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Archive for the 'Fraud' Category

The SEC also failed Jefferson County

The SEC should have known something was fishy in Jefferson County a whole decade before it formally began its investigation. According to Self-evident:

So how would the SEC have known that LeCroy was a suspicious character a decade before it formally began its investigation of the sewer refinancings – in fact, before the infamous refinancings even took place?  In November 1997, Jefferson County Commissioner Bettye Fine Collins wrote the SEC asking for an investigation into the county’s swap transactions.  Collins argued that the county had been abused and that the transactions “raised the county’s expense by more than $1 million a year, and raised concern that the arrangement involved cronyism, patronage, excessive fees, and fraud.” (From examining the bond terms and swap confirmations, her numbers may have been accurate at the time.)

Why were these details left out of the SEC’s complaints?  Why did the SEC not acknowledge that the county had previous dealings with LeCroy?  Why would the SEC wait nine years to begin an investigation into the deals after being tipped off by a public official, of all people?  (I cannot imagine public officials are the SEC’s typical whistleblowers.)  Collins would have had access to any of the documents that the SEC would have required to determine if the pricing on the transaction was fair (marketing materials, swap confirmations, etc.).  If the SEC suspected her request was simply motivated by politics, they could have examined the deal to see if it was fair and moved on.  It is certainly not the SEC’s job to lecture governments about using swaps for speculative purposes rather than hedges, but if the SEC would have examined the deals, there would have been red flags immediately, such as the archaic commission structure on the swaps and the bizarre strategy that was being pitched to the county.  (The structure could have been appropriate in other sectors of the market, but certainly not for a county government.)  The original bond deals involved the same participants and modus operandi as the fraudulent deals that came later.

What Would Charlie Munger Say About Global Warming?

If you haven’t heard by now, hackers (or an insider) broke into The University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit and downloaded 156 megabytes of data including extremely damaging emails that show how data supporting the global warming thesis was manipulated and/or fabricated.

Here is just some of the coverage I’ve seen from various blogs:

The Washington Post also has posted a story about this, but I find it very interesting the slant they take to the story. Instead of focusing on the manipulation/fabrication of data for the purposes of proving a highly controversial hypothesis (what I think could become known as one of the greatest hoaxes advanced by mankind), the Washington Post article merely focuses on how the stolen e-mails deride and disparage the skeptics of warming. When there’s even a whiff of fraud on such an important subject, how can than NOT be the focus for a newspaper? Why focus on the pettiness of these scientists and not on the apparent fraud and manipulation? Could it be the Washington Post writers and editors have an agenda of their own?

Anyways, to get to the title of this blog post, I’m not sure if Munger has said anything about global warming in the past. But I do know Munger’s views on responsibility for social problems, which I think applies to so-called global warming or climate change (or whatever you want to call it):

I’m all for fixing social problems. I’m all for being generous to the less fortunate. And I’m all for doing things where, based on a slight preponderance of the evidence, you guess that it’s likely to do more good than harm…

What I’m against is being very confident and feeling that you know, for sure, that your particular intervention will do more good than harm given that you’re dealing with highly complex systems wherein everything is interacting with everything else.

Our climate system has to be one of the most complex systems on this planet. Consider just all the big and small factors on the planet that affects the weather. Then consider all the factors outside this planet that has an effect on the climate. Consider the millions of possible ways these factors can interact with each other. Consider the fact that global temperatures have always fluctuated without man-made pollution and carbon dioxide. It’s been been much hotter than it is now and it’s been much colder than it is now.

I would like to believe that Munger would be against doing anything to “fix” the so-called problem of global warming or climate change given that it is such a highly complex system and given that anything we do would most likely have zero positive effect and would very likely have serious negative consequences.