5. Buffett's Loony Lunch Another year, another moron with money to burn. Some anonymous well-heeled schmuck shelled out almost $3.5 million for a steakhouse lunch with Warren Buffett last Friday, setting a new record for the annual charity auction and, in our view, stupidity. The winner (loath as we are to call him that) topped last year's triumphant $2.6 million bid by hedge fund manager Ted Weschler, who wound up not only splitting a sirloin with the billionaire investor at Smith & Wollensky, but also getting hired to help manage Berkshire's ( BRK.B) investment portfolio as well. Good grief guys, get with the program. Paying millions of dollars for a lunch reservation? As if the 99% needed another place to protest in their fight against the financial world's incestuous dealings, now you're going to have them occupying OpenTable ( OPEN) as well. Oh, and as for the already loaded Weschler buying his spot on Buffett's staff last year, well, what kind of message does that send the recent spate of unemployed college grads who don't have the means to pony up a small fortune to gain meaningful employment? Seriously, is it just us, or is the so-called Oracle of Omaha simply blind to the bad optics of this ridiculously off-putting event? Look, we appreciate and applaud the fact that Buffett's auction benefits the Glide Foundation, which helps the homeless in San Francisco. More power to him for that. But there has to be a more tasteful way to raise those funds, because right now the vision of a billionaire giving investing tips to a millionaire over a pricey steak lunch is hard for us to stomach.
4. Zynga's Pac-Man Moment Will somebody please tell us why there is such surprise over Zynga's ( ZNGA) recent meltdown? Maybe it's because we are old enough to remember when Pac-Man fever finally broke, but we simply don't see it as shocking in the least. Shares of the social gaming company fell 10% Tuesday to $5 on the heels of a Wall Street analyst report that said sales at the company are hurting as more of its thumb-happy players are amusing themselves on smartphones as opposed to social networks. For those who may have forgotten, Zynga sold 100 million shares at $10 each in its December IPO, making it the largest Internet-related IPO since Google's ( GOOG) $1.4 billion offering back in 2004. "We believe that interest in Facebook-based gaming may have reached a negative inflection point as more casual gamers migrate to mobile platforms," wrote the folks at Cowen & Co., adding that the market for games on Facebook ( FB) was in an "accelerating user tailspin." Thanks guys, yet we don't need Donkey Kong to kick us in the head to alert us to Facebook's problems, especially its slowing growth or mobile troubles. In fact, it was only this past Monday that ComScore came out with the latest sorry news about Facebook, saying its unique U.S. visitors rose 5% in April to 158 million, the slowest growth rate since ComScore began tracking the data in 2008. Furthermore, we also don't need to be reminded that Zynga is symbiotically tied to Zuck's baby tighter than the two starfighters you get in Galaga after you shoot down an enemy alien that steals your space ship. Zynga shares 30% of its revenue with Facebook when gamers go shopping on the social network, so when Facebook misfires, it's Zynga who crashes first. (Don't remember Galaga or Donkey Kong? Really? Ah don't worry, at some point you won't remember FarmVille either.) Of course, Zynga's insiders including CEO Mark Pincus are already safe and secure in the bonus round, having sold nearly $600 million in stock this spring. So while Wall Street seems astonished to see Zynga shares falling like Asteroids (remember that arcade classic?), the folks behind the controls clearly foresaw impending Doom (and that one) and bailed out. Then again, you can always count on Wall Street analysts to arrive on the scene once the game is over.
3. More Diamond Foods's Foolishness The nuttiness at Diamond Foods ( DMND), alas, continues. The San Francisco-based snack maker, whose brands include Emerald Nuts and Pop Secret popcorn, sank 8% percent on Monday after the company admitted its inability to report on its three most recent fiscal quarters by Nasdaq's June 11th deadline. As a result of Diamond's accounting ineptitude, the Nasdaq will likely move to delist its stock. Wait a second! We forgot to mention that the company is also in the process of restating its entire fiscal 2010 and 2011 results. And silly us, we also neglected to say that Diamond plans to hold its annual meeting only after it finally files its belated, restated financials. Sorry about that folks. It seems as though Diamond's carelessness is rubbing off on us. All these months of incompetence are apparently taking their toll. Remember if you will that this sorry tale started last year when the company's alleged payments to walnut growers became cloaked in controversy. Nearly all winter the stock gyrated wildly as Wall Street analysts and financial reporters alike doggedly dug for the truth about Diamond's disbursements. Finally, Diamond's audit committee concluded this past February that approximately $80 million in payments were booked in the wrong periods. Unfortunately, however, by the time the dingbats at Diamond were able to straighten out their accounting issues, their partners at Procter & Gamble ( PG) decided against selling them the Pringles potato chip brand and unloaded it to Kellogg ( K) for $2.7 billion instead. Oh man. Forget Stockholm Syndrome. We've been trapped by these nutjobs for so long that we've come down with a case of Diamond Dumbness!
