Opening Bell: 02.26.14

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Billionaire Paulson Said in Talks to Buy Puerto Rico Resort (Bloomberg)
Paulson & Co. is seeking to acquire La Concha Resort and the Condado Vanderbilt, neighboring beachfront hotels in the capital city of San Juan, according to two people with knowledge of the transaction. The firm will pay about $200 million for the properties, in which the territory’s Government Development Bank owns a stake, said the people, who asked not to be named because the deal hasn’t been completed.

JPMorgan to cut 8,000 jobs, lowers 2014 profit target (Reuters)
JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N), the largest U.S. bank, announced thousands of job cuts on Tuesday as the mortgage lending business slows, and said it was lowering its profitability target. The company said it expected total headcount to fall by 5,000 to 260,000 in 2014. Around 6,000 full-time and contractor jobs in JPMorgan's home loans unit and 2,000 jobs in its branch and credit-card network will be cut. At the same time, the bank expects to add 3,000 new jobs in its control function, including areas like compliance.

Tell-all on Pimco was 'overblown,' Gross says (NetNet)
"All this discourse about an autocratic style from my standpoint and conflict between Mohammed and myself is overblown," Gross said during an interview on "Street Signs."

BofA Discloses New Probes Amid Surge in Possible Legal Costs (Bloomberg)
Bank of America Corp., the second-biggest U.S. lender, disclosed new probes into mortgage and foreign-exchange units and boosted an estimate of potential legal losses by 20 percent to $6.1 billion. The developments were reported in an annual regulatory filing today by the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company. The fresh estimate of litigation expenses, which concerns costs that aren’t covered by reserves as of Dec. 31, compares with $5.1 billion at the end of the third quarter.

Many big U.S. corporations pay very little in taxes: study (Reuters)
Citizens for Tax Justice looked at 288 profitable Fortune 500 companies and said that 26 of them - including Boeing Co (BA.N), General Electric Co (GE.N) and Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N) - paid no federal income tax in the five-year period. The group also said that 111 of the 288 companies paid no federal income tax in at least one of the five years measured. In a reflection of how the tax code's complexity leaves many issues open to question, corporations sometimes dispute the way Citizens for Tax Justice calculates its numbers. Some of the companies singled out took exception to the findings. GE spokesman Seth Martin said: "For each year cited by Citizens for Tax Justice, GE paid income taxes in the U.S., as well as billions in other state, local and federal taxes in the U.S."

'Horny' and drunk Florida woman arrested for calling 911, begging cop for sex: report (NYDN)
Maria Montenez-Colon, 58, was arrested Friday night in the misuse of 911. The officer drove to her home in Punta Gorda after she reportedly told a dispatcher that she wanted her late husband’s Corvette back after giving it to her son, authorities said. But it appears she really wanted to satisfy her lust for lawmen. The cop says Montenez-Colon was drunk when he arrived and immediately started making sexually suggestive comments such as "You are so sexy" and "Are you married?" But she saved the most lascivious for when he asked how he could help her. "You can f--k me," she said, according to an arrest report obtained by The Smoking Gun. She allegedly grabbed the cop's arm and tried to rub her hands across his chest so he told her that her behavior was inappropriate.

First Colorado county reports pot taxes (AP)
Pueblo County finance authorities announced Monday that its two shops had about $1 million in total sales in January, producing about $56,000 in local sales taxes. Pueblo County is the only place between Denver and the New Mexico state line that currently allows recreational pot stores. Its two shops were joined by three more that opened in February. "We recognize that the eyes of the world are watching us, and we are proud to have erected a robust regulatory environment in Pueblo County," County Commissioner Sal Pace said in a statement Tuesday. Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert "Bo" Ortiz projected the marijuana industry will generate roughly $670,000 in new tax revenue for his county this year. The money is a combination of a 3.5 percent pot sales tax approved by county voters last year, as well as "share-backs" from the state on general and pot-specific sales taxes.

Credit Suisse Helped Clients Hide Billions, Senate Says (Bloomberg)
Credit Suisse helped American customers hide as much as $10 billion in assets from the Internal Revenue Service, more than double the amount previously known, according to a U.S. Senate committee. A report by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations criticized the Zurich-based bank for failing to discipline any senior executives in the face of widespread tax evasion fostered by 1,800 Credit Suisse employees serving U.S. clients. The firm also misled investors about growth in its private banking unit, according to the report.

Mt. Gox Shutdown Prompts Bitcoin Damage Control Efforts (Bloomberg)
Reports that hackers may have pilfered more than $390 million in Bitcoin from Mt. Gox prompted companies from San Francisco to London as well as their industry group, the Bitcoin Foundation, to assure Bitcoin users that their funds won’t disappear due to theft or mismanagement. “This is certainly not the end of Bitcoin,” the foundation said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. “As our industry matures, we are seeing a second wave of capable, responsible entrepreneurs and investors who are building reliable services for this ecosystem.”

