Felix Salmon

Late links, September 10

Congo-Brazzaville spent over $6 million lobbying for an anti-vulture-fund act in DC, after losing to Elliott Associates. A rare example of vulture-fund-friendly investigative reporting. (Al Jazeera, Part 1 here)

Otiose trustee of the day: US Bancorp

About a month ago, I got an advance copy of this paper, in which Lee Buchheit — the godfather of the sovereign bond markets, and good friend to sovereign issuers around the world — essentially apologizes for two things he did during the Ecuadorean debt restructuring of 2000 and in many other sovereign bond issues to boot: dropping the restriction on the issuer repurchasing defaulted debt; and including boilerplate trusteeship language in the bond documentation rather than something stronger.

In defense of the NYT Magazine

Leon Wieseltier’s attack on the NYT magazine is doing the rounds of the Twitterverse today, which is understandable, since it’s always fun to watch a brutal smackdown. But the fact is that the smackdown is profoundly unfair, and that Wieseltier has picked a most peculiar target for his ire.

Idea of the day: Replacing VaR with leverage ratios

For all that Rick Bookstaber has taken potshots at Nassim Taleb in the past, his testimony today in front of the House committee on science and technology ultimately ends up in pretty much the same place as Taleb’s does.

The depressing income and poverty data

There’s no good news in today’s data from the Census bureau. Unless you’re the kind of person who worries about inflation, that is: in that case you’re probably reassured that real median household income fell 3.6% between 2007 and 2008, from $52,163 to $50,303. That’s a drop of over $1,800: real money.

When UBS sells crap and vomit

My colleague Matt Goldstein has got his hands on the judgment in the UBS vs Pursuit case which the WSJ writes about here. It’s a fun read, and I’ve uploaded it here. Neither of the parties to the case comes out smelling of roses: Pursuit seems to have completely missed the triggers in the CDOs despite two of its principals reading the offering memoranda, and as for UBS, well, the judge puts it very well:

What’s happened to Stuy-town rents?

When Tishman Speyer bought Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village for $5.4 billion in 2006, they knew that they couldn’t cover their mortgage payments with their rental income. But that was OK: they expected that rents would rise significantly as the housing market continued to rise and as rent-controlled tenants moved out.

Late links, September 9

The Economist’s new CEO arrived in 2008 and said he wanted to triple profit in five years. Guess some media isn’t dying. (Campaign Live)

Google gets into micropayments

Lots of people have tried to make micropayments work, and all of them have failed. But now Google’s dipping its toe in the water, and it’s just possible this one might work. I’m willing to give Google my credit card details, once, and I’m willing to log in to my Google account when I’m online. If it’s then easy for me just to click a button and say “charge this to my Google account”, I might be willing to do that.