Tag Archive | "Gary Weiss"

Barry Minkow’s short trip from ex-felon to current-felon

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Barry Minkow’s short trip from ex-felon to current-felon

It’s been a tough few weeks for Barry Minkow, as Patrick Byrne has done a fine job chronicling recently. Minkow’s sudden return from ex-felon to current-felon has come as a surprise to some, but not to the Deep Capture team; for we have, over nearly four years, sought to raise awareness of Minkow’s place in a much broader, criminal stock manipulation ecosystem.

Those who need to get caught up will appreciate the following review, with some additional information thrown in for color.

Following his release from prison for stock manipulation, Minkow created the Fraud Discovery Institute (FDI), which, according to a disclaimer on the FDI website, was originally funded by fees collected in return for “various training sessions as well as public speaking engagements.”

FDI’s ostensibly altruistic motivation persisted until spring of 2007. At that time, verbiage was added to the company disclaimer revealing two additional sources of revenue: “short positions” and “third party payers.” This was Minkow’s subtle disclosure of the fact that he would subsequently be paying the bills by means of the profits derived from trading (in this case, short-selling) ahead of FDI’s attacks on public companies, and that these attacks would be financed by third parties who felt Minkow’s motives, one must presume, were aligned with their own.

This evolution in FDI’s incentive structure – from karmic to economic – was a fateful one for Minkow, as it marks the beginning of his march down a path that by all appearances leads to prison. Given its significance, it will be the primary emphasis of the remainder of this piece.

We now know that the change to FDI’s disclaimer was timed in accordance with its publication of an attack on USANA (NASDAQ:USNA), a publicly traded company in whose stock Minkow had previously purchased hundreds of put options, anticipating they would increase in value as the company’s stock fell (that is, buying a put against a company’s stock is just one way to bet that its price is going to fall).

How Minkow came to target USANA is both instructive and well-documented, thanks to the testimony Minkow gave when deposed in the defamation suit USANA brought in response to the attack (though it’s since been equally well-documented that being under oath is by no means a guarantee Minkow will tell the truth).

According to Minkow, one summer day in 2006, entirely without warning, fellow convicted stock manipulator Sam Antar called to announce that he would be sending Minkow $100,000 – no strings attached. Together with $150,000 sent in the months to follow, Antar handed Minkow $250,000 of the nearly $300,000 used to finance the USANA attack.

This payment is interesting for myriad reasons, two of which follow:

First, Minkow currently finds himself in a familiar role as defendant in a defamation suit borne of one of FDI’s more recent attacks – this time against public company Lennar. A source familiar with the lawsuit tells me that in his deposition in the case, Sam Antar testified that the $250,000 he gave Minkow bought Antar access to Minkow’s operation, and that Antar paid it anticipating that he would eventually create a comparable business based on the FDI model. Strikingly, the source also reveals that Antar went out of his way, under oath, to express hatred toward his then-wife Robin Antar, whose personal bankroll was without doubt the actual source of the funds, assuming they did in fact originate anywhere near Sam.

Second, arguing against the possibility that the money was indeed Antar’s is the fact that public records reveal that within months of Antar’s $250,000 gifts, the State of New York issued a warrant for unpaid taxes against him in the amount of $473.15. That tax debt remains unpaid to this day.

In his subsequent divorce from Robin, Sam was unable to cover the cost of his own attorney, and was forced to beg the former Mrs. Antar to pay for both hers and his. Additionally, Antar’s remaining $60,000 SEC-ordered fine (brought about by his involvement in the Crazy Eddie stock scam) appears to remain unpaid. Finally, a 2008 civil judgment ordering Antar to repay a $200,000 debt to real estate financier Morris Cohen has been actively ignored by Antar.

Point being: the $250,000 Antar gave Minkow both financed the USANA attack and bought Antar access to FDI’s operations. What’s less clear is the origin of the money, given the amount of evidence indicating Antar himself has a net worth well below zero.

According to Minkow, he and Antar first agreed to collaborate on the USANA attack in October of 2006.

Interestingly, that’s the same month in which Gary Weiss, an outspoken defender of illegal, manipulative short selling, went out of his way to introduce Antar to the readers of his blog. The occasion was a comment Antar made on a column penned by Herb Greenberg, yet another defender of illegal short selling and the man who would, just days before FDI’s USANA attack, announce to the world that Minkow and Antar had recently joined him for lunch.

From that day on, the blogs operated by Weiss and Antar operated in close synch with one another and both made effusive praise of Minkow a consistent element in their writing.

FDI’s USANA attack was published in February of 2007 but remained largely unnoticed until March 15, when the Wall Street Journal wrote about it.

One month later, a clear anti-USANA PR offensive was launched by FDI.

Within the space of three days, Gary Weiss again made a special effort to introduce his readers to blogging accountant Tracy Coenen, a recent addition to the FDI team. Together, Antar, Weiss and Coenen carefully coordinated their blog subject matter and cross linking, in order to achieve maximum visibility on search engines, all the while heaping thick praise on Minkow’s efforts.

Two more events coincided with this mid-April PR blitz: class action securities attorney Howard Sirota (operating anonymously) became a frequent and rabidly anti-USANA participant in online discussions of the company’s stock. Sirota, as it turns out, is a close friend of Sam Antar’s and has represented the late Anthony Bruan, who is significant in that he contributed $10,000 toward the financing of FDI’s USANA attack.

Clearly, Antar brought both Sirota and Bruan into the picture — Sirota likely with an eye toward leading a shareholder class action suit against USANA, and Bruan hoping to make a quick few bucks shorting the stock.

