Opening Bell: 2.16.16

Banks hire ex-spies; Goldman says sell gold; Octopus mating display canceled over cannibalism fears; and more.
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Spies Who Chased Terrorists Join Banks to Hunt for Rogue Traders (Bloomberg)
Bryon Linnehan spent more than two years chasing bad guys around Iraq as a U.S. military-intelligence officer. Since May, he’s been using skills he honed on the battlefield to monitor electronic communications inside Barclays Plc. Desperate to avoid more costly run-ins with regulators, investment banks are hiring former intelligence professionals like Linnehan to scrutinize virtually all aspects of their employees’ working lives, from how long they take for cigarette breaks to which websites they frequent. The goal: to deter the next market manipulator or rogue trader.

Goldman Channels FDR's `Nothing to Fear' With Sell Gold Call (Bloomberg)
There’s “nothing to fear but fear itself,” the analysts entitled the seven-page note, channeling comments from Roosevelt’s 1933 inauguration when the U.S. economy was being ravaged by the Great Depression. “It’s time to sell the fear barometer,” the bank said, and recommended shorting gold.

Desperate Whole Foods will offer tattoos to lure hipsters (NYP)
Bougie grocery chain Whole Foods is trying to appeal to hip millennials by selling . . . tattoos? That seems to be the concept behind 365 — the upscale food purveyor’s new spinoff supermarket — which will sell comparatively cheaper items along with some newly announced extras. Whole Foods’ co-CEO Walter Robb tells Bloomberg News that the company is thinking outside the grocery-store box with its program Friends of 365, which will allow suppliers and vendors like body-care-product sellers, record shops and tattoo parlors, to set up in their 365 stores.

Goldman Sachs banker embroiled in massive overseas money scandal (NYP)
The fallout from the widening scandal hitting the white-shoe investment bank involves Tim Leissner, the Singapore-based chairman of Goldman’s Southeast Asia operations, who has left that country and relocated to Los Angeles on a leave of absence from the firm. A state fund — 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) — was set up with Leissner’s assistance, and Goldman was paid sky-high commissions for bond sales. Then $681 million tied to the fund mysteriously turned up in the bank account of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. The FBI reportedly is investigating all the fund’s transactions in concert with wider probes of money-laundering allegations spanning five countries.

Octopus mating display canceled over cannibalism fears (UPI)
The aquarium said its annual event, which features two octopuses mating for the enjoyment of the public, was called off Sunday because officials feared the male octopus, Kong, would merely eat any female he encountered. Officials said Kong weighs in at 70 pounds, making experts concerned that he would eat any of the available female octopuses, which weighed only 30 to 40 pounds.

European Banks Buffeted by Bond Investors’ Fears (WSJ)
European banks struggling with falling stock prices are also being buffeted by concerns that bond buyers could take greater-than-anticipated losses if a lender hits financial straits. Investors say the recent rescue of four relatively small banks in Italy and one in Portugal taught them a lesson with wider implications: Central banks are wary of suffering a political and financial backlash if they force losses on a bank’s individual investors, who are often also depositors. And that means larger institutional investors across the Continent, especially in southern Europe, are more vulnerable.

Bank Failure Fallout Should Be Spread Thin and Wide, Lenders Say (Bloomberg)
Global bank regulators should allow “moderate” contagion to spread across the financial system should one of the world’s biggest lenders fail, preventing a fatal blow hitting the unregulated, non-bank part, a European bank lobby organization said. The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision should allow less-connected banks to buy the debt of the world’s globally systemically important banks, even if the securities are designed to take losses in a collapse, the European Banking Federation said. The group commented on the committee’s planned rules for total loss-absorbing capacity, or TLAC.

Hong Kong Looks for Answers as HSBC Decides to Stay in London (WSJ)
HSBC Holdings PLC’s decision to keep its headquarters in the U.K. rather than move to Hong Kong is prompting soul-searching in this former British colony about how it is seen on the world stage. The decision comes as Hong Kong’s growing ties to the volatile mainland markets are sparking concern among investors, who are fearful of outsize interference from Chinese authorities.

Man Skipped Work For 6 Years And No One Noticed (HP)
According to deputy mayor Jorge Blas, it wasn’t until Garcia was due to be recognized for his hard work in 2010 that authorities realized his office was sitting vacant. "I wondered whether he was still working there, had he retired, had he died? But the payroll showed he was still receiving a salary," Blas told Spanish newspaper El Mundo, according to The Local. “I called him up and asked him, ‘What did you do yesterday? The month before, the month before that?’ He didn’t know what to say,” Blas said. Garcia's water company coworkers thought the plant was being overseen by local authorities because they hadn't seen Garcia in so long. Garcia’s attorney, speaking on his behalf, reportedly blamed bullying at his workplace for his absence. He also said there was no work to do.

