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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Big Calls

One of the Best Sell-Side Calls in History Is Over: Taking Stock by Arie Shapira (Bloomberg)

The first analyst to rate GE below neutral did so with almost perfect timing, with his change in rating almost perfectly timing a +70% drop in the market cap of the company. [Link, soft paywall]

Harvard Quietly Amasses California Vineyards—and the Water Underneath by Russell Gold (WSJ)

The largest college endowment has started rapidly gobbling up California vineyards sitting atop very valuable freshwater resources. [Link; paywall]

Labor Markets

Labor Market Considerations for a National Job Guarantee by Ryan Nunn, Jimmy O’Donnell, and Jay Shambaugh (The Hamilton Project)

A long review of possible labor market effects of a job guarantee. While total effects are uncertain, the paper highlights 27.9mm full-time workers, 15.9mm part-time workers, 5.9mm unemployed workers, and tens of millions of non-participants and estimates 2-4 percentage point contributions to the employment rate (along with hundreds of billions of dollars of costs). [Link; 37 page PDF]

Reducing the language barrier by Dan Mika (The Gazette)

Workers are scarce enough in Iowa that employers are offering free language classes to workers who don’t speak English as a way to attract labor resources. [Link]


My Dad’s Friendship With Charles Barkley by Shirley Wange (WBUR)

The story of a cat litter scientist’s friendship with one of the greatest – and most colorful – NBA players of all time, sparked by a random encounter in a Minneapolis hotel which led to a dinner and a lasting relationship. [Link]

‘Netflix of sport’ Eleven Sports could close UK site after just four months by Alex Netherton (Yahoo!)

A UK startup sought to distribute live sports via streaming, with low monthly subscription costs, but failure to strike a deal with the UFC led to the collapse of Eleven Sports. [Link]

Stumbling Startups

Robinhood Will Retool Checking Product Following Scrutiny by Julie Verhage (Bloomberg)

After announcing a new “checking and savings” product with an impressive 3% yield this week, people started asking questions about how Robinhood (the free stock trading company) was able to skirt regulation. The answer is they were not, and have since walked back the offering. [Link; soft paywall]

When the “best” busts: the spectacular rise and fall of smart luggage startup Raden by Chavie Lieber (Vox)

The story of how a first-mover in “smart luggage” completely flopped because it focused on sustainable growth over massive fundraising rounds and advertising spend. [Link]

Dr. Elon & Mr. Musk: Life Inside Tesla’s Production Hell by Charles Duhigg (Wired)

A tick-tock of the horrifying personal management, engineering deployment, and industrial design processes that have kept Tesla from achieving anything resembling profitability. [Link; soft paywall]


Lund professor freed student from Islamic State war zone (The Local)

An Iraqi man studying at Lund University returned to the country in 2014 as ISIS threatened his family. When he got pinned down and had to go into hiding himself, the university dispatched a private security company to arrange heavily-armed mercenaries to extract the man and his family. [Link]


How YouTube’s Year-in-Review ‘Rewind’ Video Set Off a Civil War by Kevin Roose (NYT)

An annual review of YouTube’s creative output put together by the company has sparked a massive controversy that pits some of the site’s creators against Alphabet’s interest as an advertising vendor. [Link; soft paywall]

Social media outpaces print newspapers in the U.S. as a news source by Elisa Shearer (Pew)

New data from Pew shows that roughly 1 in 5 Americas use social media to get news “often”, versus 16% for newspapers. TV (~half) is still the dominant form, while 1-in-3 use news websites. [Link]


China Sets up New Forex Reserve Investment Arm by Pen Qinqin and Shen Lu (Caixin)

A look at some new strategies reserve managers in China are using to invest the country’s $3tn of reserve assets. [Link; paywall]


Lessons From the Bernie Madoff Fraud, 10 Years Later by Joel Arbaje (Barron’s)

A retrospective on how and why Bernie Madoff was able to start a $64bn Ponzi scheme, which is still being unwound 10 years later. [Link; paywall]


Cuomo to release plan for legalizing recreational use of marijuana by Carl Campanile (NYP)

The New York governor is planning a measure to make recreational marijuana use legal, which could generate nearly half a billion in new revenue for the state. [Link]

Fed, big banks on collision course over payments by Victoria Guida (Politico)

The US’s antiquated payment system (featuring slow, expensive, and cumbersome interbank transfers) is looking at the feasibility of building a real-time payments system. [Link]

Real Estate

There could be an unlikely place to hide out if a recession is coming: Housing by Yun Li (CNBC)

Despite housing market weakness in recent quarters, investors are hoping that home prices will hold up far better than equity or market prices in the next recession. [Link]

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Have a good Sunday!

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