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Opening Bell: 05.21.14

U.S. Said to Seek More than $5 Billion in BNP Settlement (Bloomberg)
U.S. authorities are seeking more than $5 billion from BNP Paribas SA (BNP) to settle federal and state investigations into the lender’s dealings with sanctioned countries including Sudan and Iran, according to a person familiar with the matter. The amount sought to resolve the investigation has escalated and now far exceeds the $2.6 billion that Credit Suisse AG (CSGN) agreed to pay in a settlement with the U.S. for helping Americans evade taxes. Discussions are continuing and the final number could change, the person said. Last week, four people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News that U.S. authorities were asking for at least $3.5 billion to settle the BNP case. As they did with Credit Suisse, U.S. prosecutors are seeking a guilty plea from BNP, which said last month it may need more than the $1.1 billion it has set aside to settle the case.

BlackRock’s Fink Says Housing Structure More Unsound Now (Bloomberg)
“We’re more dependent on Fannie and Freddie than we were before the crisis,” Fink said Tuesday at a conference held by the Investment Company Institute in Washington, noting that he was one of the first Freddie Mac bond traders on Wall Street.

Pot Bust: The SEC Issues a Warning on Marijuana-Related Investments (BusinessWeek)
The securities watchdog has temporarily suspended shares of five companies that claim to be operating in the cannabis industry over questions about the accuracy of their public statements and potentially illegal sales of securities and market manipulation, according to an SEC notice published last week. One of the companies suspended...Denver-based FusionPharm, sells a line of cultivation containers called PharmPods, touted as a “plug and grow” solution for cannabis. Information that FusionPharm disclosed on its assets, revenue, financial statements, business transactions, and current financial condition may be inadequate or inaccurate, according to the SEC’s suspension order, which lasts until May 30. FusionPharm didn’t immediately respond to a telephone message left with its sales and marketing department.

The Cheap Pimco Fund That Has Gross Reaching for His Wallet (Bloomberg)
Gross has been adding to his personal holdings this year in Pacific Investment Management Co.’s $1.5 billion Dynamic Income fund as demand picks up for an asset class that was left for dead in 2013, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The closed-end credit fund is up 16.6 percent in 2014 as the discount between its share price and the assets the fund owns has disappeared. Most other such funds are still inexpensive by this measure because they haven’t yet generated enough demand to close the gap between their share prices and the value of the assets they own. The funds -- which raise a fixed amount of money through public offerings and typically use leverage to amplify bets -- tanked last year as the Federal Reserve signaled it would start tapering its stimulus.

Why Do Americans Name Babies After Kale and Other Foods? (Bon Appetit)
Kale (2013: 257 boys, 5 girls) Looks like kale has been America’s darling for longer than we originally thought—the name was first used in 1962. And while we were not surprised to learn that the highest concentration of little Kales can currently be found in California (#agriculture), we were intrigued to learn that the first baby Kale was born in Kansas. It’s been gaining popularity since 2005—quite possibly due to the leafy green’s parallel rise to prominence. Can Watercress and Mizuna be far behind? Chai (2013: 8 boys, 7 girls) Fewer folks preferred their babies’ tea-related names to be of the specific variety: Chai was first used as a girl’s name in 1989 and as a boy’s name in 1984 (both in California), but each year produced fewer than 10 little Chais. It’s possible the name’s popularity has something to do with the introduction of Starbucks’s chai tea drinks, but based on that logic we should be seeing a lot of little Pumpkin Spices running around, so we’re still investigating this one. Tamari (2013: 14 boys, 26 girls) Although people have been eating fermented soybean product for centuries, Tamari as a baby name didn’t appear in the U.S. until 2006—with five female Tamaris. Science may be on the fence about soy’s health benefits, but sushi (and all of its accoutrements, like wasabi and soy sauce) have been taking the nation by storm in the last few decades. Miso, however—from which tamari is traditionally made—is missing from the SSA database.

Fed Officials: Rate-Hike Tack Will Be Flexible (WSJ)
New York Fed chief William Dudley and San Francisco Fed chief John Williams said this week that the new tools—including so-called reverse repos and interest paid on excess reserves—will likely have a role to play in lifting short-term rates from near zero, where they have been since the heights of the financial crisis in 2008. The discussions on the mechanics of an eventual increase in short-term rates didn't address an explicit timetable. Mr. Dudley cautioned the Fed's first rate increase likely lies well in the future and no one knows for sure when it will happen. Mr. Williams said Monday that he thinks it will likely come some time in the second half of next year.

