Is the staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission pursuing its own activist agenda without adequate supervision by agency heads?
Many SEC observers were caught off guard yesterday when the New York Times broke the news that the SEC has been requiring major US corporations to include shareholder proposals supporting universal healthcare in official proxy materials. This seemed to be a departure from many recent decisions by the SEC’s commissioners restraining or rejecting innovative regulations favored by special interest shareholder groups. Why had the SEC suddenly embraced this radical rule favoring proposals on political issues only indirectly tied to corporate governance?
The answer may lie in the disarray at the top ranks of the SEC.
More on the SEC staff’s activist lark after the jump.

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  • 31 Jul 2007 at 10:59 AM
  • Health

DealBreaker PSA: Second Hand Printing

laser printer 2.JPG Ever wonder why, after a few minutes on the treadmill at the end of a grueling week, you’re breathing harder than (eighteen pack a day smoker) James Simons trying to explain 5/44 to investors? Forget the crippling fatigue, lousy diet, self-loathing and emotional stress, it’s the PRINTERS.
Australian scientists from the Queensland University of Technology have found that office laser printers can damage lungs as much as smoke particles from cigarettes. Almost a third of the 60 printer models studied emit dangerous levels of toner into the air. A detailed explanation of your deteriorating health, from the BBC:

Almost one-third were found to emit ultra-tiny particles of toner-like material, so small that they can infiltrate the lungs and cause a range of health problems from respiratory irritation to more chronic illnesses. Conducted in an open-plan office, the test revealed that particle levels increased five-fold during working hours, a rise blamed on printer use. The problem was worse when new cartridges were used and when graphics and images required higher quantities of toner.

Since “working hours” for bankers include most of the 168 hours in a week, it turns out banking causes you to really suck, much more than originally thought.
Office printers ‘are health risk’ [BBC]

  • 15 Jun 2007 at 10:53 AM
  • CFOs

C(heart)LBY an expert in managed care of wives, mistresses

david colby.jpg Details are emerging about the May resignation of WellPoint CFO David Colby. Colby was forced to resign after his 10 year stint by WellPoint Chairman, President, Secretary of the Exchequer, CEO, and Grand Poobah Larry Glasscock for violating the company’s code of conduct.
The Colbinator was a pretty big deal in the managed care sector, named the best managed care CFO in America in 2006 for the third year in a row by an Institutional Investor survey of portfolio managers and equity research analysts. He was pulling down $740k a year and just had another $1.6mm of options lumped on his equity plan (and he got quite a nice sum from the $200mm executive bonus pool up for grabs after the WellPoint/Anthem deal).
WellPoint won’t comment on Colby’s specific conduct violations, but let’s just say Colby’s lifestyle was a bit “alternative.” The life of David Colby included jetting around, housing, and proposing to a number of women during his tenure as CFO. If you ever wondered how it’s possible to cheat on a mistress, look no further than David Colby.
Up until last week, Colby was engaged to two women, and not yet divorced from his second wife. Aside from the two fiances and second wife, Colby was housing another women, Rita DiCarlo, in his 7,500 sq. ft. Lake Sherwood house. Rita had been shacking up in the ColbyDome for almost 2 years while driving around Colby’s 1998 Jag with C(heart)LBY vanity plates (that’s not a joke). She’s now suing Colby for the house.
Colby wasn’t shy when it came to sweeping 20-something WellPoint employees off their feet, from the Los Angeles Times:

Sarah Waugh said she met Colby in 1998 when she was a 22-year-old temporary worker at WellPoint’s offices in Thousand Oaks, where she later landed a permanent job. Their romantic liaison began at a company party at the Westin Bonaventure in downtown Los Angeles in early 2001, she said, where she felt “like quite a big deal” because Colby danced with her.

Wife #1 divorced Colby after finding out about 2 extramarital affairs. Wife #2 won’t comment as to why she wants to take herself private.
Although WellPoint doesn’t hate the player, it hates the game, which included jetting the women around on business trips (although WellPoint comments that company money was not used for Colby’s business travel companions).
Wayne DeVeydt took over for Colby as CFO and Angela Braly took over as CEO for Glasscock in some unrelated managerial shuffling on June 1. Glasscock retains the rest of his WellPoint positions.
Women claim lives with WellPoint exec [Los Angeles Times]
WellPoint CFO David Colby Ousted On Conduct Violation; Wayne DeVeydt Named New CFO [ RTT News]

  • 13 Jun 2007 at 12:00 PM
  • Health

VC goes for a herbal remedy

herb1.jpg Phytomedics raised $9mm in Series B funding from VC firms Burrill & Co. and New Zealand-based Inventages, signaling a new wave of emerging botanical drug companies (new term for herb peddlers) that are now FDA friendly. Phytomedics makes an arthritis drug from Chinese Thunder God Vine (you read that correctly) extract. The drug was FDA approved to skip costly preclinical tests and move directly into Phase I trials, which in the case of botanical drug companies, involve feeding mogwais after midnight.
The rheumatoid arthritis market is 7 million patients strong, and existing drugs and current treatments have burdensome side effects (increased risk of death?). Fortunately, botanical drugs don’t really do anything! Botanical drug companies face consistency problems too, as the chemical composition of plants varies with growing conditions.
Phytomedics has raised $22mm since it was founded in 1997.
VCs Seek Health in Herbal Cures [Red Herring]

every_sperm_is_sacred1.jpg As we all know from crazy drug adverts that actually tell you what a drug does (as opposed to nebulous neon butterflies that land on you when you’re sleeping and lay neon caterpillar larvae in your ear that hatch in your brain and do something with your seratonin levels), drugs have side effects. Lots of side effects – from the comical (anal leakage, four hour erections, a permanent blue haze) to the slightly less comical (bleeding from the eyes, shitting from the mouth, pancreatic coughing).
One side effect that I’ve never heard (or that I’m sure has gotten many an advertising campaign team fired) is “increased risk of DEATH.” According to one study, use of the GlaxoSmithKline diabetes drug Avandia may increase your risk of dying, most often from your heart exploding. The study was completed by Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Steven Nissen.
Fortunately, for the many people involved in Avandia’s phase III trails, preliminary results of a large clinical trial of Avandia called Record rebuke the exploding internal organs claim made by the Nissen study and affirm trial participants that spontaneous life cessation is unlikely. Several parties are, unsurprisingly, a bit uneasy over the mild discrepancy in study results, including the FDA, which has scheduled a meeting of experts to talk about Avandia and other diabetes drugs on July 30th, on pay-per view.
The Avandia trial is expected to wrap up in 2008.
Analysis of Avandia Finds No Increased Risk of Death [Wall Street Journal]