Opening Bell: 3.31.16 - Dealbreaker

Opening Bell: 3.31.16

Wells Fargo is going after investment banking; David Tepper is going after TerraForm Power; Squirrel exterminators mistaken for gunmen cause lockdown at Arkansas school; and more.
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GE Files to End Fed Oversight After Shrinking GE Capital (WSJ)
General Electric Co. formally asked to be released from supervision by the Federal Reserve on Thursday, saying it has sufficiently shrunk its once-massive financial services arm so it would no longer pose a systemic threat to the banking system. GE is the first of the four nonbank companies labeled “systemically important financial institutions,” or SIFI, under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law to formally apply to regulators to lose that status after making significant changes to its business.

Evans Sees Very Shallow Fed Rate-Hike Path, Two Moves in 2016 (Bloomberg)
The U.S. economy will probably be strong enough to justify two interest-rate increases in 2016 as it advances despite headwinds from weaker growth abroad, said Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago President Charles Evans. “A very shallow path -- such as the one envisioned by the median FOMC participant in March -- is the most appropriate path for policy normalization over the next three years,” Evans said in remarks prepared for delivery Wednesday in New York, referring to the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee. He doesn’t vote on policy this year.

Wells Fargo plans quiet assault on Wall Street from glass tower (Reuters)
Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N), the San Francisco-based lender known for its retail banking business, has picked out space for a trading operation to use as a base for a stealth attack on the investment banking world. The bid for more capital markets business - from advising on deals and security issues to trading derivatives - is a potentially risky move by the third-largest U.S. bank by assets. The boom-and-bust of Wall Street offers lucrative fees if Wells Fargo can pick up business left behind by rivals in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, but trading brings extra risks and volatility.

Appaloosa calls for removal of SunEdison's TerraForm execs (Reuters)
Billionaire David Tepper's Appaloosa Management is seeking to overhaul TerraForm Power Inc's (TERP.O) Conflicts Committee, claiming the company's controlling shareholder SunEdison Inc (SUNE.N) has breached its fiduciary duties. In an amended lawsuit filed on Tuesday in Delaware Chancery Court, Appaloosa said SunEdison and various TerraForm directors dismantled TerraForm's corporate governance and Conflicts Committee, replacing it with a "sham committee" to enable SunEdison to take advantage of TerraForm and stockholders "at will."

Competitive Eater Matt Stonie Packs Away 200 Peeps In One Sitting (HP)
The competitive eater known as “Megatoad” posted a video to YouTube on Friday that shows him downing 200 Peeps in a little more than 14 minutes, doubling his previous record. In the process, he swallowed about 5,600 calories worth of the bird-shaped marshmallows, or 1,360 grams of sugar. Though Stonie is no stranger to gastrointestinal challenges — some of his past feats include eating a five-pound burrito, 182 slices of bacon and seven Shamrock Shakes from McDonald’s — he definitely appeared to struggle. “My tongue is so saturated with sugar, oh my god,” he moaned just before hitting the 100-Peep marker.

The Investor Who's Betting on Brazil's Corruption Scandal (Bloomberg)
“We try to buy when blood is running on the street,” said Guild, who as chief investment officer manages about $190 million in global equity funds. “This is a lot like Watergate, and after Watergate what happened? Where there’s a crisis in confidence, costs go down and there’s a huge opportunity.” While some 40 years apart, there appear to be several similarities between the episodes. Just like the investigation into the break-in at the Watergate hotel, Brazil’s probe into kickbacks at the state oil company escalated over two years of deepening economic turmoil, eventually implicating President Dilma Rousseff. And like the infamous tapes that led Nixon to resign, a recording of Rousseff’s conversation with her predecessor now has brought her one step closer to being impeached.

Yahoo to allow proxy access for board nominations (Reuters)
Yahoo Inc (YHOO.O) will allow investors who have held stake of at least 3 percent in the struggling Internet company for a minimum of three years to nominate directors to its board. The company amended its bylaws to allow these investors to nominate up to 20 percent of its board, according to a regulatory filing on Wednesday.

Gaming Startup Unity Seeks $1.5 Billion Valuation in Funding Round (Bloomberg)
The gaming software maker's fundraising, which is expected to close within weeks, would provide it with added resources at it looks to take advantage of the increased interest in virtual reality, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. Unity declined to comment.

Squirrel exterminators mistaken for gunmen cause lockdown at Arkansas school (UPI)
Two pest control workers accidentally caused a lockdown at an Arkansas school while attempting to remove squirrels from a nearby apartment complex. SWAT officers arrived at Gardner Magnet School after the three exterminators were mistaken for gunmen wielding rifles. The exterminators fired at and missed a squirrel and began to chase the animal when they were spotted by a teacher who called police and reported gunmen on the campus.

