Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Links 3/31/2009

Apparently, "love thy neighbor" is thriving in this economy. [Daily Intel]

This isn't news. [Denver Business Journal]

Best idea yet. [The Onion]

For your viewing misery [Slate]

Republicans (or just Reagan worshippers) start your hate-filled emails now [naked capitalism] Sphere: Related Content

Monday, March 30, 2009

Back and to the Left...

You may remember me commenting on the anger in many circles about the funds that counterparties to the AIG credit default swaps were receiving. My basic point was that not just anyone was investing in these things. Contrary to popular belief (i.e. Congress), there are plenty of people that work at investment banks that know what the hell they're doing

Dealbreaker expands on this subject by stating that conspiracies theories spring up like mariujuana plants in a Santa Cruz closet when "AIG" is added to any otherwise normal settlement of these derivatives.

In other words, Goldman Sachs is making money hand over fist on the unwinding of these transactions with hedge funds but once AIG gets dropped in as the writer, the second gunman on the grassy knoll theories start coming out (including, as DB notes, Zero Hedge, read here).

The whole point is, when AIG starting unwinding these CDS's with taxpayer money, said money went to banks (JPM, BoA, GS, etc.). Does it suck? Of course but I'm not sure if deserves the Maxine Waters conspiracy theory treatment. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, March 27, 2009

Links 3/27/2009

Apparently Jamie Dimon is the Rodney Dangerfield of mega-bank CEOs [Daily Intel]

This will no doubt result in more hearings in which BFrank, Maxine "Bingo" Waters, and friends will continue with brilliant soap-box moments. [Dealbreaker]

Now he tells us! [Reuters] Sphere: Related Content

Maxine Waters Tribute

As regular readers know, there is a special place in Tramp's heart for California Representative Maxine Waters.

Her insight and probing into the AIG collapse, questioning of bank executives, Ben Bernake, Tim Geithner, etc. is nothing short of pure stateswomanship (word?).

Dealbreaker has gone above and beyond the call of duty to pay tribute to this true patriot in American politics.

BINGO To The Max [Dealbreaker] Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Because of the unpredictable Colorado weather, I'm checking out at 1 pm today. May or may not result in a flurry (pun intended) of posts this afternoon.
Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

FROM THE NOT-SO-SURPRISING DEPARTMENT: Maxine Waters Doesn't Make a Damn Bit of Sense

Maxine Waters is doing her constituents proud again today folks. In today's version of AIG crucifixion, she's throwing out the whole Goldman Sachs conspiracy theory as it relates to the eventual dismantling of the entire economy so that GS can be the supreme ruler of the universe. This is sure to fly with the likes of T. Geith and Ben.

Can't BFrank put a stop her batshit insane rambling? I mean, the 5 minutes (or wtf it is) allotted to each member of the subcommittee is one thing but if a committee member can't form a clear and coherent question that is of some relevance to the hearing in under 30 seconds, the chairperson should have the power to call a forfeit for the rest of the time and the cost to the taxpayers of said time should be tracked. Maxine Waters (and reps like this) have clearly done more damage to the poor saps at CSPAN than can possibly be quantified.

Maxine Waters Puts On Her Goldman Sachs Conspiracy Hat [Clusterstock via Daily Intel] Sphere: Related Content

Monday, March 23, 2009

Links 3/23/2009

Jon Stewart ammo. [Zero Hedge]

When will this guy get fired? [Dealbreaker]

At this point, the Taliban Group would probably be a better name [Reuters] Sphere: Related Content

I Know What This Looks Like...We Recommend to All Our Professionals to Use Their Prudent Judgment When Making Travel Arrangements

Well, now you've gone and done it JP Morgan. Apparently, you missed all the populist outrage news re: relatively small amounts of money.

There are conflicting reports between Mickey Mouse ABC News and Reuters about the J to the P buying two Gulfstreams and building a hangar to park them in.