When his true identity was publicly revealed by me in June of 2007, Sirota defended his several months’ worth of anonymous attacks on USANA and at the same time revealed that he had also bought put options in the stock, anticipating it would fall in response to Minkow’s actions.

In his deposition in the case, Minkow testified that Sam Antar had similarly either sold shares of USANA short or had invested in speculative put options.
Perhaps most significantly, the middle of April 2007 saw a dramatic and sustained surge in delivery failures of USANA shares, which is generally a result of a concerted effort to illegally depress the price of the stock.

In other words, FDI’s mid-April anti-USANA PR blitz appears to have been timed to coincide with a manipulative trading scheme intended to apply significant, artificial downward pressure on USANA’s share price.

Furthermore, this effort involved Sam Antar, Tracy Coenen, Gary Weiss, Howard Sirota, and of course, Barry Minkow.

In the years that have followed, Weiss, Coenen, Antar and Minkow have grown quite close and effusive in their affection for one another. Coenen, who knows nothing about corporate finance, has even joined Weiss in defending illegal, manipulative short selling and attacking companies victimized by the practice.

Antar, for his part, revealed under oath that he was paid $30,000 by Minkow for his support of FDI’s attack on Lennar (though he promises to pay it all back).

Tracy Coenen testified that she was paid $50,000 by FDI for her work on the same project. Gary Weiss has yet to be asked what he got for his trouble, but in light of the phrase he used in the inaugural post on his own blog – “only a fool writes for free” – we can surmise there was something in it for him, too.

To top it all off, Tracy Coenen got Minkow, Antar and Weiss each to pen an enthusiastically positive review of a book related to accounting fraud she published during this period (and while Minkow’s review remains indelibly printed inside the book, Tracy’s had the good sense to remove that one from her website).

We can also surmise that Minkow was beyond pleased with Weiss’s support for FDI’s efforts, given the fact that Minkow tends to cite a post from Weiss’s blog, verbatim and in toto, when explaining away the lawsuit USANA brought in response to FDI’s attack. (As an aside, that particular post by Weiss ends as follows: “Congratulations, Barry, and keep up the good work.”)

Notably, Minkow has been subjected to substantial criticism by the judge overseeing the Lennar suit – in which Minkow is the primary defendant – for, among other things, the destruction of evidence. This includes email communication from Minkow to Antar and Coenen. Most significantly, these same emails have also been deleted by Antar and Coenen – strongly suggesting a conspiracy by these three not only to defraud, but to cover-up.

Thus far, only Minkow has been held to account for these dark deeds, but the gears of justice grind fine yet slow, and the eventual inclusion of — at the very least — Antar and Coenen seems inevitable.

Posted in AntiSocialMedia with Judd Bagley, Featured Stories, The Deep Capture CampaignComments (36)

Evidence of murder at 383 Madison Ave.

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Evidence of murder at 383 Madison Ave.

Nearly one year after its original date of publication, my video, Hedge funds and the global economic meltdown has finally received its first bit of serious criticism, and I can’t express how pleased I am about it.

So far, at least as far as bloggers and YouTube commenters are concerned, response to the video has come in five flavors:

  1. Approval
  2. Nutty approval (“This makes me so angry I want to take to the streets in bloody revolution! It’s all [insert political party or current/past president]’s fault! ”).
  3. Tentative approval (“You’ve got part of the story right, but the real problem is…”)
  4. Random and unaware (“I’ve got a puppy named Patches. He has a wet nose.”)
  5. Nutty disapproval (“[Insert anything Gary Weiss would say]”)

What’s been missing is educated criticism based on the hard facts presented in the video. And believe it or not, this has bothered me, because it suggests that not enough smart people are paying attention.

As I mentioned, that changed this week when Mike “Mish” Shedlock of SitkaPacific Capital Management analyzed the video on his blog and managed to make a compelling contrary case. Though compelling, Mike misses the mark on a few key points and his analysis requires a rebuttal, which I’ve decided to offer here as it would probably be of interest to DeepCapture.com readers.  I’ve also invited Mike to respond, and will print whatever he offers at the end of this post.

(If you’ve not seen the video yet, I encourage you to watch at least the first five minutes now, otherwise nothing that follows will make much sense.)

Shedlock frames his criticism of the video in terms of what he identifies as three assumptions (printed verbatim in black, with my response in blue italics).

1. That whoever bought way out of the money Bear Stearns PUTs “knew” something and illegally acted on it. I agree with this.

2. The same institution that bought the PUTs was illegally shorting shares. I think this is a safe assumption.

3. There is a conspiracy to protect those evil doers. I do not agree that there is a conspiracy to protect the short sellers who attacked Bear Stearns any more than there was a conspiracy to protect Bernard Madoff before his scheme blew up. What “protects” them is Wall Street culture, and it’s no conspiracy…it’s common knowledge.

Shedlock then attempts to explain how the market really works via four statements of fact which he expects will undo my arguments, but which in reality only support them.

Here again, I present Shedlock’s facts verbatim, followed by the information he apparently did not have when he originally wrote them, in blue italics.

Fact #1: When someone buys PUTs the market maker or counterparty who sold them is short those PUTs. This is a mathematical statement of fact. This is 100% truth.

Fact #2: The market maker who sold the PUTs, shorts stocks as a hedge against those short PUTs.
This is also 100% truth, and an indispensible component of illegal naked short selling, which requires the options market maker to sell the stock naked short to the fund buying the puts. This is part of the married put strategy we’ve claimed from early on facilitates illegal short selling. As far back as 2003, the SEC expressed concern about married put strategies as a means of circumventing multiple market regulations. In this 2007 paper, an economist explains how a combined strategy of married puts and reverse conversions provided the engine that powered the naked shorting epidemic that grew unabated until changes were finally made in the wake of Lehman’s demise.

