Thursday, January 31, 2013

Elemental Insider Trading - Mid-Term Exam

Mid Term Examination
Graduate School of Business,
Dept of Financial Contrapreneurship
Adjunct Prof. D. Levine
MBA Course: 501 : Elemental Insider Trading

Student Name____________________ Date____________________________

Instructions: Examinations will be disclosed to all students at the same time. No penalties will be given for students who manage to obtain the exam before disclosure (either in part or in whole) unless incontrovertible evidence can be established as to one's guilt. Perfect test scores will not be considered proof of cheating, however, students who ARE caught red-handed will be made an example of, sent before a disciplinary council and will have their Graduate Student Common Room privileges immediately suspended. 

1.  "More's Law" of insider trading hypothesizes the relationship between

(a) Trading Intel stock based upon your expert network and receiving a Wells Notice for inside trading
(b) The frequency one trades on inside information with the likelihood that one will be caught
(c) The relative size of one's typical inside trade to one's uninformed trade with the likelihood one will be caught.
(d) The amount of commission one pays his broker with the probability of receiving the first call before the first call
(e) The more money one has to the ability to better-lawyer oneself in order to avoid getting caught or weasel out if one is indicted

2. Insider Trading that contravenes existing laws is far from homogenous. It manifests itself in many shapes and sizes. Match the phrase from Column-A which most closely matches the transgression of the Perps in Column-B, by placing the correct name from Column-B in the center line:

misappropriation____________________Vincent Chiarella
fiduciary breach____________________Raj Rajaratnum
an inside job_______________________Martin Lipton
sense of entitlement________________The Wily Brothers
friendly advice_____________________SAC/Matthew Martoma
back-scratching_____________________Joe Nacchio
Great Train Robbery_________________David Einhorn
organized conspiracy________________Martha Stewart
financial doping____________________Sam Waksal
opportunistic shoplifting___________Rajat Gupta
f*ck compliance!____________________Todd Newman

3. What statement most closely approximates the insider-trading equivalent of the US Military's "Don't Ask - Don't Tell" policy?

(a) "Your BEST ideas...Just give me your 'BEST, MOST CERTAIN, CAN'T LOSE IDEAS'"
(b) "You're paid to perform: how you do it is your own business"
(c) "Whatever you do, DO NOT bring me into your circle of's enough that I trust YOU"
(d) "We PAY to be the first call before the first call..."
(e) "The rules are: No tips by e-mail, no tips on recorded lines"
(f) All of the above

4.   At which venue is one MOST likely to cultivate material public non-public information? Explain your answer.

(a) A Wall St Bridge Club
(b) The Cotton Club
(c) The Country Club
(d) The Harvard Club
(e) Business Roundtable
(f) Son's little-league game in Greenwich

5.  Complete the following phrase: Dumpster diving as a means of gathering material non-public information is NOT illegal because:

(a) they were throwing the away the information anyway
(b) it is public in that anyone could, if they had the same grit and determination as me, dumpster dive
(c) Any simpleton knows to shred confidential information with a powerful cross-shredder if they don't want someone else to read it
(d) most companies don't own the dumpsters. The dumpsters are property of the landlord or the contracted refuse company
(e) It is already public as external lawyers, accountants, bankers, advisors, as well as cleaners, printers, personal assistants, legal & compliance, the CEO, and all manner of other staff members have already disseminated it to friends and family

6. Correctly identify the landmark US legal case aborting the legality of insider trading?

(a) Roe v. Wade
(b) Roe v. O'Hagan
(c) U.S. v. R Foster Winans
(d) U.S. v. O’Hagan
(e) State of NY v Bud Fox
(f) H Kwiatowski v. Angell, Bear Stearns et. al.

