Covid Has Transformed the Psychology of Ambition

Dec 29, 2020

First Read

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James McNulty



Hits & Takes
JLN Staff

Jim McNulty, former Chicago Mercantile Exchange CEO and longtime industry and civic leader, is the latest to give to the JLN MarketsWiki Education GoFundMe campaign. McNulty was a mentor when I was first starting my career and then I lost track of him as he traveled the world as an investment banker. When he was named the CEO of the CME in early 2000, it was an epiphany event that showed me that I needed to do a better job of staying in contact with people. That epiphany and other factors led to the creation of the John Lothian Newsletter. Thank you to Jim for his donation and all who have given so far, and all who have yet to give. Support our efforts to preserve industry history by donating to the JLN MarketsWiki Education GoFundMe campaign.

Speaking of Jim McNulty, my favorite McNulty memory was the Globex Anniversary party at Navy Pier in Chicago in June of 2002. It was a black tie affair and because it was summertime, I wore my white dinner jacket. The only other person there with a white dinner jacket was Jim McNulty. He went up on the stage at one point and started to play guitar with the band and sing. I wrote a story the next day, “Rock ‘N’ Roll CEO Wows CME Globex Party.” McNulty told me he received over 50 copies of the newsletter by email and even some by fax. He subscribed to JLN that day.

Here is a picture from that night of me with my friend Ryan McNally, who then worked for the CME.

Elad Roisman has been named acting chairman of the SEC by President Donald Trump. He replaces former Chairman Jay Clayton, who resigned and whose last day was right before Christmas.

Today I am teaching the Communication merit badge via an online Zoom meeting with 12 Scouts. Tomorrow I am teaching the Journalism merit badge. This is all part of the Trading Tech merit badge workshop program I created with the Pathway to Adventure Council of the Boy Scouts of America. We normally hold these classes in the offices of firms around the financial district, but because of the pandemic, we have moved online. If you are interested in learning more how you or your firm can participate in this program, please contact me.

Thank you to Suzanne Cosgrove for being our acting managing editor today as Sarah Rudolph, our editor-in-chief, is taking some well-deserved time off.

Have a great day and stay safe and treat people the same way you want to be treated: with respect, equality and justice.~JJL


Last week we reported on the Illinois Craft Cannabis Association’s attempt to get the state of Illinois to issue delayed social equity and craft grower licenses, originally promised July 1, by filing a request for a writ of mandamus that would force the state’s hand. This week we learned Judge Allen Walker denied that request on December 24, ruling a day later than expected. (ICCA President Paul Magelli likened it to leaving a pile of coal under the Christmas tree.) Judge Walker scheduled a status hearing on the case for January 19.~SC


Return to Almost Normal May Be Closer Than You Think; U.S. doesn’t need to reach full herd immunity before public spaces can begin phased reopenings
Charley Grant – WSJ
As 2021 arrives, there is one question that matters most: How soon can we escape the Covid-19 pandemic? The answer is as elusive as it is pressing. It is unknown what level of natural infection and immunization is needed to reach herd immunity in the population. It is also unknown how many people in the U.S. have already contracted the coronavirus. Whatever the answer to the question, trillions of dollars in economic activity are at stake, as are millions of livelihoods.

*****Let’s not jump the gun on this one – people assuming the coast is clear is how we get spikes in infection rates.~MR


Record Covid-19 hospitalizations in U.S. could soon force health experts to ration care
Madeline Holcombe – CNN
The number of patients hospitalized across the U.S. with Covid-19 is the highest it’s ever been — and at this rate health experts warn they may have to ration nurses, respirators and care. “When you run out of capacity, physicians and bioethicists in these hospitals will need to decide which patients are salvageable — potentially salvageable — and which patients aren’t,” CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner explained.

*****A grim outlook that we hope health-care professionals will be able to avoid.~SC


Elad Roisman Named Acting Chairman of the SEC
CME Group
The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that President Donald J. Trump has designated Elad L. Roisman as Acting Chairman of the agency. “I am humbled and honored to serve as the Acting Chairman,” said Acting Chairman Roisman. “During the time I am in this role, I am fully committed to maintaining the steady course that Chairman Clayton charted during his admirable tenure. I look forward to continuing to work with the incredible SEC staff and my fellow Commissioners as we steward this agency into the new year.”

