Opening Bell: 12.8.17

Wells Fargo gets a mulligan or three from the Trump administration; making Credit Suisse Swiss again; Deutsche Bank is worried about a bitcoin crash; a congressman asked to borrow a staffer's uterus; and more.
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Wells Fargo sanctions are on ice under Trump official (Reuters)
The CFPB had been investigating the mortgage issue since early this year, said one current and two former officials. The agency accepted an internal review from Wells Fargo and set settlement terms in early November, said the sources. But that matter and roughly a dozen others are in question now that Mick Mulvaney, the agency chief tapped by President Donald Trump, has said he is reviewing the CFPB’s prior work.

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Making Credit Suisse Swiss Again Drives Its Turnaround (WSJ)
Looking ahead, much depends on whether Credit Suisse can pivot from what Mr. Thiam dubbed the “Greek tragedy” of 2016, when the bank was beset by heavy losses and internal strife, to a “virtuous circle” whereby wealth management and investment banking generate fees from rich clients. A promising trend: Asia is producing one new billionaire—or potential client—every other day.

JPMorgan's Dimon taking customer pricing hints from Amazon (Reuters)
“You are going to see more relationship pricing,” Dimon said on a Wells Fargo & Co webcast for its clients. “We give you more if you are at different levels and tiers,” he said - for example, some free stock trades. “We may test different types of things.”

'Bitcoin crash’ among significant market risks in 2018, says Deutsche Bank (CNBC)
At this juncture, as the cryptocurrency has advanced quadruple digits this year, Slok said the markets have not correctly priced in the broader impact bitcoin could potentially have. "It is something that I think financial markets so far have been discounting as a small issue," the economist said Thursday. He said he worries about whether bitcoin and its wild price swings could become "more systemic" next year if the current trends continue.

Arizona Congressman Resigns for — Wait, What Was That Again? (NYMag)
When Franks finally made his official announcement (after being surrounded on the House floor in a “prayer circle” by some of his fellow hard-core cultural conservatives), the case left the world of humdrum sex charges and entered something of a twilight zone: “I have recently learned that the Ethics Committee is reviewing an inquiry regarding my discussion of surrogacy with two previous female subordinates, making each feel uncomfortable. I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress.”

What Happens When the Government Uses Facebook as a Weapon? (Businessweek)
Ressa recalled that she started as a journalist in the Philippines in 1986, the year of the People Power Revolution, an uprising that ultimately led to the departure of Ferdinand Marcos and the move from authoritarian rule to democracy. Now she’s worried that the pendulum is swinging back and that Facebook is hastening the trend. “They haven’t done anything to deal with the fundamental problem, which is they’re allowing lies to be treated the same way as truth and spreading it,” she says. “Either they’re negligent or they’re complicit in state-sponsored hate.”

Bitcoin Futures Coming From Team That Rebounded From Epic Snafu (BBG)
Cboe Global Markets Inc. is preparing to release bitcoin futures into a bitcoin-obsessed world. Its tech staff knows how badly these things can go. Cboe bought exchange operator Bats Global Markets Inc. earlier this year. Back in 2012, Bats made Wall Street’s history books after it failed to complete a fundamental task of exchanges: getting a stock trading after an initial public offering. It wasn’t just any IPO -- it was the company’s own debut.

Google Is Giving Away AI That Can Build Your Genome Sequence (Wired)
On Monday, Google released a tool called DeepVariant that uses deep learning—the machine learning technique that now dominates AI—to assemble full human genomes. Modeled loosely on the networks of neurons in the human brain, these massive mathematical models have learned how to do things like identify faces posted to your Facebook news feed, transcribe your inane requests to Siri, and even fight internet trolls. And now, engineers at Google Brain and Verily (Alphabet’s life sciences spin-off) have taught one to take raw sequencing data and line up the billions of As, Ts, Cs, and Gs that make you you.

Firefighters free YouTube prankster who cemented head into microwave (Guardian)
Five firefighters spent an hour working to release a YouTube prankster who had cemented his head inside a microwave oven. The 22-year-old and a group of friends mixed seven bags of Polyfilla before pouring it around his head, which was protected by a plastic bag inside the appliance. Their intention was to use the microwave as a mould. By the time emergency services were called, the group had already been trying to free him for 90 minutes.

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Opening Bell: 11.28.17

Wells Fargo forex bankers not quite as honest as you'd expect; Tesla semi still slightly fantastical; the big boys are coming back to private equity; bitcoin is a gateway drug; and more.

