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Rocker Partners and Bethany McLean: the smarmiest guys in the room


In a recent item, I concluded — based on my analysis of an email exchange between former Fortune reporter Bethany McLean and Copper River Partners (formerly known as Rocker Partners) — that McLean wrote a highly critical article about Fairfax Financial Holdings (NYSE:FFH) with the expectation that her work would cause FFH stock to drop precipitously in value.

By way of review, the evidence shows that a manager of Rocker Partners hedge fund first approached Bethany McLean about Fairfax on December 7, 2006. Bethany then met with Rocker Partners employee (and former SEC attorney) Richard Sauer 11 days later, and presumably began work on what would become her March 6, 2007 article The inside story of a Wall Street battle royal shortly thereafter.

The evidence further demonstrates that when, by March 21, 2007, FFH stock price had gone up 45 points instead of down as expected, McLean was unhappy.

Why would this be?

Anybody familiar with the ongoing conversation held on this blog knows the answer, but not wanting to take for granted that all readers here are either sufficiently seasoned or in agreement, I offer the following, which was, like the above-referenced email exchange, gleaned from the many documents gained through discovery in the Fairfax Financial vs. SAC Capital, et al, lawsuit; specifically, from records of Rocker’s evolving short position in Fairfax stock during the months before and after the publication of McLean’s article.

Beginning on January 4, 2007: ten trading days after McLean met with Richard Sauer, Rocker Partners shorted $2.4-million in Fairfax stock.

In February, Rocker added just over $100,000 to their Fairfax short.

Then, on March 1, 2007, three trading days before McLean’s article, Rocker added another $1.5-million to their position.

All told, Rocker was betting at least $4-million that the price of Fairfax stock would drop.

But unfortunately for Rocker, that’s not what happened.

Indeed, Fairfax stock rose a healthy 20% between March 6th and 22nd, when Rocker’s partner emailed McLean, wondering why Fairfax wasn’t dropping as a result of her story, as expected.

Apparently satisfied that circumstances were unlikely to improve, that very day Rocker began covering its short position…97,000 shares worth, to be exact. By the end of May, Rocker’s entire Fairfax short position was closed out, at a substantial loss.

Of course that’s all interesting, but as always, there’s more.

An analysis of the failed trades in Fairfax stock recorded and disclosed by the SEC for that period proves instructive.

Most notable is the sharp decline in FFH failures to deliver observed at the end of May, 2007. In fact, with the exception of a transient spike on June 8, fails are essentially reduced to zero at precisely the same time Rocker Partners closes out its FFH short position.

Given such a deep commitment to cheating, I find it surprising Rocker Partners never managed to be a more successful hedge fund.

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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The word on TheStreet.com


One of the central theses of The Story of Deep Capture, Mark Mitchell’s epic work of media criticism, is that the staff of TheStreet.com is overwhelmingly beholden to the interests of a few criminal, short-selling hedge funds.

Herb Greenberg, Dan Calorusso, Dave Kansas, Jesse Eisenger: all launched their careers at TheStreet.com.

Such an ignominious list of alumni is matched only by the institution’s co-founder: Jim Cramer, and early investor: David Rocker (founder of Rocker Partners hedge fund).

There’s little doubt that TheStreet.com has been home to more than its fair share of captured journalists. What’s less clear is the matter of cause and effect: does the organization excel at breeding, or merely attracting such people?

Based on the example of former TheStreet.com writer Peter Eavis — contrasting what can be learned about him in the many documents recently made public in the lawsuit pitting Fairfax Financial against SAC Capital and several other hedge funds, with what he’s accomplished since — I’m inclined to believe that the dysfunction at TheStreet.com is a product of the toxic culture of the place, and that well-intended writers with talent who leave early enough have the capacity to redeem themselves.

Peter Eavis features prominently in several documents acquired through discovery in the Fairfax case. The earliest mention of him appears in an email dated July 10, 2002, in which John Hempton told Rocker employee Monty Montgomery “I have Peter interested” in his belief that Fairfax Financial was a fraud.

Later, short selling hedge fund manager Jim Chanos refers to Eavis as John Hempton’s “guy”.

On January 15, 2003, Eavis published his first column on Fairfax: Unsure times for insurer Fairfax Financial, making a special effort to attack the integrity and business acumen of Fairfax CEO Prem Watsa.

While the tone of that piece implies plenty about Eavis’s state of mind when he wrote it, somewhat more telling is the comment he uses to preface the article when sending it, just 20 minutes after publication, to Rocker hedge fund employees:

“Watsa good old Canadian insurer to do?”

One month later, Eavis publishes Fairfax Tirade Can’t Obscure Sea of Red, comparing Prem Watsa to, among other things, a wounded animal.

Less than 20 minutes later, Eavis sends the column to Rocker, prefaced by:

“Prem gets nasty.”

Exactly one month later, it was Eavis again, with Fairfax’s Buffett Pose Falls Short, which he again promptly sent, this time commenting:

“Imitation gives way to evisceration.”

On April 3, 2003, Eavis is back on the attack, with Fairfax Walks the High Wire on Rates, which he also wastes no time in noting:

Prem in the bunker.”

One month and two days later, Eavis writes Fairfax Fog Only Thickens, calling the company “beleaguered” despite its having just announced first quarter earnings of $10.60 per share. Eavis claims he offered Fairfax an opportunity to respond, but that the company “didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.”

The lack of a prompt return call might have been a result of the fact that Eavis filed his column at 7:10am EDT.

While Fairfax employees likely were not in the office at that early hour, we know Eavis was, as he emailed the column within six minutes, prefaced by:

“More on the anti-Buffett.”

Finally, on May 15, 2003, we see the most telling email exchange of all, this time following Eavis’s column Fairfax Is Banking on the Luck of the Irish.

