Richard Yamarone

Richard Yamarone sings Folsom Prison Blues
Richard Yamarone sings Folsom Prison Blues

By now many know that Richard Yamarone passed away on November 28th, 2017 at age 55. There are many of us who enjoyed his company in Montana and in Maine as part of annual gatherings of fishing, discussions, and camaraderie. We mourn his loss.

I can picture in my mind when he picked up the guitar and sang Folsom Prison Blues. I can picture him standing on the deck at Leen’s Lodge, and in the dining room at Hubbard’s Yellowstone Lodge. We plied him with a glass, or maybe two, of wine. Rich loosened up and he allowed himself the freedom to be himself. Then he had the courage to sing to us.

I can remember how loudly we applauded, how we cheered his effort.  And he had a really good voice.  He grinned a mile wide and beamed with delight.  It was a warm and tender moment for all who were there.  It is a warm and tender memory now.

Richard Yamarone, a friend, a colleague, an economist, a commentator and Camp Kotok attendee.

May he rest in peace.

Video of Richard playing guitar at Camp Kotok:

(Picture and video courtesy of Sharon Prizant.)

Philippa Dunne shares her thoughts below.

Dear Friends,

Many of you already have the heart-breaking news that the wonderful Richard Yamarone stopped breathing yesterday afternoon; he had a heart attack on Thursday morning while playing hockey with his team, his Thanksgiving tradition. A tremendous man, a tremendous friend, and a tremendous economist.

In 2009, Captain Chesley Sullenberger safely landed his crippled plane on the Hudson River. So accomplished was he that he planned to hit the river where he thought there would be no boats, telling passengers to, “Prepare for a hard landing.” I remember thinking at the time it would have been admirable if the monetary officials could have been so blunt in 2007.

Rich was. Back in the early days of the recovery he wrote, “The recent depression—ask any real economist.” He never confused the height of the markets with the state of the economy. He thought about workers and wages, inequities, rigged systems, and he worked incredibly hard. He was incisive, deep, an awesome singer, and truly hilarious. His humor made it easier to take some of his darker observations. Once he was outlining a dreadful eventuality when suddenly he noted it was odd that we were both laughing. (I’ll leave it to those in his league to cover his fly-fishing abilities.)

And he had a burly Welsh heart. Also a pilot, Rich too would have thought about the boats on the river.

Rich was 55.

In today’s note his closest friend Dave Rosenberg wrote that Rich “managed to squeeze many lives into one short one.” Josh Frankel added a lovely image, his idea for a Bloomberg late night show called “Yammy in his Jammies,” featuring Rich running down, say, the nonfarm payrolls in feety pajamas. Dean Eisen called him open and honest about himself—simple words but hard to do. Josh Rosner, “He measured others, generously, by the kindness in their hearts, but few could have truly been measured against his own.”

We loved Richard.

I dreamed last night that a mighty redwood fell in the forest.


Please see the other links below for service arrangements and further reflections  from friends of Rich and fellow Camp Kotok attendees.

Condolences, Visitation, Service, and Interment information:

Links to other websites or electronic media controlled or offered by Third-Parties (non-affiliates of Cumberland Advisors) are provided only as a reference and courtesy to our users. Cumberland Advisors has no control over such websites, does not recommend or endorse any opinions, ideas, products, information, or content of such sites, and makes no warranties as to the accuracy, completeness, reliability or suitability of their content. Cumberland Advisors hereby disclaims liability for any information, materials, products or services posted or offered at any of the Third-Party websites. The Third-Party may have a privacy and/or security policy different from that of Cumberland Advisors. Therefore, please refer to the specific privacy and security policies of the Third-Party when accessing their websites.

What is Camp Kotok???

What is Camp Kotok???

This is not a routine Cumberland Advisors Commentary!  Rather than offering commentary on issues and events of importance to the investment and advisory community, this Commentary reports on a very unique and special event for the investment and advisory community known as “Camp Kotok”, held annually at Leen’s Lodge in Grand Lake Stream, Maine, one of the State’s most remote venues ( Many have asked about this event; here is an overview.

Camp Kotok  (“CK”) is a “by invitation” event for individuals associated either directly with Cumberland Advisors or with the financial industry, generally. Attendees convene in Washington County, Maine under “Chatham House Rules” (what is heard and/or exchanged among the attendees is on a “non-attribution” basis unless expressly authorized to the contrary). General thoughts, ideas, forecasts and comments, however, can be discussed and published outside of CK.

