More Advice and Dissent
Now that Ann Landers is no longer with us and Dear Abby has been taken over by a cigar chomping man in drag, it's hard to find good sound advice in business. Like "When should you use the fifth amendment?" (After you announce your innocence but before you write a book.) "How can you recognize fraudulent expense charges?" (Any restaurant meals over a billion.) And "Where can you find a good decaf soy latté?" (Café Pergolesi in Santa Cruz). So to meet this need, we present our new advice column for the high priests of high tech in need of a little high-minded wisdom with a feminine touch from our very own "Miss Demeanor." This month, Cynthia E. Cooper, the internal auditor who discovered the accounting fraud at WorldCom, fills in for Ellen Hancock, former CEO of Exodus.com, who filled in for Candice Carpenter, former CEO of iVillage, who filled in for Julie Wainright, former CEO of Pets.com, who filled in for Jill Barad, former CEO of Mattel, who...
Q. Dear Miss Demeanor: I work for a powerful software industry executive. I don't want to use his real name because I might get kicked out of the Zen Garden so let's just call him the "Oracle." Anyway, Larry (Probably not his real name --Ed.) made me an offer that he said I couldn't refuse. He said if I dated him for a week, he would let me fly his MiG jet, would make me entrepreneur in residence and would give me 50,000 options. Now this seems kind of unusual to me. My question is, if FASB changes the rules for option accounting before the vesting period is complete, would it have an impact on my tax status?
A. Damnit, Janet: Why buy the car if you can get the gas for free? Dump Larry the loser and start dating someone who's stock is really going to appreciate.
Q: We bought our CEO "Steve" (Probably not his real name --Ed.) his own private jet and he's still acting like a spoiled brat. Whenever he flies, he's constantly criticizing the pilot and flight crew, nit picking over every single detail. Then he sneaks off to the lavatory and smokes. When he comes back he's wild-eyed and demands all the snacks on the plane. Now he's insisting that he should be allowed to pilot the plane himself, like his friend "Larry" (I'm sure this is just a coincidence --Ed.) And he's recently become paranoid claiming that Bill Gates is tapping his phone. What should we do?
A. Sounds like ol' Stevie has been doing a few too many offsites in Humboldt County, if you know what I mean. Tell him to wake up and smell the market share. I mean, ditch the purple computers and get an iPod out that works with Windows. Also, Bill Gates doesn't need to tap anyone's phone line. You don't think he ported Outlook to the Mac for the money do you?
Q: I was dating an internet analyst, we'll call Henry. He kept bragging to me about how great he was and he started every sentence with I did this, I did that, I-I this I-I that. So I got mad and I made up a bunch of phoney emails from Henry saying Dr Koop is load of poop, take this stock and dump it, and so on. Then I mailed them to Eliot Spitzer the New York Attorney General. I feel really bad about this because I'm not getting any credit for my work and Henry has a big fat book contract. The Wall Street Journal ran the emails and they aren't paying me a cent. I would be better off working at Nortel. So my question is, should I sue Eliot Spitzer for copyright violation or should I try to get the screenplay credit?
A. Do you have Enron options for brains? This whole Internet thing is like so 1999. Get over it. The hot new area is bankruptcy filings. Now that's a growth market!
Q. I'm a retired dot com executive and I feel just terrible about everything. All the money we spent. The shareholders who lost their savings. The employees who lost their job. What I wonder is, would it be ok if I tried to set things right again? I mean, if I confessed that I feel bad and I offered a penance of some kind would people leave me alone? I was thinking of getting looped and crashing my Lamborghini. (It drives kind of funny anyways.) Also, Fox offered to buy the film rights. What's a good residual rate?
A. Doc, everyone knows that Lamborghinis are overrated. I'd go with a Ferrari Barchetta instead. You get a far more responsive ride and it's a convertible, which makes for an easy escape route. Also, you'll be much better off pitching this as a reality show series rather than a one-off. But make sure you retain controlling interest this time.
Q. Some partners and I in the family business wanted to teach a lesson to a pazzo CEO who hasn't been paying his vig lately. Normally we would put a horse's head in the guy's bed, but with the outrageous price of a decent steak in Manhattan we can't afford the loss. So we wonder, which of these solutions would you recommend: 1. We have our goombahs at CSFB to rate his stock a "hold". 2. We make Tyco threaten a merger or 3. We get Upside to put his company on the "Hot 100" list.
A. I've always been a big proponent of the "buy and hold" investment strategy, namely, buy off whoever you need and hold them to it. However in a volatile market, you need to be prepared to liquidate quickly to avoid larger losses.
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