In stark contrast with the victorious tone of the emails on his four earlier columns, Eavis is sheepish when announcing this latest, saying:

“Two numerical errors in the first version, so I’m re-sending this. The mistakes made Fairfax look better than it should. A link to the corrections can be found at the bottom of the piece. Apologies.”

Apologies?

Apologies!

Hey, Peter…even the best reporters make mistakes. That’s why pencils have erasers, as they say, and why publications have “Corrections and Clarifications” sections. If you owe anybody an apology, it’s your readers, which was taken care of in the body of the correction itself.

And yet, Eavis apparently felt apologies were also due Rocker Partners hedge fund, where an anticipated payday depended upon Fairfax looking as bad as possible.

Why on earth would Eavis feel such a debt to Rocker?

A little less than an hour later, Monty Montgomery replied, writing:

“…….boy, hard to believe, but i think it’s very true…..this ends up with Hempton summoned to toronto to tell the authorities/regulators how he figured it out when no one else could……toronto’s just across the lake from the farm, that will be a good excuse for us all to get together there and throw back a couple of cold beers…….”

To which Eavis responded:

“sounds very tempting — both the farm and the ringside seat for watsa’s comeuppance.”

I’d be hard pressed to list all the standards of ethical journalism Peter Eavis violated in just his first five months of covering Fairfax Financial.

But if I were to try, I’d start by pointing out the deep conflict of interest inherent to obviously using his column as a tool to make David Rocker, one of his employer’s largest investors, rich.

Interestingly, in the months to follow, Eavis seemed to lose interest in Fairfax, his frequency of coverage plummeting from over one column a month to less than one per quarter. About that time, he also seems to have quit seeking the approval of anybody at Rocker Partners.

Then, in 2006, Eavis left TheStreet.com for the Wall Street Journal, where he has evolved into a quite prolific and skilled contributor, whose broad body of work appears not to include anything relating to Fairfax.

Is Peter Eavis corrupt? I’d have to say that no, I don’t think so. At least not corrupt after the tradition of Bethany McLean.

Instead, I suspect the culture at TheStreet.com to be very corrupting, though the condition does not have to be a terminal one.

Finally, I wish to point out that in seeking his comment, I did establish contact with Peter Eavis, and at his request provided copies of the above-referenced emails. I was disappointed when he failed to offer a response two days ago, as promised. Should Peter change his mind at any time, I will gladly append his comments below.

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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Bethany McLean: your benefit of the doubt is hereby revoked


There’s no sense denying it: reporters depend on sources, and in the mind  of most business journalists, a connected hedge fund manager will always prove a more valuable source than even the CEO of a public company.

Hence, as I’ve reminded my fellow market reformers time and time again, it is not necessarily a sign of corruption that some business journalists — Bethany McLean included — regularly toe the hedge fund line.

However, as I’ve very recently learned — at least in the case of Bethany McLean — I was wrong.

What changed my mind?

Christmas.

Rather, the early Christmas that arrived for me in the form of about 1,000 pages of discovery just unsealed in the Fairfax Financial (NYSE:FFH) vs. SAC Capital, et al, lawsuit, in which Fairfax claims a conspiracy (or “Enterprise” as it is termed in the suit) involving multiple short-selling hedge funds, financial analysts and business journalists intent on destroying the company for monetary gain.

Included in this mass of documents are hundreds of emails and instant message transcripts between hedge fund managers, their operatives and such “journalists” as Bethany McLean, Herb Greenberg, and Roddy Boyd.

Almost without exception, each of these is immensely useful in understanding how these folks all relate to each other. But among them all, the most revealing — to say nothing of damning — are those between Bethany McLean, then of Fortune, and the upstanding folks at hedge fund Copper River Management.

The emails appear below in blue, with my comments in black.

Sent: Thursday, December 7, 2006 3:21:12 PM
To: Bethany McLean
Subject: ffh

FFH is the Canadian Enron and it could even be worse…We are sending you stufff.. I suggest since [Copper River employee and former SEC attorney Richard] Sauer is on the East Coast (for now) that you 2 meet, and soon… there is an “enterprise” here and he can lay it out clear as day.

It bears noting that, according to filings in the Fairfax suit, the various participants in the attack on Fairfax stock referred to their effort collectively as “the Enterprise”. Whether or not this is what is being alluded to when using the term — which might not otherwise belong within quote marks in this context — is not clear, but certainly suggestive.

From: Bethany McLean
Sent: Thursday, December 7, 2006 3:48:43 PM
Subject: Re: ffh

Makes sense. Send me whatever you can think of – the more documents the better!

Without receiving a bit of proof to back his Enron/Fairfax comparison, McLean finds it “makes sense” and commits to move ahead.

Sent: Thursday, December 7, 2006 3:51:37 PM
To: Bethany McLean
Subject: Re: ffh

don’t you worry…where do you want the stuff fed-exed to… I would set up a time for Sauer to come and see ya.. His code name is “Lavaman”…

This exchange is then forwarded to employee  Rick Sauer, who schedules a meeting between himself and an unusually eager McLean, set for one week thence.

The outcome of that process was McLean’s scathing March 6, 2007 Fortune piece: The inside story of a Wall Street battle royal.

How can I be certain that this particular story was the direct result of these efforts? The answer to that question is where the situation becomes particularly disturbing…sufficient to leave me feeling physically ill, and prepared to officially add Bethany McLean to the short but distinguished list of truly captured and corrupt journalists.

Sent: Wednesday, March 21, 2007 9:51 AM
To: Bethany McLean
Subject: ffh

you hear anything there??? the stock is up 45 points since your piece and I dont understand it…

Of note: on March 5, 2007 FFH closed at $190.09, and on March 21, 2007, FFH closed at $234.53, a difference of $44.43.

