Unstructured Finance

Deutsche’s he said/she said derivatives mystery

By Matthew Goldstein

Valuing derivatives–especially complex ones tied to esoteric assets–is always a tough proposition. And maybe that’s what a previously unknown whistleblower action involving Deutsche Bank is all about.

The other day I wrote about a big settlement Deutsche reached in that matter with a former trader, who claims some of the bank’s most esoteric derivatives were improperly valued to hide trading losses. Deutsche denies the allegation and says an internal investigation found no substance to the trader’s charge.

Then again, the bank did find some substance to Matt Simpson’s allegation that another former top trader based in London, Alex Bernand, may have done some improper trading in one of his personal accounts. As I reported, the bank in October 2009 quickly dismissed Bernand–its former global head of credit correlation–after a quick internal investigation substantiated much of what Simpson alleged on that point.

In end, this simply may be a case of Simpson being right about some of the facts but not all of them. It’s possible Simpson simply wasn’t in a position to have all the facts and came to an erroneous conclusion–albeit a conclusion made in good faith.

The SEC, which opened an investigation into Simpson’s allegations last summer, hasn’t offered much clarity on the matter. As is its policy, the agency doesn’t comment on investigations. In fact, it won’t even confirm an investigation exists–even when the settlement agreement between Deutsche and Simpson clearly says the agency opened an inquiry into the matter. (And yes, I pointed that out to the SEC).

Grassley the inquisitor

Sen. Chuck Grassley wants to know what the Securities and Exchange Commission did with complaints it received about potential improper trading by Steve Cohen’s SAC Capital.

But Grassley’s request that the SEC provide an official accounting for its actions seems a bit odd, given that securities regulators recently settled an insider trading case with former SAC Capital analyst Jonathan Hollander.

With federal prosecutors continuing to look into allegations of improper trading at Cohen’s fund, it’s hard to make the argument that SAC Capital hasn’t been investigated. Indeed, Reuters first reported in December 2009, that as far back as 2007 FBI agents have been looking into allegations of improper trading at SAC Capital.

Deals wrap: Goldman buys a Chinese life insurance policy

Passengers walk around the fences to enter the Beijing West Railway Station January 31, 2011.REUTERS/Jason Lee Goldman Sachs is betting big on the word’s largest insurance market with its purchase of a 12 percent stake in China’s Taikang Life Insurance Co Ltd. Goldman’s deal could pave the way for Taikang’s planned initial public offering next year. Credit Suisse estimates China’s life insurance market –which generated $124 billion premium income in 2009 — will grow more than 20 percent per annum for the next decade.

BP’s proposed $16 billion share swap with Rosneft received a stay of execution when an arbitration panel gave it time to try to extend its April 14 deadline for the deal. The co-owners of BP’s Russian venture TNK-BP are trying to block the deal with Rosneft arguing that it violates TNK-BP’s shareholder agreement.  By not killing the deal outright, the panel has given BP time to either persuade TNK-BP to drop its case or cut them in on the deal.

U.S. securities regulators may ease constraints on share issues by private companies, making it easier for start-ups like Facebook, Twitter and Zynga to raise money, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Deals wrap: What’s next for Apple?

Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs smiles after the Apple's music-themed September media event in San Francisco, California September 1, 2010. REUTERS/Robert GalbraithShares of Sony rose nearly 3 percent at one point on Tuesday, but later retreated as analysts dismissed speculation that the electronics maker could be an acquisition target of Apple. *View article *View WSJ article looking at an Apple tie-up with Netflix

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway said hedge fund manager Todd Combs would join the firm, potentially bringing the company a step closer to solving Buffett’s succession puzzle.*View article *View background article on Todd Combs

The NYT’s Andrew Ross Sorkin delves into SEC insider trading laws and how they apply to two rail yard employees facing charges. *View article

Deals wrap: Hot prospects in VC

Workers walk outside the London Stock Exchange October 16, 2008. REUTERS/Andrew WinningVenture Capital Journal profiles 10 young venture capitalists who are poised to do great things. All of their “Hot Prospects” are under 36 years old and all have yet to make their mark in VC. The series runs all week.*View article *View profile of Chi-Hua Chien *View profile of Ann Miura-Ko

Asahi President Naoki Izumiya told Reuters he expects to have $9.2 billion on tap for acquisitions over the next five years as it looks for new growth drivers outside the shrinking domestic beer market. * View article

Is the SEC’s $75 million settlement with Citigroup a victory for Wall Street accountability or a punishment for taxpayers and Citi shareholders? *View NYT article

The afternoon deal: Being Goldman

Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Investigations Subcommittee hearing on "Wall Street and the Financial Crisis: The Role of Investment Banks" on Capitol Hill in Washington April 27, 2010.     REUTERS/Jason ReedGetting raked over the coals for allegedly shady trading practices does nothing for the public’s trust in a company. But if the bottom line is affected, then it gets real serious.

Goldman’s top brass, along with other executives, are scurrying around the globe to meet with jittery corporate clients. They are holding phone calls with anxious customers and taking hedge fund trading partners out to sushi lunches, all in a bid to prevent business from going to one of its competitors.

For our special report on the impact on Goldman, and the companies response to the SEC’s civil fraud charges, click here. Find a graphic of Goldman’s share price and significant events here, or a look at Goldman’s shrinking U.S. IPO proceeds here.

The afternoon deal: Regulation overdrive

MOTOR-RACING-NASCAR/A joint Senate-House of Representatives conference committee convened at 2:15 p.m. EDT to begin merging competing bills from each chamber into what will be the biggest overhaul of the financial rules since the 1930s. Columnist John Kemp explains the simple conference process and the not so simple reality of merging the House of Representatives and Senate versions of the financial reform bill. The “base text” for the regulatory bill is here.

Not to be overshadowed by the financial regulation bill, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission said it plans to boost scrutiny of high-frequency trading, which now accounts for as much as half of all U.S. futures volume, and was fingered for its role in the May 6 stock market “flash crash.” Get the details of the co-location proposal here.

The SEC approved new so-called circuit breakers. The rules will require the exchanges to pause trading in certain stocks across U.S. equities markets if the price moves 10 percent or more in a five-minute period.

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