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Opening Bell: 10.15.12

Global Finance Chiefs At Odds (WSJ) At the annual meetings here of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, European officials bickered about the damage caused by austerity; this week they head into a major euro-zone summit with no clear rescue plan for Greece. A territorial row between China and Japan, the world's second- and third-largest economies, bled into the conference with no sign of resolution, highlighting a new risk to growth. And many top finance officials pointed fingers at the U.S. for casting a new cloud over global markets by failing to make progress on the budget mess in the world's largest economy. Thousands March In Spain To Protest Austerity (Reuters) Several thousand anti-austerity protesters in Spain marched down a major street in the capital banging pots and pans Saturday. Many protesters also blew whistles as they blocked part of the Castellana boulevard Saturday carrying placards saying "We don't owe, we won't pay." "None of us pushed the banks to lend huge sums of money to greedy property speculators, yet we are being asked to pay for other's mistakes," 34-year-old civil servant Maria Costa, who was banging an old pot along with her two children, said. Bernanke Defends Fed From Claims It Is Being Selfish (NYT) Critics say the Fed’s unorthodox policies weaken the dollar and bolster the currencies of developing countries, hurting their ability to export. “It is not at all clear that accommodative policies in advanced economies impose net costs on emerging market economies,” Mr. Bernanke said at an event sponsored by the Bank of Japan and the International Monetary Fund. The Fed last month announced a program of open-ended bond purchases that will be continued until there is substantial improvement in labor market conditions, barring a sustained and unexpected spike in inflation. To start off, the central bank will buy $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities each month. “This policy not only helps strengthen the U.S. economic recovery, but by boosting U.S. spending and growth, it has the effect of helping support the global economy as well,” Mr. Bernanke said. Fischer Backs Fed QE3 as World ‘Awfully Close’ to Recession (Bloomberg) While there has been “a lot of progress made” to improve the global economy, its impact hasn’t materialized, Fischer said in an interview in Tokyo with Bloomberg Television airing Sunday. He signaled that by deciding not to set an end date or total amount to its third program of bond buying, the Fed is easing worries it will run out of ammunition before achieving its goals. Can Morgan Stanley's Gorman Save Wall Street? (BV) Gorman’s strategic moves are enough to convince one natural born skeptic, Mike Mayo, a financial-industry research analyst at Credit Agricole SA (ACA), to recommend Morgan Stanley’s stock for the first time in years. “The stock is valued as if it is a Greek or Spanish bank but its risk is far less,” he wrote in an e-mail to me. For Morgan Stanley to return to its glory days, he said, margins need to be improved in asset management, fixed-income trading needs to be further slimmed down and the core investment-banking franchise needs to be maintained and reinvigorated. Good advice. A firm built around lower risk-taking and lower overall pay while still providing clients with the advice and capital they need to innovate and expand is what we need on Wall Street. It’s the vision of one man taking seriously his responsibility to make the capital markets safe and productive for economies all over the world, instead of just some casino gone haywire where the house absorbs the losses and the profits go to the gamblers. The question is whether other leaders on Wall Street will follow Gorman’s example. Sex Life Was ‘Out of Step,’ Strauss-Kahn Says, but Not Illegal (NYT) More than a year after resigning in disgrace as the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn is seeking redemption with a new consulting company, the lecture circuit and a uniquely French legal defense to settle a criminal inquiry that exposed his hidden life as a libertine...In France, “Libertinage” has a long history in the culture, dating from a 16th-century religious sect of libertines. But the most perplexing question in the Strauss-Kahn affair is how a career politician with ambition to lead one of Europe’s most powerful nations was blinded to the possibility that his zest for sex parties could present a liability, or risk blackmail. The exclusive orgies called “parties fines” — lavish Champagne affairs costing around $13,000 each — were organized as a roving international circuit from Paris to Washington by businessmen seeking to ingratiate themselves with Mr. Strauss-Kahn. Some of that money, according to a lawyer for the main host, ultimately paid for prostitutes because of a shortage of women at the mixed soirees orchestrated largely for the benefit of Mr. Strauss-Kahn, who sometimes sought sex with three or four women. German finance chief Wolfgang Schaeuble says Greece won't default or exit (Telegraph) "Greece has to take a lot of very serious reforms" and "everyone is trusting that the Greek government is doing what is necessary", he said at a meeting with business leaders in Singapore on Sunday. Mr Schaeuble said an increasing majority of Greeks understand that being in the euro "is in the best interest of Greece" and said did not think there would be a ‘staatsbankrott’ - or state bankruptcy. He said he did not see “any sense to speculate on Greece leaving the euro” because it would be very damaging for both the country and the region. High-Speed Trading No Longer Hurtling Forward (NYT) Profits from high-speed trading in American stocks are on track to be, at most, $1.25 billion this year, down 35 percent from last year and 74 percent lower than the peak of about $4.9 billion in 2009, according to estimates from the brokerage firm Rosenblatt Securities. By comparison, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase each earned more in the last quarter than the high-speed trading industry will earn this year. Titanic Tycoon Plans Stake Sale Talks for $8 Billion Gas Project (Bloomberg) Australian mining magnate Clive Palmer, who’s planning to build a modern replica of the Titanic, aims to start talks next year to sell stakes in a potential $8 billion natural gas project in Papua New Guinea. “We’ve had interest from major petrochemical companies who want to joint venture” including Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chinese companies, Palmer said in an interview. “We will talk to them at the appropriate time,” likely mid-2013 when field work is scheduled to be completed, he said. Occupy Supporters Stage Protest in London (AP) Several supporters of the anti-corporate Occupy movement chained themselves to the pulpit of St. Paul’s Cathedral during a service on Sunday in an action for the anniversary of its now-dismantled protest camp outside the London landmark. The dean of St. Paul’s, David Ison, said he was conducting an evening prayer service when “four young women dressed in white” chained themselves to the structure. Dutch make massive cocaine bust in fruit shipment headed for zoo, arrest five (AP) A major cocaine seizure in Europe turned out to be good news for the animals at Rotterdam’s zoo. The drugs were hidden among boxes of bananas, and the fruit went to the monkeys and other creatures at the Blijdorp zoo. Dutch prosecutors said Friday more than eight tons of cocaine was hidden among the bananas on a ship from Ecuador. The drugs were seized Monday in the Belgian port of Antwerp, while the bananas were allowed to continue on to Rotterdam – the shipment’s final destination. Dutch police arrested a Belgian truck driver and four Dutch men on Tuesday.

