Opening Bell: 09.23.10

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Bill Gates Tops Forbes Ranking Of 400 Wealthiest Americans (Bloomberg)
With estimated assets of $54 billion. Warren Buffett ranks second in the U.S. with $45 billion, according to the list published yesterday. The number of list members whose wealth declined this year is 85 compared with 314 in 2009, while wealth increased for 217 members. The total worth of the 400 rose by 8 percent to $1.37 trillion, still below the 2008 total of $1.57 trillion.

Warren Buffett: We're Still In A Recession (CNBC)
Warren Buffett tells CNBC that by his own "common sense" definition, the United States is "still in a recession. In a taped interview with Becky Quick, Buffett says, "I think we're in a recession until real per capita GDP gets back to where it was before." While Buffett continues to believe the U.S. will eventually emerge from its economic downturn, "We're not gonna be out of it for awhile."

SEC Blasted On Goldman Probe (WSJ)
At a Senate Banking Committee hearing Wednesday, Mr. Kotz was questioned about the timing of the Goldman suit. He responded: "It would strain credulity to think it was coincidental." He added: "I can't give you a conclusion right now, but it was suspicious."

Boehner's Business Ties Cut Both Ways (WSJ)
Mr. Boehner, a sharp dresser with a two-pack-a-day habit, sometimes gets referred to around Capitol Hill as Don Draper. "I'm still who I am. I'm a businessman. I can't be something I'm not. No apologies. Zero," Mr. Boehner said in the recent interview, smoothing his hair before heading to a political event...Addressing a perennial source of jokes, Mr. Boehner says his dark complexion is natural, similar to that of his mother and four (of 12) siblings. "I have never been in a tanning bed or used a tanning product," Mr. Boehner said. His staff showed a high-school group photo where he has the darkest face in Moeller High's all-male class.

Jack Welch: Obama Administration Is "Anti-Business" (CNBC)
The government should make it easier for companies to invest and expand but instead they are hampering business, according to Welch. "I still maintain that the economy's been terrible and they have not done things to move the economy forward," he said. "He's there a month and he vilifies Las Vegas… he kills the hotel business," Welch said.

Elizabeth Warren: No More "Fooling" People For Credit Firms (CNBC)
The intent of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is not to make life tougher for banks but rather better for their customers, the organization's czar, Elizabeth Warren, told CNBC. "The truth is I don't care about the title. I want to get to work trying to get this agency going because that's what middle class families need. We've got a broken market," she said. "It's a political assessment that I just have to say I don't know and I don't think much about it. The part I care about is getting the agency started."

Katy Perry Kicked Off The Street (NYP)
On Monday, a clip from the November 3 episode of "Sesame Street" featuring Katy Perry singing a very vanilla version of her song "Hot N' Cold" went viral and people went berserk.It seems that Katy's cans were way too prominent for some parents. And now, TMZ is reporting that because of the influx of complaints (such as "my kid wants milk now") "Sesame Street" producers have decided not to air the segment.

Lehman Sees Bankruptcy Plan Confirmation In Q1 (Reuters)
They're "optimistic."

Banks Value Social Responsibility More After Crisis (Reuters)
"The change is good on the financial side. The change that's more important is on the cultural side," Bob Diamond told the Clinton Global Initiative.

Friended For $100 Million (WSJ)
Mark Zuckerberg plans to announce a donation of up to $100 million to the Newark schools this week.