*****A commissioner since 2018, Roisman is not expected to be a SEC change agent.~SC


Monday’s Top Three
The top story on Monday was again The Washington Post’s What Happened to Maria Bartiromo?, which perhaps underscores how popular she once was. The second most read was the riveting Wall Street Journal story on JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon and His Brush With Death: ‘You Don’t Have Time for an Ambulance.’ And number three was a Business Insider investigation: Robinhood salaries revealed: How much the fintech unicorn pays its employees as it prepares to go public in 2021, from $117,000 to as much as $326,000


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Lead Stories

Covid Has Transformed the Psychology of Ambition; The pandemic disrupted the expat relationship with “home.” The end of easy air travel reveals where the heart lies.
Anjani Trivedi – Bloomberg
A British banker and mother of two who has lived in Hong Kong since 2008 recently told me that “push factors are adding up” and she’s “close to the point” of taking the risk of relocating to Europe for the sake of her eight-year-old daughter’s well-being after a year of schooling disruptions. Welcome to the Covid-19 reset.

Treasury Warns Banks of Covid-19 Vaccine Fraud; The department’s enforcement unit alerted financial institutions to possible ransomware attacks targeting vaccine distribution networks
Jack Hagel – WSJ
The Treasury Department alerted financial institutions to fraud related to Covid-19 vaccines, warning of ransomware attacks that target vaccine delivery operations and supply chains. The Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network cautioned on Monday of an array of vaccine-related crimes, including the sale of unapproved, counterfeit or illegally marketed vaccines. In addition, fraudsters have offered to provide individuals with a vaccine sooner than provided under authorized distribution plans, FinCEN said.

Pandemic Reshapes U.S. Employment, Speeding Changes Across Industries; Economy has recouped 12 million of 22 million jobs lost in 2020, with uneven setbacks and recoveries in various sectors likely to outlast health crisis
Danny Dougherty and Eric Morath – WSJ
The pandemic and related restrictions shocked the U.S. job market earlier this year, leading to a labor-force reordering as the economy recovered. Jobs have declined at retail stores, restaurants and bars and grown at warehouse and transportation businesses that serve online customers as e-commerce flourishes.

Oil’s Turbulent Year Stirs Debate on Relevance of Benchmarks; For some traders, U.S. crude futures prices plunging below zero in April highlighted their flaws as a global benchmark
Prices for front-month crude-oil futures
Joe Wallace – WSJ
A tumultuous year in oil markets left the energy industry reeling and gave fresh impetus to a perennial debate: What is the best gauge of crude prices? The Covid-19 pandemic confined billions of people to their homes and shut or slowed portions of the global economy in 2020, crimping demand for oil. Depots, pipelines and vessels were flooded with crude, threatening to overwhelm the world’s ability to store it.

Despite Strict Measures, England’s Virus Cases Are Soaring; Hospitals are now treating more patients than at any time during the pandemic as the country battles a variant form of the coronavirus.
NY Times
More than half of England is under the nation’s strictest lockdown measures, and people have been ordered to stay at home, but the coronavirus is still spreading at an alarming rate. Hospitals are treating more patients than at any time during the pandemic, and there is a growing debate about allowing tens of thousands of students to return to classrooms after the holiday break.

A theory of (almost) everything for financial markets; Some critics of passive investing now admit it is more resilient that they thought
Robin Wigglesworth – FT
Two young fish swim through the ocean, passing an older fish, who says: “Hey boys, how’s the water?” The two younger fish swim on, until one turns to the other and asks: “What the hell is water?”

Ant Considers Holding Company With Regulation Similar to Bank, Sources Say
Bloomberg News
Financial units face stricter regulation in planned structure; Lifestyle businesses to be excluded from holding company
Jack Ma’s besieged Ant Group Co. is planning to fold its financial operations into a holding company that could be regulated more like a bank, according to people familiar with the situation, potentially crippling the growth of its most-profitable units.

Inside a massive transformation at powerhouse Wall Street bank Goldman Sachs
Business Insider
It’s taken big steps involving transparency and inclusion to change up its culture. After its first-ever investor day in early 2020, the firm is looking to execute on targets including multi-year cost-cutting plans. And it’s making big pushes into businesses like wealth management and consumer banking.

ErisX Addresses Challenges Faced, Milestones Reached in 2020 as well as Opportunities Ahead in 2021
ErisX Insights
ErisX reached many milestones in 2020 toward driving crypto market maturation. Midway through the year we wrote about our accomplishments including the launch of the first U.S. based Ether Futures contract, our Block Trading capabilities, and our New York Virtual Currencies License (BitLicense), among other noteworthy milestones. Below we recap the full year including a slate of announcements from this month and a preview of what’s to come in 2021.


