Opening Bell: 6.22.15

Bankers behaving badly; Strauss-Kahn dealing with another probe; Twinkies says Twinkies are healthy; North Korea claims it's found the cure for MERS, Ebola, SARS And AIDS; and more.
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U.K. Bankers More Likely to Misbehave Under Pressure, PwC Says (Bloomberg)
Managers in banking, insurance and wealth management were more anxious and inclined to misbehave when “negative consequences or punishment for poor performance were highlighted,” PricewaterhouseCoopers and the London Business School said in a report on Monday. “When it made them feel anxious, they tended to say money was one of their key motivators,” Duncan Wardley, a behavioral science specialist at PwC, said in the statement. “They also tended to take more risks and make unethical choices.”

Strauss-Kahn Shifts Focus From Sex Trial to Hedge-Fund Probe (Bloomberg)
While Strauss-Kahn will try to put the Lille trial with its days of embarrassing testimony behind him, he and his lawyers must shift their focus to Luxembourg and the failure of a hedge fund that bore Strauss-Kahn’s name. The state prosecutor there is reviewing complaints stemming from the collapse last November of Leyne Strauss-Kahn & Partners following the suicide of Thierry Leyne, who had co-founded the investment firm with Strauss-Kahn months earlier.

Hostess pitches ‘healthy’ Twinkies to prospective buyers (NYP)
Twinkie is back — and it’s not as bad for you as you think. Believe it or not, that’s the sales pitch the owners of Twinkie and other Hostess snack cakes are making to prospective buyers who are dealing with a rising tide of junk food-averse consumers, The Post has learned. The owners claim in their sales presentations that Twinkie — which typically gets an “F” from nutritionists — actually stacks up pretty well against energy bars that are widely regarded as healthier alternatives...The owners of Hostess, Leon Black’s Apollo Global Management and Dean Metropoulos, are seeking $2 billion for the business they bought for $410 million out of liquidation. Grupo Bimbo, Flowers Foods and Aryzta are among the suitors.

Guernsey: Where Home Buyers Find Shelter (From Taxes) (WSJ)
“I used to pick clients up at the airport who would say, ‘I had never even heard of Guernsey before my accountant said I should think about moving here,’” said island estate-agent Richard Fox, director of Martel Maides. Financial advisers favor Guernsey for is its tax system. Here, income tax is capped at 20% and there is no inheritance or capital gains tax. Anybody with an EU passport can take advantage of this system by buying a property and spending at least 91 days a year on the island. (Those outside the EU will also require a visa.)

Woman Busted For Ruff Sex Is Back In Jail (TSG)
The Florida woman busted last week for allegedly engaging in sexual activity with her pit bull is back in jail following an arrest yesterday for violating her supervised release, which barred her from having contact with any animals. Ashley Miller, 18, was collared yesterday at a Bradenton home after a sheriff’s deputy responded to the residence upon receiving an anonymous call reporting that she was “in contact with animals.” Deputy Lauren Alvarado reported that Miller was living at the home with a cat named “Loki” and “2-face,” the dog at the center of Miller's criminal case. After spending three nights in jail, Miller said she returned to the house Monday, stating, “I had no other place to go.” Following her release from custody, Miller picked up “2-face,” a female Brindle pit bull, from “forensic testing” and brought the dog back to her home. According to a sheriff’s report, Miller acknowledged that she returned to the property “even though she was aware that the cat and the dog lived at the residence full time.” Miller, who denied having any physical contact with the animals, was arrested for contempt of court and booked into the county jail. Deputy Alvarado noted that “Loki” and “2-face” did not appear injured.

Italian Bonds Rise on Greek Optimism as Traders Face Turbulence (Bloomberg)
“Clearly the market is playing a positive outcome,” said Patrick Jacq, a senior fixed-income strategist at BNP Paribas SA in Paris. “What we’ve had over the weekend is a distinct improvement in negotiations. But this doesn’t mean we’re going to see an agreement. As long as we don’t have an official agreement between Greece and its creditors the situation remains vulnerable.”

California ruling seen unlikely to dent value of Uber, other start-ups (Reuters)
A California ruling requiring Uber to classify a San Francisco-based driver as an employee instead of an independent contractor could potentially change how sharing-economy companies operate, but it is unlikely to dent their value, investors said. If it holds up on appeal, the California Labor Commissioner's decision, which came to light last week, may have a limited impact on Uber and other companies that rely on networks of on-demand workers. That's because the benefits of treating workers as contractors rather than employees are more important in a start-up's early days and less so now that Uber and many similar companies have grown, investors say.

SoftBank, partners eye $20 billion investment in Indian solar projects (Reuters)
Japan's Softbank Corp (9984.T), together with Bharti Enterprises and Taiwan's Foxconn (2354.TW), will invest about $20 billion in solar projects in India, in one of the biggest investment pledges to date in the country's renewable energy sector. Softbank, which previously said it would invest $10 billion in India over time, said on Monday the companies had agreed a minimum commitment of generating 20 gigawatts of energy.

SEC Fights Challenges to Its In-House Courts (WSJ)
The agency is deploying a variety of countermeasures to fight at least seven cases brought by defendants around the country. The expanding effort prompted one federal judge last week to say the agency appears to be in “a little bit of chaos right now.” The cases are forcing the SEC to defend the growing use of its five administrative-law judges, to whom it sends hundreds of cases a year. The agency has been directing more cases to its internal courts since the Dodd-Frank financial-reform law granted it more latitude to do so.

