1. The Wrestle of the Story
The content-management firm
issued a press release Monday announcing that president and CEO Dave DeWalt had been inducted into the University of Delaware's Athletics Hall of Fame.
Whoopee! Woo-hoo! Congratulations!
Now that that's out of the way, can anyone tell us why the heck we should care?
We learn from Documentum's press release -- issued via PR Newswire -- that DeWalt was a wrestler when he attended the University of Delaware from 1982 to 1986. DeWalt, according to the release, was "nearly unbeatable on the mats," setting 12 school records. He became UD's first-ever individual-sport All-American in 1986. He feels "extremely honored" to be named to the UD's Athletics Hall of Fame. And he was recognized at Delaware Stadium this past Nov. 15 prior to UD's football game against the University of Massachusetts -- a game Delaware subsequently won in triple overtime, according to the press release.
Again, we're sort of curious why DCTM is paying PR Newswire to publicize DeWalt's 17-year-old achievements in an unrelated field. (The list price for sending a press release nationwide is $610, but PR Newswire does allow for volume discounts.)
Yes, we're sure that some Documentum junior deputy vice president of marketing can come up with some plausible line about how news like this builds goodwill among stakeholders and gives the company some sort of leg up among the subset of potential buyers of content management software who are former college wrestlers and/or UD graduates.
"It wasn't necessarily to help Documentum's business per se," a Documentum spokeswoman told us, "but it was more about awareness that the company is doing things, and that the executive team is being successful and has achievements outside of the company." Putting this press release in the category of earlier press releases announcing DeWalt's election to other companies' boards, she said, "It's just more corporate awareness."
Hey. Remember when
helped throw a birthday party in Sardinia for the CEO's wife? Wasn't that good for corporate awareness?
Maybe it was. But it occurs to us, without benefit of business school, that if you're at Documentum and you want to build up corporate awareness, wrestling at UD isn't the most efficient way to do it. If you want to stroke the CEO's ego, however, you can't beat a press release.
2. Our Mutual Enemies
Executives in the mutual fund industry should be proud of their recent achievements. Thanks to various individuals' poor judgment -- and various other individuals' poor oversight -- it's taken them only three short months to destroy decades' worth of prestige, goodwill and trust.
Yes, in a mere heartbeat the mutual fund industry has managed to invent the counterpart of Teflon: Anything ugly you throw at a mutual fund nowadays seems to stick.
And it's only getting worse. In only the past few days,
regulators have filed charges against the founding partners of
and associates over their alleged connection to market-timing trades in their own funds. Federal prosecutors are going after
over the company's
alleged involvement in improper mutual fund trading.
settled charges alleging improper sales practices. And on and on.
Clearly, the industry is having trouble keeping clean. And the regulators ostensibly policing the industry haven't been up to the task.
So that's where you, dear readers, come in. No doubt you've got good ideas about how to get mutual funds back in line, and how to keep them there. We at the Five Dumbest Things Research Lab want to know what those ideas are.
Yes, it's time for one of our sporadic reader contests. We call this one "How to Fix What's Broken in Mutual Funds."
Don't be shy. Think big. Pretend you are king of all mutual funds. Pretend you have godlike power to clean up this mess. And then tell us how you'd do it.
Send your suggestions to the lab in care of
email@example.com. The winning entry or entries will win an autographed copy of Jim Cramer's book
You Got Screwed
Brevity is appreciated. So is wit. So is our ability to reprint your answer in a family-friendly publication.
3. The Heartbreak of Agilysys
Three months ago,
we explained why we thought it was Dumb for
to change its name to
At the time, we thought we'd pretty much exhausted the subject of the Dumbness of Agilysys.
We were wrong, of course.
An anonymous correspondent pointed out to us this week that there's another problem with the name Agilysys. That problem is that Agilysys is easily confused with Agilisys, a software company in Atlanta.
At least twice in the last three months,
has sent items out on the newswire incorrectly linking Agilisys news to Agilysys.
So get it straight, folks: Agilysys is the publicly traded, Cleveland-based distributor and reseller of enterprise computer technology. Agilisys, on the other hand, is the privately held, Atlanta-based provider of vertically oriented enterprise business solutions to select manufacturing industries. Got that?
Gosh, we can hardly wait until Agilisys goes public, too. That's when the fun will really start.
4. Paint It Lord Black
One would think that a newspaper owner would have some sort of nose for news. But no.
When news conglomerate
announced a restructuring plan and all other sorts of bad news Monday, the company and its controlling stockholder -- Lord Conrad Black -- managed to get the news across in the most senseless manner possible.
If you made it through the announcement issued by Hollinger International parent
-- well, you deserve some sort of medal. After all, it means that you waded through zippy prose like this:
Certain aspects of the changes announced by Hollinger International have important consequences for Hollinger. The termination by Hollinger International of the management agreement (the "Ravelston Management Agreement") between Hollinger International and Ravelston Management Inc. ("RMI") effective June 1, 2004 and negotiations to reduce the fees paid to RMI under the Ravelston Management Agreement for the period January 1, 2004 to June 1, 2004, may impair the ability of RMI to make its required support payments to Hollinger, which may in turn adversely impact Hollinger's liquidity position. Unless the strategic process to be undertaken by Hollinger International yields sufficient dividends or other distributions or Hollinger completes a financing or sale of those of its assets which are not pledged for its Senior Secured Notes due 2011...
And if you made it to the bottom, it also means that you learned the full story of what's referred to up high as "$15.6 million of previously disclosed non-compete payments." It's only low in Hollinger Inc.'s press release that you learn, "this prior disclosure stated that the payments in question had been authorized by the independent directors of the board, which did not occur, and that the payments were made 'to satisfy a closing condition,' which was not accurate."
That's what we in the newspaper business call burying the lead.
5. Come Fly With Me
Finally, we have some breaking news to report: This Tuesday, Deutsche Bank issued a research report on
entitled "UAL Corp's 3Q03 Results -- Maintain Sell."
Which is great. Except for the fact that UAL issued those third-quarter results three weeks earlier.
Imagine such time-sensitivity at work in the airline industry itself. Right now, in a plane circling over LaGuardia Airport, a pilot would be on the public-address system saying, "Folks, put your seat backs and tray tables in their full upright position. We're cleared for landing Dec. 11."
To her credit, the analyst behind the report, Susan Donofrio, took the opportunity to reiterate her sell rating on
UAL's likely-to-be-worthless shares -- a rating she instituted in December 2002, a few days before United filed for bankruptcy protection. But when she issued reports on UAL's quarterly results earlier this year, she did it soon after the company reported.
So does Deutsche Bank's timing reflect sympathy with a mechanics' job slowdown going on at some airline somewhere? Donofrio didn't call us back to explain.