Showing posts from November, 2007

Words unspoken

Have you ever listened to a person talk and wondered – “What the hell is he talking about”.

As I was growing up, English was not the most popular language among kids. However, I was never a local of the city I resided in and so most kids had to talk to me in English. Even with their limited knowledge (and admittedly my own) of the language we never had a problem exchanging ideas and thoughts. We used expressions, sound effects and many other modes of communication in addition to the language to express ourselves. Yet everything was crystal clear to each other.

Fast forward to today. Over the last few days I have been noticing someone I interact with very closely doing the very same thing we used to do as kids. His mind seems to be moving faster that his tongue and most of his thoughts are left unspoken. He uses obscure sounds and half sentences to put together a thought and at the end of it all it makes only partial sense. So I am forced to ask for an explanation again. I am certain tha…

Falling apple

I watched my dad iron his clothes one by one. From the time I could remember, he has enjoyed ironing clothes. As he ironed there were two stacks forming on the bed, one had his clothes and the other had everyone else’s. That was really unacceptable to me. After all I was more like my dad, I thought. My clothes belong in the first stack. I protested, and in a very deliberate manner I moved my clothes from the generic pile to the other stack. I said “Like papa”.

I was probably eight when that happened. I have always wanted to be like my dad. He always seemed to have a very reasonable explanation for the things he did. When we were commended or punished it always came with a clear explanation. So I always tried real hard to be a lot like him. Starting from the mock episodes of shaving where I applied his shaving cream to my face and used a stick to scrape it off to the time when I started driving and copied every single driving style of his, it was always about doing it the way he did it.

The Settlement

Merck is settling with a bulk of the Vioxx plaintiffs for five billion dollars. Now, on the face of it might seem like a lot of money. After all Citibank got hammered for reporting a write down of 8 billion dollars the other day. But when you consider that the amount being talked about four years ago was fifty billion, the new number sounds a lot better.

The clincher however is the way they went around getting to this settlement. When the Vioxx warning came out and Merck pulled the drug off the shelf and everybody who had anything to do with the drug sued the company. There were thousands of plaintiffs and everyone clamored to consolidate it into a class action lawsuit. People dreamt of the days when Altria was slapped with a 250 billion dollar fine. They could all see the millions.

So Merck did the honorable capitalistic thing to do. They started working on a divide and rule strategy. First they made sure that the lawsuit did not get a class action status. They then began defending eac…

Unstructured Investment Vehicle

It was a regular weekday morning. I woke up and headed straight for the microwave. I needed the adrenaline rush from the coffee before anything would make sense. I picked up the Wall Street Journal and browsed through it. The anchor on “Morning Call” was talking about a funny instrument that the markets have been seeing off late, “SIV”. I looked up from the paper. What does that mean, I wondered?

It begins with the mortgage lenders. When you and I go out to buy a house we obviously do not have the cash to pay for it. So we head to the nearest lender. They do a background check on you figure out that you are a worthy borrower. So the lender gives you a loan which you repay through regular payments including an interest on that loan. So it is easy for you to see that the lender makes money through the interest that you pay.

But how does the lender get the money to lend? Ok, so the lender obviously doesn’t have all that money. So he goes around shopping for people who would buy the assets …