Monthly Archives: June 2010

John Gapper

Joe Cassano has been invisible for so long – since the 2008 crisis, the former head of AIG’s now-notorious  financial products division has not given a media interview and is only rarely photographed – that it was a revelation to watch his appearance on Capitol Hill.

Mr Cassano’s mystique was such, and the expectations of him so low, that my first impression was that he was a good witness. His co-operative, friendly, somewhat geeky demeanour in front of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission was unlike that of a brash master of the universe.

This helped him in his striking assertion that AIGFP, which made multi-billion dollar mark-to-market losses on its portfolio of credit default swaps and turned AIG into the dark heart of the financial crisis, did not make any mistakes in credit risk management. Read more

John Gapper

If you were investing in an initial public offering, would you not want the company’s chairman, chief executive and “product architect” – the most important individual to the enterprise – at least to work full-time?

I ask this because Elon Musk, the chairman and chief executive of Tesla Motors, the electric car maker that held its Nasdaq IPO successfully on Tuesday, does not. Read more

John Gapper

Small corporate earthquake, not many dead seems to be the outcome of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

There were fears that the Supreme Court could strike down the whole of Sarbanes-Oxley as part of its ruling on the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, rendering all of US post-Enron corporate reform legislation null and void. Read more

John Gapper

The financial services bill that has emerged from Congress, and will probably now pass the Senate and the House of Representatives looks like as decent a compromise as anyone might have expected.

The US method of lawmaking – lobbying and jockeying in two different legislatures followed by a marathon sausage-making session in which one clause is traded off against another – is not pretty. Read more

John Gapper

Reading the Supreme Court’s judgments finding fault with the convictions of Jeff Skilling of Enron and Conrad Black, it is clear that Congress must act to close a loophole in the law.

Although the Supreme Court decision narrowing the “honest services” category of wire fraud to bribery and kickbacks is well-argued, the US needs to include fair dealing as well. Read more

John Gapper

Luke Johnson has a great column in the FT – written from experience – on why large companies are more prone to infighting and less enjoyable places to work.

He writes: Read more

John Gapper

Over-expansion is something that bedevils many public companies, particularly retailers. Under stock market pressure to keep growing rapidly, they lose the quality that originally set them apart.

That has been a problem for many companies, including McDonald’s and Starbucks. It also led to the firing of Mickey Drexler, the former chief executive of Gap, in 2002. Mr Drexler has now made an impressive return to form at J.Crew. Read more

John Gapper

Oprah Winfrey and Richard and Judy beware, there is a new television chat show figure who dominates the best-seller book list – Glenn Beck, the conspiracy-minded right-wing Fox News host.

Mr Beck’s power to propel thrillers to the top of the bestseller lists by recommending them to his devoted audience has been noted before but he has now managed to put Friedrich Hayek up there too. Read more

John Gapper

Tony Hayward, BP’s chief executive, has had a long and painful morning at the House of Representatives energy and commerce committee but he can thank Joe Barton, a Republican member of the committee, for seizing the spotlight.

Mr Barton’s comment that the government had subjected BP to a “$20bn shakedown” drew a rapid response from the White House, which called for Republicans and Democrats to repudiate it. It clearly believes it can win any political tussle over the escrow fund for compensation. Read more

John Gapper

Oh dear. Language can be so tricky.

Carl-Henric Svanberg, the BP chairman, whipped up yet more trouble for the company following his meeting with President Obama on Wednesday, by saying the followingRead more

John Gapper

News Corporation’s attempt to take full ownership of British Sky Broadcasting will have an interesting impact on the role of James Murdoch, Rupert’s younger son and his heir apparent.

The deal would remove some of James’ independence, since as chairman of BSkyB as well as the head of News Corp’s European and Asian businesses, he has hitherto had his own empire. Read more

John Gapper

The New York Times story on the discovery of vast mineral reserves in Afghanistan is astonishing, given the unpredictable political consequences. One is that the Afghanistan could rival Bolivia as the Saudi Arabia of lithium

The US US taskforce that is trying to map the reserves of mineral including iron and copper in Afghanistan has made another discovery: Read more

John Gapper

An iPad schism is developing between those who are happy to read news and other material using the Safari browser on the iPad, and those who prefer the applications that publishers are producing — and for which many are trying to charge.

In the browser corner are those such as Alan Rusbridger of the Guardian, Jacob Weisberg of Slate and even my colleague Clive Crook. They argue (I’m paraphrasing) that the browser experience is just as good if not better and obviates the need to pay for publishers’ apps. Read more

John Gapper

I’m on leave for the next two weeks so I won’t be back blogging here until the week starting June 13th.  There may be one or two guest posts from other FT writers, however, so do keep checking.