Opening Bell: 06.12.14 - Dealbreaker

Opening Bell: 06.12.14

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Mickelson Role Said to Be Overstated in Insider Inquiry (Dealbook)
Phil Mickelson, the famed golfer, did not trade in the shares of Clorox just as the billionaire investor Carl C. Icahn was mounting an unsolicited takeover bid for the company in 2011, say four people briefed on the matter. Recent reports in The New York Times and other news organizations said that Clorox was among the stocks that federal authorities were examining as part of a two-year investigation into well-timed trades made by Mr. Mickelson and the sports gambler William T. Walters. Initially, authorities pursued a theory that Mr. Icahn shared private details of his Clorox bid with Mr. Walters, who then traded on the information and passed on the tip to Mr. Mickelson. Although Mr. Icahn and Mr. Walters remain under investigation over Clorox, the F.B.I. and the Securities and Exchange Commission have found no evidence that Mr. Mickelson traded Clorox shares. The overstated scope of the investigation came from information provided to The Times by other people briefed on the matter who have since acknowledged making a mistake.

Activist Funds Dust Off 'Greenmail' Playbook (WSJ)
More companies are resorting to an old tactic to get rid of activist investors: Pay them to go away. The practice, which involves buying back shares from activist hedge funds, has raised concerns among some investors because it bears similarities to "greenmail," a controversial strategy popular in the 1980s. Back then, aggressive investors such as Carl Icahn and the late Saul Steinberg bought company shares and threatened a hostile takeover. Eager to avoid a battle, companies including Walt Disney Co. and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. bought back their stakes above market price, giving the activists a quick profit. The practice, widely criticized as corporate blackmail, largely died out by the early 1990s as companies beefed up defenses and lawmakers took steps to discourage it. But in the past 12 months, at least 10 companies have repurchased blocks of shares from activist investors, including Daniel Loeb and William Ackman, according to FactSet SharkWatch. That is more than in the previous six years combined. The practice differs from greenmail in two crucial aspects. The share buybacks aren't at a premium to the market but typically at or slightly below the last trading price. They also don't follow threats of hostile takeovers.

Europe Bankers Cringe at Rising U.S. Fines Amid BNP Probe (Bloomberg)
HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA) Chairman Douglas Flint had some advice for bank executives meeting in London last week: Read up on how the U.S. uses financial warfare against its enemies in a foreign-policy shift that’s entangling lenders...At a June 4 meeting of the Institute of International Finance’s board, Flint, 58, advised participants including Barclays Plc Chief Executive Officer Antony Jenkins to read former U.S. deputy national security adviser Juan Zarate’s “Treasury’s War: The Unleashing of a New Era of Financial Warfare,” according to two people who were present. In his book, Zarate recounts how U.S. foreign policy is increasingly targeting financial activity by criminals, enemy states and individuals in sanctioned regimes. Caught in the middle are international lenders, whose desire to avoid business and reputational risk assures their cooperation.

Treasury Secretary Lew Warns of Lower Potential Economic Growth (WSJ)
In a speech to the Economic Club of New York, Mr. Lew said the U.S. growth rate is now projected to run a little above 2% a year, down from a 3.4% average from the end of World War II until 2007. If America can't maintain stronger growth, the country could face deepening challenges from sluggish labor market and widening inequality, he said. "The choices we make over the years to come can alter this projection," he said.

SEC Says Investor Accused of Fake Gold Bid Fled to China (Bloomberg)
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said the man behind a fake $750 million bid for Allied Nevada Gold Corp. (ANV) profited from selling an undisclosed stake in the mining company and has fled the country. Luis Chang and Everbright Development Overseas Ltd., a company he controls, “furtively” bought Allied Nevada stock while disseminating false information about the company, the SEC said in a complaint filed June 9 in federal court in New York. Everbright then sold the shares into a “falsely inflated market” for a profit of more than $7 million, the SEC said.

Florida John Offered Salad In Return For Sex (TSG)
Liverman was arrested Monday morning during a reverse sting that netted nine other men for soliciting a prostitute. The hookers in question were actually undercover Daytona Beach Police Department officers. While negotiating a liaison with a female officer, Liverman--who was “operating a bicycle”--revealed that he did not have any money. “I’m hungry, you got food?” the undercover asked. Liverman replied, “I got a salad,” according to a booking affidavit. “I’ll give you a bl0w j0b for a salad,” the cop declared. Liverman replied, “You ready to go?” The document does not detail the location of Liverman’s salad (or its street value). Liverman was busted because he and the cop “agreed upon the sexual act in exchange for food,” investigators reported.

Goldman Sachs Misses Out on Big Alibaba Payoff (Dealbook)
In 1999, the Wall Street bank was among the first investors in Alibaba Group, the Chinese e-commerce business, injecting $3.3 million in what was then little more than a scrappy start-up operating out of its founder’s apartment in Hangzhou. But as Alibaba Group prepares to sell its stock to the public for the first time, in one of the biggest and most eagerly anticipated initial public offerings in years, Goldman Sachs will not be among the investors standing to make mind-bending sums. It sold all of its stake in Alibaba by early 2004 — for $22 million, or nearly seven times its original investment. In comparison, some of the early investors who bought out Goldman Sachs’s stake have since made as much as 30 times their original investments as the company’s value has ballooned exponentially.

EU Probes Tax Affairs of Apple, Starbucks (WSJ)
The probes represent a new front in European efforts to focus on tax avoidance by big companies in Europe in the wake of the region's financial crisis. The European Commission, which acts as the region's central antitrust authority, said it would examine whether generous tax deals granted to Apple in Ireland, Fiat Finance and Trade in Luxembourg, and Starbucks in the Netherlands, amounted to illegal aid by governments for the companies. The decision to examine the tax deals through the lens of the region's state-aid rules, which is a first for the European Union, means the investigation would have more bite, because the commission must pursue such investigations to their conclusion and can demand that unpaid taxes be returned, tax experts said.

BNP Tentatively Agrees to Remove Adviser (WSJ)
BNP Paribas has tentatively agreed to oust a senior adviser at the French bank at the behest of New York's top financial regulator as part of a proposed settlement of BNP's alleged violations of U.S. sanctions, according to people familiar with the matter. Benjamin M. Lawsky, who runs New York's Department of Financial Services, requested the bank remove Vivien Lévy-Garboua, the people said. Mr. Lévy-Garboua has served as head of compliance and internal controls for BNP in North America and currently acts as an adviser to senior bank officials.

Aubrey McClendon Launches His Post-Chesapeake Comeback (WSJ)
Mr. McClendon, whose flair made him a fixture at the energy industry's marquee events, is working feverishly to build a new energy empire, raising $10 billion in the last nine months for his American Energy Partners LP. On Wednesday, he joined the head of the Environmental Protection Agency and the governor of Delaware at a Goldman Sachs energy conference in Manhattan. The executive's appearance at the event marked a re-emergence after a quiet period. Just over a year ago, Mr. McClendon was shown the door at Chesapeake, the company he co-founded and built into the nation's second-biggest natural-gas producer, behind Exxon Mobil Corp. Regarded by many as a visionary early to grasp the potential of American shale, Mr. McClendon eventually lost favor with Chesapeake's largest shareholders because of his aggressive spending, appetite for risk and mingling his personal finances with the company's drilling.

Goldman, Bain to pay $121 million in LBO collusion settlement (Reuters)
Goldman Sachs will pay $67 million and Bain Capital Partners LLC will pay $54 million to settle their portions of a lawsuit accusing several big private equity firms of conspiring not to outbid each other in takeovers. The preliminary settlement with former shareholders of companies acquired in leveraged buyouts from 2003 to 2007 was disclosed in papers filed on Wednesday in Boston federal court, and requires approval by U.S. District Judge William Young.

