Opening Bell: 6.18.15

Greece; Lee; Hamilton; Dorsey; "Couple Allegedly Stabs Neighbor With Rake After Loud Sex Complaints"; and more.
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Greek Central Bank Issues Dire Warning on Bailout Talks (WSJ)
Greece’s central bank, in unusually stark language that angered the ruling party, warned Wednesday that failure to clinch a deal with international creditors on desperately needed funding could “snowball into an uncontrollable crisis” for the country. The left-wing party Syriza responded by accusing the central bank of overstepping its role and undermining the government’s negotiating position.

JPMorgan Vice Chairman Jimmy Lee Dies Unexpectedly at Age 62 (Bloomberg)
Lee’s career started as a fluke: His girlfriend, who later became his wife, had applied for and received numerous job interviews, but couldn’t make it to one. “She said, ‘I’m not going to marry a bum, I want you to take this interview.’ I took the interview,” Lee recalled in a video when he won the 2004 Horatio Alger Award. “They said, ‘Do you want to work here?’ I said, ‘No.’ ‘Do you want to come to New York?’ I said, ‘No.’ So they said, ‘Well, what’s on your mind, we got an hour to kill here.’ We ended up talking about sports and leadership and hard work. So they invited me back for another interview, and I no longer had a future as a bum.”

Jimmy Lee, Investment Banking Force, Dies at 62 (NYT)
He was fiercely loyal and considered leaving the firm only once. In his top desk drawer, he kept a copy of the term sheet to become the No. 2 at Blackstone. He most likely would have become a billionaire had he taken the job, because it was long before that firm went public. He would occasionally show it to friends, in part to demonstrate his loyalty to JPMorgan and his colleagues. Mr. Schwarzman recounted how he had tried to recruit Mr. Lee away and nearly had a deal. “We had the press release ready,” Mr. Schwarzman said. Mr. Lee told him needed to speak with JPMorgan’s chief executive at the time, Bill Harrison. He called Mr. Schwarzman back and told him he couldn’t do it. “I told him, ‘Don’t feel badly. You’re following your heart,’ ” Mr. Schwarzman said. “He had so much loyalty to the bank and the people there.”

Alexander Hamilton to Share Image on $10 Bill With a Woman (WSJ)
The Treasury Department announced Wednesday it will replace the main image of its own founder, Alexander Hamilton, on the $10 bill, with a woman as yet to be determined. Mr. Hamilton will remain on the bill in a diminished way. The currency will be unveiled in 2020, the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. The last woman to appear on a bill was Martha Washington, in the late 19th century.

Couple Allegedly Stabs Neighbor With Rake After Loud Sex Complaints (HP)
When Mark Galin of Rogersville, Tennessee, heard some loud noises coming from the apartment next door on June 9, he feared domestic abuse and called police. It turns out that the couple in question wasn't quarreling -- they were having sex. Later that night, 57-year-old Galin again called police to complain. This time, police determined that Galin's neighbors, Johnny Allen Richards, 33, and Erin Brooke Lawson, 32, had indeed been fighting, according to The Smoking Gun. The couple reacted to Galin's calls with violence, and police responded to the house a third time to arrest them on assault charges, according to the Associated Press. Lawson is accused of hitting Galin with a rake hard enough to break the handle and then stabbing him in the arm with the broken rake.

Airbnb Is in Talks to Raise Funds at $24 Billion Valuation (Bloomberg)
San Francisco-based Airbnb is now projecting 2015 revenue of $900 million, up from $250 million in 2013, the person said, asking not to be identified as the details are private. The new valuation is more than double a previous estimate and makes Airbnb one of the most valuable private companies in the world behind Xiaomi Corp. and Uber Technologies Inc.

Qatari buyer eyes record-smashing $250M spread at 220 CPS: sources (The Real Deal)
A Qatari buyer is looking to combine multiple apartments at the ultra-luxe 220 Central Park South into a single, $250 million penthouse in the sky, sources told The Real Deal. If a deal is finalized, the mystery buyer would own the priciest residence in New York City by far, and one of the world’s most expensive homes.

Fitbit reaches $4bn IPO valuation (FT)
Fitbit clinched a valuation of more than $4bn after it successfully sold shares in an initial public offering that tested investor appetite as competition in the wearable device market ratchets up. The company and selling stockholders raised $732m in the flotation, valuing Fitbit at $4.1bn, after the number of shares on offer and the price range were increased for a second time as demand for the IPO mounted, according to two people familiar with the deal.

Nutella lovers rage after French minister condemns snack (Reuters)
French government minister Segolene Royal was forced to apologize on Wednesday after saying Nutella was harmful to the environment, a comment that raised hackles in the industry and in Italy where the food spread is made. The outspoken environment minister said on French television earlier this week that people should stop eating the sugary, chocolate-hazelnut paste because it was made with palm oil, a product whose growers have come under fire from environmentalists for contributing to deforestation and destroying rare habitats. France’s Alliance for Sustainable Palm Oil, an industry body, condemned her comments, saying producers and food companies were making progress on the environmental front.

In Return to Twitter, Jack Dorsey Aims to Follow Path of Steve Jobs (Dealbook)
...there is also the matter of whether Mr. Dorsey can replicate the success that Jobs had with Apple. Mr. Dorsey had been previously ousted before by Evan Williams, his fellow co-founder who is still on the Twitter board. Twitter was known for being a terrible scrum during its early years, a place more akin to “Game of Thrones” than Silicon Valley-style nose-to-the-grindstone mettle. Mr. Dorsey was ejected, in part, because he didn’t get along with Mr. Williams. Mr. Dorsey was in charge of the technical side of things, and the servers “were melting down every day,” as some of the criticism went. A lengthy Vanity Fair article about Twitter said that Mr. Dorsey “admitted he was a flawed manager” during this time. So the interim post is a triumph for Mr. Dorsey, who left in such ignominy only to be brought back.

