Opening Bell: 7.28.16

U.S. says fund lawyer holds 1MDB clues; Fed looks to December; Sword pulled in pizza roll dispute; and more.
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Fund Lawyer Who Worked With Goldman Holds 1MDB Clues, U.S. Says (Bloomberg)
She was the general counsel for Malaysia’s 1MDB investment fund. She was also 1MDB’s liaison to Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the global bank that helped it raise $6 billion. After one of the big sales led by Goldman Sachs, $5 million of the cash raised for 1MDB traveled through shell companies and ended up in her Swiss bank account, the U.S. said in complaints filed last week. The U.S. government refers to the official only as “1MDB Officer 3.” According to people familiar with the matter, she is Jasmine Loo Ai Swan -- a Malaysian who studied law in the U.K. and worked for a Malaysian developer and an oil firm before joining 1MDB...While the amount is modest compared with others in the sweeping multiyear scheme, the alleged $5 million transfer is notable. The recipient was not only a lawyer and the fund’s point person with Goldman Sachs, but is also the only person at 1MDB whom the Justice Department singled out as having received a payment. That money transfer, the U.S. government says, was one of dozens of illicit payments in a scheme controlled by a Malaysian man that ultimately drained as much as $3.5 billion from the fund, formally known as 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

Fed leaves markets guessing on rate hike timing, but December looks possible (CNBC)
"They upgraded the economy a little bit, which they should have because the data is better. They maintain that they're monitoring global economic and financial conditions. They didn't hint at September at all. I think that gets everyone focused on Jackson Hole to see what's next," said John Canally, market strategist and economist at LPL Financial. The Fed's annual symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on Aug. 26 is seen as the next chance for it to deliver a message about policy. The central bank's chair, Janet Yellen, is scheduled to speak and Fed chairs have been known to make important policy comments at that gathering of U.S. and international bankers.

Capitalism can’t thrive on near-zero rates, Bill Gross says (CNBC)
Near-zero interest rates aren't good for the economy in the long run, bond guru Bill Gross said Wednesday. That's because low rates hinder the ability of savers to earn a return on their money, and that impedes investment, he said. "Capitalism can't really thrive," the manager of the Janus Global Unconstrained Bond Fund said in an interview with CNBC's "Power Lunch." "Ultimately in terms of real economic growth, an economy needs certainly a positive interest rate and maybe even a close to positive real interest rate in order to function normally," he said.

George Soros returns to politics with $25 million splash: Report (CNBC)
Billionaire investor George Soros has re-emerged this election cycle as a major Democratic donor, committing more than $25 million to Hillary Clinton and other party candidates and causes, according to Politico. Soros spent roughly $27 million in a bid to unseat then-President George W. Bush in 2004 but later scaled back his giving, the website reported. Some associates of the Soros Fund Management chairman told Politico they expect him to give even more as Election Day approaches.

Prosecutors: $3 million lottery winner bought, sold meth (AP)
Court records show that Ronnie Music of Waycross pleaded guilty on July 22 to charges of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and being a felon in possession of firearms. Federal prosecutors said Tuesday that Music, who won $3 million in the Georgia lottery, used the money to buy methamphetamine to sell. Prosecutors say the case began when several people were caught trying to sell 11 pounds of methamphetamine worth $500,000. U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver said in a statement that Music tried to test his luck by using lottery winnings to deal drugs and now faces decades in prison because of his "unsound investment strategy."

Europe Decides Against Fines for Spain and Portugal (Dealbook)
European Union officials, facing the rise of populist movements across the region, opted against hitting Spain and Portugal with sanctions on Wednesday for breaking the bloc’s rules on government spending. The refusal to impose fines highlights how the 28-nation bloc is struggling with divergent strains of populist and anti-European forces across a region where one member state, Britain, has already voted to leave. The failure to issue penalties will also raise new questions about whether the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, has the political will to enforce its own rules. Many economists have called on Brussels to ease the fiscal straitjacket, whereby countries face punishment if they run budget deficits beyond 3 percent of gross domestic product, to stimulate spending and to accelerate anemic economic growth across the region.

Post-Brexit, London’s Financial Center Has English Law on Its Side (WSJ)
Britain’s vote to leave the European Union has sparked fears in the U.K. that competing financial centers, such as Frankfurt and Dublin, could siphon banks, funds and related industries away from London. The majority of international financial contracts, however, are written in English law and disputes are often settled in the country’s courts. This provides London’s financial district with a gravitational pull for financial companies. “The contracts will still be done under English law in an English court,” said Kamel Alzarka, chief executive of Falcon Group, a Dubai-based trade-finance company with a large presence in London. “I’m French. Who the hell’s gonna use French law for this?”

Facebook revenue jumps on blistering ad sales growth (Reuters)
Facebook Inc's (FB.O) quarterly revenue jumped 59.2 percent as its hugely popular mobile app attracted new advertisers and encouraged existing ones to spend more. The net income attributable to Facebook's stockholders rose to $2.05 billion, or 71 cents per share, in the second quarter ended June 30, from $715 million, or 25 cents per share, a year earlier. Revenue rose to $6.44 billion from $4.04 billion.

Cops: Sword Pulled In Pizza Roll Dispute (TSG)
According to a Norwalk Police Department report, Travis Vartorella “pulled a sword” on Trystan Mesenburg, 20, a former roommate who had returned to the residence to retrieve some of his belongings. Mesenburg told cops that after arriving at the darkened apartment with his girlfriend, they began gathering up his items. “As soon as I grabbed my bag of pizza rolls,” Mesenburg told cops, Vartorella “came out from around the corner” with a three-foot sword. With the weapon in his hands, Vartorella claimed ownership of the frozen treats and demanded that Mesenburg “leave his fucking pizza rolls alone” before things got stabby, police report. Mesenburg and his girlfriend fled the apartment and dialed 911. Responding officers noted that the couple was “visibly shaken” as they recounted their confrontation with Vartorella. Officers subsequently arrested Vartorella and seized four “edged weapons” from his bedroom closet, including a six-foot samurai sword, a machete, and the sword he was holding when he confronted Mesenburg.

