Footnote of the year…

polar-bear.jpegIt’s that time of the year again: when the Coney Island Polar Bears head for the Atlantic Ocean and every media outlet does its annual year in review. Last year at this time, backdated options were something that only a handful of people, including University of Iowa Prof. Erik Lie even knew existed, let alone something that would cause 17 CEOs to lose their jobs. Hank McKinnel was still running the show at Pfizer (PFE) and YouTube, which as everyone knows was bought by Google (GOOG) for $1.65 billion in October, wasn’t even a year old.

But some things stayed the same. Like the number of companies that continued to bury all sorts of things in their routine SEC filings, particularly late on a Friday, which as the IR Report cheekily noted on Thursday, I had "almost made a career out of". Which brings me to the footnote of the year. It was a tough contest this year with lots of companies and various executives in the running. Among the also-rans was the $122 million tax gross-up for former North Fork Bank executive John Kanas and the Italian villa that investors in Buca (BUCA) paid for.

But in the end, it came down to this post from April 10 on Aaron’s Rent (RNT). As I footnoted at the time, getting the company that you work for to spend nearly $1 million teaching your sons to be race-car drivers as Aaron’s executive Bill Butler did is an interesting use of shareholder money. But calling it an marketing expense really reached a new nadir.

Here’s wishing all readers (and especially my regular tipsters) a year full of good eyesight and good insight, the better to avoid investing in whatever company will be honored as 2007’s footnote of the year. Finally, if you’ve enjoyed reading over the past year or you’ve managed to make money (or avoid losing some) based on something you’ve read here, please consider a donation — all sizes are welcome — to show your support.