Opening Bell: 5.12.15

Greek finance minister: "Let's not beat around the bush"; KKR wants $12 billion; Alibaba wants MBAs; UK man banned from airline over Pinocchio crotch tat; and more.
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Alibaba Wages Global Talent War for Elite MBAs (Bloomberg)
Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba Group Holding launched a new effort to recruit and train some of the same promising managers North American companies are clamoring to hire, as part of a broader expansion into foreign markets, the company said Sunday. As one element of the initiative, called the Alibaba Global Leadership Development Program, second-year MBA candidates at top business schools worldwide will compete for a two-year rotation among various divisions of the company. The program's standouts will be hired full time at the end of the two years.

Kravis’s KKR Said to Seek Up to $12 Billion for Buyout Fund (Bloomberg)
The New York-based firm, led by Henry Kravis and George Roberts, expects to target at least $10 billion and will start marketing the pool in the third quarter, said the people, who asked not to be named because the information is private.

Greece two weeks from cash crisis - Yanis Varoufakis (BBC)
Greece's finance minister says his country's financial situation is "terribly urgent" and the crisis could come to a head in a couple of weeks. Yanis Varoufakis gave the warning after eurozone finance ministers met in Brussels to discuss the final €7.2bn tranche of Greece's €240bn EU/IMF bailout. Ministers said Greece had made "progress" but more work was needed. The Greek government is struggling to meet its payment obligations. Earlier, Greece began the transfer of €750m (£544m, $834m) in debt interest to the International Monetary Fund - a day ahead of a payment deadline. "The liquidity issue is a terribly urgent issue. It's common knowledge, let's not beat around the bush," Mr Varoufakis told reporters in Brussels.

Bourbon Feels the Burn of Barrel Shortage (WSJ)
In 50 years of making bourbon barrels, no one had ever offered Leroy McGinnis more than what he charged for them. But over the past six months, multiple distillers have offered to pay him $250 a barrel—a 70% premium above the $150 list price. The offer illustrates just how scarce bourbon barrels have become. As bourbon sales have soared, both barrel production and the lumber industry have struggled to keep up. Mr. McGinnis’s Missouri-based company, McGinnis Wood Products Inc., gets about four email requests a day for barrels. He turns most down. Like many of his competitors, he has only enough capacity and wood to fill orders from longtime customers. The rest go on a waiting list, perpetuating a bourbon barrel shortage now entering its third year.

Buses emblazoned with picture of topless models holding a signs saying 'Ride me all day for £3' spark outrage (Daily Mail)
New Adventure Travel Ltd (NAT), based in Cardiff, excitedly took to Twitter [Monday] morning to promote the new provocative adverts which have been emblazoned across the back of ten new buses. One advert shows a dark-haired woman posing in a sultry manner with the suggestive sign, while another shows the same sign being held by a topless male model. But the campaign backfired when passengers condemned the company for being 'unacceptable' and 'insulting'. Others accused the company of 'promoting sexism and rape culture'...NAT have now released a statement saying the adverts were intended to be a 'tongue-in-cheek way' of making bus-catching more attractive to the younger generation.

Elon Musk once scolded a Tesla employee for missing a work event to witness the birth of his child (BI)
Here's the email Musk reportedly sent to a Tesla employee who wasn't identified by name in the book: "That is no excuse. I am extremely disappointed. You need to figure out where your priorities are. We're changing the world and changing history, and you either commit or you don’t."

American Apparel to Raise Capital After Posting Wider Loss (Bloomberg)
The stock sale will be “at the market” -- meaning shares are sold from time to time rather than in one big block -- with the proceeds going toward working capital and general corporate purposes, the Los Angeles-based company said in a statement Monday. American Apparel’s net loss expanded to $26.4 million, or 15 cents a share, from $5.47 million, or 5 cents, a year earlier. Revenue fell 9.4 percent to $124.2 million.

Blue Apron Seeking $2 Billion Valuation in New Funding Round (WSJ)
The New York-based startup, which ships boxes of pre-measured ingredients to home cooks, is in talks to raise money from investors at a valuation of around $2 billion, according to people familiar with the matter. The company is seeking to raise more than $100 million, one of the people said, but the deal hasn’t been finalized.

OPEC Sees Oil Below $100 Long-Term (WSJ)
The report predicted that oil prices will be about $76 a barrel in 2025 in OPEC’s most optimistic scenario, the people said, a reflection of the cartel’s worries that American competitors will be able to cope with low prices and keep pumping out supplies. It also contemplated situations where crude oil costs below $40 a barrel in 2025, the people said.