This annual early August event evolved after David Kotok invited several other 9/11 “survivors” to relax, fish and reflect almost one year after the World Trade tragedy, from which many CK attendees escaped and where many lost friends. Fishing together on the pristine Maine lakes helped the attendees to form a bond in this restorative environment. Those who attended in the first year decided to return and invite others – thus “Camp Kotok” was established.

Several weeks ago 49 people met in West Grand Lake – some “old timers” and some “newbies”. What a great experience this year!  We had attendees from both North and South America as well as a new participant from Scotland. It was a particularly congenial and accomplished group.

We fished each day and enjoyed daily lunches of freshly-caught fireside grilled fish on several of the many small picturesque islands in the middle of the “grand” lakes. Abundant breakfasts and delicious dinners were prepared by the Lodge. The new owner, Scott Weeks and his lovely family, together with the former owner, Charles Driza, welcomed us warmly and went out of their way to meet the needs of every “camper”.

A highlight this year – a special surprise guest joined us for Friday evening’s annual Maine style “lobstah” dinner.  Senator Susan Collins joined us for drinks on the deck and stayed thru dinner.  She graciously spoke directly with almost everyone. Senator Collins addressed the attendees sharing her personal experience regarding the “skinny” healthcare bill vote and other current political issues. She was fabulous and despite the many political views among CK attendees, she won virtually everyone’s heart with her graciousness, charm, direct talk, warmth and openness. It was a very special memorable treat for everyone to have Senator Collins join us.

Camp Kotok Maine 2017 - David Kotok, Susan Collins and Sharon Prizant
David Kotok, Senator Susan Collins and Sharon Prizant

Beyond the special visit of Senator Collins, highlights included:
•    Intense and probing pre and post-dinner conversations about the economy and the world on the deck (along with wonderful wine and hors d’oeuvres – part of the tradition is that each participant ships several bottles of excellent wine to share with others)
•    Participation in a financial forecast survey of key factors for the upcoming 12 months as well as a review of the prior year’s financial forecast survey – including distribution of funds that the prior year’s attendees “bet” on the accuracy of the forecasts.
•    Participation in an anonymous survey of “camper” opinions regarding “current events” such as best (fake) news media, who they would vote for if they had it to do over, health care, tax code restructuring, immigration, etc.
•    An exciting and provocative five person panel discussion planned and prepared by veteran campers prior to arriving at CK.
•    As many members of the media are among CK “campers,” attached is a link to the articles these “campers” wrote after CK ended.  These views will help readers learn about the many issues discussed at CK.
•    In addition to the above, here is a link to some photos taken during the weekend.

We hope this “special” Commentary provides a glimpse into what has become a tradition at Cumberland Advisors. From this trip, other CK excursions have evolved. We spend a June weekend at Leen’s (including children) and a smaller group gathers there on Labor Day. (We have a few spaces left. If anyone out there is interested, contact the undersigned for details).

This weekend we head to CK/West at Hubbard’s Yellowstone Lodge in Montana where a small group will gather. It will for sure be another inspiring and fun experience!

Sharon Prizant
Managing Director and Director of Marketing
800-257-7013 ext. 335

Camp Kotok 2017 by Brent Donnelly

I have returned from mandatory block leave and from my annual pilgrimage to Camp Kotok. The trip is a gathering of economists, current and ex-Fed staff, traders and journalists in the bucolic backwoods of Maine. This year’s gathering also included a visit from Susan Collins, one of three Republican senators voting “No” to the hastily-crafted skinny repeal health care bill. Most time was spent talking about the economy, markets and the financial industry. Here are the topics and themes I found interesting:

1. Fed relevance and credibility are making new lows. Maybe this is partly because a fair bit of discussion revolved around Danielle DiMartino-Booth’s new book “Fed Up”. She was at Camp Kotok and so naturally some of the topics in the book came up for discussion. I listened to the audiobook on the 9-hour drive north and have to say I found it incredibly enlightening and entertaining. The last thing I want to read (ever) is another rehash of the financial crisis so I went in with some hesitation but came away impressed. I plan on writing a review of the book for a future AM/FX but Danielle’s insider status and extreme lack of filter make for some spicy reading (she worked at the Dallas Fed for 9 years, advising Richard Fisher).

