Consumer protection

As "Housing Recovery" Fizzles A New Scheme Emerges: Boost FICO Scores By Changing The Definition

Now that the the fourth dead cat bounce in US housing since the Lehman crisis is rapidly fading, and laundered Chinese "hot money" transfers into US luxury real estate no longer provides a firm base to the ultra-luxury segment, the US government is scrambling to find ways to boost that all important - and missing - aspect of any US recovery: the housing market. This is further amplified by the recent admission by the Fed that it is in fact encouraging asset bubbles, not only in stocks but certainly in all assets, such as houses. Well, the government may have just stumbled on the solution to kick the can yet again and force yet another credit-driven housing bubble, a solution so simple we are shocked some bureaucrat didn't think of it earlier: changing the definition of the all important FICO score, the most important number at the base of every mortgage application.

Russia To Ban Several McDonalds Burgers Including Royal And Filet-O-Fish

Think only the US can engage in the farce known as "sanctions" (why theater, because until Obama sanctions Gazprom, yeah right... crickets... it is nothing but populist theater)? Think again. Overnight Russia's consumer protection agency, filed a lawsuit in a Moscow court - which clearly has nothing to do with recent geopolitical bickering between the former Cold War enemies - seeking to ban some of McDonald's Corp's burgers along with its milk shakes and ice cream, a court spokeswoman said on Friday. The reason for the ban: as Reuters reports, a regional branch of the consumer protection agency Rospotrebnadzor asked the court to declare production and sales of some products illegal due to "inappropriate physical-chemical parameters."  The lawsuit's list of contested products named the fast-food chain's Royal Cheeseburger, Filet-o-Fish, Cheeseburger and Chicken Burger but not its Big Mac burger.

Frontrunning: July 23

  • Here come the gates which we predicted in 2010: SEC Is Set to Approve Money-Fund Rules (WSJ)
  • Dick's cuts 400 jobs as golf now less popular (MW)
  • Kerry arrives in Israel, pushes for peace (Reuters)
  • Pay Penalty Haunts Recession Grads as U.S. Economy Mends (BBG)
  • Appeals Courts Issue Conflicting Rulings on Health-Law Subsidies (WSJ)
  • Rebel Stronghold Donetsk Holds Breath as Shellfire Mounts (BBG)
  • Business executive wins Georgia Republican runoff in U.S. Senate race (Reuters)
  • Five held in China food scandal probe, including head of Shanghai Husi Food (Reuters)
  • Jobs Hold Sway Over Yellen-Carney as Central Banks Splinter (BBG)

Ackman Has 6 Months Left To Come Up With The Devastating-est HLF Presentation Ever

UPDATE: This is now the biggest single-day rise in HLF's history...

Bill Ackman's "most important presentation of his career" is not going so well. The 'Death Blow' expectations Ackman created yesterday (that sent the stock down 13%) have been entirely wiped away as a 2-hour presentation, 100s of slides, and nothing really new sent stocks 16% higher today... It appears time is running out for Mr. Ackman as his massive put position (bleeding value every day that passes) is set to expire in six months... and we suspect Carl Icahn can outlast Ackman's view of market 'irrationality'.

Key Events In The Coming Busy Week

Now that the World Cup is over, and following last week's global macro reporting slumber (aside for the Portuguese risk flaring episode of course), things pick up quite a bit in the coming week. Here are the key events.

$1 Million A Month - What Ex-NSA Chief Alexander Charges Wall Street For "Advice"

So what’s a Peeping Tom, anti-democratic, Constitution-trampling intelligence crony to do after leaving decades of “public service?” Move into the private sector and collect a fat paycheck from Wall Street, naturally. So what is Mr. Alexander charging for his expertise? He’s looking for $1 million per month. Yes, you read that right. That’s the rate that his firm, IronNet Cybersecurity Inc., pitched to Wall Street’s largest lobbying group the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA)

Bart Chilton Joins America's Largest Law Firm As Policy Advisor

It seems like it was only yesterday (actually it was early November) when infamous CFTC commissioner, legendary threat to gold manipulators nowhere, and Alexander Godunov impersonator, Bart Chilton made a very dramatic exit stage left. At the time, we asked rhetorically if said dramatic depature was just for show. The rhetorical answer to the rhetorical question: of course it was, confirmed moments ago when Chilton became just the latest "regulator" to take the great revolving door out of a worthless public service Washington office into a just as worthless, but much better paying private-sector Washington office. Presenting the latest employee of DLA Piper, the largest law firm in the US, and possibly the world, by number of partners - Bart Chilton, poet.

