It was without surprise that the agenda at this year’s Camp Alphaville was changed at the last minute to incorporate a panel on Greece. While temperatures soared to see the hottest July day on record, consensus was icy, with a managed exit perhaps the best scenario for Greece in the long term. There was also little enthusiasm for the future of the Eurozone itself given the inherent issues these events have uncovered. The only winners were seen as being parties like UKIP and their promotion of Brexit.
Next, Steve Keen looked at the importance of debt to GDP as a warning sign of financial crashes, a measure he accuses governments of ignoring, instead focussing on inflation and unemployment. He argued that capitalism drives an endless cycle of de-leveraging followed by leveraging, with booms and crashes unavoidable, advocating a shift from a debt to equity based economy. He predicted a China crash within two years.
One of the liveliest discussions of the day was between Dan Crum and Daniel Yu from Gotham City Research who advised that short-selling is not necessarily being pessimistic about a company but rather being “optimistic about justice”. From Gowex to Quindell, Yu highlighted that it’s his intellectual curiosity that drives his research before revealing Myriad Group as his next subject, which at the time of writing was down 30%.
Shamed Enron CFO, Andrew Fastow talked about Business Ethics (ironic). He covered his role in the Enron saga, proceeding to examine how tricky ethics can actually be and uncovering many accounting shenanigans still being pulled by some of the biggest corporations in the world. He also used a clever story about a group of ethics graduates which showed just how malleable people’s ethical principles can be.
Overall, speaker consensus at the event was negative. Little hope on Greece and Europe, pessimism over China, and a fundamental flaw in how government’s monitor and intervene in economies. On top of that, a rather sobering insight into flawed accounting regulations, complex rules, and their part in encouraging unethical behaviour by humans who ultimately cannot resist bending the rules for personal gain or to single-mindedly appease shareholders.
It came as little surprise that the most optimistic speaker all day was the professional short seller.