Receiving Wide Coverage ...
Lawsky Probe: Benjamin Lawsky certainly stays busy. New York's top financial regulator who recently oversaw a few days of Bitcoin hearings has launched a probe into whether banks manipulated the foreign exchange market. The Department of Financial Services head has requested documentation from more than a dozen banks, including Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Lloyds Banking Group and Standard Chartered, to investigate. Lawsky, of course, isn't the only one looking into banks' foreign exchange market trading practices. The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.K.'s Financial Conduct Authority are also looking into the matter. The scrutiny has wreaked havoc on big banks' foreign exchange trading desks. The FT reports that 21 traders have been "suspended, placed on leave or fired" in relation to alleged manipulation. Ezequiel Starobinsky, a vice president at Deutsche Bank's office in Argentina, was just terminated amid investigations this Wednesday. And "separately," Anil Prasad, Citigroup's head of foreign exchange, is leaving the bank in March and Steven Cho, who oversees currency trading at Goldman Sachs, is retiring. But Dealbook notes "it is not unusual for executives who are considering making a change to leave at this time of year" and the departures don't appear to be linked to any of the investigations.
Credit Suisse Earnings: Here's a story that is starting to sound familiar. Credit Suisse's fourth quarter earnings "missed expectations" as the Swiss bank had to set aside 514 million Swiss francs to cover legal costs. The provisions are meant to cover U.S. investigations into tax evasion and the misselling of mortgage-backed securities. Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Times
Bitcoin Update: More bad news for Bitcoin enthusiasts: Apple has removed Blockchain, an app that was used to hold and spend the cryptocurrency, for its App Store. Blockchain's CEO tells the Times he believes the app was taken down to pre-emptively protect the new mobile payments system Apple reportedly has in the works. However, an email from Apple that the firm received on the matter formally said the app was being removed "due to an unresolved issue." Apple declined to comment for the article. Bitcoin has been dealt some blows lately. Among them, Bank of China restricted use of the cryptocurrency and former Bitcoin exchanger Charlie Shrem was arrested on charges of conspiring to launder more than $1 million for users of the online drug market Silk Road back in January. But Shrem, who just gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal, still believes "2014 will be like the Industrial Revolution for bitcoin."
Wall Street Journal
Umm in case you haven't heard, free checking is disappearing. We had to check to the dateline on this article a few times, but this part seems noteworthy: "Consumers and businesses are stashing more cash in checking accountsa record total of just over $1.4 trillion as of the third quarter of 2013, based on the latest data, up from nearly $1.3 trillion a year earlierand leaving most of those funds in no-interest checking accounts."
Federal Reserve governor Daniel Tarullo told lawmakers yesterday that regulators may again clip the Volcker Rule in regard to how it treats collateralized loan obligations.
Big banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, are being pressed by "socially-minded investors" to disclose more information "on loans they make to oil, gas, coal and other companies whose practices create carbon emissions."
New data show that more than a quarter of the loans extended last year to middle-market U.S. companies were issued by shadow banks.
JPM is close to shedding its commodities business, entering "exclusive talks with the trading house Mercuria."
New York Times
Jesse Eisinger talks to former regulatory leaders Sheila Bair, who is joining Santander's bank board and Mary Schapiro, who is vacating her position as managing director at shadow regulator Promontory Financial (she will remain on the firm's advisory board.). Some highlights from the interviews: Schapiro reveals that life as a managing director at Promontory didn't fit her well and Bair drops a sound bite about adding former bank reformers to U.S. bank boards. "How about Simon Johnson on the Chase board? Gary Gensler at Goldman Sachs? Anat Admati at Deutsche Bank?" she asks.