The most uninteresting guests on business television

No question, Bill Gates is the most uninteresting, lousy, useless guest on television.

There's nothing he wants to say, aside from "technology is the future." He doesn't want to offend or antagonize anyone and somehow risk the charmed life he and generations of descendants will lead.

Sure, there are other contenders … Mohamed El-Erian will identify 3 reasons why something might happen and 4 why something else might not happen. Michael Burns will tell you how great the next Jennifer Lawrence movie is. Marc Faber will insist that the crash is really just around the corner.

Of course, these are fine chaps. If ever unguarded, they undoubtedly have interesting things to say. But that's never gonna happen.

Bookers on business and PBS outfits (that would be Charlie Rose) should drop these contacts from the Rolodex.

One fellow though who has entered this rare space is exchange entrepreneur Brad Katsuyama, who has the kind of message television loves (people are getting fleeced in the stock market by HFT) but actually nothing to say.

On Friday, Nov. 25, 2016, Katsuyama turned up again on "Wall Street Week," insisting that for "the everyday person," IEX "first and foremost prioritizes their interests."

But then he says, "If you're gonna go buy a hundred shares of Microsoft through an online broker, go for it. Right, the market can suit you. Uh, but if you're invested in a mutual fund, and they're trying to buy a million shares of Microsoft, it's a very different situation and game for them."

So on the one hand, IEX is for the little guy; on the other, it only matters for the folks making $60 million MSFT investments.

We don't know anything about physics — or really anything about anything for that matter — but we find it hard to believe an exchange can ensure that every participant becomes aware of the information at precisely the same time.

Katsuyama has never explained this nor how his exchange cures whatever ails the everyday investor (see further down this page).

Meanwhile, Charles Gasparino rightly observed on this episode that Donald Trump is trying to sell a "boondoggle infrastructure project to Congress." Gasparino declared Trump a "big tax-and-spend guy."

No doubt. Thankfully Trump has expressed disdain for military engagements, but once all the treats and goodies are handed out, this still figures to be a bigger expansion of government than even what occurred under George Bush.

Shockingly, Melissa Francis said with a straight face that this is "the opposite of a boondoggle."

Equally shockingly, Liz Claman claimed that Trump "could eyeball any bridge contract and say, 'Wait a minute, there's redundancy here.'"

This page won't opine on whether Claman or Francis was more scorching. #tooclosetocall

On the same program, Larry Pitkowski of Goodhaven said he wants to buy companies that are cheap and likes WTM and WPX.

Great moments in presidential interaction: George Bush says the president ‘generally doesn’t run into anybody’

It wasn't until well into the program, but the Oct. 14, 2016, episode of "Wall Street Week" produced some interesting assessments of Hillary Clinton's relationship with Wall Street and the media in general.

It should be noted there were references to content of stolen emails, something this page will generally not report.

Anyway, aside from the panelists essentially declaring Elizabeth Warren the most powerful person on the planet when she's accomplished … what exactly … besides griping at CEOs in committee hearings … Gary Kaminsky contended that complaints about Clinton siding with Wall Street are off the mark. "The public is being led to believe that these speeches are all cozy and warm … She doesn't wanna be there. She doesn't like the people. She wants the money," Kaminsky explained.

Nevertheless, Charles Gasparino said Lloyd Blankfein is "very close" to Clinton.

Anthony Scaramucci said the only reason Clinton didn't speak at the SALT Conference "is that she wanted to be there for 59 minutes and 59 seconds." We're guessing that means that her camp insisted on staying less than an hour and indicated she wouldn't be attending any private dinners or undergoing any (gasp) regular, remotely-near-the-radar everyday conversation.

(See, that brings to mind when Larry King asked W., "Do you run into people who say, 'I don't know.' Or do you run into mostly people who say, 'I support you'?" And W. responded, "I run into both. And when you say 'run in,' the president generally doesn't run into anybody. I mean, we're driving…")

The Clintons are obviously the nation's preeminent political players and have been for a generation. They know all the angles. They certainly derive more enjoyment out of playing the game than any sort of governmental accomplishment. They haven't "run into" an average American in decades. Their chapped brand of politics is far beyond Chap-Stick-able. You couldn't buy a real conversation with these people if you had all the money of all the guests of "Wall Street Week."

The debates are virtually meaningless in affecting people's votes, but what never gets mentioned in the post-debate analysis is that Americans are watching this woman for 90 minutes and realizing, "omg, we've gotta pay attention to this person for 4 more years??!!!????"

The Clintons returning to the White House is going to be like Joe Gibbs returning to the Redskins.

During its Fox Business run, "Wall Street Week" too often looks like one of the channel's regular shows and lacks the unique appeal of the Louis Rukeyser version. While it boasts many fine and respected guests, most are private people who likely cringe at the prospect of making waves and instead immerse themselves in oceans of generalities. To paraphrase John Edwards, it's 2 programs, one with cautious business predictions and the other with Gasparino's punch. With virtually no data or ticker or scroll, visually the program looks too much like an '80s CNN startup. When politics fade temporarily in the rear-view mirror, the show's going to need some muscle besides Gasparino's biceps.

Trump to appear July 15
on ‘Wall Street Week’

At the end of the July 8 "Wall Street Week" — in which Greg Fleming spoke freely with his hands — host Anthony Scaramucci announced that Donald Trump will be the show's guest July 15, certainly one of the biggest gets in the franchise's history, including the days of Louis Rukeyser.

Skeptics may note that this might not exactly be a Dan Rather-esque interview — Scaramucci is a member of Trump's finance committee and is "on the airplane with him" (according to Gasparino) — and that presidential-candidate scheduling is subject to the whims of the day (meaning there's always the chance it won't happen).

But assuming it does, this event could produce a lot of quotable material and perhaps some feisty debate depending on who's part of the panel. On July 1, Scaramucci found himself fending off pointed questions from Gasparino and Gary Kaminsky about Trump's approach to trade agreements. Scaramucci told Gasparino that when Chinese get wealthier, "they don't" buy more American products.

Scaramucci on that episode made an argument Trump is certain to make himself: "The Democrats seem to coalesce about- around somebody that they may not necessarily like, but the Republicans are having a very hard time doing it," Scaramucci said.

Great moments in business television: Carl Icahn’s tip for poker/life

Anthony Scaramucci's "Wall Street Week" has transitioned from independent production to Fox Business regular.

One early episode of the new franchise in May 2015 (see below) resonates perhaps like few other interviews on business television.

Carl Icahn explained how he was a cabana boy at the Malibu Beach Club in need of $750 for room and board at Princeton.

He said he was invited to a poker game at the club and got cleaned out and made a momentous decision:

Learn how to play poker.

So, "I read 3 books on poker," Icahn said. And this is the money quote: "These guys never read a book on it in their lives. And it's all mathematics, it really is."

"At the end of the summer, I had 2 grand. 2,000. And that's when room and board was only 750," he said, adding he had $10,000 saved after 4 years of college.

So much to infer from this brief recollection. One is that most people, even smart people, even at work, are rarely trying to improve. (Mostly they want to be more greatly appreciated for the work they've already done.) Surely you know someone who has attempted to write a book; did that person first read a book about how to write a book? Does the person who cuts your hair regularly ask people to allow him/her to practice with free cuts or ask other stylists to evaluate his/her performance?

Another inference is that many of those people, even smart people, are sitting ducks for an upstart who simply applies effort to the competitive process.

Third is the value of pressing an advantage. Likely the most difficult element of Carl’s story is achieving the invitation to the poker game. Most people making such an achievement would consider it mission accomplished: "Now that I'm playing poker with these guys, one of them will hire me or set me up on Wall Street."

Carl realized an even better outcome: Not only play poker with them, but win.

Free advice. Worth a fortune.

Bass: Emerging markets only in the 5th inning

Airing bonus clips from earlier episodes, "Wall Street Week" gave viewers a few more soundbites from Kyle Bass and Ricky Sandler.

Bass had the most compelling commentary, stating emerging markets are only in the mid-5th inning or early 6th inning of their meltdown. (What he didn't mention is that it's not a 3-3 game, but more like a 3-13 game.)

Bass also predicted "macro forces" would somehow "overcome" whatever happens in the U.S. elections; he likened the Republican race to "Hollywood." (Actually this election is a disaster for the stock market; wait'll you hear the stuff that's making headlines in April, June, August.)

Bass said he's positioned for a "pretty material devaluation" in the yuan in 12-18 months.

Are the markets pricing in the possibility of a Bernie-Donald duel?

Markets are getting shellacked in January, and oil is rightly bearing much of the blame.

There's another scary prospect. You're not going to hear it on "Wall Street Week" or even on CNBC because these programs are in competition to land prominent politicians (note the "WSW" appearance of Jeb Bush, below).

Maybe the financial markets are concerned about any of the presidential candidates actually winning and have no confidence in any of them.

Jeb was asked for policy views. He wasn't asked what his bomb (so far) of a candidacy has done to the financial markets.

The Republican field is a disaster. There's no telling how dysfunctional a Trump or Cruz administration would be. Marco Rubio, sensational at rattling off a world view and a mechanic's knowledge of government, doesn't seem ready for the job and ignites nothing on the stump; the answer to "should this person be president" isn't a convincing one.

The markets might settle for Hillary ... except she can't win. Democrats miss her husband. They aren't excited. The ones who are are voting for Bernie Sanders. Clinton might lose Iowa and New Hampshire in 2016. The narrative is that those losses won't count; she'll take over in the diverse states, as if Sanders momentum would come grinding to a halt.

She once had all the 2008 superdelegates too.

If she loses Iowa, how does the speech go? "I see real momentum in this campaign, real excitement at our rallies for all the aid we're going to provide the middle class ..."

At this point, the markets would love to see Mitt Romney vs. Jerry Brown. Romney could still easily lay claim to the considerable anti-Trump coalition. Gov. Moonbeam, though, doesn't seem prepared for a late entry. That leaves John Kerry or even Gore, but the presence of each figures to only dilute Hillary and make Sanders stronger. Joe Biden wouldn't be taken seriously by changing his mind.

It's not at all out of the question that we'll see Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders fielding questions from Jim Lehrer next fall. Such a scenario — 5%, 10%, 75%, whatever — should at least be in strategists' models.

Given that, it was rather startling to hear Jon Hirtle declare on the Jan. 17, 2016, edition of "Wall Street Week" that "I don't think it matters" who wins, predicting the U.S. is able to "power through this no matter who's getting elected."

Rob Sechan did offer that Hillary Clinton's tweet about drug prices suggests the markets will be affected by this race. But that's what everyone says; it's the only one they know. Nobody ever suggests what industries are losers under a Trump, Cruz or Sanders administration.

In another startling comment, Hirtle actually said he likes emerging markets better than developed markets. He said "the real risk" to the U.S. economy is a "bubble in the equity market."

"There's no signs of an overheated market right now," Hirtle said.

Sechan said he's "constructive" on risk assets but that the markets are at an "inflection point" as the Fed pushes higher rates.

Sechan said there's a possibility that global turmoil "spills over into the real economy" in terms of confidence and lending.

That seems an understatement; admittedly the show was taped before the debacle (and recovery) of the week ending Jan. 22.

John Thiel, the star guest of the bulk of the program, disagreed with Hirtle and Sechan, stating, "We're a little bit concerned about emerging markets."

Thiel did call the U.S. economy "solid." He made a curious comment about the role of Merrill Lynch wealth management: "Our job is to help deliver you the returns of- that financial markets provide," he said, which sounds equivalent to "index fund."

Thiel also said that taking a Dale Carnegie course helped him "unbelievably well" and let him "accept people for who they were."

Doubling your money,
simply by spending it

Barbara Corcoran was the star guest of the latest "Wall Street Week," and Corcoran is very smart and very good on television and well-versed in sound bites, but it was the commentary from Henry Cisneros that raised eyebrows.

Cisneros, a Democrat, was asked about government's role in the housing sector and said this: "Fundamentally the role of government is to make sure we create the conditions in which people can live in decent housing."

"Create the conditions" ...

Many would argue that Cisneros' view is the same kind of mentality that led to both urban blight and the 2008 financial crisis.

One would like to ask Cisneros if the government should assist people who otherwise can't qualify for a mortgage in achieving home ownership.

If a guy isn't ready for the NBA but you install him on the Celtics roster, it might be a visionary move ... or it might not.

Cisneros is an agreeable, well-liked government figure, which is why he has achieved high levels in the real-estate industry and why his troubles were swept away by party leaders.

He said home ownership remains an American dream and that the U.S. is experiencing a "moment of urban renaissance ... all over the country."

"USC's the biggest employer in Los Angeles," Cisneros said, which if true should give people pause about the tentacles of higher education.

Gary Kaminsky challenged Cisneros on this renaissance, suggesting it doesn't sound good for suburbia of Middle America.

Cisneros responded, "There'll always be a population that a- for that phase in life wants to be in the suburbs," and then claimed that "immigrants" are "filling in in, in suburban places."

Cisneros should've drawn groans in closing, citing old municipal water systems and saying his new focus is "urban infrastructure," which is another way of getting on the gravy train of government spending (at least he didn't call it an "investment").

Corcoran, remarkably eloquent, has mastered television on "Shark Tank" and quite candidly described succeeding at real estate through setbacks and determination.

A boyfriend-partner "just happened to fall in love with my secretary," Corcoran revealed, adding "I was angry" and "fueled by my fury for years."

Corcoran indicated, as smart and successful people have a knack for doing, that risk-taking generally pans out.

"I think money is meant to be spent," she said. "In throwing it out, it's always come back to me doublefold."

Like so many female entrepreneurs on CNBC, Corcoran lamented a lack of assertion from her gender.

"Men claim territory. Women don't do it," she said.

Rising interest rates were briefly addressed on the program. "Short term, it's a boost to the housing market," Corcoran said.

Unfortunately, neither Corcoran nor Cisneros were asked about educational background, which has dwindled as a show staple.

Corcoran had fairly nice words for Donald Trump. "He totally changed people's attitude" about luxury living in Manhattan, she said.

Thankfully Corcoran wasn't scheduled on the same episode as Jeb Bush. In a stark condemnation of not just Trump, Corcoran said that when George Bush (sic not clear which one, presumably latter) was running the 2nd time, she bought a home in Canada just in case and held it throughout his term. She doesn't know which country she'll rely on this time in case of a Trump victory, "just in case I need to make a fast exit."

‘Rates will not normalize in our lifetime’

This time, the next crisis took a back seat.

Kyle Bass, who is often predicting the next disaster either in CNBC appearances or on the speaking circuit, sat down with the "Wall Street Week" duo and freely spoke about his background as much as his research project du jour.

It was Bass' best TV appearance.

Bass, who once worked at Bear Stearns, explained that in July 2006, he began to notice statistics indicating rising mortgage defaults and launched a short vehicle on Sept. 16-17 simply because he was concerned that if he waited until Oct. 1, others would see the late September data and beat him to the trade.

"I couldn't wait for another data point," he said.

Gary Kaminsky asked an excellent question as to how the banks were able to keep selling mortgage-backed securities as people such as Bass were spotting a negative trend. Bass didn't really answer but did say that they could no longer sell these securities by June 2007.

He revealed that he presented his theory to the Fed. The Fed, says Bass, merely told him that home prices track incomes, and because incomes were OK, the central bank didn't see a crisis.

Bass defended his role in profiting from the housing debacle, stating he wasn't a cause but an observer in the way that people play fantasy football.

It is not an entirely uncommon theory, but Bass asserted, "Rates will not normalize in our lifetime."

He said if not for the Fed's backstop, Goldman Sachs would only exist as part of another company. (Who knows, maybe Berkshire Hathaway.)

Anthony Scaramucci also paused the proceedings several times to explain some of Bass' terminology. Bass also patiently explained why he is targeting drug patents and the resistance he has received. Bass and Kaminsky agreed that pharmaceutical ads are on TV all the time, prompting Scaramucci to crack that Kaminsky's favorite ad "has nothing to do with cholesterol."

Bass said his "dogmatic" view of constrained energy supplies has hurt him this year, but he still sees "massive opportunity in energy" if you buy within 6 months and can wait 3-5 years.

Jeb’s dinner party (a/k/a why he’s struggling to gain traction in the presidential race)

It happened so late in the broadcast, we nearly overlooked it.

But Jeb Bush's chat on "Wall Street Week" included an answer for a presidential politician that is best described as "lame."

