Opening Bell: 04.19.11

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Founder Stays Mum As Defense Rests (WSJ)
People close to the 53-year-old Galleon Group founder said he told them after his arrest that he intended to testify on his behalf. But putting the main defendant on the stand is a relatively rare strategy in white-collar criminal cases, because of the risk of a blunder during cross-examination by prosecutors. "I think on 'cross' he would be forced to explain difficult tape recordings," said Charles A. Ross, a criminal defense attorney in New York. "There's almost a burden-shifting that occurs when you put a client on the witness stand. I think that burden is a particularly difficult one for the defense to bear."

Rajaratnam Jurors Hear Chiesi’s AMD Discussion as Testimony Ends (Bloomberg)
Prosecutors’ brief rebuttal of Rajaratnam’s weeklong defense included playing a recording of a phone call between Rajaratnam and former New Castle Funds LLC analyst Danielle Chiesi. During the Sept. 30, 2008, call, Chiesi asked Rajaratnam if he had bought 1 million shares of Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD), calling the purchase “a very bold move unless you know what we know.”

Bernanke May Sustain Stimulus To Avoid 'Cold Turkey' End To Aid (Bloomberg)
The Fed chief’s top two lieutenants said this month the economy and inflation are too weak to warrant the start of a monetary-policy reversal. Investors and economists including David Kelly at JPMorgan Funds see that as a signal the Fed will keep its balance sheet at current levels by replacing about $17 billion a month in maturing mortgage debt with Treasuries.

Obama Embarks on Tour to Sell Debt Plan, Not Dwell on S&P Report (Bloomberg)
Obama is scheduled to spend three days traveling through states crucial to his 2012 re-election campaign to publicize his plan to reduce cumulative deficits by $4 trillion over 12 years.

Japan Ministers Confident in US Debt After S&P Move (Reuters)
"The United States is tackling fiscal issues in various ways, so I still think U.S. Treasurys are basically an attractive product for us," Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

Ukraine's Richest Man Buys UK's Most Expensive Flat (FT)
Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man, has bought the UK’s most expensive flat at the One Hyde Park residential development in London’s Knightsbridge, for £136.6 million.

PIMCO is back in the market buying Treasuries (PMM)
Allegedly.

Goldman Sachs Spins Away From Success (Dealbook)
Sorkin: "Having studied Goldman’s statements closely, it appears the firm decided to take a Clintonian approach to parsing its words. Notice that Goldman and Mr. Blankfein always qualify their denials of the firm’s short bets by saying they weren’t “massive” or “large” or “consistent.” Such descriptions may be accurate. What’s large, or even massive, may be in the eye of the beholder."

Credit-Focused Hedge Fund Shrinks As Returns Fall (FT)
GLG Partners is preparing to close one of its largest funds to new investors, amid growing concerns about the ability of supersize hedge fund portfolios to deliver strong returns. The London hedge fund’s market neutral fund will shut when it grows beyond $1 billion, expected to be in the next few weeks. At such a size the credit-focused fund would still be only a third as large as its pre-crisis peak, when it ran more than $3 billion in investor capital.

BNY Mellon Profit Climbs 12% as Market Rally Increases Assets (Bloomberg)
The bank reported a 12 percent increase in first-quarter earnings as a rising stock market lifted assets and the fees for overseeing them. Net income climbed to $625 million, or 50 cents a share, from $559 million, or 46 cents, a year earlier. Analysts had expected the New York-based company to earn 56 cents a share, according to the average of 13 estimates in a Bloomberg survey.

Citi Struggles To Return To Growth (WSJ)
Having recovered from a near-collapse that forced it into the arms of the U.S. government, the New York banking giant has yet to show its overseas growth strategy can produce consistent profit. The challenge now before the bank: Pare its legacy holdings of toxic debt and expand its business abroad, while avoiding market blow-ups that can happen in fast-growing, emerging economies.

Citigroup Settling With JR (NYP)
The bank had been ordered in October to pay almost $12 million in damages to Hagman and charities chosen by him after losing a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitration ruling. A Los Angeles judge dismissed that decision on Feb. 9, leading to Hagman's appeal.
"Mr. Hagman is very pleased that the matter is settled," Aidikoff said.

FAA Suspends Controller For Watching Movie On Duty (AP)
The controller was watching a movie on a DVD player early Sunday morning while on duty at a regional radar center in Oberlin, Ohio, near Cleveland that handles high-altitude air traffic, the FAA said in a statement. The controller's microphone was inadvertently activated, transmitting the audio of the movie - the 2007 crime thriller "Cleaner," starring Samuel L. Jackson - for more than three minutes to all the planes in the airspace that the controller was supposed to be monitoring, the agency said.

