Opening Bell: 04.30.14

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Barclays Said to Name Bommensath to Oversee ‘Bad Bank’ (Bloomberg)
Barclays is planning to move its commodities division into a so-called bad bank of unwanted assets and units to be overseen by Eric Bommensath, according to a person familiar with the plan. Tom King, 53, co-head of the corporate and investment bank with Bommensath, will become its sole leader, the person said yesterday, asking not to be identified because the change hasn’t been made public. Bommensath will oversee businesses that the London-based firm previously designated as part of its “exit quadrant,” according to the person.

McGee Exiting Barclays Shows Lehman Legacy Fading Away (Bloomberg, related)
When Barclays Plc announced yesterday that McGee is stepping down from that role at the end of the month, it meant the London-based firm will lose a banker seen by U.S. colleagues as their advocate for risk, pay and aggressiveness. His departure is another step away from a pre-crisis Lehman culture whose competitiveness was written into the firm’s code of ethics. Almost six years after Barclays bought parts of the company, which filed the biggest bankruptcy in history, and following its own scandals from interest-rate rigging to selling insurance customers didn’t need, the lender is cutting jobs, rebuilding relationships with regulators and facing shareholder pressure to curb bonuses. “Barclays has to have its own identity and has to do its own thing, and I think it’s evolving to that now,” said American International Group Inc. General Counsel Tom Russo, a former Lehman vice chairman. “I think it’s becoming extraordinarily cost-conscious. It’s shrinking a bit.” McGee, 54, said in an e-mailed statement that he’s leaving because the job has changed. “My focus has always been on clients, but given the need for Barclays leadership to focus on regulatory issues for the foreseeable future, I have decided that it is time for me to move on to new challenges,” he said.

Third Point Asks Judge To Delay Sotheby's Annual Meeting (Law360)
Third Point LLC asked a Delaware Chancery judge Tuesday to postpone Sotheby's upcoming shareholder meeting, saying the auction house is improperly using a poison pill to thwart activist investor Daniel Loeb's proxy fight for three board seats.

Twitter's Stock Sinks Despite Growth in Revenue, Users (WSJ)
While Twitter has proven to be a powerful communications tool for celebrities, activists, marketers and journalists, it hasn't caught on with mainstream users. Facebook, meanwhile, has become a required place to share photos and life's daily happenings. Twitter reported Tuesday it added 14 million monthly active users in the first quarter, up 5.8% to 255 million from the previous three months. That growth was better than in the fourth quarter but failed to impress some analysts. Today one in five Internet users in the U.S. log into to Twitter once a month, and its global user base is about one-fifth the size of Facebook's.

‘Dark Wallet’ for Managing Bitcoin Arrives This Week (Digits)
Last year, the Journal told readers about Cody Wilson’s efforts to take the virtual currency off the grid through a project called Dark Wallet, the 26-year-old’s latest effort to use technology to sidestep the government. Mr. Wilson is most famous for creating the first working gun made by a 3-D printer. After months of programming, Wilson and his partner, British anarchist Amir Taaki, also 26, are releasing an early version of the software for free download. It will work as an add-on for Google’s Chrome browser....Among other things, Dark Wallet is designed to encrypt bitcoins as they’re spent, making it difficult to see who is buying what. Think of it as throwing a ball into a spinning lottery tumbler and picking out a different ball. If more people use Dark Wallet, the theory goes, more people put balls in the lottery tumbler and make it harder to determine which belongs to whom.

Cronut Chef Creates the Waffogato (Time)
Dominique Ansel, creator of the infamous cronut, is at it again. And this time, he’s taking on the waffle. Well, sort of. The New York-based chef has created a waffle made out of ice cream and topped with a maple syrup espresso, which will make its debut at a hunger relief fundraiser in New York City Monday night. Ansel’s waffogato, a breakfast-themed take on the Italian dessert of ice cream topped with espresso, will be available in his Soho bakery starting May 9. The vanilla ice cream “waffle” is laced with Belgium waffle bits and set in a cup where warm, maple syrup espresso is poured on top. “It’s a little like a milkshake at the end,” Ansel told the Wall Street Journal. If history tells us anything, it’ll likely spark flocks of New Yorkers and tourists to stand in line for hours for the latest Ansel concoction, much like the waffogato’s predecessor the cronut did. Not even a mouse infestation could dim the hype over the part-donut, part-croissant pastry. The waffogato could even spawn another underground pastry economy, though that could be tricky logistically—the chef told the Wall Street Journal that his latest creation is best eaten right away.

