Monday, January 30, 2006

HOW TO FIGHT MEDIA BIAS--NOT: It's actually fairly easy to fight media bias. You sit down, put a piece of paper in the old Royal, and type out a lucid and intelligent letter of complaint. Now, there's an excellent chance that won't accomplish anything, but at least you got it out of your system. You can always throw the Royal through the window if the answer is unsatisfactory-- as it probably will be -- or if you are ignored.

There are other good things you can do about media bias that were listed recently in a blog called Publicity Hound that I just saw linked today by the SABEW blog. The author of the blog, Joan Stewart, offers eight suggestions. I think seven of them are perfectly fine, but I have a problem with No. 7:
If you’re lucky enough to have a tape-recording or a written transcript of an interview you did with the media, you can fight back by posting it on your website, like Overstock.com President Patrick Byrne did following an interview with BusinessWeek e-commerce editor Timothy Mullaney—before the story was published on BusinessWeek’s magazine or on its website. You can read more about it here.

With all due respect to Ms. Stewart, whose general concern about media bias I tend to share, I think this not a very good idea.

Sure, if you've been misquoted, then I would say yes, posting a transcript is totally understandable. However, Byrne was not upset with a biased article. He was concerned with what he saw as a biased reporter, which is an entirely different ball of wax. (Not there was any actual evidence of "bias," I must hasten to add.)

The problem with this approach is that it is going to be construed as an attempt to intimidate the media. Not that Byrne would ever stoop to doing such a thing. Perish the thought! But it is going to be viewed that way anyway.

In Wall Street Versus America I point out how inadequate so much media coverage of the Street has tended to be. Reporters are just not motivated. What Byrne has done is to find a way to motivate reporters! And it will work, believe you me. Your coverage won't be favorable, but there will be plenty of it.

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Sunday, January 29, 2006

'A DEVASTATING BROADSIDE': That's the verdict of Publisher's Weekly ("Weiss's wise-guy attitude and muckraking chops make for a devastating broadside"), in a rave review of Wall Street Versus America that came out this weekend. I've posted an excerpt on my website. (God forbid I should use this blog to sell the book. Perish the thought!)

Enthusiastic as this review surely was, I'd say that the instantaneous revulsion of the scammer community at the very idea of the book, before they even read it, is almost as enthusiastic an endorsement.

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INTERESTING DIALOGUE: A reader brings to my attention an interesting dialogue in a Yahoo! message board yesterday and today on the subject of naked short-selling. I've posted it at the bottom of the blog, as a kind of footnote, because Blogspot has no way of attaching files.

This exchange illustrates two points:

One is that the anti-shorting Baloney Blitzkrieg is totally detached from any semblance of rationality. Now that's hardly surprising, given that this "movement" is a fraud. As I detail in my book, it purports to be a "shareholder protection" and "market reform" movement, but in reality serves the interests of stock promoters and pump-and-dump scam artists.

The second is that this exchange is a good demonstration of how investors can and should fight back against not just these creeps, but all the forces on Wall Street that hurt investors. I'd like to see this dialogue move from the Internet to where it really counts, which is the regulatory agencies that have, so far, paid little attention to the concerns of genuine investors -- as opposed to the microcap promoters -- in passing misguided rules on naked shorting.

This dialogue focuses on just one element of the Baloney Brigade's argument, mind you. Just one slice -- and we're talking about a five-foot-long slab of baloney.

UPDATE: I've updated the dialogue to include a good exchange on the "stock counterfeiting" canard.

By the end of the day "O'Brien" threw in the towel, refusing to debate any further on Yahoo and "moved" the discussion to his website -- where he controls the discussion, censors opposing points of view, and posts under multiple identities to congratulate himself on his superb debating skills.

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Friday, January 27, 2006

THE BALONEY CHRONICLES: A staid Wall Street institution called the Depository Trust Clearing Corp., which processes trades for securities firms, is one of the leading targets of the anti-naked-shorting fanatics. There's no valid reason to drag these people into court, but that has not kept the anti-shorters from targeting the DTCC time and time again.

