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The stories behind the Rocker and Gradient lawsuit story

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The stories behind the Rocker and Gradient lawsuit story


Today, short-selling hedge fund Rocker Partners paid Overstock.com (NASDAQ:OSTK) $5-million to settle the lawsuit filed against them in August of 2005. Rocker Partners also entirely dropped its own countersuit.

Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne is a frequent contributor to DeepCapture.com.

This is a major victory, not only for Patrick and Overstock.com, but for all public companies targeted by bear raiding hedge funds.

But thanks to the unusually skewed reporting surrounding it, chances are you either hadn’t heard about the suit, or were under the impression it was frivolous and certain to fail.

This presentation explains part of the story behind the coverage of the suit, using some innovative methods to explain why what you heard about the suit and its merits likely had little in common with the reality of it.

As promised in the video, researchers are encouraged to find additional links within the Facebook friend lists of the short-selling hedge funds and journalists and bloggers who love them. To make the process easier, I’ve compiled this spreadsheet. If you discover anything interesting, particularly with respect to the hedge funds and reporters linked to other bear raid targets, please write about your findings it in the comment section below.

Also, very shortly I’ll be adding an interactive, dynamic relationship browser to this post, which will make it easy for you to visualize these networks.

Posted in AntiSocialMedia with Judd Bagley, Deep Capture Book, Deep Capture Podcast, Featured Stories, The Deep Capture CampaignComments (326)

The Pendulum Swings

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The Pendulum Swings


Pendulum_animationBack in college, where the combination of free time and that university mojo so often lend themselves to this sort of thing, a friend and I challenged each other to cram the most undeniable truth into complete sentences of the fewest possible words.

In the end, we settled on the following:

“Entropy increases” and “The pendulum swings.”

The first sentence is a reference to the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

The second sentence is a reference to the fact that cultural trends will always increase in pervasiveness and acceptance until some limit is broached, at which time opposing forces will be applied that cause society to respond with increasing negativity toward that trend. And, as with an actual pendulum, the higher the upswing, the more forceful the push back will be.

How true both are.

I first encountered the market reform movement near the end of 2005. Over the months that followed, I witnessed the following:

  1. An SEC staffer in San Francisco subpoenaed the communications of Jim Cramer, Herb Greenberg, Bethany McLean, Carol Remond and a handful of other “journalists” suspected of colluding with Gradient Analytics and short selling hedge fund Rocker Partners, only to have SEC Chairman Chris Cox personally sabotage the effort. This was followed up almost immediately by the SEC vindictively subpoenaing Patrick Byrne.
  2. FOIA requests filed with the SEC intended to give some sense of the scope of the delivery failure problem were regularly denied or spitefully filled with minimal accompanying explanation.
  3. Numerous brutal articles were published attacking opponents of naked short selling – Byrne primarily among them – under the bylines of (surprise) Jim Cramer, Herb Greenberg, Bethany McLean, Carol Remond, Joe Nocera, and Roddy Boyd.
  4. Audio tape captured by a market reform operative who covertly accessed a panel discussion featuring Herb Greenberg, Joe Nocera and Dan Colarusso (then Roddy Boyd’s editor) hosted by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. The theme of the discussion was essentially “How do we deal with these lying anti-naked short selling bloggers who are so critical of us?” Among other things, the tape caught Joe Nocera saying (to loud applause) he felt life was too short to bother understanding whether naked shorting is actually a problem, and Dan Colarusso saying he and his newspaper had the capacity to “crush” Patrick Byrne.
  5. An all-out PR offensive launched by the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC) attacking opponents of naked short selling.
  6. The emergence of Gary Weiss, an ostensibly credible former business journalist and blogger, bursting onto the scene, proclaiming naked short selling beneficial and its opponents crazy.
  7. The hijacking and distortion of the Wikipedia article on naked short selling by whom we would soon learn was none other than Gary Weiss. Given journalists’ well-documented over-reliance on Wikipedia, this was undoubtedly a key factor in our difficulty getting them to provide more balanced coverage of the issue.
  8. A special session of the Utah Legislature which, catching the banks flat-footed, resulted in passage of a law requiring brokerages with operations in Utah to promptly disclose stock delivery failures. But before it could go into effect, and after the prime brokers managed to rally their armies of lobbyists, the law was handily repealed.
  9. Unprecedented growth of companies on the Reg SHO Threshold Securities list, indicating that, contrary to the intended aim of Regulation SHO, naked shorting was becoming increasingly prevalent.

On balance, it was a very dark time for the market reform movement, as every charge was followed by a blistering counter-charge, and every lunge answered by a quick parry. More than once, I recall hearing even the staunchest market reformers openly question the capacity of a rag-tag band of revolutionaries to counter the enormous influence and resources brought to bear by the hedge funds and prime brokers who were getting rich from the practice of manipulative naked short selling, and I couldn’t help but wonder whether I’d picked the wrong battle.

That’s not to say I ever doubted the correctness of the cause – only the correctness of my decision to join a fight that sometimes seemed impossible to win and certain to result in damage to my reputation as it had to Patrick Byrne’s and so many others’.

But in those moments of doubt, I’d remind myself of an eternal truth: the pendulum swings.

In other words, as dark as those days were, there would invariably be restraining forces applied to help slow – and eventually stall and even reverse – the momentum built up by decades of Wall Street villainy and the deep regulatory capture of the institutions intended to counter it.

What we could not have realized – as such perspective only comes with time – is that we (meaning, you, me, and everybody else who’s taken steps to do something about illegal naked short selling) were in fact the very restraining forces so many of us were expecting to arrive, cavalry-like, from some unknown quarter, and that as dark as those days seemed, they appeared quite bright to those who had endured the 1990s and early part of the current decade, when the practice persisted, without restraint, like a drunken orgy.

Of course, the event that finally brought the pendulum to a decisive halt and reversal was the current economic crisis, which saw the term “naked short selling” dragged into the popular lexicon (as determined by Yahoo! listing it as one of its five most popular search terms in September of 2008).

Since then, as the link between naked short selling and the beginning of the crisis itself has been solidly established, valiant members of Congress – most notably Delaware Senator Ted Kaufman – have dragged the issue of naked short selling into the political lexicon, as well.

Where are we today?

  1. The SEC recently enacted permanent restrictions on illegal naked short selling, which include greatly enhanced disclosure of delivery failures and shorting activity.
  2. Today, the SEC brought its first enforcement cases against illegal naked short selling.
  3. Also today, FINRA expelled a member firm for engaging in illegal short selling.
  4. Jim Cramer has been deeply and publicly shamed. Herb Greenberg is now a ‘consultant’. Bethany McLean has left business journalism. Dan Colarusso continues looking for steady employment. Roddy Boyd, Carol Remond and Joe Nocera all retain their former positions, but seem to steer clear of anything resembling the issue of naked shorting.
  5. The DTCC is mum on the issue as well.
  6. Gary Weiss – since abashed and banned from Wikipedia – sinks ever deeper into obscure irrelevance while the Wikipedia article on naked short selling that he once controlled has been liberated and made to read nearly as it should.
  7. Substantive legislation with the capacity to end illegal naked short selling and other short-side market abuses once and for all is currently working its way through Congress.
  8. As of today, the Reg SHO Threshold Securities list is 23% shorter than it was on the day I met Patrick Byrne (and 90% smaller than it was at its height in July of 2008), and is nearly devoid of the kinds of promising, well-capitalized companies whose inclusion used to be a sure sign of an impending bear raid.

