Holiday Bell: 11.26.10

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FrontPoint Investors Seek Withdrawals (FT)
“It is difficult for an entity to keep going because at a certain point the business ceases to be viable whether it has crossed the line or not,” said the head of one firm which invests tens of billions of dollars in hedge funds on behalf of clients. “The regulators effectively put them out of business.” Investors in these hedge funds say they have no choice but to pull their money at the first hint of trouble. “If I get even a whiff of an investigation, I want to get out before the next guy, especially if I know they have illiquid stuff or I don’t know what they have,” says the head of one fund of funds. “Everyone’s nightmare is to get stuck with the stuff in the basement.”

Architects of GM's IPO Sought to Limit Windfall for Wall Street (Bloomberg)
Want to underwrite one of the largest initial public offerings in history? Chop your usual fee by three-fourths and commit to limiting Wall Street’s windfall. That was the deal David Miller and Tim Massad, the unheralded government architects behind the General Motors Co. stock offering, gave investment banks interested in handling the deal. When the two U.S. Treasury officials made their expectations clear, “we could kind of hear their jaws drop over the phone,” said Massad, Bloomberg Businessweek reports in its Nov. 29 issue. The IPO, led by JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley, was a nail-biter for Massad and Miller, who also manage the government’s bank and insurance company investments. “You want the deal to go well” without looking overly optimistic in pricing the shares, Miller said. “At the same time, we don’t want it to go up way too much” because that would mean taxpayers left money on the table on the first day of trading.

This Black Friday, Somebody’s Watching While You Shop (CNBC)
This weekend, as you pull into the shopping mall parking lot for the hottest Black Friday sales, it’s entirely possible that your picture will be snapped by a satellite orbiting high above the Earth. Its being done by retail-market analysts who want to know how many customers are heading to the stores — and what that means for retail stocks this season.

Howard Davidowitz: "Obama Is Toast" (BI)
Also: The situation in Europe, and specifically Ireland, is very similar to what’s happened in the United States, Davidowitz notes. The only major difference is the U.S. can still borrow very cheaply. But, unlike Europe we’ve "done nothing! Nothing!" to get spending under control. He fears “the U.S. dollar is at risk” and could face a crisis “in the next two years,” if we don’t start our own austerity plan.

Jonathan Weil: What to Do When the FBI Raids Your Hedge Fund (BW)
Soon the unsuspecting public will be told that financial stocks are plunging on the news that your firm is being raided. You have the benefit of knowing this in advance. The only remaining questions: Do you short Goldman Sachs? Do you short other large banks, too? More importantly, do you short them for your personal account, or for your fund’s? Sensing nothing but upside in the downside, you settle on all of the above.

The 7 Best Deep-Fried Turkey Disaster Videos (Eater)
Flameball.

What to Do When the F.B.I. Knocks (Dealbook)
The law firm O’Melveny & Myers has issued an alert to clients with a few pointers. First thing? Ask for identification. Second thing? Call an O’Melveny lawyer for advice. The alert provides the home and cellphone numbers of some top lawyers just in case the unwelcome visit comes late at night. The firm also suggests clients read the warrant, dismiss all nonessential employees for the day and, of course, don’t consent to a search. And should agents try to get their hands on any legal documents, “tell them those documents are privileged and ask them to wait until attorneys arrive to speak with them about this issue.”

Former Blue Index Directors, Trader Charged by U.K. With Insider Trading (Bloomberg)
Two former Blue Index Ltd. directors and a trader at the London derivatives broker were charged with insider dealing by the U.K. Financial Services Authority over claims they traded before seven merger announcements. Blue Index’s co-owners, James Paul Sanders and James Swallow, and senior trader Christopher Hossain, were among five people charged at a London police station, the FSA said in a statement today. Former employee Adam Buck and Sanders’ wife, Miranda Sanders, were also charged in the case.

Rich Americans Ditch Homeownership For Renting (CNBC)
In March Patrick Lee sold the Manhattan apartment he bought in 2008 for about the same price he paid and moved — along with his wife and child — a few steps away into a luxury, two-bedroom rental unit in a brand new building. Lee wouldn't disclose what he's paying, but similar two-bedroom apartments in the building usually rent for $11,000 a month. “I wanted to protect ourselves from prices going down,” says Lee, who is a managing director at a major bank. “I didn’t want to be an owner anymore.”

