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Moving in: Blackstone Group has agreed to purchase a majority stake in the real estate portfolio of the failed Spanish lender Banco Popular Español. The giant asset management company said it will buy a 51% stake in a new company that will hold about €30 billion ($35.2 billion) worth of real estate from Banco Popular plus the bank’s real estate management company. Banco Popular was sold to rival Banco Santander in June as part of a rescue by the European Union and Spanish banking authorities. Wall Street Journal, Financial Times
Wall Street Journal
This day in history: The paper looks back 10 years at Aug. 9, 2007, which “marked the beginning of the most far-reaching economic disruption since World War II.”
“A French bank froze three investment funds, saying a lack of trading in subprime securities made valuing them impossible,” the paper recounts. “The bond market seized up, rattling investors and central bankers who previously soft-pedaled the notion that the U.S. housing bust would hit the economy.”
Favored status: Bank of America will roll out a premium rewards credit card next month that gives extra points to customers with more money on deposit at the bank. The card carries a $95 annual fee and offers a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points for $3,000 of spending in the first three months. Rewards start at two points per dollar on travel and dining spending and 1.5 points on everything else, but go as high as 3.5 points on travel and dining for customers with at least $100,000 at the bank.
Buying itself back: Vantiv, the payments company that is in the process of acquiring the U.K.’s Worldpay Group, has agreed to buy nearly 20 million of its own shares from its former parent Fifth Third Bancorp for about $1.3 billion to avoid stock dilution ahead of its deal with Worldpay. Vantiv, formerly known as Fifth Third Processing Solutions, was spun off by the bank in 2009.
Bank fraud charges: Federal prosecutors charged three former executives of Transmar Group, a cocoa trading company, with allegedly plotting to hide the troubled company’s finances from its bank lenders. The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan charged the company’s former president and CEO, his son, and a former vice president with bank fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy. The three men allegedly submitted false financial reports to secure and maintain a $400 million credit line.
Lacking diversity: American banks stack up better than their counterparts in Silicon Valley when it comes to gender diversity in the top ranks, the paper says. Women account for about 23% of senior executives at the top five Wall Street banks, compared to an average 17% at Alphabet, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple. But “when it comes to the real power wielded by women at the various companies, there is an inglorious tie for women chief executives: zero.”
On guard: A small group of British banks and law enforcement agencies have joined together to fight hackers and fraudsters. The group calls itself the Cyber Defense Alliance.
AML penalties: Commonwealth Bank of Australia cut the pay of its senior executives and non-executive directors following money laundering allegations “that have shaken the lender,” but said it still has “full confidence” in its CEO, Ian Narev. The bank “has faced a torrent of criticism from politicians and investors,” the paper says, after the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre sued the bank last week, claiming it failed to detect more than 50,000 alleged violations of money laundering and counterterrorism laws.
“During an internal review, we discovered issues related to a lack of oversight and controls surrounding the administration of Guaranteed Asset Protection products. We are reviewing our practices and actively working with our dealers and have already begun making improvements to the GAP refund process. If we find customer impacts, we will make customers whole.” — Wells Fargo spokeswoman Jennifer A. Temple in response to the bank’s latest scandal involving GAP auto insurance.