Opening Bell: 09.14.10

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In Wall Street Sequel, Stone Gives Voice To Outrage (NYT)
“You know, half the people in this place could be prosecuted.” Oliver Stone, the film director, was sitting across from me over a late lunch in the Grill Room of the Four Seasons restaurant in Midtown Manhattan last week. In one corner was Stephen Schwarzman; Felix Rohatyn, a special adviser to the chairman of Lazard, was leaving as I was coming in, as was Barry Diller. And Sanford Weil— “the mother of all evil,” Mr. Stone said with a wry smile — had just dashed out. Mr. Stone added, “It’s silly to be simplifying and say Wall Street is evil,” pausing for a moment before stopping to correct himself. “Goldman Sachs is evil, maybe....Look, Wall Street’s gone crazy. It’s banking on steroids,” Mr. Stone said, getting a bit irritated. “Banks don’t mean what they did. When I was a kid, you had a savings account; you made 3 to 4 percent. Now you make zero, and Goldman Sachs is a bank holding company.”

Geithner Calendar: Met Blankfein More Often Than Pelosi, Reid, McConnell, Boehner (HP)
Lloyd Blankfein has shown up on Geithner's calendar at least 38 times through March since the Treasury Secretary took office in January 2009, three more entries than Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and 13 more than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, according to a copy of Geithner's daily log recently published online by the Treasury Department.

AIG In Talks To End Aid From US (WSJ)
Under the plan, which could commence as early as the first half of 2011, the Treasury Department is likely to convert $49 billion in AIG preferred shares it holds into common shares, a move that could bring the government's ownership stake in AIG to above 90%, from 79.8% currently, the people familiar said. The common shares would then be gradually sold off to private investors, a move that would reduce U.S. ownership and potentially earn the government a profit if the shares rise in value.

BofA Chief Shares His Growth Vision (WSJ)
The plan, Mr. Moynihan's strongest attempt to present a new vision for the bank, revolves around more cross-selling to customers, companies and institutional investors who interact with the retail, corporate and wealth-management parts of the bank. Mr. Moynihan admits the concept isn't exactly exciting at first blush. "It's just hard work," he said in an interview

SEC Questions Trading Crusade as Market Makers Disappear (Bloomberg)
Mary Schapiro called on the agency last week to examine whether the loss of “old specialist obligations” has hurt investors after measures such as trading stocks in penny increments cut the number of those firms on the New York Stock Exchange to 5 from 25 in 2000. With market making now dominated by hundreds of automated traders with few rules for when they must buy and sell, the SEC will consider ways to keep the biggest from abandoning the market at the first sign of trouble.

Michael Lewis: Hedge-Fund Man Finds Inner Lion in Outer Space (Bloomberg)
To: The Loyal Investors of The Fund

From: The Manager

Like a lot of hedge-fund guys, I’ve recently endured what might be misconstrued as a nervous breakdown. Before CNBC or the New York Times or some other rag grabs the story and distorts it, I want to tell you about it myself -- and explain not only my disappointing returns but also my prolonged absence. Just so you get it straight.

My crisis struck one morning early this year, as I stared at my Bloomberg screens. Nothing had happened and that was the scary thing. For no reason in particular I was overcome by this eerie conviction that markets would never again be free. They’d become traps, run by politicians and bureaucrats, designed to ensnare the superior man. What had happened, in a word, was socialism. The law of the jungle, suspended since the fall of 2008, had been permanently revoked. Park rangers would forever more feed and protect all the animals, even the fat slow ones that deserved to die. In this new environment the apex predator --the lion with the gift for spotting the wounded antelope -- was doomed. My sixth sense for the kill was now irrelevant.

Bank Rules Win Muted Praise (WSJ)
Douglas Elliot, a former banker now at the Brookings Institution in Washington, described the standards as "lower than I'd like to see, but much higher than [today 's] effective requirement." Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel laureate at Columbia University, called them "a move in the right direction." Many bankers were less enthusiastic. "Every dollar of capital is one less dollar working in the economy," the Financial Services Roundtable, a lobbying group of large U.S. financial firms, said in a statement.

