Opening Bell: 07.24.13

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Right now, Larry Summers is the front-runner for Fed chair (Wonkblog)
That’s not to say Summers is anywhere near a sure thing. His confirmation would be far tougher than Yellen’s, as Republicans will make him answer for the stimulus and the bailouts, and progressive Democrats have a list of grievances going back to financial deregulation in the Clinton-era. There’s also the simple fact that appointing Yellen would break a significant glass ceiling — and do so in an administration that hasn’t always been great about appointing women to top economic positions. And Summers continues to be a polarizing figure: Those who like him love him, but those who don’t like him really don’t like him.

U.S. Readies SAC Charges (WSJ)
Federal prosecutors are preparing to announce criminal charges as early as this week against SAC Capital Advisors LP, the hedge-fund giant that has been the target of a multiyear investigation into alleged insider trading, according to people familiar with the matter. ... While criminal charges against the firm would deal a huge blow to the firm's founder and namesake, Steven A. Cohen, prosecutors aren't planning charges against him personally, the people said.

Witness in Tourre Case Describes Difficulty in Knowing Deal’s Friends From Foes (DealBook)
Mr. Coffey stressed to the jury that in a synthetic C.D.O., one investor bets the trade will fail while another bets it will succeed. So, even if Paulson & Company was a long, or bullish, investor, a short investor was still needed to complete the trade. Ms. Schwartz testified that she assumed Paulson & Company was wagering the trade would succeed and that she did not know who was on its other side. Mr. Coffey was also quick to zero in on how ACA carefully analyzed each component that went into the Abacus trade, so it should not have mattered if the portfolio had been picked by Paulson & Company or by Joe, a court clerk for Judge Forrest. “How about if you had found it on the floor?” he asked. Ms. Schwartz said that in each case, ACA would have done its own analysis of the various components of the C.D.O.

BlackRock Executive Says No to Top Job at R.B.S. (DealBook)
BlackRock’s top executive in Asia, Mark McCombe, has turned down an approach by the Royal Bank of Scotland, which is hunting for a new chief executive. “We can confirm that Mark has been approached by R.B.S. as part of its C.E.O. search process, but he has no intention of leaving his role as BlackRock’s Asia-Pacific chairman at this time,” a BlackRock spokeswoman in Hong Kong said on Wednesday.

Weiner caught sending dirty messages and photos a year after his sexting scandal (NYP)
The other shoe dropped yesterday for Anthony Weiner, who was forced to admit he engaged in a months-long sexting affair with a woman — a year after he resigned from Congress in disgrace — using the bizarre online alias Carlos Danger. ... Weiner, who at the start of his mayoral campaign said other instances of sexual high jinks might surface, sent snapshots of his penis to the woman and engaged in extremely raunchy talk last summer — long after he claimed to have been rehabilitated.

IMF pulls support for Argentina’s Supreme Court appeal (FT)
The International Monetary Fund has pulled plans to support Argentina’s push for a US Supreme Court review in the country’s court battle with creditors. Christine Lagarde, IMF managing director, withdrew her recommendation that the fund file an amicus curiae brief in support of Argentina. The IMF said she took the decision after the US made clear that it would not support the move. A US court last year ordered Argentina to pay $1.3bn to a group of investors who had refused to accept a debt restructuring following the country’s default in 2001. Last month, Argentina asked the Supreme Court to review the case as it continues its dispute with the creditors led by Elliott, a US fund.

European Banks Face Capital Gap With Focus on Leverage (Bloomberg)
Europe’s biggest banks, which more than doubled their highest-quality capital to $1 trillion since 2007 to meet tougher rules, may have further to go as regulators scrutinize how lenders judge the riskiness of their assets. Deutsche Bank AG, Barclays Plc and Societe Generale SA are among European banks that issued stock, sold units or hoarded earnings to bring capital, as a proportion of assets weighted by risk, into line with new global rules. Now some regulators are questioning the weightings, typically set by the banks’ own models, and embracing a broader measure of equity to total assets known as the leverage ratio that ignores risk. “Europe’s banks are far from done on efforts to raise capital,” Lutz Roehmeyer, who helps manage more than 11 billion euros ($14.5 billion) at Landesbank Berlin Investment, said in an interview. “We have to take out the arbitrary method by which banks assign the risk of their assets.”

