Far West Capital June 2011 Newsletter

Do you know how to rain dance? Rain dances are performed to invoke rain to protect the harvest, and various interpretations of “rain dances” can be found in many agricultural or gardening cultures, from Ancient Egypt to certain Native American tribes. We are on the verge of one of the worst droughts in history. As it stands now, according to the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI), this is the third worst drought period in history behind 1918 and 1956. Should we all yell rain chants while spinning around in clockwise circles? Or maybe we should set a date for everyone to wash his/her car.

Consumer advocacy groups like the N.A.A.C.P.; National Council of La Raza, a Latino civil rights organization; and the American Bankers Association are joining together to fight rules they say could make home loans less affordable for minority and working-class Americans. They are pushing regulators to give low-income, first-time home buyers a special break. But in this post, Tom Brown, a top banking analysts, explains why says it’s a bad idea and how that view is what helped the housing blow-up in the first place.

After a 40-year struggle, including disagreements with numerous renowned directors and producers and despite time and resource limitations, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, argued as one of the most significant fictional works of the 20th century, has finally been brought to life.

The movie premiered in theaters on April 15, 2011 and had a strong, positive response from audiences. In 1992, Investor and Producer John Aglialoro gave more than $1 million for the rights to make the movie of Rand’s enormous novel, in which the world’s most brilliant and accomplished men and women go on strike against a system choking itself to death on statism and altruism. The production of the movie was delayed by broken deals and re-written screenplays until June 2010. Filming had to begin before June 13, 2010, the date Aglialoro’s movie rights were set to expire on, and they finished filming on July 20, 2010. Aglialoro hopes to film two more films for the 2nd and 3rd parts of the book in the next two years.

The message of the film, as Aglialoro describes it, is that you are not born to serve society, that government should just protect our life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, and that we are entitled to the fruits of our labor. Although Ayn Rand died before she could see the production of the movie, her characters and ideas live on in the movie and have given a wider audience a glimpse of the life-changing experience in her book.

You can watch the movie trailer here.

The bank failure tally is now at 368 with more on the way. The list of troubled banks stands at 888 and has grown every quarter. In addition to problem assets, bankers continue to fight margin compression. Spreads on total loans again turned negative in first quarter, which doesn’t build a good case for improved profitability.

Father’s Day is this coming Sunday, June 19. If you haven’t bought dad a gift yet, it’s not too late! Here are the top 10 gift ideas for dads.

  • Father’s Day Sporting Gifts – apparel, hats, jackets, sweatshirts, etc.
  • Tickets to Dad’s Favorite Sporting Event
  • Personalized Gifts from the Heart – homemade cookies or a cake, a certificate redeemable for his favorite dish or mowing the lawn, a nice card
  • All Things Technology – Kindle 3G, iPad, Nook, etc.
  • TomTom XXL 540TM 5-Inch Widescreen Portable GPS Navigator
  • Samsung LN46C650 46-Inch 1080p 120 Hz LCF HDTV
  • Fossil Men’s FS4156 Stainless Steel Bracelet Black Analog Dial Watch
  • No Limit Father’s Day Gift Basket Happy Father’s Day Gift Idea for Him
  • Denali 115-Piece Home Repair Tool Kit
  • An incredibly Comfortable Pair of Crocs

A new Texas law may start attracting more businesses to Texas. Governor Perry signed the 2011 Omnibus Tort Reform Act on May 30th. It includes a “loser-pays” provision that requires plaintiffs to pay the winners’ legal costs in civil suits seeking punitive damages. In addition to the loser-pays provision, the new law:

  • Allows a trial judge to send a question of law directly to the appellate court without requiring all parties to agree if a ruling by a court of appeals could decide the case
  • Allows plaintiffs seeking less than $100,000 in damages to request an expedited civil action
  • Allows a trial court to dismiss a frivolous lawsuit immediately if there is no basis in law or fact for the lawsuit

The absence of loser-pays provisions in the majority of states helps explain why class-action plaintiff litigation cost more than $248 billion last year, according to the Towers Watson 2010 Update on U.S. Tort Cost Trends. It also makes the U.S. legal system twice as expensive, measured as a percentage of gross domestic product, as those of other industrialized nations, according to the Institute for Legal Reform.

Greg Crabtree is the author of Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits: 4 Keys to Unlock Your Business Potential. He is a seasoned CPA and a successful business owner. His book takes the mystery out of small business finance and serves as a guide to help you understand the numbers that will lead your business out of any financial black hole (or avoid it all together – which is even better).

Greg is a big believer that the #1 Key Performance Indicator is how big of a check you write to the IRS. He also belies there are only two ways to not pay taxes: 1) You cheated or 2) You did not make a profit. Both are equally bad. This is also covered in the book. He teaches why your numbers are lying to you (and why you’re the cause) and how labor and productivity is the key to profitability and simplifying human resource decisions.

For more information, go to www.seebeyondnumbers.com.

Change what you say or change what you do, just pick one of the two.

When all else fails… you can always serve as the bad example.

