Weil on Finance: Stealing From the Rich
Happy Friday afternoon, View fans. Here’s more stuff I’ve been reading today. Have a great weekend.
The Robin Hood Foundation told Bloomberg News today that Cohen will remain on its board. “Steve is a valued and thoughtful member of Robin Hood’s board, and his leadership and generosity over the past nine years have benefited countless New Yorkers in need,” the charity said. Don’t act surprised. Yes, I know, his hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors agreed to plead guilty to securities fraud. But look who else is on Robin Hood’s board. For example, there’s Jeffrey Immelt, the chief executive officer of General Electric Co. GE has criminal convictions on its record. Three former executives of GE affiliates were convicted of fraud last year over rigged muni-bond contracts. You don’t see Immelt facing calls to step down from Robin Hood. But there is a nice twist to having the owner of a felonious hedge fund on the board of a charity named Robin Hood. One way to look at insider trading is that people who do it are mainly stealing from the rich. A perfect fit.
Lessons from an 18th century market bubble
This post on the New York Fed’s in-house blog looks at the South Sea Bubble of 1720 and draws comparisons with the current reach for yield by investors. This is part of a long-running series, and the repackaging of debt has been a recurring theme: “In this case, the South Sea Company structured the national debt in a way that was initially attractive to investors, but the scheme to finance the debt-for-equity swap ultimately proved to be noncredible and the market collapsed. Now fast-forward to 2013 and the five-year anniversary in September of Lehman Brothers’ failure. As Fed Governor Jeremy Stein pointed out in a recent speech, a combination of factors such as financial innovation, regulation, and a change in the economic environment, can sometimes contribute to an overheating of credit markets. Asset-backed securitization and collateralized debt obligations have returned with a bang -— or perhaps a boom -- and are on pace to exceed pre-crisis levels, perhaps fueled by investors’ reach for yield.” I hope Janet Yellen reads this.
Wacky unattributed Twitter stock prediction of the day
Check out the last sentence of this excerpt from a Bloomberg News story today about Twitter’s initial public offering: “Twitter’s management and its bankers are happy with the IPO’s outcome, according to a person with direct knowledge of their thinking. While they’re not surprised the stock gained so much, because of the overhang in demand, they expect it to drop toward $30 a share during the next three weeks, this person said.” Questions: First, what was this person thinking? I mean, I appreciate the candor, but the Twittermaniacs who bought at $46 aren’t going to be happy reading this. Second, how do the thinking people have any idea what to expect? Why $30? Why not $25? Then again, Twittermaniacs shouldn’t dismiss this. Tesla’s boss, Elon Musk, admitted two weeks ago that his company’s stock was way overvalued. The market proved him right in a hurry.
The big news at this month’s Tokyo Motor Show probably will be the debut of Toyota’s hydrogen concept car, writes Paul Eisenstein of NBC News’s Detroit bureau. Quickie explainer: “The technology forces ultra-light hydrogen gas into a device called a stack where it combines with oxygen from the atmosphere to produce a stream of electric current. The only thing coming out of a fuel-cell vehicle’s tailpipe is water vapor.” There are huge drawbacks, such as a lack of stations for drivers to refuel. But with exploding Tesla electric cars getting millions of YouTube clicks, this could get a lot of interest, especially from Tesla investors worried about the stock’s valuation.
Finally: the tastiest, greasiest sports promotion ever
They’re giving away free bacon at tonight’s Kansas State women’s basketball game.
(Jonathan Weil is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)