Earlier this month, the Times reported that Mayor Bloomberg and his advisers had been “floating the possibility of mayoral runs to at least five boldface figures,” including Chuck Schumer, Mort Zuckerman, Ed Rendell, Edward Skyler, and Hillary Clinton. Strangely left off the list? A woman who some might say is actually Hizzoner’s most worthy successor and who conveniently announced her intent to run today: Kristin Davis, the woman who once supplied Eliot Spitzer with hot young tail. Read more »

One problem that a lot of people have noticed is that Americans do not spend enough time talking about politics. Yes, you can devote several hours a day to watching political news and forwarding political emails and signing secession petitions, but certain areas of life are not utterly infused with political rancor. Buying stocks is … somewhere on the spectrum, less politicized than buying beer but more politicized than buying toothpaste.

Lucian Bebchuk wants to change that. He has a post on DealBook, based on this paper he wrote with Rob Jackson, urging the SEC to make companies disclose their political contributions, so that you can get all mad and sell your stock in companies that make contributions to your less preferred candidate and buy stock in companies that make contributions to your more preferred candidate. I mean, I can just tell you: buy oil stocks if you’re a Republican and tech stocks if you’re a Democrat and the financial industry is kind of a mixed bag but, lately, Republican.

You could ask yourself a question like “why should a company do what its shareholders want?” and then you could answer “because the shareholders own the company,” but that is not an entirely compelling answer. They don’t really; they are residual claimants on the company’s income, or whatever; nobody owns the company, the company is people my friend; the company is a bundle of sticks, and there you are with your stick, waving it around while you beg the question. The company perhaps – perhaps! – owes shareholders an honest day’s effort to maximize the value of that residual income; it does not owe them doing the things that they want it to do.

But also, how do you know what the shareholders want? Or, what is a shareholder? I like thinking of most efforts at shareholder empowerment as kind of “let’s get rid of the agency costs of letting corporate executives use investor money for their personal silly goals and let investment managers use investor money for their personal silly goals.” Read more »

Earlier today, Politico ran a story titled “Can Chuck Schumer win back Wall St. for Democrats?” Apparently the New York Senator recently “embarked on a fence-mending campaign with senior Wall Street executives, many of whom have grown furious with the Democratic party,” in a charm offensive that has included “holding private dinners [including one put on by Pershing Square manager Bill Ackman], organizing high-end fundraisers for Democratic candidates and quietly pressing for super PAC donations.” According to Politico, “the outreach appears to be working: Hedge fund and private-equity executives have held six different fundraisers for Democratic challengers and senators at Schumer’s request, sources say.” Some financial services employees, however, are not so easy. Take Cliff Asness for example. The AQR manager happened to read the piece and here’s what he had to say about it: Read more »

“I spend way too much of my time thinking about politics these days because government is way too involved in financial markets these days,” he said in a rare interview. He later added. “Part of my sensitivity to these issues is that I now live in the middle of a hyper-regulated industry, where not only is government affecting how capital markets work, or how banks work, but (the government) is punishing savers.” The 43-year-old hedge fund manager said he has invested more time than ever before on politics since the financial crisis of 2008 nearly crippled Citadel. The firm’s two flagship funds have since recovered, surpassing their so-called highwater marks this year…”I think (the ultra-wealthy) actually have an insufficient influence,” Griffin said in an interview at Citadel’s downtown office. “Those who have enjoyed the benefits of our system more than ever now owe a duty to protect the system that has created the greatest nation on this planet.” [Chicago Tribune, related]

If you’re into this sort of thing you can go read Mitt Romney’s tax returns and learn (on page 5 of the 2011 return) that he is in the “independent artists, writers, performers” business, which seems about right. (But which one?) You can also learn that he’s doing okay, financially-wise, and some more specific stuff; tantalizingly, you can’t get a good picture of his returns on assets because his financial disclosure forms are so meaninglessly bucketed. Most crucially, you can learn that he paid about a 15% tax rate on his take last year. There is a lot you can think about this. Some of it revolves around the badness of taxing capital gains at a lower rate than labor income, which, whatever, not my beat. Some of it revolves around the badness of taxing private equity labor income as capital gains, which, I mean, I’m sympathetic to, but also not my beat, but in any case this income is actually capital gains. Like, Mitt wasn’t working at Bain Capital last year. He was just sitting around, doing his “independent artist/writer/performer” thing, collecting money from the other money that he got 20 years ago. That’s what capital gains is. Anyway.

If you’re really into this sort of thing you can also go read Newt Gingrich’s tax return, but you won’t, because the numbers on it are smaller and where’s the fun in that? But USA Today of all people actually went and read it and they found … maybe tax fraud? That was unexpected:
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When Donald Trump chose not to run for President, the American people lost a lot. They lost the opportunity to hear the Don tell China, “Listen you motherfuckers, we’re going to tax you at 25 percent.” They lost the opportunity to watch a presidential candidate tell Bill Cosby to blow him. And most of all, the lost the opportunity to behold as bankruptcy specialist Donald Trump used his expertise to lead us out of the economic darkness and into the light. Though he remained silent on the debt talks for far too long, last week Trump finally weighed in on the debate (“The Republicans should tap it along, make it go longer, until the next election so Obama can’t win”) and today on Squawk Box, he continued. Read more »

He’s already thrown his hat in the ring for a gig running Treasury Secretary but the people would like Bill Ackman to dream bigger. Washington Post readers polled yesterday said they want the Pershing Square founder to run as a third party candidate for President (his qualifications being the bank plan he wrote up in 2009 and the fact that he was once invited to the White House to speak with Larry Summers). Read more »

Earlier this week, Ken Langone invited 50 hedge fund managers and other financial services employees to his office. The occasion? A sit down with with Chris Christie, who the Home Depot founder apparently forced to discuss the possibility of running for president. Here’s what the New Jersey governor had to say: Read more »