JP Morgan in charge: Even though Bear Stearns shareholders have yet to vote on the $2-a-share takeover, JPM is apparently running the show. And just in case Bear shareholders turn down the sale (understandable considering that their holdings are now worth next to nothing), JP Morgan might still in the driver's seat because according to CNBC it has an option to buy the Bear Stearns building in NY (valued at $1 billion). BTW, Bear Stearns is still trading for more than $4 a share, which is a ways off from the $2-a-share deal that JPM cut. That could mean there's suspicion about the purchase going through - and keep in mind that several big-time shareholders might want to push for a better deal. So you see, it's definitely gotten weird back there. (NYT)
Market turmoil: The Federal Reserve is trying to prevent a crisis of confidence on Wall Street by announcing new lending terms for investment firms. The markets don't seem to know what to make of the moves. Will the Fed's actions stabilize markets or just make folks more nervous? European and Asian exchanges took a tumble today, and the Dow has been jittery all morning (it was actually up for a while but is now down more than 100 points). But it's still early. (NYT)
Deepening turmoil?: The big fear, of course, is that Bear Stearns is only the beginning - that the turmoil will be extending into other parts of the financial system and perhaps not be sorted out until next year. From the WSJ:
The next four weeks will be critical in determining whether or not bankers' gloomy mood is justified. Tomorrow, the worlds' biggest banks and brokers will start reporting precisely how much money they lost in the first quarter on bad investments, on top of previous losses. These reports will also hold vital clues to what they feel the future holds. As last week's meltdown at Bear Stearns shows, bankers' mood swings can sometimes bring about the very scenarios they fear. The 85-year-old firm suffered a de facto run on the bank when nervous lenders and clients stopped doing business with it, sparking others to follow suit.
Most pathetic line of the day:“One thing is for certain, we’re in challenging times,” President Bush told reporters after meeting with his top economic aides. “The United States is on top of the situation.”
Supreme Court takes indecency case: The appeal, which pits News Corp., ABC and CBS against the FCC, involves a lawsuit related to brief incidents where expletives were used on "The Billboard Music Awards." Previously, the FCC policy had been that brief instances of profanity didn't violate indecency standards. It then pursued enforcement action against News Corp. Last year, an appeals court told the commission to rethink its approach on the indecency policy. This prompted FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to issue an angry statement about the decision. From the WSJ:
Mr. Martin, a social conservative appointed by President Bush, has placed the indecency issue central to his tenure at the FCC. He has pursued cases against broadcasters with a dedication not seen at the agency in years. The decision not to take the appeal would have been a big blow for him, but now the FCC faces the risk of new Supreme Court precedent over its ability to police indecency on the airwaves.
Telemundo-Televisa deal: The Spanish-language network and the Mexican broadcaster are announcing a program-sharing arrangement in which Televisa would be allowed to run Telemundo programs. That gives Telemundo parent NBC Universal a lucrative new revenue source (the original plan was for NBC to launch a third broadcasting service in Mexico). Keep in mind that Televisa has been trying to end its programming deal with L.A.-based Univision. (WSJ)
Detailing Boeing's complaint: The aerospace giant says a few small but significant changes in the way the aerial-tanker award was set up favored competitors Northrop and European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. Boeing says that the Air Force changes threw off cost estimates. The Air Force also tweaked the amount of space the planes would need at an airfield, and that gave the other side a break as well. From the WSJ:
"In the end, the Air Force changed its direction, skewed the competition against Boeing and in favor of Northrop Grumman/EADS, and awarded a contract for a plane that did not satisfy its own bid requirements," the Chicago aerospace giant wrote in its protest. Boeing also accuses EADS of benefiting from European state subsidies. The accusation threatens to push the tanker dispute into a long-running trade dispute between Boeing and EADS's Airbus jetliner unit, complicating both. Los Angeles-based Northrop, the lead contractor for the Northrop-EADS team, defended its victory. "There's a process for a protest and we all need to let it run its course, but let's not change the rules after the fact," said Northrop spokesman Randy Belote.
LegalZoom in court: This is the L.A.-based online service that was co-founded by attorney Robert Shapiro (original member of O.J.'s "Dream Team"). It lets you create and file legal documents. Anyway, a Texas man is alleging that the service overcharges for government filing fees. "They're misleading consumers," says Robert Kleinman, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiff, Simon Solotko. (Texas Lawyer)
Shakeup at HBO: Carolyn Strauss will be vacating the cable network's top entertainment post where she helped develop "The Sopranos" and "Six Feet Under." There's talk about her taking on a new role with the network, probably some kind of production deal. Nikki Finke, who broke the story, reported that despite earlier successes Strauss has been "phoning it in for a long time while doing business with what seemed like just the same six people."