Opening Bell: 9.12.17

The SoFi crisis went from zero to CEO resignation pretty quick; Deutsche Bank ex-executive charged over subprime; the New York City Pizza Festival is the new Fyre Festival; and more.
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Chief Executive of Social Finance, an Online Lending Start-Up, to Step Down (NYT)
The resignation follows a lawsuit over claims of sexual harassment at the San Francisco-based start-up, which is known as SoFi. Several former employees said that Mr. Cagney, 46, had inappropriate relationships with SoFi employees, which helped foment a toxic workplace culture. In addition, Mr. Cagney may have been overaggressive in expanding SoFi’s business, skirting risk and compliance controls, said people with knowledge of the situation, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

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Ex-Executive at Deutsche Bank Accused in Subprime Loan Case (WSJ)
The civil claims against Paul Mangione, of Scarsdale, N.Y., come nearly a decade after the financial crisis, and months after Deutsche Bank settled with the U.S. Justice Department for $7.2 billion to resolve related claims about the bank’s use of mortgage-backed securities and its lending practices. In a 69-page complaint, prosecutors allege that Mr. Mangione schemed to defraud investors and “systematically and intentionally misrepresented key characteristics of the mortgage loans securitized by Deutsche Bank,” through two residential mortgage-backed securities, worth $1 billion and $400 million.

Equifax Lobbied for Easier Regulation Before Data Breach (WSJ)
Equifax spent at least $500,000 on lobbying Congress and federal regulators in the first half of 2017, according to its congressional lobbying-disclosure reports. Among the issues on which it lobbied was limiting the legal liability of credit-reporting companies. That issue is the subject of a bill that a panel of the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees the industry, discussed the same day Equifax disclosed the cyberattack that exposed personal financial data of as many as 143 million Americans.

Goldman Cuts Smart-Beta Fees to a New Level (BBG)
Building a successful ETF business has become a race to the bottom, as money managing Goliaths from BlackRock Inc. to Vanguard Group Inc. find lower cost products win business. Most of the savings have gone to investors in plain vanilla funds that are cheap to run, but Goldman is now pushing the fee war into more complex smart-beta strategies that shun indexes weighted by market capitalization in favor of other factors.

Hedge Funds Used to Love Shorting China. Now, Not So Much (BBG)
Crispin Odey has moderated his views -- somewhat. He’s shorting metal stocks on expectations that China’s economy will slow in the second half. But he says betting against the yuan is no longer worth the trouble. “They can control their currency very easily,” he said in an Aug. 8 interview, citing China’s massive current-account surplus. “It’s not really worth fighting very much.”

Booze, Drugs and Fistfights: Another Summer In The Hamptons (II)
What is it about the Hamptons – home to gorgeous estates, pristine beaches, and quaint villages – that makes people go crazy? Is it the lack of cell service just about everywhere? Every summer stories abound of drunk revelers trashing houses, crashing cars, and getting into fights, occasionally over property lines. Each year the population of the Hamptons more than triples during the summer, to what is now about a quarter of a million people, all on a slim stretche of land less than 50 miles long. That strains everything from septic tanks (the Hamptons has no sewer lines) to nerves.

Fancy Yourself a Kleptocrat? Here’s a Chance to Try it (WSJ)
The game is intended to be instructive, as well as fun. Jim Mintz, founder and chief executive of The Mintz Group, in an interview, said his firm studied dozens of cases of kleptocracy, noticing patterns in the “mechanics” of how kleptocrats handled their stolen money, regardless of where in the world the corrupt official were based. The game replicates those patterns.

What if there isn’t a “global financial cycle” after all? (FT Alphaville)
The positive conclusion from all this is that the post-crisis fetish for capital controls is overdone. Floating exchange rates, sensible domestic financial regulation, and reasonable macro management should be sufficient to avoid problems without resorting to autarky or massive foreign exchange reserves.

