Opening Bell: 2.3.15 - Dealbreaker

Opening Bell: 2.3.15

Money-laundering and Merkel and Hobbit rings, oh my!
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Money-Laundering Fears Fuel an RBC Retreat (WSJ)
Canada’s largest bank, Royal Bank of Canada , is exiting from once-promising businesses in Latin America and the Caribbean after being swept up in the net of global money-laundering probes. Over the past 18 months, RBC has moved to close many, if not all, of its wealth-management offices across Latin America, prompted by scrutiny of potential money-laundering activities in its accounts in at least three countries, according to people familiar with the matter. The bank also is shutting wealth-management offices in the Caribbean.

Greek Finance Minister Wants Bridge Agreement on Debt (WSJ)
Greece’s new premier Alexis Tsipras and Mr. Varoufakis are in the midst of a tour of European capitals in an effort to convince fellow European leaders to reverse the stringent terms of Greece’s €240 billion ($272 billion) bailout. Mr. Varoufakis said that “what is needed is a bridge agreement that gives us some time—for example a month or six weeks starting from late February—to find an agreement that we would then put in place starting from June 1.”

Merkel Expects Greek Funding Talks to Drag On for Months (Bloomberg)
Greece would not immediately go bankrupt at the end of February because it has resources to last beyond that point and Germany is ready to hold off until there is a more urgent need to strengthen its bargaining position, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing internal talks. Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is still assessing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s motives, is taking a tough approach with the new premier and wants to avoid being drawn into a duel with him, another official said. No one from the chancellery has met with him yet.

Dunkin' Donuts 2015 drink expansion includes frozen Dunkaccinos (Reuters)
Dunkin' Donuts is expanding its U.S. menu with cold blended drinks, including a milkshake-like frozen Dunkaccino, as it and other fast-food chains seek to boost sales in a competitive market, an executive told Reuters on Tuesday...Tests of the new frozen beverages suggest that they will be popular in the afternoon and evening, when coffee chains work to lure customers.

Texas boy suspended for 'Hobbit' ring threat (UPI)
Jason Steward, of Kermit, Texas, said it's "unbelievable" that his 9-year-old son was suspended from school for threatening to make another student disappear. Steward's son, Aiden, recently brought a ring to Kermit Elementary School after seeing The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies, in which Bilbo Baggins carries a magic invisibility ring. Jason told the Odessa American that the school suspended Aiden when he said he could make a classmate invisible with the ring. "I assure you my son lacks the magical powers necessary to threaten his friend's existence," Jason told the school in an email. "If he did, I'm sure he'd bring him right back."

Inflation at Five-Year Lows in Developed Economies (WSJ)
Inflation rates across the world’s developed economies have fallen to their lowest levels since the recession that followed the global financial crisis, likely prompting further cuts in benchmark interest rates or other easing measures by central banks around the world. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Tuesday said the annual rate of inflation in its 34 members fell to 1.1% in December from 1.5% in November, the lowest level since October 2009.

BP Chief: No Hope of $100 Oil for a ‘Long Time’ (Bloomberg)
“The fundamental supply and demand does remind me of 1986 a bit, where we could go into a period in this decade of lower oil prices,” Dudley said a Bloomberg TV interview, adding prices may stay in a range below $60 for as long as three years. “It will be a long time before we see $100 again.”

MBAs Are Shunning Industries That Create Jobs (Bloomberg)
...business schools, a breeding ground for the next crop of chief executives, are churning out a minuscule number of graduates who want to make their money in manufacturing. Just 4 percent of all MBAs who graduated last year took jobs in the industry, according to a Bloomberg Businessweek survey of close to 10,000 students conducted as a part of the 2014 ranking of business schools. Compare that to consulting, which drew almost 25 percent of those who got an MBA in 2014, or banking, where 19 percent of graduates landed.

Buy LinkedIn Before Earnings: Goldman (CNBC)
LinkedIn, the social network often overshadowed by Twitter and Facebook stealing headlines, is a "buy" before earnings later this week as new products take hold and mobile advertising improves, according to Goldman Sachs. The firm, which has correctly called the run in the stock over the last two years, sees an additional 25 percent upside from here.

Gunmen Thwarted By Karate (Reuters)
Three Albanian gunmen met their match when they held up three Chinese contractors only to be outwitted and overpowered by the karate skills of their would-be victims. The Chinese contractors re-enacted for Albania's News24 TV on Monday what they said had happened on a mountain road in northern Albania on Sunday after they were held up at gunpoint. "They were masked and armed and stopped us, putting the gun below the chin of our friend. They wanted our mobile phones, money and the sacks with our goods," said one of the Chinese men, whom News24 did not name. Speaking in Chinese, the three agreed to fight their attackers, he said. The man's demonstration of his techniques for the camera included powerful hand blows and frontal and back kicks. Having overpowered the gunmen, the Chinese men called the police and had them arrested.

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Opening Bell: 2.19.16

China's top securities will step down; NYSE joins the 21st century; Credit Suisse faces money laundering probe; Drunk Motorist Was Driving Bar On Wheels; and more.

