5. Very Silly VeriSign

Sometimes Wall Street acts dumb. Other times, it just outsmarts itself.

Take the recent action in VeriSign ( VRSN) for example.

Shares of the Internet infrastructure provider fell over 14% last Friday after Brian Robins resigned as chief financial officer. VeriSign said in a statement that Robins is leaving "to pursue new opportunities" with his last day being Sept. 30.

Now if you owned VeriSign stock that morning, you must have been wondering why the selloff was so steep. Executives come and go all the time. And it's not like this guy is getting canned for a sex scandal or stealing office supplies. He's just moving on, right?

Furthermore, Chairman Jim Bidzos, also the company's founder, even blessed Robins' departure by saying he appreciated Robins' contributions and his role in "positioning the company to take advantage of new opportunities." Bidzos, for those who may have missed it, has been filling the chief executive officer role since Mark McLaughlin left last month to take the top job at Palo Alto Networks.

Alright, let's get this straight. A relatively unknown number cruncher is leaving the company with a pat on the back from the boss and not even going to a competitor ... and the stock gets crippled? What's going on here?

Allow us to explain, because it really is a great illustration of how the geniuses on Wall Street occasionally fall behind when they try to think ahead.

You see, VeriSign did not really 'lose' market value on Friday, as much as it gave up gains it never deserved in the first place. The stock had jumped 13% in the days prior to Robins' announcement after the company canceled appearances at two conferences, fueling rumors that VeriSign was going to be acquired.

In other words, the stock ran up because the guy didn't show up. Then it sold off when it was announced that he was gone for good, leaving shareholders essentially back where they started.

Don't try to make sense of it though. You may hurt your brain doing so.

4. Yahoo!'s Talk Show

Wall Street is still buzzing about former Yahoo! ( YHOO) CEO Carol Bartz's blunt words for the company's Chairman Roy Bostock after he fired her over the phone last week.

And word has it that Yahoo! is talking with investment bankers including UBS ( UBS) to figure out its next major move. There are also rumors that AOL ( AOL) CEO Tim Armstrong is interested in chatting with Yahoo! about getting together in some form or another.

Look on the bright side Yahoo! -- It may be demeaning and derisive, but at least people are talking about you again.

Yes, it's been a long time since anybody paid too much attention to the former Web search giant. In fact, we recall the date quite well when we were last captivated by the company. It was June 12, 2008 when Bostock co-signed a letter announcing that takeover talks with Microsoft ( MSFT) were over and Yahoo! was going it alone. Microsoft's bid, which topped out at $33 a share, or $47.5 billion, was deemed by Yahoo!'s brass as being "not in the best interests" of its stockholders.

At the time, we thought Yahoo! was acting like a bunch of "doofuses" -- to use one of Bartz's choicest terms for her former board members -- for rejecting such a mammoth offer. We had no doubt that Jerry Yang and his buddies on the board really "f---ed over" their shareholders, to borrow another.

And after that we -- and the rest of the world -- left the company to its own sorry devices. As soon as it said no to Mister Softee, there was no doubt Yahoo! was headed for hard times. Sure, Carol Bartz arrived on the scene soon after and her Andrew Dice Clay routines at analyst gatherings were amusing and occasionally worth a peak. However, once the company turned its back on Steve Balmer's cash, it was clear there was nothing left to be said about Yahoo!.

Until now that is.

Now that the company is trading below $15 and has a market value of around $18 billion, it is once again a hot topic of conversation.

Will it hook up with AOL? You know kids, there was once a time before Google and Facebook when these two fuddy-duddy companies ruled the Web. Will Yahoo! go running hat in hand back to Microsoft? At a far, far cheaper price, of course.

Will it finally get fair value for its Chinese component Alibaba? Will it hire a high profile CEO to take over from interim CEO and current CFO Tim Morse? Will Third Point hedge fund manager Dan Loeb, who owns a 5.15% stake in Yahoo!, be able to marshal enough support to remove Bostock and the rest of the board for their gross mismanagement? And, perhaps more importantly, will he break the news to Bostock over the phone?