By Captain-tucker (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Opening Bell: 9.21.16

Senators vs Wells Fargo; Hedge funds vs SABMiller deal; DOJ vs former Fed staffer; Son of Chinese billionaire buys eight iPhone 7s for his dog; and more.

By Apavlo at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Opening Bell: 10.7.16

Pound flash crash; Twitter's no good very bad day; Qatari hearts Deutsche Bank; Vanilla Ice vows to ride out Hurricane Matthew; and more.

Opening Bell: 03.23.12

Credit Suisse Chief Takes Sharp Pay Cut (WSJ) Mr. Dougan's compensation more than halved to 5.8 million Swiss francs ($6.3 million) from 12.8 million francs a year earlier. Like all of Credit Suisse's top managers, he didn't get a cash bonus. While Mr. Dougan's base salary remained unchanged, his bonus, awarded in the form of deferred stocks, fell 69% to reflect the sharp drop in profits last year and the 41% drop in Credit Suisse's share price in 2011. SEC Probes Rapid Trading (WSJ) Federal securities regulators are examining whether some sophisticated, rapid-fire trading firms have used their close links to computerized stock exchanges to gain an unfair advantage over other investors, people familiar with the matter say. The wide-ranging probe, being handled by the enforcement staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission, is focusing on the computer-driven trading platforms of exchanges, including BATS Global Markets Inc., the people said. Fed’s Bullard Sees Price Threat From G-7 Delaying Tighter Policy (Bloomberg) U.S. monetary policy may be at a “turning point” and the Fed’s first interest-rate increase since the global financial crisis could come as soon as late 2013, Bullard said in a speech earlier today. That view contrasts with a debate among Fed policy makers on whether more stimulus is needed even after the U.S. economy accelerated and the unemployment rate fell. Bales Had Troubled Broker Career Before Allegations (Bloomberg) Robert Bales, the U.S. soldier suspected of shooting Afghan civilians, started selling community-bank stocks in 1996 as a 23-year-old driving a Chevy Cavalier. That may have been the peak of his financial career. Before Bales enlisted in the Army in 2001 after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he worked at five firms in five years. After he left the industry, he was hit with a $1.5 million settlement for his role in swindling a couple out of more than $600,000 from their retirement account. “He wanted to be an investment adviser, and he had a plan as to how he was going to accomplish that,” said Robert K. Cargin, who hired Bales in September 2000 at Quantum Securities Corp. in Westerville, Ohio. “It just didn’t work out.” BofA Tests An Option To Foreclosure (WSJ) Borrowers would agree to a what is known as a "deed-in-lieu" of foreclosure, where they essentially sign over ownership of the property to the lender. This is less costly to the bank and also does less damage to a borrower's credit than a foreclosure. In exchange, former owners would be offered one-year leases with options to renew the leases in each of the following two years at rents that the bank determines are at or below the current market price. Borrowers would have to demonstrate an ability to pay the market rent. ‘Linsanity’ pot nipped in bud (NYP) The Knicks’ new superstar point guard’s legal eagles threw cease-and-desist orders at three California medical-marijuana dispensaries that were offering customers “Linsanity” weed...Two of the dispensaries discontinued the names and the other simply rebranded its grass “Insanity.” Skowron plans to appeal court’s ruling on $10.2M (NYP) Joseph “Chip” Skowron, the former FrontPoint fund manager now jailed for insider trading, plans to fight a judge’s ruling that he pay $10.2 million to his former employer, Morgan Stanley. Skowron’s attorney intends to appeal the ruling handed down Tuesday by Manhattan federal judge Denise Cote, Skowron’s spokesman, Montieth Illingworth, said. Illingworth also blasted Morgan Stanley’s plans to pursue another $33 million, which Cote denied in her decision. The bank, which owned FrontPoint when the scandal hit and clients fled, wanted a total of $45 million in victim’s compensation. UBS Sees ‘Earlier’ Fed Move; Barclays Sees Rates on Hold (Bloomberg) “We regard the trend toward higher yields as a healthy development,” Andrew Cates in Singapore and Larry Hatheway and Christine Li in London wrote in a UBS report yesterday. “It reflects a healing process in the U.S. economy and recognition that the Fed will be able to normalize monetary policy earlier than many envisage.” Investors should buy two-year Treasuries, Ajay Rajadhyaksha and Dean Maki, New York-based analysts at Barclays, wrote in a report yesterday. “We consider the recent rise in Fed hike expectations premature,” they wrote Obama To Tap Kim For World Bank Post (AP) President Barack Obama will nominate Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim to head the World Bank, a surprise pick for the international financial institution's top job, senior administration officials said.

