Sunday, February 17, 2008

Unprofessional Professionals

I was reading this magazine Fortune special issue Investor's Guide 2008: 44 Hot Stocks and Mutual Funds. Unfortunately, I came away not with hot stock pickings, but with a sense of wonderment of how stupid those high ranking management personnel can be. How billions are lost while the losers are claiming that they're busy making money.

Page 11: Letters
Fortune What were they smoking? Chuck Prince lost 8.8 billions. Stan O'Neal lost 7.9 billions.

Ford Bartholow: "Wall Street bankers, their leaders, and hedge fund managers are the most overpaid, overhyped bunch of nattily dressed salesmen on planet earth" ... "Stan O'Neal played it and earned 160 million after losing billions."

Nick Schultz: "Very few truly bring anything unique or of lasting value to the table. And those who do successfully guide their companies in a low-key manner for a long period are generally only moderately rewarded financially."

LESSON 1: Gamble heavily. Claim Luck is Skill. Ask for exit strategy worth millions, just in case luck doesn't last long."

Lesson 2: What were the HR people who chose these loser thinking?

Page 140: Jim Rogers: "What I said was, If they cut interest rates it's going to be a signal to the rest of the world that we don't care about the dollar, that we want the dollar to go down. That is what has happened." ... "I will tell you that I was terrified recently when I saw Bernanke testifying before Congress, and he said that if an American buys only American products in American cureency he is not affected by the decline in the U.S. Dollar. I couldn't believe the man said that! I was looking at him to see--Is he lying? Is he just using government propaganda? Or does the man just not know? He's supposed to be an economist, and he doesn't know how the economy works!"

LESSON 3: This is a classic case of weakening the dollar against crushing loan. Germany did it in World War 2. So do several other countries over the years. None has panned out as far as I know. What happens when you weakens the dollar is that you certainly dilute your obligations now, but you will also lower your credit rating and make future borrowing a much, much more expensive proposition. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that low credit ratings are things to avoid, associated with poor economic people, such as our neighbor the Mexican, instead of high credit rating people such as our trading partner the Japanese. And another thing: so long as we're importing something, such as oil, sugar cane, and other commodities, then it is madness to devalue our currency. Price wars is not the way to get rich, I thought all economist knows that, but obviously they do not. The lower the price, the harder we must work. Remind me again which countries limit their work week to 40 hour
and which ones has no limit?

LESSON 4: Work Hard to low income is preferable to working smart.

Page 147-160: It is shocking, at least to me what common sense is lacking in some of these people. On the other hand, there are some seemingly weird behaviour that cannot be helped.

10: "... A hacker uses a picture of a key from the company website to make a real key that can open the company's machines." Uh, that would be classified as inside job security breach.

13: Apparently, despite billions spent in dieting, it doesn't seem to work. I wonder when, if ever, people will realize that dieting WILL NOT WORK unless it is a daily habit, not just a one-off thing.

15: An Australian Toy of the Year is made, among other things, an illegal date-rape drug. And, no, the toy isn't supposed to be chewed or swallowed.

30: Will all CEOs who spent his workdays playing golf, bridge, and other past times, please stand up? Thank you. You are all fired.

33: Of all the product misuse possible, I thought this one is rather obvious. I hope P&G didn't spend too much time researching this one.

45: I suppose that's one way to sell jewelry. I can't fault them for coming up with the idea, but I can certainly blame them for the execution.

50: Makes you wonder why they didn't catch this sooner. Just how much does it cost to ship two cents washers anyway?

51: Yep, that's the problem with intellectual Property law. Same thing happens with Disney prohibiting a kindergarden from using images of Mickey Mouse on school property. Can't be helped. Of course, since we're talking about some nine years old, I hope they write a special letter.

55: Has not MIT ever heard of "Buyers Beware"? This looks like a blatant attempt of denial of resposibilities, which as the experts on page 132 strongly cautioned against.

60: Develop a business plan for sitting for 30 months with food and rent fully paid, after pocketing $750,000 dollars, and having great fun. I'd be sorely tempted, too. :)

69 - 70: Obviously, no good deed goes unpunished. This is clearly a case of an idiot at the helm of a company and acting a plan to be the best by eliminating anybody else who is better. Fortunately, I've stayed away from Circuit City for a while now, but I do feel sorry for those hard-working sales people.

82: U.N. One Laptop Per Child program is an idealistic solution applied to non-idealistic world. Expect to see a LOT of these "mishaps" happening. I won't even imagine cases where these children are recruited to cohesively work together to crack DES algorithm because it pays more than distributing media company's hard disk images. Not that I condone such behaviour, but I wouldn't be giving immature kids unrestricted access to sophisticated computers while restricting adult access to it in the first place.

85: $15,000 double bed for 7 hours. That's an incredible business model. I wouldn't dare even to think of it!

Perusing all the various money-making scheme, cheap travels, and whatnot, a constant thought on my head is: "This sounds too good to be true. I wonder if truth in advertising is in force." about the only exception is Charles Schwab Bank. It looks like a losing proposition, getting only 4% APY when others promises to be more, but that's why I want to check it out. OTOH, although the poster says FDIC-insured, the Disclaimer says "Brokerage Products: Not FDIC Insured". Considering that both statements are on the same page, I wonder who approved this ad? And which is the true statement?

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