(g) State of Texas v. Johnson

7. Which of the following was accused of insider trading but did not or has not gone to jail NOR admitted guilt?

(a) Doug DeCinces and Eddie Murray
(b) Art Samberg
(c) The Wily Brothers
(d) Mark Cuban
(e) Ed Brogan
(f) None of the above
(g) All of the above

8. Complete the sentence with the statement that makes it most accurate:

"Trading in the shares of a stock BEFORE an article is to be published in order to profit from the anticipated reaction in the market is not insider trading because:

(a) it's always "old news"
(b) no one is their right mind would follow what a journalist says since everyone knows everyone who could have traded on it before publishing, will have traded on it.
(c) CNBC and friends of Jim Cramer do it all the time - and HE went to Harvard Law!
(d) The Supreme Court did NOT definitively rule such activity was "Insider Trading" (that decision was 4-4), rather it is mere "Fraud"
(e) the courts are full with more important media cases like, for example, the Duchess of Cambridge's boobs

9. Matthieu, a hypothetical portfolio manager at a large and very profitable hedge fund, discusses a potential trade with his detail-oriented boss. The trade is, for the avoidance of doubt, obviously based upon material non-public information murkily obtained from off-limits sources in ways that contravene existing laws, even by the dubious standards of expert networks. From the point of view of Matthieu's Boss, which of the following statements would most likely constitute "plausible deniability" in regards to the conversation:

(a) "My wife was calling me every two minutes nagging me with questions about whether bathroom #15 should be "periwinkle" or "talcum violet" so I really didn't hear a word he said"
(b) "Matthieu? Never heard of him"
(c) "I thought he was dead - at least he will be"
(d) "I got 700 people working for me and you know what....they all look the same to me"
(e) "When you have more than five kids let's see what YOU can remember"
(f) "We've got a firm-wide policy NOT to use material non-public information. I've got [insert double-digit number here] compliance officers, and [insert another double-digit number here] externally retained lawyers making sure that's the case. Experts we use to supplement our research sign agreements that they won't provide information in violation of existing laws. My guys know that, and they know better than to tell me if in a moment of weakness or greed, they transgressed. THWWAAACK! Ball in your court..."

10. You are a portfolio manager with a LARGE holding in a UK-based drinks company you like.  The company and its bankers have privately contacted you wishing to sound out existing shareholders about "possible changes to the firm's capital structure to improve it's balance sheet", which you suspect, but haven't been definitively informed, can only mean the issuance of shares. They want to arrange a conference call. Do you:

(a) Sell your entire position, then ask questions later
(b) Sell your entire position, then inform compliance
(c) Join conference call, confirm suspicions, THEN sell your entire position
(d) Join conference call, confirm suspicions, sell entire position, AND go short
(e) Join conference call, confirm suspicions, sell your entire position crushing the stock, AND go short and then ask compliance if that was OK?

11. It's Christmas time. An old friend on the sell side "in a position to know" calls you bearing a "gift" and tells you that a major Japanese bank is planning a very very VERY large convertible bond issue that is in the final stages of preparation. Do you:

(a) politely decline the "gift" on the basis of ethics
(b) thank him by moving as much PB business as you can to the bank 
(c) take down as much stock as your lines will let you borrow
(d) sell-short as much stock as you can whether you can borrow it or not
(e) sell-short as much stock  as you can in ALL the Japanese banks whether you can borrow it or not
(f) All of the above
(g) None of the above

12. As a Member of Congress, sitting on important committees, you occupy a powerful position in the world of finance, and have a fiduciary responsibility to your constituents and the bodies you serve. You have just finished attending a briefing from the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board and the Treasury Secretary about the impending disclosure to the public of the perilous state of a number of the largest banks. Do you

(a) Immediately sell all of your stock mutual funds
(b) Immediately sell all of your shareholdings of perilous banks
(c) Buy shares in Goldman Sachs
(d) Both A&B
(e) Both AB&C
(f) Do nothing yourself, but tip-off journalists that the Reps from the other party might just do something self-servingly unethical with the information despite there not being a prohibition against it 

13. You are the Chief Executive Officer of a large listed technology company. You are a driven Type-A personality and you never like to leave any crumbs on the table. You know your quarter is going to be way light both on revenues and net, but that it's likely temporary. You still own mounds of stock and that it will get hammered (not least because some of your less-equified guys are talking to HFs through their Expert Network of choice).  Do you:

(a) sell some stock in a disclosable transaction for "diversification purposes"
(b) collar the stock in an undisclosed transaction
(c) insure you have a 10b5-2 plan in place that allows you to automatically sell stock without regards to your material non-public information
(d) re-price your options AFTER the stock is crushed
(e) use your material non-public information of future revenues to team-up with some private equity friends and recommend to the board a buy-out, to take the company private, triggering your golden parachute and guaranteeing a golden handshake

14. Which of the following was neither indicted NOR served time on insider trading charges?

(a) Dennis Levine ;)
(b) Bill Hwang
(c) Ivan Boesky
(d) Raj Rajaratnum
(e) Arthur Samberg
(f) Michael Milken
(g) Sam Waksal
(h) I will pay $500 (cash) to my professor for the correct answer at the end of the exam

15. From a legal point of view, what form of communication leaves the least audit trail, and is safest for trafficking in material non-public information:

(a) Electronic mail
(b) Encrypted electronic mail
(c) Cell Phone
(d) Recorded Landline to recorded landline
(e) Cell Phone to recorded landline
(f) Cell phone to cell phone
(g) Pay-as-you-go Cell to pay-as-you-go cell

16. When speaking to a source of material non-public information, what is the MOST important question to ask: 

(a) How certain are you?
(b) Where did YOU get the information?
(c) When is the event likely to happen?
(d Is this conversation being taped?
(e) Are you wearing a wire

17.  With respect to insider-trading laws which of the following does NOT constitute material non-public information upon which to trade?

(a) Logging the number of cars in the parking lot of a mfg. co. during the graveyard shift
(b) Twitter tweets about a rumoured acquisition
(c) Yahoo Finance BBs discussion of whisper numbers

(d) Dumpster Diving
(e) Sell-side delivery of ideas via "Alpha-capture" systems 
(f) None of the Above
(g) All of the Above 

18. Which of the following is the most effective legal defense against spending time incarcerated for insider trading breaches:

(a) Ernest Saunder's "I can't remember, I must have Alzheimers defense"
(b) Peter Young's "I'm Crazy As a Coot" defense
(c) The audacious "I am a Time Traveller" defense
(d) The SAC "Trading is a very complicated Mosaic" defense 
(e) The SAC "I trust my Subordinates" defense
(f) The Einhorn "I specifically asked NOT to be an insider" defense
(g) The Sergeant Shultz "I Know Nothing...NOTHING" defense

19. What is the best occupation (excluding being an HFM and getting The Call Before the First Call ) for obtaining material non-public market-moving information upon which to trade:

(a) Financial Printer
(b) Nanny to M&A Banker
(c) Limo Driver
(d) Corporate Finance Lawyer
(e) Auditor
(f) High-end Female Escort with HFM clientele

20. The most effective tool for law-enforcement officials to catch and prosecute insider-trading abuses is: 

(a) wire taps
(b) interception of electronic communication
(c) Dissemination of "bogus but plausible" honeypot information
(d) surveillance of market transactions
(e) analysis of improbable HFM returns

21. Rank the ethical justifications for insider Trading in order of their validity (from most to least):

(a) insider trading profits "trickle down"
(b) they represent a source of charitable contributions
(c) if you don't do it, someone else will
(d) it's a victimless crime
(e) it increases market efficiency
(f) it is an important source of employment
(g) it's guaranteed by the 1st amendment 
(h) it's legal in Liechtenstein and Mauritius

Extra Credit#1: (Use Separate page if required): You are a PM at a large HF. You are presenting your investment thesis to the Boss, a thesis that crucially is based-upon material non-public information - in this instance, a definitive earnings "miss", that you've obtained through one of your frat brothers. Construct a written case for pulling the trigger without incriminating yourself  or entwining The Boss, but nonetheless conveys the opportunity and it's certainty. 

Extra Credit#2: Please provide your professor a current real-world example of Material Non-Public Information including relevant dates, and actions, preferably gleaned from your work experience, family or professional connections, or friendly social network, that you believe will impact the company's stock price accordingly, and why and in which direction you think it will move. Please include the details and nature of your source material.(NB: If providing this information in writing creates a moral dilemma for you, then you are encouraged to leave a detailed message on my private answering machine, where the message will be promptly deleted).

