Reports: Goldman Sachs Showered 36 Million Options on Employees

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In 2008, during the depths of the financial crisis, when Lehman Brothers had just gone bust and public anger at Wall Street's profligacy seethed unabated, Goldman Sachs did something smart: Its senior partners declined to take cash bonuses and instead took stock options, thereby dodging what surely would have been a painful PR bullet.

At the time, the shares traded at under $79. Though the options could be exercised starting as early as January 2010, the shares could not be sold until 2014. How many options were issued -- and to whom -- got scant notice.

Until now.

An analysis of Goldman's regulatory filings and of internal documents by The New York Times and revealed Goldman issued 36 million options -- an amount exceeding the total number of options outstanding up to that point and 10 times more than had been given out the year before.

With Goldman's shares trading at around $175, those options constitute a $3.5 billion 'atta-boy. In the long history of birds alighting, no more valuable chicken ever has come home to roost.

The Times' report, published Jan. 19, appeared the same day Goldman released its fourth quarter earnings, down 52 percent from a year ago. Notwithstanding, 2010 was the firm's fourth-best year for profits in its history.

Analyst Benjamin Wallace of Grimes & Co. in Westborough, Mass., said he remains hugely confident of the firm's ability to make money -- and not just for partners. Goldman's people, he said, are smart. They work hard. As for their methods, "I don't know if they have questionable ethics, but they push the ethics."

As for what those options have become worth, Wallace takes the run-up in value as a further sign of the firm's near-infallibility when it comes to making money.

"There you go," he said. "Another one for Goldman."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Last Name Lineups in School Affect Consumer Habits in Adulthood

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(MADISON, Wisc.) -- A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research suggests that people who line up for days for the iPhone or rush out to the store to purchase the just-released CD are more likely to have names at the end of the alphabet than at the beginning of the alphabet.
The researchers say it’s the latent result of all those Zimmermans and Whites being forced to the back of the line in elementary school. That well-learned tradition of queuing up based on your last name teaches kids at the backend of the line that if they want something bad enough they need to get it themselves. The pain of missing out is something they know about.
“The idea holds that children develop time-dependent responses based on the treatment they receive,” the authors explain.
“In an effort to account for these inequities, children late in the alphabet will move quickly when last name isn’t a factor; they will ‘buy early.’ Likewise, those with last names early in the alphabet will be so accustomed to being first that individual opportunities to make a purchase won’t matter very much; they will ‘buy late.’”
Want more proof? Married women’s behavior seems to be highly correlated to their maiden names -- so a Quittner marrying a Brown won’t change the "buy-now" mentality.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Shakeups at Top of Google, HP

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.) – Both Google and Hewlett-Packard Thursday announced major shakeups at the top of their ranks.

In a letter, Eric Schmidt, who has been the company’s CEO since 2001, announced that co-founder Larry Page will be the new CEO of Google.

“In this new role I know he will merge Google’s technology and business vision brilliantly,” wrote Schmidt. “I am enormously proud of my last decade as CEO, and I am certain that the next 10 years under Larry will be even better!”

The announcement came as part of the company’s new earnings announcements. Google reported revenues of $8.44 billion for the quarter that ended in December, an increase of 26 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2009. They ended the year with a net profit of $2.54 billion.

In other shakeup news, Hewlett-Packard announced that ex-eBay chief Meg Whitman will be joining its board of directors.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Verizon to Challenge FCC Order on Net Neutrality

Photo Courtesy - Pierce Promotions(WASHINGTON) – Communications provider Verizon Wireless Thursday filed an appeal on an FCC decision regarding net neutrality.

”We are deeply concerned by the FCC's assertion of broad authority for sweeping new regulation of broadband networks and the Internet itself, said Michael Glover, Verizon’s senior vice president and deputy general counsel. “We believe this assertion of authority goes well beyond any authority provided by Congress, and creates uncertainty for the communications industry, innovators, investors and consumers."
The FCC order from 2010 would allow for consumers to have a transparent look into how networks are managed and make it illegal for providers to block content and apps or limit devices and services, among other restrictions.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Baby Boomers Not Optimistic About Retirement

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y.) – A new poll suggests that a majority of Baby Boomers expect to have a less comfortable retirement than previous generations.

The Marist Poll found that 54 percent of Baby Boomers, who will turn 65 this year, believe their post-retirement life will be less comfortable than those who came before them.

Their outlook for the future is far bleaker than it was when they were 18. According to the poll, 40 percent of Baby Boomers had hopes that there would be a cure for cancer by this stage in their lives. When they were 18, 40 percent had believed world hunger would have come to an end by now. Eighteen percent believed that there would have been an end to war by the time they retired.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study Finds Dirty Stores Will Lead Customers Out the Door

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CINCINNATI) -- It could be anything from a dirty bathroom to a smudged window that might lead a customer out of a store, never to return, a new study found on Thursday. The results of a Cintas Corporation survey show that 99 percent of adults in the United States said that any issues of cleanliness in a store with negatively affect their perception of that retailer.

The top issue that would negatively impact a shopper's perception of a store was a dirty bathroom, which 95 percent of people put as their top gripe. Second was an unpleasant odor, and rounding out the top three was poor customer service.

The other items on the list of issues with stores were dirty floors, dirty shopping carts, poor staff appearance, spills or stains, and dirty glass and windows, in that order.

“The retail industry is exceptionally competitive, so retailers must provide a pleasant shopping experience to attract and maintain loyal shoppers,” said Mike Thompson, Senior Vice President, Cintas Facility Services. “This research affirms that maintaining a clean retail environment can significantly impact the success of a retail operation.”