Europe Eyes Measures to Bolster Uptake of Covid Vaccines
Macarena Munoz Montijano, Raymond Colitt, and Helene Fouquet – Bloomberg
France, Spain plan registries on their vaccine campaigns; Germany weighs legislation to counter discrimination
European governments are planning to track the number of people getting Covid-19 vaccines to help chart a path out of the crisis. France will have a registry of people who get vaccinated, and Spain will track people who refuse to get inoculated against the disease, which has caused more than 400,000 deaths in Europe.

Wuhan’s Covid Cases May Have Been 10 Times Higher, Study Shows
Bloomberg News
Some 500,000 may have been infected in China’s virus epicenter; China has been criticized for allegedly undercounting its data
The scale of the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan early this year may have been nearly 10 times the recorded tally, a study conducted by China’s public health authorities indicates, leaving the city where the coronavirus first took hold still well short of the immunity required to protect against a potential resurgence.

How South Africa’s New Virus Restrictions Will Affect Business
Michael Cohen – Bloomberg
South Africa has tightened rules aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus as a surge in new infections and the rapid spread of a new, more aggressive strain stretches the healthcare system to breaking point. These are some of the key restrictions published in the government gazette on Tuesday:

Dubai Aims to Vaccinate 70% of Population by End 2021: Reuters
Farah Elbahrawy – Bloomberg
Dubai aims to vaccinate 70% of its population with the coronavirus shot developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE by the end of next year, Reuters reported, citing a health official.

Covid-19 Deals Different Hands for Family Finances; Going homeless or shopping for a second home; three stories from the coronavirus economy
WSJ Staff
There’s no single Covid-19 economy. There are a thousand. For many workers who have kept their jobs and can work from home, coronavirus has been a surprising financial boon. They are saving money on commuting, eating out and vacations, and enjoying a sky-high stock market.

Small Number of Covid Patients Develop Severe Psychotic Symptoms; Most had no history of mental illness and became psychotic weeks after contracting the virus. Cases are expected to remain rare but are being reported worldwide.
Pam Belluck – NY Times
Almost immediately, Dr. Hisam Goueli could tell that the patient who came to his psychiatric hospital on Long Island this summer was unusual. The patient, a 42-year-old physical therapist and mother of four young children, had never had psychiatric symptoms or any family history of mental illness. Yet there she was, sitting at a table in a beige-walled room at South Oaks Hospital in Amityville, N.Y., sobbing and saying that she kept seeing her children, ages 2 to 10, being gruesomely murdered and that she herself had crafted plans to kill them.

Interview: Dr. Akiko Iwasaki; Vaccine efficacy, the future of COVID-19, and women in science
Noah Smith – Blog
I follow a lot of COVID-19 experts on Twitter, but perhaps none has been so informative as Dr. Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale. Somehow, she manages to communicate a very high volume of extremely technical information about viruses in a way that a layperson like myself can understand quite easily, but without sacrificing scientific accuracy. She also occasionally writes columns for the New York Times, Vox, and elsewhere, and appears on podcasts. Together with some other scientists, she helped create a plan to stop COVID-19. And she has done this while continuing to put out a high volume of research papers. She has also spoken out about the barriers women face in the field of biology.

Covid’s Worst Should Be Over by Valentine’s Day; If all goes well, vaccinations will start bringing cases down in a couple months.
Cathy O’Neil – Bloomberg
Watching the U.S. Covid-19 data every day, as I tend to do, has been a grim ritual. In my neighborhood, in the places where my friends and family live and across the nation, the cases, hospitalizations and deaths just keep getting worse. So when will there be some relief? I’m betting on Valentine’s Day.

Exchanges, OTC and Clearing

NYSE Group Announces 2021, 2022 and 2023 Holiday and Early Closings Calendar
Intercontinental Exchange
NYSE Group, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Intercontinental Exchange (NYSE: ICE), a leading operator of global exchanges and clearing houses and provider of mortgage technology, data and listings services, announced today the 2023 holiday calendar and early closing dates for its cash equity markets: New York Stock Exchange, NYSE American, NYSE Arca Equities, NYSE Chicago, and NYSE National, as well as the NYSE American Options, NYSE Arca Options and NYSE Bonds markets. The 2021 and 2022 holiday and early closing dates are also set forth below.

