Off the Wires

A decade on, is Sarbanes-Oxley working?

July 29th, 2012  |  Source: Reuters


When Peregrine Financial collapsed earlier this month, a nagging question resurfaced. As in the implosion of Lehman Brothers, the fall of Bernard Madoff and other cases in recent years, many asked: Where were the accountants?

That this question still arises could be seen as an indictment of the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley law, enacted 10 years ago on Monday. The law was a response to accountants' failures to sound the alarm about financial misconduct at Enron Corp, WorldCom and a host of other companies.

But, lawyers and analysts say that for the most part Sarbanes-Oxley is working. It has strengthened auditing, made the accounting industry a better steward of financial standards, and fended off Enron-sized book-cooking disasters.

Yes, it has fallen short in important ways, but these failures are on a more subtle level, the experts say.

TD looks to fill the gap in US banking

July 22nd, 2012  |  Source:

An 80-year-old former games show host hammily promotes the bank with a rictus grin.

Its slogan is “America’s most convenient bank” and, with its Sunday opening hours, it has a fair claim to the title.

But although the company wraps itself in American cheesiness and service standards, it is a Canadian group, TD Bank, that is in full invasion mode.

TD’s growth in the US is part of a trend that is redrawing the map of overseas financial groups’ presence in the country.

According to interviews and an FT analysis of Federal Reserve data, the Canadians are coming in a big way.

Meanwhile, some eurozone banks are packing up and many more are selling loans and shrinking as they fight fires on the home front.

Abstract only. Full story here:

Amazon ‘robo-pricing’ sparks fears

July 8th, 2012  |  Source:

High-speed trading tools pioneered in the stock market are increasingly driving price movements on Amazon as sellers use them to undercut and outwit each other.

Prices change as often as every 15 minutes as some of the 2m sellers on the site join the online retailer in using computerised tools, often developed by former data miners at banks.

The “robo-pricing” has become a source of tension as Amazon competes with its clients but has access to their sales information and greater experience of data mining.

Amazon sellers – using third-party software – can set rules to ensure their prices are always, for example, $1 lower than their rivals’. More complex algorithms can analyse data to set prices most likely to secure a prominent position on the site.

But the tools create the risk of malfunctions similar to the 2010 flash crash, when algo trading was blamed for some US stock prices falling to near zero, then rebounding in 20 minutes.

Bob Diamond's evidence to MPs branded implausible

July 4th, 2012  |  Source: The Guardian

Banker's responses on rate fixing scandal questioned by Treasury committee chairman, while chancellor claims Labour ministers 'clearly involved'

The ousted Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond is facing fresh pressure after the chairman of the House of Commons Treasury select committee described some of his evidence to MPs yesterday as "implausible", as the row grew over who was at the heart of manipulation of interest rates during the credit crisis.

Libor fallout fears haunt London banks

July 2nd, 2012  |  Source:


The two London banks most exposed to fears about the wider implications of the Libor-fixing scandal were the biggest losers on the FTSE 100 on Monday.

News that Marcus Agius had resigned as chairman of Barclays, which said it would set up an audit of its business practices, did not stem the volatility in the bank’s stock, which oscillated between 166p and 156.6p in a torrid start to the session.

 “Whether Marcus Agius’s departure will be enough to prevent Bob Diamond being forced out as chief executive is the key question,” said Rebecca O’Keeffe, head of investment at Interactive Investor.

“Barclays was the only UK bank that fell on Friday, despite the optimism created by the European summit. Many expected a rebound this morning, but the stock has already given up its very early gains.”

As the session developed, Barclays fell 2.6 per cent to 158.6p.

Sector peer Royal Bank of Scotland was also under pressure. Reports that one of the traders who it had dismissed in relation to the way in which it contributed to setting interbank lending rates was suing the bank for unfair dismal were enough to raise the prospect of a flurry of legal action around the sector. RBS was 2 per cent weaker at 211.1p.

The two lenders saw the biggest single falls on London’s benchmark index.

Abstract only full report here:

Somali Militants Say Obama Is Worth 10 Camels

June 13th, 2012  |  Source: Mother Jones


Al-Shabaab—the population-terrorizing Al Qaeda-linked Islamist group in Somalia that has carried out deadly bombings in Ugandaand elsewhere—has an odd sense of humor. As BBC News reported on Monday:

After the US put bounties on the heads of al-Shabab commanders, senior militant official Fuad Muhammad Khalaf announced: "Whoever reveals the hideout of the idiot Obama will be rewarded with 10 camels, and whoever reveals the hideout of the old woman Hillary Clinton will be rewarded 10 chickens and 10 roosters," he said after Friday prayers.

The wise fool of Google

June 7th, 2012  |  Source:


Chade-Meng Tan, it occurs to me after spending an hour talking to the man, is a fool.

Not a fool in the dunderhead sense, as he has an IQ of 156 – which makes him more like a genius. But Google employee #107, who joined the search engine company as an engineer in its start-up days, has become a corporate version of the Shakespearean fool, a jester and a truth-teller.

Read on here:

The sorry fate of tech pioneer Halsey Minor and historic Virginia estate Carter’s Grove

June 4th, 2012  |  Source: Washington Post


It was reputed to be America’s loveliest Colonial­-era plantation house, a jewel of Georgian architecture. Its interiors, with opulent walnut and yellow pine paneling, parquetry and grand staircase — the work of a master joiner summoned to Colonial Virginia from England — are lauded in its National Historic Landmark paperwork as the most beautiful in the South.

For the better part of three centuries, Carter’s Grove rested serenely on the northern bank of the James River. It was built in 1750 by Carter Burwell, grandson of Robert “King” Carter, the English colony’s early land baron, to awe visitors with physical evidence of the bountiful riches that could be wrung from the New World wilderness.

Before the house, the land was the site of Martin’s Hundred plantation and Wolstenholme Towne, an ill-fated English settlement founded in 1620, just a few years after the establishment of Jamestown five miles upriver. Wolstenholme was destroyed during a native Powhatan massacre of English settlers in 1622.

But Carter’s Grove had better luck. For 260 years, it steadfastly survived looting, flood, hurricane, earthquake, a Hollywood crew filming a now-forgotten Cary Grant movie, and a marauding Revolutionary War colonel who billeted his Redcoats there and, legend has it, rode a horse up the main staircase, hacking the grand railing with his sword along the way. A 1928 renovation diminished the Palladian perfection of its exterior, but still, it endured.

Carter’s Grove may have finally met its ruin, however, in the unlikely form of Halsey Minor, a brash 40-something technology investor living in San Francisco.

For the full story, go to:

Tintin Cover Fetches $1.6M

June 3rd, 2012  |  Source: Daily Beast

A rare original Tintin in America cover set a record price on a Paris auction block Saturday, netting $1.6 million.

Drawn by the creator of Tintin, it’s not the first time this piece has set comic book records – the same cover established the record in 2008 when it went for just under $1 million.

The piece was reportedly bought by a private collector, and is one of five original Tintin covers known to be in existence. “If he’d have been able to get it for less I think he would have been happy,” the friend who represented the anonymous buyer at the auction told reporters. The friend would give his name only as Didier. “The aim was not to beat a record; the aim was to obtain the work, before anything else.”

Read it at The Hollywood Reporter

Ferrari GTO Becomes Most Expensive Car At $35 Million

June 1st, 2012  |  Source: Bloomberg

A 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO made for race driver Stirling Moss has become the world’s most expensive car, selling in a private transaction last month for $35 million.

The distinctive apple-green Ferrari, one of 39 GTOs produced from 1962 to 1964, is listed among May’s high-end sales at, a website for classic car dealers. Two specialist traders last night independently confirmed the transaction and price to Bloomberg News.


The car was sold with the last two weeks by the Dutch-born businessman Eric Heerema, owner of the Nyetimber vineyard in Sussex, southern England. The buyer is U.S.-based classic car collector Craig McCaw, the dealers said. Heerema was not available for comment when Nyetimber was contacted by Bloomberg News. McCaw was also unavailable for comment when his company Eagle River Investments was telephoned.

“The market is very active at the moment,” said James Cottingham, acquisition consultant for Ferrari dealer DK Engineering, based in Hertfordshire, U.K. “A lot of new buyers are expanding their collections and the baby-boomer generation of collectors has reached an age when they’re not using their cars as much as they used to. They want to sell.”

McCaw, who is based in the Seattle area, was the co-founder of McCaw Cellular, which was acquired by AT&T for $11.5 billion in 1993.

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