martedì 6 aprile 2010

La Fed, le Bolle e un coraggioso investitore contrarian. Come scegliere e quanto pagare i CEO?

Sulle colonne del New York Times troviamo un vibrante J'accuse di Michael Burry (del quale Alfaobeta si è occupato qualche settimana fa alla fine di questo post) sulla cecità della Fed nei confronti della bolla subprime:

ALAN GREENSPAN, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, proclaimed last month that no one could have predicted the housing bubble.“Everybody missed it,” he said, “academia, the Federal Reserve, all regulators.”
But that is not how I remember it. Back in 2005 and 2006, I argued as forcefully as I could, in letters to clients of my investment firm, Scion Capital, that the mortgage market would melt down in the second half of 2007, causing substantial damage to the economy.  (...) 
By mid-2005, I had so much confidence in my analysis that I staked my reputation on it. That is, I purchased credit default swaps — a type of insurance — on billions of dollars worth of both subprime mortgage-backed securities and the bonds of many of the financial companies that would be devastated when the real estate bubble burst. As the value of the bonds fell, the value of the credit default swaps would rise. Our swaps covered many of the firms that failed or nearly failed, including the insurer American International Group and the mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
I entered these trades carefully. Suspecting that my Wall Street counterparties might not be able or willing to pay up when the time came, I used six counterparties to minimize my exposure to any one of them. I also specifically avoided using Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns as counterparties, as I viewed both to be mortally exposed to the crisis I foresaw.
What’s more, I demanded daily collateral settlement — if positions moved in our favor, I wanted cash posted to our account the next day. This was something I knew that Goldman Sachs and other derivatives dealers did not demand of AAA-rated A.I.G.
I believed that the collapse of the subprime mortgage market would ultimately lead to huge failures among the largest financial institutions. But at the time almost no one else thought these trades would work out in my favor. (...)
I have often wondered why nobody in Washington showed any interest in hearing exactly how I arrived at my conclusions that the housing bubble would burst when it did and that it could cripple the big financial institutions. A week ago I learned the answer when Al Hunt of Bloomberg Television, who had read Michael Lewis’s book, “The Big Short,” which includes the story of my predictions, asked Mr. Greenspan directly. The former Fed chairman responded that my insights had been a “statistical illusion.” Perhaps, he suggested, I was just a supremely lucky flipper of coins.
Mr. Greenspan said that he sat through innumerable meetings at the Fed with crack economists, and not one of them warned of the problems that were to come. By Mr. Greenspan’s logic, anyone who might have foreseen the housing bubble would have been invited into the ivory tower, so if all those who were there did not hear it, then no one could have said it.
As a nation, we cannot afford to live with Mr. Greenspan’s way of thinking. The truth is, he should have seen what was coming and offered a sober, apolitical warning. Everyone would have listened; when he talked about the economy, the world hung on every single word.
Unfortunately, he did not give good advice. 
Observing these trends in April 2005, Mr. Greenspan trumpeted the expansion of the subprime mortgage market. “Where once more-marginal applicants would simply have been denied credit,” he said, “lenders are now able to quite efficiently judge the risk posed by individual applicants and to price that risk appropriately.”
Yet the tide was about to turn. By December 2005, subprime mortgages that had been issued just six months earlier were already showing atypically high delinquency rates. (It’s worth noting that even though most of these mortgages had a low two-year teaser rate, the borrowers still had early difficulty making payments.)
The market for subprime mortgages and the derivatives thereof would not begin its spectacular collapse until roughly two years after Mr. Greenspan’s speech. But the signs were all there in 2005, when a bursting of the bubble would have had far less dire consequences, and when the government could have acted to minimize the fallout.
Instead, our leaders in Washington either willfully or ignorantly aided and abetted the bubble. And even when the full extent of the financial crisis became painfully clear early in 2007, the Federal Reserve chairman, the Treasury secretary, the president and senior members of Congress repeatedly underestimated the severity of the problem, ultimately leaving themselves with only one policy tool — the epic and unfair taxpayer-financed bailouts. Now, in exchange for that extra year or two of consumer bliss we all enjoyed, our children and our children’s children will suffer terrible financial consequences.
It did not have to be this way. And at this point there is no reason to reflexively dismiss the analysis of those who foresaw the crisis. Mr. Greenspan should use his substantial intellect and unsurpassed knowledge of government to ascertain and explain exactly how he and other officials missed the boat. If the mistakes were properly outlined, that might both inform Congress’s efforts to improve financial regulation and help keep future Fed chairmen from making the same errors again.

Sempre sul New York Times vi segnalo un articolo sulla retribuzione dei CEO delle principali società quotate negli USA. Mi piace la citazione finale di Louis Brandeis, che peraltro si applica molto bene anche alle società pubbliche: ecco la frase completa, che ho trovato su Wikipedia

Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman

Ancora sul Times trovate un editoriale di Richard Thaler sul mercato dei giocatori di football americano, che pone interessanti interrogativi sull'efficienza delle scelte dei manager da parte delle società: 

(...) SO if teams’ ability to select players is only slightly better than flipping coins, should we expect that corporations can do any better in picking their chief executives?
After all, it’s probably easier to predict the performance of football players than of C.E.O.’s. Athletes perform the same job in a very public forum for years, and all aspects of their job are subject to wide critical evaluation. They are also given extensive physical and mental tests. (Yes, it is important for a football player to be smart — and several years of college don’t assure that.)
On the other hand, chief executives hired from outside a particular company have been performing mostly in private. And I’ve never heard of a prospective C.E.O. being given an I.Q. test — or having to run the business version of the 40-yard dash (perhaps a press conference?).
So maybe companies shouldn’t pay big bucks in the desperate hope of getting the equivalent of a Peyton Manning, who was the first overall pick in 1998 and, of course, has proved his superstar value. Instead, maybe they should dig around for a replica of Tom Brady, who was the 199th pick in the 2000 draft and has gone on to play in four Super Bowls, winning three.

A proposito del mercato dei cartellini dei giocatori di sport di squadra, vi segnalo anche la discussione sul calciomercato nell'eccellente libro di Kuper e Szymanski : Why England Lose and Other Curious Phenomena Explained. 

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