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Holiday Bell: 11.29.13

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Citigroup Attempts to Sing Itself to Public Approval (WSJ)
The banking industry has spent countless hours and dollars trying to make up for the damage done by the financial crisis. Banks have run feel-good advertisements, waged aggressive lobbying campaigns, apologized to the public, tried to lend more, even sponsored public bike-rental programs in cities such as London and New York. Now Citigroup Inc. is trying to a new tactic: singing. On national TV. Citigroup's London office recently opened up its Canary Wharf skyscraper to a BBC crew filming the popular TV series "The Choir." The long-running British show—which is something of a cross between "Glee" and "The Office"—features teams of workers competing to be crowned workplace choir of the year. Bankers remain deeply reviled in the U.K., and Citigroup executives admit they are a bit nervous about whether they will be lampooned when their segment airs on BBC2 on Monday night. But they say it is a risk worth taking. "We ultimately won't know how this will play out until it airs," said James Bardrick, Citigroup's co-head of European banking, who championed the project and is a tenor in the choir. "But if people get to see that we're not a bunch of monsters hiding behind our screens and planning financial apocalypse, we'll have done the industry a small service."

UBS Revamps Forex Unit (WSJ)
s shaking up its investment bank, and has removed a top foreign-exchange executive, amid a burgeoning investigation into potential manipulation of currency markets. The bank is rolling its foreign-exchange and precious-metals business into another unit, according to an internal memo reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. As part of the changes, Chris Vogelgesang is stepping down as global co-head of foreign exchange and precious metals.

London leads 11 percent jump in bankers earning 1 million euros (Reuters)
More than 3,500 bankers in Europe earned 1 million euros ($1.4 million) or more last year after a big jump across the continent and in Britain, which had 12 times as many high earners as any other country. Figures from the bloc's banking regulator on Friday showed that London-based bankers would have easily bust the European Union bonus cap rule coming into effect next year. Bonuses for the highest earners were almost four times fixed pay.

Wal-Mart Steps Up Security as Fights Break Out Over TVs (Bloomberg)
Malls are beefing up patrols with off-duty cops. Chains including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. are using quota systems for popular doorbusters from iPads to jewelry. Yet all was not peaceful. In one incident, uploaded to YouTube, uniformed security officers handcuffed a female shopper at an unidentified Wal-Mart store after a tussle over a television. Bill Simon, chief executive officer of Wal-Mart’s U.S. division, was asked about the incident on a conference call today with reporters. “Any time you get more than 22 million people together you’re going to have some behavior you’re not proud of,” said Simon, who also said “the number of incidents” was down from last year and that it’s “hard to tell what happened in any individual incident.”

Violence flares as shoppers hunt Black Friday deals (CNBC)
After buying a big screen TV, a Las Vegas shopper was shot around 9:45 p.m. PST Thursday as he tried to take his purchase home, Lt. David Gordon of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department told NBC News. "As the victim was walking through his complex he was approached by a suspect who fired warning shots which caused the victim to release the television," he said. As the thief tried to load it into a vehicle the victim approached him to try to get it back, Gordon added. "The suspect fired two more shots and the victim was struck in the leg," he said. "He was not seriously injured."

SAC tech analyst testifies: Give stock tips or lose job (NYP)
Former SAC Capital Advisors tech analyst Jon Horvath testified he was afraid he would lose his job if he didn’t come up with illicit stock tips for his boss, Michael Steinberg. “I thought my job was in danger. I thought he would fire me,” Horvath, the government’s star witness in the insider-trading case against Steinberg, told a Manhattan federal jury. Horvath, testifying Wednesday on the fifth day of the trial, said he received an ultimatum from the top SAC money manager after Horvath’s tech recommendations for Steinberg lost money in 2007. “What I need you to do is to go out and get me edgy, proprietary information that we can use to make money in their stocks,” Horvath testified that Steinberg told him after a bad losing streak.

