While You Were Working - March 24

Programming note: WYWW is going on Spring Break next week and will return Tuesday, April 4.

Blackfish wasn’t so bad for Blackstone

To most observers, the movie Blackfish seemed to harpoon SeaWorld a few years ago and send the theme park company into an ocean of public relations nightmares. The movie, which criticizes sharply the treatment of SeaWorld’s iconic orca whales, sparked protests and drove attendance down at the company’s multiple parks. However, all that bad news wasn’t enough to sink the ship of one interested party: Blackstone. The firm has announced it is selling its 21% stake in SeaWorld to investors from China. The move means Blackstone will nearly triple its money on the seven-year investment in SeaWorld.

Oops … KfW did it again

Remember the German bank KfW? KfW is the state-owned development bank that was foolish enough to wire 300 million euros to Lehman Brothers on the very day Lehman filed for bankruptcy. Those funds constituted a regularly scheduled that the bank had failed to stop. Twitter wasn’t a thing back in 2008, but one would think KfW had access to a little thing called the internet and would have known Lehman was buckling. Nevertheless, the payment went to Lehman and KfW was deservedly ridiculed.  

The Lehman money was only 300 million euros. I say only, because last month KfW made a boo boo more than 16 times larger than the Lehman miscue. The bank mistakenly transferred a total of 5 billion euros to four different banks. Apparently a transaction that was supposed to be made once was accidentally made repeatedly. KfW got its money back, but this time its reputation might take longer to recover. I say “might” because my favorite little nugget from this story is that Global Finance magazine named KfW the World’s Safest Bank … for the last five years running!

Kashkari kept having fun

Neel Kashkari is a popular subject here at WYWW. Kashkari is a fascinating person whose viewpoints on policy seem to be evolving right before our eyes. There is something refreshing about the president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve weighing in on education policy. It sounds like some of the educators in the room didn’t care for Kashkari’s viewpoint, but to tell him to stay away from education and stick to economics is misguided. Solving America’s education challenges is just as tough a problem as solving our economic issues. In fact, the two are inextricably linked: School funding is linked to taxes just like a parent’s ability to spend time participating in their child’s education is linked to whether that parent is working 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet. If anything, we need monetary and fiscal policymakers more engaged in the nitty gritty of industry-specific problem-solving. Economists can help educators solve problems in the very same way educators can help economists solve problems. Keep talking Neel, keep talking.

A rogue trader’s lament

One problem I have with a former rogue trader complaining that he was/is a victim of “the system” is that right up until the day he got caught, he didn’t seem to have any problem with “the system.”

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