Opening Bell: 11.11.13

Author:
Updated:
Original:

Big Banks May Block Traders From Chat Rooms (WSJ)
JP Morgan and Credit Suisse are discussing internally whether to disable computerized chat rooms that electronically link traders across multiple banks and are used by tens of thousands of employees globally, according to people familiar with the discussions. Royal Bank of Scotland Group, Barclays, UBS, and Citigroup among others, also are reviewing chat-room use and standards for controlling and monitoring all electronic communications, according to people at those and other banks and firms that do business with them. Chat rooms have become integral to the way traders communicate with one another and clients. Trading desks around the world that buy and sell currencies, commodities, equities and fixed-income assets rely, at least in part, on so-called multidealer chat rooms, which link multiple banks and their clients primarily through their Bloomberg terminals. But a series of regulatory probes into interest-rate rigging and possible manipulation of other markets has turned a spotlight on the chat rooms. The potential for hefty fines and damage to their reputations has some banks considering what would amount to a radical overhaul of the way traders conduct their business.

SAC plea deal on ice as judge delays decision (NYP)
The hedge-fund giant pleaded guilty Friday to insider-trading charges and agreed to pay $900 million in criminal penalties to settle a long-running probe by the Justice Department. But in a surprise move before a packed courtroom, Manhattan federal judge Laura Swain said she would hold off until March on whether to approve the plea deal. Swain said she wanted to see pre-sentencing reports prepared by the probation department before allowing the landmark settlement to proceed...Swain set the sentencing for March 14 — after two more insider trading trials involving former SAC money managers. Michael Steinberg goes on trial Nov. 18, while Mathew Martoma’s case is set for January.

Regulators urged to probe metals markets abuse (FT)
Britain’s parliamentary financial watchdog has urged regulators to probe potential abuses in metals markets as deeply as they are investigating the ongoing scandals over foreign exchange and Libor benchmark interest rates.
Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the Treasury select committee, told the Financial Times that MPs were conscious of growing concerns that the manipulation of rates – already exposed in the Libor affair, and now under investigation in a mounting regulatory probe into potential forex abuses – may go well beyond those areas and into metals markets.

Twitter Puts Spotlight on How Firms Burnish Results (WSJ)
The strong interest in Twitter's initial public offering brought back to the fore the accounting methods that companies can use to burnish otherwise lackluster results. Twitter has recorded a loss of more than $130 million this year using traditional accounting measures. But after stripping out several costs, Twitter posted a nine-month profit of almost $31 million...Today, it is common for tech companies to exclude large stock payments to employees from preferred measurements. Some also remove other costs, such as restructuring or acquisition expenses. Some companies even tout nonfinancial measurements, such as an increase in the user base. The SEC is watching that practice. "Our staff's concern has been the impact on investors of the sheer magnitude of some of these metrics," SEC Chairman Mary Jo White said in a speech Wednesday. For investors "it can be hard not to think that these big numbers will inevitably translate into big profits for the company. But the connection may not necessarily be there." She didn't name any companies.

Edwin Tobergta, Sentenced To 11 Months For Sex With Pool Raft, Also Had Sex With Pumpkin (HP)
Edwin Tobergta of Hamilton, Ohio, is now famous as the man caught having sex with a pool raft. His sentencing hearing this week offered a little insight into his proclivities. One thing that stands out: He once pleasured himself with a pumpkin. Tobergta was sentenced this week to 11 months in prison for defiling the inflatable raft, according to WXIX. He committed the act in June, in front of children. At an earlier court session, Tobergta plead guilty to public indecency. This is the second time Tobergta has been caught in flagrante delicto with an inflatable pool toy. The same thing happened in 2011. But a less reported aspect of Tobergta's checkered history with the law occurred in 2002, when he was arrested for allegedly diddling an inflatable pumpkin that was part of a Halloween display...Tobergta apologized in court before being sentenced. "I do want to apologize for my actions, I'm sorry," he said. "I'm ready to get my life together and quit all this nonsense."

