Opening Bell: 02.11.13

Two Firms, One Trail, In Probe Of Ratings (WSJ) The Justice Department last week went after Standard & Poor's Ratings Services—not rival Moody's Investors Service —with a $5 billion fraud lawsuit. Some former Moody's employees think they know why. The Moody's Corp. unit took careful steps to avoid creating a trove of potentially embarrassing employee messages like those that came back to haunt S&P in the U.S.'s lawsuit, the former employees say. Moody's analysts in recent years had limited access to instant-message programs and were directed by executives to discuss sensitive matters face to face, according to former employees. The crackdown on communications came after a 2005 investigation by then New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer into Moody's ratings on some mortgage-backed deals, the former employees say. Former employees also point to an April 2001 settlement between Moody's and the Justice Department's antitrust division over the destruction of documents amid a civil inquiry by the agency. Moody's pleaded to one count of obstruction of justice and paid a fine of $195,000. Moody's called that situation "an isolated incident" and said it cooperated with the Justice Department's investigation. That settlement helped lay the groundwork for heightened concerns about sensitive documents, former Moody's employees say. Credit Rating Victims Didn’t Know S&P’s Toxic AAA Born of Greed (Bloomberg) When Charles O. Prince III was chief executive officer of Citigroup Inc. from 2003 to 2007, he didn’t know about a surge in mortgage risk that his own investment bankers loaded on to its bank’s books. Because such debt carried top credit ratings from firms such as Standard & Poor’s, few financial executives paid attention to the potential dangers. When Charles O. Prince III was chief executive officer of Citigroup Inc. from 2003 to 2007, he didn’t know about a surge in mortgage risk that his own investment bankers loaded on to its bank’s books. Because such debt carried top credit ratings from firms such as Standard & Poor’s, few financial executives paid attention to the potential dangers. Makeover At Barclays Won't Be Extreme (WSJ) Mr. Jenkins's cuts are likely to be focused on areas where Barclays lags far behind competitors, executives say. That could include parts of the equities sales-and-trading businesses in Asia and continental Europe, according to analysts and people at other banks. Those are businesses in which Mr. Diamond spearheaded an ambitious expansion but where Barclays remains a second-tier player. But other changes are driven more by polishing the bank's tarnished image than they are by the need to boost profits. A few business lines that don't seem "socially useful" are likely to end up on the chopping block, executives say. For example, Barclays plans to retreat at least in part from the lucrative trading of "soft commodities" such as coffee, executives say. That is a concession to mounting criticism that speculative trading in those commodities contributes to food-price inflation. "We're a big player, but does it pass the smell test of what society would think of this?" a senior executive said. Mr. Jenkins is also expected to trumpet plans to dramaticallyscale back Barclays's tax-planning business, in which it advises clients on how to minimize their tax burdens. The bank will no longer help clients put together transactions that have no businesspurpose other than reducing taxes. "Such activity is incompatible with our purpose," Mr. Jenkins will say on Tuesday, according to the extract of his speech. But the bank isn't expected to exit the business altogether. It will continue to offer tax-minimizing advice. People familiar with the matter say the business has been hiring employees recently. Putin Turns Black Gold Into Bullion as Russia Out-Buys World (Bloomberg) Not only has Putin made Russia the world’s largest oil producer, he’s also made it the biggest gold buyer. His central bank has added 570 metric tons of the metal in the past decade, a quarter more than runner-up China, according to IMF data compiled by Bloomberg. The added gold is also almost triple the weight of the Statue of Liberty. White House Warns Coming Austerity Will Hit Economy Hard (Reuters) Automatic government spending cuts due to go into effect March 1 unless Congress acts to prevent them would bite deeply into programs affecting many Americans, such as law enforcement, small business assistance, food safety and tax collection, the White House said on Friday. The administration urged Congress to blunt the effect of the reductions, which the White House said would slash non-defense programs by 9 percent across the board and defense programs by 13 percent, the White House said. "These large and arbitrary cuts will have severe impacts across the government," the administration said in a statement. World's most prolific stripper calls it a day (DM) For two decades, the Liverpudlian father-of-three has been the Usain Bolt of the naked dash. In 1995, he leapt naked on to Fred Talbot’s weather map on daytime TV show This Morning, and a year later he appeared nude on the green during the Open at Royal Lytham. Then, in 2004, he was fined £550 for trespassing after streaking across the pitch at the Super Bowl in Texas – a match watched by 130 million people in 87 countries. For good measure, Mark has also stripped off at Wembley, Wimbledon and Ascot. ‘There’s no major venue or event I haven’t done,’ he says proudly. ‘But I’m nearly 49 now and my children have begged me to stop. It’s time. I’m not ready for my slippers just yet, but gravity’s against me.’ Treasury Pick Lew Faces Grilling on Citi Bonus, Cayman Account (Reuters) Jack Lew, President Barack Obama's pick to be U.S. treasury secretary, is expected to come under fire for the administration's budget policies and a nearly $1 million bonus he received from bailed-out bank Citigroup when he testifies on Wednesday before a Senate panel vetting him for the job. The hearing will briefly become ground zero in the pitched political battle over the federal budget, with Republicans set to attack over what they contend is Lew's devil-may-care attitude to reducing the U.S. budget deficit. "He'll be used as a political ping-pong ball," said Ted Truman, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for InternationalEconomics who served briefly as an adviser to Obama's former treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner. Treasury Eases Off On Bank Rules (WSJ) The proposal, which will be subject to comment before becoming a final rule, is likely to insist that financial institutions gather beneficial ownership information—who is in charge and who profits—on new corporate accounts, officials said. But in a move that could assuage some industry concerns, financial institutions wouldn't have to vet that ownership data for accuracy. Instead, they would rely on the customer to vouch for the information. With a Focus on Its Future, Financial Times Turns 125 (NYT) On Wednesday, The F.T. is celebrating its 125th birthday. The newspaper’s London headquarters along the south bank of the Thames will be lit up in pink, the color of the paper on which it has been printed since shortly after it was founded. There will be a few parties — understated, of course, for these are straitened times in the City of London, and challenging ones for the newspaper industry. Waxing Our Way To The ER (Salon) A new study from the University of California-San Diego reveals that “Emergency room visits due to pubic hair grooming mishaps,” including “lacerations,” increased fivefold between 2002 and 2010, sending an impressive 11,704 pube-scapers to the E.R. The culprits? Scissors and hot wax did some of the damage, but plain-old non-electric-razors accounted for the lion’s share, at 83 percent...The study also revealed that below-the-belt grooming isn’t just for adult ladies anymore – men accounted for 43.3 percent of the injuries, and almost 30 percent of them were girls under the age of 18. To avoid becoming yet another harrowing grooming gone bad statistic, the researchers advise hair removal aficionados to “Pay attention to where you’re placing that razor. Invest in a non-slip bath mat. And don’t shave while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”
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Two Firms, One Trail, In Probe Of Ratings (WSJ)
The Justice Department last week went after Standard & Poor's Ratings Services—not rival Moody's Investors Service —with a $5 billion fraud lawsuit. Some former Moody's employees think they know why. The Moody's Corp. unit took careful steps to avoid creating a trove of potentially embarrassing employee messages like those that came back to haunt S&P in the U.S.'s lawsuit, the former employees say. Moody's analysts in recent years had limited access to instant-message programs and were directed by executives to discuss sensitive matters face to face, according to former employees. The crackdown on communications came after a 2005 investigation by then New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer into Moody's ratings on some mortgage-backed deals, the former employees say. Former employees also point to an April 2001 settlement between Moody's and the Justice Department's antitrust division over the destruction of documents amid a civil inquiry by the agency. Moody's pleaded to one count of obstruction of justice and paid a fine of $195,000. Moody's called that situation "an isolated incident" and said it cooperated with the Justice Department's investigation. That settlement helped lay the groundwork for heightened concerns about sensitive documents, former Moody's employees say.

