The Five Dumbest Things on Wall Street This Week

1. Lightheaded at Lucent

The lightweights at Lucent ( LU) have stumbled again.

The Murray Hill, N.J., telecom-equipment maker warned late Monday of its latest disappointing quarter. Citing a slowdown in U.S. wireless-gear sales, Lucent said it expects fiscal third-quarter revenue to fall 13% short of Wall Street estimates. The poor showing sent Lucent down 6% Tuesday, while merger partner Alcatel ( ALA) tumbled 5%.

"During the third quarter, our North American mobility business was adversely impacted by a slowdown in spending on some of our current-generation wireless solutions," said CEO Patricia Russo, who is slated to lead the merged company, in a statement.

Adverse impacts are nothing new at Lucent. Russo was claiming last November that the growth-starved company would post a 5% sales gain for fiscal 2006. But just two months later, Lucent unveiled a huge first-quarter shortfall and backed away from the annual growth talk.

Then in April, Lucent changed its mind again, saying it actually expected sales for the year to fall. At that point, the company finally ended its longstanding charade of providing annual guidance and then repeatedly changing it. Still, Lucent is off 29% since the merger announcement.

And if Russo has learned anything from the repeated pratfalls, you sure can't tell from her comments Monday.

"From research and development to sales, from product development to marketing, from finance to talent development," she gushes in a post-close merger update, "we are committed to being a role-model company for the 21st century."

Yes, CEOs everywhere are just dying to emulate these stooges.

Dumb-o-Meter score: 95. "This merger will create a world-class team that will deliver the best of both companies to customers around the world," Russo adds, as if anyone wants that.

2. Microsoft's Lip Service

Everything is just fine and dandy between Microsoft ( MSFT) and its good friends in Europe.

The European Commission fined the software giant $357 million Wednesday for failing to provide rivals with source code for its Windows operating system. The regulators claim Microsoft has failed to live up to the terms of a 2004 antitrust judgment in which the Redmond, Wash., tech titan was fined some $500 million for hindering competition.

Two years later, "Microsoft has still not put an end to its illegal conduct," European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes ruled Wednesday. "I have no alternative but to levy penalty payments for this continued noncompliance. No company is above the law."

Microsoft has been claiming its duties under the 2004 ruling were never clearly explained. But the Commission begs to differ.

"Microsoft's obligations in this regard are clearly outlined in that Decision, both in terms of the result to be achieved, and in terms of what Microsoft must do to achieve that result," the EU says. "These obligations were specific and have not changed: It is for Microsoft to produce usable documentation."

But if it sounds like Microsoft has been uncooperative and unrepentant, the company assures us that, as always, it is acting impeccably.

"We have great respect for the Commission and this process," Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith claims in a seven-paragraph statement otherwise devoted to whining about the unfairness of the fine. Smith adds that "Microsoft remains totally committed to full compliance with the Commission's 2004 decision."

That's obviously a matter of opinion.

Dumb-o-Meter score: 90. On a happier note, Microsoft and Yahoo! (YHOO) say their landmark messaging partnership is about to "empower people."

3. New Voices in Your Head

Apple ( AAPL) and Nike ( NKE) are taking marketing hype and running with it.

On Thursday, the companies officially rolled out the Nike+iPod Sport Kit. The $29 product lets runners wearing certain Nike shoes measure their progress through a link with their Apple iPod.

"The Nike+iPod Sport Kit allows the runner to receive audible updates on speed, distance and calories burned upon request throughout the run," Nike says.

That may sound like information you could easily calculate yourself or do without. But as usual, skeptics are missing the bigger picture.

"Nike+iPod will change the way people run," Nike chief Mark Parker says in a press release Wednesday. "Nike+iPod creates a better running experience."

"The result," Apple CEO Steve Jobs explains in a May statement setting plans for the July product launch, "is like having a personal coach or training partner motivating you every step of your workout."

Sorry, but that actually sounds like a much, much worse running experience.

Dumb-o-Meter score: 85. "It will take working out to a whole other level," biking champion Lance Armstrong vacuously asserts, the Associated Press reports.

4. Motorola's Dorman Building

Motorola ( MOT) is looking for leadership in all the wrong places.

The Schaumburg, Ill., tech giant said Monday that former AT&T ( T) chief David Dorman would join the Motorola board.

"David is a proven leader with 25 years of leadership experience in the telecommunications industry," said Motorola chief Ed Zander.

And what leadership experience it is. Though Dorman also has run other companies, such as Pacific Bell, Concert and PointCast, he is best remembered for his well-paid tenure atop long-distance giant AT&T, which shrank alarmingly in practically every respect until Dorman sold it last November to a San Antonio rival then known as SBC.

Under Dorman's tenure, as Jon Markman noted some years ago, revenue plunged and shares sagged. The company fired thousands of workers and took an $11 billion asset writedown. AT&T was even forced into an embarrassing 1-for-5 reverse stock split.

Just about every number went down but one -- Dorman's paycheck. He raked in more than $47 million over his checkered tenure. That haul includes a $2 million bonus for 2004 -- a year in which the company lost $6.1 billion -- and some $10 million in severance.

Though Motorola seemed to be doing fine with its current board, Zander indicates experience is always valuable.

"He is an outstanding addition to Motorola's board of directors," Zander continues of Dorman, "and we look forward to benefiting from his independent perspective, operational expertise and strategic insight."

Our only insight is that Motorola looks desperate.

Dumb-o-Meter score: 80. Please, show this man the Dorman.

5. Secure's Warm and Fuzzy Feelings

The top execs at Secure Computing ( SCUR) are nothing if not optimistic.

On Tuesday, the network security company shocked Wall Street by warning of a second-quarter earnings shortfall. Secure Computing said it would lose $2.3 million to $2.8 million on a generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) basis, before recognition of a tax-related gain. Its shares plunged 38% Wednesday.

The company didn't explain the reason for the shortfall in Tuesday's post-close press release. But CEO John McNulty remained remarkably upbeat in a statement later the same day about Secure's pending merger with closely held CipherTrust.

"Over the past few months," McNulty says, "we have made excellent progress with the integration of CyberGuard," a security company Secure Computing bought Jan. 12.

"With the brunt of the initial integration activity now behind us," he adds, "we believe the time is right to continue investing in enterprise gateway security, which is experiencing strong growth."

Way to look at the bright side, John.

Dumb-o-Meter score: 78. One can only imagine what the quarter would have looked like had progress been less than excellent.

In our award-winning effort to enrich the reader experience, the Five Dumbest Things Lab now scores each item using our proprietary Dumb-o-Meter. This cutting-edge technology employs a finely calibrated, 100-point scale measuring sheer Dumbness, as calculated via a closely guarded secret formula.

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