The 5 Dumbest Things on Wall Street: April 8

5. Transocean: 2010 Was the Best...Year...for Oil Drilling...Ever!

It's been almost a year since the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and some of the primary players are back in the news -- whether they like it or not, and whether or not they've learned a darn thing about public relations.

Transocean ( RIG) was busy in the past week awarding annual bonuses and citing safety as a reason for lucrative compensation to five top officials totaling $19.5 million -- and then, and only then, realizing that citing safety as a reason for hefty executive pay wasn't such a bright idea in the year of the fatalities on the Deepwater Horizon. Apparently it was the best year for safety in the history of Transocean!

What, you didn't notice what a bang up job Transocean did in 2010 when it comes to safety, as the images of the fireball once known as the Deepwater Horizon rig and the testimony from the family of workers killed in the disaster remains fresh in your oil spill memory?

Not since Halliburton was added to Dow Jones sustainability indexes shortly after the oil stopped gushing from the BP Macondo well has such an interesting "pat on the back" been given to one of the primary companies bearing responsibility for the natural disaster.

Transocean quickly backtracked from its safety dancing, though its contrition left something to be desired, with an apology that more or less begrudged the public its right to find bonuses for executives during a year when 11 workers were killed on Transocean's rig to be offensive.

Ihab Toma, Transocean's executive v.p. for global business (and one of the executives to hit pay dirt as a result of the "safety" successes made by Transocean in 2010), said in a public-relations-nightmare management statement, "We acknowledge that some of the wording in our 2010 proxy statement may have been insensitive in light of the incident that claimed the lives of eleven exceptional men last year and we deeply regret any pain that it may have caused."

The Street Says: Here's a good corporate foot-in-mouth rule of thumb: when an apology is meted out in "mays," it "may" not be the apology that's merited by the situation.

4. Epsilon to Hackers: You're Welcome

Score another one for the foil-hatted hermits.

In yet another argument against giving anybody any information about yourself ever, the data breach at Alliance Data Systems' marketing firm Epsilon just allowed hackers access to the e-mail addresses of just about anyone who's ever done business with financial institutions including Chase ( CCF), Citigroup ( C), Barclay's ( BCS) and Capital One ( COF) or retailers and services including Best Buy ( BBBY), Target ( TGT) and TiVo ( TIVO). Get ready for a lot of official-looking "warnings" laden with misspellings.

Yep, your stay at a Hilton or Marriott ( MAR) and your last spending spree on the Home Shopping Network just bought you an inbox-sized helping of spam, if not worse. If you're one of the few remaining e-mail users who actually expects an e-mail from their bank to be from their bank, prepare to be phished worse than a special-brownie-eating hackeysacker an hour into a Trey Anastasio guitar solo.

The big problem with Epsilon coughing up e-mail addresses instead of any one of their aforementioned corporate partners is that Epsilon is the firm those companies use to both specifically target consumers and to finesse e-mail providers into letting their clients bypass spam filters. That's right -- this breach not only allows hackers to use Epsilon's mass-mail highway to speed spam past the very filters designed to catch it, but lets them lure you with details about that 65-inch plasma screen you bought last week and the Blu-ray version of Weekend at Bernie's you bought to test it out.

Sure this is bad for Epsilon's 2,500 corporate partners who now have to find a way of blasting their sales and other promotions out to hapless followers without typing "No, Seriously, It's Best Buy" in the subject line, but it also made Google ( GOOG), Yahoo ( YHOO), Microsoft ( MSFT) and about every other e-mail provider look like jackasses for insulting customer intelligence by allowing their touted spam filters to be trampled by a "customer intelligence" firm. Frankly, the average jamoke forwarding jokes to friends and sending sternly-worded rebukes to his or her least-favorite pundit isn't going to blame Epsilon and its $613 million revenue for the the 70 "Targets Mass Warnings -- Reed Now!!!" messages-worth of phishing bait in their inbox, they're going to blame the company that used that information and their inbox's supposed gatekeeper who left the front door wide open while leaving a steak on the doormat for the neighborhood's rabid strays.

If all of this careless handling of personal information seems oddly familiar to some consumers, maybe it's because they're just now repairing their credit and returning credit cards to their wallets after TJX let about 46 million other Marshall's and TJ Maxx ( TJX) customers' credit card information go to the first hacker who wanted it. Yes, that lapse occurred roughly five years ago, but the fact that nobody seemed to learn from it during that time only further erodes the consumer's faith in the security of electronic data.

The Street Says: Will this lead to a revival of hand-scrawled correspondence and an embrace of hard paper and coin currency? Will the U.S. Post Office see a boost in business from folks once again mailing checks and sending letters? Probably not, but thanks to Epsilon that gentleman who lives in a hut made of license plates just beyond the city limits, pays for his goods in hard labor and keeps only one form of documentation -- a copy of his since-destroyed birth certificate tattooed on his back -- just got demoted from "crazy" to "weirdly eccentric."

3. McDonald's Supersizes McJobs

On Monday McDonald's ( MCD) announced it would add 50,000 new workers -- all in one day, on April 19 -- including crew and management positions, part-time and full-time.

And just like that, our nation's harrowing unemployment problem was fixed!

Well, not exactly. But one could be excused for thinking so, given the media blitz that the Golden Arches embarked this week to improve the image of the McJob -- the very definition of a dead-end, fry-frying, burger-flipping would-you-like-to-supersize-that endeavor.

For its part, McDonald's boasts that half of all owner-operators of its franchised restaurants started out as store employees, along with 40% of McDonald's corporate staff and 30% of its senior management, including CEO Jim Skinner.

"Our national hiring event is an opportunity to invite more people across the country to join our team, and learn that a McJob is one with career growth and endless possibilities," says McDonald's USA President Jan Fields, in the company press release heralding the plan. Fields said the average pay for the new positions will be $8.30 per hour, higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Restaurant managers could make as much as $50,000 per year, she added.

All of which may be so, but even working a full 40-hour week at $8.30 an hour, a McJobber's annual salary would be just over $17,000 -- before taxes -- meaning a lucky drive-thru window engineer, if he or she is single and has no children, would be living above the meager poverty line ($10,830 per year in the lower 48 states) but certainly not living well.

And health insurance? That's a tall order. Starbucks ( SBUX) offers a basic plan for $10.50 per week to employees who work at least 20 hours a week. Some McDonald's store employees have access to a health insurance, but it varies franchise to franchise. Currently only about 40% of all store employees are enrolled in a plan.

The Street Says: Now maybe if all of those U.S. companies reporting record profits over the past year would try creating some non-McJobs.

2. Charlie Sheen: Winning! And Trademarking!

Didn't we all know it would come to this?

Charlie Sheen -- human meltdown, master media manipulator, CBS ( CBS) headwind, or substance abuser in severe denial -- however you want to view the man, you can now add the title "catchphrase trademaker." Yes, our world was turned more strongly to the dumb this week when reports indicated that Mr. Sheen was planning to trademark 22 of his catchphrases, including "Duh, Winning" and "Tiger Blood."

Records show that Hyro-gliff, a company with ties to the actor, filed trademark applications between March 19 and 22 seeking protection for Sheen's name, signature and a number of his most popular phrases and sayings, including such cultural totems as "Vatican Assassin" and "Rock Star From Mars."

The company also applied to trademark his nickname for his home, "Sober Valley Lodge," and his girlfriends, "Sheen's Goddesses."

Sheen's spokesman, according to The Associated Press, said any potential uses of the trademarks, if granted, will be determined later.

Meanwhile, on a related note, Sheen performed in Cleveland on Tuesday evening and was greeted, according to reviews, by an initially enthusiastic audience that turned against the performer within a matter of minutes, once it became clear that witnessing the man's unique combination of hubris, banality and self-worship was far less amusing than it thought it might be.

The Street Says: We're guessing the novelty of a T-shirt with "Sheen's Goddesses" might have roughly the same half-life as the novelty of his "show."

1. Wall Street to Main Street: Drop Dead

Wall Street reform, and Elizabeth Warren in particular, are the reason you may not be able to grill with the family this weekend in the U.S. park system.

No, Goldman Sachs ( GS) and JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) did not corner the hot dog market, and Ms. Warren does not plan to show up at your house this Friday as an uninvited house guest screwing up your weekend plans.

But Wall Street is a major player in the impending government shutdown that threatens to close U.S. parks, cut off military pay and result in hundreds of thousands of government workers catching up on their midday soap operas.

That is because at the heart of the debate over the proposed budget includes several "policy riders" that House Republicans introduced in February which seek to prevent some of the more ambitious and expensive programs Democrats have pushed for in the 2011 budget.

Think of it as a GOP do not do list.

Among the proposals is a rider to cut off funds for the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, a major part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and the agency Ms. Warren was picked to lead. If the rider is passed as part of the budget, the Federal Reserve would be prevented from funding the BCFP to the tune of $80 billion.

People in the know say Republican policy riders are the force that is pushing the game of chicken between the two parties that could end in a possible government shut down Friday. "Major sticking point in budget deal are riders," says one Congressional source.

OK, OK, that was actually a Tweet from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). But our point still stands.

How did it come down to this? When did the possibility of Ms. Warren taking charge of a new Wall Street watchdog turn into an Apocalyptic government shutdown that could throw the economy into another downturn?

The GOP has always questioned the authority of the CFPB as being too overreaching. "This is not about Elizabeth Warren, it's about giving one person total, unbridled authority," said House Financial Services chairman Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) in published reports.

Ms. Warren is not exactly helping her cause by telling Washington lawmakers that, well, she knows better. "If we had had this agency six years ago, eight years ago, we would not be in the mess we are today," she is quoted as saying in Congressional testimony.

The Street Says: Let Main Street spring potholes while Wall Street runs amok? Haven't we already tried that?

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?

Transocean: 2010 Was the Best...Year...for Oil Drilling...Ever
Epsilon to Hackers: You're Welcome
McDonald's Supersizes McJobs
Charlie Sheen: Winning! And Trademarking!
Wall Street to Main Street: Drop Dead

This article was written by a staff member of TheStreet.

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