Opening Bell: 02.17.11

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What JPMorgan Knew About Madoff Fraud (WSJ)
On Tuesday, the bank's general counsel Stephen Cutler stood before a group of analysts and said J.P. Morgan "did not know about or in any way participate in the fraud" and vowed not to litigate the case in the media. Mr. Dimon then took the microphone and said: "You can imagine what I would say."

BofA Subpoenaed over Countrywide VIP Home Loans (Reuters)
The subpoena is the latest in a two-year probe by U.S. Representative Daniel Issa, chairman of the committee, into Countrywide Financial Corp's mortgage program that allegedly gave better loan terms and preferential treatment to allies of former Chief Executive Angelo Mozilo. Te program was known informally as the "Friends of Angelo" inside the mortgage lender.

Bill Winters To Launch Fund (Reuters)
Winters has kept a low profile since his departure from JPMorgan, though he is one of only five commissioners on the UK government's Commission on Banking, which could decide the structure of that country's banking sector, according to the newspaper report. The venture is backed by two of Europe's wealthiest family investment groups: RIT Capital, the vehicle of Lord Jacob Rothschild, and Johann Rupert's Reinet fund, the newspaper reported. It will have tens of millions of pounds of start-up capital, but expects to attract several billion pounds of money to invest, including from family money and sovereign wealth funds, according to the report.

Warren Buffett to start India charity show from Bangalore suburb (ET)
Buffett will make his first-ever trip to India next month as part of a global roadshow aimed at persuading some of the world’s billionaires to give some of their wealth to philanthropy.

Ken Jennings: My Puny Human Brain (Slate)
KJ: "When I was selected as one of the two human players to be pitted against IBM's "Watson" supercomputer in a special man-vs.-machine Jeopardy! exhibition match, I felt honored, even heroic. I envisioned myself as the Great Carbon-Based Hope against a new generation of thinking machines—which, if Hollywood is to believed, will inevitably run amok, build unstoppable robot shells, and destroy us all. But at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Lab, an Eero Saarinen-designed fortress in the snowy wilds of New York's Westchester County, where the shows taped last month, I wasn't the hero at all. I was the villain."

SEC Escalates Probe into Freddie Mac Disclosures (FT)
Anthony “Buddy” Piszel, who was chief financial officer of Freddie Mac from 2006 until 2008 when the government placed it in conservatorship, received a “Wells notice” from the SEC, according to Corelogic, a California company where he is chief financial officer.

Fed Tells Banks to Stress-Test Capital for Recession With 11% Unemployment (Bloomberg)
The Federal Reserve ordered the 19 largest U.S. banks to test their capital levels against a scenario of renewed recession with unemployment rising above 11 percent, said two people with knowledge of the review.

Jamie Dimon's Biggest 'Disaster' Is Waiting (WSJ)
"Dimon himself has argued that we can’t deal with too-big- to-fail until we have a way to manage the orderly liquidation of big banks. Yet even with the Dodd-Frank overhaul enacted, we still have no process for handling the failure of a big cross- border bank like JPMorgan. There is no framework -- either through the courts or directly between governments -- to deal with such a collapse, other than through a Lehman-type bankruptcy. So when a big bank next gets into trouble, the choice will be between allowing a meltdown, with presumably awful financial consequences, and providing a bailout, which can have big fiscal impact."

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