Trump, Sanders explore staging unusual presidential debate

BISMARCK, N.D. Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders on Thursday explored staging an unconventional U.S. presidential debate that would sideline Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and create a television spectacle that could attract huge ratings.The two men - a billionaire and a democratic socialist - expressed interest in a one-on-one encounter in California even though Republican and Democratic presidential candidates traditionally do not debate each other until the parties have selected their nominees."I'd love to debate Bernie," Trump told reporters in North Dakota, after he secured enough delegates to clinch the Republican presidential nomination. "I think it would get very high ratings. It would be in a big arena."Basking in his newly sealed nomination at a later campaign rally in Billings, Montana, Trump said he expected to put 15 states in play in the general election, compared with three or four for a traditional Republican. He named California, Washington and Michigan among others. Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said in an email there were no formal plans yet for a debate. But Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver told CNN there had been "a few discussions" between the campaigns about the details. "We hope that he will not chicken out," Weaver said. "We hope Donald Trump has the courage to get on stage now that he said he would." Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, is running far behind Clinton in the race for the Democratic nomination for the Nov. 8 presidential election. But a nationally televised debate with the presumptive Republican nominee would be a big boost to his chances in the California primary on June 7, when Clinton is likely to clinch the nomination. Trump said a debate with Sanders could raise up to $15 million for charity."I'd love to debate Bernie, but they'll have to pay a lot of money for it," he said. The idea was hatched during an appearance by Trump on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" late on Wednesday. Kimmel said he asked Trump about the debate at the suggestion of Sanders."Game on," Sanders tweeted. "I look forward to debating Donald Trump in California before the June 7 primary."Sanders himself appeared on Thursday night on the talk show, where he said Kimmel made it possible for a "very interesting debate" between "two guys who look at the world very, very differently."Sanders added that the goal would be to have the debate in a stadium in California. He then had a warning for Trump. If I become the Democratic presidential nomination, he said, "we're going to beat him and beat him bad." 'NOT A SERIOUS DISCUSSION' Clinton, who backed out of an agreement to debate Sanders before the California vote, said she did not think a Trump-Sanders showdown would happen."This doesn’t sound like a serious discussion. I’m looking forward to debating Donald Trump in the general election. I really can’t wait to get on the stage with him," she told CNN in a phone interview.A Fox News spokeswoman confirmed the network was trying to host a forum with Trump and Sanders. Representatives from other networks did not immediately respond to requests for comment. "If it does come to pass, it would generate enormous ratings," said Alan Schroeder, a Northeastern University professor who has written extensively about presidential debates. "They are from two different planets. You have a real personality contrast. It would dominate media coverage."Sanders, who has promised to continue his campaign through the Democratic nominating convention in July, has said he will do everything he can to ensure that Trump does not win the White House. "Smart and bold move by Sanders," Democratic strategist Brad Bannon said. "The Clinton people are furious but Bernie wins points for being so aggressive.”Clinton has tried to woo Sanders supporters as she turns her attention to the general election. But some Democrats worry his supporters - who are largely young, working-class and disillusioned with the Democratic Party establishment - will turn instead to political neophyte Trump, who has championed a populist agenda. The debate would give Trump a national forum to criticize Clinton and try to win over Sanders supporters ahead of an expected Trump-Clinton general election contest, Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis said."I think Sanders should think long and hard about giving Trump a forum," Kofinis said. "It crosses a line, but apparently in this election there is no line." Dale Ranney, 62, a Trump volunteer who has been to 21 of his rallies, said she would be delighted to see Trump and Sanders debate.“I think it’s a great idea, any time you can get more information to the people, absolutely," Ranney said. "Having Trump debate a socialist? Absolutely. Go for it." (Additional reporting by Emily Flitter in New York, Megan Cassella, James Oliphant and Alana Wise in Washington, Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney) Read more

