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

Goldman Sachs, Oprah, Palm, CIBC and more.

?Goldman Sachs

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is suing investment bank Goldman Sachs for securities fraud. According to its complaint, in 2007 Goldman created and sold an investment vehicle called Abacus 2007-AC1, which contained sub-prime mortgage-backed securities. What Goldman didn’t tell its clients, the SEC claims, was that the securities were selected by hedge fund Paulson & Co., which paid Goldman US$15 million for structuring and selling Abacus. The SEC alleges that Goldman helped Paulson bet against those same securities, creating a conflict of interest. (Also charged was VP Fabrice Tourre, who allegedly had primary responsibility for the vehicle.) “By January 29, 2008, 99% of the portfolio had been downgraded,” the SEC claims — resulting in a US$1-billion loss for investors and a roughly equivalent gain for Paulson. Goldman’s shares lost 13% on news of the charges. The company called the allegations “completely unfounded,” and vowed to defend itself. The firm has in recent years battled perceptions that it conspired to gain from the financial crisis — perceptions that could, should they persist, seriously damage its relationships with government, clients and the public.


The U.S.-based pioneer of Internet bookselling has finally obtained permission from the federal government to open a warehouse in Canada. Amazon opened a Canadian division in 2002 but, owing to regulatory restrictions, was forced to distribute its product using a Canada Post subsidiary. Some Canadian booksellers opposed the approval, arguing it would harm independent shops and undermine cultural industries.


Palm is folding its hand. After watching market share tumble and losses climb, the maker of Palm Pre and Pix smartphones is seeking a buyer willing to take it out of the game for US$1.1 billion. In March, Canaccord cut its price target for Palm to zero, noting that the company had “roughly 12 months of cash on hand, an accelerating burn rate, a complete lack of earnings visibility, and substantial debt.”

?Peter Munk

Barrick Gold chairman Peter Munk and his wife, Melanie, donated an unprecedented $35-million gift to the University of Toronto to create the new Munk School of Global Affairs. Building on the foundation of the existing Munk Centre for International Studies, founded with help from the billionaire’s family 10 years ago, the new school aims to create an elite group of Canadian experts on globalization-related topics, ranging from water to cyber security.


The Ontario government said it plans to dramatically slash the price of generic drugs. Shares of Shoppers Drug Mart fell by more than $4 on the announcement. Shoppers contends it will have to shut down stores, cut staff and reduce operating hours to cope with lost revenue. Rexall and Pharma Plus stores in the province also said they will have to freeze hiring at corporate headquarters and chop programs for summer students and interns.

?Peter Bissonnette

Shaw Communications president Peter Bissonette recently called the service offered by new wireless provider Wind Mobile a “camel.” Wind is owned by Globalive, which is funded by Egyptians. After his remark was called a racial slur, Bissonette apologized, noting he didn’t intend to sound mean-spirited. “It could have been a coyote,” he said.

?Oprah Winfrey

The talk-show billionaire’s reputation appears untarnished, despite a new biography alleging teenage prostitution, lesbian affairs and mistreatment of her mother. Written by gossip maven Kitty Kelley, the book also claims Winfrey sent romantic gifts to Diane Sawyer. But experts told Ad Age that Winfrey has cultivated a “Teflon” brand. The book likely will be forgotten by the time Oprah’s cable channel launches next year.

?Eric Sprott

Admitting fault is rare among fund managers. But prominent bear Eric Sprott appeared on CNBC recently and — in addition to touting his gold fund — admitted that he’s been wrong on the direction of equities since March of 2009. His candor only bolstered his credibility.


Maine’s longtime affair with sardine canneries has finally come to an end. After a 135-year presence, Stinson Seafood, the last standing cannery in the coastal state, closed it doors on April 15. Production has been in decline since its peak in the 1950s, when a can of sardines was considered a staple in many a lunchbox.

?Twitter apps

Social-media platform Twitter unveiled its business model in April, announcing plans to internalize functions like link-shortening and photo-posting, dismaying third-party developers of products like and Twitpic, created to fill these demands.


The volume of freight moving across North America’s rails is almost at pre-recession levels. The number of carloads originating in Canada grew by 12.5% in the first 13 weeks of 2010. Individual companies also enjoyed growth, with Canadian National Railway seeing its volumes increase by 14.6% compared to 2009, while Canadian Pacific saw a boost of 9.1%.


The Canadian Federation of Independent Business scorned CIBC in an April report for having “the poorest in overall service” for micro-sized and small enterprises. The CFIB also called the bank “the biggest loser” of market share among such customers over the past two decades, down 48%. However, the bank got top marks for its service of medium sized (50 — 499 employees) enterprises.

?Alan Greenspan

Appearing before the U.S. Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission in April, the once-revered former Fed chairman was given another chance to accept some responsibility for the role he and his policies played in the onset of the Great Recession. Greenspan maintained he did nothing to cause the crisis, and could have done nothing to prevent it.

?Conan O’Brien

After walking away with a US$32-million settlement package earlier this year following his rift with NBC, Conan O’Brien announced his return to late-night programming starting this fall. O’Brien signed with U.S. cable network TBS on April 12.