Opening Bell: 2.20.15

Argentina won't meet with Paul Singer; Meredith Whitney still being sued; Seattle investor goes on dates with women who think he's the "real" Christian Grey; Man attempts to pay bar tab with rock; AND MORE.
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German-Led Bloc Willing to Let Greece Leave Euro: Malta (Bloomberg)
Germany and its allies are ready to let Greece leave the euro unless Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras accepts the conditions required to extend his country’s financial support, according to Malta’s finance minister, Edward Scicluna. Greece’s creditors are cranking up the pressure on Tsipras as he seeks a deal to prevent his country defaulting on its obligations as early as next month. By bowing to German demands, the premier risks a domestic backlash from voters and party members whom he’s promised an end to austerity.

Meredith Whitney Fund Investor Moves Dispute to New York (Bloomberg)
The biggest investor in Meredith Whitney’s hedge fund moved a lawsuit seeking to recoup its $46 million stake to New York from Bermuda, where it was originally filed last year. BlueCrest Capital Opportunities Ltd., a fund connected to billionaire Michael Platt’s BlueCrest Capital Management, filed the new complaint against Whitney in state Supreme Court in Manhattan Wednesday.

27-year-old Seattle man says women fly across the country to be with him because he's a real-life 'Christian Grey' (BI)
During a Skype call from London, Olson told Business Insider that a few years ago a woman he dated briefly pointed out over lunch that he was similar to Grey. He had not yet read the book series, but over time more and more people started making the same association, he said. "I started getting messages from people I didn't know." Leading up to the movie, he said, about 1,000 fans of the book reached out over e-mail and through Facebook messages and friend requests. "I knew the movie would bring more attention, but I continue to be really surprised by the whole matter," he said. He said some women have even flown out to Seattle to meet him. He acknowledged he had gone on dates with some of them, too.

Argentina won’t meet with Paul Singer over disputed bonds (NYP)
The hedge fund mogul has tried at least three times this year to meet with Argentine government officials — but has been ignored, a mediator said Thursday. Singer and Argentina have been locked in a decade-long battle over $1.6 billion in defaulted bonds. Singer, looking to collect full face value of the bonds — plus interest — sought to thaw the frozen stand-off by proposing the meeting, which he hoped would lead to a settlement. It hasn’t worked. “Argentina has neither accepted nor otherwise responded to the invitation by the bondholders,” mediator Daniel Pollack said Thursday.

Accused Of Bomb Scare After Trying To Pay Bar Tab With Rock (HP)
Cops in Tallahassee, Florida say that on Wednesday, Jared Simpson, 24, visited the 4th Quarter Bar & Grill and rung up a $10 tab. When it came time to pay up, Simpson allegedly tried to get the bartender to accept a rock as payment. When the woman decided that a stone wasn't legal tender, Simpson responded by throwing a ripped-up dollar bill at her and saying he "would pay [her] in other ways," according to the probable cause affidavit.

Pimco’s Chief Economist McCulley Stepping Down (WSJ)
Pacific Investment Management Co. said Friday that Paul McCulley, who returned to the firm last May to help soothe nervous investors amid ongoing turbulence, has stepped down from his roles as chief economist and managing director. Mr. McCulley, who originally left the bond-fund behemoth in 2010 after serving as a senior executive, returned to Pimco at the urging of Bill Gross, a close friend and the firm’s co-founder.

David Einhorn‘s Greenlight Capital just makes ‘D’ grade (NYP)
In an annual report card handed out by hedge fund investors, the 46-year-old investor and minority owner of the Mets received the just-passing grade. Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital was ranked 53rd out of 58 hedge funds in the Hedge Fund Report Card put out by Institutional Investor’s Alpha on Thursday. Investors slammed Einhorn for his lack of independent oversight and transparency. It’s apparently not easy for investors to get their money out of the fund either — as they also gave Greenlight a poor ranking on “liquidity terms.” This is the second year in a row that investors polled by Alpha have given Einhorn a “D.”

Wall Street Staffing Falls Again (WSJ)
The number of investment bankers, traders, salespeople and research analysts at the world’s largest banks has fallen 20% globally since its recent peak in 2010, a report by Coalition Ltd., a London research firm, shows. The latest data come after the firms, 10 of the world’s largest, trimmed 4%, or 2,100 employees, in 2014 from a year earlier amid a challenging trading environment on fixed-income desks.

Citadel's Griffin sells downtown condo (Chicago Business)
Hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin sold a three-bedroom downtown condominium for nearly $1.33 million, according to two real estate websites...Griffin, founder of Chicago-based hedge fund and financial services firm Citadel, paid nearly $1.02 million for the condo in 1995, according to Cook County property records.

Probe Clears World Bank Top Brass of Wrongdoing (WSJ)
An outside law firm investigating accusations the World Bank’s top brass may have mishandled a $1 billion Chinese loan to the bank’s poverty fund has cleared the institution’s management of any wrongdoing, according a summary of the firm’s findings released by the bank. “We found no evidence of fraud or dishonesty,” law firm Locke Lord Edwards said in a letter to the bank’s general counsel. “We found no governance violations.”

Maryland man plows snow with motorized toilet (UPI)
David Goldberg, owner of the Union Hardware store, said he created the motorized commode, dubbed "Loo-cille" or "Loo-cy" for short, for last summer's pride parade, and he is taking his hybrid vehicle out of the garage once again to clear snow from sidewalks. "This is Loo-cy. Our motorized toilet that we did this summer for the pride parade. We just added a snow plow and [we 're] ready for tomorrow morning's snow," Goldberg said in sending a picture of the toilet plow to WUSA-TV. Goldberg posted a video of the motorized toilet moving snow to YouTube. "Taking something very private and making it a spectacle is a jolt to the system by itself. But having it plow snow... Over the top!" he wrote in the video's description.

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Opening Bell: 04.02.13

Cyprus Finance Minister Sarris Resigns After Brokering Rescue (Bloomberg) Cyprus Finance Minister Michael Sarris quit the government today after helping clinch the final terms of an international aid agreement to stave off a financial collapse of the island. Sarris told reporters in Nicosia that he resigned due to a committee set up today to investigate the reasons that led to Cyprus’s economic crisis. Sarris has served as chairman of Cyprus Popular Bank Pcl, the second-largest lender, which has been shut as part of the financial rescue. Fannie Logs Record Profit (WSJ) Fannie Mae reported an annual profit of $17.2 billion on Tuesday, its first annual profit since 2006 and its largest annual profit ever, boosted by the housing market's turnaround and sustained declines in the number of soured home loans. Fannie's profit compares with a year-earlier loss of $16.9 billion. Fannie and its smaller sibling, Freddie Mac, posted banner earnings for 2012 because rising home prices have allowed them to set aside much less to cover the cost of defaulting home loans. Bank of America Finds Profit in Foreign Tax Credit Moves (Bloomberg) Bank of America Corp. more than doubled its profits in 2012 -- with some help from the tax code. What the bank calls “restructuring” of its non-U.S. operations yielded $1.7 billion in foreign tax credits, or 41 percent of the $4.2 billion the company reported in 2012 earnings, according to securities documents including the form 10-K it filed Feb. 28. While the maneuvers didn’t provide an immediate cash tax benefit for Bank of America, the foreign tax credits count toward net income under accounting rules. Goldman Unit To Seek Risk (WSJ) Goldman Sachs is launching a specialty finance company to invest in high-risk debt primarily of midsize U.S. companies with no credit ratings. The New York firm said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission late Friday that it plans to offer shares in the new unit, Goldman Sachs Liberty Harbor Capital LLC, "as soon as practicable after the effective date of this registration statement." SEC Ex-Chief Lands at Consultant (WSJ) Promontory Financial Group LLC is expected to announce Tuesday that it has hired Ms. Schapiro, who was chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission for nearly four years. "In my case, there's no revolving door…I won't ever be going back to government," the 57-year-old Ms. Schapiro said in an interview. She decided that after spending "28 of the last 32 years as a regulator," now was the "right time…to do something different." Mothers brawl during Seattle zoo Easter egg hunt (SPI) A fight between two women during an Easter egg hunt at Woodland Park Zoo led to a bloody nose and several crying children Sunday, according to police and a witness. The incident began about 1 p.m. when a woman allegedly pushed a child aside as her own child was scrambling toward some brightly colored eggs, police spokesman Jonah Spagenthal-Lee said. “The shoving sparked a confrontation between the first woman (the supposed shover) and the second child’s mother, who began fighting and had to be separated three or four times,” Spagenthal-Lee said in a statement. “The brawl left the first woman with a bloody nose.” The children, mostly 4- to 6-year-olds, were subjected to foul language. The bloody scene left several children crying. Judge Questions Fairness of Citigroup $590 Million Settlement (Reuters) A Manhattan federal judge on Monday signaled he will not rubber-stamp Citigroup's proposed $590 million settlement of a shareholder lawsuit accusing it of hiding tens of billions of dollars of toxic mortgage assets. U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein asked lawyers for the bank and its shareholders to address several issues at an April 8 fairness hearing, including requested legal fees and expenses of roughly $100 million, and the absence of payments by former Citigroup executives. Argentine-bond tango heats up (NYP) The yearly cost to insure the debt in the credit default swaps market for five years jumped by nearly 10 percent yesterday after President Cristina Kirchner and her government refused to come up with a better offer for bondholders led by hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer’s Elliott Management. A New York appeals court is expected to rule that Argentina must pay the Elliott group $1.44 billion, and its latest proposal indicated that it will not, which could push its bonds into default. Nasdaq Accepts Credit Rating Risk in Quest to Expand (Bloomberg) For Nasdaq OMX Group Inc., the benefits of expanding into electronic bond trading justify the risk of a lower credit rating. The second-biggest operator of American equity exchanges agreed yesterday to acquire eSpeed, a platform for U.S. Treasuries, from BGC Partners Inc. (BGCP) for $750 million cash, or $1.2 billion should sales goals be met. Moody’s Investors Service said Nasdaq’s Baa3 senior rating may be cut following the deal. Hampton Waffle House employee charged for April Fool’s joke (WTKR) A Hampton Waffle House employee is now charged after officers say she played an April Fool’s joke on them. Susan Tinker is charged for lying about a robbery. Police say around 6 a.m. Monday morning, Tinker called to report the robbery at the restaurant on West Mercury Boulevard. Police say they got to the scene and spent more than an hour investigating. While waiting for the manger to get there to review surveillance tape, they figured out there was no robbery. Tinker told police it was all an April Fool’s joke. But officers say this was no laughing matter. A spokesperson for the Waffle House says they do not tolerate this kind of behavior and Tinker is no longer employed there.