Gary Kaminsky asked Bush, "If you could have dinner later tonight with any 3 people, dead or alive, who would it be."

This is one of those common, fair, mildly interesting political queries that gets a little bit outside the box of policy talking points.

There are a few obvious, feel-good answers.

Jeb Bush responded this way: "I'll tell you 2 of 'em, uh, that I try to have dinner with regularly, it's George Shultz, and Henry Kissinger. 2 of the greatest minds, even though they're over 90. Greatest, greatest strategic thinkers."


Out of ALL the human beings who have EVER lived, these are the people Jeb Bush would choose to have dinner with tonight?? A couple secretaries of state?? Rather than Reagan???

Does this fellow need some curiosity steroids, or what?

Think of the possibilities. Washington and Lincoln, of course. Shakespeare. Einstein. King. Da Vinci. Pope John Paul II. Edison. Grant. Mozart. Lindbergh. JFK. Bogart. Jackie Robinson. Neil Armstrong. Hitchcock. Ben Franklin. Homer. John Lennon. Kate Upton. Charlie Sheen.

A fine Republican answer would be something to the effect of, "Lincoln, Mother Teresa, and Steve Jobs." It shows reverence for history, compassion, and tech curiosity. None can fire back at you in the press.

This fellow can only cite longtime party insiders who were never elected to any office?

People who are associated with his father's era?

Could any statement possibly suggest "out of touch" as much as this one?

Could this person be just the ticket for GOP?

Way, way back in U.S. history, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams sailed to France with the same message.

The French loved Franklin and had little use for Adams.

That's politics.

Presidential elections are decades if not lifetimes in the making and aren't determined by strategies or policies or ideologies.

Donald Trump rattles it off at a podium like nobody's business. He's funny. He's also polarizing. Some think he's a joke.

Jeb Bush is never going to rattle it off at a podium like that, and he's never going to be funny.

That's become abundantly clear in the fascinating Republican primary race and in Bush's interview on Anthony Scaramucci's "Wall Street Week," the first 2016 presidential candidate to appear on the program.

Mostly, Bush made clear what is the biggest problem for anyone running for president: There's nothing to do.

Co-host Gary Kaminsky asked Bush why he is running. Bush offered 2 reasons: "Protect the homeland" and the belief that "we have to lead the world."

Scaramucci asked Bush what he would tell Scaramucci's mother, who's watching the show, about making the country safer. Bush's answer was semantical, stating he will call the problem "Islamic radical terrorism."

Scaramucci said, "So we're gonna end the political correctness of that."

Bush said his goal is "to fight it over there rather than here," which sounds OK except for those who weren't sold on the Iraq invasion and heard George W. Bush say the same thing.

Bush said we need to "include a metadata program" under the Patriot Act for detecting the bad guys. (He added that "there's no evidence, none whatsoever" that the government is spying on American citizens).

Bush hardly made any kind of case against Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. There was no mention of tax rates or fiscal issues or Federal Reserve policy. He only briefly alluded to Clinton after Kaminsky suggested a "double standard" in how the media gives Clinton a pass for making money while she criticizes Wall Street.

Calling for a repeal of Dodd-Frank, Bush said there's "perhaps greater systemic risk today because there's more concentration of assets."

He credited Hank Paulson for creating the model of "full engagement" and "constant communication" that the Chinese don't have.

Gary Kaminsky asked an intriguing question, whether China is a friend or enemy. Clearly sensitive to Trump's appeal, Bush asserted, "China is our adversary ... I don't view them as an ally or a friend." (Obviously, he doesn't take much stock of "The Martian.")

Anthony Scaramucci, who noted he is on Bush's national finance committee, said the show is impartial and that they have reached out to other candidates and "hope to get some of them on the show too."

Bush initially said some candidates are having "nonserious kinda conversations" and later declared Donald Trump is "not qualified to be president ... he's not a serious candidate."

Scaramucci said Bush has a "presidential personality" and "very low key approach" but then made the assertion that "people are looking for something a little more bombastic," at least in the short term.

Bush declared, "Politics is a mirror image of our culture" and added, "People want hope."

That's missing the point. People want whatever they like.

If Ronald Reagan were running today, he'd be leading a small field with 30-plus percent, and pundits would be talking about how the country is embracing conservatism and optimism. If Bill Clinton were running, they'd be talking about how the country wants youth and a fresh start. (Just wait'll you see those headlines at the 2016 Democratic convention when the pundits declare, "Bill's speech sealed it for Hillary!")

The size of the Republican presidential field indicates a serious problem. Some people will run for president regardless of their prospects. Most, though, make careful assessments of the field. The 2 most important assessments were made by Donald Trump and Marco Rubio. Had Bush been invincible, the former, who wouldn't take on Barack Obama, wouldn't have bothered, and the latter would've waited for 2020 or 2024.

To this point, Bush has not been as good of a candidate as Mitt Romney.

Nevertheless, Bush, incredibly, remains capable of winning the nomination. Until they start voting, no one is really sure whether Trump's support is less than a mile wide or more than an inch deep.

The mainstream opening has been there for Rubio. For whatever reason, he hasn't seized it and presumably can't.

Eventually, Republican voters who dislike Trump are going to have to rally around someone. Bush, at this stage, is as likely a choice as anyone else.

Here's the wild card.

Bush is an extraordinarily desirable VP candidate. Enormous demographic reach and political heft. If he does not win the nomination, the person who does will be ringing Bush's phone every 5 minutes.

Would he do it for Donald Trump, Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz? The guess here is probably not. Chris Christie or John Kasich? Maybe. Probably depends on the magnitude of Bush's defeat if he were not to win the nomination.

Hillary Clinton has no such easy choice and might well have to ask Joe Biden to stick around.

Hang in there, Jeb.

What’s the goal, Ben?

One of the curiosities about the Federal Reserve is that the "dual mandate" is often discussed ... but the "goal" never is.

Permanent full employment? Rock-steady 2.0% inflation? Or some variations?

We'd certainly like to ask that question of former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke.

Extended clips of Bernanke's "Wall Street Week" interview aired last weekend in a "Part 2" follow-up. It included a good question from co-host Gary Kaminsky about the ramifications of people saving more money than usual.

"Normally I think savings is a good thing," Bernanke said, "but only if you have a full-employment economy."

Of course, often we don't have a full-employment economy.

Even now, skeptics say the only reason unemployment is so low is because many have dropped out of the work force.

Bernanke's comment is strange. Savings is always good. If you are not saving some portion of your money, you are making a mistake. Everyone should live within his or her means. Do what you can to extend your means, create additional income.

Bernanke is referring to broad statistics in which too much money is hoarded and not spent on goods and services. Indeed, that is troubling for an economy.

There remains an elusive issue: What is the best economy? This should not be difficult to answer. For example, what is the Yankees' goal? Win 115 games, then the World Series. Some might say it would be better to win, say, 95 games, have some drama, but still win the World Series.

For the Federal Reserve, a massive bureaucratic consensus, the answer isn't so easy. It has to deal with cross-currents of goals.

But it still has to make decisions.

And Mr. Bernanke should be able to define what the goal is.

Presumably, based strictly on observation, the Federal Reserve's goal is to avoid any kind of catastrophe. It plays defense, not offense. It reacts. It's a secondary, not a receiving corps. It doesn't want to create a boom, but limit the downside. It is like a doctor. You go to see it when feeling ill; you don't pay a visit when you're simply trying to improve your bench press.

If the Fed had its way, Charles Lindbergh would've flown to Nova Scotia, then Iceland, then London, then Paris.

But human beings wanted Lindbergh — and the other brave souls who tried it — to fly from New York to Paris, no stops.

The opinion here is that human beings need regular order. With an occasional disruption.

A human being who wakes up the same time every day and eats the same food every day and does the same thing every day and gets paid the same every day will quickly become bored, stagnant. (We're talking Soviet bloc here.)

A human being who wakes up at different times and makes different amounts of money every day might do something dynamic but is also not ideal. He or she does not have enough structure in his or her life to progress.

Extrapolating these concepts to the Federal Reserve, it seems the goal is more the former than the latter.

The Fed would likely prefer that stocks rise year after year at a 5% clip.

But the truth is, to get ahead, to advance, the boundaries need to be pushed.

And so the gains in tech stocks from 1995-1999 and the gains in mortgage bonds up till about 2006, in at least one way of thinking, were all good — even taking account of the aftermath from 2000-2002 and 2008-2009. They represented a certain euphoria needed once by every generation or so. Perhaps the gains outweigh the pain. And the whole debacle should be hailed as a victory.

Would Ben Bernanke say that Lehman Brothers' demise was a good thing? Probably not. He is a highly conditioned bureaucrat, which means, status quo, status quo.

But status quo doesn't advance civilization, and maybe Lehman's demise was a good thing. Lehman pushed the envelope for extreme returns. So did many others. Lehman happened to get burned because, for whatever reasons that are beyond the grasp of this page, it wasn't as well-equipped as the others. It jumped into a bubble and apparently had the least protection.

Many good people suffered the consequences. Good people find a way to get back on their feet.

Ben S. Bernanke, given his status, cannot say exactly what he thinks.

This page can.

One wonders if Mr. Bernanke thinks human beings should have a permanent safety net ... or whether they need to cut the cord to advance humankind.

Whether someone waiting for a boat in Göteborg in the 1800s should be saying, "I'm going to make my family Americans no matter what," or, "If it doesn't work out, I'll just come back."

Here's to the pioneers, those who took a risk for the possibility of something better.

To the defense of millennials

The latest episode of "Wall Street Week" didn't have a Treasury secretary, Fed chief or hedge fund legend, but it did have a snappy, spirited discussion from a capable panel.

The most eye-opening comment came from host Anthony Scaramucci, who asserted, "We'll probably get tax reform," something this page highly doubts. There is absolutely no unifying figure in the 2016 race, and we'll be back to the fiscal cliff/shutdown scenarios (as if we ever got past them).

JJ Kinahan said there's a "great chance" for a rally at the beginning of 2016. Co-host Gary Kaminsky predicted "the longer end of the curve is going to go down."

Kaminsky credited James Bernstein with calling a 1,000-point drop in the Dow on Aug. 17. Bernstein said there were "mathematical indications" in the prior 7 months that selling was taking over.

Keith Banks, the featured guest and like Kinahan, a fine regular on CNBC, explained that US Trust is the wealth management arm of Bank of America and has a $3 million minimum.

Banks likes financials and energy, the latter with only a longer-term horizon.

Banks doesn't like utilities or telecom. He said he wants to own bonds at the short end and long end of the curve.

Bernstein likes TR, MO, ADM and CPB. He said it's "shocking" to think someone who has never held elective office could be elected president.

Banks said millennials have "pent-up" housing demand. Bernstein didn't seem to think millennials have much in the way of income. Kinahan said it bugs him to hear people scoff at the millennial generation, stating they work hard and are looking to get ahead just like previous generations.

Trump has ghostwriters

The latest installment of "Wall Street Week," sans host Anthony Scaramucci, explored exactly how someone makes a magazine's top 100 list. (Our favorite is the "30 under 30" megahot journalists list.)

Co-host Gary Kaminsky brought in Richard Bradley of Worth, who discussed how the mag's most powerful people in global finance included John Oliver but not Don Trump.

Apparently impressed by Oliver's take on net neutrality, Bradley suggested Oliver is one of the most powerful people in global finance because of the "ability to change people's minds; the ability to reach an audience."

Bradley said Trump didn't make the list because prior to running for president, it wasn't like he was writing serious economic proposals in NYT op-eds, and nowadays he "probably has braintrusts writing that stuff for him."


Most of the program was actually devoted to Larry Altman and Ben Thompson, featuring spirited discussion on the state of the markets intermingled with flat assessments of the muni-bond space.

In the most provocative commentary, Altman stated, "We may never have 2% unemployment- uh, 2% inflation again," arguing that "they should be raising rates to normalize things so people can make judgments and we can have a consistency in policy."

This first part is definitely true, or possible, that 2% inflation may just not be reality ... but we can't figure out why hiking rates to create a different "normal" makes more sense than just accepting the actual "normal."

Thompson suggested one of the strangest arguments in financial media, that the Fed should raise rates so that it will be able to lower them again during the next slowdown, which is like driving your car 10 mph under the speed limit so that if you're pressed for time, you can speed up to the actual limit.

Thompson said that conservative investors in the muni space can expect 1½%, while those with a broader approach can look for 2%. He also seemed to think a certain Midwestern city's yields present opportunity.

"We're not worried about imminent default in Chicago," Thompson said.

Altman said 2008 was his best year for trading, but today's computers have "overwhelmed" the market.

Is it possible the 2008 financial crisis was a win-win?

The country, and world, are lucky that Ben S. Bernanke was on hand to organize the resolution of the 2008 financial crisis.

That is not to say everything about it was ideal. But whatever was going to happen needed a steady hand, a non-defensive, non-polarizing figure. This fellow is affable and remarkably intelligent and critically lacked what might've been a deal breaker — an ego.

Of course the same resolution would've happened without him. U.S. central bank and Treasury decisions are made through massive levels of consensus and bureaucracy.

Many on Wall Street applaud those Fed actions today; others criticize. Enough have applauded to establish the 2008 financial measures as one of the 2 most important American precedents of this century. (The other being related to 9/11, but that's a whole other topic.)

Based on anecdotal evidence, those harboring hard feelings toward the Fed cite at least 3 reasons, 1) that money shouldn't be this easy at least for this long, 2) that ZIRP benefits Wall Street elites and hurts regular Americans, and 3) the Fed is losing control of the bond market when and if ZIRP triggers runaway inflation.

Bernanke spent several moments on Anthony Scaramucci's "Wall Street Week" defending the Fed against Argument 2, stating his goal was to "try to do the right thing for Main Street." That meant, as credit markets were freezing up, stepping in and "backstopping commercial paper" to unfreeze them.

The result has been a curious discovery: "Every loan we made, was paid back with interest, and, we- we turned over lots of profits to the, uh, Treasury, reducing the deficit," Bernanke said.

It's a bit like having someone save you from flunking a test but in exchange forcing you to study a couple of hours a night.

Bernanke was not asked what would've happened if there had been no TARP (a Treasury program) or emergency Fed measures. Nor was he asked about the significance of a precedent. We now know that any institution whose failure would be in the ballpark of Lehman Brothers will not actually fail. But there is a steep price. The Fed and Treasury will supply cash to more than just the most beleaguered entity, and the money will be repaid to taxpayers with interest under stringent regulation.

The Lehman "ballpark" is a gray area. MF Global was not in it. General Motors was. The standard is pretty high.

Somehow, taxpayers seem to have come out ahead. It may be, to the disdain of the most strident free-marketers, that TARP and open discount windows are a revelation along the lines of Social Security or Medicare. Possibly, troubled companies are made better and jobs are saved and fiscally America is made healthier by what amounts to a special corporate income tax.

Bernanke was not asked about hypotheticals, but there are many good ones. Chief among them being the importance of the stock market in what the Fed and government do.

If the dot-com bubble had occurred after the 2008 financial crisis, it seems unlikely there would be TARP. The financial system would not freeze to death if went under. Pumping billions into Exodus Communications and America Online would've provided a floor under those stocks but very little assurance that the money would ever be paid back.

Yet, the dot-com crash did as much damage to Americans' 401(k)s as the 2008 crisis. And we saw how the stock market influenced the 2008 TARP vote. Many were against it, until they saw the Dow falling 700 points in a day.

So it's fair to ask Mr. Bernanke if the stock market is the tail wagging the Fed's dog.

He only gave token lip service to a decent question on too big to fail, calling it "still a concern" but saying we're "making a lot of progress" on that subject somehow.

Besides stating "I don't get this, uh, inequality thing," he addressed the other complaints about ZIRP. He said if rates weren't around zero, we would've kept a recession intact; "the argument is a strange one."

In what may prove his most controversial line of the program, he told Gary Kaminsky, "Well, we knew from the beginning that there was no risk of inflation. The reason there's no risk of inflation is that the Fed is able to tighten monetary policy at the appropriate time, it's able to raise interest rates at the appropriate time, and will. And, the markets completely believe that. ... There just is no credibility to the idea that inflation's gonna get out of control."

He is correct that markets believe that. But not everyone likes it.

