Hedge-Fund Founder Arrested Over Neiman Marcus Bankruptcy [WSJ]
Dan Kamensky, the founder of Marble Ridge Capital LP, was arrested Thursday and charged by federal prosecutors in New York with securities fraud, wire fraud, extortion and obstruction of justice in connection with his efforts to acquire shares in Neiman’s MyTheresa e-commerce business…. If convicted of all charges, Mr. Kamensky faces up to 50 years in prison. The Securities and Exchange Commission also sued Mr. Kamensky and Marble Ridge on Thursday….

Payrolls increase by nearly 1.4 million as the unemployment rate tumbles [CNBC]
The unemployment rate was by far the lowest since the coronavirus shutdown in March, according to Labor Department figures released Friday. An alternative measure that includes discouraged workers and those holding part-time jobs for economic reasons also fell, down to 14.2% from 16.5% in July and 22.8% at the peak in April…. Markets rose sharply on the news, with Dow futures pointing to a gain at the open following an aggressive sell-off Thursday.

Malaysia Drops Goldman Sachs Criminal Charges Over 1MDB [WSJ]
In July, Goldman agreed to pay Malaysia $2.5 billion and guaranteed the recovery of $1.4 billion in assets allegedly stolen from the fund as part of efforts by the Wall Street bank to move on from one of the worst scandals in its history. Malaysia agreed to drop criminal proceedings against the bank related to the fund.
A Malaysian court Friday discharged and acquitted three subsidiaries of the bank over their alleged involvement in the scandal…. Goldman is still in discussions with the U.S. Department of Justice for a settlement.

Justice Dept. Plans to File Antitrust Charges Against Google in Coming Weeks [NYT]
Justice Department officials told lawyers involved in the antitrust inquiry into Alphabet, the parent company of Google and YouTube, to wrap up their work by the end of September, according to three of the people. Most of the 40-odd lawyers who had been working on the investigation opposed the deadline. Some said they would not sign the complaint, and several of them left the case this summer.
Some argued this summer in a memo that ran hundreds of pages that they could bring a strong case but needed more time, according to people who described the document…. While there were disagreements about tactics, career lawyers also expressed concerns that Mr. Barr wanted to announce the case in September to take credit for action against a powerful tech company under the Trump administration.

How Options-Market Amateurs Might Have Tripped Up Big Tech [WSJ]
Recently, there has been a jump in the trading volume of options linked to the shares of the top tech giants. While the cost of these derivatives contracts, gauged by their “implied volatility,” almost always moves in tandem with the “realized” volatility of the underlying shares, a rare disconnect has appeared over the past few weeks: Investors pushed up the implied volatility of Nasdaq options even as actual volatility declined…. It is a strategy tailored for uncertain times. However, it can also create feedback loops that affect the underlying assets. Because banks take the other side of these deals, they are left with a downside exposure to stocks, which they then hedge by buying those same shares. The result is a steadier rally, but one that can unravel quickly at the first sign of trouble.

Navarro pushes back on reported workplace behavior: 'If people get in the way ... there will be conflict' [The Hill]
“My mission in this administration is to serve as a soldier for the greatest commander in chief ever, and my job is to help this president do two things: save American lives and create American jobs. And if people get in the way of that, there will be conflict. And I make no bones about that. So this is a tough town,” Navarro said on CNN.
The Washington Post reported that Navarro berated other officials over their policy views, with the article saying young women appeared to suffer the most verbal abuse…. Navarro added that he had “absolutely not” been admonished over his conduct.

Palm Beach Dad Accused of Bribing Kid’s Way Into Georgetown [Bloomberg]
[Investment executive] Amin Khoury agreed in 2014 to pay about $200,000 to Gordon Ernst, then the head coach of men’s and women’s tennis at Georgetown, prosecutors said. Khoury was indicted on a fraud conspiracy count and a bribery count relating to programs that receive federal funds…. Khoury [is] the 40th parent accused in the sprawling case….
The alleged bribery scheme was set in motion after Khoury met with Ernst and an unnamed intermediary at a Brown University reunion event in May of 2014, according to prosecutors. Khoury himself had played tennis for Brown in his college days.

Alex Rodriguez fuming over ‘fixed’ sale of Mets to Steve Cohen, sources say [Thornton/N.Y. Post]
Sources close to the former Yankees slugger say they lost the Queens team on Friday, Aug. 28, after the Mets’ banker — Steve Greenberg of Allen & Co. — reached out to ask for a sneak peek at what was being offered. The request came days ahead of the official Aug. 31 bidding deadline…. The former Yankees third baseman is now convinced that the Mets spoon-fed his bid information to Cohen so the billionaire financier and art collector could have the highest offer and win the team….
The Mets never went back to see if A-Rod wanted to match or better Cohen’s offer, sources said. Rodriguez has been trying to reach Mets owner Fred Wilpon since Friday but can’t get him on the phone, they added.

