Opening Bell: 3.5.15

Wolves; Stress tests; Pot offices; Billionaire Bahamas Brawl; Sharks; AND MORE.

Watchdog’s Hunt Is Short on ‘Wolves’ (WSJ)
Slammed by a state regulator last year for his alleged “unethical and unscrupulous” treatment of an 81-year old investor, Mr. Veale might seem a likely candidate for the “High Risk Broker” program run by Wall Street’s self-regulator, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Launched two years ago, Finra’s High Risk Broker fast-track enforcement program targets individuals with large numbers of disciplinary red flags and a “legacy of being associated with risky firms,” a spokeswoman said. But Mr. Veale, 42 years old, and other former Stratton Oakmont employees aren’t among the 131 brokers barred as a result of the program, the Finra spokeswoman said. She wouldn’t say if any of Stratton Oakmont’s former employees have been classified as high risk under the program.

Citigroup CEO under pressure over ‘stress test’ results (NYP)
The results of Thursday’s stress test from the Federal Reserve could include a “false positive” for Citigroup CEO Mike Corbat, whose job hangs in the balance if the central bank doesn’t approve his plan to increase its profit-sharing plans, Mike Mayo, analyst at CLSA, told The Post. The results of the Fed’s stress test come in two parts — a quantitative review of capital ratios on Thursday after the market close, and a more in-depth dive into the largest banks, including JPMorgan and Bank of America, that comes out March 11. That second review, called the comprehensive capital analysis and review, or CCAR, is make-or-break for Citi’s CEO Corbat, who didn’t convince regulators that his bank had a good enough risk-assessment policy last stress test, Mayo said. “We’re six days away from finding out whether the CEO of Citigroup has a job,” said Mayo, who is including a countdown to March 11 on his notes to investors.

ECB Keeps Rates Unchanged (Bloomberg)
The European Central Bank kept interest rates unchanged at record lows as investors wait for President Mario Draghi to reveal more details of his 1.1 trillion-euro ($1.2 trillion) bond-buying plan. The 25-member Governing Council left the main refinancing rate at 0.05 percent at its meeting on Thursday in Nicosia. The decision was predicted by all 54 economists in a Bloomberg News survey. The deposit rate remained at minus 0.2 percent and the marginal lending rate at 0.3 percent.

Nygard and Bacon’s billionaire Bahamas battle heats up (NYP)
Bacon, the founder of New York-based Moore Capital Management, has been locked in a bitter decade-long property-line dispute with Nygard, his next-door neighbor in the posh Bahamas neighborhood of Lyford Cay. Most of Nygard’s lavish estate was destroyed in a 2009 fire after years of complaints from Bacon about loud parties and illegal dredging that, Bacon claimed, threatened an environmental disaster. This week, lawyers for Bacon alleged that Nygard has orchestrated press coverage in the Bahamas and elsewhere that accused Bacon of setting the fire — a charge Bacon denies. “Mr. Bacon had absolutely no involvement in the fire at Nygard Cay,” Bacon’s lawyers wrote in the court papers, referring to the name given by Nygard to his beach compound. Both deep-pocketed men have accused each other of trying to enlist the Bahamian government in their campaigns against each other. Citing a YouTube video titled, “Nygard Takes Bahamas Back 2012,” following the Prime Minister’s election, Bacon charged that it was meant to “give the impression that Nygard could act with impunity in the Bahamas,” according to the suit.

Sony's Amy Pascal Delays Office Move Due to Seth Rogen Pot Stench (THR)
Though Amy Pascal is beginning her transition from Sony Pictures co-chair to on-the-lot producer, her new office space plans might be up in smoke, at least temporarily. Sources say Pascal is unable to move into her new suite that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg most recently occupied because the stench of marijuana cannot be easily removed. The offices — a plum spot that once housed Pascal's late boss, John Calley — will be repainted in an effort to eradicate the smell...Rogen is an outspoken pot aficionado and once told Elle magazine: "I guess I could say I have a terrible case of I-wanna-smoke-weed-all-day." Rogen and Goldberg's neighbors had long complained of the smell emanating from their first-floor offices. One frequent visitor says the fumes could be smelled on the third floor of the building.

