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Opening Bell: 12.4.14

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Sony Hackers Expose Rogen’s Pay Along With Deloitte Salaries (Bloomberg)
Hackers who took over Sony Pictures computers released the budget for “The Interview,” the Seth Rogen comedy about North Korea, adding to a breach that exposed pay at Deloitte Touche and studio head Michael Lynton’s credit-card number. The latest documents, including Rogen’s $8.4 million-plus compensation, were posted on the file-sharing site Pastebin after a purported hacker said more stolen data would be coming...Rogen co-wrote, directed and stars in “The Interview,” a comedy that centers on an attempt to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The budget data released yesterday included details that don’t usually become public. One line item appeared to be props: a “table of weed, coke, pills and panties.” Those were budgeted for $250 and came in at $241, according to the documents. Co-star James Franco received $6.5 million, while Britney Spears-ex Kevin Federline is listed as getting $5,000 for a cameo. The film cost $44 million to make, according to the documents.

Private Equity Is Top Choice of Young Wall St. Bankers (Dealbook)
Nearly 36 percent of junior investment bankers who started two-year jobs in 2012 have now joined private equity firms, according to research by Vettery, a start-up recruiting firm. That level exceeded the 27.5 percent of junior bankers who stayed in the same group at their bank, Vettery said...For the analysts who started in 2012, private equity firms were far more popular than hedge funds, which claimed 9.3 percent of the class, and venture capital firms, which hired 2.2 percent of the young bankers, according to Vettery. The data covers about 1,400 analysts, which Vettery says is virtually the entire class. While many on Wall Street see Silicon Valley as a competitive threat when it comes to hiring, tech start-ups claimed only 3.9 percent of the 2012 analyst class, according to Vettery. More popular, claiming 5.6 percent of the class, were jobs in corporate finance or business development at companies outside Wall Street.

SEC on Lookout for Web-Based Pyramid Schemes (WSJ)
Illustrated by a sack full of dollar bills, the online pitch was simple: an “amazing and irresistible” opportunity to join a global direct-sales travel company, recruit others and enjoy a share of the profits. The company, GoFunPlaces Inc., was going to go viral via Facebook and YouTube, making it easy for “Joe Average [and] Suzy Average” to earn money. “You can win here! You can win!” a 2012 video said. “The longevity is going to be here.” Within a year, GoFunPlaces closed its U.S. operations and faced scrutiny from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Securities and Exchange Commission over whether the company was a pyramid scheme or involved in other fraud, according to people close to the probes. The SEC this fall shut down a company that owned half of GoFunPlaces, alleging it was a fraudulent $129 million pyramid scheme...Regulators say the industry is being exploited by Web-savvy con artists who are in fact running pyramid schemes—a fraud where the new money comes mostly from attracting new recruits, rather than legitimate product sales. Once the supply of recruits runs out, the scheme collapses, leaving most of its members nursing losses.

B-Schools Embrace Last-Minute Candidates (WSJ)
Waiting until the last minute to apply to business school used to mean the candidate was disorganized, undesirable or both. That is no longer the case. Now, applying in later rounds of the M.B.A. admissions cycle might signal that a candidate is an offbeat catch. The cycle typically is divided into at least three rounds, with deadlines spaced throughout the fall, winter and spring of an academic year. Some schools have rolling admissions during the cycle or a final rolling round. Schools still make most of their admissions and scholarship offers during the first and second application rounds, but admissions officers at top programs say the later rounds are bringing in a crop of unconventional candidates who liven the mix of an incoming M.B.A. class. “We actually enjoy round three,” said Dee Leopold, managing director of M.B.A. admissions and financial aid at Harvard Business School, referring to the final round. “It takes a certain amount of confidence to apply then. Those applicants march to their own drum, and we would never want to miss them.”