Ex-Dean Foods chairman, gambler charged for insider trading; Mickelson settles

NEW YORK U.S. authorities on Thursday charged a former chairman of Dean Foods Co and a professional Las Vegas gambler with engaging in an insider trading scheme that netted over $40 million and included a tip that benefited professional golfer Phil Mickelson.William "Billy" Walters, who has built a multimillion-dollar fortune as a famed Las Vegas sports bettor, was accused in an indictment filed in Manhattan federal court of trading on tips from Thomas Davis, Dean Food's former chairman."These bets were no gamble at all," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said. "They were sure things."Mickelson, who has won three Masters golf titles, was not criminally charged. But he was named as a relief defendant, meaning he is not accused of wrongdoing but received ill-gotten gains as a result of others' illegal acts, in a civil lawsuit by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. It said he also traded in Dean Foods stock.The lawsuit said that at a time when Mickelson owed Walters money after placing bets with him, Walters, aware of a Dean Foods corporate spin-off, urged him to trade in the company's stock, enabling the golfer to earn $931,000.Mickelson agreed to pay back $1.03 million in profits and interest to resolve claims from his role in the scheme. "Simply put, Mickelson made money that wasn't his to make," said Andrew Ceresney, the SEC's director of enforcement.Walters, 69, was arrested in Las Vegas on Tuesday on charges of securities fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy. Davis, who resigned from Dean Foods' board in August, pleaded guilty on Monday.Barry Berke, Walters' lawyer, said the allegations were "based on erroneous assumptions, speculative theories and false finger-pointing."Thomas Melsheimer, Davis's lawyer, said his client was cooperating in the probe. APPELLATE RULINGThe charges marked the most significant case Bharara's office has pursued since a 2014 appellate ruling limited the scope of insider trading laws, marking a major setback for a high-profile crackdown underway since 2009.The ruling in particular limited authorities' ability to pursue charges against a defendant who heard a stock tip second- or third-hand that originated with a corporate insider, making prosecuting someone like Mickelson more difficult.At a news conference, Bharara declined to say if that ruling was the reason Mickelson was not accused of wrongdoing. But he said the decision "has had an impact on our investigations," allowing some "nefarious conduct" not to be prosecuted.He called the ruling "wrongly decided," and noted the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review what constitutes insider trading.Gregory Craig, Mickelson's lawyer, did not address the ruling in a statement but said the golfer felt "vindicated" the SEC concluded he did not engage in wrongdoing. "At the same time, however, Phil has no desire to benefit from any transaction that the SEC sees as questionable," Craig said.'DALLAS COWBOYS' TRADESWalters has long faced various state and federal probes in his career as one of the most successful sports betters in the United States. In 1992, he was acquitted by a federal jury of charges related to illegal bookmaking.According to Thursday's indictment, from 2008 to 2014 Walters obtained inside information about Dean Foods from Davis and used it to make $32 million in profits and avoid another $11 million in trading losses. Davis disclosed information to Walters about Dean Foods' financial outlook, earnings and its spin-off of WhiteWaves Food Co. The deal sent the company's shares soaring after it was announced on Aug. 8, 2012, according to the indictment.To avoid detection, Walters gave Davis a prepaid cellular phone to use when passing along inside information and instructed him to use code words, including referring to Dean Foods as the "Dallas Cowboys," prosecutors said.Walters earned another $1 million trading on insider information about Darden Restaurants Inc from Davis, who was sought by an investment firm in New York as an investor or director, the indictment said.The two men have been friends since the mid-1990s, based on shared interests in sports, golf, gambling and business, according to court papers.In exchange for his tips, the indictment said Davis received significant benefits, including about $1 million in loans that largely were never repaid.The probe conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission became public in 2014 amid news reports also linking the investigation to activist investor Carl Icahn.Investigators had examined whether Icahn passed inside information about Clorox Co to Walters, sources have told Reuters. Bharara declined to say if that aspect of the probe remained open.Icahn acknowledged last year he had a business relationship with Walters but said he never provided inside information to anyone.The cases in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, are U.S. v. Walters, No. 16-cr-338, U.S. v. Davis, No. 16-cr-338, and Securities and Exchange Commission v. Walters, No. 16-cv-03772. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Dan Grebler) Read more

