“E*TRADE Dives 55”

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E*Trade Financial, which said Friday it will take larger than anticipated write-downs on its mortgage-backed securities, saw its shares plummet over 50%. E*Trade dropped $4.57, or 53.2%, to $4.02, as Citi analyst Prashant Bhatia downgraded the company’s shares based on “continued negative news flow about charges, resulting from its mortgage and [collateralized debt obligations] CDO exposure.”

All I can think of this moment is the lethal dose of radioactive press releases about E*TRADE, innovation, Web services, and the permanent and irrevocable futuristic revolution that I have been exposed to in my life and times — and for some reason, of Thomas Friedman’s famous prediction that E-Bay would someday replace the nation-state.

Many, many extremely absurd things were said.

Seriously, I used to cover the CDO and securitization racket. I wish I still had my files of press releases on the subject, because I think it would be extremely opportune, now that the market is pronouncing rather emphatically on the results of the securitization innovation revolution, to look back at how the “rhetoric of the technological sublime” was used to sell it.

I have to admit to having a bit of animus against E*TRADE that has nothing to do with its business or (dis)service to its customers, however. It stems from the fact that they used to bug me so hysterically about using all-caps E*TRADE with the asterisk when referring to the company in pages I was editing.

But I am a typography puritan, and I was editing a publication with a typeface whose readability profile simply would not sustain THE SORT OF TYPOGRAPHICAL PRACTICES USED BY NIGERIAN E-MAIL SCAMMERS AND COMMENT TROLLS TO SIMULATE LOUD SCREAMING or OLD-FASHIONED TELEX OUTPUT.

And yet they insisted. Even after I conceded them “E*Trade,” despite the way it messed up automated hyphenation, which drove our art director buggy.

Which made me tend not to like them. I was, after all, a very busy man.


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