Opening Bell: 05.03.12

Banks Get Silent Treatment At Fed Meeting (WSJ) A meeting Wednesday between a top Federal Reserve official and six bank bosses was notable largely for long silences from the central bank's side of the table. Fed governor Daniel Tarullo met with the executives to discuss the recent "stress tests" and to hear out the banks' concerns over proposed new regulations. Mr. Tarullo and the bankers exchanged thoughts about the tests, but the Fed official didn't respond when the chief executives laid out their new-rule concerns, starting with a Fed proposal to limit the biggest banks' exposure to other firms and governments, said people familiar with the meeting. Carlyle Prices IPO At Lower Range (WSJ) The downshift came after some mutual-fund investors pushed for a better deal, said people familiar with the matter. Also, they said, Carlyle hoped a lower price would help ensure good first-day and longer-term performance. People close to Carlyle said the firm could have stuck with a price in the original range, but it wished to attract some larger investors who wanted a lower price. Carlyle Founders’ Stakes Valued at $1 Billion Each Post-IPO (Bloomberg) “This is their legacy,” Reena Aggarwal, a finance professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business in Washington, said in a telephone interview. “They started the firm from nothing, so their human capital and their financial wealth are tied up in the company. They need to have this liquidity event.” U.S. documents allege HSBC money-laundering lapses (Reuters) ...documents allege that from 2005, the bank violated the Bank Secrecy Act and other anti-money laundering laws on a massive scale. HSBC did so, they say, by not adequately reviewing hundreds of billions of dollars in transactions for any that might have links to drug trafficking, terrorist financing and other criminal activity. In some of the documents, prosecutors allege that HSBC intentionally flouted the law. The bank created an operation that was a "systemically flawed sham paper-product designed solely to make it appear that the Bank has complied" with the Bank Secrecy Act and is able to detect money laundering, wrote William J. Ihlenfeld II, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia, in a draft of a 2010 letter addressed to Justice Department officials. Buffett Trails S&P 500 for Third Straight Year (Bloomberg) FYI. Fancy A Drink With Richard Branson? (Virgin via Daily Intel) Richard Branson is now on board all Virgin Atlantic flights 'in spirit' - thanks to new Little Richard ice cubes. Virgin Atlantic is giving Upper Class passengers the chance to cool their in-flight drinks with bespoke Richard Branson ice cubes. They will be served on board one of the first flights of the airline's new Upper Class Cabin this May... The ice cubes have been created using the exact measurements of Sir Richard's head and feature an impressive level of detail. The mould for the ice cubes took a team of four skilled designers a painstaking six weeks to create using detailed photographic techniques and laser scanning technology to create the perfect likeness of Sir Richard. Jobless claims tumble, calms job market fears (Reuters) The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless aid fell more than expected last week, easing fears the labor market recovery was stalling. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 27,000 to a seasonally adjusted 365,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The biggest weekly drop in claims since early May last year helped to lift some of the dark cloud cast over the labor market by a report on Wednesday from payrolls processor ADP showing private employers in April created the fewest jobs in seven months. John Arnold Retiring At 38 (NYP) Arnold, who has an estimated net worth of $3.5 billion, said in a letter to investors that he was closing the Centaurus Energy Master Fund in order to "pursue other interests." In the letter, he said the fund had performed "better than I could have hoped for or imagined" with returns on investments consistently high, "often in triple digits." Arnold was a major force behind the rapid rise of energy trader Enron in the 1990s. SocGen Profit Hit by Restructuring Plan (WSJ) Société Générale said Thursday that first-quarter earnings at its investment bank rebounded from the tough previous quarter but fell from the year-earlier period, pressured by a restructuring plan aimed at sheltering the French bank from Europe's still-smouldering debt crisis. Société Générale, France's second-largest lender by market value and the first to report quarterly earnings, said net profit dropped 20% to €732 million ($963.2 million) from €916 million a year earlier, hit mainly by losses on loan portfolios it sold. Independent Counsel For MF Global Is Sought (WSJ) Criminal and civil investigators have been looking into the case, but so far have said little about the progress of their investigation. That has led some Republicans and customers of MF Global to question whether the investigation is being slowed by a desire to show deference to the firm's former chief executive, Jon Corzine. Mr. Corzine, a former U.S. senator and governor of New Jersey, has been a prominent Democratic fund raiser and supporter of the Obama administration. The letter circulated by Rep. Grimm's office acknowledges that while "we have no direct evidence" that the Department of Justice "is providing special treatment…perception matters a great deal." Still, the letter concludes that "an independent investigation is urgently needed." Kona teen nears perfect school attendance record for 13 years (WHT) Cetraro thinks improving and encouraging attendance requires a more comprehensive approach, one that goes beyond sanctions. When Cetraro was in elementary school, she appreciated privileges like running in the sprinklers, being first in line for lunch or dismissal, having the chance to act as the teacher’s assistant and getting shave ice. She said these incentives served as powerful motivators.
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Banks Get Silent Treatment At Fed Meeting (WSJ)
A meeting Wednesday between a top Federal Reserve official and six bank bosses was notable largely for long silences from the central bank's side of the table. Fed governor Daniel Tarullo met with the executives to discuss the recent "stress tests" and to hear out the banks' concerns over proposed new regulations. Mr. Tarullo and the bankers exchanged thoughts about the tests, but the Fed official didn't respond when the chief executives laid out their new-rule concerns, starting with a Fed proposal to limit the biggest banks' exposure to other firms and governments, said people familiar with the meeting.

Carlyle Prices IPO At Lower Range (WSJ)
The downshift came after some mutual-fund investors pushed for a better deal, said people familiar with the matter. Also, they said, Carlyle hoped a lower price would help ensure good first-day and longer-term performance. People close to Carlyle said the firm could have stuck with a price in the original range, but it wished to attract some larger investors who wanted a lower price.

Carlyle Founders’ Stakes Valued at $1 Billion Each Post-IPO (Bloomberg)
“This is their legacy,” Reena Aggarwal, a finance professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business in Washington, said in a telephone interview. “They started the firm from nothing, so their human capital and their financial wealth are tied up in the company. They need to have this liquidity event.”

U.S. documents allege HSBC money-laundering lapses (Reuters)
...documents allege that from 2005, the bank violated the Bank Secrecy Act and other anti-money laundering laws on a massive scale. HSBC did so, they say, by not adequately reviewing hundreds of billions of dollars in transactions for any that might have links to drug trafficking, terrorist financing and other criminal activity. In some of the documents, prosecutors allege that HSBC intentionally flouted the law. The bank created an operation that was a "systemically flawed sham paper-product designed solely to make it appear that the Bank has complied" with the Bank Secrecy Act and is able to detect money laundering, wrote William J. Ihlenfeld II, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia, in a draft of a 2010 letter addressed to Justice Department officials.

Buffett Trails S&P 500 for Third Straight Year (Bloomberg)
FYI.

Fancy A Drink With Richard Branson? (Virgin via Daily Intel)
Richard Branson is now on board all Virgin Atlantic flights 'in spirit' - thanks to new Little Richard ice cubes. Virgin Atlantic is giving Upper Class passengers the chance to cool their in-flight drinks with bespoke Richard Branson ice cubes. They will be served on board one of the first flights of the airline's new Upper Class Cabin this May...The ice cubes have been created using the exact measurements of Sir Richard's head and feature an impressive level of detail. The mould for the ice cubes took a team of four skilled designers a painstaking six weeks to create using detailed photographic techniques and laser scanning technology to create the perfect likeness of Sir Richard.