Related

Opening Bell: 04.05.12

Falcone Says Bankruptcy Is an Option for LightSquared (Bloomberg) Phil Falcone said he may consider voluntary bankruptcy for LightSquared Inc., the broadband wireless venture majority owned by his hedge fund that has been derailed by regulators. “There are arguments that we would be better off in bankruptcy than not,” Falcone said in an interview. “LightSquared, if I have to, I’ll put it into bankruptcy. I don’t care,” adding that he would maintain control of the Reston, Virginia-based company if it filed. Jobless Claims Decline (WSJ) New applications for jobless benefits fell to the lowest level in nearly four years last week, further evidence that U.S. employers likely added a healthy number of workers to their payrolls in March. Initial jobless claims decreased by 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 357,000 in the week ended March 31, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires predicted that 360,000 new claims would be filed last week. Morgan Stanley Tries to Stave Off Ratings Cut (FT) James Gorman, Morgan Stanley’s chief executive, has been in discussions with Moody’s in an attempt to maintain its credit ratings and stave off a downgrade that could diminish the bank’s ability to buy the rest of Citigroup brokerage Smith Barney, according to people familiar with the matter...Morgan Stanley would most likely have to issue debt to fund the purchase, people say. That would become more expensive if Morgan Stanley is downgraded. Moody’s put Morgan Stanley, along with five other banks, on review for a downgrade in February. The bank could see its rating reduced by as many as three notches to Baa2 - two levels above junk status. A downgrade would also force Morgan Stanley to provide additional collateral to back its vast derivatives business, where it acts as a counterparty. JPMorgan Investment Bank Chief Widens Pay Lead on Rival (Bloomberg) Jes Staley, chief executive officer of JPMorgan’s investment bank, beat his Bank of America counterpart in compensation after boosting earnings amid a market slump. Staley’s $16 million award for 2011 almost held steady from the $17 million he made the previous year as profit at the firm’s investment bank climbed 2.3 percent to $6.8 billion. Bank of America co-chief operating officer Thomas K. Montag’s pay dropped 25 percent to $12 million after profit at the lender’s investment bank plunged by more than half to $2.97 billion. Gorman's Pay Falls (Bloomberg) Morgan Stanley Chief Executive Officer James Gorman’s compensation for 2011 totaled $10.5 million, a 25 percent cut from 2010 as the firm’s shares fell by almost half. Gorman, 53, got $5.04 million in restricted shares, and $1.94 million in shares tied to company performance, according to a proxy filing today from the New York-based investment bank. He also received a deferred cash bonus of $2.72 million that can be clawed back, in addition to his $800,000 salary. He didn’t receive an immediate cash bonus. Mets in Opening Day ticket panic (NYP) The Mets are so terrified by the embarrassing prospect of playing to empty seats at today's opener, they've made an Amazin' "buy one get one free" pitch. Some 15,000 of their fans have been offered one free seat for Saturday's or Sunday's Atlanta game in exchange for every ticket they buy for today’s opener. Plenty of the 41,880 seats for this afternoon’s game at Citi Field against the Braves were still available early today. If the Mets don’t sell out, it will be the first home opener since 1997 that didn’t fill their stadium. Madoff wives to face trustee claims in Ponzi case (Reuters) The trustee seeking money for victims of Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme, who lost an estimated $20 billion, may pursue claims against wives of the imprisoned swindler's sons, a U.S. federal court judge said on Wednesday. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Burton Lifland in Manhattan said the trustee Irving Picard may pursue about $43 million of claims against Deborah Madoff, who married Andrew Madoff; and $33 million of claims against Stephanie Mack, the widow of Mark Madoff. Germany, Switzerland Sign Tax Plan (WSJ) Germany and Switzerland signed a new tax deal which allows wealthy Germans to retain their anonymity, while generating billions of euros in tax revenues for Berlin and ending a bruising dispute between the two neighboring countries over tax evasion and bank secrecy. The deal comes after Berlin and Bern agreed on last-minute amendments to a pact reached last summer in an effort to make it more appealing to German opposition leaders, who said Thursday they plan to veto it. "We believe it would be irresponsible to sign this deal, which is a slap in the face of every honest taxpayer," said Sigmar Gabriel, leader of the Social Democrats. Mega Millions ‘winner’ Mirlande Wilson's lawyer: 'I cannot say with any certainty this ticket exists' (NYDN) McDonald’s worker who claims she has a $218 million-winning Mega Millions ticket called a huge press conference Wednesday - and then arrived late only to tell the press to leave. Her lawyer announced to the mystified journalists packed into his Baltimore law office that the purpose of the press conference was “to ask you all to go home.” Mirlande Wilson, 37, of Maryland, who is said by coworkers to crave attention, hit one jackpot: a chaotic scrum of reporters and camera crews waiting to talk to her. But she never spoke. Asked if this was her plea for 15 minutes of fame, she shook her head. Her lawyer, Edward Smith, said, “no, she doesn't want 15 minutes of fame." Instead, he said, she would "like you all to go home." For the record, Smith says he hasn’t seen the purported ticket either. “I cannot say with any certainty this ticket exists,” he said, unreasurringly. Wilson has told various conflicting stories about how she came by her alleged ducat. She told a TV station she bought it at a 7-Eleven store for herself. Then she said a coworker purchased it for her alone while separately buying tickets for the pool organized at her McDonald’s in Baltimore. “I thought I'd play one dollar by myself,” she told the Daily News. She has said she definitely won; she thinks she won; she has the ticket at home; she stashed the ticket at McDonalds; and she has it in another, unspecified secret “safe” place. On Monday, she told the News that she hasn’t even checked her ticket against the winning numbers.