Opening Bell: 12.17.10

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Congress Sends Tax Bill To Obama (WSJ)
The bill goes to the White House for President Barack Obama's signature after the House overcame persistent liberal opposition and passed it with an unexpectedly large bipartisan majority of 277-148. The measure passed the Senate earlier in the week also with an overwhelming majority.

Diamond To Become Barclays Chief Three Months Earlier (Bloomberg)
Diamond, 59, will become CEO on Jan. 1, the London-based bank said in a statement today. Barclays said in September Diamond would succeed John Varley as CEO on March 31, 2011.

Probe Nabs Tech Analysts (WSJ)
In their most significant move yet in a sweeping insider-trading investigation, federal prosecutors charged four corporate managers with peddling financial details about prominent technology companies and with leaking secrets about popular consumer products such as Apple Inc.'s iPhone in exchange for cash. "The information trafficked by the four 'consultants' went way beyond permissible market research," said Janice Fedarcyk, a Federal Bureau of Investigation assistant director in charge. "It was insider information."

Insider Trading Arrests Point Prosecutors To Hedge Funds (Bloomberg)
“Few hedge fund managers have the investment skill to deliver the benefits that they promise,” James Fanto, a professor at Brooklyn Law School in New York, said in an e-mail. “They have to find an edge however they can -- in this case through the expert networks,” said Fanto, who teaches banking, corporate and securities law...“If you think you shouldn’t be talking about it --don’t,” an unidentified Primary Global employee tells Shimoon during one call, according to the complaint. “That would really suck if you recorded all the calls,” Shimoon replies.

UBS Internal Memo Responds To Dress Code Jibes (Reuters)
UBS sought to downplay a new dress code policy, broken by Dealbreaker and widely lampooned in the international press for detailed instructions to staff extending as far as the colour of their underwear and the care of nasal hair. The memo said the dress code was first created in 2009 for reception staff, event attendants and chauffeurs, but was being extended to customer-facing staff in Switzerland to help the bank present a consistent image. The effort to smarten up staff is part of a wider campaign to improve the public image of the country's top bank, bailed out by the government after writing down more than 50 billion Swiss francs ($52.2 billion) of toxic assets in the crisis.

Keith Meister, Former Icahn Lieutenant, Starts Hedge Fund (Dealbook)
Keith Meister, who was widely described as the billionaire activist investor Carl C. Icahn’s right-hand man, is starting an event-driven hedge fund that will be seeded by Soros Fund Management, people who have been briefed on the matter say.

Mark Madoff's Name Became Too Big A Burden To Bear (NYT)
Most frustrating of all, this person said, was the fact that neither he nor anyone who knew him could publicly defend him. “There were all these comments from the trustee about how he was an incompetent boob, and to have all the people who knew otherwise muzzled by their lawyers — it was very, very hard.” No one in the financial world, the only world where he had ever worked, would publicly risk giving a job to a Madoff.

Ireland Debt Downgraded (WSJ)
The five-notch downgrade was made as "Ireland's sovereign creditworthiness has suffered from the repeated crystallization of bank-related contingent liabilities on the government's balance sheet," said Dietmar Hornung, vice president, senior credit officer at Moody's.

FSA Enforcement Of Bonus Rule Will Be Split Among 4 Tiers (Bloomberg)
The FSA proposed financial firms be split into four groups based on their size. The toughest rules will apply to firms with “significant proprietary trading and investment banking activities,” the regulator said in a statement. Small banks, building societies and institutions with low balance sheet risk will face fewer rules on share awards, disclosure and bonus deferrals. The deadline for implementation is Jan. 1.

WSJ Still Wins Deal Scoops (NYO)
WSJ vs. NYT, in chart form.

"What Goes Through David Einhorn's Mind" (Bloomberg)

