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Fed Chair Fight Continues; Charges Planned in 'Whale' Case

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Yellen v. Summers: The growing controversy over who will succeed Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke garnered more attention in the major papers. The Journal focused on behind-the-scenes efforts by the White House to "quash the campaign" by Senate Democrats, who have been pressuring President Obama to nominate Fed Vice Chairman Janet Yellen. Apparently, the "message" has been received. "In recent days, top Democratic senators have vowed to support whomever he picks." Not getting the message, though, was Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who listed her reasons why nominating Larry Summers — the other leading candidate, who is said to have support in the White House — would be a bad idea. "The idea that it is somehow historically inevitable that the chairmanship of the Federal Reserve should go to Summers, that it belongs to him, that he would be an enthusiastic enforcer of bank regulation to protect the little guy? I have my doubts." A story on the front of the Times business section said it is difficult to predict exactly how either candidate would chart the Fed's regulatory course. "For supporters of stronger regulation, it comes down to a choice between someone they do not know and someone they do not trust."

Meanwhile, At the Fed…: Putting aside the furor over the Fed chair, whoever gets the job faces a huge challenge defining the Fed's future trajectory. In the Journal, Kevin Brady said the "bickering" over who will be nominated "is a sideshow." "Lost in the current battle of personalities is what really matters — the policies that the next Fed chairman should follow, and a careful appraisal of the institution's capacity to help or harm the American economy." The FT reported the central bank's difficulty in slowing asset purchases as Congress appears headed toward a "political stand-off over fiscal policy." Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich praised the Fed in the Times for doing all of the serious work that lawmakers have not done. "Absent any Congressional legislation to speak of — no short-term spending to increase job growth, no long-term plan to reduce the budget deficit — the nation's central bank has been forced to do all the heavy lifting with the economy."

'Whale' Fallout: The investigations into JPMorgan Chase's huge trading loss last year has come down to: Who will be arrested and who will not. It is now common knowledge that the Bruno Iksil, the trader at the heart of the "London Whale" loss, will likely not be prosecuted. But authorities are expected to charge two others: Javier Martin-Artajo, who was in charge of the unit that made the trades, and Julien Grout, who kept records on the group's positions. Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Financial Times

Auditing Standards: The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board Tuesday proposed tougher standards on how audits of companies are reported to the public. Company annual reports would have to include new information from the audit report that is not currently disclosed. Wall Street Journal, New York Times

Barclays Finance Director Leaving: Chris Lucas, the finance director of Barclays, is leaving the bank months earlier than originally planned due to health reasons, the bank announced. Wall Street Journal, Financial Times

Wall Street Journal

The paper published two stories on how mounds of leftover student-loan debt are getting in the way of entrepreneurs' startup plans. For some, "startup dreams" are being abandoned, while others have had to alter their strategies. "Some academic experts say leftover loans are the biggest impediment to upstart entrepreneurship by those who recently received college or graduate degrees." Another story focused on the different student loan repayment options available to budding entrepreneurs.

Commentator William Galston discussed the different "trade-offs" in the two leading congressional proposals for reforming the housing finance system. A Senate bill would replace Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with a government insurance agency — similar to that used in Canada — to back private mortgage deals. A House bill sponsored by GOP leaders follows the principle that "the government should get out of the conventional mortgage business." Galston said "the public deserves to know" what trade-offs are in each approach.

Citigroup is continuing its exit from alternative investments with plans to wind down private-equity holdings in infrastructure deals based in Europe.

New York Times

The paper reported efforts by both state and federal officials to investigate "shortcomings in the oversight of upstart virtual currencies like bitcoin." Members of a Senate committee in a letter asked for regulators and law enforcement agencies to weigh in about "threats and risks related to virtual currency." The letter was sent the same day New York state financial regulator Benjamin Lawsky issued subpoenas to 22 companies involved in bitcoin. "Previously, there have been isolated efforts to crack down on those who took advantage of virtual currencies. But the two investigations made public this week appear to be the most wide-ranging government efforts to exert more coordinated control over what has been a largely faceless and borderless phenomenon."

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(Image: Bloomberg News)

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