Wall Street Gets a Billion-Dollar Slap on the Wrist


On this day in economic and financial history...

On Nov. 9, 1998, many of the world's most prestigious investment banks were momentarily humbled when forced to submit to the terms of a $1.03 billion class action settlement. It was the largest civil award in history, and was the result of a multiyear price-fixing antitrust lawsuit.

The lawsuit was first filed in 1994, accusing 37 major brokerage firms, including Goldman Sachs (NYS: GS) , Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch (now owned by Bank of America (NYS: BAC) ), and Morgan Stanley (NYS: MS) , of illegally fixing the prices of stocks they traded on the Nasdaq OMX (NAS: NDAQ) exchange between 1989 and 1996. As the suit dragged on, both the Justice Department and the SEC initiated probes of the Nasdaq, which led to both an SEC censure of the exchange and an eventual promise from the Nasdaq to spend $100 million over five years to improve its oversight practices.

The lawsuit's outcome was intended to make the tech-heavy Nasdaq a fairer exchange for investors by reducing the overinflated prices seen on most stocks, but it's difficult to claim that it was successful. The market was already in the middle of a legendary bull run -- the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) had broken above the 9,000 mark that spring and would roar ahead to 11,000 within six months of the settlement -- and the most speculatively ridiculous dot-com garbage of the era had either recently gone public or would go public soon after the settlement. Major brokerage firms unashamedly continued to pump worthless tech companies to the moon until the dot-com bubble blew apart less than two years later.

Give us a million dollars... and a couple of six-packs
Heineken(NASDAQOTH: HINKY) chairman, major shareholder, and namesake Alfred (Freddy) Heineken was having a pretty good day on Nov. 9, 1983 -- until around 7 in the evening, when three masked men grabbed him and his chauffeur and made off with the pair in an unmarked orange van.

It was not the first time Heineken had been the target of a shakedown. In fact, he'd hosted a celebratory lunch that very afternoon for 100 police officers who'd helped investigate an earlier extortion attempt . This brazen kidnapping, however, caught the world's attention for three weeks, until Dutch police rescued Heineken and his chauffeur on the final day of November . The kidnappers had demanded a reported $10 million ransom, which had been paid two days earlier, and had kept the pair chained to the walls of a soundproof hut in Amsterdam's western harbor district. All in all, 24 men and women were arrested as a result of the raid.

Freddy Heineken returned to work and would remain on the board of his grandfather's company until retiring in 1989, by which time he'd helped build Heineken into a global leader. His kidnapping was made into a Dutch movie starring Rutger Hauer (of Blade Runner fame) in 2011.

Down on the pharm
The first school of pharmacy in the United States held its first day of classes on Nov. 9, 1821 . The Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, a founding college of the University of the Sciences , has continued to have a leading role in the pharmaceutical industry over the years. Its alumni include the founders of Burroughs Wellcome, which merged with Glaxo in 1995 to become the precursor of today's GlaxoSmithKline (NYS: GSK) , two Lillys of Eli Lilly (NYS: LLY) fame, and Robert L. McNeil, Jr., the son of McNeil Laboratories' founder and later, the company's CEO. McNeil oversaw the sale of his company to Johnson & Johnson (NYS: JNJ) in 1959, an acquisition that brought Tylenol into J&J's fold .

There were 274,900 pharmacists in the United States as of 2010, and the profession earns one of the highest median wages in the country. The country will need another 70,000 pharmacists within the coming decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A number of them will undoubtedly graduate from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, but there are now over 100 other pharmacy schools in the United States , helping to supply the country with the well-trained pharmacists it needs.

One thing many of these pharmaceutical companies have in common, besides the school their leaders graduated from, is a history of stable dividends. After all, pharmaceuticals are largely meant to stabilize your health, so why shouldn't pharmaceutical stocks stabilize your portfolio? Johnson & Johnson's a notable standout in the dividend arena, but it's far from alone. The Fool's put together a list of nine great dividend-paying standouts to secure your future, and we're offering it to our readers at no cost. Consider it our complimentary prescription for the health of your portfolio. Don't worry; you won't have any adverse reactions to this list. Click here to find out more today.

The article Wall Street Gets a Billion-Dollar Slap on the Wrist originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Alex Planes holds no financial position in any company mentioned here. Add him on Google+ or follow him on Twitter @TMFBiggles for more news and insights.The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America and Johnson & Johnson. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Goldman Sachs and Johnson & Johnson. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying calls on Johnson & Johnson. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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