Hello, folks. I’m back. From now on, you can follow my musings on that which annoys, amuses and confounds me here in CrunchedEverything. I look forward to continuing to engage with my readership. Please don’t be shy about telling me that I am ill-informed analytically weak, or just plain silly. 

In any event, I’m starting off with what might, in a different time and place, have been called the 2023 Golden Turkeys

Amongst all the really compelling invitations to become suicidally depressed, there’s much that’s happened this past year that, with the right attitude, or perhaps pharmacological intervention, can be seen as funny and qualifying for a Turkey. I’ve now combed the front pages of our once mighty newspapers (and Page 6, of course) and with bloodstained eyes, watched countless hours of what passes for news (and blessedly, I am mis-generationed to hoover up stuff from TikTok, X, YouTube and the deeper recesses of the conspiracy-addled web and for that I am grateful). One could cry, or laugh…and I’ve elected to continue to find humor in the inanity, absurdity and the mutterings, natterings and mendacious pontifications of the self-proclaimed residents of the heights. 

So here we go. 

The Self-Inflicted Wound Award goes jointly to our glorious Democrat and Republican parties. Okay, I get the fact that they have to fight with each other. It’s often silly. It’s almost always unproductive. Opportunities to actually get something done are squandered and sacrificed on the altar of self-gratification (you’re not alone, Mr. Tobin). But now it’s worse. We’ve gone all intermural, raising dysfunctional nastiness to a new level. We’re now wasting precious time that could be used to call members of the other party “poo-heads,” by expending considerable effort insulting members of one’s own tribe. The Republicans are at war over the budget deficit and cultural issues. These purists, who would make a 12thcentury Spanish cardinal blush, embrace legislative suicide missions day in and day out. No chance of success, nothing but the sheer joy of self-immolation. (By the way, if you obsess over deficits and don’t talk about the third rail of middle-class entitlement, I call bullshit.) Doesn’t any Republican remember the sainted Ronald Reagan and his adage that you can’t a loaf, a half loaf will do? Apparently not. And the Democrats?  Maybe they felt left out watching the Republicans’ circular firing squad and have now decided to join the fray to claw each other to shreds over the Mideast and the border. Fellows, come on. This is not how the game is played. A little internecine sniping is okay, but remember the enemy is in the other trenches. We’ve been working on that script since we kicked out the Brits. This is infinitely worse. 

It’s a Tough Time for Comics Award. How does one earn a living behind a mike in a country where half the folks think the other half are lying, stupid and venal all the time. (Vermin? Cue the tiny brush moustache?)  Every time you open your mouth, while half the country might chuckle, the other half is enraged and is off to the gun store to buy more ammo, or packing a Peace Molotov in his or her biodegradable rucksack to participate in a largely peaceful protest. Everything triggers; rage ensues. To the barricades! There’s just not enough funny jokes about the habits of Icelandic fisherman (where it has been determined that there are no active (I mean within a 1000 years) colonizer indictments overtones nor intersectional constituencies to offend) to make a 60-minute show. Particular kudos in the Comic Award category to those poor comics in Russia and China. While you might die in front of a tough audience here, there, you might just simply die (and in the Russian case, fall out a window).

The Common-Sense is Overvalued Award goes to the SEC; the perennial winner. The Bronx Bombers of inanity (okay, not the current Yanks, but you know what I mean). There’s plenty to pick on here, but let’s focus for the moment on the proposal, floated earlier this year, to protect small investors from buying securities that small investors can’t buy. While we planned to give this award away before we found out the SEC, in a moment of sensibility, reversed itself and scoped out ABS sold in the 144A market from this new rule (Rule 15c-2-11 for the wonkiest amongst us), it’s still too damn funny to leave out. While they’ve withdrawn the rule, the fact that they thought this was a good idea in the first instance  gives them cred for this award. In this proposed rule, the SEC had determined that the small investors, the Mom-and-Pop investors, needed to get the same sort of information they got when buying a share of IBM whilst buying bonds in a private 144A transaction. Well,  apparently the penny finally dropped that Mom and Pop couldn’t buy ABS in the 144A market cause Mom and Pop ain’t QIBs. I don’t care who you are, passing a rule that protects someone from doing something they can’t do, is pretty silly.  Seriously, don’t be so sure this won’t come back and the SEC will again be competitive for a Turkey. 

