Dear Hackers, How is your summer break so far? Are you having fun? Judging from the headlines it seems like you have been awfully busy lately, hacking into Sony (SNE), AT&T (T), Fox News, the Senate and even the C.I.A.. Wow! How cool is that!?!?We even heard you had some fun with all-powerful Apple (AAPL) this weekend when you posted some user names and passwords that you stole. Apparently the names came from a database for this Apple Business Intelligence survey thing. They took it offline after you got in there. Bullseye!Anonymous wrote on his Twitter account, "Not being so serious but well Apple could be target, too. But don't worry, we are busy elsewhere."Tell Anonymous we say hello. The A-Team and LulzSec too, even though we heard they broke up. Those guys are so badass.Apple so deserves it too. They think their online security is so tight. But they were freaking out after it happened. The whole stock market thought that Anonymous was going to start publishing people's credit card info from their iTunes accounts. Wall Street is so Dumb sometimes.You know what would be really cool? If you broke into the Pentagon computer and started a global thermonuclear war with Russia just like that kid did in the movie WarGames. Remember that movie? It's the one with Ferris Bueller in it.Anyway, just checking in. No need for you to check back.We repeat. No need for you to call, write or get back to us. We are totally cool with you not getting back to us.But we were thinking of you.Your buddies, The Five Dumbest Lab
4. St. Joe Melts
It's summertime in Florida and the battle over St. Joe ( JOE) is once again heating up. St. Joe's bullish chairman Bruce Berkowitz is telling investors not to sweat an inquiry by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Meanwhile, his hedge fund manager nemesis David Einhorn is playing it cool while shorting the stock. As for us, we think this war over Northern Florida's largest landowner has officially boiled over into foolishness. And as everybody knows, that's our territory. Berkowitz, the formerly market-beating manager of the Fairholme Fund ( FAIRX) who bullied his way onto St. Joe's board in March, told Bloomberg there is "not a lot new" in last week's announcement of a formal investigation into the company's business practices. Berkowitz said he made the call to disclose the probe which "covers a variety of matters", including internal controls and financial reports, so that he would not be hindered in resuming a stock-purchase program. Lucky for him. He can now buy the stock a whole lot cheaper. Shares of the company sank more than 9% on Tuesday, the first day of trading after news of the investigation was released. It was also lucky for Greenlight Capital's Einhorn. Einhorn, who famously called Lehman's demise, e-mailed Bloomberg that he "would love to see St. Joe use its limited cash resources by overpaying to repurchase its stock." Einhorn will profit handsomely from deterioration in St. Joe, which he says grossly overvalues the land on its books. Berkowitz, on the other hand, maintains the land is fairly valued. So, which big-hitting money manager are we to believe? Well, Berkowitz was not fibbing when he said the government's review of St. Joe's business practices was nothing new. Back in January, the company told investors that the SEC was informally reviewing its real estate impairment practices. That means that regulators have been peeking into the company's books for a while now. That said, just because Berkowitz is not lying does not mean he is telling the whole truth. Why all of a sudden did the investigation get upgraded, meriting a market disclosure? Are the government watchdogs now asking tougher questions? Or is Berkowitz finally wilting not just from Einhorn's glare, but extra heat from the Feds?
3. More Nonsense At News Corp.
It's all fun and games at News Corp. ( NWS) until Rupert Murdoch loses an acquisition. The media giant's chairman could see his campaign to purchase British Sky Broadcasting compromised in the wake of the phone hacking scandal at U.K. tabloid News of the World, which will be shut down on Sunday after publishing for nearly 170 years. Murdoch was scrutinized not just in the British press this week, but in Parliament as well with Prime Minister David Cameron slamming News of the World for allegedly hacking into a murdered girl's voice mail back in 2002. Private detective, Glenn Mulcaire, who was working for the paper, allegedly accessed Milly Dowler's phone messages after she was abducted. Mulcaire is said to have deleted some messages on Dowler's phone, complicating the police investigation. Dowler's killer was finally convicted last month. This isn't the first time News of the World has been accused of privacy invasion either. The company has been sued by more than two dozen politicians, celebrities and athletes for allegedly listening in on their conversations and voice mails. News Corp. has apologized and offered to settle some of those other cases, and the company says it's still investigating the Dowler matter. Some advertisers didn't wait around for the results of the investigation, however. Ford ( F) jumped ship quickly, claiming it is "a company which cares about the standards of behavior of its own people and those it deals with externally." Of course, the motor company had no problem with standards when it was showing its cars alongside the tabloid's topless Page 3 girls. Still, Ford's decision opened the door for other big ad buyers to bail on News Corp. rather than face growing public pressure to boycott the company. And the pressure is rising. A new campaign, using the slogan "No time to give Murdoch more power," is petitioning the government to prevent the company from taking over the part of satellite broadcaster Sky that it does not yet own. Last week, the U.K.'s Department of Media gave its blessing to the transaction after News Corp. agreed to spin off BSkyB's Sky News channel to ease competition concerns. Final government approval was expected to come by the end of the week, but recent developments in the hacking case may halt the buyout. Britain's media regulator said on Wednesday that it is assessing whether News Corp. is fit to hold a broadcasting license. Then again, a postponement could be good news for Murdoch. After suffering massive write-downs following his Myspace and Dow Jones impulse purchases, any delay in this deal may help save Murdoch from his own worst enemy: himself.
