news blog from Lucy

October 17, 2011 at 2:27pm

The Lineman: Week Five NFL picks


OK, it is not exactly the big week I was looking for but 3-3 at least has the Lineman heading back in the right direction. But catch a look at the Pick of the Week 3-1 (soon to be 4-1). Good tipping to all. Record: 12-12. Last week 3-3 Pick of the Week: 3-1 PICK OF THE WEEK San Diego Chargers (3-1) at Denver Broncos (1-3) (Chargers minus-4.5) Maybe I am one of those guys who keeps banging his head against the wall but for the second time in three weeks I am backing the Chargers as my sure thing. The Bolts let me down when they failed to cover against the Kansas City Chiefs accounting for my only blemish so far on my Lock of the Week. Could I be zapped again here? Perhaps, but 4.5 points seems seriously thin for a Chargers team. that has avoided its traditional stumbling start and finding is finding its stride as travels to Denver to take on the Broncos, who were beaten like a rented mule last week by the Green Bay Packers. The Broncos play much tougher at Mile High and with the exception of the blowout at Green Bay have kept games close, their other three contests all decided by three points or less. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has been a little off target tossing a league high six interceptions but so has Broncos QB Kyle Orton. The difference is, Rivers has the Chargers offense humming averaging a solid 415 yards per game and 313 yards passing. Bolts wide receiver Vincent Jackson has emerged as a serious game breaker averaging 18.7 yards a catch, each one of his grabs going for a touchdown or first down. Running back Ryan Matthews is a double threat out of the backfield with 19 catches. Rivers and company should enjoy a productive day against the Broncos 29th ranked defense that has coughed up nearly 28 points a game. After this game the Chargers have a bye week and should be motivated knowing a win over their AFC West rivals would keep them in top spot in the division until they return to work. So after a Week Three shock, I am re-Charged. Take the Bolts and give up the 4.5. - – - - Seattle Seahawks (1-3) at New York Giants (3-1) (Lines minus-9.5) I very nearly went with the Giants as my lock of the week but I think I actually saw Tom Coughlin smile last week and that, well, it rattled me. Decimated by injuries at the start of the season, the G-Men did not look like they would be a factor in the NFC East but have hung tough and could yet be the class of the division. Giants QB Eli Manning has the mojo going with wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, who had a career day last week hauling in 10 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown in New York’s big comeback win over the Cardinals. The New York defense is still rounding into form but has 12 sacks and should have few problems controlling a lifeless Seattle attack that ranks dead last in total offense. The Seahawks travel about as well as Ms. Lineman who needs valium and chardonnay flying to fly to the coast. Certainly, you will find no “I LUV New York” t-shirts in the Seattle locker room. The Seahawks are 1-6 on trips to the Big Apple and where hammered 44-6 on their last visit in 2008. After opening the season with three-of-four games on the road the surging G-Men return home looking for a fourth straight win. It all means Giant problems for the Seahawks. Take the G-Men and give up the 9.5. - – - - Philadelphia Eagles (1-3) at Buffalo Bills (3-1) (Line Eagles minus-2.5) The Dream may be over for the Eagles but not the season. At least not yet. A loss to the Bills on Sunday, however, and the Eagles could be done – cementing a spot in the over-hyped Hall of Fame. Caught in a three game tailspin, the Eagles are without a doubt this season’s biggest disappointment throwing around big money on the free-agent market and handing quarterback Michael Vick a $100 million contract. A $100 million just does not buy what it used to. Statistically there are no glaring areas of concern. The Eagles offence is averaging a respectable 25 points and 434 yards per game (fourth best in the league). Vick has plenty of weapons and is using them, LeSean McCoy fifth in the league in rushing with Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson among the top pass catchers. The Eagles have given up a lot of points but the their pass defense has been adequate and pass rush is tops in the league with 15 sacks. While the Eagles have been one of the biggest disappointments the Bills have been one of biggest surprises going 3-0 including a magical win over the Patriots. But in a loss to the Bengals last week the Bills were exposed for the team they really are – an improving club still a step away from joining the elite. The Buffalo offense led by Ryan Fitzpatrick can put up oodles of points but their defense is near the bottom of the league yielding more than 400 yards a game. The Eagles have made a habit of giving up big leads, the Bills calling card has been big comebacks. This a one is shaping out as a shootout between Fitzpatrick a Harvard grab and Vick, an ex-con. Street smarts say take the desperate Eagles and give up the 2.5. - – - - New York Jets (2-2) at New England Patriots (3-1) (Line Jets plus-9.5) New York, New York, I’m liking the look of both Big Apple teams this week. This could be the most entertaining game of the week, a grudge match between two teams and coaches who don’t like each other whole bunch. The Pats will be looking for a bit of revenge for the Jets knocking them out of the playoffs last year while the 45-3 beat down the New Englanders laid on the New Yorkers last season will not soon be forgotten. Tom Brady is the top ranked quarterback having already tossed for over 1,500 yards and 13 touchdowns but the Jets own the league’s second ranked pass defense. New England is a bit banged up and could be without players at key positions with linebacker Jerod Mayo, running back Danny Woodhead and tight end Aaron Hernandez all doubtful. But Brady will have plenty of weapons at his disposal including Wes Welker leads the league in receptions (40) and receiving yards (616). The Jets looked horrible losing to the Ravens last week, as quarterback Mark Sanchez was left scrambling for his life. But the New England defense is not nearly as scary as the Ravens and Sanchez should at least have an opportunity to put some points on the board. This one will be decided by the Jets defense. Rex Ryan will blitz Brady all day hoping to force him into making mistakes. Hey, it could happen, he threw four interceptions against the Bills. Brady has won 29 consecutive games at home but not only do I think the Jets cover, I think they could pull the upset here. Jets shoot down Pats? Maybe. But they will cover. Take the Jets and the 9.5. - – - - New Orleans Saints (3-1) at Carolina Panthers (1-3) (Line Saints minus-3.5) I can admit that Cam Newton is having an exceptional rookie season but for some reason I am just not convinced this is a team on the verge of big things. The Panthers have been competitive in every game so far and get a boost from the home crowd but this week they face an improving Saints team that has won three straight and on the march. No shock to see Drew Brees and New Orleans as the second ranked offence averaging 454 yards per game but it was a surprise to see the Panthers right behind them averaging 440 yards. Jump over to the quarterback ratings and same thing, Brees signs in at number two passing for 1,410 yards and there is Newton at number three with 1,386. Despite Newton’s undeniable talent it is still hard to see the Panthers keeping pace with Brees who has a much stronger supporting cast. Newton and wide receiver Steve Smith have chemistry but Brees has more weapons including back field trio of Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram that should give Panthers defense fits. For all his gaudy numbers, Newton is still a rookie and prone to rookie mistakes, his five touchdown passes offset by five interceptions. It is also worth remembering the Panthers won just two games a year while the Saints won it all in 2010. Saints march to fourth straight win. Take the Saints and give up the 6.5. - – - - Oakland Raiders (2-2) at Houston Texans (3-1) (Line Texans minus-5.5) Houston will be without injured All Pro wide receiver Andre Johnson but will not need him this week as the Texans go up against a leaky Raiders defense that ranks 30th in points allowed (28.3 per game) and rank 29th in yards allowed (409.8 ypg). Instead , running back Arian Foster, last season’s leading rusher is likely to be the man in the offensive spotlight for the Texans as he gets plenty of work against Oakland’s 28th ranked run defense. Oakland will also be counting heavily on their ground game and running back Darren McFadden, who is tops in rushing with 468 yards. The stingy Houston defense, which ranks fourth allowing an average of just 17.5 points per game, is likely to focus their attention on McFadden while and relentless pass rush that has produced 12 sacks will keep Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell scrambling. The Texans have made a terrible habit of throwing in a clunker just when things seem to be going smooth but with a chance to start a season 4-1 for the first time and playing at home I can’t see them letting this one slip away. Texans get their win. Take Houston and give up the 5.5. Picture: San Diego Chargers defensive back Marcus Gilchrist (R) is called for pass interference on Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline (82) as San Diego Chargers free safety Eric Weddle (32) pulls in the ball during their NFL football game in San Diego, California October 2, 2011.

2:16pm

Markopolos eyes a fortune from BNY whistleblowing


The suits and investigations into BNY Mellon’s dodgy FX trading just got a lot more cloak-and-dagger: apparently all of them can be traced back, in one way or another, to a secret plan hatched by none other than Harry Markopolos. Mr. Wilson’s decision to become a whistleblower started with Mr. Markopolos, the fraud investigator, who had the 2006 hunch about currency-transaction costs. Over the past four years, he and his legal team contacted Mr. Wilson and two former State Street employees, Peter Cera and Ryan Gagne, to secretly help build cases against the two banks… Working with the legal team, Mr. Markopolos arranged clandestine meetings with the whistleblowers at a shopping center and hotel restaurants… Mr. Markopolos’s hunch came from a book by Yale University’s chief investment officer, in which a description of currency transactions stuck out: “Foreign exchange translations may influence returns in a substantial, unpredictable manner.” Mr. Markopolos also noticed that pension funds using outside money managers reported slightly lower returns than the money managers themselves. He asked a friend who had worked at State Street, who told him that custody banks typically charge pension funds unfavorable foreign-exchange, or FX, prices. The friend told Mr. Markopolos, “No one ever checks FX.” He strategized about how to find bank insiders who could help him look into his suspicions. A key tactic: Looking for traders who might be sympathetic, then cold-calling them and saying, “I have a better job for you.” The source for this account is clearly Markopolos himself; I do wonder why Markopolos has chosen this time to out his co-conspirators and to boast about his perspicacity and his whistleblower-recruitment technique. Markopolos can be a little bit crazy — he said recently, for instance, that law enforcement agencies should treat the board of BNY Mellon “like Seal Team 6 treated Osama Bin Laden”. And the story about reading a book by David Swensen just doesn’t ring true to me. If you look at the passage in question (try searching on “unpredictable”, it’s on page 103), Swensen is talking about the optimal number of asset classes to have, and is saying that foreign bonds don’t constitute a particularly sensible asset class. Here’s a bit more of the passage: Investors cannot know how foreign bonds might respond to a domestic financial crisis, since conditions overseas may differ from the environment at home. Moreover, foreign exchange translations may influence returns in a substantial, unpredictable manner. As a separate asset class, high-quality foreign bonds hold little interest. The combination of low, bondlike expected returns and foreign exchange exposure negate any positive attributes associated with nondomestic fixed income. In this context, it’s clear that Swensen is talking about the way that fluctuations in foreign-exchange rates affect returns; he’s not talking about the difficulty of getting good FX execution. Or maybe Markopolos is a bit like Matt Zames: someone who, when reading public documents, can see ideas which are invisible to most people’s eyes. More likely, there’s quite a lot that Markopolos is not telling Carrick Mollenkamp about the genesis of this operation. Enormous sums are at stake here — Markopolos and his team stand to get up to 25% of the amount recovered by the states, and the suits in total are asking for more than $2 billion. Essentially, Markpolos and his whistleblowers are trying as hard as they can to extract hundreds of millions of dollars from State Street and BNY Mellon, and trouser it for themselves. You can see how Markpolos’s “better job” might have been attractive to someone like Grant Wilson — especially when it involved him staying in his existing job. And it’s certainly a pitch unavailable to journalists looking for this kind of story. If this tactic ends up paying huge dividends for Markopolos, Wilson, and their team, I also wonder whether the whistleblower space might not start getting a bit more crowded: it’s easy to imagine that in cases like this one, whistleblowing profits could end up being much bigger, and involve much less up-front investment, than short-selling profits. Should short-sellers start thinking about recruiting whistleblowers instead? And also, has anybody asked Markopolos whether he’s short BNY Mellon? He’s on the record saying that it’s “going to go down”. Is there some kind of rule which says that whistleblowers can’t or shouldn’t short the company they’re shopping to the government?

