Levine on Wall Street: Boardroom Drama

Also, high-frequency trading lawsuits and Herbalife inquiries, which are two of the least surprising things imaginable.

Marty Lipton is consistent.

Marty Lipton thinks that boards and executives should run companies without too much input from shareholders. Marty Lipton is also the chairman of NYU's board. How's that working out?

More than a decade ago, Mr. Lipton handpicked Dr. Sexton without any systematic search process — and for years the board could congratulate itself on its choice. During Dr. Sexton's tenure, admission applications have risen 45 percent, and N.Y.U. has attracted top-level professors and administrators.

But under a cloud of faculty unrest, Dr. Sexton announced in August that he would step down at the end of his term, in 2016. In the past two years, faculty anger at Dr. Sexton and the board has marred the university's increasingly high profile.

So, mixed. (Also, goofily, NYU's board has 65 members, some of whom seem not to show up to meetings but are Lipton's buddies.) A really fun project for Carl Icahn would be to mount a dissident slate of directors for NYU's board.

Tech investors top-ticked.

Here is a Financial Times story about how investors in tech companies unloaded shares in the months leading up to the recent slump, both in the form of insider selling in public companies and in the form of private-company investors selling stakes in fundraising rounds. But of course the recent glut of tech initial public offerings is another example. Of course smart investors sell more the higher valuations get, and the best time to sell is always just before the crash. Meanwhile companies that don't need money are in the best position to raise more money, which is also intuitive.

Ooh a high-frequency trading lawsuit.

"CME Group Inc., owner of the world's largest futures market, was sued by users who allege the company sold order information to high-frequency traders ahead of other market participants." CME says, "The suit is devoid of any facts supporting the allegations and, even worse, demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of how our markets operate." Its spelling is also unimpressive. There's gonna be a whole lot more of this, are you excited?

There's an Herbalife criminal inquiry.

You should probably just assume that the FBI is conducting a criminal inquiry into every person and company in America and most of the ones abroad, so I don't know how newsy this one is. Nobody seems to know if anything will come of it, and at this point Herbalife inquiries have a $20-bill-on-the-ground problem, where if they were going to result in anything they'd already have resulted in something. But the stock was down 14 percent on Friday, so some flavor of efficiency is wrong.

"Appraisal arbitrage."

I suppose "merger arbitrage" got this terminological ball rolling but there is nothing arbitrage-y about voting against a merger and then hoping that a judge thinks you got ripped off and should get more money. It is getting more popular now, and it keeps working: "About 81% of Delaware appraisals that went to trial since 1993 have yielded higher prices," plus interest.

Executive pay exhibits downward nominal rigidity .

Are you surprised?

Things happen.

Should Greece default? Citigroup fired another Prince. Law firms keep merging. Gisele got audited. A theory of Tesla's business model. The Bank of Facebook. If you make $5 million a year, why would you turn down a little more? Check your phone at the door. Chicken corsages.

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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