SEC

A question that you may or may not find interesting is: have the U.S. government’s rather strenuous recent efforts to stamp out insider trading actually reduced insider trading? How would you go about answering that, if you really wanted to know? I guess the right approach would be a survey; like, go email every hedge fund manager and ask “have you insider traded in the last 12 months? more or less than you used to?” and see what they say. That has … problems, so you look for proxies. Do stocks tend to go up, on heavy volume, before the announcement of secret good news? Then that at least suggests that someone traded on the secret good news before it was announced. It’s something.

A while back I idly committed some pseudoscience about pre-merger trading and found some indications that (1) stock prices and volumes tend to increase before mergers and (2) that increase has been more pronounced in say 2009-2013 than it was in say 2001-2008. This would seem to be weak evidence of increasing insider trading? This was a little puzzling given:

  • those strenuous efforts, lots of people going to jail for long periods, etc.; and
  • my assumption, anyway, that traders would be rational and competent judges of risk and reward who would weigh the increased odds of being caught and sent to prison in their decision to insider trade or not.1

But there my pseudoscience was. Anyway I learned today (via) about a recent study where some b-school professors committed some … I dunno, whatever b-school professors do, something between “pseudoscience” and “science” … of their own and got the opposite result, so I figured I’d pass it along. Here’s the abstract: Read more »

Evidence.

Well, technically there’ll be some, but a lot fewer instances than in the past. Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the can’t do the time and admit publicly to [circle all that apply] insider trading/running a fake hedge fund/blowing investor money at T.G.I. Friday’s. Read more »

If you’re a director of a public company with a controlling shareholder, and that shareholder wants to buy out the rest of the shares, you have a problem. On the one hand, you have fiduciary responsibilities to your non-controlling shareholders to get them the best possible deal. On the other hand: you have a controlling shareholder! He’s controlling! He has inside knowledge that no outside bidder or shareholder can match. He can do stuff like fire you, or make it impossible for you to sell to a higher bidder, or generally make life unpleasant if you reject his bid. He’s got a distinct advantage in negotiating against you, his employee.

Courts and lawyers try to minimize this problem through arid procedural stuff – lots of disclosure and independent directors and majority-of-the-minority votes and “entire fairness” review – but it’s actually just a real problem. You can read about the pending Dole buyout, where founder/CEO/40% shareholder David Murdock wants to buy back his company at an inglorious 18% premium and is carefully following1 all those arid procedural rules, and ask yourself: who cares? Are shareholders really in the same negotiating position as they would be if they were selling an un-controlled company to an outside bidder? Mehhhhh.

But that’s boring and instead you should read today’s astonishing SEC order stemming from the approach to this problem taken by the board of Revlon, a company that at this point is probably more famous for making merger law than cosmetics.2 In 2009, Revlon’s 61% shareholder, Ron Perelman vehicle MacAndrews & Forbes, wanted to buy out the rest of Revlon in a moderately convoluted way.3 So M&F and Revlon negotiated a merger, but that ran aground when Revlon’s M&A banker, Barclays Capital, told Revlon that its fairness committee had said no dice: Read more »

If you’ve been really closely following the SAC-Diamondback-expert-network-etc.-etc. insider trading investigations you might be able to keep the players straight but it’s beyond me. I have a hard enough time keeping one list of their prison sentences. The SEC’s new case against Whittier Trust and Victor Dosti really ought to come with a flowchart:

During at least 2008, a Dell employee (the “Dell Insider”) passed material nonpublic information regarding Dell to Sandeep Goyal (“Goyal”), an analyst at a New York-based investment adviser who had previously worked at Dell. … Goyal, in turn, passed this material nonpublic information to Jesse Tortora (“Tortora”), who at the time was an analyst at the investment adviser firm Diamondback Capital Management, LLC (“Diamondback”). … Tortora, who was a member of a group of hedge fund analysts who regularly shared material nonpublic information regarding technology companies, passed the material nonpublic information that he received from Goyal to other members of the group, including [Whittier Trust employee Danny] Kuo. … Shortly after receiving the Dell inside information from Tortora, Kuo communicated the information to Dosti.

Oh what the heck here’s a flowchart:

I guess that wasn’t so hard. Read more »

Badin Rungruangnavarat knows what we’re talking about. Read more »

Today in when prediction-markets-are-outlawed-only-outlaws-will-run-prediction-markets news, the SEC and CFTC have sued Banc de Binary, a prediction market that sounds like it’s no Intrade:

Banc de Binary solicited customers in the United States. … It broadly advertised its websites to individuals in the United States through YouTube videos, spam emails, and other internet-based advertising.

Also it’s a “Cypriot and Israeli company … based in the Republic of Cyprus and regulated by the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (‘CySEC’),” so even if they are keeping your money in an escrow account at a bank it’s still not safe, ZING.

I dunno, is Banc de Binary a scam? I like the name: you say “prediction market,” they say “binary option,” someone says “online betting,” but they all mean roughly the same thing. And the website has I think median levels of eye-bleeding scrolling overpromising hyperbolic red-and-green flashing misery for an online trading site. “Spam emails” sounds bad but for the rest BdB advertises 24/7 live customer support and the SEC backs them up, saying as though it’s a bad thing “Banc de Binary also solicited potential investors in the United States by sending them emails, calling them on the telephone, and chatting with them via instant messenger over the Internet.”

Also the SEC’s (and CFTC’s) allegations about the harms of BdB are pretty meh. E.g.: Read more »

I dunno, you want to get excited about the new proposed money market fund rules? You can if you want. To get a sense of the stakes involved, consider the email I got from a reader today worrying that the SEC may wind up “killing say the market for receivables conduit financing in an attempt to ensure that the precise conditions of September 2008 are never replicated.” So: fair, but also, like, farewell receivables conduit financing market, I hardly knew ye. I did not know ye at all, is what I’m trying to say.1

The new rules basically require money market funds to tell you their net asset value, instead of the current rule of not telling you their net asset value, which again is sort of a funny thing to get upset about. In the olden days you could just say your NAV was $1.00 as long as it was at least $0.995; if it fell below that you’d “break the buck” and have to freak out and have massive redemptions and forced sell-offs and so forth. Under the basis-point rounding of the new rules, you’d break the buck at below $0.99995 of NAV and I guess the idea is who has the energy to freak out there, it’s like a basis point man, whatever. Binaries create faster death spirals than continuums. The SEC says: Read more »