Receiving Wide Coverage ...

Blame it on bitcoin: Bitcoin may be fueling the recent surge in ransomware attacks, which have quadrupled in the past year to about 4,000 a day, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, "Attacks spiked this year amid the growing use of bitcoin and improved encryption software," the Wall Street Journal said. "Bitcoin is now the preferred payment method of most ransomware infections because it allows users to send and receive money from anywhere in the world, often anonymously."

Separately, on the bright side, the U.K.'s Financial Conduct Authority said it was considering approving a "small but significant number of firms" that are developing products using blockchain technology, the process behind bitcoin. "We do think [blockchain] has got some potentially interesting applications and we are talking to firms thinking about how to apply that to financial services and how it could benefit consumers or indeed make the business of compliance easier," Chris Woolard, the FCA's director of strategy and competition, said.

BofA's Deignan joins Lazard: Mary Ann Deignan, co-head of global equity capital markets at Bank of America and one of the most senior female investment bankers on Wall Street, is joining Lazard's corporate preparedness team, where she will focus on activist and corporate governance advisory work. Craig Coben, currently co-head of BofA's global equity capital markets, will now be sole head of the group. Wall Street Journal, Financial Times

Travelers' Fishman dies: Jay Fishman, chairman and former CEO of Travelers, has died at the age of 63, a victim of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Once considered a potential successor to Sandy Weill as head of Citigroup, Fishman left the bank in 2001 to run the St Paul Companies, which later merged with Travelers, which Citi had spun off. Wall Street Journal, Financial Times

Wall Street Journal

ECB buys direct: European companies are now selling their debt directly to the European Central Bank rather than wait for the central bank to buy their bonds on the secondary market. Morgan Stanley arranged two private placements that were sold to the ECB. While the ECB doesn't instruct companies to create specific bonds, it "makes plain that it is an eager purchaser," including telling prospective issuers what it wants.

This "is a startling example of how banks and companies are quickly adapting to the extremes of monetary policy in what is an already unconventional age," the paper said. "Now, they are all but inviting private actors to concoct specific things for them to buy so they can continue pumping money into the financial system."

Financial Times

Cohen buys Square stake: Billionaire hedge fund manager Steven Cohen's $11 billion family office has purchased a 5.4% stake in Square. Point72 Asset Management, the successor to Cohen's SAC Capital, now owns 6.66 million shares of Square, according to an SEC filing. Square recently expanded beyond payments, including offering loans to small businesses that use its products.

Negative rates hit U.K.: Royal Bank of Scotland warned some of its large corporate customers that it will begin charging them to hold their cash starting Monday, a move other large British banks are likely to follow in the wake of the Bank of England's post-Brexit interest rate cut. "You are likely to see the UK banks follow suit, in particular if rates fall further," one bank analyst said. "Everything that applies to Europe applies to UK banks as well." Many European banks outside the U.K. have been charging business customers as interest rates have fallen below zero.

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