Bloomberg

They called it “Gucci Gulch.”

All throughout 1986, while legislators hammered out the biggest tax reform package in American history, special-interest groups and their expensively-shod lawyers gathered in the halls of Congress, trying to make sure their concerns were reflected in the policy being drafted.

A popular book immortalized the idea of Gucci Gulch, a place where lawmakers and representatives of the people pull all-nighters in the pursuit of Big Policy Goals — and the conceit gets trotted out any time Big Policy, especially if it concerns taxes or financial services, is up for discussion.

Now, on the eve of what might be the biggest overhaul of the housing finance system in decades, the interest groups are once again mobilizing. The white papers are being written and re-written. The panelists are taking the mikes. Fancy shoes are, presumably, being polished up.

And Washington-watchers say it’s all for naught.

There will be no Gucci Gulch -– no late-night pizzas and back-and-forth until compromise is painstakingly reached – attending the attempts to release Fannie Mae

FNMA, -5.08%

  and Freddie Mac

FMCC, -3.93%

  from the government control in which they’ve languished since the 2008 financial crisis. Instead, according to multiple sources interviewed by MarketWatch, this policy process will be a completely different animal.

That is, if anything gets done at all.

Related: As Fannie-Freddie reform gets underway, here are the three big questions for the housing market

The Senate Banking Committee is holding hearings on GSE reform over two days this week, after its chairman, Sen. Mike Crapo, introduced what the Idaho Republican called a housing reform outline. Read our take on the first day of testimony here.

But, perhaps thanks to the fool-me-once nature of the debate over Fannie and Freddie – Congress has been trying to get them out of conservatorship nearly as long as they’ve been in – many Washington-watchers think the most likely outcome is no change at all.

‘It’s just not clear to me that there’s any substantive solution with a broad enough ideological buy-in that can pass both chambers of Congress and receive the president’s approval,” said Aaron Klein, a fellow at the Brookings Institution. Klein helped draft the 2008 Housing and Economic Recovery Act, the legislation that created a temporary tourniquet for housing finance until the crisis had abated and permanent legislation could be enacted.

Klein and other observers reject the assumption that reform is finally at hand. That belief has swirled ever since MarketWatch and other publications first reported that the Trump administration had already begun the process of hammering out a reform plan once its hand-picked regulator, Mark Calabria, took the reins. “A lot of people in the market have gotten out a little over their skis on the probability and speed of reform,” Klein said.

“I put it at 80%-90% nothing will happen,” said Robert Litan, also a Brookings fellow who formerly worked for the government on financial services policy issues.

Fannie and Freddie have become the pillars of American housing finance, Litan said, and the system they’ve made possible “has become the equivalent of an entitlement.”

“When you have an entitlement that benefits a middle class that’s gotten hammered, the last thing politicians want to do is take away something that benefits their biggest asset” – particularly in the lead-up to a presidential election, Litan said.

Jeff Hauser, executive director of the DC-based Revolving Door Project, takes a slightly different view. Capitol Hill isn’t driving this particular debate, Hauser believes: Wall Street is.

“It’s been pretty clear that since early January, Otting and Calabria have been putting out signals that are positive toward the hedge fund investors,” Hauser said.

Joseph Otting is the administration’s acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Fannie and Freddie’s regulator; Calabria, who has been nominated to hold the post permanently, also helped draft the 2008 legislation known as HERA.

“This is what I suspected might occur in late 2016 when I noticed that John Paulson’s protégé, Steven Mnuchin, was taking over the Treasury,” Hauser said. “The name Otting didn’t move markets when initially announced on December 21 but around the time he officially started at FHFA the stock started moving.”

It’s worth noting that Hauser’s group is one of two that sent letters to inspectors general of the U.S. Treasury and FHFA asking for investigations into whether federal officials improperly shared information about their intentions for Fannie and Freddie, including by leaking such information to MarketWatch and other publications.

See: Fannie and Freddie stock moves may be insider trading, watchdog groups suggest

Hauser is outright “skeptical” that Congress will take any action on Fannie-Freddie reform, and he also believes “2018 Washington isn’t well-suited” to the kind of deal-making that took place in Gucci Gulch, he said. But his overriding belief is that any “reform” efforts that are undertaken will have the goal not of establishing a new path for housing finance, but bringing about a “favorable” turn of events for investors.