These are all developments that seemed impossible in the dark days of 2006.

But here we are.

Yes, the pendulum is now unambiguously swinging in our direction, but the job is not done. Indeed, we can only be assured of progress to the extent that we each recognize our responsibility to continue pushing.

Posted in Featured Stories, The Deep Capture CampaignComments (59)

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Email Exposes Short Seller Plot to Destroy a Public Company


This is Part 3 of an ongoing series.

Read Part 1

Read Part 2

A few years ago, a clique of influential journalists went to extraordinary lengths to cover up the problem of illegal short selling. In the face of indisputable data and evidence, the journalists insisted, over and over, that “naked” short selling (hedge funds manipulating stock prices by flooding the market with phantom stock) rarely occurred. And they said short sellers (who profit from falling stock prices) don’t set out to destroy public companies.

Moreover, if a person were to criticize illegal short selling, the reporters would smear that person’s reputation with a savagery that was almost without parallel in contemporary journalism.

At the time, these journalists were working at major news organizations like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and CNBC, but most shared a common history: they had been founding editors or top employees of TheStreet.com, a financial news website. The few who had not worked for TheStreet.com were close colleagues of TheStreet.com’s owner, Jim Cramer, who is best known as the eccentric host of CNBC’s “Mad Money” program.

Having studied more than 1,000 stories by these journalists, I can assure the reader that nearly every one of them was sourced from a tight network of hedge fund managers, and that a great many of the stories were false or misleading. Moreover, most of the people in this network (including Jim Cramer himself) are tied in important ways to two famous criminals from the 1980s – Ivan Boesky and “junk bond king” Michael Milken.

And though I realize that is hard for some people to absorb this, I will continue to provide evidence that a surprising number of the “prominent investors” in this network have had dealings with associates of organized crime – the Mafia.

* * * * * * * *

Last spring, we published “The Story of Deep Capture,” which sought to explain the origins of the Deep Capture website (mission: “to bypass the ‘captured’ institutions mediating our nation’s discourse”) by way of exposing the machinations of the Cramer clique of journalists and their short selling sources.

One day after we published our story, Cramer had some kind of awakening. Whereas he had previously sought to whitewash short seller crimes, he now suddenly repeated our assertion that illegal short selling was a big problem – the same problem that precipitated the great stock market crash of 1929.

A few months later, abusive short selling was implicated by U.S. Senators, CEOs of major banks, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, respected academics, prominent law firms, current and past chairmen of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson in the near total collapse of our financial system.

Nowadays, Cramer is even more adamant. He says he knows a lot of short sellers. He says that short sellers are destroying public companies. He says they crushed the markets and they’re going to crush America too.

These short sellers, Cramer hollers, are downright “diabolical.”

* * * * * * * *

If you have not done so, please read Deep Capture reporter Patrick Byrne’s primer on naked short selling. Please read “The Story of Deep Capture.”

Think about what Cramer has said.

And then have a look at the following email.

= = = = =Begin Message= = = = =

Message # : 727

Message Sent: 02/22/2006 08:57:48

From: AHELLER3@bloomberg.net|ANDY HELLER|EXIS CAPITAL MANAGEM

To: JONKALIKOW@bloomberg.net|JONATHAN KALIKOW|STANFIELD CAPITAL

Subject: CNBC – FAIRFAX

Reply:

He did this one time before, and the stock went down 3 on the open, then closed up 1. the way to get this thing down is to get them where they eat, like the credit analysts and holders. we’re taking this baby down for the count. ads and I are going to toronto in 2 weeks for a group lunch. J

= = = = =End Message= = = = =

* * * * * * * *

That email was authored by a top employee of Exis Capital, which is an offshoot of SAC Capital — said by some to be the most powerful hedge fund on Wall Street. We can’t be certain who, aside from the email’s author and “ads” (Adam D. Sender, head of Exis), attended that “group lunch.” But from other emails we know that a particular “group” of hedge fund managers did, indeed, intend to take “this baby down for the count.”

The “baby” was Fairfax Financial, a major, publicly listed insurance and financial firm.

The above email (acquired through discovery in Fairfax’s lawsuit against some members of the “group”) makes reference in the first line to journalist Herb Greenberg, who bashed Fairfax on CNBC, apparently causing the stock to go “down 3 on the open.” Other emails in our collection (we’ll publish a couple more of them) suggest that Herb’s reporting involved nothing more than contacting the “group” to find out what he was supposed to say.

* * * * * * * *

Herb took Fairfax “down 3 at the open” in February 2006, right at the time that Herb, a founding editor of TheStreet.com, received a subpoena from the Securities and Exchange Commission. TheStreet.com also got a subpoena. So did Jim Cramer, the owner of TheStreet.com. Short seller David Rocker, a member of the “group” and then the largest outside shareholder of TheStreet.com, got a subpoena too.

At the time, the commission had opened a formal investigation into Gradient Analytics, a financial research firm that stood accused by multiple former employees of manufacturing false “independent” research reports in cahoots with short sellers (namely, the “group”) and letting the short sellers trade ahead of the reports’ publication.

The “group” – which also included “prominent investor” Jim Chanos of Kynikos Associates – had a similar scam going with “independent research” firm Morgan Keegan. Deep Capture reporter Judd Bagley broke that story more than a month ago. Bloomberg News, which seems to be the only major media outfit willing to write critically about these “prominent investors,” picked the story up last week.

The Wall Street Journal published a major, front-page article that exposed the dubious tactics that Jim Chanos and affiliated short sellers used to demolish public companies.

But that article was published more than twenty years ago — in 1985.

Since then, the Journal has not published a single negative story about Chanos and his friends. It has not published a single investigative story about abusive short selling.

When David Kansas, a founding editor of TheStreet.com, was running The Wall Street Journal “Money & Investing” section, that part of the paper served as little more than a mouthpiece for Rocker, Cohen, Chanos and affiliated “prominent investors.”

But last week, even The Wall Street Journal had to acknowledge that Chanos is now the target of an SEC investigation.

* * * * * * * *

When the SEC issued subpoenas in the Gradient investigation, one former Gradient employee provided a sworn affidavit stating that Herb Greenberg held his negative stories so that David Rocker could establish short positions that would make money when Herb’s stories caused stocks to do such things as go “down 3 at the open.”

At the time, Jon Markman, a founding editor of TheStreet.com and later managing editor of MSN Money was running a hedge fund out of Gradient’s back office. Former Gradient employees said that Markman was also trading ahead of Herb’s negative stories and Gradient’s false negative information. If true, this would likely be illegal.

But SEC officials say that the investigation in February 2006 was aimed at bigger prey than just Gradient and a few journalists. The commission was aware that some “prominent investors” were, in the words of our email author, taking companies “down for the count.” Good people at the SEC (the rank and file) hoped to put a stop to this.