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Opening Bell: 05.08.12

When Facebook Met Wall Street (WSJ) On Monday, investors piled into the hotel to hear what Mr. Zuckerberg and his lieutenants had to say about the offering. At one point, the line, leading to a second-floor ballroom where the meeting was scheduled to be held at 11:45 a.m., stretched down to the first floor and spilled out of the hotel for nearly half a city block. At least one investor waiting in line said he didn't expect anything to be revealed that wasn't already in Facebook's securities filings. Rather, he was there to take in the show, and lunch (which was Cobb salad and grilled chicken). A 30-minute video about Facebook, which had been widely distributed before Monday, led the lunch, according to attendees. The next part of the presentation was briefly delayed by Mr. Zuckerberg's absence. The CEO was in the bathroom, explained Chief Financial Officer David Ebersman to attendees. (Mr. Ebersman wore a navy suit.) Yahoo CEO Apologizes in Memo, Board Meets (Reuters, earlier) Yahoo Inc's board convened on Monday afternoon to discuss the mounting upset surrounding Chief Executive Scott Thompson, who has apologized to employees after being accused last week by activist investor Daniel Loeb of padding his resume, a source with knowledge of the matter said..."I want you to know how deeply I regret how this issue has affected the company and all of you," Thompson wrote in his first extended memo to employees since the disclosures emerged on May 3. "We have all been working very hard to move the company forward and this has had the opposite effect. For that, I take full responsibility, and I want to apologize to you." Billion-Dollar Traders Quit Wall Street For Hedge Funds (Bloomberg) Wall Street’s biggest banks have lost almost two dozen of their most-profitable credit traders in the past 13 months as regulators limit the kind of risk-taking that amplified the housing crisis four years ago. As banks slash or defer pay and reduce the amount they’re willing to wager, the traders are seeing better opportunities at hedge funds and investment firms that seek to profit in markets lenders are retreating from. Wall Street Banks Depressed In Secular Shift (Bloomberg) To Kevin Conn, who has been analyzing bank stocks for 15 years, the investment climate for Wall Street’s biggest firms has entered the realm of science fiction. “It’s like that Ray Bradbury short story where it rains for months in a row,” said Conn, who works for Massachusetts Financial Services Co., referring to “The Long Rain,” published in 1950. “It’s one of these terrifically depressing short stories where the weather just never changes.” Spain To Spend Billions On Bank Rescue (FT) Spain is planning a state bail-out of Bankia, the country’s third biggest bank by assets, in a move likely to involve the injection of billions of euros of public money into the troubled lender. In an abrupt reversal of policy, the Spanish government, which had previously insisted that no additional state money would be needed to clean up the country’s banking sector, confirmed that an intervention was being prepared. OWS Mom Snubs Plea (NYP) Occupy Wall Street protester Stacey Hessler, 39, arrested in November for resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, yesterday refused an offer to have her charges dismissed and will instead face a trial...Hessler had originally planned to accept the judge’s offer of an adjournment contemplating dismissal, which erases the charge if the defendant stays out of trouble for six months, but later changed her mind, her attorney said. SEC Orders Probe Of Watchdog Office (WSJ) The Securities and Exchange Commission has ordered an independent inquiry into allegations of sexual misconduct by current and former staff working for its office of the inspector general, according to a person familiar with the matter. The complaint includes allegations that the misconduct compromised certain investigations of the SEC, according to the person familiar with the situation. Apollo's Profit More Than Doubles (WSJ) For the first quarter, Apollo reported a profit of $98 million, or 66 cents a share, up from a year-earlier profit of $38.2 million, or 33 cents a share. Economic net income rose to $1.10 from 99 cents a year earlier. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected 78 cents a share...Total revenue rose 12% to $776.7 million, far better than the $547 million expected by analysts. Bank of America Offers Principal Reductions to 200,000 Homeowners (CNBC) “If people get these things and toss them, they won’t be eligible,” says Ron Sturzenegger, the Bank of America executive charged with providing solutions to borrowers in need of mortgage assistance. But the offer is real, and eligible borrowers could get as much as $150,000 knocked off the balance of their mortgages. It is all part of the $25 billion settlement reached this year between federal and state agencies and the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers over fraudulent foreclosure document processing (so-called “robo-signing”). No Repeating Slowdown Seen by U.S. With Banks to Housing (Bloomberg) Rising auto sales, improving bank credit and stabilization of housing are among the signs the economy is more resilient now than it was around the same time in 2010 and 2011, according to Marisa Di Natale, an economist at Moody’s Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “From where we sit right now, we think the economy looks fundamentally stronger,” Di Natale said. “Surveys of business and consumer confidence are better, the labor market data looks a lot better than it did last year, even some of the housing data looks better.” Ex-Tyco CFO: Gimme the $ I didn’t steal! (Reuters) Former Tyco International Chief Financial Officer Mark Swartz, who is serving a prison sentence for looting the company, has sued for $60 million in retirement and other money he says he is owed. The lawsuit, which was made public yesterday, accuses Tyco of breach of contract and unjust enrichment for not paying him some $48 million from an executive retirement agreement, $9 million in reimbursement for New York taxes, and other money. Winner Of Mexican Presidential Debate? Julia Orayen (AP) Who won Mexico's presidential debate? According to the media and Twitter frenzy, at least, the victor wasn't any candidate but a curvaceous model in a tight gown who puzzled millions by appearing on stage for less than 30 seconds during the showdown. Julia Orayen has posed nude for Playboy and appeared barely dressed in other media, but she made her mark on Mexican minds Sunday night by carrying an urn filled with bits of paper determining the order that candidates would speak. She wore a tight, white dress with a wide, tear-drop cutout that revealed her ample decolletage. The image was splashed across newspaper front pages and websites by Monday. "The best was the girl in white with the cleavage at the beginning," tweeted former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda, who is also a New York University professor...Alfredo Figueroa, director of the Federal Electoral Institute responsible for organizing the debate, blamed the incident on a production associate hired by the institute to help with the debate. The institute later issued an apology to Mexican citizens and the candidates for the woman's dress.