The 5 Dumbest Things on Wall Street: Jan 21

5. UBS Restyles Its Standards

Former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner had a few rules about the appearance of his players, mainly no beards or shaggy hair. He wanted his boys to be clean cut.

Turns out, Steinbrenner had nothing on UBS ( UBS) when it comes to dictating style standards to employees.

According to the Associated Press, UBS has a more than 40-page tome detailing precisely how their employees should look, act and even eat when reporting for duty. The helpful guide delves deep, explaining that underwear should be skin-colored and that employees shouldn't eat garlic or onions. It even guides women on their makeup and perfume choices.

That makes sense. After all, when we think fashion, our minds go immediately to the Swiss. There's, uh, Ikea, right? No, that's Sweden. Oh well.

UBS employees can breathe a sigh of relief though. Things are going to be loosening up. UBS said this week that it was revising its style guide, turning it into what the AP described as a "pared-down booklet with more general guidelines on how to impress customers with a polished presence and sense of Swiss precision and decorum."

Uh, booklet?

We think UBS may be overthinking this just a tad. Why not go all the way and get it down to one page. Couldn't you just tell bankers that they should, you know, dress like bankers? It also seems like the majority of these style tips are aimed at preventing any of the major senses from getting stirred. We guess having your workers appear like automatons or just another drone in the hive is supposed to make clients feel secure. But if the financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we'd be fine with bankers wearing neon ties and eating garlic sandwiches if it meant they were actually more careful with our money.

TheStreet Says: Why do we have the feeling there's no such thing as a casual Friday at UBS?

4. Starbucks Super Sizes It

For all the talk Starbucks ( SBUX) does about providing its customers with that perfectly refined café experience -- and if you've been into any shop lately we can agree that it really is just talk -- we continue to be perplexed by the company's insistence on taking its cues from the fast-food giants it claims to be above when it comes to its menu.

Starbucks seems to be fully embracing a new mantra: Why settle for a cup of joe when you can have bucket? Like McDonald's ( MCD) before it, Starbucks has picked up a caffeine-fueled case of Supersize-itis.

We noticed this before in September, when caffeine-deprived drivers looking to get their fix via a Starbucks drive-through window discovered that the small, or "tall" in Starbucks parlance, had disappeared from the menu. The message was clear -- just get the larger, more expensive sizes, please.

Starbucks followed up this week with the introduction of the Trenta, a new 31-ounce beverage cup size. Trenta, Italian for the number 30, will actually hold 31 fluid ounces (nearly a quart) and will set customers back 50 cents more than if they purchased the next largest size, the Venti, which holds around 24 ounces.

Canada's National Post was quick to provide the world with a handy graphic showing the Trenta's 31-ounces, at 916 milliliters, was just a bit larger than the capacity of the average human stomach, or about 900 ml. This is exactly the kind of publicity Starbucks must have been looking for.

The Trenta will go nationwide on May 3, but the company started phasing in the bucket-o-jitters in 14 states this month, mainly in warmer areas like Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and New Mexico. Coincidentally, six of the 14 states the Trenta is starting out in rank among the Trust for American's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's 10 most obese. All but Hawaii have obesity rates in excess of 25%.

Granted, the Trenta is no Big Gulp, but if Starbucks continues to feel the way to success is by pushing bigger sizes it could soon join the fast-food giants as chief contributors to the nation's obesity epidemic. Fortunately, Trenta-Size Me doesn't have a great ring to it.

TheStreet Says: That café ambiance might take a hit when you have to bring in bigger tables to support the drinks.

3.Ener1: Everything Old Is New Again

It's fair to say that the biggest headline in business news this week was China, and there were plenty of coattail riders hoping that a fast boat to China would send their stocks higher.

Billions upon billions were doled out in historic U.S.-China trade deals to General Electric ( GE) and Alcoa ( AA), so it was clearly a week for cracking the Chinese market. For some less well-known U.S. brands, like lithium ion battery market player Ener1 ( HEV), it was actually a week to re-crack a Chinese market it had cracked six months ago, and sit back and watch the trading action send its shares higher.