Fact #3: The lower the share price, the more shares the market maker has to short to stay delta neutral. Also true.

Fact #4: Market Makers are not governed by naked shorting rules. Again, Shedlock steals my line. Prior to the repeal of the options market maker (OMM) exception of Regulation SHO, OMMs were not bound by the locate and delivery requirements of that rule. So, it’s entirely predictable that options trading would play a key role in any effort to circumvent Reg SHO.

The existence – and illegality – of these kinds of tactics are documented in this November 2009 administrative action brought by the SEC against Rhino Trading and Fat Squirrel Trading (one of only two enforcement actions specifically alleging naked short selling filed in the Commission’s history). In it, you’ll learn how reverse conversions and “resets” (the call-based alternative to the married put) were used to illegally manipulate other stocks down.

At this point, Shedlock has spelled out the entire philosophical foundation for his disagreement with me, and yet we’re apparently in the awkward position of not disagreeing about any of the parts that really matter. The actual disagreement seems to be based on our interpretations of the implications of these facts, in my case informed by a slightly more detailed (though not very broadly-applicable) knowledge of the tactics used by illegal stock manipulators. That Shedlock is not familiar with these tactics speaks very well of him as an investment manager, in my opinion.

So, while Shedlock claims, “the [options] market makers shorting Bear Stearns did so for purely mathematical reasons, to remain delta neutral” I assert that this necessity, combined with their exemption from Regulation SHO’s locate and delivery requirements in place at the time, made them the perfect counterparty to a short-selling hedge fund seeking to warp the market for Bear Stearns stock through the generation of artificial supply.

Shedlock further asserts that Bear’s demise was the inevitable product of its own greed and toxic balance sheet. I respond by agreeing that Bear probably was destined to go under, and in capitalism, that’s ok. However I further point out that Bear had $18-billion in cash on hand when the assault began, and so the process should not have taken just one week. In a civilized world, even when someone is on their deathbed, it’s not ok to hasten death through forceful application of the pillow; and particularly not when the incentive for doing so is pecuniary.

As promised, the space to follow is reserved for Mr. Shedlock to offer his rebuttal.



Posted in Featured Stories, The Deep Capture CampaignComments (228)

Podcast: Barry Ritholtz and a tale of two media

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Podcast: Barry Ritholtz and a tale of two media

This is a transcript of the Deep Capture podcast episode published on February 10, 2010.

You may:

It’s no secret that the Deep Capture message is not a popular one in certain places. I’m thinking about Wall Street and environs, specifically. In fact last month I was the subject of a fairly lengthy profile in the New York Observer, Manhattan’s alternative weekly, examining the deepcapture phenomenon and the impact it’s had on Wall Street from precisely that perspective.

In my interview with the Observer’s Max Abelson, one theme that emerged was this idea that the market reform movement could only take root in fly-over country because the culture of the coasts — New York in particular — runs in direct opposition to everything we’re trying to accomplish. That’s not to say that there are no moral, law-abiding people in New York or San Francisco, only that the extreme unpopularity of our message would probably keep it from taking root there. It had to be somewhere else.

And even though we’re making headway, as the mere existence of the Observer story demonstrates, the New York press — yes, even the alternative press — generally does not do nearly enough to afflict the comfortable on Wall Street. Sure, they’ll pile on when there’s blood in the water, but dare ask hard questions of the Wall Street celebrity set otherwise? Not going to happen, because the culture doesn’t allow it.

How many business reporters did Harry Markopoulos brief on Bernard Madoff during the decade leading up to his downfall? How many sports writers apparently knew about Tiger Woods’ infidelities in the years leading up to his downfall? But in both cases, nothing happened because the boosterism mentality endemic to both Wall Street and sports journalism means there’s too much to lose by sticking one’s neck out and challenging a celebrity in either field.

Keep that in mind as you consider what follows. I want to preface by saying that this is a very personal situation which I’m certain is of much greater significance to me than most anybody else. I recognize this and I’m not whining. Instead, I’m telling this story because it illustrates a couple of important and broadly-applicable market reform lessons.

Here’s the background…

In early December, I published a video suggesting that — based on links revealed by their publicly-available Facebook friend lists — there is more than a little substance to the long-held suspicion that a group of well-known Wall Street reporters and bloggers have close interpersonal ties with some of the short-selling hedge fund managers they write about. I further posited that these apparent conflicts might explain some of the pro-short seller biases many (myself included) claim to have observed in their writing.

I knew that this social network was only significant to the extent that its own members regarded it as significant. In other words, if it was composed entirely of people who view Facebook as a proxy for a Rolodex, the network would be meaningless. If, on the other hand, this network had dynamics comparable to real world relationships — meaning, some degree of exclusivity based on common interests — then it would be very significant, indeed.

In order to find the answer, I created a fictitious Facebook account and sent friend requests to every member of this group. What I discovered was that I, as a stranger, only managed to replicate about 20% of the network. With that, I knew I was on to something, as the video explains.

And that was it. I didn’t need to be Facebook friends any of these people to see who their friends were.  I did it to determine whether being Facebook friends with them actually means anything.

Well, apparently it does mean something, because my video struck a nerve among these folks. The real journalists kept quiet…likely out of embarrassment, but the bloggers in that network went on the attack like never before. It started with Gary Weiss insisting that I’d gained this publicly-available friend data, by hacking into everybody’s accounts. Then he said that it was actually Overstock.com (NASDAQ:OSTK) CEO and frequent Deep Capture contributor Patrick Byrne himself who did the hacking. Bloggers Felix Salmon, John Carney and Joe Wiesenthal swallowed this easily-refutable line and regurgitated it whole on their own blogs. A few times.

