Opening Bell: 10.22.13

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Former JPMorgan executive challenges UK's London Whale report (Reuters)
A former JPMorgan Chase & Co executive in Europe is appealing findings by Britain's financial watchdog that criticized his actions in connection with the "London Whale" scandal. Achilles Macris, who is appealing, ran the London division of JPMorgan's Chief Investment Office, where Bruno Iksil, nicknamed "the London Whale" for the size of the his derivatives trades, stacked up huge losses, more than $6.2 billion at last count. JPMorgan agreed to pay $920 million in penalties last month to the U.S. Federal Reserve, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the U.S. Comptroller of the Currency and the UK's Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) over the trading scandal. The FCA notice of its fine, totaling 137.6 million pounds, did not mention Macris by name but said that "by virtue of the conduct of the CIO London management" JPMorgan had deliberately misled the regulator. A spokesman for Macris said he had not been given a proper opportunity by the FCA to respond to the criticisms before they were published.

22 Under Investigation In Libor Case In Britain (Dealbook)
British prosecutors have identified 22 individuals at various banks as potential co-conspirators in a wide-ranging inquiry into the manipulation of a global benchmark interest rate. The individuals were notified last week by Britain’s Serious Fraud Office that they were being investigated, prosecutors and lawyers for some of the potential co-conspirators said at a court hearing in London on Monday.

SAC Investors To Keep Big Profits (NYP)
As hedge-fund mogul Steve Cohen prepares to cough up about $1.4 billion to settle criminal insider trading charges against his SAC Capital Advisors, investors who benefited from the crimes will likely be able to hold on to those profits, experts told The Post. From 1999 through 2010 — when SAC was a “magnet for cheaters,” according to Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara — investors earned billions of dollars in profits as Cohen’s hedge funds produced 25 percent net annual returns. Investors started pulling assets from SAC in earnest this year as prosecutors put the final touches on their probe of the Cohen juggernaut. “The investors are passive and not involved in any of the things SAC is supposed to have done,” said Simon Lack, a former executive at JPMorgan responsible for investing in hedge funds. “It would be very difficult to penalize the investors.”

Blackstone Opens Singapore Office in Expansion Drive (Bloomberg)
Blackstone, the world’s biggest manager of alternative assets, will seek more investments in Southeast Asia following the opening of an office in Singapore seven years after entering the Asia-Pacific region. Blackstone, led by Chief Executive Officer Stephen Schwarzman, has more than $5 billion of Asian assets, of which more than half are in real estate. Singapore will be the firm’s second office with treasury functions after New York, according to the company, which manages about $248 billion worldwide.

Tommy Hilfiger lists his $80 million penthouse at Plaza (CNBC)
Hilfiger, the 62-year-old fashion tycoon, is listing his duplex at the Plaza Hotel for $80 million, making it one of the most exclusive condo listings in Manhattan. The apartment stretches over 6,000 square feet and includes the iconic dome atop the plaza, along with sweeping terraces overlooking Central Park and Fifth Avenue. If it sells at the asking price, the property would be second-most expensive condo ever to close in New York, according to Jonathan Miller of Miller & Samuel. The most expensive condo to close is believed to be a penthouse at 15 Central Park West sold by former Citigroup CEO Sandy Weill in 2012...Hilfiger said he is selling because he is spending more time in Greenwich, Conn., where he is completing a three-year renovation of a 22-acre estate...He added, however, that it's a good time to sell in New York. "I think it may be the strongest market in the world right now," he said. "Everyone in the world, whether they're from Qatar or China, wants a luxury apartment in New York."

