Opening Bell: 7.28.20 - Dealbreaker

Republican Stimulus Package May Come With a Benefit for Big Banks [NYT]
Lawmakers are expected to include language that would give the Federal Reserve authority to relax a requirement surrounding capital levels at the biggest banks, essentially allowing firms to load up on riskier assets…. Banks say that leverage requirements can cause them to stop accepting new deposits and other securities during times of stress. The Fed temporarily exempted Treasuries and reserves from one important leverage ratio — the supplemental leverage ratio — in early April, saying that the move would help to “ease strains in the Treasury market.”

Europe’s Banks Told to Hold Off on Dividends [WSJ]
The ECB, which supervises the largest banks in the eurozone, extended its previous recommendation for a moratorium on dividends and buybacks until January from October. It also asked banks to moderate the payment of bonuses and consider alternatives to cash payments, such as shares…. The ECB had previously told banks not to pay dividends until October so they could continue lending and more easily absorb losses from souring loans.

Sculptor Agrees to Pay $136 Million to Bribery Scheme Victims [WSJ]
The $136 million settlement is believed to be the first time a company has compensated victims of bribery under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, according to FCPA lawyers…. Lawyers for Sculptor also have made it clear that the settlement is contingent upon the restitution amount being final. If other victims come forward, the settlement could be called off, they have said….
“In this case it was a group of investors as a class of victims,” Mr. Wernick said. “I think you’ll see other classes of victims trying to get recognized and trying to get restitution.”

Fund Administrator to Pimco, Others Saw Breach at Vendor [Bloomberg]
One of SEI Investments’ vendors, M.J. Brunner Inc., was breached in a ransomware attack that occurred on May 17, and the root cause was not related to vulnerability of SEI’s systems…. Angelo Gordon and Centerbridge were also among the fund companies whose investors were affected by the attack, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Boaz Weinstein Piles Up 90% Gain in Hamptons, Bets on More Chaos [Bloomberg]
As the pandemic consumes the outside world, Weinstein has repaired to his gated estate in Sagaponack, replete with tennis court, pool and a Vegas-style card room…. He’s added to his profits every month this year, trading credit and derivatives of companies including Wirecard AG, retailers Staples Inc. and Macy’s Inc. and loading up on cheap closed-end mutual funds. That’s helped him outperform all of his hedge fund peers, generating an eye-popping 90% gain in his main fund after years of uneven returns. He’s attracting new money, pulling in $1 billion to his now $3 billion Saba Capital Management.

Tetras Capital Shuts Down Crypto Hedge Fund After 75% Loss [CoinDesk]
Tetras Capital managed upwards of $33 million at one point for more than 60 investors who pitched in at least $100,000 apiece…. The fund launched in 2017 with a focus on altcoins, Tetras Capital co-founder Alex Sunnarborg said in a 2019 Forbes interview.

RedBird Capital Partners, Oakland A’s Executive Billy Beane Launch Sports-Focused SPAC [WSJ]
The SPAC, which will be known as RedBall Acquisition Corp., has set out to raise $500 million to focus on businesses in sports, and sports-related media and data analytics, according to a regulatory filing Tuesday. Possible targets could include professional sports franchises or leagues, according to the filing…. Successfully meeting its fundraising goal could allow RedBall to pursue targets worth $2 billion or more, with additional capital from outside co-investors or a target’s existing owner.

AIG Unit to Pay $20 Million to Settle SEC Probe of Teacher-Retirement Business [WSJ]
Florida teachers saving for retirement through 403(b) plans—similar to corporate 401(k) plans—weren’t told about an arrangement by which Valic Financial Advisors Inc. paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to an entity owned by a local affiliate of the Florida Education Association, which in turn promoted Valic’s services, the Securities and Exchange Commission said Tuesday…. The SEC’s investigation found Valic paid the salaries of three employees at the entity linked to the Florida union. At meetings and seminars where teachers sought investment advice, the three touted Valic products, presenting themselves as workers for the union entity and not disclosing they were also paid by Valic, the SEC said.

Najib Razak: Malaysian ex-PM gets 12-year jail term in 1MDB corruption trial [BBC]
Tuesday's verdicts centred on 42 million ringgit ($10m; £7.7m) transferred from the fund to the then-prime minister's private accounts.
Najib denies all wrongdoing and says he was misled by financial advisers - in particular fugitive financier Jho Low….
A separate trial that began last August looks at accusations the former prime minister illicitly obtained 2.28bn ringgit ($550m, £448m) from 1MDB between 2011 and 2014.

