Browse the entire Bad Advice series here.
Second, Cramer is implicitly undermining everything he says on his CNBC show. The whole conceit of Mad Money is that small investors can compete with the Big Boys of Wall Street. Well, if this is really the way the Big Boys play the trading game, how can that possibly be true? Is Cramer just implying (but not saying) on Mad Money that small investors should break laws?
Third, Cramer is putting his employers (and regulators) in a bind. Yes, Cramer is a ratings and readership machine. TheStreet.com is a public company, however, and it presumably does not want to become embroiled in a controversy about whether its advice crosses the line. CNBC, meanwhile, is a subsidiary of GE, a company with a well-deserved global reputation for integrity, fairness, and quality. Leaving aside the insult that Cramer lobbed at "the Pisanis of the world," can CNBC really say nothing when one of its most visible employees urges investors to use the network to engage in behavior that is questionable to say the least?
Lastly, there is the tar that Cramer dumped all over his former firm and the entire hedge-fund industry. Did Cramer's former clients—such as Eliot Spitzer, former attorney general and now governor of New York, who made his name excoriating Wall Street practices (and me)—know that Cramer was engaging in these practices to boost returns? If so, what did they think of this? What does Gov. Spitzer think of it now? Cramer loves to boast about his hedge-fund record. At the very least, we now know where some of it came from.
This morning, in response to widespread outrage, Cramer published an explanation on TheStreet.com. In it, he says, "No one knows or respects the securities laws more than I do." He says that he was just describing other, dirty hedge funds in his "hyperbolic and tongue-in-cheek style"—and that he himself was clean as a whistle. He never mentions that he was recommending that some hedge funds engage in these practices. He implies that critics of the interview are just "competitors" or professional investors who want to shut him up. To those who have listened closely to the interview, this is almost insulting.
So far, CNBC, Cramer's biggest platform, has remained quiet on the topic. (A spokesman has not returned my call). This is probably because 1) they are hoping the whole thing will just blow over, and/or 2) they don't know what to say. It is certainly possible that the whole thing will pass: Cramer has been very effective at stifling or weathering critics. It is also possible, however, that Jim Cramer has committed professional suicide.