Opening Bell: 12.19.16

Apple gears up for Europe tax war; Barclays dumps another 7,000 clients; meat pies in space; and more.
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Apple Goes to War With EU Over $14 Billion Tax Bill: 'A Misunderstanding of How Corporations Operate' (BI)

Apple was singled out because of its success, General Counsel Bruce Sewell said, directly attacking European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager's motivations. “Apple is not an outlier in any sense that matters to the law. Apple is a convenient target because it generates lots of headlines. It allows the commissioner to become Dane of the year for 2016,” he said, referring to the title accorded by a Danish newspaper to Vestager last month.

Wall Street’s Annual Stock Forecasts: Bullish, and Often Wrong (NYT)

The forecasts are still coming in for 2017, but preliminary tallies suggest that — no surprise — strategists are bullish, probably mildly so. Through last year, since 2000, the consensus has always been bullish, holding that the market would rise, on average, about 9.5 percent a year, according to calculations by Bespoke Investment Group. In reality, it rose only 3.9 percent a year, on average, in that period.

Barclays Severing Ties With Up to 7,000 Business Clients (BBG)

The British bank launched a new computer system called Flight Deck this month that ranks every customer of its trading unit by the return they generate on the firm’s capital, allowing Barclays to jettison those that have become a drag. Since 2014, the bank has culled 17,000 clients, and the new system has identified a further 7,000 that may need to go.

Goldman Warns China Outflows Rising in Both Yuan Payments, Forex (BBG)

China’s capital outflows are accelerating and the central bank is selling larger amounts of foreign exchange, Goldman Sachs warned as the yuan headed for its biggest annual decline in more than 20 years. A net $69.2 billion exited the nation in November, compared with a monthly pace of around $50 billion since June.

Digital Currency Sales Take Off, But With No Regulation Questions Abound (Reuters)

The market is still tiny, but it has been growing at breakneck pace. About $225 million has been raised so far this year in 40 initial coin offerings (ICOs), compared with just $9.8 million in 2015, data from crypto-currency research firm Smith + Crown showed.

Monte dei Paschi Set to Launch Share Sale (WSJ)

The bank needs to raise about €5 billion ($5.23 billion) in fresh capital by the end of the year to stay afloat. If it fails to do so, the Italian government will step in and bail out the bank, according to a Treasury official.

The Fed Is Staring At A Nasty Rate Dilemma In 2017 (FT)

In a world of global capital flows there will be a limit to how far US rates can diverge from global interest rates without triggering volatility in markets and a much stronger dollar that reduces exports. That will make it much more difficult to predict longer term where the Fed goes from here.

It’s Apparently Possible To Buy A Company Without Noticing (FT)

You have to wonder about the internal culture of a business where staff complete acquisitions and… just don’t tell anyone? Perhaps their email system has an over zealous spam filter? Or maybe the company is run by millennials who don’t check their voicemails. (Confirmation might have been sent by Snapchat and deleted before the CEO could remember what the message said!)

The Real Winner in Goldman’s Management Reshuffle (WSJ)

Just take a wild guess.

Soros, Fallibility, Reflexivity, and the Importance of Adapting (Enterprising Investor)

Unlike philosophy, where students can go to the teachings of Plato and Aristotle, there is no such canon for investors to access. Take a moment to think how financial markets have changed in the past century. The continuous, hyper-connected global markets of today would be nearly unrecognizable to traders back in the early 1900s.

Brits Attempt to Send Meat Pie to Space Because Who on Earth Wants to Eat Meat Pie (Gizmodo)

British cuisine is generally considered to be some of worst in the world. In fact, staff poll at the travel guide Lonely Planet crowned it as the most terrible swill on Earth. So why not send that shit toward space for science?

