Economic Outlook: What a turkey!

By ANTHONY HALL, United Press International  |  Nov. 21, 2012 at 10:00 AM
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What a turkey!

Yes, it's time for the first annual business page What a turkey! awards, given with gratitude and humility -- and plenty more from where they came.

Some late entries this year are vying for attention. Certainly, Hewlett-Packard's $11.1 billion purchase of software company Autonomy Corp. that recently prompted a write down of $8.8 billion has got enough giblets to earn an award.

HP said an Autonomy executive with impeccable timing stepped forward soon after the deal was closed to reveal HP had been taken for a ride.

HP now says it is the victim of crooked accounting, which got by two respectable accounting firms that reviewed the acquisition, Deloitte, which reviewed the deal and KPMG, which reviewed Deloitte's report.

HP Chief Executive Officer Meg Whitman, who succeeded fired CEO Leo Apotheker, who orchestrated the deal -- winner of a hindsight What a turkey! award -- said forensic accountants had been working through the books since soon after the deal was clinched and that the bogus numbers were designed to be hard to find.

Another late entry is billionaire investor Steven Cohen, who here shall be called "Portfolio Manager A," which is the code name assigned to him in an insider trading complaint unsealed Tuesday.

Speaking of $8.8 billion, that's what Forbes Magazine estimates Cohen is worth in its latest list of the country's richest men. Cohen ranked 40th.

A Securities and Exchange Commission report alleges Cohen directed trades at SAC Capital Advisors based on a long-standing, $1,000 per hour relationship with a neurology professor who had the inside dope on development of Alzheimer's disease treatment that was being studied.

If found guilty, Cohen would be the second billionaire in recent memory after Galleon Group founder Raj Rajaratnam -- now serving an 11-year sentence -- for whom billions just wasn't good enough.

There are no rules for What a turkey! awards, but if there was one -- well, let's put it this way: Losing $2.3 billion on behalf of your employer and you're a shoe-in.

That said, rogue UBS trader Kewku Adoboli can pick up his award anytime. Using the same criteria, former governor of New Jersey Jon Corzine, the head of MF Global when it misplaced $1.2 billion of its client's funds, is to be honored this year. JPMorgan Chase Chief Executive Officer James Dimon can claim an award on behalf of the derivatives trading unit that lost $6.2 billion in the first nine months of 2012.

By the by, a neurology professor who takes $1,000 per hour as the linchpin behind a deal that netted SAC Capital an alleged $276 million does not get an award, given the heavy hitting candidates this year. But he does qualify for a Missed the Boat Award. And he has to eat in the kitchen.

In international markets the Nikkei 225 index in Japan rose 0.87 percent, while the Shanghai composite index in China gained 1.07 percent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong added 1.39 percent, while the Sensex in India added 0.72 percent.

The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia slipped 0.37 percent.

In midday trading in Europe, the FTSE 100 index in Britain and the DAX 30 in Germany each climbed 0.13 percent. The CAC 40 in France was up 0.38 percent, while the Stoxx Europe 600 gained 0.23 percent.

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