With budget and staffing cutbacks at many retail operations, trying to keep up with cleanliness at a store, let alone customer service and keeping the shelves stocked, may prove to be more and more difficult. Whichever companies can stay the cleanest may have the best shot at retaining a high volume of customers.

“If shoppers are unsatisfied with the cleanliness of a retail store, they will take their business elsewhere,” added Dave Mesko, Senior Director of Marketing with Cintas.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


December Home Sales Hit Milestone Pace

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sales of previously-owned homes hit  a milestone pace in December, providing a bit of good news to end a year in real estate that’s been short on positives.

The National Association of Realtors says people purchased existing homes at an annual pace of 5.28 million units. It’s the first time the pace has been above the five million mark since the government’s tax incentive program ended in June.

Economists were surprised by the strong sales of homes in December; they’d been expecting sales at around a 4.8-million-unit pace.

Some experts say a recent uptick in mortgage rates might be pushing some buyers to move quicker than they expected to so they can lock in lower interest rates.

About 4.9 million existing homes were sold during the 2010 calendar year. That’s the lowest number of annual sales since 1997 and is about five percent fewer homes sold than 2009. Housing analysts say the expiration of the Federal government’s tax credit program for home purchases slowed things down in 2010.

But December’s strong performance is giving people confidence that the housing market might stabilize in the next year.

“The December pace is near the volume we’re expecting for 2011, so the market is getting much closer to an adequate, sustainable level,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the realtors group. “The recovery will likely continue as job growth gains momentum and rising rents encourage more renters into ownership while exceptional affordability conditions remain.”

The median price of a home sold in December was $168,800, down one percent from the price a year ago.

Prices will likely start showing a little stability in the next few months as the supply of homes for sale is ticking lower. Realtors say there were 3.6 million “For Sale” signs on yards at the end of December. That’s 8.1 months supply given the current pace of sales and is getting really close to the six month supply economists say we need to see to get historically normal home price appreciation.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Is It A Hoax? YouTube Sensation Gets $1 Million 

Photo Courtesy - You Tube(NEW YORK) -- Craig Rowin, a mild-mannered 27-year-old who has humored his friends for years, has become the latest Internet sensation by asking some of the richest Americans to "Give Me One Million Dollars."

Two months ago Rowin -- a comedian with the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York City – posted a plea for cash on YouTube. "Just give me a chunk," he implored, checking off names of some of the richest Americans.

On Thursday, in another video, he said he found a benefactor and has produced a notarized letter from that millionaire's lawyer.

Just because Rowin asked -- and for no particular reason.

Why does he want the money? "It would be awesome," said Rowin.

What will he do with the money? "I might go on a trip," he said.

Rowin said he received a phone call from the would-be philanthropist:

"Hi Craig, Benjamin, I was hoping to catch you in person," the caller said. "I want to talk about how to make you a millionaire."

Rowin has said he will reveal the man's last name when he collects the check at a Feb. 2 performance of the Upright Citizens Brigade in Manhattan.

The videos have already gotten 53,000 hits -- and climbing -- on YouTube.

"It still hasn't sunk in yet," said Rowin, who had made a personal plea to Steven Spielberg, Warren Buffet and even the Chilean coalminers who he assumed had culled book deals.

"And if you are unable, sorry," he said, checking off the names of potential donors. "You guys are all heroes."

Rowin, who for full disclosure worked as a film editor for, told us, "Today is crazy."

Media outlets -- from local newspapers to Canada -- were hounding the low-key comedian today for interviews.

He insists the videos are not stunts, but longtime friends say they can't be sure.

"It's ridiculous, it can't be true," said Terry Nicol, a 29-year-old engineer from Philadelphia who follows Rowin's comedy. "But I don't want to mess up anything for him."

Nicol said he had seen the YouTube video posted on Facebook Wednesday night, "but I woke up a Philadelphia sports blog and there it was. Then all the other Internet sites had stories with hundreds of comments. "

Nicol, who has followed the comedian's career since he was in an improv group at Connecticut Colleges, said Rowin is "one of the funniest people I know."

"He has a nonchalant humor and is pretty deadpan and always has a two-day growth of beard," he said. "He's also a really sweet guy. I am really happy for him that he has gotten so popular."

"It's not surprising it would eventually come to this," said the friend. "But what is going to be his punch line? I can't figure that out."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Walmart to Introduce Healthier Packaged Food at Stores

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Walmart is expected to announce a plan Thursday that will reduce the amount of fat, sugar and salt in its packaged foods, according to The Washington Post.

The retailer's proposal stemmed from discussions it had with first lady Michelle Obama, a known advocate of eating healthy and reducing childhood obesity.  The first lady, who backs the company's initiative, will be in attendance when the announcement is made in Washington, D.C.

Under the plan, thousands of foods will have to reduce sodium, added sugars and trans fats.

"No family should have to choose between food that is healthier for them and food they can afford," Walmart President and CEO Bill Simon said in a statement posted on the company's website.

As part of the healthy iniative, Walmart is also planning to drop prices on fruits and vegetables. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Jobless Claims Drop by 37,000

Photo Courtesy - Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- After going up for two weeks, claims for unemployment benefits dropped for the week ending Jan. 15, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The number of people filing for jobless benefits decreased to 404,000, marking a drop of 37,000 claims from the previous week's total of 441,000.

The four-week average also came down to 411,750, a decrease of 4,000 from the previous average of 415,750.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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