Related

Opening Bell: 03.22.12

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

Opening Bell: 04.24.13

Credit Suisse Profit Rises (WSJ) Zurich-based Credit Suisse said its bottom line was flattered by a favorable comparison with last year's result, when an accounting charge weighed on performance. Revenue at the bank rose 19% following several quarters of reported declines. The report from Switzerland's second-largest bank comes amid a cost-cutting program started in 2011 that has it eliminating thousands of jobs. The program has resulted in 2.5 billion Swiss francs ($2.6 billion) in savings, and is on track to cut costs by 4.4 billion francs by the end of 2015, the bank said. Credit Suisse said its number of full-time employees fell to 46,900 in the first quarter, from 48,700 in the same period last year. Barclays Profit Buoyed By Investment Banking Unit (WSJ) Investment banking, headed by departing executive Rich Ricci, accounted for 74% of Barclays' pretax profit, or £1.32 billion of the £1.79 billion total. The high proportion of profits in part reflected weakness in other areas, such as retail banking in Europe and Africa, but was underpinned by a strong quarter for underwriting stock offerings and servicing hedge fund clients...The bank as a whole posted a £839 million net profit, compared with a £598 million net loss in the first quarter of 2012. Both figures are distorted by accounting charges that reflect the market cost of Barclays' own debt. The £1.79 billion pretax profit was down 25% from £2.4 billion in first-quarter 2012 and slightly lower than analysts had expected. Citigroup Says Debt Beats Peers in Advance of ‘Bail-In’ Rule (Bloomberg) Citigroup, the bank that took the most U.S. aid during the credit crisis, said it’s better- prepared than some rivals to withstand the impact of new anti- bailout rules that could force lenders to sell more debt. Citigroup’s so-called bail-in plan -- a rescue that makes debt investors and stockholders absorb losses instead of taxpayers -- shows the bank already has issued more long-term debt than some of its largest rivals, Treasurer Eric Aboaf said during an April 22 investor presentation. That leaves the New York-based bank in a better position as regulators decide how much more debt lenders should add to their buffers, Aboaf said. Wall Street Jobs Plunge As Profit Soars (Bloomberg) “The desire is to drive the cost of executing a trade to its lowest point -- this means automating the system and getting rid of the traders,” Richard Bove, a bank analyst with Rafferty Capital Markets LLC, said in a telephone interview. “All they do today is hit buttons on computer screens. Twenty-five years ago they would be calling their buddies at different firms. It was a highly labor intensive effort.” New York’s “inhospitable” climate for commercial banks, along with falling demand for financial services and increasing automation is driving the decline in jobs, Bove said. Woman could face death penalty for killing man by crushing testicles (NYDN) A 42-year-old woman is on trial for allegedly grabbing a man's genitals after he told her not to park her electric bike in front of his store. He later died from shock, according to reports. "I'll squeeze it to death, you'll never have children again," witnesses reported her as saying as she called on her brother and husband for back-up. The woman, who could face the death penalty if convicted, got into the row - in the Meilan District of Haikou City, Hainan - more than a year ago on April 19, 2012. IBTimes reports that her 41-year-old victim went into a state of shock and died before paramedics could treat him. The final outcome of the trial, it adds, depends largely on the interpretation of the woman's statement of "squeeze it to death." Dr Irwin Goldstein, urologist and director of San Diego Sexual Medicine, has previously told Gizmodo it is "quite plausible" the squeeze had killed the man. "Yes, the testicles are exquisitely sensitive to touch and there is a huge release of adrenalin when there is excessive force applied to these organs," he told the site. He added that it could have brought on a heart attack. Hazy Future for S.E.C.’s Blossoming Whistle-Blower Effort (NYT) Already, a whistle-blower program has bolstered an investigation into a trading blowup that nearly toppled Knight Capital, the largest stock trading firm on Wall Street, according to lawyers briefed on the case. With help from another whistle-blower, the lawyers said, the government discovered that Oppenheimer & Company had overstated the performance of a private equity fund. And after pursuing a Texas Ponzi scheme for more than a year, a cold trail heated up in 2010 when a tipster emerged. The breakthroughs—previously undisclosed—show the promise of the agency's 20-month-old whistle-blower program. Yet, the program faces challenges on many fronts. Some Wall Street firms are urging employees to report wrongdoing internally before running to the government, and one hedge fund, Paradigm Capital Management, was accused in a lawsuit of punishing an employee who had cooperated with the S.E.C., according to court and internal documents. Another financial firm, the documents show, pressured an employee to forfeit potential "bounties or awards"—a possible violation of S.E.C. rules. Apple’s $145 Billion in Cash Fails to Win AAA Debt Rating (Bloomberg) Apple, which has $145 billion of cash, said yesterday it plans to use debt to help finance a $100 billion capital reward for shareholders after a 42 percent stock plunge. Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s responded by ranking the company a level below their top grades, with Gerald Granovsky of Moody’s citing “shifting consumer preferences” in a statement as a risk to Cupertino, California-based Apple’s business. ECB Rate Cut Could Bring Big Disappointment (CNBC) Expectations are rising that the European Central Bank will announce a rate cut when it meets next week. But according to analysts the move is likely to have a limited impact and could in fact end up being a disappointment.

