US British Bashing over Deep Horizon Disaster

Disclosure: I’m a BP shareholder.

I’ve been watching the Oil leak
since it started and I’m alarmed at what has happened; not because
I’m a shareholder but because of the damage caused. BP needs to pay
for the cleanup, I know this and it has cost me money in lost
capital, BP knows this and so does half the world so why are we
seeing ever increasing British bashing from the United States over
this event.

For instance: Barack Obama is on record
for using the old name of BP, “British Petroleum”, why would he
do this? I’m sure his advisers know when the name changed and the
implications of using it even if he doesn’t. Fox news are quick to
say things like “BP, formerly known as British Petroleum”, why
are they saying that? BP is BP and has not been calling itself
British Petroleum for some time. The level of bashing is getting out
of hand and the papers in the UK are seeing this as an outright
attack on the British. The news this morning was about three things,
the World Cup, David Cameroon in Afghanistan and the US bashing the
British over the oil slick.

The facts are that BP is a
multinational company and the US own a large chunk of it:


The rig that exploded was owned by an
American company and it was American people operating it. Bashing the
British achieves nothing and will only harm relationships between the
two states. The UK and the US have been staunch allies for years and
we’ve spent many more billions together than what it will take to
clean up the mess in the Gulf of Mexico. My fear is that some cretins
will be allowed to deflate what is a solid relationship that will
take much longer to repair that the oil slick. John Napier, CEO of
Royal and Sun Alliance has put it much better than me in the
following letter.


Barack Obama and the US public are
right to ask BP to withhold the dividend until we know the extent of
what has been done. I know the implications of this for the pension
funds and other investors but hey, we bought BP shares, it’s a bit
late to complain now. We took the risk so we’ll pay the price, that’s
how this stuff works and Barack Obama has a duty to
make sure that BP can pay for the damage. However, the anti British
rhetoric needs to stop because it achieves nothing and will only damage what is a fantastic relationship.

Oil sticks but grudges and ill feeling
sticks much longer and will cost us all far more than the billions it
takes to clean up the Gulf.

Patent Nonsense

As an owner of shares in both Merck and Glaxosmithkline the following is very depressing reading.

Patent Nonsense (Henry Mintzberg)

Surely any rewards system should be encouraging cures to diseases not relief of symptoms. The appendix of the article is very depressing, are they truly this corrupt? I wonder if any of these people actually go to prison for their actions. The Limited Company encourages people to take risks they would not otherwise take in case of financial failure etc but surely when they start blurring the lines, especially when it’s peoples lives on the line, there must be some rule of law.

In 2008 Merck, Glaxo and Pfizer had a combined turnover of over $100 billion, a fine of a few million is like shooting an elephant with a pop gun, mild irritation but little cause for concern. The elephant continues on its merry way and soon forgets the sting on its ass. If you check out the first page of first page of Pfizers 2008 Annual Summary, they have a cute kid on the first page but do they give a damn about that kid or any other or is shareholder value the main driver. I know the company answer would of course being wrapped up in cotton wool and they would wax lyrical about how important people are but then why all the apparent corruption, the government fines. They cannot wash their hands of setting the wrong rewards system or crap managment, and I don’t mean crap management ie they got caught.

One of the reasons I bought shares in Merck was the story in Tom Collins Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies about them helping with River Blindness, that’s a company I want to own a stake in. Don’t get me wrong their financials are also a factor but every company has a social responsibility and Merck’s actions in the River Blindess case was good evidence to me that they take that responsibility seriously.

Pfizer talk about putting trust back on the agenda in their 2008 report but then they all talk about Corporate Responsibility but is this just lip service ie we were naughty and we are cleaning up shop but really nothing changes. Do any of them realise that Corporate Responsibility is missing a word, “Social”, it should be Corporate Social Responsibility. I personally hope that the big pharmaceuticals stop talking about Corporate Responsibility and start living it. There are few other companies that can have a bigger impact on our total well being than the big pharmaceuticals and if we let them get away with this sort of nonsense we will continues to have countries with an average lifespan under 50 for years to come.

Glaxo 2008 Annual Report

Merck 2008 Annual Report

Financial Market Observer Effect

I was recently reading Four Pillars of Investing and one part really stuck out to me. A hedge fund manager doing back tests on data could beat the market consistently but was unable to understand why these techniques failed when tried on Wall Street.

To a physicist the answer might seem obvious. It’s known as the observer effect.

Trading is a physical action with an observable effect on the market i.e. people see the shares being traded, the stock price may change. It’s impossible to take money out or put money into the market and not create ripples hence the discrepancy between what happens in real life and back tests. Back testing is a popular method in testing investment strategies but it’s no substitute for the real thing.

Captital One Scam

I just received a credit card offer from Capital One in the post today. They offered me a credit card with a 34.94% APR. Yes, thats right, 34.94%. Lets put this in perspective.
Lets say on your 18th Birthday your parents give you £100. Being sensible you invest this in a pension scheme which of course saves you tax etc. Over the next 45 years the pension scheme earns 34.94% interest annually. Guess how much you would be worth when you reach 65 years of age.

£670 Million

Lets say mum and dad could afford to give you £5000 pounds and you did the same with this. How much would you be worth at retirement.

£33.5 Billion

For our American cousins thats

$65.3 Billion

You’d be the richest person on the planet by a long margin. Bill Gates would be asking you to dinner.

To say I was dumb struck is an understatement. I had a look on their website and they are offering credit cards for 9.9% APR. So if you take their mail offer up they charging you 3.5 times more than on line customers. What customers are unlikely to check on line? Yes, the elderly and low income.

I don’t know about anyone else but charging 34.94% interest seems morally wrong to me. I recently read the book Super Crunchers and to be honest I am pretty sure that I am just one of a random selection of customers they have sent offers to.

Capital One have been pioneering the use of random statistical tests to see where customer pain points are. It works like this.

100,000 customers get offered credit cards (the numbers following are just examples). The customers are broke up into random segments where

25% get offered the credit cards at 34.94%
25% get offered the credit cards at 24.94%
25% get offered the credit cards at 14.94%
25% get offered the credit cards at 9.94%

They then count how many people in each segment take the offer up. Capital One can then work out where the maximum profit point is. This sort of thing is going on all the time so I shouldn’t be that annoyed about it but I just cannot help feeling it’s wrong.

Note: For these people who scoff at me not including inflation try the calculation where we assume our enterprising little investor saves the same amount each year plus another 10%.