The fact that there is a rumor going around about this suggests, at the very least, these potential transactions were discussed at Jamie Dimon's Scrooge McDuck-esque gold coin swimming pool.

The Barney Frank/Maxine Waters/Chuck Grassley batshit insane grandstanding burn all bankers, accountants, and anything w/ "AIG" in it at the stake remains fluid.

JP Morgan denies report it plans to buy new planes [Reuters] Sphere: Related Content

Friday, March 20, 2009

How Does That Make You Feel Goldman Sachs?

Some idealistic journalist from The Guardian who thinks that corporations (especially banks) have consciences put forward the most hilarious line of question to the Goldman CFO re: Goldman's ass-raping of AIG by calling in collateral (which they were contractually obligated to, btw) on CDS's.

Guardian Reporter Would Like To Know If Goldman Sachs Is Racked With Guilt Over AIG [Dealbreaker] Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Two Blogs Bested in One Day!

Grub St. finishes 3rd in this race. I didn't mention anything about Batali though. Sphere: Related Content

Links 3/19/2009 - AIG Edition

I seriously don't know where to begin re: AIG, bonuses, Congressional grandstanding, death threats, T. Geith, etc. etc. etc. I hopefully found some of the better highlights.

For those of you really interested. NYT piece is excellent. [New York Times]

Non-profit journalistic point of view [Democracy Now!]

Hannity bashing (who thinks they [i.e. the AIG execs] should keep the money) via Reason [Reason Hit & Run]

The new name is really the most important thing. [Dealbreaker]

Daily Intel does it again...The Richhunt! [Daily Intel] Sphere: Related Content


A little gloating is in order... the Cut finally got the story on Crocs, which your humble blogger reported on yesterday.

Tramp 1, The Cut 0 Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Links 3/18/2009

This will definitely result in public hangings. [Reuters]

Do you think $90 lift tickets might have a little to do with this? [Denver Business Journal] Sphere: Related Content

FROM THE NOT-SO-SURPRISING DEPARTMENT: Companies that Make Crappy Products Might Go Out of Business

Crocs, Inc.'s auditors have found that there is "substantial doubt about the company's ability to continue as a going concern".

That's fancy accounting talk for go the hell out of business.

Now I know some of you might own a pair of Crocs and may even like them but it's fair to say one thing, they are pretty hideous looking.

People that wear Crocs out in public deserve ridicule. Plain and simple. The one exception may be healthcare professionals, as they are not subject to any sort of fashion participation at their jobs.

Accordingly, the market for this product is shrinking and shrinking fast. As a result, revenues are also shrinking and they can't get a new line of credit. Hold your breath, this financial downturn may have a upside after all!

Audit raises ‘substantial doubt’ about Crocs as ‘going concern’ [Denver Business Journal] Sphere: Related Content

They're Conspiring to Conspire

It comes as no surprise today that Bernie Madoff's auditor is facing charges of securities and investment advisor fraud.

Today's New York Times states the obvious when talking about the "red flags":

Some of Mr. Madoff’s critics have said that the tiny accounting firm was a red flag, given the size of Mr. Madoff’s legitimate operations. The fact that Mr. Friehling also appeared to be the agent for dozens of accounts with Mr. Madoff’s investment advisory firm, according to a list of customers assembled by the trustee overseeing the firm’s bankruptcy, should have raised more red flags, they said.

Look, I know that many people that invested w/ the Bernster aren't even remotely intelligent about financial matters but c'mon... BILLIONS of dollars audited by Friehling and Horowitz?

It seems reasonable to me that there are some complicit BM (ha!) investors out there that saw that this thing was now what it seemed and said nothing. Or I could be wildly speculating...I'm sure the crack-squad at the SEC will get to the bottom of it. To be continued....

Madoff’s Accountant Is Charged With Securities Fraud [New York Times] Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Links 3/17/2009

Soap box, Chuck Grassley edition [Dealbreaker]

They have banks like this in Nebraska [Dealbreaker]

AIG. Bad news, all the time [Zero Hedge] Sphere: Related Content

Where I Attempt to Liken the Final Big 4 Accounting Firms to Wiseguys

A compelling case for likening the FB4 to the Mafia is made by Francine McKenna over at the Huffington Post.

