FROM PHOENIX, ARIZONAGLOBAL AFFAIRS
1. Fortune's Turn About Face (re. IBM)
PHOENIX, June 15 – At a first glance, this may seem like another Annex Bulletin about IBM. It isn’t (although IBM does figure in it). It is a story about one of the nation’s biggest business magazines. And, as you’re about to find out, also one of America’s biggest media “PR fluff” rags.
About four years ago, the Fortune magazine cowardly spiked a part of the story in which this writer warned Fortune reporters in two extensive interviews about the devious schemes of one “Louis XIX of Armonk,” a.k.a. Louis Gerstner, IBM’s new “Last Emperor.”
Our warnings about Gerstner’s “Le Big Bleu” trying to create an illusion of prosperity by means of financial engineering, rather than by growing its business, were repeated in a live interview on CNN, and in a host of the national and global print media reports (e.g., Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, New York Times, The Australian, etc. - see Appendix C). But not by the Fortune magazine. Until now, that is.
Because the magazine has little to lose by discovering the virtues of being honest and truthful after IBM had already pulled its advertising and cut off its relations with the Fortune staff (see APPENDIX A).
But such Fortune’s hypocrisy is no excuse for its apparent plagiarism. Its June 26 story, “Hocus-Pocus: How IBM Grew 27% a Year,” reads as if it were a review of the past Annex Bulletins - without any attribution! Consider the following few examples…
FORTUNE: “The company's (IBM’s) bag of accounting tricks may be
all but bottomless, but it won't satisfy the crowd forever. Eventually
investors will get tired of the illusion of growth and demand the real
thing… Indeed, it is rather amazing that investors have been willing
to suspend their disbelief as long as they have. Doubts about IBM's
earnings quality have been raised for years, but little criticism has
made its way into Wall Street's mainstream discussion of the company...
But that doesn't quite mean that Gerstner can wow the crowd indefinitely
by pulling earnings rabbits out of his hat.” (Fortune, 6/26/2000)
money left the IBM stock a long time ago.
Smarter money never got into it.
Yet, those with large sums of money on the line are holding on to
IBM, waiting and hoping for Lou Gerstner’s final miracle. It won’t
happen. Gerstner’s black
hat is clean out of rabbits.” (Annex Bulletin 2000-12, 4/20/2000)
FORTUNE: “All the dense accounting cannot conceal one salient fact about IBM: Unlike most other tech darlings, IBM does not have growing revenues. Its top line--the hardest number to manipulate--has risen just 5% annually since 1995. In fact, year-over-year revenue growth has slowed for each of the past three quarters; in the first quarter of 2000, sales actually fell 5%.” (Fortune, 6/26/2000)
since May 1994, the name of the game and the IBM leaders’ main
challenge had been generating new growth.
Ever since 1994, the computer industry was practically bursting
at the seams, driven by an explosive growth of the Internet and related
And how have
the IBM leaders met such a challenge under more than favorable economic
and IT market conditions? Well,
you be the judge. IBM
revenues grew at a compound annual growth rate of 6% between 1994 and
1999, half of the company’s growth rate for the prior 82 years!”
(Annex Bulletin 2000-15, 6/01/2000).
FORTUNE: “One way Big Blue has kept the fabulous EPS growth going
has been by buying back shares of its own stock. Since 1995, IBM has
spent a stunning $34.1 billion to shrink shares outstanding. "Share
buybacks are IBM's principal business line," quips Jim Grant,
editor of Grant's Interest Rate Observer and one of IBM's most
vociferous critics. Indeed: $34.1 billion is more than IBM reported in
net income ($31.3 billion) over the same period.” (Fortune, 6/26/2000)
“Considering that all of IBM's second quarter
earnings growth came from such non-computer-related factors, the
"financial engineering" deserves to be treated as IBM's new
"line of business." (Annex Bulletin 97-35, 7/21/97)
1996, roughly the time IBM went on a stock buyback binge, squandering
about $34 billion dollars on it without creating a single product or a
job, the IBM stock outperformed the record bullish Dow Jones Industrial
average, of which the Big Blue is a part, by 3.5 times!
Game, set and match! For the Wall Street Lunatics over the Main
Street Smart Money.” (Annex Bulletin 2000-12, 4/20/2000)
And when the Fortune story did venture into offering some of its own opinions, their stupidity was staggering. Consider the following comment:
FORTUNE: “There is, of course, nothing inherently wrong with share buybacks. They can be a great way to increase value for shareholders. After all, if a company merely holds earnings constant while reducing the number of shares outstanding, it automatically increases earnings per share.” (Fortune, 6/26/2000)
There is “nothing inherently wrong” with squandering over $34 billion? Furthermore, arguing that flat earnings and reduced number of shares outstanding increases value to the shareholders ought to be enough to have any college student fail his Economics 101 class. Yet here’s one of the nation’s supposedly preeminent business magazines offering such moronic “analysis” to the millions of investing public! If any investor swallows this Fortune line without choking on it, it will only show us the large extent to which the New World Order has dumbed down the nation.
