Opening Bell: 07.30.12

New York Lender Files Libor Suit (WSJ) Berkshire Bank, with 11 branches in New York and New Jersey and about $881 million in assets, claims in a proposed class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court in New York that "tens, if not hundreds, of billions of dollars" of loans made or sold in the state were affected by rigging the London interbank offered rate. Many adjustable-rate commercial and home loans are pegged to Libor, meaning that "misrepresentation…on the date on which a loan resets will generally reduce the amount of interest that a lender receives by an equivalent amount," the bank alleges..."Libor could well be the asbestos claims of this century," said James Cox, a law professor at Duke University in Durham, N.C. "Misreporting an index used around the world" has "ginormous" ramifications, he added. HSBC Hit By Provisions (WSJ) HSBC said Monday that net profit fell in the first half, as the bank was forced to put aside $2 billion to cover the fallout of a U.S. money-laundering probe and the improper selling of financial products. The series of provisions at the bank pushed up underlying costs by $1.9 billion and ate into the lender's bottom line, cutting net profit attributable to ordinary shareholders in the first six months by 9% to $8.15 billion. HSBC Apologizes For Compliance Failures (Bloomberg) “Regulatory and compliance events in the first six months of the year overshadowed financial performance,” Chairman Douglas Flint said in a statement today. “HSBC has made mistakes in the past, and for them I am very sorry.” Big Banks Are Getting Tough With Hedge-Fund Clients (Reuters) Major banks face growing pressure to extract more money from, or even sever ties with, unprofitable hedge-fund clients as they cut costs in the face of tough trading conditions and try to refocus on the biggest managers. Industry insiders say prime brokers are sifting through their client lists, in some cases demanding higher fees on trading or a greater share of a fund's business, and sometimes telling funds to look elsewhere. Investors eye wine, art funds for hedging (NYP) Rising fears that traditional investing has become a lose-lose proposition have a growing number of wealthy folks seeing dollar signs in niche funds that invest in art, wine, musical instruments and even classic cars. They’re known as “collectible” funds or “treasure” funds, and while they come with plenty of skeptics and potential pitfalls, they’re also promising returns reminiscent of the days before the Great Recession. Sergio Esposito, founder of Union Square’s wine shop Italian Wine Merchants, said the wine fund he helped start in 2010, The Bottled Asset Fund, has been doing so well he hopes to launch another next year. After selling its first batches of wine this year, the $8.2 million fund is now seeing profits upward of 30 percent, he said. Gymnast’s parents perform their own routine at London 2012 (The Score) Lynn and Rick Raisman have been watching their daughter Aly work towards the Olympics since they first brought her to a gym when she was two two years old. It’s no wonder then that watching her compete for an Olympic medal is a nail biting experience. Here they are with their eyes trained on Aly’s uneven bars routine in London. Her dad just about makes it through unscathed: Fed Weighs Cutting Interest On Banks’ Reserves After ECB Move (Bloomberg) “They’re reconsidering it,” said Ward McCarthy, a former Richmond Fed economist. A July 5 decision by the European Central Bank to cut its deposit rate to zero is prompting renewed interest in the strategy, said McCarthy, chief financial economist at Jefferies & Co. McCarthy said it’s unlikely the Fed will reduce the rate at a two-day meeting that starts tomorrow. Used Lamborghinis Linger On H.K. Lots Amid China Lull (Bloomberg) Dealers of such second-hand cars say job cuts and the worsening global economic outlook are creating uncertainty among the finance-industry and expatriate professionals who make up the bulk of their buyers. Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, and Deutsche Bank are among firms with Asian headquarters in Hong Kong that are cutting jobs worldwide. “The more expensive the car, the more dry the business,” said Tommy Siu at the Causeway Bay showroom of Vin’s Motors Co., the used-car dealership he founded two decades ago. Sales of ultra-luxury cars have halved in the past two or three months, he said. “A lot of bankers don’t want to spend too much money for a car now. At this moment, they don’t know if they’ll have a big bonus.” “In the car market, it’s not buying like watches,” said Booz & Co.’s Russo. “Here you are getting a true look at a category of product bought by Hong Kong buyers. It’s a pulse check on how Hong Kong residents view the stability of the financial system.” Sarbanes-Oxley's Jail-Time Threat Hasn't Been Applied in Crisis-Related Cases (WSJ) After the financial crisis, the certification rules seemed like a strong weapon against executives suspected of misleading investors. But prosecutors haven't brought any criminal cases for false certification related to the crisis. Regulators have brought only a handful of crisis-related civil allegations in that area...For example: Richard Fuld, former CEO of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. A bankruptcy examiner's report on Lehman's 2008 collapse said there was enough evidence to support claims that Mr. Fuld failed to ensure the firm's quarterly reports were accurate, because he knew or should have known Lehman had cut its balance sheet through questionable transactions. But the government hasn't charged Mr. Fuld with false certification or other wrongdoing. His attorney couldn't be reached for comment. There also haven't been any charges against James Cayne, Bear Stearns Cos.' ex-CEO, which spiraled into a liquidity crisis that led to a 2008 forced sale to J.P. Morgan. Mr. Cayne and other Bear executives recently agreed to a $275 million settlement of shareholder litigation accusing them of misleading investors about the firm's finances—including allegations that Mr. Cayne falsely certified Bear's financial reports. Fla. Man Who Lost Hand Charged With Feeding Gator (AP) A Florida airboat captain whose hand was bitten off by a 9-foot alligator faces charges of feeding of the animal. Collier County Jail records show 63-year-old Wallace Weatherholt was charged Friday with unlawful feeding of an alligator and later posted $1,000 bond. His next court date is Aug. 22. Weatherholt was attacked on June 12th as he was giving an Indiana family a tour of the Everglades. The family said Weatherholt hung a fish over the side of the boat and had his hand at the water's surface when the alligator attacked. Wildlife officers tracked and euthanized the gator. Weatherholt's hand was found but could not be reattached. A criminal investigation followed. Feeding alligators is a second-degree misdemeanor.
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New York Lender Files Libor Suit (WSJ)
Berkshire Bank, with 11 branches in New York and New Jersey and about $881 million in assets, claims in a proposed class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court in New York that "tens, if not hundreds, of billions of dollars" of loans made or sold in the state were affected by rigging the London interbank offered rate. Many adjustable-rate commercial and home loans are pegged to Libor, meaning that "misrepresentation…on the date on which a loan resets will generally reduce the amount of interest that a lender receives by an equivalent amount," the bank alleges..."Libor could well be the asbestos claims of this century," said James Cox, a law professor at Duke University in Durham, N.C. "Misreporting an index used around the world" has "ginormous" ramifications, he added.

