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Chesapeake And Jpmorgan: Risk Mis-Management With Other People's Money

 May 15, 2012 03:45 PM

(By Kurt Cobb) If I were to stake you $50,000 and set you loose in the world's largest casino, you might try your luck in a big way at a number of games to see if you could double or maybe even triple your good fortune. But it would be an entirely different matter if the $50,000 were your own money. You might decide to take advantage of the casino's restaurant for which you would at least get a meal in return for your money. And, you might even test your skills with a few hundred dollars. But unless you were a gambling addict, you would be on your way pretty soon after the house had taken the few hundred dollars you decided you could afford to lose.

Running some of America's largest corporations is more like the former situation than the latter. And, this week two corporate titans proved just how easy it is to gamble with other people's money, especially when you know you have little to lose personally.

Some may doubt my characterization applies to Chesapeake Energy Corporation since Chesapeake's CEO, Aubrey McClendon, has so much of his own wealth on the line.

Let's go back to 2008 to understand why his case is really like that of the gambler given free money. Back then McClendon was riding high as his huge stake in Chesapeake made him a billionaire. His personal fortunes truly seemed tied to the company. And, when the bottom fell out of the natural gas market (and the stock market as well), he was forced to sell virtually all his shares because he had purchased them on margin. So far, so good.

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