Friday, January 25, 2013

Storting Socks

Quickly scanning Wednesdays' Abnormal Returns, I saw a link Tadas culled entitled "How To Efficiently Sort Stocks" which as a quantitatively-oriented investor, thought might be of interest given Berk's provocative though now dated, paper Sorting Out Sorts (or his JoF article which followed).  I rolled up my sleeves and sharpened my pencil, and was very amused by the post  (detailed below):

How to efficiently sort socks  JAN 22 2013
From Stack Overflow, a question about how to efficient sort a pile of socks.

Yesterday I was pairing the socks from the clean laundry, and figured out the way I was doing it is not very efficient. I was doing a naive search -- picking one sock and "iterating" the pile in order to find its pair. This requires iterating over n/2 * n/4 = n^2/8 socks on average.

As a computer scientist I was thinking what I could do? sorting (according to size/color/...) of course came into mind to achieve O(NlogN) solution.

And everyone gets it wrong. The correct answer is actually:

1) Throw all your socks out.

2) Go to Uniqlo and buy 15 identical pairs of black socks.

3) When you want to wear socks, pick any two out of the drawer.

4) When you notice your socks are wearing out, goto step 1.


Of course, it was Socks, and not Stocks, and I smiled amusedly at my brain's sloppy shortcuts. But upon reflection, given the increasingly short half-life of most quantitative or systematic strategies, the post might just as well have been describing investment strategies, their allocators, and how they are seemingly implemented:

1) Throw out all your old stocks (or underperforming portfolio managers).

2) Go to Clarifi, Tradestation or your data-miner of choice and rank all potential strategies. (or to save time, or if you're a cloner, rank all stocks by something resembling their active weight presence in the portfolios of top-performing hedge funds based on 13F-HRs and intermediate filings)

3) When you need new stocks, pick the top 5 performing strategies, or the aggregate high-conviction clone portfolio

4)  When you notice your Stocks are wearing out or your strategy returns decaying, goto step 1.

This is not a lament, nor a mean-spirited poke at cloners, though it highlights the potential, increasingly severe, feedback effects, more fundamentally-oriented practitioners must navigate.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


In the event you haven't read it, there is superb essay in n+1 entitled Edge and The Art Collector. In it, Gary Sernovitz (whom I'd never read before) compares/contrasts edge in art with edge in investing, with particular respect to Steve Cohen and SAC. Of acute interest (in the factual realm vs. the philosophical or aesthetic) is a good description of SACs systematic exploitation of paying up for the call before the first call, honed by SAC, but also (not mentioned therein) well-employed by Marshall Wace's TOPS and similar first-mover strategies.   This symbiotically leads directly back to the enablers on the sell-side are always seeking ways to monetize research, maximize revenue and get paid for even the slightest perceived info leg-up (release of research report, recommendation change, analyst estimate change etc.) that they themselves cannot legally exploit.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Olympus & TeamJapan (as Explained By S. Suzuki)

I've written a lot about Olympus Corporation. I unconciously mentioned their zaitech first in "We Are All Zaitech Now" - a post primarily about Repo-105, back in October 2010 - that almost a year before FACTA! Long-Term Memory was my first discussion of the FATCA revelation which set the ball rolling. It correctly connected the dots suggesting Gyrus et. al. was an attempt at zaitech cleanup, NOT fraud. "Throwing Good Money After Bad" further expanded upon my belief that bizarre advisory fees were an attempt to finally dispose of losses - a discussion  that  was a full three weeks before Olympus' ex-President Woodford even suspected it was  zaitech related. The clean-up attempt paradoxically was the opposite of fraud in the sense it is trying to reverse the fraud and ineptitude committed years in the past. Unfortunately (and amusingly), the  attempts were themselves fraudulent, and even more inept than the original sins. Kikukawa Quits - Olympus Soars...But Why? still two weeks before Woodford himself knew, laid out in detail why I was virtually certain it was a cover-up of a cover-up. In Capitulation, marking Olympus' "come-clean day", I suggested that confirmation of the obvious removes the risk and uncertainty. Despite that, SWFs and other non-Japanese investors liquidated on baseless fears of criminal prosecution delisting or further bad revelations. Monkey On Your Back further explained why Olympus was cheap and why the market was wrong at YEN700. End Run makes analogies to the excellent WSJ schematic of the Company's two decades of zaitech cover-up. Finally, The Cats In The Hat Won't Be Coming Back was my post-mortem on the near-anniversary  - one that took the form of a somewhat unflattering review of former Olympus President's Woodford's book "Exposure". In it, I suggest while fraudulent, and dumb it differs from Enron-like malfeasance, and that there is no words or phrase in the english language to describe the lack of personal profit and different intention of what Olympus management did over the years.