Private Assets Are the New Hedge Funds (BBG Gadfly)
Like hedge funds before them, there’s little chance that 7,000-plus private capital firms will on average continue to deliver the highflying returns that investors see in the rear-view mirror. The trillions of dollars now chasing private assets have driven up private equity valuations, slashed private debt yields and compressed capitalization rates for private real estate. None of those things bode well for future returns.

Furious Foodies Call Brooklyn Pizza Festival The 'Fyre Festival' Of NYC Food Events (Gothamist)
To make matters worse, the event organizers also appeared to have sold tickets to a "Hamburger Festival," that was scheduled for the same exact time and place as the Pizza Festival. That event promised "mountains of french fries, oceans of ketchup and waterfalls of beer," with admission prices ranging between $35 and $69. "This was a rotten scam, they promoted this as a pizza festival and a hamburger festival. People who arrived early said there were about 5 pies cut into micro slices of really bad pizza. There were no hamburgers!" reads a Facebook group called Pizza Festival Scam Victims started to organize attendees looking for their money back. "Those people were sitting, waiting in line to get the burgers that were not there," Burke recalled. "And when they tried to eat pizza, the people were like, 'No, no, that's for the pizza people.'"

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Opening Bell: 10.9.18

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Opening Bell: 02.08.13

Barclays CEO’s Ethics Talk Drowns Out Silence on Profit (Bloomberg) Jenkins, who took over after Robert Diamond departed in the wake of the bank’s fine for rigging Libor, is set to reveal the conclusions of his six-month review of the lender’s operations at London’s Royal Horticultural Halls on Feb. 12. While he may cut about 2,000 jobs, pledge to reform culture and reduce pay to boost returns, he’s unlikely to follow UBS AG and eliminate entire business lines, according to investors and analysts. That’s because the securities unit that Diamond built out of the remains of Barclays De Zoete Wedd over the 15 years from 1996 still contributes about half of the lender’s profit. Meredith Whitney Pans New Citi Chief Corbat (NYP) “He didn’t give us an agenda and he didn’t even give us a stamp for when he’s going to give us an agenda, so it left people a little bit uninspired,” she said during an interview with Bloomberg TV yesterday. Deutsche Bank Said to Fire 10 Traders as Banks Retrench (Bloomberg) Deutsche Bank AG fired between 10 and 12 European power and natural gas traders in London as it cuts staff trading physical commodities, two people with knowledge of the matter said. There are at least two traders still unwinding positions as Europe’s biggest lender is reducing trading in physical energy markets, said the people, who asked for anonymity because the information is private. Nick Bone, a company spokesman in London, declined to comment when reached yesterday by phone. Buffett’s Son Says He’s Prepared Whole Life for Berkshire Role (Bloomberg) Protecting Berkshire’s culture “means that I need to make sure that people feel that they’ve been treated fairly, that whatever my dad committed to them remains committed,” Howard Buffett, 58, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Betty Liu, airing today. The younger Buffett is a director of Coca-Cola Co., the world’s largest soft-drink maker, and once was the head of investor relations for Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. He said observing his father has helped him get ready to lead a board that also includes Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates and Stephen Burke, CEO of Comcast Corp.’s NBC Universal unit. “In a way, I’ve been preparing for it all my life,” Buffett told Liu. “In another way, I’ve been on the Berkshire board now 20 years. That’s a