Credit Rating Victims Didn’t Know S&P’s Toxic AAA Born of Greed (Bloomberg)
When Charles O. Prince III was chief executive officer of Citigroup Inc. from 2003 to 2007, he didn’t know about a surge in mortgage risk that his own investment bankers loaded on to its bank’s books. Because such debt carried top credit ratings from firms such as Standard & Poor’s, few financial executives paid attention to the potential dangers. When Charles O. Prince III was chief executive officer of Citigroup Inc. from 2003 to 2007, he didn’t know about a surge in mortgage risk that his own investment bankers loaded on to its bank’s books. Because such debt carried top credit ratings from firms such as Standard & Poor’s, few financial executives paid attention to the potential dangers.

Makeover At Barclays Won't Be Extreme (WSJ)
Mr. Jenkins's cuts are likely to be focused on areas where Barclays lags far behind competitors, executives say. That could include parts of the equities sales-and-trading businesses in Asia and continental Europe, according to analysts and people at other banks. Those are businesses in which Mr. Diamond spearheaded an ambitious expansion but where Barclays remains a second-tier player. But other changes are driven more by polishing the bank's tarnished image than they are by the need to boost profits. A few business lines that don't seem "socially useful" are likely to end up on the chopping block, executives say. For example, Barclays plans to retreat at least in part from the lucrative trading of "soft commodities" such as coffee, executives say. That is a concession to mounting criticism that speculative trading in those commodities contributes to food-price inflation. "We're a big player, but does it pass the smell test of what society would think of this?" a senior executive said. Mr. Jenkins is also expected to trumpet plans to dramaticallyscale back Barclays's tax-planning business, in which it advises clients on how to minimize their tax burdens. The bank will no longer help clients put together transactions that have no businesspurpose other than reducing taxes. "Such activity is incompatible with our purpose," Mr. Jenkins will say on Tuesday, according to the extract of his speech. But the bank isn't expected to exit the business altogether. It will continue to offer tax-minimizing advice. People familiar with the matter say the business has been hiring employees recently.

Putin Turns Black Gold Into Bullion as Russia Out-Buys World (Bloomberg)
Not only has Putin made Russia the world’s largest oil producer, he’s also made it the biggest gold buyer. His central bank has added 570 metric tons of the metal in the past decade, a quarter more than runner-up China, according to IMF data compiled by Bloomberg. The added gold is also almost triple the weight of the Statue of Liberty.

White House Warns Coming Austerity Will Hit Economy Hard (Reuters)
Automatic government spending cuts due to go into effect March 1 unless Congress acts to prevent them would bite deeply into programs affecting many Americans, such as law enforcement, small business assistance, food safety and tax collection, the White House said on Friday. The administration urged Congress to blunt the effect of the reductions, which the White House said would slash non-defense programs by 9 percent across the board and defense programs by 13 percent, the White House said. "These large and arbitrary cuts will have severe impacts across the government," the administration said in a statement.

World's most prolific stripper calls it a day (DM)
For two decades, the Liverpudlian father-of-three has been the Usain Bolt of the naked dash. In 1995, he leapt naked on to Fred Talbot’s weather map on daytime TV show This Morning, and a year later he appeared nude on the green during the Open at Royal Lytham. Then, in 2004, he was fined £550 for trespassing after streaking across the pitch at the Super Bowl in Texas – a match watched by 130 million people in 87 countries. For good measure, Mark has also stripped off at Wembley, Wimbledon and Ascot. ‘There’s no major venue or event I haven’t done,’ he says proudly. ‘But I’m nearly 49 now and my children have begged me to stop. It’s time. I’m not ready for my slippers just yet, but gravity’s against me.’

Treasury Pick Lew Faces Grilling on Citi Bonus, Cayman Account (Reuters)
Jack Lew, President Barack Obama's pick to be U.S. treasury secretary, is expected to come under fire for the administration's budget policies and a nearly $1 million bonus he received from bailed-out bank Citigroup when he testifies on Wednesday before a Senate panel vetting him for the job. The hearing will briefly become ground zero in the pitched political battle over the federal budget, with Republicans set to attack over what they contend is Lew's devil-may-care attitude to reducing the U.S. budget deficit. "He'll be used as a political ping-pong ball," said Ted Truman, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics who served briefly as an adviser to Obama's former treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner.

Treasury Eases Off On Bank Rules (WSJ)
The proposal, which will be subject to comment before becoming a final rule, is likely to insist that financial institutions gather beneficial ownership information—who is in charge and who profits—on new corporate accounts, officials said. But in a move that could assuage some industry concerns, financial institutions wouldn't have to vet that ownership data for accuracy. Instead, they would rely on the customer to vouch for the information.

With a Focus on Its Future, Financial Times Turns 125 (NYT)
On Wednesday, The F.T. is celebrating its 125th birthday. The newspaper’s London headquarters along the south bank of the Thames will be lit up in pink, the color of the paper on which it has been printed since shortly after it was founded. There will be a few parties — understated, of course, for these are straitened times in the City of London, and challenging ones for the newspaper industry.

Waxing Our Way To The ER (Salon)
A new study from the University of California-San Diego reveals that “Emergency room visits due to pubic hair grooming mishaps,” including “lacerations,” increased fivefold between 2002 and 2010, sending an impressive 11,704 pube-scapers to the E.R. The culprits? Scissors and hot wax did some of the damage, but plain-old non-electric-razors accounted for the lion’s share, at 83 percent...The study also revealed that below-the-belt grooming isn’t just for adult ladies anymore – men accounted for 43.3 percent of the injuries, and almost 30 percent of them were girls under the age of 18. To avoid becoming yet another harrowing grooming gone bad statistic, the researchers advise hair removal aficionados to “Pay attention to where you’re placing that razor. Invest in a non-slip bath mat. And don’t shave while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”