Hot Tub Fight Breaks Out Over Who Is Higher Paid Escort (HP)
A hot tub threesome in Spartanburg, South Carolina got heated with two men scuffling over who is the higher paid escort. The melee happened early Nov. 30 after Austin Adams, 18, and Michael Gordon, 33, met Douglas Tench, 21, at a gay nightclub, and decided to use the hot tub at a home where Gordon was dog-sitting...But the fun ended when Adams and Tench allegedly began discussing their separate careers as escorts, according to The Smoking Gun. Police said when Tench said he was paid more for his services, Adams reportedly became angry and punched and kicked him.

Private-Equity Firms Adapt to Regulatory Clampdown (WSJ)
Deal makers are adjusting to a new landscape in which the ability of banks to arrange loans for buyouts is now under close watch, with U.S. regulators seeking to curb deals they think burden companies with too much debt. Private-equity firms now reach out to more banks when seeking financing, knowing that some may balk if they fear the structure or terms may run afoul of regulators. They are coming up with financial models for deals that are more likely to pass regulatory muster, and they are beginning to bypass banks, going directly to debt investors, executives and their advisers said.

DiCaprio, Diddy and more flock to Miami for Art Basel (NYP)
The world’s top art collectors including Aby Rosen and Steve Cohen, as well as celebrity buyers Leo DiCaprio and Sean “Diddy” Combs descended on the VIP preview of Art Basel Miami Beach Wednesday as $3 billion of art went on sale at the US’ largest contemporary art fair. The Miami extension of the fair held each June in Basel, Switzerland, opened Wednesday to VIP guests before it opens to the public Thursday, with 267 galleries present from 31 countries and pieces from over 4,000 artists. Prize artworks on offer include a Warhol portrait of Mao Zedong for $15-18 million at Acquavella Galleries, while other big names on display throughout the prestigious fair include Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, David Hockney and Sigmar Polke.

Asset managers cut oil debt exposure (FT)
Big bond investors are cutting their exposure to energy companies in the $1.3tn US market for junk-rated debt as the year ends with little sign of oil prices stabilising. Bond and equity prices for lower quality gas and oil producers, oil service companies and equipment providers have come under sustained downward pressure in recent months as crude oil has fallen to lows not seen since mid-2010. Speculative grade-rated energy debt has recorded a total return of minus 5.27 per cent so far this year, while the broad Bank of America Merrill Lynch US High Yield Index has gained 3.08 per cent. The deterioration in performance has compelled investment managers to scrutinise their portfolios and lower their energy exposure before their yearly numbers are gauged by investors in January, a practice known as window dressing.

Costolo’s Family Trusts Sell Half Their Twitter Stock (Bloomberg)
Twitter Chief Executive Officer Dick Costolo’s family trusts halved their stake in the social network again, as the executive’s sales accelerate. After the sale, the trusts have a quarter of the Twitter stock they held in early November. The Richard Costolo 2001 Living Trust and Lorin Costolo 2001 Living Trust, named for his wife, sold 141,730 shares in transactions on Dec. 1 for $5.68 million, according to a regulatory filing yesterday. The trusts now own 141,730 shares. On Nov. 3 and Nov. 17, the trusts sold 283,460 shares for $11.6 million, filings showed. Costolo has been taking steps to diversify his investments after holding on to all his shares in the microblogging service’s initial public offering.

Surgeon on probation for removing wrong kidney (UPI)
The California Medical Board ruled Dr. Charles Coonan Streit, a urologist who has had a license to practice for 41 years, committed "an extreme departure from the standard of care" when he relied on his memory and removed a healthy kidney from the 59-year-old federal inmate at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton in 2012. The board said the error put the patient's "future renal function in jeopardy" and forced him to undergo a second surgery to remove the cancer-stricken kidney. The hospital was fined $100,000 by the state Department of Health after an investigation found CT scans showing the affected the kidney had been left in the office of a surgical team doctor on the day of the surgery. Streit was placed on probation for three years and ordered to enroll in a wrong-site surgery class at the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine within 60 days.