‘I party with my mom!’ Mother-daughter duos hit NYC clubs (NYP)
When Amanda Paneduro scrolls through photos on her iPhone, she has trouble picking out her favorite mother-daughter pic. Was it the one they took while partying at nightclub LIV in South Beach during a wild girls’ weekend? Dancing onstage together with electro-rap duo LMFAO at club Glo on Long Island? Or maybe the time at the rooftop in the Meatpacking District when a creepy older guy hit on both mom and daughter? “Nobody really knows she’s my mother,” says 19-year-old Amanda with a laugh. Tonight, the two are holding court at the Gansevoort Hotel rooftop bar, clad in black leather jackets, skintight pants and sky-high heels. “We have so much fun together — she’s my best friend,” gushes Amanda, a college student from Jericho, Long Island, of her 49-year-old separated mom, Ilyssa. “We share everything,” she continues, including Ilyssa’s prized collection of Céline and Chanel bags and YSL and Louboutin shoes. But they draw the line at sharing men. “A lot of times the same guy will try to hit on both of us,” says Amanda. “We attract positive attention. If we’re lucky, we’ll be invited to someone’s table. She’s like going out with a friend, very understanding. She’s not super-overprotective.” The pair are known to party till 4 a.m., then hit nearby Artichoke Pizza to refuel. They’ve been socializing together since Amanda was 16, and they’re such regulars on the scene that she doesn’t even get carded anymore. Celebrity culture and reality TV are already awash with mothers and daughters bonding over bottle service...Middle-aged New York moms are following suit — with wild nights of clubbing now supplanting the tame brunches and mani-pedi dates that might have defined parental bonding of yore.

BofA Said to Face Three More U.S. Probes of Mortgage-Bond Sales (Bloomberg)
U.S. attorneys offices in Georgia and California are examining potential violations tied to Countrywide Financial Corp., the subprime lender Bank of America bought in 2008, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the inquiries aren’t public. U.S. attorneys in New Jersey are looking into deals involving Merrill Lynch & Co., purchased by the firm in 2009, the people said.

Soaring London House Prices Fuel Concerns (WSJ)
Home sellers in London raised asking prices 10% in the early weeks of October, as foreign buyers continued stoking the market, adding to concern a fresh property bubble may be forming. The capital's steep price increases have also fueled concern among policy makers that many residents may be forced out of the market. "This phenomenon has helped…to fuel the anger of professional people who cannot afford to live in districts where their parents grew up and who cannot see how their kids will ever be able to afford to buy in London," said the city's mayor, Boris Johnson, in an editorial in the Daily Telegraph.

Apple Preparing 65-Inch TV for Release in 2014, Analyst Says (Bloomberg)
Apple will probably start selling ultra-high definition televisions with 65- and 55-inch screens during the fourth quarter of next year, according to a Tokyo-based analyst at Advanced Research Japan Co.

Drunk falls asleep behind the wheel at Burger King drive-through window — for 2 solid hours: cops (NYDN)
Booze might make burgers taste better but not if you fall asleep before you can put in your order.
That's what happened to a drunken New Jersey man who sat in his running Hyundai in a Burger King drive-through for two hours in the dead of night earlier this month, police said. Kyler Ginter, 41, of Sparta, apparently never got it his way because the fast-food restaurant's manager saw him asleep at the wheel near the order screen, reported the Morristown Patch. Officers found Ginter inside the black vehicle with the key in the ignition about 3 a.m. Oct. 5, police said. "I knew I couldn't handle it and I just wanted to stay here," Ginter told police, according to a police report.

