Receiving Wide Coverage ...
Fallout from RBS's Hester Ousting: The Royal Bank of Scotland's firing of its chief executive, Stephen Hester, will send bank staff morale "to rock bottom," the Financial Times reports, and more defections are expected. In a related note, RBS announced Thursday it would wind down its remaining equities sales and trading businesses and will cease to offer structured retail investor products and equity derivatives; this is expected to lead to 2,000 job cuts. The New York Times' Dealbook reports British lawmakers are displeased with Hester's departure. One Labour politician, Chris Leslie, "accused the government of a 'shambolic and uncertain approach' to the bank," according to the paper.
Tucker Departs Bank of England for Ivy League: The Washington Post and Financial Times reported that Paul Tucker, deputy governor of The Bank of England, is leaving the British central bank to spend "a period of time in academia" in the United States. The Wall Street Journal reports that Tucker's departure is no surprise, given that he was after the top governor's job and lost out to Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney, who will replace outgoing Governor Mervyn King in July. The Journal suggested Tucker's handling of last year's Libor scandal ruined his chances to get the top slot.
In Silicon Valley Vs. U.S. Government, Gearheads Lose: The New York Times recounts how in 2008, Yahoo tried unsuccessfully to fend off a warrant-free government request for information in a secret Washington court and thus became an unwilling participant in Prism, the National Security Agency's data gathering program.
"Notwithstanding the parade of horribles trotted out by the petitioner, it has presented no evidence of any actual harm, any egregious risk of error, or any broad potential for abuse," the court said, adding that the government's "efforts to protect national security should not be frustrated by the courts." Between 2008 and 2012, only two of 8,591 government requests for information under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act were rejected, according to the Electronic Privacy Information Center. For those of us who didn't know this D.C. secret court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, existed, props go to the Electronic Frontier Foundation for pushing the court to disclose records.
The Journal reports Google and Facebook have also pushed back on government requests for data. "We frequently reject such requests outright, or require the government to scale down its requests, or require the government to provide additional information about the legal basis for its requests," a Facebook spokeswoman told the paper.
And, in another information disclosure request, the lawyer for Terrance Brown, a South Florida man accused of participating in several bank robberies, argued in court Wednesday that the government should be forced to turn over phone location records for two cellphones Brown may have used because it could prove he was not present for one of the attempted bank robberies. Brown's own carrier, MetroPCS, had not kept the records.
Wall Street Journal
A surprise spike in mortgage rates appears to be halting the refinancing boom that has delivered strong profits for U.S. banks over the past two years. Thirty-year mortgage rates rose to 4.15% last week and refinancing applications dropped 36% from the previous month.
Singapore authorities are punishing 20 banks for rate-rigging after discovering 133 traders tried to manipulate three interest rate and foreign exchange benchmarks. RBS, UBS and ING are among those singled out; they'll have to leave higher deposits with the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
New York Times
Commodity Futures Trading Commission member Bart Chilton says there's a need to harmonize financial rules across countries. "Risk knows no bounds now," Chilton told Dealbook. "We learned that in 2008 with AIG when losses were in London and it went the other way, too, when Lehman went down, there were losses in Europe." Five large banks control 93% of $223 trillion of derivatives, he said. "They have 3,300 subsidiaries around the world, so if there's trading going on around the world, that risk could come back to our shores." The rules affect banks' capital and margin requirements and post-trade transparency. "People want to make this into some class of the titans, Europe and the U.S.," Chilton said. "It's about being cognizant of each other globally and ultimately getting what Congress and President Obama sought with financial reform."