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Opening Bell: 06.17.14

Study Asserts Startling Numbers of Insider Trading Rogues (Dealbook)
A quarter of all public company deals may involve some kind of insider trading, according to the study by two professors at the Stern School of Business at New York University and one professor from McGill University. The study, perhaps the most detailed and exhaustive of its kind, examined hundreds of transactions from 1996 through the end of 2012. The professors examined stock option movements — when an investor buys an option to acquire a stock in the future at a set price — as a way of determining whether unusual activity took place in the 30 days before a deal’s announcement. The results are persuasive and disturbing, suggesting that law enforcement is woefully behind — or perhaps is so overwhelmed that it simply looks for the most egregious examples of insider trading, or for prominent targets who can attract headlines. The professors are so confident in their findings of pervasive insider trading that they determined statistically that the odds of the trading “arising out of chance” were “about three in a trillion.” [...] But, the professors conclude, the Securities and Exchange Commission litigated only “about 4.7 percent of the 1,859 M.&A. deals included in our sample.”

Deutsche Bank Entertained 45 Japan Pension Funds, Document Shows (Bloomberg)
Deutsche Securities Inc. spent 22.1 million yen ($217,000) wining and dining fund officials from 2010 to 2012, according to the document prepared by the investigative arm of Japan’s financial regulator and Germany’s biggest bank. Deutsche Securities Chief Operating Officer Bret Dandoy approved expenses for two overseas trips, and Chairman Norimichi Kanari joined in the entertaining on one occasion, the report showed...Japanese criminal law prohibits companies from providing benefits to public servants with the intention of obtaining business from them. Company officials who oversee public retirement funds as part of their assets under management are defined as civil servants.

Morgan Stanley’s Valeant E-Mails Call Client a ‘House of Cards’ (Bloomberg)
A few weeks ago, Morgan Stanley pitched its defense services to Allergan Inc., which was fighting a hostile takeover bid from Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. Valeant was a “house of cards” with an unsustainable business model, Morgan Stanley bankers wrote in the e-mails to Allergan, which released them yesterday. Allergan decided not to hire Morgan Stanley -- while Valeant recently did. The unusual disclosure of the e-mails was intended to bolster Allergan’s argument that Valeant is a flawed buyer -- and shows how antagonistic the battle between the two pharmaceutical companies has become. Mary Claire Delaney, a spokeswoman for Morgan Stanley, declined to comment on the release of the e-mails. Valeant Chief Executive Officer Michael Pearson said in an e-mail that Allergan’s release “is a sign of desperation, and we look forward to proving the naysayers wrong.”

Fernandez says Argentina will not default on restructured debt (Reuters)
President Cristina Fernandez said on Monday that Argentina would honor its payments to holders of its restructured debt and to avoid a default despite suffering a setback in its long-running legal battle against "holdout" investors. The U.S. Supreme Court earlier on Monday declined to hear Argentina's appeal over its battle with hedge funds that refused to take part in its debt restructurings. The court's decision was unexpected and risks toppling Latin America's No 3 economy into a new default.

IMF Cuts U.S. Growth Outlook, Sees More Scope for Zero Rates (Bloomberg)
The Washington-based IMF now sees the world’s largest economy growing 2 percent this year, down from an April estimate of 2.8 percent. The IMF left a 2015 prediction unchanged at 3 percent, and said it doesn’t expect the U.S. to see full employment until the end of 2017, amid low inflation.

New Hampshire woman busted for prostitution at Massachusetts library (NYDN)
A New Hampshire woman has been busted selling sex at a suburban Massachusetts library, police said. Brittany Macintyre, 20, was allegedly caught offering her services at the quiet public lending house in Tewksbury on Tuesday. Cops said they went undercover after a receiving a tip-off about her sleazy deeds. An officer said that, within moments of entering the building, he was approached by the suspected hooker. To respect the peaceful ambiance, the duo started passing written notes between each other, reports CBS Boston. Macintyre is said to have eventually offered to perform a sex act on the officer in exchange for $60. She was arrested on charges of prostitution, reports Nashua Patch, and was arraigned Wednesday in Lowell District Court.

Companies Cash In on Tax-Credit Arms Race (WSJ)
Companies are finding the new state tax credits especially alluring because many of their biggest federal tax breaks expired at the end of last year. What's more, an increasing number of the state credits are refundable or transferable, meaning they can guarantee a company cash regardless of the size of its state tax bill. Some 46 states now offer such tax credits through more than 200 different programs, compared with only a handful of states a decade ago, and exchanges are popping up to help businesses trade them.

BofA fined $32M for ripping off charity, retirement accounts (NYP)
The country’s No. 2 lender has now paid a total of about $90 million in fines and restitution for ripping off charities and small business retirement plans through 2011, according to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the self-funded regulator for US brokers. The latest fine from the watchdog group — about $32.4 million on Monday — included $24.4 million in restitution to customers, including small business’ retirement accounts. Merrill Lynch, which was acquired by BofA in 2009, added extra mutual-fund charges for small business retirement plans for five years, even after discovering that it shouldn’t, the watchdog said.

CEO of HSBC's U.S. Division to Retire This Year (WSJ)
HSBC Holdings PLC on Monday said HSBC U.S. Chief Executive Irene Dorner, a 32-year HSBC veteran and one of the U.S.'s most senior female bankers, will retire this year and be succeeded by Patrick Burke. Ms. Dorner, 59, has been with HSBC since 1982 and was appointed CEO at HSBC Bank USA in January 2010. She became responsible for all of HSBC's U.S. businesses the following year upon the departure of Niall Booker, another longtime HSBC executive.

Dealbreaker Dramatic Reading Night Is Tomorrow (DB)
Wilbur and other special guests look forward to seeing you there.

Woman Rescuing Cat Stuck In Tree Gets Stuck In Tree Herself (AP)
Authorities in northwestern Pennsylvania say a woman who tried to rescue a cat from a tree ended up needing a rescue herself. Firefighters in Erie say they brought a 28-foot ladder to help Tara Dennis get down from the branches on Sunday. Residents tell the Times-News that they've heard the feline crying for the past couple of days. It's not clear who owns the cat. Dennis says she couldn't stand by and do nothing. So, she scaled a fence, got on a roof and climbed onto a branch. She reached the animal, which she put in her shirt. But the 21-year-old got stuck as she tried to come down. A neighbor called 911.

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Opening Bell: 03.04.13

Euro-Zone Deal Faces Hurdles (WSJ) Germany's reluctance to put its taxpayers' money at risk in other countries' banks is proving the biggest obstacle to letting the euro zone's bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism, invest directly in banks that need more capital. In Ireland, Spain, Greece and Cyprus, bailouts of struggling banks are placing heavy burdens on the state, adding to fast-rising national debts. Buffett Disappointed With Berkshire's 'Subpar' $24 Billion Gain (CNBC) Warren Buffett called 2012 "subpar" in his annual letter to shareholders as Berkshire Hathaway's per-share book value rose 14.4 percent, less than the S&P 500's 16-percent increase. It's the ninth time in 48 years this has happened. Buffett notes that the S&P has outpaced Berkshire over the past four years and if the market continues to gain this year the benchmark stock index could have its first five-year win ever. "When the partnership I ran took control of Berkshire in 1965, I could never have dreamed that a year in which we had a gain of $24.1 billion would be subpar ... But subpar it was." Buffett: Berkshire on hunt for more Heinz-like deals (Reuters) "If we get a chance to buy another Heinz, we will do that," Buffett said on CNBC. Berkshire likes the ketchup maker's business, the price of the $23 billion deal, and its partner in the transaction, private equity firm 3G Capital, Buffett said in an extended interview. HSBC Reports Declining Profit and Says Costs Are Increasing (Bloomberg) Pretax profit for 2012 dropped 5.6 percent to $20.65 billion, trailing the $23.49 billion estimate of 26 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Revenue fell 5.4 percent to $68.33 billion from $72.28 billion, HSBC said today in a statement. Chief Executive Officer Stuart Gulliver is being thwarted in his plan to reduce costs to 48 percent to 52 percent of revenue as the London-based lender set aside $1.9 billion to settle U.S. money-laundering probes and boosted spending on compliance by $500 million. Expenses as a proportion of revenue climbed to 62.8 percent from 57.5 percent, and wage inflation in markets such as Latin America is increasing, HSBC said today. Swiss Back Executive-Pay Controls (WSJ) The plan, dubbed the "rip off" initiative by the country's media, bans so-called golden-handshake and golden-parachute severance agreements. It also requires greater transparency on loans and retirement packages for senior executives and directors. Beauty queen took my heart, then she took me for $96,000 ride: hedge-funder's suit (NYP) Rishi Bajaj, 33, says he opened his heart, then his wallet, to Miss New Mexico Teen USA 2007 Liz Kranz after she told him she was considering selling her eggs to raise cash for a relative in rehab. The sob story got the beauty a $20,000 loan from Bajaj, he claims in a Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit. Bajaj, who co-manages the $620 million hedge fund Altai Capital, then told Kranz, 24, to pick out a car for the couple to share — and was “surprised” when she selected a 2012 BMW that came with a $17,070 down payment. They met in July 2012 and dated for “several months,” even vacationing together in Italy, where, Bajaj said in court papers, he let Kranz use his American Express card. Kranz, of the Lower East Side, was also allowed to use Bajaj’s AmEx to buy a dress for a wedding they attended. Bajaj and Kranz, who lived briefly in LA, eventually broke up. There were “disagreements about their remaining obligations to each other,” Bajaj said in court papers. He claims the pageant queen kept her hands on his credit card and racked up tens of thousands in charges...In all, Bajaj claims Kranz spent $58,860 on his credit card over three months last year. In a November letter, his lawyer accused her of “theft, fraud and other egregious misconduct” and demanded she repay the full $58,860 in credit-card purchases. NYC to be hit hard by sequester: Merrill Lynch economist (NYP) Two months’ worth of job gains are about to vanish nationwide, warns a Merrill Lynch economist — and New York City, whose unemployment rate is already at an eye-popping 8.8 percent, will be hit exceptionally hard in this employment carnage as Washington begins to enact a series of controversial spending cuts known as the sequester. “It will set the economy back a few months in the job market,” Ethan Harris, co-head of global economics research at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told The Post. “The national job market recovery has been modest, and it has been weaker locally in New York.” Nationally, Harris calculated a loss of about 300,000 jobs, roughly two months of average job gains, if the sequester is enacted untouched. Job-Hunt Time Shrinks in U.S. From Record High (Bloomberg) For 13 million out-of-work Americans, record spells of joblessness are abating. The median duration fell to 16 weeks in January from 25 weeks in June 2010, Labor Department data show. Fewer people compete for each opening as hiring expands, and persistent long-term unemployment is starting to mend. The progress supports Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s view that America’s labor market remains flexible and isn’t succumbing to hysteresis, or permanently higher joblessness, similar to Europe in the 1980s, said Dale Mortensen, a professor of economics at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and 2010 Nobel laureate. That suggests continued monetary stimulus can bring about a faster healing. Slim Risks Losing World’s Richest Person Title as Troubles Mount (Bloomberg) Slim’s lead over the next-wealthiest man, Bill Gates, narrowed last week to about $4.8 billion -- the closest spread in almost a year. The Lebanese immigrant’s son, who acquired Mexico’s phone monopoly and turned it into a pan-Latin American powerhouse, lost almost a 10th of his net worth last month, winnowing his fortune to $71 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Dennis Rodman: Kim Jong Un Wants President Obama to ‘Call Him’ (ABC) In his first interview since returning to the U.S. from an unprecedented visit to North Korea last week, former NBA star Dennis Rodman said he bears a message for President Obama from the country’s oppressive leader, Kim Jong Un. “He wants Obama to do one thing: Call him,” Rodman told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on “This Week.” “He said, ‘If you can, Dennis – I don’t want [to] do war. I don’t want to do war.’ He said that to me.” The athlete also offered Kim some diplomatic advice for potential future talks with President Obama. “[Kim] loves basketball. And I said the same thing, I said, ‘Obama loves basketball.’ Let’s start there,” Rodman said.

