The headlines came at us like whistling line drives: The tobacco companies don't have to pay monetary penalties. Got that?
They are in the clear. MarketWatch went the pretty typical route last night:
" No monetary penalties in tobacco case"
If you put that in your expectations and smoke it, it probably tastes good. After all, it seemed like tobacco companies would be doling out money to the families of all those they've killed until time immemorial. But wait. Before the stock prices of tobacco companies like
are pushed up, let's pick out another aspect of the decision and put it in a headline.
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In fact, this aspect of the decision, which might have a longer-term impact, made it into the meek little sub-headline and even the lead of the MarketWatch story: The judge imposed a broad range of marketing restrictions on the companies.
Why didn't this make many of the big, bold headlines there and most other places? Can the lack of monetary damages be a slight, short-term positive to these companies? Well, sure. But as far as investors go, which is more important? That these companies save a few bucks they probably wouldn't have paid out for years because of appeals, or the central manner of the way the market has been declared off-limits?
Judge Gladys Kessler of the Federal District Court in the District of Columbia said that the tobacco companies had to stop labeling cigarettes as "light," "natural," "low-tar" or any other subtly deceptive brand descriptions, like, I suppose, the possibly forthcoming "organic, shade-grown, free-trade."
The point is that separating tobacco companies from this most-favored strategy of tricking customers into believing some types of cigarettes ain't that bad is probably worse news for these companies long term than any one-time hit to the pocketbook. So what do I think of all these "Tobacco Companies Win, Won't Pay" headlines?
Not much. I'll side with the emphasis in
The New York Times
headline this morning:
What do base metals and private banking have in common? Both are hot industries featured in the current
. Outside of that -- well, absolutely nothing.
But if you want to understand private banking, think of those goodies banks used to give out when certificates of deposit were the craze a quarter century ago, but instead of a tennis racket, think of a tennis court. Or you can think of
, which reported a gilded edge to its results thanks in large part to private banking for customers that can be worth $500 million a year -- which, by the way, is more than The Business Press Maven makes in
In any case, I'm not the only one in the world these days who is filthy rich. Plenty of folks from emerging economies are, and catering to all us fat cats is the biggest growth sector in finance.
the prospect of consolidation among the private banks, with the trick being keeping the service in back-country Greenwich, Conn., when the scale becomes big country. Speaking of consolidation, also read about those
. It's an industry with its own issues of consolidation.
Earlier this week in
with slumping genius money manager Bill Miller of Legg Mason began with a headline that used the word "outhouse" and ended by noting that he had gone and gotten himself a yacht. Praise be to Slate which, in its current edition,
on that stray little thought at the end (how could they have followed up on "outhouse," I wonder?) to look at how CEOs and money managers may consistently hit the skids when they get themselves a yacht. A plane, at least, can get you around quicker, but a yacht? It seems to be for layabouts.
The article includes
Power & Motoryacht's
list of the grandest 100 yachts in America, so you can cross-reference them with any money managers or CEOs you fear might be cruising the Caribbean, effectively on your dime. The Business Press Maven's yacht did not quite crack the top 100 (I think it's at 107), which is how I've stayed lean and hard-working, with reader's interests at heart.
came out with a list of the
25 Web sites we cannot live without
, and rest assured, I can. But if any of you readers can find a thread of commonality in these sites that avails us all to where the Internet is at this moment in time, please send it along. I found no central theme, which might be the point.
Jeff Matthews stomps on Wall Street toes in his blog, Jeff Matthews Is Not Making This Up, but he
a recently circulated
memo that calls into question the ability of
Steve Jobs to survive the options backdating scandal at
, where he was on the board.
And though private buyouts have been even more popular than backdating options, read this morning's
Wall Street Journal
on the emerging backlash. But most of all, have a nice, low-tar weekend.
A journalist with a background on Wall Street, Marek Fuchs has written the County Lines column for The New York Times for the past five years. He also contributes regular breaking news and feature stories to many of the paper's other sections, including Metro, National and Sports. Fuchs was the editor-in-chief of Fertilemind.net, a financial Web site twice named "Best of the Web" by Forbes Magazine. He was also a stockbroker with Shearson Lehman Brothers in Manhattan and a money manager. He is currently writing a chapter for a book coming out in early 2007 on a really embarrassing subject. He lives in a loud house with three children.