Opening Bell: 02.21.14

Author:
Updated:
Original:

J.P. Morgan Holder Pulls Independent-Chair Proposal (WSJ)
A J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. shareholder has pulled a proposal calling for the largest U.S. bank to split the chairman and chief executive posts held since 2006 by James Dimon. A small Toledo philanthropic organization called The Needmor Fund had backed the nonbinding resolution asking J.P. Morgan to name an independent chair for its board. But J.P. Morgan said in a news release that it had reached an agreement with the group to withdraw the proposal. The decision by The Needmor Fund means that Mr. Dimon won't face a vote from shareholders this month about whether they support the idea of having different people in the roles of chairman and CEO role, a company spokesman said. The bank said it agreed to an "ongoing dialogue" with the proponents and to hear any questions "directors might consider in reviewing the implications of combining or separating the roles of CEO and chair."

Upstarts Hope to Make 2014 a Blowout Year for Hedge-Fund Debuts (WSJ)
A host of notable hedge-fund startups are expected to begin operating in 2014, each with at least $500 million—and in one case $2 billion—to invest. Bankers and lawyers who work with such funds say this is likely to be the busiest year for launches since the financial crisis. The resurgence comes even as the industry broadly has underperformed recently when compared with rebounding stock markets...Among the new entrants this year are veterans from established funds venturing out on their own, including Herb Wagner, formerly of Baupost Group LLC, Matthew Sidman, out of Highfields Capital Management LP, and Jim Parsons of Viking, according to people familiar with the matter. Baupost and Highfields are also closed, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Murdoch Buys 4 Floors of NYC Condo Tower for $57 Million (Bloomberg)
Murdoch, 82, who is also chief executive officer of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc., went into contract to purchase two units at One Madison, a triplex penthouse spanning the 58th through 60th stories and another full-floor apartment beneath it, his spokesman, Steven Rubenstein, said. The properties total about 10,160 square feet (944 square meters), according to a statement from Related Cos., one of the developers of the tower on East 22nd Street in Manhattan’s Flatiron neighborhood.

Energy Holdings Prepares for a Breakup (wSJ)
One of the biggest leveraged buyouts of an American company is preparing to file for bankruptcy protection, brought to its knees by heavy debt and a misguided bet on the direction of natural gas prices. Energy Future Holdings Corp., previously called TXU Corp., is lining up loans to keep two subsidiaries operating during bankruptcy proceedings after months of talks have failed to produce an agreement with creditors on reworking its $40 billion-plus in debt, according to people familiar with the matter.

Loeb: Spirituality is good for Wall Street (NYP)
“Meditation, contemplation — it’s not just for monks and hermits,” Loeb told attendees at an American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

World's Largest Oyster Is Size Of A Man's Shoe (NPR)
The world's largest oyster is nearly 14 inches long and resides in Denmark, according to the folks at Guinness World Records. And it's still alive and growing, according to Christine Ditlefsen, the biologist at the Wadden Sea Centre whose world record was recently certified. The oyster was found in October in Wadden Sea National Park, a shallow area off of the North Sea on Denmark's southwestern coast. Its size and shape could be said to resemble a huge plaintain. But when they found it, the Wadden staff compared the oyster to a large and sturdy shoe. "My staff called me immediately and said we've found this oyster that's as big as a 44 shoe," Klaus Melbye, the head of the Wadden center, told the food website Fine Dining Lovers in October, when the discovery was first reported. Here in America, a European size 44 is equal to a men's shoe size of 11 (or a largish 10-1/2; shoe sizes aren't the most scientifically calibrated things). But the oyster might outgrow that comparison, because it could live another 10 years.

In Pricey Facebook Deal for WhatsApp, Two Strong-Willed CEOs (WSJ)
Two years ago, Jan Koum, founder of mobile-messaging service WhatsApp, decried online advertising, saying it drives tech companies to write "better code to collect all your personal data." On Wednesday, Mr. Koum agreed to sell his company to Facebook Inc., which built the world's second-largest online advertising platform after Google Inc.'s by harvesting information users post on the social network...The men are divided by more than differing approaches to making money. A legacy of his childhood in Ukraine is Mr. Koum's emphasis on privacy: WhatsApp doesn't collect any personal information other than a mobile-phone number and address book, and it wipes out messages shortly after they are sent. Mr. Zuckerberg, by contrast, has riled users by changing Facebook's privacy settings in ways that some thought exposed more of their personal information more widely.