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Opening Bell: 01.07.13

Regulators Give Ground To Banks (WSJ) Global banking regulators watered down a key element of their plan for creating a safer financial system, giving ground to banks that argued the rules were unworkable and financially risky. The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, a group of the world's top regulators and central bankers, said Sunday that it agreed to relax a rule designed to ensure that big banks are able to weather financial crises without running short of cash. Bowing to two years of intense pressure from the banking industry, the regulators made it easier for banks to meet the rule, known as the "liquidity coverage ratio," and delayed its full implementation until 2019. It is the latest instance of regulators chipping away at their landmark 2010 response to the global financial crisis. The regulators argue that the changes make banking rules much stronger than they were before the crisis. Herbalifers Stay Resolute (WSJ) When hedge-fund manager William Ackman unveiled his 334-slide presentation alleging that Herbalife is a pyramid scheme, it did nothing to shake Joanne Clare. The 38-year-old Staten Island mother of three has been selling the company's weight-loss products and supplements since 2004, when she says they helped her drop from 210 to 160 pounds in four months. She now sells as much as $3,500 a month of Herbalife products to her 30 clients and the two distributors in her "down line." "People have always said it's a pyramid scheme, but it's not," Ms. Clare said, adding that the bulk of her earnings come from sales to clients, not her cut of her recruits' take. Mr. Ackman's declaration that he had bet more than $1 billion against Herbalife caused many investors to flee, sending the stock down 38% in four days in late December. But some of the company's 3.1-million-strong army of distributors were unmoved. Eliot Spitzer Ends His Show On Current TV (NYT) The announcement comes a few days after Al Jazeera said it was acquiring Current TV. Later this year, the Qatar-owned broadcaster plans to turn the channel into an Americanized version of the international news channel Al Jazeera English. Mr. Spitzer said he had a “wonderful time” at Current, but emphasized that his relationship was with Al Gore and Joel Hyatt, Current’s co-founders, not with Al Jazeera. “Moving forward, their mission will be different,” he said — more international newscasts, less liberal talk about the news. Citi's Corbat builds bridges (Reuters) Citigroup Inc's Michael Corbat has been meeting with bank regulators in his first months as CEO, as he looks to bolster relationships and finalize the bank's plan to return capital to shareholders, sources familiar with the matter said. Corbat also expects to name his team of top managers within the next week or so, one of the sources said on Sunday. Corbat is expected to play it safe when Citigroup asks the U.S. Federal Reserve for permission for moves such as buying back shares or increasing dividends, analysts and investors said. His predecessor, Vikram Pandit, lost his job in October in part because the bank's request for returning capital was denied in March. The bank, which is due to submit its plan to the Fed on Monday, has not yet done so, the source said. The third-largest U.S. bank will only seek approval to buy back shares and not raise dividends, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday. Last year, the bank wanted permission to return more than $8 billion to shareholders over two years, the paper said. For Newly Minted MBAs, A Small Paycheck (WSJ) For graduates with minimal experience—three years or less—median pay was $53,900 in 2012, down 4.6% from 2007-08, according to an analysis conducted for The Wall Street Journal by PayScale.com. Pay fell at 62% of the 186 schools examined. Even for more seasoned grads the trend is similar, says Katie Bardaro, lead economist for PayScale.com. "In general, it seems that M.B.A. pay is either stagnant or falling," she says...It is all a far cry from the late 1980s and early 1990s heyday for M.B.A.s, when some companies would hire 100 or more M.B.A.s. It wasn't uncommon to recruit first, and fill actual jobs later. DOJ pledges to respect Swiss law in tax probe (Reuters) Swiss chief finance diplomat Michael Ambuehl was given a verbal pledge from the U.S. Department of Justice to respect Swiss law when asking for bank client data of potential tax dodgers, a newspaper reported on Sunday. Switzerland is in negotiations with U.S. authorities to find a deal that would end tax probes into at least ten Swiss banks suspected of helping clients dodge taxes, including Credit Suisse and Julius Baer. The Alpine country is trying to preserve what is left of its cherished banking secrecy that suffered a severe blow in 2009 when UBS, the first Swiss bank that came under scrutiny in the U.S., was required to disclose client data. Brazilian prison gaurds catch cat that slipped through the gate with escape tools taped