Opening Bell: 10.4.06

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GM alters its bylaws on shareholder action (Detroit News)
GM has altered its bylaws to prevent the consolidation of power by any one individual, like billionaire Kirk Kerkorian. The new rules are intended to prevent one powerful force -- like billionaire Kirk Kerkorian -- from rallying other shareholders to his cause. For example, if someone wishes to use a "consent solicitation" -- someone like billionaire Kirk Kerkorian that is -- that person must first inform the board of his intended actions. The board will also require all future directors to be elected with a majority vote, not just a plurality of the votes cast; this could make it harder for someone like billionaire Kirk Kerkorian to get more of his men on the board. GM did not say at whom these measures are targeted.
Intel faces ‘watertight’ EC probe (PC Advisor)
Just a couple of weeks after a US judge threw out the bulk of an anti-trust lawsuit against Intel, which had been brought by AMD, the EU has announced that it's continuing with its own actions against the company. The EU really doesn't know how to let go. It's still harassing Microsoft, as if it were 1998 or something. The chief charge against Intel seems to be that its market share is so high (80%), and so it just has to be a monopolist. At this stage, the government is going to present its 'watertight' case to a panel of devil's advocates, who will attempt to poke holes in it, much the way such devil's advocates try to thwart the sainthood process.
Dow Jones Index Hits a New High, Retracing Losses (NYT)
Hitting the new record on the Dow, yesterday, did feel pretty different from the last time. The last time was much more exciting, and it was a daily affair, sort of like if Neil Armstrong had landed on the moon day after day after day, and each time it was the first time. This time, it's like we landed on the moon, but we're wondering why we spent billions just to hit another Titleist at zero g. Well, that's at least how the Times feels about it; they always do a good job of finding the cloud on a sunny day. In this case, the big concern is that the market rally has been too narrow, and that the Dow is unrepresentative. That's strange, isn't the Wilshire 5000 also pretty close to all time highs? That's about as broad a measure as you can get. Still, the Times story is better. The split among stocks fits nicely with most of their business articles. Some people have it good these days, but alas, some people don't.
AG, SEC Looking Into Analyst's Firing (NY Post)
It might be hard for Eliot Spitzer to adjust to life once he becomes the Governor. That job is all about building bridges, shaking hands, compromises, i.e. all the stuff he's not used to doing. He's pretty much a free, autonomous actor as the Attorney General. It's also nice for him that since he's virtually assured of winning his race, he doesn't have to waste time campaigning, which could take away from his precious remaining time as a prosecutor. It's no wonder he's looking to get a bunch of cases going while he still can. His latest is an investigation into a Wall St. firm that wouldn't let one of its analyst lower his ratings on a company that was also a client. When the analyst did, he was shown the door. Yeah, it sounds sleazy, and that kind of conflict of interest is exactly what Spitzer has made a career of hating, so good thing this is all unfolding under his watch.


Agency Agrees to Review Human Stem Cell Patents (NYT)
If you think the intellectual property system, when it comes to plain vanilla technology, is a mess, you might want to just steer clear of the whole stem cells/biotech scene. It hasn't started yet, but word is that there are so many poorly thought out, overly broad, and unworthy patents out there, that have the potential to thwart research. And that's not even getting into the scary-sound "patenting of life", which people love to bring up. So, maybe the Patent Office is realizing it's created a mess, and what's to start now to fix some things. The office says it will review a patent that had been awarded ot the University of Wisconsin, that obliged anyone doing research on stem cells to pay the university a license. But, of course, the patent office isn't reviewing the patents on the grounds that may "isolating a stem cell" shouldn't be patentable, but that the scientist involved may not actually have been the first.
Some Workers Change Collars (Washington Post)
As the title implies, the government has magically turned millions of blue-collar workers into white-collar ones. Well, what the National Labor Relations Board did was rele that nurses who are in a position of supervising and assigning responsibilities to other nurses could be designated by their employers as 'management', and were thus ineligible to be part of the union. The ruling could have implications for workers in a wide range of fields, depending on how aggressively the big boss men try to enforce it or interpret it. It goes without saying that the unions are utterly outraged, and business groups are quiety applauding the measure. It wouldn't be an issue if unions didn't have special legal protections; if they were just an autonomous freely-associated group, then it wouldn't matter who was in it; they could have the CEO if they wanted. But by asking for special rights and privileges, unions put themselves in the position of being regulated like this.
Online bookies ask WTO for rescue from 'Armageddon' (Guardian)
In the wake of the online gambling ban passed by the Senate, European bookmakers are turning to the WTO for help. From what we've heard, they may have a case. Trying to block out European internet firms from doing business in the states is a trade barrier. And while politicians like to talk about how gambling is a scourge, ruining families, there's clearly a protectionist element to it. Many of the politicians most hostile to online gambling come form places where gambling is legal, so the law could pretty clearly be seen as a subsidy to their local casinos.
Hollywood bashes media consolidation (CNET) (via Dealbook)
A gaggle of entertainers argued to the FCC that media consolidation was a bad thing, and that new distribution channels opened up by the internet wasn't enough to offset this worrisome trend. Of course, actors and entertainers have their oligopolies, as most are represented by just a few talent agencies that restrict the supply of fresh blood. And, in any business, you don't want to see the people sitting across the table from you consolidate, or else you'll be left with the weaker hand. As one head of the Writer's Guild put it "consolidation is good for milk", but that it's not good for business.
Fake Tan, Real Tan (Wired News)
Beach season ended almost a month ago, and unless you have the time to waste lying on a tanning bad, your tan probably faded soon after, revealing the sickly color that's unique to homosapiens in the unnatural environment of a badly lit office. But a breakthrough has been made; a new tanning lotion actually stimulates the skin cells in the same way that sun does, so as to create that deep bronze look. What's more, without the UV rays, there probably isn't a skin cancer risk. We're guessing it'll be awhile before products hit the shelves, so it won't help you this winter. But soon you may never have need to go to the beach again.

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