Levine on Wall Street: Botox and Cupcakes

My new startup is a fake credit card that sends your friends a Yo when you use it to pay bitcoins for potato salad made iwth potatoes from Taylor Swift's garden.

Bill Ackman would like to introduce Allergan shareholders to some friends of his.

I'd love to have witnessed the negotiations in which Bill Ackman convinced six people who don't work for him to run for election to Allergan's board of directors. The idea is that, if he wins the proxy fight and they're elected, they'll vote for Allergan, which is best known for making Botox, to sell itself to Valeant (and Ackman's Pershing Square), though they can't commit to that: They'll be independent directors and have to follow their fiduciary duties. From Ackman's perspective, he wants people who are independent in a legal sense, impressive enough to be taken seriously by shareholders, and, you know, likely to vote for his deal. From their perspective, it seems like a pretty thankless job: If you do vote for the sale, you'll get sued, because directors who approve mergers always get sued, and if you don't vote for the sale then that's at least pretty rude to Ackman, after he went and got you this nice job. Also Ackman isn't paying them for their time, for obvious enough reasons, but still what is the incentive to do this? Unsurprisingly Allergan's response notes that its current board "includes individuals with significantly more industry experience than Pershing Square's nominees"; if you were an experienced pharma executive you'd probably want to avoid hostile deals.

What was Barclays thinking with its dark pool advertising?

Here is a good guess (login required, ungated version here), from a former dark pool operator. The key point is that Barclays wanted a lot of trading to happen in its dark pool, because that way it could avoid paying exchanges fees for routing orders away, and it could advertise a big market share in order to win new equity business. As I've argued, if you want to have a lot of trading in your dark pool, you need to let people who trade a lot into your dark pool. And if everyone thinks those people are "predatory," then, well, one option is to just pretend that they're not there. That seems to have been Barclays's approach.

Argentina isn't really negotiating.

Here is an opinion piece from Jay Newman, the Elliott Management portfolio manager who's supposed to be negotiating with Argentina over its holdout bonds, about how he'd really like to be negotiating with Argentina over its holdout bonds. Here is a press release from Argentina about how they'd rather not, thanks. Here is a Bloomberg News story about other holdout bondholders getting together to get involved. None of this seems like a good sign? Argentina's big interest payment due June 30 is really due at the end of this month, and without any negotiations it seems unlikely to be paid. And Argentina's style of negotiation seems to be meeting with the court's special master (without Elliott) and making "a detailed presentation of Argentina´s position in the litigation with the vulture funds, the genesis of the bonds under discussion (Megacanje), the causes of the 2001 default, and the numerous and effective measures taken between 2003 and the present to normalize the country's international financial relations." Telling everyone how right you are is a popular negotiation strategy, but it has not been a notable success for Argentina over the last 13 years.

Longevity swaps are fun.

Here is a story about how investment banks (okay fine, mostly insurance companies, but some investment banks) are betting billions of pounds that thousands of British people will die sooner than expected. Remember the controversy about investment banks being involved in both paper trading and physical assets, when those assets were electricity generation or aluminum? Well. Paul Kedrosky says it "can only be matter of time until [a] rogue investment bank goes nuclear."

The cupcake boom is over.

Crumbs Bake Shop is closing all of its 48 stores, and one day we'll all look back and laugh about how there was a Nasdaq-listed public company that just sold cupcakes. On the other hand, there's a Doughut Plant opening near me, so life will go on. And ... this ... I ... umm there's this potato salad thing that I'll just put here; maybe that's the next phase of whatever this is. Also a hedge fund has rescued American Apparel, another hedge fund has taken over JDate, and investment firms are increasingly taking over golf clubs. And returns to activism are up.

You can write anonymous negative comments about companies on the internet.

I mean, not that I'm advising you to, but Seeking Alpha won a state court case against a company that felt defamed by an anonymous Seeking Alpha contributor and sued to have the site turn over the contributor's real name. The trick, as always, is to link to source material for your facts, and to clearly flag your opinions with words like "we believe" or "it seems to us." You don't have to use the royal "we" though; that's not a legal requirement.

Things happen.

Coming soon, a terrible new business travel experience. The bank as "a place where you store your identity." And James Gorman thinks that "Cash as a physical entity will virtually cease to exist" and "Asset management will become the single-largest segment of financial services." Goldman's board is having some dinners.The deputy London Whale feels misunderstood. Rengan Rajaratnam is Raj Rajaratnam's brother but otherwise the evidence that he insider traded seems weak. Bloomberg's World Cup picks were good, though mine personally were not. Jim Simons just seems nice. Taylor Swift debates economics with Vox. Man admires Batman.

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:
    Zara Kessler at zkessler@bloomberg.net

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.