“A winter storm that has caused at least 2,000 U.S. flights to be scrubbed has triggered a blizzard warning in New York City and may drop more than 2 feet of snow on Boston, leaving thousands without power…”Comments »
“Europe’s top financial regulator said he’s considering forcing banks to participate in setting Libor and Euribor rates after lenders including Citigroup Inc. and HSBC Holdings Plc pulled out of some panels amid the rigging scandal.
Regulators will draw up a list of lenders that should be forced to participate in the setting of interbank rates “in view of their involvement” in those markets, Michel Barnier, the EU’s financial services chief, said in an e-mailed statement today.
“Any banks considering withdrawing from the contributing panels should therefore take into account that they may be required to rejoin,” Barnier said. The plans to force banks to submit data for rate setting will be included in draft legislation on benchmark setting that the European Commission will present in the first half of this year.
Euribor-EBF, the group that administers the setting of Euribor rates warned last month that it may face an Exodus of banks from its rate-setting panel. Rabobank International, the biggest Dutch savings bank, withdrew from the panel that sets the euro interbank offered rate in January, while Deutsche Bank AG said this week that it would end participating in some Euribor-EBF rates.
“FEBRUARY 7–The apparent hack of several e-mail accounts has exposed personal photos and sensitive correspondence from members of the Bush family, including both former U.S. presidents, The Smoking Gun has learned.
The photos and e-mails were uploaded yesterday to an online account that appears to have been hacked for the purpose of hosting the material.
In e-mail exchanges with the person who claimed responsibility for the hack, the individual claimed to have swiped “a lot of stuff,” including “interesting mails” about George H.W. Bush’s recent hospitalization, “Bush 43,” and other Bush family members.
Included in the hacked material is a confidential October 2012 list of home addresses, cell phone numbers, and e-mails for dozens of Bush family members, including both former presidents, their siblings, and their children. The posted photos and e-mails contain a watermark with the hacker’s online alias, “Guccifer.”..”Comments »
“Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services could face a much higher legal bill than the $5 billion sought by the federal government as more and more states join the battle against the credit-ratings firm.
A raft of lawsuits this week from attorneys general from several states, including California and Iowa, is compounding S&P’s legal woes over its role during the financial crisis of 2008-2009.
On Tuesday, the Justice Department sued S&P for allegedly causing some banks and credit unions to lose $5 billion after relying on the company’s ratings of mortgage-linked securities.
However, the $5 billion claim, which S&P has dismissed as “meritless,” is only part of the legal battle being fought by the world’s largest credit-ratings firm by number of deals rated.
Thirteen states and the District of Columbia have followed in the Justice Department’s footsteps, filing separate lawsuits against S&P on Tuesday. The California attorney general alone is suing S&P for about $4 billion to recover funds for two of the country’s largest public pension funds, according to its lawsuit.
Other states, such as Colorado and Arkansas, are demanding S&P give back the revenue it earned on precrisis ratings of hundreds of securities. State prosecutors allege S&P presented its ratings as based on objective and independent analysis but actually were inflated to cater to the banks that helped arrange and sell the securities.
In a statement Wednesday, an S&P spokesman said “any allegations that we compromised our analytic integrity for business considerations are simply false.”
Not all of the states’ lawsuits specify the amount they are seeking. However, a 2011 Senate report pegged S&P’s revenue on mortgage-related securities at $2.3 billion from 2002 to 2007….”Comments »
“Debt collector horror stories abound: There are threats to dig up the dead relatives of those who couldn’t pay their funeral bills, promises to imprison debtors or take their children into custody — even warnings that pets will be killed.
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, collectors are prohibited from threatening violence, using profane language, calling incessantly, inflating a debt and implying they are attorneys. And they can’t tell consumers they will arrest them or garnish their wages or property unless they actually plan to take that action and are legally able to do so through a court order. Many states have their own rules governing debt collector practices as well.
