Wisconsin MBA students were fortunate to learn from legendary investor Jim Chanos throughout Fall 2018, but the rest of the Business Badger network got a chance to hear his insights, too, as the semester wound down.
Chanos, president and founder of Kynikos Associates, a New York-based investment company that focuses on short selling, was a guest lecturer through the Hawk Center for Investment Analysis in Fall 2018 and taught an MBA class called “Financial Fraud Throughout History: A Forensic Approach.” He capped off his semester at the Wisconsin School of Business by discussing cryptocurrency and bitcoin to a curious audience of students and alumni.
“Are they money? Are they securities? What are they? The jury is out,” Chanos said of the digital assets that are the subject of both debate and innovation. “We’re seeing reasonable people disagree about the future.”
Cryptocurrency, of which bitcoin is an example, and blockchain, the technology that powers it, have been topics of interest in recent years. WSB debuted a class on the technology this fall, giving students from across the university the opportunity to study the emerging field. The course was taught and developed by Brad Chandler, director of the Nicholas Center for Corporate Finance and Investment Banking, who invited Chanos to deliver the public lecture on cryptocurrency.
Chanos expressed skepticism about the technology, due to its volatility, slow adaptation, changes in computing, and the challenges of making it work in the greater business world.
“Getting from the theory, which is elegant and noble, to the real world of transacting business, the questions loom large,” Chanos said.
That instinct for asking questions and digging for details was also at the heart of the WSB class Chanos taught. (The name of his company is derived from the Greek word for “cynic.”) Students learned how to identify financial fraud and the patterns that historically have led to it, as well as recognize warning signs in a company’s financial statements.
“Jim Chanos did a good job of talking about historical events and how they draw parallels to what’s going on in current events,” says Dave Klante (MBA ’19).
Chanos flew in weekly from New York to teach the class.
“It was at 8:15 on Monday mornings, and I would never miss it,” Klante says. “It was a great opportunity to hear his thoughts. It’s one of the reasons I came to the Wisconsin School of Business, to learn from people like him.”
Read more about blockchain, cryptocurrency, and bitcoin in the latest issue of Update Magazine.