Tuesday, June 24, 2008

When The "Expert" Needs An Expert

How comfortable would you feel with your plumber if he had to call another plumber to fix his own running toilet? How about a CPA who hired another accountant to do her taxes? What if your pediatrician didn't feel competent enough to examine his own child?

These are the questions that immediately came to mind today when I read that Wachovia has just hired Goldman Sachs to "perform analytics on our loans to evaluate various alternatives." I think Saturday Night Live's Seth and Amy can probably sum it up best. "Really?! Wachovia. Really?"

I wonder how the good folks at Wachovia are responding today to customers walking into their branches around the country.

"You'd like to open a savings account? Um, can you hold on a minute while I call the teller over at Bank of America to find out what our rates are?"

"Yes, we can offer auto loans, but would you mind running over to Vinnie's Used Cars and Bait Emporium to see what size loan we can offer you?"

"A personal loan? Well, let me see if I can get in touch with the CEO who I think plays golf with one of the senior bankers over at Morgan. I'm pretty sure that guy has a gardener who knows a personal trainer who thinks he heard some rumor about whether we're still offering those."

"A mortgage? No, we don't do those anymore."

This is just sad. I'm embarrassed for Wachovia and its employees. If you're a large bank with a large securities and investment banking division and you don't feel qualified to evaluate your own balance sheet or market your own portfolio, isn't it pretty much time to just hang it up and go into the dog grooming business? No offense to dog groomers.

The only thing cushioning my pain is that I've been short Wachovia these past few months. I was thinking it might be time to cover. Now I'm not so sure.

The author is short Wachovia and long dog groomers and emporiums.