UK man banned from airline over Pinocchio tattoo (News)
A holidaymaker who exposed his Pinocchio penis tattoo to cabin crew and waved around a sex toy while on a flight to Majorca, has dismissed the incident as “only a giggle”...Imposing the ban, chiefs at the airline described the behaviour as “disgusting”, saying they carry many families on their flights and such actions would not be tolerated. But Tom Washington said spirits were high as, along with 22 of his friends, he boarded the flight from East Midlands Airport to Majorca dressed as female cabin crew staff. Things, however, quickly turned sour on-board the plane when Tom revealed his tattoo of childhood character Pinocchio, located above his private parts, to fellow holiday-makers and cabin crew. “There were 23 of us altogether and we all met at East Midlands airport,” he said. “We got up in the early hours to do our make-up and hair like any presentable woman. “We were all excited and sober at this point, and we got on to the plane with barrels of laughter from pretty much everyone — the airport staff and members of the public. We got to our seats on the plane for the safety induction. “I got up but because my jacket was too tight, it exposed my chest which I had covered with a bra. I then proceeded to ‘help’ the cabin staff with the safety talk using a sex toy. “There were some old men on the plane as well and they were a laugh. The lads mentioned I had a tattoo of Pinocchio, which I showed them, and that was the point where the manager took my passport.”

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Opening Bell: 05.18.12

Facebook Employees Spend All Night Programming (DJ) Tech geeks across the Facebook empire — including the New York office — celebrated the company’s IPO and their newfound millions by slugging back energy drinks at all-night code-writing parties. Legions of the social network’s employees, who will be worth an average of $2.9 million apiece on paper when the stock opens trading this morning, dressed for the occasion with matching “Hackathon” T-shirts. They kicked off the party at their Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters, just hours after the company’s 420 million available shares were priced at $38 each. The festivities were expected to rage through the night until founder Mark Zuckerberg rings the Nasdaq opening bell via video feed at 9:30 a.m. Inside JPMorgan's Blunder (WSJ) Chairman and Chief Executive Officer James Dimon had just committed the most expensive blunder of his 30-year career, failing to detect the risk of trades that had begun to generate huge losses at the bank. On April 30, associates who were gathered in a conference room handed Mr. Dimon summaries and analyses of the losses. But there were no details about the trades themselves. "I want to see the positions!" he barked, throwing down the papers, according to attendees. "Now! I want to see everything!" When Mr. Dimon saw the numbers, these people say, he couldn't breathe...Mr. Dimon publicly disclosed the losses in a conference call on May 10. Afterward, he told Mr. Lee: "Maybe I can sleep tonight," according to a person familiar with the conversation...Late that Friday night, several executives gathered in Mr. Dimon's office. Messrs. Dimon and Cavanagh drank vodka. Others had wine. They told their boss how they had let down the firm, attendees say. "We all did," Mr. Dimon replied, according to attendees. "Put on your JPM jerseys and get ready. We are going to take a lot of hits. We'll draft our best team and get through this." Defiant Message From Greece (WSJ) "Our first choice is to convince our European partners that, in their own interest, financing must not be stopped," Mr. Tsipras said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. He said Greece doesn't intend to take any unilateral action, "but if they proceed with unilateral action on their side, in other words they cut off our funding, then we will be forced to stop paying our creditors, to go to a suspension in payments to our creditors." Groupon Stock Spike Probed (WSJ) A Wall Street regulator is examining trading in Groupon that sent its stock price soaring hours before a favorable earnings announcement Monday, according to a person familiar with the matter. The review by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or Finra, is at an early stage, the person said. It follows unusually heavy trading in shares of the online-coupon company in the run-up to its release of strong financial results. Ex-ECB Chief Trichet Unveils Bold Plan to Save Euro (Reuters) Europe could strengthen its monetary union by giving European politicians the power to declare a sovereign state bankrupt and take over its fiscal policy, the former head of the European Central Bank said on Thursday in unveiling a bold proposal to salvage the euro. Russian man gets stuck in building's garbage chute while trying to hide from girlfriend (NYDN) A Russian man went to great lengths to hide from his girlfriend on Wednesday night when he jumped into a garbage chute on the eighth floor of his apartment building. The unidentified man slid down the chute until he became stuck on the fifth floor of the building in Tyumen, Siberia. Authorities confirmed that they were told of the situation after people in the building heard the man's cries for help. Rescuers used a Jaws-of-Life tool to free the man, according to reports. Santander Among 16 Spanish Banks Downgraded By Moody’s (Bloomberg) "Banks will continue to face highly adverse operating and market funding conditions that pose a threat to their creditworthiness,” the ratings firm said. “The Spanish economy has fallen back into recession in first-quarter 2012, and Moody’s does not expect conditions to improve” this year. Marc Faber: China Biggest Threat To Global Economy (CNBC) "I think the biggest risk is actually China because if you look at Greece, it's an insignificant economy," Faber said on CNBC Asia's “Capital Connection.” "Yes, they owe money, but the market knows that it's bankrupt." German Finance Minister Sees Two Years Of Turmoil (Bloomberg) German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said that turmoil in the financial markets caused by Europe’s debt crisis may last another two years, as Group of Eight leaders prepared to discuss Greece and its impact on the global economy. More than 2 1/2 years after Greece revealed its bloated budget deficit, Europe has “known a lot of crisis,” Schaeuble said in a recorded interview broadcast today on France’s Europe 1 radio. “It’s practically normal.” Even so, “in 12 to 24 months we’ll see a calming of financial markets,” he said.