I won't rehash the details for you all, Francine writes a great post. What I will do is speculate on which firm would be which wiseguy? Disclosure: For this particular post, all families are fair game and I won't regulate myself to one particular family, crew, TV show, or movie (but as you might expect, the Sopranos are easiest to choose from).

KPMG - Fredo Corleone - Weakest and most annoying of its particular kind. Obedient and clumsy.

Deloitte - Paulie Walnuts - Again, obedient but has a psychotic side. All in all not too bright though.

Ernst & Young - "Lefty" Ruggiero - past its prime but loyal to the family. Ultimately, not smart enough to realize when being duped.

PricewaterhouseCoopers - Johnny Sack - Hungry for power and is ultimately the boss. In the end something internal will kill it.

Ridiculous? Bad examples? Unfair? One-sided? OF COURSE.

The Button-Down Mafia: How the Public Accounting Firms Run a Racket on Investors and Thrive While Their Clients Fail [The Huffington Post via re: The Auditors] Sphere: Related Content

Monday, March 16, 2009

Above All, We Act with Complete Arrogance

KPMG, being the bastion of integrity that it is, just hired the most recent Chief Auditor and Director of Professional Standards for the PCAOB, per re: The Auditors.

Turns out he was with the Radio Station prior to the PCAOB and is now returning to his firm in glory. This type of story doesn't get much press outside of the CPA media (CFO, Journal of Accountancy, etc.), which is say, a crappy point of view anyway, since they are all in the tank for the "profession".

Looking Out For Me, Myself, And I [re: The Auditors] Sphere: Related Content

I'll Have a Cheeseburger with Coke and OH, a Credit Default Derivative on Lehman Brothers Bonds

I didn't do much reading over the weekend so when I read this morning that AIG put out the list of its counterparties for its Credit Default Swaps, I thought (being a former auditor), "Oh, that seems reasonable."

What I didn't expect was that people (including some in the Obama Administration) are upset that many of the recipients of the funds are, gasp, other banks!

Now wait a tick, I'm not the smartest guy in the world but I don't think the likes of Joe the Plumber and the local pipe-fitters union are sophisticated enough to be in the market for CDS's. Just sayin... Sphere: Related Content

Links 3/16/2009

Strategy? [Dealbreaker]

This is a little wonky but still important regarding the "heads we win, tails you lose" approach to the toxic asset problem. [naked capitalism]

Credit card defaults. I wouldn't get too excited about this rally...[Reuters] Sphere: Related Content

Friday, March 13, 2009

Links 3/13/2009

Not even amusement parks are safe. [Zero Hedge]

Famous last words. Just ask John Thain. [Reuters]

The audacity of a former subsidiary of Dick Cheney's former employer shouldn't really surprise anyone. [footnoted.org]

Floyd Norris's follow-up to his blog post yesterday [NYT] Sphere: Related Content

Cramer v. Stewart

A lot is being made of the faceoff beatdown that occurred on the Daily Show last night. I don't really know what to make of it because I don't have TV but the best indication of what we (i.e. anyone who's paying attention to this type of stuff) was posted at Daily Intel by Chris Smith. Whole thing here. This excerpt hits the nail:

But what Cramer and CNBC do will always be showbiz, to a large extent. What Stewart did last night was very, very important. Not so much because he voiced — articulately, backed by evidence, and with real feeling — the rage of millions. It was important because Stewart reminded journalists of the standards they're supposed to live up to: to call bullshit, no matter the trouble it may cause them professionally. Reporters are generally compromised already, to some degree, but the conflicts will only get worse as job security in the mainstream media continues to evaporate. It's going to take more courage to fight The Man, but it has never been more important. Some bloggers are stepping into the void already, to be sure. But Stewart showed last night that there's no substitute for having a big, well-funded megaphone. (Emphasis mine)

I think most would agree that this even goes back to the pre-Iraq war days in 2002-early 2003. Journalists knew that the war was going to be waged on false pretenses and they did nothing. Now most of them regret not speaking up.