Kleiner ex-partner Pao to testify in own Silicon Valley bias case (Reuters)
Former venture capitalist Ellen Pao could take the stand as early as Thursday in her gender discrimination lawsuit against her previous employer Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, giving testimony that will likely make or break the case. Questioning Pao provides the best opportunity for each side to clinch their arguments, but it is also extremely risky, according to employment law attorneys following the trial. The lawsuit, which the former Kleiner Perkins partner filed in 2012 against the venture capital firm, has helped spark a broad and ongoing discussion about sexism in Silicon Valley. To win, Pao needs "to come across as extra-capable," said Kathleen Lucas, a San Francisco attorney who represents employees. "I don't think she necessarily has to be likeable."

Warren Buffett: 'I Consider Myself a Journalist' (Bloomberg)
“I consider myself a journalist to some extent,” the 84-year-old billionaire said in a video interview premiering Thursday night as part of the “Iconic Voices” series at Arizona State University. “I say, ‘Is the Washington Post Co. worth $22 a share?’ in 1973. I say, ‘Is the BNSF railroad worth us paying $34 billion?’ I assign myself the story. It’s my working hypothesis that it is. But then I go and look for the facts.”

Obesity Is Hurting the U.S. Economy in Surprising Ways (Bloomberg)
As a panel of scientists considers ways to help Americans trim down, unpublished research shows medical expenses linked to being extremely overweight have skyrocketed. Experts say the damage is augmented by reduced productivity, wider gender and income inequality and even higher transportation costs.

‘Selfie’ Shtick Focuses on Dividends (WSJ)
They’re called selfies, and they are making professional fund managers here nervous. The expanding ranks of Australians who manage their own pension savings are helping drive stocks to levels not seen since the global financial crisis. Together they control more than 568 billion Australian dollars (US$444 billion) of the country’s A$1.9 trillion in pension assets. Selfies are putting a flood of cash into everything from banks to pizza makers, pushing some valuations to heights more common for U.S. technology companies. Much of the new money is going into so-called defensive stocks—such as Commonwealth Bank of Australia and telecommunications operator Telstra Corp. —which typically pay out a high proportion of their earnings as dividends and are considered relatively steady investments.

Aquarium worker proposes from inside shark tank (UPI)
A fish keeper at an Arizona aquarium surprised his girlfriend with an underwater marriage proposal when he asked the question from inside a shark tank. The worker at Sea Life Aquarium in Tempe, identified only as Evan, enlisted the help of colleagues at the facility to have his girlfriend, Jessica, brought to the tank where sharks and eels are kept so he could surprise her by unfolding a sign with his marriage proposal. "Of all the fish in the sea, you are the only one for me. Jessica, will you marry me?" the sign read. Jessica enthusiastically accepted the proposal, resulting in congratulations from the strangers who took a break from looking at fish to witness the unusual question-popping.


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Opening Bell: 6.24.16

Brexit, Brexit, Brexit; Banks pass stress tests; Lindsay Lohan live tweets rant on European Union referendum, attacks 'Brexit' voters; and more.

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Opening Bell: 9.2.16

Carl Icahn's son wants a promotion; Banks vs stress tests; Pamela Anderson, rabbi pen op-ed saying porn is "for losers"; and more.

Opening Bell: 3.11.16

Hedge Fund billionaire Louis Bacon says clothing Mogul Peter Nygard plotted murder over beach house; Calls grow for Fed to hike rates in March; “All I thought about, from when the bandages first came off, was witnessing the expression on a woman’s face when she sees [it]"; and more.