These are some of the latest outrageous allegations of abuse:
Threatening to take away children: Last week, the Federal Trade Commission shut down a Texas-based debt collector, Goldman Schwartz, for using deceptive and abusive scare tactics to force people to pay their payday loan debts. Among the alleged offenses:collectors called consumers incessantly, saying “we can take you to jail” or “we’ll send the sheriff’s department to your job and take care of this the hard way,” even though they had no legal basis to do so….”Comments »
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Link for iPhone users: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yKqhxAgzEA
“Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc is set to pay about 400 million pounds ($627 million) in fines for manipulating interest rates, the second-largest penalty imposed in a global regulatory probe, two people with knowledge of the matter said.
An announcement will be made today, said the people, who requested anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. An RBS unit will plead guilty to criminal charges as part of a deal with the U.S. Justice Department, a person familiar with the talks said. It’s the third fine to result from a global probe into whether lenders rigged the London interbank offered rate, or Libor. Investment banking chief John Houricanalso was expected to resign, the people said.
The penalty is the biggest blow to Chief Executive OfficerStephen Hester’s attempt to overhaul the Edinburgh-based bank after it took 45.5 billion pounds in a 2008 taxpayer bailout, the largest in history. The fine would exceed the 290 million pounds Barclays Plc paid in June, and be second only to the $1.5 billion UBS AG paid in December. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said this week that RBS should pay the U.S. fines by clawing back bonuses from its investment bankers.
“The full extent of the CIA‘s extraordinary rendition programme has been laid bare with the publication of a report showing there is evidence that more than a quarter of the world’s governments covertly offered support.
A 213-page report compiled by the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), a New York-based human rights organisation, says that at least 54 countries co-operated with the global kidnap, detention and tortureoperation that was mounted after 9/11, many of them in Europe.
So widespread and extensive was the participation of governments across the world that it is now clear the CIA could not have operated its programme without their support, according to the OSJI.
“There is no doubt that high-ranking Bush administration officials bear responsibility for authorising human rights violations associated with secret detention and extraordinary rendition, and the impunity that they have enjoyed to date remains a matter of significant concern,” the report says.
“But responsibility for these violations does not end with the United States. Secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations, designed to be conducted outside the United States under cover of secrecy, could not have been implemented without the active participation of foreign governments. These governments too must be held accountable.”
The states identified by the OSJI include those such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt and Jordan where the existence of secret prisons and the use of torture has been well documented for many years. But the OSJI’s rendition list also includes states such as Ireland, Iceland and Cyprus, which are accused of granting covert support for the programme by permitting the use of airspace and airports by aircraft involved in rendition flights.
Canada not only permitted the use of its airspace but provided information that led to one of its own nationals being taken to Syriawhere he was held for a year and tortured, the report says.
Iran and Syria are identified by the OSJI as having participated in the rendition programme. Syria is said to have been one of the “most common destinations for rendered suspects”, while Iran is said to have participated in the CIA’s programme by handing over 15 individuals to Kabul shortly after the US invasion of Afghanistan, in the full knowledge that they would fall under US control….”Comments »
“McGraw-Hill Cos. (MHP) and its Standard & Poor’s unit were sued by the U.S. over claims S&P knowingly understated the credit risks of bonds and derivatives that were central to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
The U.S. Justice Department filed a complaint yesterday in in Los Angeles, accusing McGraw-Hill and S&P of three types of fraud, the first federal case against a ratings company for grades related to the credit crisis. McGraw-Hill tumbled the most in 25 years yesterday when it said it expected the lawsuit.
S&P issued credit ratings on more than $2.8 trillion of residential mortgage-backed securities and about $1.2 trillion of collateralized-debt obligations from September 2004 through October 2007, according to the complaint. S&P downplayed the risks on portions of the securities to gain more business from the investment banks that issued them, the U.S. said.
“It’s going to be a tricky time for rating agencies,” Fred Ponzo, a capital markets analyst at Greyspark Partners in London, said in a telephone interview. “S&P is probably just the first to face the music.”
Under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989, the U.S. seeks civil penalties of as much as $1.1 million for each violation….”Comments »
” NEW YORK (New York) – Herbalife HLF -9.61% , the nutritional products distributor, is under scrutiny by the Federal Trade Commission, according to the New York Post. The report said the FTC has received 192 complaints against the firm in the last seven years. Billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, CEO of Pershing Square…”Comments »
“Google Inc. (GOOG) submitted an offer to European Union regulators in a bid to settle a probe into whether the world’s largest search engine operator discriminates against rivals, the EU’s antitrust chief said.