No different here.

If the "experts" at CNBC actually knew what they should have known, they sure as hell didn't tell anyone (which is incidentally, their job) and if they didn't know, then their comptenency is nil and they should all be fired.

They could have done anything to have gotten the warning out into the mainstream media and it didn't happen. Who knows if it would have done any good anyway (see above). Bottom line is that everyone needs to start questioning anyone or anything on their TV more and exploring more alternative forms of information to find out what's going on out there because, apparently, it's pretty not good. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Links 3/12/2009

Now, this is a financial scandal! [Diane Francis/National Post]

Congress says blame the accountants! [Accounting Observer via Floyd Norris]

Fake SEC filings. This is comforting. Prediction: new audit procedure will require Senior Associates to watch the person clicking the button to file the SEC form [footnoted.org] Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

SHOCKER: Insurance Trainings are Really Boring

Last summer I did some writing about sitting in trainings and considering feigning choking to get out of them (at least that's one solution I didn't previously think of).

After joining a new company, I've learned that regardless of the company you are working for, these trainings do not vary in the level of boringness. That being said, usually the subject matter is probably of some importance to the job. The whole challenge is that 99.9% of the time, the individual presenting the material wouldn't be able to talk about adult entertainment without being boring.

Being in trainings, especially when you're new to a company, is terribly more boring than a typical training session than if you've been with a company for some time. It also makes for several awkward introductions with those sitting in your general vicinity. This is also common when a professional is attending a conference alone. These introductions typically occur right at the beginning of the class when everyone goes around and says their name, what they do at the job they hate, and their best sexual experience. Ok, not the last one but usually the presenters usually request some "interesting" fact about each person. Interesting is subject to interpretation of course.

Oh and training with lunch provided is the worst. Forced to sit in the training room and listen and watch people eat has got to be the worst punishment a person could receive. Especially strangers. I can't really think of anything more awkward and socially disgusting than eating with a bunch of strangers who are learning about insurance. You definitely find yourself thinking, "oh, well judging by what you're putting in your body right now, I'm not surprised at the size of your pants" or "OH, that's definitely going to be coming up later. Would you like me to give you my girlfriend's business card? She's an eating disorder therapist".

During lunch, the unthinkable happens. It just so happens that several of the women sitting nearby are pregnant or had recently given birth. Now, just so we're clear, I'm a big fan of kids (no seriously) and healthy nurturing families (again, I'm being serious). What I don't necessarily care for is a gaggle of women talking about their personal experiences at length in the ear shot of people who could easily be offended or made to feel uncomfortable.

Oh, morning sickness? That sounds wonderful. Oh, that's your favorite baby book? I'll be sure to write that one down. Oh, three centimeters dilated? Shouldn't you be going to the hospital? Oh, your husband is putting on weight too? Great! This is your third child? I guess you're not from China...

It never ends.

Until, of course, the Power Point presentation continues. At which point the maternal blabbing stops and the stimulating conversation of premium financing continues. Power Point. I'm sure Microsoft's intentions were genuine when thinking, "what kind of product can we create that will make presentations less unbearable?" At least they disposed of those awful overhead projectors that would use transparencies or had to be sprayed every 10 minutes after the presenter used colored marker...It was a noble task they undertook in Redmond and I would largely say they succeeded in terms of the actual medium used to present material.

Again, but once subject to average human use, that's when it became a failure. Slides with too much information on them for starters. Nothing better than sitting in the second row and suffering from chronic eye strain because the creator of the presentation thought it was imperative to get all the information on one slide.

Oh and the fancy bells and whistles. The text fades in to Star Trek beaming audio. OOOOOHHHHHHHH. There's a "choo-choo" sound and the text rolls in like a Union Pacific into Omaha. Fancy. This makes me more apt to be interested?