“I read the market as saying the hedge fund investors are rightly optimistic they will get some form of positive outcome out of the executive branch,” Hauser told MarketWatch. (“The market” in this case, common shares of Fannie and Freddie, are up 144% and 130%, respectively, in 2019.)

David Dworkin is president and CEO of the National Housing Conference, a nonprofit that advocates for affordable housing. Dworkin sees more nuance in Secretary Mnuchin’s intentions, and is among the very few housing-watchers in Washington who believe GSE reform is going to happen.

“We have the first treasury secretary in American history who has professional experience running portions of the mortgage markets,” Dworkin said. “He appreciates their value and is highly committed to not leaving Treasury with the GSEs still in conservatorship.”

It isn’t just Mnuchin’s appreciation for a functional housing finance system that argues for reform sooner rather than later, Dworkin said in an interview. It’s also that he is assured that there is valid legal standing for the Treasury and the GSE’s regulator to enact reforms.

That belief is grounded in an appearance by Mnuchin before the House Financial Services Committee about a year ago, in which he engaged in what seemed to be a highly scripted back-and-forth with then-committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling.

Earlier coverage: To free Fannie and Freddie, their regulator may bypass do-nothing Congress

“If we once again fail to act, isn’t it true that roughly a year from now the president gets to appoint a new FHFA director who will serve for a five year term, is that correct?” Hensarling asked.

“That is correct,” Mnuchin said.

“Isn’t it true that the FHFA director is not just the regulator of the GSEs but also the conservator, isn’t that correct?” Hensarling asked.

“That is correct,” Mnuchin said.

“Isn’t it true that as conservator the FHFA director has broad sweeping powers? For example, is it not true that if Congress fails to act, the FHFA director could discontinue the GSE’s HARP, or Home Affordable Refinance Program? Isn’t that true?” Hensarling asked.

“That is correct, Mr. Chairman,” Mnuchin responded.

The two continued on like that for a few more minutes. Some analysts thought that Hensarling was trying to send a message to Committee Democrats, who prized programs like HARP, that they should go along with his ideas for reform or lose the chance altogether when a new FHFA director was appointed in 2019. But Dworkin interpreted the exchange as the introduction of a blueprint for how the administration could work in concert with Congress to get reform done.

“They’re really telling us that if Congress doesn’t act, the administration has enormous powers, but that it’s better if they act together,” Dworkin said. “We’re beginning to see, with the nomination of Mark Calabria as FHFA director, and the actions and statements made by acting FHFA Director Otting, the beginning of this process unfolding.”

Dworkin envisions reform unfolding in what he calls a “dual-track” approach, with the Administration and Congress goading each other along. And he thinks the outline for what reform looks like is also pretty well established.

(The Housing and Economic Recovery Act, which put Fannie and Freddie into conservatorship), “which Calabria helped write, contains 80% of what we need to do to fix Fannie and Freddie,” Dworkin said. “We can make the rest of the changes if we can find agreement that this is the model we need going forward.”

Dworkin believes that the next iteration of housing finance is what he calls “HERA-plus.” The “plus” would involve an explicit paid-for government guarantee on mortgage bonds issued by Fannie and Freddie, and stronger powers for the regulator of the two enterprises.

Read: Congress gets back into the Fannie-Freddie reform game with Crapo plan

It’s worth noting that while many parties interested in reform have indeed agreed on much of the broad outline of the future housing finance state, not all have made their peace with it. And in any policy area, let alone one that does $1.6 trillion of business every year, there are plenty of stakeholders whose livelihood depends on what may seem like small details to casual observers.

Still, as Dworkin put it, “HERA-plus is a good place to be. We don’t really appreciate the changes we made because the crisis evolved so fast. There are some things we missed but we’ve spent 10 years trying to come up with an alternative path to the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage that precludes the GSEs and we have not been able to do it. After 10 years, it’s not unreasonable to say we should go back to first principles, not back to the drawing board.”