Opening Bell: 03.06.12

Goldman Secret Greece Loan Reveals Sinners (Bloomberg) On the day the 2001 deal was struck, the government owed the bank about 600 million euros ($793 million) more than the 2.8 billion euros it borrowed, said Spyros Papanicolaou, who took over the country’s debt-management agency in 2005. By then, the price of the transaction, a derivative that disguised the loan and that Goldman Sachs persuaded Greece not to test with competitors, had almost doubled to 5.1 billion euros, he said. Papanicolaou and his predecessor, Christoforos Sardelis, revealing details for the first time of a contract that helped Greece mask its growing sovereign debt to meet European Union requirements, said the country didn’t understand what it was buying and was ill-equipped to judge the risks or costs...“Like the municipalities, Greece is just another example of a poorly governed client that got taken apart,” Satyajit Das, a risk consultant and author of “Extreme Money: Masters of the Universe and the Cult of Risk,” said in a phone interview. “These trades are structured not to be unwound, and Goldman is ruthless about ensuring that its interests aren’t compromised -- it’s part of the DNA of that organization. Greece Pushes For Aid Tranche (WSJ) Greece's international creditors are considering whether to grant the country a small, tranche of the €130 billion ($171.8 billion) bailout agreed earlier this month in the weeks ahead as part of efforts to pump liquidity into the country's moribund economy. Speaking to the privately owned Mega television channel Tuesday, Deputy Finance Minister Philippos Sachinidis said the money would go to paying off some of the €6 billion in accumulated arrears that the Greek government owes private contractors. He added that the disbursement could come before Greece goes to elections that are widely expected to be held in late April. "There is a discussion that, likely before the elections, we will get a tranche that will allow us to pay some of, not the total, of the arrears," Mr. Sachinidis said. Bondholder Group Sees 1 Trillion Euro Greek Default Risk (Reuters) A disorderly Greek default would probably leave Italy and Spain needing outside help to stop contagion spreading and cause more than 1 trillion euros ($1.3 trillion) of damage to the euro zone, the group representing Athens' bondholders warned. Greek private creditors have until Thursday night to say whether they will take part in a bond swap that is part of a 130 billion euros bailout deal to put the country on a more stable footing and cut its debt by more than 100 billion euros. Paulson’s Advantage Plus Declines in February (Bloomberg) John Paulson lost 1.5 percent in February in one of his largest hedge funds, according to an investor update, paring this year’s gain and setting back efforts by the New York-based manager to recoup record losses in 2011. Paulson’s Advantage Plus Fund, which seeks to profit from corporate events such as takeovers and bankruptcies and uses leverage to amplify returns, gained 3.5 percent in the first two months of 2012, according to the update IBM’s Watson Gets Wall Street Job After ‘Jeopardy’ Win (Bloomberg) International Business Machines Corp’s Watson computer, which beat champions of the quiz show “Jeopardy!” a year ago, will soon be advising Wall Street on risks, portfolios and clients. Citigroup, the third-largest U.S. lender, is Watson’s first financial services client, IBM said yesterday. It will help analyze customer needs and process financial, economic and client data to advance and personalize digital banking. Ann Romney: ‘I Don’t Even Consider Myself Wealthy’ (ABC) Mitt Romney may have more money than any other presidential candidate in the race, but his wife said today that she does not consider herself wealthy. “We can be poor in spirit, and I don’t even consider myself wealthy, which is an interesting thing,” Ann Romney said in an interview on Fox News. “It can be here today and gone tomorrow.” Swiss Pass Proposal to Help Nab US Tax Evaders (Reuters) Specifically, the plan would allow Switzerland to hand over data on suspected tax evaders, even if U.S. tax authorities cannot identify alleged offenders by name or bank account. The big-spending businessman who ran up £203,948 bar bill was 23-year-old City whizkid (Mirror) The businessman who blew £203,948 on bubbly in a single night in Liverpool was 23-year-old Alex Hope...His biography reads: “Despite his tender years, Alex is a name to watch out for in the city. An expert in the UK economy, he works the currency markets, regularly trading millions.” Describing his rapid career rise from humble beginnings to working for trading company Zone Invest Group, it adds: “A talented, charismatic and thoroughly likeable man, Alex Hope exudes knowledge and you can’t help but respect and admire this self-taught and self-made young trader.” Banker Bonus Limits Sought by EU Lawmakers (Bloomberg) Members of the European Parliament’s Socialist and Green parties have proposed that a draft EU law to bolster bank capital should include new pay rules, as well as stricter curbs on risk taking, according to two members of the institution’s financial affairs committee. “Wrong incentives were part of the banking culture that caused the crisis,” said Udo Bullmann, a German lawmaker following the proposed law for the parliament’s Socialist group. “I expect there will be quite a lot of sympathy among different party groups” for further rules on pay. Judge throws heat at Picard’s claim vs. Mets (NYP) Picard’s best evidence may be from Noreen Harrington, a former chief investment officer for a hedge fund partially owned by the Mets’ owners, who is expected to say that she told Katz and another Sterling Equities executive that she thought Madoff’s reported returns were “fiction” and not “worth the paper they’re written on.” The Mets will argue they were bamboozled by Madoff, along with the nation’s top regulators and major banks. Bill Clinton Said to Agree to Join Obama at Campaign Fundraisers (Bloomberg) While Obama raised $5 million on his last fundraising trip to New York, including $2 million from a March 1 event with members of the financial services industry, he is collecting less money from Wall Street this year compared with four years ago, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. When Gaming Is Good For You (WSJ) People who played action-based video and computer games made decisions 25% faster than others without sacrificing accuracy, according to a study. Indeed, the most adept gamers can make choices and act on them up to six times a second—four times faster than most people, other researchers found. Moreover, practiced game players can pay attention to more than six things at once without getting confused, compared with the four that someone can normally keep in mind, said University of Rochester researchers. The studies were conducted independently of the companies that sell video and computer games.