Georgia Woman Accused Of Stealing 131 Pairs Of Underwear (HP)
A woman in Jasper, Georgia, faces felony shoplifting charges after authorities said she stole 131 pairs of underwear from a Walmart in nearby Kennesaw on Sunday night, according to WSBTV.com. The purloined panties were worth $749.95 in all. Police said Julia Marie Jones, 22, tried to hide the garments in her purse, a handbag and grocery bags, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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Opening Bell: 11.20.12

Former UBS Trader Found Guilty (WSJ) Former trader Kweku Adoboli was found guilty on one count of fraud in connection with a $2.3 billion loss the Swiss bank suffered last year, as the juryin the alleged rogue-trading case continued to deliberate on five other counts he was charged with. The partial verdict comes nearly a week after the jury began deliberating following a roughly eight-week trial. It is unclear when the jury might reach verdicts on the other five counts or when sentencing might take place. Mr. Adoboli pleaded not guilty to all six counts. Shakeup At Credit Suisse (WSJ) Credit Suisse said Tuesday that it will combine the Swiss bank's asset management unit with its private bank, but stopped short of announcing the more drastic revamp analysts expected after crosstown rival UBS decided to fire 10,000 bankers. Robert Shafir, who currently heads the U.S. business of Credit Suisse, will take the helm of a new private banking and wealth management division jointly with Hans-Ulrich Meister, who has run the private banking business, the bank said. At the investment bank, Gael deBoissard is being promoted to co-head of the division, jointly with incumbent Eric Varvel. Following the revamp, Credit Suisse will have only two units—wealth management and investment banking--which are distinctly separate from each other, a move that is "in alignment with the new regulatory reality," Chairman Urs Rohner said. Greece Waits Nervously For Vital Bailout Funds (Reuters) Officials familiar with preparations for the finance ministers' meeting expect a "political endorsement in principle" on unfreezing loans to Athens, after Greece completed almost all the reforms that were required of it in exchange for funding. The final go-ahead from the ministers is likely to come only once the remaining few Greek reforms are in place and once there is agreement in the euro zone on how to reduce the country's huge debt and secure extra financing while it is being done. French Downgrade Widens Gulf With Germany as Talks Loom (Bloomberg) France’s loss of the top credit rating at Moody’s Investors Service may weaken President Francois Hollande’s leverage in European budget talks and deepen concern in Germany over its neighbor’s lagging competitiveness. The downgrade late yesterday of Europe’s second-biggest economy underscores the concern expressed by allies of German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the Socialist Hollande’s failure to recognize the urgency of France’s woes risks a deepening of Europe’s slump. “This downgrade will certainly increase pressure on France big-time,” Jan Techau, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace office in Brussels, said today in a phone interview. “It gives Germany more of an edge over France.” ‘Tide Turning’ Against France, Say Economists (CNBC) “The tide is turning for France. Although the country's bond market is likely to remain resilient — the yield on 10-year paper is little changed [Tuesday] morning and still stands a whisker above its record low of 2.06 percent on July 19 — French debt looks more and more overvalued relative to fundamentals,” Nicholas Spiro, Managing Director of Spiro Sovereign Strategy, said in a note on Tuesday. France has enjoyed low borrowing costs as investors have viewed the country as a safe haven in comparison with its southern European cousins. The downgrade of France to AA1 with a negative outlook by Moody’s has thrown its “deteriorating fundamentals….into sharp relief” Spiro said. China’s Richest Woman Divorces Husband, Fortune Declines (Bloomberg) Longfor Properties Co. Chairwoman Wu Yajun is no longer China’s richest woman after divorcing Cai Kui and transferring about 40 percent of the developer’s shares the couple used to own to her ex-husband. Her stake in Longfor, which Wu co-founded with Cai, dropped from a combined 72 percent to 43 percent, while Cai retains 29 percent, according to filings from Hong Kong’s stock exchange. Wu’s net worth is estimated at $4.2 billion, down from $7.3 billion as of 5:30 p.m. New York time yesterday, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. New York Prepares Lawsuit Against Credit Suisse (Reuters) The New York attorney-general is preparing to file a civil lawsuit against Credit Suisse for misleading investors who lost billions of dollars on mortgage-backed securities, according to a source familiar with the matter. The lawsuit, which is expected to be filed on Wednesday, will allege that Credit Suisse misrepresented the quality of loans packaged in securities, according to the source. Petraeus Mistress Paula Broadwell To Jill Kelley: 'I can make you go away' (NYDN) The notes Paula Broadwell sent to Jill Kelley were far more sinister than previously reported and seemed like the rantings of someone “clearly unhinged,” a close friend of Kelley said Monday. “This wasn’t just a catfight. Any normal person who got emails like that would have immediately called the police,” said the friend. She said Kelley read her the emails when she called, panic-stricken and seeking advice in the days before the scandal became a stunning public spectacle and led to Petraeus’ resignation as CIA director. The friend, who did not want to be identified, said Kelley saw the emails as death threats, specifically one in which Broadwell vowed to “make you go away.” [Meanwhile,] Broadwell...bloodied a female news photographer’s forehead Monday in a confrontation outside the biographer’s Charlotte, N.C., home. Broadwell smacked the photographer with the driver’s-side door of her Nissan Pathfinder SUV. “I had my camera and in all the chaos the door slammed and I got hit in the head with the flash,” said Nell Redmond, a freelancer for The Associated Press. Redmond suffered a small cut and is not pressing charges. Morgan Stanley’s Doom Scenario: Major Recession in 2013 (CNBC) The bank’s economics team forecasts a full-blown recession next year, under a pessimistic scenario, with global gross domestic product (GDP) likely to plunge 2 percent. “More than ever, the economic outlook hinges upon the actions taken or not taken by governments and central banks,” Morgan Stanley said in a report. Under the bank’s more gloomy scenario, the U.S. would go over the “fiscal cliff” leading to a contraction in U.S. GDP for the first three quarters of 2013. In Europe, the bank’s pessimistic scenario assumes a failure of the European Central Bank (ECB) in cutting rates and a delay of its bond-buying program. Judge Tosses Suit Over AIG (WSJ) A federal judge in Manhattan dismissed a $25 billion lawsuit by Starr International Co., which Mr. Greenberg runs, against the New York Federal Reserve Bank over claims the Fed breached its fiduciary duty to AIG's shareholders in the rescue during the U.S. financial crisis. It is one of two lawsuits Starr, AIG's largest shareholder at the time of the government takeover, is pursuing over the bailout. Mark Cuban Throws A Tantrum On Facebook Fee (NYP) Facebook used to be a “time suck” — now it just sucks. That’s the view of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who is urging marketers to take their business elsewhere after the social network started charging the tech billionaire to send messages to all the team’s fans. “In the past we put FB first, Twitter second,” Cuban wrote in a roughly 1,700-word blog post calling out the social network. “FB has been moved to the bottom of a longer list.” He added: “FB doesn’t seem to want to accept that its best purpose in life is as a huge time suck.” At issue is Facebook’s filtering of posts that appear in users’ news feeds. The site says it is trying to present users with content that they have shown an interest in while cutting down on spam. But Cuban says it is a pay-to-play move. He argues that Facebook is making it harder for marketers to reach their fans without paying for so-called “promoted posts.” And making the site more targeted and efficient is actually a mistake, according to Cuban. He claims most people go to the site because it’s a “time suck” that they enjoy. Cannibal Cop Pleads Not Guilty (NYDN) “cannibal cop,” accused of conspiring with an online buddy to kidnap, rape and slow-cook women, pleaded “not guilty” Monday to two federal charges. Gilberto Valle, 28, was arraigned in Manhattan Federal Court on charges of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and accessing the federal National Crime Information Center database without authorization. Valle’s public defender, Julia Gatto, made a third attempt at getting bail for her now-infamous client. "You have a hard row to hoe," said Judge Paul Gardephe...Valle — who was suspended after being arrested last month in a joint NYPD and FBI investigation — is accused of chatting last July with a sick online buddy about “kidnapping, cooking and eating body parts” of a woman identified as Victim 1, according to the indictment released Friday.

