Involving: Venezuelan ransom insurance, how that’s not going to help, a sorry attempt by an inside-trader to get out of jail, and Obama may just be angling for Supreme Court support with his new budget.

Good morning

The headlines:

  1. A US budget proposal for fun.Link: I think he’s just trying to annoy Paul Ryan.

    I suppose there’s nothing like perseverance in a President. And nothing proves that like re-presenting to Congress a re-dressed version of an already-failed-to-pass-multiple-times budget that depends on more taxes and lower spending.

    Interestingly – Mr Obama has latched on to the originally-Republican idea of changing the way that welfare benefit escalations are calculated. For which Mr Boehner has reluctantly given credit. But the Buffett tax rule is still there (all earners over $1 million should have a minimum tax of 30% of income).

    Part of me wonders whether all this budget proposal is just a preliminary build-up of justification for Barack to make the budget an Executive Order. He still has the presidential power to do that – it’s just a question of how easily the Republicans can get the Supreme Court to agree that he over-stepped his authority and over-turn the order.

    And it can happen. FDR made most of the New Deal an Executive Order. Sure – times have changed. But the crisis does seem to be repeating itself.

    Either way – here’s a cartoon that I found and enjoyed:

  2. A trader apologises for insider-trading.Link: “struggling business”.

    KPMG has been busily withdrawing from its audit roles at Skechers and Herbalife (of Carl Icahn/Bill Ackman meltdown could-be-a-ponzi-scheme fame), after it emerged that one of their audit partners was passing on snippets of insider-trading information.

    The partner in question said that he was simply trying to help a person whose business was struggling. <cue: irony>

    And now, the trader receiving the information has publicly released the following statement:

    “During 2010 through 2012, I received non-public information from Scott London* about a number of companies and then profited substantially from stock trades based upon that information. I cannot begin to apologise for my incredibly stupid actions.”

    Does anyone else find public mea culpas just a little bit convenient? Clearly, the evidence is damning. So let’s go all-in for the deep remorse to try and not be in prison for a long time.

    I also can’t help but wonder whether the stupidity of those actions is directly linked to just how substantially he profited. A little personal punting here and there doesn’t disrupt markets. But going all-in for gold on an inside trade is going to get you noticed.

    Clearly, said trader has a bit of a problem with going all-in.

    And ironically, any future trading he does will actually be from inside.

    *the KMPG audit partner.

  3. Venezuelan Ransom Fund Insurance.Link: amazing.

    Groups of Venezuelans are banding together to come up with informal ransom insurance pools – so that any family member in the scheme can be ransomed if he/she is kidnapped in the lead-up to the elections.

    And when you read about these things, you realise how casual kidnapping is:

    “Victims are usually randomly chosen as they walk or drive through residential areas after dark and held captive for an average of 8 hours”

    To all those who praise Chavez for his policies toward the poor – I think you need to take a moment. Because ransom insurance is a step-above car insurance in the world of crime.

    And the other concerning thing: if you’re a criminal, and you know that people are bonding together to form insurance pools, you’re just a kidnapping away from realising that you’re going to get paid that much quicker. And on the flipside of the transaction, if you’re a person with ransom “insurance” (that is: it won’t be all your cost), will you not feel a bit more comfortable about walking around after dark?

    It’s practically turning it into a legitimate business. And, more to the point, you can’t regulate it – because one party is already a criminal.


That’s all for now.

Have a good day.