After that silly angle ran its course, Weiss escalated things by announcing that I sent friend requests to many young children he claims are connected to the people in the network, in order to get their personal information so that I could harass and stalk them.

And that was repeated, unexamined, by the same chorus.

Then Weiss revised slightly by saying that it was actually Patrick Byrne who did the kid-stalking.

And that was repeated.

And just when I didn’t think things could get any more ridiculous, Barry Ritholtz showed up.

Ritholtz, a fairly well-known (in fact, the Observer’s Max Abelson called him “revered”) Wall Street blogger, trader and recently book author, has consistently parroted the position of the short selling mega hedge funds who oppose the reform movement for obvious reasons.

Well, out of nowhere, Ritholtz latched on to the demonstrably false notion of my having attempted to become Facebook friends with young children, and created an entirely new reality, going so far as to assert that I am a child molester. That is not an exaggeration. In fact, he said as much multiple times.

Ritholtz then demanded a boycott of Overstock.com, saying the company violates its customers’ personal information and hires deviants to stalk their kids.

Did I mention Ritholtz has a law degree? But you don’t need to go to law school to know what libel is. You barely even need to be human.

Though I’ve been wary of Ritholtz and his motives from the beginning, I contacted him, to set the record straight and respectfully ask that he stop with the poisonous pedophilia rhetoric. He received my messages, but ignored them and continued as before. He also announced on his blog that if I sued him for what he was saying, he would hire a private investigator to uncover all my sexual secrets and very publicly broadcast them.

Anybody else sense something dark going on? What could possibly be motivating this guy?

For authors, large market talk radio interviews are gold, as the host usually gives the author 15 minutes to show off talking about an area in which they’re particularly well-versed and promote the hell out of their book. Talk radio listeners are very loyal and engaged and they will buy books. For the author, it’s money in the bank.

Well, recently Barry was invited to promote his book on the finance-themed talk show “Wall Street Shuffle” airing on a CNN Radio affiliate in Dallas, Texas.

Along the way, Ritholtz told the radio show’s producer that he was hoping to use some of his air time to attack me and repeat his call for a boycott of Overstock. The producer did the responsible thing by giving me an opportunity to respond, if Barry’s attacks warranted a response.

And one more thing: they didn’t tell Barry about this arrangement beforehand.

And so I sat and listened on hold while Barry spent much of the time any normal author would have dedicated to selling books, attacking me and renewing his call for a boycott of Overstock instead.

It was brutal. But better than describe it, you need to hear it. Listen to this.

icon for podpress  Barry Ritholtz issues not-so-vague threat Hide Player | Play in Popup

Finally, the host broke in to say that it was only fair to give me a chance to respond.

Before playing that tape, let’s consider what might happen.

Assume Barry truly believes that I’m the monster he claims and is justifiably outraged. In that case, considering how vocal he’s been in condemning me in my absence, you’d expect him to jump at the chance to give me the same treatment in person…really make an example out of me, and get it on tape, to boot. That would be gold for his boycott campaign and make him look like a hero in front of at least 20,000 engaged, drive-time listeners. Meanwhile you’d expect that I’d want to stay as far away from that setting as possible, right?

On the other hand, what if Barry were repeating a lie and knew it? What if he knew he could never back up what he was saying, and was afraid of looking foolish (at best) and on tape, to boot? In that case, you’d expect him to run while I would leap at a chance to set the record straight, right?

Well, keep those two scenarios in mind as you listen to what actually happened.

icon for podpress  Barry Ritholtz hangs up and runs Hide Player | Play in Popup

Just like that, Barry was gone. While I regret not having an opportunity to truly confront him, I am very pleased that I was able to spend the remainder of what was to be his segment discussing Deep Capture and the market reform movement, and that the host was kind enough to invite me back to continue the discussion.

As you’ll recall, I promised that this story had application to more than just me. So what is the moral of this story?

Remember, this took place on an investing-themed radio show based in Dallas, Texas, not New York. I’m not sure it could have happened in New York. That’s because I’m pretty sure that Wall Street-themed broadcasts originating on or near Wall Street are talking to Wall Street; while the people listening to this show and the hundreds like it across America are mostly retail investors…precisely the crowd most victimized by short-side stock manipulation and most apt to support our reform efforts.

Herein lies both a problem and an opportunity.

The problem, I just described: Wall Street media culture is getting better but has yet to break free of its celebrity-focused ethic and is probably not going to critically examine the words or actions of a Barry Ritholtz. They’re just going to hand him a microphone. Consequently, in that kind of setting, a blogger living in Utah is unlikely to get the opportunity to rebut something Barry says, no matter how extreme.

The opportunity should be implicit in the problem: there are plenty of Wall Street-focused talk shows broadcasting from middle America where people generally place a higher value on fairness than celebrity (as this recent example proves). Chances are, you…yes you, I’m talking to you…know these broadcasts well. If so, I’m hoping you’ll tell me about opportunities in your area. My email is jbagley@deepcapture.com. Send me a note and help us spread the word.

Click here to download the full Ritholtz/Bagley segment from Wall Street Shuffle.

Posted in Deep Capture Podcast, Featured StoriesComments (45)

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://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
Stuart Goldstein
Wed, 31 Jan 2007 10:24 PM
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)

Wikipedia’s Jimbo Wales unimpressed by Gary Weiss and his lies

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Wikipedia’s Jimbo Wales unimpressed by Gary Weiss and his lies

Wikipedia’s Jimbo Wales sees Gary Weiss sockpuppeting all over the internet

As is described at great length in these pages, Wikipedia has been one of the principal battlegrounds in the effort to cover-up the crime of illegal naked short selling.