Opening Bell: 08.22.12

Public Pension Funds Named To Lead ‘London Whale’ Lawsuit (Bloomberg) U.S. District Judge George Daniels in Manhattan ruled today that lawsuits against the New York-based bank should be consolidated into a class action. The pension funds allege they lost as much as $52 million because of fraudulent activities by JPMorgan’s London chief investment office. The lead plaintiffs named by Daniels are the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System, Ohio Public Employee Retirement System, School Employees Retirement System of Ohio, State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio, Oregon Public Employee Retirement Fund and the Swedish pension fund Sjunde AP-Fonden. Pressures Intensify On Merkel (WSJ) The Greek government, struggling with depression-like conditions that have pushed the economy to the brink, is likely to need many billions of euros of additional aid to avoid bankruptcy. If Athens doesn't get the money, it may be forced to leave the euro, an outcome that would undermine financial markets' tenuous confidence in other vulnerable southern euro members, including Spain and Italy. An expansion of Greece's €173 billion ($213.4 billion) bailout that was agreed to this spring faces adamant opposition in Ms. Merkel's center-right coalition in Germany's parliament, the Bundestag. Her junior coalition partners are especially against lending Greece more money, threatening to leave her either without a governing majority—or without a plausible way to cover Athens's funding gap. "It is one of the hardest dilemmas she has faced as chancellor," said an adviser to Ms. Merkel. The chancellor is set to meet with French President François Hollande on Thursday and Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Friday, meetings the chancellor's aides say will help determine Berlin's course. Austria's AAA Rating Under Attack From East and West (CNBC) Of the three major credit rating agencies, only Fitch Ratings still rates Austria triple-A with stable outlook. Moody’s Investors Service put Austria’s top notch rating on negative watch in February, while Standard & Poor’s downgraded the country to double-A plus with negative outlook in January. Facebook Challenged By Swedish Count’s Jet-Set Website (Bloomberg) The BestofAllWorlds site, which starts Aug. 27, will allow users to mingle online with like-minded people, find restaurants and nightlife in city guides and discover who’s attending events such as Art Basel in Miami and England’s Royal Ascot horse racing, said Erik Wachtmeister, whose father was a Swedish ambassador to the U.S. “Facebook is a monopoly in the social sphere, but it only gives little value,” Wachtmeister said in an interview in London. “We can deliver clever filters, cut through the mess and get information that’s relevant and we can trust.” Fed Probes RBS Over Dealings With Iran (FT) The UK bank is being probed by being probed by the Federal Reserve and Department of Justice after volunteering information to them and U.K. regulators about 18 months ago, several people close to the situation said. The bank uncovered the alleged failings after Chief Executive Stephen Hester initiated an internal review not long after his arrival three years ago...The probe marks the latest blow for RBS following a series of mishaps including an IT failure, widespread mis-selling of retail and small-business products and its involvement in the scandal over the alleged manipulation of Libor interest rates Suspect asks DeLand doughnut shop worker for pen to write robbery note (NYP) An embarrassed Atlantic City casino is suing 14 gamblers — including two Big Apple residents — demanding they return the whopping $1.5 million they collectively won after realizing the mini-Baccarat table they were playing at was using unshuffled decks of cards. The sharp-eyed gamblers racked up a staggering 41 winning bets in a row at the Golden Nugget after seeing cards in the eight-deck shoe coming out in sequence and adjusted their wagers accordingly — as the clueless croupiers kept on dealing. Stunned casino workers swarmed the hot table suspecting the players of cheating — but only later realized that the cards that had been ordered as pre-shuffled from a Missouri company “were not shuffled at all,” a Golden Nugget spokeswoman said yesterday. “The gamblers unlawfully took advantage of the Golden Nugget when they caught on to the pattern and increased their bets from as little as $10 to $5,000,” the casino said in a written statement...It has been met with a countersuit from three of the bettors, including Queens resident Ping Lin, who allegedly managed to collect $50,000 from the casino, and Brooklyn cook Hua Shi, who allegedly collected $149,000. They claim they should be allowed to cash in chips they won and keep the cash they already managed to collect. Nomura Retrenches, Mends Fences (WSJ) Nomura's new leaders are discussing the future of that global push as well as how to repair the company's relationship with financial authorities. On the table are deep cuts in overseas operations and a possible change to a controversial compensation plan, among other policy options, that could shift away from the globalization strategy set by former Chief Executive Kenichi Watanabe and his deputy Takumi Shibata through the acquisition of Lehman Brothers' European and Asian businesses in 2008, say people close to the talks. Last Man Standing Means Europe Investment Banks Resist Shrinking (Bloomberg) Europe’s failure to resolve its sovereign-debt crisis will force investment-banking chiefs in the region to consider shuttering entire businesses rather than rely on piecemeal job reductions to reviveprofit. Dealmaking fees may drop 25 percent this year from 2009, when the crisis began in Greece, research firm Freeman & Co. estimates. European banks have cut about 172,000 positions since then, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, the same strategy they used after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. collapsed in 2008. Florida couple arrested after swinger’s party takes violent turn (NYDN) Tina Michelle Norris, 39, and her boyfriend James Albert Barfield, 56, both invited guests over to their home for sex Sunday night, the Hernando Today reported. But Norris got mad when she saw her boyfriend in bed with another woman and Barfield lost his cool when he saw his girlfriend under the sheets with two other men, according to the newspaper. The pair quickly got physical, with Norris sustaining a bloody lip and Barfield suffering multiple scratch marks on his neck and back, cops told Hernando Today. Police got quite the eyeful when they arrived at 6 a.m. to arrest the couple, both of whom were still donning their birthday suits. Norris was "very intoxicated and uncooperative" and refused to put her clothes back on, Deputy Cari Smith wrote in her affidavit. Barfield was also nude when Smith arrived at the home. A roommate, who was sleeping in a separate room of the house at the time of the incident, said she awoke to shouting and yelling. She went out into the hallway and found Norris and Barfield "pushing and shoving each other from one end of the house to the other (while) breaking things in the process," Smith wrote.