Opening Bell: 09.26.12

Spain Prepares More Austerity, Protesters Battle Police (Reuters) Protesters clashed with police in Spain's capital on Tuesday as the government prepared a new round of unpopular austerity measures for the 2013 budget to be announced on Thursday. Thousands gathered in Neptune plaza, a few metres from El Prado museum in central Madrid, where they formed a human chain around parliament, surrounded by barricades, police trucks and more than 1,500 police in riot gear. Police fired rubber bullets and beat protesters with truncheons, first as protesters were trying to tear down barriers and later to clear the square. The police said at least 22 people had been arrested and at least 32 injured, including four policemen. Facebook's Next Fight: Suits And More Suits (WSJ) About 50 lawsuits have been filed against Facebook, Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. and underwriters of Facebook's May IPO, according to lawyers involved in the cases. In addition, securities lawyers who represent Facebook investors say they expect hundreds of arbitration claims to be launched against brokers and securities firms that pitched the company's shares. Credit Suisse Said to Consider Merging Its Asset-Management Unit (Bloomberg) The bank is considering combining its asset-management unit with the private and investment banking divisions, a person familiar with the matter said. SAC Capital Fund Manager Said To Be Uncharged Conspirator (Bloomberg) The role allegedly played by Michael Steinberg emerged in court papers filed by the U.S. in the securities-fraud case of Jon Horvath, a former technology analyst at Cohen’s $14 billion hedge fund who Steinberg supervised. Steinberg, who hasn’t been charged with a crime, is the fifth person to be tied to insider trading while employed at SAC. Horvath faces trial Oct. 29 in Manhattan federal court along with two other portfolio managers for his part in what Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called a “criminal club:” a conspiracy of hedge fund managers, co-workers and company insiders who reaped millions of dollars on illegal tips about Dell Inc. and Nvidia Corp. “The government added four additional co-conspirators,” prosecutors wrote in a Sept. 6 letter filed with the court, with the names blacked out. One of them, the U.S. said, is “the portfolio manager to whom Jon Horvath reported at his hedge fund.” That person was Steinberg, said the people, who declined to be identified because the matter isn’t public. UK Group To Give Up Libor Oversight (WSJ) The council of the BBA, a private trade association, voted earlier this month to give up management of Libor, according to people familiar with the matter. The move clears the way for what is likely to be the biggest change in Libor's 26-year history, and introduces the possibility that British or international regulators could be in charge of overseeing the rate, which is tied to trillions of dollars of financial contracts. Rent-a-reptile: Florida company adds alligators to kids’ pool parties (NYDN) Bob Barrett gives Florida kids pool parties they’ll never forget — because they get to swim with real live alligators. Jump houses? Pizza parties? Boring, says Barrett. “You jump for a while and that’s it, we’ve had that party before,” he told the Daily News. “Clown party, Chuck E. Cheese party, they’ve all been done.” Barrett,who runs Alligator Attractions in Madeira Beach — where visitors get to hold gators — was already bringing his reptiles around to birthday parties when he was inspired to take the next step. “We would do [an alligator demonstration] at someone’s house and they would have a pool,” he explained. “And I said, you know, ‘Hey, let’s put ‘em in the pool.’” Hedge Fund Skeptics Warn on ‘QE Infinity’ (FT) “A man’s got to know his limitations,” says “Dirty Harry” Callahan, the gun-toting, rule book-ignoring cop immortalized by Clint Eastwood in “Magnum Force.” It is a principle the U.S. Federal Reserve – which earlier this month embarked upon its own, third bout of “unorthodox” enforcement, “QE3” – could learn from, according to Stephen Jen, the former Morgan Stanley foreign-exchange guru turned hedge fund manager. “The Fed officials are some of the smartest economists around,” he wrote in his most recent note to clients. The trouble is, said Mr. Jen, “they know everything except their own limitations.” Irish Bank Offers Properties For 70% Less Than 2007 Value (Bloomberg) RBS's Irish unit offered to sell properties, including 640 apartments and a hotel, for about 70 percent less than their value at the market’s 2007 peak, according to the broker managing the sale. The Gemini portfolio, containing buildings in the Irish cities of Dublin and Cork, has an asking price of 75 million euros ($97 million), according to Domhnaill O’Sullivan, a director at Savills Plc (SVS)’s Dublin office. MIT Miscounts Its New B-School Students (WSJ) After realizing they had a student surplus, school officials emailed the incoming class on Aug. 7, offering "guaranteed admission to the class of 2015 for the first 20 admitted students who request it." The school gave them until Aug. 13 to respond, according to one student's copy of the letter, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. But it didn't get enough takers. So, like an airline offering vouchers to travelers willing to hop off oversold flights, the school put money on the table, offering students who expressed an interest a $15,000 scholarship to be applied to next year's tuition. Students still balked, and on Aug. 21, a day after pre-term refresher courses began, Sloan raised the offer to $20,000 for the first 10 respondents. (Tuition for the 2012-2013 academic year is $58,200, with total expenses—including books, housing and food—estimated at just under $89,000.) NFL replacement referee who blew touchdown call in Green Bay Packers-Seattle Seahawks game is a full-time banker (NYDN), particular those in Wisconsin, said the 52-year-old southern California banker with no previous professional or major college refereeing experience should have never left his desk to become a replacement during the NFL’s lockout of unionized refs. Even the Lingerie Football League piled on, revealing that some of the scab refs weren’t qualified to work its games. “Due to several on-field occurrences of incompetent officiating, we chose to part ways with a crew which apparently is now officiating in the NFL,” said Mitch Mortaza, commissioner of the female bra-and-panty league. “We have a lot of respect for our officials, but we felt the officiating was not in line with our expectations.”

