Intelligence

Grassroots or sod facade?

Grassroots or sod facade?: A new non-profit called the Free and Fair Markets Initiative has been on a mission to take down Amazon, citing the tech giant’s practices of “stifling competition and innovation, inhibiting consumer choice, gorging on government subsidies, endangering its warehouse workers and exposing consumer data to privacy breaches,” writes The Wall Street Journal. But what appears as a “grassroots” movement, is in fact, more of an astroturf approach — meaning, while it appears to be individually run and lead, it is actually owned by strategic communications firm Marathon Strategies, that works for large corporations, including Amazon rivals like Walmart, Oracle and mall owner Simon Property Group.

Repo market’s liquidity crisis: Short-term money markets are taking center stage as the liquidity in repurchase agreements, or repos, has suddenly dried up. In a repo, firms borrow cash from each other by putting up securities like Treasuries as collateral. When the agreement expires, the borrower ‘repurchases’ the collateral and returns the cash, though in practice repos are often rolled. But what exactly does that mean? Bloomberg takes a deep dive into the effects.

Vanguard’s robo-only strategy: Vanguard isn’t messing around when it comes to its commitment to AI. The indexing giant plans to launch a robo advisory service that cuts out human financial advisors entirely reports The Wall Street Journal. The move points to a concerted effort to appeal to young and tech-savvy investors and heat up its competition with competitors like Charles Schwab and Betterment.

“Vanguard is saying that what can be automated, will be,” said William Trout, head of wealth management at research firm Celent. “Even the historically complex and emotion-laden financial planning process.”

Silicon Valley’s greatest escape: The highest concentration of tech billionaires isn’t at San Francisco’s hottest new restaurant or club. Instead, heads of our favorite unicorns have found a new and unexpected destination to take cover from tough questions, congressional probes and regulators — the Esalen Institute. New Yorker reporter Andrew Marantz went inside the spiritual hub, which has provided refuges to the faces of FAANG stocks.

The Fed face-off: Our Chief Economist Milton Ezrati looks at the Fed’s ex-president’s remarks to the agency, and its ability to affect the 2020 election, in our latest blog post.