I'm Not as Bad as Howie Kurtz Says

I'm Not as Bad as Howie Kurtz Says

E-mail debates of newsworthy topics.
Sept. 26 2000 8:35 PM

I'm Not as Bad as Howie Kurtz Says

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I'm about ready to declare victory and go home.

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Well, not quite. But I'll take it as a significant concession that you're no longer insisting that The Fortune Tellers unfairly maligns you as a manipulator. You've now retreated to the notion that I "insinuate" that there are bad guys out there in the Wall Street jungle and have created the "impression" that you're one of them. Actually, I've been careful to say in interviews that you always disclose your holdings when you yak about your stocks, while occasionally noting your missteps (such as predicting a rebound in TheStreet.com stock on TheStreet.com show on the Fox News Channel, now off the air following a legal dispute. Did everyone watching know that you own a ton of TheStreet.com stock? Sure. Did it look cheesy? I'm afraid it did. But those are rare exceptions.). And the book also includes your scathing criticism of some of the financial hype-meisters.

As for the "cesspool" of Wall Street analysts, I don't see the world in quite the same black-and-white terms you do, Jim. Some analysts clearly keep banging the drum for stocks that are tanking, as Merrill Lynch's Henry Blodget did for eToys before it plunged 95 percent. Some are just afraid that if they're too negative they will become pariahs and lose their jobs, as in a couple of incidents I describe in the book. But I also shine the spotlight on unsung folks like Piper Jaffray's Ashok Kumar (hailed as a hero in yesterday's Wall Street Journal as the only guy willing to downgrade Intel before it blew up), who bravely criticizes tech stocks when necessary and takes the inevitable heat.

By the way, I also raise questions about the reporting of Gene Marcial, Dan Dorfman, Christopher Byron, Chris Nolan, even the usually dependable Steve Frank, who went on CNBC to tout secret talks between eBay and Yahoo! that turned out to have already collapsed (causing a big run-up, and then a dive, in eBay stock). But these are not "sons of bitches" who I should "nail," they're mostly well-meaning folks who operate in a high-pressure field where the usual rules of journalism (such as not reporting unconfirmed rumors) don't seem to apply.

If you had a magic wand, what would you do to crack down on shoddy reporting and manipulative analysts? Is there any way to stop journalists from playing the rumor game and unnamed sources from goosing their stocks with well-placed whispers? After all, even you, as a big-time trader, are forced to react to rumors.