From: Bethany McLean
Sent: Wednesday, March 21, 2007 11:51:57 AM
Subject: Re: ffh

I’m getting the same question from other people. No, I don’t have a clue. I’m worried they’ve gotten the SEC or the Southern District to take them seriously – the Spyro [Contogouris] stuff makes you realize anything is possible – and they’re leaking the news to shareholders ahead of time. What do you think?

A day later, McLean receives email with nothing more than a cell phone number.

Sent: Thursday, March 22, 2007 5:12 PM
To: Bethany McLean
Subject: Re: ffh

415-350-****

Based on McLean’s reply, we can presume she followed this tacit demand, and that the conversation was less than pleasant.

From: Bethany McLean
Sent: Thursday, March 22, 2007 6:12:48 PM
Subject: Re: ffh

Sorry to be a little bad-tempered. This FFH story almost killed me, so I hate hearing that it was pointless. Maybe it’ll be a long, slow thing..

I suspect the emails you’ve just read are the real reason Bethany McLean made a sudden departure from the world of business journalism earlier this year.

As for me, it’s been nearly 24 hours since I first encountered this exchange, and yet I still cannot read it without feeling like I’ve just taken a blow to the solar plexus.

Seeing proof that both a hedge fund manager and an ostensibly reputable business writer viewed the sacred institution of journalism as a means of wrecking a company, and that they both also felt disappointment when their efforts proved insufficient, with the “journalist” finding solace in the prospect that the company’s eventual destruction might simply be a “long, slow thing” literally leaves me breathless.

Stay tuned for still more of the explosive revelations found within the reams and reams of discovery in this case.

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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A Ponzi Scheme that is Bigger than Bernard Madoff’s


Bernard L. Madoff’s fraud is “stunning,” says the SEC. It is a crime of “epic proportions.” But, says the SEC, we have nothing to worry about. The SEC caught the bad guy. It “moved swiftly” to protect the integrity of the financial markets.

Nonsense.

The only thing “stunning” is that the SEC continues to condone and even fraternize with the organized mob of hedge fund miscreants who have destroyed hundreds of companies, wiped out the jobs of countless ordinary folks, and brought our financial system to the brink of ruin.

The Madoff case may one day prove to be “epic,” but right now it can best be described as “pathetic” – or just plain “weird.”

Apparently, the SEC began receiving tips from Madoff’s enemies (rival brokerages, private investigators working for rival hedge funds, etc.) several years ago. The commission made inquiries, but took no action.

Then, earlier this week, Madoff purportedly had some kind of nervous breakdown, announcing to his sons that he was a criminal.

If we can believe the news reports, the sons then called the FBI, which dispatched an agent to Madoff’s apartment.

Madoff, dressed in a baby blue bathrobe and slippers, opened the door, and said, “I know why you are here.”

With that, the agent arrested Madoff, and within a few hours the FBI and the SEC had whipped out cases accusing Madoff of wrong-doing, but providing few details.

Indeed, it is clear from reading these cases that the FBI and the SEC know nothing about Madoff’s market making and hedge fund firm except that two employees (Madoff’s two sons) have made the vague claim that Madoff told them, vaguely, that his hedge fund was “a giant Ponzi scheme.”

Madoff’s lawyer says his client has admitted to no such crime.

Children do not usually turn in their fathers to the FBI unless they bear other grudges. And it is standard operating procedure for shady high-finance predators to sniff out and prey on feuding relatives who are in business together.

This in no way suggests that Madoff is clean, but it raises the possibility that even dirtier people orchestrated the demise of Madoff and his hedge fund in order to absorb his more lucrative (and crooked?) market making operation.

An alternative explanation comes from Bill Cara, one of the nation’s more perceptive business writers. He concludes that Madoff “is just the beginning. I don’t know, of course, more than you, but…I think he has in fact indicted himself to cause prosecutors to investigate the entire corrupt system.”

Whatever the real story, it is clear that market makers are accessories to a scheme that is much, much bigger than Madoff.

The key players in this scheme are 20 or so mega-billionaire hedge fund managers, who operate with a supporting cast that includes not just market makers, but also smaller hedge funds, rogue prime brokerages, corrupt lawyers, dishonest journalists, bogus one-man credit rating agencies, dubious index trackers, bribed “experts,” skalawag statisticians, compromised professors, private investigators, crooked financial researchers, captured government regulators, hustlers, felons, thugs and mafiosi.

The mega-billionaires masterminded their scheme in the 1980s, and ever since, they and their progeny have been working together – raiding and destroying public companies for profit. In the rubble of these attacks (there are hundreds of examples) one can almost always find evidence of unrestrained naked short selling (people selling things that they do not possess – phantom stock, phantom bonds, phantom mortgage backed securities, phantom CDOs, all manner of phantom derivatives).

This is the organized exploitation of our national clearing and settlement system – a system that fails utterly to ensure that traders actually deliver that which they have sold. If the SEC and FBI are looking for a “Ponzi scheme” of “epic proportions” – this is it.

Mr. Madoff surely knows something about this scheme. Market makers (Madoff’s operation was among the better known) are exempt from rules prohibiting naked short selling. They can sell stock that they have not yet borrowed or purchased, so long as they are legitimately “making a market” (i.e. maintaining liquidity) — and only if they intend to settle the trade soon after. In practice, however, billionaire hedge fund managers have rented market makers’ exemptions to manipulate markets with phantom securities – a blatant crime that is rarely prosecuted.

While Mr. Madoff is talking to the SEC and the FBI, I am going to begin telling you more about the scheme that is bigger than Bernie. Soon, I will name those 20 mega-billionaires, their supporting cast — and the man who is their guru. The evidence is pouring in – there is much to reveal.