And what will become of Carol Bartz? Will corporate history be kind to her, or will she be remembered as the second coming of Carly Fiorina?

Yes, for the time being at least, Yahoo! is the talk of the town. Even if nobody has a nice "f--king" word to say about it. (Thanks again Carol.)

3. Dendreon's Chess Mess

Dendreon ( DNDN) CEO Mitchell Gold literally surrendered his Bishop without a peep last week over the company's Provenge pricing debacle. The question remains, however: Who's dumb move was it?

The biotech outfit, which has lost 69% of its market value since reporting disappointing second-quarter results in early August, announced it is laying off 500 employees, or about one-quarter of its work force, to reduce expenses in the face of less than expected sales of its prostate-cancer treatment Provenge. Among those sent packing was chief operating officer Hans Bishop, who Gold brought in a year and a half ago from Bayer precisely for his marketing prowess.

Here is what Gold said about Bishop back in December 2010: "Hans' deep knowledge of sales and marketing, manufacturing and operations will be integral to our success as we transform Dendreon into a commercial organization and work to fulfill our mission of transforming the lives of patients with cancer."

And here is what Gold had to say about Bishop's departure last week: (Cue crickets).

Yes, after bringing him in with huge fanfare, Gold wiped Bishop right off the board, clearly blaming him for the pricing fiasco that fried his stock.

Look, perhaps it was purely Bishop's plan to have doctors shell out a whopping $93,000 for a treatment course of Provenge before receiving reimbursement from their patients' insurance companies. And maybe it was Bishop's inability to educate doctors about Medicare's recently implemented Medicare "Q code" that will get them their money faster. Honestly, we don't know who screwed up at Dendreon and who signed off on what, so we can't point any fingers at a single culprit.

But before we bid bye-bye to Bishop, we can point out that he was once Gold's golden boy. And after losing Bishop, as well as 500 of his "pawns," Gold may find it much tougher to protect his position as king the next time he comes under attack.

2. Bank of America's Batman

A lot of actors have played the role of Batman over the years including Michael Keaton, George Clooney and Val Kilmer, just to name a few. Should the current Dark Knight, Christian Bale, relinquish the belt and cape, however, we here at the Dumbest Lab nominate Bank of America ( BAC) CEO Brian Moynihan to take over the title.

Why Moynihan you wonder? Well, Wall Street may think he's a joker judging by the bank's plummeting stock price, but the man showed earlier this week he can land a PowerPoint punch that would make Adam West go KAPOW!!!

Moynihan unveiled a huge cost-cutting initiative dubbed "Project New BAC" to a room full of analysts at the Barclays Capital Financial Services Conference Monday. He said the first phase would be focused on lopping $5 billion out of the $27 billion in expenses incurred from its consumer and small banking businesses. Implementation of this phase, which will include around 30,000 job cuts, will begin in October and the bank expects it to be complete by the end of 2013.


In the second phase, the evaluation of which is expected to be complete in April, the bank hopes to slash as much as it can from the $28 billion in yearly expenses racked up annually by its commercial banking and global corporate banking businesses. And in a bid to keep increasingly anxious Merrill Lynch brokers from taking off, Phase 2 won't include any change in compensation plans for wealth-management employees. The second phase is "probably not going to be as fruitful on dollars per square inch, but it will be fruitful," said Moynihan.


And as for the bank's recent strategic transactions, including the sale of a stake in China Construction Bank and Berkshire Hathaway's ( BRK.A) $5 billion preferred stock investment, Moynihan said he didn't want to take the dilution, but that it helped boost capital even though the bank really didn't need a capital boost.

Huh? What on earth does that mean? You know what...Who cares?!?


So how did the Street react to Moynihan's super plans? Did did the stock respond to billions and billions of dollars in costs being slashed and thousands and thousands of employees being cut?

