Could they make it any tougher to own? This morning we learn that Google (GOOGL) is playing an intrusive God with Project Nightingale where they learn about your medical history without you knowing it, no prior authorization, no safety, no nothing. Why would Google do it in secret? Why would Ascension, a chain of 2600 Catholic hospitals, give it to them?
Did anyone at Google not figure out how nefarious this whole thing sounds? Did Google not realize that its every move will be scrutinized and nothing as sensitive as public records would ever be the purview of a company that are under investigation all over the place for monopolistic practices?
This is the problem with the double AA Fang, isn't it? These companies have become some of the greatest headline risks I have ever seen. They are walking Macondos, just daily sources of intellectual oil spills, toxic waste that washes up on the beach for every politician and journalist to see.
I can't tell you how many times I have tried to get Apple (AAPL) to do something publicly with a Cerner a company that already has permission to have your data -- and it is of no interest because of the societal implications, even as the Cleveland Clinic is attempting to put a "big data" base together to have baselines for watch-like devices. If Cleveland Clinic can do it, why not a Cerner (CERN) , a perennial sale candidate? But I think that the sensibilities of health care record accumulation rubs Apple the wrong way, even if it is done above board with all to see. But Project Nightingale? It sounds like something that only James Bond, with a license to kill, can stop.
Of course, it doesn't matter that Apple has sensibilities about health care, it didn't realize the mine field that one wanders in when trying to do a brand new credit card. As far as I am concerned, this is an industry devoid of best practices. That means you have to default to whatever is the cleanest player in the group, which I presume will be JP Morgan (JPM) .
Whatever JPMorgan does with a credit card, Apple has to do. Of course, Apple, in its infinite and superior wisdom, decides that each tub is on its own bottom and that individuals each have their own credit line. That's honest. That's sex blind. But in reality, of course, it isn't. Men make more than women. So their attempt to be fair backfires and now they are the bad guys. They will now opt for transparency, but, of course, it's not something you opt for. Goldman Sachs (GS) , it's partner, should be doing whatever JP Morgan does because you want to avoid blowback even if you think your method is superior. But it comes off as arrogance. More headline risk.
Facebook (FB) said on Monday it is going to start hiding the "likes" button on Instagram because, in part, it could help in the mental health of young people. There are two ways to look at this: Bravo Facebook for taking an action that could hurt numbers, or I didn't know that Facebook was hurting the mental health of teens where there is an epidemic of suicides. Is Facebook behind it? Won't some clever lawyer now sue them? I know that an ambulance chaser will most likely try to do so.
Another mine field.
There's an article this morning in the Wall Street Journal, titled "Amazon's (AMZN) China Puts Consumers at Risk." I read the article and, for the life of me, I have no idea what the heck they are talking about. It just smacks, though, of another thing that Walmart (WMT) isn't doing. Or Target (TGT) . Or Costco (COST) . And, again, it is secretive.
It never ends with these guys.
What's the consequences? Simple: We can't possibly pay as much as we used to for the stocks of these companies because the long knives are out for all of them except Netflix (NFLX) , although that one's about to be sunk, media wise, by Disney-plus (DIS) .
Is there anything that can be done about this? Yes. Be more like Microsoft (MSFT) . Develop businesses that aren't secretive. Be transparent in everything you do. Use the old adage I was taught by my lawyers: "How would this look on the front page of the New York Times?" If the answer is terrible, then don't do it.
These are all terrible.
Which brings me to the real reason why these companies are in trouble all of the time: They are run by brilliant people who seem to have no knowledge of our country's mores and our journalists pandering to politicians and vice versa.
They need to get some in-house counsel that can be listened to. They need to get outside counsel that can shoot this stuff down.
They have to stop thinking like the Stanford computer scientists that they are and start thinking like what I know I have been taught, and I am nobody: "if it's going to look bad, don't do it, even if it costs earnings per share." Their rapaciousness keeps getting the best of them and the worst for their shareholders.