Lifestyle

Winners & Losers: Who's up, who's down

Jim Flaherty, Dollarama, Polaroid, Silvio Berlusconi and more.

? Wall Street execs
Finance

Gordon Gekko would be proud. Stock prices in the U.S. have not recovered to pre-meltdown levels. And Uncle Sam’s pay czar, Kenneth Feinberg, is attempting to limit bonuses in the financial sector, asking tax-supported companies like American International Group to reduce staff retention payouts. But compensation on Wall Street is still soaring to new heights. To date, Goldman Sachs has set aside about US$16.7 billion for bonuses, putting the investment bank on track to pay a record US$20 billion in 2009. Over at JP Morgan Chase, the bonus pool sits at US$8.78 billion for the first three quarters of 2009, compared with US$6.5 billion last year. When it comes to rewarding U.S. bankers, the only bad news appears to be that Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis will not get a 2009 bonus or any pay for the rest the year. In fact, if Feinberg gets his way, Lewis will even have to pay back the US$1 million he took home earlier this year. But the outgoing B of A boss isn’t going to be eating cat food after he leaves his post at the end of 2009, since he’ll walk away with retirement benefits worth about US$55 million, plus company stock worth tens of millions more.

? Gaza ‘investors’
Smuggling

Thousands of Gaza Strip residents have been taken by swindlers. Victims claim they invested in underground smuggling tunnels used to ship goods from Egypt into Gaza. (Estimates suggest there are hundreds of such conduits, transporting everything from goats to women’s underwear to rockets.) However, promised monthly dividends and principal vanished. The alleged frauds are clouded by an almost total lack of transparency, but loss estimates reach hundreds of millions of dollars.

? The loonie
Economy

The Canadian dollar neared par value with the greenback this month, fuelled in part by the rising prices for commodities, such as crude oil, and speculation the Bank of Canada will increase interest rates. The last time the currencies were of equal value was September 2007.

? Church of England
Religion

Hedge funds are not everyone’s cup of tea, but Church of England officials bless the way they make money. Indeed, despite the role unregulated pools of money played in the recent global financial meltdown, Church commissioners, who want to remain free to maximize returns on their multibillion-dollar investments, are preaching against a new European Union directive designed to limit the way hedge funds operate.

? Chicago Cubs
Baseball

On Oct. 12, the iconic Chicago Cubs baseball team filed for bankruptcy. It should come as no surprise: its parent company Tribune Co., also owner of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, filed for Chapter 11 last December, making it only a matter of time before the club’s number was up. The bankruptcy is a part of a planned sale of the team to the billionaire Ricketts family.

? Wall Street Journal
Media

With newspapers closing on what seems like a daily basis, even a modest circulation gain is reason to break out the party hats. Staff at The Wall Street Journal likely did just that this month: the business broadsheet is now the top-selling daily in the country, eclipsing long-reigning champ USA Today.

? Thailand
Finance

Thailand’s benchmark stock index dove more than 8% after rumours surrounding 81-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s month-long hospitalization caused investors to panic. Bhumibol, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, is a heavy moral influence on the volatile Thai government, and the uncertainty surrounding his succession was enough to trigger the decline. Two days later, upon an announcement from the princess that the king was recuperating, stocks recovered by 3.5%.

? Canadian banks
Finance

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has told Canadian banks to stop marketing insurance products on their websites, and is expected to pass legislation prohibiting the practice. Banks in Canada are already forbidden from promoting insurance services in their branches. The Canadian Bankers Association was outraged at the news, stating in a release that Flaherty acted without bothering to consult the industry.

? Dollarama
Retail

Dollarama can apparently sell more than just plastic cups and other items for a buck. The Montreal-based company sold a quarter ownership in its 585-store chain for roughly $300 million through an IPO, despite posting a $15.5-million loss in its most recent fiscal year. The deal gave Dollarama a total market value of more than $1 billion.

? Silvio Berlusconi
Politics

After a difficult year of sex scandals and a very public quarrel with his wife, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was dealt another blow when Italy’s top court overturned a law granting him immunity from prosecution while holding office. The decision leaves Berlusconi vulnerable to a number of court cases, one stemming from 2007, in which he stands accused of corruption. Defiant in the face of the charges, the 73-year-old is refusing to step down as prime minister and has referred tohimself as “without doubt the person who’s been the most persecuted in the entire history of the world and the history of man.”

? Vincent Lacroix
Finance

The mastermind behind one of Canada’s largest financial frauds has been sentenced to 13 years in prison after swindling 9,200 investors out of more than $100 million. Vincent Lacroix, former head of Norbourg Asset Management in Quebec, pleaded guilty to nearly 200 fraud charges earlier this year after an investigation launched in 2005 found millions missing from Norbourg’s funds. Lacroix will be eligible for early release in 2011.

? U.S. CoC
Commerce

Four major corporations, including Apple, have left the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over its opposition to climate change legislation in the Senate. Nike bailed from its board of directors for the same reason. Chamber president Tom Donohue said the defections are part of an “orchestrated pressure campaign” from environmentalists. In a further embarrassment, the group was a victim of a hoax when pranksters posing as the chamber issued a press release stating it now supported the legislation.

? Polaroid
Manufacturing

Just days after the last remaining batch of Polaroid film was set to pass its “use by” date, Summit Global announced it would be relaunching the original Polaroid One Camera in 2010. New batches of the popular instant film will also be manufactured at the same time, delighting artists and photo enthusiasts everywhere.