Opening Bell: 09.17.13

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Ex-JPMorgan Employees Indicted Over $6.2 Billion Loss (Bloomberg)
Javier Martin-Artajo, who oversaw trading strategy for the synthetic portfolio at the bank’s chief investment office in London, and Julien Grout, a trader who worked for him, were named in the indictment, which was unsealed yesterday in federal court in Manhattan. The U.S. announced preliminary charges against the men in August. Both were charged yesterday with five counts, including securities fraud, conspiracy, filing false books and records, wire fraud and making false filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The pair, along with unidentified co-conspirators, are accused of engaging in a scheme to manipulate and inflate the value of position markings in the synthetic credit portfolio, or SCP.

JPMorgan CEO says bank ramping up control efforts - memo (Reuters)
JP Morgan has increased its spending on control efforts by about $1 billion and added 3,000 employees this year alone to handle mounting legal, risk and compliance issues, Chief Executive Jamie Dimon said in a memo sent to employees on Tuesday. Dimon, who has come under pressure to improve the bank's relationship with regulators, said he now personally meets with bank examiners "on a regular basis" and held town hall meetings in May and June for examiners from top U.S. regulators and staff who regularly deal with those examiners. "Our control agenda is priority No. 1," Dimon said in the memo, which was obtained by Reuters. He encouraged staff to continue "facing our issues and rolling up our sleeves to fix them."

Twitter Could Go Public In November (NYP)
Sources familiar with the micro-messaging service’s game plan said that Twitter could go public as early as November, ahead of Thanksgiving, thereby avoiding the post-holiday doldrums. Twitter has filed for a confidential public offering, which is allowed under the recent JOBS Act for companies with less than $1 billion in annual revenue. The company tweeted the news of its upcoming share sale last week, but didn’t provide any details such as the timing.

Yellen Seen as Likely Fed Nominee in Survey After Summers Exit (Bloomberg)
Fifty-six of 65 economists in the survey, or 86 percent, said President Barack Obama is likely to pick Yellen, the Fed’s vice chairman. The survey was taken yesterday and today, after former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers withdrew from contention. A Sept. 6 poll showed that 49 percent of economists expected Summers to be Obama’s pick, compared with 38 percent for Yellen.

Real Housewife gives secrets to a hot and happy marriage in her new book 'Love Italian Style' (NYDN)
Gorga reveals the lengths she’ll go to please her real estate developer husband, Joe, in “Love Italian Style: The Secrets of My Hot and Happy Marriage,” out today. It’s for him that she strives to be “a lady, a cook and a puttana.” A what? “It’s like a slut,” Gorga says with a laugh. “Instead of saying whore, I put an Italian spin on it."

Banks Say Capital Ratios Can Weather Economic Crisis (WSJ)
The U.S.'s largest banks say they would be able to weather a severe economic crisis with higher capital levels than previously estimated, bolstering the notion that financial institutions have made headway in their quest to minimize risk and shore up their balance sheets. J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc. and Goldman Sachs Group were among several big banks that released results Monday of company-run reviews showing their minimum capital levels would remain well above regulatory requirements during several quarters of high unemployment, falling home prices and stock-market turmoil.

$2 Billion For Madoff Victims Going Nowhere Fast (NYP)
Ten months after the Justice Department hired an expert to distribute $2.3 billion in recovered Bernie Madoff loot, the cash is sitting in a bank account with no clear plan for it to be distributed to victims. In fact, for burned investors of the convicted Ponzi king, it may be later rather than sooner before they are reunited with their lost investments, according to a recent update posted on the Madoff Victim Fund website. In the controversial update, Richard Breeden, the former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission who was retained last December to distribute the cash, said he has not yet devised a process to determine who gets paid. Breeden said that process “takes time” and is “more complicated” than simply paying those on the already established bankruptcy-court victims list.

Microsoft Plans $40 Billion Buyback, Boosts Dividend (Bloomberg)
Microsoft announced a new $40 billion stock buyback plan and increased its dividend 22 percent, seeking to reward shareholders as the company undergoes a change in strategy and leadership. The repurchase program, which has no expiration date, replaces another $40 billion buyback plan that was due to lapse at the end of this month, Microsoft said today in a statement. The company’s quarterly dividend will rise to 28 cents a share, payable on Dec. 12 to shareholders of record as of Nov. 21.

