Levine on Wall Street: Conquering the Sun

Argentina is having a bad week. Point72 is having a good year. Barclays is having investigations, mostly, though also earnings. 

Watch out for those electromagnetic pulses.

Paul Singer's hedge fund Elliott Management is best known this week for its duel unto death with Argentina, but it's got other things on its mind too. Not piddling little things like "horrendous nuclear war," which "can be relatively localized," but the big stuff: "an electromagnetic pulse event massively disrupting the electronic grid," like it did during "an 1859 solar disturbance known as the Carrington Event that caused disruption to the telegraph network." They want the world to, y'know, fix that. It's fun to imagine Singer as an upgraded King Canute, holding back the waves of the sun while also waging a bitter naval war with a foreign power. But I think about this sort of thing a lot. Not electromagnetic pulses exactly, which are a little recherché for me, but I frequently imagine being a billionaire and then immediately become panicked about losing my billions. What is the point of being a billionaire if not to insure yourself against catastrophe? There are conventional catastrophe hedges -- Singer owns a lot of gold, etc. -- but you can't have that much confidence in those hedges in the zombie-apocalypse scenario. One solution is farmland/guns/walled compounds, but I guess the other is to invest heavily in preventing zombie and sunspot and other apocalypses. If modern civilization lets you live like a king, it seems reasonable to invest some of your extra money in making sure that modern civilization continues.

Don't hold your breath on Argentina.

"As Talks Falter, Bond Default by Argentina Appears Likely," understates DealBook; the deadline is today and "Argentina's representatives and the holdout creditors met face to face for the first time Tuesday," unproductively. But actually here's sort of a clever plan whereby private Argentine parties -- the national banking association, Adeba -- would buy the holdout creditors' claims for cash. This would avoid the problems of Argentina settling with the holdout creditors (loss of face from surrendering to vultures, the RUFO clause that sort of prohibits better settlements with holdouts than the exchange bondholders got), but would leave Argentina to negotiate with considerably more sympathetic counterparties who would be willing to let it pay interest today and ultimately settle the claims for bonds next year. Seems a bit late for all of this but, you know, good luck! Also there are various requests for stays and appeals and so forth but definitely don't hold your breath on those.

Point72 is doing great.

Steve Cohen's 850-person, $9 to $10 billion family office is up 9 percent this year, versus 2.5 percent for the average hedge fund, and with probably almost no insider trading at all. In all seriousness you can see why Point72 would be motivated to have a good year, even besides the fact that it's all the boss's money: If you perform well even with prosecutor-appointed monitors to prevent insider trading, then I guess that retroactively proves that your previous 22 years of performance were not just about the insider trading. On the other hand, Point72 will seamlessly take over some of the most important work done by its disgraced predecessor, SAC Capital Management: "it will again sponsor a giant balloon inflation celebration and parade in downtown Stamford, Conn., on Nov. 22."

Qatalyst is serious about its M&A tails.

So this story seems to say that Frank Quattrone's Qatalyst Partners signed an engagement letter to sell Trulia to Zillow three years ago, and it never happened, but that letter had a "tail" of at least three years providing that if Trulia was sold to Zillow -- ever? three years seems like a long time for a tail -- then Qatalyst would get its 2 percent fee. Trulia ended up hiring JPMorgan for this round of selling itself to Zillow, but Qatalyst stuck to its guns and demanded a chunk of the fee. That seems a little harsh but is after all the point of negotiating these tails; every so often they pay off and you get a windfall fee. But Qatalyst got a little piggy and demanded advisory credit in Trulia's press release, which seems to have enraged JPMorgan enough to run to DealBook to make fun of Qatalyst. I have no problem with this, Qatalyst. JPMorgan has lending and cross-selling and lots of other ways to get M&A assignments. You've got to rely on your wits, and stand on your rights. More power to you.

Barclays had earnings.

Somewhere in this pile of news about investigations and settlements and frauds and lawsuits and restructurings and monitors and extensions of nonprosecution agreements for possible prosecution, there's probably some earnings news. Perhaps you can find it.

Look forward to Twitter getting worse.

Oh look Twitter might change its feed to be a Facebook-style algorithm, that will be super. Wall Street, as they say, is very happy with Twitter's earnings, and its plans to be ubiquitous and ad-filled. The usual lessons apply: What's good for the stock isn't always good for customers, but also, if you're not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product.

Things happen.

JPMorgan is firing support staff. Don't invest in fake solar farms. How much would you pay for dinner with Mike Corbat? New Non-SAAP Measure. "I think there's plenty of inflation, but my definition of inflation is a little different than the rest," oh, please, do go on. Arizona’s First Bitcoin ATM Struck by Lightning. Clown Suffers Minor Injuries in Clown Car Crash. Mystery of Oxford’s ‘cheesy pig swill’ pong. The Argentina taxi king senses opportunity. Watch DMX Lose His Mind on a Florida Amusement Park Ride.

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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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