Felix Salmon

How the AIG bailout scuttles chances for a second stimulus

Paul Krugman is right to be worried about the unintended consequences of the AIG bailout:

Ben Stein’s sleazy paymasters, cont.

Flâneur points me to the 35-page staff report for Jay Rockefeller on “Aggressive Sales Tactics on the Internet”. It concentrates on three extremely sleazy companies, all based in Norwalk, Connecticut: Affinion, Webloyalty, and our old friends Vertrue, the employers of Ben Stein. Here’s a typical datapoint:

Counterparties

Hipsters discussing Cyclocross — Xtra Normal

Get an email per week from Maria Bartiromo for only $300! — Investor Place

Goldman’s human face

Today the squid is showing its human face — you know, as opposed to wrapping itself around one. Goldman deserves to be applauded for two things today: first of all Lloyd Blankfein’s admission and apology that his bank “participated in things that were clearly wrong and have reason to regret”, and secondly its $500 million 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative, under which it will team up with community colleges, business organizations, and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) — all with the aim of removing barriers to growth in the small-business sector of the economy.

How UBS chooses the names it will give the IRS

Lynnley Browning looks today at the 4,450 clients that UBS is going to give up to the IRS, going down the list of characteristics that UBS is going to look for when deciding which of its accounts to choose.

What’s Berkshire Hathaway’s expected life?

Berkshire Hathaway has a lot of equity: its book value is about $125 billion. And since equity is forever, it makes sense for Berkshire to have a very long time horizon when it comes to buying assets. But still:

Can options spikes be a coincidence?

Whenever there’s a surprise takeover bid at a significant premium to the (formerly) prevailing stock-market price, dozens of journalists and bloggers immediately pull up options-volume data. Much of the time, they discover a suspicious spike in options volume just before the deal was announced. The conclusion is obvious: insider trading!

Understanding the AIG decision

As Dean Baker notes, Neil Barofsky’s report on the 100% payments to AIG’s counterparties is the news of the day. It’s sexy stuff, revisiting the dramas of the week of Lehman’s collapse, and of course going into great detail about the way in which the crisis’s designated villain, Goldman Sachs, walked away with billions of dollars of taxpayer money despite saying they never asked for it nor particularly needed it.

Understanding currency ETCs

I was confused yesterday about currency ETCs; after a detailed conversation with Nik Bienkowski of ETF Securities, I think I understand them a bit better.