Great job everyone: we survived 2014.
But before we can look forward to another year in the markets, it is time to look back on the craziest things that happened in the past year.
We’re not talking about the boring stuff: the Fed ending quantitative easing, the markets’ mini-meltdown October, or the unexpected double-digit full-year gains that almost no one saw coming.
We’re talking about the weird stories that we can’t forget about. A penny stock saw its market-cap balloon to $US5 billion, a company went public and then un-public, and a Chinese footwear company saw all of its money disappear over a weekend.
And while all of these stories are wild in their own right, we’ve ranked them from “least crazy” to “most crazy”: all rankings are relative.
Israeli biotech company Vascular Biogenics made its debut on the Nasdaq on August 1 -- but on August 8 it wasn't public anymore.
The public-and-then-un-public situation was related to what the company called, 'an unexpected situation in which a substantial existing US shareholder did not fund payment for share it previously agreed to purchase in the offering.'
11. CEO Mocks Analyst, Refuses To Answer His Question On Public Webcast Because His Stock-Price Target Is Too Low
This was uncomfortable.
On Cliffs Natural's October earnings conference call, its CEO Lourenco Goncalves refused to answer a question from Wells Fargo analyst Sam Dubinsky because Dubinsky had a price target on the stock Goncalves didn't like.
Goncalves took Dubinsky's question, and then said, 'You have a $US4 price target and you think we can't sell assets, so I'm going to take the next question, I'm not going to answer you.'
In August, riots broke out in Ferguson, Missouri after the shooting to black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer.
Following this, shares of a company called TASER, which makes wearable body cameras for law enforcement agencies, rallied as investors saw these developments potentially pressing municipalities to put cameras on their police officers.
TASER shares have continued their rally into year-end, and this year the stock added almost 70%.
Intercept Pharmaceuticals shares rose more than 400% in just a few days in early January.
The insane spike in Intercept shares came after the company halted a clinical trial of a liver disease drug after saying there was evidence the treatment was working.
In August, Intercept shares spiked again, gaining 45% in a day after releasing another round of good news regarding its drug candidates.
For the year, Intercept shares gained more than 120%.
It was a bad year for Civeo.
The oil services company, which provides housing accommodations for drilling and mining projects, saw its stock fall 45% in September after abandoning its plan to convert to a real estate investment trust, or REIT.
And just this week, the company fell more than 50% in a day after suspending its dividend and slashing capital investment amid the recent plunge in oil prices.
And Civeo has only been public since June, when it was spun out from Oil States International.
6. A Penny Stock Called Nestor Surged 1900% Because People Confused It With The Company That Google Bought
Google bought Nest for $US3.2 billion early this year.
And some people thought this was a penny stock.
Nestor, which sells automated traffic systems to government and has been in receivership since 2009, saw shares rise more than 1,900% after the deal.
The confusion was caused by the company's stock ticker -- 'NEST' -- which, sure, is the same as Nest's maybe would be, but alas, isn't.
2014 was a big year for penny stocks.
Spanish tech company Let's Gowex was called a fraud by Gotham City Research, and five days later the company filed for voluntary insolvency.
In July, Gotham City said that 90% of Let's Gowex's revenues were fabricated and just a few days later, the provider of free WiFi services saw the company's value go from more than €1.4 billion to, well, nothing.
The company's disgraced CEO sent a big 'I'm sorry' email to employees, and quoted Rudyard Kipling to make up for it.
Back in the fall, everyone in the US was freaked out about Ebola, and traders found a big way to play this: hazmat suits.
Lakeland Industries, a small hazmat suit and protective gear company, saw its shares go absolutely all over the place in October, gaining more than 60% in one day.
Eventually, Lakeland shares, which were trading at around $US6-$US7 per share in the summer, rose as high as $US30. At year-end, the stock was just below $US10 a share and gained more than 80% this year.
In September, Chinese shoe company Ultrasonic said that its CEO and COO disappeared over a weekend in September and that the company's cash was gone.
Shares of the company listed in Frankfurt fell more than 70% following the announcement.
A week later, the company fired its CEO but still didn't appear to have a tight handle on what really happened.
2. A Hedge Fund Issued A Dizzying 294-Slide Presentation Exposing How Olive Garden Wastes Money And Fails Customers
I didn't know there were 294 things to say about Olive Garden.
In September, hedge fund Starboard Value published a 294-slide presentation outlining a litany of problems the fund had with how Darden Restaurants was operating Olive Garden.
In October, Darden's CEO was ousted.
1. CYNK Technology -- The $5 Billion Social Network That Was Once Worth Over $5 Billion But Had No Revenues, Assets, Or Full-Time Employees
In July, CYNK Technology was all the rage in markets. At one point, the company was worth almost $US6 billion
But there was a small problem.
The company had no revenue, no assets, and no full-time employees. In the summer, CYNK shares rose almost 25,000% in just 16 days, going from just fractions of cents to more than $US10 per share and then all the way back down.
The company purportedly ran a social networking site call introbiz.com, which claimed to connect users to celebrities, though its not clear if the site worked at all.
Business Insider's Hunter Walker and Julia La Roche eventually tracked down some people who were associated with the company in the past, though most everyone Walker and La Roche reached out attempted to distance themselves from the situation.
Unfortunately, for at least one Wall Street trader, trying to short CYNK cost him his job.
On a Friday morning in September, news crossed the wires that William H. Gross was joining Janus Capital.
William H. Gross? You mean Bill Gross? PIMCO's Bill Gross? PIMCO co-founder Bill Gross indeed.
Gross' relationship with PIMCO had become strained over the last year or so, and his behaviour had grown erratic, but Gross leaving PIMCO was a shocker to the bond world, especially leaving for a firm as small as Janus.
Gross now manages the Janus Global Unconstrained Bond Fund, and recently got a $US500 million investment from George Soros.
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