Sometimes silly things happen to brilliant companies. Sometimes, they just happen to the companies that deserve it. Let's take at five dumb financial events this week that may make your head spin.
1. Now you Knol
Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) officially launched Knol, a community-driven reference site that builds on the Wikipedia concept, by offering credit, control, and even monetization opportunities for original writers. I like the move, in theory. The dumbness seeps in when you begin to wonder how Big G will police the site.
If Wikipedia scribblers are a rabid bunch, imagine when Knol raises the stakes by offering them ad revenue sharing. Then consider how several users can open pages on the same topic, making it awfully tempting to game the system by voting down rival entries in favor of your own. Greed unchecked is very The Lord of the Flies-ish, and everyone wants to get Piggy with it.
2. Checking is free, unless you're playing ice hockey
Struggling banker Washington Mutual (NYSE: WM ) posted a quarterly loss of $6.58 a share, more than its actual share price. WaMu obviously isn't the only financial services company living dangerously these days, but I keep reflecting back to all of those WaMu "free checking" commercials, where rival banks are being ridiculed for their less generous account policies.
Some of those fees would come in handy these days, don't you think? And can the company's recent fiscal shortcomings and dividend meltdowns finally get it to shake that silly WaMu moniker? It was cute when things were going well, but now that Washington Mutual is no longer a cash cow, who's Wa-mooing now?
3. The FCC may stand for Freezing Corporate Combinations
The Federal Communications Commission got busy, for a change, on presiding over the merger between XM Satellite Radio (Nasdaq: XMSR ) and Sirius Satellite Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI ) .
Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein voted against the hookup this week, but only after his proposed concessions for approval were dismissed. What did he want exactly? He wanted the two providers to freeze their rates for six years, devalue their programming by surrendering 25% of their channels to public interest groups, and make subsidized receivers capable of playing terrestrial's fledgling HD Radio stations.
There is no way that XM and Sirius could have lived with that. Adelstein may as well have requested to replace Gayle on Oprah Winfrey's show and filled in for Gary in producing the Howard Stern show. If you're going to dream, dream big.
4. I think Icahn't
Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) finally made nice with boardroom cattle prod Carl Icahn, giving him and his cronies three seats on the Yahoo! board. The way Yahoo! executives were leaving, I'm sure there was no problem finding unused seats.
Why did Yahoo! give in, though? The public may not like Yahoo!'s leadership at the moment, but it was growing increasingly weary of Icahn's scattershot attempt to smoke out a buyout that neither party was interested in anymore.
The move definitely rains on the fireworks scheduled for next week's annual shareholder meeting, but now Yahoo! will have to cope with Icahn from the inside. Let me guess! In a few months we'll be talking about the breakthrough merger between Yahoo! and Blockbuster (NYSE: BBI ) . They already have one thing in common: On a busy weekend night, a Vantage Point is hard to find.
5. Foiled again by Batman
Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX ) The Dark Knight shattered box office records over the weekend. Coupled with other movies playing at the multiplexes, exhibitors had their healthiest weekend ever, by far.
How is this dumb? It's not. This is actually a heads up to any leisure-minded company that is going to fault -- or embarrassingly has faulted-- the softening economy on the waning popularity of its service, food, or merchandise. It's not the economy. It's you. Make something good enough, and even the cash-strapped consumer will fish it out.
Let's beat the dumb drum: