Weil’s Views on Finance
Howdy, dear readers. Here’s a look at what I’ve been reading this morning.
Battle of Richmond is on
Anyone following the action in Richmond, California, knew this was inevitable. The city and one of its outside advisers, Mortgage Resolution Partners, were sued by Wells Fargo and Deutsche Bank in their capacity as mortgage-bond trustees. The banks, acting at the behest of large institutional investors including Pimco and BlackRock, are seeking a court order blocking the city from using eminent domain to seize underwater home mortgages and restructure them for residents. As I wrote in a column last week, it’s a horrible idea to let municipal employees pick winners and losers in the housing market. Richmond is in for an expensive fight.
So many investigations, so little time
JPMorgan Chase & Co. said the Justice Department’s civil division has concluded it violated securities laws in connection with past mortgage-bond sales; the bank also said it is being investigated by the Justice Department’s criminal division. MetLife Inc., the largest U.S. life insurer, said it may face fines stemming from a federal review of foreclosures at its bank unit. Standard & Poor’s faces a new investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission over how it rated a commercial-mortgage bond in 2011, according to Bloomberg News. The Wall Street Journal reported that the Justice Department has sent subpoenas to banks that service online payday lenders. Shareholders of these companies probably don’t need to worry too much, though. There may be settlements, but the government won’t do anything to hurt them too badly. There’s a financial system to protect.
Celebrity hedge-fund brawl
Here’s a good story on the Herbalife saga in the Wall Street Journal, complete with gratuitous food detail from a dinner scene at a fancy Manhattan steakhouse. (The Wagyu rib-eye was $94.) Bill Ackman is short Herbalife. George Soros is long the stock, and so are Carl Icahn and Dan Loeb. It’s the best spectator sport on Wall Street –- far better than the boring proxy war over Dell. Who’s right? Who cares? The peanut gallery just wants to see someone bleed.
The shortest piece in Zero Hedge history
Guess the number of days in which JPMorgan lost money trading in the first half of 2013. If you can’t figure it out -- and really, it should be obvious by now -- then go ahead and click the link. OK, here’s a hint: It’s less than one.
Meet the new boss
Headline from the Washington Post: “Jeff Bezos, The Post’s incoming owner, known for a demanding management style at Amazon.” Brilliant observation. Maybe next they will break the news that he’s bald.
(Jonathan Weil is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)