Levine on Wall Street: The CEO's Plane Is a Bad Sign

I guess when you say "CEOs who drive drunk are more likely to commit accounting fraud" it sounds pretty obvious. Still, someone did a study, and, yep.
Have a seat, but don't invest. Photographer: Jacob Kepler/Bloomberg

Some banks still want to be universal.

Société Générale made a profit and beat estimates last quarter, with profits up in everything from French retail banking to investment banking. "Frédéric Oudéa, the bank's chairman and chief executive, said in a statement that the 2013 results 'provided confirmation of the robustness of Société Générale's universal banking model,'" which is out of consensus of him, though he also plans to "present a plan on May 13 to raise its return on equity to 10 percent by the end of 2015" so it's only relatively robust.

Carl Icahn likes Glass-Steagall.

Here's the other side of the universal banking model. He should buy some stock in a bank and try to get it to spin off its investment banking business, see how that goes.

Some kids still want to be bankers .

Here you can read, or listen to, some excerpts from Kevin Roose's forthcoming book Young Money, about young whippersnappers at investment banks and their. This is a very good book, though if you are a young whippersnapper about to start working at an investment bank you will not find it especially comforting.

Though Goldman is doing its best to turn them off .

I guess I can't criticize; I used to file my nails at my desk at Goldman. But I'm horrible.

Watch out for CEOs with lots of stuff .

Some academics compared the financial reports of companies with unfrugal chief executives (those who own luxury goods such as "expensive cars, boats and/or planes") and those with frugal ones, and "find that the probabilities of both fraudulent reporting by other insiders and erroneous reporting are higher in firms run by an unfrugal (vs. frugal) CEO, and these differences become more pronounced over the CEO's tenure." Also drunk driving apparently isn't good for your financial reports either.

Are Cryptocurrency Exchange Rates Indeterminate?

I find this question weirdly fascinating, much more so than most Bitcoin stuff. (Here is Tyler Cowen.) Here Eli Dourado argues that the answer is no. I am not especially convinced; he moves very fast from "governance institutions matter" to "governance is winner-take-all."

Don't do this .

The only possible result of sending an email that says "Someone will find out we have been acting illegally too. If this thing blows up, I will lose by bar license . . . My other fear is . . . [the] state and feds finding out what we were doing" is that it will be quoted in the eventual federal case against you. The place to talk about your deepest fears is not in an e-mail to your co-conspirators.

Dumb Starbucks has dumb lawyers .

I'm not really your guy for the "Dumb Starbucks" story, but I do like that when the health department shut them down -- for handing out free coffee without a license, which, sure, is sort of a dumb reason to be shut down -- the proprietor said this: "Legally speaking, we're operating as an art gallery -- under parody law, it only covers art -- so the coffee you're buying is the art. Because of that we do not have a health permit so we didn't have to pay those fees and we passed on the savings to the customers." That's a great excuse! I mean, it didn't work on the health department, but still. When they shut down my Ponzi scheme, I'm going to say "Legally speaking, we're operating as an art gallery." Surprisingly, here is a related story.

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    (Matt Levine writes about Wall Street and the financial world for Bloomberg View.)

    To contact the author on this story:
    Matthew S Levine at mlevine51@bloomberg.net

    To contact the editor on this story:
    Toby Harshaw at tharshaw@bloomberg.net

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