Opening Bell: 05.21.12

JPMorgan CIO Risk Chief Said To Have Trading-Loss History (Bloomberg) Irvin Goldman, who oversaw risks in the JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) unit that suffered more than $2 billion in trading losses, was fired by another Wall Street firm in 2007 for money-losing bets that prompted a regulatory sanction at the firm, Cantor Fitzgerald LP, three people with direct knowledge of the matter said. JPMorgan appointed Goldman in February as the top risk official in its chief investment office while the unit was managing trades that later spiraled into what Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon called “egregious,” self-inflicted mistakes. The bank knew when it picked Goldman that his earlier work at Cantor led regulators to penalize that company, according to a person briefed on the situation. Risk Manager's Past Scrutinized (WSJ) Mr. Goldman joined J.P. Morgan's CIO in January 2008 as a trader. The bank placed him on leave in September 2008 after it learned that NYSE Arca had opened a regulatory inquiry tied to his trading activities at Cantor Fitzgerald, people familiar with the matter said. After J.P. Morgan placed him on leave, Mr. Goldman founded a consulting firm based in New York called IJG Advisors LLC. He rejoined J.P. Morgan in September 2010 in the Chief Investment Office, this time focusing on strategy. Current J.P. Morgan Chase Chief Risk Officer John Hogan chose Mr. Goldman to serve as CRO of the office, a position that had been filled by Peter Weiland, who remains with J.P. Morgan's CIO. Mr. Hogan wasn't aware of the Cantor Fitzgerald incident or the earlier trading losses at J.P. Morgan Chase, said a person close to the bank. Eurobonds To Be Discussed At EU Summit (Reuters) Merkel has said she is not opposed to jointly underwritten euro area bonds per se, but believes it can only be discussed once the conditions are right, including much closer economic integration and coordination across the euro zone, including on fiscal matters. That remains a long way off. Will Greece Be Able to Print Drachma in a Rush? (Reuters) If or when policymakers finally decide Greece should leave the euro, the exit could happen so quickly that "new drachma" currency notes might not be printed in time. "It would be chaos," says Marios Efthymiopoulos, a visiting scholar at Johns Hopkins University Center for Advanced International Studies and president of Thessaloniki-based think tank Global Strategy. "The banks would collapse and you would have to nationalize them. You wouldn't be able to pay anyone except in coupons. There is only one (currency) printing press in Greece. It is in the museum in Athens and it doesn't work any more." Ryanair CEO: ‘No’ Campaigners in Irish Vote Are Crazy (CNBC) “I think Ireland will vote yes in the referendum and Ireland should vote yes. We have no alternative. People who are borrowing $15 billion a year to keep the lights turned on don’t have the wherewithal to vote no to the people that are lending them the money. There is no argument for voting no,” Michael O'Leary, CEO of budget airline Ryanair said. He described “no” campaigners as a “bunch of idiots and lunatics.” Barclays To Sell Entire BlackRock Stake (WSJ) Barclays said BlackRock agreed to repurchase $1 billion worth of the 19.6% stake that the bank holds in the asset-management company. The remainder of the stake will then be listed on a stock exchange. The decision to sell comes as the bank faces pressure from investors to boost its return on equity and prepares to mitigate the effects of regulation that will force the lender to hold a bigger capital buffer. Mark Zuckerberg Gets Married (AP) The couple met at Harvard and have been together for more than nine years, a guest who insisted on anonymity said. The ceremony took place in Zuckerberg's backyard before fewer than 100 guests, including Facebook's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg. The guests all thought they were coming to celebrate Chan's graduation but were told after they arrived that the event was in fact a wedding. "Everybody was shocked," the guest said. The two had been planning the marriage for months but were waiting until Chan had graduated from medical school to hold the wedding. The timing wasn't tied to the IPO, since the date the company planned to go public was a "moving target," the guest said. Zuckerberg designed the ring featuring "a very simple ruby." Hedge Funds Rebuild Euro Bear Bets On Greek Exit Banks Weigh (Bloomberg) Hedge funds and other large speculators, which pared trades that would profit from a drop in the euro to the lowest levels since November, rebuilt them to a record high last week, figures released May 18 by the Washington-based Commodity Futures Trading Commission showed. The premium for options that grant the right to sell the euro has more than doubled since March. Nasdaq CEO Blames Software Design For Delayed Facebook Trading (Bloomberg) Nasdaq OMX Group, under scrutiny after shares of Facebook Inc. were plagued by delays and mishandled orders on its first day of trading, blamed “poor design” in the software it uses for driving auctions in initial public offerings. Fed Proves More Bullish Than Wall Street Forecasting U.S. Growth (Bloomberg) Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Pierpont Securities LLC, has derided the Federal Reserve for downplaying improvement in the U.S. economy. Yet his 2.6 percent forecast for growth this year is below the midpoint in the central bank’s projection of 2.4 percent to 2.9 percent...“I’ve been banging my head against the wall,” said Stanley in Stamford, Connecticut, a former researcher at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, who had predicted an interest- rate increase as early as last year and now says the Fed probably will tighten in the middle of next year. “They’re willing to let things run for longer and let inflation accelerate more than historically.” Judge mulls suit vs. woman sending messages to driving boyfriend (NYP) In a case believed to be the first of its kind in the country, a New Jersey college student could be held liable this week for texting her boyfriend — knowing he was behind the wheel — and allegedly causing him to crash into a couple riding a motorcycle. “She texts. Instantly, he texts back, and, bang, the accident occurs,” said Skippy Weinstein, attorney for motorcycle enthusiasts David and Linda Kubert, both 59, who lost their left legs in the horrific 2009 accident in Mine Hill. It’s now up to a Superior Court judge in Morristown, NJ, to decide whether Shannon Colonna can be added to the suit against driver Kyle Best.