Opening Bell: 01.15.13

Westminster Hits At Goldman Sachs Bonus Plan (FT) Goldman Sachs provoked a furious reaction in Westminster after it emerged that the U.S. investment bank was mulling a plan to delay its U.K. bonus payments to take advantage of the imminent cut to the top rate of tax. John Mann, a Labour member of the Treasury select committee, criticized an "opportunistic money grab" by banks at a time of intensifying public anger against the sector. Some 10 banks had previously considered delaying bonuses until the top rate falls from 50 to 45 pence - although most have since concluded that this would be damaging. Chris Leslie, shadow Treasury minister, said banks needed to think carefully about their reputations. Fitch Warns Of US Downgrade Over Debt Fight (CNBC) In a statement Fitch said the debt ceiling was "an ineffective and potentially dangerous mechanism for enforcing fiscal discipline. It does not prevent tax and spending decisions that will incur debt issuance in excess of the ceiling while the sanction of not raising the ceilingrisks a sovereign default and renders such a threat incredible." Fitch Upbeat On Ireland (Reuters) If [Ireland's] debts could be shared out among euro zone states through the region's bailout mechanisms there could be scope for Ireland's BBB-plus rating to rise into the single-A category, according to Fitch analyst Douglas Renwick. "If there is an element of risk sharing, say perhaps through the ESM (European Stability Mechanism) over a bit of time, it could rise back to the single-A (range)," Renwick said. JPMorgan Ordered To Fix Lapses (WSJ) US regulators hit JPMorgan with four formal enforcement actions targeting lapses in risk-management and money-laundering controls, including the first sanctions in response to the bank's multibillion-dollar 2012 trading debacle. One set of cease-and-desist orders from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve instructs the largest U.S. bank by assets to remedy the breakdowns that allowed a small group of London-based traders to rack up more than $6 billion in losses last year. Another requires the bank to beef up its antimoney-laundering procedures and mirrors an action taken last April when regulators ordered Citigroup to upgrade its transaction-monitoring procedures and enhance internal audit. None of the orders issued Monday require any fines or monetary penalties, but regulators left the door open to future action. Wells Fargo Bets On Charlotte Trading After BofA Flees (Bloomberg) \Wells Fargo is betting its securities business can thrive 600 miles from New York in the same city Bank of America's traders largely abandoned. The first of 900 Wells Fargo employees moved last month into a new space on two floors of a 48-story tower in Charlotte, North Carolina. From their windows they can see the complex a half-mile away where Bank of America built its own state-of-the- art facility less than a decade ago for about 550 traders and investment bankers. Most have since been fired or moved to New York. Police: Teacher offers sexual favors to officer to avoid DUI arrest (WPBF) According to the arrest report, an empty gallon jug of Carlo Rossi wine was found behind the driver's seat of Maloney's damaged van, which was parked on the side of the street when officers arrived. Police said Maloney refused to cooperate with officers during their DUI investigation. Police said she began yelling at them and made random vulgar statements. While she was on her way to the police station, Maloney allegedly told an officer, "How much do I need to pay you to just let me go? Don't you understand I am a school teacher?" She then offered to perform oral sex on the officer and let him fondle her breasts, the report stated. RBS Libor Fine May Hit $800M+ (Bloomberg) US and UK regulators could hit the Royal Bank of Scotland with as much as $804 million in fines next week to settle allegations traders tried to rig interest rates, two people with knowledge of the matter said. Investment banking chief John Hourican and Peter Nielsen, the head of markets, may also be asked to leave because they had responsibility for the parts of the company where the alleged wrongdoing occurred. The fine would be the second-largest levied by regulators in their investigation into allegations traders at the world’s biggest lenders manipulated submissions used to set the London interbank offered rate. UBS AG, Switzerland’s biggest lender, was fined $1.5 billion in December for rate-rigging, exceeding the 290 million pounds Barclays paid in June. Bob Khuzami, Master Blaster (NYP) Robert Khuzami yesterday took aim at a Columbia University professor who chided the SEC’s head of enforcement for not suing enough high-ranking individuals at large financial institutions, choosing instead to settle with those companies...Khuzami said in a blistering 1,500-word article in the National Law Journal that the SEC has charged a total of 102 individuals associated with the credit crisis, including high-level executives at Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Bear Stearns, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac...It’s the second time in as many weeks that Khuzami has called out his critics by name. Just before New Year’s Eve, the Brooklyn native blasted Simon Johnson, a professor at MIT Sloan School of Management, for a New York Times blog that said Khuzami’s hire was a “mistake” because of his former ties to Deutsche Bank. Khuzami shot back in the comment section of the blog — an unusual move for a public official. Wall Street Pay Gets Tougher Look (WSJ) Daniel Loeb, who runs hedge-fund firm Third Point LLC, has raised questions about whether compensation levels at Morgan Stanley are justified given the New York company's size and relative simplicity compared with larger bank. Hedge Funds' Manhattan Migration (WSJ) Of the new firms starting out in Manhattan, Greenwich or Stamford, about 86% picked the Big Apple, on average, from 2003 to 2008, according to eVestment, which tracks data on about 70% of U.S. hedge-fund firms. In 2009 and 2010, Manhattan was home to an average of 92% of the fund launches. Data for 2011 suggest the trend has continued. "There are blips in the data, but it's clear launches shifted toward New York after the crisis," says Peter Laurelli, eVestment's head of research. Detroit mafia boss says Jimmy Hoffa is buried in shallow grave north of Detroit (NYDN) Tony Zerilli, 85, says Hoffa was buried in a field outside Detroit, about 20 miles from the restaurant where he was last seen in July 1975. The aging Zerilli, who was in prison at the time of Hoffa’s disappearance, told TV news stations WNBC and WDIV that the plan was to move Hoffa’s body, but that never happened. “The master plan was, that I understood, was that they were going to put him in a shallow grave here. Then, they were going to take him from here to Rogers City upstate,” Zerilli said. “There was a hunting lodge and they were going to bury in a shallow grave then take him up there for final burial. Then, I understand, that it just fell through.” It was unclear why Zerilli chose to speak now about the 37-year-old mystery that has elicited dozens of false leads and conspiracy theories in the past. Zerilli said is to be ailing and penniless since his release from prison in 2008. WNBC reported he is promoting an upcoming book titled "Hoffa Found.” “All this speculation about where he is and he’s not,” Zerilli said. “They say he was in a meat grinder. It’s all baloney.”

