Opening Bell: 02.13.12

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Greece Bailout Faces European Finance Chiefs After Parliamentary Approval (Bloomberg)
European finance chiefs get the second chance in a week to pull Greece back from the brink of collapse after lawmakers in Athens approved the austerity measures demanded for a financial lifeline. Greece “will be saved in one way or another,” German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told newspaper Welt am Sonntag yesterday, though the country must “do its homework.” Euro-area finance ministers will convene in Brussels on Feb. 15 for an extraordinary meeting called after they declined to ratify the 130 billion-euro ($172 billion) package in a special session on Feb. 9. Frustrated after two years of missed budget targets, the European authorities demanded Greek officials put their verbal commitments into law. The Greek parliament passed the legislation in the early morning hours today as rioters battled police and set fire to buildings in downtown Athens. Still, Schaeuble told German lawmakers on Feb. 10 that Greece was set to miss deficit goals, suggesting that the measures may fall short.

We're Not Greece Says Italian Prime Minister Monti (CNBC)
FYI.

Volcker To Push Bank On Banks' Trading (WSJ)
The former Federal Reserve chairman is expected to file a comment letter on the Volcker rule before a Monday deadline, contending that the U.S. financial system will be safer and healthier with a ban on proprietary trading by banks, according to people familiar with the situation. Mr. Volcker also is likely to resist recent attacks on the Volcker rule from money managers, financial firms and foreign governments, including claims that banning banks from trading with their own money could reduce liquidity in the financial markets. Critics of the proposed rule contend that corporate borrowing and trading might cost more as a result. According to people familiar with Mr. Volcker's thinking, his comment letter will argue that too much liquidity in the market can cause investors to bid up asset prices with the expectation that there will always be a buyer.

A Secretive Hedge Fund Legend Prepares to Surface (CNBC)
Amid the tumult, the Dodd-Frank legislation now requires Louis Bacon's Moore and other large hedge funds to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission and provide details about their risk management, trading, and disciplinary records. Bacon is loath to reveal any of it. That has prompted him to reconsider the way he has done business for more than 20 years, according to associates. Some, in fact, believe that in the coming years Bacon may transform Moore into what’s known as a “family office,” a far smaller operation primarily managing Bacon’s own capital as opposed to that of outside investors. “Louis has been talking about becoming a family office for at least two years,” says one investor, adding that Bacon considers the new disclosures required by the Dodd-Frank Act to be “a problem.”

Mortgage Problems? Turn Your House Into a Billboard (Reuters)
In return for allowing the front of their four-bedroom house in a Los Angeles suburb to become a garish advertisement, the Hostetlers are getting their nearly $2,000 monthly mortgage paid by the marketing company behind the project, Brainiacs From Mars...Romeo Mendoza, the company's founder and CEO, told Reuters that his ultimate goal is to turn 1,000 homes across the United States into giant advertisements for his marketing firm. And in each case struggling homeowners will get their mortgage paid, for up to a year. "If we roll it out to scale and impact the foreclosure crisis, that would be amazing," Mendoza, 42, said.

SEC Private Equity Review Eyes Smaller Firms (WSJ)
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s review of how private equity firms value assets and market their funds is so far looking at mainly smaller firms, omitting some of the industry’s largest, publicly traded companies, said a person familiar with the inquiry. Blackstone Group, the biggest private equity firm, and KKR & Co. haven’t received the SEC’s December request for information, said the person, who asked not to be named because the information is private. The inquiry stems from a task force set up two years ago to look into practices ranging from asset valuation to conflicts of interest at private equity firms and hedge funds, said another person with knowledge of the matter.

Jeremy Lin Drives Knicks’ Sales, MSG Shares (Bloomberg)
Jeremy Lin has helped drive shares in his boss, Madison Square Garden Co., to a record high and produced the National Basketball Association’s best-selling jersey just over a week after he was a substitute at the end of the New York Knicks’ bench. Since the beginning of the weekend, the Modell’s Sporting Goods Inc. outlet on 34th street and Broadway in Midtown Manhattan, near the Knicks’s home court, has run through multiple shipments of Lin gear, including his No. 17 jersey and T-shirts celebrating “Linsanity,” the catch phrase adopted by the team since the Asian-American Harvard University graduate led the Knicks to a season-best five straight wins in eight days. “Just last week I was reading in the paper about him for the first time,” Miguel Gutierrez, the 28-year-old assistant manager at Modell’s, said in an interview. “I didn’t see this coming. We’re pretty much going to be getting new stuff every day.”

