Holiday Bell: 2.16.15

Greece; Apple self-driving car; HSBC sorry about tax evasion; bank hackings; "Man and woman have afternoon sex in front of shoppers after first meeting"; AND MORE.
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HSBC CEO Gulliver Issues Apology Over Swiss Unit’s Tax Evasion (Bloomberg)
HSBC Holdings Plc Chief Executive Officer Stuart Gulliver offered “sincerest apologies” following fresh details of how the bank’s Swiss unit helped customers evade taxes. The revelations were a “painful experience” for the bank, Gulliver, 55, wrote in full-page advertisements published in several British newspapers including the Sunday Times. “Since 2008, our Swiss private bank has been completely overhauled,” he said. “We have absolutely no appetite to do business with clients who are evading their taxes or who fail to meet our financial crime compliance standards.” HSBC has come under political fire after the publication of a report by the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists this month showed details of how its Swiss unit handled accounts for tax evaders and criminals. Gulliver, who took over as CEO in 2011, said Europe’s largest lender has since toughened internal controls and cut some clients at the Swiss private bank.

Greece Faces Crunch Talks After Show of Domestic Support (Bloomberg)
Greece’s government faces crunch time in its standoff with international creditors as euro-area finance ministers prepare to reconvene in Brussels to try and break an impasse over financing Europe’s most indebted state. Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis leads a Greek government delegation back to Brussels Monday buoyed by a demonstration of support in front of Parliament in central Athens the previous evening that police put at more than 20,000 people. His goal is to secure a bridge accord that allows Greece the time and financial space to negotiate a post-bailout era.

Greek Exit From Eurozone Would Be Worst Option, Says Bailout Fund Chief (WSJ)
An exit from the eurozone would be “the most expensive solution both for Greece and for the euro area,” said Klaus Regling, the head of the European Stability Mechanism, in a transcript of an interview with German broadcaster Phoenix. “That’s why we try to prevent precisely this.”

Apple studies self-driving car, auto industry source says (Reuters)
The Cupertino, California-based maker of phones, computers and, soon, watches is exploring how to make an entire vehicle, not just designing automotive software or individual components, the auto industry source said. "They don't appear to want a lot of help from carmakers," said the source, who declined to be named.

Man and woman have afternoon sex in front of shoppers after first meeting (UPI)
Shoppers gawked as a man and woman who had just met began having sex in public on Sunday afternoon, according to police and witnesses. The two had reportedly just met on a trolley before rolling around and kissing on the ground at about 3:30 p.m. in front of a Christina's dress shop in Chula Vista, Calif. Stunned shoppers gathered to watch, and after 15 minutes the man had stripped bare atop the woman, who at that point was nude except for a skirt. "Her legs were in the air and the guy was on top," witness Christy Peterson, who recorded video of the incident, told KGTV. "We were so shocked our mouths were just opened." Peterson said witnesses included a "woman with her baby and 16-, 17-, 18-year-old girls here to shop for prom," saying they "got the shock of their life." Peterson called police after security failed to show up. The two seemed unconcerned, she said. "They were like cuddled up while police were giving them tickets," Peterson said, adding that she heard police say the man was not yet 21 and that the woman was 37-years-old. The woman was given a citation, but officers handcuffed the man and took him away. The two reportedly were unaware of each other's names.

New Report Says Computer Criminals Stole Millions From Banks (WSJ)
A Russian-speaking gang of computer criminals has stolen millions of dollars since late 2013 from banks in Russia, Eastern Europe and the U.S., according to a report from Kaspersky Lab ZAO, a Russian computer-security firm. It is unclear exactly how many, or which, banks were hit. Some U.S. financial-services executives have been briefed on the findings, people familiar with the briefings said.

‘Fifty Shades’ Steamy Tale Sets Record for Valentine’s Day (Bloomberg)
The R-rated picture, from Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures, opened with sales of $81.7 million from Friday to Sunday in the U.S. and Canada, researcher Rentrak Corp. said in an e-mailed statement. Forecasters say it may reach $95 million over the extended Presidents Day weekend. “Fifty Shades” benefited from Valentine’s Day falling over a holiday weekend, along with deft marketing and reviews that, while criticizing its sadomasochistic theme, stoked the interest of moviegoers. It’s already the fastest-selling R-rated film, according to ticket seller Fandango.com, and is boosting prospects for a record-breaking 2015 for cinema owners.

Swiss banks trade Zurich's costly charm for Polish provinces (Reuters)
Economic imperatives are forcing the banks to transfer some of their functions to cheaper locations and swap lakeside Zurich, with its streets lined with luxury boutiques, for the rougher-edged charm of Krakow and Wroclaw. Even before the Swiss central bank abandoned its cap on the currency in January, the cost of taking on someone in Poland was just 50 to 60 percent as much as hiring an equivalent employee in Switzerland, according to two industry sources.