Jobless claims tumble, calms job market fears (Reuters)
The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless aid fell more than expected last week, easing fears the labor market recovery was stalling. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 27,000 to a seasonally adjusted 365,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The biggest weekly drop in claims since early May last year helped to lift some of the dark cloud cast over the labor market by a report on Wednesday from payrolls processor ADP showing private employers in April created the fewest jobs in seven months.

John Arnold Retiring At 38 (NYP)
Arnold, who has an estimated net worth of $3.5 billion, said in a letter to investors that he was closing the Centaurus Energy Master Fund in order to "pursue other interests." In the letter, he said the fund had performed "better than I could have hoped for or imagined" with returns on investments consistently high, "often in triple digits." Arnold was a major force behind the rapid rise of energy trader Enron in the 1990s.

SocGen Profit Hit by Restructuring Plan (WSJ)
Société Générale said Thursday that first-quarter earnings at its investment bank rebounded from the tough previous quarter but fell from the year-earlier period, pressured by a restructuring plan aimed at sheltering the French bank from Europe's still-smouldering debt crisis. Société Générale, France's second-largest lender by market value and the first to report quarterly earnings, said net profit dropped 20% to €732 million ($963.2 million) from €916 million a year earlier, hit mainly by losses on loan portfolios it sold.

Independent Counsel For MF Global Is Sought (WSJ)
Criminal and civil investigators have been looking into the case, but so far have said little about the progress of their investigation. That has led some Republicans and customers of MF Global to question whether the investigation is being slowed by a desire to show deference to the firm's former chief executive, Jon Corzine. Mr. Corzine, a former U.S. senator and governor of New Jersey, has been a prominent Democratic fund raiser and supporter of the Obama administration. The letter circulated by Rep. Grimm's office acknowledges that while "we have no direct evidence" that the Department of Justice "is providing special treatment…perception matters a great deal." Still, the letter concludes that "an independent investigation is urgently needed."

Kona teen nears perfect school attendance record for 13 years (WHT)
Cetraro thinks improving and encouraging attendance requires a more comprehensive approach, one that goes beyond sanctions. When Cetraro was in elementary school, she appreciated privileges like running in the sprinklers, being first in line for lunch or dismissal, having the chance to act as the teacher’s assistant and getting shave ice. She said these incentives served as powerful motivators.

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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: 04.23.12

IMF And World Bank Meetings End With Little Agreement (NYT) To be sure, the additional $430 billion in lending capacity contributed by developed economies like Japan, Britain, Saudi Arabia and South Korea was seen as a major achievement. The contributions came after I.M.F. economists determined that countries around the world might require up to $1 trillion in new loans because of the combined effects of the sovereign debt crisis in Europe and sluggish global economic growth. The I.M.F. agreed to raise about half that amount if Europe would raise the other half. But finance ministers are still at odds over the effect of debt reduction on economic growth. Geithner urges 'aggressive' action to fight financial crisis (DowJones) US Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner said Saturday that the eurozone needed stronger action from authorities, including the European Central Bank, to tame a potential deterioration in the debt crisis. "The success of the next phase of the crisis response will hinge on Europe's willingness and ability, together with the European Central Bank, to apply its tools and processes creatively, flexibly and aggressively to support countries as they implement reforms and stay ahead of markets," Geithner told the International Monetary Fund's policy steering committee. Hedge Fund Short-Sellers to Target Wal-Mart Mexico (Reuters) Hedge fund managers are bracing for selling pressure in shares of Wal-Mart Stores on Monday, but market experts said it is the retail giant's less visible Mexican unit that could be the more attractive target for short sellers. The New York Times reported on Saturday that Wal-Mart de Mexico, which is 69 percent owned by Wal-Mart Stories, had orchestrated a widespread bribery campaign in 2005 to win market dominance. The investigative article alleged that senior Wal-Mart executives knew about the matter and tried to cover it up. "I would not consider Wal-Mart shares expensive, but I definitely would not be a buyer at these levels in the 60s. I'm more interested in shorting the Mexico traded 'pure play,'" said private activist investor Daniel Yu, who has presciently shorted such stocks including Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Sino-Forest. Wal-Mart said in a statement on Saturday that it was "deeply concerned" about the allegations in the Times report and began an investigation into its compliance with anti-bribery laws last autumn. MF Global Customers Press JPMorgan For Funds (WSJ) In a letter set to be sent to regulators and lawmakers on Monday, an MF Global customer group calls for J.P. Morgan to "return hundreds of millions of dollars in MF Global customer funds transferred" to J.P. Morgan in late October. The group, called the Commodity Customer Coalition, urged U.S. officials to "demand" that the New York bank "disgorge all MF Global customer property immediately." J.P. Morgan is cooperating with the ongoing investigation, has said it did nothing wrong and lost some of its own money in the Oct. 31 bankruptcy because it was a creditor of MF Global. Vietnam Funds Beat India, China in Attracting Investors (Bloomberg) Vietnam-focused stock funds became the only emerging market equity assets in Asia to lure investors every week this year as the nation’s benchmark index rose to an 11-month high, Emerging Portfolio Fund Research said. Table Hockey, on Ice Since Heyday in 1970s, Makes a Comeback (WSJ) Carter Campbell leaned over the stick-figure hockey players, loosening up his wrists and hopping from one foot to the other. The 14-year-old's cap was turned around. His iPod blared tunes from the classic-rock band Rush. Across from him, 35-year-old, No. 1 ranked table hockey champ Mark Sokolski hunched over his own players. "I'm gonna stomp this kid," Mr. Sokolski said. At stake was a slot in the elite eight of this year's Canadian Table Hockey Championships, the best-attended North American tournament that the game has seen in decades. Across the U.S. and Canada, a resurgence of table hockey is under way, drawing younger players and women to a sport that has long been the domain of older men in their basements reliving a game that hasn't been popular since they were kids. Global Crisis Not Over, China Reforms to Go On: Wen (Reuters) The global financial crisis is not over and technical innovation and investment will be key to sustaining what remains a "tortuous" recovery, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said on Sunday during a visit to Germany. Wen also said China, the world's biggest exporter and second largest economy, would press on with reforms aimed at creating better legal protection for foreign investors — a major concern for the growing number of German firms active in the country. Buffett Joined by 12 Families Pledging Wealth to Charity (Bloomberg) Twelve families promised to donate most of their wealth to philanthropy, joining the Giving Pledge initiative started by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates. The families include hedge-fund manager Bill Ackman and his wife Karen, Tesla Motors Inc.’s billionaire owner Elon Musk and film producer Steve Bing, according to an e-mailed statement from the initiative. Arthur M. Blank, Edgar M. Bronfman, Glenn and Eva Dubin, Red and Charline McCombs, Michael Moritz and Harriet Heyman, John and Ginger Sall, Henry and Susan Samueli, John A. and Susan Sobrato, John Michael Sobrato, and Ted and Vada Stanley also signed the pledge. Aiming for Clarity, Fed Still Falls Short in Some Eyes (NYT) But as Mr. Bernanke prepares to meet the press for the fifth time Wednesday afternoon, after a scheduled meeting of the Fed’s policy-making committee on Tuesday and Wednesday, there are reasons to doubt that the efforts are increasing public understanding of monetary policy. Experts and investors have continued to disagree about the plain meaning of the Fed’s recent policy statements. Some say the increased volume of communication is creating cacophony rather than clarity. Political criticism of the Fed has continued unabated. Man's nightmare since NYPD labeled him ‘Gentleman Groper’ (NYP) A citywide manhunt ensued after four Manhattan women were fondled in tony neighborhoods in a 35-day stretch. On April 13, authorities paraded their main suspect past snapping cameras. He defied the conventional image of a creepy perv. He was young, handsome, well-dressed, affluent, educated, a churchgoer. A gentleman groper. That suspect, Karl Vanderwoude, says if the scene seemed implausible — that’s because it was. “I didn’t do it. I wasn’t even in the vicinity of these incidents,” he said in his first interview since his arrest. “It’s a case of mistaken identity.” The 26-year-old Bible-study leader’s nightmare began 10 days ago, when he left early from his job as an operations coordinator at a Flatiron District private equity firm because he felt sick. He was in his Park Slope apartment for about an hour when the doorbell rang. “I thought it was my roommate who had been locked out and forgot his keys, which has happened, so I go to answer the door,” he recalled. Instead, two NYPD detectives were standing in the threshold. “They’re like, ‘Are you Karl? May we speak with you?’"

