Levine on Wall Street: The End of Advice

There's a line here about investment advice from Ashton Kutcher that I'm worried you'll think is a joke. It's not. Ashton Kutcher: recommending blue-chip stocks, and bitcoins, on the internet.

Nobody wants to be a financial adviser.

"Of the 315,000 advisers working in the United States, only 5 percent are younger than 30," and the average financial adviser is older than 50. One assumes that travel agents also skew old. You can actually buy index funds on the internet now. The kids today Yo-ing each other bitcoins on their smartphones have no time for fuddy-duddy financial advice. They want extreme financial advice, provided over the internet, preferably by Ashton Kutcher. Also though the compensation model is horrible:

Advisers used to rely on commissions, meaning that they would make money from every transaction executed on a client’s behalf. But the industry has shifted more toward a fee-based model, which pays an adviser a percentage of the money under management. That may be fine for an older adviser who has a large book of clients, but it can be a deterrent for people just starting out in the business. ...

Big banks are also seeking to improve the compensation situation. Bank of America and others are offering a base salary to newer advisers, for example, to help them get started.

There's this image that investment banks' banking and trading operations are crazy and risk-loving, and that retail brokerage is a calm steady world, but the psychological makeups must go the other way. No investment banker or trader would put up with not getting a salary and making only whatever business he can bring in by cold-calling.

Morgan Stanley is popular.

Morgan Stanley got 90,000 applications for its summer analyst and summer associate programs in 2014, from 275 schools, and hired around 1,000 people (1.4 percent of applicants) accepted. Meanwhile Goldman's investment banking division "selected 350 summer analysts from a pool of more than 17,000 applicants" in 2013, or 2.1 percent. Is Morgan Stanley really five times more popular than Goldman Sachs? I am intensely biased but that seems odd (though it is in different years -- maybe 2014 picked up everywhere). My assumption would have been that Morgan Stanley's sizable retail brokerage operation has something to do with it. Except that nobody wants to be a financial adviser? I don't know.

White-collar crime roundup.

"Officials at Germany's Deutsche Bank AG, Italy's UniCredit SpA and France's Crédit Agricole SA are all now bracing for bigger penalties than they had previously expected to resolve investigations into alleged violations of U.S. sanctions," because BNP Paribas seems to be heading toward $9 billion for its sanctions violations. It's very difficult to model whether there's a first-mover advantage or disadvantage in settling with U.S. prosecutors; the notion of what is an acceptable penalty does seem to ratchet up over time, but on the other hand prosecutors do seem to want to make a splash with their first settlement in each category and then lose a bit of interest as time goes by.

Elsewhere "Bernard Madoff’s former accountant, Paul Konigsberg, pleaded guilty aiding the biggest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history," but while "he admitted falsifying records" he also said "I was not aware of Madoff’s horrible and evil Ponzi scheme," because I guess he thought that "backdat[ing] trades to show gains instead of losses" was normal? Or, like, maybe he thought it was a little Ponzi-ish, but not "horrible and evil" Ponzi-ish? And David Higgs, the Credit Suisse banker "who had pleaded guilty to lying about the value of mortgage-backed bonds in 2007, avoided time in prison after cooperating with prosecutors"; his boss, against whom he cooperated, got two and a half years.

Halliburton and white-collar sentencing.

The Supreme Court's partial rejection of the idea of market efficiency may make it harder for the government to prove that insider traders and other white-collar criminals are responsible for losses:

Halliburton could be helpful in securities fraud sentencing cases inasmuch as the government usually lumps all the victims together to determine a collective “loss” for sentencing purposes without introducing any evidence that any particular victim (save for those few who may have testified at any trial) relied on any misrepresentations of the defendant. Such a collectivization of victim losses, therefore, implicitly invokes the Basic efficient market presumption allowing the government to side-step having to prove reliance by any particular victim. But just as the Commission’s (relatively new and untested) modified recissory method for calculating loss in securities fraud case is subject to rebuttal, so too is the Basic presumption. In light of today’s ruling in Halliburton, counsel should consider providing the Court evidence that any misrepresentation by the defendant lacked “price impact” on the victims sufficient to overcome the de facto Basic presumption with respect to collective victim losses. In this way, the Government would be required to provide evidence how individual victims relied on any misrepresentations.

CFA vs. MBA.

Ha, people are still talking about this, weigh in in the comments or whatever.

Things happen.

Martin Wolf on Argentina. Felix Salmon on Argentina. Tyler Cowen interviews Ralph Nader. Marc Andreessen tweets about the deep structure of tech industry innovation. A good World Cup bet. A Trappist monk shortage. A Hillshire headline pun. Ghana Sends Plane With $3 Million to Calm World Cup Team. Man Decides to Push Brussels Sprouts Up Mountain With His Nose.

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    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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