Opening Bell: 06.16.09

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Will Someone PLEASE Take Freddie Chief John Koskinen's Job Off His Hands? (WSJ)
"Now, approaching his 70th birthday June 30, Mr. Koskinen has what may be his most thankless assignment: chairman as well as interim chief executive and finance chief of Freddie Mac, a big mortgage company on Treasury Department life support. Near the top of his to-do list is finding a new CEO and finance chief."
Cigarette Ban Being Implemented in Va. State Prisons (Washington Post)
Something to consider before doing anything illegal-ish, if living without your fix is out of the question.
Credit Issuers Slashing Card Balances (NYT)
"Now it's the card company calling you and saying, 'Let's talk turkey,' " said David Robertson, publisher of the credit industry journal The Nilson Report.
US Likely To Lose AAA Rating (Reuters)
According to Robert Prechter.
Obama's Bank Revamp May Stall as Congress Tackles Rival Issues (Bloomberg)
"It seems like some of the fire in the discussions has gone out of it," said Alex Pollock, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington and former president of the Chicago Federal Home Loan Bank. "Regulatory reform is always a popular topic in the wake of a bubble and bust."
FAA Chief to Draft Tougher Rules to Alleviate Commuter Pilot Fatigue (WSJ)
That seems like a good idea.

Looking for the Little Guy in the Shotgun Union of Two Wall Street Giants
(NYT)
In a preview for Frontline's documentary on the Bank of America, Merrill Lynch deal, "Breaking The Bank," Ken Lewis is described as "the most competitive person in the history of the United States, including the Union Army." We also learn that he had to practice smiling and started wearing glasses to "soften" his image. According to Andrew Ross Sorkin, Lewis "wants to give the middle finger to Wall Street."


Brown set to hire PR man who aided Palace (FT)
"Gordon Brown is poised to hire Simon Lewis, the public relations man who helped revive the Queen's image after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, to try to restore his own battered reputation."

Judge Lays Out Rules For AIG/Starr Trial
(WSJ)
Rule number one: no bitching. "This is a case about an alleged trust and an alleged conversion of valuable share. It's not a forum for airing all the innumerable other issues -- many of which are unresolved -- about Mr. Greenberg, Starr, AIG bonuses, investigations and what have you," the judge said.

