If Facebook Overpaid For WhatsApp, It Did So With ‘Cheap Stock’ [RealClearMarkets.com]

It’s easy enough to conclude that Facebook overpaid for WhatsApp –the Internet texting service with a subscription fee of $1 per year (after an initial free year). The $19 billion purchase price paid by Facebook seems extravagant for a company with no profits, modest revenues and only 55 employees.

But Facebook paid this price mainly in its own “cheap” stock, and the price per user for WhatsApp is lower than the implied valuation of users in other social media companies. In the final analysis, whether this acquisition makes economic sense for Facebook will depend on how effectively it can monetize the rapidly growing user base of WhatsApp.

Read the complete article at RealClearMarkets.com…

The ins and outs of managing up and down [MIT Sloan innovation@work Blog]

Managing Your Team:

“To be an effective boss,” says Pozen, “you need to set up a system that enables both you and your employees to get meaningful work done. At the core of this system is the successful implementation of ownership.”

Pozen encourages the principal of “Owning Your Own Space,” whereby all employees of a large company view themselves as owners of a small business. This approach builds entrepreneurial spirit among your team and sets everyone up to succeed—including you.

Here are five steps to effectively implementing ownership:

  1. Set project goals. At the start of a new project, clearly communicate your goals and constraints—but let your employees establish the time frames for milestones. They will be more committed to meeting deadlines if they have a role in setting them.
  2. Establish accurate metrics. Reach an explicit agreement on quantitative and qualitative criteria that will guide your team’s work. Choosing the right metrics will also help you have a deeper discussion with your team about what you really consider important about the project.
  3. Supply needed resources. Make sure your team has the funds, head count, and equipment needed to get the project done. Also, be ready to help your “lieutenants” win battles with other parts of the organization. Leverage your authority to help them.
  4. Monitor without suffocating. You may be micromanaging, even if you think you’re not. Monitor the project in a supportive way by offering suggestions and revising goals and metrics as necessary, but be clear that they are free to achieve the revised goals in the way they think is best.
  5. Tolerate mistakes. Be quick to forgive employees if they make a well-intentioned error. Create an environment where employees can talk openly about mistakes and learn from them. Whatever you do, don’t humiliate them. According to research, half of all humiliated employees intentionally decreased their productivity in reaction to their boss’s actions.

Read the full article at MIT Innovations@Work…

A Better Path to Corporate Tax Reform [Wall Street Journal]

A 17% levy on foreign profits of U.S. companies to help finance a 5% rate reduction.

Last week Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden became the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Even as a liberal Democrat, he has supported two key goals of corporate tax reform: reducing the U.S. corporate tax rate and repatriating corporate profits held abroad. Sen. Wyden’s challenge will be implementing these goals without increasing the federal debt.

Though there is widespread support for reducing the 35% statutory corporate tax rate, which ranks among the highest in the world, the reduction cannot be financed by the plan President Obama touted in his State of the Union address: closing tax “loopholes.” Congress would have to find $1.2 trillion in new tax revenue over the next 10 years to fund a 10% rate reduction. But politicians can realistically repeal only $200 billion in tax loopholes, including the favorable tax treatment of corporate jets, incentive fees and drilling costs.

That’s because tax preferences are popular. Most of the major existing preferences are intended to promote economic growth, so they are supported by both Democrats and Republicans. The four tax preferences that generate the largest revenue losses are: tax credits for research and development, special deductions for U.S. manufacturing facilities, accelerated depreciation for capital investments, and tax-exempt interest from municipal bonds.

Rather than fighting about political untouchables, legislators should change the tax treatment of foreign profits of U.S. corporations. Under current law, foreign profits are subject to a 35% U.S. tax, but that tax may be deferred indefinitely if those profits are kept abroad. U.S. corporations are sheltering almost $2 trillion in profits abroad, according to Audit Analytics.

Read the complete article at wsj.com…

How To Be More Productive At Work

Do you wonder how you can be more productive at work?

