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From The Business Pages, Oct. 31, 2008

  • It’s not the most important financial story right now, but the clever (or too clever by half) corner by Porsche in Volkswagen stock gets an excellent write up, and break down, from The New York Times’ Floyd Norris. Separately, Brad Delong has been talking about it for days on his blog. For those interested in financial history, this is one for the books.
  • Just some Friday fun, at the expense of others: Watch CNBC’s Charlie Gasparino, who was supposed to provide the end-of-day wrap up, instead says: “Whadda I got? Shoot the capitalists. That’s what I got.”
  • Elizabeth Warren, among others, will be glad to know that a growing number of experts believe the 2005 bankruptcy reform law, which made it very hard for individuals and small businesses to seek relief, also contributed to recent bank collapses by making it easier for creditors to unwind derivatives held by a failing company. Cold comfort for debt-strapped middle-class Americans, but nice to see at least the law of unintended consequences is still working. Explains DLA Piper’s William Goldman in the Financial Times: “The changes were introduced to promote the orderly unwinding of transactions but they ended up speeding up the bankruptcy process … They wanted to protect the likes of Lehman and Bear Stearns from the domino effect that would have ensued had a counterparty gone under. They never thought the ones to go under would have been Lehman and Bear.”
  • National crisis watch, MERCOSUR edition: Standard and Poor’s has downgraded Argentina’s credit rating to B-/C. Though the agency says it doesn’t expect the country to slip further, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has been at loggerheads with opponents over a plan to nationalize pension funds, and she’s generally considered not up to the challenge of pulling her already struggling country through a deep crisis.

--Clay Risen