No grease from Grasso
Grasso might mean "fat," in Italian, but the testimony of Richard Grasso, former head of the New York Stock Exchange -- now NYSE Group (NYSE:NYX) -- at a June 2005 SEC deposition was pretty thin and flavorless. (The just-released transcript is discussed here by TheNew York Times.)

Among the interesting bits are the questions Grasso faced over whether he leaned on Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) floor traders to prop up stock of AIG (NYSE:AIG) during an acquisition, in order to placate AIG head Hank Greenberg. Greenberg, of course, just happened to sit on the NYSE board committee that OKed Grasso's enormous pay package. (That pay package is the subject of a lawsuit by Eliot Spitzer, while the SEC deposition was made as part of an investigation of floor traders.)

Among the less interesting bits: Dick apparently took "the Fifth" some 150 times in the original deposition, despite the warning from SEC lawyers that his refusal to answer could be held against him in a civil trial. But he was less tight-lipped in a subsequent session. (Too bad he didn't refuse 193 times; then we'd have an even one refusal per million dollars he took in compensation.)

In a later deposition in the pay lawsuit, Grasso said of his efforts to mollify Greenberg, "There were instances when he was unhappy, there were instances when he was extremely unhappy, and there were instances when he was cosmically unhappy. And in the last case, I would probably get up and go to the floor."

Probably get up and go to the floor? For what? Certainly not to lean on the traders to float Hank's stock to a level more to his liking, right? Nope, he did no such thing, according to the deposition. But oddly enough, the Goldman Sachs unit with the specialists on the floor eventually set up a $17 million fund to buy more AIG stock.

Complete coincidence, I'm sure.

From the "Sure Thing" department
Speaking of coincidences, wouldn't it be great if you could "invest" in a plot of land, then witness the development of a major road toward that outer suburb-- with taxpayer bucks, natch -- then sell the property for a few million?

Sure would. But how about if you could make sure that road happened?

Darn tootin' that'd be some investing. And that's why it's good to be the King -- or in our country, Speaker of the House.

This is, in a nutshell, the allegation made against Illinois Republican Dennis Hastert by some intrepid records-diggers at the Sunlight Foundation, who tried to shine a little solar disinfectant on the funny situation surrounding Speaker Hastert's real estate investments near the proposed corridor of a major Illinois road project that's part of his share of this year's budget pork.

The land purchases west of Chicago, which were vaguely described in his financial disclosures, were made through tough-to-trace trusts in Illinois. (I'm sure this wasn't done to try and keep the Speaker's investments on the down low.)

Naturally, the Speaker had his attorney fire off an angry letter to the Sunshine Foundation, demanding that the "false" statements -- which he had a hard time proving to be false -- be removed. "The property is five and a half miles from the road!" goes the excuse.

But anyone who knows the area (and I do; I worked there for years) knows that Denny's pet flyway will go a long way toward raising property values all along that corridor. If you want to sell property for dense development, you need more car infrastructure, and that's what the Prairie Parkway, which Hastert has been flogging for years, promises.

With that background, this stroke of luck looks an awful lot like one of those sure-thing investments, the miracles of financial wizardry in which our lawmakers seem to specialize. In fact, it reminds me of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's amazingly well-timed stock sales before the family biz, HCA (NYSE:HCA) went down the bedpan a while back.

I'm shocked, shocked!
. To learn that the age-old game of getting out while the getting's good is not just an American phenomenon. (I'm just kidding, of course. I'm well aware that greed knows no nationality.)

According to this AP story, European regulators are taking a hard look at some increasingly convenient-looking stocks sales by the CEO of Airbus parent EADS. As you may remember, EADS stock took a major header this week when the company finally fessed up to some major delays in its Spruce Goose -- I mean, A380 -- project, a French jumbo jet so large that it can reportedly accommodate loads as large as French President (Fresident?) Jacques Chirac's ego.

After word of the delays, billions in possible late fees to be paid to angry airlines such as Quantas, Emirates Airlines, and Malaysia Airlines, plus the partial defection of Singapore Airlines to Boeing's (NYSE:BA) fuel-efficient long-haul Dreamliner platform, EADS stock tanked nearly 30%. Unsurprisingly, Air France-KLM (NYSE:AKH) said it would stand firm with the Monster Thickburger of the skies.

Here's the nut: Having dumped 2.5 million euro worth of shares in March, CEO Noel Forgeard, and some of his famille, as well as other managers, weathered this storm in style. He called the timing an "unfortunate coincidence," which it is -- but only for outside shareholders who are stuck with the losses, while key insiders seemingly rest easy on nice piles of money. Sure, there were several months between the sale and the eventual announcement of the problems, but are we really to expect that the folks up top knew nothing about those potential problems?

That's their story. As for moi, I don't believe in coincidences.

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Seth Jayson keeps his eyes on the wise all week long. At the time of publication, he had no positions in any company mentioned here. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.