The Captain Renault Award goes to the bank regulatory community which was shocked, shocked, to learn recently that some banks had lots of deposits and held lots of Treasury securities. Who knew? Outrageous! Lots of deposits used to be a good thing and Treasuries were terrific investments; no risk! Well, in the same way that food is essential for life but sometimes one last fine, thin wafer can be fatal, as Mr. Cresote learned, too may deposits and too many Treasuries can result in unsustainable liquidity crisis. No one seemed to notice that deposits have feet and the value of Treasuries is inversely related to yield while interest rates screamed out 400 bps. The regulators were appalled and then, the politicians got involved, surely raising the intellectual level of the discourse. Our gloriously elected representatives then commenced to  rant, huff and puff about the fact that they were also shocked and appalled that bank’s liabilities were short-tenured and bank’s assets were often long-tenured. Never mind that borrowing short and lending long is the essence of banking and has always been. So, what’s the government to do? In response to the failure of several banks this year because of liquidity concerns, the regulators turned to more regulation larding on more capital to fix a problem that had nothing to do with capital. How about just exercising the existing enforcement powers? Aren’t the examiners supposed to know what’s going on in these banks? Might real oversight perhaps have noticed that zillions of Treasuries held in mark-to-market books and non-guaranteed deposits might be problematic? Who knew? 

The Straight Face Award goes to our entire political class (another perennial winner). All of these worthies continued in 2023 to say the most incredibly outrageous, uncommonsensical and often blatantly untrue things day in an day out without any apparent shame or concern. That may have worked fine in 1850 when you could have lied through your teeth in Bumstock Township and then said something entirely differently in Smallberg City and no one would catch wise (Billy, singing Razzle Dazzle from Chicago, a paen to lawyers everywhere). Haven’t you guys sussed out that it is no longer 1850 and everything you say is preserved in the cloud forever? Whatever absurdity you blathered about yesterday or ten years ago, or in Joe Biden’s case, a 100 years ago, is still around. Who’re you going to believe, me or your lying eyes? I know politicians are a thick-skinned bunch, but this willingness to be caught red-handed lying to the American public incessantly is, let’s agree, impressive. 

The Winnie the Pooh Award goes to Chairman Xi Jinping who met with Mr. Biden in November. It was clear that he was delighted that there would be no risk of embarrassment while perambulating around the meeting grounds where the palaver ensued. No risk that he would be photographed looking like Winnie-the-Pooh to Barack’s Tigger. (Check out YouTube and you’ll get why there might have been some anxiety.) His only concern with the current President was to make sure Mr. Biden didn’t wander off the stage during the joint news conference or say “giberotatort… that’s the deal, God save the Queen,” when asked about the importance of the Chinese relationship. 

The Shining City on the Hill Award goes to all of us who appear intent on running a presidential campaign between two of the least liked politicians in history. Virtually everyone in America knows that this upcoming reprise of the 2020 election is an embarrassment, but no one seems to know what to do about it. Couldn’t we have just asked both of them to move on, pretty please?  Maybe if we offer them buckets of money?  Hunter wouldn’t then have to try to sell the stuff he and some Democratic donors call “art” and The Donald can stop pretending he’s already a billionaire. Maybe we offer decent parole terms? How about we build each of them a simulacron of the White House, give them a gently used AirForce One to fly around on, endless supply of White House cuff links? An alarm clocks that play Hail to the Chief? We’ll all promise to never mention insurrection, plagiarism, foreign corrupt practices and dementia ever again. Promise. 

