All the normal folks were busy talking about Prince, but the biggest topic of conversation this week on Wall Street was, obviously, the government's plans to force companies to claw back bonuses. And the question being asked is: Does this apply to me?
Here's the short answer: Of course not, silly! We've looked at the first-quarter results of the big financial firms and, if current trends persist, you'll be lucky to get a gym bag with your bank's logo on it during bonus time next year. Still, if you're worried about your gym bag being clawed back, just be sure any securities or products you sell don't blow up in the user's face for at least seven years. Some other useful tips are scattered here and there in the financial press to help you along.
Understandably, if you spent the week burying gym bags full of past bonus loot in undisclosed locations, you probably missed some of the other important financial news of the week. So here's what you need to know about the week that was.
First off, in a move applauded by just about everyone except Donald Trump, Andrew Jackson is getting kicked off the $20 bill and being replaced by a woman:
Abby Joseph Cohen abolitionist Harriet Tubman. The only thing more embarrassing about the fact that it took this country so long to put a woman's face on paper currency is the fact that when we finally got around to doing it, it's just about the time when paper currency is going extinct. Anyway, this move by the Treasury has sent interest in Harriet Tubman to a 10-year high, according to Google Trends:
Now, all the normal folks who look at the chart above will think something along the lines of, "Oh, it's nice that there's interest in such an important historical figure." All the abnormal folks on Wall Street, however, will notice a clear seasonal trend that causes a spike in Google searches for Tubman during every Black History Month and wonder how they can front-run it. (Sadly, we know of no way to trade open interest in Harriet Tubman but will keep a Gadfly Trade of the Week award on ice for anyone who can figure that out.)
Elsewhere in important financial news of the week, the cocktail party season is in full swing, so be sure to catch up with Amanda Gordon's Scene Last Night column. There, you can read all about a "bro hug" that will go down in hedge-fund history. You see, this is not your typical hedge-fund bro hug, like you would expect to see after, say, a successful Harriet Tubman short in March. Rather, this was a three-way bro hug involving none other than Dan Loeb, Julian Robertson and John Paulson at a fund-raiser for charter schools. (Hedge fund bros love charter schools for some reason. Our guess is it's because a lot of them were shoved in lockers at regular public schools.)
Also in "Scene," be sure to read about even more unlikely bro-bonding: Steve Cohen getting an award from the Commandant of the Marine Corps and the former head of the FBI's New York office. No, it wasn't a thank-you for all the overtime Cohen's SAC Capital created for rank-and-file G Men a few years ago, but rather a thank-you for his generosity in creating a network of mental-health clinics for war veterans. One features "essential oils in the air, to help bring anxiety down and get the veteran in a great head space."
We can see how that would work because a rise in the most essential oil of all, crude, certainly got all the rest of the asset classes in a great head space this week. However, someone should sprinkle some essential oils in Senator Elizabeth Warren's office because we are worried about the condition of her head space after she found out the SEC allowed Cohen back in the hedge-fund game.
You know who's probably in no mood for a hedge-fund bro hug? Udo Mueller and the other folks at German advertising company Stroeer. And that brings us to the Gadfly Trade of the Week: famous short-selling wunderkind Carson Block did this to Stroeer's shares this week:
Block came onto the "Bloomberg <Go>" program to discuss his thesis on the advertising firm (ironically, this is known in the biz as "advertising" your short.) “The way they calculate organic growth -- we can’t get the numbers to tie. We use their formula and their numbers, and it just doesn’t add or come even close.” Stroeer responded by calling Block's research report "tendentious," "far-fetched," "overall groundless" and (we're guessing) a lot of German words that are unprintable here.
Anyway, whoever's right, we're sure the two sides can agree on one thing: the power of advertising.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.
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Michael P. Regan in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org
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