But for now, let me leave you with a quotation from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s “Notice 93-77.” Published in 1993, it reads:

Shortly after the market crash of 1987, “then Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady referred to the clearance and settlement system as the weakest link in the nation’s financial system…Gerald Corrigan, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York noted: ‘The greatest threat to the stability of the financial system as a whole was the danger of a major default in one of these clearing and settlement systems…”

“The connection between a crisis in the clearance and settlement system and the financial industry was highlighted by the bankruptcy in 1990 of Drexel Burnham Lambert Group…As described in the [SEC’s] testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, near gridlock developed in the mortgage-backed securities market and in the corporate debt and equity markets where Drexel was an active participant.”

Now that our financial system has come to a screeching halt, read those words for clues as to how much worse things can get – and whom we need to stop to prevent that from happening.

* * * * * * * *

Mark Mitchell is a reporter for DeepCapture.com. He previously worked at the Wall Street Journal editorial page in Europe, Time magazine Asia, the Far Eastern Economic Review, and the Columbia Journalism Review. Email: mitch0033@gmail.com

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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A Ponzi Scheme that is Bigger than Bernard Madoff's


Bernard L. Madoff’s fraud is “stunning,” says the SEC. It is a crime of “epic proportions.” But, says the SEC, we have nothing to worry about. The SEC caught the bad guy. It “moved swiftly” to protect the integrity of the financial markets.

Nonsense.

The only thing “stunning” is that the SEC continues to condone and even fraternize with the organized mob of hedge fund miscreants who have destroyed hundreds of companies, wiped out the jobs of countless ordinary folks, and brought our financial system to the brink of ruin.

The Madoff case may one day prove to be “epic,” but right now it can best be described as “pathetic” – or just plain “weird.”

Apparently, the SEC began receiving tips from Madoff’s enemies (rival brokerages, private investigators working for rival hedge funds, etc.) several years ago. The commission made inquiries, but took no action.

Then, earlier this week, Madoff purportedly had some kind of nervous breakdown, announcing to his sons that he was a criminal.

If we can believe the news reports, the sons then called the FBI, which dispatched an agent to Madoff’s apartment.

Madoff, dressed in a baby blue bathrobe and slippers, opened the door, and said, “I know why you are here.”

With that, the agent arrested Madoff, and within a few hours the FBI and the SEC had whipped out cases accusing Madoff of wrong-doing, but providing few details.

Indeed, it is clear from reading these cases that the FBI and the SEC know nothing about Madoff’s market making and hedge fund firm except that two employees (Madoff’s two sons) have made the vague claim that Madoff told them, vaguely, that his hedge fund was “a giant Ponzi scheme.”

Madoff’s lawyer says his client has admitted to no such crime.

Children do not usually turn in their fathers to the FBI unless they bear other grudges. And it is standard operating procedure for shady high-finance predators to sniff out and prey on feuding relatives who are in business together.

This in no way suggests that Madoff is clean, but it raises the possibility that even dirtier people orchestrated the demise of Madoff and his hedge fund in order to absorb his more lucrative (and crooked?) market making operation.

An alternative explanation comes from Bill Cara, one of the nation’s more perceptive business writers. He concludes that Madoff “is just the beginning. I don’t know, of course, more than you, but…I think he has in fact indicted himself to cause prosecutors to investigate the entire corrupt system.”

Whatever the real story, it is clear that market makers are accessories to a scheme that is much, much bigger than Madoff.

The key players in this scheme are 20 or so mega-billionaire hedge fund managers, who operate with a supporting cast that includes not just market makers, but also smaller hedge funds, rogue prime brokerages, corrupt lawyers, dishonest journalists, bogus one-man credit rating agencies, dubious index trackers, bribed “experts,” skalawag statisticians, compromised professors, private investigators, crooked financial researchers, captured government regulators, hustlers, felons, thugs and mafiosi.

The mega-billionaires masterminded their scheme in the 1980s, and ever since, they and their progeny have been working together – raiding and destroying public companies for profit. In the rubble of these attacks (there are hundreds of examples) one can almost always find evidence of unrestrained naked short selling (people selling things that they do not possess – phantom stock, phantom bonds, phantom mortgage backed securities, phantom CDOs, all manner of phantom derivatives).

This is the organized exploitation of our national clearing and settlement system – a system that fails utterly to ensure that traders actually deliver that which they have sold. If the SEC and FBI are looking for a “Ponzi scheme” of “epic proportions” – this is it.

Mr. Madoff surely knows something about this scheme. Market makers (Madoff’s operation was among the better known) are exempt from rules prohibiting naked short selling. They can sell stock that they have not yet borrowed or purchased, so long as they are legitimately “making a market” (i.e. maintaining liquidity) — and only if they intend to settle the trade soon after. In practice, however, billionaire hedge fund managers have rented market makers’ exemptions to manipulate markets with phantom securities – a blatant crime that is rarely prosecuted.

While Mr. Madoff is talking to the SEC and the FBI, I am going to begin telling you more about the scheme that is bigger than Bernie. Soon, I will name those 20 mega-billionaires, their supporting cast — and the man who is their guru. The evidence is pouring in – there is much to reveal.

But for now, let me leave you with a quotation from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s “Notice 93-77.” Published in 1993, it reads:

Shortly after the market crash of 1987, “then Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady referred to the clearance and settlement system as the weakest link in the nation’s financial system…Gerald Corrigan, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York noted: ‘The greatest threat to the stability of the financial system as a whole was the danger of a major default in one of these clearing and settlement systems…”

“The connection between a crisis in the clearance and settlement system and the financial industry was highlighted by the bankruptcy in 1990 of Drexel Burnham Lambert Group…As described in the [SEC’s] testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, near gridlock developed in the mortgage-backed securities market and in the corporate debt and equity markets where Drexel was an active participant.”

Now that our financial system has come to a screeching halt, read those words for clues as to how much worse things can get – and whom we need to stop to prevent that from happening.

