The Latest

On Angelo Mozilo Has No Idea Why People Still Want To Talk About Countrywide, He’s Yet To Be Inducted Into The CEO Hall Of Fame

Can any of you guys tell me if coordinating the colour of my skin with my bow tie and cuff links is too aggressive for an analyst?

- Guy who has been getting some weird looks today

  • 02 Sep 2014 at 2:15 PM
  • Banks

Britons 42% Less Unhappy With Their Banks

Don’t worry, the U.K.’s Financial Ombudsman Service still has plenty to do, since a 42% drop in complaints still leaves 191,000 complaints from the first half. Plus, now that the government has given its citizens the O.K. to be unhappy about things from 2012 and 2013 again, it’s all set to be even busier soon. Read more »

Carl Icahn Really Knows How To Make A 2.2% Return Shine

A couple of weeks back, Carl Icahn took to a regulatory filing to give himself a pat on the back for putting the kind of competent asses in boardroom chairs that instantaneously turn a company around. And no company got its ass more turned around than eBay, which boasted the worse corporate governance in the history of capitalism until Uncle Carl’s designee—well, not exactly designee, but someone inoffensive to both Carl and eBay—took his seat on June 17 and led the online auction site to an impressive 76% annualized return over the next 13 days, during which time eBay shares actually appreciated all of 2.2%.

That’s not bad for two weeks’ work, of course, but the crazy thing is that two months later, Icahn’s chart proving beyond any doubt that activism works or something actually understates his case. eBay shares are up 13.67% since former AT&T CEO David Dorman took his seat, and that annualizes out to something like 125%, give or take. Maybe he is a wizard. Or: Read more »

  • 02 Sep 2014 at 1:06 PM

Allowance Watch ’14: Citigroup

The Financial Times reports that Citi senior staff in Europe have received letters that essentially read:

To whom it may concern:

Please enjoy this extra money we’ll be depositing into your account each month, which is in no way, shape, or form to be construed as a bonus. Nod if you understand what we’re saying.

Best,
Citi Read more »

In June 2008, at the last Countrywide shareholder meeting after the company had been bought by Bank of America, founder Angelo Mozilo made a bold statement, telling those assembled, “[Bank of America] will reap the benefits of what we have sowed.” While one might quibble over the definition of the word “benefit,” the bank was unquestionably on the reaping end of what Mozilo and Co had sowed, namely a lot of predatory lending and mortgage messiness that ultimately grew and blossomed into approximately $71 billion worth of fines and BofA CEO Brian Moynihan’s near-nervous breakdown. Though mum when Bank of America was writing checks to resolve issues it inherited from CFC, Mozilo did deign to pick up the phone and chat with Bloomberg last week, following the news that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles intends to sue him over the not-so-great job he did. And thank god he did, because there is a lot we needed to be filled in on re: what Ang has been doing/thinking/feeling these last 6 years.

  • Like, his plans to build an old-timey Western town: “…a project in Templeton, a small Southern California town where he’s requested permits to build a two-story retail and office building on a vacant lot. Architectural sketches show a style suited for a quaint Western main street. ‘It’s a throwback to a century ago,’ Mozilo said. ‘I love America. I love everything about America.’”
  • His belief in, if not consumption of, Taco Bell: “One investment is a stake in a building that houses a Taco Bell outside Phoenix. Mozilo said he hasn’t eaten there because he stays away from chicken and beef.
  • His work giving the next generation a crash course in Finance 101: Mozilo Style: “Mozilo decided to teach undergraduates what he knows about finance last year. The former trustee of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, said he spent about two weeks in Italy at Gonzaga-in-Florence, housed in the Mozilo Center overlooking a 16th-century Medici garden. ‘I taught them the basics of finance based on my own experiences,’ he said. ‘I really enjoyed being among them. It was very refreshing for me.’”

The most interesting development, however, is probably his newfound penchant for speaking in the third person when denying any and all blame re: what went down at Countrywide. In short, Mozilo thinks those pointing fingers should go home and take a good look in the mirror. Read more »

  • 02 Sep 2014 at 12:11 PM

Boone Pickens Basically A Porn Star: 5th Wife

Investor T. Boone Pickens is 85 year-old, an age at which most people have long since stopped working and are generally taking it easy. That he is still pounding the pavement and “logging 500 hours a year jetting around the country to give speeches and interviews about the miracle of the American oil-and-gas boom” makes him something of an anomaly, and his longevity is the focus of a profile over at Forbes. What do we learn? That TBP keeps his eyesight sharp with monthly experimental injections “into the centre of his eyeball” and daily gym routine “A mile on the treadmill. Fifty sit-ups. Two sets of 20 squats while wearing a 60-pound weight vest. A couple of sets of 150-pound pull-downs.” In addition to keeping him alive and moving, the exercise apparently had the added benefit of keeping his latest bride happy: Read more »

Opening Bell: 09.02.2014

Heady U.S. IPO Market Rolls Into Autumn (WSJ)
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. plans this month to begin a marketing roadshow for what could be the largest IPO ever, potentially raising more than $20 billion. New York office landlord Paramount Group Inc. filed preliminary paperwork last week for what may be the largest-ever debut by a real-estate investment trust. Online-storage startup Box Inc. and consumer-credit upstart LendingClub Corp. also are expected to price offerings in coming months. The anticipated flood would cap off the busiest period for new U.S. share listings in decades. Companies this year have raised $46.4 billion, the most in the first eight months of any year since 2000, according to data provider Dealogic. “We still have a ton in the hopper, and I think people are optimistic about being able to execute deals after Labor Day,” said Marc Jaffe, co-chair of the global capital-markets practice at law firm Latham & Watkins LLP.

Bootcamp For Bankers (Dealbook)
Robert Vickers struggled not to grin, but the camouflage-clad drill sergeant caught him anyway. “Get down and beat your face. Start pushing!” Air Force Technical Sgt. Elbert Fish shouted, sweat beading on his chiseled face as the sound of combat — gunfire, incoming mortar shells, air sirens and helicopter rotors — punctuated the early morning air from speakers around a grassy field here. “You call that a push-up?” After counting out 20 push-ups, Sergeant Fish yelled, “Get up. I don’t want to see that smile on your face again.” Mr. Vickers volunteered for this treatment, but not for the military. He was one of about 300 employees of USAA, the financial services firm that primarily caters to military veterans and service members, who were doing push-ups, situps and jumping jacks before work at the company’s 280-acre corporate campus. Each of them had signed up for this taste of military basic training and spent months attending seminars and extensive workouts to prepare. They spent the predawn hours running several miles in formation, exercising and marching together. Zero Day PT, named after the first day of Army basic training, is one of many things USAA does to better educate its employees about the armed services. “You serve the military best when you understand the military,” said Josue Robles Jr., the chief executive and president of USAA, who is a retired Army major general.

Can the New York Stock Exchange Be Saved? (WSJ)
The day after Jeffrey Sprecher, the chairman and chief executive of Atlanta’s Intercontinental Exchange Inc., took control of the New York Stock Exchange, he sent trusted lieutenant Thomas Farley to size up the 222-year-old icon of capitalism. On a crisp November morning, the 38-year-old Mr. Farley arrived alone at the corner of Wall and Broad streets in lower Manhattan. After walking beneath the building’s majestic colonnade and past its storied trading floor, he found signs of an institution that was showing its age. Mr. Farley says he got lost in a “rabbit warren” of hallways and wood-paneled offices. He saw little interaction among employees, and some longtimers said they had never heard of colleagues who worked a few floors away. Within minutes, Mr. Farley made a decision: gut the place. Since then, Mr. Farley and his boss have launched a bruising, top-to-bottom renovation of the former NYSE Euronext, acquired for $8.2 billion. They want to shrink the company, simplify its operations and reshape its culture.

Carlyle’s $115M ends private equity ‘collusion’ case (NYP)
Carlyle Group is the last of the private-equity giants to settle civil charges that it colluded with rivals on tens of billions of dollars worth of deals. The Washington, DC-based firm, led by David Rubenstein, agreed over the weekend to pay $115 million to settle the federal court case brought by shareholders in the target companies. Seven PE firms agreed not to step into a rival’s takeout deal, thus cheating the shareholders out of a possible robust bidding and a higher takeover price, the suit alleged. Carlyle, Goldman Sachs, KKR, Bain Capital, Silver Lake Partners, Blackstone Group and TPG Capital neither admitted nor denied guilt.

Russia Said to Prepare Transfer of $10 Billion Fund Out of Sanctions’ Reach (Bloomberg)
Russia is preparing to transfer the ownership of a $10 billion sovereign wealth fund to the central bank from a sanctioned state-development lender, according to two people with knowledge of the plan. Russian Direct Investment Fund’s co-investors, which include sovereign funds in Europe and Asia, are concerned that sanctions may affect their investments in Russia if the state lender controls the assets, according to one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private.

Private jet: The new way to get to college (CNBC)
…one company is attempting to put the bling into university travel by offering a £25,000 ($41,562) package to students wanting to arrive by private jet and fast cars. Uni Baggage – an Irish company that transports student belongings across the U.K. and worldwide – has upped its game, looking to tap wealthy students who want to arrive at their new place of study in style. “Our customers are constantly asking us for the full service. Rather than just book a shipping order they want us to look after the whole process of getting to uni, so we went the extreme and did it in luxury,” Paul Stewart, founder of Uni Baggage, told CNBC by phone. Stewart said he had already received two enquiries from students wanting to take a Rolls Royce Phantom to university since launching the service on Monday morning. He could not disclose the name of the institution the students were going to, but said the package would cost them £15,000.

Sad News for Zero-G Sex Study: The Geckos Are Dead (NBC)
Russia’s troubled experiment to study how geckos, fruit flies and other organisms reproduce in weightlessness ended with a huge downer: When the Foton M-4 satellite containing the creatures returned to Earth on Monday and the hatch was opened, researchers found that all five geckos had died. “We can’t say yet at which stage of Foton’s space flight it happened,” the RIA Novosti news agency quoted a source at the Russian Academy of Sciences as saying. Interfax quoted an unnamed source as saying the geckos were mummified and may have frozen to death. The mission has had more than its share of troubles: Foton-M4 stopped responding to commands shortly after its July 19 launch, and although full contact was restored, the satellite was left in an orbit that was more elliptical than intended. More communication problems reportedly cropped up last week. As a result, mission managers brought back the satellite earlier than planned. The news isn’t all bad, though: Scientists say the fruit flies thrived. Read more »

Write-Offs: 08.29.14

$$$ JPMorgan Hack Said to Span Months Via Multiple Flaws [Bloomberg]

$$$ Ukraine Invasion Claims Wipe Out Russia Bondholder Gains [Bloomberg]

$$$ Brazil Falls Into Recession with Second Quarter GDP [Reuters]

$$$ A Midtown landlord is taking cramped city living to new heights — by renting a 2 bedroom apartment with 22 beds, according to a video posted online. Hawking what appears to be an illegal hostel, the apartment owner touts the “amazing location” for “young professionals” on 27th Street and Third Avenue. [NYP]

$$$ Woman Discovers Her Cat Is Cheating On Her, Living Double Life [HP]

$$$ That’s it for us today! Enjoy the holiday and we’ll see you back here on Tuesday! Read more »

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