NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Be it ever so dumb, there is no place like Wall Street. What's up Dumbest fans? Sorry if you missed our column last week, but like a lot of other unfortunate folks here on the East Coast, Hurricane Sandy had other, far more pressing plans for us. While we thankfully made it through the savage storm without significant loss of life, limb or property, Sandy did make it virtually impossible for us to publish our weekly countdown of Wall Street's biggest blunders. Yes folks, it is nearly impossible to speak truth to power when --electricity-wise -- you are completely powerless. Furthermore, even if we were able to scrape together a few tidbits of tawdry Wall Street behavior during the abbreviated trading week, it just would not have been worth compiling and publishing a list anyway. There were so many instances of positive, heart-warming behavior here in lower Manhattan and elsewhere during Sandy's onslaught, that even cold-hearted curmudgeons like us couldn't be so callous as to highlight the handful of negatives that took place. So with all those good tidings still in mind, and with so many of our friends in the financial sector still struggling to return to normalcy, we proudly offer you a twist on our traditional weekly musings. For this week, and this week alone, we present The Five Smartest Things on Wall Street This Week. Don't worry loyal readers -- or all you sinister CEOs - we haven't gone soft. We'll get back to our bare-knuckle ways next week. But for now, let's celebrate the benevolence and bravery of our friends on Wall Street instead of their bone-headedness. Take that Sandy!
5. Hedgies Help Out We here at the Dumbest Lab may be well known for shutting up an overbearing hedge fund titan or two. This week, however, we were left speechless when we witnessed a parade of plutocrats putting up. Their millions that is. In the wake of Sandy's carnage, and the brutally cold weather that breezed in shortly thereafter, a number of high-profile hedge fund and private equity players dialed up their efforts to provide relief to areas still reeling from the storm. Most notably, the Robin Hood Foundation, a charitable organization originally created by hedge fund honcho Paul Tudor Jones to fight poverty, announced its plans to raise money and provide relief to those without power or a permanent home on the East Coast. Last Sunday, Robin Hood's chairman Lee Ainslie said the foundation planned to disburse $3 million in immediate aid to regions impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Meanwhile, Ainslie, who is also CEO of hedge fund Maverick Capital Management, told Bloomberg TV that the popular Wall Street charity had raised more than $8 million in a relief fundraising effort over the weekend. Not bad right? And unlike last Friday night's NBC telethon, these money managers raised big bucks without forcing donors to listen to Billy Joel play Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway) at a New York benefit concert for the second absolutely inappropriate time in a row. (Come on Billy! First the 9/11 concert and now the Sandy benefit? We know you are in a New York state of mind, but we don't need to hear your apocalyptic vision for New York City when we can see it with our own two eyes!) Aside from Robin Hood's good deeds, investment banks ranging from Citigroup ( C) to Goldman Sachs ( GS) pledged resources and money to relief efforts. JPMorgan ( JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon said the bank would donate up to $5 million to support the region it calls home. Matching Dimon's goodwill, Goldman said it will give up to $5 million in financial relief efforts, with employees making a matching contribution. Meanwhile, private equity giants also made a push to contribute much-needed resources to Hurricane Sandy relief. KKR ( KKR) co-founder Henry Kravis, for example, said his multi-million dollar fund aimed at developing New York City businesses will now target relief projects in the aftermath of Sandy. The fund -- called the Partnership for New York City Fund -- has already invested $119 million in New York businesses, according to its Web site, and Kravis told Bloomberg it will look to invest $35 million on post-Sandy revitalization efforts. Imagine that. The barbarians have left the gate in order to build bridges. Now there is a warm and fuzzy thought, even if it did take Sandy's cold prickliness to bring it about.
4. NYSE Opens for Business New York's still-flooded subways were a mess last Wednesday Oct. 31. Buses were backed up across all five boroughs. Commuters could not get to work on time anywhere in the City. Still, the New York Stock Exchange opened for trading at 9:30 a.m. ET on the dot after being closed for two days due to Sandy. And perhaps even more to its credit, the Exchange closed the day without incident. Running on backup power from generators, brokers on the NYSE floor overcame spotty Internet and mobile-phone connections to complete the first full day of trading following the longest weather-related shutdown since 1888. Duncan Niederauer, chief executive officer of NYSE Euronext ( NYX), said trading went "very smoothly, everything opened fairly quickly." "I am pleased that the nation's securities markets were able to open today despite the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy," said Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro in a statement. "Since the weekend, the staff of the SEC and I have been in constant communication with the exchanges, market participants and other regulators assessing the situation and coordinating with the relevant parties." Kudos to you Mary, Duncan and all those floor brokers who trudged in before dawn to make it happen. All your hard work paid off! Never has TheStreet ( TST) been so proud of our next door neighbor. Well, maybe it didn't pay off too much. The Dow closed down a smidgen on the day and the S&P 500 essentially finished where it started. No matter. Following a marathon performance like that, simply crossing the finish line was a mammoth victory in our eyes. And speaking of marathons ...
