Where is all that money the banks took? Hiding in Plain Sight

You’ll probably never get to this point in litigation but if you do, you’ll be glad you read this. Obviously there is a lot of talk about where all the money went. Right off the top the banks took some 20%+ off of the money that investors gave them to invest in mortgages. That is $2.6 trillion alone off of the $13 trillion in “mortgages” that were mostly defective or fabricated. Then add their profit from insurance and credit default swaps which might amount to on a nominal basis several times the original $13 trillion invested and we get an idea of how much money is being withheld from world economies including the United States.

The answer is that they are hiding it in plain sight and in conjunction with legitimate investments from many other investors and entities. They are putting it in the stock market, mostly, causing it to rise without reason, and to a lesser extent they are putting it into bonds. If someday someone traces the first dollar in from investors all the way through the convoluted fabricated system of what the banks called securitization and the rest of us know was a PONZI scheme, you’ll find it right in front of you listed in the Wall Street Journal.

And if you Google it, you’ll see that BofA’s security analysts agree that the Dow Jones Average and other equity indexes are not reflecting true economic activity. They didn’t get the memo to shut up and sit down. That is what happens when you are too big to fail — you are also too big to manage, too big to jail and too big to regulate. The complicity of regulators, auditing firms and others in this mess has yet to be determined but it seems likely that there will be suits and prosecutions against the auditing firms for taking management’s word for the data rather than testing it the way any first course in auditing 101 would teach future CPA’s. I do know, because I taught auditing classes when I was getting my MBA.

Where is the money that the bankers siphoned out of our economy? Hiding in plain sight in the equity markets. With societies in chaos and economies in tailspins around the world, somehow the equity indexes are reaching record highs and profits are being recorded that are clearly not conforming to economic activity that in some countries is at a virtual standstill or even declining.

Yet the equity markets supposedly are a measure of future earnings which magically appear, justifying the increase in stock prices. If I stole a few trillion dollars and I needed a place to hide it, I would invest it relentlessly in the equity markets and to a lesser degree into debt instruments.

The increase in the DJIA represents trillions in wealth increase — or it represents a deposit of ill-gotten wealth generated by the Wall Street banks and their co-venturers. With GDP so fragile around the world my conclusion is that economic activity around the world is not reflecting any support for the increase in expectations and increase in stock prices.

The banks cornered the market on money and had to decide where they were going to hide ill-gotten profits that most people don’t understand, know about or care about. The obvious answer was, when they were holding trillions of dollars, where the dollar was in possible jeopardy, was to put the money in equities on a slowly increasing relentless purchase of stocks and bonds.

Stocks are measured in numbers of shares rather than strictly dollar denominated accounts. This allows the holders of equities to sell in any marketplace converting the investment into any currency of their choice, potentially avoiding the negative impact of a sudden devaluation of the type that made George Soros so rich.

Undoubtedly this logic has not escaped other legitimate investors and investment managers. Thus the bull market effects produced by the underlying floor of bankers’ purchases of equities is hidden under an increase in legitimate buying. It is a perfect plan as long as receivers are not appointed over the mega banks and dollars are traced to their origin and destination.

If things seem upside down when you turn on the news, now you know why. It is still hard for people to wrap their head around this proposition. All anecdotal evidence which is now so extensive that it almost qualifies as a scientific survey, points to at least 2/3 of all mortgages being fatally defective as perfected liens, unreported compensation on loans (that the banks say were charged against investors) is present in nearly all loans of every kind where a claim of securitization is present, and bank profits and capital have continued to rise even though as intermediaries, they should be making less money because there is less economic activity in a recession or stagnant economy.

That money in the mega banks is our money — taxpayers, shareholders of insurance companies, shareholders of guarantors and co-obligors, investors who advanced the money the homeowners who put up their homes as collateral on non-existent or defective transactions in which the loan and property were intentionally inflated in value. The extra money in those deals were funneled into off shore accounts and transactions that were never taxed by agreement with the jurisdiction in which the the transactions were cited as taking place even though it all happened in the good old USA. I have seen the document where Bermuda accepted the jurisdiction over the transaction and agreed not to tax it.

Although this is my opinion for general information purposes, I feel comfortable sharing it with the public  because I have enough facts from current events and enough experience from my own past experience on Wall Street to be confident that the above rendition is true. Once again I remind readers that the legal consequence of these practices might vary from state to state and even between judges in the same district. Federal and State courts are likely to treat these presentations differently as well.