* * * * * * * *

Mark Mitchell is a reporter for DeepCapture.com. He previously worked at the Wall Street Journal editorial page in Europe, Time magazine Asia, the Far Eastern Economic Review, and the Columbia Journalism Review. Email: mitch0033@gmail.com

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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CNBC Spectacle Precedes Naked Short Massacre


So the SEC today lifted its ban on short-selling, and all but declared open season for law-breaking naked short sellers to start destroying companies again – and who does CNBC have on for two hours as its honored “guest host”?

None other than Jim Chanos, the salamander-slick director of the short-seller lobby.

Asked about naked short selling, Chanos said, with a straight face: “Anytime a hedge fund or short seller shorts a stock, it is a legitimate short. We have to get a locate or pre-borrow from the broker….”

Chanos continued: “The one thing I have in common with Patrick Byrne, chairman of Overstock.com [and Deep Capture reporter], is that we are calling for strict, strict delivery…in terms of delivering shares…that is how to end this naked short selling…”

CNBC, which serves as a sort of seedy massage parlor to the short selling community, gave Chanos the usual treatment – lubrications and sweet nothings. No tough questions. No retorts to his outlandish assertions. No wondering aloud as to his absurd and self-serving logic.

Let’s get this straight.

Not long ago, Chanos insisted that naked short selling did not occur.

Now, he says naked short selling occurs. But it’s not short sellers who are naked short selling. Short sellers make sure their brokers borrow real stock before they sell it.

In any case, Chanos acknowledges that short sellers’ brokers are not borrowing real stock before they sell it. That is why they are not delivering the stock. And that is why he claims to agree with Patrick Byrne that there needs to be “strict, strict delivery.”

But Chanos is against a ban on naked short selling (which would force short sellers to borrow real stock, thus ensuring delivery). Chanos says that a ban on naked short selling would destroy “market efficiency.”

So, to summarize the Chanos position: Naked short selling didn’t occur, but now it occurs, except short sellers don’t do it, and the SEC shouldn’t ban it because the market would cease to function properly if short sellers were forced to stop doing what they don’t do.

And given that so many shares are failing to deliver (after being sold naked by short sellers who never sell naked), Chanos is calling for “strict, strict delivery” of stock (while praising the SEC for its “strict” new rules which stipulate that nothing happens to short sellers who fail to deliver stock).

CNBC treated us this morning to two hours of Chanos nonsense. At one point this charlatan even insisted that short sellers aren’t short selling financial stocks at all. Really, he said short sellers aren’t short selling. Period. Take his word for it. CNBC did.

That was around 7:30 AM, right after CNBC’s Becky Quick referred to Chanos as “the legendary short seller….er, investor.”

At 9:30 AM, the markets opened and the criminal naked short sellers…er, investors…went back to work, unfettered by the SEC’s “strict” new rules.

Within an hour, Morgan Stanley was down 25%.

* * * * * * * * *

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Short-Sellers Spin Themselves Silly, SEC Sounds Strong


After years of intermittently ignoring and whitewashing one of history’s biggest financial swindles, the Wall Street Journal today, for the first time, published some basic truths about the crime: “Illegitimate naked short selling is different from [legal short-selling]…this kind of manipulative activity can have drastic consequences…Eliminating the prospect of naked short selling will help assure investors that… when the market declines it is not because of unseen manipulators and `distort and short’ artists.”

Unfortunately, these words were not written by some enterprising journalist seeking to nail the criminal hedge funds who have manufactured billions of phantom shares (shares sold “naked” because they don’t exist) while using other dubious tactics – such as publishing false “independent” financial research, working with a crooked law firm (the recently indicted Milberg, Weiss) to saddle companies with bogus class action lawsuits, hiring thugs and private investigators to harass corporate executives, orchestrating dead-end government investigations, employing armies of basement-dwelling creeps to bash companies and smear reputations on Internet message boards, and feeding distorted and maliciously false information to compliant or naïve journalists – all part of a massive, collusive effort to destroy public companies for profit.

No, sadly for anyone who cares about the state of our financial markets and media, those crimes go mostly unreported. And as for the few basic truths that appeared in today’s Wall Street Journal, they were not products of any journalistic effort. They were, rather, the words of SEC Chairman Christopher Cox, who managed (no doubt, with some difficulty) to convince the Journal to publish an op-ed wherein he explains why he had to issue an “emergency order” to prevent abusive short-selling from crashing the American financial system.

Why is this not front page news? Why is the Journal not clamoring for the criminals to be put away?

We’ve noted that The Wall Street Journal’s “Money & Investing” section, which covers the hedge fund beat, was once under the control of editor David Kansas, who was known for unleashing reporters on companies targeted by his long-time short-selling friends, while ignoring, with seemingly purposeful intent, all evidence suggesting that his friends were up to no good. Kansas, I believe, was the principal reason why the Journal long held back from investigating the naked short selling scandal.

But Kansas and some of his comrades have left the Journal, and I believe most of the paper’s other reporters are well-intentioned. It’s just that this is a complicated story – it can take time to wade through the grim data, to see for yourself the rapes in progress, and to come to terms with the ugly dimensions of the problem. It’s all the harder when you’re having smoke blown in your face by people whom, for whatever mistaken reasons, you have come to respect.

It is no coincidence that Jim Chanos, manager of hedge fund Kynikos Associates, was elected chairman of the Coalition of Private Investment Companies, the hedge fund lobbying and PR outfit. Chanos is the guy who helped Fortune Magazine’s Bethany McLean break the Enron story. Ever since, he’s been the David Koresh of media, convincing a cohort of zombified journalists that he can bestow blessed immortality — the next big scoop. The reporters swoon to this guru’s sermons, even when they sense that there is something untrue – even when, Waco-like, the authorities are closing in and a gruesome end is nigh.

Chanos has been busy dishing out the usual proselytizations: short-selling is good for the markets, short-sellers help root out bad companies like Enron, short-sellers are victims – nice fellows under attack by crazies and people who don’t like free markets. “We’re on the side of the angels,” Chanos proclaimed yesterday, clearly hoping that the media’s cries of “Amen!” would drown out the rumblings of a government that finally seems to be waking up to the notion that while there is nothing wrong with short-sellers, and free markets are swell, there is something not so good, and not so free, about a market getting pummeled by peddlers of fake stock and false information.

