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When I first introduced my American Express research in June, I expected (and was not disappointed) many to tug the name brand line in saying that Amex was the cream of the crop, they deal only with high end consumers, large business accounts, yada yada yada. Name brand marketing, it seems, fools many investors.

If one were to peruse the reseach in the Amex link above, you will see where practically each and every admonition has come to fruitition. Hopefully, this in combination with the events of the recent past should convince readers that hard core fundamental and forensic research trumps name branding every time - all the time. As with my Goldman Sachs research, Morgan Stanley research, and many other name brands, I was (to my knowledge) the only one bearish on these companies at the beginning of this year where the share prices were still high enough to profitably short or get out of (if you have a "long only" mandate).

From Bloomberg:

American Express Co. won Federal Reserve approval to convert to a commercial bank, gaining access to funds as credit losses build and sales of asset-backed bonds plummet.

The Fed waived a 30-day waiting period on the application ``in light of the unusual and exigent circumstances affecting the financial markets,'' according to a statement released today in Washington. Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and his colleagues unanimously voted for the action.

Credit-card holders failed to repay loans in the third quarter at almost twice the rate of a year earlier, New York- based American Express said last month. With defaults rising along with the unemployment rate, October marked the first month since 1993 that card companies were unable to sell bonds backed by customer payments.

``That business has totally dried up,'' said Frederic Dickson, who helps oversee about $20 billion as chief market strategist at D.A. Davidson & Co. in Lake Oswego, Oregon. ``If I were a shareholder, it wouldn't send a very warm and fuzzy message to me,'' he said today in a phone interview.

American Express, the largest U.S. credit-card company by purchases, joins former investment banks Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley, which were allowed by the Fed in September to become commercial banks.