Crime Doesn’t Pay, But Whistle-Blowing Does

Posted by Brad McMillan, CFA, CAIA, MAI

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This entry was posted on Sep 12, 2012 9:40:02 AM

and tagged Fiscal Cliff, Market Updates

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The common front-page story yesterday was, of course, the anniversary of 9/11. The Financial Times (FT) led with “9/11 remembered – Thousands gather at NY memorial,” the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) with “Where Towers Stood, Memories Cast a Long Shadow,” and the New York Times (NYT) with “Indelible Date, Unforgettable Lives.” It is fitting that this terrible event continues to get this level of coverage. Never forget.

No other real common front-pagers, but a couple of stories snagged two of three. The big one was the $104 million payout for the whistle-blower who led the IRS to systematic evidence that UBS had enabled thousands of Americans to evade taxes. He needs the money, as he just got out of jail on similar charges, but this will certainly aid his re-entry into society. “‘Tarantula’ snares record $104m reward for whistleblowing in UBS tax case” hit the front page of the FT, and “Get Out of Jail Free? No, It’s Better” landed on the front page of the NYT, but “Whistleblower Gets $104 million” was relegated to page C1 of the WSJ. Think this will encourage others to run to the IRS with evidence of tax evasion? Incentives work, although the jail sentence will probably mitigate any effect.

The U.S. papers both had the Chicago teachers’ strike on the front page, but without much more relevant information. More important, the U.S./Israel indecision over what to do about the Iranian nuclear program also moved back to the front pages with “Israeli Leader’s Call for US to Set Iran Trigger” in the NYT and “Israel Blasts US Over Iran” in the WSJ. This continues to generate headlines, but if you think about it, anyone actually intending to attack might not spend a lot of time telling the target the attack is coming. I suspect that the time to worry will be when both Israel and the U.S. stop talking about Iran’s nuclear program at all, rather than when they are yelling about it. In the meantime, though, the noise provides a useful layer of additional pressure on the Iranian regime—which is probably the intention.

China also made the news. The FT made a credible attempt to paint a brighter picture in “Rural investment breathes life into Silver Dragon,” which talks about how central government spending has revitalized a rural village, and in “Young educated Chinese offer hand of friendship to Japan,” but these are offset by “Wen promises to boost growth and defends his time in power” and “Surveillance ships head to islands,” all of which are on page 2. Nice try, but net score is zero. The NYT has “China Accuses Japan of Stealing After Purchase of Group of Disputed Islands” (p. A6), and the WSJ has “Wen Upbeat on China Growth; Jobs Take Hit” and “Xi’s Absence Complicates Planning for Party Meeting” (both on p. A10). Overall, it still sounds like there are some unresolved questions, at a minimum.

Quick hits

  • “Moody’s in threat to strip US of top rating” (FT, p. 1) and “Moody’s Warns That US May Face Debt Downgrade” (NYT, p. A21). I think the NYT got it right. This is not news, and although it warrants mention, it really is not significant.
  • “Dutch tend to political centre as anti-European extremes wane” (FT, p. 4) and “Dutch Votes May Point Way for Rest of Europe” (NYT, p. A9) talk about one of the two major events in Europe today, suggesting that while it is important, it does not seem like it will result in any significant changes, which is good.
  • “Shiller and Barclays launch equity indices” (FT, p. 20) plays to my personal conclusions about the markets—that longer-term valuation measures are better indicators than shorter-term ones. Be interesting to see how this works out in the market. I think it is a great idea.
  • In the slow but real improvement section, we have “Shutdown Is Unlikely, Fiscal Cliff Still a Risk” (WSJ, p. A5). Congress hopefully is starting to get it.
  • And in a follow-up to yesterday’s story about the growth of solar power, “Chain Stores Said to Lead Firms in Use of Sun Power” (NYT, p. B3). Many steps on many paths. We are getting there.

As I write this, I have not yet heard about the German court decision, which is the other significant European event today, but I am quite certain we will be talking about it tomorrow.

Have a great day!

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