preparation.” Justin Timberlake Named Creative Director of Bud Light Platinum (Billboard) As part of the deal, Timberlake will be charged with providing “creative, musical and cultural curation” for the Bud Light Platinum brand, per a press release announcing the partnership. Additional terms were not disclosed. “Bud Light Platinum brings a refined, discerning aesthetic to beer that plays well with what I'm doing,” Timberlake said in a statement. Monte Paschi says considering legal action to protect business (Reuters) talian bank Monte dei Paschi said on Friday it is considering legal action against anyone who damages its commercial activity or spreads false information about the bank. In a statement, the bank said it had become the target of "attacks of various kinds involving, in certain circumstances, employees, creating considerable problems in the normal course of business. It said it was considering civil and penal action. Audacious Hack Exposes Bush Family Pix, E-Mail (TSG) The hacker also intercepted photos that George W. Bush e-mailed two months ago to his sister showing paintings that he was working on, including self-portraits of him showering and in a bathtub. Another image shows the former president painting at the family’s Maine retreat. Goldman Readies Fund Business For 'Volcker' (WSJ) For 20 years, Goldman wooed clients to invest in its private-equity funds with the security blanket that the bank and its partners went along for the same ride. But that is about to change. The looming "Volcker rule" is expected to sharply reduce the bank's investment in its own funds. That is forcing Goldman to make major changes in a $50 billion business that has reaped big profits for the bank and its employees and clients. Goldman likely will have to shrink the size of its own investment in its funds to just 3% from as much as 37% once the rule is finalized later this summer. The rule, part of the Dodd-Frank financial-overhaul law and named after former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, aims to restrict banks from making big bets with their own money. Goldman expects new funds it raises will be considerably smaller. The New York bank also will change the name of the business to avoid referencing its own name. GS Capital Partners and future funds may become "Broad Street," referring to both the firm's old headquarters and its first leveraged-buyout fund launched in 1986, according to people involved in the business. Ex-Tyco chief gets another chance at parole (NYP) Kozlowski was denied parole in April when state officials tossed out his application saying his release was not "compatible with the welfare of society at large." But in a ruling made public today, Justice Carol Huff this week called that decision "an unauthorized re-sentencing" of Kozlowski, adding that it lacked specifics. In making its decision, she said, the parole board must consider other factors beyond the crime including the inmate's institutional record, which the tycoon asserted is exemplary. The Politics Of Chris Christie's Weight (WSJ) The latest chatter about Mr. Christie's heaviness began on the "Late Show With David Letterman," when he pulled out a pastry and began eating as the comic asked whether his frequent jokes about the overweight Republican were offensive. The day after the good-natured stunt, Mr. Christie opened up about his struggles to lose weight. Later, a former White House physician, Connie Mariano, said she worried his weight made him a "time-bomb" at risk of dying in office. Mr. Christie quickly shot back, calling Dr. Mariano a fame-seeking "hack" who didn't know his health history and was needlessly worrying his children. On Thursday, Dr. Mariano, who attended to presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, said she stood by her assessment. "When I see someone of that size, I worry about various medical issues," she said. "It was not meant to be an attack on him personally."