Netherlands Loses Triple-A Rating (WSJ)
The Netherlands became the latest country to be stripped of its coveted triple-A credit rating Friday, after Standard & Poor's downgraded the country to "AA+," citing weakening growth prospects. S&P is the first rating firm to downgrade the Netherlands, saying the country's growth prospects are "weaker than we had previously anticipated" and that the "real [gross domestic product] per capita trend growth rate is persistently lower than that of peers."

Man fined for breaking bed, curtain rail and window sill having sex in his old flat (Mirror)
Adam Disney 'got carried away' during the impromptu bonk with his partner and trashed the home in the process. The bed collapsed as he had sex and the 28-year-old also damaged a window sill as he romped the night away. Puzzled neighbours heard noises coming from the flat in Wavertree, Liverpool, and wondered what was going on September 3. The home's landlady spotted Disney, from Solihull, leaning out the window smoking a cigarette. Dan Lupton, defending at Liverpool Magistrates Court on Thursday said: “This is a curious case of the morning after the night before. “They had been drinking and the couple were passionate in their interest to have sexual relations. “On this occasion they were seeking to avail themselves rather quickly.” He added: “The closest place for them to seek refuge, in an effort to avoid offending public decency, was his former flat. “The window sill was loose and they hadn’t done a good job of securing the curtain rail. This was not a posh hotel room.” Once inside the flat Mr Lupton said the couple were “carried away with the intensity of physical relations” and in the course of events the bed collapsed and drapes were pulled down. He said the damage was not intentional but happened in the course of “sexual antics”. Disney was fined #100 after admitting criminal damage in the 'shabby bedsit' after a charge of burglary with intent to cause damage was downgraded.

European Banks Could Take Their Hits Early (WSJ)
European banks are already facing up to a huge potential capital shortfall next year, thanks to several regulatory pressures. The European Central Bank will carry out an asset quality review aimed at ensuring banks' balance sheets conform to uniform rules in areas like bad loans; stress tests will examine how robust banks might be in a downturn. That's not the banks' only problem. They also need to comply with minimum capital requirements under Basel III regulations; and ensure they meet leverage ratio rules designed to make them less reliant on borrowed funds. In sum, European banks could need to plug a €280 billion ($380.21 billion) capital gap, according to a report by PwC. Technical adjustments could reduce the gap by around €100 billion. But banks could still have to raise €180 billion from new capital raising or restructuring, PwC reckons. Rather than wait for the ECB, banks could try to get ahead. Already this year European banks have issued €60 billion of new equity, according to Thomson Reuters data, up from €30 billion in the whole of 2012. Banks like Barclays and Deutsche Bank have undergone sizable rights issues. But the process is far from complete. One implication is that banks could use upcoming fourth-quarter results to clear the decks, so that their balance sheets anticipate as far as possible the rules they expect the ECB to apply in its asset quality review.

Microsoft Said to Lean to Mulally, Nadella in CEO Search (Bloomberg)
Microsoft Corp.’s board is focusing on Ford Motor Co. Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally and internal executive Satya Nadella as part of a group of more likely candidates to become the next CEO of the world’s biggest software company, according to people familiar with the matter.

Credit Suisse names investment banker to lead Swiss ultra-rich clients (Reuters)
Credit Suisse is promoting veteran Swiss investment banker Thomas Gottstein to head up its ultra-rich clients business in Switzerland, highlighting the expertise increasingly sought by private banks to cater to their wealthiest customers. Both Credit Suisse and crosstown rival UBS are trying to sell their capital markets expertise through their wealth management divisions, ramping up sophisticated and tailor-made products and services in a bid to win more business from clients with more than $50 million in bankable assets.

Billionaire Alwaleed’s CFO Said to Quit Kingdom Holding for U.S. (Bloomberg)
Shadi Sadeek Sanbar, chief financial officer at Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s Kingdom Holding Co. (KINGDOM), is planning to leave the company this month, according to four people with knowledge of the matter. Sanbar is stepping down after more than eight years with Riyadh-based Kingdom to move with his family to the U.S., the people said, asking not to be identified as the departure hasn’t been announced. He’ll remain on the board, they said.

