Opening Bell: 2.9.15

HSBC was naughty; Brady Dougan is having a no good very bad month; Barclays and UBS are being investigated re: FX; "Principal used struggling school’s funds for private gym"; Berkshire Hathaway sucks at disclosing financials; Greenspan sees Greek exit from EU as forgone conclusion; "Dominatrix fears ‘Fifty Shades’ will hurt her business"; AND MORE.
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Leaked HSBC List Shows Who Was Banking on Swiss Secrecy (Bloomberg)
The private-banking unit of HSBC Holdings Plc made significant profits for years handling secret accounts for an array of criminals, from drug cartels and arms dealers to tax evaders and fugitive diamond merchants, according to a report released Sunday by an international news organization...Depositors included royal families and convicted cocaine dealers, ambassadors and terror suspects, entertainers and elected officials, corporate executives and athletes. To these and other clients, the bank actively promoted its accounts as an efficient way to hide assets from tax collectors, according to the report.

Brady Dougan’s Worst Month Puts Credit Suisse Dividend at Risk (Bloomberg)
A rise in the value of the Swiss franc following the central bank’s decision to let the currency trade freely, coupled with investor concern that the bank’s balance sheet isn’t strong enough and doubts about the CEO’s plan for the securities unit, pushed shares down 22 percent in January, the biggest monthly drop in Dougan’s tenure. Credit Suisse is the worst-performing European bank this year outside of Greece. Dougan, 55, is running out of options. He could follow competitors including UBS Group AG in making additional cuts to the investment bank as debt trading lags, shareholders say. To accelerate the buildup of capital, some are even willing to forfeit a dividend.

U.S. Banks Say Soaring Dollar Puts Them at Disadvantage (WSJ)
The strengthening U.S. dollar is rippling through the financial system in unexpected ways, revealing what bankers say is a hidden flaw in a Federal Reserve proposal to increase capital cushions at the nation’s largest banks. Big U.S. banks say that, under the rule proposed in December, the recent steep rise in the dollar’s value would force some U.S. firms to hold billions of dollars more in capital than foreign competitors, including weaker European banks, because of how the Fed plans to calculate a so-called surcharge levied on the eight most systemically important U.S. banks.

U.S. scrutiny of Barclays and UBS widens forex trading probe: FT (Reuters)
The agency is looking into whether the two banks sold so-called structured products without disclosing the profit they were making from currency trades used to generate the products' returns, according to the FT report, which cited people familiar with the investigation.

Principal used struggling school’s funds for private gym: source (NYP)
Principal Jazmine Santiago used school funds to install her own private gym with a bench press, pull-up bar, treadmill, elliptical machine and thigh exerciser on the third floor of PS 269 in Flatbush, sources told The Post. When some staffers questioned the expenditure, Santiago claimed she shares the equipment with older students, according to one source. But the underperforming school only goes through Grade 5, which would make the oldest students 11 years old and an average 4-foot-10 — not tall enough to reach some of the heavy-duty equipment...Staffers fumed that Santiago converted a storage room into her own private workout space in June 2014 with no consultation. “She comes in early, she goes to the gym. Even when class is in session, she’s still in the gym,” said another teacher. Both teachers declined to give their names for fear of reprisal. Teachers say the room is always locked and not accessible to other staff, much less students. “No, no, the kids have their own gym,” said the teacher. “Her gym is on the third floor and it’s her own personal gym.”

‘Crowd’ Sites Let Startups Tap Small Investors’ Cash (WSJ)
When Gil Penchina decided to invest $25,000 in Beepi Inc., a two-year-old online buyer and seller of used cars, he fired off an email asking other people if they wanted to get in on the deal. Within a day, he rounded up a total of $2.8 million from nearly 100 investors—and rejected 300 more. The 45-year-old Mr. Penchina isn’t a big-time venture capitalist. He is part of an emerging group of investors who negotiate with upstart companies to buy equity stakes that are sold through so-called crowdfunding on websites such as AngelList. The other investors rely on his due diligence, and he gets 15% of any investment profits eventually earned by the groups, known as syndicates, that he leads. The moves are a sign of the intense desire among small investors to try to cash in on the technology industry’s gold rush. Rather than wait for up-and-coming firms to go public, these investors are pouring money in much earlier, hoping for supersize returns if a company becomes a hit.

