Where Did All The Financial Shake Shackers Go?

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I took a trip to the widely popular Shake Shack today around lunch time in an effort to get a feel for the "pulse" of you Shack fiends and ask a few semi-random questions. As usual the line was long; I saw a man's hairline recede a few centimeters as he waited.
Regardless, unless I missed something, where the hell is everyone? Have the layoffs killed off the regulars at Shake Shack? I talked to several people, none of whom worked in finance. I tried to discriminate by talking to the dudes with shirts and ties, but I failed to find the financial professionals I sought. Only a few people even heard of Dealbreaker and nobody knew who the hell I was talking about when I name-dropped Stevie, Erin, Meredith, or Lloyd.
My questions ranged from people's predictions for the price of a barrel of oil by the end of August to suggestions for eating challenges. Gefilte fish on White Castle hamburgers? I even asked people if they would be okay as a shareholder of Wayne Enterprises if Bruce Wayne was spending company money on Batman's gadgets and shit. They didn't seem to care. One person would be satisfied only if a big dividend was paid out.
Here's the deal. I am going back to Shake Shack on Monday. Be there. Lunchtime. Let's talk. If you give me an awesome quote I can use and let me take a picture of you on Monday, I will buy you a milkshake.
--Shack Specialist Travis

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Credit Where Credit Is Due: Peregrine Financial Once Won The "Iowa Character Award"

You know those letters that go out from banks and brokerage firms a couple days after a financial disaster has hit the news? They usually begin with “Dear Valued Customer,” and they assure freaked-out investors that that sort of thing would never happen here. Like this one, published November 1, 2011, the day after MF Global filed for bankruptcy. “Dear PFGBEST customers,” it began. Those rogues at MF Global might have lost track of a billion dollars or so of their customers’ money, but PFG clients could count on “the absolute dedication of PFGBEST to protect you and your PFGBEST accounts.” The soothing dispatch was signed by Russell Wasendorf, Jr., president and chief operating officer and son of the CEO Russell Wasendorf, Sr. It pledged that PFG was “compliance-focused,” and said the principled firm was in communication with regulators “to assist in any way” after the purloining of MF Global’s clients. Well, you can’t argue that the senior Wasendorf didn’t assist his regulators. The CEO of PFG Best, aka Peregrine Financial Group, even sat on an advisory committee of the National Futures Association. On that “compliance-focused” part, though, the your-money-is safe-with-us vow didn’t turn out to be so reliable. Eight months after the “Dear customer” letter, PFG filed for liquidation under Chapter 7 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code on July 10 -- a day after the NFA said the Cedar Falls, Iowa futures brokerage firm was short about $200 million in its customer accounts. That would be the same NFA whose board had on three occasions – in 2004, 2007 and 2009 -- voted to put Wasendorf, Sr. on its Futures Commission Merchant advisory committee that weighed in on new rules. NFA spokesman Larry Dyekman declined to comment. Russ Senior today is in the Linn County jail in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, having been charged with making false statements to regulators about the value of his customers’ accounts. His bail hearing is on Friday. Junior hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing and his lawyer told The Wall Street Journal that the younger Wasendorf is cooperating with regulators to track down assets. Neither man’s lawyers returned phone calls. The elder Wasendorf tried to commit suicide on July 9 and left a note saying he’d been stealing from customers for 20 years. “I had no access to additional capital and I was forced into a difficult decision,” he wrote. “Should I go out of business or cheat?” Well, we know the answer to that one. During the years he was dipping into customers’ funds, Wasendorf was honored with awards for his charity, his patriotism, and his devotion to green initiatives. The firm received accolades, too. Last year, it was among 13 winners of the “Iowa Character Award.” Spokeswoman Amy Smit of “Character Counts in Iowa” said in an email that PFG won for its “extensive community involvement,” including research for pediatric diseases and support to tornado victims. Futures magazine called it “one of the nation’s Top 50 Brokers” for 13 years in a row. Ginger Szala, group editorial director at Summit Business Media, which publishes Futures, said in an email that the list is based on “customer equity reports” that the magazine gets from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The CFTC gets those from the firms. “We rely on the regulator to confirm the amount as accurate, and of course, that now is under question,” she said. Oh yeah, that. We could take a little comfort if it had all come as a surprise – the cagey guy who’d never given the regulators a clue. No such luck. While he was picking up his trophies over the years, Wasendorf was running companies that waved red flags. He owned a securities firm, Peregrine Financials & Securities Inc., that first registered with Finra in 1998. That firm wound up terminating its registration in June of 2004, just two months after Finra fined it $251,000 for “unfair and excessive” commissions and for failing to keep proper records of emails. A year before that, in February of 2003, Finra said Peregrine had filed inaccurate reports and had failed to maintain the minimum required net capital. Peregrine also lost arbitrations with customers in 2001 (for breach of contract) and 2004 (for misrepresentation and “fraudulent activity.”) His separate futures trading company, PFG, had its own set of problems. In 2009, an administrative law judge said it had failed to investigate numerous questionable activities in the account of a 73-year-old retiree, adding that PFG had shown “a reckless disregard” for its duties. Ten years before, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission said the firm had failed on several occasions to report that it had fallen below minimum financial requirements, and that it had been showing receivables as current assets in its reports to the regulator. There is more, but you get the idea. Wasendorf thought regulators were kind of dumb, and while he may be a big-time liar, you can’t argue with him on that one. It was “relatively simple” to trick regulators, he said in his suicide letter. At a hearing of the House Committee on Agriculture Wednesday, amid talk about how to prevent future MF Global and Peregrine-style fiascos, witnesses from the financial industry made the familiar business lobby pitches that regulations can kill competition, stifle innovation, and lead to firms leaving the futures business altogether. The carrying on could almost have been scripted by Wasendorf himself. When the CFTC was proposing increased margin rules for foreign exchange traders in 2010, Wasendorf said in a press release that the changes would send thousands of U.S. jobs overseas. “Congress made it clear that the industry was to be policed, not abolished,” he said at the time. Even if this guy gets stuck doing a couple years in prison, there’s got to be a financial lobbying job in his future. Susan Antilla is a columnist for Bloomberg View.

Memo To Yahoo: Dan Loeb Will Personally Shake Out ALL The Skeletons In Your Closet If He Has To

As you may have heard, Third Point Management is currently waging a proxy battle against Yahoo, of which it owns 5.81 percent. Last September, the hedge fund and its founder, Dan Loeb, wrote a letter to the company's board of directors entitled "The Failures of Yahoo’s Board of Directors Necessitate a Significant Infusion of Fresh Board Talent," in November it demanded two board seats in order to rest the ship from a bunch of bumbling incompetents, and in February, it said actually, make that four seats. Unfortunately, Yahoo resisted. Which is why yesterday, Loeb and Third Point were forced to enter into the record some damning evidence showing current YHOO CEO Scott Thompson to be a dangerous, dangerous liar, the likes of which the search engine would be wise to sever ties. Specifically, Third Point revealed that contrary to statements made on SEC filings, Thompson? Did not graduate from Stonehill College with degrees in both computer science and accounting but only the latter. The reason Third Point knew this to be true was because it Googled Stonehill College and found that the school did not even start offering computer science degrees until 1983, well after the time Thompson graduated. So, a liar and a liar who can't even be bothered to cover his tracks to boot. Oh, but the résumé chicanery did not stop there. Yahoo director Patti Hart, Third Point, went on to reveal, also had her own little C.V. "error" to speak of. Whereas Ms. Hart claimed to have graduated from Illinois State University with degrees in marketing and economics, in fact, merely earned a bachelors in business administration and specialized in marketing and econ. Yahoo, which yesterday confirmed the résumé duplicity, clearly needed no further substantiation that these two were academic frauds. Third Point and Loeb knew this much to be true. AND YET. As of 2PM today, a whopping twenty-four hours after their lies caught up to them, they remain employed by the company. So now this is happening because apparently some people need to be put on a deadline: Dear Board of Directors: Yahoo!’s initial response yesterday to Third Point’s identification of material inaccuracies in both CEO Scott Thompson’s and Director Patti Hart’s educational record was insulting to shareholders. We assume that these initial statements were attributable to Mr. Thompson and were not made with the Board’s approval. While we appreciate the Board’s statement late last night that it would conduct an investigation, unfortunately, for this Board and this Company, it is too little and months too late. To assert that years of inaccurate SEC filings, website biographies and, most likely, D&O questionnaires and curriculum vitae (including, presumably, the CV provided to Yahoo! when Mr. Thompson reached out for the job) were “inadvertent” is, in our view, the height of arrogance. Mr. Thompson and the Board should make no mistake: this is a big deal. CEO’s have been terminated for less at other companies. The Company’s Preliminary Proxy Statement filed on April 27, 2012 (at page 22) states that the “minimum qualification for service as a director of the Company are that a nominee possess...an impeccable reputation of integrity and competence in his or her personal and professional activities.” Furthermore, Yahoo!’s response “confirming” that Ms. Hart “specialized” in Marketing and Economics, rather than having earned her degree in such subjects (as Ms. Hart has asserted in filings for years) is a similar canard. A “specialty” is not a major. It is not a “minor”. We don’t know what it is, but we do