Having Calabria, someone many Washington-watchers respect for his ability to find common ground on this thorny topic, at the helm of FHFA, could also help ensure this finally gets done, Dworkin thinks.

“Sometimes you need a Nixon to go to China and a Paulson to save the banks,” he said. “Calabria could be that person who’s uniquely qualified to find the middle ground on the GSEs.”

And maybe it can be achieved without Guccis.

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Of all the bribes allegedly paid to get students into elite universities and disclosed in sweeping charges unveiled Tuesday, none is more eye-popping than the $1.2 million that federal prosecutors say was paid by one applicant’s parents in exchange for admission to Yale University.

Overall, prosecutors alleged that parents paid $25 million between 2011 and February 2019 to William “Rick” Singer, a college-admissions consultant who pleaded guilty Tuesday to racketeering conspiracy and other crimes. Federal authorities called it the biggest college-admissions scam ever prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department. Singer’s lawyer said he will cooperate with prosecutors and that he is “remorseful and contrite and wants to move on with his life,” the Associated Press reported.

In the Yale case, Singer sent information about the applicant to Laura Janke, another defendant and a former assistant soccer coach at the University of Southern California, and told Janke to create a fake athletic profile, prosecutors said in the indictment.

“[C]ould you please create a soccer profile asap for this girl who will be a midfielder and attending Yale so she has to be very good. Needs to play Academy and no high school soccer, put down you or Ali [Khosroshanin, another defendant and one-time head coach of women’s soccer at USC] as coaches for Academy FC Newport etc … awards and honors — more info to come — need a soccer pic probably Asian girl,” prosecutors said was written in an email.

A later email told Janke to describe the applicant as having been on the “JR National Development Team in China” and that “we are saying she got hurt this past spring, so was not recruited till now as she got her release late summer.”

The eventual profile also described her as a co-captain of a prominent club soccer team in Southern California, according to the court filing.

In the indictment, prosecutors noted that universities apply different admissions criteria for student athletes and that head coaches are given a number of admissions slots to fill.

In this case, the then-head coach for Yale women’s soccer team, Rudolph “Rudy” Meredith, designated the applicant as a recruit for the team despite knowing that she didn’t play competitive soccer, prosecutors alleged.

The applicant was admitted to Yale.

On or about Jan. 1, 2018, Singer sent the Yale coach a check for $400,000, drawn on a charitable account held by the Key Worldwide Foundation, which Singer had created as a charitable organization in Newport Beach, Calif., prosecutors said in the indictment.

In spring and summer of that year, the applicant’s parents paid Singer in multiple installments, including about $900,000 paid into one of Key Worldwide Foundation’s charitable accounts, they added.

Meredith has been charged with two counts of wire fraud. The Boston Globe reported he hasn’t returned messages seeking comment.

Yale said it is the victim of a crime and would continue to cooperate with the probe, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Khosroshahin and Janke, who were charged with racketeering, were arrested in the Los Angeles area, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Now read: Most families don’t pay bribes to get their kids into college — but many wealthy parents know other ways

More on the college-admissions scandal:

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Tucked away in President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cut was a little discussed provision that allows investors to potentially save big on capital gains.

By investing in underserved rural and urban communities called “opportunity zones,” investors can defer or even avoid capital gains taxes on asset sales.

These risk zones represent a potential windfall for investors.

The Economic Innovation Group, a policy group that played a key role in developing the concept, estimates more than $6 trillion of potential capital gains are eligible for the program.

But the program has been mostly dominated by institutional investors and high net worth individuals. Some 8,700 areas in all 50 states and the US territories have been designated qualified opportunity zones.

“The opportunity zone tax code is really built for the mega wealthy and the institutions and doesn’t really benefit the retail investors from a tax basis,” said Michael Weisz, co-founder and president of the investing website YieldStreet.

Now, some real estate and tech investment sites are trying to lower the barriers to entry so non-accredited investors can also get in on the action.

Anthony Scaramucci’s hedge fund SkyBridge Capital and its partner Westport Capital, for example, are looking to raise $3 billion to launch an opportunity zone real estate investment trust.