But when the subpoenas were issued, Herb, Cramer and others in their media clique went berserk. They said journalists don’t have special relationships with short sellers. They said short sellers don’t destroy companies. Cramer famously vandalized his government subpoena – live on CNBC.

Under this “media” pressure, the SEC chairman announced that it would not enforce the subpoenas. Later, the SEC dropped its investigation altogether.

In an interview with Bloomberg News about the decision not to enforce the subpoenas, SEC attorney Kathleen Bisaccia said this: “To have the chairman publicly slap us in the face for doing our jobs – that really crushed the spirit of a lot of people for a long time.”

Indeed, former SEC officials say that this was a pivotal moment in SEC history. With morale sapped, the commission all but ceased to function.

Certainly, it did not stop the short sellers who would soon begin efforts to take some of Wall Street’s biggest financial institutions “down for the count.”

* * * * * * * *

Herb Greenberg, the journalist who took Fairfax “down 3 at the open,” and who was alleged to have allowed at least one short seller in the “group” to trade ahead of his stories, now runs an “independent” financial research firm that advertises itself as “bridging financial journalism and forensic analysis.”

We believe that Herb receives the bulk of his income from the above-mentioned “group” and affiliated “prominent investors.”

* * * * * * * *

From the above email it is evident that in addition to working with corrupt journalists, the “group” sought to destroy Fairfax Financial by getting “them where they eat.” That is, the hedge funds sought to “take this baby down for the count” by cutting off the company’s access to capital.

Sometimes “prominent investors” will merely dish dirt to a company’s lenders. Other times, the schemes are more complicated, with investors in their network actually financing the company. This gives them access to inside information and (in the case of convertible debentures) to stock that can be lent to affiliated short sellers.

In other cases, “prominent investors” will buy the company’s debt, package it into “collateralized debt obligations” (financial weapons of mass destruction that were pioneered by Michael Milken’s team at Drexel Burnham Lambert), and then trade it in such a way as to make it seem as if the company is in trouble.

When the time is right, the “prominent investors” fob off the debt to some witless or compliant pension fund. Then they tell people that they’re no longer financing the company – the company’s been “cut off.”

Meanwhile, the company will be subjected to unbridled “naked” short selling – hedge funds illegally selling stock that they do not actually possess (phantom stock) to manipulate down the share price. (By way of example: when the above email was written, SEC data showed that millions of phantom Fairfax shares had been “failing to deliver” on a daily basis.

What usually happens is that legitimate lenders see the plummeting stock price. They see a supposed “financial partner” yanking credit. They see the negative media. They see the debt trading at disturbing prices. They have short sellers feeding them horrible news about the company.

The legitimate lenders know the news is false. They know the company is credit worthy. But the negativity itself becomes a liability. The falling stock price is a liability. The legitimate lenders get worried. They raise their cost of capital, or cut if off altogether.

And so the “baby” goes “down for the count.”

* * * * * * * *

Fairfax survived this onslaught. Other companies were not so lucky.

Last year, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, and dozens of other companies all went bust in a similar pattern — waves of naked short selling slightly preceding false stories planted in the media and then, suddenly, a financial “partner” cutting off a source of capital.

That is, short sellers got these companies “where they eat.”

Did the short sellers “cause” these companies to collapse? If a sniper shoots at a man who is swimming in a dangerous ocean current, and the man drowns, we cannot say for sure that the sniper “caused” the man’s death. But we can say that shooting at struggling swimmers is a crime.

Which short sellers committed the crimes? Only the SEC and the FBI can tell us for sure.

But we know which “group” attacked Fairfax Financial. We know that this same “group” and affiliated “prominent investors” attacked the big financial companies that collapsed last year. And we know that the people in this “group” are not passive investors.

Rather, when they attack a “baby,” they seek to take it “down for the count.”

Given that the collapse of the financial companies caused an economic catastrophe that will wipe out the jobs and savings accounts of millions of Americans, it seems that the “group” and affiliated “prominent investors” warrant further attention.

* * * * * * * *

One “prominent investor” is Adam Sender, proprietor of Exis Capital, the hedge fund that employs the author of the above email. As you will recall, Exis is an offshoot of SAC Capital, which is managed by Steve Cohen — described by BusinessWeek magazine as “the most powerful trader on the Street.”

As I noted in my previous piece, a former Mafia soldier turned private investigator offered to have one of Sender’s business partners buried in the Nevada desert. Sender claims to have declined this offer, but an FBI recording (hear it again here) suggests that Sender paid more than $200,000 to that former Mafia soldier and that Sender intended to “fix” his business partner and somehow bring about a “doomsday.”

Sender also hired a thug named Spyro Contogouris to harass and threaten executives of Fairfax Financial – part of the “group” effort to take that “baby down for the count.” In upcoming stories, I will publish some of Spyro’s shocking emails. In one, he told an FBI agent that somebody was threatening his life. He claimed that it was lawyers working for Fairfax Financial.

But that claim seems somewhat absurd. Fairfax Financial is a Canadian insurance company run by a mild-mannered immigrant from India named Prem Watsa, who is known as “the Warren Buffett of Canada.”

Given that Spyro wrote his email shortly before he was arrested by the FBI agent, and given that this FBI agent was investigating the “group,” it is possible that Spyro either made up the story to solicit sympathy, or the “group” was threatening Spyro’s life to prevent him from testifying.

Either way, it says something about the state of the American media that this intrigue, involving a major financial firm and some of the nation’s most “prominent investors,” is not front page news.

* * * * * * * *

The recipient of the email promising to take Fairfax “down for the count” was Jonathan Kalikow of Stanfield Capital, a hedge fund specialized in the trading of collateralized debt obligations.

Jonathan is a member of the mighty Kalikow family. The patriarch of this family is “prominent investor” Peter Kalikow, who was one of the largest financial backers of the stock manipulation firm run by Ivan Boesky, the famous criminal from the 1980s.

But Peter Kalikow is perhaps best known as the former owner of The New York Post.

When Kalikow owned the Post, the newspaper’s fleet of delivery trucks was handed over to members of New York’s five organized crime families. With Bonanno Mafia soldier Richard “Shellack-head” Cantarella presiding over the delivery bay, guns and drugs were loaded into the Post’s newspaper trucks and transported throughout the city.

Indeed, the New York Post became one of La Cosa Nostra’s principal smuggling operations.

* * * * * * * *

The other members of the “group” — David Rocker, Steve Cohen of SAC Capital, Jim Chanos of Kynikos Associates, and Dan Loeb of Third Point – have been discussed at length on this website. In upcoming installments, I will tell you more about them and others in their network.

They are all “prominent investors.”

To be continued…

* * * * * * * *

Mark Mitchell is a reporter for DeepCapture.com. He previously worked as an editorial page writer for The Wall Street Journal in Europe, a business correspondent for Time magazine in Asia, and as an assistant managing editor responsible for the Columbia Journalism Review’s online critique of business journalism. He holds an MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. Email: mitch0033@gmail.com

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The SEC Declares Emergency, and Joe Nocera Yammers On


Folks, today was history in the making. The Deep Capture thesis, which is that miscreant short-sellers have put the American financial system at risk, can no longer be in doubt.