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Opening Bell: 06.12.12

JPMorgan Knew Of Risks (WSJ) Last year, top CIO executives set a plan to roll back a separate set of large London trades—only to learn later that the plan hadn't been followed correctly. The concerns dating back to 2010 show that J.P. Morgan had an opportunity to avoid the bungled trades, which over time could cost the bank as much as $5 billion...The company's investigation is expected to reveal a series of miscues. They include trading-risk limits that were too broad, a new trading model adopted this January that masked mounting dangers, and the failure of top executives to sufficiently probe the huge positions at the CIO, according to the people familiar with the matter. When Mr. Dimon asked then-CIO head Ina Drew about the trades in early April, for example, she didn't fly to London to visit the trading group, according to people close to the investigation. Achilles Macris, the London-based head of international at the CIO, assured her on a video conference call that everything was under control, these people said. Ms. Drew and Mr. Macris didn't respond to requests for comment. House Of Dimon Marred By CEO Complacency Over Unit's Risk (Bloomberg) “That’s absurd,” said Kristin Lemkau, a spokeswoman for the bank. Winters, Black and Staley never complained about a specific risk in the CIO’s office, she said. If they had, Dimon’s protocol would have been to gather the relevant data, let them talk to Drew and return to him if they weren’t satisfied with her response, a bank executive said. The operating committee, on which they all sat, also could have reviewed the matter if they still had concerns, the person said. It’s also “totally untrue” that Hogan questioned why the CIO didn’t have as effective or robust risk controls as other divisions, Lemkau said. Loophole At MF Global Is Headache For Regulators (WSJ) Most of the senior executives at MF Global Holdings Ltd. weren't registered with commodities regulators, meaning the executives can't be charged with supervision failures related to the firm's collapse. Austrian Minister Says Italy Too May Need Bailout (Reuters) Just so you know. Dingo took baby who vanished in Australian Outback in notorious 1980 case, coroner finds (NYDN) Australia - Settling a notorious 1980 case that split the nation and led to a mistaken conviction, an Australian coroner ruled Tuesday that a dingo took a baby from a campsite in the Outback, just as her mother said from the beginning. The eyes of Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton and her ex-husband, Michael Chamberlain, welled with tears as the findings of the fourth inquest into the disappearance of their 9-week-old daughter, Azaria, were announced in court. Lindy Chamberlain had been convicted and was later cleared of murdering Azaria, and has always maintained that a wild dog took her. Many Australians initially did not believe that a dingo was strong enough to take away the baby. Public opinion sway harshly against the couple; some even spat on Chamberlain-Creighton and howled like a dingoes outside her house. No similar dingo attack had been documented at the time, but in recent years the wild dogs have been blamed for three fatal attacks on children. "No longer will Australia be able to say that dingoes are not dangerous and only attack if provoked," Chamberlain-Creighton said before leaving the court. How the SEC Could Pursue a Case Against JPMorgan (Reuters) JPMorgan Chase's failure to timely disclose a major change in how it measured risk could become the centerpiece for an enforcement action by U.S. securities regulators as they probe the bank in connection with its multibillion dollar trading loss. By omitting the change from its earnings release in April, the bank disguised a spike in the riskiness of a particular trading portfolio by cutting in half its value-at-risk number. JPMorgan did not tell investors that the model for its Chief Investment Office had been changed until May 10, the same day it revealed the failed hedging strategy had produced a loss of at least $2 billion. Gupta Labeled As 'Truthful' (WSJ) On Monday, Mr. Gupta's lawyers called a handful of friends and people associated with philanthropic causes to which Mr. Gupta has devoted his time to testify about his integrity, including Ashok Alexander, director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's HIV-prevention initiative in India, and Anil Sood, a former World Bank employee and childhood friend..."I have always admired since my childhood days that Rajat is straightforward, direct and truthful and inspires trust," said Mr. Sood, who has known Mr. Gupta since they were in grade school together in India. Hedges' Assets: $5 Trillion (WSJ) The hedge-fund industry may more than double in size during the next five years, to more than $5 trillion in assets, as private fund firms broaden their offerings to compete with traditional money managers, according to a recent Citigroup survey. Apple Stock at $1,000? Analysts Say Within Two Years (CNBC) "I couldn't be more bullish on Apple right now," Brian White, Analyst with Topeka Capital Markets, a broker-dealer, told CNBC Asia's "The Call" on Tuesday. "When I look forward to the fall, we have got an iPhone 5 expected in September, I think we are going to see an iPad mini at the same time in September, we have got an Apple TV that's clearly on its way in the next several months... I couldn't get more excited about Apple." Old Fathers May Produce Offspring With Longer Lives (Bloomberg) FYI: "Children of older fathers, those in their late 30s to early 50s, inherit longer telomeres, caps at the end of the chromosomes that protect them from degeneration, according to a study today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Longer telomeres seem to promote slower aging and may mean a longer lifespan for these children, the study said."