Easing of Mortgage Curb Weighed (WSJ)
The watchdogs, which include the Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., want to loosen a proposed requirement that banks retain a portion of the mortgage securities they sell to investors, according to people familiar with the situation. ... An earlier proposal, issued in April 2011, said the skin-in-the-game rules wouldn't apply to mortgage securities containing loans where borrowers made at least a 20% down payment. Now, regulators want to scrap that requirement, meaning that banks would have to retain 5% only of mortgages that allow borrowers to make "interest-only" payments or that don't fully document a borrower's ability to repay a mortgage—a much smaller portion of the market that includes the riskiest loan products that caused much of the crisis-time losses.

Market turbulence revives ETF fears (FT)
The global sell-off last month sparked the highest amount of settlement failures in parts of the $2tn exchange-traded fund market in nearly two years, reviving a debate over whether the popular investment vehicles suffer from structural issues that flare up in times of market stress. The total value of failed trades for 30 of the biggest ETFs surged to $3.96bn on June 26, according to analysis by the Basis Point Group of data recently released by the US securities regulator. ... The steep number of fails raises fresh questions about the structure of the booming ETF industry, which offers “mom and pop” investors quick and easy access to a diverse range of assets that were previously available only to the most sophisticated money managers.

Aramark Taps Goldman, J.P. Morgan, Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley for IPO (WSJ MoneyBeat)
It may file initial paperwork for the IPO in early August, one of the people said, cautioning that the timing may change. Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal reported that Aramark, one of the biggest closely held companies in the U.S., was in early discussions with banks and analysts about a potential offering. If an IPO is held, it will be Aramark’s third. The company’s chairman, Joseph Neubauer, led a management buyout in 1984 that was aimed at fending off a hostile takeover attempt. The then-chief executive later helped bring the company back to public ownership in 2001 before engineering its 2007 buyout with a group of private-equity firms.

S.E.C. Says Texas Man Operated Bitcoin Ponzi Scheme (DealBook)
A Texas man, Trendon T. Shavers, was sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday and accused of running a fund that collected bitcoins from investors, promising them 7 percent weekly returns. Mr. Shaver ended up selling some of the bitcoins and using the proceeds for his “rent, car-related expenses, utilities, retail purchases, casinos, and meals,” according to the complaint.

Selling their skin: Japanese women paid to put adverts on their THIGHS to catch the attention of men (DM)
'It's an absolutely perfect place to put an advertisement as it's what guys are eager to look at and girls are OK to expose,' said Hidenori Atsumi, the CEO of WIT.

Todd Meister’s ex-assistant using kickstarter approach to raise $821,000 to pay him back (NYDN)
The sexy Ukrainian stunner who stole nearly $1 million from Nicky Hilton’s ex-husband has launched a Kickstarter-style campaign to pay off her $821,000 restitution. Renata Shamrakova, 28, was a personal assistant working for hedge fund prince Todd Meister when she used his credit cards to buy clothes, furniture, international trips and jewelry in 2011 and last year. The raven-haired beauty, who copped to grand larceny and evidence tampering on March 20, faces one to three years in prison if she can’t repay Meister. “I am 28 years old and a prison sentence would ruin my life both on a real level, as a health risk due to a fainting condition, and on an emotional level,” Shamrakova says in her appeal.