North Korea Claims It Has Found Cure For MERS, Ebola, SARS And AIDS (AP)
North Korea says it has succeeded where the greatest minds in science have failed. The authoritarian, impoverished nation better known for pursuing a nuclear program despite global criticism announced Friday it has a drug can prevent and cure MERS, Ebola, SARS and AIDS. The secretive state did not provide proof, and the claim is likely to provoke widespread skepticism.

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Opening Bell: 02.26.13

J.P. Morgan’s Investor Day: Cut That Headcount (Deal Journal) JP Morgan is looking to cut another $1 billion out of its expenses this year, including somewhere around 4,000 jobs, according to a new presentation...And that may not be all the cuts. In a separate presentation on the consumer bank and mortgage operations the bank expects to cut costs in mortgage banking by $3 billion over this year and next year and cut headcount there by between 13,000 and 15,000. Banks Face Hurdle In Libor Fight (WSJ) Next week, lawyers for Barclays PLC, Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC, UBS AG and more than a dozen other banks still under investigation are expected to ask a federal-court judge to throw out many of the suits, which seek class-action status. The suits, filed in civil court in California and New York by plaintiffs ranging from a retired cable-car driver in San Francisco to the city of Baltimore, have been piling up for nearly two years. They seek damages that could reach into the tens of billions of dollars from financial institutions that help determine the London interbank offered rate, or Libor. Barclays, RBS and UBS already have paid about $2.5 billion, and admitted wrongdoing, to settle rate-rigging allegations by U.S. and U.K. regulators. In court filings, lawyers for the 16 banks accused of wrongdoing say the lawsuits have no legal validity. The lawyers say regulatory settlements reached so far don't support the central allegation in most of the civil suits that banks engaged in illegal, anticompetitive behavior. Berlusconi Concedes as He Weighs Alliance (Bloomberg) Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi acknowledged rival Pier Luigi Bersani’s narrow victory in the lower house of Parliament and said he’s open to a broad alliance to avoid a second election. “Everyone needs to think what good can be done for Italy and this will take some time,” Berlusconi said in an interview with Canale 5, a station owned by his Mediaset SpA broadcaster. The country can’t be left without a government, he said. Lew gettin’ close: Senate panel to OK as next Treasury boss (NYP) Treasury Secretary-nominee Jack Lew will get the green light to replace Tim Geithner despite taking heat during and after his confirmation hearing over a loan he received from New York University. The 57-year-old former White House chief of staff has enough votes from the Senate Finance Committee, headed by Max Baucus (D-Mont.), to pass a vote today that will likely lead to his confirmation, sources said. A full Senate vote is likely to be scheduled in a couple of days and held sometime next week. Larry Summers: Sequestration 'Meat Cleaver' Is Irresponsible (CNBC) Avoiding the "sequester" is "round three" in the debt-reduction debate, former Clinton Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers told CNBC Tuesday, arguing for a "balanced approach" because President Barack Obama has agreed to more spending cuts than revenue during the process. In a "Squawk Box" interview, Summers said the funding constraints of the Budget Control Act of 2011 — which resolved that year's debt ceiling crisis — were round one. "You had spending cuts that were far larger from the discretionary side, that were far larger than anything [on revenue] that happened in December. Right now, we're way in balance toward more spending cuts." Dominique Strauss-Kahn seeks to ban 'half-man half-pig' book (Telegraph) The "biographical novel" by Marcela Iacub, a lawyer and journalist, recounts her seven-month affair with the 64-year-old Mr Strauss-Kahn last year. It is due to be published on Wednesday under the title, Belle et Bête, or Beauty and Beast. But the one-time Socialist presidential hopeful will this morning seek to have the book banned for "violation of the intimacy of private life" and the author and her publisher fined 100,000 euros (£88,000) in damages...In the work, she claims Mr Strauss-Kahn would have transformed the Elysée Palace into a "giant swingers' club" had he been elected French president. In fresh accounts by those who have read the book yesterday, the last chapter narrates the pair's final encounter, ending in Miss Iacub receiving treatment in casualty after "the pig" left her with an "eaten ear". Mr Strauss-Kahn has slammed the work of a woman who "seduces to write a book, claiming to have amorous feelings to exploit them for financial gain". Gupta's Gotta Pay GS $6.2 Million (NYP) Former Goldman Sachs director Rajat Gupta was ordered yesterday by a Manhattan federal judge to fork over a whopping $6.2 million to repay the Wall Street bank for legal fees it spent during the government’s probe of Gupta’s insider-trading case. The 64-year-old fallen star was convicted last year of giving up secrets he learned while on Goldman’s board to his pal and hedge fund honcho Raj Rajaratnam. Among the counts, the jury found Gupta guilty of giving Rajaratnam a tip on Warren Buffett’s $5 billion investment in Goldman in the throes of the financial crisis. Gupta, the former head of consulting firm McKinsey, is out on bail while he appeals the ruling. Goldman had requested restitution of $6.9 million — and submitted 542 pages of billing records from its lawyers at Sullivan Cromwell. Yahoo’s Mayer Risks Productivity With Work-From-Home Restriction (Bloomberg) Jackie Reses, Yahoo’s executive vice president of people and development, sent a memo last week asking employees with work-from-home arrangements to make their way to the company’s offices, starting June. “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side,” according to the memo, whose contents were confirmed by a Yahoo employee who asked not to be identified because it’s not a public document. “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.” At a time when Mayer is under pressure to jump-start growth and create innovative products, the shift may compromise Yahoo’s ability to attract employees seeking the freedom to work outside the office -- a perk offered by many of the company’s competitors. Research suggests that working from home enhances productivity, said Jody Thompson, co-founder of workforce consultant CultureRx. BP Oil-Spill Trial Begins (WSJ) Both Transocean and the Justice Department focused part of their opening statements on a 10-minute ship-to-shore phone call between two BP engineers, Donald Vidrine and Mark Hafle, less than an hour before the blast. From the rig, Mr. Vidrine allegedly talked about unusual results from a test designed to ensure the cement sealing in the bottom of the well was successful. Investigators later found that rig workers misinterpreted the results of the test. Dennis Rodman Bound For North Korea (Reuters) Retired U.S. basketball player Dennis Rodman is to visit North Korea to film a television documentary and will arrive in the capital Pyongyang on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported. Rodman, now 51 years old, won five NBA championships in his prime, achieving a mix of fame and notoriety for his on- and off-court antics. Thirty-year-old North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who has launched two long-range rockets and carried out a nuclear weapons test during his first year in power, is reported to be an avid NBA fan and had pictures taken with players from the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers during his school days in Switzerland. "At a time when tensions between the two countries (the United States and North Korea) are running high, it's important to keep lines of communication open, no matter how non-traditional those channels are," AP quoted Shane Smith, the founder of VICE, which is to make the TV series, as saying.