Opening Bell: 07.09.12

BofA Figures In Drug Probe (WSJ) A Mexican cocaine-trafficking cartel used accounts at Bank of America to hide money and invest illegal drug-trade proceeds in U.S. racehorses, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said. The alleged ties between the violent drug gang known as Los Zetas and the second-largest U.S. bank by assets were described in a 35-page affidavit filed in federal court in Texas last month. According to an FBI agent, a horse-buying and training business created to launder drug money had accounts at the Charlotte, N.C., bank. Libor Probe Moves To Political Arena (WSJ) The scandal over banks' manipulation of key interest rates cost the jobs of three senior financial figures last week. On Monday, the deputy governor of the Bank of England will try to ensure it doesn't derail his own career. Paul Tucker, a leading candidate to become the next governor of the Bank of England, will testify Monday afternoon before a Parliamentary committee that is examining how Barclays and other global banks improperly tried to influence interest rates like the London interbank offered rate...Barclays, after reaching a £290 million settlement with U.S. and British regulators over its attempts to manipulate Libor, sought to defend itself by releasing notes from an October 2008 phone call between Mr. Tucker and Robert Diamond. According to Mr. Diamond's notes from the call, Mr. Tucker relayed concerns from "senior" British government officials about Barclays's above-average Libor submissions. "Mr. Tucker stated…that while he was certain we did not need advice, that it did not always need to be the case that we appeared as high as we have recently," Mr. Diamond wrote to two of his colleagues the day after the call. Diamond Antithesis Seen As Key Step To Repairing Barclays (Bloomberg) The British lender faces a criminal probe and political pressure to curb or separate the investment banking unit that Diamond built up during his 16-year career at Barclays from the consumer bank. The unit generated 61 percent of the bank’s first-quarter pretax profit. At a Parliamentary hearing last week, lawmakers asked if the culture at the investment bank was “rotten” and if he lived in a “parallel universe.” Former Barclays CEO: I Too Fell for the Diamond Myth (FT) "It was a close call," Taylor says of his decision to retain Diamond as head of Barclays Capital. "I suspect the subsequent history of the business would have been very different had I asked him to go. I deserve blame for being among the first to succumb to the myth of Diamond’s indispensability, to which some in Barclays were still in thrall only a matter of days ago." SEC set to hand out up to $452M to whistleblowers (NYP) “The SEC is receiving two to three tips every day that are worth pursuing, and they’re farming them out to staffers for investigation,” said Lawrence A. West, a lawyer with Latham & Watkins. “SEC officials are eager to pay out and publicize the first whistleblower award,” said West, whose firm has gathered a number of tipsters under the new law. “Once the first award is publicized, tips to the SEC from disgruntled employees are almost certain to increase substantially.” Romney Mines Hamptons For Political Cash (NYT) EAST HAMPTON, N.Y. — A woman in a blue chiffon dress poked her head out of a black Range Rover here on Sunday afternoon and yelled to an aide to Mitt Romney. “Is there a V.I.P. entrance? We are V.I.P.” (No such entrance existed.)...what was billed as a day of elegant campaign events at the homes of the ultrarich turned out to be an afternoon of curious and clashing tableaus: protesters with their bandannas and Occupy Wall Street-inspired chants (“We got sold out, banks got bailed out!”) standing amid multimillion-dollar mansions, where live bands played “Margaritaville” and donors dined on prosciutto-wrapped melon balls...After that, Mr. Romney attended events at the Southampton homes of Clifford Sobel, the former United States ambassador to Brazil, and David Koch, the billionaire industrialist and longtime benefactor of conservative political causes. The event at Mr. Koch’s home drew about 200 protesters, who...went so far as to hire a local pilot to fly a giant red and black banner over Mr. Koch’s house, which read: “Romney has a Koch problem,” a play on the drug. (Mr. Koch’s name is pronounced the same as the word coke.) A truck, festooned with the logos of big banks like Citigroup and Wells Fargo, circled the neighborhood with a plastic dog on the roof, a jab at Mr. Romney’s much-mocked family vacation in which he traveled with his Irish setter inside a pet carrier on the roof of a car. Barclays mulls split after Libor scandal: report (MarketWatch) Board directors at U.K. bank Barclays PLC BCS -1.72% are considering splitting the company into two units, as regulatory scrutiny mounts in the wake of its role in the Libor interest-rate fixing scandal, The Sunday Times reports without citing sources. The newspaper says Barclays is examining plans to spin off its investment banking arm, which could be floated in New York, with the U.K.-headquartered retail and commercial bank retaining its London listing. (A person familiar with the matter said the story was inaccurate.) Roubini: My 'Perfect Storm' Scenario Is Unfolding Now (CNBC) In May, Roubini predicted four elements – stalling growth in the U.S., debt troubles in Europe, a slowdown in emerging markets, particularly China, and military conflict in Iran - would come together in to create a storm for the global economy in 2013. “(The) 2013 perfect storm scenario I wrote on months ago is unfolding,” Roubini said on Twitter on Monday. Tighter Control For Euro Banks (WSJ) The establishment of a single authority, with a single set of rules for the region's banks, is seen by Germany and other strong economies as an essential condition before they will consider sharing resources with other euro-zone countries. House-crasher sentenced after enjoying Diddy's food, cigars and toothbrush (NYP) A East New York man, busted for sneaking into rapper Sean “Diddy” Combs’ palatial East Hampton spread in April, guzzled the star’s top-shelf liquor, washed with his soap, and even used his toothbrush, officials revealed yesterday. “I brought a cheesesteak, a cheesecake, a bucket of fried chicken — which I ate at the house — and drank a ‘dollar’ bottle of Hennessy and four cans of Pepsi,” Quamine Taylor told prosecutors at his sentencing yesterday. He even slathered Diddy’s Frank’s Red Hot sauce on his grub, and drank a bottle of Hpnotiq, a vodka liqueur, he said, adding, “After I ate, I went upstairs and went to sleep.” He also smoked three of Diddy’s Dutch Masters cigars and drank a can of orange soda. Then he freshened up using Diddy’s soap and splashing on his aftershave.