to its body (NYDN) Guards at a Brazilian prison nabbed a white cat that slipped through the gate with a cell phone, drills, small saws and other contraband taped to its body. Alagoas prison spokeswoman Cinthya Moreno says the cat was caught New Year’s Eve at the medium-security prison in the city of Arapiraca. The O Estado de S. Paulo newspaper reported Saturday that all of the prison’s 263 inmates are suspects in the smuggling attempt, though a spokesperson said, “It will be hard to discover who is responsible since the cat does not speak.” Loeb, Cooperman Stand Out in Horrid Year for Hedge Funds (CNBC) Third Point was the clear hedge fund standout in a horrible year for the industry as almost nine out of 10 managers underperformed the S&P 500. Omega Advisors' Leon Cooperman also scored big. Loeb — once better known for his acerbic letters to CEOs — used an activist position in Yahoo and the contrarian buying of Greek bonds to drive the firm's flagship fund to a 21 percent gain in 2012. The firm's more-leveraged Ultra fund posted an even bigger 34 percent return...Cooperman's fund had a net return of 26 percent in 2012. Banks Zero In On Foreclosure Pact (WSJ) Banks were closing in on a $10 billion foreclosure-abuse settlement with regulators that could be announced as soon as Monday, according to people familiar with the talks. The settlement was nearly complete Sunday afternoon, the people said, after the Federal Reserve backed down on a demand for more compensation for consumers and other changes to the pact. Bankers threatened to walk away from the deal if the Fed's demand for an additional $300 million was included, a person briefed on the talks said. Junk Bonds' Fire Is Poised to Fade (WSJ) Junk bonds started 2013 much like they finished 2012—on fire. In just three trading days this year, bonds of low-rated companies delivered returns of almost three-quarters of a percent, even as most other types of bonds lost value. And junk bonds continued to clock new milestones: Average prices soared to their highest since 2004 and average yields, which decline as prices rise, dropped below 6% for the first time ever, according to Barclays. But the rapid march is making fund managers and analysts wary. Prices are now so high—averaging more than 105 cents on the dollar—that there is little room for them to climb much further, some investors say. These are lofty prices for bonds that usually trade below 100 cents, reflecting the higher default risk for such companies. At the very least, returns will pale in comparison with the 15% achieved in 2012, analysts and investors say. NHL, Players Settle Labor Dispute (AP) On the 113th day of a management lockout and five days before the league's deadline for a deal, the bleary-eyed sides held a 6 a.m. news conference to announce there will be a season, after all. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and union head Donald Fehr both appeared drained, wearing sweaters and not neckties, when they stood side by side at the hotel and announced labor peace. "We have reached an agreement on the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement, the details of which need to be put to paper," Bettman said. "We've got to dot a lot of Is, cross a lot of Ts. There's still a lot of work to be done, but the basic framework of the deal has been agreed upon." Hostess in Talks to Sell Off Bread Brands (WSJ) Hostess could disclose Flowers, Grupo Bimbo or others as opening bidders in a looming bankruptcy-court auction for the assets as soon as this week, said people familiar with the matter. Hostess, whose bread brands include Wonder Bread, Nature's Pride, Home Pride, Merita and Butternut, is still determining how to split up assets and package them for buyers, one of the people said. Gérard Depardieu gives up French citizenship after bitter tax fight (GM) In a fit of pique, French movie star Gérard Depardieu announced during the weekend that he would give up his citizenship after politicians and the media took him to task for moving to Belgium and avoiding an impending tax hike for the rich. Mr. Depardieu is not France’s first fiscal refugee but his high-profile door-slamming so monopolized public debate that Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault had on Monday to parse whether or not he had insulted the actor. “I did not call Mr. Depardieu a loser, I said that it was loser-like [to move to Belgium to avoid taxes],” Mr. Ayrault told reporters...The “loser” comment seemed to have been the jab that stung Mr. Depardieu the most. “Loser, did you say loser?” the 63-year–old actor began an open letter to Mr. Ayrault that appeared Sunday in Le Journal du dimanche. Mr. Depardieu wrote that he had paid a total of €145-million in income tax in the last four decades and kept 80 people employed. He added that he had been taxed at a marginal rate of 85 per cent this year. “I am giving you back my passport and my social insurance, which I had never used. We no longer have the same fatherland. I am a true European, a citizen of the world.”