S&P's Moritz Kraemer: Europe's AAA-rated Mr Scissorhands (Reuters)
On January 13, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services cut the credit ratings of nine euro zone countries, stripping France and Austria of their triple-A status and triggering new concerns about the region's financial health. Since then, the lead analyst in the downgrades, who long has toiled in obscurity as an economist, has gone largely quiet as he monitors Europe's next move from a Frankfurt office tower. Some policymakers have a nickname for Moritz Kraemer: "Mr Scissorhands." Since 2007, Kraemer and a team of little-known economists at S&P's European sovereign debt team have downgraded euro zone countries 36 times.

Athens Burns As Austerity Is Approved (Reuters)
Cinemas, cafes, shops and banks were set ablaze in central Athens as black-masked protesters fought riot police outside parliament. State television reported the violence spread to the tourist islands of Corfu and Crete, the northern city of Thessaloniki and towns in central Greece. Shops were looted in the capital where police said 34 buildings were ablaze.

Crisis in Japan Transforms Global Natural-Gas Market (WSJ)
"The environment surrounding energy has dramatically changed since March 11," said Tsuyoshi Okamoto, president of Tokyo Gas Co., Japan's largest gas utility. On that date in 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was hit by the earthquake and a tsunami, leading to meltdowns and explosions. Since then, other reactors across Japan that shut down for regular inspections have stayed offline. The nation now has just three of its 54 nuclear reactors operating, with the last one set to stop in April or May. The government hasn't set a target date for restarts. Japan's industry minister says people should be prepared for a summer without nuclear power, a shift that has virtually no precedent among developed nations in peacetime. As recently as 2010, nuclear reactors supplied 30% of Japan's electricity.

Berkowitz Says ‘To Survive Is to Win’ as Fairholme Wagers on BofA Rebound (Bloomberg)
“I like what Brian Moynihan’s doing,” Berkowitz said in a Feb. 10 interview in New York after speaking at the Columbia Investment Management Conference. “I like the trends.”

Sofa So Good It Launched Lin (NYP)
An ordinary sofa could become the most famous piece of furniture in sports — as the impromptu sleeping place that Knick phenom Jeremy Lin crashed on in his teammate’s Manhattan pad the night before his breakout game. Knick guard Landry Fields satisfied the ravenous interest of couch potatoes swept up in the Linsanity by tweeting a picture of the artifact. “Ladies and gentlemen, the one and only couch made famous by @JLin7!” Fields tweeted at around 4 p.m. “Let the bidding begin,” he quipped. After Lin got off the couch — and the Knick bench — he scored 25 points against the Nets on Feb. 4. Fields is not the only one who can post a historical marker that reads: “Jeremy Lin slept here.’’ Until he moved to Fields’ sofa, the nomadic Lin had been crashing on the couch in his brother’s Lower East Side apartment. But when he came home from a game in Boston two Fridays ago, Lin found himself displaced because his brother, Joshua, was hosting a party. So the 6-foot-3 point guard landed on his teammate’s sofa — described by Fields as “decent but not huge’’ — and went from unknown to superstar in the course of a week. “Thank you to Landry for hosting me,” Lin said after his career-best performance against the Nets on Saturday. “I think I might just move in with him.”

