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Holiday Bell: 12.26.14

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New York's Top Cop Scores as Credit Suisse Faces $10 Billion Mortgage Fraud Suit (Bloomberg)
Credit Suisse Group AG (CSGN) was ordered to face a $10 billion lawsuit by New York’s attorney general accusing the Swiss bank of fraud in the sales of mortgage-backed securities before the 2008 financial crisis. A New York State Supreme Court justice rejected the bank’s request to dismiss the case, a move that gives leverage to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to demand internal bank documents and force a settlement. New York demonstrated the bank may have engaged in misconduct, Justice Marcy Friedman said in a Dec. 24 decision, allowing the suit to head toward trial. In addition to forcing Zurich-based Credit Suisse to defend itself or settle, the ruling may strengthen Schneiderman’s hand in punishing other banks for bad behavior tied to the recession.

Putin orders vodka price cap amid economic crisis (Reuters)
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his government on Wednesday to rein in rising vodka prices, as he battles to preserve his popularity amid an aggravating economic crisis. Putin told a meeting with government officials and regional governors that expensive vodka prices encourage the production of bootleg spirits, which carry greater risks to people's health than legally produced alcohol.

Scaled-Up Banking Rescue to Push Russian Budget Into Deficit (Dealbook)
Russia’s central bank said on Friday that its bailout of Trust Bank – the first major lender to fail as a result of the sharp decline in the ruble – would cost about $2.5 billion, far more than previously anticipated, and the country’s finance minister said emergency measures to rescue the banking system would push the federal budget into deficit. The central bank had previously announced about $500 million in direct aid to Trust Bank, but on Friday it raised that figure to nearly $2 billion and said it would also provide a six-year loan of about $550 million to an “investor” bank that would step in to take control of Trust Bank. Other banks are also expected to need bailouts as a result of the recent currency crisis, which was brought about by a double whammy of lower worldwide oil prices and Western economic sanctions aimed at punishing the Kremlin for its policies in Ukraine.

Dalio's Bridgewater launches new 'optimal' hedge fund (NetNet)
Already the world's biggest hedge fund firm at $157 billion under management, the Westport, Connecticut-based money manager founded by Ray Dalio is launching its first new strategy since 1996. Dubbed "Bridgewater Optimal Portfolio," it will combine the firm's main investing styles, "Pure Alpha" and "All Weather." [...] Optimal Portfolio's main difference is the addition of actively managed bets against securities—"shorts"—to passive positions, according to a description by co-chief investment officer Bob Prince on a recent call with clients, as reported by Pensions & Investments.

The One Latin America Winner From U.S. Economic Boom: Currencies (Bloomberg)
In what has been a tumultuous 2014 for Latin American currencies, it is the quetzal that has stood out as the lone bright spot. That’s right, the quetzal -- Guatemala’s currency. As the Argentine peso sank 24 percent and the Brazilian real dropped 12 percent, the quetzal advanced 3 percent, posting its best annual rally since 2010.

Man In A Kayak Helps Nab Suspected Christmas Mail Thief (AP)
A fast-paddling good Samaritan in a kayak helped sheriff's deputies in Washington state nab a suspected Christmas mail thief. Q13 reports deputies received multiple calls on Wednesday morning that a man and a woman were going through mailboxes around the town of Sammamish (suh-MAM'-ish). While deputies were on their way, residents spotted a car filled with mail and used their cars to block it in. The suspected mail thieves ran off, and one was caught immediately. The other fled into a nearby pond with a kayak he grabbed out of a yard. A resident grabbed his own kayak, caught up to the suspect and convinced him to return to shore, where he was arrested. The sheriff's office says the suspect didn't get very far because he was using his hands to paddle.

Xbox, PlayStation Networks Attacked, Hackers Claim Credit (Bloomberg)
Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)’s Xbox Live and Sony Corp. (6758)’s PlayStation Network, Internet services that video gamers use to play online, were hit by connection failures on Christmas Day, with the hackers Lizard Squad claiming responsibility. The group, which took credit for an attack on Sony earlier this year, said on its Twitter account that it was behind the incidents. The group said it would “stop hitting” the services if users called attention to the hack by retweeting its statements.

‘The Interview’ snags $1M at box office in limited release (NYP)
The controversial Sony movie,“The Interview,” rang up nearly $1 million at the box office on Christmas Day in a very limited release — and was the No. 1-seller at the Google Play store and on YouTube, according to industry report on Friday. Total rentals from several streaming sites — including one set up by Sony Pictures Entertainment, — were not expected to be available until later Friday.