Best-paid U.S. hedge fund managers take home $13 billion

BOSTON Hedge funds lost money for their investors last year but the industry's top-paid managers had a banner year, with five men earning more than $1 billion each in 2015, an industry survey released on Tuesday showed. (See the survey here)Together, the 25 best-paid hedge fund managers took home $13 billion, 10 percent more than the previous year. For many, computer models played a critical role in their success, according to Institutional Investor's Alpha's 15th annual ranking of the industry's highest-earning managers. (See the top-10 highest compensated hedge fund managers.   Citadel's Kenneth Griffin, who started trading from his Harvard dormitory in the 1980s, and Renaissance Technologies' James Simons, a former code breaker who launched his fund in 1982, each took home $1.7 billion in 2015 to tie for top honors. In 2014, they also took home 10 figures each but slightly less than in 2015, to claim the No. 1 and No. 2 spots.Bridgewater's Raymond Dalio, Appaloosa Management's David Tepper and Millennium Management's Israel (Izzy) Englander rounded out the top five spots, with each man making more than an $1 billion in 2015, the survey shows. The higher payday came "despite the fact that roughly half of all hedge funds lost money last year," said Institutional Investor Editor Michael Peltz. He added that "about half of the 25 highest-earning hedge fund managers used computer-generated investment strategies to produce their investment gains."The lucrative pay came as the average hedge fund lost 1 percent in 2015, with some managers, including David Einhorn, Larry Robbins and William Ackman losing much more than the high-earners took in. Ackman and Robbins, who ranked in the No. 4 and No. 7 spots in the previous Rich List did not make the recent roster. Instead, John Overdeck and David Siegel, who run the data and technology-driven investment firm Two Sigma, made an appearance for the first time, earning $500 million each. Their firm produced positive returns of 13 percent and 14.5 percent in two of its funds through November, according to return information seen by Reuters. The firm's assets were up more than 29 percent to $31 billion as of Nov. 30.Millennium's Englander, who has made the list previously, also reached a personal milestone by topping 10 figures with compensation of $1.15 billion after his firm's multi-strategy funds gained 12.5 percent in 2015.   (Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Dan Grebler) Read more

Obama to visit Hiroshima, won't apologize for World War Two bombing

WASHINGTON/TOKYO Barack Obama will become the first U.S. president to visit Hiroshima in Japan later this month, but he will not apologize for the United States' dropping of an atomic bomb on the city at the end of World War Two, the White House said on Tuesday.Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize early in his presidency in 2009 in part for his commitment to nuclear nonproliferation, Obama on May 27 will tour the site of the world's first nuclear bombing with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. With the end of his last term in office approaching in January 2017, Obama will "highlight his continued commitment to pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons," the White House said in a statement."He will not revisit the decision to use the atomic bomb at the end of World War II. Instead, he will offer a forward-looking vision focused on our shared future," Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser, wrote in a separate blog. He called it the "appropriate moment" for Obama to go there.The visit comes as part of a May 21-28 swing through Asia, which will include a Group of Seven summit in Japan and his first trip to Vietnam. It will be the 10th trip to the region for Obama, who has made an economic and strategic "pivot" toward Asia a centerpiece of his foreign policy.On the final day of the summit in Japan, Obama and Abe will visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park near the spot where a U.S. warplane dropped an atomic bomb 71 years ago at the end of World War Two. WHITE HOUSE DEBATEThe decision to go to Hiroshima was hotly debated within the White House. There were concerns that a U.S. presidential visit would be heavily criticized in the United States if it were seen as an apology.The bomb dropped on Aug. 6, 1945 killed thousands of people instantly and about 140,000 by the end of that year. Another was dropped on the city of Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945, and Japan surrendered six days later. The majority of Americans view the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as justified to end the war and save U.S lives. Most Japanese see it as unjustified.Abe, speaking to reporters in Tokyo, said he hoped "to turn this into an opportunity for the U.S. and Japan to together pay tribute to the memories of the victims" of the nuclear bombing. "President Obama visiting Hiroshima and expressing toward the world the reality of the impact of nuclear radiation will contribute greatly to establishing a world without nuclear arms," Abe added. Obama's visit will be a symbolic capstone for the nuclear disarmament agenda he laid out in a landmark speech in Prague in 2009. His aides tout last year's Iran nuclear deal as a major piece of his foreign policy legacy.But Obama has made only modest progress toward the goal of securing the world's loose nuclear materials, and there is no guarantee his White House successor will keep the issue a high priority.Lisbeth Gronlund, co-director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' Global Security Program, said Obama must "do more than give another beautiful speech" and should instead announce concrete action on nuclear disarmament when he visits Hiroshima.After U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Hiroshima last month, survivors of the bombing and other residents said that if Obama visits, they hope for progress in ridding the world of nuclear weapons, rather than an apology. (Additional reporting by Megan Cassella and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh, Chizu Nomiyama and Clarence Fernandez) Read more

