31 octobre 2009

Légaliser le délit d’initié Économie

« Here’s a hot tip: Want to keep companies honest, make the markets work more efficiently and encourage investors to diversify? Let insiders buy and sell, argues Donald J. Boudreaux. »

The Wall Street Journal
Learning to Love Insider Trading
by Donald J. Boudreaux is Professor of Economics at George Mason University and a Senior Fellow at the Mercatus Center.

Wall StreetIt’s Halloween season, and the scariest demons in the world of business are insider traders, lurking behind every stockbroker’s desk and four-star restaurant banquette. They whisper dark corporate secrets into the ears of venal speculators, and inflict pain and agony upon ordinary investors.

Time to stop telling horror stories. Federal agents are wasting their time slapping handcuffs on hedge fund traders like Raj Rajaratnam, the financier charged last week with trading on nonpublic information involving IBM, Google and other big companies. The reassuring truth: Insider trading is impossible to police and helpful to markets and investors. Parsing the difference between legal and illegal insider trading is futile—and a disservice to all investors. Far from being so injurious to the economy that its practice must be criminalized, insiders buying and selling stocks based on their knowledge play a critical role in keeping asset prices honest—in keeping prices from lying to the public about corporate realities.

Prohibitions on insider trading prevent the market from adjusting as quickly as possible to changes in the demand for, and supply of, corporate assets. The result is prices that lie.

And when prices lie, market participants are misled into behaving in ways that harm not only themselves but also the economy writ large.

Remember the 1970s-era price ceiling on gasoline? By causing prices at the pump to lie about the scarcity of oil, that price ceiling led Americans to waste untold hours waiting in lines to fuel their cars. Similar wastes occur when corporate assets are mispriced.

Suppose that unscrupulous management drives Acme Inc. to the verge of bankruptcy. Being unscrupulous, Acme’s managers succeed for a time in hiding its perilous financial condition from the public. During this lying time, Acme’s share price will be too high. Investors will buy Acme shares at prices that conceal the company’s imminent doom. Creditors will extend financing to Acme on terms that do not compensate those creditors for the true risks that they are unknowingly undertaking. Perhaps some of Acme’s employees will turn down good job offers at other firms in order to remain at what they are misled to believe is a financially solid Acme Inc.

Eventually, of course, those misled investors, creditors and workers will suffer financial losses. But the economy as a whole loses, too. Capital that would otherwise have been invested in firms more productive than Acme Inc. never gets to those firms. So compared with what would have happened had people not been misled by Acme’s deceitfully high share price, those better-run firms don’t enhance their efficiencies as much. They don’t expand their operations as much. They don’t create as many good jobs. Consumers don’t enjoy the increased outputs, improved product qualities and lower prices that would otherwise have resulted.

In short, overall economic efficiency is reduced.

It’s in the public interest, therefore, that prices adjust as quickly and as completely as possible to underlying economic realities—that prices adjust to convey to market participants as clearly as possible the true state of those realities.

As argued forcefully by Henry Manne in his 1966 book « Insider Trading and the Stock Market, » prohibitions on insider trading prevent asset prices from adjusting in this way. Mr. Manne, dean emeritus at George Mason University School of Law, pointed out that when insiders trade on their nonpublic, nonproprietary information, they cause asset prices to reflect that information sooner than otherwise and therefore prompt other market participants to make better decisions.

This achievement can have ramifications beyond a few percentage-point increases in productivity growth.

According to Mr. Manne, corporate scandals such as Enron and Global Crossing would occur much less frequently and impose fewer costs if the government didn’t prohibit insider trading. As Mr. Manne said a few years ago in a radio interview, « I don’t think the scandals would ever have erupted if we had allowed insider trading because there would be plenty of people in those companies who would know exactly what was going on, and who couldn’t resist the temptation to get rich by trading on the information, and the stock market would have reflected those problems months and months earlier than they did under this cockamamie regulatory system we have. »

Another potential benefit of lifting the ban on insider trading is explained by Harvard University economist Jeffrey Miron: « In a world with no ban, small investors might fear to trade individual stocks and would face a greater incentive to diversify; that is also a good thing. »

Not only do insider-trading prohibitions slow economic growth, promote corporate mismanagement and discourage investment diversification, their application also is unavoidably biased.

These prohibitions are meant to prevent all insiders with non-public information from profiting from the use of such information before it becomes public. It follows that unbiased application of these prohibitions should target not only traders whose inside information prompts them to actively buy or sell assets, but also traders whose inside information prompts them not to make asset purchases or sales that they would have made were it not for their inside information.