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Opening Bell: 08.31.12

JPMorgan Rankled By Risk (WSJ) JPMorgan is seeking to reduce its risks in a business that provides crucial plumbing for Wall Street's money flows. The nation's largest bank by assets, a major player in providing clearing and settlement services to other financial firms, is reviewing its dealings with dozens of brokerages that use the bank to settle trades, according to people familiar with the bank. Clearing and settlement involves standing between buyers and sellers of securities to help manage financial commitments backing hundreds of billions of dollars in transactions daily. J.P. Morgan's review, which started more than six months ago amid increased regulations, effectively seeks to assess the profits clients generate for the bank versus risks they pose, the people say. Spain Unveils Financial Reforms (WSJ) This reform fulfills the commitments made by Spain as part of a €100 billion European Union bailout for Spanish banks agreed in July. As anticipated in the bailout deal, Spain is creating an asset management company, or "bad bank," that will buy property assets from banks starting later this year at prices below book value. Euro Faces Judgment Days (WSJ) The euro zone has seen many pivotal moments since its debt crisis emerged in Greece in early 2010. But there are reasons to think this fall's events are especially vital. With Spain and Greece on the ropes, European officials face stark choices. Nomura Plans $1 Billion In Cost Cuts (WSJ) The cost cuts were unveiled Friday by Nomura's new chief executive, Koji Nagai, when he presented the blueprint for a revamped business strategy at a meeting of 450 senior branch managers, according to Nomura executives who briefed reporters on what was said. They follow another $1 billion in wholesale cost reductions the broker just finished implementing earlier this year. Shia LaBeouf 'Sent Director Sex Tapes To Get New Film Role' (Entertainment) When Shia LaBeouf took a role in Lars von Trier's latest movie 'Nymphomaniac' eyebrows were raised due to the director's previous experimentation with putting real sex on film. Until now it seemed that LaBeouf took an occupational risk in joining the movie, but if the actor's to be believed then he actively looked out for a sexed up role, and involved girlfriend Karolyn Pho...The 'Lawless' actor told Handler: "I sent him [von Trier] videotapes of me and my girlfriend having sex and that's how I got the job." French Minister: No Contradiction in 75% Tax Rate and Attracting Business (CNBC) Responding to claims that the introduction of higher tax rate could be an obstacle to business and investment in France, Moscovici echoed the French President and Prime Minister who have said that the tax was part of a “shared effort” to lead France back to positive growth. ECB Said To Use Greek Myth For Security On New Euro Banknotes (Bloomberg) The European Central Bank is using an image from Greek mythology to improve security on new euro banknotes, four people familiar with the design said, even as Greece’s near bankruptcy fuels a debt crisis that’s threatening the future of the common currency. Europa, the Phoenician princess abducted by Zeus who gave the continent its name, will replace architectural images as the watermark on the new notes, which the ECB wants to start rolling out next year, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans aren’t public yet. Barclays Marathon Man CEO Everything Bob Diamond Was Not (Bloomberg) “In Jenkins you’ve got the archetypal English CEO who is seen as rather safe, compared with the typically aggressive U.S. investment banker that was Bob Diamond,” said Alan Beaney, who helps manage 200 million pounds ($315 million), including Barclays shares, at RC Brown Investment Management Plc in Bristol, England. “His appointment signals that the bank is not going to be as brazen as it has been in the past.” Garlic knot beating in Vero Beach sends man with 'Fat Boy' tattoo to slammer, report shows (TCP) A man on Aug. 19 told Indian River County Sheriff's deputies he was a pizza delivery person and was taking pizza to an address in the 400 block of 9th Street Southwest in Vero Beach. The pizza deliverer said when he got there, Robert Wheeler, 48, was waiting for him outside. The pizza deliverer said that when he lowered his window, Wheeler asked him who he spoke with on the phone before punching him in the face. The pizza deliverer said Wheeler punched him "because he forgot the garlic knots." Wheeler then instructed him to "give that to the person working on the phone back at the restaurant." Wheeler, who has the word "fat" tattooed on his left arm and "boy" on his right, told investigators he hit the pizza delivery person in the face. But, he said the issue was money he said the restaurant owed him -- not forgotten garlic knots.

