5. Nokia's No-No Question: If a picture is worth a thousand words then what's the value of Nokia's ( NOK) misleading Lumia video? Answer: One big fat apology and heaps of ridicule from folks like us. Sorry for the pop quiz folks, but it is back to school season and we here at the 5 Dumbest Lab need to get back up to speed, especially if we intend to catch up to our friends at Nokia. Those flying Finns remain in full sprint, albeit in the wrong direction. Shares of the company have fallen 45% this year. The flailing smartphone maker apologized last weekend for deceiving viewers into believing that it used the camera from its forthcoming Lumia 920 smartphone to shoot the video used in the gadget's promotional material. Nokia posted the video on sites like YouTube to highlight the supercool effects of its new PureView technology. Unfortunately, as pointed out by a group of pesky bloggers, the video -- and a few still images to boot -- were not shot on Nokia's phone at all. Nokia confessed that it actually used a hand-held video camera and lighting rig to create the shots for the material, but not before boasting about how the Lumia will level its competitors' offerings. "This video was produced when the Nokia Lumia 920 was in preproduction," said the company. "While there was no intention to mislead, the failure to add a disclaimer to the video was obviously a mistake, and we apologize for the misunderstanding it did cause." On the other hand, Nokia did get one shot right and it was most certainly authentic. Too bad it was aimed squarely at its own foot.
4. Wynn's Big Dumb Win Come on Joe Francis. Don't you know the house -- and by house we mean Steve Wynn -- always wins? Notwithstanding, of course, his billion-dollar divorce settlement from wife Elaine two years ago. But that's a woman scorned, which, as we all know, is a much tougher variety than the college coeds the "Girls Gone Wild" director Francis usually traffics in. Anyway, Wynn was awarded $20 million in damages on Monday in his defamation suit against Francis. The Wynn Resorts ( WYNN) casino founder accused Francis of slander for falsely claiming on ABC's "Good Morning America" that he wanted him killed over a $2 million gambling debt. On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Superior Court jury added another $20 million in punitive damages because Francis apparently acted with malice. Wait a second. Let us get this straight. Wynn won $40 million because some idiot says the billionaire casino owner wants to kill him? If that's the case, how much will they give us for telling Wynn's blackjack dealers to stop murdering us at the tables? If you ask us, the real insult to absolutely no injury is that the original sum was $8 million higher than the amount sought by Wynn's lawyers, even though Francis' cockeyed comments didn't affect Wynn's business a smidgen. Moreover, it comes on top of a $7.5 million judgment Wynn won against Francis in a separate case filed in Nevada earlier this year. Seriously Steve, were your feelings really hurt that badly? We know your lawyer called Francis's blather "a vile, reprehensible character-assassination attempt," but we all know you've been called worse by better. In fact, we are fairly certain that your former business partner Kazuo Okada is saying some pretty nasty things about you at this very moment. So do you want to sue him too? Actually, scratch that question. Okada filed a $140 million defamation suit against Wynn last month in Tokyo for tossing him out of the business, so he probably will sue him back at some point if he hasn't already. Forget baccarat folks, legal tit-for-tat is the real high-stakes game for casino moguls these days and we don't see Wynn losing anytime soon.
3. Investment Bank Insanity Citigroup ( C) said its brokerage joint venture with fellow investment bank Morgan Stanley ( MS) was worth $22 billion. Morgan Stanley, on the other hand, valued the unit at $9.5 billion on its books. So which bulge-bracket firm got the price right? Who won Tuesday's showcase showdown over Morgan Stanley Smith Barney (MSSB)? Hold on. Don't shout out your guesses just yet. Before doing so, we want you to remember that bot firms are handsomely paid by business owners and investors alike for their valuation prowess. Whether it's pricing an Internet company on its way to an IPO or a pipeline for an acquisitive oil company, that's what these guys do each and every day. Dentists pull teeth. Investment bankers discount cash flows. Alright. With all that in mind, and without any further ado, the winner is: Neither one of those jokers. According to independent arbiter Perella Weinberg, the brokerage business in question is worth the grand sum of $13.5 billion. Remember the Oscar Wilde quote about people knowing "the price of everything and the value of nothing"? Well, these guys clearly don't know either. Of course, the whole stupid exercise was just another Wall Street parlor game anyway since Morgan Stanley, which is in the process of buying MSSB, submitted a low-ball bid to get a better price while Citigroup aimed way too high for the same exact reason. And as for the pencil-pushers at Perella Weinberg, well, who knows if they got their appraisal exactly right? Essentially all they did was split the baby in half. The sour news for Citigroup, however, is that they got the bad half. As a result of Perella Weinberg's binding decision, Morgan Stanley will up its 51% stake in the MSSB by 14% and will buy Citigroup's remaining 35% stake by June 1, 2015. Citigroup, on the other side of the ledger, will take a $2.9 billion after-tax loss related to MSSB in its third-quarter results. "This mutually beneficial agreement gives both parties certainty and transparency on price and timing, and is a significant milestone for Morgan Stanley in the implementation of our strategy," gloated Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman in a statement. Mutually beneficial? Get off it Gorman. Perella's price may be righteous in your view, but that doesn't make it right.