HSBC Hit By Provisions (WSJ)
HSBC said Monday that net profit fell in the first half, as the bank was forced to put aside $2 billion to cover the fallout of a U.S. money-laundering probe and the improper selling of financial products. The series of provisions at the bank pushed up underlying costs by $1.9 billion and ate into the lender's bottom line, cutting net profit attributable to ordinary shareholders in the first six months by 9% to $8.15 billion.

HSBC Apologizes For Compliance Failures (Bloomberg)
“Regulatory and compliance events in the first six months of the year overshadowed financial performance,” Chairman Douglas Flint said in a statement today. “HSBC has made mistakes in the past, and for them I am very sorry.”

Big Banks Are Getting Tough With Hedge-Fund Clients (Reuters)
Major banks face growing pressure to extract more money from, or even sever ties with, unprofitable hedge-fund clients as they cut costs in the face of tough trading conditions and try to refocus on the biggest managers. Industry insiders say prime brokers are sifting through their client lists, in some cases demanding higher fees on trading or a greater share of a fund's business, and sometimes telling funds to look elsewhere.

Investors eye wine, art funds for hedging (NYP)
Rising fears that traditional investing has become a lose-lose proposition have a growing number of wealthy folks seeing dollar signs in niche funds that invest in art, wine, musical instruments and even classic cars. They’re known as “collectible” funds or “treasure” funds, and while they come with plenty of skeptics and potential pitfalls, they’re also promising returns reminiscent of the days before the Great Recession. Sergio Esposito, founder of Union Square’s wine shop Italian Wine Merchants, said the wine fund he helped start in 2010, The Bottled Asset Fund, has been doing so well he hopes to launch another next year. After selling its first batches of wine this year, the $8.2 million fund is now seeing profits upward of 30 percent, he said.

Gymnast’s parents perform their own routine at London 2012 (The Score)
Lynn and Rick Raisman have been watching their daughter Aly work towards the Olympics since they first brought her to a gym when she was two two years old. It’s no wonder then that watching her compete for an Olympic medal is a nail biting experience. Here they are with their eyes trained on Aly’s uneven bars routine in London. Her dad just about makes it through unscathed:

Fed Weighs Cutting Interest On Banks’ Reserves After ECB Move (Bloomberg)
“They’re reconsidering it,” said Ward McCarthy, a former Richmond Fed economist. A July 5 decision by the European Central Bank to cut its deposit rate to zero is prompting renewed interest in the strategy, said McCarthy, chief financial economist at Jefferies & Co. McCarthy said it’s unlikely the Fed will reduce the rate at a two-day meeting that starts tomorrow.

Used Lamborghinis Linger On H.K. Lots Amid China Lull (Bloomberg)
Dealers of such second-hand cars say job cuts and the worsening global economic outlook are creating uncertainty among the finance-industry and expatriate professionals who make up the bulk of their buyers. Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, and Deutsche Bank are among firms with Asian headquarters in Hong Kong that are cutting jobs worldwide. “The more expensive the car, the more dry the business,” said Tommy Siu at the Causeway Bay showroom of Vin’s Motors Co., the used-car dealership he founded two decades ago. Sales of ultra-luxury cars have halved in the past two or three months, he said. “A lot of bankers don’t want to spend too much money for a car now. At this moment, they don’t know if they’ll have a big bonus.” “In the car market, it’s not buying like watches,” said Booz & Co.’s Russo. “Here you are getting a true look at a category of product bought by Hong Kong buyers. It’s a pulse check on how Hong Kong residents view the stability of the financial system.”

Sarbanes-Oxley's Jail-Time Threat Hasn't Been Applied in Crisis-Related Cases (WSJ)
After the financial crisis, the certification rules seemed like a strong weapon against executives suspected of misleading investors. But prosecutors haven't brought any criminal cases for false certification related to the crisis. Regulators have brought only a handful of crisis-related civil allegations in that area...For example: Richard Fuld, former CEO of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. A bankruptcy examiner's report on Lehman's 2008 collapse said there was enough evidence to support claims that Mr. Fuld failed to ensure the firm's quarterly reports were accurate, because he knew or should have known Lehman had cut its balance sheet through questionable transactions. But the government hasn't charged Mr. Fuld with false certification or other wrongdoing. His attorney couldn't be reached for comment. There also haven't been any charges against James Cayne, Bear Stearns Cos.' ex-CEO, which spiraled into a liquidity crisis that led to a 2008 forced sale to J.P. Morgan. Mr. Cayne and other Bear executives recently agreed to a $275 million settlement of shareholder litigation accusing them of misleading investors about the firm's finances—including allegations that Mr. Cayne falsely certified Bear's financial reports.

Fla. Man Who Lost Hand Charged With Feeding Gator (AP)
A Florida airboat captain whose hand was bitten off by a 9-foot alligator faces charges of feeding of the animal. Collier County Jail records show 63-year-old Wallace Weatherholt was charged Friday with unlawful feeding of an alligator and later posted $1,000 bond. His next court date is Aug. 22. Weatherholt was attacked on June 12th as he was giving an Indiana family a tour of the Everglades. The family said Weatherholt hung a fish over the side of the boat and had his hand at the water's surface when the alligator attacked. Wildlife officers tracked and euthanized the gator. Weatherholt's hand was found but could not be reattached. A criminal investigation followed. Feeding alligators is a second-degree misdemeanor.

