Thursday, October 15, 2020

Private Briefings at Think Tank Fueled Market Sell-Off

Let's face it, most think tank meetings are soporific affairs of questionable importance that are rarely newsworthy or noteworthy.  But on rare occasions, an event can really create waves, including ones that can roil global markets.

Here is an example from the New York Times.

On the afternoon of Feb. 24, President Trump declared on Twitter that the coronavirus was “very much under control” in the United States, one of numerous rosy statements that he and his advisers made at the time about the worsening epidemic. He even added an observation for investors: “Stock market starting to look very good to me!”

But hours earlier, senior members of the president’s economic team, privately addressing board members of the conservative Hoover Institution, were less confident. Tomas J. Philipson, a senior economic adviser to the president, told the group he could not yet estimate the effects of the virus on the American economy. To some in the group, the implication was that an outbreak could prove worse than Mr. Philipson and other Trump administration advisers were signaling in public at the time.

The next day, board members — many of them Republican donors — got another taste of government uncertainty from Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council.

The document, written by a hedge fund consultant who attended the three-day gathering of Hoover’s board, was stark. “What struck me,” the consultant wrote, was that nearly every official he heard from raised the virus “as a point of concern, totally unprovoked.”


The memo that the NYT referenced was written by William Callanan, a Hoover board member and hedge fund consultant.

NYT also notes that Hoover has close relations with the Trump Administration, and the White House has "pulled from its ranks" to fill top positions.

"Joshua D. Rauh, one of the White House economists addressing the Hoover crowd on Feb. 24, has returned to the institution, where he worked previously. Kevin Hassett, who moderated the panel and has served as the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, is now a Hoover Institution fellow.  Dr. Scott W. Atlas, a Hoover fellow and Stanford professor known for his unorthodox positions on encouraging 'herd immunity,' was named to Mr. Trump’s coronavirus task force in August," says the newspaper.

Here is a piece from Institutional Investor entitled "Who is William Callanan, the Hedge Fund 'Outsourced Strategy Officer' at the Center of an Explosive NYT Report?"

Update: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has asked two US financial market regulators to investigate whether the private Hudson meeting with Trump officials spurred insider trading.