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Times Square may be a Dantean circle of hell, but it’s Nasdaq’s Dantean circle of hell. It’s also a telegenic Dantean circle of hell, or at least one that media types find conveniently reached from their own Dantean circles of hell. So they’re sprucing the place behind the giant Nasdaq billboard up for the hacks who don’t seem to notice the decreasing importance of what else happens therein. Read more »

Opening Bell: 04.15.14

Citigroup CEO Vows to Fix Regulatory Problems as Bank Logs Higher Profit, Beats Estimates (WSJ)
Speaking after Citigroup reported better-than-expected first-quarter earnings Monday, Mr. Corbat faced more than a dozen questions from analysts on the bank’s recent failure to win regulatory approval to return capital to shareholders. “Is the Fed denial a wake-up call for Citi or not?” CLSA analyst Michael Mayo asked. “We’re wide awake,” Mr. Corbat replied after declaring earlier, “I want, and I know shareholders deserve, an industrial-strength, permanent solution that paves the way for sustainable capital return over time.”

Stockbrokers Who Fail Test Have Checkered Records (WSJ)
More than 51,500 stockbrokers failed a basic exam needed to sell securities at least once, according to data that Wall Street regulators don’t disclose to investors, and those who repeatedly failed have on average worse disciplinary records. The more times a broker failed, the higher the average total of black marks was, such as criminal charges and firings, a Wall Street Journal analysis of the data found. Those who failed the test more than twice, for example, were 77% more likely to report a felony or financial-related misdemeanor than brokers who passed the exam on the first try, and about 55% more likely to have been terminated.

Mt. Gox founder won’t appear in U.S. for questions about bankruptcy case (Reuters)
Mark Karpeles, the founder of Mt. Gox, said he would not come to the United States to answer questions about the Japanese bitcoin exchange’s U.S. bankruptcy case, Mt. Gox lawyers told a federal judge on Monday. In the court filing, Mt. Gox lawyers cited a subpoena from the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which has closely monitored virtual currencies like bit coin. “Mr. Karpeles is now in the process of obtaining counsel to represent him with respect to the FinCEN Subpoena. Until such time as counsel is retained and has an opportunity to ‘get up to speed’ and advise Mr. Karpeles, he is not willing to travel to the U.S.”, the filing said.

Regulators Weigh Curbs on Trading Fees (WSJ)
SEC officials, including some commissioners, are considering a trial program to curb fees and rebates they say can make trading overly complex and pose a conflict of interest for brokers handling trades on behalf of big investors such as mutual funds.

NY attorney general probes Herbalife: sources (NYP)
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is investigating Herbalife over claims it is a pyramid scheme, The Post has learned. At least two whistleblowers have come forward and given Schneiderman’s investigators sworn testimony, sources said. The New York lawman has also fielded complaints from former Hispanic Herbalife distributors who say they were defrauded by Herbalife, sources said.

Berlusconi Given Community Service for Tax Fraud (NYT)
Former Premier Silvio Berlusconi must spend at least four hours a week in the service of the elderly to repay society for his tax fraud conviction, the first sentence against him ever confirmed by Italy’s highest court. The one-year assignment, announced by a Milan court on Tuesday, curtails Berlusconi’s ability to participate in the upcoming European election campaign — a point of contention among his political allies…The court stipulated that Berlusconi must spend most of his time in the Lombard region, where he lives, but granted permission to travel to Rome from Tuesday to Thursday each week. He must spend at least four straight hours one day a week at an elderly center, the court said. The document did not identify the center, or specify what Berlusconi would do there. Berlusconi was sentenced to four years for tax fraud, reduced to one year for a general amnesty. The one-year community service order may eventually be reduced by 45 days…The media mogul is on trial for political corruption in Naples and under investigation in Milan for witness tampering in trials relating to sex-fueled parties at his villa near Milan. Read more »

Write-Offs: 04.14.14

$$$ EU Weighs Tougher Russian Sanctions Amid Ukraine Unrest [Bloomberg]

$$$ Bitcoin promoter Shrem indicted in NY for money laundering [Reuters]

$$$ Cantor Fitzgerald CEO sues over blocked Hamptons hoops court [NYP]

$$$ Citigroup Says It Discovered Second Alleged Fraud in Mexico [WSJ]

$$$ Hustler Club claims ‘pole-dance tax’ violates rights [NYP] Read more »

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  • 14 Apr 2014 at 3:49 PM

This Cinco de Mayo, Take A Bath With Warren Buffett

Charlie Munger, too. Read more »

He just had to get a little creative is all. A lot of people say that trading is their passion but when push comes to shove they’d give it up in a second if A) they lost their Bloomberg terminal and B) a judge ordered them to do so. Neither of these things were going to hold James Michael Murray down. Read more »

