The Daily Reckoning 2009 Financial Darwin Awards
When one thinks of today’s modern financial system, phrases like “survival of the fittest” hardly spring to mind. We’re more likely to recall imbecilic idioms like “too big to fail” or “zombie bank” instead. As Bill kindly noted in a reckoning from last week, the nation’s flagship automotive company and its largest insurer are now custodians of the not-so-almighty state. It’s more like “preservation of the weakest” than anything Sir Charles had in mind; a kind of involuntary, taxpayer-funded dedication to market devolution, if you will.
That being said, we like to think there still exists some scrap of the competitive marketplace that made America the 20th century powerhouse it once was…however corrupted it has now become. And so, in an effort to honor those institutions that have kindly removed themselves from the greater financial gene pool (despite the fed’s best efforts to revive their rotting corpses) we’re reinstituting a competition known here at the DR as The Financial Darwin Awards.
The concept is simple. We’re asking readers to identify companies that, through unbridled stupidity and an uncompromising dedication to fiscal inefficiency, have gone the way of the dinosaur.
To help get you started, here is an excerpt from the First Annual Financial Darwin Awards roster of nominees from back in 2001, this one penned by Bill Bonner.
“Here’s one worthy of an award,” writes Bill, “Millionare.com. Alert readers may think they have caught me in yet another spelling error. But let me assure you, this error is not mine. This is the way they spell it on the website.
“The site promises to reveal the secret of making millions of ‘Internet dollors’ – again, not my error. How? Well, send $10 dollors to a P.O. box in England and the secret will be yours.
“There is no further information. Nothing else to do at the site. That’s it. And yet, investors actually paid as much as $4 for the shares in this company. Now, the shares can be purchased, in bulk I would bet, for just 13 cents.”
Subsequent winners include Ken Lay, Jeffrey Skilling and their crack team of accounting contortionists over at Enron. The brains behind outfits like Pets.com managed honorable mentions.
So now that you’ve got some creative kindling, we’ll leave you to think it over. Nominations should go to this address. We look forward to your submissions.