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Jefferies CEO's Big Payday; Bond Losses? Fed Should Be So Lucky

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Receiving Wide Coverage ...

Big Payday: The best-paid financial-services CEO in 2012 was not Lloyd Blankfein or Jamie Dimon but Richard Handler, of the lesser-known investment bank Jefferies Group. He took home $45 million (or $58 million if you count shares he received) after making a deal to sell Jefferies to the industrial smorgasbord Leucadia National, which he'll run. The Journal's story is meaty, highlighting the board's use of peer comparisons in determining Handler's compensation after scrapping that practice the year before. The papers note that Jefferies, bucking the industry trend, pays its bonuses all-cash, up front, rather than deferring them or paying in stock — though according to the FT, "some said the cash bonuses were paltry compared with pay at other banks. Employees must pay the cash back if they leave for one of Jefferies' competitors." Wall Street Journal, Financial Times

Wall Street Journal

When the economy strengthens and interest rates rise in a few years, the Fed may take losses on its bond portfolio and pay higher interest expenses on reserves held by banks. That would leave the central bank without the profits it's been sending to Treasury. But as our grandparents might have said, we should all be so lucky to have such problems. Comments a Journal reader: "Did you say 'when' the economy is stronger? Don't you really mean 'if'?"

Financial Times

"Banks' debt product skirt liquidity rules" — it's called callable commercial paper, and it has a maturity of "up to 200 days but would be redeemed by the [municipal] issuer before 30 days." Hence, banks can backstop the paper for municipalities while avoiding a Basel III rule requiring them to hold liquid assets to cover commitments that could be tapped within 30 days.

New York Times

It's official now. "Lanny A. Breuer, the federal prosecutor who led the Justice Department's response to corporate crime in the wake of the financial crisis, will announce on Wednesday that he is stepping down." (Recall the Post was alone in reporting this last week.) Can he take Carmen Ortiz with him?

Wow. "The push to make MF Global customers nearly whole, a goal now surprisingly within reach, is a remarkable turnaround for the brokerage firm."

"HSBC Adds to Oversight Effort With Board Committee"

Washington Post

"In report to Congress, TARP special inspector general pushes for a plan for Ally to repay taxpayers." The former GMAC is the last big company that still owes the government for the bailout.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/watchdog-questions-treasurys-exit-plan-for-ally-financial/2013/01/29/94c21aa6-6a58-11e2-ada3-d86a4806d5ee_story.html

"Post-Lehman, the push for global financial protections stalls." A broad roundup.

Elsewhere ...

The New Yorker: Tad Friend's profile of the entrepreneur pushing eminent domain for underwater mortgages is a must-read, even though it apparently went to bed before San Bernardino County scrapped its proposal. (A choice line: "'You take the mortgage with the approval of the homeowner, right?' 'Well, yes and no,' Gluckstern said, meaning 'No.'") Also, the magazine's legal correspondent Jeffrey Toobin calls the Supreme Court decision invalidating Obama's recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board an "atrocity," and rues that "the appointments of not only the N.L.R.B. commissioners but also of [CFPB Director Richard] Cordray, and all of the actions of his new organization, are now in clear jeopardy." We suspect some Morning Scan readers are less bothered about that implication of the ruling.

New York Magazine: Our favorite quote from this exit interview with Tim Geithner: "This is a deeply complicated world, in a fog of gray and ambiguity.… It's easier for people to absorb the simple narrative of the black and white. And for them the black and white is, 'Those are the people that got us in the mess; you saved them and they paid themselves billions in bonuses, and they should have gone to jail, and they are still walking around.' I don't know anything powerful enough to overwhelm that simple narrative." But the best line of all comes from the reporter: "I can write, right here, in all caps, TIM GEITHNER HAS NEVER WORKED ON WALL STREET, and still someone will comment on our website that he is a bankster who should just go back to Goldman Sachs." Warning to readers with sensitive ears: Geithner cusses at the end of the article, perhaps in an attempt to show the magazine's readers he's as rugged as past interviewee Jamie Dimon.

Rolling Stone: Matt Taibbi lambastes the nomination of Mary Jo White to head the SEC. "Couldn't they have found someone who wasn't a key figure in one of the most notorious scandals to hit the SEC in the past two decades? And couldn't they have found someone who isn't a perfect symbol of the revolving-door culture?" The scandal he refers to involves former Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse honcho John Mack and the old Heller Financial (now a part of GE).

And Lastly ...

Here's an article about our nerdy fintech obsession Bitcoin … in an in-flight magazine. It starts on page 70 of a slow-to-load pdf.

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Q1 Earnings Outlook to Put Focus on Lawsuits, Stress Tests, Lending
With JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Wells Fargo (WFC) set to issue the initial round of first-quarter earnings reports Friday, big bank CEOs are bracing to answer questions about executive departures, capital shortfalls, seemingly unending legal risks and oh, yeah how they are going to make money.

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