Another deal gets dissolved. But threats abound. And it's only going to get worse.
Firstly, I prefer the label “realist” as a more apropos label than “gloom and doomer”. Most of us that have remained realists for the past six years or so have a very public track record through public blog posts and public interviews
The ECB and Fed seemed to have pushed Roubini and others into the capitulation. As a rough guess, only about 3 of the up days this year had anything to do with earnings and economic data (the NFP day being the most obvious). The rest were all induced by some political or central bank action. Frankly I’m surprised we weren’t up more in Europe today with the Chinese Bank Reserve Ratio getting cut. At any moment we should get details of all the next steps for the Greek bailouts. We will get to see the ECB swap, the PSI proposal, and retroactive collective action clauses. It will be interesting to see how that works. After the Greek default (yes, bondholders giving up 50% of their notional is a default), it will be interesting to see how Greece does. Hopefully they will actually spend some time trying to figure out alternative ways to finance themselves than the ever more onerous bailout packages from the Troika.
Plunging deeper into the farce-hole, the FT reports tonight that Obama's foreclosure settlement with the banks over their improper seizure of tax-paying US citizens' homes will in fact be subsidized by those very same US taxpayers. It is a hidden clause (that has not been made public yet) that allows the banks to count future loan modifications under the $30bn (taxpayer funded) HAMP initiative towards their $35bn agreement to restructure obligations under the new settlement. As the FT goes on to note, BofA will be able to use future mods made under HAMP towards the $7.6bn in borrower assistance it is committed to provide - which means, in a (as TARP inspector general Neil Barofsky describes) 'scandalous' turn of events the bank will receive payments for averting a borrower default and be reimbursed by the taxpayer for the principal write-down. We have much stronger words for how we are feeling about this but Barofsky sums it up calmly "It turns the notion that this is about justice and accountability on its head". Are the Big Five banks truly beyond the law?
While the world rejoices in the aftermath of the enjoyable diversion in which a fake market surges on fake, politically-motivated data, which incidentally refutes the warning voiced last week by the Fed Chairman who has a far better grasp of the economy than the BLS, warned last week, the confluence of real events continues to indicate that something is brewing in the middle east. Only this time it is not the US adding another aircraft carrier to the three already situated by the Straits of Hormuz. This time the smoke and fire come from Israel. ABC reports that "Israeli facilities in North America -- and around the world -- are on high alert, according to an internal security document obtained by ABC News that predicted the threat from Iran against Jewish targets will increase. "We predict that the threat on our sites around the world will increase … on both our guarded sites and 'soft' sites," stated a letter circulated by the head of security for the Consul General for the Mid-Atlantic States. Guarded sites refers to government facilities like embassies and consulates, while 'soft sites' means Jewish synagogues, and schools, as well as community centers like the one hit by a terrorist bombing in Buenos Aires in 1994 that killed 85 people." Hopefully the head of security's prediction track record is better than that of the CBO, and that the very act of prediction does not in effect "make it so." At least courtesy of this latest escalation by Israel we get a clue of what to focus on, if not so much who the actual aggressors will be. In the meantime, Iran, which has been dealing with hyperinflation for weeks now, and likely has bigger problems to worry about than focusing on "soft sites" will naturally sense this escalation as the provocation it may well be meant to be, respond in kind, which will lead to further responses of definite attacks imminent by Iran's adversaries, and so on, and so forth, until finally the dam wall finally cracks.
Why Do We Write Again and Again About SOPA? Because It Would Kill the Internet and Free Speech ...
