Breakingviews

ConAgra’s smorgasbord is ready to carve

June 19, 2015

The Hunt’s-to-Swiss Miss conglomerate’s $6.8 bln acquisition of Ralcorp in 2013 has left a bad taste for shareholders. Pushy Jana Partners is ready to shake up the board. ConAgra’s myriad brands probably fit better elsewhere. The question is how to slice it.

Hedge fund pay hauls a political-financial shame

By Edward Hadas
May 5, 2015

The top 25 managers took in $11.6 bln last year, Alpha magazine calculates. If these rewards were for building a stronger economy, the 0.001 percent’s political clout might still be troubling. But such gains for largely mediocre performance in secondary markets are shocking.

Bernanke musters maximum revolving-door dignity

April 16, 2015

The Fed boss turned blogger will advise $25 bln hedge fund Citadel. Critics may object, and the move won’t help the U.S. central bank’s image of being above the fray. But former public servants deserve to work for pay. At least Bernanke waited over a year and didn’t join a bank.

BNY Mellon spat hints at activism getting crowded

March 13, 2015

Marcato Capital, run by a protégé of Bill Ackman, is gunning for the bank’s CEO after Nelson Peltz’s Trian secured a board seat. Sotheby’s and Darden also attracted multiple agitators. Being pushy has been profitable, but there may be too much money chasing too few opportunities.

Fresh flames rise from Sealy’s ever-burning bed

February 17, 2015

Uppity investor H Partners, alleging serial underperformance and stale private equity directors, wants Tempur Sealy’s CEO fired and a seat on the board. The company and the mattress industry have a torturous financial history. It probably means where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Drugmakers unlikely candidates for next big short

February 11, 2015

Kyle Bass, a hedge fund manager who bet successfully on a U.S. housing crash, is targeting pharma companies worth $450 bln. A new method of challenging patents gives him a tool. But it’s not clear how his firm, Hayman Capital, has a leg up on existing, aggressive generic firms.

U.S. insider trading cops risk pasting from bench

January 30, 2015

Prosecutors’ aggressive view of the law has already irked appeals judges, and the Supreme Court may be next. A case on the definition of an illegal tip could give Justice Scalia his long-sought chance to rein in Wall Street watchdogs. Their loss would be a win for clearer rules.

Overreaching enforcers redraw insider trading line

December 11, 2014

A U.S. court tossed convictions of two hedge fund managers, sharply narrowing the law on improper dealings. Prosecutors should expect more embarrassing reversals. The silver lining is that the ruling gives Wall Street clarity on what’s forbidden and should curb government excesses.

Steve Cohen’s loot could land in undeserving hands

November 11, 2014

A $600 mln insider trading settlement with his SAC hedge fund will probably go to investors on the other side of its dodgy deals. Better them than Uncle Sam. But the real victims were drug firms whose data SAC’s trader stole. U.S. watchdogs miss the mark in allotting fine proceeds.

Sears’ Canada stake sale merits a discount

October 3, 2014

Hedge fund boss Eddie Lampert’s struggling retailer wants to raise cash ahead of the holidays by selling a stake in its Canadian arm via a slimly discounted rights issue. If all goes to plan, Sears hopes to conjure up $380 mln. The market’s reaction suggests that’s optimistic.