Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Never Feel Sorry For A Man With his Own Plane

I am, by nature, empathetic. I look at the distress that the government's rather relentless case against SAC and Steve Cohen has brought to him, his business, and his family and feel it must be hard. And for what? Totally victimless crime(s) if you ask me (if 'crimes' is the even the right word)! And, to be fair, they are victimless crimes that he has firmly and continually denied and was just as shocked as Federal Prosecutors to discover the sheer extent to which not only was SAC the first call BEFORE the first call but to the lengths his trusted minions went to shake down sources for material non-public information of every flavour and variety and circumvent the extensive compliance procedures that he personally directed be put in place! Shocking indeed...and disappointing.

I can understand the extreme disappointment and shattering of dreams that being arm-twisted into admitting guilt by a frickin' bureaucrat who likely makes less than Cohen pays Bubbles The Clown to twist balloons into funny animals at his kids' birthday party. This admission wrested from Him under unending duress, will mean that posterity will NOT utter his name with the same veneration as one might say "Bernard Baruch". Nor will his photo adorn the gilded walls of the trading Hall Of Fame with the likes of George Soros, or Michael Steinhardt, but will instead be caricatured with Martha "I hate Ina Garten" Stewart and Raj "I Paid Kenny Rogers $4mm to Play The Gambler Over and Over and Over" Rajaratnam. You can take away a man's money, and he'll survive, but take away a man's honour and bragging rights and you end up like Dick Fuld - NEVER being able to find a bona-fide golfing partner. Fortunately, unlike Fuld who's sob story is forcing him to sell assets, Mr Cohen will always be able to pay Guy Fieri to play a few rounds, but its not the same. The legacy is now shot. One wonders however, how low he'll go and whether he may upon hitting bottom seek Lance Armstrong-like redemption in an Oprah confessional?

And while the loss of 3 & 50 which will undoubtably hobble attempts to catch Icahn, Dalio or Simons in the dash for whatever they are all dashing for, it must be worth both the money, humiliation, and shattered dreams just to stop the relentless pitting of former friends and colleagues against each other as if gladiators before a raucous Roman crowd. No humans should be faced with the prospect of having to choose between self-incromination and resulting prison or sending a friend to prison for a victimless infraction of an ostensibly technical rule...don't you think? And there is stigma. Which university will now accept his donation for the "Steve Cohen Endowed Lectureship in Financial Ethics"? In Japan such stigma even damages the marriage prospects of one's children, though we are more liberal in America. Nonetheless, it is unlikely his wealth will now be able to buy him an Ambassadorship, Senate seat, Mayoralty, or Governorship, and may have to settle for buying a professional sports team to lighten himself of some of his remaining billions.

But before you shed too many tears, you should take the advice of Charles Morse (masterfully played by Anthony Hopkins for which he won a special Academy Award), the protaganist in David Mamet's film, aptly named "The Edge" . The aging billionaire Morse is being taunted by young photographer Robert Green (played by Alec Baldwin), emboldened for the latter is (unbeknownst to Morse) having an affair with the old billionaire's young wife (Elle MacPherson). They are flying to a remote place in Alaska for a photo shoot. Green (showing faux sympathy) asks Morse how difficult and challenging it must be "to be rich". "You never who your friends are", "You never know if someone is sincere or just wants something from you....". "Yeah it must be rough...". Hopkins is silent. Expressionless. He hears what Baldwin is saying, clearly contemplating it carefully as they cross beautiful virgin Alaska wilderness. Then, in with the utmost of non-chalance, Hopkins responds:"Yes, well you should NEVER feel sorry for a man who owns his own Jet Plane..."

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