Thursday, November 24, 2005


(North Pole, Dec 7) The high finance world was rocked today by news that Santa Claus is selling out in an LBO transaction. During a press conference at Santa's Workshop, a sprawling ten square mile assemblage of factories producing everything that every heart has ever desired, Seth Tannenbaum, chairman of buy-out firm Kilbyrd Crevice, announced that his firm will be leading the $100 billion transaction.

"We are pleased and honored to be managing this transaction, the largest LBO in history," he said, with St. Nick standing by his side. "Santa Claus is a marketing icon, the most widely recognized brand in the world."

Kilbyrd Crevice will lead a syndicate purchasing 70% ownership interest in a newly formed corporation called Santa Inc. Mr. Claus will hold the title of chairman of the new entity and will own the remaining 30% interest, valued by Mr. Tannenbaum at $30 billion, an amount which elicited a jolly Ho-Ho-Ho from Mr. Claus.

Santa Inc. plans to borrow through a combination of bank debt and high yield bonds approximately $70 billion to finance the LBO. Mr. Tannenbaum appeared to have no concerns about arranging the financing, saying that "every bank in the world will be beating down the doors to get a piece of Santa Claus."

Some financial analysts have questioned how such a massive amount of debt will be serviced, given that Santa Claus does not charge for his products and services. Answering that, Tannenbaum said that the first order of business would be to trademark the names Santa Claus, Old St. Nick, St. Nicholas, Kriss Kringle. Tannenbaum estimated that the royalty payments generated from that trademark would total more than $25 billion annually, more than enough to make the debt payments.

He added that the possibilities of other revenue streams resulting from the "monetizing" of Santa Claus are almost limitless. For example, children might be told to leave a dollar bill (or the equivalent amount in the respective currency) for Santa instead of the traditional cookies and milk. "There's another billion dollars or so from that tidbit alone," Tannenbaum exclaimed. He pointed out that Santa Claus is still not known in large parts of the world. "We will be immediately exploiting the market in China, which is completely untapped when it comes to the joys and wonders of the Santa Claus experience," Tannenbaum said.

"Even though the old man has been schlepping toys for two hundred and some odd years, we do not view this as an investment in a mature business," Tannenbaum said. "This is a growth opportunity for us."

Tannenbaum said that one of the "hidden values" inducing Kilbyrd to make this investment is the workforce supporting Santa Claus's enterprise. "There's nothing in the world to compare to these elves," he said. "We're not talking UAW factory workers here. These elves are super freaks. They work 24/7 with one break every twelve hours for some hot chocolate. They don't get sick so health care costs are nil. They're not concerned about pensions because they expect to be doing this until they drop dead on the workshop floor. So we have no legacy costs issues to deal with."

"And most people don't know that elves crave salted peanuts," Mr. Claus added. "So, quite literally, I pay them peanuts," he said with a slighly sinister Ho-Ho-Ho.

Mr. Claus seemed a bit wistful when explaining why he decided to sell. "Well, you know, I'm no spring chicken anymore," he said as he puffed on his pipe. "And I got this weight problem to deal with and the doc told me just last month that I might have diabetes. And on top of that, it's just so hard to keep up with the population growth. I mean there are tens of millions of new kids born every year, and I can only work my elves so hard. So we're looking at some real capacity constraints down the road. And heck, I haven't even mentioned trying to keep up with the technology that all these new-fangled gadgets have today. So I had to come up with the funds for an expanded cap ex program real quick," he said. "And besides all that, Mrs. Claus kind of took to the idea of having $30 billion in the bank," he added with a wink and another Ho-Ho-Ho.

Mr. Tannenbaum said that this LBO could lead to similar transactions in the future, as Kilbyrd Crevice would look to "roll up" the holiday-themed enterprises. He said, for example, that his firm has interest in doing a similar deal with the Easter Bunny, but nobody has a clue how to reach the rabbit.



Saturday, November 19, 2005


The banking firm, UBU (no one knows for sure, but most think the acronym stands for United Bank of the Universe), announced today that November 30 will henceforth be Bring Your Mistress to Work Day.

In explaining this unorthodox policy, UBU's president, Dennis Priapas, said, "We here at UBU believe firmly that honesty is the best policy, that the truth will set you free. C'mon, we all know that the sexy kitten voice calling in for one our colleagues on the trading floor is not the dude's wife. If it was his wife, the voice would be screeching that he had to put some more dough in her checking account because her credit card was maxed out, or something like that. There's not much to admire about the French, but they do have it right when it comes to the mistress issue. Like when that guy Mitterand died and both his mistress and wife were sitting in the front row pew at the funeral and not an eye blinked. Now that was cool!"

For Mr. Priapas, Bring Your Mistress to Work Day is a natural extension of the one day a year when workers are allowed to bring their children to the office. "Mistresses are after all sort of like family, in a way, kind of," he said in a faltering attempt to rationalize.