Related

Opening Bell: 04.13.12

JPMorgan Profit Slips (WSJ) J.P. Morgan reported a profit of $5.38 billion, down from $5.56 billion a year earlier. On a per-share basis, earnings were $1.31, up from $1.28 as the share count outstanding declined. The latest quarter included a net 8-cent per-share loss tied to litigation expenses and changes in the value of the bank's debt. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected a per-share profit of $1.18, excluding debt-related charges. Revenue rose 6.3% to $27.42 billion. Analysts were looking for $24.68 billion. Wells Fargo reports higher first-quarter profit (Reuters) Wells Fargo, the nation's fourth-biggest U.S. bank, said net income was $4.25 billion, or 75 cents a share, in the quarter, compared with $3.76 billion, or 67 cents, a share in the same period a year earlier. The average estimate from analysts was 73 cents per share. JPMorgan Said to Transform Treasury to Prop Trading (Bloomberg) Achilles Macris, hired in 2006 as the CIO’s top executive in London, led an expansion into corporate and mortgage-debt investments with a mandate to generate profits for the New York- based bank, three of the former employees said. Dimon, 56, closely supervised the shift from the CIO’s previous focus on protecting JPMorgan from risks inherent in its banking business, such as interest-rate and currency movements, they said. Some of Macris’s bets are now so large that JPMorgan probably can’t unwind them without losing money or roiling financial markets, the former executives said, based on knowledge gleaned from people inside the bank and dealers at other firms. Bank Bonus That Tops Salary May Be Banned by EU Lawmakers (Bloomberg) Governments and lawmakers in the 27-nation EU are considering rules for lenders that would go far beyond international agreements approved by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision. Denmark, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU, has proposed empowering nations to set surcharges of up to 3 percent across their banking systems. Karas yesterday suggested adding language to the legislation that would ban banker bonuses that exceed fixed pay, following calls from other lawmakers to rein in excessive compensation. IMF Lifts Growth Forecast, Cautiously (WSJ) Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said the world economy is marked by "a high degree of instability" even though prospects for global growth are better than they were a few months ago. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Ms. Lagarde said the IMF, which marked down its 2012 forecast for global growth in January to 3.3%, has now marked it up to reflect improving conditions in the world economy. But she said the new forecast, to be released next week, remains more pessimistic than the one it made last September, which predicted 4% growth. Europe remains the biggest single risk to the global economy, the former French finance minister said. Hedge Fund Driver Guns DownArmed Robber (NYP) A retired NYPD lieutenant blew away a drugstore bandit yesterday as the suspect tried to gun down three police officers during a foot pursuit, sources said. Thomas Barnes, Barnes — a driver for hedge fund manager Philippe Laffont, was filling his tank at the BP station on East 119th Street and First Avenue at around 11 a.m. when he saw gunman Rudolph Wyatt running from the store, and sprang into action. He crouched behind his hedge-fund boss’ Mercedes SUV and squeezed off three shots, killing Wyatt, 23. The trigger-happy thug — wanted on warrants for two other shootings — lay dead in a pool of blood on the sidewalk wearing a black stocking mask with a wad of stolen cash spilling out of his pocket, witnesses said. “Part of the back of his head was missing. He had a large head wound and there was tons of blood,” said witness John Brecevich, 59, owner of the Original Patsy’s restaurant nearby. “It was a scene straight out of NYPD Blue.” Trustees Aim For MF Execs (NYP) The trustee tasked with clawing back money for burned customers of MF Global is training his sights on the brokerage firm’s executives — a list that likely includes former CEO Jon Corzine. In a statement yesterday, trustee James Giddens said he is considering pursuing claims against “certain responsible individuals” who worked for MF at the time customers’ trading accounts were improperly tapped. Kent Jarrell, a spokesman for Giddens, declined to name names but said the trustee is considering civil suits against “officers, directors or other employees” of both the brokerage firm and the holding company. Fed Officials Differ on Need to Keep Rates Low to 2014 (Bloomberg) William C. Dudley, president of the New York Fed, and Vice Chairman Janet Yellen said the 2014 time-frame is needed to lower unemployment from 8.2 percent. Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota said rising inflation may prompt an interest-rate increase as early as this year, while Philadelphia’s Charles Plosser said policy should hinge on economic performance, not a calendar commitment. Newark Mayor Cory Booker: Race into home fire was a "come to Jesus moment" (CBS) Booker arrived home last night to discover his next-door neighbor's house on fire, and rescued a young woman trapped upstairs by carrying here through the flames, suffering second-degree burns in the process. The mayor's security team discovered the fire and pounded on the door to alert residents, when an elderly woman said that her daughter was trapped upstairs. At first, Newark Police Detective Alex Rodriguez would not let Booker into the burning house. "He basically told me, 'This woman is going to die if we don't help her,' and what can I say to that?," Rodriguez said. "I let him go and without thinking twice, he just ran into the flames and rescued this young lady." Booker said that as he jumped through the kitchen on the second floor, "I actually wasn't thinking. When I got there and couldn't find her in all the smoke, looked behind me and saw the kitchen really erupting with flames all over the ceiling, that's when I had very clear thoughts that I'm not going to get out of this place alive and got ... very religious. He admitted he was "not gentle" with her - "I just sort of threw her over my shoulder and dragged her through the kitchen."

Opening Bell: 05.08.12

When Facebook Met Wall Street (WSJ) On Monday, investors piled into the hotel to hear what Mr. Zuckerberg and his lieutenants had to say about the offering. At one point, the line, leading to a second-floor ballroom where the meeting was scheduled to be held at 11:45 a.m., stretched down to the first floor and spilled out of the hotel for nearly half a city block. At least one investor waiting in line said he didn't expect anything to be revealed that wasn't already in Facebook's securities filings. Rather, he was there to take in the show, and lunch (which was Cobb salad and grilled chicken). A 30-minute video about Facebook, which had been widely distributed before Monday, led the lunch, according to attendees. The next part of the presentation was briefly delayed by Mr. Zuckerberg's absence. The CEO was in the bathroom, explained Chief Financial Officer David Ebersman to attendees. (Mr. Ebersman wore a navy suit.) Yahoo CEO Apologizes in Memo, Board Meets (Reuters, earlier) Yahoo Inc's board convened on Monday afternoon to discuss the mounting upset surrounding Chief Executive Scott Thompson, who has apologized to employees after being accused last week by activist investor Daniel Loeb of padding his resume, a source with knowledge of the matter said..."I want you to know how deeply I regret how this issue has affected the company and all of you," Thompson wrote in his first extended memo to employees since the disclosures emerged on May 3. "We have all been working very hard to move the company forward and this has had the opposite effect. For that, I take full responsibility, and I want to apologize to you." Billion-Dollar Traders Quit Wall Street For Hedge Funds (Bloomberg) Wall Street’s biggest banks have lost almost two dozen of their most-profitable credit traders in the past 13 months as regulators limit the kind of risk-taking that amplified the housing crisis four years ago. As banks slash or defer pay and reduce the amount they’re willing to wager, the traders are seeing better opportunities at hedge funds and investment firms that seek to profit in markets lenders are retreating from. Wall Street Banks Depressed In Secular Shift (Bloomberg) To Kevin Conn, who has been analyzing bank stocks for 15 years, the investment climate for Wall Street’s biggest firms has entered the realm of science fiction. “It’s like that Ray Bradbury short story where it rains for months in a row,” said Conn, who works for Massachusetts Financial Services Co., referring to “The Long Rain,” published in 1950. “It’s one of these terrifically depressing short stories where the weather just never changes.” Spain To Spend Billions On Bank Rescue (FT) Spain is planning a state bail-out of Bankia, the country’s third biggest bank by assets, in a move likely to involve the injection of billions of euros of public money into the troubled lender. In an abrupt reversal of policy, the Spanish government, which had previously insisted that no additional state money would be needed to clean up the country’s banking sector, confirmed that an intervention was being prepared. OWS Mom Snubs Plea (NYP) Occupy Wall Street protester Stacey Hessler, 39, arrested in November for resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, yesterday refused an offer to have her charges dismissed and will instead face a trial...Hessler had originally planned to accept the judge’s offer of an adjournment contemplating dismissal, which erases the charge if the defendant stays out of trouble for six months, but later changed her mind, her attorney said. SEC Orders Probe Of Watchdog Office (WSJ) The Securities and Exchange Commission has ordered an independent inquiry into allegations of sexual misconduct by current and former staff working for its office of the inspector general, according to a person familiar with the matter. The complaint includes allegations that the misconduct compromised certain investigations of the SEC, according to the person familiar with the situation. Apollo's Profit More Than Doubles (WSJ) For the first quarter, Apollo reported a profit of $98 million, or 66 cents a share, up from a year-earlier profit of $38.2 million, or 33 cents a share. Economic net income rose to $1.10 from 99 cents a year earlier. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected 78 cents a share...Total revenue rose 12% to $776.7 million, far better than the $547 million expected by analysts. Bank of America Offers Principal Reductions to 200,000 Homeowners (CNBC) “If people get these things and toss them, they won’t be eligible,” says Ron Sturzenegger, the Bank of America executive charged with providing solutions to borrowers in need of mortgage assistance. But the offer is real, and eligible borrowers could get as much as $150,000 knocked off the balance of their mortgages. It is all part of the $25 billion settlement reached this year between federal and state agencies and the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers over fraudulent foreclosure document processing (so-called “robo-signing”). No Repeating Slowdown Seen by U.S. With Banks to Housing (Bloomberg) Rising auto sales, improving bank credit and stabilization of housing are among the signs the economy is more resilient now than it was around the same time in 2010 and 2011, according to Marisa Di Natale, an economist at Moody’s Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “From where we sit right now, we think the economy looks fundamentally stronger,” Di Natale said. “Surveys of business and consumer confidence are better, the labor market data looks a lot better than it did last year, even some of the housing data looks better.” Ex-Tyco CFO: Gimme the $ I didn’t steal! (Reuters) Former Tyco International Chief Financial Officer Mark Swartz, who is serving a prison sentence for looting the company, has sued for $60 million in retirement and other money he says he is owed. The lawsuit, which was made public yesterday, accuses Tyco of breach of contract and unjust enrichment for not paying him some $48 million from an executive retirement agreement, $9 million in reimbursement for New York taxes, and other money. Winner Of Mexican Presidential Debate? Julia Orayen (AP) Who won Mexico's presidential debate? According to the media and Twitter frenzy, at least, the victor wasn't any candidate but a curvaceous model in a tight gown who puzzled millions by appearing on stage for less than 30 seconds during the showdown. Julia Orayen has posed nude for Playboy and appeared barely dressed in other media, but she made her mark on Mexican minds Sunday night by carrying an urn filled with bits of paper determining the order that candidates would speak. She wore a tight, white dress with a wide, tear-drop cutout that revealed her ample decolletage. The image was splashed across newspaper front pages and websites by Monday. "The best was the girl in white with the cleavage at the beginning," tweeted former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda, who is also a New York University professor...Alfredo Figueroa, director of the Federal Electoral Institute responsible for organizing the debate, blamed the incident on a production associate hired by the institute to help with the debate. The institute later issued an apology to Mexican citizens and the candidates for the woman's dress.

