James C. Cooper and Kathleen Madigan need only look at their Business Outlook item on Germany ("Deflation's deepening shadow," June 2) to see how mistaken they are when they state, "...in the short run, the dollar's drop will be very supportive of growth. A weaker greenback gives U.S. exporters a price edge in global markets" ("Big help from a weak dollar," Business Outlook, June 2). With Germany sinking into recession and deflation, with Japan already experiencing these twin constraints on growth, and with the U.S. and the rest of Europe sliding in the same direction, what makes Cooper and Madigan believe that a weak dollar will help anyone's economy?
Why should foreigners suddenly begin buying exported U.S. goods when their own economies are contracting? Here in the U.S., companies barely have pricing power as it is. In normal times, a weaker dollar can have beneficial effects. The current economic environment is not normal and has not been for quite some time now; it is doubtful that a cheaper greenback will have much impact on the bottom-line growth of U.S. companies.
East Hampton, N.Y. Re Paula Dwyer's commentary "Why the market can't police itself" (Finance, June 2): As our corporate governance report filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission on May 6 (available online at www.nasdaq.com) explains, NASDAQ follows the same corporate-governance rules it has submitted to the SEC to govern NASDAQ's listed companies, including the rule requiring that a majority of the board be independent. NASDAQ complies with the SEC requirement for "fair representation" -- a board balanced between industry and nonindustry representatives.
Dwyer's definition of independence for directors of markets excludes any representatives of a listed company. The SEC's fair representation standard, however, requires NASDAQ to have representatives of listed companies on its board so that all constituencies are represented and the board has a diversity of viewpoints.
As an independent NASDAQ board member representing small investors and the public interest, I have participated in ensuring that NASDAQ's corporate governance avoids the types of conflicts you describe. First, we have a policy preventing our executives from serving on a board of a NASDAQ-listed company. Second, NASDAQ's listing standards and enforcement ensure fair and evenhanded treatment for all issuers, on the board or not. Finally and most importantly, NASDAQ, a public company, is totally separate from its regulator, the National Association of Securities Dealers.
John D. Markese, President
American Association of
Editor's note: The writer is also chairman of the NASDAQ Audit Committee. "Saturn: Still tiny, but bleeding like a monster" (News: Analysis & Commentary, June 2) fell short of providing a complete story. We're now in a period of rapid expansion and growth, both of which require significant investment. Saturn sales were up nearly 8% in 2002, and we expect to deliver a 10% increase this year. Vue, which took fourth place in the small sport-utility vehicle segment in its first year, is posting monthly sales increases of 60%-plus. We expect the recently introduced Ion quad coupe to account for 25% of Ion sales volume.
Saturn posted the industry's third- highest market-share increase in the first quarter for this year. On average, 97% of the people who own a Saturn would recommend them to family and friends. Saturn leads the industry in customer sales and service satisfaction, as measured by J.D. Power & Associates -- the first time a nonluxury nameplate has earned both distinctions in the same year.
Saturn is committed to making more frequent updates in important customer satisfaction areas such as performance and interior refinement, beginning with the 2004 models. The company will also enter new segments with a crossover sport van and a new midsize vehicle. Performance-tuned versions of the Vue and Ion, the Vue Red Line series, will be available later this year. There's also a hybrid version of the Vue coming in 2005.
The brand equity that Saturn retailers helped create is extremely strong. Over the course of the next five years, retailers are investing more than $1 billion to increase store count and prepare for the growing portfolio of vehicles we have planned.
John F. Smith
North America Vehicle Sales,
Service & Marketing
General Motors (GM) Corp.
Detroit Mexico will continue to "waste away" and lose high-tech maquiladoras and other profitable export businesses until it improves the country's public education ("Wasting away," International Business, June 2). In Mexico as elsewhere in Latin America, the central government delegates public education to a budget-line item. Local property taxes are never part of the educational equation. The public school system is just a place to send the child when a family or single parent cannot afford a private school. We can aid Mexico by insisting on and helping the country to establish an equitable property-tax system for public school funding that benefits all of the children of Mexico.
Edward P. Pita
Wages for assembly-line workers in smaller Mexican cities are far less than the $2.50 to $3.50 per hour you reported for Guadalajara. We provide workers for U.S. companies in Navojoa, Sonora (which is approximately 350 miles south of Nogales, Ariz.), at a rate of $1.25 per hour, including worker pay, benefits, and employer taxes.
James P. Cummings
St. Louis My wife is an airline employee, but BusinessWeek did a disservice to readers by printing an article that is clearly biased in favor of airline employees ("Coffee, tea, or bile?" Working Life, June 2). For example, while the story mentions working more days without more pay and more time away from family, nowhere is it printed that senior flight attendants are probably going from 18 days off per month to 15 days off per month. Or that the American pilot who is only making $95,000 per year is working an Federal Aviation Administration-mandated maximum of approximately 80 hours per month (this varies), and, again, about 15 days per month off at home. Compare these dream schedules with those of truck drivers, who are federally mandated to "only" 70 hours per eight days, with approximately 5.6 days per month off -- and not necessarily at home, just "off."
Airline employees had a very good life for long enough to almost kill the goose that laid the golden egg. While we do not want fatigued crews earning minimum wage, the cries of "foul" are far from justified.
Danny R. Schnautz
Clark Freight Lines Inc.
Pasadena, Tex. I have subscribed to your magazine for years, and I've wanted to write often. However, the right article had not struck my fancy until your most recent Summer 2003 inset (Golf & The Business of Life, June 2). The article "What's inside a CEO's Bag" was particularly interesting.
Principal Financial Group Chief Executive J. Barry Griswell not only sounds like a guest on CNBC, in these Enron- and Ahold-like times, he also stretches the rules of the game of golf as if they were forward financial statements.
Please note the most basic rule of golf. The United States Golf Assn.'s Rule 4-4 states: "Maximum of Fourteen Clubs." Yet Griswell has decided to put 15 clubs in his bag -- or is the putter not considered in his bag? He also refers to regularly using a 16th club, the utility club. Then he says: "I usually remove my 4- or 5-iron so I'm playing with 14 clubs." An auditor might suggest that he change the language of this statement to 4- "and" 5-iron since 16-2=14.
Let's hope Principal Financial Group's accounting practices adhere more closely to the rules.
Robert G. Seiple