UBU plans to mark the occasion with a competition to crown Queen Mistress of the Holiday Party. "Our annual holiday party comes up a couple of weeks later, so we thought it would be neat to annoint one of these gals as a kind of hostess for the party," Mr. Priapas said with a leer. The event will include a swimsuit competition to take place on the trading floor. Each mistress will also submit an essay describing the funniest time that she and her man almost got caught. Mr. Priapas said that the competition may also include an athletic contest, like mud wrestling.

Priapas is also contemplating having a Mistress Swap or an auction where individuals can bid for a date with one of the ladies. He was quick to add that all proceeds from such an event would go to a charity yet to be designated.

According to Mr. Priapas, "deep down, every guy wants everyone in the world to know about the hot babe he's keeping on the side....everybody but his wife, that is. Bring Your Mistress to Work Day only fulfills that need for the world to know that da man is still a stud!" He went on to say that most gentlemen find it a tremendous relief to finally bring the little secret out in the open. On that point, he said that strict rules of confidentialty will be enforced. "What happens at UBU stays at UBU," he said.

"And of course we are going to be politically correct about this and let any female worker bring that special, secret Mr. Mister to work on that day as well. Or if someone happens to have a paramour of the same gender, they can bring him or her." After a moment of reflection, he added, "Now that would be a hoot, wouldn't it? A double outing where you let people know that you are both a cheater and queer!"

No everyone at UBU was pleased with this news. One veteran banker was heard to grump, "What the hell have we sunk to? Nothing is more gauche than being seen with your mistress in the daytime. I tell you it's been a slippery slope ever since they let people come to work in casual clothes."


Saturday, November 12, 2005


(APP, NEW YORK) A lawsuit was filed in Federal Court yesterday against the investment banking firm, Morgan Schfinkter & Co., alleging that the firm discriminates against a specific ethnic class of employees. The plaintiff filing the suit is the Gaelic Society of Certified Financial Analysts. The lawsuit charges that Morgan Schfinkter has systematically replaced research analysts of Irish ancestry with those from Indian and other East Asian backgrounds. The company's hiring pattern, according to the lawsuit, displays a "conscious and willful" bias.

"This is outsourcing of the worst kind," said Seamus Finnerty, spokesperson for the plaintiff, at a news conference on the courthouse steps. "They are knocking good, hard working Irish-Americans out of high-paying jobs and bringing in coolies from India at significantly less than what they were paying before." The Gaelic Society later issued an apology for Mr. Finnerty's "unfortunate" use of any terms that might offend any particular ethnic group.

"Morgan Schfinkter goes out of its way to kowtow to these Indians while neglecting the needs of its Irish-American employees," Mr. Finnerty claimed. He cited as an example that the firm now serves Indian fare at its cafeteria on Wednesdays. "But what do they do for the Irish?" he shouted, waving his arms as he increasingly got his "Irish up." "Why did they discontinue serving Irish cuisine on St. Patrick's Day? It used to be that on that day employees were feted with corned beef and cabbage, boiled potatoes dyed green, and sandwiches named after great Irish writers like the James Joyce turkey club or the absurd Samuel Beckett pastrami with mayo on Wonder Bread. But not anymore! The only thing green in the cafeteria that day was sag paneer!"

The lead case in the class-action suit is that of Brian O'Reilly. Mr. O'Reilly at one time was an associate analyst covering the automobile sector. He was dismissed from the firm in August of last year. Shortly afterwards, the firm hired a Mr. Swaraj Dhingra to replace him.

Mr. Finnerty pointed out that O'Reilly had been at the firm for almost a year, had graduated from St. John's with a 3.2 GPA, and was close to obtaining an MBA from Fordham University's evening Executive MBA program. "And despite his hard work, Mr. O'Reilly was unceremoniously dumped on his keister by Morgan Schfinkter," Mr. Finnerty stated. "And they brought in this Swaraj fellow, making a big ta-do over him just because he was first in his class at Harvard Business School."

Spokesperson for Morgan Schfinkter, Mr. Gautam Chowdhury, characterized Mr. Finnerty's claims as "a bunch of blarney." He said that the record will show that Mr. O'Reilly had been demoted from associate research analyst to junior research associate after writing a report advising investors to "back up the truck and load up on Delphi stock" as it was a "given" that GM would throw its supplier a lifeline. The next day, Delphi shares began their descent from $10 per share to ten cents.

Mr. Chowdhury went on to say that the firm had no choice but to dismiss Mr. O'Reilly after the latter had logged an excessive number of sick days due to a chronic illness that caused headaches, drowsiness, bleary-eye, and a craving for protein rich foods.

Mr. Chowdhury had no comment when a reporter suggested that the chronic illness sounded a lot like a chronic hangover.

