Here’s a sort of touching monologue from David Einhorn’s call with Punch:
If you’ve done the analysis, and come to the conclusion that on it’s own, the company is not going to make it, it makes all of the sense in the world to raise equity at whatever the price is, so that you can know that the company, you know, is – is going to make it. Now, what that brings to my mind though is, you know, obviously we haven’t done your analysis, we haven’t done — signed an NDA; I don’t know that we’re going to sign an NDA, because we prefer to just remain investors, but from my perspective, and I’ll be just straight up with you, is that gives a lot of signalling value. And the signalling value that comes from figuring out the company has figured out that it’s not going to make it on it’s own is that we’ve just grossly misassessed the — you know what’s going on here. And — and that, that will cause us to have to just reconsider what we’re doing, which is not the end of the world to you. You will continue on even if we don’t continue on with you.
You could sort of see why the FSA read that to mean that he was insider trading. Like …
(1) You have told me something with signalling value. Sorry – “a lot of signalling value.”
(2) I will now act on that signal.
(3) Don’t be mad.
“Signalling value” sure sounds like it means “material nonpublic information,” doesn’t it? Read more »
Remember how David Einhorn got in trouble in England for insider trading on Punch Taverns stock and he was all “what?” and we were all “what?“? Well, you can judge it for yourself because now the entire disputed call with Punch is available online (at the back of this). So go read it, or read the highlights here. The FSA still thinks it’s insider trading, but the count of people confused by the whole thing is rising, and now includes the Merrill banker on the call. There’s lots of insider traderiness on this side of the pond today too so we should talk about that in a bit.
For now, though, two other things. One is quick – no one can resist one part of the call and I can’t either so here it is:
DAVID EINHORN: Hi, I’m sorry I didn’t get to see you when you were in New York.
PUNCH CEO: No, no, we — well, we’ve — we’ve only had the chance to speak once, although we have seen [reference to Greenlight Analyst] a few times since then.
DAVID EINHORN: Oh, you’re — you’re — you’re getting more than — than I could help with anyway. So, this is good.
PUNCH CEO: Okay. That’s fair enough. Well, one day we’ll get you around on a pub crawl around some English pubs.
DAVID EINHORN: Oh, that sounds fun.
PUNCH CEO: It is. You’re right.
English readers: Is it? I just assumed that Punch Taverns are rather grim places, like TGI Friday’s but with more … punching? … but maybe I’m totally off base here. Also, here is a hypothesis: vice investments do well because, for the same level of profitability, they get more analyst/investor coverage and enthusiasm. Wouldn’t you rather go on a pub crawl instead of like a tour of an auto parts factory in Queens? Would that influence your stock recommendations / money allocations? Someone should do a study. Read more »
January performance. Read more »
On further inspection Greenlight Capital’s unfortunate relations with Punch Taverns went down more or less as I had thought: they had an un-wall-crossed conversation with management that David Einhorn took to be a sign to sell, and sold without ever agreeing to keep any information confidential. One key and sort of amusing difference – if you believe Greenlight’s explanation – is that, contrary to what I and the FSA thought, the sell signal in Einhorn’s mind wasn’t “Punch is going to raise equity.” It was “the CEO of this company thinks it’s a piece of crap.” Which I guess is also material nonpublic information.
Anyway here is something Einhorn said on his call yesterday:
The Decision Notice … doesn’t seem object to my having sold the stock. The problem is that I didn’t get permission first. “It was a serious error of judgement on Mr Einhorn’s part to make the decision after the Punch Call to sell Greenlight’s shares in Punch without first seeking any compliance or legal advice despite the ready availability of such resources within Greenlight.” It was already obvious to me that I was clear to trade. I have no idea why a compliance officer would have reached a different conclusion. It is highly unlikely that asking would have led to a decision to restrict ourselves.
Here is an alternative view: Read more »
…about all this. For starters:
- “This is as much like insider trading as soccer is like football”
- “The FSA has spent the last two years forcing square pegs into round holes”
- “This is like a traffic cop with a quota at the end of the month, with a miscalibrated radar gun”
- Greenlight has a recording of the call in question, which contains no evidence of insider trading Read more »
Remember how insider trading is trading on material nonpublic information? Only how it’s not? Apparently it is in England! Someone found that out today.
I know, I’m soft on insider trading but hear me out. This is actually kind of screwed up.
First, a story. I used to work in a business that raised money for companies. Often when companies needed to raise money it was to do things like stave off rapidly impending doom, and the company would come to its bankers and ask “so, um, how’s that story going to play in the market?” And you’d answer something like “I don’t know but probably shitty?” And a way to make everyone feel better was a wall-crossed deal, in which the bank calls a few big potential buyers and says “would you buy this thing? at what price?” with the goal being to get the deal mostly done without freaking out the market – or, if that failed, to cancel the deal and move on to plan B also without freaking out the market.
Now in order to do this you needed to “wall cross” the potential investors by getting them to agree not to talk about the offering, or trade in the company’s stock, until the offering became public or was abandoned. Why? Two reasons:
(1) A thing called Regulation FD makes it illegal for companies to tell some investors material things unless they either disclose it to everyone or get the investors to agree to keep it confidential and not trade on it.
(2) Also important! You did this whole wall-cross to avoid announcing your deal and freaking everybody out so they sell your stock. If you don’t get investors to agree not to trade, then they’ll probably sell your stock, so you’ve accomplished nothing except breaking the law a bit.
Now getting them to agree not to trade has a certain chicken-and-egg quality because getting a call from a bank saying “we need to lock you up on company X” is never a good sign (maybe rare exceptions). So the call would go like this: Read more »
According to the FSA, which imposed the £7.2 million fine for “inadvertently engaging in market abuse in connection with trading of Punch Taverns…the market abuse was not deliberate or reckless. Mr. Einhorn did not believe that the information that he had received was inside information and he did not intend to commit market abuse.” Sayeth Einhorn: Read more »
Bloomberg reported today that, back in July, David Einhorn and some other people decided that (1) betting against European sovereign debt was, and would remain, a good idea, but (2) doing it in CDS form was kind of dumb, so (3) they’d switch to doing it in physical form, by borrowing and shorting the debt. Here’s what Einhorn had to say in his July investor letter:
The letter touched on two risks tied to credit swaps on European sovereign debt, including regulators’ attempts to fashion a Greek bailout in a way that prevented the contracts from paying out. The second risk was the possibility that banks that wrote billions of dollars in credit swaps on sovereign debt might not be able to make good on their obligations should a country such as Greece actually default.
Let’s talk about that first reason for a minute because I think it’s sort of illuminating. The problem is that Europe was in July, and is now, and wow that’s depressing, trying to cobble together a “voluntary” debt exchange where holders of Greek debt happily hand it in to Greece and get back a thing with a 50% face value haircut that is also a piece of crap. If you’re a European bank who owns Greek bonds and CDS to hedge them, and you feel pressured to accept that deal, then you feel like the “insurance” you bought on your bonds should “pay out,” I suppose, though that’s all fairly hypothetical. If on the other hand you’re David Einhorn and you bought CDS and then Greece haircuts its debt, you feel like your bet against Greek debt has been vindicated so it should pay out. But it doesn’t, says ISDA, because the exchange was voluntary and there was no “credit event” under the rules governing your CDS. Read more »
In related news, cat got your tongue? Read more »
October performance. Read more »
If you’re jammed and don’t have time for that, just skip to the last slide to check out David Einhorn’s breathtaking foam artistry:
Otherwise, proceed. Read more »