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Opening Bell: 02.04.09

Chaning The Rules (Bloomberg)
Tim Geithner's all set to announce the new executive compensation plan at 11:00 a.m. today; there's three highlights to this thing though:
* It will limit executive pay to $500,000 a year.
* Additional comp is limited to restricted stock; the government has to be paid back (with interest) before the executive can collect.
* Only companies that take the Fed money going forward will be help accountable under the new policies.
It's a scary thought that the voice of the people should reign so supreme over any administration's policy initiatives, if only because history has often proven the voice of the people irrational. There are positives to this though, namely that it's going to act as a disincentive for companies to accept Fed money in the future, which will in fact probably lead to a consolidation/clearing of the finance industry. There's also the idea that in the public eye something has been done about this menacing problem: statements have been made, leaders acted, rules formulated - and in the end, that might just be enough to keep the brilliance of middle America off our backs for a little while.

Time Warner reports $16 billion loss

(Market Watch)
TWX lost $16 billion, or $4.47 a share, compared with a profit of $1.03 billion, or 28 a share in the year-earlier quarter. Excluding the charges, Time Warner would have earned 23 cents a share in the latest three months. Revenue fell 3% to $12.3 billion.
The company was expected to earn 27 cents a share on revenue of $12.7 billion, according to a poll of analysts taken by Thomson First Call.
Earnings for 2009 are seen "about flat" compared to 2008 results.
"We're making progress at Time Warner toward our goals of becoming a more content-focused company and delivering increasing returns to our stockholders. Last year, our priorities were to rationalize our structure and improve our operating performance," said Chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes.
Wells Fargo Gets Publicly Taco Punched (WSJ)
It could be reasonable argued that the western-borne-bank hasn't had as much national press exposure as some of the larger houses, so it's not unreasonable that they don't have the experience in fielding press related questions. That argument would and could stand as a good explanation as to why, when questioned about the conference set in Vegas, the company just said "we're not canceling it" (before canceling it). It would also explain why, in turn, the company had to back peddle and re-issue a statement to the effect that these mortgage brokers, almost to the same extent as WWII veterans, are responsible for freedom worldwide, and have worked their asses off to protect home buyers. That's what this conference is about people, freedom and protection.
Henry Markopolis Feared For His Safety (NYT)
There's no doubt Markopolis is an intelligent man: anyone that suffered through his letter to the SEC and attest to that. There is, however, the douche factor - the one that pops up when you're the guy that was right and everyone else was wrong and you rub their faces in it.

Europeans Have An Issue With Protectionism (FT)
"The European Commission says it will examine any legislation to determine whether it violates a WTO treaty signed by the US, EU and Japan. Signatories must open government contracts to foreign companies.
"If the provisions finally passed by the Senate and approved by President Obama infringe [WTO] provisions, to which the US is a signatory, this is something we will have to consider taking them to the [WTO] over," said Peter Power, EU trade spokesman."
Citi Set To Drop Cash, Keep The Mets (Reuters)
"Citigroup Inc said it will use $36.5 billion in taxpayer bailout money to boost lending, while a source told Reuters the bank was not backing out of a controversial $400 million baseball stadium sponsorship deal with the New York Mets."
Greenberg On AIG (CNBC)
"They've really lost their way. Clearly there's a seriously issue and it's hard for me to understand. AIG was the largest most successful insurance company in history ... it's hard to understand how it could fall off a cliff that quickly and that far,"
Greenberg later went on to add:
"Dear Mr. President, There are too many states nowadays. Please eliminate three.
P.S. I am not a crackpot.
The last time the meteors came, we thought the sky was on fire. Naturally, we blamed the Irish. We hanged more 'n a few."