Zuckerberg’s Data Stance Faces Privacy Backlash in Europe (Bloomberg)
In a survey on European attitudes toward privacy commissioned by Orange, 78 percent of respondents said they have little confidence that corporations will safeguard their personal data, though phone companies fare better than the titans of the Web. Some 41 percent of respondents said they trust their mobile carrier to keep their information safe, versus 20 percent for social networks like Facebook or Twitter Inc.

Comcast filings with regulators expected at end of March (Reuters)
Comcast Corp said on Thursday it plans to submit documents on its proposed $45 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable Inc to U.S. regulators by the end of March, when antitrust and public interest reviews will be launched. The proposed merger between the two biggest U.S. cable service providers is expected to draw intense scrutiny from the Federal Communications Commission, which reviews whether deals are in the public interest, and either the Department of Justice or the Federal Trade Commission, which share antitrust oversight. The deal has drawn concern from consumer advocates and some lawmakers who worry that the new company's size would give it too much power to decide what Americans can watch on TV and do online.

Rob Ford jumps for joy as Canada wins gold medal in women’s hockey at Winter Olympics (NYDN)
Toronto's crack-smoking, binge-drinking mayor Rob Ford has found a new way to get high: watching Canadian women's hockey. Ford jumped around on the Toronto City Council chamber floor like a madman Thursday afternoon as Team Canada won gold at the Winter Olympics in Sochi with a dramatic, come-from-behind win over the United States.