Revel casino auction winner wants a discount (AP)
The Florida developer in line to purchase the former Revel Casino Hotel in Atlantic City says in court filings that the auction for the property wasn't run fairly and he wants an $8 million discount. Lawyers for Glenn Straub said in a court filing Wednesday that the property should be sold for $87 million, not the $95.4 million runner-up bid his Polo North Country Club put in at auction.

Prosecutors raid LG headquarters over washing machine row with Samsung (Reuters)
Prosecutors raided the headquarters of LG Electronics on Friday as part of a probe into whether the South Korean company had damaged the washing machines of rival Samsung Electronics at retail stores in Germany, LG said. The raid comes amid an increasingly bitter rivalry between the two companies which compete in home appliances, TVs and smartphones, and ahead of the world's biggest consumer electronics show at Las Vegas in January. Samsung had asked the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office to investigate LG employees who Samsung says were seen deliberately destroying several of its premium washing machines on display at two stores in September ahead of the IFA electronics show in Berlin.

Time for Dick Costolo to go: Harvard biz prof (CNBC)
It's time for Dick Costolo to step aside and let someone else run Twitter, Harvard Business School professor Bill George told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" on Friday. The Twitter exec is not in the same class as Google's Larry Page and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, the former Medtronic chairman and CEO added. George noted that Twitter's user base growth has started to slow, and said Costolo has an inflexible approach. "Costolo is not a product guy. He's a consultant. He doesn't really understand product the way a Larry Page or a Mark Zuckerberg does, and so I think you need a new team at the top," he said.

Dog survives 15-story fall with hot tub landing (UPI)
A 13-year-old Boston Terrier in California is recovering from multiple fractures after he survived a 15-story fall by landing in a hot tub. Bill McCourt of Sacramento said his Boston Terrier, Sam, violated the apartment building's ban on pets in the pool area Monday when he plunged from his 15th story balcony and landed in the ground-level hot tub. Sam was discovered swimming in the hot tub by two building workers who heard the splash and one of them called Bette Plumb, McCourt's mother, who usually watches Sam while McCourt is at work. "My first thought was he must have got out and taken the stairs or the elevator or something," Plumb told the Sacramento Bee. "But there's no way he could have gotten out of the condo. All of a sudden, I knew. It hit me immediately: He fell." "It's absolutely a miracle," she said. "There's no way that dog should be alive." Veterinarians at the VCA Bradshaw Animal Hospital said Sam, who is partially blind, suffered multiple fractures to his pelvis and ribs. They said the canine, who also suffered a cut to his rear end, is expected to be fully recovered from his injuries in six to eight weeks. "His balcony days are over," McCourt said. "He's going to have to sit by the door from now on, though, if I were him, I don't think I'd be running back out there again."


