Hardly Subliminal

Capital One Financial Corp. made a cameo in a rare television event.

The series "30 Rock" — which depicts the behind-the-scenes of an imaginary comedy show on NBC — slipped a less-than-subtle mention of the credit card issuer into its first live episode last week. The shtick started with a discussion about cutting a product placement for Capital One.

"You can't do that," Alec Baldwin, who plays network executive Jack Donaghy, objected with gusto. Mugging for the camera, he then said: "The Capital One Venture Card is amazing! They give double miles every day for every purchase!"

The camera quickly panned to another cast member, who was nodding in agreement while wearing a gray shirt that said "Furnished by Capital One" and a hat that said "Promotional Consideration."

Pains Me to Say …

I'm downgrading Bank of America Corp. … but I didn't enjoy it.

That was the tone of Chris Mutascio's note Wednesday that said he had cut his rating for the Charlotte company to "hold" from "buy." Mutascio, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus & Co., wrote that lowering his rating "goes against our better financial analysis/judgment" especially after B of A topped his expectations for the third quarter.

More concerning, however, was uncertainty over potential losses tied to mortgage repurchases from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, along with monoline insurers and private investors. Though Mutascio has said before that such concerns are likely "overblown," he acknowledged that "this risk is subject to assumptions that can vary wildly causing a significant range of potential loss estimates."

He said that the issue is "forcing investors to shoot first and ask questions later."

Until the matter is resolved, something that Mutascio said is impossible to predict, the analyst is reluctantly advising clients to stand pat.

Car Talk

Speaking of B of A … Brian Moynihan used a unique analogy and tough talk to defend the company's position on the mortgage repurchase threat.

Moynihan made it clear during a quarterly conference call Tuesday that B of A would fight any claims it deems baseless. "If you think about people who come back and say, 'I bought a Chevy Vega but I want it to be a Mercedes with a 12 cylinder,' we're not putting up with that," he said.

B of A will push back against mortgages where the loan performed in line with expectations for 36 months or more, Moynihan said. "We're not going to put this behind us just to make us feel good," he said.

A few hours after the call, news reports surfaced that a group of investors including Pacific Investment Management Co., BlackRock Inc. and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York were demanding B of A repurchase up to $47 billion in mortgage bonds.

Expert Multitasker

As of last week, Mary McDowell arguably had a lot on her plate. As head of CitiFinancial North America, she has been implementing a new organizational strategy and considering new branding and financing options for the unit, which parent Citigroup Inc. is trying to sell.

As of this week, McDowell's plate is even fuller.

She was just installed as the 2010-11 chairman of the American Financial Services Association, during the trade group's annual meeting in Dallas.

"As the voice of the consumer credit industry, AFSA's primary focus is regulatory reform, which will be a central issue for the industry for years to come," said McDowell, who has been a member of the AFSA's board since 2007.

The AFSA's 350 members include consumer and commercial finance companies, auto financing and leasing companies, mortgage lenders, credit card issuers, industrial banks and industry suppliers.

Wisconsin Shuffle

Mark Furlong, the president and CEO of Marshall & Ilsley Corp., has taken the additional title of chairman of the Milwaukee company.

He succeeds former M&I CEO Dennis J. Keuster, who had been chairman since 2004 and stayed on in that role after Furlong succeeded him as CEO in 2007. Keuster remains a director.

In another executive move, 20-year company veteran Thomas R. Ellis was named president of Marshall & Ilsley Bank, the holding company's banking subsidiary. Ellis, who is succeeding Furlong as the bank's president, has run M&I's community banking unit since last year.

More Exec Moves

Longtime bankers' banker G. Malpass Durkee has been hired by Perella Weinberg Partners in New York to advise depository institutions on strategic and financial matters.

Durkee, who goes by "Mal," has spent 25 years in investment banking, most recently as co-head of North American banks at Morgan Stanley & Co. and previously as head of depository institutions at Merrill Lynch & Co.

Some of Perella Weinberg's recent assignments in the global financial services sector include advising Warburg Pincus on its acquisition of an equity interest in Primerica Inc. from Citigroup, and BlackRock on its acquisition of Barclays Global Investors. The firm, a private limited partnership formed in 2006, also advised Wachovia Corp. on its merger with Wells Fargo & Co.

If you want to do public finance work in Ohio, it presumably pays to have investment bankers who have worked in Ohio public finance.

Fifth Third Securities Inc., a unit of Fifth Third Bancorp, announced it has hired David Tiggett, former deputy director of the office of debt management in the Ohio Treasurer's Office, to join its public finance team.

Tiggett will be based in Columbus, Ohio, where he will work on securities issues for counties, municipalities and school districts throughout the central region of the state.

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