Receiving Wide Coverage ...
What Next for B of A? The papers continue to explore the implications of Tuesday's management shake-up at Bank of America. One Journal story profiled Darrell Darnell, one of the two newly minted co-chief operating officers. He may seem an odd pick to lead the company's sprawling consumer operations, having a background in mostly business lending, but the story notes he has a "reputation for maintaining client relationships while also cutting costs-the key objective of Tuesday's restructuring." Another Journal story reports that Darnell has reassured Merrill Lynch's brokers their pay structure won't change. But "Lex" in the Financial Times says that cutting pay across Bank of America is the one lever that the new management team can pull to improve results, as compensation makes up half of noninterest expenses. The Journal's "Heard on the Street" reiterates a point that the paper already made a day earlier: that the reorganization signals Merrill is unlikely to be spun off. More déjà vu as the Journal revisits the implications of Sallie Krawcheck's departure for women on Wall Street — and this time, the paper is joined by the Times. But another Times story pursues a less-predictable angle on Krawcheck's ouster — the implications for FINRA, the securities industry's self-regulatory body, where she was recently elected a governor. "It is unclear exactly what happens next; the Finra bylaws do not account for such management shake-ups. For now, Finra will not eject her from the position. But to keep the seat she will have to join another large brokerage firm in a 'short period of time.' " The Times also has a curtain-raiser for the hotly anticipated speech CEO Brian Moynihan will give on Monday outlining the "New BAC" strategy; like the FT's story a day earlier, this one warns that thousands of jobs may get the ax. Finally, National Public Radio's "Marketplace" presents an interesting interpretation of Moynihan's C-level housecleaning: it's his attempt to shore up support from his fellow veterans of FleetBoston who sit on B of A's board.
Stop the Shredders! Amid allegations that it has improperly destroyed records of investigative records, the SEC told staff members to hold off on disposing of documents from closed cases for now, the Post reports. Meanwhile, the Journal says the agency is bracing for a slew of critical reports from its inspector general that could provide ammo for lawmakers that want to overhaul the agency.
Wall Street Journal
Attention bankers: the Fed may reduce or stop paying interest on the cash you hold on reserve with the central bank. It's one of several strategies that Fed officials are weighing to juice the economic recovery; the others are the now-widely-reported "twist" (shifting Fed holdings from short- to longer-dated Treasuries to reduce longer-term rates) and — wait for it — "using their words to make their economic objectives and plans for interest rates more clear." Er, that would have been welcome even when the economy was booming, gents.
Webster Bank in Connecticut stands out among mortgage lenders and servicers for its demonstrated willingness to work with stressed borrowers and reluctance to foreclose, according to a feature story. When you call, for instance, "you can actually reach a person," one housing counselor notes approvingly. It helps that Webster is small and owns the majority of the loans it services.
The FDIC asked a bankruptcy judge to nix Corus Bankshares' reorganization plan, contending the proposal is slanted in favor of a hedge fund that bought up the company' securities to the detriment of the regulator, which seized Corus Bank of Chicago in 2009.
New York Times
RadLAX Gateway Hotel v. Amalgamated Bank is not very likely to turn up on the Supreme Court docket, but it should, according to law professor Stephen J. Lubben, who argues this would be the perfect test of credit bidding. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit disagrees with the Third Circuit and Fifth Circuit about the "indubitable equivalent" test and could clear up the issue.
The probe led by the CFTC and Justice Department into possible bank manipulation of Libor rates is now "focusing on possible violations of a commodities law that has previously been used to send financial executives to prison," the paper reports. Among the potential misdeeds the investigation is exploring is "whether some banks lowballed their Libor submissions to make themselves appear stronger." Now, think about that for a minute. Wouldn't it be ironic if one of the few crisis-related cases that sent bankers to jail involved a deception that may have, however indirectly and inadvertently, kept interest rates down for U.S. consumers and arguably prevented some defaults? We're just sayin' ...