Weil on Finance: Why Work on Wall Street?

Bloomberg View columnist Jonathan Weil's daily roundup of morning reads

Happy hump day, View fans. Now on with the morning links.

Who wants to work at a bank if they can make more money at a private-equity firm or hedge fund instead?

Oh, the problems facing young people these days. This comes from Bloomberg News reporter Zeke Faux: "Wall Street's Class of 2013 is being poached earlier than usual by private-equity and hedge funds, showing it's going to take more than Saturdays off for the biggest banks to keep their most ambitious employees. The rookies, who typically graduated less than a year ago and already earn at least $100,000 annually, are being lured by offers that can double their salaries."

Warren Buffett likes to talk a lot about intrinsic value .

He spent a couple of pages in Berkshire Hathaway's annual report this year discussing it. So Aleph Blog proprietor David Merkel decided to write about it, too, starting with the two main problems with the notion of intrinsic value: "1. We don't really know what future free cash flow will be, nor the willingness and ability of management to use it wisely. 2. We really don't know what the cost of capital is for a firm, particularly not the cost of equity." And he takes it from there.

What did JPMorgan Chase know about Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme, and when did the bank know it?

New York Times reporters Ben Protess and Jessica Silver-Greenberg have a story today that at times is as clear as mud, but here's the gist as best I can tell. The government at one point considered trying to get copies of employee-interview notes taken by the bank's lawyers, which would involve piercing the attorney-client privilege, on the grounds that the interviews were conducted for the purpose of facilitating crimes. But in the end the Justice Department thought better of it, and decided not to go down that road. After all, the Justice Department's lawyers wouldn't want this to happen to their clients after they go into private practice, would they?

Here at Bloomberg View, we read 485-page court decisions so you don't have to, but only sometimes.

This isn't one of those times. So I'll direct you instead to an article at Corporate Crime Reporter about the 485-page opinion by U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan "in favor of Chevron in a case that will complicate efforts by Ecuadorian villagers to collect on a $9.5 billion environmental damage verdict handed down in Ecuador in 2011." It's quite the ruling. He wrote that the attorney representing the villagers, Steven Donziger, and his colleagues in Ecuador had corrupted the case. They disagree, as you might expect, and complain that Kaplan, in effect, overturned a ruling by Ecuador's Supreme Court. Anyway, here is some of what Kaplan had to say about the plaintiffs' lawyers: "They submitted fraudulent evidence. They coerced one judge, first to use a court-appointed, supposedly impartial, 'global expert' to make an overall damages assessment and, then, to appoint to that important role a man whom Donziger hand-picked and paid to `totally play ball' with the plaintiffs. They then paid a Colorado consulting firm secretly to write all or most of the global expert's report, falsely presented the report as the work of the court-appointed and supposedly impartial expert, and told half-truths or worse to U.S. courts in attempts to prevent exposure of that and other wrongdoing. Ultimately, the plaintiff's team wrote the Lago Agrio court's judgment themselves and promised $500,000 to the Ecuadorian judge to rule in their favor and sign their judgment. If ever there were a case warranting equitable relief with respect to a judgment procured by fraud, this is it."

There were red flags at the company that allegedly duped Citigroup, and they came in many bright, shiny shades of red.

One of the great traditions in financial journalism after a scandal breaks is to go back in time and see if there were red flags that coulda, shoulda caught the attention of the people that missed them. And so the Wall Street Journal reports today that: "Oceanografia SA, the Mexican oil-services firm that Citigroup Inc. alleges is responsible for duping the bank out of $400 million, was well known in energy and investor circles as being behind on its bills despite a steady stream of contracts with state oil firm Petroleos Mexicanos." And the article leaves little doubt that there were, in fact, warning signs.

A primer to help understand the crisis in Ukraine, as viewed through the eyes of the Onion .

It's from the Onion, so it's bonkers. For instance, a handy map will show you the region with the "location of most plentiful ukranium reserves" and the "Crimean city currently caught in crossfire between uninformed commenters on CNN.com."

(Jonathan Weil is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter @jonathanweil.)

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

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

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