The insider who learns that the Food and Drug Administration will approve a new blockbuster drug developed by a major drug company, for example, obviously profits from this information if it prompts him to buy 1,000 shares of the company that he otherwise wouldn’t have bought. So, too, though, does the insider profit who, upon learning the same information, abandons her plans to sell 1,000 shares of the company. But because insider « nontrading » is undetectable, only the former insider is practically subject to prosecution and punishment.

And because opportunities to profit through insider « non-trading » might well occur with the same frequency as opportunities to profit through insider trading, as many as half of those investment decisions influenced by inside information might be undetectable.

This bias is not only a source of prosecutorial unfairness; its existence casts doubt on the assumption that insider trading is so harmful that it must be treated as a criminal offense. After all, if capital markets continue to function as well as they do given that many investment decisions potentially influenced by inside information are unstoppable because they are undetectable, why believe that the detectable portion of investment decisions influenced by inside information would be harmful if they were legal?

There are, of course, situations in which it is in the interest of both a company and the public for that company to delay the release of information. Such information should be protected as company property.

If, say, a big software firm plans to acquire a small, publicly traded software firm because such a merger would create greater production efficiencies, then an early leak of this information could undermine its merger efforts—and, hence, jeopardize the prospect of achieving greater efficiencies. With the public knowing that the big firm is seeking a controlling interest in the smaller firm, the price of that smaller firm’s shares might well rise so high that it is no longer profitable for the big company to acquire a controlling share.

The big company, therefore, has a legitimate interest in preventing insiders from trading on the knowledge that it plans to acquire the smaller firm. And the general public has an interest in permitting the company (and other firms in similar circumstances) to prevent trading on such inside information.

As University of Michigan law professor Adam Pritchard emphasizes, the challenge is to distinguish information that should be treated as proprietary from information that does not warrant such treatment. While this challenge is theoretically easy—protect only that information whose revelation to the public through insider trading would likely reduce overall economic efficiency—practically it is devilishly difficult.

Fortunately, neither elected officials nor government bureaucrats need to bother themselves with solving this challenge.

Discovering what types of inside information are proprietary and which are not proprietary—and, hence, which types of information are appropriate to protect and which not to protect from insider trading—can be left to corporations themselves.

Each corporation should be free to specify in its by-laws the types of information that insiders may not trade on. Any insiders who trade on such information would violate that firm’s by-laws and, hence, subject themselves to suit by that firm. Corporations whose by-laws prohibit all or some insider trading will have standing to sue anyone who violates their by-laws. People who trade on inside information not protected by corporate by-laws would be acting perfectly legally.

Won’t corporations simply make all of their inside information off-limits to inside trading?

No. The reason is that corporations must compete for that most demanding and vigilant of all clients: capital. Shares in a corporation whose by-laws prevent insiders from trading on, say, knowledge of executive malfeasance will be a riskier—and a less attractive—investment than shares in a corporation that doesn’t proscribe such insider trading. Corporations that allow trading on inside knowledge will enjoy a lower cost of capital than will corporations that prevent such trading.

Competition is a beautiful thing: It will punish firms that are either overly inclusive or under-inclusive in the sorts of information that they shield from inside trading.

This decentralized competitive method for selecting information that is proprietary, and thus off-limits to inside traders, isn’t perfect. But the relevant comparison isn’t with an ideal, perfectly working world. The relevant comparison is with the existing approach: Government officials have decided that all insider trading is unlawful and that anyone accused of insider trading is subject to criminal prosecution.

A less heavy-handed, less bureaucratic, less politicized, and more decentralized method for determining when inside information should, and when it shouldn’t, be traded on is preferable to Uncle Sam’s blanket proscription.

In addition to taking the responsibility of defining insider trading from political agencies that are inevitably political, allowing proscriptions on insider trading to be defined exclusively by companies permits corporations to customize their insider-trading proscriptions.

Different corporations have different mixes of investments in physical, human, financial and intellectual capital. Corporations also differ in their business plans. Companies whose successes depend heavily upon their financial-investment strategies will be more likely to have stronger and broader prohibitions on insider trading than will companies whose successes depend upon the development of new consumer products.