Opening Bell: 01.10.13

Deutsche Profits Big On Libor Bets (WSJ) Deutsche Bank made at least €500 million ($654 million) in profit in 2008 from trades pegged to the interest rates under investigation by regulators world-wide, internal bank documents show. The German bank's trading profits resulted from billions of euros in bets related to the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, and other global benchmark rates. ECB Stands Pat On Rates (WSJ) The ECB's Governing Council decided to keep Europe's most important interest rates at their lowest levels since the single currency was introduced in 1999, encouraged by a clear improvement in financial-market sentiment over the past month and by tentative signs of growing confidence in the euro-zone economy. Rivals Clash As Inquiry Into Herbalife Opens (WSJ) Daniel Loeb's hedge fund disclosed Wednesday it owns an 8.2% stake now valued at $350 million in nutrition-supplements company Herbalife Ltd. Mr. Ackman's Pershing Square Capital Management LP has bet more than $1 billion against the company by shorting its stock…The face-off between two high-profile, media-savvy hedge-fund managers highlights the arrival of a new wave of postcrisis financial stars. They tout their positions during television interviews and at conferences, in letters or securities filings and on customized Web pages, often convincing other investors to follow their lead. Their pronouncements move stocks, at times dramatically, and leave companies scrambling to respond. And when they take the opposite sides of the same trade the ensuing battle can captivate the financial world. "One of them is going to be very wrong," said Gregg Hymowitz, founder of the $8.2 billion EnTrust Capital, a longtime investor with both Mr. Ackman and Mr. Loeb's firms. "Ackman thinks it's a complete and utter fraud, and Dan thinks it's a completely legitimate business." Hedgie's Herbalife Bet Counters Ackman (NYP) [In addition to Loeb], Carl Icahn is also believed to have taken a long position in Herbalife, sources said. The possibility of Loeb and Icahn going up against Ackman’s Herbalife short sent investors into a tizzy. “It’s going to be an Ackman sandwich,” one hedge fund manager wailed. Lew Taking Over at Treasury Puts Perennial Aide at Head (Bloomberg) With his penchant for thinking several steps ahead, his organizational drive and his budget expertise, Lew, 57, has been Obama’s consummate aide. Now, he’s Obama’s choice for Treasury secretary, according to a person familiar with the process. Lew faces the prospect of becoming a leader at a critical juncture for the nation’s economic and fiscal future. “As chief of staff you are staff and as Treasury secretary, you are principal -- Jack has to make that transition,” said Ken Duberstein, a chief of staff to former President Ronald Reagan who first met Lew in the 1980s. “It’s not the invisible hand, it is the visible hand.” If confirmed, Lew may need to play that hand as soon as next month, when the administration squares off with Congress over the U.S. debt ceiling. Lew’s job will be all the more difficult because his relations with House Republicans soured during the 2011 battle over the government’s borrowing limit. Government's worst signature will be on America's dollar bills (NYP) Lew’s signature — which looks like a strand of hair gone though a curler treatment — might even be too peculiar to grace our greenbacks, political insiders said. “Whoa! That’s completely unintelligible,” said a Senate finance aide. “This doesn’t look like anyone’s name at all.” She concluded, “Oh my gosh — I’ve never seen a signature like that.” ome social-media users were also quick to poke fun, saying Lew should clean up his squiggle. “HE GOT A CRIZZAZY SIGNATURE!!!!” one Twitter user wrote. Another tweeter quipped, “Looooooo!” But just because his autograph looks it’s penned by a drunken 3-year-old doesn’t mean it isn’t lovable, others said. Some fans created a petition on the White House’s Web site called “Save the Lewpty-Lew!” “We demand Lew’s doodle on every dollar bill in circulation,” the petition read. It had garnered 10 signatures by late yesterday…Asked yesterday if Lew had been practicing to improve his signature, presidential press secretary Jay Carney, said, “Not that I’m aware of.” Cantor Growth Plan Sputters as 41% of Touted Hires Exit (Bloomberg) Chief Executive Officer Howard Lutnick’s drive to turn one of the largest independent U.S. brokerages into a rival to Wall Street’s investment banks has been pocked with dismissals and defections. Forty-one percent of the 158 traders and bankers whose hirings Cantor announced in news releases since 2009 have left, industry records show. In interviews, 19 current and former employees blamed Cantor’s reluctance to commit money to deals and pressure to turn immediate profits. Norfolk 911 calls for 'baby lion' turn up a coiffed dog (HR) The first caller was fairly calm. “I’d like to report a lion sighting,” he said. “Say that again?” a dispatcher responded. And thus began the drama over baby lion sightings in Norfolk on Tuesday. Police said Wednesday that they actually got three 911 calls about the “lion.” The first came at 10:19 a.m. The animal was running on Granby Street, a male voice said. Then a woman took the phone. She sounded anxious as she described the proximity to the zoo. “There was a lion that ran across the street. A baby lion. It was about the size of a Labrador retriever.” It was near Granby and 38th, she said. “It’s roaming loose in the neighborhood.” A second call came five minutes later. “I just saw an animal that looked like a small lion.” It had “the mange and everything,” a man said. He had seen it on Delaware Avenue near Llewellyn Avenue. “I don’t know if it got away from the zoo, or what,” he said. The dispatcher said they already had received a report. “I’m not sure if it actually is a lion or not, but I’ll update the information.” A third call came at 1:19 p.m. “I just saw a baby lion at Colley Avenue and 50th Street,” a man reported. “What kind of animal?” the dispatcher later asked him. “A lion. A baby lion, maybe.” The lion was going to nearby houses. “I don’t think it has caused any problem so far,” said the caller. “OK. You think it’s looking for food?” the dispatcher asked. “I don’t know.” By now, most folks know that the “baby lion” was actually Charles the Monarch, a Labrador-poodle mix owned by Daniel Painter, who lives in Riveriew and has a garden center on Colley Avenue. He has the dog groomed to look like the Old Dominion University mascot. Many people say they see Charles out a lot, especially on Colley. But to someone who hasn’t seen him, he sure doesn’t look like a dog at first. PE King Black Is Hungry For Hostess (NYP) Black’s Apollo Global Management has teamed with veteran food executive C. Dean Metropoulos on a potential bid for bankrupt Hostess Brands’ snacks business, which includes Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Ho Hos…Hostess is in the process of selling off its iconic brands and liquidating the company after a crippling strike by its bakers union forced it to shut down in November. The Irving, Texas-based company plans to hold separate auctions for its bread and snack businesses. Hostess is just a few days away from choosing a so-called stalking horse bidder for its bread brands, including Wonder Bread, Nature’s Pride and Butternut. The snack business will follow suit later. Mortgage Deals Came Just In Time (WSJ) Major banks pushed to complete an $8.5 billion legal settlement with federal regulators this past weekend so they could book the deal's costs in their fourth-quarter results and present a cleaner slate to investors in 2013, according to people familiar with the talks. The timing of the settlement of alleged foreclosure abuses, announced Monday, allowed banks including Bank of America, JPMorgan, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo to take advantage of so-called subsequent-events accounting. The same rules apply to Bank of America's $11.6 billion pact with Fannie Mae over buybacks of questionable mortgage loans. Monday's settlements are "almost the textbook example" of when subsequent-events accounting comes into play, said Robert Willens, an accounting and tax expert. Obama’s 81% New York City Support is Best in 114 Years (Bloomberg) President Barack Obama won more support from New York City in November’s election than any White House candidate in more than 100 years, according to a final tally of votes. Obama beat Republican challenger Mitt Romney by 81 percent to 18 percent in the nation’s largest city, according to a certified vote count released Dec. 31 by the state board of elections. Some New York ballots were counted late in part because of complications caused by Hurricane Sandy. Yum Brands Apologizes For Chicken Probe (WSJ) Yum Brands's China chief executive apologized to consumers after negative publicity surrounding an official probe into chicken purchased from local suppliers caused sales to tumble at the company's KFC chain. Yum failed to address problems quickly and had poor internal communications, Sam Su said in a statement posted on the company's official account on Sina Corp.'s Twitter-like Weibo microblog service. He said the company would strengthen its management and oversight of suppliers. "We feel regretful for all the problems," Mr. Su said in the statement. "I sincerely apologize to the public on behalf of the company." Swiss Banks Welcome Rejection of Germany Tax Accord, Study Shows (Bloomberg) Swiss banks welcome the collapse of an accord with Germany that would have imposed new taxes on German clients in a bid to end a dispute over tax evasion, Ernst & Young said. About 72 percent of 120 Swiss banks surveyed see the demise of the agreement as positive, Ernst & Young said in a report today. How Jawboning Works (WSJ) The clearest example comes from Europe. In July, Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, defused an intensifying crisis of confidence in the euro with two sentences scribbled in the margins of an otherwise routine speech. "Within our mandate, the ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro," he said. "And believe me, it will be enough." That may prove to be the most successful central-bank verbal intervention in history. A few weeks later, the ECB pledged to buy bonds of governments shunned by markets if those governments made belt-tightening commitments accepted by fellow euro-zone countries. No government has sought that help so the ECB hasn't spent a single euro. Yet global anxiety about an imminent euro crisis has abated. Beautiful Existence, Seattle Woman, Plans To Eat Only Starbucks For One Year (HP) A Seattle woman, legally named Beautiful Existence, will eat only food from Starbucks this year. She'll also be only drinking beverages from Starbucks as well, but will include drinks from Tazo Tea and Evolution Fresh since both fall under the Starbucks brand. Beautiful Existence cites several reasons for this endeavor. She explains them on her blog: "So how can eating only one company’s products impact me, anybody? Well Mr. McDonald’s already proved that question years ago with his documentary and Mr. Subway did his take on the loosing weight portion of the food challenges too. But when I watched those guys doing their thing I asked myself “where are the WOMEN challenging themselves in the world?” “Where are the effects being shown on a woman’s culture? A woman’s family & children? A woman’s diet, weight, fashion, checkbook, community and world through challenges?” “Where is HER VOICE on how an international company is directly or indirectly impacting everything from her waistline to her bottom line and every other woman’s, man’s, child’s, societies and planets world with their presence?” So far, Existence has really liked the Turkey Rustico Panini and is trying hard not to eat any of the baked items.