Opening Bell: 3.1.16

Barclays loses; Valeant under investigation; Mystery Malaysian high roller at center of global money-laundering probe; Canadian banned from owning turtles after smuggling 38 in pants; and more.

Opening Bell: 06.11.12

Nasdaq CEO Lost Touch Amid Facebook Chaos (WSJ) At the end of Facebook's disastrous first day of trading May 18, the phone in Robert Greifeld's New York office rang. It was Mary Schapiro, head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, wanting an explanation from the chief executive of Nasdaq OMX Group for the epidemic of glitches and delays in one of the most anticipated initial public offerings ever. Mr. Greifeld couldn't talk. Having monitored the rocky process from Silicon Valley, where he had gone to join Facebook executives in remotely ringing the market's opening bell, he concluded the worst problems were fixed and caught a noon flight back to the East Coast. So, marooned for almost five hours in business class with a phone he says didn't work, he didn't realize that continuing breakdowns at his exchange had left countless investors not knowing how many Facebook shares they had bought or sold and at what price, nor did he know the SEC chief wanted to reach him. Three weeks later, Mr. Greifeld still isn't sure why technology systems failed during the crucial IPO. Nasdaq's failure to see the problem coming is something its engineers are still dissecting. "You wake up, you turn around, and there's a black or dull spot," Mr. Greifeld said in an interview, sucking on Life Savers candy at a conference table in his office. "You can't get away from it." Spain’s Bailout Gives Rajoy Best Chance To Fix Banks (Bloomberg) Spain’s request for as much as 100 billion euros ($125 billion) of European bailout funds may provide the country with enough money to shore up its banking system after three failed attempts in as many years. “Now that they have this money, it will hopefully finally be possible to recognize all the hidden losses and clean up the system,” Luis Garicano, a professor at the London School of Economics, said in a phone interview. The amount sought is about 2.7 times the funds deemed necessary for Spanish banks by the International Monetary Fund in a report released June 8 and five times the total requested by the Bankia group, the country’s third-biggest lender, to cleanse its balance sheet. Spain's economic misery will get worse this year despite bailout request, prime minister says (NYP) A day after the country conceded it needed outside help following months of denying it would seek assistance, Rajoy said more Spaniards will lose their jobs in a country where one out of every four are already unemployed. "This year is going to be a bad one," Rajoy said Sunday in his first comments about the rescue since it was announced the previous evening by his economy minister. IPOs Dry Up Post Facebook (WSJ) In the aftermath of Facebook's botched trading debut, the IPO market has gone three weeks without an offering, the longest drought in five months. It is the slowest stretch in initial public offerings since a four-week span at the end of 2011 and the beginning of this year, according to data from Ipreo. Greece Threatens Wall Street Jobs In Third Trading Plunge (Bloomberg) For a third consecutive year, revenue from investment banking and trading at U.S. firms may fall at least 30 percent from the first quarter, Richard Ramsden, a Goldman Sachs analyst, said in a note last week. Greece, which gave English the word “cycle,” has been the main reason each year that the second quarter soured after a promising first three months. Nickelback Review Goes Viral (Poynter) Music critic Josh Gross has written hundreds of stories about bands, but none has brought him as much attention as the brief he wrote this week about Nickelback’s upcoming appearance in Idaho, where Gross writes for the Boise Weekly. He summarizes the response: "In the past day, I have been told that I am a genius, a king amongst men and a hack that could be easily outdone by a one-armed cat. I should alternately win the Pulitzer and forcibly insert 45 pickles into my bum. There has been little middle ground. Why? Because I had the audacity to point out that seeing Canadian “rock” band Nickelback at the Idaho Center may not be the best use of one’s $45." Gross wrote of the Nickelback: "You can spend $5 to go see Nickelback this week. Or you could buy 45 hammers from the dollar store, hang them from the ceiling at eye level and spend an evening banging the demons out of your dome...$45 is also enough to see Men In Black III five times, buy a dozen Big Macs, do 10 loads of laundry or so many other experiences as banal and meaningless as seeing Nickelback but come without actually having to hear Nickelback. But if you must, the band is playing The Idaho Center on Wednesday, June 13, at 6PM tickets start at $45." Dimon Faces Washington Grilling Over Trading Debacle (Reuters) The Senate Banking Committee has asked Dimon to come prepared Wednesday to provide "a thorough accounting of the trading losses," a committee aide said. Senators will also ask what he knew about the risks involved in the trading strategy. Fed Colleague Backs Dimon (WSJ) "I do not think he should step down," Lee Bollinger said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. He said Mr. Dimon appears to have done nothing wrong, that critics attacking the Fed have a "false understanding" of how it works, and that it is "foolish" to say Mr. Dimon's presence on the New York Fed board creates an appearance of a conflict when the law requires bankers to serve on such boards. Private lunch with investor Warren Buffett sells for $3.5 million (WaPo) The previous four winning bids have all exceeded $2 million with records set every year. Last year’s winner, hedge fund manager Ted Weschler, paid $2,626,411. India Could Be First BRIC to Lose Investment Grade: S&P (Reuters) Standard & Poor's said on Monday that India could become the first of the so-called BRIC economies to lose its investment grade status, sending the rupee and stocks lower, less than two months after cutting its rating outlook for the country. "Slowing GDP growth and political roadblocks to economic policymaking are just some of the factors pushing up the risk that India could lose its investment-grade rating," the ratings agency said in a statement issued Monday on a report dated June 8. Town Considers Fines For Cursing (WSJ) Mimi Duphily was hanging baskets of pink geraniums on antique street lamps downtown for the Middleborough Beautification and Activities Group when she noticed something else that needed cleaning up—citizens' mouths. "The cursing has gotten very, very bad. I find it appalling and I won't tolerate it," said Ms. Duphily, a civic leader in the otherwise quiet New England community, which calls itself the Cranberry Capital of the World. "No person should be allowed to talk in that manner." Soon, Middleborough residents who do could risk a $20 fine. Ms. Duphily, 63 years old, tried scolding the cursers—whom she describes as young people shouting the "F word" back and forth—with a stern, "Hey kids, that's enough!" Then she conferred with the Beautification and Activities Group, which informed the Middleborough Business Coalition, which then called a summit with Middleborough Police Chief Bruce Gates, who now, in his sworn role, is trying to stomp out swears.

