Here’s some great news. Today the Wall Street Journal is running an article on the research that Yuval and I have been doing for ah… a number of of years, on the New York Stock Exchange.

You can find a link to the newspaper article here here.

Blog readers may be interested in “Capitalizing on Performativity: Performing on Capitalization”, a symposium to be held at the Ecole des Mines de Paris on 16-17 October 2014. Details on purpose, content and form here.

Christian Borch, professor at Copenhagen Business School, has been awarded a prize from the ASA’s theory section for his excellent work in The Politics of Crowds (Cambridge, 2013). The book traces the changing relationship between crowds and rationality within 19th Century sociology.

Christian reminds us that long before ‘ask the audience’ was a useful lifeline on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, crowds were considered to be a destructive, contagious and irrational force that could threaten social order. To get a taste for the history, you can check out an early article where he argues that the “re-description of crowd behaviour in rational terms” obliterated “almost every distinguishing trait that the crowd possessed according to 19th-century semantics” (see European Journal of Social Theory, 2006).

Since completing the book, Christian has launched a research colloquium to explore ‘Crowd Dynamics and Financial Markets’. If you can’t make it to Copenhagen, the website for the initiative is an interesting resource where you can learn more about some of the work-in-progress on finance across Europe.  

On November 24-25, the group will host a special workshop on ‘High-frequency trading sociality, crowd psychology and dynamic collectives‘. Abstracts no longer than 500 words should be submitted to Ann-Christina Lange ( by September 30 2014.

In 1992, Stella Liebeck was badly burned when a cup of coffee from McDonalds spilled on her lap.

If you’re curious to know more about how and why a jury of her peers awarded her $2.9 million then have a look at this thoughtful review of the story on RetroReports, a documentary news initiative that revisits and reexplains big stories from decades past.

This is an excellent case study in valuation. Liebeck’s story shows that value doesn’t make sense without also understanding the process, the mechanism, by which value is assessed.

If you thought the case was frivolous have a good look at the photos of the physical damage Liebeck suffered. It’s hard to grasp how so much damage could have been caused by a little cup of coffee. The images featured in the report are truly gruesome.


CFP: Investigating High-Frequency Trading. Theoretical, social and anthropological perspectives.

For details click the following link: CFP – Investigating HFT

Organised by:

Ann-Christina Lange, Assistant Professor, Copenhagen Business School (

Marc Lenglet, Lecturer in Management, European Business School Paris (

Robert Seyfert, Postdoctoral Fellow, Cluster of Excellence, Konstanz University (

Deadline (for Workshop 1 in Copenhagen): September 30, 2014.

The 1980s are over

July 7, 2014

In 1989, a brutal crime seized the civic imagination of New Yorkers. The victim, an ambitious young investment banker working in the corporate finance department of Solomon Brothers, would simply be known as ‘The Jogger’.

The Jogger was out for a run into central park after-work, when she was viciously attacked, dragged into the bushes, severely beaten and raped. As one reporter noted at the time of the trial, The Jogger was “part of the wave of young professionals who took over New York in the 1980’s. Some among them had seemed convinced that if you worked hard enough and exercised long enough, you could do anything; even go into the park at night.” (NYTimes)

As the decade of Me drew to a close, The Jogger became NY’s symbol of a courageous middle-class figure dragged down by the grimy underbelly of a city in deep recession. But of all the crimes that happen in New York, why the intense focus on this particular woman? Why the sensation around this particular case?

Essayist Joan Didion asked this very question in 1991, in a probing NYRB article entitled New York: Sentimental Journeys.

The answer Didion provides is sociologically quite complex, traversing everything from race relations and sexual politics in America, to the historical design of central park. What surprised me the most in her analysis, however, is that she also ties the symbolic charge of The Jogger to the crash of October 1987, which she says “damaged the illusions of infinite recovery and growth on which the city had operated during the 1980s”.

In 1990, it felt as though there was something wrong with New York. Didion reports that people were talking about “their loss of flexibility, about their panic, their desolation, their anger, and their sense of impending doom”. The public, she says, associated its sense of anxiety with accusations of wild behavior in the public space. New Yorkers were eager, too eager, to believe their uneasiness was caused by the teenagers roaming in the park that night, five of whom were publicly arrested, humiliated and convicted of the crime.

Didion objects. The teenagers are not to blame.

These people were talking instead about an immediate fear, about money, about the vertiginous plunge in the value of their houses and apartments and condominiums, about the possibility or probability of foreclosure and loss; about, implicitly, their fear of being left, like so many they saw every day, below the line, out in the cold, on the street.

They were not, she said, “talking about drugs, or crime, or any of the city’s more publicized and to some extent inflated ills”.

Didion was right. In 2002, having already served a collective 41 year in prison, the five men had their convictions overturned. A serial offender who was behind bars confessed to the attack on Trisha Meili in 1989, and DNA evidence later confirmed.

Last week, the five men received a $41 million dollar settlement from the city of New York. For them, the 1980s are only now over. The riches they couldn’t access before, their belated share, has finally been doled out.


Here comes my favourite part of the year. It’s sunny again in London, Wimbledon is in full swing, and the second edition of the LSE Summer School in sociology of finance is about to start.

This three-week course for advanced undergraduates came into existence last year at LSE. It offers a new way of thinking about the capital markets, one that is different from neoclassic finance, and from behavioural economics. And the response from the students surprised even its perennially optimistic organizer, that is, myself.

So as I had sat with a coffee at Fields the other day, I asked myself: what to do to live up to the expectations? There’s even more students this year. The admissions office tells me they’re very well prepared. And with the latest round of bank scandals this year, be it Barclay’s dark pool, or BNP Paribas’ sentence, there seems to be greater than ever need for fresh thinking about finance.

So for starters, I decided to keep the good stuff. We’re staying in 32 London Fields, the coolest (and most convoluted) Victorian building ever built. We’ve kept the lectures by Yuval Millo, and by Juan Pablo Pardo-Guerra. Our volunteer TA from last year, Nina Andreeva, has now been promoted to lecturer for one session. Most importantly, we’ve kept the speakers. One per day, hectic as it sounds. So we have a managing director from a large bank in the City, a consultant on bank culture, two managers from a ratings agency, a hedge fund portfolio manager, an official from the Bank of England. And more.

There are also improvements. We have a one-day lecturer in financial communication, Franscisco Blanco, who ran the investor relations of Telefonica for a decade. I have reduced the amount of homework (I knew you’d like that). And most importantly, we have a new and energetic TA, Megan Peppel, who is taking one month off from her busy doctorate in UC Berkeley (California) to be with us this July.

For those of you who are interested, here’s the syllabus: MG301 Firms Markets Crisis Summer School reading list

So this is it. Class starts on Monday. Looking forward to it!


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