Or not. The above is simply my best guess. Perhaps there’s something I’m missing about companies whose successes depend upon the development of new consumer products that makes them especially vulnerable to insider trading. And that’s the point. My « best guess » isn’t very reliable, and nor are those of politicians and bureaucrats.

By allowing companies as they compete for capital to experiment with different ways of dealing with insider trading, we would discover which proscriptions work best for some kinds of firms and which proscriptions work best for other kinds of firms.

Relying upon competition and the self-interest of shareholders and creditors (both actual and potential) to discover which types of information are proprietary—and, hence, protected from insider trading—and which types of information are not proprietary removes politics from this vital task. Importantly, it also replaces the unreliable judgments and « best guesses » of political officials with the much more reliable determinations of competition.

30 octobre 2009

Des poules sans tête Coup de gueule Économie Québec

BureaucratieÀ combien s’élève la facture pour combattre la « pandémie » de grippe H1N1 ?  Pour le moment, 200 millions de dollars et comme le gros de la campagne de vaccination n’a pas encore débuté, ce montant ne peut que gonfler.

Comment nos politiciens ont-ils réagi devant cette facture plutôt salée ?

Yves Bolduc, ministre de la Santé: « On va tout faire, quel que soit le montant requis ».

Jean Charest, le premier ministre: « On ne va pas faire d’économie sur les moyens ».

Au diable les dépenses, c’est « bar ouvert » et l’on nous fait avaler la pilule en nous faisant croire que si les politiciens dépensent autant, c’est parce qu’ils tiennent à nous…

Sans blague, je suis convaincu que ni Bolduc ni Charest ne se sont demandé s’il était possible de mener une campagne de vaccination plus efficace et moins dispendieuse.  Les politiciens, ils sont comme ça: quand c’est le temps d’agir pour notre bien, ils se comportent comme des poules sans tête.

C’est probablement pour cette raison que le Québec a commandé 11,5 millions de doses de vaccin pour inoculer 7 millions de personnes*.

*Si l’on se base sur ces chiffres, le gouvernement anticipe que la très efficace bureaucratie québécoise va égarer 39% des doses qui lui auront été confiées.

30 octobre 2009

L’embarras du choix Coup de gueule En Vidéos Gauchistan Québec

Ainsi parlait Richard Bergeron, le 3e candidat à la mairie de Montréal, sur les ondes de RDI en 1999:

Ainsi parlait Richard Bergeron, le 3e candidat à la mairie de Montréal, dans son livre Les Québécois au volant c’est mortel, publié en 2005:

Richard Bergeron« Personne ne sait ce qui s’est réellement passé le 11 septembre 2001. Nous avons tous vu à satiété deux avions de ligne percuter les tours jumelles du World Trade Center à New York. C’est bien là le seul événement dont nous soyons sûrs. Quant aux raisons qui ont motivé cet acte, elles nous demeurent inconnues. Pour ce qui est des deux autres avions qui se seraient écrasés l’un sur le Pentagone, à Washington, l’autre dans un champ, non loin de Pittsburg, en Pennsylvanie, on tombe à mon sens dans la farce macabre. Chacun a pu vérifier à des dizaines de reprises qu’un écrasement d’avion, de quelque façon qu’il se produise, produit toujours une abondance de débris. Or, ni au Pentagone ni en Pennsylvanie, personne n’a jamais vu le moindre débris a avion. Je suis personnellement du genre à ne pas croire que des avions de 60 tonnes puissent se volatiliser. II se peut que ce fameux 11 septembre 2001, nous ayons simplement été témoins d’un acte de banditisme d’État aux proportions titanesques. Toujours est-il que les événements survenus en cette journée fatidique ont procuré aux mafias entourant George W. Bush un prétexte pour s’emparer une fois pour toutes des réserves pétrolières du golfe Persique. L’Afghanistan et l’Irak ont été envahis et se retrouvent sous occupation militaire américaine permanente. Ce qui procure deux solides bases à partir desquelles surveiller et éventuellement envahir les autres pays de la région, à commencer par la Syrie, l’Iran et l’Arabie Saoudite. Bref, ce que Bush père avait commencé, Bush fils l’a complété. Quant à Saddam Hussein, il faudra penser à le remercier d’avoir joué avec autant de talent et durant si longtemps le rôle de l’idiot de service. »

Richard Bergeron, Les Québécois au volant c’est mortel, Les Intouchables, 2005, p.104-105.

