Lessons from 2007

I am working on a year end article for the Street.com — A Dozen Lessons from 2007 for CEOs, fund managers and investors.

Since you guys so quickly answered my first question, here’s another: 

Next question:  What company(s) handled a major mishap, error, or disaster well? Did someone mess up, but did a sincere mea culpa and was not punished?

I remember there was at least one (Traget? Schwab?) but I cannot recall what it was

Anyone recall who that might have been ?

~~~

UPDATE: Reader suggestions, Q1:

One of the bullet points is: "Stick to what you do best."

I came up with 2 good examples, but I could use some more:

What was online broker E*Trade doing writing sub-prime mortgages?

What was investment bank Bear Stearns (BSC) running 2 hedge funds?

H&R Block are supposed to be tax preparers, not mortgage lenders.

And exactly what was GM’s expertise in underwriting mortgages (the snarkier amongst you might be wondering exactly what-the-hell GM’s expertise is in anything)


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  1. ken h commented on Dec 25

    GM comes to mind?

  2. zackattack commented on Dec 25

    H&R Block springs to mind.

  3. zackattack commented on Dec 25

    You could probably make the same argument for the monolines as well. Just a few years ago, wasn’t the bulk of their business from underwriting municipal issues?

  4. la grande poussée commented on Dec 25

    Have a problem get it out and air it. Be transparent and honest.

  5. Hal commented on Dec 25

    Yes–just why are the brokers making more money from their trading desks (biggest profit center) –when the clients should come first? Are there rules about frontrunning?

    Wow–consider what would happen if the brokers just brokered, and there were separate companies for investment banking and their trading desks.

  6. zell commented on Dec 25

    Financial products and transactions in general – Don’t mistake explanation for understanding.
    Don’t mistake correlation for causation.

  7. Todd commented on Dec 25

    Did Charles Schwab ever apologize for their ”just relaaaxxx” commercials during the crash of the Nasdaq? How many investors relaxed themselves into the poorhouse and rode Lucent all the way down to $1 because of the wonderful assurance from Chuck?

  8. Nikhil commented on Dec 25

    # What is Blackstone doing as a publicly traded company?! Now they can pay over 30% premium to public investors and take the company private, add some debt on balance sheet, fire the current CEO, bring new team on board, cut down expenses/salaries and add some real efficiencies to the economy by hiring some new lever-heads! And pay low taxes on capital returns!

    # GS can continue doing what does best – Make money by packaging & selling CDO/CLO and other structured products, and short the same junk on the trading desk! Talk about the crown jewel of American capitalism – Hail Goldman’s golden touch!

    # Corporate stock buy-backs are at record high as the CEOs, forced partly by hedge-fund activism and the PE hype, restructured their balance-sheets (e.g. Home Depot and many more), added more debt, and increased stock buy-backs. Perhaps they should stop listening to these opportunistic greedy fellows/wall street and stick to what they do best – their core business.

    # Wall Street and PE guys should continue their “shock and awe” campaign and hence terrorize the markets, kick the national currency in the rear, hijack the fed and ultimately make the ordinary citizens pay the cost – with higher inflation, higher cost of living and lower returns on investments on savings for seniors. I would trust a thug 100 times more than these “educated” greedy CEOs/middlemen with a clear agenda – steal share-holder wealth and demonize the core values of capitalism.

    Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays!

  9. Joe commented on Dec 25

    Apple seemed to overcome their IPhone issues with the deep discounts that angered both early adopters and analysts pretty well.

    It doesn’t fit into a disaster, but maybe a disaster avoided, is McDonalds. They are thriving now, when other unhealthy fast food places are struggling.

  10. k2163 commented on Dec 25

    Mattel? Lead paint? China?

  11. Entrepreneur commented on Dec 25

    I thought Apple’s mea-culpa on the I-pod (or was it I-phone?) price reduction problem worked out pretty well. Didn’t seem to hurt their sales or brand… probably helped them in fact.

  12. Kalima commented on Dec 25

    Jetblue? I think it was last Jan/Feb that they tried to placate their pissed off customers. I don’t go anywhere they fly but they at least seemed to be trying compared to other airlines who don’t give a rat’s ass about the customers. Could just be marketing.

  13. B commented on Dec 25

    about those companies you had problems- I remember that TacoBell had some major health issues- good damage control

  14. zackattack commented on Dec 25

    Ya’ know, I want to say that Halliburton did a pretty good job of distancing itself from its problems; specifically, the reputational issues that fell out of KBR/Blackwater and revenue issues from declining North American contract drilling activity.

  15. blue commented on Dec 25

    jet blue with their super long on-the-tarmac wait time.

  16. zackattack commented on Dec 25

    Another one, I don’t know if there’s enough distance in the rear-view mirror to call it a “winner”, so let’s just call it “sackful” for now, is that Vikram Pandit’s first move was to bring the SIVs back onto C’s balance sheet.

    Sorta saying, yes, I know this impairs the balance sheet at a time we can ill-afford it, but I am not going to preside over an Enron here.

  17. Vermont Trader.. commented on Dec 25

    The companies that look good this year are the ones that got out at the top of the current private equity cycle at large premiums. TXU, Daimler, Alltel, First Data, Equity Office, etc..

  18. David C commented on Dec 25

    What about John P. Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market…?

  19. Bob A commented on Dec 25

    Then there’s always that mea culpa king named Cramer. Who can be wrong 50% of the time but still hold not only a slot on Cnbc but hundreds of thousands of neo-zombie fans. To the point where some of his fans say it only matters what he says when it turns out to be right.

  20. Alex commented on Dec 26

    Not to be overly snarky, but isn’t it a little bit weird to come up with lessons first and then look for examples, rather than the other way around?

    (If I were trying to be snarky, I would have added, “Stick to what you do best” along with some line about how, for some reason or another, this is outside of your expertise.)

    (Okay, I can’t resist: Exactly what-the-hell is your expertise in anything?)

    :)

  21. justin commented on Dec 26

    Of course we could start parsing Warren Buffett’s words; something tells me that he is “charmingly” dodging some real issues with our economy. Chess game it is though, isn’t it?

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