Notice of Summary Action
CME Group
The Exchange shall designate the products in which block trades shall be permitted and determine the minimum quantity thresholds for such transactions. The following shall govern block trades: F. Unless otherwise agreed to by the principal counterparties to the block trade, the seller, or, in the case of a brokered transaction, the broker handling the block trade, must ensure that each block trade is reported to the Exchange within the time period and in the manner specified by the Exchange. The report must include the contract, contract month, price, quantity of the transaction, the respective clearing members, the time of execution, and, for options, strike price, put or call and expiration month. The Exchange shall promptly publish such information separately from the reports of transactions in the regular market. CME Group RA1906-5: Block Trade Submission Requirements to CME Clearing (Section 7, In Part) The execution time of a block trade is the time that the parties agree to the trade. Market participants must accurately report the execution time of the block trade. The reporting of inaccurate execution times may result in disciplinary action.
PENALTY: The Panel ordered Ignite to pay the $2,000 fine.

Performance Bond Requirements: Agriculture, Energy and Metal Margins – Effective December 29, 2020
CME Group
As per the normal review of market volatility to ensure adequate collateral coverage, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc., Clearing House Risk Management staff approved the performance bond requirements for the following products listed in the advisory at the link below.

Performance Bond Requirements: Agriculture Margins – Effective December 29, 2020
CME Group
As per the normal review of market volatility to ensure adequate collateral coverage, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc., Clearing House Risk Management staff approved the performance bond requirements for the following products listed in the advisory at the link below.

Notice of Disciplinary Action
CME Group
No person shall place or accept buy and sell orders in the same product and expiration month, and, for a put or call option, the same strike price, where the person knows or reasonably should know that the purpose of the orders is to avoid taking a bona fide market position exposed to market risk (transactions commonly known or referred to as wash sales). Buy and sell orders for different accounts with common beneficial ownership that are entered with the intent to negate market risk or price competition shall also be deemed to violate the prohibition on wash trades. Additionally, no person shall knowingly execute or accommodate the execution of such orders by direct or indirect means.
PENALTY: In accordance with Exchange Rule 411, the Appellate Panel ordered that Jennings pay a monetary fine in the amount of $30,000 and serve a six month suspension from access to any trading floor owned or controlled by CME Group and from direct or indirect access to any designated contract market, derivatives clearing organization or swap execution facility owned or controlled by CME Group. The suspension shall run from December 28, 2020 through, and including, June 28, 2021.

The Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul) Announces Indices Maintenance For The 4th Quarter 2020
The Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul) announces the update of the free float shares for all listed issuers in the market, effective from the start of trading on Sunday, 03/01/2021. Moreover, The following companies will be included to market indices:

Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange: Notice On Fee Adjustment For Certain Futures Contracts
According to Article 27 of Detailed Rules for Futures Clearing of Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange, the Exchange has decided to adjust the transaction and intra-day clearing fee standards of certain contracts for 10 futures products effective from January 1, 2021. This fee adjustment is not applicable to January, May and September contracts, whose fee standards remain unchanged. From the first trading day of the fifth month prior to delivery month of applicable contracts, relevant fee standards shall be adjusted as below.

Tokyo Commodity Exchange: Partial Revision To Off-floor Transactions Detailed Rules
Tokyo Commodity Exchange would like to express its sincere gratitude for your continued support.

MIAX Options: Implementation Delay Of Complex Order Functionality
MIAX Options will delay the implementation of functionality to allow a component of a complex order that legs into the Simple Order Book to execute at a price that is outside of the NBBO, until the second quarter of 2021.


China orders Alibaba founder Jack Ma to break up fintech empire
Rupert Neate – The Guardian
China has escalated its campaign to rein in the vast tech empire controlled by Jack Ma, the co-founder of Alibaba and one of the country’s richest people.
Authorities in Beijing, who had on Christmas Eve ordered an investigation into allegations of “monopolistic practices” by Ma’s online retail giant, have now ordered his financial technology company Ant Group to scale back its operations.

TransferWise: the UK fintech grows up; Rapid expansion of money transfer group has fuelled competition from bigger rivals
Nicholas Megaw – FT
With a pair of outspoken founders, provocative advertising campaigns and a sauna in its trendy London headquarters, TransferWise helped define the popular image of a fintech start-up.

2020 was tech’s leap year
Chris Nuttall – FT
It’s that happy time of year for making predictions for next year and beyond, an exercise that seems more pointless than usual when it comes to tech. Prognostications inevitably prove inaccurate and looking back at those made 12 months ago, we could not have been more wide of the mark. No one was predicting a pandemic that would propel us at warp speed towards a working from home culture and a wholesale digital transformation of our lives. Then, added to those supremely unreliable forecasts is the fact that we know the future already. Kind of. Back in April, CEO Satya Nadella said Microsoft had seen two years of digital transformation in two months. So in tech’s continuum, we were in 2022 by last Spring and must have reached 2025 at least by now.

A look at the fintech predictions we got right for 2020
Lee Nonninger – Business Insider
At the end of 2019, Insider Intelligence drew up a list of five fintech predictions for 2020, and we made three further predictions halfway through the year. Below, we revisit the predictions we got right, despite the year’s turbulence.


Cryptocurrency Is Not Necessarily the Future; Crypto assets can be either useful hedges or useful forms of payment — but not both.
Tyler Cowen – Bloomberg
As Bitcoin soared to above $28,000 over the weekend, talk resumed about the promising and dramatic future of cryptocurrency. The chief global strategist of Morgan Stanley Investment Management even suggested that Bitcoin could replace the dollar as a global reserve currency. Cryptocurrency serves some useful purposes. But there are some pretty wild speculations going around. One of the more fundamental problems is that crypto assets can be either useful hedges, or useful forms of payment — but not easily both.

Bitcoin Looks to Gain Traction in Payments; PayPal gives the digital currency a green light, but high fees, volatility still present obstacles
Paul Vigna – WSJ
Vegas Auto Gallery, a luxury auto dealership in Las Vegas, has become a playground for wealthy bitcoin investors who want to cash in. The dealership recently sold two high-end sports cars—a 2017 Pagani Huayra Roadster and a 2019 Bugatti Chiron—to a customer who paid more than $6 million in bitcoin, according to owner Nick Dossa, who says about 3% to 5% of the dealership’s revenue comes from bitcoin transactions.

Getting To Grips With Cryptocurrencies
Andrew Michael – Forbes
“If you invest in cryptoassets,” it warns, “you should be prepared to lose all your money.” Stark messages like these, however, are at odds with growing support for this form of digital asset, which is completely virtual, has the same value in every country, and is out of the reach of governments.

Coinbase announces it will suspend XRP trading as price drops another 10%; Coinbase plans to suspend trading for the token on Jan. 19 but added it “may be halted earlier as needed.”
Turner Wright – Cointelegraph
Major cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase will suspend trading for XRP in response to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission taking legal action against Ripple. According to a blog post published today by Coinbase chief legal officer Paul Grewal, the exchange will fully suspend XRP trading starting on Jan. 19 at 10:00 am PST. Coinbase clarified that “trading may be halted earlier as needed” to maintain the exchange’s market health metrics. In addition, the suspension will reportedly not affect Ripple-backed Flare Network’s upcoming Spark (FLR) token airdrop.

Ripple: The SEC filing highlights
Izabella Kaminska – FT
Just before we pop off for the holidays we thought we would bring you some of the highlights of the SEC’s filing against Ripple Labs. Because its 71 pages really were hugely insightful reading. Emphasis ours throughout. Let’s start with the assertion that the defendants were aware of their venture potentially falling under federal securities law as far back as 2013: Ripple engaged in this illegal securities offering from 2013 to the present, even though Ripple received legal advice as early as 2012 that under certain circumstances XRP could be considered an “investment contract” and therefore a security under the federal securities laws.

Coinbase says it will suspend XRP trading next month
Yogita Khatri and Frank Chaparro – The Block
Coinbase announced Monday that it will suspend trading in XRP globally next month, nearly a week after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission hit Ripple with a lawsuit.

OKCoin to Suspend XRP Trading and Deposits on Jan. 4
David Pan – Coindesk
OKCoin said Monday it will suspend XRP trading and deposits on its crypto exchange, effective on Jan. 4, 2021. The exchange specified two key dates along the suspension timeline. “At 3 a.m. UTC time on January 4, the exchange’s users who have borrowed from the XRP/USD margin pair (including borrowing XRP and U.S. dollars) are required to return the borrowed value before this time at 3 a.m. UTC time on Jan. 4,” the exchange said. “Delays will trigger a liquidation by our systems to close the loan contracts.” At 3 a.m. UTC on Jan. 5, XRP’s spot trading, margin trading and deposits will be suspended until further notice, according to the exchange.

SEC Disapproves BOX Security’s Request to Report Stock Trading Data on Ethereum Blockchain
Daniel Cawrey – Coindesk
In a notice filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission Monday, the U.S. regulator declined to approve a rule change for tZero-backed BOX Exchange Inc., which intended to offer blockchain-based stock trade reporting. The proposal intended to have National Market System (NMS) stocks use BOX’s blockchain trading venue, also known as Boston Security Token Exchange LLC (BSTX).