Opening Bell: 02.12.13

Obama Address to Focus on Economy, Social Issues (WSJ) President Obama's chief spokesman, Jay Carney, said Monday the core emphasis in the president's big speeches remains the same: "The need to make the economy work for the middle class, because the middle class is the engine that drives this country forward and which will, if it's given the right tools and the right opportunities, will drive us forward in the 21st century." Republicans welcome the president's expected focus on the economy, but also say he hasn't done enough. "The White House says they're talking about jobs and the economy. I welcome that engagement," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) said in an interview Sunday. "It seems as if the president is constantly trying to pivot back to jobs and the economy. The reason you see that happening is he's never pursued it." Mr. Obama will also address a series of automatic spending cuts set to kick in March 1—the so-called sequester—which could threaten economic growth, national—security preparation and the jobs of thousands of federal employees. Mr. Obama has called on Congress to pass a temporary measure of spending reductions and new taxes to replace the across-the-board cuts. Barclays to Cut 3,700 Jobs After Full-Year Loss (Bloomberg) Barclays Plc will cut 3,700 jobs to reduce annual costs by 1.7 billion pounds ($2.6 billion) as Chief Executive Officer Antony Jenkins revamps the lender following its first full-year loss in two decades. About 1,800 positions will go this year at the firm’s investment bank and 1,900 in its loss-making European consumer and business banking unit, Jenkins said in a statement today. The lender posted a net loss of 1.04 billion pounds for 2012, wider than the 307 million-pound estimate of nine analysts surveyed by Bloomberg, as it set aside an additional 1 billion pounds in the fourth quarter for compensating clients wrongly sold interest-rate swaps and loan-repayment insurance. BNY Mellon loses U.S. tax case, to take $850 million profit hit (Reuters) BNY Mellon Corp said on Monday it will take an $850 million charge against first-quarter profit after losing a high-stakes tax case to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, a move that will also erode some of its capital. The BNY Mellon case was the first to go to trial since the IRS accused several U.S. banks of generating artificial foreign tax credits through loans with London-based Barclays. The IRS challenged a $900 million tax benefit claimed by BNY Mellon that stemmed from a $1.5 billion loan from Barclays. The funding was so cheap that at one point Barclays actually paid BNY Mellon to take Barclays' money, according to court papers. Nasdaq Steps Up Pursuit Of A Partner (WSJ) Nasdaq, long on the hunt for a partner, has ramped up its conversations about strategic options ranging from joint ventures to a sale, according to people familiar with the talks, as rival NYSE Euronext moves ahead with a merger that will form an even-bigger competitor. Twinkie Brand Heads For Sale (WSJ) Judge Robert Drain of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, N.Y., cleared Hostess on Monday to proceed with several of the sale processes it has unveiled during the past several weeks. Private-equity firms Apollo Global Management LLC and Metropoulos & Co. are now officially set to kick off the contest for most of the Hostess cakes business, with a $410 million offer for brands such as Twinkie, Dolly Madison, Ho Hos and Ding Dongs. That so-called "stalking horse," or lead, bid also covers five bakeries and certain equipment. McKee Foods Corp., the maker of Little Debbie snack cakes, is the stalking-horse bidder for Hostess's Drake's brand. The $27.5 million offer from McKee, based in Collegedale, Tenn., doesn't include the Drake's plant in New Jersey. Tesla CEO Clashes With New York Times Over Model S Review (Bloomberg) Elon Musk, the billionaire chief executive officer of Tesla Motors Inc. said a range test of the Model S electric sedan by the New York Times was “fake” as the reporter didn’t disclose all the details of his drive. “NYTimes article about Tesla range in cold is fake,” Musk said in a Twitter post yesterday. “Vehicle logs tell true story that he didn’t actually charge to max & took a long detour.” The Times on Feb. 8 published a story by John M. Broder on its website detailing how the Model S he drove failed to meet the electric sedan’s 300-mile (483-kilometer) range “under ideal conditions” while driving in temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-12 Celsius). The Times also published a blog post by Broder about the test-drive on the same day, detailing his plan to use Tesla’s new “supercharger” stations. Broder followed instructions he was given in “multiple conversations with Tesla personnel,” Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for the Times, said in an e-mail message. The story was “completely factual, describing the trip in detail exactly as it occurred,” Murphy said. “Any suggestion that the account was ‘fake’ is, of course, flatly untrue.” Dispute over mashed potatoes turns dangerous (TBN) A disagreement over mashed potatoes turned dangerous over the weekend when a victim said tempers escalated and a woman came at her with box cutters. Shaquina S. Hill, 23, of Fourth Street was charged with second-degree menacing and second-degree harassment as a result, city police said. An 18-year-old woman told police she and Hill argued about mashed potatoes just before 9 p.m. Sunday at a Fourth Street address, and things escalated from there. The younger woman told police Hill grabbed box cutters and waved them at her, then dropped the knife and started throwing things at her, including a heavy ceramic vase and coffee table. She told police Hill also punched her in the chest. U.K. Regulator to Investigate Autonomy (WSJ) The Financial Reporting Council, the regulator tasked with promoting good corporate governance and financial reporting in the U.K., announced the investigation Monday on its website. It said the probe will look at Autonomy accounts published between Jan. 1, 2009, and June 30, 2011. New York fund manager arrested on Ponzi scheme charges (Reuters) Federal prosecutors charged Jason Konior, 39, with defrauding investors by promising to match their investments in his fund, Absolute Fund LP, many times over. Prosecutors said he used $2 million of the money he collected from three hedge funds to pay his own expenses and cover redemption requests from prior investors, according to the criminal complaint dated February 7. Treasury’s Brainard Says G-20 Must Refrain From Devaluation (Bloomberg) “The G-20 needs to deliver on the commitment to move to market-determined exchange rates and refrain from competitive devaluation,” Lael Brainard, the Treasury’s undersecretary for international affairs, said at a news conference in Washington today. Brainard said “global growth is weak and vulnerable to the downside,” and strengthening demand must be a top priority for G-20 finance ministers and central bankers meeting in Moscow Feb. 15-16. Ex-Fund Manager Avoids Jail Time (WSJ) The cooperation of Ali Far, co-founder of Spherix Capital LLC, led to the convictions of at least five people, including Galleon Group founder Raj Rajaratnam, prosecutors said. Mr. Rajaratnam, who was convicted on conspiracy and securities-fraud charges, is serving an 11-year prison sentence, one of the longest terms ever imposed for insider trading. Mr. Far secretly agreed to cooperate with the government's probe shortly after he was approached by federal agents in April 2009, prosecutors said. Mr. Far, a former Galleon employee, recorded about 244 calls, including calls with Mr. Rajaratnam, prosecutors said. He also was prepared to testify at Mr. Rajaratnam's trial as a government witness in 2011 but was never called, they said. "I am truly sorry for my mistakes and I am ashamed," Mr. Far said at a hearing in Manhattan federal court Monday. U.S. District Judge Robert Patterson sentenced Mr. Far to one year's probation. He also imposed a $100,000 fine. The Perils of Being A Dog Show Judge (WSJ) Cindy Vogels had a litter of options for Best in Show at last year's Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. As the final judge, she could have chosen a German Shepherd, a Doberman pinscher or even a Dalmatian. Instead she picked a Pekingese named Malachy—and everyone else judged her. One person, Vogels said, called the Pekingese "that awful dog." Vogels recalled another saying: "Why would you give Best in Show to the dog that couldn't walk?" "The American public was horrified," Vogels said. "The public has no appreciation for a Pekingese." It is the ultimate honor for a show judge to name the Best in Show winner at Westminster, the year's glitziest dog show, which concludes Tuesday at Madison Square Garden. But it also can bring out the worst in people. The math behind this logic is basic: There are 187 breeds, only seven will win their groups and just one will win the opinion of Michael Dougherty, the Best in Show judge on Tuesday. "You go in there alone," said Elliott Weiss, the 2010 Best in Show judge, "and you come out alone."