The Five-Year Fantasy Is Ending

For five long years, we have pursued the fantasy that we could return to "growth" without having to fix or change anything. The core policy of the fantasy is the consensus of "serious economists," i.e. those accepted into the priesthood of PhD economists protected by academic tenure or state positions: what we suffered in 2009 was not the collapse of leveraged crony-state financialization but a temporary decline of "aggregate demand" and productive capacity. The five-year fantasy that free money would fix all the distortions and systemic problems is drawing to a close. Why can't the fantasy run forever? The two-word answer: diminishing returns. Handing out subprime auto loans works at first because it pulls demand forward: anyone who wants or needs a new car buys one now, rather than put the purchase off a year or two. Eventually the marginal buyers default and demand falls off, and the distortions cause an even greater collapse in demand and auto loan quality.

Bitcoin Community Gangs Up On "Bad Actor" As Mt.Gox Site (And Feed) Disappears

UPDATE: Mt. Gox website and feed is now offline

Much as we are not surprised, given our previous discussion of the end of major Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, this evening's release by Coinbase must be the final nail in the final coffin of the Tokyo-based firm...

"The purpose of this document is to summarize a joint statement to the Bitcoin community regarding Mt.Gox. ... As with any new industry, there are certain bad actors that need to be weeded out, and that is what we are seeing today. "

And scene...

Volcker Is LOLkered As TruPS CDO Provision Eliminated From Rule To Avoid "Unnecessary Losses"

So much for the strict, evil Volcker Rule which was a "victory for regulators" and its requirement that banks dispose of TruPS CDOs. Recall a month, when it was revealed that various regional banks would need to dispose of their TruPS CDO portfolios, we posted "As First Volcker Rule Victim Emerges, Implications Could "Roil The Market"." Well, the market shall remain unroiled because last night by FDIC decree, the TruPS CDO provision was effectively stripped from the rule. This is what came out of the FDIC last night: "Five federal agencies on Tuesday approved an interim final rule to permit banking entities to retain interests in certain collateralized debt obligations backed primarily by trust preferred securities (TruPS CDOs) from the investment prohibitions of section 619 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, known as the Volcker rule." In other words, the first unintended consequences of the Volcker Rule was just neutralized after the ABA and assorted banks screamed against it.

"Anything Goes And Nothing Matters"

The so-called Volcker Rule for policing banking practices, approved by a huddle of federal regulating agency chiefs last week, is the latest joke that America has played on itself in what is becoming the greatest national self-punking exercise in world history. The Glass Steagall Act of 1933 was about 35 pages long, written in language that was precise, clear, and succinct. It worked for 66 years. The Volcker rule comes in the form of nearly 1,000 pages of incomprehensible legalese written with the “help” of lobbyist-lawyers furnished by the banks themselves. Does this strain your credulity? Well, this is the kind of nation we have become: anything goes and nothing matters. There really is no rule of law, just pretense.

Guest Post: Does the FDA Think You’re Stupid?

Does the FDA think you're too stupid to have access to your own genetic information? It sure seems so. On November 22, 2013, the FDA sent a warning letter to the well-known consumer genomics company 23andMe, ordering it to "immediately discontinue marketing" its only product. For those of you who are not familiar with 23andMe, the company provides a "DNA Spit Kit" and "Personal Genome Service" (PGS) that supposedly reports on 240+ health conditions and traits and helps clients track their ancestral lineage. 23andMe is information, not a medical device. This is really a first amendment issue, and the FDA should not be in the business of regulating freedom of speech and information.

Guest Post: Our Era’s Definitive Dynamic: Diminishing Returns

We all intuitively grasp the meaning of diminishing returns: Either it takes more effort to maintain a project’s payoff, or the payoff declines even though the effort invested remains constant. The key driver of diminishing returns is easy to understand. We naturally continue to do more of what was successful in the past. As the returns decline, we redouble our efforts, confident that what worked in the past will once again be successful if only we invest more labor, energy, and capital. However, the status quo's default diversion of 'money/credit' to support diminishing returns has two costs: the opportunity costs of what else did not get financed because available resources were poured down the rat hole of failing programs, and the largely hidden increase in systemic fragility as productive investments are starved by the diversion of resources to the rat holes of diminishing returns. This dynamic leads to the final phase of doing more of what has failed spectacularly.