But SkyBridge only takes on accredited investors, individuals with a net worth of at least $1 million (not including your home) or those with an income of at least $300,000 in the past two years.

SkyBridge’s President Brett Messing told CNBC that the average investment in the trust is about half a million dollars.

Firms like Belpointe, on the other hand, are trying to open the market up so retail investors can get in on the action.

Belpointe launched a real estate investment trust called “The Opportunity Zone REIT,” the first to be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Belpointe REIT is open to non-accredited and accredited investors with a minimum investment amount of $10,000, according to the company’s release.

“We’re trying to offer a product that allows all types of investors, retail and institutional, in the same way any pension fund or endowment would invest in real estate,” said Brandon Lacoff, CEO of Belpointe.

It also claims low-cost status with no upfront commissions, an annual management fee of 0.75 percent and a carried interest fee of 5 percent. Belpointe has about 20 opportunity zone properties in the pipeline.

Online real estate investment platform Fundrise has made two multi-asset opportunity zone investments with a third under contract. The minimum investment is $25,000 with management fees below 2 percent.

Co-founder and CEO Ben Miller said Fundrise has more than half a billion dollars in real estate across the country and uses its deal flow to find sound investments.

“Opportunity zones let you find something in the rough and polish it and have it grow into something,” said Miller.

But some in the real estate and investing communities view opportunity zones as more risk than reward and are staying away until there’s greater clarity from regulators.

Real estate fundraising start-up ArborCrowd, for example, is not offering customers any opportunity zone projects due to a lack of transparency about the regulations.

“There are more questions than there are answers,” said co-founder Adam Kaufman.

Investors are waiting on a new list of tax regulations from the Treasury Department that will establish the most comprehensive opportunity zone guidelines to date. The regulations are expected in the coming weeks.

Investing website YieldStreet does offer investments in opportunity zones, but only through the debt market which makes them ineligible for the tax benefits.

The firm has singular and multi-asset funds with a minimum investment of $10,000 and a 1 percent fee. President Michael Weisz said the investment opportunities sold out 30 seconds after opening.

Though there’s clearly a demand, Weisz cautioned that the opportunity zone movement has encouraged people to invest heavily in concentrated locations and they will all be trying to exit those positions at the same time.

“The executions and liquidity risks are high,” he said.

CrowdStreet, a real estate investment platform, has offered two single-asset opportunity zone investments on its platform to date, a hotel redevelopment in Redman, Oregon and a flex-industrial space in Arlington, Washington.

The minimum investment is $25,000 with a 1 percent acquisition fee and asset management fee of 2 percent of income.

Vice President of Investment Ian Formigle believes investors can save 50 cents on the dollar in taxes by putting their capital gains in opportunity zones.

But he also gave a word of caution about such investments: “It can’t make a bad deal good, it can make a good deal better,” he said.

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MARKETWATCH FRONT PAGE

Shares of Lyft Inc. soar in Friday trading after the ride-hailing company made its debut on the Nasdaq. See full story.

White House’s Kudlow calls for Fed to ‘immediately’ make half-point cut — and then walks it back a bit

The White House ramped up the political pressure on the Federal Reserve Friday as top economic adviser Larry Kudlow called for an immediate 50 basis point rate cute. See full story.

The No. 1 thing people with fat savings accounts scrimp on that you likely don’t

People who save 20% or more of their incomes do things differently, new research shows See full story.

This fascinating new tool lets you map the cheapest flights from any city

Plus, ways to know you’re getting a deal on your flight. See full story.

Looking to sell your home? You’ll want to put it on the market next week

Low mortgage rates are set to stoke demand among buyers. See full story.

MARKETWATCH PERSONAL FINANCE

‘Husband No. 3 wanted the house as he felt that me having a house unfair.’ See full story.

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Bitcoin prices rose on Friday, trading to their highest level in five weeks and on track to log a second successive winning month.

On Friday, one bitcoin

BTCUSD, -0.60%

 fetched $4,122.09, up 1.8% since Thursday’s level at 5 p.m. Eastern time, its highest level since Feb. 24, according to Kraken data. The cryptocurrency is on track to log back-to-back winning months for the first time since December 2017.

