Bloomberg)
Electronic dealing, which accounted for 66 percent of all currency transactions in 2013 and 20 percent in 2001, will increase to 76 percent within five years, according to Aite Group LLC, a Boston-based consulting firm that reviewed Bank for International Settlements data. About 81 percent of spot trading — the buying and selling of currency for immediate delivery — will be electronic by 2018, Aite said. “Foreign-exchange traders are much like stock floor traders: a rapidly dying breed,” said Charles Geisst, author of “Wall Street: A History” and a finance professor at Manhattan College in Riverdale, New York. “Once the banks realize they are costing them money, the positions will dwindle quickly.”

Bankers Reap Benefits of 2013 Rally (WSJ)
All benefited from a steep rise in bank stocks over the past year—shares of the top six U.S. banks on average rose 41% last year, compared with a 30% gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index.

Former Barclays Employees Charged by U.K. Over Libor Rigging (Bloomberg)
Three former Barclays Plc employees were charged by U.K. prosecutors with conspiring to manipulate Libor, bringing the number of people accused in global probes to more than a dozen. Peter Charles Johnson, 59, Jonathan James Mathew, 32, and Stylianos Contogoulas, 42, were charged with conspiring to defraud between June 2005 and August 2007, the Serious Fraud Office said in an e-mailed statement today. The charges are the first related to manipulation of U.S. dollar Libor, the agency said, while previous cases were linked to interest-rate benchmarks tied to the Japanese yen.

Summers: US faces a ‘Downton Abbey’ economy (CNBC)
The U.S. is at risk of becoming a “Downton Abbey” economy, as the gap between the top 1 percent and the poor widens, former US treasury secretary Larry Summers has warned. In a comment piece for the Financial Times, Summers highlighted that the share of income going to the top earners in the U.S. has increased sharply, while real wages and family incomes remain stagnant. These conditions will last beyond the normalisation of the economic cycle and budget deficits, Summers added. “The cumulative effect of all these developments is that the U.S. may well be on the way to becoming a Downton Abbey economy. President Barack Obama is right to be concerned. Those who condemn him for ‘tearing down the wealthy’ and engaging in un-American populism are, to put it politely, lacking in historical perspective,” Summers wrote.

How a Big Bet on Racing Suits Left U.S. Skaters in the Cold at Sochi (WSJ)
To be sure, no one knows what role, if any, the Mach 39 played in the team’s performance. Some insiders say that once doubts about the suit were planted in the team’s psyche, the skaters’ collective mental focus was broken. Team U.S.A. itself has pored over a multitude of other factors that could have contributed to their poor showing: race tactics, skate blades and the decision to hold their pre-Olympic camp at high altitude…The dramatic turnabout, meanwhile, has created a crisis for Under Armour. With revenues of $2.3 billion, the Baltimore-based company has skyrocketed to prominence in recent years with sleek skin-gripping sports apparel that made it a darling of athletes and investors alike. Long term effects are yet to be known, but on Friday, the stock fell 2.38%. In an interview, Matt Mirchin, the company’s director of marketing, said Monday the company still believes the skinsuit gave the skaters “the strongest chance of winning.” But the controversy hit the company where it hurt most—its credibility in high quality athletic apparel—exactly when it needed to shine on the world stage. With more than 90% of its revenues coming from North America, its partnership with the U.S. speedskating squad was supposed to help the company vault into new international markets.

Nike is actually making Marty McFly’s self-lacing shoes (NYP)
When Marty and Doc set a course for 2015 to blend in they needed to dress like futurites. Marty slipped on a self-adjusting jacket and put on a pair of awesome runners that automatically laced themselves up. Before our very eyes they fastened to his feet. “Power laces!” Marty cried. Now you could be doing the same next year after Nike designer Tinker Hatfield confirmed at an event in New Orleans that power laces were coming for 2015. “Are we gonna see power laces in 2015? To that, I say YES!” Hatfield said. Further information such as what models will get the special lacing system was not disclosed. Read more »