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Good Reading -- June 2020

Philip C. Ordway

Original: Quoted

  • "Our algorithms exploit the human brain's attraction to divisiveness. If left unchecked [Facebook would feed users] more and more divisive content in an effort to gain user attention & increase time on the platform." -- an internal presentation to Facebook senior executives in 2018 (who then rejected its premise and shut down efforts to reduce divisiveness)

Facts and Figures

  • In 2018 the city of Detroit received more in taxes from its three casinos than from all other properties combined. The casino tax revenue also accounted for 9% of the city's annual budget. (Source: MGP investor presentation, March 2020. Thank you to Thom for sending this!)


  • Dear Shareholder -- This is the latest book from Larry Cunningham, tje law professor, governance expert, corporate director, editor extraordinaire of The Essays of Warren Buffett . I love the topic and subject, and in full disclosure I helped around the edges. Either way the book has my full endorsement.

  • Book description: "The shareholder letters of corporate leaders are a rich source of business and investing wisdom. There is no more authoritative resource on subjects ranging from leadership and management to capital allocation and company culture. In this masterly new collection, Lawrence A. Cunningham...presents the finest writers in the genre of the shareholder letter, and the most significant excerpts from their total output. Skillfully curated, edited and arranged, these letters showcase the ultimate in business and investment knowledge from an all-star team. Dear Shareholder holds letters by more than 20 different leaders from 16 companies. These leaders include Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway), Tom Gayner (Markel), Kay Graham and Don Graham (The Washington Post and Graham Holdings), Roberto Goizueta (Coca-Cola), Virginia Rometty (IBM), and Prem Watsa (Fairfax). Topics covered in these letters include the long-term focus, corporate culture and commitment to values, capital allocation, buybacks, dividends, acquisitions, management, business strategy, and executive compensation."

  • Slides from his virtual book launch are here and the webcast is here.

  • The Case for Empowering Quality Shareholders -- A paper along a similar line of thinking. Highly recommended.

  • "Anyone can buy stock in a public company, but not all shareholders are equally committed to a company’s long-term success. In an increasingly fragmented financial world, shareholders’ attitudes toward the companies in which they invest vary widely, from time horizon to conviction. Faced with indexers, short-term traders, and activists, it is more important than ever for businesses to ensure that their shareholders are dedicated to their missions. Today’s companies need “quality shareholders.”

  • Michael Jordan: The Life -- If you watched "The Last Dance" along with the rest of the world, you might enjoy this exhaustive 2014 biography by Roland Lazenby. It's more than 700 pages, but if you like the subject or all-encompassing biographies the details and the author's work here are impressive. (Thank you to Doug S. for lending this to me!)


  • We Are All Confident Idiots -- If you read one article this year, make it this one.

  • Inside the Biggest Oil Meltdown in History -- Oil markets were turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic and a supply fight, and this article captures the chaos very well.

  • Oil Crash Busted Broker's Computers.. -- A related story about Interactive Broker's software failure, which could not handle negative pricing.

  • Investigation: I Think I Know Which Justice Flushed -- If you need some comedic relief in the form of excellent writing, this article is for you. (Thank you to Pat D. for sending this to me!)

  • The Intelligent Investor -- If you're not already reading Jason Zweig's newsletter, fix that immediately.

  • How Robinhood convinced millenials to trade their way through a pandemic -- It's not quite WeWork, but there are some telling aspects to this story as it pertains to the financial zeitgeist.

  • The best way to exercise self-control is not to exercise it at all -- The title says it all...

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