Archive for June 2006

According to the British business news blog HereIsTheCity, a group of Merrill employees have been fired or suspended for forwarding pornographic emails from their work computers.

Merrill Lynch is said to have fired 13 employees in Dublin last week for alleged e-mail abuse. The firm is also said to have given written warnings to an additional 7 staff, who were sent home from the office following an inquiry.
According to press reports, two staff members were previously fired after they allegedly sent a por.ographic e-mail to a client. The latest sacking are believed to have resulted from a subsequent wide-ranging review of staff e-mails. The 13 staff who were been given the boot last week (both men and women) will have the right of appeal. The 7 who received written warnings will be required to undertake retraining on internet and e-mail practices.

Which brings us back to that potentialPlayboy LBO. If you can get canned for forwarding racy emails or looking at porny websites, how is anyone ever going to be comfortable raising money for a deal involving a girly-magazine and its internet properties? Or is there a “deal related porn only” qualification to the company policy.

Top Firm Fires Staff After Alleged E-Mail Abuse

  • 26 Jun 2006 at 2:55 PM
  • Airbus

Airbus: Lawsuits, Right-Wingers and Monks

magritte-airbus.JPGThe BBC is reporting that a shareholder group has launched a “French-style class action” lawsuit against EADS, the 80% parent company troubled planemaker Airbus.
Meanwhile, French right-winger Jean-Marie Le Pen has decided to add his voice to the fray, calling for embattled Airbus co-executive Noel Forgeard to be sent to a monastery.

“I think that if I was a shareholder there wouldn’t be a shadow of a doubt. I would send him off to the Benedictines (monks) to learn a bit of moderation, thought and wisdom.”

Not quite “Get thee to a nunnery” but close enough that if we were in Forgeard’s place we’d want to keep in mind how Ophelia ends up in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Send EADS chief to a monastery – France’s Le Pen

Warren Buffett’s Kids Profit From His Giving

peterbuffett.jpgIt looks like we’re not the only folks a tad skeptical about all the uncritical adulation Warren Buffett is getting for announcing he’s giving away the bulk of his fortune over the next few years. Today on SquawkBox, dapper young poltical reporter Andrew Sorkin of DealBook questioned whether the concentration of charitable money–the Gates Foundation will be the world’s biggest charity after Buffett’s donations–was really a good thing. And this morning’s New York Sun carries an editorial pointing out that Buffett’s progeny also profit from his giving.

The Gates Foundation isn’t the only recipient of his largesse – three foundations headed by Mr. Buffett’s three children, Susan, Howard, and Peter, will get hundreds of millions of dollars. Tax documents show that in 2004, Peter Buffett and his wife Jennifer each took a $40,000 a year salary for what they reported was 30 hours a week each of work on the foundation. Mr. Buffett has told Fortune (which broke the gift story) “Love is the greatest advantage a parent can give,” and no doubt he is right about that. But that isn’t all he’s giving his own children.

We might add that, according to this two-year old Associated Press story, in the 1970s Warren Buffett gave Peter (pictured above left) Berkshire Hathaway stock that today (or in 2004, when the story was written) would be worth about $50 million. But we aren’t arguing with the sage of Omaha. Love is the greatest gift a parent can give. That, $80K a year in a cushy charity job and $50 million will get you a pretty nice ride in life.

Buffett the Benefactor
[New York Sun]

sennholz.jpgAs preparatory reading for this week’s Judiciary Committee hedge fund hearings, we recommend reading Hans Sennholz essay on how hedge funds reduce the harmful effects of the business cycle. He concludes by noting how hedge fund investment attracts regulators:

According to some estimates, hedge funds now hold some 30 percent of all credit derivatives and some 80 percent of unpaid and overdue debt. Many controllers and regulators are dismayed and upset about this development as risky credit transactions tend to disappear from their sphere of authority into unregulated “black holes” of hedge funds.

Hedge Funds Curb the Business Cycle

We’re actually starting to feel bad for Garry Aguirre, the former SEC laywer who ran the Pequot investigation and is claiming that he was fired when he attempted to seek testimony related to the case from Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack. Why are we feeling bad? Because you can already feel the smear campaign ginning up against the guy, hints that he was fired for incompetence or, maybe, for just being weird. This is what big institutions do to whistle-blowers, and it’s a sure fire way to win over our sympathies.
Fortunately, it seems that Aguirre will soon get his moment to defend himself and vindicate his allegations in public. Charlie Gasparino is now reporting on SquawkBlog that Aguirre is scheduled to appear at this week’s hedge fund hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

From Whistleblower To Witness

  • 26 Jun 2006 at 10:35 AM
  • CNBC

Getting a Feel For Playboy

hefner.jpgThis morning Squawk Box hosted a visitor from Barron’s to talk about their story naming Playboy as a possible LBO target. (Just imagine the way that meeting would go down at, say, a place like Blackstone.) One question that came up was whether the company will be viable after the aging founder, Hugh Hefner, shuffles off his mortal coil. The Barron’s guest responded.