Promoting his book, which happened on this program, Bernanke's most prominent headline has been his apparent dissatisfaction over punishment for the 2008 crisis, the fact institutions were heavily fined but indidviduals essentially have not been held responsible.

"My problem is with the prosecution strategy," he said, without explaining here or in other appearances which humans should be jailed.

He said housing prices peaked in 2006 and that it's "about right" to say the financial crisis began with the collapse of the Bear Stearns hedge funds in 2007.

Gary Kaminsky said banks were running out of cash on the Friday before Lehman's collapse. Bernanke stated, "We know now that the recession began in December of 2007," although anyone with a hint of skepticism knows that "recession" means different things to different people and shouldn't be solely the domain of elite academics.

The former Fed chief humbly explained how his family were the town pharmacists in Dillon, South Carolina. According to his Wikipedia page, he scored a 1,590 out of 1,600 on the SAT, making him eligible for Harvard.

In a curious understatement, he said, "It's a place where you could, uh, learn about practically anything." Educational background is an impressive feature of this program, but here again, it is left to the imagination whether Harvard is a cause or effect of Ben S. Bernanke's brilliance.

Bernanke said he paid for college by being a construction worker and then working at the Dillon tourist attraction South of the Border, at the "midpoint" between New York and Miami.

He played ping-pong with his future wife on a blind date and doesn't remember who won, but he thinks they saw a Fellini movie afterwards.

Scaramucci asked about advice for a future Fed chair, but Bernanke had little to say, advising those in that position to look at the financial system "as a whole" and not piecemeal, and be wary of problems beneath the surface.

Bernanke said he was a "registered Republican" but dubiously hasn't voted since being Fed chief. If any reason is a good reason for forsaking the right to vote, we have yet to hear it.

He shrugged off the notion of certain presidential candidates that the fix is in between the Fed and the Democratic Party. There is "literally no discussion whatsoever of elections, of politics, of campaigns" in the FOMC meetings, Bernanke said.

When advertising is better
targeted, we’re all winners

Lawrence Summers is undoubtedly brilliant, influential and even controversial.

Add "tragic" to that list.

By his chosen career path, which has brought him prominence, wealth and stature, Summers has put his wonderful mind in a straitjacket.

He is hardly free to say what he really thinks. He let his guard down at least once, as Harvard president. In terms of expanding people's minds, he can't be considered an overachiever. It's like limiting Willie Mays to pinch-running.

Co-host Gary Kaminsky declares before Summers' appearance on Anthony Scaramucci's "Wall Street Week" that "Larry Summers is one of the most influential thinkers of our time." But it seems much of that influence is devoted to scoring points in the Clintons' decades-old political apparatus. He must have thousands of wonderful things he'd like to say, but every one of them has ramifications in the political media all the way up to the White House.

This person is far more of a reactor than innovator. He is elite damage control. He made a point of declaring on the program that "if you look since the Second World War, not a single recession was predicted by the Fed, by the IMF, or by the consensus of professional economists."

Exactly. He's not out there to invent economies that avoid recessions or currency debacles; he opines on what to do after they happen.

Summers' appearance was likely the best of Scaramucci's program to date, although it requires some inferences.

Summers was not asked, for example, what a utopian economy is. Would it be a permanent GDP number and inflation number and jobless number, and would it include other metrics that would presumably merit increased government intervention to maintain? Or would it be more of a dynamic, boom-bust environment that more quickly weeds out laggards and rewards winners and requires less of a hand of government?

Or is it simply one, as Summers unfortunately hinted, run by a certain party indefinitely?

The best question of the program came late from Kaminsky, who asked about social media's impact on the economy.

"I think things that bring people together are presumptively good," Summers said. "So I think these things are positive socially. I think these things are positive economically. They let people, uh, target, uh, advertising. They let people target, uh, products, uh, in a better way than they otherwise could."

That answer, while giving him a slight pause, sounded like one Summers has given before. But he seemed less prepared for Kaminsky's follow-up about the view that social media hurts the economy even while "saving people money" by putting some people out of work.

"I don't think they're shrinking the economy," Summers said, calling Facebook a force for good. "I think it's a broad social and economic positive."

Of course. Silicon Valley is a big player in the nation's political infrastructure, so even one of the nation's foremost academics can't even suggest a downside, not even the amount of time people are spending posting vacation photos as opposed to doing something more productive.

This exchange actually came after Scaramucci pointed out that Summers was on the MIT debate team, which Summers said taught him there are "2 perspectives on anything." Except the downside of social media, apparently.

One wonders if Summers would relish debate on a few of his other statements. Summers opined, "The United States can't be an oasis of prosperity in a world that is systematically troubled." What exactly does that mean, we're only as good as Greece or Venezuela? (Translation: Trade agreements backed by Democratic presidents are necessary.)

Summers defined infrastructure spending as an "investment." This is a common Democratic Party platform. But building and maintaining a road takes more and more money over time, as opposed to buying Under Armour stock and hoping to sell it later for a higher price. Roads and airports don't hand us cash.

Explaining that "I would embark upon a 10-year, trillion-dollar program of infrastructure investment which would initally be financed by borrowing" (and later by gasoline and carbon taxes if the economy overheats (snicker)), Summers suggested people look at JFK Airport and "look at 30,000 schools where the paint is chipping off, uh, the walls."

Seriously? Lawrence Summers claims to have noticed paint chipping off the walls at 30,000 schools, and isn't impressed by JFK or LaGuardia airports ... and believes $1 trillion over 10 years is needed to fix it?

This country should be giving congressmen $1 trillion to dispense to local builders because Lawrence Summers noticed crummy buildings or roads at LaGuardia?

Scaramucci painted Summers as a centrist, telling him that associates will say that the way Summers thinks, "It's really not about left or right ... it's more about right or wrong," yet in the political circles in which Summers operates, there are definitely at least 2 perspectives on right and wrong.

Scaramucci suggested such a project might be "good debt."

Summers also claimed that all the car repairs caused by "excessive potholes" would amount to a 40-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax and called it "crazy" that we're spending the lowest percentage of our income since World War II on infrastructure. (Wonder how that will go over in the South, which doesn't have winter weather concerns on its roads and therefore should get a lower percentage of the $1 trillion.)

Summers said on the program that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt "caused us to win World War, uh, II." One person, in the 3rd term of a presidency and in rapidly declining health, "caused" the United States to win World War II?

An important dialogue took place over interest rates. Kaminsky told Summers, "The Fed listened to you" about not lowering rates. Summers shrugged at that but asserted the economy is "healthier" because the Fed didn't hike.

Then he got to the money quote: "I don't know why, what the strong case would be, uh, for raising rates," Summers said.

Exactly. There's no inflation. There's no reason to rise, except that a lot of people on television are offended by ZIRP, perhaps rightly so, and just don't want it and haven't wanted it since 2009.

Summers said Q3 growth might be 1½% and that "growth in the United States isn't so far above stall speed."

He said Donald Trump's comments about Fed collusion with the White House "nonsense."

Summers told Scaramucci and Kaminsky he came from suburban Philadelphia and attended public schools; his parents were both economists.

His parents were "very liberal." He said he's "not sure" that he had role models, but FDR "was a kind of hero for me," and he would mention him 3 times in the program.

He said he grew up an Eagles and Phillies fans, but that has morphed into Boston allegiances.

Summers said he was in the "chess club and the math club" and that the MIT debate team taught him to number his arguments; "ever since, people make fun of me" for enumerating his points.

He said "the way you become a Harvard professor or a professor at a great university is that there's some conventional wisdom in your field, and you overturn it," adding that once a person reaches that stature, it "tends to be hard to get them to sort of work together or move forward."

Interesting. Our smartest people are operating in silos.

Summers said that as a teacher, his goal is not to be the "easiest one," and he likes hearing students say he prompted them to think about things in a different way.

Summers said he'd rather play the U.S. "hand" in the global economy than anyone else's. But he thinks we have "real challenges," which is basically the Hillary platform.

He said if he could have dinner with 3 people it would be FDR, Churchill and Einstein.

Adopting a favorite cliche of people seeing old clips of themselves on business television, Summers said, "I sure looked a lot younger" in his 1992 Louis Rukeyser interview, but added a twist, that he thinks he has fewer pounds now.

Summers has clearly thought about signature quotes. He told Scaramucci that he would summarize his legacy as: "He thought hard to make actions better."

And, he believes, "There are no final victories in life, and there are no final defeats."

Helpful advice for
Point72 job-seekers

If we heard correctly, outsiders have about a 1-in-500 chance of becoming a portfolio manager at Point72.

So, might want to ship your resume elsewhere.

Doug Haynes, star guest of the latest installment of Anthony Scaramucci's "Wall Street Week," told Gary Kaminsky that "Point72 is sort of descended from SAC, but it's not SAC in any way." (Note the graphic above; "Wall Street Week" somehow still is having problems with spell-check.)

If you want to get to Point72, try a different department. "We hired about 100 analysts last year," Haynes said, adding that the firm has a lot of strong internal candidates for portfolio manager jobs.

Haynes said that in the last couple of years he has looked at 400-500 outside portfolio managers, but in the last round of hiring 9, only 1 was an outsider.

Haynes did nothing to hurt the cause, but he surely could've made a better sales pitch for all the potential analysts who might be watching. He did tell Kaminsky (Scaramucci was off) that turnover for portfolio managers is "well under 10" percent while it's 20% for the industry, and analyst attrition is 5%.

As would be expected, Stevie Cohen doesn't hand over the keys to the kingdom to just anybody. "We knew each other personally pretty well" before Haynes got the post, Haynes said.

Haynes said the temperature on the Point72 trading floor is "in the 60s."

Curiously, Haynes opined at one point that "this is an industry that 10 or 15 years ago had very little barriers to entry; there are a lot now."

Haynes was joined by Michael Cahill and stunning Holly Newman Kroft.

Cahill offered, "We're pretty worried about the general economy," stating export data looks to be down in 2015, something that tends not to happen unless we're in a recession.

Kroft pronounced volatility great for stock pickers and said, as many on the program have said, that now's the time for active management.

Haynes said the consumer side of the economy looks better than the manufacturing side. Stating the Fed has become an "echo chamber," he said he likes health care and retail as well as solar.

Kroft likes midstream MPLs, the pipeline companies, and sees a risk-on market.

Cahill told Kaminsky he disagrees with the view that 90-100% of the market moves are tied to the Fed. Cahill pointed to the China summer. He also touted CF, because of increased production capacity coupled with buybacks.

"Wall Street Week" tends to be chummy. Nevertheless, Kaminsky and Scaramucci, veterans of CNBC though not under that umbrella now, would've been ideal questioners at CNBC's presidential debate. It looks like they won't get a chance for the Nov. 10 Fox Business edition.

Either the Dow is going up,
or it’s going down

Rarely dabbling in timely market calls, "Wall Street Week" came up empty in that department when star guest Elliot Weissbluth turned up in Episode 25.

Weissbluth said he doesn't want to give host Anthony Scaramucci a "glib answer" as to whether the market is a buy because he doesn't know the "360 view" of the questioner's family, children, etc.

This page doesn't really know either, but we do know that there are stocks available to buy and sell, and those stocks do not care whether someone's kids are preparing for Harvard or a trip to the casino.

Co-host Gary Kaminsky, who's having trouble getting his questions answered, asked Weissbluth for 5 characteristics of a good financial advisor.

Weissbluth would only provide 2, stating the first is "a genuine passion for their clients," and No. 2, a "keen understanding" that their clients have "strong emotional reactions" to what happens in the market.

Weissbluth agreed with Kaminsky that advisors should eat their own cooking.

Later, Kaminsky asked Shelley Bergman for 3 underpriced elements of the markets. Bergman said commodities and emerging markets.

Bergman said he does like big pharma and that he's just started looking at energy.

Bergman said the last several months have proved "one of the most confusing landscapes for investors."

Amy Butte said we've had an "extended period of volatility, and that's difficult."

Bergman blamed 90-100% of market volatility on Fed uncertainty.

Amy Butte said it would be "bad" for the Fed not to raise rates.

Elliot Weissbluth said he attended Rice because a New Trier counselor convinced him "Houston's warm, and um, the girls are attractive." Anthony Scaramucci dubbed Hightower as the "Mayo Clinic for wealth management."

Premium opportunity lapse: Chance for intriguing insurance discussion fizzles on ‘Wall Street Week’

It's a hugely relevant topic for the folks squarely in the "Wall Street Week" demographic.

But so many, as was stated on the program, "haven't a clue."

Nevertheless, the basics were largely skipped and a potential crisis came from nowhere in what could've been a highly informative assessment of the life insurance business on "Wall Street Week" — a lot of stepping off the mound or out of the batter's box and suddenly some inside baseball.

For starters, and we don't mean Jake Arrieta, the chart above, which surfaced around the 20-minute mark, should've been shown at the top of the program and left on the screen throughout.

The star guest was Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Chairman and CEO John Schlifske, who adequately delivered the expected soundbites — albeit with not the greatest salesman's oomph — of the virtues of his company's adviser services and insurance products.

"We're in business, we say, to help people achieve financial security," said Schlifske, adding that it's about solving clients' "vulnerabilities."

Insurance, of course, is safe return over time, compared with equities and bonds; "we believe the markets are like this big casino," said Schlifske.

And then there's the greatest seal of approval: Schlifske said that at 23, while attending grad school at Northwestern after graduating from Carleton, he heard Warren Buffett, who enjoys talking about his stocks in the "big casino," extol the virtues of insurance companies.

Schlifske said young people should know insurance provides "so many uses across your life expectancy."

He described life insurance as "almost like a Swiss Army knife" and said he's never heard anyone lament that they've bought too much life insurance.

But what exactly should people be buying, and how much are these Swiss Army Knives costing them? While universal life was mostly addressed by later guest Henry Montag, term and whole life distinctions were nearly unmentioned.

It wasn't until the latter half of the program that there were hints of storm clouds encroaching on the sunny skies.

"Low interest rates are a headwind for an insurance company," Schlifske conceded, revealing, "We're out about $26 billion of revenue over the last 5 years because of low interest rates."

"I think the best of times are over," Schlifske admitted, adding the market will "tread water."

"I'm not worried that we're in for a Japanese-style recession or depression or anything like that," he said, "but I do think it's hard to see rates going up."

Schlifske, who happened to look up into the set lights on several occasions, pronounced insurance purchases "sort of immune" from the stock market. That prompted a good question from co-host Gary Kaminsky, who asked which economic indicator most correlates with insurance-buying.

Schlifske didn't answer the question, stating only, "We actually have a lot of positive demographics on our side," citing the size of the millennial generation.

But then came TOLI Center East Principal and Certified Financial Planner Henry Montag (below), who leaped way ahead of where the program was in terms of our basic insurance definitions.

Montag referred to EF Hutton bundlng insurance starting in1983 around the time of 14% rates and suggested a looming "crisis" among universal-life policyholders who may not be aware that under today's rates, policies may lapse without additional premiums.

That prompted an exchange in which Schlifske asserted that most people are being informed by their advisors, and "I certainly wouldn't call it a crisis with all due respect," though he conceded "pockets" of trouble.

"Well, with all due respect, I find that many of the sons and daughters haven't a clue," Montag rebutted.

Host Anthony Scaramucci, who said he has "several policies" with Northwestern Mutual, explained (fairly late) that essentially, the lower that rates are, the higher the universal premiums need to be.

Schlifske did assert there are "a number of carriers out there that are making unrealistic assumptions around investment returns in their, uh, universal life, uh, products" and that "somebody's gonna be on the hook."

"If we do stay low for long, those policies are gonna be underwater," Schlifske said.

(Apparent translation of all of the above: If a universal policy lapses, you've been paying for air.)

Montag contended insurance companies fail to reach the masses, that "86% of the population doesn't buy life insurance simply because it's too expensive."

He also raised doubts, as longtime CNBC staple Suze Orman always did, about whole-life policies, suggesting younger people "should perhaps take that money and place it into a lesser-expensive form of insurance" such as term or universal.

But Schlifske likened financial advisors to personal trainers who ring the doorbell in the morning and likened "robo-advising" to having a bunch of Fitbits.

Montag suggested that product innovation in the insurance industry will lean toward the eye-rolling "preponderance of more bundled products" and bring "additional compliance."

An activist investor wonders why people don’t complain about HFT instead

Activist investing, an occasional subject on Anthony Scaramucci's "Wall Street Week," actually found a devil's advocate on the program in Episode 23.

