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Newsletter 10-22-2021

Colin Powers
Colin Powers

Hi everyone. Thanks for subscribing. If you have the means, please consider becoming a paying member. If you have the inclination, please pass this newsletter around to others who might enjoy the read. Now onto this week's edition of No Craic, Mad Craic, and Great Craic.

(Am on the road the next few weeks folks so apologies for the atypical brevity.)

No Craic

(1) Tireless former public servant Jared Kushner looks like he's (finally) going to catch a break. Per Bradley Hope, after months of gladhanding royals and kissing Khaliji babies, Kushner's private equity fund, Affinity Partners, will soon receive a $2 billion capital injection from Saudi Arabia's largest sovereign wealth fund (The Public Investment Fund). Mazel Tov!

Kushner's well-earned success follows just months after his pal Steve Mnuchin's private equity fund--Liberty Strategic Capital--started cooking, having secured $2.5 billion in Saudi/Emirati commitments.

Glad to see these two find the transition back to civilian life OK, and how kind of the lads in the Gulf to offer them a hand. This is the stuff people forget when they talk about the legacy of the Abraham Accords--the friends that were made along the way!

(2) A few weeks back, we raised an eyebrow in these pages after coming across circumstantial evidence of insider trading at the Federal Reserve. (The party in question on that occasion was Fed Vice Chair Richard Clarida). Now, disclosure documents probed by The American Prospect's Robert Kuttner suggests the big kahuna himself, Jerome Powell, may have dabbled in a similar trade.

As Kuttner details, Powell sold between $1 and $5 million worth of stocks from a personal account on October 1 of 2020. Good timing, me says, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average would proceed to shed 1,600 points over the next thirty-one days, a drop equivalent to 6% the index's total market cap.  

Maybe JP just got lucky. Powell's call log--which registered four contacts with the aforementioned Steve Mnuchin on October 1--however, gives reason to believe that he decided to lessen his exposure after learning that the Trump administration was not going to push forward with another fiscal stimulus. Prima facie, it seems difficult to argue that doesn't constitute insider trading.

(3) The real estate lobby in the US is trying to hashtag rebrand itself as "housing providers."

In view of how long capital has leaned on the whole "job provider" diggy, it's a wonder the landlords are only now stumbling upon this rather absurd legitimation strategy.

(4) Iraq is set to reduce its winter crop planting area by 50% due to water shortages. This will force the country to rely even more heavily on grain and cereal imports, the prices of which remain elevated on international markets.

Feck sake. The health of the oil markets will help with balance of payments issues for now, but this looks none-too-good in the medium term.

(5) In summer time, a scandal broke when it came to light that Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Emir of Dubai, had hacked the UK phones of his former wife, Prince Haya, and her lawyer using technologies purchased from Israel's hyper shady, intelligence-adjacent NSO Group.

To save face, NSO Group claims it subsequently reformed the software of its Pegasus surveillance tool so to disallow clients like al-Maktoum from poking around the UK.

That's likely bullshit and not all that interesting. What is interesting is that reporting on all this drew my attention to the fact that Cherie Blair (yep, that Blair) serves as an "ethics advisor" to NSO Group.

What a couple, I must say. Somehow, on balance, I think they are less scrupulous than their third way fellow travelers Bill and Hil.

  • Speaking of NSO, an investigative piece by Cole Stangler and Abdellatif el Hammouchi of The Intercept has just detailed how heavily the regime of Morocco's King Mohammed VI is leaning on Pegasus to surveil domestic dissidents and foreign persons of interest. A forensic examination conducted by a consortium led by Amnesty International's Security Lab posits the makhzen may have even snooped on the phone of US Iran envoy Bob Malley.

(6) Ndongo Samba Sylla, Amy Niang and Lionel Zevonou published an interesting piece detailing wee-man Manu Macron's efforts to cultivate a pro-French civil society in Africa. As the authors sketch, the intention here appears to be clearing the ground for French capital to regain its footing on the continent. Gaining local buy-in for the development as derisking agenda--a significant part of the Wall Street Consensus we have touched on in past weeks--will be the key in these regards.

Mad Craic

(7) Last January, lawyers from the US Department of Justice reached a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) with Boeing as concerned the firm's liability for two deadly crashes of its 737 MAX airplanes, which killed 346 people in Indonesia and Ethiopia. The DPA forced Boeing to acknowledge fraud and criminal misconduct and pay a fine of $244 million. Beyond that, though, with the exception of one former employee still facing criminal charges, the agreement marked an end to Boeing's legal troubles.

A few months later, the Department of Justice's lead prosecutor in the case, US Attorney for the northern district of Texas Erin Nealy Cox, left her government job to join the law firm Kirkland & Ellis as a partner. Kirkland & Ellis, you may be keen to learn, is Boeing's lead corporate criminal defense law firm.

Great Craic

(8) The team over at Visual Capitalist has just finished a rather breathtaking project. The output is a cartogram of global GDP which allows one to see the relative share of economic activity that is currently being generated by different continents, countries, regions, etc. Pretty neat.

Have a great weekend.  


Colin Powers

Colin received his PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in 2020. He is a two-time Fulbright Fellow.