Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Today In Guano

We have an odd fascination with guano.
Let me rephrase that.

From Law 360:

Judge Kills Suit Seeking $213M On 140-Year-Old Guano Notes
Law360, New York (April 5, 2017, 11:53 PM EDT) -- A New York federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit brought by an Illinois company that purported to be owed upwards of $213 million by Peru for bearer bonds the government apparently issued in 1875 to a company that sold nutrient-rich South American bird excrement to U.S. farmers.

In a little-noticed Mar. 24 decision, U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts ruled that a 2015 suit by an entity known as MMA Consultants 1 Inc. couldn’t go forward....
HT to and partial headline (Today in...) from, David Keohane's Further Reading post at FT Alphaville.
If interested here are all the filings, motions and orders from MMA Consultants 1, Inc. v. Republic of Peru.

Questions America Is Asking: "Are We Entering a New Golden Age of Guano?"
"Has The Earth Ever Run Out of a Natural Resource?"
The Lore and Lure of Fertilizer: A Century of Potash Intrigue (POT; MOS; IPI)

New York Guano
More than you ever wanted to know. First a partial re-post:
Equity Valuation and Forecasting Future Returns and a Gift for our Readers

A subject near and dear to my heart. I may be the only person I've ever met who read every page of The Cowles Commission's Common Stock Indexes 1871-1937.
[you must be a blast at parties -ed]

Mr. Cowles is quite explicit as to the reasons the Commission didn’t go further back than 1871. (pg. 4)
A big one is the paucity of publicly traded industrials.
My favorite tidbit is the listing, among the pre-1871 industrials, of New York Guano.
Some things never change. 
Here’s Yale’s (and my) gift:
It links to a big ‘ol hog of a PDF.
...From Cabinet Magazine:

Islands and the Law: An Interview with Christina Duffy Burnett

...Christina Duffy Burnett is a professor of law at Columbia University, where she teaches legal history, immigration, citizenship, and the US Constitution. Much of her work deals with the legal problems that arise at the margins of empire. She spoke with Sina Najafi by phone in June of 2010.
This is a very general question, but let’s take a stab at it anyway: do islands matter in the law?
The best way to get at this may be to start with something quite specific. In the summer of 2003, I stumbled on a 969-page typescript treatise which is kept in the library of the US State Department. Flipping through this great leather-bound brick of onion-skin pages, I gradually absorbed that the whole massive volume had been put together in the 1930s by a lawyer working for the US Government who’d been given a killer assignment. Apparently somebody had walked over to the desk of this poor functionary, scribbling away in some basement office, and said something along the lines of: “You know, we have a bunch of islands in the Pacific and the Caribbean—little islands. How about you figure out what the deal is with all these places, legally speaking.” I was holding the result: The Sovereignty of Islands Claimed Under the Guano Act and of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, Midway, and Wake. And it was splendid to behold: nearly a thousand pages of intricate legal arguments and historical documentation on the strange history of the United States’ nearly invisible, but surprisingly vast, insular empire.
The Guano Act? What is guano? It’s bat excrement, right? 
Yes. And bird doo, too. In this case, it refers to the bird version.
So there was a US law about bird droppings that somehow proves important for thinking about the law of sovereignty? 
Indeed. The Guano Islands Act of 1856 arguably laid the legal groundwork for American imperialism....MORE, if interested.
.... But that’s not the interesting part, really—although it’s curious enough, and there are some great stories about what goes down on these islands: shanghaiing Polynesian laborers, piracy (of course), mutiny, etc. Some of the islands are still claimed by various shady types. Indeed, a rather mysterious gentleman contacted me some years ago in connection with his alleged title to an uninhabited guano island in the Caribbean.  

A James Bond villain-type? 
 I don’t think I can speak any further on that matter over an unsecure line...