Opening Bell: 06.20.12

Dimon Receives Tougher Treatment (WSJ) The lectures appeared to rankle Mr. Dimon. Certain questions received sharp, defiant retorts. "We lost $2 billion to Chrysler. I assume you'd want us to continue to lend to Chrysler," Mr. Dimon shot back when Rep. Gary Ackerman suggested the bank's hedging amounted to gambling. "We don't gamble," Mr. Dimon said curtly. "We do make mistakes." Dimon gets grief from pols — and cleaning lady (NYP) After taking his lumps during his second grilling on Capitol Hill over the bank’s $2 billion trading blunder, he was confronted by Adriana Vasquez, a 38-year-old janitor who says she earns $10,000 a year cleaning JPMorgan’s tower in Houston. “Despite making billions last year, why do you deny the people cleaning your buildings a living wage?” Vasquez asked the bank chieftain at the end of his two-hour grilling before the House Financial Services Committee. As a member of the Service Employees International Union, Vasquez, who says she cleans 24 bathrooms on 11 floors of the bank building, is putting pressure on JPMorgan. The union put out a press release in advance of the hearing, announcing that it would send Vasquez to confront Dimon over the issue of janitorial pay. A JPMorgan spokeswoman told The Post that the bank is a tenant of the tower but doesn’t set pay for the janitors, who are hired by the building’s management. Dimon, who was expecting to hear from the union, told Vasquez to call his office. BOE Seen Likely To Increase Stimulus (WSJ) The Bank of England looks set to pump more stimulus into the U.K. economy after minutes of its June policy meeting revealed that Governor Mervyn King was narrowly defeated in a knife-edge vote on a fresh bout of bond purchases. Moody's Upgrades Turkey (WSJ) Moody's said the move, which raised Turkey's sovereign-debt rating by one notch to Ba1—just below investment grade—was driven by the fast-growing economy's improvements in its public finances and the shock-absorption capacity of the government's balance sheet. UK Reveals New 'Say On Pay' Laws (WSJ) The British government unveiled legislation Wednesday to give investors more say on the pay packages of senior corporate executives, a key milestone in a shareholder rebellion that has been rippling through the U.K. in recent months. The measures include giving shareholders a binding vote on how much directors are paid and increasing transparency by requiring companies to annually publish a simple figure totaling how much directors received. Falcone’s Harbinger Capital Turns To Dell’s MSD For Loan (Bloomberg) Philip Falcone’s hedge fund, having taken out a loan earlier this year at an effective annual interest rate of 24 percent, has found a new source of financing: the money-management arm of billionaire Michael Dell. Harbinger Capital Partners Master Fund I Ltd. entered into a note purchase agreement on June 14 with a credit fund run by MSDC Management LP, according to a June 18 regulatory filing. MSDC Management is an investment adviser backed by MSD Capital LP, the private investment firm for Dell and his family. Under the financing agreement, the MSD credit fund can swap as much as $50 million of loans extended to Falcone’s Harbinger Capital for part of its stake in Harbinger Group, his publicly traded investment vehicle. Honeybee Swarms Increase In NYC After Mild Spring (NYT) When Happy Miller, the Seaport restaurant manager, saw tourists flailing their arms in a cloud of airborne black specks late last month, he closed the glass door and quietly panicked. “Oh my God, what do I do?” he thought before calling 311, security guards and local news outfits. The television trucks, he said, were first to arrive. It took several hours before Officer Anthony Planakis, the New York Police Department’s unofficial beekeeper in residence, arrived with a metal swarm box and a vacuum to collect the 17,500 or so homeless creatures. Officer Planakis, who has been responding to swarm calls since 1995, said this had been New York’s busiest year of swarming he had ever experienced. Since mid-March, he said, he has tended to 31 jobs in the five boroughs, more than twice the number he handled last season, which is normally mid-April through July. “It’s been pretty hectic,” he said, adding that this week’s warmer temperatures could encourage more bees to take off. Fed Seen Extending Operation Twist And Avoiding Bond Buys (Bloomberg) The Federal Reserve will probably decide today to expand Operation Twist beyond $400 billion to spur growth and buy protection against a deeper crisis in Europe, according to a Bloomberg News survey of economists. Fifty-eight percent of respondents in a June 18 poll said the Fed will prolong the program, which seeks to lower borrowing costs by extending the average maturity of the securities in the central bank’s portfolio. The current program ends this month. US Watchdog Hits At 'Risky' London (FT) US lawmakers and regulators have attacked London as a source of financial crises and promised tougher crossborder rules in the wake of $2 billion of trading losses at the UK unit of JPMorgan Chase. Gary Gensler, chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, said on Tuesday at a congressional hearing into JPMorgan’s trading losses that the US was vulnerable to risky activity in London. He said AIG had been hit by its financial products unit in London while Citigroup had been harmed by special purpose investment vehicles set up in the UK capital. “So often it comes right back here, crashing to our shores...if the American taxpayer bails out JPMorgan, they’d be bailing out that London entity as well,” he told the House financial services committee. Hedge Funds Hurt In May Commodity Rout As Brevan Drops (Bloomberg) Funds tracked by the Newedge Commodity Trading Index lost an average 3 percent last month, the most since September. Taylor Woods Master Fund Ltd., managing more than $1 billion, retreated 4.2 percent, according to a monthly report obtained by Bloomberg News. Galena Asset Management Ltd.’s metals fund dropped 2.6 percent in May, according to the company, and Brevan Howard Commodities Strategies Master Fund Ltd. fell 2 percent, according to a monthly report to investors obtained by Bloomberg. Ken Starr's pole dancing ex shops book (NYP) ...Passage also describes how another A-list actor and his wife took her and a “massage girl” into a room at Scores. But the couple ignored the hot ladies and started “having sex right in front of us.” After an hour of the sex show, Passage says she “reached into [the star’s] pants pocket...and told him I was taking an extra $200 as a tip...He was clearly too busy to negotiate, so he just waved me off and said, ‘ Thanks.’ ”