The firm today issued a box score: "To date, 14 suits have been brought against DTCC or its subsidiaries involving naked short selling. Of these 14 cases, 9 were either dismissed by the courts or withdrawn by the plaintiffs. In 4 cases, suits were filed, but DTCC and its subsidiaries were never served."

"We are concerned about the continuing effort by third party groups to mischaracterize and misrepresent the facts surrounding these lawsuits and the degree of concern over this issue," said Larry Thompson, DTCC general counsel and managing director. "From what regulators have said, there is little empirical evidence that widespread abuses such as naked short selling are occurring."
Unfortunately, such rational statements fall on the deaf ears of the Baloney Brigade, which continues to press forward a nutty crusade against a nonexistent problem, diverting resources that should be used to address genuine investor issues, such as the unfair arbitration system. That is the focus of the Introduction to my forthcoming book Wall Street Versus America, which was recently posted on my website.

Genuine investor issues don't matter one bit to the cynical con men of the Baloney Brigade. This coalition of stock promoters and crackpots is concerned about one thing only -- artificially elevating the price of cruddy stocks.

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MORE ON BW: Since my item on Business Week appeared and was picked up by a few places, I've gotten a bunch of calls and emails from current and former BW staffers. All lament this or that. I really wish that people would post their comments here, or somewhere, in addition to letting me know their thoughts.

It seems to an outsider that maybe morale isn't all that hot. But as Lou Grant once put it, "That's why they call it work."

The magazine is certainly looking very spiffy. Hey, I'd buy an ad if I were selling a line of luxury automobiles or a mutual fund. I'd like to see more tough stories, as I previously opined, but that is neither here nor there.

The sense I get is that internal opinion of the magazine's new direction is, at best, mixed. Also I think internal communications could stand some improvement. I told one staffer about that item being mentioned by BW's Blogspotting Blog. The response: "What's Blogspotting?"

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NO COMMENT? I installed the other day a thing called "Haolscan," which I was told was the latest thing in blogging and which results in something called "trackback pings" etc. etc. Unfortunately, it seems that such installations totally nuke all the existing comments in one's blog!

However, I was able to figure out a way of retrieving them, and have put them back into the blog, beginning with the BW item.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

EXCERPT AVAILABLE: I've redesigned my website, and posted the Introduction from the book. You can find it here. The Introduction is available as a PDF file.

Among other things, my website makes note of the Baloney Brigade's hysterical reaction to this book -- which is, I guess, probably the best endorsement I could find. Since the pump-and-dump scam artists hate this book -- and they haven't even read one word of it -- you have got to figure that Wall Street Versus America is on the right track. One posted an entire "essay" on how wrong I was, based on one paragraph in the New York Post! That's how terrified these people are that their phony non-scandal is going to be dissected.

I'm hoping that this book will knock some sense into a regulatory community that has long been cowed by these loathsome con artists -- one of whom is a con man who goes by the phony name "Bob O'Brien," and bravely posts libelous attacks on the Internet while cowering behind that phony identity. "Bob" goes to great lengths to avoid being identified. However, my guess would be that he or she is a semiretired pump-and-dump scam artist.

It would be particularly gratifying if the North American Securities Administrators Assn., which has long been in the forefront of investor protection, finally sees these creeps for the snake-oil salesmen that they are, and moves on to genuine investor issues.

The Baloney Brigade is going to be disappointed by the Introduction -- because their crusade, fraudulent as it is, was not significant enough to be mentioned.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

BW BLUES: Early this morning I heard the news on the radio, and couldn't believe my ears: At my alma mater Business Week, "ad pages declined 18.8% in the fourth quarter and 12.8% for the year." Naah. Impossible. Can't be that bad. Then I got the press release and I saw that it is true.