“It has arrived,” EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told reporters in Brussels today. He said his officials would now study the proposal.
Almunia had asked Google to submit concessions by the end of January to address allegations that the company promotes its own specialist search-services, copies rivals’ travel and restaurant reviews, and has agreements with websites and software developers that stifle competition in the advertising industry. He first told Google in May that he wanted to settle the case.
Google sent a “detailed proposal,” said Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for Almunia. He said he couldn’t anticipate if the offer was sufficient to allay antitrust concerns or whether it would be sent to rivals and customers for comments. If this market test is successful, the EU can make the commitments legally binding. Such a settlement would avoid possible fines against the Mountain View, California-based company.
Google continues “to work co-operatively with the commission,” the company’s Brussels-based spokesman Al Verney said in an e-mailed statement.
U.S. Probe…”Comments »
“The Netherlands took control of SNS Reaal NV (SR) after real estate losses brought the fourth- largest Dutch lender to the brink of collapse, the country’s second banking nationalization since 2008.
The move, aimed “at stabilizing the SNS Reaal group,” will cost taxpayers 3.7 billion euros ($5 billion), the Dutch Finance Ministry said in a statement today. SNS’s property- finance unit will be separated from the company.
“I scrutinized all alternative solutions involving market parties,” Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said. “Yesterday night I found myself compelled to conclude no acceptable total solution was offered. I therefore had to use the instrument of last resort, which is nationalization.”
The lender, which acquired ABN Amro Holding NV’s property- finance unit in 2006, has been hurt by losses on real estate loans that have left it struggling to repay a government bailout before next year’s deadline and bolster capital buffers. The nationalization includes all issued shares, core tier 1 capital securities and subordinated bonds, the ministry said.
SNS shares were suspended in Amsterdam. They last traded yesterday at 84 cents, valuing the company at 242 million euros, and have declined 57 percent in the past year.
Fortis, ABN…”Comments »
“Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) suppliers embroiled in the largest cartel probe on record have rebounded from a slump that followed almost $1 billion in fines in Japan and the U.S. Now they face the prospect of even more penalties in Europe.
EU fines will probably be announced this year, said Takeshi Shinagawa, a director at the Japan Fair Trade Commission. Parts makers Sumitomo Electric Industries Ltd. (5802), JTekt Corp. (6473) and at least 12 others could get EU cartel fines higher than those levied in Japan, he said.
Toyota affiliate Denso Corp. (6902) and Sumitomo Electric, also a supplier to Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co., have been investigated in cartel probes following raids of four manufacturers by watchdogs in the U.S., the EU and Japan in 2010. Fines this year may be big enough to cause declines in the component makers’ shares, said Syusaku Nishikawa, an analyst at Daiwa Securities Co….”Comments »
“Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy and his government have been rocked today by documents published in El Pais that appear to show his party receiving a large amount of “secret” donations.
El Pais claims that the documents show a series of payments from well known businessmen to the conservative People’s Party for more than a decade, with the last payment in 2009.
According to the Guardian, one document appears to show Rajoy himself receiving payments totaling €250,000 ($340,000) that had been hidden from tax authorities.
The scandal revolves around former treasurer Luis Bárcenas, who is under investigation for allegedly having €22 million ($30 million) in a Swiss bank account. Bárcenas is alleged to have kept a double accounting system for the party to hide the payments….”Comments »
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Link for iPhone users: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3_hFYucgYYComments »
“In a little-noticed email published online Wednesday by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a young Dominican woman wrote nine months ago that she slept with 59-year-old New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez at a series of sex parties organized by Dr. Salomon Melgen, a longtime Menendez campaign donor.
“That senator also likes the youngest and newest girls,” the woman wrote on April 21, 2002, according to an English translation provided to The Daily Caller by a native Spanish speaker.