Opening/Hurricane Bell: 10.29.12

Bracing for Storm, U.S. Stock Markets to Close (Dealbook) All United States stock and options markets will close on Monday as Hurricane Sandy approaches, reversing course as Wall Street braces for the storm to barrel through the heart of the country’s financial center. The decision, made late Sunday night, leaves the American stock markets closed for weather conditions for the first time in nearly three decades. The New York Stock Exchange had previously planned on closing only its physical trading floor, while allowing for trading on its Arca electronic exchange. It has now decided to halt all trading. The Nasdaq and BATS stock markets, which are built on electronic trading, also decided to close. The CME Group, which operates the Nymex commodities exchange, said earlier on Sunday that it would close its physical trading floor on Monday, though trading would continue on its electronic trading platforms. The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, or Sifma, said in an e-mailed statement that it was calling for bond trading, which is all done electronically, to close at noon Monday, though it left the final decision to member firms. The N.Y.S.E. last closed trading for weather reasons in 1985, when Hurricane Gloria lashed the metropolitan area. Markets Go Dark Ahead Of Storm (WSJ) Customers had complained to the exchanges and to the Securities and Exchange Commission that partial closures of the market would be too complicated, according to people with knowledge of the matter. US Stock Markets To Possibly Stay Closed Through Tuesday (Reuters) In a statement, the company said that "the dangerous conditions developing as a result of Hurricane Sandy will make it extremely difficult to ensure the safety of our people and communities, and safety must be our first priority." Citigroup, Goldman Sachs Shut Some NYC Offices for Storm (Bloomberg) Citigroup and and Goldman Sachs are among Wall Street firms planning to shift operations to other cities and have staff work from home as Hurricane Sandy’s arrival in New York forces evacuations. Employees at Citigroup, the third-biggest U.S. bank by assets, won’t be able to enter Lower Manhattan offices on Greenwich Street and Wall Street, which include the main trading floor, according to a memo sent to workers and confirmed by Shannon Bell, a spokeswoman. Goldman Sachs, whose corporate headquarters at 200 West St. is also located in an evacuation zone, told the staff in an internal memo that most of them will work from home...European-based firms including Deutsche Bank AG, Credit Suisse Group AG and UBS AG, which have offices outside of the mandatory evacuation zone, are making arrangements to provide transportation and hotels for workers. Christie: "Don't Be Stupid" (AP) A year after telling New Jersey residents to "Get the hell off the beach" as Hurricane Irene approached, Gov. Chris Christie has a new message for people on the coastline: "Don't be stupid — get out," Christie said Sunday afternoon at a news conference, where he updated residents on the status of the huge storm bearing down on the state. Stock Pickers Game The Fiscal Cliff (WSJ) A number of companies are seeking to get ahead of the tax increases by paying out big special dividends before Dec. 31. In the past two weeks, at least four Standard & Poor's 500 companies have announced special payouts, including a $750 million payout by casino operator Wynn Resorts Ltd., a $1.1 billion dividend from hospital operator HCA Holdings Inc. and a $1.6 billion dividend from LyondellBasell Industries NV, a New York-listed chemicals group. The game for investors is to figure out which companies could be next. Jay Wong, a Los Angeles-based portfolio manager for Payden & Rydel, a money manager with $75 billion under management, is on high alert for potential payouts. He increased his stake in Wynn earlier this month in anticipation of a special dividend and is looking for others. He declined to be specific, citing a desire to not give his trades away. Occupy Wall Street's Stacey Hessler Splits From Husband (NYP, earlier) The filing lists Curtiss’ occupation as banker and says he earns $65,000 a year. Her job is listed in court papers as “protester” and her employer as “Occupy Wall Street.” Annual salary: $0. Divorce papers cite “irreconcilable differences” for the split, saying the 19-year marriage “is irretrievably broken.” One OWS protester who knows her says that Stacey’s devotion to the movement caused the divorce but that she was unfazed by the breakup. “She didn’t seem sad about any of it,” the source said. “It was just so matter-of-fact.” As recently as last month, Stacey, 39, was sleeping in front of a Wells Fargo bank branch in the Financial District near Zuccotti Park, but it appears she scrambled back home to suburban DeLand to finalize the divorce. Wearing her professional-protester uniform — a bandana and patchwork clothes — she refused to say what her plans were or when she’d be leaving the house. But she did respond when a Post reporter asked about a YouTube