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My Two Cents

Merkin and Shakespeare

Chris Farrell Apr 9, 2009

J. Ezra Merkin the famed money manager and philanthropist, has been charged with betraying “hundreds of investors.” The allegation by the New York State Attorney General is that Merkin told investors he was managing the money himself, but it’s alleged that he simply turned the money over to Madoff. Merkin is a long-time pillar of the New York financial community, a trusted money manager and philanthropist.

He is also one of the famous commentators enlisted for the 6th edition of the investment bible, Security Analysis by Benjamin Graham and David Dodd. It’s a terrific book on its own, and the commentaries are wonderful.

Yet there is something fitting about the title to Merkin’s essay: “Blood and Judgment.” It’s about investing in bankrupt companies. He ends the essay with a quote from Hamlet: “As long as the human tendency to march in herds persists, there will be opportunities for contrarians who are unafraid to stand alone. Think of Graham and Dodd as embodying the spirit of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, who declared:

Blest are those
Whose blood and judgmwent are so well commingled
That they are not a pipe for Fortune’s finger
To sound what stop she pleases.”

But instead of concluding with Hamlet, perhaps his last lines should have come from Shakepeare’s Julius Caesar, and among the most famous lines of betrayal:

O Caesar,–

Hence! wilt thou lift up Olympus?

Great Caesar,–

Doth not Brutus bootless kneel?

Speak, hands for me!

CASCA first, then the other Conspirators and BRUTUS stab CAESAR

Et tu, Brute! Then fall, Caesar.

Isn’t that how his investors must feel? Madoff was bad enough. Et tu Merkin?

I hope not.

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