2. Tibco's Takedown Remember that hilarious scene from Annie Hall when Woody Allen pulls media expert Marshall McLuhan from out of nowhere to put an overbearing know-it-all in his place and then muses to the camera about how the world would be wonderful "if life were only like this?" Well, we here at the Dumbest Lab found a nice little slice of life this week that might give Woody hope. On Tuesday shares of Tibco Software ( TIBX) sank right out of the gate, falling as much as 11% after ThinkEquity analyst Yun Kim warned investors that there may be "lingering organizational issues" within the company's Americas region. Kim added that his "additional checks" since early last week convinced him that Tibco's problems could lead to a "sizable headcount reduction" in that division. Putting it all together, Kim downgraded his view of the stock to a hold from buy and lowered his price target to $32 from $36. Yes, much like the pompous yammerer in Allen's Oscar-winning movie, Kim spouted out his so-called facts based on his reported digging, except in this case he did it in a research note. Too bad that with the stock still down in the dumps, Tibco pulled a Woody by publicly calling Kim out on his research. "Third party research on Tibco Software has been released recently that indicate Tibco is planning for or has recently undertaken a major reduction in force. Tibco did not engage in such an action, or incur any related restructuring charge, in its third fiscal quarter and is not currently contemplating such an action," said the company in a rare midday regulatory filing. Guess what happened after that little stunt? You bet. The stock rocketed up from its lows and only finished down 3% for the day. That's certainly not a great close on an otherwise green day for stocks, but it's still enough to make the Woodman -- and us -- smile.
1. Moody's Bad Date Look Moody's ( MCO), we know that our politicians can't get it together, but did you have to remind us on the one day the country actually tries to come together? The ratings agency announced Tuesday - September 11th mind you - that it may downgrade the U.S. government's debt rating by 2014, citing the nation's debt to gross domestic product
GDP ratio and the risks that Congress cannot agree to a new federal budget. Currently, Moody's blesses the U.S. government's bonds with its highest rating of Aaa, although it added a "negative" outlook last year, signaling that a rating review would likely yield a cut. If, however, negotiations in Congress lead to a debt-to-GDP stabilization over the medium term, Moody's says "the rating will likely be affirmed and the outlook returned to stable." Of course, considering the cast of do-nothing knuckleheads now occupying Washington that's one big freaking "If." Certainly last summer's disastrous debt ceiling debate offers us little confidence that anything will be different this time, and the upcoming fiscal cliff coupled with Presidential election only steepens our concern. Then again, while the Dow fell more than 600 points on the first day after Moody's rival Standard & Poor's went ahead and stripped America of its pristine AAA rating, the yield on 10-year U.S. Treasury bonds has actually fallen as much as 100 basis points, or one full percentage point, over the past year. So if that's the case, who gives a flying you-know-what about what Moody's et al have to say about our country's credit? Weren't they the same blind mice who gave AAA ratings to thousands of toxic mortgage bonds and then went running when the resulting contamination decimated the global economy? Well, unfortunately we have to give a flying you-know-what, and, even more unfortunately, yes they were. You see, like our currently incapacitated Congress, these ratings agencies are the only ones we've got, lousy track records notwithstanding. That means banks and pension funds around the world still take their cues about what they can and cannot hold from the likes of Moody's. And just because rates sank last year after their initial warnings doesn't mean they were wrong about the deteriorating state of U.S. credit and the long-term threat of higher yields (and lower bond prices). Lots of other forces affect the price of Treasuries including massive Fed-buying and even more massive worries about the future of Europe. Put simply, Moody's could just be early with its September 11th call. In fact, they probably are ahead of the curve, yield and otherwise. But why couldn't they have been a single day earlier? -- Written by Gregg Greenberg in New York.