Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Sartorial Sleuth - Bow Ties and Bourbon

Carrot & Gibbs, Boulder, CO

Bow ties are not for everyone. However, those who choose them stand somehow a little taller, seem somehow a little smarter, have - by the very act of strapping a bow tie around their neck - a more refined sense of style than others - the masses, those hordes of men who are…afraid.

As I strolled into The Patterson House one night last month the young man staffing the host stand said, “Man, that’s a fantastic bow tie. I just don’t think I could get away with wearing one.”

My answer: “The second you decide put on a bow tie is the second you gain the ability to pull it off.” The simple act of walking out into public with a bow tie is proof that you have the balls to do it. No one will ever question it. Some of your friends may laugh, but that’s just jealousy. They wish, deep down, that they had the strength of character to dress like a man. More often than not, you will receive mass un-solicited compliments.

All you have to do is pick a tie, learn to tie it, put it on, and hit the town.

I realize that shopping for a bow tie can be a bit daunting. So, here are some suggestions for where you might go to pick up a snappy bow tie.

Our friends over at Imogene and Willie have a small selection of bow ties made right here in Nashville by the talented Otis James. These ties are, as you might expect, super cool. My pal Dave picked one up a couple weeks ago and loves it. Swing by Imogene and Willie and ask one of them to point you in the right direction. Tell them The Sartorial Sleuth send you. 

Another option is to go to Brooks Brothers; they always have a large selection of regimental stripes and classic designs from which to choose.

My personal bow tie of choice is Carrot & Gibbs, made in Boulder, Colorado. Seriously, these pure silk works of art tie perfectly, look great with an odd jacket or suit, and they come in patterns you cannot find at you’re local Brooks Brothers.

If you don’t know how to tie a bow tie, it’s actually quite simple. For a step by step guide click here or here. Also remember, a bow tie should not be perfect and straight. It should look like you tied it yourself. If it’s too perfect, you’ll look like you’re wearing a pre-tied bow tie, which is discernibly un-cool.

The first Wednesday of the month for the next several months, [FIND] Investigations will host an informal gathering of men of style. We meet at The Patterson House. We’ve dubbed the monthly meeting "Bow Ties and Bourbon."

If you have the stones, strap on a bow tie and join us.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Few Thoughts On Permission

I am not opposed to being marketed. I have been known to sign up for on-line entrepreneurial offerings. I have taken classes on creativity.

I do, however, abhor the idea of being taken advantage of in email-marketing. If I share my email address with you and invite your marketing, do not, do not, do not take that relationship as a free pass to intrude.

Example: A couple of points to make up front.
1. I am not particularly religious nor do I hold many things to be sacred.
2. I do, however, greatly value my off-time.

I received an email Easter Sunday. I was on the road working, so the idea of interrupting my holiday was not the issue. The email I received had this in the subject line, “I know it's Easter, but when you have something this good...

Am I wrong in reading an implied promise of something so good that it was worth interrupting my Easter Holiday (my off-time)? The email, it turns out, was just another shameless self-promotion. I am not offended by receiving self-promotional emails. I get that. I am, however, highly offended that they implied that there was something so good that it merited intruding on my off-day (A specific day that is, to many, a holy day…A day that is, to them, sacred).

Do Not, Do Not, DO NOT interrupt your audience with a promise of something so amazing that it merits interrupting a holiday, or any other day for that matter, when it’s just the same message you always send.

Permission marketing is just what it sounds like. I give you permission to market to me. I do not, however, give you permission to interrupt me and make false-promises.

The Easter email drove me to action. I took the 3 minutes time to log in and un-subscribe to the email list. I also took several minutes to write this blog post. Be very careful with the permission you’ve been granted. Over-step your boundaries, and you’ll lose any and all credibility you ever had in one click of the send button. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Due Diligence and the Mortgage Crisis

due diligence (dü dil ǝ jǝns), n. 1 such constant and earnest effort required as a reasonable person under the same circumstances would use 2a the care that a prudent person might be expected to exercise in the examination and evaluation of risks affecting a business transaction 2b the process of investigation carried on usually by a disinterested third party (as accountants, private investigators, or law firms) on behalf of a party contemplating a business transaction for the purpose of providing information with which to evaluate the advantages and risks involved.

Should due diligence be part of the lending process? Does a loan officer qualify as a disinterested third party? Can we regulate our way out of this crisis? What, in the context of real estate loans, constitutes reasonable and prudent?