Opening Bell: 12.12.12

Three Questioned In Libor Probe (WSJ) While the SFO didn't identify the men, one of them is Thomas Hayes, a former trader at UBS and Citigroup, according to people familiar with the matter. Authorities in multiple countries have been looking into Mr. Hayes as an alleged coordinator of a group of employees at multiple banks who sought to manipulate the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, according to people familiar with the case. One of the others arrested was Terry Farr, an employee of British brokerage firm R.P. Martin Holdings Ltd. in London who is currently on leave from the firm, according to a person familiar with the case. Mr. Farr has been under investigation for possibly helping bank employees coordinate their efforts to influence Libor, according to people familiar with the case. HSBC Mexican Branches Said to Be Traffickers’ Favorites (Bloomberg) From 2006 to 2010, the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico and the Norte del Valle Cartel in Columbia moved more than $881 million in proceeds through HSBC’s U.S. unit, said Lanny Breuer, assistant attorney general for the U.S. Justice Department’s criminal division. Breuer, along with U.S. Attorney Lorretta Lynch in Brooklyn, New York, announced yesterday the bank had agreed to pay at least $1.9 billion to settle money laundering probes. “These traffickers didn’t have to try very hard,” Breuer said at a press conference in Brooklyn. “They would sometimes deposit hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash in a single day into a single account using boxes designed to fit the precise dimension of the tellers’ windows in HSBC’s Mexico branches.” It Could Get Hairy Before 'Cliff' Deal: Greenspan (CNBC) "The best possible outcome is to take something like Simpson-Bowles as it came out originally and work off that," he said, of a deal to avoid the automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that go into effect at the end of the year. But he said that reaching a final agreement won't be an easy process, since the president believes he has a mandate following the election while House Republicans believe they, too, have a mandate. "I'm not at altogether clear how much control (Speaker) Boehner has over the overall caucus," Greenspan said. "At the end of the day it will all work out but it's going to be a bit hairy before we get there." Buffett Joins Soros in Effort to Raise Taxes on Estates (Bloomberg) Billionaireinvestors Warren Buffett and George Soros are calling on Congress to increase the estate tax as lawmakers near a decision on tax policies that expire Dec. 31. In a joint statement Tuesday, Buffett, Soros and more than 20 other wealthy individuals asked Congress to lower the estate tax’s per-person exemption to $2 million from $5.12 million and raise the top rate to more than 45 percent from 35 percent. An estate tax structured this way will “raise significant revenue to reduce the deficit and fund vital services, will only be paid by the top one percent of estates, will raise more from the wealthiest estates” and will simplify compliance, said the statement. It also was signed by John Bogle, founder of mutual fund company Vanguard Group Inc., and former President Jimmy Carter. U.S. Probe of SAC Trading Said to Be Linked to 2010 Case (Bloomberg) A U.S. investigation of possible insider trading at SAC Capital Advisors LP, the $14 billion hedge fund run by Steven A. Cohen, is linked to a 2010 regulatory lawsuit over allegedly illegal trades in InterMune Inc, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Securities and Exchange Commission’s probe of trades that SAC Capital made in the Brisbane, California-based biopharmaceutical company is tied to a December 2010 SEC lawsuit against an investor, said the person, who asked not to be named because the matter isn’t public. The investor bought InterMune options before a European Union regulatory panel urged approval of the company’s drug Esbriet to treat a fatal lung disease, the person said, declining to elaborate. Man says law standing between him and sex acts with donkey is unconstitutional (NYDN) Lawyers representing the frisky farmhand thrown in jail for allegedly masturbating with a donkey are now fighting to have Florida’s statute banning sex with animals declared unconstitutional. “By making sexual conduct with an animal a crime, the statute demeans individuals like Defendant by making his private sexual conduct a crime,” attorneys for 32-year-old Carlos R. Romero wrote in a motion filed last week, the Ocala-Star Banner reported. Romero was cuffed at an Ocala farm back in September after farm proprietor Gerald James told police he saw Romero with his pants down as he was seemingly having sex with a donkey named Doodle in an equipment room on Aug. 15, according to police report obtained by thesmokinggun.com. Romero later pleaded not guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor charge of sexual activities involving animals. He announced last week that he wanted his case to go to trial. His attorneys argue that Florida’s statute violates the farmhand’s rights by stripping him of his “personal liberty and autonomy when it comes to private intimate activities.”They say the statute is unconstitutional because it doesn’t require the state to provide any proof of the animal’s suffering “or any proof of the sexual activity being non-consensual.” Inside The Risky Bets Of Central Banks (WSJ) While many national governments, including the U.S., have failed to agree on fiscal policy—how best to balance tax revenues with spending during slow growth—the central bankers have forged their own path, independent of voters and politicians, bound by frequent conversations and relationships stretching back to university days. If the central bankers are correct, they will help the world economy avoid prolonged stagnation and a repeat of central banking mistakes in the 1930s. If they are wrong, they could kindle inflation or sow the seeds of another financial crisis. Failure also could lead to new restrictions on the power and independence of central banks, tools deemed crucial in such emergencies as the 2008-2009 financial crisis. Freeport's $20 Billion Deal Stirs Backlash (WSJ) Freeport agreed last week to acquire energy explorers McMoRan Exploration Co. MMR +0.85% and Plains Exploration & Production Co. PXP -0.42% in transactions that will cost the Arizona mining giant about $20 billion including assumed debt. The deal will result in six directors with overlapping roles at Freeport and McMoRan Exploration receiving payouts for their shares totaling more than $130 million, according to securities filings. Some Freeport investors and analysts also have questioned the wisdom of a metals miner diving into the oil and gas business. They have taken issue with what they call conflicts of interests among the shared executives and directors at Freeport and McMoRan and the fact that the deal as structured doesn't require a Freeport shareholder vote. Fed Discourages Bank Dealmaking (WSJ) The Federal Reserve is pushing large U.S. banks to forget about all but the smallest acquisitions for a while amid a raging debate over the risk big lenders pose to the financial system. Man Drive 100 MPH To Wedding, Gets Arrested (Again) (NWI) Timothy N. Thompson, 23, of Valparaiso, was supposed to be married in a 7 p.m. ceremony. Instead, Thompson was arrested for resisting law enforcement, criminal recklessness and reckless driving. He was also cited for speeding and improper passing. According to police, an officer spotted Thompson about 6:30 p.m. Saturday speeding north in the center lane of Willowcreek Road. The officer estimated Thompson was driving 100 mph. Thompson allegedly continued to drive erratically, switching lanes abruptly and, according to the report, nearly wrecking. Police reported they followed Thompson as he turned into the parking lot of Nativity of Our Savior Church on Willowcreek Road, where he again nearly tipped over the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Once he entered the church's parking lot, three people -- later identified as relatives -- began flailing their arms and yelling at him. Thompson drove through the parking lot, accelerating and doing a "doughnut," creating a thick blanket of tire smoke, according to the report. When he stopped, Thompson told police he was late for his wedding and estimated he was doing "about 90" mph. He also told police he had his emergency flashers on and was sounding his horn to alert drivers. When an officer walked away from Thompson's vehicle, Thompson reentered his vehicle and drove toward the entrance of the church, where he was stopped by police again. "Oh, I thought you were done and I'm late for a party in Chicago," police reported Thompson saying. "It now means I have to drive really fast to get there." Thompson, who also told police he had just been released from jail that day, didn't make his wedding. He was transported to Porter County Jail and held without bond.

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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.

Opening Bell: 11.02.12

Economy Adds 171,000 Jobs (WSJ) U.S. payrolls increased by a seasonally adjusted 171,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said Friday. The politically important unemployment rate, obtained by a separate survey of U.S. households, rose one-tenth of a percentage point to 7.9%. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected a gain of 125,000 in payrolls and a 7.9% jobless rate. Hedge Fund Cashes In On Greek Bonds (Reuters) London-based hedge fund Adelante Asset Management has made a 70 percent gain on a sale of Greek bonds, showing the potential for big profits from betting on a recovery in the fortunes of a country effectively off-limits to investors a few months ago...Since the restructuring, Greek government bond prices have strengthened, allowing Adelante to sell them for around 24 cents on the euro, having bought them for around 14 cents in June, the company said. A Greek government bond maturing in 2042, for example, is currently trading at around 20.8 cents on the euro, Thomson Reuters data shows. Other hedge funds have made similar bets. Third Point, a high profile New York hedge fund, for example, has been a significant buying of cut-price Greek bonds. RBS Eyes Libor Settlement Soon (WSJ) RBS wants to seal a settlement with regulators over its alleged rigging of key interest rates in the coming months, as the partstate-owned bank looks to draw a line under the scandal. Speaking to reporters at the bank's third-quarter results presentation, Chief Executive Stephen Hester said he would be "disappointed" if he couldn't provide details on a settlement by February. "We are up for settling with all and everyone as soon as they are ready. But each regulator has to satisfy itself that it has all the facts," he said. Deutsche Bank Faces Top Surcharge as FSB Shuffles Tiers (Bloomberg) Deutsche Bank would be required to hold more capital and Bank of America Corp.’s burden stands to be reduced as global regulators shuffled the competitive balance among the world’s biggest banks. Citigroup, HSBC and JPMorgan join Deutsche Bank as firms that will be targeted for a capital surcharge of 2.5 percent, according to an updated list published yesterday by the Financial Stability Board. The change means Bank of America already exceeds requirements, while Deutsche Bank would be more than 2 percentage points below the new minimum of 9.5 percent. “That limits earnings potential for Citigroup, JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank compared to Bank of America, all other things being equal, so it’s certainly a competitive advantage for them,” said David Kass, a professor at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. Short-Sellers of Europe Set to Be Unmasked (CNBC) The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), the EU regulator, has issued new rules on the short-selling of securities indicating that anyone with short positions of greater than 0.2 percent in an EU company’s shares must report it to regulators. Positions of more than 0.5 percent will be publicly released, naming both the company and the short-seller. Public disclosure is triggered any time that level is hit with each 0.1 percent increase or decrease after that. NYSE Open For Business Shows Wall Street Still Vulnerable (Bloomberg) The Securities and Exchange Commission may consider whether exchanges’ emergency regimens need to be bolstered, according to a person familiar with the regulator’s thinking who asked not to be named because the matter is private. The industry’s decision to halt equities and bond trading shows the challenge of maintaining markets when a catastrophe threatens New York City, home to 168,700 securities industry workers. “One of the purposes of having electronic exchanges and basing them away from New York City is for the market to be more robust and stay open,” Charles Jones, a finance professor at Columbia Business School in New York, said in a phone interview. “This is what the back-up plans were designed for. But the markets didn’t open.” David Blaine Entertains New Yorkers After Hurricane Sandy (NYP) When a backup generator at Old Homestead Steakhouse sputtered, the restaurant started serving hundreds of pounds of steaks, burgers, lobster tails and shrimp on the street outside for downtown denizens. David Blaine, the modern-day Harry Houdini who spent days recently being shocked in a steel suit, pitched in to provide spontaneous street entertainment. “David was rumbling by on his motorcycle, and he stopped to see why there was a line on 14th Street,” said a spy, adding 800 chowed down. Blaine then asked restaurant co-owner Greg Sherry if there was a deck of cards in the house. Blaine used the full deck and some spare silverware to perform magic tricks outside for an hour and a half. The magic man, an Old Homestead regular, was offered a doggie bag but said he’s on a special diet in preparation for his next stunt. Romney Faces Sale With A Win (WSJ) Mr. Romney's assets, valued at between $190 million and $250 million, include investments in hedge funds, private-equity funds and partnerships at Bain Capital, which he ran for 15 years. These entities have ownership stakes in dozens of companies that could be affected by government action, such as radio firm Clear Channel Communications Inc. and a video-surveillance firm based in China. Many businessmen and wealthy individuals have entered government service and sold off holdings. But a Romney sale would be especially complicated. Investments in private-equity funds can be difficult to value and seldom change hands. Any sale would have to be handled carefully to avoid any appearance that the incoming president was getting favorable treatment from a buyer. What Do Asia Markets Fear? Romney As President (CNBC) At a time of heightened uncertainty, with the ongoing European debt crisis and the upcoming leadership transition in China, a new president in the world’s largest economy will cause additional nervousness among Asian investors, experts told CNBC. “Asian traders don’t like change in leadership. You would see weakness in the markets if Romney won, because people would question how well he would deal with the impending doom of the ‘fiscal cliff.’ Obama would be a safer bet, as investors would enjoy continuity at a time of a lot of uncertainty,” said Justin Harper, market strategist, at IG Markets...Besides, Romney’s stance on China is particularly worrying feels Harper. The presidential hopeful has said he will name China a “currency manipulator,” which could lead to more tensions with the mainland, including on the trade front. “You would expect trade between the two nations to suffer, this would have a knee-jerk reaction on trade in the region,” he added. Fed Up With Fees (NYP) The manager of a large public pension’s private-equity program said for the last 24 months he has not committed money to any new private-equity fund that doesn’t give all fees it charges its companies back to investors. He is doing this because he wants an alignment of interest where he and the private-equity firm only make money by reselling a business. PE firms, he believes, will stop charging their companies fees if there is little in it for them. So, KKR, for example — responding to pressure — has agreed to give all fees it charges its companies in its new fund back to investors, the pension manager said. KKR is not the only firm making this change. Apax Partners, Blackstone Group, Centerbridge Partners, Providence Equity and TPG Capital are among those making the same concessions, the pension manager said. Local shelter mistakenly euthanizes family pet (WRCB) After waiting 10 days to be reunited with his dog, a local college student learned the family's pet had been euthanized by mistake. The Lab mix was being held at McKamey Animal Center, where administrators say a paperwork mix up led to the dog's death. Matt Sadler adopted the three-year-old Lab mix when he was just a puppy. "That was my best friend," Sadler says. "He was there for me through my parents' divorce and a lot of really hard tough times in my life." It was hard for Matt when Zion was quarantined last week, after jumping on a pizza delivery driver. "The lady didn't want to press charges, it wasn't anything serious, but the law has a 10-day quarantine period," he says. Because Zion was a month past due on his yearly rabies vaccine, he was held for the full 10 days at McKamey Animal Center. Thursday, Matt eagerly returned to the facility to take Zion home. "She says, ‘I'm sorry, Matt, we accidentally euthanized your dog'," Sadler says...McKamey has offered to cremate Zion, and allow Matt to adopt any dog he chooses.

