• 31 Mar 2008 at 12:15 PM
  • London

Just A Suggestion

poledancingclass.jpgFemale bankers in London are taking pole-dancing exercise classes. This would be “scandalous” if suburban housewives across the country, who’ve been taking these classes as well as “cardio strip tease” et al. at their local gyms for at least the past five years, hadn’t beaten them to the punch. At this point, everyone knows how to swing ’round one of these things and it’s no longer going to give you a leg up at work. Now, what would be interesting, and probably a more marketable skill? If some of these ladies (and/or gentlemen) would have the brass to attend the pole-smoking classes from the same instructor later that evening. Who knows? These services could come in handy at some I-banks unable to meet margin calls.
Pole-Dancing Classes Lure Eager Women Bankers in City of London [Bloomberg]

  • 04 Mar 2008 at 2:40 PM
  • London

New York Is The New New York, London Not So Much

London Is Fading.jpgRemember when London was the new New York? It was only a year ago that London was proclaimed the global capital of finance. But that story is so last year. New York City is back.
London’s reputation as the place where movers and shakers move and shake is suffering under the weight of recent financial scandals and political backlash against well-heeled financiers, the Financial Times reports today. A global survey of finance professionals undertaken by the City of London Corporation reveals the shift.
What’s dragging down London? The FT cites the collapse of Northern Rock as damaging the reputation of the City’s elite, but inventing SIVs and being responsible for some of the more exotic credit market related financial structures probably has not helped much either. Another downer: those Brit politicos keep threatening to raise taxes on private equity partners, hedge fund managers and non-domiciled residents. Meanwhile, the tax enforcers have been on something of an enforcement spree.
London’s edge over New York eroded [Financial Times]

  • 26 Jul 2007 at 11:00 AM
  • Banks

The Latest Round in the London vs. NYC Fight

London comes out on top again, as Morgan Stanely is shipping Walid Chammah, global head of M&A, across the pond. Morgan Stanley is the most relocation-happy out of the bulge brackets, now that London houses the bank’s I-banking chief, securities division COO and global head of capital markets.
Some oft-stated reasons for the push, from breakingviews:

The reasons are manifold. First and foremost is London’s geography. By straddling the time zones of Asia and North America, a globally-focused executive can wake up speaking with colleagues in Tokyo and pass the Jag ride home directing charges in New York. London is also more conveniently situated than New York for courting executives in Russia, China, the Middle East and India – the four horsemen of future industry growth.

The trend isn’t just affecting top positions, and doing its best to scrape the bottom of the barrel. More and more banker and trader underlings are getting shipped from NYC to the UK, or taking exploratory mini-work-“vacations,” to work a week or two in London. Some even say that the work environment in London as a result is becoming just as life-crushing, if not more so, than Wall Street. If anyone has any stories of the difference in work environment from any of these trips, comment or drop a line to *tips at dealbreaker dot com*.
Follow his Walid [breakingviews]

The UK’s De Facto Legalization of Insider Trading

insidertradingukfsa.jpgThe U.K. is in the midst of a grand experiment in the legalization of insider trading. Although technically prohibited, insider trading takes places ahead of a quarter all deals in the UK but there have been no prosecutions this year and only eight since 2001, according to the Financial Services Authority.
Responsible people assume that insider trading is hurting the status of UK as a trading hub. “If the U.K. aims to become a central place for international business then we must have impeccable quality control,” Peter Hahn, a former Citigroup investment banker and now fellow in corporate finance and government at Cass Business School in London told Bloomberg. “The scale of the problem is serious.”
The market seems to indicate otherwise. During this period of widespread de facto legal insider, the UK has become the most active market for initial public offerings. The number of IPOs in the UK this year is up 300% over the same period two years ago. It is now the third-largest equity market and accounts for about 20% of all trades in Europe.
While there must be costs associated with rampant insider trading, the benefits of non-enforcement may be even greater. Enforcement and compliance can deter market participation by investors. And insider trading itself can make the market more efficient by increasing the amount of information in the market.
No-one seems to be talking about these possibilities. Officials at the agency want to change the laws to make it easier to prosecute insider trading. And, of course, they want more money, staff and better office supplies. But “officials” of almost every sort always want more power, personnel, perks and money, so that’s hardly news.
What is news is that the UK has inadvertently undertaken this experiment in legalizing—or ‘legalising,’ as they would say—insider trading. And it seems to be working out pretty well.
FSA Struggles With Insider Trading That Doesn’t Happen in U.K. [Bloomberg]

  • 11 May 2007 at 11:59 AM
  • BP

BP: British On-the-dole-again

lordebrownREX0105_228x366.jpgLord Browne is out as a director of Goldman Sachs. The former BP chief, who’d been on the board since 1999, resigned yesterday, perhaps uncomfortable with the public revelations of his lying to a high court over how he met his boyfriend Jeff Chevalier, and the company funds his lavished on him. While Goldman typically touts the Victorian line when it comes to its employees, Lloyd Blankfein offered some kind words toward Browne (though it was unclear if his comments were drafted after he’d been assured the little “PR problem” would be going away). Said Blankfein:

Lord Browne has made an enormous contribution to Goldman Sachs and our culture of teamwork, excellence and client service. He has approached every issue with extraordinary business acumen and an absolute commitment to the firm’s success. His ability to identify and deal with the important issues affecting our business and our people has helped guide this institution since we became a public company.