India Mulls Imposing 18% Tax on Bitcoin Transactions
Omkar Godbole – Coindesk
The Indian government is considering a bitcoin transaction tax that would add $1 billion in revenue a year, a move some industry participants said is a sign of the government’s growing comfort with cryptocurrencies. A proposal put forward to the Central Board of Indirect Taxes & Customs (CBIC) by the Central Economic Intelligence Bureau (CEIB) would categorize bitcoin as an intangible asset and impose an 18% goods and services (GST) tax on bitcoin transactions, according to The Times of India. The proposal also suggests treating bitcoin as current assets and charging GST on margins made in trading.

OKEx Launches Real-Time Settlement for Derivatives Trading
Tanzeel Akhtar – Coindesk
Cryptocurrency exchange OKEx has introduced real-time settlement for the trading of derivatives on its platform which includes futures, options, and swaps allowing users to make withdrawals at any time.

Binance Expands Crypto Derivatives Offering with Bitcoin Options
Aziz Abdel-Qader – Finance Magnates
A Binance contract follows the European-style options, which may be exercised only at the expiration date of the option.
Cryptocurrency exchange Binance has rolled out trading on Bitcoin options contracts as the influential platform expands its crypto derivatives offering. The new product addition will help traders take advantage of volatility, hedge risk and discover prices through ‘vanilla’ options, which are generally simple and have no special or unusual features.

Whale Sightings Become Scarce, Removing Downward Pressure on Bitcoin: Analyst
Daniel Cawrey – Coinbase
A lack of whales with bitcoin (BTC) aplenty to sell may be clearing the way for the price of the leading cryptocurrency to rise further, according to CryptoQuant Chief Executive Ki Young Ju.

The Rise of the Bitcoin Class
Dory DeGeneres – Coinbase
I’ve tried various ways to convince my Dad, a typical Chinese boomer, to allocate part of his hard-earned money into bitcoin, but most of my pitches have failed badly.


Murdoch’s New York Post Blasts President’s Fraud Claims; With a scathing front-page editorial, the Trump-friendly tabloid joined another of Rupert Murdoch’s papers, The Wall Street Journal, in attacking the president’s attempts to undo the election result.
Marc Tracy – NY Times
“Give it up, Mr. President — for your sake and the nation’s.” In a blunt editorial, Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, a tabloid that promoted Donald J. Trump long before he went into politics, told the president to end his attempts to overturn the result of the 2020 presidential election.

Covid has no grand lesson for the world; Data on the pandemic does not vindicate one political or economic system over others
Janan Ganesh – FT
Most of the global crises of the last century or so were at least instructive. The first world war discredited empires in favour of national self-determination. The second argued for curbing that nationalism with the UN and other formal trammels. Even the later, bloodless disasters served as learning experiences. The stagflation of the 1970s exposed the limits of the Keynesian state. The financial crisis in 2008 established its worth all over again. For each shock, an education.

Should senators be allowed to trade stocks at all? Amid the obvious conflicts, probably not; Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue are the most blatant examples — but the appearance of corruption is unavoidable
Benjamin Edwards – Salon
When asked during a recent debate whether members of Congress should trade stocks, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., attempted to dodge a real policy issue by claiming that the American dream was at stake in the election. She’s not entirely wrong. Many Americans dream of an open and honest government setting fair rules for free markets. Today, active trading by senators undermines confidence in government and markets.

Fintan O’Toole: Trump has unfinished business. A republic he wants to destroy still stands; 2020 in review: Donald Trump will continue to unleash racism, nativism and a fear of government
Fintan O’Toole – Irish Times
“In my beginning”, wrote TS Eliot in Four Quartets, “is my end.” This, at least, can be said of Donald Trump: he will leave the White House as he entered it, strangely unaltered by four years as president. His hairstyle has been toned down. His demeanour – malign, self-obsessed, reckless of truth and decency, revelling in the harm he has done and can still do to the norms and institutions of democracy – has not.


Insolvency laws for small business are changing

SEC Obtains Emergency Asset Freeze, Charges Crypto Fund Manager with Fraud
The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that it filed an emergency action and obtained an order imposing an asset freeze and other emergency relief against Virgil Capital LLC and its affiliated companies in connection with an alleged securities fraud relating to Virgil Capital’s flagship cryptocurrency trading fund, Virgil Sigma Fund LP. The Commission’s action alleges that the fraud was directed by Stefan Qin, an Australian citizen and part-time resident of New York, who owns and controls Virgil Capital and its affiliated companies.

