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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Mercenaries

Coinbase Cuts Ties With Hacking Team Following Spyware Backlash by Nour Al Ali (Bloomberg)

A recent purchase of a security company by cryptocurrency giant Coinbase is coming under fire after revelations that staff included in the acquisition had been involved in selling spyware to oppressive regimes. [Link; soft paywall]

WWF Funds Guards Who Have Tortured And Killed People by Tom Warren and Katie J. M. Baker (BuzzFeed)

In part of its war on poachers, the World Wide Fund is allegedly paying mercenaries to protect wildlife. Those same guards have allegedly engaged in torture and murder. [Link]

Ouch

A Hedge Fund Steps Into Nigeria’s $9 Billion Corporate Dispute by Joe Light (Bloomberg)

A tiny natural gas company was offered concessions in Nigeria, but the deal fell through. Now, a hedge fund is seeking to collect, to the tune of 2.5% of the country’s GDP. [Link; soft paywall]

The American With the Toughest Job in Finance: Saving Deutsche Bank by Jenny Strasburg (WSJ)

Private equity giant Cerberus has been called in to help Deutsche Bank navigate the collapse of its business and explore a potential sale. [Link; paywall]

Chinese Stocks Plunge and It All Started With a Single Downgrade (Bloomberg)

This week the onshore Chinese equity market collapsed in part thanks to an aggressive sell call on People’s Insurance Company of China, in a move many think was sparked by regulator approval of the bearishness. [Link; auto-playing video, soft paywall]

Economics

Who’s Really to Blame for America’s Trade Deficit by Matthew C. Klein (Barron’s)

What drives the trade balance? Klein argues convincingly that foreign economic choices are washing up on US shores just as much as domestic economic policy has driven trade balances. [Link; paywall]

Kelton And Krugman On IS-LM And MMT by Jo Mitchell (Critical Macro)

An informed recap of a recent exchange over modern monetary theory in the pages of the New York Times and Bloomberg. [Link]

Regulation

SEC Chief Wants Smaller Investors to Have Better, Faster Stock Data by Gabriel T. Rubin and Alexander Osipovich (WSJ)

A new SEC proposal seeks to level the playing field for smaller investors, who are currently stuck in the slow lane when it comes to stock market pricing. [Link; paywall]

Wall Street Votes to Support Single Bond for Fannie, Freddie by Andrew Ackerman and Ben Eisen (WSJ)

This week SIFMA endorsed a proposal to combine the market for mortgage-backed securities issued but Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. [Link; paywall]

Presidential Munching

Dining at Mount Vernon by Mary V. Thompson (mountvernon.org)

Every curious what the first President ate? This quick post recaps the recorded history of what was served on the table at Mount Vernon when Washington was shepherding the early republic. [Link]

Payments

Philadelphia Is First U.S. City to Ban Cashless Stores by Scott Calvert (WSJ)

As stores have shifted away from cash (improving wait times), some regulators have stepped in to require cash payments be accepted; that’s an interesting wrinkle of state/local enforcement of the importance of settling “all debts, public or private”. [Link; paywall]

Streaming

AT&T Is Dragging HBO’s Streaming Strategy Out of the Dark Ages by Felix Gillette (Bloomberg)

HBO is on the cutting edge of content production, but its streaming strategy has long lagged behind competitors. That may be changing. [Link; soft paywall]

Health Care

GoFundMe CEO: ‘Gigantic Gaps’ In Health System Showing Up In Crowdfunding by Rachel Bluth (KHN)

An interview with the CEO of GoFundMe reveals the huge discomfort he and the rest of the company feel with regards to the massive waves of fundraising being done to meet health care costs. [Link]

Farewells

Take Them to the River by Phoebe Zerwick (The Bitter Southerner)

The touching inside story of New Orleans krewes which meet, year after year, and often carrying former members’ ashes to the Mississippi for scattering. [Link]

Sports

For Many Girls, Figure Skating Loses Its Edge to Hockey by Anne Marie Chaker (WSJ)

Once steered into figure skating, many young girls are seeing pad appeal, trading sequined dresses for helmets and gloves. [Link; paywall]

Special Effects

Buyer Beware: Hollywood Special Effects Now Permeate Property Listings by Ryan Dezember (WSJ)

In order to drum up interest in listings, home sellers are going as far as removing walls, changing flooring, and adding swimming pools to get buyers interested in their listings. [Link; paywall]

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Have a great weekend!

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