Related

Opening Bell: 05.18.12

Facebook Employees Spend All Night Programming (DJ) Tech geeks across the Facebook empire — including the New York office — celebrated the company’s IPO and their newfound millions by slugging back energy drinks at all-night code-writing parties. Legions of the social network’s employees, who will be worth an average of $2.9 million apiece on paper when the stock opens trading this morning, dressed for the occasion with matching “Hackathon” T-shirts. They kicked off the party at their Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters, just hours after the company’s 420 million available shares were priced at $38 each. The festivities were expected to rage through the night until founder Mark Zuckerberg rings the Nasdaq opening bell via video feed at 9:30 a.m. Inside JPMorgan's Blunder (WSJ) Chairman and Chief Executive Officer James Dimon had just committed the most expensive blunder of his 30-year career, failing to detect the risk of trades that had begun to generate huge losses at the bank. On April 30, associates who were gathered in a conference room handed Mr. Dimon summaries and analyses of the losses. But there were no details about the trades themselves. "I want to see the positions!" he barked, throwing down the papers, according to attendees. "Now! I want to see everything!" When Mr. Dimon saw the numbers, these people say, he couldn't breathe...Mr. Dimon publicly disclosed the losses in a conference call on May 10. Afterward, he told Mr. Lee: "Maybe I can sleep tonight," according to a person familiar with the conversation...Late that Friday night, several executives gathered in Mr. Dimon's office. Messrs. Dimon and Cavanagh drank vodka. Others had wine. They told their boss how they had let down the firm, attendees say. "We all did," Mr. Dimon replied, according to attendees. "Put on your JPM jerseys and get ready. We are going to take a lot of hits. We'll draft our best team and get through this." Defiant Message From Greece (WSJ) "Our first choice is to convince our European partners that, in their own interest, financing must not be stopped," Mr. Tsipras said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. He said Greece doesn't intend to take any unilateral action, "but if they proceed with unilateral action on their side, in other words they cut off our funding, then we will be forced to stop paying our creditors, to go to a suspension in payments to our creditors." Groupon Stock Spike Probed (WSJ) A Wall Street regulator is examining trading in Groupon that sent its stock price soaring hours before a favorable earnings announcement Monday, according to a person familiar with the matter. The review by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or Finra, is at an early stage, the person said. It follows unusually heavy trading in shares of the online-coupon company in the run-up to its release of strong financial results. Ex-ECB Chief Trichet Unveils Bold Plan to Save Euro (Reuters) Europe could strengthen its monetary union by giving European politicians the power to declare a sovereign state bankrupt and take over its fiscal policy, the former head of the European Central Bank said on Thursday in unveiling a bold proposal to salvage the euro. Russian man gets stuck in building's garbage chute while trying to hide from girlfriend (NYDN) A Russian man went to great lengths to hide from his girlfriend on Wednesday night when he jumped into a garbage chute on the eighth floor of his apartment building. The unidentified man slid down the chute until he became stuck on the fifth floor of the building in Tyumen, Siberia. Authorities confirmed that they were told of the situation after people in the building heard the man's cries for help. Rescuers used a Jaws-of-Life tool to free the man, according to reports. Santander Among 16 Spanish Banks Downgraded By Moody’s (Bloomberg) "Banks will continue to face highly adverse operating and market funding conditions that pose a threat to their creditworthiness,” the ratings firm said. “The Spanish economy has fallen back into recession in first-quarter 2012, and Moody’s does not expect conditions to improve” this year. Marc Faber: China Biggest Threat To Global Economy (CNBC) "I think the biggest risk is actually China because if you look at Greece, it's an insignificant economy," Faber said on CNBC Asia's “Capital Connection.” "Yes, they owe money, but the market knows that it's bankrupt." German Finance Minister Sees Two Years Of Turmoil (Bloomberg) German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said that turmoil in the financial markets caused by Europe’s debt crisis may last another two years, as Group of Eight leaders prepared to discuss Greece and its impact on the global economy. More than 2 1/2 years after Greece revealed its bloated budget deficit, Europe has “known a lot of crisis,” Schaeuble said in a recorded interview broadcast today on France’s Europe 1 radio. “It’s practically normal.” Even so, “in 12 to 24 months we’ll see a calming of financial markets,” he said.

Opening Bell: 04.26.12

Barclays Cautious Despite Investment Bank Gains (WSJ) In the first quarter of 2012 Barclays said total revenue fell 25% to £5.52 billion ($8.92 billion) from £7.34 billion a year before. The group recorded a net loss of £337 million for the quarter compared with net profit of £1.24 billion a year earlier. Chief Executive Bob Diamond said the business environment picked up in the second half of last year, but "frankly it remains quite challenging." Mr. Diamond warned that economic conditions across Europe and the U.K. had deteriorated since January, as the sugar rush caused by cheap loans dished out by the European Central Bank began to fade. "It was not a robust first quarter; it was only robust compared to the third and fourth quarter," Mr. Diamond said. "There is still slow economic growth around the world." Deutsche Bank Profit Drops On Debt Crisis (BW) The slowdown in April hasn’t been “significant” and Deutsche Bank needs to assess the effect of the Easter holidays on revenue, Chief Financial Officer Stefan Krause said today on a conference call. Pretax profit at Deutsche Bank’s investment banking unit fell to 1.72 billion euros in the first quarter from 2.29 billion euros a year earlier and compares with a 422 million loss in the fourth quarter. That beat the 1.64 billion-euro average estimate of eight analysts. More Americans Than Projected Filed Jobless Claims Last Week (Bloomberg) Jobless claims fell by 1,000 to 388,000 in the week ended April 21 from a revised 389,000 the prior period that was the highest since early January, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 48 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for a drop to 375,000. SEC Faces Questions About Tipster Policy (WSJ) "Whistleblowers are essential to root out fraud and malfeasance," the senator wrote in a letter sent Wednesday afternoon to SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro and reviewed by the Journal. "I am concerned that the SEC may not be properly protecting the identity of whistleblowers and others who come to the SEC with information on securities law violations." La Guardia flights delayed when dog flees Delta jet and sprints to runway (NYP) A puppy took flight at La Guardia Airport yesterday, speeding down a busy runway and dodging planes and a posse of desperate pursuers. Taxiing airliners ground to a screeching halt, giving their passengers front-row views of the spectacle that at one point saw a frustrated worker get down on his hands and knees in an unsuccessful attempt to convince the 14-month-old Rhodesian ridgeback, named Byrdie, to surrender. In a final fit of desperation, Port Authority cops pulled the dog’s owner, Austin Varner, off her Delta flight and drove her out to the tarmac. Byrdie broke free while being loaded on the plane in a kennel at around 10:20 a.m. — and the 70-pound pooch made a beeline down the tarmac. An air-traffic controller barked into his radio, “We got a dog running like crazy down there.” Former Morgan Stanley Exec Pleads Guilty In Anti-Bribery Case (Reuters) A former Morgan Stanley executive pleaded guilty to conspiring to evade internal controls required by a US anti-bribery law, in a case that underlines the fall of a once high-flying dealmaker for the firm in China. Garth Peterson, who was a managing director in Morgan Stanley’s real estate investment and fund advisory business, also settled yesterday related charges with securities regulators, and agreed to roughly $3.7 million in sanctions and a permanent bar from the industry. Peterson secretly arranged to have millions paid to himself and a Chinese official and disguised the payments as finder’s fees charged to Morgan Stanley, regulators said. Geithner Warns Of Economic Risks (Bloomberg) Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is warning that the US economy faces risks from the “severe and protracted crisis” in Europe while the feud with Iran has put upward pressure on oil prices. He added the economy will encounter a “fiscal cliff” at the end of the year when large spending cuts and tax increases are set to take effect. “That cliff presents a risk, but it also provides an opportunity for bipartisan agreement Bernanke Says Prepared To Do More As Policy Unchanged (Bloomberg) “We remain prepared to do more as needed to make sure that this recovery continues and that inflation stays close to target,” he said at a press conference today following a meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee in Washington. Additional bond-buying is still “very much on the table.” Bull Market For Chicken Feed (WSJ) In case you were wondering: "Futures for soybean meal, the protein in feed that makes broilers plump and juicy, are up 34% so far this year. Prices for the yellow powder, a soybean byproduct that resembles wheat germ, are outpacing the likes of crude oil and gold." In Mayfair, outrage over tire-slashing arrest (Philly) It was a little more than two months ago when a 44-year-old butcher named David Toledo had a message for the vandal who was slashing car tires up and down his block of Aldine Street and on nearby streets in his Holmesburg neighborhood. “I feel like butchering the one who is doing this,” Toledo said shortly after reporting to police that all four tires on his Jeep Cherokee had been slashed, just one week after the same thing had happened to his wife’s car. Wednesday night, Toledo’s outraged neighbors had a message for him: Back at ya, pal. The news that police had arrested Toledo in connection with the wave of tire slashings that had plagued parts of the Northeast angered and infuriated his neighbors, as they spilled out onto front steps on a bright spring evening to gossip and to vent. Adding insult to the injured tires is the fact that Toledo had been arguably the most vocal neighbor in speaking out against the vandalism and in urging fellow residents to organize a community watch group to nab the slasher.

