Opening Bell: 12.21.15

Tom Hayes catches a break; Martin Shkreli has a theory; Wall Street bucks back against Cuomo; Han Solo: Uber driver
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Court Reduces Ex-Trader’s Sentence in Libor Case (Dealbook)
A British appeals court on Monday declined to overturn the conviction of Tom Hayes, a former trader at Citigroup and UBS, for conspiring to manipulate a global benchmark interest rate known as Libor, but it did reduce Mr. Hayes’s sentence.
At a hearing on Monday, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal reduced Mr. Hayes’s sentence to 11 years in prison, down from 14 years, his original sentence following his conviction in August.
Mr. Hayes was the first person to go to trial in Britain on criminal charges related to manipulation of the London interbank offered rate, or Libor. His case was seen as a bellwether for British authorities, who have been criticized in the United States for not being as aggressive as the Justice Department when it comes to pursuing financial crime.

Martin Shkreli Says Drug-Price Hikes Led to Arrest (WSJ)
In his first interview since he was charged Thursday for allegedly misleading investors in his hedge funds and raiding a public company to cover the losses, Mr. Shkreli told The Wall Street Journal he had been targeted by authorities for his much-criticized drug-price hikes and over-the-top public persona.
His arrest Thursday dates back to his time as a small-time hedge-fund manager. But Mr. Shkreli believes it is related to the recent drug price increases.

Senator Lindsey Graham Drops Out of Presidential Race (Bloomberg)
Graham left the race on a day that President Barack Obama, in an interview on National Public Radio, praised him as the one Republican who delivered a "serious" alternative for combatting the Islamic State.
Graham, who retired this year from the Air Force Reserve, made the fight against Islamic terrorism the center of his campaign. He called repeatedly for deploying more combat troops to the Middle East and criticized Obama for not being more aggressive in the fight.

Lyft is planning to raise an Uber-sized, $1 billion funding round (Quartz)
The new fund-raising plans come as the competition against Uber—from Lyft and others—has ratcheted up. In September, Lyft allied with Didi Kuaidi, another ride-hailing giant and Uber’s stiffest competition in China. The deal promised to give Lyft a much-needed international presence and Didi Kuaidi a chance to mess with Uber on its home turf. Earlier this month, that partnership expanded to include two other Uber opponents: Ola, a big ride provider in India, and GrabTaxi, a company that operates in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand.

With New York Bank Regulator in Flux, Wall Street Seeks Softer Touch (WSJ)
The moves by banks, insurers and top Wall Street lawyers to go around DFS come at a difficult time for the agency, which is now being run by its second temporary superintendent since its founding head, Benjamin Lawsky, left in June. They also come as Mr. Cuomo’s office itself has tangled with the DFS, seeking greater control over the agency, which Mr. Cuomo created in 2011 by merging two separate bureaucracies following the financial crisis. DFS operates its investigations independently, though the Cuomo administration selects its chief.

Han Solo is the ultimate Uber driver (The Verge)
Say you're a moisture farmer from Anchor Head, Mos Eisley, or some other wretched hive of scum and villainy, and you need to get to Alderaan lickety split. You pull out your comlink and see who's in the neighborhood. Ping. Your request is accepted by the nearest independent contractor: a smuggler by the name of Solo.
Imperial activity in the area means the fare will be twice the normal rate: 10,000 credits. But this Solo fellow has a stellar rating. He made the Kessel run in 12 parsecs. That's five-star material. But is he flexible? Would he accept 2,000 credits now, 15,000 when you get to Alderaan?
Of course he will. After all, Han Solo is the ultimate Uber driver.

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Probe May Hit UK Bank's Clean Image (WSJ) Last week, Standard Chartered PLC Chief Executive Peter Sands told analysts that "our culture and values are our first and last line of defense." On Tuesday, allegations by a New York financial regulator that Standard Chartered hid illegal Iranian transactions seemed to breach that line, sending the lender's shares down and wiping £7.65 billion ($11.9 billion) off its market value. In the U.K., Mr. Sands has long been heralded as a voice of reason in the country's turbulent banking sector. The former consultant, who was named Standard Chartered CEO in 2006, regularly espoused the importance of sound governance and sensible investment. While several of its British peers were being bailed out by taxpayers, Mr. Sands was guiding the Asia-focused bank to record profits boosted by growing trade between emerging nations. The executive stressed the fact that Standard Chartered doesn't have an investment bank and didn't need European Central Bank cheap loans to keep its business ticking over. Italian's Job: Premier Talks Tough in Bid to Save Euro (WSJ) During an all-night European summit in June, Mario Monti, the Italian prime minister, gave German Chancellor Angela Merkel an unexpected ultimatum: He would block all deals until she agreed to take action against Italy's and Spain's rising borrowing costs. Ms. Merkel, who has held most of the euro's cards for the past two years, wasn't used to being put on the defensive. "This is not helpful, Mario," Ms. Merkel warned, according to people present. Europe's leaders were gathered on the fifth floor of the European Union's boxy glass headquarters in Brussels, about to break for dinner. "I know," Italy's premier replied. Bill Gross: Stay Away From Europe (CNBC) “Investors get distracted by the hundreds of billions of euros in sovereign policy checks, promises that make for media headlines but forget it’s their trillions that are the real objective,” Gross wrote. “Even Mr Hollande in left-leaning France recognizes that the private sector is critical for future growth in the EU. He knows that, without its partnership, a one-sided funding via state-controlled banks and central banks will inevitably lead to high debt-to-GDP ratios and a downhill vicious cycle of recession.” “Psst…investors: Stay dry my friends!” Gross said. Richest Family Offices Seeing Fastest Growth As Firms Oust Banks (Bloomberg Markets) They call it “money camp.” Twice a week, 6- to 11-year-old scions of wealthy families take classes on being rich. They compete to corner commodities markets in Pit, the raucous Parker Brothers card game, and take part in a workshop called “business in a box,” examining products that aren’t obvious gold mines, such as the packaging on Apple Inc.’s iPhone rather than the phone itself. It’s all part of managing money for the wealthiest families, says Katherine Lintz, founder of Clayton, Missouri- based Financial Management Partners, which runs the camp for the children of clients. Supplying the families with good stock picks and a wily tax strategy isn’t enough anymore. These days, it’s about applying the human touch, she says. Lintz, 58, is on to something. Her 22-year-old firm was No. 2 among the fastest-growing multifamily offices in the second annual Bloomberg Markets ranking of companies that manage affairs for dynastic clans, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its September issue. The assets that FMP supervises grew 30 percent to $2.6 billion as of Dec. 31, just behind Signature, a Norfolk, Virginia-based family office that expanded 36 percent in 2011 to $3.6 billion. MS Takes Trading Hit (NYP) Morgan Stanley, which had the largest trading-revenue drop among major US banks last quarter, lost money in that business on 15 days in the period, up from eight days a year earlier. Morgan Stanley traders generated more than $100 million on three days in the period, compared with seven days in the second quarter of 2011, the company said in a regulatory filing yesterday. None of the daily losses exceeded the firm’s value-at-risk, a measure of how much the bank estimates it could lose on 95 percent of days. Morgan Stanley had a 48 percent year-over-year decrease in trading revenue, excluding accounting gains, led by a 60 percent drop in fixed-income revenue. Former Lloyds Digital Security Chief Admits $3.76 Million Fraud (Bloomberg) Lloyds Banking Group's former head of digital banking fraud and security pleaded guilty to submitting false invoices totaling more than 2.4 million pounds ($3.76 million)...Jessica Harper admitted to submitting fake invoices between 2007 and 2011 and then laundering the proceeds, the CPS said. She will be sentenced on Sept. 21, and faces as long as 24 years in prison for the two charges, a CPS spokesman said, although she will get credit for the guilty plea. Ex Lehman Exec Requests Rehab To Avoid Jail Time (NYP) Former Lehman Brothers Co-Chief Operating Officer Bradley H. Jack, arrested twice in less than a year on charges of prescription forgery, said he is willing to undergo a program for drug and alcohol treatment to avoid prosecution. Jack applied for the program at a hearing yesterday in Connecticut Superior Court in Norwalk. Judge Bruce Hudock ordered a doctor’s report to determine if he is eligible for the new program, which the judge said would be “a rare event.” Fed Official Calls For Bond Buying (WSJ) Eric Rosengren, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, called on the Fed to launch an aggressive, open-ended bond buying program that the central bank would continue until economic growth picks up and unemployment starts falling again. His call came in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, the first since the central bank signaled last week that it was leaning strongly toward taking new measures to support economic growth. Mr. Rosengren isn't currently among the regional Fed bank presidents with a vote on monetary policy. Although all 12 presidents participate in Fed deliberations, only five join the seven Fed governors in Washington in the formal committee vote. Tokyo Exchange Glitch Halts Derivatives Trading (WSJ) The Tokyo Stock Exchange on Tuesday temporarily suspended all derivatives trading soon after the morning open due to an unidentified system problem, the second significant trading glitch on the exchange this year. Amazon Exec Swindled By Tom Petty Con Artist (NYDN) Brian Valentine simply wanted to give his wife the wedding present of a lifetime - a performance by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The senior vice president of Amazon, instead, fell victim to fraud, losing a whopping $165,000 to a Las Vegas man who pretended to be a concert booking agent, the Smoking Gun reported. FBI agents arrested the fraudulent agent, Chad Christopher Lund, on Aug. 2 in Illinois, after a private investigator Valentine had hired found that Lund had skipped town. But the ordeal began almost ten months before in late 2011, a year after Valentine, 52, popped the question to fellow Amazon employee, Gianna Puerini, 39, according to a wire fraud complaint unsealed by the U.S. District Court. Valentine decided that he wanted the "Won't Back Down" singer to perform a set at the couple's wedding reception since he proposed to Puerini at a Petty concert in Seattle. He turned to the Internet, where he found the website of Lund's firm, lundlive.com, boasting to have booked acts like Petty, Run-DMC and Ludacris. Lundlive.com no longer exists. Valentine connected with Lund over email and by October 2011, Lund told the Amazon exec that he had negotiated with Petty's representatives "down to a price of $330,000 for the performance." Later in the month, Lund sent Valentine a contract with the forged signature of Petty's manager, Tony Dimitraides. Valentine sent Lund a $165,000 down payment in return. Valentine finally uncovered the fraud in early April 2012, when the wedding was just three months away. He contacted Petty's management to discuss the performance only to find out that they had no idea about the planned appearance. "We have never heard of Chris Lund or his agency," Dimitraides wrote in an email to Valentine. "We are not aware of any deal for Tom Petty to play Seattle in July and I have never signed a contract for any such." "It looks like you have been defrauded."