Holiday Bell: 03.29.13

SAC Capital Advisors Trader Charged With Fraud (WSJ) Early Friday morning, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrested a longtime SAC Capital portfolio manager on insider-trading charges, making him the most senior employee of one of the nation's most prominent hedge funds to be snared in the government's sprawling probe. Michael Steinberg, 40 years old, was led out of his building on New York's Park Avenue in handcuffs around 6 a.m. Mr. Steinberg has worked at Stamford, Conn.-based SAC since 1997 and at its Sigma Capital Management unit in New York since 2003, dealing closely with SAC's billionaire founder Steven A. Cohen. "Michael Steinberg did absolutely nothing wrong," his lawyer, Barry H. Berke, said in a statement Friday. "His trading decisions were based on detailed analysis" and information "he understood had been properly obtained through the types of channels that institutional investors rely upon on a daily basis." Mr. Steinberg was charged Friday with conspiracy to commit securities fraud and four counts of securities fraud, alleging that he made illegal trades in Dell and Nvidia Corp. based on information relayed to him by a Sigma Capital analyst. He faces as much as 20 years in prison on each fraud charge. He is expected to appear in Manhattan federal court later Friday. The Securities and Exchange Commission also separately filed a civil lawsuit against him in Manhattan federal court on Friday. "Mike has conducted himself professionally and ethically during his long tenure at the firm. We believe him to be a man of integrity," a SAC spokesman said Friday. SAC’s Steinberg Arrested as Probe Gets Closer to Cohen (Bloomberg) Jon Horvath, who worked for Steinberg, pleaded guilty in September, admitting that he provided illegal tips to his portfolio manager, who then traded on them...Two days before Dell was set to report second-quarter 2008 earnings, Horvath e-mailed Steinberg and another portfolio manager to warn that the computer maker would miss earnings estimates. “I have a 2nd hand read from someone at the company,” Horvath said in the Aug. 26 e-mail, which provided details on gross margins, expenditures and revenue. “Please keep to yourself as obviously not well known.” Steinberg replied, “Yes normally we would never divulge data like this, so please be discreet. Thanks.” Judge Sullivan concluded in December that e-mail and instant messages he reviewed showed that Steinberg could have known information he used for trades came from insiders. “The e-mails that were relayed to Steinberg do indicate to me that he understands the source of the information that he’s getting and he’s trading on it,” Sullivan wrote. “All of that indicates this is inside information from the company that’s not available anywhere else.” Cypriots Cast Blame As Banks Open (WSJ) President Nicos Anastasiades on Thursday ordered the creation of a three-member committee to investigate the roots of the economic malaise engulfing the island. The committee will be chaired by three former judges from Cyprus's supreme court, including Georgios Pikis, the court's former president and a former member of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Cyprus Says Threat Contained, No Plan to Leave Euro (Reuters) FYI. BofA Tops Financial-Complaint List (WSJ) Bank of America accounted for the largest share of consumer complaints lodged with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau over the past 16 months, highlighting the challenges the nation's second-largest bank faces as it tries to simplify its sprawling operations. Illinois Man Charged In 21-Ton Cheese Heist (ABC) Veniamin Balika, 34, of Plainfield, Ill., was accused of stealing 42,000 pounds of Muenster cheese from a Wisconsin cheese company. He was arrested at a Bergen County rest area on the New Jersey Turnpike on Monday, the result of a joint investigation with the Saddle Brook New Jersey Police Department and the New Jersey State Police. “He was charged with receiving stolen property and fencing,” New Jersey State Police Sergeant Adam Grossman told Balika allegedly attempted to sell the load of 1,135 cases of cheese at the rest area. Morgan Stanley's Porat Passes On Treasury Post (NYP) Morgan Stanley’s chief financial officer has taken herself out of the running for the No. 2 job at the Treasury Department after months of speculation that she was all but certain to join the Obama administration. The 56-year-old high-profile Wall Streeter, who had been the top candidate to work alongside Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, called the White House late Wednesday to remove her name after fretting about possibly being raked over the coals during a Senate confirmation hearing, sources told The Post. Putin May Cap Golden Parachutes After $100 Million Payout (Bloomberg) President Vladimir Putin proposed limiting severance payments to Russian executives, after a former KGB colleague was granted about $100 million when he stepped down as the head of OAO GMK Norilsk Nickel. While so-called golden parachutes should “stimulate top- class managers” to work efficiently, “sensible limits” are needed, Putin said at a meeting of his People’s Front movement in Rostov-on-Don today. Capping such payments would comply with global standards, Putin said. France's Hollande Hits Companies With 75% Wealth Tax (Reuters) French President Francois Hollande declared on Thursday that companies would have to pay a 75 percent tax on salaries over a million euros after his plan for a "super-tax" on individuals was knocked down by the constitutional court. Deutsche Bank probe finds incomplete data given to prosecutors (Reuters) An internal investigation at Deutsche Bank has found that incomplete data related to a carbon tax fraud probe were handed over to prosecutors, German magazine Der Spiegel said on Friday. The probe is one of several legal headaches with which Germany's biggest lender is grappling. For CEOs, Buyout Game Can Be Second Act (WSJ) Less than two months after agreeing to leave Chesapeake under pressure from shareholders over his free-spending ways, Aubrey McClendon is meeting with private-equity investors and others to discuss potentially teaming up for new ventures, according to several people familiar with the discussions. Mitt Romney Thinks His Grandkids’ Names Are Ridiculous (Daily Intel) "A few months ago we had twins come in, and you can't believe what they're named: Winston and Eleanor. [Laughs.] I mean, it's going back to the glorious days of the thirties and forties, I guess. But these are just darling little infants, and to have such big names on them is really something, although they call them Ellie and Win ... When I heard Winston and Eleanor, I thought, It sounds like two English bulldogs, but they're adorable children."