Opening Bell: 07.16.12

Citigroup Profit Beats Analysts’ Estimates On Investment Bank (Bloomberg) Citi reported a 12 percent drop in second-quarter profit that beat analysts’ estimates on revenue from advising on mergers and underwriting stocks and bonds. Net income declined to $2.95 billion, or 95 cents a share, from $3.34 billion, or $1.09, a year earlier, the New York-based bank said today in a statement. Excluding accounting adjustments and a loss from the sale of a stake in a Turkish bank, earnings were $1 a share, compared with the average estimate of 89 cents in a Bloomberg survey of 18 analysts. HSBC Seeks To Evict Occupiers In Hong Kong (WSJ) HSBC said Monday it is seeking the right to evict an encampment of protesters that has been occupying the ground floor of the bank's Hong Kong headquarters since October, drawing inspiration from the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York last year. Libor Flaws Allowed Banks To Rig Rates Without Conspiracy (Bloomberg) FYI: “It is far easier to manipulate Libor than it may appear,” Andrew Verstein, a lecturer at Yale Law School, said in a paper to be published in the Winter 2013 issue of the Yale Journal on Regulation. “No conspiracy is required.” States Join Libor Probe (WSJ) Prosecutors in New York and Connecticut are investigating whether their states incurred losses as a result of interest-rate manipulation by banks, a probe that could lead to a wider multistate enforcement action, according to New York officials. The joint probe by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen could lead to civil enforcement action, including possible breaches of antitrust and fraud laws, the officials said. Libor Probe May Yield Criminal Charges By September (Bloomberg) Barclays traders involved in allegedly manipulating Libor rates between 2005 and 2007 may be charged by U.S. prosecutors before the Labor Day holiday on Sept. 3, said a person familiar with the Justice Department investigation in Washington. Zuckerberg’s Loan Gives New Meaning To The 1% (Bloomberg) The Facebook founder refinanced a $5.95 million mortgage on his Palo Alto, California, home with a 30-year adjustable-rate loan starting at 1.05 percent, according to public records for the property. Missteps Doomed Barclays Leaders (WSJ) Mr. Diamond's downfall may have been hastened because the U.S.-born investment banker, who became chief executive at the start of 2011, had never won acceptance by Britain's political and financial establishment. When the rate-fixing scandal erupted, Mr. Diamond had few allies. It wasn't for lack of trying. Mr. Diamond enthusiastically embraced British culture and tried to overcome his reputation as a brash American. Mr. Diamond, a native of Concord, Mass., supported the Chelsea Football Club, handing out trophies himself when the team won England's premier soccer league in 2010. A month before the Libor settlement, Mr. Diamond hosted British aristocrats and Barclays' clients at the annual Chelsea Flower Show, providing Champagne and canapés as his guests inspected elaborate gardens and floral arrangements...But Mr. Diamond, age 60, was criticized for his lofty pay packages, as well as perceived risks in the investment-banking business he built. He sometimes appeared tone deaf in a country still angry about the role of banks in the financial crisis. "There was a period of remorse and apology," he told Parliament last year. "That period needs to be over." Activists Go After Big Game (WSJ) William Ackman's $2 billion bet that he can boost the value of consumer-products giant Procter & Gamble Co. reflects a new era of activist investing, in which no company is too big a target and restless institutional investors are more willing to rock the boat. Mr. Ackman's Pershing Square Capital Management LP owns a little more than 1% of P&G's shares. A few years ago, that would have been considered too small a stake in too big a company to exert much influence on management, the board or other investors. Tax Cuts Perpetuate Inequality, Should End: Summers (CNBC) The United States should not extend Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans even as the so-called ‘fiscal cliff’ looms because it will perpetuate income inequality, says Larry Summers, former U.S. Treasury Secretary. Instead, these revenues should go towards strengthening public education and ensuring that low-income students are presented with equal opportunities as their wealthy counterparts so that they can participate in the economy. Tax breaks for the wealthy cannot continue to exist because it leads to a “perpetuation of privilege”, Summers said in the editorial in the Financial Times on Sunday. Unless steps were taken to “responsibly” increase the burden on those with high income and redistribute the proceeds, the trend toward inequality will continue, he said. Devils On The (B)rink (NYP) New Jersey Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek is talking to private-equity firms and hedge funds about buying into his financially strapped team, according to sources close to the situation Vanderbeek is looking to sell a majority stake, but keep operating control, sources said. The talks, coming three weeks after the 55-year old former Wall Street executive seemed close to inking a deal with an investor to save the team, are leading some in the financial world to believe the deal has fallen apart. If that’s so, it would be a terrible break for Vanderbeek, who is facing an Aug. 14 deadline to get the Devils’ financing in order...Creditors are owed $80 million. Downgrade Anniversary Shows Investors Gained Buying U.S. (Bloomberg) When Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. government’s credit rating in August, predictions of serious fallout soon followed. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney described it as a “meltdown” reminiscent of the economic crises of Jimmy Carter’s presidency. He warned of higher long-term interest rates and damage to foreign investors’ confidence in the U.S. U.S. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said the government’s loss of its AAA rating would raise the cost of mortgages and car loans. Mohamed El-Erian, chief executive officer of Pacific Investment Management Co., said over time the standing of the dollar and U.S. financial markets would erode and credit costs rise “for virtually all American borrowers.” They were wrong. Almost a year later, mortgage rates have dropped to record lows, the government’s borrowing costs have eased, the dollar and the benchmark S&P stock index are up, and global investors’ enthusiasm for Treasury debt has strengthened. Woman tells police man sucked her toe at Grovetown Walmart (AC) The 18-year-old said she was shopping when a man, who looked to be in his late 30s or early 40s, walked up and asked if her toenails were painted, according to a Columbia County Sheriff’s Office incident report. After replying yes and questioning why he wanted to know, the woman was asked if she’d watched America’s Funniest Home Videos. The man told her he was with the TV show and if she complied with his requests, everything she purchased that day would be free. She said she reluctantly agreed to let him take a photo of her foot. He asked if he could kiss her foot as part of the prank and she agreed. The man guided her to an area behind a clothing rack, dropped to the floor, grabbed her ankle and told her, “Don’t worry. I don’t bite.” He then started sucking on her big toe. The woman said she screamed at him to stop. Before the man ran from the store, he told her, “It tasted so good, though.”

