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Roger Barris

Roger Barris

is an American who has lived in Europe for over 20 years, now based in the UK. Although basically retired now, he previously had senior positions at Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Merrill Lynch and his own firm, initially in structured finance and latterly in principal and fiduciary investing, focussing on real estate. He has a BA in Economics from Bowdoin College (summa cum laude) and an MBA in Finance from the University of Michigan (highest honors).

Articles by Roger Barris

Side Notes, January 14 – Red Flags Over Goldman Sachs

January 14, 2017
Side Notes, January 14 – Red Flags Over Goldman Sachs

Red Flags Over Goldman Sachs
Just to prove that I am an even-handed insulter, here is a rant about my former employer, Goldman Sachs. The scandal at 1MDB, the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund from which it appears that billions were stolen by politicians all the way up to the Prime Minister, continues to unfold.
The main players in the 1MDB scandal. Irony alert: apparently money siphoned off from 1MDB was used to inter alia finance Martin Scorcese’s movie “The Wolf of Wall Street”, in which Leonardo di Caprio plays a major boiler room operator/ hustler who makes a fortune by defrauding his clients. When the WSJ contacted the people involved in 1MDB, all of them strenuously denied wrongdoing, with the exception of the only currently imprisoned one, who “declined to comment”. The money is

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Where’s the Outrage?

January 12, 2017
Where’s the Outrage?

Blind to Crony Socialism
Whenever a failed CEO is fired with a cushy payoff, the outrage is swift and voluminous.  The liberal press usually misrepresents this as a hypocritical “jobs for the boys” program within the capitalist class.  In reality, the payoffs are almost always contractual obligations, often for deferred compensation, that the companies vigorously try to avoid.  Believe me.  I’ve been on both sides of this kind of dispute (except, of course, for the “failed” bit).
People are usually struck by the seeming injustice of CEOs running companies into the ground and then getting paid obscene amounts in the form of “golden parachute” type good-bye presents. Often there is no other way to get rid of a bad CEO though –  if his or her employment contract guarantees a large

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What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

June 10, 2016

  A Convocation Of Gamblers The Wall Street Journal and BloombergView have just run articles on the shadow banking system in China.  This has put me in a nostalgic mood. About 35 years ago when I was living in Japan, I made a side trip to Hong Kong.   Asia’s Sin City, Macau Photo credit: Nattee Chalermtiragool   I …

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China Innovates: A New Way to Lie with Numbers

March 30, 2016

  An Unexpected Improvement… The Wall Street Journal has just run an article about the latest data manipulation coming out of China. China is experiencing strong currency outflows. This is a combination of “hot money” from outside China, which came into the country to bet on an appreciating currency (the yuan) and is now retreating, and domestic money that …

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The Lego Movie Economy

March 19, 2016

  A Lack of “V” After the February jobs report, President Obama said “America’s pretty darn great right now.”  He then went on to disparage the “doomsday rhetoric” of the Republicans, which he said was pure “fantasy. I think that there is a good chance that this will enter the Hall of Fame of miss-timed …

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To Be or Not to Be: The UK Referendum

February 23, 2016

  Cameron’s EU Gamble The big news over the weekend in the United Kingdom (UK) is that, after having secured some kind of deal from his European Union (EU) partners, Prime Minister David Cameron has called for an “in-out” referendum on EU membership to be held on June 23.  The betting has to be on the UK …

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ISIS – the Case for Non-Intervention

January 5, 2016

  Happy Armchair Warriors The recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, have thrown the debate about ISIS into overdrive, particularly among the presidential candidates.  Several strands have emerged from these discussions, but I think that their taxonomy is not often clearly laid out.  I would therefore like to try to do this. …

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The Statist Mindset

December 17, 2015

  The Key Logical Fallacy of Statism I just read an article in Bloomberg View yesterday by Cass Sunstein, who is a law professor at Harvard.  It was a roundup of a number of books published last year on “behavioral economics”.  For those who don’t know it, behavioral economics typically focuses on the biases and systematic errors in human …

