BOSTON/NEW YORK A group of shareholders is looking to strip Bank of America Corp Chief Executive Brian Moynihan of his chairman title on Tuesday in an investor vote and whether they fail or succeed, they have notched a victory just by getting the bank to hold a special meeting on the matter.

Tuesday’s vote is the culmination of months’ of work by investors including the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the largest public pension system in America, after the bank’s board said last October that it was giving CEO Moynihan the title of chairman as well.

CalPERS, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System and other major public pension plans are troubled that the bank decided to ignore a 2009 shareholder vote to separate the chairman and CEO positions, meant to give the CEO more independent oversight.

The pension plans rallied support, though the bank initially ignored them. But days before Bank of America’s annual meeting, it reversed course and said it would let shareholders vote on the matter sometime over the next year. In August, it said it would hold a special meeting, usually reserved for urgent matters like whether to sell the company.

The bank’s unusual decision to hold the special meeting signals that company leaders can no longer expect investors to rubber-stamp their decisions, said Anne Simpson, global governance director for CalPERS.

“I can’t remember an occasion where a company has called a special meeting to address a governance issue. That’s a sign of how far we have come,” Simpson told Reuters in an interview.

The vote is expected to be close and the bank says it will honor the outcome. CalPERS hopes to rally support from a broad array of investors – not just public pensions and other traditionally vocal shareholders – who have been paying much closer attention to governance matters since the financial crisis, Simpson said. It is hard to ignore so many investors, she added.

Asked about Simpson’s comments, bank spokesman Lawrence Grayson said “The board and management have engaged extensively with shareholders and recognize that there are varying views on board leadership models, which is why the board committed to holding a vote.”

Much is at stake in the outcome of the vote. If Moynihan loses, it could mark a key point in the demise of the imperial CEO, who runs his or her company with essentially a free hand.

Similar votes at JPMorgan Chase & Co’s annual meetings in 2013 and 2012 failed to strip CEO Jamie Dimon of his chairman title, just like votes at Wells Fargo & Co from 2005 through 2007 fell short of stripping CEO Richard Kovacevich of his additional role as chairman.

Typically, chief executives lose chairman titles as part of broader campaigns by activist investors to change a company. In 2013 for example, oil and gas company Hess Corp relieved CEO John Hess of his chairman duties to appease activist hedge fund Elliott Management, which was campaigning to break up the company.

Investors may have reason to be upset with Moynihan’s performance. The bank’s shares have lagged major rivals, including Citigroup Inc’s and JPMorgan Chase & Co’s, for the nearly six years that Moynihan has been chief executive, and over the last year.

Profits have been much lower than those rivals, too, in large part because of Bank of America having paid out more than $70 billion to settle crisis-linked claims and suits.

Many of these difficulties stem from decisions made by Moynihan’s predecessor, Ken Lewis.

His ill-timed acquisitions, including buying subprime mortgage lender Countrywide Financial Corp at the height of the housing crisis, forced the bank to seek at least two government rescues. Shareholders decided in 2009 that he needed better oversight, and voted to separate his duties.


Some executives and investors believe that activists are foolish to focus on splitting Moynihan’s roles now.

Executives have better information about what is happening in a company, and do not necessarily benefit from better oversight, former Wells Fargo CEO Richard Kovacevich told Reuters in an interview last week.

“If I don’t know 1,000 times more than any stockholder what’s best for Wells Fargo, I should be fired,” he added.

Still, independent chairmen are becoming more common, according to executive search firm Spencer Stuart. Twenty-eight percent of S&P 500 boards had independent chairmen in 2014, up from nine percent in 2004, a report from the recruiter states.

The financial crisis spurred some investors to pay closer attention to management. So has the rise of passive investing, said Boston University law professor Cornelius Hurley, who studies governance matters. Index investors cannot just sell shares of a company they dislike, forcing them instead to engage more with company managers he said.

Public pension funds have long been more vocal about governance matters, but investors like BlackRock Inc and Vanguard Group, the top two U.S. asset managers, have lately grown much more publicly outspoken about the companies in which they invest. For a long time, they would only press management behind the scenes.

“The sleeping giants of Wall Street are stirring,” CalPERS’ Simpson said, referring to big investors. BlackRock and Vanguard declined to comment for this story.

Signaling their discontent, at Bank of America’s annual meeting on May 6, various mainstream mutual funds cast unusual votes “against” directors on the bank’s corporate governance committee, recent securities filings show. These include American Funds’ Growth Fund of America and some index funds sponsored by Fidelity Investments.

    Technically, Bank of America investors will vote on whether to approve bylaw changes the bank made last year to give Moynihan the chairman title when previous chair Charles Holliday stepped down. The bank has said it will return to its previous structure of having an independent chair if it loses the vote.

(Reporting by Ross Kerber in Boston and Dan Freed in New York.; Editing by Daniel Wilchins and Nick Zieminski)

NEW YORK Since high school, Gaby Lorenzo has dreamt of a home that she can call her own – of a place she can decorate just the way she wants and where she has a sense of control.