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: 05.30.12

Anger Over Christine Lagarde's Tax-Free Salary (Independent) Lagarde was accused of hypocrisy yesterday after it emerged that she pays no income tax – just days after blaming the Greeks for causing their financial peril by dodging their own bills. The managing director of the International Monetary Fund is paid a salary of $467,940 (£298,675), automatically increased every year according to inflation. On top of that she receives an allowance of $83,760 – payable without "justification" – and additional expenses for entertainment, making her total package worth more than the amount received by US President Barack Obama according to reports last night. Unlike Mr Obama, however, she does not have to pay any tax on this substantial income because of her diplomatic status. EU Proposes 'Banking Union' (WSJ) The 17 countries that use the euro should consider setting up a "banking union" that allows them to share the burden of bank failures, the European Union's executive arm said Wednesday in a report on the currency union's crisis-fighting efforts. To further stop expensive bank bailouts from pulling down governments' own finances, allowing the euro zone's new rescue fund to directly boost the capital of banks "might be envisaged," the European Commission said. Greeks Flock To Germany Even As They Criticize It (CNBC) Germany, Europe's economic powerhouse and a country which has been criticized by many Greeks over its harsh demands for austerity cuts in return for bailout cash, has experienced an influx of young skilled immigrants. Der Spiegel magazine noted that while Greek newspapers "printed cartoons depicting the Germans as Nazis, concentration camp guards and euro zone imperialists who allow their debtors to bleed to death," the Greeks have kept arriving — bringing an "anything is better than Athens" attitude with them. Pissarides Says Euro Exit Would Aid Rich Greeks At Cost To Poor (Bloomberg) Nobel economics laureate Christopher Pissarides said wealthy Greeks would benefit at the expense of poorer citizens were the country to exit the euro. “A lot of Greeks” have withdrawn money and deposited it with banks elswhere in the 17-nation currency zone, Pissarides said in an interview in London today. If the country returned to the drachma, the new currency would be so devalued they could buy it cheaply on international markets with the cash they’d exported, enabling them to buy more assets in Greece. While poorer Greeks are equally able to appreciate the difficulties facing their country, they’re not as able to shield their funds from an exit from the common currency, Pissarides said. They need to preserve quick access to their savings, which isn’t as easy to do if it’s held at a foreign bank, and such lenders may not always accept small deposits. Zuckerberg Drops Off Billionaires Index As Facebook Falls (Bloomberg) The 28-year-old’s fortune fell to $14.7 billion yesterday from $16.2 billion on May 25, as shares of the world’s largest social-networking company dropped 9.6 percent to $28.84. Woman's Boyfriend Took Car Without Permission Before She Slammed It Into House (NYP, earlier) Dan Sajewski, 23, arrived at his family’s Huntington estate last weekend with Anderson, 21, his on-again, off-again waitress girlfriend. While his parents vacationed on Long Island’s North Fork, the duo helped themselves to his mother’s 2003 Mercedes-Benz CLK 320, a birthday gift from Sajewski’s anesthesiologist father, a source said. They took a joyride to the Hamptons, where they had a little too much fun. A field Breathalyzer test revealed that Anderson drove home with a .30 Blood-Alcohol Content — nearly four times the legal limit and the equivalent of about 15 drinks, prosecutors said at her arraignment yesterday. They drove back to Huntington and she was speeding along Southdown Road when she failed to turn at a T-instersection — ramming through the front of Indiere’s house, obliterating her kitchen, and exiting through the back wall, prosecutors said. “We can’t believe he just let this girl drive a car he wasn’t even supposed to have in the first place,” a Sajewski family member said. “He’s done this before; he took his sister’s Jeep and just took off. “He was trying to get the car home before the family got home from their own Memorial Day weekend. He’s not exactly the model son.’’ The relative added that Sajewski didn’t call his father about the accident until two hours later. In the police report, Anderson told cops “her power steering got stuck, causing her to crash,” and that she only drank “three beers.” Housing Market Crawls Back (WSJ) Housing prices across the U.S. fell in March, but not as much as in earlier months, according to a report Tuesday that offered fresh evidence of a real-estate market on the mend. Compared with February, prices fell just 0.03% in March, and after adjusting for seasonal factors, they rose 0.09%, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city home-price index. "This is the first flat report we've had in quite some time," said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Indices. Still, "while there has been improvement in some regions, housing prices have not turned" everywhere, he said. Bankers Hired By Blackberry Maker (NYP) Research In Motion said yesterday it hired investment banks JPMorgan and RBC to review its “options,” which most investors took to mean a potential sale, and warned of another quarterly loss. Gold Investors Rush For The Exits (WSJ) Investors in SPDR Gold Shares and iShares Gold Trust, two high-profile exchange-traded funds that hold physical bullion, also have pulled back recently. Through Friday, the two funds had reduced the number of tons of gold they're holding this month. As of May 15, hedge funds, pension funds and other money managers also had slashed their bets that gold prices will rise in the futures market, to the lowest level since January 20, 2009, according to weekly data released by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The bullish bets rose slightly last week, but remain near the low for the year. Police Find Another Human Body Part In Package In Ottawa (OC) Police found a human hand at the Ottawa Postal Terminal Tuesday night, hours after a bloody foot was delivered to the Conservative party's Ottawa headquarters just blocks from Parliament Hill. Ottawa police were still trying to understand what they were dealing with even as detectives in Montreal combed through a crime scene where a torso was found in a suitcase in that city's Snowdon district. Police discovered the second package, sent from the same place as the package sent to Tory headquarters, Tuesday evening. Officers carried it from the huge Riverside Drive terminal in a brown paper bag, which they X-rayed before they opened it to find the hand. The gruesome events began shortly before noon when access to the Conservative party's headquarters was restricted after the fire department's Hazmat team was called in to investigate a suspicious package. A party staffer had started to open a blood-stained box sent to the office at 130 Albert St. before police were called to investigate. At first, it was thought there was a human heart inside, but after the box was X-rayed, police confirmed that it contained a foot.

