10 Dumbest Things on Wall Street, 2010 (Part 1)

NBC to Conan: Drop Dead

The Conan O'Brien-Jay Leno-NBC fiasco galvanized the nation in the early part of 2010 -- or at least that part of the nation that wasn't already preoccupied with the ever-expanding parade of Tiger Woods strumpets. Less than a week after NBC announced the decision that would soon be the objection of much derision, 5 Dumbest weighed in with our take on what would prove to be a heinous corporate misstep.

Originally published on Jan. 15 -- Remember the 1980 Olympic hockey game when announcer Al Michaels famously asked, "Do you believe in miracles?"

Well, when it comes to NBC, we don't -- especially when it comes to the network's late night schedule.

After months of lackluster ratings and affiliate grumbling, NBC revealed last weekend its intention to reschedule The Jay Leno Show once the Winter Olympics begins next month. The plan is for Leno to leave his 10:00 p.m. time slot and return to his former home at 11:35 p.m. once the Olympic torch is lit on Feb. 12, according to NBC Universal Television Entertainment Chairman Jeff Gaspin. Under the new arrangement, Conan O'Brien would retain his job with Tonight but at the later hour of 12:05 a.m., while Jimmy Fallon's Late Night show would be pushed back a half-hour later to 1:05 am.

> > Bull or Bear? Vote in Our Poll

NBC debuted the The Jay Leno Show, an hour-long, prime time show with a similar format to The Tonight Show in September. The show was primarily developed as a means to keep Leno from leaving the network.

For his part, O'Brien said Tuesday he won't go gently into a later Tonight show. The funnyman, who is suffering from his own ratings inertia, put out a statement on Tuesday (snarkily addressed to the "People of Earth") saying he would fight the move because "The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn't the Tonight Show." He also added that he is not speaking to other networks, despite swirling rumors in the media about News Corp.'s ( NWS) Fox network being an aggressive suitor.

You know who must find this hilarious? Comcast ( CMCSA). The cable company purchased majority control over NBC Universal from GE ( GE) in December, just in time to learn that owning the tubes piping programming into people's homes is a snap compared to dealing with talent that fills them.

And it's not like the Olympic flame will ignite profits either. NBC Sports chief Dick Ebersol said this week it expects to lose money televising the Winter Olympics from Vancouver next month, due to slow ad sales and the stiff rights fee NBC paid to broadcast the games.

"My goal is to keep Jay, Conan and Jimmy as our late-night lineup," said NBC's Gaspin.

That's what he calls going for the gold? To us it looks like NBC is simply stacking the podium with bronze medalists.

TheStreet Says: Somebody tell Arsenio Hall to start warming up in the bullpen. It's comeback time.

The Vampire Squid Strikes Again

In 2010, Goldman Sachs struggled mightily (and rather unsuccessfully, if we do say so ourselves) to combat the notion that it is, as Matt Taibbi once wrote, "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money." An article in The New York Times in early January helped cement that reputation -- and raised the arched eyebrow of the 5 Dumbest editors.

Originally published on Jan. 15 -- Is it us, or shouldn't the braniacs at Goldman Sachs ( GS) know better by now than to send out emails that make them look like the soulless, money-sucking monsters that they might, in fact, be?

A Goldman Sachs executive said the gold-standard investment bank profited by trading ahead of or against its own clients, according to the New York Times Wednesday. Thomas Mazarakis, who leads Goldman's fundamental strategies group, informed select clients in an email that his unit regularly offered investment ideas that the firm had already traded on. The Times also reported Mazarakis as saying that Goldman sometimes takes the other side of the trade, or betting against a particular financial product recommended by the investment bank.

"We may trade, and may have existing positions, based on trading ideas before we have discussed those trading ideas with you," the Times quoted Mazarakis as writing in the email.

He should have just said, "Heads we win, tails you lose." It would have sounded better.

And boy, the timing could not have been worse. Not only was Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein grilled about the banking crisis on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, but Goldman and the rest of Wall Street's biggest banks are currently being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission for bundling up and selling to clients dirty mortgage bombs while simultaneously betting they will blow up.

Goldman spokesman Lucas van Praag told the Times that Goldman has been "providing this disclosure, which we think is best practice, for a number of years and there is nothing new in the disclosure you were sent."

Curious thing how the "best practice" at Goldman so often means the perfect storm for everybody else.

TheStreet Says: Is Goldman losing its golden touch?

CEO Resigns. Employs Haiku to Do So. Makes Ass of Himself.

CEOs saying stupid things has long been a cornerstone of the 5 Dumbest Things on Wall Street column. But few have surpassed the sheer tone-deafness of outgoing Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz.

Originally published on Feb. 12 -- All we can say is: What a twit.

Sun Microsystems ( JAVA) CEO Jonathan Schwartz, who took the top job in 2006, announced his resignation on Twitter late last week. And not just any old tweet, Schwartz let his followers know his plans to step down via the Japanese poetry form known as haiku.
Schwartz Signs Off

"Financial crisis, Stalled too many customers, CEO no more," wrote Schwartz.

Oh grow up, Jon would you?