Opening Bell: 12.28.12

Blackstone seen sticking with SAC despite insider trading probe (Reuters / Matthew Goldstein) Three sources said the asset management arm of Blackstone, which has $550 million invested with SAC Capital, is in no rush to redeem money from the Stamford, Connecticut-based hedge fund. Blackstone has had at least three discussions with the $14 billion hedge fund's executives about the insider trading investigation and talked to its own investors, which include state pension funds, endowments and wealthy individuals. Hitler parody leaves French bank BNP red-faced (IN24) French banking giant BNP was left red-faced this week after it emerged managers were shown a motivational video featuring a parody of a famous scene from the film "Downfall" in which Adolf Hitler is portrayed as the boss of Germany's Deutsche Bank. It’s a scene that has been parodied thousands of times before to comic effect. But it appears not many people have seen the funny side of one particular version made by executives of French bank BNP Paribas...In the video, which was shown to around 100 managers from around the world at a seminar in Amsterdam last year, Hitler is turned into a fuming boss of Germany’s Deutsche Bank reacting furiously to news that BNP has gained an edge in the foreign exchange market. But far from being motivated, many of the managers who saw the video were outraged. “We could not believe the bank had actually dared to do that – make an analogy between our competitors and the Nazi regime. It took us a few minutes to take it in,” one BNP employee told French daily Liberation, who revealed the story this week. “We were shocked. Nobody knew how to react. Some Jewish employees from the United States did not find it funny at all,” another employee told the paper. “If this video had been shown by an American bank it would have been a major scandal,” an angry BNP source added. Rather surprisingly the video is believed to have been uploaded to the bank’s internal Intranet site before the management realised it might prove embarrassing and quickly removed it. A spokeswoman for BNP told FRANCE 24 on Friday that the bank’s senior management were totally unaware the video had been made until they were contacted by Libération this week. The spokeswoman said BNP’s CEO Jean Laurent Bonnafé had called his counterpart at Deutsche Bank Jürgen Fitschen to personally apologise for the stunt. In a statement in Libération the bank added that the message in the video was “contrary to the values of BNP." Obama Summons Congress Leaders as Budget Deadline Nears (Bloomberg) Obama, who had been negotiating one-on-one with House Speaker John Boehner, will meet today with Republicans Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, both Democrats. Cliff Talks Down To The Wire (WSJ) It is still possible the two sides can reach a deal, especially with the leaders meeting Friday. Any resolution would be a scaled-back version of the package Mr. Obama and congressional leaders had anticipated passing after the November election. The White House is pressing for the Senate to extend current tax rates for income up to $250,000, extend unemployment benefits, keep the alternative minimum tax from hitting millions of additional taxpayers and delay spending cuts set to take effect in January. The 11th-hour strategy carries enormous risk because it leaves no margin for error in Congress's balky legislative machinery. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said the prospects for passage of a bill before the last day of the year are fading rapidly. "I have to be very honest," he said. "I don't know time-wise how it can happen now." Spain's PM does not rule out asking for European aid (Reuters) Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Friday he did not rule out tapping the European Central Bank's bond-buying program for troubled euro zone governments but said Spain did not expect to have to ask for aid for now. "We are not thinking of asking the European Central Bank to intervene and buy bonds in the secondary market," he said at a news conference in Madrid. "But we can't rule it out in the future." Banks pay $4.5M for muni charges (NYP) Citigroup and Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch are among five firms that will pay $4.48 million to settle regulatory claims they used funds from municipal and state bond deals to pay lobbyists. Local authorities were unfairly asked to reimburse payments that the firms made over five years to the California Public Securities Association, a lobbying group, to help influence the state, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, which oversees securities firms, said yesterday. The firms inadequately described the fees, wrapping them into bond-underwriting expenses, Finra said...The banks, also including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley, agreed to pay $3.35 million in fines and reimburse certain California bond issuers $1.13 million. Porsche Wins Dismissal of US Hedge Fund Lawsuit Over VW (Reuters) A five-justice panel of the New York State appeals court in Manhattan unanimously found that Porsche had met its "heavy burden" to establish that the state was the wrong place in which to bring the lawsuit. That panel reversed an Aug. 6 ruling by New York State Supreme Court Justice Charles Ramos that let the case by hedge funds including Glenhill Capital LP, David Einhorn's Greenlight Capital LP and Chase Coleman's Tiger Global LP proceed. The