Standard & Poors downgrades 15 European banks, cites reforms (Reuters)
Ratings agency Standard & Poors said it has downgraded 15 European banks, including Barclays, Credit Suissem and Deutsche Bank, after European lawmakers agreed on a framework that prevents governments from having to bail out troubled banks. The European Parliament signed off this month on new laws to make it easier - and less costly for taxpayers - to wind down problem banks, after long wrangling over rules for an industry blamed for triggering the worst economic slump in a generation. S&P said extraordinary government support for these banks would likely diminish as regulators implement the reforms, downgrading them to 'negative' from 'stable. The banks, many of which are systemically important, also included ABN AMRO, Bank Of Ireland and ING Bank.

Money Manager Admits to Operating $96 Million Ponzi Scheme (Bloomberg)
“Callahan used six offshore entities to perpetrate one of the largest investment frauds in Long Island history,” U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch in Brooklyn, New York, said in the statement. “Through lies and deceit, he misled investors and stole investor funds, including investments from a local fire department, to support a lavish lifestyle.” Callahan, of Old Westbury, New York, raised more than $118 million from at least 40 investors, who were told their money would be placed in mutual funds, hedge funds and securities, according to the statement. Instead, he used most of the money to support his lifestyle and fund a beachfront resort he owned with his brother-in-law in Montauk, New York, according to the statement.

Matt Damon: I'd invest in the Clippers (CNBC)
"I unfortunately don't have Donald Sterling money," Damon told CNBC on Tuesday. "But if Magic wants to put people together, I'll jump in as a super tiny minority investor."

'The big gains are behind us': Pimco executive (CNBC)
The economic recoveries in Europe and America are actually working, and that means the enormous gains investors have seen in the bond and equity markets are behind us, said Scott Mather, deputy CIO at Pimco. This should not be read as a signal of decline, but as a return to "normal,"after years of abnormal returns puffed up by the dovish central bank policies in Europe and America. The whole goal of very accommodative monetary policy was to inflate financial assets, and it did it very well," Mather said on "Closing Bell Europe." "Going forward we are going to see much more volatile financial markets, both in bonds and in equities. The big tailwinds that have been at investor's backs are likely to dissipate." This means going forward Mather expects single-digit returns in high-quality bonds and returns "only percent or two" higher for equities.

Massachusetts teen uses cop car to make prom proposal (NYDN)
Chris Murphy...convinced Duxbury Police Sgt. Dennis Symmonds to help him by pulling over an unsuspecting Megan Zaverucha, a senior at Duxbury High School in the seaside town on Cape Cod Bay. In a squad car, they followed the girl last week and pulled her over for a traffic stop. “I decided I’d pull her over and scare her really bad,” Murphy told Fox25 News. Sgt. Symmonds crossed his fingers. “I was just hoping she’d say yes,” he said. After Zaverucha pulled to the side of the road, Symmonds asked for license and registration, then told her to step to the back of the vehicle. That’s when Murphy made his move. “I was a little nervous so I kind of just went out of my way and asked right away instead of playing the role of cop,” he said. Problem was, she didn’t hear him. So Symmonds stepped in again and asked if she would accompany the young man to the prom. She said yes. Symmonds said he hoped they not only win the contest, but that they get elected prom king and queen.