Hedgie Richard Perry joins Herbalife exodus (NYP)
Billionaire investor Richard Perry is the latest hedge-fund heavyweight to exit Herbalife, following on the heels of George Soros. Perry dumped his entire 5.575 million-share stake during the fourth quarter, according to a filing Friday. Herbalife dragged down Perry’s returns last year. As the stock fell more than 50 percent in 2014, his flagship fund lost 3.37 percent.

Google co-founders plan to sell $4.4B of stock (FT)
Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have revealed plans to sell shares currently worth $4.4 billion over the next two years, in a move that would leave them little room for further sales without ending their combined control of the company. The disposal plans, revealed in a regulatory filing, would leave the Google founders with barely half the shares they held when they took Google public in 2004. However, their remaining combined stake would still be worth nearly $45 billion.

Robbers Wore Boxershorts On Their Heads: Cops (AP)
Oregon State Police say two men have been arrested in a southern Oregon convenience store robbery in which the robbers' "hoods" were actually boxer brief-style underwear in a camouflage pattern. Lt. Josh Brooks said Friday that a trooper acting on a tip determined that one suspect in the Sept. 19, 2014, robbery of an AM/PM store in Eagle Point was in custody in Florence, Oregon, on unrelated matters. Brooks says that while interviewing that man, the trooper developed information that led to the second suspect.

Programming Note: We're on a national holiday-esque schedule today. Opening/closing wraps with some light posting in between, which is how Washington and Lincoln would've wanted it. We'll see you back here in full force on Tuesday.

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Holiday Bell: 12.29.15

Hedge funds say good riddance to 2015; Putin's bank needs a bailout; KaloBios appeals delisting; Drunk driving charges dropped against woman with 'brewery' stomach condition; and more.