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More Silly-Con Valley

December 16, 2015

  Privatizing Profits and Socializing Losses, Tech Bubble Style The Wall Street Journal had an article this past week entitled “Tech’s Hometown Bank.”  This has convinced me that Silicon Valley has replaced Wall Street as the new epicentre of financial malfeasance and conflict of interest.   Image credit: Toshiba   The article is about the Silicon …

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More on Trump

December 9, 2015

  Antidote to Political Correctness? [If you read the title of this post quickly, you will note the slight play on words.] [Ed note: after Bill Bonner’s recent tongue-in-cheek “Greatest President of all Time” comment, here is Roger again with a more serious assessment. In case you’re wondering, this was written shortly before the recent …

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December 7, 2015

  Defying Gravity Donald Trump’s poll numbers continue to defy gravity.  This requires greater scrutiny.  A sacrifice is needed: actually listening to one of Trump’s speeches.  And your intrepid correspondent has done this, all 95 minutes of the one he gave in Iowa on November 12th, which can be found here. If anything, it was worse …

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Overreaching Government “Enables” Culture Warriors

November 18, 2015

  Dispensing More “Free Stuff” I  have just finished reading an opinion entitled “A Birth-Control Morality Play Comes to Supreme Court” by Megan McArdle, the lonely voice of libertarianism over at Bloomberg View. The thrust of the article is to use philosophical hypotheticals to explain the violent reaction of some religious groups to the seemingly …

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Patently Absurd

November 11, 2015

  IP and Patents – Regulatory Capture at its Finest It is presidential campaign season and we are getting a lot of incoming promises, particularly from the Democratic side, about how the government is going to make our lives better.  This makes it an opportune moment to report on some recent examples of how the …

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Republican Debate in Boulder

November 4, 2015

  Hoping for a Magic Pill Through the modern miracle of the “record” button on my TV remote control, which I have finally learned to use, I have watched the recent Republican debate.  Here are my thoughts on the candidates and the issues raised.   Republican candidates lined up at CNBC debate Photo credit: Mark …

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“Tax Expenditures” Are Not “Free Stuff”

October 29, 2015

  Economically Ignorant and Offensive Nonsense Bloomberg View has just published an article by Paula Dwyer entitled “Everything in This Column is Free Stuff.”  A better title would have been “Everything in This Column is Economically Ignorant and Offensive Nonsense.” The column attempts to draw an equivalence between the Democratic  Party’s granting of “free stuff” (government …

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Tesla – Exploiting Cognitive Deficiencies

October 26, 2015

  Good Car, Overvalued Stock I occasionally like to short[1] stocks for fun and profit.  One of my recent shorts is Tesla[2],  the maker of electric vehicles (“EV”) and energy storage systems.  This one gives me particular pleasure because it is a great opportunity to take some money off the politically correct (“PC”) crowd precisely because …

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Big Ideas From the Democratic Debate … NOT!

October 20, 2015

  Displays of Economic Ignorance Watching the Democratic debate from last week, it is pretty clear that one of the central “big ideas” of the party for 2016 will be raising the minimum wage. The Democrats obviously think that this will make good politics, proving once again that they are on the side of the …

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The Model Minority

October 16, 2015

  Ivy League: Perfect Scores not Good Enough for the “Wrong Race” The Economist has run a lengthy article about Asian-Americans.  It begins with a description of Michael Wang, who had a perfect score in his college entrance (ACT) exams, who was ranked second academically out of 1,002 students at his high school, who was part of …

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Should We “Bring Back the Unions”?

October 15, 2015

  The Most Expensive Jobs Program Ever It is sometimes suggested that one of the cures for wage stagnation and growing inequality is to bring back the unions.  Here are some reminders from Europe of exactly what that would mean. Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of the UK’s Labor Party, is committed to nuclear disarmament.  …

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Access (Should Be) Denied

October 14, 2015

  Dispensing Information to the Well-Connected The Wall Street Journal has recently run a lengthy, front-page article entitled “How Some Investors Get Special Access to Companies.”  This is the type of article that should make the blood boil. The article describes private meetings between large investors and the management of publicly traded companies.  Although the content …

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