2. Green Mountain's Morass Look out below because Green Mountain Coffee ( GMCR) is going cliff diving. Shares of the Keurig machine-maker spilled 8% Monday after grocery store giant Kroger ( KR) announced it was planning to launch its own brand of single-serve coffee cups later this year that would compete with the Green Mountain-branded cups. The stock took another half a percent hit Tuesday to just above $21, a 52-week low, on the news that Safeway ( SWY) would also be getting into the K-Cup game. Anybody else want to jump into the coffee business while it's hot? Wal-Mart ( WMT)? Target ( TGT)? Bueller? It;s becoming crystal clear that the single-serve marketplace will quickly become a free-for-all come September when Green Mountain's K-Cup technology reaches the end of its patent cliff. Private labels will pop up, prices will be undercut and hedge fund assassin David Einhorn, who famously shorted the stock, will add another notch on his belt. Yep, from margins shrinking to Einhorn gloating, it's going to be a really rough climb for the folks at Green Mountain from here on out. And it certainly can't be easy for the company since its stock peaked at $116 last September. "We might consider selectively two or three or four possibly private-label brands, store brands, as everybody in the room knows they typically operate with a value to the consumer. However, again we won't do them unless we think that they are profitable," Green Mountain Chief Executive Larry Blanford said at a conference last week. Sorry Larry, but that's not exactly the most inspiring of game plans to turn things around. Even to fool the fools on Wall Street you'll have to think of something way smarter than that. Meanwhile, Green Mountain spokeswoman Suzanne DuLong's isn't infusing much confidence in the company either. In response to Reuters questioning about the increased K-Cup competition, she told the news outlet to check its previous statements about Green Mountain's first-mover advantage and its institutional knowledge about manufacturing K-Cup packs. Sure Suzanne, it's real, real hard to make a packet of coffee. If that's the case, however, why is every green grocer and corner deli getting in the game as we speak? Percolate on that why don't you.
1. Dimon's Self-Inflicted Disaster What a difference a year and a $2 billion (and counting) loss makes. Right Jamie Dimon? JPMorgan Chase's ( JPM) CEO found himself before a Senate panel this Wednesday with the uncomfortable task of explaining why and how his London-based Chief Investment Office lost billions when it was supposed to be hedging run-of-the-mill risk for the bank's excess deposits. Of course, the reason why this appearance was less pleasurable for Jamie than his previous jaunts to Washington -- the ones where he played Congress' prize pupil sitting in a pew full of naughty, bailed-out bank CEOs -- was because in this case Dimon set the witness table for himself. In other words, Jamie's own hubris came back to bite the government's former golden boy in the ass. And sadly, that's the real dumb part of this whole affair, not so much the loss, which, although sizable by Main Street standards, is barely a blip for a company with $1.1 trillion in deposits, $700 billion in loans and $18 billion in profits last year. It was a year ago this week, if you recall, when the follicly-blessed bank chieftain traveled to Atlanta, the home of baseball's Braves mind you, for the sole purpose of waving a hatchet at the already-scalped Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. Why Dimon literally and figuratively went off the reservation to heckle the fairly even-minded Bernanke is beyond us. But there he was in the crowd during the Q&A session, braying about the government's stepped-up efforts to clamp down on the banking industry. "I have this great fear that someone's going to write a book in 10 or 20 years, and the book is going to talk about all the things that we did in the middle of a crisis that actually slowed down recovery," said Dimon, who then asked Bernanke, "Is this holding us back at this point?" Ouch. Wish you could that one back, don't you Jamie? Just like you wish you could time travel and strike April's "tempest in a teapot" line about this particular loss from the record as well. Sadly, not even your so-called "fortress balance sheet" is enough to buy you that luxury. All that said -- and we've said a lot -- we will cut Dimon a slight bit of slack, but not for owning up to his bank's mistakes. Certainly we would not have heard a peep from Dimon if the so-called hedge had gone JP Morgan's way, so why on earth should we celebrate Dimon publicly admitting the "self-inflicted" nature of the loss. Seriously, what else is the guy to do after spending the last year taunting poor government officials over their plans like the Volcker Rule to protect bankers like Dimon from themselves? No, the break we will grant Dimon is that his ego-inflation was not entirely his own fault. The truth is, the very folks now pillorying him deserve a lot of the blame for puffing him up. As Dimon rightly reminded the panel during the hearing, it was the government that gifted him $25 billion in TARP funds even though his bank didn't require the cash. And speaking of gifts, it was Uncle Sam who guaranteed $29 billion in losses so he could buy a busted Bear Stearns, or what Andrew Ross Sorkin called "Jamie's deal" in his book Too Big To Fail. It was also that same Uncle Sam who blessed his deal to buy WaMu for a paltry $1.9 billion. Put it all together and it's clear to see that JP Morgan had a great deal of assistance from Washington as it snowballed into the colossus it is today. And it was those same silly folks who gave Dimon the false confidence to think that a single man could hold it together. -- Written by Gregg Greenberg in New York.