Opening Bell: 07.18.14

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Buffett buys new Cadillac (AP)
Buffett sent his daughter, Susie Buffett, to the dealership to make the purchase. Warren Buffett says the saleswoman did a great job, including recommending that Buffett buy the XTS sedan he picked, not the CTS coupe that Barra had recommended.

Lawsky proposes new Bitcoin rules (NYP)
The proposed rules are the first step in companies obtaining a “BitLicense,” which would pave the way for a regulated exchange of the crypto-currency. The DFS started looking into new bitcoin exchanges for New York after the Japanese digital currency exchange Mt. Gox imploded earlier this year, apparently from hackers stealing $460 million in investor funds. The rules include anti-money laundering provisions that would include the identities and addresses of people trading the currency, as well as receipts for trades totaling more than $10,000 per day.

Ackman says Valeant’s bid for Allergan is a ‘happy’ one (NYP)
Ackman said Thursday he is trying to line up 45 percent of shareholders to call a special meeting to replace six directors — although he only needs 25 percent — because of what he called Allergan’s “unbelievably burdensome” requirements.

Morgan Stanley rebuilds in commodities trading (Reuters)
The Wall Street bank plans to hire about a dozen traders, sales staff and other professionals in the United States. It's building up commodities trading and financing businesses that can profit despite tougher regulations, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

A Case That Shows The Limits Of Insider Trading Laws (NYT)
In an unusual move, the judge in the case, Naomi Reice Buchwald, didn’t let most of the case get to the jury. After showing skepticism about the strength of the government’s case almost from the beginning, she dismissed two insider trading counts, leaving only a conspiracy charge for the jury to ponder. But conspiracy to do what? It’s no wonder a jury took less than four hours to find Mr. Rajaratnam innocent...Which raises a question: How might the jury have decided if it was allowed to consider all the evidence? The answer goes far beyond the Rengan Rajaratnam case, and raises some fundamental questions about the state of insider trading laws.

Shark Bites Off More Than It Can Chew, Chokes On Sea Lion (HP)
In a peculiar event that is almost too odd to seem true, a 13-foot great white shark in Australia died after choking on a sea lion. This video of a shark thrashing in shallow waters on Coronation Beach near Geraldton, Western Australia surfaced the day before the same shark washed ashore. “This could explain why the shark was exhibiting such unusual behavior in shallow waters off Coronation Beach. It is possible that the shark was trying to dislodge the blockage,” Dr McAuley, the principal research scientist who investigated the case, said in a Department of Fisheries press release. To make things even more interesting, this shark was also tagged in Southern Australia back in January, proving the incredibly mobile nature of the species. The Department of Fisheries in Western Australia concluded that the sea lion either damaged the shark's internal organs, or the shark simply became stranded while trying to "get rid of the obstruction."

Bond Traders Plot Response as Safeguards Vanish (Bloomberg)
Representatives from at least six firms met in London last week with the Association for Financial Markets in Europe to discuss reinforcing language in documents governing bond sales that protect investors, according to Gary Simmons, director of the group’s high-yield division. Legal & General Investment Management, Castle Hill Asset Management and Pioneer Investments are among money managers listed as members, according to AFME.

Bank Lending Accelerates After Slump (WSJ)
Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co. and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. all increased their total loans from a year ago by about 3% or more on the back of increasing demand and improving economic conditions. The rates of growth varied from 2.9% at J.P. Morgan to 3.6% at Wells Fargo and 3.7% at Citigroup, while Bank of America's loans fell 1% from a year earlier.

Bank of Portugal Moves to Calm Investors Over Espírito Santo (WSJ)
Portugal's central bank on Friday moved to calm fears about lender Banco Espírito Santo SA, saying the lender had a big-enough capital buffer to protect itself from its troubled parent, even in a worst-case scenario. Across the ocean, meanwhile, Panama's banking supervisor took over a small bank owned by a unit of the parent, Espírito Santo International SA, showing companies within the group are under increased stress. Panama's regulator, Superintendencia de Bancos de Panama, said in a statement that it was taking over ES Bank (Panama) SA, a unit of Espírito Santo International's 49%-owned Espírito Santo Financial Group SA, "to protect and defend the interest of depositors and creditors of the institution given its illiquid and potentially insolvent situation."