Opening Bell: 03.18.13

Cypriot Outrage Over Tax Could Derail Euro-Area Bailout (Bloomberg) While demanding that the levy raise the targeted 5.8 billion euros ($7.6 billion), finance officials said easing the cost to smaller savers was up to Cyprus. A vote on the tax, needed to secure 10 billion euros in rescue loans, was delayed for a second day. Banks may not reopen tomorrow after a holiday today, state-run broadcaster CYBC reported. “If the government wants to change the structure of the solidarity levy for the banking sector, the government can decide as such,” European Central Bank Executive Board member Joerg Asmussen said today in Berlin. “What’s important is that the planned revenue of 5.8 billion euros remain.” Cyprus Can't Put 'Genie Back in the Bottle': O'Neill (CNBC) "I'm still trying to get my head around [it]," O'Neill said in a "Squawk Box" interview. He added that Cyprus won't be able to "put the Genie back in the bottle" despite whether or not the depositor hair-cut gets approval. "This is a biggie, in my opinion," O'Neill said. "I think my biggest concern with this is not whether or not this ultimately gets done, not that the idea that Cyprus would come up with something like this, but that the EU (European Union) would back it and go along these things." 'Wash Trades' Are Scrutinized (WSJ) U.S. regulators are investigating whether high-frequency traders are routinely distorting stock and futures markets by illegally acting as buyer and seller in the same transactions, according to people familiar with the probes. Such transactions, known as wash trades, are banned by U.S. law because they can feed false information into the market and be used to manipulate prices. Intentionally taking both sides of a trade can minimize financial risk for the trading firm while potentially creating a false impression of higher volume in the market. Anti-Euro Party Mobilizes In Germany (WSJ) A prominent group of anti-euro German economists and business leaders has formed a political party to challenge Germany's support for euro-zone bailouts, a move that could test the ruling center-right coalition's hold on conservative votes in the fall general election. With just six months until the election, the new party, which calls itself Alternative for Germany, is unlikely to gain enough traction to win seats in Parliament, analysts say. Yet even if the party comes in below the 5% threshold needed to win representation, it could still attract enough conservative votes to prevent a return of the current coalition government, a combination of Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, their Bavarian sister party, and the pro-business Free Democrats. Woman Busted In Alleged Deer Head Heist (NWFDN) The story begins when a man and woman were evicted from their apartment on James Lee Boulevard and temporarily moved in with another woman, according to an arrest report. On Jan. 24 the couple argued with the woman and moved out, taking most of their belongings with them. They left behind two mounted deer heads the woman was storing in her motor home. Divided Views of SAC Capital Settlement (NYT) Inside SAC's Stamford, Conn., headquarters, the resolution of the civil actions — announced Friday by the Securities and Exchange Commission — was seen as a victory. In a statement, the fund, which neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing, called the settlements "a substantial step toward resolving all outstanding regulatory matters."...Friday's settlements — for $602 million and $14 million — were criticized by a number of rival hedge fund managers and securities lawyers as not tough enough. Despite the S.E.C.'s trumpeting the $602 million payment as the largest settlement of an insider trading case, critics said that the commission could have sought a harsher punishment. "While $616 million would normally be a massive penalty, for Cohen this is basically a drop in the bucket," said Bradley D. Simon, a criminal defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor in New York. "There is also no debarment or admission of wrongdoing." HSBC Set to Cut Thousands More Jobs (FT) HSBC is gearing up for thousands more job cuts, with Europe's biggest bank by market value set to outline the next stage in its strategic overhaul at an investor day in two months' time. "There is no fantastical new strategy out there," said one person familiar with the bank's planning. "But there's still huge potential to be more efficient." Number Of Cases Filed By SEC Slows (WSJ) The Securities and Exchange Commission is filing significantly fewer civil fraud cases this year, as its efforts to punish misconduct related to the financial crisis start to ebb. The agency is likely to fall short this fiscal year of its record-breaking number of enforcement actions in the previous two years, said people familiar with the matter. Road Rage on I-78: Shot Fired at Woman's Car (Patch) According to troopers: The victim, who troopers did not identify by name, encountered a silver-colored, compact, four-door SUV with New Jersey license plates that was traveling about 40mph in the left lane and swerving close to a tractor-trailer in the right lane. The 39-year-old Bethlehem woman blew her car horn at the compact silver SUV. The SUV driver responded by flipping her the middle finger, then taking off “at a high rate of speed.” The silver SUV then got into the right lane and slowed down. The Bethlehem woman continued driving east in the left lane and started to pass the silver SUV as they passed the Route 33 interchange. But as that happened, the woman heard a loud bang. The SUV then “sped off again at a high rate of speed.” The victim pulled over a short time later to call 911. Arriving troopers found a single bullet hole in the passenger side rear door. The victim was not injured.

