Levine on Wall Street: Fancy Headphones and Secret Jets

Q. What do Dr. Dre and Mathew Martoma have in common? A. Each has been described publicly as a "grain of sand." Also, they are both in this linkwrap.

Apple is buying Beats.

All the thinkpieces about this were written three weeks ago when it was first rumored, but now I guess they'll be written again, because Apple is actually buying Beats Electronics to get its hands on its headphones, its streaming music service, and a couple of under-the-radar employees named Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre:

“These guys are really unique,” Mr. Cook said. “It’s like finding the precise grain of sand on the beach. They’re rare and very hard to find.”

Speaking of unheralded talents here is the story of Adrian Perica, a former Goldman Sachs banker who runs M&A at Apple and who, under Tim Cook, actually gets to do some M&A.

Jos. A. Bank had a secret corporate jet.

I enjoyed this Bethany McLean column about Jos. A. Bank's leased corporate jet, which has among other things a lovely bit of accounting sneakiness. If you have a corporate jet to fly your chief executive officer from his home in Florida to your headquarters in Maryland, that's "personal use" and has to be reported as compensation to him. But if you set up "additional executive offices" for him in Florida, and fly him from his office in Florida to your headquarters in Maryland, that's business use and doesn't have to be reported. You get the sense that the rules were not really intended to let you avoid reporting by just setting up a fakeish office next door to the CEO's house, but here we are.

Insider trading roundup.

Here is Paul Murphy on Ian Hannam, the English insider dealer whom we discussed yesterday; Murphy calls the U.K. insider dealing regime "unworkable" since it "involves pursuing upright citizens for synthetic crimes." Steve Cohen still has an insider trading case against him, remember, though it's just a Securities and Exchange Commission administrative action, it's been on hold since August, and the prosecutors now want to delay it further because they're not sure what the law is. And Mathew Martoma doesn't think he should go to prison for 15 to 20 years for two weeks of insider trading, which I have to say seems right.

Square loans.

This is a pretty interesting story about how Square, a smartphone-credit-card-reader company, has started offering its business customers loans that are paid back out of their future credit card receipts. The key is this:

To show the benefits of Square Capital, [Square head of product Gokul] Rajaram pointed to Caroline Bell, owner of Café Grumpy. She used an early version of the service to grab the money she needed to open her sixth location, in New York’s Grand Central Station. Bell told WIRED that in the past, she spent six months on paperwork to get a traditional loan. Square Capital delivered in about a day. “You get cash quickly and you don’t have to think about it anymore,” she said.

One gets the sense that Square's loans are not cheap, and that competing with banks for loans by being responsive and technology-driven could be pretty lucrative.

Shareholder lawsuits are awful.

Every time there's a merger there's a lawsuit that settles for some meaningless disclosure and a fee to the lawyers, in exchange for which the companies are released from any liability. This is good for the lawyers who bring the cases (legal fees), the lawyers who defend the cases (also legal fees), and for the companies' directors and managers (release from liability). It is less good as a use of the legal system, but everyone involved in the system enjoys it too much for it to change, as Ronald Barusch explains here.

Congress is awful.

Here's a story about Wall Street and the Congressional Black Caucus, and it's pretty much 3,500 words of undiluted cynicism. It's all horse-trading and politics; the merits of, say, derivatives regulation don't seem to get much attention in Washington. And why should they? The actual policy work is outsourced:

In June, 28 CBC members sent a letter to the Department of Labor, urging it to reconsider a rule requiring retirement account managers and investment advisers to act in their clients' best interests -- what is known in finance as a "fiduciary duty." [CBC chairwoman Marcia] Fudge told us she was worried the rule would limit minority access to financial advice. But the letter was actually written by Robert Lewis, a lobbyist at the Financial Services Institute, who forgot to scrub his metadata from the document before circulating it around the Hill.

I'm not sure this even counts as an "oops"; as a lobbyist, you probably get high-fives when congresspeople circulate your letter without even taking your name off of it.

Things happen.

Relating Piketty to textbook macro. (And more from the FT.) The Marx century. Sterne Agee is increasingly ambitious. Bill Ackman is raising public money. The Ziff Brothers are shutting down. Bitcoin bots. Flying buzzsaw. This collection of a Snapchat founder's college fraternity emails is a really good case for communicating only over Snapchat. Tricia Lockwood's new book is out and, while it is not strictly "on Wall Street," it's not like a little poetry will kill you. Here is Dwight Garner's review (one poem is "the least insipid thing to ever receive 100,000 likes on Facebook"); here is a New York Times Magazine profile; here is one of my favorite Lockwood poems. And since we're having some poetry, here is Anne Carson on Proust ("The problems of Albertine are (from the narrator’s point of view) a) lying b) lesbianism, and (from Albertine’s point of view) a) being imprisoned in the narrator’s house.")

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:
    Matthew S Levine at mlevine51@bloomberg.net

    To contact the editor on this story:
    Toby Harshaw at tharshaw@bloomberg.net

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