Opening Bell: 10.11.10

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Signing Bonuses Haunt Wall Street (WSJ)
In September, a Finra arbitration panel ruled that former Wells Fargo & Co. broker Ivan Pulido had to repay about $1 million he received when he moved to the bank from Merrill Lynch & Co. in 2008...UBS AG executives are trying to squeeze more production out of several hundred brokers in the U.S. who received bonuses to join the company but haven't brought in enough clients or other revenue to become profitable for the Swiss bank. UBS has about 6,700 brokers in the U.S. Senior managers in the division such as its chief executive, Robert McCann, have been pushing some new brokers for about six months to "win back" their old clients. Mr. McCann, a former Merrill brokerage chief who arrived at UBS last year, also has been meeting with clients of longtime brokers at the firm.

CEO's Gather For Group Think (WSJ)
The best place to test the pulse of corporate America will be downtown Chicago on Thursday and Friday as The Business Council swaps the usual country-club setting of its fall meetings for the self-styled risk-management capital of the world. Caterpillar Inc.'s Jim Owens, the group's chairman, Jamie Dimon from J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Boeing Co.'s James McNerney will be among the leaders attending what has developed into an annual "group think" for the U.S. business elite, supported by presentations from policy makers and financiers.

'Animal Instincts' Dominate Euro Zone Bond Market (FT)
Hans Blommestein, head of bond markets and public debt management at the OECD, told the Financial Times: “The psychology of the markets is very negative and not necessarily based on facts, but rather on animal instincts and spirits that trigger far greater selling in bond markets than is often justified by the data.”

Banks Voice Resistance as Regulators Say Basel Is Just a Start (Bloomberg)
Central bankers told executives at weekend meetings in Washington to expect more financial rules, especially for the largest firms, after international regulators set minimum standards in Basel last month. If countries surpass that accord, they will deny banks a level playing field and impede growth, chief executive officers including Deutsche Bank AG’s Josef Ackermann and Standard Chartered Plc’s Peter Sands warned at the event, hosted by the Institute of International Finance.

Pimco's El-Erian Says Industrial Economies Risk `Lost Decade' (Bloomberg)
El-Erian said governments and central banks haven’t detected the “ongoing paradigm shift” in their economies that will require remedies beyond stimulus programs. Among the fault lines he spots are strained balanced sheets, persistently high unemployment and a misunderstanding of financial markets.

Cigar Guy Unmasked (Daily Mail)
Guy is golf fan Rupesh Shingadia, a 30-year-old investment analyst in the City – and a very reluctant star. ‘I am embarrassed and overwhelmed,’ he said in an exclusive interview. ‘Never in a million years could I have expected anything like this. It is truly surreal.’ Rupesh said his costume was a ‘tribute’ to Spanish golfer Miguel Angel Jimenez.

UK And France Poised For EU Hedge Fund Deal (Reuters)
France is ready to drop objections to a key part of a law to tighten rules on hedge funds in exchange for concessions from London, a senior diplomat said, moving to end a row that threatened to harm relations with Washington.

White House Aide Doubts Need To Halt Foreclosures (NYT)
“It is a serious problem,” said David Axelrod, who said that the flawed paperwork was hurting the nation’s housing market as well as lending institutions. But he added, “I’m not sure about a national moratorium because there are in fact valid foreclosures that probably should go forward” because their documents are accurate.

'CHiPs' TV cop Wilcox to plead guilty (LATimes)
Larry Wilcox, the former "CHiPs" TV star accused by federal regulators of securities fraud, has agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges in the stock manipulation case. Wilcox, 63, could face five years in prison on one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud under a plea bargain reached with the U.S. attorney's office in Miami on July 2 and released publicly this week.