I know that everybody in the business has a pet theory why ad pages have been so crummy for the biz magazines. My theory, which I admit is self-serving, is that there hasn't been nearly enough hard-hitting reporting. Now, anyone who knew me at BW can tell you that I've been saying that for quite some time, even when there was a lot of hard-hitting reporting in the magazine.

Still, I think that readers and advertisers expect more of a "mix" of stories than they have been getting. There are a number of reasons for this, and I deal with them in Wall Street Versus America, and one of them is reflected in those awful numbers -- staffing. Reporters who are working to fill the weekly "book" don't have time for lengthy projects. The magazines are thinner, so there is less space for even routine stories. That, and a reduction in ad pages, results in pressure to reduce the staff still further. It's a kind of vicious circle.

It's been going on for a long time. For a worm's-eye view of what I'm talking about, let's compare the number of people covering finance in late 1986, when I joined, to the current day:

In 1986 we had two people covering "markets and investments," two covering "corporate finance" and one covering "money and banking." (I think the latter department may have been short one person, in fact.) I was hired as a "swing person" to write about a little of each, and in addition we had two senior writers covering finance.

Overseeing all of them were two senior editors, both experts in the markets and economics -- one, Seymour Zucker, was an economist, and the other, Dick Janssen, was a veteran of many years at the Wall Street Journal. In overall charge was Bill Wolman, also an economist and, like Seymour and Dick, a really brilliant, massively experienced guy.

OK, so that's eight writers and two editors, all with Lord knows how many hundreds of years of experience between them, and that's not counting a separate staff covering personal business and of course Gene Marcial's stock market column.

Today, the number of people covering finance is exactly half what it was twenty years ago. The beats have been shifted around a bit. Now there is one person covering Wall Street, one covering banking and finance, one concentrating on investment banking and a senior writer with broader responsibilities. Overseeing them is one editor. Gene is the only survivor from twenty years ago. All good, smart and experienced people. But, still, that's just half the number that were tasked with covering a less complex and far less journalistically competitive financial beat in 1986.

When you have fewer people, it greatly affects the ability of the staff to carry out lengthy, investigative projects. And I'd argue that this deficiency shows up in the ad pages. As I said, it's a vicious circle.

UPDATE: Business Week's "Blogspotting" blog picked up on my little item above, and noted a couple of rather insidey-seeming comments.

I've also received a number of emails from present and former staffers. Guys, feel free to comment anonymously, with confidentiality protected of course. I have no way of knowing who is posting anonymously. However, please remain within the boundaries of propriety and good taste, if possible.

THE COMMENTS: They all vanished when I installed Haloscan, but ...... I was able to retrieve them and have reposted them.

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BALONEY UPDATE: As is standard practice with the Baloney Brigade, the group's chief spokesman, a former used medical equipment salesman named Phil Saunders who cowers behind the fictional name "Bob O'Brien," responded to the posts in this blog, and perceptions (mostly inaccurate) of the contents of my book, with a variety of libelous personal attacks on me in his website.

That is typical of the Baloney Brigade. Since the anti-shorters have nothing more than repetitive, stale arguments and meaningless or made-up "data" to advance their cause, they grow frustrated like little children and lash out when questioned -- but always cowering, using phony names like their mothers' skirts.

What's even more lamentable is if anyone takes seriously a movement whose principal spokesman doesn't have the integrity to use his real name.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

THE BALONEY CONTINUES: Phil Saunders a/k/a "Bob O'Brien," the bravely anonymous leader of the Baloney Brigade, responded to today's DTCC press release with a lengthy, rambling comment that doesn't even attempt to counter anything in the DTCC press release.

As usual, the ex-used medical equipment salesman's position is that he doesn't have to prove a thing. The rest of the world, the victims of his rants, must come up with "facts" to counter his nutty allegations. He then expresses displeasure that I have not turned over my blog to him to rant at length and goes on to accuses DTCC -- as usual, without substantiation -- of "lying," and slanders an award-winning Dow Jones reporter who has not written articles to his or her (being anonymous, we have no way of knowing) satisfaction.