Opening Bell: 06.01.12

Employment In U.S. Increased 69,000 In May (Bloomberg) American employers in May added the smallest number of workers in a year and the unemployment rate unexpectedly increased as job-seekers re-entered the workforce, further evidence that the labor-market recovery is stalling. Payrolls climbed by 69,000 last month, less than the most- pessimistic forecast in a Bloomberg News survey, after a revised 77,000 gain in April that was smaller than initially estimated, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median estimate called for a 150,000 May advance. The jobless rate rose to 8.2 percent from 8.1 percent, while hours worked declined. JPMorgan Probe Widens (WSJ) Federal regulators are using powers they gained in the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law to ramp up an inquiry into the recent trading blunders at J.P. Morgan Chase, people close to the investigation said...The probe focuses on what J.P. Morgan traders told their supervisors and internal risk-management staff as their wrong-way bets started to sour, the people said. If investigators find that employees made deceptive statements to superiors, that could constitute fraud under their authority to police the so-called swaps market...The probe could mark the agency's first use of tools it was granted in the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010. The measure extended the CFTC's oversight and lowered the bar for bringing certain cases. JPMorgan’s Iksil Said To Take Big Risks Long Before Loss (Bloomberg) Iksil’s value-at-risk was typically $30 million to $40 million even before this year’s buildup, said the person, who wasn’t authorized to discuss the trades. Sometimes the figure could surpass $60 million, the person said. That’s about as high as the level for the firm’s entire investment bank, which employs 26,000 people. Josh Fink On A Losing Streak (NYP) Josh Fink, the son of BlackRock chairman Larry Fink, is losing money hand over fist in his hedge fund, Enso Global Fund. Enso fell 60.5 percent last year, and is down more than 7 percent through April. As a result of the losses, the 34-year-old Fink now manages just $44 million, down from as much as $700 million in 2008. ‘Fear of the Future’ Keeps Lid on Economic Growth Says Greenspan (CNBC) The former central bank leader — nicknamed "The Maestro" by his supporters — said he worries the current economy could be heading on a path similar to 1979, when the 10-year Treasury note was yielding around 9 percent before surging dramatically, gaining 4 percentage points in just a few months. "I listen to a lot of what people say that we don't have to worry. We can do it in our own time," Greenspan said in regard to trying to bring down Washington's $1.2 trillion budget gap. "Good luck. The markets have not been told this." This Summer an 'Eerie Echo' of Pre-Lehman: Zoellick (CNBC) The summer of 2012 is looking like an “eerie” echo of 2008 but euro zone sovereign debt has replaced mortgages as the risky asset class that markets are anxious about, said Robert Zoellick, President of the World Bank. “The European Central Bank, like the U.S. Federal Reserve in 2008, has sought to reassure markets by providing generous liquidity, but collateral quality is declining as the better pickings on bank balance sheets are used up,” he added. To prevent investors from fleeing in panic, Europe must be ready with more than liquidity injections to contain the consequences of a possible Greek exit. “If Greece leaves the eurozone, the contagion is impossible to predict, just as Lehman (Brothers’ collapse) had unexpected consequences,” Zoellick said. Manhattan student who 'bedded' teacher scores $400 in wager with buddies (NYP) The high-school senior caught on camera locking lips with his hot-to-trot teacher won a bet with four of his buddies to see who