Banks Behaving Badly Get Slapped with Billion Dollar Fines; Target’s Earnings Bullseye; Hormel Ears on All That Spam

Busted…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The fun is over for a group of foreign exchange traders who brazenly dubbed themselves “The Cartel” and went about manipulating the price euros and dollars to score some extra cash. Now, because of them, five major banks have to shell out over $5 billion in settlement fees. Citicorp, J.P. Morgan Chase, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland all admitted their fiscal misdeeds that began in December of 2007. UBS pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and has to pay over half a billion dollars in fines. But the Swiss bank dodged some other penalties and gained conditional immunity for being the first to report on the criminal activities taking place. These forex traders would share confidential information about their clients’ orders and then plan out trades that would conveniently boost their own profits. Entrance into the group was by invitation only and one participant said at one point, “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” Charming, huh? The resourceful plan proved quite profitable until January 2013 when investigators finally honed in on what was going on. Even though no criminal charges were brought, as per the settlement agreement, investigations into other foreign exchange issues are not going away any time soon.  And of course, plenty of traders were given their walking papers. As for the movie rights…well, I suppose you can expect to see this play out in theaters within a few years. No sense in Hollywood not profiting off this, right?

Hit it…

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Seems like only yesterday when Target was rocked by a data breach that cost the retailer tens of million of dollars. Then there was the fiasco, also known as “Target’s Canadian Expansion,” that saw the retailer pulling the plug on the 133 stores located there. But those not so minor hiccups seem to be water on the fiscal bridge as Target released its latest earnings that hit their mark and saw its third straight quarter of sales growth, especially in home goods and apparel. So how good were these earnings? How does a a 52% increase in profits sound? That’s right, Target scored $635 million in net income, up from $418 million just one year ago, gaining $1.10 per share. Analysts were only predicting $1.02 per share. Clearly, those analysts were not amongst the many consumers lined up at five in the morning hoping to score some limited edition Lilly Pulitzer merchandise. Revenue was also up 2.8% which had everybody on Wall Street marveling at the fact that Target’s great earnings put Wal-Mart’s not great earnings to shame. Especially because sales at Target were up 38%, which is about double what Wal-Mart pulled in.

Talking turkey…

Image courtesy of vectorolie/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of vectorolie/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hormel, the original Spam maker, long before it was known for crowding our inboxes, just released its earnings and there’s good news. And bad news. The good news is that profit for the company increased 29% to $180.2 million with sales of $2.3 billion. The company pulled in 67 cents per share while analysts expected 62 cents per share. You may not be eating Spam, but somebody out there is. Besides, Hormel, being the largest meat processor in the United States, makes tons of other products including Roast Beef Hash and, I kid you not, Wholly Guacamole. In case you didn’t realize, Hormel’s got big business going in the refrigerated foods industry. The company also has a Jennie-O turkey store business, which brings us to the bad news: bird flu. There is a new bird-flu outbreak and if you want to sound sophisticated you can refer to it as avian influenza. Not only is this expected to take a big bite out of Hormel’s numbers, but it is also predicted that this outbreak is going to wreak havoc on the rest of the turkey industry as well. Forgive me if I just put an extremely early damper on your Thanksgiving.

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Target-ing the Preppy; No Clowning Around, Cirque du Soleil Goes to Private Equity Firm; Former Fed Chief Wants Overhaul, But Does Anybody Care?

I guess that means it was a success…

Image courtesy of cuteimage/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of cuteimage/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Things are looking up for Lilly Pulitizer (did they ever look down?) as the line of 250 pieces it made for Target  – from dresses to beach chairs – nearly sold out within hours, with many crowing the moment as “Preppy Black Friday.” Just darling. In fact, the line of merchandise was so successful that 16,000 of the line’s items even made it onto eBay, priced much much higher than Target’s prices. Target’s website nearly crashed because of the traffic caused by the hype for the Lilly Pulitzer merchandise. Good thing Target already learned its lesson the hard way back in 2011, when it launched a line with Missoni, which did, in fact, cause the site to crash. This time, however, Target just made the site inaccessible for 15 minutes to deal with the onslaught. Much to the annoyance and disappointment of many, Target has no plans to restock the line since that might make the 250 items not as precious. No doubt the opportunists selling the marked up merchandise on eBay aren’t too sad about this decision. You know who’s not disappointed, or even annoyed? Oxford Industries, that’s who. Parent company to Lilly Pulitzer, Oxford Industries’ stock surged 9% because of all the success and excitement surrounding the Lilly Pulitzer/Target merchandise.

Send in the clowns…

Image courtesy of vectorolie/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of vectorolie/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There’s no clowning around at TPG, the private equity firm that just picked up a majority stake in the world-famous circus sensation, Cirque du Soleil. Its founder, Guy Laliberté, has decided to take on new creative challenges instead of grooming his five children to take over the family biz. TPG has already helped companies, including J. Crew, Neiman Marcus and Ducati. So it’s safe to assume they know a thing or two about how to grow a brand. Quebec pension fund manager the Caisse de depot, and Chinese investment firm, Fosum, will take on minority stakes in the entertainment company. While the price for the deal is being kept under wraps, some analysts have pegged the deal between $1.5 and $2 billion. Not bad for a guy who started a traveling show with a bunch of street performers back in 1984. Laliberté will stay on with the company and its 1,400 employees to continue to offer strategic and creative advice. It pays for him to do so as he’ll still be left with a 10% stake.  Cirque du Soleil sells 11 million tickets a year and has been seen by 160 million people in 330 cities and 48 countries.

I said Volcker! Not Vulcan!

Image courtesy of sdmania/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of sdmania/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Way harsh words from former Federal Reserve chief Paul Volcker who slammed the current U.S financial regulatory system during a speech in Washington, D.C. The former chief and close financial advisor to President Obama said if we don’t revamp the current system, it will only “…make us more vulnerable to the next financial crisis.” Mr. Volcker wants a complete overhaul of a system he says was developed piecemeal over the last 150 years in response to fiscal emergencies. He says the Dodd-Frank financial reform act of 2010 is not enough to head off an even greater economic disaster and wants to see a smoother, streamlined regulatory system instead of the current one we have in place which he thinks is “…highly fragmented, outdated and ineffective.” Ouch. In his fiscal eden, banks and other select Wall Street firms would be centralized. Then he’d merge the SEC and CFTC into one big happy family. In case you haven’t guessed it by now, plenty of people on Wall Street don’t seem to care for what the former fed chief had to say.