Opening Bell: 05.10.13

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Icahn and Southeastern Ready Rival Bid for Dell (DealBook)
The effort by Mr. Icahn and Southeastern, disclosed in a letter to Dell’s board Thursday night, is intended as a last-ditch effort to fight the management buyout led by Michael S. Dell, the company’s founder and chief executive, and the private equity firm Silver Lake. Unlike that bid, which would pay shareholders $13.65 a share in cash, Mr. Icahn and Southeastern are offering to pay shareholders about $12 a share either in cash or in additional shares in the company. The offer would still leave a portion of Dell publicly traded.

Yen's Fall Trickles Through Japanese Economy (WSJ)
Just over a month after Japan's central bank vowed to reignite economic growth by flooding markets with yen, the currency fell to ¥100 to the dollar for the first time in four years, a milestone in efforts to end nearly two decades of economic stagnation. ... In new signs of the impact of Abenomics, Japanese domestic institutional money started flowing overseas in pursuit of higher yields while bank lending rose at the fastest pace in four years, data released Friday showed.

Heading to G7 meeting, U.S. tells Japan to stick to currency rules (Reuters)
The United States warned Japan on Friday to stick to the rules when it came to the value of its currency, setting the stage for a potentially uncomfortable meeting of G7 finance ministers outside London. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said that Japan had "growth issues" that needed to be dealt with but that its attempts to stimulate its economy needed to stay within the bounds of international agreements to avoid competitive devaluations.

JPMorgan sued over credit card debt collecting (FT)
JPMorgan Chase has been sued by California’s top law enforcement official for allegedly flooding the state’s courts with thousands of “unlawful” suits aimed at collecting credit card debts. The state’s attorney-general, Kamala Harris, filed suit against JPMorgan on Thursday, saying the bank “engaged in widespread, illegal robo-signing, among other unlawful practices, to commit debt-collection abuses against approximately 100,000 California credit card borrowers over at least a three-year period.” The state is seeking a $2,500 civil penalty for each violation.

Blackstone Targets Bulging Corporate Coffers Via New Unit (Bloomberg)
The firm has started a money-management unit called Blackstone Treasury Solutions Advisors LLC that will cater exclusively to corporations. Its portfolio managers include Blackstone Chief Financial Officer Laurence Tosi and Treasurer Matthew Skurbe, who help run New York-based Blackstone’s internal cash management strategy. Blackstone is targeting company treasurers as the U.S. considers requiring money funds to shift from stable share prices to floating valuations.

Terminally nosy (NYP)
Irked Goldman Sachs brass recently confronted Bloomberg LP over concerns reporters at the business news service have been using the company’s ubiquitous terminals to keep tabs on some employees of the Wall Street bank, The Post has learned. ... In one instance, a Bloomberg reporter asked a Goldman executive if a partner at the bank had recently left the firm — noting casually that he hadn’t logged into his Bloomberg terminal in some time, sources added. Goldman later learned that Bloomberg staffers could determine not only which of its employees had logged into Bloomberg’s proprietary terminals but also how many times they had used particular functions, insiders said. ... “In light of [Goldman’s] concern as well as a general heightened sensitivity to data access, we decided to disable journalist access to this customer relationship information for all clients,” Bloomberg spokesman Ty Trippet said.

Man Attacked by Alligator While Fleeing Deputies (AP)
The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office says 20-year-old Bryan Zuniga was pulled over for failing to maintain a single lane Thursday at about 2:50 a.m. Deputies say Zuniga stopped the vehicle and jumped out of the passenger door. He then broke through a vinyl fence and escaped. The Tampa Bay area man was found at a local hospital a few hours later. He told deputies he had been attacked by an alligator near a water treatment plant. He was being treated for multiple puncture wounds to the face, arm and armpit area.

SAC Is Said To Extend A Deadline For Clients (DealBook)
SAC has given its investors an extension to decide whether to withdraw money from the $15 billion fund, according to a person briefed on the matter. The deadline has been pushed to June 3 from May 16, this person said. While only a couple of weeks, the extension hints at the tense behind-the-scenes discussions between SAC and its investors over the firm’s central role in the government’s broad crackdown on insider trading. Nine current or former SAC employees have been implicated in the multiyear investigation.

No Lehman Moments as Biggest Banks Deemed Too Big to Fail (Bloomberg)
The people who lend money to the largest banks are betting that Uncle Sam will toss a lifeline to a giant should it stumble, according to a study by Deniz Anginer, a World Bank financial economist. Bondholders who lend money to the six biggest U.S. banks are so convinced the government will bail out these institutions that they are willing to accept lower returns -- a marketplace subsidy worth $82 billion from 2009 through 2011, Anginer calculates.