Opening Bell: 10.18.12

Morgan Stanley Posts Loss (WSJ) "The rebound in fixed income and commodities sales and trading indicates that clients have re-engaged after the uncertainty of the rating review in the previous quarter," Chief Executive James Gorman said, referring to Moody's Investors Service's move over the summer to downgrade the credit rating on more than a dozen banks. "We are beginning to unlock the full potential of the Global Wealth Management franchise, having increased our ownership of, and agreed on a purchase price for the rest of, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management." For the quarter, Morgan Stanley reported a loss of $1.02 billion, compared with a year-earlier profit of $2.2 billion. The per-share loss, which reflects the payment of preferred dividends, was 55 cents compared with a profit of $1.15 a year earlier. Stripping out the impact of debt-valuation changes, the per-share profit was 28 cents versus two cents a share a year ago. Revenue fell 46% to $5.29 billion, including a negative impact of $2.3 billion from the tightening of credit spreads related to debt. Stripping out debt-valuation changes revenue was up 18% to $7.55 billion. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected earnings of 24 cents, excluding gains related to debt, on revenue of $6.36 billion. Morgan Stanley Reduces Investment-Bank Pay to $5.2 Billion (Bloomberg) The ratio of compensation to revenue in the unit fell to 44.9 percent, compared with 48.4 percent in the same period a year earlier, when excluding accounting gains and losses related to the firm’s credit spreads. That’s still higher than Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan’s investment bank. Compensation and benefits for all of Morgan Stanley totaled $12 billion in the first nine months, down 4 percent. Goldman Ex-Employee Says Firm Pushed Europe Bank Options (Bloomberg) Goldman Sachs sought to profit last year by persuading clients to buy and sell stock options on European banks such as BNP Paribas SA and UniCredit SpA, according to former employee Greg Smith’s new book. “We must have changed our view on each of these institutions from positive to negative back to positive ten times,” Smith writes in “Why I Left Goldman Sachs: A Wall Street Story,” scheduled for release on Oct. 22. “I remember thinking, ‘How can we be doing this with a straight face? No thinking client could believe that conditions on the ground could change that frequently.”’ [...] Smith also describes being disappointed with his $500,000 bonus at the end of 2006. “By any measure, I should have felt exceptionally lucky and grateful,” he writes. “But by the warped logic of Goldman Sachs and Wall Street, I was being screwed.” U.S. to Get Downgraded Amid Fiscal ‘Theater,’ Pimco Says (Bloomberg) “The U.S. will get downgraded, it’s a question of when,” Scott Mather, Pimco’s head of global portfolio management, said today in Wellington. “It depends on what the end of the year looks like, but it could be fairly soon after that.” Asian Scion's Trades Draw Scrutiny (WSJ) A federal probe into an alleged multimillion-dollar insider trading scheme is focusing on the son of a deposed Central Asian autocrat once courted by the U.S. as a key ally in the war on terror, according to people involved in the investigation. The globe-spanning criminal case marks a turnabout by the U.S. against a ruling family it once relied on to keep open military supply lines to Afghanistan. For years, the U.S. maintained good relations with then-Kyrgyzstan President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. Now, the U.S. has prepared charges against the former strongman's son, Maksim Bakiyev, who officials say spent some of his exile in London profiting from illegal tips on stocks trading on the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq. On Friday, the younger Mr. Bakiyev, 35, was arrested in England on an extradition request from the U.S. Mr. Bakiyev's U.K. attorney, Michael O'Kane, declined to comment. Computer programmer 'quadruples productivity' after hiring a woman to slap him in the face every time she catches him looking at Facebook (DM) Maneesh Sethi placed an advert on Craigslist to recruit someone willing to monitor what he was looking at on his laptop. The computer expert and writer, from San Francisco, now pays a female employee £5 ($8) an hour to strike him in the face if she spots him wasting time on social media. Mr Seethi claims the unusual motivational system has helped him boost his productivity from just 35 percent to around 98 percent during the working day...Mr Seethi published details on his blog of his Craigslist advert, which was entitled '(Domestic gigs) Slap me if I get off task'. In it he wrote: 'I'm looking for someone who can work next to me at a defined location (my house or a cafe) and will make sure to watch what is happening on my screen. 'When I am wasting time, you'll have to yell at me or if need be, slap me. 'You can do your own work at the same time. Looking for help asap. Mr Seethi said he was inundated with offers from potential slappers and quickly hired a volunteer he names only as Kara. He wrote: 'Within minutes, my inbox began blowing up. Up to 50% of Greek Workforce Strikes; Tipping Point Nears (CNBC) As European Union leaders prepare to meet in Brussels on Thursday, Greece’s workers aim to make their voices heard by holding a 24-hour strike bringing the country to a halt. With the economy in the fifth year of a recession, the lost production could prove counterproductive and cost the economy 100 million euros ($131 million), according to one expert. Most business and public sector activity is expected to grind to a halt during the strike called by the ADEDY and GSEE unions that represent around 2 million people — half of Greece’s workforce. A protracted news blackout is also expected as television and radio broadcasters and newspapers shut for the day, according to Reuters. Spain Banks Face More Pain as Worst-Case Scenario Turns Real (Bloomberg) Spain’s request for 100 billion euros of European Union financial aid to shore up its banks is increasing concern about the nation’s growing liabilities. Standard & Poor’s downgraded the country’s debt rating by two levels to BBB-, one step above junk, from BBB+ on Oct. 10, saying it wasn’t clear who will bear the cost of recapitalizing banks. It cut the ratings of 11 lenders including Banco Santander SA and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA, Spain’s largest, two days ago, citing the sovereign downgrade. Brothels Rescue Cash-Strapped Greek Soccer Team (AP) Players on a cash-strapped Greek soccer team now wear pink practice jerseys with the logos "Villa Erotica" and "Soula's House of History," two bordellos it recruited as sponsors after drastic government spending cuts left the country's sports clubs facing ruin. Other teams have also turned to unconventional financing. One has a deal with a local funeral home and others have wooed kebab shops, a jam factory and producers of Greece's trademark feta cheese. But the amateur Voukefalas club — whose players include pizza delivery guys, students, waiters and a bartender — has raised eyebrows with its flamboyant sponsorship choice. Prostitution is legal in Greece, where brothels operate under strict guidelines. Though garish neon signs advertising their services are tolerated, the soccer sponsorship has ruffled some feathers in the sports-mad city of Larissa. League organizers have banned the pink jerseys during games, saying the deal violates "the sporting ideal" and is inappropriate for underage fans...Brothel owner Soula Alevridou, the team's new benefactor, has already paid more than 1,000 euros ($1,312) for players to wear her jerseys. The team is appealing the game ban, but that doesn't worry the 67-year-old Alevridou, who says she's only in it because she loves soccer. "It's not the kind of business that needs promotion," she said, dressed all in white and flanked by two young women in dark leggings at a recent game. "It's a word-of-mouth kind of thing."