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Opening Bell: 03.16.12

Mayor Bloomberg Visits Goldman Employees After Smith Op-Ed (BW) “The mayor stopped by to make clear that the company is a vital part of the city’s economy, and the kind of unfair attacks that we’re seeing can eventually hurt all New Yorkers,” said Stu Loeser, a spokesman for the mayor. Bloomberg visited the firm Thursday and met with Chief Executive Officer Lloyd C. Blankfein and numerous employees, Loeser said. Italy Said To Pay Morgan Stanley $3.4 Billion (Bloomberg) When Morgan Stanley said in January it had cut its “net exposure” to Italy by $3.4 billion, it didn’t tell investors that the nation paid that entire amount to the bank to exit a bet on interest rates. Italy, the second-most indebted nation in the European Union, paid the money to unwind derivative contracts from the 1990s that had backfired, said a person with direct knowledge of the Treasury’s payment. It was cheaper for Italy to cancel the transactions rather than to renew, said the person, who declined to be identified because the terms were private. Client Slams Goldman Slowness to Give Reassurances (Reuters) PG, a Dutch investment adviser that runs 300 billion euros of assets for more than 4.5 million people in the Netherlands, said it was surprised it took the Wall Street bank more than a day to offer APG any reassurance on points raised in Greg Smith's resignation letter. "We would have expected that a company that faces such a big media backlash over something so core to their business such as client trust would have instantly reached out to those clients to say something," APG spokesman Harmen Geers told Reuters. Banks Desire Assets Tied To AIG Bailout (WSJ) A potential sale of the CDOs by the New York Fed in the coming months, plus the government's recent decision to resume selling some of its AIG stock, could set the stage for the U.S. to recover the bulk of its money from the bailout before the presidential elections this year. Learning From The Spurned And Tipsy Fruit Fly (NYT) They were young males on the make, and they struck out not once, not twice, but a dozen times with a group of attractive females hovering nearby. So they did what so many men do after being repeatedly rejected: they got drunk, using alcohol as a balm for unfulfilled desire. And not one flew off in search of a rotting banana. Fruit flies apparently self-medicate just like many humans do, drowning their sorrows or frustrations for some of the same reasons, scientists reported Thursday. Male flies subjected to what amounted to a long tease — in a glass tube, not a dance club — preferred food spiked with alcohol far more than male flies that were able to mate. Buffett Awards Wall Street-Sized Pay Praised by Dimon (Bloomberg) Warren Buffett, who has said banker greed helped deepen the U.S. financial crisis, attracts the workers he wants with compensation that competes with Wall Street awards. Berkshire gave $17.4 million in 2011 compensation to Thomas P. Nerney, CEO of its United States Liability Insurance Group; $12.4 million to Geico Corp. CEO Tony Nicely and the National Indemnity Co. unit gave $9.26 million to Ajit Jain, according to filings to state regulators. Berkshire, which is set to send its annual-meeting notice to shareholders today, said in last year’s proxy that Buffett’s salary remains $100,000 at his request. St. Patrick's Day Message: Ireland Isn't Greece (CNBC) As large parts of the world turn green to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, the Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has been flying the green, white and gold flag on a charm offensive around the world. enny is packing in trips to London, China and New York within a couple of weeks in an effort to carry forward the country’s gradual return to economic health, which has been based largely on attracting foreign investment. He opens the New York Stock Exchange on Monday, after visiting at the White House over the weekend. “This is a very important push for Ireland,” Irish businessman Barry Maloney, founder and general partner at venture capital firm Balderton Capital, told CNBC. Kozlowski in NYC work release (NYP) Convicted in 2005 of looting his company, Kozlowski was transferred from an upstate prison to the Lincoln Correctional Facility, a minimum-security site on Manhattan’s 110th Street near Fifth Avenue, on the north border of the park. He leaves every weekday morning to participate in a work-release program, said Peter Cutler, a spokesman for the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. Kozlowski is still serving a prison sentence of 8 1/3 to 25 years, Officials Cool On Yuan-Swap Proposal (WSJ) Amid growing interest in turning London into a trading hub for the Chinese yuan, some bankers have proposed to U.K financial authorities to adopt a tool increasingly used by China's central bank to foster yuan liquidity overseas: bilateral currency-swap agreements. The bankers are pushing for the Bank of England to sign a currency-swap deal withits Chinese counterpart, according to banking executives involved in the discussions. Such a deal, they say, could help foreign banks get hold of yuan and supply the currency to customers. DA grilling two 'hookers' and 'money launderer' in case of alleged madam (NYP) Court transcripts and other records, along with sources familiar with the case, indicate that the two alleged prostitutes and a mysterious “laundry man” — identified only as a 68-year-old Russian-American — have met privately with authorities to save their own hides and clinch a case against Gristina and her suspected cohort, Jaynie Mae Baker. One of the women has admitted privately to having turned tricks for Gristina at her alleged East 78th Street “brothel,” a source said. Prosecutors have engaged in hush-hush negotiations with alleged call girls Mhairiangela “Maz” Bottone, 30, and Catherine DeVries, 31 — who are both charged with prostitution, according to court documents — and with the alleged money launderer, named only as “John Doe” by authorities.