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Opening Bell: 01.03.13

Fresh Budget Fights Brewing (WSJ) If Congress doesn't do more in the coming months, Moody's warned, the company could follow Standard & Poor's in downgrading U.S. debt. "Further measures that bring about a downward debt trajectory over the medium term are likely to be needed to support the AAA rating," Moody's said Wednesday. But the battles on how to do that are far from over. Republicans say any further deficit reduction or legislation to avoid across-the-board spending cuts should come from reducing spending. President Obama and many Democrats advocate a combination of tax increases and spending cuts. The most serious skirmish will arrive toward the end of February, when the U.S. Treasury is expected to be unable to pay all the government's bills unless Congress boosts the federal borrowing limit. Then on March 1, the across-the-board spending cuts of the fiscal cliff, deferred in this week's deal, are scheduled to begin slicing into military and domestic programs. And on March 27, a government shutdown looms unless Congress approves funding for government operations for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. CEOs Pan Fiscal Cliff Deal, Vow to Continue Debt Fight (Reuters) "I think this deal's a disaster," said Peter Huntsman, chief executive of chemical producer Huntsman Corp. "We're just living in a fantasy land. We're borrowing more and more money. This did absolutely nothing to address the fundamental issue of the debt cliff." Former Wells Fargo CEO Dick Kovacevich said the agreement confirms that Washington and both parties are totally out of control. "I think it's a joke," Kovacevich said of the deal. "It's stunning to me that after working on this for months and supposedly really getting to work in the last 30 days that this is what you come up with." Obama’s Warning to Boehner Started Road to Budget Plan (Bloomberg) President Barack Obama had a warning for John Boehner at a Dec. 13 White House meeting: Stop opposing higher tax rates for top earners, or the president would dedicate his second term to blaming Republicans for a global recession. The next day, the House speaker called the president and said he was open to a tax-rate increase on annual income of more than $1 million...While the budget deal Obama and Boehner were negotiating fell apart, the speaker’s concession on tax rates ultimately allowed Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, to craft the last-minute plan Congress passed Jan. 1. Nouriel Roubini: US Will Soon 'Get Messy' Again (CNBC) "It won't be long before there is another crisis. Two months, in fact." Pershing to Take 'Passive Shareholder' Role in General Growth (WSJ) Pershing Square Capital Management LP agreed to sell $271.9 million in General Growth Properties warrants to Brookfield Asset Management Inc., as part of a deal between the mall owner's two biggest shareholders that would resolve their recent disputes and see Pershing become a passive shareholder. Brookfield, in turn, offered to sell the warrants, which represent the right to acquire 18.4 million shares of General Growth stock, back to General Growth for the same purchase price. Pershing also agreed to limit its ownership stake in General Growth to no more than 9.9% and intends to become a passive shareholder. Brookfield agreed to limit its ownership in General Growth to 45%. Bank Of Canada won’t discuss melting plastic bills, says national security behind silence (NP) Disclosing details of behind-the-scenes discussions about tales of melting banknotes could endanger national security or international relations, says Canada’s central bank. In response to a formal request from The Canadian Press, the Bank Of Canada released 134 pages of internal records — almost completely blanked out — concerning allegations its new polymer bills melted in the scorching summer sun. The bank began issuing $100 polymer banknotes in late 2011, saying they were harder to counterfeit