KKR to Purchase Meow Mix Maker Del Monte Foods for $4 Billion (Bloomberg)
KKR, Vestar Capital Partners and Centerview Partners will pay $19 a share in cash, San Francisco-based Del Monte said in a statement yesterday. That would be 21 percent higher than the closing price in Nov. 18, the day before takeover talks were reported. The buyers will assume about $1.3 billion in net debt.

Market Rules, Made To Be Broken (WSJ)
The Fed's efforts have scrambled the usual signals for Jeffrey Hirsch, editor-in-chief of the Stock Trader's Almanac, which popularized the Santa Claus rally and other seasonal patterns. Mr. Hirsch says the Fed probably can't be blamed for all of the disruption. In recent days, North Korea has roiled the traditional patterns. "Thanksgiving has historically been a good week, but gunshots and artillery have been known to disrupt a number of seasonalities," Mr. Hirsch says.

Angelina Jolie Refuses To Celebrate Thanksgiving, Feels It's A Story Of Murder (PE)
"Angelina Jolie hates this holiday and wants no part in rewriting history like so many other Americans," a friend of the actress says. "To celebrate what the white settlers did to the native Indians, the domination of one culture over another, just isn't her style. She definitely doesn't want to teach her multi-cultural family how to celebrate a story of murder."

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Holiday Bell: 12.31.12

Cliff's Edge Draws Close (WSJ) What happens Monday could go some way to determining the short-term fate of the U.S. economy and the reputation of the government, both of which have been dinged by the spectacle of endless seemingly circular negotiations. Carrying the baton late into Sunday evening were Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky) and Vice President Joe Biden. A spokesman for Mr. McConnell said Monday morning that the two men "will continue to work toward a solution." In the past two weeks, at least three different sets of negotiation teams have sought a way out...Still, some remained hopeful elements of a deal were on the table and could be brought into alignment at the last minute. "We're very close," said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D., Md.). "It is like a kaleidoscope," meaning there are many moving parts that can look beautiful or ugly depending how they're arrayed. Experts Forecast The Cost Of Failure To Compromise (NYT) In the event no compromise is found, however,the Congressional Budget Office and many private economists warn that the sudden pullback in spending and the rise in taxes would push the economy into recession in the first half of the year. Under this outcome, Mr. Gault said, the economy could shrink by 0.5 percent over all of 2013. With the clock ticking, some observers bolstered their criticism of Washington. "If we have a recession, it's unforgivable," said Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at the Economic Outlook Group. "For the first time in modern history, we will have a self-inflicted recession in the U.S." New Year's Countdown To Higher US Taxes Starts (Bloomberg) The IRS has said it will issue guidance by today on paycheck withholding for 2013, which depends on the income-tax rates Congress is debating. Higher rates would mean less take- home pay for workers starting as early as the first paycheck in January. Both Democrats and Republicans support extending current rates for families making less than $250,000. They disagree on whether to raise levies for top earners. Rates are scheduled to increase for all income levels Jan. 1 if Congress doesn’t act. Parties Pivot To Blame (WSJ) If Congress and the White House fail to strike a deal to avert the so-called fiscal cliff, Republicans are under few illusions as to who will get much of the blame—even if past polls suggest there will be plenty to go around. "The poor Republicans will get the brunt of it, which may be unfair, but such is life," said Republican Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a former White House budget chief under George W. Bush. "The Republicans are seen as the obstinate ones, where at the very least, the president and his side are equally so." Polls since the November election have found Americans more ready to blame the GOP than President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats if the two sides fail to reach a deal to avoid the wave of tax increases and spending cuts coming Jan. 1. A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll earlier this month showed 24% would blame Republicans while 19% would blame Democrats. Merkel Says Euro Zone Crisis Far From Over (Reuters) FYI. Mario Batali wins biz feud over UK chef Gordon Ramsay (NYP, related, related) Batali says the prickly Brit star has agreed to give up on using the name The Spotted Pig for a London eatery — amid outcry that he had swiped it from Batali and his partners. “It didn’t make him look great,” Batali said of Ramsay’s recent trademarking of the name in the UK. “I don’t think it was an intentional shot across the bow by Gordon,” Batali told the Eater Vegas blog. “His