CFA December exam results show passes at highest level for 20 years [efinancialcareers]
Following 2019's miserable showing, when the December pass rate for the CFA Level I exam was at a seven year low of just 42%, the December 2020 pass rate increased to 49% for Level I, and to 55% (from 44% in 2019) for Level II.
The last time that 49% of people or more passed the CFA Level I exams was 2001. The last time that 55% of people or more passed level II was 1998….
2020's unusually high pass rate is therefore unlikely to be because December 2020's exams were any easier than usual. It may, potentially, have been because exams were cancelled in areas of the world where pandemic-related lockdowns meant exam centers were closed, or because December's exam takers had additional time to revise after the June 2020 exams were largely cancelled.

Repeal of State-Tax Deduction Cap Pitched for Covid-19 Relief Bill [WSJ]
The lawmakers say the cap, created in the 2017 tax law, punishes their constituents unfairly and pushes residents to move to low-tax states such as Florida. They are pitching the break as crucial to their states’ economic recovery…. Repealing what’s known as the SALT (state and local tax) cap would reduce federal revenue by more than $65 billion a year and expose splits within the party. Democrats are already struggling with slim majorities, competing priorities and worries about the size of the coronavirus relief plan.

Hamilton Lane to Acquire 361 Capital, Further Expanding its Presence in the Private Wealth Channel [press release]
The acquisition aims to expand Hamilton Lane’s presence and capabilities in the U.S. private wealth channel. The 361 Capital team, led by Chairman and CEO Tom Florence and President Josh Vail, will remain in Denver, CO, growing Hamilton Lane’s footprint to 18 locations around the world…. Closing is expected to occur later this quarter and is subject to customary closing conditions.

Suspected Russian Hack Extends Far Beyond SolarWinds Software, Investigators Say [WSJ]
Approximately 30% of both the private-sector and government victims linked to the campaign had no direct connection to SolarWinds, Brandon Wales, acting director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said in an interview.
The attackers “gained access to their targets in a variety of ways. This adversary has been creative,” said Mr. Wales, whose agency, part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is coordinating the government response. “It is absolutely correct that this campaign should not be thought of as the SolarWinds campaign.”

McKinsey Is in Settlement Talks With States Over Opioid Work [WSJ]
The potential deal could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, though the exact terms are still being worked out and discussions may not result in an agreement, the people said…. A settlement, should one be reached, wouldn’t cover other potential legal liability, including legal claims that could be brought by Purdue or its creditors.

GM looks to sell only emission-free vehicles by 2035 [CNN Business]
This move will require an investment of $27 billion, up from the $20 billion announced before the pandemic…. To help curb the company's own emissions, GM said it will source 100% renewable energy to power its U.S. plants by 2030 and global sites by 2035 -- five years earlier than previously announced….
GM will dedicate 50% of its capital spending and product development teams to work on its electric and electric-autonomous vehicle programs.

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Opening Bell: 12.21.20

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Opening Bell: 10.9.20

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Opening Bell: 12.16.20

Sickly-looking stimulus; first-quarter frowns; valuation insanity continues; Swiss slap on the wrist; and more!

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Opening Bell: 12.18.20

G.O.P. going all-out to stop stimulus; bitcoin exchange to sell shares for dollars; Telsa to run over other stocks in S&P 500; and more!

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Opening Bell: 5.19.21

Jamie Dimon’s chiseled chin will not be contained; Gabe Plotkin loses coming and going; Michael Burry buries Tesla; and more!

