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Financial Services Update – August 26, 2011

Bernanke Signals No New Fed Stimulus

On Friday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke offered an upbeat assessment of the domestic economy that offered little indication of any immediate monetary stimulus by the Fed. However, Bernanke did acknowledge that the nation faces significant challenges, including high unemployment and an unsustainable federal debt. Bernanke also offered an unusual critique of the government’s fiscal policy, criticizing the political battle over raising the debt-ceiling. While Bernanke failed to signal any future Fed action, he did say the issue of potential action would be discussed at the next meeting in late September.

Treasury Department Announces OFAC Settlement with JPMorgan Chase

On Thursday, the Treasury Department announced that JPMorgan Chase has agreed to pay $88.3 million as part of a settlement over a series of transactions involving Cuba, Iran and Sudan. The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said in a news release that JPMorgan processed wire transfers totaling around $178.5 million for Cuban nationals in late 2005 and early 2006, violating United States embargo laws. The bank was also fined for a 2009 incident in which it made a $2.9 million loan to a bank that had ties to Iran’s government-owned shipping line, a violation of United States sanctions against Iran. The third violation occurred in 2010 and 2011, when the bank failed to give up documents about a wire transfer that referred to Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. According to the release, the agency gave JPMorgan a list of documents believed to be possessed by JPMorgan. In response, JPMorgan, which previously said it had no such documents, produced more than 20 of the items in question.

S&P President Resigns

On Tuesday, McGraw-Hill, parent company of Standard & Poor’s (S&P), announced that S&P President Deven Sharma will step down from his position by the end of the year and be replaced by Douglas Peterson, the chief operating officer at Citigroup. McGraw-Hill said Sharma’s decision was not influenced by the United States’ credit rating downgrade or an investigation by the Justice Department over S&P’s rating of its subprime securities. The company said the decision to replace Sharma took place over six months ago when the Board of Directors decided to split the company into four divisions due to increasing pressure from investors.

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Financial Services Update – April 22, 2011

Japan Announces Disaster Relief Fund

On Friday, Japanese Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced a 4 trillion yen ($48.5 billion) emergency budget for disaster relief in the wake of the nuclear crisis triggered by the March tsunami. Noda said the government would not issue new bonds to pay for the fund, and the cabinet plans to submit the emergency budget to parliament on April 28. Given that the material damage alone from the disaster could top $300 billion, the government is expected to seek additional future disaster funding that will likely require tax increases and debt financing.

Justice Department Examines NYSE/Nasdaq/ICE Merger

On Wednesday, Nasdaq-OMX CEO Robert Greifeld and ICE CEO Jeffrey Sprecher disclosed in a letter to NYSE Euronext’s board that they are in discussions with the antitrust division of the Justice Department (DOJ) after buying NYSE Euronext stock which triggered the DOJ’s antitrust review. The letter also disclosed that Nasdaq-OMX and ICE are willing to pay NYSE Euronext $350 million if DOJ blocks their proposed takeover, an offer they say is now based on “fully committed financing” of $3.8 billion.

On April 10, NYSE Euronext ’s board rejected the Nasdaq/ICE unsolicited $11.3 billion proposal and affirmed its February agreement to merge with Deutsche Boerse AG for $9.5 billion in stock. The agreement with Deutsche Boerse includes a payout of 250 million euros ($358 million) should that deal fall apart.  NYSE Euronext acknowledged that it had received the Nasdaq/ICE reverse break up free proposal and that its board is reviewing the matter.

S&P Changes U.S. Long Term Rating from Stable to Negative

On Monday, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services (S&P) changed its outlook on the U.S. long-term credit rating from stable to negative because ” the U.S. has relative to its ‘AAA’ peers very large budget deficits, rising government indebtedness, and the path to addressing these is not clear.”  While the S&P affirmed the U.S. ‘AAA’ long-term and ‘A-1+’ short-term sovereign credit ratings, it also predicted at least a one-in-three chance that it could lower its long-term rating on the U.S. within two years because of the increased risk that the political negotiations over when and how to address both the medium and long-term fiscal challenges will persist until at least after the elections in 2012.

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