Sycamore Partners offers $1.75B for JCPenney with plan to grow Belk [N.Y. Post]
The Sycamore plan involves rebranding some 250 JCPenney stores to Belk stores in markets where the two retailers don’t overlap. The rest of the JCPenney locations would be liquidated, the source said…. Sycamore isn’t interested in keeping the JCPenney brand, it would acquire the rights to the name and could sell the intellectual property at a later date, a source said.

Neiman Marcus Inflated Company Value by Billions, Creditors Say [WSJ]
A valuation expert hired by creditors concluded that Neiman Marcus was only worth $3.9 billion before the spinoff, according to a report that was recently unsealed as part of Neiman’s bankruptcy case.
Neiman valued its business at more than $7 billion in 2018 before the MyTheresa transfer…. The difference between the two estimates is key to creditors’ potential legal claims against Neiman’s owners—including private-equity firm Ares Management Corp. and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board—over the MyTheresa spinoff to a holding company controlled by Neiman owners.

Second U.S. Republican says will vote against Trump Fed pick Shelton [Reuters]
“Ms. Shelton has openly called for the Federal Reserve to be less independent of the political branches, and has even questioned the need for a central bank,” [Sen. Susan] Collins, a moderate who faces a tough re-election fight in Maine, said in a written statement….
U.S. Senator Mitt Romney, of Utah, said last week he would also oppose the nomination of Shelton, a former Trump campaign adviser….
At least two more Republicans would need to join Romney and Collins to block Shelton joining the top ranks of economic policymaking at the U.S. central bank.