"Bob," I have a question for you. This you are welcome to post on, and at length. What is your name? Who finances your website? Who finances the Baloney Blitzkrieg?

UPDATE: "Bob" responded in typical fashion, by saying "I'll be happy to respond" and then, after six hundred words, not responding.

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BALONEY DEBUNKED: Today the Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation, the staid Wall Street trade-processing collective that is the bogeyman for many an anti-shorting fantasy, issued a press release summing up a forum that was held recently by the North American Securities Administrators Association on the "naked shorting" red herring.

This release is important so I'm excerpting from it at length, which hopefully the DTCC won't mind. Basically the Baloney Blitzkrieg has been discredited yet again -- not that it matters even a bit, as I will be explaining.... :

"NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jan. 24, 2006--Despite extensive examinations by the SEC and the markets, there has been little or no evidence of extensive "naked short selling" to date, according to comments made at a recent forum held by the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA).

"The forum was designed to examine how well Reg SHO, a regulation designed to modernize rules on short selling, had performed.

"James Brigagliano, assistant director of market regulation at the SEC, said, "While there may be instances of abusive short selling, 99% of all trades in dollar value settle on time without incident."

"Brigagliano said the SEC conducted examination at 45 broker/dealers and asked the markets to look into the trading of securities in which large amounts of "fails to deliver" have been registered.

"Anand Ramtahl, vice president in the New York Stock Exchange's division of member regulation, told panelists that the exchange was conducting rigorous examinations of its members to make sure they are complying with Reg SHO.

"NYSE officials noted later that when Reg SHO went into effect in January 2005, the exchange had 78 issues on the threshold list. (The threshold list contains the names of issues that have more then one-half of one percent of their shares failing to be delivered.) As of early January 2006, the number of NYSE issue on the list had dropped to 37 issues.

"Cameron Funkhouser, NASD's senior vice president of market regulations, told the forum that NASD had found no evidence of rampant naked short selling. He also noted that although a number of companies have in the past alleged their shares have been manipulated through the listing of their stocks on foreign stock exchanges, he had found no evidence of such activity.

" 'We took (these allegations) very seriously,' Funkhouser said. 'We have seen not one instance of naked short selling or any abusive short activity" through foreign exchanges.'

"According to the SEC, a short sale is "generally the sale of a stock you do not own (or that you will borrow for delivery). Short sellers believe the price of the stock will fall, or are seeking to hedge against potential price volatility in securities that they own. In a 'naked' short sale, the seller does not borrow or arrange to borrow the securities in time to make delivery to the buyer within the standard three-day settlement period. As a result, the seller fails to deliver securities to the buyer when delivery is due, which is known as a 'failure to deliver' or 'fail.'" The SEC noted that fails can occur for a number of reasons other than naked short sales, however.

"The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation was not invited to attend the NASAA forum, but officials noted that 85% of all fails were resolved within 10 business days (i.e., before any buy-in would be allowed under current rules), and 90% resolved in 20 business days. DTCC does not regulate short selling, naked or otherwise. However, it compiles lists of fails each day and provides that data to the market regulators.
"
Additional information on naked short selling can be found on DTCC's Web site at http://www.dtcc.com/ThoughtLeadership/keyissues/naked_short_"

Something stands out in that press release -- DTCC's exclusion. The DTCC is a staid and totally blameless organization that has had its name dragged through the mud by the brainless boobs of the Baloney Brigade, and knows more about short-selling mechanics than just about any other person or institution. Why was it excluded?

As I pointed out in an exchange (see the ninth and tenth comments) with one of the leading lights of the anti-shorting movement -- a brave soul who cowers behind the pseudonym of "Bob O'Brien" while making scurrilous attacks and nutty allegations -- this is all a crying shame. Regulators are supposed to be responding to genuine investor concerns, and they do a mediocre enough job of that without having their attention diverted by non-issues. I've always admired NASAA, which has been in the forefront of protecting investor concerns, but I think they've taken this naked-shorting nonsense far too seriously.