Opening Bell: 10.24.12

Hedge Funds Belt Few Home Runs (WSJ) They are the few. The proud. The hedge-fund managers making a killing this year. David Tepper's firm was up about 25% through Friday, partly from a bet Europe will avoid a meltdown. Steve Mandel's firm gained nearly as much from soaring consumer and technology stocks. Pine River Capital Management rose 30% thanks in part to subprime mortgages, as did Josh Birnbaum's Tilden Park. And the Barnegat Fund has climbed over 39% with a debt strategy that the manager concedes isn't for the faint of heart. The big gains, as reported by fund investors and people familiar with the firms, come as most hedge funds struggle for the fourth year a row, the longest period of underperformance since 1995 to 1998. Hedge funds on average gained 4.7% through September, according to industry tracker HFR, while stock-trading funds were up on average 5.5%. By comparison, the Standard & Poor's 500 index scored gains of 14%, including dividends, through Friday. Bond Investors Put Faith In A More Stable Africa (WSJ) Last month, Zambia raised $750 million with a 10-year global bond in an auction that drew offers worth more than 15 times that amount. Nigeria in September sold 30 million naira ($192,000) in five-year bonds, to demand twice as high. Spurred by the heavy interest, Rwanda wants to issue a global bond by June and Kenya is planning one as early as next year. Investors' willingness to step up to buy African bonds is another sign of their thirst for yield. Efforts by the Federal Reserve and other major central banks to push down interest rates and buy developed-market bonds have driven investors further and further afield. Africa, a continent of more than 50 countries, is considered one of the last investing frontiers—many of its nations have been isolated from international markets, in part due to a history of default by some countries. Sir Mervyn King: no recovery until banks recapitalise (Telegraph) Raising the prospect of rights issues or even another taxpayer bail-out for the state-backed lenders Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group, Sir Mervyn King said UK banks have “insufficient capital” to protect against undeclared losses on their books. FDIC Gets Windfall In Bank-Failure Settlement (WSJ) International Paper Co has agreed to pay the FDIC to settle a year-old lawsuit stemming from the 2009 collapse of Guaranty Financial Group, an Austin, Texas, company that ranks as the fifth-biggest U.S. bank failure. As part of the agreement, the failed bank's creditors will get an added $38 million, bringing the total settlement to $80 million. Although International Paper, Memphis, Tenn., didn't have any direct connection until this year to the banking industry or to the failed Texas bank, its involvement in the case demonstrates the long tentacles of the financial crisis. International Paper was pulled into the case in February when it bought packaging firm Temple-Inland Inc., which had owned Guaranty for nearly two decades before spinning it off into an independent company in 2007. Guaranty failed less than two years later, weighed down by toxic securities that were backed by adjustable-rate mortgages. It had 162 branches and $13.5 billion in assets. The bank's deteriorating securities portfolio was the subject of a page-one article in The Wall Street Journal just before it failed. The failure cost the FDIC's deposit-insurance fund $1.29 billion, according to an estimate published on the agency's website. RBS Settles Over Loans In Nevada (NYT) The Royal Bank of Scotland agreed to pay $42.5 million late Tuesday in a settlement with the Nevada attorney general that ends an 18-month investigation into the deep ties between the bank and two mortgage lenders during the housing boom. Most of the money paid by R.B.S. — $36 million — will be used to help distressed borrowers throughout Nevada. In addition, R.B.S. agreed to finance or purchase subprime loans in the future only if they comply with state laws and are not deceptive. The settlement between the bank and Catherine Cortez Masto, Nevada’s attorney general, relates to conduct at Greenwich Capital, the R.B.S. unit that bundled mortgages into securities and sold them to investors. Nevada found that R.B.S. worked closely with Countrywide Financial and Option One, two of the most aggressive lenders during the boom. Aurora Bird Hoarder: ‘I Was Obsessed’ (CBS) Outside of