Weil on Finance, P.M.: Cohen's Art Sale

Jonathan Weil joined Bloomberg News as a columnist in 2007, and his columns on finance and accounting won Best in the Business awards from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers in 2009 and 2010.
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Welcome back, View fans. Time for more fun with annotated afternoon links.

Wall Street celebrity art watch

Steven Cohen is selling about $80 million worth of blue-chip art at auction, the New York Times reports. The sales come just as his hedge fund SAC Capital has reached a deal to plead guilty to securities fraud, according to unidentified people who spoke to the Times reporters. Coincidence? Cohen's art adviser says we're in a robust market, and that's probably right. The works include two Warhols. Of course, how could financial-scandal aficionados forget that Dick Fuld and his wife sold a nice slug of their art collection shortly after Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy?

Financial Times op-ed writer to JPMorgan: Go to trial !

I'm all for it. We might actually find out if any of the government's allegations are true. But Jacob Frenkel of the Shulman Rogers law firm goes a step too far in my book when he asks: "Why should a bank bother fighting a winnable case when it can just write a check and make it go away?" My question back is: How does he know that JPMorgan has a winnable case? We don't know what evidence the prosecutors have. Bank of America thought it had a winning case before it lost a civil trial against the Justice Department last week. Still, I dig the fire in the belly: "Many of us experienced former prosecutors would gladly take it to court. It would be a trial lawyer's dream: cross-examine all the senior government officials who groveled on the marble floors of JPMorgan, begging it to save the U.S. and take over Bear Stearns and WaMu."

Dr. Doom sees bubbles in the broth

From Nouriel Roubini, writing about the Federal Reserve's easy-money policies: "All of this excess liquidity is flowing to the financial sector rather than the real economy. Near-zero policy rates encourage "carry trades" -- debt-financed investment in higher-yielding risky assets such as longer-term government and private bonds, equities, commodities and currencies of countries with high interest rates. The result has been frothy financial markets that could eventually turn bubbly." Worth a read.

Bill Gross can't stop makingnews

The Pimco co-founder wrote in his monthly investment outlook that the top 1 percent should pay higher taxes. Here's the speed read: "1) Growth depends on investment and investment in part depends on an equitable rebalancing of personal income taxes, capital gains and carried interest. 2) The era of taxing `capital' at lower rates than `labor' should end. 3) Investors in the U.S. and elsewhere must look for investment in the real economy, not share buy-back maneuvers that artificially elevate stock prices." Also worth a read.

Weird statistic of the day

The biggest air-crash danger? Flying into a hillside. Who knew?

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To contact the author on this story:
Jonathan Weil at jweil16@bloomberg.net