video showing her making out with another protester during an Occupy “Kiss In” on Valentine’s Day. “I actually made out with four guys,” she said, laughing wildly. Governments to debate 50 billion euro cut to EU budget (Reuters) The cut will be proposed in the latest EU negotiating text on the bloc's spending plan for 2014-2020, but is unlikely to be deep enough to satisfy Britain, Germany, France and other net budget contributors. They want strict limits on EU spending to reflect the austerity imposed by national governments to reduce debt, and called for cuts of 100-200 billion euros to the total proposed by the EU's executive, the European Commission. The proposal is also likely to anger Poland and other former communist EU countries who are the major beneficiaries of EU funds, and oppose any cuts to the Commission's blueprint which they argue is vital for their future economic growth. "As I see it now, the reduction from the Commission proposal will be 50 billion euros plus. That will be the basis for negotiations," said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Greek Journalist Held Over List of Swiss-Account Holders (Bloomberg) Kostas Vaxevanis, editor of the Greek magazine Hot Doc, was arrested in Athens today, according to a message posted on his Twitter account at 11 a.m. local time. An arrest warrant was issued yesterday after the magazine published what’s been dubbed the “Lagarde list,” an electronic file given to Greece in 2010 by then-French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde of about 2,000 Greeks with Swiss accounts. Insurers Prepare For Impact Of Hurricane Sandy (Reuters) Had Sandy hit in 2011, it may have been more of a problem for the insurance industry, which dealt with record-breaking losses around the world last year, mostly from U.S. tornadoes and Asia-Pacific earthquakes. But in 2012, most insurers' disaster losses are down substantially, leaving them with more capacity to absorb the billions of dollars in costs some expect from Hurricane Sandy. "In terms of losses, I certainly don't think it's going to be the largest loss of the last 100 years," Tom Larsen, senior vice president of Eqecat, said in an interview late Friday. "It's not an end-of-days scenario." SEC Weighs Bringing Back Fractions in Stock Prices (WSJ) The move would at least partly undo an 11-year-old rule that replaced fractions of a dollar in stock prices, like 1/8 and 1/16, with pennies. The idea of that change was to trim investors' trading costs: One-cent increments can lead to narrower gaps between the prices at which brokers buy and sell shares—potentially reducing their opportunity to shave off profits. Those championing the fraction's return say it would spur securities firms to buy and sell more shares of some companies by making it more profitable for them to do so. Opponents say fractions would increase trading costs for investors with little or no benefit to companies. UBS, RBS Traders Suspended as Rates Probe Goes Beyond Libor (Bloomberg) UBS and Royal Bank of Scotland suspended more than three traders in Singapore as regulators investigating Libor-rigging turn their attention to the rates used to set prices on foreign exchange derivatives. At least two foreign-exchange traders at UBS, Switzerland’s largest bank, have been put on leave as part of an internal probe into the manipulation of non-deliverable forwards, a derivative traders use to speculate on the movement of currencies that are subject to domestic foreign exchange restrictions, according to a person with direct knowledge of the operation. Edinburgh-based RBS also put Ken Choy, a director in its emerging markets foreign exchange trading unit, on leave, a person briefed on the matter said on Oct. 26. Women who knew 'cannibal cop' worried they were on his 'cook list' (NYP) “Freaked-out” female acquaintances of would-be cannibal cop Gilberto “Gil” Valle yesterday wondered whether they were on his alleged list of 100 ladies to kidnap, rape, torture, cook — and eat. “I was so shaken when I found out it was him,” said Beverly Seiger, who knew Valle, 28, from the Forest Hills, Queens, park he visited nightly with his wife and baby daughter. “I used to walk his dog. I’ve been to his house many times. He’s been to my house,” she said of Valle, whom federal prosecutors accuse of plotting with three fiendish pals to kidnap, cook and consume scores of females. “I don’t want to be on his list!” Seiger said. “I’m so thin, he would use me as toothpicks. “The women in this neighborhood now are freaked out,” she said. Another female resident asked a reporter, “Are we on this list? “I fit in an oven,” she said, referring to Valle’s alleged boasting online of having an oven “big enough to fit one of these girls if I folded their legs.”

By Luccadomina (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Opening Bell: 10.4.16

Banks will get no special treatment in Brexit negotiations; Deutsche layoffs; Illinois expects others to cut ties with Wells Fargo; Man busted on lewdness charge for wearing Saran Wrap bikini on NJ beach; and more.