Opening Bell: 12.14.12

UBS Unit Said to Be Close to Guilty Plea in Rate-Rigging Scandal (NYT) Federal prosecutors are close to securing a guilty plea from a UBS subsidiary at the center of a global investigation into interest rate manipulation, the first big bank to agree to criminal charges in more than a decade. UBS is in final negotiations with American, British and Swiss authorities to settle accusations that its employees reported false rates, a deal in which the bank's Japanese unit is expected to plead guilty to a criminal charge, according to people briefed on the matter who spoke of private discussions on the condition of anonymity. Along with the rare admission of criminal wrongdoing at the subsidiary, UBS could face about $1 billion in fines and regulatory sanctions, the people said. Meet Them In St. Louis: Bankers Move (WSJ) Smaller cities around the nation have emerged as unlikely hives of financial-services hiring, thanks to lower wages, municipal-tax incentives and the misfortunes of older hubs that are home to companies ravaged by the 2008-2009 financial crisis. The beneficiaries are spread across the U.S., according to an analysis of data by The Wall Street Journal. In St. Louis, the 19th-largest U.S. metropolitan area, securities-industry employment surged 85% between January 2007 and September 2012 to a recent 12,190, according to figures compiled by Moody's Analytics. New York lost 9% of its jobs in the securities, commodities, asset-management and fiduciary-trust areas over the same period, leaving it with 195,000. Counter-Terrorism Tools Used to Spot Staff Fraud (FT) JPMorgan Chase has turned to technology used for countering terrorism to spot fraud risk among its own employees and to tackle problems such as deciding how much to charge when selling property behind troubled mortgages. The technology involves crunching vast amounts of data to identify hard-to-detect patterns in markets or individual behavior that could reveal risks or openings to make money. Other banks are also turning to "big data", the name given to using large bodies of information, to identify potential rogue traders who might land them with massive losses, according to experts in the field...Guy Chiarello, JPMorgan's chief information officer, said the bank was mining massive bodies of data in "a couple of dozen projects" that promised to have a significant affect on its business, although he refused to give further details. According to three people familiar with its activities, JPMorgan has used Palantir Technologies, a Silicon Valley company whose technology was honed while working for the US intelligence services, for part of its effort. It first used the technology to spot fraudsters trying to hack into client accounts or ATMs, but has recently started to turn it on its own 250,000-strong staff. Obama Meets Boehner at White House for Budget Talks (Bloomberg) President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner met for a third time at the White House to discuss averting spending cuts and tax increases before a year- end deadline. Boehner and Obama met for almost an hour yesterday, with no public announcement of progress. In January, more than $600 billion in spending cuts and tax increases, the so-called fiscal cliff, are scheduled to begin. “The president and speaker had a frank meeting in the Oval Office,” Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said in an e-mailed statement, adding that the “lines of communication remain open.” Britain's Queen Quizzes Central Bank on Financial Crisis (CNBC) During a visit to the Bank of England on Thursday, the Queen was overheard asking whether a "lax" attitude to financial regulation had contributed to the financial crisis. After touring the vast vaults of gold bullion that lie beneath the central bank in London, Queen Elizabeth reportedly asked the central bank officials whether the Financial Services Authority (FSA) that was meant to regulate the banking system had not been aggressive enough - "did not have the teeth" - in its response to the crisis...The Queen was then told that officials in the room were charged with ensuring the crisis did not happen again. The Queen's husband, Prince Philip, then jokingly asked "There's not another one coming, is there?" before telling the officials present "Don't do it again." John McAfee Returns to US, Admits Playing 'Crazy Card' (ABC) After three weeks ducking authorities in Belize, by hiding in attics, in the jungle and in dingy hotels, he turned up in Guatemala Dec. 3. Barely a day later he was detained for entering the country illegally. As Guatemala officials grappled with how to handle his request for asylum and the Belize government's demand for his deportation, McAfee fell ill. The mysterious illness, described by his attorney alternately as a heart ailment or a nervous breakdown, led to a scene with reporters chasing his ambulance down the narrow streets of Guatemala City and right into the emergency room, where McAfee appeared unresponsive. He now says it was all a ruse: "It was a deception but who did it hurt? I look pretty healthy, don't I?" He says he faked the illness in order to buy some time for a judge to hear his case and stay his deportation to Belize, a government he believes wants him dead. When asked whether he believes Belize officials where inept, he didn't mince words. "I was on the run with a 20-year-old girl for three and a half weeks inside their borders and everyone was looking for me, and they did not catch me," he said. "I escaped, was captured and they tried to send me back. Now I'm sitting in Miami. There had to be some ineptness." [...] He denies any involvement in his neighbor's death but adds that he is not particularly concerned about clearing his name. He is focused on getting his 20-year-old and 17-year-old girlfriends out of Belize and says he has no idea what he'll do next, where he'll live or how he'll support himself. CNBC v. Buffett (NYP) The “Oracle of Omaha” sent a terse e-mail to editors at CNBC yesterday after a reporter for the cable news network railed against his recent repurchase of Berkshire Hathaway shares. Gary Kaminsky, CNBC’s capital markets editor, took Buffett to task for the $1.2 billion stock buyback, calling it “hypocritical to the maximum level.” Kaminsky claimed that Buffett’s purchase allowed the seller — described by Berkshire as the “estate of a long-time shareholder” — to avoid potentially higher capital gains taxes next year...In his rebuttal e-mail, Buffett said capital gains taxes don’t apply to estates. “Mr. Kaminsky also made the statement that the estate that was a seller was better off by selling in 2012 than 2013,” he wrote. “This, too, was incorrect.” He said capital gains are wiped out by stepped-up basis rules, with assets marked at their current fair-market value at the time of death. Buffett also blasted Kaminsky for saying his buyback was hypocritical on principal as Buffett is known to eschew buybacks. Buffett attached a copy of Berkshire’s 1984 annual report showing he has outlined conditions under which he would favor buybacks. CNBC anchor Melissa Lee read a correction late Tuesday that thanked the famed investor for “watching and setting us straight.” Fisher: Fed Risks 'Hotel California' Monetary Policy (CNBC) Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher told CNBC that he's worried the U.S. central bank is in a "Hotel California" type of monetary policy because of its "engorged balance sheet." Evoking lyrics from the famous song by The Eagles, he said he feared the Fed would be able to "check out anytime you like, but never leave." Fisher said on "Squawk Box" that he argued against revealing the new inflation and unemployment targets set by the Fed this week, saying he's worried that the markets will become "overly concerned" with the thresholds. Euro-Zone Downturn Eases (WSJ) Data company Markit said on Friday its preliminary purchasing managers' index, a gauge of activity among euro-zone factories and services companies, rose to 47.3 in December from 46.5 in November. A reading above 50.0 would signal an expansion. The national measure for Germany picked up to 50.5 from 49.2 in November, indicating that activity rose in the euro zone's largest member. "The euro-zone downturn showed further signs of easing in December, adding to hopes that the outlook for next year is brightening," said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit. Residents find neighbor at their door with machete (KS) A 38-year-old Bremerton man was arrested by police Monday night for allegedly confronting his neighbors with a machete in response to alleged vandalism at his residence, according to documents filed in Kitsap County District Court. Officers were called to a Nollwood Lane address shortly after 8 p.m. Monday. Two residents said when they answered a knock at their door, a man was standing in the doorway holding a machete. The man, a neighbor, reportedly said he was tired of vandalism to his home and blamed it on a family member of his neighbors, police said. The neighbors attempted to slam the door on the man, but he reportedly put his foot into the door holding it open, police said. The neighbors were ultimately able to close it, though the suspect denies he put his foot in the door. Police interviewed the man, 38, who admitted he'd retrieved the machete out of anger after another incident of vandalism.