than paper notes and would last much longer. Unconfirmed reports of cooked currency emerged in July when a Kelowna, B.C., bank teller said she had heard of cases in which several bills had melted together inside a car. Soon after, Mona Billard of Cambridge, Ont., reported that she had returned eight plastic bills in January, after her son stashed his $800 Christmas bonus in a tin can and hid it near a baseboard heater. When he retrieved them the next day to make a deposit, the $100 banknotes had shriveled and melted. Ms. Billard exchanged clean bills for the shrunken, unusable ones. “The leather couch is up against the baseboard heater, it doesn’t melt,” she said. “The kids’ toys are back there, they don’t melt.” The Bank of Canada will reimburse damaged notes, but only if they clear an examination by an Ottawa laboratory. Paulson&Co Added To Abacus Suit Against Goldman (Bloomberg) Paulson & Co. was named as a defendant in a proposed revised lawsuit by ACA Financial Guaranty Corp. against Goldman Sachs over a collateralized debt obligation called Abacus. Paulson conspired with Goldman Sachs to deceive ACA Financial, which provided financial guaranty insurance for the deal, ACA Financial said in papers filed yesterday in Manhattan. Private Sector Added 215,000 Jobs Last Month (WSJ) Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected ADP to report a gain of 150,000 private jobs. Preet Bharara and other financial heavyweights opposing Paul Singer's attempt to get Argentina to pay debt (NYP) US Attorney Preet Bharara and BlackRock CEO Larry Fink are among the latest bold-faced names to oppose Singer’s attempt to get Argentina to pay him and others $1.3 billion on defaulted debt. Singer, the hedge fund billionaire who runs Elliott Management, is among the 8 percent of Argentina debtholders who refused to accept a 70 percent haircut following a 2001 default by the embattled South American country. Singer inched closer to winning the epic legal showdown in November when a federal judge ruled Argentina could not pay Fink’s BlackRock or other holders of the reorganized debt without putting money in escrow for Singer’s band of investors. An appeals court slowed Singer’s victory parade but refused to set aside the judge’s order. Now, Bharara, Fink’s $3.67 trillion bond firm and others are urging the appeals court to throw the case out. Basel Becomes Babel as Conflicting Rules Undermine Safety (Bloomberg) While higher capital requirements, curbs on banks trading with their own money and other rules have reduced risk, they have magnified the complexity of supervision, according to two dozen regulators, bankers and analysts interviewed by Bloomberg News. Even if the new regulations can be enforced, they don’t go far enough to ensure safety, said Robert Jenkins, a member of the Bank of England’s financial policy committee. Cops: Woman, 50, Battered Boyfriend, 32, Because Six Came Before Nine (TSG) Jennie Scott, 50, was booked into the Manatee County lockup on a misdemeanor charge stemming from the 11 PM encounter in the Palmetto bedroom of Jilberto Deleon, 32. Scott has dated Deleon “for the last 5 years on and off,” according to a sheriff’s report. Deputies were summoned to Deleon’s home by a witness who heard the couple arguing and saw Scott atop Deleon “punching and scratching him.” She also allegedly struck Deleon with a stick and threatened to hit him with a wrench before the tool was taken from her hand by the witness. When questioned by a cop, Scott explained that she and Deleon “were giving each other oral pleasure in the bedroom” when Deleon “finished first and stopped pleasuring her.” Scott added that she “became upset and they began arguing.” A deputy noted that Scott said that she was also mad at Deleon because she had “heard [him] having sex with another woman over the phone earlier in the day.” Scott struggled with deputies before being placed in a police cruiser, where she kicked a window until being warned that she would be maced unless she stopped.

