Opening Bell: 07.11.14

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Cynk Suspended by SEC After No-Member Network’s Surge (Bloomberg)
Cynk Technology Corp., the supposed operator of a social network that caught the attention of the financial world with its skyrocketing stock price, was suspended from trading by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The halt is because of “concerns regarding the accuracy and adequacy of information in the marketplace and potentially manipulative transactions in CYNK’s common stock,” the SEC said today on its website. Judith Burns, a spokeswoman for the agency, declined to comment further. Cynk’s social network appears to have no members, no revenue, no assets and only one employee. The stock-price chart has been the talk of all manner of business blogs and Twitter pundits, from Business Insider to the Wall Street Journal and Zero Hedge, which has called Cynk’s moves “pure madness.”

Wells Fargo's Profit Edges Up (WSJ)
Wells Fargo reported net income of $5.73 billion, compared with $5.52 billion a year earlier. Per-share earnings, reflecting the payment of preferred dividends, were $1.01 versus 98 cents a year earlier. Revenue slipped 1.5% to $21.07 billion. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected per-share earnings of $1.01 on revenue of $20.84 billion.

Ex-Merrill Lynch Banker Uses Big Data to Save U.K. Pubs (Bloomberg)
The Oxford-educated Bulkin, 37, spent 15 years cutting deals as a mergers & acquisitions banker for Merrill Lynch and Lazard Ltd. before leaving last year to start his own pub company, Hawthorn Leisure Ltd. He’s acquired hundreds of struggling pubs and plans to turn them around by tracking everything from the price charged for beer to daily sales fluctuations to customers’ drink preferences. “Understanding pricing and the mix of drinks is incredibly important,” Bulkin says in an office overlooking Hyde Park in London’s upscale Mayfair district. “A lot of pubs don’t have that data. If you can make them the core of your business, there’s a fantastic opportunity.”

London Seeks New Spenders as Russians Skip $719 Champagne (Bloomberg)
To gauge London’s place in the global economy, you could examine World Bank statistics, canvass investors and analyze trade volumes. Or you could visit Mahiki, a Polynesian-themed nightclub in upmarket Mayfair where a bottle of Cristal Champagne goes for $719 -- and Russian customers are being supplanted by revelers from countries including China and Nigeria. “We’re seeing a lot less Russian surnames on the booking sheet,” said Michael Evans, the creative director of the club, where the likes of Rihanna and Prince Harry have been spotted after dark. “It’s very easy to see what’s going on in the world from the markets we attract.”

Rajaratnam acquittal shows indirect insider trading case challenge (Reuters)
The acquittal on Tuesday of the younger brother of convicted hedge fund titan Raj Rajaratnam suggests prosecutors will have a tougher time pursuing people accused of trading on inside information they received indirectly. Roughly a third of the insider trader defendants charged by Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara since 2009 are alleged so-called "remote tippees". According to prosecutors, in such cases the defendant, or "tippee," never directly talks to the insider, instead getting information from an intermediary. After the case of former Galleon Group fund manager Rengan Rajaratnam, prosecutors may reevaluate how they build similar cases, said James Cox, a law professor at Duke University.

Gym Teacher, Suspended For Twerking With Students (HP)
Courtney Spruill, who teaches history and PE at Kernan Middle School in Jacksonville was suspended for 15 days without pay on July 1. The tush-shaking tips allegedly occurred in May during a party for the girls' soccer team that took place at the house of one of the players. Spruill is the team coach. Witnesses at the party told Duval County School Board investigators they saw Spruill drinking vodka and twerking on the players. Investigators also say they reviewed a cellphone video of Spruill getting a lap dance from a student at the party, WPTV TV reports.

Can Puerto Rico Keep the Lights On? (BusinessWeek)
The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, which provides almost all the island’s electricity, may have to choose between paying bondholders and keeping the lights on, Marxuach says. The utility, which carries $8.6 billion in debt, has negotiated with creditors to postpone to July 31 repayment of bank loans due during the month. Prepa, as the agency is known, may have to resort to rolling blackouts in residential areas so hospitals, schools, and businesses can function, Marxuach says. That would “bring home to a lot of people the magnitude of the crisis we’re going through,” he says. In a statement, Juan Alicea Flores, Prepa’s executive director, said: “Prepa will continue to produce and deliver power.”