Opening Bell: 11.15.12

FSA Warns Global Banks Over Bonus Levels (FT) Global banks operating in London have been warned by the top UK bank supervisor that this year’s staff bonuses must reflect the mis-selling and market manipulation scandals that have damaged the sector in the past 12 months. Andrew Bailey, head of the Financial Services Authority’s prudential business unit, wrote to bank chief executives in late October ahead of this year’s bonus round warning them that the watchdog would be looking for evidence they had “clawed back” deferred bonuses from people involved in scandals. He also urged banks to consider firm-wide bonus reductions to account for the impact of the scandals. The letter went not only to UK banks but also global institutions with substantial presences in the country. Blankfein Backs Higher Taxes (NYP) “I believe that tax increases, especially for the wealthiest, are appropriate,” Blankfein wrote in his 1,000-plus-word column entitled “The Business Plan for American Revival.” He added that raising taxes needed to be coupled with “serious” cuts to discretionary spending and entitlements. JPMorgan Energy Unit Curbed (WSJ) U.S. energy-market regulators Wednesday handed J.P. Morgan Chase's energy-trading unit a six-month suspension from some of its activities in electricity markets, the latest in a string of clashes with Wall Street. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission cited false information it has said the company submitted as part of a probe into alleged market manipulation. It was a rare move for the commission and another signal that it is trying to assert itself as a regulatory heavy hitter. The agency, which oversees transmission lines and natural-gas pipelines, also recently proposed a record penalty of nearly $470 million against Barclays for alleged market manipulation. Barclays denies the charges. FHA Nears Need For Taxpayer Funds (WSJ) The Federal Housing Administration is expected to report this week it could exhaust its reserves because of rising mortgage delinquencies, according to people familiar with the agency's finances, a development that could result in the agency needing to draw on taxpayer funding for the first time in its 78-year history. Fed Moves Toward Tying Interest-Rate Decisions to Economic Data (Bloomberg) Policy makers “generally favored the use of economic variables” to provide guidance on the when they are likely to approve their first interest-rate increase since 2008, according to minutes of their Oct. 23-24 meeting released yesterday. Such measures might replace or supplement a calendar date, currently set at mid-2015. Israel Wages Twitter War With Hamas Over #Gaza Attacks (BusinessWeek) The Israeli Defense Forces took to its Twitter account yesterday to announce “a widespread campaign on terror sites & operatives in the Gaza Strip” even as its jets began attacking. Within minutes, Hamas, the group that controls Gaza, announced through its English-language account the assassination of its “top leader Ahmed Jabari” by “Israeli drones.” As Israeli jets bombarded suspected missile facilities and other buildings in Gaza, the service run by San Francisco-based Twitter lit up with 140-character chronicles of the assault and the reaction. Most of the messages known as tweets were identified with #Gaza, a “hashtag” with a pound sign before a key word that lets those on Twitter search for information. The two sides even fought for sympathy through the names they gave the operation. While Israeli tweeters called it #PillarOfDefense, Palestinians used #GazaUnderAttack. As airstrikes intensified, an IDF spokesman tweeted that “we recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces aboveground in the days ahead.” Hamas’s @AlqassamBrigades account quickly retorted, “@idfspokesperson Our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are (You Opened Hell Gates on Yourselves.” Hedge Funds Back Off Apple (NYP) Lee Ainslie’s Maverick Capital, Chase Coleman’s Tiger Global, Eric Mindich’s Eton Park Capital, David Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital and Steve Cohen’s SAC Capital Advisors each pared their Apple positions during the quarter, according to reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission filed yesterday...Despite selling off Apple shares, the tech titan remains one of the biggest holdings for Maverick, Tiger Global and Greenlight. In fact, its slide pushed their monthly returns negative. Jobless Claims Rise Following Storm (WSJ) People seeking unemployment benefits increased by 78,000 to a seasonally adjusted 439,000 in the week ended Nov. 10, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected 375,000 new applications for jobless benefits. Bank of America Slashes $4.75 Billion Off Mortgages (CNBC) The bank, which took on the burden of Countrywide Financial’s mortgage ills when it bought the company, has completed or approved a total of $15.8 billion in consumer relief for about 164,000 homeowners as of Sept. 30 and is on track, according to officials, to meet its total financial obligations within the first year of the three-year agreement. South Africa holds diamond smuggler who swallowed 220 gems (BBC) South African police have arrested a man who they say swallowed 220 polished diamonds in an attempt to smuggle them out of the country. The man was arrested as he waited to board a plane at Johannesburg airport. Officials said a scan of his body revealed the diamonds he had ingested, worth $2.3m (£1.4m; 1.8m euros), inside.