FORTUNE: “IBM's bottom line also gets a helping hand from yet another source that has nothing to do with its core business: its pension plan… In 1999 alone, IBM booked $762 million in pension income, $266 million more than in 1998, and around 7% of its total pretax profit. If, God forbid, the stock market should slow down and those pension fund gains dry up, IBM could find it that much more challenging to maintain the pace of its earnings-per-share growth.”
Even in this rare example of a case that could not be traced to one of the Annex Bulletins, Fortune wasn’t entirely clear of possible plagiarism. On June 4, the New York Times carried a story in its business pages that made exactly the same argument as above. Yet, Fortune did not give the Times any credit for its analytical scoop, anymore than it gave Annex one for our original analyses and disclosures first published years ago.
And there were parts of IBM’s “financial engineering,” “accounting magic,” “cooking the books,” etc. that the Fortune story didn’t mention at all. Such as the insider stock sales (see “Gerstner: Best Years Are Behind Us”). Instead, even in its newfound criticism of IBM’s deceptive reporting and accounting practices, Fortune put on the kid gloves…
FORTUNE: “The practices that IBM is criticized for fall within accounting guidelines and certainly aren't unique to Big Blue. Nowadays, almost every company manages its earnings to please Wall Street, and less-than-transparent financial reporting is the norm.” (Fortune, 6/26/2000)
Not quite. Not every company monkeys around with taxes, for example, as IBM did, some say illegally (see below) to boost its earnings.
ANNEX: “Have you heard anywhere that there has been a major tax reduction in the U.S. in the last two years? Or anywhere else in the industrial world?
certainly haven't. Yet
you'd be led to such a conclusion if you looked at IBM's financial
statements. Three years ago
(in 1994), IBM's tax rate was 41.4%.
Two years ago (in 1995), IBM's tax rate was 46.5%.
In the second quarter of 1997, it was 33.7%. That's almost a 13%
drop in two years!!
the IBM shareholders' vantage point, the 13 points which this tax rate
reduction shaved off IBM's costs and expenses in two years was bigger
than the pretax margins of either of its hardware or services businesses
(as you saw earlier)!” (Annex Bulletin 97-35, 7/21/97)
Well, make that
more than 16 points by the end of 1998.
Should the tax collectors in the countries shortchanged by IBM
out of their fair share of Armonk's corporate taxes ever wake up to this
"fudge factory" scam/scheme - take your pick, you may see more
government bean counters with green shades crawling up and down IBM's
back, lifting rugs, and sweeping out all the dirt from its executive
suites. And out of its financial statements.
One of our
European sources says that what IBM appears to have done with its
overseas business, especially in Europe, is to take the prime (contract)
offshore, and subcontract the real work back to the national companies
on a cost-plus basis. That
way, profit is taken offshore (where taxes are low or zero), the various
national companies break even, and consequently pay little or no
Nor is this
necessarily only a customer financing phenomenon. "Look at all those contracts won by IBM Global
Services," our source said. "Which
legal entity is that?"
Armonk wants it to be, we suppose.
A neat scheme. If it
is legal. But if so, we wonder why other multinational companies - IBM
competitors - haven't latched on to it?
A quick look at six of them, picked randomly in the services,
software and leasing IT industry segments, revealed that their recent
tax rates have been around 37%.
If IBM were to
be made to pay back the difference between its actual tax rates and 37%,
it would be facing a tax liability of over $1 billion as of the end of
1998. And growing... Plus
any penalties, of course, should the tax courts deem appropriate, should
they disagree with Armonk's "fudge factory" interpretation of
the tax laws.” (Annex
Bulletin 99-17, 5/28/99).
There is at least one thing in which Fortune was right about IBM. The Big Blue isn’t the only company that is trying to “cook the books” or create an illusion of prosperity out of thin air. In fact, the entire equities market is involved in “cooking the books” and in creating an illusion out of thin air.