Fed Reveals New Concerns About Long-Term U.S. Slowdown (Bloomberg)
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and his colleagues are suffering through their own form of cognitive dissonance: revealing new concerns about the economy’s long-term prospects even as they forecast faster growth in 2014. Worker productivity, a key component of an economy’s health, has risen at an annual clip of 1 percent during the last four years, as the U.S. has struggled to recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression. That’s less than half the 2.2 percent average gain since 1983, according to data from the Labor Department in Washington.

Turkey hit by car rescued by Maine woman (WMTW)
She is recovering at the Center for Wildlife in York after being hit by a truck several weeks ago. Alice and some other turkeys found themselves in the path of a pickup truck on the road outside Limerick on Nov. 1. "Two of (the turkeys) scooted back, and one squatted down and (Alice) got hit," said Meg Lord, of East Parsonsfield. Lord, the driver of the pickup and another woman all stopped to help. "When I went over to her, I spoke to her really quietly and said, 'I'm going to put the blanket over you,' and I reached down and picked her up and she was huge. She just felt huge in my arms," Lord said. Lord buckled Alice into the passenger seat of her truck and took her home. "I just drove with my flashers all the way home," Lord said. The next day, she took Alice to the center. Workers said the bird had a broken wing and a brain injury, but she's doing much better. "The fracture has healed, but because it's been wrapped for so long, the joints are a little stiff, so right now we're doing physical therapy. The wing is no longer wrapped, but we have to stretch the wing twice a day to try to release some of that stiffness in the wing, so that she's able to use it," said Erin Burns, wildlife specialist at Center for Wildlife. Burns said it's a good time of the year for Alice to be cooped. "It is hunting season for turkeys, so she kind of gets a pass this year, I guess," Burns said. The turkey is expected to be released back into the wild long after Mainers have finished digesting their Thanksgiving dinners.


