Hoaxes and Hobgoblins

This past September we learned of The University of Calgary’s embarrassment over the discovery that oil industry funds had been moved through its research accounts to carry out non-research activities dealing with climate change issues.[1]  These funds were used to support the activities of a group calling itself, buy somewhat mischievously, “Friends of Science” (http://www.friendsofscience.org/).  Of course one thinks immediately of the old saw:  “With friends such as this, who needs enemies”?  Is the irony implicit in the name intended or not (the case would be more interesting if it were).

Read full article: Hoaxes and Hobgoblins [PDF]

European Debt Crisis in three acts

The Online English Edition of Der Spiegel has a brilliant analysis of the European debt crisis that is not to be missed.

Read “The Ticking Euro Bomb” (October 5-7, no rx 2011):

Act I:

Part 1, advice Section 1:  “How a good idea became a tragedy”:  http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,790138,00.html

Part 1, Section 2:  “The Greeks jump at the opportunity”: http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,790138-2,00.html

Part 1, Section 3:  “The critics of the Euro”: http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,790138-3,00.html

Act II:  Life with the Euro (2001 – 2008):

Part 2, Section 1: “How the Euro Zone ignored its own rules”:


Part 2, Section 2:  “The Greek deception is discovered”: http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,790333-2,00.html

Act III:

Part 3, Section 1:  What options are left for the common currency? http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,790568,00.html

Part 3, Section 2:  Greece adrift http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,790568-2,00.html

Part 3, Section 3:  Design defects, political weakness, public disinterest http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,790568-3,00.html

Part 3, Section 4:  Are European rescue efforts doomed to fail? http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,790568-4,00.html

Risk Blogs – Summer 2011

The following series of short essays was written in the period June – August 2011 and posted on my website: www.leiss.ca. Similar pieces will be added to the series on a regular basis. If you are interested in them you may check the website periodically or follow me on Twitter (@WilliamLeiss), where I post a Tweet (a) each time a new short blog appears on my website and (b) when I read something in the current press relevant to risk issues and provide the URL for those who also might want to read it.

LeissRiskBlogsSummer2011rev2 [PDF]

Update: the PDF was updated August 29, 2011

Financial Risk Management: Duping the Rubes

Before 2008 financial industry professionals arranged to deceive local government officials around the world about the risks inherent in their “structured” products, pilule costing the citizens those officials worked for huge losses they could ill afford. Much of this sad story has been told in excellent investigative journalism accounts published in The New York Times, some of which are referred to in my 2010 book, The Doom Loop in the Financial Sector and Other Black Holes of Risk (University of Ottawa Press), pages 38-43. Here I refer to developments occurring after the book was finished, as well as one other newly-reported important episode, involving school districts in the state of Wisconsin.

Duping the RubesRev3 [PDF]

Update: the PDF was updated October 3