Unstructured Finance

Was Jon Corzine insane?

In the complaint against former MF Global CEO Jon Corzine filed in federal court on Thursday, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission depicted the former New Jersey Governor as a negligent leader who should never be allowed back into the financial industry because he did not try hard enough to stop his employees from raiding the brokerage’s customer accounts to cover its own trading losses.

The suit stops short of an important accusation, however: intent. Though Corzine and MF Global’s former assistant treasurer Edith O’Brien should have known better, according to the CFTC, they did not mean to make the inappropriate money transfers or to lie about them or try to cover them up.

“Mr. Corzine did nothing wrong, and we look forward to vindicating him in court,” said Corzine’s lawyer, Andrew Levander, in a statement emailed to reporters shortly after the CFTC unveiled the suit.

Even though a section of the complaint details the false statements MF Global made to the CFTC, its regulator, about how much money was in the segregated customer accounts (the firm reported an excess on nights when there was really a deficit of hundreds of millions of dollars), the CFTC is not accusing anyone of deliberately lying.

This lack of intent is one of the main reasons, experts say, why no criminal charges were ever filed against Corzine or any other MF Global employees despite the misappropriation of nearly $1 billion in customer money.

Ray Dalio’s all seeing reputation takes a hit

There are storm clouds on the horizon at Ray Dalio’s $150 billion Bridgewater Associates.

Yeah, excuse the weather imagery but it’s hard to resist given the sudden sharp reversal of fortunes with Bridgewater’s $70 billon All Weather portfolio. As Jenn Ablan and Katya Wachtel first reported, the portfolio that Dalio has long marketed to pension funds as an innovative investment strategy for navigating storm markets, isn’t doing so well in this stormy market.

The fund, as of last Friday, was down 6% for the month and down 8% for the year.

The housing proposal that won’t die

One of the biggest economic stories this year has been the recovery in U.S. home prices. But for the more than 11 million homeowners stuck with a mortgage that’s worth more than the value of their home, it has felt more like being Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day.

The housing crisis may be over for Blackstone, Colony, American Homes 4 Rent and other deep-pocketed investment firms snapping up foreclosed homes with cheap money courtesy of the Federal Reserve, but for many Americans they are still living with it some five years later.

So maybe that’s why  a controversial idea of using the government’s power of condemnation to seize and restructure distressed mortgages in order to provide debt relief to struggling homeowners  just won’t go away, even though many think it’s unconstitutional and bond investors have rallied to savage the proposal.

Goldman fund haggles with REIT investors over 10-cent printing fee

A Goldman fund’s REIT charges investors 10 cents per page for financial statements.

Of all the accusations made by an aggrieved group of REIT investors against Goldman Sachs, perhaps the most surprising is how stingy the bank can be.

A Goldman fund that manages the REIT, formerly known as Equity Inns Inc, requires investors to pay 10 cents per page for print copies of its financial reports. Those reports are not available online, nor are they released publicly — a fact that has led this long-running feud to spill into public view in comment letters to the SEC.

Wall Street goes to war with hackers in Quantum Dawn 2 simulation

Wall Street will have a simulated cyber war called Quantum Dawn 2 this month.

 

Quantum Dawn 2 is coming to Wall Street.

No, it’s not a video game or a bad zombie movie; it’s a simulated cyber attack to prepare banks, brokerages and exchanges for what has become an ever-bigger risk to their earnings and operations.

Organized by the trade group SIFMA, Quantum Dawn 2  will take place on July 18 – a summer Thursday that, with any luck, will be a relatively quiet day in the real markets.The drill involves not just big Wall Street firms like Citigroup and Bank of America, but the Department of Homeland Security, the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to SIFMA officials.

“We go through a pretty rigorous scenario where we look at multiple threats being thrown out at the U.S. equity markets,” said Karl Schimmeck, vice president of financial services operations at SIFMA.

Stevie Cohen: the pop star edition

Hard to believe, there was a time when Steven A. Cohen was not all that well-known on Wall Street outside of the hedge fund industry. Some even used to confuse the then-paunchy hedge fund trader with a popular magician with the same name.