Billionaire Bill Ackman says market turbulence stems from election and virus uncertainty, stretched tech valuations but isn't 'the beginning of the end' [BI]
"It's certainly not the beginning of the end but I would say we're coming upon one of the more uncertain periods in American history," the founder and CEO of Pershing Square Capital said. "Markets don't like uncertainty…." Ackman said that the divisive presidential election and what it means for the country, corporate America, and taxation, paired with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, are creating uncertainty within markets. He added that "valuations particularly in the technology landscape have gotten to some pretty extraordinary levels."

Hedge Funds’ Beloved NYC School Ditches In-Class Learning in ’20 [Bloomberg]
Success Academy, the largest charter-school network in New York City, has abandoned its plan to bring students back into the classroom and opted to go fully remote through at least December, the network told families and staff Thursday…. A decision about 2021 will come closer to December…. Many of Success Academy’s schools are co-located inside New York City’s public school buildings, where access has been restricted. The complexity of low-density, in-person learning also proved formidable, making close interactions “very difficult, if not impossible.” New protocols like staggered arrivals also “reduce learning time.”

How To Hide A Billion Dollars: Three Techniques The Ultra-Rich Use To Dodge Ex-Spouses, The Taxman And Disgruntled Business Partners [Forbes]
Quantlab co-founders Bruce Eames (with a 24% stake) and Andrey Omeltchenko (with 4%) are now suing the 81-year-old [co-founder Wilbur “Ed”] Bosarge for fraud. (He denies their claims.) Bosarge is also facing a fraud suit from the founder of a Bahamian stem cell clinic that he funded, took control of and received multiple treatments at—for, he said in a deposition, “bad ankles, bad knees from skiing, muscles that pulled out….” But Bosarge’s most notable current legal battle— for what it shows about the way U.S. state trust laws increasingly protect the rich—is with his wife, Marie, a 66-year-old onetime Marilyn Monroe impersonator Ed married in 1989….
Marie contends she’s owed a billion or more, although she tells Forbes she’d settle for less than $100 million…. Forbes estimates Ed Bosarge is worth at least $1 billion. But as he and his lawyers tell it, the couple’s community property assets total just $25 million since an array of trusts own not only his Quantlab stock, but also their homes in Houston, Aspen, London and Maine and the 72-acre island in the Bahamas where they docked their three (trust-owned) yachts, including the eponymous 180-foot Marie, replete with a baby grand piano. After the divorce papers were served, one of the trusts even repossessed a $1.9 million (purchase price) diamond necklace which Marie says Ed gave her as a Christmas present in 2009. “That wasn’t a gift; that was specifically bought by the trust. It was a specific investment,’’ Ed insisted in a deposition last year.

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Opening Bell: 9.18.20

WeChat, too; new stress tests to stress about; an extra-special SPAC; Xi Jinping confirms all of Peter Navarro’s suspicions; and more!