(Cue crickets again)

Yep. Almost dead silence. Shares of Bank of America sank to $6.81 from $6.98 after his speech, before rallying to finish the day up a whopping 7 cents at $7.05, mostly due to an unconfirmed report that the Chinese were interested in buying Italian bonds. Meanwhile, two more analysts reduced their 12-month target prices on the stock, bringing the total number of target cuts to five in just the past week. The 52-week high for the stock is $15.31.

Hmmm. You know what. Forget Batman. This may be a job for Superman.

1. Wall Street's European Vacation

Move over Chevy Chase, you and your fictional Griswold family are not the only ones entitled to a vacation. We here at the Five Dumbest Lab could also use a holiday too and we hear there's a whole lot of silliness going on in Europe right now. So away we go!

Buon Giorno Italia -- Stocks on Wall Street were getting the boot this past Monday, sinking in the face of continued worries about the solvency of not only European banks but our very own Bank of America. Things were looking pretty grim for a while, but then all of a sudden, the major U.S. equity indices rallied furiously in the afternoon, as if touched by the hand of God as majestically portrayed by Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel's ceiling.

Alas, it was not divine intervention which led to the miraculous turnaround. It was a Financial Times story that Italy's finance minister met with a delegation of Chinese officials to discuss buying Italian bonds. A later report said Beijing probably won't even buy the debt because of unstable European bond markets, but by that time it didn't matter anymore. Everybody went back to living la dolce vita. At least for another day.

Yo France! Comment allez-vous? -- Tired of seeing shares of his bank get French-fried, Société Générale CEO Frederic Oudéa appeared on CNBC Monday to allay investor fears. He said the bank's total exposure to the so-called GIPS -- Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain -- countries is $5.8 billion, a manageable sum considering the bank's $55.7 billion in capital.

Unfortunately, while Oudéa was on TV saying that "Greece is not an issue," Wall Street was seeing the likeness of former Bear Stearns CEO Alan Schwartz on their screens in a flash of déjà vu. Back in March of 2008, Schwartz told traders they had nothing to fear. A week later we bid Bear adieu. Maybe something Oudéa should think about next time he decides to hit the airwaves.

Guten Tag Germany! -- While we may be bushed, we are not the only ones in need of a vacation. German Chancellor Angela Merkel certainly merits a break for all she has done to keep the Eurozone together against increasing odds. And, oddly enough, she's catching the most hell from the folks in Helsinki. Call them foolish, but the Finns want collateral in exchange for loans to those deadbeats down in Greece. And the German leader needs to keep them happy, lest Angela's Union turn to ashes.

At a joint news conference with Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen, Merkel promised a path forward that is "open to all partners but is still in line with the Finnish wishes." She said her "experts" are currently working on the problem. Achtung Angela's experts! Hurry up, or the Euro will soon be "Finn-ished."

Hello Hellas! -- Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou would surely prefer to sail the gorgeous Greek isles than spend his days begging for money and mercy from Merkel and Sarkozy. Sadly, he doesn't have the time to sit back and enjoy the beauty of his own country, and, truth be told, he may be better off getting far away from his homeland after what transpired this past weekend.

The Greek government voted to cut one month's wages from all elected officials and impose an annual charge on all property for two years to be levied through electricity bills to ensure rapid collection. Yeah, that's going to go over well in a country where everybody is an elected official, nobody pays their taxes and the national sport is going on strike.

Nevertheless, despite his Herculean task, Greece's finance minister is adamant about the new rule saying: "We cannot give anyone a pretext to say that we are at fault." Come on, who on earth would do that? Well, maybe the Finns, but you know those guys.

Wow! What a great trip to Europe. We sure saw some fun stuff and hope to get back there some day. But now it's time to head back to America where nobody on Wall Street or Capitol Hill ever does anything dumb. Right?

Written by Gregg Greenberg in New York.
Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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