Friday, November 20, 2015

Nest Eggs of Autumn, 1965

In the 1950's Chase Manhattan's nest-eggers sailed and skied and hunted. By 1965, as the iconic ad campaign was winding down, guns and yachts gave way to agriculture and animal husbandry.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Lies, Damn Lies and Politicians' Tax Talk

Why do political candidates assume voters are dumber than dirt when it comes to taxes?

Some conservatives promise tax cuts that pay for themselves. Prairie Home Companion saluted them with a little song, sung to the tune of "When You Wish Upon A Star."

Others want to ditch the IRS or reduce the Internal Revenue Code to three pages, never explaining how they'll run the country without tax revenue.

Moderates promise lower tax rates without mentioning their plans to expand the tax base by removing deductions and credits. Their "lower rates" often lead to higher tax payments.

Liberals promise to raise tax rates, but only on the really rich. Can you remember any initiative to "tax the rich" that didn't end up taxing the not so rich as well?

It's enough to make you want to vote for "none of the above."

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Did Richard Mellon Scaife Waste the Family Fortune?

Should the trustees have allowed Richard Scaife, a Mellon heir, to drain hundreds of millions of Mellon money from a family trust, a fund that otherwise would have enriched his children following his death? His children don't think so. See When Half a Million a Month Isn't Enough.

Court documents included in this Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article show a PNC Bank attorney wrestling with the question of how to rationalize discretionary distributions when a trust beneficiary doesn't seem to need the money. Scaife didn't need to live better; he used the millions to practice philanthropy, fund conservative causes and keep his newspaper afloat.

Readers unfamiliar with the Scaife backstory can read it here, in The Washington Post's extensive 1999 profile.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Who Knows What Unicorns Are Worth?

Andrew Ross Sorkin was right about the difficulty of pinning market values on the tech startups known as unicorns. "Millions of Americans own a piece of the hottest private technology companies through their mutual funds," writes Kristen Grind in the WSJ. "But no one knows what those investments are actually worth."

For example, last June 30 various mutual fund managers valued unicorn superstar Uber at prices ranging from over $40 a share to less than $34. As of the same date, a T. Rowe Price fund manager guessed the software startup Cloudera was worth almost twice the price estimated by another fund manager.
 As money that once might have parked in CDs and money market funds continues the desperate search for real returns elsewhere, uncertainty and market turbulence increase. Unicorns are one more reason for investors to seek professional, unbiased assistance.