Weil on Finance: Brian Krebs Knows Security
Happy Monday, View fans. Here are your morning links.
Don’t bother waiting for huge retailers to disclose that they lost their customers’ data to hackers. Just read Brian Krebs, who writes the blog “KrebsOnSecurity.” Michaels Stores issued a statement over the weekend saying it “may have experienced a data security attack.” Krebs already had broken the story by then. Here’s the opening sentence from his scoop: “Multiple sources in the banking industry say they are tracking a pattern of fraud on cards that were all recently used at Michaels Stores Inc., an Irving, Texas-based arts-and-crafts retailer that maintains more than 1,250 stores across the United States.”
Preparing the world for the Fed’s taper caper.
Good piece here by Alhambra Investment Partners, which posits that the Federal Reserve has limited control over its policies’ effects: “Last week was a great demonstration of the unintended consequences of the Fed’s taper caper. The Fed has taken pains to inform the entire planet that ending QE isn’t what matters. What matters according to the Fed is that they will hold interest rates low for a very long time. Unfortunately, it appears that there are some investors around the world who disagree. When tapering was first floated last spring the impact on emerging markets was immediate and severe. Currencies in vulnerable countries -– primarily those running current account deficits -– came under pressure and even the great kiting of US stocks was interrupted, if only temporarily. I’m not the only one who thinks the Fed’s decision to delay tapering in September was at least partially a nod to these troubles and was intended to give these countries a chance to prepare better for the end of a policy that has outlived its usefulness.”
The U.S. attorney general said no bank is “too big to indict.” Good one, huh? Dennis Kelleher of the reform-minded nonprofit group Better Markets got a kick out of it, too, and set things straight: “It’s hard not to be skeptical after five years of inexcusable failure to bring a single criminal action against the wealthy, powerful and politically well-connected too-big-to-fail Wall Street banks for conduct related to causing the worst financial crash since 1929, which caused the worst economy since the Great Depression.”
Hard to tell where this payday-lender investigation is headed.
New York Times reporter Jessica Silver-Greenberg writes that “federal prosecutors are trying to thwart the easy access that predatory lenders and dubious online merchants have to Americans’ bank accounts by going after banks that fail to meet their obligations as gatekeepers to the United States financial system.” Plus, the Justice Department “is weighing civil and criminal actions against dozens of banks, sending out subpoenas to more than 50 payment processors and the banks that do business with them, according to government officials.” Basically, the feds are looking at payday lenders, which have been ripping off poor people for ages (usually legally), one difference today being that now they do it online and not just in run-down strip malls. Why the feds suddenly have started caring isn’t clear. And what did the article mean by “criminal actions” being weighed? That’s unclear, too. Maybe there will be more nonprosecution or deferred-prosecution agreements, but the possibility of indictments seems remote, because (as you’ll recall from the previous item quoting Better Markets) the Justice Department just doesn’t do that to banks.
The 82-year-old Perkins, a founder of the venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal to “call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its `one percent,’ namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the `rich.’” When Bloomberg News asked him for further comment over the weekend, he sent an e-mail reply with more crazy stuff. His old firm quickly issued a public statement to distance itself. Some free advice for aspiring writers: Stay away from Nazi comparisons. They never work.
(Jonathan Weil is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)