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Opening Bell: 08.08.14

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Goldman, JPMorgan in Senate's crosshairs for commodities holdings (Reuters)
U.S. Senator Carl Levin is preparing a last push to bring Wall Street's big commodity traders to heel during his final months in office, wrapping up a nearly two year-long probe that could potentially reveal abuses in energy and metals markets. Levin's investigators have met with representatives from Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase in recent weeks, according to sources familiar with the matter. Executives from those companies may appear at a hearing as early as September, during which Levin's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations would present the findings of the probe, the sources said...Specifically, Senate investigators have explored whether Wall Street has abused its commodities holdings at the expense of clients, consumers, the environment or the health of the market, according to the people familiar with the probe.

Richest Russians Deprived of Luxury Foods by Putin’s Ban (Bloomberg)
Wealthy Muscovites will have to forgo favorite dishes such as Australian steak and sushi with Norwegian salmon and will pay more for substitutes because of President Vladimir Putin’s import ban. Putin decreed that imports of meat, fish, vegetables, cheese and dairy products from the U.S., European Union, Norway, Canada and Australia be stopped, effective yesterday, and called to replace them with local products. The ban applies to countries that imposed sanctions against Russia for its annexation of Crimea.

Power Network Draws Rich Families to Chicago Banker Byron Trott (Bloomberg)
Five years after leaving Goldman, Trott, 55, is parlaying longtime links to the moneyed elite into an investment and advisory firm that specializes in helping rich families get richer. BDT -- for Byron David Trott -- plays two roles for its well-heeled clients. It provides advice on whether to merge, expand or sell businesses, as it did for Alberto. And it raises money from them to invest in other mainly family-led companies, either directly or through BDT’s private-equity funds. BDT managed $6.3 billion in client assets as of Dec. 31 and is raising $5.2 billion more, according to regulatory filings. “Byron’s got a blue-chip list of people who trust him,” says John Canning, chairman of Madison Dearborn Partners LLC, the largest Midwestern private-equity firm. “He’s played a key role in Chicago. Since most large investment banks are headquartered elsewhere, he’s been able to establish a unique practice advising on extremely large transactions.” Warren Buffett, the third-wealthiest person in the world, is the biggest name on Trott’s prestigious list.

Argentina pulls US into debt dispute with hedge funds (NYP)
Argentina is trying to rope Uncle Sam into its debt dispute with a group of “vulture” hedge funds. The embattled country sued the US in the Hague, contending that America’s court system has “committed violations of Argentine sovereignty and immunities.” The suit was filed in the International Court of Justice, which is the judicial organ of the United Nations. The Hague-based court said no action will be taken unless the US agrees to have the case heard in that court.

Developer Who Sued Zuckerberg Cites E-Mail Showing Offer (Bloomberg)
A property developer who sued billionaire Mark Zuckerberg for allegedly failing to assist him with business networking as part of a real estate deal produced an e-mail mentioning that the Facebook Inc. founder offered to help him in a “light” way. The e-mail and others filed in a lawsuit against Zuckerberg show the executive knew he made the promise and reneged on it, David Draper, the attorney for developer Mircea Voskerician, said in court filings. Voskerician says he gave the Facebook chief executive officer a 40 percent discount in 2012 on a $4.3 million property located behind Zuckerberg’s Palo Alto, California, home because he was promised introductions and referrals to boost his business. After trying and failing to reach Zuckerberg, Voskerician sued in state court in San Jose, California, to get the house back, claiming fraud, breach of contract and misrepresentation, according to the complaint.

Judge Says Man Wasn't Specific Enough About Alleged Penis Amputation (AP)
A judge threw out a lawsuit filed by an Alabama man who claims a botched circumcision resulted in the amputation of his penis, ruling Thursday that the complaint wasn't specific under state malpractice law. Jefferson County Circuit Judge Jim Hughey III ruled after a brief hearing that the suit filed Johnny Lee Banks Jr. and his wife lacked sufficient details but could be filed again to include specific times and dates of alleged actions...Banks and his wife last month sued Princeton Baptist Medical Center in Birmingham plus Drs. Michael Bivins and Alan Aikens and their employers. Banks alleges that he awoke from what was supposed to be a routine circumcision in June to realize his penis was gone. Attorneys for the doctors and hospital contend the medical procedure alleged in the suit never happened and predicted the lawsuit will be dismissed again if Banks pursues the claim. The defense filed sworn statements from two nurses who said Banks had a circumcision at the hospital in February, months before he claimed in the suit, but there was no record of any amputation.

Banks to return 4.15 billion euros in crisis loans to ECB next week (Reuters)
Banks will return 4.15 billion euros ($5.56 billion) in long-term loans to the European Central Bank next week after the ECB started to charge for holding banks' excess cash overnight and promised more long-term loans. The amount that banks will repay on Aug. 13 is more than this week's crisis-loan repayments of 3.21 billion euros and exceeds the 3.0 billion forecast in a Reuters poll.

Short-Selling Ban Imposed on Banca Monte dei Paschi Shares (WSJ)
Italy's stock market regulator Consob banned on Friday short selling of shares in troubled Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena until August 11, after investors rushed to sell the stock in the morning trading session.

RBS to Disband Global Restructuring Group (WSJ)
The move comes as the 80% U.K. government-owned bank continues to fend off allegations that the Global Restructuring Group turnaround unit sought to profit by putting struggling companies out of business. As part of the rejig Derek Sach, the head of the division, will leave the bank, as will Aubrey Adams, who heads up the property function within GRG, these people say.

Australia's Lenders Flagged as Economy Attempts Shift (WSJ)
As Australia's highflying banks cruise into the coming week's earnings season, some investors and analysts are wondering about the possibility of dark clouds on the horizon. Commonwealth Bank of Australia Ltd., Westpac Banking Corp., Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. and National Australia Bank Ltd. are generally forecast to have another strong quarter, despite subdued business lending, as they continue to cut costs and maintain relatively low bad-debt charges in a low-interest-rate environment. As the country's economy attempts to shift gears after a decade of resources-led growth and struggles with unemployment at a 12-year high, however, some market observers are reconsidering the amount of exposure investors should have to bank stocks that remain pricey relative to overseas peers.

Man fined ‘for pretending to be ghost’ in cemetery (The Scotsman)
Anthony Stallard, 24, was seen kicking a football around with a friend in Kingston Cemetery after the pair had been drinking. He was reported to police, who detained him and charged him with using threatening or abusive words, or behaviour likely to cause distress. Tim Concannon, prosecuting at Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court, said: “While the football was going on they were shouting and this defendant was effectively singing loudly and being disrespectful in among the graves. “He was throwing himself backwards, waving his arms about and going ‘wooooooo’. I’m assuming he was pretending to be a ghost.”


Opening Bell: 6.10.15

European officials not having Greece's latest proposal; Jack Ma says being a billionaire is hard; "Police say Plunkett denied throwing the pizza, despite the fact that he was not wearing a shirt and had pizza sauce on his chest and shorts"; and more.