Opening Bell: 4.20.15

Jon Corzine wants to be your hedge fund manager; Greece is still screwed; Short-sellers aren't doing so hot; "Chiropractor Performs Exorcisms And Barters For Sex With Patients"; and more.

Opening Bell: 07.24.12

Libor Probe Expands To Bank Traders (WSJ) One of the sprawling probe's biggest targets: a group of traders whose efforts allegedly were coordinated by Thomas Hayes, who worked for UBS from 2006 to 2009 and then moved to Citigroup, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation. Mr. Hayes was fired by Citigroup in 2010, according to people familiar with the matter. He couldn't be reached for comment. Mr. Hayes allegedly worked with the other traders to push submissions up or down for a benchmark interest rate called yen Libor, according to court filings by Canada's competition regulator, which identified him only as "Trader A." The agency said it was told by UBS that Trader A told another trader at Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC "who his collusive contacts were and how he had and was going to manipulate yen Libor." Trading Surges Boosted Whale Positions Before Audits (Bloomberg) Trading surges that temporarily boosted the value of credit derivatives held by JPMorgan may provide clues about whether traders at the bank masked losses that have spiraled to $5.8 billion. Spikes in late January and again at the end of February, which more than doubled the volume of trades in an index tied to the creditworthiness of companies, lowered the cost of the index, raising the value of the bank’s holdings. The surges came just before end-of-the-month bank audits to verify prices. Ex-Anglo Irish Bank Chief Charged With Fraud (AP) Sean FitzPatrick was arrested Tuesday at Dublin Airport as he returned from holiday. Two other senior former Anglo executives were arrested in Dublin and charged with 16 fraud-related counts Monday. The 64-year-old Mr. Fitzpatrick presided over Ireland's runaway property boom, which was swiftly followed by the banking collapse at the heart of the country's 2010 international bailout. Anglo's losses on bad loans to property speculators are nearing €30 billion ($36 billion), or more than €6,500 for every person in Ireland. Fed Official Wants Tougher Volcker Rule (WSJ) Fed Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin said that the market-making and hedging exemptions should be extremely narrow "because of the potentially severe dangers of, and costs associated with, proprietary trading by institutions that have access to the federal safety net." She raised the possibility that the financial system would be better off if banks ceased market making and hedging as well, saying it is possible that the combined regulatory, compliance and other costs could "outweigh the benefits we as a society supposedly receive." LI teen crashes car into neighbor's house, cops say don't worry about it (NYP) A 15-year-old Long Island teen lost control of his dad’s car while taking it for a joy ride on Saturday — driving it across two lawns and then into a house — and cops refused to arrest him or even give him a ticket. The resident of the Massapequa home returned from dinner at 6 pm to find a Nissan Altima — driven by Robert Carracher — had wrecked the fence attached to the side of his house along with an air conditioner and sprinkler system. He also learned that Nassau cops were unwilling to charge the teen in the accident. “I’m outraged. A car hits your home and nobody gets arrested?” said Vincent Grande, a criminal attorney. He estimated the damage at more than $5,000. “When I used my phone to take pictures, the kid turned away and his dad gave me the finger.” Police explained that Carracher wasn’t charged because it was accidental and the youth was too young to have a license. Moody’s Ratings Cut Fuels German Resentment (Reuters) The prospect of Europe's biggest economy losing its cherished AAA credit status has unsettled Germans, already angry about footing the bill for bailouts, and triggered calls for an even tougher stance on Greece and other euro zone laggards. While politicians and economists were at pains to argue that Moody's downward revision to Germany's credit rating outlook would have little immediate impact on borrowing costs, ordinary Germans said they were worried. "If things pan out the way Moody's have predicted then we will have problems here with unemployment, if we lose confidence that things will get better, it'll mean big problems for the economy," said Memet Dogan, a 45-year-old transport worker near Berlin's Brandenburg Gate. Citi's New Chairman Takes Hands-On Approach (WSJ) The new chairman's attention to the operational side contrasts with Mr. Parsons, who focused more on the job's diplomatic aspects. Mr. Parsons stepped down in April after three years as chairman and more than 16 years on Citigroup's board. The 65-year-old Mr. O'Neill, who a decade ago turned around Bank of Hawaii Corp. and briefly ran Barclays PLC, is a "nitty-gritty operations guy" who "understands what he doesn't understand," say people close to the company. Worker charged with arsons in Maine sub fire (AP) A civilian employee set a fire that caused $400 million in damage to a Navy submarine because he was suffering from anxiety and wanted to get out of work early, Navy investigators said in a complaint filed Monday. Casey James Fury, 24, of Portsmouth, N.H., faces up to life in prison if convicted on two counts of arson for allegedly setting fire to the USS Miami nuclear-powered attack submarine while it was in dry dock on May 23, and setting a second fire outside the sub on June 16. Fury, who was working on the sub as a painter and sandblaster, initially denied starting the fires, but eventually acknowledged his involvement, the affidavit reads.