Opening Bell: 4.21.16

Soros says China's economy looks like U.S. before '08 crisis; Canada does global economy a solid; Investors pull $15 billion from hedge funds; Cops Seek Dominatrix In Bar Beating; and more.

Opening Bell: 12.21.12

Critics Say UBS Let Off Too Easy (WSJ) Our goal here is not to destroy a major financial institution," Lanny Breuer, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's criminal division, said Wednesday after the $1.5 billion fine against UBS was announced. Prosecutors have to at least "evaluate whether or not innocent people might lose jobs" and other types of potential collateral damage. Sen. Charles Grassley (R., Iowa), a Senate Finance Committee member, said he is unsatisfied that prosecutors didn't go higher up the corporate ladder at UBS than its Japanese subsidiary..."The reluctance of U.S. prosecutors to file criminal charges over big-time bank fraud is frustrating and hard to understand," Mr. Grassley said. The $1.5 billion fine is a "spit in the ocean compared to the money lost by borrowers at every level, including taxpayers." Regulatory 'Whale' Hunt Advances (WSJ) The first regulatory ripples from the "London Whale" trading fiasco are about to hit J.P. Morgan Chase. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, led by Comptroller Thomas Curry, is preparing to take a formal action demanding that J.P. Morgan remedy the lapses in risk controls that allowed a small group of London-based traders to rack up losses of more than $6 billion this year, according to people familiar with the company's discussions with regulators. Khuzami To Leave SEC Enforcement Post (WSJ) Robert Khuzami, head of the Securities and Exchange Commission's enforcement unit, plans to leave the agency as soon as next month, a person familiar with the expected move said Thursday. Boehner Drops ‘Plan B’ as Budget Effort Turns to Disarray (Bloomberg) House Speaker John Boehner scrapped a plan to allow higher tax rates on annual income above $1 million, yielding to anti-tax resistance within his own party and throwing already-stalled budget talks deeper into turmoil. He will hold a news conference today at 10 a.m. Washington time to discuss the next steps in the budget dispute, a Republican leadership aide said. House members and senators won’t vote on the end-of-year budget issues until after Christmas, giving them less than a week to reach agreement to avert tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect in January. The partisan divide hardened yesterday, making the path to a deal more uncertain. BlackRock Sees Distortions in Country Ratings Seeking S&P Change (Bloomberg) Credit rating companies are distorting capital markets by assigning the same debt ranking to countries from Italy to Thailand and Kazakhstan, according to BlackRock, the world’s biggest money manager. While 23 countries share the BBB+ to BBB- levels assessed by Standard & Poor’s, the lowest investment grades, up from 15 in 2008 at the beginning of the financial crisis, their debt to gross domestic product ratios range from 12 percent for Kazakhstan to 44 percent for Thailand and 126 percent for Italy, International Monetary Fund estimates show. The cost of insuring against a default by Italy, ranked BBB+, over the next five years is almost triple that for Thailand, which has the same rating. For BlackRock, which oversees $3.7 trillion in assets, the measures are so untrustworthy that the firm is setting up its own system to gauge the risk of investing in government bonds. This year, the market moved in the opposite direction suggested by changes to levels and outlooks 53 percent of the time, data compiled by Bloomberg show. “The rating agencies were very, very slow to the game,” Benjamin Brodsky, a managing director at BlackRock International Ltd., said in a Nov. 23 interview from London. “They all came after the fact. For us, this is not good enough.” If You Bought Greek Bonds in January You Earned 80% (Bloomberg) Greek government bonds returned 80 percent this year, compared with 3.7 percent for German bunds and 6.1 percent for Spanish securities, Bank of America Merrill Lynch indexes show. It’s the first year since 2009 that investors made money on Greek securities, with 2012 providing the biggest advance since Merrill began compiling the data in 1998, according to figures that don’t reflect this month’s debt buyback by the government. Texas lawmaker: ‘Ping-pongs’ deadlier than guns (The Ticket) Incoming Texas State Rep. Kyle Kacal says guns don’t kill people—ping-pong kills people. "I've heard of people being killed playing ping-pong—ping-pongs are more dangerous than guns," he says. "Flat-screen TVs are injuring more kids today than anything." The lifetime rancher, who will take his seat in 2013 as a freshman, says that new gun restrictions are unnecessary. Kacal, who reportedly operates a hunting business, notably came out against a bill instructing Texans how to secure their assault weapons. "People know what they need to do to be safe. We don't need to legislate that—it's common sense," he said. "Once everyone's gun is locked up, then the bad guys know everyone's gun is locked up." Flare-up in war of words between Ackman, Herbalife (NYP) “This is the highest conviction I’ve ever had about any investment I’ve ever made,” Ackman said yesterday in a series of interviews. The investor told CNBC that he expects the Federal Trade Commission will take a “hard look” at the company. The heavyweight battle picked up steam over the last two days and has become, in the typically slow days leading up to Christmas, one of the most-watched events on Wall Street. As the financial world watched, Herbalife CEO Michael Johnson returned fire — calling Ackman’s statements “bogus” and asking the Securities and Exchange Commission to probe the motives of Ackman and his Pershing Square Capital hedge fund. A spokeswoman said if Johnson were allowed the chance to face-off against the investor at the Downtown conference, the CEO “would have been able to tear Mr. Ackman’s premises and interpretation of our business model apart.” Citigroup Said to Give CCA Managers 75% Stake in Funds for Free (Bloomberg) Among Vikram Pandit’s last jobs as Citigroup’s chief executive officer was to decide the fate of the bank’s hedge-fund unit, which employs some of his oldest colleagues. He agreed to give them most of it for free. While Citigroup is keeping a 25 percent stake, managers at the Citi Capital Advisors unit will pay nothing for the remaining 75 percent of that business as it becomes a new firm managing as much as $2.5 billion of the bank’s money, according to people with knowledge of the plan. The lender will pay the executives fees while gradually pulling out assets to comply with impending U.S. rules, said the people, who requested anonymity because the terms aren’t public. The deal was Citigroup’s response to the Volcker rule. Peter Madoff Is Sentenced to 10 Years for His Role in Fraud (Dealbook) A lawyer by training, Peter Madoff is the second figure in the scandal to be sentenced. His older brother, Bernard, pleaded guilty in March 2009 and is serving a prison term of 150 years. UK Boom in Pound Shops: An Austerity-Proof Business Model? (CNBC) Pound shops in the U.K. are reporting massive increases in profits across the board showing that the formula "pile 'em high and sell 'em cheap" has particular resonance in Britain's current age of austerity. Names like "Poundstretcher," "Poundland" and "99p Stores" in the U.K. have become high street stalwarts as other brands go bust. The chains, immediately recognizable on price point, are opening new stores and reporting record results reflecting the increasing public demand for cheaper goods. U.K. based "Poundland" is one such chain reporting steep sales growth as its range of 3,000 items -- from umbrellas and pregnancy tests (it sells 14,000 a week) to bird feeders and bags of crisps all priced at one pound – resonates with cash-strapped Britons. In the year to April 2012, the Warburg Pincus owned company said its turnover increased 22 percent to 780 million pounds ($1.25 billion) and profits increased by 50 percent to 18.3 million pounds from last year's figure of 12.2 million. Former Olympian Suzy Favor Hamilton admits to life as a $600-an-hour hooker (NYP) Steamy, lingerie-clad images of the champion runner helped tout her services on the Web site of a Vegas escort agency called Haley Heston’s Private Collection, where Favor Hamilton operated under the name “Kelly Lundy,” according to The Smoking Gun. Customers could hire her lithe Olympic-class runner’s body for $600 an hour, $1,000 for two hours and $6,000 for 24 hours. The site described her build as “athletic,” her bosom as “perky,” and her belly button as “pierced.” She was willing to provide horny customers the full “girlfriend experience,” and would also engage in a certain undisclosed sex act for an extra $300. “I enjoy men of all shapes, sizes and colors, and I have an affinity for women (I am bisexual),” “Kelly” wrote on her page on the escort service’s Web site. “I consider dates with couples an experience to cherish.” Her sexual skills reportedly earned her a high rating on The Erotic Review, a Web site frequented by prostitution fans. Favor Hamilton’s lusty secret life might have stayed secret if she had not made the mistake of revealing her true identity to some of her wealthy johns, who went to the media.

Opening Bell: 06.06.12

Greece Warns of Going Broke as Tax Proceeds Dry Up (NYT) Government coffers could be empty as soon as July, shortly after this month’s pivotal elections. In the worst case, Athens might have to temporarily stop paying for salaries and pensions, along with imports of fuel, food and pharmaceuticals. Officials, scrambling for solutions, have considered dipping into funds that are supposed to be for Greece’s troubled banks. Some are even suggesting doling out i.o.u.’s. Spain Warns It Needs Help (WSJ) Oh, hey, in case it was unclear: "Spain made its most explicit suggestion yet that it would seek help from Europe for its struggling banks, as the country's budget minister said high interest rates on Spanish bonds were a signal the government risks losing access to financial markets." Nobel Winner Stiglitz Sees More Recession Odds In Romney (Bloomberg) History shows that the adoption of fiscal austerity when an economy is weak can have disastrous consequences, as happened in the U.S. in 1929 on the eve of the Great Depression, Stiglitz told Bloomberg editors and reporters in New York Monday. “The Romney plan is going to slow down the economy, worsen the jobs deficit and significantly increase the likelihood of a recession,” said Stiglitz. US Already in 'Recession,' Extend Tax Cuts: Bill Clinton (CNBC) In a taped interview aired with CNBC, the 42nd president called the current economic conditions a "recession" and said overzealous Republican plans to cut the deficit threaten to plunge the country further into the debt abyss. Blanked Bankers Double As Bonuses Disappear, Survey Shows (Bloomberg) The proportion of investment bankers who got no bonuses last year more than doubled to about 14 percent, a poll by executive-search firm Options Group shows. The percentage of employees who weren’t given an annual award rose from 6 percent in 2010, a report yesterday from the New York-based company said. Getting no bonus, or being “blanked” by your employer, isn’t the smear it once was because base salaries increased afterthe 2008 financial crisis, said Michael Karp, managing partner of Options Group. The pizza has ‘sex’tra toppings (NYP) An Italian eatery just steps from Yankee Stadium is charging customers for slices of pizza — and sex with their wait staff, a new lawsuit claims. Yankee fans heading to Stadium Pizza after ball games are treated to a smorgasbord of waitresses and bartenders moonlighting as prostitutes, according to a lawyer for former employee Olga Contreras, who is suing the restaurant’s owners for sexual harassment, said her lawyers, Matthew Blit and Amanda Gudis. Contreras says she has spotted one worker frequently giving oral sex, and customers disappearing into the restroom with the staff. Morgan Stanley May Sell Piece of Commodities Unit (CNBC) Worried about the potential impact of new regulations, Morgan Stanley is considering selling a minority stake in its commodities business, say people familiar with the matter, and has held preliminary conversations with potential suitors in recent months about how a deal could look. Geithner Said To Seek U.S. Bankers’ Dodd-Frank Objections (Bloomberg) Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner has challenged bankers to give him specifics on their longstanding complaint that the Dodd-Frank Act is imposing costly, confusing and burdensome regulations on them, according to four people familiar with the matter...Geithner offered to use his ability to reach across agencies to better coordinate and streamline rules if he found the report convincing, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to discuss the study. The complaints include the handling of so-called stress tests of banks’ ability to weather a crisis, capital requirements and restrictions on mortgage servicing. Feds probing Nasdaq’s $10.7M FB profit (NYP) ...some of the issues the agency is believed to be looking at is whether the exchange made its trades ahead of clients and other participants, sources said. The regulators also is looking into whether the trading systems at other Nasdaq member firms made matters worse. Italy To Push 'Pink Quotas' (WSJ) A new law requires Italian listed and state-owned companies to ensure that one-third of their board members are women by 2015. Currently, only around 6% of the total number of corporate board members in Italy are women—one of the lowest levels in Europe and a number that reflects how few women work here. Gold Bugs Defy Bear-Market Threat With Soros Buying (Bloomberg) Bank of America was joined by Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley and Barclays Plc in urging investors to buy in December and January. Now, after gold fell 10 percent in a four-month slide through May, they say prices will rebound this year or next as the Federal Reserve shores up the world’s biggest economy by easing monetary policy and devaluing the dollar. Billionaire George Soros bought more in the first quarter and hedge-fund manager John Paulson held on to the biggest stake in the SPDR Gold Trust, the largest exchange-traded product backed by bullion, Securities and Exchange Commission filings show. Some investors are refusing to capitulate even after failed elections in Greece drove the euro to a two-year low against the dollar and gold slumped as much as 21 percent in December from the record $1,923.70 set in September. Oregon woman wins $900K after contracting herpes from sex partner (NYDN) “He was 69, my client was a very attractive 49. My argument to the jury was he just wanted to sink his hooks into her,” the plaintiff’s attorney said. The jury found that the man was 75% at fault, while the woman was 25% responsible. The jurors also decided that by exposing her to the STD, the man committed battery and made her suffer greatly.