Opening Bell: 03.12.13

Apple To Announce Plans For Cash Hoard (WSJ) Apple will outline what it plans to do with a growing pile of cash by next month, according to Howard Ward, chief investment officer at Gamco Investors Inc. Apple, which has been grappling with investor criticism over the handling of its $137.1 billion in cash and investments, will add $42 billion in earnings to that sum in 2013, Ward said. Greenlight Capital Inc.’s David Einhorn has been urging Cupertino, California-based Apple to issue high-yielding preferred shares to spread the funds among investors. Investors are also urging Apple to consider a higher dividend payout. “We’re going to get an announcement from the company as to how they intend to reallocate some of their cash,” Ward said in an interview today on Bloomberg Radio’s “Surveillance” with Tom Keene. “They will put a floor under their stock at a higher price than it is today.” AIG shareholders win class-action status in lawsuit versus U.S. (Reuters) Two groups of American International Group shareholders won class-action status from a federal judge on Monday in a $25 billion lawsuit by former Chief Executive Maurice "Hank" Greenberg over alleged losses caused by the U.S. government's bailout of the insurer. U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Thomas Wheeler also appointed Greenberg's lawyer, David Boies, of Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, as lead counsel for the classes. Greenberg's Starr International Co, once AIG's largest shareholder with a 12 percent stake, sued the United States in 2011 over what eventually became a $182.3 billion bailout for the New York-based insurer. It said that by taking a 79.9 percent AIG stake and then conducting a reverse stock split without letting existing shareholders vote, the government conducted an illegal taking that violated the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Citing Boies' estimate that "tens of thousands" of shareholders might be affected, Wheeler said "class certification is by far the most efficient method of adjudicating these claims." Both Sides Of SEC Nominee Face Heat (WSJ) In one version, Ms. White is a no-holds-barred crime fighter known for stretching the law to jail mob bosses and international terrorists. In another, Ms. White is a friend of Wall Street who worked for the past decade for the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, where she represented giant banks such as J.P. Morgan Chase. Blackstone: We're Betting Big On Residential Real Estate (CNBC) "Blackstone is now the largest owner of individual houses in the United States," Schwarzman told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" Monday, pointing to his company's $3 billion portfolio of residential real estate. But given the nascent recovery in the housing market, they're not buying and selling them quickly but rather renting them out. "It's a good business for us. It's a new thing, but it's also good for America," he said. Icahn Gets Confidential Look At Feds Books (Reuters) Dell Inc has agreed to give Carl Icahn a closer look at its books, less than a week after the activist investor joined a growing chorus of opposition to founder Michael Dell's plan to take the world's No. 3 personal computer maker private...A source with knowledge of the situation said Icahn's and Dell's confidentiality agreement does not have a contractual "standstill" obligation - meaning he is not obligated to stop trading stock in the company. But the activist investor would not be able to trade the stock while he is privy to non-public information in any case, the source added. Phoenix society gives gator happier life with prosthesis (AZC) The alligator is Mr. Stubbs, who is part science project, part human endeavor, and much more. He’s also half-gator, half-rubber. The 11-year-old crocodilian now sports a 3-foot-long prosthetic tail, attached firmly with nylon straps. It replaces the original, which was bitten off more than eight years ago. As far as anyone at the Phoenix Herpetological Society knows, Mr. Stubbs is the first alligator to tolerate, if not sport, a prosthesis. It will take months, however, before Mr. Stubbs learns how to properly use the tail. For now, handlers are happy with smaller milestones. “The fact he doesn’t try to bite it (the tail) is a