For just over two key years, former journalist Gary Weiss dedicated an enormous amount of time and energy to the process of gaining control over and skewing the Wikipedia article on naked short selling. We know that given Wikipedia’s influence as a research tool – of journalists in particular – the heavily Weiss-influenced version of the article made it much more difficult than it should have been to get real reporting done on the issue.

Fortunately, as more and more Wikipedians came to see what Weiss was doing, an army of volunteers banded together to prove, beyond any doubt, the extent of Weiss’s deception. Their conclusion: Weiss created multiple Wikipedia identities (commonly known as “sockpuppets”) working in parallel to give the false impression of much more support for his position than actual existed.

This is a huge no-no on Wikipedia, and resulted in Weiss’s permanent expulsion from the project, and the liberation of the naked short selling article (though far too late to matter, as naked short sellers managed to destroy Bear Stearns exactly one month later).

If you’ve followed the Deep Capture saga for very long, that much you probably knew.

Now you’re going to hear the rest of the story.

For the purpose of what follows, you need to know that in 2007, Weiss’s two main Wikipedia sockpuppets were named Mantanmoreland and Samiharris.  In September of that year, a group of Weiss’s protectors decided to create a private mailing list in order to counter the efforts of the growing number of people already working together to expose Weiss, his lies and his enablers.

Included on that private list were Wikipedia’s founder Jimbo Wales and three or four dozen other members of the site’s inner circle. Just to complete the illusion, Gary Weiss also joined the list…twice, as both Mantanmoreland and Samiharris.

Some time ago, I was given many of the emails exchanged by what came to be known as the super-secret Wikipedia Cyberstalking list. What follows is an abridgement of one of them.

The thread begins with Weiss sock Samiharris lamenting the failure of an effort to silence Wikipedia editor Cla68, who had engaged in multiple attempts to make the article on Gary Weiss himself (which was, in fact, written by Weiss) read a little less like a promotional brochure.

The matter became so contentious that Jimbo Wales himself and Cla68 exchanged emails in an attempt to find some common ground. By the time that exchange was over, Jimbo wrote to the members of the Wikipedia Cyberstalking list:

“Cla68 has written to me, and what he has written confirms what I have thought for a long time… I am not the only sane and reasonable person who thinks it very likely that Mantanmoreland is Gary Weiss and who would be thrilled to have a proof otherwise.”

Shortly adding:

“If Mantanmoreland would properly identify himself to me and prove that he is not Gary Weiss, we could put all this to bed quite easily.”

Of course, Mantanmoreland (Weiss) did not appreciate this, and responded:

“I am disheartened by Jimbo’s private comments, disgusted by his handling of stalkers when they correspond with him, and have absolutely zero faith in his ability to properly handle stalker issues himself.  I am sorry, but this is something he should delegate to others. When he privately corresponds with a stalker like Bagley or a helper like Cla68 his heart melts and he gets all mushy. It has happened before and it has happened again. It’s not going to stop. Wikipedia’s handling of stalkers is going to fail as long as stalkers can make headway by privately corresponding with Jimbo.”

Jimbo’s slight mangling of Shakespeare can be forgiven by this, his pitch-perfect response:

“The queen doth protest too much, Gary.”

Weiss’s reply barely manages to contain his rage:

“Oh I missed the “Gary”. Please be sure to use that name every time you refer to me, as I want to be reminded of your behavior tonight…because tonight was the night you officially became a stalker.”

That’s right. Weiss, having found some success labeling me and everybody else intent on enforcing some accountability for his actions “stalkers”, actually applied the label to Wikipedia founder Jimbo Wales himself.

At that point, Samiharris (also Weiss, remember) decides to offer himself some support in condemning Wales:

“I have to sleep on it to absorb the magnitude of the founder of Wikipedia acting this way.”

With that, Mantanmoreland and Samiharris signed off.

The next day, Samiharris started a new thread, hoping to recast Mantanmoreland’s earlier attacks on Wales:

“At its very lowest point, Jimbo precisely replicated the tone and content of a [Wikipedia criticism site] Wikipedia Review attack. I mean that literally. His response to Mantanmoreland, calling him “Gary,” could have been made by [Wikipedia Review administrator] Somey.”

To this, Wales offered the response of his life:

“I am frustrated that Mantanmoreland has not been more helpful to us in confirming that he is not Gary Weiss.  I think that the evidence for that is insufficient for us to know for sure, but that on average it tends to suggest it.  I have proposed a few different ways that Mantan could resolve this, but he is unwilling to even consider it.

And I am frustrated with you for your repeated personal attacks on me and complete refusal to assume good faith.  Any allegation against me, no matter how trivial or unsupported by evidence, is accepted by you as fact.  I think that’s unfortunate.

That frustration caused me to be inappropriately blunt with Mantan. But the issue is real. My concern is that if Mantanmoreland is really Gary Weiss, then it is only a matter of time until this is proven…either by Bagley or someone else…and we will find that we have been manipulated in a pretty sad way.

The evidence that Weiss has sockpuppeted all over the Internet is pretty compelling, and even the mainstream press has commented over his refusal to directly address it. Is Mantan one of those socks? We have no proof either way, but I think the evidence tends to suggest it.

It upsets him that I think that, but there you go.  Speaking the truth as I see it seems to me to be the most simple and direct way to correct any errors that I may have.”

Of course, everything I alleged linking Weiss with Mantanmoreland and Samiharris eventually was very publicly proven, and as Wales predicted, the clout once enjoyed by Weiss’s inner circle defenders was forever diminished.