'Long-only' Funds Lose Their Edge (WSJ)
On the heels of a multiyear market rally, a slew of hedge-fund firms are launching "long-only" funds betting that at least some stocks have further to climb. The moves come amid a brutal stretch for short bets against companies, traditionally a key strategy for hedge funds. The new funds also represent a shift by hedge-fund managers—known for their sophisticated tactics and exclusivity—into the kind of old-fashioned stock picking more associated with Main Street mutual funds. But some wonder if the latest craze is merely a grab for fees, or perhaps even a sign of the top of the stock market. The new entrants to the field include several firms with ties to Julian Robertson's investment firm Tiger Management, including Tiger Global Management and Coatue Management. Tiger Management-backed Hound Partners is planning to launch one of its own next year, according to people familiar with the firm.

Founder: Some women can’t wear Lululemon yoga pants (NYP)
Wilson was on Bloomberg TV for a promotional interview on a new meditation initiative created by Wilson and his wife, former Lululemon head designer Shannon Wilson. Once the promo drifted toward the company and how it was faring over the sheer yoga-pants production problems, Chip Wilson spread himself a little thin.
Wilson first stuck to his knitting, saying, “There’s no doubt we made a mistake,” adding that it’s “almost impossible’ to “build quality control” to cover all situations. So far, so good. But, alas, he followed up with: “Quite frankly, some women’s bodies just don’t work for it. . . . It’s about rubbing through the thighs and how much pressure there is.” When the interviewer pressed, “Not every woman can wear a Lululemon pant?” Wilson said, “I think they can — it’s how you use it.”

German Savings Banks Flex Political Muscle (WSJ)
Germany's public savings banks have become the most powerful little lenders in the world, exploiting their political clout to punch loopholes into Europe's postcrisis banking laws. Untouched by the image problems that have beset big U.S. and European lenders, the banks, known as Sparkassen, can count on political ties reaching from local councils all the way to the federal government in Berlin and the European Parliament.

Pay Raises for Bank Risk Officers in Asia Trump New York (Bloomberg)
Salaries for banks’ risk and compliance officers in Singapore and Hong Kong rose at about twice the pace of pay for similar positions at New York and London firms amid a shortage of skilled staff members, a recruiter said. Pay excluding bonuses for people who changed jobs in the Asian cities rose as much as 20 percent this year, compared with 10 percent in the Western hubs, said Neil Owen, a director for Robert Half International Inc. in London. A senior official in Singapore is paid as much as S$250,000 ($201,000) annually, compared with Hong Kong’s HK$1.8 million ($232,000), London’s 175,750 pounds ($281,000) and New York’s $323,595, data compiled by the firm show.

Hedge Fund Invests In Argentina (WSJ)
As head of a hedge fund that specializes in distressed debt, David Martinez has had lots of practice trying to figure out when an asset's value has been beaten down so much that it is a buy. He has just made an unusual call: Invest in Argentina. Mr. Martinez's investment group, Fintech Advisory, plans to buy Telecom Argentina and related assets for $960 million from Telecom Italia, TIT.MI -5.56% which is selling its Argentine unit to pay down debt. Mr. Martinez confirmed the purchase Friday. Argentina has been a cautionary tale for many investors since its 2001 default on $100 billion in sovereign debt. Since then, a husband-and-wife team of populist politicians, the late Néstor Kirchner and his wife, President Cristina Kirchner, has used higher commodity prices and public spending to get the economy back on its feet. But it has come at the cost of high inflation, price controls and growing fiscal problems.

It's not easy to land a job as a balloon handler in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (NYDN)
“Email everyone you know who works for Macy’s!” suggests Jorge Lee, 44, who scored his first balloon assignment through a friend in 2004 — and has held on tight ever since, rising through the ranks to become captain of the Elf on the Shelf balloon for this year’s Nov. 28 parade...Getting in is tough, and it’s no picnic even after scoring a spot. “It is very physical,” warns Elvia Negron-Perez, 52, from the Bronx, who landed on Julius the Sock Monkey’s balloon last year after Lee vouched for her. “I thought it was going to be easy with so many people. How heavy is a helium balloon?” The pull from the balloon lift can be 300 to 500 pounds. Factor in the cold and the wind, and the 2½-mile parade feels like a marathon. That’s why handlers must be over 18, weigh at least 120 pounds and have strong backs and knees with no heart problems. Handlers attend balloon boot camps in September and October to learn the ropes. “I recommend doing pullups, pushups, bicep and tricep workouts to get ready, because you really put your body into holding that balloon down,” says Negron-Perez.

Related

(Getty Images)

Opening Bell: 6.13.17

Inside Gary Cohn's unenviable White House job; Tim Cook dishes on Apple's autonomous car project; a thing called "potcoin" sent Dennis Rodman to North Korea; and more.

