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Old 05-02-2017, 10:57 AM   #10
Tyrone Slothrop
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Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 30,814
Re: Mother, mother, mother - there's too many of you crying.

Matt Levine on what Cantor is buying:

Speaking of important people, why is Cantor Fitzgerald LP paying Barack Obama $400,000 to speak at its health care conference? The obvious answer is that Obama is a huge popular celebrity and an excellent speaker who will attract and impress clients at the conference, but that answer is so obvious that people seem to want to read a corrupt motive into it. Paying a former president a six-figure fee for a speech seems like a pretty oblique way to persuade future politicians to be "soft on Wall Street" or whatever, and a very straightforward way to get a good speech, but here we are.

Dan Davies thinks they want a good speech. "The fact that there is genuinely relevant business content there means that you can market the event to clients in a way that would be much more difficult for a day at the races, or front-row tickets to a pop concert," he notes, and having a famous speaker can "make the clients feel important, and burnish the image of the banker who organised the event as someone who is at ease in the corridors of power." Also:

The reason that we can be sure that these payments are not purely transactional is that nothing in investment banking is purely transactional. Across fields from advisory to research to capital markets, bankers are used to working on spec, building relationships and trust, and eventually getting paid at the time of a big transaction. This is not a transparent pricing model, and for that reason it is generally hated by regulators. It is, however, a very elegant emergent solution to a serious problem of information economics — the fact that it is impossible to tell whether a piece of content or advice is worth paying for without consuming it. The relationship model lets clients “try before they buy”, at the expense of breaking the connection between any particular piece of service and any particular piece of revenue.

Investment banking is a gift economy in which banks give clients an array of thoughtful but random gifts -- free financial modeling, revolving loan facilities, introductions to potential board and executive hires, the chance to meet Barack Obama -- in the hopes that one day the clients will give them the massive gift of a merger advisory mandate. Of course one concern is that this "uniquely bankerish way to do business" will rub off on politicians too. Davies is surely right that Cantor Fitzgerald is hiring Obama to impress its clients, not to influence regulation. But might some politician observe the transaction and decide to give Wall Street a few gifts while he's in office, in the hopes of one day receiving something in return?
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