The Crooked Cockroach

Hey, Paul Krugman!

Posted in Uncategorized by cready on October 28, 2009
paul krugman


I [and thousands of people the world over] read Paul Krugman’s NY Times column very religiously, and man, he makes sense. I don’t know how he manages to convince me of his viewpoint every time no matter how opposed I might be to what he’s saying. He’s undoubtedly the best critic there can be. But the obvious question which comes to the mind is, if this guy is so damn good at giving advice, why doesn’t he get involved in the action himself? After all, a guy who’s op-ed column influences opinion in the American Congress should ideally be a ‘fix-it’ guy at least for some part, right?

The song I’m embedding below perfectly echoes this very same sentiment in the ‘awesomest’ way possible. Very cool indeed. I know I’m a little late in discovering this video, but I’m sure if you’ve not seen it, you’ll like it too.


The lyrics –

Hey Paul Krugman,
Why aren’t you in the administration?
Is there some kind of politicking that I don’t understand?
I mean, Timothy Geithner is like some little weasel.
Wasn’t he in a position of power
when all this sh*t went down in the first place?

When I listen to you, things seem to make sense
When I listen to him, all I hear is blah, blah, blah.

Hey Paul Krugman,
where the hell are ya, man?
‘Cause we need you on the front lines
not just writing for
The New York Times.
I’d feel better if you were calling some shots
instead of writing your blog and probably thinking a lot.

I mean, don’t you have some influence?
Why aren’t you secretary of the Treasury?

For God’s sake, man, you won the Nobel Prize.
Timothy Geithner uses TurboTax.

When I listen to you, things seem to make sense.
When I listen to him, all I hear is blah, blah, blah.

Hey Paul Krugman, where the hell are ya, man?
(Obama Breakdown)

Sing it with me!

When I listen to you, things seem to make sense.
When I listen to him, all I hear is blah, blah, blah.

Hey Paul Krugman, where the hell are ya, man?
Your country needs you now.

And here’s Mr. Krugman’s reaction to the video –

The silence is palpable. Poor guy, I wonder what he must be thinking!

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How Wall Street’s making its billions barely a year after a crash that almost brought the global economy to a halt

Posted in Uncategorized by cready on October 22, 2009

I had promised you to give an answer to this question in my last post.

This is where you’ll get your answer. Please go through the comments too [I would recommend the views of a certain ‘Sam’ and ‘John Doe’ among the group of commentors]. There certainly has been a very productive discussion in the comments’ section. I especially liked John Doe’s following argument in favor of Wall Street-ers specially when everybody everywhere [including me, sometimes [:)]] is hurling slurs at them –

You’re right when you say finance activities will not “result in long-term economic growth in the same way that Intel chips, GE jet engines, or Honda automobiles drive economic growth”.

They certainly don’t drive economic growth in the same way and fashion. But both are critical. One is not better or more important than the other. Wall Street has never claimed to be in the manufacturing space…it knows it is a service industry, pure and simple. e-bay connects buyers and sellers of goods. Wall Street connects people who need capital with people who have capital. Regardless of what people might read in the press, this is actually a very important and highly non trivial service for the economy.

And as for the “nuts and bolts” companies you mentioned… Who did GE turn to last fall when it needed to raise 15 billion dollars in capital? It turned to Wall Street. Without capital, no jet engines are made, no cars are built, no fabs are constructed to build chips. Again, both types of companies are important to each other–let’s not draw an arbitrary distinction between their relative worth.

I agree [and almost anybody on the planet will agree] that Wall Street is greedy and rich and blah, blah, blah, but I must confess that I do not agree with what Philip Greenspun’s [the writer of the post] views about how exactly it is getting rich. The way in which he has put it only sounds like some sort of a sweet arbitrage is happening out there [which as you must be knowing is impossible in the markets]. However, I may be wrong in understanding what he has said. Its for you to judge.

Now to balance out my arguments, I must say that I also believe that the Shadow Banking System is one big recklessly risky thing and that some sort of regulation must be put on these kind of banks. Paul Krugman, the winner of last year’s Nobel Prize in Economics famously called Shadow Banking as the ‘core reason’ for the crisis of last year, and here’s some data which will make it obvious to you as to why.