“Look. The guy is still listed as Editor-in-Chief, and is apparently still very hands-on.”

Cue Joe Kernen’s off-camera Beavis-and-Butthead gaffawing. Which brings us with a very, very important question: how does that man’s mind get so dirty so early in the morning?

Pequot Capital: Time To Get Skeptical About the Skepticism?

We were early in reporting the skepticism about the Pequot Capital insider trading allegations raised in the New York Times last week, and now Jeff Matthews is voicing even more reasons to be skeptical.

Now, $18 million sounds like a lot of money—and for a lot of hedge funds it might be—but given that the fund in question had, we are told, $7 billion in assets at the time of the Heller deal….then the Heller-related profits amounted to something in the range of two-tenths of one per cent of the value of the fund.

Right. And we all know that hedge funds never worry trade worth two-tenths of one percent of their value. Except that a lot of times they do. Hedge funds make lots of trades, and a lot of them aren’t ones that grow their value in leaps-and-bounds. A lot of hedge fund profits are made through lots and lots of small, incremental gains. We’re not sure “too big to be dishonest” is a very good guide to figuring out what’s going on here. We’re getting skeptical about the skepticism here.
All the So-Called News That’s Fit to Print [JeffMatthewsIsNotMakingThisUp]

Dealbook, The Abridged Version (06.26.06)

ibdb.gif Crime/Fraud/Legal/Investigations/Inquiries:
Weiss Research’s Martin Weiss settles with SEC for $2.1 mm [crime]
Justice Dept. pushes to dismiss lawsuit against AT&T [legal]
SEC investigates Home Depot stock options [investigation]
Adelphia Communications sues Motorola [legal]
SEC investigating Pequot Capital Management for insider trading [legal]
Gary J. Aguirre to tesify before Senate [legal]
Plotkin fires lawyer, Martin Schmukler, hires white-collar-crime practice Hughes Hubbard & Reed’s Edward Little [legal]
Novastar Financial sues Banc of America Securities, Bear Stearns, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs [legal]
Morgan Stanley in talks to settle suit accusing company of discrimination against female brokers [legal]
Tribune may succeed in 25% buy back of stock from Chandler fam. shareholder [legal]
Gov’s veto of bill firing MD’s Public Service Commission/provides temp. rate relief for residential customers of Baltimore Gas & Electric. is overturned [legal]
Early as 2000, former AOL Time Warner Chairman Steve Case knew about transactions allowing company to overstate revenues ahead of Time Warner merger [legal]
M&A: [? = not yet closed, problems with the deal, lingering questions, etc.]
Generali + Toro Assicurazioni ?
EMI + BMG Music Publishing ?
United Group + Equis
Michael D. Eisner + Team Baby Entertainment
Fiat + Ferrari
Smorgon Steel Group + OneSteel
Grupo Televisa + Univision
Arcelor + Mittal Steel
Johnson & Johnson + Pfizer (consumer product unit)
Phelps Dodge + Inco and Falconbridge ?
Alternative Hotel Group + De Vere
Tata Coffee + Eight O’Clock Coffee
Talisman Capital Management + Turning Technologies and Responsive Innovations
Holcim + Meyer Material
Stone Arcade Acquisition + Int’l Paper (kraft papers business)
Anadarko Petroleum + Kerr-McGee and Western Gas Resources
Nortel + Motorola
General Electric + Formation Capital (6 senior housing portfolios)
Money Raising:
EMI seeks private equity backing for $1.5 B BMG Music Publishing deal LINK
Rosneft plans to raise $11.6 B in IPO, Yukos tries to block LINK
Emeco plans $804 mm IPO LINK
Hynix Semiconductor completes $1.5 B stake sale LINK
Essex Woodlands Health Ventures raises $600 mm LINK
GS, M. Lynch, M. Stanley, Lehman, B. Stearns to increase second-half net incomes 10% to $12.2 B, analysts predict LINK
J.P. Morgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon is “Smartest CEO on Wall Street,” over Morgan Stanley’s John Mack LINK
Problems for East India Company Acquisition IPO LINK
Can NRDC Equity Partners save Lord & Taylor? LINK
Texas Pacific Group wants compromise b/t angry shareholders and merger LINK
Bo’A’s chair and chief exec. Kenneth D. Lewis plans to expand LINK
Eurotunnel rejects Deutsche Bank debt-reduction plan LINK
Ferghana Partners paves biotech investing trail LINK
J.Crew Group to go public next week, likely to be successful LINK
Aventine Renewable Energy to sell 7.8 mm shares b/t $37 and $41/share LINK
Buffett’s $44 B donation to Gates Foundation not w/o strings LINK
TXU Electric Delivery signs 10 yr, $8.7 B agreement for design, construciton and maintenence services w/ InfrastruX Energy Services LINK