Opening Bell: 2.17.15

Greece might actually leave euro; Man says UBS screwed him; Herbalife victims say screw you to $15 mm settlement; "Driver Allegedly Leads Cops On 34-Mile Chase, Chucks Fridge At Them"; AND MORE.

Opening Bell: 6.2.16

HSBC cuts senior investment bankers; Michelson regrets palling around with insider trader; Chinese city creates female-only parking spaces for unskilled women drivers; and more.

Opening Bell: 08.22.12

Public Pension Funds Named To Lead ‘London Whale’ Lawsuit (Bloomberg) U.S. District Judge George Daniels in Manhattan ruled today that lawsuits against the New York-based bank should be consolidated into a class action. The pension funds allege they lost as much as $52 million because of fraudulent activities by JPMorgan’s London chief investment office. The lead plaintiffs named by Daniels are the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System, Ohio Public Employee Retirement System, School Employees Retirement System of Ohio, State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio, Oregon Public Employee Retirement Fund and the Swedish pension fund Sjunde AP-Fonden. Pressures Intensify On Merkel (WSJ) The Greek government, struggling with depression-like conditions that have pushed the economy to the brink, is likely to need many billions of euros of additional aid to avoid bankruptcy. If Athens doesn't get the money, it may be forced to leave the euro, an outcome that would undermine financial markets' tenuous confidence in other vulnerable southern euro members, including Spain and Italy. An expansion of Greece's €173 billion ($213.4 billion) bailout that was agreed to this spring faces adamant opposition in Ms. Merkel's center-right coalition in Germany's parliament, the Bundestag. Her junior coalition partners are especially against lending Greece more money, threatening to leave her either without a governing majority—or without a plausible way to cover Athens's funding gap. "It is one of the hardest dilemmas she has faced as chancellor," said an adviser to Ms. Merkel. The chancellor is set to meet with French President François Hollande on Thursday and Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Friday, meetings the chancellor's aides say will help determine Berlin's course. Austria's AAA Rating Under Attack From East and West (CNBC) Of the three major credit rating agencies, only Fitch Ratings still rates Austria triple-A with stable outlook. Moody’s Investors Service put Austria’s top notch rating on negative watch in February, while Standard & Poor’s downgraded the country to double-A plus with negative outlook in January. Facebook Challenged By Swedish Count’s Jet-Set Website (Bloomberg) The BestofAllWorlds site, which starts Aug. 27, will allow users to mingle online with like-minded people, find restaurants and nightlife in city guides and discover who’s attending events such as Art Basel in Miami and England’s Royal Ascot horse racing, said Erik Wachtmeister, whose father was a Swedish ambassador to the U.S. “Facebook is a monopoly in the social sphere, but it only gives little value,” Wachtmeister said in an interview in London. “We can deliver clever filters, cut through the mess and get information that’s relevant and we can trust.” Fed Probes RBS Over Dealings With Iran (FT) The UK bank is being probed by being probed by the Federal Reserve and Department of Justice after volunteering information to them and U.K. regulators about 18 months ago, several people close to the situation said. The bank uncovered the alleged failings after Chief Executive Stephen Hester initiated an internal review not long after his arrival three years ago...The probe marks the latest blow for RBS following a series of mishaps including an IT failure, widespread mis-selling of retail and small-business products and its involvement in the scandal over the alleged manipulation of Libor interest rates Suspect asks DeLand