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.
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Martin Shkreli Accused of Being Surprisingly Good at Fraud (BloombergView / Matt Levine)
I can't shake my sense of amazement that Shkreli seems to have gambled on redemption and won. If you believe the allegations in today's indictment, he lost (or stole) all of his investors' money, then lied to them to string them along, Ponzied it up by raising new money to keep them happy, and then finally found an investment that allowed him to pay off his earlier investors, with profits all around. He wasn't caught because his scheme, like most such schemes, eventually crashed under its own weight.

Lawyer Linked to Shkreli Arrested on Fraud Charge (WSJ)
Prosecutors allege that Mr. Greebel helped Mr. Shkreli devise schemes to reimburse ​some ​personal creditors with money and stock from Retrophin Inc., a publicly traded biopharmaceutical company ​Mr. Shkreli founded in 2011. The creditors were individuals who’d invested in separate hedge funds started by Mr. Shkreli years earlier. At the time of the alleged wrongdoing, from 2012 to 2013, Mr. Greebel was a partner at another well-regarded law firm, Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP. He moved to Kaye Scholer in July.

Hedge-Fund Casualties Jump to 257 in Third Quarter Amid Rout (Bloomberg)
The number of funds liquidated climbed to 257, up from 200 in the previous three months, according to a report from Hedge Fund Research Inc. on Friday, and taking total closures in the first nine months to 674, compared with 661 during the same period last year. Cargill Inc.’s Black River Asset Management shut four units, while Armajaro Asset Management LLP also closed one of its funds.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s 5-year-old ‘love child’ (NYP)
Philandering Frenchman Dominique Strauss-Kahn in is more hot water for his sexual escapades — he allegedly has a 5-year-old love child born while he still had ambitions to become president of France and was head of the International Monetary Fund. The bombshell was revealed in a Paris courtroom when the child’s unnamed 45-year-old mother requested about $8,672 a month in support payments from DSK, after allegedly trying unsuccessfully to get him to pay up for a year and a half.

C-SPAN crank-caller asks to defecate in congressman’s mouth (NYDN)
A crank-caller punked Thursday’s edition of C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, asking Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) about a year-end spending bill and then wondering if he could defecate in the Congressman’s mouth. The caller, who identified himself as a Democrat from Utah named “Glen,” said he had two questions for the congressman: “My question is, we’re spending all this money, where are we getting the money from? And my second question is if I can sh-- in your mouth?” The show’s host John McArdle apologized to Brat. “We don’t take that kind of language here on the Washington Journal.”

Some Rates Decline Despite Fed’s Move (WSJ)
It is a conundrum that Fed officials have grappled with for months leading up to the decision to end seven years of near-zero rates. While the Fed can orchestrate a rise in its overnight target rate, buying and selling by investors worldwide largely dictate the movement of yields in the $12.8 trillion Treasury market, a forum that effectively sets the borrowing rates for everything from mortgages to corporate loans.

The No-Lose Bet for Banks in IPOs (WSJ)
Here is a deal for banks working on IPOs: Price the new stock high, get a bigger fee. Price it low, get free shares of the company. That is the position Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. found themselves in as advisers in Square Inc.’s closely watched initial public offering.

Ukraine Defaults on $3 Billion Bond to Russia (Bloomberg)
Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Kiev is imposing a moratorium on the note due Dec. 20, which Russian President Vladimir Putin bought two years ago to bail out Ukraine’s former president just months before he was toppled. Russia said as recently as last week it would take Ukraine to court if the payment was missed.

Large snake takes weekend ride on MTA bus in Brooklyn (NYDN)
A large snake, possibly a ball python, took a weekend ride on an MTA bus in Brooklyn. The slithering passenger was seen riding the B12 bus at East New York and Saratoga Aves. Shortly after 1 p.m. Saturday. A photo on social media showed it crawling along the edge of a window. Snake — on a bus! The slithering passenger was seen riding the B12 bus at East New York and Saratoga Aves. MTA workers removed the snake at about 1:20 p.m., according to MTA officials. “No customers on board, snake was removed to an undisclosed location,” an MTA spokesman said Thursday in an e-mailed statement.