A millionaire on nearly every block in US: study (NYP)
The number of millionaire households in the US grew by 18 percent last year from 2012, the study found, bringing the total number of millionaire households in the country to roughly 7.1 million. That means there is one millionaire household for every 16 households in the country. That’s up from one of every 22 households being millionaires in 2010 and one in 24 in 2007.

Doctor suspended for 'sexting' and sending explicit pics during surgery (Mirror)
An anesthesiologist has been suspended for allegedly s3xting and sending photographs of his exposed gen!tals while involved in surgery including caesarean births. The hospital doctor sent more than 250 texts containing sexual innuendo during complex procedures including 45 messages over a 90 minute period during one stomach operation, an investigation found...In one message he said: "I’m hella busy with C sections.” In another it is claimed he invited his girlfriend to come to the hospital and told her he would let her into the doctors’ lot so she wouldn’t have to pay for parking.

Related

Opening Bell: 05.09.12

Greek Turmoil Raises Euro Risk (WSJ) "The market is really working out what the risks are," said Justin Knight of UBS. "It is a bit of a slow burner, but it is gathering pace." Whether investors are right depends on a messy drama under way in Athens, in which the leading parties have been sidelined in favor of a collection of radicals bent on upsetting the painful measures that are Europe's price for Greece's bailout. On Tuesday, the head of Greece's leading left-wing party, Alexis Tsipras of Syriza, took a turn at trying to form a government. His conservative counterpart, whose party won slightly more votes on Sunday, tried and failed Monday. Mr. Tsipras demanded that Greece renounce the bailout's required Greek budget cuts, saying they were nullified by the "people's verdict" of the election. But Mr. Tsipras's party won just 52 of the 300 seats in parliament, and chances he could form a governing coalition appeared slim. Roubini: Situation In Europe Is A 'Slow Motion Trainwreck' (CNBC) Roubini, who warned last year that a perfect storm was coming for the global economy in 2013, said the euro zone will “eventually break up,” and expects two or three euro zone members to exit the bloc over the next few years. “Europe will be lucky if it ends up in stagnation like Japan for the next 10 years,” he added. German Patience With Greece on the Euro Wears Thin (NYT) “Germans are now predominantly of the opinion that they would be better off if Greece left the euro zone,” said Carsten Hefeker, a professor of economics and an expert on the euro at the University of Siegen. “If the country really is continuing on the path they are taking now, it would be hard to justify keeping them in. How do you deal with a country that says we don’t want to keep any of the commitments we have made?” Chesapeake CEO arranged new $450 million loan from financier (Reuters) In the weeks before Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon was stripped of his chairmanship over his personal financial dealings, he arranged an additional $450 million loan from a longtime backer, according to a person familiar with the transaction. That loan, previously undisclosed, was made by investment-management firm EIG Global Energy Partners, which was at the same time helping arrange a major $1.25 billion round of financing for Chesapeake itself. The new loan brings the energy executive's total financing from EIG since 2010 to $1.33 billion and his current balance due to $1.1 billion, this person said. It was secured by McClendon's personal stakes in wells that have yet to be drilled by Chesapeake - and by his own life-insurance policy. Remaking Yahoo's Board, Again (WSJ) "Mr. Loeb has launched a proxy fight to put himself and three other new directors onto the board. It isn't clear the Loeb team can fix the company. But at this point, shareholders should vote for his slate, given the repeated lapses in judgment by existing company leadership." Hot Dog Hooker ‘relishes’ her return (NYP) Long Island’s Hot Dog Hooker was sprung from jail yesterday, and said she’ll be serving up Sabretts and stripteases from her mobile wiener wagon this morning. “I’ll be out there in my bikini top selling my hot dogs!” Catherine Scalia boasted as she strutted out of a Nassau County jail after a court appearance. Scalia was busted for prostitution last Friday for allegedly agreeing to pleasure an undercover cop for $50 after he purchased a hot dog. Judge Anthony Paradiso sentenced Scalia to seven days in prison and ordered her to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. Green Mountain Roasted (Bloomberg) Green Mountain Coffee Roasters said Robert P. Stiller will no longer serve as chairman after he sold shares to make a margin call. Michael J. Mardy, chairman of the company’s audit and finance committee, will serve as interim chairman. Fannie Mae Won’t Seek Aid After Reporting $2.7 Billion Profit (Bloomberg) FYI. Wells Fargo Says DOJ May Seek Penalties in Fair-Lending Case (SFG) Wells Fargo & Co., the largest U.S. mortgage lender, said federal prosecutors may seek damages and penalties after investigating whether it violated anti- discrimination laws while financing homeowners. “The Department of Justice has advised Wells Fargo that it believes it can bring claims,” the bank said today in a regulatory filing, without elaborating on potential allegations. “We believe such claims should not be brought and continue seeking to demonstrate to the Department of Justice our compliance with fair-lending laws.” U.S. Millionaires Told Go Away as Tax Evasion Rule Looms (Bloomberg) The 2010 law, to be phased in starting Jan. 1, 2013, requires financial institutions based outside the U.S. to obtain and report information about income and interest payments accrued to the accounts of American clients. It means additional compliance costs for banks and fewer investment options and advisers for all U.S. citizens living abroad, which could affect their ability to generate returns.

Opening Bell: 07.10.12

Diamond To Forgo Deferred Bonuses (WSJ) Former Barclays Chief Executive Robert Diamond has given up bonuses of up to £20 million ($31 million) in an apparent effort to shield the lender as the bank looks to defuse anger following the rate-fixing scandal...According to Mr. Diamond's contract, he will receive up to 12 months' salary, pension allowance and other benefits. Barclays Chairman Marcus Agius said that this amounts to around £2 million. Paulson Funds Fell In June As Rally Undercut Euro Wager (Bloomberg) The $22 billion firm had losses in all its funds last month as stock markets rose. The losses were led by a 7.9 percent drop in his Advantage Plus Fund, according to an update to investors obtained by Bloomberg News. That leaves the fund, which seeks to profit from corporate events such as takeovers and bankruptcies and uses leverage to amplify returns, down 16 percent this year. Einhorn says Fed stimulus counterproductive (Reuters) "I think it's actually counterproductive," Einhorn said of the stimulus program, adding that it lowers the standard of living and drives up food and oil prices. He said he would suggest a rise in interest rates on U.S. Treasury bonds to "a reasonable level" of 2 to 3 percent. Einhorn said Apple, which he praised at this year's Ira Sohn investing conference, was "the best big-growth company we have." "We're two, three years into the Apple investment, and the way it seems headed it's likely we'll be there for a good while longer," he said. "I think the stock is very very substantially undervalued." He said Amazon.com Inc was "tough on its competitors" because it does not "feel the need to make a profit." "It's very hard to compete against somebody who doesn't feel the need to make a profit," he said, adding that he is not "short" Amazon. Investment Bankers Face Termination As Europe Fees Fall (Bloomberg) Credit Suisse and UBS face the most pressure to boost efficiency as that country runs ahead of others in introducing tougher capital and liquidity rules to curtail risk-taking, making some businesses unviable...While the situation may be most acute at the Swiss banks, similar dynamics are at work at other firms as the debt crisis drags on, capital requirements ratchet higher and economic growth grinds to a halt. “Bankers are really gloomy and a lot of people are worried about their jobs,” said Edward Cumming-Bruce, a partner at London-based advisory firm Gleacher Shacklock LLP who has more than 20 years’ experience. “Banks are under remorseless pressure to cut costs and balance sheets as we witness a significant change in the way the financial industry works.” Sitting for More Than Three Hours a Day Cuts Life Expectancy (WSJ) Sitting down for more than three hours a day can shave a person's life expectancy by two years, even if he or she is physically active and refrains from dangerous habits like smoking, according to a study to be published on Tuesday in the online journal BMJ Open. Watching TV for more than two hours a day can exacerbate that problem, decreasing life expectancy by another 1.4 years, said the report, which analyzed five underlying studies of nearly 167,000 people over a range of four to 14 years. Futures Broker Freezes Accounts (WSJ) Peregrine, based in Cedar Falls, Iowa, couldn't be reached for comment on the NFA action, but in an earlier statement to clients said "some accounting irregularities are being investigated regarding company accounts." "What this means is no customers are able to trade except to liquidate positions. Until further notice, PFGBEST is not authorized to release any funds," said PFGBest in its statement. Also in the statement, the firm said Russell R. Wasendorf Sr., its founder, chairman and chief executive, had experienced a "recent emergency" and described it as a "suicide attempt." A spokeswoman for PFGBest said Mr. Wasendorf was in critical condition in a hospital. Four Companies Break Through IPO Drought (WSJ) What do two fast-growing technology companies, an iconic guitar maker and a skin-infection specialist have in common? All four aim to break the latest dry spell in the IPO market. Fender Musical Instruments Corp., which has supplied guitars to rock artists from Buddy Holly to Kurt Cobain and John Mayer, network-security firm Palo Alto Networks Inc., travel website Kayak Software Corp. and pharmaceutical firm Durata Therapeutics Inc. said Monday that they plan to push ahead with initial public offerings in coming weeks. JPMorgan Silence On Risk Model Spurs Calls For Disclosure (Bloomberg) The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is probing JPMorgan’s belated May 10 disclosure that a change to its mathematical model for gauging trading risk helped fuel the loss in its chief investment office. While the SEC would have to prove that the biggest U.S. bank improperly kept important information from investors, regulators probably will press Wall Street firms to tell more about the risks they’re taking, three former SEC lawyers said. Would You Stress Over A Millionaire Wife? (CNBC) The study, conducted by SEI and Phoenix Marketing, found that a third of the women who are the financial leads in millionaire households say their partner feels “stressed” by their financial roles. By contrast, only 14 percent of males in male-led millionaire households said they feel tension from their partner. Actor who kicked in doors to Ed Sullivan theater escapes jail time (NYDN) The struggling actor who kicked in the glass doors to the Ed Sullivan Theatre and urinated on the lobby floor last year got lucky with a no-jail sentence Monday. But he had to pay $7,377.28 in restitution. James Whittemore, 23, who now deejays in Massachusetts under the name DJ Nutron, never formally apologized to David Letterman face to face, but he said he'd like to..."Someone stole my iPhone, I quit my job, my girlfriend broke up with me, I was having a rough day," he said.

