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Opening Bell: 12.13.13

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Traders Losing $1 Million Build EU Case for Bitcoin Regulation (Bloomberg)
Trading Bitcoins could bleed you dry, the European Union’s top banking regulator said as it weighs whether to regulate virtual currencies. Thefts from digital wallets have exceeded $1 million in some cases and traders aren’t protected against losses if their virtual exchange collapses, the European Banking Authority said in a report warning consumers about the risks of cybermoney.

Most Americans Don’t Know Bitcoin While Some Guess Xbox (Bloomberg)
Some Americans think Bitcoin is an Xbox game. Others think it might be an iPhone app. The majority have no idea it’s a virtual currency they can use to buy everything from T-shirts to Tesla Motors sedans, according to a Bloomberg National Poll. Only 42 percent of Americans who responded to the Dec. 6-9 telephone survey correctly identified Bitcoin, which has gained more than 80-fold in value this year as its popularity expands. “I’m not sure what the value of it is, and what I’d be able to exchange it for,” says Olga Ruff, 62, of Dallas, who correctly identified Bitcoin. Ruff says she’s unlikely to start accepting it for the small jewelry business she operates out of her home: “What use would it be for me?”

Pope attacks megasalaries and wealth gap (Reuters)
Pope Francis said in the first peace message of his pontificate that huge salaries and bonuses are symptoms of an economy based on greed and inequality, and he called again for nations to narrow the wealth gap. In his message for the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Peace, marked around the world on Jan. 1, he also called for sharing of wealth and for nations to shrink the gap between rich and poor, more of whom are getting only "crumbs." "The grave financial and economic crises of the present time ... have pushed man to seek satisfaction, happiness and security in consumption and earnings out of all proportion to the principles of a sound economy," he said. "The succession of economic crises should lead to a timely rethinking of our models of economic development and to a change in lifestyles," he said...The new pope's style is characterized by frugality. He shunned the spacious papal apartment in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace to live in a small suite in a Vatican guest house, and he prefers a Ford Focus to the traditional Mercedes.

Falcone’s Life Insurer Prices Shares at Low End of Range in IPO (Bloomberg)
Fidelity & Guaranty Life, the insurer controlled by billionaire Philip Falcone’s Harbinger Group Inc., raised $165.75 million in its initial public offering, pricing the shares at the low end of the marketed range. Fidelity sold 9.75 million shares for $17 apiece, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, after offering them for $17 to $19. The sale of a 17 percent stake values the company at $965 million. Falcone is focused on running Harbinger Group, which has businesses from insurance to consumer products, after reaching a settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in August that bars him from the hedge-fund industry. He’s also been banned from being an officer or director of Fidelity & Guaranty, which is run by former MetLife Inc. executive Lee Launer. “FGL is being attractively priced,” Manal Mehta, an investor in Harbinger Group via his Sunesis Capital LLC, said in an e-mail before the details were announced. “Falcone’s woes are a gift to investors participating in the offering.”

Startups Are Quick To Fire (WSJ)
Here's another way that startups are reinventing the way companies work: Firing people before the ink is dry on their employment contracts. At one startup, Steve Fredrick, of venture-capital firm Grotech Ventures, says he saw a senior executive fired after three days. "It was like an organ-transplant rejection," he adds. Hoping to board a rocket ship to IPO riches and build the next big thing with a beer in hand, tech-savvy workers are flocking to fledgling companies. Almost anyone joining one of these upstarts faces the risk that it could collapse long before minting millionaires as Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc. have done in the past two years. But there are personal risks, too. New hires often don't realize just how precarious their job at a startup can be. Startup managers say they try to let underperformers or poor fits go within their first three months, but some hires don't last even that long.

Residents in affluent neighbourhood turn to 'vandalising' cars with sauce in fight against parking on their streets (DM)
Homeowners in Edgbaston, Birmingham, are taking the law into their own hands because they say the local council has done nothing to reduce the number of vehicles left on their road. The word 'idiot' has been daubed with a food substance on the [hoods] of cars which are left outside houses all day. The area is known for being an affluent suburb of Birmingham which hosts international cricket and tennis matches every year. But during the year it is seen as a free-parking hotspot due to its proximity to one of Birmingham's biggest hospitals, the Queen Elizabeth. It is also close to the University of Birmingham, making it a convenient place for students who don't want to pay for parking.

SEC plans to take more cases to trial despite losses (Reuters)
Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White says her team will not shy away from high-stakes trials, and not just strike settlements with wrongdoers, but a string of recent court setbacks shows she has her work cut out for her.

