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Aug 10, 2012
via Breakingviews

Goldman takes 2 legal steps forward, 700 mln back

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

It was a bittersweet Thursday for Goldman Sachs. The Wall Street powerhouse received a double dose of good news from Washington, a rare and welcome event for investors and Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein. First, the Securities and Exchange Commission dropped an investigation into a pre-crisis, Goldman-arranged $1.3 billion mortgage bond deal. Second, the U.S. Department of Justice decided it wouldn’t file criminal charges over the now-infamous Abacus deal. Yet Goldman was also forced to concede its legal worries are far from over. 

Reserves stockpiled for litigation expenses jumped by a quarter, from $2.7 billion to $3.4 billion, between March and June. That’s a big leap given that the last time the SEC pursued Goldman – over the Abacus transaction – the settlement stung the bank for a cool $550 million. 

Jul 27, 2012
via Breakingviews

Jamie Dimon to Sandy Weill: drop dead

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

Jamie Dimon’s management shake-up doesn’t just send a message to the bank’s employees and shareholders. The timing of the move – and the language in the announcement – serves as the JPMorgan chief executive’s response to the reignited debate over the structure of big financial institutions like his. Dimon lauded the idea of knitting JPMorgan’s parts together more tightly just as his former mentor Sandy Weill converted to the breakup cause. 

The JPMorgan reorganization has almost certainly been plotted for some time. But it’s also impossible to see the bank’s statements about “further unifying businesses around customer needs” and its “integrated approach” without reading into them a riposte to Weill’s arguments on Wednesday to separate commercial and investment banking from one another. It sure sounds like a raspberry from Dimon, whose working relationship with the modern Citigroup architect ended bitterly. 

Jul 26, 2012
via Breakingviews

M&A Davids wallop Wall Street Goliaths

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

Size used to matter in M&A. That’s no longer the case. Dealmaking Davids are walloping the Goliaths. 

Jul 20, 2012
via Breakingviews

Citi, M. Stanley reveal randomness of M&A advice

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

It’s hard to imagine a worse advert for the worth of M&A valuation advice than Citigroup and Morgan Stanley’s battle to put a price on their wealth management joint venture. The two Wall Street firms are in negotiations for Morgan Stanley to boost its controlling stake by 14 percent to 65 percent. But their valuations for the business are a whopping $13.5 billion apart. 

The difference is some three-fifths of the $22 billion-plus Citi reckons the entire unit is worth. There are reasons for the gap, of course – and not just that buyers are always looking for a lower price and sellers for a higher one. 

Jul 17, 2012
via Breakingviews

Goldman’s pay-earnings balancing act looks wobbly

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

Goldman Sachs talks a good game about balancing short-term earnings with longer-term opportunities. In the current moribund environment, the moves by Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein and his lieutenants to tweak the Wall Street firm’s capital structure and trim its costs look savvy. But they’re still treating pay as sacrosanct.

Jul 16, 2012
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Citi global retail bank worth more than the whole

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

Citigroup investors are giving no credit to much of the bank’s business. Its global retail bank looks to be worth over $80 billion, more than the company’s entire market capitalization. Despite the publication on Monday of another set of anemic quarterly earnings, something doesn’t add up.

Jul 13, 2012
via Breakingviews

Jamie Dimon can’t swim past the whale just yet

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

Jamie Dimon can’t escape the whale just yet. The JPMorgan boss reckons he and the bank are mostly over the Chief Investment Office trading debacle. He and his lieutenants presented a pretty solid explanation of how the division racked up $5.8 billion of losses so far. And the fixes sound sensible. But JPMorgan still has a lot of trust to win back.

Jun 22, 2012
via Breakingviews

Downgraded banks should rush to borrow

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By Antony Currie

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

What should the 15 global banks do now that Moody’s has cut their credit ratings? Go out and borrow money as quickly as possible is what. In times past, that might have seemed rash. After all, a debt downgrade is supposed to mean borrowing costs go up. And most of the banks affected probably don’t need the cash. But jumping back into the markets quickly is the best way to show up Moody’s.

Jun 19, 2012

Lazard’s new investor isn’t passive by nature

(Refiles to clarify reference to Evercore vote in third
paragraph.) (The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist.
The opinions expressed are his own.)

By Antony Currie

NEW YORK, June 19 (Reuters Breakingviews) – Ken Jacobs finds
himself in a rare and enviable position. Lazard’s (LAZ.N: Quote, Profile, Research) chief
executive now has Nelson Peltz’s Trian Partners as his
second-largest shareholder. The activist investor reckons the $3
billion Wall Street advisory firm is undervalued and could be
worth double in a couple of years – a similar conclusion to one
Breakingviews reached in April (See: Lazard Groupon
[ID:nL2E8FR31F]). But P eltz isn’t resorting to his usual tactics
of demanding a special dividend, a breakup or a change in
management to get there. Instead, he says his 5.1 percent stake
is a bet on current managers and their plan.

Jun 8, 2012
via Breakingviews

Review: Low finance can get into trouble, too

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

All financial institutions – not just those deemed too big to fail – need strong regulatory oversight. That is one lesson of Kirsten Grind’s new book about the demise of Washington Mutual, “The Lost Bank.” Grind, who covered the bank for Seattle’s Puget Sound Business Journal before moving to the Wall Street Journal, offers decent coverage of the bank’s demise in September 2008. But her incredibly well-researched account of how the bank got there is more captivating.

    • 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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