Breaking News This Morning ...
JPM Earnings: JPMorgan Chase kicked off earnings season today by announcing a 33% rise in net income in the first quarter. The bank reported a profit $6.53 billion, or $1.59 a share, besting analyst expectations of about $5.4 billion in net income. Per the Journal, "strong investment-banking results offset declining mortgage revenue." Per some live-tweeting, JPM CEO Jamie Dimon dodged questions regarding the shareholder proposal to break up his role as CEO and chairman during the earnings call. "You guys can ask me this question 15 times. This is an earnings call." American Banker's Maria Aspan reported in a tweet. "JPM's Dimon really doesn't want to talk chairman/CEO split proposal." More big picture coverage: Financial Times, Washington Post, New York Times, American Banker
Wells Fargo Earnings: Wells Fargo also bested analyst expectations of its earnings, reporting a 22% rise in first-quarter profit to a record $5.17 billion, or 92 cents a share. Profits rose largely by focusing on "reducing expenses as demand for corporate and consumer loans sputtered," Bloomberg reports. More coverage: Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal
Receiving Wide Coverage ...
European Banking Update: Cyprus is moving to loosen restrictions in an effort to "restore normalcy in its banking sector," the Journal reports. But the country has a long way to go on the road to recovery. A new assessment from its European creditors finds "Cyprus will fall into a downward spiral for at least the next two years, with the economy contracting up to 12.5% during the period," writes the Times. Meanwhile, over in other parts of Europe, several key officials are campaigning for stricter stress tests and pushing for "an aggressive cleanup of toxic assets" within the eurozone in an effort to "kick-start its flailing economies," the Journal reports.
Consultants Under Fire: Lawmakers came down on regulators yesterday during a Senate Banking committee hearing on the botched foreclosure review. Senate Democrats, including Jack Reed and Sherrod Brown, also pointed out the problems inherent in regulatory agencies' requiring banks to hire independent consultants to complete the process. During the hearing, the OCC's Daniel Stipano, in prepared remarks, requested Congress move to expand the agency's authority to take enforcement actions against these independent consulting firms. Anyone else sensing a pattern here? New York Times, Washington Post, Bloomberg, American Banker
Charges Filed: It's official. KPMG rogue auditor Scott London has been charged by federal prosecutors with insider trading. The recipient of these trading tips, Brian Shaw, has yet to be charged with a crime, though his lawyer told the Journal they expect he will be. Both men are the subject of a related civil suit filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Of Bubbles and Would-Be Billionaires: The price of bitcoins is still swinging wildly. Backlash and bubble talks continue to ensue. (We're going to channel American Banker Executive Editor Marc Hochstein for a second here and remind everyone it's the "Pay. Ment. Sys. Tem," not the price, they should be paying attention to.) But the digital currency has at least two new staunch advocates. According to Dealbook, the Winklevoss twins (yes, of Facebook lawsuit fame) own nearly $11 million worth of Bitcoin. "We have elected to put our money and faith in a mathematical framework that is free of politics and human error," Tyler Winklevoss explains. General reaction to the disclosure can be summed up by this choice tweet from New York Times Deal Professor Stephen Davidoff "The Winklevii bet another bubble, buying bitcoins. Rejoice financial markets! Reality has #jumpedtheshark."
Wall Street Journal
Welcome to the incredibly shrinking bank branch," the paper writes in this profile of Wells Fargo's newest location: a mini-branch in Washington with movable walls and employees who will walk around with computer tablets fastened to their hands. "We still see the store as the centerpiece of how we deliver to our customers, but we are changing the flow in the stores," a Wells executive tells the paper.
New York Times
Why did Citi CEO Michael Corbat go to Washington? Not simply to open up another, albeit fancy, bank branch, posits Reuters Breaking Views columnist Daniel Indiviglio via Dealbook, but to get some more face time with the lobbyists in the location's vicinity. "Many of the special interest groups hoping to convince lawmakers and regulators of their cause base their hired guns on K Street," Indiviglio writes. "… Corbat's appearance is a reminder that large financial institutions don't intend to let bureaucrats or lawmakers ravage their profits without a fight. Regulators should remain on their guard."
There's a problem — namely, "paltry returns" — with investing in investment banks, report analysts from retail and investment bank JPMorgan Chase.
Dealbook profiles Beth Stewart, the founder of an advisory firm that helps place women on corporate boards.
Home values are on rise, but paychecks aren't and prospective homeowners are buying properties with higher price tags. As such, "at the end of 2012, buyers bought homes that were three times their annual income, up from 2.6 times before the housing bubble."