The Biggest Financial Deception of the Decade
Editor, Casey's Gold & Resource Report
Jan 7, 2010
Enron? Bear Stearns? Bernie Madoff? They're all big stories about big losses and have hurt a lot of employees and investors. But none come close to getting my vote for the decade's most dastardly deception...
First came Enron, with $65.5 billion in assets, going belly-up and becoming the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history at that time. Chairman Kenneth Lay said that Enron's decision to file bankruptcy would "stabilize the company," but over the next five years the company was completely liquidated. The stock went from a high of $84.63 in December 2000 to a whopping 26¢ one year later.
And what had we been told by the media? Fortune magazine dubbed Enron "America's Most Innovative Company" for six consecutive years. A well-intentioned friend wanted to give me a gift subscription to the magazine for Christmas; I choked on my cocktail and luckily he assumed my drink was too strong. In the end, you can thank Enron for bringing us the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, a ghastly financial reporting regulation for which compliance is grossly expensive, and - stop the presses! - hasn't prevented similar repeats.
Next came WorldCom filing for bankruptcy in 2002, their assets of $103.9 billion dwarfing Enron's. "We will use this time under reorganization to regain our financial health and focus, while operating with the highest integrity," assured CEO John Sidgmore. Was his eggnog spiked? Today, WorldCom stock certificates have been spotted as doilies under pancake house coffee mugs signifying it's decaf.
Tyco, Adelphia, Peregrine Systems it's a crowded field around this time. But their stories of fraud and greed and mismanagement get boring after awhile. Just watch the closing credits from the movie Fun with Dick and Jane and you'll see what I mean.
Bear Stearns set us all up for the Big Meltdown of 2008. It was B.S. (no, I mean Bear Stearns) that pioneered the asset-backed securities markets, and we all know how that turned out. Later we learned that as losses mounted in 2006 and 2007, the company was actually adding to its exposure of mortgage-backed assets, gearing itself up to 35:1. With net equity of $11.1 billion supporting $395 billion in assets, B.S. carried more leverage than a streetwalker's push-up bra.
And during it all, Bear Stearns was recognized as the "Most Admired" securities firm in a survey by Fortune magazine (there's that Lower Manhattan tabloid darling again). Frequent sightings of company executives on country club fairways assured the public that all was well. And CEO Alan Schwartz told us there was "no liquidity crisis for the firm" and insisted he "had the numbers to back it up." His company was sold four days later to JPMorgan Chase at $10 per share, a 92% loss from its $133.20 high. Perhaps his numbers were prepared by ex-Arthur Andersen employees.
PS. Whatever you want to believe, make up your own trading thesis and live by its results as you learn from your experiences.
PSS. Been a great beginning of 2010, now let see an orderly pullback so it can pose a good entry to a few other non resources ones and oily names.