2. Drillers Play Dumb
Have our idiotic oil companies learned a thing from the BP ( BP) tragedy? The latest wave of news from these not-so-slick drillers has us thinking the answer is not a drop. U.S. federal documents revealed this week that Exxon Mobil ( XOM) took almost twice as long than it initially claimed to completely seal a burst pipeline that spilled tens of thousands of gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River in Montana over the weekend. The records showed that it took 56 minutes for Exxon to fully shut down the burst pipeline, which was longer than the 30 minutes the company stated on Tuesday. Come on guys! Has it not sunk in that the smartest way to deal with messy environmental disasters is to come clean immediately? The cover-up is always worse than the crime and that goes double when the crime is covering up Yogi and Boo-Boo with globs of grease. The government says the Yellowstone River oil deposits have already traveled downstream about 240 miles. Exxon initially said the leak would affect a 10-mile stretch of the river, but has since admitted that the leak's impact could spread beyond its initial estimates. Now -- faster than you can say Valdez -- the government is playing hardball with Exxon. Unable to trust the energy giant, the Department of Transportation said it won't permit Exxon to resume the pipeline's operations until the company reburies the pipeline even deeper than before and submits a restart plan. "The safety of our nation's pipelines is a priority and the investigation into this incident is ongoing," said DOT Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. Meanwhile, half a world away off the Chinese coast, ConocoPhillips ( COP) is defending its role in a series of June oil leaks. The Chinese State Oceanic Administration said the oil covered over 300 square miles in the Penglai area of Bohai Bay, where ConocoPhillips operates seven production platforms along with Chinese partner CNOOC ( CEO) . ConocoPhillips' brass say they informed authorities as soon as the leaks were spotted. The environmental group Greenpeace, however, says the company took over two weeks to report the spill. And Chinese news reports are charging that Chinese authorities and Conoco have failed to provide enough information on the crisis. The press is citing complaints of dead fish, according to the AP, though they said it was unclear whether the deaths were oil-related. Here's a hint guys. Generally, when you buy a can of sardines or tuna, it comes packed in olive oil. Not crude.
1. Brown Backtracks
Apparently California Governor Jerry Brown would rather do business with the "street thugs" he knows than the devil he doesn't. Despite suing State Street ( STT) in 2009 for "unconscionable fraud" when he was attorney general, Brown agreed late last week to a new three-year deal with the firm to handle all the custody work for the $232 billion California Public Employees' Retirement System, or Calpers. Calpers, which oversees the pensions of 1.6 million retirees in the Golden State, says the contract is worth about $5.7 million in annual revenue. "It does seem contradictory," George Diehr, a Calpers board member representing state employees, said in a Bloomberg telephone interview. No Duh Diehr! We have to wonder how bad the competing offers were from JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) and Bank of New York Mellon ( BK). They must have really bungled their bids for Calpers to select a company the state is currently suing for more than $200 million in damages. Or Calpers could have just been supremely lazy and didn't want to deal with the paperwork, which is also not beyond the realm of reason when you are talking about Cali. The suit alleges State Street violated the state's False Claims Act by overcharging Calpers and the California State Teachers' Retirement System, or Calstrs, by $56 million when pricing certain foreign-exchange transactions. Back in October 2009, Brown wondered why more people were not angered by State Street's actions. He wrote on the Huffington Post at the time that "If street thugs were to hold up a convenience store and drive off with $1 million, it would be national news." Who's the street thug now Jerry? Oh that's right, it's the company watching your state's retirement money. -- Written by Gregg Greenberg in New York.