The Matrix Award goes to the exploding competence of AI technology. Yes, Madam Vice President, I, too, know what AI stands for…albeit I have no real idea of what it actually is. AI may be wonderful andwe may live to regret it. To all my legal friends out there, don’t use AI to write your next brief, and to the romantically inclined, don’t let it write your next love letter. Remember, AI these days has a sense of humor (a Turing victory?). I can’t even imagine what AI will bring to us in the next 10 years, but I have a more than a sneaking suspicion that I won’t be entirely pleased. 

The British Invasion Award goes to all those the new and nifty regulatory ideas sweeping across the ocean from London, Basel and Strassburg. Last time we had an invasion from across the pond, we got the Beatles, Rolling Stones, the Animals and Abba (well, maybe not Abba) and all sorts of terrific music that fundamentally changed America. Now we have a less amiable invasion as regulatory notions imbued with Mommy state sensibilities, and a certain hostility to and deep suspicion of striving and messy capitalism. It’s not just creeping on cat’s feet, but kicking down the door and stomping into the US business world. Can’t we be left to screw up our own economy ourselves without all this help from Europe? Come on, Europe. We saved your rump twice in the past 100+ years; leave us alone. 

The Talking Head Award goes to our network business colleagues. If politicians can be indicted for saying the most outrageous, uncommonsensical things and often saying blatantly untrue things day in and day out, what about the business commentariat? The chatter of these talking heads can be equally maddening! You should buy. No, you should sell. Markets are great. No, markets are terrible. I confidently predict 3% growth in Q1. I confidently predict the end of the world in Q1. To fully enjoy the whiplash, you don’t even have to change channels, just watch whatever network you’re on for more than 10 minutes as talking heads wander in, plop down and confidently predict something and then wander off to be replaced by the next master of the universe who says the absolute opposite thing. I get it that you don’t get booked for balance, but, really! (I could probably give this award to myself, but that’d be hubris.). Frankly, consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds (cred to RWE) and I sort of love this sort of thing. 

The H. L. Mencken Award goes to the Crypto Currency Industry. H. L. Mencken famously said no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.  Some in the crypto currency industry seems to be continuing to prove that right. While there are some cryptos out there that are actually backed dollar for dollar with US currency and US dollar-denominated assets, our friend Sam Bankman-Fried proved that, by itself, that’s not a complete answer. Moreover, while people have explained to me over and over again how a currency backed by an algorithm was rock-solid, I don’t know. Most agencies that issue currencies around the world have armies, police and maximum-security lockups. There’s a reason for that. Maybe if you say “blockchain” often and loudly enough a case is made. I’m staying on the sidelines. 

Funny as a Heart Attack Award goes to the Hamas Invasion of Israel and the ensuing war. Nothing even remotely funny here, but it just seemed wrong to publish a screed about disheartening things in 2023 without mention of that horror. (wouldn’t want to do a Nicky Haley here).

My apologies to end on a downer, so let me conclude by wishing everyone a happy, less interesting (in a Chinese proverb sort of way) and prosperous New Year. Stay tuned for more Crunched Everything!


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Photo of Rick Jones Rick Jones

Richard D. Jones (“Rick”), Rick Jones is a capital markets and securitization practitioner highly rated by both Chambers, USA  and Legal 500.

A leader in the industry, a recipient of both the CREFC Founders Award and the Distinguished Service Award from the…

Richard D. Jones (“Rick”), Rick Jones is a capital markets and securitization practitioner highly rated by both Chambers, USA  and Legal 500.

A leader in the industry, a recipient of both the CREFC Founders Award and the Distinguished Service Award from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) for his leadership.  Rick publishes widely and speaks on a wide range of issues effecting the capital markets and mortgage finance.  He is a past president of the CRE Finance Council; a founder of the Commercial Real Estate Institute (CRI); a member and past governor of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers and a former chair of its Capital Markets Committee; and a member of the Commercial Mortgage Board of Governors (COMBOG) of the MBA. Mr. Jones is a member of the Real Estate Roundtable, serving on its Capital and Credit Policy Advisory Committee. He also serves as the chairman of CRE Finance Council’s PAC.