In recent years, the most intense discussion at Camp Kotok has revolved around the Fed as everyone eagerly anticipated and attempted to forecast first Fed tapering and then the timing and pace of rate hikes. This year, nobody really seemed all that interested in the Fed, and many said they thought marginal ECB and BOJ policy adjustments were more important than FOMC moves going forward. This highlights the importance of Mario Draghi’s Jackson Hole message. On one hand, the ECB has tried to temper expectations into the event by saying nothing new will come of it but on the other hand the ECB Minutes’ reference to EUR overshoot supports the idea of a dovish Draghi as financial conditions tighten in Europe.

With regard to the Fed as an institution, there was a fair bit of criticism about their extremely academic and PhD / ivory tower viewpoint (again, echoing themes from “Fed Up”). The Fed is home to roughly 769 economists(1), making it (probably) the largest employer of economics PhDs in the world. It employs a total of 22,801 people at a cost of $3.3 billion per year or $142,011 per employee(2). The Fed employs about the same number of people in the USA as American Express(3)! This compares to 4,600 employees at the BoJ, 3,600 at the BoE, 1,800 at the ECB and 1,600 at the Bank of Canada.

Interesting side note that I ran into while researching the last paragraph: The BoJ sets a ceiling of 4,900 employees(4), perhaps in recognition of bloat risk. Jim Bianco and a few others thought that a Gary Cohn Fed Presidency might introduce a little sanity and downsizing to the organization but the room generally expected the Fed to remain risk-averse and PhD/academia-driven for many years to come.

If you want to see a cool infographic showing the changes in the Federal Reserve Board of Governors over the years and how it has evolved from a multi-faceted and diverse organization to one that is very monolithic, monotheistic and dominated by academics, check this out: And one final tidbit on the PhD monoculture at the Fed: The last Fed President without a PhD was Paul Volcker5 so clearly you don’t need a PhD to succeed as Fed President.

Kevin Warsh has been beating the drum on Fed groupthink for a while. His most recent comments appear here:

And there is another great Warsh piece from 2016 called “Challenging the Groupthink of the Guild” here. A couple of highlight paragraphs from his most recent speech:

What is the groupthink of which I speak? It’s a groupthink on monetary policy tactics, tools, governance and strategy, all. Its stated mantra of data dependence causes erratic lurches owed to noisy economic measures. Its statutory medium-term policy objectives are at odds with its myopic compulsion to keep asset prices elevated.

Its inflation objectives are far more precise than the residual measurement error. Its preferred output gap models are deeply flawed and troublingly unreliable, obfuscating uncertainty and masking policy bias. Moreover, the groupthink seeks to fix interest rates and control foreign exchange rates simultaneously. Its forward guidance begets ambiguity in the name of clarity.

It licenses a cacophony of communications in the name of transparency. It recasts poor economic results with a high-sounding slogan of secular stagnation. And it expresses grave concern about income inequality while refusing to acknowledge the effect of its policies on more consequential asset inequality

All the while, the groupthink gathers adherents as its successes become harder to find. Too many in the guild tighten their grip when they should open their minds to new data sources, new data analytics, new economic models, and a new paradigm for policy.

(1) Estimated. Source: Bob Eisenbeis, Cumberland Advisors (estimate)
(2) Source: Federal Reserve 2016 Annual Report (pages 412 and 420). If you are ever super bored,  there is all sorts of fascinating stuff in the Fed’s Annual Report.
(3) Source: American Express 10-K

Read the other points Brent Donnelly found interesting at Camp Kotok in the linked PDF: AMFX-Camp-Kotok-2017- 21AUG17

Shadow Fed is Glum on Stock Market

Asjylyn Loder, reporter for the Wall Street Journal, writes about Camp Kotok in the following article.

The economic predictions from the annual gathering known as Camp Kotok resemble two smart people trying to steer a canoe: lots of zigging and zagging to get back to the same place.

Every year, David Kotok, chief executive of Sarasota, Fla.-based Cumberland Advisors, invites about 50 economists, money managers, former central bankers and others to a fishing camp at the northern edge of Maine.

The highlight of the trip is a betting pool predicting how the economy will fare in the coming year.

Read the full article here (subscription required):

What I Learned at (Economics) Summer Camp

John Mauldin of Mauldin Economics shares some musings about his time and participation at Camp Kotok. His full account at the URL below.

Camp Kotok is an invitation-only gathering of economists, market analysts, fund managers, and a few journalists. It takes place at the historic Leen’s Lodge in Grand Lake Stream, Maine. We fish, talk, eat, drink, and talk some more. It’s a three-day economic thought-fest (and more rich food and wine than is good for me or anyone else at the camp). For me, that’s about as good as life gets.

