Opening Bell: 02.10.14

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SAC’s Martoma Faces Up to 20 Years at June 10 Sentencing (Bloomberg)
Martoma, 39, was convicted of two counts of securities fraud, which carries a maximum 20 year term, and one count of conspiracy, which has a maximum five year term. U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe may make each term concurrent, and has latitude to impose a significantly shorter sentence. The longest insider-trading term of 12 years was given to attorney Matthew Kluger in 2012 for a $37 million scheme. The second-longest of 11 years was imposed upon Galleon Group LLC co-founder Raj Rajaratnam for a $72 million scheme.

Hedge Funds Clash Over Argentina Debt (WSJ)
The two firms, Gramercy Funds Management LLC and Elliott Management Corp., have hundreds of millions of dollars at stake as Argentina tries to wrap up a saga that dates back to its decision to give up on its debt payments in December 2001. But the firms have taken conflicting tacks in trying to get their money back. Gramercy, which manages $3.9 billion, has been advising Argentina behind the scenes on how to restore its reputation with the international community and regain access to capital markets. In doing so, Gramercy has antagonized Elliott, a bigger firm that has been doing battle with Argentina for years. Famous for its bare-knuckled tactics with debtors, Elliott once tried to seize the plane of Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner during a fueling stop and impounded an Argentine Navy vessel.

AOL Chief Apologizes for ’Distressed Babies’ Comment (Bloomberg)
AOL’s chief executive officer had to backtrack on a 401(k) policy change, after his comments defending the idea fueled an employee outcry. Armstrong last week said AOL needed the retirement-plan tweak to help offset health-care costs, such as two employee pregnancies that resulted in “distressed babies” with more than $1 million each in medical expenses. Over the weekend, he reversed the 401(k) decision in a memo to employees. “We heard you on this topic,” Armstrong, 43, said in the memo. “I made a mistake and I apologize for my comments.” The mea culpa was Armstrong’s second in about six months for a public controversy. In August, he sent a memo to workers saying he was wrong for firing a creative director in front of a room full of employees, as well as a thousand others who were listening on a conference call.

ISS recommends Apple board votes no to Icahn plan (CNBC)
Apple shareholders should vote against a proposal by activist investor Carl Icahn for the tech giant to aggressively expand its stock repurchase, proxy advisory firm ISS said in a report released on Sunday. "(The Apple board) has returned the bulk of its U.S.-generated cash to shareholders via aggressive stock buybacks and dividends payouts," ISS said in the report. "In light of these good-faith efforts and its past stewardship, the board's latitude should not be constricted by a shareholder resolution that would micromanage the company's capital allocation process." [...] The activist investor has been gradually building up shares in Apple and late last month picked up another $500 million. "Mr. Icahn has no comment at this time, but plans to issue something before the market opens tomorrow [Monday]," a spokesperson for Ichan said in an email to CNBC.

Berlin: Shia LaBeouf Wears Paper Bag on Head to 'Nymphomaniac' Premiere (THR)
Shia LaBeouf topped off his headline-making day with a peculiar fashion statement on the red carpet at the Berlin Film Festival gala premiere for Lars von Trier's Nymphomaniac, Volume I Sunday night. The actor accessorized his black tuxedo with a black bow tie and a paper bag with the words "I am not famous anymore" written in black paint on it. LaBeouf, 27, has been using the catchphrase repeatedly on his Twitter account for several weeks...Earlier in the day, LaBeouf abruptly walked out of a press conference after responding to just one question about being in a film with so many sex scenes. He slowly and deliberately said: "When the seagulls follow the trawler, it's because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea. Thank you very much.” Then, he got up and left the room. The quote is from French soccer legend Eric Cantona, who said it at a press conference in 1995.

New Regulations Leave Buyout Shops Out on Their Own (WSJ)
Losing a bank's financial support presents a challenge for private-equity firms that used to be nestled within financial institutions. Out on their own, they must vie for investors' cash against big firms, such as Apollo Global Management LLC and Warburg Pincus LLC, that are coming off hugely profitable stretches. In general, newly independent firms have raised less on their own than when they had bank backing, even if they are exceeding their own goals, according to securities filings and private-equity executives.

Singapore Long-Only Hedge Funds Defy Capital Rut (Bloomberg)
Managers of long-only funds in Singapore that invest mainly in Asian stocks are winning client money, shrugging off difficulties in raising capital faced by smaller hedge funds in the region. Assets under management of such funds in the city-state that manage less then $500 million surged 410 percent to about $990 million from the end of 2010 through November, according to an estimate by research firm GFIA Pte. That compares with a 72 percent increase for all long-only funds focused on Asia, according to data provider Eurekahedge Pte.

A King Of The 'Rock' (NYP)
Larry Fink will take home in excess of $20 million for his Wall Street work last year.