Holiday Bell: 11.23.12

FBI Tried To Flip Trader Against Cohen (WSJ) A year before the government charged Mathew Martoma with insider trading, it tried to get him to turn against his former boss, Steven A. Cohen. Federal agents, including Federal Bureau of Investigation case agent Matthew T. Callahan, turned up at the Boca Raton, Fla., home of Mr. Martoma, a former portfolio manager at an affiliate of SAC Capital Advisors L.P. Agents tried and failed to persuade him to be a cooperating witness in the government's effort to build a criminal case against Mr. Cohen, the founder of SAC and one of the biggest names in the hedge-fund world, said people close to the case...The government's attempt to engage Mr. Martoma as a cooperating witness shows the high level of focus placed on Mr. Cohen, whose $14 billion fund has posted some of the best returns on Wall Street. It also demonstrates how the government has been unable so far to implicate Mr. Cohen in Mr. Martoma's alleged wrongdoing...Each of the two securities fraud charges against Mr. Martoma carry a maximum of 20 years in prison; federal sentencing guidelines, based on the amount of the alleged illegal profits, recommend a sentence of 15 to 19 years. By contrast, most people who have pleaded guilty to insider trading and cooperated with the government have been sentenced to little or no jail time. Mr. Martoma is married with children. "Twenty years is a very long time in prison," said Thomas Gorman, a partner at Dorsey & Whitney LLP in Washington, referring to the sentence Mr. Martoma could serve if convicted. "There will be an enormous amount of pressure to earn a cooperation credit to try to mitigate that." Cohen’s ’Elan Guy’ Martoma Dropped Ethics for Hedge Fund (Bloomberg) Martoma got his undergraduate degree at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, according to the university registrar. During his first year, he was inducted into Phi Eta Sigma, an honors society for freshmen who attain at least a 3.5 grade point average, according to the university registrar. He graduated in December 1995. Less than two years later, he went off to Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He wrote two medical-ethics papers, one of which identifies him as a member of Harvard Law’s class of 2000 and as the former deputy director of the National Human Genome Research Institute’s Office of Genome Ethics. He left Harvard in December 1998 without attaining a degree, according to the school’s registrar, and attended Stanford Business School, where he joined three alumni groups including MBA Class of 2003, according to university records. In 2001, he changed his name from Ajai Mathew Mariamdani Thomas...Former colleagues, who asked not to be named because the fund is private, said the Martoma, who stood almost six feet tall, had a quiet demeanor and left little impression except for an outsized trade that earned him the name “the Elan guy.” Trading Case Casts a Deeper Shadow on a Hedge Fund Mogul (NYT) Thus far, any potential evidence against Mr. Cohen is entirely circumstantial. The government's complaint includes e-mails about secretly selling the Elan and Wyeth shares through esoteric methods like algorithms and dark pools. But that is common practice among large, sophisticated funds that do not want to alert competitors or move the stock too much. Moreover, while SAC dumped its large positions in the two stocks quickly - raising the question of what prompted it to do so - Mr. Cohen is known for a rapid-fire trading style. He frequently moves aggressively in and out of stocks while processing gobs of information fed to him by his underlings. It would be difficult for a jury to infer anything incriminating just from the way these trades were executed. The government in this case also lacks the powerful wiretap evidence that it has used to convict dozens others, including Raj Rajaratnam, the head of the Galleon Group. Greek Bond Buyback In Doubt (WSJ) The rally in outstanding Greek bonds has made any buyback plan more expensive, eroding the impact it would have on Greece's debt. It raises the challenge for euro-zone finance ministers to seal a deal at their next meeting on Monday that would both plug holes in Greece's €246 billion ($316.95 billion) bailouts and bring the country's debt load to a more manageable level. S&P Confirms France's AA-Plus Rating (WSJ) The decision removes the immediate threat of another downgrade of France, though S&P kept a negative outlook on the country's debt. That indicates a one-in-three chance of a cut in France's credit rating during 2013. Diamond, Dimon’s Early Risks Made Them Better: Adoboli (Bloomberg) Adoboli, who was jailed Nov. 20 for causing the largest unauthorized trading loss in British history, said in an e-mail exchange with Bloomberg News that Jamie Dimon, Bob Diamond and Yassine Bouhara, the former co-head of global equities at UBS, all lost large amounts of money at some point in their careers. The more senior you are the easier it is to avoid getting slammed to the wall,” Adoboli wrote in a Nov. 14 e-mail. “Funny thing is though, losing money seems to make you