Saturday, October 17, 2009 EST

I remember when Wall Street the movie came out. I found it so interesting to see the inner workings of the "connected investor" similar to Raj Rajaratnam.

The lead character in Wall Street Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas, makes all his money from insider trading.

An aspiring broker Bud Fox, played by Charlie Sheen, cannot seem to get ahead trading for his clients. Fox gets an interview with Gekko hoping to land a job and to start making some real money. In the interview Fox tells Gekko his stock ideas and Gekko responds in a similar context, "I can get these tips from a school kid, give me something I can use."  Fox then spills the beans on something happening at his fathers company, Gekko shorts the stock, makes a bundle and hires Fox.  

Fox starting his career as a broker for Gekko starts following around CEOs, listening on phone calls, bribing people all to get "insider tips" until finally the "government" like some kind of super hero takes them down. 

Like Martha Stewart

We can all be sure that this kind of activity goes on all the time. Rajaratnam just got caught. Rajaratnam and other people like him making billions while appearing as some kind of genius investor are really nothing more than crooks. 

This taped conversations below may have well come from the movie Wall Street.

The complaint quotes conversations between Chiesi and Rajaratnam, including a July 24, 2008, discussion that they allegedly had after she spoke to the person at Akamai. That day, Akamai stock had closed at $32.18.

“Akamai,” Chiesi told Rajaratnam, according to the complaint. “They’re gonna guide down. I just got a call from my guy.”

After Chiesi said that the company would bring the stock down to $25 a share, Rajaratnam replied that he would be “radio silent” and asked when Akamai would report, according to the complaint.

“Just keep shorting every day,” Chiesi responded, prosecutors said. “We got a lot of days.”

The complaint also quotes from a conversation on or about August 27, 2008, between Chiesi and a co-conspirator not named as a defendant.

“You just gotta trust me on this,” Chiesi is quoted as saying. “Here’s how scared I am about what I’m gonna tell you on AMD.” Chiesi and the co-conspirator talk a little more, prosecutors said, and Chiesi states, “I swear to you in front of god, you put me in jail if you talk.”

Later, the government said, she’s quoted as saying “I’m dead if this leaks. I really am … and my career is over. I’ll be like Martha f---ing Stewart.”

Oct. 17 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. prosecutors who used wiretaps to make their insider trading case against billionaire Raj Rajaratnam, founder of hedge fund firm Galleon Group, said they will use similar tactics to fight future crimes on Wall Street.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan said yesterday that the Justice Department will employ the same kind of electronic surveillance traditionally reserved for organized crime, drug syndicates and terrorism prosecutions. Bharara, whose office has jurisdiction over the headquarters of some of the world’s biggest financial firms, said investigators relied on wiretaps to build a case against Rajaratnam and former directors at a Bear Stearns Cos. hedge fund.


Sunday, October 11, 2009 EST

The Economist Magazine presented an interesting article on the bear case for the market. Some of the most insightful information came from the current state of commercial and consumer lending. It is no secret that consumer spending is a big driver of the stock market. Part of the spending comes from loans to consumers and those loans are just not taking place.

The except below is from the article The End is Nigh (again)

The bears argue that although governments may have stabilized the banking system, they have not been able to restart private-sector lending. In America bank lending has been falling rapidly over the past three months while in the euro zone broad-money growth has slipped to just 2.5% year-on-year (see the left panel of chart 2). In recent months consumers in Britain and America, two of the most heavily leveraged economies, have been repaying debt.

Conventional analysts tend to argue that on the basis of profit forecasts for 2010, stock-markets are reasonably valued. But bears doubt that profits will rebound so dramatically. They tend to prefer longer-term measures. Andrew Smithers of Smithers & Co, a consultancy, produced a timely book in 2000 arguing that Wall Street was in bubble territory. On his two favorite measures, the q ratio (which compares share prices with the replacement cost of net assets) and the cyclically adjusted price/earnings ratio (which averages profits over ten years), the American market is still overvalued, by 41% and 37% respectively. As chart 3 shows, Wall Street got back to an average valuation by the March lows, but never looked particularly cheap by historical standards.