Opening Bell: 09.20.12

Regulators Try To Beat Clock In Rate Probe (WSJ) The Justice Department recently asked several banks to sign "tolling" agreements, in which the companies promise they won't challenge any enforcement action on the grounds that the alleged wrongdoing occurred beyond the statute of limitations, people close to the investigation said. The requests were sent to all the major banks under investigation, these people said, including Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan, RBS, and UBS. Libor-Like Manipulation Possible in Other Benchmarks, Iosco Says (Bloomberg) The same lack of oversight that enabled traders to manipulate the London interbank offered rate plagues other benchmarks around the globe, according to a group of international securities regulators. Fewer than half of the benchmark interest rates surveyed in the U.S., Europe and Asia were based on actual transactions, according to a confidential International Organization of Securities Commissions discussion paper obtained by Bloomberg News. Instead, the rates were calculated by methodologies that were unclear, not transparent and only rarely subject to specific regulatory standards or obligations, the group said. Nomura Cuts Up to 30% of Europe Investment Bank Jobs (CNBC, earlier) Nomura is making wide-ranging cuts in its European investment banking division on Thursday, according to sources, with up to 30 percent of jobs likely to go...“Today is D-day, there is a crazy atmosphere, everybody knows it is going to be big,” one source told CNBC. Citigroup Warns Irish Investors to Plan for Losses (Bloomberg) All of the optimism that Ireland can raise money in the markets and avoid a debt restructuring is premature as the nation struggles to emerge from its worst recession in modern history, said Michael Saunders, Citigroup Inc.’s head of European economics in London. “Ireland faces an almost impossible task to get back to fiscal balance,” Saunders said. Visits to the country showed “life is tough, very tough and not getting that much better anytime soon,” he said. Debt Investors Aren't Just Waiting For the Next Downgrades in Europe (WSJ) As many investors brace for possible downgrades of Spain and Italy, some are already positioning themselves for the potential fallout in the countries' €180 billion ($234.9 billion) corporate-debt markets. Even with the prospect of aid from the European Central Bank, Spain and Italy could still face credit downgrades, investors say. The main focus is on Spain and Moody's Investors Service Inc. Moody's has said it may cut Spain to "junk" status, a move that would likely be followed by lockstep cuts of its banks and several companies to junk. Such a move would likely trigger a wave of selling from investors who can only own bonds with investment-grade ratings. Some ratings-sensitive investors are selling ahead of the move. Others are getting ready to buy. Couple Accused Of Selling Neighbor's Puppy On Craigslist (NYDN) Scott and Roxanne Duff accused of calling police when a neighbor’s 6-month-old Rottweiler and a Labrador retriever showed up at their house Sept. 3. They asked what to do with the dogs and were told to contact a local shelter or reach out to the regional dog catcher, police told the Valley News Dispatch. But that didn’t happen. While the couple returned the Labrador to their neighbor, they later told police the Rottweiler puppy had run away. That neighbor didn’t believe this story, and told police the next day that he thought the Duffs still had his puppy. When police asked the couple about the puppy again, they allegedly admitted to selling it on Craigslist for $50 High-Speed Trading In The Spotlight (WSJ) Since rapid-fire trading firms now provide many of the buy and sell orders that support the market, investors are at the mercy of automated systems that can run amok during volatile times, according to Dave Lauer, who last year quit his job as a trader for an elite Chicago high-frequency trading outfit. Mr. Lauer is part of a growing chorus of industry insiders blowing the whistle on approved trading techniques that they say are designed by the traders who derive the most benefit. Mr. Lauer is now a consultant on market-structure issues for Better Markets, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group funded by a hedge fund. He plans to tell senators how he came to believe that high-speed trading has made the market less fair for many investors, according to his advance testimony for a Senate panel on computerized trading. Blankfein Admits Tougher Regulation Needed (Reuters) "You have to go out and you have to take steps. You have to have different regulation, maybe more regulation in certain respects," he said, while addressing a room full of bankers and lawyers on Bay Street — the financial hub of Toronto. Bias Suit Against Deustche (Reuters) Kelley Voelker said she learned of her firing two weeks ago, after having been told on Aug. 21 that no one in her hedge-fund group would lose their jobs in connection with the bank’s global cost-cutting plan. Deutsche Bank had in July announced 1,900 job cuts, but on Sept. 11 said that number would grow. Voelker’s last day at her New York office was Sept. 12, her lawyer said. Voelker first sued Deutsche Bank last September. She claimed to have never been promoted since joining the bank in 1998, and that the bank had tried to demote her after she took maternity leave, which she called being “mommy-tracked.” Monica Lewinsky Set To Reveal Bill Clinton's Sex Secrets In Tell-All (NYP) Lewinsky, who turns 40 next year, is out for “revenge” and ready to air bombshell details from her Oval Office trysts with the former Horndog-in-Chief in a $12 million memoir, according to friends, who say she plans to describe plans to describe Clinton's “insatiable desire for three-way sex, orgies and the use of sex toys of all kinds." In the 14 years since she became a national punch line, Lewinsky has gotten her master’s degree, worked briefly as a news correspondent and launched a failed handbag line. “No one will hire her and she can’t get a job because of Clinton,” a sympathetic friend told The Post yesterday. “She needs to make money somehow.”

