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The Year in Dumbness: A 2004 Quiz

This week, take a look back on 2004 and test your knowledge of the Dumbest things of the year.

1. As we learned over the course of the year, alleged accounting fraud often generates colorful insider slang. Match each troubled company below with its number-fudging vocabulary.
i. Adelphia
ii. Computer Associates
iii. HealthSouth
iv. Nortel
v. Qwest

a. SLUTS (for "simultaneous, legally unrelated transactions").
b. Pixie dust.
c. 35-day month.
d. Hardness.
e. Accounting magic.

Click for the answer!

2. When volunteering to serve her prison sentence, Martha Stewart Living (MSO) founder Martha Stewart said she would miss a lot of creatures from her household, including her "two beloved, fun-loving dogs" and her "seven lively cats." What else did she say she would miss?

  1. Her horses.
  2. Her canaries.
  3. Her chickens.
  4. All of the above.

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3. Which of these did Disney (DIS) CEO Michael Eisner not do around the time of the annual shareholder meeting in March, when he was stripped of his chairman's post in favor of longtime board member George Mitchell?

  1. Pretend he was adjourning the annual meeting without announcing the results of the shareholder vote.
  2. Say, "I didn't come to this arrangement kicking and screaming. ... I was happy for this arrangement, particularly with George."
  3. Asked why the company hadn't previously split the posts of chairman and CEO, said that it was on the advice of corporate watchdog Ira Millstein.
  4. In response to a shareholder's concern that Disney's fallen stock price would force her to get married, say, "We are moving in the right direction to keep you single."

Click for the answer!

4. Which of the following stories did notrun in The Wall Street Journal before Google's (GOOG) shares started trading in August?

  1. How to Get Your Five Shares of Google --- Investors Will Be Able to Bid Through One of 28 Brokers, But Is the Price Too High?
  2. Heard on the Street: Contrarians Say Google's Stock Has Plenty of Upside
  3. Google's IPO Draws Lukewarm Interest From Small Investors
  4. Some Big Investors to Sit Out Google Auction
  5. Is Now the Time To Buy Google? --- Though Price Is Now Lower, History Suggests Waiting Six Months to Grab an IPO

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5. All of the following quotes, regarding Viacom's (VIAB) repercussive halftime show during this year's Super Bowl, came from personnel at Viacom or its subsidiaries. Which came from Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone?

  1. "[In 2001]the question was `What can be done in 12 minutes that will blow people's minds?' ... Since then everyone's kind of followed our lead. Now we only have ourselves to beat."
  2. "When you're doing a show for MTV you can go over the top, but we're trying to find the balance of what makes this an MTV production and what makes it entertaining to a large audience."
  3. "We're still on a tremendous high from pulling [the 2001 Super Bowl halftime show]off successfully and we plan on even more unexpected musical performances for Super Bowl XXXVIII that will go down in halftime history."
  4. "I don't know about you guys, to me a woman's breast is not such a big deal."

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6. In November, The Wall Street Journal reported on a certain Merck documents related to Vioxx, the pain reliever that the company withdrew in September. One of those documents, entitled "Dodge Ball Vioxx," contained a list of what appear to be objections to Vioxx that might be made by a doctor. These objections, according to the Journal, included "I am concerned about the cardiovascular effects of Vioxx" and "The competition has been in my office telling me that the incidence of heart attacks is greater with Vioxx than Celebrex," a competing drug. The final four pages each contain a single word in capital letters: "DODGE!"

What, reported the Journal, was the explanation that Merck's chief counsel gave for the document?

  1. Dodge Ball Vioxx was a game designed to help salespeople avoid answering physicians' questions about possible negative side effects of the drug.
  2. Dodge Ball Vioxx was a game designed to help salespeople answer physicians' questions using language approved by the Food and Drug Administration. "Dodge" didn't refer to evading doctors' questions, but to a game card that gave players a point without having to answer a question in a particular turn.
  3. Dodge Ball Vioxx was a game played at a convention of Merck's top salespeople in Hawaii in 2002. Contestants in the game wore bathing suits. The salespeople in the audience pelted the loser of each round with water-soaked Nerf balls.
  4. Dodge Ball Vioxx was a game designed by MBA students at Rutgers as a project for a class entitled "Theory and Practice of Sales Training." Though Merck was the "client" for the class project and Merck executives met with the students, the company ended up never using the game.

Click for the answer!

7. Which of these is not an excerpt from the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight's September report on its Special Examination of Fannie Mae (FNM)?

  1. "Jonathan Boyles, Senior Vice President -- Financial Accounting Standards and Corporate Tax ... stated, 'We have never departed from GAAP in our adoption of FAS 133.'"
  2. "Neither Mr. Rajappa, nor his staff (the very people who were responsible for conducting an independent investigation) understood his allegations as intentional misstatement. Such a lack of understanding is strange."
  3. " [Chief Financial Officer Tim Howard said,]'I don't view the label aggressive accounting as being a bad thing. It is descriptive of relative positioning compared to the GAAP line. That's why I want to find out more about the specific incidents. And if it's uncomfortably close to the line, we will change it.'"
  4. "In his testimony regarding the October 27, 1999 memorandum, Mr. Howard went on to state that the concept of a 'where we want to be' target 'never went anywhere.'"

Click for the answer!

8. What's noteworthy about former Merrill Lynch analyst Henry Blodget's year-end commentary on the state of the Internet that appears in the Dec. 20-27 issue of New York magazine?


  1. Blodget defends the "subtle synergies" of the ill-fated merger of America Online and Time Warner.

  2. Blodget praises the cat-shaped bar code scanner once marketed by Digital Convergence.

  3. Blodget portrays the dot-com meltdown as having been avoidable.

  4. Blodget's name is misspelled.

Click for the answer!

9. Which of these airlines, as of Dec. 16, wasn't operating under bankruptcy protection?

  1. ATA Airlines.
  2. Delta Air Lines.
  3. Hawaiian Airlines.
  4. United Airlines.
  5. US Airways.


Click for the answer!

10. In July, Adelphia Communications founder John Rigas and son Timothy were found guilty of fraud and conspiracy stemming from their operation of the now-bankrupt cable TV system operator. At the trial, which of the following assertions was not made about the Rigas family's personal use of Adelphia's company jet?

  1. When John Rigas' wife, Doris, flew on the plane to visit her daughter, Ellen, in New York City, she would bring along crates of toilet paper, paper towels and other household supplies.
  2. Each year, the jet was used to fly a Christmas tree to Ellen and her husband, Peter. One year, however, Peter thought the tree was too skinny, so a replacement tree was flown in on a subsequent trip.
  3. Tim Rigas once sent the plane to pick up actress Peta Wilson and her family from the Bahamas.
  4. Former director Erland "Erkie" Kailbourne -- who temporarily led Adelphia after John Rigas resigned as president and CEO -- liked to sit in the pilot's seat.


Click for the answer!

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