Turns Out Bottomless Brunch is Actually Against the Law (Eater)
Restaurateurs and mimosa-lovers take note: the New York City Hospitality Alliance would like to point out that all those "bottomless brunch" drink deals out there are, and always have been, unlawful. The law, according to the SLA website, specifically prohibits restaurants "from selling, serving, delivering or offering to patrons an unlimited number of drinks during any set period of time for a fixed price." Letting promotors or party organizers do the same is also unlawful, as is any drink special that "attempts to circumvent the law."

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By Evan-Amos (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Opening Bell: 8.31.16

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Opening Bell: 04.03.13

Barclays High-Pay Culture Brought Disrepute: Report (WSJ) Barclays PLC suffered from "a lack of self-awareness" in recent years as a culture of high pay and short-term incentives brought the bank into disrepute, according to an independent report by lawyer and investment banker Anthony Salz. The Salz Review, which was commissioned by Barclays' former chairman after the bank admitted to trying to rig interbank interest rates last summer, describes how in about 10 years the lender expanded to become a disparate set of businesses, each with its own culture. "The result of this growth was that Barclays became complex to manage," the report published Wednesday said. "Despite some attempts to establish group-wide values, the culture that emerged tended to favor transactions over relationships, the short term over sustainability, and financial over other business purposes." The 235-page report—which cost Barclays about £17 million ($25.7 million) to have produced—recommended a series of reforms aimed at trying to foster a common sense of purpose across the bank. To this end, Barclays' board must play a more active role in overseeing the business and Barclays' human resources department must be given more power to stand up on issues such as pay, the report said. Ex-Goldman Sachs Trader Taylor Said to Surrender to FBI (Bloomberg) Former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. traderMatthew Taylor planned to surrender today to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a person familiar with the matter said. Taylor was accused Nov. 8 by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission of concealing an $8.3 billion position in 2007 that caused New York-based Goldman Sachs to lose $118 million. Morgan Stanley hired Taylor in March 2008, less than three months after Goldman Sachs disclosed in a public filing that he had been fired for building an “inappropriately large” proprietary trading position. Cyprus Bailout Details Emerge After IMF Deal (WSJ) The IMF statement set out the tough terms the tiny nation of 800,000 has to meet to get the bailout, calling the task ahead "challenging." Cyprus, an economy of roughly €17 billion in annual output, needs to push through cuts and savings worth 4.5% of gross domestic product by 2018 to hit a primary-surplus target of 4% of GDP outlined in the bailout deal, the IMF statement said. These cuts will come on top of savings worth 5% of GDP the government is already implementing through to 2015. An extra 2% of GDP in extra revenue will come from an increase in the country's corporate tax from 10% to 12.5% and an increase in the tax on interest income from 15% to 30%. The country's corporate-tax rate will remain among the lowest in Europe, on an equal footing with Ireland's, and will allow Cyprus to continue to use its tax regime to attract businesses, but the increase in withholding tax will make it substantially less attractive as a place for individuals to leave their savings. Cyprus Leader Invites Family Firm Probe (FT) Cyprus president Nicos Anastasiades has urged judges investigating the country's banking disaster to examine transactions handled by his family law firm as "a priority" in a bid to defuse public anger over last-minute transfers by well-connected Cypriots, Russians and Ukrainians who thereby avoided a "haircut" on their uninsured deposits. The move followed questions over whether a company managed by the president's son-in-law made use of inside information to transfer more than 20 million euros out of Laiki Bank days before its collapse. Marc Lasry In French Follies (NYP) Lasry, the CEO and co-founder of Avenue Capital, is on his way to getting a plum assignment as the US ambassador to France as a reward for his many years as a big Democratic fundraiser. But the Moroccan-born, French-speaking American could encounter some uncomfortable moments when he lands in Paris, given his views on the land of fine wine, crusty baguettes — and European socialism. “We don’t invest in France,” he said at a New York hedge-fund conference sponsored by French bank BNP in June 2010, even apologizing to his hosts as he made the comment. Lasry, who is a bankruptcy lawyer by training, loves to chide other countries for their creditor-unfriendly ways. His $11.7 billion distressed debt fund buys up beaten-down credits of companies headed towards bankruptcy, with the payout determined by their ranking in the process. That can be dicey in countries like France, he explained at the BNP conference, as “the legal system is very much tilted towards helping unions and workers.” As a result, he said, “you might find your claim disallowed.” 1,000 pot plants seized in Queens in warehouse raid (NYDN) A massive drug operation went up in smoke Tuesday when law enforcement officials raided an indoor marijuana farm in Queens. Authorities seized more than 1,000 pot plants - along with grow lights and other gear - from the 44th Rd. warehouse in Long Island City just after 3 p.m. , police sources said. Officials from the NYPD, state police and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency also rounded up five suspects in the sweep. New York-for-Buenos Aires Swap Theory Spreads: Argentina Credit (Bloomberg) Argentina’s refusal to improve its offer to holders of defaulted debt suing for full payment in the U.S. is deepening speculation that the nation will sever ties with the overseas bond market. The proposal submitted on March 29 mimics the terms of Argentina’s 2005 and 2010 debt exchanges, a move that could lead to a default on the restructured notes unless the country removes them from U.S. jurisdiction. BofA Chief Moynihan Said to Summon Managers for Revenue Push (Bloomberg) Bank of America Corp. Chief Executive Officer Brian T. Moynihan has summoned more than 100 of his regional leaders to a private meeting today where they’ll be pushed to boost the lender’s flagging revenue, said two people with direct knowledge of the project. Managers at the two-day event in Chicago will be judged on how much progress they’ve made in helping to sell more products to the 53 million customers of the second-biggest U.S. lender, said the people, who asked for anonymity because Moynihan’s plan hasn’t been made public. Revenue has dropped every year of Moynihan’s three-year tenure as he sold assets, repaired the firm’s balance sheet and settled more than $40 billion in claims tied to defective mortgages. Private Sector Adds 158,000 Jobs (WSJ) Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected ADP to report a gain of 192,000 private jobs. However, the February job gain was revised up to 237,000 from 198,000 reported a month ago. SEC Embraces Social Media (WSJ) In a ruling that portends changes to how companies communicate with investors, the Securities and Exchange Commission said Tuesday that postings on sites such as Facebook and Twitter are just as good as news releases and company websites as long as the companies have told investors which outlets they intend to use. Gray seal pup saved from death on Montauk beach now recovering (NYDN) The three-month-old seal, underweight at 40 pounds, is now resting in one of the foundation's rehabilitation tanks at the Atlantic Marine World aquarium in Riverhead. "She feels very sassy in her tank and doesn't appreciate anything we are doing for her," laughed Kimberly Durham, director of the rescue program, "which is a good sign. A nasty seal is a good sign that she is getting better because they are wild animals.