his west suburban Aurora townhome Monday, Dave Skeberdis admitted right away: “I am a hoarder.” “I did let the birds multiply. I admit, I was obsessed,” he said. “But I’m a regular person.” Skeberdis, 57, estimated that there are 200 birds of varying species inside his townhome in the 200 block of Shadybrook Lane. He returned to the home Monday to feed the birds. “It’s condemned, but they can’t stop me from going into the house,” he said. “I don’t really want to lose them, but this is too many birds.” On Monday, Skeberdis, who is employed in the information technology field, said he can now understand that his bird collecting is out of control. He said he is from a family of hoarders. “I think it’s time for a change in my life,” Skeberdis said...Skeberdis, who is not married, acquired his first bird seven years ago, he said, on April 15, 2005. While working in computer support at United Airlines, he “rescued” a parakeet, and later named the bird “Doc.” “I saved his life, and he saved mine,” Skeberdis said. Over time, he bought and adopted more birds. Those birds include a Chinese Quail named “Demon,” blind bird “Longstreet” and scalped bird “Liz Cojack,” and a white baby parakeet he hand-fed and once carried to work with him in a briefcase. Appeal In Insider Trading Case Centers On Wiretaps (Dealbook) In March 2008, the Justice Department made an extraordinary request: It asked a judge for permission to record secretly the phone conversations of Raj Rajaratnam, a billionaire hedge fund manager. The request, which was granted, was the first time the government had asked for a wiretap to investigate insider trading. Federal agents eavesdropped on Mr. Rajaratnam for nine months, leading to his indictment — along with charges against 22 others — and the biggest insider trading case in a generation. On Thursday, lawyers for Mr. Rajaratnam, who is serving an 11-year prison term after being found guilty at trial, will ask a federal appeals court to reverse his conviction. They contend that the government improperly obtained a wiretap in violation of Mr. Rajaratnam’s constitutional privacy rights and federal laws governing electronic surveillance...Such a ruling is considered a long shot, but a reversal would have broad implications. Not only would it upend Mr. Rajaratnam’s conviction but also affect the prosecution of Rajat K. Gupta, the former Goldman Sachs director who was convicted of leaking boardroom secrets to Mr. Rajaratnam...A decision curbing the use of wiretaps would also affect the government’s ability to police Wall Street trading floors, as insider trading cases and other securities fraud crimes are notoriously difficult to build without direct evidence like incriminating telephone conversations. Ex-Goldman Director Gupta Awaits Sentence In Insider Trading Case (Reuters) Gupta's lawyers have requested that he be spared prison, citing his work with groups such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on fighting disease in developing countries. Bill Gates, Microsoft Corp's co-founder, and former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan are among the luminaries who have urged Rakoff to be lenient. As one alternative to prison, the defense proposed "a less orthodox" plan in which Gupta would live and work with Rwandan government officials to help fight HIV/AIDS and malaria in rural districts, court papers said. Federal prosecutors, however, argue that Gupta should serve eight to 10 years in prison. Companies Are Sitting On More Cash Than Ever Before (CNBC) Amid a lackluster earning season that has featured many companies missing sales expectations, cash balances have swelled 14 percent and are on track toward $1.5 trillion for the Standard & Poor's 500, according to JPMorgan. Both levels would be historic highs. Denny's heads to Middle-earth with 'Hobbit'-inspired menu (LA Times) It’s Bilbo Baggins time down at Denny’s, which is rolling out a menu and marketing campaign based on the upcoming film “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” The 11 new menu items are enough to satisfy the diminutive creatures’ six-meal-a-day habit, with options such as Shire Sausage, Bilbo’s Berry Smoothies, Build Your Own Hobbit Slam and Radagast’s Red Velvet Pancake Puppies. The film, based on the novel by “Lord of the Rings” author J.R.R. Tolkien, opens Dec. 14. The limited Denny’s offer will run from Nov. 6 through January, according to the chain.