It was James Frischling, whose job description and firm's mission statement weren't well explained (it appears to be a financial-services consultant), who said there's an "immediate cost to the company" when activists start sinking their teeth in.

Frischling was compelled to address arguments from Donald Drapkin, who likened today's activist investing as merely "1 step removed" from the takeover boom of the late '70s and early '80s and said the notion that activist investing doesn't benefit investors is "a lot of nonsense."

"It doesn't mean that every activist is a good guy," Drapkin allowed.

Anthony Scaramucci agreed, "there are some nefarious people out there as well."

Drapkin questioned why people complain about activism when there are high-speed algorithms and "ETF stuff" that are driving share prices wildly up and down without any regard to fundamentals.

Frischling said HFT "accelerates and exacerbates" stock moves.

Frischling curiously said everyone is motivated by his own self-interest. In perhaps the show's funniest moment to date, that prompted Scaramucci to declare that his interest is making co-host Gary Kaminsky "look good," prompting Kaminsky to crack, "Boy, he does it every day."

Drapkin, who has been pushing for a CLF overhaul and succeeded in doing so with the board, called the company a "perfectly well-run, humming machine" that is suffering from the iron ore correction.

Drapkin touted U.S. as the investing destination by citing perma-Armageddonist David Stockman's views on China numbers being unreliable.

In a show with few graphics, the gremlins nevertheless made the most of their opportunity with a botch of "chairman."

Drapkin predicted 18,800 for the Dow year-end, while fellow guest Dick Grasso (who for some reason was on this panel despite having the previous show to himself) said the S&P would be "at or slightly above 2,000." Gary Kaminsky refused a prediction. "Honestly, I don't know," Kaminsky said.

Steve Tananbaum: Some beaten-down media stocks look good

In the latest episode of "Wall Street Week," Rob Sechan offered one theory as to how investors fall behind.

Sechan pointed to "Myopic Risk Aversion," in which people tend to spend too much time mulling their long-term investments and thus become too sensitive to the losses.

Mary Deatherage said her message to anxious clients is "how bad it's not."

In a subject that is always interesting — a person explaining what happened to Bear/Lehman/Wall Street in 2008 — Sechan opined that the salvaging of Bear Stearns "created a general market assumption that every bank out there was too big to fail," but then when Lehman sank, "all hell broke loose."

The star guest of the program, Steve Tananbaum of GoldenTree Asset Management, provided about as many fireworks as the Indianapolis Colts offense, stating the market's August stumble was based on "dissension on what's important to prioritize."

Tananbaum pronounced credit markets "generally very strong" and indicated a reduced recession threat.

Rob Sechan called the current state of the S&P 500 a "bull market correction" caused by "some growth and policy scares." Tananbaum said that is "most likely" the case.

Tananbaum, who said he picked economics at Vassar because it "seemed like a good, social science," did offer a couple of stock picks as the most interesting portion of his discussion, asserting TWX and TRCO are attractive on an overdone media selloff.

Mary Deatherage said August volatility was "like a bungee cord."

Rob Sechan pointed out how the "huge growth story" in energy from 5 years ago is now a "deep value story." Sechan said, as he has on CNBC, that MLPs are attractive.

NYSE panic: scripted

In a full-half-hour "Wall Street Week" session with Dick Grasso that was more tribute than interview, co-host Gary Kaminsky revealed an interesting tactic of the business media.

Kaminsky said that during steep market drops, the "financial channels" would call the NYSE requesting a bunch of people "running around as though there's some sort of panic there."

Well, as anyone who has ever tracked the headlines (many of them dealing with Marc Faber) on knows, fear sells.

Unfortunately, the chat with Grasso could've provided a nice counterweight to whatever point Brad Katsuyama was making months ago (see below, hit PgDn a few times) about how exchanges operate (it's still not clear why the public should care if Katsuyama's computer told him 100,000 shares of IBM are available but only 30,000 of them were in a single block, or how someone gets ahead by cancelling a bunch of orders). But Grasso said legal trading can't be banned and equivocated between helpful HFT (liquidity providers) and non-helpful HFT (algo trend followers).

Co-host Gary Kaminsky asked Grasso if he has made a public statement on Michael Lewis' assertions. Grasso said he hasn't, "but I will now," which was merely that creating any type of advantage for a certain investor that doesn't help the retail or lowest-level investor is a bad move.

Grasso said, in response to a flat "How has the world changed" question from host Anthony Scaramucci, that back in the day, stock exchanges were transparent and obligated to find the best prices for orders. But now, there is a loose collection of transparency, semi-transparency and no transparency, and so the marketplace has been "terribly hurt by a series of initiatives over the years."

Grasso said identifying the "last sale" of a stock such as IBM is impossible, and regulators are "late to the party."

"I think the uptick rule makes no sense today," he added, calling Regulation NMS a "sad, sad experiment."

Grasso's interview appeared to take place the same day as the next episode featuring Steven Tananbaum, and the forthcoming episode including Grasso again with Don Drapkin and James Frischling.

Grasso did say he "loved every day I was there" at the NYSE. He also indicated an alliance of sorts with Gasparino, stating, "I've promised Charlie, somewhat tongue in cheek, that if I were to become mayor, he would become sanitation commissioner."

‘Wall Street Week’ tackles status of Barack Obama at Harvard Law Review

In the latest airing of "Wall Street Week," featuring extended clips of a recent interview with Ken Langone, host Anthony Scaramucci expressed "contrition" for supporting Barack Obama in the 2008 election — a curious situation, given that shortly after, Scaramucci would confront the president in a 2010 CNBC town hall (below) about how Wall Street feels like the White House's "pinata."

On "Wall Street Week," Scaramucci told Langone, "I went to law school with him ... he's a very smart guy, and he graded on/of the Harvard Law Review-"

"He never wrote a piece for the Harvard Law Review," Langone asserted.

"He was the editor of it; he was the president," Scaramucci said.

"How many editors of law reviews never write a piece for that law review? You know, there's a lot about this guy we don't know," Langone said.

Scaramucci explained, "At school, there were 500 kids, he was one of the top 5 that graded on; I have to give him the credit that he's due there. I supported him, and I'm now at St. Peter's Church in confession, saying the act of contrition. And I'm a lifelong Republican, and will remain a lifelong Republican. Just hasn't been the person we all hoped for."

Langone, however, wasn't satisfied. "This guy wouldn't show us his resume. ... Why are there so many things about this man that we don't know about, and he won't share with us?," Langone demanded.

Langone at one point also complained that Obama could've been great had he just been a "1-trick pony" focused on education.

Scaramucci said that Chuck Schumer "tried to push him in that direction, but he wanted to go into health care."

A case for the suits

Hedge funder Ricky Sandler, given the opportunity to make a bull case for KORS on "Wall Street Week," had this to say:

"It has not overextended itself into outlets and sort of damaged the brand," he said.

Perhaps not, but the typical refrain on business television is that the company has saturated certain accessories markets and has simply lost the elite cachet it recently had, something very hard to regain.

Unfortunately the bear case wasn't presented. Sandler said Kors is a "terrific brand" but a "classic example" of today's "market environment," which doesn't really mean anything; it's simply a brand that's not as hot as it was a year ago.

Notably, he has no activist demands or advice to impart at KORS: "We wouldn't have any, um, particular suggestions for them," Sandler said.

Sandler's stint for the entire half hour proved a chipper assessment of a seemingly unrelated array of stocks. However, things curiously got confusing about midway through when Sandler seemed to be arguing for relative outperformance and making absolute money to "buy groceries at the supermarket" at the same time.

He acknowledged that shorts face an uphill battle given the market's average gains over time and said it's been hard to short stocks in this market if you're looking for "absolute money. We believe our job is to generate alpha."

He said his fund is "about 140% long by 95% short."

Explaining his philosophy for Eminence Capital, Sandler said, "growth and value sort of work together" and that his approach is "quality value."

"We own, um, high quality businesses that we think are underpriced in the market for a given reason," he said.

His short targets are companies that figure to disappoint, stocks facing secular pressure and those with accounting issues.

Sandler said he's short RGC, a business that's "inextricably in decline" and presumably in his secular category. Citing movie ticket sales, he asserted, "Kids don't hang out there."

But the movie theater obituary has been written since the dawn of VHS, and every year there are headlines about record openings. Plus, given the steady rise in ticket prices, there appears to be pricing power.

Sandler said "IMAX has some issues as well." His most convincing anti-Regal argument is that the company put itself up for sale last year, and no one offered.

In a new twist on the bond-bubble trade, Sandler pointed to Paris. "You can short French government debt at a cost of 1.3% a year. If this doesn't work out, I lose 1.3% a year. By the way, I hope it doesn't work out," he said.

Unfortunately someone in the graphics department was asleep at the switch while Sandler spoke about Joseph A. Bank (Sandler said "Joseph Banks" (sic) 3 times) and Men's Wearhouse (not "Warehouse"); unfortunately despite the amount of time given to the subject, he never explained why suits are not a value trap as opposed to movie theaters.

Sandler endorsed both EBAY and PYPL, the latter having 20% growth "as far as the eye can see."

Maybe his most controversial call is bullish ZNGA, stating it has gone from 35% mobile to 70% mobile and touting today's gaming environment and feasibility of upgrades.

Sandler, a good guest but prone to too many "ums" on the program, said he studied accounting and finance at the University of Wisconsin but unlike many guests didn't pound the table for higher education. He credited Morris Mark and David Herro for their guidance. He said Aspen is his favorite vacation spot.

5 to 9 — what a way
to make a living

Conversation with Mario Gabelli on "Wall Street Week" proved unfortunately helter-skelter as the famed investor and excellent TV guest was forced to zig and zag among 3 subjects: education, starting his own company and his stock-picking strategy.

A few times, Gabelli touched upon a subject that should come up far more often on the program — what kind of time commitment does it take to be a success in the financial markets.

Gabelli said those who "can work from 5 to 9" will be rewarded.

Unlike Carl Icahn (see below), he did not sweat the particulars of maximizing dollars out of his own shop. "I did not have the confidence that I could gather assets. But I had the confidence I could make money in the market," Gabelli said.

He did not answer host Anthony Scaramucci's question about the age at which he started his firm, merely pointing out how long ago 1977 was.

For strategy, Gabelli explained his formula as seeking to determine what a public company would be worth to a buyer taking it private, conceding that a rival company would be able to pay more for the synergies.

As for the importance of education, Gabelli claimed, "I think basically you go back to what has made America great: it's been the rule of law, it's been a free market with all the warts, and it's been meritocracy, and the underpinning of meritocracy is education."

Actually all of those things including education are not cause of greatness, but effects.

Gabelli said he was a "truant" in 1st grade; "I just walked out of the classrooms a lot."

He spoke in-depth about his global water play and said he likes XYL, BMI, GRC and hydrant-maker MWA. It's unclear what a current catalyst would be; this concept has been mentioned semi-regularly on business television for years if not decades (typically during Jeff Immelt's old Green Week designations that CNBC had to trumpet).

The 2nd half of the program, which featured a Manhattan brightness that felt as though it were taping at dawn, included Yra Harris and Holly Newman Kroft. Harris said he does "top down analyzation (sic)" and finds value in other ways than Gabelli.

Harris said Canada right now presents compelling valuations.

Gold is not an inflation hedge, Harris said, calling stocks rather than gold the "safe haven."

Holly Newman Kroft predicted "inflation is coming" and said she likes "developed Europe," a term she used at least 3 times.

Kroft convincingly told Anthony Scaramucci we'll still have a euro in 5 years, but her similar answer to the 10-year version of that question occurred after a lengthy pause.

Co-host Gary Kaminsky raised an interesting point with Gabelli, stating commodities, energy and industrials suggest a recession in 2015 and wondering if that "sector analysis" will prove accurate.

"I just don't see it," said Gabelli, who said wages and jobs are rising, "debt is tolerable" and housing is on the upswing slowly but steadily.

Gabelli and Harris discussed the extent of politics on Fed decisions but neither mentioned what seems the most intriguing question, whether Yellen will be appointed by whoever the next president is.

"It's very hard to predict China," Kroft said.

Speaking of people's skill sets, Gabelli claimed that when Michael Jordan tried baseball, "They were benching him," but actually he played AA ball for the Chicago White Sox' Birmingham club and led the team in games played with 127.

Fish seems to imply fracking enabled the Iranian deal

With impressive candor, oil-trading legend Mark Fisher on "Wall Street Week" freely admitted his call a few years ago that oil will never sink below $70 was a bust.

He said he's "shocked" that that floor has been shattered and didn't realize companies would be able to produce so much U.S. supply.

Then, he suggested some real-world effects that go beyond the gas pump.

"I don't want to get into politics, but you know, I think a lot of the reason why, with us being energy independent, is a lot of the reason for why we're now going ahead and making the decisions we're making in the Middle East," Fisher said.

The only big decision we're aware of recently is the one involving John Kerry that also is not being called a "treaty" (though it basically is) so that instead of requiring a 2/3 vote, Congress can then pass a resolution against it and then be vetoed by the president in a double-negative with quite possibly barely 33% support to make something happen. (Like Fish said, who wants to get into politics.)

While Fisher is a very unique persona in the financial markets, several things he discussed were right up the "Wall Street Week" formula. Freakishly smart people, unusually hard-working, generally good-looking (though no one's suggesting Fish or Carl Icahn are going to oust Tom Cruise from the "Mission: Impossible" franchise anytime soon), already way ahead by the time most young adults are even thinking about getting ahead.

Fisher was well-prepared for the opening "origin-story" question, volunteering that at age 12 or 13 (the screen text said "12") he noticed a neighbor driving fancy cars. So Fisher knocked on the guy's door and asked what business the guy was in. The guy shut the door on him. Fisher returned and offered the guy a deal: Let Fisher ensure his son graduated from high school in exchange for giving Fisher a job. And that was Fisher's start in the COMEX silver markets.

He didn't mention his college, but the screen text listed Wharton.

Host Anthony Scaramucci asked, given Fisher's early success, "Why'd you go to college?" Fisher said he needed a "back-up plan" because he wasn't actually earning that much money.

Fisher, and later Deepak Narula, seconded a strategy put forward by Marc Lasry a couple of weeks ago, buying assets when someone else is forced to sell.

Scaramucci mentioned Dodd-Frank's impact on the energy space. Fish said energy companies have been forced to hedge to get financing, but banks used to be on the other side of the energy transactions, "and now they're not," so the market recognizes there is a lot of "forced selling."

Co-host Gary Kaminsky asked Fisher about trading "against" computers, a curious description. Fisher echoed Larry Altman from an earlier episode, acknowledging it's an environment of "algos" and that "it's completely become mathematical" but suggesting individuals with a longer horizon don't have to get beat as long as they're not trying to day trade and are aware of what's happening. (Translation: Just buy AAPL anytime in the last 20 years and never sell.)

Fisher did differ with last week's guest Bob Olstein in touting biotech, which Olstein suggested is in a sector bubble.

Fisher also drew a contrast with recent guest David Rubenstein, stating "there's still too much complacency" in energy ("you need more panic") and suggesting waiting a year or year and a half for bottom-fishing.

Fisher said an "average investor" can't make money on the front end trading crude, but an "astute" investor can profit from the longer end.

Suzanne Shank, a panelist on the latter half of the show who is very pretty, delivered a headline of sorts in declaring the much-beleaguered city of Chicago in trying to "eliminate some liquidity risk" with recent bond transactions was "very successful in doing so. Those bonds were very much oversubscribed."

Shank revealed that "Greece was great for municipals" because of the flight to quality; Puerto Rico, not so much.

Shank allowed, "Interest rates on the long end could even go lower slightly by year-end."

Scaramucci said we're "technically" in QE3 but that "Operation Twist" has put us "sorta into QE4."

"We are in an age of governmental intervention and some degree of manipulation," Scaramucci said.

In another page out of the Lasry playbook, Deepak Narula explained how his analysis of falling home values during the financial-crisis meltdown showed that mortgage bonds that might be trading for only 20 cents on the dollar were actually "yielding 12 or 15% for 6-7 years."

Besides biotech, Fisher said he likes brokerages and regional banks. Shank said she likes utilities and, curiously, energy. Narula called mortgage REITs "a pretty reasonable buy."

Though there isn't much screen text during the program, "Plently" appeared in a description of Narula's comments.

