Do you decide each April that you should really give even more to Uncle Sam?
The "Tax Me More" bill, a tongue-in-cheek initiative spearheaded by Rep. Jeff Coleman (R-Penn.), suggests that citizens make donations to the government if they think they aren't paying enough taxes.
We don't foresee much support for the legislation (shocker!). According to the Tax Foundation, Americans pay more in taxes than they do for food, shelter, and clothing combined. Only in the past decade have taxes exceeded the cost of basic necessities.
In today's Motley Fool Take:
- Insider Trading at AOL?
- Quote of Note
- WorldCom Rises Anew
- Get Tax Help Now
- SARS and Stripes
- Discussion Board of the Day: Health and Nutrition
- Quick Takes: The New York Times Co. , Morgan Stanley, Wal-Mart, more
- And Finally...
Did AOL Time Warner's
The University of California and Amalgamated Bank filed suit together today in a California court. Both invested in AOL Time Warner, and have seen their stakes drop substantially in value.
The university purchased Time Warner shares pre-merger and says it's lost $450 million because of the combined company's drop in value. Amalgamated's claim stems from one of its pension funds. It says that the LongView Collective Investment Fund invested in AOL after the merger, and its position has taken a $55.9 million hit.
Along with AOL, several top executives are named as defendants, as are AOL's auditor, Ernst & Young, and the investment houses Citigroup's
The suit alleges that executives and insiders made $936 million by selling AOL shares after the merger, but before news of questionable accounting practices broke. Using "tricks, contrivances, and bogus transactions," the executives also falsely boosted AOL's financials, resulting in 2000-2001 earnings that were overstated by nearly $1 billion, according to the suit.
These are serious charges, of course, and aren't going to do much for investor confidence in AOL's past and present leadership. But it should be noted that this isn't the SEC or Justice Department talking. It's a suit brought by Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach LLP, which dubs itself "the world's leading class action law firm."
That's not to say the suit's without merit, but the allegations would be graver were they coming from federal investigators. As it is, AOL has about 30 shareholder suits pending against it, so this one will join the pile.
"Here's a rough definition of economic progress: At 40, you should pay in taxes what you grossed at 30. Think of it this way, and somehow the weeping is less severe." -- James Lileks, political columnist
The company dragged itself through the muck of bankruptcy, beset by shareholder suits, government inquiries, $11 billion in fraudulent revenues, and other awfulness. And now, with an agreement between WorldCom and its creditors, the nation's second-largest long-distance provider is about to come out clean on the other side.
How clean? It's even shedding the soiled mantle of the name WorldCom. It's going to be MCI once more.
As we expected, all those shareholders who thought that WorldCom stock was "worth a flyer" at pennies per share are going to be wiped out. But the bondholders are going to make out like bandits. And a funny thing, too, because "bandits" is a word that instantly comes to mind when thinking about what has happened with MCI, nee WorldCom, nee MCI.
Late this past year, the Justice Department decided not to fine WorldCom any further for its massive frauds, as any additional fines would necessarily come out of the pockets of bondholders.
Telecommunications companies Sprint
It almost seems as if bankruptcy ought to be built into the business plan. Run up debt, build a network, pay itself millions, go into Chapter 11, emerge on the other side, and grant the management team stock options so they can participate in the company's further "success." While MCI's top management will be new, much of the corporate leadership from the bad old days is still in place.
This points to a broken bankruptcy system. Companies that have done it the wrong way, such as MCI, can re-emerge from bankruptcy -- to the almost guaranteed doom of ones that didn't defraud or cheat, ones that tried to keep up with a company that was making up rules as it went along in the first place.
There's one day left to tax reckoning time. What kind of help do you need? Have tax questions you'd like to ask a financial planner? Our TMF Money Advisor service could be just the ticket. And there's always our fun and Foolish tax opus: The Motley Fool Tax Guide 2002. For more, see our Tax Center, and don't forget about our Tax Strategies discussion board.
SARS and Stripes
Talk about beating an industry when it's down. The sluggish travel sector looks even more tired now that the troubling spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is hitting closer to home. Literally.
Last week, Disney
Shares of cruise operator Royal Caribbean
Over the weekend, the World Health Organization reported that the SARS tally has grown to 2,960 cases, with 119 proving fatal. While originating in China's Guangdong Province late last year, it has become a globetrotting menace in recent weeks.
The struggling airlines, such as AMR
While we haven't reached the panic stage yet, it's probably a good time to brush up on the symptoms and facts behind the malady. Checking your portfolio for companies that may be vulnerable to a wider SARS outbreak, while seeking out stay-at-home stocks, may be a precaution worth taking. It's the best way to stay healthy -- medically and financially.
Are you concerned about SARS? Has it threatened to put an end to your near-term travel plans? What can one do to protect oneself from contracting the illness? All this and more -- in the Health and Nutrition discussion board. Only on Fool.com.
Bucking the trend, The New York Times Co.
The Japanese stock market hit a 20-year low today. The benchmark Nikkei has lost about two-thirds of its value in the past seven years, and some 80% since 1990.
Wall Street stalwart Morgan Stanley
It looks like a mixed bag for retailers this April. Wal-Mart
In local news, the Let's AffectSame-Store Sales Just For Fun group sent the following notice to members: "Our actions were successful. You may begin shopping at Penney's and Macy's again."
Today on Fool.com:
- For updated stories throughout the day, bookmark our ever-changing News section.
- In our Tax Center, the April 15 survival kit -- everything you need to prepare for the big day.
- Banks are making more with less these days. National and regional banks report earnings.
- A weekend article in Barron's questions the valuations of eBay, Amazon, and Yahoo!
- Wal-Mart: Big and Bad? Selena Maranjian asks if the giant retailer's putting its employees last.
- Fool Duel: Coke vs. Pepsi. Which soft-drink giant is the better investment?
- Matt Richey looks at Sportsman's Guide and its remarkable efficiency.
- "Tax Freedom Day" comes sooner, so feel free to donate to Uncle Sam.
- In Fool's School, fun with indexes! Meet the major players.
Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Mathew Emmert, Jeff Fischer, Tom Jacobs, LouAnn Lofton, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Matt Richey, Jackie Ross, Reggie Santiago, Dayana Yochim