Miami Bitcoin Arrests May Be First State Prosecution (Bloomberg)
Two South Florida men were arrested last week on what a local prosecutor said may be the first state law charges over the use of Bitcoin virtual currency as part of an alleged money laundering scheme. Pascal Reid, 29, and Michel Abner Espinoza, 30, face two counts of money laundering and one count of engaging in an unlicensed money servicing business, according to court filings in Miami state court. Both men were arrested Feb. 6 and are being held in Miami-Dade County jails. “The use of Bitcoins in the transactions is a new technological flourish to this very old crime,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a statement. The “arrests may be the first state prosecutions involving the use of Bitcoins in money laundering operations.”

Michael Jackson estate embroiled in tax fight with IRS (LA Times)
The agency has told Jackson's executors that the estate owes $505 million in taxes and an additional $197 million in penalties, for a total of more than $702 million. According to documents filed with the U.S. Tax Court in Washington, Jackson's executors placed his net worth at the time of his June 2009 death at slightly more than $7 million. The IRS placed it at $1.125 billion, a difference so vast it looks like a typo. Jackson's return was so inaccurate, the IRS said, that it qualified for a gross valuation misstatement penalty, which would allow the government to double the usual 20% penalty for underpayment.

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Opening Bell: 09.04.12

Moody's Gives EU Warning (WSJ) Moody's Investors Service has put the European Union's triple-A credit rating on a negative outlook in a move that reflects actions the ratings firm has taken on some of the euro-zone's largest members, including Germany and the Netherlands. "Moody's believes that it is reasonable to assume that the EU's credit-worthiness should move in line with the credit-worthiness of its strongest key member states considering the significant linkages between member states and the EU," Moody's said in a release. Fears Rising, Spaniards Pull Out Their Cash and Get Out of Spain (NYT) After working six years as a senior executive for a multinational payroll-processing company in Barcelona, Spain, Julio Vildosola is cutting his professional and financial ties with his troubled homeland. He has moved his family to a village near Cambridge, England, where he will take the reins at a small software company, and he has transferred his savings from Spanish banks to British banks. “The macro situation in Spain is getting worse and worse,” Mr. Vildosola, 38, said last week just hours before boarding a plane to London with his wife and two small children. “There is just too much risk. Spain is going to be next after Greece, and I just don’t want to end up holding devalued pesetas.” In July, Spaniards withdrew a record 75 billion euros, or $94 billion, from their banks — an amount equal to 7 percent of the country’s overall economic output — as doubts grew about the durability of Spain’s financial system. According to official statistics, 30,000 Spaniards registered to work in Britain in the last year, and analysts say that this figure would be many multiples higher if workers without documents were counted. That is a 25 percent increase from a year earlier. Europe Bank Chief Hints At Bond Purchases (WSJ) The comments by Mario Draghi in a closed hearing at the European Parliament on Monday came ahead of the ECB's monthly policy meeting Thursday. That meeting has been keenly awaited in the financial markets for further details of how the bank could help bring down the funding costs of countries such as Spain and Italy to prevent them from having to seek full euro-zone bailouts like Greece, Ireland and Portugal. Switzerland Flirts With Recession (WSJ) "Three months ago, the Swiss economy looked charmingly strong against the backdrop of the euro zone and now it is looking on the brink of recession," said Janwillem Acket, chief economist at Julius Bär in Zurich. Nigeria Uncovers Cocaine-Stuffed Roasted Chicken (AP) The roasted chickens had an unusual stuffing — $150,000 worth of cocaine, according to Nigerian police. A Nigerian mechanic who struggled in Brazil for more than six years had hoped the drugs would buy him a life of luxury in his native land, Nigerian authorities said Monday. "This was like a retirement plan for him," said Mitchell Ofoyeju, spokesman for the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency. The accused was arrested over the weekend at the airport in Lagos after he came in from Sao Paulo with 2.6 kilograms (5.7 pounds) of cocaine, Ofoyeju said. Photos from the agency showed egg-shaped packages wrapped in gold aluminum foil and tucked into the browned chickens. Citibank Hid Firm’s Financial Troubles, Ex-Partner at Dewey & LeBoeuf Says (NYT) In a recent court filing, the former partner, Steven P. Otillar, says Citibank conspired with Dewey's management to hide the law firm's true financial condition in the months before its collapse. Mr. Otillar made the claim in response to a lawsuit brought against him by Citibank seeking repayment of a $210,000 loan. The bank lent Mr. Otillar the money to pay for his capital contribution to Dewey when he joined the partnership in August 2011. (New partners typically must make a financial contribution to a law firm when they join.) The filing said that Citibank had extended Mr. Otillar the loan as part of a fraudulent scheme intended to benefit Citibank and Dewey's management. By recruiting him and other partners to join the financially troubled firm in the months leading up to its demise—and collecting millions of dollars from them—Dewey's partners enriched themselves and kept the firm afloat. Credit Suisse Exec Facing Arrest Order (Reuters) A judge in Argentina has ordered the arrest of Credit Suisse executive and former US Treasury Undersecretary David Mulford because he failed to testify over a 2001 Argentine debt swap, the state news agency reported today. Federal Judge Marcelo Martinez de Giorgi will ask Interpol to issue an international arrest warrant seeking Mulford’s extradition for questioning over the bond exchange carried out by the government in an unsuccessful bid to avoid default. Bernanke Channeling Hatzius Dismissing Gross New Normal (Bloomberg) Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke is betting the new U.S. economy is the same as the old one as he lays out arguments for more stimulus to revive it. He made that diagnosis last week in a rebuttal to those who blame an 8.3 percent unemployment rate on structural shifts in the economy wrought by the financial crisis and who contend joblessness is permanently elevated. “I see little evidence of substantial structural change in recent years,” Bernanke told fellow central bankers and economists at the annual monetary-policy symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. “Following every previous U.S. recession since World War II, the unemployment rate has returned close to its pre-recession level.” Ice Picks Are Still Used As Weapons (NYT) Mann Rosa, 32, who lives on Perry Avenue about a block from the scene of the recent attack, said ice picks were back in vogue among street gangs all across the city. “The ice pick, from what I know, is the new thing,” Mr. Rosa said, noting how easy it was to buy and conceal. “It’s definitely the new wave.” Toward the end of the conversation, almost as if he had an afterthought, Mr. Rosa said he had been stabbed repeatedly with an ice pick about two years ago during a street fight. He rolled up the sleeve of his T-shirt to reveal two dime-size wounds, not unlike scars from a smallpox vaccination, on his shoulder and upper arm. “I was stabbed once in the chest, once in the back and twice in the arm,” Mr. Rosa said; it took 12 stitches to close the wounds. Asked if the police ever caught the perpetrator, Mr. Rosa laughed and shook his head. “We got this thing called street justice. We don’t go to the cops over something like that.”