Opening Bell: 01.23.13

Greece Charges Statisticians Over Size of Deficit (FT) Greece has brought criminal charges against the official responsible for measuring the country's debt, thereby calling into question the validity of its 172 billion euros second bailout by the EU and International Monetary Fund. Andreas Georgiou, head of the independent statistical agency Elstat, and two senior officials are accused of undermining the country's "national interests" by inflating the 2009 budget deficit figure used as the benchmark for successive austerity packages. The three statistical experts face criminal charges of making false statements and corrupt practices, a judicial official said, adding that if found guilty they could serve prison terms of five to 10 years. They have denied any wrongdoing. Spain's Recession Deepens (WSJ) Spain's central bank said a recession in the euro zone's fourth-largest economy deepened slightly in the final quarter of last year, but it said austerity cuts are bringing the country's runaway budget deficit under control. Obama-Bashing Swapped for Pragmatism at Davos (Bloomberg) “We have to move on in our society,” Blackstone found Stephen Schwarzman said today in an interview in Davos with Bloomberg Television’s Erik Schatzker. “I like President Obama as a person, and he’s well- intentioned.” Schwarzman, 65, warned in Davos in 2010 that banks could restrict lending because “their entire world is being shaken and they’re being attacked personally.” Later that year, at a nonprofit group meeting, he likened Obama’s tax proposals to Hitler’s invasion of Poland. Third Point LLC CEO Daniel Loeb, who in 2010 compared Wall Street’s Obama supporters to “battered wives,” will help lead a Jan. 25 Davos dinner discussion, “Can Capitalism Evolve?” Schwarzman apologized in 2010 for his comparison of Obama’s effort to double taxes on private-equity income to the invasion of Poland. He said the analogy was inappropriate and that the administration’s need to work with business “is still of very serious concern.” JPMorgan's Jamie Dimon Apologizes, Attacks (WSJ) James Dimon of J.P. Morgan Chase was prepared in Davos to apologize for the more than $6 billion of trading losses racked up by the so-called London Whale, but he certainly wasn’t prepared to abase himself...Min Zhu, deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, reeled off a string of statistics to show that the industry certainly hadn’t cleaned up its act since the crisis, and Paul Singer, principal of hedge fund Elliott Associates, was also keen to lambaste big banks, including Mr. Dimon’s. The two had some testy exchanges and the body language indicated that Messrs. Singer and Dimon have exchanged fire quite a few times previously. Still, Mr. Dimon gave us good as he got. He kicked off with repeating his apology to shareholders for the London Whale trading losses, which led to his own bonus being slashed, saying, “If you’re a shareholder of mine, I apologize deeply.” Having offered this apology he then went on the offense. He pointed out that his bank lent money to a whole host of worthy organizations such as schools, hospitals, governments, and Italian and Spanish corporates and governments. And he also had some snappy comebacks. Elliott’s Singer said that the global banks are “too big, too leveraged, too opaque,” which left Mr. Dimon with an easy retort about how could a hedge fund possibly criticize a bank about being opaque? “Our [securities filing] 10K is 400 pages long,” Mr. Dimon said. “What would you like to know?” Geithner Exit Next Friday (AFP) US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who steered the administration of President Obama through the financial crisis, will step down from his post Friday, a source told Agence France Presse yesterday. Golfer Mickelson recants tax rant (NYP) Mickelson — who hinted he might move from his home state of California to escape higher taxes — said he regretted his public rant on the issue after setting off a political firestorm. “Finances and taxes are a personal matter and I should not have made my opinions on them public,” according to a statement from Mickelson, who plans to elaborate today at the Farmers Insurance Open. “I apologize to those I have upset or insulted and assure you I intend to not let it happen again.” Senator Lautenberg Suggests Spanking In Store For Mayor Cory Booker (CI via DI) "I have four children, I love each one of them. I can't tell you that one of them wasn't occasionally disrespectful, so I gave them a spanking and everything was OK," Lautenberg said with a smile in his first public comments since Booker announced he was considering a run for Senate. Banker's Latest Bet: Teamwork on Bonds (WSJ) Texas banking tycoon Andrew Beal is known for making unconventional moves, including gambling on high-stakes poker and a self-financed plan to launch rockets into space. His latest gambit: an attempt to wring money from giant banks by banding together aggrieved bondholders. Mr. Beal's CXA Corp. ran a pair of advertisements late last year, one appearing in The Wall Street Journal. The ads listed an alphabet soup of residential mortgage-backed securities held by CXA and asked those with positions in the same securities to join the company in investigating possible infractions by banks that sold the debt. If the groups can prove the mortgages that underlie the bonds were approved through shoddy underwriting, they could be entitled to compensation—CXA's payday alone could be tens of millions of dollars. Firms Keep Stockpiles Of 'Foreign' Cash In US (WSJ) Some companies, including Internet giant Google, software maker Microsoft, and data-storage specialist EMC Corp, keep more than three-quarters of the cash owned by their foreign subsidiaries at U.S. banks, held in U.S. dollars or parked in U.S. government and corporate securities, according to people familiar with the companies' cash positions. In the eyes of the law, the Internal Revenue Service and company executives, however, this money is overseas. As long as it doesn't flow back to the U.S. parent company, the U.S. doesn't tax it. And as long as it sits in U.S. bank accounts or in U.S. Treasurys, it is safer than if it were plowed into potentially risky foreign investments. SEC Reins In Ratings Firm (WSJ) The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission barred Egan-Jones Ratings Co. from issuing ratings on certain bonds, an unprecedented step by the regulator and a setback for a small credit-rating firm with a history of courting controversy. The SEC said Tuesday that Egan-Jones couldn't officially rate bonds issued by countries, U.S. states and local governments, or securities backed by assets such as mortgages, for at least the next 18 months. The ban was part of an agreement the SEC reached with Egan-Jones and its president, Sean Egan, to settle charges that they filed inaccurate documents with the regulator in 2008. The SEC alleged that Egan-Jones misled investors about its expertise, and that Mr. Egan caused the firm to violate conflict-of-interest provisions. Lindenhurst dentist busted after reporting to work reeking of booze and drilling teeth while allegedly drunk (NYDN) Dr. Robert Garelick was hauled out of his Lindenhurst office in handcuffs Monday after his dental hygienist smelled booze on his breath and caught him administering Novocain to the wrong side of a patient’s mouth. “I observed Dr. Garelick looking for cavities in the right side of the patient’s mouth, but the cavities were in the left side,” hygienist Kimberly Curtis told police in a written statement. “I pointed this out to the doctor and that’s when he ordered more Novocain for the patient,” Curtis told cops. “So now, he basically numbed the whole patient’s mouth.” After noticing Garelick’s wobbly behavior Monday, Curtis texted co-worker Dina Fara, who called 911. Curtis said she sent the message after Garelick used a drill to treat another patient who had a chipped tooth. “He was filing the tooth down,” Curtis said. “When you’re using that drill, you have to be very careful and have a steady hand.” She said that just before Garelick treated the chipped tooth, he slipped into his office. “I noticed that he was drinking from a white and purple squeeze bottle,” Curtis said. “At first I didn’t think anything was wrong,” Curtis said. “But right after, he took a drink from that bottle, he got up and walked past me. When he did this I smelled a strong odor of alcohol.” The dentist initially claimed he only had a couple of beers with pizza during lunch Monday, according to Suffolk County cops. But Garelick, who was charged with misdemeanor reckless endangerment, later confessed to his drunken dentistry while being taken to a police precinct in the back of squad car. “I never had any beers with my pizza. I’ve been sipping at that bottle all along today,” he told police, referring to his squeeze bottle filled with vodka, according to a criminal complaint.

