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In this episode of the Keiser Report from Mexico City, Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert discuss the claims that the Fed is like the blockchain. They also look at the proof that central bank intervention causes market distortion like mispricing of risk and misallocation of capital as currency traders go bust on 50 times leverage. In the second half, Max interviews big bank whistleblower and bitcoin entrepreneur, Jose Rodriguez, about cryptocurrency in Mexico.
A Bull Market for Shake Shack BurgersShake Shack was already popular on Wall Street for its burgers, fries and shakes. But its hottest menu item on Friday was its stock, except perhaps for the free hamburgers.
Another View: When Consumers Give Up Their Right to Trial in Financial DisputesIf you have a credit card or cellphone, there's a good chance you've agreed to settle claims through arbitration. And businesses have the advantage in arbitration, Jeff Sovern writes in the Another View column.
Former London Trader Sentenced to Seven Years in Investment SchemeAlex Hope was convicted of a single count of fraud in London this month in a $7.55 million investment scam after pleading guilty in April 2014 to operating a collective investment scheme without authorization
German and British Regulators Examining Deutsche Bank's Controls and ReportingA year after the New York Fed raised questions, the inquiries are the latest to examine reporting procedures at one of Europe's largest lenders.
British Regulators Assessing Loan Insurance Compensation EffortsThe Financial Conduct Authority is looking at banks' efforts to compensate consumers who have filed complaints of improper sales of loan insurance, claims that have already cost banks about $26 billion.
Reuters Breakingviews: A High Court Check on Insider TradingThe judiciary's interest in narrowing the scope of insider trading cases could provide some much needed clarity, Reynolds Holding writes for Reuters Breakingviews.
CRACKDOWN ON LOANS LINKED TO CARSCar title loans, which allow owners to borrow money against their cars, are under fire, Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Michael Corkery report in DealBook. On Friday, the Federal Trade Commission is expected to announce that it has reached a settlement with two car title lenders, First American Title Lending and Finance Select, over suspicions that they misled borrowers by failing to accurately disclose the terms and costs of the loans, according to people briefed on the action. The agreement will require the companies, both based in Georgia, to overhaul how they advertise and promote their loans, the people said.
"The move ‒ the first time that the agency has taken action against title lenders ‒ points to a growing concern among state and federal authorities that the loans are plunging some of the most vulnerable borrowers further into debt, propelling them into bankruptcy and, in many cases, costing them their cars," Ms. Silver-Greenberg and Mr. Corkery write. The loans allow borrowers to hand over car titles as collateral for cash, usually a percentage of a car's resale value. The loans come with annual interest rates as high as 300 percent and last from as little as 30 days to two years.
There is little nationwide data on title-loan borrowers, but recent academic studies offer a portrait of who takes out title loans, and why, Ms. Silver-Greenberg and Mr. Corkery write. Analyzing more than 400 borrowers in three states, professors at Vanderbilt University and the University of Houston Law Center found that roughly 20 percent of customers used the proceeds of title loans to cover mortgage or rent payments.
LAW FIRM FIGHTS 'REVENGE PORN'A big law firm recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of a California law student that seeks damages from her former boyfriend for violating United States copyright law by posting a sexually explicit video and photos without her permission and causing emotional distress, DealBook's Matthew Goldstein writes. The litigation is the handiwork of K&L Gates, a law firm based in Pittsburgh, which has set up the Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project to fight the shame-posting of sexual photos and videos online by jilted lovers.
The complaint is among the first lawsuits filed by the K&L clinic, which is working with about 100 victims of so-called revenge porn, Mr. Goldstein writes. The program is believed to be the first of its kind at a major United States law firm and is led by David A. Bateman, a partner in the firm's Seattle office, and Elisa J. D'Amico, a litigator in the firm's Miami office. Most of its clients come through the program's website or referrals from two national advocacy groups for victims of revenge porn, the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative and Without My Consent.
In instances where the victims have taken nude selfies or videos of themselves, the K&L lawyers are using the protections offered by federal copyright law to demand that the websites take down the images or risk being sued along with the perpetrators. But if a victim wants to bring a federal copyright lawsuit, "there is a catch," Mr. Goldstein writes. "In many cases, she or he would first need to register any videos or photos to be protected with the United States Copyright Office. In other words, to use copyright law as a hammer, a victim must publicly register a photo or video that she or he would rather no one ever see."