would hook up with her first, The Post has learned. Eric Arty, 18, beat his pals — who each ponied up $100 — to win the jackpot as well as the affections of glamorous global-studies teacher Julie Warning, 26. “It was a bet with a group of his friends,” said Andrew Cabrera, a junior at Manhattan Theater Lab HS, where Warning worked until Tuesday, when she was reassigned to an administrative job. Cabrera said yesterday that Arty began the race as a long shot. “He would go after class and basically try to seduce her,’’ he said. “I don’t know if she knew [about the bet]. They were all trying to get with her. One of his [Arty’s] friends flirted with her more than anyone — I thought he would be the one, but Eric came out of nowhere and got her.” Spain Says It Has Months To Raise Bailout Funds (WSJ) Spain's government says it has until at least October to raise the funds it needs for the €19 billion ($23.5 billion) rescue of lender Bankia SA, a move government officials hope will let Madrid pick the right moment to raise funds from financial markets and explore other funding options as it aims to avoid an international bailout. "We don't have to raise the money right away, and when we do, it doesn't have to be all at once," a government spokeswoman said. Euro-Zone Data Deepen Gloom (WSJ) European Union statistics agency Eurostat said there were 17.4 million people without jobs in the 17 nations that use the euro in April, an increase of 110,000 since March and 1.8 million higher than a year earlier. That's the highest total since comparable records began in January 1995, a spokesman said. Dimon Heading To The Hill (DJ) JPMorgan’s trader, Bruno Iksil, known as the “London Whale,” who is at the center of the bank’s $2 billion debacle, will not appear at a Senate Banking Committee hearing to discuss his role in causing the red ink. Instead, CEO Jamie Dimon appears set to square off against lawmakers alone on June 13. The once-unsullied bank executive will have to explain how he was blind to his Chief Investment Office’s outsized, wrong-way bet. Dimon is slated to meet with members of the House on June 19, sources said. Facebook Fiasco Coupled With European Crunch Freezes IPOs (Bloomberg) Facebook led U.S. initial public offerings to their worst monthly performance since Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. collapsed, as Europe’s debt crisis scuttled IPO plans from New York to Hong Kong. The Bloomberg IPO Index (BIPO), which tracks U.S. equities in the first year after their IPOs, sank 15 percent last month, with Facebook posting the worst one-week performance among the 30 largest U.S. IPOs since 2011. The IPO index’s decline is in line with the drop in October 2008, the month after Lehman’s bankruptcy triggered the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Green Lantern latest superhero to be outed as gay in 'Earth 2' issue two, following Marvel's Northstar storyline (NYDN) DC Comics said Friday that Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern — a superhero first introduced in 1940 — will be reintroduced as gay in “Earth 2” issue two, hitting stores next Wednesday. The storyline was born out of the publisher’s reboot of their whole fictional universe last year, which reintroduces the heroes as younger versions of themselves again. The reboot effectively wrote out of existence Scott’s openly gay adult son, the superhero Obsidian. “I was sort of putting the team together and I realized one of the only downsides to relaunching the Justice Society as young, vibrant heroes again was that Alan Scott’s son was no longer going to exist in the reboot,” says “Earth 2” series writer James Robinson, who wrote a 1998 storyline about Obsidian that featured the first gay superhero kiss in comics. “I thought that was a shame and then it occurred to me, why not just make Alan Scott gay.”

