Weil on Finance, P.M.: Gold Prices Rigged, Too?

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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Hello again, View fans. Here's a look at my afternoon reading today.

Is there any market benchmark that isn't rigged?

Gold benchmarks are the latest ones to come under government scrutiny, Suzi Ring of Bloomberg News reports. But who's really surprised by now? If you take a survey of people asking them to tell you how much something costs, and the people answering the question have financial incentives to provide information that isn't accurate, by now we probably should assume that there's a pretty strong chance it will be inaccurate. Here's a snippet: "The U.K. Financial Conduct Authority is reviewing gold benchmarks as part of its wider probe of how global rates are set, a person with knowledge of the matter said." The same person said "the FCA review is preliminary and hasn't risen to the level of a formal investigation."

Is Wall Street more liberal than Maxine Waters?

It is when it comes to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, writes TheStreet's Shanthi Bharatwaj: "It is a strange world when the call to keep bailed-out mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac alive and preserve the government's legacy contribution to American homeownership comes not from Washington liberals but from Wall Street. Practically every reform proposal being considered in Congress supports the winding down of the government-sponsored entities, or GSEs, ending the implicit government subsidy that fueled an unsustainable growth in homeownership in the run up to the bubble. Yet, big institutional investors are arguing that the companies, which are now making record profits and will have paid out dividends almost equal to the $188 billion in bailout money by December, should be rehabilitated and privatized."

Accounting fraud at the Pentagon

I hadn't gotten around to read the latest investigative report by Scot Paltrow of Reuters until today, and it's a doozy. The gist: "For two decades, the U.S. military has been unable to submit to an audit, flouting federal law and concealing waste and fraud totaling billions of dollars." OK, so this isn't exactly a shocker. It's important, though, and it's great work.

Someday the credit binge in China has to end, doesn't it?

Here's the nut graf from a good enterprise piece today by Bloomberg News: "A $6.6 trillion credit binge during the past five years, encouraged by Beijing policy makers as stimulus to combat a global economic slowdown, now threatens to stoke a debt crisis. At stake are trillions of yuan in bank loans that companies producing everything from ships to steel to solar power are struggling to repay as the world's second-largest economy heads for the weakest annual expansion since 1999."

Meet me at the Belly Rub Cafe

Kinston, North Carolina, now has its own restaurant for dogs. The menu includes a bacon bar, along "with fresh spring water served in miniature replicas of toilet bowls."

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