First came the stunning announcement that the SEC has sent subpoenas to 50 hedge fund managers as part of a major investigation into rumor-mongering and illegal short-selling of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers. Then came the even more remarkable announcement from SEC Chairman Christopher Cox that he is instituting an “emergency action” requiring traders to pre-borrow stock before shorting all “substantial” financial companies.

Of course, there is a some bitter irony here. Over the years, hundreds of public companies have been grievously wounded by hedge funds who sell phantom stock (ie. stock they have not borrowed), and the SEC has done nothing. Now Wall Street finance companies, including the very investment banks whose prime brokerages facilitated the creation of phantom stock, find themselves victimized by phantom stock, and the government decides it’s time to do – or at least, say – something about it.

We’d be glad to see the big banks suffer their Shakespearean fates if the SEC were to rescue the hundreds of innocent victim companies who have been hollering about the phantom stock problem for years. We’ll see if the SEC extends the emergency action to the rest of the market, as Mr. Cox suggested it might.

Either way, all the talk of an “emergency” suggests that the SEC recognizes just how big the phantom stock problem has become. Obviously, it sees the catastrophe of Bear Stearns as a clear-cut case of short-seller abuse. A well-timed false rumor, presented as fact by CNBC, combined with phantom stock sales, took the bank down. Now, the same people are using the same tactics against Lehman Brothers. Fannie and Freddie are on the brink. And experts say there are 300-plus other publicly traded companies – including 50 finance companies — getting similarly clobbered.

An “emergency,” indeed.

All of which makes certain journalists look like bona fide clowns. For years, a clique of influential reporters—I call them “the Media Mob”–have insisted that short-sellers do no wrong and that phantom stock is not a problem. On Friday, Deep Capture noted that the media’s hedge fund apologists, including Joe Nocera of the New York Times, had shied away from commenting on the collapse of Bear Stearns.

The next day, Joe Nocera of the New York Times commented on the collapse of Bear Stearns. Predictably, he argued that short-sellers had nothing to do with it. He wrote, “it takes some gall for Bear Stearns to blame short sellers for its failure…what Bear Stearns management fails to mention is how much of its capital was tied up in subprime sludge.”

The sludge, Joe, is not the point. As your close friend Jim Cramer has described (behind closed doors, if not on CNBC), “the game” of market manipulation is to find a weakness and amplify it out of all proportion to reality. It is one thing to say that Bear’s balance sheet was weak (I agree, Bear was a piece of crap). It is quite another thing to get a compliant television reporter (in this case, Cramer crony David Faber, on CNBC) to spark a run on the bank by reporting, as if it were fact, the completely false and utterly catastrophic news that Goldman Sachs had cut off Bear Stearns’ credit — and to do that while somebody’s selling millions of shares that do not exist.

As we said last week, the SEC shouldn’t just subpoena the hedge funds: It should subpoena CNBC’s David Faber. He says a hedge fund “friend” gave him that information about Goldman cutting off Bear’s credit. That hedge fund “friend” very likely broke the law. The SEC needs to find out who he is. Journalists have no constitutional right to cover up crimes under the guise of protecting sources.

But short-sellers don’t commit crimes. So says the Media Mob. Why do they say this? The kindest explanation is that Nocera and crowd honestly believe that it is simply too dangerous to criticize shorts because shorts are so absolutely “vital” – the only people able to provide negative information to the markets and the media. This worn notion fails, of course, to make the distinction between law-abiding short-sellers who provide real analysis and crooks who circulate scurrilous lies while churning out phantom stock.

It also contains a stunning admission: that the financial media is incapable of conducting financial research on its own. Journalists consider short-sellers “vital” sources of negative information because journalists do not have the wherewithal to look at a balance sheet and determine for themselves whether something might be wrong. Baffled by all those numbers, the journalists turn to short-sellers (and sometimes even convicted criminals) for help. Which is another way of saying that our financial media is written in large part by financially motivated Wall Street sharks–a real abomination, when you think about it.

But in the case of Nocera, there is something even more sinister at play. To understand Joe Nocera’s positions on short-selling, it is necessary to understand the crowd he runs with. It is a clique of journalists and short-selling hedge funds, most of whom are connected in some way to CNBC’s Jim Cramer.

Some journalists challenge power; this clique of journalists covet it. They desire nothing more than to be players in “the game.” (Some are quite blatant about this; witness Nocera pal Herb Greenberg, who sells “forensic” research to short-sellers while using them as sources in his CNBC reporting).

These journalists defend their short-selling friends at all costs. They routinely pat each other on the back and pimp each others’ books. They quote each other in their stories, and snicker almost out loud as they attack the same public companies, always parroting the same financial analysis, delivered to them by the same small group of dubious hedge fund managers.

This is an old boys and girls network tighter than anything on Capitol Hill – and infinitely more saddening, because the media’s not supposed to be this way. .

You could see this network at work in the case of Gradient Analytics, a research shop that publishes blatantly false information for short-selling hedge fund managers, many of whom are connected to Cramer. For awhile, Jon Markman, a former editor for Cramer’s website, TheStreet.com, was running a dodgy hedge fund out of Gradient’s back offices, while one of Gradient’s managers was accumulating multiple identities and social security numbers to conceal his activities.

At the same time, the Media Mob, including CNBC’s Herb Greenberg, who was Markman’s former co-editor at TheStreet.com, churned out stories containing Gradient’s false information about companies that also happened to be victimized by phantom stock – and still more stories labeling anyone who mentioned the words “phantom stock” or “naked shorting” as “loony” or “seeing UFOs.” A former Gradient employee testified under oath that Herb conspired with Gradient and a hedge fund manager named David Rocker so that Rocker could illegally profit from his stories on CNBC and Marketwatch.com.

When the SEC launched an investigation into Gradient, and issued subpoenas to Jim Cramer and Herb Greenberg, the Media Mob rose up in their defense. Pathetically, the SEC allowed itself to be terrorized by this mob, and closed down its investigation before enforcing the subpoenas. When I began a story about this for the Columbia Journalism Review, the Media Mob turned on me. Joe Nocera called my editor to defend Herb and pressure CJR to kill my investigation. (This was unheard of; working journalists do not make quiet calls to try to have stories killed).

Then Nocera, Herb, and their friend Dan Colarusso, of the New York Post, sat on a famous panel at the Society of Business Editors and Writers. The panel’s stated mission was to defeat “business journalism bashers” – namely, Deep Capture reporter Patrick Byrne and Bob O’Brien, a.k.a. the “Easter Bunny,” a devastatingly effective blogger who had been writing about the media’s failure to cover the problem of phantom stock.

A Deep Capture ally snuck into Nocera’s panel and got it all on tape (see “The Story of Deep Capture” for the recording). Colarusso vowed to “crush” Patrick and the Easter Bunny with “barrels of ink.” Herb said that he wouldn’t write about phantom stock because it’s “not what I do” – even though a majority of the companies he had written about were phantom stock victims. Nocera, meanwhile, said that naked short-selling (phantom stock selling) “makes his eyes glaze over” and he “can’t be bothered” to cover it because “life is too short.”