Let’s start with the latter. I believe it is reasonable and prudent to verify a person’s income, financial history, and even personal character prior to lending money. A home loan is not a horribly complex thing. In its simplest form a bank loans a person money to purchase a house. The house is taken as collateral. The person has a prescribed term over which to repay the money borrowed, usually in monthly installments. It really is, and should be, that simple.

Which of the following scenarios do you think represents the constant and earnest effort of a reasonable person?

Scenario 1
2006: How We Got Into This Mess in the First Place
Steve goes to Big National Bank and says, “I want to buy a house.” The teller sends Steve to a 23 year old sitting behind a faux wood desk in a cubicle constructed from modesty panels and glass. The 23 year old goes by the name Chas. He has on bass penny-loafers, pleated khaki pants, and a BNB Team golf-shirt in pale-blue.

Chas asks Steve a series of questions, “How much do you want to spend on a home?” How much do you make? Really, well that’s not a problem. We can just say that you make a little more than that. Your salary should increase next year, right? Good. Just sign here.” Steve walks out of BNB with a hew home and an adjustable rate mortgage that is set to increase in three years (eons in today’s market). 0% down + 100% financed = 100% value of the home.

Apparently Chas has committed no crime. He even received a bonus for processing the loan quickly and convincing Steve to go with the friendly ARM. BNB writes the loss off and gladly accepts TARP funds. The CEO borrows the company jet to fly to a golf tournament in Houston for the weekend. Steve has committed mortgage fraud by telling a lie on his loan documents and gets 5 in the pen, out in 3 with good behavior.

Scenario 2
2008: What’s Not Helping
Steve strolls into Big National Bank and says, “I want to buy a house.” Chas, our be-cubicled day-trading wannabe, sends Steve home with a pile of paperwork, the documents required by regulation to ensure that Chas knows Steve.

Steve comes back in a week, paperwork completed. Chas reviews the records and sends them to underwriting. Underwriting calls Chas and asks a few questions. They’ve filed all of the papers required, answered all of the questions on the forms, made sure Steve fits within the “regulated parameters”. They call Steve and tell him he can buy his new home.

Steve realizes a year later that his company no longer considers him to be a linchpin. They let him go with no severance and let him take over the lease on his company car. Steve, thanks to borrowing 110% of the house's value, is in way over his head. Chas gets a bonus for making such a fantastic loan. BNB sells the house in February for a fraction of its value and shows a profit because they “realized” the loss in January. The CEO spends a week in the Turks and Caicos. Steve made an error on one line in the mortgage documents and gets 5 in the pen, out in 3 with good behavior. 0% down 110% loan = Steve owes more than the house is worth.

Scenario 3
1995: The Way It Used to Be
Janet drives over to Local Bank and tells the bank manager, Bob, her dad’s lifelong friend, that she would like to buy her first home. Bob knows that Janet is two years into her career as a nurse. He asks her, “How much money do you have for a down payment?” She tells him that she’s saved up about $20,000 over the past two years, part of which was a gift from mom and dad. (She lived at home and worked like crazy. She has no credit card debt.)

Bob calls Janet’s boss, Virginia, over at regional hospital to verify employment and income. Bob and Virginia graduated City High together in ’59. Virg tells Bob that Janet is a dream employee, verifies her actual income, and tells Bob to bring the family by on Saturday for dinner.

Bob then runs a credit check on Janet, sees that she has no credit history. Bob has coffee every morning with Will, who owns the ladies' shoe store on 14th. Will tells Bob that he has had a credit account for Janet for the past three years. She has made every payment on time, most of them early.

Bob sits down with Janet and advises her to look at houses in the old neighborhood. They’re a little cheaper, but they’re well built. This way she can use the portion she actually saved for the down payment, maybe use the money her parents gave her to remodel the kitchen. The monthly payment will be much easier for her to handle, even with the 15 year amortization schedule.

Bob was paid his usual bank salary for doing his job. Virginia made a pot-roast for dinner on Saturday. Will spilled coffee all over his Christmas tie on Monday morning. Janet paid the house off in the early months of 2010. She now owns it free and clear. 20% down + 80% loan = 100% value of house.

Know your customer (KYC) is a form of due diligence for banks and financial institutions and other regulated companies. Based on KYC these institutions must verify the identity of their clients and ascertain relevant information pertinent to doing financial business with them. Really? That has to be regulated? In the USA, KYC is a policy implemented under the bank security act and the USA PATRIOT Act.

KYC should, I would argue, just be a matter of common sense, not necessarily a regulated policy. One might argue that it’s not possible for BNB to know every customer. I think it actually is. You see, back in the day when I started banking with a local branch of one of the BNBs, the branch manager knew the customers.

She called customers by name when we came in to do routine banking. When I, as a young man, had a little problem with available funds, she called me personally, scolded me and helped me get the matter under control. She didn’t know my dad, or share dinners with my boss (that I know of), but she knew me and how to verify who, what, where, when I was.

I dare say she would not advise me, or any of her other customers, to choose an adjustable rate mortgage. She’s no longer with the bank. Neither am I. I removed all of my accounts from the BNB when I realized that I didn’t know a single person in the local branch. When I had an issue with a new policy the bank had regarding availability of funds after deposit, they referred me to the 1-800 customer service number.

I moved to Reliant Bank, a local bank. They only had one branch when I moved my accounts. They now have three. When I walk in the front door of any of these branches, the tellers, the commercial lending officers, and the manager all say something along the lines of, “Hi Thomas.” When I asked them, in 2009 for a refinance, they said, sure.

But they ran me through the paces. They verified all income, all accounts, all assets. They checked every reference, called employers, and expanded their queries to associates and friends. It was not an easy process, but I really didn’t mind. They were covering their bases. Making what I would call a reasonable effort to determine their exposure and risk in agreeing to lend money to me.

Here’s a thought. Private Investigators, Certified Fraud Examiners could be used in this process, up front, as a part of due diligence. Hire a professional to learn as much as possible about your customers. You’ll have no problem meeting the KYC requirements, and if your customers don’t want the scrutiny, well…maybe they aren’t quiet ready to buy that house. Yea?

Monday, April 11, 2011

PI gone bad - The insane story of Chris Butler

I just finished this story and feel compelled to share it. I can't even begin to paraphrase what happened. Just click here and read for yourself: Chris Butler Story

Friday, April 8, 2011

[FIND] Vice - Taylor Jackson

Taylor Jackson, Lt. Metro Nashville Police Department, Homicide.

What can we say about Taylor Jackson? She’s tall, blond, gorgeous, smart, well-bred, but rebellious. She’s tough, strong, pretty, leggy, manly, yet feminine. She kills it in a dress and will kick your ass for noticing. Lieutenant Taylor Jackson, the leading lady in a series of detective novels written by Nashville author J.T. Ellison, is unique.

I met Taylor at Patterson House, local gin-joint, dark, tin-ceiling, and bookshelves for walls. We sat at the end of the bar, either side of the corner, facing each other. I ordered my usual, and asked her what’s her poison. She said, “I like beer, maybe a wine. Don’t drink much heavy liquor.”

Thank god James, the friendly barkeep and mix-master picked up on that vestigial Belle Meade drawl. “Young lady,” he said, “trust me on this, you need a cocktail.” He tore a handful of mint, slammed it in a sterling tumbler and twisted the classic julep into a new and delightful taste of old-Nashville.

The Cocktail

Taylor’s Old-School
2 oz Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey (the Nashville connection)
1/4 oz Rothman & Winter Apricot Liqueur 
1/4 oz Demarara Syrup
13 Drops of Peychaud's Bitters
3 Sprigs of Mint

Place the mint in the bottom of a metal julep cup and bruise it. Then, using your muddler, pull the mint up the inside wall of the cup to coat the inside with mint oil. Press the mint back down in the tin and then add the whiskey and stop. Give the spirit a moment to extract still more mint essence from the mint. After ten seconds or so add the rest of the ingredients and fill the cup about 3/4 of the way full with crushed ice. Swizzle the drink until a frosty coat of ice is built on the exterior of the cup. Cap the drink with a heaping dome of crushed ice and garnish with a bouquet of mint and a straw. 
- - -

After enjoying a few too many, we slip out the back door, down the wooden steps to the secret patio behind The Patterson House. We pick a table—there’s nobody else—and settle into seats for a pause. Taylor reaches into her purse and pulls out a cigar. “Guilty pleasure,” she says, clips the end, lights it, and delivers it across the table. Thoughtful lady, that Taylor…

The Cigar
by Joe Zike, UpTowns
CAO – Sopranos Edition
Wrapper: Brazil
Binder: Honduras
Filler: Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Columbia

A local woman, she knows Nashville's players and fakers. She'd support the homegrown CAO cigar company, and her smoke of choice from the 14 blends they make would be the "Sopranos" edition. This blend has rich cocoa and coffee notes. Her size, fittingly, would be the "Boss" which is 7 inches long with a 56 ring gauge. It's the right cigar for her to blow smoke rings around the shrewdest criminal mind. -JZ