Couple who wanted a barn owl to deliver their rings at the altar are forced to put ceremony on hold (DM)
The bride had secretly arranged for the bird to swoop down to the altar with the wedding bands attached to its feet by tassels. But the spectacular stunt failed when the barn owl, called Darcy, took to the rafters to enjoy an impromptu snooze. It remained perched high inside the 900 year-old Holy Cross Church in Sherston, Wiltshire, for an hour after falling asleep. Rev Chris Bryan, who was in charge of the ceremony between Sonia Cadman, 46, and Andrew Mettle, 49, tried to coax the animal down but his efforts were in vain, so he decided to continue the service by using a back up set of rings. He said: 'It would have been absolutely superb - if it worked. It was a lovely idea and it was supposed to be really stunning. 'It was a complete surprise to the groom, although the bride was in on it. It was the bride’s mother’s idea. 'The groom is into falconry as a bit of a hobby and so it was secretly arranged for two falconers to suddenly appear at the moment when the best man hands over the rings. 'This chap popped up at the front of the church next to us with a gauntlet on, as another chap appeared at the back of the church with a box. 'The owl appeared, and took a bit of coaxing to take to flight it paused for a little bit, eventually saw the gauntlet, and then took off. 'But instead of landing on the arm of the man by us and delivering the rings it went up over our heads and landed up in the roof space. 'The idea was it would be amazing and would swoop over the heads of the guests, and they’d all feel the air rushing from its wings, but it didn’t quite work like that.'

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Germany's Credit Rating Slashed By Egan-Jones (Reuters) The credit ratings agency on Tuesday downgraded its credit rating for Germany to "A+" with a negative outlook from "AA-," noting the need to watch for fallout should Greece exit the euro zone. Whether or not Greece or other euro-zone members exit the monetary union, Germany will be left with "massive" additional, uncollectible receivables, Egan-Jones said in a statement. Spain Considers Sweeping Tax Hikes to Please EU (Reuters) Spain's current VAT rate is 18 percent, one of the lowest in Europe, but many products are charged at a reduced 8 percent or a "super-reduced" 4 percent. "The ministry is studying reclassifying certain products and services that have reduced or super-reduced VAT," a spokesman for the ministry said. Madrid is also considering eliminating tax breaks on housing after reintroducing the measure as one of the first decrees the center-right government announced after being sworn in December. It is also considering introducing a so-called "green tax" on gasoline, following recommendations by the European Union, Treasury Secretary Marta Fernandez Curras said. New Plan Sees Closer Euro-Zone Ties (WSJ) Several of the proposals—such as joint bond issuance and the effective veto powers on national budgets—raise red flags for many governments. If all 27 EU leaders, or at least those from the euro zone, accept the report's basic principles at their summit scheduled for Thursday and Friday, the decision will set the currency union off on what is likely to be a long period of wrangling. Accused Manhattan 'madam' posts bail (NYP) Pattis and Gristina faced the microphones briefly before the family sped off to her 200-acre pig rescue farm in upstate Monroe. Singapore Pastor Charged For Funds For Wife’s Pop Career (Bloomberg) The founder and senior pastor of Singapore’s City Harvest Church was charged with three counts of dishonestly using the charity’s funds to finance his wife’s singing career. Kong Hee, whose wife Ho Yeow Sun has performed with artists like Wyclef Jean, conspired with others to conceal the diversion of the funds, prosecutor Christopher Ong told a Singapore Subordinate Court today. Financial irregularities of at least S$23 million ($18 million) from the charity’s funds were discovered, Singapore’s Commissioner of Charities said in a statement on its website yesterday. Wedding Party Soaked After Dock Breaks (WTV) A bride, groom and their entire wedding party fell into Gun Lake after the dock on which they were having photos taken gave way. It happened Saturday at Bay Pointe Inn at the wedding reception of Eric Walber and Maegan McKee (now Walber) of Bryon Center..."We were out there for probably 30 seconds, standing on the dock, and it started to lean and tilt," groom Eric told 24 Hour News 8. "We went right under." Eric said he knew just a split second before the dock collapsed what was about to happen. "I saw the thing starting to tilt, and I'm like, 'Oh, yup, this is going to happen,'" he said. Wall Street Analysts Give Facebook A Cautious Nod (Reuters) Barclays Capital, Stifel Nicolaus and Citi Investment Research & Analysis set a "hold" or equivalent rating on the stock, while Morgan Stanley and RBC Capital Markets began coverage of Facebook with their top ratings. Barclays in Libor settlement (Reuters) The bank is poised to secure a $200 million deal with U.S. regulators to settle a probe into allegations staff manipulated a key interbank lending rate known as Libor, one source familiar with the matter said. SEC And Falcone Set For Showdown (WSJ) Mr. Falcone's pledge sets the stage for a legal battle that may decide the fate of an investor who seemed poised to become a Wall Street star as recently as four years ago, when a series of winning bets propelled his fund to $26 billion in assets. The New York-based fund managed $3 billion in March, after several years of client withdrawals and steep losses, including those tied to a troubled venture to set up a nationwide wireless network. Mayor Cools SUV (NYP) Mayor Bloomberg wants to maintain his politically correct credentials on global warming — but hates to get into a hot car when he leaves an air conditioned building. The solution his aides came up with? In full view of bemused tourists and other passers-by yesterday, workers hoisted a standard room air conditioner to a side window of one of the mayor’s SUVs parked in the City Hall lot to see if it would fit. “This is an experiment to be used on extremely hot days like the types we saw last week,” said mayoral spokesman Stu Loeser.