Opening Bell: 06.21.13

U.S. Weighs Doubling Leverage Standard for Biggest Banks (Bloomberg) The standard would increase the amount of capital the lenders must hold to 6 percent of total assets, regardless of their risk, according to four people with knowledge of the talks. That’s twice the level set by global banking supervisors. ... "The 3 percent was clearly inadequate, nothing really,” said Simon Johnson, an economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a former chief economist for the International Monetary Fund. “Going up to five or six will make the rule be worth something. Having a lot of capital is crucial for banks to be sound. The leverage ratio is a good safety tool because risk-weighting can be gamed by banks so easily.” China steps back from severe cash crunch (FT) China pulled back from the brink of a severe cash crunch on Friday, with money rates falling after reports that the People’s Bank of China, the central bank, had acted to alleviate market stresses. Nevertheless, interbank conditions remained tight and analysts said the PBoC would continue its hard line of recent days to compel financial institutions to pare back their leverage. Sprint Beats Dish’s Latest Bid for Clearwire (DealBook) Sprint Nextel raised its bid for Clearwire to $5 a share on Thursday, hoping to knock out a rival offer from Dish Network. The new offer, which values Clearwire at about $14 billion, is 47 percent higher than Sprint’s last proposal. It is also higher than Dish’s most recent bid of $4.40 a share. Banks Race to Increase Salaries to Beat EU Bonus Caps (IBT) Banks are racing to overhaul their remuneration structures by bumping up fixed salaries ahead of European Union-imposed bonus caps in 2015. According to a prominent employment partner at law firm Pinsent Masons, banks are stuck between having to overhaul remuneration procedures by a certain deadline but without concrete rules, which is likely to result in across-the-board increases in salary. FAA to Relax Rules for Gadgets in Flight (WSJ) The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to relax the ban on using some types of personal-electronic devices at low altitudes, allowing passengers leeway during taxiing and even takeoffs and landings, according to industry officials and draft recommendations prepared by a high-level advisory panel to the agency. For fliers, the new rules would likely mean an end to familiar admonitions to turn off and stow all electronic devices. Cellphone calls are expected to remain off limits, however. War of words erupts after wedding guests gift bride 'cheap and embarrassing' food hamper containing marshmallow fluff and croutons Kathy Mason from Hamilton, Ontario, and her boyfriend, who wished to remain anonymous, decided to create a food hamper for their friends' same-sex marriage and packed it with a mix of 'fun' treats including pasta, olive oil, croutons, biscuits, Marshmallow Fluff and Sour Patch Kids. They attached a carefully worded card to the parcel which read: 'Enjoy . . . Life is delicious.' However, the European newlyweds were less than impressed with the gesture and contacted the couple the next day via text message to ask if they had the receipt so they could get the money back instead. ... 'You ate steak, chicken, booze, and a beautiful venue . . . If anything you should be embarrassed for being so cheap and embarrassing,' the brides said in one message. Creeping mistrust stops euro zone banks lending to peers across bloc (Reuters) In a trend that could reignite fears about the euro and its banks, European Central Bank data shows the share of interbank funding that crosses borders within the euro zone dropped by a third, to just 22.5 percent in April from 34.5 percent at the beginning of 2008. Banks are now lending to other banks across euro zone borders at only about the same rate as when the single currency was first launched, 15 years ago. Greek markets rattled by political disarray (FT) The benchmark 10-year bond yield of Greece rose 75 basis points to 11.6 per cent by late morning in London, while the Athens stock exchange index fell 2.9 per cent to its lowest level since early April. ... Investor sentiment towards Greece is not helped by uncertainty over how to plug a funding gap in the