Related

Opening Bell: 03.25.13

Cyprus Gets New Bailout Deal (WSJ) Cyprus secured a bailout from its international creditors early Monday, ending a week of financial panic that threatened to see the small island nation become the first government to leave the euro zone. But lasting damage has likely been inflicted on the Cypriot economy. Officials said they believe the country will now need strict controls on money transfers in and out of the economy in the coming weeks or possibly months, cutting off its citizens and companies from much of the rest of the euro zone's financial system. And the bailout program aims to slash the size of Cypriot banks, perhaps forever ending the country's status as an offshore tax haven and financial-services center. Cyprus could see its economy contract by 10% or more in the years ahead, economists said. Dell Confirms Rival Offers (WSJ) Dell has received two alternative takeover proposals—one from activist investor Carl Icahn and the other from a private equity fund managed by Blackstone Group —that a special board committee said may result in superior proposals to the one offered last month by founder Michael Dell. Falcone Follows Michael Jackson Path Taking Fortress Loan (Bloomberg) Hedge-fund manager Philip Falcone, beset by declining assets, federal securities regulators and the bankruptcy of his largest investment, is borrowing money against personal real estate he bought during better days. Falcone and his wife, Lisa, pledged their $39 million Caribbean villa to Fortress Credit Corp., the lender that provided Michael Jackson with a mortgage on his Neverland Ranch when the late pop idol was close to insolvency, according to a February regulatory filing. Within the past year, the couple also agreed to post both of their Manhattan townhouses as collateral for about $25 million of personal loans, real estate records show. SEC Approves Facebook IPO Compensation Plan (WSJ) The Securities and Exchange Commission approved Nasdaq OMX Group Inc.'s plan to pay customers as much as $62 million for losses stemming from last year's bungled Facebook stock-market debut, according to an order made public on Monday by the regulator. Brooklyn man furious his roommate wanted to move out allegedly murdered her fish (NYP) A Brooklyn man furious that his longtime roommate wanted to move out turned his rage on her pet fish — flushing one down the toilet and letting the other suffocate, law-enforcement sources told The Post. José Santiago murdered his roommate’s scaly pals — Bonnie and Clyde — when he saw her packing her bags in their Flatbush apartment on Wednesday, she said. “They were my babies! I can’t have children, so my pets are like my kids,” Brenda Alvarez said yesterday. “They were beautiful fish and cost about $25 each. “I did everything for him, and the only thing I ever asked him to do was the laundry,” she said. “So, why did he do this to me?” Alvarez, 45, said she wanted to move out of the Nostrand Avenue apartment because of growing tension between the longtime friends, who grew up a block apart in Bay Ridge. “I was gonna leave . . . so, I started packing, but he kept antagonizing me,” Alvarez recalled. “Then he went crazy!” U.S. Hedge Funds Swoop on Traders at Struggling Europe Startups (Bloomberg) U.S. hedge funds Pine River Capital Management LP, Millennium Management LLC and SAC Capital Advisors LLC are taking advantage of the struggle of European startup funds to grab their pick of the region’s traders. The three firms, which manage a combined $46 billion, have over the past year all hired employees from hedge funds started by former European bankers, according to regulatory records and people with knowledge of the matter. They joined from firms including Edoma Partners LLP, Occitan Capital Partners LLP and Portman Square Capital LLP, London hedge funds that have either shut down, posted losses or failed to meet their fundraising goals, said the people, who declined to be identified because the companies are private. Buyout Firm to Acquire Blockbuster's U.K. Unit (WSJ) Private-equity firm Gordon Brothers Europe agreed to buy the British arm of DVD-rental firm Blockbuster Inc., which had entered a form of bankruptcy in January. The deal will help save 264 Blockbuster stores and more than 2,000 jobs in the U.K., Gordon Brothers Europe said in a statement Saturday. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed. Man charged with drinking $102,000 worth of pre-Prohibition whiskey (WTAE) Hidden behind a basement staircase at a Westmoreland County mansion was a secret stash of liquid gold: old farm pure rye whiskey. Distilled in 1912 and delivered to industrialist J.P. Brennan in 1917, nearly 100 bottles of West Overton Distilling Company's pure rye collected dust until their discovery recently. Homeowner Patricia Hill surmised Brennan hid the whiskey during Prohibition. Hill purchased the South Broadway mansion from Brennan's daughter at auction in 1986. Since then, Hill has been remodeling the mansion and filling it with antiques in order to open a bed and breakfast, which she did in December 2012. "The whiskey was buried right back here under these stairs. They were doing renovations down here for the plumbing and electrical and they had to rip out underneath the stairs. Whenever they did, they discovered 9 cases of the old farm, pure rye whiskey," said South Broadway Manor's chef and innkeeper, Rick Bruckner. "The story with this isn't just, 'Hey, we have some really old whiskey.' It's, 'Hey, we have some really old, historical whiskey.'" Bruckner explained Brennan was acquainted with Henry Frick and Andrew Carnegie, among other important Pittsburghers during the early 1900's. He said the men would come over to the mansion and likely drink this whiskey. Hill had rented the basement apartment to John Saunders, 62. Saunders is now charged by Scottdale police with consuming 48 bottles of the historic whiskey. In a criminal complaint, Chief Barry Pritts wrote Saunders denied drinking the whiskey or removing labels from the bottles. Saunders reportedly told police he moved the cases to clean them several times but never opened any of the bottles. "Saunders said that the whiskey probably evaporated and being that old, it was probably no good," Pritts wrote.