I see that the Baloney Blitzkrieg is hard at work trying to spin this DTCC press release, using the usual combination of smoke, mirrors and baloney. The shame is that no matter how many times the sheer idiocy of their allegations is exposed, they just plow on ahead.

Why is that? Because, by definition, satisfying the Baloney Brigade is impossible. These are people -- very few, but very loud people -- who are united by a desire to find someone other than themselves to blame for either their own lousy investments or their own lousy companies. They see the shares that interest them decline. So rather than approach the subject rationally, they try to blame a scapegoat. So they find an old one: short sellers.

Even if you believe that naked shorting is the scourge that these people say it is, there is not a shred of evidence that it comes even close to the kind of problem that they claim it to be. That's a fact, and all the shrill and nutty rants in the world won't change that.

By the way, a couple of these individuals have taken me to task for "insulting" them. Not so. You can only insult a real person. Very few of these people utilize their real names in their various Internet missives. You can only insult a real person, not a fictional one and certainly not a fictional one with a fictional cause.

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Monday, January 23, 2006

UPDATE ON READER COMMENTS: So far I've received quite a few comments. I let a few through, but have had to spike most of them because they were repetitive, slanderous, sick.... well, I think this sums it up:

.... and I am running neither a delicatessen nor a mental institution.

Sorry guys. You can cry "censorship" all you want, but I am not going to turn this blog into an extension of the naked-shorting-baloney websites. Also, I think you're being a bit disingenuous complaining about this, since I've heard from several people that contrary opinions are verboten on your various blogs and websites.

Some of these Baloney Brigade foot soldiers apparently are confusing this blog with an SEC rulemaking that they can flood with their tired, stale, incoherent and nonsensical arguments.

The theory appears to be that if they produce enough spam, they can bulldoze their way past the usual barriers of common sense. Unfortunately, it worked at the SEC, which was browbeaten by a coalition of stock promoters and crackpots into passing Reg. SHO -- despite a near-total absence of evidence that there was an actual problem to be addressed.

Since Reg. SHO didn't carry out the objective of the Baloney Brigade, which is to raise the share prices of crappy companies, la lucha continua and the Baloney Blitzkrieg is marching on. Hence the spam and the craziness and the baloney.

UPDATE, Jan. 27: As noted in a subsequent item, all the comments went poof! when I installed Holoscan. I mean all comments -- the good, the bad and the baloney. I might consider reposting the baloney. All will be considered on a slice-by-slice basis.

But frankly, I think I've devoted too much space on this blog to the Baloney Brigade as it is. As a matter of fact I've deleted and condensed some posts chronicling the adventures of these characters.

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

THE BALONEY BLITZKRIEG MARCHES ON: Since there seems to be such a high level of interest, as evidenced by the comments I received before I even broached the issue, I guess I'll toss in my two cents on all this "naked shorting" baloney. I devote a chapter to the subject in Wall Street Versus America, but here's the executive summary:

First let's be clear about something: short selling, "naked" or not, is good for investors. That's a proven fact that has been demonstrated time and time again. However, since short-selling wagers on stocks declining, it is viewed as almost un-American and has been used as a scapegoat since the Crash of 1929 and before. However, you need short-selling if you want to have smoothly running, efficient markets. You need that negative input in the process of pricing stocks.

Unfortunately, the mechanics of short-selling have always made it hard to short the stocks that require shorting the most -- illiquid, frequently manipulated, microcap stocks. The Securities and Exchange Commission, via Regulation SHO, actually made it harder for professional traders to short microcaps. That's because to do so you have to do it by "naked" shorting, and SHO pretty well stomps that out.

The SEC should have made it easier to short crap stocks. Instead they made it harder. Now is that dumb, or what? I personally have never shorted a stock and I think it is foolish for amateur investors to try -- almost as dumb as it is to speculate in microcaps. But hey, if you're going to bet on the damn things, you should have the ability to short them as well as buy them, just as you can with large-cap stocks.