Opening Bell: 07.23.12

Prosecutors, regulators close to making Libor arrests (Reuters) U.S. prosecutors and European regulators are close to arresting individual traders and charging them with colluding to manipulate global benchmark interest rates, according to people familiar with a sweeping investigation into the rigging scandal...Defense lawyers, some of whom represent suspects, said prosecutors have indicated they plan to begin making arrests and filing criminal charges in the next few weeks. Diamond Exit Fells Last Pillar In London’s Gekko Generation (Bloomberg) When Mervyn King and Adair Turner, the U.K.’s top two financial overseers, agreed to summon Barclays’s chairman to the Bank of England on July 2 and said they had lost confidence in Diamond, London’s best-known banker, they were making clear that the rules of the road had changed. “The signal to the City has got to be that if you behave badly you will be removed from your employment,” said Paul Myners, the government’s financial-services minister from 2008 to 2010 and former chairman of Gartmore Investment Management Ltd. “It will send shivers down the spine of anybody who is up to no good.” Spain Bans Short-Selling For Three Months (Reuters) Spain's stock market regulator banned short-selling on all Spanish securities on Monday for three months and said it may extend the ban beyond Oct. 23. The ban, which will not apply to market makers, will apply to any operation on stocks or indexes, including cash operations, derivatives traded on platforms as well as OTC derivatives, the regulator said in a statement. Greece Should Pay Wages in Drachmas Says German Lawmaker (Reuters) "Greece should start to pay half of its civil service wages, pensions and other expenditures in drachmas now," Dobrint said. "A soft return to the old currency is better for Greece than a drastic move. Having the drachma as a parallel currency would allow the chance for economic growth to develop." All Eyes On Facebook Revenue (WSJ) Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expect Facebook to report second-quarter revenue of $1.1 billion on earnings of 12 cents a share. Facebook needs to hit those marks to prove that it can grow into the $100 billion valuation that it gave itself in its IPO. The valuation implies Facebook will grow at a significant pace, said Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney. Facebook's "business has been showing significant revenue-growth deceleration," he said. "The market valuation implies at least a stabilization of revenue growth this year and next year." Using Small Business Loans To Generate Big Profits (WSJ) At a recent group-lending meeting in the Kawangware slum, about 10 miles from downtown, Jackson Munyovi sought $350 to build a new shanty for his wife and two children. The 31-year-old welder asked fellow church congregants and friends to co-sign a loan to finance building materials. A church deacon vouched for the borrower's assets, including a few metal-shop machines and his marital bed, and Mr. Munyovi promised to repay the loan in six months, plus 8% interest. And with that, Equity Bank Group—one of Africa's most ambitious banks—snagged another customer. The Kenyan bank has enjoyed a booming business lending to people with little collateral beyond the potential disgrace of letting friends down. Equity executives aren't shy about a business model that leverages societal mores and shame—often the strongest collateral to be found on a continent where formal credit records are scarce beyond the biggest cities. Avenue Capital Places Faith In Eurozone (NYT) Now, even as Europe’s economic problems worsen and the markets punish giants like Spain and Italy, Mr. Lasry is betting on a long-term comeback for the Continent. This month, his hedge fund, Avenue Capital, finished raising nearly $3 billion for a fund that will invest in the debt of troubled European companies. He has committed roughly $75 million of his own money to the new fund. That’s still a small part of his estimated $1.3 billion fortune, but Mr. Lasry is among a coterie of hedge fund and private equity managers who are gambling that the euro zone will stay intact and revive over the long run. Wealth chief could be Morgan Stanley’s No.2 (NYP) Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman may have found his No.2: Greg Fleming. That’s after Fleming, the president of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and Morgan’s wealth management unit, proved to be the only bright spot in the firm’s otherwise disappointing second-quarter results...Gorman, 53, hasn’t anointed a second-in-command since he took over as CEO from John Mack back in 2009. But Morgan Stanley’s co-presidents of institutional securities, Colm Kelleher and Paul Taubman, and possibly CFO Ruth Porat (if she chooses to accept), are among those who could be named. Though still relatively new, having joined the company in 2009, Fleming has shown he’s a worthy contender for the crown. Tony Robbins ‘Firewalk Experience’ goes wrong (AP) Fire officials in California say at least 21 people were treated for burns after attendees of an event for motivational speaker Tony Robbins tried to walk on hot coals...at least three people went to a hospital and most suffered second or third-degree burns. Robbins was hosting a 4-day gathering called “Unleash the Power Within” at the San Jose Convention Center. Witnesses say on Thursday, a crowd went to a park where 12 lanes of hot coals were on the grass. Robbins’ website promotes “The Firewalk Experience” in which people walk on super-heated coals. Witness Jonathan Correll says he heard “screams of agony.”

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Opening Bell: 6.29.16

Moody's downgrades 12 UK banks; Soros bets against Deutsche Bank; Saudi Arabia beating off bankers with a stick; Cops say woman wielded hatchet after her demands for sex were rebuffed; and more.

