Sunday, January 10, 2010

Three brief items

1. Icahn Fight May be Brewing

Carl Icahn may be ready to wage aproxy contest against Genzyme, a Massachusetts-based biotech firm. He bought 1.5 million Genzyme shares in the third quarter, perhaps toward that end.

Meanwhile, Genzyme has entered into a "mutual cooperation agreement" with Relational Investors LLC, one of its top shareholders. A good releationship there may be quite useful if Icahn is in fact ready for battle.

Icahn built up a substantial position in Genzyme in 2007, then sold it by year's end.

2. News from Venezuela

Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela, has announced the devaluation of that country's currency, the bolivar. It had been pegged to the US dollar at 1:2.15. Now Chavez is adopting a dual exchange system, treating the importation of "essential goods" differently, and maintaining something close to the old peg for those goods, but adopting a ratio of 1:4.3 otherwise.

The Chavez regime may be headed for a fall. This move, a Rube Goldberg machine for currency control, has the look of desperation.

3. Another quote from Duff McDonald.

A week ago today, in a blog entry here, I quoted a passage from Duff McDonald's new book about Jamie Dimon and JPMorgan Chase, "Last Man Standing." This passage concerns Morgan Chase's purchase of WaMu's deposits and loan portfolios in a deal brokered by the OTS and FDIC in the hectic days of September 2008.

It took awhile for news of this deal to get to Alan Fishman, WaMu's CEO. But I'll let McDonald tell it.

"Remarkably, the staff of WaMu found out about the deal before Fishman, who'd been on a plane at the exact moment of the seizure and sale. Because of the importance of keeping the deal under wraps until it was announced, JPMorgan Chase staffers had worked with WaMu's auditors to get access to WaMu's internal network before the news broke. In the process, they secured a list of employee's e-mail addresses without having to get them through WaMu's top management. Within minutes of the deal, too, visitors to were greeted by a message from Chase welcoming customers to JPMorgan Chase. This too had been prepared on the sly."

Pieces of the maneuverings of that autumn keep falling into place. That one paragraph speaks to me vividly, because I last year became very interested in the bankruptcy proceedings affecting WaMus's holding company, WMI. The WMI proceedings are still quite confused because the hurried sale of the assets of the operational company left a lot undone.

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