Morning Coffee Mar 29 2012

Behind Edith O'Brien's Smile

By janet guyon, kelly eggers and julie steinberg

No, that's not MF Global's Edith O'Brien in the photo, that's Leonardo da Vinci's painting of Mona Lisa.

It might as well be Edith, however, given her appearance at yesterday's congressional hearing in Washington, which sought to uncover how MF Global managed to lose $1.6 billion of customer money. O'Brien kept the same enigmatic smile on her face while pleading the Fifth in front of lawmakers, invoking her constitutional rights against self-incrimination. The MF Global assistant treasurer is said to be at the center of a chaotic series of money transfers in the days preceding the bankruptcy filing of the securities and commodities firm.

Diane Genova, deputy general counsel at J.P. Morgan, which cleared many of MF Global's trades, did confirm an interesting factoid: Jamie Dimon's bank evaluated whether to buy MF Global in the waning days of the firm, but decided it wasn't "a good business fit," she told lawmakers.

Aside from lost customer money, thousands lost their jobs as a result of MF Global's huge misplaced bet on European bonds. Not just the employees of the firm, but those who were in the same business. If MF Global was able to misplace customer money, there's no reason why others under the same regulatory structure can't, too. And that has customers worried and more likely to put their accounts with brokers they can trust. (WSJ)

Eye on the Prize (FINS)

For college students pursuing careers on the Street, nothing -- not terrible headlines, protesters or stiff competition -- will stop them from looking for the coveted internships and full-time roles with many of the world's biggest banks.

Joint Effort at the Top (Bloomberg)

Lloyd Blankfein's dual role as both chairman and chief executive of Goldman Sachs won't be challenged by a union after all. The firm has agreed to appoint a member of the company's board as a "lead director," who will serve as a form of checks and balances to Blankfein's leadership.

Cautious Optimism (Marketwatch via PR Newswire)

According to the latest Deloitte CFO Signals survey, the chief finance officers of large firms are more optimistic this quarter about earnings, capital investment and hiring projections.

Overseas Expansion (Belfast Telegraph)

New York-based financial services firm Cowen Group is planning to open a new office in Belfast, creating up to 50 new jobs.

Chunk of Change (WSJ)

Jefferies Chief Executive Richard Handler went home with a significantly slimmer wallet in 2011. His compensation for the year fell to $1.2 million -- a staggering $46.1 million drop from his 2010 compensation package.

Room for Improvement (Deal Journal)

Bank of America has seen its fair share of troubles in the recent past, but its chief executive, Brian Moynihan, doesn't want that to affect employee morale. He hopes that by making the bank more efficient and offering training and development programs to its remaining employees, he can make it "the best place to work."

Looking Up (Reuters)

A new survey of U.S. CEOs found that a greater percentage plan to hire more people over the next six months.

Think Twice (WSJ)

Westerners looking for work in Asia will face stiff competition from the region's locals. Three of four senior executives hired in Asia between 2005 and 2010 were natives of the continent; just 6% were noncitizens.

The Other Side of the Coin (WSJ)

While the "Jobs" Act may mean relief for many American companies that will become exempt from certain auditing practices, the result may mean less work for accountants.

Buzz Around the Office

Sleepin' on the Slopes (YouTube)

Skiing can really wear you out.

List of the Day: Moving Up in a Small Business

Why else be there?

1. Look for companies on the cusp of growth

2. Set realistic expectations

3. Be prepared to take risks


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