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The Biz Roundup December 31

“Friends” don’t foreclose on friends on Facebook.

A court in Australia has ruled a mortgage lender can use social networking site “Facebook” to tell one couple they’ve lost their home. . . . The court ruling means the law firm has satisfied the legal requirement of informing the two that their loan is in default.

(“Foreclosure Notice Via Facebook,” MSNBC, December 16) Okay, okay, this is ancient news, but no-one other than MSNBC and folks in Australia reported on this one, so I’ll bet you’re just finding this one out, too. As all the nasties out there — collection agencies, divorce lawyers, the DMV, the IRS — turn Facebook into Face-The-Music-book and our social networks gradually morph into antisocial networks, maybe it’s time to go back to the good old days of being hobbits, vampires, she-warriors, and Klingons in our various online incarnations.

Since Paulson failed to save the economy, we were all counting on you, Santa.

Despite holiday shoppers’ last-minute bargain-hunting sprees, ShopperTrak Wednesday lowered its 2008 U.S. holiday retail sales forecast to call for a decline of 2.3 percent on a 16 percent drop in traffic and said it expected an even weaker store performance in January. . . . According to ShopperTrak’s retail traffic index, total U.S. foot traffic for the Christmas week ended Dec. 27 fell 4.9 percent from the year-earlier period.

(“ShopperTrak cuts holiday retail view,” Reuters, December 31) But the Blue Christmas hasn’t ended yet. Depression Christmas will be giving rocks and coals for quite a few months. Expect the biggest rocks in your stockings when quarterly reports start hitting the streets in a couple months.

If we lived in a sane world, this should never be news, let alone above-the-mast front page news on every bloody business page and Web site from New York to Nigeria.

Citigroup’s top executives, and Robert Rubin, a director and senior adviser, will forgo their 2008 bonuses amid internal and external pressure to atone for the company’s huge losses and a $300bn government bail-out. . . . Citigroup also introduced a “clawback” policy to recover executive compensation that proves to be based on false information.

(“Citi executives and Rubin forgo bonuses,” Financial Times, December 31). Trust me on this one, friends. It’s truly scary, like “I don’t want to see the rest of this recession” scary, like “big honking spaceships hovering over all our big cities” scary, when every major news outlet treats as earth-shattering news the announcement by Citi, which in one year has lost billions of dollars, wiped out 75% of its stock value, borrowed $300 billion from the government, and laid off thousands of employees, that it will not reward top executives for this truly so-bad-it’s-bad performance by giving them performance bonuses. You’ve got to pause the picture on this one. Seriously. When sanity is big news, that’s bad news.

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