Receiving Wide Coverage ...
The State of the Union: President Obama vowed to use his executive power to reduce the gap between the wealthiest and poorest Americans and jump start the economy. The president said he will sign an executive order in the coming weeks to raise the federal minimum wage for employees on new federal contracts. He also plans to create a new retirement savings program. Both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times focused on the limits of executive orders. The Financial Times called Obama's efforts to tackle inequality a "well-crafted but hypothetical agenda." One of his proposals is to direct the Treasury Department to create a new type of retirement account called "myRAs" that would come with a government guarantee. The Journal notes that Treasury has studied the idea for years, but officials left unanswered a number of key questions about how the accounts would be structured or who would operate them.
Bitcoin Hearing: The Times' Dealbook reported a hearing by New York's top financial regulator to discuss the advantages of Bitcoin turned into a forum on the shortcomings of the traditional banking industry. Benjamin M. Lawsky "got in some digs" when he complained about the three days it takes for his bank to transfer money to pay a credit card to the same bank. Lawsky said he plans some regulation of Bitcoin but declined to provide details. The FT notes that Lawsky may be leaning another way, claiming Bitcoin has reached a "tipping point," where its benefits outweigh the risks of illegal activity. The arrest this week of one of Bitcoin's earliest promoters, Charlie Shrem, suggests that law-abiding entrepreneurs may be eager to follow clear regulations on money laundering.
Wall Street Journal
U.S. banks are steering clear of customers who may be involved in legal activities that would attract scrutiny from federal regulators. Banks are "sacrificing revenue from a broad array of customers," the Journal notes, including pot dealers, payday lenders, online gamblers and virtual-currency firms like Bitcoin. American Banker's Kevin Wack has written extensively about the pressures from regulators to rebuff online gambling while also bringing pot merchants into the banking system.
Europe's banks are showing signs of healing and are raising money and improving their balance sheets after trailing clean-up efforts following the financial crisis. Two of Europe's biggest banks, Deutsche Bank AG and Royal Bank of Scotland took billions in write-downs and losses in the fourth quarter in an attempt to get rid of problem assets.
The Journal also looks at a turf war between the Securities and Exchange Commission and a little-known Treasury Department office that are clashing over how to regulate massive asset managers like Fidelity Investments and BlackRock. The SEC has raised concerns that asset managers pose a major risk to the financial system similar to the stress that toppled Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers.
Royal Bank of Scotland told clients it will stop accepting orders next month on some currency benchmarks after regulators in the U.K. and Germany said they are investigating possible manipulation.
Barclays plans to close 400 branches in the U.K. and cut hundreds of investment banking jobs. The move underscores the rise of digital banking and changing technology, CEO Antony Jenkins says.
Andrew Ceresney, the lone enforcement chief at the Securities and Exchange Commission, rejects criticism that the SEC did not bring down enough Wall Street CEOs after the financial crisis.
Correction: The email version of Tuesday's Scan incorrectly identified Michael Piwowar as head of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Piwowar is a commissioner of the agency; Chairwoman Mary Jo White heads it.