Berkshire Hathaway does a ‘poor’ job at disclosing financials (NYP)
Warren Buffett may be the world’s best investor — but he’s one of the worst when it comes to financial disclosure. That’s the consensus of long-suffering Wall Street analysts who follow Buffett’s $360 billion Berkshire Hathaway, the third-largest company on the US stock market. The analysts complained that the company reveals far less financial information than its peers, according to the Financial Times. The paper said it interviewed five of the six analysts who are tasked with trying to forecast results for the conglomerate, whose diverse businesses include insurance, railways, manufacturing, retail and newspapers, among others. When asked to describe Berkshire’s level of financial disclosure, their responses ranged from “limited” and “poor” to “terrible” and “laughable,” according to the report.

Greenspan Sees Greek Exit From Euro as Just a Matter of Time (Bloomberg)
Greece’s exit from the euro is just a matter of time because no one wants to risk lending money to the country any more, according to Alan Greenspan. Hours before Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was due to set out plans on how to keep his government paying its bills, the former Federal Reserve chairman said the nation’s crisis can’t be resolved as long as it remains in the single currency. “I don’t see that it helps them to be in the euro and I certainly don’t see that it helps the rest of the euro zone,” Greenspan said in a radio interview with the BBC on Sunday. “I think it’s just a matter of time before everyone recognizes that parting is the best strategy.”

Morgan Stanley Aims to Sell Stake in Lansdowne Partners (WSJ)
The New York investment bank is looking to sell its 19% stake in the $17.5 billion London-based Lansdowne Partners LLP, according to people familiar with the matter.

Credit Suisse Plans Specialty Finance Company (WSJ)
Credit Suisse Group AG is launching a specialty finance company to invest in the unrated debt of small or midsize U.S. companies, following in the footsteps of rivals such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and a handful of private-equity giants. The company, Credit Suisse Park View BDC Inc., will be a type of tax-advantaged investment vehicle known as a business development company.

Dominatrix fears ‘Fifty Shades’ will hurt her business (NYP)
Lena Marquise, a 29-year-old dominatrix, is lounging in her apartment in a latex black mini-dress and Chanel stilettos. In front of her, a naked, 40-something accountant with skinny legs, thick-rimmed glasses and a potbelly is in the fetal position. Marquise nudges him with her 4-inch heel. “There is a pair of shoes behind me to the right,” she says. “They are covered in snow. Clean them off. With your tongue.” “Yes, mistress. Thank you, mistress,” he replies, as he crawls to the boots and begins licking them ravenously. Marquise, who goes by “Lady Wednesday,” smiles. She may not be smiling for long. “Fifty Shades of Grey” hits movie theaters Friday, and this Bushwick dominatrix fears business may suffer as a result. “It makes the taboo lessen,” she says. “To most dommes, this is detrimental to their sensuality, because, typically, clients, they thrive on the taboo nature of BDSM and fetishism.” Luckily, Marquise’s own at-home dungeon — complete with Japanese clover nipple clamps and enough taxidermy to outfit a Lower East Side bar — has taboo to spare. Marquise gets paid $350 to $500 an hour to gag, whip and punish her willing, all-male clientele. She estimates she makes between $20,000 to $50,000 a year. “I like to describe a session as training. It’s not abusing,” she says, encasing the nether regions of her client in a metal chastity belt from which she hung four heavy locks. “It’s sensual to some effect.” She says most of her “slaves” are “upper/middle management” married men seeking “everything from validation to stimulation.”

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Opening Bell: 2.11.15

Goldman Sachs beats off job applicants with a stick; Justice Department wants guilty pleas from four banks; RadioShack expects to pay out executive bonuses; ECB wants people to get off its back re: Greece; "Following the film release of Fifty Shades of Grey, B&Q employees may encounter increased customer product queries relating to rope, cable ties and masking or duck tape. Store Managers should anticipate the need for extra stock and store staff should read the following brief to prepare them to handle potentially sensitive customer questions"; AND MORE.

Opening Bell: 5.7.15

Billions in FX settlements coming; Dan Loeb rips Warren Buffett; Lagarde comes down on banker pay; UBS bankers turned restauranteurs; "Naked Man Threatens Neighbors With AK-47"; and more.