Lloyd Blankfein on the future of Goldman Sachs (Quartz)
In recent months, Goldman has effectively outlined a strategy that zigs, while the rest of the financial world zags. The bank, led by CEO and chairman Lloyd Blankfein, has: 1. stated that it is staying put in commodities trading as others are exiting 2. called out investment banking as one of the keys to its success 3. committed to bond-trading business best known as fixed income currencies and commodities, or FICC. Taken as a whole, Goldman’s refusal to part with key activities reflects Blankfein’s deep skepticism that the business of large financial institutions has been as fundamentally altered as some think. Goldman Sachs is willing to bet that some of those businesses will be back. If and when they do rebound, Blankfein clearly states, Goldman will be ready. “I’ve just been doing this a long time. I’ve been doing this over 30 years,” the Goldman Sachs CEO told Quartz in an interview after the firm’s annual shareholder meeting in Dallas, Texas on May 16. “I think it’s a vanity to say something that has worked is not going to work from this moment forward.”

Billionaire Steyer picks fights with Kochs, Rubio in climate change push (NetNet)
The billionaire former hedge fund manager has continued his high-profile campaign against climate change this year, using his NextGen Climate group to create attack ads targeting conservative industrialists Charles and David Koch, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, and Terri Lynn Land, the GOP Senate candidate in Michigan. Steyer continued his digs at the Koch brothers--prominent supporters of conservative politicians--by challenging them to a debate on climate change and energy policy. "We are using our resources to promote an interest that we believe will help our children, while they appear to be promoting an agenda that will benefit their economic self-interest," Steyer said when issuing the challenge April 25. "We deal in science, while they are involved in efforts to attack science."

Cat brings home bag of cannabis (BBC)
The worried owner, who has not been identified, apparently rang the authorities in Dunedin on the county's South Island after she found the bag with 5g (0.2oz) of cannabis inside. ''You hear of cats bringing dead birds and rats home, but certainly in my career I've never seen anything like this before," Sergeant Reece Munro tells the Otago Daily Times, adding the marijuana has a street value of about NZ$100 ($85, £51). While the origin of the cannabis remains a mystery, Munro says that - until now - he'd never stopped to think about the sniffing potential of cats. "We certainly have police dogs trained to detect drugs - this might be something police could explore in the future," he says.

