Bonus Bananas October 26, 2012

Sorry I'm late, guys, but I actually caught somebody trying to steal $11,000 from me this morning. Bizarre. The balls on some people. Here we go:

1) ‘Rogue trader’ Jérôme Kerviel loses appeal (France24) - Poor, poor Jerome. Looks like he's gonna do three years and cough up five billion after all.

2) Robin Hood tax gains traction in Europe (CNN Money) - They're referring to a transaction tax on trading, an idea that is being kicked around on this side of the pond as well. It'll be interesting to see if this idea catches on. I don't particularly subscribe to the view that HFTs provide a huge social benefit through increased liquidity, and it wouldn't break my heart to see them lose some influence in day to day fluctuations.

3) Catarina Migliorini Sells Virginity For $780,000; Male Virgin Alex Stepanov Gets $3,000 (Huffington Post) - Okay, so she's 9ish and she's doing it for a good cause, but almost a million bucks? C'mon, man! Somebody please explain the ROI here. Women really are sitting on a goldmine.

I Just Wasted My Vote

I'm taking the next month off and I won't be around when Obama gets reelected, so I thought I'd let you guys know that I was a good citizen and mailed in my absentee ballot earlier this week.

I'd initially intended to abstain this year, but the debates really turned me around. For the record, I think abstention is a perfectly legitimate vote in and of itself, and is really the only way for the American people to signal to the rest of the world that we have no faith in our government. Be that as it may, I've only ever abstained once (2004) since reaching legal voting age. On top of that, I firmly believe that anyone who ever voted for George W. Bush (as I did in 2000) should have their voting privileges revoked for life, so any voting I do from now on is pretty much gravy.

So what was it that got me off the schneid and forced me to download a ballot and mail it in? I think it was the case laid out by both candidates for their respective viewpoints, actually. Watching the debates drove home one thing for me:

I had to vote this time around for the sake of my own conscience.

Check Out the New!

For those of you wondering what's going on over at, I've got some exciting news for you. The site is going through a total re-launch, complete with a full team of writers dedicated to making JDO the WSO of the legal world. Do me a favor and help them out by Liking them below:

Did I mention the suit giveaway over there? You can get up to 20 entries to win another suit from Indochino by liking other simple ways to enter. Be sure to check it out. Also, if you're considering a career in law or you're contemplating law school, there is already a ton of helpful content on JDOasis. You'll recognize some familiar faces over there who help make JDO as lively as WSO. It's no secret that landing a job in Big Law is no mean feat, and JDO can help you put your best foot forward in the same way WSO generates more Wall Street success stories than any other site on the web.

The Obsession with Investment Banking

mod (Andy) note: "Blast from the past - Best of Eddie" - This one is originally from January 2011. If there's an old post from Eddie you'd like to see up again shoot me a message.

Do you have an investment banking obsession? Especially those of you still in college, do you spend every waking moment angling for a job in investment banking? Does the networking utility of those with whom you interact play a part in whether or not you'll become friends? Do you have a Chinese mother?

Okay, that last question may seem a little off the wall for those who haven't read the commentary in this weekend's Journal. But David Weidner at Bloomberg took it a step further and analyzed the drive to achieve on Wall Street, a drive top investment bankers possess almost to the exclusion of every other social skill. He gives the examples of Lloyd Blankfein, Jamie Dimon, and Henry Kravis - mostly dour guys focused on only one thing: money.

Bonus Bananas October 19, 2012

1) Greg Smith Quit Goldman After ‘Unrealistic’ Pitch for $1M (Bloomberg) - Greg Smith definitely got the last laugh. Goldman launched an internal investigation into him and Bloomberg got their hands on it. It's pure gold, and no one will ever be able to tell Smith he didn't have balls. When GS balked at his demand for a million dollar bonus, he quit and wrote a book that'll probably pay him two million.

2) Stalker App? Facebook Kills Friend Finding Feature (CNBC) - When something's too creepy for even Facebook, you know it must be bad. This kind of thing can't be helping the stock.