Opening Bell: 05.03.12

Banks Get Silent Treatment At Fed Meeting (WSJ) A meeting Wednesday between a top Federal Reserve official and six bank bosses was notable largely for long silences from the central bank's side of the table. Fed governor Daniel Tarullo met with the executives to discuss the recent "stress tests" and to hear out the banks' concerns over proposed new regulations. Mr. Tarullo and the bankers exchanged thoughts about the tests, but the Fed official didn't respond when the chief executives laid out their new-rule concerns, starting with a Fed proposal to limit the biggest banks' exposure to other firms and governments, said people familiar with the meeting. Carlyle Prices IPO At Lower Range (WSJ) The downshift came after some mutual-fund investors pushed for a better deal, said people familiar with the matter. Also, they said, Carlyle hoped a lower price would help ensure good first-day and longer-term performance. People close to Carlyle said the firm could have stuck with a price in the original range, but it wished to attract some larger investors who wanted a lower price. Carlyle Founders’ Stakes Valued at $1 Billion Each Post-IPO (Bloomberg) “This is their legacy,” Reena Aggarwal, a finance professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business in Washington, said in a telephone interview. “They started the firm from nothing, so their human capital and their financial wealth are tied up in the company. They need to have this liquidity event.” U.S. documents allege HSBC money-laundering lapses (Reuters) ...documents allege that from 2005, the bank violated the Bank Secrecy Act and other anti-money laundering laws on a massive scale. HSBC did so, they say, by not adequately reviewing hundreds of billions of dollars in transactions for any that might have links to drug trafficking, terrorist financing and other criminal activity. In some of the documents, prosecutors allege that HSBC intentionally flouted the law. The bank created an operation that was a "systemically flawed sham paper-product designed solely to make it appear that the Bank has complied" with the Bank Secrecy Act and is able to detect money laundering, wrote William J. Ihlenfeld II, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia, in a draft of a 2010 letter addressed to Justice Department officials. Buffett Trails S&P 500 for Third Straight Year (Bloomberg) FYI. Fancy A Drink With Richard Branson? (Virgin via Daily Intel) Richard Branson is now on board all Virgin Atlantic flights 'in spirit' - thanks to new Little Richard ice cubes. Virgin Atlantic is giving Upper Class passengers the chance to cool their in-flight drinks with bespoke Richard Branson ice cubes. They will be served on board one of the first flights of the airline's new Upper Class Cabin this May... The ice cubes have been created using the exact measurements of Sir Richard's head and feature an impressive level of detail. The mould for the ice cubes took a team of four skilled designers a painstaking six weeks to create using detailed photographic techniques and laser scanning technology to create the perfect likeness of Sir Richard. Jobless claims tumble, calms job market fears (Reuters) The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless aid fell more than expected last week, easing fears the labor market recovery was stalling. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 27,000 to a seasonally adjusted 365,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The biggest weekly drop in claims since early May last year helped to lift some of the dark cloud cast over the labor market by a report on Wednesday from payrolls processor ADP showing private employers in April created the fewest jobs in seven months. John Arnold Retiring At 38 (NYP) Arnold, who has an estimated net worth of $3.5 billion, said in a letter to investors that he was closing the Centaurus Energy Master Fund in order to "pursue other interests." In the letter, he said the fund had performed "better than I could have hoped for or imagined" with returns on investments consistently high, "often in triple digits." Arnold was a major force behind the rapid rise of energy trader Enron in the 1990s. SocGen Profit Hit by Restructuring Plan (WSJ) Société Générale said Thursday that first-quarter earnings at its investment bank rebounded from the tough previous quarter but fell from the year-earlier period, pressured by a restructuring plan aimed at sheltering the French bank from Europe's still-smouldering debt crisis. Société Générale, France's second-largest lender by market value and the first to report quarterly earnings, said net profit dropped 20% to €732 million ($963.2 million) from €916 million a year earlier, hit mainly by losses on loan portfolios it sold. Independent Counsel For MF Global Is Sought (WSJ) Criminal and civil investigators have been looking into the case, but so far have said little about the progress of their investigation. That has led some Republicans and customers of MF Global to question whether the investigation is being slowed by a desire to show deference to the firm's former chief executive, Jon Corzine. Mr. Corzine, a former U.S. senator and governor of New Jersey, has been a prominent Democratic fund raiser and supporter of the Obama administration. The letter circulated by Rep. Grimm's office acknowledges that while "we have no direct evidence" that the Department of Justice "is providing special treatment…perception matters a great deal." Still, the letter concludes that "an independent investigation is urgently needed." Kona teen nears perfect school attendance record for 13 years (WHT) Cetraro thinks improving and encouraging attendance requires a more comprehensive approach, one that goes beyond sanctions. When Cetraro was in elementary school, she appreciated privileges like running in the sprinklers, being first in line for lunch or dismissal, having the chance to act as the teacher’s assistant and getting shave ice. She said these incentives served as powerful motivators.

