Felix Salmon

Why Argentina’s talking again

When Argentina did its very creditor-unfriendly debt swap in 2005, a large number of bondholders held on to their defaulted paper rather than let the country buy it back for a pittance. The holdout strategy had after all paid enormous dividends in countries such as Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, and Uruguay. The stakes were much bigger in Argentina, of course, but a large number of aggressive creditors had no intention of letting Argentina off cheaply.

Over half a million strategic defaulters in 2008

Kenneth Harney has got his hands on a fascinating new study from Experian and Oliver Wyman, which looks at the prevalence of strategic mortgage defaults, a/k/a “jingle mail” or “walking away”. Unsurprisingly, it’s financially sophisticated borrowers in non-recourse states like California who are doing this in droves: apparently there were 588,000 nationwide strategic defaults in 2008, more than double the total in 2007.

The unhelpful “vulture” meme

In advance of the G20 meeting, the Independent’s Johann Hari resuscitated the “evil vulture fund” meme, concentrating especially (and extremely selectively) on the deal between Zambia and Michael Sheehan.

Auto lease datapoint of the day

From the WSJ:

Last month, Bill Wamsley, a commercial real estate broker in Mill Valley, Calif., hoped to replace his wife’s Lexus sedan with a 2009 Cadillac CTS.

The Dodd plan paradox

Here’s what I don’t understand about Chris Dodd’s financial reform proposal. On the one hand, he wants to fold the FDIC, the OCC, and the OTS (but not the NCUA, for some reason) into the Federal Reserve — something which makes sense to me.

Hanging pirates

I’m going to be offline for most of today, spending it instead downtown installing pirate flags at the South Street Seaport. The opening is at 4pm tomorrow (yes, I know it’s Rosh Hashanah, but it’s also International Talk Like A Pirate Day) in Cannon’s Walk, which even the lifelong New Yorkers among you probably never knew existed. It would be wonderful to see you all there, but if you can’t make the opening then just pop down to the Seaport at any point over the next month. It’s not just for tourists! And I can assure you that the whole pirate project is going to look spectacular. Yaargh!

Counterparties

Schapiro wants to ban flash trading. We knew that already, but now it’s formal — NYT

Ben Stein’s sleazy paymasters

Ben Stein’s paymasters Adaptive Marketing, the owners of freescore.com, aren’t just predatory bait-and-switch merchants. They’re also litigious bullies.

Hirst: Still weak

Scott Reyburn has a very misleading lede to his Hirst story:

Sept. 17 (Bloomberg) — A year after the record Damien Hirst sale, works by the artist are again being valued at levels seen at the peak of the art market boom.