“In the beginning he seemed so serious, because he never spoke to anyone, but he is just like the others and has just about the same tastes as the doctor, very refined. I think they were taking us more often to get us checked [medically] because of him.” “Comments »
“* Investment bank bet against CIO in derivatives market
* Bank said to have discussed merging opposing trade books
* Opposing bets could fuel claim JPM is too big to manage
By Emily Flitter
NEW YORK, Jan 29 (Reuters) – There is a new twist in the London Whale trading scandal that cost JPMorgan Chase $6.2 billion in trading losses last year. Some of the firm’s own traders bet against the very derivatives positions placed by its chief investment office, said three people familiar with the matter.
The U.S. Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations, which launched an inquiry into the trading loss last fall, is looking into the how different divisions of the bank wound up on opposite sides of the same trade, said one of the people familiar with the matter.
The committee is expected to release a report on its investigation in the next few weeks.
The people familiar with the situation did not comment on the dollar value of the opposing trades placed by JPMorgan Chase & Co’s investment bank traders, which was much smaller than the total positions put on by the CIO.
The intra-bank trading was not mentioned in a 129-page report JPMorgan released on Jan. 16, which chronicled some of the bank’s risk management failures. The scandal has led to a number of management changes at JPMorgan and has sullied CEO Jamie Dimon’s image as a hands-on risk manager.
Kristin Lemkau, a spokeswoman for JPMorgan, declined to comment on the investment bank’s trading positions.
A spokeswoman for the Senate committee, led by Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, a Democrat, declined to comment on its investigation.
It was widely known that a group of about eight credit-focused hedge funds, such as BlueMountain Capital Management and Saba Capital Management, were on the other side of the trades that JPMorgan’s London-based Whale team made on an index tied to corporate default rates. But the role JPMorgan’s own investment bank may have played in the messy unwinding of the derivatives trade has not come out until now….”Comments »
Senators Grassly and Brown Question Lack of Justice at DOJ on Disproportionately Low Bank Settlements
“WASHINGTON, Jan 29 (Reuters) – Two U.S. senators on Tuesday questioned whether the Justice Department has been aggressive enough in prosecuting misconduct at the largest banks and asked the department to turn over information on how it determines punishments.
Sherrod Brown, a Democrat who chairs a Senate Banking subcommittee, and Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said they were worried certain Wall Street banks enjoyed “too big to fail” status in enforcement policy, resulting in penalties that were disproportionately low.
The requests come amid renewed interest in whether U.S. authorities have held accountable the institutions and individuals who contributed to the financial crisis.
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, the senators asked whether the Justice Department ever failed to prosecute any institutions due to concern about the stability of the financial markets or imposed a penalty that reflected such concerns.
They also asked Holder to name outside experts that prosecutors consulted in making decisions about charging financial institutions with more than $1 billion in assets. Brown and Grassley also asked for copies of any contracts with such experts.
“Our markets will only function efficiently if participants believe that all laws will be enforced consistently, and that violators will be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” the pair wrote. “There should not be one set of rules that apply to Wall Street and another set for the rest of us.” …”Comments »
“TOKYO (Reuters) – Toyota Motor Corp will recall nearly 1.3 million cars globally for two separate defects, including 752,000 Corolla and Corolla Matrix vehicles in the United States to fix airbags that could be deployed inadvertently, the automaker said on Wednesday.
It is the third Toyota recall since October to involve more than a million cars, and it comes as the company tries to recover from a damaged reputation following a series of recalls between 2009 and 2011 that were related to unintended acceleration problems.
An IC chip in the airbag control unit can malfunction when it receives electrical interference from other parts in the car, causing the airbags to deploy when it is not necessary, Toyota spokesman Naoto Fuse said.
Toyota is also recalling certain Corolla and Corolla Matrix vehicles in Japan, Canada, and Mexico.
The problem has caused minor injuries such as abrasions in 18 cases that have been reported, he said. Two accidents have been reported by customers outside Japan, although Toyota has not been able to confirm them, he said.
Toyota will add an electrical signal filter to the airbag control module to the recalled vehicles — repairs expected to take an hour to hour-and-a-half, he said.
The spokesman declined to disclose the costs involved.
LIMITED FINANCIAL IMPACT…”Comments »