Daily Archives: October 11, 2010

Old actors; one wins, one loses


I'm not lifting his wallet, just fondling his buttocks!


On the losers’ side, Larry Wilcox, former CHiPS motorcycle cop, has finally been busted for running a penny stock scam. Glad to hear it, and I hope he gets out, penniless, when he’s 79 or so.

On the winners’ side, Larry Hagman, Ol’ J.R. in “Dallas”, whacked Citigroup with a $11.6 million arbitration award, $10 million of which will go to Larry’s favorite charities. The only frustrating aspect of this latter case is that Hagman prevailed on the very claim that so many fleeced investors lose on: they were all conservative investors, and said so when opening accounts, and brokers proceeded to ignore that and run for the commissions. My clients, if they were lucky, got back what they lost and then had to pay me. Hagman was awarded his full losses, a $1 million or so, plus attorney’s fees of $400,000 +, and the punitives.

Hagman deserved every penny of that award; I just hope that, moving forward, the FINRA arbitrators will afford the same relief to defrauded investors who aren’t television stars.


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Britain’s got the same NIMBYs we do

Oh, the humanity!

A dumpster falls through the street after a water main undermines it and the neighbors go ballistic. This in a neighborhood of  £5 million homes so basically, they got theirs jack, and you can just screw off.

Near neighbour Denis Jackson said: “This entire fiasco represents a massive collective failure for all involved in designing, approving and attempting to build overly ambitious, vulgar additions to listed buildings in a conservation area.

“How much misery do residents have to endure before we learn to properly balance long-term interests against reckless pursuit of short-term profit?”

Ali Hue-Williams, a doctor and mother-of-three, lives next door.

She said: “Everyone in the street objected to the basement. It has caused so much grief. I’m waking up every night at 4am, panicked. We should be given alternative accommodation. I can hardly farm my children out every night to stay somewhere else.”

One neighbour, who did not want to be named, said: “We are utterly furious. This road is one of the nicest in Belgravia and it looks like a bomb site. There was a fountain of water spewing out of the hole. It could take months to fix.”

Boo hoo.

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Here’s a relief: it’s okay to waste money extravagantly again


Kick up your heels!


Dealbreaker reports that the swells in London’s City are back to flaunting their wealth. My opinion? Even at the expense of a crushed world-wide economy, a massive collapse of the financial industry would be welcome.

A boom in hedonistic “greed is good” spending is sweeping through London after two years of recessionary restraint…West End stores, clubs and restaurants say they have been astounded by the sudden spike in guilt-free spending in recent weeks on a scale that would have been unthinkable even six months ago. Andrew Hawes, managing director of Bollinger UK, said it was currently impossible to get enough of its £120 a bottle Special Cuvée into Britain because demand is so strong. He said: “There was a time when people certainly didn’t want to be seen with an expensive bottle of champagne — but we’re past that phase now.”

It gets better.

Even City traders’ Tottenham Court Road lap dancing hangout Spearmint Rhino, which fell heavily out of favour during the credit crunch years, is back in vogue. Vice-president John Specht said: “We sold out of Cristal champagne last night and that stuff costs £395 a bottle. Six City guys come in and drop £5,000 to take the VIP area for the evening.

“A few nights ago we had four guys from the Middle East who bought £20,000 in chips for dances and drinks. After service charges they spent £24,000. It’s shocking, it’s back to the days of five or six years ago. Those sort of customers are starting to come back, there’s been a huge increase just in the past five or six weeks.”



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Catherine Hooper and Andy have a new venture

Planning for disaster. Sounds like as bad an idea as trusting your funds to Bernie. Besides, Catherine looks to have aged poorly since 2008. I’m rethinking my invitation to take her fly fishing.

(h/t, Florida Observer)


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Oops! Now it’s Goldman’s turn

Suspending foreclosures while it looks things over. Uh huh.


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A lawyer chimes in on the foreclosure mess

On the seventh day, the bankers rested

Good article here. Note to readers who aren’t hip to the jargon, CDO”s are collateralized debt obligations, which in my previous post I referred to as securitized mortgages. They represent hundreds or even thousands of mortgages, all rolled together by the big banks and sold as bonds to pension funds, states, etc.

UPDATE: Okay, I completely botched that definition. Here’s a better one, from reader Donato Loscalzo:

Sorry to be picky here Chris but CDO’s are actually derivatives of mortgage backed securities, akin to options (put or calls) to underlying shares. When you trade CDOs you actually trade options on MBS. The CDOs were the ones that got Goldman in trouble: they were selling “calls” to the German banks while they were buying “puts” against the same securities. Listen Wall Street is like a sausage factory: you may like the end product but you definitely do not want to walk around the factory floor……………..


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Virgin flies solo

That would be the Virgin spaceship, which yesterday accomplished its first manned flight. Soon, we’ll have the first commercial spaceship service. I probably won’t be taking advantage of this opportunity until the ticket price of $200,000 drops by at least half (heh), but already 700 tickets have sold. Neato.


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No surprise here

Congressional staffers engaging in insider trading But they needn’t worry, what they’re doing is perfectly legal because securities laws, just like almost every other regulatory law don’t apply to Congress. Folks are sitting in prison right now after being convicted of insider trading. If this “crime” is so heinous as to justify sentences of 15 or 20 years, can you think of a good reason why Congressmen and their staffers shouldn’t also be barred from trading on advance news of what they’ll be enacting? Neither can I.


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The impending foreclosure moratorium

(The Board of Realtors is closed today, so no local news)

How will the moratorium affect home prices? This guy says it will temporarily raise prices because inventory will shrink, then, when it ends, we’ll see a flood of real estate return to the market and prices will fall. His advice? Sell now.

I won’t say he’s wrong, because I think that’s the most likely scenario myself. But if this mess runs deeper than just bad paperwork in the foreclosure process – for instance, if the original promissory note has gone missing, or fraud in the loan itself is discovered, then the moratorium could drag out for years. The average loan foreclosed on, I read this weekend, is a year-and-a-half overdue. No payments in 18 months. So that’s no income to banks and, for those who securitized them and sold them to bond holders, no income and an obligation to keep paying on those bonds. That sounds like a recipe for more bank failures.

Will the banks really dump their shadow inventory all at once when the moratorium is finally lifted? They may be so desperate by then that they’ll have no choice. So far though, at least here in Greenwich, they’ve been resisting that temptation, even the weakest banks, because they know they’d just increasing their losses. If the moratorium is lifted quickly, I’d expect the dribble down approach to be resumed.

But only if it’s lifted quickly, and that’s looking increasingly dubious. The politicians are wading into the mess – Dodd has called for hearings on November 17th, for instance, and despite economists almost universal opinion that the market needs to be cleared, and cleared quickly, I don’t expect Congress to anything sensible – 200 hundred years of tradition backs me up on this.

And then we have the other set of politicians, the states attorneys , forty of whom are beginning their own investigations. Whoo boy.

I repeat my advice of last week. If you’re a troubled borrower and have been considering a short sale, now’s the time to try it. I suspect that the banks who only last month were ignoring people like you, will soon be glad to listen.

UPDATE: here’s a live report from Florida, where no one knows, or can prove, who owns what. Whoo boy.


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