Opening Bell: 12.18.15

Hedge fund carnage; More Martin Shkreli; Dominique Strauss-Kahn has a 5 year-old love child; Large snake takes weekend ride on MTA bus; and more.

Opening Bell: 2.12.15

Hedge funds love currencies again; Kyle Bass is going after pharma patents; Goldman Sachs is a special snowflake; Dominique Strauss-Kahn: I’m ‘rougher’ in bed than most men; AND MORE.

Opening Bell: 12.17.12

SAC E-Mails Show Steve Cohen Consulted on Key Dell Trade (Bloomberg) Two days before Dell Inc. was set to report second-quarter 2008 earnings, Jon Horvath, a technology analyst at SAC Capital Advisors LP, e-mailed his boss Michael S. Steinberg and another portfolio manager to warn that the computer maker would miss earnings estimates. “I have a 2nd hand read from someone at the company,” Horvath began the Aug. 26 message, which provided details on gross margins, expenditures and revenue. “Please keep to yourself as obviously not well known.” Steinberg, a 15-year veteran of the hedge fund founded by billionaire Steven A. Cohen, responded: “Yes normally we would never divulge data like this, so please be discreet. Thanks.” The e-mails indicate Steinberg, the longest-serving SAC employee linked to the U.S. insider-trading probe, discussed the Dell trade with Cohen. While neither has been accused of any wrongdoing, the messages were admitted as evidence at the New York insider-trading trial of two hedge-fund managers last week after a judge ruled they supported prosecutor claims that Steinberg should be considered an unindicted co-conspirator. AIG To Sell Life Insurer Stake (WSJ) AIG will sell its stake in Asian life insurer AIA Group Ltd., raising as much as $6.5 billion in what could be the second-largest deal in Asia this year. Completion of the sale will mark another step forward for AIG, which is shedding noncore assets, as it seeks to repay its debt to the U.S. government, which took over the company in a $182 billion bailout in 2008. A Shadow Over Banks As UBS Nears Libor Deal (WSJ) The Swiss bank is set to agree as soon as this week to pay roughly $1.5 billion to settle allegations of wrongdoing related to benchmarks such as the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, say people close to the talks. So far, UBS has agreed in principle with the U.S. Justice Department that a company unit in Japan will plead guilty to a criminal charge, according to a person familiar with the tentative deal. The Zurich-based parent will pay the fine in return for a deal that lets it avoid criminal prosecution. Criminal charges against individuals are expected to be filed in tandem with the settlement, according to U.S. officials briefed on the matter. The pursuit of criminal charges and the higher-than-expected fine are ominous signs for more than a dozen financial firms still under investigation. "There's no panic—yet," says someone close to one of the banks in the sprawling probe. Moody’s Gets No Respect as Bonds Shun 56% of Country Ratings (Bloomberg) The global bond market disagreed with Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s more often than not this year when the companies told investors that governments were becoming safer or more risky. Yields on sovereign securities moved in the opposite direction from what ratings suggested in 53 percent of the 32 upgrades, downgrades and changes in credit outlook, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s worse than the longer-term average of 47 percent, based on more than 300 changes since 1974. This year, investors ignored 56 percent of Moody’s rating and outlook changes and 50 percent of those by S&P. Economy Poised To Nudge Ahead In 2013 (WSJ) So that's nice. Boehner Opens the Door to Tax Hikes on the Wealthy (Reuters) U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner's offer to accept a tax rate increase for the wealthiest Americans knocks down a key Republican road block to a deal resolving the year-end "fiscal cliff." The question now boils down to what President Barack Obama offers in return. Such major questions, still unanswered so close to the end of the year suggest, however, that no spending and tax agreement is imminent. A source familiar with the Obama-Boehner talks confirmed that Boehner proposed extending low tax rates for everyone who has less than $1 million in net annual income, meaning tax rates would rise on all above that line. Actor Depardieu Hits Back at French PM Over Taxes (CNBC) Actor Gerard Depardieu, accused by French government leaders of trying to dodge taxes by buying a house over the border in Belgium, retorted that he was leaving because "success" was now being punished in his homeland. A popular and colourful figure in France, the 63-year-old Depardieu is the latest wealthy Frenchman to seek shelter outside his native country after tax increases by Socialist President Francois Hollande. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault described Depardieu's behaviour as "pathetic" and unpatriotic at a time when the French are being asked to pay higher taxes to reduce a bloated national debt. "Pathetic, you said pathetic? How pathetic is that?" Depardieu said in a letter distributed to the media. "I am leaving because you believe that success, creation, talent, anything different must be sanctioned," he said. [...] The "Cyrano de Bergerac" star recently bought a house in Nechin, a Belgian village a short walk from the border with France, where 27 percent of residents are French nationals, and put up his sumptuous Parisian home up for sale. Depardieu, who has also inquired about procedures for acquiring Belgian residency, said he was handing in his passport and social security card. Singapore Establishment Challenged by Carson Block on Olam (Bloomberg) When Carson Block likened Olam International Ltd. to fraud-ridden Enron Corp., he challenged more than the accounting of the Singapore-based commodities firm. He also took on Temasek Holdings Pte, the government-owned investment company whose money has helped build the city-state into a corporate dynamo known as Singapore Inc. Temasek is Olam’s second-largest shareholder, with a 16 percent stake that has lost more than $100 million in value since Nov. 19, when Block’s Muddy Waters LLC first questioned the validity of the company’s finances and said it was betting against the stock. Temasek is also the biggest shareholder in many of the country’s best-known companies, including DBS Group Holdings Ltd., Southeast Asia’s largest bank, Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. and Singapore Airlines Ltd. “Carson Block is putting his whole reputation on this one,” said Low Chee Keong, associate professor of corporate law at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “He’s taking on the Singapore government, Singapore Inc. here.” UN court orders immediate release of Argentine ship seized by hedge funder Paul Singer over unpaid debt (AP) A United Nations court ordered the immediate release Saturday of an Argentine navy training ship held in Ghana two months ago at the request of an American hedge fund. The ARA Libertad was held Oct. 2 in the port of Tema as collateral for unpaid bonds dating from Argentina's economic crisis a decade ago. Argentina appealed to the UN's International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea for the ship's release, arguing that as a warship the Libertad is immune from being seized. In an expedited ruling, the court ordered that Ghana "forthwith and unconditionally release the frigate ARA Libertad" and ensure the ship and its crew can leave Ghanaian waters. It also ordered that the vessel should be resupplied as needed. Detaining the ship was "a source of conflict that may endanger friendly relations among states," the court said. The ruling leaves untouched the parties' rights to seek further international arbitration on the matter. Debt Loads Climb In Buyout Deals (WSJ) Private-equity firms are using almost as much debt to fund acquisitions as they did before the financial crisis, as return-hungry investors rush to buy bonds and loans backing those takeovers. The rise in borrowed money, or leverage, heralds the possibility of juicy returns for buyout groups. Ominously, the surge also brings back memories of the last credit binge around six years ago, which saddled dozens of companies with huge levels of debt. Berlusconi's Love Life Lost in Translation (CNBC) Global media reports that the former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi announced his engagement to his 28-year-old girlfriend on one of his TV Channels on Sunday, have been dismissed by native Italians who say Berlusconi has been mis-translated. Various newspapers have reported that Berlusconi is to get married for the third time, when in fact he announced that he is in love and in a relationship...Professor of Modern Italian History at University College London (UCL), John Foot, told CNBC that Pascale is a"girlfriend, nothing more." "In Italy the phrase 'Mi sono fidanzato' usually means 'I have a girlfriend or boyfriend' and not 'I am engaged to be married'. This can cause confusion abroad but is pretty clear in the Italian context," he told CNBC. Twinkies again by spring? It could happen (NBC) It’s not even Christmas, but Twinkies fans may be able to start looking forward to an Easter present. Bankrupt Hostess Brands has received a number of bids from companies interested in buying the maker of Twinkies, Ho Hos, and Wonder bread, including retail heavyweights such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Kroger Co, Bloomberg News reported Friday, quoting an unnamed person familiar with the matter...Anthony Michael Sabino, a bankruptcy attorney and a professor at St. John's University, said bankruptcy judge Robert Drain was motivated to move quickly. Bidding will likely take place by early January, since the assets — if not the treats themselves — could become stale. “I think this will move a at a fairly decent pace. He knows what’s at stake here.