Related

Opening Bell: 6.3.16

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Opening Bell: 06.28.12

Interest Rate Probe Escalates (WSJ) Investigators in the U.S., Europe and Asia have been probing alleged wrongdoing in the interest-rate-setting process for about two years. The Barclays settlement marks their biggest win yet. A series of Wall Street Journal articles in 2008 raised questions about whether global banks were manipulating the process by low-balling a key interest rate to avoid looking desperate for cash amid the financial crisis. Emails and instant messages disclosed in the bank's settlement show how Barclays's traders tried to manipulate rates to benefit their own trading positions. "This is the way you pull off deals like this chicken," one trader told another trader in March 2007, according to the U.K. regulator. "Don't tell ANYBODY." Other banks that have disclosed they are under investigation include Citigroup, JPMorgan, Lloyds Banking Group, and RBS. None of these banks have been charged with any wrongdoing in the matter by U.S. or U.K. regulators. Calls for Diamond’s Exit After Barclays ‘Moral Failure’ (CNBC) Lord Oakeshott, a high-profile Liberal Democrat politician, said: "If Bob Diamond had a scintilla of shame he would resign. If Barclays' board had an inch of backbone between them they would sack him." Barclays admitted Wednesday that the actions "fell well short of standards.” Madoff's Brother To Plead Guilty (WSJ) Peter Madoff, 66 years old, is expected to plead guilty to two charges at a hearing Friday in Manhattan federal court, including falsifying the records of an investment adviser and a broad conspiracy count to commit securities fraud and other crimes, according to a letter sent to U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain and filed in court on Wednesday. However, Peter Madoff, the firm's chief compliance officer, isn't expected to admit to knowing about the fraud itself. Instead, he is expected to admit to conduct that enabled the fraud to continue, even if he didn't know new investor money was being used to pay older investors or that no trading was being conducted at the investment firm. JPMorgan Trading Loss May Reach $9 Billion (WSJ) The bank’s exit from its money-losing trade is happening faster than many expected. JPMorgan previously said it hoped to clear its position by early next year; now it is already out of more than half of the trade and may be completely free this year. As JPMorgan has moved rapidly to unwind the position — its most volatile assets in particular — internal models at the bank have recently projected losses of as much as $9 billion. In April, the bank generated an internal report that showed that the losses, assuming worst-case conditions, could reach $8 billion to $9 billion, according to a person who reviewed the report. With much of the most volatile slice of the position sold, however, regulators are unsure how deep the reported losses will eventually be. Some expect that the red ink will not exceed $6 billion to $7 billion. Kerviel ‘Love’ May Not Be Enough To Overturn SocGen Verdict (Bloomberg) Jerome Kerviel’s statement last week that he “loved” Societe Generale may have come too late to help him win a reduced sentence for causing the bank’s 4.9 billion-euro ($6.1 billion) trading loss. Kerviel lawyer David Koubbi may use his client’s remarks during closing arguments in Paris today to offset his own frequent clashes with Judge Mireille Filippini, who threatened to notify the bar about his treatment of witnesses. With Time Running Out California Gorging Itself On Foie Gras (WSJ) California will ban foie gras sales starting Sunday. Meanwhile, goose-liver lovers still have time to enjoy foie gras jelly doughnuts at Umamicatessen in Los Angeles. Chefs there and around the state are counting down their foie gras days by putting it anywhere they can. Some plan foie gras finale feasts on Saturday night. Others offer foie gras in cotton candy, cheesecake, waffles and toffee. "It's a very difficult thing to say goodbye to," says Michael Cimarusti, co-owner and chef at Providence, a celebrated Los Angeles restaurant. He plans to leave a gap on his menu in memory of the dearly departed, with the notation: "formerly a foie gras dish."...At Craftsman & Wolves, a San Francisco bakery, Chef William Werner covers a chunk of foie-gras torchon with a chocolate cremeux that he inserts into chocolate cake batter to create his Devil Inside cake. Some chefs accept the inevitable. Celebrity chef Thomas Keller at Bouchon in Los Angeles recently replaced his foie gras dog biscuits with ones made from chicken livers. Others are looking for ways to duck the ban. Daniel Scherotter, who owns Palio D'Asti in San Francisco, is checking with his lawyer to see whether he can legally give away—rather than sell—a serving of foie gras with a $20 salad. Mr. Scherotter and others expect some restaurants to turn into "duckeasies," where diners can order foie gras using certain code words. They take inspiration from chefs such as Didier Durand, who says that, during a Chicago foie gras ban from 2006 to 2008, he served it at his Cyrano's Bistrot by listing it as potatoes. "People understood that roasted potatoes wouldn't cost $21," he says, but that's what he charged. After two years the ban was rescinded. Merkel Stands Ground Ahead Of Euro Summit (Reuters) EU leaders arrived for a Brussels summit on Thursday more openly divided than at any time since the euro crisis began, with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel showing no sign of relenting in her refusal to back other countries' debts. Merkel is being urged at home to hang tough and reject all efforts to make Germany underwrite European partners' borrowing or banks, while her European Union partners say that may be the only way to save the single currency. "Nein! No! Non!" shouted a headline splashed across the front page of the normally sober German business daily Handelsblatt, with a commentary by its editor-in-chief saying Merkel must remain firm at the two-day summit. Lenny Dykstra Takes Plea Deal On Fraud Charges (LAT) Former New York Mets star and self-styled financial guru Lenny Dykstra, already sentenced to three years in state prison for a car scam, has agreed to a plea deal on federal bankruptcy fraud charges after allegedly looting his mansion of valuables as he struggled to battle numerous creditors...According to federal prosecutors, Dykstra sold sports memorabilia and items from his Ventura County mansion, including a $50,000 sink, that were frozen as part of the bankruptcy case. Typically, a person in bankruptcy can't touch assets that are part of the case so that they are available to repay creditors. Dykstra allegedly had dozens of items, including chandeliers, mirrors, artwork, a stove and a grandfather clock delivered to a consignment store, Uniques, on South Barrington Avenue in West Los Angeles. The owner of the store paid him cash for a U-Haul truckload of goods, according to the agent. Manhattan philanthropist behind alleged madam's $250K bond post (NYP) Bonnie Lunt is the mystery hero who put up $250,000 collateral to spring the accused hockey mom madam from Rikers last night, court records show. The 65-year-old Lunt -- a top New York headhunter who has been dubbed the “Jerry Maguire of the communications industry”-- posted her own Upper East Side home to help Gristina make bail, according to bail documents. Lunt’s East 76th street pad is just around the corner from the tiny East 78th Street apartment prosecutors claim Gristina used as headquarters for an alleged multi-million dollar prostitution operation. Miami attacker who chewed man's face was not high on 'bath salts,' officials say (DJ) The Miami "cannibal" who chewed off half of another man's face last month had no drugs in his system other than marijuana, officials said Wednesday, defying suspicions that he was high on "bath salts" during the grisly attack. Rudy Eugene, 31, was shot and killed by police on May 26 after he was found naked and biting into a homeless man's face and eyes beside Miami's MacArthur Causeway. Authorities had suspected Eugene was under the influence of synthetic drugs sold as "bath salts," which have been known to make some users aggressive and behave bizarrely. Witnesses said he had taken off his clothes and was swinging on a light pole before the attack.