This exchange, and many others like it involving Jimbo Wales and Gary Weiss in his multiple forms, also convinces me that – contrary to what I have openly wondered in the past – Jimbo’s public denial of the Weiss/Mantanmoreland+Samiharris connection, despite his private acceptance of the same, was based primarily on a desire to avoid damaging Wikipedia, as opposed to any theorized influence brought to bear by his associates in the Chicago options trading community (where a key component of illegal naked short selling takes place). I was wrong about that.

There are a few other insights we can take away about Gary Weiss from this exchange.

  • First, when backed into a corner, Weiss will reflexively and irresponsibly lash out at his accusers.
  • Second, Weiss seems programmed to characterize any efforts at investigating his online misbehavior as “stalking.” That, together with cries of “anti-Semitism,” are the two most well-worn tools in his chest.
  • And third, Weiss’s willingness – even eagerness – to go to great lengths to mislead all around him is pathological. He can’t help himself.

Put it all together, and it’s easy to see why Gary Weiss was the logical choice when proponents of illegal naked short selling sought a resolute apologist for their repugnant practice.

Posted in AntiSocialMedia with Judd Bagley, Featured StoriesComments (9)

Gary Weiss earns an F

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Gary Weiss earns an F

NOTE: Though DeepCapture.com publishes on a blog platform, this site is first and foremost a work of journalism. Consequently, we rarely engage in the kinds of back-and-forth exchanges of jabs that tend to define our deeply-conflicted and drama-addicted blogging critics.

Today, I make an exception.

In a recent post, I offered a theory as to why the reporting on a specific incident – DeepCapture contributor and Overstock.com (NASDAQ:OSTK) CEO Patrick Byrne’s filing of a defamation lawsuit against short-selling hedge fund Rocker Partners – was so undeniably polarized. In short, regional and non-business press reported very objectively on the suit, while the New York financial press coverage was overwhelmingly pro-Rocker Partners and anti-Byrne.

My theory cited Facebook friend relationships (information which is, according to Facebook itself, considered public) to demonstrate that with very few exceptions, the authors of the adversarial reporting all have close personal relationships with a certain hedge fund manager or his friends, and in some cases, with his family members.

I questioned how these reporters can be expected to do their jobs when these relationships exist between them and those they are supposed to be covering. I also pointed out that no political reporter would dare be “friends” (Facebook or otherwise) with an elected official he or she was tasked with covering, for that would inevitably cloud their journalistic integrity.

I’m not the only one who sees the world this way. Recently, judges and attorneys in Florida were prohibited from being Facebook friends with one another, since “online ‘friendships’ could create the impression lawyers are in a position to influence judge friends.”

As for my video, never once did I refer to “naked short selling.”

Not once.

Nor did I use the word “conspiracy.”

Not once.

This is a simple case of supposedly objective business journalists and bloggers being too close to their subject and allowing the relationship to affect their reporting. Period.

Those who are claiming that I was painting a larger conspiratorial picture either didn’t watch the video, or are attempting to intentionally deceive their readers and cloud this issue. I’m not sure which is more shameful.

I should also point out that those who are claiming I was painting a larger conspiratorial picture are – not coincidentally – directly tied to the subject or his friends. The resulting stab at journalism (in name only) is hardly a conspiracy; it’s human nature and in the case of these writers, very poor form and an even more poorly-kept secret.

In anticipation of this response (what could be more predictable?) I preemptively uploaded a spreadsheet documenting the extended – and publicly available – relationships connecting these folks, which I invited DeepCapture readers to examine in order to spot additional links which might explain still more instances of questionable journalism in support of bear raiding short sellers.

Some are trying to spin this as an “enemies list”, but as anybody who took the time to watch my video knows, that’s just a frantic attempt at damage control by a bunch of blushing writers.

Finally, I want to address the most unhinged reporting on this of all: that of Gary Weiss, a blogger initially hired to attack critics of illegal short selling on behalf of the Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation.

Of all the disjointed untruths Gary has spewed in our nearly four-year old battle, the best – or should I say the worst – came out today. Weiss writes:

I found that somebody — gee, I wonder who? — hacked into my Facebook account and uploaded photographs of “guilt-by-association” presentations Bagley has drawn up over the years, one of which was made the picture associated with my account. Now that ain’t legal either, obviously. And yes, I will prosecute.

Weiss, and all those who believe any of this (public) Facebook data was acquired via hacking, give me much more credit than I deserve. Cracking a site like Facebook would be just about impossible. No, there was no hacking. Some users might hide their friend lists from their profile page, but that doesn’t make them go away. If you want proof (and have a Facebook account) go ahead and peruse the not-so private Facebook friend lists of Gary Weiss, Sam Antar and Tracy Coenen.

But be warned: doing so will get you labeled a “hacker” by them.

As for this nonsense about hacking into his account in order to upload images to it: what Gary, a Facebook newbie who’s a little too quick to believe the first convenient notion that pops into his head, is probably seeing are images that somebody (not me nor anybody I know of) has uploaded to their own accounts and tagged with his name. These would appear under his photo tab in a section dedicated to “Photos of Gary”, which is distinct from whatever images he might upload. If that bothers him, Gary has the ability to un-tag himself from any user’s photos. If you need help with that Gary, just let me know. I’ll walk you through it.

But, consistent with his mandate, despite an easy explanation, Gary decided to take the libelous route, as have the usual members of his entourage.

I only hope their apologies are published at least as prominently.

(Those of you who enjoy reading about Gary Weiss’s sockpuppeting misadventues will take great joy at the post I intend to publish later today.)