Opening Bell: 02.20.13

Regulator set to weigh lifetime futures-trading ban for Corzine (NYP) Two directors of the National Futures Association will move tomorrow to ban Corzine from the multibillion-dollar futures trading industry in light of the scandalous collapse of MF Global — the commodity futures brokerage firm Corzine once headed. If the motion is approved, NFA would hold hearings to determine whether Corzine, MF’s former CEO, deserves a “lifetime ban” from the industry...Corzine, who declined to comment on the proposed ban, is reportedly looking to set up a hedge fund. An NFA ban would limit his ability to trade futures in any fund with outside investors, experts said. It could also hinder his ability to raise money from pension funds and other large investors, experts said. Corzine could also be asked to fork over as much as $250,000 for each violation, according to NFA rules. The proposed ban cites nine rule violations, which could ding the disgraced Corzine for as much as $2.5 million. Rhetoric Turns Harsh As Budget Cuts Loom (WSJ) With less than two weeks to go before the latest fiscal face-off, rhetoric heated up Tuesday as the political parties exchanged fire over whom to blame if looming spending cuts take effect. With Congress in recess this week, Republican and Democratic leaders sent lawmakers home armed with fact sheets about the $85 billion in across-the-board federal spending cuts due to start March 1, and talking points on how to blame the other side. Meantime, the White House and lawmakers are making no progress toward forging a compromise to avoid the reductions, which are known in Washington as the sequester. Thousands of Greeks Rally in Anti-Austerity Strike (Reuters) Tens of thousands of Greeks took to the streets of Athens on Wednesday during a nationwide strike against wage cuts and high taxes that kept ferries stuck in ports, schools shut and hospitals with only emergency staff. Beating drums and chanting "Robbers, robbers!" more than 60,000 people marched to parliament in the biggest anti-austerity protest so far this year. The two biggest labour unions brought much of crisis-hit Greece to a standstill during the 24-hour protest against policies which they say deepen the hardship of people struggling through the country's worst peacetime downturn. Judge Says Einhorn Hedge Fund May Succeed in Apple Case (Reuters) David Einhorn's hedge fund has shown a "likelihood of success" if his legal attack against Apple goes forward, a U.S. judge said, though he made no immediate ruling on fund's request to block a shareholder vote on a proxy proposal next week. U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan on Tuesday reserved decision on a lawsuit by the fund, Greenlight Capital, to stop a Feb. 27 shareholder vote on an Apple proposal to end the issuance of preferred stock without investor approval. "Candidly I do think the likelihood of success is in favor for Greenlight," Sullivan said at a court hearing in New York. Big Anglo-French Buyout Planned (FT) A British-based private equity consortium is preparing a bid of 3.5 billion euros for French catering company Elior in what would be the biggest buyout in continental Europe since Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008. CVC Capital Partners and BC Partners have teamed up to launch a buyout of Elior, underlining how confidence is returning to Europe's private equity sector. New York mom charged with child endangerment after hiring strippers to perform lap dances at her 16-year-old son's birthday party (NYDN) Judy Viger, 33, hired the women from a company called Tops in Bottoms and arranged for them to perform in a private room at the Spare Time Bowling Center in South Glens Falls on Nov. 3. At the party, the women performed what police describe as “personal and intimate” dances with the party guests, some of whom were as young as 13. Approximately 80 people attended the party, including a 13-year-old and many adults who later said they were outraged at the sexually charged performances. Police were alerted to the party activities after raunchy photos of the lap dances were posted online. The mother of a 15-year-old boy who attended the party saw some of the photos on her son’s Facebook page and alerted South Glens Falls authorities...The company providing the strippers said that the dancers were unaware that the kids at the party were underage, local CBS affiliate WRGB reported, and that the incident was being “blown out of proportion.” Heinz Deal Feeds Chatter About Food-Industry Consolidation (WSJ) The deal sparked speculation of what Heinz may want to buy and what other food company has the wherewithal to become a consolidator. With the potential for more tie-ups, that may also jar loose some brands or businesses—possibly Heinz's underperforming frozen-foods business—that could make a nice fit in another company's pantry. The speculation makes just about everyone a buyer or a seller. "Most of what food companies discuss at the conference will now be taken in the context of what it may mean for further industry consolidation or portfolio change," Barclays packaged-food analyst Andrew Lazar said. Brink’s Says Brussels Diamond Robbery Will Hurt Quarter’s Profit (Bloomberg) Brink’s Co., a provider of armored cars to transport valuables, said a diamond robbery at Brussels airport will have a “significant impact” on first-quarter earnings. A portion of the gems stolen two days ago was being shipped by Brink’s, the Richmond, Virgina-based company said today in a statement. The Antwerp World Diamond Centre has said about $50 million of rough and polished diamonds were stolen as the gems were being loaded onto a plane bound for Switzerland. Revel Into Chapter 11 (AP) Revel, the casino many people had hoped would turn around Atlantic City’s sagging fortunes, said yesterday that it will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March, less than a year after it opened. The voluntary, prepackaged bankruptcy envisioned for late March will wipe away about two-thirds of its $1.5 billion in debt by converting more than $1 billion of it into equity for lenders. JPMorgan Leads U.S. Banks Lending Least Deposits in 5 Years (Bloomberg) The biggest U.S. banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. are lending the smallest portion of their deposits in five years as cash floods in from savers and a slow economy damps demand from borrowers. The average loan-to-deposit ratio for the top eight commercial banks fell to 84 percent in the fourth quarter from 87 percent a year earlier and 101 percent in 2007, according to data compiled by Credit Suisse Group AG. Lending as a proportion of deposits dropped at five of the banks and was unchanged at two, the data show. New Grey Poupon 'Pardon Me' ad to air during Oscars (AP) After a 16-year hiatus, the mustard that mocked its own stuffy image in one of TV’s most famous commercials will once again take to the airwaves during the Feb. 24 Academy Awards show. The spot comes as Kraft Foods looks to boost sagging sales of the Dijon mustard, which is facing competition from a growing variety of high-end condiments on supermarket shelves. The new ad begins in the same way as the original — an aristocratic English gentleman is being chauffeured in the countryside, when another car pulls up alongside them at a stop. The back window rolls down and a second man asks in an over-the-top snooty accent, “Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?”