team is just [trying] to build businesses. There’s got to be a thousand other animals they could have chosen besides The Spotted Pig. A striped minx, for example.” Experts Back Deutsche Whistleblowers (FT) Accounting experts say Deutsche Bank appears to have improperly accounted for billions of dollars of credit derivatives trades by failing to value adequately the risk that its trading counterparties could walk away. Jersey woman charged at boyfriend with hammer after he refuses to pay for laundry, reports say (NJ) Jazmin Duran, 24, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, terroristic threats, criminal mischief, domestic violence, possession of weapon, unlawful possession of a weapon, resisting arrest police reports said. Police were called to Garfield Avenue near Armstrong Avenue at 2:52 p.m. on a report that a man was locked in the bathroom and his girlfriend was hitting the door with a hammer, reports said. When police arrived, the 49-year-old boyfriend, was still locked in the bathroom, reports said. After a brief struggle, police were able to detain Duran, reports said. When he came out he told police that Duran was mad at him and attacked him with a hammer, reports said. The victim said that he was undressing to get in the shower while talking to his girlfriend about getting her eyebrows done, when she asked for him to pay for doing her laundry, reports said. He responded that he didn't have money to pay for her laundry, reports said. He said she became irate and began to scream, reports said. BofA Settlement Hits Snags (WSJ) A big legal settlement usually marks the end of the bulk of the work for the Justice Department. But a year after a $335 million deal with Bank of America Corp. to compensate minority borrowers for alleged discrimination, much remains to be done. The department's settlement administrator just began notifying affected borrowers in November, about five months later than originally planned. Then, weeks after letters went out to more than 233,000 presumed victims, about 10% of those letters have been returned as undeliverable, according to Justice Department officials. U.S. officials had warned that it might take two years for eligible borrowers to receive money from the settlement, but they also expressed hope that checks could be mailed out sooner. Those hopes have dimmed. Facebook Analysts Stick To Script (WSJ) Facebook Inc. FB +1.03% has gotten a thumbs-down from investors since its initial public offering. But securities analysts who work at the investment banks that did the deal have never wavered in their enthusiasm. Since the social-networking company went public in May, analysts at Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs—Facebook's three biggest underwriters—have issued 40 reports on the stock. Every report has urged investors to buy. Skin In The Game (NYP) West Village cosmetic doctor Yelena Yeretsky usually works to make the power women of Wall Street look flawless. But now men are asking for her services. Yeretsky says, “The men usually want chemical peels so they look glowy. I remove lesions and skin tags and non-cancerous growths from years of playing golf in the sun.” French Court Says 75% Tax Rate on Rich Is Unconstitutional (Bloomberg) President Francois Hollande’s 75 percent millionaire-tax is unconstitutional because it fails to guarantee taxpayer equality, France’s top court ruled today. The tax, one of Hollande’s campaign promises, had become a focal point of discontent among entrepreneurs and other wealth creators, some of whom have quit French shores as a result. The ruling comes as the president seeks to cut France’s public deficit to 3 percent of gross domestic product next year from a projected 4.5 percent this year. For Euro, All Eyes On ECB's Playbook (WSJ) "Global central banks are engaged in a race to the bottom. It's difficult to call which major currency will be the ugliest," said Munich-based Thomas Kressin, who heads currency strategy for Pacific Investment Management Co., one of the world's biggest bond-fund managers. Expert: Champagne cork can put an eye out (UPI) The pressure inside a champagne bottle can launch a cork at 50 miles per hour as it leaves the bottle, fast enough to shatter glass, U.S. eye experts say. Dr. Monica L. Monica, an ophthalmologist and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, said the speed at which a cork can be unleashed is fast enough to permanently damage vision, including rupture of the eye wall, acute glaucoma, retinal detachment, ocular bleeding, dislocation of the lens and damage to the eye's bone structure. These injuries sometimes require urgent eye surgeries, Monica said. "When a champagne cork flies, you really have no time to react and protect your delicate eyes," Monica said in a statement. Programming Note: We're on an abbreviated, vacation-esque schedule. Opening wraps and brief updates should anything happen that people need to know about (fiscal cliff deal is struck, Raj Rajaratnam leads his fellow inmates in a NYE flashmob set to 'Thriller,' etc). Happy New Year and we'll see you in 2013!

