Water Cooler Finance: The Unrelenting Claw Of Bernie Madoff

By Sean Joyner | July 26, 2010 AAA
Water Cooler Finance: The Unrelenting Claw Of Bernie Madoff

This week's wrap-up may be a little shocking. As some industry giants are slipping, some underdogs are finally getting a foothold. The biggest name in tech was overstepped by its competition; the most vilified company over the last few months saw a positive quarter, and - surprise! - we're all still broke. (Did you catch last week's article? Catch up by reading Water Cooler Finance: Goldman Fined, Financial Fixes And Apple's "Apology".)

IN PICTURES: How To Make Your First $1 Million

The Student Becomes the Master
Verizon (NYSE:VZ) has overstepped AT&T in new subscribers, according to recent reports. Despite AT&T's exclusivity contract for Apple's new iPhone 4, Verizon Wireless has signed up more new subscribers to its wireless network in the last quarter, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In a recent report, Verizon claims to have brought in 665,000 new subscribers in the last three months versus AT&T's 496,000. This boost in sales is undoubtedly aided by Verizon's Droid model smartphone - one of the iPhone's biggest competitors. Though, since the iPhone 4 only came out at the end of June, a balanced quarterly comparison cannot be made at this time.

It's likely that the iPhone's sales will continue to increase over the next few months, as firmware upgrades increase and recalls are honored.

The Love/Hate Relationship
Despite the mind-numbing issues facing BP PLC over the last three months, British Petroleum's last quarter was actually profitable. In the same quarter last year, BP's earnings per share were 92 cents. This year, the company is looking at a $1.39 per share earnings - a 48% increase.

Some analysts suggest that this may be largely due to the higher oil and gas prices we've seen as of late, and expect the stock earnings to come out at $1.26 per share when all issues are considered.

Tony Hayward, BP's CEO, will step down as CEO, and his potential replacement (suspected to be current managing director Bob Dudley) will undoubtedly have an impact on the company's outlook and share value going forward.

BP may be $20 billion lighter, but investors can spot a rebounding stock a mile away. (Earthquakes, hurricanes, oil spills and other disasters have a very real cost, but who foots the bill? Find out in The Real Cost Of Natural Disasters.)

The Employment Gap
Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner is concerned with the rate of employment (and re-employment) during the current struggling economic recovery. Companies are slow to hire and re-hire staff due to the fears of a double-dip recession, though Geithner doubts that a halt to the recovery will occur.

"The most likely thing is you see an economy that gradually strengthens over the next year or two," he recently said in an interview with NBC.

This should bring at least a little hope to companies closely holding on to their expendable income, as it means they should soon be able to loosen obligations on current staff and begin re-filling necessary positions. (The unemployment rate is climbing, but what does it mean? Don't miss What The Unemployment Rate Doesn't Tell Us.)

The country's unemployment rate currently sits at 9.5% (a 0.2% decrease in recent months), which may mean a lot to any of the 125,000 who lost their jobs in June. Regardless, we've had an unemployment rate over 9% for more than one year.

The Claw of Madoff
Bernie Madoff's influence on investors is still being felt - even after his first year in jail comes to an end. Court-appointed trustee Irving Picard is looking into suing investors who withdrew a greater amount of money than they invested with Madoff in his Ponzi scheme.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Picard's new lawsuits could target up to 1,000 investors - including friends and family of Madoff - in order to repay those who lost their initial investment in Madoff's scam.

Picard has until December, 2010, to file the "clawback" lawsuits. So far, Picard says he has recovered approximately $1.5 billion.

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