typified "over-the-top" Nacchio
By Al Lewis,
Sunday, January 29, 2006
Before former Qwest chief executive Joe Nacchio was voted
off the island, he played an impressive role in a parody
skit of TV's "Survivor."
On Oct. 31, 2000 -- as stocks of most major telecom
companies began to tumble -- Nacchio performed at the
Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. His audience:
securities analysts whom Qwest had invited for a day-long
Dan Reingold, 52, once one of the nation's top telecom
analysts, gives an account of Nacchio's "Survivor" skit in
his recently published book, "Confessions of a Wall Street
Analyst: A True Story of Inside Information and Corruption
in the Stock Market."
As Reingold tells it:
"Suddenly, the lights dimmed and the stage lit up. Out
marched Joe, dressed in full Australian outback regalia and
pith helmet, to the overdramatic sounds of the music from
the hit TV show 'Survivor'. Arrayed around the stage were a
series of burning torches, each one representing one of
Qwest's competitors. (AT&T, WorldCom, Sprint, Global
Crossing, and Verizon and other Baby Bells.)
"Nacchio, completely in his element, traipsed merrily across
the stage to each one of his rival's torches and delivered a
short monologue on what was wrong with each one of them.
Then, with evident pleasure, he snuffed out each of their
"'I don't know what's wrong with the other guys in the
industry', he repeated over and over during the course of
the meeting, 'but Qwest is doing just fine' '.
Nacchio recently pleaded not guilty to insider-trading
charges. The charges stem from trades he made beginning a
couple of months after this clever skit, from Jan. 2, 2001,
to May 29, 2001. Perhaps a tape of Nacchio's performance
will be reviewed in a courtroom some day.
"It was typical Joe," said Reingold in a telephone
interview. "It was funny. It was entertaining."
It also was interpreted as a sign that there were still some
winners in the telecom sector, Reingold said. And this
spelled relief for the analysts, including Reingold, who
were still recommending Qwest stock as the company
Reingold is no apologist. In his memoir, he describes his
journey from enthusiasm to disgust over the course of his
career at large investment banks, including Morgan Stanley,
Merrill Lynch and Credit Suisse First Boston.
Along the way, he came to the conclusion that Wall Street
and much of corporate America are deeply corrupt.
Reingold told me he wrote his book because he believes
regulators -- including New York Attorney General Eliot
Spitzer and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission --
didn't go far enough in cleaning up Wall Street's major
investment firms. He says regulators never fully explored
how frequently investment analysts traffic in insider
information, leaving Wall Street a rigged game.
Reingold has left the Street and says the proceeds he
receives from his book will go to charity. (For more on
Reingold, check out his website:
In his book, he calls Nacchio "the biggest loudmouth in the
In one scene, Nacchio berates Reingold for his opinion just
before Qwest's 1997 initial public stock offering.
Reingold's valuation was lower than that of once-superstar
telecom analyst Jack Grubman of Solomon Smith Barney, who is
now banned from the securities industry for his overzealous
"I don't understand why you are so much lower than Jack,"
Reingold quotes Nacchio as telling him. "Why can't you be
more like Jack?"
Reingold said he long admired Nacchio's hard-charging style.
"Joe was over the top," Reingold told me, "but there was a
check and balance (to Nacchio) in this company."
That check and balance, Reingold said, was Qwest founder
"Phil ... is a brilliant investor with a stellar record,"
Reingold said. "He's not flamboyant; he's careful; he's a
listener, not a yeller; he's all the things that you would
want in a person that you would entrust your money to. ...
"In terms of the big-picture strategy, ethics, and watershed
decisions that have to be made, you hoped that Phil Anschutz
was going to be in the room."
Al Lewis' column appears
Sunday, Tuesday and Friday. Respond to Lewis at
denverpostbloghouse.com/lewis, 303-820-1967, or