Opening Bell: 12.3.14

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Fall of the Bond King: How Gross Lost Empire as Pimco Cracked (Bloomberg)
To stop the reports, Gross set up interrogations of members of the investment committee, managing directors, and lower-ranking money managers. He carried around a three-ring binder of printed-out e-mails and hand-written notes to find out who was talking to the press. Among his suspects were Balls, a former journalist, and Thimons, the executive who had remained seated during the standing ovation and who had organized a going-away party for El-Erian. Gross sought to fire Balls, a move opposed by Pimco’s new executives. Gross gave in and agreed not to pursue the matter at that time. “Andrew and Josh are senior and respected professionals at our firm, and we have complete confidence in their leadership and integrity,” Daniel Tarman, a Pimco spokesman, said in a statement. Balls and Thimons didn’t return e-mails seeking comment. Gross later told DoubleLine Capital LP’s Jeffrey Gundlach that he had been chasing a “Mr. X,” a person sympathetic to El-Erian who was trying to sabotage him by revealing internal conversations.

Emails About Loans Plague Credit Suisse (WSJ)
Old emails may be coming back to haunt Credit Suisse over real-estate deals done before the financial crisis. The emails, which were turned over to firms suing the bank but haven’t been made public, include discussions of an appraisal method Credit Suisse used to value a dozen luxury properties such as golf communities and ski resorts during the mid-2000s. In the emails, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Credit Suisse employees discuss an effort by the bank to use an uncommon appraisal method known as “total net value” that relied on future expected revenue, rather than more traditional methods based on how the market values properties.

Hedge fund giant claims Suisse’s appraisals full of holes (NYP)
he hedge fund giant, which is suing the Swiss bank in Dallas federal court over the Lake Las Vegas deal, argues Credit Suisse inflated appraisals in a questionable refinancing that ended up costing one of its funds $250 million when the owners defaulted in 2008. Highland, led by James Dondero, said the bank knew all along the loan was “crap,” as one Credit Suisse banker wrote in an e-mail. “Where are you guys finding all this crap?” Credit Suisse’s Grant Pothast asked his colleagues in an e-mail regarding plans to sell the original loan in September of 2004. “You must have the deepest dredge known to mankind.” “I will go anywhere I can find a fee,” colleague David Miller shot back, pointing out that Credit Suisse was the sole manager of the Lake Las Vegas financing and so would make $9 million.

Rating Agencies at Odds on Amazon Bond Sale (WSJ)
Moody’s Investors Service gives the Internet retailer a Baa1 grade, just three notches above junk territory. Standard & Poor’s, however, gives the company a double-A-minus grade, which is four notches higher than Moody’s.

Missing: 100 Brains Used for Research at the University of Texas (Bloomberg)
University of Texas officials are trying to find about 100 brains preserved in formaldehyde that may include the gray matter of Charles Whitman, who went on a shooting spree from a tower at the school and killed 16 people. The brains, mostly those of patients of a state mental hospital, were stored at the school’s Animal Resources Center in Austin, said Timothy Schallert, a professor of neuroscience and psychology. Officials have recently discovered that about half the collection of 200 brains can’t be located, said Schallert. “That’s a lot of brains to store,” said Schallert, 65, who has taught at the university since 1979. “Nobody seems to know where the brains are.”

Euro-Area Economy Weakens as ECB Considers Stimulus (Bloomberg)
ECB President Mario Draghi leads the Governing Council in its last policy meeting of 2014 tomorrow, when it’ll debate staff proposals on new tools to revive inflation and growth. While some policy makers have signaled they prefer to wait to assess current measures, the continuing deterioration in the outlook is increasing the pressure to act.

Lufthansa cancels half of Thursday long-haul flights due to strike (Reuters)
Lufthansa has canceled around half of long-haul flights scheduled for Thursday due to the second strike within a week by its pilots in a long-running row over retirement benefits. Pilots' union Vereinigung Cockpit late on Tuesday announced plans to strike between 0200 GMT and 2259 GMT on long-haul and cargo flights. Lufthansa said on Wednesday it would be able to operate 35 out of 72 long-haul flights from Frankfurt and Munich airports on Thursday, while Lufthansa Cargo would operate 9 out of 15 flights.

Sony honchos acknowledge ‘brazen’ cyber attack (NYP)
Sony Pictures honchos Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal finally broke their silence about the “brazen” cyber attack that exposed Social Security numbers and other sensitive information for thousands of the studio’s employees. The studio co-chiefs acknowledged in a memo late Tuesday that “a large amount of confidential Sony Pictures Entertainment data has been stolen by the cyber attackers” but said they still didn’t yet know the extent of the security breach. “The privacy and security of our employees are of real concern to us, and we are deeply saddened at this concerted effort to do damage to our company, undermine our morale, and discourage us,” read the memo first posted by the Hollywood Reporter.

Florida Man Caught Slipping Cow Tongue Into Pants: Cops (AP)
Police in Florida say a Wal-Mart shopper denied slipping $35 worth of beef tongue into his pants, but the telltale tongue told a different story. DeLand police say 44-year-old Jason Puckett was charged last week with misdemeanor theft after a Wal-Mart security guard spotted him slipping two packages of tongue into his waistband. When the guard confronted Puckett at the store's exit, Puckett denied stealing the packages and said he had put them back on a shelf. But the guard told authorities Puckett then removed the tongue from his pants when he didn't think he was being watched and ran from the store.

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