5. Burger King's Whopper Poor Burger King ( BKW). Just when the hamburger seller finally goes on a roll, it gets hit with a whopper of a cyber attack. The fast-food giant was forced to suspend its Twitter account for a short period Monday after it was hacked by a still-unknown entity. The hacker cheekily changed the profile picture to a McDonald's ( MCD) logo and began posting obscene messages before the account was ultimately taken down. The childish prank was a far cry from the company's victory last Friday, when it reported Street-beating fourth-quarter results that sent its stock price up more than 6%. Burger King generally tweets several times a week to promote sales on its products, such as its chicken sandwiches. However, it quickly became clear this was no ordinary game of chicken early Monday afternoon when someone tweeted via Burger King's account: "We just got sold to McDonald's!" Following that opening salvo of idiocy, the account was overrun by numbskulls determined to tweet and retweet as much stupidity as possible. The account even went so far as to tweet: "if I catch you at a wendys, we're fightin!" Come on, guys! Cut it out. We don't mind you breaking into the Pentagon's hard drives to steal defense secrets or launch a global thermonuclear war. Heck, we learned this week that the Chinese military is doing that every day. But for the good of the country, leave our beloved burger dealers alone! "We apologize to our loyal fans and followers, whom might have received unauthorized tweets from our account. We are pleased to announce that the account is now active again," Burger King spokesman Bryson Thornton said in a statement once the account was recaptured by the company. Offline, one big reason for Burger King's recent resurgence is the addition of new menu items like its chicken parmesan sandwich, Cinnabon Minibon rolls and sweet potato fries. Burger King is also getting competitive in the coffee arena, a space that helped jump-start moribund McDonald's sales not too long ago. Nevertheless, despite Burger King's attempts to copy its strategy, McDonald's vehemently denied having anything to do with Monday's computer piracy, tweeting "Rest assured, we had nothing to do with the hacking." Fine. We believe you. But we still want to check the Hamburglar's hard drive. We don't trust that guy.
4. Titan's French Kiss-Off The entire nation of France may not think too highly of Maurice Taylor. We here at the Five Dumbest Lab, however, think Titan International's ( TWI) CEO is le miaulement du chat. The tough-talking tire executive informed the country's industry minister, Arnaud Montebourg, in a Feb. 8 letter released on Wednesday that he had no interest in rescuing a soon-to-be-closed Goodyear plant. But that's not all Taylor had to say. Jamais de la vie. "The French workforce gets paid high wages but works only three hours. They get one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for three and work for three," Taylor wrote. "I told this to the French union workers to their faces. They told me that's the French way!" Attendez une seconde! It gets better. "Sir, your letter states you want Titan to start a discussion. How stupid do you think we are? Titan is the one with money and talent to produce tires. What does the crazy union have? It has the French government." The French government, by the way, responded Wednesday, calling Taylor an "extremist" and "ignorant." Sacrebleu! No wonder Taylor's nickname is "The Grizz." Instead of politely declining an offer he may deem ridiculous, this guy is growling like a hungry bear. And while we may enjoy his rant for our own admittedly Dumb purposes, and even agree with the majority of it, we do wonder how Titan's own employees feel when their CEO publicly tells an entire country that he can easily replace its "so-called workers" with cheaper Chinese or Indian labor. Like they say in Paris: Bon marché tire agent de bourse. (Don't worry if you forgot your high school French. It has nothing to do with selling tires. Simply translated, it means: If you pay cheaply, you pay dearly.)
3. Wal-Mart's E-Mail Trail First The New York Times unearths unsavory evidence of Wal-Mart ( WMT) bribing Mexican officials, and now Bloomberg goes public with internal e-mails detailing the retail giant's sales troubles. What the deuce, Mike Duke? For a CEO who supposedly runs a tight ship, things are getting awfully leaky down there in Bentonville. The company's stock sank over 2% last Friday after Bloomberg released e-mails from high-ranking Wal-Mart employees caught bemoaning the sluggishness of February sales at the world's largest retailer. On Thursday, the shares popped 2.5% to $71 after the company beat Wall Street's fourth-quarter profit estimates by a dime while issuing first-quarter guidance below consensus estimates. "In case you haven't seen a sales report these days, February (month-to-date) sales are a total disaster," Wal-Mart VP Jerry Murray wrote in a Feb. 12 email released by Bloomberg. "The worst start to a month I have seen in my (about) 7 years with the company." Ouch! Those higher payroll taxes and steepening gas prices really seem to be walloping Wal-Mart shoppers. So much so that the company's brass can't stop whining about it. "Have you ever had one of those weeks where your best-prepared plans weren't good enough to accomplish everything you set out to do?" bemoaned Senior VP of U.S. replenishment Cameron Geiger in a Feb. 1 email to company executives. "Well, we just had one of those weeks here at Walmart U.S. Where are all the customers? And where's their money?" Chill out, Geiger. There's no reason to go radioactive. If you can't locate your customer's loot, then we're pretty sure they are in a far worse bind than you right now. Certainly those Wal-Mart customers are not abandoning you to ring the registers at Nordstrom, if you know what we mean. Regarding all the loose talk surfacing in the Bloomberg report, Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar said in a statement: "As with any organization, we often see internal communications that are not entirely accurate, that lack the proper context and represent individual opinions." Sorry, Tovar, but that's too little, too late. That genie is out of the bottle. The smartest thing you could do now is -- to quote Geiger's e-mail -- "stop the stupid" and start keeping your internal communications internal. Not that we don't enjoy lapping up all the loose talk, of course.