Despite Exposure of Madoff Fraud, New Ponzi Schemes Emerge (Dealbook)
“Every other day, you see new schemes uncovered that involve big dollar amounts,” said Jordan D. Maglich, a Tampa, Fla., lawyer who follows Ponzi schemes. He started ponzitracker.com in 2009 after working with his law firm to help recover the $350 million that a Sarasota, Fla., hedge fund manager, Arthur G. Nadel, defrauded from investors, and realized there was no central point of information on such frauds. Over the last five years, Mr. Maglich said, he has followed about 500 Ponzi schemes on his site.

ECB Eyes Risks of Use of Computer-Based Forex Trading (WSJ)
ECB officials and commercial currencies bankers met at an ECB-hosted contact group July 7, and discussed whether banks' technology can cope with a jump in demand from investors to execute orders algorithmically rather than over the phone, according to a person familiar with the matter. They also discussed whether this change will cause an increase in banks' technology costs. "Those methods have the beauty of a smoother execution. But there are two issues: is the banks' infrastructure robust enough to cope with the increase in demand? And can the also machine break or misbehave leaving a bug in the software?" the person said. It is the first time in recent meetings that the issue has taken center stage in the discussion.

British banks paying $2 billion for swaps mis-selling: regulator (Reuters)
Britain's banks are in the process of paying out 1.2 billion pounds ($2 billion) to compensate small businesses that were mis-sold complex interest rate hedging products, data from the UK financial watchdog showed on Friday. The figure represents about a third of the 3.75 billion pounds set aside by Britain's four biggest banks - Barclays (BARC.L), HSBC (HSBA.L), Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY.L) and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L) - to deal with the issue.

Cops: Woman Stripped, Did Yoga In Roadway (TSG)
Michele Cernak, 51, was collared on a variety of drug counts after police responded to a 911 call about an intoxicated woman stripping off her clothes on an Ocala street. When officers confronted the Ocala resident, her pants were at her ankles (though she still had “pant!es covering her private area,” cops noted). Witnesses told officers that Cernak had been doing yoga poses. Cernak was exercising about ten feet from her truck, which had its driver’s door open. A search of the vehicle turned up heroin and drug paraphernalia, according to an Ocala Police Department report.