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Opening Bell: 10.23.12

Barney Frank cries foul in government's lawsuit against JPMorgan (Reuters) Democratic Congressman Barney Frank defended the largest U.S. bank on Monday, saying in a statement that the government was wrong to go after JPMorgan Chase & Co for the alleged misdeeds of Bear Stearns. Frank, who served as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee during the Bear Stearns acquisition, said federal and state officials should reconsider holding financial firms liable for the wrongdoing of institutions they absorbed at the government's urging. "The decision now to prosecute J.P. Morgan Chase because of activities undertaken by Bear Stearns before the takeover unfortunately fits the description of allowing no good deed to go unpunished," said Frank, who was also the co-author of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued JPMorgan, the nation's largest bank by assets, on October 1 over mortgage-backed securities packaged and sold by Bear Stearns. Hedge Funds Hot For Ailing Greece's Debt (WSJ) Ever since Greece completed a debt restructuring in March that turned €200 billion in bonds into about €60 billion, distressed-debt investors—many at U.S. hedge funds—have been picking them over. Hedge-fund analysts have flooded Greek finance officials with requests for information. Prices have climbed. Third Point LLC, based in New York, crowed about Greece in its investor letter earlier this month, citing the resilience of the bonds of fellow bailout-recipient Portugal. "We expected Greece to keep its head up and undergo a similar metamorphosis," the letter said. Ever since Greece completed a debt restructuring in March that turned €200 billion in bonds into about €60 billion, distressed-debt investors—many at U.S. hedge funds—have been picking them over. Hedge-fund analysts have flooded Greek finance officials with requests for information. Prices have climbed. Third Point LLC, based in New York, crowed about Greece in its investor letter earlier this month, citing the resilience of the bonds of fellow bailout-recipient Portugal. "We expected Greece to keep its head up and undergo a similar metamorphosis," the letter said. Billionaire Wilbur Ross Interested In Buying Spanish Bank Assets (Bloomberg) Ross’s WL Ross & Co., which holds about 10 percent of Bank of Ireland and teamed up with Richard Branson to buy part of Northern Rock Plc, is in talks “almost every week” with representatives of the large Spanish banks, he said in an interview in Abu Dhabi, without naming potential targets. “Maybe next year will be the year for Spain,” he said. “We’ve been doing a lot of work in Spain. We’ve put a lot of time and effort into Spain but haven’t put any money in yet.” Doom Heralded at Hayman by Widening Trade Deficit (Bloomberg) Japan’s worsening trade gap will make it harder to service the world’s largest debt, fulfilling part of the doomsday scenario that Hayman Capital Management LP is betting on. The nation’s 10-year note yield may rise toward 10 percent from the world’s third-lowest of 0.79 percent, while the yen weakens, said Richard Howard, who oversees Dallas, Texas-based Hayman’s Japan-focused fund with J. Kyle Bass. That would represent the developed world’s second-highest borrowing costs after Greece, and a surge to that level by the end of 2013 would cause losses of 42 percent for investors purchasing the securities now, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Regulators Crash Over Volcker Definitions (WSJ) The SEC and a trio of banking regulators are butting heads over how to define the buying and selling of securities on behalf of clients, known as market-making, as well as over banks' ability to invest in outside investment vehicles such as hedge funds, according to officials close to the discussions. Since brokers, which are overseen by the SEC, conduct market-making activities, the SEC is pushing for more influence over the issue, these people said. Police: Woman fakes her own kidnapping to get day off work (WOAI) An officer on patrol went to check out a car parked near Ray Ellison and Five Palms around 6:30 p.m. on October 10th. When the officer looked inside the car, he spotted 48-year-old Sheila Bailey Eubank bound with rope. An arrest warrant affidavit states Eubank told police a man jumped into her car around 6:15 a.m. while she was at a Security Service Federal Credit Union ATM near Loop 1604 and Bandera Road. Eubank said the man held her an knife point and forced her to drive him to various locations for what she believed were drug deals. She told officers he then assaulted her, tried to choke her with a rope, and then tied her up and left her in her car. However, officers discovered a lottery ticket in Eubank's purse that was purchased that day during the hours she claimed she was being held. Investigators reviewed