But it’s true. In fact, a decade ago,  BusinessWeek (pre-Bloomberg takeover) did a cover story about Cohen and his then-$4 billion SAC Capital Advisors, calling  the once super secretive investor, “The most powerful trader on Wall Street you’ve never heard of.”

Today, however, it’s almost a rarity when a major business publication or website (that’s you Dealbreaker) doesn’t have a story about Cohen and his currently $15 billion hedge fund (subject to change depending on how much in outside investor money gets returned at the end of this month). Whether it be the long-running inside trading investigation, his failed attempt to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers, his impressive growing art collection or his sizeable charitable donations, Cohen and his firm are always making news. A few years back, we even did a story on SAC Capital’s resident golf pro and how he would line up golf outings for SAC traders with corporate executives.

Essential reading: REIT status questioned by IRS, and more

Welcome to the top tax and accounting headlines.

* IRS puts brakes on corporate push to capture real-estate tax break. A.D. Pruitt and Amol Sharma – The Wall Street Journal. The Internal Revenue Service is stepping up its scrutiny of companies that are looking to avoid some corporate taxes by converting their operations into real-estate investment trusts. Link  

* Obama urged to back plan to list owners of shell firms. Ravi Somaiya – The New York Times. Anticorruption activists have urged President Obama to back a plan to publicly register the owners of shell companies in the United States and around the world, a move they say is essential to thwart corrupt government officials, tax evaders and money launderers who rely on an opaque financial system. Link 

* Groups propose to simplify accounting for small firms. Floyd Norris – The New York Times. Making accounting easier for small companies — and saving them the need to report some losses that big companies can face — has become a new preoccupation of the accounting profession. Link  

Essential reading: Despite tax rules, companies stick with U.S., and more

Welcome to the top tax and accounting headlines.

 * Despite tax rules, companies stick with U.S. Victor Fleischer – The New York Times. The tactics that multinational companies like Apple, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard use to avoid paying corporate income taxes might make one wonder why they incorporate in the United States in the first place. Link  

* Ray Lane signs deal to pay $100 million tax bill. Shira Ovide and Yuliya Chernova – The Wall Street Journal. Ray Lane, the prominent technology investor and former chairman of Hewlett-Packard Co., is facing a tax bill of up to $100 million stemming from his investments during the dotcom-boom era. Link  

* Blasted by Congress, IRS apologizes for lavish events. Gregory Korte – USA Today. The tax official responsible for a lavish, $4.1 million conference in Anaheim apologized to Congress for spending at the conference — and for his performance as Mr. Spock in a Star Trek parody video. Link  

Calendar

Some important tax and accounting events in the week ahead:

Monday, June 10 – Wednesday, June 12

Federation of Tax Administrators annual meeting. Hyatt Regency. Albuquerque, New Mexico.

 Tuesday, June 11

U.S. Internal Revenue Service and Treasury Department officials join panel on recent changes to corporate taxation regulations covering corporate sales or distribution of stock in another corporation. Noon – 1:45 p.m. ET, D.C. Bar Conference Center. Washington

 Tuesday, June 11 – Thursday, June 13

IRS and Treasury Department officials, among others, speak to the Practising Law Institute’s seminar on tax planning for domestic and foreign partnerships and other alliances. San Francisco.

Essential reading: IRS staff say Washington officials helped direct the probe of tea-party groups, and more

Welcome to the top tax and accounting headlines.

* IRS staff cite Washington link. John McKinnon and Dionne Searcey – The Wall Street Journal. Two Internal Revenue Service employees in the agency’s Cincinnati office told congressional investigators that IRS officials in Washington helped direct the probe of tea-party groups that began in 2010. Link

* Corporate taxes don’t cause recessions. But do they hurt growth? Dylan Matthews – The Washington Post. It’s hard to look at the body of research on this topic and not notice that there’s something of a consensus around the idea that increases in the corporate tax rate hurt growth and cuts to it help growth. Link

* Rep. Gutierrez pays Chicago lobbyist with tax dollars. Paul Singer – USA Today. Over the past 10 years, Rep. Luis Gutierrez has paid a Chicago lobbyist more than $500,000 in taxpayer funds to work side-by-side with his congressional staff. Link

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