Opening Bell: 7.22.15

Greece; Volcker; J.P. Morgan hack; Book an Airbnb van down by the river; "Despite Catfish Claims, Loch Ness Monster Hunter 'Not Quitting"; and more.

Opening Bell: 01.28.13

Davos Money Men Say World Emerges From Doldrums Fretting Relapse (Bloomberg) “Optimism, but with a sober tone,” was how Bank of America Chief Executive Officer Brian T. Moynihan characterized the mood pervading the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting, even as investors were lifting the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index above 1,500 for the first time since 2007. Fed To Keep Money Spigot Open (WSJ) Federal Reserve officials are likely to continue their easy-money policies when they gather this week to weigh a mixed economic outlook and a recent run of low inflation. The Fed has said it would maintain its $85 billion bond-buying programs, aimed at boosting the economy by lowering long-term interest rates, until it sees substantial progress in labor markets. It has also said it would keep short-term interest rates near zero until the jobless rate drops to at least 6.5%, as long as inflation remains steady. Beneath the Calm, SAC Works to Contain Fallout From Inquiry (NYT) "This has always been a stressful place to work," said an SAC employee who requested anonymity because he was unauthorized to speak publicly about the fund. "Now it's just more stressful." Mr. Cohen's fund was dealt a blow last week when a Citigroup unit that manages money for wealthy families disclosed that it was withdrawing its $187 million investment. The move by the bank was the most prominent client departure since November, when the multiyear investigation into SAC's trading practices entered a more serious phase. Citigroup's withdrawal represents a tiny percentage of SAC's $14 billion in assets under management. The fund has said it expects total investor redemptions for the first quarter of up to $1 billion, a number that an SAC spokesman has said will not adversely affect its business...Still, the Citigroup decision stung, say peopleclose to SAC's business, because of the longstanding and lucrative relationship between the bank and the fund. Another concern, said these people, is that the move could influence other large SAC investors currently weighing whether to keep their money at the fund. For Citigroup, its withdrawal of money from SAC carries substantial business risk. The bank has a vast relationship with SAC, earning revenue by providing the fund with financing and trading services. SAC could exact retribution on Citigroup by terminating, or at least scaling back, its broader relationship with the bank. An SAC spokesman declined to comment. Credit Suisse Could Owe $2 Billion Over Fraud (Reuters) Credit Suisse Group faces a potential $2 billion of exposure over fraud that occurred a decade ago at National Century Financial Enterprises, a result of a federal judge's determination on how to apportion responsibility. Friday's decision by U.S. District Judge James Graham could expose the Swiss bank to hundreds of millions of dollars of added liability over the activities of Lance Poulsen, who co-founded National Century in 1990 and was its chief executive. He is now serving a 30-year prison term and is presumed insolvent. Goldman Raising $1 Billion From ICBC Share Sale (WSJ) The Wall Street company is selling the Hong Kong-listed shares in a block trade at 5.77 Hong Kong dollars (US$0.74) each, the people said, without disclosing the number of shares. The price represents a 3.0% discount to ICBC's HK$5.95 closing price Monday. A person familiar with the situation said the sale reflects prudent risk management on Goldman's part to reduce the size of its ICBC investment. MBA's Salary Enhancing Power Slashed (FT) Students on the top US MBA programs in the mid-1990s saw their salaries triple in five years, but those who graduated from the same schools in 2008 and 2009 saw that increase halved, according to data collected for the FT's annual Global MBA rankings. At the same time, MBA fees have risen by 7 percent a year. MBA students who enrolled in 2012 paid 62 percent more in fees - up 44 percent in real terms - than those who began their programs in 2005, even though the increases in post-MBA salaries remained in line with inflation. Beyonce has yet to apologize to Chuck Schumer for lip-syncing at inauguration (NYP) The New York senator angrily admitted yesterday that the pop queen has not called him to say sorry after she turned last week’s inaugural bash into an unexpected Milli Vanilli concert by lip-syncing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” “I have not heard from her before, during or after,” a testy Schumer told The Post after he was asked if Beyoncé had called him to give a musical mea culpa. “She did not talk to me at all. I didn’t say any words to her, period.” Schumer has been credited with drawing the pop diva and her hubby Jay-Z to the inauguration, where many said they stole the show from the president and first lady walking hand-in-hand on the steps of Capitol Hill. Schumer was seen beaming with pride just steps behind Beyoncé while she appeared to be belting out the National Anthem. Obama administration insiders and inauguration planners were in the dark about Beyoncé’s decision to use a prerecorded tape of her singing with the Marine Band during the swearing in. They were later left fuming over the embarrassment, according to reports. Some on Capitol Hill have even placed the blame on Schumer for the Star-Spangled sham. There’s a Twinkie in the eye of Apollo (NYP) Hostess Brands is expected to name Leon Black’s Apollo Global Management as the preferred bidder for Twinkies and its other snack brands, The Post has learned. The announcement from the bankrupt baker could come as soon as today, sources said. The selection of Apollo would give Manhattan buyout billionaire Leon Black the inside track to buying one of the country’s most well-known consumer brands. Black’s Apollo and co-bidder C. Dean Metropoulos, a veteran food exec, were vying with Grupo Bimbo, the Mexico-based baker, for the right to be the preferred, or stalking horse, bidder for Twinkies, Ho Ho’s, Ding Dongs and other Hostess snacks. Bank of America Moves $50 Billion of Derivatives to UK (FT) Bank of America has begun moving more than $50bn of derivatives business out of its Dublin-based operation and into its UK subsidiary, according to people close to the operation. The move, part of the group's global drive to rationalize its operations, has been encouraged by regulators but will also allow BofA to benefit from tax breaks stemming from the accumulated losses in its UK business. Singer Backs Off Aggressive Stance In Dealings With Buenos Aires (NYP) After a decade of aggressively pursuing $1.44 billion he claims the country owes him and a group of bondholders, including successfully pressing Ghana to seize a locally docked Argentine naval vessel to help pay down the debt, the billionaire New York hedge fund mogul is sounding like Bobby McFerrin in “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Singer’s Elliott Management now feels Argentina will do the right thing, according to recent court filings. It’s quite a change from last fall’s legal arguments, in which Singer urged a federal judge to hurry up and force Buenos Aires to put some of the monies owed into escrow, citing the country’s president’s plot to avoid the debt payment. Italians Have a New Tool to Unearth Tax Cheats (NYT) Despite the government's best efforts, tax evasion remains something of a pastime in Italy, where, famously, more than a few of the Ferrari-driving set claim impoverishment when it comes to declaring their incomes. So this month, not without controversy, the National Revenue Agency decided to try a new tack. Rather than attempting to ferret out how much suspected tax cheats earn, the agency began trying to infer it from how much they spend. The new tool, known as the ''redditometro,'' or income measurer, aims to minimize the wiggle room for evasion by examining a taxpayer's expenditures in dozens of categories, like household costs, car ownership, vacations, gym subscriptions, cellphone usage and clothing. If the taxpayer's spending appears to be more than 20 percent greater than the income he or she has declared, the agency will ask for an explanation. Traders Make Peace With Computers (WSJ) On a recent day on Barclays PLC's stock-trading desk in Manhattan, an electronic platform posted a notice that Barclays was selling a large block of Pfizer shares. In recent years, a computer typically would have swiftly matched such an order with a buyer, sidestepping trading floors altogether. But soft trading volume has left many traders unable to move stock as quickly as they might like. That is one reason why Barclays connected its recently launched DirectEx platform to its trading floor. The move paid off when a client who was buying 150,000 shares on the electronic network decided, after chatting with a Barclays salesman, to take an additional 150,000 shares. Woman Found with 92 Pounds of Marijuana in N. Bellmore (Patch) According to detectives, around 6 p.m., an unmarked First Precinct police car observed Mizzie Artis, 27, of Bellport, operating a 1999 Hyundai eastbound on Columbus Avenue while talking on a cell phone and not wearing a seat belt. Police then observed Artis drive to Armand Street where she met with a male subject in a minivan. As officers drove by both vehicles to further observe, the male subject fled the scene in the van, police said. Artis drove away and failed to stop at a stop sign and did not signal when turning, police said. Officers stopped Artis and, upon approaching the car, observed two large cardboard boxes in the auto. Officers also detected an odor of marijuana emanating from the vehicle. K-9 officers responded to the scene and performed a narcotic search of the vehicle. The cardboard boxes in the front seat had a positive alert for narcotics, police said. Two additional boxes were recovered from the trunk containing marijuana, bringing the total approximate weight to 92 pounds.