So, the big deadline has come and gone. The top executives of America's largest companies must now personally vouch for all of their financial statements. But what does it all mean? Will it make any difference at all to you as an investor? Is Elvis still alive?

These are fair questions, and we're providing you some answers today. Tom Jacobs explains why the new SEC regulation makes a difference in Does Yesterday Matter?, and we also give you a real-life example in today's Take.

Finally, even though one gentleman actually bet $76.58 with a London bookmaker that Elvis Presley is still alive, we're sorry to say he'll never collect. But even though Elvis has left the building, you can still learn some financial lessons from the King on this 25th anniversary of his death.

The Motley Fool 50 was not really all that shook up today... shaking, rattling, and rolling to a 1% gain.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

United We Fall

The fallout from last year's terrorist attacks threatens to claim yet another victim. UAL Corp.(NYSE: UAL), the parent company of United Airlines, stated yesterday that the company may be forced into bankruptcy court. Should it fail to cut costs, gain concessions from its stakeholders, and secure a $1.8 billion federal loan, the world's second-largest carrier would become the fourth U.S. airline to file for bankruptcy since Sept. 11.

On the heels of Tuesday's announcement of AMR Corp.'s(NYSE: AMR) restructuring plan, United set a 30-day limit on cost-cutting talks with employees, who collectively own 55% of the company. The company's 10,000 pilots, representing 28% of its shareholders, have already agreed to a plan through the Air Line Pilots Association to cut their own pay by $520 million over the next three years.

However, the International Association of Machinists union, representing the company's mechanics, ramp workers, and customer-service agents, has refused a similar request, citing $500 million in already-deferred wages. United's flight attendants have declined concessions as well. The airline may have the edge in the negotiations, threatening a bankruptcy plan that would wipe out its employees' equity.

"The changes we need to make are urgent, significant, and immediate," said CEO Jack Creighton. That's because United faces an $875 million debt payment in the fourth quarter. Though the company has $2.8 billion in cash, it's also burning $1 million per day in operations. In addition, the state of the industry has left United without access to capital to finance the debt.

The bankruptcy threat signals United's final effort to gain a $1.8 billion government loan guarantee to cover the debt. The company's ability to secure the guarantee is contingent upon its restructuring effort, and its survival is contingent upon that guarantee.

Earlier this week, US Airways(NYSE: U) became the third U.S. airline to file for Sept. 11-induced Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

United Airlines' stock is currently down over 92% from $34.08 on Aug. 15, 2001, and down 50% over the past week. In after-hours trading yesterday, the stock hit $1.60, hitting a level not seen in decades. Shares have rebounded strongly, reaching $2.74 this afternoon.

Quote of Note

"Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882

AOL Stumbles at Deadline

Some viewed yesterday's deadline for executives to personally verify their company's financial statements as a nonevent. Though we saw it as a positive step, we'll admit some of us were skeptical that it would provide significant change. After all, it was already unlawful to knowingly falsify SEC filings. What good would adding a few more penalties do?

Apparently the new rule has some teeth, however. Three companies felt the need to restate prior earnings before the deadline. Then yesterday evening, AOL Time Warner(NYSE: AOL) revealed possible irregularities in its second-quarter earnings. It seems the AOL unit may have "inappropriately recognized as advertising and commerce revenues" certain payments from third parties. The total only amounts to about $49 million over six quarters, which is rather insignificant for the media giant.

It's still no surprise the stock price is at a four-year low, however. After all, the company said it would review other such transactions, and it's already the subject of a federal probe about possible accounting irregularities. Shares are down over 60% this year alone, and the company has a long way to go to regain investor trust -- personal guarantees aside.

If you'd like to know if the executives of your favorite company signed off on their financial statements, Tom Jacobs tells you how to find out in today's Fool on the Hill.

Shameless Plug: Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Are you looking for stock recommendations and other financial insights to help you achieve your financial dreams? Then let us introduce you to David and Tom Gardner's Motley Fool Stock Advisor. They'll give you the unvarnished truth about investing and show you how you can manage your own money better than the pros on Wall Street. Check out the special offer for registered Fools!

Learn From the King

It's sad but true: Elvis Presley was a better ruler over his finances dead than alive. The self-appointed and undisputed "King" of rock and roll released many hits in his lifetime, but he took some hits as well.

His manager, the controversial Colonel Tom Parker, took half of Elvis' take. In 1973, Parker sold Elvis' future song royalties for a pittance of what they would eventually be worth. Needless to say, despite all of his success, Elvis was not as wealthy as most believed when he died 25 years ago.

With no long-term investments and just a little more than $2 million stowed away in a savings and non-interest-bearing checking account, he died with far less than he accumulated -- to say nothing of how those sums could've appreciated under more vigilant care. Poor estate planning threatened to wipe out what little he had left in probate court.

Elvis lives on, fiscally speaking. In a recent Forbes list of afterlife earners, Presley is, in fact, the king. His list-topping estate earned $37 million over the past year alone. Graceland is a moneymaker. His estate's merchandising efforts couldn't be stronger.

You can learn from Elvis' mistakes. Plan ahead. Don't let your finances hound-dog you around. And while you're at it, whatever you do, don't let 'em step on your blue suede shoes.

Discussion Board of the Day: Living Below Your Means

While the peanut-butter-and-banana-cream sandwiches that Elvis loved so much were a thrifty eat, little else in his life was typical of a spendthrift life. My, what he could have learned from your fellow Fools. All this and more -- in the Living Below Your Means Discussion Board. Only on

Quick Takes

Bloomberg reports that Dell(Nasdaq: DELL) may by year's end move into the computer printer market currently dominated by Hewlett-Packard(NYSE: HWP). Dell continues to grab PC market share but faces declining worldwide growth in PC shipments, according to Dataquest. The Austin, Texas, efficiency powerhouse could be a ferocious cost competitor in the printer world, but despite its huge recent meal of Compaq, Hewlett-Packard is unlikely to relax unaware on the porch with cigars and port.

Big drug maker Bristol-Myers Squibb(NYSE: BMY) had more to say about its numbers in the ongoing SEC investigation. Major wire services report that the company may have to restate earnings and revenues because of past channel stuffing -- pushing customers to buy more products now and improve near-term results but jeopardize future performance.

Target (NYSE: TGT) reported a fabulous Q2, with EPS up 27% on revenue growth of 13%. Target has, for now, hit the right formula: Discounts don't have to mean boring generic fare but instead the whimsical designs of Philippe Starck and Michael Graves.

U.S. industrial production rose 0.2% in July, the slowest rate in three months. It was driven mainly by an uptick in power generation equipment for air conditioning. Manufacturing production rose a mere 0.1%, the lowest rate since April.

From The We're-Not-The-Only-Ones-Who-Need-Editors Dept.: Sports reported that the PGA golf championship was delayed today when a rainstorm brought "lighting." Serves Tiger et al right for playing in the daytime.

And Finally...

Today on How much of a role should ethics play in your investment decisions? Two Fools fight it out.... Rex Moore says forward-thinking investors can use the price-to-earnings ratio to their advantage.... Should you sell a company that fails to certify its earnings?.... What to expect from brokers, in Fool's School.... The tech bomb was healthy and necessary. Plus, how to retire early, and complex potatoes.

Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Jeff Hwang, Tom Jacobs, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Jackie Ross, Reggie Santiago, Dayana Yochim