5. Research In Motion's Terrible Twos
Grab your life vests everybody. The brass at
Research In Motion
is rearranging the deck chairs on Noah's Ark.
Sorry for the mixed metaphor, but our mixed-up friends behind the
once again bewildered Wall Street Monday when they announced plans to pair up more senior officers while slashing staff on the sinking ship by roughly 10%, or 2,000 workers. RIM said the intention is "to focus on areas that offer the highest growth opportunities and alignment with RIM's strategic objectives." Shares of the company did anything but grow in response to the plan, contracting over 3% on news of the restructuring.
Wait! Sorry again. We forgot that RIM's co-CEOs don't want to refer to this as a "restructuring" or "reorganization." Michael Lazaridis and James Balsillie declared back in June that these layoffs are an attempt to "streamline" and "realign" the company's operations as part of a greater "cost optimization program."
Boy, if this pair could only come up with a sales strategy as easily as euphemisms for canning people then maybe they wouldn't be in all this trouble.
Sadly, that's not the case. And what's worse, according to the company's release, the less-than-dynamic duo is expanding its silly strategy of doubling up employees in key C-Level roles. Thorsten Heins will be now taking on the expanded the role of COO, product and sales. And Jim Rowan will be assuming the expanded role of COO, operations, responsible for RIM's manufacturing, global supply chain and repair services.
Furthermore, a host of other RIM executives will be mixed and matched as part of the company's overhaul, including Patrick Spence, who has been promoted to Managing Director, global sales and regional marketing, while Robin Bienfait will be maintain her current position of CIO, but will also take on responsibility for RIM's crucial enterprise business unit.
Look, we have nothing against all the motion going on at RIM as they try to turn this boat around. But it did not take a lot of research for us to figure out that two heads are not always better than one at the company.
We simply looked at the twosome at the top.
4. Mister Softee's Hard Sell
Yes, we all know that there is big money in dead pop stars like Amy Winehouse. But come on
! You could have waited a little while before cashing in, couldn't you?
An overzealous (or perhaps under-brained) employee from Microsoft's U.K. PR Twitter account, Tweetbox360, sent out a tasteless tweet Sunday pushing users to buy the late singer's songs only a day after her passing, according to
. The tweet read: "Remember Amy Winehouse by downloading the ground-breaking 'Back to Black' over at Zune:social.zune.net/album/Amy-Wine..."
Wow! That's just frosty. We know nobody bought the Zune music player, but those are some hard sales tactics from Mister Softee.
And apparently we weren't the only ones who thought so. One tweeter replied "Crass much?", while another shot back "Vile leeches-seriously?", according to CNet. Perhaps our favorite was the responder who wrote: "Stay classy Microsoft PR jackals."
Ouch! That hurts. Perhaps that was the tweet which broke the camel's back because Microsoft soon turned overwhelmingly contrite over its cold-hearted conduct. Microsoft tweeted: "Apologies to everyone if our earlier Amy Winehouse 'download' tweet seemed purely commercially motivated. Far from the case, we assure you."
And then for good measure Microsoft added another post regarding the deceased 27-year old singer: "With Amy W's passing, the world has lost a huge talent. Our thoughts are with Amy's family and friends at this very sad time."
No they aren't, so please keep quit apologizing. Your thoughts are on selling music. The rest is just noise.
3. Deutsche Bank Splits Baby
Did you not know that wise King Solomon was only kidding when he talked about splitting the baby in half?
Germany's biggest bank announced Monday it will appoint two members of its board to jointly lead the company next year, replacing Josef Ackermann after 10 years at the helm. Jeurgen Fitschen and Anshu Jain will be nominated as co-chairmen of the board and group executive committee at the bank's next shareholder meeting in May 2012.
Fitschen, 62, is an experienced German corporate banker while Indian-born Jain, 48, is currently Deutsche's top investment banker. Jain will be the first non-native German speaker to be appointed to the top job.
First of all, we would like to wish a hearty
to Fitschen and Jain on their new partnership at the top of the German banking giant. After months of infighting and indecision over who would replace Ackermann, it seems like a pretty spineless decision for the bank's board to choose both candidates. Nevertheless, we wish the couple many years of happiness, full of laughs, loans and loads of Deutsche Marks ... sorry, we mean euros. (At least for now.)