Holiday Bell: 03.29.13

SAC Capital Advisors Trader Charged With Fraud (WSJ) Early Friday morning, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrested a longtime SAC Capital portfolio manager on insider-trading charges, making him the most senior employee of one of the nation's most prominent hedge funds to be snared in the government's sprawling probe. Michael Steinberg, 40 years old, was led out of his building on New York's Park Avenue in handcuffs around 6 a.m. Mr. Steinberg has worked at Stamford, Conn.-based SAC since 1997 and at its Sigma Capital Management unit in New York since 2003, dealing closely with SAC's billionaire founder Steven A. Cohen. "Michael Steinberg did absolutely nothing wrong," his lawyer, Barry H. Berke, said in a statement Friday. "His trading decisions were based on detailed analysis" and information "he understood had been properly obtained through the types of channels that institutional investors rely upon on a daily basis." Mr. Steinberg was charged Friday with conspiracy to commit securities fraud and four counts of securities fraud, alleging that he made illegal trades in Dell and Nvidia Corp. based on information relayed to him by a Sigma Capital analyst. He faces as much as 20 years in prison on each fraud charge. He is expected to appear in Manhattan federal court later Friday. The Securities and Exchange Commission also separately filed a civil lawsuit against him in Manhattan federal court on Friday. "Mike has conducted himself professionally and ethically during his long tenure at the firm. We believe him to be a man of integrity," a SAC spokesman said Friday. SAC’s Steinberg Arrested as Probe Gets Closer to Cohen (Bloomberg) Jon Horvath, who worked for Steinberg, pleaded guilty in September, admitting that he provided illegal tips to his portfolio manager, who then traded on them...Two days before Dell was set to report second-quarter 2008 earnings, Horvath e-mailed Steinberg and another portfolio manager to warn that the computer maker would miss earnings estimates. “I have a 2nd hand read from someone at the company,” Horvath said in the Aug. 26 e-mail, which provided details on gross margins, expenditures and revenue. “Please keep to yourself as obviously not well known.” Steinberg replied, “Yes normally we would never divulge data like this, so please be discreet. Thanks.” Judge Sullivan concluded in December that e-mail and instant messages he reviewed showed that Steinberg could have known information he used for trades came from insiders. “The e-mails that were relayed to Steinberg do indicate to me that he understands the source of the information that he’s getting and he’s trading on it,” Sullivan wrote. “All of that indicates this is inside information from the company that’s not available anywhere else.” Cypriots Cast Blame As Banks Open (WSJ) President Nicos Anastasiades on Thursday ordered the creation of a three-member committee to investigate the roots of the economic malaise engulfing the island. The committee will be chaired by three former judges from Cyprus's supreme court, including Georgios Pikis, the court's former president and a former member of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Cyprus Says Threat Contained, No Plan to Leave Euro (Reuters) FYI. BofA Tops Financial-Complaint List (WSJ) Bank of America accounted for the largest share of consumer complaints lodged with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau over the past 16 months, highlighting the challenges the nation's second-largest bank faces as it tries to simplify its sprawling operations. Illinois Man Charged In 21-Ton Cheese Heist (ABC) Veniamin Balika, 34, of Plainfield, Ill., was accused of stealing 42,000 pounds of Muenster cheese from a Wisconsin cheese company. He was arrested at a Bergen County rest area on the New Jersey Turnpike on Monday, the result of a joint investigation with the Saddle Brook New Jersey Police Department and the New Jersey State Police. “He was charged with receiving stolen property and fencing,” New Jersey State Police Sergeant Adam Grossman told Balika allegedly attempted to sell the load of 1,135 cases of cheese at the rest area. Morgan Stanley's Porat Passes On Treasury Post (NYP) Morgan Stanley’s chief financial officer has taken herself out of the running for the No. 2 job at the Treasury Department after months of speculation that she was all but certain to join the Obama administration. The 56-year-old high-profile Wall Streeter, who had been the top candidate to work alongside Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, called the White House late Wednesday to remove her name after fretting about possibly being raked over the coals during a Senate confirmation hearing, sources told The Post. Putin May Cap Golden Parachutes After $100 Million Payout (Bloomberg) President Vladimir Putin proposed limiting severance payments to Russian executives, after a former KGB colleague was granted about $100 million when he stepped down as the head of OAO GMK Norilsk Nickel. While so-called golden parachutes should “stimulate top- class managers” to work efficiently, “sensible limits” are needed, Putin said at a meeting of his People’s Front movement in Rostov-on-Don today. Capping such payments would comply with global standards, Putin said. France's Hollande Hits Companies With 75% Wealth Tax (Reuters) French President Francois Hollande declared on Thursday that companies would have to pay a 75 percent tax on salaries over a million euros after his plan for a "super-tax" on individuals was knocked down by the constitutional court. Deutsche Bank probe finds incomplete data given to prosecutors (Reuters) An internal investigation at Deutsche Bank has found that incomplete data related to a carbon tax fraud probe were handed over to prosecutors, German magazine Der Spiegel said on Friday. The probe is one of several legal headaches with which Germany's biggest lender is grappling. For CEOs, Buyout Game Can Be Second Act (WSJ) Less than two months after agreeing to leave Chesapeake under pressure from shareholders over his free-spending ways, Aubrey McClendon is meeting with private-equity investors and others to discuss potentially teaming up for new ventures, according to several people familiar with the discussions. Mitt Romney Thinks His Grandkids’ Names Are Ridiculous (Daily Intel) "A few months ago we had twins come in, and you can't believe what they're named: Winston and Eleanor. [Laughs.] I mean, it's going back to the glorious days of the thirties and forties, I guess. But these are just darling little infants, and to have such big names on them is really something, although they call them Ellie and Win ... When I heard Winston and Eleanor, I thought, It sounds like two English bulldogs, but they're adorable children."

Holiday Bell: 2.16.15

Greece; Apple self-driving car; HSBC sorry about tax evasion; bank hackings; "Man and woman have afternoon sex in front of shoppers after first meeting"; AND MORE.

Holiday Bell: 7.3.15

Greece, Greece, Greece; Russia; Dominique Strauss-Kahn; Fireworks; "Joey Chestnut is focused on gobbling wieners after splitting from fiancee"; and more.