It seems as if no columnist is worth his paycheck if he doesn't muster a little righteous, indignant outrage once in a while.
But let's be honest, mustering indignant outrage is difficult on the day before a holiday weekend when your buddies are hitting you with "golf tomorrow?" texts. Still, readers demand such things, so let's take a run through the biggest Wall Street news of the week and see if we can't get our Irish up a bit.
Without a doubt, the buzziest story of the week just landed on Thursday. It's about the secret "Focus Five" list kept by the research desk at Citigroup and other lists of high-rollers that get all the TLC at investment banks. The main takeways are: "It represents a growing trend on Wall Street where the most-lucrative clients get the best service: the top trade ideas, hours-long calls with analysts, intimate soirees with executives, bespoke trading models, on and on" and "Even on Wall Street, the divide between the privileged few and everyone else is growing."
Sure, this must be annoying if you're running the proverbial Two Guys and a Terminal Opportunities Fund, or any fund that doesn't send enough business to a brokerage to get phone calls returned by an analyst. But is it really that surprising? Las Vegas casinos don't send limos to pick you up to play nickel slots; bartenders don't rush to your stool if you're ordering club soda; bald guys get to cut in line at barbershops, etc. To be sure, this is an interesting read, but we'll have to look elsewhere for righteous indignation.
Next up is the tale of John D. Rockefeller's descendants dumping oil investments because of their own righteous indignation over climate change, especially amid allegations that Exxon Mobil knew about global warming as far back as the 1970s but tried to keep it hidden. There was a time when this would have mustered a Deepwater Horizon-sized gusher of indignation from this columnist, but getting to play multiple rounds of golf in New Jersey in January has caused a re-evaluation of our prejudices against climate change.
Elsewhere in this week's potentially outrageous news, there's hedge-fund manager Marlon Quan being ordered to pay $81 million for concealing evidence of Thomas Petters' $3.5 billion Ponzi scheme that blew up in 2008. What's outrageous here is that $3.5 billion is a pretty darn big Ponzi scheme, but this guy will never get his own made-for-TV movie because it was it was pocket change compared with Bernie Madoff's.
Meanwhile, hedge funds have gone hog wild for pork-belly futures. As Lydia Mulvany reported, the net-long position in hog futures and options jumped 20 percent in the week ended March 15 and April futures were up about 18 percent in four months. (Also check out Bloomberg View's Justin Fox for an ultra-contrarian take that the bacon fad will fade one day.)
This type of rally is a fun phenomenon for those who study pork fundamentals, since the "BLT season" is a well-known catalyst for driving prices higher in the spring. Check out this seasonality graph of front-month lean-hog futures:
Still, even this isn't mustering too much righteous indignation because the chief compliance officer at home (a.k.a Mrs. Gadfly) has been monitoring our bacon exposure closely.
Luckily, there was one big revelation that triggered enough righteous outrage to merit the Gadfly Trade of the Week recognition. It's the report of Morgan Stanley being ordered to pay $34.4 million to the estate of Home Shopping Network co-founder Roy Speer, who died in 2012 at age 80. A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitration panel ruled on the case in which broker Ami Forte was accused of churning Speer's portfolio as his mental facilities began slipping because of old age. Adding a little sizzle to the mix, Speer's widow accused Forte of being involved in a long affair with her husband.
Here's what's most outrageous, from the widow's lawyers: "The salacious details of the case involving their relationship were largely shielded from the public because Finra arbitrations are held in closed private sessions."
Look, where do you get off, Wall Street? If someone is involved in a multimillion-dollar fraud case that includes "salacious details," we have a right to know what they are! This is America, for Pete's sake! The whole media sector of the economy could collapse if all salacious details were kept secret. Even the coverage from the poor New York Post, the salacious-details paper of record, was woefully devoid of salacious details! The best that CNBC.com could do was run a stock photo of lipstick prints on the collar of a shirt.
Anyway, Morgan Stanley took issue with the award, saying that the trades were profitable for the client and that the portfolio was managed in accordance with his wishes.
It's also notable that it doesn't appear as if Forte has been fired. Why not? Our best guess is that this case has actually been good for client prospects -- with many 80-year-old millionaires calling to inquire about the true meaning of "full-service brokerage."
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