Weil on Finance, P.M.: Hayek on Yellen

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 afternoon, Viewfinders. Last linkfest of the week. Have a great weekend.

What would Friedrich Hayek say about Janet Yellen?

Well, gee now, what do you think he would say? Something like, she's driving the bus down the road to serfdom, and we're the serfs? But seriously, it's a good question. Hayek did win a Nobel Prize himself, recall. And Wayne Brough, an economist who wrote this piece for Real Clear Markets today, makes a worthy effort at channeling him: "When economist Friedrich Hayek received the Nobel Prize in 1974, his acceptance lecture was a warning to economists and all social scientists about the dangers of scientism and the pretense of knowledge. More specifically, Hayek was concerned that social scientists, when adopting the tools of the physical sciences, were misapplying quantitative methods that are not capable of describing complex orders in the same way that, for example, the laws of physics can explain gravity." From Hayek's perspective, Brough says, "current Fed policy is supporting a misallocation of resources that may only be viable as long as the Fed continues its quantitative easing program."

Another awful report card for Deloitte & Touche

Click the first link to see what a lousy job Deloitte had been doing in its audit practice some time ago, according to a newly released inspection report by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. The second link is to a Floyd Norris column from two years ago about an awful report card the board gave Deloitte back then. The short version of the story here is that the board's inspectors found a bunch of problems with Deloitte's quality controls during a 2009 inspection. Then the board gave Deloitte a lot of extra time to fix the problems, and Deloitte didn't fix them within the allotted amount, or at least not to the board's satisfaction. So now all these years later the board is telling us about them. Not that these reports are of much help to investors, of course. The names of companies with cooked books and/or failed audits have been redacted to protect the guilty.

More newly discovered billionaires

Bless those German regulatory filings. Now we know that four members of Germany's Otto family, who control the company that owns Crate & Barrel, are billionaires. So add their names to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. And why do people love reading about billionaires? Because a lot of billionaires can't stand being read about by other people. "These families tend to dislike having their annual balance sheet published and open to the public,'' says Matthias Hoppe, a tax lawyer in Berlin.

How Tesla went from media darling to punching bag

Good roundup and timeline here by Michael Comeau at Minyanville: "This year, electric-car maker Tesla Motors will account for less than 0.05% of the world's passenger car output. Yet within the financial media bubble, it seems like it generates 99% of auto-industry headlines. A few short months ago, that was a good thing. But now we're seeing the flip side of the coin."

Tough crowd for Bill Ackman

From Seeking Alpha: "After trading lower by as much as 2.4 percent during Bill Ackman's presentation at the Robin Hood Investors Conference, Herbalife moves immediately into positive territory after the Pershing Square chief leaves the stage. Although Ackman raised familiar questions and concerns, investors weren't impressed." Ackman said he will take his bearish bet against Herbalife "to the end of the earth," according to Bloomberg News. Note to self: Remember not to take bad trades to the end of the earth.

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