David Einhorn was on Conseulo WealthTrack. Very good interview as one would suspect from Einhorn. I encourage reading or listening to the entire thing. Below are some highlights.
On what has changed (this is my big thing, the market can go up every day until it doesn't but absolutely nothing has changed fundamentally that caused this whole mess. It is worse)
CONSUELO MACK: Has anything changed? Are any of the watch dogs doing their job better?
DAVID EINHORN: Well, the truth actually is, what we’ve seen is, even in the bigger financial crisis, the same watch dogs have just repeated the same behavior, just in a much bigger way. So what we’ve seen, the same kind of sort of forbearance towards Allied Capital has been granted to the big banks, the big investment banks, and so forth.
CONSUELO MACK: So even with what we’ve seen, with the banks being more prescribed in what they are able to do, I mean, using much less leverage, being more scrutinized, you don’t think that that’s enough?
DAVID EINHORN: It’s just not enough. If you look at the big banks, they’ve gone from maybe 25 or 30 times leverage to 15 or 16 times leverage, or something like that. That’s still a lot of leverage. And it doesn’t count the derivatives books. And you have these huge notional derivatives books that, they’re just sort of tail risks that are sort of out there, and nobody really knows what’s in them, and nobody knows what risk they pose, and you certainly know that if any of the big four or five books that have the massive derivatives books was going to be on the cusp of failing; you would need to bail them out, the same way, in the future, that you would in the past. Notwithstanding whatever the new rules supposedly say.
CONUSLEO MACK: Now, one of the things you just mentioned is inflation. And we are seeing inflation in hard assets. And one of the hard assets that you own at Greenlight Capital is gold. It’s your largest position. So what does gold represent to you, in your portfolio?
DAVID EINHORN: To me, gold represents money. And there’s different types of money. Some people think gold is a commodity, and they want to think about jewelry demand, and how many weddings there are in India, and so forth. And how much is coming out of the ground. I think of gold as money. And you can have dollars, or you can have Yen, or you can Euros, or you can have Pounds, or you can have gold. And there’s other currencies in other countries, but those are the sort of the major currencies as I see it, and I think that the merit of gold is, given our current monetary policy and our fiscal policy, as well as the problems in the other major currencies, gold is the money, I think, of choice, that we would like to have a meaningful amount of our assets denominated in.
CONSUELO MACK: For individual investors, who don’t have the kind of flexibility that you do to trade and, nor the sophistication, I mean, how should we view gold, as individuals? I mean, should it be in all of our portfolios? And should we, too, view it as a substitute for paper currency?
DAVID EINHORN: I think so. I think it makes sense as a diversifier, and to have this sort of money, particularly because this is the kind of money that Chairman Bernanke can’t print more of.
On owning banks
CONSUELO MACK: So as an investor listening to you, would you touch a bank with a ten foot pole? At this point, would you invest in one of the major money center banks?
DAVID EINHORN: No. We wouldn’t invest in the major money center banks.