The Five Dumbest Things on Wall Street: March 28
1. Bill Miller's BailoutWhen the going gets tough, the tough get going. But from the looks of it, that charming old aphorism doesn't apply to Wall Street, where the better portion of the tough currently appear to be getting their foreheads hit by the flat side of an ax.
Take Bill Miller, the legendary fund manager at Legg Mason (LM). If the stock market is like some archaic lock assembly, Miller has shown over time that he is one of the few men with the pick. That is, until Bear Stearns (BSC). Anyone -- even the Sage of Baltimore -- can be unlucky enough to amble under a ceiling at the precise moment it collapses.
But Miller suffered a far worse fate, because he was standing at a dais delivering a public speech on what a good deal Bear was at the precise moment it was collapsing toward what would become known as its take-under price.
When a smart aleck at the Q&A asked the Sage of Baltimore if he was aware of the stock's (bowel) movement as he spoke, Miller reportedly responded in the way any of us might: He turned ashen.And how did this big holder face this tougher turn? Mostly by whining. Moreover, his particular form of whining managed to dumbly obscure the difference between a stock and bond holder. See, the way things always work is that creditors get paid off first. Equity holders? Well, he who lives by the stock dies by it. Reeling, though, Miller tried to talk capitalism out of its most basic tenet. By making its guarantees, the Fed bailed out those "who loaned them all the money" while the shareholders got banged up pretty good, Miller said, neglecting to add that bankruptcy (the alternative) runs exactly the same way. Dumb-o-meter score: 95. At least Miller didn't ask for a federal bailout of fallen fund managers. Still, considering he was also a big holder of Countrywide (CFC), let's rename him the Tarragon of Baltimore.
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