Maybe so, but before and after that panel, Nocera wrote columns insisting that short-sellers do no wrong and phantom stock is not a problem – even though he had been presented with heaps of data proving otherwise. Nocera’s columns, widely circulated and praised by the Media Mob, contained no data and not a single reference to a credible source. One of his columns quoted, as an expert — Herb. Another column quoted the expert Roddy Boyd, then a reporter for the New York Post.

I know why Nocera quoted Roddy – Roddy’s a card-carrying member of the Media Mob who has worked closely with criminals doing dirty work for Cramer-affiliated short-sellers. (See “The Story of Deep Capture” for more on this.) Still, this was something amazing: the New York Times quoting a New York Post reporter as an expert! You’d think some editor somewhere would have wondered about this. (Roddy Boyd, now with Fortune, is, not incidentally, one of the few reporters still insisting that short-sellers of Bear Stearns and Lehman have done no wrong).

Last month, after we named Nocera in “The Story of Deep Capture,” Nocera wrote a column in which he was critical of Milberg Weiss, the law firm that was caught paying kickbacks to plaintiffs who filed bogus class-action lawsuits against public companies. He wrote, “I’ve long thought that [Milberg] ran a kind of extortion racket, filing class-action lawsuits against companies whose stock had dropped – without a shred of evidence that any wrongdoing had taken place – and then torturing them with legal motions until they settled.”

What Nocera did not mention (though we made it clear in “The Story of Deep Capture,” which Nocera had read) is that Milberg Weiss coordinated its attacks on public companies with short-selling hedge funds, skeezy “independent research” shops (most notably, Gradient Analytics) and Nocera’s media friends.

Indeed, a Gradient timesheet, obtained by Deep Capture, shows that while Gradient was allegedly colluding with Herb Greenberg, its employees were getting paid by the hour to work for Milberg Weiss. .

But Herb is a friend of Nocera, Gradient’s short-selling clients are friends of Herb – and well, you know how it works. These journalists don’t get their friends in trouble. Indeed, check their work – not one of them, in all their years, has ever identified, or even hinted at, a single instance of short-seller wrongdoing.

In his most recent article apologizing for the short-sellers who destroyed Bear Stearns, Nocera refers extensively to one of our favorite hedge fund managers, Jim Chanos, of the aptly named Kynikos (“Cynical,” in Greek) Partners. This is the fellow who provided a rent-free beach mansion to a hooker employed by Elliot Spitzer, who was Jim Cramer’s college roommate. Chanos is also the fellow who helped Bethany McLean of Fortune magazine break the Enron story, which partially explains why his media fans seem to believe he can do no wrong. Everything he says–including his reassurances that phantom stock doesn’t exist–is reported as fact.

So now, Nocera reports that Chanos believes that, in the case of Bear Stearns, there were no crimes committed by short-sellers. And, according to Nocera, Chanos “knows what he’s talking about. In the last days of Bear Stearns’ death spiral, a top executive called Mr. Chanos, who was not short the stock but had been a client for years. The executive pleaded with him to go on CNBC and tell the world that all was well at Bear Stearns…Mr. Chanos declined the request.”

This is at least partly false. Good sources tell us that Chanos was short Bear Stearns, though he may have already cashed out “in the last days” of the “death spiral.” As for that “top executive” at Bear Stearns, he seemed to be doing his job by asking people to vouch for his company. Surely, he has nothing to hide. Why does Nocera keep him anonymous? Did Nocera check to see if this person even existed? Well, anything’s possible.

In any case, it is entirely misleading to suggest, as Nocera does, that Chanos really believed that Bear Stearns was not a victim of rumor-mongers. In fact, Chanos believed that it was quite possible that hedge funds were circulating false information about Bear Stearns.

We know Chanos suspected as much because he said so at a recent conference of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association. Clearly trying to distance himself from this scandal, Chanos said, “I would urge our regulators at home to examine the sources of these [rumors], whether there’s evidence that people are trading on information they know to be false and inducing others to trade on information they know to be false, which is against the law and always has been…”

On CNBC, Jim Cramer is similarly insisting that illegal short-selling should be stopped. This is a far cry from a year ago, when he said the issue is the most “falsely overweighted topic on Wall Street,” and phantom stock selling is something that happens “very rarely.” Today, he said “hundreds” of companies have been affected, adding, preposterously, that he has long been on a “crusade to bring back honest short-selling.” Cramer, like Chanos, seems intent on distancing himself from the scandal that they helped cover up for the past three years.

Message to Media Mob: The rest of you should also start to distance yourself from this scandal. Do it quickly – before somebody exposes the enormous fraud that you have perpetrated on the American public.

For the complete, very long tale of how a clique of journalists helped cover-up a massive crime on Wall Street, see “The Story of Deep Capture.”

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A Scandal Unfolds, and the Media Mob Scampers


Three years ago, Deep Capture reporter and Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne gave a famous conference call that he titled, “The Miscreant’s Ball.” His thesis was simple: Some short-selling hedge funds collude to destroy public companies by spreading misinformation, orchestrating government witch hunts, filing bogus class-action lawsuits, and, most egregiously, selling billions of dollars worth of phantom stock.

In the months that followed “The Miscreants Ball” presentation, a clique of journalists with close ties to short-selling hedge funds and CNBC’s Jim Cramer (himself a former hedge fund manager), set out to sully the reputations of Patrick and everyone else who sought to expose short-seller crimes.

Cramer pal Joe Nocera, who is the New York Times’ top business columnist, wrote that Patrick’s crusade against hedge funds that sell phantom stock was “loony beyond belief.” CNBC contributor and Marketwatch columnist Herb Greenberg, formerly an editor with Cramer’s web publication, TheStreet.com, labeled Patrick the “worst CEO in America” for taking on the shorts (ie., the same shorts who are now paying Herb for “independent” financial research). Fortune magazine’s Bethany McLean, who has yet to write a story that was not sourced from a small group of short-sellers connected to Jim Cramer, suggested in an article titled “Phantom Menace” that Patrick should be fired from Overstock for speaking out against the problem of phantom stock.

At the time, I was the editor of the Columbia Journalism Review’s online critique of business journalism. The attack on Patrick was like nothing I’d seen before, so I decided to write a story about the media’s coverage of short-sellers and phantom stock. When Herb Greenberg and Joe Nocera got word of this, they both called my editor demanding that he kill the story. Cramer sent a public relations goon to delay the story. Then a short-selling hedge fund, Kingsford Capital, appeared in my offices and offered to pay my salary.

My successor at the Columbia Journalism Review is now called “The Kingsford Capital Fellow.” One of Kingsford Capital’s managers was a founding editor of Cramer’s website, TheStreet.com. I do not believe that Kingsford’s interest in the Columbia Journalism Review is philanthropic. And I do not believe that the Columbia Journalism Review, “the nation’s premier media monitor” is capable of objectively monitoring the financial media so long as it’s chief writer on the subject is paid directly by this very controversial, Cramer-connected, short-selling hedge fund.

Perhaps facing similar pressures, or perhaps because they are unwilling to contradict Cramer’s influential Media Mob, or maybe because they’re just plain lazy, other journalists have shied away from covering the problem of illegal short-selling. Instead, reporters have incessantly repeated the party line that “short selling is good for the market. Only bad CEOs complain about short-sellers.”

