Receiving Wide Coverage ...
Sold: American Express has sold half of its corporate travel business to a group of investors led by Certares for $900 million. The news should come as no surprise, given Amex copped to struggles (and associated job cuts) in its travel business in early 2013. Its new deal is expected to close in the second quarter. Amex's consumer travel business has not been affected. The firm told Dealbook it plans to use the investors' dough to reinvest in its corporate travel business, "including in new technology like mobile services." New York Times, Wall Street Journal
Bankers' Pay: As debate over bankers' bonuses continues, Journal financial editor Francesco Guerrera has one suggestion for revamping financial firms' executive compensation: take a cue from the structures at private equity firms (where, incidentally, executives are currently raking in much more money than their banking counterparts). "An industry as sophisticated as banking ought to reintroduce more of its old partnership principleslarge stakes in the company, with personal capital at riskinto current compensation plans," Guerrera explains. "Wall Street chiefs should reap what they sow. For better or worse." Meanwhile, Barclays will attempt to show that its bankers do, in fact, have some skin in the bonus game by flagging a drop in the value of shares given to its top executives, the FT reports. Scan readers will recall the U.K. bank recently came under fire after an annual report revealed its bankers' pay increased last year while profits fell. But, latest diffusion efforts aside, "this year's payouts are still likely to attract criticism, coming after a torrid year for Barclays," the paper notes.
Wall Street Journal
To the surprise of, well, no one, large Wall Street firms, including Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, are lobbying against Rep. David Camp's "big bank tax." Anonymice tell the paper "the companies are curtailing financing for GOP lawmakers and warning of an economic hit."
Proof that it is possible to put a banker in jail: A former Bank of America employee has been sentenced to three to five years in Massachusetts state prison for stealing more than $2.1 million from investors and customers.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission's Bart Chilton plans to step down on Friday. Chilton "looks forward to writing 'Theft,' a book on the intersection of Washington and Wall Street "and how the powerful have impacted policy before, during and after the 2008 economic collapse," the paper notes. It also points out the CFTC is now down to only two members as nominated replacements for recently departed commissioners and former chairman Gary Gensler are still pending Senate approval.
Regulators are probing General Electric "over possible violations of consumer financial laws," involving debt cancellation products and the exclusion of Spanish-speaking customers from settlement offers.
Oh boy: The National Consumer Law Center examined loans based on underwriting from LendUp, ZestFinance, Think Finance and other big-data startups and concluded their algorithms "do not appear to lead to the development of better" short-term loan products. Executives from the three aforementioned companies disputed the consumer group's findings.
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney is expected to announce an overhaul of the U.K.'s central bank that includes the appointment of a deputy governor, the removal of barriers between departments and the introduction of more cross-departmental roles.
Columnist Martin Arnold suggests Barclays break up its retail and investing banking units: "Barclays already faces one of the biggest structural overhauls of any big European bank, including a requirement to move its U.K. retail business and its U.S. operations into separate ringfenced entities," he writes. "Why not make a virtue out of necessity by going further and publicly listing the U.K.-based retail operations, including the European parts of its Barclaycard credit card business, its corporate bank and its wealth management business?"
New York Times
Columnist Peter J. Henning on a new report from the Justice Department's Inspector General that found the agency over-stated figures associated with its crackdown on mortgage fraud: "Mortgage fraud, like most white-collar crimes, requires painstaking investigation over a long period, so there will never be a flood of cases. And even when the government commits resources to investigations, there will be some that do not pan out. But that does not make headlines when the government paints itself into a corner by pursuing initiatives that imply a promise of quick results."