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  Wednesday, 22 Dec 2010 | 12:37 PM ET

Julian Assange Sex Charges, Animated

Posted By: John Carney

An animated version of the man behind WikiLeaks' in a satire of his alleged sex charges.

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  Wednesday, 22 Dec 2010 | 12:28 PM ET

Downtown 'Megahouse' to Become Boring Corporate Headquarters

Posted By: Ash Bennington

Sadly, a Chinese construction company has just purchased the 15,000+ square-foot "megahouse" that had been on the market in the Financial District.

It's a shame, really.

The speculation , in September of 2009, was that the house would become a mega-crib for some lucky Wall Street exec or hedge fund titan.

But it didn’t work out that way: And now the moralizing forces of class warfare have been deprived of a convenient metaphor for excess this holiday season.

They'll have to take what they can get. For example : the Dream List.

Ok, I have to admit it: I had my hopes too.

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  Wednesday, 22 Dec 2010 | 12:04 PM ET

Blackstone Is Hunting for a Mole

Posted By: John Carney

You may remember that private-equity giant Blackstone Group throw a 25th anniversary bash at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We described it as "disappointingly dull and surprisingly crashable."

Burke | Triolo Productions | FoodPix | Getty Images

Both descriptions were derived from the work of freelance journalist Kevin Roose, who reported on the party for New York magazine.

Now Blackstone is reportedly trying to catch the insider who tipped Roose off about the party.

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  Wednesday, 22 Dec 2010 | 11:59 AM ET

David Einhorn Likes His iPad And Scotch

Posted By: John Carney

The Greenlight Capital president not only was critical of Lehman's balance sheet chicanery at a time when almost everyone else believed the firm really was bringing down its leverage, he's also one hell of a poker player .

David Einhorn
CNBC
David Einhorn

Einhorn recently sat down with DealBreaker's Bess Levin for a game of cards and some conversation.

The long interview covers a lot of ground, including politics, the Fed's quantitative easing policy, and Einhorn's history. But our favorite part is where Bess asks Einhorn about Apple, and then somehow directs the conversation into talk about booze.

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  Wednesday, 22 Dec 2010 | 11:26 AM ET

Assange Blowing Smoke on BofA: Bove

Posted By: Jeff Cox

Julian Assange might be saying he’s got the goods on Bank of America , but Dick Bove’s not buying it.

The Wikileaks founder has been spreading word that he has documented misbehavior by BofA executives that he will disclose after the New Year.

Bank of America flag
Getty Images
Bank of America flag

While the nature of the bank’s misdeeds remains undisclosed, speculation of what exactly Assange has got tucked up his sleeve has caused some gyrations in the BofA stock price.

But anyone getting themselves upset over the possibility of another significant data dump from Wikileaks is worked up over nothing, says Bove, of Rochdale Securities.

“It may just be the case here that the sound is greater than the fury,” the analyst wrote in a note to clients. “It is highly questionable that Mr. Assange has new information about Bank of America.”

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  Wednesday, 22 Dec 2010 | 10:49 AM ET

Attorney General's Suit Against Ernst & Young Is a Road Map for a Lehman Criminal Case

Posted By: John Carney

The New York attorney general’s lawsuit accusing Ernst & Young of helping Lehman Brothers disguise its financial condition for more than seven years paints a road map for a criminal case against Lehman Brothers executives.

Lehman Brothers
Getty Images
Lehman Brothers

The lawsuit claims that Lehman’s financial statements misstated its leverage. Indeed, the four causes of action against the accounting firm are all based on the idea that E&Y was “aware that the public was being misled.”

Three of those causes of action are made under the Martin Act, the powerful anti-fraud statute passed in 1921 that gives the New York Attorney General an edge over national regulators such as the SEC when it comes to securities fraud cases. After decades of dormancy, the statute was revived aggressively by Eliot Spitzer.

Perhaps most importantly, the Martin Act gives the Attorney General broad discretion in whether to file civil or criminal fraud charges. It’s good news for Ernst & Young that the attorney general is only filing a civil suit. But this could be bad news for former Lehman Brothers executives. If Ernst & Young is guilty of fraud for merely helping Lehman executives mislead the public, the Lehman Brothers executives are likely to find themselves faced with criminal charges.

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  Wednesday, 22 Dec 2010 | 9:07 AM ET

When Banks Attack — And Wrongfully Targeted Homeowners Sue

Posted By: Ash Bennington

When Banks Attack — And Wrongfully Targeted Homeowners Sue (New York Times) "When she finally got into the house, it was empty. All of her possessions were gone: furniture, her son’s ski medals, winter clothes and family photos. Also missing was a wooden box, its top inscribed with the words 'Together Forever,' that contained the ashes of her late husband, Robert. The culprit, Ms. Ash soon learned, was not a burglar but her bank. According to a federal lawsuit filed in October by Ms. Ash, Bank of America had wrongfully foreclosed on her house and thrown out her belongings, without alerting Ms. Ash beforehand. In an era when millions of homes have received foreclosure notices nationwide, lawsuits detailing bank break-ins like the one at Ms. Ash’s house keep surfacing. And in the wake of the scandal involving shoddy, sometimes illegal paperwork that has buffeted the nation’s biggest banks in recent months, critics say these situations reinforce their claims that the foreclosure process is fundamentally flawed."