Opening Bell: 03.06.13

EU Fines Microsoft $732 Million (WSJ) The European Commission said it was imposing the fine after the U.S. software giant became the first company to break a voluntary agreement with regulators, which would have allowed at least 15 million consumers to pick alternatives to its Internet Explorer browser. The penalty is the latest episode in over a decade of wranglings between the EU and Microsoft, which has already seen the commission fine Microsoft €1.6 billion for failing to provide rivals with information at fair prices and for tying its media player to its operating system. Fed Holds Ground On Stress Tests (WSJ) The first component of the release, data on how banks will fare in an economic downturn, is slated for after U.S. stock markets close on Thursday. The second part, the Fed's response to buyback-and-dividend requests, is scheduled for publication a week later. Some executives warn that the delay could boost volatility in bank shares, as traders speculate on what the first round of results might mean for bank capital plans. Others warn of shareholder lawsuits if banks fail to disclose any information they receive, even informally, from regulators on the capital plans. Stress Tests Seen Boosting U.S. Bank Shareholder Payouts (Bloomberg) The six largest U.S. banks may return almost $41 billion to investors in the next 12 months, the most since 2007, as regulators conclude firms have amassed enough capital to withstand another economic shock. Lenders including Citigroup and Bank of America will buy back $26.4 billion in shares, up from $23.8 billion, according to the average estimate of three Wall Street analysts. An additional $14.5 billion will be paid out in dividends, $3.4 billion more than 2012, separate estimates show. The payouts are contingent on approval by the Federal Reserve. Forbes Hits Back at Saudi Prince Over Rich List (CNBC) A spat between Saudi billionaire Alwaleed Bin Talal and Forbes over the exact fortune of the prince has taken another bizarre twist. After the prince announced a severing of ties due to what he argued were flawed valuation methods, Forbes has now responded with an in-depth investigation, hitting back by describing his estimates as an "alternate reality". Forbes went on to say that the valuation of Kingdom Holding, the publicly traded company of Prince Alwaleed, gyrated for reasons "that, coincidentally, seem more tied to the Forbes billionaires list than fundamentals". In the lengthy piece published on Wednesday, the magazine also details its relationship with Prince Alwaleed since it began in 1988, recounting what it classified as "intermittent lobbying, cajoling and threatening" to influence his net worth listing over the years. AIG to Start Loan Investment Unit as Housing Rebounds (Bloomberg) AIG plans to buy loans backed by its United Guaranty Corp. unit, the largest seller of traditional private mortgage insurance last year, according to Donna DeMaio, 54, the unit’s chief executive officer. The debt will be held as long-term investments by AIG insurance companies. “You’re cutting the middle man out of the securitization process,” DeMaio said, referring to bonds that package home loans. The yield on an individual mortgage “is better than if you just bought the paper backed by the whole loan.” Two Hedgies Top The Field (NYP) Stephen Mandel and David Tepper earned more money for clients than any other hedge-fund manager in 2012, LCH Investments said. Mandel’s Lone Pine Capital made about $4.6 billion; Tepper’s Appaloosa Management made $3.3 billion. Traders Flee Asia Hedge Funds as Job Haven Turns Dead End (Bloomberg) Asian hedge-fund assets are 28 percent below their 2007 peak, according to data provider Eurekahedge Pte. Globally, money overseen by the funds increased 21 percent since 2007 to a new high of $2.3 trillion as of