Ener1 announced on Tuesday, just before fanfare about President Hu Jintao's visit to the U.S. reached a crescendo, that it had inked a joint venture with the electric vehicle division of Wanxiang, the largest "tier one" auto parts producer in China. Ener1 shares opened up nearly 40% on Tuesday, before settling for a 25% spike after the euphoria settled, sort of. Ener1 trades roughly 25 million to 30 million shares a month. On Tuesday, more than 20 million shares changed hands, and for the week, it's come close to its average monthly tally.

Obviously, President Obama wasn't the only one with big news about China to report. Yet the difference between the White House trade deal with China and Ener1's deal with Wanxiang is that Ener1 had announced a binding letter of intent for the joint venture in May, and at that point the stock rose from $3 to $3.66 based on the deal. This week, Ener1 shares rose from below $4 to as high as $5.90, after the new announcement about the previously announced joint venture.

All right, we're going to give Ener1 the benefit of the doubt. Obviously, there was no link whatsoever between the U.S.-China trade deal and the lithium ion battery company announcing that the joint venture previously announced in May had been finalized this week. Such speculation would be as delusional as thinking that President Obama is talking a big game about holding China accountable for human rights abuses, but doesn't really plan to prioritize that over business interests.

A company has a right to announce when a deal is finalized too, doesn't it? Of course it does, and why not book an appearance on CNBC to talk up the deal while they are at it. After all, Ener1 Chairman and CEO Charles Gassenheimer was very conservative in his talk about the deal in May, making sure investors knew that the binding letter of intent signed meant nothing. "We're excited about our new partnership with Wanxiang," was what he said at a trade confab that month in Indianapolis featuring U.S. and Chinese transport sector officials.

On Tuesday, appearing on CNBC, the Ener1 CEO said he was very excited about the deal signed in Indianapolis, though he didn't add that it was the same deal he was very excited about when he was last quoted about the deal in Indianapolis in May.

Some backers of Ener1 say, look, the deal was actually supposed to commence before the end of 2010, and so when that didn't happen investors started to get nervous, and so it really does matter that the company announced the deal was finalized this week and made a big deal out of it. Right, that's a good idea for investor relations folks looking to pump up share prices. Announce a deal, say how excited you are, and then fail to deliver on the expected timeline, giving yourself one more chance to make the deal seem as if it's new by way of being rescued from near-death. Pump, disappoint, pump again!

How about this: A merger gets announced, and then six months later there's the finalized deal, and that has to be announced also. True enough, but the trading action usually occurs in the former scenario as opposed to the latter. Ultimately, it's not Ener1's fault that investors bid up the same deal twice. It was probably a nice millisecond-payday for the high-frequency trading machines on Tuesday morning when shares raced from $3.86 to $5.90, but for the retail investors who have thrown in their lot with lithium ions, they might want to take a look at Ener1's capital position and the time it takes for deals like these to pay off. As one lithium ion market expert noted, "In this market, it's all about execution and it takes a long time." The 500,000 electric cars that its joint venture partner Wanxiang is targeting for production by year-end 2012 is considered a pretty aggressive target, even by Ener1 bulls.

In the end, Ener1 investors may in fact dig a profitable hole to China rather than a hole in their wallets. If it all pays off none of this will matter. Ener1 clearly didn't commit any abuses and was merely playing the market marketing game the way it's played, but boy did it seem like some investors rode that fast boat to the Chinese electric car market without slowing down long enough to think about it.

TheStreet Says: The orchestration of the news seemed as well-rehearsed as a White House dinner between heads of state, and that leaves us with little reason to agree with the new valuation in Ener1 shares.

2. Goldman's Facebook About-Face

Goldman Sachs' ( GS) mishandling of its Facebook relationship could almost be a "five dumbest" all by itself.

The fact that Goldman won the right to invest in Facebook initially seemed like a coup, but there was always something peculiar about the pairing of the two companies.

Goldman -- or so the bank would have us believe -- is immune to fads. It holds itself above the Wall Street fray and is "long-term greedy," requiring top executives to accept the bulk of their pay in stock, and to hold onto it for a long time. Facebook, meanwhile, is a six-year-old company founded in a dorm room.