Over the past two days, Reuter's Matt Goldstein and Jennifer Ablan have been poring over a formerly confidential transcript of one Stevie (but don't call him that) Cohen, better known as the man who created "information arbitrage", the investor's "edge" and made expert networks very rich, if only briefly. For their extended series on the topic read here, here and here. And while they have done an admirable job of compiling the tasty morsels so far, there is far more here than meets the eye so we open it up to our extended and very much erudite financial audience to find that one slip which the various AGs and DAs have been unable to isolate in years of alleged 'investigatoring'. As Goldstein says: "there is plenty of great and illuminating stuff in the 242 pages of deposition testimony Reuters obtained through a court motion to unseal documents in the civil lawsuit. As we noted in our story, Cohen is pressed at great length for his views on insider trading—he thinks the laws are “vague”. And as we highlighted in our blog, there’s even an amusing little feud between the lawyers over how the SAC Capital founder should addressed. Still, it makes you wonder what was said by Cohen in the more than 400 pages of deposition transcript that wasn’t unsealed. And we’d love to see Cohen on videotape as sometimes body language can be revealing." Perhaps a key point of focus is whether Stevie has himself received tips from the likes of Hank Paulson in the past about future government policy - something we know has already happened albeit with people closer to his Goldman Diaspora, a ring the former Gruntal trader never felt too comfortable with. Because it appears there certainly are hints in that regard, and if indeed proven that SAC was among the "preferential" funds of the administration in its market moving ways, then there would be no surprise why any attempts to find wrongdoing at SAC have so far been duds.
Kashkari Punks CNBC And Joseph Cohen: Compares Business TV And Sellsiders To "Jersey Shore" And "Desperate Housewives"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 11/08/2011 12:58 -0400
We usually mock Neel "get me a napkin" Kashkari. This is not going to be one of those times, because in one of the better essay written on the topic, the Pimco equity strategist and former Hank Paulson right hand (fall)guy makes a mockery out of anyone and everyone who tries to predict the future, wth an emphasis on CNBC (not surprisingly considering the relentless barrage that the Comcast fin-comedy channel has unleashed toward Bill Gross in the past year) and that seer of seers, prognosticator of prognosticators: A. Joseph Cohen. Kashkari's take home: "In December 2007 sell-side equity strategist Abby Joseph Cohen predicted the S&P 500 would climb from 1,463 to reach 1,675 by the end of 2008. Given the brewing financial crisis, this was a bold call. In fact, the crisis dramatically worsened and the S&P 500 ended 2008 at 903. As the U.S. crisis recedes into memory, people have moved on.... If we’re right – and neither PIMCO, nor anyone else, can accurately predict the level of the stock market at a certain date in one week, one month or one year – why do so many sell-side analysts (and a few investment managers) make such predictions? And why do we pay any attention? I will answer my question with a question: Why do millions of people watch professional wrestling, “The Real Housewives” or “Jersey Shore?” It makes for entertaining television." And the stab right at CNBC's conflicted little heart: "My hope from this piece is not that you stop watching business television. I certainly watch regularly and I also participate, sharing PIMCO’s views. I think it is a unique medium in which to follow markets and quickly hear a variety of perspectives on important topics. My hope is that it becomes a little easier to distinguish thoughtful commentators discussing knowable economic topics from entertainers throwing darts." Congratulations sell-side Wall Street, and their number one media venue to present senseless permbullish biased forecasts - you have just been Punk'd.
The WSJ has published the list of 18 trades that Finra is currently investigating (or, rather, isn't) Steve Cohen's hedge fund for illegal practices ("expert networks" and what not), using the same methodology as that applied by Zero Hedge a year ago, before anyone had the faintest clue that SAC would be the target of an extensive theatrical campaign by regulators and populist politicians. The following statement by Finra is priceless: "In the 18 referrals made by Finra and the NASD between 2002 and 2011 that were reviewed by the Journal, investigators said they were vexed by SAC's repeated appearance in routine screens of suspicious trading near mergers and acquisitions, earnings announcements and other market-moving news." Needless to say, if any readers has wittingly or otherwise traded alongside SAC in any of these transactions, it may be time to shred any evidence. After all, the "I don't recall nothing" testiony worked miracles for Rupert Murdoch.