In March, short-sellers destroyed Bear Stearns by spreading false information and selling millions of phantom shares. And now the shorts are going after another major investment bank. In a week of high drama, hedge funds have been circulating blatantly false and hugely damaging rumors that big institutions are pulling their money out of Lehman Brothers. If March SEC data is any indication, the shorts are also selling millions of dollars worth of phantom Lehman stock.

One of the nation’s most important investment banks is down, and another is on the brink. The American financial system wobbles.

And, suddenly, Cramer’s Media Mob is silent. Gone is all of the talk about Patrick Byrne being crazy. Nocera says nothing about the attacks on Lehman and Bear. Bethany McLean recently wrote a favorable review of a book written by David Einhorn, the most prominent short-seller of Bear Stearns and Lehman, but she dares not mention the current market predations.

Herb Greenberg, who used to sing the praises of short-sellers almost weekly, was last heard defending his hedge fund friends in April. CNBC seems to have taken him off that beat. (The network recently dispatched Herb to the San Diego County Fair, where he interviewed a vendor of deep-fried Twinkies).

But Jim Cramer is talking. No doubt to distance himself from the growing scandal, he went on CNBC today and said precisely what Patrick Byrne said three years ago. Noting that short-sellers are colluding to take down Lehman, he said the problem is “the need to be able to get a borrow and see if you can find stock….. no one is even calling to see if they can get a borrow. [In other words, hedge funds are selling stock they don’t have — phantom stock]. It’s kind of like, well listen, let’s just knock it down. It’s very similar to what Joe Kennedy would have done in 1929 [leading to Black Monday and the Great Depression] which is get a couple of cronies together and let’s take it down…”

Too late, Jim. For three years, you, CNBC, and a clique of journalists very close to you have ignored this crime because your short-selling hedge fund cronies claimed that phantom stock is not a problem. Meanwhile, hundreds of companies have been affected. Billions of dollars of value have been wiped out. And lives have been destroyed.

It is one of the most ignominious episodes in the history of American journalism.

Click here to enter the $75,000 “Crack the Cover-up” contest.

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Did a CNBC Reporter Help Destroy Bear Stearns?


Let’s pick up “The Story of Deep Capture where it left off – with the demise of Bear Stearns and the near collapse of the American financial system.

It’s April 2, 2008, and CNBC reporter Charlie Gasparino has just reported that Lehman Brothers CEO Richard Fuld claims to have evidence that short-sellers, who profit from falling stock prices, actively colluded to bring down Bear Stearns.

Indeed, the SEC is already investigating precisely this possibility. The regulator has said that it would like to know whether short-sellers circulated false rumors about Bear Stearns’ liquidity and credit risk in order to spark a run on the bank. And it has announced that it is investigating allegations that hedge funds engaged in “naked short selling” to drive down Bear Stearns’ stock. This isn’t surprising considering that SEC numbers show, for example, that in the week of Bear Stearns’ destruction, up to 13 million of its shares were shorted naked – ie. sold and not yet delivered. That’s 13 million shares of phantom stock — and most experts assume there was much more of it, perhaps 100 millions fake shares, in parts of the system that the SEC doesn’t monitor.

Live on CNBC with Gasparino is reporter Herb Greenberg. Herb is a dishonest journalist. He has quite literally made a career out of taking dictation from a small group of closely affiliated short-selling hedge funds. Virtually every story he has ever written or broadcast has come from these people. He protects his hedge fund friends by repeatedly denying that phantom stock is a problem. And a former employee of a financial research shop called Gradient Analytics claims to have witnessed Herb conspiring with at least one short-seller, David Rocker, to hold his negative stories until Rocker could establish short positions. This is called front-running a jailable offense.

CNBC is not concerned about this. Nor is it concerned that, in addition to his duties as a “journalist,” Herb is now also running his own financial research shop that caters to short-sellers. Yes, after years of denying that he has too-cozy relationships with short-sellers, Herb is now seeking to profit from those very relationships. His new company’s slogan is “bridging financial journalism and forensic analysis.” Anybody who believes that media and money don’t mix should be appalled.

Anyway, it is unsurprising that Herb is live on CNBC reporting that short-sellers had nothing to do with the demise of Bear Stearns. Instead, Herb says, Bear Stearns was taken down by a “crisis of confidence.” Could short-sellers have caused the “crisis of confidence?” Herb thinks not.

Herb says, “….if you take a look at [fellow CNBC reporter] David Faber’s reporting which was very interesting…”

* * * * * * * *

Good idea, Herb. Let us take a look at David Faber’s reporting. It was not just interesting. It was jaw-dropping – an utterly grotesque display of journalistic malfeasance.

Indeed, Faber’s reporting probably contributed a great deal to the precipitous collapse of Bear Stearns – an event so potentially calamitous that the Federal Reserve had to meddle in the investment banking sector for the first time since the great stock market crash of 1929.

On Tuesday, March 11, rumors were circulating around Wall Street that Bear Stearns was out of cash and that other banks were no longer accepting its credit risk. If anybody were to think these rumors were true, there would be panic – a run on the bank. If the rumors were false, as they quite demonstrably were, it was the job of the media to quash them.

CNBC’s Charlie Gasparino did his job. On that afternoon, he noted that there were “serious doubts” about Bear Stearns business model. He said that Bear Stearns was a “mediocre bank.” But he also noted that the rumors on Wall Street were suggesting something far worse –imminent bankruptcy–and that there was not a scrap of evidence suggesting that these rumors were true.

Gasparino quoted Bear Stearns CFO Sam Malinaro as saying “Why is this happening? I don’t know how to characterize it. If I knew why this was happening I would do something to address it. I spent all day trying to track down the sources of the rumors, but they are false. There is no liquidity crisis, no margin calls. It’s all nonsense.”

Gasparino stressed that there was no reason to doubt Bear Stearns’ claims. “I know Sam Malinaro pretty well,” he said. “He’s one of the best straight shooters in the markets.”

If Gasparino had stayed on the case, the uncertainty surrounding Bear Stearns’ liquidity and credit risk might have subsided, and the bank might have survived. But the next day, for some reason, Gasparino was taken off the Bear Stearns story, and David Faber took over.

A few rumors – even doctored memos falsely claiming that big banks had refused to accept Bear’s credit — were still circulating around Wall Street. Early that morning — Wednesday, March 12 — Faber interviewed Bear Stearns’ CEO, Alan Schwartz.

Actually, it was more like a prison interrogation than an interview. Faber demanded that Schwartz explain the rumors. Schwartz said the rumors were not true. Quite in contrast to Gasparino, Faber made it clear from his tone that viewers shouldn’t trust Bear’s executives.

Then Faber delivered this whopper: “…I’m told by a hedge fund that I know well…I’m told that [last night] Goldman would not accept the counterparty risk of Bear Stearns.”

Bang! The beginning of the end.

Understand how important this is. Previously, most people assumed that the rumors about Bear’s access to leverage were nothing more than…rumors. No reporter had suggested otherwise.