Opening Bell: 02.27.13

Bernanke Affirms Bond Buying (WSJ) In his semiannual report to Congress Tuesday, Mr. Bernanke said the bond buying is helping the economy by holding down long-term interest rates and ought to be sustained. "Keeping long-term interest rates low has helped spark a recovery in the housing market and has led to increased sales and production of automobiles and other durable goods," he said. The Fed has accumulated $2.8 trillion of Treasury and mortgage securities. Mr. Bernanke's remarks signaled little change in the central bank's plans to purchase $85 billion a month of long-term Treasury and mortgage debt. The Fed's next policy meeting is March 19-20. Regulators Hope For Libor Pacts (WSJ) Regulators investigating alleged interest-rate manipulation are hoping to reach settlements with at least three major financial institutions by the end of summer, according to a person familiar with the probes. It isn't clear if the companies will go along with any proposed settlements, and previous agreements with banks were delayed before being completed. So far, regulators have settled rate-rigging charges with Barclays, RBS, and UBS collecting about $2.5 billion in penalties. All three banks admitted that employees sought to rig rates. Barclays to Unveil Numbers Earning 1 Million (FT) Barclays is set to reveal the number of staff who earned above 1 million pounds ($1.5 million) last year, in a push for transparency that could turn the bank into a trailblazer for the sector. In its annual report next week, the British retail and investment bank will for the first time give an outline of the various pay brackets among its 140,000 staff, people close to the situation said. Analysts estimate that between 600 and 700 employees – mostly in the investment bank – will be revealed as having taken home more than 1 million pounds last year. JPMorgan To Cut 17,000 Jobs (WSJ) The move announced Tuesday by the New York company, the nation's most profitable bank in 2012 and the biggest U.S. lender by assets, will reduce its staff by 6.5% in one of the most aggressive reductions to date amid widespread financial-industry cutbacks. Bond brawl: Singer v. Argentina today (NYP) Lawyers Ted Olsen and David Boies will appear before a Manhattan US appeals court to argue over how $1.44 billion in Argentina debt should be paid. Olsen represents billionaire hedge fund magnate Paul Singer, who claims he and other bondholder holdouts should be paid alongside those holders who agreed to a steep haircut during a debt restructuring. Argentina President Cristina Kirchner has long insisted she will never pay “one dollar” to the Singer holdouts. Boies represents the bondholders who agreed to the restructuring — and they oppose Singer, believing that Argentina will never go along with a pro-holdout ruling, thus putting their bonds at risk of default. Cops: Florida Man, 36, Assaulted Teen Relative With Taco Bell Burrito (TSG) The victim told cops that he was having a “verbal altercation” with his mother and Brown, his brother-in-law, when Brown “asked his mother to bring him the burrito,” according to an arrest affidavit. Brown then allegedly threw the burrito “with force” at the victim, striking the boy in the face with the fast food item. While interviewing the teen, cops noted that he had “burrito cheese, sauce and meat all over his clothing and face.” Brown told police that the victim was disrespectful to his mother and had cursed at the woman. He also acknowledged that he had “delivered” the burrito. After being booked into the county jail, Brown warned that he would “take care” of the teen upon his release from custody, adding that the victim “was going to get knocked out.” Best Buy Takeover Attempt by Founder in Jeopardy (Reuters) Best Buy founder Richard Schulze's effort to take the company private is in trouble after attempts to secure financing faltered while an alternative strategy to line up minority investors may not pan out either, five sources familiar with the matter said. No longer pursuing a full takeover bid for the troubled electronics retailer, Schulze has focused discussions in recent weeks on a potential deal in which private equity firms would buy a non-controlling stake, the sources, who declined to be named because the discussions are private, said. 'Penta-Millionaires' Happier Than Merely Rich: Study (CNBC) Breaking: A survey from Spectrem Group found that individuals worth $5 million or more are far more satisfied with their jobs, relationships and work than those worth $100,000 or less. Dimon Says Banks Have More Capital Than They Can Use (Bloomberg) The biggest U.S. banks are lending the smallest portion of their deposits in five years as cash floods in from savers, a slow economy damps demand from borrowers and regulators push financial firms to bolster themselves against any future credit crisis. The average loan-to-deposit ratio for the top eight commercial banks fell to 84 percent in the fourth quarter from 87 percent a year earlier and 101 percent in 2007, according to data compiled by Credit Suisse Group AG. JPMorgan had the lowest ratio in the group at 61 percent. “I don’t want to say it’s anti-American” to be held to international standards, Dimon said, adding that the bank’s assets include highly rated securities. “That balance sheet is almost as liquid as you can get.” Budweiser Has Been Sued 3 Times for Watering Down All Those Watery Beers (Atlantic Wire) The plaintiffs — including one guy who bought a case of Michelob Ultra a month, for some reason — allege that the public doesn't know what all the beers under the Budweiser umbrella really taste like, and that they're not getting their money's worth. There is no science backing up the defendants' claims, and AB InBev has yet to respond in court. The krux of the evidence comes from "information from former workers" of Anheuser-Busch breweries who claim watering down the beer in post-production is a company policy.

Opening Bell: 2.20.15

Argentina won't meet with Paul Singer; Meredith Whitney still being sued; Seattle investor goes on dates with women who think he's the "real" Christian Grey; Man attempts to pay bar tab with rock; AND MORE.