Wall Street History: Y2K, Milton Friedman And Golden Watches

By Andrew Beattie | July 29, 2010 AAA
Wall Street History: Y2K, Milton Friedman And Golden Watches

This week in financial history has a bit of everything. Unfortunately, that includes murder. We'll scale the highs and lows of the human condition in this week of Wall Street History. (Missed last week's article? Check out Wall Street History: Worldcom, Rigas And Freddie.)

IN PICTURES: 10 Biggest Losers In Finance

Just Add Ketchup
On July 27, 1900, the H.J. Heinz company was incorporated. Henry Heinz and L. Clarence Noble had been in the food business for over 30 years before Heinz made their venture a corporation. The two started with condiments like horseradish, pickles and sauerkraut, adding their famous ketchup in 1876. Now Heinz dominates the global condiments markets, enjoying more than 50% market share in many of its product lines.

Sweet Goodbyes
On July 28, 2006, Pfizer CEO Henry Mckinnell announced that he would be departing from the company. During his reign, the shareholders saw more than 30% shaved off the share price as stock for stock acquisitions failed to add to the pharma giant's pipeline. Despite McKinnell's lukewarm performance, he walked away with a severance payout of over $11 million, a pension worth $6.6 million a year, and other payouts bringing his total compensation to over $200 million. Although this was record-breaking at the time, golden handshakes have only increased since then.

Birthdays
On July 30, 1863, Henry Ford was born in the area now known as Dearborn, Michigan. Ford left for Detroit at age 16 to apprentice as a machinist. Just over a decade later, Ford found himself under the tutelage of Thomas Edison, who encouraged him in making and marketing a self-propelled vehicle - an automobile. It would take another decade and change before Ford incorporated his company in 1903, and then came out with the Model T in 1908. By 1918, one out of every two cars in America was a Model T, and Ford was the premier industrialist of his age.

The other birthday is a less fantastic story, but no less important. On July 31, 1912, Milton Friedman was born. Friedman will be remembered for turning the intellectual climate and the political one back towards free market economics after decades of Keynesian rule. Friedman won the Nobel Memorial Prize for his work in economics, and won the attention of many for his PBS series Free To Choose, popularizing economics for the layman.

Trader Goes On Killing Spree
On July 29, 1999, day trader Mark Barton went on a shooting rampage through two Atlanta day trading firms. Barton killed 9 and injured 13 before committing suicide. He killed his family before going on his murderous rampage - a rampage that is believed to have been partially motivated by trading losses of over $100,000 leading up to the killings.

Y2K
Also on July 29, 1999, the SEC announced that all brokerages and publicly-traded companies should disclose their Y2K readiness as part of their quarterly reporting. This report was to include issues not yet addressed, precautions taken and contingency plans. The SEC had the back-up option of shutting down firms that were deemed unprepared. In the end, Y2K proved to be much less of a crash than the internet bubble that popped a full quarter into the year 2000.

The Coin Collector's Grail
On July 30, 2002, a 1933 Double Gold Eagle sold at auction for $6.6 million. The U.S. Mint created the coin just as the government changed the laws to make the "hoarding" gold illegal, so these coins never made it to the public - except by theft and smuggling. The Double Gold Eagle remains one of the most expensive collectibles in the world.

Tyco's Top Level Exodus
On August 1, 2002, Tyco' CFO Mark Swartz resigned. This followed the resignation of CEO Dennis Kozlowski and the firing of CLO Mark Belnik. It was later revealed that the Swartz and Kozlowski taking millions in loans from the company without proper approval. (Learn more about Tyco in The Biggest Stock Scams Of All Time.)

That's all for this week. Next week we will catch up with Charles Ponzi, Gates' rescue of Jobs and much more.

Catch up on your financial news; read Water Cooler Finance: The Unrelenting Claw Of Bernie Madoff.

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