Cavuto on Business

Recap of June 21: Powder Keg Waiting to Blow?

Neil Cavuto was joined by Gregg Hymowitz, founder of Entrust Capital; Jim Rogers, president of; Ben Stein, economist and former Nixon speechwriter; Michelle Girard, vice pres. at Prudential Financial; David Nelson, CEO of DC Nelson Asset Management; and Michael Wolff, media critic at New York Magazine.

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Neil Cavuto: Sam Waksal is an anomaly. Enron, WorldCom, and Martha are not the norm. And the smart money knows it. Whether Martha Stewart is guilty or not, the evidence shows that the overwhelming majority of CEOs are doing a good and honest job and are helping us all get more for our money. Michelle Girard, there are thousands of public companies and only a dozen or so scandals? Isn't that fairly bullish?

Michelle Girard: I agree. I think we'll look back and say WorldCom and Enron were the exceptions to the rule. I think these other scandals in comparison are more in the gray area, like Freddie Mac (FRE) for example.

Jim Rogers: You and Michelle are exactly right. But don't think that there aren't more scandals coming. We haven't seen the worst of it. But the markets don't care about this anymore. The market is looking at profits, the money supply, and it's looking at war. The market has other things on its mind.

Ben Stein: Wall street is pricing an enormous amount of optimism and confidence to price earnings multiples, priced to sales, priced to dividends. The market is saying we love this economy and we believe this economy has reached bottom and will move forward. The multiples are absolutely out of this world.

Gregg Hymowitz: I think the untold story in the scandals and corruption is the cure. The cure was Sarbanes-Oxley. It amazes me how a cottage industry has now grown up around Sarbanes-Oxley. Sarbanes-Oxley is costing companies millions and millions of dollars. And this is what happens when you enact legislation in the height of all the corruption. Congress reacted too quickly and they didn't think this through enough. The benefit you're getting out of Sarbanes-Oxley is not enough in comparison to the cost to these companies due to Sarbanes-Oxley.

Jim Rogers: You're right, Gregg. Sarbanes Oxley is a waste of our time, money, and energy. It has helped a little bit, but we should not be spending so much effort on that. The market will take care of itself.

Michelle Girard: Going back to what Jim said, there will be more scandals going forward. But in this day and age, CEOs are going to think long and hard before they undergo aggressive practices. They are going to think long and hard about their actions from now on.

Neil Cavuto: Not because of Sarbanes-Oxley though, right?

Michelle Girard: No, not because of Sarbanes-Oxley, but because of all these scandals. And I don't really agree with Gregg on that.

Ben Stein: Who's going to police them if not the government though? There's two sets of police, one is the government and the other is private securities lawyers.

Neil Cavuto: Ben, do you trust the government to do that?

Ben Stein: I trust the government more than I trust someone to admit to a fraud themselves.

Jim Rogers: But Ben, the government didn't find any of these crooks we have right now. The market found these guys.

Ben Stein: With all due respect, some of them were found by financial journalists.

Neil Cavuto: Assuming that this is fairly limited to the dozen or so cases we've witnessed, what do you do in this kind of environment Gregg?

Gregg Hymowitz: One of the companies we've been buying now is Foot Locker (FL). It's trading at 12 times earnings. It has a quality management team and in many ways it is a recession proof stock.

Neil Cavuto: Ben, what are you buying?

Ben Stein: I still like the Dow Diamonds (DIA) and I also like income securities. I think the income securities structure is going to fall down. You should get high income ones while you can, not junk bonds but REITS.

Michelle Girard: I don't think the Freddie Mac (FRE) story is going to turn into an Enron. People who own Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae will probably have more sleepless nights because it will probably lead to more congressional action.

Neil Cavuto: So you're not buying any stocks?

Michelle Girard: Yes, I think I'll let the guys handle the stock side.

Neil Cavuto: And how about you Jim. You continue to pull back, right?

Jim Rogers: I continue to pull back. I do not buy any shares in the U.S. or in the world for that matter. I would sell stocks and I would sell bonds.

Iraq: Powder Keg Waiting to Blow?

Neil Cavuto: Our quick war in Iraq against Saddam Hussein's regime helped stocks soar here at home. But is post-war Iraq turning into a powder keg ready to explode and blow up our market and economy? Saddam Hussein loyalists are still striking out at American soldiers and still creating havoc for coalition forces as they try to get life back to normal for Iraqis. David, should investors be concerned about the latest pictures coming out of Iraq?