Opening Bell: 09.19.12

Goldman Names New Finance Chief (WSJ) Mr. Viniar has told colleagues he wants to spend more time at his home in Santa Barbara, Calif., where he often returns on the weekends. His thrice-weekly basketball game has been on hold since he underwent knee-replacement surgery this year. Goldman's New CFO Harvey Schwartz to Receive $1.85 Million in Annual Salary (Reuters) Schwartz's predecessor is among the best-paid executives on Wall Street. He earned $15.8 million last year and held 1.8 million shares of Goldman as of March 26, according to a proxy filing. In 2007, he made $58.5 million. Mary Schapiro May Be Heading For Exit (NYP) Sources say that Schapiro is chafing under the political gridlock in Washington that she feels has stymied a number of her initiatives. “Part of the problem for [Schapiro] is that the tone in Washington has been so partisan,” said Christopher Whalen, of Tangent Capital Partners. The chairwoman’s recent handling of talks surrounding new rules governing money-market funds, some detractors say, has also created bad blood within the SEC. “She’s just frustrated,” Whalen noted. However, Schapiro’s critics say she hasn’t cracked the whip hard enough on Wall Street bad guys. One former Washington insider said that Schapiro is liked by President Obama and would stay on until a replacement is named, should he win re-election. One possible early front-runner to replace Schapiro may be FINRA CEO Richard Ketchum, sources speculate. For Superfast Stock Traders, A Way To Jump Ahead In Line (WSJ) Haim Bodek was a Wall Street insider at Goldman Sachs and UBS before launching his own trading firm. Now he is taking on the financial establishment that spawned him. Mr. Bodek approached the Securities and Exchange Commission last year alleging that stock exchanges, in a race for more revenue, had worked with rapid-fire trading firms to give them an unfair edge over everyday investors. He became convinced exchanges were providing such an edge after he says he was offered one himself when he ran a high-speed trading firm—a way to place orders that can be filled ahead of others placed earlier. The key: a kind of order called "Hide Not Slide." The encounter set off an odyssey for Mr. Bodek that has fueled a sweeping SEC inquiry into the activities of sophisticated trading firms and stock-exchange operators—including Nasdaq OMX Group Inc., NYSE Euronext, Direct Edge Holdings LLC and BATS Global Markets—according to exchange and other officials, and lawyers with knowledge of the inquiry. Vulture Funds Seek Fresh Meat (WSJ) “There hasn’t been a big bankruptcy in the last six to nine months,” said a hedge fund investor. “More stuff is coming out of distress than is going in.” US corporate bankruptcy filings peaked in the second quarter of 2009, at around 16,000, and have been trending downward ever since. In the first quarter of 2011, they hit about 11,000, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute. Silver Point co-founder Edward Mulé is optimistic the feast will continue. The $6.7 billion firm has had one of the best performances of distressed funds. It gained 10.36 percent this year through August and is up 98.6 percent since January 2009. “The tail of the 2008/2009 distressed credit cycle, coupled with weak global growth and de-leveraging, will continue to generate a steady stream of interesting opportunities,” said Mulé in a recent investor letter. Inside The Dark World Of Online Sugar Daddies (BuzzFeed Shift) Shortly after my profile's approval, emails started flooding my new fake account. One was from "International Finance Don Juan." He wrote: "You look hot. Let's meet." He claimed he was exotic and athletic, over six feet and an independent stockbroker on his profile. After some small talk, he asked to meet me at the W — a "cool" luxury chain where seemingly all these guys wanted to meet or get a hotel room. “Don Juan” had sent a face shot of himself. It was cropped and a little blurry, but I had a general idea of what he looked like. When he walked in to the lobby bar, though, instead of "athletic," he looked as if he could have checked off "more to love." I guess all that matters is that these guys have the cash they say they have...He asked what I'd like to drink. I said I liked pinot noir or champagne. "Oh, Prosecco is basically the same thing," he said, and ordered me one. I had made up a story that I was a graduate student in literature at Sarah Lawrence so I was only in the city once or twice a week to see friends. He wasn't trying to feign interest, but was looking my body over in a conspicuous way. "You've got an amazing ass," he said. "I looked when we were walking in. I hope you don't mind." He attempted to wink, but it seemed more like a tic. I said thanks in the most convincing way I could to a sweaty, slobbering guy with the most repugnant perpetual hard-on visible through his khakis. "You like me?" he asked. "You seem very nice. I'm just, I'm just suddenly not feeling well," I blurted out. "You feel sick, or you're not into me?" he asked. "You know, if you want, I live close. You could come and lie down and I can give you a massage. Since it's our first time meeting, once you're better, you could just give me a blow job. How about $550? Probably the quickest $550 you'll ever make, huh?" Soros Fund Invests in Mozambique Ethanol Project (WSJ) The Soros Economic Development Fund on Wednesday said its investment will give it a 19% stake in the $20 million project, started by food-and-energy company CleanStar Mozambique. Executives say the investment is in line with the fund's aim of backing businesses that provide a return on capital and spur broader economic development. US Fiscal Cliff Trumps EU Crisis as Top Worry (CNBC) A looming fiscal problem in the U.S. is now identified as the top tail risk for investors, marking the first time in 17 months that Europe’s debt crisis was not seen as the biggest concern for fund managers, a monthly survey by Bank of America/Merrill Lynch shows. The U.S. “fiscal cliff,” a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts set to come into force in January 2013, was identified by 35 percent of respondents as the largest risk going forward, up from 26 percent in August. In contrast, 33 percent of the respondents rated the euro zone debt crisis as their biggest concern, down from 48 percent in August. The survey of 186 fund managers, who oversee a combined $524 billion, was conducted from Sept. 7 to 13. BOE Looks Set For More Stimulus (WSJ) Rate-setters think the annual rate of inflation will take longer to fall to its 2% target than they thought last month because of rising commodity prices and an increase in companies' labor costs, according to the minutes of the September meeting of the central bank's Monetary Policy Committee, published Wednesday. Annual inflation was 2.5% in August. Lindsay Lohan arrested in New York after striking pedestrian outside nightclub (NYDN) Lohan was arrested early Wednesday in New York after hitting a pedestrian with a Porsche, police said. The troubled actress was maneuvering around a crowd of people in an alley between the Dream Downtown, a hotel and nightclub in the Meatpacking District, and the Maritime restaurant. "She's driving in this freight area, going very slow," a police source said. "She's hitting her horn because there's a lot of people in the area. The crowd moves but she kind of brushes against this one guy. Lohan was driving a 2010 black Porsche Carrera, not hers, when the incident occured around 12:30 a.m. Lohan and friends went inside the club, and the man — who hasn't been named but is 34 — called police. Lohan was later arrested about 2:30 a.m. and booked for leaving the scene of an accident with an injury. She was issued a desk appearance ticket. Her lawyer took the car after the arrest.

