Welcome to Bespoke Brunch Reads — a linkfest of the favorite things we read over the past week. The links are mostly market related, but there are some other interesting subjects covered as well. We hope you enjoy the food for thought as a supplement to the research we provide you during the week.

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Rock the Vote by Steven W. Webster (Indiana University Working Paper)

More frequent earthquakes related to fracking activity in Oklahoma led to increases in turnout of registered Democrats (who generally oppose fracking). At the least, this is a creative instrumental variable to study democratic accountability. [Link; 26 page PDF]

People are volunteering to be poll workers in record numbers in Philly and the suburbs by Oona Goodin-Smith and Jonathan Lai (Philly Inquirer)

There’s been lots of attention on voter turnout this year, but turnout for poll working positions has also been record-shattering in Pennsylvania thanks to robust voting enthusiasm. [Link]


The IRS Reels in a Whale of an Offshore Tax Cheat—and Goes for Another by Laura Saunders (WSJ)

A private equity billionaire admitted to criminal tax evasion featuring over $200mm in income over 15 years, and another billionaire has been charged with hiding $2bn in income offshore. These are relatively rare cases of IRS enforcement on the highest income earners. [Link; paywall]

SEC Issues Record $114 Million Whistleblower Award (SEC)

In a payout likely (based on our speculation) linked to Goldman Sachs’ 1MDB settlement, the SEC paid out $114mm to a whistleblower that led to an undisclosed enforcement action. [Link]

Paul Singer’s Elliott Management moving headquarters to Florida: Bloomberg News (Reuters)

Elliott, which operates in special situations and activist investing, is moving to Florida despite keeping hundreds of employees on its payroll in New York City. [Link]


Microsoft finds underwater datacenters are reliable, practical and use energy sustainably by John Roach (Microsoft)

Earlier this fall, Microsoft announced the results of a project designed to create more reliable data centers by sealing them in metal cylinders with nitrogen and dropping them on the sea floor, which maintains a very cool and stable temperature profile. That stability helps improve performance and longevity. [Link]

Geothermal energy is poised for a big breakout by David Roberts (Vox)

An overview of geothermal energy technology, which offers the opportunity for an abundant, if technologically challenging, energy source that is entirely renewable and can actually act as baseload power (unlike the daily rhythms of solar power, or the fickle weather-sensitivity of wind). [Link]

The paradox of lithium pricing in the Tesla era by David Stevenson (FT)

While a shift to large-scale battery use will lead to absolutely massive lithium demand, the price of lithium has been falling thanks to new production and disruptions from trade disputes. [Link]


‘Our Recent Performance Sucks.’ Here’s Your $10 Billion Back. by Jason Zweig (WSJ)

A large Philly-based value shop recently closed and returned $10bn in capital to investors after a 30 year track record of strong returns. Recent results were simply too poor to justify continued operations. [Link; paywall]

People Fear a Market Crash More Than They Have in Years by Robert Shiller (NYT)

The combination of COVID and elections have US investors extremely anxious about the possibility of a major equity market decline per data collected by Shiller and the International Center for Finance at Yale. [Link; soft paywall]

Real Estate

Hamptons real estate prices break records as New York City wealthy flee to the beach by Robert Frank (NBC)

As COVID hit New York, the wealthy decamped for more spacious accommodation on Long Island, driving the average sales price for Hamptons homes up almost 50% in Q3 versus Q2. [Link]


Leon Black’s Epstein Links Threaten Apollo’s Fundraising by Heather Perlberg and Sabrina Willmer (Bloomberg)

After PE giant Apollo Global Management head Leon Black was reported to have links to sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, clients started to halt investments with the company. [Link; soft paywall]


Disney Denounces California’s Theme-Park Reopening Plans by R. T. Watson (WSJ)

Eager to resume operations, Disney is chafing under California regulations that require “minimal” community spread before a theme park can be re-opened in the state. [Link; paywall]


How a tiny peanut butter company grew to $500k per month in sales by Zachary Crockett (The Hustle)

Too much of a good thing can swamp a business, and that was the experience of Nerdy Nuts, a home-based peanut butter company that started as the pandemic hit. [Link]

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Have a great weekend!

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