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Opening Bell: 04.07.11

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Feds: Insider Scheme Spanned 17 Years (WSJ)
The alleged scheme revealed on Wednesday stretched back to 1994, when Mr. Kluger allegedly told the co-conspirator while attending law school at New York University and after taking a summer associate job at Cravath that "I've got something," meaning he had access to confidential information, prosecutors said. The co-conspirator then approached Mr. Bauer, whom he had worked with in the 1990s at venture capital firm Weiss, Peck & Greer. Mr. Bauer agreed to trade based on the information provided, prosecutors said. "They structured their relationship so that Bauer and Kluger did not have direct contact prior to the trades," said Daniel M. Hawke, the regional director for the Securities and Exchange Commission's Philadelphia office.

Portugal Bailout May Reach $129 Billion (WSJ)
"The talk is for around €75 billion, but this could be raised to around €90billion. A bailout package can be put together very quickly as there has already been preparatory work in anticipation of Portugal's request," said the minister, who asked not to be identified.

Moody's May Take Axe To UK Bank Ratings (Reuters)
Up to 18 British banks could see their senior debt ratings cut several notches by Moody's over coming months as the rating agency assesses how they would fare without implicit government support. The banks more immediately vulnerable to a downgrade are smaller institutions, including many building societies, rather than larger banks still heavily supported by the state, Moody's said Thursday.

The Valley's Banker Returns To The Top (NYT)
Andrew Ross Sorkin: “I’d really prefer you didn’t write about me,” Mr. Quattrone said recently, trying to dissuade me from this column. But it is hard to ignore Mr. Quattrone. In the last year, his boutique advisory firm, Qatalyst Partners, has been involved in nearly every major technology merger. As Hewlett-Packard and Dell battled over 3Par last summer, Mr. Quattrone was calling the shots. He orchestrated the sale of Palm to H.P. for $1.2 billion in April 2010. And Texas Instruments’ $6.5 billion deal to buy National Semiconductor this week? Yes, that was his deal, too.

ECB Raises Interest Rates (WSJ)
The European Central Bank on Thursday raised its benchmark interest rate to 1.25% from a historic low of 1%, as expected, making it the first of the developed world's major central banks to initiate a cycle of raising rates.

A Hot Idea Falls Short At Goldman (WSJ)
Goldman spent millions of dollars to develop the private exchange, and senior Goldman bankers spent over a year on the project. They gave it an awkward name—the "GS Tradable Unregistered Equity OTC Market" or GSTrUE—but it seemed like an instant success. Los Angeles-based Oaktree Capital Management LLC raised about $1 billion in May 2007, selling a 15% stake in itself on the Goldman market. Two months later, Apollo Management LP, the big New York private-equity firm, also sold shares, raising $895 million. Many bankers expected the new market to steal some of the hottest offerings from the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq. Private-equity firms, hedge funds and others that guarded their privacy seemed likely to sell shares there. At the time, Oaktree partners Howard Marks and Bruce Karsh predicted in a memo to clients that "a number of premier companies in other industries" would join their firm on the Goldman platform. Rival banks and exchanges soon launched competing private markets. Then a curious thing happened—hardly any investors showed up.

Sailor, 85, crosses Atlantic on raft with friends (MSNBC)
A stroke of bad luck for Anthony Smith paid for the trip (he was hit by a van and broke his hip). "I got some compensation money," he said. "So what do you blow the compensation money on? You blow it on a raft."
Slower Recruitment In London (FT)
City hiring in 2011 is unlikely to reach the heights of last year when banks snapped up staff in a fight for market share, Robert Walters, the white collar recruitment firm, said on Wednesday. “Last year was an unrepeatable correction,” Robert Walters, chief executive of the eponymous firm, said. “Banks had made savage cuts during the financial crisis and they needed to replenish staff quickly. But that was a one-off. Now we’ll have to wait and see.”

RAB Says Clients to Pull 79 Percent of Flagship Fund’s Assets (Bloomberg)
The hedge fund will allow investors to withdraw money when a three-year freeze on client redemptions ends on Oct. 1, the London-based firm said in a statement today. The fund, run by co-founder Philip Richards, had $2 billion at December 2007. The fund slumped 73 percent in 2008, hurt by a bet on Northern Rock Plc, the first British bank nationalized during the credit crisis. RAB won investor approval to halt redemptions in September 2008. The fund declined 7.6 percent in 2010.

Marc Lasry & Team OKed To Control Trump Casino (AP)
Lasry's Avenue Capital was given final approval Wednesday by New Jersey casino regulators to control the Atlantic City casino company that was founded by Donald Trump. Avenue, which specializes in distressed investments, won the company in a bankruptcy battle last year, and is the largest shareholder at nearly 22 percent.

Sokol Joins Brandon Winning Praise In Buffett Head-Scratcher (Bloomberg)
Sokol’s contributions to Berkshire were “extraordinary,” Buffett said when he announced his resignation March 30. Buffett said in 2009 that Brandon helped in “righting the ship” at General Re. Brandon left in 2008 after prosecutors named him an unindicted co-conspirator at a trial where four former General Re officers were convicted of helping American International Group deceive investors through a sham transaction.

Should There Be A Fat Tax? (CNBC)
Arizona says yes.


