December 1, 2011
John Levesque, David Volk, Sarah Dewey, Anthony Adragna & Karen West
Illustrations by Tom Richmond
If You Cant Stand the Heat…
Shortly after giving a roomful of journalists and stockbrokers a positive prognostication of his companys performance, COINSTAR CEO Paul Davis left the 28th annual Guess the Dow lunch at the Metropolitan Grill just as salads were being served. It didnt take the assemblage long to guess the reason for his early departure. Coinstar had just reported missing its fourth-quarter profit projections by a wide margin. D.V.
How Can We Say Goodbye if you Wont Go Away?
Washington Mutuals banks may have ceased to exist when Chase took over, but thats not the end of the story. The saga continued this year when WaMu executives avoided criminal charges in court. And in September, the federal bankruptcy judge overseeing the case rejected WaMus bankruptcy plan for the second time and ordered Chase and WaMu into mediation, saying she was concerned that the case will devolve into a litigation morass. Um, isnt it a bit late for that? D.V.
Entitlement is Habit Forming
Seems odd that a movement dedicated to taking on the gimme, gimme, gimme culture of Wall Street would be issuing demands of its own, but thats exactly what Occupy Seattle did in October when Mayor Mike McGinn suggested the demonstrators move from Westlake Park to City Hall Plaza. In exchange for switching locations, Occupy Seattle demanded, among other things, four large tents and a free parking spot (for supply purposes). Shortly after those demands were issued, it is assumed someone with a little more sense demanded that Occupy Seattle get a clue. J.L.
HALL OF SHAME
Here at Seattle Business magazine we have a Hall of Shame for people whove done things so despicable that wed almost prefer not to mention them if their acts werent so amusing, puzzling or flat out bizarre. This years inductees:
The Washington Mutual bankruptcy case may be complicated, but its nothing compared to the story of former Seattle developer Michael Mastros multimillion-dollar bankruptcy mess. Fortunately, the biggest battle in the ongoing story this year was easy to understand: It centered on his wifes enormous, uh, diamonds. Although a first bankruptcy judge ruled that two of Linda Mastros rings, valued at $1.4 million, were her exclusive property, the judge who took over the case ruled that the rings, one with a 27.8-carat diamond and the other sporting a more modest 15.93-carat pebble, were the property of Mastros creditors and ought to be turned over to the court. After the deadline for surrendering the miniature assets passed, the court discovered that the diamonds werent the only things missing. Turns out the Mastros were on the lam, too. D.V.
The Taxman Cometh
Jeffrey Greenstein and Charles Wilk of Quellos, a Seattle hedge fund group, were sentenced to 50 months in prison for a scam that cost the United States government $240 million in taxes in a single year. According to The Seattle Times, they did it by getting five individuals to invest in a tax shelter that relied on foreign companies to create more than $9 billion in fake losses to offset taxes owed on their real capital gains. The Times also quoted a U.S. attorney saying the amount would have been enough to buy a million schoolchildren a hot breakfast for a month. Rumor has it that the duo pitched the school lunch deal first, but got no takers. D.V.
They Have Insurance for That!
Comedian Gilbert Gottfried, the erstwhile voice of the Aflac duck, wasnt the only one who took a hit over his reaction to the tsunami in Japan. Microsofts search engine, Bing, took harsh criticism when it sent out a tweet saying it would contribute up to $100,000 for earthquake/tsunami relief by donating $1 for each time its message was retweeted. After receiving numerous angry responses about profiting from other peoples misery, Bing apologized and simply donated the money. D.V.
The company that brought you finallyfast.com, which sells diagnostic software designed to find shareware and other bugs slowing down your computer, was forced to pay the state $78,000 when it was discovered that the software always found bugs on computers even when there werent any. Not surprisingly, the company made most of its money by selling software to remove the bugs, often charging folks without their realizing it. D.V.
Whats Love Got to do With Ethics?
On July 20, Seattle Weekly published a story about Liysa Northon, an Oregon woman who is serving a 12-year sentence for murdering her husband in 2000. The writer of the piece, Rick Swart, made a compelling argument for Northons innocence, claiming among other things that true-crime author Ann Rule had distorted facts of the case in her book Heart Full of Lies. The following week, Seattle Weekly ran an unusual update, which stated, in part: In Swarts telling, Northons wife Liysa … was failed by her original lawyer, an overzealous district attorney, and Rule, who claimed that Liysa was not the battered wife shed portrayed herself to be, but rather a sociopath whod concocted tales of abuse as a justification for shooting her husband. What Swart failed to reveal to us is that hes now engaged to Liysa. When the Weekly asked Swart why he did not disclose this information, Swart reportedly replied: Its a freelance piece, first of all. Im selling you a product. So its not like youre my boss and you need to know my personal life. Gulp. J.L.
Welcome to Washington; we werent expecting you
Governor Christine Gregoires decision to close the states tourism office may have helped plug holes in the budget, but it also made Washington the only state in the country without a state-sponsored office working to attract tourists. Fortunately, the move shouldnt have much of an economic impact. Tourism is only the states fourth-largest industry and it brought in less than $15.3 billion in direct spending in 2010. And its not as if people confuse us with any other place. D.V.