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Monthly Archives: October 2008

Oh dear oh dear oh dear

This week’s section is another short one mostly occupied by Mitchell transcribing the words of America’s favorite bipolar financial gnome, Jim Cramer.  Mitchell does a pretty half-assed job of setting it up, so allow me.  It was December 22, 2006, and Cramer — prepare to be shocked — is on a rant.  In fact he’s complaining about how easy it is to plant stories, positive or negative as the case may be, with “bozo reporters” and drive stocks any which way.  Or just possibly, as Mitchell suggests, advocating it.  Or both.  One can never be sure with Cramer.

Anyway, fast forward to March 2007 and someone posts the video — which despite Mitchell’s “semi-private” (whatever that means) labelling was in fact quite publicly available — on YouTube.

The press covered it rather extensively in that moment in time as Cramer went public to explain himself.  And then the whole story got dropped in the recycling bin, where Mitchell fished it out.

But hey, why am I talking about it when I can harness the power of these here Intertubes and just show you what this is all about?  Here you go:

Next week: We enter new territory, into parts of Deep Capture to which time, even the relatively few months that have passed, has been less than kind.

(So, Gradient is off the enemies list now?  Does this mean Mitchell will be redacting all the nasty things he said about them?  For his part, of course, Byrne is naturally chalking this up as a win, but given the lengths to which Gradient tried to make this all go away, it’s hard to think they’re not happy.  Furthermore, Joe Nocera had a very interesting article suggesting that Gradient’s statement was something of a non-retraction retraction.)

Mitchell picks up from last time by talking about information the “mole” on Anthony Elgindy’s chat room gave him.  (I should point out that the chat room shut down sometime in 2002, and Mitchell only began work on this piece in 2005, so whoever this fellow was, he had to have been peddling his story for some time before anyone bit on it.)  He reiterates how the chatters gushed over the work of certain journalists, and mused whether they were “merely paying off journalists”, or instead something “beyond normal”.  Because apparently Mitchell considers paying off journalists to be within the bounds of “normal”.

Mitchell then asserts that the reporters should have disregarded any information sent to them by anyone from Elgindy’s group on the basis that they shorted without a borrow in Canadian brokerages, thus continuing the overarching theme of Mitchell’s work, that being a short-seller should cause you to forfeit speech rights.  I might also add that, as Mitchell himself has already noted, there was nothing whatsoever illegal about this tactic.  Furthermore, in many cases, especially involving stocks listed not listed on the major exchanges but rather on the OTC bulletin board, this was the only method by which establishing a short position was even possible.  So just in case anyone’s wondering what an permanent, exchange-wide ban on short-selling would look like… there you go.

Back to Mitchell, who introduces his next subject, a “former SEC official”, who is — surprise! — anonymous.  The suggestion is basically made that the SEC, at the beck and call of Elgindy’s group, opened investigations into certain companies with the sole and direct intent of damaging those companies, noting that actual charges were very seldom filed as a result of these investigations.

Even worse, the anonymous SEC guy goes on to say “these were good companies”, many in the pharmaceutical space, and that the SEC investigations, quote, “stopped cures”.  And of course as former SEC official he is obviously an authority on the potential of development-stage pharmaceuticals.

But okay, these are pretty damning charges, so how about an example or two so the reader can judge for themselves? What’s that, Mark?  No examples, just unspecific innuendo?  Well okay then.  Non-specific accusations made by an anonymous individual.  Pulitzer-quality journalism to be sure.

At any rate, Elgindy’s imprisonment did not stop short-sellers from selling short.  I think that’s Mitchell’s next point, anyway.  Oh, and the companies they short sell are all “innocent”.  Of course.  I’m sure the guys at Lehman and Bear Stearns and all have nothing to worry about.

But never mind that, let’s shift in mid-paragraph to the tale of one John Fiero, who apparently fell afoul of NASD (now FINRA, and, mind you, not SEC) regulations regarding short-selling, and was fined $1 million.  Heavy stuff, seemingly, yet there’s a funny thing about those NASD fines: you can simply resign from the group and avoid paying them.  And that is precisely what Fiero did, yet Mitchell simply seems to scratch his head and not understand how the fine goes unpaid to this day.

