21 February 2009

Madoff - could he have done it alone?

What is the similarity between the Fritzl case in Austria and the Madoff scam? In both cases it is extremely unlikely that those close to the perpetrator were ignorant of what was going on around them.

Madoff Investors thrown to the wolves

The speed with which Banco Santander has decided to compensate the customers of its Optimal Hedge Fund of Fund Division for losses they incurred due to the unit's exposure to the Madoff Ponzi scheme may appear to be commendable.
The substance of the compensation scheme has been sufficiently reviewed in an article in Barron's Magazine and we do not have sufficient detailed knowledge to comment any more.
But it seems strange that the regulators seem to be well behind the curve as we did not yet notice any activity of the Spanish or Swiss regulators. They should be the first to bring down the book on Santander and Optimal as the companies conducted the business out of their jurisdiction.
Maybe we just missed something and therefore we would appreciate if any reader would point us in the right direction.
But at this stage it appears that despite all the talk about regulation and the well paid bureaucrats sitting in the cushy offices of the regulatory organisations the investors are out on their own or are thrown to the wolves after their investments have gone up in smoke.

19 February 2009

Financial Conglomerates

"Diversified financial conglomerates are a bad idea for customers because they are riddled with conflicts of interest" (John Kay, Financial Times, 11 Feb 2009).
Now this statement may appear to be very convincing in light of the disasters that have befallen financial behemoths such as UBS, Citigroup or Merrill Lynch during the past twelve months.
But things are not as simple as that. While the age of the financial supermarket as a business strategy may be over this does not mean that focused financial service providers are necessarily free of any conflict of interest.
Investors have to judge each institution they deal with on its own merits and conduct proper due diligence before parting with their assets.