Tuesday, February 12, 2008

It's an Inflammatory Read, and it Should be!

So, the shareholders are taking it on the chin, and the directors are doing their usual marvellous job of protecting the shareholders' interests. Management? Big bonuses at Goldman, as usual. And, as the article points out with remarkably restrained words, when an chief executive is forced to go, like at Merrill or Bear Stearns, he gets to keep his stock options. Look closely at the following beautifully, bluntly honest quote:

"The employees and executives at Bear Stearns own a significant portion of the firm; as such our interests are closely aligned with outside shareholders,'' company spokesman Russell Sherman said. ``We are intensely focused on delivering value to our shareholder base.''

By making themselves as big a part of the stockholder base as they can???

I'm waiting for an ETF holding profitable companies with dividends, without larcenous stock options programs camouflaging dilution by stock buybacks, and with directors militantly committed to defending stockholder interests, specifically minimizing management influence over the board. Haven't seen one yet!. We've got everything else! If the name isn't taken, they could call it the Governance Leaders Fund! An ETF with contrary practices could be called the Sticky Fingers Fund!

Bloomberg.com: Exclusive

Labels: , , ,

Monday, February 04, 2008

Extremely Important Read: Mahalanobis' "Estimating exposures in credit derivatives"

He says it better than I can. How's that for humility? I have been of the opinion that some of the subprime-related asset writedowns have been ludicrously exaggerated. When the dust settles, and the writedowns get adjusted to reality, will the markets suddenly get rather happy? Will heavily-impacted financials get wind in their sails? I suspect they will.


Labels: ,

Saturday, February 02, 2008

ETFs, Indexation Threaten Mutual, Hedge Funds: Michael R. Sesit (Bloomberg)

It's interesting every now and then to see what really are the primary questions facing investors grappled with in the mainstream financial media commentary, which is usually so fixated on the latest financial markets "noise". Here's a little commentary of my own. It's helpful article and a good read. A link is below.

The article is generally right on. Quibbles? Yes, I have a few. Sesit refers to ETFs as an "asset class". No. No. No. ETFs are no more an asset class than open end mutual funds are, despite the dumb pie chart you see each month on your brokerage statement! They are a financial investing vehicle which can be used to invest in one or more particular asset classes, i.e., US large-cap stocks, emerging market stocks, various types and duration ranges of bonds, or also quite usefully, investment "styles" in a particular asset class, such as US small-cap value stocks, or even economic sectors, such as consumer durables companies.

More recently, the field has widened to include more diverse approaches, still useful and well worthy of acceptance, such as the "fundamental indexing" approach used by WisdomTree. But it's come to the point that you can get ETFs built to invest in companies with left-handed Sagittarian CEOs, companies with cute corporate logos, companies in industries not yet discovered, and companies most likely to be acquired by extraterrestrials. Well, not yet. Wait a while. ETFs have been created for fanciful "indexes" that are neither asset classes, sectors, or investment styles. In other words, a mixed bag, just like mutual funds. Good and bad ETFs exist. ETFs are just not an asset class.

Are ETFs somehow a "threat" to open-end mutual funds and hedge funds? No more than open-end actively-managed mutual funds are a "threat" to investors! Yes, they are gaining market share, presumably at the expense of the worst of the active funds. If so, thank God. The article suggests that hedge fund replication ETfs are a threat to hedge funds. May it be so. One can hope. How much money do investors have to lose to learn that lesson?

Bloomberg.com: Opinion
ETFs, Indexation Threaten Mutual, Hedge Funds: Michael R. Sesit

Labels: , , , ,