SEC Is Pressed to Revamp Executive Trading Plans (WSJ)
In a letter Thursday to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Council of Institutional Investors urged the agency for the second time in four months to tighten rules on government-sanctioned trading plans that allow corporate executives and directors to sell shares despite potentially having knowledge of nonpublic information about their companies. ... The group has asked the SEC to consider adopting a number of new guidelines. They include allowing companies and insiders to use 10b5-1 trading plans only during company-adopted trading windows, "which typically open after the announcement of the financial results from a recently completed fiscal quarter and close prior to the close of the next fiscal quarter."

New York may have to drop claims against BofA over Merrill (Reuters)
The 2010 case, one of the highest profile lawsuits brought by Andrew Cuomo when he was New York attorney general, accuses Bank of America and former top executives Ken Lewis and Joseph Price of misleading shareholders about Merrill Lynch's losses. The case appeared to hit trouble on April 5, when a federal judge approved a $2.43 billion settlement in a shareholder class action against Bank of America over the Merrill Lynch deal. Because shareholders have settled, New York can no longer pursue damages on their behalf, according to legal experts. "Once shareholders have made their peace, they can't take a second bite at the apple through the attorney general," said Jacob Zamansky, a New York securities lawyer.

Falling Deficit Alters Debate (WSJ)
"The debt ceiling is the catalyst here," said Chris Krueger, a policy analyst at Guggenheim Securities. "Absent a catalyst, it sure doesn't seem like anything is going to happen. You need basically a forcing mechanism. I hate to say it, but you need another fiscal cliff for action."

Huge cyber bank theft spans 27 countries (Reuters)
In one of the biggest ever bank heists, a global cyber crime ring stole $45 million from two Middle Eastern banks by hacking into credit card processing firms and withdrawing money from ATMs in 27 countries, U.S. prosecutors said on Thursday. The U.S. Justice Department accused eight men of allegedly forming the New York-based cell of the organization, and said seven of them have been arrested. The eighth, allegedly a leader of the cell, was reported to have been murdered in the Dominican Republic on April 27.

Lion Tacos Pulled from Menu at Florida Restaurant; Shark, Bear Remain (Gawker)
A newly opened Florida taquería specializing in "exotic tacos" containing meats from carcasses of sharks, kangaroos, beavers, and other non-traditional fillers has been forced to remove its latest menu addition — lion tacos — due to significant uproar from social network users. ... In addition to serving gator, gazelle, and camel meat, Taco Fusion plans to introduce iguana, zebra and bear meat in the foreseeable future.

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Opening Bell: 3.2.15

Warren Buffett hates investment bankers, loves Ajit Jain and Greg Abel; Citi CEO might get to keep his job, might not; Dennis Kozlowski is a free man; Wall Street burger club; Cap'n Crunch Donut Holes; AND MORE.