Opening Bell: 4.13.16

JP Morgan tops estimates; Five big banks' living wills rejected; Mr. Met loves the Mets, despite being denied National League Championship ring; and more.

Opening Bell: 08.07.12

Probe May Hit UK Bank's Clean Image (WSJ) Last week, Standard Chartered PLC Chief Executive Peter Sands told analysts that "our culture and values are our first and last line of defense." On Tuesday, allegations by a New York financial regulator that Standard Chartered hid illegal Iranian transactions seemed to breach that line, sending the lender's shares down and wiping £7.65 billion ($11.9 billion) off its market value. In the U.K., Mr. Sands has long been heralded as a voice of reason in the country's turbulent banking sector. The former consultant, who was named Standard Chartered CEO in 2006, regularly espoused the importance of sound governance and sensible investment. While several of its British peers were being bailed out by taxpayers, Mr. Sands was guiding the Asia-focused bank to record profits boosted by growing trade between emerging nations. The executive stressed the fact that Standard Chartered doesn't have an investment bank and didn't need European Central Bank cheap loans to keep its business ticking over. Italian's Job: Premier Talks Tough in Bid to Save Euro (WSJ) During an all-night European summit in June, Mario Monti, the Italian prime minister, gave German Chancellor Angela Merkel an unexpected ultimatum: He would block all deals until she agreed to take action against Italy's and Spain's rising borrowing costs. Ms. Merkel, who has held most of the euro's cards for the past two years, wasn't used to being put on the defensive. "This is not helpful, Mario," Ms. Merkel warned, according to people present. Europe's leaders were gathered on the fifth floor of the European Union's boxy glass headquarters in Brussels, about to break for dinner. "I know," Italy's premier replied. Bill Gross: Stay Away From Europe (CNBC) “Investors get distracted by the hundreds of billions of euros in sovereign policy checks, promises that make for media headlines but forget it’s their trillions that are the real objective,” Gross wrote. “Even Mr Hollande in left-leaning France recognizes that the private sector is critical for future growth in the EU. He knows that, without its partnership, a one-sided funding via state-controlled banks and central banks will inevitably lead to high debt-to-GDP ratios and a downhill vicious cycle of recession.” “Psst…investors: Stay dry my friends!” Gross said. Richest Family Offices Seeing Fastest Growth As Firms Oust Banks (Bloomberg Markets) They call it “money camp.” Twice a week, 6- to 11-year-old scions of wealthy families take classes on being rich. They compete to corner commodities markets in Pit, the raucous Parker Brothers card game, and take part in a workshop called “business in a box,” examining products that aren’t obvious gold mines, such as the packaging on Apple Inc.’s iPhone rather than the phone itself. It’s all part of managing money for the wealthiest families, says Katherine Lintz, founder of Clayton, Missouri- based Financial Management Partners, which runs the camp for the children of clients. Supplying the families with good stock picks and a wily tax strategy isn’t enough anymore. These days, it’s about applying the human touch, she says. Lintz, 58, is on to something. Her 22-year-old firm was No. 2 among the fastest-growing multifamily offices in the second annual Bloomberg Markets ranking of companies that manage affairs for dynastic clans, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its September issue. The assets that FMP supervises grew 30 percent to $2.6 billion as of Dec. 31, just behind Signature, a Norfolk, Virginia-based family office that expanded 36 percent in 2011 to $3.6 billion. MS Takes Trading Hit (NYP) Morgan Stanley, which had the largest trading-revenue drop among major US banks last quarter, lost money in that business on 15 days in the period, up from eight days a year earlier. Morgan Stanley traders generated more than $100 million on three days in the period, compared with seven days in the second quarter of 2011, the company said in a regulatory filing yesterday. None of the daily losses exceeded the firm’s value-at-risk, a