3) The Only Earthling With a Facebook 'Dislike' Button (BusinessWeek) - Speaking of Facebook, where's my Dislike button? This guy has one. I want one. Seriously. If anything could save the stock, giving everyone a Dislike button would surely do it.

Google Earnings Miss

Just a quick note to update you guys on how I'm playing this Google fiasco.

First of all, it looks like the reporting service they use to release earnings screwed the pooch and released them during market hours when they were supposed to release after the close. The stock is down 10% and tripped a circuit breaker, so it's halted. The company is filing SEC paperwork now and once it's in the stock will resume trading (hopefully in the next 30 mins).

A Novel Twist on Vulture Capitalism

Now that the flood of distressed debt has slowed to a trickle, vulture capitalists are having to look far and wide for their next big score. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and that certainly appears to be the case with Ice Canyon's new investment strategy. Perhaps encouraged by Elliot Capital Management's audacious seizure of an Argentinian naval ship, Ice Canyon wants to go big on defaulted Cuban debt.

Let me put this in perspective for a moment. Ice Canyon chief Nathan Sandler isn't talking about buying current Cuban debt. He's talking about buying ancient Cuban debt (call them Batista Bonds, for want of a better term) which basically suffered default by firing squad. The strategy (I guess) is to hopefully collect if and when Cuba ever normalizes relations with the US.

I'm curious as to what $1 million worth of defaulted Batista Bonds issued in 1958 would be worth today. Thirty-six bucks? Fifty? How would you ever go about collecting on it? Well, we may never know because as yet the US government won't allow him to make the buy (the whole Trading with the Enemy Act or something). He's currently appealing the decision, but it doesn't look good.

Is This Real Estate Stuff For Real?

I see a lot of stuff reported on the Internet that I take with a whole shaker of salt, but I've seen the following in too many places over the past week to just dismiss it. I'm looking for some of you involved in real estate to shed some light on this and let me know if it's for real. Because if it is, it could signal a comeback in real estate prices for certain markets.

What I'm referring to is the supposed housing shortage being experienced in much of California, as well as several other areas around the country. I've seen this reported from a number of reputable sources recently. Apparently the number of available starter homes in much of California has dried up, due in large part to institutional investors scooping them up before individual buyers can even view them. And it's not just in California.

The median price in Phoenix is up over 30 percent year over year. You read correctly, the year over year median price is up by 30 percent. Did incomes go up by this much? Of course not. For years you have nearly half of all properties being bought in this market going to investors. Rent prices have surged while banks leisurely leak out inventory while shelling out the best deals to other financial institutions with deep wallets. In other words all the bailouts were to create another bubble and crowd out the typical buyer and also, squeeze the wallets of many renters who probably are not able to buy.

Former Goldman Smokeshow Killing It as Webpreneur

Did any of you guys get a hug from these hotties a few weeks ago? Former model and Goldman Sachs employee (I'm thinking sales) Olga Vidisheva, 27, has launched after her stint at Harvard Business School. The site is a worldwide boutique aggregator, and it's a pretty cool idea. You can shop the boutiques in any number of cities without leaving your couch. Great for those of you who are looking for one-of-a-kind stuff. Can you believe she worked at Goldman? More to the point, can you believe she didn't come back for an associate stint?

Free 6-Hour Seminar with Tim Ferriss

I know we have a lot of 4-Hour Workweek, 4-Hour Body, and Tim Ferriss fans in general here on WSO, so I thought I'd tip you guys off to a free 2-day, 6-hour seminar he's holding next month called The 4-Hour Life: Healthy, Wealthy and Wise. The seminar is hosted by CreativeLIVE, the latest MOOC on the block which quietly opened its library of courses to the public over the past few weeks.

From the seminar description:

This course features the best of business, body, and mind that Tim Ferriss has to offer. Modeled after Ben Franklin, Tim will present his best lessons, principles, and hacks for becoming (and remaining) 'healthy, wealthy, and wise.' This will include never-before-discussed tactics related to The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body, and his brand-new book, The 4-Hour Chef. From accelerated learning to investing, the spectrum will be broad, and the actionable takeaways will be dense. This is Tim's first ever two-day workshop of this type.