funds accused Porsche of engineering a "massive short squeeze" in October 2008 by quietly buying nearly all freely traded ordinary VW shares in a bid to take over the company, despite publicly stating it had no plans to take a 75 percent stake. IPOs Slump To Lowest Levels Since Financial Crisis (Bloomberg) IPOs have raised $112 billion worldwide this year, the least since 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Initial sales in western Europe dropped to one-third of last year’s level, while concern about China’s economy helped cut proceeds in Asia by almost half. U.S. offerings raised $41 billion, little changed from last year, as Facebook’s IPO spurred a monthlong drought in U.S. deals. Avery Johnson Jr. vents on Twitter after dad, Avery Johnson, is fired by Brooklyn Nets (NYDN, RELATED) The ex-Nets coach’s teenage son took to Twitter to vent after news broke that his dad had been given a pink slip by billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov and the Nets. “This is a f------ Outrage. My dad is a great coach, he just got coach of the month and they Fire him. #Smh. Completely new team he had,” Johnson Jr. wrote on Twitter. “The expectations were way to high for this team. We didn’t even have a losing record.... Didn’t even give my dad a full season. #OUTRAGE,” Johnson Jr. continued. Johnson was fired a day after the new-look Nets fell to .500 following a listless road loss to the Bucks. The canning comes on the heels of Deron Williams saying he’s never been comfortable playing in Johnson’s offense. Williams, who did not play in Wednesday night’s loss, is mired in a season-long shooting slump with field goal and 3-point percentages at career-worst levels. “I’m sorry (our) best players couldn’t make open shots. Yeah that’s my dad’s fault totally,” Johnson Jr. tweeted. 'Whale' Capsized Banks' Rule Effort (WSJ) Wall Street banks entered 2012 confident they could stall a wave of rules that they feared would hurt profits. But they are ending the year largely resigned that their activities will be constrained and monitored more closely by the government. One big reason for the change: J.P. Morgan Chase JPM -0.76% & Co.'s "London whale" losses. The bad trades, ultimately resulting in about $6 billion in losses, disrupted the banks' campaign against the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul, according to regulators, lawmakers and close observers of policy debates in Washington. The trades damaged the reputation of J.P. Morgan, which suffered less than other banks from the financial crisis, and its chief executive, James Dimon, during a crucial period of policy debate in Washington, putting critics of Dodd-Frank on the defensive. Before news of the whale losses emerged, banks were arguing, with some success, that too-tight regulations were crimping lending during a time of slow growth. Michael Greenberger, a finance professor at the University of Maryland and an advocate of regulations aimed at reining in bank trading, said that in early 2012 his allies' "backs were against the wall." "Then the London whale blew all of that out of the water," he said. Mortgages Fueled Hedge Funds To 13.9 Percent Gain (NYP) Hedge funds that invest in mortgage-backed securities gained 13.9 percent through November to make them the industry’s best-performing strategy, according to the Absolute Return index. Top players that did even better included Metacapital Management, Pine River, Axonic Capital, and Greg Lippman's LibreMax Capital. High-Speed Traders Race to Fend Off Regulators (WSJ) Defenders say high-frequency trading keeps markets lubricated with a constant supply of buy and sell orders that enables all participants to trade more efficiently and get better pricing. High-speed traders, supporters add, have helped foster competition among exchanges and other trading venues, lowering commission-based fees for small investors and helping bring down overall costs for mutual-fund managers. Another benefit some cite: Technology innovations spurred by high-speed traders serve to connect more investors to more trading venues, broadening their options in the markets. Critics, for their part, worry that the traders' order torrent makes markets more opaque, less stable and ultimately less fair. Will 'Fiscal Clif' Accelerate Millionaire Deaths? (NetNet) John Carney: "...it at least seems likely that some deaths that might otherwise have occurred shortly after January 1 will occur shortly before." Man gets DUI after driving on AA co-founder's lawn (AP) Vermont State Police say a man faces a drunken driving charge after driving onto the lawn of a historic home once owned by the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. Police say 55-year-old Donald Blood III of Marlborough, Mass., was ordered to appear in court in Bennington on Jan. 14. Police say Blood thought he was driving into a parking lot, but actually it was the lawn of the Wilson House, built in 1852 in Dorset, the birthplace of AA co-founder Bill Wilson. The Wilson House's website describes it as a "place of sanctuary where people can come to give thanks to God for their new lives." It still hosts several AA meetings each week. Programming Note< : We’re on an abbreviated, vacation-esque schedule this week (opening news roundups and limited updates whenever the urge to reach out and touch you moves us). We still want to hear from you, though, so if anything happens that you think might tickle our fancy, do not hesitate to let us know.

