Levine on Wall Street: Smell the Beret

If you're telling a jury that you sold "great bonds at great prices" so they should acquit, you might as well try to sell them a car while you're at it.

Beret M&A !

This Bloomberg News story had me at "Laulhere became the country's sole maker of traditional berets after it last week bought Blancq-Olibet, its only French competitor, which was almost 200 years old." But then this piece of magic came along:

"There are berets and there are berets," said Mark Saunders, the head of sales at Laulhere and an Irishman who has lived in France for over two decades. "If you don't want to smell like a sock wearing a wet beret, only our traditional French beret doesn't retain odors. Small details like that make a difference."

Not smelling like a sock is a "small detail"! Magnifique!

Eminence doesn't want Jos. A. Bank getting too fashionable .

Jos. A. Bank shareholder and activist hedge fund Eminence Capital is unhappy about Jos. A. Bank's plans to buy Eddie Bauer to avoid a hostile bid from Men's Wearhouse. Here is Eminence's letter to Jos. A. Bank's board, which is a nice example of the genre and pretty compelling:

Not only have you turned your back on an acquirer prepared to pay a substantial premium for the company but you plan to deploy significant and valuable company resources into a troubling and risky sector of the retail and apparel industry in which you have absolutely no experience. In our view these decisions defy any sense of sound business judgment. To us, they appear designed for the sole purpose of keeping this management team and board employed.

I mean, yes? Also pleasing is Eminence's doubt that Jos. A. Bank should "enter more discretionary and fashion oriented categories in retail apparel," suggesting that Jos. A. Bank's current clothing offerings are mostly mandatory and fashion disoriented.

Great bonds, great prices .

I have mixed feelings about the prosecution of former Jefferies trader Jesse Litvak for fraud in pricing mortgage-backed securities, but his defense that he "sold his customers, smart professional money managers, great bonds at great prices" does not exactly fill me with confidence.

A regulatory thing happened .

"The Federal Reserve Board on Tuesday approved a final rule strengthening supervision and regulation of large U.S. bank holding companies and foreign banking organizations" and it's about as snoozy as it sounds. Lot of stress testing and risk committees. Plus new capital requirements for U.S. subsidiaries of foreign banks, which does seem important.

It's okay to say "no comment."

Dan Primack at Fortune is mad because the chief executive of a company called Viber denied that his company was in merger talks, and then announced the deal a few days later. Primack's view is that the CEO should have said "no comment," rather than, um, saying something that seems to have been untrue. Primack's advice is particularly good in public company M&A, where there's a very famous case saying that denying a merger that's actually in the works might be securities fraud. In private company M&A, though, lying to reporters probably isn't fraud; it mostly just makes reporters dislike you.

"Traders Find Camaraderie and Alpha in Social Media ."

I don't know, that's just a good headline. Follow me on Twitter!

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

    (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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