Ryanair Crews' Cost-Cutting Idea: Drop The CEO (FT)
Catfight: Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary has for years endured complaints from passengers about his famously no-frills Irish airline. Now a senior Ryanair pilot has taken the rare step of publicly challenging his boss after the outspoken chief executive said he was trying to convince authorities to let his aircraft fly with only one pilot. A flight attendant could do the job of a co-pilot if needed, Mr O’Leary said last week, because “the computer does most of the flying now”. Captain Morgan Fischer, who trains other pilots at Ryanair’s Marseilles base, says he knows the airline is dedicated to keeping its costs as low as possible, so why not go one better – and replace Mr O’Leary with a junior flight attendant? “I would propose that Ryanair replace the CEO with a probationary cabin crew member currently earning approximately 13,200 euros ($16,950) net per annum,” Capt Fischer has written in a letter to the Financial Times, which reported Mr O’Leary’s comments last week.

The Jim O'Neill's Farewell Letter (ZH)
Anyhow, as my beloved football just showed a couple of hours ago, anything can happen in life ( 3-1 up at the end of normal time, and it ended 3-3……a few hairdryers in the dressing room I suspect after that…!). Best of luck.

Related

Opening Bell: 02.11.13

Two Firms, One Trail, In Probe Of Ratings (WSJ) The Justice Department last week went after Standard & Poor's Ratings Services—not rival Moody's Investors Service —with a $5 billion fraud lawsuit. Some former Moody's employees think they know why. The Moody's Corp. unit took careful steps to avoid creating a trove of potentially embarrassing employee messages like those that came back to haunt S&P in the U.S.'s lawsuit, the former employees say. Moody's analysts in recent years had limited access to instant-message programs and were directed by executives to discuss sensitive matters face to face, according to former employees. The crackdown on communications came after a 2005 investigation by then New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer into Moody's ratings on some mortgage-backed deals, the former employees say. Former employees also point to an April 2001 settlement between Moody's and the Justice Department's antitrust division over the destruction of documents amid a civil inquiry by the agency. Moody's pleaded to one count of obstruction of justice and paid a fine of $195,000. Moody's called that situation "an isolated incident" and said it cooperated with the Justice Department's investigation. That settlement helped lay the groundwork for heightened concerns about sensitive documents, former Moody's employees say. Credit Rating Victims Didn’t Know S&P’s Toxic AAA Born of Greed (Bloomberg) When Charles O. Prince III was chief executive officer of Citigroup Inc. from 2003 to 2007, he didn’t know about a surge in mortgage risk that his own investment bankers loaded on to its bank’s books. Because such debt carried top credit ratings from firms such as Standard & Poor’s, few financial executives paid attention to the potential dangers. When Charles O. Prince III was chief executive officer of Citigroup Inc. from 2003 to 2007, he didn’t know about a surge in mortgage risk that his own investment bankers loaded on to its bank’s books. Because such debt carried top credit ratings from firms such as Standard & Poor’s, few financial executives paid attention to the potential dangers. Makeover At Barclays Won't Be Extreme (WSJ) Mr. Jenkins's cuts are likely to be focused on areas where Barclays lags far behind competitors, executives say. That could include parts of the equities sales-and-trading businesses in Asia and continental Europe, according to analysts and people at other banks. Those are businesses in which Mr. Diamond spearheaded an ambitious expansion but where Barclays remains a second-tier player. But other changes are driven more by polishing the bank's tarnished image than they are by the need to boost profits. A few business lines that don't seem "socially useful" are likely to end up on the chopping block, executives say. For example, Barclays plans to retreat at least in part from the lucrative trading of "soft commodities" such as coffee, executives say. That is a concession to mounting criticism that speculative trading in those commodities contributes to food-price inflation. "We're a big player, but does it pass the smell test of what society would think of this?" a senior executive said. Mr. Jenkins is also expected to trumpet plans to dramaticallyscale back Barclays's tax-planning business, in which it advises clients on how to minimize their tax burdens. The bank will no longer help clients put together transactions that have no businesspurpose other than reducing taxes. "Such activity is