A Trader Hoards Copper In London (WSJ)
As commodity prices soar to new records, the ability of a few traders to hold huge swaths of the world's stockpiles is coming under scrutiny. The latest example is in the copper market, where a single trader has reported it owns 80% to 90% of the copper sitting in London Metal Exchange warehouses, equal to about half of the world's exchange-registered copper stockpile and worth about $3 billion.
Ernst Accused Of Lehman Whitewash (WSJ)
The lawsuit, led by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, alleges that the firms engaged in practices to temporarily erase as much as $50 billion in Lehman assets. This often occurred near the end of a quarter, allegedly making the company look much healthier than it was. Ernst "directly facilitated" an accounting sleight of hand that burnished the securities firm's balance sheet, Mr. Cuomo claimed in the lawsuit. Ernst & Young said in a statement that there was "no factual or legal basis" to bring a claim against the firm, and that it would vigorously defend against the claims in Mr. Cuomo's lawsuit. Lehman's accounting was in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, Ernst said, and Lehman's bankruptcy "was not caused by any accounting issues."
Bankers Worldwide Brace For 7% Drop In Bonuses (Reuters)
Although most banks have not yet informed staff of their actual bonuses for 2010, the dismal expectations reflect the fact that generally bankers, traders, and salespeople have been told to be ready for a low payout. "Flat is the new up," one U.S. banker said.
Deutsche Bank Tax Deal Opens Floodgates (Reuters)
Deutsche Bank's U.S. tax fraud settlement has heightened expectations of more deals being struck as American authorities target overseas banks in a crackdown on tax dodgers. U.S. prosecutors are pushing ahead with more probes, emboldened after top Swiss wealth manager UBS had to hand over the details of 4,450 clients. Leads from that case have helped investigators look at banks in Asia and the Middle East, while clients from HSBC have also been under scrutiny, lawyers have said.
Bank of Moscow in embezzlement probe (FT)
City mayor Mr Luzhkov was fired by the Kremlin in September amid allegations that he ran Moscow as a personal fiefdom. Yelena Baturina, his wife, rose to become Russia’s richest woman with a vast construction and property business. “A criminal investigation has been opened at Bank of Moscow in connection with an alleged embezzlement,” Viktor Biryukov, a Moscow interior ministry official, said on Tuesday. He declined to elaborate on details of the case. However, state news agencies linked the probe to a 2009 deal in which the Bank of Moscow lent Rbs12.76bn to a real estate company that then bought land at a price believed by market analysts to be over-priced from Ms Baturina, whose company, Inteko, was overburdened by debt.
Stopgap Bill Hamstrings Government Programs (NYT)
The Securities and Exchange Commission has stopped hiring and halted most travel by agency officials. Hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to nations like Pakistan is held up, as are American contributions to global health and emergency food programs. A systems upgrade by the Internal Revenue Service to improve electronic data-keeping and speed tax refunds could be delayed for years — all because the federal government is operating on a temporary measure largely at last year’s levels. Congress on Tuesday approved yet another temporary spending bill, this one running through March 4, the fourth such stopgap measure since the fiscal year ended Sept. 30.
Bank of America, Deutsche Bank Assets Seized in Italian Derivatives Probe (Bloomberg)
Police said they took 15 million euros from Bank of America, and 1.7 million euros each from Deutsche Bank AG and UBS AG, according to an e-mailed statement. The remainder was seized from Natixis SA, Dexia Crediop SpA and Banca Monte Paschi di Siena SpA. The amount represents the alleged illicit profit the banks made from selling derivatives to the city of Florence, the region of Tuscany and three other municipalities in the region, the police said. The local governments have lost about 123 million euros on the swaps that adjusted payments on 1.4 billion euros of debt, the police said.
DeNiro, Hoffman Slum In 'Ghastly' Fockers (Bloomberg)
Predictably, “Little Fockers” has a lot of silly double entendres involving the family name. Byrnes asks Greg if he wants to take over as patriarch and become the “Godfocker.” When Greg’s outrageous mother (Barbra Streisand) gets hugged by her twin grandchildren, she calls it a “Focker sandwich.” If the Focker jokes have grown stale, so have the contrasts between Greg’s hyper Jewish parents (Dustin Hoffman plays his touchy-feely dad) and his wife’s button-down WASP family (Blythe Danner is her sweetly oblivious mom). It’s pathetic to see great actors like Hoffman and De Niro slumming in such schlock, though their own pain was undoubtedly soothed by substantial paychecks.
Inflation Fears Rise Among Bank of England Policymakers (CNBC)
Adam Posen called for an extra 50 billion pounds more quantitative easing and Andrew Sentance urged interest rates to rise to 0.75 percent from 0.5 percent, while the other 7 MPC members voted for policy to stay unchanged. However, a growing number of policymakers were concerned about rising inflation risks, albeit not sufficiently to justify changing policy, especially given the risk of contagion from the euro zone's financial instability.
Hurt Wants Accuser's Letter Shielded (WSJ)
The eight-page letter, in which former H-P contractor Jodie Fisher accused Mr. Hurd of sexual harassment, is currently under seal in Delaware's Court of Chancery as part of a shareholder suit filed against H-P over the executive's exit.
Stranded Passengers' Hopes Raised (BBC)
Heathrow Airport plans to run two-thirds of flights, and Eurostar and the East Coast mainline from London to Scotland expect a near-normal service.