Morgan Stanley Finally Owns Up to All the Trouble It Caused; It’s a Darn Claim Unemployment Filings Are Up; Sears is Losing It

It was just a matter of time…

Image courtesy of  dream designs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of dream designs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Morgan Stanley is taking a bit of a beating today on Wall Street now that it has finally finally settled with the Department of Justice over its shady little role leading up to the 2008 financial crisis. Morgan Stanley reached a deal with the DOJ  that’ll have the bank paying $2.6 billion to get Uncle Sam off its back.  Attorney General Eric Holder and the DOJ will graciously end their probe into whether Morgan Stanley duped investors by telling them how very great their home loans were when in fact, they were anything but. This settlement is sure to put a major dent in MorganStanley’s 2014 profits. By major, I mean it’ll eat up nearly 50% of what MorganStanley got to take home in 2014. It officially lands Morgan Stanley on that illustrious list of banks who also had to shell out billion dollar settlements to the DOJ for their smarmy actions leading up to and during the 2008 financial crisis, including  – but not limited to –  Bank of America who reigns the top spot with a $16.7 billion payout. It’s followed by JPMorgan Chase which holds the number two spot for its $13 billion settlement. Citigroup rounds out the group with a $7 billion settlement.

Don’t stake this claim… 

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The number of people filing jobless claims went up. Not down. But up. The number climbed to 313,000 people instead of a projected 290,000. While the news is a bit of drag, economists  – who presumably know a thing or two  – are telling us that we can’t work ourselves up into a collective panic over one month’s lousy numbers. At least for now, anyway. First, the number of people filing those claims is still relatively close to the 300,000 mark. If it were way past that number, then yeah, having a fiscal freak out might be considered almost acceptable. Two, the labor market’s rockin’, sort of, and hiring is strong, which brings us to reason number three. Because hiring is strong, wages are actually going up. Walmart, TJ Maxx, Gap…the list goes on as to how many retailers are raising its employees’ wages. All these factors allow us to almost ignore this fiscal hiccup. However, leave it to Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen to remind us that, “wage growth remains sluggish” and that there’s always room for improvement.  You don’t say.

Loser…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sears isn’t having a very good year. Actually it hasn’t had a good year in…well, many many years. It just reported its fourth straight year of losses with this quarter losing $159 million and $1.50 per share. Incidentally, that figure is not nearly as dismal as last year’s $358 million fourth quarter loss. So you see, there is a bright side. Sort of. Run by the The Hoffman Estates, which also runs Kmart, the company has tried just about everything to help the ailing retailer reverse its downward financial spiral. From store closures to slashing inventory, the retailer has tried countless ways to cut costs. The company closed over 230 stores in 2014 and today has over 1,700 stores, which sounds impressive. But you know what’s more impressive? The over 3,500 stores the company had five years ago. The latest plan is to spin off between 200-300 stores into a REIT, which stands for Real Estate investment trust, by the way. The idea is apparently going to allow the failing company to pick up some $2 billion and help turn the fiscal tide. But if you want to know how exactly that works you’re on your own.

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Tweeting Bad, CEO Is No Longer On Target and Are Banks Headed for the Slammer?

When tweeting goes bad…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s bad enough cursing out your colleagues. But cursing them out on twitter takes an extra special dose of messed up. Just ask former Paypal Director of Strategy Rakesh (Rocky) Agrawal. That is, if you can find him. On Friday night the then Paypal executive released a number of expletive laden tweets presumably directed at his fellow executives. In one, he called a VP of Global Communications a useless middle manager. Much of what he tweeted was incoherent and made absolutely no sense – for which he conveniently blamed a “new keyboard.” In fact the only coherent parts of the tweets were the expletives. Agrawal says he had already resigned from the company before the tweets escaped his fingertips yet shortly after they started circulating and gaining attention @Paypal tweeted: Rakesh Agrawal is no longer with the company. Treat everyone with respect. No excuses. PayPal has zero tolerance.

Way off target…

Image courtesy of adamr/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of adamr/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The fact that Target (TGT) CEO Gregg Steinhafel’s resignation was announced today isn’t quite as shocking as the fact that he waited this long to do it. After a colossally expensive and embarrassing data breach that compromised the credit card and personal information of millions – no wait – make that tens of millions of people during the past holiday season, the now former CEO said in a statement that he holds himself personally responsible. Oh well. Maybe if he had had the good sense to try and mitigate the circumstances when the breach was first detected – before any data was even taken – instead of waiting as long as he did, then perhaps Steinhafel’s thirty-five year career at the $40 billion corporation might not have come to such a screeching halt. But he’s probably not too stressed about job hunting. The $55 million he’s rumored to be getting in severance should tide him over for a couple of years.

Don’t bank on it…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just when you though banks could no wrong…Actually, they do plenty of wrong. And now Attorney General Eric Holder wants everyone to know that although some financial institutions are Too Big To Fail, “There is no such thing as too big to jail” either.  Banks like Credit Suisse and BNP Paribas are staring down the wrong end of recent efforts by the US government for violating all kinds of rules. Credit Suisse was ticking off the US with their illegal tax shelters. The US has become less than fond of BNP Paribas for violating US sanctions against countries like Sudan and Iran. Some might find it shocking that a bank would want to assist countries whose gross human rights violations have come to be a part of the fiber of their existence. But to banks – big and small – money is money.  And to AG Holder, the law’s the law. And if it gets broken, he’s got some not-so-inviting cells waiting to house the offenders.