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Fortune Brainstorm Finance is going virtual

May 20, 2020, 3:14 PM UTC

This is the web version of The Ledger, Fortune’s weekly newsletter covering financial technology and cryptocurrency. Sign up here to get it free in your inbox.

I’ve spent the last few weeks writing about a different form of currency than you normally read about in The Ledger, but a scarce one nonetheless: In “The Case of the Missing Toilet Paper,” I followed the trail from the empty shelves of Walmart to the eucalyptus forests of Brazil to find out just why at least a dozen companies on our new Fortune 500 list are having so much trouble keeping the white stuff in stock.

If you don’t believe me that TP, in the pandemic, has become a bona fide form of currency, see here and here. But while blockchain technology has been hailed by businesses as a panacea to all sorts of supply chain woes, I’m not sure it would have helped much in this case. After all, even if you could track every roll of toilet paper on a blockchain, what happens when they’re all sold out? Here’s an excerpt from the story, in which I spoke with a top executive at Procter & Gamble, the maker of Charmin:

 “We are prepared for thousands of different events, from cybersecurity attacks to earthquakes to fire,” says Julio Nemeth, P&G’s chief product supply officer, whose earnest voice is accented by his native Argentina. “But we were not prepared for all of those happening at the same time, which is what the pandemic brought to us.”

If you have an idea for how blockchains could help alleviate the toilet paper shortage, please let me know.


If these were normal times, we’d be less than a month away from throwing our second annual fintech bash in Montauk, Fortune Brainstorm Finance, and making you salivate over all the lobster rolls we planned to eat and beers we planned to drink in between talking banking and cryptocurrency.

This being coronavirus times, we are excited to announce that we are taking our plans online, and rolling out a series of virtual Brainstorm Finance events where we’ll be discussing the all-important role fintech is playing in the pandemic, and why the industry we cover is becoming more essential than ever.

Our first conversation will be next week on May 28th, titled “Fintech on the Front Lines.” We’ll be talking to executives at Robinhood, Square and Google about online investing amid market volatility; fintech lending to small businesses as part of the stimulus package’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP); and how new payments technology is providing a lifeline to consumers (as well as businesses) in this lonely crisis.

The event is invite-only, but  we’ll be sharing our coverage and takeaways in The Ledger, so please send us any burning questions you have for the leaders of these companies.

As always, beers and lobster are completely condoned during Brainstorm Finance events, but in this case, you’ll have to bring your own.

Jen Wieczner




Stock- and crypto-trading platform eToro hits 13 million global users ... Starboard engineers a turnaround at reloadable debit card issuer Green Dot ... Singapore-based Temesek investing group joins the Libra Association ... Goldman Sachs to acquire wealth manager Folio ... Fintech offers lifeline for crisis-stricken Mexican businesses ... Facebook launching online shopping platform ... Online shopping's impact is bigger than its market share ... New documentary shows growth of Bitcoin in Africa.


Deutsche Bank chairman will step down ... Someone has lost a job in 40% of U.S. households earning under $40,000 annually ... Nasdaq tightens listing rules, restricting Chinese IPOs ... Bitcoin hashrate declines after reward halving ... Trump-Deutsche Bank relationship under fresh scrutiny ... Walmart shuts down ecommerce acquisition Jet ... Hackers try to hijack academic supercomputers to mine Bitcoin ... Mnuchin warns of "permanent" economic damage.



The number of new accounts opened on Charles Schwab, E*Trade, and Interactive Brokers, three of the four largest U.S. stock-trading platforms, since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. That's about double the pace of pre-coronavirus times, a surge in part explained by the transition of sports betters into day trading in the absence of live sports. This has been described as the "Davey Day Trader Effect," after Barstool Sports cofounder Dave Portnoy. Portnoy led the charge of gamblers piling into day trading, and also became a cautionary tale: In just a few weeks of trading, Portnoy lost $647,000.

By the way, folks, if you're looking for some real thrills, lemme tell you about a little thing called BitMEX.


He called in and placed an order for 10 pizzas to a friend's house and charged $160 to his personal credit card. A Doordash call center then called into his restaurant and put in the order for those 10 pizzas. A Doordash driver showed up with a credit card and paid $240 for the pizzas.

It worked.

From a truly epic installment of the Margins newsletter by Ranjan Roy. As the economy shrinks, it will become all too easy to forget the absolutely wild lengths to whitch startups have gone to acquire customers over the past decade. In this case, Doordash offered discounts against a restaurant's own prices to (apparently) lure new users, allowing the restaurant's owner to engage in some experimental (and short-lived) arbitrage. The underlying delivery business model is now showing serious cracks, as delivery apps encounter their greatest growth opportunity ever and instead risk emerging as rent-seeking villains while remaining mysteriously unprofitable.


J.K. Rowling was drinking old-fashioneds and asked Twitter to explain Bitcoin. Here's what happened next - Jeff John Roberts

SoftBank is back with another set of Microsoft Paint-level graphics - Lucinda Shen

From Pope Francis to the Bond King, universal basic income is gaining support around the world - Bernhard Warner

Who pays for the pandemic when insurance companies refuse? - Jeff John Roberts

Facebook makes a bigger push into shopping with new online storefronts for businesses - Jeremy Kahn

Reddit offers cryptocurrency. Is this a game-changer? - Jeff John Roberts

3 new coronavirus tax breaks businesses can take advantage of now - Anne Sraders

This fintech needed workers so badly it started hiring employees' roommates and spouses - Jeff John Roberts


This edition of The Ledger was curated by David Z. Morris. Contact him at