Levine on Wall Street: Virtual Money and Virtual Reality

Lloyd Blankfein is the bank CEO most beloved by his employees, but Jamie Dimon is the one whose potential successors quit the most often. 

Nobody wants to be JPMorgan's CEO-in-waiting.

Mike Cavanagh is leaving to be chief-executive-in-waiting at Carlyle Group instead. This makes him like the millionth Jamie Dimon successor to leave JPMorgan before actually succeeding. One theory is that "Running a bank isn't what it used to be," and that there's not much attraction in hanging around making only $17 million a year and waiting to succeed to a stressful CEO job that doesn't pay much more than that. So let me just put on the record: If you're reading this and you're a JPMorgan director, call me, I will totally take that job. I think running a big bank would probably be more fun than running a private equity firm, and I could live on $17 million a year. I'm a very reasonable person.

Why is Facebook buying Oculus?

This is why, realistically. (Breakingviews: "not just for the obvious gaming potential -- Oculus' initial market -- but ultimately for social interactions," so, yep.) Felix Salmon thinks Mark Zuckerberg is just conglomerating by buying cool stuff, which is definitely what I would do if I came into hundreds of billions of dollars suddenly. Joseph Cotterill basically agrees:

If, somehow, both [WhatsApp and Oculus] are once-in-a-generation avenues to world domination, then shareholders would hardly complain from their gilded dual-class cage about Facebook becoming a holding company for various properties in world domination, rather than a social network people actually like, and where advertisers see value in selling stuff.

That seems right, though it'll be jarring when your virtual reality world is rearranged every week to show you more ads.

Will bank assets go up in the next crisis?

The Fed says yes, which I thought was a little weird but not implausible. Here is a bank consultant at Moody's who thinks it's a little weird but not implausible, pointing out that loan utilization rates do rise at the beginnings of recessions -- as customers draw down revolving facilities and home equity lines of credit for much-needed cash -- and only fall later on. "It is this pattern that renders bank activity as a lagging indicator of the overall economy," and that makes it reasonable for the Fed to worry about assets growing at the same time capital is decreasing.

How much should you charge the government to sell its bank shares?

The going rate is zero: "The U.K. government sold a second portion of its holding in Lloyds Banking Group PLC last night without handing the banks a penny in fees and agreeing they would collect no commissions from investors, in spite of the 'juggernaut' of a deal clocking in as the biggest accelerated bookbuild outside the U.S." But they'll make it up in volume.

Will Deutsche Bank issue cocos ?

Apparently "Deutsche Bank is preparing about €5bn of contingent convertible, or coco, bonds once it receives final approval from the country's finance ministry," though there is still a delay as Germany figures out if coco coupons should be tax deductible. Obviously what you want, as a bank, is a thing that is debt for all purposes where you want debt (tax deductibility, leverage), and equity for all purposes where you want equity (capital regulation, not needing to be repaid).

What weird Bitcoin stuff is happening?

If you live, or have ever lived, in "the small exurb of Los Angeles known as Temple City," lock your doors, because a reporter is about to show up at your house and ask you if you invented Bitcoin. (Did you?) Forbes's Temple City candidate seems more plausible than Newsweek's, though he's got the wrong name. If you've been buying stuff with Bitcoins, you probably owe the IRS a bunch of money, or else the IRS owes you a bunch of money; depends on when you bought the stuff and when you bought the Bitcoins. Either way, though, hahaha, enjoy your low-cost frictionless unregulated transactions. There will be a Dogecoin race car, because nothing goes together like internet-meme joke virtual currencies and Nascar.

How do you play Monopoly?

"People who have taken the rules into their own hands are probably trying to more closely emulate what they see happening in financial markets around the country and on Wall Street," says an international trade economist. About Monopoly. It's a theory.

Are you Herbalife ?

"Weight loss and nutrition company Herbalife launched a website on Tuesday that details its business practices and counters claims made by billionaire investor William Ackman that it is running an illegal pyramid scheme." Ackman's website is herbalifepyramidscheme.com, and I had the briefest shining moment of hope that Herbalife's would be herbalifenotpyramidscheme.com, but no, it's iamherbalife.com. It's mostly testimonials about weight loss, because the big Herbalife controversy is, does it mainly offer customers the chance to lose weight, or to make money?

Who is the most beloved bank CEO?

Lloyd, duh.

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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