better at making money. Perhaps that’s why traders who lose money always get rehired, as long as they still have their risk appetite.” Canada Police Arrest Man Who Told Kids Santa Isn't Real (Star) As Christmas-themed floats slowly rolled down Princess St. during Kingston’s annual Santa Claus parade, an intoxicated man shouted blasphemous lies to shocked children: Santa doesn’t exist. The man, whose gelled hair “looked like a set of devil horns protruding from his head,” was reported to Kingston police, Const. Steve Koopman said. Police arrested a 24-year-old man around 6 p.m. “It was pretty despicable that someone, during this time of the year, would tell kids Santa isn’t real — which of course we would argue,” Koopman said. Higher Gas-Tax Idea Joins Fiscal-Cliff Talks (WSJ) Other industries also are moving to have initiatives attached to a budget deal—as part of either a short-term agreement this year or a longer-term plan reached next year to overhaul spending and taxes. Casinos are pushing a measure to legalize Internet poker games nationally. Small banks are pressing to extend a program that gives unlimited federal guarantees to certain bank deposits. Governors want additional aid to cover destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy. The financial industry is pushing to loosen regulations on complex financial derivatives. "Basically, you've got a bunch of people waiting in the wings to stick the collection plate out and grab whatever they can grab," said Dan Kish, senior vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research, which advocates for free-market energy policies. Jain Gets Silent Treatment as Bankers Eat Humble Pie (Bloomberg) Deutsche Bank co-Chief Executive Anshu Jain says telling people he works in banking is a conversation-killer at parties, as the industry fails to convince the general public that it’s changing. “If you go to a party these days, you’re asked what you do and you say you’re a banker, people go all quiet,” Jain said before a conference on Europe’s finance industry began in Frankfurt. “We’re still the subject of anger.” Judge Rules For Singer (Reuters) A federal judge has ordered Argentina to pay holders of defaulted bonds, including Paul Singer’s Elliott Management, immediately, a blow to the country’s efforts to overcome a 2002 debt crisis that has raised fears of another default. In a ruling Wednesday, Judge Thomas Griesa lifted a previous order stalling payments to so-called holdout investors who refused to take part in two swaps of defaulted debt. Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernandez, has said her government will not pay “one dollar,” and Griesa’s ruling cited threats by Argentina’s leaders to defy his rulings in the decade-old dispute. Germany Halts Swiss Tax Deal (WSJ) The bilateral treaty was vetoed by the left-leaning Social Democrat and Green opposition parties in the Bundesrat, which represents Germany's 16 states. The treaty's opponents argue that it is too lenient on tax evaders. We want a treaty that is "more painful to Swiss banks and German tax evaders," Norbert Walter-Borjans, the Social Democrat finance minister of the German state North Rhine-Westphalia said in a debate in the upper house preceding the vote Friday. A ‘Whale’ of a Chase is on (NYP) JPMorgan Chase turned its chief investment office into a proprietary-trading unit that caused more than $6.2 billion in losses, pension funds said in a revised complaint in their suit against the bank. JPMorgan contended the unit’s primary role was managing risk when in fact it was engaging in trades to generate profit for the bank, the funds said in an amended complaint filed in Manhattan federal court. CEO Jamie Dimon “secretly transformed the CIO from a risk management unit into a proprietary-trading desk,” the plaintiffs said. The pension funds allege they incurred losses in their holdings because of trades by the chief investment office and Bruno Iksil, known as “the London Whale.” Porn star vows night of passion if Barcelona wins (NYDN) Colombian-born Janeira Ventura said she would give "any Barca fan who dares" the "night of their lives" if Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and co. fire them to the top of La Liga by the end of the season. The adult actress told Mundo Deportivo, "If we win the league this year, I pledge publicly to spend a night of passion with any Barcelona member or supporter who dares. "How can they prove they support the team? It's easy, by showing me the membership card or photos and tickets to a game. They just have to contact me on my website." The 27-year-old was born in Barranquilla, moved to Spain when she was a baby and now lives in Toronto. She added, "I've been a Barcelona fan since I was little, I love the team, the way they play, and above all I love the players. The most sexy ones? Messi, Xavi and Puyol." Her obsession extends to having two cats, who are called Leo and Messi, and plans to tattoo the Argentine striker's name "in a secret place" when she returns to Spain in 2013. She also wants to convince Barcelona bosses to let her be their "official club porn star."