Through the affair, this "je ne sais quoi" of intention that we see as willfull shareholder neglect is a recurrent theme which Mr Woodford, activists, and foreign investors would have, and should have been more aware. It explains  the behaviour of what in a 2008 post I called TeamJapan, (i.e. Olympus Senior Management, their Board of Directors, their bankers, and Olympus' large corporate shareholders, service providers, as well as regulators). I wrote the post to explain why TCI's run at 9513 (Elec Power Development) was assinine and stupid (from the point of view of TCI's Investors'). It goes to the heart of the behavioural response of almost all Japanese actors and is reprinted for you below....


Christopher Hohn and his TCI are obviously NOT Suzuki parents, for if they were, they would have better understood what they up against in terms of TeamJapan.

Shinichi Suzuki's Nurtured by Love, The Classic Approach to Talent Education is an illuminating account of his philosophy regarding life, music, and learning. For those who do not know of Mr Suzuki, he is the father of a global musical instruction movement which posits that everyone has the aptitude  and is capable of reaching a decent level of musicianship with consistent effort and  practice. Teaching begins young, and employs a methodical progression focused upon sound and mastery and continued practice of prior achievements. It is wonderfully Japanese, in the the most admiring sense - the love part of my love/hate with Japan.

In the book, (which I recommend to everyone whether they are interested in music or not) he recounts an anecdote from his days at the Nagoya Commericial School where he was class president for four years running. The motto of the school was "First Character, Then Ablity". Noble enough. And so he explains:
During the final examinations, one of the students whom I shall call A, was discovered by B to be cheating and B announced the fact loudly to the teacher in charge. A was then sent out o the classroom, which was by then in an uproar. But when the examination was over, and as soon as the studentswere out in the passage, another student C, leaped upon informer B, a big boy, asking him what kind of friends he thought he was, and hit him. The others joined in and they all gave 'B' a sound thrashing. I was still in the classroom. It all happened in the twinkling of an eye. Presently they sent for me, the class president to come to the faculty rom. "What is meaning of this outrageous attack? Were you aware of it?"

Suzuki replied (and recall that he is a pacifist, a thoroughly gentle human being with the highest moral character displayed is countless ways throughout his life):
Suzuki: "I was. I struck him too."

Faculty: What? who are the students that struck him?

Suzuki: All the members of the class, Sir.

Faculty: And you think you did right, do you?

Suzuki: I do not sir. I think it was wrong to cheat. But I think it was extremely unfriendly to report him sir. Please punish us....

If only Hohn had learned violin the Suzuki-way, he could have saved his investors a lot of money, not to mention loss of face....

Sunday, January 13, 2013

SAC Intrigue - Current Bookmaker Odds

BetUnfair Limited : Current Bookmaker Odds
Event: Outcome of SAC/Steve Cohen Investigation

