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Mar 15, 2012
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Fed’s Citi logic is hard to follow

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By Antony Currie
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions epxressed are his own.

Citigroup boss Vikram Pandit undoubtedly deserves some of the digs he’s getting for his bank’s inability to pass the Federal Reserve stress test. He spent much of the past year talking up the bank’s risk-management nous and the prospect of returning capital to shareholders this year. And in fact, Pandit appears to have miscalculated and may have tried to give back too much. But it’s also hard to follow some of the logic behind the regulator’s decision to flunk the recovering mega-bank.

According to the Fed’s loan loss assumptions, only Capital One will be harder hit than Citi’s overall rate of 11.2 percent. Considering Citi’s past performance, both in the most recent financial crisis and so many others over the past couple of decades, the extra caution is warranted. And Pandit still has a bundle of crummy mortgage assets stuck in his bad bank, Citi Holdings.

Mar 13, 2012
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Fed strikes right balance with latest stress test

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By Antony Currie The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The Federal Reserve has found the right balance with its latest round of stress tests of the 19 largest U.S. banks. Unlike its last look under the hood of American finance a year ago, the central bank’s regulators this time are giving investors reams of more useful data to help separate the industry’s sheep from its goats. And they’re acting prudently to ensure capital adequacy in the system.

The results were better than expected considering the extremity of the stress scenario: banks had to prove they had enough capital to withstand a 13 percent unemployment rate, a 50 percent crash in the stock market and a 20 percent slump in house prices. That led investors to assume that few banks would be allowed to reinstate or boost dividends or buy back stock.

Mar 8, 2012
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Bankers behaving badly are no black swans

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By Antony Currie

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

It’s hard to feel too sympathetic for wealthy financiers caught behaving badly. But considering the stress of the job, and simple statistics, it shouldn’t be too shocking to hear of Wall Streeters stabbing a cabbie or defecating in public. More surprising is that such tales are so rare.

Some 170,000 people are employed in the securities industry in New York City, many of them working in high-pressure roles overseeing or advising others about vast sums of money. Traders, especially, seem prime candidates for becoming social miscreants. Academic studies have even mined the traits they share with psychopaths.

Mar 6, 2012
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Lehman is back! Is the financial crisis over?

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By Antony Currie
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

If only 42 really was the answer to life, the universe and everything. That’s how many months Lehman Brothers languished in Chapter 11 protection. The Wall Street firm’s failure in September 2008 triggered a global financial meltdown. Sadly, the emergence of its ghost from bankruptcy three-and-a-half years later scarcely offers even symbolic hope that the crisis is truly over.

Lehman’s was neither a typical bankruptcy of the kind seen, say, at American Airlines nor a quickie reboot like the ones the government funded at Chrysler and General Motors. Instead, the firm offloaded its major businesses just days after going under – the asset management unit to its partners, the U.S. brokerage to Barclays, and the European and Asian operations to Nomura.

Mar 5, 2012

Citi steals governance march as Parsons quits

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions
expressed are his own)

By Antony Currie

NEW YORK, March 5 (Reuters Breakingviews) – Citigroup (C.N: Quote, Profile, Research)
is stealing at least one march on its rivals — in governance.
Back in December 2007, the megabank was one of the first U.S.
financial firms to split the role of chairman and chief
executive. At the time, the decision was more expedient than
exemplary: the bank had no suitable successor and was
discovering billions of dollars of losses on mortgage-related
investments on its books. Now that Citi is getting back on its
feet, the board rightly resisted peer pressure to reunite the
titles.

Mar 1, 2012
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Brazilian banking star puts $15 bln value to test

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By Antony Currie

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. 

Brazilian banking star André Esteves is ready to samba like it’s 1999. BTG Pactual’s boss and part-owner has just signaled his intention to sell shares in the investment bank to the public later this year. In just three short years since he bought the business back from UBS for $2.5 billion, Esteves has dealt his way to a six-fold increase in the firm’s price. At some three times book value, Pactual is on the same multiple Goldman Sachs fetched in its IPO 13 years ago.

Feb 29, 2012
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JPMorgan offers peek into trading magic circle

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By Antony Currie
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Jes Staley is not going to be popular in Wall Street’s trading brotherhood. The head of JPMorgan’s investment bank has broken a code of silence by revealing how much the firm rakes in as a market-maker.

Feb 22, 2012
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GM’s former finance arm better suited for IPO

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By Antony Currie
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

GM’s ormer financing arm would be better off waiting for an opening to launch a much-delayed stock offering rather than selling itself. Sure, the business now known as Ally Financial would fit well with several banks – or even its previous owner. And the U.S. Treasury, which pumped $17 billion into Ally and owns about three-quarters of it, wants its money back. But the troubled mortgage division, ResCap, may give some pause. And Ally is too big to swallow easily.

Feb 16, 2012
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Would President Romney sell Uncle Sam’s GM stake?

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By Antony Currie
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Mitt Romney may be unsure which hat to wear when it comes to General Motors. In a Detroit News article this week, the Republican presidential candidate exhorted President Barack Obama’s administration to offload Uncle Sam’s holding in the automaker, which reported fourth-quarter earnings on Thursday. That may be Political Romney’s take, but selling now would leave taxpayers with a hefty loss. That’s a hit Private Equity Romney would surely avoid.

Feb 2, 2012
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Goldman shooting its messenger may bring good news

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By Antony Currie

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Wall Street has lost one of its most entertaining characters. Goldman Sachs is dispensing with Lucas van Praag, its silver-tongued PR boss after 12 years. His colorful ripostes to the press often turned a tin ear to public sentiment. But they also reflected Goldman’s culture. Hiring a new mouthpiece could signal more changes are on the way.

    • About Antony

      "Antony Currie has more than a decade of experience as a financial journalist, having worked with Euromoney since 1996, most recently as a U.S. editor. He has worked on assignments in the major financial centers of Europe and the U.S. and written stories on capital markets, global economies and the investment banking industry. He holds a bachelor's degree in German language and literature and a master's degree in politics and international relations from the University of Bristol."
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