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Yet another naked shorting disinformation campaign laid bare

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Yet another naked shorting disinformation campaign laid bare


It’s difficult to overstate the influence of Wikipedia these days, particularly when it comes to informing media coverage. A recent experiment, carried out by a student in Ireland, makes this very clear. So it should come as no surprise that those who wish to minimize the perceived impact of illegal naked short selling on markets and the economy as a whole have made the online encyclopedia a major point of focus.

Recently, yet another effort to infiltrate and alter the content of Wikipedia by a proponent of illegal shorting came to light and was foiled. As before, the infiltrator was former Business Week reporter Gary Weiss (whom a senior contributor recently termed “one of [Wikipedia’s] most slippery sockpuppeteers”), operating for over a year in complete defiance of an edict specifically banning him from the site based on his very well-documented history of abusing Wikipedia for his own conflicted purposes.

In the past (as you can read about here), we know Weiss spread misinformation relating to stock fraud via Wikipedia on behalf of the Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation (DTCC), the Wall Street firm considered a key enabler of illegal short selling. Exactly who’s sponsoring Weiss these days is unclear; however, as the evidence that follows will demonstrate, his concerted effort to whitewash DTCC’s Wikipedia article makes that company the prime suspect.

Now that his ruse has been uncovered – yet again – the focus becomes one of identifying and repairing the damage done. A brief review of some of the thousands of changes made by Weiss will give you a sense of both the scope of the problem and the nature of his motives. I’m organizing the following tiny sampling of Weiss’s Wikipedia edits by topic, with the content as it originally appeared on the left, with Weiss’s changes on the right. Words added or removed appear in red.

As you read what follows, ask yourself two questions:

  1. Which version, be it the left (before Weiss) or the right (after Weiss), better reflects reality and serves readers (particularly journalists) seeking to form an opinion?
  2. What might be Weiss’s motive for obsessively making these changes (and literally hundreds more like them)?
Wikipedia Article Before After
Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation While there is no dispute that illegal naked shorting happens, there is a fight as to the extent to which DTCC is responsible. Some blame DTCC as the keeper of the system where it happens, and charge that DTCC turns a blind eye to the problem. Critics blame DTCC as the keeper of the system where it happens, and charge that DTCC turns a blind eye to the problem.

Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation In 2007, WayPoint Biomedical sued DTCC for DTCC’s refusal to comply with a subpoena request for documents that Waypoint needs to track trades in the company’s shares.

Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation The DTCC has also denied having any relationship with financial journalist Gary Weiss. Weiss is alleged to have manipulated an account on Wikipedia, with assistance from several Wikipedia administrators, to promote naked short selling on the website from January 2006 to March 2008. (added by others and removed by Weiss five times)

Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation DTCC has been sued with regard to its alleged participation in naked short selling. Further allegations about DTCC’s possible involvement have been made by Senator Robert Bennett and discussed by the NASAA and in articles — disagreed with by DTCC — in the Wall Street Journal and Euromoney. DTCC has been sued over alleged participation in naked short selling.

Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), however, views naked shorting as a serious enough matter to have initiated two separate efforts to restrict the practice.

Naked short selling Author and reporter Gary Weiss maintains that the SEC enacted Regulation SHO in part due to pressure from a handful of small and microcap companies. He also cites economic justifications for naked short selling and downplays its significance as a problem for the market.
(note: upon making this change, Weiss also added a link to his book, referring to himself as a source of “notable media opinions.”)

Naked short selling Amidst growing concern in 2008 about the effect of naked short selling on faltering companies, the SEC issued a temporary order restricting short-selling of the shares of 19 financial firms deemed systemically important. Shortly following the failure of Lehman Brothers in September of 2008, the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history, the SEC expanded the temporary rules to remove exceptions and to cover all companies. As part of its response to the crisis in the North American markets in 2008, the SEC issued a temporary order restricting fails to deliver in the shares of 19 financial firms deemed systemically important. In September of 2008, the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history, the SEC expanded the temporary rules to remove exceptions and to cover all companies.