Opening Bell: 10.10.12

Banks Must Cut Deeper to Help Stock Prices, McKinsey Says (Bloomberg) Banks must make deeper and more sweeping cost reductions if they want to restore profitability levels that are acceptable to investors, McKinsey & Co. said in an annual review of the industry. “It has to go a lot further,” Toos Daruvala, a director in the consulting firm’s North American banking practice and a co-author of the report, said yesterday in a phone interview. “Banks have done quite a lot on cost-cutting but frankly the environment has deteriorated over the last year” because of economic weakness, he said. Argentina rejects Singer’s $20M in ransom for ship’s release (NYP) At a court hearing today in Ghana, where hedge fund manager Paul Singer’s lawyers are holding the ARA Libertad hostage, a lawyer for Argentina argued that Singer had no right to detain the ship because it’s a military vessel and immune from seizure. Lawyer Larry Otoo called the seizure — a move by Singer to force Argentina to repay a $1.6 billion debt he says he’s owed — an embarrassment to Ghana and demanded the ship’s immediate return. The court is expected to rule Thursday on whether to release the ship. Singer, the head of hedge fund giant Elliot Management, is seeking to recoup some of the $600 million in bonds he purchased as Argentina was headed for default in 2001. Elliot bought the bonds at steep discounts, paying as little as 15 cents on the dollar in some cases, but has since won judgments of as much as $1.6 billion. Elliot’s NML Capital unit is pursuing Argentina’s assets all over the world in an effort to collect on its debt. In Gupta Sentencing, A Judgment Call (WSJ) Former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. director Rajat Gupta is the highest-profile of more than 70 defendants convicted of insider trading in New York federal court in the past three years. But this month he will likely receive a more lenient sentence than the 11-year-prison term given to Raj Rajaratnam, to whom Mr. Gupta provided his illegal leaks, legal experts say. The sentence may have reverberations beyond the 63-year-old Mr. Gupta, a former chief of consulting giant McKinsey & Co. It will be widely watched in executive suites nationwide because it will be among the first handed down to a major corporate figure in the recent insider-trading crackdown. Previous sentences have largely involved traders, lawyers, lower-rung corporate employees and others. Mr. Gupta, who was convicted in June of three counts of securities fraud relating to tips about Goldman and one count of conspiracy, didn't trade or profit directly from his illegal tips. Before the conviction, he had a long and stellar career in corporate America and philanthropy. All this will be balanced against the nature of the crimes and the need to discourage others from similar offenses when U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff hands down his sentence, scheduled for Oct. 24. Judge Rakoff often imposes sentences further below federal sentencing guidelines than some other judges do, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis...Since 2010, Judge Rakoff has imposed an average sentence of 21 months on insider-trading defendants who didn't cooperate with prosecutors—about 38% below the guideline minimum, according to the Journal analysis. By comparison, U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan issued seven sentences in that period averaging 6.3% below the guideline minimum. U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty issued three sentences at 20.3% less than the minimum. Goldman Pushes On Limits In Volcker Rule (WSJ) Some executives at the New York company believe they have found a way to extricate the credit funds from proposed limits on how much can be invested in hedge funds and private-equity funds, according to people briefed on the efforts. The Volcker rule caps a bank's total investments in hedge funds and private-equity funds at 3% of its so-called Tier-1 capital. It also prevents any single bank from accounting for more than 3% of a fund's investments. Those limits are among the biggest components of the rule, named after former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and designed to curtail risk-taking among financial firms. The rule is the most contentious part of the Dodd-Frank financial-overhaul law of 2010 but, like much of the rest of the legislation, the details of its implementation are still being worked out. Credit funds lend to companies that might not otherwise get financing, such as companies backed by private-equity firms, and tend to hold their investments to maturity while using a limited amount of leverage. Goldman has argued in meetings with regulators and in letters to them that these funds function like banks, just with a different structure, according to public records and the people familiar with the efforts. Report: 20% of US Firms Cook the Books During Earnings (CNBC) ...a new report by finance professors at Emory and Duke University raises questions about the quality of earnings in general. In an anonymous survey of CFOs last year, the study found that at least 20% of companies are "managing" earnings and using aggressive accounting methods to legally alter the outcome of their earnings reports. Of the 20% of companies that manipulated their earnings to hit a target, Graham says, a surprising 40% did so to the downside, not the upside, to pad and improve future quarters' earnings. Banks Chasing Asian Millionaires Create Singapore’s Canary Wharf (Bloomberg) Singapore’s Marina Bay area is emerging as the city’s new financial hub, with banks including Standard Chartered Plc and Barclays taking bigger offices as they pursue Asia’s expanding ranks of millionaires. Corrections & Amplifications (WSJ via Lauren Tara LaCapra) "Annie Hubbard, the woman appearing alongside Goldman Sachs's chief financial officer, Harvey Schwartz, in a photograph with a page-one article about Goldman on Tuesday, was incorrectly identified as his wife. Mr. Schwartz isn't married." Hulk Hogan ‘devastated’ by leak of sex tape filmed six years ago with friend’s wife Heather Clem (NYDN) The wrestling star tried to explain the kinky love triangle to Howard Stern Tuesday using a thinly veiled euphemism. “Let’s say I’ve been doing laundry, brother, for this person forever, and all of a sudden this person hates the way I do laundry. And that person says, ‘You suck. I hate you. F-you every single day. I hate the way you do laundry. I’m going to find somebody else to do laundry. Somebody younger, faster, stronger,’” he said, clearly taking a jab at his ex-wife, who he was still married to at the time of the taping. “But my buddy, you know, him and his girl say, ‘Hey, you can do our laundry any time you want!’ Both of them are saying that,” he told Stern. “Finally after the person I was doing laundry with for millions and millions of years left, and all of a sudden there was nobody there to do laundry, I was depressed… I go to my buddy’s house and he says, ‘Hey man you can do this other person’s laundry that I’m partners with.’ I said, 'Sure.’” Official Warmth And Public Rage For A German Leader In Athens (NYT) ...even as Ms. Merkel said that she had come as a “good friend and a real partner,” not a “taskmaster or teacher to give grades,” the approximately 40,000 Greeks who took to the streets in protest (a rather modest number, by Greek standards) treated the visit as a provocation by the arch-nemesis in the euro crisis whose austerity medicine is obliterating the Greek middle class. Some banners read “Don’t cry for us Mrs. Merkel” and “Merkel, you are not welcome here.” A small group of protesters burned a flag bearing the Nazi swastika, while a handful of protesters dressed in Nazi-style uniforms drew cheers of approval as they rode a small vehicle past a police cordon. Variety Being Sold To Penske, Third Point (Reuters) Variety, the century-old entertainment trade newspaper once considered the bible of the movie industry, is being sold to online publisher Jay Penske and Third Point LLC for about $25 million, two sources with knowledge of the deal told Reuters. Penske and Third Point have struck a deal to buy the money-losing, 107-year-old newspaper from medical and technical publisher Reed Elsevier, which put it up for sale in March, the sources said. IMF warns eurozone on capital flight (FT) In its global financial stability report, the IMF concluded that capital flight from the eurozone’s periphery to the bloc’s core, driven by fears of a break-up of the currency union, had sparked “extreme fragmentation” of the euro area’s funding markets. The fund said this was causing renewed pressure for banks to shrink their balance sheets, particularly those in countries with fiscal woes. A Fat, Mustachioed Orphan Finds a Home (NYT) How do you transport a 234-pound baby to New York City? If he’s a 15-week-old walrus rescued from the open ocean off Alaska, the answer is a jumbo-size crate aboard a FedEx cargo jet, accompanied by a veterinarian and a handler. “If he’s calm and comfortable, no worries,” said Jon Forrest Dohlin, director of the New York Aquarium, which will receive the walrus calf, named Mitik, on Thursday. “But his needs and comfort come first. So he may very well travel with his head in our keeper’s lap.” Since late July, Mitik and a second orphaned walrus, Pakak, have been nursed to health with bottle feedings and exercise at the Alaska SeaLife Center, an aquarium in Seward that conducts research and responds to strandings of marine mammals. (Pakak, nicknamed Pak, will arrive at the Indianapolis Zoo on Thursday.) Mitik — or Mit, for short — was weak from illness and considerably smaller than Pakak when he was found by a hunting vessel several miles offshore. Mit initially suffered from bladder problems and could not take a bottle, requiring both a catheter and feeding tube. But he is now sucking assertively from a bottle and putting on a pound a day...With his multiple chins and doleful expression, Mit is also exhibiting an undeniable pluck that should serve him well in his new surroundings. Martha Hiatt, the aquarium’s behavioral husbandry supervisor, traveled to Alaska in September to help care for him. At first, she said, Pakak totally dominated him, but no longer. “If Mit is resting with his head on my lap, sucking my fingers, looking sweetly into my eyes, and Pak comes anywhere near us, he pops up, yells at Pak and tries to head-butt him,” she said. “Then he’ll turn to me and be all cuddly again. We say he is small, but scrappy — the perfect New Yorker.”

Opening Bell: 01.07.13

Regulators Give Ground To Banks (WSJ) Global banking regulators watered down a key element of their plan for creating a safer financial system, giving ground to banks that argued the rules were unworkable and financially risky. The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, a group of the world's top regulators and central bankers, said Sunday that it agreed to relax a rule designed to ensure that big banks are able to weather financial crises without running short of cash. Bowing to two years of intense pressure from the banking industry, the regulators made it easier for banks to meet the rule, known as the "liquidity coverage ratio," and delayed its full implementation until 2019. It is the latest instance of regulators chipping away at their landmark 2010 response to the global financial crisis. The regulators argue that the changes make banking rules much stronger than they were before the crisis. Herbalifers Stay Resolute (WSJ) When hedge-fund manager William Ackman unveiled his 334-slide presentation alleging that Herbalife is a pyramid scheme, it did nothing to shake Joanne Clare. The 38-year-old Staten Island mother of three has been selling the company's weight-loss products and supplements since 2004, when she says they helped her drop from 210 to 160 pounds in four months. She now sells as much as $3,500 a month of Herbalife products to her 30 clients and the two distributors in her "down line." "People have always said it's a pyramid scheme, but it's not," Ms. Clare said, adding that the bulk of her earnings come from sales to clients, not her cut of her recruits' take. Mr. Ackman's declaration that he had bet more than $1 billion against Herbalife caused many investors to flee, sending the stock down 38% in four days in late December. But some of the company's 3.1-million-strong army of distributors were unmoved. Eliot Spitzer Ends His Show On Current TV (NYT) The announcement comes a few days after Al Jazeera said it was acquiring Current TV. Later this year, the Qatar-owned broadcaster plans to turn the channel into an Americanized version of the international news channel Al Jazeera English. Mr. Spitzer said he had a “wonderful time” at Current, but emphasized that his relationship was with Al Gore and Joel Hyatt, Current’s co-founders, not with Al Jazeera. “Moving forward, their mission will be different,” he said — more international newscasts, less liberal talk about the news. Citi's Corbat builds bridges (Reuters) Citigroup Inc's Michael Corbat has been meeting with bank regulators in his first months as CEO, as he looks to bolster relationships and finalize the bank's plan to return capital to shareholders, sources familiar with the matter said. Corbat also expects to name his team of top managers within the next week or so, one of the sources said on Sunday. Corbat is expected to play it safe when Citigroup asks the U.S. Federal Reserve for permission for moves such as buying back shares or increasing dividends, analysts and investors said. His predecessor, Vikram Pandit, lost his job in October in part because the bank's request for returning capital was denied in March. The bank, which is due to submit its plan to the Fed on Monday, has not yet done so, the source said. The third-largest U.S. bank will only seek approval to buy back shares and not raise dividends, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday. Last year, the bank wanted permission to return more than $8 billion to shareholders over two years, the paper said. For Newly Minted MBAs, A Small Paycheck (WSJ) For graduates with minimal experience—three years or less—median pay was $53,900 in 2012, down 4.6% from 2007-08, according to an analysis conducted for The Wall Street Journal by PayScale.com. Pay fell at 62% of the 186 schools examined. Even for more seasoned grads the trend is similar, says Katie Bardaro, lead economist for PayScale.com. "In general, it seems that M.B.A. pay is either stagnant or falling," she says...It is all a far cry from the late 1980s and early 1990s heyday for M.B.A.s, when some companies would hire 100 or more M.B.A.s. It wasn't uncommon to recruit first, and fill actual jobs later. DOJ pledges to respect Swiss law in tax probe (Reuters) Swiss chief finance diplomat Michael Ambuehl was given a verbal pledge from the U.S. Department of Justice to respect Swiss law when asking for bank client data of potential tax dodgers, a newspaper reported on Sunday. Switzerland is in negotiations with U.S. authorities to find a deal that would end tax probes into at least ten Swiss banks suspected of helping clients dodge taxes, including Credit Suisse and Julius Baer. The Alpine country is trying to preserve what is left of its cherished banking secrecy that suffered a severe blow in 2009 when UBS, the first Swiss bank that came under scrutiny in the U.S., was required to disclose client data. Brazilian prison gaurds catch cat that slipped through the gate with escape tools taped to its body (NYDN) Guards at a Brazilian prison nabbed a white cat that slipped through the gate with a cell phone, drills, small saws and other contraband taped to its body. Alagoas prison spokeswoman Cinthya Moreno says the cat was caught New Year’s Eve at the medium-security prison in the city of Arapiraca. The O Estado de S. Paulo newspaper reported Saturday that all of the prison’s 263 inmates are suspects in the smuggling attempt, though a spokesperson said, “It will be hard to discover who is responsible since the cat does not speak.” Loeb, Cooperman Stand Out in Horrid Year for Hedge Funds (CNBC) Third Point was the clear hedge fund standout in a horrible year for the industry as almost nine out of 10 managers underperformed the S&P 500. Omega Advisors' Leon Cooperman also scored big. Loeb — once better known for his acerbic letters to CEOs — used an activist position in Yahoo and the contrarian buying of Greek bonds to drive the firm's flagship fund to a 21 percent gain in 2012. The firm's more-leveraged Ultra fund posted an even bigger 34 percent return...Cooperman's fund had a net return of 26 percent in 2012. Banks Zero In On Foreclosure Pact (WSJ) Banks were closing in on a $10 billion foreclosure-abuse settlement with regulators that could be announced as soon as Monday, according to people familiar with the talks. The settlement was nearly complete Sunday afternoon, the people said, after the Federal Reserve backed down on a demand for more compensation for consumers and other changes to the pact. Bankers threatened to walk away from the deal if the Fed's demand for an additional $300 million was included, a person briefed on the talks said. Junk Bonds' Fire Is Poised to Fade (WSJ) Junk bonds started 2013 much like they finished 2012—on fire. In just three trading days this year, bonds of low-rated companies delivered returns of almost three-quarters of a percent, even as most other types of bonds lost value. And junk bonds continued to clock new milestones: Average prices soared to their highest since 2004 and average yields, which decline as prices rise, dropped below 6% for the first time ever, according to Barclays. But the rapid march is making fund managers and analysts wary. Prices are now so high—averaging more than 105 cents on the dollar—that there is little room for them to climb much further, some investors say. These are lofty prices for bonds that usually trade below 100 cents, reflecting the higher default risk for such companies. At the very least, returns will pale in comparison with the 15% achieved in 2012, analysts and investors say. NHL, Players Settle Labor Dispute (AP) On the 113th day of a management lockout and five days before the league's deadline for a deal, the bleary-eyed sides held a 6 a.m. news conference to announce there will be a season, after all. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and union head Donald Fehr both appeared drained, wearing sweaters and not neckties, when they stood side by side at the hotel and announced labor peace. "We have reached an agreement on the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement, the details of which need to be put to paper," Bettman said. "We've got to dot a lot of Is, cross a lot of Ts. There's still a lot of work to be done, but the basic framework of the deal has been agreed upon." Hostess in Talks to Sell Off Bread Brands (WSJ) Hostess could disclose Flowers, Grupo Bimbo or others as opening bidders in a looming bankruptcy-court auction for the assets as soon as this week, said people familiar with the matter. Hostess, whose bread brands include Wonder Bread, Nature's Pride, Home Pride, Merita and Butternut, is still determining how to split up assets and package them for buyers, one of the people said. Gérard Depardieu gives up French citizenship after bitter tax fight (GM) In a fit of pique, French movie star Gérard Depardieu announced during the weekend that he would give up his citizenship after politicians and the media took him to task for moving to Belgium and avoiding an impending tax hike for the rich. Mr. Depardieu is not France’s first fiscal refugee but his high-profile door-slamming so monopolized public debate that Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault had on Monday to parse whether or not he had insulted the actor. “I did not call Mr. Depardieu a loser, I said that it was loser-like [to move to Belgium to avoid taxes],” Mr. Ayrault told reporters...The “loser” comment seemed to have been the jab that stung Mr. Depardieu the most. “Loser, did you say loser?” the 63-year–old actor began an open letter to Mr. Ayrault that appeared Sunday in Le Journal du dimanche. Mr. Depardieu wrote that he had paid a total of €145-million in income tax in the last four decades and kept 80 people employed. He added that he had been taxed at a marginal rate of 85 per cent this year. “I am giving you back my passport and my social insurance, which I had never used. We no longer have the same fatherland. I am a true European, a citizen of the world.”

