Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Incentive-caused Bias in the Medical Profession

Mr. Charlie Munger would surely have enjoyed reading this superb article in New York Times Magazine published on 25 November.

The piece titled, "Dr. Drug Rep", is a moral story of Dr. Daniel Carlat, a medical man, who learnt how to deal with one of Mr. Munger's favorite mental models: Incentive-Caused Bias which Mr. Munger likes to describe as "whose bread I eat, his song I sing."

Every professional should read Dr. Carlat's story. It has powerful lessons for professions outside of medicine...

Mr. Munger likes to talk about incentive-caused bias as a very powerful psychological tendency, which makes, "a decent man, driven both consciously and subconsciously, by incentives, drift into immoral behavior in order to get what he wants."

Its fascinating to me to see what happens once incentive-cause bias sets in.

After his immoral behavior has started, the victim would come under the influence of several more psychological tendencies. For example, Operant Conditioning (It feels good, so I want more), Social Proof (everyone is doing it, so it must be OK), bias from Commitment and Consistency principle (I have to be consistent with my earlier, taken stand), and Low contrast effect (If I said yes to x, then saying yes to 1.01 x is no big deal) would combine together to produce rationalized immoral behavior. ("Man is not a rational animal, but a rationalizing one.")

It takes a lot of courage for a professional to speak out against the incentive caused bias spreading like cancer in his profession, which is exactly why such stories deserve to be recommended for reading...

For example, the accounting profession could do with more Dr. Carlats...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Quiz for Students on LGB

---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------
Subject: Analyze This
From: sbakshi@mdi.ac.in
Date: Mon, November 26, 2007 11:13 pm
To: bfbv@mdi.ac.in

How would you analyze this?


Text Follows:

August 7, 2007

LG Balakrishnan & Bros Ltd has informed BSE that the Board of Directors of the Company at its meeting held on July 30, 2007, has intended to reduce the paidup capital of the Company by extinguishing 5,658,000 equity shares of Re 1 each held by Trustees LGB Shareholding Trust allotted to them by virtue of scheme of amalgamation as approved by the High Court of Madras, subject to the approval of the shareholders and the High Court.

And this:


Text Follows:

November 26, 2007

LG Balakrishnan & Bros Ltd has informed BSE regarding the order for confirmation by the High Court of Madras under Section 101 and 102 and other applicable provisions of the Companies Act, 1956, for the reduction of the existing fully paid up Share Capital of the Company from Rs 84,139,034 divided into 84,139,034 Equity Shares of Re 1/- each to Rs
78,481,034 divided into 78,481,034 equity shares of Re 1/- each so as to reflect the true paid up capital of the Company by cancellation of 5,658,000 equity shares of Re 1/- each amounting to Rs 5,658,000 in the Company standing in the name of Sri. B Vijayakumar, Sri. P S Balasubramanian and Sri. S Sivakumar, Trustees of LGB Shareholding Trust, which represents the own capital of the Company.

Quiz for Students: Fraud Analysis

--------------- Original Message ---------------- 
Subject: Fraud Analysis
From: sbakshi@mdi.ac.in
Date: Mon, November 26, 2007 10:51 pm
To: bfbv@mdi.ac.in

How would you approach this disclosure?


Text follows:

Hexaware Technologies Ltd on November 26, 2007 reported that its Board of Directors has appointed a special committee to conduct an internal investigation and make recommendations for changes to its foreign exchange management practices. This action is due to certain actively concealed and potentially fraudulent foreign exchange Option transactions conducted by one Hexaware official. The Hexaware official, who exercised unauthorised fiduciary powers, has been immediately suspended, pending Investigation. Hexaware plans to provision between US$ 20-25 million to cover any potential exposure as a result of these transactions.

The series of forex transactions in question were initiated over the last few months. These transactions were unauthorised and outside the Company's normal hedging program. The information regarding these transactions was intentionally withheld from the senior management and the Board of Directors and was not included in internal reports. The first transaction came to light on November 22, 2007. Preliminary investigations conducted
over Friday, Saturday and Sunday led to uncovering of more such transactions.

"The need for provisioning is because or direct actions of one individual which were actively concealed," said Rusi Brij, Vice Chairman and CEO.

A meeting of the Board of Directors was called on November 26, 2007, where it was decided to appoint a Special Committee comprising the following independent directors, to conduct a thorough investigation into the transactions:

- Mr. Shailesh Haribhakti, Chairman of the Audit Committee
- Ms. Preeti Mehta, Partner, Kanga & Co.
- Mr. L S, Sarma, Member of Audit Committee

"As immediate steps, an embargo has been placed on all Option deals; future forex deals will necessarily have to be transacted jointly by two signatories out of the designated four from amongst the top management; the Company's authorised dealers are being informed about this procedure and the internal auditors (KPMG) are being asked to conduct a thorough audit of the function. The Company will continue to maintain the normal hedging strategy to protect against the rupee appreciation," said Shailesh Haribhakti, Chairman of the Audit Committee.

The Company will take all measures and actions as advised by the Special Committee of the Board of Directors, Statutory Auditors (Deloitte) and Legal Advisers, to mitigate the impact or the transactions and prevent recurrence of similar situations in the future.

"The Company's business remains robust and its future growth trajectory unaffected. Our order book, as of September 30, 2007, stands at over US$300 million. We will continue to build on that," added Rusi Brij.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Competitive Project on a Deep Value Stock

Sent to my class just now:

There is a stock out there which, even in this so-called raging bull
market, is offering a dividend yield in excess of AAA bond yield (remember
Graham loved stocks that yielded more than 2/3rd of AAA bond yield).

The unique thing about this stock is that the company to which it belongs
is essentially debt-free. This combination of debt-free status and a high
dividend yield is very attractive, in my view.

Which stock is it?

The group which identifies it first and sends me a report on it, with not
just the name of the stock, but clear demonstration of its cheapness won't
have to submit a project for this term.



Thursday, November 01, 2007

Class Group Project Competition

This was sent to my class students today...

---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------
Subject: Group Project Competition
From: sbakshi@mdi.ac.in
Date: Thu, November 1, 2007 1:18 pm
To: bfbv@mdi.ac.in

Ok here is the deal...

There is a special situation opportunity available in the market today
which promises a return of at least 35% p.a.pretax (the max return in my
view is in the range of 50% p.a. pretax) with very low risk of loss.
Moreover, the deal is suited for debt financing, and is also liquid.

Which group can find this opportunity?

Hint 1: The announcement of the transaction which led to the creation of
this special situation opportunity was made on BSE sometime in the last
ten days.

Hint 2: The operation involves buying a security from the stock market and
thats it. You don't have to sell. You don't have to tender.

This is a competitive project competition. All class groups are invited to
compete. However, only the first TWO GROUP PROJECT REPORTS with the
correct answer and reasoning will be considered towards completion of
group project component for term 5.