Opening Bell: 06.14.12

Geithner Seeks More Euro-Zone Measures (WSJ) Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner called the bailout of Spain's banking system "a good, concrete signal" of the euro-zone commitment to financial integration, but said the currency union must act quickly with more measures to quell its crisis. "This is a very challenging crisis for them still," he said Wednesday in a discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations. "They recognize they're going to have to do a bunch more to…restore a bit of calm and to convince people they're going to do what's necessary to make this work." Spanish Crisis Deepens (WSJ) The financial crisis threatening the Spanish government deepened Thursday as Spain's borrowing costs surpassed their euro-zone record, touching levels that previously forced other euro-zone countries to seek sovereign debt bailouts. The move followed yet another sovereign credit downgrade and coincided with fresh evidence Thursday of economic and financial stress as the decline of Spanish housing prices accelerated to a 12.6% annual rate in the first quarter and Spanish banks increased their reliance on European Central Bank funding. Spain Credit Rating Slashed by Moody's, Egan-Jones (Reuters) Moody's Investors Service cut its rating on Spanish government debt by three notches on Wednesday From A-3 to to Baa-3, saying the newly approved euro zone plan to help the country's banks will increase the country's debt burden. Moody's, which said it could lower Spain's rating further, also cited the Spanish government's "very limited'' access to international debt markets and the weakness of the country's economy. Greek Banks Under Pressure (WSJ) In a sign of heightened nervousness within the country, depositors have been steadily increasing their withdrawals from Greek banks. The withdrawals, according to senior bankers in Athens, approach the level of deposit flight seen when government coalition talks collapsed after inconclusive elections on May 6, forcing the new vote. "Why I'm Betting Big On Europe" (Fortune) David Herro seems awfully relaxed for a man who has more than $1 billion invested in European banks. It's a sunny morning in late May, and I'm sitting across from the boyish 51-year-old fund manager in his downtown Chicago office. He's giving me his full attention, but I can't stop glancing at the headlines blinking on the Bloomberg terminal behind him. The euro is about to hit a two-year low. Greece is on the brink of disaster. Spain's real estate market is in shambles, and Italian sovereign debt is as fragile as stained glass. The global economy is roiling, and Herro is positively beatific. "Eventually they're going to get these problems solved," he says. "If you look at the economic history of the world, problems come and problems go. There are problems, and they do have to be dealt with. And our view is that all these problems are manageable." Large Institutions Discuss New Marketplace for Bonds (WSJ) In recent weeks, senior traders at investment managers and big Wall Street banks have been discussing how the financial industry can set up a centralized electronic market that would let all participants trade bonds freely with one another, according to people involved in the talks. BofA Beating JPMorgan As BNP Leads French Lenders Retreat (Bloomberg) Bank of America overtook JPMorgan Chase as the biggest lender to the commodities industry in the first five months as French lenders led by BNP Paribas retreated amid the debt crisis. Commodity loans arranged by Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America totaled $14.71 billion, and New York-based JPMorgan’s $14.41 billion ranked it second, according to syndicated-loan data compiled by Bloomberg. Citigroup was the third biggest with $13.68 billion of financing, rising from fourth last year. BNP Paribas slipped to 17th from second. Lazard elects former Citigroup chairman Richard Parsons to board (NYP) Financial advisory and asset management firm Lazard Ltd. said Wednesday that it elected former Citigroup chairman Richard Parsons to its board, effective immediately. Parsons served as chairman of Citigroup Inc. from February 2009 until his retirement in April 2012. He had served as a director on its board since 1996. Before that, he was chairman and chief executive of the media and entertainment company Time Warner Inc. Montreal teacher suspended with pay for showing students ‘Canadian Cannibal’ Luke Magnotta murder video (NYDN) A Canadian teacher was fighting for his job after he was suspended for showing students a gory video allegedly showing Maple Leaf man-eater Luke Magnotta killing his Chinese lover. The Cavelier-De LaSalle High School 10th grade teacher appeared before a labor board on Wednesday to explain himself, and Montreal police were mulling whether to slap him with criminal charges, The Canadian Press reported. School officials said the teacher, who is in his 20s, polled students about whether they wanted to watch the grisly snuff video during class on June 4. The yays outweighed the nays, according to the Press. In the 11-minute video, Magnotta, a porn actor and sometime escort, allegedly tortured Jun Lin, 33 — beheading and dismembering his body, eating his flesh with a knife and fork and performing sex acts on the corpse.