December, data from Chicago- based Hedge Fund Research Inc. show. A total of 296 Asian hedge funds liquidated in the two years to December, 33 more than the number that started. On a global basis, 1,839 new funds outnumber those that shut by 371, according to Eurekahedge. Ikea recalls cakes in 23 countries after sewage bacteria found (Telegraph) The furniture giant admitted on Tuesday that coliform bacteria had been found in two batches of almond cake from a supplier in Sweden. It comes after Chinese customs officials announced that they had destroyed a batch of 1,800 cakes after finding it contained high levels of coliforms which failed to meet hygiene standards. Coliforms, common bacteria which are found in faeces as well as soil and water, do not normally cause serious illness but are a sign of contamination which can indicate the presence of more harmful bacteria such as E.coli. It comes after Ikea recalled meatballs and sausages from 24 countries due to fears they could have been contaminated with horse meat. Oil Trader Ex-Wife Shouldn't Get Offshore Assets: Lawyers (Bloomberg) An oil trader’s ex-wife shouldn’t have any claim to properties held by offshore companies in which he invested as part of a 17.5 million-pound ($26.4 million) divorce settlement, lawyers said at a hearing in the U.K.’s highest court. The three Isle of Man-based companies, including Petrodel Resources Ltd., are “not relevant as a party to the litigation,” Tim Amos, the lawyer representing the companies, said today. The firms have asked the seven-judge panel of Britain’s Supreme Court to dismiss the wife’s claim. Yasmin Prest appealed an earlier ruling that denied her access to properties held and controlled by her ex-husband to cover part of the 2011 divorce settlement, which Michael Prest hasn’t paid, according to court documents at the U.K. top court. Her ex-husband isn’t a party to the litigation. ADP Says Companies in U.S. Added 198,000 Workers in February (Bloomberg) The 198,000 increase in employment followed a revised 215,000 gain the prior month that was more than initially estimated, figures from the Roseland, New Jersey-based ADP Research Institute showed today. The median forecast of 41 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for an advance of 170,000. Madoff Trustee ‘Unlikely’ to Win Merkin Suit, N.Y. Says (Bloomberg) The judge shouldn’t allow trustee Irving Picard to block the deal because “in the unlikely event” that Picard can win part of his suit, Merkin’s funds would be able to pay him, Schneiderman said in a filing with U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff yesterday. The attorney general made his filing saying Picard’s “unusual” request for an injunction -- to give him time to proof his own $500 million case -- required an additional response. Zoo shuts in panic as male and female escape from cage because cleaner forgot to lock the door (DM) A zoo in China was forced to close after two lions escaped from their unlocked cages. Riot police, snipers and zoo workers armed with tranquiliser guns worked to capture the ferocious animals after theyescaped at the zoo in Chongqing, south west China. According to reports, the lion and lioness were given free run of the zoo when a keeper who was cleaning their enclosure forgot to lock the gate. The zoo was completely evacuated following the escape at 8am. While the lionness was caught within the hour, the male was at large for almost four hours before he was recaptured. A zoo spokesman said: 'We found the female first and subdued her with a tranquiliser gun but the male took longer to find and bring back. 'They both recovered quickly and are no worse off for their adventure.' Officials have issued an apology to visitors for the panic caused. One said: 'You can't blame the lions. It was human error and they naturally took advantage of it.'