StatlerAndIcahn

Opening Bell: 11.8.17

Carl Icahn likes cars; Steve-Cohen-backed Quantopian is struggling; miniature IPOs are generally a bad idea; why you shouldn't play with guns during your bachelor party; and more.

Opening Bell: 04.18.13

Morgan Stanley Sees Core Earnings Weaken (WSJ) Morgan Stanley saw core earnings weaken, although the investment bank swung to a first-quarter profit as it benefited from a comparison with a year-earlier period bogged down by a heavy charge. For the quarter, the bank reported a profit of $984 million, compared with a year-earlier loss of $94 million. The per-share profit, which reflects the payment of preferred dividends, was 49 cents compared with a loss of six cents a year earlier. The latest period featured a decline in fixed-income trading revenue, but strong stock trading and continued improvements in Morgan Stanley's wealth-management division, which was buoyed by strong markets. ... Revenue jumped 18% to $8.16 billion. Excluding debt valuation, revenue was $8.48 billion. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters most recently expected earnings, excluding debt-valuation adjustments, of 57 cents, on revenue of $8.35 billion. Blackstone First-Quarter Profit Rises on Fund Performance (Bloomberg) Blackstone Group LP (BX), the world’s biggest buyout firm, said first-quarter profit rose 28 percent as market gains lifted the carrying value of its holdings. Economic net income, a measure of earnings excluding some costs tied to the firm’s 2007 initial public offering, increased to $628.3 million, or 55 cents a share, from $491.2 million, or 44 cents, a year earlier, New York-based Blackstone said today in a statement. Analysts had expected earnings of 53 cents a share, according to the average of 15 estimates in a Bloomberg survey. Barclays Head of Investment Banking Rich Ricci to Retire in June (Bloomberg) Barclays Plc’s Rich Ricci, the head of investment banking and one of the last members of former Chief Executive Officer Robert Diamond’s management team, will retire at the end of June. Ricci, 49, will be replaced by Eric Bommensath and Tom King, 52, as co-chief executive officers of corporate and investment banking in May, the London-based bank said in a statement today. “The market will see this as an inevitable and appropriate piece of transitioning,” said Ian Gordon, an analyst at Investec Plc (INVP) in London. “Few tears will be shed and the reshuffle will be broadly welcomed.” Special Report: The battle for the Swiss soul (Reuters) A sign on display in UBS's museum, from a bank founded in 1747 in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, could almost be Switzerland's mantra: "MASSIMA DISCREZIONE" it promises. Swiss bankers have long adhered to an unwritten code similar to that observed by doctors or priests. Bankers do not acknowledge clients in public for fear of exposing them as account holders; they often carry business cards with just a name, rather than bank or contact details; and, at least until the 1990s, they never advertised abroad. ... Even today, few Swiss like to discuss the fact that much of the country's prosperity was built on bankers helping foreigners evade taxes. Visitors should avoid personal questions, advises Communicaid, a consultancy which advises businesses on cross-cultural awareness. It would also be wise to steer clear of discussing "Swiss banks, money or Switzerland's military role in World War One or Two." Reinhart/Rogoff and Growth in a Time Before Debt (RortyBomb via Felix Salmon) Here is a simple question: does a high debt-to-GDP ratio better predict future growth rates, or past ones? If the former is true, it would be consistent with the argument that higher debt levels cause growth to fall. On the other hand, if higher debt "predicts" past growth, that is a signature of reverse causality. ... As is evident, current period debt-to-GDP is a pretty poor predictor of future GDP growth at debt-to-GDP ratios of 30 or greater—the range where one might expect to find a tipping point dynamic. But it does a great job predicting past growth. Ottawa sets up taxpayer-funded food truck in Mexico to promote Canadian cuisine (National Post) When author Anita Stewart first