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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The Great Gatsby of Gold Took Their Millions—and Vanished by Emily Shugerman (The Daily Beast)
An investment manager who promised investors that he would shepherd their savings via physical precious metals certificates ended up absconding with millions in client assets. [Link]
Commodity Trader Trafigura Faces $577 Million Loss After Uncovering Nickel Fraud by Archie Hunter and Jack Farchy (Bloomberg)
One of the world’s largest metals traders may have bought bogus nickel by the hundreds of millions. The metal is a favorite for fraudsters because of relatively high value-weight ratios but less scrutiny and security than precious metals. [Link; soft paywall, auto-playing video]
‘Sam? Are you there?!’ The bizarre and brutal final hours of FTX by Joshua Olver (FT)
A detailed look at leadership of the crypto trading giant as its entire business model evaporated over the course of a couple days last fall, leading to frantic calls trying to borrow billions in order to meet client redemptions. [Link; paywall]
Elon Musk fires a top Twitter engineer over his declining view count by Zoë Schiffer and Casey Newton (Platformer)
When engineers tried to explain to the irate CEO of Twitter that people might be losing interest in his whole narrative (as opposed to his own tweets’ reach being suppressed by the company’s algorithm) one was fired. There are now only two principal engineers left at the company. [Link]
Tiktok’s enshittification by Cory Doctorow (Pluralistic)
As platforms grow, they stop optimizing for users and start optimizing for advertisers and other paying customers, creating negative feedback loops of bad experiences which eventually doom the audiences advertisers are trying to access. [Link]
‘As bad as it gets without body bags.’ by James Fallows (Breaking The News)
Some background on a harrowing incident at Austin’s airport which would likely have led to a disastrous mid-air collision if not for some quick thinking by a very attentive FedEx flight crew. [Link]
Your jailbroken ChatGPT might violate OpenAI’s safety guidelines when role-playing as ‘DAN’ by Clint Rainey (Fast Company)
OpenAI has built guardrails into its popular ChatGPT chatbot, but a set of instructions posted on Reddit appear to show how to get around the restraints that have been placed on the AI system by its creators. [Link]
A single Republican holdout doomed the GOP’s ‘skinny budget’ on Monday by Jerod Macdonald-Evoy (AZ Mirror)
A single Republican state House legislator in Arizona is preventing the passage of a budget until the 2022 election can be re-done as she claims that the election was rigged. With a one vote majority, that means the state is faced with a difficult path to keeping government operating. [Link]
Moldova’s Pro-Western Government Collapses as Fallout From Ukraine War Worsens by James Hookway (WSJ)
The small neighbor to Ukraine, which has also been put under pressure by Russia, saw its pro-EU government resign this week after a brutal series of economic shocks related to the war in Ukraine. [Link; paywall]
Fungal infections are becoming more common. Why isn’t there a vaccine? by Berkeley Lovelace Jr (CNBC)
While fungal infections are less of a threat than bacteria or viruses, a warmer planet is making them more common with some fungal infections untreatable. But no vaccine currently exists. [Link]
How the Crispy Dog Became San Antonio’s Signature Snack by José R. Ralat (Texas Monthly)
A cheese-stuffed dog fried in a tortilla shell is a famed snack for San Antonians, but the demise of small family restaurants that popularized the treat is making it harder to find in the city. [Link]
The Retreat of the Amateur Investors by Gunjan Banerji (WSJ)
First-time investors went from near-overnight millionaires thanks to free-to-trade apps and lots of leverage to working in delis after a year-long bear market that hit momentum and growth plays especially hard. [Link; paywall]
Boomer Dads Are Driving Real-Estate Agents Nuts by Adriane Quinlan (Curbed)
Millennials are relying on their parents for advice buying homes as well as funding, which has Boomer Dads more involved in real estate transactions than has historically been the case. Realtors, at least, are not fans of this arrangement. [Link]
Patrick Mahomes Is the NFL’s Half-Billion Dollar Quarterback. He’s Still a Bargain. by Andrew Beaton (WSJ)
While a half-billion dollar contract may sound impossible to live up to, the Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes has turned out to be worth much more than the Chiefs pay him. [Link; paywall]
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Have a great weekend!