Opening Bell: 07.31.12

RBS Braces Itself For Libor Deal (WSJ) RBS stands apart from the other banks caught up in a trans-Atlantic probe of the rate misdeeds because of the U.K. government's 83% stake in the lender. That has put U.K. authorities in an awkward position: They are under intense pressure to get tough on wayward banks but also are eager to protect the value of a taxpayer asset. Defendant in Insider Case: I Was Just Doing My Job (WSJ) Doug Whitman, a former hedge-fund manager, doesn't deny that he probed public companies for nonpublic information. But his criminal-defense team plans to argue that its client was doing exactly what he was supposed to do when he persuaded employees of public companies to give him information that those companies' top brass didn't want getting out. Mr. Whitman "was doing what every diligent, competent fund manager and analyst should do—checking up on companies' management to make sure they are being forthright with their investors," said David Anderson, Mr. Whitman's lead defense attorney, in an email. Tiger Management Helps Next Generation Funds (NYT) In a relatively young industry where stars can quickly fade, Tiger Management — and its myriad affiliates like Falcon Edge — is the closest thing to a hedge fund dynasty. After a brief career in finance, Mr. Robertson started Tiger in 1980 with seed money from friends and family. He regularly racked up double-digit returns by taking big positions in companies with good long-term growth prospects and aggressively betting against those stocks poised to fall. Mr. Robertson trained his young protégés — the so-called Tiger cubs — in the same tradition, creating the next generation of hedge funds stars. After leaving Tiger in 1993, Lee Ainslie started Maverick Capital, which currently manages roughly $10 billion. Stephen F. Mandel Jr. began Lone Pine Capital in 1997. Two years later, Andreas Halvorsen opened Viking Global. “We really gravitated to young people, and that was a great deal of our success,” said Mr. Robertson, 80, who often hired people in their 20s. “I was just an old goat with all these young geniuses around.” As the first wave of Tiger cubs age, they are breeding new funds, too. Blue Ridge Capital, where Mr. Gerson honed his skills, has been a particularly good incubator for talent. While Blue Ridge has subscribed to the long-term strategy of Tiger, the founder, Mr. Griffin, has infused the firm with his own philosophy. As a proponent of behavioral finance, he trained analysts like Mr. Gerson to identify how ego and emotion can affect the market and stock performance. Biggest Chapter Yet For A Poison Pen (WSJ) Daniel Loeb isn't one given to half-measures. The hedge-fund manager competes in triathlons, never, ever drinks from a plastic water bottle and is unsparing at times in his criticism of corporate executives. That is exactly how his investors like him. "I didn't give him the money to have a mellow Dan Loeb," said Hugh F. Culverhouse, a Miami investor whose family once owned the Tampa Bay Buccaneers football team. "If I want a mellow Dan Loeb, let me redeem."...The Yahoo campaign signals a new phase in Mr. Loeb's career. Until now, he was perhaps best-known for his poison-pen letters, in which he has scolded executives for everything from keeping relatives on the payroll to socializing at the U.S. Open tennis tournament. Armed with a much bigger war chest—Third Point managed just $1.7 billion as of April 2009—Mr. Loeb can now aim for bigger targets. Mr. Loeb and his investors have a lot riding on a Yahoo revival. "If he makes money on his position, it will be good," said David Tepper, a fellow hedge-fund manager who has known Mr. Loeb for years. "If he doesn't make money, what is the point?" British man rescued off French Atlantic coast after being overcome with Olympic mania and trying to swim to America (DM) The unnamed 34 year old holidaymaker told his friends on the beach at Biarritz that he was off to New York to carry the Olympic spirit across the Atlantic. They thought he was joking but knowing that he was a strong swimmer decided to let him go telling him that a boat would come to rescue him if he got into difficulty. The man swam well beyond buoys 300 yards out to sea marking legal limits for bathing. Then, watched by lifeguards on the shore, he continued swimming until he was out of sight on his 3,594-mile journey. The lifeguards called out a helicopter and a diver dropped into the sea and explained to the man that it was not a good idea to swim across the Atlantic and advised him to head back towards France. He replied that he was a strong swimmer and felt up to it. At the same time lifeguards arrived in a rescue dinghy and threw the eccentric a line before towing him back to the beach. Laurent Saintespes, senior officer at Biarritz airbase told Agence France Presse, ‘He was a bit naive. But at a time when the Olympics are taking place in London you have to see the funny side of things’. Billionaire Jeff Greene On Democracy (NYM) Lately—like at a recent lunch with Steve Schwarzman, who has likened Obama to Hitler—Greene’s been trying another tactic. “Now I appeal to them selfishly,” he says. “ ‘Don’t you realize that if you don’t take care of this kid when they are 10 years old, you’ll take care of them when they are 20 and 100 instead? We just have to pay a little more taxes. It’s not going to kill us. You buy car insurance. Why not buy some democracy insurance?’ People think that Obama is this leftist, socialist guy,” he says. “But I don’t think they understand what people can go for when they are at the end of their line.” South Korean Youth Eschew Samsung Jobs For Facebook Dreams (Bloomberg) Not so long ago, South Korean students dreamed of lifetime jobs at Samsung Electronics Co. Now, many are shunning the juggernaut, intent on trying to emulate the likes of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. Sim Cheol Hwan, 27, is typical of the trend. He wants to take a break from college in Seoul to set up a company rather than line up for job interviews at Asia’s biggest electronics company paying an average of 77.6 million won ($68,300) a year. So he’s set himself up in his own business making apps for Samsung and Apple phones. “I don’t want to get a job at a top 10 Korean company,” said the Hanyang University engineering student, who spent two years in the military. “Zuckerberg’s success proves that there is a lot of money to be made” in startups. Regulators Target Day-Trading Firm (WSJ) In the Romanian city of Cluj-Napoca, inside a garret up a narrow wooden staircase, four young men in T-shirts spend the day moving rapidly in and out of stocks, trying to ride their shifting momentum for profits. "It's very stressful," says one, dressed in a green T-shirt, blue shorts and Adidas sneakers. "The market is very hard to figure out." The four traders are part of a world-wide network initially set up by a Toronto-owned firm called Swift Trade Inc. Swift's founder, Peter Beck, turned it into one of the largest day-trading operations in the world over the past decade by aggressively expanding into far-flung locations, from China to Nicaragua to Romania, where he could recruit traders on the cheap. Mr. Beck also took an aggressive stance toward the law, say regulators in several countries where his firm has traded. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is expected on Tuesday to announce a settlement with Mr. Beck and an in-house brokerage unit for not establishing a supervisory system to prevent "a pattern of manipulative trading activity," according to a copy of the settlement reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The Best CFOs: A Wall Street Journal Ranking (WSJ) #16: Ann Marie Petach, BlackRock. Chewbacca costume head from ‘Star Wars’ sold for $172K (NYDN) A Chewbacca headpiece used in the original "Star Wars" trilogy sold for a whopping $172,200 at a movie memorabilia auction this weekend. The loyal and lovable walking carpet swept the competition, which included an "Edward Scissorhands" costume worn by Johnny Depp that sold for $86,100 and an Everlasting Gobstopper used in the 1971 movie "Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory" that sold for $49,200. The Chewie mask was described by auctioneer Profiles in History as the "finest full costume headpiece of Chewbacca from the original trilogy in private hands," and "the finest screen-correct Chewbacca costume head from the Star Wars trilogy known to exist." The eyes are actual casts of Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew's closed eyes, the auctioneer said. The expected price for the well-liked Wookie was between $60,000 and $80,000, plus fees and taxes, according to the auction catalog...Four years ago, someone spent a reported $240,000 to get the lightsaber prop used by actor Mark Hamill in the first two movies.