heard about the Canadian government’s new food truck parked in Mexico City, she laughed so hard she cried. The new Canada-branded, taxpayer-funded venture, which kicked off its three-week pilot project last week, is serving up a Mexican-ized version of poutine, using Oaxaca cheese instead of curds. Also on the menu are Alberta beef tourtière, and maple-glazed Albacore tuna. China Vows Wider Yuan Movement (WSJ) China's central bank plans to widen the yuan's trading band in the near future, People's Bank of China Vice Governor Yi Gang said Wednesday, suggesting that China's leaders will press ahead with change despite the surprise slowing of the economy. "The exchange rate is going to be more market-oriented," Mr. Yi said on a panel at the International Monetary Fund spring meetings in Washington. "I think in the near future we are going to increase the floating band even further." IMF warns on risks of excessive easing (FT) Extraordinarily loose monetary policy risks sparking credit bubbles that threaten to tip the world back into financial crisis, the International Monetary Fund warned on Wednesday. In its global financial stability report, the fund cautioned that policy reforms were needed urgently to restore long-term health to the financial system before the long-term dangers of monetary stimulus materialised. German Parliament Approves Bailout for Cyprus (WSJ) German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble called the vote a "strong signal" by Germany in favor of the euro and the euro zone. The parliament also voted in favor of a seven-year extension of the maturity on European Financial Stability Facility loans for Ireland and Portugal with a large majority. SEC to Move Past Financial Crisis Cases Under New Chairman White (Bloomberg) Mary Jo White, the first former prosecutor to serve as chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, has pledged to run a “bold and unrelenting” enforcement program at the agency charged with regulating Wall Street. With financial crisis cases mostly done and some of the biggest insider-trading cases in history closed, White will have to chart a course into new areas to keep that pledge. White, who was sworn in last week, has already provided a few signals about what that might be. During her Senate confirmation hearing, she said she intends to focus on high- frequency and automated trading. She has also raised questions about a drop in the number of accounting fraud cases the agency has brought in recent years. Dispute in Hamptons Set Off by Effort to Hold Back Ocean (NYT) Soon after Hurricane Sandy hit last fall, Joshua Harris, a billionaire hedge fund founder and an owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, began to fear that his $25 million home on the water in Southampton might fall victim to the next major storm. So he installed a costly defense against incoming waves: a shield of large metal plates on the beach, camouflaged by sand. His neighbor, Mark Rachesky, another billionaire hedge fund founder, put up similar fortifications between his home and the surf. Chris Shumway, who closed his $8 billion hedge fund two years ago, trucked in boulders the size of Volkswagens. Across a section of this wealthy town, some residents, accustomed to having their way in the business world, are now trying to hold back the ocean. ‘Elvis’ is busted in ricin terror (NYP) The FBI last night busted a troubled Mississippi Elvis impersonator as the poison-wielding man who mailed ricin-laced letters to President Obama and two other officials. ... Despite his rock ’n’ roll hobby, Curtis shows his angry side on Facebook, where he lashes out in a conspiracy-filled rant. “I’m on the hidden front lines of a secret war,” he wrote. “They burned down my home, killed my dogs, my cat, my rabbit, blew up my 1966 Plymouth Valiant . . . and guess what? I am still a thorn in their corrupt anals! I will remain here until Jesus Christ decides it’s time for me to go.”

GundlachExplainsItAll

Opening Bell: 6.14.17

Jeff Gundlach would like you to please panic now; sentient humans make up just 10 percent of stock trading; apparently the old I'm-only-shoplifting-as-a-sociological-experiment excuse doesn't fly anymore; and more.