2. Heinz Hustle Remember that old Heinz ( HNZ) commercial featuring the Carly Simon tune Anticipation? Well, it looks like a group of greedy -- and stupid -- traders forgot the song's chorus. They simply couldn't wait for the ketchup maker to get taken out before buying in. The FBI revealed Tuesday it was investigating possible insider trading in Heinz options prior to the company's $23.3 billion deal last week to be acquired by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway ( BRK-B) and Brazil's 3G Capital. Last Friday, the SEC filed a suit against a gaggle of still-unnamed traders who allegedly used a Swiss Goldman Sachs ( GS) account to get an illegal leg up on the competition. "The FBI is aware of the trading anomalies the day before Heinz's announcement," a spokesman said. "The FBI is consulting with the SEC to determine if a crime was committed." A spokesman for Goldman said the investment bank is helping out with the investigation as well. Check that out. Goldie is hanging with the good guys this time around. Maybe, to quote Casablanca, this will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship between the investment bank and regulators. Maybe not. But we can always hope. Anyway, the bandits did use Goldman's casino to allegedly gamble on 2,533 call options last Wednesday, according to the SEC. The anonymous investors spent nearly $90,000 on the bullish trade, a position that spiked to $1.8 million on paper after the deal was announced Thursday. Shares of the company popped 20% to $72.50 after the acquisition hit the tape Thursday. "The timing, size and profitability of the defendants' trades, as well as the lack of prior history of significant trading in Heinz" makes the trades "highly suspicious," the SEC said in its complaint. And oh-so-dumb. Seriously, these get-rich-quick schemers must have been really slow if they believed the authorities would not ketchup to them.
1. Office Merger IdiocyODP, to use Wall Street speak, is buying OMX in a $976 million all-stock deal. Everything else, however, seems to be TBD. Office Depot ( ODP) announced Wednesday it will purchase smaller rival OfficeMax ( OMX), completing a deal that was long anticipated on Wall Street as the office-supply category has come under tremendous pressure from the likes of Amazon and Wal-Mart. Office Depot brass insisted the deal was a merger of equals and not an acquisition, despite the fact that its shareholders would own a slightly larger part of the combined company once the smoke clears. Office Depot shares closed down 17% at $4.18, while OfficeMax sank 7% to $12.09 on the news. That's what we know at least. Everything else -- like its store-closing strategy, headquarters, name and CEO -- is to be determined (aka TBD). Heck, to continue with the Wall Street acronyms, this deal might as well have been a SPAC if they didn't already have the stores! (Special-purpose acquisition company, that is. Or, more plainly, a company that sells shares and then finds something to buy later.) Yeah, there's a lot of laughing going on at Staples ( SPLS) right now. Staples, by the way, has about a 40% share of the office-supply market, an amount that will still be slightly larger than its newly combined nameless competitor. Perhaps most hilarious is the idea that the respective companies' current CEOs will both be interviewing for the top job of the new entity. Normally a new leader is chosen before the deal is announced. Not so here. The companies stated Wednesday that Neil Austrian, Office Depot's chairman and CEO, and Ravi Saligram, the president and chief executive of OfficeMax, will keep their old jobs during the search process. The board, however, will be split evenly while these guys get their resumes together. "It would be premature to select a CEO until we understand what the FTC is going to do," Austrian replied when asked about the decision not to select a new CEO. (The FTC being the Federal Trade Commission, which breaks up mergers that harm competition.) Get off it, Austrian. The FTC is not going to do anything now that margins across this entire category are collapsing due to all the online competitors jumping in. That antitrust case is long dead and buried. The only thing premature was the early release of the merger announcement by Thomson Reuters, which published the news Wednesday morning only to take it down soon after because the details were still not fully in place. Once the so-called specifics were ironed out later that morning, the deal was officially announced online. What a joke from start to finish. All we can say is: LMFAO. (If you don't know what that means, ask your kids. Wait. Maybe not.)