Over at Dealbook today, you will find a story about how banks like JP Morgan and BofA are “devising low-fee banking especially for customers with troubled finances,” in spite of the fact that such products are “not expected to make the bank[s] any profit.” And while many argue that the sole motivation is to garner some good PR after doing things like foreclosing on someone who wasn’t in default and stealing her parrot, to boot, it’s nevertheless a nice thing to do. Not having much familiarity with how the other other other half lives, it took some time to figure out how to best serve the needs of these new clients, who Bank America started a sociology department to study. Read more »
Luckily, Steve Cohen could count on Goldman to loan him some scratch. Read more »
It’s Going To Take A Lot More Than A $325 Million Buyback For This Hedge Fund Manager To Start Taking Sotheby’s SeriouslyBy Bess Levin
Back in October, hedge fund manager Dan Loeb sat down at his desk to pen a letter to auction house Sotheby’s, wherein he informed management that, among other things, they don’t know dick about contemporary art. The Third Point founder went on to list the many ways Sotheby’s had failed shareholders, including “egregious examples of waste,” like a lunch at Blue Hill that cost “multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars,” lost ground to rival Christie’s, its sliding operation margin, and, finally, the continued employment of CEO William Ruprecht, to whom the letter was addressed. Naturally, Loeb offered his services re: fixing the place, writing that he would be happy to join the board and help recruit a few other directors who would come with the requisite “experience increasing shareholder value” and would generally know what they hell they were doing, unlike some people (no names: Bill Ruprecht). Read more »
Someday soon, the Manhattan U.S. Attorney may back the trucks up on Cummings Point Road and Crown Lane and Further Lane and seize some of the toys Steve Cohen has acquired with his allegedly illicit fortune. Perhaps Preet’s mind wandered to that day when he was signing a big chunk of Mark Dreier’s former art collection to a hedge fund Dreier screwed over. Perhaps it occurred to him that, since there’s no Heathfield Capital owed a pickled-shark-and-Picasso‘s worth of restitution, Stevie’s impressive private museum might just make a fitting monument to his own prosecutorial victories? Read more »
As you may have heard, the last number of months have been a bit tough on hedge fund manager Steve Cohen. In November, one of his former employees, Mathew Martoma, was accused of orchestrating “the most lucrative insider trading scheme ever,” in a criminal complaint in which Cohen was referenced as Portfolio Manager A. A week later, the Times lopped 21,000 square feet off his house. Earlier this month, he had the pleasure of setting the record for the largest insider trading fine ever, at $614 million, a sum that does not even put this whole thing behind him, as the settlement “doesn’t preclude the Securities and Exchange Commission from pursuing Cohen himself in the future.” So you’ll excuse the Big Guy if he felt the need to indulge in a little retail therapy recently. Read more »
If you like or hate financial regulation you might take a quick look at today’s front-page New York Times article about how the art market is unregulated. Apparently this leads to terrible things like “chandelier bidding,” where auctioneers get the ball rolling by calling out a few fake bids, as well as conflicts of interest involved in third-party guarantees where someone writes the auction house a put on an artwork, is paid a variable commission for that put, and in some cases is allowed to credit that commission against his own bid for the artwork.1 One question you might ask is “why is that bad?”; the answer seems to be that some rich people who go to art auctions pay more for art than they would in the absence of these systems, and then feel vaguely uneasy about it. I think the whole thing disappears in the face of one more iteration of “well, why is that bad?,” but perhaps I am wrong.
There are places where you should think “customers should be protected from various sorts of sharp practices by dealers,” and there are places where you should not think that. I guess? Are there only the former?2 I come from a place that believes deeply in the separation between “sharp practices” and “illegal fraud” and works to keep them distinct. One thing the Times article mentions is that there is a law saying that stores have to display the price of their wares, and art dealers ignore that law, and this is bad for some reason. Try that law on derivatives dealers. One of the main driving forces behind financial innovation is finding novel places to hide fees.
The rest of the art-auctioneer tricks also seem pretty familiar. Imagine an M&A banker who couldn’t bluff, to the one serious bidder for an asset, that he had other bidders waiting in the wings. And of course the financial industry is very familiar with the creative use of options and guarantees to allocate value in ways beyond a headline purchase price. One flavor of that is “schmuck insurance.”3 Read more »
There is no denying that Jeffrey Gundlach is a hugely talented man whose IQ would rank among the highest in the world if he ever had it tested. “What’s it like having lunch with a genius,” he once asked a colleague, who presumably answered, “To be honest, it’s giving me an inferiority complex just breathing the same air as you, knowing that your brain is the standard for how intelligence will be measured from now until the end of eternity.” Until recently, however, the application of Gundlach’s brilliance was largely confined to bond management. According to a new profile by Bloomberg Markets, though, Gundlach’s intellectual prowess is just as if not more impressive when it comes to crime solving. Read more »