Opening Bell: 07.10.12

Diamond To Forgo Deferred Bonuses (WSJ) Former Barclays Chief Executive Robert Diamond has given up bonuses of up to £20 million ($31 million) in an apparent effort to shield the lender as the bank looks to defuse anger following the rate-fixing scandal...According to Mr. Diamond's contract, he will receive up to 12 months' salary, pension allowance and other benefits. Barclays Chairman Marcus Agius said that this amounts to around £2 million. Paulson Funds Fell In June As Rally Undercut Euro Wager (Bloomberg) The $22 billion firm had losses in all its funds last month as stock markets rose. The losses were led by a 7.9 percent drop in his Advantage Plus Fund, according to an update to investors obtained by Bloomberg News. That leaves the fund, which seeks to profit from corporate events such as takeovers and bankruptcies and uses leverage to amplify returns, down 16 percent this year. Einhorn says Fed stimulus counterproductive (Reuters) "I think it's actually counterproductive," Einhorn said of the stimulus program, adding that it lowers the standard of living and drives up food and oil prices. He said he would suggest a rise in interest rates on U.S. Treasury bonds to "a reasonable level" of 2 to 3 percent. Einhorn said Apple, which he praised at this year's Ira Sohn investing conference, was "the best big-growth company we have." "We're two, three years into the Apple investment, and the way it seems headed it's likely we'll be there for a good while longer," he said. "I think the stock is very very substantially undervalued." He said Amazon.com Inc was "tough on its competitors" because it does not "feel the need to make a profit." "It's very hard to compete against somebody who doesn't feel the need to make a profit," he said, adding that he is not "short" Amazon. Investment Bankers Face Termination As Europe Fees Fall (Bloomberg) Credit Suisse and UBS face the most pressure to boost efficiency as that country runs ahead of others in introducing tougher capital and liquidity rules to curtail risk-taking, making some businesses unviable...While the situation may be most acute at the Swiss banks, similar dynamics are at work at other firms as the debt crisis drags on, capital requirements ratchet higher and economic growth grinds to a halt. “Bankers are really gloomy and a lot of people are worried about their jobs,” said Edward Cumming-Bruce, a partner at London-based advisory firm Gleacher Shacklock LLP who has more than 20 years’ experience. “Banks are under remorseless pressure to cut costs and balance sheets as we witness a significant change in the way the financial industry works.” Sitting for More Than Three Hours a Day Cuts Life Expectancy (WSJ) Sitting down for more than three hours a day can shave a person's life expectancy by two years, even if he or she is physically active and refrains from dangerous habits like smoking, according to a study to be published on Tuesday in the online journal BMJ Open. Watching TV for more than two hours a day can exacerbate that problem, decreasing life expectancy by another 1.4 years, said the report, which analyzed five underlying studies of nearly 167,000 people over a range of four to 14 years. Futures Broker Freezes Accounts (WSJ) Peregrine, based in Cedar Falls, Iowa, couldn't be reached for comment on the NFA action, but in an earlier statement to clients said "some accounting irregularities are being investigated regarding company accounts." "What this means is no customers are able to trade except to liquidate positions. Until further notice, PFGBEST is not authorized to release any funds," said PFGBest in its statement. Also in the statement, the firm said Russell R. Wasendorf Sr., its founder, chairman and chief executive, had experienced a "recent emergency" and described it as a "suicide attempt." A spokeswoman for PFGBest said Mr. Wasendorf was in critical condition in a hospital. Four Companies Break Through IPO Drought (WSJ) What do two fast-growing technology companies, an iconic guitar maker and a skin-infection specialist have in common? All four aim to break the latest dry spell in the IPO market. Fender Musical Instruments Corp., which has supplied guitars to rock artists from Buddy Holly to Kurt Cobain and John Mayer, network-security firm Palo Alto Networks Inc., travel website Kayak Software Corp. and pharmaceutical firm Durata Therapeutics Inc. said Monday that they plan to push ahead with initial public offerings in coming weeks. JPMorgan Silence On Risk Model Spurs Calls For Disclosure (Bloomberg) The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is probing JPMorgan’s belated May 10 disclosure that a change to its mathematical model for gauging trading risk helped fuel the loss in its chief investment office. While the SEC would have to prove that the biggest U.S. bank improperly kept important information from investors, regulators probably will press Wall Street firms to tell more about the risks they’re taking, three former SEC lawyers said. Would You Stress Over A Millionaire Wife? (CNBC) The study, conducted by SEI and Phoenix Marketing, found that a third of the women who are the financial leads in millionaire households say their partner feels “stressed” by their financial roles. By contrast, only 14 percent of males in male-led millionaire households said they feel tension from their partner. Actor who kicked in doors to Ed Sullivan theater escapes jail time (NYDN) The struggling actor who kicked in the glass doors to the Ed Sullivan Theatre and urinated on the lobby floor last year got lucky with a no-jail sentence Monday. But he had to pay $7,377.28 in restitution. James Whittemore, 23, who now deejays in Massachusetts under the name DJ Nutron, never formally apologized to David Letterman face to face, but he said he'd like to..."Someone stole my iPhone, I quit my job, my girlfriend broke up with me, I was having a rough day," he said.