And if that drives down the price of the stocks -- so much the better. If the companies are any good, the shorting gives investors an opportunity to buy them at discount prices. I love a bargain, don't you?

So it's really very simple, but the short-bashers have swathed the whole thing in baloney so much, gummed up the debate with so many red herrings and distortions and incorrect assumptions, that it's really a shame. The shame is that a lot of the people who are most upset about shorting of their fave companies would actually benefit the most if it were allowed to flourish. After all, these are great companies, right? And if their companies aren't so great, their beef should be with the companies, not the shorts.

In my book I go into detail on this, but that's the summary.

One thing I find disturbing about this naked shorting business lately is how the anti-naked-shorts have engaged in some really underhanded, cynical tactics to advance their stupid cause. Lately they've been -- oh my, how unique this is! -- bashing the media left and right.

For example, I've seen circulated on the Internet supposed exchanges of correspondence and communications from reporters (note this post and others on the SABEW blog). The transparent aim is to drum up a phony hate-media hysteria. Note the reference to an unrelated payola scandal in this anti-shorting website, replete with this swill:
How many journalists do you think Wall Street pays off every year to write agenda articles? 1% of the total? 2%? 5%? 10%? If there are 500 financial journalists in NY and the surrounding areas, 2% would be 10. Anyone naive enough to think this is an isolated issue is living in a fool's paradise.

This kind of bonehead rhetoric is typical of the Baloney Brigade. And as for the ranting by Overstock's Patrick Byrne about Sith Lords and such -- the only journalistic issue that I see is that some people in the media have actually taken it seriously. I saw one broadcast journalist, a gent I respect, actually give a platform to some of this silliness.

Journalists have a duty to their readers and viewers to call that kind of rhetoric what it is -- baloney. Funny how I keep coming back to that word.

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KIND WORDS: I see that there's a flattering appraisal of Wall Street Versus America in the New York Post today. I know this is shameless self-promotion, but I'm copying it in full below:

"A new book by ace investigative reporter Gary Weiss, a longtime BusinessWeek staffer, is guaranteed to be a front-runner for most controversial business book of 2006, according to The Post's Roddy Boyd. The book, "Wall Street Versus America," won't hit the stands until early April, but his arguments — gleaned from two decades worth of reporting on Wall Street — are sure to provoke outrage in many sectors.

"The most provocative argument in Weiss' book is that naked shorting — or short-selling a company's stock without being able to borrow it first, per long standing rules — is not only a good idea, but a necessary one.

"Weiss argues that the indifference of regulators toward small-cap stocks has promoted a lawless Wild West dominated by stock promoters and sleazy underwriters. The only remedy against such "bacteria" is to short these stocks mercilessly.

"This is guaranteed to send Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne and the other disciples of his "stop naked short-selling crusade" — Weiss dismisses the lot of them as the "Baloney Brigade" — into further spasms.

"The book is witty, readable and hunts big prey: Weiss spends a chapter filleting Bear Stearns for its sins in some preposterous municipal securities transactions. His eyeglass spares no one, and financial reporters come in for special mention for their sins of omission, as they focus on the machinations in the Morgan Stanley executive suite while ordinary investors are robbed blind by scams that continue to this day."

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

LIES AND STATISTICS: There was an interesting story in the New York Times yesterday on hedge fund indexes.

This story points out that hedge fund "indexes" are all over the lot:

The Standard & Poor's hedge fund index, which includes funds that are open for investment, returned 2.39 percent for 2005. The Credit Suisse/Tremont Hedge Fund Index, which includes funds that are not open for investment, had a gain of 7.61 percent. Its investable index, on the other hand, returned 3.54 percent. The Hedge Fund Research index, which also includes funds not open for investment, returned 9.35 percent; its investable index showed a gain of 2.7 percent.

These numbers are screwy, and for a good reason. Since hedge funds are secretive and do not have to report their performance, you can barely call these numbers "indexes" in the accepted sense of the word. There are so many hedge funds that do not report their performance that there's no way of knowing if these indexes are statistically kosher.

Another reason hedge fund stats are worthless is that fund managers don't have to report their performance at all. A proper index would include a statistically reliable gauge of the performance of a cross-section of funds, whether they want their numbers reported or not. What would the stock indexes look like if they excluded schlock stocks didn't want to report their performance?

The Times story concludes by noting that "many sophisticated investors develop their own benchmarks, or they set an absolute return objective. Not all hedge fund investors are so sophisticated. For those who are not, and who happen to be piling into hedge funds, it is worth finding a reliable benchmark."

Might be even more worthwhile to just stay away from hedge funds entirely, as I suggest in my book.

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Friday, January 20, 2006

JACK WELCH IN BUSINESS WEEK: This is a little off the beaten path of this blog, but I have to tell you: I was really surprised when I read today in the New York Post that Jack and Suzy Welch are writing a column in BW! (Actually a somewhat dismayed ex-colleague told me about it first......)

Look, it's easy for an outsider to be critical when a magazine does something dramatic to attract readers or advertisers. The ad sales environment is tough. But what I wonder is this: Does Business Week really need celebrity columns, by the likes of Jack & Suzy Welch and Maria Bartiromo, to keep the ad revenues flowing? Is that what readers and advertisers want from the magazine?

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

THE WALL STREET DANCE: Susan Antilla has a great column today in Bloomberg: "With Sex in Air It's Time for Defense Lawyers." It's about a suit that was filed recently against Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein Services, and it describes in knowing detail the little dance that takes place whenever such suits are filed:

"So far, the big Dresdner suit is moving according to the scripts of predecessor suits:

"First, the firm denies the allegations and says that it will fight them vigorously. . . .

"Next, the plaintiffs' counsel says it will be a fight to the end. . .

"After that, companies find ways to get good press as ``friends of women" . . .

"Finally, settlement talks begin. Out-of-court agreements mean no discovery process to unearth the salaries, the promotions, and the hiring practices and expose them at trial. Many settlements also entail promises that the plaintiffs never speak about what happened to them. Presto, a clean slate, as if nothing ever happened."

Note that the media plays an essential role in the process -- a phenomenon that I describe in Wall Street Versus America.

Keep in mind that Wall Street isn't Iraq or the White House or Congress. As a rule (Susan Antilla being one conspicuous exception), the media is not an adversary to Street institutions and regulators but on board -- very much part of the team. That's why examples of atrocious media coverage can be found throughout my book.

THE BLOGGER DILEMMA: One of the first things I learned in journalism, way back in the early 1970s, is that only fools write for free. Nevertheless, nowadays a lot of journalists who aren't fools spend hours churning out blogs without a penny in compensation. Some of them are pretty damn good. Some stink on ice.

Andrew Sullivan comes to mind. (That is, in the "pretty damn good" category.) I've been reading his stuff for years. Andrew Sullivan writes for nothing. So why should I mind writing for nothing?

I also know some journo blogs that stink on ice, and if I get in a bad mood I may write about them as well.

I've heard it said that if H.L. Mencken were alive today, he would be blogging. I'll bet William Shirer, my childhood hero, would have a blog if he were still with us. He was an obsessive diarist, and blogs are diaries -- public diaries.

In addition to all of the above rubbish I have a good, solid, cynically commercial reason to start a blog. My new book Wall Street Versus America is hitting the stores on April 6. So I have several blog-related reasons related to that:
  • First I want to write about some of the issues that will be raised in the book.
  • Secondly I want to update stuff that I put in the book (and, I guess, correct any boo-boos that are brought to my attention, in case there are any, God forbid!).
  • And lastly..... well, this is a new medium, and I've always been fascinated by new media.

I understand that at some point soon the Author's Guild, which hosts my website, will begin blogging capabilities for its authors. When that happens, I shall move this blog over there.

So, enough excuses. On with the blog!

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