Related

Opening Bell: 03.22.13

Clock Ticks On Cyprus (WSJ) Cyprus, in an 11th-hour bid to unlock international aid, reopen the nation's banking system and preserve membership in the euro, readied a plan that would restructure its second-largest lender and enforce unprecedented restrictions on financial transactions. The proposals, if they take effect, would allow authorities to restrict noncash transactions, curtail check cashing, limit withdrawals and even convert checking accounts into fixed-term deposits when banks reopen. They have been closed since March 16. Parliament is set to debate the measures on Friday. If Cyprus can't pass them, it could find itself with little choice but to leave the euro zone—opening a Pandora's box that could threaten Spain and Italy. Time is short: The European Central Bank on Thursday threatened to cut off a financial lifeline if Cyprus's banks aren't stabilized by Monday. Credit Suisse Chief Gets 34% Raise (WSJ) Credit Suisse rewarded Chief Executive Brady Dougan for repositioning the bank in 2012 with a 34% pay rise, despite a fall in net profit for the year and a backdrop of growing criticism of executive remuneration. Mr. Dougan earned 7.77 million Swiss francs ($8.21 million), up from 5.8 million francs in 2011, when he took a pay cut as Switzerland's No. 2 bank by assets slogged through a difficult year in which its stock price fell 41%. Europe’s Bonus Clampdown Hits Two-Thirds of Fund Managers (Bloomberg) The European Parliament’s vote to cap bonuses in the asset-management industry could affect two- thirds of senior fund managers in the U.K., U.S. funds in Europe and hedge funds open to small investors. Bonuses should not exceed base salaries for managers of mutual funds regulated by the European Union, known as UCITS, European lawmakers in the economic and monetary affairs committee voted yesterday. The rules would cover 5 trillion euros ($6.5 trillion) of assets in UCITS, which include funds managed outside Europe and some linked to hedge-fund strategies such as John Paulson’s New York-based Paulson & Co. and Och-Ziff Capital Management Group. “If the final rules are even close to what has been agreed today, then this will fundamentally change the way asset managers are paid,” said Jon Terry, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC. Asset managers “are now facing the toughest pay rules across the whole of the financial-services sector.” Boaz Says Dimon Should Have Known (NYP) The buck stops with Jamie Dimon. That’s the view of Boaz Weinstein, the hedge-fund manager who first speared the “London Whale” that led to $6.2 billion in trading losses for Dimon’s JPMorgan. Despite making a bundle by taking the other side of the bank’s bad bet, Boaz says that requiring bank CEOs to sign off on such trades is the only way to prevent debacles. As the “ultimate boss” of JPMorgan, Dimon should have had to approve the complicated trade, he said. “If you had a rule that anytime, anyone wants to make an investment in any one thing greater than $10 billion or $20 billion, the boss has to sign off on it,” then those types of disasters wouldn’t happen, Boaz said yesterday at the Absolute Return Symposium in Manhattan. Long Island Man Accepts Plea Deal in Fake Drowning (AP) The man, Raymond Roth, 48, of Massapequa, pleaded guilty to fourth-degree conspiracy. “The restitution Mr. Roth is ordered to pay ensures that the taxpayers won’t foot the bill for this scam,” said Kathleen M. Rice, the Nassau County district attorney. Prosecutors said Mr. Roth and his son, Jonathan Roth, 22, had plotted to collect about $400,000 in life insurance. The younger man’s case is pending. On July 28, Jonathan Roth told the authorities that his father had gone for a swim at Jones Beach and never came back. Responders searched for Raymond Roth for several days, while he was actually on his way to Orlando, Fla., prosecutors said. Raymond Roth’s wife found e-mails discussing the plot, and the authorities were alerted. Raymond Roth’s lawyer, Brian Davis, said on Thursday that he believed the plea bargain was fair, adding, “At this point, he wants to put it behind him.” Mood Sours In Northern Europe (WSJ) A worsening mood among businesses largely predated fraught negotiations over a Cypriot bailout, which economists say could stoke tensions surrounding the euro zone's debt crisis. Poorer sentiment among businesses lessens the chances of a rise in corporate investment, crucial for an economic recovery in the bloc at a time when most of its member states are cutting spending to control their debts. Economists See No Crisis With U.S. Debt as Economy Gains (Bloomberg) Three years after a government spending surge in response to the recession drove the U.S. past that red line -- the nation’s $16.7 trillion total debt is now 106 percent of the $15.8 trillion economy -- key indicators reflect gathering strength. Businesses have increased spending by 27 percent since the end of 2009. The annual rate of new home construction jumped about 60 percent. Employers have created almost 6 million jobs. And with borrowing costs near record lows, the cost of paying off the debt is lower now than in the year Ronald Reagan left the White House, as a percentage of the economy. BP to return $8 billion to shareholders from TNK-BP sale (Reuters) BP, which completed the sale of the half-owned TNK-BP to Russian state oil firm Rosneft on Thursday, said the move, designed to increase the value of remaining shares, was an amount equivalent to the value of the company's original investment in TNK-BP in 2003. Man finds knife blade in his back three years after stabbing (TS) A Northwest Territories man was just scratching what he thought was an annoying old itch earlier this week when it turned out to be a knife blade that had been buried in his flesh for almost three years. “I jumped in a cab and went straight to emergency,” said Billy McNeely, 32. The story goes back to an April 2010 birthday party in McNeely’s home town of Fort Good Hope, N.W.T. McNeely said a fight broke out between himself and another man over an arm-wrestling contest that ended up with McNeely being stabbed five times. “They stitched me up and bandaged me up,” said McNeely. “They never took X-rays.” Ever since, McNeely has had a lump in his back where the knife went in. Doctors and nurses told him nerves had been damaged in the stabbing. But the old wound never stopped nagging. “I always had back pains. There was always a burning feeling with it.” The injury was constantly itchy and irritated. It set off metal detectors. That was explained away as a metal fragment that had lodged in his bone. On Monday, while McNeely and his girlfriend were asleep in bed, the pain came back. “I sat up, I tried to rub it and scratch it the way I always did, and then the tip of my nail caught a piece of something solid, something sharp. “My girlfriend got up and she started playing around with it and she manoeuvred my back in a certain way and the tip of a blade poked out of my skin.” Doctors dug out a blade measuring about seven centimetres long.

ApocalypseZiff

Opening Bell: 7.24.17

Och-Ziff has all its eggs in one 34-year-old's basket; Justice Department gives up on London Whale traders; "brosectomies"; and more.

Opening Bell: 05.16.12

Greece Teeters As Talks Fail (WSJ) In a potent sign of Greeks' rising anxiety, depositors withdrew €700 million ($898 million) from local banks on Monday alone, according to the country's national bank—a significant escalation in capital flight from the country. Greek President Karolos Papoulias told party leaders that the situation facing Greece's lenders was very difficult and that "the strength of banks is very weak right now," according to a transcript released Tuesday. Merkel: I Want Greece To Stay In The Euro (CNBC) In an interview with CNBC's "Worldwide Exchange," Merkel said: "I want, just like Jean-Claude Juncker, that Greece stays in the euro. I think that would be good for Greece and for all of us. If Greece believes that we can find more stimulus in Europe in addition to the Memorandum (the deal stuck with the Troika), then we have to talk about that," she said, but she underlined that Greece and its euro zone partners had to be able to trust each other. What Happens When Greece's Money Runs Out (Reuters) "I'm really not sure Greece could survive for very long if external money was cut off," said Darren Williams, economist at fund manager AllianceBernstein. "But what an experience of IOUs may do rather quickly is bring home to the average Greek citizen just how much more difficult a place it is outside the bailout program and outside the euro." Moore Leads Hedge Funds Betting on JPMorgan Before Losses (Bloomberg) Hedge funds Moore Capital Management LLC and Blue Ridge Capital LLC boosted their stakes in JPMorgan Chase, while Kingdon Capital Management LLC divested, before the shares plunged because of a $2 billion trading loss. Moore, the $15 billion New York-based firm run by Louis Moore Bacon, bought 6 million shares of JPMorgan and its $297.3 million stake was its largest U.S. stock holding as of March 31, according to a filing yesterday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. John Griffin’s New York-based Blue Ridge purchased 1.85 million shares, raising its stake in the bank to 6.14 million. The man who beached ‘Moby Iksil’ (NYP) Boaz Weinstein, a renowned CDS index arbitrageur who launched Saba in 2009, in early February recommended the index, which tracks a basket of US corporate bonds. “They are very attractive” and can be bought at a “very good discount,” said Weinstein, a former Deutsche Bank proprietary trader, speaking at the Harbor Investment Conference on Feb. 2. It appears the index was so cheap because Iksil was buying it to make a big short bet. Weinstein, whose Saba overseas $5.5 billion in assets, decided to go long and said he bought the index a few days before the conference at around 120 basis points. For a while, Weinstein’s genius trade wasn’t working out. The IG9 Index continued to sink under the weight of the Whale’s buys — hitting a low of 105 on March 21. But two weeks later, on April 3, reports surfaced about the Whale’s outsize positions and the tide started to turn. The price spiked to 130 as traders piled on. What JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon first termed a “tempest in a teapot” started to get serious. By last week, Dimon announced a $2.3 billion loss on the Whale’s trade, and word spread that Iksil’s head may roll. Meanwhile, Weinstein, who earned roughly $100 million last year, saw his position and the index continue to soar. The CDS index traded around 146 yesterday. Facebook Said to Raise Size of IPO to 421 Million Shares (Bloomberg) Facebook is boosting the number of shares for sale in its initial public offering to 421.2 million, allowing the world’s most popular social network to raise as much as $16 billion. Existing holders will offer 241.2 million shares, compared with the 157.4 million they originally planned to sell, according to a regulatory filing today. Menlo Park, California- based Facebook and its existing holders had earlier planned to offer 337.4 million shares. Soros’s Firm Buys JPMorgan, Suntrust in First Quarter (Bloomberg) The $25 billion Soros Fund Management LLC, based in New York, increased the value of its stake in financials by 7 percent, including 606,000 shares of JPMorgan worth $28 million as of March 31, and 3.2 million shares of Atlanta-based Suntrust valued at $77 million, according to a filing yesterday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Paulson Holds to Gold ETFs in First Quarter, Profits as Prices Rise (Reuters) So that's nice. Housing Starts Probably Rebounded From a Five-Month Low (Bloomberg) “Homebuilding is inching up pretty much everywhere in the U.S.,” said Patrick Newport, an economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts. “The days when housing was a drag on the economy are behind us.” Even so, “housing activity is at depressed levels,” with foreclosures “still a problem for builders,” he said. Bloomberg Reporter Makes Wardrobe Adjustment On Camera (DM, NYO) A microphone mishap led one television reporter from revealing a bit more than she expected. When it became clear that one reporter's mic was not working, the cameraman swapped over quickly to Sara Eisen. Clearly thinking she was off-camera, the Bloomberg News reporter was adjusting her skirt and smoothing out her undergarments. Because the camera swapped over to her sooner than expected, the financial-savvy viewers caught a glimpse of Ms Eisen's underwear...In spite of the hiccup, Ms Eisen was able to brush her skirt down and get back to business. She flashed a quick, knowing smile and then moved right into the news about Spain's banking system debate.