Opening Bell: 11.06.12

Europe, Central Bank Spar Over Athens Aid (WSJ) Greece faces a key Treasury-bill repayment in less than two weeks, and the money isn't there unless governments provide additional aid or the ECB agrees to lend Greek banks the money to roll over the debt. It is a particularly sensitive issue for the ECB, which is trying to create a credible financial backstop to hold the euro together while governments overhaul their economies and finances. But with each step the ECB takes to help Greece and others, it inches ever closer to rules that prevent it from printing money to help governments out of their debt problems. The bank is already facing accusations in Germany that it is straying from its primary mandate to keep inflation low. Iceland Sees Mortgage Bubble Threat From Foreign Cash (Bloomberg) Iceland’s lawmakers are searching for ways to keep their economy from lurching into another asset bubble as offshore investors forced to keep their money in the country channel it into the housing market. Apartment prices have soared 17 percent since April 2010 and are now just 1.7 percent below the pre-crisis peak in March 2008, Statistics Iceland estimates. The boom stems from currency restrictions imposed in 2008 to prevent the collapse of the Krona after the country’s biggest banks defaulted on $85 billion of debt. While those controls helped cauterize a capital exodus and propel a recovery, it left about $8 billion in offshore kronur that can only flow into Icelandic assets, inflating demand for housing and mortgage bonds. The government is now seeking to correct the imbalances, which risk plunging the island into yet another boom-bust cycle just four years after the banking industry dragged the economy through its worst recession since World War II. FBI Probes Rochdale Securities (NYP) The Stamford, Conn., broker dealer is teetering on the brink of extinction, the result of an unauthorized $1 billion purchase of Apple shares on Oct. 25, sources said. The trade of 1.6 million Apple shares was made — instead of a client’s order of one-tenth that amount, or 160,000 shares — to perpetuate the alleged stock manipulation scam, people familiar with the matter said...The alleged stock manipulation scam was being worked with at least one other unidentified trader not affiliated with Rochdale, sources said. Multiple sources said the alleged scam had already pocketed the traders roughly $20 million, sources said. Drop In Financial Deals Spurs One (WSJ) New York investment bank KBW made it through the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but it couldn't outlast a drought in financial-services deal making. KBW, which struggled in recent years at the hands of a sharp slowdown in its core business—financial-industry merger advice—agreed be acquired by larger rival Stifel Financial for $575 million. Berkshire Cash Nears Record as Buffett Extends Deal Hunt (Bloomberg) Cash surged 17 percent to $47.8 billion in the three months ended Sept. 30, Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire said in its quarterly regulatory filing Nov. 2. That’s $115 million less than the record at the end of June 2011. “He’s elephant hunting,” said Jeff Matthews, author of “Secrets in Plain Sight: Business & Investing Secrets of Warren Buffett” and a Berkshire shareholder. “And there aren’t a lot of elephants around.” Did Wall Street Just Give Up On Romney? (NetNet) John Carney says yes: "On the eve of the election, many financial professionals on Wall Street believe that Mitt Romney has lost the election. In phone conversations, email and instant messaging exchanges, and text messages with over 20 people in different jobs on Wall Street today the message I picked up was almost universal: The president will be re-elected." Christie: Hug From Springsteen Made Me Weep (WaPo) New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told reporters Monday that he had an unexpected — and moving — conversation earlier with his hero, Bruce Springsteen. He also got a hug from the rock legend on Friday, at a benefit concert for victims of Superstorm Sandy. He later cried, calling the moment a highlight in a tough week. “Bruce and I had an opportunity to chat for a while Friday night… we hugged and he told me, ‘it’s official, we’re friends,” Christie said at a news briefing. President Obama was on the phone with the Republican governor Monday, discussing storm damage, when he briefly handed the line over to Springsteen. The rock legend is traveling on Air Force One as he campaigns for the president. Before the storm Springsteen refused to acknowledge Christie, whose budget cuts he has criticized. But in the wake of the disaster, which hit the Jersey Shore particularly hard, he has started to embrace his ardent fan. HSBC Dirty Laundry Costs (Bloomberg) HSBC Holdings said it’s likely to face criminal charges from US anti-money-laundering probes, and the cost of a settlement may “significantly” exceed the $1.5 billion the bank has set aside. The lender has made an additional $800 million provision to cover a potential settlement, adding to the $700 million it had earmarked. A Senate committee said in July that failures in HSBC money-laundering controls allowed terrorists and drug cartels access to the US financial system. Bharara insider streak on line (NYP) With a 6-0 record in trial convictions against defendants caught in his insider-trading probe, Wall Street’s top cop Wednesday will kick off his final trial emanating from that investigation. Already the insider-trading probe has resulted in 68 convictions — including guilty pleas, the biggest Wall Street crackdown since the 1980s. Squaring off against Bharara in Manhattan federal court are two well-heeled hedge-fund defendants: Anthony Chiasson, founder of the $4 billion hedge fund Level Global, and Todd Newman, a former money manager with Diamondback Global. The beginning of jury selection was delayed more than a week because of Hurricane Sandy. Chiasson and Newman stand accused of reaping more than $60 million in profits from trading confidential tips about computer maker Dell and graphics firm Nvidia. 13 People Trying To Trade Gas For Sex On Craiglist (BuzzFeed) It was probably inevitable that the gas shortages in New York and New Jersey would lead to ads like "I've got gas from Hess and looking for any sexy woman who may not want to wait in those long lines for hours and hours only to find the station empty when it's their turn. So let me know, I'm sure we could work something out to get your tank filled and empty mine. Call or text."

