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May 2, 2012
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Even Predators’ Ball saves a dance for 99 pct

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By Rob Cox
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

It’s easy to spot vestiges of the old Predators’ Ball at this year’s Milken Institute Global Conference. The Ferraris and Bentleys jamming the Beverly Hilton driveway, for example, are evocative of the annual shindigs that Michael Milken put on for his Drexel Burnham Lambert clients in the go-go 1980s. Yet there’s a consensus emerging even among this elite demimonde that the rising disparity between the rich and the rest is a problem in need of attention. They disagree, however, on the solutions.

Apr 23, 2012
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Facebook infected by Google’s antitrust limbo

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By Rob Cox
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Facebook hasn’t even gone public yet. But it looks as though the social network is already being viewed with concern by acquisition targets. Instagram, the revenue-challenged, lightly staffed startup Facebook just agreed to acquire for $1 billion, has snagged a whopping 20 percent break fee if the sale isn’t consummated by December. That’s a wise safety measure given the life cycle of mobile apps. It could also be a comment on Facebook’s lurking antitrust risks.

Apr 23, 2012
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Wal-Mart scandal demands spirit of Sam Walton

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By Rob Cox
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

S. Robson Walton, Wal-Mart’s multi-billionaire chairman, is about to prove money can’t buy happiness. He’ll need to channel his father’s spirit of integrity and initiate an independent probe into how top executives, possibly the chief and another director, participated in an alleged cover-up of widespread bribery and corruption at the company’s successful Mexican subsidiary. It won’t be fun for the son of Wal-Mart’s founder. But the $213 billion company can recover by doing the right thing.

Apr 11, 2012
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Kraftwerk bangs home note on tech obsolescence

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By Rob Cox
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

There was no more coveted piece of New York City real estate on Tuesday night than standing room in the Museum of Modern Art’s Marron Atrium. And so it shall be for seven more evenings as Kraftwerk, the German electronic outfit from the 1970s, plays to a scant crowd of about 450 lucky souls. That this quartet, which includes just one of its original members, can command a showcase like the MOMA – and sell out in a drumbeat – provides a useful lesson in technology’s risk of obsolescence.

Apr 11, 2012
via MediaFile

Everything we know about tech we learned from Kraftwerk

At 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday there was no more coveted piece of New York City real estate than standing room in the Museum of Modern Art’s Marron Atrium. And so it shall be for the next seven nights as Kraftwerk, the German electronic outfit from the 1970s, plays to a scant crowd of about 450 lucky souls. That this quartet, which includes just one of its original members, can command a showcase like MoMA – and sell out in a drumbeat – provides a useful lesson into technology’s risk of obsolescence.

It would be easy to dismiss Kraftwerk as a relic from the dawn of the digital age and its ardent fans a weird cult in turtleneck sweaters and 3D glasses. But MoMA’s eight-night retrospective of the band helmed by Ralf Hutter provides surprising insight into why some innovations fade and others flourish. Ultimately, success in technology – as in art – is derived from the expression of big ideas, not simply a mastering of its circuitry. It is an example that businesses, too, can learn from.

Apr 9, 2012
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World Bank wackiness explains odd U.S. choice

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By Rob Cox

This column appears in the April 9 issue of Newsweek. The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

If the competition to become the World Bank’s next president were a normal process, Jim Yong Kim wouldn’t stand a chance. The Dartmouth College president lacks two of the traditional qualifications for running an international lending body: financial savvy and diplomatic experience. But the race to lead the World Bank is everything but ordinary – particularly this time.

Mar 28, 2012

Breakingviews: Goldman Sachs now treats shareholders like muppets

By Rob Cox

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)

(Reuters Breakingviews) Say what you like about Goldman Sachs, but it sure is a clever negotiator. The Wall Street firm, which was publicly criticized a few weeks ago by one of its own for running roughshod over the interests of clients – dubbed “muppets” in internal speak – in the pursuit of profit, has now pulled off what looks like the trade of the year. But this one comes at the expense of its own shareholders.

Mar 28, 2012
via Breakingviews

Goldman Sachs now treats shareholders like muppets

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By Rob Cox 

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Say what you like about Goldman Sachs, but it sure is a clever negotiator. The Wall Street firm, which was publicly criticized a few weeks ago by one of its own for running roughshod over the interests of clients – dubbed “muppets” in internal speak – in the pursuit of profit, has now pulled off what looks like the trade of the year. But this one comes at the expense of its own shareholders.

Mar 26, 2012
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Monopolies thrive when politicians go short-term

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By Rob Cox
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist and a Northeast Utilities customer. The opinions expressed are his own.

If there ever was a deal that elected officials should hate it’s the $17.5 billion proposal to create an electricity monopoly in New England. Last year Northeast Utilities, which wants to buy NSTAR of Massachusetts, proved to be a uniquely incompetent serial abuser of its dominant position. And yet authorities are now poised to give the merger the green light. The lesson: short-term political thinking benefits monopolies.

Hurricane Irene last August and a freak October snowstorm each left millions of Northeast’s captive customers in Connecticut without power for days while nearby rivals performed far better. An independent report painted Northeast as a hapless, unaccountable monopoly. But the power of money today speaks more loudly to politicians than the promise of greater competency tomorrow. Connecticut and Massachusetts have extracted pounds of flesh that offer significant political benefits to the two states’ governors in the short term. But they do little to ensure the new behemoth is held to higher standards of service or accountability.

Mar 19, 2012
via Breakingviews

Goldman Sachs history shows resignation naivete

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By Rob Cox
This column appears in the March 26 edition of Newsweek. The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

In a sententious harrumph, a midlevel Goldman Sachs banker stormed out of Wall Street’s leading investment bank last week by publishing a critique in the New York Times of his now former employer. Greg Smith accused Goldman Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein and President Gary Cohn of fomenting a corporate culture where the pursuit of making money “sidelined” the interests of clients, whom Smith said were referred to as “muppets” by superiors. “Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence,” he wrote.

Smith has been called brave for speaking out against the apparent wickedness of the bank that lavished him with a decade of bonuses. But there’s also a glaring naivete to his appraisal that is as short-sighted as the supposed decisions of Goldman’s masters to chase profits today over the interests of clients tomorrow. Money is and forever will be the lifeblood of global finance. The only changing dynamic is the degree to which other goals compete with this pursuit.

    • About Rob

      "Rob Cox helped establish Breakingviews in 2000 in London. From 2004 he spearheaded the firm's expansion in the United States and edited its American edition, including the daily Breakingviews columns in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Rob has worked as a financial journalist in London, Milan, New York, Washington, Chicago and Tokyo. Rob graduated from Columbia University’s Journalism School and the University of Vermont. Follow Rob on Twitter @rob1cox"
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