Opening Bell: 03.26.12

Ex-Goldman Worker Said to Seek Book Deal (NYT) Greg Smith has met with publishers this week, including imprints at several prominent houses. According to several people who were present, Mr. Smith described his book as a coming-of-age story, the tale of someone who came into the business with good intentions and sky-high ideals that were ultimately pierced by Goldman’s obsessive focus on making money. It would also be a story of the history of Goldman Sachs and the perceived change in the culture of the firm that left Mr. Smith, a native of South Africa who lived in London, disillusioned and eager to leave after spending nearly 12 years there. JPMorgan Wins Case Against Trader Over Decimal Point Dispute (Bloomberg) JPMorgan doesn’t have to pay a trader 580,000 pounds ($921,000) after a missing decimal point in an employment contract led him to believe his salary would be 10 times what was offered, a London court ruled. Kai Herbert, a Switzerland-based currency trader, sued JPMorgan for lost earnings claiming he signed a contract to relocate to Johannesburg for a salary of 24 million rand ($3.1 million). JPMorgan said there was a typographical error and the figure should have been 2.4 million rand. “Herbert took the commercial risk of accepting the offer, knowing full well that the figure was an error,” Judge Henry Globe said in today’s judgment. E-Mail to Corzine Said Transfer Was Not Customer Money (Dealbook) But the e-mail, a copy of which was reviewed by The New York Times, did not capture the full story behind the wire, which turned out to contain customer money. MF Global employees in Chicago had first transferred $200 million from a customer account to the firm’s house account, people briefed on the matter said. Once it was in the firm’s coffers, the people said, Chicago employees then promptly transferred $175 million of the money to the MF Global account at JPMorgan in London — the account that was overdrawn...The e-mail suggests that Mr. Corzine, a former governor of New Jersey, was unaware that the money had been transferred from a customer account. Germany Backs Boost To Bailout Fund (WSJ) Germany has been staunchly opposed to raising the planned €500 billion ($664 billion) ceiling on the ESM, but has left the question of the EFSF open until now. It was widely believed that the EFSF would be retired as soon as the ESM is launched and that the EFSF loans already awarded would be assumed by the ESM, reducing its future lending capacity. But now Berlin is suggesting allowing the EFSF to run longer and by doing so ensure that the ESM can use its full lending capacity, effectively boosting the firewall to about €700 billion. "We are saying that the ESM should permanently have €500 billion," Ms. Merkel told a news conference in Berlin on Monday. BATS Faced Revolt Over IPO (WSJ) "The fact that our own stock was out there to be traded for the first time, and we showed systems problems, eroded customer confidence," Joe Ratterman, BATS's chief executive, said Sunday in an interview. "Of course investors are going to say, 'Hey, wait a second.'" Some traders and investors considered the offering pricey. At $16 a share, BATS would have traded at about 10 times analysts' 2013 earnings estimates. That is roughly on par with New York Stock Exchange owner NYSE Euronext and a premium to the Nasdaq OMX Group Inc., which trades at 8.6 times 2013 estimates. Even before the glitches appeared, the offering was off to a rocky start. When trading in BATS shares opened at 10:45 a.m., they were down 75 cents, to $15.25. From there, things only got worse. Hedge Funds Capitulating Buy Most Stocks Since 2010 (Bloomberg) A gauge of hedge-fund bullishness measuring the proportion of bets that shares will rise climbed to 48.6 last week from 42 at the end of November 2011, the biggest increase since April 2010, according to data compiled by the International Strategy & Investment Group. The Bloomberg aggregate hedge fund index gained 1.4 percent last month, lagging behind the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index by 2.65 percentage points. Banks Set to Cut $1 Trillion From Balance Sheets (FT) Investment banks are to shrink their balance sheets by another $1 trillion or up to 7 percent globally within the next two years, says a report that foresees a shake-up of market share in the industry. Higher funding costs and increased regulatory pressure to bolster capital will force wholesale banks also to cut 15 percent, or up to $0.9 trillion, of assets that are weighted by risk, a joint report by Morgan Stanley and consultants Oliver Wyman predicts. In addition, banks are expected take out $10 billion to $12 billion in costs by reducing pay, firing employees and paring back investments in areas that are no longer considered core. Larry Summers: Strong Recovery A "Substantial Possibility" (FT) According to Summers, the biggest risk to the recovery in the next few years is that policy will move away too quickly from its emphasis on boosting demand. "A lurch back this year towards the kind of policies that are appropriate in normal times would be quite premature," he added. Bernanke Notes Labor Market Concerns (WSJ) "Further significant improvements in the unemployment rate will likely require a more-rapid expansion of production and demand from consumers and businesses, a process that can be supported by continued accommodative policies," Mr. Bernanke said in prepared remarks to the annual conference of the National Association for Business Economics. Bad fliers get boot – & bill (NYP) Fed up with disruptive fliers, the Port Authority plans to go after them for the money they cost their airline and the PA. “We’re going to use every lever at our disposal,” said PA chief Pat Foye. “These delays cost thousands of dollars — maybe tens of thousands — each. One Alec Baldwin incident can delay a whole airport for a day with cascading delays.” (Baldwin, the “30 Rock” star, made international headlines in December when he got booted by American Airlines at LAX after refusing to turn off his phone.) The PA is going to “aggressively’’ remind passengers to keep cool and listen to instructions from airline crews — even if they think they’re stupid, Foye said.