Holiday Bell: 12.26.12

Budget Talks Cloud Outlook (WSJ) Lawmakers returning to town this week will see whether they can agree on a plan to avoid the full brunt of the fiscal cliff, the combined $500 billion in tax increases and spending cuts set to begin next week. Little if any progress was made in the talks before Congress and President Barack Obama left town last Friday for Christmas. The president plans to leave his vacation in Hawaii late Wednesday night, returning to Washington on Thursday, the White House said. Aides in both parties say they expect a potential solution to start taking shape by the end of the week. But with so little time, hopes are dimming for anything other than a partial agreement, which would prolong the uncertainty and leave in place some tax or spending measures that act as a serious drag on the weak recovery. This could even trigger another recession, exacerbating the global economic slowdown. Grand Bargain Shrinks as Congress Nears U.S. Budget Deadline (Bloomberg) “At this point there’s zero percent chance of a big deal and maybe a 10 percent chance of a small deal before Jan. 1,” said Stan Collender, a former staff member of the House Ways and Means Committee and the House and Senate Budget committees who is now at Qorvis Communications in Washington. He has predicted a no-deal scenario since before Memorial Day, and said the past two weeks of inaction reinforced his projection. At this point, Collender said, whether the Senate moves first won’t matter. “Nothing will move House Republicans if they don’t feel like getting moved,” he said. “They’ve never been swayed by the Senate before.” The remaining option for averting the cliff, he said, would be if Boehner risks his House speakership to put to the floor a tax deal that would get a majority of Democrats to support it and few -- perhaps less than 50 -- Republicans. “The Republican caucus would never forgive him,” he said. “The statesmanlike thing to do would be to say I’m the speaker of the House, not the head of the Republican party. That is the equivalent of never running for speaker again.” Some 'Cliff' With Your Coffee? Starbucks Urges Unity (Reuters) Chief Executive Howard Schultz is urging workers in Starbucks' roughly 120 Washington-area shops to write "come together'' on customers' cups on Thursday and Friday, as U.S. President Barack Obama and lawmakers return to work and attempt to revive fiscal cliff negotiations that collapsed before the Christmas holiday. Herbalife Goes On Offensive (WSJ) Herbalife Ltd. said it has hired a strategic adviser and will hold an analyst and investor meeting next month in an effort to thwart a wave of criticism reignited by investor William Ackman. In addition, Herbalife is working with law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP in connection with the dispute, according to people familiar with the matter. It wasn't immediately clear what kind of counsel Boies Schiller might provide...The company's moves, announced Monday, come after Mr. Ackman last week revealed that his firm has been betting against Herbalife shares for months in a negative wager that he characterized as "enormous." He also said the nutritional-supplement maker operates as a "pyramid scheme." He said distributors, or salespeople, for the Los Angeles-based company make more money by recruiting other distributors than by selling the company's diet and nutritional products. Herbalife last week called Mr. Ackman's stance "a malicious attack on Herbalife's business model based largely on outdated, distorted and inaccurate information." NJ Pension Fund Sues NYSE-Euronext on ICE Deal (Reuters) The New Jersey Carpenters Pension Fund on Friday filed a complaint in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan contending that NYSE-Euronext breached its duty to maximize returns for shareholders. The lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of other NYSE-Euronext shareholders and aims to block the sale. Titan to Withdraw Money From SAC (WSJ) Titan Advisors LLC recently told clients that it had decided to withdraw its entire investment from SAC, said clients who received phone calls from Titan. "They've told us they still think SAC is a good firm but Titan doesn't need the headline risk, and we sure don't," said Tom Taneyhill, executive director of the Fire & Police Employees' Retirement System of the City of Baltimore, on Friday...Titan's departure is significant given SAC's long-standing relationship with one of Titan's founders. Titan co-founder George Fox began investing in SAC in the mid-90s, several years after Mr. Cohen started what became the firm in 1992. Madoff, in Christmas Eve Letter, Says Insider Trading Has Gone on 'Forever' (CNBC) In a Christmas Eve letter from