Posted in AntiSocialMedia with Judd Bagley, Featured Stories, The Deep Capture CampaignComments (14)

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The climate on Planet Money

Two things:

First, I highly recommend making a habit of listening to NPR’s Planet Money podcast. I’ve been listening for nearly a year (the entire length of its existence) and find the benefits innumerable. If you’re not familiar with podcasting, it’s basically an easy way to have audio content automatically downloaded to your computer or mp3 player as it’s released. That means you don’t need to go looking for it. It’s just there, waiting for you to consume at your convenience.

Planet Money publishes a new episode every Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening. The typical 20 minute edition focuses on some aspect of economics, more often than not related to the present financial crisis, and usually incorporating an interview with somebody fascinating.

Which brings me to thing #2…

The most recent episode of Planet Money includes an interview with Sam Antar, a convicted stock manipulator and known associate of now-defunct short selling hedge fund Copper River Partners (née Rocker Partners) and Gradient Analytics (née Camelback Research). In total fairness, Sam’s interview, which focuses on the crime he enabled as CFO of Crazy Eddie) is very interesting, although I’d say that’s more a reflection on the skill of the interviewers than on Sam himself.

At the conclusion of the interview, hosts Adam Davidson and David Kestenbaum wonder aloud whether Sam Antar is to be trusted.

In response, I added a comment to the segment’s accompanying blog portion, pointing out that in my opinion, Sam Antar remains in the stock manipulation business as evidenced by his involvement in — and financing of — smear attacks on public companies (which go beyond claims of accounting fraud to include accusations of anti-Semitism, marital infidelity, substance abuse, and worse) led by short sellers hoping to profit from an expected drop in the target companies’ share price. In support of my claim, I included this link, which offers a clear example of just such an attack against a company called USANA: http://antisocialmedia.net/when-youre-right-youre-right/

Well, typical of how Sam and his buddy Gary Weiss operate, they reported my comment as “inappropriate” and managed to get it removed (twice).

If you agree that the world could benefit from additional context when deciding whether to trust Sam Antar, you might consider making that clear by adding your own comment here.

Posted in AntiSocialMedia with Judd BagleyComments (18)

Gary Weiss busted. Again.

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Gary Weiss busted. Again.

If you fail to find entertainment value in seeing illegal naked short selling proponent Gary Weiss publicly caught telling irresponsible lies, then you may consider this post optional and stop reading now.

Gary Weiss wonders how he got caught sockpuppeting...again.

Gary Weiss wonders how he managed to get caught sockpuppeting...again.

On the other hand, if you – like me – do enjoy seeing Weiss ensnared in the traps he’s haphazardly laid for others, you’ll appreciate what follows.

Earlier, I wrote about how I successfully confirmed my suspicion that Gary Weiss had spawned a new pro-illegal naked short selling sockpuppet in the form of Daily Kos blogger “Tom Sykes”.

As expected, both Weiss and “Sykes” responded on their respective blogs with furious and indignant denials and repeated insistence that I was lying.

As it turns out, DeepCapture.com reader Andrew Perez also has a blog on Daily Kos (in addition to his contributions to The New Argument), and he took justifiable offense at the con Weiss was attempting to pull on Daily Kos readers, penning a particularly well-written overview of the situation. In that post’s comment section, “Sykes” went on the offensive, but soon began to bob and weave as Perez worked to pin him down.

The key moment in their exchange is summarized below (you can read it in full here):

Perez: Correct me if I’m wrong: you are Gary Weiss. If you take offense with me addressing you as Gary, will you please confirm or deny that you are Gary Weiss? I asked you to do so already and you ignored my request.

Sykes: No I’m not and I’m not going to engage with you anymore. I just read the comments that you made on Deep Capture before you marched over here like a good Soldier of Byrne to write your little smear piece. You are much more of a shill for that creep than I thought you were. You use his tactics, you have his values. You belong there, not here.

Perez and I separately contacted Daily Kos administrators with evidence proving they were being scammed by Gary Weiss. I didn’t hear back, but Perez did. Via email, a Daily Kos administrator told him: “Sykes has been banned based on my evaluation of the material you and others provided.”

We can officially and unambiguously add Tom Sykes to the long list of abusive sockpuppet identities Gary Weiss has unsuccessfully created to trick people into believing illegal naked short selling is somehow a good thing.

Posted in AntiSocialMedia with Judd Bagley, Featured StoriesComments (67)

Blue Kryptonite and naked short selling

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Blue Kryptonite and naked short selling


The Bizarro World Code

Within minutes of my introduction to the world of short selling hedge funds, I encountered the analogy that remains the best suited to describe the truth to which they subscribe: Bizarro World.

A planet that appears from time to time in the DC Comics universe, Bizarro World is noteworthy for its utter opposition to everything associated with reality on Earth (in fact, another name for Bizarro World is Htrae – “Earth” spelled backwards).

Bizarro World made very infrequent appearances in the DC Comics universe; however what few insights we’ve been able to gain have been telling.

For one, we know that the residents of Bizarro World adhere to a simple moral code: “Us do opposite of all Earthly things! Us hate beauty! Us love ugliness! Is big crime to make anything perfect on Bizarro World!”


Bizarro Superman

For another, consistent with its black-is-white nature, the alpha-superhero of Bizarro World – a Superman-like figure appropriately named ‘Bizarro’ – is in fact a super villain, and one of many.

Fortunately, or possibly unfortunately, the Bizarro World of short selling hedge funds sits side-by-side with our own. Yet, true insights into how it actually operates have been startlingly rare.

Possibly the best behind-the-curtains view came in December of 2006, with Jim Cramer’s infamous admission as to how short selling hedge funds do (and indeed, according to Cramer, “must”) operate, moving the Bizarro World citizenship of that group from theory to undeniable fact.

