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Opening Bell: 11.21.14

What? Too much?

What? Too much?

Lavish Perks Spawn New Job Category (WSJ)
The nine employees at Pinterest Inc. who report to Jen Nguyen had a busy week in August. One taught a company-only class in muay thai, a martial-arts style with kicks and punches. They put dried mango and fresh towels throughout the online scrapbook service’s new office. There was a postmortem of why a Japanese-themed lunch ran out of rice. (The reason? The rice was tasty.) “We are just providing basic standards,” says Ms. Nguyen, 40 years old, whose title is head of workplace. Free lunch, dinner, snacks and events like a Jell-O shot-making “studio night” are a big part of what it takes to keep Pinterest’s roughly 450 employees productive and happy, she adds. In the 1980s, technology companies helped pioneer creation of the chief information officer to straddle the worlds of general management and tech. Now, competition among technology companies to outdo each other’s extraordinary perks has grown so fierce that it is spawning another new job category…As perks get bigger and better, some employees figure they can ask for anything. One worker at Pinterest recently wanted the company to build a zip line to a nearby bar, while an Adobe employee asked the maker of Photoshop and Illustrator design software to buy a Slip ’N Slide for workday use.

Fed Faces Pressure to Rein in Wall Street Commodity Businesses (Bloomberg)
“You’ve got to restore the separation,” U.S. Senator Carl Levin, said in an interview yesterday after he grilled executives from Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley (MS) at a hearing in Washington. “It’s gone way too far this integration. I don’t like the idea, frankly, of these banks being in physical commodities.” This week, a Senate panel Levin chairs released findings from a two-year investigation that concluded Wall Street’s role in owning commodities provided unfair trading advantages and could threaten the financial system if a bank’s business suffered an industrial catastrophe. A Fed official will face questions today over why the central bank allowed lenders to erode what was once a strict line separating banking from commercial activities. The Fed has drawn criticism from senators who allege it engaged in weak oversight over the last decade as banks expanded into new businesses involving aluminum warehouses, coal mines and trading in electricity and uranium. The central bank said in January that it was reviewing whether to stiffen rules.

Alibaba Becomes Wall Street’s Favorite Customer (WSJ)
The Chinese e-commerce company has emerged as this year’s biggest source of fees for banks working on capital-markets deals. After its $25 billion initial public offering in September, the largest in history, the Chinese Internet company on Thursday sold $8 billion in bonds, one of the largest corporate-bond deals of the year.

SEC director with big stock holdings stirs debate (Reuters)
Keith Higgins, who runs the office that reviews public companies’ books at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, reported stock holdings worth between about $2 million and $6 million last year and the sale of stocks throughout 2014, according to SEC disclosures viewed by Reuters. Higgins disclosed holdings in about 90 public companies during his SEC tenure in 2013, making him the biggest investor in individual stocks among the agency’s top officials last year. Since the beginning of the year, he has reported about 60 transactions involving sales of stocks such as Dollar Tree (DLTR.O), Apple (AAPL.O), Abbott Laboratories (ABT.N) and Raytheon (RTN.N), with about two-thirds of those occurring in late September in a flurry of sales. Higgins may no longer be the biggest stock holder among the top SEC officials Reuters reviewed because of these sales. Such stock holdings are permitted by federal and SEC ethics laws and regulations. The law already protects against conflicts by prohibiting government officials from working on matters that could benefit them financially. But Higgins’ large holdings, and the volume of trading he reported during 2013 and 2014, may stoke debate about whether it’s proper for the Director of Corporation Finance or other top SEC officials to be active stock market participants and whether the SEC needs to tighten its ethics policies to further reduce the appearance of potential conflicts.

Alaska troopers bag ‘underwear bandit’ suspect (UPI)
Alaska State Troopers said they have arrested an 18-year-old suspected of being the “underwear bandit” responsible for a series of burglaries. Investigators said troopers responding to a report of a home invasion about 11:18 a.m. Monday in Kodiak found Ryan Cornelio fleeing the scene. Cornelio was identified as a suspect in a string of seven burglaries in the area stretching back months. The burglaries led troopers to warn residents “various items such as women’s underwear” had been “stolen or rifled through” in the area. Cornelio, who troopers said is also suspected of being behind three attempted break-ins in the area, was charged with three counts of first-degree burglary. Investigators said more charges are likely as the investigation continues. The culprit was nicknamed the “underwear bandit” by one victim. Read more »

  • 20 Nov 2014 at 6:42 PM

Write-Offs: 11.20.14

$$$ Uber’s Massive Fundraising Drive Forges Ahead Despite Scandal [Digits]

$$$ Fed Launches Review of Practices for Supervising Big Banks [WSJ]

$$$ How to Become a Russian Billionaire With No Help from the Kremlin [Bloomberg Markets]

$$$ Your $60K-a-Day Chalet [WSJ]

$$$ Couple Having Sex In Car Causes Traffic Jam: Cops [HP] Read more »

point72 asset management Over the last several years, as nearly a dozen former SAC Capital employees have been convicted of securities violations, the firm has taken many steps to redefine its image, from one of a bastion of insider trading to one where such actions are not only frowned upon but strictly prohibited. Such steps include but are not limited to: paying over $1 billion in fines; changing its name; and turning itself into a family office. Last month, Point72 Asset Management, AKA the hedge fund formerly known as SAC, even went so far as to announce that it would be monetarily compensating employees for “setting a proper tone and example on compliance and doing the right thing.” You’d think that all of these things– including the fact that a whole bunch of ex-SAC employees are doing time– would go far to deter people currently working at the hedge fund from engaging in insider trading. And yet, someone in Stamford apparently thought it was necessary still to take away one final temptation from them. Read more »

  • 20 Nov 2014 at 5:50 PM

Rich People Are People, Too

And that means that they can have IRAs. They can also do more with their IRAs, the kind of things that can turn $5,000 into $196 million in six years, tax free. Read more »

Portrait of an investment banker.

Portrait of an investment banker.

Those working in IBD are expected to do quite nicely for themselves come bonus communication day. Others would be smart to remember the ancient Chinese proverb: you’ll take what you get and you’ll like it/those multi-billion dollar fines aren’t going to pay for themselves. Read more »

brianmoynihanbofa2It’s a great day in Moynihan Land. Read more »

Who?If George Soros, whose fund threw Gross a couple of nickels earlier this week, had any doubts about his investment with the former Pimco CEO, they have been assuaged. Not only has Gross pledged his undying stewardship of Soros’s capital but he’s promised to watch over the money 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, no matter what. Should Soros have any questions, any questions at all, he should feel free, nay, encouraged to give Bill a call, day or night (obviously it goes without saying that Gross has assigned him a special ringtone and programmed Soros’s number to ring through regardless of any Do Not Disturb settings). Read more »

Goldman Sachs Is Smart

Come to give thanks. Not smart enough to avoid almost certain death without that government lifeline in 2008, but smart enough to realize that said lifeline, coupled with the 1999 banking deregulation that helped lead to the financial crisis of which that almost certain death was a part, gave it (and Morgan Stanley) a tremendously unfair advantage over everyone else vis-à-vis commodities, one that’s still printing money for the bank. Read more »