And in an open letter in last week’s Financial Times, 67 senior execs from various companies, including Lazard’s Wasserstein and Reuters’s Glocer showed their support for Browne, or “got behind him,” as Dealbook noted. (We kid…we kid the DealBookies… but not really since they did say that. Beat us to the punch, scamps).
Meanwhile, new BP chief exec Tony Hayward is already off to a great start, despite coming under fire for two accidents at the Prudhoe Bay oilfield in Alaska, that happened on his watch (before the promotion). The findings will be puflished in Congress next week as part of an investigation into a “massive oil spill and production cutbacks” at Prudhoe Bay, which sounds quite similar to the findings in BP’s Texas City refinery blast, which The Guardian notes “scarred the image of the company.”
BP said it will not comment on the reports until they’re published next week, and after politicians raise their questions. Nipping things in the bud is really not their style.
Lord Browne resigns from Goldman Sachs [The Guardian]
Open Letter: Lord Browne – an immense contribution to business and arts [Financial Times]
Former BP Chief Quits Goldman’s Board [DealBook]

Read more »

  • 04 May 2007 at 2:04 PM
  • BP

Hayward’s BP

bp.pngEarlier this week, we established what the new BP will look like under the Hayward Regime. Less spa treatments. More tequila. Less “earth friendly”-type business. Now let’s take a look at what’s on Hayward’s to-do list for the next couple of months.
1. Keeping casualties on the BP premises at a minimum. Or, keeping news of deaths on the company’s watch at a minimum. The company has “suffered a series of accidents” in the last several years, and the critics have claimed they’re due to safety controls on par with airport security pre 9/11 and excessive cost cutting. In March 2005, an explosion at a Texas City refinery killed 15 and injured a few hundred more. So that looks kind of bad. As does the fact that it all could’ve been avoided had the higher-ups at the refinery heeded “serious warning signals.”
2. Keeping oil spills at a minimum. Last year there was one of those in Alaska, shutting down the nation’s biggest field, revealing “widespread corrosion problems in the pipeline network that BP operates” and “a Justice Department inquiry that is continuing.”

Read more »

Will Goldman Add Insult To Injury? (Typical)

lordebrownREX0105_228x366.jpgThere’s a new sheriff in BP town but will there be one at Goldman Sachs, too? The boys at Rupert Murdoch’s Deal Journal note that Lord Browne (John Browne, Baron Browne of Madingley) has been a director at Goldman since 1999 and wonder if recent revelations might threaten that position. The London Times reports that Browne will lose his night job (and the $500,000/year that comes with), though their sources were unnamed and Goldman representatives declined to comment. The Lord will retain his role on the advisory board (as chairman) of Apax Partners Worldwide, the U.K. p.e. firm, but, as Deal Journal points out, us provincial Americans, and the extremely image conscious Goldman Sachs in particular, may not be willing to overlook Browne’s use of company funds (and perjury).
While we can vouch that Goldman—more so than other banks we’ve encountered—is a bit fanatical about its reputation, and has instilled a certain fear in its employees (whenever we IM our friends at 85 Broad for insider information or for a recap on their nights at Tejune, they hardly ever write back), perhaps they’ll overlook what happened across the pond in light of Browne’s business acumen (and because he wasn’t using their money, hence, not their problem). It’s not like Lloyd Blankefein doesn’t have any skeletons of his own (Magic Mountain is all we can say and we’ve already said too much).

Lord Browne and an Unlucky Number at Goldman
[Deal Journal]
Browne-Goldman II: Apax Stands Firm [Deal Journal]
Apax Keeps Browne as Chairman After He Lied to Court [Bloomberg]
Lie over gay partner ends BP chief’s career [London Times]

  • 02 May 2007 at 9:55 AM
  • London

Outlook For The New BP

lordebrownREX0105_228x366.jpgHow will things change at BP under the new Tony Hayward regime? Since it was announced yesterday that chief exec John Browne had resigned, effective immediately, it’s the question that’s been weighing on all our minds (after “What would a hostile take-over by Rupert Murdoch feel like?” (A. Awkward) and “How can I get this wine stain out?” (A. Club soda and salt)). Luckily, Reuters has some nifty answers (and a few gay innuendos, too, ‘cause that’s how they roll).
First of all, the Starship BP will no longer have a Captain who kind people might refer to as “distinguished looking” (read: old); Hayward is a “boyish-looking 49 year-old.” Point: BP-TH. But don’t start celebrating just yet: Junior apparently has no interest in taking care of his appearance (in stark contrast to the “always immaculately-groomed Browne”), which means no more eye candy at the helm and almost certainly suggests that spa treatments for good employees on the company dime are over. Point: BP-LJB.
Reuters also notes that things may lighten up around the office with the more “down-to-earth” and less “distant” Hayward, which will likely please the staff, until it realizes that Mr. Good Times, who “doesn’t work on weekends apart from some Sunday evenings” and “takes all [his] holidays” is running BP into the toilet. Browne didn’t turn what was essentially a failed company into “the second-largest non-government controlled oil company in the world” by spending time with his wife and two children. Point: BP-LJB. (But also, Point: BP-TH, because who doesn’t love Tequila Tuesdays?)
The former chief exec’s devotion to the environment (Browne was instrumental in getting other oil companies to address global warming and CO2 caps) may also be shelved under Hayward. A spokesperson for BP claimed it would continue its green tech investments, but some people are not certain that Hayward has the same “dedication to green issues or his fondness for the accolades this brought.” A point of contention: some of you may care more about Browne’s use of company money in Boy’s Towne than trees and baby seals and vice versa (of course, this presupposes that Hayward won’t take a page from the John Browne/Todd Thomson School of Company Perks but what the hey, we’ll give him this one). So award this point as you see fit.
New BP boss may bring changes in style [Reuters]