Leverage ratio is a ratio that measures the risk taken by a firm. Here’s the leverage ratio of the five ‘big’ investment banks prior to last year’s crisis [of which Lehman has went bankrupt since and Bear Stearns and Merill Lynch have been sold out]. Note that the traditional conservative banks have a ratio of 10 to 15. A higher ratio obviously makes you more vulnerable to market shocks.

Leverage Ratios

If anybody has recent data for the leverage ratio of the existing banks after the crisis, please share in the comments below. It would be interesting to see the trends.

Now here’s another vehement argument by a well-placed Wall Streeter about how the ‘insane’ executive pay in this industry is actually justified [this issue was and still is being one of the most talked about issues and is something which has created an international outrage]. This guy, Mr. Brian Griffiths, thinks, “We have to tolerate the inequality as a way to achieve greater prosperity and opportunity for all”.

Now Mr. Griffiths, nobody is arguing here whether one should believe in the free market system or adopt Communism. But it certainly is a no-argument when one says that people’s taxes being used to give huge bonuses to the top layer of the banking industry is wrong and unjustified, especially when the economy’s downturn has been blamed on those very same men. It is just one of those twisted, rather diplomatic and yet curt arguments that the rich guys always make to get their way.

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The new stink on the block…

Posted in Uncategorized by cready on October 20, 2009

There’s something new cooking out there in the financial world. And guess what, it stinks. It stinks real bad.

Raj Rajaratnam Raj Rajaratnam, a Sri Lankan origin New Yorker, and founder-owner of  Galleon Group, a hedge fund management group, was arrested along with a couple of other executives from companies like IBM, McKinsey etc. yesterday on charges of insider trading. Now if you don’t really know what ‘insider trading’  is, just wait for a little while until I get there.

One of the persons who has been arrested with Mr. Rajaratnam is a certain Mr. Anil Kumar, a member of the executive board of the famed Indian School of Business (ISB) and also a director at McKinsey. For the ISB, this is another damning insult. Close to the heels of the resignation of one of its other director, Mr. Mendu Rammohan Rao on charges of fraud when the Satyam scam broke out a couple of months ago, comes another allegation which is ought to damage at least the moral reputation of this internationally funded business school which prides itself so much in bringing in the best of global management practices. Just imagine the dilemma that the students of that institution, unblemished yet by that greed floating out in the world, must be facing while facing their teachers and Institute founders. It must be a very sweet realization looking into their fat, chubby faces that ‘Ha! Ha! One day, on some level, I too am gonna be one of you’, isn’t it?

And for the other pillars of corporate honesty and responsibility [read : IBM and McKinsey] too, this must be a rude jolt, as this CNN iBN report speculates. Now Mr. Rajaratnam has vehemently denied any wrong-doing [obviously!] and it is also being alleged that the rich fat cat funded LTTE’s operations in Sri Lanka [which, I think are far graver allegations than the fraud ones], but it is only for the law to decide who’s right and who’s wrong. Now let me get back to what is ‘insider trading’.

The phrase ‘insider trading’ is fairly explanatory. Roughly speaking, it means trading of a company’s stocks etc. based on inside information obtained beforehand or which has been deemed classified to the public. A corporate insider [from whom the trader gets the inside information] is defined as a company officer who owns more than ten percent of a class of the company’s equity securities


. For example, if the CEO of a company learned beforehand that another company is going to take over his present company and bought shares in his present company knowing that the share price would likely rise after the takeover, then it is a fraud. In the real world, the CEO may not buy the shares himself; he may tell his close relative [like a brother or something] to buy and then they may split the profit later based on the mutual agreement, but this too, is deemed illegal. Some very famous investors, businessmen etc. who have faced criminal prosecution against above mentioned fraud are

George Soros [billionaire American investor]
Martha Stewart [American business magnate and TV host]
Jeff Skilling [former CEO of Enron Corp.]

Now, there is a fair share of critics [the prime-most example being Milton Friedman, winner of the 1976 Nobel Prize in Economics] who argue that ‘insider trading’ is not that bad as it is made to sound, that its illegality should be reconsidered. I seem to agree a bit with his argument – that buying and selling pressure itself is information for the market. Another argument in favor of insider trading put forth nicely by Wikipedia is this –

Legalization advocates also question why activity that is similar to insider trading is legal in other markets, such as real estate, but not in the stock market. For example, if a geologist knows there is a high likelihood of the discovery of petroleum under farmer Smith’s land, he may be entitled to make Smith an offer for the land, and buy it, without first telling Farmer Smith of the geological data. Nevertheless, circumstances can occur when the geologist would be committing fraud if he did not disclose the information, e.g. when he had been hired by Farmer Smith to assess the geology of the farm.