the medium security federal prison in North Carolina where he is serving a 150-year sentence for running a massive Ponzi scheme, Madoff tells CNBC that insider trading has been around "forever." He also rails against what he calls a lack of transparency in the financial markets, and says the growth of hedge funds is forcing market players to take outsized risks in order to earn decent returns. [...] "(O)ne would be led to believe that with the recent spate of insider trading prosecution that insider trading is a new development," Madoff writes. "This is false. It has been present in the market forever, but rarely prosecuted. The same can be said of front running of orders." Venture Capital to Suppress Its Appetite for Risk in 2013 (WSJ) Internet entrepreneurs have had the upper hand over venture capitalists in recent years but that balance of power is now showing some signs of shifting, a trend that could accelerate in 2013. Spurring the change is a dramatically lower appetite for risk from venture capitalists. Many investors rushed to get into Web startup deals in 2010, 2011 and in the early part of this year, often acceding to entrepreneurs' demands for rising valuations in order to snag a stake in their companies. But following the disappointing stock market performances of recently public Web companies Facebook, Zynga, and Groupon venture capitalists are reining in their spending in areas like the consumer Internet. Israel Hedge Funds Defy Iran Threat Multiplying in Tech Center (Bloomberg) Tal Keinan, an Israeli fund manager, was ready for the question he’s always asked when he met with investors in New York in October: Why put your money with a manager whose country Iran has threatened to obliterate. “We tell them ‘if the Iranians attack, the worst thing that can happen is you lose your money manager not your money’,” Keinan, chief executive officer of Tel Aviv-based KCPS & Company, which oversees $1 billion in assets, said in an interview on Oct. 14. “The notion is trade global markets with global assets and clients, but just do it from Israel because of the concentration of talent here.” The country is becoming a magnet for hedge fund managers as lower operating costs, the world’s highest number of Ph.D.s and hi-tech startups per capita overshadow concern that Israel may be attacked by missiles from Tehran. The number of funds has grown to 60 overseeing about $2 billion from 13 in 2006, according to a survey of the local industry published in July by Tzur Management. Israel may be on track to replicate the growth that propelled Singapore’s industry from fewer than 20 managers in 2001 to 320 overseeing $48 billion in 2009, Yitz Raab, founder and managing partner of the Tel Aviv-based fund administration company, said in an interview on Nov. 11. Even Cupid Wants To Know Your Credit Score (NYT) The credit score, once a little-known metric derived from a complex formula that incorporates outstanding debt and payment histories, has become an increasingly important number used to bestow credit, determine housing and even distinguish between job candidates. It’s so widely used that it has also become a bigger factor in dating decisions, sometimes eclipsing more traditional priorities like a good job, shared interests and physical chemistry. That’s according to interviews with more than 50 daters across the country, all under the age of 40. Report: Hedgies prime for comeback (NYP) Banking giant UBS says so-called active investing could be making a comeback after several years of lagging performance, according to a recent report sent to clients. “Although the recent market environment has been difficult for active managers, conditions appear to be improving,” according to the report by UBS’s wealth-management group, which advises clients on their investment strategies. “We expect this to lead to better manager performance.” London VC Spared Jail After ‘Groin Thrusting’ Sexual Assault On Tube During Olympics (TechCrunch) Stefan Glaenzer, a partner in London VC firm Passion Capital has been spared jail after pleading guilty to, and being convicted of, sexual assault on the London underground during the Olympics period...In November, the former chairman of Last.fm admitted sexually assaulting an American tourist on a packed Central Line train by thrusting his groin into her back, Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard. His defence was that he was under the influence of cannabis. Programming Note: We’re on an abbreviated, vacation-esque schedule this week (opening news roundups and limited updates whenever the urge to reach out and touch you moves us). We still want to hear from you, though, so if anything happens that you think might tickle our fancy, do not hesitate to let us know.