Opening Bell: 01.03.13

Fresh Budget Fights Brewing (WSJ) If Congress doesn't do more in the coming months, Moody's warned, the company could follow Standard & Poor's in downgrading U.S. debt. "Further measures that bring about a downward debt trajectory over the medium term are likely to be needed to support the AAA rating," Moody's said Wednesday. But the battles on how to do that are far from over. Republicans say any further deficit reduction or legislation to avoid across-the-board spending cuts should come from reducing spending. President Obama and many Democrats advocate a combination of tax increases and spending cuts. The most serious skirmish will arrive toward the end of February, when the U.S. Treasury is expected to be unable to pay all the government's bills unless Congress boosts the federal borrowing limit. Then on March 1, the across-the-board spending cuts of the fiscal cliff, deferred in this week's deal, are scheduled to begin slicing into military and domestic programs. And on March 27, a government shutdown looms unless Congress approves funding for government operations for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. CEOs Pan Fiscal Cliff Deal, Vow to Continue Debt Fight (Reuters) "I think this deal's a disaster," said Peter Huntsman, chief executive of chemical producer Huntsman Corp. "We're just living in a fantasy land. We're borrowing more and more money. This did absolutely nothing to address the fundamental issue of the debt cliff." Former Wells Fargo CEO Dick Kovacevich said the agreement confirms that Washington and both parties are totally out of control. "I think it's a joke," Kovacevich said of the deal. "It's stunning to me that after working on this for months and supposedly really getting to work in the last 30 days that this is what you come up with." Obama’s Warning to Boehner Started Road to Budget Plan (Bloomberg) President Barack Obama had a warning for John Boehner at a Dec. 13 White House meeting: Stop opposing higher tax rates for top earners, or the president would dedicate his second term to blaming Republicans for a global recession. The next day, the House speaker called the president and said he was open to a tax-rate increase on annual income of more than $1 million...While the budget deal Obama and Boehner were negotiating fell apart, the speaker’s concession on tax rates ultimately allowed Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, to craft the last-minute plan Congress passed Jan. 1. Nouriel Roubini: US Will Soon 'Get Messy' Again (CNBC) "It won't be long before there is another crisis. Two months, in fact." Pershing to Take 'Passive Shareholder' Role in General Growth (WSJ) Pershing Square Capital Management LP agreed to sell $271.9 million in General Growth Properties warrants to Brookfield Asset Management Inc., as part of a deal between the mall owner's two biggest shareholders that would resolve their recent disputes and see Pershing become a passive shareholder. Brookfield, in turn, offered to sell the warrants, which represent the right to acquire 18.4 million shares of General Growth stock, back to General Growth for the same purchase price. Pershing also agreed to limit its ownership stake in General Growth to no more than 9.9% and intends to become a passive shareholder. Brookfield agreed to limit its ownership in General Growth to 45%. Bank Of Canada won’t discuss melting plastic bills, says national security behind silence (NP) Disclosing details of behind-the-scenes discussions about tales of melting banknotes could endanger national security or international relations, says Canada’s central bank. In response to a formal request from The Canadian Press, the Bank Of Canada released 134 pages of internal records — almost completely blanked out — concerning allegations its new polymer bills melted in the scorching summer sun. The bank began issuing $100 polymer banknotes in late 2011, saying they were harder to counterfeit than paper notes and would last much longer. Unconfirmed reports of cooked currency emerged in July when a Kelowna, B.C., bank teller said she had heard of cases in which several bills had melted together inside a car. Soon after, Mona Billard of Cambridge, Ont., reported that she had returned eight plastic bills in January, after her son stashed his $800 Christmas bonus in a tin can and hid it near a baseboard heater. When he retrieved them the next day to make a deposit, the $100 banknotes had shriveled and melted. Ms. Billard exchanged clean bills for the shrunken, unusable ones. “The leather couch is up against the baseboard heater, it doesn’t melt,” she said. “The kids’ toys are back there, they don’t melt.” The Bank of Canada will reimburse damaged notes, but only if they clear an examination by an Ottawa laboratory. Paulson&Co Added To Abacus Suit Against Goldman (Bloomberg) Paulson & Co. was named as a defendant in a proposed revised lawsuit by ACA Financial Guaranty Corp. against Goldman Sachs over a collateralized debt obligation called Abacus. Paulson conspired with Goldman Sachs to deceive ACA Financial, which provided financial guaranty insurance for the deal, ACA Financial said in papers filed yesterday in Manhattan. Private Sector Added 215,000 Jobs Last Month (WSJ) Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected ADP to report a gain of 150,000 private jobs. Preet Bharara and other financial heavyweights opposing Paul Singer's attempt to get Argentina to pay debt (NYP) US Attorney Preet Bharara and BlackRock CEO Larry Fink are among the latest bold-faced names to oppose Singer’s attempt to get Argentina to pay him and others $1.3 billion on defaulted debt. Singer, the hedge fund billionaire who runs Elliott Management, is among the 8 percent of Argentina debtholders who refused to accept a 70 percent haircut following a 2001 default by the embattled South American country. Singer inched closer to winning the epic legal showdown in November when a federal judge ruled Argentina could not pay Fink’s BlackRock or other holders of the reorganized debt without putting money in escrow for Singer’s band of investors. An appeals court slowed Singer’s victory parade but refused to set aside the judge’s order. Now, Bharara, Fink’s $3.67 trillion bond firm and others are urging the appeals court to throw the case out. Basel Becomes Babel as Conflicting Rules Undermine Safety (Bloomberg) While higher capital requirements, curbs on banks trading with their own money and other rules have reduced risk, they have magnified the complexity of supervision, according to two dozen regulators, bankers and analysts interviewed by Bloomberg News. Even if the new regulations can be enforced, they don’t go far enough to ensure safety, said Robert Jenkins, a member of the Bank of England’s financial policy committee. Cops: Woman, 50, Battered Boyfriend, 32, Because Six Came Before Nine (TSG) Jennie Scott, 50, was booked into the Manatee County lockup on a misdemeanor charge stemming from the 11 PM encounter in the Palmetto bedroom of Jilberto Deleon, 32. Scott has dated Deleon “for the last 5 years on and off,” according to a sheriff’s report. Deputies were summoned to Deleon’s home by a witness who heard the couple arguing and saw Scott atop Deleon “punching and scratching him.” She also allegedly struck Deleon with a stick and threatened to hit him with a wrench before the tool was taken from her hand by the witness. When questioned by a cop, Scott explained that she and Deleon “were giving each other oral pleasure in the bedroom” when Deleon “finished first and stopped pleasuring her.” Scott added that she “became upset and they began arguing.” A deputy noted that Scott said that she was also mad at Deleon because she had “heard [him] having sex with another woman over the phone earlier in the day.” Scott struggled with deputies before being placed in a police cruiser, where she kicked a window until being warned that she would be maced unless she stopped.

Opening Bell: 04.08.13

Portugal Seeks Budget Options (WSJ) Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho said he would look for fresh spending cuts to keep Portugal's €78 billion ($101 billion) international bailout program on track following a Constitutional Court decision that threw his government into crisis by striking down some of its planned austerity measures. Hedge Fund Star Gets A Hip-Check (WSJ) Jeffrey Vinik's Tampa Bay Lightning are struggling, but the performance of his National Hockey League team isn't the only worry for the veteran stock-picker. Investors have asked to pull around $1.5 billion from his hedge-fund firm after a period of poor performance, according to people briefed on the matter. The withdrawal requests amount to around 18% of the roughly $8 billion that was run by Vinik Asset Management. The redemption requests have come as Mr. Vinik, who rose to fame in the 1990s as the manager of Fidelity Investments' Magellan fund, has added a new investment team and moved from Boston to Tampa to be closer to the Lightning, the franchise he owns. The moves have raised concerns in some quarters that Mr. Vinik, 54 years old, may have become less focused on investing, according to people familiar with the firm. Lew To Press For Policy Changes (NYT) Jacob J. Lew began his first trip to Europe as Treasury secretary on Sunday, a four-city tour in which he is expected to try to persuade finance ministers to pursue a little more growth and a little less austerity to improve the economic fortunes of the Continent and the world. Rogue Trader Leeson to Advise Irish Borrowers on Bank Debts (Bloomberg) Nick Leeson, the trader whose wrong- way bets on Japanese stocks ruined Barings Plc, is joining a mediation firm to advise Irish borrowers looking to renegotiate debts in the wake of the real estate collapse. Leeson, 46, who has lived in Ireland for more than 10 years, will join GDP Partnership as a principal as it expands into Dublin, the company said in a statement posted on Twitter by Leeson. There is “a lot of fear and stress currently in the country with debt the root of the problem,” it said. Greek Bank Merger Halted (WSJ) Greece's two largest lenders are heading for state control after their merger was halted by the government over the weekend. The unexpected move came after National Bank of Greece and Eurobank came up short in their plans to raise capital and amid fears by the country's international lenders that the combined entity could become too big to be bailed out by the government. Putin Faces Down Topless Protest In Germany (Reuters) Russia urged Germany to punish a group of women who staged a bare-breasted protest against President Vladimir Putin on Monday during a visit to a trade fair in Hanover with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Three members of the women's rights group Femen, which has staged protests against Russia's detention of the feminist punk band P*ssy Riot around Europe, disrupted a visit by Putin and Merkel to an industry fair focusing on Russian business. They stripped off to the waist and shouted slogans calling the Russian leader a "dictator" before being covered up and bundled away by security men. "This is ordinary hooliganism and unfortunately it happens all over the world, in any city. One needs to punish (them)," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. Investors Bankroll Lawsuits (WSJ) A new generation of investors is plunging into "litigation finance," putting up millions of dollars to fund lawsuits in hopes of collecting when verdicts come down. Established financiers are expanding into new areas, including loans to law firms, and finding clients among the biggest American companies. Meredith Whitney Blasts Critics In Debut Book (NYP) Prominent bank analyst Meredith Whitney comes out swinging at critics in her debut book, “Fate of the States.” The Wall Street financial analyst, who made headlines with her accurate 2007 prediction that Citigroup would cut its dividend amid the unfurling financial crisis, says she was “pilloried in the financial press” after she warned of looming state- and city-bond defaults resulting from budget shortfalls. Whitney, who made her forecasts on CBS’s “60 Minutes” back in December 2009, blasted critics who claim her prediction of municipal-bond defaults suggested they would all happen at once: “For the record, I never said those 50 to 100 defaults would all happen in 2011.” Hedge Funds Cut Bets Most Since ’08 as Prices Slump: Commodities (Bloomberg) Hedge funds reduced bets on a commodity rally by the most since 2008 as rising supplies of everything from copper to sugar and slowing U.S. growth drove prices to the biggest slump in six months. General Electric to Buy Lufkin Industries for $3.38 Billion Cash (Reuters) Lufkin, which sells and services oilfield pumping units and power transmission products, has operations in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, the Middle East, and Europe. Man shot with arrow at gentleman's club (KN) The incident occurred around 3:30 a.m. Sunday at The Ball Gentleman’s Club at 3005 Alcoa Highway. Police responded to a E-911 call that someone had been shot, but upon arrival they discovered it wasn’t with a gun. A member of The Ball Gentleman’s Club security personnel appeared to have been shot with an arrow Powell said. Officers conducted an immediate search of the area, but were unable to locate the suspect. The victim was treated on scene.