And just because you are right, doesn’t mean you can prove it or win. So it is imperative that you consult with an attorney who knows all the facts of your case, is familiar with securitization and is licensed in the jurisdiction in which your property or domicile is located.

Premarkets: Dow defies gravity, S&P nears record
http://money.cnn.com/2013/03/15/investing/premarkets/

Senate “Whale” Report Reveals JP Morgan as a Lying, Scheming Rogue Trader (Quelle Surprise!)
http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/03/senate-whale-report-reveals-jp-morgan-as-a-lying-scheming-rogue-trader-quelle-surprise.html

Goldman partner Barg moves to New York from Asia in new role
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/15/us-goldman-barg-idUSBRE92E0CS20130315

Whose Risk Is It Anyway?

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Editor’s Comment:

Now that securities analysts are looking at investments the way I was trained to see them, it is now possible to see the way the mortgage bond market should have operated, why it didn’t operate according to industry standards and why it is continuing to drain the economies of the U.S. Economy and the economies and societies of the western world.

There are two general types of risk in any investment. The first type is return of principal and the second type is the rate of return. The rate of return is the amount of money paid to the investor in addition to the principal. In today’s markets the two main contenders for investment money are equities (stocks) and liabilities (bonds). The price of an investment depends upon risk more than anything else: “is this price worth the risk that I will get my money back along with the targeted rate of return (interest in the case of bonds).

The inescapable rule has always been and always will be that if an issuer is seeking investment capital they must pay higher and higher interest rates for every degree of increased risk. If the risk is return of capital they are junk bonds. If the risk is that the rate of return (interest) on bonds may vary from the stated or targeted return, that too will increase the cost of capital to those issuers seeking investment capital.

My conclusion is that mortgage bonds have so destabilised the markets and confidence in the bond markets, that they are difficult to evaluate using common sense industry standards. Sure enough we see here that the slightest move away from the bonds with the absolute lowest risk of return of principal results in huge jumps in the cost of capital. And if the issuer of that bond is downgraded to a higher risk, their bonds will take a beating. Each beating amounts to a reduction in the open Market price paid for the bond — which means that the investor who bought at or near par value is now considered likely to receive less of his principal back and most probably will take a “haircut” on both principal and interest.

The obvious solution is to remove mortgage bonds from the bond Market through whatever means are necessary and to show the world that such bogus bonds will not be tolerated in the U.S. Or anywhere else. Yet we continue to kick the can down the road. Not only have we failed to give recognition to what world bankers have understood for four years — that mortgage bonds are worthless — we compound the problem by having government entities sell these “securities” under circumstances that ought to land any issuer or broker in jail.

The U.S. Government and the U.S. treasury have become co-conspirators in the largest economic crime in human history and to add insult to injury they think we are all too stupid to see it. Francois Hollander as the new president of France stands as living testimony that the people will neither be apathetic nor stupid on the issue of the Banks and finance. As leader of the socialist party, the election if this marginalised candidate sent Sarkozy packing for Hollande’s arrival on May 16, 2012, which is less time than the ordinary eviction takes in the United States.

Pretending the mortgage bonds have value is hurting us. Failing to get restitution to the victims of this fraud is hurting us even worse because it is retarding our efforts at economic recovery. And the failure of all three branches of government to assure that this fraud will end, that stolen property and money will be returned, and that criminal perpetrators will go to jail is perpetuating a widening income inequality that often presages social upheaval. If we keep going like this, the United States of America might become a confederation of regions. China will become the next bully on the block and we will all be learning mandarin whether we want to or not.

How to Play the Bond Market Now

Many pros are bracing for higher interest rates but are willing to shoulder some risk of defaults

By MICHAEL A. POLLOCK

Bond investors, pick your poison.

Interest rates are pitifully low for old standbys like Treasurys and highly rated corporate bonds. But the risk factor increases so rapidly the more one tries to reach for higher returns that it is hard these days to know how to allocate fixed-income dollars. Before investing, one has to carefully weigh and compare risks including rising rates, possible defaults, currency swings and liquidity.

To get the best balance of risk and return, the answer may be mixing various types of taxable and municipal bonds for maximum diversification.

In the current climate, many pros also suggest that investors say yes to moderate credit risk but limit their exposure to an eventual rise in rates.

Here’s how to strike a good balance between risk and reward in today’s bond market:

Know the two basic types of bond risk and how those risks compare

Many people mistakenly believe bonds are entirely safe. Actually, bondholders continually face two major threats to the value of their investments: interest-rate risk and credit risk.

The first stems from expectations that stronger economic activity will fan inflation, eroding returns on securities that pay fixed rates of interest—as most bonds do. Such worries can spark selling. And as prices fall, that pushes up yields, which move the opposite way. You might not be affected if you hold individual bonds and don’t sell before maturity, although rising yields do entail an opportunity cost: You’re stuck with low rates while newer securities would offer better returns. But if you own a bond fund, the risk is greater: Funds don’t have a final maturity and lose value as long as rates are rising.

The other key concern, credit risk, results from fears that a bond issuer can’t make interest payments or repay principal at maturity. The trade-off is higher-risk issuers have to pay higher interest to lure bond buyers, boosting investors’ income if the bond doesn’t go bad.

Robert Hall, a fixed-income fund manager at Boston-based MFS Investment Management, is among those who say it makes sense now to base bond-investment decisions more on credit risk than on rate risk.

Most bond professionals believe rates are going to climb eventually. But “trying to anticipate rates has been a losing game,” says Mr. Hall. During the economic recovery so far, U.S. rates have remained near historic lows because of strong global demand for lower-risk investments and central-bank actions to keep rates low in order to spark growth.

Assessing an issuer’s credit risk is an easier exercise, by comparison. “You can get your hands around credit risk” by scrutinizing an issuer’s financial reports, Mr. Hall says.

Some investors have been taking more credit risk this year. According to fund tracker Morningstar Inc., MORN -0.66% high-yield funds—which hold below-investment-grade, or “junk,” bonds—attracted nearly $15 billion through March. Tax-exempt and emerging-markets funds, where credit risk also plays a big role, saw good inflows, too.

To temper rate risk, climb lower on the corporate credit ladder.

Corporate bonds are rated according to perceived default risk. And the more default risk a bond carries, the less it tends to trade in sync with U.S. Treasurys. That means a portfolio of lower-rated bonds isn’t as vulnerable to any broad rise in rates.

Currently, 10-year investment-grade corporate bonds yield around 3%, or about one percentage point over 10-year Treasurys. That yield premium doesn’t adequately compensate for the principal loss they could suffer if rates were to spike, says Mr. Hall of MFS.

He arrives at this conclusion by doing some basic bond math. This involves computing a bond’s so-called duration, or interest-rate sensitivity, which is determined by its yield and time left until maturation. For a highly rated 10-year corporate bond, the sensitivity measure is about 7. If you multiply 7 by a hypothetical percentage-point increase in yields, you get the amount by which the bond’s price is likely to fall in response.

So, for the 10-year corporate in question, if rates rose by one percentage point, the impact would be a 7% decline in the value of your investment before any interest is paid.

But if you move lower on the ratings ladder to double B, the top tier for high-yield, below-investment-grade bonds, you’ll get around 6% to 7% in yield and a rate sensitivity around 4. If yields rose one percentage point, such bonds might still have a positive return after interest.

Another reason to own lower-rated corporate issues is that default risk has been falling, says Sabur Moini, a high-yield bond manager at Payden & Rygel, Los Angeles. As more investors have warmed to lower-rated bonds, their issuers “have done a very good job at reducing debt, keeping costs low and building up cash balances,” he says.

Mix in some municipals for possible tax savings.

Last year, muni prices plummeted as investors fled the sector amid fears of surging defaults by financially strapped local governments. Now, although prices have recovered somewhat, munis still offer very good value, says Dan Genter, who heads RNC Genter Capital Management in Los Angeles.

The interest that munis pay is exempt from federal income tax, and generally also from state tax in the state of issuance, so munis historically have yielded only about three-fourths as much as taxable Treasurys. But in an unusual situation, munis now yield about the same as Treasurys. That makes them cheap—not only to people in the top tax bracket, but to everyone, says Mr. Genter.

At around 2.5%, the current yield of top-quality, intermediate-maturity munis is the after-tax equivalent of nearly 4% on a taxable bond for an investor with a 33% marginal federal tax rate. The after-tax equivalent could be higher if federal tax rates increase next year, as scheduled under current law.

As muni investors have been focusing more on credit risk, the market has been trading less in sync with Treasurys. That means munis other than those with long maturities could offer some protection against any broad rise in Treasury yields, says John Miller, co-head of global fixed income at Chicago-based Nuveen Asset Management.

Illustrating the divergence, Nuveen All-American Municipal Bond returned 5.1% in the first four months of 2012, even after Treasury rates blipped higher in March. In contrast, the iShares Barclays 7-10 Year Treasury IEF -0.02% ETF returned just 0.6%, according to Morningstar.

Own emerging-markets bonds for yield and diversification.

Bonds of emerging-markets nations such as Brazil and Malaysia have yields five percentage points or more above those of government bonds in developed countries. And owning such bonds essentially means you are lending money to governments that are in a stronger position to repay it than governments of many developed countries, says Robert Stewart, a managing director and emerging-markets specialist at J.P. Morgan Funds in London.

The chief downside to these bonds is their volatility. These nations may have stronger growth prospects and smaller debt burdens than the U.S., for example. But at times of financial uncertainty, investors tend to rush back to the perceived safety of U.S. Treasurys.

Last September, as Europe’s financial woes prompted a flight to safety, the average emerging-markets bond fund tracked by Morningstar posted a negative 7.5% return for the month.

The answer for many investors is to add a modest helping of emerging-markets bonds to your plate—perhaps around 5% to 10% of your overall bond allocation, says Mr. Stewart.

Volatility-averse investors should choose a fund that invests mostly in U.S. dollar-denominated bonds because in uncertain times, bonds denominated in local currencies may be hurt more by flight to safety than those issued in U.S. dollars.

For instance, about 90% of the bonds owned by TCW Emerging Markets Income are denominated in dollars. The fund, which yields 6.5%, has large holdings of bonds issued in Brazil, Mexico and Russia.

To simplify things, consider funds with a diverse mix of securities.

Because institutional players dominate the credit markets, people with less money to invest who want credit exposure are usually better off owning mutual funds than individual bonds. Funds offer much better liquidity than individual corporate bonds, meaning that it is easier to buy and sell a position.

You could get moderate credit exposure through a fund in Morningstar’s multisector bond-fund grouping. Such funds invest in a mix of U.S. government, corporate and high-yield securities and periodically adjust holdings based on market conditions and manager expectations. Multisector funds also may have some holdings of non-U.S. bonds.

Among strongly performing multisector funds, Loomis Sayles Bond recently had about 60% of its holdings in corporate debt securities for an average portfolio credit rating of double-B and a moderate interest-rate sensitivity of 5.5. The fund also had about a third of its portfolio in non-U.S. securities. Over the 10 years through April, it ranks in the top 6% of Morningstar’s multisector group, with an average annual total return of 10%.

Michael Collins, who oversees multisector fund strategies at Prudential Investments, believes it is unclear whether U.S. rates will rise significantly in the near future. Still, in the funds he helps manage, Mr. Collins has been loading up on high-yield bonds because of the cushion they can provide against rising rates. Says Mr. Collins, “High-quality bonds don’t pay much, and you potentially have a lot of downside there.”

BOA DEATHWATCH: STOCK SELLING AT 60% DISCOUNT OFF BOOK VALUE

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BOA SELLING at 60% OFF STATED BOOK VALUE

EDITOR’S NOTE: for those of you who have read my incessant posts that the mega banks are broke, especially, BOA, the article below spells it out in simple arithmetic terms. BOA is selling at 40% of what it SAYS it has in book value. Citi is at 50%, Morgan Stanley, 60% etc. See for yourself.

Normally finding a stock whose value in the stock market is below book value is a possible signal to buy, but it also  can be a red flag. In this case it is giant red flags with trumpets blaring. My prediction is that BOA and Citi for sure are going to bite the dust shortly. They simply cannot sustain themselves because their assets are overstated and their liabilities are understated. Market analysts obviously agree since few, if any, have put out the word for people to buy these stocks.

The outcome seems inevitable from my point of view. BOA and Citi will collapse and be sold off in pieces. Notwithstanding the whole Too Big To Fail Hypothesis, the financial markets will probably react favorably when this happens. It is obvious that nobody believes the balance sheet at BOA and Citi and that the stock has already been discounted for the inevitable result.

The reason this is relevant to homeowners is that BOA and Citi account for a large percentage of all foreclosures. The overstated “assets” are actually derivatives that supposedly derive their value from home mortgages — which the bank neither owns nor has any other interest. As these facts seep out into our collective consciousness, it will be apparent that most BOA foreclosures are exercises in generating fees rather than collecting the balance due on loans that are unpaid. If the regulators do their job right, it will be apparent that the foreclosures were faked.

My advice is to keep your eye on these banks and see what comes out. Make requests under Freedom of Information and discovery that are directed at how they are accounting for loans they say they own, and for details of the transaction on each particular loan. You will most likely find that the bank has no loan receivable on that home loan you are researching. Armed with that information, if you get it, you can clearly make the argument that there was no transaction in which BOA became the owner of the loan, despite the appearance of paperwork to the contrary. When you drill down, you will see that BOA never bought those loans, never paid for them, and that the transfer documents and other documents are all fabrications behind which there is no actual transaction.

Why 2011 Was So Brutal for Big Banks

By Anand Chokkavelu, CFA | More Articles
December 17, 2011 | Comments (0)

As we approach the end of a tumultuous 2011, it’s time to look back on the year that was.

Few, if any, industries had a worse 2011 than the big banks. Check out the carnage (and remember that the S&P 500 was basically flat after factoring in dividends).

Bank Name

2011 Return

Price-to-Tangible Book Value

US Bancorp (NYSE: USB  ) (2.1%) 2.4
Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC  ) (14.7%) 1.5
JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) (23.2%) 1.0
Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS  ) (44.5%) 0.6
Citigroup (NYSE: C  ) (44.9%) 0.5
Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS  ) (45.8%) 0.7
Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) (60.8%) 0.4

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Return includes dividends.

None of these seven largest U.S. banks is leaving 2011 unscathed. US Bancorp and Wells Fargo, the two least Wall Street-y banks, came closest.

To recap the news this year, pretty much every negative macroeconomic event batters the banking stocks because they’re players in so much of the economy, both domestic and foreign:

  • They’re all still recovering from the housing-bubble burst. When we hear about subprime lending, liar loans, derivatives run amok, poor documentation, and the need for better regulation, it’s largely this group.
  • In August, the U.S. lost its AAA debt rating while Congress played politics instead of fixing the budget. If you look at the stock charts for these banks, you can see the effect of this added friction and uncertainty.
  • European sovereign-debt problems become problems for U.S. banking stocks because (1) the global financial system is increasingly tied together and (2) investors are having a hard time determining exactly how much direct European exposure the largest banks have.
  • To expand on that last point, the U.S. financial crisis highlighted how opaque bank balance sheets can be (and how much stuff banks can hide off the balance sheet). This forces investors to assume the worst.

On the plus side, all the banks except Bank of America have been able to profit off cheap interest rates (thanks to the Fed) and high trading volume. That’s why you see some low P/E ratios in this group. But much of that profitability is fleeting, especially if regulations cramp their style.

But this is more a balance-sheet tale than an income-statement tale.

When you go down the table from best-performing to worst-performing, you see a rough order of the likelihood of exposure to shaky lending and derivatives. US Bank and Wells Fargo are mostly regular old banks. JPMorgan is a hybrid Main Street and Wall Street bank that weathered the crisis better than the remaining four largely because of the leadership of Jamie Dimon.

Bank of America and Citigroup are also hybrids, but they’ve been proving to be the weakest of the herd. Citi did it organically, while Bank of America had help with its Countrywide acquisition. You can see the fear in their tiny price-to-tangible-book values, both half what JPMorgan gets.

Meanwhile, Goldman and Morgan Stanley are the only two full-fledged Wall Street megabanks left.

I see value in this uncertainty. The market is definitely valuing these banks on fear. And a lot of it is justified. Investing in these banks (especially as you go down the list) takes a leap of faith that the balance sheets can’t be that bad. It may even require some faith that the government would bail them out again without destroying common shareholders if need be.

Investing in the largest banks isn’t for the faint of heart. Fortunately, there is an alternative if you like bank stocks. Smaller regional banks are generally a lot simpler. Like US Bank and Wells Fargo, they mostly stick to taking in deposits and lending. Smaller bank stocks are by no means easy to decipher, but they’re a heck of a lot more transparent than the Wall Street banks.

MEGABANKS LOSE THEIR LUSTER AS INVESTIGATIONS AND LAWSUITS PERSIST

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BANK STOCKS HEADING LOWER AS BALANCE SHEETS DON’T ADD UP

EDITOR’S NOTE: At the end of the day, everybody knows everything. Goldman is losing its grip on the narrative. You can’t fool all the people all the time. If the pools were empty and the mortgage bonds were bogus, then any balance sheet carrying loans or securities based upon the illusion of securitization will need a major adjustment. If the loans were bad to begin with, if the appraisals and ratings were false, if the documentation of the loans described a fictitious transaction, then the real transaction remains undocumented, unsecured and probably unenforceable. Reports of income and assets by the banks would be greatly exaggerated while reports of their demise may still be wishful thinking, it is looking more and more likely every day.

Goldman No Longer Laps the Field

By JEFFREY GOLDFARB, ROB COX and LISA LEE

Goldman Sachs has lost its luster. The firm earned a best-in-class reputation for its history of profitability and navigating upheaval. But it seems less assured lately. In fact, Goldman is in danger of looking downright average.

It’s not the first time. Goldman has been sent reeling by shocks, from Penn Central’s bankruptcy in 1970 to Russia’s default in 1998. But the Goldman advantage comes from an ability not only to climb off the canvas but to thrive in the face of adversity.

Today’s investors are expressing doubt, or at least not giving the firm led by Lloyd C. Blankfein the benefit of it. Over the last decade, Goldman’s shares have outperformed those of the biggest American banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley, as well as the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index. But they have tumbled 16 percent this year, lagging rivals and the broader market.

One reason is Goldman’s struggle to get out of the headlines and clear its name in Washington even after last year’s record $550 million settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The bank still faces the possibility the Justice Department will come after it or some of its people. Two analysts cut their ratings on Goldman’s stock last week for that reason.

Goldman’s gold-plated advisory business has been disappointing, too. For example, instead of its normal perch atop the United States merger rankings, nearly halfway through the year it ranks a dismal sixth, according to Thomson Reuters. That may help explain Monday’s reshuffle at the firm’s investment bank.

The company is not even so sure of itself anymore. Top executives told Barclays Capital last week that uncertainty about financial reform meant it could not stand by its long-term high-teens target for return on equity.

And while Goldman still commands a valuation premium to its largest rivals, it is trading at just 1.1 times book value. That implies it will barely cover its cost of capital. Five years ago, around the peak of the boom, Goldman fetched 2.6 times book, nearly twice JPMorgan’s multiple.

The advantage has shrunk to just 10 percent, only part of which can be put down to the compression associated with an industrywide bad patch.

Goldman and its supporters can argue the naysayers merely see the glass half empty. But to truly shine again, Goldman’s glass needs to be more than just half full.

Beware of Bubbles

It’s easy to make the parallel between today’s Internet stock frenzy and the bubble that popped a decade ago. But a comparison to the more damaging credit boom may be appropriate too. As they did amid dot-com mania, investors are taking big risks without clear rewards and signing their rights away.

The latest illustration comes courtesy of LinkedIn, the social network with a big following among those out of a job or looking for a new one. The company supersized the price of its initial public offering by 30 percent, giving the firm a potential value of as much as $4.3 billion when the I.P.O. prices, probably late on Wednesday.

At the top of the range, LinkedIn would fetch a valuation of 15 times trailing 12-month sales, or about 82 times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. Even assuming its growth trajectory continues over the next year, the I.P.O. would value LinkedIn at nine times future sales and nearly 70 times estimated Ebitda.

If LinkedIn’s chief executive, Jeff Weiner, can keep the company expanding at a similar pace for a few years, the company might grow into the value investors seem willing to accord it now. But that does not offer much upside and takes little account of LinkedIn’s risks, which are amply laid out in its prospectus.

LinkedIn’s debut also brings an extra frisson of danger that recalls the credit bubble that burst in 2008. Back then bondholders, in their headlong drive for yield, surrendered many of their covenants, the rules that determine what borrowers must or must not do. LinkedIn is asking investors to abdicate similar rights.

The shares the company is selling carry only a sliver of the voting power of Class B shares that LinkedIn founders, managers and staff own. This group will hold approximately 99.1 percent of the voting power after the I.P.O.

True, the mighty Google did a similar thing when it began to trade a few years after the dot-com bust. But LinkedIn is no Google. It may turn into another reminder that in bubbles investors give up too much today for the lure of riches tomorrow. 

For more independent financial commentary and analysis, visit http://www.breakingviews.com.

Investment Advice

  • Several people have emailed me regarding what to do with their investments. I am not Warren Buffett and I don’t have a crystal ball so what I say here should be checked against other knowledgeable analyses. Keep in mind that most people are full of s–t. Everyone thinks they are a genius in an up market. In a down market, everyone still thinks they are a genius, like gamblers because they count their successes and don’t count their losses. Most economists, securities analysts (I used to be one), institutional traders (I used to be one), fund managers (I used to be one) etc are ill-trained, poorly educated, not well-rounded, and basically go with the herd. They sound good but they don’t know a thing about real economic behavior. Account representatives are even worse. Their job is to get you to do something without concern to wether you make or lose money (if you find one that doesn’t fit the mold, hold onto him or her for dear life).
  • First any investment in money market, CD, US Treasury, or other strictly dollar denominated assets including actual cash or deposits on hand should be converted to non-cash assets or non-dollar denominated assets. There are several internet banks and other companies that will allow you to keep accounts in dual currencies or more. My assumption is that the dollar is in for a crash. My theory is that if I am right, then you will make a lot of money. If I am wrong, there is little to suppose that the Euro or Canadian dollar or the Yen or Yuan will do badly. Either way you are probably pretty well protected.
  • Precious metals are always an inflation hedge but you are depending, again, on perception of value as opposed to real value. It is not likely that Gold ever again be “money.” hence it will always be a commodity and thus subject to the rules and trends of the commodity trading marketplace. The same holds true for corn, oil, and other commodities. yes they are likely to increase in value (and they present an inflation hedge as well) but you probably should not venture into commodities now unless you are already a successful commodity trader. Pick an ETF or other fund and let someone else make the trading decisions.
  • Stocks are not necessarily bad particularly if the company does not depend upon US consumer spending, and if the company does not hold or depend upon receiving US dollars. If it is getting Euros in payment for goods and services or other currencies around the world that are not pegged (i.e. a currency whose value is derived from whatever the value of the U.S. dollar is — BE CAREFUL),  then if it is a good company it will do well in the intermediate term even if it gets hit with the usual over-selling that occurs when an economy fails. 
  • Don’t stop looking at fundamentals just because it is in another currency. It is true that you “make money” if the dollar dives and the foreign stock dives less, but that is not a very safe strategy. Find even financial institutions that are oversold because of the general fear of bank failures. Avoid Citi, BOA, Lehman, and all of the other major national banking groups. They are all at risk. Think about the firms that figured out the crash months or years ago, like Goldman Sachs and see how they are doing now. 
  • Bonds are not necessarily bad either for the same reason, and the same with CD equivalents etc. As long as principal interest, dividends etc are paid in Euros or some other currency not tied to the dollar, you should do OK, if you pick right on the company or mutual fund.
  • Keep in mind that most people are unwilling to accept the coming crash and that they may be right and that I may be wrong.
  • Why Euros? Because it is the ONLY currency of consensus. 2 dozen countries are involved in the Euro, thus giving you immediate diversification of risk. 
  • Real estate: Avoid bargain locations — they might never come back, avoid locations that might be affected by flooding from rising sea levels, use leverage if you can afford the staying power, and stay in for the long haul (3-5 years minimum). This is a non-cash asset whose value will rise proportionately to the decline in the value of the dollar. If the dollar does not decline, and you have avoided problematic locations, you will still be OK. 
  • Jewelry: For short term trading and turnovers in the marketplace there are probably some profits to be made. I don’t recommend it. There are a lot of people who know more at a glance than you would with an electron microscope and a handbook.
  • Lending Money: Tie the interest payments and the principal to the real rate of inflation and use an index like oil rather than the CPI which at this point has been rearranged so many times the tires are worn out. 
  • Borrowing Money: Avoid borrowing at ridiculously high rates (in case I am wrong) and avoid if possible, the imposition of indexing on inflation. If indexing is going to occur, argue for the CPI, which the government will keep at the lowest possible levels in order to keep social security and other payment increases to a minimum. A reasonable loan will put you in the position of tremendous leverage and profit if I am right and still give you ordinary returns on investment if I am wrong.
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