Opening Bell: 07.25.12

Sandy Weill: Break Up The Big Banks (CNBC) “What we should probably do is go and split up investment banking from banking, have banks be deposit takers, have banks make commercial loans and real estate loans, have banks do something that’s not going to risk the taxpayer dollars, that’s not too big to fail,” Weill told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” He added: “If they want to hedge what they’re doing with their investments, let them do it in a way that’s going to be market-to-market so they’re never going to be hit.” Bank Of England Spotted Risks At JPMorgan (WSJ) More than a year before JPMorgan racked up billions of dollars in losses from bad trades in its London investment office, Bank of England officials raised concerns internally about potential risks arising from some of the office's activities, but didn't formally alert other regulators, according to people involved in the central bank's talks. In late 2010, employees at the central bank worried that the London arm of J.P. Morgan's Chief Investment Office had come to dominate some important corners of the city's financial markets—including residential mortgage-backed securities—and they were concerned about the potential impact that could have on the stability of U.K. markets, these people said. The concerns were relayed to a top central-bank oficial. But the Bank of England doesn't appear to have acted on the concerns or flagged them to regulators responsible for supervising J.P. Morgan. Private-equity bigs: no proof of bid-rigging (NYP) A handful of the country’s wealthiest and most powerful private-equity firms have asked a federal judge to toss an explosive investor lawsuit that claims the group conspired to rig the bids on $270 billion in deals over four years. The firms — including KKR, Bain Capital, Blackstone Group and Apollo Global Management — agreed not to bid on specific deals headed by a rival, thus fraudulently depressing the value of the deal. As a result, investors in those publicly-traded companies were short-changed. The group of 11 financial giants named in the suit, including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, claim there is no evidence of a vast bid-rigging conspiracy. New York Fed Faces Questions Over Policing Wall Street (Dealbook) In recent years, the New York Fed has beefed up oversight. Under the president, William C. Dudley, the regulator has increased the expertise of its examiners and hired new senior officials. Even so, the JPMorgan debacle and the interest-rate investigation have raised questions about the New York Fed. They highlight how the regulator is hampered by its lack of enforcement authority and dogged by concerns that it is overly cozy with the banks. Fed Moves Closer To Action (WSJ) Amid the recent wave of disappointing economic news, conversation inside the Fed has turned more intensely toward the questions of how and when to move. Central bank officials could take new steps at their meeting next week, July 31 and Aug. 1, though they might wait until their September meeting to accumulate more information on the pace of growth and job gains before deciding whether to act. Sidekick of Soccer Mom Madam to court: It's not prostitution if you just pay to watch (NYDN) Jaynie Mae Baker, the woman busted with accused Manhattan brothel operator Anna Gristina, revealed in court papers filed Tuesday that the undercover cop who arrested her watched two women have sex but didn’t participate in any. Baker’s lawyer, Robert Gottlieb, says the only recorded conversation in evidence that includes Baker took place July 19, 2011, at a Manhattan restaurant where his client, Gristina and the cop had lunch. The cop tells Baker and Gristina he is “looking for a little adventure" and to “please corrupt me," but there's no talk of arranging payment, Gottlieb says in the filing. Six days later in the sting operation, the cop is secretly videotaped in a room with two other women at Gristina's alleged brothel on E. 78th St., but he does not participate in the sex. “The undercover officer apparently remains fully clothed and merely observed the two women perform for him,” Gottlieb writes...Gottlieb says there “was not a scintilla of evidence that was produced ... establishing Ms. Baker’s involvement in arranging payment in exchange for any kind of sexual activity.” What occurred not prostitution because the undercover cop was not a participant, Gottlieb says. If watching is prostitution, then every strip club and porno director is guilty, too, he said. Germans React Coolly To Moody's Warning (WSJ) Wolf Klinz, a German member of the European Parliament from the pro-business Free Democrats, Ms. Merkel's junior coalition partner, said he doesn't dispute Moody's conclusions about Germany's risks, but rather the timing of the announcement. "There are no hard facts yet" about Germany's ultimate price tag, Mr. Klinz said. "Why come out with this right now? It may have political implications" even if that wasn't the intention, he said. Preet hit with suit by law student (NYP) Second-year law student Benula Bensam sued Bharara, along with the US Marshals Service and the Justice Department, in Manhattan federal court for “unreasonable search and seizure” after the marshals took her cell phone away during the trial of ex-Goldman Sachs director Rajat Gupta. The 25-year-old Bensam, who is representing herself, said the marshals kept her phone overnight after she refused to answer their questions about letters she wrote to Judge Jed Rakoff during Gupta’s insider-trading trial. Bensam, who attends law school at Yeshiva University and lives in the Woodside section of Queens, stopped writing Rakoff about the case after he reprimanded her. In the complaint, Bensam said Bharara “may have instigated” her dispute with the marshals. Euro Zone as We Know It Has 2 Years Left: Jim O’Neill (CNBC) “Two years maximum is my perception of the time the euro zone has left to survive in its current form, though the reality is probably far less than that. Markets being markets we’ve unveiled a degree of speed with the Spanish and Italian bond yields and I can’t see us getting through the summer without some serious consequences,” said Jim O’Neill, Chairman at Goldman Sachs Asset Management. Child Treated After Being Bit By Rabid Bat Woman Gave Go-Ahead To Touch (CBS) Even as the summer fun rolls on for JoJo Keefe, a freshly healed cut on the 10-year-old’s finger reminds her of a scary detour. “I was like oh my God it bit me!” She’s talking about a rabid bat that sunk its tiny teeth into her finger last Tuesday during a visit to the Spencer Town Beach on Lake Whittemore. The small bat was attracting quite a bit of attention on the shoreline just beyond the picnic area. The trouble really began when a woman picked it up and began asking the children gathered around her if they wanted to hold it. “Another little girl said ‘oh I want to hold it will it bite me?’ And the lady was like no it’s the friendliest thing ever,” she says...Her mother retrieved the sick animal which then tested positive for rabies. Soon after, JoJo was getting the first in a series of life saving antibiotic shots (you can’t wait with rabies).

