EU Nears Greek Confrontation Amid Fiscal Pact (Bloomberg)
Euro leaders left a Brussels summit late yesterday with no accord over how to plug Greece’s widening budget hole and German Chancellor Angela Merkel voicing frustration with the Athens government’s failure to carry out an economic makeover. “Greece’s debt sustainability is especially bad,” Merkel told reporters. “You have to find a way through more action by the Greek government, more contributions by private creditors, for example, in order to close this gap.”
FSA Fines Ex-JC Flowers Officer (WSJ)
The U.K.'s Financial Services Authority said Tuesday it has issued one of its highest ever fines against an individual, former J.C. Flowers U.K. Chief Executive Ravi Sinha, for fraud. The fine is the latest in a series of tougher enforcement actions against individuals in recent months, marking a shift by the regulator away from its previous strategy of focusing largely on companies. Mr. Sinha, previously one of the U.S.-based private-equity firm's highest profile deal makers, has been ordered to pay £2.87 million ($4.51 million) —including £1.37 million to repay fraudulently obtained funds—and a so-called "punitive" £1.5 million payment, the FSA said in statement. He is also prohibited from performing any function in relation to any regulated activity in the financial services industry, the FSA said.
Bill to Prohibit Insider Trading by Members of Congress Advances in Senate (NYT)
The bill states that members and employees of Congress are not exempt from the federal law and regulations that ban insider trading. “No member of Congress and no employee of Congress shall use any nonpublic information derived from the individual’s position as a member of Congress or employee of Congress, or gained from performance of the individual’s duties, for personal benefit,” the bill says. Federal securities law does not explicitly exempt members of Congress, but experts disagree on whether and when lawmakers may be found to have violated the law. The bill is meant to eliminate any ambiguity. It says that lawmakers have “a duty arising from a relationship of trust and confidence” to Congress, the federal government and the citizens of the United States — a duty they violate by trading on nonpublic information. The bill also requires members of Congress to disclose the purchase or sale of stocks, bonds, commodities futures and other forms of securities within 30 days of transactions. The information would be posted on the Web in a searchable format.
Queries on RBS Chief's Fate (WSJ)
On Sunday, the bank said Mr. Hester would waive his 2011 bonus award of about £963,000 ($1.51 million) in shares, which the board had only last week decided to give him. The move came after members of the U.K. opposition Labour Party called the payout "not fair," "immoral" and vowed to force a parliamentary vote on the matter. Britain's Daily Mail newspaper called the bonus "a reward for failure." People familiar with the matter said Mr. Hester is increasingly frustrated with the public scoldings and suggested he could exit the bank, which is increasingly a target of political intervention, as early as the end of this year...Mr. Hester, who took over as CEO in late 2008 after a government rescue of the bank, has been a lightning rod for criticism, given that RBS is still 83% government-owned after its bailout and is currently laying off thousands of employees.
S&P Warns Cuts Loom for G20 Nations on Health Costs (Reuters)
Ratings agency Standard & Poor's warned it may downgrade "a number of highly rated" Group of 20 countries from 2015 if their governments fail to enact reforms to curb rising healthcare spending and other costs related to aging populations. Developed nations in Europe, as well as Japan and the United States, are likely to suffer the largest deterioration in their public finances in the next four decades as more elderly strain social safety nets, S&P said in a report. "Steadily rising healthcare spending will pull heavily on public purse strings in the coming decades," S&P analyst Marko Mrsnik wrote in the report. "If governments do not change their social protection systems, they will likely become unsustainable."
Pair Detained in Twitter Homeland Threat Mix-Up (ABC)
A young couple from across the pond was detained at a Los Angeles airport after Homeland Security agents mistook a couple Twitter quips for threats against the U.S., the two told British media today. Friends Irishman Leigh Van Bryan, 26, and British citizen Emily Bunting, 24, were reportedly interrogated and spent 12 hours locked up under armed guard after going through customs in Los Angeles International Airport last week. According to several British outlets, the couple was taken into custody by U.S. Department of Homeland Security agents because of the slang in Bryan's tweets. "Free this week, for quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America," one of the tweets read. Bryan told The Sun that in this context "destroy" just meant party...Bryan had also tweeted that he planned to be "diggin' Marilyn Monroe up!" -- another joke, he said. "The officials told us we were not allowed in to the country because of Leigh's tweet," Bunting said. "They wanted to know what we were going to do... They asked why we wanted to destroy America and we tried to explain it meant to get trashed and party... I almost burst out laughing when they asked me if I was going to be Leigh's lookout while he dug up Marilyn Monroe." After spending the night in custody, Bryan and Bunting were reportedly put on a plane back home through Paris.
Sarkozy Tax May Drive Investors From Stocks (Bloomberg)
The French stock market, Europe’s second-biggest by value, may fall out of favor with investors after President Nicolas Sarkozy unveiled plans to unilaterally impose a 0.1 percent tax on financial transactions. “Even if the tax isn’t high, market participants who have a choice of stocks trading in Paris or elsewhere will go elsewhere,” said Yves Maillot, the Paris-based head of investments at Robeco Gestions SA, which oversees $6.8 billion. “That’s what we can fear.”
Euro foxes bearish hedge fund managers (FT)
Shorting the euro has turned out to be just as fashionable – and just as frustrating – as it was in 2011. “It continues to be a massive pain in the neck,” says one currency hedge fund manager in London.
Diamond, Gulliver May Avoid Hester’s Zero-Bonus Fate (Bloomberg)
Barclays's Robert Diamond, Britain’s top-paid bank chief executive officer, will probably receive his bonus even as his counterparts at state-backed lenders are forced to forgo theirs, analysts and investors say. Diamond is the next executive likely to face scrutiny as Royal Bank of Scotland CEO Stephen Hester waived his 963,000-pound ($1.5 million) bonus after the payout sparked a political and public backlash. RBS Chairman Philip Hampton also abandoned his 1.4 million-pound stock award. “The pressure will probably stop at the government- controlled banks,” said Guy de Blonay, a London-based fund manager at Jupiter Asset Management Plc, which holds RBS shares.
Prop Betting The Super Bowl (CNBC)
Nevada sports books are prohibited from offering prop bets that cannot be verified by the NFL. Offshore books offer prop bets, for example, on how long Kelly Clarkson will take to sing the national anthem this year. (The over/under line was set at 1 minute, 32 seconds.)...This year...the Patriots are favored to score more points than LeBron James scores for the Miami Heat in a National Basketball Association game against the Toronto Raptors.
A City So Tough the New Police Dogs Shoot (CityRoom)
The current group of dogs, whose training started in September and ends in February, are the first New York Police Department dogs to be outfitted with a $9,000 infrared camera, the same type used by the Navy Seals in the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound last year...Other newly acquired high-tech equipment includes a canine GPS tracking system to follow the trail of dogs tracking a scent; a dog collar that emits light; and two custom-built mobile kennel trucks equipped with air-conditioning and food so the dogs can rest, eat a meal if the unit is deployed overtime, or cool down from summer heat. The trucks, which were designed by Officer Geraci, can store enough food to feed the dogs for up to a month, so they can be transported to disaster scenes in other regions if needed.