Monday, May 13, 2013

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

I get depressed from time-to-time thinking about "The Edge" SAC and other "well-informed" investors can (and seemingly often do) achieve in comparison to an uninformed, but nonetheless reasonably systematic investor, such myself. Certainly, some of this is derived from good security analysis, and old-fashioned vision. But "The Edge" historically appears to be disturbingly pervasive across a variety of analysis such as the penchant for the slightly weaker of the highest momo stocks (many of which were formerly the highest momo stocks), but which haven't (yet) been torpedoed by preannouncements or estimate revisions to underperform their close highest momo kin, and have a meaningfully elevated probability of being torpedoed in the next interval. While there may be other explanations for this phenomena, Occam's law would lead one in the direction of selective disclosure and trading upon material non-public information. Not that one should be surprised at this.  The sheer number of people with privileged information is vast as is the trade in such information via "expert networks", even before considering friends, family, old boys' networks or similar networks of obligation and

All this makes Porsche's Volkswagen ummm.... it a pecadillo, all the more incredible, and the losses suffered by the investment equivalent of "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" all the more schaudenfraudelicious. Larry Robbins prescient Glenview, David Einhorn's wily Greenlight, Halvorsen's mighty Viking, Singer's calculating Elliot Associates, Carlson's swaggering Black Diamond, as well as SAC, Tiger Asia, and Perry, and another more than forty, well-snookered, plaintiffs all got smoked. There were undoubtedly many more, who, like the guy who tried to open a bottle of Champagne with a corkscrew, were too embarrassed to put their name in the lights.    

Some think, and argue persuasively that Porsche is well-guilty of outright fraud. I am certainly not qualified to judge the legal merits, but as a detached observer, and one who tries hard NOT to be a
hypocrite, I am amused that the guys who persistently pursue, and often obtain,The Edge (by hook and/or by crook) are suing because they were, on this occasion, on the very wrong side of The Edge. Porsche managed to keep their intentions so private, NONE of The League had sufficient suspicions to prevent getting hammered. And impressively, there were no apparent leaks by Porsche's option counterparty banks, accountants, lawyers, or administrators. Or perhaps The League were just so overconfident in their fundamental assessments, they didn't feel that they needed to go the extra mile to obtain the requisite Edge.

So despite my opening lament, upon  reflection, I finish with a tad more optimism, knowing that The League are not infallible, and that they do, from time-to-time, get it horribly wrong. Maybe this should be Martoma's and SAC's defense ("what the hell! i was at RISK!! the Doc coulda been talking out his ass!!). But it also seems that in continuing to pursue the suit to the end that there is a fundamental asymmetry, a lack of sportsmanship in taking one's market lumps. One wonders if Martoma's expert network Doc WAS fabricating material non-public information...would he be sued?

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