Holiday Bell: 12.26.12

Budget Talks Cloud Outlook (WSJ) Lawmakers returning to town this week will see whether they can agree on a plan to avoid the full brunt of the fiscal cliff, the combined $500 billion in tax increases and spending cuts set to begin next week. Little if any progress was made in the talks before Congress and President Barack Obama left town last Friday for Christmas. The president plans to leave his vacation in Hawaii late Wednesday night, returning to Washington on Thursday, the White House said. Aides in both parties say they expect a potential solution to start taking shape by the end of the week. But with so little time, hopes are dimming for anything other than a partial agreement, which would prolong the uncertainty and leave in place some tax or spending measures that act as a serious drag on the weak recovery. This could even trigger another recession, exacerbating the global economic slowdown. Grand Bargain Shrinks as Congress Nears U.S. Budget Deadline (Bloomberg) “At this point there’s zero percent chance of a big deal and maybe a 10 percent chance of a small deal before Jan. 1,” said Stan Collender, a former staff member of the House Ways and Means Committee and the House and Senate Budget committees who is now at Qorvis Communications in Washington. He has predicted a no-deal scenario since before Memorial Day, and said the past two weeks of inaction reinforced his projection. At this point, Collender said, whether the Senate moves first won’t matter. “Nothing will move House Republicans if they don’t feel like getting moved,” he said. “They’ve never been swayed by the Senate before.” The remaining option for averting the cliff, he said, would be if Boehner risks his House speakership to put to the floor a tax deal that would get a majority of Democrats to support it and few -- perhaps less than 50 -- Republicans. “The Republican caucus would never forgive him,” he said. “The statesmanlike thing to do would be to say I’m the speaker of the House, not the head of the Republican party. That is the equivalent of never running for speaker again.” Some 'Cliff' With Your Coffee? Starbucks Urges Unity (Reuters) Chief Executive Howard Schultz is urging workers in Starbucks' roughly 120 Washington-area shops to write "come together'' on customers' cups on Thursday and Friday, as U.S. President Barack Obama and lawmakers return to work and attempt to revive fiscal cliff negotiations that collapsed before the Christmas holiday. Herbalife Goes On Offensive (WSJ) Herbalife Ltd. said it has hired a strategic adviser and will hold an analyst and investor meeting next month in an effort to thwart a wave of criticism reignited by investor William Ackman. In addition, Herbalife is working with law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP in connection with the dispute, according to people familiar with the matter. It wasn't immediately clear what kind of counsel Boies Schiller might provide...The company's moves, announced Monday, come after Mr. Ackman last week revealed that his firm has been betting against Herbalife shares for months in a negative wager that he characterized as "enormous." He also said the nutritional-supplement maker operates as a "pyramid scheme." He said distributors, or salespeople, for the Los Angeles-based company make more money by recruiting other distributors than by selling the company's diet and nutritional products. Herbalife last week called Mr. Ackman's stance "a malicious attack on Herbalife's business model based largely on outdated, distorted and inaccurate information." NJ Pension Fund Sues NYSE-Euronext on ICE Deal (Reuters) The New Jersey Carpenters Pension Fund on Friday filed a complaint in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan contending that NYSE-Euronext breached its duty to maximize returns for shareholders. The lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of other NYSE-Euronext shareholders and aims to block the sale. Titan to Withdraw Money From SAC (WSJ) Titan Advisors LLC recently told clients that it had decided to withdraw its entire investment from SAC, said clients who received phone calls from Titan. "They've told us they still think SAC is a good firm but Titan doesn't need the headline risk, and we sure don't," said Tom Taneyhill, executive director of the Fire & Police Employees' Retirement System of the City of Baltimore, on Friday...Titan's departure is significant given SAC's long-standing relationship with one of Titan's founders. Titan co-founder George Fox began investing in SAC in the mid-90s, several years after Mr. Cohen started what became the firm