What are analysts saying

“Bitcoin is at its highest level in more than a month this morning, currently testing resistance around $4,200 per coin. Some analysts might note that it seems the long-term bear trend line has now been broken,” wrote Mati Greenspan, senior market analyst at eToro.

“However, trendlines may be drawn differently by each chartist so this isn’t the purest indicator out there. What’s more pertinent at the moment is the 200-day moving average that draws ever nearer.”

A moving average is a closely watched momentum indicator.


Bitcoin

Read: The crypto market is healthier than you probably think, so this chart says

In the news

The Securities and Exchange Commission said on Friday it had delayed its decision on two bitcoin-backed exchange-traded fund applications. A decision on the Bitwise Asset Management ETF has been pushed to May 16, while an application from VanEck and SolidX will be reassessed on May 21.

“The Commission finds it appropriate to designate a longer period within which to take action on the proposed rule change… Accordingly, the Commission, pursuant to Section 19(b)(2) of the Act,6 designates May 16, 2019 as the date by which the Commission shall either approve or disapprove, or institute proceedings to determine whether to disapprove, the proposed rule change,” the SEC said of the Bitwise Application.

Altcoins and futures

Altcoins, or digital currencies other than bitcoin, edged higher on Friday. Ether,

ETHUSD, +1.72%

 was the best-performing major altcoin, up 2.8% to $140.89, Litecoin

LTCUSD, -1.12%

gained 1.4% to $61.11, Bitcoin Cash

BCHUSD, -1.95%

was up 1.4% to $169.50 and XRP

XRPUSD, +3.06%

rose 0.4% to 31 cents.

Bitcoin futures closed higher on Friday. The Cboe April contract

XBTJ9, +1.75%

 finished up 1.9% at $4,075 and the CME March contract

BTCH9, +1.75%

closed up 1.8% at $4,079.36.

Providing critical information for the U.S. trading day. Subscribe to MarketWatch’s free Need to Know newsletter. Sign up here.

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Getty Images

White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow

The White House pressure on the Federal Reserve heated up again on Friday after President Trump’s adviser Larry Kudlow said he wanted the U.S. central bank to “immediately” cut its benchmark interest rate by 50 basis points.

Kudlow’s comments, reported by Axios, echo the view of Stephen Moore, who Trump is expected to nominate to the Fed board. Moore, a former op-ed writer at The Wall Street Journal, has worked with Kudlow in the past.

In an interview on CNBC later Friday, the director of the National Economic Council said he was echoing President Donald Trump’s viewpoint about monetary policy. Trump also wants the Fed to stop shrinking its balance sheet.

He said the situation was not “an emergency” and mused that he might not have said the move should come “immediately.”

Kudlow said his proposal for the Fed to rate cuts was simply needed to protect the economy from global threats. “I’m not trying to jump at the Fed,” he added.

In comments this week, Fed officials have argued against an immediate interest-rate cut. They said they intend to keep policy on hold until the uncertainty surrounding the economic outlook lifts.

The bond market thinks the next move by the U.S. central bank will be to ease its stance of monetary policy. Investors are pricing in over a 30% chance of two quarter-point rate cuts by next January.

At their meeting earlier in March, the Fed projected no further rate hikes in 2019. This is down from two hikes projected in December.

Fed Vice Chairman for Supervision Randal Quarles, who was picked by Trump for the Fed, on Friday said he thinks the next move by the central bank will be to raise interest rates.

Read: Fed’s Quarles takes hawkish stance

The Fed has held interest rates steady in a range of 2.25%-2.5% since December after four quarter-point rate increases last year. Kudlow said that the central bank should never have pushed its benchmark rate past 2%.

Trump said earlier this week that Powell has no “feel” for the economy, according to Politico.

Last year, Trump tried to get the central bank to hold off a rate hike in December. At one point, he said the Fed “gone crazy” with their tightening of monetary policy.

Trump criticized the Fed’s moves in a tweet late Friday.