Investing and Trading

Swiss hand over remaining $150 million to U.S. from massive Ponzi scheme
Reuters Staff
Switzerland will return $150 million from blocked Swiss bank accounts by the end of the year to the United States to be given to victims of convicted Ponzi scheme con artist Robert Allen Stanford, the Federal Ministry of Justice said on Monday. Stanford, a former Texas financier known primarily by his middle name, was convicted of fraud by a Houston jury in 2012 in what prosecutors called a $7.2 billion fraud that lasted two decades and which was eclipsed in size only by the Ponzi scheme run by Bernie Madoff.

How the 2020 QE Boom Might Trip Up Central Bankers; A burst of central bank bond-buying has revived a debate about quantitative easing’s potential fiscal cost
Mike Bird – WSJ
The Federal Reserve, European Central Bank and Bank of Japan have collectively expanded their balance sheets by around $8 trillion in 2020. It took them almost eight years to achieve the same growth following the seizure of global financial markets in September 2008.

Monex Global Retail Investor Survey Reveals Optimism for U.S. Stocks Among Retail Investors as the COVID-19 Pandemic Intensifies
PR Newswire (press release)
TradeStation Securities, Inc. (“TradeStation”), a Monex Group company and award-winning* broker-dealer, today announced the results of the twenty-eighth Monex Global Retail Investor Survey. The survey, which gauges customer sentiment based on answers to specific questions from a random sampling of customers of Monex, Inc., TradeStation, and Monex Boom Securities (H.K.) Limited reveals high expectations for U.S. stocks among retail investors in Japan, the U.S., and Hong Kong, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance

Green Energy Will Need More Storage Space; As the rollout of wind and solar picks up speed, solutions to bridge their intermittency are likely to take off too
Rochelle Toplensky – WSJ
The rapid growth of wind and solar power comes with a well-known problem: They don’t work all the time. Energy storage is a solution investors should watch in 2021, even if it doesn’t yet lend itself to stock picking.

Your ESG fund may not be as green as you think
Debbie Carlson – MarketWatch
Environmental, social and governance investing resonates with people who want their investments to align with their values, and the boom in this investing style has fund companies launching more ESG investment vehicles.
But these funds may not be as green as investors think they are.

How firms factor in environmental, social and corporate governance
Deborah Nason – CNBC
Sustainable investing incorporates environmental, social and governance considerations.
But how exactly do these factors fit into the analytical process, and how do they add value? CNBC consulted with several experts to find out.

New Research Shows ESMG Is a Great Place to Be
Ben Hernandez – ETF Trends
For investors looking to get dual exposure to international diversification via emerging markets (EM) and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles, here’s a fund for you: the Xtrackers MSCI Emerging Markets ESG Leaders Equity ETF (EMSG). Academic research detailed in a Triple Pundit article shows the two can mutually reinforce one another.


Stock-picking hedge funds land investors double-digit gains in 2020
Maiya Keidan – Reuters
The average hedge fund underperformed the wider stock market in 2020 but saw less volatility while stock-picking funds got a lift from technology and stay-at-home shares in a year beset by a pandemic and uncertainty around the U.S. election.

Citigroup Help With Insider-Trading Case Detailed in Appeal Jonathan Browning Bookmark
Among the 10,000 emails and other pieces of information that Citigroup Inc. provided to U.K. prosecutors was an item that a pair of convicted insider traders apparently thought was crucial: Two investment bankers co-owned an apartment in the Swiss Alps in Verbier.

JPMorgan to buy third-party loyalty program unit of cxLoyalty
Reuters Staff
JPMorgan Chase & Co said on Monday it would buy the global loyalty division of cxLoyalty Group Holdings Inc, a third-party credit card loyalty program service provider.

Goldman’s Sheila Patel, Chairman of $1.8 Trillion Manager, to Retire
Sonali Basak – Bloomberg
She’s among firm’s most senior women, to be advisory director; Solomon says he’ll be ‘benefiting from her continued counsel’
Sheila Patel, chairman of Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s asset-management unit, is leaving the $1.8 trillion division after almost two decades at the firm. Patel, 51, is among the company’s most senior women and shepherded some of Goldman’s highest-profile relationships with investors around the world. She will step down from the partnership and become an advisory director in the new year, Chief Executive Officer David Solomon said in a memo to staff Monday.