Opening Bell: 01.09.13

UBS Says Cleaning Up Its Act After Libor 'Shocker' (Reuters) UBS has yet to fully purge itself of a global interest rate scandal that has cost the Swiss bank its reputation and put it at risk of a wave of costly civil suits, its investment banking chief said on Wednesday. The once-venerable institution was fined a record $1.5 billion last month for manipulating Libor interest rates, the latest in a string of scandals including a $2.3 billion rogue trading loss and a damaging tax avoidance row with the United States. "We are very focused on recovering the honor and standing the organisation had in the past," Andrea Orcel told Britain's Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, set up in the aftermath of the Libor scandal. "I am convinced that we have made a lot of progress. I am also convinced that we still need to do more." [...] Committee member Justin Welby, the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury, asked Orcel if he was the right man to turn UBS around. "I feel I have a high level of integrity," the banker said. Orcel said that UBS was working at simplifying the investment banking business to make it less risky and prone to scandal. The committee, a cross-party panel of lawmakers headed by Conservative MP Andrew Tyrie, is switching its focus to standards and culture after spending most of the past three months assessing structural reform. Tyrie on Wednesday described the Libor rigging as "a shocker of enormous proportions". Button-Down Central Bank Bets It All (WSJ) Switzerland, for decades a paragon of safety in finance, is engaged in a high-risk strategy to protect its export-driven economy, literally betting the bank in a fight to contain the prices of Swiss products sold abroad. The nation's central bank is printing and selling as many Swiss francs as needed to keep its currency from climbing against the euro, wagering an amount approaching Switzerland's total national output, and, in the process, turning from button-down conservative to the globe's biggest risk-taker. JPMorgan Overhaul Widens (WSJ) The shift of Mr. Maclin and the departure of Mr. Staley, who once was seen as a top candidate to succeed James Dimon as chief executive, are the latest steps in a drastic reshaping of J.P. Morgan's executive suite. Many of the new leaders—a group that includes corporate and investment-bank co-heads Mike Cavanagh and Daniel Pinto, co-chief operating officer Matthew Zames and Chief Financial Officer Marianne Lake—are in their 40s. Mr. Cavanagh and Mr. Zames, who were asked last May to unwind a series of botched bets placed by a trader in the bank's Chief Investment Office known as the "London whale," are viewed as front runners for the top job, said people close to the bank. Ackman Braces for Legal Battle Over Herbalife (FBN) If filed, the lawsuit could involve alleged “tortuous interference,” implying Ackman intentionally damaged Herbalife’s business relationships, people close to Ackman said. On Tuesday, a large Herbalife distributor said he was leaving the company and called on other distributors to join him amid the controversy. In a sign of the importance of its distribution channels, Herbalife says in regulatory filings its relationship with and ability to influence distributors are items that can “materially” affect its financial condition. As of late Tuesday, people with knowledge of the matter said no decision on timing or even if a lawsuit will actually be filed had been made. The company has told FOX Business it is weighing legal action against Ackman. Ackman declined to comment on the matter. Herbalife has hired famed attorney David Boies to launch possible litigation against Ackman as well as the investment bank Moelis & Co., as its financial adviser. Goldman Will Report Fund Values Each Day (WSJ) In a reversal of industry practice, Goldman Sachs Group will begin disclosing the values of its money-market mutual funds daily rather than monthly, according to people familiar with the company's plans. Some of the changes will take effect as early as Wednesday...According to people familiar with Goldman's thinking, the company is beefing up its disclosures to satisfy investors' calls for greater transparency on fluctuations in the price of their investments. Brazil prostitutes to learn English ahead of World Cup (AP) Prostitutes in one of Brazil's biggest cities are beginning to sign up for free English classes ahead of this year's Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup. The president of the Association of Prostitutes of the city of Belo Horizonte says by telephone that 20 have already signed up for the courses and she expects at least 300 of the group's 4,000 members to follow suit. The association is organizing the classes and seeking volunteer teachers. Prostitution is legal in Brazil. Belo Horizonte will host six World Cup matches and Vieira said Tuesday "it will be important for the girls will be able to use English to let their clients know what they are charging and learn about what turns them on." AIG Cites Duty to Weigh Suing U.S. as Lawmaker Criticism Mounts (Bloomberg, related) American International Group said it has a duty to weigh joining a suit by former Chief Executive Officer Maurice “Hank” Greenberg that claims the insurer’s 2008 U.S. bailout was unconstitutional. “The board of directors has fiduciary and legal obligations to the company and its shareholders to consider the demand served on us,” CEO Robert Benmosche said yesterday in a statement. The board is scheduled to meet today to hear arguments from representatives of Greenberg and the U.S. Lawmakers including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Robert Menendez and Representative Peter Welch said New York-based AIG shouldn’t join the suit. “Taxpayers are still furious that they rescued a company whose own conduct brought it down,” Welch said in a letter to AIG Chairman Steve Miller. “Don’t rub salt in the wounds with yet another reckless decision.” Vow of New Light For 'Dark' Trades (WSJ) Richard Ketchum, chief executive of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, said in an interview Tuesday that the regulator is expanding its oversight of the dark-trading venues, with an eye on whether orders placed in public exchanges are "trying to move prices or encourage sellers that may advance their trading in the dark market." The regulator also is boosting its surveillance of high-speed trading and is increasingly looking at rapid-fire trading across exchanges, he said. "You're going to see more [focus] in those areas in 2013," Mr. Ketchum said. Goldman, Morgan Stanley to Settle on Foreclosures (Reuters) Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are among a group of banks expected to agree as soon as this week to a $1.5 billion settlement with federal regulators over botched foreclosure claims, two sources familiar with the matter said on Tuesday. The accord would come on the heels of a separate $8.5 billion settlement announced on Monday with 10 bigger mortgage servicers, including Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo...Goldman and Morgan Stanley's respective roles in the settlement stems from mortgage-servicing businesses that the two investment banks purchased in the run-up to the subprime mortgage crisis, and have since sold. Goldman had owned Litton Loan Servicing and Morgan Stanley owned Saxon Capital. Taco Bell responds to teen's request for a custom Speedo (LI) The week before Christmas, 15-year-old Ryan Klarner posted on Taco Bell’s Facebook page, introducing himself with a rundown of his swimming and diving achievements before making an offbeat request. “[I]s there any way you guys could make me a customized Speedo that says think outside the buns on the back of it? If you did, that would mean the world to me,” the Illinois teen asked...Klarner said he first came up with the idea a couple of years earlier and decided last month to go ahead and ask, even though he never had asked a company on Facebook for anything before. “I did not expect it to blow up as much as it has. I didn’t really expect to get the Speedo out of it, either,” he said. But last Wednesday, the social media team at Taco Bell wrote back. “What size do you wear? And what’s your address?” “He really wanted something and he went after it,” Tressie Lieberman, director of digital and social engagement, said. When we think people are really extraordinary...then we want to reward them.”

