Sunday, January 01, 2012

Spring Semester Appetizers

Gearing up to teach corporate finance and bankruptcy (two courses, not just one) in the spring, I'm spending my holiday looking for appetizers--hors d'oeuvres* to serve up on the first day of teaching before people's minds are fully in gear. I certainly ought to be able to get some mileage out of this brisk summary of 2011's major corporate bankruptcies, served up by Matt Yglesias (and when, exactly, did he become an economist?).  A few of them (e.g., American Airlines) look to be meaty stories with lots of good classroom apps.  Some (Dynergy?) perhaps just too difficult to untangle at this distance.  And the champ (MF Global) looks to me like just one more  narcissistic banker with a suicide streak and a bent for his own press releases.

For balance, I think I'll throw in the fascinating NYT story of five small businesses that failed did not survive last year..  Interesting that the B-word is not mentioned.  Note, nothing so far on the vast majority of bankruptcy cases: the ordinary working folks who get further and further behind under until they just get sucked into the maelstrom.  True, but plenty of stuff on them to come later.

For corp finance, I think I'll recycle a favorite: the NYT's glorious account of Simmons Mattress, transmogrified from a sleepy (heh!) but study old-fashioned manufacturer, then into a cash cow, then into bankruptcy (why do so  many of my stories wind up here?).  Sure, it's a chance to beat up on private equity but it's also a great vehicle to  kick off an inquiry into the question, what do we want out of a finance system, anyway?

Sounds like fun.   To me, anyway. 

*Does it really mean "out of work?"  


Anonymous said...

i thought the teachers made the students bring the corn dogs.

Ken Houghton said...

"outside of the work," i.e., independent of (and different from) the main course.

Salmon brioche would not be an appropriate hors d'oeuvre from a salmon croquette main course, for instance.

Ken Houghton said...

Btw, PLEASE bash Leveraged Buyouts--er, "Private Equity." Bad for finance, bad for substainability, bad for economic development and innovation.

Other than that, what's not to like?

Buce said...

Brioche/croquette: honoring the vaudeville rule that you don't follow a banjo act with another banjo act.