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Opening Bell: 09.13.12

Ray Dalio: US Economy Out Of Intensive Care (Reuters) Hedge fund titan Ray Dalio said the U.S economy had come out of the "intensive care unit," but he warned against any quick move to "austerity" budget measures. "We were in the intensive care unit," Dalio, who runs the $120 billion hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, told more than 200 guests at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York on Wednesday. "We are largely healed and largely operating in a manner that is sustainable if we don't hit an air pocket." Dalio said a major challenge for U.S. politicians will be dealing with the so-called "fiscal cliff," the year-end expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts and previously agreed-upon cuts in defense spending and social programs, a combination which some economists say could lead to a recession. Dalio sided with economists who worry that a sharp reduction in government spending could lead the United States back into recession. "We can't just worry about too much debt," Dalio said. "We have to worry about too much austerity." German Court Clears Rescue Fund (WSJ) Germany's highest court cautiously approved the creation of the euro zone's permanent bailout facility, but insisted that the country keep its effective veto on all of the vehicle's decisions, a ruling that removes a question mark over two crucial elements of the euro zone's plans for mastering its debt crisis. Treasury Backs Plan For Standard Chartered Settlement (NYT) The lawyers approved a potential prepayment amount this week, a crucial step to a final agreement, though it will be much smaller than the $340 million the bank had to pay to New York State’s top banking regulator in a related case, according to three officials with direct knowledge of the settlement talks. The differing penalties stem from determinations by federal authorities and Manhattan prosecutors that the bank’s suspected wrongdoing was much less extensive than the state banking regulator’s claims that Standard Chartered had schemed with Iran to hide from regulators 60,000 transactions worth $250 billion over a decade. Insiders Get Post IPO Pass (WSJ) Wall Street underwriters increasingly are allowing corporate insiders to sidestep agreements that prevent them from quickly selling shares after initial public offerings. In the latest instance, several Wall Street banks on Wednesday allowed early investors and management of ExactTarget Inc. to sell more than seven million shares of the online marketing company a week ahead of the planned end of a "lockup" agreement. Under lockup pacts, underwriters bar company insiders from selling their shares, usually for 180 days after an IPO. The lockup restricts the supply of shares, helping buoy IPO prices; releasing more shares on the market can keep a lid on stock prices. Anna Gristina sits down with TV shrink Dr. Phil, says she won't talk to prosecutors about associate (NYDN) The Soccer Mom Madam's little black book has been whittled down to a single name. In her first major interview since being released from Rikers Island in June, Anna Gristina dishes to TV talk show shrink Dr. Phil about how prosecutors have hounded her for dirt on a just one associate. “They have an agenda to get me to talk about a certain person,” she told the daytime doc. Gristina refused to reveal the mystery man, or woman. Oprah's former head-shrink sidekick, who sat down at the kitchen table in Gristina's Monroe, N.Y. farmhouse, asked why the accused flesh-peddler didn't just save herself and give prosecutors the information they want. “I have a deep sense of loyalty and I'm Scottish." Gristina denied the criminal allegations during the teary interview, maintaining she was developing an online dating site where married men could meet single women. Whistleblower Key To Buyout Probe (WSJ) New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's probe of tax practices at private-equity firms is based on information from a whistleblower, according to a person familiar with the matter. The information came from someone who approached Mr. Schneiderman's office between roughly nine months and a year ago, this person said. Under the state's False Claims Act, the attorney general can investigate alleged fraud against the state basedon a whistleblower's allegations. The ongoing probe is examining whether partners at private-equity firms changed management fees into investment income to delay tax payment and pay less—or avoid taxes altogether. Some private-equity firms use so-called management-fee conversions, while other firms avoid them. Wall Street Hopes for Romney, but Expects Obama to Win (CNBC) In an unscientific poll, 46 percent of respondents to the September CNBC Fed Survey said they expect President Obama to win reelection. Only 24 percent believe Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney will get the job. Longtime Madoff Employee To Plead Guilty (Reuters) Irwin Lipkin, a former controller of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, will appear in Manhattan federal court on Th ursday, prosecutors said in a letter to the judge. He will plead guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and falsifying documents, prosecutors told U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain in the letter. Suspect pulls gun on victim while having sex in a moving car (WNN) The incident began Sep. 2 when the victim and his two friends went to the Paddy Wagon Irish Pub in Port Charlotte. When the bar closed early Monday morning they invited two girls they met to one of the friend’s home on Atlas Street. One of the women and the victim went into a bedroom to have sex. The girl said she needed $250, which he said he didn’t have. She asked how much he had and he gave her $120. The victim then went to the bathroom and when he returned, found the two women had left the home. The victim had obtained the woman’s cell phone number earlier at the bar and called her; they agreed to meet at the Pick N Run store on Peachland Boulevard. When he got there he expected to meet the woman who took the $120. Instead, Linscott walked up to his Nissan Sentra and said the other girl ditched her. Linscott got into his car and as they drove off, he said she began touching him and having sex while he was driving. The victim told detectives she also said she needed money and he told her he already gave her friend $120 earlier. The victim said Linscott then put a .357 Taurus revolver to his head and demanded money. The victim grabbed the gun and a fight ensued in the moving car; he said he punched her in the head so she would release the gun. He told detectives he was in fear of his life and lost control of his car, struck a palm tree, went airborne and then ran across two front yards in the 1200 block of Dewhurst Street.

