Levine on Wall Street: Don't Make Europe Take Away Your Allowance

Matt Levine is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was an editor of Dealbreaker, an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, a mergers and acquisitions lawyer at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz and a clerk for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
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Europe doesn't want any funny business about bank bonuses.

I sort of like Michel Barnier's approach to banks gaming the new bonus regulations with allowances and whatnot, which is to tell them not to:

"Some banks are doing their utmost to circumvent remuneration rules," Mr. Barnier said. He said that the new rules would be enforced by the European Banking Authority and local regulators. "The commission will remain vigilant to ensure that new rules are applied in full."

On the other hand, the actual remuneration rules announced yesterday have more exemptions than were anticipated, so perhaps the regulatory theory is to combine tough talk with loose regulation. Speak loudly and carry a very small stick. And remain vigilant!

Everyone knew Oceanografia was up to no good.

Apparently no one much trusted Oceanografia, the Mexican oil services that seems to have taken Citi's Mexican affiliate Banamex for $400 million or so. "Investors say Oceanografía frequently leaned on its 30-day grace period to pay bond coupons late," which, really, is not so good. But Banamex didn't mind; it kept lending Oceanografia money and, bizarrely, Oceanografia's workers' uniforms were emblazoned with the Banamex logo. One might almost get the sense that Banamex was lending Oceanografia money for reasons other than careful dispassionate credit analysis.

Prosecutors don't really believe in attorney-client privilege.

Here is a story about how prosecutors and regulators want to review JPMorgan's lawyers' notes about their Madoff investigation because, ugh, some Madoff thing, it's a long story. The lawyers worry that handing the government their notes raises some attorney-client privilege problems. Here's a guy saying things:

"Why hire a lawyer to do an internal investigation? It's because you get the privileges," said Bruce A. Green, a former federal prosecutor who is now a professor at Fordham Law School, where he directs the Louis Stein Center for Law and Ethics. "Otherwise, you'd save a little money and hire a consultant or accountant."

What? No, that is nuts; you hire lawyers because they're the ones best suited to dealing with aggressive prosecutors. (Also, what, consultants are cheap?) Anyway the lesson is if you've done bad stuff and your company's lawyers come to talk to you, remember: You are basically talking to the government.

SEC Staffers Ain't Driving Ferraris .

I've been rather harsh on the SEC for, um, requiring that its staffers front-run their own enforcement actions by selling stocks of companies they're investigating, is one way to put it. Here is a more sympathetic take, which is partly fair -- there's not that much trading -- but doesn't really address the fact that SEC staffers' sales statistically outperform the market. Or with the fact that the SEC's policy of selling stock at the start of an investigation is kind of dumb.

"The Architect of Apple's Controversial Tax Strategy Retires ."

But he's joining the board of Goldman Sachs, where he will fit right in.

You're probably not a good person .

The obvious tie to finance here is the sentence "And everyone seems to call footballers and bankers 'greedy', as if they would turn down a pay rise themselves." But the whole thing is very much worth reading, a defense of nuance against snap black-and-white moral judgments. I think you can see why I might be sympathetic to that.

The Dow would be higher if it contained different stocks .

I can't really endorse the theory of index construction implied in this article, which is about how, if the Dow Jones Industrials index hadn't kicked out IBM from 1939 through 1979, the index would now be at 40,000 rather than 16,000 and change. (And then the economy would be 150 percent better than it is now? Or ... ?) Nonetheless the article is surprisingly endearing, particularly if you are a sucker for old-timey stock names. "International Business Machines incorporated on June 16, 1911 as The Computer-Tabulating-Recording Co., a merger of The Computing Scale Company of America, The Tabulating Machine Company and The International Time Recording Company of New York." And in the last 100 years, it "has given over a million-fold return." Hot dog!

A worm might eat your snails before you can .

Would you like to see pictures of a New Guinea flatworm eating a snail? No, is the answer, trust me. Anyway though it's gotten to France and will eat all the snails before they can be served with garlic and parsley to humans.

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