Opening Bell: 08.15.12

Standard Chartered Faces Fed Probes After N.Y. Deal (Bloomberg) Regulators including the U.S. Treasury, Federal Reserve, Justice Department and Manhattan District Attorney declined attempts at a global settlement, said two people familiar with the matter. A coordinated effort was already in progress before New York’s unilateral deal, announced yesterday by financial regulator Benjamin Lawsky, one of the people said. The agreement doesn’t take into account all of the bank’s alleged violations, including those involving nations such as Sudan, said one of the people, who added that September is the earliest a universal deal may be reached. Paulson Steps Up Gold Bet To 44% Of Firm’s Equity Assets (Bloomberg) John Paulson raised his stake in an exchange-traded fund tracking the price of gold while selling other stocks during the second quarter, leaving his $21 billion hedge fund with more than 44 percent of its U.S. traded equities tied to bullion. Paulson & Co. purchased an additional 4.53 million shares of the SPDR Gold Trust, the firm’s largest position, and bought more shares of NovaGold Resources Inc, according to a Form 13F filed yesterday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Goldman Sachs, SkyBridge Among Mitt Romney's Hedge Fund Bundlers (AR) FYI. Brevan Howard Raising Money In U.S. For Currency Hedge Fund (Bloomberg) London-based Brevan Howard filed an Aug. 9 private- placement notice with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to raise an unspecified amount of assets for its Macro FX fund. The $1 billion currency fund is managed by Luke Ding, a former Merrill Lynch & Co. foreign exchange trader who joined Brevan Howard in 2007. Greece Staves Off Default (WSJ) Greece successfully staved off a default on debts owed to the European Central Bank, as more information dribbled out on the parlous state of its economy and banking system. The Greek economy shrank 6.2% year-on-year in the second quarter, European Union statistics agency Eurostat estimated on Tuesday, and senior bankers said more than 20% of loans to the domestic economy are now officially nonperforming. They warned that the problem may overwhelm the sector and derail the country's bailout program. He Whipped, She Snapped (NYP) Frankie Santiago embraced a role as live-in fetish slave to dominating Manhattan investment-banker beau Edward Sonderling, playing out a bondage fantasy similar to college student Anastasia Steele and older Christian Grey in the erotic novel “Fifty Shades of Grey.” But it all took a twisted turn when Santiago, 27, found out Sonderling, 53, had been training his whips on her replacement. The submissive Santiago exploded in a fit of rage, law-enforcement sources said, allegedy shattering Sonderling’s car windshield and bombarding him with dozens of text threats. “If I ever see you with her I will not hold back. I have nothing to lose,” Santiago railed in one text. “I hope she has a disease you catch.” Santiago — who is known in the bondage-domination S&M community as Althea Lyn — was arrested Monday after what sources said was a knock-down, drag-out fight with Sonderling at the East 57th Street apartment where she once did his daily bidding. Santiago and Sonderling — who has the body of a much younger man and is known as King Eddo — were regulars on Manhattan’s BDSM circuit, where Sonderling boasted of being a “whipping aficionado,” said a source who knows the pair. A Horace Mann and Brown graduate, Sonderling runs his own firm, Priority Investors LLC, He declined to comment on Santiago’s arrest and his extracurricular BDSM activities. “I don’t think that I have anything to say about it. Why would I?” he said. Fund Managers Unload Big Banks (WSJ) Some well-known money managers reported significantly reduced stakes in big banks, including J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., as well as food companies such as Kraft Foods Inc. in the second quarter. Billionaire investor George Soros's Soros Fund Management LLC eliminated positions in J.P. Morgan Chase and Goldman, as well as Citigroup Inc., according to a regulatory filing late Tuesday. The investment company also reported a new stake in retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and a 341,000-share stake in Facebook Inc. Goldman executives win dismissal of mortgage, TARP lawsuit (Reuters) Goldman Sachs Group Inc Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein and other bank officials won the dismissal of a shareholder lawsuit accusing them of tolerating poor mortgage practices and quitting a federal bailout program early to boost executive pay. U.S. District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan said the shareholders failed to show there were "red flags" to put bank directors on notice of "broken controls" in Goldman's mortgage servicing business, including that workers at its Litton unit may have been "robo-signing" documents. Pauley also cited a similar lack of red flags to suggest directors knew Goldman was packaging troubled loans in residential mortgage-backed securities, including loans the bank sold "short" in a bet they would lose value. The judge also said the plaintiffs did not show that directors acted in bad faith in letting Goldman repay $10 billion taken from the Troubled Asset Relief Program early, in June 2009, freeing the bank from restrictions on executive pay. Giuliani: Biden Lacks ‘Mental Capacity’ for VP Job (CNBC) “I've never seen a vice president that has made as many mistakes, said as many stupid things,” he said on “The Kudlow Report.” “I mean, there’s a real fear if, God forbid, he ever had to be entrusted with the presidency, whether he really has the mental capacity to handle it. I mean, this guy just isn’t bright. He’s never been bright. He isn’t bright. And people think, ‘Well, he just talks a little too much.’ Actually, he’s just not very smart.”