Opening Bell: 4.14.15

JP Morgan earnings; Wells Fargo earnings; Blythe Masters is hiring; 'Nam vet denied 69 license plate; and more.

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Opening Bell: 9.13.16

Wells Fargo CEO will face senate panel; Fed probably going to hold steady; Hank Greenberg gets his day in court; Catfish Falls From The Sky, Hits Woman In The Face; and more.

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Opening Bell: 12.28.16

Lloyds looks to Europe; Wells Fargo looks after its customers; crotch shot looks unexpectedly poignant; and more.

Opening Bell: 12.11.12

HSBC To Pay Record Penalty (WSJ) HSBC on Tuesday plans to acknowledge that for years it ignored possible money laundering, part of a record $1.9 billion settlement with U.S. authorities that caps the bank's disastrous foray into the U.S. market. The U.K.-based banking company is expected to forfeit nearly $1.3 billion as part of a deferred prosecution agreement, the largest-ever U.S. forfeiture for a bank, according to people briefed on the agreement between HSBC and multiple U.S. agencies. The deal includes a civil fine of more than $650 million, according to these people. As part of the agreement, the bank will admit to violating the Bank Secrecy Act, the Trading with the Enemy Act and other U.S. laws intended to prohibit money laundering, a government official said. Three Arrested In Libor Probe (WSJ) Three British men have been arrested as part of an investigation into the rigging of interest rates, the U.K. Serious Fraud Office said Tuesday. The SFO said the men, aged 33, 41 and 47, are being questioned at a London police station, and that it and the City of London Police executed search warrants on a home in Surrey and two homes in Essex. The arrests are the first by authorities amid a global probe into alleged rigging by bank personnel of the London interbank offered rate over several years. Morgan Stanley Weighs Share Buyback (WSJ) Morgan Stanley might soon ask U.S. regulators to let the securities firm buy back shares for the first time in more than four years, according to people familiar with the firm's thinking. The Wall Street bank could make its request to the Federal Reserve as soon as January as part of the annual "stress-test" process, these people said. The stress tests started in 2009 as a way to convince investors that the largest banks could survive a financial crisis. They have been used to determine banks' ability to pay dividends or buy back shares. Share-repurchase and dividend plans are due from 19 large financial firms by Jan. 7. "Fiscal cliff" outcome still uncertain; talks continue (Reuters) As the pace of talks quickened to avert the "fiscal cliff" of steep tax hikes and spending cuts set for the end of the year, senior members of the U.S. House of Representatives of both parties cautioned that an agreement on all the outstanding issues remained uncertain. Republicans and Democrats are not close to "finishing anything," California Representative Kevin McCarthy, the Republican whip in the House, told Fox News Monday night. "There's nothing agreed to. They are just beginning to talk," he said of House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama. Meanwhile, Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said on MSNBC Monday he thought Congress could resolve some of the issues by the December 31 deadline -- among them the hikes in tax rates-but might have to leave others for the new Congress that takes office in January. Europe in Better Shape Than US: Strategists (CNBC) "The 'fiscal cliff' in the U.S. is a worry," Garry Evans,Global Head of Equity Strategy at HSBC told CNBC on Tuesday. "And that's one of the reasons that I'm underweight the U.S. and I prefer Europe - it's a bit of an unusual place to be." Insider Trading Probe Widens (WSJ) Federal prosecutors and securities regulators are taking a deeper look into how executives use prearranged trading plans to buy and sell shares of their company stock. The Manhattan U.S. attorney's office has launched a broad criminal investigation into whether seven corporate executives cited in a recent Wall Street Journal article traded improperly in shares of their own company's stock, according to a person familiar with the matter. These executives lead companies in industries ranging from retailing to energy to data processing. Stephen Baldwin Wants Tax Truce (NYP) Stephen Baldwin is hoping to set things right after he was arrested Thursday and charged with failure to file state income taxes for three years. “I went myself [to the police] in a pre-arranged kind of way, but that won’t stop the process of the powers that be being upset about it,” Baldwin told Page Six at the Plaza Hotel’s Oak Room on Sunday. “I had this pretty serious issue with filings that weren’t handled appropriately. To be honest with you, it’s a situation right now where my lawyers are in a conversation now with New York state and the district attorney’s office, and I’m very hopeful that everything should be fine,” he said. According to reports, the “Usual Suspects” star was arraigned for failure to file tax returns from 2008 to 2010. He owes more than $350,000 in taxes and penalties, and could face jail time. “You have to pay your taxes . . . I just got caught up in a situation that I’m hoping we’re gonna work out,” he said. U.S. Profit on AIG Climbs to $22.7 Billion on Share Sale (Bloomberg) The Treasury Department is selling 234.2 million shares at $32.50 each in the sixth offering since the 2008 rescue. The proceeds boost the U.S. profit on the rescue that began in 2008 to $22.7 billion, the Treasury said in an e-mailed statement. Fed Seen Pumping Up Assets to $4 Trillion in New Buying (Bloomberg) “It’s going to be massive and open-ended in size,” said Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. in New York and a former New York Fed economist. In EU, A Test Of Wills (WSJ) Among the concerns of EU officials are moves by regulators in countries such as Germany and the U.K. to discourage European banks from moving funds back to their home countries, these officials said. EU officials are considering taking legal action against governments that they view as having adopted overzealous policies that violate the single-market rules, these officials said. The first step would be a formal warning to national authorities. The dispute could eventually land before the European Court of Justice if there is no policy change. The officials' hope, though, is that they can resolve the dispute without resorting to legal action. Celtics’ Chris Wilcox fined $25K for flipping off ‘Kiss Cam’ during loss to 76ers (YS) ...The gag concludes when the camera pans to the opposing bench, where players usually laugh, fake kiss or just ignore the camera. Boston's Chris Wilcox had a slightly different and less appropriate reaction. Wilcox greeted the 17,921 Wells Fargo Center fans with his middle finger. He was serenaded by boos and received an earful from an assistant coach moments later.