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Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment Newton's In Search Of The Perfect Investment. Technology Investor. Previous Columns
8:30 AM Monday, July 18, 2005: The housing boom is ebbing. Reports I'm reading from all over -- from Miami to Sydney (Australia) show demand getting back to normal and price rises slowing dramatically. But no crash. Meantime, I received word from a successful Boston syndicator of commercial real estate of his recent results:

+ The company acquired 39 properties in 11 states for an aggregate purchase price of $253 million.
+ It has now sold 22 properties with an average holding period of 4.6 years and an average annual return of 23.2%.
+ The returns ranged from 91% for a property in Baltimore, Maryland to a return of 0.91% on some condos in Jupiter, Florida.

Searching for art that may appreciate: Houses have walls. I hang two things on them: family photos and "art" I buy from up and coming artists. I don't profess to be an art expert. Those I've consulted say, "Buy something you like and can afford. Don't ever expect it to appreciate." Throughout the country are artists-in-residence summer programs. There's usually a showing at the end of each program of what the artist created during the summer. I went to one yesterday. I pick the art I like from the artist who seems to understand the value of promotion. Sometime you can get the artist to paint you something special. Only drawback: Sometimes the artists ask to borrow your art to loan it to an exhibition of their art they're having in a distant museum. You might have an empty wall for a few weeks while the value of your art appreciates. That's OK by me.

This Bachelor Party Gets Lots of Attention. From today's Wall Street Journal:

Even by Wall Street's over-the-top standards, the March 2003 bachelor party for Thomas Bruderman, a onetime star trader for Fidelity Investments, was an event to remember. The festivities began with a trip by private jet from Boston to a small airport outside New York City. There, the revelers picked up some Wall Street traders and at least two women who investigators suspect may have been paid for their attendance, say people familiar with the matter. The partygoers -- including the groom-to-be, who was getting ready to marry the daughter of former Tyco International Ltd. boss L. Dennis Kozlowski -- then continued to trendy South Beach in Miami. The fun included a stay at the ritzy Delano Hotel for some, a yacht cruise and entertainment by at least one dwarf hired for the occasion.

"Some people are just into lavish dwarf entertainment," says the 4-foot-2 Danny Black, a part-owner in, an outfit that rents dwarfs for parties starting at $149 an hour. Mr. Black says he spent part of the weekend on the yacht and worked as a waiter on the Friday night at a high-end Miami eatery alongside what he called "regular size" people. "A good time was had by all," he said, declining to provide further details.

But what really made this a memorable party is that it is now a focus of an investigation into possibly improper gratuities from Wall Street trading firms eager to get Fidelity's business. The National Association of Securities Dealers and the Securities and Exchange Commission are examining which Wall Street firms kicked in money for the weekend party. So far, at least three firms have been embroiled in the investigation. Jefferies Group Inc. paid for the plane, SG Cowen & Co. paid for the yacht, and Lazard Capital Markets paid for some of the hotel rooms, according to people familiar with the matter.

Meanwhile, the party now figures into a broader criminal investigation by federal prosecutors. The U.S. attorney in Boston has impaneled a grand jury to determine whether some of the money flowing from brokerage firms to Fidelity was used to pay for prostitutes and drugs at the party and other events, according to people familiar with the matter. Among other things, investigators are trying to determine if Lazard paid for prostitutes at the bachelor party, the people say.

Among the guests on the boat: Mr. Bruderman's soon-to-be father-in-law, Mr. Kozlowski, then facing felony charges that he and a top lieutenant looted $150 million from Tyco to pay for their extravagant lifestyles. Mr. Bruderman's wedding to Sandra Kozlowski later that year on Massachusetts's Nantucket Island was on the eve of Mr. Kozlowski's first trial, which ended in a mistrial. His second trial ended in a conviction earlier this year. Scott DeSano, then Fidelity's influential head of stock trading, was an usher in Mr. Bruderman's wedding and attended part of the bachelor party.

Now investigators have taken sworn testimony from guests at the bachelor party and are poring over receipts from that celebration. They are investigating whether favors bestowed on Fidelity traders and others influenced how Boston-based Fidelity, the nation's largest mutual-fund company, with $1.1 trillion under management, doled out its trading business to Wall Street firms.

