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Bulls & Bears
This past week’s Bulls & Bears: Gary B. Smith, Exemplar Capital managing partner; Tobin Smith, ChangeWave Research editor; Pat Dorsey, Morningstar.com director of stock research; Scott Bleier, HybridInvestors.com president; Joe Battipaglia, Ryan Beck & Co chief investment officer, and Charles Payne, Wall Street Strategies CEO.
Trading Pit: Will Enron be the Last Big Scandal?
Enron: an epic scandal, an epic trial, and now justice. Will Wall Street see an episode like Enron again anytime soon?
Charles Payne: I think Enron will be the last great American scandal of this generation, but there will be other scandals in the future. It was driven by greed and ambition. The real sad part is that the scandal has resulted in thousands of victims that weren’t shareholders or corporate officers of Enron.
Gary B. Smith: I disagree. In fact, there are big scandals in the making right now. Ambition and greed is not going away. The money that these executives can get their hands on and make by pushing the envelope is just incredible. I’m sure that 99.9 percent of the executives out there are honest, but it just takes one to do something illegal.
Tobin Smith: This will NOT be the last big scandal. Greed comes out of fear. Fear that you’re not keeping up with the Jones. It always goes back to greed. As long as there’s unvested stock options, there will be greedy people out there. But there will never be another company like Enron.
Joe Battipaglia: Unfortunately this will not be the last. The next big scandal involving corporations is going to involve government spending. The government has been on a spending tear whether it is New Orleans, the Middle East, or the new Medicare program. This is ripe for catastrophe.
Pat Dorsey: Money attracts scum. If there’s money there, people will find a way to steal it. Most people are honest, but there are plenty out there who are trying to get more than the other guy. In the U.S., we have fairly lax corporate governance. There are a lot of boards that don’t pay attention. It’s going to happen again.
Scott Bleier: This is the last big scandal of the stock market bubble, but there will be more. The dark side of capitalism is trying to get more. Corporate compensation today is way out of control. It goes over and above anything that is normal. Corporate CEOs will do anything to get more. If they don’t get more, they will aspire to get there.
Is Usama Irrelevant?
Does Wall Street think bin Laden is no longer a threat? Sure seems so. His messages used to send stocks into a tailspin, but after a new tape came out this past week, stocks actually went up. Does the stock market now think Usama is irrelevant?
Gary B. Smith: Usama is no longer on the stock market’s radar. He puts out so many tapes, I can’t even keep track of them. And there has been no follow up action. It’s just become background noise for those on Wall Street and the rest of America. However, if there is another terrorist attack on our shores, he will become very relevant.
Joe Battipaglia: The U.S. has him on his heels. He puts out the tapes to remind everyone that he is still out here. The real character is al-Zarqawi, who is out there recruiting and inflicting damage. He's keeping Iraq a hot button issue and essentially leading the charge on that operation.
Scott Bleier: This last tape was a joke. We have to worry when we don’t hear from Usama. Unless he attacks again, Wall Street won’t care about him. I think he is going to attack the oil production in the Middle East. The oil market is predicting that too, which is why there’s a $20 premium priced into oil.
Tobin Smith: The guys in Iran have become way more relevant. Scott is right about the oil premium, but it has nothing to do with Usama bin Laden. Al-Zarqawi is a big threat, but I think the market is much more worried about Iran.
Charles Payne: Usama is desperate. Any time he puts out a tape, he is campaigning. He is losing a lot of his troops in the field. He’s absolutely irrelevant to Wall Street. We have him on the run.
Pat Dorsey: Every time his tapes came out in the past, the market would sell off, and then would bounce right back. Iran getting nukes is a much bigger threat. The market is more concerned about inflation and earnings. In fact, I’d argue that Usama was never really relevant at all.