measure of how much the bank estimates it could lose on 95 percent of days. Morgan Stanley had a 48 percent year-over-year decrease in trading revenue, excluding accounting gains, led by a 60 percent drop in fixed-income revenue. Former Lloyds Digital Security Chief Admits $3.76 Million Fraud (Bloomberg) Lloyds Banking Group's former head of digital banking fraud and security pleaded guilty to submitting false invoices totaling more than 2.4 million pounds ($3.76 million)...Jessica Harper admitted to submitting fake invoices between 2007 and 2011 and then laundering the proceeds, the CPS said. She will be sentenced on Sept. 21, and faces as long as 24 years in prison for the two charges, a CPS spokesman said, although she will get credit for the guilty plea. Ex Lehman Exec Requests Rehab To Avoid Jail Time (NYP) Former Lehman Brothers Co-Chief Operating Officer Bradley H. Jack, arrested twice in less than a year on charges of prescription forgery, said he is willing to undergo a program for drug and alcohol treatment to avoid prosecution. Jack applied for the program at a hearing yesterday in Connecticut Superior Court in Norwalk. Judge Bruce Hudock ordered a doctor’s report to determine if he is eligible for the new program, which the judge said would be “a rare event.” Fed Official Calls For Bond Buying (WSJ) Eric Rosengren, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, called on the Fed to launch an aggressive, open-ended bond buying program that the central bank would continue until economic growth picks up and unemployment starts falling again. His call came in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, the first since the central bank signaled last week that it was leaning strongly toward taking new measures to support economic growth. Mr. Rosengren isn't currently among the regional Fed bank presidents with a vote on monetary policy. Although all 12 presidents participate in Fed deliberations, only five join the seven Fed governors in Washington in the formal committee vote. Tokyo Exchange Glitch Halts Derivatives Trading (WSJ) The Tokyo Stock Exchange on Tuesday temporarily suspended all derivatives trading soon after the morning open due to an unidentified system problem, the second significant trading glitch on the exchange this year. Amazon Exec Swindled By Tom Petty Con Artist (NYDN) Brian Valentine simply wanted to give his wife the wedding present of a lifetime - a performance by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The senior vice president of Amazon, instead, fell victim to fraud, losing a whopping $165,000 to a Las Vegas man who pretended to be a concert booking agent, the Smoking Gun reported. FBI agents arrested the fraudulent agent, Chad Christopher Lund, on Aug. 2 in Illinois, after a private investigator Valentine had hired found that Lund had skipped town. But the ordeal began almost ten months before in late 2011, a year after Valentine, 52, popped the question to fellow Amazon employee, Gianna Puerini, 39, according to a wire fraud complaint unsealed by the U.S. District Court. Valentine decided that he wanted the "Won't Back Down" singer to perform a set at the couple's wedding reception since he proposed to Puerini at a Petty concert in Seattle. He turned to the Internet, where he found the website of Lund's firm, lundlive.com, boasting to have booked acts like Petty, Run-DMC and Ludacris. Lundlive.com no longer exists. Valentine connected with Lund over email and by October 2011, Lund told the Amazon exec that he had negotiated with Petty's representatives "down to a price of $330,000 for the performance." Later in the month, Lund sent Valentine a contract with the forged signature of Petty's manager, Tony Dimitraides. Valentine sent Lund a $165,000 down payment in return. Valentine finally uncovered the fraud in early April 2012, when the wedding was just three months away. He contacted Petty's management to discuss the performance only to find out that they had no idea about the planned appearance. "We have never heard of Chris Lund or his agency," Dimitraides wrote in an email to Valentine. "We are not aware of any deal for Tom Petty to play Seattle in July and I have never signed a contract for any such." "It looks like you have been defrauded."