in 1992. Madoff, in Christmas Eve Letter, Says Insider Trading Has Gone on 'Forever' (CNBC) In a Christmas Eve letter from the medium security federal prison in North Carolina where he is serving a 150-year sentence for running a massive Ponzi scheme, Madoff tells CNBC that insider trading has been around "forever." He also rails against what he calls a lack of transparency in the financial markets, and says the growth of hedge funds is forcing market players to take outsized risks in order to earn decent returns. [...] "(O)ne would be led to believe that with the recent spate of insider trading prosecution that insider trading is a new development," Madoff writes. "This is false. It has been present in the market forever, but rarely prosecuted. The same can be said of front running of orders." Venture Capital to Suppress Its Appetite for Risk in 2013 (WSJ) Internet entrepreneurs have had the upper hand over venture capitalists in recent years but that balance of power is now showing some signs of shifting, a trend that could accelerate in 2013. Spurring the change is a dramatically lower appetite for risk from venture capitalists. Many investors rushed to get into Web startup deals in 2010, 2011 and in the early part of this year, often acceding to entrepreneurs' demands for rising valuations in order to snag a stake in their companies. But following the disappointing stock market performances of recently public Web companies Facebook, Zynga, and Groupon venture capitalists are reining in their spending in areas like the consumer Internet. Israel Hedge Funds Defy Iran Threat Multiplying in Tech Center (Bloomberg) Tal Keinan, an Israeli fund manager, was ready for the question he’s always asked when he met with investors in New York in October: Why put your money with a manager whose country Iran has threatened to obliterate. “We tell them ‘if the Iranians attack, the worst thing that can happen is you lose your money manager not your money’,” Keinan, chief executive officer of Tel Aviv-based KCPS & Company, which oversees $1 billion in assets, said in an interview on Oct. 14. “The notion is trade global markets with global assets and clients, but just do it from Israel because of the concentration of talent here.” The country is becoming a magnet for hedge fund managers as lower operating costs, the world’s highest number of Ph.D.s and hi-tech startups per capita overshadow concern that Israel may be attacked by missiles from Tehran. The number of funds has grown to 60 overseeing about $2 billion from 13 in 2006, according to a survey of the local industry published in July by Tzur Management. Israel may be on track to replicate the growth that propelled Singapore’s industry from fewer than 20 managers in 2001 to 320 overseeing $48 billion in 2009, Yitz Raab, founder and managing partner of the Tel Aviv-based fund administration company, said in an interview on Nov. 11. Even Cupid Wants To Know Your Credit Score (NYT) The credit score, once a little-known metric derived from a complex formula that incorporates outstanding debt and payment histories, has become an increasingly important number used to bestow credit, determine housing and even distinguish between job candidates. It’s so widely used that it has also become a bigger factor in dating decisions, sometimes eclipsing more traditional priorities like a good job, shared interests and physical chemistry. That’s according to interviews with more than 50 daters across the country, all under the age of 40. Report: Hedgies prime for comeback (NYP) Banking giant UBS says so-called active investing could be making a comeback after several years of lagging performance, according to a recent report sent to clients. “Although the recent market environment has been difficult for active managers, conditions appear to be improving,” according to the report by UBS’s wealth-management group, which advises clients on their investment strategies. “We expect this to lead to better manager performance.” London VC Spared Jail After ‘Groin Thrusting’ Sexual Assault On Tube During Olympics (TechCrunch) Stefan Glaenzer, a partner in London VC firm Passion Capital has been spared jail after pleading guilty to, and being convicted of, sexual assault on the London underground during the Olympics period...In November, the former chairman of Last.fm admitted sexually assaulting an American tourist on a packed Central Line train by thrusting his groin into her back, Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard. His defence was that he was under the influence of cannabis. 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.