Holiday Bell: 12.31.12

Cliff's Edge Draws Close (WSJ) What happens Monday could go some way to determining the short-term fate of the U.S. economy and the reputation of the government, both of which have been dinged by the spectacle of endless seemingly circular negotiations. Carrying the baton late into Sunday evening were Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky) and Vice President Joe Biden. A spokesman for Mr. McConnell said Monday morning that the two men "will continue to work toward a solution." In the past two weeks, at least three different sets of negotiation teams have sought a way out...Still, some remained hopeful elements of a deal were on the table and could be brought into alignment at the last minute. "We're very close," said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D., Md.). "It is like a kaleidoscope," meaning there are many moving parts that can look beautiful or ugly depending how they're arrayed. Experts Forecast The Cost Of Failure To Compromise (NYT) In the event no compromise is found, however,the Congressional Budget Office and many private economists warn that the sudden pullback in spending and the rise in taxes would push the economy into recession in the first half of the year. Under this outcome, Mr. Gault said, the economy could shrink by 0.5 percent over all of 2013. With the clock ticking, some observers bolstered their criticism of Washington. "If we have a recession, it's unforgivable," said Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at the Economic Outlook Group. "For the first time in modern history, we will have a self-inflicted recession in the U.S." New Year's Countdown To Higher US Taxes Starts (Bloomberg) The IRS has said it will issue guidance by today on paycheck withholding for 2013, which depends on the income-tax rates Congress is debating. Higher rates would mean less take- home pay for workers starting as early as the first paycheck in January. Both Democrats and Republicans support extending current rates for families making less than $250,000. They disagree on whether to raise levies for top earners. Rates are scheduled to increase for all income levels Jan. 1 if Congress doesn’t act. Parties Pivot To Blame (WSJ) If Congress and the White House fail to strike a deal to avert the so-called fiscal cliff, Republicans are under few illusions as to who will get much of the blame—even if past polls suggest there will be plenty to go around. "The poor Republicans will get the brunt of it, which may be unfair, but such is life," said Republican Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a former White House budget chief under George W. Bush. "The Republicans are seen as the obstinate ones, where at the very least, the president and his side are equally so." Polls since the November election have found Americans more ready to blame the GOP than President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats if the two sides fail to reach a deal to avoid the wave of tax increases and spending cuts coming Jan. 1. A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll earlier this month showed 24% would blame Republicans while 19% would blame Democrats. Merkel Says Euro Zone Crisis Far From Over (Reuters) FYI. Mario Batali wins biz feud over UK chef Gordon Ramsay (NYP, related, related) Batali says the prickly Brit star has agreed to give up on using the name The Spotted Pig for a London eatery — amid outcry that he had swiped it from Batali and his partners. “It didn’t make him look great,” Batali said of Ramsay’s recent trademarking of the name in the UK. “I don’t think it was an intentional shot across the bow by Gordon,” Batali told the Eater Vegas blog. “His team is just [trying] to build businesses. There’s got to be a thousand other animals they could have chosen besides The Spotted Pig. A striped minx, for example.” Experts Back Deutsche Whistleblowers (FT) Accounting experts say Deutsche Bank appears to have improperly accounted for billions of dollars of credit derivatives trades by failing to value adequately the risk that its trading counterparties could walk away. Jersey woman charged at boyfriend with hammer after he refuses to pay for laundry, reports say (NJ) Jazmin Duran, 24, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, terroristic threats, criminal mischief, domestic violence, possession of weapon, unlawful possession of a weapon, resisting arrest police reports said. Police were called to Garfield Avenue near Armstrong Avenue at 2:52 p.m. on a report that a man was locked in the bathroom and his girlfriend was hitting the door with a hammer, reports said. When police arrived, the 49-year-old boyfriend, was still locked in the bathroom, reports said. After a brief struggle, police were able to detain Duran, reports said. When he came out he told police that Duran was mad at him and attacked him with a hammer, reports said. The victim said that he was undressing to get in the shower while talking to his girlfriend about getting her eyebrows done, when she asked for him to pay for doing her laundry, reports said. He responded that he didn't have money to pay for her laundry, reports said. He said she became irate and began to scream, reports said. BofA Settlement Hits Snags (WSJ) A big legal settlement usually marks the end of the bulk of the work for the Justice Department. But a year after a $335 million deal with Bank of America Corp. to compensate minority borrowers for alleged discrimination, much remains to be done. The department's settlement administrator just began notifying affected borrowers in November, about five months later than originally planned. Then, weeks after letters went out to more than 233,000 presumed victims, about 10% of those letters have been returned as undeliverable, according to Justice Department officials. U.S. officials had warned that it might take two years for eligible borrowers to receive money from the settlement, but they also expressed hope that checks could be mailed out sooner. Those hopes have dimmed. Facebook Analysts Stick To Script (WSJ) Facebook Inc. FB +1.03% has gotten a thumbs-down from investors since its initial public offering. But securities analysts who work at the investment banks that did the deal have never wavered in their enthusiasm. Since the social-networking company went public in May, analysts at Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs—Facebook's three biggest underwriters—have issued 40 reports on the stock. Every report has urged investors to buy. Skin In The Game (NYP) West Village cosmetic doctor Yelena Yeretsky usually works to make the power women of Wall Street look flawless. But now men are asking for her services. Yeretsky says, “The men usually want chemical peels so they look glowy. I remove lesions and skin tags and non-cancerous growths from years of playing golf in the sun.” French Court Says 75% Tax Rate on Rich Is Unconstitutional (Bloomberg) President Francois Hollande’s 75 percent millionaire-tax is unconstitutional because it fails to guarantee taxpayer equality, France’s top court ruled today. The tax, one of Hollande’s campaign promises, had become a focal point of discontent among entrepreneurs and other wealth creators, some of whom have quit French shores as a result. The ruling comes as the president seeks to cut France’s public deficit to 3 percent of gross domestic product next year from a projected 4.5 percent this year. For Euro, All Eyes On ECB's Playbook (WSJ) "Global central banks are engaged in a race to the bottom. It's difficult to call which major currency will be the ugliest," said Munich-based Thomas Kressin, who heads currency strategy for Pacific Investment Management Co., one of the world's biggest bond-fund managers. Expert: Champagne cork can put an eye out (UPI) The pressure inside a champagne bottle can launch a cork at 50 miles per hour as it leaves the bottle, fast enough to shatter glass, U.S. eye experts say. Dr. Monica L. Monica, an ophthalmologist and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, said the speed at which a cork can be unleashed is fast enough to permanently damage vision, including rupture of the eye wall, acute glaucoma, retinal detachment, ocular bleeding, dislocation of the lens and damage to the eye's bone structure. These injuries sometimes require urgent eye surgeries, Monica said. "When a champagne cork flies, you really have no time to react and protect your delicate eyes," Monica said in a statement. Programming Note: We're on an abbreviated, vacation-esque schedule. Opening wraps and brief updates should anything happen that people need to know about (fiscal cliff deal is struck, Raj Rajaratnam leads his fellow inmates in a NYE flashmob set to 'Thriller,' etc). Happy New Year and we'll see you in 2013!

TrumpBunny

Holiday Bell: 4.14.17

Tidjane Thiam gives away his bonus before Credit Suisse can take it; Uber now dealing with drunk driving scandal; Wells Fargo's pain will last forever; Gypsy Snake Masseuse; and more.

Holiday Bell: 11.27.15

China; Russia; Brazil HF star says economy will get much worse before it gets better; "Sumner Redstone can barely speak, but wants steak and sex every day"; Bacon-scented underwear; and more.

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 ABCNews.com. 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."