Receiving Wide Coverage ...
Go West, CFOs: Ruth Porat's move from chief financial officer at Morgan Stanley to the same position at Google has sparked a surge of think pieces on Wall Street's diminished lure compared to the creative yet lucrative jobs in Silicon Valley and more than a few contrarian responses. The New York Times' Neil Irwin cheers Porat's decision as an indicator that the tech sector has dibs on the country's top talent, since he thinks they can do more for the broader economy on the West Coast than in finance. The finance industry "is funneling people away from making goods and services people use, and toward serving what is essentially a back office function for the entire economy," Irwin writes, while granting that this back office function is essential.
Analysis in the Financial Times points out that while Morgan Stanley and many of its peers have stabilized since the turmoil of the financial crisis, "it does not necessarily mean it is a fun time to be a bank CFO, with a new level of regulatory scrutiny and rigorous annual stress tests to contend with." However, Porat's defection to Silicon Valley could be taken as a sunny sign for both industries, according to "Heard on the Street." The column suggests that Porat wouldn't have left Morgan Stanley if she thought it was too weak to weather her departure, while her experience will be invaluable to Google at a time when it needs a firm hand guiding its spendy innovations and someone skilled at forging relationships with investors and regulators.
The FT's Lex team grants that Google needs Porat, but suggests that Morgan Stanley is actually the more interesting place for a CFO. "For bean counters, Silicon Valley is a backwater," they write. "The power in tech firms lies with engineers, product developers and marketing experts." Reuters Breakingviews columnist Robert Cyran sings Porat's praises, writing that she has the rare combination of "financial, technology and government know-how" badly needed on both coasts. We need a whole lot more mini-Porats, Cyran suggests: "The biggest lesson from this latest hire is just how big a job training task corporate America has ahead of it." Somewhat lost in all the Porat musing is the appointment of Morgan Stanley's new CFO Jonathan Pruzan, who jointly headed up the company's bank advising team. The Journal strikes as supportive tone in its assessment of Pruzan, writing that this background has helped familiarize him with issues such as "when to raise or return capital, expand or shrink its balance sheet" and how to deal with regulators.
From Washington to Wall Street: Speaking of high-profile career moves, former Federal Reserve governor Jeremy Stein has taken a gig at a hedge fund. Both the Journal and the Times highlight the fact that Stein had previously made a point of expressing concerns about potential asset bubbles and "areas of frothiness in the financial markets." As a part-time consultant to BlueMountain Capital Management, Stein will offer advice on macroeconomic policy, regulation and risk management, according to the Journal. Many a former government official has been drawn to the world of hedge funds and private equity, both papers note, including Alan Greenspan, Tim Geithner and William Daley.
Wall Street Journal
American Express chief Kenneth Chenault may be feeling a bit beleaguered these days, the paper suggests. The company just lost a major antitrust lawsuit brought against it by the U.S. government as well as a longstanding partnership with Costco, which "effects one out of every 10 AmEx cards in circulation." Chenault will lay out his plans for a comeback with investors and analysts Wednesday.
A forthcoming Supreme Court ruling on underwater mortgages is likely to shake up the housing market. The case in question, Bank of America v. Caulkett, will decide whether "someone in Chapter 7 bankruptcy can void a second mortgage such as a home-equity loan when the value of the property falls below the outstanding primary mortgage." This practice is currently legal in Florida, Georgia and Alabama. The court's decision could end it entirely or encourage more states to permit it.
New York Times
Ocwen Financial is selling loan servicing rights to $25 billion of loans to Nationstar Mortgagethe fourth such transaction the firm has announced this year. Ocwen is "continuing to scale back its business as it faces intense regulatory scrutiny," the paper reports.