Opening Bell: 02.27.13

Bernanke Affirms Bond Buying (WSJ) In his semiannual report to Congress Tuesday, Mr. Bernanke said the bond buying is helping the economy by holding down long-term interest rates and ought to be sustained. "Keeping long-term interest rates low has helped spark a recovery in the housing market and has led to increased sales and production of automobiles and other durable goods," he said. The Fed has accumulated $2.8 trillion of Treasury and mortgage securities. Mr. Bernanke's remarks signaled little change in the central bank's plans to purchase $85 billion a month of long-term Treasury and mortgage debt. The Fed's next policy meeting is March 19-20. Regulators Hope For Libor Pacts (WSJ) Regulators investigating alleged interest-rate manipulation are hoping to reach settlements with at least three major financial institutions by the end of summer, according to a person familiar with the probes. It isn't clear if the companies will go along with any proposed settlements, and previous agreements with banks were delayed before being completed. So far, regulators have settled rate-rigging charges with Barclays, RBS, and UBS collecting about $2.5 billion in penalties. All three banks admitted that employees sought to rig rates. Barclays to Unveil Numbers Earning 1 Million (FT) Barclays is set to reveal the number of staff who earned above 1 million pounds ($1.5 million) last year, in a push for transparency that could turn the bank into a trailblazer for the sector. In its annual report next week, the British retail and investment bank will for the first time give an outline of the various pay brackets among its 140,000 staff, people close to the situation said. Analysts estimate that between 600 and 700 employees – mostly in the investment bank – will be revealed as having taken home more than 1 million pounds last year. JPMorgan To Cut 17,000 Jobs (WSJ) The move announced Tuesday by the New York company, the nation's most profitable bank in 2012 and the biggest U.S. lender by assets, will reduce its staff by 6.5% in one of the most aggressive reductions to date amid widespread financial-industry cutbacks. Bond brawl: Singer v. Argentina today (NYP) Lawyers Ted Olsen and David Boies will appear before a Manhattan US appeals court to argue over how $1.44 billion in Argentina debt should be paid. Olsen represents billionaire hedge fund magnate Paul Singer, who claims he and other bondholder holdouts should be paid alongside those holders who agreed to a steep haircut during a debt restructuring. Argentina President Cristina Kirchner has long insisted she will never pay “one dollar” to the Singer holdouts. Boies represents the bondholders who agreed to the restructuring — and they oppose Singer, believing that Argentina will never go along with a pro-holdout ruling, thus putting their bonds at risk of default. Cops: Florida Man, 36, Assaulted Teen Relative With Taco Bell Burrito (TSG) The victim told cops that he was having a “verbal altercation” with his mother and Brown, his brother-in-law, when Brown “asked his mother to bring him the burrito,” according to an arrest affidavit. Brown then allegedly threw the burrito “with force” at the victim, striking the boy in the face with the fast food item. While interviewing the teen, cops noted that he had “burrito cheese, sauce and meat all over his clothing and face.” Brown told police that the victim was disrespectful to his mother and had cursed at the woman. He also acknowledged that he had “delivered” the burrito. After being booked into the county jail, Brown warned that he would “take care” of the teen upon his release from custody, adding that the victim “was going to get knocked out.” Best Buy Takeover Attempt by Founder in Jeopardy (Reuters) Best Buy founder Richard Schulze's effort to take the company private is in trouble after attempts to secure financing faltered while an alternative strategy to line up minority investors may not pan out either, five sources familiar with the matter said. No longer pursuing a full takeover bid for the troubled electronics retailer, Schulze has focused discussions in recent weeks on a potential deal in which private equity firms would buy a non-controlling stake, the sources, who declined to be named because the discussions are private, said. 'Penta-Millionaires' Happier Than Merely Rich: Study (CNBC) Breaking: A survey from Spectrem Group found that individuals worth $5 million or more are far more satisfied with their jobs, relationships and work than those worth $100,000 or less. Dimon Says Banks Have More Capital Than They Can Use (Bloomberg) The biggest U.S. banks are lending the smallest portion of their deposits in five years as cash floods in from savers, a slow economy damps demand from borrowers and regulators push financial firms to bolster themselves against any future credit crisis. The average loan-to-deposit ratio for the top eight commercial banks fell to 84 percent in the fourth quarter from 87 percent a year earlier and 101 percent in 2007, according to data compiled by Credit Suisse Group AG. JPMorgan had the lowest ratio in the group at 61 percent. “I don’t want to say it’s anti-American” to be held to international standards, Dimon said, adding that the bank’s assets include highly rated securities. “That balance sheet is almost as liquid as you can get.” Budweiser Has Been Sued 3 Times for Watering Down All Those Watery Beers (Atlantic Wire) The plaintiffs — including one guy who bought a case of Michelob Ultra a month, for some reason — allege that the public doesn't know what all the beers under the Budweiser umbrella really taste like, and that they're not getting their money's worth. There is no science backing up the defendants' claims, and AB InBev has yet to respond in court. The krux of the evidence comes from "information from former workers" of Anheuser-Busch breweries who claim watering down the beer in post-production is a company policy.

