By Louis Bedigian
Even the most brilliant minds in finance can make terrible mistakes. When they do, the results are usually as bad as a lame summer blockbuster that ultimately flopped.
3. They Don't Know When to Quit
Is there anyone left that believes that MF Global (MF) will make a comeback? It's not as if the company just died yesterday. It has been going downhill for quite some time. While there were signs as recent as Friday that the firm had bought itself a little more time, the fact is that the company has been declining steadily since August. From August 1 to October 21, MF Global shares lost more than half of their value. But investors hung on … until October 25, when the stock lost another 50%.
As of August 1, MF Global was trading at $7.37; as of yesterday, the stock is trading in the $1.20 range.
Who were the investors who kept holding on? No one knows. But with takeover rumors and other semi-positive reports, many investors were hoping to cash in. However, this is not one of the scenarios in which they were able to pull that off – not yet, at least. While it is wholly possible that MF Global could emerge from bankruptcy and become a strong company once more, it could take months – or years – for that to occur. Currently, the stock isn't looking too good. But some investors are holding on anyway, and others are buying in.
2. They Support Bad Leaders … Until It's Too Late
For all his accomplishments at Disney (DIS), Michael Eisner also reportedly caused a lot of trouble. He attempted to pass on Lost and Desperate Housewives, both of which proved to be very profitable for Disney's national TV network, ABC. He also reportedly passed on American Idol, which made the News Corp.-owned Fox (NWSA) a ridiculous amount of money. These are just a few of his blunders, and yet he was not ousted until early 2005.
Carol Bartz, the ranting corporate exec who used to run Yahoo! (YHOO), was supposedly a disaster from the day she was hired. But the Board kept her on anyway. While some expressed their disgust for Yahoo!'s corporate team, many investors sat quietly, allowing the company to continue to deteriorate. Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), of course, was in a similar mess this year.
Bottom line: investors need to rally against bad CEOs and other corporate leaders. If that doesn't work, they should consider dumping the stock associated with the troublesome chief exec.
1. They Open Their Mouths
Mom always said that if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. If only she had known to add, “And if you're about to say something stupid, stop talking immediately!”
Lloyd Blankfein, the Goldman Sachs' (GS) chief exec who lawyered up recently, got himself into a bit of trouble with the media when he said that he was doing “God's work.” The original story from the Times Online has mysteriously disappeared (this link now re-directs to thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/), but the Huffington Post and other sites still offer snippets of the story.
Blankfein later tried to take back his remarks, telling reporters that it was simply a “joke.” But this was no laughing matter. His critics didn't buy it then, and they surely don't buy it now.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.