Opening Bell: 12.28.12

Blackstone seen sticking with SAC despite insider trading probe (Reuters / Matthew Goldstein) Three sources said the asset management arm of Blackstone, which has $550 million invested with SAC Capital, is in no rush to redeem money from the Stamford, Connecticut-based hedge fund. Blackstone has had at least three discussions with the $14 billion hedge fund's executives about the insider trading investigation and talked to its own investors, which include state pension funds, endowments and wealthy individuals. Hitler parody leaves French bank BNP red-faced (IN24) French banking giant BNP was left red-faced this week after it emerged managers were shown a motivational video featuring a parody of a famous scene from the film "Downfall" in which Adolf Hitler is portrayed as the boss of Germany's Deutsche Bank. It’s a scene that has been parodied thousands of times before to comic effect. But it appears not many people have seen the funny side of one particular version made by executives of French bank BNP Paribas...In the video, which was shown to around 100 managers from around the world at a seminar in Amsterdam last year, Hitler is turned into a fuming boss of Germany’s Deutsche Bank reacting furiously to news that BNP has gained an edge in the foreign exchange market. But far from being motivated, many of the managers who saw the video were outraged. “We could not believe the bank had actually dared to do that – make an analogy between our competitors and the Nazi regime. It took us a few minutes to take it in,” one BNP employee told French daily Liberation, who revealed the story this week. “We were shocked. Nobody knew how to react. Some Jewish employees from the United States did not find it funny at all,” another employee told the paper. “If this video had been shown by an American bank it would have been a major scandal,” an angry BNP source added. Rather surprisingly the video is believed to have been uploaded to the bank’s internal Intranet site before the management realised it might prove embarrassing and quickly removed it. A spokeswoman for BNP told FRANCE 24 on Friday that the bank’s senior management were totally unaware the video had been made until they were contacted by Libération this week. The spokeswoman said BNP’s CEO Jean Laurent Bonnafé had called his counterpart at Deutsche Bank Jürgen Fitschen to personally apologise for the stunt. In a statement in Libération the bank added that the message in the video was “contrary to the values of BNP." Obama Summons Congress Leaders as Budget Deadline Nears (Bloomberg) Obama, who had been negotiating one-on-one with House Speaker John Boehner, will meet today with Republicans Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, both Democrats. Cliff Talks Down To The Wire (WSJ) It is still possible the two sides can reach a deal, especially with the leaders meeting Friday. Any resolution would be a scaled-back version of the package Mr. Obama and congressional leaders had anticipated passing after the November election. The White House is pressing for the Senate to extend current tax rates for income up to $250,000, extend unemployment benefits, keep the alternative minimum tax from hitting millions of additional taxpayers and delay spending cuts set to take effect in January. The 11th-hour strategy carries enormous risk because it leaves no margin for error in Congress's balky legislative machinery. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said the prospects for passage of a bill before the last day of the year are fading rapidly. "I have to be very honest," he said. "I don't know time-wise how it can happen now." Spain's PM does not rule out asking for European aid (Reuters) Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Friday he did not rule out tapping the European Central Bank's bond-buying program for troubled euro zone governments but said Spain did not expect to have to ask for aid for now. "We are not thinking of asking the European Central Bank to intervene and buy bonds in the secondary market," he said at a news conference in Madrid. "But we can't rule it out in the future." Banks pay $4.5M for muni charges (NYP) Citigroup and Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch are among five firms that will pay $4.48 million to settle regulatory claims they used funds from municipal and state bond deals to pay lobbyists. Local authorities were unfairly asked to reimburse payments that the firms made over five years to the California Public Securities Association, a lobbying group, to help influence the state, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, which oversees securities firms, said yesterday. The firms inadequately described the fees, wrapping them into bond-underwriting expenses, Finra said...The banks, also including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley, agreed to pay $3.35 million in fines and reimburse certain California bond issuers $1.13 million. Porsche Wins Dismissal of US Hedge Fund Lawsuit Over VW (Reuters) A five-justice panel of the New York State appeals court in Manhattan unanimously found that Porsche had met its "heavy burden" to establish that the state was the wrong place in which to bring the lawsuit. That panel reversed an Aug. 6 ruling by New York State Supreme Court Justice Charles Ramos that let the case by hedge funds including Glenhill Capital LP, David Einhorn's Greenlight Capital LP and Chase Coleman's Tiger Global LP proceed. The