Grassley Steps Up SAC Insider Trading Inqury: Demands SEC Information On How Regulator Resolved Steve Cohen FINRA ReferralsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/24/2011 11:45 -0400
It looks like the SAC investigation is about to go to the very top. As we reported over the weekend, Senator Chuck Grassley recently commenced an investigation into at least 20 trades, both stocks and options, at SAC Capital, that may implicate the billionaire with the zamboni in insider trading (despite a very spirited defense that Mr. Cohen is a true humanitarian at, heart having recently purchased none other than the NY Mets, evidence of his civic duty) and lead to an insider trading conviction that would make the Raj Raj affair pale in comparison. Of course, any investigation of SAC would draw many parallels to Madoff, where it would appear impossible that any potential insider trading over the years occurred without the regulator's knowledge. Hence, in a new letter to the SEC, the senator has made it clear that he is now investigating whether or not SEC pursued and/or resolved any of the numerous Finra referrals regarding SAC. Grassley is also seeking: "how the number of referrals over this timeframe compares to similarly situated firms, [and] whether a Wells Notice was ever drafted with regard to SAC Capital related to any of these referrals or related to any other matter (if so, please provide a copy of any Draft or Final Wells Notice)." We expect to discover the answer to the last question to be exactly zero. We also expect that various district attorneys will suddenly jump at the opportunity to earn a few political brownie points now that they smell some very nutritious blood in the water.
Save yourself the $1,000 bottle service at Tryst (not to mention the always failing Martingale strategy (unless you are the Fed or a Primary Dealer with discount window access of course) at the high rollers table), and cut right to the chase with this summary of the key points by Stevie Cohen, Jamie Dinan, Lee Ainslie, Izzy Englander and Jeremy Siegel.
Following all the recent busts of former SAC and related portfolio managers, it was only a matter of time before prosecutors zeroed in on the guy at the top. The WSJ writes: Prosecutors are examining trades made in an account overseen by hedge-fund titan Steven Cohen that were suggested by two of his former fund managers who have pleaded guilty to insider trading. The development surfaced in court filings submitted in connection with a sweeping insider-trading investigation, which focuses on ways traders can receive nonpublic information from experts connected to industries or firms. At issue is trading in a $3 billion stock portfolio personally overseen by Mr. Cohen at SAC Capital Advisors and referred to by the government in the filings as the "Cohen Account" and internally at SAC as "The Big Book." SAC portfolio managers funnel their best trading ideas to Mr. Cohen for this account and are paid a bonus if they generate big returns for Mr. Cohen, according to people familiar with the matter." As a silo-based hedge fund, where every PM is given freedom to win or lose small amounts of money on their own, but make big amounts of money on the high conviction ideas, or, in other words, those in which the PM has a lot of inside information, it was only a matter of time before prosecutors realized that even teflon Stevie would eventually have commingled insider-information based trades. The only question now is how he weasles his way out. And unless the government totally screws up its case, it may be not that easy any more.
When we observed Stevie Cohen's odd and sudden purchase of 5% of OREX stock, announced in the last minutes of trading yesterday, we speculated that either this was another blatant attempt by the man with the golden touch to purchase shares in a company which would come up with the golden grail: a drug for obesity, or "we would not be surprised if this is the first, maybe of many, red herrings thrown by the legendary hedge fund manager to indicate that he does not have a 100% batting average when it comes to predicting FDA outcomes." Well, it was the latter. OREX just got the worst news possible and the stock is about to open 60-80% lower. This will be a ~$20 million loss for the Connecticut man. One wonders, more than ever, what is the quid pro quo?
Earlier today, SAC Capital filed a 13G in which it disclosed an incremental 2.374 million share stake in Orexigen, or 5% of the total, which also happens to be the stock's 10 Day Average volume. Why is Orexigen special? The company is expected to announce a ruling by the FDA on whether its leading obesity drug candidate Contrave will be approved, just this afternoon. Of course, with old blue eyes indicating his last minute participation, we are 100% confident that the firm will pass with flying colors. We are also confident that i) Gerson Lehrman and other expert networks have quite a few experts on how Contrave is viewed by the regulators, and/or ii) that Sigma and SAC may well have retained the services of recent portfolio managers who in their previous life have had quite an extended facility with the nuances of the Contrave-focused metabolic processes.
Following tragic days such as yesterday, some form of levity is always welcome. Which is why we present A. Joseph Cohen's latest. Let the joyous merriment commence.