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Alpha Fraud

Per the NYT of May 30, 2016: “… she would be eligible for a “guaranteed” return of 12 percent.” This was alleged to have occurred near April 2008 – another apparent instance of alpha fraud wherein the victim is enticed to part with her/his funds in exchange for an out-sized return on investment. Not to blame the victim (because fraudsters can be a charming lot), but strangers and other individuals do not return to you 12% on the funds that you give them, especially in April 2008, during which the financial crisis was afoot. The belief that strangers have a secret sauce from which to create steroid-induced returns, and that such strangers would share the recipe with you for a comparatively minuscule fee are two patently incredible statements. Out-sized returns on investment require out-sized profits, which in turn require many persons paying way too much for what they got. Guess who paid way too much in this case?

From the same article: ““‘Too big to manage’ is really the next frontier of regulatory challenges in the financial industry,” said Robert J. Jackson Jr., a professor of law at Columbia University. “Even the best senior managers will tell you that running an organization of this size and scope well, and keeping an eye on all of his employees, is an enormous challenge that we’re not yet prepared for.”” Though this generalization has some validity (n.b. there is a significant difference between regulatory oversight by a public / independent sector entity and direct supervision by an employee’s employer), the digital tools available to conduct surveillance on employees can be readily tested: Try sending a pornographic link to a colleague through your employer’s email server, and you will rapidly discover that someone (or something) is watching (just a thought experiment – please do not do so!)

However, effective inspection and oversight is not merely empowering technology with keyword signals under algorithms. Competent and interested overseers should read, take account of context, understand implications, etc. – laborious, time-consuming activities that are not cheap if done right. The promise of a 12% return communicated perhaps through an employer server during those times was not pornography, but it smells like fraud – fraud that is not especially easily detectable from the same tunnel-vision means and methods used to detect dissemination of kiddie porn. Sometimes, you get what you look for.

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