See for yourself:

Cramer: “You can’t foment. You can’t create yourself an impression that a stock’s down. But you do it anyway because the SEC doesn’t understand it. So that’s the only sense that I would say that it’s illegal.”

Bizarro translation: “Us do opposite of all Earthly things! Us can break law to make money because regulator not understand regulations!”

Cramer: “Look what people can do. I mean that’s a fabulous thing! The great thing about the [stock] market is that is has nothing to do with the actual stocks. Look, over maybe two weeks from now the buyers will come to their senses and realize everything they heard was a lie…”

Bizarro translation: “Us hate beauty! Us pervert capital markets to make them hostile to small, promising businesses and technologies! Us stock market has nothing to do with actual stocks!”

Cramer: “These are all what’s really going on under the market that you don’t see. What’s important when you’re in that hedge fund mode is to not do anything remotely truthful – because the truth is so against your view, that it’s important to create a new truth to develop a fiction.”

Bizarro translation: “Us love ugliness! Us hate truth! Us prefer fiction!”

Cramer: “I think that it’s important for people to recognize the way that the market really works is to have that nexus of ‘hit the brokerage houses with a series of orders that can push it down’, then leak it to the press, and then get it on CNBC (that’s also very important), and then you have kind of a vicious cycle down. It’s a pretty good game.”

Bizarro translation: “Is big crime to make anything perfect on Bizarro World! Us make money by wrecking public companies! And here on Bizarro World, Jim Cramer not even pretend to be friend of small investor! Oh yeah…CNBC official network of Bizarro World!”

(Lest any suppose these clips have been taken out of context, I strongly encourage everybody to download and view the 10 minute conversation in its entirety.)

On Bizarro World, villains are treated like celebrities while the law-abiding are scorned and ostracized. So it should come as no surprise that on CNBC (the official network of Bizarro World), short selling hedge fund managers are called “titans” while those who question them are dismissed with a wink and a smirk.

Of course, this would seem consistent with the seemingly inverted reality that is short selling, where – as opposed to traditional investors who earn profits when they buy low and later sell high – shorts aspire to do the same by first selling high and then buying low.

While on the surface short selling might appear to have been invented on Bizarro World, that’s not true. Shorting is (as has been stated time and again on this blog) a healthy part of a normal market.

What was invented on Bizarro World, however, is shorting’s insidious doppelganger: naked short selling, which is a practice ripped straight from the Bizarro World welcome guide. Unlike legitimate short selling, which requires first borrowing the shares one sells short, naked shorting skips that step, allowing criminals to sell not only something they do not own, but something that does not even exist, except as a tradable electronic ledger entry which they themselves conspire with corrupt brokerages to create.

This, in turn has the effect of artificially increasing the supply of a company’s shares. In other words, on Earth, only companies get to issue stock, whereas on Bizarro World, it’s the naked short sellers that issue shares of a company’s stock, with impunity, sometimes in quantities rivaling the number of legitimate, company-issued shares in circulation (with the expected impact on share price).

Or, should I say, naked short sellers used to be able to do this.

The truth is, since shortly after the onset of the economic crisis naked short sellers themselves helped to spark, naked shorting has become an increasingly difficult crime to commit.

The result?

Despite the fact that we’re in the midst of an epic bear market – when one would normally expect short sellers to thrive – the biggest short selling hedge funds are getting hammered.

Today, Reuters business writer Svea Herbst-Bayliss has a shocking overview of the breadth of the situation, which she begins by comparing to Waterloo – the battle which forever put an end to Napoleon’s aspirations of world domination.

Based on insiders’ insights into forthcoming letters to investors explaining their performance over the first and second quarters of 2009, Herbst-Bayliss predicts that “To anyone considering hedge fund investments in the coming months, the data will illustrate that these managers who cashed in on last year’s financial markets crash now rank as the $1.4 trillion hedge fund industry’s worst performers.”

Specifically, Herbst-Bayliss notes, “In the first six months of 2009 [short selling hedge funds] lost 9.38 percent, compared with the 9.55 percent that other hedge funds gained.”

Most notably, the story quotes Brad Alford, a professional hedge fund advisor and investor, who says, “Every few years short-sellers have their day in the sun. Then things revert to normal where the markets rise and life becomes so difficult for them that many just go out of business,” he added.

In case you missed it, you might want to re-read Alford’s quote to make sure you catch what makes it so telling: that a rising market can be bad for short sellers.

But how can that be, given the recently-ended bull market – possibly the greatest in economic history – saw short selling hedge funds such as SAC Capital, Kynikos Associates and Third Point Capital experience mind-boggling growth, while a month-long rise in what is otherwise shaping up to be one of the greatest bear markets in economic history (when the shorts should be thriving) may prove to be their ultimate doom?

Talk about Bizarro World investing!

The difference, I suspect, is naked short selling: a crutch-like tool that allowed the shorts to defy gravity while the market soared, the effective removal of which has left them atrophied and uncoordinated when forced to fend for themselves in a market where capable, legitimate short sellers should thrive.

Blue vs. Green Kryptonite Click to see full version.

Blue vs. Green Kryptonite: Click to see full image

Or maybe a more apt metaphor is that of Kryptonite, the green version of which makes Superman weak and Bizarro strong, while the blue version has the opposite effect. For a long time, a captured media and SEC equipped short selling hedge funds with a big, fat slab of green Kryptonite, which their own hubris has caused to be replaced by a bit of the Bizarro-toxic blue stuff.

Will July of 2009 be the short sellers’ Waterloo?

Will short selling hedge funds’ greed simply assume another form?

Will the economy recover before it’s too late to matter?

Find out what happens in the next episode of Deep Capture!

Posted in Featured Stories, The Deep Capture CampaignComments (17)

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.

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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.