Opening Bell: 03.15.13

JPMorgan Pay Fueled Risk Amid London Whale Loss: Report (Bloomberg) JPMorgan, the biggest U.S. bank by assets, compensated chief investment office traders in a way that encouraged risk-taking before the unit amassed losses exceeding $6.2 billion, a Senate committee said. Pay that rewarded “effective risk management” would have suggested the synthetic credit portfolio functioned as a hedge, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations said yesterday in a report on the New York-based bank’s so-called London Whale loss. Instead, compensation practices suggest the bets “functioned more as a proprietary-trading operation.” JPMorgan Report Piles Pressure on Dimon in Too-Big Debate (Bloomberg) Dimon misled investors and dodged regulators as losses escalated on a “monstrous” derivatives bet, according to a 301-page report by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. The bank “mischaracterized high-risk trading as hedging,” and withheld key information from its primary regulator, sometimes at Dimon’s behest, investigators found. Managers manipulated risk models and pressured traders to overvalue their positions in an effort to hide growing losses. Ina Drew Says Subordinates’ Deception at JPMorgan Let Her Down (Bloomberg) Ina Drew, who was forced to leave JPMorgan Chase amid a record trading loss last year, said she relied on other executives to manage a complex book of credit derivatives and didn’t learn of their “deceptive conduct” until after she left the company. “I was, and remain, deeply disappointed and saddened to learn of such conduct and the extent to which the London team let me, and the company, down,” Drew said in testimony prepared for delivery in the Senate today. Credit Suisse Banker Extradited To US (NYP) Former Credit Suisse banker Kareem Serageldin, the highest-ranking Wall Street executive to be charged for crimes tied to the mortgage meltdown, is coming home to face the music, The Post has learned. The 39-tear old Yale graduate was indicted by a Manhattan federal grand jury in February 2012 — along with two Credit Suisse colleagues — for allegedly covering up losses in a $3.5 billion toxic mortgage portfolio as the real estate market was collapsing in 2007. The UK’s Home Secretary Theresa May, who is responsible for Great Britain’s immigration and citizenship, signed off last week on the extradition of Serageldin, a person with knowledge of the case told The Post. Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Hit (WSJ) The Federal Reserve Thursday dealt a blow to J.P. Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, citing weaknesses in their "stress test" capital planning that could hamper their funneling more dividends and share buybacks to investors. The central bank also denied capital plans submitted by BB&T Corp. and Ally Financial Inc. But the Fed at the same time cleared 14 other banks to boost payouts to shareholders, including Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp., both of which in past years had capital requests rejected by the central bank. The Fed also approved a reduced repurchase plan from American Express Co., in the only instance of a bank winning approval for a plan resubmitted to the regulator under a new stress-test wrinkle this year. Mila Kunis Rotates From Cash to Stocks (CNBC) The star of films such as Ted, Friends With Benefits and the TV series That 70s Show told CNBC in London: "I've just started investing in stocks, which is new for me." "I'm an advocate of like put things in the bank, put it in a CD (a certificate of deposit), be safe. And I've been pushed kind of forward to take chances and then learning a little bit about the stock market and companies," she said. Abe Says Japan Will Join Trade Talks (WSJ) Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Friday that his country will take a seat at the negotiation table of the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations, a move that may pit him against powerful farm lobbies ahead of upper house elections this summer. "This is our last chance to join the TPP and take part in the rule-making," Mr. Abe told reporters Friday at a news conference to mark his decision to join the talks. "For Japan to remain inward-looking means we are giving up on the possibility of growth." Stifel Agrees to Acquire Fixed-Income Group From Knight (Bloomberg) Knight’s European institutional fixed-income sales and trading team is also part of the deal, which includes about 100 people, Stifel said today in a statement, without disclosing terms. The group covers high-yield and investment-grade corporate bonds, asset-backed and mortgage-backed securities, emerging markets and fixed-income research. No 'Irrational Exuberance' in Stocks Now: Greenspan (CNBC) Greenspan said in a "Squawk Box" interview that stocks by historical standards are "significantly undervalued" even considering the recent moves higher. He added that the payroll tax increase didn't dent spending because of rising asset prices. Could Hungary Be Thrown Out of the EU? (CNBC) Hungary's increasingly aggressive moves against media, judiciary and central bank independence will be discussed by European Union heads of states on Friday, raising the possibility that Hungary could be thrown out of the EU. The European Union is concerned Hungary may be flouting EU rules on human rights, after its parliament voted this week to amend its constitution to allow legislation to bypass approval from the constitutional court. Hungary had defied calls from the European Commission to delay the vote. The Taco That Built 15,000 Jobs (ABC) It may take a village to raise a child. But all it takes to raise employment is a taco. That seems to be the situation at Taco Bell, anyway, which added 15,000 employees last year, company chief executive Greg Creed told the Daily Beast, largely on one new product. Creed attributes the success to Doritos Locos Tacos, which the company rolled out in March, 2012 and was the “biggest launch in Taco Bell history,” he told the Beast. Throughout 2012, the 170-calorie taco, whose shell is made from a nacho cheese Doritos in a collaboration with Frito-Lay, 375 million were gobbled up, which averages out to about one million per day. But why stop there? On March 7, it launched Cool Ranch Dorito Locos Tacos. The slogan? “Collect All Two.” “We believe we can add 2,000 new restaurants in the next 10 years, because what we have is proprietary and exclusive. Nobody else can make a Cool Ranch Doritos Taco. And that’s just in the U.S.,” Creed told the Beast. Creed was traveling today and unavailable to talk to ABC News, a spokesman said.

Opening Bell: 3.11.15

Gundlach can't believe these "blockheads" at the Fed; New Credit Suisse CEO knows about risk unlike some people; Stress tests; Bales of weed for everyone; AND MORE.