At one point, I make the mistake of participating in the discussion by answering a question. It was a simple question that obviously no one knew the answer to. Apparently the majority of people who work in insurance have barely gotten out of high school. I must have sounded like a know-it-all because I felt some subtle ridicule after I answered. That's the last time I participate...

The presenter tells bad jokes. Really bad. They might be funny if he had any sense of comedic timing. Any comedian will tell you that timing is everything. This guy didn't have it. Not only that, he told the jokes flat. No change in the tone of his voice, no pause in between the lines, punch line was a lame pun. Footage in the Gaza Strip is more amusing.

I guess my final question would be, why the hell are there games? I understand that presenters are trying to make things interesting but playing games that are insurance related are not really games. They are sleeping aids, disguised as quizzes that are disguised as a "game". Just because they're keeping track of points doesn't make it a "game". UGH.

I guess I should be grateful that I have a job in this economy. And maybe these people that I was in training with aren't so bad after all. Or maybe I'm just bitter because I haven't been discovered as a blogger. Hmmmmmmmmm Sphere: Related Content

Links 3/11/2009 - the morning after

Believe what you want but CFO may need to do some internal communication [CFO]

300. Not the movie, just the worst of the worst. [re: The Auditors]

Citi is playing the game [FT] Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Great Job = Discount on a Membership at Costco

My previous employer, the one that sounds like a radio station (rhymes w/ "MG"), made a lot of noise of being an "Employer of Choice". This pretty much entailed giving unique benefits like discounts on big box store memberships or allowing employees to cut out of work at three on Fridays during the summer (as client demands would allow, which basically meant that no one that was working for a client would leave early).

The Radio Station was OBSESSED with being the best Final BIG 4 firm. The general idea was to create the perception that people loved working there because of all these great "perks". I suppose if you removed the providing of professional services aspect from the business model, then it could possibly work that way.

As you might expect, these initiatives basically did not apply to the majority of the professionals working there. Turns out, this is NOT the strategy a professional services company should employ when they want to be the "best" according to a CFO magazine article that came out today that centers around a speech given by a human resources professor from Rutgers. Read here.

The nail is hit on the head with these two paragraphs (emphasis mine):

"HR wants to treat most employees the same way, and they spend considerable time trying to defend or fix poor performers, taking on the St. Bernard role," [Professor Beatty] said. "Low turnover isn't necessarily a good thing. Think about where you might want to disinvest."

Human resources is also behind what Beatty called the "silly" idea that a company should try to be the "employer of choice." If you are the employer of choice, he asked rhetorically, who's going to be applying for your jobs? "Everybody and their dog's brother," he said. "You want people who are excited, enthused, and understand how to contribute to what you do, as opposed to those who simply want to find a good place to hide out."

This pretty much sums up the experience that I had working at this "great place to work". It was fairly obvious that many of the people at this firm were not the "best" as I and many of my colleagues would define them. I don't have an ivy league degree or anything but if you find yourself constantly explaining simple analyses performed to your supervising manager, you might conclude that you may be working for someone far less intelligent than yourself.

Furthermore, the individuals that were often the most intelligent and able to contribute constructively were looked upon as people who weren't willing to tow the company line and that made noise when obvious mismanagement was occurring or incorrect procedures were being applied. It was fairly clear that the management group wanted sheep in the firm that wouldn't question the status quo and would simply follow orders. As I recall, there was quite a bit of that going on at Nuremberg... Sphere: Related Content

Links 3/10/2009

This is important. [DealBreaker]

Bank killer waxes on consumer debt [WSJ]

Misery loves company [Floyd Norris] Sphere: Related Content

Monday, March 9, 2009

Links 3/9/2009

See here for explanation. I promise, more substantive material will be coming....

Lehman [Paul Krugman]

Rambo [Daily Intel]

Pot & Kettle [Reason]

Sphere: Related Content