Now, for the first time – live on CNBC, in the middle of a mission-critical interview with Bear’s CEO — a prominent journalist was reporting that the rumors were true. He stated — as if it were fact that Goldman Sachs, one of the biggest investment banks in the world, had refused to take Bear Stearns’ credit.

Faber was generous enough to note that this information came from a hedge fund “friend,” and it wouldn’t take a genius to see that this hedge fund “friend” was probably some skeezy short-seller of Bear Stearns’ stock – but still, Faber’s comment was nuclear explosive.

Soon after Faber’s comment, Schwartz is about to provide details proving that Bear Stearns is not at all illiquid – that it has ample cash (and is therefore hardly a credit risk). He says: “…none of the speculations are true, but….”

Just then, a woman’s voice interrupts: “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”

What? Can this possibly be happening? The CEO of a giant investment bank is about to provide evidence that the bank is not insolvent – that the American financial system is therefore not on the brink of collapse. This is perhaps the most important financial news moment of the past ten years, and now CNBC has cut off the CEO in mid-sentence!

“I’m sorry,” the CNBC woman says. “David, I’m sorry breaking news, I just want you to know that we have New York state officials confirming that New York governor Elliot Spitzer will resign today. Formal resignation, we don’t have it, but it is now confirmed that the governor of New York will resign today.”

“Thanks for that not unexpected news,” says David Faber.

This was probably straight-forward idiocy – nothing more sinister than that. But you’d think CNBC could have waited a few minutes for this “not unexpected” news. And anybody with a healthy sense of irony might chuckle and point out that Jim Cramer, the former hedge fund manager who is now CNBC’s top-rated personality and basically runs the place, was Elliot Spitzer’s best friend and college roommate. The irony is all the richer when you consider that Elliot Spitzer’s career was built almost entirely on the funding and machinations of a small group of short selling hedge fund managers – including Dan Loeb, David Einhorn, and Jim Chanos (owner of the beach house where Spitzer’s favorite hooker lived rent free), and that these very same hedge fund managers are the ones who are quite aggressively attacking Bear Stearns.

Schwartz looked mighty pissed off. After the interruption, he tried to continue: “We put out a statement that our liquidity and balance sheet are strong. Maybe I should expand on that a little bit…”

“Well, yeah,” Faber interrupts. “Why don’t you.”

The reporter’s tone again suggests that the CEO is not to be trusted. Tone aside, Faber doesn’t let Schwartz answer. Instead, he launches into a long and completely irrelevant monologue about the markets generally being in bad shape.

“Well, the markets have certainly gotten worse,” says Schwartz, clearly baffled by all of this.

Then, finally, the CEO manages to provide the salient information – the information that Bear Stearns customers and traders around the world have been waiting to hear. He says, “Our balance sheet has not changed at all. So let me just talk about that for a second….When we finished the year we reported that we had $17 billion of cash sitting at the parent company as a liquidity cushion…Since year end, that liquidity cushion has virtually been unchanged. So we still have many many billions of excess cash…we don’t see any pressure on our liquidity let alone a liquidity crisis.”

That certainly should have calmed the waters. There was no evidence that Schwartz was being disingenuous about having that $17 billion. Bear Stearns might have been the crappiest bank on Wall Street, but as long as customers knew that Bear Stearns had that $17 billion in cash, there was unlikely to be a run on the bank.

Unless, that is, a “reputable” media source was to suggest that, say, Goldman Sachs, had cut off credit.

Astonishingly, in the ensuing 24 hours, CNBC never once repeats the news that Bear Stearns has $17 billion in cash. And though it repeatedly references the interview with Schwartz, the network does not once replay the CEO’s strongest comment: “We don’t see any pressure on our liquidity, let alone a liquidity crisis.”

But Faber does repeat the startling “news” about Goldman.

At 8:48 AM on Wednesday, he says, “There are a lot of concerns out there…about counterparty risk. Frankly, I’ve been hearing from people whom I trust that there are some firms out there unwilling to put on new – new — counterparty risk with Bear Stearns…You had it at Goldman…Goldman said no we’re not taking Bear’s counterparty risk – this was yesterday.”

The hedge fund manager whom Faber “trusts” was lying. Goldman was not turning down Bear’s credit. We know this because some minutes later in the broadcast, Faber says so. He says it very quickly, just as an aside, as if it doesn’t matter at all. He says, by the way, “I have heard that that trade did actually go through—Goldman did say alright, now we will accept Bear as a counterparty.”

So Faber has just admitted, in an off-handed kind of way, that he was lied to by the hedge fund he “trusts.” In other words, up until this point, there is no evidence at all that rumors being circulated by hedge funds have any merit whatsoever.

Despite this, Faber proceeds to unleash this gobbledygook: “At the end of the day, while they say over and over they have plenty of liquidity, and in fact they may, it all comes down to confidence. They need to have access to capital, access to leverage. Otherwise, they’re dead! And it can happen very quickly.”

With this, Faber looks at his computer, and says, “Let’s see where the stock is.” Then he declares with glee: “Oops! It’s down!”

So now Faber has just pronounced that Bear Stearns might be “dead!” Why might Bear Stearns be “dead?” Because, Faber says, Bear needs “access to capital” – this in the same sentence where he says “in fact they may” have plenty of liquidity (ie. access to capital). Perhaps by “may” he meant to suggest that Bear “may not” have access to capital. Either way, he carefully omits the fact that the bank has told him it has $17 billion in cash.

The other reason Bear is “dead” is because it needs “access to leverage.” Is there any evidence that it does not have access to leverage? So far, there is none other than the Goldman news, which Faber has just admitted to be a complete fabrication delivered to him by a hedge fund “friend” whom he “trusts.”

Meanwhile, in an effort to send Bear Stearns’ share price spiraling downward, hedge funds are selling tens of millions of dollars worth of phantom stock. SEC data shows that more than 1.2 million shares sold that Wednesday were not delivered on time.

It only gets worse. The next morning — Thursday, March 13 — there is still no evidence that anybody is turning away Bear’s credit or pulling out money. CNBC still has yet to repeat the all important $17 billion figure. And now, Faber is back on television, fanning the flames, and repeating the bogus Goldman news.

He says, “I talked [yesterday] about a particular trade I was aware of where Goldman Sachs did not want to stand up as a counterparty and face Bear on new counterparty risk.”

Yes, David, you did talk about Goldman – and you admitted that your information was false. Why are you repeating this?

In a stuttering attempt to explain himself, Faber says to his television audience, “Now ultimately that trade did take place [ie. Goldman did accept Bear’s credit] after my interview with Mr. Schwartz concluded, but the day prior, Goldman did not want to. I have incontrovertible proof of that.”

Right. Whatever. The SEC should subpoena Faber to find out which market-manipulating hedge fund fed him the false information about Goldman.

Of course, if the SEC were to do this, the Media Mob would go berserk and start waving the First Amendment right to protect hedge funds who take down public companies by feeding journalists false information. Remember that the SEC once tried to subpoena Herb Greenberg and Jim Cramer, only to back down after Cramer vandalized his government subpoena live on CNBC and a bunch of Herb and Cramer’s media pals rose up in their defense.