Opening Bell: 7.24.15

Hedge fund's bet on Obamacare pays off; China wants lots of Silicon Valleys; Banks probed re: FIFA; "Brave topless models defend First Amendment at courthouse"; and more.

Opening Bell: 2.20.15

Argentina won't meet with Paul Singer; Meredith Whitney still being sued; Seattle investor goes on dates with women who think he's the "real" Christian Grey; Man attempts to pay bar tab with rock; AND MORE.

Opening Bell: 03.12.13

Apple To Announce Plans For Cash Hoard (WSJ) Apple will outline what it plans to do with a growing pile of cash by next month, according to Howard Ward, chief investment officer at Gamco Investors Inc. Apple, which has been grappling with investor criticism over the handling of its $137.1 billion in cash and investments, will add $42 billion in earnings to that sum in 2013, Ward said. Greenlight Capital Inc.’s David Einhorn has been urging Cupertino, California-based Apple to issue high-yielding preferred shares to spread the funds among investors. Investors are also urging Apple to consider a higher dividend payout. “We’re going to get an announcement from the company as to how they intend to reallocate some of their cash,” Ward said in an interview today on Bloomberg Radio’s “Surveillance” with Tom Keene. “They will put a floor under their stock at a higher price than it is today.” AIG shareholders win class-action status in lawsuit versus U.S. (Reuters) Two groups of American International Group shareholders won class-action status from a federal judge on Monday in a $25 billion lawsuit by former Chief Executive Maurice "Hank" Greenberg over alleged losses caused by the U.S. government's bailout of the insurer. U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Thomas Wheeler also appointed Greenberg's lawyer, David Boies, of Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, as lead counsel for the classes. Greenberg's Starr International Co, once AIG's largest shareholder with a 12 percent stake, sued the United States in 2011 over what eventually became a $182.3 billion bailout for the New York-based insurer. It said that by taking a 79.9 percent AIG stake and then conducting a reverse stock split without letting existing shareholders vote, the government conducted an illegal taking that violated the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Citing Boies' estimate that "tens of thousands" of shareholders might be affected, Wheeler said "class certification is by far the most efficient method of adjudicating these claims." Both Sides Of SEC Nominee Face Heat (WSJ) In one version, Ms. White is a no-holds-barred crime fighter known for stretching the law to jail mob bosses and international terrorists. In another, Ms. White is a friend of Wall Street who worked for the past decade for the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, where she represented giant banks such as J.P. Morgan Chase. Blackstone: We're Betting Big On Residential Real Estate (CNBC) "Blackstone is now the largest owner of individual houses in the United States," Schwarzman told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" Monday, pointing to his company's $3 billion portfolio of residential real estate. But given the nascent recovery in the housing market, they're not buying and selling them quickly but rather renting them out. "It's a good business for us. It's a new thing, but it's also good for America," he said. Icahn Gets Confidential Look At Feds Books (Reuters) Dell Inc has agreed to give Carl Icahn a closer look at its books, less than a week after the activist investor joined a growing chorus of opposition to founder Michael Dell's plan to take the world's No. 3 personal computer maker private...A source with knowledge of the situation said Icahn's and Dell's confidentiality agreement does not have a contractual "standstill" obligation - meaning he is not obligated to stop trading stock in the company. But the activist investor would not be able to trade the stock while he is privy to non-public information in any case, the source added. Phoenix society gives gator happier life with prosthesis (AZC) The alligator is Mr. Stubbs, who is part science project, part human endeavor, and much more. He’s also half-gator, half-rubber. The 11-year-old crocodilian now sports a 3-foot-long prosthetic tail, attached firmly with nylon straps. It replaces the original, which was bitten off more than eight years ago. As far as anyone at the Phoenix Herpetological Society knows, Mr. Stubbs is the first alligator to tolerate, if not