Light posting this week.
Oil up on tension: Crude is trading at over $40 a barrel this morning, presumably on the escalating Gaza conflict. That's up a couple of bucks from last week. (AP)
Big wipeout: The hastily arranged Lehman Brothers bankruptcy wound up losing as much as $75 billion of potential value for creditors, according to a WSJ report. The paper gets an inside look at how several of Wall Street's top honchos maneuvered during a critical weekend in September.
Anything goes at WaMu: Now that it's safe to talk, lots of former Washington Mutual employees are describing the bank's outrageous lending policies. As reported by the NYT it was all about saying yes, no matter what.
According to these accounts, pressure to keep lending emanated from the top, where executives profited from the swift expansion — not least, Kerry K. Killinger, who was WaMu’s chief executive from 1990 until he was forced out in September. Between 2001 and 2007, Mr. Killinger received compensation of $88 million, according to the Corporate Library, a research firm. He declined to respond to a list of questions, and his spokesman said he was unavailable for an interview. During Mr. Killinger’s tenure, WaMu pressed sales agents to pump out loans while disregarding borrowers’ incomes and assets, according to former employees.
IndyMac's likely buyers: Still no official word on the failed Pasadena bank, but the feds seem ready to sell the place to a consortium of private equity and hedge fund firms led by a couple of ex-Goldman guys (lots of players might help explain the delay). From the NYT:
The proposed deal is unusual because it is one of the first transactions involving unregulated private equity firms acquiring a bank holding company. Federal regulators have been locked in a heated battle throughout the credit crisis as banks continued to fail and private equity firms initially came to the rescue, but then backed off because of regulatory concerns.
Recession-proof Hollywood: Well, at least judging from the holiday box office. Fox's "Marley & Me" topped the other openers, with $51.7 million, but lots of movies did well. Total grosses for the year are still down almost 1 percent. (Variety)
Madonna tops: Thanks to her "Sticky and Sweet" tour, the Material Girl was the No. 1 concert performer in North America in 2008, with $105 million in ticket sales, according to Pollstar. No. 2 on Pollstar's list is Celine Dion, who earned $94 million. (LAT)
State goes after businesses: California tax officials are asking doctors, beauty salons, insurance agents and other service providers to pay any back taxes on their out-of-state purchases for the last three years. Ignore the warning and it could lead to an audit. From the LAT:
Californians know all too well about sales taxes they pay almost every day on purchases. But less known is the "use tax" that the state requires consumers to pay on goods bought out of state. California consumers, both individuals and businesses, must pay a use tax if they buy something in another state and if the seller does not collect a sales tax on the purchase. The use tax -- the same amount as the sales tax -- ranges from 7.25% to 9.25% depending on where the buyer lives.