Cramer vs. Ritter
Regions Financial Corp.'s CEO got unwanted attention this week.CNBC personality Jim Cramer on Monday night added Dowd Ritter to his "Wall of Shame" for substandard executives, while suggesting on his program, "Mad Money," that the $142 billion-asset Birmingham, Ala., company would be better off if Ritter retired. Cramer also called on Sheila Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., to put Ritter under more scrutiny.
"How bad do I think this man is?" Cramer railed in his typical showman fashion, noting that the company's stock price has fallen 89% since Regions Financial bought AmSouth Bancorp in November 2006. Ritter, who led AmSouth, took over as chief executive at Regions. The company was also required by the Treasury Department to raise $2.5 billion after its government stress test.
"It is nothing personal," Cramer continued, pacing in front of his wall of infamy. "He reminds me of the banker in Monopoly who gives money away. … There are so many bad loans on the company's books that I almost think it was going out of its way to make loans to people who couldn't pay them.
"If I were you, I wouldn't touch this stock with a 10-foot pole as long as Dowd Ritter is in charge."
A Regions spokesman would not comment.
Cramer, a former hedge fund manager whose expertise has been questioned in recent months, has a checkered record when adding executives to his wall.
On Sept. 29 he added Wachovia Corp. CEO Bob Steel after the company's near collapse and hurriedly arranged sale of its bank to Citigroup Inc. Just two weeks earlier, Cramer had had Steel on the show and vigorously urged investors to buy the stock.
"I should put myself in the annex," Cramer later lamented to viewers.
He reversed his position again in October, removing Steel from the wall when he managed to sell the entire company to Wells Fargo & Co., salvaging greater shareholder value.
John Allison marches on with a message of free markets in the face of unprecedented government intervention.BB&T Corp., the company he led for nearly two decades before retiring as CEO last year, this week made a $500,000 donation to Queens University in Charlotte to create a program to study the "moral and philosophical foundations of capitalism." Allison, who remains BB&T's chairman, is devoting more time to the foundation behind such donations.
"There is overwhelming evidence that capitalism produces a higher economic standard of living," Allison wrote in a letter to the college's president.
"However, capitalism is perceived to be either amoral or immoral," he continued. "How can an immoral economic system produce a better outcome? We believe there needs to be a deeper understanding of the morality of capitalism."
Capitalism studies often focus on the writings of Ayn Rand, an advocate of individualism and laissez-faire capitalism. The foundation's initiative has drawn some criticism as corporate interference in academics, but Allison last year said it only introduces the program after an invitation from a professor.
"We'd never invest in a program if no one wanted to teach it," he said. "This resistance is coming from the left wing in academia that doesn't want pro-capitalism taught in universities."
Allison, meanwhile, is preparing to take his own academic post, joining the faculty at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., where BB&T is based.
Steve Reinemund, a former PepsiCo chairman and CEO who last year became dean of Wake Forest's business school, said last week that Allison has opened a campus office and appears "excited" as his professorial debut nears.
A Hedge Fund Exit
Henry Swieca, the co-founder of Highbridge Capital Management LLC, is leaving the hedge fund he founded with a childhood friend in order to complete its deal with JPMorgan Chase & Co.Swieca is stepping down as the fund's chief investment officer after JPMorgan Chase announced that it would expand its stake to 100%, from 77.5%, of the New York firm, according to the banking company spokeswoman Mary Sedarat.
Swieca, 51, co-founded Highbridge Capital Management in 1992 with Glenn Dubin. They sold a majority stake in the company to JPMorgan Chase in 2004, saying at the time that they planned to stay on for five years.
Dubin remains CEO.
Swieca is expected to pursue other opportunities in financial services.