The spokesperson added that Morgan Schfinkter employed Irish Americans "by the scores." When pressed, he admitted that only two of said employees were research analysts while the vast majority worked as municipal bond salespersons.

Mr. Finnerty ended his news conference with an ominous tone. "And don't think it's going to stop with the Irish. Once they have got rid of us, the Dagos are next." Again, the Gaelic Society of CFA's apologized for its spokeperson's unfortunate language.


Sunday, November 06, 2005


By Karl Grimes, Vice President of CMO sales, United Axis Group, Stamford, CT

It's bound to happen. Just a matter of time. We do what we can to prepare ourselves, but it always comes out of the blue, pops up and startles you like a goofy-faced Jack-in-the-box. Just a matter of time before you have to face the Question. The Question can be a harrowing, humiliating experience. For some, the Question is a spook haunting the back rooms of their conscience and to finally get it out into the light of day is a relief, a release. I confronted the Question and now live to tell about it.

It happened a few days ago. I had just picked up my ten year old daughter from her ballet class. My girl, Regina, got into the car and it didn't take me long to know she's got something on her mind since she wasn't chattering in her usual way.

"What's up, sweetie?" I asked. "Cat got your tongue?"

"I wasn't good in school today, Daddy," she answered with a pathetic pout.

"My little sweetie doll wasn't good? Daddy can't believe that."

"The teacher asked us a question and I didn't know the anwer."

"And what was the question, snookums?"

She paused before answering, twisting the folds of her private school plaid skirt. "Teacher asked what our daddies do at work. And our mommies too, if they work."

That high-pictched screeching sound from the "Psycho" moive shower scene went off inside my head. I took a big gulp, steadied the wheel and concentrated on keeping the car on the road.

"And Lisa said her mommy was a doctor and Chris said his daddy was a dog sitter and Whitney said her dad was a lawyer and Morgan said her mommy worked for the newspaper and Rick said his daddy built houses and Bud said his dad was an astronaut but nobody believed that. And then Teacher asked me and I said I didn't know and everybody laughed."

Why in the hell do teachers have to pry like that, asking such nonsense questions like, What do your parents do for a living? What does that have to do with reading and math? And wouldn't you know it, but my little girl started bawling right there in the car. But here it was finally, the Question rearing its big quizzical head.

I have to confess that after hearing my baby doll's plaint, my first reaction was surprise that there were actually some people still around who did practical things, maybe even made stuff. Here in Darien, CT, I thought everybody was like me and worked in the investment biz in one way or know, money changers, paper hangers. I sell collateralized mortgage backed securities. How am I supposed to explain that to my ten year old kid?

Should I have said that I am an agent operating in the arena of global capital markets and my function is to intermediate the smooth and efficient flow of capital from savers to investors, from those with the dough to those without, so that everybody can buy a house at ridiclously low rates no matter how bad their credit stinks? Yeah, I'm an intermediary...I'm sure that would have gone over well.

And what skill does selling CMO's require? A good phone voice? Maybe I should have told her what I spend most of my day doing. On slow days, which sometimes can seem like most days, I'm surreptitously pulling up porn on the internet, or discussing with my colleagues for the thousandth time why the Mets suck, or cracking jokes about the imbecile talking heads on CNBC, which for some reason is played on television sets arrayed around the trading floor. We kill the time by making stupid bets, like how many times the treasury bond trader down the aisle will pick his nose within a fifteen minute period. Or maybe I should have just told Regina that what I really do has no redeeming value to society but that sometimes it's an easy way for the lazy and stupid to make a boatload of jack.

No, I should have told my daughter that I'm a soldier, a capitalist warrior. I'm on the sell-side and opposing me is the soldier on the buy-side. The buy-side soldier is smart, but his greatest weakness is his arrogance. He underestimates me, thinks I'm on the level of a used car salesman, glorified carnival huckster. He thinks that I don't have enough brain power to move a rat turd one inch. And I score "kills" by trading his mortgage-backed bonds at spreads that are wider than I deserve and keeping him in the dark about it. And somehow I'm able to sell him bonds that are as volatile as nitroglycerin, even though he thinks he's so much smarter than me. And I'm not out to sell him what he doesn't really need; no, I want to sell him what might land him in jail because that would mean a huge spread and a lot of commish. My victories are earned in commissions earned. And at the end of the year, my buy-side opponent will once again realize that I make a hellava lot more mulah than he does, notwithstanding his Harvard MBA. And he will be resentful and envious, which is the same thing as being defeated.

Fortunately, I didn't have to say anything because Baskin Robbins appeared on the right side of the road. "How about a Triple Raspberry Swirl Blaster, baby cakes? Your favorite, right?"

"Yeah, Daddy, yeah!" No more tears. And thank god, no more silly least for awhile. Maybe the next time she asks the Question, I will have made enough stupid money to have retired.