Levine on Wall Street: BNP and Boys' Clubs

Warning: This linkwrap contains a hashtag. Also a lot of stuff about BNP Paribas; it's what's happening.

Some BNP stuff.

I don't know, there's a lot of it. First, "Research suggests that overseas firms like BNP Paribas do in fact pay bigger fines and plead guilty more often than United States companies"; this probably didn't actually require research. This Breakingviews column provides several theories but mine goes something like: Foreign banks are less good at following American law because they are not patriotic Americans and don't necessarily believe in American law in the way that American banks do. I confess that this theory has some weak bits; you might, for instance, not believe that banks can want to obey the law in any meaningful sense, or you might not believe that American banks actually do. Anyway here is a story about all the companies lining up to get into Iran if sanctions are lifted.

Second, here is a claim that U.S. diplomats "hinted" to the French government that, if France didn't deliver two Mistral-class helicopter carriers to Russia, "They would quietly get rid of the sanctions against the bank, or at least minimize them." There is no evidence for this claim, and the person making it is somewhat unreliable, but on the other hand, if you're using bank penalties as an instrument of foreign policy (enforcing sanctions on Sudan, etc.), why wouldn't you use them as a bargaining chip for other foreign policy goals?

Third, here are some complaints about the lack of individual accountability for top executives, and the ease with which they can blame "rogue employees" for wrongdoing. In general I am not sympathetic to these complaints: I think banks really are set up in a way that doesn't require the chief executive's signature on every decision to break the law! It strikes me as weird magical thinking to believe that somewhere there are recordings of bank CEOs being all "oh let's do crimes." But in the case of BNP Paribas, it is hard to imagine that top executives were unaware that BNP was doing business in Sudan. It's a whole country. And the way the world works is, "doing business in Sudan," for a bank, means "transacting in dollars with Sudan." And that by itself pretty much violates U.S. law.

Some Twitter stuff.

Do people outside of the media care about this stuff? I often wonder. Anyway, tech banker Anthony Noto left Goldman to be chief financial officer of Twitter, where he will be #indispensable, and let's all hope that that's the last hashtag I ever put in this linkwrap. Meanwhile, this Telegraph article about how Morgan Stanley retail brokers will be allowed to write their own tweets is a straight-up masterpiece; every sentence is perfect but here are a few chosen at random:

The company told advisers on Monday if they take a 20 minute online training course and have at least 15 followers, they can create their own 140-character messages and retweet content from firm-approved Twitter accounts. ...

However, all messages are moderated by a supervisor, with a decision on approval generally coming within several hours ...

That would probably be a good rule for media companies too, honestly. In other news Morgan Stanley retail brokers are getting a pay cut, and what social media platform do you think they'll use to complain about that? (The answer is Yo.)

Some boys' club stuff.

Somehow Tinder is gross? Who would have thought it. The lawsuit against the hookup app company, brought by a co-founder (!), includes lots of allegations of sexual harassment, a general background of bro culture and devaluation of women's contributions, and also something about "a text depicting IAC Chairman Barry Diller as a penis." It makes the sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit against Goldman look positively tame. But oh yeah -- there's a sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit against Goldman, and the plaintiffs are trying to get it certified as a class action because of "widespread gender discrimination and a 'boy’s club' atmosphere that included bouts of binge drinking and trips to strip clubs."

Hedge fund correlation.

Josh Brown has a good succinct explanation: Markets are way up over the last few years, and "who the [bad word] wants to be non-correlated to that?"

So we see a drift toward market beta happening across the $2.7 trillion hedge fund industry. ... On the plus side, increased correlation with the market has been good for hedge fund investors -- markets have basically gone straight up, after all. On the minus side, you’ve certainly been paying through the nose for this .93 correlation -- if I sold you a Vanguard index fund and then deducted a 2% management fee along with 20% of each year’s gains, would you buy it? No? How about if I sweetened the deal by gating your assets so they couldn’t be touched most of the year, would that do the trick?

Things happen.

Jamie Dimon has cancer. Nicolas Sarkozy is in trouble. Prosecutors want to put Jesse Litvak in prison for nine years for making up stories about bonds. Rengan Rajaratnam's situation keeps improving. How to Delegate Your Email to an Assistant. How to stop your employees from streaming the World Cup. Two euros. "A leading hypothesis is that Belgium has benefited from not having a government." New SEC guidelines on proxy voting. Rob Ford was berated by, who else, a shirtless jogger. Bear eats cookies. Dogs eat chicken bones. Bitcoin pizza extortion.

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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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