SHAKE SHACK GOES PUBLICWhat began as a Chicago-style hot dog stand nearly 14 years ago in Manhattan's Madison Square Park is now Shake Shack, a hamburger empire that is set to begin trading on Friday on the New York Stock Exchange with a valuation of about $745 million,Michael J. de la Merced and Kim Severson write in DealBook. The initial public offering will increase the net worth of the restaurateur Danny Meyer, who opened the hot dog cart, by about $155 million.
Shake Shack has become "one of the most prominent purveyors of fast-casual food," a sector that has fundamentally reshaped the fast-food industry with its emphasis on fresh ingredients, Mr. de la Merced and Ms. Severson write. "Shake Shack has resonated with consumers who grew up on fast food but are both wary and weary of it." Other fast-casual chains have gone public with great success. Shares in Zoës Kitchen, for instance, have doubled from the chain's public debut. Those in El Pollo Loco are up 76 percent.
Hospitality has been the hallmark of Mr. Meyer's restaurant empire, which includes fixtures of the New York dining scene. Even in its prospectus, Shake Shack refers to its customers as "guests." The combination of quality ingredients and warm service has proved profitable. Shake Shack reported $5.4 million in net income in 2013 on $82.5 million in sales. But Shake Shack's ambitious expansion plans ‒ the chain plans to open at least 10 company-owned restaurants in the United States each fiscal year ‒ may threaten the high level of hospitality the company is known for.
ON THE AGENDAThe first estimate of fourth-quarter G.D.P. is released at 8:30 a.m. The University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index is out at 10 a.m. Data on farm prices is released at 3 p.m. Daniel K. Tarullo, a Federal Reserve governor, gives a speech on advancing macroprudential policy objectives at 12:45 p.m. in Arlington, Va.
HOW APPLE BEAT MICROSOFTWith the latest earnings reports from Microsoft and Apple, "the once unthinkable became reality: Apple's market capitalization hit $683 billion, more than double Microsoft's current value of $338 billion," James B. Stewart writes in the Common Sense column. What is more, Apple earned $18 billion in the quarter ‒ more than any company ever in a single quarter ‒ on revenue of $75 billion. Microsoft's revenue, on the other hand, was barely one-third of Apple's, and operating income of $7.8 billion was less than a quarter of Apple's.
How ‒ and why ‒ did this happen? Mr. Stewart writes: "The most successful companies need a vision, and both Apple and Microsoft have one. But Apple's was more radical and, as it turns out, more farsighted. Microsoft foresaw a computer on every person's desk, a radical idea when IBM mainframes took up entire rooms. But Apple went a big step further: Its vision was a computer in every pocket." And unlike Microsoft, Apple has not been afraid to "cannibalize itself," as Walter Isaacson, who interviewed Steve Jobs for his biography, put it. Apple has also integrated all aspects of the design and manufacture of a product.
Although some investors worry that Apple could "become the prisoner of its own success," Mr. Stewart writes, its shares appear to be a bargain, especially given the huge amount of cash it has on its balance sheet. The question for Apple now is what's next.
Hershey to Buy Krave, a Maker of JerkyThe Hershey Company announced plans on Thursday to buy Krave, a fast-growing business intent on turning jerky into the next upscale snack food, The New York Times reports.
Manitowoc to Split in Two After Pressure From ActivistsIn a victory for Carl C. Icahn and Ralph Whitworth's Relational Investors, the Manitowoc Company said it would separate its crane manufacturing business from its food service business, betting that the two would be more valuable as independent companies.
Qatar Airways Acquires 9.99% Stake in British Airways ParentThe stake in the International Airlines Group, also the parent of the Spanish carrier Iberia, deepens an existing commercial partnership with the group, The New York Times reports.
Why Yahoo May Have Some Breathing RoomYahoo's spinoff of its stake in Alibaba, worth $39 billion, will "not be happening until at least the end of the year, if not more given the complexity of the transaction," Kara Swisher of ReCode writes. That would give Marissa Mayer, the chief executive of Yahoo, "lots and lots of breathing room."
New Hurdle for Comcast-Time Warner Cable Deal"United States regulators have thrown a new roadblock in the path of Comcast's $45 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable, rewriting their definition of broadband to paint the largest U.S. cable company as a more dominant force in high-speed internet access," The Financial Times reports.
Valeant in Deal to Buy Provenge From Dendreon Valeant Pharmaceuticals has reached a tentative deal to buy the prostate cancer drug Provenge and other assets from Dendreon for $296 million in cash, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Occidental Chief's Quip About Chevron Drives Stock UpStephen Chazen, the chief executive of the oil giant Occidental Petroleum, joked on an earnings call on Thursday that his bigger rival, Chevron, was too poor to buy his company, but the remark sent Occidental's stock up anyway, Reuters writes.
Weiss Fight Is Over, but Wall Street Animosity LingersThe drive by Senator Elizabeth Warren to derail the nomination of Antonio Weiss for a Treasury post highlights a vitriol toward bankers that risks becoming counterproductive, William D. Cohan writes in the Street Scene column.
Macquarie Said to Be in Talks to Buy Jefferies Futures ArmThe Macquarie Group of Australia is said to be in discussions to buy the Jefferies Group's commodities and financial derivatives brokerage, Reuters reports, citing unidentified sources.
Blackstone Courts Wealthy Individuals With New Private Equity FundThe Blackstone Group has raised about $700 million from wealthy individuals for a new fund intended expressly for this class of investors, a new and largely untapped source of capital for buyout firms.
Activist Investors Gain Foothold in JapanA friendlier approach to activist investing is catching on in Japan, where the government has been pushing companies to be more responsive to shareholders, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Former Hedge Fund Managers Plan ComebacksMichael Karsch of Karsch Capital Management and Adam Weiss of Scout Capital Management are planning to start new funds less than two years after closing their old firms, The Wall Street Journal writes.
Move by Spotify to Raise $500 Million Could Delay I.P.O.Spotify, the popular streaming music service, has retained Goldman Sachs to raise $500 million in private investment, a move that would probably delay the possibility of an initial public stock offering in the near future, The New York Times reports.
Alibaba Profit Surges, but a Revenue Gain Misses Forecasts The Alibaba Group, which had a huge initial public offering in September, is now facing trouble with China's government regulators and an economic slowdown, The New York Times writes.
Alibaba's Lesson in Government RelationsAlibaba's run-in with a Chinese regulator serves as a reminder that there is no such thing as a good relationship with China's government, John Foley of Reuters Breakingviews writes.
Microsoft Said to Invest in Android Start-Up CyanogenMicrosoft is said to be putting money into Cyanogen, which is building a version of the Android operating system without Google's authority, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter. Microsoft would be a minority investor in a roughly $70 million round of equity financing that would value Cyanogen in the high hundreds of millions, one of the people said.
Uber Accused of Lax Safety Practices by Delhi WomanThe woman, who says she was sexually assaulted by an Uber driver, said in a lawsuit filed in California that the company did not adequately screen its drivers, risking the safety of Uber customers, the Bits blog writes.
British Regulators Assessing Loan Insurance Compensation EffortsThe Financial Conduct Authority said its review would assess whether sales of payment protection insurance were meeting the objectives of protecting the public and enhancing the integrity of the country's financial system.
Eurozone Takes On Quantitative Easing and Its RisksThe European Central Bank's bond buying should benefit 18.4 million people without jobs. But there is a chance it will help only a privileged few, The New York Times writes.
Eurozone Inflation Falls to Lowest Level Since 2009The annual rate of inflation in the 19 countries of the eurozone was minus 0.6 percent in January.The unemployment rate dipped to 11.4 percent, The New York Times writes.
Greece's Feisty Finance Minister Tries a More Moderate MessageYanis Varoufakis, a self-described "erratic Marxist,'' says that renegotiating Greek debt does not need to be a "yes or no, take it or leave it" situation, The New York Times writes.
How to Avoid Frauds in Investments, and Personnel HiresHiring people is a lot like picking stocks, and in both situations, even smart investors can be blindsided by fraud, Carson C. Block writes in an Another View column.