Seven And A Half Things To Know: MF Global Will Reportedly Escape Criminal Charges

Former MF Global Holdings Ltd. Chairman and CEO Jon Corzine is sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011, prior to testifying before the Senate Agriculture Committee. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Former MF Global Holdings Ltd. Chairman and CEO Jon Corzine is sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011, prior to testifying before the Senate Agriculture Committee. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

You may be wondering why 7.5 things felt a little different this week. HuffPostBIz's financial news guru Mark Gongloff is off enjoying some rest and recuperation, so this week's newsletters have been brought to you by Jillian Berman. Gongloff will be back Monday.

Thing One: MF Global's Great Escape: Well it looks like another Wall Street firm that put customers in jeopardy will escape criminal prosecution. The probe into MF Global’s collapse, and the loss of $1 billion in customer funds that came with it, will likely end without any criminal charges against executives, The New York Times reports. After a 10 month probe, investigators are convinced that it was just chaos and loose risk controls that caused the loss, not actual fraud.

Still, the executives may not get off completely scot free. James Giddens, the trustee in charge of MF Global’s bankruptcy, agreed to work with lawyers suing the firm’s former executives for not protecting customer funds, according to The Wall Street Journal. The move will likely speed up the cases and give the lawyers access to the documents the Giddens has uncovered in his probe. The agreement still has to be approved by the bankruptcy court, according to the Financial Times.

Thing Two: Money Laundering Will Apparently Cost You: Standard Chartered agreed to pay a $340 million fine to a New York state regulator to settle Iran money laundering claims, but that may not be the half, or third, of it. The bank may have to pay up to $1 billion to other regulators including the U.S. Treasury and the Justice Department in order to settle the allegations, Bloomberg reports. The deal with the New York regulator allowed Standard Chartered to keep its New York banking license and settled claims that the bank laundered $250 billion to Iran and hid it from regulators.

The settlement was a victory for Benjamin Lawsky and his upstart New York Department of Financial Services, but it upset the British Financial Services Authority -- the agency responsible for regulating Standard Chartered in the U.K. -- which was notified of the allegations just 90 minutes before the DFS made the announcement, according to the Wall Street Journal. They weren’t the only upset regulators; federal watchdogs in the U.S. expressed concern over Lawsky’s decision to actually charge someone with something, while they were still poking around.

The bank is hoping it can get weasel a one-stop-shop agreement with the federal regulators, according to Reuters.

Thing Three: Big Banks Hit In Another Libor Probe: That pesky Libor scandal just won’t go away. JPMorgan Chase, HSBC and Barclays are among the group of seven banks subpoenaed by New York and Connecticut over allegations they manipulated Libor, Bloomberg reports. The joint probe led by the two states’ attorneys general could expand to include more banks. The subpoeanas come on top of investigations by American and British regulators.

The attorneys general have been looking into the rate-rigging for months, according to Reuters. The subpoeanas are looking to collect communications between the banks’ executives and looking for possible collusion that could have contributed to rate-rigging.

Thing Four: Romney Donor Pushes Romney On Banks: Will a tightening of the purse strings be enough to convince Mitt Romney to get tough on banks? That’s what one billionaire hedge fund manager is hoping. Paul Singer, a major Republican Party donor, sent a letter to Romney officials arguing that the Dodd-Frank financial reform law is “ill-conceived” and needs to be replaced with something tougher, the Financial Times reports. “Private reward and public risk is not what conservatives should want,” he wrote in the letter.

Thing Five: More Reason To Believe Facebook Stock Might Be Worthless: Facebook’s disastrous IPO may only be the beginning of hits to its stock price. The company is freeing up 60 percent more shares today by allowing early investors like Goldman Sachs to sell part of their stake, according to Bloomberg. With the flood of new shares Facebook will have to do more to convince investors that the company is worth their money.

Short sellers aren’t convinced. More are taking advantage of the possibility that Facebook’s stock will drop in value; 97 million Facebook shares are on loan to short sellers compared to 63 million a month ago, according to the Wall Street Journal. The short sellers borrow Facebook shares and then sell them hoping to replace the shares with ones at a lower price after the stock drops.

Thing Six: Swiss Banks Give Up Employees To Save Themselves: Swiss banks are hoping that by ratting out their employees they might be able to get some leniency in a probe into their role in helping clients evade U.S. taxes. At least five banks, including Credit Suisse and HSBC, turned over email and telephone records to the Justice Department that include as many as 10,000 employee names, according to Bloomberg. Lawyers representing current and former workers at the banks argue that the data handover is illegal and that banks are only doing it in an aim to cut a better deal with the Justice Department.

Thing Seven: CEOs vs. Uncle Sam: Life just isn’t fair sometimes, dear reader. Companies including Citigroup and AT&T paid their CEOs more in 2011 than they paid in taxes, according to a study from the Institute for Policy Studies, cited by Reuters. The study argues that the U.S. tax code is so riddled with loopholes that its enabled a boost CEO pay while helping companies lower their tax bill. Taxpayers are losing out $14 billion thanks to four pay-related tax breaks, according to the study. For their part, Citi, AT&T and others took issue with the methodology of the report.

Thing Seven And One Half: Babe Ruth's Dethaversary: Sixty-four years ago today, the great bambino died, according to The History Channel. The baseball legend died of cancer. For two days following his death, thousands lined up outside of Yankee stadium to see his body.

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Calendar Du Jour:


Economic Data:

8:30 a.m. ET: Weekly Jobless Claims

Corporate Earnings:

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Heard On The Tweets:

@jeffhorwich: We live a bizarro world where economic fundamentals improve, and stock futures fall because that makes Fed rescue operations less likely.

@ReformedBroker: Libor subpoenas are this fall's must-have accessory for the banker on the go!

@zerohedge: The average Greek earns $66 a day. Price per gallon of premium gasoline: $7.92. Share of a day's wages needed to buy a gallon: 12%

@dandrezner: Balanced budget, here we come!! RT @samsteinhp: Romney identifies cuts for Fortune: subsidies for Amtrak, PBS, NEA + NEH, Obamacare

‏@pdacosta: Committed any large-scale white-collar crimes lately? Call your regulator. They seem to be in a forgiving mood today.

-- Calendar and tweets rounded up by Khadeeja Safdar.

And you can follow us on Twitter, too: @markgongloff and @byKhadeeja

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