surveillance video from the store where the lottery ticket was purchased and found out she had entered the store by herself and appeared "healthy, unhurried, and pleasant with the clerk." Investigators then reviewed video from the Security Service Federal Credit Union where Eubank claimed she was abducted. The video showed withdrawing money from the motor ATM, but there were no signs that anyone else was with her. Police say when Eubank was confronted by investigators, she eventually admitted her story was false and that she simply wanted a day off from work and wanted attention. BofA CEO Moynihan Declares Victory Over Capital Doubters (Bloomberg) Bank of America now has the “top capital” among peers and is capable of paying a bigger dividend, said Chief Executive Officer Brian T. Moynihan. The bank has fulfilled a goal Moynihan drilled into subordinates since his first day on the job: building a “fortress balance sheet,” he said in an Oct. 17 staff meeting at the company’s Charlotte, North Carolina headquarters. “We’re going to officially declare victory on one of those operating principles,” Moynihan said in the town-hall style meeting. “The reason why is, we have the top capital in the industry, the top liquidity in the industry.” People have stopped asking if the bank needs more funds to absorb losses and now want to know when investors will get the excess, he said. Word-Smith: Greg's Book Has 0 Sachs Appeal (NYP) Among the mistakes in the book, sources noted, was Smith’s description of a town-hall meeting last year hosted by Goldman’s co-heads of investment banking — South African Richard Gnodde and Michael “Woody” Sherwood...Smith said one question from a Goldman employee during the 2011 meeting was: “What is the firm doing to address the fact that the culture is dying and our reputation is deteriorating?” According to Goldman, a female referenced in Smith’s book as a “power-hungry” managing director — identified as “Georgette” — was the individual who posed the question about culture. Georgette presented the question as: How is the firm addressing “the perception of the deteriorating culture,” according to a recording of the event, reviewed yesterday by The Post. Smith also writes about a follow-up question demanding “what specifically” the bank was doing — and that it was followed with uncomfortable laughter before some fumbling about over which executive should field the query. There was no follow-up question in the recording of the meeting. Smith embellished that aspect of the book and omitted that “Georgette” — a woman whom Smith worked with and dubbed the “Black Widow” for her cutthroat manner — was the source of the question about values because it undermined his narrative, a source inside the company said. Low Rates Pummel Bank Profits (WSJ) "The longer the Fed stays down at these levels the more it will hurt banks," said Scott Lied, the chief financial officer of ENB Financial Corp, an Ephrata, Pa., institution that has eight branches and 225 employees. "It's painful." Gupta Sentencing Set For Tomorrow (NYP) Prosecutors say Gupta, convicted by a jury in June, deserves as long as 10 years in prison. Gupta seeks probation. Gary Naftalis, a lawyer for Gupta, argued his client’s crime was an “aberrational” event in a “lifetime of good works” that merited a punishment for a man who has suffered an extraordinary fall from grace. He asked Rakoff to impose a term of community service, suggesting Gupta work with troubled youth in New York or with the poor in Rwanda. Theater Thief Costs Movie-Goers Tens of Thousands In Credit Card Fraud (Courant) A man who may have stolen as much as $70,000 a week by slithering beneath theater seats while movies were playing and lifting credit cards from women's' pocketbooks was convicted Monday of fraud and identity theft crimes. Anthony Johnson, 49, and a string of accomplices used the stolen cards to collect thousands of dollars in cash advances from Connecticut's gambling casinos and to make tens of thousands of dollars more in retail purchases in Connecticut and elsewhere, authorities said. On a "good" weekend, Johnson collected $50,000 to $70,000 from the scheme, one of his accomplices testified last week at his trial at U.S. District Court in Hartford. He had to settle for $30,000 or $40,000 on a bad weekend, the accomplice said. The accomplice, who agreed to cooperate with authorities, said Johnson, of Philadelphia, typically worked with women accomplices. They bought tickets to motion pictures likely to be popular with female audiences and chose seats from which they could watch how women in the audience stored their pocketbooks. "Once the movie started, Johnson crawled on the floor, removed credit cards from the stored purses, and returned the wallet to the purses," according to an FBI affidavit. "Johnson crawled in this manner around the theater until he was done…"

