Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Smear Du Jour

I hope that Joe Nocera's column yesterday, and the publicity surrounding the SEC's subpoena of two journalists, represents a tipping point in press coverage of the naked-shorting cultists and their campaign to promote a non-scandal. The reason you don't read about them is fairly simple -- critics are silenced, and smeared, in the best McCarthyite tradition.

A good example emerged late yesterday on the website maintained by "Bob O'Brien," the Internet hatchet man of the anti-shorting con men. "O'Brien," the non de smear of an ex-used medical equipment salesman named Phil Saunders, is the Cowardly Lion of the cult, roaring lies and smears while cowering behind a phony name. Yesterday his smear was that Herb Greenberg of Marketwatch "shut down" his RealityCheck newsletter after being served with an SEC subpoena.

"O'Brien" piled more dreck on top of that, asserting that Greenberg backdated a story mentioning the "shutdown" to precede the Feb. 7 date of the subpoenas.

This smear promptly spread over Internet message boards like stinkweed -- and it was a blatant lie. The newsletter wasn't "shut down," but made free of charge. Subscribers were notified of the changeover as early as the afternoon of Feb. 1 -- 2:30 p.m., to be precise. That's six days before the date of the subpoena. So says the email announcement, which is sitting in my inbox right now.

What you're seeing here is a standard tactic of the anti-naked-shorting cultists, who offer up a smear du jour, along with the usual paranoid conspiracy pap, on Internet websites whose ownership is hidden as carefully as "O'Brien's" identity.

Time for the media, and regulators, to stop being cowed by these creeps.

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Wall Street Versus America: The Rampant Greed and Dishonesty That Imperil Your Investments will be published by Penguin USA on April 6.

Click here for its Amazon.com listing and here for my web site.

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