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JPMorgan Trader Iksil Fuels Prop-Trading Debate With Bets (Bloomberg) Iksil’s influence in the market has spurred some counterparts to dub him Voldemort, after the Harry Potter villain. He works in London in the bank’s chief investment office, which has assembled traders from across Wall Street to its staff of 400 who help oversee $350 billion in investments. While the firm describes the unit’s main task as hedging risks and investing excess cash, four hedge-fund managers and dealers say the trades are big enough to move indexes and resemble proprietary bets...The trades, first reported by Bloomberg News April 5, stirred debate among U.S. policy makers over the Easter-holiday weekend as they wrangle over this year’s implementation of the so-called Volcker rule, the portion of the Dodd-Frank Act that sets limits on risk-taking by banks with government backing. Taking Measure Of Citigroup And Bank Of America (NYT) Bank of America shares are up 66 percent this year, while Citigroup has risen 33 percent, amid the broader rebound in financial stocks. After staying out of the spotlight and earning $21 billion over the last two years, Citigroup’s potential problems are gaining attention again...At Barclays, the analyst Jason Goldberg said he was shocked when Citigroup did not get the go-ahead from the Fed, adding, “We had run mock stress tests with Citi passing by a fair amount.” Just as surprising, he added, has been Bank of America’s surge this year. Its performance has been a far cry from last year, when Bank of America’s stock, which closed at $9.23 on Thursday, was flirting with $5, and questions about whether it had enough capital were mounting. “If you asked me in January whether this thing would be up 66 percent, I’d have said you’re crazy,” Mr. Goldberg said, referring to Bank of America’s stock performance this year. A 'Fat Cat' With The President's Ear (WSJ) When President Barack Obama attacked "fat-cat bankers on Wall Street" in 2009, Robert Wolf had a ready response. "I said 'Mr. President, I know you think I'm overweight, but I can think of better names to call me,'" Mr. Wolf recalls. "He laughed." Humor and self-deprecation have served Mr. Wolf well in his often conflicting roles as presidential pal and Wall Street power broker. The 50-year-old president of UBS's UBS investment bank has remained a leading voice in the industry while also serving as Mr. Obama's chief Wall Street fundraiser and his current BFF (best friend in finance)...Mr. Wolf plays golf and basketball with the president and he is a frequent visitor to the White House. On vacation in Martha's Vineyard or at fundraising events, the two often bond over sports and their families, since they each have two school-age kids. As if to prove the president wrong about "fat cats," Mr. Wolf says he has lost 20 pounds in the past three months. Willing Banks Find Profits in Legal Trade With Iran (WSJ) As Western sanctions on Iran have grown tighter, some small banks have found a lucrative niche financing what remains of the legal trade with the Islamic Republic. Top-tier financial institutions including Société Générale SA GLE.FR -0.74% and Rabobank Group have stepped back from business with Iran in recent months, citing increased political risk and logistical hassles that attend even legal trade with the country. As a result, the remaining players are commanding higher fees and offering increasingly complicated services. Like Russia's First Czech-Russian Bank LLC and China's Bank of Kunlun Co. Ltd, they are typically small, obscure financial institutions often based in countries historically friendly to Iran. The firms and other intermediaries still brokering these trades are charging more than 6% per transaction for legitimate trade deals with Iran, on top of traditional banking fees, according to traders and bankers knowledgeable with the process. That is as much as triple the fees typically charged by Arab Gulf banks two years ago, before the United States and European Union significantly stiffened sanctions, according to Iranian businessmen. Easter Bunny Arrested (KTLA) An Easter Bunny was arrested this week after police found he was carrying around more than Easter eggs and candy. Joshua Lee Bolling, 24, was arrested and charged on Thursday with illegally possessing prescription narcotics. Police arrested Bolling after businesses at the Piedmont Mall in Danville, Virginia complained that the Easter Bunny was acting suspicious. "His suspicious behavior took place while he was on breaks and not during his contact with children," a police release said. UBS Faces Billionaire Olenicoff in Lawsuit Over His Tax Felony (Bloomberg) and billionaire Igor Olenicoff are scheduled to clash in court today over his claim that the bank bears blame for his failure to declare $200 million in offshore accounts on U.S. tax returns. Olenicoff, 69, a real-estate developer, pleaded guilty in 2007 to filing a false tax return, admitting he didn’t tell the Internal Revenue Service about his offshore accounts for seven years. He was sentenced to two years’ probation and ordered to pay $52 million in back taxes, fines and penalties. In 2008, he sued Zurich-based UBS, the largest Swiss bank, claiming it traded excessively in his accounts, engaged in racketeering and committed fraud by not telling him he owed U.S. taxes. He seeks as much as $1.7 billion in damages. Arguments on the bank’s motion to dismiss the case are set for today before U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford in Santa Ana, California. Markets at the Start of a More Significant Downturn Says Marc Faber (CNBC) “The technical underpinnings of the market have been a disaster in the last couple of weeks,” Faber said on the sidelines of the Maybank Invest Asia conference. “The number of new highs have declined, the volume has been poor, insider sales just hit a record.” Faber said the weakness in economically sensitive stocks such as mining and industrial goods was particularly “disturbing.” Agencies At Odds Over New Ratings (FT) The latest example came this month when a near-$800 million bond deal backed by U.S. prime mortgages was sold to investors with triple-A ratings — provided by Standard & Poor’s and DBRS, a smaller competitor based in Canada — on some tranches. Fitch Ratings issued a statement saying it would not have rated the bonds triple A. It said it provided “feedback” on the transaction to the arranger, Credit Suisse, and “was ultimately not asked to rate the deal due to the agency’s more conservative credit stance”. Steven Vames, a Credit Suisse spokesman, said it was common for an issuer to engage multiple rating agencies to look at a deal and ultimately choose a subset of those agencies to rate it. In March, Moody’s said: “Some recent cases have come to market for which we believe increased risk has not been adequately mitigated for the level of ratings assigned by another agency.” In particular, Moody’s faulted ratings issued by S&P, Fitch and DBRS on asset-backed deals. For Big Companies, Life Is Good (WSJ) An analysis by The Wall Street Journal of corporate financial reports finds that cumulative sales, profits and employment last year among members of the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index exceeded the totals of 2007, before the recession and financial crisis. UK Cruise Retraces Titanic's Ill-Fated Voyage (Reuters) Descendants of some of the 1,500 people killed when the Titanic sank a century ago were among the passengers on a cruise ship that set off from Britain on Sunday to retrace the route of the liner's ill-fated voyage. Some donned period costume, including furs and feathered hats for women and suits and bowler hats for men, to board the MS Balmoral at Southampton on the southern English coast. The world's most famous maritime disaster has fascinated people ever since, explaining why passengers from 28 countries were prepared to pay up to 8,000 pounds ($13,000) each to be a passenger on the memorial cruise organized by a British travel firm. The Balmoral will follow in the wake of the Titanic, sailing near Cherbourg in France and then calling at Cobh inIreland before arriving at the spot where the Titanic went down...Passenger Jane Allen, whose great-uncle died on his honeymoon trip on the Titanic while her great-aunt survived, said she did not think it was "ghoulish or macabre" to go on the voyage.