Opening Bell: 03.12.13

Apple To Announce Plans For Cash Hoard (WSJ) Apple will outline what it plans to do with a growing pile of cash by next month, according to Howard Ward, chief investment officer at Gamco Investors Inc. Apple, which has been grappling with investor criticism over the handling of its $137.1 billion in cash and investments, will add $42 billion in earnings to that sum in 2013, Ward said. Greenlight Capital Inc.’s David Einhorn has been urging Cupertino, California-based Apple to issue high-yielding preferred shares to spread the funds among investors. Investors are also urging Apple to consider a higher dividend payout. “We’re going to get an announcement from the company as to how they intend to reallocate some of their cash,” Ward said in an interview today on Bloomberg Radio’s “Surveillance” with Tom Keene. “They will put a floor under their stock at a higher price than it is today.” AIG shareholders win class-action status in lawsuit versus U.S. (Reuters) Two groups of American International Group shareholders won class-action status from a federal judge on Monday in a $25 billion lawsuit by former Chief Executive Maurice "Hank" Greenberg over alleged losses caused by the U.S. government's bailout of the insurer. U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Thomas Wheeler also appointed Greenberg's lawyer, David Boies, of Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, as lead counsel for the classes. Greenberg's Starr International Co, once AIG's largest shareholder with a 12 percent stake, sued the United States in 2011 over what eventually became a $182.3 billion bailout for the New York-based insurer. It said that by taking a 79.9 percent AIG stake and then conducting a reverse stock split without letting existing shareholders vote, the government conducted an illegal taking that violated the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Citing Boies' estimate that "tens of thousands" of shareholders might be affected, Wheeler said "class certification is by far the most efficient method of adjudicating these claims." Both Sides Of SEC Nominee Face Heat (WSJ) In one version, Ms. White is a no-holds-barred crime fighter known for stretching the law to jail mob bosses and international terrorists. In another, Ms. White is a friend of Wall Street who worked for the past decade for the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, where she represented giant banks such as J.P. Morgan Chase. Blackstone: We're Betting Big On Residential Real Estate (CNBC) "Blackstone is now the largest owner of individual houses in the United States," Schwarzman told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" Monday, pointing to his company's $3 billion portfolio of residential real estate. But given the nascent recovery in the housing market, they're not buying and selling them quickly but rather renting them out. "It's a good business for us. It's a new thing, but it's also good for America," he said. Icahn Gets Confidential Look At Feds Books (Reuters) Dell Inc has agreed to give Carl Icahn a closer look at its books, less than a week after the activist investor joined a growing chorus of opposition to founder Michael Dell's plan to take the world's No. 3 personal computer maker private...A source with knowledge of the situation said Icahn's and Dell's confidentiality agreement does not have a contractual "standstill" obligation - meaning he is not obligated to stop trading stock in the company. But the activist investor would not be able to trade the stock while he is privy to non-public information in any case, the source added. Phoenix society gives gator happier life with prosthesis (AZC) The alligator is Mr. Stubbs, who is part science project, part human endeavor, and much more. He’s also half-gator, half-rubber. The 11-year-old crocodilian now sports a 3-foot-long prosthetic tail, attached firmly with nylon straps. It replaces the original, which was bitten off more than eight years ago. As far as anyone at the Phoenix Herpetological Society knows, Mr. Stubbs is the first alligator to tolerate, if not sport, a prosthesis. It will take months, however, before Mr. Stubbs learns how to properly use the tail. For now, handlers are happy with smaller milestones. “The fact he doesn’t try to bite it (the tail) is a good sign,” said Russ Johnson, president of the Phoenix Herpetological Society. “Learning how to use it is going to take a lot of training.” The months-long project was overseen by someone well-versed in anatomy. Marc Jacofsky is executive vice president of research and development at the CORE Institute in Phoenix, which specializes in orthopedic care — for humans. While visiting the Herpetological Society, Jacofsky was asked if it would be possible to make an artificial tail for Mr. Stubbs. “I looked and saw there was enough there that we could probably do something that wouldn’t involve surgery,” Jacofsky said. “I also liked the idea because it would improve his life. Our motto at the CORE Institute is ‘Keep life in motion,’ and this certainly fit in with that. I was on board.” Jacofsky estimated the project has cost the Core Institute about $6,000 in donated labor and materials. Mr. Stubbs had been a project since shortly after arriving at the center in May 2005. The then-3-year-old gator was one of 32 confiscated from the back of a truck pulled over near Casa Grande, Johnson said. Officers called in the Arizona Game and Fish Department as soon as the cargo made its presence known. “Scared the heck out of the officer,” Johnson said. “No one expects to find alligators when you look into the back of a truck.” Greece Faces 150,000 Job-Cut Hurdle to Aid Payment (Bloomberg) Greece is locked in talks with international creditors in Athens about shrinking the government workforce by enough to keep bailout payments flowing. Identifying redundant positions and putting in place a system that will lead to mandatory exits for about 150,000 civil servants by 2015 is a so-called milestone that will determine whether the country gets a 2.8 billion-euro ($3.6 billion) aid instalment due this month. More than a week of talks on that has so far failed to clinch an agreement. Failed Sale Of Gleacher Is A Warning For Directors (WSJ) The Dell drama is still unfolding, but for a cautionary tale of how boards, even when they may be well-intentioned, can harm investors of a takeover target, take Gleacher. Shares in the small investment bank have lost more than 60% in the past year as the prospects for a deal evaporated, business dwindled and star traders left. Ironically for a firm that bears the name of Eric Gleacher, who made his name advising on big deals in the 1980s, the company failed to sell itself. At least as some critics see it, its independent directors are to blame. SEC Says Illinois Hid Pension Troubles (WSJ) For years, Illinois officials misled investors and shortchanged the state pension system, leaving future generations of taxpayers to foot the bill, U.S. securities regulators allege. The Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday charged Illinois with securities fraud, marking only the second time the agency has filed civil-fraud charges against a state. Bernanke Provokes Mystery Over Fed Stimulus Exit (Bloomberg) When Ben S. Bernanke asserted last month that the Federal Reserve doesn’t ever have to sell assets, he raised questions about how the central bank can withdraw its record monetary stimulus without stoking inflation. The Fed may decide to hold the bonds on its balance sheet to maturity as part of a review of the exit strategy Bernanke expects will be done “sometime soon,” he told lawmakers in Washington on Feb. 27. This would help address concerns that dumping assets on the market will lead to a rapid rise in borrowing costs. It also allows the Fed to avoid realizing losses on its bond holdings as interest rates climb. Man shot in buttocks at Calle Ocho Festival unaware he was wounded (Miami Herald) The shooting occurred around 4:30 p.m. as the man walked along Southwest Eighth Street and 11th Avenue, part of the throng of revelers who gather annually at the street festival in Little Havana. It’s unclear if something sparked the violence between the two men, or if the shooting was unprovoked. At first the victim did not realize he had been shot and kept strolling along the festival route. “He discovered later that he was bleeding and then passed out,” said Miami police spokesman Sgt. Freddie Cruz. The victim, who was hit in the left buttocks, was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he is in stable condition and expected to recover.

Opening Bell: 01.09.13

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