Opening Bell: 4.19.16

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Opening Bell: 9.2.15

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Opening Bell: 01.03.13

Fresh Budget Fights Brewing (WSJ) If Congress doesn't do more in the coming months, Moody's warned, the company could follow Standard & Poor's in downgrading U.S. debt. "Further measures that bring about a downward debt trajectory over the medium term are likely to be needed to support the AAA rating," Moody's said Wednesday. But the battles on how to do that are far from over. Republicans say any further deficit reduction or legislation to avoid across-the-board spending cuts should come from reducing spending. President Obama and many Democrats advocate a combination of tax increases and spending cuts. The most serious skirmish will arrive toward the end of February, when the U.S. Treasury is expected to be unable to pay all the government's bills unless Congress boosts the federal borrowing limit. Then on March 1, the across-the-board spending cuts of the fiscal cliff, deferred in this week's deal, are scheduled to begin slicing into military and domestic programs. And on March 27, a government shutdown looms unless Congress approves funding for government operations for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. CEOs Pan Fiscal Cliff Deal, Vow to Continue Debt Fight (Reuters) "I think this deal's a disaster," said Peter Huntsman, chief executive of chemical producer Huntsman Corp. "We're just living in a fantasy land. We're borrowing more and more money. This did absolutely nothing to address the fundamental issue of the debt cliff." Former Wells Fargo CEO Dick Kovacevich said the agreement confirms that Washington and both parties are totally out of control. "I think it's a joke," Kovacevich said of the deal. "It's stunning to me that after working on this for months and supposedly really getting to work in the last 30 days that this is what you come up with." Obama’s Warning to Boehner Started Road to Budget Plan (Bloomberg) President Barack Obama had a warning for John Boehner at a Dec. 13 White House meeting: Stop opposing higher tax rates for top earners, or the president would dedicate his second term to blaming Republicans for a global recession. The next day, the House speaker called the president and said he was open to a tax-rate increase on annual income of more than $1 million...While the budget deal Obama and Boehner were negotiating fell apart, the speaker’s concession on tax rates ultimately allowed Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, to craft the last-minute plan Congress passed Jan. 1. Nouriel Roubini: US Will Soon 'Get Messy' Again (CNBC) "It won't be long before there is another crisis. Two months, in fact." Pershing to Take 'Passive Shareholder' Role in General Growth (WSJ) Pershing Square Capital Management LP agreed to sell $271.9 million in General Growth Properties warrants to Brookfield Asset Management Inc., as part of a deal between the mall owner's two biggest shareholders that would resolve their recent disputes and see Pershing become a passive shareholder. Brookfield, in turn, offered to sell the warrants, which represent the right to acquire 18.4 million shares of General Growth stock, back to General Growth for the same purchase price. Pershing also agreed to limit its ownership stake in General Growth to no more than 9.9% and intends to become a passive shareholder. Brookfield agreed to limit its ownership in General Growth to 45%. Bank Of Canada won’t discuss melting plastic bills, says national security behind silence (NP) Disclosing details of behind-the-scenes discussions about tales of melting banknotes could endanger national security or international relations, says Canada’s central bank. In response to a formal request from The Canadian Press, the Bank Of Canada released 134 pages of internal records — almost completely blanked out — concerning allegations its new polymer bills melted in the scorching summer sun. The bank began issuing $100 polymer banknotes in late 2011, saying they were harder to counterfeit than paper notes and would last much longer. Unconfirmed reports of cooked currency emerged in July when a Kelowna, B.C., bank teller said she had heard of cases in which several bills had melted together inside a car. Soon after, Mona Billard of Cambridge, Ont., reported that she had returned eight plastic bills in January, after her son stashed his $800 Christmas bonus in a tin can and hid it near a baseboard heater. When he retrieved them the next day to make a deposit, the $100 banknotes had shriveled and melted. Ms. Billard exchanged clean bills for the shrunken, unusable ones. “The leather couch is up against the baseboard heater, it doesn’t melt,” she said. “The kids’ toys are back there, they don’t melt.” The Bank of Canada will reimburse damaged notes, but only if they clear an examination by an Ottawa laboratory. Paulson&Co Added To Abacus Suit Against Goldman (Bloomberg) Paulson & Co. was named as a defendant in a proposed revised lawsuit by ACA Financial Guaranty Corp. against Goldman Sachs over a collateralized debt obligation called Abacus. Paulson conspired with Goldman Sachs to deceive ACA Financial, which provided financial guaranty insurance for the deal, ACA Financial said in papers filed yesterday in Manhattan. Private Sector Added 215,000 Jobs Last Month (WSJ) Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected ADP to report a gain of 150,000 private jobs. Preet Bharara and other financial heavyweights opposing Paul Singer's attempt to get Argentina to pay debt (NYP) US Attorney Preet Bharara and BlackRock CEO Larry Fink are among the latest bold-faced names to oppose Singer’s attempt to get Argentina to pay him and others $1.3 billion on defaulted debt. Singer, the hedge fund billionaire who runs Elliott Management, is among the 8 percent of Argentina debtholders who refused to accept a 70 percent haircut following a 2001 default by the embattled South American country. Singer inched closer to winning the epic legal showdown in November when a federal judge ruled Argentina could not pay Fink’s BlackRock or other holders of the reorganized debt without putting money in escrow for Singer’s band of investors. An appeals court slowed Singer’s victory parade but refused to set aside the judge’s order. Now, Bharara, Fink’s $3.67 trillion bond firm and others are urging the appeals court to throw the case out. Basel Becomes Babel as Conflicting Rules Undermine Safety (Bloomberg) While higher capital requirements, curbs on banks trading with their own money and other rules have reduced risk, they have magnified the complexity of supervision, according to two dozen regulators, bankers and analysts interviewed by Bloomberg News. Even if the new regulations can be enforced, they don’t go far enough to ensure safety, said Robert Jenkins, a member of the Bank of England’s financial policy committee. Cops: Woman, 50, Battered Boyfriend, 32, Because Six Came Before Nine (TSG) Jennie Scott, 50, was booked into the Manatee County lockup on a misdemeanor charge stemming from the 11 PM encounter in the Palmetto bedroom of Jilberto Deleon, 32. Scott has dated Deleon “for the last 5 years on and off,” according to a sheriff’s report. Deputies were summoned to Deleon’s home by a witness who heard the couple arguing and saw Scott atop Deleon “punching and scratching him.” She also allegedly struck Deleon with a stick and threatened to hit him with a wrench before the tool was taken from her hand by the witness. When questioned by a cop, Scott explained that she and Deleon “were giving each other oral pleasure in the bedroom” when Deleon “finished first and stopped pleasuring her.” Scott added that she “became upset and they began arguing.” A deputy noted that Scott said that she was also mad at Deleon because she had “heard [him] having sex with another woman over the phone earlier in the day.” Scott struggled with deputies before being placed in a police cruiser, where she kicked a window until being warned that she would be maced unless she stopped.