Opening Bell: 02.13.12

Société Générale to Restructure (WSJ) Société Générale said Wednesday it will roll out a restructuring plan to cut costs and boost revenue, as the French bank posted a larger-than-expected fourth-quarter loss and painted a stark picture of the outlook for retail banking in France against the backdrop of a stagnant economy...The Paris-based lender, France's second-largest publicly listed bank by market capitalization, reported a €476 million net loss ($640 million) in the three months ended Dec. 31, compared with €100 million net profit last year, well below analysts' expectations. Apple's Cook Calls Einhorn Lawsuit 'Silly Sideshow', Says Company's Not Tight-Fisted (CNBC) Wading into a controversy that was bought to a head last week by fund manager David Einhorn, Cook touted his company's investment in product development and research. The CEO rejected the basis of a lawsuit filed by Einhorn that the fund manager asserts will restrict Apple's ability to distribute its excess cash to its investors. "Frankly I find it bizarre that we would find ourselves being sued for doing something that's good for shareholders," Cook told the Goldman Sachs' Technology and Internet Conference. Apple checkmate: Another big investor backs company vs. Einhorn (NYP) The California State Teachers’ Retirement System, a $157.8 billion pension fund that owns 1.6 million Apple shares, told The Post they are siding with Apple against Einhorn. CalSTRS supports the proposal because “blank check” preferred stock “can be used as anti-takeover defenses and entrench a board,” said Anne Sheehan, the director of corporate governance. SAC Probe Said to Be Hampered by Auto-Deleted E-Mails (Bloomberg) The federal investigation of insider trading by SAC Capital Advisors LP and its founder, Steven A. Cohen, has been hampered by a lack of extensive e-mail evidence. One reason: During the period of time at the heart of the probe, July 2008, SAC automatically deleted its e-mails. Unluckily for the U.S. government, SAC changed its policy just months later, requiring preservation of electronic communications. By then, most messages relevant to the $700 million in alleged illegal trades had been erased, according to a person familiar with the matter. Until the fall of 2008, SAC e-mails were deleted from employee electronic mailboxes every 30 or 60 days, according to SAC General Counsel Peter Nussbaum. Comcast Buys Rest Of NBC's Parent (WSJ) Comcast Corp, in a bullish bet on traditional entertainment, is buying General Electric Co.'s stake in NBCUniversal for $16.7 billion, giving the cable operator full ownership of the film and television giant much sooner than expected. Kate Upton on Antarctic shoot for SI: 'My body was shutting down' (NBC) The theme of this year’s issue, which hit newsstands Tuesday, put models in exotic settings on all seven continents. Upton was sent to the most forbidding one of them all, Antarctica, to endure with frigid temperatures in skimpy outfits, including the parka top and bikini bottom she is wearing on the magazine's cover. “I was very surprised by the news that that’s where my shoot was going to be located,’’ she said on TODAY Tuesday in her first interview since making the cover. “It was freezing. I’m from Florida, so it wasn’t great for me. When I came back I was losing hearing and eyesight because my body was shutting down, it was working so hard to keep warm. I was thinking warm thoughts." Eurozone Worries Intensify (WSJ) Industrial production in the euro zone fell at its sharpest quarterly rate in more than three years at the end of last year, despite rising in December, stoking fears of a third consecutive quarterly economic contraction. But data released on Wednesday suggested the euro-zone economy reached a low point in November and could be showing early signs of recovery, as production in Germany, the currency bloc's biggest single economy, rose in December after falling for four consecutive months. Russia Says It Is Moving Away From Currency Manipulation (CNBC) FYI. ING To Cut 2,400 More Jobs (WSJ) The Netherlands' biggest bank by assets, which had about 85,000 employees world-wide at the end of the fourth quarter, is cutting costs in response to the weak European economy and tougher regulations for banks. As US Gasoline Prices Soar, Hedge Fund Oil Bets Near Record (Reuters) U.S. motorists searching for someone to blame for the highest gasoline prices ever at this time of year have an easy target: hedge funds who have been quietly amassing winning bets on hundreds of millions of barrels of oil. At a filling station in Midtown New York last week, several people were prepared to blame traders on Wall Street as they paid more than $4 per gallon to fill up their cars. "It really is not supply and demand. It's definitely speculation," said John Keegan, an exterminator with pest control company Terminate Control, who was filling up his van. A cab driver said he was convinced the price would be just $1 a gallon if the government "stopped Wall Street trading oil." No Ordinary Affenpinscher, Banana Joe Is Named Best in Show (NYT) Banana Joe, a black dog with a monkeylike face, became the first affenpinscher to win Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Tuesday night. He defeated six dogs, one a Portuguese water dog on the same night that Bo, who is the same breed, watched his master, President Obama, deliver the State of the Union address. “He’s won a lot of big, big shows, but none like this one,” said his handler, Ernesto Lara, who held onto Joey, as he calls him, during a postshow news conference. Joey sat calmly, as if he could have gone back onto the floor of Madison Square Garden and taken on his challengers again. He stuck his tongue out as Lara answered questions. He didn’t appear to need any celebratory drinks or snacks. “I don’t think he has anything to prove,” Lara said. “I’m not bragging, this is just the way he is. The best thing is that I was in cue with him.” He added: “This isn’t a breed you train. He’s like a human. You befriend him.”

