SALT Conference Wrap Up

This was a terrific conference. Mad props to Anthony Scaramucci & Skybridge for a top notch show.

I really enjoyed my panel — Austan Goolsbee is a very interesting guy — moderate, intelligent, sharp. FCIC vice chair Bill Thomas was fascinating in the green room (but practically filabusted on stage!). (Faber is always a pro).

Some of the highlights of the rest of the conference:

The lunch speaker Wednesday was Frank Abagnale, the subject of the Spielberg movie,“Catch Me if You Can.” He gave a fascinating speech — the first half of which was about how he became this wild teenage fraud/counterfeiter/impersonator, was fantastic. The ease in which he scammed people as a 16 year old runaway was astonishing. (The second half, which kinda rationalized his own bad decisions, coated in gooey wrapping of familial love, wasn’t resonant for me. It was too defensive, too rationalizing, too exculpatory). Regardless, it was quite a barnburner.

The Hedge fund panel was excellent: James Dinan of York Capital, Glenn Dubin of Highbridge, Ken Griffin, Citadel and Marc Lasry, of Avenue Capital. How often do you get to watch 4 superstars discuss running funds?

Michael Milken gave an interesting speech — though he played way too fast and loose with the facts for my taste. No, Mike, the 18 states with non recourse mortgages did not cause the credit crisis. Overall, he gave a pretty good presentation, but he repeatedly set my bullshit detector off. Milken’s speech had lots of good points, but it would have been MUCH stronger if he simply stuck to hard, proven facts.

Bill Clinton gave a very strong speech — no notes, extemporaneous, just standing and speaking. I was surprised and impressed. The audience of hedge fund managers gave him a standing O when he came out, and when he was finished. (That was even more surprising).

On Thursday morning, the Macro Panel took place. Nouriel Roubini, Jeremy Siegel, Paul Kasriel, and Scott Minerd (of Guggenhiem Funds). Roubini and Siegel got into it, but it was the same shtick I’ve heard from each of them for the past 5 years. Three years ago, Siegel was the aggressor and Roubini was sheepish; Now, it was the same story, but the roles were reversed. BTW, Paul Kasriel was terrific — funny, dead on, and reality based. Scott Minerd was a fish out of water . . . I got the sense he is from a long only, fully invested shop. He was outgunned on the panel — silly rhetoric, political talking points, mostly empty buzzwords. If he ran a fund, I would go 2 to 1 short. Kasriel disemboweled him.

The Bellagio is a nice joint — made you wonder if there is any more granite left on the planet. My hotel room was huge — tastefully decorated, well appointed — and $159 a night. Same room in a NY hotel would have been $800 – 1,000 per. Someone should tell the builders in Vegas about the laws of Supply & Demand.

I walked through the casino, and was stunned at the people there. Imagine an entire industry built upon the innumeracy and stupidity of Humans. (I guess you can say the same thing about Wall Street).

The night life here is pretty whack. The crowd moved to Tao, but I got pulled somehow into one of the villas — just enormous, 5,000 sq foot hotel suite, with its own terrace and pool. Lots of hotties; I apparently, missed the long trade in silicone. As a happily married man, I steered clear of trouble, and spent the evening speaking to a delightful women who runs a pile of cash thru a Canadian bank . . .  (I let the other boys do the Vegas 2 step).

I kept thinking, in this giant suite filled with all manner of potential temptations, that if this was 1987, or even 1997, the room probably would have spent the night snorting blow off of some dancer’s ass. Funny how things change when you grow up.

Anyway,  I am off today to San Diego for a StockTwits weekend event. More on Lindzon-palooza later . . .

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