country’s bailout programme. The FT reported on Thursday that the International Monetary Fund might suspend aid to Greece next month unless the eurozone stepped in. Losses loom for investors enmeshed in U.S. mortgage chaos (Reuters) A review of loan documents, property records and the monthly reports made available to investors show that mortgage servicers are reporting individual houses are still in foreclosure long after they have been sold to new buyers or the underlying mortgages have been paid off. ... In one case, Reuters found that Bank of America Corp had been collecting a monthlyservicing fee of $50.73 from investors on a loan that had been paid off nearly two years ago, investor reports show. Bank of America filed a document at a local county office on July 22, 2011 showing that the $162,400 loan on a cream-colored duplex in Greenacres, Florida, owned by a drywall hanger named Roman Pino, had been satisfied and "cancelled." But investors in Pino's loan and more than 6,700 other similar mortgages that are bundled together in a subprime mortgage bond still have not been informed that the loan no longer exists, according to the last investor report in May. Good and Evil Battle Volatility on Summer Solstice (CNBC) "Summer Solstice is upon us: the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere where some religions in the western world believe the sun defeats the forces of evil." Also it's triple witching. Oracle to Leave Nasdaq for the Big Board (DealBook) Oracle, one of the most prominent technology companies listed on the Nasdaq, is defecting to a rival exchange. The company, which has been traded on the Nasdaq since 1986, has applied to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange, it said in a filing on Thursday. The transfer, among the largest ever between the exchanges, represents a significant gain for the Big Board, which has been trying to bolster its technology credentials. FINRA beefs up policing of arbitrators (Reuters) The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority's policy change comes after Reuters asked questions about the background of Demetrio Timban, a Medford, New Jersey-based arbitrator who has become a central figure in a lawsuit between Goldman Sachs Group Inc and a wealthy investor. Timban was indicted by the state of New Jersey for practicing law without a license, although charges were later dropped under a state program to deal with non-violent offences. He was also reprimanded by a Michigan regulator for the New Jersey incident and passing $18,000 in bad checks. Timban said in an interview he had closed his New Jersey office and the check-writing incident was "accidental," as a family member was supposed to wire funds to cover the check. But FINRA said it did not learn of the New Jersey indictment for five months and that Timban failed to tell it about the Michigan problems altogether, while he arbitrated the Goldman case. Brooklyn framer accuses former boss of firing him for being too fat (NYP) The owner of a picture-framing shop in Brooklyn fired a worker because he was too fat to fit in the aisles, a lawsuit claims. Seth Bogadanove, 52, of Bath Beach, is suing Frame It In Brooklyn, in Sunset Park, and owner Jerry Greenberg, claiming he was canned after gaining weight because of medication. “Oh, my God! What happened to you? You got so fat!” the suit says Greenberg told Bogadanove after he returned from a leave. ... But Greenberg told The Post he never hired Bogadanove back, only gave him an opportunity to work from home. He called Bogadonove’s story “ridiculous.” “He was sweating, and he couldn’t make it up stairs,” Greenberg recalled. “But that would never come out of my mouth in my wildest dreams.” Video shows woman tossing perceived rival off cliff (CBS) Surveillance video caught a brutal fight between a woman and her perceived romantic rival in Arequipa, Peru, but it's pretty one-sided. A woman caught her husband walking with a younger woman while they were out on a stroll by a cliff back in January. She is seen grabbing the younger woman by the hair and dragging her off a cliff, where she reportedly plunged about 20 feet. She is okay after the fall - she only sustained some cuts and bruises, was treated at a hospital and released.