Opening Bell: 08.27.12

RBS May Be Bigger Libor Culprit Than Barclays, Says MP (Guardian) John Mann, a Labour MP on the Treasury select committee, said "City insiders" had suggested RBS's involvement may be "noticeably worse" than Barclays.' [...] Mann's comments came as a former RBS trader claimed that the bank's internal checks were so lax that anyone could change Libor rates. Court documents filed in Singapore show that Tan Chi Min, who is suing RBS for wrongful dismissal, claimed that in 2008 a trader for the bank, Will Hall, changed the Libor submission even though he was part of the Japanese yen swap desk in London. The papers show that Tan, who worked for RBS in Singapore, raised the issue at his disciplinary meeting last September, saying the bank's internal procedure in London seemed to be that "anyone can change Libor". Spain Expects to Tap About $75 Billion in Rescue Financing for Its Banks (NYT) Spain expects to use about 60 billion euros, or $75 billion, of the 100 billion euros of bank rescue financing offered by European finance ministers in June, according to the Spanish economy minister, Luis de Guindos. UK Investment Bankers Prefer Singapore (FT) The southeast-Asian city state has become the most favored location for investment bankers who are based in London, research by financial services recruitment firm Astbury Marsden shows. Of the 462 investment bankers that were asked, 31 percent said they would most like to work in Singapore. By comparison, only a fifth preferred New York and only 19 percent opted in favor of London. In the year before, 22 percent named London as their preferred location, underlining how the British capital has lost some appeal among investment bankers amid tighter regulation and a clampdown on bonuses. “A fast growing, low tax and bank friendly environment like Singapore stands as a perfect antidote to the comparatively high tax and anti-banker sentiment of London and New York,” said Mark Cameron, chief operating officer at Astbury Marsden. “Far more London-based bankers are now more willing and able to relocate the 6,700 miles to Singapore.” Another Madoff Name Nix (NYP) The second of Ponzi-schemer Bernie Madoff’s daughters-in-law is asking a court for permission to shed her now notorious married name. Deborah West Madoff, who started divorce proceedings against Bernie’s son Andrew back in 2008, has sought permission in Manhattan Supreme Court to revert to her maiden name. The couple have two children. She’s not the first in the family to do so: in 2010, her sister-in-law made a similar court application. Suits Mount In Rate Scandal (WSJ) It won't be easy for the plaintiffs to win in court even though financial institutions are likely to reach settlements with regulators in coming months totaling billions of dollars, according to people close to the Libor investigation. The plaintiffs must prove that banks successfully manipulated interest-rate benchmarks such as the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, and caused the plaintiffs to suffer a loss. Still, some investors and analysts are forecasting huge damages despite the legal hurdles. In a July report, Macquarie Research estimated that banks face potential legal liability of about $176 billion, based on the assumption that Libor was "understated" by 0.4 percentage points in 2008 and 2009. Carlyle Group marketed $25 million deal without license: Kuwaiti firm (AP) A Kuwaiti company suing the Carlyle Group over a $25 million investment that went bad is now accusing the private equity firm of marketing the deal without a license as it seeks to have its case heard in Kuwaiti courts. The latest claim by Kuwait's National Industries Group adds a new twist to its more than two-and-a-half year legal challenge to Carlyle, and could complicate the American company's relationships with other wealthy Mideast investors. NIG's lawsuit focuses on a Carlyle investment fund that was one of the earliest casualties of the financial crisis when it collapsed in 2008. The fund has been the subject of multiple lawsuits against Washington-based Carlyle. Couple in court for disturbing the peace for 'screaming, moaning and swearing during seven-hour sex romps five nights a week' (DM) Jessica Angel and Colin MacKenzie had been issued with an order requiring them to prevent ‘screaming, loud moaning, swearing and raised voices’ after police were called to their flat 20 times in just four months. However, following further complaints from neighbours, the couple were charged under the Environmental Protection Act. They face a £3,000 fine if convicted...Mr MacKenzie, 45, from Sturt, South Australia, said: ‘How can you live in a place where you can’t have sex? It’s ridiculous. Anyway, it’s mostly Jessie. The sex goes from four to seven hours, five nights a week. I’ll probably die of a heart attack – she’s almost killing me.’ German Official Opposes European Debt Purchases (NYT) The president of the German central bank said in an interview published Sunday that he remained staunchly opposed to government bond purchases by the European Central Bank, a position that could make it more difficult to deploy a weapon many economists believe is essential to saving the euro. But in a sign that the mood in Germany could be shifting, Chancellor Angela Merkel adopted a more dovish tone during a separate interview. She told members of her governing coalition to stop talking about Greece leaving the euro. “We are in a decisive phase in the battle against the euro zone debt crisis,” Ms. Merkel told ARD television. “Everyone should weigh their words very carefully.” Fed mulls open season on bond buys to help economy (Reuters) The Federal Reserve is considering a new approach to unconventional monetary policy that would give it more leeway to tailor the scale of its stimulus to changing economic winds. While fresh measures are not assured and the timing of any potential moves are still in question, some officials have said any new bond buying, or quantitative easing, could be open-ended, meaning it would not be bound by a fixed amount or time frame. "I am inclined to think that if the Fed decides on more QE it would be of the open-ended variety," said Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan and a former Fed economist. BlackRock Bullish On Thai Bonds, Region’s Worst (Bloomberg) BlackRock is bullish on Thai bonds, Asia’s worst-performing in 2012, saying the central bank has room to ease monetary policy as a global slump cools demand for exports from Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy. Former SC Gov. Mark Sanford to wed ex-mistress Maria Belen Chapur (NYDN) "Yes, we are engaged, and I'm both happy and excited for what that means," Sanford said in a statement obtained by CNN. "I have long expressed my feelings for her, she's a wonderful person. My closest friends have met and love her, and I look forward to introducing her to still many more that have yet to do so." The conservative Republican's political aspirations were dashed in 2009 when he disappeared from South Carolina for five days under the pretense that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. The father of four, who was once thought to be a potential 2012 presidential contender, later admitted that he was actually visiting Chapur, who he professed to be his "soul mate." "I've been unfaithful to my wife," Sanford said at the time. "I developed a relationship with what started as a dear, dear friend from Argentina."