Credit Crisis Diary: 16/05/2009

One return for us, another for the clients

The US hedge fund star James Simons, rarely puts a foot wrong, but he was certainly wrongfooted by some cross investors who used a conference call with the great man to ambush him.

Mr Simons's flagship fund, Reif, is down 17 per cent this year, investors pointed out. That would be bad enough, but another fund, in which the money of Mr Simons and several colleagues is held, is up 12 per cent over the same period. "We certainly understand our clients' discomfort," Mr Simons told investors recently. But they clearly don't share it.

Not to prejudge the issue, but...

Looks like the oil company Shell needs to draft in a few extra security guards for next week's annual general meeting. One protest group at least is promising a noisy demonstration over Shell's environmental record and its activities in the Niger Delta. Given the group's web address – – it seems unlikely to be turning up for a considered debate.

A good home for MPs' money?

ING Direct continues to target the UK savings market – and one bunch of cash-rich individuals in particular. Almost every story about MPs' expenses on The Daily Telegraph's website appears with an advert from ING Direct. At least MPs know where best to stash their ill-gotten gains.

The not so great government giveaway

Say what you like about Alistair Darling, but he's not daft. Parker's, the car buying gurus, point out that his scrappage scheme won't cost a penny – indeed, it will make money for the Treasury. Since the Government is only putting up £1,000 of the scrappage incentive, there is not a new car cheap enough for the Treasury not to make more back on VAT than it is shelling out. On a £17,000 Ford Focus, for example, it will net almost £2,200 in VAT for its £1,000 investment.

Pennies (and more) from heaven

German police yesterday closed a section of motorway for financial reasons: a man driving a convertible car with the roof down left an envelope containing €23,000 on the back seat, only for the cash to blow across the carriageway. The money had been meant to pay for the Audi car, which the unfortunate chap was test-driving near Hanover. Police spent half an hour searching for the money, but could not find €3,000 of it. Meanwhile the man, 23, could be also charged for the cost of the police operation.