Oaktree Capital's Howard Marks takes a look at proposals from two of the Democratic presidential candidates:
Senator Elizabeth Warren, already an announced 2020 presidential candidate, has introduced her Accountable Capitalism Act. Two of its provisions caught my attention:
. . . incorporation for large companies would become a federal matter, . . . These federally chartered companies would be mandated to consider the interests of a list of stakeholders, from investors to employees to customers and communities. These groups could then sue if they deemed the company had breached their duties. . . .
. . . Senator Warren's legislation calls for 40 percent of directors to be elected by employees. (The Financial Times, September 24, 2018)
News that Apple punished Facebook for violating its privacy rules is the topic of a Kevin Roose column in the New York Times:
Mr. Cook, who has called privacy a "fundamental human right" and taken Facebook and Google to task for the misuse of user data in the past, could effectively become a technology regulator of last resort — using the power of Apple's iOS operating system as a cudgel to force software companies to respect user privacy and play by the rules, or risk losing access to millions of iPhone users....
While [government] regulators have fined Facebook for privacy violations, those punishments rarely amount to anything truly meaningful — at most, the company pays a few million dollars, promises to do better next time, and goes right back to work....Apple's defense of user privacy, while certainly self-interested, is a boon to its users and a lever for change within the tech industry.
The new socialist congresswoman from New York, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, is leading an effort to blame America's problems on the existence of billionaires. That effort, how it will play out in the 2020 presidential campaign, and how it might be answered are the topics of my column this week. Please check out the full column at the New York Sun (here), Reason (here), and Newsmax (here).
What the press missed about Vanguard founder John Bogle, who died earlier this month, is the topic of my column this week. Please check out the full column at the New York Sun (here), Reason (here), and Newsmax (here).
Apple's tax tactics are "clearly sleazy," David Brooks wrote in a recent New York Times columns. I respond in Apple's defense in my column this week. Please check the full column out at the New York Sun (here), Newsmax (here), and Reason (here).
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued an opinion recently in the appeal brought by William Walters, who was convicted in an insider-trading case after the FBI leaked details of an investigation to reporters from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. The appellate panel declined to overturn his conviction, but it did have some strong language about the FBI leaks. My favorite part was the concurrence from Judge Dennis Jacobs, who notices the irony that Walters and the FBI agent both apparently misused confidential information, but that only one of them is going to jail:
The lead, front-page news article in today's New York Times begins: "Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat and a sharp critic of big banks and unregulated capitalism, entered the 2020 race for president on Monday..."
"Unregulated capitalism" is a straw man if there ever was one, a fictional concoction that Senator Warren and the New York Times would prefer to focus on as a way to avoid other, more relevant, and more complicated issues. Very few real people are actually for "unregulated capitalism," and those people, if they indeed exist, don't have much power. The last two Republican presidents have been George W. Bush, who regulated capitalism by signing into law the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002, and Donald Trump, whose administration has regulated capitalism by, among other things, having the Food and Drug Administration move to ban menthol cigarettes, ban flavored cigars, and sharply restrict sales of flavored (such as cherry, vanilla, melon) electronic nicotine delivery systems.
My column this week is the traditional William Safire-style "Office Pool 2019" of predictions for the year ahead. Please check the full column out at the New York Sun here and at Newsmax here.
As is also traditional there is a question about books scheduled to come out in the year ahead, which you may pre-order using these links (FutureOfCapitalism, LLC gets a cut). Some of them are by former New York Sun colleagues of mine:
From the lead, front-page news article in today's New York Times: "the speculation about firing Mr. Powell, a move that could turn the independent central bank into a political tool, has undermined confidence in a pivotal institution essential to economic policy."
This juxtaposition of "independent" and "political" is a false dichotomy. The Federal Reserve is political in the sense that it was established by a law passed by elected politicians, in Congress, who also passed the Humphrey-Hawkins Act of 1978 instructing the Fed to pursue stable prices and maximum employment. One man's "independent" is another man's "unaccountable."
A federal corruption trial with charges involving two New York businessmen and the city's police, a private jet, a prostitute, Super Bowl weekend is the topic of a lively dispatch in the New York Times. One passage particularly grabbed my attention:
In 2014, Mr. Reichberg and Mr. Rechnitz decided they wanted firearms. So Mr. Grant, who went by the nickname Jimmy, got some help from a connection in the police department's licensing division — David Villanueva, one of the unit's supervisors. Mr. Villanueva pleaded guilty to bribery last year and is now a cooperating witness.
"I always did favors for Jimmy; he did favors for me," Mr. Villanueva testified.
Mr. Villanueva testified he helped Mr. Reichberg get a full-carry gun license in only two months, rather than in the year it usually takes to get one.
The Goldman Sachs "Briefings" email newsletter has an interview with the outgoing Goldman Sachs chairman, Lloyd Blankfein, that includes this passage:
Next year, Goldman Sachs will turn 150 years old. Very few institutions make it that long, let alone under the same name. Why do you think Goldman Sachs has maintained itself as a successful firm over that period across so many different generations and circumstances?