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: 10.18.12

Morgan Stanley Posts Loss (WSJ) "The rebound in fixed income and commodities sales and trading indicates that clients have re-engaged after the uncertainty of the rating review in the previous quarter," Chief Executive James Gorman said, referring to Moody's Investors Service's move over the summer to downgrade the credit rating on more than a dozen banks. "We are beginning to unlock the full potential of the Global Wealth Management franchise, having increased our ownership of, and agreed on a purchase price for the rest of, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management." For the quarter, Morgan Stanley reported a loss of $1.02 billion, compared with a year-earlier profit of $2.2 billion. The per-share loss, which reflects the payment of preferred dividends, was 55 cents compared with a profit of $1.15 a year earlier. Stripping out the impact of debt-valuation changes, the per-share profit was 28 cents versus two cents a share a year ago. Revenue fell 46% to $5.29 billion, including a negative impact of $2.3 billion from the tightening of credit spreads related to debt. Stripping out debt-valuation changes revenue was up 18% to $7.55 billion. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected earnings of 24 cents, excluding gains related to debt, on revenue of $6.36 billion. Morgan Stanley Reduces Investment-Bank Pay to $5.2 Billion (Bloomberg) The ratio of compensation to revenue in the unit fell to 44.9 percent, compared with 48.4 percent in the same period a year earlier, when excluding accounting gains and losses related to the firm’s credit spreads. That’s still higher than Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan’s investment bank. Compensation and benefits for all of Morgan Stanley totaled $12 billion in the first nine months, down 4 percent. Goldman Ex-Employee Says Firm Pushed Europe Bank Options (Bloomberg) Goldman Sachs sought to profit last year by persuading clients to buy and sell stock options on European banks such as BNP Paribas SA and UniCredit SpA, according to former employee Greg Smith’s new book. “We must have changed our view on each of these institutions from positive to negative back to positive ten times,” Smith writes in “Why I Left Goldman Sachs: A Wall Street Story,” scheduled for release on Oct. 22. “I remember thinking, ‘How can we be doing this with a straight face? No thinking client could believe that conditions on the ground could change that frequently.”’ [...] Smith also describes being disappointed with his $500,000 bonus at the end of 2006. “By any measure, I should have felt exceptionally lucky and grateful,” he writes. “But by the warped logic of Goldman Sachs and Wall Street, I was being screwed.” U.S. to Get Downgraded Amid Fiscal ‘Theater,’ Pimco Says (Bloomberg) “The U.S. will get downgraded, it’s a question of when,” Scott Mather, Pimco’s head of global portfolio management, said today in Wellington. “It depends on what the end of the year looks like, but it could be fairly soon after that.” Asian Scion's Trades Draw Scrutiny (WSJ) A federal probe into an alleged multimillion-dollar insider trading scheme is focusing on the son of a deposed Central Asian autocrat once courted by the U.S. as a key ally in the war on terror, according to people involved in the investigation. The globe-spanning criminal case marks a turnabout by the U.S. against a ruling family it once relied on to keep open military supply lines to Afghanistan. For years, the U.S. maintained good relations with then-Kyrgyzstan President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. Now, the U.S. has prepared charges against the former strongman's son, Maksim Bakiyev, who officials say spent some of his exile in London profiting from illegal tips on stocks trading on the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq. On Friday, the younger Mr. Bakiyev, 35, was arrested in England on an extradition request from the U.S. Mr. Bakiyev's U.K. attorney, Michael O'Kane, declined to comment. Computer