Study early, party late

Anthony Scaramucci's "Wall Street Week" is quite reliable at providing an array of intriguing perspectives on higher education.

Bob Olstein, in a crisp showing, described a highly effective approach that didn't quite harken back to "The Paper Chase."

"I was a religious student," Olstein said of his time at Michigan State — so religious as to do the work in advance.

"I was one of the few people who read the entire chapter before the professor lectured. I made wide use of time, and that's very important in being a success in life, is to effectively use your time," Olstein said.

"I always studied and was ready to party at 6 o'clock at night," he said.

That might not make him unique among many of the show's other guests, who have repeatedly touted the value of an elite school. But Olstein, a mere Big Tenner, threw that notion on its ear in telling Scaramucci that an "overrated virtue" is "where you graduated from college."

Olstein told an anecdote from his early career as an analyst, explaining how he believed a management fib rather than finding the answers with his own diligent balance-sheet analysis.

Curiously, Olstein spent much of the time referencing past and current companies that he has found to be overvalued, but he revealed "we don't short in the fund anymore" because he was too early for the dot-com names.

One name sort of in that sphere was Lucent. Olstein told co-host Gary Kaminsky that his warning came with the stock in the mid-50s, and within a year or two it was up to 90, and then the unraveling began, all the way to $1 a couple years later. A victory, albeit a delayed one.

He made several references to Netflix but saved most of his concern for ETFs, which he said "are for sophisticated investors" and "impossible" to value.

He warned, "There are a lot more shares outstanding than the sponsors are agreeing to support."

"We're not in a bubble, but there are always bubble segments," Olstein said, pointing to social media and biotech.

One of the show's strengths is its basic definitions of financial terms. Even for pros, it is interesting to hear other people's descriptions.

Olstein and Scaramucci offered a detailed explanation of free cash flow that came down to this: "net income, minus capex, plus depreciation."

Olstein also struck a distinction between "value investing" and "market calls."

Kaminsky suggested that long-term investing involves holding winners and dumping losers. But Olstein curiously stated, "We don't keep our winners and sell our losers."

Olstein pounded the table for GM and DDS, putting a 140 tag on the latter.

He sided with Carl Icahn in Carl's original AAPL gripe, that the company should've been buying back more shares.

Olstein said "Mister Roberts" is his favorite movie.

Don’t be scared of the
word ‘bankruptcy’

For many, 2008-2009 was a debacle.

For Marc Lasry, it was a virtual gold mine.

In a crisp, impressively simple session on Anthony Scaramucci's "Wall Street Week," Lasry explained how he looks to buy debt at 60 cents that is actually worth or going to be worth more like par.

Lasry said this can be found from "non-economic sellers ... somebody who's nervous, somebody who has to sell."

"2008, 2009, great time," Lasry said, adding, "2011, also a really good time."

Lasry said he "kept buying" Ford debt in 2008-09, even though it took some gumption because it continued to fall. Co-host Gary Kaminsky pointed out how that bucks the formula; "traditional equity investing, history says you don't average down. You average up."

Lasry told how he went from Marrakesh to Paris to Hartford, attended public school, then Clark University, and then even driving a truck for UPS.

"It was a blast," he said.

Then, because everyone in his family was either going to be a doctor or lawyer and he didn't like medicine, Lasry enrolled at New York Law School and "did really well."

With expertise in bankrutpcy, he said he played the "massive arbitrage" of being able to pay 50 cents on the dollar for 75 cents worth of assets because the word "bankruptcy" scared people.

After a couple stops, he ended up running $25 million of partners' capital at Cowen, then turned $7 million at Avenue into $14 billion.

However, outsized returns become difficult for larger players. "The niches are just smaller today," Lasry said.

Lasry said today, there are "huge opportunities" in energy. "You don't want to be an equity holder. But you wanna be a senior debt holder" because it either becomes the new equity, or you get paid back at par, he said.

He said that playing the oil space depends on the price of crude, making a "credit play" rather than a "commodity play" on crude forecasts.

"At $50, you wanna be in that senior debt. If it- the oil's at 75, you wanna own equity," he said.

In Europe, the "greatest thing" is the "huge amount of regulatory pressure for banks to sell," Lasry said.

Offering a brief history lesson, he said that during the financial crisis, "Goldman and the other firms" were at 18-1, "Bear was levered 40-1" and Lehman was 35-1, prompting Scaramucci to offer a nice summary on the basics of leverage.

Lasry said Europe is trying to reduce leverage and explained why lucrative debt is being offered. "Anytime a company goes into bankruptcy or has an issue, there's a covenant default, the ECB forces you to take a hit to your capital. So you gotta take a 50-cent hit to your capital," he said. "So it's actually better for the bank to end up selling that loan at 70 cents because then they're only taking a 30-cent hit."

He said in China, you want to buy portfolios of loans rather than individual loans.

Lasry said it's a "blast" co-owning the Milwaukee Bucks, suggesting people "misanalyzed" the value of the team given that future TV contracts would put it above break-even.

Later in the program, Drew Hawkins of Morgan Stanley joined Lasry to tell of an even more imposing task than buying 100 cents of debt for 60 cents on the dollar — advising athletes and entertainers how to save their money.

Lasry said he suggests they "just tell everybody you have no money," which, um, isn't going to be that believable when guys roll up to training camp in $500,000 cars.

Lasry said he knows players who have made $200 million over their careers and have $5 million left. #ouch

Hawkins pointed to a stark SI survey finding that 78% of NFL players are under financial stress or bankrupt within 2 years after retirement. In the NBA, it's 60% after 5 years.

But Hawkins mentioned former Milwaukee Buck and Louisville great Junior Bridgeman as being "extremely successful" in the business world after his playing career.

‘One of the greatest times in the world to invest in carbon-related energy’ (a/k/a being wealthy isn’t necessarily good for you)

Those who have not achieved monstrous instant success in life will be happy to listen to Carlyle co-founder David Rubenstein's comments on Anthony Scaramucci's "Wall Street Week."

"I didn't think I won the 1st third of life. ... The trick is winning the 2nd and 3rd third," Rubenstein said.

Rubenstein revealed how he joined the Jimmy Carter presidential campaign in 1976 while Carter held a 33-point lead, then was named a deputy domestic policy advisor, "a job I really wasn't qualified for, but I enjoyed it."

Somewhat hard to believe, Rubenstein said staffers didn't think Carter could "possibly" lose to Reagan because of Reagan's age, which "we thought was very old."

Rubenstein said he wasn't galvanized by a law career, so he embraced the opportunity to create a private equity group. He said he read that most people who start their own companies do so between age 28 and 37, and he was 37 at the time and decided, "I better get going."

He said there are 5,550 private equity funds today. Scaramucci asked about the decision to take Carlyle public. Rubenstein pointed out obvious reasons, such as having stock to recruit employees and make acquisitions, but instead of just adding that it's a way to raise large amounts of money without ceding much in return, he curiously claimed that it "begins the transfer of wealth from the founders to the next generation" and linked it to signing the Giving Pledge.

Rubenstein told Liz Ann Sonders (stunning as always) (co-host Gary Kaminsky was on vacation) that when 401(k) plans start including private equity options, "that will be the great revolution" in the space.

Pointing to unicorns in Silicon Valley, Rubenstein told Scaramucci that "probably the air will come out of some of the valuations."

In his most provocative point, Rubenstein declared this is "one of the greatest times in the world to invest in carbon-related energy."

He thinks (despite the fact there's nothing for it to do) that Congress would accomplish more if members were to "socialize" with each other.

Firmly entrenched in the country's 1%, it was curious to hear Rubenstein on several occasions suggest that it can be better not having money. He spoke twice of buying Ross Perot's copy of the Magna Carta (he didn't mention Perot's name) for the benefit of the country and described the Giving Pledge and even said "My children have a bit of a disadvantage" in that they and others will have trouble believing they've accomplished anything on their own. (Undoubtedly true on some level, but ... perhaps there's a better choice of words.)

Like most of the show's guests, Rubenstein arrived chock-full of education soundbites. He said that STEM coursework is great, but students also need a "good humanities and arts education" which will help them in "solving problems" and "learning how to communicate."

Determining ‘who’s using computers for the right reasons and the wrong ones’

In the category of Problems People Didn't Know They Had, we have Brad Katsuyama.

Katsuyama is the savvy and eloquent critic of a much-maligned Wall Street cottage industry — High-Frequency Trading — who has launched his own counterattack in the form of IEX.

Katsuyama, who has made media rounds for a year, calls IEX a "lightly regulated exchange" that he hopes will receive SEC approval to become a fully regulated exchange.

Given on Anthony Scaramucci's "Wall Street Week" another chance to make his case, Katsuyama whiffed.

Based on what he said on this program, Katsuyama's chief complaint is that when he puts in an order to buy 100,000 shares of XYZ, he is shown that there is an offer, but when he tries to buy all those shares, he finds that his computer has fooled him, that those 100,000 shares aren't all in the same block but a combination of blocks from multiple exchanges.

Call in the National Guard.

He also decried that in other exchanges, "Someone can buy an edge" by acquiring a faster digital connection, although how one gets ahead by canceling gobs of orders (it is understood that this happens) remained a mystery to the layman viewer.

It may well be true, as Katsuyama and others on business television contend, that HFT is the evil scourge of the financial markets, rewarding slick computer programmers over savvy stock pickers.

But his antidote to such a scene seems blind to technology and fruitlessly in search of a way to turn back the clock. Katsuyama said the challenge is to determine "who's using computers for the right reasons and the wrong ones." Isn't every stock order these days conducted by computer?

An obvious question is whether any stock exchange can guarantee that all users obtain the same data at the same precise instant.

In such a utopia, the results would figure to break randomly so that no one could corner the market on 100,000-share bids and offers for XYZ. Whether that can actually happen — even if all the players involved in HFT actually wanted it to be so — is probably best answered by folks at MIT.

Apparently, IEX aims to provide such a climate. "You will get a consistently fair price on IEX," Katsuyama vows.

Co-host Gary Kaminsky got Katsuyama to point out that the NYSE volume is at least 5 times what IEX gets in a record day, perhaps suggesting the IEX "fair price" promised by Katsuyama might not be the same as the "best price" promised by exchanges.

While demanding convincing soundbites may be a high standard, it's clear Katsuyama, despite an enormous platform of free media that includes "60 Minutes," has failed to make much of a dent. The NYSE and Nasdaq still exist. The public doesn't understand what he's talking about.

Later on the show, Steven Einhorn delivered an upbeat take on the equity markets, suggesting the bull market might have years left and stating that on average, stocks rise for 30 months after the first rate hike and at a minimum of 10 months.

Unlike on most shows, Anthony Scaramucci asked for no details on Brad Katsuyama's hometown and first job.

Byron Wien: ‘The next
recession is years away’

Either a straight shooter, or a little bit tone-deaf — or both — Byron Wien on "Wall Street Week" pronounced bank regulation highly counterproductive.

"I think, uh, regulation is an enormous time-waster," Wien said.

Rather diplomatically, host Anthony Scaramucci cut in to explain that "the regulation is actually designed to protect the institution and protect its safety to the consumer and to the investor," then invited Wien to continue.

Praising the Fed's moves during the financial crisis, Wien said, "They did the right thing."

But, he continued, "They laid on a lot of regulation to prevent 2008 from happening again ... the regulation is making things difficult. I'm not in a position to judge whether that's right or wrong; all I know is, it takes a lot of time."

So, evidently, when bankers turn the housing market into a carnival and need a lifeline, taxpayers should foot the bill and not occupy too much of bankers' time.

Wien suggested that the regulatory funk is "one of the reasons Ruth Porat, you know, left to go to work for Google."

Scaramucci seemed to side with Wien, asserting regulation has "slowed down the ability for banks to lend," hurting the economy.

Panelist Amy Butte chipped in, "Part of the regulation though, um, has made it less, uh, profitable if you will to service the small investor."

An occasional guest on financial media, Wien thus is not the most exclusive "get" of Scaramucci in this venue, but his frank observations of the financial world were a nice throwback to the Louis Rukeyser era and delivered one of the new series' best episodes.

Wien offered a stark assessment of John Edwards' purported 2 Americas (Wien didn't mention Edwards) when co-host Gary Kaminsky asked what's happened to the savings from lower gasoline.

"I think half of the people in America go to bed scared every night," Wien said, stating that people are only spending 50 cents of every dollar saved on gasoline, the rest going to debt and savings.

Continuing with one of the show's implicit themes — the way to get rich is to go to the Ivy League, implied by Gen. David Petraeus and Lee Cooperman and others — Wien, the star guest of the program, said, "I went to Harvard, and it changed my life."

He revealed that he started working at age 15 in Chicago. "I worked every day after school and Saturdays and all vacations," he said, while getting straight A's.

His principal, outlining apparent admissions policy, told him, "Harvard is looking for smart kids in public schools to balance those snooty prep school kids that they've got from the east," and asked Wien to go there.

Wien referred to making "a thousand times my money" in biotech, specifically BIIB and GILD.

But in a curious characterization of long-term stockholding, he asserted, "The greatest tax shelter in the history of the world is the fact that they don't tax appreciation of securities," which omits the fact that you don't actually get the money from the appreciation until you sell.

He suggested, intriguingly, most retail investors are overdoing it. "They look at their portoflio, they have 30 stocks, they feel great 'cause they're diversified. I think most portfolios are overdiversified," Wien said.

Wien explained that early in his career, he nearly got fired because he wasn't adept at stock-picking. He told Kaminsky, "I began to use technical analysis, and uh, and, technical analysis helped me a lot."

He said he predicted an early 2015 move by the Fed that hasn't happened, but, "I think the Fed is dying to go," and so he sees a September hike.

"The next recession is years away," Wien said.

He sees "opportunities" in junk bonds, especially high-yield energy names.

"I'm sort of a minor bull on oil," he said.

In 2016, "I think it's gonna be Jeb Bush against Hillary," Wien said.

Michael Cahill, who with Butte served as a panelist for the latter portion of the program, predicted "a lot of M&A activity" in the semiconductor space in coming years.

Cahill likes MLNX.

Cahill predicted oil will stay "prolonged period in a lower range."

Butte pronounced the stock market "in good shape." For an actionable trade, Cahill likes LBTYB. Butte rather passively could only suggest making sure you "balance" your portfolio.

China good, Fed bad

Maybe they've got something going here.

The latest installment of Anthony Scaramucci's "Wall Street Week" got a spark from author/Forbes editor John Tamny, who seems to view the People's Republic of China barely a notch below Steve Jobs.

Tamny declared that "easily one of the happiest stories of modern time is the rise of China," crediting its "unreal" skill at capitalism.

Gary Kaminsky, who donned a tremendous jacket, tried to push back, questioning the worth of having 7,000 skyscrapers in Shanghai if on average they're nearly half-empty.

Tamny's answer was, "Central planning cannot build what you see in Shanghai," which seems hard to believe; he praised the country for its "remarkable embrace" of capitalism and said the better China gets, the better America gets.

But back in America, Tamny called it "a juvenile thing" for the Fed to be decreeing low rates instead of just letting them "float."

"They love the attention," he said of Fed chiefs.

Tamny also called it a "tragedy" that there's a perception that economic growth = inflation, saying rather controversially that U.S. stocks "would be much higher" without QE.

The star guest of the program was actually Bruce Richards, who told of his upbringing in Brooklyn and Maryland and working in his father's hardware store and sleeping in a sleeping bag for a few weeks at his Goldman banker cousin's New York apartment while job-hunting on Wall Street. (A rough cut preceded Richards' mention of working for Jamie Dimon.)

Richards had a knack for dramatizing basic stats, such as the growth in Chinese GDP this century. Like Tamny, he's impressed.

"You have to take your hats off to China," Richards said, though he never answered Scaramucci's question as to whether he's worried about a Chinese credit or housing or stock bubble.

Scaramucci enlisted Richards to give viewers a primer on the credit markets. Richards, as earnest a guest as there's been, also gave a primer on muni bonds and explained that he likes the Puerto Rican Electric Power Authority because he thinks the operation can be improved while pointing out (in slightly overextended remarks) the triple-tax-exempt status of Puerto Rican bonds.

Richards predicted U.S. stocks are limited to 3-5% and that the opportunity is in Europe.

The 3rd guest, Ramius' Jeffrey Solomon, said, it's a "pretty sanguine time" for U.S. equities and also said "sanguine" another time.

