The Five Dumbest Things on Wall Street This Week: July 3

Strange brew cooking up; knocking eBay's knock-off block off; Wal-Mart's logo logic; Grasso miscarriage of justice; prison isn't painless.
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Buy You a Beer

The brass at


(BUD) - Get Report

appear to be guzzling a bit too much of their own suds lately.

How else could you explain management's decision to nix a nonbinding $65-a-share ($46.3 billion) bid from Europe's


and then roll out a cost savings plan that does nothing but fleece its own employees?

Well, that's exactly what the Bud bosses are up to. First, InBev's bid gets the thumbs-down last week, and then on Friday, Bud announces that it will cut $1 billion in costs, in part by paring its employee benefits for those lucky enough to remain employed at the iconic brewer.

According to an internal memo, Bud "plans to reduce lump-sum pension payouts to staff and raise employee health care contributions as part of a strategic plan," a report by

Reuters states


In addition, around 1,300 salaried positions look likely to get the chop as well.

This latest hacking comes in response to InBev's interest in Bud's shares. It's nice that someone is looking out for Bud's shareholders because the company's execs don't seem to have been making that much of a priority.

For roughly six years, BUD stock has languished. Shares were trading at just under $54 in late April 2002, and through mid-December 2007 never breached the $55 level. That is until recently, when InBev stepped in with $65-a-share offer; the stock now trades around $61 a share.

InBev's offer may have delivered some return to shareholders, but Bud's employees appear to be stuck picking up the tab, at least in terms of the company's announced cuts. That's especially troubling, because Bud's employees are rallying around the brewmaster.


Save Budweiser

Web site announces "Let's Save More than Just our Beer," and, according to

The Economist

, so far the site has collected

70,000 electronic signatures


Bud's execs may be enjoying the brew, but for the company's employees, happy hour is over.

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Dumb-o-meter score: 95. Time to start crying into your beer.

Knocking eBay's Knock-Off Block Off

Here at The Five Dumbest Things research lab, when we want a good guffaw, we take a look at the French and their business practices.

We had a few laughs Monday when a French court ruled that


(EBAY) - Get Report

was found to have aided in selling counterfeit goods passed off as none other than

LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton


The ruling, which eBay is appealing, gives LVMH 40 million euros ($63 million) for the auction site's failure to ensure that it took the necessary steps to ensure that the goods were legit.

Luxury-goods makers have fought for years against knock-offs, but if any of them believe the ruling in France is a milestone for them, they should recork the Champagne and reconsider. Counterfeiters will do what they have always done, peddle their wares along every street corner and throughfare.

The trouble, which doesn't seem to bother the Frogs, is that LVMH and other luxury-goods makers, including

The Gucci Group





, will find it much more onerous to police these venues.

But far be it from us to deny the French an excuse for a party. Among the prime revelers, LVMH. "It is a major first, because of the principles that it recognizes and the amount sought," according to a spokesperson for LVMH,

The Wall Street Journal

reported Monday


Actually, it wasn't a first at all. The ruling comes following an order for eBay to pay Hermès International 20,000 euros (US $31,400) for a similar infraction.

Meanwhile, the fine won't dent eBay, which boasts almost $8 billion in annual revenue, although some legal experts were pondering that the two judgments could set a precedent and allow other retailers to follow the French lead.

Now, that may be something the French may want to note in their revelry. It's been a while, we think, since the French led in anything. Can you say Napoleon?

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Dumb-o-meter score: 91. Things are clearly different in France.

Wal-Mart's Logo Logic

The folks at


(WMT) - Get Report

appear to be feeling a little nostalgic.

How else could you explain the company's decision to remake its logo, especially when you get a gander of the design it selected?

Wal-Mart's new logo will officially roll out this fall, but fans of the giant retailer can get a peek at the company's logos -- past, present and future -- on its Web site. The current emblem, with blue, gray and red borders, will be replaced by a snappy orange-and-white version.

At first glance, Wal-Mart's newest flag looks slightly similar to the logo the company used between 1962 and 1964. In both, the hyphen between Wal and Mart is mercifully missing, but the new one has a six-point, starlike design that accompanies it.

Comparisons are inevitable, but Wal-Mart's brass may not like the company that it's keeping. At least one commentator noted that the logo is eerily similar to that of trendier rival


(TGT) - Get Report

, a red-and-white bull's-eye.

Remember how well the concentric circles worked to help a brand that could have been dowdy?

But even Target's trendy logo has done little to invigorate iits share price. That's something Wal-Mart's shareholders should take note of.

Over the past 12 months, Target's shares have dropped more than 20%, while those of Wal-Mart have appreciated by almost 20%.

Maybe that's what Wal-Mart meant by its old "Watch for Falling Prices" campaign.

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Dumb-o-meter score: 88. Maybe Wal-Mart should add its stock ticker to the logo.

Grasso Miscarriage of Justice

Thanks to some doubled-barreled dumbness, New Yorkers are going to be stuck with a $70 million tax bill and have nothing to show for it.

It all started in 2003, when Eliot Spitzer -- the man who made his name as New York's top prosecutor by using the court system to terrorize Wall Street executives -- decided to sue the former head of

NYSE Euronext


, Dick Grasso, over his $187.5 million pay package. The compensation was thought to be a tad excessive, because at the time the exchange was organized as a not-for-profit company.

Such companies have limits, albeit ill-defined ones, on how much not-for-profits can pay their executives.

Despite hours of testimony from the crème of Wall Street and the massive spending over the four years spent pursuing the case, Spitzer -- whose reputation is already tarnished by his involvement with a prostitute while serving as New York's governor -- couldn't even land a result.

But he won't be paying the bill. Taxpayers will.

Thanks, Eliot!

The only thing dumber than that is the fuzzy logic of the court that let Grasso off the hook.

The judges concluded that the NYSE fixed everything by converting to a for-profit company in 2006. Huh? The case was filed in 2004, so surely whatever happened two years later has nothing to do with Grasso's compensation.

James McGuire, a judge in the case, had the dubious task of authoring the opinion reflecting the court's 3-1 decision, which said that the government lost the right to pursue the case when the NYSE changed its stripes.

So who's dumber, Spitzer or McGuire? That's the $70 million question.

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Dumb-o-meter score: 85. Yeah, but this doesn't mean that Grasso deserves the dough.

Prison Isn't Painless

How dumb do you have to be to fake your own death to escape prison and then turn yourself in anyway?

That would be as dumb as hedge fund manager Samuel Israel. The 48-year-old convicted swindler turned himself in Wednesday after being on the lam for all of a month.

In April, the crooked character was found guilty of bilking investors out of more than $450 million in an elaborate ponzi-style scheme.

He was supposed to turn himself in June 9.

Instead, he decided to fake his own suicide by abandoning his GMC Envoy and scrawling "

Suicide is Painless

" in the dust on the front of the car.

With nearly half a billion dollars, suspected to be stashed in various locations around the world, you'd have thought he would be a little more imaginative.

Maybe he believed everyone could be as easily fooled as his unfortunate investors.

Didn't he think police would look for a body? Certainly, pushing the car into the rapids would have been a better ruse, or maybe some elaborate pyrotechnics that might have kept the


folks busy long enough for him to make it out of the country.

Instead, he got only about a half-day's highway driving up the coast to Massachusetts after leaving his car in New York state next to a Hudson River bridge.

After all that time, he surfaced in Southwick, Mass., this week to start serving his 20-year prison sentence.

Maybe that term will get a bit longer.

Judges don't like when you fail to show up.

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Dumb-o-meter score: 80. Whether or not suicide is painless, there's not much dispute that prison isn't.