Opening Bell: 05.18.12

Facebook Employees Spend All Night Programming (DJ) Tech geeks across the Facebook empire — including the New York office — celebrated the company’s IPO and their newfound millions by slugging back energy drinks at all-night code-writing parties. Legions of the social network’s employees, who will be worth an average of $2.9 million apiece on paper when the stock opens trading this morning, dressed for the occasion with matching “Hackathon” T-shirts. They kicked off the party at their Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters, just hours after the company’s 420 million available shares were priced at $38 each. The festivities were expected to rage through the night until founder Mark Zuckerberg rings the Nasdaq opening bell via video feed at 9:30 a.m. Inside JPMorgan's Blunder (WSJ) Chairman and Chief Executive Officer James Dimon had just committed the most expensive blunder of his 30-year career, failing to detect the risk of trades that had begun to generate huge losses at the bank. On April 30, associates who were gathered in a conference room handed Mr. Dimon summaries and analyses of the losses. But there were no details about the trades themselves. "I want to see the positions!" he barked, throwing down the papers, according to attendees. "Now! I want to see everything!" When Mr. Dimon saw the numbers, these people say, he couldn't breathe...Mr. Dimon publicly disclosed the losses in a conference call on May 10. Afterward, he told Mr. Lee: "Maybe I can sleep tonight," according to a person familiar with the conversation...Late that Friday night, several executives gathered in Mr. Dimon's office. Messrs. Dimon and Cavanagh drank vodka. Others had wine. They told their boss how they had let down the firm, attendees say. "We all did," Mr. Dimon replied, according to attendees. "Put on your JPM jerseys and get ready. We are going to take a lot of hits. We'll draft our best team and get through this." Defiant Message From Greece (WSJ) "Our first choice is to convince our European partners that, in their own interest, financing must not be stopped," Mr. Tsipras said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. He said Greece doesn't intend to take any unilateral action, "but if they proceed with unilateral action on their side, in other words they cut off our funding, then we will be forced to stop paying our creditors, to go to a suspension in payments to our creditors." Groupon Stock Spike Probed (WSJ) A Wall Street regulator is examining trading in Groupon that sent its stock price soaring hours before a favorable earnings announcement Monday, according to a person familiar with the matter. The review by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or Finra, is at an early stage, the person said. It follows unusually heavy trading in shares of the online-coupon company in the run-up to its release of strong financial results. Ex-ECB Chief Trichet Unveils Bold Plan to Save Euro (Reuters) Europe could strengthen its monetary union by giving European politicians the power to declare a sovereign state bankrupt and take over its fiscal policy, the former head of the European Central Bank said on Thursday in unveiling a bold proposal to salvage the euro. Russian man gets stuck in building's garbage chute while trying to hide from girlfriend (NYDN) A Russian man went to great lengths to hide from his girlfriend on Wednesday night when he jumped into a garbage chute on the eighth floor of his apartment building. The unidentified man slid down the chute until he became stuck on the fifth floor of the building in Tyumen, Siberia. Authorities confirmed that they were told of the situation after people in the building heard the man's cries for help. Rescuers used a Jaws-of-Life tool to free the man, according to reports. Santander Among 16 Spanish Banks Downgraded By Moody’s (Bloomberg) "Banks will continue to face highly adverse operating and market funding conditions that pose a threat to their creditworthiness,” the ratings firm said. “The Spanish economy has fallen back into recession in first-quarter 2012, and Moody’s does not expect conditions to improve” this year. Marc Faber: China Biggest Threat To Global Economy (CNBC) "I think the biggest risk is actually China because if you look at Greece, it's an insignificant economy," Faber said on CNBC Asia's “Capital Connection.” "Yes, they owe money, but the market knows that it's bankrupt." German Finance Minister Sees Two Years Of Turmoil (Bloomberg) German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said that turmoil in the financial markets caused by Europe’s debt crisis may last another two years, as Group of Eight leaders prepared to discuss Greece and its impact on the global economy. More than 2 1/2 years after Greece revealed its bloated budget deficit, Europe has “known a lot of crisis,” Schaeuble said in a recorded interview broadcast today on France’s Europe 1 radio. “It’s practically normal.” Even so, “in 12 to 24 months we’ll see a calming of financial markets,” he said.

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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.