Levine on Wall Street: Don't Let Facebook Tell You How to Invest

Also don't let a stockbroker with an undisclosed bankruptcy tell you how to invest, though that is harder to spot. The bankruptcy is undisclosed. It's easy to tell if you're on Facebook.

Lehman Brothers was solvent, FYI.

Well, the U.K. bit of it -- Lehman Brothers International (Europe) -- was. Apparently it can pay off its creditors with 5 billion pounds to spare. Its administrator's "view is that LBIE was not 'balance sheet insolvent', that is crippled by debts or creditors, but 'cash flow insolvent' because its parent company in the US had collapsed. The UK arm had $3bn (£1.8bn) of payments to make on the morning it collapsed but had no cash."

Barclays has to spend money to make money .

The way investment banking works is that some senior bankers and traders bring in tens of millions of dollars of revenues to their banks, and a lot of that revenue is reasonably portable. So if you could make $10 million for a bank, you will demand salary and bonus of ... I mean, the going rate is roughly 50 percent of revenues, so call it $5 million, though there's a case that the right number is higher. And if you can make $10 million for Barclays, and they only pay you $3 million, then that's a healthy $7 million profit for them. And if Barclays can't pay bonuses because it is unprofitable and unpopular, then you'll go somewhere else, and Barclays will be $7 million less profitable. And then it can pay even less, and even more people will leave, and it will be even more unprofitable, and so forth. This is a terrifically unpopular line of thinking but strikes me as basically correct.

Hedge funds have negative returns to scale.

Or, "markets are efficient." Or, "investing is a young man's game." Or, "to succeed in investing you gotta be hungry." I don't know, there are various conventional conclusions you could draw from this story of how Paul Tudor Jones once had really really high returns and now has less high returns, but spends more money endowing buildings and stuff.

Don't invest based on a Facebook pitch.

It's probably a pyramid scheme, as the SEC alleges in this particular case. But, look, here is my general investment advice: Don't invest based on any pitch! If anyone calls or writes or emails or texts or faxes or tweets or Facebooks or LinkedIns or Snapchats or gchats or Pinterests or WhatsApps or Tumblrs or Tinders or Grindrs or Secrets or Whispers and tells you to invest in anything, just say no. You want to invest in things that are bought, not sold, as the adage goes. And you definitely don't want to invest in things that are sold over Facebook, come on.

Don't invest with a criminal stockbroker.

One guy "racked up a personal bankruptcy, a tax lien, a court judgment for unpaid debt and a criminal guilty plea relating to a false report to law enforcement" and never disclosed them to Finra or to investors. He's one of 1,600 brokers who didn't disclose required information about criminal convictions or personal bankruptcies to investors, and that undisclosed information correlates with investment badness, bad advice and high commissions and whatnot. It's possible that my general investment advice above is relevant here.

Don't believe the hype on swaps .

"The walls are not coming down. It's the status quo, and it will be the status quo through 2014." That is something that a guy says about new rules regarding swap execution facilities, which went into effect two weeks ago with so far undramatic effects, but it's probably applicable to a lot of regulatory changes.

Don't believe risk factors .

They are risks, not predictions. Your guacamole is safe.

But one risk is that the tax code will get rid of inversions .

I don't really put a lot of stock in "guy introduces tax reform in Presidential budget" as a way of predicting what the tax law will be, but President Obama's budget would eliminate the "increasingly popular maneuver that allows United States companies to legally reincorporate in a new country when they buy a smaller foreign corporation, thereby avoiding paying the Treasury Department millions or even billions of dollars in taxes."

Mathew Martoma is no longer a Stanford MBA .

So he'll never get a job at a hedge fund again I guess? "The former trader may face decades in prison, so it's unlikely his business degree is top of mind." He lost his degree not for the insider trading after graduating, but for faking his Harvard transcript before applying. "Administrators at the business school rescinded their offer of admission to Mr. Martoma." Considering that he accepted the offer, enrolled, and graduated over a decade ago, it seems a little late to rescind the offer? Maybe Stanford GSB administrators never learned about offer and acceptance in law school, like Martoma did, before being thrown out.

Doesn't an earnings bath sound relaxing?

Apparently it is: You take on a lot of provisions when you start as CEO, then you have a low earnings baseline to start from and your job gets a lot easier. Really everyone should try to set expectations low when they start a new job. That is why all of my posts are so bad, just wait, any day now they will get SO MUCH BETTER.

Sometimes congressmen write parody letters .

After one congressman called for the government to ban Bitcoin, another sent (err, pretended to send) a snarky letter suggesting that the government should ban dollar bills instead, since dollar bills are used a lot in crimes. This is ... very mildly amusing, I guess, but it's probably is a decent case for getting rid of $100 bills to discourage their criminal use. Also probably a decent case for getting rid of Congress, honestly, or at least having them do something more productive than trolling each other about Bitcoin.

"Rogue Trader Jerome Kerviel on Bizarre Rome to Paris Pilgrimage Against 'Tyranny of Markets.'"

Yup. After meeting (?) Pope Francis, Kerviel is ... walking? traveling in some fashion that will take more than two weeks, anyway ... from Rome to Paris. "If he loses his appeal, Kerviel will have to stop his journey short of reaching Paris and head straight to prison," though they'll probably let him take a bus or something in that case.

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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