Opening Bell: 06.12.13

Pimco Sees 60% Chance of Global Recession in Five Years (Bloomberg) Pacific Investment Management Co., the world’s largest active bond manager, said investors should cut risk amid a more than 60 percent chance of a global recession in the next three to five years. Global growth will slow, keeping inflation in check, and “economic volatility” will increase, Saumil Parikh, a portfolio manager at Newport Beach, California-based Pimco, said in a report being posted on the firm’s website today. Investors shouldn’t add risk in the search for yield, he said. “The global economy experiences a recession every six years or so, and the frequency of global recessions tends to increase when global indebtedness is high and falling as opposed to when indebtedness is low and rising,” Parikh, who focuses on asset allocation, multisector fixed income and absolute-return portfolios, said in the report. The last global recession was four years ago, he said. Banks Get Reprieve on New Swaps Rule (WSJ) Some of biggest banks on Wall Street will get an additional two years to comply with a post-financial crisis rule requiring they move risky swap activities into separate affiliates. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said it granted extensions to seven banks, giving them until July 2015 to comply with so-called "swaps push-out" rules required by the 2010 Dodd-Frank law. ... The OCC notified Bank of America Corp., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co., HSBC Holdings PLC, Morgan Stanley and U.S. Bancorp that they were granted a 24-month extension in response to their requests for a longer transition period. The move comes less than a week after the Federal Reserve said foreign banks also will be eligible for the two-year delay in complying with the rule, which is slated to take effect July 16. Emerging market assets suffer in fierce sell-off (FT) Emerging economies have been among the prime beneficiaries of ultra-loose global monetary policy as central banks led by the Fed have flooded financial markets with more than $12tn of extra liquidity since the financial crisis. But signs of an economic slowdown spreading from China and indications that the Fed could reduce the pace of its $85bn-a-month bond purchases have triggered a sharp correction in emerging markets. The South African rand and the Brazilian real touched four-year lows against the US dollar on Tuesday, and the Indian rupee fell to a record low. Even relatively robust countries like the Philippines and Mexico – long favourites of investors – have been hit by a spate of selling. Some central banks have begun to intervene to stem the currency slides. Is U.S. stock trading safer? Fewer erroneous trades seen (Reuters) More than three years after the "flash crash" terrified many by temporarily wiping out almost $1 trillion of U.S. stock market value in a few minutes, there are signs that the number of erroneous and aberrant trades is dropping. The use of circuit breakers for individual securities in the wake of the May 6, 2010 plunge, and the introduction of tougher risk-management controls for broker-dealers in November 2010 appear to have helped stabilize trading, market experts and regulators said. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the security industry's watchdog, said the number of reports of "clearly erroneous" trades it received was down 84 percent in the last six months of 2012 compared with the first six months of 2009. Facebook Investors Press Zuckerberg on Stock Price at Annual Meeting (CNBC) Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg tried to tackle concerns about its stock head-on at the first annual shareholder meeting Tuesday, but investors pressed for answers about why the price is still down a year after the company went public. "The answer is we understand that a lot of people are disappointed with the performance of the stock, and we really are, too," Zuckerberg said in his opening remarks before taking questions. ... The stock, priced at $38 when the company went public in May 2012, hit $17 a few months ago and was trading at about $24 in afternoon trading Friday. Facebook can't control the stock price but is focused on developing the best products to create more shareholder value, Zuckerberg said. NJ Mayor Apologizes for Calling Residents "Annoying" (NBC) The mayor of Toms River apologized Tuesday night for comments he made about an area battered by Sandy, but not all residents were satisfied. Last week, Mayor Thomas Kelaher told Bloomberg News that he thought residents of Ortley Beach, where many are still without homes, were "annoying." "I certainly never intended to be disrespectful to the people who live in Ortley beach," Kelaher said at a meeting Tuesday. Marketfield Poet-Philosopher Pair Bet Europe for Top Fund (Bloomberg) Michael Aronstein, a poet, and Michael Shaoul, a doctor of philosophy, have made their MainStay Marketfield Fund the world’s fastest-growing by anticipating recoveries in the most-hated assets. Marketfield grew more than five-fold to $9.5 billion in the past year, the biggest increase of a fund with more than $5 billion in assets, after betting on a rebound in U.S. housing stocks and European shares. Now, their success relies on Irish and Italian stocks rallying and equities in China , Brazil and India tumbling. The New York-based fund has advanced 70 percent since July 2007, more than triple the return of the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, data compiled by Bloomberg show. “I don’t know where the level is,” Aronstein, a former Merrill Lynch strategist who writes poetry in his spare time, said of the potential for further declines in developing nations’ stocks in an interview April 4. “But if we are right, it’s going to get to the point where people cannot stand it anymore.” Metacapital in Worst Slide as Bloodbath Roils Funds (Bloomberg) Deepak Narula rose to fame as manager of the best-performing hedge fund last year by navigating the government’s stimulus efforts. He’s having a far harder time as the Federal Reserve moves closer to an exit. Metacapital Management LP’s flagship $1.5 billion fund lost an estimated 6.4 percent last month, the worst decline since it started in 2008, according to a letter to investors obtained by Bloomberg News. That followed drops of 0.5 percent in April and 0.1 percent in March, after 17 months of consecutive gains including a 41 percent return last year. ... “It’s been a bloodbath the last four to six weeks,” said Troy Gayeski, a senior portfolio manager who helps invest client money in hedge funds at SkyBridge Capital, which manages about $7.7 billion. “It was a confluence of just about everything” from investors’ concerns that refinancing would pick up among some borrowers who’ve had trouble qualifying to the slump in the mortgage debt that the Fed is buying, he said. SoftBank's Son Felt Time Pressure to Push Sprint Deal Forward (WSJ) In the end, SoftBank Corp. Chief Executive Masayoshi Son concluded that time was money. After a weekend of wheeling and dealing, he was willing to sweeten the Japanese company's bid for Sprint Nextel Corp. that Mr. Son for weeks had been saying already was high enough. His hope with the new bid is to keep the acquisition on track for midsummer completion and resolve complications raised by a rival offer. Mr. Son agreed for SoftBank to throw another $1.5 billion on top of the $20.1 billion already offered to achieve the "certainty of timing" for closing the deal in early July, a person familiar with the new proposal said. Pattern of negative correlation between HY bonds and treasuries has been broken (Sober Look) Since the financial crisis, the correlation between treasuries and many credit assets such as high yield bonds (HY) has been strongly negative. ... Recent events however broke that pattern. We've had a number of days with both the longer dated treasuries and HY selling off. That means the HY asset class is now responding to rate moves (not just spread). The 3-month correlation between prices of longer dated treasuries and HY bonds is nearing zero. This move toward a "less negative" correlation with treasuries is also visible in other credit assets as well. Sub-investment-grade credit investors are all of a sudden paying much closer attention to rates. US warns EU against exempting film industry from trade talks (FT) The US government has warned Brussels that EU efforts to placate French demands to exempt its film industry from high-profile transatlantic trade talks could unleash a torrent of demands in Washington for similar reciprocal carve-outs that would imperil a comprehensive deal. ... José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, met European filmmakers on Tuesday, including “The Artist” star Bérénice Bejo, to reassure them the trade deal will not jeopardise their protections. “Let me state loud and clear: the cultural exception is not negotiable,” Mr Barroso said after the meeting. Most Americans Aren’t Excited About Their Jobs (WSJ) FYI. State Dept. officials deny prostitution cover-up allegations (CBS) The allegations were first brought to light by CBS News' John Miller, who reported that according to an internal State Department Inspector General's memo, several recent investigations were influenced, manipulated, or simply called off. One specific example mentioned in the memo refers to the 2011 investigation into an ambassador who "routinely ditched ... his protective security detail," and inspectors suspect this was in order to "solicit sexual favors from prostitutes." ... In response to the allegation, Gutman said on Tuesday: "I am angered and saddened by the baseless allegations that have appeared in the press and to watch the four years I have proudly served in Belgium smeared is devastating. I live on a beautiful park in Brussels that you walk through to get to many locations and at no point have I ever engaged in any improper activity."