Naked short selling During hearings on the 2008 financial crisis before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, former Lehman Brothers CEO Richard Fuld said a host of factors including a crisis of confidence and naked short selling attacks followed by false rumors contributed to both the collapse of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers. During hearings on the 2008 financial crisis before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, former Lehman Brothers CEO Richard Fuld said a host of factors including a crisis of confidence and naked short selling attacks followed by false rumors contributed to both the collapse of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers. However, Fuld’s testimony was generally derided as self-serving.

Naked short selling Rolling Stone magazine featured naked shorting in an article, “Wall Street’s Naked Swindle” by Matt Taibbi, in October 2009. In the article, it was reported that an unknown investor had shorted $1.7 million worth of Bear Stearns stock through a variety of options. For the item to make a profit, Bear Stearns would have had to have lost half its value or more in less than nine days. When Bear Stearns collapsed, the options were worth $270 million, or 159 times its previous value. Rolling Stone magazine featured naked shorting in an article, “Wall Street’s Naked Swindle” by Matt Taibbi, in October 2009.

Naked short selling Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi presentation on Naked Shorting

Naked short selling In an October 2009 article in Rolling Stone magazine, journalist Matt Taibbi wrote that there had been an attack on Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers in March 2008 employing “naked short-selling”.

Naked short selling Effective September 18, 2008, amid claims that aggressive short selling had played a role in the failure of financial giant Lehman Brothers, the SEC made permanent and expanded the rules to remove exceptions and to cover all companies. Effective September 18, 2008, the SEC permanently removed an exemption for market making in options on stocks, and making an explicit anti-fraud regulation relating to that activity. The stringent delivery requirement is temporary.

Naked short selling https://www.deepcapture.com/ Blog devoted to naked shorting practices

Robertson v. McGraw-Hill Co. In the article, Weiss described…Weiss claimed…Weiss told how…Weiss described…Weiss’ report was distributed…Weiss’ predictions… The article described…it claimed…The article told how…it described…the article was distributed…the article’s predictions

Robertson v. McGraw-Hill Co. In the suit, Robertson requested $1 billion in damages for, in Robertson’s words, “false and defamatory statements” contained in Weiss’ article. Media response to the suit noted the unusually high damages demanded for a libel suit and speculated that the case would be watched with concern by the publishing industry. The suit was subsequently settled without payment of damages, and Robertson’s fund closed in March 2000.

Michael Milken Starting in June 2009, a series of articles by Mark Mitchell were published on a website called Deep Capture about Milken’s ties to a select group of hedge funds and the stock manipulation of a company called Dendreon (NASDAQ:DNDN). Dendreon has developed a drug called Provenge that enables the human body’s immune system to better fight prostate cancer. (removed by Weiss and replaced by others at least three times)

If there is a silver lining to this cloud, it’s the following: Wikipedia’s current ruling Arbitration Committee, which has the unenviable task of, among other things, dealing with Weiss and his continued efforts to subvert their authority, is genuinely interested in doing the right thing in this situation. Though you might take that for granted, I can assure you that this has not always been the case. Indeed, at one time, Wikipedia’s ArbCom seemed to go out of its way to enable Weiss’s abuse of this most important social media platform, resulting in (if you can believe it) an even greater number of yet more dramatically skewed and self-serving changes to these articles by Weiss.

Wikipedia has come a long way since then.

Finally, it seems unlikely that Portfolio.com, where he authors a business column, is aware of Gary Weiss’s actions. They would probably appreciate knowing more. If you agree, consider sending a brief and informative note to Condé Nast Publications Group President David Carey: David_Carey@condenast.com.

Postscript: If you’re at all unclear on why you should be bothered that DTCC seems to have hired former journalist Gary Weiss to cover-up the crime of illegal of naked short selling, I strongly suggest you check out Lila Rajiva’s recent post on the composition of that company’s board of directors.

_____________________

And now, for what long-time readers of DeepCapture.com will recognize as my favorite part of writing about Gary Weiss: a little running up of the score (piling on with additional insights that don’t necessarily make the case on their own, but certainly make the case much more entertaining).

