1. A Fraud He Went a-Courtin', Uh-HuhWe at the Five Dumbest Things Research Lab tend to wax indignant over schemes to scam investors out of millions of dollars. But this time around, we'll make an exception. The beneficiary here is one Paul Tetu, described by the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday as a 63-year-old "aspiring screenwriter, novelist and movie producer." For the past five years, says the SEC, Tetu has been placing advertisements in The Wall Street Journal and other newspapers promising investors annual risk-free returns of 70% to 100% through "exclusive secret trading programs." The investment Tetu advertised, says the SEC, was a total fraud. That, of course, makes us feel awful bad for the people who sent their money to Tetu to invest. Except for one thing. According to the SEC, no one ever sent Tetu money. Not once in the past five years. About the only thing he ever cheated people out of, we suppose, was the money they spent on their long-distance bills when they called him up to chat. Now, is that pathetic or what? We just lived through one of the biggest market bubbles in recorded history -- one in which people fought tooth and nail for the right to invest in publicly traded crud that flamed out within months -- and this guy couldn't scam a single person over five years? What a loser. Curious to know what the secret of this guy's nonsuccess was, we left a message for the only Paul Tetu listed in California. He didn't get back to us. Maybe the hurdle for Tetu's potential victims was the $10 million minimum investment the SEC says he asked for. If he really wanted people to blow that kind of money, he should have hired a real Wall Street investment bank to do the job.
2. Going to Meet the ManUnderperforming and overpaying software company Siebel Systems ( SEBL) has come up with a novel way to avoid shareholder wrath at its annual meeting: not hold an annual meeting. Well, not exactly. As the San Jose Mercury News pointed out Thursday, the company is holding its annual meeting on the Internet, making it the first decent-sized company in the U.S. to do so. In theory, this is a good thing. As Siebel points out in its proxy statement, holding the meeting as a Webcast has several advantages. Shareholders who don't live near the company's Silicon Valley headquarters can attend without incurring travel costs. An online meeting saves money. And a Webcast can be replayed by shareholders who can't attend in real time. Of course, as the Merc notes, there are other benefits to Siebel management, chiefly that shareholders won't be able to confront them face to face about a number of embarrassing issues: the stock's 63% dive, CEO Tom Siebel's options-juiced compensation, a compensation-related shareholder lawsuit and a
3. Can We Speak Frankly?
4. Do We Decimal?SEC Chairman William Donaldson dropped a bomb this week when he told CNBC he wanted to reconsider the market's transition from fractional share prices to decimalization. "I think the whole issue of decimalization needs to be looked at," Donaldson told Ron Insana. "The total cost of transactions, I suspect, has increased. And I suspect the liquidity that used to be in the market ... has been severely dampened by these very narrow spreads. And I think that the whole issue really needs to be looked at.
Stop, Chairman Donaldson! This might help the stock market's liquidity, but do you have any idea how it will tax the brains of all the English-majors-turned-reporters who are covering the market? Have you ever tried to subtract 1 7/8 from 20 1/16 with nothing more than a liberal arts education? We at the lab are sure that we could pass the hat among all the business journalists in America and come up with, oh, $20 million in undisclosed payments for keeping the status quo. It wouldn't be a bribe, of course. What it would be is, well, uh ... we'll just have our publicist get back to you on that one.
5. Will You Blair Your Soul for the Camera?As you've no doubt heard, the reputation of The New York Times ( NYT) has suffered some serious damage this week, thanks to the fabrications of ex-reporter Jayson Blair and their aftershocks.
It's the journalistic version of Temptation Island. In the final episode, the person who has written the most entertaining dispatches without making stuff up -- or without getting caught -- gets the job. The idea is perfect, we figure, for Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. ( NWS). The reporters would work at Murdoch's flagship U.S. paper, the New York Post. The TV show would run on Fox, the network that brought us Joe Millionaire. This show has "synergies" written all over it. Our working title for the show is either "Write and Wrong" or "Going Postal." People usually pay dearly for our research. But Rupert, this time we'll skip our regular $20 million fee.