Separately, Mitchell quotes someone stating that Fiero had been supplied with an office and “trading computers” by that same NASD body.  That would admittedly be all kinds of mixed-up if it happened after the $1 million fine had been levied but nowhere does Mitchell assert that.

Finally Mitchell returns to the subject of Dan Loeb, aka Mr. Pink.  But frankly it’s really hard to understand what he actually has to do with anything else in this piece, or what Mitchell’s point is in even mentioning him, other than to get a quote about “war” on an unrelated issue, to segue into a summation that it’s “war” between Overstock and short-sellers.  Which we kind of already knew.

Next week: Cramer again, and this time there’s video!

Irony defined: As the markets burned last week, short-selling hedge funds, which you would think would be prospering, if not outright driving the push down, are in some cases actually suffering badly themselves. I’m sure that comes as a delight to some, though it begs the question… if even they aren’t benefiting from this, then who is?

It was, to put it mildly, not a proud moment for Anthony Elgindy. Ordered to remain in New York for legal proceedings, he opted nonetheless to leave the area under an assumed identity. His side of the story is that he was desperate to see his family, who live in San Diego. Prosecutors, echoed by Mitchell in this week’s section, claim it was an attempt to flee the country.

Elgindy (whose birthname, Imr Abrahim Elgindy, seems to be cited for no other purpose than to provoke an anti-Muslim reaction) is, again putting it mildly, a very colorful character. For several years he held court on a stock message board called Silicon Investor, making bold market calls — most of them on the bearish side — and exhibiting a very keen sense of how the stock market, and in particular how stock promotions, particularly those of the “pump and dump” variety, work.

Unfortunately, one thing Elgindy lacks a keen sense of is how to stay out of legal trouble. From an incident involving a company called Saf-T-Lock, wherein he “got religion” in mid-course only to wind up as the fall guy, to an insurance dispute that led to a conviction for fraud, to his most recent convictions for which he remains incarcerated pending appeal, Elgindy most definitely has the proverbial “feet of clay” that make him a very difficult person to defend, even when the accusations become demonstrably unfair, as they do in Mitchell’s piece this week.

Most egregious among these are Mitchell’s attempts to tie Elgindy in to the attacks of 9/11. It is true that Elgindy did a partial liquidation of an account on the day before, but it was never shown that this was anything more than a coincidence of timing; that is to say nothing of why he would only do a partial liquidation if he had knowledge of what was coming the next day.

The quote Mitchell prints about Elgindy claiming to have expected a 3000-point one-day drop in the Dow does not appear anywhere else in a Google search and as such has the air of being completely manufactured. And finally, Mitchell’s portrayal of why Elgindy was never charged with anything 9/11-related very much downplays the facts: in reality, the prosecutor attempted to invoke 9/11 during the actual trial, and received a severe rebuke from the judge when he had to admit he had nothing to back up the insinuation.

At any rate, not satisfied with having managed to slander a convicted felon (ponder that for a moment), Mitchell resumes his stylistic foibles by veering off course and into the story of a Chicago boxer named Gary “Pugs” Dobry. Dobry is something of a footnote in the whole short-selling story these days, as the message board he frequented, Raging Bull, has gone through several changes in ownership and had its message board database wiped, but those who had the opportunity to see him in action would most likely agree that he made the subject of the post two weeks ago appear competent and restrained in comparison.

Dobry is portrayed by Mitchell as being “obsessed with Elgindy” but in fact his obsessions ran far, far deeper. Having been a heavy backer of a company called Amazon Natural Treasures, which in the end proved to be a total fraud, Dobry lashed out at anyone and everyone who had tried to warn him, and even in one case an unfortunate woman who merely had the same name as one of his targets. This culminated in 2002 when Dobry convinced a lawyer and a judge to subpoena not just the identities but also the credit card information(!!) of 41 aliases on the Silicon Investor message board. It was the successful quashing of this subpoena, and the sanctions that followed, that ended Dobry’s crusade, not some apocryphal garden-shears-through-the-window “message” that Mitchell cites, which sounds more like a bad pun on “hedge” funds. Whatever became of the old “horse’s head in the bed” routine anyway?