Chanos and his followers should throw in the towel. Contrary to our earlier concerns, it seems like the SEC is blowing off the hedge fund lobby and its media followers. Short-sellers of stocks in 19 financial companies have actually been forced to borrow real shares — not just locate them; not just say “yeah, yeah, my buddy in Staten Island’s got ‘em in his drawer,” but have real shares in hand before selling them. Even better, Cox said today that he intends to expand the enforcement across the entire market. We’ll see if he follows through.

Perhaps to avoid panic, the SEC Chairman has said that his emergency order was a preventive step, and was not meant to suggest that naked short-selling of the financial stocks was already rampant. But we know from SEC data that more than $6 billion worth of shares go undelivered every day. We know further that the phantom stock has been targeted at specific companies, including Bear Stearns, which saw as many as 13 million shares fail to deliver in its final days. Much more naked shorting takes place “ex-clearing” – for which no public data exists.

The immediate results of the SEC’s emergency order speak to just how big the ex-clearing problem is. Since Monday, when the order took effect, short-selling of the affected companies has decreased by 70 percent – and 90 percent in the cases of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It is safe to say that a lot of that reduction is attributable to hedge funds that were previously selling shares without borrowing them. Now extrapolate to the entire market. We know that short-sales make up around 30 percent of total market volume. If we knock some points off that 70 percent number and decide that, say, half of short-selling has been naked – then 15% of total market volume on any given day could be phantom stock.

That is an admittedly rough number. The fact is, we just don’t know the exact figure. But as evidence for the hypothesis that the number is, in fact, even larger, consider that Chanos and friends insist that the SEC’s restrictions on illegitimate naked short selling will seriously reduce “liquidity” in the markets. Some Wall Street lobbyists have even suggested to the SEC that the New York Stock Exchange would have to temporarily shut its doors if the SEC were to enforce its emergency order market-wide.

In other words, people like Chanos (who has denied that he has ever participated in naked short selling and has previously expressed surprise that it even occurs) is now saying that the practice is so widespread that the markets cannot function without it. The market’s “liquidity” depends on illegitimate naked short selling. Without the phantom stock which predominates in our markets, nobody would know what to do–prices would go haywire, there’d be total chaos.

All of which is reminiscent of the SEC’s earlier weird statements that naked short selling occurs rarely, but there’s so much naked short selling that enforcing rules against it might “create excess market volatility.”

If you’re a journalist, and you’re still confused, just wrap your head around this: even the hedge funds now admit that a very significant chunk of the stock that they sell cannot be readily borrowed. It cannot be borrowed, because it does not exist. This massive supply of phantom stock is what is setting prices in our supposedly “free market.”

It is a recipe for financial meltdown It is the scandal of a lifetime. And the financial media fiddles.

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Deep Capture Podcast: Episode 3


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This episode examines the state of the news media, and the apparent bias business writers have against stocks targeted by illegal naked short selling hedge funds.

As an example, I take a look at a specific instance of business journalists continually getting one key fact wrong in their reporting, and the unwillingness of the Wall Street Journal — even when confronted with the truth — to correct the error.

Click here to read the original WSJ story (as reprinted in the Seattle Times).

Also, a transcript of this episode is available here.

Theme music for the Deep Capture Podcast composed by Derek K. Miller.

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JP Morgan CEO is Crazy, Too. Time to Subpoena CNBC


Certain journalists and convicted criminals with ties to hedge funds have suggested that we at Deep Capture are crazy because we believe some short-sellers deliberately destroy public companies for profit.

Last night, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon was interviewed by Charlie Rose.

Rose said, “[Bear Stearns CEO] Alan Schwartz is quoted as saying.. that he thought [the demise of Bear Stearns] was premeditated [by short-sellers].

Dimon responded: “I would say where there is smoke, there’s fire. If someone knowingly starts a rumor or passes on a rumor, they should go to jail…This is even worse than insider trading. This is deliberate and malicious destruction of value and people’s lives. They shouldn’t go to jail for a short period of time. So if I was the SEC I’d find out who made the money and I’d investigate–emails, phone records, you name it–and I’d find out….There’s enough smoke around that I think there should be a full investigation…”

So now the CEO of JP Morgan is crazy, too. So is former Bear Stearns CEO Alan Schwartz. Lehman Brothers CEO Richard Fuld said something similar, so he must be a crackpot. The SEC itself claims to have begun an investigation. They’re all nuts.

Anyway, permit us to suggest an easy way to get this investigation moving: Send a subpoena to CNBC reporter David Faber.

On March 13 and March 14, Faber told CNBC viewers that a hedge fund manager – “a friend” whom he “trusts” – told him that Goldman Sachs had refused to accept Bear Stearn’s credit. This information was false. It was a deliberate, malicious rumor delivered to a friendly journalist in order to destroy Bear Stearns.

Find out who Faber’s hedge fund friend is. Case solved.

This would not be the first time that Faber reported misinformation in service to a hedge fund friend. He used to do it for Jim Cramer, back before Cramer became CNBC’s leading “journalist” – back when Cramer was running his own hedge fund. A former employee of Cramer’s hedge fund has written a book, “Trading with the Enemy,” in which he describes Cramer feeding Faber tips and illegally trading ahead of Faber’s reports on CNBC.

It is no small coincidence that a clique of journalists connected to Cramer regularly write false or misleading hatchet jobs on companies targeted by short-sellers connected to Cramer. And it is no coincidence that these same hedge funds have deliberately and maliciously sought to destroy dozens of public companies and people’s lives by circulating rumors, issuing bogus “independent financial research,” clogging Internet message boards with false information, filing bogus class-action lawsuits, getting the SEC and other government agencies to conduct dead-end investigations, and hiring convicted felons to harass CEOs. (And that’s not all; see “The Story of Deep Capture” for the gory details.)

