Return to Cendant -- An Anniversary Package

It's not exactly warm wishes as Cramer, Bronchick and <I>TSC</I> staff look back at the debacle and ahead at the company's future.
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A year ago this week, all seemed relatively peaceful on Wall Street. The

Nasdaq

was chugging ahead, the broader indexes

were following. Even the

Russell 2000

was making records.

With simple signals from

Robert Rubin having the bond market rallying atop a strengthening dollar, the most investors had to worry about was the

G7

meeting (yawn) and who would prevail in the

Tom Kurlak

/

Mark Edelstone

battle over the fate of

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

.

Or so they thought.

On April 15, 1998, after the close,

Cendant

(CD)

informed Wall Street of "potential accounting irregularities" and said it would restate its earnings for 1997 and each quarter of that year. The stock tanked, losing nearly half its value the next day.

While precipitous drops aren't rare in the stock market, Cendant's crash was different. Between mutual funds, hedge funds, 401(k)s and individual brokerage accounts, this stock touched the lion's share of the American investing populace. Its fierce decline showed the dark side of group-think on Wall Street and raised critical issues about accounting practices that continue to reverberate today.

This week, in a special three-day package, Return to Cendant,

TheStreet.com

explores how the debacle has affected Wall Street, corporate America and individual investors.

Wednesday, Senior Writer

Justin Lahart

provides a

postmortem of the event, reporting on how analysts and money managers still regard the company with a wary eye. Contributing Editor

Jim Cramer

, who was long the stock back then -- very long -- opens a

vein and relives his personal Cendant experience.

Contributing Editor

Jeff Bronchick

, a.k.a. the Buysider, wrote about Cendant for

TSC

a year ago. Thursday he

revisits the accounting issues and discusses the effort launched in September by

Arthur Levitt

, chairman of the

Securities & Exchange Commission

, targeting what Levitt called a widespread decline in the quality of accounting by U.S. companies.

Institutions aren't the only ones still dealing with the Cendant plummet. Plenty of regular folks who invested in the stock continue to feel the loss. Thursday Senior Writer

Alison Moore

talks with individual Cendant investors about how they're faring.

Friday's coverage focuses on Wall Street pros and their issues with the stock. Senior Writer

Suzanne Kapner

describes how Cendant is now viewed by the analyst and brokerage community that took the heat a year ago for pushing the stock. And in the Lessons Not Learned Department, Associate Editor

Dan Colarusso

reports how Wall Street continues to moon over charismatic corporate leaders -- even after their failed romance with Cendant's most compelling asset, Chairman

Henry Silverman

.

We conclude Friday with a corporate focus by Staff Reporter

Katie Hobson

. Like a cheating spouse, Cendant is saddled with the task of trying to wend its way back into investors' heart. Hobson examines how the company stacks up today as an investment.

In addition to these writers and editors, credit also goes to

Jacqueline Waters

,

Roger Spence

and

Paula Wood

for providing graphics and Staff Reporter

George Mannes

for critical additional reporting.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on Cendant; send email, with your full name, to

letters@thestreet.com.

A final note: While hindsight is 20/20, it turns out that sometimes foresight is pretty clear too. Editor-in-Chief

Dave Kansas

wrote this small

item last year on March 20, about a month before the event:

Interesting Short: Some traders say they are gingerly looking at short positions on Cendant, a hot consumer products and marketing company. For one, Cendant paid dearly for American Bankers, whipping AIG in a bidding battle. Second, and perhaps more importantly, AIG Chairman Maurice Greenberg is one tough and nasty hombre. Bad guy to tick off, one hedge fund manager says. Given recent reports that fund companies such as Janus are growing quickly enamored with Cendant, one scenario is likely: Cendant is about to become a nasty battleground between shorts and longs. Get out the accounting ledgers.