3. Mike's Marathon Mess Alright, we know we said we would take a vacation from our usual vindictive selves and identify the "Smartest" things on Wall Street this week as opposed to the "Dumbest." Unfortunately, when it comes to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Marathon mushiness, we just can't help ourselves. In case you were at home in the dark, which, quite sadly, was the case for a lot of people in the tri-state area, here's what happened. Hours after originally saying he planned to push ahead with the New York City Marathon, a race which touches all of five boroughs, Mayor Mike abruptly reversed course Friday and canceled the event. The decision came after a slew of storm victims criticized the Mayor, saying his attempt to carry on with the road race would divert police and other resources like generators, blankets and water from recovery efforts. Truth be told, the New York Road Runners Club, the race organizer, paid for those generators, not the City. Therefore, the resources in question were not the Mayor's to move in the first place. Nevertheless, the idea that those generators were creating political heat for a billionaire Mayor in Manhattan instead of physical heat for storm victims in Staten Island was still too much for many to take, hence the quick change of course. "We cannot allow a controversy over an athletic event -- even one as meaningful as this -- to distract attention away from all the critically important work that is being done to recover from the storm and get our city back on track," said the Mayor, doing his own bit of backtracking. You know what? In the spirit of this week's column and all his hard work in the past week, we'll cut Mayor Mike some slack on his original dumb decision. It may have taken a few hours, but he eventually came to his senses and arrived at a very smart decision indeed.
2. Sandy vs. TheStreet Try as she might, Sandy couldn't beat TheStreet. Like a lot of other firms in lower Manhattan, TheStreet lost power due to Sandy. We luckily were not affected by water damage like a lot of our neighbors, yet our lights did go out, making our building cold and uninhabitable. (Actually, we have been back well over a week now and it's still bloody freezing in here!) Anyway, the electrical outage caused us -- once again, like thousands and thousands of other businesses slammed by the storm -- to scramble. Those reporters with the ability to work remotely filed stories from wherever they could. Those editors that could pick up the slack hunkered down and did so. Our financial reporter Dan Freed even went so far as to ride his bike over the Brooklyn Bridge to Wall Street in order to film man-on-the-street interviews for video segments. He had to peddle because the subways weren't running. Meanwhile, our operations team worked feverishly to keep our site up and running. Fortunately, our crack tech staff had the foresight to accelerate our migration to the cloud, and our publishing performed very well even as many other sites (who will remain nameless since this is a happy column) went down. And even though our server provider in New Jersey lost power during the hurricane, its generators enabled us to continue operations without interruption. "Even our office in Wisconsin was impacted by the storm," said TheStreet's CEO Elisabeth DeMarse. "But thanks to a team of people working before, during and after the storm, we experienced normal levels of traffic, and our ad delivery was completely on schedule. In fact, we saw a spike in free trials from the TheStreet web site and The Deal never lost contact with its customers." Look. We aren't out to make martyrs of ourselves. Not by a long shot. We are well aware that a lot of other businesses in the area were forced by the storm to evacuate and found only wreckage when they returned. To which we openly admit: There but for the grace of God goes TheStreet. That said, we thought it would be negligent not to point out the shrewd maneuvers made by our very own employees in response to this (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime weather event. No, they were not alone in their quick thinking, but they were illustrative. What's that? You were wondering how TheStreet's founder, contributor and spiritual leader Jim Cramer passed his time while Sandy scattered our employees and hijacked our headquarters? He wrote a ton of articles for RealMoney, managed his Action Alerts Plus portfolio, appeared on multiple CNBC programs and still found time to host his own nightly program Mad Money. Think about it. Hurricane Sandy may have been an unstoppable force of nature, but then again, so is Jim Cramer.
1. Small Business Saves the Day As our long-term readers know well, we here at the Dumbest Lab have always been big game hunters. Granted we take potshots but when taking aim, we generally have large, publicly traded companies or well-known, over-compensated CEOs in our sights -- not small businesses or their proprietors. Yet since this is a special, never-to-be-repeated version of the column, we decided to break that rule too and focus on the smart decisions made by small businesses in the wake of Sandy's savagery. And perhaps nowhere could we find a better recap of some of the heroism of small business owners in the face of severe adversity than in an article by TheStreet's own small business reporter Laurie Kulikowski titled, "Small Businesses, Social Media Saved My Town During Hurricane Sandy." In the piece, excerpted below, Laurie recounts some of the devastation in her hometown of Long Beach, N.Y., a coastal community located on a barrier island on the south shore of Long Island. Approximately 30,000 people call Long Beach home, including many Wall Streeters. And here's hoping they all get home safely and soon. This is from Laurie (who we also hope to see back in the office soon!): As I walked around town in shock Tuesday morning, I passed my favorite nail salon, Best Nails, on Park Avenue. The owner and her husband were already inside mopping up water. Top China in Levittown, N.Y., had its gas ranges fired up Tuesday. The owners were without power but cooked as much of their food as possible so it wouldn't spoil. Chinese food never tasted so good. A friend tells me that Smithtown Bagels in Smithtown, N.Y., was open bright and early the morning after the storm. The shop didn't have power but, with a lantern over its gas stove, the establishment was serving bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches to hungry and thankful customers. On Wednesday, when I went back to town to clean out spoiled food from my refrigerator, donate essentials and pack what clothes I could, I saw tow truck companies in Long Beach. The sand hadn't even been plowed yet. One tow truck even got stuck in the sand, the owner working furiously to get it out. One of the few towns on Wednesday that did have power was Freeport, N.Y. Raimo's Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria had its ovens working overtime. As busy as Raimo's was, it took less than five minutes to be served hot and delicious slices. Even though Long Beach is still without power, just yesterday I saw a promotion on Facebook (FB) by the restaurants and bars of the West End that had come together to offer Sunday dinner to residents. From what I can see in the pictures, the 13 establishments used charcoal grills, portable smokers, generators and donated goods to offer free food and drink to those in need. The handful of businesses in this small town define strength and resiliency. Many have talked about how much of life has been put into perspective because of the storm. My biggest insight is that these small businesses, the ones in my town, are key to the survival of communities. Because behind them are regular (and dedicated) people who are keeping them going. As a small-business reporter, I try to spend my money at local shops. As the holiday season starts, I hope others will remember those that helped all of us when we really needed it. -- Written by Gregg Greenberg in New York.