The Icahn Man Cometh

Good morning, investors. Once again, it's time to break your fast with the Fool. Coffee and bagels are on the table -- help yourself, but please don't bogart the cream cheese. Save some for the next guy.

And now, let's skim the papers and see what investors will be talking about today. Hmm. Well, for starters, it seems that Carl Icahn has made his decision. The nation's most famous vulture investor, the scourge of Motorola (NYSE: MOT  ) and the bane of Blockbuster (NYSE: BBI  ) , will today nominate a full slate of 10 directors for election to the board of Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) . Icahn aims to initiate a proxy war to replace the directors responsible for costing shareholders $8.4 billion and counting in market cap -- the villains who spurned Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) $33-per-share buyout offer two weekends ago.

But is Icahn playing the part of Lafayette, sailing in to rescue shareholders complaining of sharehold-ization without representation, or is he just an egoist? To me, this smacks of hubris. The man has bought 50 million-odd shares, around 3.7% of Yahoo's share count, yet he thinks he's entitled to 100% of the board seats and absolute control over the decision to approve Microsoft's offer? Why, that's almost as egotistical as Jerry Yang's argument that he should control the board and the decisions ... with the 4% of the shares that he owns.

Broadly speaking, you're all crooks
And speaking of executive hubris, did you hear the joke about the chairman, the general counsel, the ex-CEO, and the ex-CFO who backdated their stock options, which partly resulted in an extra $2 billion in compensation expenses? Well, the Securities and Exchange Commission heard it, and they weren't amused. The SEC has just filed civil charges against the above-named Broadcom (Nasdaq: BRCM  ) execs.

Want to win a lawsuit? Hint: Don't smoke, or stress, or get old.
In unrelated legal news, a Texas appeals court has decided that a 71-year-old patient who smoked and had both high blood pressure and high cholesterol just might have died of something other than taking Vioxx. Good news for Merck (NYSE: MRK  ) , which just saved itself $7.8 million in damages. Bad news for any other plaintiffs who aren't covered by the company's 2007 settlement, in which Merck laid out $4.8 billion to resolve outstanding claims.

Inflation? What inflation?
And finally, a few words of advice on how to interpret the recent inflation data. According to your government, inflation rose less than expected in April. Sure, food and gas prices are higher, but on the bright side, hotel rooms and cars are looking positively cheap!

So how should Fools play the trends to keep their cost of living down? Easy. First, sell your house, and move into a hotel offering free continental breakfast. And second, don't be a sucker. You know them newfangled "horseless carriages" that Ford and GM keep peddling? Well, there ain't no law that says you can't hitch a horse to 'em. Stick it to the Man, and Fool on!

Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. To find more undervalued stock bargains, try out the newsletter service free for 30 days.

Yahoo! is a former Stock Advisor pick, and Merck is a past recommendation of Income Investor.

To comply with The Motley Fool's strict disclosure policy, we are required by law to tell you that Fool contributor Rich Smith takes his coffee with just a bit of milk and prefers the blueberry-flavored bagels. Wrap one up in a napkin and put it aside for him, willya? Oh, and he does not own shares of any company named above.


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