Yesterday, Tower Group (NASDAQ:TWGP) received a letter stating "the SEC is conducting an investigation and attaching a subpoena for various documents." (8-K)
The company also discloses A.M. Best has downgraded Tower's debt ratings further into junk territory. Tower says its ratings "remain under review with developing implications pending the planned merger with ACP Re Ltd."
Euro zone inflation continued to fall in August, with consumer prices rising just 0.3% Y/Y, well below the ECB's target of just below 2%.
The new figures released by Eurostat boost expectations that the central bank will announce further stimulus measures, and will likely result in lively discussion at the ECB's Sept. 4 policy meeting next week.
At Jackson Hole last Friday, ECB President Mario Draghi also hinted at further stimulus measures.
Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) is filing plans to build, own and operate one of the first U.S. compressed natural gas export facilities and submitted its application to the Department of Energy in May.
The move is the first sign that the bank is returning to the physical commodity markets even as it sells its global oil business.
Morgan Stanley, along with Goldman, are the only two Wall Street banks that are allowed to own and operate infrastructure of raw materials due to their "grandfather" status for any commodities activities they engaged in before 1997.
Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) has asked Judge Jed Rakoff to dismiss the jury verdict which found its Countrywide unit guilty of past mortgage fraud that resulted in a $1.3B penalty.
Known as the "hustle" case, the lawsuit accuses BofA of selling toxic mortgages to Fannie Mae (OTCQB:FNMA) and Freddie Mac (OTCQB:FMCC), although the bank argues that the evidence at the trial does not support the claims.
The motion comes just one week after BofA agreed to a record $16.7B settlement with the U.S. government to settle charges over its role in mortgages leading up to the financial crisis.
Blackstone (BX +1.3%) was able to lure talent from the likes of Ziff Brothers Investments and Serengeti Asset Management and the new teams will each be given $100M, the permission to leverage that amount 4x, and a long leash.
Eventually Blackstone hopes to have up to 30 separate teams, each starting out with at least $100M.
The name of the hedge fund will be Blackstone Senfina Advisors (Senfina means "everlasting" in Esperanto).
The new traders aren't Blackstone employees, but can only manage money from the P-E firms clients. They'll be paid on a flat percentage management fee based on AUM, but the big cheese will come from bonuses tied to performance that needs to beat stock market averages.
The FHFA launched 18 lawsuits in 2011 against banks over about $200B in MBS. Many have settled - the latest being Goldman Sachs last week - but HSBC, Nomura (NYSE:NMR), and RBS (which is a defendant in the Nomura case) are among a group which hasn't.
The ruling from federal Judge Denise Cote sets up a Sept. 29 trial start date for HSBC, and the bank has estimated $1.6B in possible exposure.
It's another round of fee cuts from Vanguard on a range of its European mutual funds and ETFs, as well as the company's entire suite of LifeStrategy funds. Annual management charges on Vanguard's index mutual funds will now range from 8 to 38 basis points, and fees on four ETFs have been cut by 7 to 29 bps, effective Monday.
Vanguard came onto the fund scene in Europe five years ago and doubled mutual fund sales in 2013 to €8.6B, making it the 4th best-selling manager (from 20th in 2012). ETF flows look good as well, with $4.3B of inflows this year already surpassing $3.6B for all of 2013.
Watching the competition are BlackRock (BLK -1.5%) and Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management (DB -2.1%).
In contrast to cuts at the major investment banks, SunTrust (STI) plans to hire up to 200 (which would boost headcount by 20%) at its investment bank, according to Mark Chancy, head of wholesale banking. The plan is to expand its capital markets and stock research businesses, particularly targeting energy and healthcare.
"[SunTrust has] a competitive pay scale and a very attractive platform and culture to be able to acquire and retain what we believe is top talent," says Chancy.
“We are focused on making responsible real estate decisions to ensure the wise use of resources," says a Fannie Mae (OTCQB:FNMA -0.3%) spokesperson of the company's plans to sell it's sprawling headquarters as part of a consolidation of its 5 D.C. offices into a single leased office building.
Discover (DFS -0.5%) now ties with American Express for the highest customer-satisfaction ranking by cardholders, according to J.D. Power. It's the first time ever Discover has taken the top spot - it's come in 2nd to AmEx ever year since the survey began in 2007.
Behind Discover's big move, says J.D. Power's Jim Miller, are its efforts to improve customer service both over the phone and online, and TV viewers are certainly aware of the large volume of Discover commercials emphasizing the friendliness of its people.
Another long-time issue - that Discover's cards aren't accepted as widely as Visa and MasterCard - is fading, with the number of U.S. locations taking Discover up 24% since 2009 vs. 15% for Visa and MC.
Opening up a new avenue of funds with which to buy more farmland, Farmland Partners (FPI) raised $20.7M with the issuance of a 3-year interest-only note to Farmer Mac, bearing an interest rate of 2.4%.
FBR Capital initiates the stock with an Outperform rating and $13.50 price target. FPI came public in April at $14 per share, and closed at $11.92 last night.
Rexford Industrial REIT (NYSE:REXR) has paid $88.5M or about $108 per square foot for nine SoCal Industrial buildings totaling 817K square feet, reports CRE Direct. The deal was funded with proceeds from the company credit line along with a $48.5 loan.
The properties are 87% leased and range in size and location. The seller was San Diego investment manager Westcore Properties.
The deal brings Rexford's acquisitions YTD to $225M vs. the company's original plan to put $200M to work in 2014, which was later upped to $275M.
The three auto salvage sites totaling about 30 acres are in Medley, FL, and were purchased by Gramercy Property Trust (NYSE:GPT) for $17.3M (all cash). The properties are 100% leased through July 2022 to the subsidiary of a large, publicly-traded provider of replacement auto and truck parts.
Year 1 NOI is expected to be about $1.3M for a 7.4% initial cap rate. Rent escalations are built in every 60 months based upon the increase in the CPI.
"Companies of our size unfortunately experience cyberattacks nearly every day," says JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) spokesperson Trish Wexler. The bank isn't seeing anything unusual, but is working closely with law enforcement to determine the scope of the breach and anyone impacted by it.