Weil on Finance: John Calipari's Hindsight Bias

Jonathan Weil joined Bloomberg News as a columnist in 2007, and his columns on finance and accounting won Best in the Business awards from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers in 2009 and 2010.
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It's Wednesday, View fans. And you know what that means! Time for Wednesday morning links. Here we go.

Hindsight bias isn't just for stock-market investors.

University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari has a book coming out in which he says the NCAA is doomed to extinction unless it mends its ways. "The situation reminds me a little of the Soviet Union in its last years," Calipari wrote, according to the Wall Street Journal. "It was still powerful. It could still hurt you. But you could see it crumbling, and it was just a matter of time before it either changed or ceased to exist." And in retrospect, the lesson here is that Calipari should have become the head of the Central Intelligence Agency (or maybe a billionaire hedge-fund manager) instead of a basketball coach. As some of you may remember, the CIA didn't see that the Soviet Union was crumbling until very late in the game. And looking back, I have no doubt the CIA would have caught on a lot sooner had Calipari been there. As Robert Gates said in 1992 when he was CIA director, it wasn't until 1989, two years before the Soviet Union was dissolved, that agency analysts began "to think that the entire edifice might well collapse."


Speakingof apocalyptic forecasts. . .

The International Monetary Fund's World Economic Outlook "now estimates only a 0.1 per cent probability of global recession in 2014, compared with a 6 per cent chance last October," according to this Financial Times article. So I wonder if this means we're all doomed, because there's no way something like this is quantifiable. Recessions happen fairly regularly; in the U.S. there have been 10 since 1945, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. Yet there's only a 1-in-1,000 chance we'll have a global recession this year? I hope the IMF's economists are right, but how would they know that?


Steven Cohen is running a family office in more ways than one .

Nice catch by Matthew Goldstein at Dealbook: "The degree of separation between Steven A. Cohen and Bart M. Schwartz, the consultant selected last week to monitor the operations of the former SAC Capital Advisors, is closer than previously known. The son of an executive at Mr. Schwartz's consulting firm is a portfolio manager at Point72 Asset Management, which will now manage much of Mr. Cohen's personal fortune." But hey, what's a little conflict of interest between friends?


The SEC's press office seems to be very much into search-engine optimization these days.

If you're a fraudster from a warm-weather city, beware, especially if you use the Internet. The SEC's public-relations apparatus wants to get clicks out of you. Check out these headlines yesterday from actual SEC news releases.

  • SEC, Criminal Authorities Halt Florida-Based Ponzi Scheme Targeting Investors Through YouTube
  • SEC Announces Charges Against Honolulu Woman Defrauding Investors Through Social Media
  • SEC Charges Las Vegas-Based Transfer Agent With Disclosure Failures in Registration Forms


Big U.S. banks soon will have to start holding a lot more capital.

About $68 billion more to start out, according to the number that's in all of the papers this morning. The new minimum leverage ratio will be 5 percent. Tom Hoenig, vice chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., seems to be pleased with the new requirements. That's a good sign, because nobody has been banging this drum louder than he has. The link takes you to his remarks from yesterday: "I realize that the financial stability of a firm or industry depends on a host of factors. Economic performance and the quality of management are at the top of the list of such factors. However, capital is also a key element in that it provides stable funding and an important margin for error that all firms require to manage through poor economic conditions and mistakes in judgment. After all, we should not ask banks to stop taking risks, but we absolutely should expect banks to assume responsibility for those risks by providing themselves an adequate capital cushion. I am confident that supervisors will rely increasingly on the leverage ratio, as the market already does, to judge a firm's capital levels, loss absorbing capacity, and balance sheet strength."


Can Box Inc. get its IPO to market before demand for shares of awful tech companies evaporates?

From Mark DeCambre at Quartz: "Technology markets look like they're on the fritz. So is this the right time for a money-losing cloud storage company to try and raise hundreds of millions in cash from prospective investors? That's the question Box Inc. will try and answer when the file-sharing startup kicks off the marketing phase—the road show, if you will—of its planned initial public offering. Sources say the firm could launch the road show, in which the company and its bank underwriters outline the merits of its business to prospective investors, as early as next week." Sources also say that sources shouldn't violate quiet periods by talking secretly to nosy reporters, but I digress. Here's a risk factor that should have been in Box's registration statement but wasn't: Watch out for companies run by people who wear orange sneakers and white socks with sport coats in public places.

One more college-basketball story before we go.

Back to John Calipari for a moment, all kidding aside, my guess is he's probably right about the NCAA. This New Yorker article by Ian Crouch about University of Connecticut basketball star Shabazz Napier helps explain why: "Speaking to reporters earlier in the tournament, Napier said that while he had played for Connecticut—making money for the school, his coaches, Nike, and so many other stakeholders in the system—he had not always had enough spending money to buy food."

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:
James Greiff at jgreiff@bloomberg.net