EVENT/OUTCOME SELECTION .............. Price
------------------------------------- -------
Martoma U-Turns by 30th June............1/4
> than 1 other SAC Mgr Indicted.........3/5
SAC Redemptions Suspended...............2/1
Cohen Personal Assets Frozen............3/1
Blackstone Redeems < Jul 1 2014.........3/5 
SAC AUM Jan 1 2014 > $10bn..............8/1
Cohen  Deal Struck - Profit Forfeit.....3/1
+Int+Huge Fine BUT No admission Guilt
SAC Pays At least 8-Digit Fine.........2/11
SAC Pays At least 9-Digit Fine..........3/8
SAC Pays > than 10-Digit Fine...........2/3
Cohen Indicted..........................3/2
Bail Set at < $5,000,000................4/3 
Bail Set at > $5mm < $10mm..............5/4
Bail Set at $10mm++.....................5/4
No Bail................................99/1
Cohen Case Goes to Jury Trial...........4/1
Ex-Wife Testifies at trial..............7/2
Cohen Found NOT Guilty in Jury Trial....3/2
Cohen Found Guilty in Jury Trial........3/2
Cohen Appeals...........................2/9
Guilty - Fine but No Jail..............10/1
Guilty - < 1 years.....................10/1
Guilty - > 1 < 3 year...................4/1
Guilty - > 3 years......................5/1
Cohen on Cover Time Magazine............5/1
Cohen Indicted under RICO Act...........4/1
Cohen retains Geoff Boies...............6/1
Cohen retains Alan Dershowitz...........5/1
Cohen Consults With OJ.................50/1 
Elan Investors File Civil Suit..........2/3
Ruth Madoff sues SAC .................100/1
Fred Wilpon sues SAC..................100/1
Cohen Admits Guilt/Plea bagains........75/1
Feds File Charges Then Drop Case .....100/1
No Charges/No Trial/No Fines Dec 2014..25/1 
Cohen Seen Mowing Own Grass...........500/1

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Learning to Be A Central Banker in 10 Easy Steps (Update)

Welcome Mark Carney! I am certain many people have been offering you advice on what to me appears to be a rather thankless task. Undoubtedly  your experience at the Squid will have given you the necessary sharp elbows and diplomacy to thrive, and your Canadian upbringing arms you with the right amount of earnestness for public service. Nonetheless, I thought you might find something worthy below in the primer  I penned for Mr Bernanke in the waning days of 2007. Best of luck in your mission! Oh, and one final piece of advice: No matter how seductive and enthralling you might initially find the quality of life here in Blighty (considering the digs the Old Lady will finance for you), DO NOT NOT SELL YOUR CANADIAN BOLTHOLE. The novelty wears off quickly and England all-too-quickly becomes Moosonee without the clean air and the blue Walleye...

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Learning to Be A Central Banker in 10 Easy Steps

Start with one policy - for example - interest rates. Place the policy ball in your right hand and begin by lowering rates. which causes the ball be tossed-up into the air, in an arc, and land in your left hand. Note how, when the policy ball is in your left hand and you raise rates, the ball returns in an arc to your right hand. Repeat several times to get the feel. (Note this doesn't work if you are left-handed)

Now with he first policy ball in your left hand, take a second policy ball in your right hand, say the value of the US dollar. Notice how when you lower interest rates while the PBoC, and other official buyers in BRICs and GCC countries buy Long Bonds, the 2nd policy ball, the Dollar, feels heavy as if it wants to fall to the ground. Exerting appropriate pressure, you must force it up to arc, after which it should fall back down landing in the left hand.

Now with interest rates in your left hand, and the FX value of the dollar in your right hand, try to toss the rates lower, and as they arc downwards, you will need to jettison the dollar. Be certain to avoid the common mistake of throwing up rates too high if the dollar is NOT falling.

After letting the dollar fall for a while (note the nice concave arcing pattern in the picture), you will need to catch it with your right hand firmly by attempting to pay some lip-service to a strong-dollar policy. This permits the official entities who are at once your friends and your enemies, to get off the hook by buying dollars under the premise that you do care about its value.

Warning: Under no circumstance should you allow the policy balls to collide by lowering rates AND letting the dollar fall. Or else you might ultimately have to raise rates, making the introduction of the 3rd policy ball very difficult.

Get the hang of things by practicing tossing the two balls, raising and lowering interest rates as required, and jawboning (and where necessary) letting the dollar fall to floor. See if you do this while reciting Humphrey-Hawkins-like testimony, and answering your wife's questions.

Now quickly, you will find a third ball in your hand whether your ready for it or not, for as rates have been raised to pay lip service to inflation and the falling dollar, the third ball, economic growth, needs to be tossed into the air. Be careful NOT to make the common mistake of walking in circles while juggling the balls.