Opening Bell: 08.15.12

Standard Chartered Faces Fed Probes After N.Y. Deal (Bloomberg) Regulators including the U.S. Treasury, Federal Reserve, Justice Department and Manhattan District Attorney declined attempts at a global settlement, said two people familiar with the matter. A coordinated effort was already in progress before New York’s unilateral deal, announced yesterday by financial regulator Benjamin Lawsky, one of the people said. The agreement doesn’t take into account all of the bank’s alleged violations, including those involving nations such as Sudan, said one of the people, who added that September is the earliest a universal deal may be reached. Paulson Steps Up Gold Bet To 44% Of Firm’s Equity Assets (Bloomberg) John Paulson raised his stake in an exchange-traded fund tracking the price of gold while selling other stocks during the second quarter, leaving his $21 billion hedge fund with more than 44 percent of its U.S. traded equities tied to bullion. Paulson & Co. purchased an additional 4.53 million shares of the SPDR Gold Trust, the firm’s largest position, and bought more shares of NovaGold Resources Inc, according to a Form 13F filed yesterday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Goldman Sachs, SkyBridge Among Mitt Romney's Hedge Fund Bundlers (AR) FYI. Brevan Howard Raising Money In U.S. For Currency Hedge Fund (Bloomberg) London-based Brevan Howard filed an Aug. 9 private- placement notice with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to raise an unspecified amount of assets for its Macro FX fund. The $1 billion currency fund is managed by Luke Ding, a former Merrill Lynch & Co. foreign exchange trader who joined Brevan Howard in 2007. Greece Staves Off Default (WSJ) Greece successfully staved off a default on debts owed to the European Central Bank, as more information dribbled out on the parlous state of its economy and banking system. The Greek economy shrank 6.2% year-on-year in the second quarter, European Union statistics agency Eurostat estimated on Tuesday, and senior bankers said more than 20% of loans to the domestic economy are now officially nonperforming. They warned that the problem may overwhelm the sector and derail the country's bailout program. He Whipped, She Snapped (NYP) Frankie Santiago embraced a role as live-in fetish slave to dominating Manhattan investment-banker beau Edward Sonderling, playing out a bondage fantasy similar to college student Anastasia Steele and older Christian Grey in the erotic novel “Fifty Shades of Grey.” But it all took a twisted turn when Santiago, 27, found out Sonderling, 53, had been training his whips on her replacement. The submissive Santiago exploded in a fit of rage, law-enforcement sources said, allegedy shattering Sonderling’s car windshield and bombarding him with dozens of text threats. “If I ever see you with her I will not hold back. I have nothing to lose,” Santiago railed in one text. “I hope she has a disease you catch.” Santiago — who is known in the bondage-domination S&M community as Althea Lyn — was arrested Monday after what sources said was a knock-down, drag-out fight with Sonderling at the East 57th Street apartment where she once did his daily bidding. Santiago and Sonderling — who has the body of a much younger man and is known as King Eddo — were regulars on Manhattan’s BDSM circuit, where Sonderling boasted of being a “whipping aficionado,” said a source who knows the pair. A Horace Mann and Brown graduate, Sonderling runs his own firm, Priority Investors LLC, He declined to comment on Santiago’s arrest and his extracurricular BDSM activities. “I don’t think that I have anything to say about it. Why would I?” he said. Fund Managers Unload Big Banks (WSJ) Some well-known money managers reported significantly reduced stakes in big banks, including J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., as well as food companies such as Kraft Foods Inc. in the second quarter. Billionaire investor George Soros's Soros Fund Management LLC eliminated positions in J.P. Morgan Chase and Goldman, as well as Citigroup Inc., according to a regulatory filing late Tuesday. The investment company also reported a new stake in retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and a 341,000-share stake in Facebook Inc. Goldman executives win dismissal of mortgage, TARP lawsuit (Reuters) Goldman Sachs Group Inc Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein and other bank officials won the dismissal of a shareholder lawsuit accusing them of tolerating poor mortgage practices and quitting a federal bailout program early to boost executive pay. U.S. District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan said the shareholders failed to show there were "red flags" to put bank directors on notice of "broken controls" in Goldman's mortgage servicing business, including that workers at its Litton unit may have been "robo-signing" documents. Pauley also cited a similar lack of red flags to suggest directors knew Goldman was packaging troubled loans in residential mortgage-backed securities, including loans the bank sold "short" in a bet they would lose value. The judge also said the plaintiffs did not show that directors acted in bad faith in letting Goldman repay $10 billion taken from the Troubled Asset Relief Program early, in June 2009, freeing the bank from restrictions on executive pay. Giuliani: Biden Lacks ‘Mental Capacity’ for VP Job (CNBC) “I've never seen a vice president that has made as many mistakes, said as many stupid things,” he said on “The Kudlow Report.” “I mean, there’s a real fear if, God forbid, he ever had to be entrusted with the presidency, whether he really has the mental capacity to handle it. I mean, this guy just isn’t bright. He’s never been bright. He isn’t bright. And people think, ‘Well, he just talks a little too much.’ Actually, he’s just not very smart.”

Opening Bell: 8.21.15

Paulson likes Puerto Rico; JP Morgan hires General; Female Viagra; Twitter; "Hamas captures alleged Israeli spy dolphin"; and more.

Opening Bell: 03.01.12

Fast, Furious At MF Global (WSJ) At 4:53 p.m. five days before MF Global Holdings Ltd. collapsed, an employee in its Chicago office asked a co-worker to move $165 million from one of the securities firm's bank accounts to another. "Approved," came the response one minute later, according to an email reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Within about 15 minutes, the money moved to an MF Global account at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., internal documents show. Within minutes, though, several MF Global employees realized there was a problem, according to people familiar with the matter. The cash actually had been transferred out of a customer-segregated account, not one of the company's own bank accounts, the documents show. The employees tried to reverse the $165 million transaction but failed. RBS In Initial Pact To Sell Asian Assets (WSJ) CIMB, based in Kuala Lumpur, said Thursday it had signed a memorandum of understanding to acquire certain parts of RBS's cash-equities, equity-capital-markets, and corporate-finance businesses across the Asia-Pacific region. Blackstone Founder Tops Private Equity Pay League (FT) Schwarzman received $74 million in cash distributions from investment funds started before Blackstone’s 2007 New York listing and $134.5 million in dividends from his 21 percent stake in the company, according to regulatory filings. He was also paid a $350,000 base salary and received $4.6 million from the firm’s share of investor profits, known as carried interest. Former Goldman Partner Peter Kiernan Now a Self-Fashioned Political Pundit (NYT) After retiring from the firm in 2001, the former banker headed a movie star’s charity, got a shamrock tattooed on his rear end after losing a bet with his son, adopted a Vietnamese potbellied pig named Mojo and, most recently, published a political best seller with a title that is not quite printable in a family newspaper. Apple Stock to Hit $1,000? Steve Wozniak Believes So (CNBC) "You know, people talk about $1,000 stock price... you know, at first you want to doubt it but I actually believe that and I don't really follow stock markets," Wozniak said. BofA Weighs New Fees (WSJ) The search for new sources of income is especially pressing at Bank of America, where 2011 revenue dropped by $26.2 billion, or 22%, from its 2009 level. Bank of America pilot programs in Arizona, Georgia and Massachusetts now are experimenting with charging $6 to $9 a month for an "Essentials" account. Other account options being tested in those states carry monthly charges of $9, $12, $15 and $25 but give customers opportunities to avoid the payments by maintaining minimum balances, using a credit card or taking a mortgage with Bank of America, according to a memo distributed to employees. Solar storm alert: Scientist finds 12% chance of breathtaking, possibly crippling, northern lights show (NYDN) In the next 10 years, there’s a 12% chance of a northern lights display that’s so grand, people could potentially watch in awe from the sidewalks of Manhattan to the beaches of the Caribbean. The last time the world saw such a widespread aurora borealis was 1859. This future event could well be the event of a lifetime for another, far-less beautiful reason: The solar flare that would set off the dazzling sky display could also leave countless people in the dark by frying power grids, communication networks and crucial satellites. It could add up to trillions of dollars in damage once the sky show is all over, followed by a rough recovery that could take years, according to a 2008 analysis of such an event’s impact. Bernanke Quells Talk Of Fresh Stimulus (Bloomberg) Bernanke, in testimony to lawmakers yesterday in Washington, described “positive developments” in the job market while saying it’s still “far from normal.” He said the inflationary impact of higher gasoline prices is likely to be temporary. Star Scam Condo A Steal (NYP) Kenneth Starr’s swanky Upper East Side condo sold yesterday for $5.6 million — about $2 million less than he paid using money stolen from actress Uma Thurman and heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon. The winning bidder at the Treasury Department auction declined to give his name, but said he was a developer who bought the triplex on East 74th Street as an investment. Starr — a money manager whose A-list clients also included Al Pacino and Lauren Bacall — was caught cowering in a closet after his $33 million Ponzi scheme collapsed in 2010. He’s serving seven-plus years in the slammer and facing a divorce from his ex-stripper wife, Diane Passage. Harvard Business School? You'll Go Through Dee Leopold First (WSJ) People overestimate the role the essays play in the application. They're very, very helpful for the candidate, and they're a really good platform for starting a discussion in an interview, but we don't admit people because of an essay. I don't need to have too much of a dramatic arc. There are some essays where I start reading and all of a sudden I feel like I'm in the middle of a very well-written novel. It can get overdone and overcrafted. Sometimes the challenge in the essays is to be honest and to be clear. It may be helpful for someone to say, "I have no idea what you're talking about." Goldman Sachs ExecutiveIn US Insider Probe (Bloomberg) Goldman Sachs said in a Feb. 28 regulatory filing that “from time to time, the firm and its employees are the subject of or otherwise involved in regulatory investigations relating to insider trading, the potential misuse of material nonpublic information and the effectiveness of the firm’s insider trading controls and information barriers.” Eating At Benihana With Tracy Morgan (Grub Street) "I love Benihana like I love my favorite strip club," Tracy Morgan says. "Sue's Rendezvous and Benihana, that's the joint. "This is my family. These people know me. This is fancy, man. They cook the food right in front of you. They might go to Pathmark and buy it, but they're gonna cook it. Fancy. It's romantic. I go up to the hood, get a chicken head, bring her here and I'll wrap her up. It's fancy." Guy at the next table is loving it. "That's my thing, going up there in the hood and getting them chickens pregnant." Tracy's talking directly to the table next to us now. Everyone, about seven strangers,is on the hook. "I'm old-school. I don't be pulling out. I ain't wearing no rubber, either. If you ain't willing to die for it, you didn't really want to have it."

Opening Bell: 05.17.12

White House Steps Up Push To Toughen Rules On Banks (WSJ) White House officials have intensified their talks with the Treasury Department in the days since J.P. Morgan's losses came to light, these people say—representing the first tangible political impact from a trading mess that has cost one of the nation's most prominent banks more than $2 billion...White House and Treasury officials are still determining whether the Volcker rule would have prevented the losses at J.P. Morgan, people familiar with the discussions said. Some of the president's political advisers are concerned that the J.P. Morgan trades, even if determined to violate the spirit of the rule, might slip through the regulatory net. From 'Caveman' To 'Whale' (WSJ) Even after Dynegy's holding company filed for bankruptcy protection on Nov. 7, the trade seemed like it still would be a loser for Mr. Iksil and J.P. Morgan. Only about six weeks remained until the trade was set to expire, and another company needed to default for J.P. Morgan to make money and the bullish hedge funds to lose out. Some traders took to calling Mr. Iksil a "caveman" for stubbornly pursing the trade. Mr. Iksil continued to bet against the index, however, and it soon weakened, causing a buzz among unhappy rivals, these traders say. "We called the trade the 'pain trade' and the 'widow maker'; it kept going down for no reason," said a trader at another firm, who called his broker and says he was told it was Mr. Iksil who was doing all the bearish trading. "It felt like Bruno was trying to wipe everyone out." Then on Nov. 29, in something of a shock, AMR Corp., American Airlines' parent company and one of the companies in the index, filed for bankruptcy protection. "People freaked out," recalls a hedge-fund trader. The index weakened significantly, allowing J.P. Morgan to rack up about $450 million in total profits from the trade, according to traders. Rival firms suffered similar-size losses. It capped a successful year for Mr. Iksil and his group, though the profits would be more than offset this year when they shifted to a more bullish tack on corporate credit, losing $2 billion-plus in the process. Goldman to Cash Out $1 Billion of Facebook Holding in IPO (Bloomberg) The investment bank and its funds will sell 28.7 million of the 65.9 million shares they own, more than twice the amount initially planned, Menlo Park, California-based Facebook said yesterday in a filing. The shares are being offered in a range of $34 to $38 apiece, meaning the stock being sold in this week’s IPO is valued between $975 million and $1.09 billion. SEC Probes Roles Of Hedge Fund In CDOs (WSJ) U.S. securities regulators are investigating hedge-fund firm Magnetar Capital LLC, which bet on several mortgage-bond deals that wound up imploding during the financial crisis, according to people familiar with the matter. While Magnetar has faced scrutiny over its role in various collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs, the Illinois firm itself now is a target of an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, these people said. ECB Bars Access to Four Greek Banks (FT) The move raises the pressure on Greece to stick to its international bailout by highlighting the risk that eurozone central bankers could pull the plug on its financial system. It reflected ECB fears that a planned recapitalisation of Greece’s banks could be delayed. Greek Euro Exit Would Risk Asia Crisis-Style Rout, Zeti Says (Bloomberg) A Greek exit from the euro could cause contagion comparable to the Asian financial crisis, according to Malaysia’s central bank Governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz, who had first-hand experience of that turmoil. “The worst-case scenario is what we saw in Asia,” Zeti, 64, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Istanbul yesterday. “When one economy collapses, then the market usually moves on to focus on the next one, then there will be a contagion that will affect different countries that probably don’t deserve those kinds of consequences.” Strippers in Paris Go on Strike, Say Wages 'Miserable' (Reuters) The Crazy Horse, one of the most popular establishments of its kind in the world, said it was forced to cancel performances this week for the first time since the cabaret was created in 1951. The night club, which declined to give details on salary demands or current wages, said in a statement that it had always taken the wellbeing of its artists very seriously and that talks were continuing to resolve the dispute. "It's an exceptional place which has the specialty of presenting a fully naked show," Suzanne, one of the dancers, told RTL radio. "What's wrong is that we are asked to work 24 days per month for a pay that is worse than miserable," she said. JPMorgan’s Trading Loss Is Said to Rise at Least 50% (NYT) The trading losses suffered by JPMorgan Chase have surged in recent days, surpassing the bank’s initial $2 billion estimate by at least $1 billion, according to people with knowledge of the losses. When Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan’s chief executive, announced the losses last Thursday, he indicated they could double within the next few quarters. But that process has been compressed into four trading days as hedge funds and other investors take advantage of JPMorgan’s distress, fueling faster deterioration in the underlying credit market positions held by the bank. A spokeswoman for the bank declined to comment, although Mr. Dimon has said the total paper trading losses will be volatile depending on day-to-day market fluctuations. Several on FOMC Said Easing May Be Needed on Faltering (Bloomberg) The Federal Reserve signaled further monetary easing remains an option to protect the U.S. economy from the danger that lawmakers will fail to reach agreement on the budget or Europe’s debt woes worsen. Several members of the Federal Open Market Committee said new actions could be necessary if the economy loses momentum or “downside risks to the forecast became great enough,” according to minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee’s April meeting released yesterday in Washington. Judge Denies Gupta's Wiretap Motion (NYP) Ex-Goldman Sachs director Rajat Gupta lost his bid to get three key wiretaps tossed as evidence in his upcoming insider-trading trial. Manhattan federal judge Jed Rakoff gave tentative approval yesterday for the jury to hear the wiretaps, which are crucial to the government’s case against Gupta. A former head of McKinsey & Co., who also sat on Procter & Gamble’s board, Gupta is accused of feeding tips to ex-hedge funder Raj Rajaratnam, who began an 11-year prison term last October for insider trading. The taped conversations between Rajaratnam and his traders have him talking about tips from a unnamed leaker on Goldman’s board. Man protests restaurant's all-you-can-eat policy (TMJ4) A disturbance at a local restaurant when one man got upset that an all-you-can-eat fish fry didn't live up to its name. At 6'6" and 350 lbs, Bill Wisth admits he's a big guy who can pack it away more than most. And he wants one restaurant to make all-you-can-eat, all he can eat too. "It's false advertising," said Wisth to TODAY'S TMJ4. He was there Friday when the restaurant cut him off after he ate a dozen pieces. "Well, we asked for more fish and they refused to give us any more fish," recalled Wisth. The restaurant says it was running out of fish and patience; arguing Bill has been a problem customer before. They sent him on his way with another eight pieces, but that still wasn't enough. He was so fired up, he called the police. "I think that people have to stand up for consumers," said Wisth. Elizabeth Roeming is a waitress there and says they've tried to work with Bill over the years -- like letting him have a tab he still hasn't paid off. Bill isn't backing down, saying his fish fry fight isn't over. But in the end, even he had something nice to say. "They do have like some of the best pizza in town if you like deep dish pizza," said Wisth. He says he will picket every Sunday until the restaurant rethinks what happened.

By Agnico-Eagle (Agnico-Eagle Mines Limited) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Opening Bell: 9.19.16

Funds dump gold; Fed insider warns of risk of low rates; Twitter sued by investor over (lack of) growth; ‘Cannibal Cop’ says he’s a hot dish on the dating scene; and more.

Opening Bell: 07.30.12

New York Lender Files Libor Suit (WSJ) Berkshire Bank, with 11 branches in New York and New Jersey and about $881 million in assets, claims in a proposed class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court in New York that "tens, if not hundreds, of billions of dollars" of loans made or sold in the state were affected by rigging the London interbank offered rate. Many adjustable-rate commercial and home loans are pegged to Libor, meaning that "misrepresentation…on the date on which a loan resets will generally reduce the amount of interest that a lender receives by an equivalent amount," the bank alleges..."Libor could well be the asbestos claims of this century," said James Cox, a law professor at Duke University in Durham, N.C. "Misreporting an index used around the world" has "ginormous" ramifications, he added. HSBC Hit By Provisions (WSJ) HSBC said Monday that net profit fell in the first half, as the bank was forced to put aside $2 billion to cover the fallout of a U.S. money-laundering probe and the improper selling of financial products. The series of provisions at the bank pushed up underlying costs by $1.9 billion and ate into the lender's bottom line, cutting net profit attributable to ordinary shareholders in the first six months by 9% to $8.15 billion. HSBC Apologizes For Compliance Failures (Bloomberg) “Regulatory and compliance events in the first six months of the year overshadowed financial performance,” Chairman Douglas Flint said in a statement today. “HSBC has made mistakes in the past, and for them I am very sorry.” Big Banks Are Getting Tough With Hedge-Fund Clients (Reuters) Major banks face growing pressure to extract more money from, or even sever ties with, unprofitable hedge-fund clients as they cut costs in the face of tough trading conditions and try to refocus on the biggest managers. Industry insiders say prime brokers are sifting through their client lists, in some cases demanding higher fees on trading or a greater share of a fund's business, and sometimes telling funds to look elsewhere. Investors eye wine, art funds for hedging (NYP) Rising fears that traditional investing has become a lose-lose proposition have a growing number of wealthy folks seeing dollar signs in niche funds that invest in art, wine, musical instruments and even classic cars. They’re known as “collectible” funds or “treasure” funds, and while they come with plenty of skeptics and potential pitfalls, they’re also promising returns reminiscent of the days before the Great Recession. Sergio Esposito, founder of Union Square’s wine shop Italian Wine Merchants, said the wine fund he helped start in 2010, The Bottled Asset Fund, has been doing so well he hopes to launch another next year. After selling its first batches of wine this year, the $8.2 million fund is now seeing profits upward of 30 percent, he said. Gymnast’s parents perform their own routine at London 2012 (The Score) Lynn and Rick Raisman have been watching their daughter Aly work towards the Olympics since they first brought her to a gym when she was two two years old. It’s no wonder then that watching her compete for an Olympic medal is a nail biting experience. Here they are with their eyes trained on Aly’s uneven bars routine in London. Her dad just about makes it through unscathed: Fed Weighs Cutting Interest On Banks’ Reserves After ECB Move (Bloomberg) “They’re reconsidering it,” said Ward McCarthy, a former Richmond Fed economist. A July 5 decision by the European Central Bank to cut its deposit rate to zero is prompting renewed interest in the strategy, said McCarthy, chief financial economist at Jefferies & Co. McCarthy said it’s unlikely the Fed will reduce the rate at a two-day meeting that starts tomorrow. Used Lamborghinis Linger On H.K. Lots Amid China Lull (Bloomberg) Dealers of such second-hand cars say job cuts and the worsening global economic outlook are creating uncertainty among the finance-industry and expatriate professionals who make up the bulk of their buyers. Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, and Deutsche Bank are among firms with Asian headquarters in Hong Kong that are cutting jobs worldwide. “The more expensive the car, the more dry the business,” said Tommy Siu at the Causeway Bay showroom of Vin’s Motors Co., the used-car dealership he founded two decades ago. Sales of ultra-luxury cars have halved in the past two or three months, he said. “A lot of bankers don’t want to spend too much money for a car now. At this moment, they don’t know if they’ll have a big bonus.” “In the car market, it’s not buying like watches,” said Booz & Co.’s Russo. “Here you are getting a true look at a category of product bought by Hong Kong buyers. It’s a pulse check on how Hong Kong residents view the stability of the financial system.” Sarbanes-Oxley's Jail-Time Threat Hasn't Been Applied in Crisis-Related Cases (WSJ) After the financial crisis, the certification rules seemed like a strong weapon against executives suspected of misleading investors. But prosecutors haven't brought any criminal cases for false certification related to the crisis. Regulators have brought only a handful of crisis-related civil allegations in that area...For example: Richard Fuld, former CEO of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. A bankruptcy examiner's report on Lehman's 2008 collapse said there was enough evidence to support claims that Mr. Fuld failed to ensure the firm's quarterly reports were accurate, because he knew or should have known Lehman had cut its balance sheet through questionable transactions. But the government hasn't charged Mr. Fuld with false certification or other wrongdoing. His attorney couldn't be reached for comment. There also haven't been any charges against James Cayne, Bear Stearns Cos.' ex-CEO, which spiraled into a liquidity crisis that led to a 2008 forced sale to J.P. Morgan. Mr. Cayne and other Bear executives recently agreed to a $275 million settlement of shareholder litigation accusing them of misleading investors about the firm's finances—including allegations that Mr. Cayne falsely certified Bear's financial reports. Fla. Man Who Lost Hand Charged With Feeding Gator (AP) A Florida airboat captain whose hand was bitten off by a 9-foot alligator faces charges of feeding of the animal. Collier County Jail records show 63-year-old Wallace Weatherholt was charged Friday with unlawful feeding of an alligator and later posted $1,000 bond. His next court date is Aug. 22. Weatherholt was attacked on June 12th as he was giving an Indiana family a tour of the Everglades. The family said Weatherholt hung a fish over the side of the boat and had his hand at the water's surface when the alligator attacked. Wildlife officers tracked and euthanized the gator. Weatherholt's hand was found but could not be reattached. A criminal investigation followed. Feeding alligators is a second-degree misdemeanor.