Opening Bell: 08.22.12

Public Pension Funds Named To Lead ‘London Whale’ Lawsuit (Bloomberg) U.S. District Judge George Daniels in Manhattan ruled today that lawsuits against the New York-based bank should be consolidated into a class action. The pension funds allege they lost as much as $52 million because of fraudulent activities by JPMorgan’s London chief investment office. The lead plaintiffs named by Daniels are the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System, Ohio Public Employee Retirement System, School Employees Retirement System of Ohio, State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio, Oregon Public Employee Retirement Fund and the Swedish pension fund Sjunde AP-Fonden. Pressures Intensify On Merkel (WSJ) The Greek government, struggling with depression-like conditions that have pushed the economy to the brink, is likely to need many billions of euros of additional aid to avoid bankruptcy. If Athens doesn't get the money, it may be forced to leave the euro, an outcome that would undermine financial markets' tenuous confidence in other vulnerable southern euro members, including Spain and Italy. An expansion of Greece's €173 billion ($213.4 billion) bailout that was agreed to this spring faces adamant opposition in Ms. Merkel's center-right coalition in Germany's parliament, the Bundestag. Her junior coalition partners are especially against lending Greece more money, threatening to leave her either without a governing majority—or without a plausible way to cover Athens's funding gap. "It is one of the hardest dilemmas she has faced as chancellor," said an adviser to Ms. Merkel. The chancellor is set to meet with French President François Hollande on Thursday and Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Friday, meetings the chancellor's aides say will help determine Berlin's course. Austria's AAA Rating Under Attack From East and West (CNBC) Of the three major credit rating agencies, only Fitch Ratings still rates Austria triple-A with stable outlook. Moody’s Investors Service put Austria’s top notch rating on negative watch in February, while Standard & Poor’s downgraded the country to double-A plus with negative outlook in January. Facebook Challenged By Swedish Count’s Jet-Set Website (Bloomberg) The BestofAllWorlds site, which starts Aug. 27, will allow users to mingle online with like-minded people, find restaurants and nightlife in city guides and discover who’s attending events such as Art Basel in Miami and England’s Royal Ascot horse racing, said Erik Wachtmeister, whose father was a Swedish ambassador to the U.S. “Facebook is a monopoly in the social sphere, but it only gives little value,” Wachtmeister said in an interview in London. “We can deliver clever filters, cut through the mess and get information that’s relevant and we can trust.” Fed Probes RBS Over Dealings With Iran (FT) The UK bank is being probed by being probed by the Federal Reserve and Department of Justice after volunteering information to them and U.K. regulators about 18 months ago, several people close to the situation said. The bank uncovered the alleged failings after Chief Executive Stephen Hester initiated an internal review not long after his arrival three years ago...The probe marks the latest blow for RBS following a series of mishaps including an IT failure, widespread mis-selling of retail and small-business products and its involvement in the scandal over the alleged manipulation of Libor interest rates Suspect asks DeLand doughnut shop worker for pen to write robbery note (NYP) An embarrassed Atlantic City casino is suing 14 gamblers — including two Big Apple residents — demanding they return the whopping $1.5 million they collectively won after realizing the mini-Baccarat table they were playing at was using unshuffled decks of cards. The sharp-eyed gamblers racked up a staggering 41 winning bets in a row at the Golden Nugget after seeing cards in the eight-deck shoe coming out in sequence and adjusted their wagers accordingly — as the clueless croupiers kept on dealing. Stunned casino workers swarmed the hot table suspecting the players of cheating — but only later realized that the cards that had been ordered as pre-shuffled from a Missouri company “were not shuffled at all,” a Golden Nugget spokeswoman said yesterday. “The gamblers unlawfully took advantage of the Golden Nugget when they caught on to the pattern and increased their bets from as little as $10 to $5,000,” the casino said in a written statement...It has been met with a countersuit from three of the bettors, including Queens resident Ping Lin, who allegedly managed to collect $50,000 from the casino, and Brooklyn cook Hua Shi, who allegedly collected $149,000. They claim they should be allowed to cash in chips they won and keep the cash they already managed to collect. Nomura Retrenches, Mends Fences (WSJ) Nomura's new leaders are discussing the future of that global push as well as how to repair the company's relationship with financial authorities. On the table are deep cuts in overseas operations and a possible change to a controversial compensation plan, among other policy options, that could shift away from the globalization strategy set by former Chief Executive Kenichi Watanabe and his deputy Takumi Shibata through the acquisition of Lehman Brothers' European and Asian businesses in 2008, say people close to the talks. Last Man Standing Means Europe Investment Banks Resist Shrinking (Bloomberg) Europe’s failure to resolve its sovereign-debt crisis will force investment-banking chiefs in the region to consider shuttering entire businesses rather than rely on piecemeal job reductions to reviveprofit. Dealmaking fees may drop 25 percent this year from 2009, when the crisis began in Greece, research firm Freeman & Co. estimates. European banks have cut about 172,000 positions since then, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, the same strategy they used after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. collapsed in 2008. Florida couple arrested after swinger’s party takes violent turn (NYDN) Tina Michelle Norris, 39, and her boyfriend James Albert Barfield, 56, both invited guests over to their home for sex Sunday night, the Hernando Today reported. But Norris got mad when she saw her boyfriend in bed with another woman and Barfield lost his cool when he saw his girlfriend under the sheets with two other men, according to the newspaper. The pair quickly got physical, with Norris sustaining a bloody lip and Barfield suffering multiple scratch marks on his neck and back, cops told Hernando Today. Police got quite the eyeful when they arrived at 6 a.m. to arrest the couple, both of whom were still donning their birthday suits. Norris was "very intoxicated and uncooperative" and refused to put her clothes back on, Deputy Cari Smith wrote in her affidavit. Barfield was also nude when Smith arrived at the home. A roommate, who was sleeping in a separate room of the house at the time of the incident, said she awoke to shouting and yelling. She went out into the hallway and found Norris and Barfield "pushing and shoving each other from one end of the house to the other (while) breaking things in the process," Smith wrote.

Opening Bell: 04.24.13

Credit Suisse Profit Rises (WSJ) Zurich-based Credit Suisse said its bottom line was flattered by a favorable comparison with last year's result, when an accounting charge weighed on performance. Revenue at the bank rose 19% following several quarters of reported declines. The report from Switzerland's second-largest bank comes amid a cost-cutting program started in 2011 that has it eliminating thousands of jobs. The program has resulted in 2.5 billion Swiss francs ($2.6 billion) in savings, and is on track to cut costs by 4.4 billion francs by the end of 2015, the bank said. Credit Suisse said its number of full-time employees fell to 46,900 in the first quarter, from 48,700 in the same period last year. Barclays Profit Buoyed By Investment Banking Unit (WSJ) Investment banking, headed by departing executive Rich Ricci, accounted for 74% of Barclays' pretax profit, or £1.32 billion of the £1.79 billion total. The high proportion of profits in part reflected weakness in other areas, such as retail banking in Europe and Africa, but was underpinned by a strong quarter for underwriting stock offerings and servicing hedge fund clients...The bank as a whole posted a £839 million net profit, compared with a £598 million net loss in the first quarter of 2012. Both figures are distorted by accounting charges that reflect the market cost of Barclays' own debt. The £1.79 billion pretax profit was down 25% from £2.4 billion in first-quarter 2012 and slightly lower than analysts had expected. Citigroup Says Debt Beats Peers in Advance of ‘Bail-In’ Rule (Bloomberg) Citigroup, the bank that took the most U.S. aid during the credit crisis, said it’s better- prepared than some rivals to withstand the impact of new anti- bailout rules that could force lenders to sell more debt. Citigroup’s so-called bail-in plan -- a rescue that makes debt investors and stockholders absorb losses instead of taxpayers -- shows the bank already has issued more long-term debt than some of its largest rivals, Treasurer Eric Aboaf said during an April 22 investor presentation. That leaves the New York-based bank in a better position as regulators decide how much more debt lenders should add to their buffers, Aboaf said. Wall Street Jobs Plunge As Profit Soars (Bloomberg) “The desire is to drive the cost of executing a trade to its lowest point -- this means automating the system and getting rid of the traders,” Richard Bove, a bank analyst with Rafferty Capital Markets LLC, said in a telephone interview. “All they do today is hit buttons on computer screens. Twenty-five years ago they would be calling their buddies at different firms. It was a highly labor intensive effort.” New York’s “inhospitable” climate for commercial banks, along with falling demand for financial services and increasing automation is driving the decline in jobs, Bove said. Woman could face death penalty for killing man by crushing testicles (NYDN) A 42-year-old woman is on trial for allegedly grabbing a man's genitals after he told her not to park her electric bike in front of his store. He later died from shock, according to reports. "I'll squeeze it to death, you'll never have children again," witnesses reported her as saying as she called on her brother and husband for back-up. The woman, who could face the death penalty if convicted, got into the row - in the Meilan District of Haikou City, Hainan - more than a year ago on April 19, 2012. IBTimes reports that her 41-year-old victim went into a state of shock and died before paramedics could treat him. The final outcome of the trial, it adds, depends largely on the interpretation of the woman's statement of "squeeze it to death." Dr Irwin Goldstein, urologist and director of San Diego Sexual Medicine, has previously told Gizmodo it is "quite plausible" the squeeze had killed the man. "Yes, the testicles are exquisitely sensitive to touch and there is a huge release of adrenalin when there is excessive force applied to these organs," he told the site. He added that it could have brought on a heart attack. Hazy Future for S.E.C.’s Blossoming Whistle-Blower Effort (NYT) Already, a whistle-blower program has bolstered an investigation into a trading blowup that nearly toppled Knight Capital, the largest stock trading firm on Wall Street, according to lawyers briefed on the case. With help from another whistle-blower, the lawyers said, the government discovered that Oppenheimer & Company had overstated the performance of a private equity fund. And after pursuing a Texas Ponzi scheme for more than a year, a cold trail heated up in 2010 when a tipster emerged. The breakthroughs—previously undisclosed—show the promise of the agency's 20-month-old whistle-blower program. Yet, the program faces challenges on many fronts. Some Wall Street firms are urging employees to report wrongdoing internally before running to the government, and one hedge fund, Paradigm Capital Management, was accused in a lawsuit of punishing an employee who had cooperated with the S.E.C., according to court and internal documents. Another financial firm, the documents show, pressured an employee to forfeit potential "bounties or awards"—a possible violation of S.E.C. rules. Apple’s $145 Billion in Cash Fails to Win AAA Debt Rating (Bloomberg) Apple, which has $145 billion of cash, said yesterday it plans to use debt to help finance a $100 billion capital reward for shareholders after a 42 percent stock plunge. Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s responded by ranking the company a level below their top grades, with Gerald Granovsky of Moody’s citing “shifting consumer preferences” in a statement as a risk to Cupertino, California-based Apple’s business. ECB Rate Cut Could Bring Big Disappointment (CNBC) Expectations are rising that the European Central Bank will announce a rate cut when it meets next week. But according to analysts the move is likely to have a limited impact and could in fact end up being a disappointment.