Will China Buy Portuguese Debt? (Reuters) "The euro gained against the dollar and bounced from all-time lows against the Swiss franc on Wednesday, boosted by a news report that China was ready to buy significant amounts of Portuguese sovereign debt. The Jornal de Negocios daily reported China is looking to buy between 4 billion euros ($5.26 billion) and 5 billion euros of Portuguese sovereign debt to help the country ward off pressure in debt markets, though it gave no details of its sources. China's central bank declined to comment on the report which said the deal reached between the two governments will lead to China buying Portuguese debt in auctions or in the secondary markets during the first quarter of 2011."

Treasuries Down, on Sentiments of Economic Growth \(Bloomberg\) "Treasuries fell, extending their biggest monthly loss in a year, on speculation data showing the recovery is gaining momentum will fuel concern that debt supply will overwhelm demand as inflation accelerates. Five-year notes led losses before data that economists said will show sales of existing homes and gross domestic product increased. The Treasury is tomorrow scheduled to announce the sizes of two-, five- and seven-year auctions for next week. Ten- year yields have increased 41 basis points since Dec. 6, when President Barack Obama agreed to a two-year extension for tax cuts, widening the deficit and fueling bets that growth and inflation will quicken. "

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  Tuesday, 21 Dec 2010 | 5:07 PM ET

Meredith Whitney's Nightmare Scenario: Muni Defaults, Layoffs & Social Unrest

Posted By: Ash Bennington

Meredith Whitney's Nightmare Scenario: Muni Defaults, Layoffs & Social Unrest (CNBC) "A wave of defaults by state and local governments in the coming months will spark a selloff in the municipal bond market, hurting US economic growth and stocks and causing social unrest as governments are forced lay off workers and cut back on services, Meredith Whitney, well known financial analyst famous for predicting the financial crisis, told CNBC Tuesday. Responding to the uproar over her "60 Minutes" interview broadcast on CBS Sunday night, Whitney defended her prediction that at least 50 to 100 cities and towns could default on their debt as states and the federal government cut back on financial support. "

Attorney General Cuomo Files Suit against Lehman Auditor Ernst & Young (NY Times DealBook) "The New York attorney general on Tuesday sued Ernst & Young, accusing the accounting firm of helping its client Lehman Brothers “engage in a massive accounting fraud” by misleading investors about the investment bank’s financial health. The lawsuit, coming more than two years after Lehman collapsed and the global economy buckled, is the first major legal action stemming from the collapse of the investment bank."

"Madoff Aide Bongiorno Reports to Jail" \(Wall Street Journal\) "A longtime 'back office' employee of convicted Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff reported to jail in Florida on Tuesday after a federal judge in New York revoked her bail." It further explains: "Ms. Bongiorno, who has been on home incarceration and subject to electronic monitoring in Florida, had difficulty meeting the conditions of a $5 million bail set last month. " And "Ms. Bongiorno is one of five former Madoff employees facing criminal charges in the case."

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  Tuesday, 21 Dec 2010 | 4:52 PM ET

Deutsche Bank Admits Criminal Fraud—Accepts Half Billion Dollar Settlement Agreement in Tax Case

Posted By: Ash Bennington

Deutsche Bank has just admitted criminal wrongdoing, and a agreed to pay a $553.6 million settlement to end a year's long dispute with the government over tax shelters prosecutors claimed were.

Under the terms of the deal, the bank will not be prosecuted for tax shelter schemes involving over two thousand customers between 1996 and 2002.

The agreement states the DB customers received "$29 billion in bogus tax benefits, mainly losses".

$149 million of $553.6 million are in civil penalties — with the balance going to make up for taxes and interest IRS was unable to collect during the period in question.

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  Tuesday, 21 Dec 2010 | 4:11 PM ET

Investors Pretty Much Ignore Credit Ratings in MuniLand

Posted By: Ash Bennington

It looks like municipal bond investors have just stopped trusting credit ratings agencies.

Pennsylvania and Nevada both get a credit rating of Aa1-negative from Moody's . But while Pennsylvania pays just 0.2 percentage points above the broader muni market rate, Nevada is paying 0.8 above the average.

So Nevada is paying a 300 percent higher borrowing spread than Pennsylvania.

It would seem that investors now believe that ratings have become totally unglued from reality.

Namely, ratings don't reflect — in any rational way — the marketplace on a price/yield basis.

When ratings agencies — which are intended to monitor these issuers on an ongoing basis — are summarily ignored by the markets, it should be a warning sign to the agencies that their models are breaking down.

If credit rating agencies don't find a way to address the current disconnects, we can expect to see even greater gaps grow between similarly rated products. Interestingly, this could create arbitrage opportunities for regulated entities—like mutual funds and insurance companies—to seek out extra-yield while still buying highly rated debt.

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About NetNet

  • NetNet is where you'll find the low-down and the high jinks of Wall Street. It's the place for insider stories, trader gossip, and tales of the foibles of the moneyed crowd and the culture of finance.Wall Street news and commentary served fresh all day long.

 

  • Jeff Cox is finance editor for CNBC.com.

  • Lawrence Develingne

    Lawrence Delevingne is the ‘Big Money’ enterprise reporter for CNBC.com and NetNet.

  • Stephanie Landsman is one of the producers of "Fast Money."

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