Holiday Bell: 12.31.12

Cliff's Edge Draws Close (WSJ) What happens Monday could go some way to determining the short-term fate of the U.S. economy and the reputation of the government, both of which have been dinged by the spectacle of endless seemingly circular negotiations. Carrying the baton late into Sunday evening were Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky) and Vice President Joe Biden. A spokesman for Mr. McConnell said Monday morning that the two men "will continue to work toward a solution." In the past two weeks, at least three different sets of negotiation teams have sought a way out...Still, some remained hopeful elements of a deal were on the table and could be brought into alignment at the last minute. "We're very close," said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D., Md.). "It is like a kaleidoscope," meaning there are many moving parts that can look beautiful or ugly depending how they're arrayed. Experts Forecast The Cost Of Failure To Compromise (NYT) In the event no compromise is found, however,the Congressional Budget Office and many private economists warn that the sudden pullback in spending and the rise in taxes would push the economy into recession in the first half of the year. Under this outcome, Mr. Gault said, the economy could shrink by 0.5 percent over all of 2013. With the clock ticking, some observers bolstered their criticism of Washington. "If we have a recession, it's unforgivable," said Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at the Economic Outlook Group. "For the first time in modern history, we will have a self-inflicted recession in the U.S." New Year's Countdown To Higher US Taxes Starts (Bloomberg) The IRS has said it will issue guidance by today on paycheck withholding for 2013, which depends on the income-tax rates Congress is debating. Higher rates would mean less take- home pay for workers starting as early as the first paycheck in January. Both Democrats and Republicans support extending current rates for families making less than $250,000. They disagree on whether to raise levies for top earners. Rates are scheduled to increase for all income levels Jan. 1 if Congress doesn’t act. Parties Pivot To Blame (WSJ) If Congress and the White House fail to strike a deal to avert the so-called fiscal cliff, Republicans are under few illusions as to who will get much of the blame—even if past polls suggest there will be plenty to go around. "The poor Republicans will get the brunt of it, which may be unfair, but such is life," said Republican Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a former White House budget chief under George W. Bush. "The Republicans are seen as the obstinate ones, where at the very least, the president and his side are equally so." Polls since the November election have found Americans more ready to blame the GOP than President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats if the two sides fail to reach a deal to avoid the wave of tax increases and spending cuts coming Jan. 1. A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll earlier this month showed 24% would blame Republicans while 19% would blame Democrats. Merkel Says Euro Zone Crisis Far From Over (Reuters) FYI. Mario Batali wins biz feud over UK chef Gordon Ramsay (NYP, related, related) Batali says the prickly Brit star has agreed to give up on using the name The Spotted Pig for a London eatery — amid outcry that he had swiped it from Batali and his partners. “It didn’t make him look great,” Batali said of Ramsay’s recent trademarking of the name in the UK. “I don’t think it was an intentional shot across the bow by Gordon,” Batali told the Eater Vegas blog. “His team is just [trying] to build businesses. There’s got to be a thousand other animals they could have chosen besides The Spotted Pig. A striped minx, for example.” Experts Back Deutsche Whistleblowers (FT) Accounting experts say Deutsche Bank appears to have improperly accounted for billions of dollars of credit derivatives trades by failing to value adequately the risk that its trading counterparties could walk away. Jersey woman charged at boyfriend with hammer after he refuses to pay for laundry, reports say (NJ) Jazmin Duran, 24, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, terroristic threats, criminal mischief, domestic violence, possession of weapon, unlawful possession of a weapon, resisting arrest police reports said. Police were called to Garfield Avenue near Armstrong Avenue at 2:52 p.m. on a report that a man was locked in the bathroom and his girlfriend was hitting the door with a hammer, reports said. When police arrived, the 49-year-old boyfriend, was still locked in the bathroom, reports said. After a brief struggle, police were able to detain Duran, reports said. When he came out he told police that Duran was mad at him and attacked him with a hammer, reports said. The victim said that he was undressing to get in the shower while talking to his girlfriend about getting her eyebrows done, when she asked for him to pay for doing her laundry, reports said. He responded that he didn't have money to pay for her laundry, reports said. He said she became irate and began to scream, reports said. BofA Settlement Hits Snags (WSJ) A big legal settlement usually marks the end of the bulk of the work for the Justice Department. But a year after a $335 million deal with Bank of America Corp. to compensate minority borrowers for alleged discrimination, much remains to be done. The department's settlement administrator just began notifying affected borrowers in November, about five months later than originally planned. Then, weeks after letters went out to more than 233,000 presumed victims, about 10% of those letters have been returned as undeliverable, according to Justice Department officials. U.S. officials had warned that it might take two years for eligible borrowers to receive money from the settlement, but they also expressed hope that checks could be mailed out sooner. Those hopes have dimmed. Facebook Analysts Stick To Script (WSJ) Facebook Inc. FB +1.03% has gotten a thumbs-down from investors since its initial public offering. But securities analysts who work at the investment banks that did the deal have never wavered in their enthusiasm. Since the social-networking company went public in May, analysts at Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs—Facebook's three biggest underwriters—have issued 40 reports on the stock. Every report has urged investors to buy. Skin In The Game (NYP) West Village cosmetic doctor Yelena Yeretsky usually works to make the power women of Wall Street look flawless. But now men are asking for her services. Yeretsky says, “The men usually want chemical peels so they look glowy. I remove lesions and skin tags and non-cancerous growths from years of playing golf in the sun.” French Court Says 75% Tax Rate on Rich Is Unconstitutional (Bloomberg) President Francois Hollande’s 75 percent millionaire-tax is unconstitutional because it fails to guarantee taxpayer equality, France’s top court ruled today. The tax, one of Hollande’s campaign promises, had become a focal point of discontent among entrepreneurs and other wealth creators, some of whom have quit French shores as a result. The ruling comes as the president seeks to cut France’s public deficit to 3 percent of gross domestic product next year from a projected 4.5 percent this year. For Euro, All Eyes On ECB's Playbook (WSJ) "Global central banks are engaged in a race to the bottom. It's difficult to call which major currency will be the ugliest," said Munich-based Thomas Kressin, who heads currency strategy for Pacific Investment Management Co., one of the world's biggest bond-fund managers. Expert: Champagne cork can put an eye out (UPI) The pressure inside a champagne bottle can launch a cork at 50 miles per hour as it leaves the bottle, fast enough to shatter glass, U.S. eye experts say. Dr. Monica L. Monica, an ophthalmologist and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, said the speed at which a cork can be unleashed is fast enough to permanently damage vision, including rupture of the eye wall, acute glaucoma, retinal detachment, ocular bleeding, dislocation of the lens and damage to the eye's bone structure. These injuries sometimes require urgent eye surgeries, Monica said. "When a champagne cork flies, you really have no time to react and protect your delicate eyes," Monica said in a statement. Programming Note: We're on an abbreviated, vacation-esque schedule. Opening wraps and brief updates should anything happen that people need to know about (fiscal cliff deal is struck, Raj Rajaratnam leads his fellow inmates in a NYE flashmob set to 'Thriller,' etc). Happy New Year and we'll see you in 2013!