sport, a prosthesis. It will take months, however, before Mr. Stubbs learns how to properly use the tail. For now, handlers are happy with smaller milestones. “The fact he doesn’t try to bite it (the tail) is a good sign,” said Russ Johnson, president of the Phoenix Herpetological Society. “Learning how to use it is going to take a lot of training.” The months-long project was overseen by someone well-versed in anatomy. Marc Jacofsky is executive vice president of research and development at the CORE Institute in Phoenix, which specializes in orthopedic care — for humans. While visiting the Herpetological Society, Jacofsky was asked if it would be possible to make an artificial tail for Mr. Stubbs. “I looked and saw there was enough there that we could probably do something that wouldn’t involve surgery,” Jacofsky said. “I also liked the idea because it would improve his life. Our motto at the CORE Institute is ‘Keep life in motion,’ and this certainly fit in with that. I was on board.” Jacofsky estimated the project has cost the Core Institute about $6,000 in donated labor and materials. Mr. Stubbs had been a project since shortly after arriving at the center in May 2005. The then-3-year-old gator was one of 32 confiscated from the back of a truck pulled over near Casa Grande, Johnson said. Officers called in the Arizona Game and Fish Department as soon as the cargo made its presence known. “Scared the heck out of the officer,” Johnson said. “No one expects to find alligators when you look into the back of a truck.” Greece Faces 150,000 Job-Cut Hurdle to Aid Payment (Bloomberg) Greece is locked in talks with international creditors in Athens about shrinking the government workforce by enough to keep bailout payments flowing. Identifying redundant positions and putting in place a system that will lead to mandatory exits for about 150,000 civil servants by 2015 is a so-called milestone that will determine whether the country gets a 2.8 billion-euro ($3.6 billion) aid instalment due this month. More than a week of talks on that has so far failed to clinch an agreement. Failed Sale Of Gleacher Is A Warning For Directors (WSJ) The Dell drama is still unfolding, but for a cautionary tale of how boards, even when they may be well-intentioned, can harm investors of a takeover target, take Gleacher. Shares in the small investment bank have lost more than 60% in the past year as the prospects for a deal evaporated, business dwindled and star traders left. Ironically for a firm that bears the name of Eric Gleacher, who made his name advising on big deals in the 1980s, the company failed to sell itself. At least as some critics see it, its independent directors are to blame. SEC Says Illinois Hid Pension Troubles (WSJ) For years, Illinois officials misled investors and shortchanged the state pension system, leaving future generations of taxpayers to foot the bill, U.S. securities regulators allege. The Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday charged Illinois with securities fraud, marking only the second time the agency has filed civil-fraud charges against a state. Bernanke Provokes Mystery Over Fed Stimulus Exit (Bloomberg) When Ben S. Bernanke asserted last month that the Federal Reserve doesn’t ever have to sell assets, he raised questions about how the central bank can withdraw its record monetary stimulus without stoking inflation. The Fed may decide to hold the bonds on its balance sheet to maturity as part of a review of the exit strategy Bernanke expects will be done “sometime soon,” he told lawmakers in Washington on Feb. 27. This would help address concerns that dumping assets on the market will lead to a rapid rise in borrowing costs. It also allows the Fed to avoid realizing losses on its bond holdings as interest rates climb. Man shot in buttocks at Calle Ocho Festival unaware he was wounded (Miami Herald) The shooting occurred around 4:30 p.m. as the man walked along Southwest Eighth Street and 11th Avenue, part of the throng of revelers who gather annually at the street festival in Little Havana. It’s unclear if something sparked the violence between the two men, or if the shooting was unprovoked. At first the victim did not realize he had been shot and kept strolling along the festival route. “He discovered later that he was bleeding and then passed out,” said Miami police spokesman Sgt. Freddie Cruz. The victim, who was hit in the left buttocks, was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he is in stable condition and expected to recover.