Solomon pounded the table for biotech on the rationale of "personalized medicine." But his favorite catchphrase was the "consumerization of health care," stating this process was well underway before Obamacare.

Solomon said "if you're a hospital system and you're not, uh, up to speed on quality patient care, you probably end up in a bad spot," which hopefully was the case long before Obamacare.

Solomon predicted the Fed funds rate would be less than 1% by the end of 2016.

Taking stock of ‘Wall Street Week’

As the reborn "Wall Street Week" delivered its 10th episode (see below), a progress report is in order.

Identity — After 10 episodes, it remains unclear what "Wall Street Week" is trying to be. We mostly know what it is not.

It is not a news program; the prior week's market data and business headlines are rarely mentioned.

It is not a debate. No one takes exception to virtually anything a guest says.

It is certainly not a redo of the Louis Rukeyser original. That is not necessarily bad, although it might have thrown some people's expectations for a curve.

There are elements of biography, wealth-management infomercial and Wall Street political platform. Stock-picking occasionally occurs but rarely registers and almost feels unwanted. Biography is an appealing concept, but there isn't enough time here for "Inside the Actors Studio."

Without a galvanizing theme, lapses occur. Mike Novogratz mistakenly reversed Uber's wage formula and was not corrected. In an entire program, no one ever explained what it is Ken Langone actually does.

Broadening the base — Scaramucci's guest list has been A- or at a minimum a B+. But nearly all of the guests are occasionally seen on other business television. Some elite hedge fund types reveal about as much as Jordan Spieth. All kinds of people out there have an opinion about money or Wall Street, from Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson to Dakota Johnson to Oliver Stone to Mitt Romney to Dick Fuld to Brian Williams. Those types of gets would put the show in a different realm.

Scenery — Whether there are shades or not, Times Square remains a distraction. Some flashing sign about Kristin Cavallari during the Ken Langone interview seemed provocative.

Frontman — Anthony Scaramucci has been more interested in comparing hometowns than pushing buttons. It seems there might have been an overreaction in the green room to the first episode, which endured a fair amount of reasonable criticism on social media but also had several high points that were overlooked (see review below). It's a new show; make a mistake, forget about it, move on. Make something happen. Scaramucci might not be comfortable opining on certain financial data given his position. But after quickly ditching a monologue, he is not adequately introducing his guests. There is big-time potential here for good cop/bad cop that is not being realized. Most of the specifics are being elicited by co-host Gary Kaminsky, whose banter with Scaramucci was squelched after the first episode; the two often seem more like recent acquaintances than longtime friends.

The Web version of "Wall Street Week" is very impressive. Cleanly formatted, very easy to use, a cut above typical business-media sites. In cyberspace, it's fighting a difficult battle to stand out in an enormous forest. Whether audiences can be trained to look up 30-minute videos is highly uncertain at best. Television is still the holy grail of media. "Wall Street Week" is a bonus for the business media consumer. Nobody has to watch it. As long as it's airing (in select markets), there's potential. Scaramucci from the beginning has seemed determined to make this work; it's too early to bet against him.

Ken Langone likens ZIRP to China’s one-child policy

Ken Langone on "Wall Street Week" delivered the same interest-rate argument that most Fed critics deliver on business television:

The emotional one.

"We've gotta get rates back to a point where risk is proper," Langone said, suggesting it's not an issue of inflation or mathematics, but charging someone who wants to borrow money a "proper" rate.

Without implying dire consequences as some do, Langone said the Fed "messed with nature" in crafting current policy in the same way the Chinese did with their population.

Langone's critique of government didn't stop with the Fed.

"Isn't there something tragically wrong with a system where my wife and I get $4,000 a month from the government?" he asked, before drawing an inaccurate parallel to "fire insurance."

Langone declared his support for Chris Christie, explaining, "He tells it like it is."

Host Anthony Scaramucci opined, "We haven't gotten much help from the Congress and the president," before actually wondering aloud if the country is ready for "reform-based government."

Scaramucci observed, "The country seems to like people that are overpromising them and overspending," which does not exactly seem like a revelation.

For those keeping score, Langone curiously offered SLB as a name similar to the early version of Home Depot. He also likes AOG, WLL, PH and ETN, plus LLY.

Gen. David Petraeus explains what college really accomplishes

Gen. David Petraeus, a curious guest of "Wall Street Week," let something slip on the June 14 episode.

Host Anthony Scaramucci asked Petraeus about the importance of an elite education.

"I think it helps a great deal. In part it is just the selection that takes place to get to an elite university," Petraeus answered.

So there it is, on the record — more effect than cause.

It's not really what is learned. They're all teaching the same things anyway. What matters is being chosen. Colleges aren't doing the educating but the culling.

Lee Cooperman indicated as much a week earlier when he explained that a master's from Columbia opened the door to Goldman Sachs.

Petraeus' advice? "Go to the very best school that you possibly can, can get into and, you know, go broke attending it if you have to. Because it's the best investment that a parent can make, uh, in a child," he said.

Exactly. Do whatever it takes to make the cut, so that your odds of making the next cut are that much greater, and that will pay for the cost of making the first cut.

If we just make enough cuts, then life will take us all the way up into Social Security/Medicare/401(k)/pension land and we'll all be happy.

Petraeus humorously called cyberspace an "enormous" threat to the U.S. (Which makes it reassuring to know that classified material, even that handled by CIA chiefs and secretaries of state, is not that often unsecured.)

Petraeus — and this page takes no pleasure in pointing this out — must be one of the rare West Point and Princeton graduates to have pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. Many misdemeanors are inconsequential. This one derailed an extraordinary government career and chance at the presidency.

Which makes it somewhat ironic that Petraeus, asked by co-host Gary Kaminsky about the importance of discipline, answered affirmatively, "It's focus. Uh, it is, um, obviously commitment. ... Folks don't- don't succeed uh by going in halfway or just putting in a normal day."

Petraeus didn't sound fully comfortable on all subjects. He was most at ease discussing the situation in Iraq and the Export-Import Bank. Physically he looked uncomfortable for the entire program, seated in an oddly hunched way for the nation's preeminent general.

He said his favorite recent movie is "American Sniper."

It wasn't clear if he thinks SHAK is overvalued.

In the last 2 weeks, "Wall Street Week" has featured Lee Cooperman discussing radical Islamic fundamentalism and David Petraeus discussing the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Lee Cooperman: One of Americans’ ‘2 major problems’ over next decade is radical Islamic fundamentalism

Lee Cooperman, the star guest of the latest chapter of "Wall Street Week," said the "2 major problems" facing Americans over the next decade are "income disparity" and "radical Islamic fundamentalism."

"I think we have to deal with these issues," Cooperman said, and while he surely has numbered plans for doing so, he wasn't asked what should be done, particularly about the latter.

It's a curious list of 2.

And you've gotta think, if these are our 2 biggest concerns, we're going to do OK.

If asked, we'd have to nominate the old standbys, cancer and probably Alzheimer's, perhaps autism.

Colbert Narcisse, another guest, pointed to the country's "very decrepit infrastructure."

Anthony Scaramucci suggested pensions.

Unfortunately this episode more than any other resembled a high-net-worth infomercial, as panelists touted active management, managed futures, alternative investing and simply avoiding index funds.

Startlingly absent was any mention of the subpoena received by Cooperman's firm, Omega Advisors, a subject Cooperman vigorously discussed recently on CNBC's Halftime Report.

Cooperman pointed out that Warren Buffett, Stan Druckenmiller and Mario Gabelli did not achieve their wealth through index funds.

"Buying an index fund is looking to the future through a rear-view mirror," Cooperman said.

Holly Newman Kroft, who is extremely good-looking, made a reference to the "ultra-ultra-high-net-worth client."

Cooperman rattled off 4 things that cause a bear market, which is at least one too many things to list here.

"The bubble is not in the stock market. If there's a bubble, it's in the bond market," Cooperman said.

Cooperman twice on the program touted CIM and also recommended C, which he called a "world-class franchise."

Cooperman gave Gary Kaminsky an estimate of "5 to 8%" total return in the S&P for the next 3-5 years. In a curious list, Cooperman stated, "there's only 4 things you can do with money."

Beginning with, "No. 1 is, you can consume it. I'm not an art collector, so I can't really consume my money," said Cooperman, although "consume" seems a bit of an awkward term for buying things.

He also said you can also give it to your children, give it to Uncle Sam, or "give it back to society."

He omitted that you also can not work, or travel at will, or avoid in certain ways dealing with health insurers, none of which seem to fall under his categories.

Asked by Scaramucci about his background, Cooperman rattled it off so quickly, it was too hard to keep pace.

"I've been living the American Dream," said Cooperman.

Later in the program, Scaramucci asked his best array of questions in the series, asking Cooperman if he gets flak over fees, whether a correction is good for his business, and what he's thinking about the 2016 race, although his question about Cooperman being "addicted" to stocks felt like filler.

In the show's Web extra, Cooperman is asked by Gary Kaminsky about penning an "open letter" to the president a few years ago.

"I got audited by the IRS but I don't know if there's any cause and effect," Cooperman chuckled, before taking issue with class warfare. "To tell the 99% they're being screwed by the 1% is just wrong."

How much of AAPL’s current price is attributable to Tim Cook? (a/k/a What does Carl Icahn really think of Warren Buffett?)

Nobody ever thinks about it or suggests it.

But Carl Icahn has a knack for entertaining.

If he wanted to try standup, he'd likely succeed, though that's partly because he succeeds at seemingly everything.

Icahn is funny, as some people are, in how he quotes conversations with others.

If you ask Carl what somebody said to him about something, you're likely to get an amusing response.

Such was the case on the latest installment of Anthony Scaramucci's "Wall Street Week," which was sort of a "bye" week, but not one without some substantive content.

Scaramucci aired additional material from Icahn's appearance a few weeks ago in which the Wall Street great told the host and co-host Gary Kaminsky of hitting bottom in 1962 and bouncing back — in a huge way — in the options market.

"I was the honest broker, so to speak," said Icahn, at times a controversial figure given his previous renegade perception but nowadays more often regarded as a national treasure of investing.

Icahn said he lives by the code, "If somebody gives you money to manage, you owe them your fealty."

But he explained how in the 1960s, he diverged with his partners, who were smitten with the IPO business while Carl was finding some of the offerings ludicrous. "Well one of 'em said, 'Well I'm leavin' the firm then.' And I said, 'God bless you, leave the firm,' I got the stock back. From the guy. ... So I owned the whole firm."

Icahn said he learned, "You can have partners, or you can have money."

Also in the broadcast was a rehash of commentary in the earlier episode regarding Apple and the bond market, in which Icahn hilariously revealed, "At that time, there were guys callin' me and sayin', 'Hey, we gotta get rid of this Tim Cook.' And I met him, and I said, 'This guy's great.'"

"Week" so far has yet to get into debates (or anywhere near them). Kaminsky tried to make a provocative point (and essentially succeeded) with an intriguing comparison of Icahn's AAPL investment with Warren Buffett's IBM investment, but Icahn was reluctant to draw conclusions. If debates do happen, one intriguing place to start would be the amount of value added of Tim Cook's stewardship of Apple.

This page is not doubting Icahn's assessment, only asking the question.

If the CEO was Marissa Mayer instead of Tim Cook, would the stock be any higher? Lower?

Icahn Part 2 had some quality moments, but the presence of this episode this soon further suggests there will not be an emphasis on timely market info and calls and that delivering cleanup hitters on a weekly basis, as Scaramucci has mostly done, is a challenge. As has happened in other interviews, Scaramucci tends to make observations while the guest is talking and thus are difficult to hear. "Week" is still in need of a hook, besides the caliber of guest, that sets it apart.

Can you outtrade a pro?

Those interested in beating the Street could infer much from Larry Altman's appearance on the 6th installment of the new "Wall Street Week."

Co-host Gary Kaminsky suggested that those "watching business TV" who have the urge to outtrade professionals have about the same odds of winning as "going to the casino."

Altman didn't quite go that far, stating that trading requires a recognition of what's really happening, that "when the computer sees a big order, it follows it."

Kaminsky persisted, questioning whether mom and pop investors at home even know how to watch these computers.

"They're not really watching it; they just have to know that they're there," said Altman, suggesting that's how GPRO went from 30 to 100.

So it seems fair to say that to succeed, you don't have to write your own algorithms, but you have to understand something about momentum.

In its early stages, "Wall Street Week" has struggled to find the right tone. The first episode was criticized, probably rightly so, for being too chummy, but subsequent airings have sent the pendulum too far in the other direction, at times almost making investing feel like estate planning.

Altman explained that "trading is about pattern recognition." What didn't come up is that for many people, trading is simply about fun; the rent money is in the bank and the retirement money's in the index fund and here's how we're going to strike it rich on GoPro, Shake Shack, etc.

The show's primary guest, Jim Chanos, admitted he's an art collector.

That didn't stop him from calling BID "a very poor way" to play the art market, claiming last year's revenues in real terms are hardly different than 1989 and that it faces a headwind of "the rise of the superdealers."

Furthermore, "In every bear market, Sotheby's usually goes into single digits," Chanos claimed.

Introduced by Anthony Scaramucci as "the greatest short seller of all time," Chanos delivered thoughtful and eloquent descriptions of his background and his specialty.

He said that in 1979 and 1980, "nobody wanted to work on Wall Street," and he actually made more money working 2 months as a union pipefitter at a steel mill than in his first year on Wall Street including bonus.

Chanos indicated he got his start at shorting by studying Baldwin United, the parent of the piano company. "It turned out to be a giant fraud," he said, revealing that after just a few years as an analyst, he started his own firm in 1985.

Chanos said he's only a cynic "in the classic sense of the Greek definition."

Explaining the concept, he said that "anybody that receives cash up front for delivering goods or services in the future is engaged in short selling."

In some ways, yes, but not all.

"Insurance is a giant short-selling scheme," Chanos said, but that's a dim way of looking at it; both sides are hoping the policy goes to zero.

He said he'd be "very leery" of names such as Chevron, Royal Dutch and Petrobras that are "running negative cash flow after capital spending," but his "actionable" idea at the end of the program was to short North American frackers across the board.

That discussion was good for the show's timeliness, but Chanos wasn't asked about his curious long-term short of Caterpillar, a stock that refuses to fall below $80.

At times, the "Week" dialogue has been choppy; Chanos at one point told Scaramucci that now is a time for "less risk" in the market, only to have Scaramucci ask him if now is a time for less risk.

Back in the Times Square studio, despite the presence of window shades, a semi-regular billboard of a woman in a Hard Rock Cafe T-shirt proves an odd image next to the portrait of Louis Rukeyser.

Altman at least 3 times referred to a liquidity drain not just in the bond markets but everywhere (except presumably art), concluding with "There is no liquidity in the markets."

He said the Fed wants to raise rates but is "so petrified of what the markets may do."

Chanos explained that the 2008 crash was a slow unwind that didn't scare him as much as the 1987 crash, when he was afraid of getting paid because it happened so fast.

Mike Novogratz: ‘I think Obama will go down as a disappointment’

          Posted: May 17, 2015

"I think Obama will, will go down as a disappointment," Wall Street titan Michael Novogratz told Anthony Scaramucci and Gary Kaminsky on "Wall Street Week."

"If you're a historian, he probably was just another OK president. The expectation, uh, the hopes and dreams of so many people ... were so high," said Novogratz, referring to himself as a "center-left guy."

"I think deep down, while he gives a great speech and he's very smart and intellectual, he didn't really want or understand what it took to, to be the president," he said.

"You know, Clinton was famous for constantly workin' the system, congressmen and senators, to, to advance his agenda. You know we hear constantly from our contacts at the Hill that Obama just never (inaudible)," he said.

Novogratz is the president of Fortress Investment Group, an investment management company founded as a private equity firm.

He said he is "not yet" supporting a 2016 candidate but believes Hillary Clinton, with her "tight baggage," has continued to "unfortunately make her road more challenging."

As the new "Wall Street Week," now up to 5 episodes, unfolds, it is still experiencing growing pains. Novogratz made an interesting observation about technology and Uber that unfortunately included a significant error that went unchecked.

Novogratz said that in the last 35 years, "The percentage of earnings that go to capital vs. labor has shrunk," and he pointed to a conversation with Uber's CEO in which the CEO discussed margin improvement.

