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"We just received a message from Saddam Hussein. The good news is that he's willing to have his nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons counted. The bad news is, he wants Arthur Andersen to do it." -- President Bush Through tears, Linda Lay told viewers of the Today show that her husband, Ken, did nothing wrong in the collapse of Enron. "Never, never, not for one second would he have allowed anything to go on that was illegal," she said in the Jan. 28 broadcast. "There are some things he wasn't told."
But could the interview actually hurt her spouse in court? Legal experts say there's a chance that Linda's decision to talk about Ken's role in the Enron debacle may have caused them to partially waive something called "marital privilege." That's the law giving couples the right not to testify about private confidences.
Because Linda shared Ken's thoughts with a national TV audience, a judge may conclude that he never intended them to be confidential, says Harvard Law School's Alan Dershowitz. "You can't turn on the faucet and then turn it off at will."
As a result, she risks being compelled to tell a civil jury other things Ken said to her as Enron was sliding toward bankruptcy. But all is not lost. She probably couldn't be compelled to testify in criminal court, where standards are higher. Was the Bush administration too cozy with Enron and the oil industry when it devised its energy plan? Vice-President Dick Cheney says no--that the Administration included views from environmental groups as well. "Look at the Sierra Club," he claimed on CNN on Jan. 28. "They had an energy policy that had 12 recommendations in it; 11 found their way into our report."
But just ask the executive director of the Sierra Club, Carl Pope, what he thinks of that statement. "It's not true," says Pope, who found only one of his recommendations there. "Their plan went in the opposite direction of our recommendations."
The Sierra Club recommendations included increasing gas-mileage standards by more than 50%, to 40 mpg, for cars and SUVs, and certain tax incentives for energy-efficient buildings and solar power. It also asked for tighter air-pollution controls on power plants.
None of those is in the Bush plan. Interestingly, the only one that did make it had to do with maximizing production from existing oil wells.
So why is Cheney saying this? "He likes to bring the Sierra Club out of the closet and say how much he agrees with us when he thinks he's in trouble," says Pope. "I assume he thinks he's in real trouble." The Vice-President's office did not respond to calls seeking comment. Poor masters of the universe. After giving themselves average raises of 14% in 2000, Wall Street's CEOs will find, when proxy statements are tallied by March, that they've taken a 45% cut in 2001, according to estimates from compensation con- sultant Johnson Associates.
Yet in percentage terms, chief execs are faring better than some of their Street underlings. Even though employees overall are earning 30% less on average, managing directors are taking a 55% cut in bonuses, restricted stock, and options, according to the same estimates. Still, it's probably easier for a managing director earning $4 million to get by on a mere $1.8 million than for beginning associates (absorbing a 20% cut) who used to earn $150,000 to now pull in $120,000--especially when a greater proportion of their pay is now likely to be in options as investment banks try to save cash.
Things could get even worse if companies fire more workers in another round anticipated in March. Says Salomon Smith Barney financial services analyst Guy Moszkowski: "It's not really clear what employment alternatives people have at this point." These days, even part of a salary beats nothing at all. Last year, like most investors, university endowments lost money. Their get-well strategy: shift more of their $400 billion in assets away from publicly traded stocks and into riskier investments such as hedge funds and venture capital.
Big, multibillion-dollar endowments, including those at Notre Dame and Vanderbilt universities, have been increasing alternative investments over the past five years, investment officers say. Now, smaller endowments in the $500 million to $1 billion range are doing it, too. Ohio State University, for example, plans to double, to 15%, the part of its $1 billion endowment in venture-capital funds and in small local companies by the end of this year, says Assistant Treasurer Pranab Bhattachary.
Large endowments typically have much better returns than smaller ones (chart), which they attribute to alternative investments. "It's very hard to beat the broader market with a plain-vanilla stock portfolio," says Scott Malpass, chief investment officer at Notre Dame, which has boosted the share of its $3 billion endowment invested in alternatives from 30% to 40% over the past five years.
The trend is likely to continue, according to an upcoming study from the Commonfund Institute, a research center. The average endowment currently has 26% of its assets in alternative investments. That, says Institute Director John Griswold Jr., is expected to jump to 35% in the next five years. Alternative investments, he says, "will creep into the smaller endowments as they get the message that this is a good thing." No exec in the world rivals Microsoft's Bill Gates when it comes to celebrity. So as Microsoft (MSFT
) jumps into the gaming world with its Xbox console, it wants to lure buyers with the chairman's global renown. When Xbox launches in Japan on Feb. 22, Microsoft will offer 50,000 limited editions ($306) that come with extras not available in the U.S. version, such as a black translucent case and an accessory for playing on high-definition TVs. But the gewgaw that Microsoft hopes will separate Xbox from rivals Sony (SNE
) and Nintendo (NTDOY
) on their home turf is a silver-plated key chain with Gates's engraved signature.
Japanese fans, it seems, can't get enough Bill. Market research found Tokyo consumers loved the key chain despite its low-tech nature. "Bill has a celebrity status in Japan," says John O'Rourke, director of Xbox sales and marketing. Witness Gates's appearance at the Toyko Game Show in January. As he walked the floor, he was mobbed by gamers eager to glimpse the world's wealthiest man. Now they can get his autograph, too. Parents across the U.S. may soon face growing laundry piles and emptier-than-usual refrigerators. An unprecedented number of college grads this year will be moving back in with Mom and Dad. A national survey of 3,000 college students by career Web site Monster.com found 60% plan to head home after graduation, vs. 56% last year. The jobless rate for 20- to 24-year-olds is 9.6%, nearly double the national average.
One boomerang kid, Cornell University senior Jaret Posmentier, plans to sack out at his parents' house in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., 45 minutes north of New York City. His goal: find a job in television production, save up some money, and move into the city after that. What do his parents think about his impending return? Says Posmentier: "They're looking forward to having me back. But we'll see after a year or so how excited they still are."