We wrote off the ponytail and academic look as Silicon Valley chic. We rolled our eyes at the lengthy fireside chats on "Jonathan's Blog." And we generally left you alone as you jumped from savior to savior -- IBM ( IBM) to Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ) and finally into the arms of Oracle ( ORCL) -- when it was clear you weren't taking your company anywhere by yourself.

But after the thousands of firings at Sun that preceded the $7.4 billion buyout, the least you could do is to act with a modicum of corporate decorum before exiting with your $12 million severance package in tow. Trust us, your legion of 9,000 Twitter followers would not dismiss you as a corporate sellout had you signed off like a normal executive, with a normal statement.

Your decision to leave in such an offhanded, blase manner, however, was more jerky than quirky. More fool than cool.

How's that for poetry?

TheStreet Says: Another haiku: Those who dabble in haikus ... are inherently lame.

Lindsay's Ludicrous Lawsuit

Lindsay Lohan is the gift that keeps on giving -- to US Weekly and The Star. But for one week in March, she was she gave a gift to the TheStreet, when she confused herself with a talking baby, and sued a trading firm.

Originally published on March 12 -- Let it go, Lindsay. For your own sake, just let it go.

The New York Post revealed Tuesday that actress turned tabloid target Lindsay Lohan is suing E*Trade Financial ( ETFC) for $100 million in pain and suffering damages caused by the brokerage company's Super Bowl commercial. Lohan is alleging the so-called "milkaholic" boyfriend-stealing baby named Lindsay featured in the ad is a reference to her tabloid-chronicled substance abuse.

Lohan's lawyer Stephanie Ovadia is positing that the 23-year-old actress is recognizable by only her first name, much like Oprah and Madonna, the Post reported. She says that E*Trade has "garnered great profits" from the millions who watched the commercial.

Great profits? Really? That would be welcome news for shareholders as the company reported a loss of $525 million for fiscal 2009 on Jan. 27, and Wall Street doesn't expect it to get back in the black until the fourth quarter of this year.

"They used the name Lindsay," Ovadia told the Post. "They're using her name as a parody of her life. Why didn't they use the name Susan? This is a subliminal message. Everybody's talking about it and saying it's Lindsay Lohan."

We object, counselor. Your client's life is already a parody and, contrary to your silly lawsuit, it's one of her own making.

TheStreet Says: We don't mean to be mean to the Mean Girls star, but it's time to grow up -- if you know what we mean.

Where Does the Buck Stop? Not Alan Greenspan's Desk!

When Alan Greenspan -- the man who was arguably more responsible than any other for the Great Recession -- stepped in front of a congressional committee in April, we had no idea how darn entertaining it would be. Entertaining, that is, if you are entertained by the sight of an old man attempting to rewrite history with a bottle of White-Out.

Originally published on April 9 -- The devil didn't make Alan Greenspan miss the credit crisis -- but everyone and everything else did, if you believe the former Fed chief.

Appearing before a congressionally appointed commission investigating the financial crisis, Greenspan scatter-shot blame across space and time Wednesday, always remaining careful not to let any of it bounce back and hit him in the briefcase. In his prepared statement, Greenspan left no stone unturned in his search for the true cause of the crisis -- except, of course, the rock he was hiding under.
Greenspan's Dopey Defense

First, he blamed "the fall of the Berlin Wall," which he said discredited and widely displaced central planning by competitive markets. Then he pointed the finger at China's inability to "keep up with the surge of income" which caused the savings rate of the developing world to soar. That mix of glasnost and a glut of Chinese savings ultimately led to a fall in global real long-term interest rates and eventually a U.S. housing bubble.

Got that? The commies, well, former commies, caused condo prices in Miami to triple overnight. Greenspan was just there for the ride.

But that was just the beginning of the Maestro's symphony of denial. Greenspan then proceeded to accuse in no particular order: Wall Street executives, government regulators, Fannie ( FNM) and Freddie ( FRE), Congress, rating agencies and subprime securitizers -- and that was all before the question-and-answer portion of the hearing!

When Q&A time finally arrived, Greenspan was asked by the commission's chair Phil Angelides if he should bear any blame for the subprime crisis. Greenspan responded that he was "right 70% of the time, but I was wrong 30% of the time and there are an awful lot of mistakes in 21 years."

Add one more mistake to that tally, Alan. Your revisionism is 100% wrong.

TheStreet Says: To be fair to Greenspan, Bob Rubin's testimony on Citigroup's (C) failure the next day was almost equally pathetic. Never before has somebody been paid so much for doing so little.

This article was written by a staff member of TheStreet.

More from Opinion

Throwback Thursday: Intel Edition

Throwback Thursday: Intel Edition

Intel's Next CEO Should Try Harder to Protect Its Flanks Against AMD and Others

Intel's Next CEO Should Try Harder to Protect Its Flanks Against AMD and Others

3 Warren Buffett Stock Picks That Could Be Perfect for Your Retirement Portfolio

3 Warren Buffett Stock Picks That Could Be Perfect for Your Retirement Portfolio

Wednesday Wrap-Up: GE and Facebook

Wednesday Wrap-Up: GE and Facebook

PayPal Strikes Again, Facebook, and AT&T -- 3 Tech Stories You Must Know

PayPal Strikes Again, Facebook, and AT&T -- 3 Tech Stories You Must Know