As a follow-up to his book “Extreme Productivity,” Professor Bob Pozen reveals his secrets to workplace productivity and high performance in this video excerpt published by HBS. The antidote to boring meetings and email backlogs, these excerpts demonstrate how busy professionals can achieve their goals by making a critical shift in mindset: from hours worked to results produced.

How to Create Another Housing Crisis [Wall Street Journal]

Government policies to promote home ownership should aim to decrease mortgage defaults, not increase them. They can do so by requiring the lender to bear some of the risk of loss, by requiring the borrower to make a substantial down payment, or both. Yet late last month federal regulators proposed rules that would gut both requirements.

Before the financial crisis, banks or brokers would often originate home mortgages and immediately sell them to a large financial institution, which would package them as mortgage-backed securities for investors. With “no skin in the game,” the originators had little incentive to determine whether the borrower was likely to default.

In response, the Dodd-Frank Act, passed in 2010, generally requires mortgage originators to retain 5% of the risk of loss on the mortgages they sell. However, exemptions built into the law—as interpreted by rules proposed on Aug. 28—would eliminate this requirement for most home mortgages. The proposed rules would also allow low down payments, although they are the best predictors of mortgage defaults.

Read the complete article at wsj.com

Regulators ban advice fees and conflicts [Financial Times]

Regulators around the world have been focusing on how financial companies deliver advice to their clients. The standards that apply to that advice – especially how it is paid for – have been the subject of recent regulatory initiatives in Australia, the US and Europe.

The official goals of these initiatives are to eliminate conflicts of interest that might harm investors, and to help them cope with the increasing complexity of financial markets. Less officially, these initiatives aim to push investors into lower-cost funds – something that fee disclosure at a product level has failed to do sufficiently, at least in regulators’ eyes.

While the scope of the initiatives varies, all incorporate at least one of the following elements: a ban on inducements, and higher standards for advisers.

Virtually all of the proposals call for such a ban – whether it is called a retrocession, rebate, sales load or commission. Whatever the name, they all involve payments from the sponsor of an investment product to the financial adviser who recommends it. Bans are already in place for at least some products in Australia, the Netherlands and the UK.

Read the rest of the article at FT.com

The Future of Home Mortgages in the U.S. [Brookings]

Have you heard of the two terms “risk retention” and “qualified residential mortgages”? Federal regulators are reportedly close to adopting rules defining these two terms, which will largely determine the future shape of the home mortgage market.

Here is the background. The Dodd-Frank Act tried to stop mortgage lenders from issuing mortgages and then immediately selling them to a large financial institution. That institution would put together a pool of home mortgages and sell securities based on the cash flows from the pool. Before the Dodd-Frank Act, because the issuers of many home mortgages immediately sold them, the issuers had little incentive to do a good job of checking carefully whether the borrowers would be able to pay off these mortgages. In other words, these issuers had “no skin in the game.”

In response, the Dodd-Frank Act generally required mortgage lenders to retain some risk in the mortgages they sold. In specific, these lenders were required to retain 5% of the economic risk if they sold mortgages that later defaulted. At the same time, Congress was concerned that such a requirement would lower the volume of new home mortgages. So, Dodd-Frank established several broad exemptions to the risk retention requirement for mortgages that Congress believed were relatively safe.

In the future, the home mortgage market will be dominated by mortgages covered by these exemptions. Almost every firm will prefer to originate and sell these exempt mortgages, rather than retain some of the risk that non-exempt mortgages will later default.

Read the rest of the article at Brookings.edu

Keeping Corporate Managements Honest [Wall Street Journal]

In a rare burst of bipartisanship, the House of Representatives last month voted 321 to 62 to stop a government board from forcing public companies to change auditors every six or seven years. This requirement was floated by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, which suggested that term limits would bolster the independence of auditors.

An overwhelming number of congressmen rejected this requirement as too costly, and they passed an amendment to the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley corporate-accounting law that would prohibit the board from adopting such mandatory rotation.

Read the rest at wsj.com