programmer 'quadruples productivity' after hiring a woman to slap him in the face every time she catches him looking at Facebook (DM) Maneesh Sethi placed an advert on Craigslist to recruit someone willing to monitor what he was looking at on his laptop. The computer expert and writer, from San Francisco, now pays a female employee £5 ($8) an hour to strike him in the face if she spots him wasting time on social media. Mr Seethi claims the unusual motivational system has helped him boost his productivity from just 35 percent to around 98 percent during the working day...Mr Seethi published details on his blog of his Craigslist advert, which was entitled '(Domestic gigs) Slap me if I get off task'. In it he wrote: 'I'm looking for someone who can work next to me at a defined location (my house or a cafe) and will make sure to watch what is happening on my screen. 'When I am wasting time, you'll have to yell at me or if need be, slap me. 'You can do your own work at the same time. Looking for help asap. Mr Seethi said he was inundated with offers from potential slappers and quickly hired a volunteer he names only as Kara. He wrote: 'Within minutes, my inbox began blowing up. Up to 50% of Greek Workforce Strikes; Tipping Point Nears (CNBC) As European Union leaders prepare to meet in Brussels on Thursday, Greece’s workers aim to make their voices heard by holding a 24-hour strike bringing the country to a halt. With the economy in the fifth year of a recession, the lost production could prove counterproductive and cost the economy 100 million euros ($131 million), according to one expert. Most business and public sector activity is expected to grind to a halt during the strike called by the ADEDY and GSEE unions that represent around 2 million people — half of Greece’s workforce. A protracted news blackout is also expected as television and radio broadcasters and newspapers shut for the day, according to Reuters. Spain Banks Face More Pain as Worst-Case Scenario Turns Real (Bloomberg) Spain’s request for 100 billion euros of European Union financial aid to shore up its banks is increasing concern about the nation’s growing liabilities. Standard & Poor’s downgraded the country’s debt rating by two levels to BBB-, one step above junk, from BBB+ on Oct. 10, saying it wasn’t clear who will bear the cost of recapitalizing banks. It cut the ratings of 11 lenders including Banco Santander SA and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA, Spain’s largest, two days ago, citing the sovereign downgrade. Brothels Rescue Cash-Strapped Greek Soccer Team (AP) Players on a cash-strapped Greek soccer team now wear pink practice jerseys with the logos "Villa Erotica" and "Soula's House of History," two bordellos it recruited as sponsors after drastic government spending cuts left the country's sports clubs facing ruin. Other teams have also turned to unconventional financing. One has a deal with a local funeral home and others have wooed kebab shops, a jam factory and producers of Greece's trademark feta cheese. But the amateur Voukefalas club — whose players include pizza delivery guys, students, waiters and a bartender — has raised eyebrows with its flamboyant sponsorship choice. Prostitution is legal in Greece, where brothels operate under strict guidelines. Though garish neon signs advertising their services are tolerated, the soccer sponsorship has ruffled some feathers in the sports-mad city of Larissa. League organizers have banned the pink jerseys during games, saying the deal violates "the sporting ideal" and is inappropriate for underage fans...Brothel owner Soula Alevridou, the team's new benefactor, has already paid more than 1,000 euros ($1,312) for players to wear her jerseys. The team is appealing the game ban, but that doesn't worry the 67-year-old Alevridou, who says she's only in it because she loves soccer. "It's not the kind of business that needs promotion," she said, dressed all in white and flanked by two young women in dark leggings at a recent game. "It's a word-of-mouth kind of thing."