Opening Bell: 12.12.12

Three Questioned In Libor Probe (WSJ) While the SFO didn't identify the men, one of them is Thomas Hayes, a former trader at UBS and Citigroup, according to people familiar with the matter. Authorities in multiple countries have been looking into Mr. Hayes as an alleged coordinator of a group of employees at multiple banks who sought to manipulate the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, according to people familiar with the case. One of the others arrested was Terry Farr, an employee of British brokerage firm R.P. Martin Holdings Ltd. in London who is currently on leave from the firm, according to a person familiar with the case. Mr. Farr has been under investigation for possibly helping bank employees coordinate their efforts to influence Libor, according to people familiar with the case. HSBC Mexican Branches Said to Be Traffickers’ Favorites (Bloomberg) From 2006 to 2010, the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico and the Norte del Valle Cartel in Columbia moved more than $881 million in proceeds through HSBC’s U.S. unit, said Lanny Breuer, assistant attorney general for the U.S. Justice Department’s criminal division. Breuer, along with U.S. Attorney Lorretta Lynch in Brooklyn, New York, announced yesterday the bank had agreed to pay at least $1.9 billion to settle money laundering probes. “These traffickers didn’t have to try very hard,” Breuer said at a press conference in Brooklyn. “They would sometimes deposit hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash in a single day into a single account using boxes designed to fit the precise dimension of the tellers’ windows in HSBC’s Mexico branches.” It Could Get Hairy Before 'Cliff' Deal: Greenspan (CNBC) "The best possible outcome is to take something like Simpson-Bowles as it came out originally and work off that," he said, of a deal to avoid the automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that go into effect at the end of the year. But he said that reaching a final agreement won't be an easy process, since the president believes he has a mandate following the election while House Republicans believe they, too, have a mandate. "I'm not at altogether clear how much control (Speaker) Boehner has over the overall caucus," Greenspan said. "At the end of the day it will all work out but it's going to be a bit hairy before we get there." Buffett Joins Soros in Effort to Raise Taxes on Estates (Bloomberg) Billionaireinvestors Warren Buffett and George Soros are calling on Congress to increase the estate tax as lawmakers near a decision on tax policies that expire Dec. 31. In a joint statement Tuesday, Buffett, Soros and more than 20 other wealthy individuals asked Congress to lower the estate tax’s per-person exemption to $2 million from $5.12 million and raise the top rate to more than 45 percent from 35 percent. An estate tax structured this way will “raise significant revenue to reduce the deficit and fund vital services, will only be paid by the top one percent of estates, will raise more from the wealthiest estates” and will simplify compliance, said the statement. It also was signed by John Bogle, founder of mutual fund company Vanguard Group Inc., and former President Jimmy Carter. U.S. Probe of SAC Trading Said to Be Linked to 2010 Case (Bloomberg) A U.S. investigation of possible insider trading at SAC Capital Advisors LP, the $14 billion hedge fund run by Steven A. Cohen, is linked to a 2010 regulatory lawsuit over allegedly illegal trades in InterMune Inc, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Securities and Exchange Commission’s probe of trades that SAC Capital made in the Brisbane, California-based biopharmaceutical company is tied to a December 2010 SEC lawsuit against an investor, said the person, who asked not to be named because the matter isn’t public. The investor bought InterMune options before a European Union regulatory panel urged approval of the company’s drug Esbriet to treat a fatal lung disease, the person said, declining to elaborate. Man says law standing between him and sex acts with donkey is unconstitutional (NYDN) Lawyers representing the frisky farmhand thrown in jail for allegedly masturbating with a donkey are now fighting to have Florida’s statute banning sex with animals declared unconstitutional. “By making sexual conduct with an animal a crime, the statute demeans individuals like Defendant by making his private sexual conduct a crime,” attorneys for 32-year-old Carlos R. Romero wrote in a motion filed last week, the Ocala-Star Banner reported. Romero was