Weil on Finance: Shorts on Shorts

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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Happy Friday, View fans. Here's a look at what I've been reading this morning.

This short seller's catalyst was another short seller

John Hempton of Bronte Capital writes that, "At Bronte we have been short Tile Shop Holdings for about a year but in small quantity, the small quantity reflecting both our lack of conviction (our research was not extensive) and the lack of any catalyst we could identify. Given the stock dropped almost 40 percent on the Gotham report I can't be displeased. Gotham has provided my catalyst." The report he was referring to, which you can read by clicking the second link, was released yesterday by an outfit called Gotham City Research. The third link takes you to the press release by Tile Shop Holdings denying most of Gotham's claims (which I won't go into here), but not all of them. The moral of the story: If you have a track record, a website and some dirt about a company with ties to China, you can make a lot of money.

Don't blame me, Moody's made me do it

From Floyd Norris today: "Did you make an incredibly bad decision during the great credit bubble? Don't worry. Join the crowd denying responsibility. Explain that nobody should have expected you to do any homework before investing." He has a new favorite denial, which came this week "when the trustee for two Bear Stearns hedge funds that went broke in 2007 said it was absolutely not the managers' fault" and that all of the blame should go to Standard & Poor's, Moody and Fitch. And the rating companies make such easy targets.

What's tax got to do with it, got to do with it?

Lynnley Browning, a veteran of the tax-shelter beat, writes for Fortune that "this year will enter the record books with the highest number of expatriations ever by U.S. citizens." The tally stood at 2,369 as of Sept. 30, according to Treasury Department data, about 33 percent more than the previous one-year record set in 2011. "Even rock star Tina Turner, a long-time resident of Switzerland who got a full Swiss passport last April, is on track to relinquish her U.S. ties."

Household deleveraging decelerates , debt rises

That's the gist of the New York Fed's third-quarter report on household debt and credit: "The data show the first substantial increase in outstanding balances since 2008, when Americans began reducing their debt," according to Andrew Haughwout and three other staff members writing for the New York Fed's in-house blog, Liberty Street Economics.

Newsflash: Andy Kaufman is still dead

The Smoking Gun says the whole thing was a hoax. Imagine that: "In news that should shock nobody, the woman who appeared onstage this week claiming Andy Kaufman was alive -- and that she was his daughter -- is a New York City actress whose actual father is a Manhattan doctor." Tank you berry much.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

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