Opening Bell: 03.28.12

Top MF Global Witness Talks Deal With Justice (WSJ) The star witness in a congressional hearing about MF Global Holdings Ltd.'s collapse has told Justice Department representatives through her lawyers details about transactions that ended up dipping into customer funds, people familiar with the matter said. But Edith O'Brien, the assistant treasurer at MF Global, isn't expected to reveal those details when she appears at Wednesday's hearing of the House Financial Services Committee's oversight and investigations subcommittee. Ms. O'Brien plans to invoke her constitutional right against self-incrimination and to decline to answer questions, people familiar with the matter said. J.P. Morgan Was 'Assured' on MF GlobalTransfers (WSJ) MF Global Holdings Ltd. Chairman and Chief Executive Jon S. Corzine was in direct contact with J.P. Morgan Chase officials about a large transfer of customer funds to the bank shortly before the securities firm collapsed, according to prepared testimony from a J.P. Morgan lawyer for a House subcommittee hearing Wednesday. The testimony by Diane Genova, deputy general counsel for J.P. Morgan, provides additional details about a transfer of $175 million in MF Global customer funds to a J.P. Morgan account on Oct. 28. That move is the subject of scrutiny as investigators hunt for clues about how MF Global firm lost about $1.6 billion in customer funds. Magic Johnson Group to Buy L.A. Dodgers for $2 Billion (Bloomberg) The group was chosen yesterday by Dodgers owner Frank McCourt over billionaire Steve Cohen, who runs hedge fund manager SAC Capital Advisors LP, and Stan Kroenke, who owns the National Football League’s St. Louis Rams and Arsenal of English soccer’s Premier League. [WHO DOES STEVE COHEN HAVE TO SCREW AROUND HERE TO BUY A BASEBALL TEAM???] BATS Chairman Will Give Up Post (WSJ) BATS Global Markets Inc.'s directors voted to remove Joe Ratterman as chairman Tuesday, while expressing unanimous support for him to stay on as the company's chief executive. The vote came after Friday's collapse of the exchange operator's initial public offering, which raised questions about BATS's technology and put Mr. Ratterman on the defensive...BATS has launched a search for a new chairman, according to a spokesman. Face time with Facebook CEO stirs concerns on Wall Street (Reuters) Two people who attended Facebook's March 19 meeting remarked on the young CEO's absence and privately said they expected at least a cursory appearance. One analyst asked how involved Zuckerberg would be in future. In response, the company said expectations should be set pretty low, according to one of the two who was at the meeting. "Investors are crazy to want to get in bed with a company where the guy who controls it doesn't even pretend to care about the rest of the shareholders," said Greg Taxin of activist investment firm Spotlight Advisors, who will not buy shares. "That seems like a recipe for disaster." Texas journalist Sarah Tressler outed for leading a double life (NYDN) By day, she’s a reporter who strips through the veneer of Houston’s high society. By night, she’s a reporter who strips off her clothes. And Sarah Tressler, a 2008 graduate of NYU’s School of Journalism, is not ashamed. In fact, until recently, the 29-year-old brunette blogged about her after-hours gig and posted pictures of herself in scanty outfits on a Facebook page entitled “Diary of an Angry Stripper.” Since the outcry, that — and her titillating Twitter account — have been moved to a protected site. Before Tressler went underground, one of her juicier postings was about an alleged and “somewhat disappointing” sexual encounter with “Entourage” star Jeremy Piven. Europeans Sees Crisis Near End (Bloomberg) The euro area’s woes are “almost over” after a slow initial response by policy makers, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said in Tokyo today. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said yesterday that the crisis is ebbing and her country’s borrowing costs will probably rise as its status as a haven wanes. Jefferies CEO Handler’s Pay Drops 7.9% for 2011 After Stock Rout (Bloomberg) Handler, 50, was awarded $14 million for the fiscal year ended Nov. 30, compared with $15.2 million for the 11 months through November 2010, New York-based Jefferies said today in a filing. The package included $1 million in salary and $13 million in restricted-stock units that were granted in 2010. Handler elected to not receive a bonus for 2011. Goldman Bows To Pressure (WSJ) Goldman Sachs agreed to change its board structure in order to persuade a union pension fund to drop a shareholder proposal that could have cost Chief Executive Lloyd C. Blankfein his job as chairman. The deal between the New York securities firm and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees means Goldman will appoint a "lead" director, but shareholders won't get a chance to vote at the firm's annual meeting in May on the proposal to replace Mr. Blankfein with an independent chairman. Ben Bernanke: The World Needs More Nerds (OS) In an exclusive interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said it’s important not to be complacent about the improving economy...[he also said] he takes no offense that Time magazine, in naming him Person of the Year for 2009, described him as “the most powerful nerd on the planet.” “I am very proud of my nerd-dom,” he told Sawyer. “In fact, the world needs more nerds. Nerds, you know, create more jobs and advance science, and I hope make good economic policy, but that remains to be seen.”