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Opening Bell: 6.22.15

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Opening Bell: 9.23.15

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Opening Bell: 03.22.12

Goldman conducts company-wide email review (Reuters) Goldman Sachs Group Inc has begun scanning internal emails for the term "muppet" and other evidence that employees referred to clients in derogatory ways, Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein told partners in a conference call this week, according to people familiar with the call...It was not clear when the search would be completed or what actions, if any, Goldman would take if the search turns up derogatory comments. Jobless Claims in U.S. Fall to Lowest Level in Four Years (Bloomberg) Jobless claims decreased by 5,000 to 348,000 in the week ended March 17, the fewest since February 2008, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 46 economists in a Bloomberg News survey projected 350,000. The number of people on unemployment benefit rolls and those getting extended payments also fell. ‘Worst Still to Come’ for Europe Says Citi Economist (CNBC) Despite high-profile measures such as the Greek debt deal and mass pumping of liquidity into the banking system, Europe’s problems have merely been delayed for another day, Willem Buiter, chief economist at Citi, told CNBC. “We have really just paused for breath,” he said. “It (the long-term refinancing operation) really hasn’t solved the problem, and for Europe the worst is still to come.” On Wall St., Keeping a Tight Rein on Twitter (Dealbook) So a cottage industry has emerged. Adept start-ups act as guides on Wall Street’s social media adventure, providing the software that helps firms comply with regulations that date to a sleepier era of communication. “Here they were, these organizations that had never used the social networks because they had completely locked down access,” said Chad Bockius, the chief executive of Socialware, a start-up based in Austin, Tex., that advises financial firms on social media. “This is the same thing we saw when people started to use the Internet for business purposes.” Mr. Bockius, 35, says his company was the first to offer social media compliance products for the financial industry. Socialware sells software that can archive messages, house a library of prewritten content and allow compliance officers to oversee postings. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, which Mr. Bockius holds up as one of his most enterprising clients, gave about 600 of its 17,800 financial advisers access to Twitter and LinkedIn last summer, and now plans to expand those ranks. “We’re trailblazing, so to speak,” said Lauren W. Boyman, who runs social media at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. “Even with the restrictions that we have, we’ve seen a lot of success.” John Edwards is First Name Uncovered in 'Millionaire Madam' Investigation (DNAI via Daily Intel) Edwards allegedly hooked up with one of Gristina’s high-end hookers in 2007 when the dashing pol from North Carolina brought his then high-flying presidential campaign to the Big Apple. The one-night fling allegedly took place at an Upper East Side hotel suite and was arranged by an aide with help from a New Yorker familiar with Gristina’s prostitution ring, sources said...“Most of the women don’t have any idea about the identities of the men they sleep with,” a source explained. “How would they know a money man from Wall Street or the face of a lawyer or banker who shows up? “But the face of the national politician?” the source rhetorically asked. “She knew.” Volcker Says U.S. Needs Reforms in Finance, Government (Bloomberg) “It is not only our economic prosperity that’s in jeopardy, but our national security and our ability to play a constructive role in a changing world,” said Volcker, 84. Volcker said that progress has been made toward improving financial regulatory oversight, capital and liquidity standards and rules for derivatives. He said more needed to be done to regulate money market mutual funds, which he called “a new systemic risk,” and to rebuild a private market for home mortgages to replace the government-sponsored entities that dominate the business. “The reform report card still reads, ‘Promising but definitely incomplete,’” Volcker said. More Wings, Please — Signs Small Biz Is Improving (AP) Some diners at Hurricane Grill & Wings had been limiting themselves to a small order of the chain's saucy chicken wings and a glass of tap water. These days, many of those people are upgrading to a bigger order of as many as 15 wings and a soda. For Hurricane Grill, which sells its wings in more than 30 varieties of sauces, the larger plates and the sodas are a sign that customers are OK about spending a little more when they go out to eat. The evidence may not be a big economic report like gross domestic product or factory orders in a region, but small businesses have their own indicators that the economy is improving. Rich Would Skirt 'Buffett Rule' Report Shows (WSJ) The administration's proposal to end the Bush-era tax cuts for couples making more than $250,000 would raise about $850 billion over the next decade. Mr. Obama also wants to limit the value of many deductions for families making more than $250,000. That would raise a further $584 billion over the decade. But millionaires likely would find legal ways to avoid paying higher taxes under another of Mr. Obama's new tax proposals, his so-called "Buffett Rule," a separate congressional estimate found. The proposal—spelled out in Mr. Obama's State of the Union address but not included in his budget—would impose a 30% minimum tax rate on those who make more than $1 million a year. It's named for the billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who advocates higher taxes on the very wealthy. Taxpayers' likely efforts to sidestep the rule's impact mean it would raise about $47 billion in extra revenue over the next decade, according to a new estimate by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, a congressional advisory body that functions as the official congressional scorekeeper for legislation affecting government tax revenues. The Tax Policy Center had estimated the Buffett rule would raise about $114 billion over the next decade. Monster titanoboa snake invades New York (AP) New York commuters arriving at Grand Central Station will soon be greeted by a monstrous sight: a 48-foot-long, 2,500-pound titanoboa snake. The good news: It's not alive. Anymore. But the full-scale replica of the reptile -- which will make its first appearance at the commuter hub on March 22 -- is intended, as Smithsonian spokesperson Randall Kremer happily admitted, to "scare the daylights out of people" -- actually has a higher calling: to "communicate science to a lot of people." The scientifically scary-accurate model will go a long way toward that: If this snake slithered by you, it would be waist-high and measure the length of a school bus. Think of it as the T-rex of snakes.