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Frank But Not Earnest
"What an arbitrage!"
I’m so pleased to report that a new 30 Under 30 grifter dropped: 2019 honoree Charlie Javice, who founded a dubiously useful fintech company called Frank, which collected about 300,000 high school student emails then sold them to JPMorgan in the form of a significantly bulked-out list of 4.25 million customers, 93% of which were either entirely fake (literally generated with a GAN by a university data scientist) or hastily purchased junk emails after the transaction closed. Today in Tabs has exclusively obtained the disputed customer list, and I can share a sample here for the first time:
Forbes likes to keep up with its future criminals so Alexandra S. Levine and Iain Martin broke the first story about this that I saw, noting that “Asked in the Forbes 30 Under 30 submission the worst advice she ever received, Javice answered: ‘Be patient.’” JPMorgan and Javice are now suing each other, with JPMorgan arguing that Frank was a brazen fraud and Javice arguing that JPMorgan was unequipped to take advantage of her core competencies and skills, i.e. doing brazen fraud. I mean, she’s not wrong, exactly. Student Borrower Protection Center Director of Research & Investigations Ben Kaufman annotated the lawsuit filings on Twitter with palpable delight.
So, in essence, [Frank] paid a total of $175,000 for a list of email addresses, and then sold that list to JPMorgan for $175 million, for a perfect 99,900% return on its investment. What an arbitrage! The intuition is that a list of 4 million email addresses with whom you have a warm customer relationship is worth roughly 1,000 times as much as a list of 4 million random email addresses that you scraped up from the dregs of the internet. Javice allegedly scraped up these addresses from the dregs of the internet, dressed them up in Frank’s warm customer relationships, and sold them to JPMorgan at a 1,000x markup. Incredible stuff.
Matt Levine has had a busy couple of days. Yesterday’s Matt Yglesias profile dropped on a particularly inauspicious day for the former Vox founder and worker safety arbitrage proponent, who was busy absolutely butchering Treasury bill math. On Twitter, Levine kindly pointed out that his math was wrong, but that didn’t even matter much because his whole concept was also wrong, and incidentally, he doesn’t seem to know what a basis point is either. Defector’s Chris Thompson blogged it, and also noted that Yglesias has gone since at least 2008 without knowing what a basis point is. To be fair, Yglesias has always claimed to be a poster, not an economist. Finance industry jargon aside, his main skill is hitting “update” in the CMS.
Ah, well, nevertheless.
A “basis point” in finance is one hundredth of one percent. There are a hundred basis points in 1%. So if a bond yield goes from 3.5% to 3.95%, that’s forty five basis points. According to the Washington Post, “13,000 people each pay Matt Yglesias an average of $80 a year” to not know this. But now you know! 🌈⭐️
Home of ancient Pompeiian phallus-fancying “buddies” found. Dave Karpf’s list of three essential Wired articles from each year of the magazine’s existence. Matthew Bryant built a full-text meme search engine at findthatmeme.com using Postgres, Elasticsearch, and a bunch of old iPhones running a custom-built OCR server because that’s by far the cheapest way to do OCR at scale now (??!!). Finally there’s an easy way to find my favorite meme:
Blogging is Back, Baby: “My Week With a No-Needles Lip Filler,” by Annie Hamilton.
I get back to my apartment filled to the brim with peptides, hyaluronic acid, and a week’s worth of Metamucil. I call my pediatrician. I’m 30 years old, so she doesn’t let me come visit her at the office anymore but sometimes she takes my calls. I tell her about my constipation and the Lip Plumper I overapplied and the love of my life who has three other girlfriends, and she tells me to listen to her. “Smoke a cigarette, it’ll make you go to the bathroom,” she says. “That lip stuff has nothing to do with it, but it probably won’t give you new lips, either. And Annie? Now, I’m not the right kind of doctor for this, but you cannot love someone who will not love you back.”
“I wish Helen Lewis weren't so funny,” said a friend who will remain anonymous for their own safety, sharing Lewis’s regrettably funny review of the Prince Harry book. In The Guardian John Crace digested the book (and also digested the digest at the end, if you don’t even have the patience for a digest). Meanwhile, down under, NSW premier Dominic Perrottet showed a little Prince Harry flair himself, admitting “he wore a Nazi uniform at his 21st birthday.” It was 2004, did we even know Nazis were bad way back then? Who can say.
Today’s Song: LVL UP, “*_*”
A concerned reader wrote to ask if they have missed all the open threads since November 18th, which forced me to confront the fact that with one thing1 and another2 I haven't actually done one since then. Oops! Let's do that tomorrow. If you're not subscribed already, get that done. If you are subscribed and want to unsubscribe and renew for $35 instead of $50, I'm not gonna complain.3
The holiday break.
You know who you are.