Wall Street Journal
There's no roasting marshmallows 'round the bonfire at Boost, a Bitcoin boot camp in Silicon Valley, but entrepreneurs do share bunk beds and board a bus for day-long field trips. Founded by 28-year-old Adam Draper, the son of venture capitalist and Bitcoin enthusiast Tim Draper, Boost invests between $10,000 and $20,000 in Bitcoin startups in exchange for a 6% ownership stake.
As regulators hint at plans to issue new rules governing banks' cybersecurity practices, they're also taking steps to educate themselves about hackers and data breaches. Federal agencies are staffing up on information technology experts, while New York State's Department of Financial Services plans to hire a company to train bank examiners on cyber risk. Bankers who are looking to brace themselves for forthcoming cybersecurity regulation can get some advice in an American Banker editorial by several partners at the law firm of Bracewell & Giuliani.
Banks have a fever, and the only cure is more Treasuries. That's the gist of a "Heard on the Street" column by John Carney reporting that banks increased their Treasury holdings by $71 billion in the third quarter, up 26% from the previous period. Banks are probably loading up on government debt in advance of liquidity rules that kick in early next year, according to Carney. While extra helpings of the super-safe debt should help banks weather future slumps, they're also likely to put a damper on earnings because of Treasuries' low yields.
The Securities and Exchange Commission should stop gloating about filing charges against companies in cases it will ultimately decide, according to an op-ed by the agency's former director of enforcement Russell G. Ryan. The SEC's habit of issuing partial press releases "calls into question the agency's ability to decide those cases fairly and impartially," he writes.
Can big data help banks stop bad behavior? Companies are "using state of the art surveillance software as they seek to stay one step ahead of wily bankers and traders," according to the paper. They also have plans to catch employees who attempt to hatch nefarious plots with personal cell phones and Facebook in order to avoid the surveillance spotlight. "Some compliance departments are benchmarking staff's performance against average use of internal communications," the paper reports, while others "are also restricting mobile phone usage on trading floors to certain frequencies that can be monitored." Given the recent wave of rate-rigging scandals, it makes sense that banks are feeling pressured to root out bad apples though one wonders whether the young talent that banks are so desperate to recruit will bristle at the prospect of Big Brother-like supervision.
New York Times
Renting can't hold a candle to homeownership as a wealth-building tool, so policymakers should take action to improve access to safe and affordable mortgages, according to the paper's editorial board. The column cites a recent Harvard study that found homeownership incentivizes saving by requiring people to sock away cash for downpayments and monthly mortgage outlays, whereas renting offers no such inducements. Ending wage stagnation would go a long way toward helping more Americans become homeowners, according to the paper.
A lawsuit against U.S. Bank accuses the lender of neglecting to help a homeowner avoid foreclosure as required by the terms of its government-guaranteed mortgage. The legal aid group Advocates for Basic Legal Equality filed the charges against U.S. Bank on behalf of the U.S. government, but the Department of Justice declined to join the case.
Populist efforts to resist the nomination of Antonio Weiss as the Treasury Department's undersecretary for domestic finance are merely political grandstanding, according to the paper's editorial board. "Nothing in his record suggests that his nomination is less than ordinarily worthy of the deference the Senate owes, or ought to owe, the president when staffing an administration," the paper argues.