Opening Bell: 08.31.12

JPMorgan Rankled By Risk (WSJ) JPMorgan is seeking to reduce its risks in a business that provides crucial plumbing for Wall Street's money flows. The nation's largest bank by assets, a major player in providing clearing and settlement services to other financial firms, is reviewing its dealings with dozens of brokerages that use the bank to settle trades, according to people familiar with the bank. Clearing and settlement involves standing between buyers and sellers of securities to help manage financial commitments backing hundreds of billions of dollars in transactions daily. J.P. Morgan's review, which started more than six months ago amid increased regulations, effectively seeks to assess the profits clients generate for the bank versus risks they pose, the people say. Spain Unveils Financial Reforms (WSJ) This reform fulfills the commitments made by Spain as part of a €100 billion European Union bailout for Spanish banks agreed in July. As anticipated in the bailout deal, Spain is creating an asset management company, or "bad bank," that will buy property assets from banks starting later this year at prices below book value. Euro Faces Judgment Days (WSJ) The euro zone has seen many pivotal moments since its debt crisis emerged in Greece in early 2010. But there are reasons to think this fall's events are especially vital. With Spain and Greece on the ropes, European officials face stark choices. Nomura Plans $1 Billion In Cost Cuts (WSJ) The cost cuts were unveiled Friday by Nomura's new chief executive, Koji Nagai, when he presented the blueprint for a revamped business strategy at a meeting of 450 senior branch managers, according to Nomura executives who briefed reporters on what was said. They follow another $1 billion in wholesale cost reductions the broker just finished implementing earlier this year. Shia LaBeouf 'Sent Director Sex Tapes To Get New Film Role' (Entertainment) When Shia LaBeouf took a role in Lars von Trier's latest movie 'Nymphomaniac' eyebrows were raised due to the director's previous experimentation with putting real sex on film. Until now it seemed that LaBeouf took an occupational risk in joining the movie, but if the actor's to be believed then he actively looked out for a sexed up role, and involved girlfriend Karolyn Pho...The 'Lawless' actor told Handler: "I sent him [von Trier] videotapes of me and my girlfriend having sex and that's how I got the job." French Minister: No Contradiction in 75% Tax Rate and Attracting Business (CNBC) Responding to claims that the introduction of higher tax rate could be an obstacle to business and investment in France, Moscovici echoed the French President and Prime Minister who have said that the tax was part of a “shared effort” to lead France back to positive growth. ECB Said To Use Greek Myth For Security On New Euro Banknotes (Bloomberg) The European Central Bank is using an image from Greek mythology to improve security on new euro banknotes, four people familiar with the design said, even as Greece’s near bankruptcy fuels a debt crisis that’s threatening the future of the common currency. Europa, the Phoenician princess abducted by Zeus who gave the continent its name, will replace architectural images as the watermark on the new notes, which the ECB wants to start rolling out next year, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans aren’t public yet. Barclays Marathon Man CEO Everything Bob Diamond Was Not (Bloomberg) “In Jenkins you’ve got the archetypal English CEO who is seen as rather safe, compared with the typically aggressive U.S. investment banker that was Bob Diamond,” said Alan Beaney, who helps manage 200 million pounds ($315 million), including Barclays shares, at RC Brown Investment Management Plc in Bristol, England. “His appointment signals that the bank is not going to be as brazen as it has been in the past.” Garlic knot beating in Vero Beach sends man with 'Fat Boy' tattoo to slammer, report shows (TCP) A man on Aug. 19 told Indian River County Sheriff's deputies he was a pizza delivery person and was taking pizza to an address in the 400 block of 9th Street Southwest in Vero Beach. The pizza deliverer said when he got there, Robert Wheeler, 48, was waiting for him outside. The pizza deliverer said that when he lowered his window, Wheeler asked him who he spoke with on the phone before punching him in the face. The pizza deliverer said Wheeler punched him "because he forgot the garlic knots." Wheeler then instructed him to "give that to the person working on the phone back at the restaurant." Wheeler, who has the word "fat" tattooed on his left arm and "boy" on his right, told investigators he hit the pizza delivery person in the face. But, he said the issue was money he said the restaurant owed him -- not forgotten garlic knots.