Goldman is an intensely private institution, and Facebook is all about over-sharing. Indeed, Goldman executives aren't even allowed to log onto Facebook from work, and when you consider the hours Goldman executives put in, you wonder how it was they'd even heard of the site. Oh that's right, there was that movie ...

So dumb move No. 1 by Goldman may have been getting involved with Facebook at all. The bank would have been crazy to pass it up, you say? Except that it did pass it up, deciding the company was overvalued, before eventually deciding to pawn a similar deal off on clients, according to the New York Times.

Dumb Goldman move No. 2: leaking news of the deal to the press. CNBC's John Carney makes a convincing argument that it was actually the intensely private Goldman that leaked the news of the private offering of Facebook shares, which appears to be what drove Goldman's decision to cancel the offering in the U.S. Private offerings aren't supposed to be marketed to the public, and if Goldman leaked news of the deal to the press that could be considered marketing by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Dumb Goldman move No. 3: blaming Facebook for leaking the deal. The Times' Andrew Sorkin, who initially broke the news of the deal, reported that "over the last two weeks, the companies' relationship has grown increasingly tense," as "accusations about the news leak have flown back and forth." So much for leading the IPO, Goldman.

TheStreet Says: OK, so it's only three dumb moves so far. Still, you are getting more dumbness for your money this week. Wait a minute: You didn't even pay! What a country!

1. NFL Headbutts Toyota

Concussions as justification for big fines and more league-decreed player restrictions? Fine. Concussions as an impetus for preventative medical technology featured in commercials? Not on the NFL's watch.

Toyota ( TM) incurred the NFL's wrath for running an ad during ESPN's Monday Night Football touting technology it developed with partners at Wake Forest University that could prevent football-related head injuries.

Because the Saatchi-&-Saatchi-produced ad contained an image of a helmet-to-helmet hit, however, Toyota told Reuters that the NFL complained to broadcast partners CBS, NBC, Fox and ESPN, who brought the complaints to Toyota. Those complaints resulted in a quick cut of the offending image.

Toyota's take, according to spokesman Tim Morrion's account to Reuters: "I'm sure if they'd had their druthers, we'd have pulled the spot. We weren't pulling the spot. We couldn't. But we never intended the spot to irritate the NFL."

The NFL's take, according to spokesman Brian McCarthy: "From time to time, we will address an ad that portrays our sport unfairly."

Unfairly? We're talking about the same NFL that only little more than a year ago finally changed its rules to remove players from a game or practice after sustaining a concussion and prevent them from returning the same day. We're talking about an NFL that made that change only after the New York Times got a hold of a league-sponsored survey that indicated that NFL retirees were suffering dementia and other memory-related diseases at several times the rate of the average American.

By the end of the first week of the NFL season, four players had suffered concussions. By mid-October, sports blog was able to compile video of some 46 players being knocked senseless.

Perhaps it's because that claim isn't coming from the league's official car and truck sponsor GM ( GM), who Nielsen said increased overall ad spending 73% last year and who Kantar Media said was the No. 1 auto advertiser after spending nearly $1.5 billion in 2010. That's almost double what Toyota spent through the first nine months alone.

More likely, the NFL is getting used to its games being seen by 208 million unique U.S. viewers -- according to Nielsen -- and doesn't want its newfound fans worrying about hits that force players to live from one Post-It note memory to the next for the rest of their lives. Never mind that Toyota's technology would prevent such tragedies from happening.

TheStreet Says: As for Toyota, it seems unfair that the NFL allowed that company to drill its "Saved By Zero" theme into fans heads during a leasing campaign in 2008 but censors it for trying to protect those fans' heads three years later.

In light of all this dumbness, we now ask you: Which is this week's dumbestof the dumb stories? Take the poll below to see what TheStreet has tosay.

Which is this week's dumbest of the dumb stories?

UBS Restyles Its Standards
Starbucks Super Sizes It
Ener1: Everything Old Is New Again
Goldman's Facebook About-face
NFL Headbutts Toyota

This article was written by a staff member of TheStreet.

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