David Nelson: If the hostilities in Iraq get out of control, the market is going to take a hit. But I think it's important for us to know that at this time Iraqis just want a return to normalcy. They want the basics. They want security, food, clothing. It's just as important to win the peace as it was to win the war.

Neil Cavuto: Ben Stein, we've already seen the President's approval rating with Iraq dip, and now some are questioning whether us still being there is in the long term interests of the United States. Is that a big problem?

Ben Stein: There's no point in going there if we're just going to leave everything in chaos and to the Baathist party with Saddam's thugs. I think we're making progress there. I don't think it can possibly effect the stock market because how can it effect the earnings of an Intel (INTC) or a Microsoft (MSFT), General Motors (GM) or a Ford (F)?

Jim Rogers: Ben, we've won the battle of Iraq. Now it's time we get out of there before we get involved in another war. If we start destabilizing everyone else and going to war with Iran and Syria then that will effect the market.

Neil Cavuto: Gregg, the fact that we haven't seen that in evidence in the market, is the market just crossing its fingers?

Gregg Hymowitz: I agree with Ben on the market, but the question is do we get a quagmire? The Sunnis, the minorities, are now teaming up with the Baath party loyalists, who had everything pre-Saddam Hussein. Now they have nothing to lose by creating violence. Ben is right. It's not going to effect earnings in Microsoft and Intel, but what it can do, if we get to quagmire, is effect the confidence of the market. Remember what we were seeing in the market when we were debating whether or not we should go into Iraq. That could once again reappear.

Neil Cavuto: David, from the perspective of a regular investor looking at hotspots and tension in Iran and Iraq, none of this has boomeranged yet. Do you expect it will?

David Nelson: In the end, investors are going to make decisions based on prospects for a U.S. recovery. The markets will be dictated by cash-flow and earnings.

Jim Rogers: If we get out of control, consumer confidence will go down. Businesses are not going to invest. And it's going to be bad for the stock market.

Dave Nelson: I have to ask you, what do you define as "out of control."

Gregg Hymowitz: I don't think they'll be a nuclear event. I think it's a question of how long we'll be there and how many troops we have to keep there.

Head to Head

Neil Cavuto goes head to head with New York magazine media critic, Michael Wolff to debate whether conglomerates using leverage to get Private Jessica Lynch's story is blatant checkbook journalism or smart business?

Michael Wolff: This concept isn't something new, but now it's become more flagrant and out in the open. Everyone is so desperate to get this story.

Neil Cavuto: But everyone uses all the assets they have, right?

Michael Wolff: The problem is that it is checkbook journalism. That's a no no. We don't offer a news subject money to tell his/her story. When the conglomerate has a "stake" in her, they're virtually "investing" in Private Lynch, it becomes in the media conglomerate's interest to tell this story in the most positive way and the most sensational way.

Neil Cavuto: If I'm the journalist and my conglomerate has made a deal, it's going to be incumbent on me to go in with blinders on and still ask the tough questions.

Michael Wolff: If I'm a shareholder and you've made this great investment across all of your division in Private Lynch, then I don't want one of your divisions to devalue that investment. And remember, this story about Private Lynch is kind of suspicious.

Neil Cavuto: You're right, we still don't have a handle on it. But I think it ultimately comes down to the type of questions that are asked. My point is you can't escape the behemoth corporations and the deals that they might make.

Michael Wolff: The problem is, let's do a good interview and let's retail it along all our news outlets. But, as soon as we've ventured into a relationship where we need her to be golden, we need to make her a hero. That's a problem.

Neil Cavuto: I say you strut your stuff and ultimately that person who is conducting the interview struts his/her journalistic stuff. I believe the two can mutually coexist.

Michael Wolff: You have greater faith in television than I do.

Neil Cavuto: Well, it's not a bad medium.

Michael Wolff: Not bad.

FOX on the Spot

David Nelson: Stocks fall up to 9 percent this summer.

Michelle Girard: Economy grows by more than 4 percent by end of the year.

Ben Stein: Recovery is for real! New jobs finally created.

Jim Rogers: No more "free" medical care!

Gregg Hymowitz: Rehnquist and/or O'Connor will retire.

Neil Cavuto: Confession season is very light. Very few companies are telegraphing trouble and I think that's a good thing and will make for a good summer rally.