Opening Bell: 07.27.12

Barclays Faces New Scrutiny (WSJ) n what could turn out to be a new black eye for the bank, Barclays said the U.K. financial regulator has started an investigation into four current and former senior employees, including Chris Lucas, Barclays's finance director. The issue centers on the "sufficiency of disclosure" in relation to fees paid when Barclays conducted an emergency £7.3 billion ($11.45 billion) capital increase with Middle Eastern investors in 2008. The cash injection likely saved Barclays from being bailed out by the government and part-nationalized. The Financial Services Authority and Barclays declined to elaborate further the issue. Barclays said in a statement that it was confident it had satisfied disclosure obligations. In a separate debacle, Barclays said it put aside £450 million to cover the misselling of derivatives products to small businesses. Merkel, Hollande Vow to Do Everything to Defend Euro (Reuters) FYI: "Germany and France are deeply committed to the integrity of the euro zone. They are determined to do everything to protect the euro zone," they said in a joint statement. Treasury Eyes Funds Hidden Overseas (WSJ) he Treasury Department released new details Thursday of a plan to ferret out Americans' global tax dodging, though some lawmakers and banks remain concerned about the initiative's scope and regulatory costs. Treasury officials said they hope to finalize the system's basic rules by the fall and expressed confidence it would be on track for implementation by 2014 as scheduled. Congressional experts said the new system would recover $8.7 billion in tax revenues over 10 years. Facebook Growth Slows Again (WSJ) The company swung to a second-quarter loss largely weighed down by expenses from compensating employees with stock upon its initial public offering in May. Revenue in the second quarter was $1.18 billion, up 32% from $895 million a year ago. That revenue growth was the lowest percentage since at least the first quarter of 2011, when Facebook was more than doubling the amount of money it brought in from advertising, and to a lesser extent, the cut of fees it takes from payments on its platform. Facebook Falls After Report Fails To Quell Growth Concerns (Bloomberg) “It took a long time for the TV market and advertising to be truly understood, it took a long time for search, and I think we’re still in that learning curve with a lot of our clients,” COO Sheryl Sandberg said. The Guy In The Clown Nose? He's An Olympian (WSJ) Terry Bartlett is a world-class gymnast who leapt, tumbled and swung for the glory of Great Britain in three Olympic Games. Today, he is also a world-class clown. Ten times a week, he dons a red nose and floppy shoes to elicit chuckles at "O," a Las Vegas water-themed circus run by Cirque du Soleil. "It's better than having a real job," says the 48-year-old Bartlett...A few months after Bartlett's audition, Cirque hired him as an acrobat for a new show in Las Vegas. At first, he says, he had to confront some stigma about joining a circus. "Some people were like, whoa, that's not much of a move from what you've done," he says. But today, he says Cirque is so well-known that he gets few smirks. Spanish Banks Hit By Real Estate Woes (WSJ) Caixabank SA, Spain's third-largest lender by market value, number five bank Banco Popular Español SA, and smaller Banco Español de Credito SA, all said they had set aside most of their profit to bolster their buffers against property sector losses, after the government twice this year raised the minimum required provisioning level for banks. Caixabank said quarterly net profit tumbled 78% to €118 million ($145.1 million) and Popular's profit fell 37% to €75.4 million. Smaller Banesto, which is owned by banking giant Banco Santander SA, said quarterly profit sank 97% to €14.4 million. Goldman PR Guru's Charm School (NYP) Under Siewert, the bank has scheduled weekly roundtable meetings between the media and executives including Goldman President Gary Cohn and CFO David Viniar. In one of those meetings yesterday, rising-star Treasurer Elizabeth “Liz” Beshel Robinson met the press for the first time. Not everyone’s keen on the changes. Goldman’s financial rock star Viniar, sources said, has sworn off appearing on TV. JPMorgan Revamps Business Units (WSJ) The bank said Frank Bisignano, who was tapped in early 2011 to lead J.P. Morgan's transformation of its mortgage banking group, will become co-chief operating officer for the entire company, in addition to continuing as chief administrative officer of the firm. He will transition the mortgage business to Gordon Smith in early 2013. Matt Zames will serve as co-COO, and will remain head of the chief investment office and mortgage capital markets...J.P. Morgan said its investment banks, treasury and securities services and global corporate banks businesses are being combined into the corporate and investment bank unit, to be chaired by Jes Staley, CEO of the investment bank business. Mike Cavanagh, head of treasury and securities, will become co-CEO of the new unit, along with Daniel Pinto, who currently heads EMEA and global fixed income. Romney Riles Londoners With Comments On Olympics Games (Bloomberg) It was supposed to be Mitt Romney’s flawless world stage debut. Instead, the Republican presidential candidate spent the start of his overseas trip fending off a furor over his London Olympics comments and scrutiny of a fundraiser with bankers linked to the Libor rate-fixing scandal. “There’s a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we’re ready,” London Mayor Boris Johnson told 80,000 cheering people gathered at Hyde Park for the arrival of the Olympic torch last night. “Are we ready? Are we ready? Yes, we are!” Romney worked to put the controversy behind him today, scheduling an interview at Olympic Park to quell the storm of criticism over his comment that the city was unprepared to host the games. “After being here a couple of days, it looks to me like London’s ready,” he told NBC’s “Today” program. “What they’ve done that I find so impressive is they took the venues and put them right in the city.” In the July 25 NBC interview, Romney described reports of difficulties recruiting enough security staff for the games, which begin today, as “disconcerting” and said, “It’s hard to know just how well it will turn out.”