It is also worth noting that in almost all of the companies targeted by these people, somebody has sold massive amounts of phantom stock to further drive down prices. Two companies targeted by these people are Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns. Both have been victimized by phantom stock sellers.

We’d say somebody should investigate this. But that would be crazy.

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Roger and Me: insights into the dark world of stock manipulation


The first several posts published on AntiSocialMedia.net dealt with former BusinessWeek reporter Gary Weiss and his abuse of blogs, Wikipedia and message boards in defense of illegal stock market manipulation.

Almost immediately after publishing the first such post, I began to receive email from readers who were confident that any scam involving Gary Weiss was all but certain to involve a fellow named Floyd Schneider, as well.

Curious, I googled “Floyd Schneider”, and quickly found the 2002 BusinessWeek story entitled “Revenge of the Investor”, in which Floyd is painted as a crusading folk hero fighting against corporate fraudsters.

With that, I concluded that Floyd Schneider could not possibly be an associate of Gary Weiss.

Time passed, and I began to gain a better understanding of how Gary Weiss was not only a corrupt blogger, but how he had also been a corrupt reporter, often using his by-line at BusinessWeek to further the interests of his short selling patrons by casting black as white, and white as black.

Indeed, as anybody who’s followed his career knows, the First Law of Gary Weiss is: If Gary says something is bad, it’s probably good; and vice versa.

I’m ashamed to admit that the obvious “A-ha!” moment finally came in December of 2006. That’s when it occurred to me – rather randomly – that I ought to take another look at the 2002 piece on Floyd Schneider…particularly the story’s by-line (which BusinessWeek.com tends to print at the end of stories).

Looking back, what I found probably should have come as no surprise…

story written by Gary Weiss

…the author of the story lionizing Floyd Schneider was Gary Weiss himself. Indeed, Floyd is also lovingly featured in Weiss’s second book.

Those facts, when viewed in the context of the First Law of Gary Weiss, were all I needed to know that the individuals who suggested Floyd Schneider was involved in the coordinated public attacks I had observed against Patrick Byrne and other opponents of illegal naked short selling, were correct.

At that point, I sought to determine which message board aliases Schneider was using at the time. The answer was to be found in this legal opinion filed in one of the (multiple) lawsuits brought against Schneider by companies defamed and libeled by his message board posting.

It reads:

…“Floydtheoneandonly,” “charlesp0nzi,” “thetruthseekercom,” are [stock message board] pseudonyms used by Floyd Schneider…

From there, the Dissembler Sorting Algorithm revealed that on Yahoo Finance alone, additional Schneider aliases included strethoechasity, returnofstockdung, baloneymarch, wackypat, zorro20934 and china39846.

As an aside, the alias zorro20934 was used by Schneider to post attacks (since deleted) against Matrixx Initiatives, in direct violation of an agreement Schneider signed stipulating that he would not do so.

Over time the vast majority of Schneider’s message board contributions have been deleted for their abusive nature. Possibly the best and most recent example of this appeared briefly on Yahoo’s INVESTools board, in a series of posts in which Schneider attempted to blame INVESTools management for former employee David Ragsdale’s tragic decision to murder his wife earlier this year.

Analysis of the thousands of posts made by Schneider revealed that they attacked – almost without exception, companies appearing on the Reg SHO Threshold Securities list – which is comprised of firms targeted by hedge funds engaged in manipulative naked short selling.

In addition, Floyd’s posting patterns tended to be very abnormal; meaning, he would focus intensely on one or two companies for a time, then abruptly shift focus to attacking another and never return to the prior. This, I reasoned, was what one would expect of someone being directed in their efforts, as opposed to someone whose attention naturally evolved over time.

The next breakthrough came when I discovered this message board post made to SiliconInvestor.com by former Schneider business partner and convicted stock manipulator Anthony Elgindy, reading:

From: Anthony@Pacific
4/21/2001 8:28:44 PM

Notice of termination of all association with The truthseeker.

As of Yesterday.

I wish him luck in his current business venture as a paid researcher/basher..

I dont pay for any posts..period and I’m not gonna start ever doing that.
Please dont ask me to elaborate , just know that he is being paid now by outside parties.
He has done some good work and we have had some good times , but all good things must come to an end..someday.

I first wrote about what I had discovered, vis-à-vis Floyd Schneider, in December 2006.

In early April 2007, a mysterious comment was added to the Schneider post, claiming to have been made by Floyd’s long-deceased father. It read…


The Truthseeker is incapable of ever telling the truth!

How do I know? That’s easy I was his father. Currently my wife and other 4 sons have completely disowned him and will have nothing to do with him anymore.

I passed away on 2/7/1996, let me tell you some of my own experiences with my 3rd son, Floyd D. Schneider.

TIMELINE:

1976-1979 while attending the University of Miami he has gambled with bookies losing thousands of dollars I had to bail him out of, and committed credit card fraud stealing credit card numbers.

1982 stock broker for Moore Schlay, embezzled monies from family and friends brokerage accounts and lost it all buying options, He was fired and I had to bail him out again.

1983 stockbroker for Shearson American express, again he did the same thing and he was fired, I had to mortgage my house this time to bail him out.

1983- 1988 in between this time there were a few more bets with bookies and in 1988 he married a con artist and became her 6th husband. They both ran an Insurance agency in Bradley Beach, NJ “The F. D. Schneider Insurance Agency” This was a total disaster, they both were issuing insurance cards to people and had them make out their premium checks directly to them and cashing the checks for money for themselves, never putting the policies through and having these people driving with no car insurance without them knowing.

Yup again this cost me money in 1991, my whole half years retirement package in fact to bail him out of this mess.