October 12, 2011 at 10:02am

TEXT-Fitch:North American financial institutions drive wider CDS


While European sovereigns saw a reprieve with spreads tightening 2%, CDS on North American financial institutions widened another 1.7%. ‘The most notable underperformers were AIG and Goldman Sachs Group , which came out 13% and 9%,respectively,’ said Author and Director Diana Allmendinger.Elsewhere, Germany led the CDS rally in Europe, with spreads finishing the week 12% tighter after tasting record high levels mid-week. However, ‘Belgium bucked the trend and finished the week 9% wider, likely due to concerns surrounding Dexia ,’ said Allmendinger.Fitch Solutions’ Risk and Performance Monitor is a report that gauges CDS market sentiment and spread movement among major companies and sovereigns throughout the world on a weekly basis. The Risk and Performance Monitor is part of Fitch Solutions’ Risk and Performance Platform, which provides a single point of access for CDS pricing data, market indicators of credit quality from a suite of market implied ratings models, as well as portfolio monitoring features.The ‘Fitch Risk and Performance Monitor’ is available by clicking on the above link.Additional insightful market data and analysis is available at ‘Link to Fitch Solutions’ Report: Fitch Solutions’ Risk and Performance Monitor

3:41am

Microsoft competitor Box lands $81 million funding


Box, formerly known as Box.net, plans to use the funds for expansion, with a goal of doubling employees to about 600, Chief Executive Aaron Levie told Reuters. In a program dubbed the Box Innovation Network, it also plans to start funding and consulting developers working on applications that work with Box, much as apps from Google Apps, salesforce.com and others do now.Box allows companies to store and access data in the cloud— networks of servers often run and maintained by others, allowing for access from anywhere. Box also runs apps that perform common business tasks such as managing orders and production scheduling.Levie said the company wants to take business from established players that overlap with Box, like Microsoft’s Sharepoint or Oracle. About 77 percent of Fortune 500 companies already use Box, he said.Similar players include San Francisco-based Dropbox, which is geared toward consumers and is raising its own new funding round. Domo, a startup based in Salt Lake City that offers business-intelligence services, raised an initial $33 million round in July.Venture-capital backers are placing increasing chunks of cash in cloud-computing companies as businesses and consumers step up their use of remote storage. Major companies such as Amazon.com Inc, Google Inc, and Apple Inc are also making sizable investments in the area.

3:41am

Microsoft competitor Box lands $81 million funding


Box, formerly known as Box.net, plans to use the funds for expansion, with a goal of doubling employees to about 600, Chief Executive Aaron Levie told Reuters. In a program dubbed the Box Innovation Network, it also plans to start funding and consulting developers working on applications that work with Box, much as apps from Google Apps, salesforce.com and others do now.Box allows companies to store and access data in the cloud— networks of servers often run and maintained by others, allowing for access from anywhere. Box also runs apps that perform common business tasks such as managing orders and production scheduling.Levie said the company wants to take business from established players that overlap with Box, like Microsoft’s Sharepoint or Oracle. About 77 percent of Fortune 500 companies already use Box, he said.Similar players include San Francisco-based Dropbox, which is geared toward consumers and is raising its own new funding round. Domo, a startup based in Salt Lake City that offers business-intelligence services, raised an initial $33 million round in July.Venture-capital backers are placing increasing chunks of cash in cloud-computing companies as businesses and consumers step up their use of remote storage. Major companies such as Amazon.com Inc, Google Inc, and Apple Inc are also making sizable investments in the area.