"Roughly, employees- their drivers get between 20 and 25% of the fee. Of the fare. And, the thought was, if we could raise that to 25 to 30% on new drivers, maybe grandfather the old guys in, uh, our margins would go up," Novogratz said.

Of course, it would make no sense to give your employees 5-percentage-point raises and expect improved margins.

Numerous articles indicate that Novogratz merely reversed his numbers, that drivers collect about 80% of the fare and that Uber presumably is looking to up its share from 20-25% to 25-30%.

Novogratz said Uber has the "holy triumvirate" of happy customers, happy employees and happy investors, so why mess with the margins.

"Because we can," is what the CEO told him, Novogratz said.

The (hair-challenged) show also featured tennis great Andre Agassi, who with his wife gives enormous amounts to charity, and hedge funder Bobby Turner discussing their philanthropic endeavors, specifically charter schools.

"We bring accountability to the great cause," Turner said, outlining the primary argument against public schools mentioned often not only by Republicans but moneyed Democrats such as Whitney Tilson.

Turner said he attended Baltimore public schools. Agassi said he attended public schools through 8th grade, then dropped out in 9th grade because of his tennis potential.

Scaramucci should've pressed the two for more of a contrast between what a charter school accomplishes over a public school, other than presumably having newer and greater resources.

Turner said they provide "an opportunity for, for kids that candidly if they were relegated to the public school systems would never have the opportunity to achieve."

Mr. Smith goes to SALT (with an intriguing business idea: breadstick sandwiches Buy 5 times your needed capacity and force yourself to grow into it)

          Posted: May 11, 2015

The latest installment of "Wall Street Week" showed why a savvy interviewer sometimes needs to be a sharp interrupter.

Jeff Smith, asked by Anthony Scaramucci for his first job out of college, skipped the first couple years of investment banking to explain the slightly complicated backstory of joining his father's citrus fruit business.

It's a refreshing story. However, like they say, everyone needs an editor.

Smith's unabridged details, coming at the top of the program, not only consumed 2-3 minutes of prime television real estate but failed to circle all the bases (namely, why his father would build a manufacturing facility that was 5 times too large for his business and whether this occurred after the 1st contract manufacturer closed up, or perhaps the inferior 2nd).

After a couple minutes, co-host Gary Kaminsky cut to the chase, asking for the end result of Smith's stint in the citrus business. This answer too was extended, requiring more background as Smith ultimately explained that they looked to hotels and restaurants to expand beyond the traditional grocery store space.

What Scaramucci really needed was to get Smith to say in a couple soundbites, "I was working in investment banking when my father asked for help growing his fresh-squeezed juice business; we turned to hotel and restaurant wholesale and ratcheted prices down to sink our competitors."

One has to think that former CNBC superprogrammer Susan Krakower, who helms the production, wouldn't mind a little clashing, but so far Scaramucci is leaving the floor to his guests and looking for things to agree on.

Fortunately, unlike with the earlier Barry Rosenstein interview, Scaramucci and Kaminsky asked Smith, who runs Starboard Value, to opine on specific companies. Mostly Smith stuck to generalities regarding Yahoo and Brinks, but a Darden quip was headline-worthy: "We're about to come out with breadstick sandwiches."

"Wall Street Week" has uncovered rare fertile ground in encouraging elite guests to discuss their backgrounds. However, Scaramucci might consider moving these segments to the middle of the program, after the guests have relaxed a bit and rattled off their market outlook. There's an "Inside the Actors Studio" element here, but those interviews last a couple hours and are edited down to 1.

Much of Smith's advocacy of activist investing sounded similar to what Barry Rosenstein (and to a lesser extent, Carl Icahn) said on a previous episode; expect to hear in future episodes refrains about making companies better for the long term and most managements liking us.

Larry Fink should start demanding royalties for the mileage his activist-investing letter has given business media.

Something Scaramucci excels at is asking people where they're from or simply mentioning it to the viewer. Always a great start to any conversation and highly underrated.

However, he inexplicably didn't bother with former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou ... who actually was born in Minnesota.

In an eloquent though brief description of a situation that has proved too boring and boy-who-cried-wolfish even for daily business TV viewers, Papandreou asserted that "We've kicked the can down the road" (haven't heard that one before) but then, remarkably earnestly, seemed to actually say that they might stop kicking the can down the road.

Papandreou said there are "no clear contingency plans" if a bailout deal fails.

There were no viewer questions, and no panelists.

While Smith and Papandreou were fine guests, Episode 4 was a slight disappointment in the lack of firepower from SALT. The highlight of the program was probably the closing summary by Scaramucci and Kaminsky of conferencegoers' views.

Scaramucci said most participants think the markets in 12 months will be higher. Kaminsky opined that he thinks, finally, that "indexing, or just buying the index ... is truly dead."

He admitted, "I may live to regret this, because I know this is gonna be on tape."

Carl Icahn’s simple advice:
Read a book (or 3)

          Posted: May 4, 2015

It started at the poker table.

Carl Icahn's humble beginnings proved a rich source of material for the reborn "Wall Street Week," which successfully went back to the basics in its 3rd episode.

"I'm very concerned about the market" and "very hedged," Icahn said, and he finds the junk bond market "ridiculously high," but the highlight was the remarkably laid-back conversation about his youth with Anthony Scaramucci and Gary Kaminsky that proved nearly as revealing as Diane Sawyer's chat with Bruce Jenner (but NOT for the same reason).

Icahn revealed how, faced with paying for $750 room and board at Princeton, he found a way.

A cabana boy at the Malibu Beach Club after "I talked my way into it," he was invited into a poker game and lost all his money, he said.

So, "I read 3 books on poker," Icahn explained, realizing, "these guys never read a book on it in their lives. And it's all mathematics, it really is.

"At the end of the summer, I had 2 grand. 2,000. And that's when room and board was only 750," he said, adding he had $10,000 saved after 4 years of college.

Portraying himself a rebel, Icahn made clear he identified with the "reform-school guys" and matter-of-factly observed, "My parents never thought I'd amount to too much."

His unusual career path included a stint in medical school, then the Army, where the conversation paused for a break.

Turning to the markets and activist investing, Icahn raised many of the points he regularly mentions on business television, that some "idiot" CEOs get in the way of corporate success, that there's too much euphoria in certain markets, that Apple's the rare no-brainer company for investors.

Icahn explained that he does agree with Larry Fink (whose recent letter has provided material for 2 shows already) that some purported activist investors are only interested in a quick buck; "these are guys that do pump-and-dump."

He re-endorsed Tim Cook, an observation flagged by Kaminsky "on the record."

Kaminsky asked exactly how Icahn hedges his notable long stock positions. Icahn admitted that with Apple, "You can't really hedge it that much" but said he uses derivatives, specifically credit swaps.

The production saw some notable streamlining from the first 2 episodes. Gone were the flashing signs of Times Square in favor of a sedate Big Apple backdrop. Scaramucci's Rukeyser-esque greeting of the star guest was scrapped, as were the opening commentary and the presence of any panelists.

If do-overs are possible, they'd probably like to do the same for Jeffrey Gundlach, who coincidentally like Icahn issued a warning about high-yield markets and has an equally interesting backstory (once in a band) that went essentially unaddressed.

But they disagree on at least 1 thing: Gundlach called investing both an art and a science; Icahn said, "Market's an art, not a science."

Timeliness remains something of a headwind for a program with "Week" in the title. Statistical market updates are not presented. Icahn wasn't asked about current CEOs with whom he's at odds or about his recent thoughts on Herbalife or Netflix.

While several questions centered on AAPL, there was a decent one that went unasked — what could possibly derail the growth? (The answer figures to be, "If anyone makes a better phone.")

Icahn didn't seem as concerned as Scaramucci about undercapitalized pension funds.

Over 3 episodes, "Wall Street Week" has featured panels of varying sizes. One wonders whether Scaramucci and Kaminsky need any panelists. Guests on the first 2 programs had widely varying areas of expertise not easily addressed in a half-hour program. With Icahn solo for the duration, there were no distractions.

Scaramucci could stand to hone the comedic timing, this time tossing a bathing-suit joke at Kaminsky while Kaminsky and Icahn were catching up on old neighborhoods.

In closing, Kaminsky asked Icahn for his thoughts about the president of the United States."

"I think some of the things he does is OK," Icahn said.

Laurence Fink issues
an indirect clarification

          Posted: April 27, 2015

The highlight of Episode 2 of the reborn "Wall Street Week" came from someone who wasn't even on the program.

Star guest Barry Rosenstein told of crossing paths with Laurence Fink at an unnamed restaurant and Fink — according to Rosenstein's version — backpedaling like Darrelle Revis on his apparent shot across the bow at activist investors.

"The first thing he said to me was, 'You know, everybody interprets this as my being anti-activist. I'm not. And I don't think he was. I think he's just saying, you know, that companies shouldn't knee-jerk, just, you know, return capital," Rosenstein said.

As the program concluded its 2nd week, some obvious adjustments were made, but enlisting guests to do some reporting probably was not one of them. (Although ... man ... some of them sure would dig up some interesting stuff.)

Shades were drawn on Times Square, jokes and nicknames and skin compliments took the week off, and Episode 1's 5-person panel that resembled CNBC's Fast Money crew was shrunk to a quiet 4.

Identity, however, remained as elusive as in the debut.

Host Anthony Scaramucci, freed from having to re-detail the creation of the show and his interest in it, delivered a much more condensed monologue that promptly pronounced Americans "overfed, underslept and overworked," not to mention "drowning in debt and "critically undersaved."

(Meanwhile, stock averages just hit all-time highs.)

Scaramucci curiously drew parallels of the savings rate and national debt to 1972, when the original "Wall Street Week" debuted (#NixonNow).

Yet those references had virtually nothing to do with the rest of the show — the basics of activist investing and prospects in China.

His opening exchange with Gary Kaminsky, in which Kaminsky singled out dollar strength and bund yields, was a smooth upgrade from the debut's extended solo act.

However, the introduction of the star guest, Rosenstein, again proved slightly clumsy as Springsteen-Billy Joel comparisons (that's something even Rukeyser could've officiated; we're talking 50somethings here, not the Gaga crowd) interrupted Scaramucci's formal description of Rosenstein's career.

Rosenstein's chat with Scaramucci and Kaminsky was relaxed and thoughtful but also frustratingly chock-full of generalities.

Scaramucci read a viewer question (just 1, unlike the original show) as to how the mom-and-pop investor can make an activism play. Rosenstein answered with the least likely option first, identifying your own target and "hopefully one of the activists shows up and agrees" before suggesting the viewer can try "mutual funds that focus on activism."

Rosenstein told Scaramucci that in terms of innings of the current activist-investing cycle, we're at least beyond 5½; "it's an official game, even if it starts to rain."

Rosenstein patiently explained his own activist approach, the most intriguing part being his description of his background, how investment banking was a hot field when he graduated and how he was impressed by Asher Edelman and used his "5 o'clock trick" to secure an interview. (Undoubtedly many viewers were mulling Bud Fox's box of Cuban cigars.)

He got no complaints, other than Kaminsky's mention of Larry Fink. Nor was he asked to defend the values of his lucrative business model. Activist perceptions are different now than in the 1980s, but it's worth noting not everyone is a fan; as Gordon Gekko put it, "I don't have any illusions about winning a popularity contest."

But Rosenstein clearly made a fine impression. Guest panelist Amy Butte declared moments later, "Wow ... I kinda wanted to go out and buy all the stocks that he's an activist in," something that's not likely for viewers because Jana positions weren't mentioned in the program.

Eric Peters agreed that Rosenstein is an "impressive guy."

But Peters' questioning of Rosenstein's comment about Japan being less welcoming to activists would've been far more interesting had it been brought up with Rosenstein himself, except Rosenstein was no longer on the panel, a change from the Jeffrey Gundlach interview of Episode 1 and a sign of the show's uncertain format.

Peters proved highly prepared on China, almost too well-prepared with too many talking points for the time his panel was allotted.

Timeliness is a big departure from Rukeyer's show, originally titled "Week" for a reason. Scaramucci's version so far is more like a quarterly, with observations on long-term trends. The 2nd episode even spurned the "actionable investment" conclusion. Rukeyser references were minimal and in fact may become too gratuitous and might just fade away. But one of the original's strengths was Rukeyer's recap of the weekly stock and bond market closing averages. This time frame, amazingly in today's competitive media environment, remains fertile because business TV channels are preoccupied with hourly and daily trends. Yet, viewers of the new "Wall Street Week" have yet to hear whether the preceding 7 days were good ones or bad ones.

None of that probably matters. The all-important question is whether, after viewing this program, Wall Street bigwigs are going to be more likely to call Scaramucci, or less. It's still the early innings.

Back to CNBCfix home

Reborn ‘Wall Street Week’
doesn’t quite take you back
to Owings Mills

          Posted: April 23, 2015

By all accounts, Anthony Scaramucci restarted "Wall Street Week" to replicate the original folksy intellectualism of the longtime Louis Rukeyser staple.

But his April 19 debut almost looked like he was replicating Friday's episode of CNBC's "Fast Money."

The new "Week," spearheaded by Scaramucci and former CNBC titan Susan Krakower, delivered thoughtful commentary and sobering assessments but, rather than couches and a dinner table, came inexplicably parked smack in the Times Square amusement park in which Rukeyser's portrait seems as natural as Warren Buffett at a Gaga concert.

The first show demonstrated that Scaramucci's capacity to put together a panel and deliver a guest is indeed formidable.

It also demonstrated a stark, almost egregious departure from Rukeyser's homespun environment and format that are supposedly the inspiration for reviving the label.

Anthony Scaramucci

The old and new seem to share one characteristic: No arguing. Scaramucci in his introduction billed the program as the "one central place to learn how real wealth is created ... without the screaming and the yelling and the histrionics."

Obviously taking that notion seriously, Scaramucci dispensed as much camaraderie as stock advice.

Yet the signature moment resembled much more today's blogosphere than yesterday's wealth-creation advice: a bleak warning about a looming crash in a significant sector of the financial markets.

Reflecting the collegial environment, smiles abounded throughout a program dominated by talk of a bond crisis, deflation and yield desperation. (No one dwelled on the fact the stock markets were around all-time highs; in the original program "Week" was a significant part of the title as Rukeyser would recap the numbers.)

The show, despite almost no other graphics, carried a constant label for the Web site. That's fine as a resource, but it's important to note that the TV version, despite sponsorship, is not syndicated; Scaramucci is paying for airtime in big cities, and it's a fair question as to whether the Web site is intended to be a supplement, a fallback option, or the end game.

Jeffrey Gundlach

For the first episode, the glitches, worth noting, are not a big deal. If Scaramucci can produce the kind of material that gets noticed by wire services (in the debut, it was Jeffrey Gundlach's high-yield credit warning), "Wall Street Week" will be relevant.

But if the goal is to set itself apart from typical cable TV business fare, "Wall Street Week" is strangely digging itself a hole.

The debut, with 5 people spread around a sparkling desk overlooking Times Square images of girls in Hard Rock Cafe T-shirts, remarkably resembled CNBC's "Fast Money" — perhaps not coincidentally one of Krakower's last big projects at Englewood Cliffs.

"Fast Money" actually has the superior layout, with the host in the middle (Scaramucci was positioned on the viewers' far left) and not as many instances of panelists leaning across the desk to speak to each other.

Surely it has the better sound, as Scaramucci's panelists were often heard as if microphones were a few feet away.

Long an excellent guest on CNBC and Fox Business/News, Scaramucci showed that hosting is another realm.

His monologue, while enthusiastic, was choppy and devoted to résumé. He spoke of the appeal of the original "Week" in middle-class homes such as his own, only to tout his Tufts/Harvard academic background and the fact he's presenting "the minds that are making millions of dollars for themselves, and for the wealthy."

Rukeyser thrived on telling viewers — with too many puns — what he thought of the market's weekly performance, usually that the bears were wrong. That was his stage; he left to his panelists and guests the responsibility of stock and market calls with "no guarantees from the management." Writing coaches will tell reluctant scribes, "If you have something to say, you'll say it." Scaramucci will have to do better than his résumé and appreciation of the original show.

Transitioning to the desk, Scaramucci's introduction of Jeffrey Gundlach was clumsy, ending in a declaration that "contrarian views are often unquestioned!"

Gary Kaminsky

Scaramucci settled in when co-host Gary Kaminsky, who has had more experience at this, started asking some of the questions.