Holiday Bell: 03.29.13

SAC Capital Advisors Trader Charged With Fraud (WSJ) Early Friday morning, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrested a longtime SAC Capital portfolio manager on insider-trading charges, making him the most senior employee of one of the nation's most prominent hedge funds to be snared in the government's sprawling probe. Michael Steinberg, 40 years old, was led out of his building on New York's Park Avenue in handcuffs around 6 a.m. Mr. Steinberg has worked at Stamford, Conn.-based SAC since 1997 and at its Sigma Capital Management unit in New York since 2003, dealing closely with SAC's billionaire founder Steven A. Cohen. "Michael Steinberg did absolutely nothing wrong," his lawyer, Barry H. Berke, said in a statement Friday. "His trading decisions were based on detailed analysis" and information "he understood had been properly obtained through the types of channels that institutional investors rely upon on a daily basis." Mr. Steinberg was charged Friday with conspiracy to commit securities fraud and four counts of securities fraud, alleging that he made illegal trades in Dell and Nvidia Corp. based on information relayed to him by a Sigma Capital analyst. He faces as much as 20 years in prison on each fraud charge. He is expected to appear in Manhattan federal court later Friday. The Securities and Exchange Commission also separately filed a civil lawsuit against him in Manhattan federal court on Friday. "Mike has conducted himself professionally and ethically during his long tenure at the firm. We believe him to be a man of integrity," a SAC spokesman said Friday. SAC’s Steinberg Arrested as Probe Gets Closer to Cohen (Bloomberg) Jon Horvath, who worked for Steinberg, pleaded guilty in September, admitting that he provided illegal tips to his portfolio manager, who then traded on them...Two days before Dell was set to report second-quarter 2008 earnings, Horvath e-mailed Steinberg and another portfolio manager to warn that the computer maker would miss earnings estimates. “I have a 2nd hand read from someone at the company,” Horvath said in the Aug. 26 e-mail, which provided details on gross margins, expenditures and revenue. “Please keep to yourself as obviously not well known.” Steinberg replied, “Yes normally we would never divulge data like this, so please be discreet. Thanks.” Judge Sullivan concluded in December that e-mail and instant messages he reviewed showed that Steinberg could have known information he used for trades came from insiders. “The e-mails that were relayed to Steinberg do indicate to me that he understands the source of the information that he’s getting and he’s trading on it,” Sullivan wrote. “All of that indicates this is inside information from the company that’s not available anywhere else.” Cypriots Cast Blame As Banks Open (WSJ) President Nicos Anastasiades on Thursday ordered the creation of a three-member committee to investigate the roots of the economic malaise engulfing the island. The committee will be chaired by three former judges from Cyprus's supreme court, including Georgios Pikis, the court's former president and a former member of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Cyprus Says Threat Contained, No Plan to Leave Euro (Reuters) FYI. BofA Tops Financial-Complaint List (WSJ) Bank of America accounted for the largest share of consumer complaints lodged with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau over the past 16 months, highlighting the challenges the nation's second-largest bank faces as it tries to simplify its sprawling operations. Illinois Man Charged In 21-Ton Cheese Heist (ABC) Veniamin Balika, 34, of Plainfield, Ill., was accused of stealing 42,000 pounds of Muenster cheese from a Wisconsin cheese company. He was arrested at a Bergen County rest area on the New Jersey Turnpike on Monday, the result of a joint investigation with the Saddle Brook New Jersey Police Department and the New Jersey State Police. “He was charged with receiving stolen property and fencing,” New Jersey State Police Sergeant Adam Grossman told ABCNews.com. Balika allegedly attempted to sell the load of 1,135 cases of cheese at the rest area. Morgan Stanley's Porat Passes On Treasury Post (NYP) Morgan Stanley’s chief financial officer has taken herself out of the running for the No. 2 job at the Treasury Department after months of speculation that she was all but certain to join the Obama administration. The 56-year-old high-profile Wall Streeter, who had been the top candidate to work alongside Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, called the White House late Wednesday to remove her name after fretting about possibly being raked over the coals during a Senate confirmation hearing, sources told The Post. Putin May Cap Golden Parachutes After $100 Million Payout (Bloomberg) President Vladimir Putin proposed limiting severance payments to Russian executives, after a former KGB colleague was granted about $100 million when he stepped down as the head of OAO GMK Norilsk Nickel. While so-called golden parachutes should “stimulate top- class managers” to work efficiently, “sensible limits” are needed, Putin said at a meeting of his People’s Front movement in Rostov-on-Don today. Capping such payments would comply with global standards, Putin said. France's Hollande Hits Companies With 75% Wealth Tax (Reuters) French President Francois Hollande declared on Thursday that companies would have to pay a 75 percent tax on salaries over a million euros after his plan for a "super-tax" on individuals was knocked down by the constitutional court. Deutsche Bank probe finds incomplete data given to prosecutors (Reuters) An internal investigation at Deutsche Bank has found that incomplete data related to a carbon tax fraud probe were handed over to prosecutors, German magazine Der Spiegel said on Friday. The probe is one of several legal headaches with which Germany's biggest lender is grappling. For CEOs, Buyout Game Can Be Second Act (WSJ) Less than two months after agreeing to leave Chesapeake under pressure from shareholders over his free-spending ways, Aubrey McClendon is meeting with private-equity investors and others to discuss potentially teaming up for new ventures, according to several people familiar with the discussions. Mitt Romney Thinks His Grandkids’ Names Are Ridiculous (Daily Intel) "A few months ago we had twins come in, and you can't believe what they're named: Winston and Eleanor. [Laughs.] I mean, it's going back to the glorious days of the thirties and forties, I guess. But these are just darling little infants, and to have such big names on them is really something, although they call them Ellie and Win ... When I heard Winston and Eleanor, I thought, It sounds like two English bulldogs, but they're adorable children."