Apple’s 2011 Worldwide Developers Conference happened last week, and in the opening keynote, executives gave metric after metric about the company’s success. Here are some interesting ones:

  • 5200 developers are attended WWDC this year.
  • The Mac App Store is now the #1 retail channel for PC software over Best Buy and Wal-mart.
  • Mac sales rose 28 percent year over year during Apple’s last quarter, while PC sales declined 1 percent.
  • There are now 54 million active Mac users around the world.
  • Mac sales have outpaced the broader PC market for 5 years, 22 straight quarters.
  • Apple has sold 200 million iOS devices to date, which accounts for more than 44 percent of the mobile market.
  • 25 million iPads were sold in the device’s 14 months of availability.
  • 15 billion songs have been sold from the iTunes store, making Apple the #1 music retailer in the world.
  • 130 million books have been downloaded from iBooks.
  • There are 425,000 apps in the app store.
  • 90,000 of the apps are designed specifically for the iPad.
  • 14 billion apps have been downloaded from the App Store in less than 3 years.
  • Apple has paid some $2.5 billion to developers building apps for the app store.
  • There are 225 million iTunes Store accounts, all of them with associated credit cards and 1-click purchasing.
  • There are 50 million Game Center users. XBox Live, which has been around for a lot longer, only has about 30 million.
  • The iPhone 4′s camera is the second most used camera on Flickr.
  • OS X Lion boasts 250+ new features and 3,000 APIs.
  • IOS 5 has 200+ new features and 1,500 APIs.

The following letter was written by James Arness (from the TV series Gunsmoke) and posted on his website after his death last week. Obviously this guy had class and style. If you had to write a letter to be published after your death, what would you say?

Hi friends,

I decided to write a letter to you for Janet to post on our website in the event I was no longer here.

I had a wonderful life and was blessed with some many loving people and great friends. The best part of my life was my family, especially my wife Janet. Many of you met her at Dodge City so you understand what a special person she is.

I wanted to take this time to thank all of you for the many years of being a fan of Gunsmoke, The Thing, How the West Was Won and all the other fun projects I was lucky enough to have been allowed to be a part of. I had the privilege of working with so many great actors over the years.

I was honored to have served in the army for my country. I was at Anzio during WWII and it makes you realize how very precious life is.

Thank you again for all the many letters, cards, emails and gifts we received from you over the years. You are and always have been truly appreciated.


Jim Arness

Did you know Far West Capital has an active Facebook page that is daily updated with interesting news? We’re also on Twitter and LinkedIn. You should like us.

While our company is flexible on the content our employees post on their social media accounts, many companies and organizations have strict policies and guidelines, and it’s rightfully so. A single tweet could become a PR nightmare for some of these companies on this list of 100 examples of corporate social media policies.

LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network on the Internet, went public on May 18, 2011 with 7,840,000 shares at $45 per share. LinkedIn has been in the shadows of other social media networks, but it now has the opportunity to do more for their customers, as this Harvard Business Review post says. “Even the smartest moves, unfortunately, can’t buy a company enduring success in a complex and volatile market. LinkedIn will have to make sure the next moves it makes are just as good. Now that it has cash in the bank, it will have to acquire the right companies that will help it expand its services and market reach.” LinkedIn is a great resource for business professionals. (You can connect with us here.) It’ll be interesting to see how it improves.

Alamo Drafthouse is Austin’s favorite movie theatre. It was also named #1 Theater in America by Entertainment Weekly Magazine. The Drafthouse is dinner, drinks, movies and fun events (insert Michael Jackson sing along here) all under one roof. The theater has a very strict, zero tolerance talking or cell phone use of any kind during movies, and the management is not afraid to kick out anyone who violates this rule.

Recently, a woman was kicked out (after being warned multiple times) for texting during a movie. She immediately called the office and left a voicemail to express her displeasure. What did the Alamo Drafthouse do? Being true to its brand and its policies, they made it into a video and will play it in all its theaters to show how serious they are about the rule. It’s a great example of turning negative customer feedback into a fun PR campaign that matches your brand. Warning: the video is NSFW and contains explicit language. You can find it here on their blog.

Rep. Anthony Weiner obviously didn’t read our blog post about learning from others’ mistakes. The representative made the news a few weeks ago when he publically tweeted a lewd picture of himself to a woman. After questionable news interviews in which he claimed he was hacked and dodged a straight denial, he finally admitted to sending inappropriate messages and photos “of an explicit nature” to women online in a press conference a few days later. We hope he learns from his mistakes. His wife is reportedly pregnant with their first child. Lessons learned: keep your nose clean, be honest and get someone to teach you how to use Twitter correctly.

Forty years ago this month, President Richard Nixon launched a “war against drugs.” It has turned out to be America’s longest war; and yet the policy is not seriously debated by members of Congress. More than $1 trillion has been spent on the war effort — police, prosecutors, and prisons — but the black market trade is thriving as never before. Tens of millions of Americans break the law and use drugs each year. Clearly, these are not the results that were expected in 1971. Is it now fair to compare the drug war to our disastrous experience with alcohol prohibition and confess the error? We don’t do drugs or recommend that anyone should, but people are clearly doing drugs, so why don’t we let people choose legally?

To all of our banker friends, we want to hear your thoughts. Take a look at this WSJ story about Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair and Tom Brown’s response. What do you think increased capital requirements will do to your business?  We tend to believe that increased capital requirements on some asset classes may not be a bad idea, given the most recent meltdown, but the devil is in the details no?  Tell us what you believe.

Oprah said goodbye to daytime television at the end of May, and over 18 million viewers watched her last episode. It’s amazing to think about her legacy of philanthropy, inspiration, and the powerful brand she has built. Take a look at “7 Tips Your Business Can Learn From Oprah.”

“What material success does is provide you with the ability to concentrate on other things that really matter. And that is being able to make a difference, not only in your own life, but in other people’s lives.” – Oprah Winfrey

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