Opening Bell: 10.05.12

Merkel’s First Greek Crisis Visit Seen Sending Signal to Critics (Bloomberg) German Chancellor Angela Merkel will travel to Athens for the first time since Europe’s financial crisis broke out there three years ago, a sign she’s seeking to silence the debate on pushing Greece out of the euro. Merkel’s visit to the Greek capital Oct. 9 to meet with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras underscores the shift in her stance since she held out the prospect last year of Greece exiting the 17-nation currency region. “The meeting could mark the turning point to the Greek crisis,” said Constantinos Zouzoulas, an analyst at Axia Ventures Group, a brokerage in Athens. “This is a very significant development for Greece ahead of crucial decisions by the euro zone for the country.” Spain Finance Minister’s ‘No Bailout’ Remark Sparks Laughter (CNBC) “Spain doesn’t need a bailout at all,” finance minister Luis de Guindos said, straight faced and somber, as mirth spread throughout the audience (even de Guindos’ assistant interpreter couldn’t mask a smile). US Probes Credit Suisse Over Mortgages (Reuters) U.S. federal and state authorities are investigating Credit Suisse over mortgage-backed securities packaged and sold by the bank, people familiar with the probe said on Thursday. The Justice Department and the New York Attorney General are among those probing Credit Suisse's actions, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity. New Shuffle At JPMorgan (WSJ) Barry Zubrow, a trusted lieutenant of J.P. Morgan Chase Chief Executive James Dimon, is expected to give up his job as regulatory affairs chief in what would be the latest reshuffling to follow a multibillion-dollar trading blunder. The change is expected before year-end, said people close to the bank. It is possible the 59-year-old executive will remain with the company in an advisory role, these people added. More executive shifts also are possible. The chairman of the corporate and investment banking unit, Jes Staley, was recently in the running to become chief executive of British banking giant Barclays PLC, according to people close to Mr. Staley, but didn't get the job. He gave up day-to-day oversight of J.P. Morgan's investment bank in a July reorganization. J.P. Morgan declined to comment about Mr. Staley, and he couldn't be reached. Investors Back Away From 'Junk' Bonds (WSJ) The massive "junk"-bond boom is raising alarm bells among some large money managers, who warn the market is showing signs of overheating. So much money has flooded into the junk-bond market from yield-hungry investors that weaker and weaker companies are able to sell bonds, they say. Credit ratings of many borrowers are lower and debt levels are higher, making defaults more likely. And with yields near record lows, they add, investors aren't being compensated for that risk. India’s NSE Says 59 Erroneous Orders Caused Stock Plunge (Bloomberg) “India has joined the big league with this trading disaster,” A.S. Thiyaga Rajan, a senior managing director at Aquarius Investment Advisors Pte., which manages about $400 million, said by phone from Singapore. “It’s very surprising so many erroneous orders went through. Exchanges and regulators must be one step ahead as systems and technologies upgrade.” Halloween Horror Story: Case Of The Missing Pumpkin Lattes (WSJ) For Asher Anidjar, the arrival of fall isn't marked by turning leaves or a chilly breeze, but a steaming seasonal drink. Recently, though, when he headed to his local Starbucks for a Pumpkin Spice Latte, he left with a bitter taste in his mouth. They were out of the special sauce that gives the treat its distinctive autumnal flavor. "I just left, depressed," said Mr. Anidjar, a 26-year-old commercial real-estate analyst who lives in Manhattan. The drink crops up on the Starbucks menu annually for a limited time, and this year there has been an unusual run on the pumpkin batch. Thanks in part to a frothy dose of buzz brewed up by the Seattle-based coffee giant before the beverage's Sept. 4 debut, the craze has drained supplies at stores across the country. Baristas are hitting the street, searching for stashes of the flavored sauce at other stores. Customers denied their fix—which costs about $4 for a small cup, or "tall" in Starbucks speak—are tweeting about their dismay. "My world almost ended this morning when the local Starbucks told me they were out of Pumpkin Spice Latte," tweeted Jason Sizemore, 38 years old, of Lexington, Ky. Fed Seeks To Clarify Plans (WSJ) Since August 2011, the Fed has been saying it will keep short-term interest rates near zero until a particular date. Right now that date is mid-2015. The hope has been that these assurances would help hold down longer-term interest rates, as well as short-term ones, and thus boost spending and investment. But the Fed isn't happy with this approach. While central-bank officials believe the assurances have helped hold down long-term interest rates, they find the fixed date to be confusing, and they are looking at a new approach. The idea under consideration is to keep offering assurances of low rates, but tie those assurances to what is happening in the economy rather than a point on the calendar. Dave And Buster's IPO Plan A Bust (Bloomberg) Dave & Buster’s Entertainment, operator of 59 company-owned dining and gaming stores, withdrew its plans for a US initial public offering, citing market conditions. The company had sought to raise as much as $107.7 million. Black Swans In The Red Until Turmoil Hits (NYP) The Apocalypse has not arrived — but that hasn’t stopped some of the country’s wealthiest investors from betting on it. The investors, mostly pensions funds, hedge funds of funds and deep-pocketed individuals that were burned during the financial meltdown in 2008, are jumping into these so-called Black Swan investments that carry promised returns of up to 1,000 percent — if another financial Armageddon strikes. The Cassandras of the hedge-fund world that are offering these funds — also called tail risk funds and often with a geographic focus — would suffer terribly in the absence of disaster...The hot sector has attracted such well-known names as Saba Capital’s Boaz Weinstein, Hayman Capital’s Kyle Bass, Corriente Advisors’ Mark Hart, and Universa’s Mark Spitznagel...When markets are buoyant, of course the funds lose money. Through August, Saba Tail Hedge was down 16 percent, Pine River Tail Hedge had fallen 23 percent and Corriente Europe Divergence is down 24 percent, according to investors. Bass’s Japan short fund, which he launched two years ago, is down more than 60 percent since inception. By design, it will lose all of its investors’ money in three years if Japanese bonds don’t go into a tailspin. Bridezilla’s demanding email to potential bridesmaids: If you can’t commit, ‘you’re going to the wrong wedding’ (NYDN) One woman’s over-the-top email of demands to potential bridesmaids has gone viral since it was posted on Gawker.com. “You all have a big roll [sic] in this wedding, so before we continue I’m going to be setting some ground rules and it’s very important you read and think everything through before you accept this honor to be a bridesmaid,” the unnamed bride-to-be begins. If recipients don’t answer emails when outside the country, can’t attend every wedding-related event, or don’t have the cash for several flights and a bridesmaid’s dress, they might not make the cut. “If money is tight and you can’t afford to contribute to the bachelorette party or won’t be able to afford a dress, then [I] don’t have time to deal with that, I’m sorry,” the woman wrote. Of course, she’ll aim for what’s affordable, but, “If you think it’s going to be a $25 Forever 21 dress then you’re going to the wrong wedding.” The lucky bridesmaids must also be available — at any moment — between February and August. “If you don’t think you’ll be able to attend one party but can make the rest of them, I’m sorry, but I’ll have to take you out as a bridesmaid and put you as a guest,” the woman wrote. And please, don’t ignore phone calls. “I don’t have time to wait around for responses, everyone has their phone on them,” she wrote. “It shouldn’t take you more than a day to get back to me. Really think about everything I've said. This is really going to be the most epic wedding ever so I hope you girls can share this special day with us!"