The Harder They Fall - Cramer's Mad Money (9/15/08)

by: Joan Wickham

Stocks discussed in the in-depth session of Jim Cramer’s Mad Money TV program, Monday, September 15.

They All Fall Down – Lehman Brothers (LEH), Merrill Lynch (MER), American International Group (NYSE:AIG), Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), E-Trade's (NASDAQ:ETFC)

It was a brutal day on Wall Street. The fall of Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and American International Group demonstrated once again the need for market "transparency" and the height of CEO "arrogance and denial." Cramer singled out Richard Fuld, Lehman's CEO, who, he said, passed up opportunity after opportunity to save his company. He said Fuld hurt his company by being so "self-absorbed," "self-interested" and "so sure of his company's future." For his failings, Cramer removed Fuld from his Wall of Shame, noting the CEO wasn't being removed because he was ousted but because he "drove his company to bankruptcy." By contrast, Cramer had kinder words for John Thain, Merrill Lynch's CEO. He said Thain did the most he could for his company, which has agreed to be purchased by Bank of America. Cramer said he had urged AIG to take action but said his advice fell on deaf ears. He said Robert Willumstad, the company's CEO, made the mistake of keeping silent on AIG's mortgage exposure and shunned the opportunity to sell when he had the chance. Cramer said the Securities and Exchange Commission complicated matters by not pushing for greater transparency as it did when it dealt with E-Trade's problems. Cramer called today's historic market collapse "a disgraceful period in laissez-faire capitalism" that was marked by poor government oversight.

One on One With the CEO - Wachovia (NASDAQ:WB)

Wachovia CEO Robert Steel provided his take on how financials got to this point - and how we can get out of it. Steel said about six to eight years ago people began to get more comfortable with risk, including with their homes and certain savings strategies. Skip ahead to last summer, Steel said, when people were essentially using their homes as ATMs, which set the system up for a real downfall. Steel said that the major Wall Street firms succumbed because of a nasty combination of the credit crunch, liquidity problems, and their subsequent effect on the real economy. Cramer asked Steel if there was anything that can be done: "Is catastrophe on the table?" Steel said, "We're working through this, and we're making progress." But he stressed that going forward will take greater transparency, which will generate confidence in the assets that are being bought and sold. Also, the system needs enough capital, he said. To that end, Steel said he thought the Fed was doing a "good job" of trying to provide liquidity and working with banks to provide capital. Steel said considering all the recent headwinds, most people would've likely underestimated first- and second-quarter GDP growth. Cramer then asked Steel about the specific problems facing Wachovia. Steel emphasized that the company is working to understand the issues and working on its balance sheet. Steel said what skeptics are missing is that the company owns home loans, not securities. "We can work with people and find solutions." Cramer asked how Wachovia can raise more capital. Steel said the company is doing it themselves, cutting the balance sheet, cutting the dividend, and cutting other costs. "We feel we can work through this." Steel also said any rate cuts by the Fed would help keep people in their homes, and that $10 billion of his company's $500 billion loan portfolio was "problematic." When asked if it was his goal to simply prepare Wachovia to be sold to somebody else, Steel said "we're going to do what's right for shareholders," but he was focusing on getting the business back on track.

Mad Mail - Under Armour (NYSE:UA), Nike (NYSE:NKE)

Cramer said he was right a year ago that the Fed should've intervened to thwart what has now hit financials. "But they didn't, so we're going to have to try to pick up the pieces."
Cramer also said he thought that Under Armour could start gaining market share from Nike, but that right now Under Armour was overvalued and Nike was undervalued.
Cramer also said there was not going to be a bottom in financials until the mess in AIG and other names is settled.

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