Levine on Wall Street: The Political Dominance of the Cabal

Jimmy Lee has connections, Blythe Masters has bodyguards, Point72 has fleeces, and an evil elf impersonates me. Also Mark Gorton has some theories, would you like to hear them?

High-frequency trader has a hobby .

You know who thinks that George H.W. Bush masterminded 9/11 and that the CIA shot John F. Kennedy and a bunch of other stuff? Tower Research's Mark Gorton, that's who, says Hamilton Nolan at Gawker, based on an eleven-billionty-page unfinished dossier that Gorton ... apparently wrote and then sent to Gawker? Everything is nuts.

JPMorgan missed earnings .

$1.28 versus $1.46 estimates.

Jimmy Lee is a really good banker .

"A week ago, Jimmy Lee, who is the vice chair of JPMorgan, called me and said he had been meeting with Carl on something completely unrelated, but he saw opportunity for some sort of compromise," said eBay's CEO about a banker who was not the banker whom he'd hired to negotiate between eBay and Carl Icahn. Because Jimmy Lee's job is to be friends with CEOs and investors, and what's a jumped mandate among friends? "JPMorgan may end up receiving its remuneration for the deal's brokering more in goodwill than in greenbacks, however, given that it wasn't the bank of record and it was unclear, as a result, whether it would receive any fees," but goodwill is precisely the currency in which Lee transacts.

Oh Blythe.

Apparently Blythe Masters wanted to go with JPMorgan's physical commodities business as chief executive officer. The hints were subtle but if you were paying attention you'd notice them:

Included in the binder that JPMorgan distributed to some of the bidders was an organizational chart titled, "Possible NewCo management team."

The chart listed the executive jobs that would exist after the sale of the bank's commodities business, such as the president and chief operating officer. All remained blank, except the box for the chief executive officer. That contained Masters's name.

(Also subtle: "Her arrival at some of the meetings, with an escort of bodyguards, left an impression on her unit's suitors.") Among the leading bidders Blackstone "appeared to have an inside track" and wanted to hire Masters, but faded late over worries about legal issues, leaving the field to Mercuria, which was less worried and had less need for her.

SAC Capital is a convicted felon.

But Point72 is not? Or I guess it is? The judge said of SAC's insider trading, "these crimes were clearly motivated by greed," which is unhelpful. Adorno says:

To present processes within large-scale industry as transactions between crooked vegetable dealers suffices for a momentary shock-effect, but not for dialectical theatre. The illustration of late capitalism by images from the agrarian or criminal registers does not permit the monstrosity of modern society to emerge in full clarity from the complex phenomena masking it. Rather, the unconcern for the phenomena, which ought themselves to be derived visibly from their essence, distorts the essence. It harmlessly interprets the seizure of power on the highest level as the machination of rackets outside society, not as the coming-to-itself of society as such.

Anyway now there are Point72 fleeces.

Dark pools might be in trouble.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, which has an "intense" but ironically slow focus on high-frequency trading and market-structure issues, is considering adopting a "trade-at" rule that would require stocks to trade on lit exchanges unless they could execute at a "meaningfully better price" in a dark pool. "It is unclear how the SEC would define a meaningfully better price." Meanwhile "Several of the world's largest asset managers are discussing the creation of a joint equity trading venue," led by Fidelity, so I guess IEX isn't good enough for them?

What's Vista Equity Partners up to?

Among other things in this interesting article, Vista hires salespeople for its enterprise-software-focused portfolio companies in a sensible way:

Using a personality test first developed by IBM that gauges technical and social skills, as well as a candidate's interest in the arts and humanities, Vista assembles a decidedly unusual work force. ... One of Vista's best software salesmen used to be a roofer. Another previously worked at a Verizon store, and went to making $240,000 a year, from $22,000. In Iowa, a pizza deliveryman took the Vista aptitude test, got an A, and was offered a job paying $43,000 annually.

It's pretty weird that so many financial companies hire what are essentially salespeople based on academic skills rather than, y'know, "technical and social skills."

"Loans will ' act like a fixed-rate instrument in the short run.'"

More than 85 percent of junk-rated bank loans have 1 percent Libor floors, so even as rates move up, their coupons will stay the same for a long time. If you bought loans as a way to invest in credit while hedging against interest rates, you might be disappointed.

Things happen.

What is stock? "There's only one thing I really like to do, and that is posting inspirational quotes about work, ambition, and success on Pinterest." The Delaware Court of Chancery can have you arrested. Frat bitcoin. French people don't actually have to stop answering work emails at 6 p.m. r > g? Drunks and lamp posts. And what about Rawls?

What is this.

Here you can listen to what looks like an evil elf robotically reciting a paragraph I once wrote about high-frequency trading. The internet is a weird place.

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:
    Zara Kessler at zkessler@bloomberg.net

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