Receiving Wide Coverage ...
UBS Nears Libor Deal: UBS is expected to reach a settlement with U.K. and U.S. authorities over its involvement in the London interbank offered rate-rigging scandal by the end of this year, several news outlets are reporting this morning. Even more notable is the fact that this settlement is expected to supersede the $450 million Barclays agreed to pay over similar charges. (A unnamed FT source "close to the talks" estimates the fine is likely to be higher than $500 million.) UBS acknowledged that talks are underway, but declined to comment on the specifics. Should it pan out, a large settlement "would increase the likelihood that other financial institutions would face stiff penalties," the New York Times' Dealbook reports. The Royal Bank of Scotland is also apparently in "advanced talks" with regulators, though a resolution is less imminent. Financial Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal
Bank of America Backtracks: Rolling Stone editor Matt Taibbi has come out with a scathing (and also hilarious) analysis of Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan's deposition on what he calls "MBIA v. Bank of America, Countrywide, and a Buttload of Other Shameless Mortgage Fraudsters." To recap, bond insurer MBIA is suing B of A (and yes, this will sound somewhat familiar) for misleading the firm about its underwriting standards for the mortgage-backed securities it was asked to back. Moynihan was deposed in May, but the deposition was only made public this week. Prosecutors may not have gotten the results they were hoping for since Moynihan seems to have developed some type of amnesia. Of the deposition, Taibbi writes: "Moynihan seems to remember his own name, and perhaps his current job title, but beyond that, he'll have to get back to you." Taibbi's takedown of the Moynihan deposition comes at a time when B of A is doing some backpedaling of its own. Over the weekend, news broke that the bank has decided to postpone plans to increase checking account fees that could have hit 10 million customers this month. Like Moyhihan's amnesia, the move isn't entirely surprising. The last time B of A moved to introduce new fees on its checking accounts (in the form of a monthly $5 debit card charge) the result was National Bank Transfer Day. Wall Street Journal, American Banker
Wall Street Journal
State regulators approved new rules that allow life insurers to move to a "principle-based" system for determining reserves in order to "free up billions of dollars for acquisitions, stock buybacks, dividend increases and other uses" to ultimately "boost the industry's flagging returns."
Call it one heck of a Christmas bonus: Goldman Sachs executives have pocketed nearly $50 million in recent months after exercising stock options set to expire on Friday. Among those that profited were CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who netted more than $5 million and outgoing CFO David Viniar, who made almost $15 million.
Small banks in Germany are urging EU officials to reconsider plans to put all Eurozone banks under ECB supervision as part of "an EU banking union." Said one German community banker of the move: "You don't impose the safety rules you'd need for a 2,000-passenger cruise ship on a yacht taking five people up the coast. There would be enormous administrative costs that I would have to pass on ... it would hit Mittelstand companies and the local economy."
New York Times
Morgan Stanley trader Glenn Hadden is being investigated by regulators at the CME Group, which runs commodity and futures exchanges, for potentially manipulating closing prices in the Treasury futures market while at Goldman Sachs in order to make his other trades more profitable. Hadden and Goldman declined to comment on the investigation. Morgan Stanley "would say only that Mr. Hadden continues to work at the firm as head of global rates."
You can add one more financial institution to Warren Buffett's history with banks. In a surprising move, given Spain's current economic state, the Oracle of Omaha's investment firm Berkshire Hathaway agreed "to pay $780.8 million to claim the future cash flows of a life insurance portfolio held by CaixaBank, a major Spanish lender."