"The award is in recognition of his outstanding contribution to global economic stability and the benefit...realized from the wisdom and skill with which he has led the U.S. Federal Reserve Board." -- Britain's Treasury announcing that Fed chief Alan Greenspan is to be knighted Believe it or not, some Wall Street analysts did get it right. Case in point: three Morgan Stanley analysts who sounded an early alarm about Qwest Communications' (Q) accounting woes. Their June, 2001, downgrade, to neutral from outperform, was one reason Qwest's share price lost 50% of its value during the summer of 2001. A furious Joe Nacchio, who resigned as CEO this year after the Securities & Exchange Commission began investigating the issues they raised, said at the time that the analysts "aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer."
They're looking pretty sharp now. Internet infrastructure analyst Jeffrey Camp went to Andor Capital Management in London, helping the hedge fund make tech investments. Telecom analyst Simon Flannery and accounting expert Trevor Harris won kudos at Morgan Stanley. "One of the most valuable calls an analyst can make is the non-consensus call that turns out to be right," says Dennis Shea, global director of equity research.
While both analysts expect to see more accounting problems to surface this year, Flannery thinks telecom is bottoming out. He raised his industry rating on July 24, saying he expects telecom stocks to keep pace with the broader market. Says Flannery: "We're just happy to help guide investors through the maze of telecom." Let's hope they keep their edges sharp. If comedy is tragedy plus time, SellWhenIBuy.com, is proof that the bear market has now lasted long enough to be funny. Created by part-time comic writer David Roffman "to commiserate with my fellow investing losers," the Web site details Roffman's stock mishaps in all their gruesome, chart-scraping detail. A two-time loser, Roffman bought biotech stocks right before the 1987 crash, then stayed out of the market for 13 years only to get crushed again buying Nortel Networks and Palm in 2000. Of the $72,000 he invested, he has $170 left.
Investors can post their own horror stories, with the promise of a free "BIG LO$ER" T-shirt for the most pathetic tale each week. Roffman also offers a column from his mother with advice such as: "I say, feh! Get a job!"
Investors who've lost their appetite for stocks can hit the site's gift shop for a squeegee ($65), a guitar case with "special coin anti-bounce lining" ($11.50), and an organ donor card ($11.50). Notes Roffman: "These items have been carefully selected and proven as effective money makers. After a few lucrative weeks, you'll earn back your dignity [or] enough to get to the YMCA for a shower." Here's a warning for Corporate America: Adelphia's John Rigas, ImClone's Samuel Waksal, and Tyco's (TYC) Dennis Kozlowski may be just the beginning.
Executive-search firm Russell Reynolds, along with personality-testing firm Hogan Assessment Systems, conducted psychological profiles of more than 1,400 managers at large U.S. companies. Dean Stamoulis, an executive director at Russell Reynolds and an organizational psychologist, gave the execs 28 true-or-false questions on rule compliance and interactions with others to gauge their level of integrity.
The troubling results: One out of eight execs can be termed "high-risk." That makes them far more likely to break rules than the remaining 87%. "These are folks who believe the rules do not apply to them," says Stamoulis. "They're extreme in their lack of concern for others. They rarely possess feelings of guilt."
When he gave the same test to another group, he found more than 60% of them to be at high-risk for rule-breaking. Who were they? Inmates at a maximum-security prison. Can Europe's tiny Smart car make it in the land of the pickup truck and SUV? DaimlerChrysler (DCX) hopes so. Smart cars have been nothing short of a sensation in European cities. Now Daimler is considering selling them stateside.
Hipsters in cities such as Los Angeles, Miami, and New York might pay $15,000 or more for a Smart car, analysts figure--nearly twice the European starting price. After all, at about 8-feet long, it's easy to park. And at 70 miles per gallon, it could catch on with the eco-crowd. "It's not a car for the Midwest, but the convertible would be nice in California," says Andreas Renschler, head of Mercedes-Benz's Smart division.
But the auto maker faces several challenges--among them, convincing Americans that a Smart won't be flattened if it has a run-in with an SUV. And for a U.S. launch to be profitable, Daimler would have to sell 8,000 Smart cars a year. That doesn't seem far-fetched, considering the success of the comparably priced Mini Cooper, BMW's rendition of the venerable--and tiny--British original: 7,000 of them have been sold since the U.S. launch in March. Forget debit cards. Forget credit cards. The two are merging into a new type of card that can help people who have trouble maintaining bank balances or making minimum payments on their credit cards. Nearly a dozen companies, including Reliance Insurance and Western Union, have issued the "Clear Card" as a benefit to about 1,500 employees since January. Another dozen companies are expected to begin offering it by fall.
How does it work? Buy an $80 pair of pants, for example, and your next four paychecks will show deductions of $20. "The card is ideal for people who have had credit problems," says John Gregitis, senior vice-president of marketing at E-Duction, the company working with MasterCard to offer Clear Card. It looks like a regular MasterCard, and employees pay a $29 annual fee. Their credit limit is 2.5% of their salaries, there's no interest charge, and automatic deductions mean the card always shows a clean credit history.
Companies say offering such benefits gives them a competitive edge. Notes Wendy Carver-Herbert, a spokeswoman for Western Union, where 10% of U.S. employees use Clear Card: "We're always looking for ways to bring in talent." Since William H. Macy portrayed him in the TNT made-for-television movie Door to Door, Bill Porter still gets up at 8 o'clock every morning, makes himself breakfast, and schedules sales calls around reruns of Matlock. But for the 69-year-old salesman who, despite cerebral palsy has been selling home products for the Winona (Minn.)-based Watkins Inc. for almost 47 years, one thing has changed: He is unexpectedly on his way to becoming a rich man.
In just three days after Door to Door first aired on July 14, Porter's Web site, www.billporter.com, which offers products ranging from organic dishwashing detergent to barbecue sauce, tallied $60,000 in sales, according to Shelly Brady, Porter's longtime friend and business associate who was also portrayed in the movie. By comparison, Porter was named "Salesman of the Year" in 1989 for sales of $42,460. Hits on his Web site have risen steadily, from 80 per second in the first days after the broadcast to 200 per second at the end of July. The result: more than $125,000 in gross sales for the month, 44 times more than he makes in a usual month.
The first thing Porter plans to do with his newfound wealth? "Pay income taxes," he says. "Then maybe build a new house. Mine's getting old."