Receiving Wide Coverage ...
Regulators' Weak Sauce: U.S. and foreign regulators fined six big banks a cumulative $4.3 billion Wednesday in a round of settlements charging them with conspiring to manipulate the foreign exchange market, and the peanut gallery is unimpressed. The Financial Times points out the fines "are less stunning than the scale of the conspiracy against the banks' customers and the catastrophic failure of oversight on the part of bank executives." Bank executives and board directors have failed in their duty to rein in traders that are essentially "bonus-hungry hired guns who show no loyalty to their banks, customers or the markets," the paper continues. A straight-news article in the New York Times appears to have more faith in the rule of law, noting the settlements are "only the first chapter of what is shaping up to be a more damaging story for the banks" thanks to the Justice Department's criminal investigation. But a separate Times analysis says that banks have established a strategy for softening the blow of settlements: warn the markets of coming penalties and act collectively so that no one lender gets stuck with the bad publicity. Since that strategy appears to work pretty well, banks have even less incentive to change their ways, according to the paper.
Obama to Fill Top Treasury Post: President Obama's pick for the next Treasury undersecretary of domestic finance is Lazard investment banker Antonio Weiss. "The nomination of Mr. Weiss could stir controversy on Capitol Hill, given his advisory role in a recent deal that involved a tax inversion," the Wall Street Journal reports. Weiss was involved in Burger King's plan to buy Canadian doughnut chain Tim Hortons and move its headquarters up north, though he "didn't advise on the tax strategy of the deal." Another fun fact about Weiss: he's publisher of the literary magazine The Paris Review. He worked there after graduating from college, first as an assistant to the magazine's founder and then as an editor. Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, New York Times
BB&T's Big Deal: What does BB&T's plan to purchase Susquehanna Bancshares for $2.5 billion say about the broader M&A environment? The Journal reports the deal will help other banks take the temperature of regulators' tolerance for larger acquisitions. But a "Heard on the Street" column warns the deal "shouldn't be taken as a sea change," since BB&T's size puts it in a unique position. At $181 billion in assets, the bank is already subject to Federal Reserve stress tests, and it has some room to grow before triggering another set of regulatory requirements at the $250 billion asset mark. The Times also positions the BB&T deal as more of an outlier than indicative of a general trend. Meanwhile, the news prompts the FT to embark on an extended metaphor comparing regional banks' enthusiasm for a "fatty deal" to middle America's dietary habits, which seems like a bit of a cheap shot.
If and when another big financial crisis hits, regulators are likely to strike out on their own rather than work together, according to the paper's John Gapper. Since using taxpayer dollars to bail out banks is no longer a legal option in the U.S. and definitely frowned upon abroad, "every country will try to grab as much of [private capital] as it can," he predicts.
New York Times
The Justice Department has reportedly launched a probe into whether some of the nation's biggest banks are breaking the law by failing to void consumer debts discharged in bankruptcy court. JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Synchrony Financial are under investigation for neglecting to update credit reports to reflect discharged bills, a practice that "effectively holds the credit report hostage until borrowers pay," according to the usual anonymice.
Americans are concerned about digital privacy, but they continue to use services they distrust because they feel there are no viable alternatives, according to a Pew survey. "It's not like picking up the newspaper and realizing ice cream has too many calories and you can start eating frozen yogurt, information that people can act on," a privacy expert tells the paper.
"An age of constant invention naturally begets one of constant failure," Adam Davidson writes in a feature that examines the accelerated speed at which products, companies and entire industries now thrive and collapse. "Our breakneck pace of innovation can be seen in stock-market volatility and other boardroom metrics," he writes, "but it can also be measured in unemployment checks, in divorces and involuntary moves and in promising careers turned stagnant."
Millennials in Chicago are moving into affordable housing units once reserved for the poor as new owners take over and remodel former "single room occupancy" hotels, the paper reports. "Now Chicago is trying to save what amounts to 6,000 remaining SRO units, a small fraction of what once existed in the city as a housing stock of last resort for the poor."