know that like Mr. Thompson, Ms. Hart has been misrepresenting her actual degree to the investing public for years. Again, we hope that the Board does not accept this feeble attempt at “spin” as a justification for Ms. Hart’s misrepresentations. Irreparable damage to Yahoo!’s culture will continue every day that the Board allows Mr. Thompson and Ms. Hart to remain at the helm of the Company after having clearly demonstrated that they lack even the “minimum qualifications for service as a director of the Company.” Mr. Thompson, in particular, cannot possibly have any credibility remaining with the all-important Yahoo! engineers, many of which earned real – not invented – degrees in computer science. Moreover, permitting Mr. Thompson and Ms. Hart to stay with the Company after apparently violating the Code of Ethics sends a message to all Yahoo! employees that a different set of rules applies at the top. Third Point, Yahoo!’s largest outside shareholder with over $1 billion invested, called yesterday for an immediate investigation if our assertions were true. The Board appears to have acceded to this demand. Its response must be swift and decisive. In that regard, Third Point will consider it grounds for further action if the Board does not take the following steps by Noon EDT on Monday, May 7th: 1) Publicly reveal the process by which it vetted Mr. Thompson as a potential CEO candidate. This disclosure should include the release of all minutes of any meeting at which Mr. Thompson’s candidacy was discussed and any reports or other materials upon which directors relied to evaluate Mr. Thompson’s candidacy. 2) Disclose whether any Board member, including Maynard Webb, who has long-standing ties to Mr. Thompson, and Ms. Hart, who headed the Search Committee, was aware of Mr. Thompson’s deception prior to receipt of Third Point’s letter yesterday. 3) Provide shareholders with all information regarding the director nomination process, including the so-called “skills matrix” referred to in the Company’s preliminary proxy statement, which the Board purportedly used to determine the qualifications of various candidates, including Third Point’s nominees. 4) Terminate Mr. Thompson for cause immediately given his demonstrable unsuitability to remain Chief Executive Officer and a director of Yahoo! and accept the resignation of Ms. Hart for similar reasons. Finally, we urge the Board to stop wasting valuable company resources and drop its resistance to placing the Third Point nominees on the Board. We are prepared to join immediately. Once on the Board, our first tasks will be to work with the remaining Board members to find Yahoo! a new leader with the qualifications and integrity to lead the Company and install best practices of corporate governance. The Company can ill afford to continue this misguided fight with its largest outside shareholder while it has so many other fires to put out. There has been enough damage already. Sincerely, Daniel S. Loeb Chief Executive Officer Third Point LLC So, take the weekend to mull it over and while you're at it, consider gathering documentation of other potentially false claims such as: 1. His first-place finish in his 3rd grade spelling bee (do you really think a future Stonehill grad would know how to spell 'abhinaya'?) 2. That he bought Apple stock at $76/share (RIGHT) 3. That he can bench 285 (sure) 4. That he graduated high school (just don't know) 5. His circumcision (do you want to get to the bottom of this guy or not? If he lied about comp sci, who knows what else he'd lie about) Third Point Demands Yahoo C.E.O. Be Fired by Monday [Dealbook] Loeb Asks Yahoo To Fire CEO By Monday [MarketWatch]