Wall Street Journal

Citigroup has made such good progress with Citi Holdings, its "bad bank," that the unit has reported four straight quarters of profit. That was nearly unthinkable for the unit when it was first created, as a way to separate Citi's unwanted and toxic assets from the good part of Citigroup. "We're out of the dark tunnel," says Francesco Vanni d'Archirafi, who runs the unit for Citi.

Citi Holdings has pared off much of its most-undesirable parts, including life insurer Primerica, retail brokerage Smith Barney, EMI Music Publishing and, soon, subprime lender OneMain Financial. Citi Holdings also sold off Citigroup's minority stakes in various businesses that clearly had no direct relationship to banking: a Mexican auto supplier, a Mexican airline and a Japanese call-center operator.

There's still plenty left to go, however including $23 billion worth of U.S. home equity loans, for which there isn't much of a market, as well as its Japanese consumer bank.

To some extent, Citi Holdings is now scraping the bottom of the barrel, as it's discarded the assets that were easy to sell.

"What you get to at the end is the rock pile, which takes a lot of effort to get rid of," said Marty Mosby, an analyst at Vining Sparks.

Citigroup has not disclosed its ultimate plan for Citi Holdings, such as whether it will be rolled back into Citigroup.

The Journal's article on Fidelity National Information Services' deal to acquire SunGard Data Systems focuses on the private equity ownership of the target. SunGard's owners may reap a profit of about 1.5% on the sale, an amount that could rise if FIS's shares perform well.

The story also discusses how the seven private-equity firms that owned SunGard had a difficult time sharing responsibility for managing the company; the deal became a warning sign for future so-called club deals, which are now less-common in the private equity space.

For a look at how FIS's acquisition is likely to affect the banking industry, see American Banker's story.

The global commercial real estate market may be overheating. Office building valuations have recently hit record highs. Hotels have also soared in value; the Waldorf-Astoria in New York was acquired for nearly $2 billion by a Chinese insurance company.

The reasons are your typical suspects: low interest rates and loads of excess liquidity makes CRE look more attractive than bonds and other assets.

When regulators get aggressive in searching for money launderers, they often unwittingly hurt legitimate customers, Lanier Saperstein and Geoffrey Sant, attorneys at Dorsey & Whitney, said in an op-ed.

That has happened in the case of banks, like California Merchants Bank, which shut down its business that handled remittances to Somalia; and JPMorgan Chase, which has dropped more than 100,000 accounts because of the risk associated with potential money launderers. But customers who don't have nefarious intentions get caught up in banks' de-risking. Human rights groups protest that de-risking hurts the ability to serve poor people in certain countries.

Moreover, it forces customers with good intentions to engage in different types of risky behavior, such as carrying suitcases filled with cash on airplanes, to deliver needed funds to relatives in Somalia, for example.

New York Times

Regulators have cracked down on fake online lending sites.

The Federal Trade Commission sued two companies for setting up bogus websites, with names like paymeloans.com, and illegally reselling applicants' payday loan applications. Consumers who had filled out the applications then discovered their information was used to make unauthorized purchases.

The FTC sued Sequoia One in Tampa, Fla., and Gen X Marketing Group in Clearwater, Fla., claiming the companies perpetrated such a scheme through which consumers' bank accounts were raided for at least $7.1 million.

Data brokers like Sequoia One and Gen X Marketing use fake websites like paydayloanpreapprovalnow.com to lure consumers and then re-sell their details to nonlenders for about 50 cents each.

Elsewhere ...

Los Angeles Times: "What's wrong with banking is that a lot of people are able to take risks and not be fully responsible and accountable for those actions." That's one excerpt from the the paper's Q&A with Stanford University professor Anat Admati. "They can get away with doing things that are really inefficient and dangerous, somehow. And it works for them but it's dangerous for the rest of us," she said.

Computerworld: Citizens Financial Group is shifting much of its information technology work, including employees, to India. The move comes as part of Citizens' recent deal signed with IBM for tech services.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.