Irrespective of how high you toss it, will begin arcing lower as the economy begins to falter. Just before you catch the falling economy with your left hand, you will have thrown the rates ball back your right, while the dollar accelerates its decline towards your left, such that you can start all over again. It is essential to avoid changing the policies in a staggered rhythm.

As the economy climbs back on its arc to your right, you will be catching interest interest rates with your left, having sent the dollar on a stronger trajectory with your right, before repeating the exercise. Be sure not to launch the interest rate ball too high or too far in front of you.

Congress at this point will be demanding that you pay the most attention to the economy ball, so you must learn to turn your back (on them), and see if you can juggle behind your back as in the diagram (right).

CONGRATULATIONS! You are now ready to set monetary policy for the largest economy in the world!!

NEXT WEEK: In your next lesson we'll introduce balls 4 and 5 in the form of a sub-prime crisis, and banking system solvency issues, just for fun!

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Hank's Chutzpah

Sorry, Hank. You got screwed. But by Joe Cassano - NOT by the Government. At least not in the AIG bailout. In the case of you versus Elliot Spitzer, one might argue that you got a raw deal - but you must accept some culpability for that since you sorta kinda challenged The Spitz to a proverbial duel when you clearly were breaking the law which it must be said, wasn't a terribly clever thing to do (the duel thing) if you'd wanted to keep your seat at the table. After all, on your watch, AIG got caught manipulating earnings, changing the characterization of your earnings, helping others "manage" their earnings, participating in reinsurance bid-rigging. Ignorance is hard to argue given your legendary reputation for knowing everything about everything that went on at your company including anyone who sold a share of your stock. Yet, like WB, you might still have gotten off if you'd been polite, regretful, apologetic, donated some dough to the Spitzer's favourite charity, and gotten one of your faithful to do a Ron Ferguson* for you and take the bullet.

The world knows you're sore and bitter. And that's OK since, after all, who wouldn't be if they saw the value of assets they control (whether directly or even through an Irish Orphanage) dwindle from double digit billions to less-than-a-unit. Yet the argument you make that somehow the US Government egregiously misappropriated or stole AIG from the shareholders is simply balderdash, and a waste of civic time and money. AIG was toast. Not worthless (as it turns out), but in the absence of government support certainly insolvent since there was no way for you to meet your margin calls. You were Merriweathered*. And if you'd been forcibly dismembered (like LTCM) on your creditor's terms, rather than the government's, you and the other shareholders would have gotten ZERO NOTHING NADA NIL, irrespective of whether it caused a Herstatt-like financial circle-jerk meltdown. The ONLY equity value AIG had at that moment in time resulted from our massive and generous backstop and the outcome even then was not assured which is why so many other things WITHOUT GRAVE LIQUIDITY CONSTRAINTS traded at 10cents on the dollar, or indeed, worse. Equity on risky leveraged financials is always short the put - and you got exercised and it was your own fault. Indeed, if I were King at the time, I would have taken EVERYTHING from AIG shareholders on the one side for the extension of US Public liquidity to AIG for the sake of the system, and, on the other side demanded large haircuts from AIG counterparties on the other side of the mortgage CDSs, else the US Govt cuts AIG FP loose and they take their chances in bankruptcy court with everyone else. And if I were King, I wouldn't have done this to maximize return for the public, but rather to inflict punitive damages upon those who needed (and deserved) a spanking.  This wouldn't have been perfect justice, but it would have effectively sent an unmistakable message where it needed to be sent. Then, as King and now-owner of AIG, I would have pursued criminal suits in an attempt to claw back the several-hundred-million Mr Cassano took down in bonus for wrongly-accounted-for up-front profit for deals that were effectively still open.  

So it is with something other than amusement that I look upon your lawsuit, and your encouragement of AIG to join you in your Jonah-like case against the big white government whale. Disdain comes close to what I feel. Contempt perhaps comes closer. But neither fully describes the brass-balled chutzpah being displayed by your royal failure to accept culpability and pin the blame elsewhere. I only regret that those filing a lawsuit deemed to be without merit aren't - like in the UK - obliged to pay ALL the costs of the court and the defense.