BNP Paribas Asset Management appoints Luiz Sorge as Head of Latin America
Press Release
BNP Paribas Asset Management (‘BNPP AM’) announces the appointment of Luiz Sorge as Head of Latin America, with effect from 1 January 2020. He will be based in São Paulo and will report to Sandro Pierri, Global Head of Client Group (‘GCG’).


Life After London: Covid-Era Exodus Isn’t Just for the Wealthy
Olivia Konotey-Ahulu – Bloomberg
Property prices away from capital rise as London’s sink; Gentrification pressures spread to smaller cities, suburbs
When Prime Minister Boris Johnson advocates narrowing the gap between London and the rest of England — what he calls “leveling up” — this probably isn’t what he has in mind. A rush to escape the city is pushing rents in London and the rest of the country in opposite directions at the fastest pace in at least five years. As Covid misery lingers, rents in the capital fell 4.4% year-on-year in November, while they jumped 5.6% in the rest of the U.K., according to HomeLet, a rental-service company.


The Key Issues Weighing on the City of London After Brexit Deal
Silla Brush – Bloomberg
U.K. firms have days left to prepare for looser EU links; Local offices, equivalence and market disruption on the agenda
Britain’s long-awaited trade deal with the European Union still leaves many questions unanswered for the world’s biggest banks, trading venues and money managers as they prepare for a rupture in the region’s financial system. They’ve been bracing for departure day since Britain voted to quit the European Union in 2016. Since then, little progress has been made in crafting a future relationship between the respective finance industries even though the City of London, the continent’s dominant hub, will be firmly outside the EU in a matter of days.

EU Carbon Market Has Chance to Link With U.K. After Brexit Deal
Will Mathis and Ewa Krukowska – Bloomberg
Cost of allowances is rising with ambition to cut pollution; U.K. will launch its own market to regulate emissions
The U.K. has a chance to tie its carbon market with the European Union’s Emissions Trading System after the two blocs agreed on a Brexit deal.

Brexit deal leaves much unchanged, institutionally; The UK has swapped ‘ever-closer union’ for what may be an ever-closer agreement
David Allen Green – FT
The shapes of the institutional arrangements that will govern relations between the UK and the EU after Brexit are now becoming more apparent, and in some ways those shapes are rather familiar. Take the framework of the trade and co-operation agreement. There is a substantial amount of continuity.

Brexit Deal Is Too Little, Too Late for U.K.’s Car Industry
Craig Trudell and Siddharth Vikram Philip – Bloomberg
The auto industry dodged disaster when the U.K. and European Union sealed a post-Brexit trade accord, but not before carmakers announced factory closures and called off plans to make several new vehicles in the country. More damage may still be done even with last week’s deal. Automakers including Nissan Motor Co. might struggle to qualify some U.K.-assembled models for tariff-free export to the EU as they evaluate whether they source enough of their components locally. Costs associated with having to switch suppliers and the burdens of customs declarations, certifications and audits could still leave car companies convinced they’re better off investing elsewhere.

Gibraltar’s border with Spain still in doubt after Brexit
Joseph Wilson and Barry Hatton – AP
While corks may have popped in London and Brussels over the end to a four-year saga known as Brexit, there is one rocky speck of British soil still left in limbo. Gibraltar, a British colony jutting off the southern tip of Spain’s mainland, wasn’t included in the Brexit trade deal announced on Christmas Eve between the European Union and the United Kingdom to reorganize the commercial and trade relations between the now 27-member bloc and the first nation to exit the group. The deadline for Gibraltar remains Jan. 1, when a transitionary period regulating the short frontier between Gibraltar and Spain expires. If no deal is reached, there are serious concerns that a hard border would cause disruption for the workers, tourists and major business connections across the two sides.


Child labor in palm oil industry tied to Girl Scout cookies
Robine McDowell, Margie Mason – Associated Press
They are two young girls from two very different worlds, linked by a global industry that exploits an army of children. Olivia Chaffin, a Girl Scout in rural Tennessee, was a top cookie seller in her troop when she first heard rainforests were being destroyed to make way for ever-expanding palm oil plantations. On one of those plantations a continent away, 10-year-old Ima helped harvest the fruit that makes its way into a dizzying array of products sold by leading Western food and cosmetics brands.

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CME to permanently close most trading pits

CME to permanently close most trading pits

First Read $40,626/$300,000 (13.5%) Anonymous ++++ Hits & Takes John Lothian & JLN Staff Without fanfare or amplification from its executives, the CME Group shut the books on most -- but not all -- of its floor trading history Tuesday afternoon with the...

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