“There’s a huge sense of independence in owning my home and being comfortable in my own living environment where I make my own rules and my own decisions,” said Lorenzo, 24, who works at a communications agency in San Francisco and recently bought a condo in Concord, California.

Among the things she loves about living in her own home: having the space to be able to do yoga in her living room without distractions.

Many single women like Lorenzo are buying their own homes. In fact, it is much more common for single women than single men to purchase a home. According to the National Association of Realtors’ most recent data from 2014, 16 percent of home buyers are single women, while 9 percent are single men.

“More women than men think buying a home is a good financial investment,” said Jessica Lautz, NAR’s director of survey research and communications. “Many of them are thinking of the pure desire to own a home and to settle and make roots.”

Here are three financial tips for prospective home buyers. (Note: these apply to single men, too.)


A first-time single female buyer spends a median of $135,000, according to the National Association of Realtors’ 2014 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, which covers July 2013 to June 2014 home buyers. A single female repeat buyer spends $170,400. 

Affordability is a huge issue. That means not only affording the mortgage but also the taxes, the maintenance, the insurance and having money set aside for emergencies.

“Otherwise, you are house rich, cash poor,” said Kathleen Grace, certified financial planner and managing director at financial services company United Capital.

The conventional wisdom for a down payment has not changed. Expect to put down 20 percent for the mortgage. At the same time, have an emergency fund to cover at least six months of expenses, experts say.

Even if you are purchasing a new property, you will need a reserve to cover repairs. Remember that you have to pay property taxes, too. A good way to make sure that you can is to divide the tax bill by 12 and set the money aside each month.

A spreadsheet can help you figure out all the costs of owning the property. Use a housing calculator like financial services company Fidelity’s (here) to figure out what you can afford.

“Only take on buying a home if it’s something you have ample funds for,” said personal finance expert Farnoosh Torabi.


When you are buying a property alone it becomes even more important that you have adequate insurance coverage. That includes life, disability as well as healthcare insurance.

You might also want to look into setting up a trust so that the proceeds from your insurance policies go to your independent beneficiary if something happens to you.

“All the responsibility lies on you,” said Chantel Bonneau, wealth management adviser at Northwestern Mutual. “So it’s even more important that you protect your income, which is your biggest asset.”

If you get married, you can also look into shielding your home in the event of a divorce with a prenuptial agreement. Another option? Keep your property entirely in your name, said Torabi.


Since buying a home is one of the biggest financial decisions most people make, it is a good idea to work with a real estate agent and consult with a financial adviser. Do your research and take your time.

That’s exactly what Lorenzo did. The process of finding and buying the condo, which was priced in the $300,000-range, took about four months. She went through several offers before finding the right place.

“It’s a demanding process that requires a lot of critical thinking,” Lorenzo said. “You can only grow from the experience.”

(The author is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed are her own.)

(Editing by Lauren Young and Alan Crosby)

The company is selling 14.3 million common shares in the IPO and expects to raise 324.9 million at the mid-point of the range, according to its regulatory filing.

The Nashville, Tennessee-based company, owned by H.I.G Capital LLC, operates 94 ambulatory surgery centers and five hospitals in 28 states. Patients can receive services including anesthesia, diagnostics and radiation oncology at these centers.

Reuters reported in March that Surgery Partners was preparing for a summer IPO.

Surgery Partners’ competitors include Surgical Care Affiliates Inc, AmSurg Corp and United Surgical Partners International, which recently struck a merger deal with Tenet Healthcare Corp.

H.I.G. Capital, which currently owns more than 80 percent stake in the company, bought Surgery Partners in 2010 for an undisclosed amount. It later bought surgery center operator NovaMed for $214 million and merged the businesses.

Last November, Surgery Partners acquired Symbion Holdings Corp, owned by Crestview Partners, for $792 million.

BofA Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Jefferies, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley are among those underwriting the IPO. The stock is expected to list on the Nasdaq under the symbol “SGRY”.

(Reporting By Sudarshan Varadhan; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Anil D’Silva)

NEW YORK For U.S. banks’ bond trading desks, the Federal Reserve just made a bad quarter even worse, accentuating a longer-term decline in what was once their most lucrative business, executives, analysts and traders told Reuters.

Bond trading volume is likely to drop globally in the coming weeks, after the Fed decided on Thursday to keep rates unchanged. Many investors are reluctant to take too much risk in bonds and related derivatives until they have a better sense of when the U.S. central bank will start hiking rates, traders said.

“The market is queasy, and is not taking bad news well,” said Michael Sobel, managing partner at TruMid, an electronic trading platform for corporate bonds, and former head of junk bond trading at Barclays. It is harder to get some trades done, he added.

Weaker bond trading results will weigh on the bottom line at major banks, which can get as much as a third of their revenue from the business, and have already been hit by low interest rates and tepid demand for many kinds of loans. Some analysts already had been reducing their earnings estimates for banks over the last month. For Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N), for example, three analysts have cut estimates over the last 30 days, by an average of nearly 6 percent.