But the traffic-cop responsibilities of the job were shaky, as comments from Gundlach and fellow guest Jonathan Beinner almost seemed cut mid-sentence before commercial breaks.

At times Scaramucci sounded like he was shouting, a departure from Rukeyser's low-key tone.

This episode might well have raised the value or at least the appreciation of the people who host for a living ... what Maria Bartiromo, Tyler Mathisen, Melissa Lee, Liz Claman and Betty Liu and their colleagues do on a daily basis, it's not easy.

Rukeyser, who was already a TV professional when launching "Week," made it easy on himself with a stationary camera technique.

One positive about Scaramucci's debut panel is that there were no token 20-somethings to reach the mythical younger audience. Yet the group was remarkably centered around age 50. If that can be inferred as the show's desired demographic, and it's all about wealth aspirations, those viewers better get started pretty soon.

Jeffrey Gundlach, whose background and success suggest a renegade nature but who is a gracious guest on business television, helped out Scaramucci by handling the glitches while seamlessly offering a stream of commentary.

Gundlach said malls are in a "secular death spiral." He offered gold as an "actionable investment" over the next 6-12 months.

Jonathan Beinner

Jonathan Beinner, chief investment officer of fixed income at Goldman Sachs, said the combination of looming maturities and rising rates is not as scary as Gundlach indicated; "it's not gonna be a disaster."

Beinner also downplayed the prospects of a recession, saying we're "many years away."

Beinner recommended emerging-market local currency debt, though it wasn't suggested how a retail investor might go about that.

Gary Kaminsky asked Beinner a question that would've been a good one for Gundlach, exactly who is buying all these sovereign bonds with negative yields. Beinner initially didn't answer directly but finally pointed to the ECB.

Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist for Charles Schwab and beautiful (as the show indicated), characterized the financial markets as a "desperate search for yield" the likes of which she has never seen.

In a curious comment on what has been something of an educational-TV franchise, Sonders said she's "amazed" at how many investors "don't really even understand the basics of how yields and prices move in the opposite direction."

Sonders' closing recommendation was admittedly "boring" and amounted to "global diversification but more frequent rebalancing."

Liz Ann Sonders

One excellent viewer question was posed to Gundlach, whether investing is an art or science. He said it's both, and was impressively given time to articulate an answer despite Scaramucci's interruption of a joke for Kaminsky.

There was no mention of probably the biggest global financial story of the moment, Greece, and that's OK, because even CNBC business day viewers are bored with that story while the markets are open. Also there was no discussion about the price of oil.

Unfortunately, since the new "Week" was announced by Scaramucci a year ago — an apparent surprise to CNBC, where he was a longtime contributor — most of the headlines have not been about the show's direction but CNBC's frosty reaction.

To succeed, "Week" will have to ignore CNBC's shadow and make its own headlines. Unfortunately, it's clear that good people with loyalties and/or friends on either side are being caught in the middle. As a weekly Sunday program, "Week" should not be disrupting friendships or business partnerships, but TV can be a feisty business.

The "Wall Street Week" Web site went up a while ago. It's very telling that it lists a prestigious 20-member advisory board. There can be such a thing as too much advice. After everyone's had their say of "I like this" and "Don't like that," you've got a committee meeting. Few things are as appealing than a blank canvas. Scaramucci and Krakower ideally should put together what they want it to be and see if it works.

While effusively praising the original program, Scaramucci is ignoring its faults. It was regarded as a bull-market program. Even Rukeyser's celebrity couldn't save it from the tech bubble; he was fired.

Despite a year of planning, it's not clear after Episode 1 what specifically Scaramucci is aiming to preserve from this brand and what "Wall Street Week" means today. A guide for wealth-management pros ... an arm into Middle America ... an infomercial for possible wealth-management clients ... a Web site.

While the show and Scaramucci's performance had faults, this is still a bid to play offense in a media world in which most entities are playing defense. He's putting something out there. Determining what this production could be will take effort, time and money. But there are smart people engaged here, and something significant can happen.

Back to CNBCfix home

Gary Kaminsky will
co-host ‘Wall Street Week’

          Posted: March 20, 2015

As the April 19 premiere of Anthony Scaramucci's reborn "Wall Street Week" approaches, the casting is being finalized.

Scaramucci, according to the show's site, will serve as host. This site has learned that Morgan Stanley Vice Chairman and CNBC contributor Gary Kaminsky, a member of the show's Advisory Board, will co-host the weekly half-hour program.

Kaminsky is a veteran of such a role, having served as co-host of CNBC's "The Strategy Session" with David Faber several years ago. A longtime money manager, he exited as CNBC's Capital Markets Editor in early 2013 to join Morgan Stanley.

The original program was decidedly a force of 1 — Louis Rukeyser, who would deliver an opening monologue before engaging a panel of "elves" compelled to make stock picks at the beginning of each year and on each episode in which they appeared. The nature of the new edition's hosting, co-hosting and presumed panelist duties (if there will be a regular group of panelists) is not known.

The new "Wall Street Week" Advisory Board includes several other prominent Wall Street faces who make CNBC appearances, including Mario Gabelli, Liz Ann Sonders, Leon Cooperman and Mark Fisher.

That may become significant, because Business Insider has reported several times in the last 12 months that Scaramucci's development of the franchise has not gone over well at CNBC, which apparently is not going to cover Scaramucci's SALT Conference in Las Vegas in May after years of doing so.

Given that Gabelli was on CNBC this week and Sonders was on last week, it would seem CNBC is not making participation in "Wall Street Week" an issue. Kaminsky is profiled among CNBC's contributors; according to searches at, he last appeared on CNBC on Jan. 12 and prior to that, Nov. 6.

The "Wall Street Week" Web site does make several references to CNBC, including noting Scaramucci's history as a contributor.

It has previously been reported that Scaramucci is buying time for the program on Fox stations in big cities. According to the "Wall Street Week" Web site, the show will air in key markets on Sunday mornings.

This site has previously referred to the show as "Wall $treet Week," with a dollar sign in the title. According to the show's site, it is employing a standard spelling.

CNBC and SALT: Playing
defense instead of offense

          Posted: March 16, 2015

A few days ago (see below), this page faulted CNBC's apparent decision (based on a report in Henry Blodget's Business Insider) to spurn coverage of the 2015 SALT Conference over a rift with Anthony Scaramucci.

This seems a remarkably defensive move — ignoring a newsworthy financial event and freezing out a long-welcome contributor simply because that contributor happens to be launching a television program.

But venturing near CNBC turf isn't always adversarial.

Consider the channel's strange approach to the click-bait-content demands of Business Insider.

Over the last few years, numerous CNBC hosts and reporters — among them Sara Eisen, Scott Wapner, Mandy Drury, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, Jane Wells — have supplied an interview and a series of "a day in the life" photos to Blodget's rival Wall Street portal.

Why this material is not exclusive to instead — and handled by skilled writers and editors there who could do better than a lot of out-of-focus, dark iPhone photos — is a head-scratcher.

Something like that is small potatoes.

What's not is a business-day ratings free fall so bad that the messenger — Nielsen — is being killed while a new "partner" aims to find some metric demonstrating growth of CNBC's saturation (and surely will, or it won't be a partner for long).

This site posts the ratings revelations but doesn't take pleasure in them.

It's a challenging environment for television. There's just so much of it out there, and much of it's actually good. Beyond that is the Internet, engulfing viewers' leisure time, opening the universe to a platform such as this one or (much) bigger entities such as Business Insider, Re/code, countless Apple-related sites, Facebook, etc.

There remains a robust, permanent appetite for business and economics reporting and commentary. Not too long ago, CNBC was the real-time monopoly of such discussion. Sites such as this came about as 2nd or 3rd derivatives, assessing how Maria Bartiromo, Dylan Ratigan, Jim Cramer, Mark Haines, Erin Burnett, Larry Kudlow, Joe Kernen, Becky Quick and many others presented the day's developments in M&A, interest rates, the S&P 500 or the dollar.

In 1999, everybody and his brother was buying tech stocks, the Internet was largely undeveloped, only a (relative to today) small number of cable channels had traction. It's a different landscape now, and it's hard to believe CNBC can reclaim its daytime heights of that time.

But can't it at least be trying?

It's natural that organizations focus on what's working. CNBC identifies as much as "the fastest-growing network (sic) in prime time" as "first in business worldwide."

According to another Business Insider report, CNBC President/prime-time mogul Mark Hoffman recently has been rewarded with a higher status on the corporate ladder for overseeing an impressive nighttime transformation that has gained traction in viewership and pop culture.

Finding the value added in the daytime bread and butter isn't so easy.

A lot of well-known talent has left.

Impressive in-house documentaries (dozens have been reviewed on this site and can still be found here), airing nights, weekends and holidays, have nearly disappeared.

Like the distressed retailers it often reports on, CNBC is practically becoming a real-estate play — building a sharp new set every couple years and devoting time to reporters showcasing million-dollar homes and asking viewers to guess which cities they're in.

According to the Business Insider article, Hoffman "has it easy" and believes "I don't need headaches in my life."

There's seems to be an issue here with playing offense.

That's at least what Scaramucci is doing with SkyBridge's reborn "Wall $treet Week."

Instead of Turtle Mode, this is an opportunity for CNBC to mobilize the troops. Here comes competition; it's up to you to break the stories and land the guests. Instead of a SALT stiff-arm, Hoffman should deploy a show of force in Vegas.

Scott Wapner and Melissa Lee and Kate Kelly are among many who have done this drill with excellent results. Why wouldn't their bosses want to send them to a premier conference and give them a chance to make headlines?

If Scaramucci had instead launched a reality-TV company, he'd probably have Hoffman ordering up 3 dozen episodes.

Scaramucci won't comment on this topic publicly, but people close to him have heard him say to this effect: "CNBC still thinks the best policy is evisceration rather than cooperation," and he believes its approach has created "internal strife" and job-security concerns.

Hoffman still has some aces.

CNBC's ticker remains the gold standard. A staggering amount of information in a tiny scroll. We'd actually watch it during every television program, even football. Why is NFLX up 5% today; look at how much CLVS moved during "Fast Money."

CNBC graphics convey a prestige sorely lacking from rival Fox Business Network, whose screens hurt the eyes and, despite landing several prominent ex-CNBCers, can't seem to get out of its own way. Rival Bloomberg is fine and preferred by some but struggles, frankly, to be "sexy."

Stalwart anchors and reporters remain, reliable and reassuring and sometimes polarizing, and young faces are getting a chance.

But the channel's standard-bearer, "Mad Money," is now 10 years old, and the person who developed it, Susan Krakower, is presently on the "Wall $treet Week" team.

So it must be asked at Englewood Cliffs: If we didn't have Cramer, would we be OK?

This page wishes the best for Hoffman and CNBC's talent.

CNBC should be at SALT

          Posted: March 10, 2015

Business feuds can be entertaining.

The frostiness between Carl Icahn and Bill Ackman accusing each other of trying to be the other's friend at an Italian restaurant ended in a hug and a T-shirt distribution moment (wonder what's happened to those) for Scott Wapner on an episode of CNBC's Fast Money.

But other times there is only unnecessary aggravation, as seems to be the case with the recent revelation by Linette Lopez of Business Insider that after years of being the exclusive television partner, CNBC will not be broadcasting from Anthony Scaramucci's SALT Conference in May.

This curious rift, which must be unprecedented — a financial-television guest developing his own TV franchise — stems from the purchase by Scaramucci's SkyBridge Capital of the classic "Wall $treet Week" brand a year ago, a move that evidently came as a surprise to Englewood Cliffs.

TV's a feisty business.

That something as dormant as "Wall $treet Week with Louis Rukeyser" could disrupt a valuable partnership is a testament to the fierce battle for the limited but elite turf that television has always represented, perhaps now more than ever in the Internet age.

However lofty its own status, CNBC guards it like a pit bull. Numerous news articles have suggested a constant game of hardball with elite guests who tend to be told, "First here or else."

That, in many ways, is impressive.

But what Scaramucci is doing is even more impressive.

He's actually got ideas.

While the hippest thing at CNBC is outsourcing new programming (some of which is good), SkyBridge is hiring highly regarded CNBC veterans outside its money-management specialty to come up with what it hopes might be the next big thing.

CNBC's response to SkyBridge's purchase of "Week" is best described as uncertain. SkyBridge announced the acquisition in a press release with no comment from CNBC the same afternoon Scaramucci mentioned the transaction on air in Vegas.

Nevertheless, Scaramucci continued to appear on CNBC for a few more weeks. Then, he suddenly stopped appearing in June, prompting Business Insider to report hard feelings on CNBC's side but with a curious caveat that insiders expected the situation to be resolved, presumably by chief Mark Hoffman.

It hasn't. And that's too bad. SALT is a special event. It's not a stodgy, traditional conference or a government program. It's a self made destination (Scaramucci credits SkyBridge partner Victor Oviedo with the concept) that's thrived on its original defiance of Obama-suggested austerity and celebration of hard work and networking.

It could probably benefit from scheduling presentations, roundtables and interviews later in the day and fostering more spontaneous interaction in the mornings. While presentations are generally excellent, absorbing dozens of opinions on interest rates can wear thin over several days.

SALT isn't quite "renegade," but there's a vibe.

CNBC needs such a vibe. Chippiness actually can go a long way. History's greatest partnership, Lennon-McCartney, was simply healthy competition. Hoffman needs to tell Scaramucci, "We're comin' out there, and you better be ready for us."

Pretending when miffed that a mover & shaker doesn't exist surely has to be the quickest way backward in today's media landscape.

Scaramucci, now a Fox Business contributor, has long been featured on CNBC, perhaps the channel's most ideal contributor. Photogenic, as comfortable on television as most of the anchors, he's plugged in to the hedge fund community and many of the "whales" whose opinions drive traffic in Wall Street media.

This long-term association should not end this way.

We'll leave it at that.

As for "Wall $treet Week" ... this is no cakewalk. SkyBridge faces a challenge in gaining traction. Scaramucci revealed last month that the production will pay local TV affiliates, most of them Fox, to air the show.

There needs to be a buzz, or it's only going to be seen by post-Denny's diners at 3 a.m. Sundays.

That means Dick Fuld, it means Chuck Prince, it means Warren Buffett, it means Vladimir Putin.

It could also mean landing, say, Dakota Johnson, to get Suze Orman-esque advice on her assuredly newfound "Grey" wealth.

If all of those names sound farfetched, keep in mind there is no person in this space more capable of landing such gets than Anthony Scaramucci.

This is going to be interesting.

Back to CNBCfix home

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CNBC/cable TV
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♦ Maria Bartiromo
♦ Lawrence Kudlow
♦ Michelle Caruso-Cabrera
♦ Jane Wells
♦ Erin Burnett
♦ David Faber
♦ Karen Finerman
♦ Guy Adami
♦ Jeff Macke
♦ Pete Najarian
♦ Jon Najarian
♦ Tim Seymour
♦ Becky Quick
♦ Joe Kernen
♦ John Harwood
♦ Steve Liesman
♦ Margaret Brennan
♦ Bertha Coombs
♦ Mary Thompson
♦ Trish Regan
♦ Melissa Francis
♦ Rebecca Jarvis
♦ Darren Rovell
♦ Carl Quintanilla
♦ Diana Olick
♦ Anderson Cooper
♦ Neil Cavuto
♦ Monica Crowley
♦ Bill O'Reilly
♦ Rachel Maddow
♦ Susie Gharib
♦ Jane Skinner
♦ Kimberly Guilfoyle
♦ Martha MacCallum
♦ Courtney Friel
♦ Uma Pemmaraju
♦ Joe Scarborough
♦ Terry Keenan
♦ Chrystia Freeland
♦ Christine Romans

CNBC guest bios

♦ Bill Gross
♦ Dennis Gartman
♦ Diane Swonk
♦ Meredith Whitney
♦ Richard X. Bove
♦ Arthur Laffer
♦ Jared Bernstein
♦ Doug Kass
♦ David Malpass
♦ Donald Luskin
♦ Herb Greenberg
♦ Robert Reich
♦ Steve Moore
♦ Vince Farrell
♦ Joe LaVorgna
♦ A. Gary Shilling
♦ Joe Battipaglia
♦ Addison Armstrong
♦ Jack Bouroudjian
♦ Stefan Abrams
♦ Warren Buffett