SEC Proposes New Rule That Would Make Companies Disclose The Fact That CEO’s Make More In An Hour Than Rank And File Employees Make In 7 LifetimesBy Bess Levin
U.S. regulators proposed new rules Wednesday that would require public companies to disclose the pay gap between chief executives and rank-and-file employees, a controversial requirement that thrusts executive compensation into the spotlight. A divided Securities and Exchange Commission voted 3-to-2 to float a less onerous measure than what the SEC was ordered to adopt in the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial law, giving companies flexibility in how they calculate the ratio to cut back on its expected costs. [WSJ]
So he had Mary Jo and Gary and Co. over for tea yesterday, just to make sure they knew that he wasn’t playing a big joke on everyone when he signed Dodd-Frank three years ago, and that he’s not paying them to not write the rules they’ve been mandated to write. Read more »
Once upon a time, Blanche Lincoln was a United States Senator from Arkansas, which is no longer as friendly to Democrats as it was when she was first elected in 1998. So, facing a tough re-election battle in 2010, she pushed hard for a seemingly ill-advised rule forcing banks to hive off some of their swaps trading, believing that it would put her over the top.
It didn’t, and she got trounced. Now, Blanche Lincoln is no longer a U.S. Senator, but her swaps push-out rule survives as part of the Dodd-Frank law, much to everyone’s unhappiness. So everyone’s getting together to agree to put off actually enforcing it for a while. Read more »
My favorite financial news story of 2013 so far might be the Reuters story last Friday about how NYSE and Nasdaq each listed more IPOs than the other during the first quarter. A normal human might find that odd: listing an IPO is the sort of thing that you tend to notice and keep a record of, so you could pretty easily just add up the IPOs you listed and compare. But to a banker, it’s obvious that everyone would claim, with some sort of semi-plausible justification, to be first in every league table. In fact the explanation is perfectly, almost paradigmatically natural: Nasdaq excludes REITs, spin-offs, and best efforts deals.1 I remember when I used to exclude REITs! Excluding REITs is, like, 20% of what a capital markets banker does.
A deep tension at the heart of the financial industry is that it attracts a lot of quantitative logical evidence-oriented people and then puts them to work in essentially sales roles, and a lot of what it sells is unsubstantiated mumbo-jumbo. You wrote your senior thesis on geometric Brownian motion in the prices of inflation-linked Peruvian bonds from 1954 to 1976? Great, go make a page telling clients why Bank X is so much better at underwriting commoditized debt deals than Bank Y. Or: your thesis took for granted the truth of the efficient markets hypothesis? Great, go market a hedge fund that charges 2 and 20 to beat the market. You have to be quantitative enough to manipulate the data to get it to say what you want (“This fee run is 0.2% higher if we exclude REITs” “Well, do that then”), but not so quantitative that you find the whole process revolting. It’s a hard line to walk, and it’s not surprising that Eric Ben-Artzi or Ajit Jain or the quant truthers at S&P end up disgruntled and either blowing whistles or writing regrettable emails.2
Does that explain Lisa Marie Vioni? I dunno, her economics degree came with a side of French, she became a hedge fund marketer, and she’s done it for over 20 years, so I’d have pegged her as pretty comfortable in the gray areas. But in January 2012 she went to work for Cerberus as an MD selling its RMBS Opportunities Fund, and in February 2013 they fired her, and now she’s suing them. She’s suing in part for gender discrimination, which is hard to evaluate from her complaint but sure, maybe.3
But she’s also suing as a Dodd-Frank whistleblower, because she complained about what she thought were misleading marketing materials and was more or less told to go pound sand. And those accusations go like this: Read more »
John Paulson Pretty Sure Dodd-Frank, New Hedge Fund Disclosure Rules Are The Most Fakakta Thing He’s Seen In A Long TimeBy Bess Levin
“I couldn’t even read the whole application,” he said to guffaws from several hundred young Jewish professionals gathered sipping on spirits and kosher wine at event space Chelsea Pearl to hear his advice on how to make it in finance. “I did review part of the application, about 40 pages [out of 500], and the information we provided doesn’t make any sesne to me. How could it possibly make sense to the SEC? It’s a complete waste of time,” he added. “They don’t know what they’re looking for, the just asked for everything in every possible way…I don’t believe the Dodd-Frank law is a positive piece of legislation,” he said dryly, understating his distaste. “I ordered the bill; there are 2,000 pages. I couldn’t read the table of contents. I don’t know anyone who has read it. I think it has retarded the recovery…it’s complete gobbledygook.” [AR]