Finance

Michael P. Regan is a Bloomberg Gadfly columnist covering equities and financial services. He has covered stocks for Bloomberg News as a columnist and editor since 2007. He previously worked for the Associated Press.

(Updated )

It was an epic week for financial news, and we'll try to get to all of it, but personally I think the best lesson for investors was found not in the business sections but on the sports page.

As this headline on an AP article puts it, the story goes something like this: "Irish boxer bet against himself at Olympics -- and still won."

You may ask, why would this Hibernian hitter bet against himself and then win the fight? And how exactly is this a good piece of investment advice? You see, Steven Donnelly wasn't trying to fix the bout, just trying to guarantee he'd receive "some compensation" if he lost.

This is a remarkably smart hedging strategy, especially from a guy who gets punched in the head for a living. I'd assume sophisticated (not to mention physically attractive) readers such as yourself have no need for this lesson. But with stocks as high as they are and the VIX as low as it is, maybe a reminder is in order?

Pulling Punches
Wall Street's 'fear gauge,' which hasn't closed above its lifetime average of 20 since June, signals little fear that any faces are at risk.

While Donnelly received a "severe reprimand" from the International Olympic Committee for the wagering, rest assured he's getting "some compensation" in the form of a Gadfly Trade of the Week award for this hedge.

Strangely, this wasn't the only important story about monetizing a punch in the face this week. Martin Shkreli, the hedge-fund bro who became a widely scorned pharmaceutical executive after jacking up the price of an AIDS drug, is auctioning off an opportunity to punch him in the face to raise funds for the son of a friend who died.

Now say what you will about Shkreli, he's obviously a smart capitalist who's found a third act as a viral video star, so I'm guessing he figured out a way to capitalize on this, too. Surely the number of views the video of this punch would generate implies an advertising revenue bonanza that could make this his biggest score yet!  It's hard to imagine this story getting more "peak millennial," unless some robo-adviser is instructing clients to crowdfund a punch by Steven Donnelly. 

Elsewhere in the week's financial news, the reality television show where politicians compete to see who can humiliate Wells Fargo's John Stumpf the most was renewed for another episode. Senator Elizabeth Warren obviously won the contest in the pilot episode but this week's winner was the gentleman from New York, Representative Gregory Meeks. He laid into Stumpf with such gusto that we may need a head-to-head screaming matchup between Warren and the not-so-Meek Meeks to see who goes on to the next round.

Clearly, lawmakers are hopeful this show will be renewed for more episodes -- there was a call for hearings involving the workers who got fired as a result of the fake-account scandal. Hopefully there'll be a separate hearing for every single one of the 5,300 workers in order to maximize this show's potential. Stumpf may want to think about a face-punching auction  in order to ease the sting of that $41 million clawback and capitalize on the present value of his backpfeifengesicht.

It hasn't quite escalated to face-punching yet, but there were words exchanged among quants regarding who gets credit for inventing the risk-parity strategy, as Dani Burger reported. And that's sort of ironic considering how often these levered-up funds are blamed for punching markets in the face. 

There were other important lessons this week. The Wall Street Journal provided a handy tip: if a banker or important foreign executive gives you a soccer ball as a present, whatever you do don't re-gift it. It could be stuffed with bribe money

Finally, if you read just one financial-news story this week, make it the tale from Matthew Campbell and Kit Chellel about Goldman Sachs's Tripoli trader Youssef Kabbaj. I'll try to avoid spoilers, but there are a lot of important lessons for enthusiasts of the financial arts.  

First, if you're a banker who visits the same city often, why not store a rack of suits at your favorite hotel? And it's probably not a best practice to involve prostitutes when entertaining clients (unless, of course, you work for Rabobank and prostitutes are your clients.)  Also, when courting a murderous despot like Moammar Qaddafi, it's best to keep it simple and not sell them exotic, risky synthetic equity positions in banks on the eve of a financial crisis.

Finally, if you visit this despotic client and run into a competitor from a rival bank who's on his way out -- sporting term sheets for your incredibly risky deals and a big grin -- go ahead and punch him in the face.  

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

(Corrects reference to boxer in the third paragraph of previous version of story published on Sept. 30. The boxer who bet against himself was Steven Donnelly, not Michael Conlan.)

  1. Warren Buffett didn't exactly punch Stumpf in the face, but he did reportedly suggest to the banker that he was too slow to realize the seriousness of the scandal and underestimated the scope of the problem it posed for Wells Fargo. Gee, you think?

To contact the author of this story:
Michael P. Regan in New York at mregan12@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Beth Williams at bewilliams@bloomberg.net