Pfizer walks away from $118 billion AstraZeneca takeover fight

LONDON/NEW YORK Pfizer abandoned its attempt to buy AstraZeneca for nearly 70 billion pounds ($118 billion) on Monday as a deadline approached without a last-minute change of heart by the British drugmaker.The decision ends a month-long public fight between two of the world's biggest pharmaceutical companies that sparked political concerns on both sides of Atlantic over jobs and corporate tax maneuvers.British rules now require an enforced cooling-off period. AstraZeneca could reach out to Pfizer after three months and Pfizer could take another run at its smaller British rival in six months time, whether it is invited back or not.Pfizer's move came two hours before a 5.00 pm (1200 ET) deadline to make a firm offer or walk away, under UK takeover rules. Its decision to quit the stage, at least for now, had been widely expected after AstraZeneca refused its final offer of 55 pounds a share."Following the AstraZeneca board's rejection of the proposal, Pfizer announces that it does not intend to make an offer for AstraZeneca," Pfizer said in a short news release.The biggest U.S. drugmaker promised it would not go hostile by taking its offer directly to AstraZeneca shareholders, leaving the fate of what would have been the world's largest ever drugs merger in the hands of its target, whose board would have had to make a complete U-turn to get a deal done."We continue to believe that our final proposal was compelling and represented full value for AstraZeneca based on the information that was available to us," said Ian Read, Pfizer's chairman and chief executive.Pfizer's final offer was at a price that many analysts and investors had previously suggested would bring AstraZeneca to the table for serious negotiations. But in rejecting an earlier offer of 53.50 pounds as undervaluing the company, the British group indicated it needed a bid more than 10 percent higher, or at least 58.85 pounds per share, for its board to consider a recommendation.Pfizer had urged AstraZeneca shareholders to agitate for engagement and several expressed disappointment at its intransigence, although others - encouraged by AstraZeneca's promising drug pipeline - backed the firm's standalone strategy.AstraZeneca Chairman Leif Johansson welcomed Pfizer's decision to back down, which he said would allow the British company to focus on its growth potential as an independent company.What happens next will depend upon whether AstraZeneca's share price deteriorates in the coming weeks and how hard its shareholders push for it to revisit a deal with Pfizer. BlackRock, AstraZeneca's biggest shareholder, backed the board's rejection of Pfizer's 55 pounds a share offer, but urged it to talk again in the future.POLITICAL OPPOSITIONThe proposed transaction ran into fierce opposition from politicians in Britain, Sweden - where AstraZeneca has half it roots - and the United States over the likelihood that the marriage would lead to thousands of job cuts.Ultimately, it was price and the lack of room for eleventh-hour maneuvering by Pfizer that killed the deal. Pfizer had several reasons for taking aim at AstraZeneca for what would have been its fourth mega-merger in 14 years.Highest on the list appeared to be Pfizer's desire to take part in a recent trend of so-called tax inversions, under which it could reincorporate in Britain and pay significantly lower corporate tax. Pfizer would also be able to use tens of billions of dollars it has parked overseas, avoiding high U.S. taxes for repatriating the huge cash pile.Pfizer also had its eye on a promising portfolio of drugs in AstraZeneca's developmental pipeline, especially several potentially lucrative cancer medicines.It was this pipeline that AstraZeneca management used to make its case for Pfizer significantly undervaluing the company.Chief Executive Pascal Soriot went as far as making a 10-year forecast for a 75 percent rise in sales by 2023."As we said from the start, the pursuit of this transaction was a potential enhancement to our existing strategy," Pfizer's Read said. "We will continue our focus on the execution of our plans, bringing forth new treatments to meet patients' needs and remaining responsible stewards of our shareholders' capital."The merger would have restored Pfizer as the world's largest drugmaker by sales, a position it relinquished to Swiss-based Novartis when billions of dollars in annual revenue evaporated after its top-selling cholesterol fighter Lipitor began facing generic competition in 2011.(Editing by David Evans and Mark Potter) Read more

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