Had the Fed not mistakenly raised interest rates, especially since there is very little inflation, and had they not done the ridiculously timed quantitative tightening, the 3.0% GDP, & Stock Market, would have both been much higher & World Markets would be in a better place!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 29, 2019

For his part, Powell has said many times he pays no attention to the White House pressure. He told CBS’s “60 Minutes” that he intended to serve out his four-year term.

Kudlow said the White House wouldn’t try to get Powell to leave his post. “He’s our chairman. We’re not going to displace him,” he said.

“The Fed should not tighten just because of prosperity,” Kudlow said.

Kudlow said the Trump economic policy worked on the supply side of the economy and “was not inflationary,” he said.

The central bank needed to recalibrate its thinking on what causes inflation, he added.

The latest inflation data show that the Fed does have room to operate. Data out Friday showed the PCE price index slowed to a 1.4% rate in the 12 months ending January, down from 1.8% in December.

That’s the slowest inflation growth in more than two years.

U.S. stocks didn’t gyrate much to Kudlow’s remarks, with the Dow industrials

DJIA, +0.82%

 still up by more than 100 points. Short-term yields

TMUBMUSD02Y, +0.00%

  in fact rose slightly.

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Pinterest Co-founder Evan Sharp was added to the company’s board of directors this month, according to a company filing on Friday.

The addition comes in an update to Pinterest’s IPO paperwork with the SEC, exactly one week after the company’s first public filing. It means the company now has two insiders on its board — Sharp and founding CEO and chairman Ben Silbermann — giving more power to the company in decisions that may affect shareholders.

Pinterest, like many other tech companies, uses a dual-class share structure that gives insiders special super-voting shares. Some outsiders have criticized this structure as protecting the interests of insiders over common shareholders.

“Mr. Sharp was selected to serve on our board of directors because of the perspective and experience he brings as our Chief Design & Creative Officer and as one of our Co-Founders, as well as his product development and design experience,” the company said in the filing on Friday.

Pinterest, which offers a social media network to sharing photos and other material organized by topic, launched its first product in 2010. It is one of several maturing tech start-ups expected to go public this year, alongside Lyft — which debuted Friday — Uber, Zoom and Slack.

WATCH:
The rise of dual-class share structures

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Tim Sloan’s decision to step down as chief of Wells Fargo hinged in part on a looming congressional committee meeting on banks next month, CNBC’s Jim Cramer said Friday.

The top brass of the big banks will be in Washington, D.C., on April 10for the House Committee on Financial Services hearing on banks. The committee, headed by Rep. Maxine Waters, would surely focus on Sloan, Cramer said.

“No matter what he said or did, the fact that he served as an executive at Wells Fargo under John Stumpf, now disgraced, meant that as far as Congress is concerned he’s guilty until proven guilty,” the “Mad Money” host said.

Stumpf was chairman and CEO of Wells Fargo when the embattled bank was fined $190 million after being accused of opening fraudulent accounts without their customers’ consent. Sloan, who served more than three decades at the firm in total, succeeded him as CEO in October 2016.

Cramer said Sloan would have been too easy of a target at the hearing because he was a high-ranking official at the bank during the time of the scandal. That’s even if Sloan had no knowledge of the scheme, he added.

“One look at the make up of that committee made it obvious that Sloan was going to be a punching bag,” Cramer said, adding that Senator Elizabeth Warren, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nominee is calling for him to be put in jail.

“Politically, it’s just such a slam dunk—bankers aren’t popular to begin with and Sloan also had to live with the sins of his predecessor,” he said.

Sloan cited the scrutiny surrounding his leadership when he stepped down, calling it a “distraction” for the company’s forward progress. In January, Sloan told Cramer he would step aside if he felt his presence was hurting the turnaround. That was after Wells Fargo delivered a “very strong quarter and a very good year.”

Earlier this month, the board granted Sloan a 5 percent pay raise to $18.4 million and a $2 million performance bonus, Cramer noted.

“I’m not saying we should feel bad for the guy … He’ll be fine,” he said. “But I will say that Sloan was asked to clean up the Augean Stables and from what I can tell he’s done a good job at that Herculean task, without derailing the earnings.”

Sloan, being an executive from the Stumpf-era, made the smartest decision for both him and the bank’s shareholders, Cramer said.