Opening Bell: 05.04.12

BofA Sees $5 Billion Collateral Need in Credit Downgrade (Bloomberg) A two-level downgrade of long-term senior debt ratings would have prompted the bank to post about $5.1 billion of collateral tied to derivatives contracts and other trading agreements as of March 31, the Charlotte, North Carolina-based firm said yesterday in a regulatory filing. It would have had to post an additional $1.1 billion of collateral if trading partners opted to tear up contracts in a two-level cut. RBS claims 'pleasing progress' though loss triples (AP) RBS, 82-percent owned by the British government after a massive bailout in the global the financial crisis, posted a 2011 first quarter net loss of £528 million. The lender said losses soared owing to an increase in the value of its outstanding debt to £2.46 billion. "As RBS's credit spreads tightened during the quarter, a charge of £2,456 million was booked for (our) own credit adjustments," RBS said in a statement. But the bank's underlying performance was brighter, with RBS posting a first quarter operating profit of £1.18 billion. RBS also confirmed that it would repay the last of emergency state loans totalling £163 billion but the British government will still own almost all of the bank after a £45.5 billion bailout following the 2008 financial crisis. "The start of 2012 has shown pleasing progress at RBS within the context of a flat economic environment," chief executive Stephen Hester said in the statement. Employers in U.S. Added Fewer Jobs Than Forecast in April (Bloomberg) Payrolls climbed 115,000, the smallest gain in six months, after a revised 154,000 gain in March that was larger than initially estimated, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median estimate of 85 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for a 160,000 advance. The jobless rate fell to a three-year low of 8.1 percent, and earnings stagnated. Facebook Targets $96 Billion Value (WSJ) With the pricing, Facebook is anticipated to raise as much as $13.6 billion, above earlier expectations of $10 billion. In a regulatory filing, Facebook said the company would seek to sell 337.4 million shares, with about half of those being sold by founders, employees and investors. The only U.S. issuers that have raised more money in an IPO were Visa Inc. at $19.7 billion in 2008 and General Motors Co. at $18.1 billion in 2010. Zuckerberg Facebook IPO to Make Him Richer Than Ballmer (Bloomberg) So that's exciting. Warren Buffett Has 'No Plans To Invest In Facebook IPO' (CNBC) When asked whether the current attention surrounding Internet IPOs reminded him of the tech stock bubble of the late 1990s, the Oracle of Omaha said, “It is not a bubble ... this is not what we were seeing in late 1999 all the way into 2001. We aren’t in any bubble phase of anything.” Inmates Dance, Deputy Fired (OBJ) Some inmates did the worm, others chose the old school robot. Each dance was performed to the beat of hip-hop artist Usher on command from a now-fired Summit County deputy. The inmate prize: use of a jail microwave. The charges are revealed in an internal affairs report released Wednesday. Deputy Dominic Martucci, 35, was fired for violating the department’s policies, including a mandate that inmates be treated humanely. Martucci is accused of ordering five inmates dance to Usher’s Yeah! song and then inviting other deputies to watch during an early evening shift on April 11. The inmates danced their way to regaining use of a microwave that they had lost earlier that day. Fitch CEO: US Downgrade Not Likely Before Election (CNBC) "We currently have the U.S. on a negative outlook, which actually suggests we think there is the potential for a downgrade," Taylor said in an interview. "It's too early to tell whether that will turn into an actual downgrade or not,” he said. “We think we still need to see what's going to happen through the elections and what actions are put in place subsequent to the elections. I think it's very clear that the U.S. does need to do something to deal with the debt problems built up since the financial crisis," he added. New Ripples For Gupta Case (WSJ) Mr. Gupta's criminal trial for securities fraud and conspiracy is scheduled to begin May 21 and expected to last about three weeks. Mr. Gupta has pleaded not guilty. His lawyer, Gary Naftalis, declined to comment for this article but previously has called the accusations "totally baseless." The Manhattan U.S. attorney's office also declined to comment. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have taken note of the spike in trading in Goldman, which began as the firm's board concluded a special meeting to approve the deal that afternoon, according to people familiar with the matter. Galleon traders also noticed the climbing stock, conversations recorded on government wiretaps show. "Someone had this before us, someone, whatever went on, something happened," Galleon trader Ian Horowitz told Mr. Rajaratnam in a phone call the next morning, caught on tape by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Goldman Readies Low-Cost Bond PLatform (WSJ) Goldman is preparing to roll out a bond-trading platform on which it will charge lower fees than on typical bond trades, according to people familiar with the matter, a move that could help retain customers tempted by rival trading venues being set up by BlackRock Inc. and others. AIG Invests $7.4 Billion at 5.3% to Boost Returns, Adds RMBS (Bloomberg) “We continue to be opportunistic with our investments in structured securities in order to improve yields, increase net investment income and offset the impact of a lower interest rate environment,” Wintrob said. BofA Talks Deal On Ex-Broker Pay (WSJ) The former Merrill brokers left the firm after the 2009 takeover by Bank of America and claim they are owed deferred compensation as a result of the deal. They were emboldened last month by an arbitration ruling ordering the Charlotte, N.C., company to pay more than $11 million to two former brokers with related complaints.