Opening Bell: 11.15.13

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UBS Still In Revamp Mode (WSJ)
UBS says it has long since finished restructuring its investment-banking arm. Behind the scenes, though, the Swiss bank recently toyed with potentially far-reaching alternatives for the unit. As recently as September, UBS held talks with Japan's Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., a unit of Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc., about forming a partnership that would have resulted in a significant portion of UBS's Tokyo investment bank being moved off its balance sheet, according to several people familiar with the negotiations. Those discussions appear to have stalled, although one person said they could be rekindled. Meanwhile, at a corporate retreat in June, top UBS executives assessed the possibility of jettisoning the investment-banking unit altogether, according to people involved in those talks. The group decided that such a radical move would be unwise, these people said.

Ackman’s Pershing Buys Stakes in Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac (Bloomberg)
Bill Ackman’s hedge fund-firm took stakes in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-backed mortgage insurers that investor Bruce Berkowitz is seeking to restructure, and said it may seek talks with management, shareholders and the government. Pershing Square Capital Management LP bought a 9.98 percent stake in the common shares of Fannie Mae and a 9.77 percent stake in Freddie Mac common stock, according to a government filing today. Pershing started buying the stakes on Oct. 7 and accelerated purchases after Oct. 21, according to the filing.

New Herbalife pacts block distributors from suing company (NYP)
Herbalife is making its new salespeople sign away their right to the sue the company. The new restriction in Herbalife’s latest agreement with distributors comes as the protein-shake peddler, led by CEO Michael Johnson, spends more on legal fees to defend against allegations that it is a pyramid scheme in which most of its salespeople lose money. “You agree that, by entering into this agreement, you and Herbalife are each waiving the right to a trial by jury … Class actions shall not be permitted,” it reads. The agreement, which went into effect in August, requires that the company and its network of independent distributors agree to settle any disputes through arbitration.

Jos. A. Bank Drops Bid For Men's Wearhouse (WSJ)
"Jos. A. Bank continues to believe that a transaction could be in the best interest of the respective shareholders of the two companies," Jos. A. Bank said in a statement early Friday. "If, in the future, we are invited by the Men's Wearhouse board to discuss our acquisition of Men's Wearhouse, or if circumstances were otherwise to change, Jos. A. Bank may consider whether a new proposal to acquire Men's Wearhouse is warranted."

Police: Psychic gambled $115K she got from client (L10)
A psychic in Boca Raton took $115,000 from a client, promising to give her back $90,000 and remove a curse from the cash, but instead gambled it away, according to the Boca Raton Police Department. In September, 30-year-old Amanda Berkofsky told police she was a victim of fraud, stating that psychic Stephanie Lee, later identified as Stephanie Thompson, took over $115,000 in cash from her and told her she would give her back $90,000. Berkofsky met Thompson in May 2012 at the Psychic Tea Room and decided to do a reading for $200 in cash. After the reading, Thompson told Berkofsky that she had a "curse" on her and it would cost her $2,000 to take it off of her, according to an arrest affidavit. After Berkofsky gave Thompson the money, Thompson told her that she needed more money to remove the curse, police said. Berkofsky told police Thompson said she would give the money back once she had "meditated" over it and it was clear. Berkofsky said she had to give Thompson the money she received from her mother so that she could clean it. Thompson told Berkofsky not to give her the money all at once, only in small amounts as not to bring attention to herself. Police said Berkofsky would meet Thompson at various locations around Boca Raton. They would meet at the CVS in the Fifth Avenue Shops and then go to Bank of America to withdraw money. Thompson would have Berkofsky go to different branches as not to raise suspicion, according to the affidavit. Thompson also told Berkofsky not to tell anyone about this or it would "erase" whatever work she had done, police said.

Banks to repay 3.6 billion euros of crisis loans: ECB (Reuters)
Banks will next week return 3.59 billion euros ($4.8 billion) of crisis loans early to the European Central Bank, the ECB said on Friday, a lower than expected total as a recent rate cut makes it more attractive to hold on to the funds for now. The ECB cut its main refinancing rate to a record low of 0.25 percent, automatically reducing the interest rate banks have to pay on the three-year loans. Next week's repayments fell short of estimates in a Reuters poll of euro money market traders, which had expected them to return 4 billion euros.

Judge sacks ex-SAC manager’s email motion (NYP)
Steve Cohen’s top lieutenant at SAC Capital Advisors struck out in federal court on Thursday. A dapper, smiling Michael Steinberg, 41, appeared in a downtown Manhattan courtroom with his high-paid legal team trying to get some favorable emails and trading records admitted during his upcoming trial, while excluding others. But Judge Richard Sullivan denied the motion. Steinberg, the seventh SAC money man to face insider-trading charges, is scheduled to go on trial starting Nov. 19.

China To Ease One-Child Policy (WSJ)
The document said China would significantly ease its one-child policy, allowing couples to have two children if one of the parents is an only child. Currently, Chinese couples are restricted to one child except under some circumstances, such as rural dwellers, pilot programs in a number of areas and among ethnic minorities.

Twitter Traders Get New Tool as U.S. Contracts Start (Bloomberg)
Short sellers are making their presence felt in Twitter Inc. and now speculators with a bearish view will have options to trade, starting today. Puts to sell Twitter shares will be available on U.S. options exchanges along with calls to buy in weekly and monthly maturities. About 5 percent of the newly public shares have already been lent out, the first step in a short sale, according to data compiled by London-based Markit. That compares with an average of 2.4 percent for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

University of Illinois professor loses tenure (Examiner)
Professor Louis Wozniak, 75, who has taught engineering at the University of Illinois since 1967, has had his tenure teaching status revoked, according to a Thursday’s Chicago Tribune report...Wozniak has had a number of confrontations with the University. The current concerns began some-four years ago when he believed he was unfairly denied a student-selected teaching award that would have given him a plaque and $500 at a dinner event. In the case, the professor has been accused of embarrassing a student publicly, approaching students about a future teaching award, and tape recording students without written consent. Additionally, there was a concern about him having sent seniors an email with sexual overtones...In regard to the sexual email, the professor admits that he sent a stupid joke to graduating seniors in May of 2010. That email initiated a suspension of Wozniak, and since then, things have never gotten better for him. In the email he wrote to at least 100 graduating seniors – which he refers to as his “adorable GKs – grandkids” – he wrote “If you return to visit and see me, please don’t ask if I remember your name. Just tell it to me up front. I only remember names of the GKs I’ve had sex with.” The professor said that he never had sex with his students. The morning after he sent the email, he sent an apology for it.

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