Audit Notes: Dodger Money, Social News Apps, U.S. Mowing Bills

Andrew Ross Sorkin writes a tough column on the group of investors buying (or supposedly buying) the Los Angeles Dodgers for an eye-watering $2.15 billion.

In addition to their own cash, Mr. Walter plans to use money from Guggenheim subsidiaries that are insurance companies — some state-regulated — to pay for a big chunk of his purchase of the Dodgers. Guggenheim controls Guggenheim Life, a life insurer, and Security Benefit, which manages some $30 billion, among others…

The transaction seems even more questionable when considering Mr. Walter’s own words to The New York Times two weeks ago: “I don’t want to realize a return on investment on buying the Dodgers. I want to have a multigenerational relationship that changes my life, Magic’s life, Magic’s grandchildren’s lives and all of our lives.”

So let’s get this straight: Mr. Walter, who has a fiduciary duty to the firm’s policyholders, plans to pump their money into a baseball team, even though he says he’s not seeking to realize a return on the investment. And he is seemingly wildly overpaying by some $500 million more than the next highest bidder — he outbid Steven Cohen, the hedge fund manager, among others — so that he can be the league-designated owner of the Dodgers.

The Globe and Mail’s Ivor Tossell takes on the creepy phenomenon of the social news app:

The wizards at Facebook saw that the idea of social sharing has only one flaw: It requires users to actually decide to share something. Their new system rectifies the niggling problem of voluntary decision making. Instead of requiring users to choose to share articles, publications can simply get users’ permission once, and from then on, share everything the users browse. You could call it “frictionless” - a more appropriate title would be “negative-option sharing”…

As usual, Facebook is cavalier with users’ consent. The pop-up consent box that allows websites to start the automatic-sharing process are hardly crystal clear. The big print says, “Read the news with your friends,” while the explanation that your friends will see what you read appears in a jumble of small print. The big blue button that enables the connection says, “Okay, Read Article,” not, “Okay, Tell Everyone What I’m Reading From Here On In.”

Here’s my take on the subject from last week. And The Atlantic’s Matthew O’Brien points to a Chrome browser add-on called Facebook Unsocial Reader that prevents apps like the Washington Post’s from posting what you’ve read.

— As David Dayen points out, ABC News is agog that the government spends $40 million a year mowing the lawns of foreclosed Fannie and Freddie homes.

American taxpayers own close to 200,000 vacant houses, and over the next year they will spend more than $40 million just to mow lawns at these properties. Taxpayers also foot the bills to paint walls, fix cabinets, plant flowers and more — expenses that just last year, exceeded a half a billion dollars.

If you want to sell the houses taxpayers are stuck with, it’s best not to have five-foot-tall weeds blocking the windows.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,