JPMorgan unfazed by prospect of Madoff settlement (NYP)
Reports surfaced Wednesday that JPMorgan is expected to fork over as much as $2 billion to square allegations from regulators that the bank turned a blind eye to Madoff’s massive Ponzi scheme despite executives being aware of red flags before the fraudster’s stunning confession five years ago. Sources familiar with the situation tell The Post that the bank doesn’t believe it has done anything wrong and that it was not the only institution not to detect Madoff’s decades-long plundering of billions from investors. JPMorgan has agreed to “deferred prosecution” where no execs will be indicted, in the hopes of putting a string of nettlesome probes behind it, a source said. A source familiar with the bank’s thinking said that JPMorgan is hoping to tackle the bank’s few major probes over the next several months. That includes the lingering investigations of its hiring policies in China, an electric trading probe, criminal investigations into the “London Whale,” other mortgage matters and a long-standing interest rate-rigging probe tied to the London Interbank Offered Rate.

Merrill Settles With SEC Over Crisis-Era Bond Deals (WSJ)
On Thursday, Bank of America Corp. agreed to pay $131.8 million to settle civil charges its Merrill Lynch unit misled investors in two mortgage-bond deals. The settlement took the total sanctions paid to the Securities and Exchange Commission for alleged misconduct related to the 2008 meltdown to more than $3 billion. But there won't be many deals like this after it. The SEC has ruled out enforcement action against prominent hedge-fund firms that helped banks create the complicated mortgage-bond deals that the hedge-fund firms then bet against, reaping profits on the wagers when the housing market collapsed. One of those hedge-fund firms, Magnetar Capital LLC, was involved in helping to create a number of deals that have been the focus of SEC cases, including Thursday's action against Merrill Lynch. The SEC said investors in the Merrill deals weren't warned that Magnetar had a "significant influence" in selecting the assets. Chicago-based Magnetar said Thursday that SEC officials have told it they have concluded an investigation into the firm and won't recommend any enforcement action. The Wall Street Journal reported in August that SEC enforcement officials had decided not to recommend filing civil charges against Magnetar. An SEC spokesman declined to comment on future enforcement actions.

Fox News' Megyn Kelly declares Jesus and Santa were white (NYDN)
“For you kids watching at home,” Kelly said during her prime-time show on Wednesday, “Santa just is white. But this person is arguing that maybe we should also have a black Santa.” Then Kelly, a Fox franchise player, dug herself in further by saying that Santa couldn’t be anything but Caucasian because he’s like Jesus. “Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change,” Kelly said. “You know, I mean, Jesus was a white man, too.” Kelly was reacting to a piece by Aisha Harris, who had made the case that maybe, as the U.S. becomes more diverse, it was time to “ditch Santa the old white man altogether, and embrace Penguin Claus.” “People love penguins,” Harris wrote...While it is true that both Jesus and Santa Claus have been depicted by European painters as white for centuries, many scholars say the historical figures probably weren’t the kind of white that would have passed muster with a segregated 1950s golf club. Jesus was a Jew born in Bethlehem, a Semitic town in what is now the West Bank. And the New Testament does not describe his appearance. The historical St. Nicholas is believed to have been a Greek bishop living in what’s now Turkey, two countries where fair-skinned blondes like Kelly aren’t as common as they are in, say, Sweden.


Opening Bell: 11.18.15

Yellen no fan of Fed oversight bill; Barclays faces (another) big forex fine; "Throughout the four to five hour trip, Taco Bell is encouraging fans to follow the historic relocation via a live webcam"; and more.

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Opening Bell: 12.18.17

Visa's C-suite is apparently a cauldron of sexual adventure and impropriety; something smells fishy in Russian banking; how to run a massive Ponzi and succeed (hint: be in Europe); and more.


Opening Bell: 12.11.17

Bitcoin futures get off to a manic start; the tax bill is dumber than you could even imagine; Janet Yellen, “feminist icon”; Snap execs ordered sex on a company call; and more.


Opening Bell: 10.13.17

The SEC wants to know what's going on between Bob Diamond and Guggenheim; Marc Cohodes makes amends with Overstock; the Russians have even infiltrated Pokemon Go; and more.

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Opening Bell: 12.7.17

Why Baupost terminated half their female investment professionals last year (i.e., one woman); Nehal Chopra took credit for others' work; Wall Street would like some profits from frackers, please; dog interrupts Cats; and more.