Receiving Wide Coverage

Going global: SoftBank is in talks to buy as much as a third of reinsurance giant Swiss Re for about $10 billion. The Wall Street Journal says the prospective deal is “the latest example of the Japanese conglomerate’s soaring ambitions,” while the Financial Times said it “would mark a significant expansion into financial services” by the company. Wall Street Journal, Financial Times

More to it: Several large U.S. credit card issuers have recently started to reject purchases of bitcoin, citing concerns that they might not get repaid as the price of the cybercurrency has plummeted. But “behind the scenes, card issuers were also concerned about the protections they offer shoppers and their vulnerability to thieves,” the Washington Post reports.

Brian Quintenz, a commissioner with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, is calling on the cryptocurrency industry to regulate itself. “I would like to use this opportunity right now to call on the investment community and the advocacy community around digital currencies to create some type of self-regulatory organization,” Quintenz said at a summit in New York. “Self-regulation has a strong history in our markets.”

Wall Street Journal

Open to finterch: Jelena McWilliams, whose confirmation vote to head the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is scheduled for Thursday, seems to look favorably on fintech firms offering banking products through industrial loan company charters, which would allow them to avoid individual state licensing requirements.

Jelena McWilliams, nominee for FDIC chair
Jelena McWilliams, nominee for FDIC chair Bloomberg News

Denied: Equifax is denying claims by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., that the company failed to disclose that hackers gained access to consumers’ passport numbers in last year’s data breach. “The results of the [company’s] forensic investigation showed that passport numbers were not included in the information accessed by the hackers,” Equifax said.

Acting responsibly: Speaking of forensics, Bank of America said it has hired the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell to look into a bad loan that led to a $292 million charge the bank took in last year’s fourth quarter. The loan was made to troubled South African firm Steinhoff International Holdings.

“One of the reasons we have record-low credit losses is because we take the time to analyze what happened when things don’t go as planned and learn from it. It’s the responsible thing for a financial institution to do,” a B of A spokesman said.

A bigger piece of the rock: Prudential Financial reported earnings of $3.77 billion in last year’s fourth quarter, up sharply from $284 million in the year-earlier quarter, thanks to a $2.87 billion benefit from tax reform. The insurance company raised its quarterly dividend by 20%.

Settled: The California-based unit of Dutch lender Rabobank Group pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the U.S. by obstructing the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and agreed to pay nearly $369 million to settle an investigation into money-laundering allegations. The bank admitted to processing $360 million worth of illegal transactions, mainly along the U.S.-Mexico border, and conspiring to conceal its compliance failures. Rabobank said the settlements close multiple U.S. government investigations into the bank.

Financial Times

Equal footing: Standard & Poor’s downgraded Wells Fargo’s credit rating to A-minus following the “unprecedented” regulatory sanctions placed on it by the Federal Reserve. The reduction deprives the bank of its previous ratings advantage over its two biggest rivals, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America. All three now have the same rating.

Fraudsters found: The U.S. Justice Department arrested 13 people and charged them with stealing more than $530 million over a period of seven years in what the paper calls “one of the biggest [cyberfraud] cases ever prosecuted.” Those arrested allegedly “engaged in the large-scale acquisition, sale and dissemination of stolen identities” taken from financial institutions and that compromised debit and credit cards and other personal information.


“The duration and severity of these regulatory, governance, and reputational issues are not commensurate with the previously peer-leading ratings on Wells.” — Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Barbara Duberstein on the company’s downgrading of Wells Fargo.

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