After discovering the Wikipedia edit placing Gary Weiss within the Fort Knox-like DTCC (see this for the explanation, if you didn’t already follow the link above), I sent DTCC spokesman Stuart Z. Goldstein the following email:

From: Judd Bagley
To:
Stuart Goldstein
Sent:
Wed, 31 Jan 2007 10:24 PM
Subject:
media inquiry
Mr. Goldstein,
Yesterday I received some information suggesting Gary Weiss either is or has been hired or retained by the DTCC (or DTC or NSCC). Can you confirm the existence of a professional relationship between Gary Weiss and your organization?

More than two days passed with no response. Finally, I received the following:

From: Stuart Goldstein
To: Judd Bagley
Date: Fri, Feb 2, 2007 at 12:00 PM
Subject: your inquiry

*** Body Not Included ***

That’s right…the body of the email read only “*** Body Not Included ***”

With that, I responded:

From: Judd Bagley
To: Stuart Goldstein
Date: Fri, Feb 2, 2007 at 1:20 PM
Subject: Re: your inquiry

Mr. Goldstein,
Thanks for your reply, though the body appears to be missing…may I trouble
you to re-send your reply?

Goldstein’s record-breaking response (especially considering his earlier reply took two days to arrive) hit my inbox three minutes later:

From: Stuart Goldstein
To: Judd Bagley
Date: Fri, Feb 2, 2007 at 1:23 PM
Subject: Re: your inquiry

My response to your question is no.

On the surface, this would seem to be Goldstein denying a relationship between DTCC and Weiss. The problem is, I didn’t ask a yes or no question. I asked him to confirm something specific, to which he responded “no.” The answer didn’t fit.

I twice asked Goldstein to clarify his response, and was twice ignored.

That’s when I realized I’d been played.

Goldstein’s quick reply of “My response to your question is no” was probably calculated beforehand as his response to my inevitable request that he re-send the reply which read only “*** Body Not Included ***”.

He got me.

Here’s how this applies to Weiss.

Weiss’s most recently-banned Wikipedia sockpuppet, known as JohnnyB256, generally began to arouse suspicion in September, following a series of extremely slanted edits to the Wikipedia article on DTCC. At that time, multiple Wikipedia editors asked JohnnyB256 if he had a relationship with Gary Weiss. JohnnyB256 avoided answering the question (other than to dismiss it as “unmitigated gall”) until a senior Wikipedia administrator known as Lar inserted himself into the conversation to say he felt it was a “reasonable question.”

JohnnyB256 then responded, in a way that was unambiguously directed to Lar alone, saying, “The answer to your question is ‘no’.”

Only problem is, Lar was the one person who never asked him the question. Unfortunately, nobody picked up on this serpentine strategy at the time, allowing JohnnyB256 to claim he’d already answered the question of  a link to Weiss when it came up from time to time.

Anybody else suspect Weiss and the DTCC are using the same playbook?

Posted in AntiSocialMedia with Judd Bagley, Featured Stories, The Deep Capture Campaign, The Hijacking of Social MediaComments (64)

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Mr. President, Settle the Trades


If President-elect Obama is serious about pulling the economy out of its death spiral, he must urgently appoint a task force to investigate our nation’s clearing and settlement system. Specifically, the American people need to know how it has come to be that a black box outfit on Wall Street is empowered to handle (or, rather, completely fumble) securities transactions worth more than $1.5 quadrillion – that’s 30 times the gross product of the entire planet – without any real government oversight.

This black box organization–the Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation (DTCC)–claims to “centralize, standardize and streamline processes that are critical to the safety and soundness of the capital markets.” In other words, if somebody sells a security, the DTCC is supposed to make sure that a real security is cleared, settled, and delivered to its purchaser.

But it does not do that. We have long known that the DTCC enables brokers to routinely fail to deliver the stock that they have sold on behalf of their hedge fund clients. All the while, the DTCC has waged a fierce and grossly misleading public relations campaign aimed at convincing the public that illegal naked short selling (which results in extended failures to deliver) is not a problem.

This is appalling given that even the exchanges’ limited data show that failures to deliver peaked at more than 2 billion shares last summer, just before the SEC issued its temporary “emergency order” protecting 19 financial companies from naked short selling. That is, on most days in June, there were more than 2 billion phantom shares circulating in our markets.