Related

Opening Bell: 07.09.12

BofA Figures In Drug Probe (WSJ) A Mexican cocaine-trafficking cartel used accounts at Bank of America to hide money and invest illegal drug-trade proceeds in U.S. racehorses, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said. The alleged ties between the violent drug gang known as Los Zetas and the second-largest U.S. bank by assets were described in a 35-page affidavit filed in federal court in Texas last month. According to an FBI agent, a horse-buying and training business created to launder drug money had accounts at the Charlotte, N.C., bank. Libor Probe Moves To Political Arena (WSJ) The scandal over banks' manipulation of key interest rates cost the jobs of three senior financial figures last week. On Monday, the deputy governor of the Bank of England will try to ensure it doesn't derail his own career. Paul Tucker, a leading candidate to become the next governor of the Bank of England, will testify Monday afternoon before a Parliamentary committee that is examining how Barclays and other global banks improperly tried to influence interest rates like the London interbank offered rate...Barclays, after reaching a £290 million settlement with U.S. and British regulators over its attempts to manipulate Libor, sought to defend itself by releasing notes from an October 2008 phone call between Mr. Tucker and Robert Diamond. According to Mr. Diamond's notes from the call, Mr. Tucker relayed concerns from "senior" British government officials about Barclays's above-average Libor submissions. "Mr. Tucker stated…that while he was certain we did not need advice, that it did not always need to be the case that we appeared as high as we have recently," Mr. Diamond wrote to two of his colleagues the day after the call. Diamond Antithesis Seen As Key Step To Repairing Barclays (Bloomberg) The British lender faces a criminal probe and political pressure to curb or separate the investment banking unit that Diamond built up during his 16-year career at Barclays from the consumer bank. The unit generated 61 percent of the bank’s first-quarter pretax profit. At a Parliamentary hearing last week, lawmakers asked if the culture at the investment bank was “rotten” and if he lived in a “parallel universe.” Former Barclays CEO: I Too Fell for the Diamond Myth (FT) "It was a close call," Taylor says of his decision to retain Diamond as head of Barclays Capital. "I suspect the subsequent history of the business would have been very different had I asked him to go. I deserve blame for being among the first to succumb to the myth of Diamond’s indispensability, to which some in Barclays were still in thrall only a matter of days ago." SEC set to hand out up to $452M to whistleblowers (NYP) “The SEC is receiving two to three tips every day that are worth pursuing, and they’re farming them out to staffers for investigation,” said Lawrence A. West, a lawyer with Latham & Watkins. “SEC officials are eager to pay out and publicize the first whistleblower award,” said West, whose firm has gathered a number of tipsters under the new law. “Once the first award is publicized, tips to the SEC from disgruntled employees are almost certain to increase substantially.” Romney Mines Hamptons For Political Cash (NYT) EAST HAMPTON, N.Y. — A woman in a blue chiffon dress poked her head out of a black Range Rover here on Sunday afternoon and yelled to an aide to Mitt Romney. “Is there a V.I.P. entrance? We are V.I.P.” (No such entrance existed.)...what was billed as a day of elegant campaign events at the homes of the ultrarich turned out to be an afternoon of curious and clashing tableaus: protesters with their bandannas and Occupy Wall Street-inspired chants (“We got sold out, banks got bailed out!”) standing amid multimillion-dollar mansions, where live bands played “Margaritaville” and donors dined on prosciutto-wrapped melon balls...After that, Mr. Romney attended events at the Southampton homes of Clifford Sobel, the former United States ambassador to Brazil, and David Koch, the billionaire industrialist and longtime benefactor of conservative political causes. The event at Mr. Koch’s home drew about 200 protesters, who...went so far as to hire a local pilot to fly a giant red and black banner over Mr. Koch’s house, which read: “Romney has a Koch problem,” a play on the drug. (Mr. Koch’s name is pronounced the same as the word coke.) A truck, festooned with the logos of big banks like Citigroup and Wells Fargo, circled the neighborhood with a plastic dog on the roof, a jab at Mr. Romney’s much-mocked family vacation in which he traveled with his Irish setter inside a pet carrier on the roof of a car. Barclays mulls split after Libor scandal: report (MarketWatch) Board directors at U.K. bank Barclays PLC BCS -1.72% are considering splitting the company into two units, as regulatory scrutiny mounts in the wake of its role in the Libor interest-rate fixing scandal, The Sunday Times reports without citing sources. The newspaper says Barclays is examining plans to spin off its investment banking arm, which could be floated in New York, with the U.K.-headquartered retail and commercial bank retaining its London listing. (A person familiar with the matter said the story was inaccurate.) Roubini: My 'Perfect Storm' Scenario Is Unfolding Now (CNBC) In May, Roubini predicted four elements – stalling growth in the U.S., debt troubles in Europe, a slowdown in emerging markets, particularly China, and military conflict in Iran - would come together in to create a storm for the global economy in 2013. “(The) 2013 perfect storm scenario I wrote on months ago is unfolding,” Roubini said on Twitter on Monday. Tighter Control For Euro Banks (WSJ) The establishment of a single authority, with a single set of rules for the region's banks, is seen by Germany and other strong economies as an essential condition before they will consider sharing resources with other euro-zone countries. House-crasher sentenced after enjoying Diddy's food, cigars and toothbrush (NYP) A East New York man, busted for sneaking into rapper Sean “Diddy” Combs’ palatial East Hampton spread in April, guzzled the star’s top-shelf liquor, washed with his soap, and even used his toothbrush, officials revealed yesterday. “I brought a cheesesteak, a cheesecake, a bucket of fried chicken — which I ate at the house — and drank a ‘dollar’ bottle of Hennessy and four cans of Pepsi,” Quamine Taylor told prosecutors at his sentencing yesterday. He even slathered Diddy’s Frank’s Red Hot sauce on his grub, and drank a bottle of Hpnotiq, a vodka liqueur, he said, adding, “After I ate, I went upstairs and went to sleep.” He also smoked three of Diddy’s Dutch Masters cigars and drank a can of orange soda. Then he freshened up using Diddy’s soap and splashing on his aftershave.