Floyd came home to live again and in 1992 became a Mortgage broker for Weichert Realtors. He got in more trouble in those years by having people sign lock-in agreements and not locking the interest rate in, hoping rates would go down and lock it in then making loads more money for himself. Problem was more often the interest rates went up and he had to arrange to pay large lump sums of money to the borrowers to keep them from getting him fired.

Thank goodness he was a “so called” top producer, giving him them means pay his way out of a mess for himself for once. Floyd is a compulsive liar and you never can get the Truth from him, always nothing but another lie after another. Guess that’s why now he feels a need to seek truth from others, lord knows he could never seek it from himself.

He has a very convoluted way of justifying things. I remember back in 1983 when he was with Shearson in that mess, he forged a signature from his Godfather’s account, when I sat down with him to explain he did something very wrong all he told me was:  “dad I never forged anything, I just signed the check Floyd Schneider, it’s my fault Shearson didn’t check to see if it was the right Floyd Schneider or not, so really it’s their fault not mine!” You see Floyd was named after his uncle and Godfather “Floyd Schneider” of Carpenter and Smith Oil in Monroe, NY.

I never could convince him he did anything wrong either, he really believes he has never done a wrong thing in his life. I died 6 months after Floyd was married to his second wife. His father-in-law has no idea of what his daughter married! I am starting to feel I am the lucky one now six feet under, but finally in peace!!!

Not feeling comfortable with a comment from a dead person appearing on my blog – particularly one leveling such extreme accusations – I removed it and contacted its author: not to ask for proof of the claims, but to discern with reasonable certainty that he or she was actually in a position to know whether or not they were true.

What resulted was a long and fruitful conversation with Roger Schneider, Floyd’s brother and – until days before – Floyd’s boss at the Ramsey, NJ branch of mortgage brokerage Nationwide Equity.

The circumstances behind Floyd’s dismissal from Nationwide provide what might be the most interesting and valuable bit of insight yet gained in my effort to prove that contrary to their repeated claims, some individuals are indeed paid to “bash” public companies on stock message boards on behalf of short selling hedge funds seeking to profit from a drop in the target company’s share value.

Here’s how Roger Schneider himself describes the situation:

“Floyd was writing up invoices on Nationwide Equity’s letterhead to Magic consulting instructing Magic to pay Nationwide for some phony service he made up, and too have Magic consulting make out the checks payable directly to Floyd D. Schneider. He did this many times before it was discovered and he was fired.”

(More on Michelle McDonough and Magic Consulting in a moment)

As Roger described the above scene to me, when Floyd was presented with the evidence of his history of illegally disguising payments from Magic Consulting as mortgage brokerage commissions, Floyd’s only defense was to point out that in this most recent case (the one for which he was caught), Magic owner Michelle McDonough had instead opted to pay him directly as a contract “stock researcher.”

This is a vital detail, because it confirms Anthony Elgindy’s claim that Floyd had engaged in a “business venture as a paid researcher/basher.”

It was while cleaning out Floyd’s desk a few days later that Roger discovered a print version of the same legal filing I had found online months before, and the partial listing of Floyd’s confirmed message board aliases. Then, while seeking additional information on what he’d found, Roger happened upon AntiSocialMedia.net and my post about his brother.

As it turns out, Floyd left behind many compelling insights into his relationship with Michelle McDonough’s Magic Consulting.

It seems that when hedge fund Third Point Capital needed some dirt spread about specific companies, they would enlist the help of McDonough, who would in turn enlist the help of individuals such as Floyd Schneider. McDonough would provide Floyd with a list of “talking points” and, moments later, these were the things Floyd would begin posting on stock message boards across the web, including Yahoo Finance, Raging Bull, and Silicon Investor.

Very soon, these were also the things business reporter Roddy Boyd (currently of Fortune, previously of the New York Post) was writing damning stories about.

Very frequently, Boyd would contact Floyd, asking for help digging up negative information on officers of specific companies. In every case, these companies were known to be under active and vicious attack by short selling hedge funds.

On one occasion, Roddy Boyd refers directly to Michelle McDonough as an acquaintance of his and Floyd’s…which is what makes the following email exchanges between Boyd and myself so strange:

Judd Bagley: “…What do you know about a woman named Michelle McDonough?”

Roddy Boyd: “re Michelle M: nothing. Should I? google has about 1mm entries for that name.”

Judd Bagley: “She used to go by the name Michelle Sarian. Today she runs “Magic Consulting.” I think she did a year in prison back in 2001.”

Roddy Boyd: “re sarian or mcdonough…youre [sic] concern, not mine.”

And later…

Judd Bagley: “While I’ve got you…you recently denied knowing Michelle McDonough (formerly Sarian). Is that still your position?”

Roddy Boyd: “sorry judd, im [sic] not talking to you about anything else, period. if youre [sic] not comfortable with me asking the questions-fine. but im [sic] not anwering [sic] yours.”

We’ve since learned yet more about Michelle McDonough and Magic Consulting.

Most notable is the fact that McDonough apparently offers her services to multiple hedge funds, not just Third Point Capital, as originally suspected.

It’s also emerged that, prior to leaving for prison, McDonough (then known as Michelle Sarian) was a very active message board poster, herself. Sources suggest that in those days, she primarily attacked the companies targeted by Evan Sturza, a former hedge fund manager who went on to publish Sturza’s Medical Investment Letter.

Based on evidence he saw, Roger Schneider estimates McDonough paid Floyd at least $14,000 in 2006 alone. A few years before that, Roger observed Floyd receive at least one payment of $10,000 from Paul C. Harary, who – it should come as no surprise – was recently imprisoned for securities manipulation.

Paul C. Harary.

Michelle McDonough.

Anthony Elgindy.

Sam E. Antar.

All convicted securities manipulators.

All past and present associates of paid stock message board basher Floyd Schneider.

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