What with the NFL, The O.C., cable channels aplenty, and The Motley Fool, it's any wonder we ever leave the house. We know what you're thinking, but knock it off! That's right, Amazon.com is selling food, promising "tens of thousands of products, from 700 different types of cheeses to the hottest sauces in the world to fresh lobster at your door less than 24 hours from when it was in the ocean."
Of course, cheese and sauces straight out of the ocean probably won't come cheap. That could explain why, according to the SEC, founder Jeff Bezos sold $11.25 million worth of Amazon stock this week. You gotta eat.
In today's Motley Fool Take:
- J&J Sued for Success
- Quote of Day
- More Mutual Funds Implicated
- Discussion Board of the Day: Mutual Funds
- Home Improvement Horrors
- Shameless Plug: Home Center
- More Fool News
- And Finally...
J&J Sued for Success
Medical technology company Conmed
J&J's product prices are higher than Conmed's, yet it outsells its small competitor due to J&J's "monopoly" status and "bullying" practices with hospitals, the company claims in its filing. Conmed's market share for the products in question is lower than 5%, but would probably be closer to 20% if not for J&J's anticompetitive practices, a Conmed attorney is quoted as saying.
The lawsuit did not specify damages that Conmed is seeking. Aside from money, the company claims it wants a chance to compete fairly. A spokesperson for J&J said the company operates within all laws and regulations, and had not seen the lawsuit.
A company as large as J&J is no stranger to suits, and naturally has a legal reserve set aside for such occasions. More pressing on investors' minds is news from two weeks ago, which reported medical concerns with J&J's breakthrough Cypher stents.
J&J's stock held up through the bear market, but is seeing new 52-week lows this year, pricing it at nearly a 2% yield with a trailing P/E of 21 (which mirrors free cash flow), the low-end of its P/E range in the last six years. It's certainly worth watching.
Though the stock isn't "cheap" yet, it's nearing attractive levels for new potential buyers. For existing shareholders who are reinvesting dividends, there's no reason not to stay the course.
Quote of Note
"Do something every day that you don't want to do; this is the golden rule for acquiring the habit of doing your duty without pain." -- Mark Twain
More Mutual Funds Implicated
One of the rockiest periods in the history of mutual funds is about to get a lot worse. Today brings news of six more funds that have caught the eye of various regulators. Here's the rundown:
J.P. Morgan Chase
(NYSE: JPM)-- The New York Times is reporting that the NASD is investigating more than two dozen brokers to see if they improperly sold mutual funds in order to increase commissions. About a dozen of the brokers' supervisors are also being investigated. The probe centers on brokers who allegedly sold Class B shares to investors, the paper says, instead of the more appropriate Class A shares -- which have lower continuing fees. The brokers may not have disclosed the higher fees to customers.
(NYSE: MET)-- The life insurer revealed late Friday that it's been asked for information related to market timing and late trading of mutual funds and variable insurance products. The company says it's in the process of responding, but is not aware of any systemic problems that would affect its financial position. It did not say which agency is investigating.
(AMEX: EFH)-- The broker-dealer said in a filing that it and four of its employees have received subpoenas from the SEC requesting information and documents in relation to market timing and late trading of mutual fund shares. The company said its own internal investigation has turned up instances where employees assisted clients in engaging in market timing and also entered orders after 4:00 p.m. for the trading of mutual fund shares.
New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer is preparing to file several civil and criminal charges, according to London's Financial Times. The funds involved include the Invesco unit of Amvescap
(NYSE: AVZ), Strong Capital Management, and Alliance Capital Management (NYSE: AC).
- Alliance, meanwhile, has announced the resignations of John Carifa -- president, COO, and director of Alliance Capital and chairman of the board of its mutual funds -- and Michael Laughlin, chairman of the mutual fund distribution unit. CEO Lewis Sanders (not related to The Colonel) asked for the resignations because both had "senior and direct responsibility" over the tainted mutual fund unit.
Discussion Board of the Day: Mutual Funds
Some Fools think it's a witch-hunt; others are convinced the scoundrels will never get what they deserve. What are your thoughts on the mutual fund scandal? Join the debate on our Mutual Funds discussion board. Only on Fool.com.
Home Improvement Horrors
When it comes to remodeling, the enjoyment of the new backsplash and re-planked porch is too often tainted by the horror story about getting the job done.
Buck up, little remodeler: You've got company. "Complaints about home improvement contractors have become the number one homeowner complaint," says Richard Roll, president of the American Homeowners Association (AHA), a national consumer alliance organization.
With your time, good nature, and largest investment on the line, it pays to put in a little work ahead of time to ensure a smooth-running project. Here are four tips to make it so.
1. Pick a project that'll pay off. If you are making improvements to increase the value of your home (and according to statistics, about one-third of remodeling homeowners are), avoid the temptation to over-improve for your neighborhood. Most major home improvements will pay off in resale just 80 to 90 cents for each dollar spent. Get an idea of what's worth it and what's not.
2. Set a budget and line up the dough. Before you take sledgehammer to drywall, decide on a budget (be firm) and earmark the needed funds. Hopefully, this is something you've been planning for a while and have socked away some money in an appropriate, safe, short-term savings vehicle. If you are borrowing against your home to fund a project, make sure you calculate the associated costs and add that into your budget.
3. Stick to the budget. Cost overruns occur when you do not have firm design plans before accepting estimates, according to the AHA. So write down your "must haves," "nice to haves," and "can live withouts," and share these preferences with your contractor. Should he or she have to scale back the project to stay within your budget, you'll each have a prioritized list of what goes first.
4. Ask for official papers. When you're done picking the perfect project and planning your budget, you're halfway there. (Sorry to throw a wrench into your plans.) Do yourself a favor and spend just as much time picking your pros for the job as you did deciding on what color Corian to use on the countertop. Here are some tips for interviewing candidates.
Shameless Plug: Home Center
As long as we're talking house, come by our Home Center if you need more information on how to build, buy, or refinance your home. We may just save you some headaches -- and some moolah.
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- Ride Out Volatility
For a list of all our stories from today, see Today's Headlines.
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