Opening Bell: 03.27.13

Cyprus Sets Bank Restructuring (WSJ) Cyprus's central bank chief said Tuesday that large depositors at the island's biggest lender, Bank of Cyprus Pcl, could lose as much as 40% on their deposits. In a television interview later, the finance minister said large uninsured deposit holders at the second-biggest, Cyprus Popular Bank Pcl, might only see one-fifth of their money returned and could wait several years before being paid back. Central banker Panicos Demetriades said at a news conference that a special administrator would be appointed to oversee both the winding down of Cyprus Popular, also known as Laiki, and the merger of its healthy assets with Bank of Cyprus. Plans for the move prompted Bank of Cyprus Chairman Andreas Artemis to submit his resignation earlier in the day. UK Banks Facing Capital Shortfall (WSJ) U.K. banks must come up with £25 billion in fresh capital by the end of the year to start plugging an estimated £50 billion ($75.8 billion) capital shortfall across the sector, the Bank of England's Financial Policy Committee said Wednesday. Banks Looking At $100 Billion Legal Tab (WSJ) The largest U.S. banks—Citigroup, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp. and Wells Fargo—together have paid $61.3 billion to settle credit-crisis and mortgage claims over the past three years, according to SNL Financial, Charlottesville, Va. Research firm Compass Point Research & Trading LLC estimates that U.S. banks will wind up owing a further $24.7 billion related to the repurchase of faulty mortgage loans. From Finance to Sex Therapy: London Bankers Escape (CNBC) Mike Lousada, an investment banker turned sex therapist, told CNBC that City workers should "follow their passion" and find an interest they could even develop into their own business. Having worked for two decades at Nomura, JP Morgan, Barclays and Societe Generale "amongst others," Lousada told CNBC that his change of career from banking to sexual healing was a life choice. "I felt my City career no longer had meaning for me and I wanted to pursue something which gave my life meaning and purpose. As I grew, emotionally, I realized how unfulfilled I felt and I knew that there was something else calling me which would be more fulfilling," he told CNBC. Called the "orgasm guru" among London's chattering classes, Lousada has built up a reputation as a talented sex therapist with a long waiting list of clients paying 300 pounds ($454) for a therapy session with him. Woman Attempts To Hide Tadpoles In Her Mouth At The Airport (UPI) When airport security found a bottle of liquid in the woman's carry-on luggage, they informed her that she'd either have to immediately drink or dispose of the liquid. The woman tipped back the small bottle and drank its contents, but security became suspicious when she refused to swallow. The woman eventually spit out was she was holding in her mouth: tadpoles. Lehman plans to distribute $14.2 billion to creditors (Reuters) The distribution includes about $9.4 billion to third-party creditors and affiliates, $4.4 billion among other debtors, and $370 million for newly-allowed claims. Berkshire Set To Get Big Goldman Stake (WSJ) The billionaire chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway accepted the stake in exchange for giving up his company's right to purchase a larger number of Goldman shares at a below-market price, according to terms of the deal announced Tuesday. The pact, worth about $1.5 billion after Tuesday's close, puts an exclamation point on the Omaha, Neb. company's financial-crisis lifeline to Goldman. Berkshire's realized and paper winnings on the 2008 preferred-stock investment now exceed $3 billion, making it one of Mr. Buffett's most lucrative bets in recent years. G4S Readies Guards as Cypriot Banks Prepare to Open (Reuters) The world's largest security firm, G4S, moves cash and will provide guards for Cypriot lenders including Bank of Cyprus and Cyprus Popular Bank, the two biggest, which are to be combined and see large depositors' accounts frozen under a bailout agreed at the weekend. Cypriot banks have been shut for more than a week while the government worked out the bailout and will stay closed until Thursday to prevent a run. Meanwhile, Cypriots have been queuing to withdraw cash from automatic teller machines, with limits at some shrinking down to 100 euros a day. John Arghyrou, managing director of the Cyprus business for G4S, said its 750 employees have been working through the night, going out to replenish cash machines with police guard. Licensing rules prevented the firm from bringing in extra staff to handle the unprecedented workload. Man charged with assault after roommate drew on him (WJLA) A 31-year-old Arlington man is in jail after he was accused of assaulting his roommate when he realized he had drawn male genitalia on him. The alleged assault happened at about 5:30 a.m. Saturday inside a home in the 3100 block of North 17th Street. The accused, James Denham Watson, woke up to find that his roommate drew on his face. Watson then allegedly assaulted his roommate, leaving him with serious, extensive injuries to the face. He was taken to Virginia Hospital Center to be treated for his injuries. The suspect was subsequently arrested and charged with malicious wounding. He's being held without bond. The drawing on Watson's face was still present when he was booked.