In the end, Sloan did not want Wells Fargo to go through the fire that he was in, he said.

“Tim Sloan did the right thing and took one for the team, which I think is actually something worth celebrating,” he said.

The House Committee on Financial Services will hold its banks hearing titled “Holding Megabanks Accountable: A Review of Global Systemically Important Banks 10 years after the Financial Crisis” at 9 a.m. ET, on April 10.

Shares of Wells Fargo fell 1.57 percent Friday. The stock is up nearly 5 percent this year.

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CNBC’s Jim Cramer reminded investors not to step into a battleground stock, a situation where passionate bears are in a standoff with passionate bulls and there’s no where to go.

“When you get a situation like Monster where a stock keeps getting mauled by the bears, but a couple of heroic analysts remain bullish, that’s not a fight you want to be involved in,” the “Mad Money” host said. “Believe me, there are lots of easier ways to make money.”

Shares of Monster Beverage have run more than 10 percent this year. That trails the S&P 500’s 13-plus percent gain, and the stock is nearly 5 percent under its price a year ago.

Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley on Thursday offered dueling perspectives on the energy drink maker with the former putting faith in the company and the latter cutting numbers, Cramer noted.

“If the bulls at Credit Suisse turn out to be correct, well they’ll look like geniuses,” he said. “But there are very real worries here, which is why I am hesitant to stick my neck out on this one, especially with Monster selling at 24-times next year’s earnings estimates, much higher than the average stock. Not exactly a value play.”

Cramer’s full insight here

Lyft’s $87 opening price is a “win for the system,” even though it may have been a loss for investors that were overeager, Cramer

“I cannot stress this enough: we’re at the start of an IPO season that looks on track to bring a trillion dollars’ worth of companies public,” the host said. “These deals will be the big story going forward.”

Next week, Cramer is anticipating retail data on Monday and March employment results on Friday. Earnings results from Walgreens, Constellation Brands, and others will come in between those days.

See Cramer’s game plan here

Tim Sloan’s decision to step down as chief of Wells Fargo hinged in part on a looming congressional committee meeting on banks next month, Cramer said.

The top brass of the big banks will be in Washington, D.C., on April 10for the House Committee on Financial Services hearing on banks. The committee, headed by Rep. Maxine Waters, would surely focus on Sloan, Cramer said.

“No matter what he said or did, the fact that he served as an executive at Wells Fargo under John Stumpf, now disgraced, meant that as far as Congress is concerned he’s guilty until proven guilty,” the “Mad Money” host said.

Stumpf was chairman and CEO of Wells Fargo when the embattled bank was fined $190 million after being accused of opening fraudulent accounts without their customers’ consent. Sloan, who served more than three decades at the firm in total, succeeded him as CEO in October 2016.

Get Cramer’s full thoughts about Sloan’s resignation here

Hello Alfred is a start-up company looking to “redesign” how people live in cities and open up more time on their schedule, co-founder and CEO Marcel Capone told Cramer. She sat alongside co-founder and COO Jessica Beck.

“We’ll do that through a combination of technology. So we have a mobile app, and human help,” Capone said. “So we have Alfred home managers who are W2 employees of ours that actually come and help you with all of those things that you don’t want to do every week.”

Catch the full interview here

Cramer dug back to “Mad Money” caller questions from November to share his research and findings on the stocks of enterprise safety provider Everbridge and office supply retail chain Office Depot.

The host admit that Everbridge is one that got away. The stock is up 50 percent since late November, he said.

Office Depot, on the other hand, is more complicated.

Click here for more

In Cramer’s lightning round, he ran through his reactions to callers’ stock questions:

Dell Technologies Inc.: “I think so. I thought [CEO] Michael [Dell] told a good tale. I put that in the bullpen for the club. I think that that is one terrific stock, and if it goes down after any of [the action] raising money for IPOs, well you know what, I’m gonna give it a double buy.”

AT&T Inc.: “I think AT&T is fine. I like it’s 6.5 percent yield. I think it can go up over time, but it’s no Verizon. Verizon is a better-run company.”