Opening Bell: 12.05.12

Global Banking Under Siege as Nations Tighten Local Rules (Bloomberg) Regulators want to curtail risks exposed after global banks such as New York-based Citigroup, Edinburgh-based Royal Bank of Scotland and Zurich-based UBS took bailouts in the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression. Forcing lenders to dedicate capital and liquidity to multiple local subsidiaries, rather than a single parent, may undermine the business logic of a multinational structure. “Being big and spread out all over the world isn’t what it used to be,” said Mayra Rodriguez Valladares, managing principal at New York-based MRV Associates, which trains bank examiners and executives at financial firms. “You’ll see global banks jettison divisions abroad and at home.” Paulson Said to Blame Bet Against Europe for Most of Loss (Bloomberg) John Paulson, manager of $20 billion in hedge funds, told investors that the bulk of his losses this year came on bets that the European sovereign-debt crisis would worsen, according to a person familiar with the matter. Paulson, speaking to clients at his firm’s annual meeting yesterday in New York, said he has reduced those positions following European Central Bank President Mario Draghi’s comments in July that the ECB was committed to preserving the euro, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the meeting was private. Paulson said in a February letter to investors that the euro was “structurally flawed” and would eventually fall apart. In April, the founder of New York-based Paulson & Co. told clients he was wagering against European sovereign bonds and buying credit-default swaps on European debt, or protection against the chance of default. No Payback For Singer This Year (NYP) Paul Singer’s last-ditch attempt to get cash from Argentina this year has failed. A motion by Singer’s hedge fund, Elliott Management, requesting that the South American country put up a security deposit of $250 million by Dec. 10 was denied by a federal appeals court yesterday. “Since we will not have a big payment for ages (if ever), this looks like a huge blow to [Elliott’s] strategy,” said sovereign-debt expert Anna Gelpern. In Tax Fight, G.O.P. Seeks a Position to Fall Back On (NYT) Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, who is retiring, joined a handful of other Republicans on Tuesday suggesting that Congress should pass the middle-class tax cut extensions now, then leave the fight over taxes and spending until later. Americans, she said, "should not even be questioning that we will ultimately raise taxes on low- to middle-income people." Congress could take that off the table "while you're grappling with tax cuts for the wealthy," she said. But any move toward compromise with Democrats on fiscal issues quickly comes under attack from conservatives as a surrender and unsettles the rank-and-file. It is a dynamic that has haunted Speaker John A. Boehner throughout the 112th Congress, as he has repeatedly been caught between the imperative to govern and the need to satisfy the restive right. Mr. Boehner, of Ohio, has drawn fire this week for removing a handful of House Republicans who have defied the leadership from their preferred committee seats, a step he took to enforce party discipline. Fed to launch fresh bond buying to help economy (Reuters) The Federal Reserve is set to announce a fresh round of Treasury bond purchases when it meets next week, avoiding monetary policy tightening to maintain support for the weak U.S. economy amid uncertainty over the looming year-end "fiscal cliff." Many economists think the U.S. central bank will announce monthly bond purchases of $45 billion after its policy gathering on December 11-12, signaling it will continue to pump money into the U.S. economy during 2013 in a bid to bring down unemployment. Merkel Wins Party Reelection, Eyes Third Term (Reuters) Merkel, at the height of her popularity, was returned unopposed as CDU chairwoman with 97.9 percent of votes from delegates who stood and applauded her for nearly eight minutes after she lauded Germany's economic resilience in the euro crisis and promised to fight for jobs and prosperity. McAfee Emerges From Hiding in Guatemala (FT) John McAfee, the antivirus software entrepreneur, has revealed that he has fled to Guatemala from Belize where he is wanted for questioning in relation to a murder. Posting on his website on Tuesday, the US citizen and multimillionaire said: "I apologize for all of the misdirections over the past few days . . . I am in Guatemala." His emergence closes one chapter in a bizarre chain of events that started last month when police in Belize, where Mr McAfee has lived for the past four years, discovered the dead body of Gregory Faull, the owner of a house close to Mr McAfee's main property on the island of Ambergris Caye. Mr McAfee - who Belize considers "a person of interest" in the murder investigation - fled, going into hiding and insisting on his innocence. He said he ran from the police because he believed that the Belize authorities were out to kill him. In response, Dean Barrow, the prime minister, said: "I don't want to be unkind to the gentleman, but I believe he is extremely paranoid". Mr McAfee revealed his location on Tuesday after a hacker called Simple Nomad disclosed his whereabouts by analyzing a mobile-phone photograph taken of McAfee on Monday that was posted on the internet. In a second blog post late Tuesday titled "the new fight", Mr McAfee said he had asked Telsforo Guerra, a former attorney-general of Guatemala, to help uncover what he claims is deep-rooted corruption in Belize. Separately, he told Reuters that Mr Guerra was trying to help him obtain political asylum in Guatemala, even though Belizean authorities have not charged him. EU Banks To Repay Cheap Loans (WSJ) Nearly a year ago, hundreds of European banks borrowed a total of more than €1 trillion ($1.3 trillion) from the European Central Bank as it scrambled to defuse an escalating crisis. Today, in a sign of the industry's partial healing, some of Europe's biggest banks are preparing to repay those loans. The push to repay the loans, however, has generated concerns that banks are moving prematurely and could be vulnerable if the euro-zone crisis intensifies again. The ECB activated the emergency loan program—known as the long-term refinancing operation, or LTRO—late last year, doling out two batches of inexpensive loans that are good for three years. Banks are permitted to repay them starting next month. Euro Crisis Feeds Corruption as Greece Slides in Rankings (Bloomberg) The European debt crisis has given way to a new wave of corruption as some of the most hard-hit countries in the turmoil have tumbled in an annual graft ranking, watchdog group Transparency International said. Greece, in its fifth year of recession and crippled by rounds of austerity, fell to 94th place from 80th -- ranking it below Colombia and Liberia, according to the group’s Corruption Perceptions Index. Ireland, Austria, Malta and Italy were also among member states in the single currency to slide. Moynihan: No Stress (Bloomberg) Bank of America CEO Brian T. Moynihan said the firm has plenty of capital and he’s confident it will pass the next US stress tests. “The question will be what to ask for and when, because we’re not going to fail this,” Moynihan said yesterday at a New York investor conference sponsored by Goldman Sachs. Moynihan, 53, is renewing efforts to win approval to raise the company’s dividend or repurchase shares after the Federal Reserve blocked an earlier request. Fed Filcher Gets Timeout (NYP) Bo Zhang, a Chinese-citizen computer programmer who worked for a contractor at the New York Fed, was sentenced to six months of home confinement for stealing Treasury Department software. Snake on a plane forces emergency landing (CNN) ...the incident forced the pilot to make an emergency landing in the Egyptian resort town of Al Ghardaqa on the Red Sea, according to The Jordan Times. An Egypt Air official told the paper an investigation revealed that a 48-year-old passenger, who owns a reptile shop in Kuwait, had hidden the Egyptian cobra in a carry-on bag. The passenger was trying to control the snake after it bit his hand and started slithering under the seats. The Egyptian daily al-Masry al-Youm reported that the man refused medical treatment, claiming his wound was only superficial. The plane resumed its flight to Kuwait after local authorities confiscated the snake. Doctors told the passenger he should spend 24 hours in a hospital for observation, but the man refused, the Egyptian Air official said, according to The Jordan Times.

Opening Bell: 05.17.12

White House Steps Up Push To Toughen Rules On Banks (WSJ) White House officials have intensified their talks with the Treasury Department in the days since J.P. Morgan's losses came to light, these people say—representing the first tangible political impact from a trading mess that has cost one of the nation's most prominent banks more than $2 billion...White House and Treasury officials are still determining whether the Volcker rule would have prevented the losses at J.P. Morgan, people familiar with the discussions said. Some of the president's political advisers are concerned that the J.P. Morgan trades, even if determined to violate the spirit of the rule, might slip through the regulatory net. From 'Caveman' To 'Whale' (WSJ) Even after Dynegy's holding company filed for bankruptcy protection on Nov. 7, the trade seemed like it still would be a loser for Mr. Iksil and J.P. Morgan. Only about six weeks remained until the trade was set to expire, and another company needed to default for J.P. Morgan to make money and the bullish hedge funds to lose out. Some traders took to calling Mr. Iksil a "caveman" for stubbornly pursing the trade. Mr. Iksil continued to bet against the index, however, and it soon weakened, causing a buzz among unhappy rivals, these traders say. "We called the trade the 'pain trade' and the 'widow maker'; it kept going down for no reason," said a trader at another firm, who called his broker and says he was told it was Mr. Iksil who was doing all the bearish trading. "It felt like Bruno was trying to wipe everyone out." Then on Nov. 29, in something of a shock, AMR Corp., American Airlines' parent company and one of the companies in the index, filed for bankruptcy protection. "People freaked out," recalls a hedge-fund trader. The index weakened significantly, allowing J.P. Morgan to rack up about $450 million in total profits from the trade, according to traders. Rival firms suffered similar-size losses. It capped a successful year for Mr. Iksil and his group, though the profits would be more than offset this year when they shifted to a more bullish tack on corporate credit, losing $2 billion-plus in the process. Goldman to Cash Out $1 Billion of Facebook Holding in IPO (Bloomberg) The investment bank and its funds will sell 28.7 million of the 65.9 million shares they own, more than twice the amount initially planned, Menlo Park, California-based Facebook said yesterday in a filing. The shares are being offered in a range of $34 to $38 apiece, meaning the stock being sold in this week’s IPO is valued between $975 million and $1.09 billion. SEC Probes Roles Of Hedge Fund In CDOs (WSJ) U.S. securities regulators are investigating hedge-fund firm Magnetar Capital LLC, which bet on several mortgage-bond deals that wound up imploding during the financial crisis, according to people familiar with the matter. While Magnetar has faced scrutiny over its role in various collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs, the Illinois firm itself now is a target of an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, these people said. ECB Bars Access to Four Greek Banks (FT) The move raises the pressure on Greece to stick to its international bailout by highlighting the risk that eurozone central bankers could pull the plug on its financial system. It reflected ECB fears that a planned recapitalisation of Greece’s banks could be delayed. Greek Euro Exit Would Risk Asia Crisis-Style Rout, Zeti Says (Bloomberg) A Greek exit from the euro could cause contagion comparable to the Asian financial crisis, according to Malaysia’s central bank Governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz, who had first-hand experience of that turmoil. “The worst-case scenario is what we saw in Asia,” Zeti, 64, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Istanbul yesterday. “When one economy collapses, then the market usually moves on to focus on the next one, then there will be a contagion that will affect different countries that probably don’t deserve those kinds of consequences.” Strippers in Paris Go on Strike, Say Wages 'Miserable' (Reuters) The Crazy Horse, one of the most popular establishments of its kind in the world, said it was forced to cancel performances this week for the first time since the cabaret was created in 1951. The night club, which declined to give details on salary demands or current wages, said in a statement that it had always taken the wellbeing of its artists very seriously and that talks were continuing to resolve the dispute. "It's an exceptional place which has the specialty of presenting a fully naked show," Suzanne, one of the dancers, told RTL radio. "What's wrong is that we are asked to work 24 days per month for a pay that is worse than miserable," she said. JPMorgan’s Trading Loss Is Said to Rise at Least 50% (NYT) The trading losses suffered by JPMorgan Chase have surged in recent days, surpassing the bank’s initial $2 billion estimate by at least $1 billion, according to people with knowledge of the losses. When Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan’s chief executive, announced the losses last Thursday, he indicated they could double within the next few quarters. But that process has been compressed into four trading days as hedge funds and other investors take advantage of JPMorgan’s distress, fueling faster deterioration in the underlying credit market positions held by the bank. A spokeswoman for the bank declined to comment, although Mr. Dimon has said the total paper trading losses will be volatile depending on day-to-day market fluctuations. Several on FOMC Said Easing May Be Needed on Faltering (Bloomberg) The Federal Reserve signaled further monetary easing remains an option to protect the U.S. economy from the danger that lawmakers will fail to reach agreement on the budget or Europe’s debt woes worsen. Several members of the Federal Open Market Committee said new actions could be necessary if the economy loses momentum or “downside risks to the forecast became great enough,” according to minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee’s April meeting released yesterday in Washington. Judge Denies Gupta's Wiretap Motion (NYP) Ex-Goldman Sachs director Rajat Gupta lost his bid to get three key wiretaps tossed as evidence in his upcoming insider-trading trial. Manhattan federal judge Jed Rakoff gave tentative approval yesterday for the jury to hear the wiretaps, which are crucial to the government’s case against Gupta. A former head of McKinsey & Co., who also sat on Procter & Gamble’s board, Gupta is accused of feeding tips to ex-hedge funder Raj Rajaratnam, who began an 11-year prison term last October for insider trading. The taped conversations between Rajaratnam and his traders have him talking about tips from a unnamed leaker on Goldman’s board. Man protests restaurant's all-you-can-eat policy (TMJ4) A disturbance at a local restaurant when one man got upset that an all-you-can-eat fish fry didn't live up to its name. At 6'6" and 350 lbs, Bill Wisth admits he's a big guy who can pack it away more than most. And he wants one restaurant to make all-you-can-eat, all he can eat too. "It's false advertising," said Wisth to TODAY'S TMJ4. He was there Friday when the restaurant cut him off after he ate a dozen pieces. "Well, we asked for more fish and they refused to give us any more fish," recalled Wisth. The restaurant says it was running out of fish and patience; arguing Bill has been a problem customer before. They sent him on his way with another eight pieces, but that still wasn't enough. He was so fired up, he called the police. "I think that people have to stand up for consumers," said Wisth. Elizabeth Roeming is a waitress there and says they've tried to work with Bill over the years -- like letting him have a tab he still hasn't paid off. Bill isn't backing down, saying his fish fry fight isn't over. But in the end, even he had something nice to say. "They do have like some of the best pizza in town if you like deep dish pizza," said Wisth. He says he will picket every Sunday until the restaurant rethinks what happened.