Opinion

Ben Walsh

from Counterparties:

Griffindor

Ben Walsh
Feb 20, 2014 22:30 UTC

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Harvard, a $33 billion hedge fund with a university attached, has received the largest donation in its history. Citadel founder Ken Griffin has pledged to give the university $150 million.

The donation will support 800 eponymous scholarships, and a new business professor. The office of financial aid, along with its director, will also be renamed in his honor. Harvard already employs need-blind admissions, and has made no indications that it is under any financial pressure to end that policy. 60% of its students receive financial aid.

Matt Yglesias thinks the fact the money will be spent on financial aid means that “in the scheme of misguided donations to Harvard this one seems not-so-awful... But really it's child's play to think of a better use of $150 million than to give it to the richest university on the planet”.

Griffin seems to have had his mind set on giving to Harvard. Griffin says he’s been talking to Harvard President Drew Faust, and her predecessor, Larry Summers, for 15 years about a gift, and that talking to Lloyd Blankfein pushed him towards financial aid. Giving to African universities apparently wasn’t considered.

from Counterparties:

$10.10 wins

Ben Walsh
Feb 19, 2014 23:33 UTC

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President Obama has made increasing the minimum wage a centerpiece of his push to address income inequality. The Congressional Budget Office has now weighed in on the economic consequences of that proposal.

The CBO estimates that raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 (a level the President reportedly supports) would increase wages for 16 million Americans, lift 900,000 people out of poverty -- and cost the economy 500,000 jobs.

from Counterparties:

The disturbing rash of finance suicides

Ben Walsh
Feb 18, 2014 19:41 UTC

There's been a spate of suicides among current and former finance workers recently. Earlier today, a 33 year-old committed suicide by jumping from the roof of JP Morgan's Asia headquarters in Hong Kong.

    January 26: William Broeksmit, a former Deutsche Bank executive, was found hanging in his London home. Broeksmit joined Deutsche from Merrill Lynch in the 1990's and helped start the German firm's investment banking business. After the financial crisis, he worked to shrink the company's balance sheet and reduce risk. January 28: Gabriel Magee fell to his death from JP Morgan's London Canary Wharf offices. Magee was a vice president in the banks corporate and investment bank technology group. Magee's death is being treated by London law enforcement as non-suspicious. January 31: Mike Dueker, the chief economist at Russell Investments, was found dead of an apparent suicide next to a Washington State highway. He had been reported missing by his family two days earlier. Dueker worked at the Saint Louis Fed from 1991 to 2008. February 4: Richard Talley, the founder and CEO of American Title Services killed himself in his Colorado home, reportedly shooting himself seven to eight times with a nail gun. American Title Services was under investigation by Colorado's insurance regulator.

In September, Steven Stack, a West Virginia University professor who studies suicide, told the International Business Times that "we know very little about the degree of suicide risk for this small occupational group". Cause of death is recorded by at the state level; states, Stack said, don't necessarily record the occupation of the deceased. The result is haphazard, incomplete, and unreliable data.

Occupational stress, the trigger so often associated with banker suicides, is only one of four main risk suicide factors, according to Stack. The other three major risk factor Stack identifies are: demographics (the white, the middle-aged, and men have higher a higher risk of killing themselves); "pre-existing psychiatric morbidity"; and ease of access to a means of death. The latter may explain why what data is available shows healthcare workers with ready access to lethal drugs have higher suicide rates.

from Counterparties:

German Constitutional Congestion

Ben Walsh
Feb 10, 2014 23:24 UTC

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Is the European Central Bank behaving in a constitutional manner? On Friday, the German Constitutional Court said no -- but declared that the European Court of Justice should have the final say in the matter. At issue is a key weapon in the ECB’s crisis-fighting arsenal.

In the midst of the European sovereign-debt crisis, the ECB announced it would buy unlimited amounts of member states’ bonds, if needed. ECB chief Mario Draghi famously said he would do “whatever it takes”, and that promise has, so far, been enough: the ECB hasn’t needed to actually use the bond-buying program, called Outright Monetary Transactions.

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