I believe the argument is really complex. Also, the guy who makes the money will always argue in its favor and the one who loses will say its unfair. But the world of finance is so very complex that even a small ripple in some remote place may cause a meltdown somewhere else. For example, the arrest of Mr. Rajaratnam caused the Sri Lanka stock exchange [CSE], one of the best performing stock markets in the world, to crash like a pack of cards [read here]. So while making decisions about what is right and what is wrong, or what is permissible and what is not, Governments world over should take into consideration all possible factors and make sure that at least minimum overall damage is caused.

Note : Coming up next – How Wall Street is making its millions [sorry, billions] barely a year after a crash that almost brought the global economy to a grinding halt.

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Greed….makes you foolish?

Posted in Uncategorized by cready on September 17, 2009

The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed — for lack of a better word — is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms — greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge — has marked the upward surge of mankind.

—— Gordon Gekko (Wall Street 1987)

Wall StreetWhen I first saw Wall Street last year, and when I heard Michael Douglas uttering those true but evil words, I was left spell-bound [you can have a look at that iconic dialogue here]. It set me thinking. And no matter what you argue, it is true. September 14th marked the one year anniversary of the fall of Lehman Brothers. I have been following this entire crisis and its fall-out like a cold-blooded stalker and I wanted to write something about this for quite some time, but the content of this post finally set me writing. By the way, if you’re a Wall Street fan or a person directly or indirectly hurt by the financial crisis, let me tell you that Oliver Stone is coming up with a sequel to Wall Street which is going to be all about the greed on Wall Street and last year’s meltdown.

Anyhow, President Obama made a speech [1,2,3] on Wall Street on the first anniversary of Lehman’s collapse a few days ago and specifically aimed that greed everyone keeps talking about. Critics have panned the speech and have questioned the actual actions taken as opposed to the fancy words of Obama. In a way, I think its right. There is no point just making philosophical statements and not doing what actually needs to be done. There is plenty of abundance of motivational speakers etc. throughout the world and looking at Mr. Obama’s oratory skills, I have no doubt he’ll make a fortune as a speaker once he steps down as President [like what most Presidents do!]. What needs to be done right now is the execution of some serious proposals.

In light of my previous statement, very few steps have actually been taken to correct the mistakes that happened and punish/restrain the guilty whose actions almost literally brought down mighty America. Here is one NY Times op-ed that discusses what actually needs to be done [if you’re a financial markets fanatic, do not miss this] to avoid a repeat.

But what is more shocking is that not one of the chiefs of the rescued [giant] banks was there for the President’s Wall Street visit-cum-speech. You might say that they were purposefully not invited by White House as a mark of rebuttal. Maybe, but I really don’t believe Obama wouldn’t give a speech to the villains in their face and choose to have them watch it on television from their offices. Could they not spare some time for the Government who saved them from near extinction? In this article by Simon Johnson, a professor of Entrepreneurship at M.IT’s Sloan School of Management, he discusses how the bosses of Wall Street have shown a repeat of their reckless behavior. The Wall Street Journal seconds this opinion here.

Maybe the reason why they have been so reckless is because they truly believe next time something like this happens, the common tax payers’ money will come rushing to their rescue once again. I guess it is this ‘we are too big to fail’ American phenomena that is keeping them relaxed. And it makes sense too. Why else did the Government step in to stem the stench this time? Because it knew that if it did not act, the repercussions were going to be unimaginable.

What the dudes seem to have forgotten is that in spite of all the safety measures, America did let Lehman fail. Only then did it step up its gears. Lehman [then the 4th largest bank in U.S] had gone to them begging for money and they were denied aid. Who knows who it will be next if such a situation arises? If the chiefs of these banks are so stupid to not attend such an important event and make it glaringly obvious and arrogant in the eyes of the public, I just hope they do get a severe punishment for their indifference and casual laid back attitude in some way or the other.

Because greed might have marked the upward surge of mankind, but plain foolishness should and definitely will not.

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