National Lampoon Inc.
, which owns a stake in the old John Belushi comedy
, among other movies, including the
series starring Chevy Chase, is a publicly traded firm.
Or was, until yesterday, when the Securities and Exchange Commission suspended trading in Los Angeles-based National Lampoon (it was below $1 a share) and accused chief executive officer Daniel Laikin of stock manipulation.
Who'd buy a stock like that, when so many blue chips are available at a discount?
State government in Trenton. According to securities filings, National Lampoon's largest outside stockholder, besides Laikin and his fellow insiders, is the New Jersey Division of Investments, which runs the state's public worker pension funds.
"We have a diversified portfolio," and National Lampoon is one of the "micro" companies New
Jersey has salted among its blue-chip stocks, bonds, real estate and hedge funds, state Treasury Department spokesman Tom Vincz told me.
Vincz said New Jersey's Lampoon holdings - 270,000 shares, worth about $200,000 - don't amount to much in the state's $60 billion pension portfolio.
But if it can't do much harm, it can't do much good.
Laikin had no comment on his case, said National Lampoon spokeswoman Marcy Goot.
Reporters and investors are scrambling to count all the European banks, U.S. hedge funds, and Jewish charities that lost money to former Nasdaq stock market chairman Bernard Madoff's $50 billion Ponzi scheme.
One of the places they're turning is InvestorForce Inc., Wayne, whose software offers online reports of complex client investments.
Chief executive Jim Morrissey says InvestorForce's client base has doubled, to cover 1,000 investment funds worth $2.5 trillion, from 500 funds worth $1 trillion a year ago. He says his workforce has grown to 35, from 28 a year ago.
Especially since Lehman Bros. Holdings Inc. failed and the stock market collapsed in September, "plans and their consultants are scrambling" to understand their daily exposure to AIG, Madoff and other storms. "They all want to know, 'What kind of exposure do I have today?' " Morrissey said.
I asked Morrissey to predict what'll happen to hedge funds, which avant-garde buyers like Pennsylvania's state pension fund and Harvard's endowment bought in large quantities, in hopes of avoiding a stock market plunge.
"There's going to be a big fundamental challenge: They earn no performance-based fees unless you achieve performance return," Morrissey told me. "If you're down 25 percent, you have to work your way back up to that" before you get paid.
"Given the expense to run a solid organization, a lot of these guys are going to fold."
Smart Business Advisory & Consulting L.L.C., Devon, is one of the regional U.S. accounting firms that benefited from the federal Sarbanes-Oxley Act, enacted six years ago.
The law forced big corporations to avoid conflicts of interest - actual or apparent. That meant diversifying their list of auditors, accountants and advisers, so consultants weren't passing judgment on their own recommendations.
Yesterday, Smart Business tapped Steve Samek, the chief executive of a larger firm, Chicago-based UHY Advisors Inc., to head its 600 employees and $100 million in yearly billings. Samek took the job four months after founder Jim Smart said he was retiring from day-to-day operations after 20 years.
Samek said we've got to stop calling Smart Business a local firm. "We have offices in London, Amsterdam, New York, Chicago," and eight other cities. Since 2005, the company says, it has done work for more than half the Fortune 200.
He says Smart will keep its Devon base, but he'll spend a lot of time in Chicago and other towns "where our clients are."