That said, we don't expect the marriage to last very long. Such high profile partnerships rarely do, especially in uber-macho places like investment banks where big-wigs like their
. Hank Paulson eventually ousted Jon Corzine at
in the late 1990s after the two tried to job-share. Similarly, hopes were high when John Reed and Sandy Weill hitched up to run
together, but were dashed when Weill kicked Reed to the curb soon after.
So take pictures of the honeymoon guys. Pretty soon that's all you will have to remember your all-too-brief union.
2. Goldman's Dubious Downgrade
Quick! Somebody get Eliot Spitzer down here pronto. Those dastardly investment banks are once again prostituting their research in exchange for lucrative banking business and only the former "Sheriff of Wall Street" can stop them.
We mean stopping the bad research, not prostitution, of course.
Back in 2002, then New York Attorney General Spitzer announced a record $1.4 billion settlement aimed at protecting investors from brokerage firms' conflicts of interest. A lot has happened since that deal was inked, which may be why Wall Street's elite have been entirely unconcerned lately with sticking to its core principles.
And it's not just lead underwriters slapping buy ratings on ridiculously over-valued IPOs like we saw with
back in June. No, the
quid pro quo
becomes clear when the Street downgrades stocks too.
Just take a look at Goldman Sachs' ratings cut after shares of hospital operator
got clobbered on Monday. HCA, which the good folks at Goldman munificently helped take public in March at a price of $30 a share, said quarterly profit and revenue fell short of expectations in the most recent quarter because of a decline in complex surgical cases. As a result, shares of the company sank 19% to less than $28 after closing on Friday well above $34 a share.
Ouch! That kind of a drop certainly hurts. And it hurts even more when you bought the stock back in April when Goldman Sachs, the gold standard of investment banks, launched its coverage of the company with a buy rating and a $38 price target.
Boy! Things sure can change quickly in a three short months. On Tuesday, after the stock got shellacked, Goldman backtracked from its bullish thesis, slicing its rating to neutral based on HCA's inability to "out-execute its peers."
Wait a second! If they loved it at $34 shouldn't they love it even more at $28?
Apparently not. Said the geniuses at Goldman: "The weaker-than-expected results come just four months after the IPO and we think will cost HCA credibility among investors that will take substantial time to re-build."
Yes, you read it right folks. Goldman Sachs is worried about HCA's credibility.
Strap on your socks and get down here Spitzer. It's time to go back to work.
1. Minkow's Mess
Wall Street swindler Barry Minkow was sentenced to five years in prison late last week, thereby ending a case that was as sad as it was stupid.
The 45-year old Minkow was convicted for spreading lies about home builder
, causing its stock to plummet in January 2009. Prosecutors said (now pay attention) the former carpet cleaning entrepreneur turned Wall Street wonder boy turned fraudster turned fraud fighter (got that?) used the misinformation to trade in Lennar shares for his personal benefit. Minkow was also ordered to pay $584 million in restitution to the Miami-based company.
For those unfamiliar with Minkow's case, it's worth a quick review to see how an individual with so much promise can go so wrong.
Minkow founded ZZZZ Best Carpet Cleaning as a teenager, becoming the youngest CEO in the nation when he took the company public in 1986. Minkow's operation was revealed to be a multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme three short years later and the one-time
was convicted of multiple counts of securities fraud in a federal case in New York.
After serving seven years in prison for this first offense, Minkow started a company called Fraud Discovery Institute Inc. to begin his life anew as an anti-fraud crusader. It was a plot line similar to the movie
Catch Me If You Can
where a criminal uses his unique skills for good rather than evil. While he was ostensibly turning his life around, Minkow also worked as a pastor at the Community Bible Church in San Diego.
But then came Lennar and Minkow succumbed to his evil old ways. He manipulated the stock and is now headed back to the slammer as a two-time loser.
"Minkow has built a life on appearing to be a giving person, while working to illegally enrich himself," prosecutors said in a court filing. "His family, religious community and the investing public have been deceived and defrauded by his selfish, immoral and illegal behavior."
They forgot "dumb." And "disappointing" too.
Written by Gregg Greenberg in New York.
Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.