Come along with me as I share some of my main takeaways from the camp and then, in a “lightning round,” touch on on a few various shorter topics.

David Kotok of Cumberland Advisors started the event after narrowly escaping death in the World Trade Center on 9/11. It was a way for him and a few friends to get away from the city, appreciate life, and talk about things that matter. Now the gathering has grown to about 50 of us. We meet under the Chatham House Rule, which means we can’t quote each other directly without permission. That helps promote an open exchange of ideas. And it’s definitely open. It is interesting to see the difference in the level of communication in an environment where people are not worried about being quoted when they trot out a new idea they have recently started thinking about. Testing those ideas against one’s peers, who might have different views about the same topic, is a valuable process.

Read the full account here:


Reviewing Camp Kotok Discussions

Jeremy Schwartz offers up his views and takeaways from Camp Kotok at this link below. We include this excerpt.

This year, one of the weekend’s events was a panel discussion on monetary policy moderated by Martin Barnes, chief economist at BCA Research. Participants on the panel included two Fed “insiders”—Danielle DiMartino Booth, former advisor to Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher, and Bob Eisenbeis, former research director at the Atlanta Fed—and two Fed observers—Jim Bianco of Bianco Research (who does great macro research with a fixed income bent) and Megan Greene, chief economist at Manulife.

We did a preview of this panel on our “Behind the Markets” podcast to take the discussion out to a broader population. Barnes and Bianco were on for the hour (More expansive notes are included at the link below, some of which are briefly highlighted here).

  • On who will be next Fed president
  • On balance sheet run-off
  • On the dollar
  • Getting More Defensive Out of Equities
  • Fed Fear
  • Global QE Matters More

Full Article Here:

Here’s Why Top Money Managers Always Return to Camp Kotok

Below are John Mauldin’s kind words about Camp Kotok.

When David Kotok first approached me about coming to “Camp Kotok,” I was somewhat skeptical. I don’t really fish much and Grand Lake Stream is one of the few places in the US that you just can’t get to in one day.

It takes two flights plus a long drive to get there, and once you arrive, you’re off the grid in terms of internet and cell connectivity.
So why do some of the world’s eminent economists and asset managers take time out of their uber-busy schedules to come? For the same reason I’ve made the trek eleven years in a row.

Because at Camp Kotok, I get to spend uninterrupted time and compare notes with pioneering thinkers who’ve shaped my own economic outlook and research.

The discussions and debates at the private summit are some of the most fascinating I’ve ever participated in.

A major reason why is because Camp Kotok is held under Chatham House rules, which means that everybody opens up and bounces radical ideas off their fellow attendees without fear of them ending up on Twitter.

While “naming names” without permission is forbidden, sharing the knowledge and insights learned there is not.

Disconnection Reflection

Yesterday, I flew home from five days in Maine that I spent with John Mauldin and other top economists and fund managers at the annual Camp Kotok economics/fishing retreat. The weather was beautiful; I even caught some delicious fish.

I’ll describe some of the fascinating late-night discussions in future letters. One reason why they were so fascinating is no doubt the peace and quiet at camp that encourages deep conversation. You see, the Camp Kotok venue, Leen’s Lodge, is in a remote area with spotty to non-existent mobile phone coverage.

That may seem like a small thing to you, but it completely changes the group dynamic. People look inward instead of outward. They notice each other. They communicate better.

Patrick Watson’s post at:

Japan’s Nikkei CNBC & Key Take-Aways from Camp Kotok

Marshall Stocker’s abbreviated 2:22 minute appearance (in sequential translation) on Japan’s Nikkei CNBC speaking about key take-aways from Camp Kotok.


Camp Kotok less worried about economy than weak US leadership

This is the second article by  Katie Darden in a two-part series about Camp Kotok, a yearly gathering of economists and financial professionals organized by Cumberland Advisors Chairman and Chief Investment Officer David Kotok. Click here to read the first part.

There was plenty of pessimism at Camp Kotok this year about the direction of U.S. leadership both at home and abroad. But while the gathering’s namesake sees ample cause for concern, he also sees some reasons for optimism.

“Risk is rising,” David Kotok said in an Aug. 6 interview while waiting for smallmouth bass to bite. The conversation took place toward the end of a long weekend at Leen’s Lodge in rural Maine, where Kotok had invited several dozen economists, investment professionals and others to fish with him and, as he puts it half-jokingly, “solve all the world’s problems.”

Read full article here: