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Write-Offs: 11.28.12

$$$ SAC’s Villhauer Said to Be Head Trader Cited in U.S. Case [Bloomberg]

$$$ Fed Sees Measured Economic Growth as Fiscal Cliff Nears [Bloomberg]

$$$ Power company CFOs blitz Congress on dividend taxes [Reuters]

$$$ ECB Data Show Healing Financial System [WSJ]

$$$ No one reported shot, stabbed or slashed in New York City on Monday, police sources say [NYDN]

$$$ CBS Newscaster Accidentally Refers to Prince William As ‘Douche of Cambridge’ On-Air [Gawker]
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Get yourself canned once or twice so potential employers can tell you’re serious about your work. Read more »

  • 28 Nov 2012 at 4:48 PM

Everybody’s Jumping On The Insider Trading Bandwagon

It’s a tribute to Steve Cohen’s prescience/power/something that, on what is otherwise not a great day for SAC on the insider trading front, the rest of the news in the world is all pretty much “everybody is insider trading everything all of the time,” so, like, leave Steve alone! Today brings some old-fashioned mustache-twirling insider trading – here you can find the SEC’s charges against Delta Petroleum’s CEO, who apparently tipped his friends about an upcoming buyout and other news; those friends then sent each other emails saying things like “our mutual friend who will go unnamed WINK WINK WINK tells me that DPTR has good news coming MASSIVE NECK-STRAINING WINK” – but the real action is in these two Journal articles on what you might characterize as pervasive insider-trading-lite.

Who insider trades? Insiders, for one. This article about how executives have suspiciously good luck trading for their own account is perhaps too suspicious, as a lot of it is anecdotal or cherry-picked and it conflates 10b5-1 and discretionary trading a bit. Rule 10b5-1 plans, in which executives who do not have material nonpublic information set up automatic future sales (mostly) to top-tick the stock and/or pay for their kids’ college tuition, may have good or bad or indifferent results but you mostly can’t get mad at the executives if their 10b5-1 robots have suspiciously good timing; the robots really are mostly robots. On the other hand they’re not entirely robots and might be ripe for reforming; I’m like 75% on board with Ronald Barusch’s suggestions (I am not as troubled as he is by secret adoption of 10b5-1 plans during clean windows) but the bigger conceptual hole is that, as the Journal notes: Read more »

O’Neill…joined the Citigroup board in 2009, became chairman this year and has played an increasingly powerful role, as most vividly shown by his ousting of Vikram Pandit as chief executive in October, after months of tension. O’Neill, who hand-picked new CEO Michael Corbat, has an uphill task ahead of him. Citigroup is groaning under $171 billion of assets it wants to shed, has high expenses, and its profitability lags behind that of such competitors as JPMorgan Chase & Co. And O’Neill faces the same question that kept him from being a contender for the Citigroup CEO spot: while he can fix a smaller bank, can he revamp a behemoth as complicated as Citigroup? O’Neill, who declined to comment for this story through a spokesman, has provided some clues about his plan to turn the bank around. On a conference call with investors the day that Pandit stepped down, he said that he will follow his typical playbook. A dozen people who have worked with O’Neill over the years say that plan usually involves the ruthless pruning of underperforming operations and deciding which ones are worth additional investment. [Reuters]

  • 28 Nov 2012 at 1:28 PM

Knight Rides Again, Maybe

I’m a sucker for a little puzzle and I guess this Knight-Getco-Virtu thing qualifies, so let’s just bop around doing some silly arithmetic about it. Knight, the trading firm that slow-burn blew itself up this year, is looking for buyers, and Getco and Virtu seem to be those buyers. On the table we have:

  • An offer from Getco to buy half of Knight’s shares for $3.50 in cash and leave the other half outstanding in a new merged Knight-Getco, and
  • A rumor of an offer from Virtu to buy all of Knight’s shares for $3.00 in cash.

Virtu’s deal is worth $3.00, I guess. Getco’s deal is more complicated, but it’s got to be worth … at least $1.75, no? Plus whatever a (half of a) share in the new company is worth. What is that? Well it’s a proportionate amount of

  • Whatever Knight is worth, plus
  • Whatever Getco is worth, minus
  • The cash that is paid out to cash out half of the shares, all divided by
  • The number of shares in newco.

Plus synergies, etc., which are probably a thing. Rapacious prop traders + naive retail order flow = synergies!

Anyway you can start on the Getco deal’s value by mathing out tangible book value numbers. Read more »

Unclear if this sit-down will take place at Louis’ Restaurant in the Bronx, or if Duncan Niederauer went on to say, “Let’s see how tough he is without his Twitter handle.” Read more »

  • 28 Nov 2012 at 11:49 AM

Things Could Be A LOT Better At SAC Capital Right Now

Back in October, we detailed a list of things that, if you are the hedge fund manager who goes by the name Steven A. Cohen, you really don’t want to hear first thing in the morning. They included: “The fleeces are on back order”; “Your ex-wife is in the lobby”; “There’s a photographer here who said he’s been authorized to shoot you wearing a king’s robe and crown for a set of playing cards”; and “You’ve been outmaneuvered for the Toledo Mud Hens. But I hear the Binghamton Mets may be available.” Today we must update that list to include another thing, perhaps THE thing, that people delivering news to Cohen don’t want to relay. Paraphrasing but any variants on: “Mr. Cohen, we’ve received a Wells notice and by the way, they’re considering naming you personally.” Read more »

Opening Bell: 11.28.12

Gorman Enlists Morgan Stanley Workforce in Fiscal Cliff Campaign (Bloomberg)
Morgan Stanley Chief Executive Officer James Gorman called on the investment bank’s employees to pressure U.S. lawmakers into reaching an agreement that averts the so-called fiscal cliff. “No issue is more critical right now for the U.S. economy, the global financial markets and the financial well-being of our clients, which is why I am asking you to participate in the democratic process and make your voice heard,” Gorman wrote in a memo, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg News. The message went to about 30,000 U.S. workers including 16,000 financial advisers, said James Wiggins, a company spokesman.

Buffett Expects ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Fix, But Not By December 31 (CNBC)
Buffett didn’t outline a specific solution that he prefers, saying he could “go with any number of plans.” But he thinks the end result should have U.S. revenues at 18.5 percent of GDP and expenditures at 21 percent. Those levels would be “sustainable” because the ratio of the nation’s national debt to GDP wouldn’t increase, and might even fall over time.

SAC Capital Received a Wells Notice From SEC Last Week, May Be Subject to Civil Charges (CNBC)
Story developing.

EU Approves Spanish Banks’ Restructuring Plans (WSJ)
European Union regulators Wednesday gave the green light to nearly €40 billion ($51.78 billion) in euro-zone funding for Spain’s stricken bank sector, as it approved the restructuring plans for four lenders. BFA/Bankia, NCG Banco, Catalunya Banc and Banco de Valencia SA BVA.MC will require a total of €37 billion for their recapitalization plans, the regulators said. The European Union’s Competition Commissioner, Joaquin Almunia, said bondholders would face losses.

Will Italy Need A Bailout In 2013? (CNBC)
“We still see as our baseline scenario that Italy will likely be forced to ask for an international bailout at some point in 2013,” said Citi Analyst Giada Giani in a report on the country. “Italian economic fundamentals have not really improved, despite some improvement in market conditions. The negative feedbacks from fiscal austerity on growth have been severe, as the ability of the private sector to absorb fiscal tightening by lowering its saving rate is limited.”

EU Agrees New Controls for Credit Rating Agencies (Reuters)
European Union countries and the bloc’s parliament agreed on Tuesday to introduce limited controls on credit ratings agencies after their judgment was called into question in the debt crisis. Michel Barnier, the European commissioner in charge of regulation who helped broker a deal on the new law, said it aimed to reduce the over-reliance on ratings and establish a civil liability regime. The new rules should make it easier to sue the agencies if they are judged to have made errors when, for example, ranking the creditworthiness of debt.

Deutsche Bank Sued Over Home Mortgage-Backed Securities (Bloomberg)
Deutsche Bank, Germany’s largest lender, was sued by a trustee over claims that some securities sold by a unit of the bank were backed by home-mortgage loans taken out by fraudulent borrowers. DB Structured Products Inc.’s pool of more than 1,500 mortgages included more than 320 that were defective, HSBC Bank USA (HSBA), acting as trustee, said in a lawsuit filed yesterday in federal court in Manhattan. “Borrowers lied, with or without the knowledge of the loan originators themselves, concerning how much money they owed, how much money they made, whether and where they worked, and where they lived,” HSBC claimed. “A handful of instances of such inaccuracies is perhaps to be expected. Hundreds of instances of borrower dishonesty is not.” HSBC seeks unspecified damages and said Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank must buy back the breaching loans under its agreements with the trustee.

Woman Jailed For Attacking Beau Over Bad Sex (TSG)
A Florida woman was jailed last night for a post-coital assault on her boyfriend, an attack the victim says was prompted when only he climaxed during a sexual encounter in the couple’s residence. Raquel Gonzalez, 24, was arrested Monday afternoon for felony domestic battery and booked into the Manatee County lockup, where bond has been set at $750. According to a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office report, Gonzalez and Esric Davis, 30, are “boyfriend and girlfriend who live in the same home and are involved in a sexual relationship.” Deputies noted that Davis and Gonzalez were “involved in sexual intercourse” when “Esric then climaxed and Raquel did not.” Which reportedly angered Gonzalez, who allegedly “began hitting and scratching [Davis], causing scratches near his eye and nose.” Davis told investigators that Gonzalez “goes off” frequently and that she had previously been physical with him. Read more »