Opening Bell: 6.8.15

Deutsche Bank co-CEOs fire themselves; Hedge funds love Japan; "Suit claims principal bribed students with strip club field trip"; and more.

Opening Bell: 10.16.15

US no longer home to most billionaires; Profit actually matters again for companies seeking IPO; McDonald’s all-day breakfast not going well; "Hamptons principal reassigned after cameo in raunchy rap video"; and more.

(Getty Images)

Opening Bell: 9.18.17

Why does BNY Mellon get to have all the repo fun?; ladies first when it comes to hedge funds; JPMorgan buys bitcoin as Jamie calls it a fraud; guess which body part this guy got stuck in a gym weight; and more.

Opening Bell: 01.28.13

Davos Money Men Say World Emerges From Doldrums Fretting Relapse (Bloomberg) “Optimism, but with a sober tone,” was how Bank of America Chief Executive Officer Brian T. Moynihan characterized the mood pervading the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting, even as investors were lifting the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index above 1,500 for the first time since 2007. Fed To Keep Money Spigot Open (WSJ) Federal Reserve officials are likely to continue their easy-money policies when they gather this week to weigh a mixed economic outlook and a recent run of low inflation. The Fed has said it would maintain its $85 billion bond-buying programs, aimed at boosting the economy by lowering long-term interest rates, until it sees substantial progress in labor markets. It has also said it would keep short-term interest rates near zero until the jobless rate drops to at least 6.5%, as long as inflation remains steady. Beneath the Calm, SAC Works to Contain Fallout From Inquiry (NYT) "This has always been a stressful place to work," said an SAC employee who requested anonymity because he was unauthorized to speak publicly about the fund. "Now it's just more stressful." Mr. Cohen's fund was dealt a blow last week when a Citigroup unit that manages money for wealthy families disclosed that it was withdrawing its $187 million investment. The move by the bank was the most prominent client departure since November, when the multiyear investigation into SAC's trading practices entered a more serious phase. Citigroup's withdrawal represents a tiny percentage of SAC's $14 billion in assets under management. The fund has said it expects total investor redemptions for the first quarter of up to $1 billion, a number that an SAC spokesman has said will not adversely affect its business...Still, the Citigroup decision stung, say peopleclose to SAC's business, because of the longstanding and lucrative relationship between the bank and the fund. Another concern, said these people, is that the move could influence other large SAC investors currently weighing whether to keep their money at the fund. For Citigroup, its withdrawal of money from SAC carries substantial business risk. The bank has a vast relationship with SAC, earning revenue by providing the fund with financing and trading services. SAC could exact retribution on Citigroup by terminating, or at least scaling back, its broader relationship with the bank. An SAC spokesman declined to comment. Credit Suisse Could Owe $2 Billion Over Fraud (Reuters) Credit Suisse Group faces a potential $2 billion of exposure over fraud that occurred a decade ago at National Century Financial Enterprises, a result of a federal judge's determination on how to apportion responsibility. Friday's decision by U.S. District Judge James Graham could expose the Swiss bank to hundreds of millions of dollars of added liability over the activities of Lance Poulsen, who co-founded National Century in 1990 and was its chief executive. He is now serving a 30-year prison term and is presumed insolvent. Goldman Raising $1 Billion From ICBC Share Sale (WSJ) The Wall Street company is selling the Hong Kong-listed shares in a block trade at 5.77 Hong Kong dollars (US$0.74) each, the people said, without disclosing the number of shares. The price represents a 3.0% discount to ICBC's HK$5.95 closing price Monday. A person familiar with the situation said the sale reflects prudent risk management on Goldman's part to reduce the size of its ICBC investment. MBA's Salary Enhancing Power Slashed (FT) Students on the top US MBA programs in the mid-1990s saw their salaries triple in five years, but those who graduated from the same schools in 2008 and 2009 saw that increase halved, according to data collected for the FT's annual Global MBA rankings. At the same time, MBA fees have risen by 7 percent a year. MBA students who enrolled in 2012 paid 62 percent more in fees - up 44 percent in real terms - than those who began their programs in 2005, even though the increases in post-MBA salaries remained in line with inflation. Beyonce has yet to apologize to Chuck Schumer for lip-syncing at inauguration (NYP) The New York senator angrily admitted yesterday that the pop queen has not called him to say sorry after she turned last week’s inaugural bash into an unexpected Milli Vanilli concert by lip-syncing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” “I have not heard from her before, during or after,” a testy Schumer told The Post after he was asked if Beyoncé had called him to give a musical mea culpa. “She did not talk to me at all. I