incompatible with our purpose," Mr. Jenkins will say on Tuesday, according to the extract of his speech. But the bank isn't expected to exit the business altogether. It will continue to offer tax-minimizing advice. People familiar with the matter say the business has been hiring employees recently. Putin Turns Black Gold Into Bullion as Russia Out-Buys World (Bloomberg) Not only has Putin made Russia the world’s largest oil producer, he’s also made it the biggest gold buyer. His central bank has added 570 metric tons of the metal in the past decade, a quarter more than runner-up China, according to IMF data compiled by Bloomberg. The added gold is also almost triple the weight of the Statue of Liberty. White House Warns Coming Austerity Will Hit Economy Hard (Reuters) Automatic government spending cuts due to go into effect March 1 unless Congress acts to prevent them would bite deeply into programs affecting many Americans, such as law enforcement, small business assistance, food safety and tax collection, the White House said on Friday. The administration urged Congress to blunt the effect of the reductions, which the White House said would slash non-defense programs by 9 percent across the board and defense programs by 13 percent, the White House said. "These large and arbitrary cuts will have severe impacts across the government," the administration said in a statement. World's most prolific stripper calls it a day (DM) For two decades, the Liverpudlian father-of-three has been the Usain Bolt of the naked dash. In 1995, he leapt naked on to Fred Talbot’s weather map on daytime TV show This Morning, and a year later he appeared nude on the green during the Open at Royal Lytham. Then, in 2004, he was fined £550 for trespassing after streaking across the pitch at the Super Bowl in Texas – a match watched by 130 million people in 87 countries. For good measure, Mark has also stripped off at Wembley, Wimbledon and Ascot. ‘There’s no major venue or event I haven’t done,’ he says proudly. ‘But I’m nearly 49 now and my children have begged me to stop. It’s time. I’m not ready for my slippers just yet, but gravity’s against me.’ Treasury Pick Lew Faces Grilling on Citi Bonus, Cayman Account (Reuters) Jack Lew, President Barack Obama's pick to be U.S. treasury secretary, is expected to come under fire for the administration's budget policies and a nearly $1 million bonus he received from bailed-out bank Citigroup when he testifies on Wednesday before a Senate panel vetting him for the job. The hearing will briefly become ground zero in the pitched political battle over the federal budget, with Republicans set to attack over what they contend is Lew's devil-may-care attitude to reducing the U.S. budget deficit. "He'll be used as a political ping-pong ball," said Ted Truman, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for InternationalEconomics who served briefly as an adviser to Obama's former treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner. Treasury Eases Off On Bank Rules (WSJ) The proposal, which will be subject to comment before becoming a final rule, is likely to insist that financial institutions gather beneficial ownership information—who is in charge and who profits—on new corporate accounts, officials said. But in a move that could assuage some industry concerns, financial institutions wouldn't have to vet that ownership data for accuracy. Instead, they would rely on the customer to vouch for the information. With a Focus on Its Future, Financial Times Turns 125 (NYT) On Wednesday, The F.T. is celebrating its 125th birthday. The newspaper’s London headquarters along the south bank of the Thames will be lit up in pink, the color of the paper on which it has been printed since shortly after it was founded. There will be a few parties — understated, of course, for these are straitened times in the City of London, and challenging ones for the newspaper industry. Waxing Our Way To The ER (Salon) A new study from the University of California-San Diego reveals that “Emergency room visits due to pubic hair grooming mishaps,” including “lacerations,” increased fivefold between 2002 and 2010, sending an impressive 11,704 pube-scapers to the E.R. The culprits? Scissors and hot wax did some of the damage, but plain-old non-electric-razors accounted for the lion’s share, at 83 percent...The study also revealed that below-the-belt grooming isn’t just for adult ladies anymore – men accounted for 43.3 percent of the injuries, and almost 30 percent of them were girls under the age of 18. To avoid becoming yet another harrowing grooming gone bad statistic, the researchers advise hair removal aficionados to “Pay attention to where you’re placing that razor. Invest in a non-slip bath mat. And don’t shave while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”