“By ‘cooking the books’ the (New World Order) ‘Team’ created a perception that there wasn’t any inflation, and the perception became a reality,” writes H.L. Quist, a Phoenix-based financial advisor and newsletter publisher in his new book, “Secrets” (see http://www.1stbooks.com ). Quist adds:
“The residential component is weighted to 39% of the CPI (Consumer Price Index). If actual real estate sales prices were used, the CPI would probably be three or four times what it has been the last few years. Interest rates would have risen. The bond market would have gone into the toilet, and indexed Social Security and entitlement payments would have increased the deficit.
using sales prices, which depict a true economic impact on a family
budget, the BOLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) uses an index that
measures increases in single family rentals, which provides a number
which is insignificant within the CPI.
We are now
experiencing double digit increases in prescription drugs, medical costs
and health insurance premiums, but BOLS says inflation is under 2%.
It’s a sham. An illusion.”
Quist concludes that the bubble will eventually burst causing worldwide panic. Which, in turn, the globalist elite may use as an excuse to invoke totalitarianism.
“Americans don’t realize they made a deal with the devil and the devil is just about ready to close the hell’s gate,” he warns through the words of the book’s main character.
If Quist is right, it isn’t just the American people that stand to lose their freedom in a new “Godless society” that the globalists are trying to create. European nations have already lost more of their freedoms and sovereignty to the European Union, and stand to lose a lot more if the EU does mutate into a European (con)federation, as some German politicians, for example, are proposing, with Bill Clinton seconding it (see “Toward a Globalist European Empire”).
Seen in that context, IBM’s “cooking of the books” and its other shenanigans under the “Louis XIX” leadership fits the pattern set by other fellow-multinationals.
But there is one fly in the ointment that can ruin all these neat plans laid by mice and men. It is a chance that American people may finally wake up from their decades-long slumber and say “no” to such schemes and charades. And do it perhaps even more forcefully than was the case at the WTO meeting in Seattle last December, or at the IMF conference in Washington this spring. Perhaps even as early as at the November ballot?
In that case, what’s your “Plan B,” the Last Emperor, “Louis XIX?” Hiding in an Armonk cellar? Or emigrating to China? In which case, take the Fortune editors with you, will you? You will both feel right at home there.
Media Correspondence Archives, February 8, 1997
Letters to the Fortune Magazine
February 8, 1997
Hope you've found the
information I've already sent you of value.
While traveling for a
couple of days after our long telephone interview, I had been thinking
about your request for anecdotes which would illustrate what kind of an
executive Lou Gerstner really is. Unwittingly,
perhaps, your questions have forced me to re-examine the way my own
attitude toward him changed and why - from May 1994, when I rated him an
'A'; to October 1994, when Gerstner was so elated with my work and
public comments that he, in turn, made some very flattering remarks
about me to my face (yet, in front of witnesses); to April of 1995, when
the bubble finally burst with us publishing the enclosed "Hail to
the Whistle-Blower" piece.
So to answer one of your
questions - "WHEN did I change my opinion of Gerstner?"- it
was in April 1995, therefore, that I finally concluded that
Gerstner/York and Co. had outlived their usefulness.
They were a fine "transition management team;" good
mechanics. The fixed the
leaks; righted the listing Big Blue ship; trimmed down the crew; painted
over the rusty spots... But
they were largely clueless (and still are) about the real answers to the
"what now?"-question. Worse,
the success of their relatively quick and easy turnaround had gone to
their heads. They became
cocky, vane, arrogant and vindictive to all those who "pushed
back," even to the people who did it only to help them.
As to my own question -
"WHY did I change my opinion of Gerstner?" - I concluded after
that one particular incident in late January 1995, followed by a series
of related bizarre episodes, exploded in my own mind the myth of
Gerstner & Co. being the right people to guide the IBM ship to
discovery of new riches.
So probably the
"juiciest" anecdotes I could offer you about Gerstner are
actually my own personal experiences with him.
Stories like the above January 1995 incident are not only
exclusive (even I have not published any until now as I wanted to
protect the careers of other protagonists in these episodes), but they
may blow you away, as they touch indirectly some of the highest
officials in our government and education, not just at IBM.
Still, I am prepared to
share these anecdotes with you, but subject to several conditions:
(1) First, I know that
your editors have been known at times to kill a story which was critical
of IBM. I also know, on the
other hand, that they can be as tough as nails when they want to be,
which is why I am writing to you in the first place.
But I have to know of what mind they are this time.
If I were to share the above information with you, and risk
additional retaliation to myself and/or the other protagonists in these
events, I want to be sure that your editors are prepared to run such a
story, and run it in a prominent place (cover would be nice). So please
get your necessary clearances before replying to me on this issue.
(2) Second, if you reply
in the affirmative to the above, I will share with you excerpts from my
diaries, along with some related correspondence.
