The Zeitgeist – 3.19.2019

2+

Every morning, we run the Narrative Machine on the past 24 hours worth of financial media to find the most on-narrative (i.e. interconnected and central) stories in financial media. It’s not a list of best articles or articles we think are most interesting … often far from it.

But for whatever reason these are articles that are representative of some sort of chord that has been struck in Narrative-world.


Major Equity Averages Recovered Last Week, But Challenges Remain [Forbes]

It’s Forbes contributor technical gobbledygook, so click at your own peril. But I admit, I was fascinated by the handy tool to choose-your-adventure on how to Tweet a link to the story. Little nudges everywhere. 


Profits Per Partner Hit $5 Million at Paul Weiss, Redefining Richest Tier [Law.com]

In case you don’t have a baseline for this kind of thing, $5M/Partner is…really good. But as headline-friendly as representing Tesla’s board would be, there’s gotta be more to the story to get to that kind of number for a firm with meaningful reliance on its fund formation practice…


CalPERS Moves Forward on Private Equity Revamp [Institutional Investor]


Ah. Well there you go.

Leave aside the windfalls for the Paul Weisses of the world for a moment. Yes, I rolled my eyes a bit at this whole PE episode, too. We (and many others) have been predicting this was the inevitable direction for many public pension plans for years. It’s frustrating that we’ve now reached this point – but nowhere near as irritating as the armchair CIOs on social media and traditional financial media ripping into the statement.

The right response for the staff of these funds isn’t derision, but empathy. It’s an almost intractable situation. They can’t force the state to take an axe to benefits. They can’t force the state to fund the plan with taxes. Most of them can’t even change their target rate, or the cost of living adjustment mechanics, without board and sometimes even legislative oversight. The consultants – risk transfer instruments for the board – are coming in hot and painting the staff into a corner with capital market projections that show both the magnitude of expected returns shortfalls and a light at the end of a tunnel that only passes through levered private markets investments and wishy-washy emerging markets overweights.

Like me, are you uncomfortable putting all the eggs of an increased risk-taking strategy in levered illiquid US small caps? Good. OK, let’s run through our alternatives:

Do you want to argue for layering on futures-based leverage in California? Cool. Yeah, we’re not going to let you take that kind of headline risk for us. You’re fired.

Do you want to argue for a public-only passive solution, trusting that returns will be enough? Cool. Yeah, our consultant’s telling us that would be imprudent. You’re fired.

Do you want to argue for a reduction in benefits? Whoa, stay in your lane. Also, you’re fired.

The railroading of public pensions into private equity is lamentable. It’s worth talking about. But let’s talk more about the things that are causing it – agency structures and a political unwillingness to talk about the inescapable interplay between return outcomes, benefits and tax outlays – and maybe a bit less about the staff forced into impossible situations.


Hemp, Inc. Subsidiary, The Hemp University, Announces its First West Coast, All Day Seminar in Ashland, Oregon [Business Insider]

LPT: Stick to sativa strains or else the afternoon is going to be a real drag.


Will 2019 Be the Year We All Start Renting Out Our Own Closets? [Vogue]

$250/Night, y’all, cash in advance.


Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank are finally merging – but critics worry about job cuts and patchy past deals [Business Insider]

“I really didn’t like his form on that Hail Mary pass, Tom. It’s almost like he just threw the ball up in the air and prayed that someone would catch it.”

2+

The Daily Zeitgeist

We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

By Ben Hunt | July 15, 2019 | 0 Comments

Financialization is not a mean-reverting phenomenon. It’s too good of a gravy train for Wall Street, corporate management and the White House to stop now. So they won’t. Like any self-respecting Great White shark, the Nudging State and the Nudging Oligarchy never stop swimming. They never stop eating.

Want to survive these financialized waters if you’re potential shark food? You’re gonna need a bigger boat.

Read more

When Did You Stop Beating Your Wife?

By Ben Hunt | July 12, 2019 | 1 Comment

“De Blasio’s ‘pay parity’ hypocrisy” is a feature article in today’s NY Post, and a central article in today’s media Zeitgeist.

Dig a little deeper into the “scandal”, and you learn that the “evidence” is complete horseshit.

It’s an article specifically designed to manipulate someone like me … someone who is VERY predisposed to believe the worst about Bill de Blasio because I dislike his politics SO MUCH.

It’s a rage engagement, one of two primary forms of Fiat News used to win the Game of You.

Read more

The Upside Down

By Ben Hunt | July 9, 2019 | 1 Comment

Everything is topsy-turvy in the Upside Down of Stranger Things. That’s the Big Baddie in the picture above, known as the Mind Flayer.

Financial media is a Mind Flayer, too, especially when it comes to coverage of crypto and tech companies.

Read more

Raking it in

By Rusty Guinn | July 8, 2019 | 0 Comments

A few months ago, we noted how important it had become for public figures and corporations to control their own cartoon, lest someone control it for them. Well, now that advice has itself become the narrative. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Read more

Here We Go Again

By Ben Hunt | July 2, 2019 | 1 Comment

“You just recently hours ago met with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping,” Carlson said. “Are you closer, do you think after that meeting, to a trade deal?”

“I think so,” Trump replied. “We had a very good meeting. He wants to make a deal. I want to make a deal. Very big deal, probably, I guess you’d say the largest deal ever made of any kind, not only trade.”

He just can’t help himself. And neither can we.

Read more

The Solution To The Fintech IPO Shortage

By Rusty Guinn | July 1, 2019 | 0 Comments

There’s a narrative that exists in Fintech that isn’t really present in most other early stage technology businesses. It defines why they’re different, who succeeds and who fails at getting to a liquidity event and a long-term growth trajectory.

Read more

6
Leave a Reply

Please Login to comment
  Subscribe  
newest oldest
Notify of
J
Member
J

Did you get that sweater with your purchase of Super Tecmo Bowl? Run and gun, baby!

Also, sorry.

1+
Curt
Member

Do you have the Oilers sweater in an XL? Asking for a friend.

1+
Wraith
Member
Wraith

Rusty, what an excellent set of comments regarding pension PE/funding status dilemma. Having worked in pensionstan, the suggestion toward empathy is well received particularly given the nature and sheer volume of Meetings…once to schedule meetings, and once to schedule Meetings. The agency structures inherent in most public pensions, exist to a large extend because of the structures (political/bureaucratic) directly above and another level above direct agency structures.

And we all know this. But it really can’t be overstated – your mission in pensionstan is to not get fired. That’s it. The incentive system because of the structures mentioned (which in turn are influenced by other more narrative-y things) are to keep your head down. PE is perfect for this – “we’re investing in REAL companies!”, no realistic mark to markets, appeal to authority “KKR is great!” etc.

On a related topic, Unicorns, Jawad Mian, author of Stray Reflections blog, has an interesting take that you can find on a recent Twitter feed. It’s long winded, but basically his contention that the Lyft and more importantly Uber IPOs have massive importance in steering the narratives on the private markets right now.

0
Demonetized
Member
Demonetized

I wasn’t able to “Like” this comment with the button. But I did like it! Valuable takes both here and in Rusty’s post.

1+
DISCLOSURES

This commentary is being provided to you as general information only and should not be taken as investment advice. The opinions expressed in these materials represent the personal views of the author(s). It is not investment research or a research recommendation, as it does not constitute substantive research or analysis. Any action that you take as a result of information contained in this document is ultimately your responsibility. Epsilon Theory will not accept liability for any loss or damage, including without limitation to any loss of profit, which may arise directly or indirectly from use of or reliance on such information. Consult your investment advisor before making any investment decisions. It must be noted, that no one can accurately predict the future of the market with certainty or guarantee future investment performance. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

Statements in this communication are forward-looking statements. The forward-looking statements and other views expressed herein are as of the date of this publication. Actual future results or occurrences may differ significantly from those anticipated in any forward-looking statements, and there is no guarantee that any predictions will come to pass. The views expressed herein are subject to change at any time, due to numerous market and other factors. Epsilon Theory disclaims any obligation to update publicly or revise any forward-looking statements or views expressed herein. This information is neither an offer to sell nor a solicitation of any offer to buy any securities. This commentary has been prepared without regard to the individual financial circumstances and objectives of persons who receive it. Epsilon Theory recommends that investors independently evaluate particular investments and strategies, and encourages investors to seek the advice of a financial advisor. The appropriateness of a particular investment or strategy will depend on an investor’s individual circumstances and objectives.