Opening Bell: 02.01.13

Barclays CEO Gives Up Bonus For 2012 (WSJ) Mr. Jenkins, who was named Barclays CEO last year, said in a statement that it was "only right" he give up his pay in light of the various problems that have beset the U.K. bank in recent months. Mr. Jenkins's predecessor, Robert Diamond, quit the bank following allegations that the bank tried to rig interbank lending rates. Barclays is wrestling with other industrywide issues, including the misselling of payment-protection insurance and interest-rate hedging products. "I have concluded that it would be wrong for me to receive a bonus for 2012 given those circumstances," Mr. Jenkins said. Worst Not Over for Spain Banks After Big Writedowns (CNBC) "The problems for Spanish banking are far from over," Ashok Shah, chief investment officer at wealth management firm London & Capital, told CNBC on Friday. "The underlying real estate market is only half-corrected,so when it fully corrects over the next year of two, the non-performing loans are going to keep spiking up which will keep eating into the tier-one capital so the need to raise more equity is going to be enormous and very, very pressing indeed." 'London Whale' Sounded an Alarm on Risky Bets (WSJ) In one instance, Mr. Iksil told another trader that the size of his bets was getting "scary," according to emails in a Jan. 16 report by J.P. Morgan and to the people familiar with the emails. Mr. Iksil's emails, according to people familiar with them, show there was concern within J.P. Morgan's chief investment office before Chief Executive James Dimon dismissed as a "tempest in a teapot" reports on the whale trades, including an April 6 article in The Wall Street Journal. The New York company first disclosed the trading losses in May, and Mr. Dimon subsequently said he was wrong to have played down concerns raised by the news report. $3.8 Million Bonus For Gorman (NYP) Morgan Stanley reduced pay by 7.1 percent for Chairman and CEO James Gorman, giving him a $9.75 million package that included a $3.75 million long-term incentive award. The bank almost doubled Gorman’s base salary to $1.5 million from $800,000, according to a regulatory filing yesterday. Edward Koch, Brash New York Mayor in 1980s Boom, Dies at 88 (Bloomberg) Serving from 1978 through 1989, Koch presided over the Wall Street-fueled economic boom of the 1980s, turning a $1 billion budget deficit into a $500 million surplus in five years. He restored the city’s credit, doubled the annual budget to $26 billion and oversaw $19 billion in capital improvements. His subsidized housing plan produced more than 156,000 new and renovated units. “Through his tough, determined leadership and responsible fiscal stewardship, Ed helped lift the city out of its darkest days and set it on course for an incredible comeback,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said today in a statement. He called Koch “an irrepressible icon, our most charismatic cheerleader and champion.” Koch’s in-your-face style, straight talk and catchphrase “How’m I doing?” endeared him to New Yorkers wracked by the lingering fiscal crisis, the Son of Sam serial killings and the arson and looting that erupted after a blackout in July 1977. Geraldo Rivera considering run for U.S. Senate (NYDN) "Fasten your seatbelt," the mustachioed Fox News host said on his radio show Thursday. "I've been in touch with some people in the Republican Party in New Jersey. I am truly contemplating running." The Brooklyn native is eyeing a 2014 bid for the seat currently held by aging Democrat Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who may not seek reelection. Newark’s Democrat mayor, Cory Booker, is exploring a run. Stifel Stalks Faltering Firms as Wall Street Retrenches (Bloomberg) Stifel Financial Chief Executive Officer Ron Kruszewski paused in mid-sentence and asked an employee for the list, a chart showing in red which of the St. Louis-based firm’s rivals have closed or sold out. “There’s this huge consolidation,” Kruszewski, 54, said in an interview in his office, referring to the once crowded field of U.S. regional and local brokerages that vied to serve mid-size companies. “What’s left is very few firms that ever were in the middle market. We’re one of them.” About a dozen golf putters lean against a table. Nine floors down, the lobby is being remodeled with glass and white stone, while a bronze bull and bear statue is planned for outside. The way Kruszewski views it, St. Louis is now the No. 2 U.S. brokerage hub after New York... Economy Adds 157,000 Jobs (WSJ) Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected nonfarm payrolls to rise by 166,000 and that the unemployment rate would hold steady at 7.8%. U.S. Sues to Block Big Beer Merger (WSJ) The surprise lawsuit seeks to block Bud Light maker Anheuser-Busch InBev NV's deal with the Mexican company that owns the Corona brand, and comes just a day after concession talks with the government broke down. U.S. authorities said they want to prevent any overcharging by the global giants that dominate mass-market brews. Burger King admits it has been selling beef burgers and Whoppers containing horsemeat (DM) The fast food chain, which has more than 500 UKoutlets, had earlier given a series of ‘absolute assurances’ that its products were not involved. However, new tests have revealed these guarantees were incorrect in a revelation that threatens to destroy the trust of customers. The contamination has been going on since at least last May and potentially for up to one year, according to evidence presented earlier this week. Tonight Burger King abandoned its earlier denials, saying: ‘Four samples recently taken from the Silvercrest plant have shown the presence of very small trace levels of equine DNA. Burger King vice president, Diego Beamonte, said: ‘We are deeply troubled by the findings of our investigation and apologise to our guests, who trust us to source only the highest quality 100per cent beef burgers. Our supplier has failed us and in turn we have failed you. We are committed to ensuring that this does not happen again.' He added: ‘We will dedicate ourselves to determining what lessons can be learned and what additional measures, including DNA testing and enhanced traceability controls, can be taken to ensure that we continue to provide you with the quality products you expect from us.'

Opening Bell: 5.27.16

Judge tells accused Libor manipulator to STFU; Short sellers circle Alibaba; Man proposes to girlfriend using custom Mario level; and more.

JamieDimonSnap

Opening Bell: 9.12.18

Flo is getting bigger, badder; Brexit making New York more powerful; Dimon is running; Margaritaville smells like pot; and more!

Opening Bell: 6.19.15

No deal for Greece; Elliott eyes Asia's family-run firms; State Street gets Wells notice; Man literally gives ex-wife half of everything they owned (because he sawed all their belongings in half); and more.