Even though I almost always use only initials in my diaries, some
of the sources, in or outside of IBM, could be identified fairly easily
because of the context in which they appear.
Even though I don't mind you being able to figure it out, or even
see it plainly in correspondence copies, I want to have your assurances
that no other names from the diaries, except for Gerstner's or York's
(which I also named in my articles), will be used in your story without
my explicit approval and our mutual agreement.
As one IBM insider put it
to me in the spring of 1995, "you've seen that the Emperor has no
clothes. And he knows it. Now watch yourself."
Let me know how you and
your editors wish to proceed. In
the meantime, I am enclosing the "Management
Whitepaper: Hail to the Whistleblower" (Annex Bulletin 95-36,
4/27/95) which was the final "straw that broke the camel's
back" - at least in my case.
Sunday, April 27, 1997
Blue"-FORTUNE (April 14)
To: Betsy Morris/FORTUNE
cc: Fortune editors
As you may have gathered
from my various e-mails from around the world, I have recently completed
another literally "around-the -world-trip." In going through
the piles of my backed-up mail, I came across your subject story (“HE'S
SMART. HE'S NOT NICE. HE'S SAVING BIG BLUE”).
What a piece of marketing
FLUFF! How much did IBM pay you for it? (i.e., Fortune-in advertising
revenues, I presume).
You and I know very well,
if not the other FORTUNE staff members whom I am copying on this note,
what you and I had spent about two hours discussing in February, when
you first called me about this story.
No mention of it in your
story, was there?
You and I know very well,
if not the other FORTUNE staff members whom I am copying on this note,
the content of my Feb. 8 e-mail note to you, with which I enclosed some
(what I thought were) interesting examples of the Gerstner
No mention of it in your
story, was there?
You and I know very well,
if not the other FORTUNE staff members whom I am copying on this note,
that in the same Feb. 8 e-mail note to you, I offered to give you more
"juicy" anecdotes based on my personal experiences with
Gerstner (which had never been published before), if your editors would
print the whole truth and nothing but the truth. In that Feb. 8-note, I
also quoted to you one IBMer who said: "You've seen that the
Emperor has no clothes. And he knows it..."
You never even replied to
this note, which was a REPLY WHICH RANG LOUDER THAN ANY OTHER!
In short, Betsy, once upon
a time I had a lot of respect for FORTUNE'S tough and independent stance
(vis-a vis IBM). This was based on the work of Carol Loomis, Bro Uttal,
and Peter Petre in the 1980s.
I am sorry to have to note
that FORTUNE of the 1990s seems to have become another "PR
rag." For, I know that this was not the first time the FORTUNE
editors have killed (or neutered) an unflattering story about IBM.
Maybe I'd better hit the
road again... to the countries which at least do not pretend to have a
"free press" (e.g., Russia, Singapore...). Best regards,
P.S. If you (i.e., the
FORTUNE) have the guts to do it (which I somehow doubt), please feel
free to print this letter as a "Letter to the Editor" in one
of you upcoming issues. If I am wrong about this, the FORTUNE does print
my letter, I will not only apologize to you, but I will buy you a dinner
at a place of your choice in NYC or Atlanta.
Annex Ed. (June 15, 2000): The Fortune never did, of course, run this as a letter to the editor. But Gerstner reportedly did get so mad at the Fortune three years ago, even over its watered-down story, that he ordered all IBM advertising pulled from the magazine (about $6 million annually, according to the book “IBM Redux,” by Doug Garr), and all Armonk relations broken off with the Fortune’s editorial staff. And all that after the Fortune’s editors even allowed IBM to pick the writer for the April 1997 story (Betsy Morris).
Which only goes to show us that even when some media prostrates itself before an “emperor” the way the Fortune did, sometimes stooping that low is still not low enough. But now that the public knows how the establishment media kow-tows to the subjects about which it writes, it should also treat its stories with the same “objectivity” with which it regards corporate ads.
Gerstner’s reaction to the April 1997 Fortune story could also help explain why the Fortune editors eventually found the “courage” to print the truth about IBM and Gerstner in the June 26 issue. But this could still not explain their (mis)treatment of the Annex Research intellectually property, i.e., the reports and interviews that we shared with the Fortune reporters, for which we received no credit in the Fortune articles - then or now.
to be sure, however, we asked the Fortune writer (Bethany McLean) by
e-mail if she were aware of our articles from which she seemed to have
“borrowed” some of her ideas and facts for her story:
Date: Wed, 14 Jun 2000
Research on IBM re. http://www.fortune.com/fortune/2000/06/26/ibm.html
To: Bethany McLean/FORTUNE
Bethany. Are you aware of
my articles from 4-5 years ago on the stuff you’ve just written about
IBM? (There was a fait bit
of general media coverage about it, too, back then). Or the fact that
I’ve given two extensive interviews to two senior Fortune reporters in
1996 and 1997 that never saw the light of day, as the Fortune editors
were too afraid (I was told) to offend a major advertiser by publishing
a bit of truth about IBM/Gerstner?
I ought to write a story about your story and the infamously
hypocritical role the Fortune has played, first in the cover-up of the
truth, then in its sudden “revelation” four years later?
Annex Ed.: We’ve received no answer as of the time this report was written. Par for the course… r
A Quote from Fortune “HE'S SMART. HE'S NOT NICE. HE'S SAVING BIG BLUE” (Apr. 14, 1997):
“Gerstner has made himself IBM's lead pitchman. He runs several "strategic conferences" a year for CEOs and makes frequent calls on peers to proselytize for the networked world and IBM's role in it… Two executives at another company were less impressed by their meetings. Gerstner spent so much time pontificating that they never had a chance to say what was on their minds. Says another executive on whom Gerstner has called: "He's the least effective salesman God ever made. He's got an incredible pomposity".”
Annex Bulletin 94-12, March 25, 1994
Mountain Shook, Mouse
long-awaited "vision statement" by the IBM chairman, Lou
Gerstner, turned out to be much ado about nothing.
"The mountain shook, (but only) a mouse was born," an
Eastern European proverb says.
a very long speech, full of typical "IBM speak," the IBM boss
proved not only that he was no visionary, but that he was no "change
either. Instead of taking a
sledgehammer to the "IBM culture," the change of which Gerstner
himself admitted was a prerequisite for success, he seemed to have adopted
it quite well.
"techie" tone of the speech also suggested that it was written
by someone with an engineering and/or manufacturing mentality, not by a
"business architect." The
speech lacked imagination; it lacked inspiration; it lacked even the basic
understanding of the global economic and political trends against which
any multi-national strategy must be plotted.
In short, it was a flat, begrudging response to criticism which IBM
CEO's July comment drew - that "the last thing that IBM needs right
now is a vision statement." r
Annex Bulletin 97-18, April 29, 1997
Far as Chess Goes, Gerstner, Ricciardi Are "Tabula Rasa?"
Gerstner: No Deep Blue
even without being pressed to show his mettle, Gerstner volunteered today
an example of why he is no "Deep Blue" (the IBM chess computer).
the world chess champion, Gary Kasparov, to the IBM Deep
Blue chess computer, the IBM chairman demonstrated that he didn't have
a clue what the game of chess was about.
compared Kasparov's slight (5'6" frame) to that of a BIG (weighing a
tons) IBM computer. He
disparaged Kasparov's "thinking speed" at only two moves/second,
forgetting that Kasparov handily beat IBM's
so-many-hundreds-of-thousands-(of irrelevant)-computations-per-second Deep
Blue, the last time around, in 1996.
chess comments today made his legal protégé, Larry
Ricciardi, seem like a partisan fan, if not a liar.
Ricciardi, described as "Gerstner's old friend and IBM's top
lawyer" in FORTUNE's sugar-coated Apr. 14 (1997) story, "Big
Blue," told this New York-based magazine that, "Lou revels in
complexity, and this is five-dimensional chess."
dimensional chess? Excuse me?
Would Ricciardi care to explain what that is?
Or perhaps would the editors of the "PR rag" which
published Ricciardi's statement care to elaborate about why they printed
such a fluffy nonsense?
we are fairly certain that even the 5'6" chess world champion, Gary
Kasparov, despite his tiny frame and his new-found political ambitions in
Russia, would never dare suggest that he was a "five-dimensional'
all, the Russians, unlike the Ricciardis, the Gerstners, or the FORTUNE
editors of this world, know what the game of chess is about.
It is a two-dimensional game in which a 350-pound, 6'6"
football tackle would have about as much of a chance of beating the tiny
5'6" Russian grandmaster as would hell freezing over.
we have an idea about how to "save IBM" from the "IBM
saviors," like Gerstner. Teach
them to play chess! Maybe by
the time the Gerstners or the Ricciardis of the "New Armonk" get
to beat IBM's Deep Blue, they'll
get to appreciate what kind of business they are in?
how long did you say it takes for hell to freeze over? r
Relevant Press Clips
A "change agent," is how the IBM director who led the CEO selection process, Jim Burke, described Lou Gerstner's intended role introducing the new IBM boss in March 1993.
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