But enough of this, already. These journalists are not protecting whistleblowers or freedom of speech. These journalists cannot even properly be called “journalists.” They are, or at least aspire to be, market players. They are helping slippery hedge fund managers who are destroying public companies for profit, and putting the American financial system at risk. I’m all for real reporters standing up to federal agencies, but these “journalists” are special cases. The SEC should not allow itself to be intimidated by them.

Alas, it’s too late for Bear Stearns. On the morning of March 13, there was still no evidence that anybody had pulled money out of Bear Stearns or denied its credit, but after repeating the Goldman falsehood, Faber reported: “I remember when Drexel Burnham went down [the smarmy inference being that Bear Stearns is a crooked company similar to Drexel]…It happens fast, very fast. It happens because those who do business with a firm such as that [read: `a crooked firm’] lose confidence.”

“And when they lose confidence,” Faber continued, “they pull their lines, and that’s it. It’s done. Pack your bags. Go home. It can end in an hour.”

About an hour later, a hedge fund called Renaissance Technologies Corp., shifted $5 billion out of Bear Stearns. That was the first client to “pull its lines.” Many others followed suit.

With Faber blowing taps, panic ensued.

And by that evening, Bear was, indeed, “dead.”

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Sam Antar and Gary Weiss pile absurdity upon absurdity


As any engineer will attest, the key to an enduring structure is a solid foundation. Builders who choose not to worry about foundation issues will deliver a product that’s worthless at best, and a dangerous liability at worst.

Likewise, arguments crafted without a foundation amount to something ranging from worthless to dangerous.

In both cases, the motives of those responsible must be questioned.

Observers of one Yahoo stock message board were recently treated to the equivalent of a foundation-free high-rise project. It started with a post by New York attorney Howard Sirota, who demanded:

No More Anti-Semitism on this Board!
I just did a search for “Jew” on this Message Board.
There are 428 posts containing the word “Jew.”
That means that this board is infested with anti-semites, which is intolerable.

Sirota went on to claim that some admittedly inappropriate comments made to this blog (which were immediately removed once brought to my attention) were symptomatic of a further anti-Semitic infestation.

In his blog, Gary Weiss reflected on Sirota’s assessment saying:

The subject is a disturbing one — the tendency of the Baloney Brigade anti-short-selling lunatics to use anti-Semitic stereotypes and imagery.

And with that, a set of flimsy and transparent walls were hastily erected.

Sam Antar also chimed in, insisting that the unnoticed words of one commenter somehow equate to the endorsement of the board of directors of my employer.

“The Audit Committee…has a simple choice: wheather (sic) they choose to be associated with such vile ugliness from their inaction in fully enforcing the company’s Code of Business Conduct and Ethics or to take swift action to prevent further vile acts…”

And with that, a particularly leaky and incompetent roof was put in dropped in place and the mass was dubbed a house.

Looking at their work, Gary Weiss and Sam Antar would have the world believe that they’re responsible for creating something great.

But one thing is absent: a foundation, which Howard Sirota neglected to build, rendering the contributions of both Weiss and Antar worthless.

Let’s start with Weiss, who built his claim of anti-Semitism on the part of opponents of illegal market manipulation entirely upon Sirota’s assertion that one company’s stock message board was infested with anti-Semites. This claim, in turn, was based upon Sirota’s observation that the word “Jew” appeared in 428 of the tens of thousands of messages posted there over more than five years.

For the sake of argument, and in deference to Mr. Sirota, who is Jewish and undoubtedly better at recognizing anti-Semitism than a non-Jew, let us assume that this is a reliable metric of a message board’s level of bigotry.

Weiss takes the argument one step further and announces that in addition to being quantitative, this metric is also qualitative, in that from it, blameworthiness can also be assigned. Specifically, Weiss feels the blame for 428 tainted message board posts fall squarely at the feet of all opponents of illegal naked short selling.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers to gauge the integrity of this line of reasoning.

A search for posts including the word “Jew,” conducted two days after Sirota’s, returned 442 such messages. The authors of these posts were then divided up based on their attitude toward illegal naked shorting (with a third category comprised of those who, like Mr. Sirota, have made no statements on the topic).

The result is very instructive.

  • Those in favor of illegal naked short selling authored 323 messages, or 73% of the total.
  • Those most likely to be opposed to illegal naked short selling authored 96 messages, or 22% of the total.
  • Those without a discernible position on the issue of illegal naked short selling authored 23, or 5% of the total.

But wait, there’s more!

Among those authors in favor of illegal naked short selling, one stands out far above the rest: Lamborghini751, who personally authored 131 messages deemed anti-Semitic by Howard Sirota.

That’s one-third of all of them.

The best part: Lamborghini751 is Gary Weiss (as demonstrated here).

In other words, if Sirota’s method of assessing message board bigotry is accurate, the biggest culprit is Gary Weiss himself, thereby invalidating everything Weiss has written on the topic, whether as himself, as Lamborghini751, or as the blogger Mediacrity.

On the other hand, if Sirota’s method is not accurate, then the entire basis for Weiss’s claim of anti-Semitism being endemic to opponents of naked shorting is flawed, again invalidating everything Weiss has written on the topic.

Now let’s look at Sam Antar.

What Sammy apparently forgot to tell Sirota (a longtime Antar family friend) is that thanks to the Dissembler Sorting Algorithm, it’s possible to determine when multiple Yahoo message board aliases are tied to the same account. In the case of Mr. Sirota, it was quickly discovered that he is behind not only the username hsirota, but also StanleySargoy.

Sirota created StanleySargoy in 1999 and used the account very occasionally to either promote or demote companies primarily in the pharma and biotech space, until 2005.

Then in April of this year, StanleySargoy was called out of retirement and into active combat duty. The target: Usana, a company under heavy short seller attack by convicted felon Barry Minkow and his so-called Fraud Discovery Institute, which just days before had issued an internally authored study accusing Usana of serious fraud.

Oh yeah…Minkow is shorting Usana.

StanleySargoy (who says he hails from San Francisco) has since become one of the more active and negative posters to Yahoo’s Usana message board.

What interest would Sirota have in Usana?

You may recall a March column by Herb Greenberg entitled What Two Crooks Told me Over Lunch, in which Greenberg details his no-reason-given meal with Sam Antar and Barry Minkow.

We can surmise that Antar and Minkow do business together.

Thanks to the actions of StanleySargoy, it appears Sirota and Minkow are doing business together.

By the transitive property, a little common sense, and some educated observation, it now appears Sirota and Antar are also doing business together.

Finally, let’s take a quick look at Howard Sirota.

Sirota’s first demand that certain comments be removed from this site was sent early Friday, June 8. The offending comments were posted June 7. Server logs confirm that, prior to their removal, only Sam Antar (whose IP address is very well known) saw all three.

In that time, no other visitor managed to see more than any one of the offending comments. Thus, assuming he’s even been to AntiSocialMedia.net, Howard Sirota’s complaint — which he likely didn’t write — dealt mostly, if not entirely, with content he likely never saw.

You might want to stand clear, Howard…with no foundation, this flimsy house that Gary and Sam built is in the process of coming down just like all the others.

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