"Plaintiffs brought their own losses upon themselves when they knowingly spun an extremely high-risk, high-stakes wheel of fortune." -- U.S. District Judge Milton Pollack, dismissing a suit against Merrill Lynch and former analyst Henry Blodget The National Association of Securities Dealers, the self-regulatory organization for brokerages as well as for the NASDAQ stock market, has been busy fining Wall Street firms and issuing new rules. So maybe that's why it took the NASD more than six months to notice that it had violated a Securities & Exchange Commission rule requiring disclosure of insider stock sales.
The infractions occurred in late 2002, after four NASD member firms exercised nearly 21,000 warrants for shares of NASDAQ common stock.
Under SEC rules then in effect, NASD should have reported three August insider sales on Form 4 by Sept. 10. Under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the NASD had two days to report an Oct. 15 exercise. Instead, it filed a single form on Apr. 1 covering all four transactions. A NASD spokeswoman said the late filing "was inadvertent," and may have been brought about by a change of stock record keepers. An SEC spokesman declined comment.
The NASD is in good company: Form 4 is the same one that George W. Bush filed 34 weeks late after the 1990 sale of his shares in Harken Energy (HEC) Moviegoers may say they love to hate them, but those ads on the big screen -- the ones that come before the trailers -- aren't going away anytime soon. Last year, the cinema-ad market topped $200 million, up 30% over last year, says Chuck Battey, president of National Cinema Network, a unit of AMC Entertainment that sells the ads. "There are still some theaters with [ad-free] screens, but those are few and far between," he says.
They're likely to become even scarcer. Theater owners formed the Cinema Advertising Council in February to promote the industry and standardize practices for selling ads. They're armed with new Arbitron (ARB) research showing that moviegoers don't really mind the ads. Two-thirds of survey participants, and 70% of those aged 12 to 24, said the commercials didn't bother them. Plus, 8 in 10 moviegoers actually remember the promos after the film ends. So movie ads typically command a 50% premium over those on TV, when measured by the cost of reaching a thousand viewers.
For the minority who still resent Madison Avenue's foray into theaters, there's hope: The commercials usually run less than five minutes in total, because moviegoers tend to tune out after the first few minutes. Between SARS and the war in Iraq, international travel has been hard hit. Japan Airlines (JAPNY), in an effort to get its countrymen flying again, has enlisted a powerful ally: Godzilla.
During the baseball season, JAL is running a tour just for fans of New York Yankee Hideki "Godzilla" Matsui, known for the mammoth home runs he hit in his native Japan. For $817, fans get airfare from Tokyo to New York, three nights' hotel lodging, a ticket to a Yankees game, and a Matsui T-shirt. The Tokyo-based travel agency H.I.S. runs a similar tour for $668. "It's hard to explain Matsui's popularity to someone who hasn't witnessed it," says JAL spokeswoman Carol Anderson. "It's crazy." The Matsui package is the most popular of JAL's U.S. tours.
Godzilla watchers who want to stay in Japan can still indulge in Matsui mania. In June, JAL debuted a special 747 to fly between Matsui's hometown of Komatsu and Tokyo, and between Tokyo and Sapporo. It's adorned with a 30-foot-high head shot of Matsui. JAL partner Japan Air System will unveil a similarly decorated Airbus A300 on July 18.
So far, Matsui has disappointed neither fans nor Yankees. As of June 30, he was batting .304 and was second on the team in RBIs. The Yanks were in first. It sounds too good to be true -- and it is. Spammers such as FedEx (FDX)-UPS Refund Recovery and Refund Recovery Software say you can earn $75 an hour working from home. Just buy a $77 software program to track the on-time status of packages, then earn fees helping companies collect refunds for late delivery.
But this would require detailed account info, which businesses don't easily give to third parties. And FedEx and UPS already handle tracking and refunds. Says UPS spokesman Norman Black: "This is truly a consumer scam." The Federal Trade Commission won't say if it's investigating. Neither refund company replied to repeated calls and e-mail.
Earlier this year, FedEx and UPS hit another company that's operating similarly, Overnight Recovery Software, with cease-and-desist orders. Founder Thomas Liantonio won't say how many customers he has or if they've started businesses. He admits his marketing leaves out vital information. "Is it legitimate? It falls in a sort of gray area," he says. He intends to fight the cease-and-desist orders. As for the riches to be made, consumers can expect late delivery. Huge enclosed malls such as the Sherman Oaks Galleria in the San Fernando Valley were once more than mere shopping centers. In movies such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High, the mall was where the action was. Now, an estimated 140 large malls are failing. One solution: Remake them as outdoor shopping plazas, reminiscent of the town centers they replaced.
Dozens of projects are under way. At Sherman Oaks, both the roof and the massive parking lots are gone. A former Robinsons-May department store now hosts Warner Bros. (AOL) Animation Studios. Denver's Villa Italia mall is being reborn as Belmar, with equal parts retail and office space, plus 1,300 residences. Kingsdale Shopping Center in Upper Arlington, Ohio, located near Columbus, is also slated to be rebuilt.
Retailers say on-street sites allow more distinctive storefronts. In a successful redevelopment, says Barnes & Noble (BKS) chairman Leonard Riggio, "the entire center becomes a destination, and your store becomes part of that." Just what retailers wanted when they signed on with the ?ber-malls of yore. Plenty has been written about Napster, the online music pioneer with technology that refuses to die. But it's not the only former Internet highflier with nine lives. Remember PointCast? It automatically scooped information off the Web and delivered it to your PC's screen saver.
Now, that same technology is being tested for use in AOL Time Warner (AOL) Communicator e-mail software, with familiar features such as a screen saver and a ticker with data ranging from stock quotes to sports scores. "Anyone who remembers PointCast would look at this and say: 'Wow,"' says former Infogate CEO Clifford Boro, whose company once owned PointCast.
It has been quite a ride. In 1997, PointCast boasted 1.5 million users, had raised $48 million, and was sitting on a $450 million buyout offer from News Corp. (NWS) But PointCast was too early. Broadband connections were rare, and users grumbled that PointCast was too slow. In 1999, Infogate bought PointCast for just $7 million. Infogate fixed PointCast's code, making it faster and leaner, then quietly sold the technology and patents to AOL in March. PointCast's time may finally have come.