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Opening Bell: 05.04.12

BofA Sees $5 Billion Collateral Need in Credit Downgrade (Bloomberg) A two-level downgrade of long-term senior debt ratings would have prompted the bank to post about $5.1 billion of collateral tied to derivatives contracts and other trading agreements as of March 31, the Charlotte, North Carolina-based firm said yesterday in a regulatory filing. It would have had to post an additional $1.1 billion of collateral if trading partners opted to tear up contracts in a two-level cut. RBS claims 'pleasing progress' though loss triples (AP) RBS, 82-percent owned by the British government after a massive bailout in the global the financial crisis, posted a 2011 first quarter net loss of £528 million. The lender said losses soared owing to an increase in the value of its outstanding debt to £2.46 billion. "As RBS's credit spreads tightened during the quarter, a charge of £2,456 million was booked for (our) own credit adjustments," RBS said in a statement. But the bank's underlying performance was brighter, with RBS posting a first quarter operating profit of £1.18 billion. RBS also confirmed that it would repay the last of emergency state loans totalling £163 billion but the British government will still own almost all of the bank after a £45.5 billion bailout following the 2008 financial crisis. "The start of 2012 has shown pleasing progress at RBS within the context of a flat economic environment," chief executive Stephen Hester said in the statement. Employers in U.S. Added Fewer Jobs Than Forecast in April (Bloomberg) Payrolls climbed 115,000, the smallest gain in six months, after a revised 154,000 gain in March that was larger than initially estimated, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median estimate of 85 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for a 160,000 advance. The jobless rate fell to a three-year low of 8.1 percent, and earnings stagnated. Facebook Targets $96 Billion Value (WSJ) With the pricing, Facebook is anticipated to raise as much as $13.6 billion, above earlier expectations of $10 billion. In a regulatory filing, Facebook said the company would seek to sell 337.4 million shares, with about half of those being sold by founders, employees and investors. The only U.S. issuers that have raised more money in an IPO were Visa Inc. at $19.7 billion in 2008 and General Motors Co. at $18.1 billion in 2010. Zuckerberg Facebook IPO to Make Him Richer Than Ballmer (Bloomberg) So that's exciting. Warren Buffett Has 'No Plans To Invest In Facebook IPO' (CNBC) When asked whether the current attention surrounding Internet IPOs reminded him of the tech stock bubble of the late 1990s, the Oracle of Omaha said, “It is not a bubble ... this is not what we were seeing in late 1999 all the way into 2001. We aren’t in any bubble phase of anything.” Inmates Dance, Deputy Fired (OBJ) Some inmates did the worm, others chose the old school robot. Each dance was performed to the beat of hip-hop artist Usher on command from a now-fired Summit County deputy. The inmate prize: use of a jail microwave. The charges are revealed in an internal affairs report released Wednesday. Deputy Dominic Martucci, 35, was fired for violating the department’s policies, including a mandate that inmates be treated humanely. Martucci is accused of ordering five inmates dance to Usher’s Yeah! song and then inviting other deputies to watch during an early evening shift on April 11. The inmates danced their way to regaining use of a microwave that they had lost earlier that day. Fitch CEO: US Downgrade Not Likely Before Election (CNBC) "We currently have the U.S. on a negative outlook, which actually suggests we think there is the potential for a downgrade," Taylor said in an interview. "It's too early to tell whether that will turn into an actual downgrade or not,” he said. “We think we still need to see what's going to happen through the elections and what actions are put in place subsequent to the elections. I think it's very clear that the U.S. does need to do something to deal with the debt problems built up since the financial crisis," he added. New Ripples For Gupta Case (WSJ) Mr. Gupta's criminal trial for securities fraud and conspiracy is scheduled to begin May 21 and expected to last about three weeks. Mr. Gupta has pleaded not guilty. His lawyer, Gary Naftalis, declined to comment for this article but previously has called the accusations "totally baseless." The Manhattan U.S. attorney's office also declined to comment. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have taken note of the spike in trading in Goldman, which began as the firm's board concluded a special meeting to approve the deal that afternoon, according to people familiar with the matter. Galleon traders also noticed the climbing stock, conversations recorded on government wiretaps show. "Someone had this before us, someone, whatever went on, something happened," Galleon trader Ian Horowitz told Mr. Rajaratnam in a phone call the next morning, caught on tape by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Goldman Readies Low-Cost Bond PLatform (WSJ) Goldman is preparing to roll out a bond-trading platform on which it will charge lower fees than on typical bond trades, according to people familiar with the matter, a move that could help retain customers tempted by rival trading venues being set up by BlackRock Inc. and others. AIG Invests $7.4 Billion at 5.3% to Boost Returns, Adds RMBS (Bloomberg) “We continue to be opportunistic with our investments in structured securities in order to improve yields, increase net investment income and offset the impact of a lower interest rate environment,” Wintrob said. BofA Talks Deal On Ex-Broker Pay (WSJ) The former Merrill brokers left the firm after the 2009 takeover by Bank of America and claim they are owed deferred compensation as a result of the deal. They were emboldened last month by an arbitration ruling ordering the Charlotte, N.C., company to pay more than $11 million to two former brokers with related complaints.