Opening Bell: 11.05.12

Wall Street Pay Rises (WSJ) Wall Street pay will bounce in 2012 from last year's sharply reduced levels, but bonuses will be lower and have more strings attached than before the financial crisis, the latest tally of finance-industry compensation shows. So-called incentive-based pay, which includes cash and stock awards, is set to be flat to up 5% to 10% from a year earlier, according to a forecast set to be released Monday by consulting firm Johnson Associates. At the same time, financial firms are keeping a lid on cash outlays by deferring more pay and trimming their workforces...Many securities-industry employees still rake in far more in pay than most other professions. But gone are the days when scores of star traders would get million-dollar, year-end windfalls. The average managing director is set to take home about $930,000 in total pay for 2012, up 3.3% from $900,000 a year ago but down about 23% from $1.2 million in 2010...Reflecting a big rebound from last year's plunge, the survey said bond traders—among the hardest hit in terms of pay in 2011—could see their bonuses rise 10% to 20%, even though several firms are scaling back fixed-income trading operations. Investment bankers and equity traders may receive as much as 10% less in bonuses than last year. Equity volumes remain weak, while global merger and acquisition volume is down 16% to $1.7 trillion through the first nine months of the year, according to Thomson Reuters. Goldman Sachs Partner List Drops 31 Since February, Filing Shows (Bloomberg) Some of the names missing from the latest filing had already been reported, such as former Securities Division Co- Head David B. Heller and Lucas van Praag, the former head of corporate communications. Others hadn’t been announced. Economy Set for Better Times Whether Obama or Romney Wins (Bloomberg) Mitt Romney says Barack Obama’s policies will consign the U.S. to an extended period of sluggish economic growth, at best. The president says his Republican challenger’s plans will sow the seeds of another mammoth recession. Both are wrong. No matter who wins the election tomorrow, the economy is on course to enjoy faster growth in the next four years as the headwinds that have held it back turn into tailwinds. Consumers are spending more and saving less after reducing household debt to the lowest since 2003. Home prices are rebounding after falling more than 30 percent from their 2006 highs. And banks are increasing lending after boosting equity capital by more than $300 billion since 2009. “The die is cast for a much stronger recovery,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist in West Chester, Pennsylvania, for Moody’s Analytics Inc. He sees growth this year and next at about 2 percent before doubling to around 4 percent in both 2014 and 2015 as consumption, construction and hiring all pick up. Chanos Unmoved by Chinese Banks’ Biggest Rally Since Jan. (Bloomberg) The biggest monthly surge in Chinese banks since January isn’t enough to stop Jim Chanos from shorting the financial shares as the portfolio manager wagers the country faces a credit crisis as bad loans increase. “You can’t look at a month and say that’s the trend, or something’s changed,” Chanos, who oversees $6 billion as the founder and president at Kynikos Associates Ltd., said in a Bloomberg television interview. Bad loans peaking at 3 percent, “seems awfully Pollyannic,” he said. Merkel: Euro Debt Crisis Will Last 5 Years Or More (Reuters) Merkel says the continent is on the right path to overcome the crisis but "whoever thinks this can be fixed in one or two years is wrong." Europe's Bank Reviews Collateral (WSJ) The issue involves about €80 billion in Spanish Treasury bills the ECB accepted as collateral for its loans. The ECB applies different discounts, or haircuts, to collateral based on the quality of the asset being posted. The Treasury bills under question were given the highest collateral rating, but Welt am Sonntag's research suggests many of the securities should have been given a lower rating, meaning more bills would have needed to be posted to obtain the same amount of ECB credit. If the ECB eventually were to downgrade the securities, banks would have to provide additional collateral to cover the nearly €17 billion in ECB loans they have received. The issue could prove to be embarrassing to the ECB if it is forced to admit it wasn't strict enough in enforcing its rules. Jeep Driven By Suspected Smugglers Gets Stuck Atop U.S.-Mexico Border Fence (TSG) A harebrained attempt by suspected smugglers to drive a Jeep Cherokee up and over a U.S.-Mexico border fence failed early Tuesday when the vehicle got stuck atop the 14-foot tall barrier. As seen above, the teetering SUV was spotted by U.S. Border Patrol agents after it had been driven up a makeshift ramp, but could not complete the trip’s final leg into Arizona. When agents approached the vehicle, two individuals on the fence's Mexican side fled. Investigators suspect that the Jeep likely contained narcotics, which were offloaded when the vehicle became stuck. Rochdale Says Bad Apple Trade Led to Rescue Bid (WSJ) "Rochdale had an unauthorized trade that left us with a negative capital position. We are in talks that would result in a healthy balance sheet, and we expect to be trading maybe as early as Monday," said Rochdale President Daniel Crowley. He said the unauthorized trading was in shares of Apple, and that, as of Saturday evening, the company was in talks with two firms for a possible injection of capital. He declined to offer more details on the unauthorized trading. S&P Found Liable by Australia Court for Misleading Rating (Bloomberg) Standard & Poor’s misled investors by giving its highest rating to securities whose value plunged during the global credit freeze, a judge ruled in an Australian case that may be cited in lawsuits around the world. S&P was “misleading and deceptive” in its rating of two structured debt issues in 2006, Federal Court Justice Jayne Jagot said in a summary of her ruling released today in Sydney. The Australian municipalities that brought the case are entitled to damages from the credit ratings company and two other defendants, ABN Amro Bank NV and Local Government Financial Services Pty., according to the ruling. Banks Going Low-Tech In Aftermath Of Sandy (WSJ) Sandy's devastating force has led many of the banks lying in its path to resort to old-fashioned, low-tech ways of serving their customers—including stocking up on cash and recording transactions by hand with ink and paper. Hulk Hogan: Bubba the Love Sponge and I 'are NOT friends and never will be friends' after sex tape leak (NYDN) They may have settled their sex tape brawl, but Hulk Hogan and Bubba the Love Sponge Clem aren’t rekindling their former friendship, the wrestling star claimed Friday. “Just for the record, Bubba and I are NOT friends and never will be friends, we are NOT friends,” Hulk Hogan said of the Florida shock jock in a Twitter message. Hogan sued Bubba Oct. 15 for invasion of privacy after grainy footage of the mustachioed muscleman having sex with Bubba’s wife surfaced on Gawker.com...Hogan, 59, maintained he was unaware of any camera and that the leak of the 6-year-old recording, made with Bubba’s consent while the wrestler’s ill-fated marriage to ex-wife Linda Hogan was on the rocks, was a devastating blow.

Opening Bell: 09.21.12

Spain eyes pension reform with aid package in sight (Reuters) Spain is considering freezing pensions and speeding up a planned rise in the retirement age as it races to cut spending and meet conditions of an expected international sovereign aid package, sources with knowledge of the matter said. The measures would save at least 4 billion euros a year as well as fulfil European Union policy recommendations issued in May which senior euro zone sources said were being used as a blueprint for the terms of a sovereign aid program. Banker Breakups May Help Spur U.K. Divorce Law Changes (Bloomberg) The review of U.K. divorce law was triggered in part by the case of German heiress Katrin Radmacher and ex-JPMorgan investment banker Nicolas Granatino, lawyers said. In October 2010, the U.K. Supreme Court ruled for the first time that a U.S.-style pre-nuptial agreement on asset-division, reached before marriage, should be decisive. In London, it’s common for big divorce payouts to go to partners with less money even if that spouse is relatively young, the relationship was brief and there aren’t children, Gallagher’s lawyer, Katie O’Callaghan, said. “People actively try to get divorced in this country because if they are the financially weak party, they can expect a bigger payment,” said O’Callaghan. Porsche, Daimler Indicate Europe’s Car Crisis Spreading (Bloomberg) “If a downturn lasts for longer, which this one is, premium is not immune from pricing trends,” said Arndt Ellinghorst, a London-based analyst at Credit Suisse Group AG with an outperform recommendation on BMW, Porsche and VW, and a neutral on Daimler. “The pricing environment in Europe is the biggest problem,” with incentives spreading from Italy, Spain and France to Germany. Senate JPMorgan Probe Said to Seek Tougher Volcker Rule (Bloomberg) Staff members of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, headed by Senator Carl Levin, have interviewed JPMorgan officials as well as examiners and supervisors at the institution’s regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the inquiry isn’t public. One focus of the queries is whether JPMorgan’s wrong-way bets on derivatives would have been permitted under regulators’ initial draft of the Volcker ban on proprietary trading, the people said. Cain says he'd be leading Obama if he were nominee (TGS via DI) Cain told members of the media after the speech that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's recent “47 percent” comment was a “non-story” being blown out of proportion by the media. But Cain said he would have been doing better if he was the nominee, saying that he'd probably have a “substantial lead” on President Barack Obama at this point. “The reason is quite simple: I have some depth to my ideas,” he said. US Seeks To Patch Laundering Net (WSJ) U.S. regulators are proposing to enlist companies across the financial sector—and possibly beyond—as a front-line defense against money laundering. A sweeping proposal by the U.S. Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, known as FinCen, could require financial institutions to collect and verify information on all customer accounts. If adopted, the new rules would create a broad new compliance structure that banks and others say would increase costs and add to complexity for the firms and their customers. Exchanges Catch Heat On Hill Over High Speed Trading (WSJ) Sens. Jack Reed (D., R.I.) and Mike Crapo (R., Idaho) and several witnesses at the Senate Banking subcommittee hearing took aim at the complex technological tools developed and sold by exchanges to lure the high-speed traders that dominate the stock market and drive exchange profits. Greek Bailout Fight Looms (WSJ) All sides, including Athens, are determined to keep Greece in the euro, officials say—they just don't know how yet. The trio must agree to a plan by November at the latest, when the government in Athens—already in financial arrears—could run out of money altogether. Correction officers at Rikers having ‘rampant’ sex on and off job: lawsuit (NYDN) Correction officers are turning city jails into their personal playpens, engaging in “rampant” sex both on and off the job, an explosive lawsuit claims. Correction Officer Tomara Bryan charges that male guards face no repercussions for bedding their counterparts — but the frisky females become targets of abuse. Bryan should know. She was one of them, the suit says. Bryan had a stormy two-year affair with a married warden named Emmanuel Bailey — and even had his last name tattooed across her lower back. In the discrimination suit filed in Bronx Supreme Court, Bryan claims that after their kinky relationship came to light she was verbally and physically abused by female supervisors, forced to take a “bogus” random drug test and given dangerous assignments.