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The Five Dumbest Things on Wall Street This Week

Google's gamut; no-tell Nortel; Delta's complicated simplicity; Sycamore sags; sneaky stock 'tips.'

Google Giddiness
Seek and you shall find

Thank you, Google (GOOG) - Get Alphabet Inc. Class C Report, for inspiring us.

Not to make money, of course, or to build a world-changing company from scratch, or to change how business is conducted on Wall Street.

No, thank you for inspiring us to forge linguistic frontiers as we describe the ruckus you've created over the past few weeks.

Hard to believe, but Google has tested both new highs and new lows in the market, even before going public.

Earlier this year, the search-engine company was the white-hot center of Wall Street's universe. Not since Dorothy went looking for the Wizard of Oz have so many people yearned to take a look behind the curtain.

So what happened in the past few weeks? Everyone turned on Google. And it's those folks who, today, are looking just a little less smart to us in the lab.

Sure, lots of folks called the Google deal overpriced -- and that was the nice part. Each day, it seemed, arrived with new bad or disquieting news about the company. A flattening search marketing business.


trouble, relating to a former job, for Google's general counsel. An SEC inquiry into options grants. Another SEC inquiry into an ill-timed


interview. Grumbling about a two-tier stock structure. Grumbling about all the locked-up shares tumbling onto the market. Grumbling about nonexistent guidance. Grumbling about the company's apparent utter disregard for the investors it was theoretically courting.

Where would it all end?

Well, it ended with the IPO, of course. Lo and behold,

the stock popped 18% on the first day of trading. And the detractors notwithstanding, those folks who were lucky enough to put in a winning bid -- and nimble enough to sell the first day -- made a nice little profit.

Something remarkable has happened here. After the Google hype came the inevitable Google backlash. But lucky for the winning bidders in Google's auction, it seems that the backlash came early enough and violently enough to get all Google's bad news on the table -- setting the stage for the first-day pop in shares.

TheStreet Recommends

So what do you call this quick backlash, a backlash that's working on Internet time? What do you call a backlash that comes so quickly it clears the way for a respectable IPO?

We call it a frontlash.

Boy. We thought we had coined a new expression there. Until, of course, we

Googled it and found the term already in use on a number of blogs and Web sites.

Well, at least we aren't feeling quite as Dumb as the people who were calling Google a disaster this week.

Nortel Needs a Nudge
Estimable estimates

2. Go Nortel It on the Mountain

Boy, those folks from



sure know how to inspire investor confidence.

Early Tuesday, the troubled telecom-equipment manufacturer announced that on Thursday morning it would provide "estimated limited preliminary 1st Half 2004 results."

"Estimated limited preliminary" results? Coming 50 days after the second quarter closed? Can you get any more lame, tentative and bet-hedging?

Yes, you can, evidently. On Thursday, when Nortel announced those results, it said that they were not only estimated, limited and preliminary, but also unaudited.

Whoa. It appears that on Tuesday they had been a little reckless.

Airline's 'simple' tickets

3. The SimpliFare Life

Delta Air Lines

(DAL) - Get Delta Air Lines, Inc. Report

is restructuring.

US Airways


may re-enter bankruptcy. And United parent



remains in Chapter 11 indefinitely.

Obviously, something's wrong with the airline business. And Thursday, we finally figured out exactly what it is.

See, on Thursday, Delta announced a new, trademarked fare structure called SimpliFares. And how simple is SimpliFares? Read Delta's announcement for yourself:

"With SimpliFares, there are just two first class and six economy fares on each flight," says Delta. "Customers can choose refundable or non-refundable tickets and save even more by purchasing tickets three, seven or 14 days in advance of travel. Roundtrip purchase is required for some fares, but customers never have to stay over a Saturday night."

Yes, if six different fares, some requiring round-trip purchase, is simplicity incarnate, we're definitely in the land of the blind.

4. Sale Days at Sycamore

Things aren't looking so great for

Sycamore Networks


. The company, which reported its fiscal fourth-quarter results Thursday night, continues to lose money. It has hired Morgan Stanley to see if it can sell off the company.

"Our business continues to be impacted by industry-related conditions," CEO Daniel Smith told Wall Street.

Industry-related conditions. Kind of hard to pin that down. Well, let's just look on the bright side: At least the company isn't blaming the low-carb craze.

5. Scam Watch

We're thankful to the Securities and Exchange Commission for alerting the public this week to a whole new type of stock scam.

In this one, someone "accidentally" leaves a message on your answering machine explaining how she just got a hot tip about a company that's destined to be the next

Tommy Bahama

. For whatever that's worth.

The SEC says it suspects what the message's recipients are receiving isn't a misplaced insider tip, but in fact part of a carefully coordinated pump-and-dump penny-stock operation.

Frankly, we're shocked that anybody would listen to the message in the first place. After all, everybody knows that the best stock tips come from anonymous Internet message boards.

At the time of publication, Mannes had no positions in stocks mentioned other than Google, which he was long for the purpose of reporting on the auction process.

has waived the provision of its Investment Policy with respect to Mannes' ownership of the stock solely for the purpose of writing stories on Google's IPO. Mannes has agreed to sell his shares as soon as possible following his brokerage firm's 30-day "no-flipping" window for initial public offerings. As the situation warrants, he will be reimbursed by

for any losses, or donate any gains to a charity to be named later.

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