April 22, 2016
What We’re Reading this Week
If you read my post last week then you know how I feel about the Department of Labor’s new fiduciary rule. Here is a more optimistic view from Josh Brown (@reformedbroker) published at Fortune. Josh’s take is a little cynical but he states, “And here’s what I think is the main point: The market has already been moving in this direction for the better part of the last decade. Consumer preference, advisor choice and the power of the internet have been driving many of the reforms needed, way in advance of what the Department of Labor released today. The new rules just speed up several industry mega-trends–the move toward pay-for-advice instead of pay-per-transaction, the mass exodus from expensive funds into cheap index products, the growth of the independent advisor versus the shrinkage of the brokerage channel.” Essentially what he’s saying is that this industry sells people products they don’t really understand with fees that are hard to find. Market forces will naturally drive investment products to get better and fees to become lower. The new rule isn’t perfect but hopefully it’s a step in the right direction.
Yahoo launched the sale of its core business in February this year, prompted by urging from shareholders. The move was seen as largely positive and pushed shares up following the announcement. It has now been more than 3 years since Marissa Mayer took the helm as CEO. Most recently, Yahoo bankers have been giving a “book” to prospective buyers and the consensus is not good. Re/code got access to the book and while they were not able to publish its contents they did share their impressions. According to sources, the book is “unusually confusing and perhaps purposefully so.” The situation at Yahoo has not been good for some time and it appears that the firm is scrambling to make this auction work. The article cites conversations with buyers where it has been expressed that Yahoo is shifting things around so much it has become impossible to tell what is making money and what is not. The article closes with a final comment, put very well, “It’s like a dilapidated house in Silicon Valley — you walk in and are overwhelmed by the work that needs to be done and how bad it has gotten…But then it’s in a good neighborhood, the market is nuts and there’s not many like it anymore, so you have to hope you can fix it.”
The Consumer Product and Safety Commission announced that it is recalling 20,000 scarves made by Ivanka Trump because they did not meet the federal flammability standards for clothing in the US. The scarves pose a “burn risk” for the people wearing them and give new meaning to the term “hot new trend.” I couldn’t help myself. This is a bigger story because the scarves are manufactured in China, a business practice her father, Donald Trump, has been vocally critical of throughout his presidential campaign. It’s not a new story though because, as many critics have pointed out, Donald produces many products in China himself. Trump ties, dress shirts, eyeglasses, cufflinks, and sports jackets are all made in China. Say what you will about hypocrisy but never have Donald Trump eyeglasses posed to “burn risk” to the person wearing them. One can, I’m told, use Trump glasses to burn ants, but I have to think that says more about the type of people buying Trump glasses than the product itself.
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