In fact, the problem is much larger than that. Many fails occur “ex-clearing” and in other parts of the system that are not monitored by the exchanges. But we do not know precisely how large the problem is because the DTCC has refused to release complete data.

What is certain, though, is that 70% of those failures to deliver were concentrated on no more than 100 companies – driving down the companies’ share prices, and making it difficult for them to raise the capital they needed to survive. The affected companies included Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Washington Mutual, Merrill Lynch and several dozen other now-defunct financial firms.

And it is not just stock that isn’t getting delivered. Euromoney, the most respected financial publication in Europe, has revealed that there are massive failures to deliver even of U.S. Treasuries. “Failures in U.S. Treasuries were 8.6% of all treasuries outstanding in the first five months of this year, compared with 1.2% in the first five months of 2007,” Euromoney reported last week. “That has ballooned further over the past three months, hitting more than $2 trillion for almost the entire month of October – more than 20% of the daily treasuries trading volume.”

More than $2 trillion worth of phantom Treasuries – that cannot be good for the economy.

Bloomberg Newswires, meanwhile, recently reported that investors are complaining that Goldman Sachs is routinely failing to deliver corporate loans that it sells. According to the complainants, Goldman’s traders are selling debt that they do not own in order to further the destruction, and profit from the short selling, of public companies that are its own clients.

This is not surprising. Goldman is the proud owner of what used to be called Spear, Leeds & Kellogg – a brokerage that was long known as the most egregious perpetrator of naked short selling. Goldman has, of course, joined the DTCC and few miscreant hedge funds in trying to cover up the problem.

A similar outrage is occurring in the market for credit default swaps (bets that borrowers will default on their debt). Hedge funds and brokers are selling (quite often to themselves) virtually unlimited numbers of these swaps, even when they do not correspond to any real underlying debt. These are phantom swaps – and the increased volume creates the perception that target companies are on the verge of collapse, which of course, benefits the hedge funds, which are simultaneously short selling the phantom stock..

The DTCC has the authority to crack down on delivery failures. It has the power to tell us who, exactly, is committing the crimes.

Unfortunately, the government has no power over the DTCC. Officials from the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has limited oversight, admit that they have no clue how the DTCC operates and that they visit the organization only once a year.

So, of course, the DTCC protects the criminals. It protects the criminals because it is owned by the criminals. That is, the DTCC is a quasi-private organization owned by Wall Street brokers – the very same people who serve the hedge funds who seek to profit from the destruction of our economy.

This seems to me like a pretty big scandal.

And yet, aside from the excellent but sporadic reports from Bloomberg and Euromoney, the media continue to act as if there is nothing to see. The financial crisis, we read over and over in The Wall Street Journal, was caused by those bad subprime mortgages—end of story.

This is what we read because too many journalists have only two kinds of sources: hedge fund managers and people who do nothing more than repeat what they hear on CNBC. And CNBC has two kinds of sources – those same hedge fund managers and people who do nothing more than repeat what they read in The Wall Street Journal.

And thus is the conventional wisdom woven from a vicious cycle.

We can only “hope” that the new president’s economic advisers are honest people who know that truth resides in the details – not in the noise, not in a black box, and not in the tacky mansions of Greenwich, Connecticut.

* * * * * * * *

P.S. One encouraging sign is that former Deputy Secretary of Commerce Robert Shapiro has been named to Obama’s transition team. Shapiro is one of the world’s foremost experts on naked short selling and failures to deliver. He has plowed through the data — he knows all the details – and he understands the seriousness of the problem. Maybe he can make the president understand, too.

If this article concerns you, and you wish to help, then:

1) email it to a dozen friends;

2) go here for additional suggestions: “So You Say You Want a Revolution?

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Message from DeepCapture.com

At the time much of the content on DeepCapture.com was written, the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 was either on the verge of happening or had just occurred. In those days, emotions among this publication’s contributors were raw and, in an effort to get their warnings noticed and appropriate blame placed, occasionally hyperbolic language and shocking imagery were employed.

Were we to write these entries today, a different tone would most certainly prevail.

Yet, being a record of a pivotal time in our global economic history, we’ve decided to leave the rawness unedited, with the proviso that readers take the context of the creation of certain posts into account, and that those easily offended re-consider the decision to read them.