Mutual-fund companies are supposed to choose brokers based on service and price. NASD rules also prohibit brokers from giving or receiving gifts valued at more than $100. Fidelity has similar internal policies. The rule on entertainment is fuzzier. The NASD allows "ordinary and usual business entertainment" so long as it is "neither so frequent nor so extensive as to raise any question of propriety."

One firm, Jefferies Group, paid for $75,000 worth of airfare to shuttle Messrs. Bruderman and DeSano and other non-Fidelity traders to the bachelor party, according to people familiar with the matter. A person familiar with the matter said SG Cowen, a unit of Société Générale SA, paid for the yacht party, which ran to almost $10,000. ...

As part of the gift investigation, SEC investigators have recently questioned Edward C. Johnson III, Fidelity's chief executive, about tickets he and his wife accepted from a Wall Street firm to attend a figure-skating competition at the 2002 winter Olympics. Choice seats for figure-skating events sold for as much as $400. The company has defended the receipt of the tickets as customary business entertainment.

The bachelor party is likely to be harder to defend. Photos of the weekend are circulating on Wall Street, including ones of men and scantily clad women frolicking on a yacht, according to three people who have seen them. In one picture, Mr. Kozlowski is standing with a dwarf on the boat, according to people familiar with the situation. Mr. Black, the dwarf who worked at the bachelor party, wouldn't say who paid him for his services that weekend, or how much he was paid. Representatives of Mr. Kozlowski couldn't be reached for comment.

Regulators have been able to piece together some of what happened that weekend and on other occasions through interviews with participants and by reading email and other electronic communications.

In one electronic exchange made over a trading terminal, then-Lazard trader Robert Ward asked then-Jefferies trader Kevin Quinn how the two of them planned to "T&E" Mr. Bruderman's wedding -- using Wall Street lingo for travel and expense. "Creative T&E...again." he responded, according to a person who has reviewed the exchange. ... In addition to the bachelor party, Fidelity traders are under fire from regulators for accepting other expensive gifts including trips to the Wimbledon tennis championships, Las Vegas and the Super Bowl in private jets...

The real reason I publish this story is straight jealousy. I wasn't invited.

Clever comments by George Carlin, comedian:

Is it just me, or does anyone else find it amazing that our government can track a cow born in Canada almost three years ago, right to the stall where she sleeps in the state of Washington And they tracked her calves to their stalls. But they are unable to locate 11 million illegal aliens wandering around our country. Maybe we should give them all a cows.

They keep talking about drafting a Constitution for Iraq. Why don't we just give them ours? It was written by a lot of really smart guys, it's worked for over 200 years and we're not using it anymore.

The real reason that we can't have the Ten Commandments in a Courthouse? You cannot post "Thou Shalt Not Steal," "Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery" and "Thou Shall Not Lie" in a building full of lawyers, judges and politicians! It creates a hostile work environment!

"Boy, I feel a lot safer now that Martha Stewart is behind bars. O.J. Simpson, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jackson are still walking around; Osama Bin Laden, too. But they take the one woman in America willing to cook, clean, and work in the yard, and haul her ass off to jail."

Recent column highlights:
+ All turned on by biotech. Click here.
+ Steve Jobs Commencement Address. The text is available: Click here. The full audio is available. Click here.
+ The March of the Penguins, an exquisite movie. Click here.
+ When to sell your stocks. Click here.

Harry Newton

This column is about my personal search for the perfect investment. I don't give investment advice. For that you have to be registered with regulatory authorities, which I am not. I am a reporter and an investor. I make my daily column -- Monday through Friday -- freely available for three reasons: Writing is good for sorting things out in my brain. Second, the column is research for a book I'm writing called "In Search of the Perfect Investment." Third, I encourage my readers to send me their ideas, concerns and experiences. That way we can all learn together. My email address is . You can't click on my email address. You have to re-type it . This protects me from software scanning the Internet for email addresses to spam. I have no role in choosing the Google ads. Thus I cannot endorse any, though some look mighty interesting. If you click on a link, Google may send me money. That money will help pay Claire's law school tuition. Read more about Google AdSense, click here and here.
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