  • 14 Apr 2014 at 1:40 PM

Poor People Help Goldman Sachs Alum Sleep At Night

When Dan Weissman worked at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and, later, at a hedge fund, he didn’t have to worry about methamphetamine addicts chasing his employees with metal pipes. Or SWAT teams barging into his workplace looking for arsonists. Both things have happened since he left Wall Street and bought five mobile home parks: four in Texas and one in Indiana. Yet he says he’s never been so relaxed in his life, Bloomberg Markets magazine will report in its May issue. Weissman, a University of Michigan economics graduate, attributes his newfound calm to the supply-demand equation in the trailer park industry. With more of the U.S. middle class sliding into poverty and many towns banning new trailer parks, enterprising owners are getting rich renting the concrete pads and surrounding dirt on which residents park their homes. “The greatest part of the business is that we go to sleep at night not ever worrying about demand for our product,” Weissman, 34, says. “It’s the best decision I’ve ever made.” [Bloomberg]

  • 14 Apr 2014 at 10:13 AM

Layoffs Watch ’14: Citi

The House of Corbat has asked a few employees to turn in their ID badges and not come back, unless they’re looking to open a checking account, in which case, mi casa es su casa. Read more »

Opening Bell: 04.14.14

Europe’s top banks cut 80,000 more staff in post-crisis overhaul (Bloomberg)
Europe’s largest banks cut their staff by another 3.5 percent last year and the prospect of a return to pre-crisis employment levels seems far off, despite the region’s fledgling economic recovery. Spurred into action by falling revenue, mounting losses and the need to convince regulators they are no longer “too big to fail”, banks across the globe have shrunk radically since the 2008 collapse of U.S. bank Lehman Brothers sparked the financial crisis. Last year, the tide of bad news began to turn for European banks, which are among the region’s largest employers. Helped by recovering economies and receding fears for the euro zone’s future, the benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 Banks index .SX7P rose 19 percent, outpacing the 17.4 percent increase in multi-sector stocks. But despite the improved outlook, Europe’s 30 largest banks by market value cut staff by 80,000 in 2013, calculations by Reuters based on their year-end statements showed.

High-Frequency Traders Set for Curbs as EU Reins In Flash Boys (Bloomberg)
European Union lawmakers are poised to approve some of the toughest restrictions in the world on high-frequency trading, the first crackdown in the aftermath of Michael Lewis’s latest book, “Flash Boys.” The curbs are part of revamped EU markets legislation spanning from commodity derivative speculation to investor protection. The high-frequency trading limits include standards meant to keep the price increment for securities from being too small, mandatory tests of trading algorithms and requirements that market makers provide liquidity for a set number of hours each day.

CME Gave High-Frequency Traders Peek at Market, Lawsuit Claims (Bloomberg)
The Chicago-based company, owner of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade, offers futures based on interest rates, equity indexes, currencies, energy products and agricultural commodities. The plaintiffs, in their complaint against CME and CBOT, allege “a fraud on the marketplace” and seek class-action status on behalf of exchange users. CME denied their accusations in a statement. Sometime after the start of 2007, the CBOT and CME began letting HFTs peek “at all orders to buy and sell futures contracts before they were reflected” to the rest of the market, according to the complaint filed April 11 in federal court in Chicago. That glimpse occurred “before the person or entity entering the buy or sell order received confirmation that their order was received — in other words before anyone other than the HFTs were privy to this information.”

Hedge Funds Wield Risky Legal Ploy to Milk Buyouts (WSJ)
When Dole Food Co. sold itself last year to its founder for $1.2 billion, many market watchers saw just another in a string of buyouts. A few investors saw an opportunity to squeeze the buyers for potentially millions of dollars more, using an arcane—but increasingly popular—legal process known as appraisal. Merion Capital LP bought 7.5 million shares of the fruit company in the days before Dole’s October stockholder meeting. It rejected the $13.50-a-share deal price and, alongside three other hedge funds, is seeking more in court through appraisal. Dole’s buyout highlights the rise of “appraisal arbitrage,” in which hedge funds buy shares of companies on the brink of a buyout and ask a judge to award them a higher price. These lawsuits have risen sharply as a growing group of investors looks to extract more money from corporate takeovers.

Gisele audited by IRS after making Forbes ‘rich list’ (NYP)
Gisele Bundchen has revealed that she was audited by the IRS just because she was placed on the Forbes Supermodel Rich List. “It’s sad, because the people who write these things don’t have my bank-account details,” she laughs. “I do OK, I earn plenty, but not as much as they say. I’ve already been audited by the IRS because of this list, and, truthfully, whether I’m on this list or not doesn’t interest me,” the Brazilian supermodel told Vogue magazine on Friday. Mrs. Tom Brady went on to say she’s no different than you or me. “I’ve got the same interests, the same day-to-day life, as any woman. I want to raise my children well, be a good wife and work. This is what I value: Are my children educated, is my husband happy, are people feeling positive energy from me? There should be a magazine to quantify knowledge, understanding and love for people: That is power.” Read more »