Opening Bell: 9.7.06

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An uneasy feeling on Wall St. (CNNMoney)
Hey Bernanke, whatever happened to '17 and done'? Look, when you quit raising rates, you quit raising rates. You don't raise 17 times, take a breather, and then raise rates again. That's called teasing. To be fair, you never said that the pause would be permanent, though everyone apparently assumed it because there's a sense of shock that hikes may come again. Just don't focus on that technical minutiae like unit labor costs. Just look at the big numbers. Oil is coming down and so our housing prices. And more importantly, the economy seems to be slowing. You're own Beige Book even says so. So here's a deal for you Ben, you keep interest rates study, and we, the workers of America, will promise to do one hour of free labor every week. That should help improve those productivity numbers and ease wage inflation. If you agree, just put your answer in the comments.

CEOs in the Hot Seat (BusinessWeek)

B-dub has its first interesting piece in a while today, a handy cheat sheet to monitor who might be the next CEOs to be shown the curb. The big changes at Ford and Viacom, this week, prompted the discussion, and those companies certainly aren't the only ones that might need some shaking up. Here's the top five as they see 'em. #1 -- Richard Parsons. Parsons is most notable for really not doing anything at all to improve the company's fortunes. Lots of people like him, it seems. But real moves to increase value? Not so much. #2 -- Richard Nardelli at Home Depot. #3 -- Kevin Rollins at Dell. #4 William Johnson, Heinz. And finally #5 Arun Sarin at Vodafone. So there you have it; place your bets. Who do you think will be the next out? Is it one of the BusinessWeek 5, or someone else?
Sportingbet's Chairman Is Held by U.S. Authorities (Bloomberg)
We've had a lot of sympathy for erstwhile BETonSPORTS CEO David Carruthers, who was innocently doing a stopover in Texas when he was arrested on some rubbish charges relating to the operations of his UK gambling company. But after that incident, you'd think that any British gambling chief would steer clear of US soil. Maybe they would take stopovers in Canada, or simply avoid the entire hemisphere. So it's a little harder to feel sorry for Peter Dicks, the chairman of Sportingbet PLC. The company says that Dicks has been detained in the US, though there's been little further comment as to why, or what the current situation is. Really though, what on earth was he thinking?
Spitzer Drops Some Parts of Suit Against Former A.I.G. Chief (NYT)
We were once at a bar with some mid-level insurance guys, and somehow the subject of Maurice "Hank" Greenberg, the former CEO of AIG came up. Upon the mention of his name, the room got sort of quite; one of the insurance guys sort of dropped his head. It was a sore spot. Then he raised it back up, cleared his throat, and with a tear just one millimeter away from leaving the eye (which would then qualify as crying), he said he still had respect for the man, and that he hoped to see him vindicated. And these were not AIG guys, but folks from a fierce competitor. Given Spitzer's track record against his victims, Greenberg may very well come out unscathed, in the trials about whether he improperly inflated assets when chief of AIG. The latest is that Spitzer will drop some of the charges, though the governor-(basically)-elect says that his office is just streamlining the cases. Greenberg, of course, insists the move is a first step towards vindication.


Opportunity Already Knocks (LA Times) (via Dealbook)
Already, deposed Viacom chief Tom Freston is a hot commodity. He says he's received several board and job offers since his departure. And he definitely wants back in the game; it's just a matter of collecting his thoughts and clearing his head while he figures out the right path to take. But, taking a step back here, why should Freston be so in demand? He was fired from Viacom cause he didn't perform well, right? Shouldn't that scare companies away? And besides, he's a sixty year old guy. What media company, trying to navigate today's tricky waters, wants a 60-year-old veteran steeped in traditional media at the helm, particularly one who doesn't have a great track record of late?
Merck says probe clears management on Vioxx (MarketWatch)
Merck has been cleared of any wrongdoing in handling the Vioxx debacle! Well, a point of clarification if you will: a team hired and paid for by Merck to investigate the company has determined that the company acted properly in dealing with the issue. Somehow we have a suspicion that a self-financed study is only going to go so far. Just a hunch.
Another Endowment Manager Bites the Dust (Infectious Greed)
This story is a couple days old, but it relates to the Alma Mater of the Opening Bell, which is why it's still being posted. Bob Boldt has resigned as the head of UTIMCO, the University of Texas Investment Management Company. The UT system is pretty damn loaded, which is why they formed an independent company that has only one client -- UT. Even with only one client, it still has over $15 billion in assets under management. And even at the size its returns have been stellar. Boldt produced returns of 8.5% over his four years there. Four years ago was a rough time for the company, it hade bet a lot of money on some tech stuff, which hadn't been panning out so well. They even raised student fees because of that, if we recall correctly. Check out UTIMCO's site, if you get a chance, they really try to make it feel like a real company, rather than a company set up by its client to serve it and only it.
Boston Scientific Acknowledges Risks Tied to Stent (WSJ)
Companies in the business of making stents have a pretty rough time of it. There's no other industry that we can think of that's been plagued by more manufacturing issues, safety concerns, product failures, delays, and recalls than the stent industry. Yes, in theory they work pretty well. Just slip a small tube made out of mesh in a larger tube and keep the larger tube from collapsing in on itself. And, for good measure, rub some medicine on the stent, which it can later elute. But while it works sometimes, it often fails in one way or another. Boston Scientific is now confirming a significant increased risk of blood costs associated with one of its products. Good times.
Region's savings add up to 106 (Sarasota Herald Tribune)
Who says we're not a nation of savers. This morning, millions of people will flip open their papers to learn exactly how good there community is at saving money. AG Edwards commissioned a study on the subject, and when the press release came out, small town papers just couldn't resist touting it. So for example Sarsota, it's the 106th best community. What about Akron? It's 162. Meanwhile, Evansville Indiana is 216 -- which is really not too bad. And what's the best place to a saver... (drum roll)... Los Alamos, New Mexico.

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