Opening Bell: 04.01.13

Central Bank Details Losses at Bank of Cyprus (WSJ) Cyprus's central bank spelled out the financial damage to big deposit holders at Bank of Cyprus PCL, the country's biggest lender, saying they will lose almost 40% of their deposits as a result of a sweeping restructuring of the lender. Losses could grow even steeper in the months ahead. In a statement Saturday, Cyprus's central bank said that 37.5% of all deposits over €100,000 ($128,700) will immediately be converted into a special class of shares at the lender as part of its recapitalization plan. As Banks in Cyprus Falter, Other Tax Havens Step In (NYT) Bloodied by a harsh bailout deal that drives a stake through the heart of this Mediterranean country's oversize financial industry, Cyprus now faces a further blow to its role as an offshore tax haven: the vultures from competing countries are circling. With a flood of e-mails and phone calls in recent days to lawyers and accountants here who make a living from helping wealthy Russians and others avoid taxes, competitors in alternative financial centers across Europe and beyond are promoting their own skills at keeping money hidden and safe. In Herbalife Fight, Both Sides Prevail (WSJ) But for the time being, all three investors are in the black, showing that for all the bluster and bravado, timing is everything in financial markets. Mr. Loeb has cashed out the most, whereas the others have made only paper profits. Mr. Loeb's hedge-fund firm, Third Point LLC, has made at least $50 million on its estimated bet of more than $200 million, according to a person familiar with the firm. As of several weeks ago, the firm had largely exited its Herbalife stake, according to people familiar with Third Point. Mr. Icahn has made roughly $25 million in unrealized gains on his about $590 million bet. Mr. Ackman's Pershing Square Capital Management LP has notched more than $200 million, also in paper profits, on a bet of more than $1 billion. Insider Case Against SAC Manager May Be Tough to Prove (Reuters) On Friday, U.S. authorities arrested and charged Michael Steinberg, a 16-year veteran of Cohen's $15 billion SAC Capital Advisors, with insider trading in shares of the technology stocks Dell and Nvidia. The case against Steinberg, 40, is built heavily on the testimony of one of his former colleagues, Jon Horvath, who has admitted to insider trading and is now cooperating with the government. "What they're going to need to prove is that Steinberg got inside information that he knew came from an insider and that he then traded on it," said Marc Greenwald, a former U.S. prosecutor in New York who is now a partner at Quinn Emanuel in New York, and not involved in the case. "It all depends on what Horvath said he said and whether everybody believes him." Princeton alumna, who told female students to get married, defends provocative advice: ‘Find a husband!' (NYDN) "Here's what nobody is telling you," Patton wrote. "Find a husband on campus before you graduate. Yes, I went there." This controversial column, which she described as "little more than honest advice from a Jewish mother," outraged countless readers when it appeared in The Daily Princetonian on Friday and then went viral. "I sincerely feel that too much focus has been placed on encouraging young women only to achieve professionally," Patton told the Daily News. "I think in the back of their heads they all know this but nobody is saying it." Patton decided to write the open letter after speaking at a Women and Leadership conference on campus a few weeks ago. Many said Patton was scolding women for not marrying her youngest son, a junior at Princeton. ("I am the mother of two sons who are both Princetonians," she said. "My older son had the good judgment and great fortune to marry a classmate of his, but he could have married anyone. My younger son is a junior and the universe of women he can marry is limitless. Men regularly marry women who are younger, less intelligent, less educated. It’s amazing how forgiving men can be about a woman’s lack of erudition, if she is exceptionally pretty. Smart women can’t (shouldn’t) marry men who aren’t at least their intellectual equal. As Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market. Simply put, there is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are. And I say again — you will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of you.") Libor Suits by Bondholders Tossed Over Lack of Damages (Bloomberg) While potential damages were estimated to be in the billions of dollars, the judge ruled the cases must be dismissed because of the inability of litigants that included brokerage Charles Schwab, pension funds and other bondholders to show they were harmed. Buchwald, whose March 29 ruling allowed some commodities-manipulations claims to proceed to a trial, said that, while private plaintiffs must show actual harm, her ruling didn’t impede governments from pursuing antitrust claims tied to attempts to manipulate Libor. Michael Dell Said to Consider Blackstone LBO Only With CEO Guarantee (Bloomberg) In several recent meetings in Austin, Texas, with Chinh Chu and David Johnson -- the Blackstone executives overseeing the firm’s bid -- Michael Dell said he would be more likely to support their proposal if he retained an influential role, a second person familiar with the talks said. Negotiations are ongoing and the two sides may not reach an understanding. Argentina sticks to its guns on debt payout (NYP) The country, in a filing late Friday, refused to follow a court order that mandated it give equal treatment to a group of holdout bondholders led by billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer and his Elliott Management. Instead, Kirchner offered the group, owed $1.44 billion, the same deal it offered exchange bondholders in 2010. Pregnant woman's leg amputated after being hit with car (KHOU) The incident happened in the 9600 block of Ravensworth Drive, where Kelly, 21, lives with her boyfriend, Christopher Chaney. Chaney said his ex-girlfriend, 26-year-old Shareyll Hunter, showed up at the house Thursday morning and started arguing with Kelly. "I was in my house asleep, and then one of my kids’ mothers came," Chaney said. "I mean, they been texting and talking over the phone saying they want to fight each other and meet up right here and do it." All of the commotion outside roused Chaney from bed. "When I came outside, I seen my kids’ mother punching on the window and she wanted to fight the other one," Chaney said. He said Hunter jumped into his car and gunned it, pinning her 21-year-old rival between the car and the house, police said. Kelly was rushed to the hospital with two broken legs. Doctors had to amputate one leg. The baby is expected to be OK. Hunter drove off in her ex-boyfriend’s four-door Lincoln LS. She remained on the loose at last check. Hunter is five months pregnant and the victim is four months pregnant. Chaney, 26, says he is the father in both cases. Reporter: "You think it [the hit-and-run] is because of you getting them pregnant?" Christopher Chaney: "I mean, I’m handsome."