Raising a Smile

Recent seismic shifts in the financial landscape have made heads spin on Wall Street, but one analyst suggests there's another way to view the changes.On Tuesday, Bob Patten an analyst at Regions Financial Corp.'s Morgan Keegan & Co. issued a tongue-in-cheek "report," comparing the fast-changing financial scene to college basketball's "March Madness."

Mr. Patten issued a sheet with mock competitive brackets, asking investors to pick who they thought would emerge victorious when the dust settles.

Notable pairings to date include Citigroup Inc.'s "victory" over Wachovia Corp. and Bank of America Corp.'s "triumph" over Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. JPMorgan Chase & Co., meanwhile, has advanced through the brackets with successive "wins" over Bear Stearns Cos. and Washington Mutual Inc.

In an interview Wednesday, against a backdrop of intense market volatility, Mr. Patten said he felt he had "to make an effort" to find some humor in order to survive the turmoil.



Wall of Shame

As Wachovia Corp.'s struggling banking arm fled into the arms of Citigroup Inc. this week, CNBC personality Jim Cramer felt compelled to issue a mea culpa.On Monday as the deal was announced, Mr. Cramer lamented his recent ardent support of Wachovia and Bob Steel, the company's chief executive.

The former hedge fund manager went the extra step of adding Mr. Steel to his "Wall of Shame" for substandard executives.

In recent weeks, Mr. Cramer had promoted the Charlotte company as one investors should flock to. On Sept. 15 he hosted Mr. Steel on his program "Mad Money," where the CEO touted Wachovia's resiliency. "We're working through this, and we're making progress," Mr. Steel said at one point.

He also said that Wachovia would "have a great future as an independent company," though he quickly noted that its management and board would "do what's right for shareholders, I can promise you that." By Monday, Wachovia had agreed to divest its bank to Citigroup, and its stock cratered 83% from where it had traded before Mr. Steel's television appearance.

During Monday's broadcast, Mr. Cramer told his audience, "I let you down because I wasn't skeptical enough." He added, "I have to put my friend Bob Steel on the Wall of Shame. I should put myself in the annex."

A Wachovia spokeswoman said: "When Mr. Steel appeared on Mr. Cramer's show, he gave the company's best current analysis and his own honest opinions. He believed everything he said on the program, and it was consistent with prior disclosures about the portfolios. As is well known, however, the world changed dramatically in the two weeks after that television appearance, and Mr. Steel had no choice but to act accordingly."

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