Soaring With Vultures. The Criminal Twins.

The Criminal TwinsGraphic, STOCKjAW banne, Quality View


shock and back-turning outrage merely quint now?  Does a history of criminal antics put you off?  Haven’t we seen it all, including fraud so vastly sweeping it’s visible from space? But then, think about it. America sports a spectacular spider’s web of laws so dense that even a Popsicle stand would violate something.  Right?


All of the above being true, no excuse exists for the Criminal Twins. The Twins are the recidivists we’ve chosen to embrace, in these uncertain times. Why? For one, they pay. They’re not perfect, yet finding something that works in this market is good, regardless of their rap sheets. And as we said–they pay. Are these corporate repeat offenders still a buy here?  Enjoy. “Soaring With Vultures. The Criminal Twins.”  



World Com CEO Bernard Ebbers
A tie blowing in an ill wind. Who remembers Bernie Ebbers? In his prime Bernie was larger-than-life, straight out of Canada, and Pattonesque. Ebbers drove telecoms firm WorldCom to the heights and directly into an infamous financial fraud-riddled ruin. Ebbers was back in the news last week, now wizened, enfeebled, and again on the court’s docket, this time for a potential early release from federal custody.


about this?  There’s a death cross party underway.  No?  Everybody’s doing it.  The infamous “Death Cross” is one of the nastiest technical indicators we have.  That’s when a stock’s 50-day moving average crosses below it’s 200-day.  Oops.  Technicians call that the “Kiss of Death.”  Ford went first in mid-August, and then ETSY slid beneath the waves in early September.  After that Amazon submarined just below a flattish 200-day in mid-October.  What’s not to love?


Understanding that your stock’s crossed the double-yellow is news.  You wanna know that.  But is it pivotal to know the specific economic metrics of individual political districts?  Clear, unequivocal answer.  No.


  Hulu just announced their second price increase this year, up from $44.99 a month.  Is that important?  Do you own Disney?  They jacked the price to $54.99, or 22.2%. in a single unsightly stoke.  That’s important if you own DIS, or any other media player, like AT&T.  And?  Disney launched Plus and signed up more than 10 million subscribers on day one.  And, their long-awaited streaming service bogged down almost immediately.



Disney Plus
The new Disney package is, well packed. The talk says DIS intends to, well pack it, with their best content, at the expense of the long-lived Disney Channel, yet living on cable. No doubt Disney is one of the heaviest heavy weights in the streaming wars. The only thing missing is live sports, which remain on ESPN–again cable.


all good yo.  It’ll come out in the wash.  What?  Upon going live the sparkling new Disney flagship service promptly displayed dark error messages.  And, just after that, thousands found their accounts hijacked.  And, what’d the street say?  All good yo.  It’s a meaningless glitch in a fabulous launch.  And time will prove them correct.


All of the above qualifies as worth knowing, again particularly if you own Disney(DIS).  All qualify as legitimate news for shareholders.  What doesn’t?  Yet another late and worthless price target adjustment, or another pointless takeover rumor.  The shares we buy rely on the success of the companies they represent.  What that company does, and what happens to them, are both news for savvy shareholders.


When you buy shares you’re sharing the same ride, in the same vehicle.  AT&T was downgraded to a “Sell” last week.  T shares promptly dumped nearly 4% of their value.  That’s news.  For investors rumors over Randall Stephenson considering venting off Direct TV really isn’t, regardless of the media’s attempt to sell it as such.  News is when AT&T reports such a move, which they haven’t.   T’s one of our “Criminal Twins.”  Who else? 



Wells Fargo ad, criminal
Bank shares have enjoyed a nice recent surge. For the vast majority of this year they’ve simply played dead, due to abnormally low rates. Yet low rates mean affordable mortgages. That’s what Wells does. Yet defrauding over 3.5 million Americans leaves a stain. In fact, no one really knows if the rotten corporate culture which gave rise to that sprawling fraud has changed.


is now rocking steady.  Their share price has been running like some giddy bank robber.  Seems right, as WFC has strictly abided by the criminal way for years, so long in fact that they operate only under the direct supervision of the Federal Banking Commission.  Wells is a bank the feds won’t let off the lead.  Unless something’s changed in the last few months, Wells Fargo is yet prohibited from expanding beyond a certain asset size.  Nonetheless, shares are now trading at $54.28, only 1.4% off their 52-week high set last December.  Wow.  That’s part of why we’re thinking Wells.


And despite the recent run WFC pays a fairly fat dividend, and yet remains fairly reasonably priced.  We feel fortunate to have gotten it at $49.29, putting us 10.1% up now.  On our cost basis Wells yet pays the very same yield of 4.15%.  And what does the price action look like? 


Chart, WFC, 11-22-19
Sj bought WFC 10% ago. It was cheap then and paid 4.15%. Now it pays 3.76%, due to share price appreciation. Wells is attempting to rebuild a reputation shredded by breathtaking fraud. A shiny new CEO is central to their plan. Residential mortgages comprise the core of their business. They gutted that business by firing thousands of employees working in their mortgage wing. Now they’re scrambling to rebuild that business, not just with people but also experience and talent(SJChart.)


job of the savvy investor seems never done.  Knowing where to focus our attention  helps.  We sleep soundly the instant regional fed heads speak.  But we pay attention when financial media interpret the Chairman of the Federal Reserve’s FOMC comments, the first time.  However, We don’t listen to her/him directly.  How much highly calibrated and stylized fed speak can one take?  Fed speak is sanitized and scripted to not panic.  There are limits to how many times one can listen to hyper-bland ass-covering comments such as–“We watching the data closely.”  Besides, the condensed version will sweep the airwaves repeatedly.  Why cover this?  Because less is more.  Tighter focus on what matters creates greater clarity.


News is business and it’s your time.  “News product” is like “cheese product.”  No investor benefits from listening to rambling speculation concerning the fed’s possible next move.  No individual investor benefits from sprawling opinion concerning the next potential Chinese trade tactic.  David Fabor’s an informed intelligent man, yet watch out when he gets lost in merger maundering, or media speculation.  Stock picks are fun.  People pretending they have a clue about market direction in 2020 is absurd.  If they did they won’t need to be on television.  The only thing more absurd is consuming such.



AT&T, nashville-1624093_1920
The rotation to safety earlier this year sucked AT&T up from the $29.00 level. Huge dividends have a way of doing that, even when the underlying company’s chaotic and debt-ridden. AT&T building, Nashville.


Tuesday Moffett Nathanson downgraded T to a “Sell.”  What does the report say?  “Stretched valuation and thus a less compelling dividend, particularly relative to the 10-year.”  T now yield’s 5.43%.  The 10-year U.S. treasury yields less than 2%, less then the majority of current inflation estimates.  Is that compelling?  Moffett N’s PT for T has lagged the actual stock performance since they upgraded it to neutral long ago.  Their rating has been neutral during T’s entire 39% share price appreciation this year.  How accurate is that?



Chart, T, 11-24-19
T’s far from perfect. It’s s more expensive by a third now, even as it is cheaper than the S&P on a forward P/E basis. It deserves to be. Debt is too high and all it’s businesses are challenged. We view it as operations too sprawling and complicated to manage efficiently. At $36 we’d see it as attractive once again. All things being equal, at $35.25 we’d add to our position(SJChart.)


offers scads to hate.  We claimed a chunk for four reasons.  It was affordable, recession resistant, offers a measure of large cap safety, and their fat payout.   Few are as large or pay as much.  Moffett’s criticisms makes sense to us.  T’s entertainment and pay TV efforts are both questionable competitors.



HBO’s been in the business since 1972. Most know HBO began as an add-on to cable, showing the content of others. They now can claim a host of highly acclaimed shows including Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, and Game of Thrones. Their services include HBO GO and HBO Now.


feel $14.99 is too much for HBO Max.  Many also feel Max will not prove capable of creating a subscriber base large enough to make it pay substantially.  And pay TV?  Direct TV is venting subscribers at the rate of one hundred thousand plus each quarter.  The technology and fat bundle are antiquated, and the liner add-driven format increasingly diminished by SVOD.


At the right price the Criminal Twins of Wells Fargo and AT&T offer attractive reasons to own them.  Their dividends are nice, even though T’s is now highly questionable at a payout ratio of 95.6%.  Wells comes in at a sustainable 40%.  Large caps can offer some safety in uncertain times, like now.  Despite very low interest rates, and their sullied reputation, Wells’ mortgage business could again provide recession resistant very moderate growth.  And who dumps their phone regardless?  


Investing’s a tough job, if one actually cares about the money they chuck into the market.  There is always something more to look at, or know.  Yet limits exist.  Living is the point, not simply researching.  Like Facebook, the business of the media is engagement.  The business of investing is knowing.  The information economy in general is voracious and doesn’t give a damn about the well-being of its’ audience.  Each refers to consumers as “users.”  What does that tell us?   As always, good luck and good investing.



The Investing Journey

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Thanks for Reading.


Images sourced from Pixabay. is simply amazing–a sprawling compendium of joy.  Thank you Pixabay.  If you also know love and use Pixabay’s lavish resource, please take time to donate to them at  We do, truly.

Additional resources:  Seriously Wonderful.  Fact.
Charles Schwab.  In Our Opinion, the best broker going.
Be careful.  Do the work.  Have patience, with yourself.  Never put your dreams away.




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