Opening Bell: 08.31.12

JPMorgan Rankled By Risk (WSJ) JPMorgan is seeking to reduce its risks in a business that provides crucial plumbing for Wall Street's money flows. The nation's largest bank by assets, a major player in providing clearing and settlement services to other financial firms, is reviewing its dealings with dozens of brokerages that use the bank to settle trades, according to people familiar with the bank. Clearing and settlement involves standing between buyers and sellers of securities to help manage financial commitments backing hundreds of billions of dollars in transactions daily. J.P. Morgan's review, which started more than six months ago amid increased regulations, effectively seeks to assess the profits clients generate for the bank versus risks they pose, the people say. Spain Unveils Financial Reforms (WSJ) This reform fulfills the commitments made by Spain as part of a €100 billion European Union bailout for Spanish banks agreed in July. As anticipated in the bailout deal, Spain is creating an asset management company, or "bad bank," that will buy property assets from banks starting later this year at prices below book value. Euro Faces Judgment Days (WSJ) The euro zone has seen many pivotal moments since its debt crisis emerged in Greece in early 2010. But there are reasons to think this fall's events are especially vital. With Spain and Greece on the ropes, European officials face stark choices. Nomura Plans $1 Billion In Cost Cuts (WSJ) The cost cuts were unveiled Friday by Nomura's new chief executive, Koji Nagai, when he presented the blueprint for a revamped business strategy at a meeting of 450 senior branch managers, according to Nomura executives who briefed reporters on what was said. They follow another $1 billion in wholesale cost reductions the broker just finished implementing earlier this year. Shia LaBeouf 'Sent Director Sex Tapes To Get New Film Role' (Entertainment) When Shia LaBeouf took a role in Lars von Trier's latest movie 'Nymphomaniac' eyebrows were raised due to the director's previous experimentation with putting real sex on film. Until now it seemed that LaBeouf took an occupational risk in joining the movie, but if the actor's to be believed then he actively looked out for a sexed up role, and involved girlfriend Karolyn Pho...The 'Lawless' actor told Handler: "I sent him [von Trier] videotapes of me and my girlfriend having sex and that's how I got the job." French Minister: No Contradiction in 75% Tax Rate and Attracting Business (CNBC) Responding to claims that the introduction of higher tax rate could be an obstacle to business and investment in France, Moscovici echoed the French President and Prime Minister who have said that the tax was part of a “shared effort” to lead France back to positive growth. ECB Said To Use Greek Myth For Security On New Euro Banknotes (Bloomberg) The European Central Bank is using an image from Greek mythology to improve security on new euro banknotes, four people familiar with the design said, even as Greece’s near bankruptcy fuels a debt crisis that’s threatening the future of the common currency. Europa, the Phoenician princess abducted by Zeus who gave the continent its name, will replace architectural images as the watermark on the new notes, which the ECB wants to start rolling out next year, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans aren’t public yet. Barclays Marathon Man CEO Everything Bob Diamond Was Not (Bloomberg) “In Jenkins you’ve got the archetypal English CEO who is seen as rather safe, compared with the typically aggressive U.S. investment banker that was Bob Diamond,” said Alan Beaney, who helps manage 200 million pounds ($315 million), including Barclays shares, at RC Brown Investment Management Plc in Bristol, England. “His appointment signals that the bank is not going to be as brazen as it has been in the past.” Garlic knot beating in Vero Beach sends man with 'Fat Boy' tattoo to slammer, report shows (TCP) A man on Aug. 19 told Indian River County Sheriff's deputies he was a pizza delivery person and was taking pizza to an address in the 400 block of 9th Street Southwest in Vero Beach. The pizza deliverer said when he got there, Robert Wheeler, 48, was waiting for him outside. The pizza deliverer said that when he lowered his window, Wheeler asked him who he spoke with on the phone before punching him in the face. The pizza deliverer said Wheeler punched him "because he forgot the garlic knots." Wheeler then instructed him to "give that to the person working on the phone back at the restaurant." Wheeler, who has the word "fat" tattooed on his left arm and "boy" on his right, told investigators he hit the pizza delivery person in the face. But, he said the issue was money he said the restaurant owed him -- not forgotten garlic knots.