Stupidity is contagious. It gets us all from time to time. Even respectable companies can catch it. As I do every week, let's take a look at five head-spinningly dumb financial events from the past seven days.
1. From a tea party to a plea party
The clock is ticking on The Boston Globe, after its largest union rejected concessions that seem vital to the paper's success. The daily paper -- owned by New York Times
The demise of print journalism would be tragic, but is there hope? Once you remove physical delivery -- something that will continue to grow more impractical with every smack to circulation -- the business becomes all about digital delivery. At that point, every publication will be battling it out against some local news-aggregating hobbyist pecking out content from his or her basement. Quality matters, but there may be too many virtual soapboxes out there for these companies and their bloated cost structures to survive, regardless of their trusted brands.
2. And J. Jill came tumbling after
Talbots paid $517 million for J. Jill in 2006. It's now handing the division over to a private equity firm for $75 million. Talk about a clearance sale. If Talbots is able to focus on breathing new life into its namesake chain, the sale will be worth it. If that's your bullish thesis, find a new cloud to hop on.
Am I the only one who remembers that Talbots dumped its Talbots Mens and Talbots Kids distractions last year? That obviously didn't help matters.
3. Mr. Softy is also Mr. Stingy
Software giant Microsoft
Microsoft has tens of billions in the bank, and it's not generating a lot of interest in this environment. It hasn't earned less than three times its dividend in any quarter in more than two years, so covering the amount isn't an issue. Isn't now the time to win over income investors by yielding more than its current 2.3%?
I realize it may seem odd to pick on Microsoft for maintaining its dividend at a time when so many other companies are slashing their payouts, but Mr. Softy is capable of so much more than this.
4. Calling off the Navy
There is something new at Old Navy, but you have to look hard to find it. Gap
I'm all for tweaking something that isn't working, especially given Old Navy's years of negative comps. But Gap doesn't have the flexibility to test things out on a tiny experimental group. Why just 50 stores? More to the point, why doesn't Gap offer up a half-dozen makeover prototypes, then expand that experiment to 50 stores apiece? Old Navy needs dramatic improvements. Time is not on its side. Now that even Wal-Mart
5. A mob mentality
Did regulators take Bank of America
This can't end well. It also should make any investor nervous about buying into any of the companies that are on the receiving end of government bailouts. Uncle Sam is a shrewd loan shark, apparently. Borrower, beware.
Let's beat the dumb drum:
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a fan of dumb and smart business moves. Investors can learn plenty from both. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.