Unstructured Finance

Dimon, Schwarzman served as the butt of Moynihan’s jokes at NYC charity dinner

Brian Moynihan brought the funny to Manhattan’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel Thursday evening. The Bank of America chief was on hand to receive the first-ever Happy Warrior award at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, where he shared the dais with political dignitaries like Senator Chuck Schumer and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as well as comedic heavyweight Stephen Colbert. In his remarks, Moynihan cracked a few jokes at the expense of JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Blackstone Group co-founder Steve Schwarzman that brought the house down.

The Al Smith dinner is the culmination of an annual Catholic charity drive that seeks to raise money to aid poor New York City children. This year, the foundation’s organizers announced that the dinner had raised $3 million, one-third of which came from Moynihan and his friends. The award Moynihan took home was meant to celebrate a corporate executive who embodied former New York Governor Al Smith’s character, grace and leadership skills and who had an established record of generosity.

Here a couple of Moynihan’s lines that got the biggest laughs:

On the Happy Warrior Award going to a bank CEO who has had a tough time: 

Earlier this summer, Cardinal Dolan [the archbishop of New York] called me and he said, “We’re going to name an award the Happy Warrior Award and we want to give it to you.” I sort of said, “Why me? Why a bank CEO? We don’t get much awards these days.” His Eminence said they wanted to award a CEO who had been through the ringer over the last few years. He wanted to recognize a CEO whose every decision had been scrutinized. Every decision had been questioned by the press, by the politicians and others. So I thought about it. And then he said, “But Jamie wasn’t available.”

On Steve Schwarzman’s joke at the 2011 Al Smith dinner that Moynihan’s mother must be proud because her two sons (Moynihan’s brother Patrick worked as a missionary in Haiti) both work for non-profits:

We’ve made $28 billion after tax since Steve spoke that night. So being a good son, I called my mom and I said, “They’re going to give me an award in New York, Mom.” And I asked her about how you were proud of me as a non-profit but now we’re making money, so wouldn’t you be prouder of me than Mr. Schwarzman? She said, “No, I’m not.” I said, “Mom, how come?” She said, “Well Mr. Schwarzman has made more money than that personally in the past couple of years.” I said, “But Mom, it’s not fair–we actually had to pay taxes.”

Hedge fund manager Hempton on Herbalife

John Hempton is bullish on Herbalife but bearish on coal

By Jennifer Ablan and Matthew Goldstein

Hedge fund manager and frequent blogger John Hempton is a little bit like the Jim Chanos of Australia.

Over the years, he’s been a fairly prescient short seller. For instance he was an early skeptic on computer giant Hewlett Packard and travel services company Universal Travel Group, which recently agreed to pay nearly $1 billion to settle a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit alleging that the company defrauded investors by failing to disclose the transfer of $41 million from stock offerings to unknown parties in China.

But unlike Chanos whose Kynikos Associates almost exclusively goes short—makes a bet a company’s share price will plummet because of fraud, unsustainable revenue growth or simply an unrealistic valuation—Hempton’s Bronte Capital also makes a fair bit of money on the long side as well.

Greenlight’s David Einhorn slams Fed, again

David Einhorn

David Einhorn is pointing at you Fed

Greenlight Capital’s David Einhorn, one of the most closely followed managers in the $2.2 trillion hedge fund industry, is out with his latest investment letter and provides another lambasting of the U.S. Federal Reserve for what he describes as short-sighted policy decisions with regards to its continued quantitative easing.

“We maintain that excessively easy monetary policy is actually thwarting the recovery,” Einhorn said of the Fed and its decision to continue buying $85 billion a month in Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities. “But even if there is some trivial short-term benefit to QE, policy makers should be focusing on the longer-term perils of QE that are likely far more important.”

Einhorn says the Fed’s bond buying prompts some questions about income inequality and the ability of central bankers to deal with the next recession. Specifically, he asks in his letter:

Sotheby’s and a tale of two hedge fund managers

Hedge fund manager Steve Cohen’s reported plan to sell a number of valuable artworks may not only deliver a nice chunk of change for the Wall Street mogul, it may also provide gains for another rival manager.

Cohen is selling several high-profile artworks from his art collection, according to a story Monday in the New York Times, and he has given the task of selling the works to Sotheby’s – the 269-year-old auction house currently in the firing line of activist Daniel Loeb.

Loeb’s hedge fund owns 9.3 percent of Sotheby’s, making his New York-based Third Point the majority shareholder. Loeb wants the company to revamp and overhaul many of its operations and has demanded the resignation of the current CEO William Ruprecht. Sotheby’s has called Loeb’s actions “incendiary and baseless.”

FBI not waiting for Silk Road owner’s Bitcoin password

From the frenzied coverage of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s takedown of the online drug marketplace Silk Road early this month one story has emerged as particularly popular among Bitcoin insiders: A report from Forbes on Oct 4 said the FBI had tried and failed to seize alleged Silk Road owner Ross Ulbricht’s personal stash of the digital currency, supposedly worth $80 million.

The FBI is now saying that’s just not true.

According to the Forbes report, the feds managed to seize all the Bitcoin Silk Road had in its accounts, but when it came to going after Ulbricht’s “personal” Bitcoin account, the job wasn’t that easy. Ulbricht had a higher level of protection on his own account than he did on Silk Road’s digital “wallets,” as they are called, and the feds are stuck waiting for Ulbricht to cough up his password before they can take his Bitcoin.

It’s a detail befitting a story whose main character is named Dread Pirate Roberts, as Ulbricht is said to have called his online persona. Bitcoin users who recount it are citing the out-of-reach money as an example of Ulbricht’s one heroic victory over the army of government authorities who crashed his Silk Road personal freedom party.

Breaking bad, the Bitcoin addition

It wasn’t too long ago that Ross William Ulbricht was writing his master’s thesis for a degree in chemical engineering. Now the 29-year-old San Franciscan is looking at spending many years in jail after being arrested by federal authorities on a variety of drug trafficking charges.

The purported founder of Silk Road, the notorious drug trafficking website, was arrested Tuesday by the FBI and appeared in a San Francisco federal court on Wednesday.  A bail hearing was set for Friday. Silk Road, an online marketplace where more than 900,000 registered users bought and sold everything from cocaine to heroin to molly (aka the new ecstasy craze) was shut down after roughly three years in operation.

Reuters reporter Emily Flitter spoke to Ulbricht’s parents in Austin, Texas, and the couple not suprisingly seemed shocked by the allegations against their son. Said Ulbricht’s mother, Lyn Lacava: “I know he never meant to hurt anyone.”

Ackman’s Penney-sized revenge?

It’s hard to say that Bill Ackman came out of the J.C. Penney debacle looking good. But in one regard the hedge fund manager did score a minor victory: he and his Pershing Square Capital Management sold their shares before the bloodbath began in the ailing retailer’s stock.

In hindsight, the $12.90 a share price that Pershing Square sold its 18 percent stake in Penney to Citigroup doesn’t look so bad compared to the $8.73 a share price the stock closed at on Tuesday. There was much made in the press about the $473 million loss Ackman’s fund was saddled with after the hedge fund manager’s push to remake Penney into an upscale retailer failed. The criticism was justified as even Ackman conceded he isn’t great at retail.

But Ackman’s quick late August exit from the stock after first blistering the company’s board for taking too long to find a permanent CEO doesn’t look as bad in retrospect. Forbes’ Nathan Vardi even went so far a few days ago to write that Ackman’s decision to bolt on Penney looks like a “brilliant” decision.

  •