Emanuel Derman is a professor of finance at Columbia University and also a physicist. But what' he's probably best known for is his years at Goldman Sachs in the lead-up to the financial crisis and his role as one of the pre-eminent Wall Street "quants" — investment professionals who attempted to use complex quantitative models to drive risk out of making money. These days, some critics blame the quants for nearly destroying the global financial system.
Derman chronicled his Wall Street days in a 2004 book, "My Life as A Quant: Reflections on Physics and Finance" — a full four years before the financial crisis truly took hold in late-2008. He's now followed that title up with "Models. Behaving. Badly," in which he looks back on both his life and his life's work and...finds fault with the world that he in part helped to engineer.
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MF Global: Lehman all over again? First victim of the European debt crisis? Or something even worse?
You may have heard by now that MF Global, a somewhat obscure Wall Street investment firm run by former Goldman Sacher and former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, imploded on Monday, declaring bankruptcy after failing to find someone to buy it. MF Global might also have illegally diverted money from client accounts to its own trading operations.
The firm is now being looked at as either (1) a sort of junior Lehman Brothers — which makes sense, as Corzine was trying to move MF Global into a spot in the much-reduced-by-the-financial-crisis firmament of investment banks — or (2) the first victim of the European debt crisis.
At MarketWatch, Brett Arends goes a bit farther, pointing out that MF Global's abrupt meltdown will directly affect average investors, because those investors' mutual funds and pension funds were mixed up with Corzine's wannbe Goldman and its risky bet on European sovereign debt.
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A sign marks the location of the Groupon headquarters on November 30, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois.
Bruce Krasting goes after the Federal Reseve. He doesn't hold back: "I want the Fed to fail so miserably that they are marginalized for the next twenty years. I want Bernanke fired. I want the Fed disgraced." (Bruce Krasting)
How to do an IPO, the Groupon-Goldman Sachs way: "The hardest step is the first: getting aboard this money train in the first place. You go in with a huge pitchbook that tells the company how awesome they are, how awesomely you’d tell the world how awesome they are, and how awesome you are at IPOs, etc." (Dealbreaker)
Abolish the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage! "At heart, it comes down to this: the 30-year fixed-rate product is always going to shift a huge amount of interest-rate risk onto the government in one form or another." (Felix Salmon)
Well, since Lloyd Blankfein became CEO, anyway, and the financial crisis began to seriously mess with the legendary investment bank's magical, mystical fortunes.
This e-book on Goldman Sachs from Reuters BreakingViews just landed in my in-box. It's free and it's a quick and extremely informative read, a collection of five years' worth of columns.
Very good stuff on Goldman culture, Goldman envy, Goldman hating, Goldman compensation (not as much money as you might think), and the big changes that the firm has faced since the financial crisis.
This is from Anthony Currie's introduction:
The articles selected for this book chronicle Goldman’s bumpy ride underBlankfein over the last ?ve years from virtually untouchable to basicallyunremarkable. It might even be a candidate for a breakup. Of course, Goldman has been here before. The question is not just whether Goldmancan rise again, but whether in the face of a new regulatory regime it can do sowithout a change to its corporate structure – and perhaps its management.