Gérald Tremblay, Louise Harel, Richard Bergeron… Les Montréalais ont vraiment l’embarras du choix pour savoir pour qui ne pas voter ce dimanche…

30 octobre 2009

Une autre histoire d’horreur keynésienne Économie États-Unis Gauchistan Revue de presse

USA Today

Taxpayers’ real cost of cash for clunkers: $24,000 a car
USA Today

Taxpayers ended up paying an average of $24,000 per vehicle for the cash-for-clunkers program over the summer when sales that would have happened anyway are taken into consideration, says car-buying research site

The program, which cost taxpayers $3 billion, gave car buyers up to $4,500 in incentives to trade in their gas-guzzling clunkers to buy new fuel-thrifty cars. It was intended primarily to spur sales, and the economy.

But says a lot of those sales would have happened anyway, with or without the clunkers program. Of more than 690,000 vehicles sold, only about 125,000 of the sales were entirely due to the government’s added inducement, says. The rest of buyers just got lucky by getting the government to kick cash into deals that they would have proceeded with anyhow. When the cost of the program is spread over just those extra incremental sales, the total is $24,000 per vehicle.

That’s just about $2,000 shy of the average amount paid for a new car by buyers in August, $26,915.

To conduct the analysis, the looked at the sales trend for luxury vehicles and others not included in cash for clunkers. It then applied those sales against the total adjusted sales rate of all cars to make estimates. « These estimates were independently verified through careful examination of sales patterns reflected by transaction data, » it says.

29 octobre 2009

Crony-capitalism Économie En Citations États-Unis Philosophie

Russ Roberts

Extrait du témoignage de Russ Roberts, professeur d’économie à l’Université George Mason, fait devant le comité du congrès sur la régulation des marchés financiers:

« Capitalism is a profit and loss system. The profits encourage risk-taking. The losses encourage prudence. Is it a surprise that when the government takes the losses, instead of the investors, that investing gets less prudent? […]

You have saved the system, but it’s not a system worth saving. It’s not capitalism but crony capitalism.

I want my country back.

I want a country where responsibility still means something. Where rich and poor, Main Street and Wall Street live by the same rules. We don’t need a Special Master to level the playing field. We just need to take the crony out of crony capitalism so we can get back to the real thing. »

29 octobre 2009

Le QI politique États-Unis Hétu Watch

RépublicainLe Pew Research Center s’est livré à un exercice assez intéressant ce mois-ci.  L’organisme a décidé d’évaluer le QI politique de la population américaine en demandant aux gens de répondre à une série de questions concernant l’actualité.  Par exemple, on a demandé aux répondants d’identifier des politiciens proéminents, de nommer  les principaux projets de loi qui sont présentement débattus et d’évaluer le taux de chômage et la valeur de l’indice Dow Jones.

On serait porté à croire que les républicains ont eu un score plutôt médiocre.  Après tout, les républicains sont une bande de rednecks consanguins qui écoutent Fox News, une pseudo chaîne d’information.

Les républicains ont obtenu, comme pour les indépendants, une note de 5,7.  Les démocrates de leur côté ont dû se contenter d’une note de 5,0.

Vous pensez que Richard Hétu va en parler ?

Pew Research Center
What Does the Public Know?

29 octobre 2009

Confiance trahie Coup de gueule En Vidéos États-Unis

Cet été, le Centers for Disease Control and Prevention a demandé aux États américains de revoir la manière dont les cas de grippe H1N1 étaient comptabilisés. Au lieu de confirmer chaque cas individuellement avec un test, le Centers for Disease Control and Prevention a décidé de comptabiliser tous les cas considérés comme « probables ».

Certains États, comme la Californie, ont décidé de poursuivre leur politique de confirmation des cas d’infection. Des reporters de la chaîne ABC ont obtenu les résultats de ces tests: des 13 704 cas probables de grippe H1N1, seulement 2% ont testé positifs pour la présence du virus; dans 86% des cas, aucune trace de l’influenza n’a été décelée (le 12% restant corresponds à des cas de grippe saisonnière).

Voici le reportage diffusé par ABC sur la possible surestimation des cas de grippe H1N1 aux États-Unis:

Je vous rappelle que le président Obama a déclaré un « état d’urgence sanitaire » pour combattre la grippe H1N1.

Depuis quelques jours dans les médias, on a pu voir une dénonciation des gens qui refusent de se faire vacciner (ici, ici, ici & ici). Les gens qui rejettent la vaccination seraient des conspirationnistes ignorants n’ayant pas toute leur raison.

Ce genre d’analyse passe à côté du problème. Le problème ce n’est pas le vaccin, mais les politiciens qui en font la promotion. Certes, parmi les gens qui refusent de se faire vacciner il y a sûrement des wacko jacko qui s’imaginent que le mercure contenu dans le vaccin est un outil du gouvernement pour prendre le contrôle de leur cerveau. Mais la grande majorité de la population n’a jamais remis en doute les bienfaits de la vaccination. A-t-on vu des campagnes de boycottages contre les vaccins pour la rubéole, la rougeole ou les oreillons ? Moi-même, j’ai reçu une injection du vaccin Twinrix il y a quelques semaines.

Non, au risque de me répéter, le problème vient des politiciens qui font la promotion du vaccin antigrippal. Depuis le début des années 2000, les gouvernements se sont amusés à nous faire peur: le SRAS, le bogue de l’an 2000, le terrorisme, l’anthrax, la vache folle, la fièvre aphteuse, le réchauffement climatique, la grippe aviaire et maintenant la grippe porcine. À chaque fois, on a crié « au loup » pour rien. Ajoutez à ces histoires les nombreux cas de corruption et il ne faut pas se surprendre de constater que la population soit réticente à se faire injecter avec un produit approuvé en toute hâte parce que des politiciens nous disent que c’est la seule façon de prévenir la fin du monde.

Si les gens refusent de se faire vacciner, ce n’est pas à cause de quelques paranos à l’imagination trop fertile, mais à cause du gouvernement qui a trop souvent abusé et trahi notre confiance; aujourd’hui on ne croit plus ce que racontent les politiciens.

Peut-être que la grippe H1N1 représente une menace réelle. Peut-être que le rejet du vaccin par une partie significative de la population aura des conséquences catastrophiques. Mais si jamais le pire devait se produire, ce n’est pas la population qu’il faudra blâmer, mais plutôt les politiciens qui auront gaspillé leur capital de crédibilité sur des niaiseries pour finalement ne plus en avoir du tout au moment où ça comptait le plus.

29 octobre 2009

Now watch this drive ! Coup de gueule États-Unis Hétu Watch


President Obama ties George W. Bush on golf

President Barack Obama has only been in office for just over nine months, but he’s already hit the links as much as President Bush did in over two years.

CBS’ Mark Knoller — an unofficial documentarian and statistician of all things White House-related — wrote on his Twitter feed that, « Today – Obama ties Pres. Bush in the number of rounds of golf played in office: 24.

Took Bush 2 yrs & 10 months.

This news comes on the heels of today’s news that Obama played golf with a woman — chief domestic policy adviser Melody Barnes — for the first time since taking office.

28 octobre 2009

Le jour de la marmotte Économie États-Unis Gauchistan Récession

SubprimeLa récession actuelle a été causée par la surabondance de subprime dans le marché hypothécaire.  C’est en 2006 que la quantité de subprime a été la plus élevée dans le système financier américain.  À cette époque, 20% des prêts hypothécaires étaient considérés « à risque ».

Au début de l’année 2008, suite à l’éclatement de la bulle immobilière et à la débâcle des marchés financiers, la « main invisible » a ramené la proportion de subprime à 0%.

Aujourd’hui, si je vous demandais qu’elle est la proportion de subprime dans le marché hypothécaire aux États-Unis, vous me répondriez qu’elle doit toujours avoisiner 0%…  La réalité est tout autre, au moment où l’on se parle, la proportion de subprime est retournée à 20% !

Comment est-ce possible ?  Les marchés financiers n’ont-ils pas appris de leurs erreurs ?  Wall-Street a eu sa leçon, ceux qui sont en train de recontaminer l’économie américaine n’appartiennent pas au secteur privé.  Les coupables de la résurrection des subprimes sont: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac et Ginnie Mae des institutions gouvernementales !  Au moment où l’on se parle, ces 3 entités garantissent ou possèdent 95% des nouveaux prêts hypothécaires aux États-Unis.

La cause des déboires économiques que nous vivons était d’origine politique et nous l’avons ignoré à nos risques et périls.   Nous avons préféré blâmer le capitalisme plutôt que les ingérences du gouvernement dans le libre-marché.  En blâmant les mauvais coupables, nous avons tiré les mauvaises leçons et ce sont les contribuables qui, une fois de plus, feront les frais de la prochaine crise.

Federal Reserve
Recent Developments in Mortgage Finance