Opening Bell: 06.14.12

Geithner Seeks More Euro-Zone Measures (WSJ) Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner called the bailout of Spain's banking system "a good, concrete signal" of the euro-zone commitment to financial integration, but said the currency union must act quickly with more measures to quell its crisis. "This is a very challenging crisis for them still," he said Wednesday in a discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations. "They recognize they're going to have to do a bunch more to…restore a bit of calm and to convince people they're going to do what's necessary to make this work." Spanish Crisis Deepens (WSJ) The financial crisis threatening the Spanish government deepened Thursday as Spain's borrowing costs surpassed their euro-zone record, touching levels that previously forced other euro-zone countries to seek sovereign debt bailouts. The move followed yet another sovereign credit downgrade and coincided with fresh evidence Thursday of economic and financial stress as the decline of Spanish housing prices accelerated to a 12.6% annual rate in the first quarter and Spanish banks increased their reliance on European Central Bank funding. Spain Credit Rating Slashed by Moody's, Egan-Jones (Reuters) Moody's Investors Service cut its rating on Spanish government debt by three notches on Wednesday From A-3 to to Baa-3, saying the newly approved euro zone plan to help the country's banks will increase the country's debt burden. Moody's, which said it could lower Spain's rating further, also cited the Spanish government's "very limited'' access to international debt markets and the weakness of the country's economy. Greek Banks Under Pressure (WSJ) In a sign of heightened nervousness within the country, depositors have been steadily increasing their withdrawals from Greek banks. The withdrawals, according to senior bankers in Athens, approach the level of deposit flight seen when government coalition talks collapsed after inconclusive elections on May 6, forcing the new vote. "Why I'm Betting Big On Europe" (Fortune) David Herro seems awfully relaxed for a man who has more than $1 billion invested in European banks. It's a sunny morning in late May, and I'm sitting across from the boyish 51-year-old fund manager in his downtown Chicago office. He's giving me his full attention, but I can't stop glancing at the headlines blinking on the Bloomberg terminal behind him. The euro is about to hit a two-year low. Greece is on the brink of disaster. Spain's real estate market is in shambles, and Italian sovereign debt is as fragile as stained glass. The global economy is roiling, and Herro is positively beatific. "Eventually they're going to get these problems solved," he says. "If you look at the economic history of the world, problems come and problems go. There are problems, and they do have to be dealt with. And our view is that all these problems are manageable." Large Institutions Discuss New Marketplace for Bonds (WSJ) In recent weeks, senior traders at investment managers and big Wall Street banks have been discussing how the financial industry can set up a centralized electronic market that would let all participants trade bonds freely with one another, according to people involved in the talks. BofA Beating JPMorgan As BNP Leads French Lenders Retreat (Bloomberg) Bank of America overtook JPMorgan Chase as the biggest lender to the commodities industry in the first five months as French lenders led by BNP Paribas retreated amid the debt crisis. Commodity loans arranged by Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America totaled $14.71 billion, and New York-based JPMorgan’s $14.41 billion ranked it second, according to syndicated-loan data compiled by Bloomberg. Citigroup was the third biggest with $13.68 billion of financing, rising from fourth last year. BNP Paribas slipped to 17th from second. Lazard elects former Citigroup chairman Richard Parsons to board (NYP) Financial advisory and asset management firm Lazard Ltd. said Wednesday that it elected former Citigroup chairman Richard Parsons to its board, effective immediately. Parsons served as chairman of Citigroup Inc. from February 2009 until his retirement in April 2012. He had served as a director on its board since 1996. Before that, he was chairman and chief executive of the media and entertainment company Time Warner Inc. Montreal teacher suspended with pay for showing students ‘Canadian Cannibal’ Luke Magnotta murder video (NYDN) A Canadian teacher was fighting for his job after he was suspended for showing students a gory video allegedly showing Maple Leaf man-eater Luke Magnotta killing his Chinese lover. The Cavelier-De LaSalle High School 10th grade teacher appeared before a labor board on Wednesday to explain himself, and Montreal police were mulling whether to slap him with criminal charges, The Canadian Press reported. School officials said the teacher, who is in his 20s, polled students about whether they wanted to watch the grisly snuff video during class on June 4. The yays outweighed the nays, according to the Press. In the 11-minute video, Magnotta, a porn actor and sometime escort, allegedly tortured Jun Lin, 33 — beheading and dismembering his body, eating his flesh with a knife and fork and performing sex acts on the corpse.

Opening Bell: 6.19.15

No deal for Greece; Elliott eyes Asia's family-run firms; State Street gets Wells notice; Man literally gives ex-wife half of everything they owned (because he sawed all their belongings in half); and more.