Opening Bell: 04.24.13

Credit Suisse Profit Rises (WSJ) Zurich-based Credit Suisse said its bottom line was flattered by a favorable comparison with last year's result, when an accounting charge weighed on performance. Revenue at the bank rose 19% following several quarters of reported declines. The report from Switzerland's second-largest bank comes amid a cost-cutting program started in 2011 that has it eliminating thousands of jobs. The program has resulted in 2.5 billion Swiss francs ($2.6 billion) in savings, and is on track to cut costs by 4.4 billion francs by the end of 2015, the bank said. Credit Suisse said its number of full-time employees fell to 46,900 in the first quarter, from 48,700 in the same period last year. Barclays Profit Buoyed By Investment Banking Unit (WSJ) Investment banking, headed by departing executive Rich Ricci, accounted for 74% of Barclays' pretax profit, or £1.32 billion of the £1.79 billion total. The high proportion of profits in part reflected weakness in other areas, such as retail banking in Europe and Africa, but was underpinned by a strong quarter for underwriting stock offerings and servicing hedge fund clients...The bank as a whole posted a £839 million net profit, compared with a £598 million net loss in the first quarter of 2012. Both figures are distorted by accounting charges that reflect the market cost of Barclays' own debt. The £1.79 billion pretax profit was down 25% from £2.4 billion in first-quarter 2012 and slightly lower than analysts had expected. Citigroup Says Debt Beats Peers in Advance of ‘Bail-In’ Rule (Bloomberg) Citigroup, the bank that took the most U.S. aid during the credit crisis, said it’s better- prepared than some rivals to withstand the impact of new anti- bailout rules that could force lenders to sell more debt. Citigroup’s so-called bail-in plan -- a rescue that makes debt investors and stockholders absorb losses instead of taxpayers -- shows the bank already has issued more long-term debt than some of its largest rivals, Treasurer Eric Aboaf said during an April 22 investor presentation. That leaves the New York-based bank in a better position as regulators decide how much more debt lenders should add to their buffers, Aboaf said. Wall Street Jobs Plunge As Profit Soars (Bloomberg) “The desire is to drive the cost of executing a trade to its lowest point -- this means automating the system and getting rid of the traders,” Richard Bove, a bank analyst with Rafferty Capital Markets LLC, said in a telephone interview. “All they do today is hit buttons on computer screens. Twenty-five years ago they would be calling their buddies at different firms. It was a highly labor intensive effort.” New York’s “inhospitable” climate for commercial banks, along with falling demand for financial services and increasing automation is driving the decline in jobs, Bove said. Woman could face death penalty for killing man by crushing testicles (NYDN) A 42-year-old woman is on trial for allegedly grabbing a man's genitals after he told her not to park her electric bike in front of his store. He later died from shock, according to reports. "I'll squeeze it to death, you'll never have children again," witnesses reported her as saying as she called on her brother and husband for back-up. The woman, who could face the death penalty if convicted, got into the row - in the Meilan District of Haikou City, Hainan - more than a year ago on April 19, 2012. IBTimes reports that her 41-year-old victim went into a state of shock and died before paramedics could treat him. The final outcome of the trial, it adds, depends largely on the interpretation of the woman's statement of "squeeze it to death." Dr Irwin Goldstein, urologist and director of San Diego Sexual Medicine, has previously told Gizmodo it is "quite plausible" the squeeze had killed the man. "Yes, the testicles are exquisitely sensitive to touch and there is a huge release of adrenalin when there is excessive force applied to these organs," he told the site. He added that it could have brought on a heart attack. Hazy Future for S.E.C.’s Blossoming Whistle-Blower Effort (NYT) Already, a whistle-blower program has bolstered an investigation into a trading blowup that nearly toppled Knight Capital, the largest stock trading firm on Wall Street, according to lawyers briefed on the case. With help from another whistle-blower, the lawyers said, the government discovered that Oppenheimer & Company had overstated the performance of a private equity fund. And after pursuing a Texas Ponzi scheme for more than a year, a cold trail heated up in 2010 when a tipster emerged. The breakthroughs—previously undisclosed—show the promise of the agency's 20-month-old whistle-blower program. Yet, the program faces challenges on many fronts. Some Wall Street firms are urging employees to report wrongdoing internally before running to the government, and one hedge fund, Paradigm Capital Management, was accused in a lawsuit of punishing an employee who had cooperated with the S.E.C., according to court and internal documents. Another financial firm, the documents show, pressured an employee to forfeit potential "bounties or awards"—a possible violation of S.E.C. rules. Apple’s $145 Billion in Cash Fails to Win AAA Debt Rating (Bloomberg) Apple, which has $145 billion of cash, said yesterday it plans to use debt to help finance a $100 billion capital reward for shareholders after a 42 percent stock plunge. Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s responded by ranking the company a level below their top grades, with Gerald Granovsky of Moody’s citing “shifting consumer preferences” in a statement as a risk to Cupertino, California-based Apple’s business. ECB Rate Cut Could Bring Big Disappointment (CNBC) Expectations are rising that the European Central Bank will announce a rate cut when it meets next week. But according to analysts the move is likely to have a limited impact and could in fact end up being a disappointment.

Opening Bell: 3.3.15

Bill Gross asks for 2-4 years to prove himself; Venezuela tops list of most miserable economies; Lumber Liquidators says everything is cool; StanChart's bonuses are down; "Seattle doctor disciplined for sexting during surgery"; AND MORE.