Opening Bell: 01.22.13

Glencore, Xstrata Move Closer to Deal (WSJ) The two companies, who want to combine to form the world's fourth-largest diversified miner with a market capitalization of about $80 billion, said they still need to secure regulatory approval from China. They will also have to abide by conditions set out by the South African regulator limiting the timing and scope of any layoffs stemming from the merger. SAC Misses Out On Big Investment (WSJ) Mizuho Financial Group had discussed last year making a major investment that could have brought as much as $500 million to SAC, said people briefed on discussions with SAC executives and advisers. But the bank ultimately notified SAC that it wasn't proceeding. By December, with scrutiny of SAC's trading practices mounting, the firm's executives told advisers and others inside and outside the firm that Mizuho's decision appeared final, the people said. Global A-List Descends On Davos (WSJ) Of all the sectors it is probably the bankers who are fielding the highest concentration of big names. Anshu Jainof Deutsche Bank AG,  Brian T. Moynihan of Bank of America Corp., Lloyd C. Blankfein of Goldman Sachs and HSBC Holdings CEO Stuart T. Gulliver are just a sample. Trust in Business Leaders at Low as Davos Begins (CNBC) Less than one in five people believe business and government leaders can be trusted to make ethical and moral decisions, the survey of some 30,000 people showed, with confidence particularly low in France and Germany. Calpers Buy-Hold Rule Recoups $95 Billion Recession Loss (WSJ) The California Public Employees’ Retirement System is poised to top a record $260 billion in assets, the market value it held before the global financial crisis wiped out more than a third of its wealth, by sticking with a strategy of buy-and-hold. The largest U.S. public pension, with half of its money in publicly traded equities, was worth $253.2 billion on Jan. 17, or about 97 percent of the pre-recession high set in October 2007. The fund returned 13 percent in 2012, about the same gain as the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index achieved. Armstrong Becomes ‘Madoff on a Bike’ as Cheating Shatters Lives (Bloomberg) “He’s Bernie Madoff on a bike,” said John Llewellyn, an associate professor of communication at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “The level of self-absorption and mean-spiritedness with which he has defended himself and castigated others over a decade makes an impression that’s pretty bleak for the human spirit.” Irish lawmakers back plan to allow drink-driving ‘in moderation’ (The Journal) KERRY count councillors have voted in favour of a motion which would allow people in rural Ireland to have ‘two or three’ drinks and still drive. The motion put forward by councillor Danny Healy-Rae calls on the Minister for Justice to allow Gardaí to issue permits to people in the most isolated parts of the country to allow them to drive after drinking some alcohol. Speaking to The Journal, Danny Healy-Rae said the idea was to help “those people in every parish who are isolated and who can’t get out of their place at night." Barclays Loses Anonymity (Bloomberg) A group of Barclays employees had a request to prevent their names from being published ahead of the UK’s first trial related to manipulation of the London interbank offered rate rejected by a judge yesterday. “I simply do not see that there is any sufficient case of prejudice” to the trial, Judge Julian Flaux said in dismissing the request. The names weren’t immediately released. Affiliates of Guardian Care Homes sued Barclays over an interest-rate swap tied to Libor and argued the benchmark was manipulated. The swap resulted in a loss for the Wolverhampton, England-based Guardian and Barclays was ordered to give the company’s lawyers the identities and e-mails of bank staff that were included in disclosures to regulators. Atari’s U.S. Operations File for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy (Bloomberg) Atari SA’s U.S.-based video-game- making businesses filed for bankruptcy protection inManhattan with the intention of separating from the unprofitable French parent and seeking independent funding. New York-based Atari Inc., maker of video games “Pong” and “Asteroids,” as well as affiliates Atari Interactive Inc., Humongous Inc. and California U.S. Holdings Inc., asked to be jointly administered in filings yesterday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, according to a statement. “Within the next 90 to 120 days, the companies expect to effectuate a sale of all, or substantially all, of their assets,” in a free and clear sale under the U.S. bankruptcy laws, or confirm reorganization plans that “accomplish substantially the same result,” according to the statement. EU Approves Financial Transactions Tax (Reuters) A majority of European Union finance ministers voted on Tuesday to allow Germany, France and nine other euro zone countries to prepare to introduce a tax on financial transactions, said two officials who attended the meeting. The vote clears the way for Germany,France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Portugal, Belgium, Estonia, Greece, Slovakia and Slovenia to press ahead with their own tax on trading. Man paddles for love of Florida waters (NWFDN) Justin Riney turned his back on his degree in finance and last year followed his heart and founded his own non-profit organization: Mother Ocean...Riney needed a project to kick off his newly-founded organization and bring attention to it and when he read that 500 years had passed since Ponce de Leon discovered Florida, he decided that was a cause for celebration. On Jan. 1 he began a 365-day journey around Florida on a stand-up paddle board from Pensacola. He plans to spend six months paddling the peninsula, ending In Jacksonville on July 4. Then, he will spend six months on the inner waterways, ending Dec. 31 in Tallahassee. He has named this adventure Expedition Florida 500. Briton wrestles shark away from children in Australia (Telegraph) The incident happened on Friday in the Sunshine Coast region of the state of Queensland, and was captured by a local news team. According to Australia's Channel Nine, the shark came into very shallow waters and two men rushed to move it away before it reached children who were playing in the water nearby. Paul Marshallsea, a grandfather from Wales, and Terry Dale, a wildlife carer, pushed the shark towards open waters. The shark was also spotted in shallow waters of a creek by frightened parents, children and tourists.