Mystery over Mandela’s valuable note to Leonardo DiCaprio (NYP)
There’s a legal battle brewing over a photo that went up for sale this week for $25,000 of Leonardo DiCaprio and the late South African leader Nelson Mandela. It was inscribed by Mandela to DiCaprio, but it never got to the actor. It’s unclear how the pic, shot while DiCaprio was filming the 2006 African epic “Blood Diamond,” made it to memorabilia and autographs dealer Moments in Time, which is offering the color image, years later. Mandela personally wrote on the image of the smiling pair: “To Leo DiCaprio, Best Wishes, Mandela, 4-8-07.” But for some reason the treasure never was sent to him. Moments in Time says it keeps its sources confidential, but owns the image’s rights. Upon learning of the picture’s existence Tuesday, DiCaprio’s camp said the photo is his — and he wants it. “The photo is clearly not their property,” said a source close to the actor. “He wants the picture. His lawyers are considering action.”

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Opening Bell: 11.26.12

UBS Stung By Adoboli Case (WSJ) Swiss financial market regulator Finma said it will keep a close eye on UBS's investment bank for the foreseeable future and may ask it to raise fresh capital, following an investigation into failures that allowed London-based trader Kweku Adoboli to make unauthorized trades. At the same time, the U.K. Financial Services Authority fined UBS £29.7 million ($47.6 million). Mr. Adoboli was convicted of fraud last week and sentenced to a seven-year prison term. "The measures ordered by Finma include capital restrictions and an acquisition ban on the investment bank, and any new business initiative it plans must be approved by Finma," the regulator said. Finma will also consider "whether UBS must increase capital backing for its operational risks," will appoint a third party to ensure corrective measures are introduced, and will organize an audit to review the steps taken by UBS. Finma declined to say when the auditing review would be completed or when a decision on a capital increase would be made, though a spokesman said this is likely to be within months rather than years. SAC Fund Manager Faces Choice of Trial or Deal (Bloomberg) Martoma, 38, used illegal tips to help SAC make $276 million on shares of pharmaceutical companies Elan Corp. and Wyeth LLC, according to the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Arrested last week, he is to appear today in Manhattan federal court for masterminding what the U.S. calls the most lucrative insider-trading case ever. Flowers Foods Sizes Up Hostess (WSJ) The Thomasville, Ga., company is considered a likely bidder for some of the assets owned by Hostess, which last week was granted permission by a federal bankruptcy-court judge to begin liquidating. The end came after a contentious bankruptcy that began in January and culminated this month in a strike. Goldman Turns Down Southern Europe Banks as Crisis Lingers (Bloomberg) Goldman Sachs, the No. 1 stock underwriter in Europe, turned down roles in offerings by banks in Spain and Italy this year, the only top U.S. securities firm not to take part in the fundraisings by southern European lenders as the region’s debt crisis stretches to a fourth year. The firm declined a role in Banco Popular Espanol SA’s 2.5 billion-euro ($3.2 billion) rights offering this month because it wanted greater protection to avoid potential losses on the sale, two people familiar with the talks said. JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley are helping to guarantee the deal. Goldman also didn’t underwrite this year’s share sales by Italy’s UniCredit SpA and Portugal’s Banco Espirito Santo SA, which drew Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup. Knight Seen Getting Acquisition Bids This Week (Bloomberg) The company with a market value of about $430 million was bailed out by six financial firms in August after losing $457 million in a trading error. Chicago-based Getco LLC, one of the rescuers, and Virtu Financial LLC in New York are among the likely bidders, said the person, who requested anonymity because the negotiations are private. The Wall Street Journal reported Nov. 23 that Knight expected offers for its market-making unit. Woman who rode manatee charged with violating protection act (Sentinel) A 53-year-old Pinellas County woman was arrested Saturday for violating the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act by riding a sea cow in the waters near St. Petersburg in September. Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez of St. Petersburg was arrested at her place of employment — Sears at Tyrone Square Mall in St. Petersburg — on a warrant issued by the State Attorney's Office. The charge is a second-degree misdemeanor. The punishment could be a $500 fine or up to 60 days in jail, the Tampa Bay Times said. Gutierrez stepped forward after the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office released photos of a then-unknown woman riding a manatee near Fort DeSoto Park in Pinellas County on Sept. 30. "Gutierrez admitted to the offense claiming she is new to the area and did not realize it was against the law to touch or harass manatees,'' the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said in a statement. Escrowyou too, judge! (NYP) Argentina, bruised and battered after a 10-year battle to sidestep billions of dollars in bond payments, is lashing out at US courts and a Manhattan federal court judge. A high-ranking member of Argentina President Cristina Kirchner’s administration terms “judicial imperialism” the Thanksgiving eve ruling by Judge Thomas Griesa that ordered the South American country to place a $1.3 billion bond payment in escrow pending the end of the legal tussle. Kirchner has repeatedly said she would not pay up. Griesa, frustrated with Argentina’s repeated attempts to stall the legal proceedings, sided with New York hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, whose Elliott Management owns Argentine bonds that were defaulted on back in 2002. 'Cliff' Threatens Holiday Spending (WSJ) The White House warned in a new report that going off the so-called "fiscal cliff" could slow the growth of real gross domestic product by 1.4% and limit consumer spending during the holiday season. The report comes as lawmakers are returning to Washington with just weeks left to find an agreement to prevent taxes from going up on millions and spending cuts from kicking in. It will likely provide fodder for both political parties as they seek to find a compromise. At Some Firms, Cutting Corporate Rates May Cost Billions (WSJ) President Barack Obama has said, most recently during last month's presidential debates, that the 35% U.S. corporate tax rate should be cut. That would mean lower tax bills for many companies. But it also could prompt large write-downs by Citigroup, AIG, Ford and other companies that hold piles of "deferred tax assets," or DTAs...Citigroup, for instance, acknowledged during its recent third-quarter earnings conference call that a cut in the tax rate could lead to a DTA-related charge of $4 billion to $5 billion against earnings. Cohen's General Counsel Gives SAC Boss Cover (NYP) The sharks of the US Attorney’s office have SAC Capital Advisors surrounded — and owner Steven Cohen is looking a lot like chum. Good thing the billionaire hedgie has a large supply of shark repellent. That would be Peter Nussbaum, SAC’s longtime general counsel who, over his 12 years at the Stamford, Conn., firm, has built up an impressive 30-person compliance department — not including an additional tech compliance team. “Nussbaum is the most respected person at SAC,” said a hedge fund executive not at SAC. “He is going to do what he thinks is best for the firm and not be cowed by anyone.” Nussbaum’s huge compliance department, observers said, was built, in large part, because of the perception that the government was determined to bust Cohen. Confidential Police Docs Found in Macy's Parade Confetti (WPIX) Confidential personal information is what some paradegoers found among confetti tossed during the world's most famous parade. That information included social security numbers and banking information for police employees, some of whom are undercover officers. Ethan Finkelstein, who was home from college on Thanksgiving break, was watching the parade at 65th Street and Central Park West, when he and a friend noticed a strip of confetti stuck onto her coat. "It landed on her shoulder," Finkelstein told PIX11 News, "and it says 'SSN' and it's written like a social security number, and we're like, 'That's really bizarre.' It made the Tufts University freshman concerned, so he and his friends picked up more of the confetti that had fallen around them. "There are phone numbers, addresses, more social security numbers, license plate numbers and then we find all these incident reports from police." One confetti strip indicates that it's from an arrest record, and other strips offer more detail. "This is really shocking," Finkelstein said. "It says, 'At 4:30 A.M. a pipe bomb was thrown at a house in the Kings Grant' area." A closer look shows that the documents are from the Nassau County Police Department. The papers were shredded, but clearly not well enough.

