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Feb 28, 2011

Buffett has it both ways with Goldman Sachs

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

By Rob Cox

NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) – Warren Buffett once again used his annual letter to shareholders to rail against many of the Wall Street practices he has long despised, including hedge fund compensation, leverage and option-value pricing. What’s odd this time around is to see the Berkshire Hathaway chairman’s folksy criticisms set alongside a very public display of affection for one of the prime beneficiaries of these apparently wicked ways — Goldman Sachs.

Feb 25, 2011
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Mystery helps Apple’s sales but not its governance

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

By Rob Cox

The mystique that Apple cloaks itself in when launching snazzy gadgets has served its bottom line well. But that same opacity doesn’t translate well to corporate governance.

Feb 25, 2011
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Business world takes uncommon interest in Oscars

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

By Rob Cox

The broad business community normally takes little more than a passing interest in Hollywood’s annual celebration of itself. But this year’s upcoming Oscars ceremony has executives and investors from Houston to Wall Street to Silicon Valley uncharacteristically nervous. The awards could elevate the profile of some movies that turn the spotlight onto some controversial industry practices.

Feb 23, 2011
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FDIC offers hope for the anti-too big to fail crew

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

By Rob Cox

The biggest American financial institutions are still benefiting from the perception that the government will always come to their rescue. But a slight narrowing in the gap between what mega-banks like JPMorgan and Bank of America and others in the industry pay for deposits may suggest a hint of progress. That offers hope for those who would like to eradicate the notion that some banks are too big to fail.

Feb 17, 2011
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Concert ticket flap uncovers oddity of rocknomics

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

Rock stars normally hand out lessons about sex, drugs and trashing hotel rooms. But a battle between dance-rock outfit LCD Soundsystem and ticketing agents over the band’s “last” show offers a strange insight into the laws of supply and demand. On top of that, the kerfuffle also reveals the distortions underlying the U.S. music business.

Feb 9, 2011
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TMX deal could test Canadian capitalist bona fides

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

More than the Queen’s visage on their money binds the financial centers of London and Toronto. They are two of the world’s preferred destinations for companies raising capital in the mining and metals businesses. So a sort-of merger of equals, like the one announced by TMX Group and the London Stock Exchange, carries strong industrial logic.

Feb 3, 2011
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U.S. directors are getting a J Crew makeover

By Rob Cox and Lisa Lee

American company directors may be getting a J Crew makeover of sorts. The anger that retailer elicited from investors in handling its buyout is creating ripples at other companies targeted by private equity buyers. It probably explains the decision by the academically-heavy board of BJ’s Wholesale to kick off an auction after six months of deer-in-the-headlights inaction. It’s a good sign for shareholder rights.

By hiring Morgan Stanley to explore options on Thursday, the $2.7 billion club retailer – which toils away in the shadows of mega-rivals Costco and Wal-Mart – is saying no to the kind of closed-door, sweetheart deal that J Crew CEO Millard “Mickey” Drexler engineered for himself and private equity backers TPG and Leonard Green & Partners. It’s no secret the latter has been itching to take BJ’s private for months.

Feb 2, 2011
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Goldman shows a little leg

By Rob Cox

When Goldman Sachs released the findings of its Business Standards Committee and some new numbers on Jan. 11, investors focused on the bank’s heightened disclosure of its proprietary trading activity and profit. But regulators entrusted with a bigger responsibility — the safety of the financial system — are more excited about what Goldman has yet to reveal.

In its new disclosure, and again in its fourth-quarter earnings report on Jan. 19, Goldman added a fourth business segment, known as “Investing & Lending,” to its income statement, enabling analysts to see a bit more of the firm’s money-making machine. Yet Goldman’s business standards manifesto also promised expanded balance sheet disclosures. These are expected this month in the annual report.

Feb 1, 2011
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Vikram Pandit can’t rock’n'roll like Guy Hands

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

Vikram Pandit has been banging his head for years over Citigroup’s financial problems. But that doesn’t qualify him as an expert on heavy metal. So expect the bank to quickly offload EMI, the Iron Maiden-to-Katy Perry music publishing and recording business it seized on Tuesday.

Jan 10, 2011
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Playboy, like Hef’s sex life, better off private

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

NEW YORK — Some things, like Playboy founder Hugh Hefner’s sex life, are best kept behind closed doors. So it is with the massive restructuring of the media business built on Hef’s nudie magazine. Playboy may be iconic — but its future is bleak. So while the newly engaged octogenarian is still having his way with shareholders in his latest low-ball bid, they might as well take his money.

    • 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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