Opening Bell: 4.15.15

SEC settles with ex-Freddie execs; Shopify IPO; Regulators still working on TBTF; "Man Pretends He's A Cop, Pulls Over Actual Cops"; and more.

Opening Bell: 12.10.12

U.S. authorities probe SAC for Weight Watchers (Reuters) U.S. authorities are investigating Steven A. Cohen's SAC Capital Advisors hedge fund for possible insider trading in the shares of the popular diet company Weight Watchers International Inc, according to people familiar with the matter. The investigation focuses on trading in Weight Watchers shares in the first half of 2011, when SAC Capital had taken a sizeable position in the stock, and potentially could implicate the billionaire hedge fund manager, the sources said on Friday. Regulatory filings show that Cohen's $14 billion fund briefly held 2.1 million shares in Weight Watchers during the period under scrutiny by authorities - at which time the diet company's stock price roughly doubled. The inquiry is in its early stages and it is not clear whether anything improper was done either by SAC Capital or Cohen himself, said the people familiar with the matter, who requested anonymity. The trading in Weight Watchers would be permissible as long as it was based on fundamental research or derived from individuals who did not have access to non-public corporate information. Big Money Bets On Housing Rebound (NYT) A flurry of private-equity giants and hedge funds have spent billions of dollars to buy thousands of foreclosed single-family homes. They are purchasing them on the cheap through bank auctions, multiple listing services, short sales and bulk purchases from local investors in need of cash, with plans to fix up the properties, rent them out and watch their values soar as the industry rebounds. They have raised as much as $8 billion to invest, according to Jade Rahmani, an analyst at Keefe Bruyette & Woods. The Blackstone Group, the New York private-equity firm run by Stephen A. Schwarzman, has spent more than $1 billion to buy 6,500 single-family homes so far this year. The Colony Capital Group, headed by the Los Angeles billionaire Thomas J. Barrack Jr., has bought 4,000. Wall Street workers expecting worst bonus season since 2008 (NYP) State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli estimates that the average bonus this year will be $101,000 — a 16.5 percent decline from last year and almost a 50 percent decline since 2006, when the average was $191,360. ‘‘I don’t think this year’s bonuses are going to be very good,’’ said Dan Shaffer, CEO of Shaffer Asset Management. ‘‘I don’t believe the typical bonuses, as we used to know them, exist anymore.’’ Obama Meets with Boehner Privately at White House (Bloomberg) The meeting was the first known face-to-face conversation between the two leaders since Nov. 16, when Boehner and other congressional leaders sat down with Obama at the White House. They have talked on the telephone since then. Obama met with Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic minority leader, on Dec. 7. Investors offer about $38.8 billion in Greek debt buyback (Reuters) Greece is set to purchase back about half of its debt owned by private investors, broadly succeeding in a bond buyback that is key to the country's international bailout, a Greek government official said on Saturday. Hefner Husband Takes Insider Trading Into Playboy Bedroom (Bloomberg) Christie Hefner, [daughter of Hugh and] former chief executive officer of Playboy Enterprises Inc., said she was shocked as her husband of 15 years, William Marovitz, confessed to her that he was being investigated for suspicious trading in Playboy shares. They were in their apartment atop a 42-story Lincoln Park tower overlooking the glittering Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan on a March evening in 2010. “He told me he had been contacted by the SEC,” Hefner said later in testimony before the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which didn’t accuse her of any wrongdoing. “And