Opening Bell: 03.29.12

Facebook Targeting May IPO (WSJ) The Menlo Park, Calif., social network halted trading of its shares on the secondary market this week, as it sets about nailing down its shareholder count, according to a person familiar with the matter...It's unclear which week in May Facebook is aiming to go public, cautioned the person, and the timing may still change. The timing depends in large part on the SEC and isn't in Facebook's control, this person added. Jobless Claims Near Four-Year Low (WSJ) Initial jobless claims fell by 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 359,000 in the week ended March 24, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast that claims would increase by 2,000. Morgan Stanley’s Jennings Asks Court to Dismiss Stabbing Case (BusinessWeek) The motion to dismiss the case was filed yesterday in state court in Stamford, Connecticut, said Jennings’s lawyer, Eugene Riccio. “The motion speaks for itself,” Riccio said in a phone interview. “There are serious deficiencies in the application for the arrest warrant.” Jennings, 45, is accused of attacking the driver, Mohamed Ammar, on Dec. 22 with a 2 1/2-inch blade and using racial slurs after a 40-mile ride from New York to the banker’s home in Darien, Connecticut. SEC Said to Review Credit Suisse VIX Note (Bloomberg) U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigators are reviewing a Credit Suisse Group AG (CSGN) exchange-traded note that became unhinged from its benchmark and whipsawed investors, a person familiar with the matter said. The VelocityShares Daily 2x VIX Short-Term ETN (TVIX), which seeks to provide twice the daily return of the VIX volatility index, climbed almost 90 percent above its asset value after the Zurich-based bank stopped issuing shares in February. The value of the note, which had risen to almost $700 million from about $163 million at the end of 2011, plunged last week when Credit Suisse said it would begin creating shares again. Stock Market Flaws Not So Rare, Data Shows (NYT) The communication breakdown that blocked trading on parts of the BATS exchange for more than an hour has been seen in at least 110 instances across the nation’s 13 stock exchanges over the last year, a review of data from Nasdaq shows. That number has gone up every year since 2007. In one instance in January, BATS said it was unable to trade with the New York Stock Exchange for nearly 30 minutes. Meanwhile, exchanges have halted trading in company shares after sudden spikes or falls, as happened Friday with Apple, at least 265 times over the last year — more than one for every day of trading, according to data analyzed by the Tabb Group, a market research firm. These circuit breakers kick in after stocks experience 10 percent swings in a short period of time and can be caused by a technical error or waves of electronic trading on news developments. Espirito Santo Among Five Portugal Lenders Downgraded by Moody’s (BW) Espirito Santo, Portugal’s largest publicly traded bank by market value, had its debt rating lowered one level to Ba3, Moody’s said yesterday in a statement. It took the same action for Caixa Geral de Depositos SA and Banco BPI SA. (BPI) Banco Internacional do Funchal was downgraded to B1 from Ba3. Mark Zuckerberg meets Japan's prime minister (AP) Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says Japan’s massive tsunami inspired him to seek more ways for his social network to help people hit by natural disasters. Zuckerberg, who is visiting Japan, told Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda that he believes Facebook can be used to help people in disasters keep in touch and provide them with crucial information. He did not go into details during the brief meeting Thursday. Noda expressed his appreciation and said he felt odd meeting the young entrepreneur after seeing the hit movie “The Social Network,” which was based on Zuckerberg’s life and the legal problems he had with others during Facebook’s early days. Laughing, Zuckerberg said the Hollywood portrayal of him wasn’t completely on target. “Very different,” he said. What To Do After You Hit The Megamillions Jackpot (AP) "Q: Whom should I tell first? A: Contacting a lawyer and a financial planner would be a lot wiser than updating your Facebook status. Make sure it's someone you can trust and, it's hoped, dealt with before. If you don't have anyone in mind, ask a close family member or friend. Oklahoma City attorney Richard Craig, whose firm has represented a handful of lottery winners, says it's essential to assemble a team of financial managers, tax experts, accountants and bankers." Eddie Lampert quietly shopping Lands End (NYP) Lampert, who inherited Lands’ End when he took control of Sears in 2005 by merging it with Kmart, has approached a handful of private-equity firms as he looks to raise as much as $2 billion in cash, sources said. SocGen To Rejig Investment Bank (WSJ) Société Générale aims to better integrate the investment bank's different teams as it shifts its business model toward originating loans that it will then move off its balance sheet by selling to investors, a person said. French banks have traditionally kept the loans they issue on their books, but in light of new capital demands from regulators, they are moving toward selling them to investors to prevent them from swelling their balance sheets. Charlie Sheen saying 'sorry' to America for troubled time (NYP) Despite his fresh start, Sheen admitted that he still has "a little bit" of bitterness towards "Two and a Half Men," but he says he "just [has] to work through that." "I wish they'd taken better care of the child left behind," he said.

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.