didn’t say any words to her, period.” Schumer has been credited with drawing the pop diva and her hubby Jay-Z to the inauguration, where many said they stole the show from the president and first lady walking hand-in-hand on the steps of Capitol Hill. Schumer was seen beaming with pride just steps behind Beyoncé while she appeared to be belting out the National Anthem. Obama administration insiders and inauguration planners were in the dark about Beyoncé’s decision to use a prerecorded tape of her singing with the Marine Band during the swearing in. They were later left fuming over the embarrassment, according to reports. Some on Capitol Hill have even placed the blame on Schumer for the Star-Spangled sham. There’s a Twinkie in the eye of Apollo (NYP) Hostess Brands is expected to name Leon Black’s Apollo Global Management as the preferred bidder for Twinkies and its other snack brands, The Post has learned. The announcement from the bankrupt baker could come as soon as today, sources said. The selection of Apollo would give Manhattan buyout billionaire Leon Black the inside track to buying one of the country’s most well-known consumer brands. Black’s Apollo and co-bidder C. Dean Metropoulos, a veteran food exec, were vying with Grupo Bimbo, the Mexico-based baker, for the right to be the preferred, or stalking horse, bidder for Twinkies, Ho Ho’s, Ding Dongs and other Hostess snacks. Bank of America Moves $50 Billion of Derivatives to UK (FT) Bank of America has begun moving more than $50bn of derivatives business out of its Dublin-based operation and into its UK subsidiary, according to people close to the operation. The move, part of the group's global drive to rationalize its operations, has been encouraged by regulators but will also allow BofA to benefit from tax breaks stemming from the accumulated losses in its UK business. Singer Backs Off Aggressive Stance In Dealings With Buenos Aires (NYP) After a decade of aggressively pursuing $1.44 billion he claims the country owes him and a group of bondholders, including successfully pressing Ghana to seize a locally docked Argentine naval vessel to help pay down the debt, the billionaire New York hedge fund mogul is sounding like Bobby McFerrin in “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Singer’s Elliott Management now feels Argentina will do the right thing, according to recent court filings. It’s quite a change from last fall’s legal arguments, in which Singer urged a federal judge to hurry up and force Buenos Aires to put some of the monies owed into escrow, citing the country’s president’s plot to avoid the debt payment. Italians Have a New Tool to Unearth Tax Cheats (NYT) Despite the government's best efforts, tax evasion remains something of a pastime in Italy, where, famously, more than a few of the Ferrari-driving set claim impoverishment when it comes to declaring their incomes. So this month, not without controversy, the National Revenue Agency decided to try a new tack. Rather than attempting to ferret out how much suspected tax cheats earn, the agency began trying to infer it from how much they spend. The new tool, known as the ''redditometro,'' or income measurer, aims to minimize the wiggle room for evasion by examining a taxpayer's expenditures in dozens of categories, like household costs, car ownership, vacations, gym subscriptions, cellphone usage and clothing. If the taxpayer's spending appears to be more than 20 percent greater than the income he or she has declared, the agency will ask for an explanation. Traders Make Peace With Computers (WSJ) On a recent day on Barclays PLC's stock-trading desk in Manhattan, an electronic platform posted a notice that Barclays was selling a large block of Pfizer shares. In recent years, a computer typically would have swiftly matched such an order with a buyer, sidestepping trading floors altogether. But soft trading volume has left many traders unable to move stock as quickly as they might like. That is one reason why Barclays connected its recently launched DirectEx platform to its trading floor. The move paid off when a client who was buying 150,000 shares on the electronic network decided, after chatting with a Barclays salesman, to take an additional 150,000 shares. Woman Found with 92 Pounds of Marijuana in N. Bellmore (Patch) According to detectives, around 6 p.m., an unmarked First Precinct police car observed Mizzie Artis, 27, of Bellport, operating a 1999 Hyundai eastbound on Columbus Avenue while talking on a cell phone and not wearing a seat belt. Police then observed Artis drive to Armand Street where she met with a male subject in a minivan. As officers drove by both vehicles to further observe, the male subject fled the scene in the van, police said. Artis drove away and failed to stop at a stop sign and did not signal when turning, police said. Officers stopped Artis and, upon approaching the car, observed two large cardboard boxes in the auto. Officers also detected an odor of marijuana emanating from the vehicle. K-9 officers responded to the scene and performed a narcotic search of the vehicle. The cardboard boxes in the front seat had a positive alert for narcotics, police said. Two additional boxes were recovered from the trunk containing marijuana, bringing the total approximate weight to 92 pounds.