The Monetary Authority of Singapore issued a lifetime ban on former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker Tim Leissner, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to money laundering and bribery in connection with the 1Malaysia Development Bhd. scandal. The prohibition order was an upgrade from the previous 10-year ban issued in March 2017. The lifetime ban prohibits Leissner from performing any regulated activity under Singapore's Securities and Futures Act as well as from managing any capital markets services firm in Singapore. The move comes shortly after Malaysia filed criminal charges against three Goldman units in connection with the 1MDB case.
A Bloomberg News report takes a look at what lies ahead for Goldman as the investment bank gets ready to encounter the Southeast Asian country's legal system in the wake of the criminal charges. The company will be facing a pre-trial meeting between prosecutors and defense lawyers prior to the start of the trial, the report noted. Nizam Ismail, a partner at RHTLaw Taylor Wessing LLP in Singapore, told Bloomberg that regulators overseeing Goldman units across the world are expected to closely follow the developments in Malaysia.
Citigroup Inc. is facing nearly $180 million in losses on loans extended to an Asian hedge fund after the fund's foreign exchange bets went sideways, a source for Bloomberg says. The bank is said to be in talks with the fund over positions and Citi's board is also reviewing the issue. In addition, the banking giant is reorganizing its prime brokerage business, and is pulling the foreign exchange prime brokerage unit out of the currency trading division to place it under the prime finance and securities services division, according to the report. The source also said Sanjay Madgavkar, who led Citi's foreign exchange prime brokerage unit, is leaving the company.
Digital lender On Deck Capital Inc. plans to foray into the equipment financing market in 2019. The company will offer fixed-rate equipment finance loans between $5,000 and $100,000, with 24-month to 60-month terms, to select U.S. small businesses. These loans, OnDeck's third finance product in its 10-year history, will be initially originated from current direct and indirect marketing channels, but the company might add vendor financing programs over time. The loans will be secured by new and used equipment.
Two separate proposals from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency will exempt banks with less than $250 billion in assets from company-run stress tests. Under the proposals, companies that would be subject to such stress tests would be required to conduct them every two years instead of annually, and the tests would no longer include an adverse scenario. The regulators have invited public comments on the proposals.
The FDIC is seeking public comments on brokered deposit and interest rate regulations. The regulator said a comprehensive review of the definition and interest rate regulations is needed in light of significant changes in technology, business models, the economic environment and products.
Blythe Masters is stepping down as CEO of blockchain startup Digital Asset Holdings LLC, a role she has held for three years, for personal reasons. Masters will remain a board member, strategic adviser and shareholder of the company. Masters' departure was unexpected since the former JPMorgan Chase & Co. executive has been a prominent figure in the male-dominated blockchain industry, Fortune reports.
The Federal Reserve is expected to announce the fourth and final interest rate hike of 2018 today, which would put the federal funds rate at a target range of 2.25% to 2.5%. In a Dec. 18 tweet, President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly attacked the central bank for the rate hikes in 2018, urged the central bank to not "make yet another mistake."
And Canadian insurer Sun Life Financial Inc. plans to merge Bentall Kennedy, its North American real estate and property management division, with global property investor GreenOak Real Estate LP. Sun Life will contribute its stake in Bentall Kennedy and pay GreenOak shareholders C$195 million in cash in exchange for a 56% stake in the combined Bentall GreenOak entity.
In other parts of the world
Asia-Pacific: IDFC Bank, Capital First close merger; Bank of China names employee supervisors
Europe: Natixis, Sydbank profit warnings; Lloyds CEO faces heat; Italy budget deal
Middle East & Africa: Ecobank says unaware of probe; Fitch downgrades Oman; Morocco holds key rate
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Some US regions get hit harder as community banks pay up for deposits: Community bank customers across the U.S. are pushing for higher rates on their deposits. Mid-Atlantic and Midwest institutions could feel the most pressure as deposit costs rise faster than loan yields.
Stock exchanges hope to lure record-setting unicorn IPOs in '19: The New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq Inc. are stepping up efforts to persuade some of Silicon Valley's biggest unicorns to enter the public markets with their help.
The day ahead
Early morning futures indicators pointed to a higher opening for the U.S. market.
In Asia, the Hang Seng increased 0.20% to 25,865.39, while the Nikkei 225 decreased 0.60% to 20,987.92.
In Europe around midday, the FTSE 100 increased 0.91% to 6,762.45, and the Euronext 100 increased 0.46% to 927.74.
On the macro front
U.S. mortgage activity went down in the week ended Dec. 14, according to the Mortgage Bankers' Association. The composite index slipped 5.8% from the prior week, the purchase index fell 7.0% and the refinance index decreased 2.0%.
The existing home sales report and the Energy Information Administration petroleum status report are due out today.
Click here to read about today's financial markets, setting out the factors driving stocks, bonds and currencies around the world ahead of the New York open.
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