Opening Bell: 08.10.12

US Not Seeking Goldman Charges (WSJ) After a yearlong investigation, the Justice Department said Thursday that it won't bring charges against Goldman Sachs or any of its employees for financial fraud related to the mortgage crisis. In a statement, the Justice Department said "the burden of proof" couldn't be met to prosecute Goldman criminally based on claims made in an extensive report prepared by a U.S. Senate panel that investigated the financial crisis. Carlyle Lands Money Firm (WSJ) Carlyle Group plans to acquire asset manager TCW Group Inc. from French bank Société Générale SA, in the latest example of a U.S. financial firm seeing value in assets that European banks are shedding under regulatory pressure. School Bonds Could Trigger Fiscal Shock (FT) The issue at stake revolves around some exotic bonds issued by San Diego educational authorities in recent years. Once upon a time (think six long decades ago), US school authorities used to finance themselves primarily by using taxes. Then they started to issue a swelling volume of bonds to supplement those taxes. But as the fiscal situation in California has deteriorated, voters have become so upset they have imposed various fiscal straitjackets on educational boards. Worse, property tax revenues, which have been used to fund schools, have declined as the housing market has crashed. That has left schools in a bind. So, local financial advisers have offered some “innovative” solutions. Last year, Poway Unified, one San Diego educational district, issued some $105m worth of “capital appreciation” bonds to finance previously planned investment projects. These are similar to zero-coupon bonds, meaning the district does not need to start repaying interest or capital until 2033. As a result, Poway’s local authority has been able to promise to keep local taxes unchanged while completing previously promised investments (building projects, computers and so on). But, there is a big catch: to compensate for this payment deferral, these bonds are paying double-digit interest rates and cannot be redeemed early. When the bond is repaid in 2051, the total bill will be more than 10 times the initial loan. US banks told to make plans for preventing collapse (Reuters) US regulators directed five of the country's biggest banks, including Bank of America Corp and Goldman Sachs Group Inc, to develop plans for staving off collapse if they faced serious problems, emphasizing that the banks could not count on government help. The two-year-old program, which has been largely secret until now, is in addition to the "living wills" the banks crafted to help regulators dismantle them if they actually do fail. It shows how hard regulators are working to ensure that banks have plans for worst-case scenarios and can act rationally in times of distress. A Rejected Jobseeker Sends The Padres The Best Letter Ever (Deadspin) "After careful review I must decline. I realize I may be burning a bridge here, but in the spirit of reciprocity, I would like to extend you a counter-offer to suck my dick. Clearly, I don't have one of these, so my offer makes about as much sense as yours. But for the price you're charging to attend the event, I'm sure I would have no problem borrowing one." Manchester United IPO Sold Below Bottom Of Forecast Range (Bloomberg) The 134-year-old team and the Glazer family that bought it in 2005 sold 16.7 million shares for $14 each, according to a statement yesterday. They had offered the shares, equivalent to a 10 percent stake, for $16 to $20 apiece. The club will start trading today, listing on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol MANU. Struggling Euro Members Should Be Removed: Euro Architect (CNBC) Otmar Issing, the respected German economist and former member of the Bundesbank, said: “We should have started with a smaller number, no doubt about that, with stricter rules. But this is spilled milk. Now we have this composition, and the idea that we should have a policy that no country ever should leave is something which is an invitation to blackmail.” Regulators Seek Unity In UK Bank Talks (WSJ) U.S. authorities are forming a group with New York's top financial regulator to negotiate a settlement with Standard Chartered over allegations it illegally hid financial dealings with Iran. The U.S. Treasury Department, Federal Reserve, U.S. Department of Justice and Manhattan district attorney's office are scrambling to reach an understanding with the New York State Department of Financial Services over the ground rules for negotiations with the U.K.'s fifth-largest bank by assets, according to people familiar with the talks. Norwegian tourist falls asleep on airport baggage belt (Telegraph) The 36-year-old, who has not been named, arrived at the international terminal of Italy's busiest airport at the end of last month with a backpack and a can of beer in his hand. The Norwegian was due to check in for a flight to Oslo and when he found no one on duty at the airline desk he leapt across the counter and fell into a deep asleep on the baggage belt with his bag beside him. As the belt began to move the unsuspecting tourist reportedly travelled for 15 minutes through the secure baggage area in Terminal 3 before officials spotted his body curled up in a fetal position in an X-ray image on their monitors. He slept through the whole episode and airport police had trouble waking him when they were called to the scene to investigate what had happened. A senior officer with Fiumicino airport police said on Thursday the incident exposed no weaknesses in the terminal's security and it was not the first kind of incident involving "drunks or people with psychological problems."