cuffed at an Ocala farm back in September after farm proprietor Gerald James told police he saw Romero with his pants down as he was seemingly having sex with a donkey named Doodle in an equipment room on Aug. 15, according to police report obtained by thesmokinggun.com. Romero later pleaded not guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor charge of sexual activities involving animals. He announced last week that he wanted his case to go to trial. His attorneys argue that Florida’s statute violates the farmhand’s rights by stripping him of his “personal liberty and autonomy when it comes to private intimate activities.”They say the statute is unconstitutional because it doesn’t require the state to provide any proof of the animal’s suffering “or any proof of the sexual activity being non-consensual.” Inside The Risky Bets Of Central Banks (WSJ) While many national governments, including the U.S., have failed to agree on fiscal policy—how best to balance tax revenues with spending during slow growth—the central bankers have forged their own path, independent of voters and politicians, bound by frequent conversations and relationships stretching back to university days. If the central bankers are correct, they will help the world economy avoid prolonged stagnation and a repeat of central banking mistakes in the 1930s. If they are wrong, they could kindle inflation or sow the seeds of another financial crisis. Failure also could lead to new restrictions on the power and independence of central banks, tools deemed crucial in such emergencies as the 2008-2009 financial crisis. Freeport's $20 Billion Deal Stirs Backlash (WSJ) Freeport agreed last week to acquire energy explorers McMoRan Exploration Co. MMR +0.85% and Plains Exploration & Production Co. PXP -0.42% in transactions that will cost the Arizona mining giant about $20 billion including assumed debt. The deal will result in six directors with overlapping roles at Freeport and McMoRan Exploration receiving payouts for their shares totaling more than $130 million, according to securities filings. Some Freeport investors and analysts also have questioned the wisdom of a metals miner diving into the oil and gas business. They have taken issue with what they call conflicts of interests among the shared executives and directors at Freeport and McMoRan and the fact that the deal as structured doesn't require a Freeport shareholder vote. Fed Discourages Bank Dealmaking (WSJ) The Federal Reserve is pushing large U.S. banks to forget about all but the smallest acquisitions for a while amid a raging debate over the risk big lenders pose to the financial system. Man Drive 100 MPH To Wedding, Gets Arrested (Again) (NWI) Timothy N. Thompson, 23, of Valparaiso, was supposed to be married in a 7 p.m. ceremony. Instead, Thompson was arrested for resisting law enforcement, criminal recklessness and reckless driving. He was also cited for speeding and improper passing. According to police, an officer spotted Thompson about 6:30 p.m. Saturday speeding north in the center lane of Willowcreek Road. The officer estimated Thompson was driving 100 mph. Thompson allegedly continued to drive erratically, switching lanes abruptly and, according to the report, nearly wrecking. Police reported they followed Thompson as he turned into the parking lot of Nativity of Our Savior Church on Willowcreek Road, where he again nearly tipped over the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Once he entered the church's parking lot, three people -- later identified as relatives -- began flailing their arms and yelling at him. Thompson drove through the parking lot, accelerating and doing a "doughnut," creating a thick blanket of tire smoke, according to the report. When he stopped, Thompson told police he was late for his wedding and estimated he was doing "about 90" mph. He also told police he had his emergency flashers on and was sounding his horn to alert drivers. When an officer walked away from Thompson's vehicle, Thompson reentered his vehicle and drove toward the entrance of the church, where he was stopped by police again. "Oh, I thought you were done and I'm late for a party in Chicago," police reported Thompson saying. "It now means I have to drive really fast to get there." Thompson, who also told police he had just been released from jail that day, didn't make his wedding. He was transported to Porter County Jail and held without bond.

Opening Bell: 8.21.15

Paulson likes Puerto Rico; JP Morgan hires General; Female Viagra; Twitter; "Hamas captures alleged Israeli spy dolphin"; and more.