when did you learn your husband owned shares of Playboy?” she was asked. “In that conversation,” she replied. Hefner's husband is just one of more than 400 persons the SEC and the U.S. Department of Justice have accused of insider trading in a crackdown in the last five years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. All involved betrayal -- of clients, employers, relatives or friends. The Hefner episode and a handful of cases like it include an especially cruel breach of trust: betrayal of a wife by a husband. Tennis star Novak buys up world's supply of donkey cheese at £400 a pound for new restaurant chain (DM) The cheese, known as pule, will be one of the key attractions at a chain of restaurants the Wimbledon champion and world number one is opening in his Serbian homeland...The Zasavica farm, which lies 50 miles west of the Serbian capital Belgrade, boasts a herd of 130 and is said to be the only place in the world where donkeys are milked for cheese. Banking Industry Squirms Over European Rate Probe (WSJ) The scandal over banks' attempted manipulation of interest rates has mostly centered on the London interbank offered rate. But Libor's lesser known cousin, the euro interbank offered rate, or Euribor, is facing mounting attacks. The European Union is expected soon to accuse multiple banks of attempted collusion in the setting of Euribor, according to people briefed on the probe. Barclays has already acknowledged trying to rig the rate, and other banks are likely to be pressed by regulators in the U.S., U.K. and elsewhere into similar admissions, according to industry and regulatory officials. Mortgage Crisis Presents a New Reckoning to Banks (NYT) Regulators, prosecutors, investors and insurers have filed dozens of new claims against Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and others, related to more than $1 trillion worth of securities backed by residential mortgages. Estimates of potential costs from these cases vary widely, but some in the banking industry fear they could reach $300 billion if the institutions lose all of the litigation. Depending on the final price tag, the costs could lower profits and slow the economic recovery by weakening the banks’ ability to lend just as the housing market is showing signs of life. Crisis Measure Nears End (WSJ) Barring action by Congress, the FDIC on Dec. 31 will stop providing an unlimited guarantee on zero-interest bank accounts used by businesses and municipalities for payroll and other services. The guarantee would then revert to the normal $250,000 in insurance per depositor at any given bank. If the guarantee isn't extended, FBR Capital Markets estimates as much as $250 billion in deposits could flow out of smaller banks to large banks or big money-market mutual funds. Stylish primate charms Toronto shoppers (The Star) A North York Ikea store attracted an unusual customer Sunday afternoon, when a tiny monkey dressed in a fitted faux shearling coat and diapers appeared in the store’s upper parking garage around 2 p.m. “It was just running around screaming,” said shopper Bronwyn Page...“It was really cute,” said Lisa Lin, another shopper. “It was smaller than a cat.” But if the monkey had hoped to stock up on Billy bookcases or Swedish meatballs, its plans were thwarted. The diminutive shopper never made it into the store, said manager Alvaro Carmona. No one was hurt in the incident, which lasted no more than half an hour, he added. Animal Services identified the monkey as a rhesus macaque, an Asian species that is prohibited in Ontario. The monkeys are known for their ability to live in diverse habitats – although Canadian winters obviously require a warm coat. The owner of the primate turned himself in to Animal Services just after 5 p.m. He was charged with owning a prohibited animal, an offence that carries a $200 fine. The seven-month-old monkey has somehow managed to escape his owner’s car in the Ikea parking lot, said animal control officer David Behan.