Felix Salmon

Thursday links are refreshing

Who’s Who of Financial Bloggers

Fiji water’s invite-mockery marketing strategy: Justin Fox on the age-old question of how and why Fiji Water exists as a product. I have another question, though: why is domestic sparkling water so hard to find?

When bloggers uncover Ponzis

If you’re confused by the scandal surrounding the Ponta Negra hedge fund and its Biden landlords, don’t blame yourself: it’s really confusing stuff. If you have the patience for it, just read John Hempton’s archives: start here, and then run through this, this, this, this, and this. (Don’t worry, there’s more to come, but we’re up to something over 6,000 words already.) Alternatively, Alphaville is running its own series, of which the first two parts are now up: 1,700 words on 650 Fifth Avenue, and 1,250 words on the Biden connection. The Alphaville posts are quite hard to follow, partly because the FT lawyers have stripped them of links, and partly because this whole thing is just very opaque and complex.

Citigroup can’t keep Phibro

Citigroup is upset that it can’t pay its star trader, Andrew Hall, gazillions of dollars in bonuses, because of the government’s pay restrictions. Doesn’t your heart just bleed?

The end of jam-tomorrow culture

There’s a great discussion going on in the comments of my financial literacy post about the question which 93% of Americans got “wrong”: what’s better, paying off a $1,000 appliance at $100 a month for 12 months, or waiting a year and then paying off a $1,200 lump sum?

Chrysler’s future

It’s surely a good thing that Chrysler is filing for bankruptcy: trying to get unanimous consent for a restructuring from dozens of stakeholders — especially small bondholders — was never going to happen on a foreshortened timetable, and it’s going to be much easier for Chrysler to get out of onerous obligations to dealers when a bankrupcy judge orders it. At the same time, the downside of bankruptcy — the fact that the public will be increasingly unsure about the company’s future — is here already; it’s unlikely to get worse, especially so long as Barack Obama makes it very clear that he’s committed to Chrysler’s continued existence as a going concern.

How much will Citi’s credit card losses rise with unemployment?

According to Francesco Guerrera, Citi is pushing back against the idea that rising unemployment is going to mean large credit losses on its credit cards:

Wednesday links aren’t quite what they seem

Banks Juice Profits, Fantasize About Loan Quality: By lowballing loan-loss reserves, banks can squeeze out substantial profits ahead of a stress test.

When will Larry Summers apologize?

Simon Johnson has a close reading of Larry Summers’s speech on the crisis, and notes what is conspicuous by its absence:

When dumb bank regulation is a good idea

Justin Fox has a great post up on models of regulation, linking a comment from Gary Becker (“When you give a lot of discretion to regulators, they don’t use the tools that are given to them”) to a theory from Matt Yglesias that when it comes to regulation, it’s important not to try to be particularly clever or sophisticated. Where there’s a serious systemic risk, says Yglesias, we should “lean in with a heavy hand”: a satisficing solution which makes no bones about the fact that it’s suboptimal, but which is based on the insight that when you’re pushing the envelope of optimality, a regulatory oversight or mistake can be vastly more damaging than when you have crude and simple rules in place.