The quarter was tough for bank trading revenue even before the Fed announcement. The Greek debt crisis kept many investors out of markets entirely, and China’s slowing growth resulted in the kind of steep market movements that hurt profits for many traders.

Generally, banks do best when there’s a degree of uncertainty, which spurs investors to reposition their portfolios. But when events become completely unpredictable, and markets move wildly, trading volume can dry up, analysts said.

“Banks are getting the bad kind of volatility now,” said Charles Peabody, a veteran banking analyst at Portales Partners in New York.

Chief executives from Citigroup (C.N), Bank of America Corp (BAC.N), and JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N), speaking at a Barclays conference, all said this week that their overall trading revenue is likely to fall by around 5 percent in the current quarter.

Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan blamed the drop mainly on weaker bond trading results, which he said were partly offset by stronger stock trading.

Jefferies Group, an investment bank that is part of the Leucadia National Corp (LUK.N) conglomerate, said on Thursday that a measure of its earnings plunged by nearly 50 percent thanks to slow bond trading and big writedowns on distressed debt tied to the energy industry.

Bond trading revenue has been falling at major banks since the financial crisis, as banks have been barred by regulators from making big market bets with their own money. Coalition, an investment banking consulting firm, estimates annual industry revenue from bond trading at around $70 billion, about half its level in 2009.

In the last few years, revenue has been stabilizing, and results from the business still occasionally jump. In the first quarter of this year, for example, bond trading revenue surged at most major banks, as the Swiss central bank scrapped a cap on the franc, the Fed seemed likely to tighten monetary policy soon, and the European Central Bank announced a quantitative easing program.

Morgan Stanley (MS.N) posted bond trading revenue of $1.9 billion, a 15 percent gain from the same period last year and its highest level in three years.

But times have changed, and with this week’s Fed move, a source at a major investment bank said his customers are in limbo now.

“There would definitely be more client activity if they had raised rates,” he said.

(Reporting by Olivia Oran and Dan Wilchins in New York, additional reporting by David Henry in New York, Editing by Christian Plumb)

NEW YORK Andrew Parish, founder of broker gossip website AdvisorHUB, was sentenced on Friday to 18 months in prison for not paying federal employment taxes for his workers at a separate business in 2009, according to court filings.

Parish, 40, pleaded guilty in May to one count of failing to turn over employment taxes to the Internal Revenue Service, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Ohio.

Parish, reached by phone, declined to comment.

According to the IRS, Parish issued paychecks to a majority of Axiom Consulting Group’s employees from January to March in 2009 that withheld federal employment taxes that he never turned over to the tax agency.

In addition to time in prison and a $10,000 fine, Judge James Graham ordered Parish to pay the IRS $341,336.46, the total amount of taxes the IRS missed out on collecting. The sentencing document also mentioned mental health counseling and cooperation with the IRS.

AdvisorHUB has been called the New York Post of financial trade publications, and focuses on wealth managers and brokerages. Reuters reported last year that Parish previously attempted to use his website to sell information about readers to major Wall Street securities brokerages.

(Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Bank of America’s shareholders vote next week on whether CEO Moynihan should remain the bank’s chairman. But investors often do not know what is best for a company, because they have worse information than managers, Kovacevich told Reuters in a phone interview.

“I’ve probably done more things against the wishes of stockholders than anyone in the history of banking. Ask anyone who’s ever held our stock who was right,” he said.

Kovacevich is no stranger to this issue. He was chairman and chief executive of Wells Fargo from April 2001 through June 2007, and faced ballot measures at the bank’s annual meeting that sought to strip him of his chairman title from 2005 through 2007.

Kovacevich said he typically won somewhere around 70 percent of the votes when ballot measures sought to remove his chairman title. He held chairman and CEO spots separately during his time at the bank as well.

Bank of America aroused the ire of some investors last year when it named Chief Executive Brian Moynihan as its chairman, undoing a 2009 investor vote to separate the jobs. The vote next week came in response to shareholder complaints.

To Kovacevich, the 2009 shareholder vote at Bank of America to separate the chairman and CEO spots is not important anymore.

“What somebody thought then is totally irrelevant,” he said.

Bank of America declined comment.

The Bank of America vote is expected to be close. Large investors including pension funds in California and New York City have said they will vote to separate the two roles.

Kovacevich said that the 30 percent of votes that he did not win were typically from shareholders that took their cues from proxy advisory firms, including Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass Lewis.

Among those votes were exchange-traded funds and other passive investors that essentially outsource decision making on these matters to proxy advisors.

“ETFs don’t want to spend the money,” Kovacevich said. “But saving money shouldn’t dictate how people vote. It’s undemocratic.”

J.P. Morgan CEO and Chairman Jamie Dimon in May made similar comments, calling investors who vote based on ISS or Glass Lewis “irresponsible” and “lazy.”

(Reporting by Dan Freed, Editing by Dan Wilchins; Editing by Alden Bentley)