Next Mitchell moves into intrigue mode, as he relates the tale of an anonymous “business owner” who says his business was destroyed by short sellers and has ever since devoted himself to attacking them. (That description notwithstanding, this person is highly unlikely to be Dick Fuld of Lehman Brothers.) That person, says Mitchell, has supposedly turned over screenshots of all sorts of activity on a private chat room run by Elgindy, “stored somewhere safe” according to Mitchell, who apparently has no qualms with extortionate suggestion when he perceives it to be to his benefit.

By way of some sort of preview of coming attractions, Mitchell says the transcripts contain numerous mentions of Jim Cramer, Herb Greenberg, and other writers for Because, apparently, it’s very suspicious in a stock-oriented chat room to mention journalists who, at the time, each wrote about half a dozen brief articles about stocks every day.

Mitchell cites one quote appreciative of Herb Greenberg’s writings, by way of, I guess, proving Herb must be dirty or something. Ironically, while lives on, Herb himself has recently moved into the financial equivalent of private practice, meaning that it’s conceivable that the speaker of the quote could have, in fact, gone through with his plans to “hire Herb for himself”.

Another pulled quote cheered a journalist named Dave Evans giving a “free” heads-up about a stock symboled SPBR. Again, lacking context there’s no way to know if this was private communication or a publicly available article. SPBR, incidentally, was the symbol for a company called Spectrum Brands Corp., one of an all-too-large number of tiny firms that tried to make a quick buck with a slapped-together counter-terrorism “solution” in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. (Said company should not be — although may well have been named into order to be — confused with Spectrum Brands Inc., marketer of Rayovac batteries and Remington shavers.)

Finally, Mitchell mentions Dan Loeb, who is believed to have gone by the alias “Mr. Pink” on Silicon Investor, and whose primary crime appears to be having an affinity for Quentin Tarantino films.

At this point even Mitchell seems to realize how far he has gotten off the track, and puts the section to an abrupt halt, with next week’s section beginning anew on the story of Anthony Elgindy.

Okay, now that I have the attention of people (or perhaps, just “person”) who can’t be bothered to go back to the original post, this blog’s purpose is to go over Mark Mitchell’s gargantuan showpiece one section at a time.  Last week’s post was about the 13th section of that work, and thus the star of that section was the feature topic here.  This week has nothing to do with him, so he will not be mentioned.  Simple enough?

So it’s now April 2004, and, to even Mitchell’s disbelief, Patrick Byrne is once again on Kudlow & Cramer.  Mitchell chalks it up to Byrne’s naiveté about how the financial markets work, a trait he continues to exhibit to this very day.

But for some reason, Mitchell decides that a transcription of the last fifteen seconds of the interview, when the show is running up against a fixed commercial break and the hosts are scrambling to sum up and maybe get one more answer from their guest, is the best way to represent how it went.

Indeed, one might actually suspect that Mitchell is attempting to make the reader believe that those last few seconds were how the entire interview went, with Byrne being pressed to finish every response in three seconds flat.  But of course, a prestigious journalist like Mitchell would never stoop to something so misleading as that, right?  Surely he would put those moments in context, right??

Well, no actually.  Just a transcription of those last fifteen seconds and no further comment.  No attempt to explain what is “confusing heck out of” either Kudlow or Cramer, whoever is speaking at the start of the transcription (Mitchell doesn’t say).

And even then, Mitchell’s transcript leaves out some of what Byrne said in those last few moments.  Blogger Tracy Coenen put the “I’m all about the GAAP remark” statement of Byrne’s that Mitchell quotes, into context in an entry a few months back, and noted what Mitchell carefully removed, remarks to the effect that anyone who reported EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization) numbers was “a crook”.  Which, as Coenen went on to note, was very… interesting in the context of what metrics Byrne’s company reported in later years.

So much for another short section.  Next week things get serious.  Mostly.