It was a holiday-shortened week, but that doesn't mean Wall Street was unable to find new ways to embarrass itself in the news.
Let's review. First up is the case of Steven McClatchey, a former Barclays director who is accused of trading insider tips on M&A deals with a plumber pal in exchange for free work on his bathroom and gym bags of cash down at the docks where the two buddies kept their matching fishing boats (aww!). Most of the
good jokes important analyses of this case have already been made by others. So we'll just add that, based on the outfit McClatchey showed up for court in, it looks as if in addition to insider tips he and his plumber have been trading fashion tips.
The ill-gotten gains added up to only about $76,000, which is an embarrassingly small amount of money to flush a reputation down the toilet for, even if you got the toilet installed for free.
Still, Wall Street reputations have been flushed down the toilet for even less, as the latest roundup of suspects in the Libor-rigging scandal showed. "Coffee on me" was one trader's promise to a rate submitter, according to the indictment of two former Deutsche Bank traders, Matthew Connolly and Gavin Black. The indictment also shows that Black addressed the submitter with the moniker "Old Bean," so maybe this guy really, really liked coffee.
When we saw the headline "Erdoes Hangs With Muppets," we thought Amanda Gordon had caught JPMorgan Chase Asset Management's CEO in an embarrassing moment: trying to poach clients from Goldman Sachs. But it turns out Mary Callahan Erdoes was hanging with actual Muppets, like Elmo, at a benefit for Sesame Workshop, so she's off the hook. John Overdeck of computerized quant superfund Two Sigma got a photo op with the Count. And it sure sounds like he could use the Count's help these days: "One! Two! Three! ... Thirty-five billion dollars under management!"
The Count could use the work, considering his prospects for getting a job handling performance reviews at Morgan Stanley and Goldman have gone down the drain. They're both abandoning a numbers-based 1-to-5 or 1-to-9, Hot-or-Not-like rating system. (Insert your own joke here about how Goldman's ratings went as high as 9 and Morgan Stanley's only went to 5.) Anyway, instead of numbers, Morgan Stanley's managers will need to pick adjectives that describe each employee. Most observers are assuming this is another touchy-feely effort to keep the millennials happy, and as such it must be a sort of embarrassing moment for the old guard on Wall Street.
It gets worse. JPMorgan is loosening its dress code and allowing employees to wear business casual on most occasions, the Wall Street Journal reported, which must be such welcome news for old timers with six figures worth of Ermenegildo Zegna hanging in their closets. As Felice Maranz, resident wise-cracker on Bloomberg First Word, put it: "First the adjectives, then the track suits."
Despite all of this, the most embarrassing story for Wall Street this week was, in my appraisal, the one about how scientists have figured out that a dagger found in the tomb of King Tut was, depending on which headline writer you believe, either A) made from iron that fell from the sky in a meteor or B) literally a dagger that came from outer space! (Never change, New York Post.)
Why, you may ask, is this the most embarrassing story for Wall Street this week? Let's review the pertinent facts:
1. Many huge fortunes have been made by "Masters of the Universe" on Wall Street.
2. They just figured out that King Tut's dagger came from outer space.
3. No one on Wall Street currently owns King Tut's space dagger.
4. It was a slow week for financial news.
Roll your eyes all you want, Wall Street, but you know, deep down inside, you want this swagger dagger.
As anyone who's ever seen an Indiana Jones movie knows, talismans like this can do wonders for a tribe's mojo -- and heaven knows Wall Street's mojo could use a little boost right now. Don't get beat by Silicon Valley again, Wall Street. Jeff Bezos is eyeing space as one big potential industrial park and we all know Elon Musk's head is orbiting some distance planet the rest of us can't even see in our telescope. These types of guys are the new "Masters of the Universe" and as such they surely know the value of a good space dagger, especially a 3,000-year-old space dagger from King Tut's tomb. Don't sleep on this one, Wall Street.
For sure, this won't be an easy trade to pull off, considering it doesn't sound like King Tut's dagger is even for sale. But we have faith in you, Wall Street. We'll leave a Gadfly Trade of the Week award in a gym bag down on the docks for anyone who pulls this off.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.
To contact the author of this story:
Michael P. Regan in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Daniel Niemi at email@example.com