funds accused Porsche of engineering a "massive short squeeze" in October 2008 by quietly buying nearly all freely traded ordinary VW shares in a bid to take over the company, despite publicly stating it had no plans to take a 75 percent stake. IPOs Slump To Lowest Levels Since Financial Crisis (Bloomberg) IPOs have raised $112 billion worldwide this year, the least since 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Initial sales in western Europe dropped to one-third of last year’s level, while concern about China’s economy helped cut proceeds in Asia by almost half. U.S. offerings raised $41 billion, little changed from last year, as Facebook’s IPO spurred a monthlong drought in U.S. deals. Avery Johnson Jr. vents on Twitter after dad, Avery Johnson, is fired by Brooklyn Nets (NYDN, RELATED) The ex-Nets coach’s teenage son took to Twitter to vent after news broke that his dad had been given a pink slip by billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov and the Nets. “This is a f------ Outrage. My dad is a great coach, he just got coach of the month and they Fire him. #Smh. Completely new team he had,” Johnson Jr. wrote on Twitter. “The expectations were way to high for this team. We didn’t even have a losing record.... Didn’t even give my dad a full season. #OUTRAGE,” Johnson Jr. continued. Johnson was fired a day after the new-look Nets fell to .500 following a listless road loss to the Bucks. The canning comes on the heels of Deron Williams saying he’s never been comfortable playing in Johnson’s offense. Williams, who did not play in Wednesday night’s loss, is mired in a season-long shooting slump with field goal and 3-point percentages at career-worst levels. “I’m sorry (our) best players couldn’t make open shots. Yeah that’s my dad’s fault totally,” Johnson Jr. tweeted. 'Whale' Capsized Banks' Rule Effort (WSJ) Wall Street banks entered 2012 confident they could stall a wave of rules that they feared would hurt profits. But they are ending the year largely resigned that their activities will be constrained and monitored more closely by the government. One big reason for the change: J.P. Morgan Chase JPM -0.76% & Co.'s "London whale" losses. The bad trades, ultimately resulting in about $6 billion in losses, disrupted the banks' campaign against the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul, according to regulators, lawmakers and close observers of policy debates in Washington. The trades damaged the reputation of J.P. Morgan, which suffered less than other banks from the financial crisis, and its chief executive, James Dimon, during a crucial period of policy debate in Washington, putting critics of Dodd-Frank on the defensive. Before news of the whale losses emerged, banks were arguing, with some success, that too-tight regulations were crimping lending during a time of slow growth. Michael Greenberger, a finance professor at the University of Maryland and an advocate of regulations aimed at reining in bank trading, said that in early 2012 his allies' "backs were against the wall." "Then the London whale blew all of that out of the water," he said. Mortgages Fueled Hedge Funds To 13.9 Percent Gain (NYP) Hedge funds that invest in mortgage-backed securities gained 13.9 percent through November to make them the industry’s best-performing strategy, according to the Absolute Return index. Top players that did even better included Metacapital Management, Pine River, Axonic Capital, and Greg Lippman's LibreMax Capital. High-Speed Traders Race to Fend Off Regulators (WSJ) Defenders say high-frequency trading keeps markets lubricated with a constant supply of buy and sell orders that enables all participants to trade more efficiently and get better pricing. High-speed traders, supporters add, have helped foster competition among exchanges and other trading venues, lowering commission-based fees for small investors and helping bring down overall costs for mutual-fund managers. Another benefit some cite: Technology innovations spurred by high-speed traders serve to connect more investors to more trading venues, broadening their options in the markets. Critics, for their part, worry that the traders' order torrent makes markets more opaque, less stable and ultimately less fair. Will 'Fiscal Clif' Accelerate Millionaire Deaths? (NetNet) John Carney: "...it at least seems likely that some deaths that might otherwise have occurred shortly after January 1 will occur shortly before." Man gets DUI after driving on AA co-founder's lawn (AP) Vermont State Police say a man faces a drunken driving charge after driving onto the lawn of a historic home once owned by the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. Police say 55-year-old Donald Blood III of Marlborough, Mass., was ordered to appear in court in Bennington on Jan. 14. Police say Blood thought he was driving into a parking lot, but actually it was the lawn of the Wilson House, built in 1852 in Dorset, the birthplace of AA co-founder Bill Wilson. The Wilson House's website describes it as a "place of sanctuary where people can come to give thanks to God for their new lives." It still hosts several AA meetings each week. Programming Note< : We’re on an abbreviated, vacation-esque schedule this week (opening news roundups and limited updates whenever the urge to reach out and touch you moves us). We still want to hear from you, though, so if anything happens that you think might tickle our fancy, do not hesitate to let us know.