good sign,” said Russ Johnson, president of the Phoenix Herpetological Society. “Learning how to use it is going to take a lot of training.” The months-long project was overseen by someone well-versed in anatomy. Marc Jacofsky is executive vice president of research and development at the CORE Institute in Phoenix, which specializes in orthopedic care — for humans. While visiting the Herpetological Society, Jacofsky was asked if it would be possible to make an artificial tail for Mr. Stubbs. “I looked and saw there was enough there that we could probably do something that wouldn’t involve surgery,” Jacofsky said. “I also liked the idea because it would improve his life. Our motto at the CORE Institute is ‘Keep life in motion,’ and this certainly fit in with that. I was on board.” Jacofsky estimated the project has cost the Core Institute about $6,000 in donated labor and materials. Mr. Stubbs had been a project since shortly after arriving at the center in May 2005. The then-3-year-old gator was one of 32 confiscated from the back of a truck pulled over near Casa Grande, Johnson said. Officers called in the Arizona Game and Fish Department as soon as the cargo made its presence known. “Scared the heck out of the officer,” Johnson said. “No one expects to find alligators when you look into the back of a truck.” Greece Faces 150,000 Job-Cut Hurdle to Aid Payment (Bloomberg) Greece is locked in talks with international creditors in Athens about shrinking the government workforce by enough to keep bailout payments flowing. Identifying redundant positions and putting in place a system that will lead to mandatory exits for about 150,000 civil servants by 2015 is a so-called milestone that will determine whether the country gets a 2.8 billion-euro ($3.6 billion) aid instalment due this month. More than a week of talks on that has so far failed to clinch an agreement. Failed Sale Of Gleacher Is A Warning For Directors (WSJ) The Dell drama is still unfolding, but for a cautionary tale of how boards, even when they may be well-intentioned, can harm investors of a takeover target, take Gleacher. Shares in the small investment bank have lost more than 60% in the past year as the prospects for a deal evaporated, business dwindled and star traders left. Ironically for a firm that bears the name of Eric Gleacher, who made his name advising on big deals in the 1980s, the company failed to sell itself. At least as some critics see it, its independent directors are to blame. SEC Says Illinois Hid Pension Troubles (WSJ) For years, Illinois officials misled investors and shortchanged the state pension system, leaving future generations of taxpayers to foot the bill, U.S. securities regulators allege. The Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday charged Illinois with securities fraud, marking only the second time the agency has filed civil-fraud charges against a state. Bernanke Provokes Mystery Over Fed Stimulus Exit (Bloomberg) When Ben S. Bernanke asserted last month that the Federal Reserve doesn’t ever have to sell assets, he raised questions about how the central bank can withdraw its record monetary stimulus without stoking inflation. The Fed may decide to hold the bonds on its balance sheet to maturity as part of a review of the exit strategy Bernanke expects will be done “sometime soon,” he told lawmakers in Washington on Feb. 27. This would help address concerns that dumping assets on the market will lead to a rapid rise in borrowing costs. It also allows the Fed to avoid realizing losses on its bond holdings as interest rates climb. Man shot in buttocks at Calle Ocho Festival unaware he was wounded (Miami Herald) The shooting occurred around 4:30 p.m. as the man walked along Southwest Eighth Street and 11th Avenue, part of the throng of revelers who gather annually at the street festival in Little Havana. It’s unclear if something sparked the violence between the two men, or if the shooting was unprovoked. At first the victim did not realize he had been shot and kept strolling along the festival route. “He discovered later that he was bleeding and then passed out,” said Miami police spokesman Sgt. Freddie Cruz. The victim, who was hit in the left buttocks, was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he is in stable condition and expected to recover.