HealthEquity Inc.: “I don’t know, I’m not there. I’d rather see you in Paychex. I think Paychex does a great job.”

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Say aloha to flavored electronic cigarettes.

Hawaii is considering a proposal to outlaw flavored e-cigarette liquids and flavored tobacco to stem the spike in teenage vaping, the Associated Press reported, as well as a separate bill that would tax e-cigarette sales in line with traditional cigarettes.

San Francisco became the first U.S. city to ban the sale of flavored tobacco and flavored vaping liquids (unless they are approved by the FDA), which voters upheld in 2018, but Hawaii’s proposal would be the nation’s first statewide ban on flavored e-cigarette liquids such as Maui Mango and Cookie Monsta, as well as cloves and other flavored tobacco products. Menthol cigarettes and vaping liquids would be exempt from the ban, because a state House committee said banning that flavor would dramatically reduce the tax revenue that the state receives from menthol cigarettes, including $15 million in revenue that goes toward ambulance services statewide, and another $15 million toward a hospital trauma center.

The state Senate has passed versions of both bills. Both measures must pass the House Finance Committee by April 5 to advance to the full House.

The National Youth Tobacco Survey found youth vaping surged 78% between 2017 and 2018. And a 2017 Hawaii Health Department study found 16% of middle schoolers and 26% of high-schoolers were currently using e-cigs, and that the number of high-school students vaping jumped fourfold between 2011 and 2015.

Hawaii was also the first state to restrict tobacco and e-cigarette sales to people aged 21 and up. New York is also looking into a flavored e-cig ban.

See: Disney bans smoking and vaping in all parks

The battery-powered cigarettes have the same shape as traditional cigarettes, but heat the flavored nicotine liquids into an inhalable vapor. And while e-cigs are generally considered less harmful than cigarettes because the vapor doesn’t contain the tar and cancer-causing carcinogens that burning tobacco traditionally produces, there is also no research on the long-term effects of inhaling e-cig vapor. E-cigarettes still contain nicotine, after all, which is highly addictive, raises blood pressure and spikes adrenaline. In fact, a study published last year found that the nicotine in one JUUL pod is equivalent to a pack of cigarettes, or 200 cigarette puffs — and some teens have reported going through a whole pod in a single day.

See also: Vaping may be more harmful to teens than we thought

Research has also found that vaping is more popular among teens — teenagers are 16 times more likely to smoke Juul e-cigarettes than adults — and that middle and high-schoolers who vape are more likely to start smoking cigarettes. A recent Journal of the American Medical Association study of more than 6,000 teens, who were age 13 on average, found that one-fifth of them ended up smoking traditional cigarettes if they vaped, compared with only 4% who did so with no prior tobacco use. What’s more, the odds of a teen ever smoking a cigarette were four times higher if they experimented with an e-cigarette as their first tobacco product.

Disney is banning smoking and vaping in its Walt Disney World and Disneyland theme parks, water parks, ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and the Downtown Disney District in California beginning May 1. And the FDA also proposed restricting the sales of most flavored tobacco products earlier this month to stores that check the customer’s age upon entry, or that include a separate, age-restricted area for vaping products. The federal agency also wants to remove vaping products that target kids by using packaging that resembles juice boxes, candy or cookies.

See also: Makers of flavored e-cigarettes face ‘a make-or-break year’ in Washington, analyst says

“They look at cigarettes and they say, ‘Cigarettes are disgusting. Tobacco is disgusting,’” Trish La Chica, an advocate and lobbyist for the Hawaii Public Health Institute, told the AP. “So take away the cotton candy, take away the flavors that look like they belong in an ice cream shop, and they wouldn’t be attracted to start in the first place.”

In fact, Hawaiian students testified to their state lawmakers last week that their peers vape in bathrooms and post videos of themselves exhaling vapor clouds on social media. “I can’t keep on walking into the bathroom at school and get hit in the face with a vape cloud that smells like cotton candy and not be able to work the rest of the day because of a headache,” said Paige McCurdy, a sophomore at Kapolei High School near Honolulu, in testimony at the Legislature. “It is affecting students, and it just needs to stop.”

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