doughnut shop worker for pen to write robbery note (NYP) An embarrassed Atlantic City casino is suing 14 gamblers — including two Big Apple residents — demanding they return the whopping $1.5 million they collectively won after realizing the mini-Baccarat table they were playing at was using unshuffled decks of cards. The sharp-eyed gamblers racked up a staggering 41 winning bets in a row at the Golden Nugget after seeing cards in the eight-deck shoe coming out in sequence and adjusted their wagers accordingly — as the clueless croupiers kept on dealing. Stunned casino workers swarmed the hot table suspecting the players of cheating — but only later realized that the cards that had been ordered as pre-shuffled from a Missouri company “were not shuffled at all,” a Golden Nugget spokeswoman said yesterday. “The gamblers unlawfully took advantage of the Golden Nugget when they caught on to the pattern and increased their bets from as little as $10 to $5,000,” the casino said in a written statement...It has been met with a countersuit from three of the bettors, including Queens resident Ping Lin, who allegedly managed to collect $50,000 from the casino, and Brooklyn cook Hua Shi, who allegedly collected $149,000. They claim they should be allowed to cash in chips they won and keep the cash they already managed to collect. Nomura Retrenches, Mends Fences (WSJ) Nomura's new leaders are discussing the future of that global push as well as how to repair the company's relationship with financial authorities. On the table are deep cuts in overseas operations and a possible change to a controversial compensation plan, among other policy options, that could shift away from the globalization strategy set by former Chief Executive Kenichi Watanabe and his deputy Takumi Shibata through the acquisition of Lehman Brothers' European and Asian businesses in 2008, say people close to the talks. Last Man Standing Means Europe Investment Banks Resist Shrinking (Bloomberg) Europe’s failure to resolve its sovereign-debt crisis will force investment-banking chiefs in the region to consider shuttering entire businesses rather than rely on piecemeal job reductions to reviveprofit. Dealmaking fees may drop 25 percent this year from 2009, when the crisis began in Greece, research firm Freeman & Co. estimates. European banks have cut about 172,000 positions since then, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, the same strategy they used after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. collapsed in 2008. Florida couple arrested after swinger’s party takes violent turn (NYDN) Tina Michelle Norris, 39, and her boyfriend James Albert Barfield, 56, both invited guests over to their home for sex Sunday night, the Hernando Today reported. But Norris got mad when she saw her boyfriend in bed with another woman and Barfield lost his cool when he saw his girlfriend under the sheets with two other men, according to the newspaper. The pair quickly got physical, with Norris sustaining a bloody lip and Barfield suffering multiple scratch marks on his neck and back, cops told Hernando Today. Police got quite the eyeful when they arrived at 6 a.m. to arrest the couple, both of whom were still donning their birthday suits. Norris was "very intoxicated and uncooperative" and refused to put her clothes back on, Deputy Cari Smith wrote in her affidavit. Barfield was also nude when Smith arrived at the home. A roommate, who was sleeping in a separate room of the house at the time of the incident, said she awoke to shouting and yelling. She went out into the hallway and found Norris and Barfield "pushing and shoving each other from one end of the house to the other (while) breaking things in the process," Smith wrote.

Opening Bell: 10.1.15

2015 annus f*cking horriblus for investors; PJT Partners will go public; Glencore is junk; "City worker facing second 'robotic voice' suspension in New York"; and more