Opening Bell: 05.25.12

J.P. Morgan Unit Made Risky Bets on Firms (WSJ) The JPMorgan unit whose wrong-way bets on corporate credit cost the bank more than $2 billion includes a group that has invested in financially challenged companies, including LightSquared Inc., the wireless broadband provider that this month filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection...The Special Investments Group last year took a $150 million stake in closely held LightSquared, in a deal that J.P. Morgan lost money on, according to a person familiar with the bank. Both Campaigns Seize on Romney’s Years at Bain (NYT) ...the Romney campaign is actively recruiting testimonials from workers who have had positive experiences with Bain. It is getting ready to release advertising highlighting Bain’s marquee success stories, like the turnaround of Staples. It is considering seeking out middle-class surrogates — a fireman or members of a teachers union, for instance — who would be willing to talk about how Bain managed and increased the size of their pension funds, a lesser-known aspect of private equity...Mr. Romney’s advisers are betting that if they stay out of the nuances of private equity and tell a story about turning around failing companies, they can transform the Bain attacks into a narrative that underscores Mr. Romney’s image as a skilled executive who can steer a troubled economy back to prosperity. ECB Official: On Greece, ‘We Are Working on Plan A’ (CNBC) "It's our strong preference that Greece stays in the euro zone...We are working on plan A," Joerg Asmussen said in the interview yesterday. "I always work on plan A. I am not speculating, I am working to make plan A successful," he added. What Would A Greek Exit Mean For The US Economy? (Reuters) usiness investment would stall, banks would pull back on credit, and lost wealth as equity prices fall would cause consumers to slow their spending. Commodity prices would plunge, helping importers but hurting growth in export economies. Merkel May Be Persuaded On Euro Debt-Sharing Compromise (Bloomberg) Chancellor Angela Merkel left the door open to a compromise on debt sharing in the euro area as Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said he can help bring Germany round to acting in Europe’s “common good.” Short Sellers Find Friends In Banks (WSJ) As traders at Morgan Stanley were frantically trying to shore up Facebook Inc.'s FB share price following the company's initial public offering, other managers on the deal were helping short sellers bet that the newly minted stock would fall. Trading desks at Goldman Sachs Group and J.P. Morgan Chase, two of the firms that helped Morgan Stanley underwrite the IPO, were among those lending out Facebook shares that hedge funds needed for short sales, according to people familiar with the matter. While it isn't uncommon for Wall Street firms to make shares available for shorting on IPOs they manage, Morgan Stanley, the lead underwriter, didn't lend shares, according to people familiar with the matter. Escaped monkey holds up flight at JFK for hours (NYP) Monkey business held up a Beijing-bound flight at Kennedy Airport nearly four hours yesterday. A monkey escaped its crate in the cargo hold of an Air China Boeing 747 scheduled to leave Terminal 1 at 4:50 p.m., said Port Authority police. Port Authority emergency services officers and an airport worker caught the monkey and handed it over to the airline. The animal never got out of the jet’s cargo hold. The foot-tall monkey was one of about 50 to 60 being shipped to China for medical research, said police sources. “He was a slippery little beast,” one source said. Bankia Shares Suspended Ahead of Board Meeting (WSJ) EFE news agency reported Thursday that the lender will ask the government for more than €15 billion ($18.80 billion). The bank said it requested the suspension ahead of the meeting, at which it will also approve its 2011 earnings report. The board meeting will begin at 2:30 p.m. GMT. Moody's Downgrades Major Nordic Banks (WSJ) Moody's said the funding and margin issues left the banks susceptible to unexpected losses from which it would be a challenge for them to rebuild capital. It also highlighted risks to asset quality, with the Swedish economy exposed to weakness in Europe and the banks' variable-rate mortgage books vulnerable to interest rate changes. USDA Is a Tough Collector When Mortgages Go Bad (WSJ) Unlike private firms, the USDA doesn't need permission from a court to start collecting on unpaid debts. It can in some cases seize government benefits and tax refunds before a foreclosure is completed. After foreclosure, the USDA can go after unpaid balances, even in states that limit such actions by private lenders. Nasdaq CEO went ahead with Facebook IPO despite signs new software had bugs (NYP) During a conference call on Monday evening, Nasdaq officials said that they were unaware of any problems with the system. However, sources said that there may have been signs that the system wasn’t glitch-free even at the 11th hour and that Nasdaq opted to roll the dice. “They may have thought they did not have any material issues with the systems,” said one exchange platform official. Lacrosse Party-Boy Image Worries Coaches Who See Slower Growth (Bloomberg) “It’s really important that the lacrosse world grows up a little bit,” Danowski said from his office in Durham, North Carolina. “We are getting more TV exposure; more people are able to make a living through lacrosse. If we want to be accepted in the mainstream, then it’s time for us to grow up.”