Opening Bell: 06.13.13

Nikkei Enters Bear Market (WSJ) Markets across Asia suffered another bruising day as investors scrambled for the exits, with Japanese stocks falling over 6% and into a bear market, and heavy losses in China and across Southeast Asia. Declines continued in U.S. stock futures and in Europe. ... The most dramatic move was in Japan, with the Nikkei Stock Average falling 6.4% to 12445.38 and putting it 21.9% down from the intraday peak reached on May 23, the day Japan's 6-month rally turned south and begun three weeks of wild trading. The big money bails on Argentina - again (Reuters) The mass exodus, which has been limited only by leftist President Cristina Fernandez's capital controls, is threatening to undermine Latin America's No. 3 economy even further by leaving it short of hard currency and new jobs. The underlying problems range from Fernandez's hostile treatment of the private sector, to severe financial distortions such as a parallel exchange rate, to the general feeling that Argentina is due for one of the periodic spasms that have racked the country every 10 years or so going back to the 1930s. EU Urges U.K. to Probe Currency Rigging in Libor’s Wake (Bloomberg) “They need to get to the bottom of it,” Sharon Bowles, 60, chairwoman of the European Parliament’s economic and monetary affairs committee and a member of the U.K. Liberal Democrat party, said in an interview. “It’s quite upsetting we have got another bad-news story. It’s time we managed to restore the reputation of our banks.” Singapore Regulator Said to Plan Bank Reprimand on Rates (Bloomberg) Singapore’s central bank plans to reprimand banks in the city-state as early as Friday following an 11-month review into how benchmark interest rates are set, five people with knowledge of the matter said. ... The monetary authority isn’t planning to impose criminal sanctions on the banks or any employees, said two of the people. MAS will probably require some of the banks to set aside funds as a deposit with the central bank for a period of time and strengthen their internal controls, two people said. U.K. Committee Says Google Avoids Tax (WSJ) Google Inc. has aggressively avoided paying corporation tax in Britain and its reputation won't be restored until it begins to pay what is due, a U.K. parliamentary committee said Thursday, in the latest sign that governments around the world are stepping up scrutiny of the tax affairs of multinational firms. In a strongly worded 64-page report, the public affairs committee also criticized the U.K. tax authority, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, for failing to challenge Google about its "highly contrived" tax arrangement and called on it to fully investigate the Internet giant. ... "It's clear from this report that the public accounts committee wants to see international companies paying more tax where their customers are located, but that's not how the rules operate today. We welcome the call to make the current system simpler and more transparent," the spokesman said. Soccer star Lionel Messi used the same trick as Apple to cut his tax bill (Qz) Lionel Messi, the Argentine soccer sensation who plays for FC Barcelona, has IP worth at least $21 million a year. That’s the value of his endorsement deals, led by his relationship with Adidas. And according to the Spanish government, he has dodged nearly €4.2 million ($5.5 million) in taxes by using that IP in a very Apple-like way. Spain accuses Messi and his father, who manages the player’s finances, of selling the rights to his brand image to shell companies in tax havens like Uruguay and Belize, and then licensing those rights to the companies and products he endorses. Such a move would shift Messi’s income from Spain, where he lives and pays taxes, to those lower-tax states. Girl group bases style on Nikkei ups and downs (Japan Times) “We base our costumes on the price of the Nikkei average of the day. For example, when the index falls below 10,000 points, we go on stage with really long skirts,” Mori explained. The higher stocks rise, the shorter their dresses get. With the Nikkei index ending above 13,000 [in late April], the four went without skirts altogether on the day of their interview with The Japan Times, instead wearing only lacy shorts. ... Machikado Keiki Japan (roughly translated as Economic Conditions on the Streets of Japan) released their debut single, “Abeno Mix,” on April 7. It pays homage to Abe’s ultraloose economic policies that have been dubbed “Abenomics” by the media. Debt Makes Comeback in Buyouts (WSJ) Shareholders in BMC Software Inc. will receive $6.9 billion to sell the corporate-software developer to a group of private-equity firms. But the buyers, led by Bain Capital LLC and Golden Gate Capital, only intend to pay $1.25 billion in cash out of their own pockets. The rest will come from debt raised by BMC to finance its takeover. The little-noticed acquisition is another milestone in the return of cheap debt and higher-risk deals to Wall Street: The cash put down by BMC's private-equity buyers is the lowest as a percentage of the purchase price of any buyout with loans exceeding $500 million since 2008, according to data-provider Thomson Reuters LPC. Apollo Tyres skids 24% on Cooper deal fears (FT) Shares in Apollo Tyres, India’s largest tyre company by sales, plunged by a quarter on Thursday amid investor concerns about higher debt related to the group’s planned $2.5bn acquisition of US-based Cooper Tire and Rubber. The all-cash deal, which would be the largest-ever Indian acquisition of a US company, is also set to increase Apollo’s consolidated net debt to equity ratio from 0.8 to around 3.8, according to Angel Broking, a Mumbai-based brokerage. “The deal will leave the company with a huge debt and that is the biggest concern,” said Yaresh Kothari, an automotive analyst at the broker. Shares in Apollo were down 24 per cent at Rs67 by 2pm in Mumbai on Thursday. The deal was announced after markets closed in Mumbai on Wednesday. Clearwire Endorses Dish’s Sweetened Bid (DealBook) Clearwire on Wednesday switched its allegiance to Dish Network, recommending that shareholders accept its bid of $4.40 a share over a rival offer from Sprint Nextel. Clearwire also postponed a shareholder vote from Thursday to June 24. Meanwhile, Dish extended its tender offer, which had been set to expire on Friday, to July 2. The change in recommendation is a setback for Sprint, which is seeking to buy the roughly 49 percent of Clearwire that it does not already own for about $3.40 a share. Its approach for Clearwire is meant to gain full control of an important affiliate whose wireless spectrum holdings are the cornerstone of a campaign to improve its network and make the company more competitive. Coty Raises About $1 Billion in Its Public Debut (DealBook) The company, whose products include Sally Hansen nail polish and perfumes endorsed by Beyoncé and Katy Perry, priced its initial public offering at $17.50 a share on Wednesday, in the middle of its expected range of $16.50 to $18.50. The stock sale values the company at about $6.7 billion. The offering, which raised just less than $1 billion in proceeds, is one of the three biggest initial offerings in the United States this year, according to data from Renaissance Capital. Washington pushed EU to dilute data protection (FT) The Obama administration successfully lobbied the European Commission to strip its data-privacy legislation of a measure that would have limited the ability of US intelligence agencies to spy on EU citizens, according to three senior EU officials. The measure – which was known within the EU as the “anti-Fisa clause”, after the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that authorises the US government to eavesdrop on international phone calls and emails – would have nullified any US request for technology and telecoms companies to hand over data on EU citizens, according to documents obtained by the Financial Times. However, the safeguard was abandoned by commission officials in January 2012, despite the assertions of Viviane Reding, the EU’s top justice official, that the exemption would have stopped the kind of surveillance recently disclosed as part of the National Security Agency’s Prism programme. Miracle-Gro’s Potty-Mouthed CEO Should Have Known Better (Bloomberg) Responding to the use of rough language during World War II, Norman Vincent Peale, a minister (and author of “The Power of Positive Thinking”), lamented to the New York Times, “The public men of other years may have cussed plenty in private, but they had the good taste to keep it out of public address.” Public expletives have become more common, and executives have moved to leverage, or perhaps weaponize, foul language to their benefit. A San Francisco appeals court has ruled that a werewolf erotica novel must be returned to Andres Martinez, an inmate of Pelican Bay State Prison, after prison guards took it away from him on the grounds that it was pornography. Although the court grants that novel in question, The Silver Crown, by Mathilde Madden, is "less than Shakespearean," it argues that the book nevertheless has literary merit and shouldn't be banned under prison obscenity laws. The court also notes that "the sex appears to be between consenting adults. No minors are involved. No bestiality is portrayed (unless werewolves count)."